Saturday, September 22, 2018

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Wants to Remove Trump?

It's a stock cliche in sitcoms. Someone, either a hapless husband or a low ranking worker, makes fun of his termagant wife or vindictive boss. Everyone around him laughs. The newly minted comedian proceeds to make nastier jokes, do impressions, or sell wolf tickets about how if his wife or boss gives him any lip, he'll show his wife just who wears the pants in this family, knock his boss into the middle of next week, or tell his boss to take this job and shove it someplace that's difficult to remove. Unfortunately the man doesn't notice that his audience has stopped laughing, has drifted away, or is suddenly pretending that his jokes are offensive. Then the man turns around to see an enraged wife or boss standing there glaring at him. At this point the man pretends that he has temporarily lost his mind,  claims to be his long lost twin brother, says he's in the wrong office/home or throws himself on the often non-existent mercies of his wife or boss.

It's a funny cliche. Perhaps Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein can appreciate the humor involved in this old bit. Maybe Rosenstein hopes that his boss, President Trump can find something to laugh about in the reports that Rosenstein was considering wearing a wire around Trump and attempting the modern equivalent of a palace coup.

WASHINGTON — The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Movie Reviews: Upgrade, Detective Story

directed by Leigh Whannell
This is a low budget sci-fi/thriller film that takes some very old tropes and ideas and wraps them up in fresh packaging to build an entertaining story. The film loses some steam in the middle. I think that the viewer will sooner rather than later pick up on the story twists and ending. But getting there was still fun. Some human fears and worries are consistent across time and space. I remember when my maternal grandfather led evening prayers he would always thank God for giving him and his another day of health and life. I didn't then appreciate my grandfather's emotions. After all most nine year-olds have little concept of aging, tiredness, body decline, disease, and death. But now, all these years later I can understand my grandfather's gratitude. I was reminded of that because one theme of Upgrade is how quickly and randomly our health or lives can be taken from us. 

The other important theme in Upgrade is how much we would give to get our health and/or the lives of our loved ones back. Although Upgrade has not a single solitary speck of the supernatural, Upgrade still riffs on deals made with otherworldy entities. The horror author H.P. Lovecraft wrote that wizards should be careful dealing with demons or the dead and to "do not call up any which you cannot put down". Upgrade emphasizes that. The movie nods to authors like Phillip Dick and William Gibson. What is it that makes us human? Can that spark of humanity be isolated and reproduced? Can it be transferred?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Movie Reviews: Hereditary

directed by Ari Aster
Now this is how horror movies should be done. 
Calling Hereditary a horror film doesn't really do it justice as many modern genre films have often been excuses to showcase nubile, buff actors in various stages of undress being slaughtered in increasing inventive yet ultimately boring ways. This is a throwback horror film that reaches back to the classics. Think about such films as Rosemary's Baby or The ExorcistHereditary's scares are as much psychological and emotional as they are of the supernatural variety. There's not any cheap violence here. Sex is non-existent. Some might argue that sexual urges manifest themselves in other, more Freudian, ways, but that's up to the viewer's interpretation. There are few movies, especially horror movies, that really leave much of an impression on me. This one did. It might do the same thing for the viewer. 

I didn't realize it initially, but this film shares some DNA with the movie The Sixth Sense, and not just because Toni Collette was in both films. Each film has some insights about family, loss and parenthood, or more specifically motherhood. There's also a possible connection with Stephen King's scary short story, "Gramma" and the Rob Zombie movie The Lords of Salem.

We are each the sum of our experiences and genetics plus that something extra that different people quantify in different ways. Genetics and family environment can leave a heavy mark on people, for good or for bad. Hereditary digs deep into these questions. It would be an emotionally heavy film even without any supernatural overtones. Hereditary mostly eschews the jump scares for some some real terrors. Have you ever lost anyone you loved? Have you lost someone you loved long before you thought their time was up? Both experiences can hurt very badly. 

Book Reviews: Bad Blood

Bad Blood
by John Carreyrou
This is a real life thriller written by a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who was one of the first people in the media to puncture the lies and bovine excrement put out by Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani about their startup company Theranos. Theranos wanted to become famous for revolutionizing blood testing and laboratory science. Theranos' claim to fame was proprietary finger prick technology devices that were supposed to be able to test for hundreds of different diseases from very tiny blood samples. The results could then be wirelessly and securely transmitted to a patient's doctors. The idea was that by using this process, everyone would save time and expensive lab space. Additionally people who didn't like going into doctor's offices or labs for venous blood draws would be more likely to use the finger prick devices. 

And most importantly by catching diseases or conditions far earlier than anyone else, Theranos would be saving lives across the world. As an investor wouldn't you like to get in on the ground floor of a company like that? Why sure you would! It would be akin to being in at the beginning of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix,  Instagram, Microsoft, or Apple-the startup company closest to Holmes' heart. Holmes consciously modeled herself after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, copying Jobs' black turtlenecks , his self-important quotes and even his deep voice. Holmes tried to pitch her normal alto down to the male tenor or even baritone range. This sounded utterly ridiculous.

It was particularly noticeable on the occasions when Holmes couldn't keep up the fakery or relaxed and forgot to speak in the male range. I guess no one ever called Holmes on it because her peers and investors didn't care what she sounded like as long as she dangled the possibility of millions or even billions in front of them. And Holmes' subordinates or employees learned very quickly that annoying, irritating, or mocking Holmes wasn't very healthy. Holmes and especially her number two, and lover, Balwani ran Theranos via pure intimidation. More on that in a minute. Arguably they had to run the company via intimidation because very little of Theranos' product worked. When things didn't work Holmes didn't come up with new ideas or new products. No. She lied. She faked tests. She hid results from regulators.  She altered results.

Savannah Sprague: Cheerleader Holds Court In The Streets

Just because someone is smaller than you or seemingly less threatening doesn't mean that they will not kick your a$$ six ways to Sunday if you start something with them. As Peter Tosh sang, "I'm like a stepping razor/Don't watch my size. I'm dangerous." It's always smart to keep your hands to yourself unless you are forced into a situation where you must practice the art of self-defense. Because if you run around starting fights eventually you'll run into someone who has no problem ending them. Fortunately in this situation it doesn't look as if anyone was seriously hurt. A longer version of this video showed the larger girl turning the tables somewhat but all in all I would have to give the decision to the cheerleader. 

Once the cheerleader was assaulted she did not hesitate to defend herself against the larger girl. I hope that the aggressor will think twice before starting another fight. Unfortunately life is full of people who will attack you until you have demonstrated to their satisfaction that the cost to them will be too high. So it goes. 

A pint-size cheerleader in California pummeled another girl who challenged her to a fight while still in her uniform, a dramatic video shows. The footage, posted early Saturday, purportedly shows Savannah Sprague, a cheerleader for Clayton Valley Charter High School, brutally beating an unidentified girl who had just challenged her to a fight as the cheerleader sat at a table in Concord while surrounded by other youngsters, some still holding their backpacks.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh: Attempted Rapist???

Do you remember what you were doing in high school? You probably do if like the fictional Al Bundy, from the sitcom Married with Children, high school turned out to be the high point of your life. Many of us however may start to forget some details of our high school career, especially once we get beyond our thirties or forties and/or move away from where we went to high school. 

So it goes. But if in high school you were a victim of attempted rape or assault or you committed a rape or sexual assault, I think you would probably remember that. Unfortunately, for those of us who weren't there, it is difficult if not impossible to discover the truth when one person accuses another person or persons of sexual assault thirty some odd years after high school. 

That is what happened to Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Kennedy. An anonymous constituent of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein apparently sent Feinstein and her Congresswoman a letter in July accusing Kavanaugh of attempted rape in the early eighties. Feinstein didn't share this letter with her colleagues until a few days ago.  On Thursday she referred the matter to the FBI. 

On Thursday, Senate Democrats disclosed that they had referred a complaint regarding President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the F.B.I. for investigation. The complaint came from a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were both in high school, more than thirty years ago.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Movie Reviews: Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2
directed by David Leitch
If you loved the first movie, you'll probably like the sequel. Like the James Bond movies, there is a plot contrivance to ensure that the titular motormouth hero is single and free to mingle again. 

Unlike the hero from the Bond movies Deadpool is not necessarily 100% straight and/or solely interested in leggy, busty, or otherwise attractive women. YMMV on this. At this time in American culture it would actually be edgier and more rebellious if a hero was straight and full of faith instead of being sexually flexible and/or cynical. Deadpool and similar antiheroes have finally reached diminishing returns for me. Some jokes were funny but many of them weren't. Humor is a very flexible personal thing though so your enjoyment of this film may all depend on your mood. If a joke uses racial or sexual humor does it matter to you if it's coming from a good place or bad place as long as the joke is funny? I didn't think that the jokes were based in contempt or hate or anything like that. But I just didn't see them as hilarious. 

I think many jokes were aimed at people who are insecure about themselves. Other jokes were socio-political. My understanding is that the movie character is broadly similar to the comic. Whatever. The crude humor seems turned up from the first film. I just happen to have reached my limit with the constant stream of male anatomy references or homosexual/homoerotic jokes. 

Detroit Tigers Announcers Allegedly Fight

I don't follow baseball much. I really haven't since Ernie Harwell died. So I didn't know that two announcers for my local team, the Detroit Tigers, Rod Allen and Mario Impemba, allegedly weren't that friendly with each other, allegedly didn't like each other, and allegedly got into a physical fracas that may or may not have started over the placement or use of a chair in the studio. Allegedly. Their employer, Fox Sports Detroit, isn't saying who started it or who was at fault. So far neither man has been fired. But Fox Sports Detroit did reveal that neither man would be back to announce the Tigers' twenty or so remaining games.

Rod Allen and Mario Impemba will not be on TV for the remainder of the season. The Detroit Tigers broadcasters will not be scheduled for future Tigers telecasts this season, Fox Sports Detroit said in a statement on Friday. Allen and Impemba were involved in a physical altercation immediately after Tuesday's road game against the Chicago White Sox. They were sent home and were not part of the broadcast team in Wednesday's series finale.

"After speaking with all involved parties, FOX Sports Detroit has decided not to schedule Rod Allen and Mario Impemba for any future Tigers telecasts this season," the statement read. "Since this is an internal matter, we will have no further comment." Some media outlets reported that Allen came from behind and put a choke hold on Impemba during Tuesday’s fracas, but Allen’s agent, Tom Shaer, told the Free Press those claims were false.

White Dallas Cop Enters Wrong Home and Kills Black Man

I want you to imagine that you're peacefully resting, reading, sleeping or just doing whatever you like to do in your own home. 
You hear someone banging on your door. You go to see who's at the door. An armed police officer enters your home without apparent permission and without warrant because she supposedly thinks that this is her home. She then shoots you dead because you're an "intruder" in "her" home. A cynic might say that that scenario is the basic theme of American history and the European invasion of the New World. Well maybe. But it's also the tragedy that occurred to one Botham Shem Jean, a recent college graduate and associate at Price Waterhouse Coopers. I would hope that based on what the facts of the case seem to be now, that the officer who took Mr. Jean's life spends some time in prison and is not allowed to ever again have a weapon or a job as a police officer.

Based on past events though, you never know. I would not be surprised if in the next few days some racist digs up pictures of Mr. Jean playing pee-wee football from the fourth grade to "prove" that he was some sort of "thug" who got what he deserved. And if the officer is attractive, cries a lot, or gets the right sort of people on her jury she may well be acquitted. Who can say. It's funny that all the people who were wailing and gnashing their teeth and wetting their pants over Colin Kapernick and other Black athletes protesting police violence against Black people so far don't seem to have shown the same level of outrage over Mr. Jean's murder.  I sure they will. Any second now...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Open Offices Stink!

I work in the information technology field. I recently spent a few days in training. There's a new implementation process being rolled out for IT employees. This process will supposedly reduce the time elapsed between the point that a change request (user request/inquiry, production breakdown, new project, etc.) is made and the point when the change request is completed. This will theoretically save the company time and money- something that upper management is always looking to do- as well as making workers more productive, also a key management goal. It's also supposed to reduce worker stress. 

One big change required is the virtual elimination of worker privacy from the environment. Most people will no longer have offices or even semi-private cubicles. Everyone except the most important executives or managers (at least three pay grades up from me) will sit at open tables.

This will allow people to share work. Sharing work is not only encouraged, it's required. No one will be allowed to analyze problems or write code by themselves or without real time peer review. Almost all work will be done by groups of two or more people. Team members will share pc's and monitors. Anything showing on "your" monitor will also show on two or three other monitors. In order to further limit "distractions", private phones linked to a particular worker will be discouraged and phased out. Instead there will be conference rooms for any phone conversations. Everyone will have multiple daily meetings where they stand up in front of their department and list their current accomplishments, remaining tasks, and areas where they might need help.

I don't doubt that some of these changes could result in more robust solutions produced sooner. And that is good. However as the old joke goes just because it takes one woman nine months to deliver a baby doesn't mean that you can hire nine women and deliver a baby in one month.