"terrorist" creep? I'd call the Brooklyn Bridge Skateboarders Heroes

Somebody, possibly skateboarders, replaced the American flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge with white flags.  The President of the Brooklyn council called it "an act of terrorism," in an NPR radio interview.  

Terrorist?  Really?   These young men --there's grainy video-- are Heroes of New York City.  They demonstrated a weakness in the defenses of this vital artery.  No one was hurt, few were frightened, and no real damage was done.  These heroes risked their lives to show a genuine  lapse in security at the Brooklyn Bridge.  

Sure, the police were embarrassed.  Too bad.  But that doesn't make these kids "terrorists." 


White-flag incident is the latest terror scare at Brooklyn Bridge - NY Daily News http://ow.ly/zya3E


Memento Mori

Coffee that was beans 5 minutes ago. Yogurt, honey and blueberries from my own labors. Flat surfaces piled with cukes, squash, okra and tomatoes. A barrel of basil next to the door.  

A good read under the trees next to the fountain, my own Walden puddle...with frogs!  Dove hunting through the Blackeyed Susans. Cairns scooping out cools spots under the Camellias.  

Gayle and I glance across the skeeter ditch at the lush green cemetery beyond.  A living memento mori we don't have to mow.  

Today I am the happiest, richest, most contented man in the world.  A very Jeffersonian feeling.  

43 Gals of Black Gold

Harvested the worm compost yesterday.  The worms turned one year's kitchen waste into 43 gallons of Black Gold:  

  • discarded lettuce leaves,
  • vegetable trimmings, 
  • soft fruit,
  • vegetable peels, 
  • coffee grounds, 
  • tea bags, 
  • moldy peppers, 
  • slimey lettuce,
  • old bread, 
  • onion & garlic skins,
  • even the crumbs in the bottom of the cracker box.

We shred newspapers and junk mail for bedding and to add carbon.  I also add a shovel full of shredded coconut coir every now and then for tilth.  

We almost NEVER put our garbage can out for the collectors.  

Today I'll use some of that Black Gold  to amend the garden for our okra sprouts and then side-dress all tomatoes and peppers.  

Make your own worm composter: 

Build a Raider-Proof worm composting bin from a food grade barrel video - GardenFork.TV Cooking & DIY Videos : GardenFork.TV Cooking & DIY Videos http://ow.ly/xBXbw 

Eric has a bunch of DIY worm composting information on the Gardenfork.TV site: 

Search for "worm" - GardenFork.TV Cooking & DIY Videos : GardenFork.TV Cooking & DIY Videos http://ow.ly/xBXF8




Jupiter, Mercury & a Priest walk into a Theatre

Queen Mary 2, Sunday, 11 May 2014

Second Day at Sea

I wonder what symbolist Robert Langdon would make of it.  Catholic Mass is being held this morning in the Illuminations Theater. 

Worshipers must enter the temple of Illumination, the Queen Mary 2's planetarium & the only planetarium at sea, between giant bronze  statues of Zeus on one side and Hermes on the other.   

Since the British were much more interested in the ancient Roman Republic than Athenian, and this is a British ship, I suppose the statues are actually of Jupiter and Mercury.  

Flanking the old Greek Gods are goddesses, I think of them as the Fates, juggling orbs of light.  Suns.  

Lonely business being a priest on a cruise ship at 0700, it appears.  


art queen mary 2

Paying the Poor Tax in London

Craven Terrace, London  Thursday, 08 May 2014


Paying the Poor Tax in London

I'm propped in the linted corner of a laundromat writing this note and paying the poor tax. 

Being poor is expensive.  

I always forget how expensive until Gayle & I run out of  "small clothes."   And when we find a Laundromat I'm immediately reminded of every set of military orders and every Laundromat we've ever suffered through between duty stations.   I think I've done laundry in at least 20 countries now, plus innumerable loads at sea or in various ports.  

Laundry on the go, it's my superpower.  

At best, though, my superpower is a rather blunt instrument.  So if Gayle's clothes are involved, close supervision is required when i wield my power.  

Gayle splashes with me down to the Laundromat, dragging our rolling carry-on stuffed with smelly clothes, wheels throwing tiny twin rooster-tails in the rain.  Once she gets both me and the laundry properly sorted, I'm on my own.  Gayle zips off on the Underground.  Kensington Palace today and afternoon tea in the Orangery.  

I've got the watch.  

The Poor Tax (1.6 USD to 1£), 
4£ per load.  (we run three),
20 pence for soap (3),  
50 pence for 5 measly minutes of drying (a pocketful of silver), 
And don't forfet the soul-numbing time suck...unless you happen to be a reader.  

This morning none of my fellow inmates seem bookish.  So they fidget. And gossip. And fiddle with their phones.  And criticize everything.  

Almost immediately I'm inducted into the London Chapter of the Order of the Laundromat when a petite black-haired Slovakian girl corrects my drying technique.  

"You're wasting money," she disapproves in barely accented English (want to annoy an American? Speak multiple languages).  Uninvited, she then proceeds to instruct me in how to stretch each pence of drying time. 

I immediately adopt the local custom of letting the clothes "rest" for 10 minutes between each 50 pence, 5-minute load.  According to The Order, this allows the clothes to soak up the residual heat in the dryers, evaporating as much water as possible between each coin drop.  

I know I'm doing it right when the attendant, Indian perhaps (that's Indian with the dot, not Indian with the arrows), sallies forth from his cubby to periodically glare at the members of The Order and all of his dryers unprofitably "resting." 

Serves him right.  Getting change out of him is like obtaining an interview with the Raj.  

"How many loads?" 
I don't know, three maybe four.  
"How many drying?"  
I don't know, how good are your dryers?  
shrug
"20 pound note is too much change."  
What do you recommend?  
"Maybe 10 pounds this time, then you come back."  
All I have is a 20. 
grumble, grumble. grumble.

The universal rule of laundromats:  If the attendant is unhappy, you're doing it right.  

My washday victory is short lived, however.  The attendant punishes me with a coat pocket full of coin worthy of poor, twisted-lip Huge Boone.  Still, somehow, I feel as if I "won."  I just don't know what.  In the end, it's just two old guys at the intersection of East & West, both pissing against the wind of time.  

I am lonely as cloud.  And, hauling my pocket load of coppers & wash back up to Sussex Gardens, as water sodden as a cloud too. 

Actually, today is a good day to pay the poor tax.  London is suicidal grey, rain the color of molten lead.  Soaking.  Unrelenting.  Despondent.  

I admire Londoner's their stoicism as they trudge past me on their way to the underground.   Worn faces, even the young ones, lined like Shar-Peis, streaming water and Churchillian determination-- blood, toil, tears & sweat.  The great wars might be long passed, but modern Londoners face this latest bombardment of raindrops with nothing less than the grit of their grandfathers.

Tomorrow we board the Queen Elizabeth 2 for America.  

Better to salvage a washed-out vacation day by catching up on laundry now than wasting a day aboard ship doing laundry when we could be doing absolutely nothing, but doing absolutely nothing with grand style. 


BTW, if you want "Fish & Chips" just take a can of peas down to Long John Silvers.  

Slaying the Internet Attention Monkey: My name is Rick, & I'm addicted...

Use these programs to get back to work without that Monkey on your back

[xkcd]

My name is Rick, and I'm addicted to novelty & conflict.  Or at least I'm the Temple Grandin of the internet: too easily distracted by...everything. 

[in her book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, Grandin writes about having her attention permanently derailed by even a simply computer screen saver.  Personally, I can't sit in a restaurant within sight of a TV without becoming engrossed in the action.] 

On the Internet, intellectually "shiny things" are my downfall: novelty, curiosity, drama, conflict (that's me in the xkcd comic above), all of which the internet provides in spades.  In short, over the last several years my productive output has slowly spiraled to almost nil, although I've never been busier.  

Right now I've got about half a dozen creative projects that are just inching forward --stalled, really-- just because I can't resist the rabbit hole of fun, conflict, novelty and drama rushing at me across the fiber.  Internet diversions are a lot easier and a lot more fun than the work of reading, learning, thinking, creating.     "What then shall we do?"  

A meditative exercise, the foundation of all contemplative practices whether engaged in meditation, silent prayer or some other reflective  practice, is what Buddhist tradition refers to as "calming the Monkey." 

The Monkey is the distracting inner turmoil of our increasingly ADD minds.  The Monkey is the playlist of past failures, humiliations, hurts, slights, conflicts, worries and DRAMA that loop over and over and over again inside your head.  It is only once the Monkey is calmed that can you finally hear the "still, soft voice" of whatever wisdom or creativity comes your way.  

But with the Internet, stilling the Monkey is made even more daunting when amusements fall so easily within it's hairy reach.  I admit that my addiction to "diversion" is so strong that I have now taken drastic action: I have purchased two program.  

The "secret" of both of these programs is that they force you to go to the pain of rebooting to cancel them.  Works for me.  Give them a try, and get back to work without that Monkey on your back   ($20 for the bundle, saving $5) .  

  1. Freedom shuts off the entire internet for any interval between 15 minutes and 8 hours (your choice, but can be configured to allow internal inTRAnet communications). 

    Freedom 

  2. Anti-Social  for those who need internet access for research, web design, etc.  Anti-Social will shut off selected sites ( mine are: facebook, quora, twitter, feedly, & amazon) and the program also has the option of shutting off email as well for between 15 minutes and 8 hours. 

     Anti-Social


Both programs require you to reboot your computer if you want to cancel the program before the allotted time is up.  


Got a Camera or Cellphone? You're a Journalist, says the Supreme Court

File this away, just in case you ever need it: 

The "police" are not the arbiters of who is a journalist and entitled to film in public places, the SCOTUS says in the 

"Glik vs Boston decision that specifically stated that Freedom of the Press was guaranteed to all citizens.

The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. Houchins, 438 U.S. at 16 (Stewart, J., concurring) (noting that the Constitution “assure[s] the public and the press equal access once government has opened its doors”); Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 684 (“[T]he First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally.”).

The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status."  - Carlos Miller

NSA Big Data Collection: The Danger is in the Patterns, Not the Content

My old shop in Misawa, Japan.  One of old Jack Anderson's, "secret overseas listening posts." (the revelation of which infuriated Richard Nixon & got Anderson put on Nixon's "enemy's list." )  

The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism. 
--Wole Soyinka

This is why what the NSA is doing, "just collecting metadata" is so dangerous: 

By collecting "just metadata" what the NSA is actually creating is a database of American relationships.  That is called Signals Intelligence, something the military and spy agencies have been perfecting for hundreds of years.  

What is being said in these conversation is pretty much irrelevant.  What matters are the RELATIONSHIPS.  Consider this:  

Recently the gun folks were up in arms about the possibility of background checks being retained as a "government confiscation list," while at the same time ignoring this threat from their everyday communications.  

And then consider this: the signals from two cell towers (two, so you can plot where the signals overlap) both cover a gun store or gun range.  The NSA, with the coerced assistance from the telcoms, grab every phone number (metadata) connected to the tower and store it.  Then the NSA relates the positional information stored in each connection to the location of the gun store or gun range.  This gives them a basic list of likely gun enthusiasts.  

Interactive Infographic Of The Day: Watch A Cell Phone Company Stalk A Customer:  6 months of movements, numbers dialed and received, internet & SMS activity retained.  http://ow.ly/naDmq

Then the NSA begins tracking these numbers: who they contact, where they go, how long they stay (it's all implicit or inferable from the cell data records, "just metadata").   This collection cascades into a master likely gun enthusiast relationships database: some will be dead ends, some will be persons of "of interest," but all are keepers because, just as all knowledge is valuable, all data has value...and data storage is dirt cheap.

Through these cell tower records, again all "just metadata," the NSA has also tracked the movements of gun enthusiasts via cell tracking (even if GPS location setting are turned off on the cellphone).  So now NSA can determine who met with whom, where and when they met. 

More importantly, the government will be smoking out those gun owners who'd purposely flown beneath the background check radar by only buying from individuals or at gun shows.  These "under the radar gun owners" will tell on themselves by their associations and their locations, betrayed by "just metadata."  


Instant gun owner confiscation list, all without listening to a word of conversation and without any real warrant. 

This is all possible because of the advent of powerful HADOOP processors arrayed n huge server farms with nearly unlimited storage, using sophisticated NO SQL search engines.  Using the unprecedented power, parsing, and storage capabilities, the government can, within a very short time, pull together all the RELATIONSHIPS of any person or group they wish to target, legally or illegally.  

The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say) | Threat Level | Wired.com http://ow.ly/naBTF   

Add in web and email traffic (not the content, just the relationships--"just metadata") and the government has a nearly complete picture of you, your movements, your core beliefs, and your contacts.  

It's also been revealed that the USPS has been electronically recording the address information on the outside of mail, so add that to the relationship mix, too.  

Old School Snail Mail 'Metadata' Still Being Harvested By The USPS And Turned Over To Law Enforcement/Security Agencies By Request | Techdirt http://ow.ly/naCXw

Finally, the police have been deploying license plate readers on patrol cars.  These readers process every plate the police car encounters in traffic comparing it with wanted and stolen plates.  However, the data is retained.  So, when linked with DMV records and your cellphone, add that to the data pile of what the government knows about you and can track....even if you turn off your cellphone.  Notice all the traffic cameras around: at intersections, along freeways.

You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements | American Civil Liberties Union http://ow.ly/naD69
 
 License plates are easy to read and catalog; and the reading and tracking software is getting better all the time.  

Identify, vilify, isolate, & harass.  It's what governments do.  The worst governments will also "eliminate."  

Now, if you believe that the government is benign and you've got nothing to hide, that's just naive.  Those who believe that lack any sense of history and have no imagination.  To paraphrase the comic strip Dilbert: "it's clear you will not survive by your wits."

Some day, maybe not during this administration but in some future administration --perhaps an administration in your child's adult future--  that administration will be tempted to use this information against the citizens...or more likely, some subset of citizens.   

Add in the various "watch lists" the government maintains and you should be concerned, at the least.  

Isn't it amazing how quickly the politicians and the administration are to label some person or group a "terrorist threat" or a "person of interest."  
So, who can be targeted as the new American "terrorists" using this data: those who oppose policies of the government: 
  • Gun Owners
  • Occupy Wall Street protesters
  • Anti-G8 protesters
  • People of religion or a subset of some religion
  • anti-war protesters
  • animal rights activists
  • Internet freedom activists
  • Internet privacy advocates
  • school reformers
  • the poor
  • the rich
  • business owners
  • environmentalists
  • oil-frackers
  • soccer moms
  • Republicans
  • Democrats

All of us would have trouble trying to account for every movement, every verbal shot fired in anger on the internet, every meeting, every telephone call.  They --business or the government-- can break you just by keeping your in court for years.  

All it takes for your government to turn on you is for you to join some group actively opposing what that government says or does.  Since none of us agree with our government all the time, you, too, hazard the risk of being labeled a "terrorist."  

The real danger is that we will let the fear of being targeted keep us from participating, from correcting our government when it's wrong. 

All it takes is a few highly-publicised electronic crucifictions, martyrdoms for any cause, to have a chilling effect on any resistance to the government's will.  




additional reading: 

Signals intelligence in modern history - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://ow.ly/m9BOL

How The FBI Caught Paula Broadwell - Business Insider http://ow.ly/m9h0t

Phew, NSA Is Just Collecting Metadata. (You Should Still Worry) | Wired Opinion | Wired.comow.ly/mhHwF

Bush-Era NSA Whistleblower Makes Most Explosive Allegations Yet About Extent of Gov’t Surveillance — and You Won’t Believe Who He Says They Spied On | TheBlaze.com http://ow.ly/mmAzf

Beekeepers are our last best chance to keep Africanized Honey Bees under control

After finding 50 swarms of Africanized Honey Bees inside the city limits of Almagordo, NM., a city that bans beekeeping, the city council finally got the message: 

"The city of Alamogordo has a choice -- nice bees or mean bees," he said. "The solution is dilution. The solution to your African bee problem is to reshape the gene pool." 1


And that about sums it up.  After a spat of highly dramatized news stories the last few weeks about people disturbing hidden nests of Africanized Honey Bees (one death in Texas and another story from Florida where men in both cases were using machinery to move old brush piles) localities are often approached by citizens who think the solution to avoiding Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) is to ban beekeeping inside their city or county limits.  

Banning beekeeping is  a perfectly understandable reaction that, as has been proved throughout Florida time and time again, actually makes the problem worse when it comes to controlling AHBs.  There were so many localities in Florida that had banned beekeeping as a "cure" to the AHB invasion that the state finally had to step in and stop the bans and allow beekeeping because these localities were actually making the AHB problem in Florida worse.  3 

AHBs are highly adept at taking over both ferrel (wild) and managed hives of the more gentle European Honey Bees (EHB).  They can do this either by direct invasion of the hive, the AHB queen killing the EHB queen, or by mating, where it's been scientifically demonstrated that AHBs genes are not only dominant, but also that EHB queens mated with an AHB drone can manipulate the several deposits of sperm inside her body to "prefer" the AHB sperm above the EHB sperm (European Queens like Bad Boys).  (good University of Florida video)

But these bees, like all bees, also have to "take care of business."  So most of their energy is expended doing what all bees do: forage for nectar and pollen, scout for new nest sites, defend the hive, care for new brood, and procreate.  Therefore, in the field, AHBs have to compete with other pollinators for resources.  The more field pollenators the AHB have to compete with, the less successful they will be in that area.  Therefore, if there are no beekeepers with EHBs, the AHBs win the area by default.  

But if AHB genes are dominant, won't the AHB win anyway?  

Yes, unless faced by determined beekeepers actively managing their hives and frequently replacing their queens with PRE-MATED queens of assured genetic stock, the AHB will take over an area.  That’s where skilled, dedicated beekeepers come in.  Viewed through a Public Safety lens, beekeepers and their managed bee hives perform the same function in Virginia as a vaccinated dog population.  Rabies will never be eliminated in the wild, but a vaccinated dog population buffers our city centers from the disease.  In much the same way, managed bee hives buffer population centers from being overrun by Africanized Honey Bees.  

But we can either be like this guy, afraid and uneducated about bees and what he's seeing (there is NO way to identify AHBs from EHBs by looking with the naked eye): 


or like this beekeeper managing his hives to protect his stock, his investment, and his community:  


(What this beekeeper didn't make clear in the video is that he re-queened with a mated EHB.)  

Georgia, North & South Carolina, and Tennessee have had recents AHB activity.  So has Virginia.  

Here are the behavorial differences between the EHB and the AHB: 

Africanized Honey Bees:
    1. have a tendency to swarm frequently (17 times per season for AHB vs. one or to for EHB).
    2. Are more likely abscond as part of a seasonal migratory pattern.
    3. have greater defensiveness when in a resting swarm.
    4. Tend to live more often in ground cavities than the european types.
    5. Tend to be highly defensive in guarding the hive, with a larger alarm zone around the hive.
    6. Tend to have a high proportion of "guard" bees within the hive prepared for exit and defense.
    7. Tend to quickly recruit additional bees from within the hive for defense.
    8. Tend to pursue and sting perceived threats in far greater numbers and over much longer distances.

1. Bear, J. (2013, April 13). City Commission moves ahead with initial plans for beekeeping within Alamogordo. Alamogordo Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.alamogordonews.com/news/ci_23021963/city-commission-moves-ahead-initial-plans-beekeeping-within

2. National Agricultural Pest Information System (NAPIS). Purdue University. "Survey Status of Africanized Honey Bee - Apis mellifera scutellata (All years)." Published: 06/04/2013. http://pest.ceris.purdue.edu/map.php?code=ISAEAEA&year=alltime . Accessed: 06/05/2013.

3. Davis, J. (2012, July 31). New Law Removes Local Control Of Backyard Beekeepers. WGCU News. Retrieved from http://news.wgcu.org/post/new-law-removes-local-control-backyard-beekeepers

4.  State of Florida guidelines for best practices for beekeepers to exclude AHB overrun:

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER SERVICES

DIVISION OF PLANT INDUSTRY

BUREAU OF PLANT AND APIARY INSPECTION

APIARY INSPECTION SECTION

BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR MAINTAINING 

EUROPEAN HONEY BEE COLONIES

1.    This is a voluntary program designed to minimize the threat of Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) in Florida and to 

       dilute any feral AHB populations that may become established in Florida as our gentle managed colonies are our 

        best line of defense against AHB.

2.    Beekeepers participating in this program must sign a compliance agreement with the Florida Department of    

       Agriculture and Consumer Services.

3.    Beekeepers will maintain a valid registration with the Florida Department of Agriculture and 

    Consumer Services/Division of Plant Industry (FDACS/DPI), and be current with any and all 

    special inspection fees.

4.     A Florida apiary may be deemed as EHB (European Honey Bee) with a minimum 10% random survey 

  of colonies using the FABIS (Fast African Bee Identification System) and/or the computer-assisted 

  morphometric procedure, ie. universal system for the detection of Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) 

  (USDA-ID), or other approved methods by FDACS on a yearly basis or as requested.

5. Honey bee colony divisions or splits should be queened with production queens or queen cells from EHB breeder queens following Florida’s Best Management Practices.

6.    Florida beekeepers are discouraged from collecting swarms that cannot be immediately re-queened 

       from EHB queen producers.

7.    Florida Beekeepers should practice good swarm prevention techniques to prevent an abundance of 

       virgin queens and their ready mating with available AHB drones that carry the defensive trait.

8.    Maintain all EHB colonies in a strong, healthy, populous condition to discourage usurpation (take 

       over) swarms of AHB.

9.   Do not allow any weak or empty colonies to exist in an Apiary, as they may be attractive to AHB 

      swarms.

  10.  Recommend re-queening with European stock every six months unless using marked or clipped queens 

      and having in possession a bill of sale from a EHB Queen Producer.

  11.   Immediately re-queen with a European Queen if previously installed clipped or marked queen is found 

      missing.

 12.   Maintain one European drone source colony (250 square inches of drone comb) for every 10 colonies in 

    order to reduce supercedure queens mating with AHB drones.

 13.   To protect public safety and reduce beekeeping liability do not site apiaries in proximity of tethered or 

      confined animals, students, the elderly, general public, drivers on public roadways, or visitors where 

      this may have a higher likelihood of occurring.

 14.   Treat all honey bees with respect.



Download an excellent Inforgraphics Poster on the differences between European Honey Bees and Africanized Honey Bees: