The Dark Side of the Force is Awake, and it’s called the GOP

There was a lot of war mongering going on at the last GOP debate. It’s almost as if they wanted to build a Death Star in the sky and eliminate, via laser and with pin-point accuracy, any and all bad guys. And if that didn’t work they were OK with just leveling cities as if it were another day at the office. Remember when Darth Vader destroyed Alderan just because he could? Imagine if Ted Cruz, Donald Trump or Chris Christie stood behind that console with all that power. That would be kind of scary, but in all actuality, we are pretty close to that scenario. How we got this far and to this point, where one of these yahoo’s can have so much power at their disposal is an acknowledgement of our biggest fears and what we as a nation are willing to allow to silence those fears.

But what are those fears and why to they exist? From a national security standpoint, The Islamic State is loosing ground, and as a result they are hitting closer to home, such as in San Bernadino or France. The fear is that the bad guys can strike anytime and anywhere using our technologies, citizens and legal loopholes against us. Now, from the GOP’s perspective and because we are in a soundbite election season, It’s not exciting by any means to talk about the root cause of why an American citizen, or somebody trying to establish roots in the US or another western country would consider joining the Islamic State, or turn against their neighbors for other misguided ideological purposes. It’s easier to blame the president and use tough and childish rhetoric in an attempt to win support from very scared citizens and direct hatred towards an invisible enemy. Facing the root cause and fighting the war there is not as sexy as “utterly destroying” and “carpet bombing” cities.

In truth, exploring the root cause might highlight the very deep flaws of our version of capitalism and “the dream” not being at all what it is sold to be. And I’m not convinced any of the candidates at the debate can actually deliberate upon that. So, rather than discuss the real issues at hand, such as income inequality and trying to improve what is for many a very poor quality of life–all which stems from the philosophical and actual inadequacies of our archaic economic structure, it’s more convenient and much easier for the GOP to blame “them” and incite hatred. It’s an easy redirect tactic. And its working. So the rhetoric gets tougher, more bombastic, and those leading the charge sound more like dark Sith overlords rather than GOP presidential candidates.

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#NewVegan Project

I’ve started a new blog to document my transition from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet.

I’ve posted a few recipes, some successes, and also documented few hiccups I’ve encountered thus far.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, but finding plant-based alternatives to animal-based ingredients is a whole lot of fun. I still haven’t worked cheese out yet but I’m getting there.

The blog address is: http://newveganjourney.foundationforward.net/

Feel free to follow along!

Can we finally get serious about gun control?

Does this country finally have the balls to rethink gun control? What are we actually afraid of? The NRA? Sure, they have the big guns, and they are using them against us, but it’s time we grow up and finally face them.

This whole “rural debate” or “hunting as a time-honored tradition” stance just isn’t enough anymore. If that is your position, and we keep these laws that allow guns in the hands of criminals in place because of those traditions, maybe it’s time for the sake of national security you find a new hobby. The right for you to sit in the woods all day, drink beer, while waiting for a deer to walk by for you to shoot is being paid for at the expense of innocent Americans in malls, clinics, and schools.

I don’t feel safe in this country anymore. It’s not the Syrians or any other fringe group right wing politicians are pointing at that is making me feel this way. It’s the NRA, gun lobbyists, and their supporters. Way too often now we are hearing about lunatics and guns. Enough is enough. Let’s finally get serious about gun control, or dare I say it, gun elimination.

How Jerry Seinfeld can Help Defeat the Islamic State

In your best Jerry Seinfeld voice ask yourself, “…so uh, what’s the deal with the Islamic State”? Now, take Jerry off of your shoulder and put him down on the table and give him some cereal for a moment.

That’s a pretty heavy question, but as heavy as the question is the answer is rather simple–they don’t like us–and by us I mean the West. But really, how can you not like us, we have  Hollywood, great chefs, exciting music, so really, what is their “deal”?

In a recent episode of “Democracy Now”, Abdel Bari Atwan, who was the guest on the show, ran through 7 words outlining how the Islamic State came to be. His packaging of the this was rather brilliant and provided a nice digestible way of putting the Islamic State and the Middle East into perspective, the seven words he used are:

  1. Humiliation – people are humiliated by military intervention and by their own governments which are dictatorships
  2. Frustration – There are a large number (over 100 million) of young and unemployed people looking for direction and a future
  3. Marginalization – The marginalized Sunni Sect created an incubator for Islamic State in Iraq
  4. Military Intervention – causes failed states, which are filled later by the Islamic State
  5. Lack of good governments – Corruption and lack of human rights
  6. Under Estimation – ISIS was underestimated as it was gaining power
  7. Social Media – The Islamic State is using social media platforms to gain followers and broadcast messages to a much larger audience in the past

Now back to Jerry, who just finished eating his Fruit Loops.  Jerry – think of the Islamic State as a glob of mercury. The more you bomb it, the more it breaks up, but never really goes away. And it expands in heat, which in this case, think of heat as war. The deal is this, Jerry, it’s eons of frustration that bombing will only make worse. And the refugee situation? Jerry – the more we turn away the more we feed the cycle outlined above. So it’s imperative we accept refugees. The right-wing pundits and presidential candidates are way off-base on this one.

So Jerry – now that you have some perspective on “What’s the deal”, and it’s clear that the solution isn’t a military one – Jerry – you can help. You represent Hollywood in this blog post, and Hollywood is our biggest export. More than anything this is a war of ideology. Hollywood (which encapsulates “the dream” better than anything else can), education, political sanctions, access to food- all of these things can do a much better job of combating the Islamic State than continuous bombings ever will.

It’s time to re-think this strategy and let the George Costanza fly.

Click below for the interview referenced in this post.

Cricket Salad and a PBR

It took a while, but eating raw fish is now very mainstream.  Sushi was first introduced sometime in the 80’s.  A bit icky at first, but thanks to a neat westernization of the art form in California, avocado’s served as a stepping stone towards the cold fleshiness of raw fish. The point is, over time, we can grow to accept eating foods that seem uncomfortable.  Eating sushi was a metropolitan badge of cool during the go-go 80’s when board rooms where filled with fat cats doing coke, and every beer commercial featured a party girl in a bikini and a red sports car. Sushi is the polar opposite of all of that.  It’s clean, beautiful, and the delicate rice vinegar used to season the rice is a far cry from spicy buffalo sauce. Sushi stuck around, while the 80’s did not.  It’s now in our supermarkets and a feature of many a good sit-in restaurant. OK – then what is this about?—well, crickets.

The UN recently said that eating bugs will help us fight world hunger.  I heard a story recently on NPR where the UN went as far as hosting a bug tasting that featured cricket sashimi and other yummy appetizers.  I’m not too mad about not receiving an invite to that event.  I’m more curious about who the brave chef will be that will put stink bugs on their menu and help westernize the cricket.

Entomophagy is the study of eating insects.  The UN reports that over 2 million people eat insects around the world and is very high in protein

But this is a bit different from sushi.  Where sushi is artistic in presentation, stink bugs probably aren’t. And from what I’ve read thus far, bugs don’t taste very good either.  Making the cricket mainstream will have to do a lot with perception hijacking our senses. And nothing does that better than whatever it is that we perceive to be cool.  Some brave person will have to make the cricket delectably cool.

Cool comes in waves and usually begins in dirty places.  And just like sushi was the opposite of all things 80’s, crickets are the opposite of all things today.  It just doesn’t seem to fit within the Googley white-space of our perfectly auto-tuned society.  This movement won’t come from the UN telling us that bugs are a fantastic source of protein.  It won’t come from some celebrity chef trying to be shocking on some half-baked cooking show.  This will most likely come from the Pabst Blue Ribbon crowd asking for a cricket salad in a dirty hipster gastro-pub.

If your curious about preparing some bugs your own and being a harbinger of cool, here are two blogs that will give you some yummy crawler recipes and ideas.

I can see it already, cricket sashimi, cricket flambe, cricket ice cream, cricket a la mode, cricket sundae, cricket fricassee, cricket risotto,  cricket pancakes, cricket o’s cereal….you get the idea.  Now we just have to start getting used to it.

Robots are Rising

Robots seem to be everywhere these days–but at the same time nowhere, at least yet.  But thats about to change.  Below is a collection of some recent stories that capture how far robotics have come, while just touching upon the possibilities of where we can go.

I don’t know if we are in a position to call them our robotic overlords just yet, but acquaintances maybe, and in some cases probably even friend – but be very careful with whom you call friend.

robotic future

Ray Kurzweil joins Google to work on machine learning, language processing

Gigaom

Famed tech innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil has announced that he will join Google (s goog) “to work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing.” Kurzweil will become director of engineering at Google beginning Monday, Dec. 17.

Kurzweil is known for his strong support of the Singularity, an idea that technology could enable humans to live for hundreds of years, and a theory that has received support from some of Silicon Valley’s best and brightest, including Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

On his website Friday, Kurzweil wrote about his decision to join the team at Google:

“I’ve been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time: when I was 14, I designed software that wrote original music, and later went on to invent the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, among other inventions. I’ve always worked to create practical systems that will make…

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The Phone Booth 3000. A Simple Idea for Next Generation Boothing

Driving in this morning, I heard a story on NPR about phone booths, and how the city of Philadelphia is looking to rethink these.  They are making money as ad centers and still see some use, but most are dirty, graffiti plagued, and plain eyesores.  Given where we are as a young civilization and how we’ve evolved, they think – and I do to – that its time to revisit the phone booth concept.

The idea that the story spoke about was a touch screen computer thing.  A modern, touch enabled communications tool available to the public.  Sounds simple – a screen, a booth, some small apps – maybe something Android based, like a large tablet but with tourist info and other widgets.

Sure  – but I started thinking about the challenges of mobile advertising, and the obvious, the power of Twitter.  On a separate story I heard on NPR – yeah – I listen to them a lot – they covered a police officer, Detective Joseph Turner, of West Philadelphia, who is an advocate of police tweeting and is using Twitter to remain communicated with his community, and in a sense, adding another dimension to community policing.

Philly Cops Bust Crime In 140 Characters Or Fewer

A thought occurs.  Rather than a touchscreen monitor with app icons and banner ads at the bottom – I envision a Hootsuite like interface, with columns-maybe three, one for the local police tweet stream, another containing a tourist tweet stream, and maybe another collecting local businesses – and the latter two columns could have ads built directly into the stream.  It will also need an area for one to tweet.  They could sign in to their account and their location will be hashtagged and the could construct their message.  It would automatically sign out of your account after 1 minutes and 40 seconds of inactivity.

Barriers

Not everybody uses Twitter. Fine, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t have a live stream of some local activity.  What about the phone?  Well – dump it.  The money here comes from the physical and digital ads in the booth and the tweet stream.

An opportunity for Twitter

Yes.  Municipal ad based booths can be an additional revenue stream.

Why not 4Square?

No reason – maybe a combination of the two would work.  Twitter just came to my mind first.  But I’m sure a case can be made for them too.

Well – that’s my idea

It brings together the use of public whitespace and revenue, while providing a communication service free of charge to the public.  It’s far better than having widgets on touchscreen.  That view is getting a bit stale.