Monday, February 28, 2011

M&M Monday - Clothing


You know someone is going to say something about "melts in your mouth not in your hands" . .


. . . but that would clearly be wrong;


because that line obviously goes with this picture.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Higher Education


I pose a simple question: What percentage of the population of the United States hold a college degree? The answer will appear below the cyber-fold. I must admit I was surprised by the number. I assume that lots of folks who hold a degree estimate too high, I did a quick unscientific survey of a small group of individuals and found that those who do not have a degree give a slightly lower number but still aim a bit too high.

So you have a clue, your guess is probably too high, so knock off 5% maybe 10% if you have a masters or a doctorate, we know those advanced degrees really schew your perception of reality.

So what was your guess? The answer is that as of 2009, twenty-seven and one-half percent of the adult population holds a college degree.

Here is a very cool interactive map from the Chronicle of Higher Education that shows where these over educated people live. It's a county by county breakdown and here is the really cool part, you can track back from 2009 to 1940. You thought the college numbers were higher today, only 4.6% of the country were college educated in 1940. When I got my B.A. in 1969 the overall number had just reached 10%.

The map also has breakouts by gender, ethnicity and income. Before you leave the map, be sure to set it for 2009 and click the Asian button.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Circulation of Elites

An academic friend tells the story of being asked about the 'revolution' in Egypt and replying: "It's not a revolution, they aren't changing the government only the names on the masthead." That basically describes the principle known as the Circulation of Elites. Vilfredo Pareto is credited with postulating this theory in the late 1800s. He suggested that political and therefore governmental change is nearly always the result of one elite replacing another. And despite the images on television and the internet it is not clear that Egypt was a popular uprising or simply a popular following of the new elite.

Most of the talk about democracy comes from outside Egypt. It appears what most Egyptians wanted was the removal of a tyrant who had ruled for three decades. Time will tell if any actual governmental or political change will result from the departure of the most recent elite. 

Revolutions, on the other hand, sweep the old regime from power and replace it with a new government. Not always a new form of government and not always a better one for those who were actually in the streets doing the revolting. You could use Cuba as an example to prove either point of view here. But one might better look to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, where actually governmental change (communist to democratic) did take place and then either did or did not sustain itself depending on your political point of view.

There are those who would argue that bloodless revolution is an oxymoron. Others might look to the old adage 'revolution is the result of a nation pregnant with itself.' Both good solid political arguments, which may or may not speak to what is actually happening in the backrooms throughout the region. What remains to be seen is what actually did happen in Egypt. Was it a revolution? Probably not. Was it a change of elites? Most likely. What will be the eventual outcome? Ah, well there lies the piece for the historians. 

Now what about Bahrain, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Libya and . . .


[It has been pointed out to me by the aforementioned "academic friend" that Ibn Khaldun back in 1377 proposed the theory of the "oscillation of elites," which may be an even more explanatory model as it suggests that elites not only supplant each other but they also recycle (oscillate) and recirculate through the corridors of political power.]
--
art - Clay Bennett in The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conscious Control of Emotions


Here's the scenario, the scene and the set-up: 


Someone I knew and was voluntarily interacting with had the potential to really mess with my life. History told me this person could easily do something selfish, nasty, even evil. I knew this. When it inevitably happened I reacted as if I knew it were coming . . . because I did - snakes do not change their nature. I had consciously armored myself for this eventuality and dealt with it without emotional upset. I calmly made other plans and moved on.


Then I went to sleep . . . 


We really can learn to control our emotions consciously. We really can't or shouldn't learn to do that with our subconscious. I experienced a night of anxiety, anger and abandonment. It was ever so fascinating because each time I awoke I knew exactly what was going on - my subconscious was processing the selfish betrayal of someone who just isn't worth the price of warm spit to me. That doesn't mean the deep animal brain of my paleolithic ancestors did not want to hack him or her to shreds with a blunt stone axe. But no, I am civilized - I would use a well-honed blade and get the carnage over with quickly.


But no, I am civilized and evolved and I did what properly matured and restrained humanoids do -- triple scoop, hot fudge, no sprinkles.

Monday, February 21, 2011

M&M Monday - Art


No, not mine!


I am surprised how little M&M art there is to be found on the internet. There is one artist who has an affection for the hard shelled medium, that's her work above. Here is a link to her work, she lives in a remote area of Alaska.

also not mine


The lips above are actually a metal sculpture and not the real thing. Is nothing sacred? I mean I remember being opposed to the introduction of the first M&M variation. I guess that makes me a chocolate traditionalist. Though I eventually did embrace the change. You know what the second variety of M&Ms was, right?


peanuts were first, almonds later


--
Nuts Art by me
Metal Lips by random unlabeled artist

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Imported From Detroit (II)


Over twenty years ago I was visiting back in Michigan and took my mother to visit my Aunts Alice & Doris in Detroit. We decided to go out to dinner but discovered it was prom night and all the local restaurants were full of high school students in limos. The ladies suggested an old hangout they used to go to, a Hungarian family style restaurant, so off we went. The place was as they remembered it - long wooden tables, huge plates of food served family style. I was fascinated listening to the stories from their youth. When the waitress overheard one story she spoke up and it turns out she was the granddaughter of the restaurant's owner they all knew fifty or more years ago.

What visually stuck with me from that evening was the view from the two story ceiling to floor windows. We were on the second floor and across the street was a narrow strip of land on the bank of the Detroit river. There posed on the very edge of the river was a former five story receiving building for offloading raw materials headed for the auto plants. I say "former five story" because the top three floors had collapsed and crushed the floors below. I was stunned both at the decrepitude and at the lack of governmental action to force the demolition and clean-up. This was probably 1988 or '89. Today there is small industry of photographers and journalists engaging in what is being called "ruin porn", chronicling the erosion and deconstruction of the great cities of the rust belt.

If you remember there was a derogatory line in the Eminem/Crysler ad about writers who "have never even been here" telling the story of the city. I am going to deal with ruin porn in my next Detroit post. But for now let me just establish my own street cred - I do know Detroit and I have been thinking about that city for most of my life. I am guessing my opinion of its future will not be enjoyed by everyone, but that also is for a later post.

What is clear is that Detroit has been leading the way in how this country will deal with its industrial decline. At this moment the response has been dismal. Neglect and corruption have contributed to the slow but steady abandonment of what was once the 4th largest city in the United States. We cannot say: "As goes Detroit, so goes the nation" that is simply not true. But it might be enough to say Detroit is the big, soot-stained canary in the mine of America's previous industrial might. Some would say the future is a slow burial.

More to come soon as I ponder further on the city of my birth.


Imported from Detroit Part I
--
The photograph at the top is of the old Michigan Theatre in Detroit. As you can see it has been turned into a parking lot but in the demolition process the decision was made to preserve the outer walls and towering ceiling of what was once a theatre that could seat four thousand. It makes for an interesting or harrowing juxtaposition which speaks to the condition of the city.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Paying Attention to All the Wrong Clues


Ah life, sometimes it sneaks up on you when you least expect it and other times you least expect it to sneak up on you. For over three months now I have had in my medicinal arsenal some fairly strong pain medications for my slowly recovering back. Growing up as I did in a pharmacy, I am well aware of the multitude of side effects drugs of all varieties can potentially have. I also know that just because you have taken a pill or a potion for days, weeks or months does not mean it will not suddenly have unforeseen and previously absent consequences.

So the other day whilst traveling on mass transit here in San Francisco, I was noticing an uneasy feeling. I wasn't exactly ill but neither was all together okey dokey. When the metro passed into a tunnel I realized I was hallucinating. Nothing too outlandish but hallucinations none the less, I grew up in the sixties, I can identify a good visual cortex non-sequitur. The train emerged from the tunnel and I got off at my intended stop and took a seat on a bench. I could perhaps walk a few blocks to my prior destination, where several friends could help me with this dilemma or I could get back on the train going in the opposite direction and head back to the safety of a comforter, a cat and some sleep. 

I was sure I knew what was wrong, my diagnosis was that single pain pill earlier this morning had just taken a wrong turn somewhere around the medulla oblongata. I took the train back through the phantasmagoric tunnel and made it back to the safety of my temporary cave. 

However . . .

You knew there was going to be a 'however'.

It wasn't a drug reaction at all. I was genuinely ill with something akin to the 24 hr. or less flu. Felt fine, if tired, after a long nap and right as acid rain the following morning. Good decision-making based on a completely false diagnosis. Not that 'head for bed' is not a wise panacea for many if not most of the twists and turns of daily life.
--
The Art above is way over the top for what I experienced but I found it on a medical site I searched for the potential side effects of the meds I am taking, so at the time it felt appropriate if mildly excessive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Bit of History


I came across a piece of history recently, a certificate from the U.S. War Department dated 6 August 1945 and signed by the Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Here is the text:

United States of America
War Department
~
Army Services Forces 
Corps of Engineers
~
Manhattan District

This is to Certify that
[name redacted]
has participated in work essential to the production
of the Atomic Bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of World War II. This certificate is awarded in appreciation of the effective service.

Hiroshima 11 August 1945


That's all I got today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Oh Why?


"Baby mice fathered by mice receiving a donation of spermatogonial stem cells from mice expressing green fluorescent protein." 


Only half the baby mice show the green color. This is because each spermatogonial stem cell has only one copy of the gene for green fluorescent protein. When the spermatogonial cell divides, only half the cells that result from it have the gene for green fluorescent protein.

Brought to you by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


Sometimes I just wonder why.


On another why? If you have wondered why the Middle East has been blowing up, I would direct you to a wonderful blog post about Tunisia and its place in the simmering region. I do mean simmering since the post is mostly about food... or is it? 


Sometimes the response to a "why?" is just not something you would ever conjure from the depths of your own experience.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

. . .being of an older generation.

In case you're worried about what's going to become of the younger generation, it's going to grow up and start worrying about the younger generation. -- Roger Allen




Recently I've been thinking a bit about being a member of an "older" generation. Then semi-suddenly two incidents brought it all home and gave me sufficient fodder for a blog post. 

First came a friend's fascination with the TV sit-com Two and a Half Men in which Charlie Sheen plays an alcoholic whore monger. Yes, I know the show is technically about two brothers sharing a house with a ten year old son; but all of the storylines and dialog have to do with Charlie Sheen being an alcoholic whore monger while mirth and merriment ensue all around.

Now you have got to know that this show has caused screams of protest from those who find its content unfit for broadcast television. The rebuttal to those cries of moral degeneracy has been steady top ten ratings for the show since it began. So I watched half a dozen episodes. OK, I laughed a lot more than I cringed, but then I don't have any kids who might see it. Clearly lots of young, unknown wanna be starlets are getting much needed guest shots and showing as much skin as prime time allows. When I did feel a bit uncomfortable about the content, it was the writing not the visuals but then again I am still a guy, which means hot, young bimbos playing hot, young bimbos are at least visually satisfying. With each verbal indelicacy I reminded myself that I am of an "older" generation and I remembered what our elders thought of us during the 60s & 70s. Besides I did laugh. 

Then last week Charlie was big news for going into rehab again, bigger news it seems than a conflagration in Egypt and adjoining parts of the middle east. Charlie in rehab again, the show on hiatus again, the show about an alcoholic whore monger, and you thought South Park was irreverent. Well enough of banal television, I will not be watching future episodes once Charlie is dried out, but do allow your kids to watch the boob tube without restrictions, after all it's better than finding out the local meth dealer peddles his wares in the public library; but that's another story.

Part two of this story comes to us via facebook. I saw a post from a old high school friend about the death of another high school classmate' again the theme of being part of a older generation. I dropped her a note, the old friend not the dead old friend, and reminded her of an incident we were involved in back now 46 years ago. She responded and told me a few details which I had not known and then she added: "It just seems life is not fair to everyone, I find it hard to believe Deborah has been gone nearly 20 years."

What? Gone twenty years? Deborah was my high school girlfriend, most of my adolescent 'firsts' involved her but wait, she has been dead for nearly two decades? My mind just didn't wrap itself around that one, my brain just kept spitting out that factoid - it simply did not compute. I hadn't seen her in over 40 years, heard not a word of news but still - "gone twenty years" . . .

I need a break, maybe catch The Big Chill on the oldies network before I head out to the seniors discount buffet at the local tribal casino, then maybe a few rousing rounds of bingo.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Imported From Detroit (I)


I admit it, I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials; I just am not a sports fan anymore. Unfortunately, since the recession the super ads haven't been that super. No one wants to spend the big bucks make those great ads like they used to. All the way back to the 1984 Apple MacIntosh ad, super sunday has been the place to make big announcments, remember during the dot com boom when over half the ads were for companies you never heard of and didn't know what they did even after you viewed the commercial. 


But this year not so much, a few CG animations that were interesting, a bunch of trailers for summer blockbuster wanna-be movies and then came the Detroit ad - "Imported from Detroit" - if you didn't see it go here. If there is such a thing as a great ad, this is it. You may have already run across it, the Chrysler ad with Eminem. It really is a two minute piece of art or at least an ode to Detroit. And it sets out the basics of the larger critique of fate of the city that is Detroit.

The reason I bring it up is because I too am imported from Detroit. I was born there and for the first 25 years of my life, Detroit was the large metropolitan area that filled the niches for what big cities do. Sure I had Ann Arbor for lots of things, but Detroit was the big city and many of my relatives lived there, holidays were celebrated there and when family stories were told they all happened in Detroit.

For nearly a year I have off and on had a curiosity with the current state of the city and yes it is a bit of a morbid fascination. I have collected some stories, some pictures and some memories I have had them queued up in the draft folder. The super bowl piece brought it all out into the open. Time to write about Detroit.

I probably have three or four posts worth of Detroit material, but we start with the Eminem/Crysler ad, it really is a masterpiece. Please take a look and I will continue with this in a few days after a bit more reflection on the place of my birth.
--
Art: Joe Louis' Fist sculpture from downtown Detroit
Video link: youtube.com has been removing some links to the ad, I will attempt to keep an alternative link open here

Monday, February 07, 2011

M&M Monday - Blow Out the Candle


Champagne and canapes all around. Talk among yourselves, avoid discussions involving your lastest medical procedure or persistent aches and pains.


Next year, a Beatle's Song.
--
Birthday Art by me

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Remodel and Renewal in the Void of Time


On December 8th I moved out of the Berkeley apartment and deconstruction began. I know it started then, I barely escaped with my backpack intact. By Dec. 11th there had been even more destruction. The kitchen was gone, the doorway to the sunroom was demolished, what passed for carpet was torn up and shipped out, all appliances were history, parts of the ceiling were down.


Then I left for points north with promises of work and reconstruction but I knew, as we all know, that lingering just into the foggy future was that Bermuda Triangle of the contractor universe, that which sucks up days and weeks of time in world where progress is measured in fanciful delays of material and elaborate excuses emanating from unseen third parties.


Now in early February, just a few short days ago, I witnessed with yea these two eyes of mine the first installation of new kitchen cabinets. There was new tile and new lighting in the bath. I viewed an order for new hardwood flooring complete with a "guaranteed" delivery date and I received governmental paperwork of asbestos ceiling detritus environmentally disposed of. Granite hath been ordered for counter-tops, delays are awaited on this item. The painting maestro is prepared to begin tomorrow with much debated but now imprimatured hues.


The new finish deadline is set at February 15th, I expect February is probably right.



Thursday, February 03, 2011

Chinese Year of the Metal Rabbit


Rabbit Years are fourth in the Chinese calendar, following Tiger Years. The Chinese new year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solistice. This year the date is today: February 3, 2011. 

The characteristics of the Rabbit (both those born under the sign of the Rabbit and the actual year itself) are influenced by the five Chinese elements: Metal, Water, Fire, Wood and Earth. So there is a sixty year cycle that overlays the 12 year cycle of the Chinese calendar. This is the year of the Metal Rabbit.







                                     THE METAL RABBIT 1951 AND 2011






Metal gives Rabbits a more resilient demeanor than the other more quiet Rabbit. These Rabbits are very ambitious and can be quite crafty in their dealings with others. They throw themselves and their emotions into everything they do, making them intense lovers, but not outwardly affectionate lovers. Their determination can affect their work as well, whether through personal relationships with colleagues or with the work itself, a Rabbit can be known to immerse himself in his projects…business and personal.


Methinks, I myself shall opt for intense immersion this year.
--
art: Beth Cavener Stitchter

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Home or Something Like It


For about five years now I have refrained from using the word "home" to describe any of the places I have rested my head. I lived at 'Bill's Place' in Las Vegas ('06-'07) and then at 'the condo' ('08) also in Vegas. I literally was undomiciled for fourteen months ('09-'10) while traveling about the country and since March I have lived in the 'Berkeley apartment.' Ann Arbor ('00-'06) was probably that last time I recognized a place as home.

I am not actually adverse to finding a new home and certainly I have no problem calling the SF Bay region home, I lived here from '90 to '00 quite happily. I settle fairly easily into any place that can reasonably replicate a cave, but nothing has felt like home for awhile.

This comes up today because I have returned to the Bay area after fifty days in the Mt. Shasta/Weed/Lake Shastina environs of north-central California. I am not back in the Berkeley apartment yet, the slow pace of remodeling there still crawls forward. So I am in the City staying with yet another seemingly willing friend, I surmise I remain an entertaining interlude in the spare room.

In the next few days I will visit the apartment and assess the likelihood of re-occupancy in the relatively near future or thereabouts. But the search for 'home' continues.