Friday, November 30, 2012

NBC Rock Center covers homeless families with children; Muslim pro football players who sacrifice to go to the hajj

On Thursday, November 29, 2012 NBC Rock Center  (with Brian Williams) presented at least two controversial stories.

One concerned homeless families with children, including the Kennard family in Johnson City. TN, where both parents had worked at low-wage jobs and then the father became ill.  Another woman described the difficulty of finding a homeless shelter that allowed husbands, wives and children to stay together.

The story is by Jessica Hopper, Tim Sandler and Cristina Boado.

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Brian Williams stays this problem has not been as widespread since the Great Depression.

The broadcast also covered two pro football brothers, Husain and Hamza Abdullah, who gave up a year of their career for religious purposes to journey to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.  Mary Carillo and Brian Brown told the story. During the week in Saudi Arabia, they stay in cramped tents next to poor people; all men are equal.  

The men said that they were offended and shocked by the 9/11 attacks, and had no idea that they could even happen, and pointed out that many Muslims died in the attacks on the WTC.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Angus Jones bites the hand that made him rich on "Two and a Half Men"

I finally garnered a look at CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” tonight, given the controversy when actor Angus T. Jones (as “Jake”) broadcast his view that people shouldn’t watch this festival of potty jokes, that had made Angus rich before he turned 19 and found Christ.

A while back, there was controversy over Martin Sheen’s bad bipolar behavior and firing – he had been playing “ghost” anyway.  Ashton Kutcher joined the show (“A-plus-K”) as another Mark Zuckerberg aka Nolan Ross – and a very nice Internet billionaire from what I saw tonight, steadier than the sly Nolan from Revenge (although Nolan is more seductive, to me at least). 

But the gutter-like material is apparent as Jake, appearing on laptop by Skype, tells his dad (Charlie’s brother) Alan (Jon Cryer), in Army dress greens, that he got the “clap” and everyone could see it.  This script sounded like it came from the DADT days when straights could get away with anything in the military.  No, they couldn’t, but they acted like they could, according to more established comedy writers. 
It’s all fluffy stuff. 

Dr. Phil, on “Access Hollywood” tonight, said that Angus’s behavior was simply “unwise”.  But after all, Angus just plays  half a man. 

Here’s the site (CBS just reprogrammed all the links).  

You know, they assess chess positions now in terms of a "half pawn".  Two bishops and a half-pawn better than a bishop and knight -- that is, a half-man better,  
The flippancy of the comedy suggests that nothing really matters, that issues or matters of fairness never come in to play.  Just let the good times roll when they do. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NatGeo "Doomsday Preppers" are a bit crazy, I hope; NBC Revolution fall finale doesn't say much

I finally watched an hour-long episode of National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers”, who have also been covered on Anderson (weekdays, ABC) and some local news channels.

A middle aged man in Berryville, VA, in the upper Shenandoah Valley, discussed how he expects society to fall apart because of the economy.  He said a “thin fabric holds society together.  He talked about protecting his family from violence and looting, by using “home field advantage”.  He discussed a “circle of force” and the use or boarding, as well as pepper spray as a non-lethal defensive weapon.

Later, Brian P. Murdock, of Sommerville MA (near Boston), was moving to upstate New York in his mobile home to a 50-acre property.  His new bride from eastern Europe, Titianna, didn’t know what she had bargained for.  He said that the “covenant of marriage” was important to survival.

The Brian May, living somewhere in the lower Mississippi River valley, talked about how another New Madrid style earthquake could split the continent in half (that’s not true).  He showed home preparedness. 
All the speakers mentioned the value of barter in acquiring fortification, and May talked about acquiring gold and silver coins.  It was if a money economy was immoral.

If the world “as I know it” were destroyed, I wouldn’t want to survive, because I would have nothing to offer a world  (fragmented into  militias as in the NBC show “Revolution”) that doesn’t recognize an economy and law and order.  My existence would become meaningless.  I would be seen as a parasite.

By the way, the Fall 2012 season of “Revolution” concluded Monday night  ("Nobody's Fault but Mine") – without explanation of how the power went out.

The link for the NatGeo series is here

A question on ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" on Nov. 28, 2012 referred to this show as "Doomsday Bunkers". 

Here’s another episode put up by NatGeo, “I Hope I Am Crazy”.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"60 Minutes" covers a "Free the Children" We Day, ballet, and the Jouberts still filming lions

CBS “60 Minutes” aired three important reports Sunday Nov. 25.

First, the show reported (by Scott Pelley) on Craig Kielburger, who started the charity Free the Children after getting involved opposing child slavery at the age of 12 in the third world after a particular egregious death of a child who had escaped.  The broadcast started with an excerpt from a “We Day”. The CBS link on "kids helping kids" is here

The charity is offering a chance to “win a trip to Kenya” for a volunteer experience, here

But some of these countries, like Uganda, sound truly dangerous, given news reports.

It’s sometimes hard for me to deal with the idea of being “recruited” to belong to a "We". .

The YouTube channel shows that Kielburger's group has been active in Haiti. 

The second segment concerned Peter Martins of the New York City Ballet, and the rigid training of ballet students, and an examination of whether ballet is losing popularity compared to other kinds of dance (“Dancing with the Stars”).  For comparison, see “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” on my movie reviews blog Jan. 28, 2012.

The last segment (Lara Logan) updated the work of Beverly and Dereck Joubert, who have spent their lives in Africa filming big cats, especially lions.  (See my review on the movies blog March 6, 2011 of their National Geographic film “The Last Lions”; see also review on this blog of “Eye of the Leopard”  July 17, 2008).  Today, 60 minutes showed their palatial hut and bedroom on the savannah., and then some of their new footage of lions, such as pride attacking an elephant, which lets them go, as well as a lioness abandoning a cub with a broken back after showing obvious grief. They also showed a new breed of superlions that are 15% larger and like to swim.  But overall, the numbers of big cats in the wild is rapidly decreasing and threatening extinction.

In the 60 Minutes episode, the lions seemed comfortable being filmed and seem to respect the humans consistently caring about them.  Big cats do have a lot of social capabilities that humans take further.  

The episode seems timely given the impact of the recent film "Life of PI" (movies blog, Nov. 21, 2012). 

Friday, November 23, 2012

ABC 20-20: "Breaking Polygamy" shows that Jeffs still controls the FLDS from prison

On Friday, November 23, 2012. ABC 20-20 aired “Breaking Polygamy”, an examination of the FLDS church in Colorado City. AZ and some communities in Utah and Texas. ABC has found that Warrem Jeffs still has control of the cult from behind bars in a Texas prison.

The link for the show is here.

Jeffs has changed things, somewhat, reducing birthrates and kicking out far more people with no skills to be employed in the outside world.

State laws in Utah and probably Arizona are amazing lax on home-schooled children, who are taught only part of an elementary education and not taught true science or history. 

Jeffs still seems like a cult leader, like David Koresh, Jim Jones, or even the head of North Korea.
A compelling part of the report concerned an 18-year old boy adopted by a “Holding Out Help”  (link) family in a western state (probably a conventional  LDS family in Utah) and taught to read by the family.  It’s not clear if Utah and Arizona have an adult education programs to help them.

Polygamy is objected to, of course, because if causes men to be cast out of a society. 

The show demonstrates how “compulsory socialization”, when carried to extremes (here under the guise of a cult-like “fundamentalist” religious faith)  leads to totalitarian dictatorship.  Virtues (such as loyalty to family and caring for children) are perverted as some people are kicked out anyway. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Colorado City picture.  I visited the area in October 1987 and was able to see the common dorms from a distance of a few hundred feet, and see the women in pastel dresses.  

The Texas prison system cannot stop Jeffs from having communications by mail.

YouTube has a featurette, and imdb lists a 2008 film "Damned to Heaven".  I don't know if it was completed (it's not on Netflix)..  Men are told they can't go to Heaven wtihout at least three wives. That leaves two-thirds of the men stranded.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"The World According to Lance" (CNN) has nothing to do with Garp

CNN today aired a 45-minute documentary “The World According to Lance" Armstrong, reported (and directed) by Quentin McDermott, with many interviews not only of Lance (denials), but also Tyler Hamilton and Betsy and Frankie Andreu.

CNN has a link describing the film here

The film starts with a legally binding deposition of Armstrong, the first ever in public media, where he denies the charges.  

There is also a tape of Greg Lemond suggesting that sponsors may have been involved in covering up Armstrong’s use of performance enhancing drugs.

The film describes some medical tricks used to hide the doping, including self-transfusion. For a long time, according to Hamilton, officials accepted certain blood levels of certain indicators.

Although Armstrong insists he has given thousands of negative drug tests, a French lab confirmed the use of "EPO". 
All of Armstrong’s Tour de France wins, including those on the United States Postal Service teams, have been vacated, as if they had never happened.

Back in the 1990s, Lance Armstrong overcame testicular cancer, which was quite advanced when it was diagnosed, to the point that he had been coughing up blood.  It's conceivable that substance use could have caused or contributed to the virulence of the tumor.  The effect of chemotherapy on his body was severe, even if temporary.  Armstrong had been reported as having unusual natural aerobic capacity.  

The book “The Cheating Culture” in 2004 by Princeton professor David Callahan (book reviews blog, March 28, 2006) had discussed the likely use of performance enhancement by cyclists.

Racing sports involve a process of psychological peaking, also known to swimmers.  The body shaving that takes place may be more a matter of ritual sacrifice than anything that has much effect on the physics of speed (does wind or water resistance really matter that much)?  One could say that Armstrong shaved his arms and legs for all those years for nothing.

CNN’s broadcast actual comes from an original by Journeyman Films, link here

Lance Armstrong does have a charity for cancer patients called Livestrong, and his future with it is uncertain. 

The DVD is available for purchase; Journeyman offers the whole film on YouTube, apparently free now; it is customary for most new films to require a rental of $3.99, sometimes more or less. 

This is not “The World According to Garp”.  How will Lance look when he’s 64?

Let's also hope that recreational cycling doesn't have to be competitive cycling -- for obvious reasons.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Fringe": Science channel restarts the series with the graphic-looking Pilot: watch your body, and check for mindreaders

Yesterday (Tuesday, November 21, 2012) I noticed that imdb was pushing the series “Fringe” on the Science channel  -- now in its fifth season on Fox – restarting from the 2008 Pilot last night. I had never used Science before, and had to hunt for it – it was 110 on Comcast and did not seem to have a HiDef channel. Life’s not perfect, right? 
The 2008 “Pilot”, essentially an 81-minute feature film directed by Alex Graves and written in part by J. J. Abrams, starts when a distressed passenger on an overseas flight to Boston gives himself an insulin injection on the plane (that’s permitted, and I didn’t want to see his gams).  Pretty soon, his body disintegrates, and so does that of everyone else on the plane, which lands at Logan on auto-pilot.
Enter FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Trov), a kind of Scully (X-Files) but even physically tougher.  She’s intimate with her partner Scott (Mark Valley) when called into the case.   That will lead her to work with the son Peter (Joshua Jackson, often in B-horror movies), son of the “fringe scientist”  Walter Bishop (John Noble), who had spent a lot of time as an “M.P.”, institutionalized.  Peter seems more authoritative and mature than some of Jackson’s earlier characters, at one point saying it’s good thing to learn things from old fashioned printed books. 
Whatever chemicals destroyed everyone on the plane (turning them almost into skeletons) soon infects Scott, who is put into a medically induced coma, his ruined body (his skin is ossified) on display to the heartbreak of Olivia.  Her investigation leads to a company called Massive Dynamic, headed by a woman Nina (Blair Brown) who is not afraid to shock everyone with the revealing of her artificial arm.
An important part of the science  (and FBI forensic investigation) is the reading of brain waves or “dreams” from the comatose (or at least from people who are asleep), including Scott, which may be possible to continue even after he dies.   Possibly this aspect of the plot was an inspiration for Christopher Nolan, who would go on to write and direct a much bigger treatment of this idea in the 2010 film “Inceptiion” (Movies blog, July 16, 2010).  If the government really could read minds (or if people could) and post the results on the Internet, what would happen to privacy, beyond what happens now?  The "No Lie MRI" alternative-to-polygraph may do just that. 
I’ll have to check more into what is happening now on the series about “fringe science”.

The Fox site for Fringe is here

The Science Channel (not to be confused with SyFy) has a couple of recent one hour documentaries that I just missed.  One is “Solar Storms”, about the threat of geomagnetic solar storms and the damage than can be done to the power grid by huge coronal mass ejections.  Another is “Megastorm”, an explanation of how Hurricane Sandy became a superstorm, and still another is “Alien Storms”, about weather on other planets (try Titan).  I will look for reruns of these (which may occur on the Discovery Channel) or for DVD”s or instant replays on Netflix, but I don’t see them yet.  They will be important to see.  If anyone knows where to find them (or when they will rerun) please comment. 

 Picture (first): Imagine, if you will, a model railroad running on a Mobius strip.  The other "side" below any point on the strip is the same "place" a couple hundred years ago.  A vehicle for time travel?  Fringe science and mathematics, anyone?  This is all "algebraic topology".  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sanjay Gupta hosts CNN documentary on prescription painkiller abuse

On Sunday, November 17m 2012 CNN aired Sanjay Gupta’s documentary on prescription drug overdoses, “Deadly Dose”.

Gupta covered cases where young people had died from “stacking” prescription drugs and painillers against alcohol.  One particular case was with grad student by the same name. Gupta, who went to sleep after taking Oxycodone with a blood alcohol of only .04, and never woke up.

Gupta explained how the drugs suppress breathing and heart rates through the central nervous system, with cumulative effect.

Gupta went on to cover a new Washington State law restricting “stacking” of prescriptions, having a chilling effect on physicians making prescriptions for pain patients.  A central database is used to check all a patient’s prescriptions. 

Gupta also interviewed former president Bill Clinton on the problem.

My own physician recently changed my hypertension prescription for Atenolol  (a beta blocker) to a receptor antognist, Losartan, when my heart rate during an early morning physical (after a fast) was only 47.  “That isn’t good” when I sleep, he said.  I get it. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture from Tacoma WA –  visits in 1976, 1978, 1990, 1996.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

How do those pendants on "Revolution" work, without violating the laws of entropy?

A site called “Revolution Wiki” has an inventory of the “pendants” on the NBC drama ("Revolution").  Within a small distance, the pendant enables electronic devices to work.  It seems as though some sort of amplification or transformer could extend the range of a pendant.

It’s still hard to imagine what kind of “Event” could turn off electricity, in such a manner that it could flow in the field of s Pendant, as if the Pendant were some sort of key.

It is almost as if the microwaves from an EMP attack had disabled all electronics on Earth, but in such a way that they could work if the nearby pendant reversed the past effect of the microwaves.  This would not make sense according to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy.

The wiki link is here

 In tonight’s episode (“Kashmir”) Mattheson and allies try to escape from an underground tomb underneath Philadelphia and undergo hallucinations that give the episode the feel if the film “Inception”. All the characters needed were their totems.   It’s hard to tell what level of reality you’re in.

And a women in the “revolution” claims to have invented an “amplifier” for the pendant (that’s the concept your cable company uses somewhere near your home), that works when the pendant is plugged into a USB port.  Nut maybe it’s a bomb.

Next Monday (Nov. 26) the fall season for the show will finish, but it does not look like the end of the series, or that we will know how the pendants really work.

Of course, whatever political group controls the pendants rules the world, and can impose its own ideology of “social justice” or “righteousness”.

Can someone explain what caused the blackout and how the pendants work?

I still like the concept of “FlashForward” a lot better.

Here's a Doomsday Prepper's take on the show:

I am afraid that there will be a First Big Blackout – from a solar storm.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Zakaria GPS covers Fiscal Cliff, leadership change in China, and interviews Bill Gates on education

On Sunday, November 18, 2012, Fareed Zakaria GPS held a symposium, “Fixing America’s Finances”.
Robert Rubin and  Paul O’Neill spoke.  O’Neill  called for value added taxes, and prefers that benefits to the need come in the form of “direct checks” than in a maze of exemptions and third-party benefits.
There is a general notion that taxing the rich more won’t make up a large part of the deficit. But people should probably taxed more on income that is consumed than on income that is reinvesting in creating jobs, even at the upper level.
There was no direct mention of the Alternative Minimum Tax.  But I’ve found that if you look at it closely, it does interpolate, and the effect may not be quite as shocking as we first thought. 
Zakaria covered a possible conflict between China and Japan over some uninhabited island (Sankaku) over oil rights. 
Zakaria said that the current political change in China is much more radical than the recent election in the United States.
Zakaria then interviewed Bill Gates in a “1:1”. The former Microsoft chairman said that the steep increase in the number of individuals and parties attempting digital innovations was inevitably going to lead to advances, even if many of them are high rish and can fail.
Gates said that America does lead in the top universities, but he is concerned that the performance of ordinary schools and community colleges may not turn out people educated in the skills employers need. That is even more challenging because of budget cuts.  The two-year sector is very important. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

PBS Nova: "What Will the Future Be Like?" Try soldiers with robotic exoskeletons

One Wednesday, November 14, 2012, David Pogue hosted another episode in PBS Nova’s “What Will the Future Be Like?”, link  (website url) here.  

Tonight, Pogue researched the way robotic skeletons could be designed to help paraplegics walk. Furthermore, robotic skeletons could help firefighters or military soldiers who must carry enormous amounts of weight in equipment.  Pogue called himself a “skinny nerd” when he demonstrated walking on a skeleton (like a “giant mechanical man” – movies blog on Nov. 11) carrying a volunteer fireman’s gear. The concept resembles the "exoskeleton" or insects or other arthropods in zoology. 

Pogue also demonstrated computer games that resemble organisms or viruses – or RNA and DNA replication, and presented its inventor, Adrian, along with a 15-year-old protégé who seemed mature for his years.

We might not have much of a future (at least the nerds) at all if we don't protect our power grid. It's more vulnerable (to solar storms and to saboteurs) than we want to know.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PBS Nova: "Ultimate Mars Challenge"

On Wednesday November 14, 2012. PBS Nova aired “Ultimate Mars Challenge.”

The documentary presented state-of-the-art photos and animations of the Mars surface, with the landing and work of the Curiosity rover. 

The idea of using a bouncing-ball landing was changed to a technique of using speed reduction rockets, as on the Moon. It took the NASA team about five years to pick a landing site, which would be the Gale Crater.
The program explored the idea that running water has carved out the surface of Mars, and that ut cab be found under the polar dry ice permafrosts. 

Teachers are now telling students that their generation will finally put people on Mars.  The journey can take eighteen months each way.

The basic link for the documentary is here.

Wikipedia attribution link for USSRC Rocket Park in Huntsville, AL.  I did visit the NASA training center there in 1989 and actually saw young adults diving in a tank in a space camp exercise.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Logo's "The Baby Wait": a male couple waits to make sure the mother really can let go

On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Logo presented an episode of “The Baby Wait”.  Nelson and Tiyale, two African-American men as a gay couple (apparently legally married in New York) drive down to Charlotte and then to Tennessee to meet the surrogate mother.  They have to wait for her to sign the papers giving them legal temporary custody, and then wait ten days when she can change her mind.  She goes through big time emotional stress but does not try to keep the baby, and the men go back to Brooklyn to raise the baby girl, also named Brooklyn, having completed the legal adoption.

The link for the series is here.

The tone of the series is quite different from the flippant “The Baby Borrowers” on NBC (June 25, 2008).

I personally would not want to cause a baby to be brought into the world and then take it from its biological mother intentionally (even in surrogacy).  Maybe a three-way "modern family" would work.  At my age, it's a theoretical question. On the other hand, given the worldwide need for adoption, and especially special needs ("Wednesday's Child" series on NBC Washington), one can make a case that there is a generative moral adoption for same-sex couples to adopt if able, even singles.  (In Minnesota, adoption has been advertised to singles).

Monday, November 12, 2012

NBC affiliated consumer reporter looks at home "permanent" depilatory product; will it catch on?

On Sunday Nov. 11, NBC Washington presented consumer expert  Liz Crenshaw in “Does it really do that?”, reporting on the epilation advertised by a heat-based hair remover, “No No”, advertised with an 800 number on many cable channels, including CNN.

An older woman was shown demonstrating the product on her upper lip, neck, and even legs, and she reported that the hair grew back only slowly and finer.  So, yes, “it does do that”, for  around $300.Would this catch on with men?  I haven’t really noticed it in discos, just in a little porn.  But one or two conspicuous male movie starts (I won’t name names here) have apparently thinned out chest and arm hair this way.  Maybe they’ll  do this in public on Ellen.  It’s not joke.

Laser epilation, supposedly permanent, has been advertised by clinics since about 2000.
Sunday night, the ABC “Revenge” episode had a sequence of commercials, “The gift of revenge”(from Macy’s?) culminating in Nolan’s (Gabriel Mann) gathering his employees together for a party, when there is a power outage. 
This morning, NBC Today previewed the NatGeo series “Doomsday Preppers” which I’ll look into later. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Morgan, Edison, Tesla, Rockefeller: "Changing the Game" from "The Men Who Built America"

The episode “Changing the Game” of “The Men Who Built America” documents how J.P. Morgam wemt against his father’s advice and invested in Thomas Edison and the invention of a commercial electric power grid, at first based on less efficient direct current.
J. D. Rockefeller was the main “enemy”, wanting to keep America’s homes lighted and heated on kerosene.
Nikola Tesla, in Edison’s labs, then developed alternating current, which was at first thought to be too dangerous.  Tesla was fired by Edison, and looked for investors to back his AC technology, and found George Westinghouse.

The advantage of AC was its efficiency: one power plant could electrify a much wider area. Tesla demonstrated AC on himself in public speeches.

There was room in the market for only one system.  Edison tried to persuade the public that AC was unsafe, in a series of demonstrations with “dirty tricks”.  Edison would go on to design the electric chair – based on AC generators! The first demonstration backfires and roasts a man alive, destroying Edison’s “online reputation”.

Morgan shorted Westinghouse in order to force him to sell (after Tesla gave up patent rights because he cared more that his invention change history).  The biggest project was a hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls.

Rockefeller countered by finding a use for gasoline, the internal combustion engine and the automobile.
Morgan actually bailed out the US Treasury out of self-interest.  But there would follow “Morganization of business” meaning lower wages, inviting anti-trust.  Our lifestyles today, whether sustainable or not, dependent on benevolent but brutal  capitalists. How does that affect our own karma?
Note: The spelling is "Tesla", not "Telsa". 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NBC Dateline: "Obsession" a psychopathic professional female in a love triangle worthy of "Lifetime"

On Friday, Nov. 9, NBC Dateline aired a one-hour episode “Obsession”, about a bizarre love triangle and murder that sounds like the plot of a Lifetime movie. 

In Nov. 2002, a brilliant young single woman, Anna Lisa Raymundo,  working as a researcher for Purdue Pharma and  living in a waterfront condo in Stamford CT was expected to join friends for a night of dinner and show in Manhattan. She never showed up, and after a mystery 911 call the next day from a pay phone, she was found murdered by an intruder who had been let in.  Her shy boy friend as a suspect. 
Five months later, a husband and wife (Sheila Davalloo), both professionals (Sheila also worked for Purdue Pharma in Stamford), living in upper Westchester County NY, were engaging in some bizarre SM games.  (The video seems to suggest that the woman had shaved her husband’s chest before playing the blindfolded guessing games.)  The wife wounded the husband and drove him to the hospital.  Later, we would learn that she had stabbed him again, and this was part of plot to get rid of her husband, so she could have the other boy friend in Connecticut. Evidence mounted that she had invaded the home of the other woman to remove a rival.

Sheila acted as her own attorney, and in the trial presented the bizarre spectacle of cross-examining ger ex-husband and former boyfriend.  She was sentenced to 25 years in New York State for the attempted murder of her husband, and 50 years in Connecticut (why not life without parole?

She seems to have become a female psychopath, on  the order of a James Holmes.  Somehow this reminds me of the  1987 movie “Fatal Attraction”. 

The Dateline link is here.

There is a story about the episode on “The Hour” here

It’s good to see Chris Hansen reporting again. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

AC360 nails poor performance of Long Island Power Authority after Sandy, and Noreaster

Tonight, Nov. 9, Anderson Cooper AC360 on CNN  reported in detail about the severe problems in restoring power to residents of Long Island and Staten Island.

The show was broadcast from devastated areas, and focused on the inability of the Long Island Power Authority to restore electricity, and apparently its poor performance last year after Irene and record of taking shortcuts in maintenance.

In the Washington DC area, PEPCO has received similar complaints in DC and Maryland; Dominion Power has a better record. 

The link for the AC360 broadcast is here

Here’s an interview with Michael Hervey of LIOA by Raj Mehta

Here is a story about LIPA from the Long Island Newsday,link.

I looked at a 1950 World Book Encyclopedia relief map of New York State, and noticed that the lower half of Long Island is generally below 100 feet in elevation. The middle part of State Island is above 100 feet and rises to 410 feet (I was on it a few times in the 1970s when I lived in NYC, and had one “date” on the island in 1974, in a home in the higher section).  Most of Brooklyn and Queens are below 100 feet.  (By contrast, other midAtlantic cities have major areas above the Fall Line with much residential property higher than 300 feet.)   The media reports don’t say how many homes are severely damaged or what percentage are.  It would be helpful to note if any substantial areas in Long Island or State Island are back to normal.   But the CNN report indicated that some homes in the storm area  might not have power until Christmas. 

Picture: Valley Stream NY (mine), May 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012

NBC Rock Center reports on Internet addiction, and on a gay male couple as dads

NBC Rock Center on Thursday, Nov. 8, covered the new topic of “Internet Addiction”, showing brain scans that exhibit changes similar to those in alcohol or drug addiction.  The story, by Ami Schmitz and Jessica Hopper, depicted a rehab center called “Restart” near Seattle, where a stay costs $40000 (not covered by insurance) and where patients live in woodland pods that resemble hobbit homes.

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Men tended to be addicted to computer games; women to social media, and both to chat rooms.  Addiction to blogging happens. 
South Korea also has programs to treat Internet addiction.

I wonder what Dr. Phil would say about this.  I can remember college students being addicted to chess when I was an undergraduate, to the point that one of them did not graduate and wound up being drafted into the Vietnam war. Perhaps chess maps to the real world in a manner similar to the Internet.  (See my movie review of "Brooklyn Castle" on Nov. 5.)  
Rock Center also showed a gay family in Queens, NY, where two gay men were raising a son, and where one of the men was author Andrew Solomon (“The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” and more recently “Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity”.  Solomon had researched the family of Dylan Klebold (Columbine in 1999), and had come to believe that it would be important for him to have the experience of fatherhood himself to understand what families take on by having kids.  

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

"Revolution" hints at what caused "The Blackout"

The popular NBC series “Revolution” last night (episode “The Children’s Crusade”) provided some explanation as to what caused The Blackout.

Three years before the blackout, one of the characters had worked on an invention that would provide electric power out of the air very cheaply.  But it misfired and could cut off power.  The inventor, with a pregnant wife, got a contract with DOD which wanted to own the invention.  When the wife almost miscarried, a “fibbie” approaches the couple and pressures it into selling so the wife can get into a special medical program.

It's hard to imagine what kind of invention could do this. Some sort of microwave generator?  Nano particles? 

The hint is that an element of the government wanted to overthrow it so it could impose an authoritarian “super right wing” state (which conscripts teenagers to fight in its militia – hence the title of last night’s episode) state, and then bring back the power, possibly to reimpose something like “National Socialism”.  Perhaps this will turn out to be a Neo-Nazi plot.  “Revolution” can bring the extreme Right and extreme Left together.  Both are very moralistic at the individual level, and seem to want individuals to respect “authority” and admit their own dependencies.

There are three more episodes in 2012.  It’s not clear if it resumes in 2013. 

My cable started garbling out, so I had to watch it with a high-def antenna last night, but the visual results were still pretty good. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

ABC hosts "Day of Giving" for those impacted by Superstorm Sandy

ABC is hosting a "Day of Giving", and sponsored a telethon on Good Morning America and then later on The View.

The link for donations to the American Red Cross is here (story by Lauren Sher).

I did volunteer at a phone bank for the Red Cross in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, but most calls wound up being forwarded to a FEMA hotline, which took up to 12 hours to answer.  A couple calls that I took were for medical emergencies, and there was a nurse on site.

For some people, making charitable contributions could become an escape clause from a sudden jump in the 2012 taxes because of an anomaly with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which Congress has yet to repair. See my "Bill Retires" blog today for details.

Some donations are being matched by Samsung.

ABC is also donating $1 for every Facebook "Like" today.

"The View" mentioned that some people were offering housing, from as far away as Michigan, although that won't help anyone who wants to stay near home.  It also said that people on higher ground (generally 100 feet in elevation or higher) with power could do laundry for those displaced.

Most media sources are warning about a cold "Noreaster" Wednesday which could cause more coastal damage and bring snow inland, even to Washington DC.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

CNN hosts discussion on how Sandy affects ability of people to vote in election; postponement even possible? (NJ authorizes electronic voting by email, fax)

CNN, at 5 PM EDT on Saturday Nov. 3, is discussing whether Sandy can cause any postponement of the election.   Don Lemon is moderating the discussion. The basic answer is, no it can’t.  But states could take longer to report.  And there could occur litigation if in some areas voters cannot get to polls at all.  The National Guard is already being called up in some areas in New Jersey (particularly) to ensure that polling places can operate with generators if necessary and even to keep roadways clear for transportation of people.

Some states could consider extending early voting because of the storms.

Lemon is also reporting that NJ Governor Chris Christie is arranging to allow electronic voting, by fax or email, by 8 PM EST Tuesday.   This is just in;  check CNN's twitter feeds for details Saturday evening; no details available as of 6 PM.  

Lower voter turnout may hurt Obama, but significant effects on turnout in states critical to the outcome (Florida, Ohio) generally are not expected.  Eastern Pennsylvania might be critical, as Pennsylvania could go either way.

Lemon also covered a story of an 11-year old girl who set up a power “café” in Hoboken NJ to help people charge their cell phones.  

Topeka KS television station WIBW has a story why, as a matter of law, the election cannot be postponed, here

Thursday, November 01, 2012

On "Days", Nick Fallon says that the way Will and Sonny live is "wrong"; Lucas tells Will who is "family"

Today, on “Days of our Lives”, Nick Fallon (Blake Berris) told Gaby that he felt that the way that Will and Sonny were living was “wrong”.  He said, “They aren’t bad people.  I don’t hate them.  But I’m uncomfortable around them.”

He said that he had gone off the rails himself by just focusing on what he wanted, not on what could be wrong.

But he seemed to have no reason to back up the belief that the way Will and Sonny “chose” to live (even if they didn’t choose their orientations) was “wrong”.  Is it just religious scripture?  Is it that everybody has to pay his dues and share the responsibilities of providing another generation?

Nick's analogy seems false because earlier Nick had directly harmed others (his killing of Trent might have been justified by Trent's crimes), but Will and Sonny harm no one.  It's a matter of "cultural cohesion".
Will and Sonny were only a tad intimate today, and afterward Will and Lucas (Will’s father) had a confrontation in the park.  Lucas said that Will should have been available for “his family” rather than hanging out with Sonny.  Note, Will didn’t create “his” “family” because he hasn’t fathered or adopted any children.
But we see what’s coming. Will had a sudden tryst with Gaby about a month ago.  He might have his own (unintended) family anyway soon, as a gay man.

It’s a coincidence that this conversation occurred on the same day that the New York Times ran a story that at least gives a little more credibility to the “ex-gay” myth; will cover that on the GLBT blog soon.  

Update: Nov. 2  

On Friday, Lucas taunted Will and suggested that Sonny was a philanderer out to "use" Will.  Then Will went back to Sonny's apartment, and although it looked like they would become intimate, Will started taunting Sonny about fidelity, and Sonny pushed him away and told him to leave. "It's over."  It's stupid to become jealous like this.  I've never done this.

In the meantime, Nick seems to have no idea about Gaby's previous misdeeds.  Maybe when she gets pregnant there will be a fight and DNA test over whose baby she has. If Will winds up as a father, he would practically have to marry her, if Sonny has broken up with hom.