The First Debate – Trump Kinda Won

There was an interesting take away I got from the debate. Trump talked about how much money the Clinton campaign spent against Trump yet the candidate is tied or ahead in some polls. To listen to mainstream or liberal media, the debate last night was a slam dunk for Clinton, but when I listened to extended discussions by pundits the same issue Trump brought up was echoed by them. With all the negative campaign messages, with all the missteps made by Trump, he has remained competitive in this election. Ever since he rode down the escalator and made the shocking statement about Mexican immigrants, there have been many experts who have mocked Trump and predicted his demise. In what has become a telling refrain, Trump has succeeded expectations and continues to win over voters.

Maybe because of the length of the political season we have forgotten many of the details of this election cycle, but Trump has been a political figure that has been the most underestimated. It has been said time and time again that Trump has said things that would destroy other politicians. Trump said that John McCain wasn’t a war hero, made disparaging comments about fellow Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and all three now support Trump. Yes, there are a list of major Republican party members who refuse to endorse Trump, including a former Republican President, but the fact is Trump is the candidate of the Republican party and he has a reasonable shot of becoming President.

The problem I have watching the coverage of Trump is I don’t see how so many experts continue to underestimate Trump. OK, that’s wrong. I have an idea of why they underestimate Trump. I’m reminded of the scene in The Wrath of Khan when the Enterprise goes into the nebula to evade Khan. Kirk realizes Khan I fighting a 2-dimensional battle. It’s when Kirk uses space tactics in 3 dimensions is he able to defeat Khan.

Pundits think in the political patterns they’ve learned from years of analysis and are reluctant to think in a new dimension. Pundits and talking heads I’ve seen discuss Trump continue to think of him as a conventional candidate. They talk about how he doesn’t have a get out the vote apparatus, how he hasn’t spent a lot of advertising dollars and in the recent event they talked about the many mistakes he made. Guess what? All that has been talked about is Trump. Trump has shaped the narrative, Trump is being talked about on every talk show, news show and radio program. Hillary Clinton is mentioned, of course, but the talk about Clinton, if you dig into it, isn’t really praise.

The problem Clinton faces is she’s expected to wipe the floor with Trump. You will hear the praises by her surrogates that Clinton is the most qualified person to be President ever. She’s been a First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. She has political qualifications a mile long but at the end of the day, she’s tied or barely beating Trump. I think an unknown appeal of Trump is the David and Goliath comparison. Scoff if you like, but look at the primary between Sanders and Clinton. Bernie Sanders was a super underdog to her and he put up a big fight against her. Clinton has had an aura of inevitability around her that doesn’t work well for her, despite political expectations. Hillary Clinton doesn’t get lucky in elections but she and her staff exploit opportunities at the right moment to try and win elections.

What we forget about Clinton was that 8-9 years ago she was the anointed one. She was the inevitable nominee of her party and she lost to Obama. The times when she stood a fighting chance to Obama was when she did something that she’s very reluctant to do; bring down her guard and relate to people on a personal level. That time in New Hampshire when she started to cry talking about how she didn’t want the county to fail turned her fortune around in the campaign. Of course, the campaign ruined that momentum in South Carolina when it was suggested that Obama won the state because, of course, black people were expected to vote for him. Clinton and the surrogates around her rely on her inevitability to clear the field of candidates. You had the breathless will she or won’t she move during this election cycle where no major candidate dared to put their hat in the ring until she did. When she did it was so late for many, and a lot thought of her as a formidable opponent, that many decided not to run. Despite the strategy, similar to what happened in the 2008 cycle, the coronation to victory was not easy.

I heard Mark Shields mention on PBS yesterday that Clinton reminds a lot of people of the student who wants to show everyone how smart they are by giving too much information. While people who like Clinton dismiss the perception of the negative likability factor of Clinton, I know that’s a major factor killing her in the polls. Clinton isn’t the person you want to have a beer with nor is she the unpredictable one. See, we might think Eddie Haskell is a slime and a jerk but people can understand and deal with that person. Judy Hensler is a goody-goody who will snitch on everyone. That brings mistrust to the electorate and when you combine that with rumors of the Clinton Foundation, email servers and the infamous Benghazi, the electorate is holding their nose when they decide on Clinton. In an odd way, people see Trump as a jerk but a jerk with his heart in the right spot.

America may dislike Judy Hensler and Eddie Haskell equally, but we’ll take the jerk over the goody-goody smarty pants. The take away I get from this election is that Clinton has been a flawed candidate for decades and even with all the advantages she has politically, we have an unbelievably close election. Trump shouldn’t be President, but when you have enough voters who are willing to pick him over Clinton, you have to really examine what the country expects in their President. When pundits can really have their come to Jesus moment and honestly look at the American people and examine why Trump is this close in the polls maybe we can begin to evaluate the American attitude.

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Geek Overload

I’m at work a few hours early and I’ve slipped down the geek rabbit hole. I have headphones on listening to a liberal radio talk show (Stephanie Miller show) talking about the upcoming debate. On the work TV they have CNN on, which is running a countdown to the debate while doing wall to wall coverage of talking heads discussing the debate. By the way, as of this paragraph there are 11 hours before the debate.

The really geek part that I’ve stumbled upon occurred with me falling into the YouTube trap of computer build videos. Ever since I decided to take my time and work on re-conceptualizing my ultimate computer build my obsession of getting this massive computer built has been a growing fever. This morning, for some reason, I got sucked into those build videos. I’ve been comparing the price I paid for parts, performance numbers and how my pick stacks up to the ‘experts.’ I’m feeling like such a car guy right now. I’m watching people proudly talking about whatever high end component they have and I’m gloating with pride on how what I have is better, or bitterly justifying how my piece for the price is better.

It’s a lot of sensory overload because I’m watching and comparing component prices while simultaneously listening to the humor of the talk show and glancing at the TV screen as another talking head opines about debate strategy and audience anticipation on the debate. That’s how I roll sometimes.

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OWS, BLM and the Group-Think Perception

A couple of years ago, before the Black Lives Matter movement, there was the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m sure a lot of people remember them. The main protesters were in NY and they took over a park. It became a big thing and the movement spread all over the country. There were some protests that had violence. It was an amorphous group that really didn’t have a leader, really didn’t have an organized structure. Some people that the press called leaders appeared on cable news shows.

In the year or two that Occupy Wall Street was a large movement people did crimes. You had people doing vandalism, you had them robbing stores, you even had people attacking the police. OK, let me clarify and say that by the previous sentence I mean there were crimes in general, not crimes done by OWS. Not every crime done in America was attributed to Occupy Wall Street and its members, especially crimes done by white Americans. Those that were considered leaders of that movement, be them national or local, were not contacted after every crime to make a statement about a crime allegedly committed by someone who attended an Occupy Wall Street event. A person who did a crime wasn’t automatically associated with Occupy Wall Street.

When Black Lives Matter formed, and I’ll give benefit of the doubt and will say weeks after its official formation, crimes that involved black people were linked to the Black Lives Matter philosophy. A black criminal wasn’t just a black criminal. If a black person did a violent crime, or, heaven forbid, they attacked a police officer, the assumption was that they were encouraged, motivated or inspired by the Black Lives matter movement. People who were considered leaders of Black Lives matter were taken to task for not controlling their people. Black Lives Matter was made to answer for crimes committed by black people with no affiliation to Black Lives Matter.

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I know it’s not the most scientific way looking at things, but if you have crime committed by a black person, if you look at the comments section of any news enterprise you will see many comments directed against Black Lives Matter, liberals and black people in general. You will not see the same thing directed at white criminals. You might see an association with liberals but you won’t see an organization like Occupy Wall Street denounced.

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A main reason why you won’t see white denouncement is people of non-color are allowed to be individuals and free thinkers. They aren’t classified by color and not considered to be monolithic. Any hyphenated American not from the European continent are mostly thought of in one mindset. We aren’t individuals; we are a group. As with all groups, there can be experiences that can be fully understood by your group. If you grow up in a traditional Irish family, then people who grew up in a similar Irish family will understand experiences you had because they would have had similar experiences in their family. That’s doesn’t mean that all Irish think or act the same way. What people do with non-whites are to take them and assume, especially if its negative, that all in that group experience the same thing and act accordingly. Unless it is someone we know, we group them together either for shorthand or for laziness. We seldom think that the person isn’t the sole representative of their entire race or culture.

For my whole life I realized that as a black person, no matter what I did personally, my actions would be a reflection on every black person in America and that any negative act done by a black person would be a reflection on me. I hate that with a passion but it’s something I have to deal with. It’s tough for me to be the person I want to be; to act the way I want to act in a given situation because I know I’m not going to be judged as an individual. I’m going to be judged against other black people. My name came up in a discussion about BLM between two friends of mine.

This reminds me Reginald Mizell of the time you beat me back to my house and were sitting in your car waiting for me and a few other folks. By the time I got home, there were TWO police cars there and you were being interviewed by police. There had been dozens of times when white friends were waiting outside my house and nobody ever drew enough attention to warrant a police visit.

Until my friend mentioned this, I’d forgotten all about this incident. Once mentioned, I remembered it vividly. I was scared while it happened back when I was a teenager but mad afterwards. What makes me mad now, decades after it happened, is that there have been incidents since then where I’ve been ‘talked to’ by the police. I can honestly say, except for one time (and no, I’m not going to make a confession about it here) there wasn’t justification for the interaction with the police. The times I have been stopped by the police were similar to the incident my friend mention. I either ‘fit the description’ or was in a place I supposedly didn’t belong.

I know people will say I’m being too sensitive or I’m reading racism into situations where racism isn’t there. My answer would be you haven’t lived in my shoes and you haven’t wanted to live in my shoes. It’s easier to assume bad situations that happen with the police or other people are just random incidences that necessarily equate to discrimination or racism. I would say look at those examples I posted again. If there are over 30 comments and a third of the people commenting are taking the criminal to an extreme of racial and bigoted comments, there’s a point where you can’t just think of negative reactions as random events.

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36 comments and 12 of those comments deal with BLM and race. These are all of the 12 comments readers had on the story. No mention of race for a similar incident by a white suspect days later.

Let me make it clear, I don’t think every negative comment or interaction is a racist or bigoted action, but I would be a fool not to think that’s the intent. That thinking is what poisons a situation, which becomes more problematic when people refuse to acknowledge when there is a bigoted or racist event. The pictures I posted, which were of criminal incidents days apart, shows that there is bias between white and black criminals and people will attach things that have nothing to do with the crime to denigrate something they feel is the bigger issue when it’s not.

I’ve seen so many posts over the last few years where every black criminal act is related to BLM, or where a person whom BLM wants to support or otherwise bring attention to has their record scrutinized for previous police encounters. In other words, people are so distrustful and want to bring the BLM down that their unwilling to investigate the incident against the person but rather are looking to find fault in the victim. In the case of the local black man who ran over the three police officers, the first reports I heard, and this was on two local news stations, was that the suspect had attended a BLM rally. One station even went to a ‘local leader’ of the BLM movement who denounced the action.

That plays into the group mind think. As far as I know, and I know it didn’t happen, no one investigated if the white criminal had been involved with the Bundy’s or with the protest against Muslims that occurred a year ago. If you really want to pry no one asked if he was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I doubt anyone asked if he was liberal or conservative. In a weird way he’s allowed to be a singular criminal with no affiliation to any group. The black criminal, on the other hand, was researched for affiliation to possibly smear the reputation of that organization. He wasn’t just a criminal; he was an affiliated criminal who was acting because of motivation by a larger group.

That thinking is why we have race relation problems. One group is able to make mistakes as themselves and others in the group aren’t affected. Other groups have the weight of an entire race on their shoulders and any negative action by one is felt by all.

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Friendship, Social Media and Elections

A friend of mine posted something on his Facebook page yesterday.

For most of my life, I’ve always assumed all my friends were intelligent, thoughtful people. If the 2016 elections are doing nothing else, they’re slamming home the point that just because someone is articulate and I like hanging out with them DOESN’T mean they’re a particularly good or effective thinker. – Stever Robbins

I’ve had issues with social media since it became a necessity to use social media. As a way of keeping in contact with friends, maybe even meeting new people, hey social media is a great tool. It’s brings people together from all over the world and if social media was treated as a nice diversion, a way to break up and possibly brighten the day it would be a good thing. Social media has unfortunately become more media, as in mass media and news, than a little thing used to connect people. It has become the focal point of many people’s lives.

How many news programs, and I mean local and national broadcasts, have segments on a ‘viral video’ or trending Twitter topics in a given broadcast? There are national programs where a group of people will sit around laptops commenting on the latest ‘hot video’ or Twitter trend. You have websites like Huffington Post that have articles written by reporters responding to a response a semi-celebrity makes to a comment left on their social media feed. We have made ‘whatever’- shaming on social media, be it fat-shaming, slut-shaming, body-shaming et al, similar to physical assault. You have celebrities responding to celebrity responses to celebrities, causing regular people to choose sides in inconsequential arguments.

Social media isn’t limited to debates oh who’s dating whom or what semi-nude pictures are being posted by the Kardashian clan. For most of American history, to protest injustice meant writing letters, facing guns and dogs on a bridge, making impassioned speeches, marching and physically getting hundreds to millions of people to demonstrate and make a physical presence for change. That has changed. People feel that putting up a hashtag is equal to physically going out to the streets and protesting real injustice in the world. How many important issues of the day have been reduced to hashtags and likes, only to be ignored weeks or months later for the newest trendy injustice?

What my friend is witnessing this election has been happening for a number of election cycles, but I would say it became noticeable during the 2008 campaign and election of Obama. The combination of the explosion of social media and a historic event in American politics, the anonymity of the keyboard allowed people to express their feelings about the election to a wide group of people. I know Americans feel that, when pressed, we are a reasonable and intelligent group of people that can listen to the facts. We want to believe the people who seriously care about the lifestyle of the Kardashians or who want to know the latest news about Taylor Swift’s love life are not the norm. We want to think of ourselves as thoughtful thinkers.

If that’s the case, you haven’t looked at the comment pages of your local news outlet. You haven’t seen ‘debates’ about sports teams or the latest DC vs Marvel debate. We Americans have been fed the concept for decades we are the greatest country on the face of God’s green Earth. We have the right and the will to do what we want. It isn’t all of us, but enough people have the entitled thinking of superiority that they are unwilling to understand or listen to the feelings of others.  Because social media connects so many people, those who may have been silent in their own local community can find like-minded thinkers. They may find 10 or thousands of people who agree with their views, which makes feel confident they aren’t alone in their extreme views. There are a good number of people who are nostalgic for ‘the way things were’ and are unwilling to accept change. They see their way of life slipping away. With the confidence that others think like them, they feel they’re in the right and others are wrong.

When Obama ran for President, like Stever I was shocked by the comments I saw by friends whom I thought I knew. Some, but not all, had some rather hateful posts in my opinion. They re-posted ugly cartoons and comments. They repeated false rumors. At first I tried to correct their errors by pointing out articles by reputable outlets that showed their assumptions were incorrect. That started the name calling, the ‘pity’ they had for me because I didn’t understand ‘the mainstream media’ was trying to manipulate the masses.

The discourse has gotten worse since the 2008 election. The focus gets heightened during election cycles, but year after year there is some incident that brings out fear and ignorant ideas in people. They are willing to share and people will agree with them. Look, we rather get news that agrees with our ideas rather than look for the truth that might challenge our mindset. This election cycle is incredibly polarizing, but unfortunately it’s not new and it won’t go away. As long as people are using social media to reinforce their positions and are dissuaded from researching and educating themselves people will make wrongheaded accusations and comments and will find support with like-minded people.

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Thoughts on 9/11

I remember 15 years ago yesterday very well. I remember the early morning gym class and at 6am hearing about Lindbergh Field being shut down on clunky radio. I remember heading home listening to KFI-AM and the confusion about what was going on. I remember getting home and turning on NBC just as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember wanting to go to sleep before work but the news kept me up. I had a TV in my room and I was lying on my bed as the news unfolded. I remember the Towers falling and thinking that no disaster movie could compare to this real tragedy being seen in millions of homes across the country. I remember seeing the images of people wandering the streets covered in dust. I remember the fear and sorrow in the voices of reporters on the scene.

I remember, after watching hours of the broadcast with no sleep, getting in my car and driving to work. The streets were very empty, like Sunday afternoon traffic and not regular weekday traffic. I remember the store being quite empty, with the few people there only in the store to get away from the news, yet asking us if we had heard any updates. I remember by 4pm we had a message from the corporate office, which was based in New York, that we were to shut down for the day.

I remember the days and weeks after the event, as people tried dealing with the tragedy and it seemed in those early days we might unite as a nation. Something compelled me to re-read Watchmen again on the day after the tragedy. I think it was because I saw the similarity in the plot of Watchmen and what I was observing after the tragedy. People and political parties that had been against each other banded together.

That togetherness didn’t last long and in retrospect all we did was turn our aggression we had towards each other and focused it on an external foe. Anyone who was possibly Muslim or Arab was suspect. We had to be one nation in lock step, so any dissent was met with anger and shunned. We became ultra-nationalist and anyone who dare question the USA was banned, barred and protested against. Congress voted to go to war and the Patriot Act was passed. We had color coded threat levels. We were told to be suspicious, to be the eyes and ears of the government.

September 11, 2001 changed America in ways that are hard to articulate. We have grown stronger and have been more united as a country, but if you dissent or question loyalty or honor of Americans, be prepared to face harsh criticism.

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Finally Letting Go and Starting to Reconstruct That Computer

Yesterday I had a terrible experience with Fry’s Electronics. Both items I purchased from them were defective. As much as I dreaded going into the hot and unusually humid Arizona sun this morning, I packed up the products, took two buses back to Fry’s Electronics and returned them. I thought about wandering the floor to do some comparison shopping but I’m too disappointed with the company right now to even grace them with my presence any longer than I have to.

Heading back home I had a lot of time to think about the reason why I bought those products. My supercomputer has been down for over six months. I don’t know why it went down initially but I have been trying to get it up and running. All of the troubleshooting I’ve tried hasn’t work. Neither has parts replacements. I’m pretty sure that either the motherboard has a short, corrupted bios or the CPU has been damaged.

While I was waiting for the bus in the hot, humid sun, it occurred to me I might not be thinking about my system properly. When I started planning for the supercomputer, I wanted the best parts I could afford and I wanted something that would last me for a decade. I started acquiring parts before we were let go from our last job. Part of my thinking on the system was I knew the stats of the expensive desktop my old job had. At the time I wanted my computer to be more powerful than theirs and I wanted it for less. It was my personal way of demonstrating how must waste the company had. I saw them by a microwave for $200 (it was a nice microwave that had a warmer underneath it) that I bought a few months later for $125 after researching it. Their loaded desktop was close to $5000 and at first mine came in just under $2500 with a better load out of components. Because of the way we were let go, I got mad and even though I didn’t have a job I thought doubling the memory, at a cost of under $500, would be the best revenge for them daring to get rid of us in the cold way they did.

I came to the conclusion while waiting for the bus that I was stubbornly holding on to the thought of getting back at them with this computer. It didn’t matter that my old job could care less if I had a computer faster than theirs. Hell, a simple check signing could get them a new, more powerful system in a week. I realized while my pride is bruised, I could care less about having a better system than they do. Whatever anger I had about my old job is gone, or I can say it’s not as intense as it once was. I didn’t need to prove my worth to them or to myself. I’m doing OK now, so I’ve already proven what I needed to prove by surviving and thriving after they let us go.

Like I do a lot, I was holding onto an idea and principle no one cared about, not even me.

I took a deep breath, then started thinking about how I could reconstruct the system. Right away I knew I was going to remove the hard drives and have a full SSD system. The prices have dropped low enough and storage has gotten high enough that it could work for me. At first I thought about getting a new case and possibly a new power supply. With the removal of a HDD the power consumption should be less so the 850W system would be more than enough. As for the case, I like the case and I can’t see finding a new one with practical character. I think the case looks like those portable away team computer storage ones used on a few Star Trek: TNG episodes, except mine is black instead of white.

Just like I did with the original build I’m taking my time getting parts, so it will be six months to a year before I get everything and do the reconstruction. There’s a few things I want to add, like an optical system, which I didn’t have on the original design. My secondary computer is handling things OK and I have a laptop backup, so I’m good for now. I think I’ve separated myself from thinking this is some dig back at my old job. I’m not giving myself a clean slate. I know it sounds odd but I’m giving myself permission to change things on the system. So taking the time and re-configuring my set up my supercomputer will be up and running in time.

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50 Years of Voyages

It’s been 50 years of Star Trek. The show with paper thin boulders, a pointy eared alien and crew members in short skirts and beehives, has become one of the most influential media phenomenon of all time. There are lots of tributes going on about the show, and many that I’ve seen focus on the actors and what I would call the physical stuff of the show. Sometimes the tributes have talked about the stories that focused on social and political issues that the show in all of its incarnation has tackled. What has been missing in a lot of stories is the impact the show has had in our lives. Young people who watched the original Star trek as a child grew up and designed disk that looked like the data disks used the series. We have library computers, well, we have computers in our homes which was only a dream in the 60s. We have phone that look like Star Trek communicators (minus the flip action activation, oh, and there is an app for that because I have one on my phone!). When The Next Generation came out, crew members walked around with PADDs, now we walk around with tablets.

Star Trek as a franchise is something more than a TV show or a series of movies. Things created on the series have become part of our lives and many people don’t recognize the influences. Sure, Star Trek has had stumbles, has come in and out of popularity but Star Trek is always around and influencing the scientists and designers of the future. Star Trek will always live long and prosper.

I have listed the one favorite episode from each of the series, except the animated series. They are episodes that represent each series for me, so they aren’t necessarily the best episodes but are the ones I feel speak to me the most about Star Trek.

Amok Time (TOS) – This was the first episode I can remember from Star Trek. I felt so much like Spock when I was a child. I hid my emotions and felt like an alien in the world. It was a way for me to cope with societal issues at the time. Being a smart, young black kid in the early 70s was challenging and looking back there was a lot of pressure put on me by family members to ‘make the race proud.’ I just wanted to be myself and Amok Time showed me the alien world of this smart guy that I interpreted as being an outsider to his race. T’Pring speech about the reason for rejecting Spock, wow, that messed me up with relationships form decades!

The Survivors (TNG) – This isn’t the best episode of Star Trek: TNG but it has special meaning to me. A few months after my sister died I went, reluctantly, with my father to visit relatives in Georgia. I wasn’t in the best emotional state and all of the relatives trying to relate to me, which they couldn’t since none of them knew me, made me miserable. An uncle by marriage tried to talk to me and I answered him in yes and no answers. He asked me if I liked Star Trek and I brushed him off. I figured he heard I like SF and was trying to find something to get me to talk. I think as a way to challenge him I asked him what his favorite episode was. This was his favorite one. When he explained why he liked it, I knew this guy was not like the other family members. I mean, you have to be a Star Trek fan if you’re going to pull this episode out as a favorite one.

We started talking and I learned this uncle by marriage had a huge collection of books about a lot of subjects. Politics, education, science, history and he had some books from Herbert, Asimov and Heinlein. Talking with him for the time I was there, even though I was still cautious with him, helped in breaking me out of the dark grief pit I was in. It didn’t come as a surprise to me that my father’s family didn’t like him a lot. They disliked him because he would challenge their country way of thinking. Because he read a lot of different things, they disliked him because he read books and challenged their perception of the world.

When I see this episode I think of him and I feel good that he tried to reach out to me in my time of need.

In the Pale Moonlight (DS9) – One of many complaints I have about Star Trek on TV, as much as I like all of the incarnations, is that people, especially the Federation, are moral and just that they never really get into adult conflicts. They sometimes seem like amazed high school student rather than veteran officers that deal with personal moral issues. Look, I’m not looking for Star Trek to be Hill Street Blues, but I would think Star Trek could be less urbane and grittier in some stories. For me, this was definitely a gritty story, which considering the Dominion War episodes started taking the shine off the pristine Federation is good praise. Avery Brooks really nailed it as Sisko struggled, fought then finally agreed to allow the Romulan to get killed, kept the reason for this a secret, so that the Romulans would join the Federation against the Dominion.

Scorpion (Voyager) – This was the two-part episode that introduced Species 8472 and Seven of Nine. This is a love/hate episode for me because this was action packed, bout the Voyager crew on the offensive and finally gave the series something it sorely needed; a worthy adversary. For me, what I dislike about this episode it that with the introduction of Seven of Nine, the Star Trek franchise demonstrated that sex appeal would be their selling point of their franchise. I know in the grand thinking of things, for fiction sake you could come up with a seemingly rational reason why Seven of Nine, who had been with the Borg since childhood and had many body parts augmented with artificial parts, would end up looking like a Playboy model and would need a form fitting catsuit to survive. I think to a lot of people she looked a Playboy model in a catsuit, created to boost ratings with young men. You can see from Next Generation to Deep Space 9, the Star Trek creators have introduced female characters who tend not to dress in regulation uniforms in favor of form fitting catuit variations. Voyagers rating went up for a time after the Scorpion episode. It would be naïve to believe that the Seven of Nine, instead of the compelling story and concept, wasn’t the sole reason ratings went up.

In a Mirror, Darkly (Enterprise) – Star Trek: Enterprise was the vehicle that was to launch a new network for Paramount called UPN. Things didn’t go as planned. This was one of the last episodes aired and like Scorpion, showed what is best and worst of the Star Trek franchise. You had a reach for the past, introducing concepts that would become part of Star Trek lore. The mirror universe, the Tholans and Gorn are stables of the original series. While this episode had some interesting concepts, it was hard not to notice how going back to a 60s era design clashed with 90s technology. The Enterprise of the earlier era looked more modern that the supposedly advanced ship from centuries in the future. It never made sense to me that T’Pol, when most of her people wore robes, would join Enterprise and spend almost all of the series in a catsuit. To up the sex quotient, when crew members needed to be decontaminated, they would be placed in rooms with biometric jell, strip to their underwear (sometimes they were close to nude) and smear the jell over their bodies. No jell smearing in this episode but there was the unnecessary knife fight between T’Pol and Hoshi. Clad in the tight, belly exposing uniforms of the alternate universe, the two went after each other with the gusto of strippers at a bachelor party. All that was missing from the scene was Jello and whipped cream.

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Dancing with Tears in My Eyes

Real and virtual reality life have been taking up a lot of my time over the past month. I’ve been paying attention to the upcoming election and the scandals of the week popping up in social media, but I haven’t been motivated enough to comment on any of them. Like I said, I’ve had personal things that I’ve had to devote my attention to but I’ve been doing some thinking about how we react to information.

I’ve always had a problem with my voice on social media. I can have what I think is a very important view on a subject, I can post it on Chaotic Fringe and link it to my various social media spots and I feel good if a few hundred people see it. A pseudo celebrity can voice the same opinion I have and I’ll see friends I know who will post their comments over mine. Obviously, with celebrity comes access and followers, I get that, but when I see people who know me personally not giving me a shout out it hurts sometimes.

As much as it hurts, the pain lasts for a little bit. Chaotic Fringe has been part of my life for over 20 years and I’ve never really been an in your face promoter of my stuff. The reason why this is the case is I never saw myself and the things I do as something special. I’m not going to give names but I know a lot of people I admire who have accomplished more than I have. Some are even famous enough that you would recognize their work. When I compare myself and my accomplishments to what they’ve done, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished a lot.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying I feel sorry for myself, at least in the sense of some persistent and lingering feeling. It’s an emotion that pops up; a subtle reminder of the unrealized dreams I’ve had and what people I know have accomplished.

So, every once in a while, I hit the wall where I wonder if I’m my efforts are helping anyone. I start to think I’m in a rut, that I’m pissing my life away.

Something I have done in my life which has made my parents disappointed in me (and this is one of many things, believe me) is that I don’t have a partner and children. When my sister was alive, I could be the outsider; the brilliant but slightly oddball child of the family. My sister, in her own way, did the things that makes traditional parents proud. She had the social life with the opposite sex, she was close to finishing college and the possibility of her having the life my parents wanted their children to have was being realized in their eyes. This may be a disturbing way of looking at the situation, but I believe in being blunt about this subject. With my sister dying in the prime of her life, with the possibilities ahead of her, she became the perfect child in the eyes of my parents. I got that impression at her funeral over 20 years ago when relatives who hadn’t seen us since we were pre-teenagers talked about how wonderful my sister was. They didn’t know how she was a teenager and as a college student.

Don’t get me wrong, my sister wasn’t a troubled person. She was a normal person, but by dying at a young age everyone chose to see her as a saint, which made her less of a person in my eyes. You can’t compete against perfection. You can’t argue against the image without risking offending. So I choose to keep my mouth shut on the matter with my parents.

All these years I’ve felt like my life was being compared to the possible life of my sister. Since I haven’t been married, because I haven’t had a significant other, because I haven’t made substantial contribution to society, I feel like I’ve come short in the expectation department. What hasn’t helped has been the introduction of ‘play-brother’ as I will call him. Having his ‘success’ put in front of me on a regular basis isn’t pleasant. If it’s petty for me to dislike play-brother, well too bad. I’ve never met him, talked to him once on a forced phone call and I don’t like the guy.

I’m not kidding when I say for a few months I’ve felt like my life was mirroring Matt Murdock’s life in the issues of Daredevil when Kingpin discovered Daredevil’s identity. That’s when Kingpin psychologically destroyed Murdock’s life. It’s a classic theme of a person being ripped apart by personal obstacles then overcoming them. OK, it is melodramatic to paint what I dealt with inn terms of a costumed hero and his battle with a over the top villain, but I live in a world of geekdom so I’m going to see things initially in terms of epic, world changing events.

What I have to remind myself is with the problems I think I have, I don’t have problems that are so overwhelming that I can’t overcome them. I’m not thinking of myself as superior, or super human and I’m not basing this on some affirmation found in a book. Things in life get bad and I have to remind myself situations change. I’m not saying everything ends up as a happy ending. I like to think instead of bending to the situation, I try to find a way to make the situation work for me. I try to be the master of my fate and not let fate master me.

With the amount of personal issues recently, it took some time to figure out how to master fate. The curve balls thrown at me were hard to get a handle on but I’ve got my focus back for the time being. I know this has been an incredibly personal rant. I’m not doing this searching for sympathy, pity or advice. I’m answering a few questions I’ve been asked without getting into gory details. Life is going to get people down. We react to life in different ways and we handle the difficulties of life in different ways. While I can look back at things I’ve done in my past and wonder how those things are affecting me now, one thing I try to avoid is dwelling on past decisions and their results now. I’m not The Doctor. I can’t go back and change those choices. Right or wrong they’ve been done and I can learn from them to work out present of future issues.

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Protest at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

One of the most exciting things that happened to me on my four day visit to Cleveland during the RNC Convention was when I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on July 19 and witnessed three protestors who had put up an anti-Trump banner at the flag poles of the Hall of Fame. Police had surrounded the protestors, trying to persuade them to come down. It took some time for them to come down, for the fire department to remove the banner and for the protestors to be booked. Word got out and the press arrived to cover the incident.

Two of the photos I took were picked up by Reuters, which happened because a press person asked if I knew what was on the banner. I said I had taken some pictures of it and I started going through my camera to find the photos. I didn’t know at the time he was the editor-in-charge of US Pictures from Reuters. When he saw my pictures he asked if a few of them could be used by Reuters and I said yes.

These are a few of the pictures I took during that time which show the protestors being arrested, booked and the fire department taking down the banner.

What I saw as I arrived at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

What I saw as I arrived at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

This was one of the photos Reuters used for their article

This was one of the photos Reuters used for their article

This is the second photo Reuters used

This is the second photo Reuters used

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

Photos taken for processing

They checked out the backpack for a suspicious device

They checked out the backpack for a suspicious device

Banner is removed

Banner is removed

The backpack is safe and is removed

The backpack is safe and is removed

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

 

 

 

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My Impression: Cleveland and the RNC Convention

The original plan was to write about each day’s adventure but I didn’t realize how little down time I would have. I was going from early in the morning until late at night. Despite being really tired, I had a rewarding and interesting experience in Cleveland.

First things first, I didn’t get hit or accosted by Trump supporters, or any political supports no matter their positions. The Christian evangelicals were the ones who, at the very least, I would say were the pushiest to me. Now, I want to put that visual into context. I had a lot of people who wanted to pray for me, who handed out water to me with religious messages on it and there were a few occasions when a friendly getting to know you talk veered into, “let me tell you about my Lord and Savior Jesus.” The only “your gonna burn in Hell” Christians were the ones that walk around with a large police escort, bullhorns and told everyone they were sinners going to Hell. Yes, annoying but not out of the ordinary for a large event like this.

When I arrived Monday afternoon the area known as Tower Square was packed with people. This was the free speech zone where anyone could sign up for a set time to talk. That didn’t stop other people from making speeches, I guess they would be unauthorized speeches, in the same area but not on the platform.

When I got there, a crazy guy, and I still don’t know if what he was doing was an act or not, was saying all sorts of junk to get attention. He talked about Trump being our big daddy and how Clinton should go to prison and other over the top material. What I saw in the days at the convention was the crazy talk the speaker was giving wasn’t too far from the sentiments of the supporters of the RNC and Trump in particular.

In the days I was there I made it point to hit the crowd centers and some places on the outskirts of the circus. Being in the middle of the crazies you’re going to get crazy ideas and crazy people. The rants they give may not be the views of the majority of people. For instance, I got an impression from the many news reports that I’ve seen over the past few months that only rabid Republicans care about the email scandal and Bengazi. I found, as many conservatives have mentioned for months also, many Republicans and some Democrats don’t like the Clinton style because it seems like their hiding something. They may not be, but the secrecy and constant questions the right wing media dishes out every day convinces a lot of people Clinton would be a secretive President.

Going back to the first day, there were lots of colorful characters in the area. I was so tired on the first day I didn’t make it to the free concert. It was relatively close but I wasn’t as familiar with the area as I should have been and couldn’t get my bearings on where it was.

I got a good number of pictures that day (however the next 2 days would change my perception on what a lot of photos mean) and I met my friend’s downtown before I headed to their home. It took me a few minutes to remember I had been to their home before. It was decades before and it is a nice, friendly kind of home. I met their two daughters and they are typical right at the teenage year daughters. Like the home it took me a few moments to get on their vibe level. The oldest daughter is a Harry Potter fan and the youngest is hooked on the Hamilton soundtrack. At any given moment she would break into song about Hamilton. Oh, I forgot to mention the very big dog, the deaf medium sized dog and the cat.

For the first few hours I felt like I was in the episode of Good Times when Mr. Johnson wanted to die at the Evans apartment for New Years. When the Evans kids started fighting and Florida told them to shut up, Mr Johnson said to let them be because all the fighting was a sign of love. I used the line myself when the daughters first started up, then I could see myself marveling at my friends parenting skills because it was patience. It wasn’t that the daughters were particularly bad or annoying. They were just being teenage girls and if you haven’t been around it, it can be challenging. Once I got the dynamics of the family it all made sense how everyone worked with one another, just like a sitcom, and I could appreciate the squabbles.

OK, maybe what won me over was Star Wars. I don’t know how it actually happened, not that I was going to object, for each of the three nights I was there we were going to watch a different Star Wars film. The daughters and I debate about half an hour before it was decided that The Empire Strikes Back would be the first film seen. They knew about Star Wars but not fans of Star Wars like myself. It seems their mother and father, and I’ve known both for decades, told them about some of my eccentricities. They knew how I got their parents together, my trip to Cleveland for the Special Edition of Star Wars back in 1997 and other odd facts.

We started on Empire pretty late. We didn’t finish it until midnight. Even though I has been up since Sunday night and other than a few cat naps I hadn’t had a good sleep, I woke up at 3am on Tuesday. I edited the photos and from the first day of the convention. I was able to post video from the convention.

Tuesday was the really big day for me. My original plan was I was going to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame then hit Tower Square. I’m glad I forgot that the Hall was going to open at 10 am. I took some pictures as I wandered towards the Hall of Fame. When I got there I saw a few people standing outside, then I saw a lot of police and one news truck. I looked up and saw this large anti-Trump poster set up between two flag poles. I saw two people on the pole and at first I thought they were taking it down. I took a few pictures on my smartphone and sent them to Instagram. I brought out my Canon and took a few more and thought they would have the poster down soon. It hot me after a few minutes that the people on the pole were the protesters. Once that hit my head I moved in closer and took a lot more pictures. Soon more reporters showed up and I was in the middle of an active news story. I kept clicking away, moving around for better angles as well as watching the reporters around me to see what they were shooting for.

It took about 90 minutes for the situation to get resolved. The protesters came down from the poles and were arrested. They were booked and placed into a police van. The fire department came with a ladder truck and removed the sing, not before a little scare because a backpack was left on one of the poles. It was scanned and proved to be harmless. By the time the sign was down and the women were driven off, one of the photographers approached me and asked what the sign said. I told him I had pictures, after trying to remember exactly what was written on the banner, and while I was going through the photos the photographer was impressed with the shots I had. He was the Editor-in-Charge of US pictures from Reuters. He asked, and didn’t promise it would happen, if he could get my pictures for him to pull 1 or 2 out for use by Reuters. I would be what is called a Handout; I would get credit for the photographs but no pay. I figured being associated with Reuters through my photos would be a cool thing.

20160722-aLess than two hours later I got the email of the agreement I needed to digitally sign and the two photos picked. By this time, I was in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the excitement of getting my photos associated with Reuters made me feel pretty good. While in the Hall of Fame I saw there was a blocked off area for actual convention goers. I didn’t think too much of it until I finished my tour of the Hall. Partially because I was tired, partially because of the photos, I saw a group of convention goers wander towards the balcony behind the wall (Oh, the special place for the GOP convention goers was behind a display of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.) so I followed them like I belonged with them. I was on the balcony with conventioneers looking at the lake and listening to them talk family and politics. The crowd I was with; Trump was their man.

As a side note, what I heard and saw for the four days I was in Cleveland was that there was unity in people about Trump. It could be the crazy guy shouting from the free forum, the guy walking around with a Donald trump sign, the conventioneers in unguarded moments; people in the party like Trump. I know there was talk of dissension in the ranks but in the people I ran into, if they were Republican and especially associated with the RNC convention they were cheering for Trump all the way.

Before leaving the Hall of Fame I picked up a few things, like buttons and free booklets, then walked over to the protest sight take more photos before heading back to the home of my friends.

We went out to a wings place for dinner and a few of the TVs were playing the RNC convention. My friend met up with a couple of their friends and doted over their new baby. As the results were coming in with Trump officially getting the RNC nomination, I thought about that baby. My friend’s kids aren’t fans of Trump and think he is a silly man. I realized that the baby my friend was holding was born into a world where it isn’t an impossibility that someone like Trump could get the nomination from a major party to be their standard bearer for President.

That night we all sat down and watched Return of the Jedi.

The third day of the convention, which was my last full day in town, was where I was doing a lot of catch up work. My friend dropped me off at the Westside Market, which is a staple in Cleveland and a big tourist attraction. I stopped by the café for breakfast which was interesting. Something I haven’t mentioned about Cleveland and the convention has been the police presence. Police from all over the country are everywhere. I made a quick stop to the Westside Market on Monday and I thought there were a lot of police then. On Wednesday morning the presence has almost doubled. When I went into the diner, there were 7-8 full geared SWAT officers eating breakfast and 3 beat cops eating. I’m not sure if he was a cook or the owner but he seemed like he was a retired cop, possibly a local cop, and he was chewing the fat with the officers. It looked like many scenes I’ve seen in cop shows. It a scene where the old bones retired cop has a bar, diner of some other hangout where cops can come in and feel at ease.

The Westside Market Diner was what I was looking for in Cleveland, and in general what I look for in a town when there is a big event that has national media focused on it. What I saw all four days I was in Cleveland and focusing on the convention were reporters looking for the sensational story. They were all in the same spot looking for the unusual. Basically if something didn’t happen around the convention it didn’t happen, but what upped the focus was the sillier the better.

I noticed this on Wednesday in particular in that there was a woman who was on the 20160722-cofficial free speech stage talking about female veteran care. No one paid attention to her. The black man shouting his support for Trump got attention, the woman dressed as a butterfly against Trump got attention and the Muslim (he said he was a Muslim) carrying the rifle got attention. It wasn’t until a man started shouting her, saying women shouldn’t be in the military, is when she started yelling back at him. All of a sudden the press flocked not to her but the man shouting at her. She continued with her speech but the man continued to heckle and more press showed up covering him shouting at her. Even after she was finished with her speech, the camera crews and reporters continued to cover him.

That’s what people learn from big events like the RNC convention. Do something crazy and you’ll get eyes on you. Say something outrageous and the press will focus on you. I have to add something else, and this is of the people seeking attention. You think you’re going to get on the major networks, possibly in prime time, but in reality you might get lucky enough to get on someone’s podcast. If you’re lucky that will go viral. In reality it’s a longshot that your video or photo will get to a level where it will inspire a mass amount of people. I saw people who had put time and effort in their particular cause very excited they were getting recognition from a website that might have 5000 visits a night. I’m not trying to bash bloggers, but many people who are trying to get their voices heard work on the assumption if they put it out there they will come, when the reality is if you aren’t promoting the site you’re not going to get the eyes you want.

Hanging out with my friends and their daughters was interesting that night; making me think about something that should have been obvious to me. We watched The Force Awakens and they were so excited to see it. I know they’ve seen it before and maybe they were putting on a show for me, but they were SO excited watching the movie. They screamed as they read the opening credits, which kind of made their parents mad. They commented a lot through the movie. It made me happy because the girls weren’t just watching but were engaged in it. With the commotion about the revamped Ghostbusters having an all-female cast, and talk in general about having more representation of all types of people in comics and films, I have to say watching those girls focused on the film because of a female in the lead was heartwarming. It’s something I don’t think we think about as fans because we work out in our heads how to make the lack of representation work. I’ve seen the San Diego Comic-Con go from very few minorities and women to a very substantial representation of all types of people, including the LBGTQ community.

It was heartwarming to see their daughters engaged and identifying with the new group of Star Wars characters. It was great to have watched the films with them.

My flight left hours before Trump would make his final speech and I did this on purpose because I didn’t want to face the crowds of thousands of people leaving at one time from the city. I did have one last time to visit the free speech area. I got there around 9pm and other than the same ranting person at the podium I saw my first day there, there wasn’t a lot of activity in the area. What I saw were a lot of camera people and reporters waiting around for something to happen. A huge contingent of police was in the area on bikes, 20160722-bhorseback and on the ground but they were guarding nothing. Kids were having fun playing in the ground fountain. It was so boring that when a few police officers started playing ping pong with citizens, the reporters and camera people rushed to the scene like a political superstar arrived to say hello.

By 11:30 am, a group had arrived and with their chanting the area began filling up with people. By noon the crowd was very large, like I had seen most of my stay in Cleveland. I stayed until 1 pm then started my journey back to Arizona.

It was a remarkable four days. Cleveland was an interesting choice for the RNC to have the convention, and things may have worked better for them if they had showcased the city. Here’s what I mean; like San Diego with the Comic-Con or even the recent All Star Game, cities that host major events want to concentrate coverage on the mile or two surrounding the particular event. Now, I’m not saying reporters are lazy but if you’re at a hotel in a different city, the idea of exploring past the focus point and seeing what is happening with the people in the area isn’t high on the list of things to do. The big stuff is happening on the convention floors or in the hotels surrounding the convention. What I think is forgotten is that decisions made in the hall or hotel rooms are going to impact the hotel workers, the people cleaning up the convention hall, the vendors on the street and the regular folks who work day to day in cities all over the country.

There were a few stories about them but not enough. The press was too busy wandering about the main areas looking for a story, and if all the people are in the same area, they are going to get the same answers from the same people. Going to the Westside Farmers Market gave me a good idea of what was happening on the outskirts of the convention. While people near the convention center were making lots of money on trinkets, the café at the market had slow business. From what I heard from the staff as they talked amongst themselves, many of the regulars thought it would be crowded and didn’t show up and the promised crowds never arrived because they, like the reporters, wanted to be close to the action. I was told by my friends that ridership was slightly up on public transportation, but it wasn’t packed and unmanageable.

I didn’t see a lot of the convention itself. I didn’t have a pass to the floor but I did get to see and listen to some interesting people. Some were crazy, some made sense but all had a chance to talk and speak their minds.

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