Monthly Archive: September 2016

Thursday Round-up – 22nd September

1. Politicians not paying attention to experts? Surely not…
The British government is facing awkward questions now that it has emerged that the brand new airport built on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena is likely to be unusable in its current location because of excessive wind shear.
It emerged that the Meteorlogical Office in the UK had warned the government that this was likely to be the case; however, nobody thought to ask them until airport construction was already in progress…
In the meantime the airport may end up as a white elephant even worse than the billion-plus Cuidad Real Airport in Spain. At least that airport was actually opened, although not enough people used it to prevent the operating company from going bankrupt.

2. Accomplishments
One of the new nonsense memes circulating on the internets is one claiming that Hillary Clinton has no accomplishments.
I do not think that word means what you think it means.
What I think the people who post these memes are really saying is that they do not think that Hillary Clinton has done anything for them. This is probably true. However, that does not mean that she has no accomplishments. Most people would regard being elected to the US Senate and becoming the US Secretary Of State as accomplishments, so trying to post a meme contradicting that really shows that the posters are, on this topic at least, profoundly unserious. Most likely they dislike Hillary Clinton for whatever reasons, and the meme is just another juvenile internet slam. Yawn.

3. Racism, Facebook hacking and personal responsibility
I work in IT, where corporations are expected to be responsible for securing their own data and the data of their clients against attack or theft. If my employer allows an unauthorized third party to hack into its network and steal information, or make unauthorized updates to data, that’s on us. We can blame the hackers, but in reality we should have prevented the hack in the first place. Certainly the third parties filing lawsuits will not be chasing the hackers. They will file against us, because it was our responsibility to secure data and we failed to exercise that responsibility.
Which brings us to the interesting story of Patsy Capshaw Skipper, the interim Mayor of Midland City Alabama. On August 25th Ms Skipper lost the Mayoral election to an opponent who is black. Shortly afterwards, her Facebook page showed a woman by the name of Patsy Capshaw Skipper moaning “The Nigger won” when asked about the election result.
Perhaps rather predictably, when this was noticed, Skipper deleted the messsage thread and then claimed that her Facebook account had been hacked.
Here’s the bad news Patsy. Even if your account was hacked, this is on you. It’s up to you to ensure that malicious people don’t hack your Facebook. Facebook is one of your windows to the wider world. Anything on your Facebook page, as you can see now, is viewed by the world as your property, a representation of you. Thanks to this reality, a lot of people in the world now think of you as a mean-spirited racist little chickenshit. No, blaming hackers doesn’t get you off the hook. It’s up to you to protect your online accounts. Not Facebook, or God, or the tooth fairy.
After all, you belong to the political party that constantly bloviates about “personal responsibility”.

4. There are reasons why I am occasionally contemptuous of Christian churches. Here is one of them

This church in Colorado apparently thought it was OK to not report felony sexual abuse of a 12 year old by a Church official because they determined that Biblical counselling would suffice.
I would like to see every person involved in that decision hauled into court. This would include the father of the 12 year old girl, who clearly has no interest in obeying the law, having the church obey the law, and who appears to regard his daughter as church property, a sexual chattel to be abused on request by church leaders.
Seriously. This is basically a conspiracy to cover up felonies.


Trump’s promises and proposals and governmental reality

One of the more amusing aspects of the Donald Trump show is how he seems to think that he can plonk his posterior down in the Oval Office and do stuff Just Like That.
The last time a self-proclaimed “different” person ran for office and gained a significant share of the vote was in 1992, when Ross Perot ran as an Independent. At the time, in interviews that I saw in the UK, Perot behaved a lot of the time like the highly successful businessman that he was. He consistently made comments indicating that he saw the USA as simply like EDS, only a lot bigger, and that he would bring some of his successful “business discipline” to bear on the USA if elected, and SHAZAM! things would be better, and damn quick.
The thing was, I had seen how that panned out when tried in the UK in the early 1970s. The Conservative Party, partly as a reaction to what they saw as the dangerous tendency for the Labour Party to listen to input from trade union leaders, began a campaign to get business leaders to enter the government. They persuaded John Davies to quit his business job, arranged for him to be given a “safe” Member of Parliament seat, and promoted him to be Trade and Industry secretary.
The move was a disaster. Davies had no idea about the very real differences between being a CEO and being in government. He was a poor performer on television, was a terrible speaker in the House of Commons, and failed to form any constructive working relationships with civil servants, who are essential enablers in the UK government system for Getting Stuff Done, and he soon discovered that the sort of hard-nosed thinking that leads to uneconomic private businesses being shut down is not applicable to large national industries that are labor-intensive, where closedowns have the ability to lead to governments being un-elected. After several years, he gradually withdrew from politics, and returned to business.
I was thinking of this when I saw Ross Perot being questioned by interviewers on his policy ideas in 1992. He sometimes became irascible and short with interviewers who asked him penetrating questions, which is something that I have seen and heard about with people who build businesses from scratch. Many of them are not used to having their ideas questioned, much less criticized. It is my belief that Perot, for all of his ideas and energy, would have been a lousy President. He would have become frustrated in a matter of weeks when he discovered that no, Mr. President, you cannot just Do That. It needs Congressional or Senate approval. That pesky three co-equal branches of government thingy would have reduced him to grinding frustration quite quickly.
Which brings us to Donald Trump, the man of the expansive promise to Do Stuff. How the hell he thinks he is going to do most of what he says he will do, given the constitutional limitations on the authority of the President, is a mystery to me. This tweet provides the most likely explanation:


Thoughts of a teacher – Jay Adams

Teacher and educator Jay Adams, who writes the excellent blog the36review, has this speech he gives to his high school students at the start of the year:

I begin each school year by telling high school students some version of the following:

“I believe you are capable of adulthood right now. I do not believe you have to wait for a certain age, or society’s permission, or a diploma, to become a person worthy of my respect. In fact, I am desperate to treat you like an adult, because I think the world is falling apart because it’s run by mental children. But I can only treat you with as much adult respect as you will let me, so please earn it.”

For most kids I teach, it’s the first time they’ve ever heard anything like that. And it works.


Quick Notes – 21st September

1. A lack of understanding of the word “Freedom” in Beaumont TX
In which players who kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem were informed that if they did it again they would be removed from the team. As the article makes clear, some of the supervisory leadership of the Beaumont Bulls are astonishingly ignorant not only of settled law (they need to go read this case in detail for starters) and are also utterly lacking in understanding of the roots of the protest.
See this summary of some of the issues and questions surrounding kneeling for the National Anthem.

2. Trump’s appeal is almost entirely based on him behaving like he is unfiltered
As J.D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” explains in this interview, a large part of Donald Trump’s appeal lies in his (probably deliberate) use of language that sets him apart from other contemporary politicians. Those politicians communicate in an articulate, measured and careful style, that has become regarded with suspicion and contempt by many of Trump’s supporters, who see them as shysters and hucksters who do not give a damn about them as people.
Effectively. Donald Trump talks much like the bar-stool bloviator down the street, using poorly structured, rambling sentences with little or nothing in the way of coherent solutions. However, many people like this because this is exactly the way they wish that they could talk to professional politicians. The fact that many of Trump’s grandiose promises are hopelessly impractical or unrealistic is not something that many of his supporters even want to consider. The fact that somebody understands them is enough for the time being.

3. Today’s unbelievably stupid question from network television
The question and the best response so far on Twitter…

4. The practical realities of Brexit
As I said at the time of the referendum, the UK vote to leave the EU was the equivalent of an 8 year old child having a petulance attack and shouting “I HATE you and I’m leaving home NOW”. Those 8 year olds soon discover that leaving home at that age is not easy or achievable. Ditto the UK now that they have to not only negotiate their way out of the EU, but also negotiate separate trade agreements with dozens of countries, when all of the trade negotiation experts work for the EU. This is going to be a train-wreck, and the voters who voted Leave are going to find out the hard way that not only is it not as simple as it looked at the time, but the results may not be to their liking.


Something rather different…

The German jazz organist Barbara Dennerlein, playing a jazz blues on the pipe organ at the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago in 2009.
And here is another performance as she improvises around Bach’s Toccata and Fugue at Trinity Church, NY.
Another performance on a cathedral pipe organ,
Dennerlein is a true organ pioneer, having a prodigious technique on organ bass pedals, which she utilizes to not only play complex walking bass lines, but also to trigger musical samples.

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