Saturday, December 31, 2016

What I have learned

2016 had many twists and turns. I saw many people go back to their base, to their core beliefs. I cut some people out of my life and added some new folks, and reconnected with a few old friends.

But the one thing I learned was this: it takes more than blood to make family. My adopted daughter is equally as important to me as my biological children. My favorite cousin was adopted into the family. Many of my blood relatives spouses are wonderful and I like having them around.

So it's important to release the negativity and not bother with folks just because they share a bloodline - and focus on people that matter to us.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We need their computer things

"I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I'm not sure we have the kind the security that we need."

Ummm.  Yeah.  (A) computers are hard. (B) you are one stupid bastard.  And (C) what does this have to do with the questions at hand about the hacking scandal?

Note: the title of this entry is a quote from a Star Trek episode featuring the Pakleds "A rotund, lethargic scavenger race who nonetheless are not as simple as they seem.  Their 'found' technology has accelerated their abilities at a far faster rate than their understanding and maturity can apparently handle."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from President Obama and the First Lady

Yeah this message doesn't seem much like the totally contrived "war on Christmas" that some douchebags try to peddle in their narrative. And this is pretty much the same message we've gotten for 8 years, but what do facts matter?

Watch: The President and the First Lady give their last holiday message from the White House.

The White House


Merry Christmas from President Obama and the First Lady

President Obama and the First Lady just gave their annual holiday message from the White House for the last time. Check it out:

Merry Christmas from the Obamas

They talked about the values that bring Americans together over the holiday season:

The First Lady: The idea that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper. That we should treat others as we would want to be treated. And that we care for the sick, feed the hungry, and welcome the stranger, no matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.

The President: Those are values that help guide not just my family's Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans; nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds. And no one better embodies that spirit of service than the men and women who wear our country's uniform and their families.

And they called on us to support the Americans who serve us all year round: our men and women in uniform.

The First Lady: As always, many of our troops are far from home this time of year, and their families are serving and sacrificing right along with them. Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season. That's why we've tried to serve them as well as they've served this country. Go to JoiningForces.Gov to see how you can honor and support the service members, veterans and military families in your community -- not just during the holidays, but all year round.

So make sure to watch -- and stay tuned for a throwback clip.

Merry Christmas from the Obamas 2009

"So as we look forward to the New Year, let's resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share. And on behalf of the all the Obamas -- Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and that troublemaker Sunny -- Merry Christmas, everybody."


The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111


Friday, December 23, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain Black widow virus results from evolution, not genetic engineering

This is really cool. The process of natural selection is remarkable (and by the way doesn't care if you believe it or not) and underscores how living things find new (and often unexpected) ways to evolve to survive in changing surroundings.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A pet peeve regarding stupidity

I saw an exchange yesterday between a trump supporter and someone that was encouraging rational thought. The trump surrogate said something along the lines of-

It's all hillarys fault that she lost. The Russians didn't hack anything, that's a lie. You can't brief the electors about anything because they don't have security clearance. The recount failed. Just accept it and move on.

What lays bare here is this persons ignorance. The CIA, as well as the Russians themselves, have said there was an effort to interfere with the election. Let's see what they find before we snap to judgement. That's the American fucking way.

The electors, it is true, don't have high level security clearance. But how about if agents of the CIA present publicly available and relevant facts of the case in a summary to them? Don't filter it through the media or the party. Let them hear it from the source and ask relevant questions. I know why. Because that's rational thinking! Can't have that.

And as for the recounts. Yes, they did Peter out. But do you know why? Because each of the states in question (along with many others) has absurd rules about how a recount works, who pays for it, what triggers it, and if the state supervisor of elections agrees to it. It's a myriad of complex legal questions that aren't easily addressed by just anyone. It goes along with the notion that the elections themselves - from the equipment to the methods used and even ID requirements - are a weird mix that seem ineffective.

The fact that they petered out doesn't mean that they didn't find anything. In fact the anecdotal and early finding suggest otherwise. It is a matter of legal hurdles not being cleared.

As always, educate yourself. Don't open your pie hole to say stuff unless you have an informed position. And don't blindly follow anything.

#Stupidity is today's thought for the day

I consider myself to be a rational, free thinking person. I don't ascribe to one ideology. I don't blindly follow anything. I think. I question.

What I can't tolerate is stupidity. I can't accept that anyone follows things blindly and never questions anything.

You can start the discussion with sports. Some people just follow "their" teams and wind up hating some other team because they're a rival. Doesn't matter if the team is bad, there's always hope for a better tomorrow, a better player or coach, a new owner. Never mind what you pay to be there - after all you give your money and get really nothing in return, other than entertainment. And worse, you're willing to have a verbal or physical altercation with anyone who doesn't see things through your lens.

Next up is religion. I have no issue with anyone believing whatever they want. And following your beliefs in an organized fashion is just fine. But when it dominates everything, then it becomes an issue for me. Don't tell me how I should live. Don't sell me on why your belief is better than someone else's. Don't describe yourself as a [insert religion here] when you are presenting yourself. Be a good person. Follow your beliefs with humility. And most importantly, don't just follow along blindly. Too many wars have been started in the name of religion. Too many people have gotten sucked in and told to give more (financially of course) or to "pray harder" for something...and when it doesn't work out they don't give up the belief, they double down.

And then to politics. I find it frustrating when people from each main party say the other has to be wrong. They label each other (as if it's a dirty word no less) and can't see another point of view. What's the purpose? Aren't we all Americans? Can't we rally around *that*?

To be fair, I admit that I despise the Donald. But it's not because of his party. It's because of HIM. I've detailed that many times. But I find that one party just accepts him blindly - even though he only represents himself and not the party - and the other party is looking for a glimmer of hope and a recognition by the other party to see him as evil.

As I continually remind people, switch roles in your mind. How would you feel if you were on the other side?

I suggest you look at things critically and question everything.

Be reasonable. Stop. Think. Listen. And help yourself by continually learning. Cut out the shit and the noise. Don't follow blindly.

Don't be stupid.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Electors #VoteYourConscience

While there are still some legal angles to explore, the electors still have to vote in under a week. I'm hoping/suggesting that they vote their conscience and don't give the Donald the requisite 270 votes to win. Look, I know for many electors it's about party and how they feel about their obligation to it against the constitution.

In those cases, I'm not suggesting they vote for Hillary. But I am suggesting that they should NOT vote for the Donald. Vote for another person, say Rubio or maybe Kasich, or even a fictional one like Captain Kirk. And if you're okay voting for Hillary, then I urge you to do that.

I know some of you may think the election hack is a made up conspiracy. I will continue to argue that it's not. That should be enough to end this debate, but let's say you're right. Look at some of the actions the Donald has taken since winning the "election" - quotes are intentional based on the hack,

* he has gone out of his way to antagonize china
* his embrace of pakistan undermines the relationship with India (a key trading partner)
* his original pick for Secretary of State, one mr patreus, was found guilty of actually having mishandled classified information - the exact crime for which Hillary was accused of, but no evidence supported this claim
* his national security advisor (Flynn) was also convicted of mishandling classified documents.
* his pick for secretary of defense has not been out of the military for more than 7 years, so he is ineligible to hold this position. Unless the senate grants a waiver, which will never happen. So essentially he's wasting time and effort here.
* his new pick for Secretary of State comes with a new set of challenges, primarily related to his business dealings
* most of his cabinet picks are the least qualified people for that particular job; people whose life it was to undermine the agency they have now been picked to represent. I'm not saying some shaking up is bad, but destroying the agencies? Wow. Just wow.
* his potential for conflict of interests re vast and varied and can lead to nowhere good
* he already brokered a deal for his daughter in Japan, and he apparently is working on one in Taiwan for a business of his
* he has created another problem in turkey where his praise for a businessman got the man arrested; and the Turkish government appears to be playing a game to get an Imam extradited in exchange for the release of this guy. Do you honestly think that will ever stop?
* he is down to 73 pending lawsuits. Seventy three.
* he has shown a lack of knowledge about the constitution, and very likely could trample it on day one. It's our most sacred document and one he will swear to uphold and defend.
* there was a sham of a deal for carrier, that got the owners some nice profit in exchange for....raising the stock price, in which the Donald holds a stake...and as for those poor people who lost their jobs they got a "you should have worked harder" message. And the union boss got bullied.
* minutes before he announced his "plans" to cancel the F35, which is made by Lockheed, someone dumped large numbers of shares in the company. A similar occurrence happened weeks ago with Boeing. The SEC will investigate, but there surely has to be a connection.
* he's embraced 140 character attacks and has nothing of substance to say.
* he has told us he's smart, and won't listen to intelligence briefings, but will listen to conspiracy theories because they're interesting to him.
* he is bullying and threatening anyone who opposes him, or his vision. He has even threatened the electors. That can not be acceptable to any rationale person. He simply can not lead this way.
* he has shown no interest in the 330 million people he will represent; rather he spends his time holding self-aggrandizing rallies.
* And oh yeah, he plans to run his companies and executive produce a tv show. Because how hard could it be to run the country?

Stop him. Vote your conscience and keep America great. He is in it for himself and nothing more. We can not let him hold the highest office. And we can not let stand the election interference. You can argue that we do it all the time "so what?" But it is the single. It's important part of our democracy, and we must hold that dear.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Here's my issue for the day

When did we suddenly become friends with Russia? Look I'm not saying we can't be friendly, or we can't find ways to work together. And certainly - as Hillary demonstrated when she was Secretary of State - there needs to be a reset. But clearly W was wrong when he gazed into Putins eyes and saw a good man.

Now there's information about a hacked election that benefited the Donald. Those who back him or the republican agenda brush it off as "something made of nothing" and rush in with name calling. And I can see in this age of disinformation (again thank you Russian hackers!) its hard to get to the truth.

But no matter where you fall in this issue consider for a moment: how would you feel if it were on the other side? Suppose a hack benefited Hillary. Would you feel different?

Now back to the larger issue. There is a shift in our stance with Russia. But not in a way that necessarily supports US interests. Look at the people the Donald has put around him. From Manaford to Tillson. Many have strong ties to Russia. And either have or would benefit from allying us more closely with Russia.

Then listen to the (ever changing) words of the Donald. While some of his positions have changed, his position on following Russia's lead in foreign policy has not. Leave NATO? Not protect Europe? Support Assad in Syria? Antagonizing china?

I find it interesting that the shift has gone that far. It doesn't support American exceptionalism.

So you can believe the hacking story or delude yourself there's nothing to it. His position on Russia should make you realize there's something to the connection.

And the day he takes the oath of office is the day that America stops being America.

We need to hold up and wait for the investigation to conclude. And really, a new vote is the only way out. And if he wins again, then so be it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The way I see it....

The CIA shared that they found some anomalies in the election, based on Russian interference.  As they are precluded from working within the US, they have little to gain (or lose) by playing partisan politics. And if we're honest about things, they always get huge budgets to carry on work overseas, whatever that is. Doesn't matter who sits in the Oval Office. And because of various policies, they often do better with a Republican in the White House.

So what do they have to gain from meddling? 

The FBI is a different story. They solely work within the US, and are directly impacted by the person in charge.  They stand to gain (or lose), and their budgets get bigger and they have more latitude with Republicans - at least in general.  The FBI also shared that they saw interference from the Russians, but they didn't think it was a hack of the election itself and they didn't provide motive. 

But. A.  See my comment about their level of involvement and interest. And B. their primary focus is within the US.  Hacking occurring outside has an impact, but the CIA would be more likely to know the extent of the intrusion.

So here we are.  We're a week away from the Electors meeting to vote.  They "should" vote according to the allocation of electoral votes given by the wins in each state. But there is some wiggle room for them.  Sort of.  Its complicated.  But at the end of the day their job is to protect and defend the constitution of the United States.

There are a couple of possibilities regarding what happens next, so let me run through them.

Option 1: proceed with the electoral vote
Pros: it ends the debate and simply uses the votes from the election
Cons: it creates a constitutional crisis because it was not a free and fair election and we all have no idea if our votes counted.  The ship will have sailed, and from this point on we can never have a fair election again - even if some think we can.  At that point, you might as well start over with a new constitution.  And no, I am not kidding. This imperils our democracy.

There are a couple of possible outcomes here: Trump wins (the most likely result), and serves his term.  Trump wins and gets impeached (ether because of the hack or simply because of his business interests that violate the constitutions prohibition on taking foreign money) and then Pence serves the term (who none of us voted for!).  Trump doesn't get to 270 and it reverts to the congress or the courts for resolution.  Somehow Clinton gets 270 (least likely outcome) and she serves as president.

Option 2: The electors are delayed
Pros: more time to resolve everything
Cons: who makes that call? And in all likelihood challenging the date of their voite

will push us to option 3.

I don't think there is an outcome specific to this option.

Option 3: this heads to the courts to resolve .... something
Pros: at least we avert the constitutional crisis
Cons: this becomes messy and complicated, and delays the vote and could mean that we have to have someone serve as president while this all gets resolved (not Obama and not Biden, nor the cabinet; they are done on 1/20....but you might know this if you read the constitution - its covered as it lists the hierarchy)

There are a couple of possible outcomes here as well: the court orders the electors to delay, or just to proceed.  In either case, they could give the electors orders to unbind them from the original vote; they vote for who they want (note: this may create new problems). The court decides themselves.  They hand it back to congress to decide (again based on the pesky constitution).  They make everyone wait until the investigation ends so we know if Trump was complicit (avoiding the possibility of impeachment) and then proceeding.  And finally they could order a new election.

Option 4: Order a new election
Pros: it solves for the myriad of problems and restores free and fair to the mix
Cons: it becomes a do-over.  Its unclear who has authority to order it.  Its unclear what method we could use to ensure that there isn't another issue.  It will take time and will require a temporary person to fill the office, just like in option 3.  It will probably lead to a legal challenge, unless the supreme court orders it.

This is uncharted territory.  We have no idea what could happen.  And again, do you wait for the outcome to decide if Trump is okay to be included?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America | Teen Vogue

"Insist on fact-checking every Trump statement you read, every headline you share or even relay to a friend over coffee"

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain The Big Bank Bailout - Forbes

Forbes did a good piece last year about the big bank bailout. It's chilling how we (i.e. Main Street) are being fleeced by Wall Street.

#NotOurPresident - the Donald was right the election was rigged.

Regarding the button shown in the picture, yeah, maybe it counted and then again, maybe not. Or perhaps it didn't count as much as the Russian votes. 

It seems clear some malfeasance went on, and "free and fair" can no longer be applied to this election.  Where this goes from here, I have no earthly clue.  But the outcome can not stand. And can you imagine the outrage if Clinton had won and this came out?  Unhinged probably doesn't begin to describe it, I would think. 

Full disclosure: I think trump is a total douche. I think he's unfit to be president. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with personal opinion. This has everything to do with democracy, about the core of our system of government.  We must not accept this. 

Putin set out to disrupt our democracy, and it appears as though he succeeded. Either he gets the puppet he wanted as president, or he creates confusion and uncertainty, and perhaps a sort of vacancy in the oval office for period of which case he can go ahead and accomplish whatever he has on his agenda for a while.

The fact that this was known by at least a few people is hugely problematic. You could argue that they were trying to act in the best interests of their party, but I don't buy it,  their actions were treasonous.  Mitch McConnell, I'm looking at you.  And James Comey, perhaps you too. 

As for el donaldo, I could not, for the life of me, figure out how he won.  Yeah, he got the fringe people fired up, and winning the primary was a possibility, but it still seemed he should have been weeded out.  In the general election, it just made no sense. The math didn't work for me, and the fact that so many people got it so wrong just bothered me.  And the notion that there were any (much less 10s of thousands) of "hidden trump supporters" didn't feel right.  His fans were passionate and vocal.  Why would so many of them hide in anonymous surveys?

Free and fair election.  That rattled around in my head. If someone were going to tamper with an election, how would they do it?  Perhaps they would do it in many states, to ensure that any one state mixup or recount wouldn't change anything. Perhaps they would select states with large numbers of electoral votes, but whose recount rules were archaic or convoluted. And the simple answer is to have it appear as a couple of smaller, very local problems like a couple of overvotes in some more red districts. Of course you need to ensure that the person you're helping can deflect attention - And he's a master at that.

I never saw election fraud on a grand scale as a real threat.  But I had heard a few security types talk about it before the election, as they often do.  But I discounted it, as I often do.  Maybe this time we should have listened. 

For the month, I was a little despondent.  It was about the guy who apparently won, but yet it wasn't about that.  It's hard to describe, but It was about this nagging feeling that it didn't seem right. That something was amiss.  I felt like my intelligence is being assaulted both from the inability to understand what happened, and the continued nonsense being spewed by that same guy.  I did a little homework, and knew there were some theories but nothing concrete as to how he managed to pull out a win.  It's just so weird, because he didn't just eek out a win, either. But this was one mystery I thought might only be solved in time.  I figured it would always be whispers and suggestions.  And as a rational person this bugged the bejezus out of me.  We live in a society that is free.  Intelligent (Well, relatively). And has crowd sourcing and computing. And still no one had anything meaningful. Just observations.

But now the CIA has shared enough details that we know there was some kind of tampering.  The FBI had similar results, but their rationale and the depth of finding was different. But remember who heads the FBI: Comey.  The guy had no business interfering a week before the election, and yet he did for no good reason....unless he had a reason of course. 

On the one hand, I feel vindicated that at least I was right in my thinking that it wasn't free and fair. It was exactly as he said it himself. Rigged. I guess you might say that those "hidden trump supporters" were actually Russians.

And that's all fine and well, and I'm suddenly feeling energized....but that and 50 cents will get me coffee....the obvious question is: now what?

Can we get out of our own way, and remove the partisanship and look at the real threat to democracy, and do something about all of this?

Perhaps we start by removing and rebuking a few elected and appointed officials.  Determine how much the Donald was involved. Then we proceed to hold a new election, and in the meantime, we roll down the pecking order and hav someone assume office on January 20th. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain - the US Constitution

The constitution of this great nation isn't just an idea or a concept. It's a 4 page hand-written document that our founding fathers took great care to write, so the United States would always be great for all of us. A government by the people, for the people and of the people. 

In these times of uncertainty, I recommend reading it for your general knowledge. Hers a transcript from the national archive 

Too much reading?  Then you're just lazy!  But you can check out the schoolhouse rocks preamble video here:

Dumb Donald

In the 1970s, Bill Cosby (at the time, still beloved) came up with a TV show called Fat Albert. Basically it was morality tales that were told through cartoons, using Cosby's own childhood and a fanciful view of his friends as reference points.

There was a character called Dumb Donald, who was basically a nitwit. He's got on a too-big jersey and has a stocking covering his face. He's a good kid, and means well in the story, but he comes across as a bit of a dope.

In one episode he tells fanciful lies.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the soon-to-be idiot in chief reminds me of Dumb Donald in many ways...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"You can't relive your life"

That's a quote from John Glenn.

He also once said:
"If there is one thing I've learned in my years on this planet, it's that the happiest and most fulfilled people I've known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain This Millennial Might Be The Next Einstein

What America Can Learn About Smart Schools in Other Countries - The New York Times

"For now, the PISA reveals brutal truths about America's education system: Math, a subject that reliably predicts children's future earnings, continues to be the United States' weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability — the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world"

Monday, December 5, 2016

How the Donald stole Christmas

How to read the news

A pretty good article from our friends at NPR

5 ways I want to help #makeamericasmartagain

I firmly believe that it's time to Make America Smart Again.  That is, it's time for us, as individuals and groups living in his great nation, to do everything we can to use reason, to think, and to cut though the noise that exists in our lives. 

I will be embracing the idea in my corner of the world, and I encourage you to do the same. 

Here is my mantra, the five things I will be doing to make myself better.  I admit that some of these are affirmations of things I already do, but I wanted to share them and clarify my position.   

1. First up: TV.  I will not watch reality shows, or any network news. On the former, it's dullness offends the senses and encourages one not to think.  And likewise, I won't be following the lives of any celebrity and their absurd behavior.  It serves no purpose. Regarding the latter, it is clear that 24 hour news outlets are motivated by profit and are not in the "news" business; they are businesses that are in it for money - and ratings are directly tied to that revenue. It's as pointless as reality tv.

There are still things to watch: educational programming, some sports, and the occasional movie or tv series are reasonable choices that educate and entertain.

2. Before repeating anything, I will seek to learn if it is true. I will not regurgitate any talking points, or mis-represent facts. In short, I will not accept lies, half-truths, or spout any nonsense. It's counter-productive and shows a lack of intelligence to do otherwise. I won't speculate wildly about anything, either, because the truth matters. If you say something to me, I will ask for your sources and will reject what you are saying if you give me the "inflammatory headline" that isn't supported.

3. I pledge to read more.  My goal is a minimum of 6 novels, or "good books" a year. There can be fiction and non-fiction among the works I'll read, and I will get to the actual library regularly because it's a tremendous resource we have available.  I won't, however, let any one book (however good I think it is) dictate how I think or live; the most it can be is a component of enriching myself.

I will also read more science journals and articles, and will post a link to at least one interesting article a week. On this point, science is the one thing we can look to for meaningful, observable behavior.  It has no agenda, it is the absolute truth and it doesn't care if you believe in it or not.

4. Stop the insanity! Social media is out of control.  It's a part of the bigger problem. I will use it to let you know about things that are going on at Disney, and to occasionally pass on interesting facts.  But I won't be using social media to engage in meaningless banter, or to simply pass judgement.  I also can not accept memes as a way of exchanging information.  It dumbs us all down, and you won't see them from me. And where it's appropriate I'll reject what you are saying here too.

5.  And finally, I will continue to exercise my mind through various activities.  Personally, I will look at new entrepreneurial ideas, app development on a more regular basis, and explore my roots as an engineer to remind myself why I got this education. You may have some other things that you are good at and passionate about - I encourage you to pursue them.

Doing these things will make me a better person, and helps me stay sharp and smart. I hope some of you will take a similar view and help to do your part. 

Do what you can to use your mind. Make yourself smart, continue your education if that's on your list, and share what you learn.  Only then, can we Make America Smart Again.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Free and fair elections

After the election ended, I (like many others) had questions about the results. If it's a free and fair, so be it, the Donald won.  But there was enough doubt to question the integrity of the results. Could there have been fraud?  Could someone have hacked the election? There's basically one way to find out. 

When Jill Stein announced her intention to fund a recount, I was onboard. Now let me be clear on this point: I am not supporting the recount in the hopes the other candidate won. I am assuming that everything will remain as it is, however unfortunate that is. 

(Though, to be fair, I wouldn't be saddened by a change in the result)

I am supporting the recount as a means to ensure that our elections are fair. That we can breathe a sigh of relief when next we go to the polls. 

So why does the Donald not want that?  It casts MORE supicion on the results. And him adding bullshit like his tweet that there was fraud in the popular vote is just incredibly petty and stupid. Sure.  There's fraud not in your favor, and you won anyway. Wow. What a sore winner. 

How about you just humbly support the effort, but make a statement that you won anyway, and you'll have people oversee the recount to be sure it's handled right. 

All we want is fair elections. Period. Maybe your guy won fair and square. Great. Bully for you. But to simply say that the result has to be right simply because he won, well, that takes some balls. Imagine if the other candidate won. I can't imagine you'd take it lying down. Has to be fraud!