Saturday, July 22, 2017

Two Photographs

Page A2, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
Darrell Sapp/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Associated Press

 PAYING RESPECTS: Hundreds of officers, some from as far away as Colorado, Utah and Texas, attended the funeral of Trooper Michael Stewart III in Latrobe, PA, on Tuesday. The 26-year-old officer died in  a collision with a garbage truck. The cause is under investigation.

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Page A8, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
Ebrahim Moroozi/Associated Press

 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops in formation. New US sanctions are partly aimed at cutting off procurement for the force.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How are we going to handle artificial intelligence?

". . . the fact is that we are rushing ahead into the AI universe with almost no political or policy debate about its implications. Digital technology has become critical to the personal and economic well-being of everyone on the planet, but decisions about how it is designed, operated and developed have never been voted on by anyone. Those decisions are largely made by executives and engineers at Google, Facebook, Amazon and other leading tech companies, and imposed on the rest of us with very little regulatory scrutiny. It is time for that to change."

                                   Jonathan Taplin
                                   Wall Street Journal
                                   July 15-16, 2017

Mr. Taplin is the director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. In June 1971,George Harrison asked Taplin to help him and Ravi Shankar stage a benefit concert Madison Square Garden for the newly created state of Bangladesh, which was undergoing extreme famine conditions. The resulting Concert for Bangladesh, with appearances by Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and others was the first benefit concert of this magnitude in world history. Producer of a number of movies, Taplin must know his stuff.


"He’s been warning people about AI for years, and today called it the “biggest risk we face as a civilization” when he spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island.
Musk then called on the government to proactively regulate artificial intelligence before things advance too far.
“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”
“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

                                     Elon Musk
                                     CEO Tesla, Inc.
                                     CEO SpaceX

There you have it, two members of the elite both think that an effective government regulatory apparatus be set up to defend us from what is essentially ourselves. As Pogo once said in the newspaper comic strip of the same name:




There's a long history of government defending us from ourselves. Prohibition immediately comes to mind, the "war on drugs", gambling, prostitution and a myriad of other typical human failings. Of course, you might say that the threat of AI is an existential one, far more serious than teen-age cigarette smoking. You would be correct. But the government and its many agencies and bureaucrats doesn't seem to have been very successful at even managing the other human failings, much less eliminating them. 

Taplin's recipe for control is the typical one for statists, more government control and regulation, led by a "democratic" process that must include, at least in some attenuated form, the will of the people, as if they would be able to correctly assess what the pros and cons of AI might be. Naturally, it's their elected representatives who will decide, after consulting with their donors.

Musk wants to head off any problems with AI, whatever they might be. Maybe gun-slinging robots striding through the cul-de-sac. So we need another FCC or FAA or BLM or USDA to set the parameters of AI before the issues arise.

By the way, the Selective Service still exists and operates with a budget of $24 million although no one has been drafted since 1972.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Draft Horse Action In Chetek, Wisconsin

A bright sun and moderate temperatures made the annual Independence Day weekend draft horse pull at the R-Bar near Chetek and Cameron, WI an enjoyable affair. Eleven 3200# teams and 13 heavy-weight pairs pulled into rural watering hole for the competition. It's a rare opportunity to watch the descendants of the motive force that originally provided the power for much of the country's agriculture and infrastructure construction.
Minnesota teamster Matt Foss and one of his Belgian mares that's in foal. There'll be a leggy draft colt or filly bouncing around in Matt's pasture in October.
Take a look at the space between Diesel's front legs. This veteran powerhouse has been a big part of the successful John Loomis horse pulling operation for a long time.

The Gary Smith team from North Freedom, WI. There's at least 4500 lbs. of horse between the tugs.

 Home town teamster Chuckie Schaaf took second place in the 3200# class with his beautiful team of Belgians.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

North Star Bicycle Festival 2017

The 2017 edition of Minnesota's premier sporting event seemed to reveal a couple of things about cycling in general and the US ladies' peloton in particular. On the basis of five days of racing there's substantial evidence that a younger generation of riders are elbowing their way into the top level of competition at the expense, with some notable exceptions, of their more experienced elders. Another development, seen in the continued success of the Rally cycling juggernaut, is building a superior team of both men and women through the signing of nascent Canadian stars, although this has been going on for some years now.

 Nineteen-year old Rally Cycling phenom Emma White blazed off with the victory in the ladies' general classification. She then went to the USA Cycling Nationals where she won the U-23 time trial and road race, took second in the U-23 criterium and 6th in the pro criterium.

 Cuban speedster Marlies Mejias Garcia of  Weber Shimano Ladies Power won the Stillwater criterium and was on the podium in four of the five stages, also winning the Minneapolis Uptown criterium.

United Health Care's Ruth Winder won both the road race stages of the NSBF and along with White and Mejias dominated the results.

Tayler Wiles of UHC was the queen of the mountains.

Young Australian all-arounder Lauretta Hanson was involved in a crash during the St. Paul criterium.
Former collegian Janelle Cole has made an effective transition to a higher level of competition with her aggressive style.
The winner of the 2016 edition was Brianna Walle, who finished 4th in the GC this time around.


Amber Pierce, a veteran of both the US and continental cycling wars, turned the cranks for Colavita/Bianchi in Minnesota for five days.

The locally-based Rally squad impressed at the North Star affair. Colin Joyce won the men's GC and Ellen White the women's GC. They had great results at the USA Cycling National Championships in Louisville a few days later and the Canadian championships in Ottawa, Ontario as well. In addition to White's success in Derby City, Erica Allar became the US Pro National Criterium women's gold medal winner. The men put four riders in the top ten of the crit field with Eric Young getting a silver, defending champion Brad Huff in 4th place, Curtis White 7th and NSBF GC winner Colin Joyce 9th. Rally rider Brandon McNulty won the U-23 time trial.

Canadian woman Sara Poidevin won the U-23 criterium at the competition in Ottawa with Katherine Maine taking the second spot on the podium. Their Rally team mate Matteo Dal-Cin was the gold medalist in the Canadian men's road racing championship.
  





Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Conversation With Champion Alijah Beatty

Alijah Beatty of Washington, IA, was the USA Cycling national amateur 17-18 female  road racing silver medalist in 2016. This year she was the gold medalist in both the road race and the criterium, in addition to finishing fourth in the time trial. Additionally, Beatty made a trip to Europe with a US National Team this spring, competing in the UCI 2.2 Gracia Orlova race in the Czech Republic and Poland.




Is competitive cycling a feature of the neighborhood where you grew up? Were there others in your circle of friends that were into competitive cycling? Many cyclists develop in families where cycling is important. Was that the case with you?
 
I started cycling when I was 10 years old. My father had started riding 3 years before I had and wanted someone to ride with. As I am the youngest of my family I was the only one who had nothing to do. I started riding with my father and entered my first race at the age of 10. Jingle Cross was my very first race, I entered the kid's race. And after that, I just wanted to race my bike. My father got into cycling by one of our close family friends. Even though my father doesn't race or our family friend they still come to my races and support me.My family is a big part of my cycling, they support me at all of my races!  They help me schedule my races and also get me ready to race.


How old were you when you competed in your first actual race and how did you do?

  As I mentioned before I raced my first race when I was 10 years old at Jingle Cross. I ended up 2nd. The first place was a boy so I felt okay about how I did, but I didn't just want to get second I wanted to win. So I kept racing and I still want to win. It is definitely a driving force.

When and how did you realize that cycling might be a pathway to further opportunities like travel and educational advancement?


Once I started looking at colleges I started to realize that I could continue my cycling career while getting an education. I also thought about not going to college and just pursue cycling for a year and see how it goes. As I weighed my options I decided that getting an education and being able to bike was a more reliable choice. But in the summer I will do as much cycling as I can and get to travel all around the US, North America and the world!

What advice would you give to a youngster in following a course similar to your own?


 Remember to always have fun. Cycling as a jr should not be a job. But the only way to get better, at anything, is to push yourself. You just have to learn how much you can push yourself.

 

You've recently competed in Europe for the first time. What are some of the biggest differences in racing there and in the US?

One of the biggest differences between womens' cycling in Europe and America would be the number of racers in each race. In America we are lucky if we end up with 30 let alone 50 but in Europe they expect 80 to 100 and in some of our races maybe up to 150. Women over in Europe can make a living cycling where in America women have to have another job one the side. Another thing is that they are very supported. There are big teams of just women and they have very generous sponsors.
When over in Europe racing I noticed that they were very aggressive. Meaning that they wouldn't just let you go in front of them. You had to fight for your position and fight for where you wanted to be they weren't going to give it to you easily.

Who were the riders in Europe that particularly impressed you and why?


 I wouldn't say that there was one rider in specific but the team WM3 was a big team there and they got on the UCI Podium pretty much every day.

How many schools actively tried to recruit you for their cycling programs?


There were maybe 5 or 6 but I was really only looking at 3 main schools. I chose Marian University not just for their cycling program but also for their academics. Marian University has an excellent Nursing program. I would like to become an ER Nurse after I graduate.

How is your training program structured?


My father and my coaches (Charlie and Sherry Townsend) from Northstar Development plan my training schedule. At the current time I am doing a lot of racing and not as much training. Most of my training was in the early season doing long rides and just getting a base.

What are the biggest pluses (and minuses) of being a competitive cyclist?


The pluses would be meeting a lot of people, traveling, when you win just the feeling you get of accomplishing something.
The minuses of course would be training, not being home much, and if you crash that's not too much fun.
But even though there are some downs to cycling the Ups are just so rewarding.


(Photo by Carlos Sabillon)


A trip to Rimouski, Q.C.  involved a competitive cycling minus.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Field Marshall or just an ordinary general?



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No, it's not a Russian submarine commander or a North Korean infantry general, it's just the present sheriff of Orange County, California, the person responsible for protecting the safety of Disneyland and the Angels baseball team. Actually, her costume does look like something that might have been created by the Disney costume staff. Sadly, she won't be able to wear the uniform in public much longer as the lady intends to retire after 40 years in law enforcement. There is some pressure involved: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/06/27/sheriff-sandra-hutchens-announces-plans-to-retire/

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kapuscinski Talks About Time

Noted Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski wandered the world as the sole member of the Polish communist foreign press corps. He saw and wrote of many things,his books included the The Soccer War and Shah of Shahs and The Emperor. In his treatise on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun, he comments on the differences between the Europeans and the Africans in the concept of time.

 The European and the African have an entirely different concept of time. In the European worldview, time exists outside man, exists objectively, and has measurable and linear characteristics. According to Newton, time is absolute: "Absolute, true, mathematical time of itself and from its own nature, it flows equably and without relation to anything external." The European feels himself to be time's slave, dependent on it, subject to it. To exist and function, he must observe its ironclad, inviolate laws, its inflexible principles and rules. He must heed deadlines, dates, days, and hours. He moves within the rigors of time and cannot exist outside them. They impose upon him their requirements and quotas. An unresolvable conflict exists between man and time, one that always ends with man's defeat--time annihilates him.

 Africans apprehend time differently. For them, it is a much looser concept, more open, elastic, subjective. It is man who influences time, its shape, course, and rhythm (man acting, of course, with the consent of gods and ancestors). Time is even something that man can create outright, for time is made manifest through events, and whether an event takes place or not depends, after all, on man alone. If two armies do not engage in a battle, then that battle will not occur (in other words, time will not have revealed its presence, will not have come into being).

Time appears as a result of our actions, and vanishes when we neglect or ignore it. It is something that springs to life under our influence, but falls into a state of hibernation, even nonexistence, if we do not direct our energy toward it. It is a subservient, passive essence, and, most importantly, one dependent on man.

The absolute opposite of time as it is understood in the European worldview.

 In practical terms, this means that if you go to a village where a meeting is scheduled for the afternoon but find no one at the appointed spot, asking, "When will the meeting take place?" makes no sense. You know the answer: "It will take place when the people come."

 Image result for ryszard kapuściński

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Best Way To Torture Fish

Minneapolis Star-Tribune outdoor writer gives some advice on the best method to catch a walleyed pike and then return it to the water:

Mille Lacs anglers are catching a lot of walleyes this summer, all of which must be returned to the water. The trick while water temperatures continue to warm is to ensure as much as possible that released fish live. Chances this will happen increase if anglers use jigs instead of sliding sinker rigs, which are a favorite on Mille Lacs. Often walleyes will take hooks fished with sliding sinkers deep in their mouths, making their safe extraction problematic. Better now as midsummer approaches to fish Mille Lacs walleyes with jigs — or at least pinch the barbs off hooks used with sliding sinkers, making a walleye’s release quicker and safer.
Dennis Anderson

 Image result for walleye pike

Of course, the best way to insure that the fish survives is to find some other amusement and leave the fish alone.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Badger State on Course to Get Rid of Woodchucks

According to the Associated Press:

MADISON, Wis. — The Legislature's outdoors committees have approved a bill that would create a woodchuck season.
The Republican bill would remove woodchucks from the Wisconsin's protected species list and establish a hunting and trapping season that would run from July through December with no bag limits.
The Assembly's Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Committee amended the measure Wednesday to establish a year-round open season on the animals on an 11-2 vote and passed the bill 9-4.
The Senate's Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry Committee met on the bill on Wednesday as well. That panel signed off on the amendment 5-0 and passed the bill 4-1.
Committee approval clears the way for votes in the full Senate and Assembly.


Image result for Badger\  

Badger





Image result for woodchuck

Woodchuck

Badgers are carnivores. Woodchucks are vegetarians. In fact, badgers look at woodchucks like college students look at pizzas. Both dig holes that can present problems. For people. The hunting of woodchucks hasn't really been hunting as such. It's mostly been shooting, plinking at living, and sometimes moving, targets. Few people, if any, eat them, they're rodents, distantly related to rats and mice, after all. They might be trapped for purposes of eliminating their construction of burrows but for no other purpose. No one makes coats or stoles out of their hides. Maybe there's a demand for stuffed woodchucks, woodchucks that taxidermists preserve in interesting postures, perhaps holding a small US flag or riding a miniature bicycle.

Image result for woodchuck holding american flag

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Beheading Update

A short time ago we explored the once popular artistic subject of beheading here at Pulverized Concepts. In the last couple of hundred years, however, it doesn't seem to be seen as often as it once was, unless you're in an art museum.

Image result for caravaggio

The 17th century master Michelangelo Caravaggio used the event in more than a few of his works, which were hung in places where they could be seen then as they are now.  Above we see Judith decapitating Holofernes. This made the Jews happy then and the Christians happy later.

People are bent out of shape over the efforts of minor league comedienne Kathy Griffin and photographer Tyler Shields to depict something that has been brought back into the public consciousness by the maniacal villains of ISIS. But they're not really beheading anyone. The photo is a fake! It doesn't mean that they're going to actually chop the noggin off of anyone. And, indeed, how could they? Their version of Holofernes is surrounded by agents sworn to protect him from Colombian prostitutes and other mal hechors.

 
Tyler Shields has done a number of somewhat irreverent video projects like this one:

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Decoration Day Memorial



This monument is found on the grounds of the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis, just a short distance from picturesque Minnehaha Falls. It honors the youthful Union soldiers that served in the War Between the States. A total of 2,334,568 boys age 18 and under, 25 of them as young as ten, fought for the Grand Army of the Republic between the shelling of Fort Sumter and Lee's surrender.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Observation by Adam Ferguson, 1767

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Ferguson makes this point in his An Essay on the History of Civil Society:

... the inhabitants of Britain, at the time of the first Roman invasions, resembled, in many things, the present natives of North America: They were ignorant of agriculture; they painted their bodies; and used for clothing the skins of beasts. Such, therefore, appears to have been the commencement of history with all nations, and in such circumstances are we to look for the original character of mankind. The inquiry refers to a distant period, and every conclusion should build on the facts which are preserved for our use. Our method, notwithstanding, too frequently, is to rest the whole on conjecture; to impute every advantage of our nature to those arts which we ourselves possess; and to imagine, that a mere negation of all our virtues is a sufficient description of man in his original state. We are ourselves the supposed standards of politeness and civilization; and where our own features do not [126] appear, we apprehend, that there is nothing which deserves to be known. But it is probable that here, as in many other cases, we are ill qualified, from our supposed knowledge of causes, to prognosticate effects, or to determine what must have been the properties and operations, even of our own nature, in the absence of those circumstances in which we have seen it engaged. Who would, from mere conjecture, suppose, that the naked savage would be a coxcomb and a gamester? that he would be proud or vain, without the distinctions of title and fortune? and that his principal care would be to adorn his person, and to find an amusement? Even if it could be supposed that he would thus share in our vices, and, in the midst of his forest, vie with the follies which are practised in the town; yet no one would be so bold as to affirm, that he would likewise, in any instance, excel us in talents and virtues; that he would have a penetration, a force of imagination and elocution, an ardour of mind, an affection and courage, which the arts, the discipline, and the policy of few nations would be able to improve. Yet these particulars are a part in the description which is delivered by those who have had opportunities of seeing mankind in their rudest condition: and beyond the reach of such testimony, we can neither safely take, nor pretend to give, information on the subject.

 Image result for adam ferguson

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Carl Menger Points Out the Truth

“There is no necessary and direct connection between the value of a good and whether, or in what quantities, labor and other goods of higher order were applied to its production. A non-economic good (a quantity of timber in a virgin forest, for example) does not attain value for men since large quantities of labor or other economic goods were not applied to its production. Whether a diamond was found accidentally or was obtained from a diamond pit with the employment of a thousand days of labor is completely irrelevant for its value. In general, no one in practical life asks for the history of the origin of a good in estimating its value, but considers solely the services that the good will render him and which he would have to forgo if he did not have it at his command…The quantities of labor or of other means of production applied to its production cannot, therefore, be the determining factor in the value of a good. Comparison of the value of a good with the value of the means of production employed in its production does, of course, show whether and to what extent its production, an act of past human activity, was appropriate or economic. But the quantities of goods employed in the production of a good have neither a necessary nor a directly determining influence on its value.”

 Image result for carl menger

Friday, May 12, 2017

Gen. Phil Sheridan Memorial in Sheridan Circle

File:Philip Sheridan Statue.JPG The statue of Civil War hero, Gen. Phil Sheridan. It was created by Gutzon Borglum, of Mount Rushmore fame. Sheridan, commander of Union troops at Appamatox Courthouse in 1865, not only defeated the Confederates, he was the architect of the US strategy for eliminating the western American natives and was famous for the statement, "The only good Indian I ever saw was a dead one". While memorials to Confederate figures and prominent pre-Civil War southerners are being destroyed, the memory of Phil Sheridan, while restricted to a few, remains sacred.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gypsum Board As Art


Marsh Lane Diversion by Rob Chavasse, installed at Frieze London in 2016 Artists since have refined their messages. In some cases, the work itself encapsulates ideas about the mechanics of the (art) market as well as questions about how value is ascribed. The Sunday Painter, a gallery based in London, presented Marsh Lane Diversion (2016) by Rob Chavasse at Frieze London, which consisted of stacked plasterboards with an image printed on the front of them. The boards had been temporarily removed from circulation of the building industry but had to be returned to it after the fair – a buyer could, for £20,000, purchase the right to recreate the work but would never own the boards themselves. The work’s physical material is always borrowed, fed back into a different economic circulation system after being deinstalled. According to the gallery’s Tom Cole, it is still available. 

 Apollo Magazine

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lawn Care As A Religion

The English-speaking world, having dismissed traditional monotheistic religion as mythology, needs other things on which to base their values. There's faux democracy, of course, but that's seldom important on a personal level except for the most deranged. For the normal American, Canadian and even many Brits, especially those that reside in the suburbs, the lawn around their home has become a focal point that has taken the place of religion in day to day life.

Lawns as we know them probably originated with English tourists returning home from visits to France in the seventeenth century. Always aware of their cultural inferiority to the French, as they are today, the English saw the large and opulent grounds of the French aristocracy as a goal for themselves. Only a generation or two from living under the same roof with their livestock, the primitive English kicked their pigs out of their bedrooms, enclosed the commons and put their tenants to task manicuring their estates.

The Puritans brought this phenomenon to the New World and even today no American detached home is considered livable without a surrounding patch of carefully manicured and watered grass. Business facilities also include elaborate landscaping, not all of which is devoted to parking for employees and customers.

A major aspect of this conformity is regulation. Virtually all municipalities require that "weeds", ie. plants that aren't of the fescue or bluegrass type, be kept down or eliminated. Dandelions and creeping charlie are frowned upon, thistles and burdocks abhorred. These regulations are based upon the theory that the unmanicured yard of a neighbor reflects poorly on the property values and even character of others. It costs me money if you don't mow your lawn. Mammon being the true deity of the West, a decrepit lawn becomes a sin.

Oddly, it's not generally accepted to discourage the seating of an unattractive person at an adjacent table in a restaurant because their presence might make one look bad. In fact, even ugly people are allowed in toney restaurants as long as they're fairly clean and wearing clothes and have credit cards.

The true raison d'etre of the modern lawn is signalling. Since the lawn itself is no longer used for the grazing of livestock and only occasionally for recreational purposes, the odd croquet game on July 4th, it's real purpose is ostentation. A useless and unnecessary expense is the ultimate signal of wealth. More acreage implies more wealth.  The best signal is a large grounds maintained by a well-paid landscaping company. No one of high status personally mows their own lawn.

     Middle class suburbanites cherish their lawns as an indication that they've moved up from the concrete and asphalt surroundings of the inner city, even though the city dwellers probably spend more time outside. The typical man on the cul de sac fights traffic on his way to work in the city, spends the day there, fights even worse traffic home, kicks back before the one-eyed monster, eats, slugs back a few beers and then retires so he can do it again the next day. A couple of times a week he might pull the Lawn Boy out of the garage to clip the Bermuda grass but that's the extent of his commune with nature, such as it is.