Posted 5 Days Ago
Ah, spring. When we can finally look forward to fresh veg, locally grown, rather than the hothouse stuff. And when we can replace the Youtube vids of cute housepets for the real deal outside...nature in all its glory...
Be afraid. Be very afraid. If you get your ideas of nature from 'Wake Up, Baby Bunnies':
You will be well shocked by the Western Pennsylvania Audubon Society's webcam. It's located in a bald eagle eyrie. Watching bald eagles may be patriotic, but it is not the feel-good exercise most armchair nature lovers imagined.
The bald eagles have baby bald eagles. And they feed them. What, you ask, do they feed them?
Well, er, baby bunnies and other titbits. But the flying predators went too far the other day. They brought home a kitteh. (Oh, noes!)
The Society director did point out that the cat in question appeared already to be dead, though Pittsburgh's bald eagles are now on the 'ewww!' list for many viewers.
On the home front, Elektra announced last night that we have to keep an eye on Doglet. Doglet loves to hang around campus - she prefers her walks over there, mainly because the students all miss their cats and dogs at home and give her lots of welcome loving.
At least, we THOUGHT that was why...
Elektra's always watching to make sure Doglet doesn't pick up any more chewing gum. There's strange-coloured chewing gum on the sidewalks over there. But last evening, apparently, there was worse. Much worse...
'She picked up a joint,' said Elektra.
'I'm assuming you don't mean mutton?' I replied.
'I yelled 'Drop that right now!' and she did.'
Ah, modern life....what's worse, nature, science, or college students? Clean up your acts, you're a bad influence on my dog.
Jackson Quiz (Not Icy's)
Posted Last Week
Just thought I'd warn you that it was a duffer quiz, not an expert's.
But you may or may not be aware of the controversy over here about replacing Andrew Jackson's picture on the $20 bill with a likeness of Harriet Tubman. (Yay!) Good news for casinos and ATMs with Native American clientele: they won't use 'Jacksons', anyway.
David Crockett was a contemporary, and frankly, he didn't like Jackson at all. Lots of people didn't like Jackson, for lots of reasons. But what do you know about the US president from the Tennessee frontier? Are these statements true or false? Feel free to expand on your answers. I'll help out with 'fun facts' about Old Hickory, who might have said, 'By the Eternal, y'all better git this raight!'
1. Andrew Jackson's parents came from Yorkshire.
2. Andrew Jackson was not a citizen of the United States when he was born.
3. Andrew Jackson killed a man in a duel.
4. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote for president three times.
5. The term 'Old Hickory' referred to the hardness of Jackson's head.
6. Jackson is not the only president to have been targeted for assassination. He is, however, the only president who retaliated by beating up his would-be assassin.
7. Jackson's wife committed bigamy when she married him.
8. Andrew Jackson was the only US president to have been a POW.
9. Andrew Jackson's first inauguration was very dignified.
10. Andrew Jackson's picture should stay on the $20 bill because he was instrumental in creating a sound national currency.
Freebie Film Tip: Spying 101
Posted 2 Weeks Ago
Here's a freebie film tip for you. Would you like to know how to be a spy in World War II? Here's the introductory course from the OSS:
Filmmaker John Ford (who once staged the Pearl Harbor attack in a big tub of water with toy boats) appears in his own work here, as an agent handler who backs the wrong horse.
They say Peter Lorre is in it, but I couldn't spot him. If you do, let me know.
Many things you can do wrong are covered. Don't flirt too much. Don't attract attention. Don't pass bad currency. Learn your slang. And don't litter. Very dangerous, this littering.
Anyway, this is a lovely film. For an 'industrial', it's truly riveting. Enjoy.
For extra credit, compare it to the CIA film on the Russian spy villages:
'The Americans' isn't nearly as entertaining as this.
How to Appropriate Culture
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
Reading around the 'papers' today, I came across a discussion of what people often call political correctness. Apparently, it's a big issue these days on college campuses. And I was surprised.
The first article I read - on Fox News, so I won't burden you with a link - was about a confused young woman who was troubled when her professor dogmatically insisted that if she, being white, sang a song by Rihanna (who, I understand, isn't, not that I would know), she was guilty of cultural appropriation.
Hm, I thought. Aloud, I said to Elektra, 'So what does that make it if Whitney Houston sings 'I Will Always Love You''?
'A big hit for both her and Dolly Parton,' she replied.
The complainant went on to list other things her professor said, including that expressing her religious views on controversial issues constituted acts of 'microaggression'. I would think that depended on how she said what she said, but agree with her professor that she probably needs to read the Bible more carefully before insisting that she knows what IT says.
Today's Concord Monitor, a quieter paper than the other news channel, has this in an opinion:
'In a segment for the Big Think website this winter, comedian John Cleese said fellow comedians have warned him about performing at college campuses because students are too easily offended (Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Bill Maher are among those who share that view).'
Cleese had more to say about why this was a problem. 'Political correctness has been taken from being a good idea ("Let’s not be mean"), he said, to a point where any kind of criticism can be labeled as cruel...'
But what people aren't doing is asking where this sort of thing comes from. And as a long-time educator, I think I know.
It's second-hand teaching. Some people who didn't quite get the point of the original idea jump on the bandwagon and spread their misunderstandings around. They're peddling second-hand wisdom, and it shows.
We had an example of that when I was in high school. One year, there was a bit of a dust-up at the school assembly when our choir sang Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus' - not, you would think, very controversial even in 1969.
'Some students stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus, and Mrs Smith told them to sit down and stop disturbing,' they complained to our director, Mr Squirrel.
'So?' said Mr Squirrel. 'Why were they protesting?'
'They weren't, ' the choir members patiently explained. 'It's a tradition to stand up for the Hallelujah Chorus. It goes back to George III.' I was proud of my fellow students, they'd been paying attention in junior high. But Mr Squirrel was a different sort of music teacher from Mr Fletcher, who was classically trained. Mr Squirrel was a jazz musician who regularly beat the school's pianos into submission, necessitating far too many calls to the piano tuners, in the opinion of the administration. But Mr Squirrel had a good heart.
'Really? I'll fix those bums!' he announced. On the desk in front of him was the galley proof for our upcoming conference. Next to the Hallelujah Chorus, Mr Squirrel placed a large asterisk. At the bottom of the programme he wrote in triumphant block letters, 'AUDIENCE STAND.'
We privately shook our heads indulgently and laughed. Adults, what can you do with them?
I'm hoping that all of those choir members have gone on to teach their grandchildren that it isn't about political correctness. It's about tolerance - even if your music teacher is a bit on the unpolished side.
Top Secret Stuff on the Internet? Ce surpriza!
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
We worry these days about the state of the world. We hope that our leaders, who have the benefit of the best educations money can buy, and more advisors than you can shake a selfie stick at, are able to keep the planet at peace, secure, and terrorist-free.
These leaders surely know how to preserve the security of the free world by storing their private deliberations - the ones that shouldn't leak prematurely and cause people to get needlessly apocalyptic - in a clean, safe, eco-friendly environment. Like behind an impenetrable firewall designed by the most paranoid programmers on the planet, right? Surely these people know better than to send emails on yahoo, or indulge in Facebook antics, like those mere mortals whose lives are on constant public display because, frankly, no one cares what they do or say?
Just when you've convinced yourself that education + high position = Smarts, along comes a hillbilly and proves you wrong.
(This Wikileak courtesy of Homer and Jethro.)
No, not THAT kind of hillbilly. THIS kind:
At least, 'hillbilly' is how the 'zine translated what the Romanian prosecutor called him. Now the infamous hacker Guccifer [sheds light like Lucifer, but has more style, like Gucci?] is being extradited to the US because he annoyed Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, and others, and caused questions to be asked and public money to be spent trying to find out who was publishing secret emails...sigh...the scandal is even getting involved in the election campaign.
Apparently, this is what Domnul Guccifer wanted: fame and recognition. Armed only with a laptop, way too much free time, and a tinfoil hat the size of all the Carpathians (he believes he has original Illuminati documents), this determined, unemployed guy from a very small place has got all the movers and shakers definitively moved and shaken.
This story should be instructive for those who think those 'security questions' that protect your passwords are kind of bogus. They are. Guccifer was able to hack into the personal emails of the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and also an entire presidential family (thus exposing an ex-president's tragic lack of painting talent) simply by getting into the emails of a Romanian politician.
And how did he do that? By guessing which street she was born on. He knew where she went to primary school, the rest was easy...
You want to know more tips, or just read the incredible story of Guccifer? Here's an excellent interview and background piece from somebody who visited the convicted felon while he was incarcerated in Arad.
I spent a night in Arad once. Not in the jail, but in a truly ancient hotel. Apparently the jail is new and sounds like it might be nicer. Although the guards sound every bit as surly as the concierge I ran into.