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Archive for April, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Lust

Four down and three to go as anger, envy, gluttony, and greed have been dealt with.

The next deadly sin to receive the Form Your Troika treatment is lust.

Ahhh…lust.

This posting, sorry to disappoint, will not be about the type of physical, flesh-showing type of lust that springs first to mind. Sorry, you can link to thousands of other websites to receive your fill of NSFW images.

Lust fits in with some of the other deadly sins. Lust is a desire. Envy is the desire to want something or someone that is not yours and cannot be yours. Greed is the desire to have something that anyone can have. Lust is the desire to have a specific something or someone that is based on a lack of reason and is driven solely by base emotions.

Where lust is often thought of the physical tactile desire to have another person, lust can also be transferred onto objects.

Today’s case in point is the lust people feel towards that company from Cupertino.

Folks want iPods, iPads, and anything containing that logo with the fruit with the bite taken out of it as shown by the latest profit news from the company out of Cupertino.

Yet this desire can be shown to be lust because it is a desire driven by pure emotion and not reason.

Lust is the only excuse I can think of why people flock to purchase devices from a company that…

…uses a company to manufacture its products that has been accused of mistreating its workforce (sampling of stories here and here and here);

…is accused of using its power to manipulate prices in the electronic publishing marketplace (sampling of stories here and here and here).

If that company in Redmond, Washington, were to be accused of the business practices mentioned above, you can bet dollars to donuts that the Cupertino evangelists would be all over the blog-o-verse pilloring Microsoft for its evilness.

For my parting words to consumers of products from the design mind of Jobs, I defer to Prince and his lyrics

It’s time
u learned love and lust.
They both have four letters, but they
are entirely different words

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WordPress announced that their theme for this week’s photo challenge is together.

My offering is of similar tubular objects. They are together at one point and here you see them branching out.

Metal coils from a lamp

Coils

This picture, along with my previous post, was when I was head over heels over sepia.

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Portraiture

That’s the theme from Photo Friday for this last Friday in April.

Now portraits can be of faces, busts, and even self-portraits.

As for me and this challenge, I’m going to go with my foot.

Self Portrait of foot

What a great idea for a gravatar.

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Since I started up this blog twenty-eight months ago, one of my categories from the beginning was “veridiction”. That word is my term for the practice of verifying predictions. I started this category because I became tired of watching talking heads on television and hearing so-called experts pontificate on podcasts that QRS would happen or that TUV would not occur. What made me angrier was that when QRS did not happen or when TUV made the headlines, no host would ever have that “expert” back on to explain why and how they were wrong.

People just made predictions and then went on their merry way.

With my electronic space, I hae looked at the predictions from various institutions and people including the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), The Old Farmer’s Almanac, MIT professor Yasheng Huang, pundit David Frum, and political consultant Ed Rollins.

Some have been right and some have been wrong. Either way, it has been great fun to hold on to those predictions and then come back to them to hold the proverbial feet to the fire.

However, I am no longer the only player in the veridiction marketplace.

Ladies and gentlemen, I whole-heartedly embrace the entrance of PunditTracker into the space of blogging about verifying predictions. So far, they have written about the stock picks of Jim Cramer (from CNBC’s Mad Money) and the March Madness predictions of various sportswriters.

To read what PunditTracker is about, jump to here.

If more and more people took finger to keyboard and took to task the posturing pontificating predictor who was wrong and also praised the orating oracle who was correct, I would surmise that the world would be a better place.

Don’t hold me to that prediction, though.

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As the cliché goes, the subject for this entry was ripped from the headlines. Okay, headlines from central and western Maine…but headlines nonetheless.

The article linked to above about a Scrabble tournament to raise money for a non-profit outfit that helps folk battle illiteracy reminded me of a ceditra entry I wrote two years ago. My random method of generating topics to write about (by itself, “random” scores nine points in Scrabble) pointed me to the dictionary, which is appropriate because that is where most beginning Scrabble players head off to also.

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April 5, 2010

From Page 453 of the Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English, my method of ceditra (the process of creating art through any random process – a term coined by early 20th century Brazilian artist Abril Pajyaso) landed me on this word:

levigate – v.tr: 1) reduce to a fine smooth powder; 2) make a smooth paste of

In all honesty, I can say I have never seen nor heard this word.

I’m sure my mother-in-law has because she loves to play Scrabble. As much as I like to play games and work on puzzles, I must admit that the tiled board game from Hasbro has never quite had much of an allure for me. It would seem natural that I would gravitate towards a game that stresses a knowledge of vocabulary.

Yet, I don’t really care for the game.

This ambivalence even predates my marriage so I can’t blame my blasé attitude towards Scrabble on my mother-in-law since she always beats me soundly.

Part of my lack of interest in Scrabble may lie in the fact that I can’t recall my parents ever playing this game. We played backgammon and Rummy Q and Mom even taught me how to play gin (and Dad taught me how to drink it – rimshot). I can’t recall us breaking out the Scrabble board or even if we ever had one.

So if the board games one’s parents played have an impact on a child, what does our game-playing history foretell for Christopher, Jared, and Ophelia. We’ve played Life, Monopoly, Cranium Cadoo, Trivial Pursuit Junior, and Junior Apples to Apples.

My mother-in-law plays Scrabble with the boys when they visit and she trounces them also. She almost (dare I say it) levigates them.
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For this week’s theme of “sun” from WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge, I am returning to a 2007 visit I made to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Outside the Center, in the parking lot, is an impressive metallic sculpture entitled “Ascent“.

From the Donald Engen Observation Tower, myself, the sun, and “Ascent” lined up perfectly so that I could have this photo.

Sun off "Ascent"

Sun and "Ascent"

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Crimson.

Going back to my garden once again for my offering concerning a weekly photo challenge (this time from Photo Friday).

Flowers from my garden

Crimson Bloom

Spring is such a wonderful time.

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I’ve done anger.
I’ve done envy.
I’ve done gluttony.

Continuing with that theme, it’s time to move on to the only deadly sin that contains a double vowel: greed.

To me, the transgression of greed is more egregious than that of envy. With the “green-ey’d monster”, you may only want something, but with greed you actually execute the steps to take it for yourself.

The epitome of greed for my example can be best summed up by Daffy Duck in this clip from the Looney Tunes cartoon, “Ali Baba Bunny” with Bugs Bunny.

Daffy not only covets the treasure, but he actively works to deny Bugs the gold by jumping on him shouting, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

Greed doesn’t necessarily have to be about physical material objects. It can also be about abstract immaterial concepts such as credit.

Case in point is the recent news that came out this month that reminded me of Daffy Duck’s tantrum of greed.

Google announced Project Glass, their initiative to incorporate various technologies to create glasses with augmented reality. Through pop-up displays, the eyewear can…

…give you a weather forecast when you look at the sky;
…show you walking directions to your destination;
…find the music section when you enter a bookstore; and…
…chat with friends and send messages.

Fascinating cutting-edge technology. Almost as if it came from science-fiction. In fact, this posting about Project Glass calls Google’s prototype “Gibson-esque”.

The author speaks of William Gibson, author of the 1984 book Neuromancer and coiner of the word “cyberspace”.

There is a reason the author of the above post used the term “Gibson-esque” because eighteen years ago, William Gibson published Virtual Light, a story that has as its McGuffin a pair of glasses that contains important data. Called VL, or Virtual Light, glasses, the technology of the eyewear, in the words of one of the novel’s characters…

Put ‘em on, you go out walking, everything looks normal, but every plant you see, every tree, there’s this little label hanging there, what its name is, Latin under that. . .’

Sounds like augmented reality to me. Put glasses on and little labels pop up to add more information to what you are looking at. Granted Gibson’s VL glasses feed directly into the optic nerve while I believe Project Glass does not go that far.

However, I did find it interesting that nowhere in Google’s public relations blitz about Project Glass did they even throw a mention to William Gibson or Virtual Light.

When the ion drive is mentioned by NASA, they talk about it being from the pages of science fiction.

You can’t bring up a website about geostationary orbit without finding a reference to author Arthur C. Clarke who popularized the idea in his paper “Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?”.

Interesting to note that (as of this writing), if you type in the phrases “project glass”, “virtual light”, and “william gibson” into the Google search bar you receive no hits from their News section (To be fair, the same non-result happens with Bing also). The only hits are from other bloggers and commenters on blog posts who make the connection between Gibson’s creation and Google’s prototype.

That’s too bad because I think credit should be given where it is due. I can just see the folks in Mountain View, California, jumping up and down screaming, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

It’s not as if Google doesn’t now how to tip its hat to innovators. When they announced Google Tap, their revolutionary new take on the keyboard, they knew to thank Samuel Morse, inventor of Morse Code.

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Not the first time I have written about the Space Shuttle or the United States space program (see here and here and here and here), but most likely the last time.

As a father, I have heard the saying, and whole-heartedly embrace it, that a parent should never outlive their children.

As a corollary, I would posit that a person should never outlive a dream.

In April of 1981, almost thirty-one years ago to this date, I am sitting in a hotel in Palm Springs, California. My family has decided to take us to a desert hotel for the Spring Break holiday so we can enjoy the high and dry heat with some friends. My siblings and their friends are enjoying the pool, but I have decided to stay inside. My father and I are stuck in front of the television because I demanded that I be able to watch the maiden flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

I was too young to remember Apollo 11, the mission that took the first men to the Moon, but this would a moment to remember forever. This would be the day the United States began its first real steps towards space travel that would lead to a space station, then to a lunar base, then to Mars, then to the stars. This was the moment my science-fiction-fueled pre-teen brain was waiting for. Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and others had all created beautiful works about this moment when the dream of moving humanity out of its crib would begin.

Fire roared from the rocket engines and the white craft sailed skyward like summer fantasies.

Despite the deaths and the accidents of Challenger and Columbia, I believed in the dream of interplanetary living. It may not happen while I was alive, but the dream would be alive for my children and my grandchildren to see the Sun rise over a world other than Earth.

Three decades plus a year later, I am watching the dream slowly fall to Earth never to rise again. I am again stuck in front of the television, but I am alone this time. I watch CNN International as they show me the images of a 747 float effortlessly over Washington, D.C. and Dulles, Virgina. Atop the large plane, piggyback, sits Space Shuttle Discovery. She is on her last flight coming to Virginia to be housed in the Smithsonian Institution Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

There she, along with her sisters Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and Endeavour at the California Science Center, will sit gathering dust reminding generation after generation of what could have been.

This quartet of silent sentinels are the tombstones of the dream to move beyond this planet. I cannot fathom, in today’s political atmosphere of partisan sniping and budget restraint, that I (or my kids or grandkids) will ever see such a massive combined effort to propel humans off Earth and to move outward and onward.

Rest well, Atlantis, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, and Enterprise.

You served admirably.

You lived up to your end of the dream.

I only wish we could have.

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This is not the first time I have turned my veridiction (my process for verifying predictions) eye on the distinguished gentleman from the Kentucky, the senior United States Senator from the Bluegrass State, Mitch McConnell. I have come back to Senator McConnell because of a prediction he made back in December of 2011 (Yes…it takes me a while to clear out my veridiction file).

Back then, the Kentucky Senator, when referring to the fight over extending the cut in the payroll tax, made the prediction that…

“We’re going to reach an agreement,” McConnell told “Fox News Sunday,” noting there is “bipartisan support” for extending the tax cut.

Not only is Senator McConnell the first talking head personality I have verified twice, but he is now the first person to achieve a perfect 2-0 record.

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April 19, 2012, UPDATE
The above statement is only half correct. Senator McConnell is actually the second person to have two separate predictions verified. The first was President George W. Bush (see here and here). However, the distinguished gentleman from Kentucky is still the only person to be 2-and-0.
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The bill under consideration when Senator McConnell made his prediction, H R 3765, passed the House of Representatives without objection and passed the Senate by unanimous consent. I do believe that when no dissenting voice is cast, that counts as “bipartisan support”.

This is sometimes why it’s good for me that I don’t jump on veridictions as quickly as I could.

H R 3765 only extended the payroll tax cut until February 29 of this year, which meant that another fight would need to be had if the cut were to be extended past Leap Day.

H R 3630 would be the vehicle for that fight. When the House voted on this bill to extend the cut through the rest of 2012, there were 146 Republicans and 147 Democrats who voted to approve this bill. In the Senate 45 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and 1 Independent voted to approve.

I do believe those totals qualify as “bipartisan” and I do believe those facts above qualify Senator McConnell as batting 1.000 in my count of predictions.

Well done, sir.

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