24 November 2014

Burning Man for the day

It's been years since Rico last attended Burning Man, but it's still of interest, and Anum Khan has an article at Insomniac.com about the latest one:
Good news travels slowly, but bad news spreads like wildfire.
This was once again proven true with the story that Jack U (Skrillex + Diplo) got kicked off stage at Burning Man. The (false) tale goes like this: Seth Troxler refused to play for his scheduled set on the Robot Heart stage because his entourage was denied access to join him onstage. Enter Jack U, whose attempts to save the music go awry when they play Turn Down for What. Burners, expecting to hear non-commercial music, boo Jack U off stage and end their set.
Diplo wrote an explanation of what actually went down, completely refuting the Burning Man rumors. He said that Jack U played Turn Down for What during downtime while the next DJ set up, and they chalked it all up to a joke. Contrary to the story, they were not booed off stage. To get the full scoop, read his Twitter response:
Despite rumors .. I wanna thank robot heart crew for putting together and awesome lineup or surprise guests and attendees that is gettin lost in a really lame false news story.. Although robot heart is anonymous and strictly a deeply quiet crew .. One of the founders .. Jaspn swamy loves this funny moment and is astounded that this is one of the busiest press stories from this years burning man.. Not only me and skrillex popped in but also above and beyond, thievery corp, and Seth and many more underground artists.. No one is ever listed or promoted and all the lineups word of mouth .. I have been friends of Jason (who's has booked me outside of bm in other countries) for many years and nothing on hear articles is true .. There was no booing .. No bad vibes ... Nothing about seth troxler was true either... I wanna say one thing... I'm a dj thru and thru .. We did about eight sets thru our few days at BM.. Ranging from trap dubstep at question mark to uk bass on the opulent temple .. Dub and classic reggae on the dancestranaught car and even deep techno and tribal house on robot heart.. Everyone on stage had a fun moment when we played a few tunes as we were just killing time while the next dj was setting up.. We weren't kicked off or booed .. Jus wrapped our set up with an inside joke ... And of all the stories to come out after an amazing week... This is pretty tabloidish that's not what burningman is about.. Everything we did there was good fun and all the people that attended knows it.
Rico says typical Burning Man clusterfuck...

But Mikey Lion has an article at Insomniac.com about surviving Burning Man:
It’s no secret to say that Burning Man is not for the faint of heart. That statement alone is a point of pride for those who have braved the treacherous conditions, pushing both mind and body to their ultimate limits, to do a bit of soul-searching at the world’s most celebrated transformational gathering.
Every Burner knows that The Playa is a loving teacher, but its lessons do not come easy. You never know what will be thrown at you at Black Rock City, whether that means walking into a spontaneous dust storm, or struggling with the challenge of being completely self-sustainable. Founding member of the Desert Hearts community, Mikey Lion, shares a few words of wisdom to help you achieve a transcendental experience at The Burn
1. Burning Man Begins as Soon as You Decide to Go The endless months of planning and crafting are all part of the creative experience. The harder you work leading up to The Burn, the sweeter the fruits of your labor will be when you're finally there. So earn that shit and own it! Don't stress out if you aren't able to buy a ticket in the main sales. Just continue to prepare for The Burn as if you have a ticket. If you're really intent on going home, you'll manifest one. Trust me, there is no bigger regret than being unprepared when a ticket falls in your lap the week before.

2. Embrace the Dust In my opinion, the dust is the most magical part of Burning Man. Learn to love it, and you'll be much better off. You have fifty-one weeks out of the year to be squeaky-clean, but you have only one week to dance beneath fireballs in the middle of a dust storm. But don't forget your goggles and dust masks.

3. Express Yourself! This is your chance to be the best you that you can be. There are no taboos at Burning Man, so feel free to get as wild and freaky as you want. Ever wonder what it's like to cross-dress and don a British accent for a night? Now's your chance! We're all here for the same reason, so let loose, get out there, and express yourself!

4. Pace Yourself! There is so much to see and do that you're guaranteed to be overwhelmed your first couple of days. Do not forget to sleep and take care of yourself! Unlike three-day festivals where you're trying to squeeze in as much party as you can into a weekend, at Burning Man you'll have seven to eight full days to see and do as much as you can. If you decide to sleep for all of Thursday, no one is going to hold it against you. Besides, you're only going to see about twenty percent of BRC anyway.

5. Keep the Size of Your Posse to Two to Four People at Most There is nothing worse than trying to lead a ten-person posse around BRC. “Group thinking” and waiting for people both suck, so split up and meet everyone at your destination. A smaller crew means faster decisions, which means you get to see more of The Playa.

6. Save Time to Get Lost by Yourself; Try Not to Keep a Schedule Some of the very best Playa adventures are the ones you journey on your own. Do what you want, when you want, and say yes to everything. One of the reasons you're here is to get away from responsibilities. For DJs, even though Burning Man may be a great place to get your name out there, overbooking yourself will become a huge burden and ruin your Burn. Instead, select three to four special gigs for the week, and enjoy every second of them. The same thing goes for DJs you want to see. Don't spend all your time chasing around your favorite DJs via set times. You'll be surprised how much better everything is when it's all spontaneous.

7. Mental Breakdowns Are Part of the Learning Experience Burning Man is one of the most overwhelming places on the planet. The constant bombardment of stimuli has the capability to throw you into a state of confusion, panic or stress that you thought impossible at such a wonderful place. Add to that mind-altering sleep deprivation, and soon you may find yourself spinning down the wrong rabbit hole. However, it's during some of these darkest moments that we come to grips with some of our most profound thoughts. Use this time of chaos to your advantage and conquer yourself. You'll be better off because of it.

8. Sunrise Is Where the Magic Happens Sunrise on The Playa is one of the most incredible sights in all of existence. Add in some surreal Lee Burridge jams to the mix, and you'll be fighting back tears of joy in no time. Take your naps from 10 pm to 2 am, and you'll be charged up for the spectacle.

9. Make No Drastic Life Decisions for Two Weeks Post Burning Man I can't stress this one enough. Do not break up with your girlfriend or quit your job so you can live Burning Man 24/7, man. Your acclimatization back into the Default World will be a journey all in itself. Take some time to really think about things before you make any decisions that are going to drastically change your life.

10. Spend Some Quality Time at The Temple The Temple is the spiritual hub of Burning Man. It has the most amazing energy of any place on The Playa. It's the one place that encourages you to look deep into your soul and really speculate on what your life is all about. Whether you're trying to get over a lost loved one or trying to find the motivation to finally follow your dreams, The Temple is the place to do it. Write down whatever you want to release into the universe, and on Sunday we'll burn it to the ground. Don't leave early on Sunday. The Temple Burn is the best part of the entire festival. 
Follow these tips, and you'll be so much better off. Don't forget to read your Survival Guide! Now, get out there and lose that Burner Virginity!
Rico says it's worth going at least once in your miserable little life...

Nazis for the day

The Associated Press has an article in Time about Nazi art:
A Swiss museum has agreed to accept a priceless collection of long-hidden art bequeathed to it by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt, but said it will work with German officials to ensure any pieces looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners are returned.
In 2012, German authorities seized 1,280 pieces from Gurlitt’s apartment while investigating a tax case, including works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. Gurlitt died in May of 2014, designating Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern (photo) as his sole heir. The museum’s president, Christoph Schaeublin, told reporters in Berlin, Germany that the Kunstmuseum Bern had decided to accept the collection after long and difficult deliberations. “The ultimate aim was to clarify how the Kunstmuseum Bern could meet the responsibilities imposed upon them by the bequest,” Schaeublin said.
Shortly before he died, Gurlitt reached a deal with the German government to determine whether hundreds of the works were looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis. Authorities have said that deal is binding on any heirs, and Schaeublin said the museum would undertake extensive research to determine the provenance of the works.
According to an agreement the museum worked out with German authorities, a task force set up by the government will also continue to investigate the background of the art to determine if it was looted and, if so, who it was looted from. If no owner can be found for a looted piece, the agreement calls for the work to be exhibited in Germany with an explanation of its origins so the “rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims”.
German officials said all works will remain in Germany until the task force finishes its work. An update on the research is expected “in 2015”.
One of Gurlitt’s cousins has also filed claim, which a court in Munich, Germany said would have to be sorted out before the collection goes anywhere.
Rico says it's amazing that, seventy years on, World War Two is not over...

End of an era

Ashley Lutz has a Business Insider article about the decline and fall of Sears:
These buildings were the headquarters of Sears, Roebuck and Co., America's greatest retailer for seven decades. Sears tested its products and printed the famous catalog in the complex just outside Chicago, Illinois. But, in 1974, the company moved to the Sears Tower and these buildings were left deserted for thirty years. In that time, Sears went from being on top of the world to being one of the most distressed American brands.
While developers used some of the site to build the Homan Square area in Chicago, some buildings still remained empty and are considered historical landmarks.
Local photographer Martin Gonzalez took eerie photographs from inside the old headquarters. Despite the decay, many signs of the office life remain.
Rico says that Sears was one of those 'too big to fail' companies that proved everyone wrong...

Rico wants one, too

Hayley Peterson has a Business Insider article about, of all things, a sweatshirt:
The insane popularity of a single sweatshirt has forced its maker to expand into four new factories within the last year just to meet the soaring demand.
The zip-up hoodie (photo), made by San Francisco, California startup American Giant, costs $89. It had been on the market for ten months when a December of 2012 Slate article declared it "the greatest hoodie ever made" and, suddenly, sales exploded.
The pace of growth was so rapid that backorder waits grew to as long as four months. But people continued placing orders regardless of the wait.
At the time, American Giant had only one factory, in Brisbane, California. The company has since expanded into a factory in Los Angeles, California, and three more in rural North Carolina, just outside Raleigh.
"We've been chasing demand the entire year," American Giant CEO Bayard Winthrop said in an interview with Business Insider. "In September, we were finally back in stock, and then the rate of buying went up by four times."
With its expansion into new factories, the company has begun selling t-shirts, sweatpants, and a women's line. In the meantime, demand for the sweatshirts hasn't slowed. The hoodie is currently sold out of most sizes and colors.
“We are absolutely throttled down on manufacturing,” Winthrop said. “We are maxing out all of our capacity at all of our factories. As much as they can give us, we are taking.”
So what's so great about this hoodie, anyway? For starters, it appears to weigh more than two pounds. The fabric, which is one-hundred-percent cotton, feels about three times thicker than most sweatshirts. And ribbed paneling along the shoulders and sides help create a tailored look, eliminating the boxy silhouette of most hoodies. Winthrop said he spent about eight months designing it with the help of former Apple engineer Philipe Manoux and world-renowned pattern designer Steve Mootoo.
Customers appear to love the quality and fit, calling it “shockingly well made” and “absolutely fantastic” in dozens of reviews on American Giant’s website. “This sweatshirt is seriously worth the wait, and awesome for the price, too. I'm considering ordering more to stock up for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure this one is ever going to wear out,” one reviewer wrote. Another said: “The hype around this hoodie seems absurd. But once you try it on, the quality really does take you by surprise. It's unlike any hoodie, or any other piece of clothing, I've ever owned. A must-have.”
An equal, if not even bigger, draw to American Giant’s apparel over the fit and quality is that it’s all made in the US. The company advertises that it’s “bringing back American manufacturing” and pledges to never outsource jobs overseas. It can afford the higher labor costs in the US because it is a direct-to-consumer business, and therefore avoids expensive overhead associated with brick-and-mortar stores.
To keep costs down, Winthrop said he doesn’t plan to open any pop-up shops, like many e-retailers have done. He also hasn’t made any investments in major marketing campaigns. He said the sweatshirts have all been selling by word-of-mouth. The company offers fifteen bucks for referrals to help that process. “One of the great unspoken, dirty secrets about the apparel industry is that brands for the last forty years have been investing a tiny amount in the product to sustain huge marketing and huge distribution costs,” Winthrop said. “In American Giant’s case, we do almost the exact opposite of that.” Looking ahead, Winthrop said he plans on sticking to the basics: t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, and sweatpants. “When we think about next year, just being in stock and not expanding the product mix, but just being in stock, will be a huge lever up for us,” he said.
Here's a promotional video about how the sweatshirt is made:

Rico says his is worn out, but ninety bucks for a hoodie? Yet, if it's Apple-designed and 'shockingly well made', okay, probably so...

Israel for the day

Elizabeth Barber has a Time article about the latest out of Jerusalem:
The Israeli Cabinet has approved a bill to call Israel the 'nation-state of the Jewish people', a measure that critics say could further strain the state’s frayed relationship with its Palestinian population.
The draft legislation, titled Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People, is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo), who has promised that it will guarantee equality for all Israeli citizens, The New York Times reports. Yet Palestinian lawmakers deem the bill a threat to the rights of the state’s Arab minority and its democratic principles. The proposed law’s final wording has not yet been settled. At least one version of the draft law would demote the Arabic language to “special status” in Israel, making Hebrew the state’s sole official language.
The bill passed the Cabinet by fourteen votes to six and is now headed to Parliament.
Rico says that humming sound is Hitler and Yassir Arafat spinning in their graves...

Coz for the day

James Poniewozik has a Time article about the Cosby quandary:
If it's hard to "separate the art from the artist" this time, it's partly because the artist worked so hard to intertwine them.
The re-examination of rape accusations against Bill Cosby that Hannibal Buress, along with a growing number of women subsequently coming forward with their stories, helped trigger has changed a lot, fast. A story that had largely lain buried for years is suddenly everywhere. And that has apparently ended Cosby’s late-career comeback: NBC quashed an in-development Cosby sitcom, while Netflix pulled a standup special planned to air the day after Thanksgiving.
The most important stakes here are about justice, not television shows. But, as Buress suggested, the cultural stakes are not about Cosby’s future, they’re about his past, his legacy. On the one hand, the public is hearing that a beloved entertainer has been accused of using his power to sexually prey on women for decades. On the other, that entertainer created a long-running television show that was a landmark, not just of entertainment, but of American society.
The Cosby Show (photo) is part of our history; it can’t be erased. (Even if TV Land has pulled its reruns.) It’s funny, insightful, moving, great. But it is now also, whatever you think of the allegations and the real-world consequences, weird, in a way that’s hard to shake.
To be clear, I’m not asking here whether it’s okay to watch The Cosby Show. The moral question of whether to support an artist financially is a different one (and, as Todd van der Werff points out at Vox, whether or not you watch reruns will make very little difference to Cosby’s bottom line now). I don’t want to police that call, and if we ejected every questionable artist from the canon— abusers, bigots, and reprobates— our bookshelves and movie queues would be a lot lighter.
But it seems hard to hear what we’ve been hearing and not feel anything different when watching Cliff Huxtable making faces and dispensing wisdom. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a standard for the courts, for good reason. But it’s not a standard for life. If what you know or hear about an artist affects the way you see their work, you can no more will yourself to feel otherwise than you can force yourself not to blink.
Of course, bad people can create great works. People are complicated. Art is complicated. And so is the question of whether you can separate the art from the artist— the answer is different for every creator and every audience member. Whatever you think of the disturbing allegations against Woody Allen, for instance, there’s a good argument that, although his movies have often relied on his persona, they don’t depend on your considering him a morally upstanding person. (Even if some, like Crimes and Misdemeanors, turn on issues of morality.)
With The Cosby Show, though, Bill Cosby the person is throughly and intentionally baked into it: his identity, his persona, his claimed authority. It’s not a show made as if it wants us to separate the art from the artist, and not just because Cosby is in the name.
Cliff Huxtable isn’t, unlike Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld. a carbon copy of his creator. But Cosby invested himself in Cliff in ways that were deeper and more binding. He drew on his own life, patterning Theo’s struggles in school, for instance, on his own son Ennis’ diagnosis of dyslexia. Cliff and the show shared Cosby’s interests in African-American high culture, especially jazz.
Cliff liked what Cosby liked, felt what he felt, argued what he argued. He may have had a different job, but more importantly, he had Cosby’s sensibility and sense of didactic purpose. As Mark Whitaker pointed out in his biography— which ignored the rape accusations but delved deep into Cosby’s creative life— the comedian mingled his real and fictional lives so thoroughly that during the first season that “the producers and director started to notice something telling. When they were discussing scripts, he would sometimes slip and refer to his character as Bill instead of Cliff”.
That was part of the power of The Cosby Show: people’s affection for Cosby transferred to Cliff, and their respect for Cliff rebounded to Cosby (who, at the height of the show’s popularity, wrote the best-selling book Fatherhood). Everything about this relationship between artist and creation said: Cliff speaks for me. And what Cliff had to say was also, deliberately, instructive: about how parents should speak to children, how white Americans should see their African-American neighbors, how men should regard women. (For instance, the running jokes spoofing the clueless chauvinism of Sondra’s husband Elvin.)
I’ve rewatched those episodes a lot lately, especially in the last few years as my kids have discovered the reruns on Hulu. They’re still funny and powerful. They stand up, and they stand on their own. But they’re also designed to work, in part, by drawing on the moral authority of Cliff and, by extension, Cosby.
We shouldn’t erase The Cosby Show‘s place in television history— the way it changed comedy, represented the unrepresented, and reframed African-Americans in pop culture— even if it were possible to do so. No one owes it to the rest of the world to stop liking The Cosby Show. But it’s also understandable if, this time, you can’t easily “separate the art from the artist”, when the artist worked so hard and so effectively, for so long, to meld them together.
The Cosby Show is a great, important, transformational piece of American culture. Nothing Bill Cosby does or has done in real life can ever change that; nor can that ever excuse anything Bill Cosby does or has done in real life. But will it ever, entirely, not be weird? There is no statute of limitations on that.
Rico says he won't watch it, because he didn't like it all that much the first time...

Movie review for the day

Rico's friend Kelley, knowing his long-time interest in such things, sends this:
If you have not seen Zatoichi on Netflix Instant, do so at once. This iteration with 'Beat' Takeshi (photo, below) is head and shoulders over the old Shintaro Katsu potboilers. There's some real sword work, and there's actually blood when people get chopped.

Rico says it is better than the original, and proves the point, yet again: just because a guy is blind, do not fuck with him if he carries a sword...

23 November 2014

That woman

Rico says it's what Sherlock Holmes calls her, and it'll do to describe the luscious Lara Pulver:, who appears in Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond (photo, top) and Sherlock (photo, bottom) but not, in spite of Rico convincing himself otherwise, in The Paradise:

Smoking will kill you

Rico says he was lucky, and only got addicted to sugar, unlike his parents, who both smoked (but fortunately gave it up before it killed them). He had to look it up, but watching Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond (an excellent Netflix series, by the way) made him suspicious, and the Internet delivered the verdict:
Ian Fleming was a heavy smoker and drinker who suffered from heart disease; he died in 1964 at the age of 56, from a heart attack.

The song in Rico's head

It's Threshold of a Dream by the Moody Blues:
I think
I think I am
therefore I am
I think
Of course you are, my bright little star
I've miles and miles of files
pretty files of your forefathers fruit
and now to suit
Our great computer
you're magnetic ink
I'm more than that
I know I am
at least, I think I must be
There you go man
keep as cool as you can
Face piles of trials with smiles
It riles them to believe that you perceive
the web they weave
so keep on thinking free

Turing's computer

Slate has an article by Angela Watercutter about the computer (photo) in The Imitation Game:
Alan Turing may be the star of The Imitation Game, but the truly central figure in the film is Christopher. Named after Turing’s childhood friend and first love, the machine not only breaks the German Enigma code during World War Two, but also becomes a forbearer to nearly every computer out there (including the one you’re reading this on).
The real Christopher was named the Bombe (later renamed Victory) and, although the filmmakers took some liberties in naming their device, they went to great lengths to make sure it looked as much like Turing’s revolutionary computer as possible. The letter-covered rotors, the wires, the dozens of ports, it’s all there. However, production designer Maria Djurkovic (who did Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the movie) did make it open-able so the audience could see its impressive construction. She also ran more red wires into the machine, so as to give it the appearance that it has nerves and blood running through its veins.
“The actual design is absolutely based on the reality of it,” Djurkovic says. “You extrapolate; you have to make something that’s credible, you have to make something where those cogs turn at different speeds and it effectively has to be doing what the Bombe was doing.”
What’s even more impressive is that she was able to build the machine for about $48,000. The film had a mere fifteen million dollar budget so it was a lean build—and cheaper than the one in the film, which Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) says will cost him about £100,000 to make, and what Djurkovic crafted holds up well to scrutiny. So well, in fact, her Christopher has been given a home at Bletchley Park, the compound where Turing and his fellow code-breakers created the original Bombe. (It’ll be on exhibit at Bletchley for a year starting this month.) Here’s how she did it:

First, go to Blechley to see the Bombe
Bletchley Park has a replica of Alan Turing’s code-breaking machine, but the filmmakers couldn’t exactly borrow it and let Benedict Cumberbatch play with it. So Djurkovic and director Morton Tyldum went to Bletchley, which is now a tourist attraction, to figure out how to recreate one. They also brought supervising art director Nick Dent, who took photos and measurements of the machine. (The Christopher replica ended up being a foot or two taller than the original.) 
Then decide what liberties need to be taken
After seeing Turing’s machine, Djurkovic and company decided they wanted to make one that could be opened up so audiences could see just how intricate the design was. “We sort of wandered around this thing and stood at the back of it saying: ‘This is actually much more interesting; the nerve center of the machine,'” she says. “There and then we decided we would build it in two sections and split it.” 
Next, draft design concepts for the machine
Designing Christopher required a bit of actual engineering. To do so, Dent drew his design in Illustrator using a CAD plug-in. “It turns Illustrator into a technical drawing package, but retains the artistic and visual qualities that the original package allows,” Djurkovic says, citing Dent’s explanation. “Rather than AutoCAD or Vectorworks, which doesn’t allow for texture or light to be included.”
Build the damn thing
After it was designed, the art department had just a few weeks to build Christopher before filming. Djurkovic estimates it took her team, a collection of staffers and interns, about five weeks working in three-person teams to finish the Bombe. “We do everything insanely quickly. When I look back on a film after I finish I just think: ‘How the bloody hell did we actually do that?'” she says. “It’s not just Christopher, it’s every single aspect of the film.” 
Make it easy to unbuild
Like most movies, The Imitation Game was shot out of order; that meant that Christopher had to be able to look like it was in different stages of completion. “It’s this business of having to in-build the ability to pull it apart,” Djurkovic says. “You don’t know how it’s going to work in the schedule, if you’re starting with it finished or starting with it in the middle stage. You have to adapt.” 
Don’t worry if it can actually, like, be a computer
Djurkovic’s replica looks very close to the real McCoy, but it lacks one important feature: it can’t actually crack any codes. “Oh, no, no, no. Absolutely not!” she laughs when asked if her Bombe can do any calculations. “The sum total of its mechanism was that its wheels turned in a sequence similar to the real thing.” 
Make a whole other machine for the beginning and the end of the film
The Imitation Game jumps back and forth in time from Turing’s time code-breaking in World War Two to his childhood to his life in Manchester right before his death. Those scenes from his later years show him tinkering with a Christopher-like device. The truth is a bit different; that machine was not in Turing’s home, it was at the University of Manchester, and it didn’t look as much like the Bombe as the one in the film. “That one was much less closer to the reality, because Morton wanted it to echo Christopher,” Djurkovic says. “He wanted there to be a visual echo, so we departed from reality.” But, she adds, a lot of the other details in his home were accurate. “Everything that you see on the walls of that Manchester house at the start of the film, that’s not some whim of mine. That’s based on absolutely the kind of things he was studying at that period of his life.”
Rico says that movies are always more work than people think...

A snowy Thanksgiving?

Rita Giordano has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about upcoming weather for Thanksgiving:
A white Thanksgiving? Depending on what weather forecasting model you choose to go by, there is the chance of serious snow, or none at all, on Wednesday afternoon or evening along the Interstate 95 corridor, including Philadelphia.
Some private forecasters are posting online the possibility of several inches of the white stuff, even eight inches or more, but the larger meteorological organizations are saying it is too soon to tell. "There is the possibility of a storm, but not all the pieces are there yet," said Carl Erickson, senior meteorologist with Accuweather.comErickson said that, among the various forecasting models used, the predicted scenario ranged from significant snow, rain, or a snow and rain mix, to a front that travels out to sea.
Dean Iovino, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, also said that it was too soon to call, but that a storm might form in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and move up the East Coast, reaching this area by Wednesday evening. "It does have the potential to create a lot of problems," Iovino said.
There was a trace of snow at Philadelphia International Airport last Thanksgiving, but the last time there was measurable snow on Thanksgiving in the region was in 2008 (photo), when one inch was recorded.
The day before Thanksgiving has traditionally been one of the heaviest travel days of the year. AAA is projecting more than forty million Americans will journey fifty miles or more from home during this Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2007 and a four percent increase over last year. Even if there is no snow, this week's weather is going to be a bit unusual. "It's going to be quite a roller coaster," Iovino said. Sunday is expected to reach the low 50s with rain likely later in the day, he said. Monday, temperatures are expected to hit the 70s. On Tuesday, he said, expect sunshine but temperatures back in the 50s. Wednesday is still a wild card, but Iovino said the high could be in the 40s with the potential for precipitation.
Rico says he'll give thanks if it doesn't snow... (But 70 on Monday and snow on Thursday? Weird.)

History for the day

On 23 November 1943, during World War Two, United States forces seized control of the Tarawa and Makin atolls from the Japanese.

Another idiot for the day

The New York Times has an article by Ashley Southall about a really dumb kid:
A Cleveland, Ohio police officer shot and wounded a twelve-year-old boy who was carrying what turned out to be a fake pistol outside a recreation center after witnesses said the boy had brandished the gun on a playground, the authorities said.
Two police officers responded to the scene and ordered the boy to raise his hands, but he refused and reached for a gun in his waistband, the Cleveland Division of Police said in a statement. An officer fired two shots, striking the boy once in the abdomen, police and emergency medical services officials said. He was taken to a hospital in serious condition and underwent surgery. His mother told a local news station that her son’s condition had deteriorated to critical on Saturday night.
At an evening press conference, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba of the Cleveland police said the boy did not threaten the officers or point the weapon at them. "There was no verbal or no confrontation,” he said.
The police learned that the gun was fake after the shooting, said Jennifer Ciaccia, a spokeswoman for the Division of Police. Investigators recovered a replica gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol, the police said. “It looks really, really real, and it’s huge,” Ciaccia said.
Following protocol, both police officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave during the investigation, the police said. One of the officers had been treated for an ankle injury.
The shooting happened around 3:30 pm at the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s west side. Witnesses said that the boy had waved a gun and pointed it at people on the playground, according to the police.
In a telephone interview with 19 Action News from MetroHealth Medical Center, the boy’s mother, Samaria Rice, said her son had gone to the recreation center with his friends and older sister, who told her that her son had been shot. She said the family lived across the street.
A woman who answered the phone at the recreation center said it was closed and referred further questions to the police.
The shooting fell within a 24-hour period in which seven people were killed by gunfire on Cleveland’s east side. Early Saturday morning, the police found two men dead from gunshot wounds in a car that had crashed into a fence. On Friday evening, five people, including a pregnant woman and her unborn son, were killed in an execution-style shooting at a home in the Glenville neighborhood, the police said. The woman’s nine-year-old daughter was wounded in the shooting and taken to a local hospital for treatment. No arrests have been made in those shootings.
Rico says its another city he's glad he doesn't live in...

Idiot for the day

Time has an article from USA Today about yet another stupid teacher:
A physical education teacher in Stockton, California is facing charges after a video surfaced of him allegedly trying to force a fourteen-year-old girl into a pool during gym class.
Denny Peterson, who has been employed in the local school district for more than ten years, is seen in a video attempting to pull the girl into the pool at Edison High School in an incident that occurred in August of 2014, USA Today reports. The 95-second video was captured by another student. The girl was reportedly avoiding the pool because she had gotten her hair done that morning for an event later in the day.
Peterson is facing a charge of corporal injury to a child. “Regardless of her participation in the class, it should disgust you how this man put his hands on a fourteen-year-old girl. She said multiple times: ‘My top is falling down,’” said Gilbert Somera, an attorney representing the girl and her family.
Rico says the guy would be a PhysEd teacher, of course... (The teacher's union is gonna have a hard time keeping this guy in his job, too.)

al-Shabab kills 28 non-Muslims

Time has an Associated Press article about religious murder in Kenya:
One gunman shot from the right, one from the left, each killing the non-Muslims lying in a line on the ground, growing closer and closer to Douglas Ochwodho, who was in the middle.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, attacked a bus (photo) in northern Kenya at dawn Saturday, singling out and killing twenty-eight passengers who could not recite an Islamic creed and were assumed to be non-Muslims, Kenyan police said.
Those who could not say the Shahada, a tenet of the Muslim faith, were shot at close range, Ochwodho told The Associated Press.
Nineteen men and nine women were killed in the bus attack, according to Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo.
al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killings through its radio station in Somalia, saying it was in retaliation for raids by Kenyan security forces carried out earlier this week on four mosques at the Kenyan coast. Kenya’s military said it responded to the killings with airstrikes that destroyed the attackers’ camp in Somalia and killed forty-five rebels.
The bus was traveling to the capital, Nairobi, with sixty passengers, and was hijacked about fifty kilometers from the town of Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia, according to two police officers who insisted on anonymity because they were ordered not to speak to the press.
The attackers first tried to wave the bus down, but it didn’t stop, so the gunmen sprayed it with bullets, said the police. When that didn’t work, they shot a rocket propelled grenade at it, officers said.
The gunmen took control of the vehicle and forced it off the road where they ordered all the passengers out of the vehicle and separated those who appeared to be non-Muslims— mostly non-Somalis— from the rest.
The survivor, Douglas Ochwodho, a non-Muslim head teacher of a private primary school in Mandera, said he was traveling home for the Christmas vacation since school had closed. He told the AP that the passengers who did not look Somali were separated from the others. The non-Somali passengers were then asked to recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed declaring oneness with God. Those who couldn’t recite the creed were ordered to lie down. Ochwodho was among those who had to lie on the ground.
Two gunmen started shooting those on the ground; one gunman started from the left and other from the right, Ochwodho said. When they reached him they were confused on whether either had shot him, he said. Ochwodho lay still until the gunmen left, he said. He then ran back to the road and got a lift from a pick-up truck back to Mandera. He spoke from a hospital bed where he was being treated for shock.
Seventeen of the 28 dead were teachers, according to the police commander in Mandera.
A shortage of personnel and lack of equipment led to a slow response by police when the information was received, said two police officers who insisted on anonymity because they were ordered not to speak to the press. They said the attackers have more sophisticated weaponry than the police, who waited for military reinforcements before responding.
Kenya has been hit by a series of gun and bomb attacks blamed on al-Shabab, who are linked to al-Qaeda, since it sent troops into Somalia in October of 2011. Authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks by al-Shabab since then, including the assault on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall in September of 2013, in which 67 people were killed. al-Shabab said it was responsible for other attacks on Kenya’s coast earlier this year which killed at least ninety people.
al-Shabab is becoming “more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya,” warned the International Crisis Group in a September report to mark the first anniversary of the Westgate attack. The report said that the Islamic extremists are taking advantage of longstanding grievances of Kenya’s Muslim community, such as official discrimination and marginalization.
Kenya has been struggling to contain growing extremism in the country. Earlier this week the authorities shut down four mosques at the Kenyan coast after police alleged they found explosives and a gun when they raided the places of worship.
Some Muslims believe the police planted the weapons to justify closing the mosques, Kheled Khalifa, a human rights official said, warning that methods being used to tackle extremism by government will increase support for radicals.
One person was killed during the raid on two of the mosques. Police said they shot dead a young man trying to hurl a grenade at them. The government had previously said the four mosques were recruitment centers for al-Shabab.
Rico says they say that Islam is peaceful... (But Douglas Ochwodho is a lucky man.)

You exercise less when life isn’t fair

Justin Worland has a Time article about exercise, or the lack thereof:
People who have been the target of weight discrimination, and who believe the practice is widespread, are more likely to give up on exercise than to try to lose weight, according to a new study published in Health Psychology.
The online study of more than eight hundred Americans specifically looked at whether participants believed in “a just world”, or, in this case, the belief that their positive actions will lead to good results. People who experienced weight bias in the past and didn’t believe in a just world were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise than those who did believe the world is just. In a separate part of the study, participants primed with anecdotes designed to suggest that the world is unjust were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise.
Experiencing discrimination leads some people to adopt a pessimistic view of the world, and they accept negative stereotypes about themselves, including the belief that they’re lazy, said study author Rebecca Pearl. “When someone feels bad about themselves and is applying negative stereotypes to themselves, they give up on their goals,” said Pearl, a researcher at Yale University, referring to a phenomenon known as the “why try” effect.
It’s an area of conflicting research. Some previous studies found that weight discrimination leads to weight loss, while others concluded that weight discrimination discourages exercise. Belief in a just world may be the factor that distinguishes between the two, Pearl said. People who think their exercise will pay off are more likely to try.
Because believing in a just world is key to losing weight, Pearl said that legislation and other public policy efforts could act as a “buffer against loss of sense of fairness.”
“It’s important for doctors to be aware of what people are experiencing, to know that these experiences might have real effects on people’s confidence,” Pearl said.
Rico says he knows life ain't fair, but he's losing weight anyway...

22 November 2014

Jefferson for the day

Thomas Jefferson had, by his own admission, a "canine appetite" for reading, and had five books open on a rotating book stand at the same time.

Rico says he knows this because he and his friend Kema (she of the Slavery Museum), went to see an exhibit about Jefferson at Monticello at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Idiot for the day

Alex Wigglesworth has an article at Philly.com about yet another idiot criminal:
A former state employee is facing Federal charges for allegedly stealing more than six hundred military combat helmets from his job at a Pennsylvania surplus warehouse.
Michael Gantz, 43, worked as an acquisition officer at the Pennsylvania Department of General Services' surplus property warehouse until July of 2014, according to criminal charges filed in US District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Between July of 2009 and January of 2010, he allegedly stole over six hundred combat helmets provided by the Federal government for distribution to state and local law enforcement officers. The helmets have an estimated value of more than five thousand dollars, according to investigators.
Gantz, of Marietta, Pennsylvania, has filed an agreement indicating he will plead guilty to a felony count of theft concerning programs receiving Federal funds, prosecutors said.
He faces up to ten years in prison and a quarter million dollars in fines, in addition to restitution.
The case was investigated by the Department of Defense's Defense Logistic Agency and the Office of the Inspector General's Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
It will be prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Bruce Brandler of the US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Rico says some crimes are really dumb...

IRS scams on the rise

Rico says your friendly Internal Revenue Service has a video warning of people doing scams over the phone:

Scammers who pose as IRS agents are calling people nationwide.
The Internal Revenue Service never initiates contact by phone or e-mail.
The Internal Revenue Service will not ask for a credit card number or account PINs over the phone.
The Internal Revenue Service will never demand an immediate payment.
Don't get fooled by these aggressive scammers!
The latest Internal Revenue Service phone scam has claimed scores of victims over the last few months. Reports of thousands of fraud victims continue to flood in. The Internal Revenue Service has even issued a tax scam overview video (above) to help taxpayers protect themselves from the crooks.
The fraudsters are getting pretty sophisticated, and are trying to steal your identity and your hard-earned cash. The plot for the scam is the threat that you owe money to the IRS. It is this inherent fear that makes some taxpayers fall prey to the fraud.
How the scam works:
The scammer places a phone call to the unsuspecting taxpayer. He represents himself as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service who is trying to collect an unpaid tax debt. The red flag is that the Internal Revenue Service always sends its first audit correspondence via US mail. The caller will be threatening and try to bully the victim into making an immediate payment to fulfill a tax debt. The Internal Revenue Service does not use such harsh techniques when trying to collect a legitimate debt. If you get one of these calls, you should hang up immediately.
The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) have reported over 90,000 complaints so far this year. Taxpayers should remember the first contact with the Internal Revenue Service will not be made through an unscheduled phone call, but via official correspondence sent through the US mail.
It is important for taxpayers to know that the Internal Revenue Service:
Will not ask for a credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the phone.
Will never specify the type of payment for paying off a tax debt.
Will not demand immediate payment over the phone.
Will not start enforcement action immediately after a phone call.
Standard procedure involves a taxpayer receiving prior written notification of Internal Revenue Service enforcement action involving Internal Revenue Service tax liens or levies.
Potential phone scam victims are told they owe money that must be paid immediately to the Internal Revenue Service agent; or they are told they are entitled to a big refund. If unsuccessful with the first approach, the scammers may call back trying a new technique.

Other characteristics of this scam include:
The use of fake names or Internal Revenue Service badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
Many scammers may have access to the last four digits of your social security number. Do not provide the rest of the numbers or your birth date in order to protect yourself from further harm through identify theft.
The phone scammer may spoof the Internal Revenue Service toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear it is an actual call from the Internal Revenue Service.
The phone scammer may also use email in a ploy to support his or her pitch.
Victims have reported hearing background noises consistent with a call center.
The scammer may use cohorts to pose as law enforcement or DMV officials, with the caller ID supporting their claim.
Do not get fooled. It is a fraudulent scheme. If you get a call from a stranger pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, do not give the caller any information or credit card information. You should cease the call immediately.
The Internal Revenue Service will not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. This covers all types of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The Internal Revenue Service will never ask for PINs, passwords, or similar confidential information for credit card, bank, or other financial accounts. If you receive such a request or communication, do not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. If you wish to help the government combat these scams, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.
This is not the only scam currently being exploited by criminals; you should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as tax debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service. When in doubt, contact your tax professional directly. If you know you owe taxes, or you think you might owe taxes, call the Internal Revenue Service at 1.800.829.1040. The Internal Revenue Service agents at this line can help you with a payment issue, if an issue really exists.

Rico says that, as usual, these people should be hunted down and shot. (No, the scammers, not the Internal Revenue Service...)

Better police work

Joseph A. Slobodzian has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about changes in procedure in Philadelphia:
Philadelphia's Family Court marked its recent move into a shiny new two-hundred-million-dollar courthouse with a new policy requiring juvenile detainees to be strip-searched before going to their court hearings. The policy lasted about as long as the ceremonial ribbon cut by court officials.
By the next morning, the strip-search policy had been abolished after complaints from child advocates who questioned the propriety and constitutionality of the procedure.
"It did occur, and it was ceased," Charles Cunningham, the Defender Association of Philadelphia's first assistant, said. "The important thing was that, when it was brought to the attention of those in charge, it was no longer permitted." Cunningham said the policy was in effect only the first day of the court's operation at the new building at 15th and Arch StreetsCunningham said that he did not know how many juveniles were subjected to a strip search, but that the search was limited to those detainees brought to court from the Juvenile Justice Services Center, the city's juvenile detention facility, the Youth Studies Services Center, and community-based "detention shelters".
Officials from the Sheriff's Office, which transports prisoners from city jails to the courts, could not be reached for comment.
Frank Keel, a spokesman for Family Court, issued a statement confirming the strip searches, and said the policy was halted after "concerns raised by child advocates." Keel also released the text of a new search policy for juveniles drafted by Family Court Administrative Judge Kevin M. Dougherty, who leaves the post next month, the new administrative judge, Margaret T. Murphy, and the office of Sheriff Jewell Williams.
The new policy "strictly prohibits... strip searches involving the exposure of intimate body parts... absent extraordinary circumstances."
In general, the new policy says that juvenile detainees brought into the courthouse from the city's youth detention center or community detention shelters will undergo "standard screening procedures", passing through a metal detector and possibly also a "nonintrusive body scan using a handheld wand." Juveniles committed to a detention facility from a courtroom will undergo a "comprehensive search", according to the policy. The policy defines a comprehensive search as including scanning by a metal detector and/or a handheld wand; a pat-down or "nonintrusive search of undergarments".
Strip searches have long been among the thorniest of civil rights issues, especially when used by police or prison officials on juveniles, or people charged with minor traffic infractions and misdemeanors.
In an article last year in the journal Human Rights, John W. Whitehead, founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit legal center focusing on constitutional freedoms, bemoaned the lack of "any bright-line distinction for what constitutes a strip search". Whitehead wrote that the lack of clear court rulings, except in extreme cases, "complicates any attempt to defend individuals against what is tantamount to state-sponsored humiliation and visual rape".
Rico says visual rape is hardly the worst thing that happens to someone in custody...

The East Bay's hippest street

Rico says it's been nearly thirty years since he lived in Oakland, California, but things are changing there, for the better, according to an article by Chaney Kwak in Conde Nast Traveler:
Long gone are the days when Oakland was considered San Francisco’s less glamorous, sketchy stepsister, and nowhere is the California city’s new life more apparent than in the Temescal neighborhood, just east of Telegraph Avenue. Among its residential streets, one alleyway has emerged as a hotbed of creativity and development. Once lined with stables for the horses that pulled the town’s trolleys, it’s now home to independent shops, restaurants, and artists’ spaces. Temescal is the ideal place to escape the San Francisco fog and spend an afternoon browsing, grabbing a bite, and sipping coffee under a bright-blue East Bay sky.

History for the day

On 22 November 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (photo)  while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. The suspected gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested, and later killed by Jack Ruby. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States.

Rico says that it seems like only yesterday...

Quote for the day

"Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone."

Michael Brown, Sr., ahead of the grand jury decision in the case of his son, Michael Jr.,
killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014.

Rico says it's a nice notion, but it's not what'll happen when the grand jury decision comes out, but The New York Times has several articles about what might happen:

This Time, the Protesters in Ferguson May Decide to Pass by John Eligon
Some former protesters said they were unsure if they would again join the demonstrations that are expected after the grand jury decides whether to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, for killing Michael Brown.

Ferguson Officer Who Killed Teenager Is Said Not to Be Returning to Duty by Monica Davey and Julie Bosman
The white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager will not return to the city's police department, those close to him said recently, as the region braced for a grand jury's decision on his fate.

Not quite reality, it seems

Rico's friend Bill Calloway forwarded this video:

But Snopes, as usual, has the real story:

This video clip of a fabulous Rube Goldberg-like contraption that produces catchy, mellow music by continuously shooting balls at various percussion instruments is, as usual, a clip removed from the context of its original source and sent winging around the Internet, accompanied by a fictitious explanation of its origins.
The device depicted in this video does not exist, at the University of Iowa or anywhere else. It's an example of a computer-animated music video, this one entitled Pipe Dream and taken from one of several similar segments on a DVD produced by Animusic. An excerpt of the original can be viewed on the Animusic site.
Many viewers have queried the Smithsonian about the origins of this fantastic machine, drawing the following response:
Your inquiry concerning a musical instrument made from farm machinery has been received in the Smithsonian's Public Inquiry Mail Service office for a response. The web site you referred us to shows a computer enhanced or animated creation— as indicated by the caption Musique Animation— and is not an actual musical instrument. Further, we were unable to find any reference to a Robert M. Trammel Music Conservatory and the University of Iowa does not have a Sharon Wick School of Engineering nor a Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall.
We cannot accept a donation of something that doesn't exist, but we appreciate your interest in the Smithsonian Institution
In 2011, Intel debuted Intel Industrial Control in Concert, a real-life version of a high-tech syncopated orchestra inspired by the Animusic video. The crowd-pleasing project cost approximately $160,000 to build and debuted at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco., California. The orchestra's conductor is a palm-sized computer motherboard powered by an Intel Atom processor surrounded by dozens of wires and white PVC tubing that snakes from one instrument to the next. The seven embedded Atom computer systems operate a video security camera to sense accuracy of the moving parts, a digital synthesizer for the sound, digital signage, and a multi-touch interactive display that allows people to see what makes the whole operation hit the right notes. Rubber paintballs are fired by the sensor-equipped, computer powered system to create a song that has 2,372 notes. "This was done from concept to creation in ninety days," said Marc Christenson from Sisu Devices, an Austin, Texas-based technology integration company that builds motion, vision, and machine control automation. "This thing has seven Atom processors total, from three different generations, that are working together harmoniously to play the song," said Christenson, whose company co-built the musical demonstration project with Intel. "It's running three different operating systems, including Windows-embedded XP as a real-time operating system," he said. "It has 250 industrial interconnects, 36 paintball hoppers that shoot rubber, glow-in-the-dark paint balls to play 2,372 notes in the song."
Read more here
Rico says it's too bad; it would've been a cool machine...

21 November 2014

Stand and salute this woman

Rico says some things are still surprising and this Quartz article, by Jill Morgenthaler (photo), a
Colonel in the US Army, is one such:
As a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, I commanded an Army reserve unit that was deployed to Egypt for a three-week exercise. I was assigned to work with a two-star Egyptian general. If this all sounds routine, it was to me, at first. I was confident that I could be effective in this arrangement based on my experiences serving with other foreign commanders in the past. I was well into what ended up being a 21-year military career, so I knew I was capable of fulfilling this mission. But I had two things going against me: this was Egypt, where no women serve in the army, and I am a woman.
When I first met the general, he was very upset that I had been assigned to him. He told me bluntly as I stood before him, “Lieutenant Colonel Morgenthaler, I don’t work with women.” Then, he looked past me, right at my deputy and said, “I will deal with Major Healy instead.”
I wasn’t angry. I understood that I could not change thousands of years of tradition in a single meeting, but I also knew that the Army had sent me to do a job. I realized that as the commander, I could not give my power away by acquiescing to his request; I would literally be allowing a foreign commander to dictate terms to the US military. Nor could I throw a tantrum like a child, or, probably what was going through the general’s mind, a woman. I said, as protocol dictated, “yes, sir.” But I thought, “no, sir,” and immediately began figuring out how to preserve my relationship with the general and my ability to get things done without giving away my rightful place in the chain of command.
After our meeting, I told Major Healy that any time the general made requests to him, he had to bring them to me for my approval. Major Healy was surprised because I am not normally a micromanager. Usually I empower my soldiers to do their jobs independently—but not this time. I had to make my point. The general might not have wanted to talk to me, but he would get nothing from my unit without seeing that Major Healy had to check with me for every single request, no matter how large or small.
My unit and I worked on the bottom floor of a five-story building. The general worked on the top floor. There was no elevator. The English spoken by the general’s staff was difficult to understand over the phone. So when the general had a mission for us, he would have a corporal run down five stories to fetch Major Healy. The corporal didn’t speak English, so he couldn’t make the request himself. Instead, Major Healy had to go up five stories with the corporal to find out what the general wanted, and then run down the five stories to get my approval. He then had to climb up the five stories again to tell the general that I had approved the mission. By the end of our stint, Major Healy had the best calves in the US Army.
It doesn’t matter what culture they’re from, one thing all generals have in common is that they do not like to wait. Which might be part of the reason one day, the corporal came down and pointed at me, not my major, to come up to the general. I ran up the five stories knowing that whatever he asked, within reason, I would agree to on the spot just for the sake of positive reinforcement. He made his request. I sharply saluted and said, “Yes, we can do the mission.”
He was pleased. I, too, was pleased because I had overcome the cultural differences, done my job, and kept my power. Powerful women do not back down in times of crisis, but sometimes real power is the ability to avert crisis. Perseverance, collaboration and emotional intelligence are as much traits of an effective leader as assertiveness, decisiveness and control. I probably would’ve gotten nowhere with the general had I challenged his authority in a public meeting place or insisted that he speak to me and not my subordinate. In order to get him to change the military culture of at least his part of the Egyptian Army, I first had to accept his cultural traditions while not sacrificing my own.
I didn’t let the general’s dismissiveness impact my own approach to the job. I followed my own personal rules of conduct. I stood tall in front of him, was optimistic about the eventual outcome, trusted my major to follow my orders, and tried to use wisdom when deciding how to get a male general in a male-only institution to do business with me, his female counterpart.
Indeed, preconceived notions of power and how to use it might’ve ended up getting me into a international incident. Only by thinking through the boundaries of my power, and finding an acceptable compromise, did I manage to fully retain it. Encouraging leaders who are more open and more effective includes embracing both so-called masculine and feminine qualities. But even more, it includes training them to use power and authority intelligently. In this way, business, government and the military can go beyond elevating conventional managers in boring suits to instead promoting leaders who know how to be effective, no matter what situation, culture or country they find themselves operating in.

Apple for the day

ZDNet has an article by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes about the Apple Watch:
Apple's newly released WatchKit documentation offers us an insight into how the new class of device will look, feel, and work. I've been digging through the documentation looking for clues as to what the new device has to offer and what new features it will bring to the Apple ecosystem. We get the screen sizes and pixel densities for both sizes of Apple Watch (photo, above). App designers will have to design the app to work on both screen sizes; both fall into the Retina Display category.
Apple is introducing a lot of new concepts when it comes to interacting with the Apple Watch (and how the Apple Watch interacts with its owner). 
Digital Crown: a twist on the traditional crown on a watch. Allows for scrolling through longer pages of information.
Digital Touch: the Heartbeat and Sketch features that allow for personal communication.
Taptic Engine: subtle, physical feedback associated with alerts and onscreen interaction.
Force Touch: a physical gesture (in other words, a press) interpreted by hardware. The display not only detects a touch, but can also sense the force.
Short Look notification: a minimal alert that only displays more information "if the wearer remains engaged".
Glances: information displayed by apps in an easy-to-access, swipe-able interface. 
Apps will not run native on the Apple Watch, at least not initially. Instead, when the user taps on an app on their Apple Watch, it launches a WatchKit extension on their iPhone and connects to each other that way. This allows messages to be sent from the app on the iPhone to the app on the Apple Watch until the user stops interacting with the app.
Not only does this transfer the bulk of the work to the iPhone, it means less of a battery drain on the Apple Watch (although how much additional battery drain this will put on the iPhone remains to be seen).
Apple is offering two layout styles for apps:
Hierarchical: this will be similar to how the Mail app works in iOS.
Page-based: similar to how the Stocks or Weather app works under iOS.
Apps will support simple menus, which allows developers to make better use of the limited screen real estate. Users will be able to bring up menus using the Force Touch gesture. However, they are not scrollable so they can't be used too heavily.
Rico says it is only by severe restraint that he does not refer to it as an iWatch, but it looks like it'll be a cool thing to own...

Microsoft for the day

ZDNet has an article by Charlie Osborne about new uses for new technology:
Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet is now the gadget of choice for Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines' pilots. According to a post on Microsoft's official blog, pilots hired by both Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines will be equipped with the devices. Lufthansa has purchased more than five thousand Surface Pro 3 tablets, which will be rolled out to pilots worldwide in February and March of 2015. Austrian Airlines has already deployed 650 of the tablets, with another thousand expected to be issued by the end of the year.
Delta Airlines previously adopted the tablet range for its pilots in September of 2013, the airline provided eleven thousand pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets, joining over nineteen thousand flight attendants who were issued Windows Phone-based smartphones.
Microsoft says that, as with Delta, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines' devices will use flight-based apps built for the Windows 8.1 platform. Flight crews will have access to tools including weather reports, dynamic charts, and navigation utilities. The tablets also take the place of heavy flight bags, consolidating vast flight manuals, which can weigh up to fifteen kilos, into a digital format.
Dr. Philipp Haller, a B777 pilot at Austrian Airlines said:
Starting in the late 1990s with the arrival of the first laptops in the flight deck, the dream of a completely paperless cockpit is now actually becoming a reality, thanks to the Surface tablets from Microsoft. We have been using laptops for fifteen years to replace most of the paper on board, but they could not be used during takeoff and landing.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is certified for Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) usage on commercial airlines by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). By replacing bulky manuals with tablets, airlines can expect to save a fortune each year in fuel costs.
Cyril Belikoff, Microsoft's senior director of the Microsoft Surface project, commented:
We have been clear on Microsoft's commitment to Surface in business and, with this move adopting Surface in their cockpit, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines join the growing number of commercial airlines using Surface Pro 3 to help give their pilots the best, most efficient, and productive in-flight experience.
In related news, Microsoft's Azure platform suffered an outage of nearly eleven hours this week. According to company officials, the storage service went down due to a Microsoft performance update; a storage loop occurred as the update rolled out.
Rico says yeah, but the cool airlines (like Virgin) will use iPads... (And wait until the Germans get an eleven-hour outage; talk about pissed-off...)

NYC for the day

ZDNet has an article by Charlie Osborne about new technology:
New York City is hanging up its payphones for good, in favor of a high-tech alternative pushed forward by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Announced recently by the Mayor's office, the winner of a competition to replace aging payphones with something more modern is CityBridge, a designer of a device network which will give all five boroughs free wireless Internet.
The LinkNYC booths (photo) will give New Yorkers free Internet with up to gigabit speeds, free phone calls to anywhere in the United States, a touchscreen tablet interface to access city services, wayfinding, 911 and 311 calls, and free cell phone charging. The booths, known as Links within the device network, will also digitally display advertisements and public service announcements.
Each booth, encased in aluminium, will be nearly ten-feet-high and support a Wi-Fi radius of 150 feet. Up to ten thousand links across the boroughs have been pledged by the mayor, and they will be checked twice a week for graffiti.
De Blasio says the construction of the booths will be at "no-cost to taxpayers and generate more than a half billion dollars in revenue for the city over the next twelve years", as well creating a number of new jobs. Instead, advertising will support the project, of which a revenue portion will be shared with the city.
"This administration has been committed to expanding affordable access to broadband for all New Yorkers from the outset. It's essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city, because we can't continue to have a digital divide that holds back so many of our citizens," said the mayor. "With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal wi-fi network in the world, accessible free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike, we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city for every New Yorker, in every borough."
The Link booths were envisioned by the Antenna Design team of Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger. CityBride has promised to establish a local facility for producing and repairing the booths, and this is expected to create a hundred to a hundred and fifty new full-time jobs in manufacturing, technology and advertising, as well as an estimated six hundred and fifty support jobs.
Rico says he wonders how well they'll stand up to the street thugs...

Oakland for the day

Rico says that it's been many years since he lived in Oakland, California with his then-wife, but he still has a soft spot for the Raiders, so it's nice that they finally won, and Chris Burke has a Time article (via Sports Illustrated) about it:
The Kansas City Chiefs entered the game looking like clear Super Bowl contenders, having won five straight to chase down Denver in the AFC West standings. The Oakland Raiders appeared to be on their way to 0-16, and had gone 368 days without a regular-season win.
So, of course, in this incredibly unpredictable NFL season, the night belonged to Oakland. The Raiders used a seventeen-play touchdown drive (their longest of the season at 7:21) and a late defensive stop to pull off the shocking upset, 24-20. It was their first victory since a 28-23 triumph at Houston on 17 November of last season. Since then, the Raiders had come up short in sixteen consecutive games, including all ten to start 2014.
“These losses have been hard,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said in the aftermath of his team’s win. Carr dropped to his knees and threw his hands up toward the sky after Alex Smith‘s final fourth-down pass fell incomplete. His teammates celebrated with equal exuberance, almost to a fault. After a sack of Smith one play earlier, Oakland linebacker Sio Moore celebrated with his teammates behind the line of scrimmage for so long that DE Justin Tuck called timeout to avoid an offside penalty.
The Raiders’ celebration was on for good just a few seconds later. Three thoughts on Oakland’s breakthrough:
1. This was no fluke: Kansas City clearly is the more talented of the two teams, but it hardly looked that way for much of the night. The Raiders came out firing on all cylinders, streaking to a 14-0 lead behind stalwart efforts at the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively.
The tables turned for a bit late in the third quarter, with the Chiefs running off 17 straight points to take the lead.
But, with their backs against the wall, the Raiders responded via that epic game-winning drive, which included three third-down conversions and a 4th-and-1 QB sneak from Carr to move the chains. Carr then capped the possession by slinging one to an open James Jones in the end zone, sending the Black Hole into pandemonium.
“I needed this win like I need to breathe,” said veteran DB Charles Woodson, who became the first player in NFL history with fifty interceptions and twenty sacks over his career. “The whole team, this whole organization needed this win tonight. The Chiefs fought back, they made it interesting but we were going to get this one,” Woodson added. “We needed it.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that Jones made the grab. He was one of several relatively big-name free agents added by the Raiders in the offseason with an eye on moving forward from back-to-back 4-12 seasons. Several of those pickups— Maurice Jones-Drew, LaMarr Woodley, and others— have fallen far shy of expectations.
Oakland had been a deserving 0-10, even with Carr and first-round pick Khalil Mack offering a silver lining. On Thursday, the Raiders looked nothing like a winless squad. 
2. On Kansas City’s play calling: Following a couple of Kansas City losses earlier in the year, head coach Andy Reid criticized himself for not getting Jamaal Charles enough touches. He might sound a similar tune after this costly setback.
Charles wound up with 23 touches (19 rushes, four passes), but on a night when the Chiefs’ offense was sluggish for extended periods, though, the number probably could have been higher.
That goes for the final drive, too. Kansas City was up against it, trailing by four, without a timeout. There still was plenty of time to work in a Charles run or two, especially with the Raiders so focused on not getting beat over the top. The star running back’s only work on the decisive possession came on a four-yard pass from Smith.
The Chiefs also waited until they faced a 17-3 third-quarter deficit to really lean on talented TE Travis Kelce. He made two catches to help set up Kansas City’s first touchdown, then hauled in a 27-yard completion to open the Chiefs’ next offensive series.
There undoubtedly will be questions asked of Smith, who is three months removed from signing a $68 million extension. Plenty of Smith critics remain skeptical of his ability to take the Chiefs deep into the playoffs or past the Peyton Manning-led Broncos in the AFC West. Performances like the one he endured Thursday only add fuel to the fire.
Smith was all out of whack in the early going, misfiring badly on several short throws. He did connect on a pair of second-half touchdown passes, yet came up short in the closing seconds. Smith took a sack on 3rd-and-6, despite solid initial protection, and then came up well short of Frankie Hammond on fourth down.
Give credit to the Oakland defense for disrupting its opponent up front. The Chiefs failed to find any counters in the first half, opting for (often unsuccessful) screens or inside handoffs to Charles.
That said, Reid’s offense left some points on the field.
3. Latavius Murray’s all-too-brief brilliance: Murray was headed toward a potential all-timer type of night before a concussion sent him to the locker room. On just four carries, spread over the first and second quarters, Murray piled up 112 yards and scored twice. His ninety-yard touchdown scamper was the longest ever allowed by the Chiefs and had CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz recalling a Bo Jackson highlight.
Once Murray left a few minutes later, the Oakland offense absolutely bogged down. Only when the coaching staff bailed almost completely on Darren McFadden and Jones-Drew in favor of hybrid fullback Marcel Reece did any oomph return, just in time for the late drive that won the game.
Hopefully, Murray can recover in short order, because the starting running back job ought to be his moving forward. The 2013 sixth-round pick out of Central Florida has a burst that neither McFadden nor Jones-Drew possesses any longer. He could be a perfect partner for Carr in the backfield, as the Raiders continue their rebuild. And Murray helped set the tone vs. Kansas City, landing a couple of haymakers early in the upset.
Rico says he no longer watches football, so he missed this one...

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