February 28, 2016

Frank Bruni rules

Frank Bruni speaks the truth like no other. Here's a bit from his NYT column on Trump (and Clinton):
IMAGINE, for a moment, the presidential candidacy of a rich, brash real estate magnate and reality TV star named Donna Trump.
Quizzically coifed and stubbornly sun-kissed, she’s on her third marriage. There’s clear evidence that infidelity factored into the demise of the first, and among her children is one conceived when The Donna wasn’t married to the other parent.

Her sexual appetites have been prodigious, at least according to her frequent claims and vulgar cant. And she has a tendency — disturbing on its own, even more so in someone who aspires to civic leadership — to talk about men as sirloins and rump roasts of disparate succulence. She denigrates those who displease her on cosmetic grounds:

So-and-so used to be a 9 but, with that male-pattern baldness and desperate comb-over, is down to a 6. So-and-so thinks he’s covering up that paunch with baggy suits, but we all know better.

How well do you think The Donna would do in the polls? How far into the race would she survive?
There's a lot more at the link. Go read it. And then wonder why most Americans don't see this obvious point. 

PS: My feeling is that it doesn't matter if Trump is the Republican nominee. His fans are mostly idiots who don't vote. On the other hand, Clinton's voters will be there promptly on Election Day. Not to worry. (Mind you, feel free to worry about what Clinton will do. That's not clear at all. Probably not much. She'll be too involved with all the Republican hatred directed her way.)

February 27, 2016

Don't try this at home, kids

Have you ever tried to break a CD? If you have, I hope you did it outside.

Yesterday I decided to throw out a dusty old CD. But it had personal files on it, so I figured I should destroy it before tossing it in the garbage. I was standing in the kitchen when I bent the CD. I figured it would break in two, thus saving my info from the prying eyes of busybodies. Simple, right?

Two pieces indeed. It broke into millions of little, shiny pieces. Looked like confetti. It went all over my kitchen counters, the floor, the nearby rug, my clothes and my hair. Teeny, tiny, shiny things everywhere. I had to clean the floors, vacuum, wipe all the counters and the stove, change my clothes and take a shower. It was that bad.

So, uh, don't do this. Or if you must, step outside first.

February 26, 2016

You've got to be kidding

I've never heard of this before. It's so ill, it made me sick.
You gotta hand it to Whitey Bulger — he has a gift for doing what he pleases.

The 85-year-old incarcerated gangster — who lived life of unparalleled brutality as a Boston mob boss before dropping off the radar for 16 years — got in trouble in his Florida jail cell for trying to free his own little prisoner, authorities said.

South Boston crime lord James (Whitey) Bulger was caught masturbating with the lights on at 3 a.m. last June, according to documents obtained by the Boston Globe.

A male corrections officer making early morning rounds at the federal penitentiary in Sumterville, Fla., caught Bulger in flagrante delicto, the papers said.

The guard saw him touching his exposed genitals with his left hand, according to the papers obtained by The Globe.
“I got you!” the guard allegedly hollered.

Bulger was written up by prison officials on June 1 for violating a rule that prohibits sexual activity for inmates.
You've got to be kidding. What monstrous prison official came up with this inhumane rule? I'm astounded. You put people in a cage forever -- and then attack them when they do natural things that everyone else does? Seriously, I want to know who came up with this rule. I'm going to make a wild guess and say it was probably some self-important, authoritarian, religious moron who loves to punish people (and probably masturbates in the evening when recalling what he put prisoners through that day). In other words it could have been any prison official at all. What is wrong with these people?

It's going to take me ages to absorb this new, horrifying information. Authoritarian gits are always trying to control others and make them submit to their own inane rules. These are the same folks who want to monitor the foods that poor people buy with food stamps -- and want to drug-test them and pull their benefits if they've, you know, smoked a joint or anything. Monsters, one and all.

February 25, 2016

Having fun at telemarketers' expense

This is such a fun story. A guy had had enough of telemarketers, so he came up with a robotic scheme to drive them crazy:
While the simple robot does not possess anything near artificial intelligence, it does understand speech patterns and inflections, so it can monitor what the telemarketer is saying, and then do its best to try to keep the person on the end of the line engaged.

Often the robot just has a little fun. Using recorded lines spoken by Mr. Anderson, it may say the following to the telemarketer: “I just woke up from a nap, I took some medicine and I’m really groggy. Can you go a little slower?” Sometimes it interrupts the telemarketer to ask questions. “Do you drink coffee?” or “You sound like someone I went to high school with.”

The idea is to keep the telemarketer on the call for as long as possible. The longer the conversation goes on, the more eccentric the robot becomes. In one sequence, the robot tells the telemarketer that a bee landed on his arm, and asks the telemarketer to keep talking as he focuses on the bee.
This really made me laugh. The best part is that he's made the system available to anyone. Read the linked NYT story to find out how to do it.

Telemarketers are the scum of the earth. It's about time someone turned the tables on them.

The murder route to the baseball season

I live for baseball. It's just the way it is. Luckily, baseball has one of the longest seasons in professional sports -- it's only gone from mid-October to March. Still, in the off-season I suffer. I need baseball. Didn't used to be that way but it sure is now.

So each year I wonder what to do with myself in the off-season. Last year I discovered HGTV. Since I was in the process of moving to a new house, it was interesting to me. I like design, I like decorating. So I watched a ton of HGTV shows until baseball started again. I haven't gone near HGTV since. Been there, done that.

So this year I was at a loss. HGTV wasn't gonna cut it. Whatever would I do during the off-season? And then I discovered the Investigation Discovery channel. It's wall-to-wall murder, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'd never seen any of the shows before, so I was a ripe audience. I used to read tons of true crime books. There's something about watching lives that are totally out of control that appeals to me. The term "true crime" means only one thing: murder. And that's the way the ID (Investigation Discovery) channel reads it: murder all the way. I think I saw one show that was only about stealing. Stealing: bah, humbug. Money is boring and stealing it is ultra-boring. It's murder we want.

Because I read only true crime books for about ten years in the late 80s, early 90s, I know every detail of endless murders. In fact, as I watch ID shows, I'm often familiar with the story -- to the point where I find myself yelling at the TV: "That's not what she said when she shot him. She said..." I know almost every story. But still, I'd only read about them. Seeing the stories come to life is fun. This won't last, but for one off-season it's been a help. I happily took the murder route to baseball this year.

 What the hell am I going to do next year?

BTW, the ID station is completely off the wall. If you were an alien watching this channel from Alpha Centauri, you'd think one thing for sure - the female of this species sure is murderous. Haha. But that's how they play it. Check out the names of some of their flagship shows:

Deadly Women (and yes, they include transgender women)
Wives With Knives
Momsters: When Moms Go Bad
The Wives Did It
Evil Stepmothers

In a country where men kill women all day long, every day of the year, this channel focuses on the evil of women. I mean, really. Mind you, many of the other shows on this channel are about men who torture and kill their wives and girlfriends, but they make no note of the killer's gender. And needless to say, there is no show called "Husbands Who Kill". Can't have that; patriarchy rules. Sigh.

I see this station (and all cop and prison shows) as being part of the Fox News constellation of shows designed to keep the population in a state of terror so they'll vote for Republicans (as if that makes any sense at all; Republicans are weak on everything). Just imagine all the old people who only watch Fox News and Investigation Discovery -- with a listen or two to Rush Limbaugh in-between. You can just imagine them shaking in their living room chairs. What a country.

Anyway, the first game of the spring training season (for my guys, anyway) is little more than a week away. Mets v. Nats. In other words, I'll soon be back in heaven (like Bowie) -- and I'll never watch the sick ID channel again.

You may now return to your normally scheduled life. (Can ya tell I'm still manic? Hooray!)

February 24, 2016

So, indoor humidity is a thing?

Who knew? I always thought humidity was something to dread. In the summer months I read the weather forecasts with dread, anxiously looking for a humidity index well below 60. But I never thought it mattered indoors.

But then my doctor told me to get a humidifier. I dutifully said "okay" but when I got home, I didn't rush to Amazon to order one. I decided I definitely didn't want one in my house. Humidity? Isn't that anti-electronics? As an avid computer-guy, the prospect worried me. So I googled it and learned that humidity can actually help electronics. Strange but true.

Not only did it fix my dry-nose problem, it fixed all kinds of stuff. Ever since I moved here about seven months ago, I've gotten shocks whenever I touched plugged-in electronics. In my wildest dreams, I would never have attributed this to an overly dry home. I don't think I've ever even heard that. But the shocks are gone. I can touch anything in my house now! Oh, joy.

Also, within an hour of plugging in the humidifier, my plants stood up and saluted. In fact, they're still saluting two weeks later. They love it. Again, who knew? I mean, I knew plants needed moisture but I thought I was providing that by watering them and then spraying them daily. The humidifier does much more for them. They adore it, the cute little green fellas.

So that's it, I'm hooked. In fact, I even bought a spare, dog forbid mine conks out. You gotta have a spare. You gotta!

PS: I'm blogging because I finally hit a manic streak. Being manic depressive isn't that bad, as long as the moods switch regularly. But I hadn't experienced a manic wave in ages. Blogging fell by the wayside, life fell there too. But now I'm me again. Hooray! (And it had better last for a while. You'll know. If I blog, it's still with me. This is no way to live but there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.)

February 22, 2016

Zipf's law is so simple -- and so strange

Here's a quick explanation of Zipf's Law:
Zipf's law in its simplest form, as formulated in the thirties by American linguist George Kingsley Zipf, states surprisingly that the most frequently occurring word in a text appears twice as often as the next most frequent word, three times more than the third most frequent one, four times more than the fourth most frequent one, and so on.
I mean, seriously. How can this possibly be true? And yet it is. Each one of us can write a book using whatever words occur to us, and yet our book -- and all other books -- will always comply with this law. It's as if we're being governed by something we are neither aware of, nor understand. I've known about this for a long time but every time I see it referenced, as I did today at phys.org, I'm shocked. It goes all the way down the line, too. The 96th most often-used word is used 96 times less frequently than the most frequently-used word. And on and on. How can this be?

The linked article is about researchers who recently applied Zipf's law to ancient texts, and found that they too comply with this law. This search was occasioned by the existence of Big Data in our technologically enhanced world. Prior to this, Zipf's law had only been tested on a certain number of texts. The researchers thought there was no reason to limit their investigation into the resilience of this law. So they looked into texts from all around the world, including ancient texts -- and they found that they all follow Zipf's law. In any language, in any age, Zipf's law holds true.

Each time I encounter Zipf's law, I am shocked anew. It's as if there's a whole 'nother level of rules that guide our lives -- rules we neither sense nor grasp, and yet we use them unfailingly. It's just amazing.

PS: When quantum computers are realized, I suspect we'll see lots of new correlations in the world around us. What we are aware of is so much less than what's really there. It's exciting and as I keep saying, very strange.

February 8, 2016

Bet you've never seen this before

These attractive anomalies are called light pillars. This shot was taken in Alaska. I found it on APOD, the Astronomy Photo of the Day site.

Now you have something to google and learn about. For joy.