Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear. Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell warned that fear can drive us to act irrationally. Peter Ludlow (in today's NY Times) writes about historical and present-day governments' use of fear to control the population.
It's a familiar story: a party gains power and holds on so long that it gets sloppy and feels entitled and then, in the enjoyable versions of the story, it gets booted out. Familiar but still entertaining. So the news from Alberta is entertaining - and such a stark contrast with the wacky conspiracy story coming out of Texas - though of course the PC deserves more credit for losing than the NDP for winning.
Reading. Hmm, I've not picked up Persuasion in a day or so. But I'm listening to audible.com's "Shakespeare Appreciated" series. Today I finally got to the point in King Lear where everyone has died. Lear. The sisters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Edmund. Gloucester. All dead.
And with that the play came to a close.
And I immediately started Macbeth.
Aside from the language I find Shakespeare modern. Characters, plot, structure, it all seems fresh. Kind of like a French film, or the opera, all it needs is subtitles to be understood. Of course, it's the annotations that make Shakespeare accessible for me. And it helps that I like the narrator with her infectious excitement, though I've read comments from some who find her annoying.
Two pictures. The first, a still-a-bit dirty D800e sensor (f/32); the second a plastic-y succulent that I find oh so photogenic (f/25). The latter would benefit from focus stacking, or at least a smaller aperture. I still like it though, even with the out of focus bits that I wish were in focus.
This morning I read a story about the relationship between a New York state senator and his son. Father Dean and son Adam were arrested for corruption earlier this week. The long list of charges includes extortion, fraud, and the solicitation of bribes. How cliche. It reads like you’d expect, a story of wiretaps and burner phones and physical threats. The characters' haunts are Nassau County and Long Island, either of which would be a good place for the Sopranos if those guys weren’t already settled in Jersey.
Adam, the son, is a ne’er-do-well of long standing. His father, a powerful politician, is one of those permanent fixtures who, once elected to office, somehow gain claim to high office for life. Something I've never understood. There are lots of these types - Diane Feinstein comes to mind.
Anyway, what caught my eye in the story was that Adam worked for a title company. How fitting. Title insurance itself is a bit of a con. Home buyers are pressured, sometimes required, to buy a product that purports to protect them from a deficiency in land records. But over time, as the same properties are sold and then sold again, shouldn't those records become reliable? Nope, never happens, and each buyer has to fork over the money. In Canada, you can get title insurance but it isn’t recommended. I suspect that it's largely for Americans.
The election results from Ireland came in quicker than I expected. My morning latte and scone were accompanied by the Guardian reporting that the margin for yes has already elicited a concession from the nos. Cool.
I've long considered making a visit to Ireland as I'm frequently seeing it charmingly portrayed on television and in the movies, and of course literature is full of Irish influence. Ireland's old town centers look to be well preserved and the countryside green and bucolic. Another plus is I'll be able to read signs and menus without a course in Duolingo, though I expect the natives may be hard to understand.
Those who voted no likely awoke to think the sky is falling. Maybe they can take comfort that other countries' experience with the issue predicts that in a few years the Irish will look back and say what was all the fuss about.
I remember what I felt when I met my first happy, well-adjusted gay person. He had studied philosophy at Berkeley and had come to Austin to study computer science. We were talking over coffee after class, operating systems I think it was. He casually mentioned his boyfriend.
Huh, he was a gay programmer.
He was well-read, scientific, interesting, and not at all stereotypical. Well, aside from being thin and neat.
I listened to him talk about his studies and relationship and I suddenly felt sick. A combination of panic and relief washed over me. Id never met anyone who was in every way so normal, aspirational even, and yet gay.
That was the day my internal narrative changed. From that point on I knew I was gay.
Role models matter.
Two good court cases this week. Maybe we can talk about guns now.
The picture is of Sheringham Point lighthouse, in Shirley BC. The sun star is good but the picture would be better without the building on the left.
The news from President Carter while of course very sad is also an opportunity to contrast his character with those who have either followed him or who aspire for his old position. And quite a contrast indeed! Just try to fit both Jimmy Carter and, lets say, George W in ones head at the same time and youd wonder how could that happen, how could we elect these two very different men to the highest office in the land. One man is known for trying to do the right thing regardless of cost to himself and the other man only thinks of himself, rightness be damned. It was as if the country plunged down the rabbit hole into wonderland. Of course Carter is the rarity. The filtering that takes place as people rise to power selects for a certain un-Carter-like character. And we are poorer for it.
I hiked to Peden Lake a few days ago and took it as opportunity to use only a 50mm for the day. A 50 doesn't come to mind when you think landscape lens, but I thought I'd see what I could do with it. Aside from my forgetting to switch metering from matrix to center weight, the lens performed fine given the limitations of it's width. It's better as a people lens but it will certainly do landscapes in a pinch.
In the summer of '66 my parents moved the family to Austin. On the first of August we drove to the university campus where my mother planned to enroll in grad school. We never made it to campus. At Guadalupe and 24th we were turned away. We saw people crouched behind cars. Turns out there was a young man in the university tower shooting on the campus below. He killed 14 people that day.
How is it that Congress eagerly spends trillions futily fighting terrorists and nothing to address the easy availability of guns to murderous young men? Of course this comparison assumes we fight to make Americans safer.
I've a California primary ballot sitting on my desk. The ballot is short as California ballots go but it's rich in complexity and it makes me think about what it means to be a member of a semi-direct democracy.
The June ballot has eleven choices, everything from issuing debt to choosing local officials to choosing the President of the US. Again, small for California, and of course nothing like the famous 135-person ballot that saw Schwarzenegger replace Gray Davis.
Want it even more direct? Check out the recent Flash Forward podcast, "Swipe right for democracy", where they estimated that voters would face something like fifteen choices per day in a pure direct democracy. Maybe California's ballot isn't so onerous.
Fortunately, my ballot arrived in my email with plenty of time to review the accompanying voter guide and meet the June 7 deadline. Both the county and the state provide excellent guides. Kudos to California: they know how to hold an election.So, what's on the ballot? Let's see, there are eleven choices:
I have the sense that every California ballot has to include a few bonds. Mind you, the debt is usually for a good cause, like this ballot's libraries and schools, so I usually vote yes, but I also wonder if I am really the best person to be deciding these things. This is of course above and beyond the fact that I don't even live in California so why should I have a say in their debt.
Here's another interesting aspect of this ballot: the presidential candidates are all Democrats vying for a single slot on the November ballot (where she or he will likely be competing with a certain short-fingered vulgarian) whereas the US Senate candidates are a mix of all the parties, and the top two will face each other in November.
After spending some time looking at this ballot I'm not sure what I think of our direct democracy. It's a lot more direct than where I now live, which has a parliamentary system. I worry about my qualifications as a voter and I puzzle over our choice of candidates. But somehow it all works: one election ends, another starts. We keep deciding and deciding and deciding yet again. It's certainly better than having no choices. The challenge is in designing how many decisions do we want to make, and how many can we delegate. How direct do we want to be? And will a more direct approach create a better society? I'd wager it inevitable that some jurisdictions will experiment with more direct models and perhaps, with time, it will become a way to get people more engaged.
I'm working my way through several texts at the moment, The Odyssey, Trollope's The Warden, and my November ballot for the state of California. The last is hardest.
It's not all hard. It starts off easy, especially if you do the lazy thing (it's lazy according to my father) and vote a straight-party ticket. No party, skip. So no, I can't complain, not hard.
But this being California, the rest of the ballot contains propositions, lots of propositions. Twenty four this time. It's here in the propositions where the ballot gives the Odyssey a run for most variety though of course Homer is far better written.
The propositions on the ballot range from dry economics (bonds) to the tawdry (un-condomed porn stars). There are propositions on guns, illegal drugs, the death penalty, the death penalty again, plastic bags, and plastic bags again. There are propositions on the criminal justice system, English-language proficiency, prescription drug pricing, and whether to extend a tax on hospitals. Whew.
It's a lot to digest and become a faux-expert on overnight, though like most voters I look at who supports what and vote accordingly. I really don't know what I think of California's direct-ish democracy, it seems both messy and empowering, but I'll continue to participate in it. But there is one thing I know, I need a beer.
I'm listening to Seal's Don't Make Me Wait.
Canadians' reactions to the US election range from ignored to horrified. Some are even hosting election-night dinner parties to watch the returns. As for me, I'm just relieved it's almost over.
While waiting for the returns to come in I'm reviewing my Greece photos in Lightroom, day by day, in chronological order. I'm up to October 13. Reviewing is basic, I assign a star if I think the shot is worth reconsideration. I rarely delete. I should delete more. I'm simultaneously updating my blog posts as I go, fixing a typo, adding a photo.
On October 13 we were in Naxos. Naxos is my favorite of the three islands we visited. While Santorini has brain-thwacking views - see accompanying picture - it is terminally touristy. Hydra is almost too bucolic. Naxos has restaurants and shopping, the island has several towns, beaches if that's your thing, hiking, and ruins. On the other hand, if you want uninterrupted time to write that novel then Hydra is your place.
This quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, gives me a bit of comfort at the moment.
Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
I'm listening to Famous Blue Raincoat sung by Jennifer Warnes.
Ever since I was an undergrad in Austin I've been on a high-news diet. And I've always cared about politics. I've stuffed envelopes, phone banked, even walked door-to-door for candidates. I even trained in anticipation of being arrested at a March on Washington. (I wasn't.) I usually know about the major events of the day and what the east-coast intelligentsia think about them. But not today, not for the immediate future. Though I don't know for how long. I am taking a break. I'm not reading the NYT. No TNY. No Guardian... I'm on a news cleanse.
I heard someone comment that my reaction is simply denial, but I don't think I agree. For me it a question of how I spend my mental time. When I read something, lets say the what and the why of an event, it enters my daily repertoire of things to think about and talk about. It occupies space in my life. And I've given the news a lot of this space. So I've decided to take back some of that space, at least for a little while.
But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie, your eyes are soft with sorrow, Hey, that's no way to say goodbye. Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen, who died this week, lived briefly on Hydra. Hydra was where he met Marianne Ihlen who inspired his songs "So Long, Marianne" and "Bird on the Wire."
I was thinking maybe it won't be so bad. Taxes, health, social down. Pollution up. Eh, we've survived this before. But now I wonder that my optimism was mistaken. It feels like the new president has pushed his way into office already. And now he tweets threats of nuclear Armageddon.
The nightmare has begun.
Since there is nothing I can do about America's Berlusconi I'm going to put it out of my head and replace it with a couple of pictures of a cool food tool I just got.
I succumbed to the call of the KitchenAid stand mixer, drawn in by colour, design and aggressive discounting. The fact that I might have a use for it seemed an afterthought.
Actually I do have a use for it. When I was growing up my mom had a Mixmaster - great name for a mixer - and she made a lot of desserts. Cookies and candy and bars: she plied my sister and me with deliciousness and she also took some to her school where she treated her French students. Of course, I've no students to take things to so I don't strive to match the volume of sweets she produced, but I can see a use for a mixer in making the occasional dessert as well as bread dough.
So I brought it home, made space for it* on the counter, washed all the parts, adjusted the bowl height, and then made a batch of Olive Oil Challah from a recent post by Melissa Clark in the Times. I followed the recipe, aside from substituting AP flour for bread flour. Admittedly, this small batch wasnt much of a test for the KitchenAid, it felt like it barely left idle, but it was fun watching how it kneaded the dough effortlessly. The bread turned out well, as you can see from the already-partially-eaten loaf.
I'm listening to Asturias from the Vicky Cristina Barcelona soundtrack.
*The new mixer has spurred the almost-predictable follow on, a search for a cabinetmaker to extend the kitchen's cabinets and counter space.
It was like laughter at a funeral. Sarah Larson, Scenes from the Women's March on Washington
On this Saturday I joined with thousands of Victorians to speak in support women's rights and to protest the incoming US administration. (Can we also protest stupid voters?)
It was a nice day, good weather, helpful police and a diverse crowd of friendly people. We gathered to listen to Mayor Lisa Helps and MP Elizabeth May then we marched around Victoria's downtown, blocking traffic in all directions. The march was accompanied by the sound of anti-US government chants which brought to my mind demonstrations past, Vietnam, El Salvador, AIDS, Chile, ... The times they are a changing, but unfortunately it is for the worst.
It was a great photography day, too: all kinds of people and lots of dogs, happy to pose for the camera. The posted photos are out-of-camera jpgs processed with Fuji's Acros film simulation. Despite the smiling faces and sea of pink greyscale better fit my mood.
I'm listening to Quiet by MILCK which you can listen to here.
Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated. Donald Trump
The US and Canada are so similar that the occasional difference can warrant a closer look. For me two differences stand out, health care and immigration.
Trump, who is both the speaker and the nobody in the above quote, has just come to realize that US healthcare is complicated. Not sure where he's been the past, hmm, my whole life, but at least we are on the same page now. The problem he'll face, should he try to simplify it, is that this complexity is by design, an airline pricing model on steroids. There are lots of simpler models, he can look at any other industrial country, even next door in Canada, to find one, but of course that's not the problem, the problem is that the current model works so well for some people.
The second difference, immigration, might best be shown by looking at the photo by Canadian Press photographer Paul Chiasson. Since I'm planning on passing over the US border in the near future I think I'll just let the photo speak for itself.
I'm listening to Where We're Going from Hans Zimmer's Interstellar soundtrack.
So far, all signs are that it was just a guy, just one more American killer who got his hands on some collection of weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing people, and who then killed people. We know that if it was a Muslim with a foreign name, we would be in full panic mode and all we would be hearing about is the ever-greater dangers of terrorism. Indeed, the killings in France, on Sunday, which were surely terrorism, have already begun to attract that kind of attention from the right wing here. But when it happens here, what we're told by the entire power structure of American life - both houses of Congress, the White House, and now the Supreme Court, locked and loaded to sustain the absurd and radical pro-gun ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller - is that there is nothing at all to be done, save to pray. Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker
This morning we picked up a car, a small white Citroen, at the Ajaccio airport. We then headed north, to spend a few days in a beach-front hotel in the small seaside town of Algajola.
We picked the scenic route, via Piana and Porto. It is a twisty, two-lane road the whole way, except where it narrows to one lane. It took us through pink-granite canyons along narrow roads carved into rocky mountainsides, with scenery ranging from merely beautiful to spectacular. The only problem with photographing it was finding a place to park, the road being barely two cars wide in places, with a wall of rock on one side and a steep drop on the other side.
Only those who have never fought like to argue about who won and who lost. Bao Ninh, a writer who fought for the North Vietnamese army.
Want to see something scary? Watch Ken Burns' ten-part Vietnam War. It is scary that seemingly smart people could be so stupid. This is also the first Burns' documentary that I've enjoyed from start to finish. Great music, too.
The rainforesty weather has returned to this edge of the island and I'm happy for the trees, some of whom look pretty stressed post summer. For me it's time to cut back the dying vegetables, to swap the summer tires for winters, and to perform my civic duty of voting.
I've two ballots before me. The California 60-days-to-get-it-back-to-Santa Cruz one and the BC should-we-change-the-government (a.k.a. proportional representation) one.
I'm tackling the simpler first, which surprisingly is California, surprising as it's its usual long length, 21 races and 14 measures, crammed onto two pages for which we can credit a very tiny font.
The ballot may look intimidating but I've a well-honed divide and conquer strategy, something I've perhaps discussed in a prior post. First, the partisan races. I look for the 'D' and Bob's your uncle I'm finished with these. (While I've still got this idea in my head that voting a straight ticket is intellectually lazy, I just can't vote for an R any more.) Oops, one has two D's; I think someone needs to be thinking about what she'll do in retirement. (Yeah, she'll get re-elected, but I can dream.)
Next, the non-partisan races. These I typically skip, though I may vote for a fellow who wrote me a very promising email yesterday.
And then, finally, the infamous California measures. Non-Californians may not get this: you can't walk into the polling booth on election day and plan on reading the measures and making a decision. You have to prepare your answers ahead of time, which the first time feels like cheating, like you wrote the test answers on the inside of your wrist in ink, but it's not anything like that, it's what you are expected to do. I mean, you'd be hard pressed to work your way through the ballot and accompanying voter's guide, intelligently learning about and voting on all these measures in real time in the voting booth. First, the font is tiny, as mentioned earlier, but more importantly you can't summarize a billion-dollar question, and most of them are billion-dollar questions, in one short sentence. Unless you are Proust. No, for this you need to read the voter guides.
Time passes ...
Whew, I've completed my first pass, I've studied the voter guides' pros and cons, I've sort of looked at the numbers (million, billion, it's so much I can't imagine), I've considered who is for and who is against (Howard Jarvis bad; Sierra Club good), and I've even researched a bit of the ad spending. My ballot's covered in pink marker and later I'll print and mark a fresh one, prep the envelope, and get it to Canada Post to begin the journey south.
As to BC, I think I'll leave this ballot for another day but I'll share its two questions: the first question asks if we should keep the current first past the post voting system or move to a system of proportional representation. The second question asks voters to rank three proportional systems: dual-member proportional, mixed-member proportional, and rural-urban proportional. Hmm. I've some studying and thinking and discussing-with-friends to do.
"Many things are said on the Internet about who organized their departure. Some say it was Maduro, the president of Venezuela, while others consider it a scheme by the United States," said Martinez. "The reality is that these families are fleeing due to three factors: the first is violence perpetrated by criminal gangs like Los Maras, La MS, and La 18," said Martinez. "These criminal groups threaten Honduran families and recruit their children," he said. "They charge a rent for every business the victims have and call it a war tax," Martinez added, saying these gangs kill family members in retaliation for noncooperation.
"The second factor is extreme poverty: apart from paying taxes to the government, migrants have been forced to pay extortion money to criminal gangs, leaving them without money to live on. The third factor is that Honduras, being a country plagued with violence for years, does not guarantee the human rights of its population. The Honduran people have had enough of all this, which is why there is this migrant caravan phenomenon," said Martinez.
Karla Ortiz interviewing Ignacio Martinez, the director of the ABBA safehouse and hostel, Celaya, Mexico, in Atencion San Miguel
As we sit here in the rain, thinking how uncomfortable we must be these minutes as our suits get wet, and our hair gets wet, it's all the more fitting that we remember on that day in Dieppe the rain wasn't rain, it was bullets. Canadian prime minister Trudeau who dispensed with his umbrella mid speech in Dieppe last year
Someone was conspicuously absent from the procession of world leaders who gathered last week in Paris to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.
Oh wait, they said leaders. Nevermind.
Vicente Fox, president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, spoke in San Miguel this evening. A member of the National Action Party (PAN), he was the first president to break the hold of the International Revolutionary Party (PRI) since 1929.
Fox talked on a broad range of political, economic, and humanitarian topics, took questions from the audience, and then concluded with a discussion of one of the nonprofits he is working with, CRISMA, a therapeutic service for low-income families in SMA.
Coming into the evening I knew nothing of Fox other than he held office as president of Mexico and that he was in an over-the-top video announcing his candidacy for president of the United States.
Fox shared his thoughts on everything from the European Union (he considers it hugely successful), referendums (BREXIT and the recent cancellation of the new Mexico City airport, both of which he's in strong disagreement), NAFTA, the wall (the US will have to waste its own money if it wants one), the migrant caravan (refugee problems are best solved at the source), drug trafficking and its associated violence (he favours legalizing all drugs), populism (dangerous but hopefully the pendulum swings back soon), and whether running a government is the same as running a business (it isn't).
Fox made no effort to hide his disdain for the current occupant of the White House. Fox came across as rational and pragmatic, and a bit right of center. He gave short shrift to the problem of income inequality, preferring to focus on wealth creation versus redistribution. But he took challenging questions in stride, such as the correlation between Coke consumption --- Fox was once a Coke executive --- and obesity.
Curiously, there was no visible security for the ex-president. As far as I could tell Fox had no secret service and there were no metal detectors for the audience, he was just a guy on stage giving a talk and answering questions from the audience. Um, who said Mexico was a dangerous place?
I'm listening to David Sylvian's Nostalgia.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) One of the nation's most prominent cowards achieved his long-standing goal of banning courageous people from serving in the military, the coward confirmed on Tuesday.
The coward, who avoided serving in the military no fewer than five times, told reporters that he had specifically targeted courageous people because "they make people like me look bad."
"I know what they're up to, enlisting in the military so that people like me look like spineless losers," the coward said. "Well, if they think they're going to get away with bravely serving their country, they better think again."
The coward said that he was "surprised, frankly" at the howls of outrage his banning of valiant people from the military had sparked.
"If someone had banned me from the military back in the sixties, I wouldn't have had to get a phony note from a podiatrist," he said. The Borowitz Report