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What’s the Newsletter For?

From the beginning of the Web 2.0, back when I joined Myspace and then Twitter, and then I joined Facebook, I took the time to post podcasts and news articles to them and to various other social networks in hopes of sparking conversation, or at the very least spreading information. After a decade and more of making this effort, with little to show for it, I hit upon the idea of posting the Nuzzel newsletter that came free with my membership on Nuzzel to the various platforms I was participating on. Just posting the newsletter instead of copying and pasting whatever witty thing I wanted to pass along with the article. That gave me one thing to post to each network instead of dozens of duplicates every day.

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Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms

All about Meniere’s Disease. Updated periodically.

When I’m questioned about why I’m retired already; or when someone airs doubts about my invisible disability, are you really disabled? the subject of Meniere’s disease is bound to surface. It is bound to surface because Meniere’s disease is the answer to both questions. If you just stumbled across this article on my blog and want to know, what is Meniere’s disease? I’ve never heard of it. I can understand that feeling. I’d never heard of it before its symptoms wrecked my life. Here’s a snippet on the subject of Meniere’s disease from my favorite resource of first resort.

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Murphy's Law

Every now and then I hit an episode of Decoder Ring that hits me where I live. This episode was one of those.

StitcherSlate – Decoder Ring: Murphy’s Law – Dec 09, 2019

Nick Spark fell down a rabbit hole tracking down the origins of Murphy’s law, the ubiquitous phrase that says, “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” On this episode of Decoder Ring, we follow spark on his journey while taking a few detours of our own to find out how Murphy’s law was (maybe) born out of the rocket sled experiments of the dawning jet age. We talk to Spark, hear some of the recordings he collected during his own research, and speak to researchers who are skeptical of Nick’s hypothesis, all to try to find out how an obscure engineering aphorism spread to become a world-conquering philosophical observation. Some of the voices in this episode include Nick Spark, Craig Ryan (author of Sonic Wind, a biography of John Paul Stapp), George Nichols, David Hill Sr., Fred Shapiro, and Stephen Goranson.

Decoder Ring: Murphy’s Law

I just happen to still have the poster that hung in my bedroom for most of my teenage years. here’s a picture of it.

Yes, this actually hung on my wall right next to the poster of Christy Brinkley. I was a weird child. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before. Murphy was an optimist, as the poster itself notes. Having said that, it would be in keeping with Murphy’s law that trying to prove the origin of the law would inevitably end up down a blind alley somewhere. Having not planned to avoid this failure in advance, the failure occurs. Murphy remains a mystery.

Proving Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

Stephen Follows ran the numbers through his three distinct perspectives for considering movies; Creative, Commercial, Cultural. He selected specific datasets for all three perspectives in order to determine if Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. I, as a lowly movie watcher, defer to his expertise on this subject. Here is a link to his article.

Stephenfollows.com

For those of you who cannot be bothered to read a few pages of text with some interesting graphs mixed into them in order to liven up the number crunching, I’ll give you a tl;dr quote from the conclusion.

[I]t’s certainly fair to say that Die Hard is regarded as a Christmas movie in popular culture. Like it or not, the association between Die Hard and Christmas is fast increasing and in years to come its Christmassyness will be beyond question.

Stephen Follows

Hat/tip to The Wife for the link to this article. When I mentioned I was doing a series of pieces on our Lord John McClane, she insisted I had to read Stephen’s article and include it in the series. I will be relying on his three perspectives consciously in the future when I review films, as I have been known to do. I was already taking the three of them into account when I wrote reviews or mused on the impact of various films, but I had never given the perspectives names before.

The Afghanistan Papers

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

THE WASHINGTON POST – Confidential documents reveal U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan
On the Media – The “Pentagon Papers” Of Our Time – December 11, 2019

I had hopes, when Bush II went into Afghanistan, that he would keep his eye on the ball of catching and punishing those responsible for the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It didn’t even take a year for me to realize that he and his administration were not up to the task. Iraq became the thing he was obsessed with instead of getting the job that he had started done properly.

What I didn’t know was how complicit President Obama was in covering up the failures in Afghanistan. At least he managed to finish the job Bush II started. If only he could have gotten us out of Afghanistan, too. Attempting to occupy Afghanistan was what did in the USSR. It looks to destroy the United States, too.

Bullshit is Still Bullshit

June 2017. Cast your mind back all those eons ago, when the firehouse of daily outrage had been turned on long enough for everyone trying to drink from it had started to drown. This is where I was,

RAnt(hony)-ings

As for the content of that article, I’ll freely admit to just dumping a bunch of comments that I had made on the various subjects that had emerged over the course of six months as I tried in vain to keep track of all the crap that spewed from the White House under the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) I wanted to do a thorough job of cataloging every single outrage that flew past me as I consumed the daily news, but even I had started to drown at that point.

There was too much. Too much lying by Trump. Too much pain caused by Trump. Too much of too many people running down blind alleys trying to address some bullshit that had emerged from Trump’s ass and splashed across the front pages of every website on the internet. There was no way to keep track of it all.

…And that was the point. That was the plan, if the OHM can be said to have a plan. Keep the outrage going for long enough for him to get re-elected on the same outrage from 2016 that got him elected the first time. That is why he has never stopped campaigning. If he stopped, people who supported him might have time to think about what he had made them all do, and that wouldn’t help him in any way.

So I wrote Bullshit is Bullshit and then altered my news consumption in such a way as to eliminate all news that began with the phrase “president Trump said”…and I did this purposefully, since everything he says is designed to disguise and distract. I blocked his Twitter account. I blocked his son’s Twitter account. What they say has no meaning, and so listening to what they say is to engage in self-destructive behavior.

I started actively blocking his voice. Hearing his voice on anything still causes me to stop whatever it is I am watching or listening to, and skipping forward until the hated noise stops. I refused to listen to arguments that included anything he said. At least, I refused to listen as far as is possible in this Orange-tinted sewer that is today’s America.

That is where I’ve been since shortly after the OHM’s election. Biding my time. Waiting for the day that the rest of the country woke the fuck up. The first glint of dawning understanding appeared after the 2018 midterm elections revealed that the electorate was far more aware of what was going on than the news media had led us all to believe. Which was good news.

Then a month ago the new congress finally understood that they would have to impeach the OHM, just like I knew they would have to do when the 2016 election rendered a verdict that Trump would be president. It was just a matter of time. It would have been nice had the Republicans not been so venal as to think that their president was better than anyone else’s president would be, even another one of their own that wasn’t stealing from the American people hand over foot, and taking bribes from foreign governments to boot, they were quite happy to let the theft go on and pretend that the clueless rubes that put the OHM in the White House would be enough of a voice to keep them in power.

So 2018 taught them the lesson that they could be trounced by a dedicated opposition. Liberal was no longer a dirty word. Conservative was becoming a dirty word thanks to Trump (finally) and now the Democratic majority in the house had the numbers to impeach the president. But they fumbled around with reasons to impeach, as if there wasn’t blatant evidence against the president just by his being Donald Trump, the fraud. And then Trump, being Trump, handed them the perfect reasons to impeach him by first being caught asking for bribes on the one hand, and then refusing to cooperate with congress when they tried to investigate his behavior on the other hand.

You see, boys and girls, refusing to respond to a subpoena is itself a crime. Now, you can argue about jurisdiction and privilege, but you have to go to court to do that, and that would have been admitting that the president wasn’t a king in Trump’s eyes. So, he committed the same acts that got every president before him impeached by trying to cover up his crimes and claim he didn’t have to explain his behavior. He is dead-to-rights guilty of the high crimes and misdemeanors that he has been accused of, as well as many others that remain unwritten.

…but still the bullshit continues. Not just from him, but from everyone around him that feels obliged to cover for his indiscretions. I have no idea why they do this. He’d throw every one of them under the bus if it meant his cowardly ass didn’t have to go to jail for his many crimes.

I’ve been listening to several podcasts (some of them are mentioned here) that deal with the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Most of them just deal with the facts, but one in particular seems determined to pretend that there is a balance to be struck between the bullshit spewing from Trump and his yes-men, and the truth. The first time that Brian Lehrer invited one of Trump’s yesmen on the show I had to delete it unlistened to because the bullshit was flying fast and furious every time the guy opened his mouth.

Twitter

Was my response on Twitter. Then Brian Lehrer invites the same guy back again a few weeks later, as if the guest was worth talking to a second time. The bullshitter calls for more witnesses, as if there wasn’t a move to have more witnesses speak before the House committees, and then Trump blocked them from speaking. Which he is being impeached for, now.

Listening to the constitutional scholars speaking about Trump’s crimes later that same week, I found myself agreeing with the guest who was invited by the Republicans. Which was quite shocking. I don’t know what the hurry is. Why do we have to have this all done by the end of the year? Republicans were happy to pretend nothing was worth worrying about for two years while Trump stole the nation blind and Moscow Mitch shoehorned every judicial nominee he stole from Barack Obama through an otherwise catatonic Senate. Republicans were happy to talk about #Benghazi for three years. What’s the rush? I say we keep the impeachment hearings going until November 3rd, 2020. I suggest they hold hearings on election day, even. Draw it out. Reveal the crimes of all of Trump’s yes-men as well as all of his 40 years of financial and real estate crimes.

Paint it all in glorious technicolor detail, for all the world to see. The damage has been done already, anyway. No one will trust the United States again. Not for a generation.

It’s been three years now. In order to get a sense of the history of what OHM means, I will link a few crucial posts. I wrote The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) when it became clear that the Republicans were going to nominate Donald Trump.  I wrote The GOP Cuddles Up To the NSDAP when the GOP refused to ostracize the OHM for his dangerously xenophobic populism. I wrote Caveat Emptor on the day Trump lied with his hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the US constitution. I wrote Bullshit is Bullshit on the day I stopped even trying to catalogue the blatant disregard of the truth by the OHM. It mystifies me why people still listen to him, and why the OHM still holds the office of the president. #MAGA means Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. Anyone who believes differently is a MAGA themselves.

Rewatching Babylon 5?

We tried rewatching Babylon 5 on DVD and then on Amazon recently, only to discover that the computer-generated imagery (CGI) didn’t upscale correctly for the high-definition format. Every scene involving CGI has jaggies in it, discernable pixelation that draws you right out of the show.

They’ve also been talking about this problem on the Babylon 5 Facebook group recently, so I took the time to go looking for an explanation of the problem and ran across this article on Engadget.

Unfortunately, the CGI and composite elements only existed in 4:3, and so Warner Bros. decided to crop and stretch those sequences. That involved chopping the top and bottom off every frame in a scene, and then increasing its width to fit the aspect ratio. The issue was explored in detail by Henrik Herranen from Finland, who published How Babylon 5 Is Transferred to DVD in 2001. Herranen described himself as a “professional in signal processing and a video technique enthusiast.” Unfortunately, attempts to find and contact Herranen failed.

engadget

In other words, Warner Brothers did another version of pan and scan.

RAnt(hony)-ings

…except they did it in reverse. And they did this because people like me insisted that widescreen was the way we wanted to see the show since it had been filmed in widescreen originally. Nevermind that they didn’t film the effects sequences that way, and they also screwed up the upscaling for the CGI sequences in other ways, as the article goes into. I really wanted to rewatch the show, but now it looks like it will have to remain a memory. Here’s hoping that the 35mm record copies of the show are one day released by Warner Brothers so that new digital transfers of the show are made possible, even if it is only in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Twitter: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The Good Place

StitcherEzra Klein – The moral philosophy of The Good Place – Dec 10, 2019

After creating and running Parks and Recreation and writing for The Office, Michael Schur decided he wanted to create a sitcom about one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What does it mean to be a good person? That’s how The Good Place was born.

Soon into the show’s writing, Schur realized he was in way over his head. The question of human morality is one of the most complicated and hotly contested subjects of all time. He needed someone to help him out. So, he recruited Pamela Hieronymi, a professor at UCLA specializing in the subjects of moral responsibility, psychology, and free will, to join the show as a “consulting philosopher” — surely a first in sitcom history.

I wanted to bring Shur and Hieronymi onto the show because The Good Place should not exist. Moral philosophy is traditionally the stuff of obscure academic journals and undergraduate seminars, not popular television. Yet, three-and-a-half seasons on, The Good Place is not only one of the funniest sitcoms on TV, it has popularized academic philosophy in an unprecedented fashion and put forward its own highly sophisticated moral vision.

This is a conversation about how and why The Good Place exists and what it reflects about The Odd Place in which we actually live. Unlike a lot of conversations about moral philosophy, this one is a lot of fun.

Ezra Klein – The moral philosophy of The Good Place – Dec 10, 2019

I mentioned the show here.

RAnt(hony)-ings

…so I thought I could at least mention it again in an article about it. I wish I had more to say on the subject than just watch the show. I’ve gone back and started watching Veronica Mars because of Kristen Bell‘s lead role in the show. That’s how much I like it.

Atheists Know More About Religion Than Religious People Do

Atheists may not believe religious teachings, but they are quite informed about religion. In Pew Research Center’s 2019 religious knowledge survey, atheists were among the best-performing groups, answering an average of about 18 out of 32 fact-based questions correctly, while U.S. adults overall got an average of roughly 14 questions right. Atheists were at least as knowledgeable as Christians on Christianity-related questions – roughly eight-in-ten in both groups, for example, know that Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus – and they were also twice as likely as Americans overall to know that the U.S. Constitution says “no religious test” shall be necessary to hold public office.

Pew, 10 facts about atheists

That was just one of the ten facts about atheists that Pew listed in their updated article from 2015. None of the facts were surprising to me, even back in 2015 when I first ran across the article. Especially that one. In order to form an opinion about a religion, enough of an opinion to decide that you don’t want to be religious anymore, you have to study the subject pretty thoroughly.

I’ve studied every religion that I’ve run across in my 50+ years on this planet. None of them ended up being something that I wanted to devote my life to, much less any significant amount of my time. All of them ended up failing on some measure of value and relevance to life in the here and now. My last flirtation with religion was when I read the entire Book of Mormon in order to be able to argue knowledgeably with the Mormon missionaries who used to bicycle up to the house and lend a hand with projects we had going on while trying to convert us to their religion. This was back before the turn of the century, an event that both of them thought would spell the end of the world and bring on the second coming of Christ. The last time I spoke to them I said that I’d get back to them in 2001.

Anyone who has read both the Bible and the Book of Mormon that doesn’t have unanswered plagiarism questions isn’t paying attention to what they are reading. When I found myself still here on January 1, 2001, I contemplated looking those two guys up again and asking them what they thought about there not being an armageddon as was promised. Look, we’re all still here. Now what?

That sort of playful argumentation about emotionally charged subjects like religion have gotten me in trouble many times. You’d think I’d eventually learn to stop doing that, but I haven’t. It’s what lead me to state that Atheism is not a Belief System, a subject I document in this article.

RAnt(hony)-ings

The resultant arguments from that fiasco only firmed up my lack of belief in gods or the supernatural. I still marvel at how little proof most people require to believe even the craziest of things, religion just being one of those crazy things.

I take issue with several of the facts in the Pew article though. One of them was #3, Atheists make up a larger share of the population in many European countries than they do in the U.S. This was the motivation for me starting this article on the blog. The entire basis of the Pew article, limiting the findings to just those people who checked off the box atheist, is a major flaw in their article. There are even more significant numbers of people who are irreligious than there are actual atheists, not to mention the one/fifth of people who are so poorly informed as to identify as atheist and still avow to have a belief in god or gods.

The larger, more important, group are the people who are simply irreligious. People who say that they have no religion. That number in the United States is still less than half (39%) but represents a percentage of the population that can swing issues that are basically religious in nature (subjects like abortion) in surprising directions. If you use that number instead of the number that claim atheism, you have majorities of the population of most of Europe, with Australia ranking in the top ten countries in the world for numbers of irreligiousness.

List of Countries by Irreligion

The portion of humanity who don’t think religion is important enough to even have one is very large, and it is growing. Growing by leaps and bounds as the evangelicals in the United States and across the world attempt to alter governments to suit their religious beliefs. Nothing turns people off of a subject faster than having that subject forced on them when they don’t think it is important.

Hat/Tip to the Richard Dawkins Foundation and a Facebook friend who shall remain nameless unless he says I can use his name.

Constantine Did It

Nicaea. Yes. It’s still funny. Also, this.

Twitter

There is a whole lot more of these things on Twitter. Click the link if you dare.

Hat/Tip to Merbrat.

Tis the Season

As I’m contemplating the impending holiday season, the final cutscene from the Battle For Azeroth ending raid springs to mind.

World of WarcraftAzshara’s Eternal Palace – Raid Finale Cinematic (Spoilers) – Jul 9, 2019

Why is that? Well, since the Old Gods are returning in the upcoming Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft, I’m thinking that maybe a Lovecraft Christmas is in order. Something like this tree from 2011 that made the rounds on Facebook in 2012.

We could even create a soundtrack for this season from the various songs inspired by Lovecraft’s fantasy writing that appear on various Blue Oyster Cult albums, some of these songs penned by fantasy and science fiction writer Michael Moorcock. Here’s one from a recent album with an appropriate name and theme.

Blue Oyster Cult: The Old Gods Return