Sunday, May 26, 2024

What is too much Taylor Swift

 This much ... when the singer is used to send a message about POSSIBLE future problems?

I know this is just me...

 ... but I don't think this is helping. I (think) I understand the anger of the Oct 7th attacks. But more people are starving in this picture than were attacked on Oct. 7th.

What will be enough? 35,000 dead so far. What are enough dead people, particularly women, and children and that assumes every man was a Hamas fighter? 

The Israeli government has determined they will stay in Gaza until every Hamas fighter is dead. Since they have said that Hamas fighters mix in the general population;  it is incumbent on their military to kill every male, close every hospital, prevent media in Gaza from reporting, kill aid workers, blow up humanitarian aid, close every border, and never back down.

What will be enough?

If it is the death of every male Palestinian in Gaza, I cannot be behind that. If it is ANYTHING other than that, please explain it to me.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Let's Take a look at Louisiana and their new laws

 Louisiana is an odd place. It sells itself in multiple ways, many in opposition to each other.

  1. Home to the southern plantations.
  2. Home to antebellum city mansions.
  3. Home to voo-doo
  4. Home to the Bachinalia of New Orleans.
  5. Home to French Creole culture.

    you can now add this to the state

  6. Home of crazy conservatives

To see what I mean, you must understand the crazy ass laws Louisiana has put in place. Nearly all of these are the exact opposite of their pitch for visitors to New Orleans.

New Laws:
1. Just pass the "Don't Say Gay Bill" wherein teachers from Kindergarten to 12th grade (18 years old) are not allowed to discuss anything referring to homosexuals in school.
- There was an amendment allowing teachers to answer questions that might arise from something they read elsewhere. That amendment failed.

2. They have reclassified mifepristone and misoprostol as "dangerous and controlled" substances. It is now illegal to have these drugs in your possession, to stock them at stores, and for doctors to prescribe them. These are the abortion pills people are using to get around Louisiana's complete and total ->

3. -> Total ban on abortion. However, there is an exception if the fetus is not viable or if the mother's life is in danger (although, like other states, the pregnant woman must be on the verge of death BEFORE life-saving procedures can occur.

On the other hand:

- Louisiana hosts Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a debauched festival (albeit fun)
- Allows outdoor drinking
- Allows women to "Show Us Your Tits" for dollar store beads.

So, mixed messages.


Sucked into the movies again - The Fall Guy

 Once again, I was sucked into paying for a movie that was on Amazon a week later.

Last weekend in Laughlin, Ed and I went one afternoon to see The Fall Guy. It was fun, loud, and action-packed. Storywise, it was a bit thin, and the "will they / won't they" dynamic didn't work. I mean, you have Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt at their hottest—of course they will. 

And Ryan Gosling's body is at its absolute best in the movie. And that is saying something. You don't see it a lot in the previews, but more than once, Ed and I (and half the audience) gasped at him.

But I get sidetracked. This is about what bugged me.

For the second time in a row in the desert (2 out of 2 movies), I watched a movie a week before it showed up on Amazon. This time, it was The Fall Guy; last time, it was Saltburn.

Thinking back, I thought both movies deserved to be seen on the big screen, and they benefitted from the large-scale picture and the big boy sound. Still, I felt a little cheated.

PS - Some images from Saltburn to show why it seems better on a big screen.

The inside of an overstuffed Manor House - claustrophobic on the Big Screen
Just "busy" on TV.

The sudden transition to bright sunlight is contrasted with the cloud coming over Jacob
On TV it is just a fleeting image - on the Big Screen crowded with pathos.

On the big screen, a freaked-out young man surveys the wreckage of his party. 
Mirroring how his life is a complex disaster.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Blacks are not a protected group under the Voting Rights Act. Republicans are.

 The Supreme Court, which has become an extension of the Republican Party, just ruled on a voting rights issue in South Carolina. 

The Voting Rights Act called out that states could not gerrymander electoral districts to disadvantage minorities. They overruled Alabama maps that did just this.

But the Republicans have a new tact. In South Carolina, they redrew districts to dilute the power of black voters - a violation of the Voting Rights Act. However, the Supreme Court allowed this map to stand because it only tried to make a Republican seat out of a Democratic district. (Note for Brits: Representatives must live in the district they represent.)

So, the assumption spelled out by the court is that you aren't allowed to disenfranchise Blacks. But you can disenfranchise the voters of either party. The Supreme Court decided that since all the Black people disenfranchised would vote Democratic, it was legal.

The problem with this is that the Court is deciding that a group of people - Democrats - can be gerrymandered out of a district. And that all Blacks will vote Democratic. 

This is a novel and convenient way to make racial gerrymandering legal.

And the US democracy takes another step toward Supreme Court-ordered oblivion.

However, even this didn't go far enough for Justice Clarence Thomas ...

Thomas' wife subsidized and participated in the January 6th insurrection, but he didn't recuse himself. He agreed but wrote that the ruling didn't go far enough. He said courts have no right to rule on districts because it isn't in the Constitution. NOw, the Voting Rights Act IS the law because Congress passed it. Justice Thomas doesn't care. He would overturn the voting Rights Act. And he thinks it all (the assumption of equality and the rule of 1 person, 1 vote) rests on the incorrect decision on Board V Brown. Let's let Slate explain it.

The Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision on Thursday in Alexander v. South Carolina NAACP is a devastating blow to the fight against racial gerrymandering. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for the conservative supermajority guts a series of precedents that guarded against racist redistricting, granting state legislatures sweeping new authority to sort their residents between districts on the basis of skin color.

And yet, as bad as Alito’s opinion was, it didn’t go far enough for Justice Clarence Thomas, who penned a solo concurrence demanding a radical move: The Supreme Court, he argued, should overrule every precedent that limits gerrymandering—including the landmark cases establishing “one person, one vote”—because it has no constitutional power to redraw maps in the first place. And he places much of the blame for the court’s allegedly illegitimate intrusion into redistricting on a surprising culprit: Brown v. Board of Education.

The Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision on Thursday in Alexander v. South Carolina NAACP is a devastating blow to the fight against racial gerrymandering. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for the conservative supermajority guts a series of precedents that guarded against racist redistricting, granting state legislatures sweeping new authority to sort their residents between districts on the basis of skin color.

And yet, as bad as Alito’s opinion was, it didn’t go far enough for Justice Clarence Thomas, who penned a solo concurrence demanding a radical move: The Supreme Court, he argued, should overrule every precedent that limits gerrymandering—including the landmark cases establishing “one person, one vote”—because it has no constitutional power to redraw maps in the first place. And he places much of the blame for the court’s allegedly illegitimate intrusion into redistricting on a surprising culprit: Brown v. Board of Education.

Brown was, of course, the 1954 decision holding that racial segregation in public education violates the equal protection clause. Many of us celebrated its 70th anniversary just last week. But Brown has always had its detractors, and Thomas has long been one of them. He has written that the decision rested on a “great flaw” by focusing on the stigma that Jim Crow inflicted on schoolchildren. He rejected Brown’s assertion that Black children suffered constitutional harm when denied access to integrated education. And he condemned the court’s ongoing efforts to remedy decades of segregation by integrating public school systems by judicial decree, decrying these integration efforts as “predicated on black inferiority.


Eurasian Jays - Gorgeous and can remember "episodes"

CNN has an article (HERE) that looks at new information on the intelligence of birds, specifically Eurasian Jays. Jays are part of a family of birds that includes crows and ravens. This group of birds is very smart and has previously been tested on tool use and basic memory.

New tests have shown that Jays not only have good memories but also have "episodic" memories. Here is the difference for us humans: A good memory is remembering that Lichtenstein is one of only two countries that are "double landlocked." Episodic memory is remembering the last time you went to the movies, who you were with, where it was, etc. They have just shown that Jays have an episodic memory capacity like humans and very few other mammals (dogs and pigs) or birds.

I will copy some of the text here, it is hard to summarize.

...the researchers worked with birds that had been trained to find food hidden under cups. Davies set out a row of four identical red plastic cups and allowed the birds to observe him putting a piece of food under one of the cups. The jays then had to recall which cup the food had been hidden under. Easy enough.

For the next step of the experiment, Davies made little changes to the cups’ appearances, such as adding stickers or colorful strings, but once again hid the food under the same cup in the lineup. For a bird looking for a treat, those strings and stickers were seemingly unimportant incidental info — at this point, they only needed to worry about the position of the cup to find the food.

But in the final stage of the experiment, those little details of cup decoration became unexpectedly important. Davies changed the position of the cups so that the birds could no longer rely on the once-crucial information of which cup in the row contained food. (The treats had since been removed from the cups, to rule out the possibility that the birds were just finding the food by scent.) However, after a 10-minute break, the jays were still able to find the cups with the treats.

Davies suggested that the birds’ mental process might have involved asking themselves, “‘Where’s the food? I remember going to the one with the black square on it. I’ll go to that one,’” Davies said. The jays appeared to be going back in their memories to retrieve details about the cup decorations, and they were highly successful in using that information to find the hidden food.


In case you missed it - kind of political, but not in the way you think

 For the first time ever, a Presidential debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates will be held in June. This is unique in that the candidates will not be "official" in June—Trump in July, Biden in August. So, several unique outcomes are now possible from this exercise.

  1. Trump wins the debate.
  2. Trump wins the debate, and Biden looks so bad that the Democrats must find a new candidate. (They would explain this by saying he changed his mind or a "new" medical issue was found, and he must back out.)
  3. Binden wins the debate.
  4. Biden wins the debate, but Trump (and Fox) say that Trump won.
  5. Biden wins the debate, and Trump looks so bad that the Republicans must find a new candidate. (They would explain this by saying he changed his mind or a "new" medical issue was found, and he must back out.  But this possibility is extremely improbable given Trump's hold on MAGA.)
  6. They look so old and senile that both parties nominate new candidates in their conventions.
  7. It's a basic tie, and we all move on.
All this is possible because they are debating before being officially nominated. I don't think either 2, 5, or 6 is likely. But we live to dream.

I personally think #4 is the most probable outcome.

A Race of Giants Built the US Captial


"Proof" that a SuperIntelligent Human Species built the significant buildings of antiquity (like the White House?). I don't want to say this movie is a way of denying history that slaves built the White House... no, wait ... I am saying that.

Just when you think MAGA can't get weirder, they release a movie that old Europe, Washington's White House and Capital, and Zeppelins were the products not of "normal"man but built by a race of superintelligent giants.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Can plants communicate?

 The Atlantic has a fascinating article on plant communication with other plants. More information is being understood as research continues. I am not saying that plants are intelligent. And definitely not intelligent as we define the word, but still...

One of the basic principles in checking for intelligence is a nervous system that gets signals to the brain and then acts on them. Plants do not have nervous systems and, therefore, cannot be intelligent. But do we know everything?

Plant and animal evolution broke apart sometime in the very, very distant past as both evolved from simple organisms to more complex life. Today, a few scientists are questioning whether plants evolved with brains or nervous systems. But they may communicate via a method we don't understand yet. In any case, plants can definitely communicate.

Here are some examples. The first can be found just by googling.

This type of communication does not depend on any sort of breakthrough theories. We can explain this without resorting to active communication. But this article goes further.

These are the new examples from the article. They are from a new book called:

Plants communicate by chemicals. And it happens from plant to plant though the air.

Schlanger: Plants do have ways of communicating with each other. They’re able to synthesize all these incredibly specific chemicals in their bodies to match different conditions. And then they project them out via their pores. And then other plants take them up via these little pores. They have these pores on the backs of their leaves that look like little fish lips. It’s very funny under a microscope. And that contains some information.

So if a plant is being eaten by caterpillars, it will synthesize a chemical that then alerts other plants to sort of up their defenses before the caterpillar or pest or whatever even reaches

Do plants recognize each other? Yes, for "related" plants.

Schlanger: So kin recognition in plants is a fascinating field. It’s a very muddy field. We have parsed very little of this so far.

But we do know that sunflowers, for example—the traditional thinking with sunflowers is that you have to plant them quite far apart because otherwise they compete for resources so much that they try and shade each other out, so you end up with fewer sunflower seeds, which is not what sunflower farmers want. But certain research has found that when you place sunflowers with their genetic siblings, you can actually pack them so tightly because they will angle their stems to avoid shading each

Do plants make decisions?

But what I will say is that after spending all this time with the research, there’s a lot of plant behavior that looks a lot like decision-making. Often these are very, very simple decisions, like, input: There’s water over there. Output: Let’s grow towards it. But it also shows how much we don’t know. For instance, we know some plants are capable of storing information and then acting based on that information later.

Or, you know, in some instances, plants can count and then choose to do an action based on a certain number of things. There’s a classic example that people call the memory of winter—that a plant needs to have a certain number of days of cold for it to then bloom in the spring.

Do plants remember?

But yes, he says, he and his colleague Maximilian Weigend, the director of a botanical garden in Bonn, have observed the ability of Nasa poissoniana—a plant in the flowering Loasaceae family that grows in the Peruvian Andes—to store and recall information.

The pair noticed that the multicolor starburst-shaped flowers were raising their stamen, or fertilizing organs, shortly before a pollinator arrived, as if they could predict the future. The researchers set up an experiment and found that the plant in fact seemed to be learning from experience. These flowers, Henning and Weigend found, could “remember” the time intervals between bee visits, and anticipate the time their next pollinator was likely to arrive. If the interval between bee visits changed, the plant might actually adjust the timing of its stamen display to line up with the new schedule.

Do I believe this? I believe some plant communication can easily be proven. But is there some type of intelligence involved in this. I am unsure (which is miles away from certain they don't or certain they do.)

A Blind Elephant enjoys Bach on a piano

This is kind of amazing.

Leaning into the Fascism (political opinion of mine)

 This is a political post about our own American wanna-be Dictator. Feel free to skip or expand.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Good News

 Well, I am not sure people outside of LA get this is good news, but I am happy about it.

Contrasting Images from our Hotel in Laughlin

The view from our room (the junk cropped out)

Laughlin, CA is an inexpensive version of Las Vegas that is closer to Arizona and New Mexico than Vegas. I don't want to say it is down market. But it is accessible to more people. Think of Vegas as Target and Laughlin as Walmart.

For our visit with my family, we stayed at the Laughlin River Resort. It was not great. Laughlin wants you to gamble, not sit in your hotel room. So they make the hotel room yucky, just this side of complainable.

I didn't get many pictures, but I did get a picture of this TV.  Not to complain, but it was a tube TV without High Def and only 8 channels worked: MSNBC, Fox News, EPSN, some other athletic channel, Hallmark movie channel, LAFF, and the Murder She Wrote channel. We read a lot. And went to the movies.

No all of Laughlin isn't like this. My Mom's room at the Tropicana was good - after they changed it twice.

Amboy Crater

 Last weekend, Ed and I visited my mom and family (sister, brother-in-law, brother, mom, and Nic) in Laughlin, Nevada. It was great to see everyone and get together.

Eddie and I drove through the desert both there and back.

Amboy "Crater" from the road.

On the way back, we drove past Amboy Crater. Now, I had no idea that this was an extinct volcano - a "cinder cone." Given the name, I assumed it was a crater. It is not.

Before I-40 was built from Barstow, CA, to Needles, CA, Route 66 passed right next to Amboy Crater. Apparently, it was pretty popular back in the day to stop here and tell the folks back home you climbed a crater.

Near Amboy, on Route 66, is the ex-town of Amboy. It was a stop on the Route where you could get gas and spend the night. From 1831 to 1957, the road through Amboy was a critical gas stop. Today, if you miss filling up on I-40 at either end (Barstow or Needles), you have about 78 miles without a service station. (It was 99 or 109 miles without services for decades.) About halfway between Baker and Needles, Amboy is still a gas stop. You must exit I-40 to get there, but it is still important to some travelers.

Looking East

Looking West

The "googie" style building was a market / diner / souvenir store. Covid killed it.

If you don't know, "googie" is an overtly futuristic style of architecture. It may not look like it now, but it was famous for a while. Below is a sample of the style.

Friday, May 17, 2024

And now, for your weekend viewing pleasure....


We are out most of June

 We are house sitting for about a month in June. We will be looking after these great dogs.

First: Chester and Wolfie.

Yes, they are Welsh Terriers just like Ashford. We had to say yes. Also, they are pub-trained (you can take them to the local pub and they hang out under the table).

Second: Rigby, Noodle, and Audrey (down on the southwest coast area).




Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Farallon Islands - Northern California's Secret Wildlife Refuge

I knew nothing about the Farallon Islands until Lynn recommended a book to me - one whose name I cannot remember (perhaps she will put it in the comments section). It was a story about the scientists who spend a year or two on the Islands. There are only a few of these temporary residents allowed, and they are housed in old whaling homes.

The Farallon Islands are significant in biodiversity and are in the cold current near San Francisco. Look at these stats.

The islands are particularly important to the "Northern Fur Seal." These seals were nearly wiped out from hunting for fur in the 1800s and early 1900s. A single pup was born on the islands in 1970. Today, about 100 fur seal pups are born here a year. They coexist with California Sea Lions in the breeding areas.

Fur Seals and Sea Lions both feast on the rich waters around the islands.

update: I remember the book now

A letter to the Atlantic analogizing our gun culture to an addiction

 I thought this was an interesting take. It responded to a story about the shooting at Marjory Douglas High School.

The American people relate to guns as addicts relate to drugs. Addicts change everything in their life to accommodate their drug use. They filter their relationships, alter their schedule, and change their living situation—all to facilitate their access to the substance. They blame everything and everyone for what goes wrong, but never the drug.

And so it is with guns in the United States. Law-enforcement officers should alter their techniques because of shootings. Teachers should carry weapons to protect themselves and their students. Sixty-year-old men should be trained to run into the line of fire. Children should learn when to duck and when to run. Everyone attending a public event should know where the exits are. We are willing to put everything second to our need for guns.

The U.S. has a gun addiction. Until the American people wake up to the fact that our drug is killing us, until we stop enabling our addiction, we will continue to see tragedies like that at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Victoria B. Damiani
Malvern, Pa.

Guns, Amo, and Tourism - Turks and Caicos Say No

 Well, it seems that Americans cannot learn. In the last month, 4 different American tourists were caught with ammunition in their luggage in Turks and Caicos. This is illegal and the state is prosecuting them. The Governors of the states where the tourists were from have petitioned Turks to be easy on them, they did it unwittingly.

That argument is weakened by the arrest of a 5th tourist just 3 days ago.

I don't think some Americans understand the force with which other countries look at our gun obsession as crazy and dangerous.

My new post on The Intersection of Geography and Economics is up


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

I was missing Hastings today

 I was missing Hastings today. I know it has been 18 years, but you can't control your memories. So I watched a video about 10 facts about Wire-Haired Fox Terriers.

My favorite understatement is this one...

Good News about Climate AND Rewilding

 This is very cool..

Florida is NOT suffering from climate change.

 Florida is in an odd situation. Miami now floods at high tides. Drops in water tables cause sinkholes and harm the Everglades. Massive Hurricanes are more frequent.

Luckily, Florida has outlawed Climate Change.

Well, discussing it anyway. And it cannot be used to set up zoning restrictions, like at the beaches. Why didn't we think of this before.

Thank goodness they have outlawed it! Look at what has done already.

Monday, May 13, 2024

It's not just me

 John Oliver is angry. 

John Oliver is a comedian with a comedy news show. But is harder and harder to laugh.

After over a dozen years on comedy news programs (The Daily Show, John Oliver Tonight), he is all out of funny. 

It gets increasingly difficult to laugh about the news in this country. After a while you realize that funny just isn't funny anymore. The idea of a pompous idiot not accepting the results of an election - kind of funny. In 2006, when a lone nut-job did it in the middle of nowhere - kind of funny. Now. Not funny at all.

Don't get me wrong. I love John Oliver and you can tell he is trying to rein it in. But it is hard when the political people step in a deliver us a dumpster fire.

Quite often you will hear Democrats say "Cruelty IS the point."

 It is a lament that you constantly hear from progressives in the United States. 

When states require women to actually be near death in order to get treatment when a fetus is involved. That is cruel. 

Whenever another stupid law is passed making life harder for Trans people, it is 90% of the time, just cruel.

When they pass laws that let drivers run over people during a demonstration, just cruel.

And yet there are people who think this cruelness is a byproduct of good laws. No. the objective is cruelty. Like this.

Yep. He gives the homeless fake five-dollar bills. And, HE SAYS, they get arrested and go to jail when they try to spend them. He is proud of this. He worked before and wants to work again in an administration that already cut benefits and mental treatments.

Ladies and gentlemen, our next administration.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Happy Eurovision Day

 It's that annual celebration of Europe, forgettable songs, tacky costumes, and over-the-top sets.

It's EUROVISION - today at Noon West Coast Time. I'll be busy today!!!

The favorite for the crown from Switzerland

One of my favorites that did not get past the semi-finals - Malta.


Britain's Olly Alexander
Britain doesn't do well normally. Votes are by country, and Britain doesn't have a lot of friends

What is too much Taylor Swift

 This much ... when the singer is used to send a message about POSSIBLE future problems?