Thursday, December 6, 2007

Some more photomanipulation

Another piece, one that I'll play around with a little more, from my gallery space on DeviantArt. Let's call this one of the gifts of poverty. Maybe.

Image links to DeviantArt page.What I would really like, among so many other things many of which I would like even more, is access to a darkroom, but I can't afford that, so I have to rely on Osco, which means assembly line service. For example, I brought in a shot I took along Broadway of a neo-baroque building whose ornamentation was brought out by the shadows cast by the setting sun and they developed it as if I had shot it at noon, "compensating" by lightening the image until they had washed almost all of the color out of it. One might imagine that the sight of a clearly shining street lamp in the picture would have tipped off the developer that this image had obviously been shot later in the day, but she was probably too rushed to notice. The image was ruined.

Further, as is so often the case, my handicap gets in the way. I can't drive, which means that even if I could afford a tripod, I would have trouble taking it everywhere I went - try carrying even a small object in your hands for a few miles and see how heavy it gets. You'll be surprised. This becomes a nuisance, because low light conditions are common in Chicago. That doesn't always keep me from getting a shot - if one finds something to brace oneself against, sometimes one can steady oneself enough to compensate for long exposures - but again, a lot of blurring occurs. These factors have left me with a wealth of ruined pictures which I'm loath to just throw out.

But the good news is that with the scanner comes an earlier release of Photoshop, and what would have been wasted shots proved, very often, to be a good starting point for image manipulation. Had I the money for my own darkroom, if I had motorized transportation to help me get around - then I'd probably have had lots and lots of nice, clean, crisp, well developed shots and no urge to repair them with software that in some ways, proved unsatisfactory, leading me in simple frustration to acknowledge the unreality of the whole process in the final result, pushing the images in the direction of surrealism or outright abstraction. Had I a little more money, I suppose that I might have gotten a later, better release, ... and so it goes.

Not that I wouldn't rather be gainfully employed, of course, but it is always a pleasant surprise when one is blessed by one's bad luck.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Pincushion of the week

I started an add-on to my previous post with the words "On an unrelated note, let's ponder with wonder and amazement the fact that this managed to become a featured video on Youtube. Slow week, boys?", thinking that there was too little going on to justify devoting an entire post to this. How wrong I was, but this certainly isn't the first time I've underestimated my fellow man's capacity for just sheer, gratuitously coarse insanity. A young girl who claims to be 18 (I'm skeptical about that) posts a video to Youtube stating something that would have been a platitude when I was her current age, talking about the importance of not just believing what one is told. She does seem to take herself terminally seriously, but remember yourself at that age. Probably, you were doing a little of that yourself. What I hope you weren't doing was responding to a provocation that mild with wishes that somebody would be killed or threats of rape, accompanied by graphic sexual suggestions directed toward somebody who either is a minor or was one in the recent past.

While I initially teased her a little, I found myself regretting my decision to do so very quickly. I've seen online mobs like hers in action before, and I can definitely understand her anger. Here's her post:

And you knew there was going to be a sequel, right? Hope you enjoy the word "f**k", because she uses it a lot. Not that I don't sympathize as she talks about the idiocy of netizens, but she did bring a little of this on herself.

Maybe. She's 18, isn't she? Meaning that she came of age during the "self esteem based education" era? Hmmm, maybe there's a context in that which I haven't been picking up on. What you're seeing is a repost of a followup video which AngryLittleGirI deleted, though the comments for her video are still up. I definitely am not supportive of the title this other user attached to the repost, and will be asking for permission to repost this one myself, with a far more respectful blurb attached.

For those craving more of her writing, rumor holds that this is her blog and here is her YouTube profile, for those who wish to enjoy a little more postadolescent bitterness. Either way, have fun, preferably with aspirin bottle in hand. But Jessica, that's OK. This is normal for those your age.

One can say much the same about reading many of the replies she has received, at least as far as the aspirin goes (in its hatred, the response went well beyond what would be understandable at any age), but at least one case (this video by HippyOrGTFO the teasing stayed good spirited instead of descending into the gutter and at least one of them (this one by Lehrane, strictly speaking a response to one of the responses) seemed genuinely sweet.

But then there were those that were genuinely psychotic, like this one by somebody named Joyce. You can actually watch this depraved little girl express a hope that the target of her misplaced rage will kill herself, merely for having expressed opinions that she didn't like and having called a group of trolls on Youtube "retards" for no better reason that the fact that they were acting like retards. Truth hurts, Joyce?

If I seem a little slow to comment in YouTube in the future, this is why. This was like returning to the bad old days of Usenet. I like the fact that Google is not as eager to shoot first and ask questions later as some providers, but there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing, even when the good thing is tolerance. Somebody who posts a threat that he will stalk, rape and kill a poster not only is not entitled to state that in the forum of his choice, he isn't even entitled to be outside of a prison cell at that point where, one might well hope, he might gain a little added perspective on the crime of rape. Somebody being piled up on does not need to be teased at such a moment, because one can count on that moment to have driven away her sense of humor. What Google has done is create a kind of Usenet in a can, back in the days when the vileness of Usenet was fresh and young, and psychiatric outpatients of all descriptions were still excited about it.

I've had that experience, in fact I think that most of us did, because it's a big part of where political correctness came from, and wasn't that a magical experience to go through? I don't think I need to have that experience again. I've posted rebuttals in a few places because I remember the experience of having been the one ganged up on, and nobody should have to face that unsupported, if only because nobody should ever be left wondering if the whole world has gone insane. If anybody actually reads this blog and they'd like to do something decent, do a search, find the videos where this girl is being attacked and give her some backup, because she doesn't deserve what she has been getting. But beyond that, if Google is going to let the comments section of Youtube turn into a cesspool, I think that they should be taught that eventually nobody but a piece of s**t is going to want to swim there.

IF I ever post to Youtube, I will always do so with comments disabled and will shun the discussions, aside from offering support to those deserving it during this sort of drama, and not even that very often. Trolls gain more attention and power than they would otherwise enjoy because there is content that others would enjoy reading, enticing them to come look. The paradox of a troll dominated forum, then, is that if the trolls win, they lose, because soon after they drive off all of the sane posters, they will run out of readership. One enters such a discussion to reaffirm the values of civil society and leave a needed reminder that they are being breached as wakeup call to those being lulled into acceptance of what they are seeing, but then one departs, having implicitly reminded others that they ought to do so as well. This is the victory one seeks in such a place. Idiots are as free-willed as anybody else; you can't force them to be anything other than what they are, so you have to accept that they will be in the majority where they have gathered when you depart, but you can help make the virtual territory they hold onto become worthless.

That's how you win.

Addendum, August 14,17. In case you were wondering how somebody was holding up, this is the harassee's response to the drama. She seems to be in good spirits.

Though not too good to break a hippy's heart. Jessica, how could you? We see the man scarfing down a tub of what I can only hope is Ben and Jerry's, drowning his sorrows in lactose ... sorry, I just have to log off now ... it's so sad. What does "emo" mean?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yes, but is she Jewish?

What?! Mom would have wanted me to ask. Video found on Metacafe, from Joey and

The Laundry Girl, Never Forget Her ! - Funny bloopers are a click away

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Express, Dennis Quaid, and a friendly suggestion

In case you didn't already know, Dennis Quaid is in a movie currently being shot on the Near North Side of Chicago. The name of the movie is "The Express". Judging from the cars used in the shooting, it seems to be a period piece set some time around 1960. I only know this much because I ran into the crew as they were shooting. Mr.Quaid wasn't around at the time, as far as I knew.

Let me set the time and place for you, and you'll see where the friendly suggestion is coming from. It's a bit past five in the afternoon on a bright, warm Wednesday afternoon - yes, about two days ago. Not hot, just warm, warm enough that the girls are dressed lightly and the boys of all ages are enjoying the scenery, as boys are prone to do until the day they drop. I'm walking along North Avenue, on the north side of the street. People are now getting out of work, and as the nice weather is a novelty, they are doing as much walking as they can. The street I happen to be walking down is a major thoroughfare, passing through the most densely populated section of the third largest city in the United States, a neighborhood thick with highrises, having about as many people per square mile as Manhattan. Get the picture, yet? Let me flesh it out a little more, then. Along the north side of the street, which narrows from four lanes to two as it crosses Clark, the street is forested, deep green branches bending low, providing welcome shade in abundance to those who wish they had remembered to bring sunglasses when they headed out in the morning, and obstructed lines of sight for the rest of us, especially when the sidewalk is packed, as it is bound to be on a day like today, not that those of us present mind - with one exception.

As I walk eastward, headed toward the underpass to the lakefront, somewhere near State I start to see trailers, a camera pointed toward Clark Street and those of us coming from the West, an empty stretch of sidewalk in front of it with no visible signs of action - and a very testy looking woman. A pedestrian who had been approaching looks at the camera, points across the street, asking her "should I ...?", nodding to one side to quickly indicate a simple question: "would you like me to cross the street, to get out of the camera shot somebody's setting up or has set up or ... because the one thing that has been absent throughout? The crew didn't think to make any effort to block off the sidewalk. The way we all found out was that we walked along and ... surprise! ... there they were. Glaring at us as if we had no business going toward the Lake on a sunny day, on a public sidewalk.

A swift and courteous question from an apparent local who was trying to be cooperative with a visitor to the city was greeted with an uncivil tone, from somebody who seemed to imagine that she was in the middle of a studio back lot and we were trespassers. I could say something about the wisdom of wearing out one's welcome in a friendly place by treating the local people as if they were intruders, and I suppose that I just did, but let us focus more narrowly on the practicality of this woman's approach and what passed for managerial judgment on her part. At the very heart of a major city, at rush hour on a bright day, she and her team assume that nobody is going to walk down the shady side of the street. What could they possibly be thinking about?

Obviously, if one is shooting a film set in the mid 20th century, one doesn't want to have somebody walking past with an ipod; the illusion will be broken, and those passing understood that. By and large, they wished to be cooperative, but being cooperative does not mean being psychic, it does not mean being able to see through crowds or a dense canopy of leaves. It means being willing to act on the information one has in order to try to avoid causing another unnecessary inconvenience, and when that other decides not to give one the information one needs to act in as timely a manner as the other wishes, whose fault is that? How difficult would it have been, for the crew to merely post a sign at the end of the block stating "film shooting in progress, please use other sidewalk"? Or to use those little sawhorses used by .... oh, practically every other film company to have ever shot on the Near North side, to block off the sidewalk? But, with precious daylight burning on a day which was soon to be followed by gray overcast, as the bills mounted, this team decided that what it really needed to do to get that sidewalk clear was be abrupt with the locals as they wandered in, unwarned, in a column, one by one. Coming home by foot on rush hour.

Good plan. I can't imagine why it didn't work. Smiley courtesy of All the same, next time, they might want to consider just blocking off the sidewalk and maybe even trying to not irritate the friendly locals in whose home they are guests, if only as a change of pace.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Bringing bad things to light

G-d save us from those so desperately eager to save us from ourselves:

TORONTO, ONTARIO Ontario is considering becoming the first province in Canada to follow Australia's lead in banning old-fashioned, energy-sucking light bulbs, Environment Minister Laurel Broten said as the province draws up a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Conservative Leader John Tory and environmental groups are urging the government to ban incandescent bulbs in favour of energy-efficient ones, saying it's the push people need to save electricity and a move that would eliminate much of the province's dependence on coal-fired power plants.

"There are a lot of great ideas out there and that's one of them," Broten said. "Everything is on the table." --> (more here)

A halfway decent definition of liberty is that desirable state we attain when everything is not on the table. Otherwise, we spend all of our lives fighting over those many things that are on the table, because there is no decision that one can make for oneself that some busybody won't try to interfere in. This is not to say that the government should never deny the individual freedom of choice, just that the government ought to be so greatly reluctant to do so, that it won't in the absence of a disturbingly compelling reason to act.

What that reason might be in this case is anybody's guess. Consider where Ontario is located. Considering the fact that I hear from people who think that Chicago is located somewhere near Kentucky, maybe I'd better give a map.

If you're from California, this is a map of a country called Canada.

Yes, that Minneapolis, Minnesota you're seeing well to the south of Ontario, which you can see generally lies to the north of the generally frosty American Midwest, with Hudson Bay, an inlet of the Arctic to its North. One might go out on a limb and guess the beach weather there might not be optimally warm, most of the time, and one would be right, as one can see by looking these month mean temperatures for Toronto, and then noticing how far Ontario reaches to the north of that city. One might be safe, then, in concluding that Bob and Doug MacKenzie do not live in a tropical paradise, and in fact probably have the heat on most of the time.

Guess what happens to the energy "wasted" by an incandescent light bulb? This is the issue that gets glossed over by advocates of this kind of intrusive legislation, who tend to act like the energy that an incandescent light bulb fails to turn into visible light just vanishes into nowhere. Obviously, it can't do any such thing, because one would have to circumvent basic physical conservation laws, as in the laws of Physics themselves, to accomplish this undesirable goal. Where, then, does the missing energy go?

The vast bulk of it becomes heat, which helps to keep warm the space it is heating, reducing the need for heating feul. Outside of the summer months, and mainly during the day even at that, that energy isn't going to waste at all, and the clueless consumer who so badly needs to be micromanaged for his own good turns out to be not so clueless after all. Go further south, into a place like Chicago, and you'll find that our year still isn't wall-to-wall toastiness, either, and so even down in balmy Illinois, most of the waste energy is being put to good use, even without any deliberate attempt being made.

A Northern Ontarian goes grocery shopping

We're left with a proposed law which our activist friends are trying to spread from place to place, rather unconcerned with the fact that there is no clear rationale for promoting it, and a very clear rationale for opposing it. The problem with passing a law or otherwise imposing decisions upon the individual from above, is that individuals are very different from each other and while they can and likely will factor those individual differences of their own into the purchasing decisions they make, the law isn't very good at doing that, itself.

For some people, fluorescent lighting is as good as any other, and they are free to maybe save a little money by buying the new fluourescent bulbs - if, indeed, they do save money. For others of us, though, that light can be intensely unpleasant. Some can see its flickering, others find its decidedly unnatural mix of colors unsettling, and these factors can greatly reduce the mental focus and comfort of those so affected. Certainly, I've found that they affect mine, and one can easily find others who will say the same. Pass that law where we live, and we are denied the freedom to rationally act by making a very small added expenditure of our own money during a relatively brief time of the year. Very brief, indeed, because during the day during the summer, one tends to either be working or outside, not at home either way, and so we're facing the possibility of sustaining a real loss in productivity and quality of life in order to force us to engage in what may well be nonexistent savings, based on the theory that individual people are so stupid that they can't manage to decide to save money on their own, unless they are forced to do so at gunpoint.

People acting in a free market are certainly capable of acting stupidly, which is why when their stupidity affects others on a large scale lassez faire may not prove to be a valid nonresponse on the part of government, but the assumption of this argument is something very different. The assumption is not that we may have lone individuals who may make irrational use of their disproportionate amount of personal power to work mischief on the undeserving, but that on the whole, the customer can not be trusted to make the simple decision to avoid wasting his own money, that he has to be babysat and forced to make the right decision for his own good, by people who, in reality, don't live inside his skin, don't see out his eyes, and really aren't qualified to decide for him what that right decision is. If my decision to make that purchase is something that an administrator must decide on, as he elects whether or not to allow a variance on an ordinance, and I tell him that I find myself feeling very, very sleepy under those lights, he can only guess as to whether or not I'm telling the truth, but I know, which is why one leaves things like this up to the market. How many people do you know of who don't want to save money, and how much extra energy will likely be consumed by those whimsical few? Where is the disproportionate impact of the few that requires intervention on behalf of the relatively many?

Electricity, after all, isn't free, and unlike some well-to-do person owning his own company, very few of us have money to burn. But Big Brother knows best, right? What's next, I wonder? Maybe a law mandating the proper way in which we may tie our shoelaces.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dilbert meets Emerson, or Why I've not been carrying my party card, lately

Our president, pretending to care about the unemployed. A more realistic picture of his performance can be found by clicking on this image.

While this blog is, as I've said, not going to be about national politics in general, sometimes one can't avoid the subject, and we're going to get into that now. I have, at times, been classified as a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, even a socialist, though that one seems to have come out of a confusion between me and a distant relative of mine who shares my preposterously common name. This has lead to any number of charges that I've been "trolling" or "betraying the cause" because, in one way or another, I've failed to stick to the party line.

In truth, I'm not really any of these things, never really have been, and look askance at the concept that one should philosophically tie ones hands in advance by commiting oneself to an "ism", and then sticking to that -ism no matter how horrible the things one may end up having to support for the sake of consistency may be. Was it Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote "Consistency is the bugaboo of small minds"? Sophomore high school English was a long time ago. I grew up cringing when I heard that line, as I usually heard it pop out as a soundbite offered in defense of poorly thought out positions, but there is a truth it points toward that maturity should help one accept.

One's picture of the world is always incomplete, and so a sensible man will see a disconnect between the theoretical models of the world he plays around with, which must be consistent to be meaningful at all, and what one might call one's working philosophy, that which guides one's actions and probably should include a logical inconsistency or two, because unless one has closed one's own mind, one is constantly updating that working philosophy, and those updates have implications that have to be worked through. "Aha! Got you! A doesn't fit with B" is the cry of an 18 year old college freshman git who has claimed (or thinks he has claimed) all of the privileges of adulthood, but has yet to shoulder most of the responsibilities, and thinks of learning as being that spoon feeding and regurgitation he got back in high school, maybe kicked up a notch in sophistication. Real learning in all things is more of a groping through a dark that one dispels a little bit at a time, the very activity that such a childish oneupsmanship stigmatizes, which is why adults have little patience with that reaction.

The sad news is that adults are becoming remarkably scarce these days, no matter what the age bracket one is looking at, with the result that satire and serious politics are beginning to greatly resemble each other. If one of us were to board a time machine, go back to the early 1980s, and tell a story about an American president who would trumpet the virtues of shipping American jobs and American industry overseas, telling the American people that this was in their best interests, ending with the American people believing this, one would have had trouble holding onto one's audience because the story would have seemed so far fetched. Let's consider a little history and the implications of the act. Remember the Rosenbergs, back from History class?

Remember what they were executed for, with the approval of the vast majority of conservatives to this very day? They gave information about a dangerous technology (nuclear weaponry) to a hostile government (that of the Soviet Union), helping that government with its possible future war effort against the United States. One might, after the fact, dismiss the complaint by observing that the feared nuclear war never came, but that would be like defending one's decision to high dive off the state street bridge on the basis that one had missed the passenger boat passing below at the time; history did not have to take the course that it did.

A more interesting line of criticism of the neocon party line is to compare the condemnation of the Rosenberg's with the acceptance of more recent actions, and note that while one's approach to life must carry a few inconsistencies, in this case no honest effort is being made to work out an inconsistency so glaring as to be impossible to ignore. The Rosenbergs were killed for giving the enemy some information - and nothing else. But let's take a good, long look at what American corporations are now doing, with the encouragement of an American president. Think about the practice of relocating industry from America to China, and then think about the likely progress of a war between a deindustrialized America and a mainland China to which the very industries on which a war effort would depend, had been relocated. The Rosenbergs merely sent information about the creation of weapons that could be used to destroy their countrymen. Try out this search, on the other hand, and think long and hard about what you're reading. Some of it, no doubt, is fabrication, but what clearly is not a fabrication is what our own president's position has been on the issue: if the work can be done more cheaply in location B, then the work should be done in location B. Period. No exceptions, no disclaimers, so if that means that cruise missles are being built in Canton instead of Seattle, so be it, and why not?

Tell me, if we end up going to war with Beijing, do you suppose that the Communist Chinese will feel so concerned with the honoring of contractual obligations that they will do as no state has done before them, and ship its own enemy war materiel that its enemy will have given up the ability to produce for itself? Which, really, is worse - just giving somebody some information about a technology, or shipping all of the information about that technology, along with the equipment needed to implement the technology, then going on to train the enemy in the using of that equipment while denying that same technology to one's own country? To follow this argument to its logical conclusion, then, one would have to conclude that the real crime of the Rosenbergs wasn't the propogation of classified information, but the insufficient presence of an entrepeneurial spirit; if only they had started a few factories in which the Soviets could construct those nuclear weapons, then they wouldn't have been traitors, they merely would have been engaging in free trade, and God bless America, from sea to glowing sea!

Either that, or that the standards applied are absurdly inconsistent, and that our own president and a goodly portion of the leadership of the allegedly American corporate community would have to reasonably be said to be more traitorous than the Rosenbergs. America and the West were able to survive the Soviet acquisition of a thermonuclear capability; neither can survive the complete disappearance of all local industry, and realistically speaking, how can Western personnel hope to bid lower in their salary demands, than can people who are being paid and paying their daily bills in soft currency? Free trade, pre-Bush the elder, was relatively free trade between developed nations with hard, stable currencies. While America might, overall, be a little ahead of Denmark technologically, the gap isn't so yawning that the Americans and the Danes aren't basically dealing with each other as equals. An American firm that opened a factory near Aalborg with the thought that it would be paying its Danish employees the equivalent of starvation level wages in the United States, when currency exchange rates were factored in, and that any labor organizers might be swiftly and horribly dispatched, would be in for a bit of a disappointment. In China and throughout much of the third world, however, these are realistic hopes for an employer to hold, and so common sense should tell one that on the terms that the president lays out, the process won't and can't even out, no matter how bad life here will get.

Consider who the American worker is bidding against. There are countries locked in Malthusian spirals, in which the population is growing geometrically and people are literally dying of starvation in the streets. No matter how little a foreign employer is willing to pay them, in currency that in Western terms is worthless, and no matter how badly that employers will treat them, they have to say yes. Worse still, the poorer these countries get, the more rapidly their populations grow, because children become the only form of social security that exists, the only hope for support in one's old age - meaning that the market response to an oversupply of labor will be to increase the oversupply, not to diminish it; one can not escape the fact that should one try to treat the overabundant labor as a commodity and predict what the price of that commodity will be (ie. what level of pay will the starving masses be left to survive on), that the overcited and oversimplified supply and demand curve equilibrium argument we all saw in Introductory Microeconomics (back when we were taking our Undergraduate common core courses) can not apply to this situation because the specific predictions it makes are at glaring odds with reality. The slow trickle down of employment is not going to keep pace with the exploding sizes of those workforces, meaning that from a starvation level low, the market price for wages can only drop in the rigid pursuit of lassez faire.

History gives us solutions to these problems, tarriffs to slow the migration of industry to soft currency countries and (gasp!) government initiatives to support the development of depressed regions (remember the Marshall plan, anybody). The old party line of "let the market take care of it" isn't working, with notorious results; getting American students to study technical subjects is getting to border on the impossible, and has been doing so ever since the word "bangalored" entered the vernacular. When, to take a case very familiar to me, graduate work in BOTH Mathematics and Electrical Engineering isn't enough to get an interview for an entry level job, and one is being told to start a third graduate degree program just to get that first "permanent" job, we've entered the realm of the deeply absurd. The unmotivated students at the beginning of their academic careers are literally unmotivated, or one might perhaps go so far as to coin a word and say that they've been de-motivated. They're being asked to work unreasonably, brutally hard at a time when they can see those who've gone before them being punished mercilessly in the job market for having done just that; we all know what "overqualification" is, right? Common sense should tell people that this isn't going to work itself out on its own, that things already are bad, positively nightmarish in places, and only promise to get worse if a different path isn't chosen.

Somebody reasonably pragmatic will look upon the damage done by taking an idea he once supported to an insane extreme, reexamine whether or not his support was prudent, and certainly not endorse such a destructive exaggeration of his old notions. But pragmatism is not in style; instead, in a way that brings to mind the Emerson quote mentioned above, we get to witness a notion that there is something virtuous in being irrationally stubborn, in clinging to one's abstract ideas no matter how much harm they work on real, flesh and blood human beings, and doing so to the bitter end, those doing so thinking of their callous egotism as being somehow a measure of their righteousness.

I find myself even more amazed that many will act thusly, and call themselves Christians or Jews. Judaism certainly does not smile on the willful ruination of one's fellow man; consider the law of the Jubilee year, something not at all in keeping with the spirit of "every man for himself". As for Christians who endorse the notion that one ought to say "to H*** with the consequences, let's just stick with our ideals", do they remember this one: "the Law was made for Man, not Man for the Law"? One always has to think of the consequences, but lately, people don't.

I've been watching the progress of these trends from a real world vantage point, and I am amazed at how willfully blind and deaf people have been willing to be. The allegedly low unemployment figure will be trumpeted as a triumph of unregulated markets. Somebody will then point out the statistical book cooking that goes into computing that official figure. For example, in Illinois we have something called "Project Chance", officially claimed to be a jobs program. I got to experience that "jobs program" firsthand; it's actually nothing more than an excuse to throw people off of public support. This is how it works: You're handed a sheet of paper and told to fill it with the names and telephone numbers of thirty new firms at which you have left off a resume or filled out an application, being required to do so within a few weeks. The vast majority of the places you visit will refuse to let you do so, so the question becomes, just how quickly can you move? Some of those who entered the program with me were a little stiff with arthritis, or missing a limb, or otherwise unable to run footraces. Too bad for them. Their public aid was cut, and they were tossed out on the street and left to die. Yes, really - and some of them did.

I was more fortunate, in having long legs that let me move quickly, if remarkably clumsily (mild case of cerebral palsy). I got my thirty names, no thanks to any governmental body since I didn't get so much as a recommendation of a place to apply, and was "graduated" from the program. I was no longer legally unemployed. I also hadn't been called for even a single job interview, which really wasn't a complete surprise, because I had been looking for a long time before being put in the project.

Others, a lot less persistent and in some ways, probably a little more sensible than I am, gave up on an impossible job market after a few years of looking - and were declared no longer unemployed. The computation of that figure is openly fraudulent, the fraud has been debunked repeatedly, and all that happens is that the true believers continue to play the broken record game, citing the statistic again as if the methodology used in computing it had never been critiqued. The word for somebody willing to do that, in earlier times, wouldn't have been "liberal", "conservative", "moderate" or even "libertarian". He would have been called a nut.

Shipping prisoners to Eastern Europe so that they can be tortured without any laws being broken, and then waxing indignant because somebody exposed that state secret? Holding people in prison for years without charge? Torturing confessions out of prisoners, and then refusing to overturn convictions based on those confessions when the awkward little detail of torture comes out (eg. Burges)? I can't defend things like that, nor can I bring myself to turn a tolerant ear to latter day apologists for domestic atrocities who will tell the standard lie "it has always been that way". No, life hasn't always been this way, and anybody appreciably above the age of 18 knows that full well, unless he's really gone. It's a cowardly cop-out, a feeble excuse for a citizen to accept what he shouldn't, when he really does know better.

Homeless San Franciscan enjoying the good life in the land of opportunity. Image links to a little more reality regarding the engineering job market.

If you read the comments at the top of my old homepage, you might be left with a misleading impression, however unintentionally I might have mislead you. You might semi-jokingly talk about being left with a picture of my walking off into the sunset, like the sheriff at the happy end of a Western, with a girl on his arm and the peaceful townsfolk safe. That's not really how things have been. In Chicago, overall, the world is probably a much darker place than it was ten years ago, it has just gotten brighter for me, meaning that any sunset I'm walking into is shining for me alone. What might throw people a little is the name - they're picturing a very white fellow, probably looking a little like Conan O' Brien. In reality, I'm a multiethnic Jew with more than a little Latin ancestry, and some of the diminished offline nastiness is probably a result of the browning of America; a few Anglo-Saxons look at the Guatemalan who moved into the apartment upstairs, and all of a sudden I'm looking like the All-American boy next door to them. All in all, a step upward from where I found myself ten years ago, when people openly talked about what "those people" were like, in reference to anybody whose ancestors spoke a Romance or a Semitic language (or some of each), and the fad for radical feminism meant that paranoid racial attitudes translated into some uncomfortably confrontational moments, because every complaint, no matter how meritless, was taken seriously.

I'm thinking that when people ask you, quite seriously, whether or not you're white, because they really can't tell just by looking, that the meaninglessness of "race" as a construct has been put on display for all to see, but that meaningless construct was, in years not so long past, used as a cover. When some of us would be targeted for just plain, raw hatred by little blond haired and blue eyed girls who'd say things like "you know what those Spanish guys are like", they'd be shielded from any criticism on the basis that "white" people can't be on the receiving end of racism, "whiteness" being so loosely defined that had Anwar Sadat's family moved to America before he was born, he would have legally qualified as being white himself.

OK, for reasons I'll get into later, I'm breaking off this post right now. Something just happened at this end that changed my mood greatly, and I can't continue writing in the same spirit I started in, so let's accept that this article is done, even though it obviously isn't.