20 September 2016

More Travel Tips

and note to self:

If you put a couple $50 bills in your shoe before you go on a trip to Central America, be sure to:

a. Put them in a plastic bag so you don't destroy them with wet and heat

b. Don't forget them for five months after you return, and only retrieve them when becoming curious about that piece of paper peeking out from the insole.

23 August 2016

Great Quote

"As a professor of Russian literature, I’ve come to realize that it’s never a good sign when real life resembles a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel."

-- Ani Kokobobo

in an overly partisan political piece called "Election Demons."

I'm not recommending that you read it, I just loved the quote. But here it is if you insist:


14 August 2016

Happy Fishing

Tweet from ‏@VerifiedDrunk  Aug 8:

With toes like that you should be snatching your dinner out of a lake instead of walking around in sandals.

06 August 2016

06 April 2016

Bumper Sticker

Today's bumper sticker winner, seen in San Luis Obispo:

Save The Planet

Win Great Prizes

Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews


·         May you sell everything and retire to Florida just as global warming makes it uninhabitable.

·         May you live to a hundred and twenty without Social Security or Medicare.

·         May you make a fortune, and lose it all in one of Sheldon Adelson’s casinos.

·         May you live to a ripe old age, and may the only people who come visit you be Mormon missionaries.

·         May your son be elected President, and may you have no idea what you did with his goddamn birth certificate.

·         May your grandchildren baptize you after you’re dead.

·         May your insurance company decide constipation is a pre-existing condition.

·         May you find yourself insisting to a roomful of skeptics that your great-grandmother was “legitimately” raped by Cossacks.

·         May you feast every day on chopped liver with onions, chicken soup with dumplings, baked carp with horseradish, braised meat with vegetable stew, latkes, and may every bite of it be contaminated with E. Coli, because the government gutted the E.P.A.

·         May you have a rare disease and need an operation that only one surgeon in the world, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, is able to perform. And may he be unable to perform it because he doesn’t take your insurance. And may that Nobel Laureate be your son.

·         May the state of Arizona expand their definition of “suspected illegal immigrants” to “anyone who doesn’t hunt.”

·         May you be reunited in the world to come with your ancestors, who were all socialist garment workers.

21 March 2016

It's Scary and Could Happen

This article has been around for a while, but is freshly relevant given the apparent interest of the American public in electing Donald Trump as President.


The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past few months, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The unexpected success of the Trump campaign is prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer from Newport, CA huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves. “A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age." an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies. "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them." an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"

18 March 2016


Good news, for a change. Seen in a local paper in an article about the comeback of bald eagles, and how they are doing well living close to people. Nests in Eastern US metro areas (NYC, Phily) are not uncommon. Thanks Endangered Species Act.

16 March 2016

The War on Drugs

Here's an extended quote from a Harper's Magazine story on legalizing drugs, by Dan Baum.

If you support(ed) the War on Drugs, or think/thought that the government was doing its best to protect us, I hope you feel like a complete idiot. And if you don't, you should.


In 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results? Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “war on drugs” and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment.

I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The rest of the story is not great, but is interesting and informative. Read it here.

12 January 2016

Another Great Photo

As you may know, a modern "photograph" is not at all the same thing as a historical photograph. EVERY ASPECT of a modern photo can be changed, enhanced, added, deleted, flipped, distorted, re-touched, etc., by photo-manipulation software. There is no longer much of a relationship between what the photographer saw through the camera when she took the picture, on the one hand, and the finished result that gets published as a "photograph" on the other.

Of course, that has always been true to some extent. Professional photographers have always used darkroom / developing techniques to get the results they wanted. But the tools available to modern photographers are so powerful and so comprehensive that the relationship between photo-as-taken and photo-as-printed seems to have been essentially broken.

Here is a great picture, which I like very much. But I do so knowing that the scene it is representing may, in fact, have never occurred.

Click on the picture to go to the photographer's site, then click on that picture to go to full screen / black background for best viewing. When done, click on photographer's name for more of his pictures.


27 November 2015

My, How Things Don't Change

"I know that most men—not only those considered clever, but even those who really are clever and capable of understanding the most difficult scientific, mathematical or philosophic problems—can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with great difficulty—conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives."

Count Lev Nikolayevich (aka Leo) Tolstoy in "What Is Art?" 1897

10 November 2015


Another fabulous picture. Click on the picture for the full-size version, then, when you get it, click on it to set background to black. At full screen resolution, it's quite impressive.


Golden Gate Lightening

Great picture, taken Nov 8 or 8. Click for large version.

07 November 2015

Tech Tips - Phones

Here are a couple things to be aware of when dealing with the overlap between cell phones and land lines.

1. If you have a land line, the number of that land line belongs to you—i.e., it is transferable. If and when you want to convert that number from land line to cell phone, you can do it without hassle (hopefully) or charge (definitely). Just tell your cell phone company that you want to do so, and they'll arrange the transfer.

2. Some cordless land-line phones include Bluetooth. This means that your cell phone and home phone can talk to each other. I have such a cordless phone bought from Radio Shack a couple years ago for $45. When somebody calls me on my cell phone, it rings my cell phone AND my ex-land-line phones. This means that while at home, I (a) don't have to carry my cell phone around with me, (b) I get the benefit of the loud ringing, and (c) I can pick up any of the home phones and talk.


These two capabilities allowed me to simplify and cheapify:
  • I pay less per month in phone charges than previously
  • I don't feel like I'm buying duplicate services
  • I deal with one phone company instead of two
  • I answer my cell phone when I'm traveling and my home phone when I'm not
  • I can hear my loud home phone ringer with no problem
  • All the people who might want to call me don't have to be concerned about calling my cell or my home

I'm not sure why I thought you needed to know this, and didn't already know it, but there you go.

06 November 2015

Thermonuclear Art

Here's something pretty special. See the link at bottom of page, and run in in full screen if possible. And on the biggest screen available to you.

Here's the explanatory text from the NASA web site.

The Sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on February 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on teh entire disk of The Sun, with a prime view of hte graceful dance of solar material coursing through The Sun's atmosphere, the corona.
SDO captures images of The Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps nighlight a different temperature of solar material. Different temperatures can, in turn, show specific structures on The Sun such as solar flares, which are gigantic explosions of light and x-rays, or coronal loops, which are stream of solar material travelling up and down looping magnetic field lines.

Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on The Sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too. Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space. Moreover, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. built, operates, and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

All tracks are written and produced by Lars Leonhard.

Credit: The SDO Team, Genna Duberstein and Scott Wiessinger, Producers

NASA: Thermonuclear Art – The Sun In Ultra-HD (4K)

02 November 2015

Turnabout Is Fair Play

I try to not post political items on this blog, but this one is so good that I'm making an exception. One could say that it's not really political anyway, just a pointed observation about what's good for the goose being good for the gander.

01 November 2015

27 October 2015

White Mountains

In early October, my mom and I took the long route from Santa Rosa to Phoenix, and had a very good time driving and exploring across parts of California, Nevada, Utah (especially!) and Arizona. A highlight of the trip was the White Mountains of California, a range that runs parallel to the Sierra Nevada and to the east of the Owens Valley. The White Mountains are home to (a) the world's oldest living tree, the bristlecone pine, and (b) spectacular views of the Sierras. Here's a picture of one of the trees I saw on the Discovery Trail, followed by the view from the road looking west.


On the short trail through the Bristlecone forest, I ran into some serious photographers plying their craft with one of the most picturesque trees. I got a name which led to a web site these pictures:

Dan Swiger Photography 1

Dan Swiger Photography 2


26 October 2015

Picture of the Day

Although the photographer doesn't provide any location info on this shot, it's recognizable (to my daughter at least) as a formation called "The Wave," located in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona.

Click on the picture below to link to the photographer's page. Then, after the photo is displayed on your screen, click it again to go to full screen mode.


28 September 2015

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The Atlantic (magazine) has printed many fine articles in its quite-long history. But I don't recall reading one that I thought was more important or more powerful.

It's quite long and will take you a while, but is definitely worth the effort.

Click here for the Atlantic site and article.

Let me know if you have any problems accessing the article, I'll send it to you another way.

07 September 2015

Burning Man Backlash

There is also backlash from non-Burners. An online fund-raising campaign this year called for a wall to be built around San Francisco during Burning Man to keep those who departed for Black Rock City, as the festival location is called, out permanently.


From a NYT article


Click on picture for full-size version. Once it's displayed, click on it again to change background from white to black (much better viewing).


10 August 2015

The Big Race

Quote of the day, courtesy of friend JB:

“Hopefully the race to grave between body and finances will end in a tie.” (S.W. Martin)