Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Beauty Of Truth

This is a tarpon. He's about six feet long. He is unafraid of humans

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grand Central Terminal

Yes, it really is as busy as the saying goes!

Nobody Asked Me, But...

In case you missed it, yesterday was the Blessing Of The Sun, a holy day in the Jewish calendar that occurs every 28 years, and celebrates the moment when the Sun returns to the exact position it was created. Question: how do they know?
And today, of course, is Good Friday. In honor of this, I thought I'd run the Stations Of The Cross for today's post. Please don't infer any parallels between the events and the life of Our Lord:
1) Two Tibetans were sentenced to death in a Chinese court for setting a fire which killed seven people and burned five shops in Lhasa to the ground.
2) Apparently, Florida for Spring Break is not universally appealing. But we all have our crosses to bear.
3) His first Falls.
4) Meeting his mother, always an emotional moment.
5) Simon picks up the cross...with Garfunkel! I'm guessing there's a way to work in troubled waters, too...
6) Veronica wipes the sweat off his brow.
7) He falls again. The weight is too much to bear.
8) He meets the daughters of Jerusalem.
9) Falls a third time. Very weak now.
14) And is laid to rest.
Peace be with you.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Seagull

These guys are all around me most times I'm out shooting

A Message Of Hope

Y'know, it's pretty depressing out there.
It seems like the world is heading to hell in a handbasket, and I'm tired. I get a new perspective on the Great Depression. It wasn't so much economic as it was psychologic.
At least this week, the news is mixed on the economic front: jobless claims were surprisingly low last week, Wells Fargo, universally acknowledged as one of the few strong banks out there, reported good earnings, new home mortgages are rising, and the trade deficit is collapsing. On the other hand, retail sales are still in the toilet, meaning consumers aren't shopping, the auto industry is still on very shaky ground, and gas prices will begin their inexorable summer climb this weekend as people get their cars out of the garage and start the summer driving season early.
Nevermind the news page, the business section is enough to make people depressed! That's before the piracy in Somalia, the North Korean missile test, earthquakes in Italy, the Twitter uprising in's enough to raise the dead!
What's really depressing is to read blogs and watch television, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. If it's not God, it's the President. Or liberals. Or Muslims. Or immigrants. Or Hollywood.
I have a better solution: it's you!
Now, I realize the way of the world is to make our problems somebody else's. Both sides of the political fence claim the other scapegoats. The right claims we liberals are trying to build a nanny state. The left believes the right wants to deny and deflect their personal responsibility towards their fellow citizens.
Guess what? Both sides have a point (altho you'd be hard pressed to prove to me at this point in time how government is doing too much for us).
So the old saw is shown to be true: if everyone else is wrong, it really is your problem.
For the past thirty years, this entire nation-- heck, the entire world, when you realize that France has McDonald's on the Champs Elysee and Wrangler jeans are hot sellers in Abu Dhabi-- has spent its days, nights, lives in pursuit of the Material Me. Even so-called "radical lefty tree huggers" have to be seen hugging the right tree.
We have the latest, newest, greatest, biggest...and ultimately, most useless...junk on the planet.
Just. Stop.
Focus on the things that really matter: your health, your weight, your family, your friends, your life. The problems of the world will start to melt away if we all just "stick to our knitting".
Want to solve the health insurance crisis? Walk. Exercise. Pay a co-pay and see a doctor before you get sick. Eat healthier. Sleep better. Skip every other drink or every other cigarette. Lose weight.
Want to help solve the banking crisis? Spend less, save more. Take twenty percent of your paycheck and bank it. Put your loose change at the end of the day in a jar, then take it to the bank and deposit it each month.
Want to prevent a war? Talk to people. Don't argue, don't judge them. Just listen to them. Sit in a coffee shop and make a point of truly understanding someone.
Want to be happier with your friends? Be happier about yourself. The weather's getting nicer, take a walk. Take a camera with you. Take pictures of the kids out playing. Do something that has meaning to you but doesn't cost an arm and leg, not because it's "material," but because you don't have to sit there with part of you adding up the total money you just spent.
Search for beauty in an unbeautiful world.
You have a material home. Create a spiritual one. A place where your mind can rest and your spirit can play.
You have a material home that makes you unhappy. You have spent your life pursuing it, because this is what you were told to pursue, and eveeryone else is doing it. That's a powerful influence, that "everyone else". Marketing firms have made entire fortunes on the backs of you and your neighbors, convincing you to buy this gadget or that SUV.
You have the power to quit them. Use that energy, now exhausted, now spent, on yourself. You have a window full of stuff, but a house devoid of what you need. You have things, but no love, because you cannot love a thing. It cannot love you back. You have glee, but no joy. Glee comes from knowing you've bought the new toy. Joy comes from living with what you have. Glee is a drug. It requires constant reinforcement. Joy is everlasting. it grows on its own if you just give it room.
Give room to your joy. Shun your glee. Don't you have enough? Do you have all that you need? Most of us do and are unaware of it. And besides, everything is on loan here. It can be taken from you in the wink of an eye, but the one thing that will always be with you is you.
Give to people. Give your time. Give your love. Give your joy, because the best soil for joy to grow in is soil that two people tend. Don't worry, it grows quickly!
Give your things, too. A gift given gives twice, or so the saying goes.
The damnable trap of the past thirty years is that we have taken, but we haven't taken from others...well, not much. As others have taken from us, however-- and that has happened-- we have also taken from ourselves and our futures. We borrowed money we didn't have to buy things that might not even be around now that the bill has come due.
By allowing others to take from us, we have robbed ourselves of our humanity, our dignity, and our individuality. By buying the iPod or the car or the Britney Spears CD or the Disney DVD, we have allowed others to take "us" in exchange for making us more like everyone else. We have fuller closets and emptier hearts, prettier clothes and uglier bodies, bigger cars and smaller minds.
But when you give, you maintain who you are. You become who you need to be. You keep what and who you want in your life, and you stop pushing aside the important things in life.
Yes, the world is troubled. Yes, you will be buffetted and affected and maybe even harmed for decisions you've made in the past.
But you can be the future, too, and that is where you will live. Do the things you need to do now to make that a better life.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

American Hangup

The yellow makes this picture work for me

Ghosts In The Machine

Two stories surfaced while you were sleeping that ought to help open your eyes as you stumble around for a cup of coffee:

The FBI is investigating whether counterfeit routers and computer hardware from China installed in U.S. government computer networks might provide a secret gateway for hackers to tap into secure government databases.

Sources told ABC News the counterfeit hardware could represent a major breach to national security. An FBI PowerPoint presentation, which somehow ended up on a Web site, lays out the concerns and the breadth of what has been a far-reaching investigation.

Friday afternoon a somewhat miffed FBI released a statement that read: "At the request of another federal government agency, on Jan. 11, 2008, the FBI's Cyber Division provided an unclassified PowerPoint presentation and briefing on efforts to counter the production and distribution of counterfeit network hardware," said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Finch. "This unclassified briefing was never intended for broad distribution or posting to the Internet."

Finch goes on to talk about Operation Cisco Raider, which "targeted illegal distributors of counterfeit network hardware manufactured in China and included 15 investigations across nine FBI field offices and the execution of 39 search warrants."

According to Finch, the FBI "disrupted a large distribution network and recovered approximately 3,500 counterfeit network components with an estimated retail value of over $3.5 million."

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, outsourcing!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls, the newspaper said, citing current and former U.S. national security officials.

[...] Officials said water, sewage and other infrastructure systems also were at risk.

Ahhhh, nostalgia! Hearken back to a time when Boris and Natasha...and now Li and Guangmei... would drop microfilm canisters off in a tree stump on the Appalachian Trail....
Granted, these are nations with means and resources (and in the former instance, incredibly easy access, bordering on the treasonous) to implant the software necessary to spy on and perhaps disrupt American society.
It may not sound like much, to hit our electrical system or our water and particularly our sewer systems, until you realize just what would happen: we've had regional blackouts, one as recently as August 2003, that crippled half the country and affected the rest with flight delays, food shortages, and so on. Imagine that on a national scale.
Imagine turning on the tap in any location where water is distributed and pumped mechanically or electronically, meaning basically every place west of the Rockies and south of Oregon and most of the Midwest and farm country.
Now add to that a massive sewage backup (since treatment plants would be the likely target of a cyber attack), and murky brown water that begins to spurt out of your drains.
Yea. That bad. With no place for all that crap to go, because storm drains would be the first to back up.
You want a disheartened nation? Tell 330 million people they have to shovel shit for a few days, nevermind weeks. In the dark. Without fresh water to bathe in, even if they could clear enough of their drains for the waste water to flow down. Probably in the middle of winter, just make things really horrid.
I can almost hear Limbaugh now: "My friends! Shoveling shit builds character! Why, it's no worse than spreading manure on your gardens! I shovel shit every day and look at me! I'm filthy rich for it!"
I say Limbaugh will support this because quite simply, the Russians and Chinese aren't going to do this on Barack Obama's watch, but should some idiot Republican (and it always seems to be them, don't it?) get us into another useless war, even a cold one, with Russia AND China, they won't hesitate. They'll trigger the "S" bomb.
Sorry for ruining your breakfast!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Coming Soon To A Calendar Near You


The Future Is Now

One wonders if GM really did need a bailout?

US carmaker General Motors is joining with scooter maker Segway to make a new type of two-seat electric vehicle.

The prototype, which will be debuted in New York, is aimed at urban driving. GM aims to start making them by 2012.

The vehicle, named Puma, can go as far as 35 miles on a single charge. It will use lithium-ion batteries.

See guys? If you had started on this path thirty years ago, even using just one percent of your annual revenues, you could have been poised to corner the market on this kind of vehicle. Instead, you find yourself piggybacking on someone else's idea.
There had been rumours in the tech press for months that Segway was poised to announce a new product that would complement its futuristic  Segway Personal Transporter, which failed to capture much more than the imagination of people nationwide, likely because of its cost ($5,000) and its niche marketing ("Is it for sidewalks or streets?").
The P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) would essentially be a scooter with a top speed of 35 miles per hour, but far cleaner and far safer, with a nav system and a sensor array that would identify obstacles and steer around them, essentially driving itself.
It would also be far cheaper, about the third of the cost of a car (let's say $10,000), and ideal for uses on college campuses and for traffic enforcement agents (you know, meter maids?). It would eventually find its way to suburban homes as station cars, and even into the city as a day-to-day vehicle that can be crammed into tiny parking spaces.
The first and most obvious market for this vehicle is the Asian market, where cars haven't penetrated yet to the extent they have in the west and where cities the size of Chicago seem to pop up overnight. We'll see them here eventually now that the national attention has been focused on green technology and improving the national infrastructure.

There are few things as damaging to the infrastructure and environment as the internal combustion engine, with its thousands of mini-explosions for each trip it takes. This vehicle weighs 300 lbs. A car weighs 6 times that. You do the math.
The PUMA can be put into production immediately, as the technology is off-the-shelf for Segway. The only question would be how quickly can a dinosaur like GM ramp up its production lines to make this machine.
Aye, there's the rub and has been for Detroit for a long time. Flexibility has never been a key component in the US auto industry and to be sure, the dinosaurs who sit on the boards of directors haven't been strident in their advocacy of becoming more nimble, with the effective result being a dinosaur who can rollerskate a little.
That's sad for a nation that has always prided itself on invention.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Space Aliens Are Real!

Originally uploaded by actor212
I see this little feller staring at me nearly every morning on my way to work....watching...waiting...he knows we'll make a mistake one day...

Gunnin' For The Bottom

After only the second mass murder by a non-white American, perhaps now a legitimate dialogue about gun control can take place in this country:
As the nation gets a clearer picture of two killers who have made headlines in recent days -- one near Pittsburgh, one in Binghamton, N.Y. -- some are wondering whether Americans have too much access to guns.
[...] As the gunman, identified as 41-year-old Jiverly Voong, blasted his way through the American Civic Association, DeLucia, 61, stayed on the phone for 38 minutes, guiding police and trying to provide them with information to prevent more people from being shot. Voong killed 13 people before turning the gun on himself.
[...] On Saturday, one day after the Binghamton shootings, three Pittsburgh-area police officers were gunned down after responding to what they thought was a domestic disturbance call. Richard Poplawski, 23, the alleged shooter, was shot several times in the leg.
I suspect there's a small number of gun nuts out there now, reading about this story and realizing that yet another exclusive domain of whites, and particularly, white males, is being outsourced to lower-wage criminals: spectacular mass murder.
Sort of takes the fun out of killing people to make a political point, like the militias of Montana and Michigan would be wont to do, or the Oklahoma City terrorists when they might just as easily fire back.
A point I've always stressed in any gun discussion here is that there is a definite need for some guns in America, and Binghamton is on the cusp of an area where guns might be needed.
But certainly not automatic weapons.
Binghamton is a fairly large town, a city even, at the intersection of three interstate highways: NYS Route 17 (soon to be Federal Interstate Highway 86) and Interstates 81 & 88. I've walked the banks of the Susquehana there, and had a draft or two in some of the bars there. Indeed, I've even visited during the gay pride weekend.
Yes, it's that evolved a town.
Drive 90 minutes in any direction, and you are in the middle of the wilderness: a forest, a nature preserve, a state park. Up there, it's bear country, even puma country. You can't always call the cops and expect them to show up in the same hour, although they try their hardest. So yea, a long barrel gun is a necessity and since it's not likely you'd get a second shot quickly, even these don't have to be semi-automatic. And handguns? Forget it. You ain't taking down a bear or even a deer with a .44, sorry.
Those are guns I can support. I cannot support a gun that a man can walk into a building with and take out a dozen people in an urban setting (or suburban school or a rural church). That's just patently ludicrous and anyone who defends them should not be taken seriously.
When police departments nationwide, departments made up of people like any other average American and without any "liberal" agenda at all, can warn against the ease of purchase of guns, it's time we took the issue to heart.
Maybe now, the extremist gun owners on the far right lunatic fringe will sit down and seriously reconsider their knee-jerk reaction to even the most reasonable of controls on guns and gun ownership: licensing, registration, and criminal background checks on all gun sales. We require insurance to own a car, even the most minimal insurance. We can surely require *something* that minimizes the likelihood that we'll have to watch mass funeral services for innocent people ever again.