Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!


What 2014 Story or Topic Do You Remember Trending For You?

Google 2014 Trends
  

Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Cake Mountain play set has parents fuming

They claim the toy set given to their children has them, the parents, upset for ruining their Christmas due to the toy's icing applicator resembling a penis.

Where "ruining" apparently means cracking everyone up in hopeless hysterical laughter. A kid playing with Play-Doh is unlikely to make the connection. So, the parents are upset, not the kids.

It looks like Hasbro is doing damage control on Facebook by deleting photos that parents are uploading to Hasbro's page.

This story is all over the place, mostly Buzzfeed.
Here is the story on theDishh.

Several photos, this is my favorite:


Come on, Hasbro, where is your quality control? Didn't you see this one a hundred miles away? Parents are sensitive about this sort of thing. Duly chastised Hasbro says they intend to update the set with a less suggestive applicator. 

Well, there goes that bit of early education. It could be an education tool, but no, parents are not having it. When it comes time for answering discomforting questions, "Honey, remember your Play-Doh set? It's like that." 

"Oh."

The icing applicator is like a syringe. I honestly do not think little pre-Kindergartner's hands are strong enough to push Play-Doh through that thing. But what do I know?

I know about playing with Play-Doh, that's what. The stuff looks delicious but tastes terrible. And I mean terrible. Way too much salt. It tastes bad enough to put you off Play-Doh permanently. Plus if you leave it out overnight it drys hard as a rock and there goes all your fun of reshaping it. And if you mix colors it all goes ugly and cannot be sorted. Eventually you conclude Play-Doh is for losers. Modeling clay is a lot more interesting and versitile. "Mum, now I need clay". Lots and lots of clay. To make a castle. ← Things I learned before Kindergarden. 

Speaking of castle, after all this time I learned a new word. The word for "castle" rarely comes up, but still. Up until two days ago I would need to spell the word and now I don't need to. It did come up in reading and missing the word, I looked it up and it turns out the word for "castle" looks a bit like a cheerleader movement, but the movement is perfect. This actually is related to Play-Doh. 

Here is Jolanta Lapiak from her site Handspeak. 

video

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Many Slaves Were Brought To America?

Monday's topic started me thinking about that question.   I thought the number would be in the millions.  We were taught that in high school, I believe.  Millions of slaves were brought to the United States from Africa in wooden ships.  Some of those millions died on the journey, but still, millions arrived here.  Yes, that was the history lesson.  Millions of Africans were brought to America as slaves.

Finding good information posed a challenge.  Finally I thought Henry Louis Gates, Jr. would be a good authority.  Here are his credentials.  Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

That works for me.  his research should be scholarly, and peer reviewed.  Here's what Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes in a blog called The Root.:
The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Salve Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial "gold standard" in the field of the study of the slave trade.)
Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.
And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That's right: a tiny percentage.
In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade.
There's a solid number.  "Only" 450,000 Africans arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade, not tens of millions of slaves as some of us may have been taught.

I emphasized the word only above because I want to be clear, one slave was one slave too many. Slavery was horrible then, and is horrible where it is practiced today.  I am not trying to minimize the evil of slavery.

In the comments section of Monday's topic someone mentioned Irish slaves.  That was also a horrible thing, although its history seems to have been given a back seat to African slavery.

From the book White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America:
They came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.
Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.
And from The Centre for Research on Globalization comes this:
The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.
From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.
Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.
As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.
African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African. The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.
In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.
England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.
There is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.
But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they’ve got it completely wrong.
None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.
While not in the same numbers as slaves brought to the United States from Africa, Irish slaves still were  a significant number in the US.

Are you still with me?  Or has this topic droned on far too long and you've gone into skimming mode.  I'm not sure what to do here, because I've got another really good read on the subject of Irish slavery.

What to do, what to do?  I need to go think about this.

Time passes.

I'm back.  A shot of Jameson has cleared me mind.   I'm going to post a brief excerpt from the article, which is from the Daily Kos, of all places, and is very interesting, and then I'll post a link to the entire thing and you can read (or not read) it as you wish.
“...the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,” writes Martin. “It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.”
Colonel William Brayne wrote to English authorities in 1656 urging the importation of Negro slaves on the grounds that, "as the planters would have to pay much more for them, they would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was wanting in the case of (Irish)...." many of whom, he charged, were killed by overwork and cruel treatment. African Negroes cost generally about 20 to 50 pounds Sterling, compared to 900 pounds of cotton (about 5 pounds Sterling) for an Irish. They were also more durable in the hot climate, and caused fewer problems. The biggest bonus with the Africans though, was they were NOT Catholic, and any heathen pagan was better than an Irish Papist.
You can read the entire article here.

Random thought - I don't think anyone ever wrote a musical about Irish slavery.

"It's Only Weird If It Doesn't Work"


Jeremy Wilcox



Kid Throws Dollar Store Temper Tantrum


CNN Covers Another Down Jet

Update: Indonesian Authorities Examine Photos of Possible Debris

Chip update: CNN explains.


Inspired by R2Dtard

KLEM FM

I like the video montage of the Beats:

 
Canned Heat - On The Road Again from Rimbowarrior on Vimeo.

Monday, December 29, 2014

There Are Thirty Million Slaves In The World; Including Sixty Thousand In The U.S.

So says this article in the Washington Post.  The article includes a world map of slavery showing the percentage of each country's population who are, according to the article, enslaved.


When you open the linked article the map is interactive and can be enlarged for easier viewing.

Before continuing, let's stipulate that slavery in any form is horrible. Slavery is immoral, it is illegal, and it is an outrage that all people should stand against. It should and must be abolished.

The linked article draws heavily from information provided by an organization called the Walk Free Foundation, a self-described organization dedicated to ending modern slavery. Data from Walk Free's 2014 Global Slavery Index, on which the map above was created was "developed through extensive consultations with an international and independent Expert Advisory Group" according to their website.

But it doesn't name the "Expert Advisory Group", nor does it describe the reasons for their expertise, nor the methods by which the data used in creating the 2014 Global Slavery Index were gathered, sorted, and verified.
We think of slavery as a practice of the past, an image from Roman colonies or 18th-century American plantations, but the practice of enslaving human beings as property still exists. There are 29.8 million people living as slaves right now, according to a comprehensive new report issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.
This is not some softened, by-modern-standards definition of slavery. These 30 million people are living as forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages and, in all ways that matter, as pieces of property, chattel in the servitude of absolute ownership.
I have questions.

Look at the interactive map. It seems to make sense, right? But where is North Korea? The North Korean government has enslaved its entire population, so shouldn't it be shown on the map in the darkest of colors? If North Korea isn't even shown, how can we have certainty that the rest of the data are correct, especially if the data source is unnamed? This is troublesome.

Why is there no breakout of numbers by type of slavery? Slavery of all types is lumped together. For example, that means that someone who has chosen to work as a prostitute is lumped together with someone who has been sold into prostitution, and with others who have been forced into military conscription, enslaved in diamond mines, agriculture, etc. The lack of specific data is cause to cast a leery eye on the story.

Slavery is bad, horrible. What the Washington Post has done is to create an article based entirely on information sourced from the Walk Free Foundation. And that information, while compelling, lacks detail that supports its conclusions. In doing that, the Washington Post published a compelling article, but also an article that appears to lack a factual basis.

And that is irresponsible, given the horror of slavery.

"Young people are 'lost generation' who can no longer fix gadgets, warns professor"

Prof George said: “We’ve got a lost generation that has grown up with factory electronics that just work all of the time.

“All of these things in our home do seem to work most of the time and because they don’t break we just get used to them. They have almost become like Black Boxes which never die. And when they do we throw them away and buy something new.

“But there is now a big maker community who are thinking hard about what we do with all of these gadgets. They are remaking and repurposing things.

“I talked to someone who had used some LEDs on his bike so that he could put up a message as he was cycling.”


"Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei accuses US police of 'oppressing' black community"

The Telegraph: In comments on a Twitter account maintained by his staff, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the recent racial tensions sparked by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson was yet more proof of how America was run by "tyrants".
"#Jesus endured sufferings to oppose tyrants who had put humans in hell in this world & the hereafter while he backed the oppressed," said one Tweet, accompanied by the "#Ferguson" hashtag.
Here is Iran (story link) hanging gays by the neck until they are dead. Not exactly a civil rights heaven, unless you were in a strange place called Obama's mind.

The Mullahs’ Gulag for Gays

L.A. police protests

All of the cars had the option of turning around. Running over someone is not an option

Why aren't they looking for the dude who plowed people down?!?! YOU ARE GUILTY

We have an injury - a car literally plowed through us

Car plowed us down, got Brian hard.

video

Got me hard too.

Who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!

...and knocked down one of our protestors. We're calling 911 now. This thing is intense.

The ironing, it burns!

Running over someone, plowing people down. No. Far from it you silly hysterical protesters. You even provide media that disproves what you say that it shows. See, you formed a chain by joining hands, you could have broken off at any moment you wished had you not been so set on disrupting traffic. The driver broke your handhold, dismissed your protest and drove through. Disruption denied. They did not run anyone over they did not plow anyone down. Like you say. You expose your own lies in the telling of them and that is why you are not taken seriously. And neither is your media. Not anymore. The days when you could pull off this shit are gone.

They have the license plate number but nobody cares. Except perhaps to send the guy an award.

Here is their own video of "running people over, plowing people down." In their distortion field they honestly do believe this is cogent evidence against the driver.




If only. Liberal lies will never die. Never. There will always be a Democrat party and it will always be fueled by reality-distortion, be it healthcare, finance, voter fraud, America's enemies, wars, finance, education, immigration, racism, climate change,gun running, rape statistics, employment statistics, minimum wage, you name it. You have only to watch one of their national conventions to know the whole party is made up of nutters and you can see for yourself the car did not plow through anybody or anything and the driver did not run over anybody. Rather, the driver carefully edged forward and broke the grip of their frail human chain blocking his path. But that is their reality, "plow through" and "run over." There will ever be a need for a catch basin for damaged personalities, Cassandra and BMbeers are certainly such, because their and their co-traveler's dementia and obsessions cannot be fixed, and in the United States that catch basin is the Democrat party.

KLEM FM


The sound quality is poor but I still like the song. It sounded better recorded on vinyl, spun by an AR turntable, picked up by a Shure cartridge, amplified by a Marantz receiver, and converted back to sound waves by Advent loudspeakers.

I bought that album then for that song, and I still like it for the guitar solo beginning around 4 min 17 sec -- but also for the lyrics.

Other fan facts about the Blue Öyster Cult:

  • They were the first band to use umlauts in their name -- ostensibly because it looked "Wagnerian."
  • Patti Smith dated a band member and contributed lyrics to this album (but not that song which was written by Sandy Pearlman).
  • They are posing with a German Messerschmitt Me 262, the very first fighter jet. One of those hangs in the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum in D.C. The Me 262 was in the news today: link

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"As Medicaid Rolls Swell, Cuts in Payments to Doctors Threaten Access to Care"

NYT: Just as millions of people are gaining insurance through Medicaid, the program is poised to make deep cuts in payments to many doctors, prompting some physicians and consumer advocates to warn that the reductions could make it more difficult for Medicaid patients to obtain care.

The Affordable Care Act provided a big increase in Medicaid payments for primary care in 2013 and 2014. But the increase expires on Thursday — just weeks after the Obama administration told the Supreme Court that doctors and other providers had no legal right to challenge the adequacy of payments they received from Medicaid. (read more)

Red Green, One Man Saw

The World From Above

It's such a beautiful, wonderful place.  The news can be so ugly, so awful, so depressing that it becomes easy to forget the beauty of this place.

For this Sunday morning......

Nebraska from above.  The video continues after the first one, the highlights.



And Montana from above.




Blessings of the day to you.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"I Felt A Great Disturbance In The Narrative"

Hundreds Turn Their Back on de Blasio at NYPD Officer's Funeral
Via Small Dead Animals / Drudge

Until The Sun Comes Up

A story of violent deaths in Chicago, and a Chicago Tribune news reporter's story of covering them on the overnight shift.
For an overnight shift reporter in America's murder capital, the beat is an education in violence and its aftermath, marked by powerful snapshots of grief.
What does the aftermath of murder sound like?
I stood outside the yellow tape, looking at the crumpled body of 14-year-old Damani Henard, whose name I did not yet know, surrounded by an eerie quiet.

That silence, one I’d hear versions of again and again, became a powerful part of my nights. Four hundred fifteen people were murdered in Chicago in 2013, more than in any other American city — and this was an improvement from the year before. I was at the scene of more than 30 of them. Most were killed by guns; many were teenagers. In Chicago last year, more than 2,100 people were shot.
These are murders that never merit protests, nor appearances by well-dressed and immaculately coiffed civil rights activists.  And that is simply, dreadfully, wrong.  

Read the whole essay.

What did you do for Christmas, Screech?

"Oh, stabbed a guy in a bar."

fox6now.com

Dustin Diamond is being held in lieu of $10,000 bond (some sites say $1,000) he was with his girlfriend at the time, (some say wife) at the Grand Avenue Saloon in Port Washington Wisconsin, some say only Ozaukee County.

Apparently another couple started trouble. Taking photos, arguing. It is unclear what Diamond used to stab the guy, a pen that he was holding to close his account or a 3.5" blade found with him in the car when arrested. He says he noticed his girlfriend being held by her hair and that he does not recall exactly, that things happened so fast.

I tend to believe him.

You know, I have not seen a single episode of Saved by the Bell, mostly because the Screech character is intolerable and so are the other douchbag characters, especially the white guy jock character with the baggy jeans and cross trainer shoes laced up so the shoe-tongue sticks out. Ugh. I tried to watch the show and failed. It is a terrible show. I have no idea why it was so popular. But Screech was the absolute worst. He seems to have recovered somewhat from his incredible awkward stage. Someone mentioned he had a porn video out. I found it in two seconds. Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

Now I need therapy.

"Why did you slash your wrists, Chip?"

"As punishment for searching and finding Dustin Diamonds sex video and click, click clickity-click clicking through it. That's why."

I also saw him one time on a show about people trying to lose weight. He was a psychological argumentative mess there too.

I take it back. He has not recovered from his awkward stage, and he never will.

And that's what you get for going out to a bar on Christmas. Honestly, there was nothing else to do? I didn't even know bars were open.

TMZ has video of right before the fight where everything appears to be normal, except for the swears.

Actually, his mug shot looks fine. But this is what on-camera flash does to a photographer's subject.


It's all good. Life is like a jail sentence. "I'll be outta here in no time." And there's hardly a difference between in here with all the attention, and out there where I'm nobody special.

But know what's as interesting as Screech in a fight? This guy was arrested for making a fuss about being refused drive-through service at Taco Bell on his bicycle. He would not go away, and apparently could not come inside. Again, flash, but not on-camera flash. See the difference in contour? This is a better photo because of it. I mean, come on. You're taking a dozens of photos a day as part of your job. That makes you a professional photographer. What we notice here is a trace of pride in one's craft by getting the flash off the camera. And of course the subject is incredibly interesting. A grown man profoundly sad about tacos and about everything that led to the incident.


So sad, he didn't get his Taco Bell. And now he's in jail. Life is so unfair sometimes.

"The Way You Move"


Friday, December 26, 2014

Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt Support Shiloh's Wish To Be Called "John"

The couple's oldest biological child, who was assigned female at birth, joined brothers Maddox and Pax wearing sharp suits and short haircuts.

The eight-year-old's family fully supports their decision to self-identify — from an affinity for suits and ties to shorter hair to the name change. (Editor's Note: We have followed the Advocate's lead, and referred to John Jolie-Pitt as "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun to respect John's decision, whatever gender they may end up being.)

John (formally known as Shiloh)

Khonsumes done went and died

What, your phones broken? You couldn't call?


Clicken sie fer der größer.

This is actually a very good example of a portion of a scroll that Khonsumes commissioned for his own tomb. 

The book, Going Forth by Day is not an actual book. There is no such thing as Book of the Dead. Instead, the scrolls were vignettes that people of means commissioned from scribes for their individual scrolls, usually the most significant bits. It would be like picking and choosing your favorite parts of the bible. That is why no two examples are exactly the same. Most often the scrolls were pre-written and pre-painted with spaces left for names to be inserted. Chincy, isn't it? And isn't it ever so? The most heartfelt religious beliefs reduced to prosaic pedestrian commerce. Khonsumes (I associate the name with "consumes") was a priest himself, meaning a scribe himself, but he certainly did not write his own scrolls. 

You can actually see the handwriting change as scrolls progress with these things. You can see the virtuosity of the art change as well. You can see the difference in handwriting between text here and there, and between text and name of deceased, you can see where too much space or too little space is allowed for the name. I do not know of a single example where this is not so.

My own copy is among the best. The scroll of Ani now owned by the British Museum. Hard as h-e-double scroll sticks to follow. It does not read as the scroll reads. The actual scroll itself is cut into pieces. Budge (the often wrong British archaeologist) had to decide where to make the cuts and the British museum is stuck with those segments for display. The text in the book representing the museum's holding is cut further into pieces for reproduction based on importance and length for formatting. Translation is in pieces too and hardly matches at all. The text in English does not match the photograph on the pages. The complimentary literature explaining things helps but it is exhausting to keep checking back and forth, back and forth, struggling to match interpretation with text, additional explanatory literature, try as you might to follow, the thing is in chunks all over the place and wears you right out trying to make sense of it. Further, it is written in demotic, a shorthand sort of cursive of hieroglyphics that is somewhat idiosyncratic as handwriting is. The whole point was to help study hieroglyphics. I cannot make sense of it all and I have a terrible time using it as learning tool. But it is beautiful, very large format, and technically excellent. Even more so if you are already a pro.

Did You See The Thing That Guy Did?

Did you  see it?  It was on television, earlier this week I think.  You know that guy, the hater guy with the beard, the guy that they tried to get kicked off of television a couple of years ago?  That guy?

Phil Robertson and his family gave a friend of forty years a new house.  She had fallen on hard times and needed help, so Phil Robertson and his extended family decided that they'd give her a new house. A new home to live in.  Her son has been Willie Robertson's best friend since both were in grade school.



More.



And more.



Winning hearts and minds comes not from marching, nor protesting, nor rioting, nor destruction.  It comes from loving ones neighbors.  It comes from people's hearts.  And souls.
____________________________________________________________________________

A belated Merry Christmas to each of you.  Hearing from you on Lem's blog nearly every day of the year has been a wonderful gift.  Very best wishes to you!

pure as snow


without flash ↑
with flash ↓


Flash was actually first. I turned the dial in the dark and didn't know I turned it to "figure it out yourself with flash."  One more click over is "figure it out yourself without flash," the setting I wanted. Because I hate on-camera flash. Either way I'd have to be very steady and adjust things in Photoshop. On-camera flash dis-goose-tin, i-tiz. I didn't even notice any atmospheric dots at all. I cranked ISO up to 3200 and that is a terrible way to go. Just terrible.

This lens does not have vibration reduction that the 18-200 has. I keep forgetting the zoom lens has that excellent feature and the others do not. This lens is zoom too, but only 14-24. This lens is a monster. It weighs as much as the camera. 

High ISO makes photos appear very grainy. You will notice it quite clearly on the real size. Even though your camera can do it doesn't mean that you should. The best ISO is 100 or 200. I usually shoot at 400 because that is not so bad. But on-camera flash is the worst of the worst kind of light. It tends to eliminate shadowing and you need that to round out your subjects, to give them depth. 

See what I mean? Make this bigger by scootching with your fingers, or by clicking to see more clearly the grainy McGrain. 


Thursday, December 25, 2014

baby Jesus

Dad, don't just kneel there. Can't you make yourself useful?


The photo is making the rounds with the title "Jesus is going to have some wicked abs by the end of the season." 

Analyzing Bob Dylan's Christmas Lights

Main link




Nackles: A Christmas story

Nackles 
By Donald Westlake (writing as Curt Clark)
Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1964

Did God create men, or does Man create gods? I don’t know, and if it hadn’t been for my rotten brother-in-law, the question would never have come up. My late brother-in-law? Nackles knows.

It all depends, you see, like the chicken and the egg, on which came first. Did God exist before Man first thought of Him, or didn’t He? If not, if Man creates his gods, then it follows that Man must create the devils, too.

Nearly every god, you know, has his corresponding devil. Good and Evil. The polytheistic ancients, prolific in the creation (?) of gods and goddesses, always worked up nearly enough Evil ones to cancel out the Good, but not quite. The Greeks, those incredible supermen, combined Good and Evil in each of their gods. In Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda, being Good, is ranged forever against the Evil one, Ahriman. And we ourselves know God and Satan.

But of course it’s entirely possible I have nothing to worry about. It all depends on whether Santa is or is not a god. He certainly seems like a god. Consider: He is omniscient; he knows every action of every child, for good or evil. At least on Christmas Eve he is omnipresent, everywhere at once. He administers justice tempered with mercy. He is superhuman, or at least non-human, though conceived of as having a human shape. He is aided by a corps of assistants who do not have completely human shapes. He rewards Good and punishes Evil, And, most important, he is believed in utterly be several million people, most of them under the age of ten. Is there any qualification of godhood that Santa Claus does not possess?

And even the non-believers give him lip-service. He has surely taken over Christmas; his effigy is everywhere, but where are the manger and the Christ child? Retired rather forlornly to the nave. (Santa’s power is growing, too. Slowly but surely he is usurping Chanukah as well.)

Santa Claus is a god. He’s no less a god that Ahura Mazda, or Odin, or Zeus. Think of the white beard, the chariot pulled through the air by a breed of animal which doesn’t ordinarily fly, the prayers (requests for gifts) which are annually mailed to him and which so baffle the Post Office, the specially garbed priests in all the department stores. And don’t gods reflect their creators’ (?) society? The Greeks had a huntress goddess, and gods of agriculture and war and love. What else would we have but a god of giving, of merchandising, and of consumption? Secondary gods of earlier times have been stout, but surely Santa Claus is the first fat primary god.

And wherever there’s a god mustn’t there sooner or later be a devil?

Which brings me back to my brother-in-law, who’s to blame for whatever happens now. My brother-in-law Frank is—or was—a very mean and nasty man. Why I ever let him marry my sister I’ll never know. Why Susie wanted to marry him is an even greater mystery. I could just shrug and say Love Is Blind, I suppose, but that wouldn’t explain how she fell in love with him in the first place.

Frank is—Frank was—I just don’t know which tense to use. The present, hopefully. Frank is a very handsome man in his way, big and brawny, full of vitality. A football player; hero in college and defensive linebacker for three years in pro ball, till he did some sort of irreparable damage to his left knee, which gave him a limp and forced him to find some other way to make a living.

Ex-football players tend to become insurance salesmen, I don’t know why. Frank followed the form, and became an insurance salesman. Because Susie was then a secretary for the same company, they soon became acquainted.

Was Susie dazzled by the ex-hero, so big and handsome? She’s never been the type to dazzle easily, but we can never fully know what goes on in the mind of another human being. For whatever reason, she decided she was in love with him.

So they were married, and five weeks later he gave her her first black eye. And the last, though it mightn’t have been, since Susie tried to keep me from finding out. I was to go over for dinner that night, but at eleven in the morning she called the auto showroom where I work, to tell me she had a headache and we’d have to postpone the dinner. But she sounded so upset that I knew immediately something was wrong, so I took a demonstration car and drove over, and when she opened the front door there was the shiner.

I got the story out of her in fits and starts. Frank, it seemed, had a terrible temper. She wanted to excuse him because he was forced to be an insurance salesman when he really wanted to be out there on the gridiron again, but I want to be President and I’m an automobile salesman and I don’t go around giving women black eyes. So I decided it was up to me to let Frank know he wasn’t going to vent his pique on my sister any more.

Unfortunately, I am five feet seven inches tall and weigh one hundred thirty-four pounds, with the Sunday Times under my arm. Were I just to give Frank a piece of my mind, he’d surely give me a black eye to go with my sister’s. Therefore, that afternoon I bought a regulation baseball bat, and carried it with me when I went to see Frank that night.

He opened the door himself and snarled, “What do you want?”

In answer, I poked him with the end of the bat, just above the belt, to knock the wind out of him. Then, having unethically gained the upper hand, I clouted him five or six times more, then stood over him to say, “The next time you hit my sister I won’t let you off so easy.” After which I took Susie over to my place for dinner.

And after which I was Frank’s best friend.

People like that are so impossible to understand. Until the baseball bat episode, Frank had nothing for me but undisguised contempt. But once I’d knocked the stuffing out of him, he was my comrade for life. And I’m sure it was sincere; he would have given me the shirt off his back, had I wanted it, which I didn’t.

(Also, by the way, he never hit Susie again. He still had the bad temper, but he took it out in throwing furniture out windows or punching dents in walls or going downtown to start a brawl in some bar. I offered to train him out of maltreating the house and furniture as I had trained him out of maltreating his wife, but Susie said no, that Frank had to let off steam and it would be worse if he was forced to bottle it all up inside him, so the baseball bat remained in retirement.)

Then came the children, three of them in as many years. Frank Junior came first, then Linda Joyce, and finally Stewart. Susie had held the forlorn hope that fatherhood would settle Frank to some extent, but quite the reverse was true. Shrieking babies, smelly diapers, disrupted sleep, and distracted wives are trials and tribulations to any man, but to Frank they were—like everything else in his life—the last straw.

He became, in a word, worse. Susie restrained him I don’t know how often from doing some severe damage to a squalling infant, and as the children grew toward the age of reason Frank’s expressed attitude toward them was that their best move would be to find a way to become invisible. The children, of course, didn’t like him very much, but then who did?

Last Christmas was when it started. Junior was six then, and Linda Joyce five, and Stewart four, so all were old enough to have heard of Santa Claus and still young enough to believe in him. Along around October, when the Christmas season was beginning, Frank began to use Santa Claus’ displeasure as a weapon to keep the children “in line,” his phrase for keeping them mute and immobile and terrified. Many parents, of course, try to enforce obedience the same way: “If you’re bad, Santa Claus won’t bring you any presents.” Which, all things considered, is a negative and passive sort of punishment, wishy-washy in comparison with fire and brimstone and such. In the old days, Santa Claus would treat bad children more scornfully, leaving a lump of coal in their stockings in lieu of presents, but I suppose the Depression helped to change that. There are times and situations when a lump of coal is nothing to sneer at.

In any case, an absence of presents was too weak a punishment for Frank’s purposes, so last Christmastime he invented Nackles.

Who is Nackles? Nackles is to Santa Claus what Satan is to God, what Ahriman is to Ahura Mazda, what the North Wind is to the South Wind. Nackles is the new Evil.

I think Frank really enjoyed creating Nackles; he gave so much thought to the details of him. According to Frank, and as I remember it, this is Nackles: Very very tall and very very thin. Dressed all in black, with a gaunt gray face and deep black eyes. He travels through an intricate series of tunnels under the earth, in a black chariot on rails, pulled by an octet of dead-white goats.

And what does Nackles do? Nackles lives on the flesh of little boys and girls. (This is what Frank was telling his children; can you believe it?) Nackles roams back and forth under the earth, in his dark tunnels darker than subway tunnels, pulled by the eight dead-white goats, and he searches for little boys and girls to stuff into his big black sack and carry away and eat. But Santa Claus won’t let him have the good boys and girls. Santa Claus is stronger than Nackles, and keeps a protective shield around little children, so Nackles can’t get at them.

But when little children are bad, it hurts Santa Claus, and weakens the shield Santa Claus has placed around them, and if they keep on being bad pretty soon there’s no shield left at all, and on Christmas Eve instead of Santa Claus coming out of the sky with his bag of presents Nackles comes up out of the ground with his bag of emptiness, and stuffs the bad children in, and whisks them away to his dark tunnels and the eight dead-white goats.

Frank was proud of his invention, actually proud of it. He not only used Nackles to threaten his children every time they had the temerity to come within range of his vision, he also spread the story around to others. He told me, and his neighbors, and people in bars, and people he went to see in his job as an insurance salesman. I don’t know how many people he told about Nackles, though I would guess it was well over a hundred. And there’s more than one Frank in this world; he told me from time to time of a client or neighbor or bar-crony who had heard the story of Nackles and then said, “By God, that’s great. That’s what I’ve been needing, to keep my brats in line.”

Thus Nackles was created, and thus Nackles was promulgated. And would any of the unfortunate children thus introduced to Nackles believe in this Evil Being any less than they believed in Santa Claus? Of course not.

This all happened, as I say, last Christmastime. Frank invented Nackles, used him to further intimidate the children and spread the story of him to everyone he met. On Christmas Day last year I’m sure there was more than one child who was relieved and somewhat surprised to awaken the same as usual, in his own trundle bed, and to find the presents downstairs beneath the tree, proving that Nackles had been kept away yet another year.

Nackles lay dormant, so far as Frank was concerned, from December 25th of last year until this October. Then, with the sights and sounds of Christmas again in the land, back came Nackles, as fresh and vicious as ever. “Don’t expect me to stop him!” Frank would shout. “When he comes up out of the ground the night before Christmas to carry you away in his bag, don’t expect any help from me!

It was worse this year than last. Frank wasn’t doing as well financially as he’d expected, and then early in November Susie discovered she was pregnant again, and what with one thing and another Frank was headed for a real peak of ill-temper. He screamed at the children constantly, and the name of Nackles was never far from his tongue.

Susie did what she could to counteract Frank’s bad influence, but he wouldn’t let her do much. All through November and December he was home more and more of the time, because the Christmas season is the wrong time to sell insurance anyway and also because he was hating the job more every day and thus giving it less of his time. The more he hated the job, the worse his temper became, and the more he drank, and the worse his limp got, and the louder were his shouts, and the more violent his references to Nackles. It just built and built and built, and reached its crescendo on Christmas Eve, when some small or imagined infraction of one of the children—Stewart, I think—resulted in Frank’s pulling all the Christmas presents from all the closets and stowing them all in the car to be taken back to the stores, because this Christmas for sure it wouldn’t be Santa Claus who would be visiting this house, it would be Nackles.

By the time Susie got the children to bed, everyone in the house was a nervous wreck. The children were too frightened to sleep, and Susie herself was too unnerved to be of much help in soothing them. Frank, who had taken to drinking at home lately, had locked himself in the bedroom with a bottle.

It was nearly eleven o’clock before Susie got the children all quieted down, and then she went out to the car and brought all the presents back in and arranged them under the tree. Then, not wanting to see or hear her husband any more that night—he was like a big spoiled child throwing a tantrum—she herself went to sleep on the living room sofa.

Frank Junior awoke her in the morning, crying, “Look, Mama! Nackles didn’t come, he didn’t come!” And pointed to the presents she’d placed under the tree.

The other two children came down shortly after, and Susie and the youngsters sat on the floor and opened the presents, enjoying themselves as much as possible, but still with restraint. There were none of the usual squeals of childish pleasure; no one wanted Daddy to come storming downstairs in one of his rages. So the children contented themselves with ear-to-ear smiles and whispered exclamations, and after a while Susie made breakfast, and the day carried along as pleasantly as could be expected under the circumstances.

It was a little after twelve that Susie began to worry about Frank’s non-appearance. She braved herself to go up and knock on the locked door and call his name, but she got no answer, not even the expected snarl, so just around one o’clock she called me and I hurried on over. I rapped smartly on the bedroom door, got no answer, and finally I threatened to break the door in if Frank didn’t open up. When I still got no answer, break the door in I did.

And Frank, of course, was gone.

The police say he ran away, deserted his family, primarily because of Susie’s fourth pregnancy. They say he went out the window and dropped to the backyard, so Susie wouldn’t see him and try to stop him. And they say he didn’t take the car because he was afraid Susie would hear him start the engine.

That all sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Yet I just can’t believe Frank would walk out on Susie without a lot of shouting about it first. Nor that he would leave his car, which he was fonder of than his wife and children.

But what’s the alternative? There’s only one I can think of: Nackles.

I would rather not believe that. I would rather not believe that Frank, in inventing Nackles and spreading word of him, made him real. I would rather not believe that Nackles actually did visit my sister’s house on Christmas Eve.

But did he? If so, he couldn’t have carried off any of the children, for a more subdued and better behaved trio of youngsters you won’t find anywhere. But Nackles, being brand-new and never having had a meal before, would need somebody. Somebody to whom he was real, somebody not protected by the shield of Santa Claus. And, as I say, Frank was drinking that night. Alcohol makes the brain believe in the existence of all sorts of things. Also, Frank was a spoiled child if there ever was one.

There’s no question but that Frank Junior and Linda Joyce and Stewart believe in Nackles. And Frank spread the gospel of Nackles to others, some of whom spread it to their own children. And some of whom will spread the new Evil to other parents. And ours is a mobile society, with families constantly being transferred by Daddy’s company from one end of the country to another, so how long can it be before Nackles is a power not only in this one city, but all across the nation?

I don’t know if Nackles exists, or will exist. All I know for sure is that there’s suddenly a new meaning in the lyric of that popular Christmas song. You know the one I mean:

You’d better watch out.

"Passenger tossed after flipping out over staff’s ‘Merry Christmas’"

The grumpy passenger, who appeared to be traveling alone, barked at the woman, “You shouldn’t say that because not everyone celebrates Christmas.”
The agent replied, “Well, what should I say then?”

“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man shouted before brushing past her.

Once on the plane, he was warmly greeted by a flight attendant who also wished him a “merry Christmas.” That was the last straw.

via Drudge

N. Korea whirlpool


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mrs. Brown's Boys Christmas 2013 Bucking Mammy


Good times, good times. Mrs. Brown is a bit sweary.

The show is written and produced by Brendan O'Carroll who plays the title character. Other characters are real life family and friends. It depicts an Irish family along the lines of the American show All in the Family. Recorded in front of live audience, production jokes and mistakes are edited in for broadcast. Produced by BBC Scotland the show was panned by critics but has become a ratings success in Ireland and Britain and is gaining all over the place including Australia and Canada. On YouTube this video has 1,300,000+ views where Americans ask, "Where are the jokes?"

And that is funny.

Soon it will be Christmas day


Men With Tools

He owned a beat-up Toyota minivan,  The body was shot, but mechanically it was otherwise okay.  Then someone told him about an abandoned Cessna aircraft at a junkyard.  No engines,  far too many hours to be rebuilt and made airworthy.

An empty garage, a lot of tools, and some very talented friends and.....a street-worthy Cessna.

He drives it around town when the weather is good;  to the gas station, the drive-thru, the store, and so forth.


What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ

than with a Planned Parenthood s'more?

Asks Doug Powers at The Powers That Be.

Doug is commenting on a Planned Parenthood promotional s'more kit. The maker is offering a $5.00 donation to PP for each photo of a s'more promotional packet using #PPsmoresupport but as of the writing there is only one photo at the hashtag, the one Twitchy posted. Although there are other social media photos, there are none with the hashtag, so no donations at the time of writing.

Somebody thought it was cute. And Christmas season brings out their cuteness.

It looks like their cute little twisted effort failed if not backfired.

Twitchy has more s'more.  It is where I nicked the source pic.

To answer Doug as to what better way, tender conversations with family and friends centering around common areas of interest. Exchanges of gifts that communicate the importance of people to you. Expressions of love and affection, by phone, by card, by messenger pigeon, what have you. That's what. The season is another chance to find your real inner character and allow it to surface. It is an opportunity to be sweet and to be generous especially if you have a bit of trouble with that sort of thing throughout the year. Better to have that spirit surfaced all year, but here is your chance to pull it off officially without unfounded fear of being considered a flake.

I received a card from a sister-in-law who never does write, never calls, never emails that said simply "I love you" and it means the world to me.

I does.

Because sometimes I have my doubts. Conversely, I discovered a simple thing as packets of seeds can bring a person to tears. Surprising. But true. That is what is better than a Planned Parenthood promotional s'moor kit.

Doug says those people are mentally ill and I agree with him. There is something quite wrong with them that I am unqualified to diagnose.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Who's The Man?



Love her.

Here's more.

Can't Stop the Cavalry

Sony Backtracks, Will Now Release The Interview

"The plan is to release the film simultaneously in participating theaters and via video on demand. The Plaza Theater in Atlanta, the MX Theaters in St. Louis and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin have now said they will distribute the film. The MX said it would be selling tickets as of 2 p.m Tuesday."
“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.

“I want to thank our talent on ‘The Interview’ and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month. While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
James Franco & Seth Rogen

Nephews are home from school all week

Saturday Morning, behind the Swimming Center

Yesterday at the local park, all to ourselves 
 
Saturday morning after Swimming Lesson

"Open-Air urinals to be screened after public criticism"

"I'm not very enthused with the design but we have decided to add additional screens around them so that they are more acceptable to the public," he (Councillor Lex Bell) said.

"That's a response to public feedback, but also we're not opening them now until midnight.



"Residents have been saying that they find it offensive to see someone toileting because you can still see the heads and legs of people.

"There's also been the problem of some ladies using them, and they're not designed for ladies."

However, he said it was less of a problem for women as they mostly used toilets in a nightclub before they left the premises.

IRS, busted

Daily Caller (a site with a hyperkinetic JAVA script writer with a disrespect for its readers)
Via Instapundit.

Daily Caller has obtained an advanced copy of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report that demonstrates malicious intent by IRS to improperly block conservative groups that they termed "icky."

Eight senior leaders in a position to prevent the targeting are identified. The report cites six major points in the report. Half we already knew but now the report says they have proof.

Here is a condensed summary:

1) They admit to spinning the issue
2) Stephen Miller almost told the truth but Nikole Flax instructed him not to.

That name is new to me. To the tower!

3) IRS definitely used a different standard on conservative groups.

Well, duh.

4) Lois Lerner expressed frustration with having to approve a lot of groups. Her colleagues assured her she wouldn't have to.

5) IRS sought outside advisor for ways to deny tax-exempt status to conservatives.

6) An email shows the IRS sought to use a new "gift tax" to target nonprofit political groups.



Monday, December 22, 2014

KLEM FM

"These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives"
That recording is 50 years old and still I never tire of it. I associate it with those great Firestone and Goodyear Christmas albums from the 1960's that my parents would play on the console stereo this time of year. Plus there's something about the singers' chemistry and counter-melody duet.

Gormé was quite a looker in her day:


She passed away just last year. Her husband, Steve Lawrence, wrote:
Eydie has been my partner on stage and in my life for more than 55 years. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and even more the first time I heard her sing. While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. Link

Joe Cocker, RIP

Joe Cocker passed away today.  He was 70 and had lung cancer.  Rest in Peace, Joe.  You had a great run.



Here's my Joe Cocker story.  The day I almost met Joe Cocker. Almost.

Trout fishing is romantic?


No wait. What? 

I never thought of that.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I suppose that it is.

I don't know why we visited the man who lived in the little red caboose that had been transformed into a tiny house and positioned on a spot near Aspen airport. I hardly recall who I was with. I think we were teens and I think there were were four of us. But I could be wrong about that, it was a very long time ago. Around the time of my first apartment. We were visiting one of our group's friends. 

The red caboose guy was busy at the moment of our visit doing something very odd indeed -- tying his own fishing flies. At the time I knew nothing of trout. I had no idea how delicious they are. I had no concept of how easy they are to prepare. I did not know that they have no scales. I did not know how wonderfully crispy their skin fries. Nor how their entire skeleton can be lifted off in one piece from filets as you see the cartoon cats hold up as a delicacy while plying the back ally as a French waiter with a towel draped over one arm and garbage bin lid as a tray of fine dining tidbits. 

The man was thin and rough in appearances. He had a kit, a tackle box of materials containing hooks of various sizes, wires of differing colors and materials from metal to nylon and polyester, feathers of different kinds, bits of fuzz. A small vice was clamped to the tiny kitchen table that held a hook and he cut off segments of feathers. I sat opposite him at the table and observed  him at work wrapping coils of wire around the feathers onto the hook, then pushed it all back and continued wiring other fuzzy things onto the hook, then tying it off, and finally  trimming  the feathers to produce an ersatz fly or larval bug of some sort. It looked nothing at all like a real insect, and I didn't imagine it would when it was wet. He appeared to know what he was doing and well practiced. He made about seven flies without any variation.  Apparently something to fake out the fish into taking it for something else that is edible to fish. His considerations were imagining what the fish would be eating that time of year. He imagined what the fish  would unhesitatingly be going for that day.

His intention was to score his own dinner.

We followed as he rode in his truck to nearby Roaring Fork River, so close it was almost his own back yard and hardly a need for a truck at all. He took up a position between trees among reeds on the bank and cast upstream. His line floated. The current carried his line down the river. He pulled it back without reeling it in and recast upriver. His line floated with the current again. He cast again and again and again. 

Nothing. 

That was my impression of fly-fishing. Boring as hell. The fish, trout specifically, were not biting those endless minutes I observed. He said, "It is just a matter of time."

Apparently he was certain the river actually does contain fish. But I would not know that by what I observed. We departed with him still standing there fishing having caught nothing at all. 

The whole episode left me flat. It killed my teenage interest in fly-fishing.

I did ask a few questions. Have you caught fish here before? How big were they? How many do you usually catch. What will be dinner if you don't catch any? Does your line ever get caught up in the trees? Does your hook get caught on hidden logs? How many of your flies do you go through in a day?  Do you lose any? Doesn't that piss you off? Do the fish ever swallow the whole thing? Do they ever get stuck in rocks? Do you ever catch fish you don't want? Must you have a license for this? Do you need a new license each year? Do the park people challenge you? Do you ever forget it at home? What happens if you don't have your license with you? Are the fines high?  How long can the fish keep in your creel before they go off? Do you ever get a fish with another fish inside it?  Do you clean your fish right here? Don't fish like to eat other things? Do they only eat the insect that is happening right now? Are fish really this single-minded seasonally? Don't they enjoy variation in their diet. Do you ever change flies? How do you know which fly to use? Why is your hook so small? Why don't you use a regular fishing line?  Where is your net? Why does the string  have to float? How do you know where to cast? How do you know where the fish like to hang out? Does that change by the time of day? What if it rains? 

He was satisfied to see us leave, to see me leave,  while he stood there and continued fishing in solitude. 

In the vehicle driving off, as passenger looking over my shoulder and seeing him standing there alone with his quiet activity all by himself without anyone to talk to, no music or anything, with his back to us, I suppose that is somewhat a romantic sight. But not romance in the usual sense. Yes, I suppose there is something romantic about fly fishing. Even if you do not catch any trout. But it would be a whole lot better, I think,  if you did. And that is why, after all that,  I do not understand why fishermen throw them back in.