Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Safety News: Killer Floormats

Five people have been killed by loose floormats in Toyota cars.

One of my friend's mothers was in a crash when a soda can rolled under the brake.

It's important to keep all possible obstructions out of the driver's footwell.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meth is bad, m'kay


beavis, originally uploaded by stoneth.

Meth made easy: shake and bake

I often have South Park's counselor Mackey's line "Drugs are bad, m'kay?" running through my head when I read stories about drug abuse. Of course drugs exist on a continuum ranging from the beneficial to the pernicious... anti-depressants are beneficial drugs that help people live productive lives, for instance.

Other the other hand, methampethamine is a rather pernicious drug in my experience.

Unfortunately, now it's even easier to make and meth arrests are on the upswing again.

[N]ow drug users are making their own meth in small batches using a [two liter bottle for a] faster, cheaper and much simpler method with ingredients that can be carried in a knapsack and mixed on the run.

The "shake-and-bake" approach has become popular because it requires a relatively small number of pills of the decongestant pseudoephedrine — an amount easily obtained under even the toughest anti-meth laws that have been adopted across the nation to restrict large purchases of some cold medication.|New meth formula avoids anti-drug laws - MSNBC|


I do support decriminalizing many drugs and reducing penalties by encouraging treatment options over prison, but there will always been some drugs that are beyond the pale, like PCP.

Meth is horrible because it not only destroys people's lives but also leaves toxic waste behind that's harmful to law enforcement and anyone else who lives in a contaminated house where the meth has been cooked or shaken.

Respect


The Tazer of Liberty, originally uploaded by lakeshore.baby.

Taser Update: 81 year old cripple tasered

Here's an interesting item about a California Highway Patrol officer tased an 81-year old man who was partially paralyzed and walked with a cane.

According to this account, the man struck the officer with the cane before being tased.

Now, what's even more interesting to me is Alternet's take on this:

Again, every American needs to realize that if they look at a police officer sideways or misunderstand their orders they will be shot with electricity regardless of whether the officer has other choices.

When you see a half paralyzed, 81 year old man tasered, you know for sure that it cannot be possible that they needed to taser him three times to subdue him. It was to teach him and anyone who was watching a lesson: if you fail to quickly comply with a police officer's instructions, no questions asked, you will be electrocuted and hauled off to jail. That's just the way it is. |Taser Torture: Crippled Octogenarian One of the Lucky Ones - Alternet|
As an attorney, I've come to appreciate that there are always two sides to a story... and typically both sides are lying. So you have to work hard to ferret out the truth.

So Alternet's pronouncements of unbound torture in the police state amuse. If you read the whole article the author links this police abuse to Milgram's experiments on authoritarism and torture in the 1960's.

This entire line of inquiry amuse me because I am fairly liberal and think we do live in an authoritarian police state. But the U.S. is an authoritarian society with rules and police officers can find themselves destroyed if they run afoul of those rules as well.

Alternet's pronouncement tells me more about the author's biases than about the actual event...

The most dangerous of game

Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.

- Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Frake: portmanteau for fake friend

I think we need a new word for fake friends as described in my previous post.

I suggest frake... But I'm open to suggestions!

Of course, Sex and the City gave us frenemies, for fake friends, real enemies...

But I just want something to indicate an impostor, a fake friend either hired or coerced into the role.

This is essentially the entire premise of 2005's romantic comedy, the Wedding Date.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rent a Friend

I'd like to say that I saw this coming, but even I am not that cynical. Or at least I wasn't...

Ichinokawa launched his Hagemashi Tai [I Want to Cheer You Up] agency three-and-a-half years ago, after abandoning plans to become a qualified counsellor...

The affable, bespectacled 44-year-old now employs 30 agents of various ages and both sexes, across Japan with the skills and personality to temporarily adopt a new identity: as the father of a boy who is in trouble at school, for instance, or the parents of a woman attending a formal match-making party.

The number of rent-a-friend agencies in Japan has doubled to about 10 in the past eight years. The best known, Office Agent, has 1,000 people on its books.

The rise of the phony friend is a symptom of social and economic changes, combined with a deep-seated cultural aversion to giving personal and professional problems a public airing.

In recent months demand has surged for bogus bosses among men who have lost their jobs; for colleagues among contract employees who never stay in the same job long enough to make friends, and from divorcees and lovelorn singletons.

Ichinokawa's agents charge a modest 15,000 yen (£100) to turn up at a wedding party, but extra if they are asked to make a speech or to sing karaoke.

His preparation is exhaustive, examining every possible question that, if answered incorrectly or not at all, will embarrass his client and ruin his reputation. "In three and a half years I've never once been caught out," Ichinokawa says.

... I love [says Ichinokawa,] helping people with their problems and making them happy. When they email me afterwards to say thank you, I feel fulfilled. |Guardian|

Now I'm forced to consider that people I meet are lying about their very identities.

The world is full of liars, my friends, and some of these liars are very talented.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few people I trust, but it tends to be a small circle.

Mursi woman and Kalashnikov Rifle

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Western Way of Revolution

One of my favorite quotes from the Founding Fathers is from Samuel Adams.

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom — go from us in peace.

We ask not your counsels or arms.

Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.

May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. - Samuel Adams, address delivered at Pennsylvania State House, August 1, 1776 |Link|


Taking on the British empire in its heyday was pretty ballsy.

From a strategic perspective, it seems curious to me that Founding Fathers chose such a confrontational option. Open warfare was a risky gambit that almost failed. George Washington, fortunately, was masterful at the strategic withdrawal. The Americans had few outright victories during the War for Independence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crumbling


Cliff along Lake Superior, originally uploaded by Safety Neal.

Transhumanism & the Acceleration of Human Evolution

Ran across this LA Times story talking about an anthropologist who has determined that the pace of human evolution has accelerated in the last 30,000 years based on studying human genetic data.

The article merely refers to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences without a citation. I visited Professor Hawk's website and the PNAC website and the only thing I could find were references to his 2007 article.

Hawks' blog post, Why Accelerated Adaptive Evolution is Faster Evolution, is interesting on this score.

This reinforces the transhumanist viewpoint to my mind. Humanity is evolving at a tremendous and if we are to survive the current crises facing us, we must get our shit together in a hurry and evolve intellectually and emotionally as well as through genetics.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Boundary Waters


Lillies of Gull Lake, originally uploaded by Safety Neal.

Back on Track

Got back from my vacation in the Boundary Waters this weekend. I had a great time and enjoyed fellowship and great food. Although I'm a hard core technophile, it was refreshing to not have any TV, radio, or cell phone service.

The cabin actually had XM radio, but we never turned it on...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

District 9 rocks!

I saw District 9 last night and I give it two thumbs up. Rotten Tomatoes has District 9 pegged as 89% fresh as I write this.

Update: Monkey made some telling criticisms of the film this week... I have to agree that alien "eye" acting is overdone, but I still enjoyed the movie.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Is torture ever acceptable? What about Hitler?

Jeffrey Goldberg has a provocative piece in the Alantic about the moral dimensions of Tarantino's new flick, Inglourious Basterds |RT|. ** Spoiler Alert - Don't read Goldberg's piece before seeing the movie if you don't want to learn about plot elements. **


Early in [Inglourious Basterds], Aldo the Apache announces the goals of his unit:

“We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. They will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us.”

Soon enough, the Basterds are committing war crimes, beating prisoners to death and collecting the scalps of dead Germans. “Every man under my command owes me 100 Nazi scalps,” Aldo demands.

The horror-movie director Eli Roth — his film Hostel is the most repulsively violent movie I’ve ever seen twice — plays a Basterd known as the “Bear Jew,” whose specialty is braining Germans with a baseball bat. Roth told me recently that Inglourious Basterds falls into a subgenre he calls “kosher porn.”

“It’s almost a deep sexual satisfaction of wanting to beat Nazis to death, an orgasmic feeling,” Roth said. “My character gets to beat Nazis to death. That’s something I could watch all day. My parents are very strong about Holocaust education. My grandparents got out of Poland and Russia and Austria, but their relatives did not.” ....

The recent Ed Zwick movie, Defiance, about a group of Jewish partisans in German-occupied Belarus, featured armed Jews engaging in vigorous self-defense, in a way that most Holocaust movies don’t. Tarantino said he had not seen it. “My guess is, that doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “My guess is that it’s frustrating in a whole different way.”

He is correct that Defiance doesn’t go as far as he would go, but it is something of a corrective, not only to Schindler’s List, which is a story of Christian redemption and Jewish passivity, but to the schmaltz and vulgarity of most Holocaust films, from Jakob the Liar to Life Is Beautiful. The Jews in Defiance kill Nazis, but they periodically stop to debate the merits and drawbacks of killing. When I described this, Tarantino argued that it would have been unrealistic to expect the Jews of Europe to debate the morality of killing Nazis.

I asked Tarantino if he thought the over-the-top violence of the Basterds might offend people. “Why would they condemn me?” he said. “I was too brutal to the Nazis?” |Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger - Atlantic|


I certainly take the view that killing can be justified, even righteous. But torture never is.

Although I can see the appeal of torture from a vengeance standpoint. It might seem justified, but torture is beyond the pale.

Of course, that doesn't deal with the more difficult question of the morality of enforced sensory deprivation... but that's a blog post for another time, although Salon has an essay on the CIA's favorite form of torture.