Category Archives: In The News

Post Totality

The eclipse. It happened. It was one of the most amazing events I have ever witnessed. Denice and I opted to observe it in our back yard. The traffic was just too bad to get to our friend’s house who had the better view. There was a viewing party at a nearby city park, but we decided it would be less distracting to just stay home. I’m glad we did. The eclipse was wonderful, and one of the coolest things about it was the subtle changes in the sounds around us. It created a kind of calm, and besides the sudden emergence of cicada song, eerie silence.

We watched it from first contact, through totality, and a few minutes after most of the sunlight returned. Totality was very brief. It was an amazing experience, but I was over in mere moments, and it is sad to think that I will most likely not see another in my life time.

For those of you who are privileged enough to get to see a total solar eclipse in the future, I would advise against wasting time, at least during totality, with trying to get pictures of it. Even if they turn out good, there are a thousand other people out there, with better equipment, who will get better stills and video. Take it in with your own senses. Look around you. The change in the environment is tangible. Feel the temperature drop. Listen as things go silent, and then as the nocturnal beings emerge all around you. Technology is great, but if you try to experience something like this though it, you will be disappointed.

And now it is time to get back to everyday life. Thanks, Nature! That was a great show.

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Totality!

In a little over a day, I am going to experience my first total solar eclipse. The last time this region had one, I was two years old. I actually have some faint memories of the event, but not of the eclipse itself. Well, not this time. I have taken half a day off from work to witness it without distraction. This is a cosmic event that I will not live long enough to see again, and I intend to be present for it.

Getting the viewing glasses was a little bit of a pain. We made the mistake of thinking we would be able to buy them cheap in the week leading up to the eclipse. Yeah, not so much. They quickly sold out, and we were almost left to the mercy of the scalpers. Luckily, thanks to our local news stations vigilant Twitter updates, I was able to get a bead on a couple of pairs for five dollars each (plus a five dollar handling charge, of course), from our local museum. The funny thing is that my work place was able to secure a whole box of five hundred of them for all of us employees the next day. They couldn’t give them away to us, due to liability issues, but they did “sell” them for one dollar apiece as a donation to a charity that the company supports. It was a deal that I couldn’t pass up. I was able to secure an additional seven pairs. That allowed me to supply my mother, her boyfriend, and sister with glasses. I am also selling the left overs for fifteen dollars a pair, and actually making a good profit (yea capitalism!).

We are still debating on a viewing location. I don’t think our backyard will be ideal for this, because of the houses that surround us on all sides. One of the coolest things about the eclipse is the 360-degree sunset that occurs just before totality. I don’t want to miss that. We need a large, flat expanse, or maybe a hilltop. Luckily we have some family who will be watching it from their hilltop house. We may end up there.

So, for all of you who are fortunate enough to experience the Great American Eclipse, happy viewing!

Carry the Fire

“This shit has got to go.” That phrase, more than any other, stuck with me all these years. Every since I first heard it in Zeitgeist Moving Forward, spoken by now the late Jacque Fresco, it struck a cord with me. The world simply cannot go on the way that it is. We cannot keep gobbling up the natural resources of this planet with reckless abandon. We cannot keep wreaking havoc on the environment. We cannot sustain the massive inequality that we have created. The world cannot take it. It will break under our weight and immaturity. This shit truly must go.

Jacque Fresco was a man who carried in himself a vision for what humanity could be. He saw our potential and spent his very long life pursuing that vision. Two days ago, Jacque Fresco, the futurist, and the founder of The Venus Project passed into history. For one hundred and one years the world has had this fire of a human being among us. Today, we must carry that fire on. The fate of the world and of our civilization is now in our hands. I suppose it always was.

Now more than ever, we are at a crossroads. The biological systems of this world are stressed, almost to their breaking point. One way or the other, this shit will go. Either we will be flushed along with it into a nightmare future that no one wants. Or, we will harness our intelligence and the better angels of our nature, and climb out of this mess. I’m almost forty. My time here is but a little while, For the sake of all those who come after me, I really hope we collectively chose the high road.

Carry the fire. Don’t let it go out.

The Friendly Skys, and my Funk

Hello, friends. It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. I’m trying to pull myself out of it and reestablish my good habits. Like with most things in life, it’s a continual struggle. Writing is definitely one of my good habits. Aside from this public blog, I also have private journals, which I have also been neglecting. The funk, like the rain, comes periodically, but it always gives way to the sun again.

Our trip to Colorado happened. It was good to spend time with our family there. We didn’t do a lot besides hang out at the house, play cards, and generally catch up with everyone. This trip was really more of a test run to see how flying standby was going to work. One of our close friends is an employee of United airlines and has graciously added us to his travel pass program. This allows us to fly at cost (under $40 a leg), as long as there are empty seats on the flight. For the most part, everything worked fine. Our first flight was canceled due to mechanical problems, but we were able to get out the next day. The only problem we had was me getting motion sickness.

I have never experienced motion sickness before. In fact, my stomach is usually ironclad. I can fall asleep on most roller coasters, so having this happen on an airplane was really unexpected. I think it had something to do with the bizarre combination of food that I had eaten that morning. I started the day out with a bag of Combos and a Coke. On the flight, the attendant offered us a snack box, since we had to endure sitting on their plane for so long the previous day. Oh, forgot to mention that we boarded and deplaned twice on the ill-fated flight. Back to the infamous snack box. The box contained an assortment of meats, cheeses, crackers, and M&M’s. I ate some of all the items. So, I had this devil’s brew churning in my stomach, and the flight was a bumpy one. Nausea wasted no time seizing me. It was horrible. I spent most of the flight teetering on the verge of blowing chunks. It took every ounce of focus and energy that I had to prevent this from happening on the plane. When we landed, I made a b-line for the bathroom, where I remained, violently barfing, for about half an hour.

I suppose I can’t let this post go without saying something about the United controversy. I’ve flown with United a few times, even before the whole standby thing, and I have never had a problem. Their people have always been super nice and helpful. The video of Dr. Dao getting wrenched out of his seat and drug away like an animal was pretty hard to watch. Obviously, I condemn the violence that was used to force him off the plane. It shouldn’t have happened, but in a way, I’m glad it did. Large corporations seldom change their policy unless they are forced to. This viral video footage and the ensuing national outrage against United will ensure that the airlines take a hard look out how they treat passengers. Last I heard United is even talking about doing away with their practice of overbooking flights altogether. So there is a lot of positive change in the works now, thanks to Dr. Dao’s stubbornness. With all that said, my thoughts are that the dude should have got off the plane before being manhandled off. This is basically my personal policy with people who are “in authority.” If it were me, just like if I were being treated unfairly by the police, I would calmly state that I believe they are in the wrong to demand that I do something against my will, and then I would shut my trap and comply. Why? Because the police and security personnel are human beings. They do not like having their supposed authority challenged. As we seen in the video, things can get ugly when you cross that line. I would begrudgingly comply with their demands, and complain and possibly sue the shit out of them later. However, that wouldn’t make for a good game-changing viral video though, so thanks, Dr. Dao for taking one for the team.

We must remember that everyone we deal with in our day to day lives are also human beings. I have found that the simple act of being nice to the people who serve us goes a long, long way. Sure, you can be an asshole if you want. It’s a free country after all. Just remember that when they need someone to get off their plane, it’s probably not going to be the guy who smiled at them and asks them how their day is going. Treat people well, and life will get a lot easier for you, I guarantee it.

Back to my funk. For the past few weeks, I have been losing ground with my weight loss. I am still doing the intermittent fasting, and only eating once a day. However, I haven’t been doing well on my food choices. Last week, due to poor planning, we had fast food every day. Thanks to the fasting I haven’t ballooned up to 300 pounds, but I have gotten back up into the 250’s. I’ve been gaining about 1.5 pounds a week. This has got to stop. I’m going to make sure that we get to the store and stock up on healthy food for next week, and with any luck, I will be back on track by next Saturday.

That’s all I have for now. Till next time.

Vault7… holy shit.

I just got through reading WikiLeak’s press release concerning the publishing of a massive Central Intelligence Agency leak, code named: Vault7. This is some scary, no holds barred, Big Brother on steroids, shit. If half of this is true, then the CIA is literally Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984. In fact, it’s even worse than that. The spying is so pervasive with today’s technology that they have access to us virtually anywhere we are, and at all times. Winston, in 1984, didn’t have a cell phone. Today, almost everyone carries around a little device, that one the one hand can connect us to the knowledge and power of the Internet, but on the other hand, can track our movements and allow the watchers to see all that we do and hear all that we say. Technology is truly a double edged sword.

Some revelations from the WikiLeaks press release:

  • The CIA operates a “global covert hacking program” which has produced a “malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”
  • By 2016, CIA hackers “had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook.”
  • The CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB) developed a thing that they call, “Weeping Angel,” which infests smart TVs. “After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.”
  • “As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.” (WTF!)
  • “The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.”
  • The CIA has the ability “to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the “smart” phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Listen, I know the arguments. “If you’re not hiding anything then you have nothing to worry about.” “These powers are for keeping track of terrorist and such, not the general public.” Sure, I don’t have anything to hide. Here are the keys to my house. Come, rummage through my stuff if you want. And of course, I don’t like terrorists and I think they should be watched. However, I do not trust the CIA. I do not trust that they have my best interests at heart, and I do not trust that they will not abuse this vast technological power that they have at their disposal. I have a problem with this sort of thing as a matter of principle. Just because I have nothing to hide doesn’t mean I want them watching my every move. We have this thing called “presumption of innocence,” and I do not like being tracked and watched like a common criminal.

I’m going to be following this story. According to WikiLeaks, this is “the largest intelligence publication in history.” There really needs to be first, a public outcry over this violation of privacy, and secondly a global discussion on how to prevent the technology that we all depend on from becoming the instruments of our enslavement.

Not Today!

There are a lot of different kinds of people in the world. Our differences are many. Some of us are large, some small. Some have pale skin, some a darker shade. We have many different hair colors and textures. Our eyes have many diffrent pigments. Some of us are hairy, others not so much. We differ in our thinking and culture also. The ideas and beliefs that we hold are many, and do not always mesh so well with the ideas and beliefs of others. It’s true, we are a diverse species.

However, the traits that we hold in common are primal and undeniable. We are all children of the earth, with the same needs. We all need clean air, water, and food. We all need shelter and warmth. We all need safety and belonging. We all need to be needed and to have our contributions valued. We all need each other.

There are things about the Islamic religion that I do not agree with. The whole idea of believing anything on faith and without evidence is backwards to me. I reject this concept entirely. With that said, I still consider every Muslim person my sister or brother. Their blood flows in my veins, it flows in yours. We are all one human family, sharing one beautiful and fragile planet. When I heard the news that our President had issued an executive order to ban an entire branch of my human family from free travel into this country I  was filled with disappointment and shame.

I am well aware that there are dangerous people out there who are motivated by religious ideology. I have no problem acknowledging this fact and fully agree that there should be measures in place to protect the general population from these individuals. However, a total blanket ban of hundreds of millions of people, just because of their ethnicity, is exceptionally foolish. The abhorrent behaviour of a microscopic fraction of the total population of Muslims is not just cause to isolate and entire race of people. It’s tantamount to poisoning the ocean to kill one shark.

This decision will not only effect individuals and families, it may also work to stifle the progress of science and human advancement itself…

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Yes, my friends, the scientific community is spread across the globe, even in Muslim countries. Maybe the cure for cancer is locked inside the mind of someone who resides in one of the banned contries? Suppose there are people in these contries that have pieces of the puzzle to understanding the mysteries of the universe, and all they need is to mix their knowledge with the knowledge of others on the outside? Isolationism hurts us all in the long run.

I feel that with the recent election and the resulting political shifts, America is in a slide backwards. We are losing ground instead of progressing towards a safer and more connected world. All this talk of building walls and banning people should not be tolerated. At this time more than ever we should be coming together and putting our differences aside. We have a real shot at becoming something beautiful and amazing, but like a butterfly that’s trapped inside it’s chrysalis, we must break free. We must not turn back because there is nothing to go back to.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand. We must not allow the powers that be to divide us against one another. It’s time to stand up and let it be known that we are one, and we will not take this laying down. If you want them, you have to go through us.

Freedom!

President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence

This news has absolutely made my day. President Obama has decided to commute the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. The whistleblower will be released from prison in May of this year! She will have served over seven years of her thirty-five year sentence, the longest sentence ever dished out for her type of “crime.”

I’m not going to make this post about bashing the powers that be, even though I do think that Chelsea should have never been locked up in the first place. I’m just happy that President Obama did the right thing. Given Chelsea’s mental state after being subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement (a practice that is now condemned internationally as a form of torture), I have no doubt that Obama’s decision has saved her life. This is something that he can be proud of. One of his final acts as President of the United States was to grant mercy to a young woman who would have most likely died without it.

So, in a few short months the whistleblower will be set free. I wish her well, and hope she finds happiness in her new life outside of the cage.

Good night, my friends.