Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How Starbucks Supports Americas Veterans All Year

In case you needed further proof that the Republican Party is now officially the party of the mentally handicapped and developmentally challenged Caucasian American folk, Donald Trump has jumped on the "Bullshit War on Christmas" thing by calling for a boycott of Starbucks, because--if case you're the one who missed it--in celebration of Christmas, they went with a minimalist, red cup, instead of one littered with glaringly Christian icons, like snowflakes and flying raindeer.

By all means, Mr. Trump, call for a boycott against the company that this year made sure that even part time employees (partners working at least an average of 20 hours/week) have access to their group health insurance plan -- and who covers the tuition costs of ANY employee (regardless of how many hours/week they average) who is trying to better their lives with a college education.

Go ahead, Donald, call for a boycott of Starbucks, a company that puts its money toward helping veterans where other people put empty platitudes, "Thanks for your service--now get a job, bum." Indeed, Starbucks does so much to help veterans and their families it's hard to list everything, but here's FOUR major things right here:

1. Starbucks already employs thousands of veterans and family members, and is well on their way to their goal of employing 10,000 vets and family.

2. Starbucks provides major financial support to Heroes Corporate Fellowship Academy, a program managed by Camo2Commerce, an organization that provides career development and jobs for active duty service members transitioning out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The goal of the fellowship academy is to help service members build their civilian network and add civilian work experience to their resumes.

3. Starbucks provides major financial support and hands-on, in-store opportunities through Training With Industry. TWI provides an opportunity for U.S. Navy Supply Chain officers to spend 12 months analyzing the operations of a world-class human resources and supply chain management company.

4. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Care Coalition Fellowship provides another opportunity for active duty service members to leverage their military experience while working at Starbucks. The program provides wounded, ill, and injured Special Operations Forces (SOF) service members a head start on their transition while they are still on active duty. During the fellowship, they gain business experience, expand their professional network, and enhance their resume prior to separating from the military.

And by the way, Starbucks provides free coffee all day long to veterans on Veterans' Day, tomorrow, November 11. Trump doesn't even provide a measly 1% discount to veterans off a room in one of his hotels.

Doing these many, generous things to help those that America have sent to fight our many wars seems to me a more Christian thing to do than, say, Hobby Lobby's refusing to pay for employee's health insurance. But if fake-ass Christians want to demonstrate that they follow Donald Trump instead of their own hearts, I say go ahead and boycott! There's not a whole lot of them that buy good coffee at Starbucks, instead of that hot, brown water McDonalds sells, anyway. But without even those few in there, the place will be so much nicer for the rest of us.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hillary Clinton Steals Bernie Sanders's Proposal for College Funding

Smart politicians always preempt an opponent's popular proposals, calling them their own somehow. Now it's HRC's turn, stealing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders​'s keystone proposal to provide free college educations to every American who can academically qualify. But there's some typical fine print to Clinton's idea.

Hillary Clinton with Kim Kardashian

States would have to increase their own spending on higher education, and universities would be required to control spending, though the Democratic presidential front-runner hasn’t yet worked out details.

First, I wonder how that first part about states increasing their own spending will go over in the Red states that have yet to even take advantage of the ACA to provide health care to their poorest citizens.

Second, given their track record over the past 30 years, expecting universities to control spending is even more far fetched than the first part. After all, they have popular and highly expensive football programs to pay for!

Third, you don't have an actual plan until you work out the details; otherwise, it's all just empty rhetoric.

Bernie Sanders has an actual plan: use the billions than can be cut from an out-of-control, sickeningly bloated "defense" (i.e., "war") budget to improve the lives of ALL Americans. And just one thing that can be done is financing college educations.

Single-payer health care is another. And both of those are just too damned important to let yourself be bamboozled, even if Hillary proposes it in another serious photo-op, like her selfie with Kim Kardashian.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Seattle called, they want their rain back

It rained here continuously all weekend. Woke up this morning to a hard rain, and it's still coming down steadily. That's 22 days in a row of rain. We're more than half way to breaking a Biblical record. Parts of Tampa and other nearby counties are being evacuated due to river flooding.

So I decided not to let all the water get me down. I found an old, short piece of video I recorded a couple of years ago at the Liz Carpenter Fountain in Butler Park in Austin, Texas, and I just looped it to make it long enough to make a music video of my song “Pour” from my CD “Happy Jams,” just for fun.

In case you're not familiar with me as a musician--only a few friends are, lol--after trying unsuccessfully to learn guitar several years ago (my weak fingers just couldn't fret cleanly to eliminate the string buzzing sounds), an older woman in my church gave me a little $99 Casio keyboard. She had bought it with the idea of relearning how to play piano, but given up pretty soon after. When she gave it to me, she stated firmly "I couldn't do anything with it, and I doubt you will, either."

I love a challenge. And to prove strongly-minded people wrong. So I took her up.

I had a little bit of music theory knowledge I'd learned while room-mating with my good friend and fantastic musician Ed Elliott a few years prior. Mostly just how to construct major and minor scales by counting from any given note. I had no teacher, no books, and not even an Internet connection at the time. But I went to work.

I didn't have any music (existing songs) to work from, either, so I was forced to learn to write my own, in order to learn to play them. Three months later, I performed an hour-long recital of my own work on a real piano at my church, and drew an enthusiastic standing ovation.

I continued to practice and write occasionally on my own over the next couple of years. But I took an even more demanding position as the maintenance manager of a large apartment complex, and didn't have a lot of time for it. Then, something terrible happened.

My Chief Assistant and best friend, Chris Jackson, died on the job of a major heart attack.

Chris was a wonderful person, full of life and love, strongly liked by everyone who met him. He had the deepest, richest, loudest belly laugh I'd ever heard. Everyone who worked there spoke on many instances where we could hear Chris break out in a huge laugh all the way across the complex, and regardless of how stressed we felt at the time, it made us instantly feel good.

Chris was also a wonderful piano and keyboard player. He had that natural, effortless, soulful touch that my music totally lacks. But he daily encouraged me to practice, and reassured me not to play to impress anyone other than myself, that is the ticket to truly enjoying music.

So, a few months after he passed away, during which I hadn't played even once, I forced myself to drag my keyboards out again and start it up. After regaining my basic fingering skills, I began to actually enjoy it again. Somewhere along the way, I decided to push farther, and more fully exploit the capabilities of my equipment, which now included an older Yamaha PSR-510 synthesizer I'd been given. I had a computer with a copy of Wavelab, a high-end multi-track recording, mixing and production software suite, and I purchased a cheap ($89) Midi software package, for a few extra voices.

I began to take my basic piano songs, and learn how to orchestrate and arrange them for multiple instruments. I then laboriously laid down the drum tracks, and played that back as I recorded each instrument individually in time (sort of and mostly, lol) to it. Some tracks took me well more than 100 tries to get it right, as I'd only played solo before, and expressively, never trying to stay in time to a rigid, none-forgiving, machine-generated rhythm.

I was quite surprised at what resulted, not only satisfied that I'd done okay for a beginner, but that the music is all Pop music, having grown up with a decided affection for Rock and Roll, as most of you know. But it is what it is. What comes out of you is what is supposed to.

And it's all for Chris. I sure do miss that brother. I hope you enjoyed this story, and maybe even the music, a little. :)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Humanity's Future Might Be In Caves On the Moon

exploration, moon, NASA, space

These pictures of moon pits were taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. NASA recently announced the discovery of over 200 pits on the Moon that could one day shelter astronauts. What’s more exciting is that many believe these pits lead to vast networks of caves. In such caves, astronauts would be safe from radiation, micro-meteorites, and the Moon’s extreme temperatures. During the day it can be 253-degrees Fahrenheit, and at night, the temperature plummets to -387-degrees. Scientists believe that these caves might remain at a tolerable temperature.

Scientists believe these pits were created by the underground movement of lava, billions of years ago. If this lava is anything like what we have on Earth, it left long, sinuous tunnels in its wake. This is what Red Whittaker of Carnegie Mellon University wants his rovers to confirm.

Read much more about this on Gizmodo.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Performs Near Vertical Takeoff

Watch as Boeing’s expert crew rehearses the flying display that will be performed at the 2015 Paris Air Show, including a heart-stopping, near vertical takeoff!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

About the Biker Protest at the Mosque in Phoenix Yesterday

Just a thought of mine concerning the event in Phoenix yesterday, where a few "bikers" showed up to try to intimidate Muslims at Friday prayers at a Mosque, and obviously, to try (in vain) to provoke a violent confrontation.

First, it warms my heart to have seen that more "ordinary" citizens, most identifying themselves as Christians, showed up to peacefully counter-protest than did "bikers."

Then, as far as these "bikers," how are you going to protest Islam as "promoting violence" by openly bring semi-automatic weapons to a public place, and signs reading "Fuck Islam"? 

Double standard much?

I don't for a second believe any of these skinhead fools were "Christians" or even "bikers" for that matter. They were clearly just racist skinheads who happen to operate motorcycles.

One of the wonderful things about being an American is that our Constitution, the basis for all law in our nation, explicitly gives us each the right to worship, or not to worship, any or even many deities as we see fit. But in worshipping one way, one does not have to be led into protesting against the Constitutional right of others to worship differently.

What would Jesus do? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't carry an AK-47 and a sign reading "Fuck Islam."

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Kielce Pogrom, July 4, 1946

Kielce pogrom, Poland, Jewish, police, anti-Semitic, anti-Semitism
Funeral procession for Jews murdered in the Kielce pogrom, July 1946. USHMM, courtesy of Leah Lahav.
On July 1, 1946, a nine-year-old non-Jewish boy, Henryk Blaszczyk, left his home in Kielce, Poland, without informing his parents. When he returned on July 3, in an effort to avoid punishment for wandering off, he told his parents and the police that he had been kidnapped and hidden in the basement of the local Jewish Committee building, which sheltered up to 180 Jews. Even though Henryk's story began to unravel, a large angry crowd gathered outside the building. By the end of July 4, civilians, soldiers, and police had killed 42 Jews and injured 40 others. Two non-Jews were also killed in the violence.

We remember the Kielce pogrom 68 years later, and the precarious situation in which Jews found themselves in Eastern Europe after the Holocaust. 77,000 Jews left Poland in the three months after the pogrom.

You can learn more about this from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Paypal Freezes MIT Startup ProtonMail Funds for No Valid Reason

PayPal, ProtonMail, email, encryption, NSA, security, privacy
ProtonMail Homepage
 ProtonMail, an End-to-End Encrypted email service developed by MIT, Harvard and CERN researchers, who already received over $275,000 from a crowdfunding campaigns to their PayPal account, and was so excited to launch its beta version, but just before that PayPal freezes their account without any warning.

“At this time, it is not possible for ProtonMail to receive or send funds through PayPal,” ProtonMail co-founder Andy Yen announced this morning. “No attempt was made by PayPal to contact us before freezing our account, and no notice was given.”

ProtonMail is a new super-secure email service that encrypts the data on the browser before it communicates with the server, this means only encrypted data is stored in the email service servers. ProtonMail will implement AES, RSA and OpenPGP encryptions and moreover, there is even a “self-destruct” feature in the email service which ensures your emails are only available for a limited period of time.

ProtonMail service is based in Switzerland, so it won't have to comply with American courts’ demands to provide users data. But a representative from the American payment service PayPal told the company that the payment service is not at all sure if ProtonMail is legal or not and asked them for the necessary government approvals to encrypt emails.

On their blog, Proton states, “He [Paypal representative] questioned whether ProtonMail is legal and if we have government approval to encrypt emails. We are not sure which government PayPal is referring to, but even the 4th Amendment of the US constitution guarantees: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures….”

It seems to me that PayPal is deeply in cahoots with the NSA. Or, maybe they're just trying to steal the cash. Either way, they are so wrong about this that we web developers need to think seriously about moving our own payment processing needs to another vendor. Here's a good list of the top 12 alternatives.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Facebook Reveals They Secretly Manipulated Emotions Of Thousands Of Users

emotion, emotional contagion, facebook, manipulate, National Academy of Sciences, social network, Zuckerberg
Facebook has revealed that they conducted tests on how the emotions of thousands of users could be manipulated.

In a new study published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, Facebook scientists say they manipulated the content seen in the news feeds of more than 600,000 users.

They tweaked the content so that users would see positive and negative terms, then analyzed posts from those users over a week to see how their emotional states were affected.

Facebook discovered that the manipulation worked, and that tweaking the content had an effect.

The paper, who lists as an author Adam D. I. Kramer of the Facebook “Core Data Science Team,” describes the result as “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.”

The study results are on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Many Americans Hate Soccer But Love Dick Cheney

soccer, football, World Cup

Dick CheneyPersonally, I always thought this is one of the main reasons Americans just haven't ever taken to soccer--games can end in a tie. We Americans have been conditioned all our lives that production and results are far more important than process. In our minds, the whole point of a sporting competition is to produce (1) a triumphant victor, and (2) a humiliated loser. I think as many people eagerly the anticipate the second thing as the first.

I won't go on long and deep, not here at least, but it really does say a lot about the American psyche. And maybe something about why Americans measure a person's value in terms of dollars--their economic production, "net worth"--not in terms of the many other things that person may contribute, possibly to many, many people. Or the quality of their character.

Which also explains why so many Americans still genuinely admire Dick Cheney. They think he will produce results. He does--for Haliburton's bottom line, not America's--but they love the idea of just throwing our army in and taking charge. That's only happened once since World War Two, in the first Iraq war, and Cheney was George H.W. Bush's defense secretary.

So fast forward to today. The constant, unrelenting anti-Obama drumbeat from right-wing media, led any chance he can get in front of a camera by Darth Vader here (no offense to the real Darth Vader), thinks he has license to drag America's military, and reputation, down any deadly hole of a conflict that happens in the world. Making him and Haliburton and all his other defense contractors another trillion bucks or so.

And if Americans happen to die by the thousands along with the enemy-of-the-month, so be it. That's nothing to a war-mongering, chicken hawk like this fool.

Dick Cheney, chicken hawk