Some weeks back I saw a poster for “Shen Yun: Reviving 5,000 Years of Civilization” at work and thought “Excellent! The wife digs artistic performance and bonus points for digging some traditional Chinese culture.” I grabbed some tickets and mentioned to a coworker. “Shen Yun? That’s Falun Gong.” I know very little about Falun Gong, except that the Chinese government views them as a threatening cult. Of course, the mainland government is easily wigged out over any perceived threat to stability, so I figured that doesn’t tell us much. We’re seeing a performance sponsored by an oppressed religious minority. That could mean anything, really.
The performance was pretty cool. Lots of dancers in colorful costumes evoking stories from Chinese history. I’d say it is like watching a Chinese version of the Nutcracker Suite. Lots of color, lots of movement, and good music. Although they’re telling mostly ancient stories they make effective use of a modern prop of a projected backstage. This saves not only on set design, but the characters at various points jump off the back stage and fly up into the screen as digital avatars. The first time I saw this I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but by the second instance I thought “hey, that is pretty neat, and I bet really magical for the kids.”
And then there’s the Falun Dafa bits. They have some solo singers come out and sing in Chinese, which is cool. They even put the lyrics on the back screen in Chinese and English. I am sure some of the poetic nuance is lost in translation, but the songs lament that we are … most of us, anyway … Gods from the Heavens who have come down to Earth for some reason, something about breaking the cycle of reincarnation and restoring the cycle of creation and destruction. To the disinterested observer it comes across as Buddhist Scientology, and the cycle of creation and destruction sounds like the sort of thing that would raise the ear of a mainland censor.
Two of the dance performances are set in modern China. In one, a tourist gets sent to jail when he unintentionally takes a picture of an innocuous Falun Dafa protest. The guy is tossed in a cell with the Falun Dafa kids, whom he wants nothing to do with, but after the guards treat him contemptibly, everyone in the cell identifies their common predicament. I thought “alright, the Chinese government overdoes it, and many social reform movements have found strength in the jails. Right on, brothers! Fight the power!” In the final dance, the Falun Dafa are having a great time protesting in Tienanmen Square. Right on, sisters! Let us see your “tank man” performance! As soon as the Chinese police come out to bust some heads, a massive earthquake starts to destroy Beijing. Huh? That kind of sucks! But, no worry, the Gods come down and restore Beijing … everything except the Great Hall of the People … ah!
Yeah, I can see how even a reasonable government might not be super enthusiastic about that sort of performance.
The show was overall entertaining. I would still hope that people can practice their religion freely. But whatever innate sympathy I might have had for the Falun folks is diminished, especially by their last performance. When it comes to resistance movements, I am most sympathetic to the non-violent, and to those who aren’t fantasizing that apocalypse is an element to their eventual success.
Another Daniel Howard, within a week, committing a felony offense, this time in Leeds, UK:
Published on Friday 23 November 2012 06:50
A MAN who was caught growing cannabis in his cellar months after being given a suspended sentence for the same offence has been sent to jail.
Daniel Howardâ€™s second illegal enterprise was discovered by police when they went to his home in Harehills, Leeds, looking for another person who was wanted for arrest.
Mercury News reports Fremont man charged in tree hanging attempt:
FREMONT, Calif.â€”A Fremont man is facing charges that he tried to hang his girlfriend from a backyard tree.
Thirty-one-year-old Daniel Howard is scheduled to be arraigned on attempted murder and criminal threat charges on Tuesday.
Police say they found Howard Sunday evening standing behind his girlfriend, who was tied to a tree with a rope fashioned as a noose around her neck. Her hands were tied behind her back.
Howard was allegedly continuing to wrap the rope around her neck.
. . . I’m 36 years old and I live in Sunnyvale.
So, I really like Ubuntu. Its Linux and it just mostly works. Except when they try to force everyone into some experimental new desktop environment. That is pretty awful, but I’m happy again now that I switched to kubuntu-desktop. (
apt-get install kubuntu-desktop)
Kubuntu is Ubuntu with a nicely set-up KDE environment. They try to get you to use their own home-grown web browser, and the file manager takes some getting used to, but you can pretty quickly get under the hood, set up all your little window manager preferences, and get back to jamming. (Focus Follows Mouse in my house!)
The only thing that was missing is the fonts were rendering . . . not as pretty as regular Ubuntu. Kubuntu is set up to use the Ubuntu font, but in KDE things render kind of pixelly looking, like I was still in the 90s. A bit of searching and they seem to look nicer:
System Settings > Application Appearance > Fonts
Use anti-aliasing: Enabled
Use sub-pixel rendering: RGB
Hinting style: Slight
Now things feel a little more 21st century.
Via Facebook: “Guys, I finally wrote a letter to the Boy Scouts to resign my Eagle Scout rank, and sent it along with my badge. It was hard to do but I can’t continue to the associated with an organization that has become so discriminatory and bigoted toward gay youth & leadership.”
As a former Boy Scout who never made Eagle, I am impressed by those that had the dedication to put in the hard work to attain that rank. I am not surprised to hear that my college friend, Dan Wright, made Eagle, and I am proud that he did.
Two decades on, it takes some integrity to renounce the hard work and proud accomplishment of youth, in the name of those youthful values. Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Courteous, Kind, and Obedient to a code of Universal morality which affords equal respect to all people.
Dan did well in his younger days, and he’s doing right now. Sometimes the label which you have earned just doesn’t fit on the heart within.
See Also: Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges
. . . and how to make the streets safe!
First off, a couple years back, someone very close to me wanted to learn to ride a bicycle. I took her to a free workshop in Brooklyn where two dozen people learned how to ride a bicycle in a few hours. The process was surprisingly simple: you take the pedals off and learn to scoot around, then how to turn and brake. Once you are comfortable balancing on the bike, the pedals go back on and you learn the tricky part: how to shift your weight and pedal, with full confidence that you can manage everything else once you get the thing going. What took me weeks to learn as a kid is something adults can now pick up in a few hours.
A few times now I have recounted this inspiring story, and I have found that REI covers the technique in good detail. So, if you know someone who wants to master the two-wheeler, now you know a good way to do it!
On a not-unrelated note, I just enjoyed this article about European street design, where instead of designing every street for cars but also allowing pedestrians on the side, they design some residential streets for pedestrians, but also allow cars to crawl through slowly. Instead of designing for “speed” they design to make driving “tortuous” . . . cars are damned convenient and you’ll drive when it makes sense, but when you’re in a neighborhood it is good if you slow the heck down and pay attention to your environment. So, the Dutch will do things that sound absurd in America, like putting playground equipment in the roadway.
The thing is, if you are slowly driving through an obstacle course, you’re going to be a lot more careful, and if you do end up hitting something, you’re going to do less damage at 10 MPH than you would at 30 MPH. As someone whose commute is now primarily via bicycle, that kind of thinking makes me very happy.
Ah yes, speaking of my bicycle commute, the Deputy Director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition suggested I attend the next meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting of the City of Santa Clara, after I shared with him this email I recently drafted to the Mayor of Santa Clara:
Subject: Tasman Drive Hostile to Bicyclists
To whom it may concern:
I am an employee of Cisco Systems on Tasman Dr in San Jose. I commute to work via Scott Boulevard, the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, and finally via Tasman Drive into San Jose. The commute is mostly very pleasant, except for the section of Tasman Dr in Santa Clara.
For my own safety, I take the full right-most lane when bicycling on this road. I do this because there is no bicycle lane and because it is very scary to be passed by vehicles speeding above 40 MPH, and because the sight visibility is limited on the overpasses. I want to ensure that vehicles can see me and pass safely.
In each of the past two days I have been harassed by drivers on this roadway. Yesterday afternoon a woman was honking at me, and this morning a man pulled up next to me and yelled obscenities at me from his SUV. Tasman Dr is scary enough without the obscenities, and it makes Santa Clara feel like a more hostile and threatening place.
Please consider the following suggestions:
– Install a bicycle lane on Tasman Dr, at least between the San Tomas Aquino Creek trail and the bicycle lane in San Jose.
– Consider lowering the speed limit, to make the roadway feel more hospitable to mixed use.
– Short of these suggestions, post signs advising that bicycles may make full use of the lane.
The section of Tasman Dr near Great America Parkway has been very pleasant due to the speed restrictions and signage that accompanies stadium construction. In constructing the stadium you have inadvertently demonstrated what a pleasant and progressive bicycling experience Tasman Drive can be.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
For now, I have cooked up a less-threatening alternate route. I am skeptical that I can get Tasman Dr changed around, but the Bicycle Coalition guy was very encouraging and I look forward to providing some advice in civil planning! If in the next few years Tasman Dr becomes a nice way to bike I will be very happy about that.
As a white guy I can often get away without worrying about racism. But then I’ll get on the phone with my step mother. As a proud black woman, she takes the Obama hatred personally. “They wouldn’t be so vicious except he’s black.”
I know enough about my country to agree. This is a racist country. We have elected a black man, but we’re in that awkward transitional phase where we feel like we’re over the worst of it but we still have racism that gets diluted year after year. Not sure if that is true or not . . . but like I said, the white majority manages not to think too often about racism.
I get reminded again, today, catching up on blogs and Angela Tung has to speak up about this video:
She contrasts this to McCain in 2008 gently prying himself away from more blatant racism from some of his supporters:
The earlier video makes me squirm all the more … I wish McCain had said that Arabs are decent people too … but you can tell that his top priority is to back away from the crazy. McCain isn’t going to revel in the easy hatred of his opponent. “Obama is a decent man. You do not have to live in fear of Obama being president!”
And, I’m totally cool with a sense of humor, but us white guys, especially anyone running for public office, know there are things you just don’t joke about, especially not in front of the TV cameras. Of course nobody asks about our birth certificate. Nobody asks where we are from. That never happens. Its preposterous! Because white == American == white! Everyone knows this! The only reason an intelligent person like Mitt would crack a joke about his birth certificate to a crowd of supporters is as a nod to his “birther” supporters.
And you know why there’s a birther movement who absolutely can not believe that the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, is a native-born citizen of the United States? I’ll give you a hint. Some coded, off-color humor:
Nobody asks for Romney’s birth certificate because he’s not a n*gger.
That’s the plain and simple truth, and when Romney deliberately brings it up he is race-baiting his audience.
Angela takes is more personally than I do … she is quicker to speak up. But even if the casual coded racism doesn’t bother you, what is all the more disappointing about Mitt Romney is that he is so desperate to pander to an audience that he will even pander to racism. John McCain had some character and integrity. The same has not been demonstrated by Mitt Romney.
We recently purchased a home, which was originally built in 1948. I was just puttering in the back yard when I discovered a sheared metal post in a cement foundation. I figured I would dig the post out. This wasn’t easy but it was gratifying. At the end I had a 1′ deep hole in my back yard and some angry ants. I saw what looked like a white button at the bottom of the hole.
A silver “Mercury” dime from 1943, which I just found in my yard.
After cleaning it off, I found that it was a 1943 US dime, with a bust of
Mercury. Neat! I’m not sure what purpose the metal post must have served, (I reckon it was the base of a clothes line) but it must have been installed around the time the house was built.
I have to wonder if whomever dug the original hole left this souvenier to the future on purpose, or if the dime just slid out of his pocket.
Correction: per Wikipedia, this isn’t Mercury, God of commerce, but “the mythological goddess Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap, a classic Western symbol of liberty and freedom, with its wings intended to symbolize freedom of thought”
Many well-meaning people counter that the BSA is a private organization, and as such should be able to keep whomever they want out. This is of course the same justification used to prevent minorities from eating in restaurants during the Jim Crow years. And where an organization as revered and national in scope as the Scouts maintains and defends such a policy, it sends the wrong message to our youth, many of whom already are struggling with their own sexual identityâ€“an identity which has nothing whatsoever to do with their â€œmorality,â€ but everything to do with their self-esteem and happiness. Thus, while the BSA may have the â€œlegalâ€ right to continue to discriminateâ€“a question I believe should be revisitedâ€“I and others have the same â€œlegalâ€ right to protest the policy, till our last breaths if necessary, as blatantly discriminatory and against everything that equality in America stands for.
The dinosaurs running the national organization at the Boy Scouts of America need to stop practicing discrimination. Acceptance of people without regard to sexual orientation is the Morally Straight approach.
This image I seen at The Lost Albatross is Creative Commons so I can post it here:
I have been aware of the prison problem for a decade or so. What strikes me here is that every year we have the same number of people released from prison as receive Bachelor’s degrees. We funnel this money to corporations who are always happy to lobby for more money, when we should be putting the cash into schools, who are always protesting about their budget cuts.
Once upon an unemployed time I was soul-searching, and I figured that our biggest, most solvable problem was the rate of incarceration. How could I help to solve that? Well, if we started letting folks out, they would need jobs . . . jobs with a prison record and poor educational background. People need to help improve literacy in the prisons.
But I wasn’t bold enough to follow up. And when I am working I don’t worry so much about finding mission to make the world better.
NPR has a nice piece on the whole Facebook-hijacking-your-mail brouhaha:
We asked Facebook to explain, and got a statement reminding us that the company announced back in April that it would update addresses “to make them consistent across our site.”
Of course, the Internet follows up with comments like “I don’t see what the big deal is, I’m glad they changed my email address for me because I use Facebook all the time anyway.” So, I post my own explanation:
The problem is that Facebook has effectively hijacked email for some people.
The problem is that many people have turned off notifications, and they do not check their Facebook every day. A further problem is Facebook quietly files messages in its spam folder, where you’ll never find them.
That’s not a problem if you do not use Facebook to exchange private messages with your friends … until your friends’ smartphones sync with Facebook and your email address comes up as firstname.lastname@example.org and instead of sending email to your primary email address, your friends start to send messages into a spam-filtered black hole which removes file attachments and you never know to even check on Facebook did they try to send you a message.
Quietly changing everyone’s email to forward to Facebook is a dirtbag move. It may suit your needs but it disrupts the needs of many others.
Please do this: IF you use Facebook, AND you use email, UPDATE your profile so that when we look up your email on Facebook, the correct address is displayed.
Furthermore: if you want to send me email, my address, as it has been for the past decade, is email@example.com. If you want to sign me up for a bunch of nasty spam that I will never read, go ahead and put in firstname.lastname@example.org.
A quiet morning with Maggie.
I just saw a link to this article in my Google Reader.
I haven’t read it. I figure it reads something like this:
My God, blogging is sooo hard. Most people give up and start a Tumblr or a Twitter but some folks really have what it takes to stick with the blogging. Bully on them!
I’ll tell you, though, when you’ve been blogging for the better part of 20 years, and they build special blog software to help you do all your blogthings, it gets less difficult to click click click and copy-paste-type-type-type.
I’ve been “blogging” since 1995. I’m like freaking Chaucer. Blogchaucer, anyway.
I think toast is an underrated pinnacle of gustatory pleasure, and I frequently put different types of food on top of different types of toast. I just figured, hey, that’s just me, but apparently there is an entire nation that thinks this is a great idea:
Imran Ahmad is shocked to discover that Americans do not put food on toast.
From Imran Ahmad’s memoir “The Perfect Gentlemen”
Voters in Mountain View, CA
I haven’t done any research, but I figured I would put in a vote for the cigarette tax, as well as local school bonds for asbestos removal. At current interest rates, government borrowing just sounds like an obvious thing to do.
I also got to vote for Obama for the Democratic Presidential Primary. His was the only name on my registered-Democrat ballot.
I am also hoping that the Cheeseheads give Governor Walker the boot.
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