Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can Humans Handle Marijuana? Let's Hope So!

Obama enjoyed smoking pot, but since he became a politician, his line has been that people should go to jail for smoking pot. He didn't go to jail, but he felt like other people should go to jail for doing what he did. But now he is backing down from his draconian position a little bit, seeing the direction that the political winds are blowing. Two states have legalized pot, and more are permitting medicinal use of pot, because pot has many medicinal benefits for the human body, unlike alcohol.

I was amused to read all the hand-wringing the Obama Administration has had over Washington and Colorado's decision to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. There were conference calls between the Attorney General and state officials, memorandums published, press conferences, meetings and deliberations. Goodness gracious! Such a big deal. One would think that they were proposing to make liquor and firearms legal, or something dangerous like that. Everyone should know that marijuana is a non-toxic and non-addictive herb that is used for medicinal purposes, recreational purposes, spiritual purposes, or sometimes all of the above.

Reuters refers to freedom advocates as "marijuana advocates," which is a misnomer. Many people support legalization, yet do not "advocate" anything. I support aspirin being legal, but I don't use aspirin. I support most anything being legal, so long as there is little possibility harm will come of it. But in some cases, such as firearms, we find that people want these things legal even if there is a certain degree of risk. With marijuana, there is very little risk. There is less risk with marijuana than there is with aspirin. Aspirin can kill easily. There are no cases of death by marijuana. Not one.

Now if freedom advocates are wrong, and the prohibitionists are correct, and marijuana should remain illegal, then the human race is doomed. If humans cannot handle a non-toxic and non-addictive herb, then there is no possible way they can handle liquor, firearms, and the list goes on. How can we possibly handle motor vehicles, credit, employment, conscription, war, childbirth, accidents, or natural disasters? Least of all can the nations of the world handle nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. There is no hope for humans at all, following the logic that flows from Prohibition. Thus, we must develop contingency plans and send humans into outer space, because the planet is doomed. Another idea would be to imprison every human being to make sure they don't encounter anything dangerous, such as aspirin or shampoo, either of which can be ingested and cause sickness or even death. The prisoners could then be fed and cleaned by robots, and robots can be designed to maintain the robots. The government has been making great strides in putting people in prison. Our nation has the highest percentage in prison of all the nations in the world. A large number of those people in prison were involved in some manner or another with the lucrative illegal drug trade.

For my part, I think there are too many laws and too many lawyers today. What we need are people in politics who understand how things work--scientists and engineers. There do not seem to be many politicians around that understand how things work and why they work. Politicians are more interested in power and using the law to further their own ends, which are based not upon reason and understanding, but upon personal ambition, misinformation and misunderstanding.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I'm not thrilled at the prospect of my country getting involved in Syria. In Syria, both sides are anti-American. I don't see that there is any advantage to be gained for the U.S. by getting involved. If the Syrian tyrant is removed from power or diminished, it is pretty clear that another anti-American despot will take over from him, more than likely an Islamist that wants to torture and kill infidels. One thing's for sure, there won't be any notion among the Syrians of gratitude or of repaying all the money we spend assisting them. The warlords spend money we don't have on wars we don't need. I don't see why the U.S. always has to foot the bill, especially when our economy is in shambles.

I don't know how many Americans remember the Afghan War of thirty years ago, when the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan. President Reagan praised the Afghan resistance--the Taliban and Bin Laden--as "Freedom Fighters," and the C.I.A. spent money arming them. My father was so brainwashed by U.S. propaganda that he composed poems praising the "Freedom Fighters." My father doesn't like to talk about that anymore, but he used to recite his poetry with great passion and conviction. After the freedom fighters won, they installed Islamic Sharia law and gave sanctuary to anti-American terrorists. In retrospect, the communist regime that the Soviets tried to preserve was not that bad. It was certainly better than the Taliban by any measure one would care to apply. The communists gave rights to women, such as the right to be educated, something the Islamists will never abide. Not only did the U.S. spend billions putting the Taliban in power, they also spent more billions removing them from power. The gist of it all is that the warlords do not take any clues from history. They are completely incapable of learning from past mistakes, like Afghanistan and Viet Nam, or else they don't care about their country and just want to grab money from the taxpayers. War in modern America is just a way for the military to justify its oversized budget.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The CAPTCHA Insanity

Dear fellow bloggers, if you don't want comments on your blog, then just say so. I typed a fairly lengthy comment on one prominent Linux blog, only to be confounded by the blogger's spambot-trapping CAPTCHA. He's installed a virtual Fort Knox on his blog. I had to decipher not merely a distorted word, but also an out-of-focus picture with a three-digit number on it. In nine cases out of ten, I could not read either the word or the number. My vision is close to 20/20, but after a dozen failed attempts I conceded defeat. The blogger did not receive my comment and will never know that he turned away his reader. Contrast his policy with my own. I allow anonymous comments and have nothing more than the generic CAPTCHA. I'm not torturing people with cryptograms. Yeah, I receive a spam comment once in a blue moon, especially on that post I wrote about Namecheap (the worst web hosting company in existence today), but I delete them. If I notice an upsurge in spam, then I change my settings to hold new comments in the moderation queue, so that they are not published unless I approve them. That completely defeats spammers. And for the record, I do not censor people who disagree with me. I prefer to argue with them! I do censor profanity and vulgarity, because I don't think it's cute or clever, and that sort of thing can impact my search ranking on Google.

Please knock it off with the crypto CAPTCHA insanity!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Twenty Pounds

With age comes the retirement of the pleasures of youth and discovery of other pleasures, those more suited to age. I came to the conclusion today that I need to lose twenty pounds. It was like a revelation to me, a certainty that that was the right thing to do. I feel that my old ticker will be better off for it. Having given up alcohol, the next logical step is to abandon candy and sweet drinks. People give these things to me sometimes, especially at work. I have to learn to either say no or else dispose of the unwanted gifts discreetly.

Ah, rekonq!

For months, I have been experiencing an annoying problem with my laptop. I have Linux Mint 14 KDE installed on it. I'm a big fan of Ubuntu derivatives, because I've experienced what the competition has to offer. I only have a 1.8ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 gigs RAM on this old laptop, but am able to do just about everything through the power of KDE. Some people say KDE is too bloated and slow, but I have not found this to be the case, with one exception. Blogger (this blog) does not like my laptop. I can read a post, usually. But if I try to write a post on my blog, then Firefox bogs down and eventually the system dies. Yes, the dreaded system crash where the computer is no longer responsive. Argh! What to do?

For a couple weeks now, I've been casting about for a replacement Linux distro. I thought maybe Open Suse, Mageia, PCLinuxOS, Manjaro, and the list goes on. And on. And on. A glance at Distro Watch boggles the mind. Why so many distros? Personally, I think many should merge, pool their talents rather than reinventing the wheel all the time. But that's another issue.

In the end, I decided I was looking at the problem the wrong way. The issue is not really with Linux Mint 14 or KDE. Granted, KDE is a little bit slower, especially during boot-time--it takes my slow laptop over a minute to boot. But that's no big deal. Once it's booted, everything is fine and dandy, again with the exception of Firefox on Blogger. Granted, my Firefox includes some heavy-duty add-ons, such as Flash, but I think that Blogger itself, which is run by Google, has some kind of memory-eating bug. Writing text on a blog almost completely devoid of graphics should not eat up the processor, not unless Google is doing about fifty things it shouldn't be doing. In my opinion, Google is the culprit here, not Firefox nor any of my add-ons. Probably Google wants to crash Firefox, to make their product Chrome look better.

Someone will have to pry this laptop from my cold, dead hands before Google Chrome gets installed on it. My solution, which I am verifying with this post, was to install rekonq, the forgotten web browser offered by KDE as a fast alternative to Firefox, Konqueror, et al. Now I can blog with no problem. Rekonq is easy to use and as fast as I want it to be. I am particularly glad that I can stay with Linux Mint KDE and not go through the pain of installing a brand new distro.

My only other beef with Ubuntu-derivatives centers around privacy concerns, but since I'm not a big shot or a secret agent, I don't think anybody is going to be too terribly interested in little old me. But definitely it is the case that Canonical has been getting too big for their britches. Putting ads on the freaking desktop is cheeky and makes me want to dump Ubuntu and try another distro. At the same time, I don't want to encounter a mountain of gotchas by using a distro that is not ready for prime time. There are a lot of distros listed on Distro Watch that are not ready for prime time. I sure hope that the other distro developers wake up and smell the coffee at long last. I don't see the reason that there are hundreds of distros hopping around, when they really need to merge and pool their efforts into solving problems. There is something to be said for teamwork and for not reinventing the wheel all the time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Socrates and the Afterlife

Like many Greeks, Socrates believed in the afterlife, that is, that our individual consciousness will survive death, invisibly entering a realm outside of this world for a time before cycling back into a new human body. That must have been a great comfort to him while he was under sentence of death. I think he saw himself as a servant of the gods (my text says "God," but as his people were polytheist, I think the translator took liberties). He expected a reward of some kind or at least a better life after death, poor fellow. The belief has abiding appeal. There are many still today that do what they do because they think their reward will be great in Paradise. And it can be argued that in some cases this seems to be a beneficial illusion. That all illusions are harmful is a difficult argument with an uncertain outcome.

I can't say Socrates feels cheated now that he knows he was wrong, because he doesn't know anything, any more. He is ended. I don't accept the notion that individual consciousness survives death. I don't feel individual consciousness is all that special or deserving of preservation; it's just a complicated, beautiful machine, wondrous in its powers but temporal, fading and dying like a flower never to be seen again in this world. Beautiful things are created anew and destroyed all the time, everywhere. There is really no need in the scheme of things for human beings to be immortal. Reaching the top of the food chain has led to hubris among our people.

Socrates went around questioning people and tripping them up in logical arguments. He seems to have been a show-off and had no shortage of enemies. I don't find his arguments very persuasive, although he does raise good points. In the ancient world, I'm sure his arguments seemed strong, because there wasn't modern science or modern education around to refute them. He probably was a good speaker and a natural extrovert, to get so many followers. Although he disclaimed a desire for power or influence, I think his strongest desire was to appear wise and witty before these young men and to keep them interested. I think pride and his desire for attention and flattery were his downfall. He made political and social mistakes, apparently, because his enemies succeeded in persuading the citizens of Athens to condemn him to death. The sentence was surely unjust, which makes Socrates a martyr for freedom, specifically freedom of inquiry and perhaps freedom of speech.

The thought of science prolonging human life forever is not necessarily a comforting idea. The first people to consume the pills that grant immortality will probably be the worst people. They will seize the technology for their own and want a monopoly upon it, just as people seek sole possession of other treasures and powers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Here's For Bradley Manning

CNN published a strong rebuttal to Manning's harsh sentence that persuaded me. I think our government employees have been hobnobbing with despots around the globe too much. They have forgotten what America is about. They do not remember what country they live in. They need to be reminded, but how?

Until the government begins acting like a republic again, all talk about gun control must be postponed. The government for a long time has been doing too many things in secret. The national security state seems intent upon installing all the relics and organs of a police state. I don't think that America is at a stage where the citizens should be disarmed in any way. I hate guns and the random senseless violence that they enable. But I am now opposed to gun control. If anything, I think citizens should be encouraged to purchase firearms.

Dangerous precedents have been set by our government. It is clear that the people in government like to do illegal things whenever they feel they can get away with it. The warlords have an intense, unquenchable desire to spy upon Americans. Even now that the public knows that the NSA is spying on us, the NSA still continues to spy on us. They have been treating the Bill of Rights like their personal toilet paper roll. The feelings of certain warlords were hurt by Bradley, so they stripped him naked and left him in a cell by himself for months to get their little revenge. Now their revenge runs full course: 35 years, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorable discharge. If Bradley Manning gets 35 years, how many years in prison should the Bush Administration get for lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? How about Obama for letting the NSA spy on Americans? Moral rectitude is expected of a judge, and our Presidents are judges by virtue of their influence, and in extremis, their power of pardon.

I think it would be both decent and politically prudent in Obama to grant Manning a pardon at some time, perhaps a few months from now or on his last day in office.

Manning's gender identity--I hesitate to use the word "disorder," which I feel may be viewed as pejorative, although it is the psychological terminology--is just a big red herring in this case. I don't like it, because it adds a note of confusion and appears to be a sympathy play, although it also seems to be true. A question arises as to motive. Did Manning act due to his internal pressures or out of idealism? Is the one punishable, and the other deserving of leniency? Does motive matter? Motives matter in sentencing. The problem with the Manning case is that the trial received so little media attention. Again, too much secrecy. Therefore, Manning must be assumed to be the purest idealist that ever walked the Earth, on a par with Socrates. Otherwise, the government would not have cloaked the trial in secrecy, would not have tortured Manning and tried to break him, and would not have sentenced him to 35 years. The government has a lot to hide and wants to keep the soldier under control.

I have to admit that there is a part of me that would like to see Manning free, living as the woman he wants to be, and on a talk show--maybe twenty talk shows. I would watch at least the first one with avid interest. I'm sure that's what the government definitely does not want. And after all, is it right that Manning should be rewarded for breaking his oaths and disobeying his officers? Is it right that Manning should garner attention and sympathy for merely being transgender? There does seem something amiss about that.

I think there is a real danger of encouraging soldiers to disobey their commanding officers. There is a part of me that believes Manning may suffer an injustice for the greater good of setting an example, so that other soldiers don't reveal classified information. But then the problem arises that we are creating an army like the one in Nazi Germany, where soldiers committed atrocities because to defy an officer's order would be unthinkable. I think disobedience should have a limited amount of toleration, or else soldiers can be made into robot-like killing machines. Do we want a robotic army that never thinks for itself, that never questions an officer, that does whatever a warlord tells it to do? Is that necessary or desirable? Such was the case in the latter days of the Roman Empire, when the army ruled the roost and civilian authority was reduced to providing a rhetorical and symbolic cover for despotism. These are difficult moral questions, questions about policy and governance. I think that some disobedience is certainly to be expected, because there are moral values superior to oaths, superior to commands that may be issued by a commanding officer. Sometimes officers get things wrong, and on rare occasions they get things terribly wrong. Should a soldier have a conscience? I think yes. To the extent that Manning acted out of conscience and more importantly, did not cause harm to his country or his fellow soldiers, he deserves leniency.

Monday, August 19, 2013


I like to read about the dialogues of Socrates, because he offers insight into ancient Greece, morality, and questions of our existence, but I never agree with him. His conclusions seem based upon false assumptions. He takes shortcuts in his reasoning. At the end of one of his arguments, I never feel satisfied. I don't feel he has answered all possible objections, not by a long shot. His uncritical followers always reply "Yes, Socrates," or "No, Socrates." I wish someone had been around to offer a rigorous rebuttal to his proofs. I would like to see how he would respond. I think if Socrates were resurrected and introduced to the modern world and especially modern science, his opinions would change.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I used initials for the title of this post, because the subject matter is gross. I don't normally blog about gross things, but I read something today that disturbed me. Someone wrote in an editorial that all we ever heard about in the West about Egypt concerned Cairo, but Cairo was not representative of Egypt, and that the West didn't understand how backward rural Egypt was. To illustrate this point, the writer pointed out that 96% of Egyptian women over the age of 45 (and 80% of teenage girls) have experienced female genital mutilation. I don't think there's any rational defence that can be made of FGM. How a population like Egypt's could ever nourish democracy, I don't know. Egypt might be ready for democracy a hundred years from now, but not today. If the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in power, I'm convinced we'd have another Iran in no time at all. Egypt remains mired in ignorance. The population does not know the difference between right and wrong, medicine and quackery, religion and superstition. I researched the topic further on Wikipedia and found that over a hundred million women have undergone FGM. It is true that Western doctors starting around the 19th century practiced FGM to address specific isolated cases, but the accounts are few and far between, and very far from the cultural norm. I think what Egypt needs is a dictatorship that is just benevolent enough to educate the population and introduce gradual reforms.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Manning Trial

I have been following the Bradley Manning trial with interest. Based on what I've read in the media, I am of the opinion that perhaps Manning is guilty. He is a figure that excites sympathy, with his youth, small stature, gender identity issues and the grave charges he faced. We should admit that there is a degree of unreality to committing a supposed crime over the Internet. The psychological threshold is much less. One does not face another human being. This is why we have trolls and cyberbullies. Manning, in conducting his "espionage," didn't meet with any foreign agent. He never spoke to anyone, never got paid. He received no reward. For whatever reason, he flipped out, pressed the wrong buttons on his computer and transmitted a bunch of classified data electronically. It's a strange case. He was a part of the system. It's like he was a circuit board that failed and started sending data to the wrong register. Was it an act of conscience, a poor judgment call, a result of mental instability, or all of the above? At any rate, it's hard to conceive of Manning as deserving a lengthy prison sentence. But certainly the military can't permit an improper precedent to be set, whereby any soldier having a contrary viewpoint can take it upon themselves to disobey and what is far worse, to reveal classified information. That is a dangerous precedent indeed. What if Manning had done worse, and revealed information that got his fellow soldiers killed? On the other hand, as a citizen, I am rather pleased to have received a better view of what our government is really doing. I don't think it's right that the government does so many things in secret. Yes, secret action may be more effective, blah blah blah, but what place does undercover activity have in a government by the people, of the people and for the people? There is too much secrecy today. I think the less secrecy, the better. Dictatorships are what secrecy and spies are about. I think that sometimes the government wants to do things in secret because it knows that the people would not approve if they were to know, and that's wrong. Our leaders are human too, and sometimes they're wrong, which is why they require oversight by the people, and that oversight is more effective if it is informed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Let's Hear it For Figuring Things Out

I like to search the net once in a blue moon for mentions of this blog. Most hits seem to be content scrapers and related scum that are simply trolling for visitors in order to generate ad revenue or whatever. Recently though, I found a post on Reddit with ten comments. An anonymous Ubuntu user is sweating over whether my Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup cheat script is some kind of malware. I thought to myself, give me a break. This paranoia is probably why the script is not more widely used. I don't know whether I should care or not. There's probably nothing I can do about that.

It is not like my cheat script is a compiled .exe with unknown commands, like most Windows cheats. It is plain text source code. Any text editor can read it. The commands are just plain old Linux script language written in a clear and consistent structured style. There is nothing hidden or complicated about it. Script syntax is widely documented on numerous sites, but I think even without documentation, someone good with computers could probably figure it out without much effort. But that's just the thing. People don't want to put forth any effort at all to understanding even a simple script. Not a soul in the Reddit crowd took five minutes to examine the script and understand what it does. Instead they spent those same five minutes writing homilies about the dangers of installing programs from unknown sources and telling the user to format his drive and reinstall Ubuntu, about the worst advice I've ever heard. Contrast their attitude with mine. I spent probably sixty hours working out all the details of the script, unpaid of course, just a labor of love on my part and a desire to rise to the challenge. I did not know anything about Linux scripts when I began, but learned by googling for the syntax I needed. Perhaps it is a worthless skill, after all. I know Linux scripting language now, but nobody cares really, and it won't lead to a job of any kind. No amount of computer skills will lead to a job. One needs to already have a job in order to get a job in today's lousy job market. There is no financial incentive to learn anything at all. Some of us will continue learning just for the sake of learning, because we like to learn. But we're a minority.

Well, after publishing this post, guess what I'm going to do? Run, of course. I use it, certainly not every day, but whenever I want to play Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, which may be about once a month or so. I haven't needed to make any changes since January of 2013. And the only reason I reinstall my operating system is because I feel like it, not because some know-nothings on Reddit think it's the thing to do.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Let It Be

Emotions are a kind of short-circuit in the brain, a way of bypassing the usual logical reasoning process. I do think that people are logical, in general. I do not believe that humans are inherently irrational. But an emotion such as love, for instance, causes someone to overlook faults in the beloved. Perhaps that can be a good thing. Certainly it is for the beloved. I think logical reasoning has a lot going for it, though. Fear and anger are other ways of short-circuiting reason. These seem like primitive emotions. I dislike them in me when I sense them. There is something distasteful about fear or anger over things that may not really matter, actually, such as having someone hang up on you in the middle of a phone conversation, or receiving an insult. I would prefer to feel nothing at all, especially when the emotions are not necessary in our safe modern life. Perhaps in barbaric lands, fear and anger are useful to rouse a human to "fight or flight" in order to overcome an adversary. But in the civilized world, just how helpful are these emotions? Probably not that much on a day-to-day basis.

The way I learned to deal with these things is to let them be, but don't let them in the driver's seat. The trick is to refrain from any decision or speech while "under the influence" of an emotion, although surely there are exceptions when decisions are called for. One of my favorite lines from the Bible (or is it Shakespeare?) is "This, too, shall pass."

Everyone is going to feel some kind of emotion sometime, as it is a human trait. We are animals after all, curious and funny critters. Sometimes I observe that an animal such as the chimpanzee seems ridiculous in appearance or behavior, but then the thought occurs that perhaps I, too, seem ridiculous, if viewed from the perspective of an intelligent extraterrestrial. I find that as I get older, I do laugh at myself sometimes, and I don't always feel like I'm right. When I was young, in my teens, I almost always thought I was right. Then in my twenties, a little less, but usually I felt I was right. Now, sometimes I'm not so sure, and I listen more to other opinions and keep an open mind. I've observed that even the wisest people get things wrong sometimes, and often they get things part-right and part-wrong. Insufficient information and miscommunication are common problems.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mr. Selfridge is a Unicorn

I love the show "Selfridge's." Mr. Selfridge is the boss of the department store, Selfridge's, in 1920's London. He's the rare boss, the hard to find boss, a unicorn. He's good-hearted, fair, firm, upright, honest, and with an intact and functioning conscience. It's wonderful to fantasize about working for a boss like that. I like to see him feeling guilty and trying to amend his misdeeds, because that means he intends good and realizes he made a mistake in judgement. We do perceive this world as through a glass darkly. In our hurried lives, sometimes the right path is not always clear. He's also handsome, charming, dynamic, and capable of changing his position when he realizes he's wrong. I haven't known many bosses that can do that trick, change their mind when they know they've made a mistake. Most will keep grinding away at their same mistakes over and over again, due to pride or complacency, instead of changing course in logical fashion.

I like the show because it depicts a company where the workers and the boss are on the same page and the people all come together somehow. There is teamwork and somehow the employer-employee relationship takes on a more familial tone. I think some jaded, cynical critics don't get the show because they can't relate with how appealing such a fantasy world is.

I love the theme music, as well. It evokes a bright sunny morning, full of hope and promise.

I do hope they don't go on and on about Mr. Selfridge's affairs with other women. I'm reminded of Tony Soprano and many other characters on television. Are no powerful men monogamous? I suppose monogamy bores the audience, while infidelity is rich in drama, considered the lifeblood of film. Or does film mirror reality? I wouldn't know.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Folly of Volunteering

I need to tone down my enthusiasm. I often find that I link to a site, promote it in forums, recommend it to friends--all for free naturally--and then sometime later, the site changes policy and jabs a thorn in my side (userstyles), or deletes my account without warning (project honeypot), or goes down for good (the 'tree). I have no luck with my recommendations AT ALL. I have no luck with volunteering my time or talents. Usually when I volunteer, I wind up in the end feeling like a fool. I think the best thing to recommend is a dead author. That way, one will never be disappointed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

U.S. Health Care--Doctors Don't Care

I think U.S. health care is abominable. I know a friend with asthma. To get a rescue inhaler, in order to avoid death by suffocation, requires a doctor's prescription, for no rational or ethical reason. The doctors just got together and decided they needed money every so often from asthma patients in order to pay for their golf fees. The lower-cost clinics in the area refuse to make any appointments earlier than one month in advance, so asthma patients must either die by suffocation, or cough up $100 for a fancy doctor's visit, enriching the doctors at the cost of two days' salary for a worker. Typically, the doctor tries to push some fancy new drug that the pharmaceutical company has bribed him to push. Time is wasted, health is wasted, and in the end the result is the same, the rescue inhaler must be obtained in order to live. Life-saving Albuterol thus costs $5 per dose in America, when it is free in the U.K. That is because in America, there is a strong belief among some in Social Darwinism, that death and dying and suffering are useful tools to get rid of undesirables. Republicans use laws and legal procedures in order to kill the poor by depriving them of health care by any means possible. Doctors conspire along with Republicans to make a bad situation worse by maintaining an absolute monopoly on the distribution of life-saving medicines.

Bezos Takeover of the Washington Post

I'm not thrilled about Amazon's Jeff Bezos taking over the Washington Post. Amazon doesn't treat its warehouse workers well. For instance, Bezos cuts down on electricity costs by forbidding air conditioning at the warehouses. I would expect that Bezos will apply his slave philosophy to the Post, not just mistreating current and former Post employees but also eradicating any editorials, opinions or articles concerning worker's rights. I think Bezos is foremost a person who thinks very little of workers, only as a means to an end, and is focused only on making money and accumulating prestige for himself. I'm surprised that anyone would view his latest acquisition as anything other than a move designed to make money and accumulate prestige for Bezos. His philosophy begins and ends with his bank balance. I expect the Post is going to be muzzled when it comes to any enterprises related to Bezos or his allies, and it will become the attack dog concerning any rivals of Bezos.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dante's Cove and The Lair

Dante's Cove and The Lair are two gay supernatural soap operas that should have wide appeal to gay audiences. Dante's Cove has a prominent lesbian thread in addition to the primary gay male storyline, but I'm not sure whether lesbians would be satisfied with playing second fiddle, as it were, since there are now television shows and movies that are exclusively about lesbians. I believe the hope was that Dante's Cove could appeal to gay men, lesbians, and to a lesser extent even straight people, but I think gay men are the primary audience, with some lesbian interest but possibly no attention from the straight crowd.

Although I haven't taken a survey of straight people, I can judge whether they'd like it by asking myself a simple question. Would I continue watching Dante's Cove if there was no gay action? The answer is no. I do continue to watch True Blood despite the lack of gay action in most seasons, but the writing and production values are better. I just don't feel Dante's Cove is good enough to capture the straight audience, but gay males? Yes, because the men are hot. Lesbians? Some might like it, because there are hot women and strong women, too. But I wonder whether lesbians might prefer "The 'L' Word" instead. At any rate, the plot is rather thick. I would have recommended less blood, no dungeons, and more art, beauty and conversation. How about witchcraft lite, genteel witchcraft, rather than old-fashioned cackling medieval witchery?

Be that as it may, I love Dante's Cove and regret that the fourth season was never to be. The actors and actresses are gorgeous, the writing acceptable, the plot a bit silly (okay, more than a bit silly), and the music and camera work excellent. Production values are all good, nothing wretched or obviously out of place or laughable that I detected. Dante's Cove has sex appeal, although sometimes the producers annoy the audience by switching from a hot scene to a scene of an elderly man or woman in distress. I realize that their intention is to maintain the plot, but the plot is rather silly, and taking it too seriously is, I feel, a mistake. The plot should have been changed if it interferes with the audience's enjoyment.

The Lair is just about exclusively gay male, with no bones thrown to the lesbian or straight crowd at all. I have forgotten some of the plot, as it was a long time ago I watched it, but it was good also. I feel that Dante's Cove is better, because I appreciate the presence of strong women, and overall I find a complicated system of witchcraft more interesting and less predictable than mere crude bloodthirsty vampirism.

Update: I rewatched season 2 of Dante's Cove and was reminded that the show actually improves a great deal as it progresses. Season 2 is twice as good as season 1. It was almost as if the show's producers foresaw my advice. They dumped the dungeons, staunched the blood-letting, and minimized the gross scenes. Now the show is entering into its own as a full-fledged gay soap opera, with a tantalizing supernatural twist, all set on the fantasy landscape of a tropical island. And the cast, of course, is gorgeous. Their acting is much better, too, I must say. Season 2 has moving scenes that actually make me feel emotion. I think the entire cast is strong in this show.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Patrick O'Brian Not Good with Gays

I'm on the sixteenth novel in Patrick O'Brian's twenty-book series concerning the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin. This is my second reading, and I've come to understand the work and the author better, I think. First of all, O'Brian is a very masculine writer. He dwells upon the technology of sailing with particular knowledge and insight. I could imagine him sailing a ship. Also, he minimizes the role of conversation. There isn't much talking in an O'Brian novel--his characters are almost all men, and his men tend to be terse and concise, a manly trait. The humor tends to remind me of The Three Stooges or at any rate, movies and television shows from his era. I really like the way that O'Brian paces his novel, having an instinctive grasp for what the reader wants to read. His style is unadorned, very readable, flowing into the mind without obstruction, and thick with period detail that gives the reader the distinct impression of experiencing the early 19th century. He tends to be impressionist, skipping episodes he finds boring or commonplace and reserving his attention for what he thinks the reader wants to know.

With his arsenal of factual knowledge, O'Brian seems a stickler for realism for the most part. The only times I've doubted his judgment has been when he used deux ex machina to pull one of his heroes out of the fire--for instance, when Stephen Maturin inherited a vast, unexpected sum of money making him wealthy enough to buy a frigate and much more. I dislike O'Brian's treatment of homosexuality, but it was relatively moderate for his generation. Unfortunately, O'Brian fell into the trap then common among novelists of making his villains, traitors in the British Admiralty, gay. This was very common in movies, television and fiction back in the 20th century, on up to 1990. Villains tended to be lesbian or gay, fitting right into common prejudices. I think O'Brian's case may be less forgiveable, because by his own admission, part of his success owed to his acceptance by his predecessor in historical novels, Mary Renault, who had a lesbian relationship for most of her adult life. She wrote glowing reviews and offered praise for his novels, and indeed one of the reasons I began reading O'Brian was because of Renault's recommendation. So I think he owed it to Mary to treat gays a little bit better than making them into villains. His treatment of women was scarcely better--none of the women in O'Brian's novels are very intelligent or capable of understanding anything of what the two heroes do. I think Diane would have been a good partner for Stephen Maturin's intelligence work, but he excluded her, I think because O'Brian didn't feel competent portraying the voices and deeds of women, just as he had precious little competence in portraying gays.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eat at Home

I've never gotten sick eating at home. Eating out, I've gotten food poisoning, the flu, colds, and the list goes on and on, and my mother has too. The basic problem with most restaurants is that they can't or won't pay their people enough to stay home when ill. Sick leave is non-existent. And their people are so desperately poor that they can't afford to miss a day of work, even if they feel bad. When one is earning less than ten dollars an hour, with no job security, no benefits, no sick leave and no medical care, and a variable and complicated work schedule, just how high on the list of priorities is washing hands? I would imagine that hands are seldom if ever washed in the vast majority of cases, and that those who do wash hands probably don't do so in an effective manner. Washing hands is a more complicated procedure than would seem to those that have not had medical training. Of course, nurses and doctors know just how important it is to wash hands, but they, too, neglect to wash thoroughly enough to avoid the transmission of germs, and if doctors and nurses have difficulty managing hand-washing, then your average minimum-wage employee most certainly will.

Drinking alcohol will increase the probability of getting sick, not just during the meal but for many days after. Alcohol has a negative impact on the immune system along with every other system of the body. Restaurants serve alcohol merely because the profit margin is many times larger than for other food items, and drinkers tend to spend more and scrutinize the bill less.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Reform the Olympics

In part due to the possibility of cheating through the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but also for philosophical reasons, I think that the Olympics should be changed to be non-competitive. Each nation should contribute its best athletes, but the focus should change from defeating other nations to working with other nations to give the world the best, the most entertaining show. Nations should work together rather than competing against one another. If nations do not learn to work together, then our species will have a difficult time coping with climate change and the existence of weapons of mass destruction--nuclear, biological and chemical. I think the Olympics could be a learning experience. What the human race needs to learn most of all is cooperation. The idea of oneness has not yet permeated into the thought processes of very many people. I hear, read and see "us versus them" everywhere. What we need to be hearing is "us," and no "them," because we really are just alone on this fragile little planet, surrounded by dead planets. We have not found life anywhere else. And if we ever do find some form of life, in our continuing explorations of outer space, it is not likely to help us in an intelligent fashion. I think cooperation is key, and that the way to bring cooperation about is to practice it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Homage to Ibuprofen

I have a secret. My favorite drug is ibuprofen. It makes me feel so good. As far as I'm concerned, the fountain of youth is ibuprofen. That and a competent, non-drowsy antihistamine are the primary drugs I would need on a desert island.

Religion, Liberalism and Progress

I've been on this earth a long time in human terms, and what surprised me the most was the acceptance of gay rights and indeed gay marriage during my lifetime. There has been quite a rise in consciousness from the 1970s. I can't help but feel that some kind of balance is being restored, that this is a natural process. The homophobic status quo was too far one way. There was no balance. Injustice was obvious to anyone with eyes to see. In a society where people can express themselves, gay rights were inevitable. The injustices were too numerous, too glaring, too easy to understand. It is not, after all, a complicated issue. It is not an issue that people can't relate with, either. However, I suspect the main catalyst for change in the area of gay rights were the rich. Homosexuality is a trait that arises without regard to economic status. So when gay consciousness awoke, due to the efforts of brave and creative poets, writers, artists and activists, and all gays began to feel a sense of loyalty and belonging to their group, the rich gays were already in a position to manipulate the levers of power to bring about change. If factions among the rich didn't want change, then I don't think change would have happened. Certainly there was very little movement for change among the so-called moral guardians in the church, mosque or synagogue. The priests were asleep, dreaming about God and talking in their sleep about God, not caring about the world, about society.

Back in the 1970s, our top fear was nuclear apocalypse. There was a feeling of hopelessness and inevitability about the coming nuclear exchange between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. Now our top fear is global economic meltdown and global climate catastrophe. There is also a feeling of hopelessness and inevitability about that as well. Maybe we will soldier on somehow through the problems of today and tomorrow. I don't know. I think it is possible that all three fears might become a reality--nuclear exchange, economic meltdown, and climate change. I think the basic problem of our species is that our advances in technology outstripped our advances in philosophy. Medieval religions are not well-equipped to handle modern issues of any kind. There is not a moral element in society other than liberalism that wants to tackle any important or difficult issues.

BART Strike?

I read recently that BART employees in San Francisco are thinking about a strike. I don't think they should strike. They have great benefits compared to anyone I know. They should be sending the city Thank-You cards every year and a fancy Christmas present as well. I would do their work for half what they make. It seems to me the only workers striking anymore are those that don't need to strike, because they already make so much money they don't know what to do with it.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions