Why Germany Kant Kompete

>> Friday, February 27, 2015

A while back various versions of a fake European Commission document began circulating via e-mail. The memorandum argued that once a common European currency had been established, the obvious next step would be adoption of a common language. Practical considerations dictated that this language be English, with a few improvements. Thus, the memorandum suggested that the superfluous hard "c" be replaced with "k," eliminating one source of konflikt; that in order konfusion to avoid writers the verbs at the end of the sentence put should; and by the end of memorandum English had been transformed into German.

What gave the joke its edge was, of course, the presumption that the new Europe would be dominated by Germany. Not only is Germany the most populous nation of the European Union, but it has also traditionally had its most powerful economy. Indeed, since the early 1980s, Germany has effectively exercised monetary hegemony over its neighbors; the job of the Dutch, Belgian, even French central bankers was simply to follow the Bundesbank's lead.
~Paul Krugman, "Why Germany Kant Kompete," Fortune magazine, July 19, 1999 [reprinted in The Great Unraveling]

The quote is from an essay that is more than 15 years old. The main gist of that essay was Germany's then economic downturn, which is hard to imagine these days, but considering that Germany is basically the force behind Greece's likely exit from the Euro, it's still relevant reading. After Germany pushes out Greece, it'll be interesting to see if it tries to push out Spain and Portugal too.


A Vine of Lies

>> Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's just been one of those weeks. It just has. I know it's not even me. A configuration of forces going around just making everything annoying.

But ever since I moved to my new area--about 6 weeks ago--I have had to listen to idiots in the waiting room either listening to Fox News or having dumb shit spew out of their mouths. This week, I have heard:

And on and on and on. It's all stupid, dumbass shit. And unfortunately some of the people spouting this shit only believe it because there is a "news" channel that puts it out there, i.e. Fox News.

Fox News is full of lies, lies, and more lies. I'm just glad certain outlets still exist to call them on their bullshit without holding back because I'm still going to be stuck listening to idiots in the waiting room next week.



>> Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finally got to see this last night on HBO. Didn't have time Monday night, plus I didn't want to be watching it when everyone else was in case the servers had problems. (Yeah, I know it's not Game of Thrones, but you never know.)

Watching it completely brought me back to the point in time when all of this happened. I started reading Glenn Greenwald back when he was at Salon. I stumbled across his first blog right before he started at Salon. I followed him over to The Guardian where I was able to still read him every day (mostly). I can still vaguely remember the Glenn's first post about this and kind of having my jaw drop. I say "kind of" because after reading GG for years, it wasn't a complete surprise that some of this was going on. His next posts were--I thought--more shocking. After reading the second or third article, I was pretty much convinced that the NSA can watch us through our webcams whenever they want, and after having watched the film that is probably correct.

I can still remember when Laura Poitras' interview videos were published, and Jeremy Scahill's "holy shit" reaction. Seeing Snowden before the interview--not in the grey dress shirt--and after when he gets prepared to depart the hotel room was quite interesting. I really got the sense that there was tension and worry in the room since they had to worry about electronic surveillance. And hearing that VoIP phones could be turned on as mics as listening devices...wow. It really does make you worry about anything being used to follow you at any time. My previous experience of VoIP phones were at work when we transitioned from regular phones to VoIP. They were annoying to use in case of power outages because I still remember a guy on my vanpool having to use his cell phone to call somewhere to tell them that his building was without power. Couldn't use the VoIP phone because it wouldn't work without power.

The ending in Russia does make me curious who GG's current source is. It sounds like it's someone high up in the Obama Administration. Who knows if we'll ever know who it is? And, of course, more articles are still being published such as one today on Canada's surveillance state.

I do find the Jyotish commentary that I've seen on Snowden--by James Kelleher and Edith Hathaway--to be quite interesting. Based on what they've had to say, I think it's safe to say that he will be a public figure regarding privacy and the internet for quite some time. We definitely haven't seen the last of him yet, even though he's still in Russia.

On an entirely different note, GG has such cute dogs!


Yeah, particularly that ice cream thing

>> Friday, February 20, 2015

If you follow trends in psychology, you know that Freud is out and Darwin is in. The basic idea of "evolutionary psych" is that our brains are exquisitely designed to help us cope with our environment--but unfortunately, the environment they are designed for is the one we evolved and lived in for the past two million years, not the alleged civilization we created just a couple of centuries ago. We are, all of us, hunter-gatherers lost in the big city. And therein, say the theorists, lie the roots of many of our bad habits. Our craving for sweets evolved in a world without ice cream; our interest in gossip evolved in a world without tabloids; our emotional response to music evolved in a world without Celine Dion. And we have investment instincts designed for hunting mammoths, not capital gains.
~ Paul Krugman, "The Ice Age Cometh," Fortune, May 25, 1998 [reprinted in The Great Unraveling]


Marley & Me

>> Monday, February 16, 2015

I was going to try and work through/finish Plagues and Peoples before picking up a different book, except I was getting nowhere with it on Friday when I had ample reading time. Time to ditch that for now and work through a bunch of easier books to read before I attempt it again. (Must strengthen those reading skills!)

I saw Marley & Me in the stack on Saturday and decided to give it a go. I finished it in two days. In fact, I would have finished it even earlier last night had my sister not called.

I picked this book up in the summer of 2008 before I left Tacoma. After finishing it in two days, I really wish I hadn't bought a copy. Should totally have checked it out of the library and saved $14 because I bought this as new paperback at the bookstore. The only benefit was that I was able to lend it out to my sister, who read it and gave it back to me. After reading it so quickly, I realize I shouldn't have waited so long to read it, even though I saw the movie beforehand seven years ago.

This book goes by so fast that I'm not sure there is a good way to summarize it. Couple buys puppy. Troubles ensue with puppy. Couple starts having kids; puppy still part of the family. Family moves to Pennsylvania from Florida. Puppy eventually gets old and has serious health problems. Puppy passes away. (I did start tearing up at his passing but not a full-fledged cry.)

I did enjoy reading about some of the peculiarities of Florida, such as Boca Raton. I've never visited there and have no desire to go. Of course, the book reaffirms the wonderfulness of dogs. I would like to have one someday, when I can afford it. However, I have no intentions of getting a lab unless he is an aging at the dog shelter. I do enjoy my doggy nephews when I do get to see them, so I'll just have to stick to enjoying other people's dogs for now.


Dispatch from The Island of Misfit Toys

>> Friday, February 13, 2015

Things I learned from the waiting room this week:

  • Hillary Clinton, if elected to the presidency, will bring forth the Anti-Christ.
  • Barack Obama doesn't qualify as a U.S. native-born citizen according to the League of Nations charter.
  • Barack Obama commits treason every day by being in office because he's not a citizen according to the League of Nations (same charter just mentioned above).
These statements--however paraphrased--all came out of the mouth of one gentleman. (I am NOT making this up!)

I suppose it's too bad that the guy who was wearing his "Hillary for President Precinct Captain" t-shirt came on the next day.


The Lord of the Rings

13 years! I finally finished in 13 years!

That would be off-and-on reading. I started back in 2002, after buying a copy when The Fellowship of the Ring came out in the theaters the prior December. I read off and on the first year. Read several chapters on a plane flying back to Tacoma from Chicago in spring of 2003.

But then I stopped. I think I may have picked it up once or twice in the years after that, but I certainly didn't get very far, probably just enough to finish The Fellowship of the Ring and get into The Two Towers. I don't recall attempting to read it again until summer 2012, where I made absolutely no progress.

Finally, this past December (2014), I picked it up again and made HUGE strides. I finished by reading from the middle of The Two Towers (just before the first half) to the end of the appendices.

What I think was most surprising--about reading this much of it at the end--was how quickly the pages went by, except why I was stressed about my mother's health. Compared to the last book I read (but didn't quite finish), reading LOTR was a breeze even though I knew how things were going to turn out. If I had read this before the movies had come out, this probably would have been a lightning fast read, even though it's a densely written 1,000+ page book.

Tolkien is a great writer. His prose makes me feel like I write like a fifth grader. I'm actually looking forward to reading The Silmarillion. I'm pretty sure I can get to it this spring.


The Bronze

>> Saturday, January 31, 2015

The main screen at Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden, Utah

This is the last time I'll be attending the Sundance Film Festival for the foreseeable future. Perhaps the last time ever actually.

Before tonight, I was actually kind of glad that this is going to be the last time. Ticket prices increased from $15 to $20, which is quite a bump considering the last price increase was from $12 to $15.

Last year, I saw two films: Camp X-Ray and Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart. For the Pamela Smart movie, which was later rebroadcast by HBO, I drove down to Salt Lake and saw it at the theater within the Salt Lake City Public Library. That was an interesting experience because there actually was a Q&A session with the filmmaker. I was able to see Camp X-Ray on MLK day since I had the day off. I still think the most memorable thing about seeing that was the three diehard Kristen Stewart fans sitting near me who were raving about the film and how it was already the THIRD time they had all seen it. That's THREE TIMES at a film festival where plenty of OTHER films are being shown. Although the kicker for me was that they all had press passes due to running Kristen Stewart fans sites. I never would have guessed the press pass standard was so low.

So this year when I discovered that tickets were going to be $20, I had to think and study the schedule to decide what and how many films I wanted to see. The festival wasn't falling on a MLK holiday weekend, so seeing anything on a Monday without taking the day off wasn't going to happen. Plus, I wasn't in the mood to see downer films because my mom was having knee replacement surgery, so I was going to be doing much more work around the house. But I heard that the U.S. dramatic competition was letting in a comedy. And that it was going to be the opening night film. And, even better, it was going to be playing in Ogden on a Saturday, so I wouldn't have to drive down to SLC or Park City to see something. I bought my one ticket for The Bronze.

The festival opened, and it got "mixed reviews." The one benefit of seeing films at a film festival is that I don't have to work on avoiding huge swaths of critical opinions or massive amounts of marketing before I see something. It's the closest I've ever been to walking into a movie with a blank slate. This is one benefit that forking out $20 for a ticket guarantees me.

And then, of course, I read about the sex scene. Again, I like seeing films--and enjoy them so much
Hope Greggory in The Bronze
more--when I don't have every detail splashed out for me before I even see it. So...before I even see the movie, there's a crazy ass sex scene that I can anticipate.

By the time I got to see the movie today, I admit that my expectations were kind of dashed. I've had some film experiences that weren't exactly stellar (Hesher). I was glad I was able to bring a friend along. But we were pleasantly surprised at the introduction of the film when the director was there. He mentioned that there was going to be lot more profanity than other films previously shown in this lovely theater probably had.

I'll admit that the beginning is a little slow.  Our protagonist (hero?) is a loser. I don't think I can emphasize that enough. Yeah, she won a bronze medal years ago, but she is now living in complete loserdom. And she is not easy to like. I think I kind of hated her in the first 20 minutes. But then her nemesis Lance Tucker shows up, and I started to root for her. I'm not going to detail the plot in anyway, but this movie reminded me A LOT of Young Adult. Although I think the biggest difference in those characters is that Hope grows up/matures where as Mavis Gary almost changes but then goes right back to being the way she was at the beginning. In fact, when I think about these two movies, I understand much less where the seemingly negative reviews are coming from for The Bronze.

Out of all the Sundance experiences I've had these past few years, this one was probably the best. The bonus was having a Q&A with the director and both writers. When asked about the soon-to-be-notorious sex scene, writer Winston Rauch referred to it as a "lyrical dance." The director, Bryan Buckley, made an excellent point that this film hasn't been screened by the MPAA yet. It's totally possible that what was shown at Sundance will be edited down when released this summer. I sure hope not. Like my friend said to me, the MPAA will probably force them to cut out any depiction of oral sex on a woman. Figures.

But here's the organist on the Wurlitzer playing the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation right before the film's introduction.


Dispatch from The Island of Misfit Toys

>> Thursday, January 29, 2015

I like Fox News better than the others. It's unbiased.
~overheard in the waiting room


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