John Oliver on the false equivalency of Clinton and Trump scandals.

I’ve heard a lot of folks make the claim that Hillary Clinton is just as plagued by scandals as Donald Trump, but it’s just not true. John Oliver on Last Week Tonight decided to take a closer look at both candidates on this issue and here’s what he found:

Hillary isn’t my first choice for President, but she’s objectively a better candidate than Trump. She’ll be getting my vote in November.

Voting is important. Make sure you cast yours this November.

We Americans sure do love to holler about how patriotic we are. We slap bumper stickers on our cars with various slogans and apply images of the flag to every surface that can be printed on and we chant “USA! USA! USA!” at every opportunity. Yet nearly half of all eligible Americans don’t bother to do one of the most patriotic things possible: Voting.

If you’re eligible, but not registered to vote the folks at SaveTheDay.vote can help you with getting that done so you can exercise one of your fundamental rights as an American. In Michigan the deadline to register, either in person or by mail, is October 11th. That’s only a couple of weeks away. This is arguably one of the most important elections ever — certainly within my lifetime. Prove just how patriotic you are by casting your vote on November 8th.

Don’t do it just because you want to see Mark Ruffalo naked. Do it because it’s your civic duty.

Tonight the wife and I will go see the Liberal Redneck.

I’ve not been to a comedy club in years. It’s just not something I do on a regular basis, but every now and then someone comes along that I’ll venture out to see in person. Trae Crowder, also known as the Liberal Redneck, is one of those comedians. Trae exploded onto the scene some four months ago when one of his YouTube videos on the subject of transgenders and bathrooms went viral:

That caught my attention so I subscribed to his YouTube channel and since then he’s gone on to become very popular with us liberals for obvious reasons. He’s also doing a regular video for the New York Daily News.

Here’s another one from his YouTube channel:

Needless to say, his newfound attention has created new opportunities for him including a tour with a couple of his fellow southern liberals they’re calling the wellRED comedy tour. In addition to Trae we’ll be seeing Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester tonight at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. There’s still quite a few seats left so if you’re in the area and looking for something to do tonight you can still get in on this.

I often joke that I come from a long line of rednecks, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes worry about how little distance there is between me and my heritage. Trae makes me feel better about that as he shows that even rednecks can be liberals despite what the stereotype would have you believe.

Here’s one more just because:

The Paulding Light shows how some folks just want to believe.

If you’re ever in the region of Paulding Michigan during the evening hours you can catch a glimpse at a supposedly supernatural local phenomenon known as the Paulding Light. At the end of the abandoned segment of US Highway 45 in a tiny speck of a town near the border with Wisconsin in the Upper Peninsula is where the mystery takes place.

The official legend says it’s the ghost of a railroad brakeman who is forever waving his lantern in an attempt to stave off the train accident that killed him, but other folks think it’s the ghost of a grandparent looking for a lost grandchild with a lantern that keeps going out. Still others think it’s UFOs. Swamp gas or maybe something to do with the northern lights.

Oddly enough the first reports of the light are from 1966 when local teenagers told the sheriff about it. Which is right around the time they finished rerouting U.S. Highway 45 in that area. You don’t suppose it could be the headlights of cars travelling along the highway, do you?

In 2010 electrical engineering grad student Jeremy Bos decided to find out. He got some of his buddies from the Society of Photo Optical Instrumentation Engineers club and made the trek up there with some equipment to put it to the test:

“When you tell them about how it’s a spooky ghost story, it got people really wanting to get involved,” said the 39-year-old, now an engineering professor at the school.

They brought a spectrograph and a telescope to the dead-end road, sent each other driving down the new highway while blinking their lights in a prearranged pattern, and recorded the results.

Every time the light appeared, one look through the telescope showed what sure looked like the headlights of oncoming cars, which could be seen clearly through the lens, sometimes with the distinct outline of the car coming down the road, which is about 8 miles away. The group even shot a video through the telescope so others could see, and posted it online. The flickering, they said, was caused when cars went over a hill.

Mystery solved, they announced.

via Mysterious light draws thrill seekers to a U.P. forest.

Science wins again, right? Here’s where it gets interesting. You see, one of the odd things about human beings is we like our mysteries and we want desperately to believe in the supernatural. There are a lot of folks up there who just don’t accept the findings of Jeremy Bos and his colleagues.

Bos still gets flak from people who refuse to give up their belief in the supernatural origin of the light. Some people say the light they’ve seen in the woods is too bright to be headlights. Some say it moves in ways no car can. And some, he’s found, don’t have a particular objection — they just want to keep believing.

“It’s the same with anything,” he said. “There is scientific evidence to disprove all sorts of things, and people still choose to believe the more fantastical, maybe because they view science as taking away the mystery of things and they want to hold onto some of that mystery.”

The human eye can see the light of a single candle up to 30 miles away if the observer is high enough to overcome the curvature of the horizon, but just because you can see the light doesn’t mean you have the ability to determine its source. Headlights 8 miles away are certainly bright enough to be seen, but it’d be difficult to judge their movement or the fact that they’re headlights at that distance.

Here’s a daytime pic of the spot you stand in to see the light:

pauldinglight

You can clearly see how this used to be part of the highway system and is now used as a run for powerlines. The light appears way down at the end of this line-of-sight. You know, where the U.S. Highway 45 currently runs by. So what does it look like? Here’s a YouTube video uploaded by Robert Wiegert in 2006:

If you watch it’ll look pretty impressive at first with a bright flare and then it changes colors and breaks into multiple lights and then you realize it’s cars. At least one person can be heard pointing out that it’s cars in the distance, but that does little to dampen the oohs and ahs of the folks who think it’s something spooky.

Here’s the video of the investigation by Jeremy Bos’ team:

It’s pretty clear those are lights from cars on the highway and that shouldn’t be a big surprise because just about any place in the country where you have a similar situation you’ll find a legend about a mystery light. A Google search for “ghost light” will turn up dozens of examples.

That won’t stop the True Believers™:

Even before the experiment was done, people from the area heard what the students were aiming to do. Some locals came by and angrily told the group this was a waste of government money — though, in reality, it was self-funded by the optics club. One woman kept bringing her photo albums featuring pictures she’d taken of the light over the years to show them her proof that it’s real. Others acknowledged that, yes, those were headlights in the lens of the telescope, but insisted that it wasn’t the actual Paulding Light.

{…} “People want to debunk this mystery and say it’s headlights,” Schulz said. “You might be able to see them from a distance. But when the real mystery light shows up, it’s a light of its own.”

There are a lot of people in this world who want to believe in fantasy rather than reality. Maybe reality is just too tough for them to deal with so imagining supernatural explanations for mundane things is a way to admit they have no real control over things. Maybe they just like the idea of the supernatural.

Regardless, there’s no arguing with folks who insist on clinging to their beliefs regardless of what the evidence shows. This is part of why religion is so tenacious. If you can’t convince folks about something everyone can actually see then convincing them about something no one has ever seen is not gonna happen.

As an aside, the Detroit Free Press — from which I took some of these quotes — made a trip up to see the light for themselves. Here’s what they captured on video:

I think my favorite part of this video is the two old guys talking about how there’s no way it could be headlights because it has a red color to it. Yeah, that’d be the taillights dumbass.

Mark Day’s hyperlapse of Burning Man 2016.

I have to admit that watching videos like this makes me wish I had a modicum of artistic ability. It’s really amazing to see what folks are doing out in the middle of a desert.

I’m also wowed by how low-power LED lights can add a new dimension to sculptures and other artworks.

Source: Mark Day’s YouTube Channel

What it’s like to work in I.T.

This is my job. Every day is just like this. This is a wholly 100% accurate depiction of what it’s like to be an I.T. Jedi:

You’re welcome, America.

Adam Savage’s love letter to Cosplay.

I’m a huge fan of the show Mybusters and, in particular, Adam Savage and I’m sad that the series has come to an end. Thankfully, Adam is still quite active with his own YouTube channel and other projects that keep him putting out content. Recently he gave a TED Talk that was an open love letter to Cosplay and the people who participate in it:

My days of attending anime conventions are well behind me, but I remember well being impressed by the cosplayers who attended each one and the time and attention to detail in their costumes. There was more than one time I contemplated making my own attempt at a costume, but I never could decide on a character or concept and had neither the space or the skill to have done a proper job of it. To this day, however, I love watching YouTube videos of cosplayers from recent conventions around the world as well as the various galleries that get posted to the geek related blogs I read. To hear Adam speak so highly of the community makes me think perhaps I should have given it a go back in the day.

Science History: Celsius didn’t invent the scale that bears his name.

Here’s a video from Veritasium that was quite a surprise to me. It turns out that what we know as the Celsius temperature scale we use today wasn’t invented by the man whose name it bears. At least, not entirely:

Despite having lived through the big push to learn the Metric system in the 70’s, like most Americans, I never really got my head wrapped around it. Thanks to Reagan the United States Metric Board (USMB) was disbanded in 1982 bringing an end to any official attempt to make the Metric system the U.S. standard. Outside of the popularity of the 2-liter pop bottle and the 9-millimeter bullet, the vast majority of measurements in the United States is still done using the United States customary system (USCS or USC) which is a mish-mash of different systems none of which are as elegant as the Metric system. There’s been a couple of half-hearted attempts to get adoption going again over the years, but they’ve been mostly voluntary efforts that no one wants to volunteer for. Sure, you’ll find it in use in various science-y professions, but the average American is largely clueless on whether they would need to wear a coat when it’s 32°C outside*.

*Hint: No, most definitely not.

Feel the Christian Love: Ye shall know them by their fruits edition.

Jesus is love, right? That’s what they keep telling us. God is love. Jesus is love. So on and so forth. Love thy neighbor as thyself. We hear it all the time from folks trying to sell us on Christianity. Sounds good, except that it seems there are a lot of Christians who either don’t understand the message or don’t actually believe it.

Events like the mass murder of 49 people at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse often bring out the true nature of some self-professed Christians. One only has to turn to Twitter to see it first hand:

The parade of tweets like these just goes on and on and on, but it’s not just individual Christians showing their true colors. Whole churches are getting in on the act. It goes without saying that the asshats at Westboro Baptist Church have been celebrating the Orlando massacre, but they’re not alone. There’s people like Pastor Steven Anderson in Arizona who has been putting out hateful videos on YouTube for awhile now. He wasted no time responding to the Orlando shooting:

Anderson is really just one step removed from the shooter. He isn’t upset that a bunch of gays were killed so much as how it was done. He doesn’t condone vigilantism. He thinks killing homosexuals is a job the U.S. Government should be doing itself. Because Jesus is love or something. Oh, and you shouldn’t sympathize with the victims either:

He’s right about at least one thing. There’s plenty of passages in the Bible to justify what he’s saying. You don’t have to look hard to find them and he even provides a couple in his videos.

Then there’s Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in California. He had this to say:

Again, he has plenty of material in the Bible to back his views up. This is the “good” book so many Christians claim to follow. This is the “loving God” they claim to believe in. For all the shit that the Quran commands of its Muslim followers that so many like to point to as proof of it being a wicked religion, there’s just as much in the Bible that you could make the very same argument about.

These people acknowledge that and celebrate it. They take glee in the idea that the victims are burning in Hell. It justifies their hate. It grants them permission to treat anyone they don’t like as less than human. As unworthy of life. Be they gay, atheist, a different race, a different religion, or what have you. They will insist that Jesus still loves you as they call for your death over your perceived sins and while they themselves may not kill you, you can be damned sure they won’t be upset should someone else do it for them. In their perfect world, the government would be taking care of you for them.

This is that famous Christian love they want to sell you.

Links and YouTube mirrors via Hemet Mehta.

34 years later, I still don’t understand Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”.

I was 14 years old when I first heard O Superman (For Massenet) by experimental musician Laurie Anderson. I don’t know if it qualifies so much as a song than as a spoken word piece with some musical bits to it. I remember being entranced by it and not being able to explain why. It’s eight and a half minutes long and the one constant is a “ha” that serves as the beat, in as much as it can be said to have a beat.

If you’ve never heard it, you can watch the video for it right here:

I had completely forgotten about it until this morning when it showed up on my Thomas Dolby radio station on Google Music. I was immediately taken back to those days in 1982 when I listened to it repeatedly trying to figure out what it was supposed to be about and understand why it had such a hold on me. Not just a hold, it affected me deeply. Particularly when it gets to the lyrics about mom.

Today, 34 years later, it was a jolt to hear it and realize that it still deeply affects me to listen to it. So much so that I had tears welling up as I sat here at my desk, which is really out of character for me. I love a good song as much as the next guy, but it’s rare that any music moves me to tears. I’m not a huge fan of the artist; I’ve never bought her albums and the copy of this song I had was taped off of a local radio station as we were wont to do back in the days before MP3s.

Reading the lyrics does little to help me understand it:

O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I’m not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you
coming home?
Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don’t know me,
but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come
as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.

And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice.
And when justice is gone, there’s always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

A good chunk of the song is a phone conversation between someone who initially claims to be the mother of the person they’re calling, but then reveals that to be a lie. Then it gets surreal with statements like being the “hand that takes” and something about planes coming and so on.

When I was 14 I thought it was very deep and I was just too stupid to figure it out. I’m not sure I’ve gotten any smarter in the time since. Today we have the Internet and Wikipedia article on it offers up the following explanation:

As part of the larger work United States, the text addresses issues of technology and communication, quoting at various points answering machine messages and the slogan “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. That line is inscribed over the entrance of the James Farley Post Office in New York and is derived from a line in Herodotus’ Histories (8.98), referring to the ancient courier service of the Persian Empire. This line is also interpreted in the accompanying music video into American Sign Language by Anderson wearing white gloves, white sunglasses and a white coat.

The lines “‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice / And when justice is gone, there’s always force / And when force is gone, there’s always Mom” derive from the fourth sentence of Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching: “When Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual. Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.”

All of this is in the context of an attack by American planes and arms. In an interview with the Australian magazine Bulletin in 2003, Anderson said that the song is connected to the Iran-Contra affair, but she meant the Iran hostage crisis which took place in 1979-1980. Anderson appeared as a guest co-host on WFMT Chicago to say the song is directly related to the crash of the military rescue helicopter outside Tehran — a disheartening incident where U.S. military technology essentially let down the government. This equipment or pilot failure, she continued, was her primary impetus for the creation of the song/performance piece. When it became an emerging hit in the U.K., she was as surprised as everyone else, and the need to press more singles to meet emerging U.K. demand was what led to her first multi-album record deal.

Um, OK. So it was inspired by the Iran-Contra affair, but I’ll be damned if I understand how you’re supposed to glean that from the lyrics. Nor does it explain why I am so affected by something I simply don’t understand. I love this song in spite of it. I’ve listened to it several times while writing this entry. I don’t know why.

I can’t say for certain whether my reaction today was because of the song itself or the feeling of being transported back to 1982 and being on the verge of adulthood. The year 2000 was less than 20 years away and I was going to experience “the future” first hand. My cynicism hadn’t fully developed and the future looked promising even if I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do as an adult. I was still ignorant enough of the larger world around me that I could be optimistic without any good reason for it. The future! It was coming and I was gonna be there for it. Looking back it’s not quite what I thought it was going to be, but it could be a lot worse than it is so I’ll take it.

Still, this damned song. Do you guys have anything similar or is it just me?