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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Arpaio Wannabe Sheriff Compares Baltimore Indictments to Duke Lacrosse Case

From Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog
Breitbart reports:
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke (D) declared the charges brought against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray “George Zimmerman and the Duke Lacrosse case all over again” and said “these cops are political prisoners,” offered up as human sacrifices, thrown like red meat to an angry mob” on Friday’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on the Fox News Channel.
Goodness! This is a Democratic sheriff speaking! And an African-American one at that! Attention must be paid!

Well, no, not really. David Clarke is a garden-variety wingnut with a self-promoting streak that might remind you of another blowhard sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Don't jump to any conclusions about Clarke just because of the color of his skin or his party affiliation.

Actually, there's not much reason to believe that Clarke (shown above speaking to the NRA convention last year) is a Democrat at all—he frequently appears at Republican fund-raisers. He runs as a Democrat because Milwaukee County is heavily Democratic.

Clarke gained national attention in 2013 for an inflammatory public service announcement:
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is airing a new public service announcement telling residents that because of budget cuts, calling 911 for help is no longer their best option....

With officers laid off and furloughed, Clarke says, calling 911 and waiting for police is no longer your best bet. "You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you could fight back. But are you prepared?" he asks. "Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family."
Clarke is basically your lifetime-NRA-member uncle with darker skin and a cop's uniform. Just last month, he said that there should be a semi-automatic rifle on the Great Seal of the United States:
“You know, the one with the American bald eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other,” he said. “We should take those arrows out of the eagle’s claws and replace them with a semi-automatic rifle, preferably one that shoots M-855 ammunition.”
In 2013, Clarke was named Sheriff of the Year by a group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Here's some background on the CSPOA:
The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. Mack was also a lobbyist for Gun Owners of America (GOA), and he is known for his challenge to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and his role in the organization Oath Keepers....
That's a photo of Mack at right. Here's more on Mack and CSPOA, from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
He’s a hard-right libertarian who believes the federal government has no authority to require drivers to wear seat belts and who once demanded the government give him back the $4,800 he paid in income taxes. He’s a self-styled “constitutional conservative” with little or no formal legal training who believes that states can ignore federal laws they don’t like, despite clear language in the U.S. Constitution that says otherwise....

Whether he’s speaking to local chapters of the JBS [John Birch Society] or appearing on far-right radio shows like James Edwards’ white nationalist program “The Political Cesspool,” Mack’s central message is that the federal government has far overstepped its constitutional bounds and that county sheriffs have the rightful authority -- and duty -- to protect citizens from what he believes are its unlawful incursions....

While Mack shakes his fist at the federal government and wants to devolve virtually all power to state and local governments, he says he does not favor violence. But his rhetoric is certainly confrontational and seems to fuel the passions of extremists as well as audiences closer to the mainstream. He once said he prayed for the day when a sheriff would be the “first one to fire the next shot around the world and arrest a couple of IRS agents.”
This guy's group admires David Clarke. Have I made it clear by now that Clarke is not a standard-issue Democrat?

Clarke is considering a run for mayor in 2016. Residents of Milwaukee, if you let him slide into the mayor's office the way you let him win reelection every four years, you're getting the government you deserve. Wake up.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Voice Recog of My Dreams

Okay, my buddy Steve’s dream:
I had a weird, very vivid dream last night.  I was parked overlooking New Haven harbor watching as several landmark buildings were demolished.  I decided to call you on your cell to describe it to you.  (Ed. note: I was born in New Haven and Steve lives near there)

As the phone rang, I realized "Duh, this phone is just for texting.  Donna can't talk on the

But then you answered, saying "Hey Steve, what's going on?"  And I didn't know what to do, so I said out loud but to myself "What should I do?"  And you said "About what?"

I was all excited and said "You can hear me!!!"  You replied "No, but my phone automatically and instantly transcribes what you say."

And I thought that would be the coolest app possible!
Steve’s dream app actually exists BUT it’s got bugs. Sadly, voice recognition is still about as accurate as the auto correct feature which turns “vanilla” into “vaginal,” “Lauren” into “Laundry,” “indie” into “indecent,” etc.’ etc.

At one company where I worked, the trainer tried using a voice recog app while showing me the ropes of my new gig. NICE idea but, between buggy translation and the fact that my lipreading was faster (faulty yes but, surprisingly, more accurate) the app got binned. Also—we were using this one on one. It pretty much melted down in a full classroom or group meeting situation.

Inventor Jeffrey Bigham  from Carnegie Mellon has a solution.

From a 2013 Technology Review column:
Though voice recognition programs like Apple’s Siri and Nuance’s Dragon are quite good at hearing familiar voices and clearly dictated words, the technology still can’t reliably caption events that present new speakers, accents, phrases, and background noises. People are pretty good at understanding words in such situations, but most of us aren’t fast enough to transcribe the text in real time (that’s why professional stenographers can charge more than $100 an hour). So Bigham’s program Scribe augments fast computers with accurate humans in hopes of churning out captions and transcripts quickly.
Fab idea/scheme BUT it relies on ultra cheap-o, can’t-afford-to-feed-my-kids-or-pay-rent labor.
Those workers were paid a minimum of $6 an hour by Bigham’s team. The team also hired undergraduate work-study students for $10 an hour. The crowdsourced work of people in both groups appears to be only slightly less accurate than that of a professional stenographer, Bigham says.
The workers are paid six to ten bucks an hour? How McDonalds-ish.
I’m uncomfortable here. On the other hand, I can’t afford to have a stenographer or ‘terp at my side all the damn time either. I don’t know what the status of his invention is but, I think I’ll take a pass.

Transcence, a company in Berkeley has developed a cool smartphone app.

From a 2014 Medical column
The app uses real-time captioning on a phone to make group conversations between deaf and hearing possible
Transcense connects to multiple smartphones and leverages their microphones to listen and interpret the conversation right onto the participant's screen. A speech recognition algorithm is used to detect each individual’s voice and link them with a color. This makes it easy for the user to see who is talking just by looking at their smartphone screen.
Sounds mega awesome, right? Once again though, it’s using that faulty speech recog software.
There’s a great little column over at Slate (from 2014) that wittily mentions some of the probs and gets, mebbe, at the root, the possible why-this-isn’t-solved-yet bit.
Star Trek posited a Universal Translator, crowdsourced by developers from all around the galaxy, who designed the complex artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms necessary to immediately listen, infer, and respond to thousands of indigenous languages. The Universal Translator didn’t merely translate human to alien language in real time: It also acted as an interface between the humans and the computers they used. 
Unfortunately, we have no single federation of developers and linguists contributing to a gigantic matrix of standard human-machine language. The people working on this can’t even decide on an acronym.
We live in an age of miracles and wonder—can a truly useful, brill, relatively bugless solution be so far off?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Where To Go

Apparently, in my 22 years lived in Boston/Cambridge, before our move to Magical Valhalla, all I did  was people watch, eat and wander around bookstores.

OK. Cool.

Couldn't sleep at all last night so I began working on a list for my cousin Della. She and her terrific daughter Maya will arrive from Berlin on Tuesday evening. Since I'll be  spending a lot of time this week doing the Chemo Crump with The Amazing Bob at MGH, I wanted to provide them with a collection of ideas—cool things to do and see.

The list, which I thought would be just a short little tab of restaurants worth going to blew up into something a bit more. Below is what I sent off to her.
Just a few thoughts for now.

Back Bay
Apart from the people watching, bookstores, frock shops (at least one really fab second hand place) and all the galleries, there are just so many good places to eat and imbibe.

Get off the T at Park Street Station and walk through the Common, stroll through and around the Public Garden. Cross Arlington Street to the Back Bay and promenade up Beacon Street, Marlborough and the Commonwealth Mall before diving into Newbury and and Boylston Streets.

All the trees are in bloom now and there’ll be tulips everywhere.

Piattini (Italian)
Atlantic Fish Company
Bukowski’s (pub fare but very good. I just love this place. If the Sox aren’t playing, the atmosphere very chill)
Sonsie—I haven’t eaten here in years. Mostly what I remember is the great vibe, good people watching. Worth going to if only for a drink.
Trident Bookseller Cafe—great food and BOOKS.
There’s a very good Middle Eastern place (name escapes me) on Hereford between Boylston and Newbury. Dunno if it’s still there BUT it’s def worth going to.

Take in the Society of Arts and Crafts on Newbury. Stunning crafts for sale on the first floor and two floors of gallery space above. There's ALWAYS a good exhibit happening here.

Central Sq
Food-wise, you just can’t go wrong in Central Square. People watching is also awesome here. And then there’s all the great shops (books, clothing, curios, etc)—Central Sq is DEF worth a full afternoon plus.
Mary Chung (Chinese)
Shalimar of India
Life Alive (Awesome vegetarian joint—a great lunch option)
Just a few doors down from Life Alive there’s a good Mexican restaurant—I forget the name.
Really there’s too many great grub joints to list.
Harvard Sq
Get a cuppa at Au Bon Pain and watch the parade of humanity go by. Stop in Grolier’s (poetry bookshop on Plympton), see if the Revolution Books is open, listen to street musicians and you may see a juggler or two. Wander. Check out Longfellow’s house on Brattle.

Heading north up to Porter Sq along Mass Ave there are some decent places yo eat. Temple Bar stands out in my memory. Of course, the names of all the others escape me. Def a good Mexican place right near Temple Bar too.

In the Square itself, I’m not sure where's best to eat. Grendel’s Den is still there though.

Check out The Fogg, Busch Reisinger and Sackler Museums. The natural history museum's worth a visit too particularly the glass flowers.

Davis Square (take the Red Line from Harvard up 2 stops or walk—30 minutes?) has a lot of good restaurants and cafes. The neighborhood used to be pretty cool/hip, good bookstores, cafés and people watching. I expect it’s still worth a visit. I used to hang at a fair sized Irish joint (The Burren?)—dandy food, atmosphere and of course, the people watching is lovely.

There’s a splendid Indian joint across the street from it.

Johnny D's is a club/restaurant in Davis Square. Great place to catch a band AND the food's truly fab.

In this long note I didn't even touch on Beacon Hill spots, North End nosheries and bakeries OR the South End. Sheesh!

It would seem that I'm perfectly content to wander about gaping at buildings, people, galleries and bookstores—after which my keister is happily parked at a pub/restaurant/café whose most important attribute should be it's atmosphere.

Of course.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Daddy's Sage Advice

I'll just sit here morosely until you return
Bring me home some treats if you're gonna abandon me
I never ever want to go out at night. Never have. Not even in my sparkling, long ago youth. Once home, post work or whatevs, I’m just too damn comfy to leave. I become the poster child for The Tragedy of Inertia.

One night, billions of eons ago, Daddy and I were squawking on the talk box—he asked what I had planned for the evening. I allowed that catching a band at The Middle East with some buds was on tap BUT I was thinking of just staying home instead. Why, why WHY, he asked. Eh, I’m comfortable and yada, yada, whine, blather, kvetch. He told me to get off my lazy ass and go because I’d have a ton ‘o’ fun and be glad I did. Daddy said that he was the same way—hated going out but always happy that he had.

He was right. Daddy often is.
In any case, last night I defied the guilt laser beams from the tuxes, my fear of night driving and conquered my ever percolating separation anxiety. I have The Amazing Bob, Jen, Oni AND wine here at home—can I stand to be away from them? What if TAB needs something or Jen feels like talking or Oni hasn’t been annoyed enough by my chatter yet? And then there’s that damn ocean—will the tide come back in if I’m not here to greet it?

Yes, getting up and out was, in fact, a steep road but I made it. Yea me.
 I just love seeing my pal Stan—I don’t see enough of him. I’m wild about Mary Chung’s restaurant and I don’t get there enough. The street life of Central Square, Cambridge can’t be beat (not here in Boston anyway). It’s vibrant, the people are interesting, the area's packed with great restaurants, there's a totally fab used bookstore, TWO art supply shops, a wonderful hippy/groovy grocer and the best damn club in town—The Middle East. What's not to love?

Unsurprisingly, It took me a full 45 minutes to find a parking spot. The parking gods weren’t too keen on me. Stan, on the other hand, lucked out and got a space RIGHT OUT FRONT of the restaurant. I allowed that I hated him. And yes, I should’ve just taken the damn Red Line in. I will next time.

Point of the story? I was once again reminded of Daddy’s long ago advice. While it’s hard to leave the grand comfort of home, to stay up past my usual mega early bed time, I always have a great time when I venture out. Gotta remember that.

My cousin Della and her daughter Maya will be visiting (from Berlin!) next week. I’m thinking we should take a day/evening in Cambridge. Maybe we could even catch an All Ages show!

Friday, May 1, 2015

I've Got a Feeling

I've got a feeling, a feeling deep inside
Oh yeah, oh yeah, that's right
I've got a feeling that keeps me on my toes
Oh yeah
Everybody had a hard year
Everybody had a good time
Everybody had a wet dream
Everybody saw the sunshine
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah

It's Friday. FRIIIIIIIIIIDAY! I've a shit-ton of work on my plate for today (but I do enjoy the layout/design stuff), a zillion errands and then...THEN...Stan and I are meeting for din din at Mary Chung's. MMMMMMMMMMM!


I've Got a Feeling—The Beatles

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Almost Lost My Legs

This happened 14 years ago. We were all living in Cambridge, near Kendall Square—this was a good five years before the area exploded with big Bio Tech spondulucks. Mostly the neighborhood was home to MIT, a huge Portuguese immigrant population, a lot of townies living in dilapidated duplexes and triple deckers and the infamous Mayflower Poultry sign. (they sell T shirts! I think I need one.)

Jen and I were both working for a Back Bay printing shop at the time and walked to work most days. Yeah, it was close to a three mile hike each way BUT walking along the Charles was beautiful and this was our daily exercise.

I was the training director for the company and Jen was a general manager (responsible for production and retail departments). As I was putting away books and class materials one day, I got a huge sudden stab of pain in my back and was unable to stand upright. I just figured all the walking without stretching before or after had maybe done a number on me.

I stayed home for a couple of days doing nothing beyond watching TV while glued to a heating pad. My back felt better but my right leg was now weak with a side of numbness. The Amazing Bob made an appointment for me with my Primary Care Doc. At the time I had Harvard Community Health Plan. With referrals I could see my pit crew, my neurological specialists at Mass General.

The HCHP medic’s pronouncement about my weak leg and that sudden episode of back pain was that I had sciatica. She said I should rest it—feeling and strength would return in a month or so.

This surely would’ve been a fair guess IF she didn’t already know that I had/have Neurofibromatosis type 2.

A month later and the weakness was getting more pronounced. In fact, I was beginning to drag my right leg. I returned and the doc insisted on the accuracy of her prior diagnosis, telling me to give healing another month.  Another four weeks without restorative joy passed. I was more than a little worried and pissed. On my next visit to this pathetic shit stain doc, I told her that the weakness was most likely related to the NF2, I needed an MRI AND I had to see my docs at MGH. She continued to insist that it was sciatica and would improve—I shouldn’t be so impatient. While she DID finally give me a referral (I was immovable on this), I had to first see a neurologist that was part of the HCHP family. OOF!

Hoop jumping? Yeah, I was giving the poor lions of Ringling’s serious competition.

Eventually I got that MGH MRI and neuro appointment. When Doc Parker got the results he immediately, do NOT pass Go, sent me to meet with a surgeon. Apparently I had a tumor the size of the Nimitz wrapped around my spinal cord.

The awesome surgeon, Fred Barker, told me I needed to be in the OR pronto as in the next day. He also mentioned that I had a 50% chance of losing all feeling from the tits down. I replied “Dude, that sucks! What happens if we just leave that bad boy in there?” Well then, I would DEFINITELY lose all feeling because I’d be all dead and shit.


Fast forward to just after the ten hour surgery—Jen and TAB were allowed in the recovery area to see me as I swam up out of the anesthesia. Not only did I still have sensation below the boob line, my right leg felt GREAT. I was all set to Jitterbug and Lindy Hop my way home.
My awesome, fully functioning gams!

Apparently I attempted to do just that. As the wonderful nurses chilled down my still doped up, post event euphoria (lay down and don’t move your legs so much—just for a little bit. OK?), I asked Jen Did you remember to set the VCR to record Buffy?


Why does this all come up now? My health insurance just switched. While I can def see my MGH crew, I need to get a new Primary Care Doc and it needs to be someone who understand Nf2 and won’t make me jump though a zillion rings to see my guys. Yeah, I’m wickedly stressed BUT, later this morning the awesome, angelic Ken Moore at Manet Community Health Center will be helping me out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In a Perfect World

In today's excellent alt. world everyone’s lives revolve around me and MY needs. At the drop of a chapeau schedules shift to accommodate me, me, ME. Friends stream forward to assist, to perk me up. to mop my feverish brow.

Hey, the masses are just waiting in the wings for their cue, my nod in their general direction. Right? RIGHT!???
Yo, I need brekkie with mimosas out at Stars this morning, After that mebbe you can accompany me to the Hokusai show. K?
I could go for a martini (Sapphire, extra dry, straight up with olives) at Fat Cat for lunch. Make that happen. Please.
I’d like dinner at Kama Sutra tonight. Be a dear and hire us a plane, won’t you Sweets?
And, while you’re at it, I’d like hear John Martyn croon Solid Air one more time. Thanks, I owe Ya one!
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Yeah, fuck you—I’m not a cold shrew, I’m just sad. K?
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”
Mahatma Gandhi
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
Jonathan Safran Foer
 Nonetheless, fuck you. (Yeah, I get a bit testy and foul when under a dismal cloud or two)
“He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others--the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
"the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad."
Just had to see that particular line once again.
“I can't eat and I can't sleep. I'm not doing well in terms of being a functional human, you know?”
Ned Vizzini, It's Kind of a Funny Story
In my case OH I can eat! I’m not like my little sister Celeste or Jen or The Amazing Bob. Nope. When I’m sad, I can think of nothing more sublime than dark chocolate encrusted cheesecake, topped with fresh strawberries and cream from Saint Fratellis. No, I’ve never had it—I gaze on it and dream of its exquisite magnificence. And then gain five pounds all the same.

“When you've suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.”
Yann Martel, Life of Pi
“Nothing thicker than a knife's blade separates happiness from melancholy.”
Virginia Woolf, Orlando
LOVED that movie!
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Tell it Willie!

And from the, possibly, most famous of Melancholy Babies:
“I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of the throat and I'd cry for a week.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
In lieu of my glorious supplemental dimension, I guess I'll make some coffee, get the laundry in, start working on the three layout/design jobs I've got in house and then...then? Maybe a beach walk break at lunch. Yeah, that'll do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chaos Theory

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.
I despise chaos. I hate surprises. I detest being taken off guard. My preference is for all things reliably, sturdily predictable and for people who have a solid constancy. That is, amidst the craziness of all our lives, I totally appreciate my friends who are dependably there to throw me a life preserver or two. Thank Bast for them!

What’s gone all chaos factory on me lately? My Internet connection for one. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s gone like a wee plume of smoke in a strong breeze. This is why, as I mentioned the other day, that I’m finally planning to shell out the greenbacks for a laptop on which I’ll install the brandy new Adobe Creative Cloud. I’ve been working with pathetically outdated apps for years now.

I work from home, (doing layout and design) so having a steady, stable connection as well as programs that are up to the tasks at hand is key. While the laptop won’t make my connection more reliable, at least, when it craps out here at home, I can pack up and hit the nearest wifi happy coffee shop.
Yes I’ll be killing two nasty birds with one Mac.

And then we have the people who are, more than anything, Chaos Demons. They can be consistently trusted to:
  • Wink out on long held arrangements
  • Shift plans at the very last minute as though my time was endlessly flexible
  • Just flat out not show up
  • Say the exact wrong thing at the absolute worst possible time
Their lives are spectacularly messy but they seem to thrive on this.

"Have you ever seen a Chaos Demon? All slime and antlers, they're disgusting!"

Spike to Willow Rosenberg on Chaos Demons (In the episode Fool for Love)
Chaos demons were a humanoid species of demon recognizable for their enormous antlers and the slime covering their skin. In 1998, Drusilla cheated on Spike with a member of this species.
Chaos demons were brown humanoid creatures who are able to walk upright and possessed enormous antlers similar to those of elks. Chaos demons were also known for constantly exuding slime.
GodDAMN I miss that show!

In any case, what I’ve learned is this—I may really like the Chaos Demon’s personality (apart from the extreme ditsy bits and the...ya know...slime) and enjoy their company. I may want to see more of them BUT that’s an event with all the dependability of the aurora borealis in July. What I can be certain of is my friend’s high capriciousness levels and plan (or not) accordingly. We’ll never be besties but at least I can appreciate them on the rare occasions that our lives collide.

“In fiction: we find the predictable boring. In real life: we find the unpredictable terrifying.”

Mokokoma Mokhonoana