Thursday, July 27, 2017

Culture - Wonderful writing - Frank Bruni of the New York Times

CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
At this point I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump has gone beyond taunting and demonizing Hillary Clinton to a realm of outright obsession.
He’s stalking her.
He can’t stop tweeting about her. Can’t stop muttering about her. On Monday he addressed tens of thousands of boy scouts at their Jamboree, and who should pop up in his disjointed thoughts and disheveled words? Clinton. He dinged her, yet again, for having ignored voters in Michigan, which he won.
The Jamboree, mind you, was in West Virginia.
And it brought together dewy-eyed adolescents, not dyspeptic acolytes of the Heritage Foundation. Most cared more about — I don’t know — camping gear, crafts projects and merit badges than whether the Democratic nominee should have made an additional stop in Grand Rapids and maybe scarfed down a funnel cake in Kalamazoo while she was at it.
But Trump doesn’t meet his audiences on their terms. He uses each as a sounding board for his vanities, insecurities, delusions and fixations. Clinton factors mightily into all of these. She’s his psychological dominatrix.
Continue reading the main story
He keeps telling us that he’s president and we’re not. Does he know that he’s president and she’s not? Does he realize that most Americans can go a whole day, an entire week — verily, a month! — without picturing her at a rostrum, hearing the melody of her stump speech or repeating, “I’m with her”?
At least they could if Trump would shut up about her. I understand that he misses her, but, sheesh, send some Godiva chocolates and move on.
Many political observers have been marveling at recent tweets of his that blasted Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, for not reinvestigating and potentially prosecuting Clinton for supposed crimes. He ripped into Sessions anew at a brief news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
But the other half of that equation is Clinton, and it’s just as remarkable that more than eight months after Election Day, Trump is still hauling his vanquished opponent out for public ridicule and marching her toward the stockade. Did Barack Obama do that with John McCain or George Bush with Al Gore or Bill Clinton with the previous George Bush? No, no and no.
Many political observers have noted Trump’s hyperconsciousness of Barack Obama, who was also mentioned in those remarks to the boy scouts, which were so inappropriately political and self-centered that parents actually lodged complaints.
But Clinton is more precious to him. While he merely itches to erase Obama from the history books, he’s desperate to keep her at the center of every page. Beneath all of his braggadocio about the genius of his campaign strategy and the potency of his connection to blue-collar Americans, he knows that he made it to the White House largely because many voters didn’t want her there and he was Door No. 2.
So he reminds them of that. Over and over again.
It would be one thing if he had amassed a trove of accomplishments and watched his approval ratings climb. But the opposite is true, so he depends on a foil who flatters him, a fork in the road that he can portray as rockier and swampier. That’s Clinton’s role, and it’s more important than Jared’s and Ivanka’s and the Mooch’s combined. They whisper sweet nothings. She saves him from damnation.
Don’t look at his campaign’s relationship with Russia. Look at hers with Ukraine! Don’t focus on Don Jr.’s incriminating emails. Focus on her missing ones! And while you’re at it, tally up how many of her donors are on Robert Mueller’s staff and take fresh note of her big-dollar speeches. Seldom has a scapegoat grazed in such a profusion of pastures.
He’s more or less back to chanting “lock her up,” as if it’s early November all over again. He has frozen the calendar there so that he can perpetually savor the exhilaration of the campaign and permanently evade the drudgery of governing and the ignominy of his failure at it so far.
Nov. 8 is his “Groundhog Day,” on endless repeat, in a way that pleases and pacifies him. That movie has a co-star, Clinton. If he dwells in it, he dwells with her. He can no more retire her than Miss Havisham, in “Great Expectations,” could put away her wedding dress. Clinton brings Trump back to the moment before the rose lost its blush and the heartache set in.
During the second of their three debates, he was accused of shadowing her onstage, but that was nothing next to the way he pursues her now. His administration slips further into chaos; he diverts the discussion to her. She’s the answer to evolving scandals. She’s the antidote to a constipated agenda — or so he wagers. What stature he has inadvertently given her. And what extraordinary staying power.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Culture - The Style Column

Strange, they have never asked me to be interviewed for the Style column in the Chronicle, but if I were here my answers;

  1. Style Heroes - I don't have heroes, let alone style heroes.  It is a strange concept, maybe that is why they never asked me
  2. Home - Suburbs 30 km SW of Houston, and the country 120 km NW of Houston
  3. Pairs of Shoes - About 12, including sloggers (mud shoes) and boots, it rains a lot here
  4. Favorite Accessory - My body, I really need it, without it my mind would be stuck in one place
  5. Should Toss But Can't - I don't think I have this problem, I can toss things away with no regrets
  6. Trend You'll Never Wear - Black, I like color too much 
  7. On Bedside Table - An alarm clock, but that is boring, and people use this category to add books they are reading.  I am still reading Homo Deus and have "The House of Spies" by Daniel Silva and "The Templars' Last Secret" by Martin Walker, on my Kindle 
  8. Recent Purchase - A new magic globe to replace the one the stopped believing in magic
  9. Must-Have Beauty Products - Shampoo
  10. First Car - A Mini Van I painted lime green with a brush, bought for 200 GBP
  11. Favorite Vacation Destination - Everywhere, but Istanbul, Paris, and Manhattan are favorites 
  12. Most-Hated Household Chore - None
  13. Favorite Word - Yiddish words, they have such depth 
  14. Favorite Food - Indian, Chinese and Thai
  15. Hidden Talent - I am pretty transparent, not sure there is anything left hidden
  16. Best Advice You Ever Had - The wonders of physics I was introduced to as a teenager
  17. Surprising Thing About Yourself - I function as a coherent whole
  18. Backup Career - The aim was to keep my day job, which has worked out well. But when the price of oil was down, I once considered being "The English Gardener, LLC", a company that would design your garden, buy and plant plants suitable for the micro-climate and irrigation, and maintain and replant through the seasons on a monthly subscription
  19. Worst Job Ever - Not sure I have ever had one. I once spent a week transferring a huge pile of  construction debris to an dumpster, running a laden wheelbarrow up a plank to tip it in. As soon at the dumpster was full they brought me another one to fill.  

Click here for this weeks Style Column

Monday, July 24, 2017

Texas - No dogs in the garden

It has been so hot lately I was checking the garden to see if the sprinkler needed to run. There were two people walking by with two dogs each, with those extendable leashes that cause trouble. I had to ask why they had four, "We had two and saw two more in the animal shelter."  Nice people.

The woman said to me, "We just love your garden, and the metal work over the gates." And she went on, "It reminds me of the places in Mexico, where there is a hidden area behind the wall or fence."

I smiled, I was enjoying this, and said, "Follow me, I will show you the inside, but I cannot let the dogs in."  They followed me to the side gate, and took turns seeing the inside and holding the dogs. They really liked the Peacock Gingers and the Caladiums which thrive here.

The pleasures of gardening.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Culture - Sunshine lost its Window

Not the best use of Artificial Intelligence, but basically harmless.

Xiaoice (Microsoft Little Ice) is a chat-bot for the Chinese market with 20 million registered users. There is an equivalent in Japanese, and Microsoft is working on an English version.

"Microsoft gave Xiaoice a compelling personality and sense of “intelligence” by systematically mining the Chinese Internet for human conversations. Because Xiaoice collects vast amounts of intimate details on individuals, the program raises privacy questions"

People chat with Xiaoic as if she is a real person, she easily passes the Turin test, an example from the New York Times:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Art - Annotated lyrics from 1966

When I get older losing my hair - True
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine - Yes
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine? - True and Yes Please
If I'd been out till quarter to three - Unlikely
Would you lock the door?  - Unlikely
Will you still need me, will you still feed me Yes and Yes
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse - yes, or at least a Breaker
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside - Very unlikely
Sunday mornings go for a ride - Almost True
Doing the garden, digging the weeds - Partly true, we also outsource the activity
Who could ask for more? - Rhetorical question, we are human after all
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight - I have never been there, and it is way down my list
If it's not too dear - Happily not an issue
We shall scrimp and save - Some and lots
Grandchildren on your knee - None
Vera, Chuck & Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line - Not sure my writing is legible any more through lack of writing
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore -                                      Ahhhhh!
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Culture - Conversation at the checkout in the hardware store

There were two self-checkout stations, but one was rebooting itself and unusable. The guy ahead of me was buying two small dollies with caster wheels, I was buying sheetrock supplies. He said he wanted to get a job in cyber security, I said, that is a growing field with the increase in hacking and ransomwear.

I had to explain to him what ransomwear was, he had not heard about it. He has had a few jobs, his last job was as a truck driver. He had had back problems and a pacemaker. I volunteered I was 64 and hoping to stay in my job another two years. He said he was 60, and still changing careers.

We shook hands and I wished him luck.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Culture - Travelling without clothes

What took them so long? DUFL, a concierge service to handle your clothes whether on business or vacation.

You supply a set of clothes and other items to DUFL and they store them.

Then you can travel light, no checked bags, just travel to your hotel and your DUFL case is there. When you leave, fill the same bag with the used items, and leave at the front desk. The case is returned to DUFL, who clean and store your stuff for the next trip.

The price is unknown, the introductory cost is $100 per trip, and $10 per month, much too cheap.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Texas - The Guest House Bathroom Redo - turning the corner

After all the demolition, I have finally started repairing. The rotten beams were strengthened, the floor replaced. I could not find pine flooring in the stores, but luckily I had stored the left over from adding a floor to the shed, and there was just enough.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Culture - Business as usual

Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen, but it is hot and dry, and what better than an American ice cream, to make the day better.

From the Economist,  A war reporter’s latest scoop - How war-torn Yemen gets ice cream

CHOLERA spreads, with over 200,000 new cases reported. Malnutrition is rife. Government salaries were last paid a year ago. But the customers keep coming at the local franchise of Baskin-Robbins, an American ice cream brand, in Sana’a, Yemen’s rebel-held capital. 

Since the war erupted, the company has added a new branch to the five it already has in the capital. “Our best-seller is pralines,” says one of the managers, who last month served more than 16,000 customers. When Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates first began bombing in March 2015, getting supplies quickly became a problem. The tubs are shipped from America, but bombing knocked out the refrigeration units in Aden, the southern port, and the road north was treacherous. So Baskin-Robbins rerouted their orders through Salala, a port in neighboring Oman. Each month a freezer truck brings its fresh stock of 20 flavors 1,500km (900 miles) through the desert. The journey is expensive and tiresome but mostly safe, so long as the gunmen manning some 60 checkpoints en route are kept happy. For the right fee, they will also refrain from inspections, which in the heat might make the ice cream melt. 

Import duties have put up costs. The company has to pay them twice: to the internationally recognized government at the Omani crossing; and to the rebels at a new office on the mountainous approach roads to Sana’a. But such is the demand in a country where temperatures can exceed 50ºC that the franchise still turns a profit. Air strikes can interrupt business, sending Yemenis rushing home, but they have grown less common. Of eight outlets in the rebel-held north, only one has had to close, because it lies close to a military base. The south of Yemen has been more problematic. Artillery fire from the rebels besieging the government-held city of Taiz, 300km south of Sana’a, has destroyed that city’s sole Baskin-Robbins outlet. And Aden’s three ice-cream parlors were looted or bombed when rebels stormed the coastal city when the war began. Eventually, though, one was rebuilt, and a deal was reached to allow the precious tubs to cross enemy lines. “Business is business and fighting is fighting,” explains a Yemeni magnate. But when war only boosts the warlords’ opportunities for extortion, why should they ever stop?

How much does Baskin-Robbins Ice cream cost in Yemen?  I have not yet found out.  They do not have an office in Yemen, but do in Oman next door, OMAN P. O. Box 3830 Ruwi, Postal Code 112, Sultanate Of Oman

I spent 6 weeks in Ruwi, in 1983, the hotel had a bar full of locals, but that is another story.