Sunday, December 31, 2017
Saturday, December 30, 2017
I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but I did catch all 12 of the first season of Seth MacFarlane's sci-fi series, The Orville. It's an homage of sorts to Star Trek, with a little silly thrown in now and then. Seth created it, after all. There is so much dark TV on these days. I think we already have problems with depression in this country without being subjected to an endless stream of dark productions.
Anyway, Geek.com produced a fair review of the final episode. If you only watch one episode of The Orville, make it this one. This one centers on the idea of religion, and as we know, Seth is a big atheist. A couple of snips below.
The Orville Ends on a Strong, Though Not Spectacular Note.
|Adrianne Palicki as Kelly|
It starts out as many episodes of The Orville (and Star Trek) do, with an anomaly in space. Not the most original set-up, but it’s a fast way of getting us to the real interesting premise. While investigating the anomaly, Kelly’s shuttle crash-lands on a planet that appears out of nowhere. She investigates a little further and finds a species currently in its bronze age. She sees a little girl trip and hit her head on a rock, and uses a medical device to heal the wound. A bunch of Bronze Age people witness this happening, and we start to get an idea of where this is all going to go. The cooler twist is that the planet is sort of an opposite Brigadoon. Its orbit takes it through two universes, appearing in this one once every 11 days. In that time, 700 years have passed on that planet. Does the science make much sense when you think about it? It doesn’t matter. It’s a fun way to explore how a simple action can have huge unintended consequences over a long period of time. When the planet returns, the crew is surprised to find that a whole religion has formed around Kelly. Parents are using her to make their kids behave. Heretics are persecuted for not believing in Kelly, and suspected criminals are killed in her name. As you might guess, Kelly is seriously freaked out by all this.
It was so cool to see The Orville explore the evolution of a religion like this, and even cooler that it didn’t try to posit that religion is inherently bad, or that everyone in the church is evil. The crew tries to dissuade the people of the notion that Kelly is a god by showing the pope equivalent that the healing is just a machine. The pope plans to tell people the truth, but a power-hungry underling kills him before he gets the chance. The plan to leave someone behind on the planet during its next cycle isn’t as big a deal as the TV spots made it out to be. (Man, FOX really doesn’t know how to advertise this show, do they?) Isaac volunteers to stay behind because it’s a huge research opportunity for him. Also, as an artificial being, 700 years doesn’t seem so long for him. The best twist of the episode is that Isaac’s presence on the planet wasn’t needed at all. In those years, the species evolved and got over their differences with one another. They don’t even look at the old Kelly religion as a bad thing. They see it as a necessary stepping stone in the path to where they are today. In that way, the episode acknowledges that for all the problems religion has caused in the world, it’s also driven humans to create art and explore the sciences. It’s a surprisingly, refreshingly nuanced take that I didn’t expect at all. This is The Orville showing its Star Trek influence in the best way. It’s optimistic, thoughtful sci-fi.
more at the link
Friday, December 29, 2017
I've had it up to here, or over there, with the wireless Apple mouse that came with my computer.
Every month or so it gives me a "low battery" warning, even if I just fucking replaced it last month! Every battery I use cannot be "low"! And then it loses its wireless connection sometimes for no fucking reason at all and I have to shake it and slam it (gently) on the desk and click click click to get it to re-connect.
Too many competing electronic signals? Bluetooth, wireless mouse & keyboard, infrared, cellular, wireless security system, who knows? Sometimes I can get it to re-connect within a minute of losing its connection, but sometimes it just WON'T fucking re-connect, so I walk away from the computer in disgust. When I return, voila! It's re-connected. ARGH!
Maybe it's me? Is it all user error? Fuck no!
So I finally remembered that I was fed up and went to a store and bought a corded mouse, and now, WOW! I can actually move the mouse slowly and accurately every time!
Apple seems to be fucking up all over the place lately.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Hugh Ramsey Park in Harlingen is yet another of the vast outdoor opportunities here in the Rio Grande Valley. Over our first full year here, I estimate that we have visited perhaps 5% of the outdoor locations here in the Valley. I think I'm going to need to have a more systematic approach for 2018. Now, if the weather will only cooperate. People here tell me that this winter has been much colder than usual. Figures! After all, we are here!
Guided Walks at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park
By ANITA WESTERVELT Special to the Parade
Harlingen’s Hugh Ramsey Nature Park boasts 250 some species of Rio Grande Valley native plants, shrubs, trees, cactus and the untold numbers of birds, butterflies and critters that use this native habitat.
Many of the plants are highlighted in specialty gardens around the park’s Ebony Loop and the path is lined with many different species of trees native to the Valley.
Rio Grande Valley Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist volunteers maintain these gardens and trails, working as a team every Thursday morning from 9 to 11 a.m. Many Winter Texans and local residents work alongside the naturalists. Volunteers are always welcome.
In addition to the Thursday morning volunteer opportunity, Texas master naturalist native plant experts provide free guided nature walks on the first Friday and third Saturday each month through May 2018.
There’s always something blooming around Ebony Loop. You’re probably familiar with a hummingbird favorite, the native wild olive, Cordia boissieri, that blooms its big white, bell-shaped blossoms in all seasons here in the Valley. Mexican caesalpinia, Caesalpiniamexicana, is showy most of the year, too, and into the winter. Large clusters of bright yellow blooms also are a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies.
Considered the rarest of all trees in Texas, Runyon’s Esenbeckia, Esenbeckia berlandieri [E. runyonii] is showcased in the Loop’s recently rejuvenated Robert Runyon Garden. Also called limoncillo (little lemon), it is in the Rutaceae family, as are lemons. The tree was first reported in the Lower Rio Grande Valley by Robert Runyon.
Runyon was a photographer and self-taught botanist in Brownsville in the early 1900s. He later was involved in local politics and served as Brownsville city manager and mayor. Runyon is responsible for naming several cactus and succulents including Coryphantharobertii, Echeveria runyonii, Echinocereus runyonii Orcutt, other native plants and grasses, and the curious phenomenon called Runyon’s Dodder, Cuscuta runyonii.
While renovating Runyon Garden, the Thursday morning volunteers populated much of the center garden with Runyon’s Violet Wild Petunia, Ruellia nudiflora var. runyonii, and developed a side garden dedicated to Runyon’s Water Willow, Justicia runyonii. Both plants are a host to the malachite butterfly. Runyon’s granddaughter donated funds for the revamping of the garden that was dedicated to the works of her grandfather.
One of the mysteries of our native trees is that many of them bloom after rain. With the recent rains, it’s a good opportunity to see which trees will begin pushing out winter blooms.
Ebony Loop is an easy quarter mile level caliche trail. Wear sturdy shoes, bring water and bug spray for yourself if desired. Restrooms are located at the park entrance.
Hugh Ramsey Nature Park is at 1000 S. Loop 499, just two miles south of Harlingen’s Valley International Airport or Ed Carey Drive, just north of the Arroyo Colorado River Bridge.
Meet up with the guides in the parking lot where the two-hour tour begins at 9 a.m.
from the Port Isabel-South Padre Island Press
Friday, December 22, 2017
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Monday, December 18, 2017
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is now producing a weekly video/TV show called, "Ask An Atheist." It appears each week on their YouTube channel. They are also now producing a shorter weekly "Newsbite" show. Every year, the "nones" are growing bigger and stronger.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Apparently so many people have enough expendable cash and leisure time to travel these days that some of the more-popular destinations are getting overcrowded.
From Conde Nast
15 Places Telling Tourists to Stay Home
some of the 15:
Zion National Park
Utah's Zion is expecting a record four million visitors this year, and not everyone is happy about it: to combat increased land erosion and "overwhelmed facilities," park officials are considering putting a daily cap on visitor numbers via a new reservation system. Inside the park, Zion Canyon has suffered the most in recent years, but Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, the Narrows, and Angels Landing could face new restrictions, too. Interested in viewing all of the possibilities? Visit the plan proposals. The park is aiming to have settled on a concrete strategy by 2018.
Santorini, the famed blue-and-white darling of the Cyclades, isn't shunning tourists altogether, but it making some significant changes in the coming months: Hoping to stem the tide of cruise tourists, which reached 10,000 per day during peak season (May-September) last year, the island will in 2017 begin limiting the number of cruise ship visitors to 8,000 a day. (Fliers, take note: At present, there aren't any plans to limit the number of people who come to Santorini by air, since the number is significantly smaller.) Not entirely interested in Santorini? Here's where Greek locals think you should go instead.
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau made headlines in June 2015 when she discussed implementing an entry cap on the Spanish city. In order to keep Barcelona from reaching its "saturation limit," Colau's administration is developing plans to balance the tourism sector's interests with those of local residents; potentially putting a city-wide freeze on the development of new hotels and creating a preventative policy before things "get out of hand." As of May 2016, the city was considering a new tourist tax, which would charge travelers entering the city who don't stay overnight—think day-trippers, and those in town on a cruise.
Mt Everest (no worries there!)
others at the link.
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Friday, December 15, 2017
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
If I ever get a boat down here, I'll need to remember to Life, Drift, Pole or Troll.
Why should you Lift, Drift, Pole and Troll?
Submerged seagrass meadows are a dominant, unique subtropical habitat in many Texas bays and estuaries. These marine plants play critical roles in the coastal environment, including nursery habitat for estuarine fisheries, a major source of organic biomass for coastal food webs, effective agents for stabilizing coastal erosion and sedimentation, and major biological agents in nutrient cycling and water quality processes.
As of September 1, 2013, it is illegal to cause or allow any rooted seagrass plant to be uprooted or dug out from the bay or saltwater bottom by a submerged propeller within the coastal waters of the state of Texas. Violation is a Class C Misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $500.
Basic Techniques for Lift, Drift, Pole and Troll
When shallow waters are encountered, you should LIFT your motor...
DRIFT your boat through seagrass beds...
POLE it through the shallow water or...
TROLL the boat with a trolling motor.
as found on the Texas Parks & Wildlife site.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
I recently was able to play on a grand piano and the question of how exactly the pedals work came up again. Now, we have the internet! Hopefully the loss of Net Neutrality and the growing Trumpian Nightmare will not put a clamp on the seeking and finding of knowledge.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Sunday, December 10, 2017
We are going to plant at least a couple of avocado trees on our lot on South Padre Island. They are plentiful, usually, in stores in this area, but they are subject to supply and demand, of course. For a short while about a month ago, they all DOUBLED in price, but now the price is back down.
Apparently, due to the increasing popularity of avocados, a lot of people are showing up at emergency rooms with severe cuts to their hands while cutting an avocado. Really?
Avocado Hand Injuries Are Real. Is A Seedless Fruit The Answer?
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Trump sets "firsts" in all the wrong directions. The "Reign of Error" of Trump will be viewed as one of the darkest days of our democracy. Geez, even USA Today has turned on the chump.
Will Trump's Lows Ever Reach Rock Bottom?
With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dismissed the president's smear as a misunderstanding because he used similar language about men. Of course, words used about men and women are different. When candidate Trump said a journalist was bleeding from her "wherever," he didn't mean her nose.
And as is the case with all of Trump's digital provocations, the president's words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.
A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.
This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.
Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.
More at the original
Friday, December 8, 2017
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
I think all we will be needing down here is an electric (or solar-powered) golf cart. And perhaps a boat.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
One of the better apps I have found for translating multiple languages into English, and vice versa, is Google Translate. I think I've learned more Spanish just from using this app than any other method. You can also have the program speak your translations so you can really hear how it is supposed to sound.
You can get Google Translate on your computer or your smartphone. Probably a bunch of other ways too, but having it in your pocket is hard to beat. 104 languages and counting!
Safe travels! Google Translate.