Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When did we stop learning?

I'm not one to brag, but I know a few things.  I know that math and music have more in common that the average person might think.  I know that a trip from my home to Milwaukee, WI will take 15 hours at 20 miles per hour.  I know what a dew point is and what effect it has on weather.  And, I know that June 6 is the anniversary of D-day.

It was on June 6 of this year that I found out that there are some people who don't know about D-day.  They don't know what it was, what it accomplished, or why we should remember it!  I know that it was more than 70 years ago, and that one might think it has little to do with the timeline on your Facebook page, but I just want to scream "Dammit all, didn't you learn ANYTHING in school?"

Veterans of the landings at Normandy, if they're still alive, are pushing 100 years old, and it won't be long before we read the article about the death of  the last survivor of that fateful day.

That's what makes this harder and harder to understand!  Imagine a world where the Normandy Invasion never happened.  It's not hard, if you've contemplated a Trump presidency.

As Americans, the words "Concord and Lexington" are firmly ingrained in our collective memories as important moments in our Revolutionary War.  The same is said for various Civil War battles, including The Siege of Atlanta and the Battle of Shiloh.  We may not remember the dates, but the battles and military actions are important to us as a nation.

While we require that a person who wants to become an American citizen pass a civics exam to be sure they know what our country is all about, we rarely require this from our own, native-born citizens.

We're all worried about how we stack up against other countries when it comes to math scores and science scores, but when it comes to history our educators have allowed our young students to coast through with little understanding of how things like World War II affect our daily lives RIGHT NOW!

Movies like Starship Troopers suggest that one way to become a citizen would be to serve a mandated minimum time in military service to their country.  I like that.  I would also suggest that people should be required to pass an exam, similar to the one that immigrants have to take, before being allowed to vote.

What really worries me, though, is the fact that the children of these oblivious people are looking up from their homework and saying: "Dad, can you help me with WWII history?"  To which Dad replies: "D-day?  What's that?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I know I keep going here, but he makes it SO easy!

Just a few minutes ago, a thought occurred to me.  I'm only glad that the thought occurred to a few more people before I had it, otherwise the search I did would have come up pretty short.  

While Bernie Sanders was in Chicago, fighting for the end of racial segregation, and Hillary Clinton was protesting the assasinations of MLK and RFK, and John McCain was in North Vietnam wondering where his next bit of protein might come from while his limbs mended from his constant torture, Donald Trump was partying around New York like there were no cares.
The Don, in '74
Allen/Washington Post

This story begins in 1964.  A young Donald gets his first student draft deferment.  The first of four, as a matter of fact.  He attends Fordham University, and UPenn's Wharton School.  No sooner does he graduate than he gets a medical deferment, in late 1968, then is certified 4-F by 1972.

So, this past summer, as the Republicans began their campaigns, Trump goes after bona-fide war hero, John McCain, saying: “He’s not a war hero... He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

I may not like John McCain's politics, but he went through a lot of shit for the country, whether the country liked it or not.  I am a veteran, and the son of a veteran.  If I'd been in Iowa to see Trump deliver the speech, he would, just now, be getting his jaw unwired.  To be fair, I would probably have 45 days left on my sentence, but it would have been worth it.

Bernie in Chicago - 1963
So, let's go back even further, to 1963.  Donald would have been attending high school when a young Bernie Sanders was attending The University of Chicago.  Serving as chapter president of the Congress for Racial Equality at the university, Sanders got himself arrested while protesting the city's plan to build what they referred to as a "school" on Chicago's south side.  What they were really building was a series of mobile homes joined together in rows, and that's it.  That was the school.  

I bet Donald didn't go to school in a mobile home.  I bet Donald never knew what a "mobile home" was!

I guess what really bugs me is, Donald makes it sound like he's one of those "pull yourself up by the boot straps" kinda guys.  I like how he says: "When I graduated from Wharton, I was only worth about $200,000."  $200k?!?  That's nearly $1.4 million, these days.  Oh, the humanity!!!  And, we've heard about how he'd have served in the military willingly were it not for his high lottery number.  But, hey.  What's a guy to do?

Even Hillary Clinton did more in the 1960s to make the world a better place than The Don.

You know what?  Maybe Donald is right.  Maybe today's America could use a good kick in the ass.  Banks can be too big to fail and the other 99% of us are too small to be heard.  We have an issue with our image, overseas AND at home.  Cops seem to be killing our kids.  Jobs are finally coming back to a place they never should have left.  

Here's the thing about Trump.  He can't take ANYTHING seriously.  He's one of those guys who sits in a room at night, in the dark, under the covers, twittering to himself about how he's putting one over on a majority of likely republican voters. And, I feel sorry for those voters.  They're being short-changed.  

My neighbor told me today that he is going to vote for Trump if he makes it to the general election.  "Trump, or Cruz.  Whichever makes it."  Yet, he can't give me a good reason why.

I can't go to my neighbor's house anymore.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Conspiracy Theories and static on your radio.

In the 1980's, I was a young and budding sceptic.  This applied to what I'd heard of conspiracy theories and urban legend.  I was first learning of The Freemasons and The Illuminati.  I was first hearing about fake moon landings, although I'd have thought that they'd have been more believable had "Capricorn One" not been released several years earlier.  And I'm hearing that there has been a resurgence of theorists who believe that one.  And I've always been sceptical.  

"Come on, guys.  You're trying to tell me that they faked all that work, all that time and all of those resources just to fool us into believing that a man walked on the moon?" I thought.  "Who would do that?  And, why?  Nah...I'm not buying that one."

And that brings us to the current dust-up. Just to show that rap music has just as many crazies as the rest of today's music (No, I didn't forget you, Volvique Louis Jean Jr.) here's the latest from rapper B.o.B.

B.o.B (Try typing THAT name quickly and you'll sprain something.) believes that the earth is flat.  He sees it every time he climbs the hills near Atlanta.  He nearly tries to use scientific evidence to back his claims without realizing he doesn't have the equipment and resources needed to make the measurements needed.  

But you know who does?  NASA.  That's right.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  And according to every measurement ever taken by NASA, the earth is not flat.  Bummer, right?  Another rap hero bites the dust.  

Except, B.o.B won't buy that.  He's going to write a rap that calls out fucking Neil DeGrasse Tyson!!  COME ON!!  You're going to dis a national treasure like NDeGT?  This is the guy who brought us the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey!!  The guy has a PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia University!!  I think he knows a bit more about the subject that I do, or that B.o.o.B has.

Sometimes, the conspiracies that we think we see are smaller scale.  I have a friend who refuses to upgrade to Windows 10 because then Microsoft will own all of his information.  Okay, you know what?  I kinda believe that MS has more information about me than I'm comfortable with, but what is there for me to worry about?  I don't know any top-secret information.  I'm not hiding Jimmy Hoffa in my basement.  And, I don't believe that upgrading my computer is going to give them any more information than they'd get from Google, or any number of other online resources.  My opinion?  Have at it.  If I haven't already been arrested, then we'll just assume that I'm still in the good subset of people on the database.   

Who REALLY killed JFK?  Has HAARP really been a cause of some recent hurricanes?  Has E.T. been up to no good here on Earth?

Back to the 80's, where I was contemplating things.  You see, I thought, to accomplish something SO massive as a JFK assassination cover-up, or the "conspiracy" to cover up Barack Obama's birthplace, you need people.  Lots and lots of people.  Remember, any "conspiracy", by definition, is going to include more than one person.   And, I had to wonder why, after all this time, one, just one, person hasn't spilled the beans.  "I was the guy who burned Obama's actual Nigerian birth certificate, and watched while his new one was devised."  

Suzanne Jacobs, at Grist.org, wrote a great article that describes the math behind this.  She says the same thing I'd been thinking for thirty years.  The more people involved in a conspiracy, the quicker that conspiracy is exposed.

Friday, January 22, 2016

G+. What has happened here?

Four, possibly five years ago, I gave up on Facebook.  The petty arguments that went on, and never would have happened in a face-to-face meeting, began to wear me down.  

This one posted this to my timeline and this one commented and I didn't like that comment and so I made a simple comment on this other guys timeline about the comments and got 15 people commenting about shit they don't even know about and....    AAARRRRRGH!

Around the time that I quit Facebook, another social network was emerging onto the net.  Google put out something that they were calling "Google +".  It's gone through a name-change since then, and is now referred to as G+.  It has become part of a suite of web apps that includes YouTube, Google Drive, GMail, Google Maps and the app I'm using to write this, eBlogger.  

I liked G+ from the beginning because there was less of the drama that Facebook became known for.  The things I was interested in were represented more by the "communities" in G+.  The things that weren't on my timeline in G+ were the very things I wanted to get rid of on my old Facebook wall.  "I just harvested 14 tons of okra in AnotherFrigginFarmerGame!!  Join NOW!!"

But, G+ is gearing up to become a thing of my past, as Facebook before it.  Why?

Let me say, there is nothing about this community that indicates that they're discriminating against anyone.  I'm quite sure that a person can join this community regardless of race/ethnicity.  I'm sure that, if someone with yellow skin posted and then copied that post to the community, that it would be allowed.  

Here is why I think it is a harbinger of G+'s grim future.  G+ has always been my place where mostly smart people shared mostly smart ideas.  Sure, there were some folks who didn't know what they were talking about.  There were those that disagreed.  Facebook had that, as well.  In any social structure, there will be "clashes".  But, at least these communities made sense.  

I joined a science community that BLASTED my homepage!  Nearly 45 posts (and more than 10 INTELLIGENT comments per post, on average) each day.  I didn't care, because the subjects I was exposed to made sense.  

I joined an atheist community where topics swing wildly from brainless and insulting to mind-expanding and extolling.  And, that describes BOTH sides of the issue.  But I learn things from this group.  I think about the things I read in the posts that this community generates, and I don't feel like I'm wasting ALL of my time.

"Black People Chat Only"      That's it.  What would I go here to learn?  And, why should those things be chatted about only by black people?  Is this another "That's OUR word!  YOU can't say that!" kind of thing?

I don't want to go off on another rant about racism, even though this community seems to prove that whites aren't the only racists out there!  But, I'm just amazed that someone found a need to start an online community like this!  

Sure enough, I look for, and find, another community called "White People chat only!!".  Really?  Exclamation points?  When describing her reason for starting the community, she says, "... I made 'WhitePeople Chat Only' because I wanted a place where people could have fun and try new things."  You can't do that in the myriad of other groups, communities or, say, your living room?  Nope.  Gotta make sure that it's only White People.

I can't make G+ take those communities down.  While I don't like the names, there's nothing I read in the content that is discriminatory or inflammatory.  And that's why there will come a time when G+ will receive a request from me to shut down my account.  

At least the reason is not AnotherFrigginFarmerGame.

Friday, January 8, 2016

What are we going to call this?

There were a lot of names being thrown around to describe the uprising in the Middle East.  We started calling it "ISIL" (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), then "ISIS" (Islamic State In Syria)....  yet, we are falling victim to attacks right here in the US.  Does this mean that the next acrynym is ISIA?

"DIE, you infidel pig!...  oh yeah.  ISIS ROCKS!!"
-photo courtesy of CNN
Is there an Islamic state here that has yet to be spotted?  I mean, in both of the recent attacks, the perpetrators are all reported to have made statements in support of ISIS.  Is the next step in this process going to be naming the movement?  ISIA will be the Islamic State In America.

I'm just asking...