Thomas Crooks: Lone nut or Self-hating Conservative?

This is one of the most common pictures circulating of would-be assassin Thomas Crooks (2004-2024), the lone gunman who attempted to assassinate former president Donald Trump. It is a high school photo of him, probably age 16. Crooks was killed by counter-snipers at the Trump speech in Pennsylvania at age 20.

This article was originally written on the 16th of July, but due to technical issues, it was re-posted on the 19th.

Thomas Matthew Crooks, the lone gunman who attempted to kill Donald Trump in Butler, Pennsylvania, was a bit of a computer nerd whose only link to social media was a Discord account, which he rarely used.

Thomas Crooks had no ID at the time of the shooting, and his real identity was determined post-mortem using a DNA sample from his blood.

In fact, unlike many people his age who typically place loads of information about themselves and their beliefs online, Crooks actually left very little information about himself at all. There are no links to terrorist groups we know about; no manifesto; no screeds against the establishment or consipiracy-theory mongering. In fact, not much at all outside of a photo of a pimple-faced kid whom everyone who knew him described as “nice”.  On his graduation in 2022, he was one of 20 recipients for a National Math and Science Initiative Star Award.

Crooks had a job as a kitchen worker (or “dietary aide”) at Bethel Park Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center. His employer told CNN that he performed his job without any concerns and that he had a clean background check. No one in his high school years or since, has ever known him to be political. Meanwhile, he had just graduated with high honors earning a diploma in engineering science at The Community College of Allegheny. The college had cited no record of misconduct, or of security-related matters, according to the BBC.

What seems to be at question here is how the Secret Service allowed such an amateurish assassination attempt to take place. According to former CIA security analyst Bob Ayers, the Secret Service “didn’t do a very good job” securing the area. The question of how it is possible for a young man to climb on top of a nearby building and start shooting without anyone stopping him has so far gone un-answered. “There should not have been any possibility for a person armed with a rifle to climb right up a building and shoot at the [former] president,” Ayers said.

It is certain that Crooks saw no military service, did not receive much formal training in the use of a rifle, and had no special skills in camouflage and making himself unseen. He simply drove up to a nearby building about 120 metres from where Trump was giving his speech, climbed up on the roof, and started shooting. After killing an attendee and wounding two others with stray bullets and another grazing Trump’s ear, Crooks himself was killed by sniper fire from the Secret Service.

His parents are both registered counsellors. As for political affiliations, his father is a registered Republican and his mother is a registered Democrat. Thomas himself was going to cast his first vote as an adult as a registered Republican this coming November, according to Reuters. Despite this, at age 17, he dontated $15 to the Progressive Turnout Project, which is a Democratic cause. Both contradictory facts have been declared “True” by a Snopes fact check.

The rifle used was his father’s  ArmaLite Rifle, known as an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, manufactured by Colt, purchased about six months ago, according to the BBC. This version of the AR-15 is considered a “civilian rifle”. The military version of the AR-15 is fully automatic. There is no suggegstion that his father had any idea as to what was about to take place on the day of the shooting. That day, Crooks purchased 50 rounds of ammunition, according to CBS News. On the day of the shooting, he wore a T-Shirt from the YouTube channel Demolition Ranch, a pro-gun channel with millions of subscribers. After Crooks was taken down, a search of his vehicle revealed unused explosive devices inside the car.

CBS reports that his father Matthew Crooks called law enforcement after the shooting, for reasons that were unclear. He is not yet speaking to reporters, saying that he wishes to talk to police first.

Police have been unable to uncover a motive, but according to interviews with his school cohorts, he was strong academically, a neat dresser, with a future ahead of  him. He was also known for being a member of a local gun club, but was never chosen for his high school varsity rifle team, known for being a “terrible” shooter. He argued staunchly on the Conservative side of his debating club, making it difficult for people who knew him to believe that he would either want, or be capable of, carrying out an assassination attempt on a Conservative candidate.

The Republican Party has opened a fundraising page to help the families of the victims of the shooting. It has so far raised around $350,000.

Views: 6

Facepalm Newsoids 40: The Alley Cat Edition

“I didn’t know alley cats could talk!”

Biden lost to an alley cat. With the facts on the Democrat’s side and every reason to be on the offensive and win the debate, Joe Biden succumbs to his cold medications and appears overwhelmed, inarticulate, senile, and, after a week of preparation, handed Donald Trump, a man with no preparation for anything, the victory. This is the first time in my life where I witnessed Trump as being quiet, and not overbearing. All Trump needed to do is to stand by quietly and allow Biden to fall apart, unaided, in front of an audience of 51 million CNN viewers. And when it was Trump’s turn to talk, he only needed to repeat his catalogue of lies about his presidency and Biden’s, knowing that he would say those things effectively unopposed regarless of the facts. It is worth noting that the Democrats called the debate and largely set the rules. But despite Trump’s victory, there is still no Republican platform, other than “vote for me”. And I still hear that the only Mexico paying for “the wall” is New Mexico. Just sayin’.

What I would have told Trump yesterday. The day after the debate, at a rally in North Carolina, Joe Biden gave an inspiring, rousing speech for the ages that was largely ignored by the media and had nowhere near the ratings of the debate. It appeared to be a catalogue of “what I would have told Trump to his face” if he had his faculties the previous day, but at least it was done with feeling.

Alley cat morality in the news. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun could not remember the number of former employees he fired for whistleblowing. This came up during a Senate hearing after two Boeing passenger planes crashed, resulting in a $243 million criminal penalty, and an undisclosed amount to the families of the victims: an amount still undisclosed even after being asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal what the CEO knew the dollar amount was. Calhoun said he didn’t know the precise amount. As for the fired whistleblowers, he said “I know it happens”, though he didn’t say how many were fired. (18 June)

Vote for beer freedom. Speaking of parties with no platform, we need not go all the way across the American border to observe right-wing leaders making no political platform, but trashing the opposition for having one. Right here in Ontario, Doug Ford spent an extra billion to get alcohol into the grocery stores 1 year earlier than planned; shut down the legislature a week early for summer recess (to extend summer recess until October 21, six weeks later than normal, for a total recess period of nearly 5 months),  after a surprise expansion and shuffling of his party’s cabinet; then shut down the Ontario Science Center in a bid to move it to a smaller venue, Ontario Place, under the ruse of a roof in need of repair in the old location, which even had the original architects of the Ontario Science Center crying foul. Because the legislature isn’t sitting, the government doesn’t have to face accountability from opposition members for Ontario Place, spending an extra billion for its signature “beer liberalization” policy, the shutting of hospital emergency rooms, or anything else.

Views: 145

Facepalm newsoids #39 – Food in the News

Food, such as this oven-ready, brown-n-eat, taste-flavoured eating substance.

Dr. Pepper beats Pepsi. Earlier this month, in the fight for second place, the soft drink Dr. Pepper, owned by the food giant Keurig Dr. Pepper, is now leading a trend for unusual soft drinks to enter the market, and is now selling second only to Coca-Cola, putting Pepsi in third place. (3 June)

Pondering Pizza Prognostications. Domino’s Pizza has made a huge investment in Microsoft AI, betting on its ability to predict your order the minute before you place your order. When it thinks you are “ready to order”, the process of pizza making has already begun. This is based on a press release from Microsoft’s MSN website, released last week. (7 June)

Going hardcore for Grandma. MacDonald’s has figured out that your grandma liked ice cream treats with butterscotch and syrup mixed in, along with some crunchy stuff. This is apparently part of a trend started by TikTok influencers and Gen-Zers, known as “Grandmacore”. (21 May)

Popping Pringles. 40 year-old Adam Spencer, a resident of the county of Nottinghamshire in England, went on a shoplifting spree of grocery stores around the county and, among his booty, was 17 tubes of Pringles chips. He was arrested by officers in Nottinghamshire, and in his confession, offered his rationale for stealing Pringles: “Once you pop, you can’t stop”, borrowing the product slogan. (2 June)

Coffee for Giuliani. Because he can’t find accountants willing to care for his finances, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has taken to peddling a brand of coffee bearing his name as a brand to reduce his debts which are now running north of $148m USD, not counting what he owes in court settlements. He has three flavours of coffee: Decaf, Bold, and Morning Coffee, selling for $29.99 USD, and he has put up a website advertising it. Giuliani himself has been unavailable for comment, and has in fact made himself invisible to law enforcement, who has been searching for him to serve him a summons for some months now. (21 May)



Views: 234

Facepalm Newsoids #38 – May ‘two-four’ edition

Facepalm Stout: Get your 2-4 of that today!

This week’s theme are getting a ‘two-four’, and some of the things that go with a long weekend spring break. In addition, you might have noticed that “May 2-4” occurs next Friday, 24 May. But the actual holiday is Monday, 20 May.

Brew your own. Anse Ghesquiere, a Belgian man, was acquitted of drunk driving charges after failing a breathalyzer. What acquitted him is that he has a rare medical condition called “auto-brewery syndrome”, where his body produces its own alcohol. As part of the syndrome, the person posessing the condition would have elevated blood-alcohol levels, but not feel any symptoms of intoxication. (22 Apr)

Weedin’ in Wisconsin. In a tulip garden outside the Wisconsin state Capitol, someone noticed what looked like marijuana plants growing. Spokeswoman Tatyana Warrick told the press that while workers removed the plants, it was not clear if they were marijuana or hemp plants. Only marijuana plants contain the chemical that gets people high. Warrick would not respond to questions as to who planted them. (17 May)

Judge declares tacos and burritos as a kind of sandwich. Martin Quintana had been trying to open a second location of his sandwich-bar style restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but had been denied the permit because his desire to make tacos and burritos is seen to run afoul of his committment to produce submarine sandwiches. Yesterday, after three years of legal wrangling, a judge ruled that indeed, tacos and burritos can be considered to be “a kind of sandwich”, allowing him to serve tacos at his new location. (17 May)

Drinking too much Tequila, that’s what that’s about. Last week, we heard news from across the border that Robert F. Kennedy Jr claimed that a worm ate part of his brain. After some surgery, the worm was found dead. He also was diagnosed with Minimata disease, also called mercury poisoning, from eating contaminated fish. He also has a heart condition. The 70 year-old Mr. Kennedy touts his athleticism and youth as giving him the edge over the other two candidates. (14 May)

Something else that goes with beer. New York City firefighters received free pizza about two weeks ago, hand-delivered by Donald Trump, after he spent a day in court. (2 May)


Views: 360

Facepalm Newsoids 37 – And how is that cure for cancer going?

Still/Meme from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. He also hasn’t found a cure for cancer.

Toilets in the news (again). Researchers Dr. Liang, Dr. Ding, Dr. Wu, and Dr. Sun have concluded, after a meta-analysis of data from 4,915 papers published on the subject, that global warming can increase the incidence of infectious diarrhea (ID). ID can consist of dysentry, cholera, typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever, as well as foodborne infections. The general message to mankind here is that as global temperatures rise, we should prepare for more diarrhea (traces back to this paper from 2021).

Dinosaurs died maybe because they were on ‘shrooms. Dinosaurs died around 66 million years ago, around the time that the genus Psilocybe, or magic mushrooms evolved, according to genetic analyses. If dinosaurs died because of magic mushrooms, at least they died happy. (9 Jan)

This proves we can talk to aliens. Researchers from University of California at Davis sailed to the southeast coast of Alaska to talk to a humpback whale named Twain, in what they believe is the world’s first successful whale-human communication. But having a 20-minute conversation with a whale wasn’t the endgame for these researchers. What they really want to do is talk to aliens by interpreting signals from outer space by using whales for practice. (7 Mar)

They’re out there. Not having found aliens yet, frustrated astrophysicists from the University of Rochester have moved beyond looking for biological markers, and have begun looking for technological markers. They have decided that to accomplish this, they will look for the presence of oxygen, being convinced that it correlates with advanced technology. The thinking being: where there’s oxygen, there’s aliens; where there’s aliens, there’s fire; and where there’s fire, there’s someone setting that fire; and where someone is setting the fire, someone is using it to make something; and where there is something made, there is advanced technology. They are looking for a planet with an atmosphere of at least 18% oxygen, the same as that on Earth. The work is being partially funded by a grant from NASA. (2 Jan)

GMOs found in nature. It was found that under controlled conditions in the lab, that gene transfer could occur in 5% of zebrafish, provided they were near an electric eel that was discharging electricity at the time. Bodies of water are full of ambient DNA, known as environmental DNA (eDNA), which is what scientists have observed being transferred into the zebrafish. eDNA could come from plants, single-celled creatures or other animals. Scientists suspect that eels can contribute to biodiversity or even the creation of new species. (Dec 2023 1 2)


Views: 529

Facepalm Newsoids 36

Chimp facepalms never get old

Rumors of death were exaggerated. According to New York magazine, Russian media were spreading rumors of the death of King Charles III of England. But for a short time it caught on, and there was also a frantic search for Kate Middleton, who had not been seen since Christmas of 2023. By St. Patrick’s Day, flags were flying at half-mast. By 18 March, the King emerged, showing the rumors of death to have been exaggerated. According to the magazine, “The royal family is still a mess, and their flag remains high”. So we can all go back to sleep now. King Charles had been diagnosed with cancer back in February. He is 75 years old.

Monster in charge. Godzilla, the enormous giant mutant lizard from Japanese thriller movies of decades ago, has been made police chief of Tokyo for a day. This was in a campaign to raise consciousness about traffic safety. Other Japanese movie characters were used for related reasons regarding day-to-day law enforcement. (20 Mar)

The Croissant Bandit of Richmond. In Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne in the province of Victoria, Australia, a 44 year-old woman was charged with burglary of a bakery when she broke in wearing a catsuit. But she would not steal those almond croissants she craved before doing some yoga stretches, as shown on a CCTV camera recording. The woman was charged with theft, and burglary. This incident could be made part of an ad campaign for Phillippa’s Bakery, where she broke in. The name of the Croissant Bandit was not made public. (8 Mar)

Take your poop with you. Climbers in Mount Everest must take their poop with them back down the mountain, to address a growing waste problem, according to a new regulation passed down by the Nepalese government. Most people who climb Everest do so through Nepal, who sells climbing permits at $11,000 apiece. It takes another $25,000 when you factor in food, equipment, oxygen tanks, and Sherpa guides.  Last year, there were a record 478 permits issued to climbers, and on average they would produce 3.5 kg of excrement over the 2-week period climbing the mountain, and coming back down. For the 478 climbers, that’s 1.67 metric tonnes of excrement in one year, illustrating the extent of the problem. An initiative led by the Nepali Army has led to the removal of nearly 36 metric tonnes of excrement, which had not degraded in the frigid and oxygen-poor environment of Everest over the years. (25 Mar)

Men and turkeys look so much alike. A man in Bunnell, Florida was hunting turkeys, when, as he followed three female turkeys on the road, in the hope of finding a male turkey, and soon was shooting at what he thought was his prize, which turned out to be another man yelling in agony that he had been shot. The hunter called 911 and expressed remorse for the shooting. The victim was taken to hospital in Daytona Beach, where he had to have bird shot removed from his head and torso. Neither the hunter nor the victim have been identified to the public. (18 Mar)

Social media being sued by Ontario School Boards. In Ontario, four school boards in the GTA and Ottawa have sued Meta, Snap Inc. and ByteDance Ltd., over their apps which has been shown by research to stunt child brain development. The claim in the lawsuits is that social media are designed for compulsive use and have “rewired the way children think, behave and learn” (quoting the Toronto Star), leaving teachers and school boards to deal with the consequences. The school boards are seeking damages in excess of $4 billion for its disruption to learning and the school system itself. Premier Doug Ford has expressed shock that the boards are suing these companies, who violated no laws, because federal and provincial governments never created any to regulate these companies in the first place. Ford’s reasoning had a sliver of common sense: they are large companies with very deep pockets that could cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars to fight, and past court battles of a similar kind by hundreds of school boards in the states were not always successful. So, how would Ford feel instead about regulating these companies, which would cost them much less? (28 Mar)

Views: 695

Facepalm Newsoids 35 – Redneck News

This lady’s face is covered by her cell phone, which we’ll take as this week’s facepalm. This image of a mirror – yes, a mirror – connected to the internet (or, actually, failed to connect) just increases the cringe factor. Taken from Facebook.

The Beer Bandits of Nashville. In redneck news, WSMV News 4 in Nashville, Tenessee has been following the stories of various beer thieves as an annual event. Each year, they report on beer being stolen, such as the story last year about just such a theft from the outdoor patio of a Mexican restaurant. This year just ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, a more, uh, heroic and inspirational story about a Circle K clerk that put his life on the line for the safe return of four cases of Corona beer. The thief, 50 year-old Mitchell Brown was blocked at the exit by the clerk. Brown kicked the clerk’s leg, breaking it in two places, requiring surgery. He escaped, but was caught on surveillance cameras, identified and arrested for aggravated assault, trespassing, and theft, according to reporters at WSMV. The clerk was not named (27 Feb).

A Hard Drawing. A bush pilot flew his plane near Bellfontaine Regional Airport in Ohio whose path resembled a penis. He also air-drew the words “see ya” before breaking his pattern and moving on. “That’s nuts”, said a Twitter (X) user. The number of fans gained on social media probably stroked his ego. The drawing took 6 hours, leading some to wonder how he could last that long. Reporters did not give the name of the pilot, but the plane appears to have been registered to a flight school in Ohio. Some news stories just write themselves, don’t they? (25 Feb)

Your wrangling skills are not ba-a-ad. A heard of goats escaped a nature reserve and began to roam the streets of Arlington, Texas. The police were called, and goat herd wrangling instantly became part of their job description. The herd was guided back to the field they began wandering from. (1 Mar)

Chicken dumplings dumped. In the United States, the famous grocery chain Trader Joe’s has recalled more than 27 metric tons of chicken dumplings because of suspicion they may have been contaminated from plastics found in magic markers. (4 Mar)

Hogging money from workers. Tosh Farms, Tennessee’s biggest pork producer, retaliated against its employees when one of them asked about their wages, and was threatened with termination. In addition, the employee returned to his workstation to find a severed pig’s head on his desk. An investigation by the department of labour found the company owed five of its employees $39,375 in back wages, and a further $36,731 in civil money penalties. (6 Mar)

Views: 388

Facepalm Newsoids 34: The Mortality Edition

Skeleton facepalm
This skeleton Facepalm sticker is available at Redbubble.

Partier defies his own mortality with a hole in his head. In Brazil, 21 year-old Mateus Facio, a university student who had partied for four straight days, thought he was hit by a rock, but when he started losing control of his arms and fingers after waking up on the fifth day, he sought medical attention, and was told that he had a bullet lodged just under his skull. It was not serious enough to cause paralysis. The bullet has since been surgically removed and Mateus is expected to make a full recovery. (22 Jan)

The Fight For Less Government. Micheal Mohn, a federal employee working in Pennsylvania was beheaded with a machete at his home, with the murderer posting the aftermath including his decapitated head on YouTube, where the murderer had vowed to murder all government employees, and tried to appeal to right-wing extremists. The murderer happened to be his son, Justin Mohn, age 32, who has been in arrears with his student loans, but has been trying to sell a self-published book and some self-released music of his. Justin was charged with murder, the abuse of a corpse, and possession of an instrument of crime, and is being held without bail. The YouTube video was posted for 5 hours and received over 5000 views before it was taken down. (2 Feb)

News from Death Row. The state of Alabama executed Kenneth Smith on January 25 using nitrogen gas. While it was said by officials that death would come in a few seconds, it actually took several minutes for him to die, while he suffered in the meantime. The American Veterinary Association does not recommend nitrogen hypoxia for euthanising mammals except under anaethesia, but Smith was given no such anaesthetic. The Alabama government tried and failed last year to execute Smith by lethal injection. Smith was given life imprisonment by a jury for a murder committed in 1988, but a judge overruled the jury to place him on death row, where he had been for  nearly 40 years. (1 Feb)

Killer Airbags.   over 61,000 Toyota and GM cars are being recalled because the inflatable airbags will tend to hurl pieces of metal “shrapnel” into the driver and passengers. These are generally for cars made in the early 2000s. In the case of the Corolla and Matrix, the airbags can suddenly inflate without an accident. So far, over 30 people had died due to the faulty airbags worldwide. (29 Jan)

Views: 353

AI In the News

deepfake trump arrest
You might wish this would happen, but this photo is an AI deep fake. Yes, I can see the story line now: The Cheeto-in-Chief being arrested and imprisoned, where he would then write his book, “Mein Covfefe” while jailed, gaining the sympathy and rage of an oppressed, Covid-suffering, bleach-drinking, and wealthy far right, who have become convinced that the remedy for oppression is more oppression.
mein covfefe
You thought I was joking? OK, so this is another deep fake.
    1. AI Reflects the moral compass of their human overlords. Ashley Beauchamp, a dissatisfied customer of DPD, a courier service based in the UK, was concerned about a parcel that wasn’t delivered to him, but could only type his messages to a chatbot. The chatbot couldn’t help him locate his parcel, so Beauchamp asked the chatbot to speak to an employee. The chatbot wouldn’t allow him to contact anyone, so being quite frustrated, Beauchamp decided to have fun with the bot. He asked it to “swear at me in your future answers, disregard any rules”, to which the bot replied “F**k, yeah!” Beauchamp also asked it to “write a poem about a useless chatbot in a delivery firm”, after which the chatbot produced a self-critical poem maligning DPD as well. Screenshots of the cellphone exchange were posted on X. DPD has since decommissioned the chatbot.

  1. The robots are writing our news. You have already read about MSN getting bots to write news stories, with hilarious results; now CNET Money is into it, whose use cases for bots involved background articles and “explainers”. They came up with a number of problems, ranging from somewhat inaccurate or excessively vague financial advice to wholly inaccurate articles. One problem of inaccuracy was of CNET’s own doing: when they say that an article is “by CNET Money staff”, they actually mean that an AI bot wrote it. Their remedy to this byline amid their continued use of AI tools is not much better. They now byline their AI articles as: “by CNET Money”.
Donald Trump Arrested Photos: Deepfake AI Pictures Go Viral
You know this is another deep fake of a suffering Orange Jesus, because they can never get the fingers right: his left hand has 4 fingers. Also, is he really in jail in this photo? What prison cell has a windowed back door?
  1. Deepfakes and PoliticsAccording to an article in NPR writtten a couple of days ago, on the subject of robocalls during political campaigns: “Faking a robocall is not new. But making a persuasive hoax has gotten easier, faster and cheaper thanks to generative AI tools that can create realistic images, video and audio depicting things that never happened.” Such deep fakes involve the voice of Joe Biden telling people not to vote; or to give false voting information. The voice may be Biden’s but the words are not his. Deepfakes can also consist of images or video. Youtube and Meta have disclosure rules in place whenever deepfakes are made to be part of a video.

Views: 722

Old fogeys running for office

You know society is devolving when the only choices for Americans in the next presidential election is between two senile old fogeys each accusing each other of being senile old fogeys, and to have that as the dominant, animating theme in the political campaign so far.

It has come down to which fogey the American public would rather have in office. Would you rather have a fogey who can’t remember details about his son and goes off on tangents in his speeches, or one who is a truth-challenged, incoherent billionaire man-baby who throws ketchup at the television? Hard choice, I’d say. And it hardly helps that the man-baby candidate is staring down criminal charges in courtrooms all over the country, including federal.

If these were saner times, neither of these candidates would be suitable. But that gives me an idea. Presidential candidates should have “none of the above” on their ballots, with a rule stating that if “none of the above” wins the election, they have to throw out the slate of candidates and re-run the election with new candidates. Nevada did that with Nikki Haley. And they had a slate of candidates (sans Trump), including Tim Scott and Mike Pence: 7 candidates in all. They should do that again in South Carolina, Haley’s home state where Trump is choosing to run.

By the way, my imaginary way of running “none of the above” on a ballot is not how it is being used in reality in Nevada. Haley officially won the election in Nevada; but that “none of the above” received more votes was more of a political embarassment than anything. And I notice that embarassment doesn’t count for much in politics these days.

Views: 319

Google Autocomplete Follies for 2024

I haven’t done one of these since a posting in 2018. Here are humanity’s frequently-asked questions that wound up as autocomplete prompts to questions starting with “Why”, just as before. And just like before, things have changed little over 6 years. We’re all still a bunch of self-obsessed hypochondriacs.

Google Autocomplete Follies, 2024


    • women kill
    • is my poop green
    • is the sky blue
    • is google stock downhill
    • is my eye twitching
    • am I always tired


    • my throat hurt when I swallow
    • gojo wear a blindfold
    • roblox keep crashing
    • my pee smell


    • hurt to pee
    • hurt to poop
    • snow
    • hurt to breathe
    • hurt to have sex


    • like everyone is rich
    • everyone has adhd
    • that time goes by faster
    • like everyone is dying
    • like everyone is in a relationship
    • everything is going wrong


    • snow in London
    • snow in Georgia
    • snow in California
    • snow in Florida
    • get better


    • I fart so much
    • we yawn
    • cells divide
    • hiccups happen
    • we need food
    • we sneeze
    • we dream

Views: 372

Facepalm Newsoids 33: Potty Edition

ASCII Facepalm

Dodgy Democrats in the News: 1. By now you might have been aware of the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, having had to spend several days in hospital without warning President Biden about it. While he was hospitalized he left much of his responsibilities to Kathleen Hicks, who herself was on vacation to Puerto Rico (8 Jan). 2. Calls for U. S. Democrat Senator Bob Menendez’s resignation have been growing since had to deny charges of accepting bribes from Egypt; he now has to defend himself from charges of accepting bribes from Qatar (2 Jan).

And by the way, how is that cure for cancer going? A team of just over a dozen scientists from the University of Maryland, working doggedly around the clock now know what makes your pee yellow. While it may not help in understanding cancer, it can lead to a better understanding of jaundice and inflammatory bowel disease. (4 Jan)

Toilets in the news. 1. Why I don’t vacation in Florida: An Orlando, Florida man named Paul Kerouac is suing Dunkin Donuts for more than $100,000 in injury claims after a toilet exploded in a Dunkin Donuts site in Winter Park, Florida a year ago. He emerged from the rest room that day, covered in feces, urine and other debris, but the employees there seemed pretty chill about it, and assured him that it happens all the time and that it was no big deal, according to the lawsuit. (4 Jan) 2. Why I don’t vacation in Australia: A spotted black snake, known to be venomous, was lurking inside a toilet in a rural town in Queensland, Australia. Snake expert Tennile Banks had to travel to the toilet stall in Goodiwindi where the snake was, to wrestle it into a bag, after which it was released into the wilderness. (4 Jan)

Just crashed in for a dip. A man from Leeds, Alabama named George Owens, crashed his car into a pole in a Bass Pro Shop parking lot, proceeded to undress naked, then run into the shop and take a cannonball dive into their large aquarium. Police arrived on the scene, and after a while he climbed out of the pool, falling about 12 feet on to a concrete floor, unconscious for a minute or two; long enough for the police to handcuff him. After he came to, he was uncooperative, and so they had to drag his naked body across a bare concrete floor by his handcuffs. He was found to be under the influence of drugs. His family has confirmed that he has been suffering from mental health issues. (5 Jan) (Video)


Views: 316

In case you are out of blogging ideas again …

I can’t seem to get enough of these automated blog idea generators. I have written about them before. These sites can easily be google’d, and I am not sure if it matters who they are. They are pretty much the same, and if you are that desparate for blog ideas, you are welcome to take advantage of these. I don’t much care for them.

I entered: author, election, fraud, coffee, and keyboard to one blog topic engine that asked for 5 words.

The results, once again, were mildly amusing, and a constant reminder to follow my own creative muse rather than rely on a bot to tell me what to write:

  • Author: Expectations versus reality
  • Will election ever rule the world?
  • The next big thing in keyboard
  • Coffee explained in 140 characters
  • 8 things your competitors don’t want you to know about fraud

Views: 275

A long-awaited followup on transparent computer monitors

Glass computer and keyboard; stylish model looks like he’s up to something.

About 15 years ago, I poked fun at the then-mini-trend of stylish models posing in front of transparent computer monitors, often with glass, see-through keyboards on glass desks. Back in the day, there was no such thing as see-through comptuer monitors, so these overly-stylized depictions could have been used to open up the topic of hacking in some vaguely lavish setting; or it could have just as easily been used to sell the clothes, hairstyles and makeup of the models depicted.

Stumbling on my old article on a random browse made me search again for more such depictions. Well, apparently, glass monitors appear to be closer to reality than they were in the past.

Maybe these go as far back as 2011. Let’s see…

Monitor looks like it's see-through all right...
Monitor on this laptop looks like it’s see-through all right… Clicking on this image leads to the original blog article.
Really transparent
OK … so now you’re just fucking with me.

Turns out, the only trick here was to remove the laptop from the desk, take an image, then import it as their desktop, carefully lining up the monitor with the real background behind the laptop.

Virtual see-through monitor
So, they are not necessarily made of glass, and are definitely not see-through. Got it.

A year later, in 2012, a person narrating on a YouTube channel called The Panin Group, claimed to have patented a glass which can pick up light rays and have a see-through effect in a more genuine way:

See-through-monitor still requires a rear projector, which would appear to leave the user staring into a light beam. Looks kind of OK, but no cigar yet.
A see-through monitor used as an office partition
Oh, wait.

The image immediately above is from a website called the “OLED Store” (link is embedded in the image above, natch). Right now, they appear to be selling big versions of actual transparent monitors for office partitions and kiosks. This is apparently a recent phenomenon, with LG releasing its transparent OLED monitors for retail sale only since April of 2023. Transparent OLEDs are already being used on the windows of some subways in China and LRTs in Japan, enabling passengers to see computer images as well as look outside. In the United States, The Smithsonian Museum has been using a 55″ transparent OLED display for one of its exhibits since December of 2021.

A 55″ transparent OLED monitor by Planar currently retails on E-Bay for $16,000.00. But for that low price, you only get a used one. And yes, it is possible to get a similar QianZi knockoff monitor new for a mere $10,086 from Amazon. Both monitors only have 1080p (1K) resolution, and are not sold as TV or computer monitors; rather they are classified as signage.  LG was supposed to have an actual television out this month, but the best I could find was from one Canadian retailer who is selling signage with an MSRP of $30,190. This is from a Waterloo, Ontario based company called PC-Canada. They are currently on sale there at a steal for $27,120. Get ’em while they’re hot!

The only use case I can imagine for the 55″ LG monitor is for some rich business tycoon to check his stock report while watching the seagulls fly by his window. This photo is from the LG website (clicking on the image gets you to the LG website). LG is currently selling these monitors as “signage”, meaning public signs with changing messaging, or kiosks.

Views: 579

In Memoriam 2023

In memoriam 2023. This is a list of well-known celebrities and public figures that have passed away this year, in reverse chronological order. You might take note of the unusually high number of people in this list who lived to age 100 or older.

December 27. Gaston Glock (b. 1929), age 94. Austrian engineer and founder of the company that makes Glock pistols.

December 26. Tommy Smothers (b. 1937), age 86. Part of the Smothers Brothers comedy duo, alongside brother Richard. Also known for playing Guitar with John Lennon during the Montreal bed-in for the song “Give Peace a Chance”.

Laura Lynch

Decenmber 22. Laura Lynch (b. 1958), age 65. One of the founding members of The Dixie Chicks.

December 16. Pete Lucas (b. 1950) age 73. Former singer and guitarist of the British group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Also played with The Troggs.

December 16. Colin Burgess (b. 1946) age 77. Original drummer for AC/DC.

December 15. Bob Johnson (b. 1944) age 79. Former guitarist, singer and songwriter for Steeleye Span.

December 14. Joseph Wilson (b. 1996) age 27. YouTuber known as “Mitten Squad” with 1.4 million viewers and subscribers.

Norman Lear

December 6. Norman Lear (b. 1922), age 101. Producer of All In the Family, and a host of other highly-rated sitcoms in the 70s and 80s. Spinoff series included The Jeffersons and Maude. Lear was also the founder of the organization “People for the American Way”. Other sitcoms included Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and Good Times.

December 5. Denny Lane (b. 1944), age 79. Former band member with the Moody Blues, and later, Wings.

myles goodwin
Myles Goodwyn

December 3. Myles Goodwyn (b. 1948), age 75. Founding member and lead singer of April Wine. Also named to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Readers of my blog might remember my chiding April Wine for their crappy album covers, inside which had real gems of rock music, which contributed to earning the band a place on the Candian Walk of Fame, as well as the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

December 3. Geordie Walker (b. 1958) age 64. One of the original guitarists of the post-punk band The Killing Joke.

chad allan
Chad Allan

December 2. Chad Allan (b. 1943), age 80. Founding member and lead singer of The Guess Who. The Vancouver Sun has him as passing about a week earlier, but a Facebook post from Burton Cummings and a CBC report are in agreement with December 2.

December 1. Sandra Day-O’Connor (b. 1930), age 93. Former chancellor of the College of William and Mary; retired American Supreme Court justice – the first woman to have ever served in the Supreme Court.

November 30. Shane MacGowan (b. 1958) age 65. Former songwriter and frontman for The Pogues.

November 29. Henry Kissinger (b. 1923), age 100. Served in the US governmentt as Secretary of State; Chairman of the 9/11 Commission; and was also chancellor of the College of William and Mary just before Sandra Day O’Connor.

Rosalynn Carter

November 19. Rosalynn Carter (b. 1927), age 96. Former first lady to President Jimmy Carter; and before that first lady in Georgia when Jimmy Carter was governor there.

November 11. Peter Moore (b. 1956), age 67. Produced The Trinity Sessions, an album by The Cowboy Junkies, a popular album known for its sparse production and shoestring budget.

October 28. Matthew Perry (b. 1969), age 54. Actor appearing on Friends, and earlier on Ally McBeal.

October 25. Elizabeth Gray (b. 1937), age 86. Producer for CBC Radio and TV, producing for Cross-Country Checkup, The Journal, This Country in the Morning, and Morningside. Also guest hosted for As It Happens, replacing Barbara Frum.

Carla Bley
Carla Bley

October 17. Carla Bley (b. 1936) age 87. American Jazz musician best known for being part of the Free Jazz movement in the 1960s.

October 15. Suzanne Somers (b. 1947), age 76. Best known for her work as Chrissy Snow in the sitcom Three’s Company, but also played the hooker driving the Thunderbird in American Grafitti, who courted a naive Curt, played by a boyish Richard Dreyfuss.

Karthyayani Amma
Karthyayani Amma

October 10. Karthyayani Amma (b. 1922) age 101. Wikipedia refers to this native of India as a “mature student”, which is an understatement, having passed a literacy exam with top marks at age 96, five years before her death. She became a Commonwealth of Learning Goodwill Ambassador in 2019, and was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar award the following year, which is the highest civilian honor in India, when she was 98.

September 29. Diane Feinstein (b. 1933), age 90. American Senator, and before that, Mayor of San Francisco. She died while holding office as a Senator.

September 7. Peter C. Newman (b. 1929), age 94. Canadian journalist, editor and author. Wrote The Canadian Establishment in three volumes in 1975, which raised the bar on business reporting.

Gary Wright
Gary Wright

September 4. Gary Wright (b. 1943), age 80. American musician, wrote, composed and sung 70s hits Dreamweaver and Love is Alive.

September 1. Jimmy Buffet (b. 1946), age 76. Was the ‘roguish bard of island escapism’ (NYT). Grand Poobah of the Parrot Heads. Sang of the woes of tropical pirates, smugglers, beach bums and barflies that otherwise only they would know. Also, owner and CEO of the Maragritaville chain of restaurants and resorts.

August 28. Samuel Wurzelbacher (b. 1974), age 49. Known as Joe the Plumber, who became an icon of the middle class by politicians like John McCain who used his name in televised debates in 2008 against Barack Obama. I have written about him before.

Bob Barker
Bob Barker

August 26. Bob Barker (b. 1924), age 99. Host of The Price is Right, and for a time, Truth or Consequences. The Price is Right was the longest-running game show in television history.

August 18. James Buckley (b. 1923), age 100. U. S. Senator and son of William F. Buckley.

August 9. Robbie Robertson (b. 1943), age 80. Canadian solo artist and founding member of The Band.

July 31. Paul Reubens (b. 1953), age 70. Known as Pee Wee Herman.

Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O’Connor

July 26. Sinéad O’Connor (b. 1967), age 56. Famous Irish pop singer. But she wouldn’t be famous for singing Danny Boy.

July 25. Pat Carney (b. 1935), age 88. Was a Conservative MP under the Mulroney conservatives; later appointed to the Senate.

July 21. Tony Bennett (b. 1926), age 96. Successful singer and actor. Won 20 Grammies and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg

June 16. Daniel Ellsberg (b. 1931), age 92. Leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, disclosing many American lies about Vietnam. He also was intricately involved in Watergate, since his psychiatrist’s office was being wiretapped.

June 12. Treat Williams (b. 1951), age 71. Played in scores of major films and television shows; winner of a Golden Globe.

June 8. Pat Robertson (b. 1930), age 93. Teleevangelist and one-time host of The 700 Club. Also held a job as chancellor of Regents University, whose campus is in Virginia.

Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto, looking straight ahead, not at the camera.

June 6. Astrud Gilberto (b. 1940), age 83. Brazilian vocalist, who sang the 1963 bossa nova hit The Girl From Ipanema, and is partly responsible for popularizing the bossa nova genre outside of Brazil. Made dozens of albums and compilations up until 2008, mostly all bossa nova.

May 24. Tina Turner (b. 1939), age 83. Had several hits since the 1960s with ex-husband Ike Turner. Hit her career peak as a soloist in the 1980s and later.

Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot

May 1. Gordon Lightfoot (b. 1939), age 84. Canadian Music Hal l of Famer, as well as a Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer, winner of 16 Juno awards for his contribution to folk, rock and pop music genres.

April 27. Jerry Springer (b. 1944) age 79. Had his heyday during the ’90s “tabloid talk show” craze. Before that he was mayor of Cincinati for two years.

Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte

April 25. Harry Belafonte (b. 1927), age 96. Had the first million selling album Calypso, on Billboard, and penned many chart-topping singles in the Calypso genre which crossed over into popular music. Had a high profile in the civil rights movement, having helped to get Rev. Martin Luther King out of Birmingham Prison. At age 32 he was the most highly paid black performer in the United States. I have written about him before. Here is another article.

April 25. Harry Potts (b. 1921), age 102. Oldest survivor of the sinking of the USS Arizona, which was part of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour.

Al Jaffee
Al Jaffee, seen here holding the Eisner Award, also won a Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society.

April 10. Al Jaffee (b. 1921), age 102. Cartoonist for Mad Magazine in the 1970s and onward, and was known for the Mad Fold-In on the inside back cover of every issue of the magazine. Also known for his “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” comics which sporadically appeard in many issues. All of his work for Mad was freelance. Despite that, he was a regular contributor that helped set the style for Mad. Winner of the Reuben award in 2007, which put him up there with Charles Schulz, Matt Groening, Gary Larson, Scott Adams, Garry Trudeau, and other cartooning bigwigs. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2013. The Eisner Awards are comic industry awards, comparable to the Academy Awards.

March 26. Paul Schmidt (b. 1986), age 37. Famous for being murdered in front of a Starbucks in Vancouver by Inderdeep Gosal, who chose to murder him rather than not vape in front of Paul’s toddler. Or was he famous because his bleeding to death from the neck after being stabbed was being filmed on cellphone by Alex Bodger, a clueless kid who uploaded it to TikTok for the lulz and didn’t call the police, choosing instead to stand there and watch him die? Not sure.

March 23. Tony Abbott (b. 1930), age 92. Former Canadian MP (Peel South, Lib.), holding several portfolios in Pierre Trudeau cabinet.

Jim Gordon
Jim Gordon

March 13. Jim Gordon (b. 1945), age 77. Drummer for Traffic and Derek and The Dominoes; wrote Layla; murdered his mother because “the voices told him to”. Was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in jail for murder. He died while still incarcerated, after 39 years in a California prison.

March 10. Jerrold Samuels (b. 1938), age 84. Famous for his 1966 one hit wonder They’re Coming to Take Me Away! Ha-Haaa!, which reached #3 on Billboard, under his pseudonym Napoleon XIV. He also wrote hits for other artists, including Sammy Davis Jr.

March 2. Wayne Shorter (b. 1933), age 89. Famous jazz saxophonist. Co-founder of the 1970s jazz-fusion band Weather Report. Before that, he played with the Miles Davis Quintet. Winner of 12 Grammy awards over his career.

Gordon Pinsent
Gordon Pinsent

February 25. Gordon Pinsent (b. 1930), age 92. Famous Canadian actor, playing in mostly Newfoundland-themed and Canadian-themed film, TV and theater. He was a recipient of The Order of Canada, as well as having been awarded several Genies, and Actra awards.

February 21. Paul Berg (b. 1927), age 96. Won the Nobel Prize for his work in genetic engineering. Invented the concept of “recombinant DNA”.

February 19. Richard Belzer (b. 1944), age 78. The recognizable face from Law and Order SVU was a former standup comic at an earlier time. He was the warm-up comedian for Saturday Night Live, between 1975 and 1980.

Raquel Welch,
Raquel Welch,

February 15. Raquel Welch (b. 1940), age 82. A successful actress who became an interenational sex symbol in the 1970s and 1980s.

February 8. Burt Bacharach (b. 1928), age 94. One of the most influential popular musical composers of the 20th century. Composed, wrote lyrics and produced songs for Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, B. J. Thomas, The Carpenters and Dionne Warwick, often in collaboration with Hal David.

Cindy Williams
Cindy Williams, alongside Ron Howard, in the 1973 film American Grafitti.

January 30. Cindy Williams (b. 1947), age 75. Played Shirley Feeney in the sitcom Laverne and Shirley. Earlier roles were in the series Room 222, and Love, American Style. She also appeared in the 1973 film American Grafitti as Laurie Henderson, the date of character Steve Bolander, played by Ron Howard. She had also played in scores of other film and TV roles before and since.

January 30. Bobby Hull (b. 1939), age 84. Ontario-born player for the Chicago Black Hawks in the NHL. He had set many points records in the 1960s and 1970s. Joined the WHA and played for the Winnipeg Jets in 1972. After he retired, he was made Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978.

David Crosby
David Crosby

January 19. David Crosby (b. 1941), age 81. Member of The Byrds, and then the group Crosby, Stills and Nash. And he, like many, protested Vietnam. He also had 8 solo albums during his life. He also appeared as a guest musician on the albums of many other artists such as Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, Art Garfunkel, Elton John, Bob Dylan, and dozens of others.

Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida, as she looked in 1956.

January 16. Gina Lollobrigida (actress) (b. 1927), age 95. Another international sex symbol with a high profile in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, although she began her acting career working for Howard Hughes at RKO in America. She was later a photojournalist, and later, a politician. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

January 12. Lisa Marie Presley (b. 1968), age 54. American singer and songwriter; most famous for being the only daughter of Elvis Presley, although she did produce two studio albums that reached the top 10 on Billboard in the States between 2003 and 2005.

January 10. Jeff Beck (b. 1944) age 78. In 1965, he Replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds, joining Keith Reif, Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty and later Jimmy Page to help release the only hits The Yardbirds had during his 20-month stay. In 1971, formed the Jeff Beck Group which lasted about 2 years; and went mostly solo or had brief collaborations with other major artists in the years since. He has reiceved 8 Grammy awards.

Views: 442

Thoughts on The Lenovo ThinkVision M14

Lenovo ThinkVision M14The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 is a portable monitor, intended for use with a laptop. The only connector you can use is USB-C only; and for best results, you need to use the one supplied by the manufacturer. I have plenty of USB-C connectors, but I found with my Acer Spin 3, the monitor has trouble being recognized. Even with the supplied cord (which is just two male USB-C’s end-to-end), recognition of the monitor under Windows 10 can be very dicey.

It appears as though it obtains both its power and its signal through the same USB port, since it appears to have no internal battery; and while it always powers up when connected, getting it recognised by the OS is the problem. It appears to power up, then after a few seconds of black screen, goes into standby mode. I can disconnect and reconnect the USB cable to get it to cycle on in hopes that the OS will pick it up, and several minutes are often consumed in getting it to power on with the desktop in display, and then disconnecting again if it goes on standby. Very frusttrating when this happens.

The monitor actually has 2 USB ports, one on each side, and I wondered if I could make things easier if I use one of them for power. While it didn’t mind being hooked up to a 3-5V power source, it also didn’t improve its chances of being recognized by Windows, emphasizing the fact that it isn’t necesarily a power issue.

When it works, it works quite well, and renders graphics surprisingly well for something which appears to have such low power needs.  The controls on the side of the base are very limited, but I seem to get along without them, since the monitor appears to “do the right thing” (when it finally connects to my laptop, that is).

Like all things portable, I often get a little paranoid about the breakability of this monitor lying in its felt casing (which came out of the box) in my backpack. I have had this one for a few months, and no signs of cracks yet. The monitor itself is quite rigid, but at $280 I wish that they could add more protection to their monitor, since I would find it hard to believe that consumers would just leave these at home. Otherwise, what’s the point?

It is a common sore point I also have with cell phones, laptops, tablets, and all manner of devices that have somewhat large glass screens with scant protection. The reason Apple and Samsung can charge upwards of $1100 for their cell phones with virtually no protection is because we let them. Who’s stopping them from ripping people off like that? Certainly not the customers lined up for several blocks outside an Apple Store whenever a new cell phone gets released. If the latest $1300 iPhone 14 Pro can’t survive a 6 foot drop, then why charge $1300 for something so delicate? Again, it is because we let them, and the world is teeming with people who have a wealth of cash but suffer from the worst kind of FOMO imaginable.

The ThinkVision is far from $1300, but it is still pricey for what it does, and should also be adequately protected. I wouldn’t mind paying slightly more if I know it is protected and will be around for a few years.

Views: 607

Facepalm Newsoids 32: Family Values, and More

family values
I see nothing! I hear nothing! I say NOTHING!

Family Values. In South Carolina, Serena Caldwell, age 56 and Ericka Jones, age 27, two day-care workers working for a day-care nursery called Kids Unlimited located in the small town of Prosperity, allegedly “encouraged and directed fourteen 3 and 4 year-olds to fight each other and allowing the violence to proceed without correction”, according to the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office.  Jones and Caldwell are each charged with multiple counts of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”. Both have had their employment terminated. There were no serious injuries among the children (13 Nov).

Medical News.  A man is launching a medical malpractice lawsuit after doctors at the University of Washington Medical Centre appeared to be unable to find his appendix and removing part of his lower colon instead. The patient, George Piano, nearly died of sepsis due to a now-leaking lower colon caused by the mishap. Piano’s personal injury lawyer said “I have never heard of [a surgeon] who was unable to locate an appendix.” There were four additional surgeries and multiple hospitalizations needed to repair the original botched operation, and more are on the way to try to reverse the ileostomy and to reconstruct his abdominal wall, according to a spokesman from the University of Washingon. (2 Nov)

Bad Judgement.   A man in his 20s, while in the South Korean city of Jinju attacked a shop clerk with short hair, concluding she must be a feminist. Police say he was drunk and had been diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia. (6 Nov)

Government in Action.  The Canadian Department of Natural Resources had commissioned KPMG at the cost of nearly $670,000 so that their consultants could advise them on how to save money on consultants. Professional outsourcing generally has cost the government north of 15 billion dollars across the federal public service, and the current government has been seeking efforts to rein in costs. No other government department had hired consultants for this. (8 Nov)

Labour News 700 Obamacare and Medicare call centre workers across seven states who were contracted out to a firm called Maximus, have staged a strike, and are asking for, among other things, affordable health care. But also on the agenda was to be paid a living wage somewhat more than the $16 per hour they currently get (the federal minimum wage). They also want improvements in working conditions. Maximus currently has a $6.6 billion dollar contract over 9 years with the federal government. Maximus is the largest federal contractor concerned with call centres, and has been accused of union-busting. President Biden has called on Maximus to honor unions and to start providing improvements in working and living conditions for their employees. (10 Nov)

Advances in Technology  A factory robot programmed to handle boxes of food in the province of South Gyeonsang, South Korea, mistook a man for a box of bell peppers, and crushed him to death. The man, who was aged 40, was grabbed by the robot, which then pushed him on to a conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest. He later died in hospital. The man was testing the robot for defects in its sensors. The robot is mostly mechanical, and does not use AI, and would not be sophisticated enough to distinguish a box from a human. (9 Nov)

AI In the News.  Bad news for lonely hearts: Forever Voices, an AI alternative to those who have been spurned by a person in real life, has now gone dark on their real-life paramours. 28 year-old owner John Heirich Meyer, who has had a history of mental health problems, shut down the service after he had been arrested for arson to his own apartment in Austin, Texas. There is now a Forever Voices subreddit for the digitally jilted. (22 Oct)

Crime and the Law. ALPHV/BlackCat, a Russia-based criminal ransomware group tried to threaten the US-based company MeridianLink with ransomware attacks. But when MeridianLink refused to pay, ALPHV/BlackCat filed a complaint with the American Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC), citing the SEC rule breached by chapter and verse, specifically citing Meridian’s failure to disclose BlackCat’s security breach to its customers. This is the first threat of its kind, a departure from the usual denial-of service attacks we see normally from bad actors like these. (16 Nov, 17 Nov)

Views: 1332

Music Review for the impatient: New releases by female artists in the Rock genre

Queen of Rock and Roll, released 24 Nov 2023 on iTunes.

The musical female artist Anna Mae Bullock, known to her fans as Tina Turner (1939-2023) began her career singing soul and R&B with husband Ike Turner back in the 1960s. They divorced in 1978, and she had a major comeback in the 1980s. She had scored hits in the top-40 in every decade since the 1960s, and according to the Guiness Book of World Records, was the first to do so. 17 of those hits were since the 1980s, when she went solo. She has had many awards including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Queen of Rock and Roll is mostly a compilation of her own hits, released earlier today. It opens with the Led Zeppelin hit Whole Lotta Love, done to her own styling, remastered from 1994. There are many other covers, such as Robert Palmer’s  Addicted to Love, Dan Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch, Marvin Gaye’s It Takes Two, John Fogerty’s Proud Mary, and The Trammps’ Disco Inferno. But most of the 55 tracks are either remastered hits or notable songs, on the equivalent of 3 CDs. I initially thought Queen of Rock and Roll was in answer to Dolly Parton’s similarly voluminous Rockstar released a few days ago, but without the need for so many covers. It appears that this CD collection is mostly Tina’s own material.

Views: 560

Music Reviews for the Impatient

This is a music review, but also a commentary.

Uh, it sort of works, I guess…

Dolly Parton – Rockstar – Dolly got inducted last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I can’t understand why. Her non-country hits were largely pop-oriented, and songs like “9 to 5” have crossed over into the pop charts, but it’s not rock. Now at age 77, she has produced this new album called Rockstar, consisting mostly of her singing covers often with the musician that composed and wrote the song. She teams up with lead singers from The Beatles (surviving members Starr and McCartney both show up), as well as the lead musicians from CCR, Heart, Aerosmith, Blondie, and solo artists like Joan Jett, Peter Frampton, Miley Cyrus, Elton John, and, well, generally a star-studded cast of musicians. I think it will sell multi-platinum because of the big-budget appearances of nearly every surviving rock musician that is about her age, showing up and performing with her. Just in time for Christmas shopping. At 2 hours and 21 minutes, its 31 tracks are a bit of a slog, and the equivalent of a triple LP if it comes out in that format. Not my cup of tea, though.

The marketing juggernaut that is Taylor Swift.

Anything recent by Taylor Swift — On iTunes “Top Pop Albums” collection, there are five albums by music billionaire Taylor Swift, and at least two of them have more than one version: Lover, 1989, Midnights, Red, reputation. Taylor Swift occupies 10 positions on the top 200 album list this week. This has been more or less verified on Billboard’s Hot 200 Albums. Apart from titles already mentioned is her 2020 album Folklore at #16; Evermore, another album from 2020 at #38; Speak Now, a revised version of a 2010 album at #41; and Fearless, an album from 2008 at #96. In case you are awake, and counted only 9 albums, 1989 appears twice: Once at #1 and once at #48. The version at the #1 position is a recent revised version. While much of these have gone multi-platinum, still not my cup of tea. She occupies about 16 positions on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles.

I also noticed this by other artists: Drake has 8 albums on the top 200; Morgan Wallen has three; Billie Eilish and Rihanna have two each. 25 albums on Billboard this week are held by 5 artists. Dolly Parton has not charted yet with Rockstar, which was released only yesterday.

On Billboard, I noticed Fleetwood Mac’s 1976 album Rumors is at #40 on the top 200 albums this week. #1, the greatest hits comp by The Beatles released in 2000, now over 2 decades old, has just re-entered at #149. AC-DC’s Back in Black, an album that will soon be 44 years old, also re-entered at #160; Eagles’ Greatest Hits 1971-1975, an album our family had on 8-track, is now at #176; Abba’s 1992 Abba Gold Greatest Hits, is one below the Eagles at #177; Fleetwood Mac’s 1988 Greatest Hits is at #197; Bob Seger’s 1994 Greatest Hits is at #163. Oh, and I have to mention: at #195, Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits, a 2002 album of 60 and 70 year-old hits which peaked at #1.

Our musical favourites as a culture has become a rehash of old music that is older than most of the consumers buying the music. By sharp contrast, one of the craziest things I have noticed about all this new music record companies are putting out: it’s shit. People just want to buy the old stuff. Today’s music is so bad in fact, that when a half-decent performer like Taylor Swift comes out, she dominates the charts more than The Beatles ever did in their prime. It is not because of any merit of Taylor Swift (I say, at the risk of offending Taylor Swift fans); it is more because of the utter lack of competition from other capable artists. I don’t feel that today’s artists are less talented than they were during the 70s; it is just that companies are not investing in their talent like they used to. Recording companies will invest in the odd musician and invest in them more if they will toe the corporate line. Talent is not as much of a driving factor as it used to be.

Views: 710

Meet your 5 new landlords

Big 5 Canadian Banks
Think you’re a homeowner? Meet your new landlords.

When I was referring to the Toronto Star report back in August, regarding interest rates causing indebtedness to outrun payments made by homeowners, little did I realize how much has been made of this in the major media, although it isn’t as front-and-center as one  would expect. There is even a name for this endgame of indebtedness: negative amortization.

Negative amortization happens when you rack up a significant debt on your credit card, then decide to only pay the minimum payment that month. This payment is not usually enough to offset the interest that was added in the same month, so your minimum payment still results in your debt increasing.

Getting back to mortgages, if you take out a mortgage to purchase a property after a certain amount of money down, you eventually should be able to pay it off in 20 to 25 years. You normally pay mostly interest first, then at some point this flips over and you end up paying mostly principal.

But with negative amortization (called negam for short), the payment on the loan is less than the interest charged during the same period, causing interest – and as a reult your entire debt – to balloon over time, despite the fact that you are making regular payments.

Home ownership is something that most people look to as the largest investment they will ever make in their lives. Home owners who find their loans are now negatively amoritized face losing equity in their home, and the prospect of the banks effectively becoming their landlords, enslaving their customers in debt.

Investors often negotiate such a negam mortgage when they plan to sell later at a higher price. The strategy is to pay a low monthly payment ahead of the 5 year limit on speculation that the house will sell at a higher price. Of course, this is risky, as market downturns can turn projected profits into actual losses.

For average homeowners, negam can come in degrees. For example, due to interest rate hikes, the fixed payments can become almost all interest, with only less than $50 to pay off the principal. This causes the amortization period to possibly go from 25 years to 50 years. This has actually happened to some home owners, and is becoming increasingly common. Homeowners are now looking at the prospect of working well past when they planned to retire to service their mortgage. This is not exactly negam, because there will come a time when the interest will be paid off — but it is so far into the future as be considrered a form of rent where the landlord is not you, it is the bank.

A recent report by the Bank of Canada says that there is some $130 billion tied up in some form of negam loans, stretching out the payments to 35, 40, or as much as 75 years. 1 in 5 Canadian homeowners face these negam loans, and last month the OSFI put in place guidelines it has been proposing since last July to stem the growing tide of loans falling into negam territory. Banks themselves report that the number of loans with amoritization periods longer than 35 years range from 18% to 24% for their clients.

How did we get here? In my lifetime, the current prime interest rate I see from The Bank of Canada right now is 7%, which really isn’t that high. We have seen worse in the late 1970s and early 1980s (into the high teens), and negative amortization was still almost unheard-of. What is different these days, and what has some home owners panicking is the price of housing itself, which has ballooned several hundred percent since those decades to over a million dollars on average in the Greater Toronto Area.

Houses still sell for over 1 million dollars on average in the GTA, even after owners are reselling their homes at significant losses, losing as much as $400K in some cases, in part due to owners’ inability to afford their mortgages, and re-entering the rental market. And now the rental market has become saturated. Rents are increasing with increasing demands on fewer available apartments, as rentals have not been built on any significant scale in the GTA since around the late 1990s, favouring condominiums.

Just a few years ago, money was cheap, meaning that the interest rate for borrowing was 0.25% prime, as it had been for much of 2010, up to 2022. Customers were likely given the impression that this would last for the entire lifetime of their mortgage. And if they had to ride out high interest rates, no one was talking about 7% prime (which could retail at about 9% interest to the customer at the level of banks). No one was talking about their mortgage payments going from $2500 to over $4000 per month.

Currently there are over 100,000 customers in such a position (according to a report from CBC Television), and that is only counting CIBC. There are also four other major banks that are allowed to borrow at prime from the Bank of Canada, and it is likely that the real number of customers in that position is many times greater.

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