February 2015 archive
Feb 28 2015
Feb 28 2015
The 3 rules of Opera.
- It must be long, boring, and in an incomprehesible foreign language (even if that language is English).
- The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.
- Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.
Ballet is the same, but with more men in tights and without the superfluous singing.
In Act I, Violetta, a notorious (c’mon fallen woman? Everyone knows women don’t like sex, it’s just something they tolerate because they like babies) courtesan, spurns Alfredo so she can live her life the way she wants (Sempre libera – Always Free)
In Act II Violetta is living in a country house with Alfredo, whom she’s decided she loves and has completely abandoned her former life. What? Did she get kidnapped by aliens? I swear, I just went to the lobby to visit the bathroom. Is this the same theater? The same Opera? Am I living some nightmarish Groundhog Day where I don’t even get to listen to I’ve Got You Babe at 6 am every morning for eternity?
Cher, I’m expecting your retweet. Not as funny as Kathy Griffin? I beg to differ.
Oh, and Alfredo’s Dad doesn’t like her because she’s a sex worker and he’s a hung up old jerk.
So things are going to perdition in a pedicab. As it develops Violetta is liquidating her assets in Paris to support her suburban lifestyle. Alfredo sets off to correct this (us guys, always looking for solutions instead of simply listening and sympathizing) while his father Giorgio asks her to dump Alfredo because her tawdry past is tainting his daughter (Pura siccome un angelo – Pure as an angel, God gave a daughter) and ruining her marriage prospects.
Ah, Twew Wuve-
“He didn’t come.” It takes talent that, and a firm knowlege of Baseball statistics.
Of course by now I’m looking for a stout stick to bash Giorgio with before committing seppuku with my plastic yogurt spork (What? I visited the snack bar, OK?) and this is just the first Scene.
In the second Scene at a gambling party where Alfredo is trying to raise the money to satisfy Violleta’s debts (because how else are you going to get cash besides Powerball?) after a rousing chorus of Paradise by the Dashboard Light (in Italian Noi siamo zingarelle venute da lontano. Di Madride noi siam mattadori) Violetta coincidently appears with the Baron Douphol (Beauregard Burnside). And I’m a handsome Matador from Biscay. Anyway Alfredo insults Violetta by offering her the money he has won (yes, we’re back to Pretty Woman, did we ever actually leave? I want the fairy tale.).
Giorgio enters and denounces his son’s behavior (Di sprezzo degno sè stesso rende chi pur nell’ira la donna offende. – “A man, who even in anger, offends a woman renders himself deserving of contempt.”). Violetta turns to Alfredo: Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l’amore… – “Alfredo, Alfredo, you can’t understand all the love in this heart…” (cough).
Ok, so the spork was only sufficient to gouge out my eyes and if I’m going to chop off my ears and eviscerate myself I’ll need something more substantial, like a plastic knife. Fortunately there is a break before Act 3.
Did I mention Violetta is dying of Tuberculosis? Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way. Tuberculosis is fortunately one of those ultimately fatal but lingering diseases that allow you to belt out a few Arias before you (cough) croak (Gran Dio!…morir sì giovane – “Great God!…to die so young”).
After singing a duet with Alfredo, Violetta suddenly revives, exclaiming that the pain and discomfort have left her. A moment later, she dies in Alfredo’s arms.
Now that’s entertainment. Pardon me while I dab my tears before descending from the box.
TMC swears she’s going to teach me to be less cynical (as if she were less cynical than I, I’m a warm cuddly Teddy Bear by comparison- ask anyone) and that I will learn to love Opera. Of course, just like I love children- par-boiled and chicken fried with a pan gravy. Tastes just like rattle snake.
Oh, so now you want to see La Traviata. Here it is at La Scala in Milan, all 2 hours and 25 minutes of it.
It has the virtue of French subtitles (Rule Number One). Now in fairness I didn’t want to be a barber anyway, except in Seville.
Did I mention natural tenor? Of course I played the Barber.
And now I’m really going, I’ve done what I can do. So why don’t you get going?
Well. I haven’t actually inflicted the damage I intended. “The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.”
Polly, meanwhile, buys a bank, and runs it with Macheath’s henchmen, making him a bank director, and she then arranges surety for Macheath to leave prison. This causes a change of heart by her parents – her father tries to stop the protest march but fails.
Jenny visits the prison, and aids Macheath’s escape: he makes his way to the bank, where he discovers his new status. Brown, whose police career is ruined by the demonstration, and Peachum, also come to the bank and agree to link up.
Now that sounds more like the real world where a pimp and beggar-master, a corrupt politician, and an assassin hook up to loot the people who love them and think they’re heros.
Well, when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn’t let him. Now, Johnny is my father’s godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1000.
I have the same thing in French where it’s worth a penny more and I can arbitrage the spread.
And that my friends is Opera. I don’t really hope I’ve ruined it for you so much as made your existence a spiraling hell where all emotion is sucked into a black hole of despair before you are torn apart by tidal forces you can barely comprehend and debates about black and blue or gold and white.
You can thank me later.
Obligatories, News and Blogs below.
Feb 28 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
February 28 is the 59th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 306 days remaining until the end of the year (307 in leap years)
On this day in 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.
DNA was first isolated by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher who, in 1869, discovered a microscopic substance in the pus of discarded surgical bandages. As it resided in the nuclei of cells, he called it “nuclein”. In 1919, Phoebus Levene identified the base, sugar and phosphate nucleotide unit. Levene suggested that DNA consisted of a string of nucleotide units linked together through the phosphate groups. However, Levene thought the chain was short and the bases repeated in a fixed order. In 1937 William Astbury produced the first X-ray diffraction patterns that showed that DNA had a regular structure.
In 1928, Frederick Griffith discovered that traits of the “smooth” form of the Pneumococcus could be transferred to the “rough” form of the same bacteria by mixing killed “smooth” bacteria with the live “rough” form. This system provided the first clear suggestion that DNA carries genetic information, the Avery-MacLeod-McCarty experiment, when Oswald Avery, along with coworkers Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty, identified DNA as the transforming principle in 1943. DNA’s role in heredity was confirmed in 1952, when Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase in the Hershey-Chase experiment showed that DNA is the genetic material of the T2 phage.
In 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick suggested what is now accepted as the first correct double-helix model of DNA structure in the journal Nature. Their double-helix, molecular model of DNA was then based on a single X-ray diffraction image (labeled as “Photo 51”) taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling in May 1952, as well as the information that the DNA bases are paired – also obtained through private communications from Erwin Chargaff in the previous years. Chargaff’s rules played a very important role in establishing double-helix configurations for B-DNA as well as A-DNA.
Experimental evidence supporting the Watson and Crick model were published in a series of five articles in the same issue of Nature. Of these, Franklin and Gosling’s paper was the first publication of their own X-ray diffraction data and original analysis method that partially supported the Watson and Crick model; this issue also contained an article on DNA structure by Maurice Wilkins and two of his colleagues, whose analysis and in vivo B-DNA X-ray patterns also supported the presence in vivo of the double-helical DNA configurations as proposed by Crick and Watson for their double-helix molecular model of DNA in the previous two pages of Nature. In 1962, after Franklin’s death, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. However, Nobel rules of the time allowed only living recipients, but a vigorous debate continues on who should receive credit for the discovery.
Feb 28 2015
Convenience store in Japan welcomes new range of donuts, Evangelion-style
HougiHayashi ‘Fang’ Hougi
Fans of the popular anime franchise Evangelion would probably get a pleasant surprise if they walked into this particular convenience store in Japan. Instead of putting up pictures of the actual products to advertise their new line of donuts, the creative store employees of this branch decided to take a cue from the popular anime and dress their window a little differently.
Twitter user misoka09 uploaded a few pictures of the Evangelion-style advertisements and soon garnered more than 10,000 retweets as amused netizens gushed over this clever trick.
Feb 28 2015
Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.
Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.
You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.
Orange and Radish Salad with PistachiosCredit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
I used to insist on making a green salad to go with every meal. It is the way I grew up eating – in fact the first thing I learned to make in the kitchen was a vinaigrette, and my first kitchen tasks were preparing all of the lettuces and vegetables for our mixed green salads. Now my salads are not always green. This is especially true in winter, when root vegetables, roasted vegetables, grains and year-round vegetable staples like celery are often at the center of my salad plate.
For inspiration for this week’s salads, I looked at the Union Square Greenmarket website as well as some websites from farms, to see what fruits and vegetables may be arriving in your CSA baskets.
A delicious grain salad with a sweet and tart dressing that provides an unexpected use for roasted squash.
A grated salad that is not quite as creamy as the dish that inspired it.
The turnips in this salad can work both warm or cold.
Pistachios and their oil go beautifully with the oranges while radishes offer a crisp, pungent contrast.
An adaptation of a famous Greek salad dish.
Feb 28 2015
I would be remiss if I didn’t include my most successful diary ever as one of the chapters in my autobiography. Presented here with some minor rewrites, this chapter comes from January of 2009.
The graphic to the left is named Body. Some might consider it NSFW, but it’s just an assemblage of red pixels on a yellow background.
Feb 27 2015
The Department of Homeland Security was created a year after the attacks on the US by Arab militants on September 11, 2001. It was obvious to many of us that it was a knee jerk reaction to bolster the Bush administration’s new “war on terror.” that, eventually, led to the illegal overthrow of the sovereign government of Iraq and the current state of chaos in the Middle East, Near East and parts of Africa.
The newly Republican led congress decided to separate the funding for DHS from the omnibus bill to attempt to use it as a bargaining chip to block President Barrack Obama’s policies on undocumented immigrants. That has led to a stand off that may result in the shut down of most of DHS when funding runs out on Saturday.
GOP leaders are arguing that the three-week funding bill would keep the agency open. They’re also asking their members to vote to go to conference with the Senate. But Senate Democrats say they’ll refuse that request.
Without language overturning Obama’s actions, the GOP may not have the 218 votes necessary to approve the bill – especially with House Democratic leaders urging their members to vote against it.
Democrats are demanding a more permanent funding measure.
The Senate on Friday voted 68-31 to fund the department through the end of the fiscal year. That bill might pass the House, but only if GOP leaders are willing to accept a vote on legislation that would divide their party.
There are many reasons that this may not be the disaster that fear mongering politicians on both sides of the aisle are claiming. There are some who feel that after 14 years, this trillion dollar boondoggle needs to go.
In a commentary at The Guardian, Trevor Timm argues that the department is “George W Bush’s creation is too inefficient, wasteful and disrespectful of privacy to keep around. If Republicans want to shut it down, Democrats shouldn’t stop them.”
Besides the cost to American tax payers of $38.2 billion this year alone, there are these major issues with DHS:
Consider the DHS’ so-called “fusion centers”, which are little more than spying hubs that vacuum up information from federal and local authorities and store it for indefinite amounts of time. A scathing Senate report on the centers, which have cost the DHS at least $1.4 billion dollars, concluded that they produce “predominantly useless information” – one employee was quoted as calling it “a bunch of crap” – and that they also “run] afoul of departmental guidelines meant to guard against civil liberties” and are “possibly in violation of the Privacy Act”. While they’ve spied on many people who [were engaged in purely First Amendment protected activities, they’re not known to have stopped a terrorist attack.
The department has also been a treasure trove for local police departments, giving them millions in military grade gear and specialized spying equipment without accountability. This has lead to some very serious violations of the people’s constitutional rights.
For example, they have a program to hand out funds for local police to buy surveillance drones and give grants to cops for controversial Stingray surveillance devices, which are fake cell phone towers that allow the police to spy on entire neighborhoods at once.
They also have their own Predator drones program (without the missiles like in Pakistan and Yemen) that they fly along the US border as well. A government report released in January derided DHS’s Predator drones as almost entirely ineffective and a giant waste of money. The report didn’t even cover the alarming privacy concerns of having sophisticated spying machines constantly flying over large parts of the country.
Some of the harshest criticism of the DHS has come from within the agency. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis has been mocked by it’s own current and former employees for churning out “intelligence spam” and producing “almost nothing you can’t find on Google.”
The article also noted that the department was criticized for its inability to secure its own buildings from hackers let alone any other government offices and another Senate report that called the DHS cybersecurity “incompetant.” On top of that there is the department’s over paying by hundreds of thousands of dollars for border patrol housing, millions wasted on vehicles that were purchased without any internal oversight or guidelines and misuse of government credit cards for personal expenses to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
So if the Republicans can’t figure out how to pass a clean funding bill, the Democrats should just let the DHS close, doing the American tax payers a great favor.
Feb 27 2015
What is instructive about this is the factual denialism. Just as fresh water Hayek inspired rattle shaking Shamen dispute the proven reality of Keynes in the macro world (and similar to the problem classical Physics has with Quantum equations appalling record of being predictively correct despite being counter-intuitive) so it is in the micro manipulated world of Mr. Market which has the galling indecency not to realize that the sky is falling despite the urgent claims of
Rupert Murdoch Henny Penny.
Wall Street Journal Upset That Wall Street Isn’t Upset About Net Neutrality
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Fri, Feb 27th 2015 10:34am
A few weeks ago, after it was more or less confirmed that the FCC was going forward with full Title II reclassification of broadband, we noted that the stocks of the big broadband companies actually went up suggesting that Wall Street actually knows that reclassification won’t really impact broadband companies, despite what they’ve been saying publicly. Perhaps this is partly because those same companies have been telling Wall Street that the rule change won’t have an impact.
However, for the Wall Street Journal — which has become weirdly, obsessively, anti-net neutrality — this is an abomination. The newspaper has spent months trying to whip everyone into a frenzy about how evil net neutrality is, using some of the most blatantly wrong arguments around. Just a few days ago, the WSJ turned to its former publisher, now columnist, L. Gordon Crovitz to spread as much misinformation as possible. This is the same L. Gordon Crovitz who a few years ago wrote such a ridiculously wrong article on the history of the internet that basically everyone shoved each other aside to detail how he mangled the history. He, bizarrely, insisted that the government had no role in the creation of the internet. Crovitz also has a history of being wrong (and woefully uninformed) about surveillance and encryption. It’s difficult to understand why the WSJ allows him to continue writing pieces that are so frequently factually challenged.
Actually, it’s not difficult at all.
In this latest piece, Crovitz suggests that Ted Cruz didn’t go far enough in comparing Obamacare to net neutrality, arguing that net neutrality is even “worse.”
The paper of record for Wall Street, which normally likes to suggest that markets are “right” about everything, is absolutely positive that the markets are wrong about this. And it’s furious. It has an article demanding that broadband investors need to “wake up” to what’s happening with net neutrality.
At the end of the article, the WSJ pretends that maybe the reason why stocks are up is because investors expect that the broadband players will win an eventual court battle, but that seems like wishful thinking on multiple levels. Let’s go with Occam’s Razor on this one. The market is up because everyone knows that Title II won’t make a huge difference at all for the prospects of broadband companies. Multiple Wall St. analysts have been saying this for months, as have the big broadband companies to the analysts themselves.
La, la, la, la, la.
Feb 27 2015
The International Business Times is reporting the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered the destruction of state government e-mails older than 90 days. Cuomo ordered this in the midst of a Federal investigation into public corruption.
In a memo obtained by Capital New York, Cuomo officials announced that mass purging of email records is beginning across several state government agencies. The timing of the announcement, which followed through on a 2013 proposal, is worth noting: The large-scale destruction of state documents will be happening in the middle of a sprawling federal investigation of public corruption in Albany. That investigation has been looking at state legislators and the Cuomo administration.
Cuomo’s move to purge state emails follows a similar move he made as state Attorney General. International Business Times confirmed that in 2007, he put in place a mass deletion policy for emails in the New York Attorney General’s office that were more than 90 days old, making it difficult for the public to know how — or whether — his office investigated bank fraud in the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2008. In the Cuomo administration’s announcement this week, the governor’s chief information officer, Maggie Miller, justified the new email purge as a cost-saving measure aimed at “making government work better.”
But former prosecutors and open-government advocates interviewed by IBTimes say the move seems designed to hide information.
According to the Capital News article, the memo (pdf) from Ms. Miller, a former Girls Scouts of America executive who was hired in December, was sent to agency heads of Friday. The article goes on tho site that over a dozen advocacy agencies sent a letter to the governor’s office (pdf) last month arguing that the policy was out of step with federal guidelines and technologically unnecessary:
“In this era, government runs on email, and access to email and electronic records has become a cornerstone of public transparency. Our groups are very concerned that the administration’s June 2013 policy of using centralized software to automatically delete state employee emails after 90 days is resulting in the destruction of emails that are considered public records under New York’s Freedom of Information Law,” wrote the groups, which were organized by Reinvent Albany. “This policy was adopted without public notice or comment. Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the inevitable destruction of email records under your 90-day automatic deletion policy directly undermines other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act.”
New York’s contract with Microsoft, which developed Office 365, allows for 50 gigabytes of e-mail storage per employee. Reinvent Albany estimated this would be enough to handle up to 30 years worth of messages. [..]
In addition to the federal seven-year standard, other states like Washington, Florida and Connecticut have retention periods of between two and five years. The Central Intelligence Agency recently proposed a three-year retention period for departing employees, and was criticized for not archiving messages for longer. Shorter retention periods are more common in corporations seeking to reduce their exposure in litigation, according to a memorandum compiled by Reinvent Albany (pdf).
After Cuomo abruptly ended his Moreland Commission that was investigating campaign finance and public corruption when it apparently got too close to his own office, US Attorney Prete Brarara began a federal probe into Albany. The timing of this order raises significant legal questions, according to Melanie Sloan, a former Clinton Justice Department official:
“This is potentially obstruction of justice,” she told IBTimes. “The only reason that the government destroys records is so no one can question what it is doing, and no one can unearth information about improper conduct. There’s no reason for New York not to preserve this information.”
Sloan said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is spearheading the Albany probe, could issue a letter to Cuomo ordering him to preserve all documents that could be relevant to the public corruption investigation. In May 2014, Bharara issued such a letter to state legislators. Bharara’s office declined to comment when asked by IBTimes if it had now issued a similar directive to Cuomo.
John Kaehny, the head of a coalition of transparency group called Reinvent Albany, said the purge order may be designed to circumvent obstruction of justice statutes that are designed to prevent deliberate document destruction.
“[The policy] may mean that you could never be accused of obstructing justice or destroying evidence because you could claim that the machine automatically deleted it,” he told IBTimes. “It creates a loophole and opportunity to destroy embarrassing emails.” [..]
Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, says beyond questions about legality, the public should be concerned about how the policy may preclude journalists from reporting on state government.
“This policy will allow the Cuomo administration, in many cases, to delete newsworthy emails faster than reporters can even request them,” Timm said. “It looks like an attempt to avoid accountability.”
This lookng more and more like a cover up of Cuomo’s corruption ever since he was the state’s attorney general. Hopefully, he won’t get away with it.
Feb 27 2015
Mr. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.
His artistic pursuits – poetry, photography and music in addition to acting – ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).