Sunday, December 30, 2018
Friday, December 28, 2018
The couple won a lottery to perform the ceremonial first kiss, a naval tradition that allows one lucky sailor to disembark first and greet his or her loved one (in 2011, two female sailors were reportedly the first same-sex couple to win).
Politics and one big, failed gamble stymie immigration hopes of Bakersfield woman's partner | News | bakersfield.com
Then there is Eduard Rojas Fernandez, a 117-pound professional jockey from Venezuela who believes his refusal to throw races at the mafia's command has made him a target in his home country. Back in Caracas, he believes, a bullet just might have his name on it.
He has an advantage shared by few other applicants for asylum, however: an influential and committed American friend. In his case, it's his girlfriend and business partner, Bakersfield's Karen Gentry Norton, a financial consultant and former delegate to California's Republican state convention.
Norton, an avowed conservative, suddenly finds her support of U.S. immigration policies wavering in the face of widespread institutional dysfunction and her empathy heightened for the plight of the stateless, powerless multitudes among whom Rojas now finds himself.
Today, Venezuelans are adopting and experimenting with Bitcoin to evade hyperinflation and strict financial controls. Speculation, fraud, and greed in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry have overshadowed the real, liberating potential of Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention. For people living under authoritarian governments, Bitcoin can be a valuable financial tool as a censorship-resistant medium of exchange.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
Fortunately once again for Europe, the United States has a chance to liberate it from supranational authoritarianism.
Incrementally weakening the European Union in favor of national determination can and should be a hallmark of American foreign policy in the region. Through strategic diplomacy and economic statecraft, the United States can offer European states opportunities to exit the European Union safely.
I don't know what I think about this. Worrying about French and German aggression against the US strikes me as foolish while we have China.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Silicon Valley May Rue the Day it Called for Government Intervention Against Microsoft - Hit & Run : Reason.com
[Federal Communications Chairman Ajit] Pai has not hesitated to point out the hypocrisy as he has moved to undo the net neutrality rules. In a November 29 speech in the lead-up to his net neutrality rollback, he said that the tech giants are "part of the problem" of viewpoint discrimination. "Indeed, despite all the talk about the fear that broadband providers could decide what internet content consumers can see, recent experience shows that so-called edge providers are in fact deciding what content they see. These providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don't like."
As examples, Pai cited Twitter's blocking Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) from advertising her Senate campaign with a message about partial-birth abortion, Apple's blocking an app for cigar aficionados, Google–YouTube's demonetizing videos from conservative commentator Dennis Prager and his "Prager University," plus "algorithms that decide what content you see (or don't), but aren't disclosed themselves" and "online platforms secretly editing certain users' comments." Others have termed the need for clarity about algorithms as a form of "search neutrality." The next day, for good measure, Pai blasted Facebook and Twitter for contributing to the rise of incivility in public discourse and "the breakdown in human interaction."
Heh and double-heh.
TASS: Military & Defense - Russia starts underwater trials of nuclear-capable strategic drone — source
MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. Russia has launched the underwater trials of the Poseidon nuclear-capable strategic drone whose development was unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address to both houses of the Russian parliament, a source in the domestic defense industry told TASS on Tuesday.
Those darn Rooskies.
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
It has been an odd year in just about every way. Of our four kids, three are now out of the house, two living in Berkeley, looking for permanent employment, though currently employed. One is living in Kiev, Ukraine, assuring us that he is out of the way of Putin's recent conquests. Our youngest is in his first year at a Catholic high school where he resists doing any studying and views his life mission as basketball and rap music, which surprisingly has not grown on me. LWJ is officially retired and besides managing Mark's seemingly endless homework assignments, cares for our dogs as well as the dogs at a local rescue for cute doggies. I'm more or less confused by all of this.
I had thought life would slow down. It probably has, but I have slowed down even more, so it seems faster or at least the same. As a result, Christmas has come and we (but mostly I) have found that we did not purchase a Christmas tree, or at least not a real one. It used to be pretty easy. I would drive the 6 or so miles down to the until-recently-vacant lot where the Christmas tree sellers had set up their temporary encampment. I would prowl through the remnants and find an over-large but presentable specimen. They would tie it to the roof of my truck, often with admirable displays of fast but effective workmanship, and I would haul it home. The tree would already have a stand on it, and with consultation by all, we would put the tree in the living room and decorate it whilst Tony Bennett sang "I'll be home for Christmas" or some such on the stereo. But no more. This year, for the first time ever, I bought what is practically an anti-Christmas tree, that is, an artificial tree, what LWJ says is a shameful blip in the history of Gromer-Smith Christmases.
The vacant lot where they used to sell trees is still vacant this year. For the last two years it was also vacant--I don't know why. Google reveals there is no place to buy real trees that does not involve traveling on the freeway, or a long way on surface streets. It might be doable, but the weekend I would have bought it we were committed to a basketball tournament. I could have gone out another day, but I didn't really want to drive on the freeway with a tree, I also didn't want to subject my small, cute but fast little Outback to getting its roof scratched by the tree stand. Could I really just click on the somewhat-realistic-looking White Vermont Fir without built-in lights and have it delivered to my home? I can and I did, to my shame.
I liked the lady who sold trees on Jamacha Road, El Cajon, where I used to go. She would be flying high on wine at 2 in the afternoon and didn't seem the least depressed. I was a good customer. I didn't trying to bargain her down as lots of people do, and as I did last year when I had to drive all the way to Bonita to find a tree. I got there a bargain price on what looked like the dissipated elder brother of Charlie Brown's tree. For what I paid for the fake tree, I thought it had better be magnificent. It isn't. After putting it together, which was fairly but not entirely easy, I proudly displayed to LWJ, who commented that it looked too narrow as well as fake. But it cleaned up fairly nicely with lots of ornaments and lights.
Of course, they can't fake the smell. We'll have to buy some spruce scent next year, I guess. I miss the smells of Christmases past. We do have oranges in San Diego, so that's good. But winter, in spite of everything, I do miss that. Not Eastern winters, cold and damp as they are. But Western winters; getting bundled up in uncomfortable wool and running and skiing and kissing the snot off of some girl's cheeks. I miss that a bit. The sense that the great world lay beyond the mountains and I would see it someday, but for now, we were all safe, enclosed by the mountains. A great emptiness lay between us and the Vietnam war, the war on poverty, the gasoline crisis, and everything else in the great world. All that stuff didn't matter anyway, as far as I could see, which turned out to be not far at all.
We skyped with Luke, holding up the computer so he could see the impact of his thoughtfully chosen gifts. He got Jordan Peterson t-shirts for the Berkeleyites (they are not JP fans). One showed a lobster against a background of text which repeated the message, Ascend the Dominance Hierarchy, and William got a t-shirt which admonished "Clean up your room, Bucko!" William said he would never wear the t-shirt, but everyone got a good laugh out of it anyway. I got a lovely watch box for my latest hobby/addiction of watch collecting, a hobby I don't even like, but still do with compulsive attention--I don't know why. YouTube has put a spell on me. William got me a nice (but inexpensive) Timex chronograph. I got Mark a history of rap, because everything has a history.
This is where I wish you all a merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah as well. And have a good holiday to all of our secular or just lazy readers. The upcoming year promises to be fascinating if not exactly edifying. I'm sort of in a pre-Civil War mood, in that I feel a lot more loyalty to my home state and region of origin than I do to our somewhat addled nation. But with two kids apparently determined to live in the Bay Area, I'm not sure that really works. Nor do I want to live in the haunted graveyards of Eastern Europe, though I wish them well. Perhaps somewhere in northern Arizona there's a hundred acres with our name on it. The Apache ghosts seem fewer and farther between. I'm glad for my loyal readers. Twitter will fade, as will rap, but the blog will live on, at least until something better comes along.
Sunday, December 23, 2018