Monthly Archives: July 2013

Your mental health break: wasting time on something more ridiculous than the ridiculous stuff you waste YOUR time on.

One of our devoted interns discovered this magnificent obsession while pursuing his own obsessions.

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The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian; the book, and the tour.

Chris Bohjjalian, author of "The Light in the Ruins"

Chris Bohjjalian, author of “The Light in the Ruins”

I can’t say I was enthralled by this novel. Had I not been thinking about a trip to Italy, I probably would have put it down once I figured out who the villain was, about 1/3 of the way through the book.  Some reviews have characterized this as a Romeo and Juliet story…it isn’t. It’s a murder mystery, and a story about the horrors of war, and to a lesser extent, class warfare.  It so happened that the author was coming to town on tour, so I attending his talk/reading.  Like all authors, he seems to hate the book tour, and those feelings are not too far beneath the surface. He has developed most of the required skills, playing standup comedian and audience fluffer for 15 minutes before reading a couple of passages from the book, and then taking some questions. He views his genre as “dread”; I’d say he’s kind of a dumbed down Stephen King/Dan Brown hybrid. He is prolific, and a few of his books have been quite successful. He even has a movie or two. But, all in all, he gets about the same grade as a “tourer” as his book does as a read. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
What are my objections to the book?
Firstly, mystery writers must be quite skillful in trotting out the various suspects, lest the reader feel manipulated. Bohjalian hasn’t mastered that art. Secondly, his technique of shifting time frames and narrators leads to a lot of repetition. This can be interesting, as the same events are viewed from various perspectives. However, it IS A LOT OF REPETITION, some of it for no obvious purpose. If I had read one more mention of the destruction of the granary or the children and their toys, I would have pitched the book out the window. Character development was clumsy and weak. The identity of the villain was quite obvious from early in the book.  The ending is dependent on a highly unlikely “sneak and shoot” by a person who shouldn’t have been able to accomplish same.  An anachronism (“epoxied”) jars the reader in the middle of the book. Bohjalian could have used a better editor; interestingly, he says his 19 year old daughter was his editor.

Bad idea.

Pros: interesting history; kind of a morality play; insight into class resentment/warfare, of which which rich people are often unaware.

You want more? you want the names of the characters? Boston Globe.

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Seems the NSA can, without a warrant, snoop on anyone within three degrees of someone that they may have some suspicion about.

…the rather startling news that came out of yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee on the NSA spying programs: NSA Director John Inglis revealed that the FISA Court permits the government to do three jumps from an initial number tied to a phone number reasonably believed to be tied to terrorism (or relevant to Iran, though that search criteria didn’t get mentioned at all in the parts of the hearing I watched).

Three degrees of separation!

Remember, some years ago, every single person in the US could be connected via six degrees — the old Kevin Bacon game. There’s some evidence that that number has become smaller — perhaps as small as 3 (I’ve seen more scientific numbers that say it is 4.5 or thereabouts).

In any case, if the US is using the excuse of terror to get three jumps deep into US person associations, then this program is even more intrusive then they’ve let on.

I imagine that would include everyone in our government, the Israeli government, the Palestinian authority, every head of state, every law enforcement officer, everyone who has ever been abroad, everyone who has ever interviewed a foreign person, everyone who knows anyone who knows anyone in:


the Quakers,

any demonstration of any kind,

anyone who has written a letter to an editor,

any person of color,

anyone who signed a petition, and

so on.

It’s basically EVERYONE. and what will they do with it? Wait til Karl Rove or one of the Cheneys gets back in power and you’ll see in short order. Or just some NSA guy who’s curious about who his ex girlfriend in dating. Or some NSA girl with a grudge against oh, well, ANYONE!

We have a constitution; that used to mean something.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

When basically the entire population is legally suspect, doesn’t that mean we’re doing something wrong?


video: Gary Oldman, in “The Professional.”

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The mercury is rising….no, well, yes, … I mean toxic mercury levels in the environment

We knew there was a reason not to live in New Jersey

We knew there was a reason not to live in New Jersey

Yes, it’s getting hotter. And we are doing that to ourselves with fossil fuel burning with resultant emission of carbon dioxide. But the extraction and use of minerals/fossil fuels (particularly coal) also results in the emission and accumulation of toxic mercury in the air, land and water that surround us, and according to research by scientists at Harvard University, things are getting worse. It gets into our food, and into us, and into our brains and hearts. The EPA should come down harder on mercury emitters. Because the Republicans are just trying to make it worse.

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San Francisco International Airport Asianics Flight 214 Crash diagram


Diagram of the crash of Asiana flight 214 at SFO. Click image to enlarge.

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