Vandercloot

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“It’s living between the folds in your cerebral cortex.”
–   Dr. Vandercloot

Dr. Vandercloot is a 19th century exorcist, scientist, and collector of strange artifacts. He will appear on stage next month – Friday the 13th – October.

Info here: Seattle Playwright’s Salon

Vandercloot’s first name is Randolph, but you won’t know that from watching him on the stage, because no one is on a first-name basis with the doctor.

(He’s part of a Halloween-themed show presented by the Seattle Playwright’s Salon.)

His assistant, Alba, will accompany him. She enjoys the doctor’s occult science, but is a bit numbed from years of serving as his guinea pig.

(Remember that Friday night parking in Georgetown can be horrifying, so please appear earlier than the 7 p.m. start time.)

In this short adventure, Vandercloot endeavors to help his local dentist, named Florian, who has a terrible malady. In the process, we’ll seen some ghastly items from the doctor’s peculiar collections.

 

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the council for manhood speaks

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Above: Man attempts to open a pickle jar.

Recently an organization with the entertaining name of the Council for Christian Manhood and Womanhood met in Nashville and released a document called the Nashville Statement. This document claimed to speak on behalf of a God that does not sanction “same-sex attraction or transgender self-conception.” It made the news for a bit.

The mayor of Nashville quickly made it clear that this statement was not a city-condoned proclamation. One of the Nashville Statement signers, David French, wrote an editorial in the National Review. He writes that for some people, separation of church and state “is just a pit stop on the road to de-Christianizing America.”

Obviously the mayor was not invoking the separation clause; just trying to protect the city’s reputation. But it’s interesting to see this writer describe the very idea of upholding the Constitution as a way to “de-Christianize.”

French goes on to summarize the Nashville Statement: “We believe the Bible is the word of God, and the word of God declares that sexual intimacy is reserved for the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage.” And also for men and concubines, right? Because in that book, people like Abraham, Gideon, and Solomon had concubines, too. There is a pile of polygamy in the Bible.

Then there was God’s order to Moses about dealing with the Midianites (Numbers 31). “Now kill all the boys,” says the Lord. “And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” So the spoils of war are okay for men, also. If the Nashville Statement signers don’t accept these practices as well, then maybe their statement is just a wishy-washy modern reinterpretation of Biblical family values.

French’s editorial goes on to say, “There are powerful peer and cultural pressures that are pushing Christians to compromise on core principles. In some parts of the country, Christians are social pariahs if they admit to their Biblical views.”

I wonder if he means people who admit to the Biblical views displayed in Judges 19:22-24. That’s the one where wicked men surround a house and demand that the homeowner send one of his guests out of the house so they could have sex with him. But the homeowner is righteous. He protects his guest, and says, “No, take instead my virgin daughter and my guest’s concubine and do what you want with them.” I suppose people who admire this passage might become pariahs.

French writes that today’s Christian liberals subject “God’s word” to a cultural and political test. He says that today, “One can reject even His clearest commands if those commands are ‘mean’ or ‘intolerant.’” Maybe a good example is how the Bible clearly condones slavery (including the sale of one’s daughter) and stoning people to death for infidelity or disobeying parents. We can only assume French is not a wimpy-ass liberal and fully accepts these clearly stated principles.

The article also claims that in today’s society, punitive reprisals are made against “moral” businesses. “They will re-educate or ruin small-business owners who won’t lend their creative talents to celebrate gay weddings.” By this logic, opposing and prohibiting a whites-only lunch counter is an unfair punitive reprisal.

Another shining example from French’s article: “They [liberal Christians] will publicly reject basic statements of Christian theology, and they will do it in the name of comprehensive social engineering.”

I suppose he considers the entire history of civil rights, including the prohibition of slavery, to be social engineering. Maybe so, but they represent the ending of tyranny. It’s amazing the lengths someone will go to justify the desire to mistreat fellow humans.

eclipse weekend

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We were among thousands that drove to the totality zone for the eclipse, camping for three nights in the Eastern Oregon town of Culver. We participated in a scenic 25-mile bike ride as part of the Culver Crawdad Festival and in general, had a great time there.

On eclipse-day morning, we watched the first slice of shadow cut across the sun. Soon the temperature started to fall. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the temperature dropped from somewhere in the low 80s °F until it was cold enough that I wanted to put on a sweatshirt. The landscape around us gradually turned dim and a little grayish, as this picture shows in totality.  It became fairly dark, Venus appeared in the sky, streetlights came on. There were sunset colors around the entire horizon.

Most amazing, of course, was the sun, or rather the lack of it. You can look without glasses while it’s completely covered, and the sun was like a black jewel in the sky with rays of light sticking out around the side. Even though the circle itself was dark, there was something crystalline and “super-real” about it. The two minutes of complete eclipse seemed momentous and cosmic, even though it’s fairly common. It looked like this about a second after totality. (I only had my phone camera, so I have none of my own.)

We were fortunate to see some wonderful sights in addition to the eclipse (click to expand)

On a bike ride, we viewed Mt. Jefferson over farm fields

Wind farm in South-Central Washington

The amazing Lake Billy Chinook

Last but not least, the Culver Crawdad Festival

it’s not just a light, it’s tactical

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You say you’ve got your bluetooth-enabled speaker embedded in a fidget spinner? You own a fleet of Groot-branded HD camera drones? Toss that crap aside because what you truly deserve is a tactical flashlight, or even better, a tactical lantern

How many times have to said this to yourself:

I need a lantern, but not just any lantern — it must be tactical.

“Tactical” generally means something related to military operations. It can also refer to carefully planning or strategizing to achieve an end. So when you’re using precision and strategy to illuminate a dark place, you want the type of photons that radiate from a tactical light. 

(Be aware that you will also need batteries, or, as I like to call them, “tactical portable electricity cylinders.”)

Below you’ll see two lanterns, one tactical and one not. Study this carefully so you don’t accidentally purchase a non-tactical light. 

Tactical Lantern – plastic – uses 3 AA batteries – collapsible

Non-tactical Lantern – plastic – uses 3 AA batteries – collapsible

Got it? Now it’s time to go out and plan your illumination campaign. Next, we’ll examine hydration systems (sometimes called “water bottles”).

down a rock music rabbit hole

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(Image above from a Birdeatsbaby video)

This is how an entire afternoon can disappear. Recently I was perusing a long list of rock music genres and sub-genres when I came across this one:

Italian Occult Psychedelia

How could I not look into it? Before long I was on Spotify listening to a band called Cannibal Movie.  Imagine if you dumped a beat up old carnival organ into a swamp, and then the Creature from the Black Lagoon sat down and began to play. The sound burbling up from the water is their song, “Fame.” 

Take a less distorted organ and add somber drumming and gothic chanting and you’ve got Capra Informis. Music to play at a goat sacrifice – “Tunnels of Cliphoth.” From here I moved on to …

Math Rock

I listened to music from several bands in this genre and really couldn’t detect a common denominator (ha ha) among them. One British group called Three Trapped Tigers had an album called “Numbers: 1-13” with songs labelled 1, 2, etc., as befitting math rock. I like a lot of this music. Another group, from Japan, called Ruins was utterly different and berserk. I recommend this inspired weirdness called “Skhanddraviza,” which must be a homage to Frank Zappa.

Folk Metal

I started with Finntroll. I don’t know why, but this combination of black metal and a type of Finnish polka music was hard to take seriously. It kept reminding me of the Stonehenge scene from Spinal Tap. Much of this genre is Scandinavian. However, the Orphaned Land is out of Israel, mixing metal with Middle Eastern folk music. Here they are live, doing a number without the deep growly voice technique they use on other songs. Finally, I’ll end with:

Dark Cabaret

Picture a group of young circus vampires trying to look menacing while playing squeezeboxes. Face makeup, accordions, and a theatrical style create the cabaret and lyrics about death and destruction make it dark. The Tiger Lillies recommend mindless insurrection in “Start a Fire.” I really like the stop motion style video for this Birdeatsbaby song called “The Trouble.”

You can have the same adventure I did by following the links to the music videos above. As an avant-guard metal band, Gorguts, says, “As spleen takes over me, resound, the echoes of my threnodies.” Live at the Brutal Assault festival.

(Avant-garde metal band, Giant Squid.)

usa – “let’s abandon leadership, go backwards”

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A quick summary of responses to Trump abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement.

Corporate Support for the Paris Climate Agreement

A few companies that support the Paris accords

Ford, GM, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Walmart, Amazon, ExxonMobile, and ConocoPhillips.

Some corporations and CEOs that not only support the Paris agreement but publicly disagree with Trump’s decision

Jeff Immelt, CEO GE, Ben van Beurden, CEO Royal Dutch Shell, David MacLennan, CEO Cargill, Jamie Dimon, CEO JPMorgan Chase, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO Goldman Sachs, Tim Cook, CEO Apple, Mark Zuckerberg CEO Facebook, Mark Benioff, CEO Salesforce, Sundar Pichai, GEO Google, Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX – Resigned from White House business advisory council in protest, Bob Iger, Walt Disney – Resigned from White House business advisory council in protest

HP, DuPont, Nike, UnileverAdobe, Intel, Levi, Mars – all signed a letter urging Trump to stay with the Paris agreement

Coal companies that asked Trump to stay with Paris agreement
Cloud Peak Energy and Peabody Energy

Calculate how much of the U.S. economy is represented in the list above. It’s safe to say that these are people who make pragmatic decisions.

Economic Impact of Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement

Fastest growing occupations: #1 is wind turbine technician, #29 solar photovoltaic installers. Why are we not prioritizing clean energy jobs instead of fossil fuels?

“1.1 million Americans work in electric-power generation through traditional fossil fuels, but renewables follow closely with 880,000 employees.” And guess which one is growing? There are more jobs in solar power than in the coal industry.

“The decision means the U.S. will miss out on some the $1.4 trillion global business opportunity that the global low-carbon economy represents.”

Despite this, Trump has decided to let China and Europe take the lead in clean energy development and leave the U.S. behind in a growing industry.

Trump Continues to Spew Lies on the Topic (no surprise)

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/donald-trump-climate-accord-fact-check

Meanwhile in the Reality-Based Universe

Every year it gets harder for denialists to find cover. You have to believe that every major climate science organization across the globe, and almost all climate scientists worldwide, are in error or engaged in a huge conspiracy to cover up the truth. There is no factual support for denialism, just an occasional op-ed in the Wall Street Journal from someone outside the field, or posts by some energy industry funded propaganda outfit. That’s pretty thin gruel. 

Oh, and you must believe that, along with U.S. corporations and science community, the 197 signing governments and 147 ratifiers of the Paris Climate Agreement are all deluded, too. Syria didn’t sign (in the middle of a war) and Nicaragua (thought it was too weak) and now the U.S. (Trump).

Incidental info: The oceans are warming, we hit temperature records each year, wildlife is moving north, etc. etc.   https://climate.nasa.gov/  

It’s encouraging that individual companies, states, and cities in the U.S. are vowing to continue with climate change mitigation. Let’s act like there’s a civilization on earth. Let’s look ahead and plan.

super brain is out to get you

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I recently read yet another article about the alleged threat posed by artificial intelligence. I don’t buy it; at least as this story is usually framed. When someone says that the danger lies in self-aware, volitional computer intelligence, I think they are projecting science fiction plots onto reality. When they talk about a runaway recursive loop of smarter-than-human computers creating even smarter computers, and so on unto “singularity,” they are pretending that real life resembles a really cool novel they once read.

When do we get there and where is “there”?

I think it’s so very unlikely and/or so far off, that it would be a wasted effort to worry about it, and even worse to take action on it when there are so many actual serious problems to deal with. Why do I think that? Point me to an example of a self-aware, volitional computer to justify the concern. Show me any non-biological intelligence. As far as I’m aware, examples offered as even the beginnings of this are stretching the definitions of “intelligence” and “self-awareness” to the breaking point.

There is no clear and obvious path from where we are now to a human-like artificial intelligence. People have been working on AI for decades and are no closer. I think it’s possible in principle, and we may get there, but where are the signs that we’re even close? To take one crude example, do you think that something will just “wake up,” given enough processing power? Are there even hints of this happening? Look at the Blue Brain Project, it’s a great thing, but I don’t think anyone involved would say they are even remotely near such an achievement.

Smarter than what?

I think we have another problem, which is even knowing what it means to have a computer that is smarter than humans. Already there are computers that perform calculations much faster than people. Is that it? Most people would say no. They mean a computer that is “super-intelligent,”  as far beyond us as we are beyond a microbe. Again, people tend to mean self-aware machines with desires of their own, but super, and incomprehensible. I think we’re assigning magic to consciousness and intelligence. Just scale up the “smartness” 10 or 100-fold and magic happens. The machines will save us. No, they’ll destroy us. No, they’ll put us all in a simulation. No, we’re already in one.

I’ve heard some alarmists suggest that if it happens just once – if a smarter-than-human intelligence develops — we’re in trouble. Then it’s too late. The genie is  out of the bottle. How does it get the better of us? Maybe it’s so smart that it uses its super-smart AI silver tongue to talk us into not unplugging it. Or maybe it replicates itself all over the internet, and somehow (magic) gains control of our physical environment and eradicates us. It makes smarter copies of itself, and the smarter it gets, the more magic happens.

Get real

I think a genuine threat is humans giving increasing responsibilities to machines without developing sufficient safeguards. An example would be a self-driving car that can’t handle certain tricky situations on the road. That’s a danger. A malfunctioning gun-wielding military robot that selects its own targets – that’s a danger.  A runaway super-smart AI? Not so much. It’s a gross misuse of resources to spend money combatting evil machines. We have bigger fish to fry like poverty, disease, war, and climate change.