Monday, March 31, 2014

Carnivorous humans causing climate change

I've been waiting a long time for someone to say this:
Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors currently account for the largest share of climate pollution. However, a study from Chalmers now shows that eliminating these emissions would not guarantee staying below the UN limit. Emissions from agriculture threaten to keep increasing as global meat and dairy consumption increases. If agricultural emissions are not addressed, nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070. This alone would make meeting the climate target essentially impossible.
"We have shown that reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels," says Fredrik Hedenus, one of the study authors. "Broad dietary change can take a long time. We should already be thinking about how we can make our food more climate friendly."
And here's your takeaway:
By 2050, estimates indicate that beef and lamb will account for half of all agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, while only contributing 3 percent of human calorie intake.
Stop eating meat. It's not only vicious, in that it involves the torture and murder of trillions of innocent animals, it's also going to kill us. Just look at that takeaway: it will cause half of all agricultural greenhouse emissions by 2050 yet only provides 3% of our calorie intake. To continue this is insanity.

But no one wants to hear this critical message. On physorg, where I found this article, readers rated it at 2.6 out of 5. No one wants to hear it. But it's going to kill us anyway. The choice is yours.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Schadenfreude alert

Chris Culliver, the 49ers cornerback who felt a pressing need to make anti-gay comments last year, is once again in the news:
Niners cornerback is accused of hitting a bicyclist with his car and fleeing the scene, then threatening a witness with brass knuckles. 
Isn't it funny how the anti-gay people always turn out to be craven, hateful goons with no sense of right or wrong? I wonder if there's a moral there, or at least a connection. Hmmm.
Well, he'll have a lot of time to think things over during his prison stay. Maybe he'll have a change of heart. Yeah, right.
Just to refresh your memory, this was his anti-gay comment:
"We ain't got no gay people on the team," Culliver said. "They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah, can't be in the locker room."
Jeebus, let's hope they don't lock him up with any sweet stuff. He can't be with that.
(BTW, the bicyclist suffered "minor injuries". Phew.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Engine on

I'm sorry that I'm neglecting the blog lately. I figure there must be two, or maybe even three, readers out there who miss it. But it's time to write the next novel.

I find that it's difficult to start a novel. The goal is to get to the point where I know what to write and how to do it, but the climb to get there can be a trial. However, once it gets going -- and it has -- it rushes along, powered by its own innards. The plot and characters drive the story, not me. "Engine on" is the phrase that came to mind when things got going this time. It's like the book developed a life of its own. Once that happens, writing becomes a simple task. All I have to do is record what the characters say and do. It's their show, not mine.

And so I find myself busy. Have no fear. I will always return to this blog after a hiatus. I won't be like those guys who blog for a year or two and then leave for parts unknown. Besides, you know where I am and you can always contact me by commenting on any post here, even the old ones. I'll see it and unless you're a completely crazy wingnut, I'll respond.

In the meantime, you can always read Xmas Carol to get your dose of Keith. I promise it will be one of the most entertaining reads of your life. So get busy. Speaking of which...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Russian people worry me more than Putin

We know that Putin is a self-centered, myopic man with no sense of morality. Frankly, it's not surprising that he'd annex Crimea. After all, the west made fun of Russians for not knowing how many toilets go into a private bathroom. Putin will never get over that. I knew he'd strike out at something (though I thought it would be gay people rather than an entire country). But you expect this sort of nonsense from Puti. It's what he does.

What worries me more is the Russian people.
Pro-Russian crowds seized two Ukrainian warships Thursday and Ukraine said its troops were being threatened in Crimea as the European Union considered new sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.
The Russian people seized two Ukrainian warships?! The people, not the army? Maybe we should take a closer look at these folks. From what we've seen on newscasts, Russians enjoy taunting and beating gay people. Their glee is obvious. It seems they don't seem have a moral center, like other people do. It's all about making fun of others and harming them (while surrounded by Christian crosses and Coptic priests; just saying). And now they've seized a warship?! 

When I see Vladimir Putin on the news, speaking to a (pre-picked, I assume) group of people in a hall in Russia, and the camera shows the audience, I'm chilled. That sea of white faces gazing up at Puti with glazed, adoring eyes, reminds me of something.

It's like a scene from German history -- to be precise: the week before Kristallnacht. Hitler's atrocities could not have taken place without a craven populace who cheered his every abuse as they queued up for jobs at the concentration camps. The Russian people love what Putin is doing. They enjoy the abuse of gays, they relish the illegal move into Crimea. And hey, they seize warships.

This won't end well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Skin in the game

It's disheartening that for the most part, the only people who fight discrimination are those with skin in the game. I've got two examples for you. Here's the first:
The city's historic settlement of a long-running case alleging discrimination in FDNY hiring practices will pay $98 million in back pay and benefits to minority firefighter hopefuls. 
The settlement represents the latest decision by Mayor de Blasio to change course and end a legal controversy stemming from the Bloomberg administration. 
It's great that this finally happened. But a racist mayor had to be replaced by a white guy with an African-American wife and children of color before this could happen. Skin in the game. It's not surprising that de Blasio gets it. I'm sure his son was frisked once or twice by the police. After all, he's not white.
And then there's this
At a White House ceremony, President Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on the soldiers - most of them Jewish, black or Hispanic — including Pfc. Leonard Kravitz, of Brooklyn, an uncle of Grammy-winner Lenny Kravitz.

A government review concluded the soldiers — including another New Yorker, Sgt. Alfred Nietzel of Queens — were denied Medal of Honor years ago because of bias.
No white president ever took care of this oversight. But our African-American president righted the ship at the first opportunity. That it happened is great. But in both of these instances, it's easy to see the operative principle: unless they have skin in the game, they don't care. 

This makes me sick. Are people so damn craven that they're incapable of feeling empathy for anyone who doesn't look like them? Apparently the answer is yes.

Typo of the day

I found this today in an AP feed:
A bull apparently in no mood for vaccinations led police on a chase down a Texas city street before horse-riding, lasso-yielding officers were able to wrangle the animal.
If these officers should ever come after you, have no fear. Just threaten them with a lasso and they'll collapse like rag dolls. I believe they meant "lasso-wielding" rather than "lasso-yielding". But hey, what's the difference? No one can read anymore.

In which case, never mind.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Too funny

Sorry for ducking out to write real stuff. But if I don't write my books, who will? You see the issue there? Anyway, I had to stop by today to put this on the blog,
SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church is warning a group of women pushing for gender equality that it will not be allowed to protest in Temple Square next month during a biannual conference.
The gall of those women -- seeking equality, of all things. Honestly! What the hell do they want that for?! It's scandalous, I tell you, scandalous. I love the Mormon church's explanation for barring the activities of this group (which is called Ordain Women, BTW):
The church says activist events detract from the sacred environment of the weekend conference in Salt Lake City.
Yes, that's what it must be -- the "sacred environment" suffers when women want to be equal to men. You know how god hates women that.

Religious twits. Deep down, they're all the same.

Monday, March 10, 2014

No time for Timmy

Even though Timmy Dolan said incredibly stupid things about gay people, things I'd love to blog about, I'm putting down my keyboard. It's time to focus on writing the next book. See you soon.

Friday, March 7, 2014

There's a reason for that

I just noticed that the twit Christian TV show "The Bible" on the un-historic History Channel, is rated TV PG 14 - V. That V is for violence and there's a good reason for the rating. 

The Christian God, if he existed -- which of course he doesn't -- would be classed as a violent psychopath, a true enemy of humanity. That's what you have to call a God who kills all of humanity except for the creatures on Noah's Ark, which of course never existed.

Just saying.

Not suspicious at all

I'm amazed that phishing ever works. I just got the following, allegedly from Optimum Online. Uh-huh. 
You are highly expected to update your email account by clicking on the link below,as you are required to fill and submit the

On failure to adhere to the given instruction your email account will be

Optimum Online.
Optimum Support Team.
Cuz that's just how we talk here in America. Seriously, how does anyone fall for these poorly constructed scams? I love the way the words "form" and "blocked" are pushed to the following line by a nervous finger on the return key. Plus, the lack of a space after the first comma, and the addition of periods after both lines in the sign-off are just plain wrong. These folks can't think or type correctly, which is par for the course for phishing scammers. They never seem to get it right.

Here's an interesting question. Judging by the words and cadence of the email, what country do you think the scammers are from? I'd say Russia. The email has that officious, out-of-it tone that's so popular in Russia. I could be wrong, of course. What do you think? Russian?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Religion affects survivability

In a post about the WestJet pilot who was dissed for being a woman, PZ said an interesting thing:
"...[U]nfortunately we live in a culture where religion is a vehicle for promoting inflexibility, in an era where we need to adapt."
Ain't that the truth. Change the verbs to past tense and you've got humanity's epitaph:
Humans lived in a culture where religion was a vehicle for promoting inflexibility, in an era when they needed to adapt.

Reality and fiction: an unexpected turn

It's so odd working with a plot. I'm writing a sci-fi book at the moment. The story has lived in my head for about five years, so obviously I'm familiar with every aspect of the story. Yet odd things can still happen. In this way (and others), fiction is similar to life.

I'll be sitting in a chair in the evening, musing about the plot when suddenly two characters intersect in a way I'd not considered before. And yet it's so obvious that the characters would do this. I find myself shaking my head, wondering how I'd missed this plot turn for years.

It's like life. You know how sometimes an event will come out of left field, something you'd never considered before -- and yet you find yourself saying, "Of course Jimmy Bob and Junie Bob are getting a divorce. How could I not have seen that coming?" (Or whatever the insight is.) It seems so obvious, given what you know about the people. And yet, you had never considered the possibility until it occurred.

It's the same with fiction. This happened to me last night and although the plot device that occurred to me is pretty damn obvious, it wasn't on my radar at all. And this little item will have a huge effect on the story.

If you're writing fiction, stop often to think. You never know what will pop up. Just keep the story in your head and let the characters and events interact. If you do this regularly, something magical may happen.

Okay, I'm writing today. Gotta work that idea into the story. See you later.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

AP notices

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he simply doesn't get it on sex abuse.
G'wan, go read it.

HuffPo gets it all wrong

The headline on HuffPo's main page screams "Pope Francis takes huge step forward on gay rights". I'm surprised they didn't add three exclamation points.

When you click on the link, you arrive at a more subdued headline: "Pope Francis suggests gay civil unions may be tolerable by church". Now, isn't that just marvelous? Gay civil unions may be tolerable. The gratitude is swelling inside my heart. The Vatican could find my relationship tolerable. Praise jesus!

First of all, "giving" gay people civil unions is like the bus driver saying you can get on the bus, but you have to sit in the back. No thanks. In fact, you can stick those civil unions up your ass. We will not be tolerated -- we will be equal. And there's not a goddamn thing anyone can do to stop us.

The Catholic church is an evil joke that harms people throughout the world. It blinds them to their real lives, fills them with fear and guilt, and spends most of its mental energy wondering what penises and vaginas are doing. That's not a church, it's an illness.

We're gettin' married. Everywhere. And no one will be able to stop the gay tsunami of equality, including the two popes at the head of the Roman Catholic church. (Gives raspberry; exits stage-left.)

PS: Francis is really out of it on many issues, not just the gay stuff. Here's an outtake from the article:
"The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No-one else has done more," Francis said of sex abuse. "Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked."
Are you laughing? Crying? Oy, the blindness. It hurts.

Fun article at SF Gate

The article is called How To Sucker a Billion Christians. Here's a bit (okay, a large bit):
You do not mess with blind faith.
Just a humble reminder. You do not question the dully codified stories of Christianity, or challenge them, or offer even remotely refreshing, alternative storylines with anything resembling intelligence, or humor, or deep intellectual curiosity.

What are you, a masochist? To do so would imply there is something to be gained, some sort of cultural progress to be made in the realms of the exhausted – but still deeply paranoid and very simpleminded – Christian faith, when there most certainly is not. Besides, you want to make lots of money, right? Of course you do.
Do you know who understands this overarching rule perfectly? Mark Burnett, the goliath TV producer who single-handedly destroyed the modern world by popularizing reality TV. Burnett and his wife, “Touched by an Angel” actress Roma Downey, know exactly how sucker-able are the vast majority of the world’s Christians. Because they’re evil that way. Smart. I mean smart.

So smart are the Burnetts that they recently hacked together a terrifically lousy movie about the life and times of Jesus, called Son of God. They made it by cobbling new footage with bits of last year’s 10-hour History Channel miniseries on the Bible that was already quite perfectly lousy but still really popular because, you know, Jesus.

But of course, they didn’t stop there. The Burnetts recently travelled the country, shilling this new hunk of spiritual Valium to pastors, churches and shopping malls in hopes of pre-selling millions of tickets, safe in the the knowledge that devout Christians will see just about anything that reassures (but never, ever challenges or advances) their faith, no matter how poorly made, intellectually insulting or terminally boring it might be.
SF Gate is a good, interesting newspaper. I think it's the nearness of all those gay people out there. It ups the quality.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Captioning for movies

Closed captioning is a mashup of two cultures: the deaf and those who can hear. The "mash" part sometimes rears its head in the form of odd captions for movies. I find this fascinating. Captions are essentially a translation sent from the hearing world to the deaf world -- but this translation is not always clear-cut. (BTW, my hearing is fine but I sometimes turn captions on because I find them interesting.)

Here are some examples from my recent viewing:
  • The caption said "stay there" as an actress sort of mimed the command. But she never actually said anything. I wondered about this. But then I realized that she had mouthed the words in addition to miming the meaning with her body (shush face, palms-down gesture). Perhaps the caption was included because deaf viewers might otherwise wonder what why "stay there" wasn't captioned. Mind you, deaf viewers would have already grasped her meaning because she said it so clearly with her gestures. Interesting!
  • When music plays, the caption often tries to define its mood. I get a kick out of their choices. "Ominous music" is a fun one. I also like the occasionally meaningless captions, such as "inaudible chanting". Indeed. (And I never heard any chanting, making this kinda weird. Maybe there really was inaudible chanting! Funny.)
  • In one movie, as a couple engaged in a sloppy kiss, the captioning said "Muah!" Gotta love that.
Of course, captioning can be helpful even to those who can hear. For instance, when I watched a movie that was set in New Orleans, I couldn't understand the heavy patios of one of the actors -- and I'm pretty good with accents. So I turned on captioning. It listed his sentences in clear, proper English, as if he had no accent. Very nice.

Have you had any adventures with captioning? I'd love to read comments from deaf readers. Are you satisfied with the captioning system? What needs to be improved?

I think it's great that captioning exists for any broadcast, though live shows are still problematic. There are lots of misspelled words and garbled phrases. Sometimes I wonder if they have two people typing the text, to keep up with the pace of the speakers. I say this because sometimes there will be one sentence haltingly typed on the screen, and then a full sentence or two will instantly appear after it. I'd love to know how they handle these live broadcasts. It would be interesting to be present as the typists create the captions. 

I'm gonna go put that on my bucket list.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Echoing Lily

Lily Tomlin famously wondered what it means to be successful in a mediocre world. I think about that all the time because I wonder what it means to blog in a senseless world.

The news beats me down on a daily basis. It's one awful thing after another. I've begun to think we need a new word for news: spews. The spews media. Sounds right, no?

When I think of blogging about stuff in the daily spews, I bump into the next problem: how to pick one thing out of this maelstrom of trash so I can blog about it. I mean, that only makes sense when society is acting rationally and a rarely seen problem pops up. "Oh, hey, I'll blog about that." But when it's all trash and none of it makes sense, really, what point is there in blogging about it? Even if you manage to change a few minds, everything else is still in the toilet. It's a Sisyphus kind of thing.

That's why I'm glad to be writing again. The book is coming along nicely. Hoo, hoo, I'm back in the saddle again! Thank dog I have this private refuge. It's an island of sanity in a world of spews.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A very good idea

Since the world is divided into people who want to be free, and those who would force others to live according to their authoritarian notions, the free flow of information is crucial. So this is refreshing news.
A small team of workers at a New York based non-profit organization called Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has announced its intention to build an "Outernet"—a global network of cube satellites broadcasting Internet data to virtually any person on the planet—for free. The idea, the MDIF website says, is to offer free Internet access to all people, regardless of location, bypassing filtering or other means of censorship.

Scully a whiz at 86

Yay, baseball is back! Well, spring training, anyway. The other day, I had the pleasure of hearing Vin Scully call a Dodgers game. This guy is amazing. At the age of 86 (he'll turn 87 this year), he has the nimble brain of a perceptive 23-year-old. It's as if he's completely immune to the fallout caused by aging.

He's also the only "lone" announcer I can think of. Other baseball teams use two and even three announcers so the load doesn't fall on one guy. Not the Dodgers, though. They have Vin Scully, and that's all you need.

Just listen to a few of the things he said during the game I watched last week:
"And adding to the fun, there are two Marte's in the game, Alfredo and Andy!"

"Tuiososoppo strikes out and takes himself and all his syllables back to the dugout."

(While watching an outfielder run around the park and dive dramatically to make each catch): "He's covering the field, both literally and figuratively."

(And when a veteran hitter faced a rookie pitcher with an unusual name, he said:) "[After all those decades of fine work], here he is, being tested by a young pitcher named Stripling."
The man doesn't miss a trick. Consider how functional you'll be when you're 86. Uh-huh. You'll be lucky if you can stand. Scully is the most together old guy I've ever encountered.

I'm just happy to see him back for another year. May he continue to do this past the age of 100. Watta guy!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Kindle stuff

Two things:

1. I increased the price of Xmas Carol to $5.99. Lots of people urged me to do this (even Annie and my dentist, fer god's sake). I tried to fight them off but in the end, I succumbed. Let's see how the book does at the new price.

2. I always wondered about the option to "lend" a purchased Kindle title. I knew you could do it but didn't know the specifics. Here's how it works: you can lend the book to someone for 14 days. (I assume it disappears in puff of smoke after two weeks.) And then you can lend it to others. This is apparently an effort to duplicate the ease with which we can lend physical books. To lend your copy, just go to the Xmas Carol page and you'll find a link asking if you'd like to lend the book. I think this is a great idea. If you've read Xmas Carol, lend it to someone. They'll thank you.

Okay, back to the polar vortex. We're expecting another foot of snow on Sunday. Jeebus.