Saturday, October 20, 2018

What Happens in Nebraska Stays in Nebraska

A new ad campaign:
"We're just simply not on people's shopping list for a vacation," said John Ricks, executive director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, on ABC News' "Start Here" podcast.

New Nebraska Tourism advertisements boast of the state's "flat, boring landscape" and "dusty" Great Plains as part of a self-deprecating marketing campaign to tackle its "brand apathy" problem.

"You can't change perceptions just by providing information, so we had to be disruptive in some way," Ricks said of the sarcastic ads.

One print ad points out "there's nothing to do here" as a group floats down a river in a livestock tank, or what Nebraskans refer to as "tanking."

Fierce Funk Thursday

Infuriated by the Situation at Siobhan’s

Probably aggravated by her protest against Joe Arpaio. Arson is a serious crime, and her neighbor needs to get his ass arrested:
Shavaun Wolfe says the timing of the fire is suspicious. It comes just 24 hours after a judge issued a restraining order against her neighbor.

Mary Young's Car Accident

On Tuesday morning, longtime community musical theater enthusiast Mary Young was driving on northbound Interstate 5 to her job as a mathematics instructor at Woodland Community College, when she failed to notice the traffic ahead of her was at a dead stop. She plowed into a stationary work van at 70 mph.

Mary scrambled out of the smoking car, fearful that it might catch fire. The vehicle didn't ignite, but Mary was grievously injured: broken sternum, clavicle, 3 ribs, injured vertebrae, etc. She was transported to Kaiser South. The two people in the work van were not hurt.

Wednesday afternoon, I saw Mary in the hospital. Her first priority, apart from healing, was to get a substitute to teach her math classes. I put my name into consideration, and that afternoon I was notified I was chosen.

On Thursday morning I went to Woodland to teach her 2-hour long Math 50 class. Interesting morning: I was dismissed halfway through the class. Apparently administrators decided to move in a different direction.

Saturday afternoon, Mary moved to a nursing residence in Roseville. The best of healing to her!

Voter Suppression

In Georgia, county officials directly intervene to prevent black seniors from voting:
Government officials in an east Georgia county told about 40 African-American senior citizens to get off a bus taking them to vote Monday, leading to complaints of voter suppression.

The bus, run by the group Black Voters Matter, was preparing to depart from a senior center operated by Jefferson County when the center’s director said they needed to disembark, said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter.

A county clerk had called the senior center raising concerns about allowing the bus to take residents from the senior center in the city of Louisville, south of Augusta.

“We knew it was an intimidation tactic,” Brown said Tuesday. “It was really unnecessary. These are grown people.”

The senior citizens agreed to get off the bus and cast their ballots later. Monday was the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia in the election for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bob Woodward's Deeply-Dishonest Book, "Fear"

In exile from the GOP, David Frum produces excellent book reviews. Here, he tackles Bob Woodward's deeply-dishonest book, "Fear":
"A Woodward book is composed of a series of transactions.

...Trump’s staff needed an external validator, a person of unimpeachable integrity and prestige who would endorse their view of themselves as victims of an out-of-control FBI. And on January 15, 2017, that’s exactly the service Woodward performed for them. That day, he appeared on Fox News Sunday to deliver a scathing attack on the Steele dossier....

...At the time Woodward spoke those words, he was already engaged in intense negotiations for access to the new administration.

...Woodward does report that Flynn accepted money from Vladimir Putin’s regime. He does not mention that Flynn violated Pentagon rules against retired generals accepting payment from foreign governments.

...Trump is leading the most unethical White House and most corrupt administration in modern U.S. history, arguably in all of U.S. history. But that does not rate attention from Woodward, perhaps because those scandals do not perturb his sources.

...Woodward’s access to the administration’s relatively normal figures ... actually erodes rather than enhances understanding of the administration’s actions. Their need to justify their own service to Trump compels them to minimize what Trump is and extenuate what he is doing. Woodward’s reliance upon them leads him to minimize and extenuate, too."

Dirty Money

The United Arab Emirates uses American mercenaries to assassinate Yemeni politicians. Not terrorists, just ordinary politicians:
Their target that night: Anssaf Ali Mayo, the local leader of the Islamist political party Al-Islah. The UAE considers Al-Islah to be the Yemeni branch of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE calls a terrorist organization. Many experts insist that Al-Islah, one of whose members won the Nobel Peace Prize, is no terror group. They say it's a legitimate political party that threatens the UAE not through violence but by speaking out against its ambitions in Yemen.

Nervous Dog

It’s strange to have a dog with such a nervous temperament. I have to teach him how to be a dog.

I’ve been trying to accustom Jasper to short walks, but it’s more like dragging a panic stricken puppy around the block. There are strange people out there! This morning, two women approached on the sidewalk. One woman looked down at him, smiled, and said “hi!” Spooky!

I took Jasper to Sierra II, to the big field where dogs play. Two different dogs approached, a hound dog and a border collie. Not ill-mannered dogs, just insistent on getting to know the newbie. Jasper retreated to my arms and shook with fear.

I rake leaves. Jasper helps out by collecting individual leaves and chewing on them. Upon leaving the yard, he heads next door to collect cat turds. “That’s disgusting!” I tell him. “You’re the one with the pooper scooper,” he replies.

Yesterday Jasper was growling at a mirror. Daddy let in a mysterious dog and didn’t even tell him.

Sears Sunset

The modern method of management is to load the firm with debt, loot it, and then leave. Given this treatment, it's no surprise Sears continues sliding.
President Donald Trump said that Sears Holdings Corp. had been mismanaged for years before it declared bankruptcy. Among those responsible for its management: his Treasury secretary.

Steven Mnuchin was a member of Sears’s board from 2005 until December 2016, and before that was a director for K-Mart Corp., which was acquired by Sears in 2005.

“Sears has been dying for many years,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House on Monday to inspect hurricane damage in Florida. “It’s been obviously improperly run for many years and it’s a shame.”

Treasury didn’t immediately respond to questions about Mnuchin’s service on the company’s board.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Neanderthal Health Care

Hard lives in a difficult time:
Compared to modern humans, they are often thought to have lacked the necessary compassion or cognitive abilities to look after the sick. “We can infer from the fact that they survived that they must have been helped by others—and in some cases that help must have been knowledgeable and quite well planned,” says Penny Spikins, an archaeologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Their survival would have only been possible, in other words, if they had sophisticated health care.

Thunderbolt and Lightning

On the Origin of Wimpy Supernovas

Binary stars can do anything:
Stars born with more than eight times the mass of the sun quickly run out of fuel and succumb to gravity at the end of their lives – collapsing in on themselves and exploding in a supernova. When this happens, all of the star’s outer layers – a few times the mass of the sun – are scattered.

When I started working with my advisor, Mansi Kasliwal, as a new graduate student, I decided to study supernovae that quickly fade in brightness. Mining the database of events discovered by iPTF, I came across iPTF 14gqr, a quickly fading supernova that was discovered more than a year before but whose true physical nature remained mysterious.

The data were puzzling because our preliminary models suggested this supernova was caused by the death of a giant massive star, yet the explosion in itself was quite wimpy. It ejected only a fifth of the mass of the sun, while its energy was only a tenth of a typical supernova. Where was all the missing matter and energy?

The clues indicated that the exploding star must have been stripped of nearly all of its original mass before the explosion. But what could have stolen so much matter from this giant star? Perhaps an unseen binary companion?

Annihilation Came Knocking

The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico provided the perfect environment for Hurricane Michael to intensify very rapidly as it came ashore:
After coming ashore Wednesday afternoon as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, Michael slashed a path of near-total destruction across the Florida Panhandle and into southeastern Georgia. The storm’s freakishly low pressure and sustained, brutally strong winds—which peaked at 155 miles per hour—flattened neighborhoods, snapped trees in half, and left hundreds of thousands without power. At least six people lost their lives to the storm, according to officials.

Scenes of near-cataclysm are trickling out from across Florida’s Gulf Coast. In the beachfront town of Mexico Beach, Florida, roads now provide the only interruption to piles of rubble that used to be city blocks. At Tyndall Air Force Base, also on the shore, the storm tore the roofs off military hangars and then pushed around the heavy warplanes resting inside as if they were children’s toys.

Even inland, the winds—which blew as fast as those inside a tornado—collapsed churches and gas stations, knocked 18-wheelers on their sides, and stripped dense woodland entirely of its greenery, leaving behind only clusters of huddled, naked trunks.

“Students in tropical-meteorology classes are going to be talking about this storm for 20 years,” says Colin Zarzycki, a tropical-cyclone scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Now, When I Was Young, This Wasn’t A Game

Launch Difficulties

Scary stuff!:
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — The problem came two minutes into the flight: The rocket carrying an American and a Russian to the International Space Station failed Thursday, triggering an emergency that sent their capsule into a steep, harrowing fall back to Earth.

The crew landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan, but the aborted mission dealt another blow to the troubled Russian space program that currently serves as the only way to deliver astronauts to the orbiting outpost. It also was the first such accident for Russia’s manned program in over three decades.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin had a brief period of weightlessness when the capsule separated from the malfunctioning Soyuz rocket at an altitude of about 50 kilometers (31 miles), then endured gravitational forces of 6-7 times more than is felt on Earth as they came down at a sharper-than-normal angle.

About a half-hour later, the capsule parachuted onto a barren area about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.