This Is Worth Seeing

Continuing my new goal of largely posting positive things,  here’s this.

How Not to Respond to Terrorism

The French are attacking ISIS, as we all expected them to. Well, at last those of us who know history, and know that the French military has always been a force to reckon with. Anyhow, they’re bombing the shit out of the targets in Syria, and will no doubt kill a large number of ISIS personnel.

129 people were killed, so far, in the attacks in Paris, which is terrible. But how many more innocent people are dying as a result of the response? I’m willing to bet the number ends up being a lot more than 129, but, hey, it’s their fault for living in Syria and not trying to get out, right?

Attacking someone violently who has hurt you feels good. It makes you feel powerful and superior. It’s also a terrible idea in general, and a really terrible idea in cases like this. I mean, what, you surely don’t think that ISIS launched these attacks saying, “No, the French won’t attack us. No one will.”

No, they launched the attacks hoping to get exactly the kind of response that they’re getting. They want the violence. They want the death, and giving your enemy what they want is generally a bad move. The French attacks on them are a great publicity coup, and will help mightily in recruitment. You doubt me? Put yourself in the shoes of a 20 year old Syrian man whose mother was killed by a French bomb and tell me you wouldn’t want revenge. Hell, you’re probably just some American sitting at your desk reading this, and you already want revenge against ISIS. Now make it even more personal.

Violence begats violence, because of course it does. We have to stop lashing out militarily when bad shit like this goes down. It never works, it kills a lot more innocent people (100,000 plus in Iraq as a direct result of our invasion and the fallout from it), and it’s a waste of time and money.

You know what would be far better? Leading by example. Showing the world that we’re the better man by not using our military and simply showing how terrified we are, and what a bully we are. No, preach peace, preach justice, keep the military away from it all, and treat it like the crime that it is. Arrest those responsible, when you can, try them, and imprison them.

I’ll admit, that’s difficult in a situation like this, where ISIS was inspiring/directing from a distance, but even with this kind of situation, the best should do is support local opposition to ISIS. Even then we have to be careful. Historically it’s rather embarrassing, after all, when the dictator we prop up fights back against people wanting democracy and uses weapons we gave him to do so. So to when someone sees their village flattened by weapons that are stamped with, “MADE IN THE USA”.

But we can fight ISIS and the like in other ways, such as various economic means, plus isolating them as much as possible from the rest of the world. We can also continue to be vigilant and do our best to stop any terrorism here by Americans or from people overseas.

I know this is lots less sexy, and slower, and far more uncertain, than invading countries, bombing cities, and otherwise bullying our way around the world. But I’m willing to take that over the certainty of more violence, where the only “certain” things are more death, and more terrorists.

A Funny Conversation

In the interest of people being cheered-up, I thought I’d share the content of a conversation I had with a co-worker recently.

ME: 3 and 5 aren’t prime numbers.

HIM: What? Yes, they are.

ME: No, they aren’t. Because you can add 3 and 5 together to get 35.

HIM: What?

ME: Yeah. Any two numbers that you can add together aren’t prime.

HIM: But that’s all numbers.

ME: Right, that’s why we have imaginary numbers. Those are the only ones that are prime.

HIM: …

ME: Look, it’s not my fault if you don’t understand how math works.

HIM: …I hate you so much.


Things to Be Genuinely Happy About

I was going to write up a blog article about the attacks in Paris, and then I thought…no. It was a bad thing, and France’s response is going to play right into the hands of ISIS, just as our responses always do.

So instead of that, I thought I’d share a few fun, happy things that I’ve found out over the last week.

First off, and this is pretty much limited to a small group of people who will be made happy by it, Cloud Striffe is coming to Super Smash Bros.

This is great on several levels. First off, he’s always been a favorite character of mine (even while sulking constantly. At least he isn’t Squall). Plus he reminds me of someone I used to be involved with back about 15 years ago, and that’s no bad thing.

But also this is a great turning point for the relationship between Nintendo and Square-Enix. Back in the day, when they were just Square, they were going to developing Final Fantasy VII for Nintendo’s SNES successor system. That didn’t happen and things got…ugly. The bottom line is that for a very long time, there was nothing on any Nintendo system that was made by Square. That began changing a few years ago, and now we’re getting the culmination of that change, and that pleases me.

Of course, I’d be more pleased if Square-Enix could turn out a non-crappy FF game, but let’s not go insane here.

Another thing to be happy about? A resolution to a certain plotline in Doctor Who. You can read here for details, though be aware, Spoilers, ahoy!

You say you want some good news that doesn’t have to do with geek stuff? Pft. Fine. Ok, how about this? Polio is about to stop being a thing. This is excellent news. It stopped being a thing in the USA before I was born, with the result that I’ve only ever once met one person who was younger than me and who had had polio. In his case, he was raised in a Romanian orphanage, so…yeah. Polio was probably the least of what he had.

For those who want to continue to carp on vaccines and how terrible they are, let me remind you that because of vaccines, smallpox is on the ash heap of history and it’s quite likely that polio will soon be there, too.

Let’s turn to some happy political news. Trump is flaming out at long last. Carson is…well, just fucking weird. He’s leading in some key polls, but he won’t go anywhere in the long run. At this point, I’m willing to lay down money, though not much, that Rubio will be the nominee, which I’m sort-of ok with. He’s still more conservative than I’d like, but at least he’s not insane, and I can easily see him enjoying a nice, four year, caretaker term as president.

Of course, I still think that the next president will be Hillary Clinton. She’s really trouncing Sanders in the polls now, and barring something extremely unexpected, she’ll be the nominee. She’s a stronger candidate than any of the Republican set, and so I fully expect her to win.

Then of course, we have this to look forward to at the end of the year.

Yeah, I know we’ve been burned before, but it looks like this could really be an excellent movie. Disney rarely has any mis-steps, especially when it’s something this major, so hopefully it’ll be spectacular.

Lastly, here’s a cheerful little video with Jeremy Clarkson.

Oh, and in addition to all of this, you can, I suppose, focus on the fact that even now, the world is more at peace than ever before, poverty is decreasing, education is increasing, and the world is a pretty fucking amazing place to live in right now.

The Great Butchery

97 years ago today, World War One, that meat-grinder of a generation, came to a halt, with 38 million people dead or injured. It was the worst war up to that point in history, and the levels of sheer brutality and waste stagger the mind even today.

Of those 38 million, 17 million died. That’s over the course of four years and change. That’s approximately 11,000 people per day that were killed. That’s more each and every day than the total number of soldiers the USA has lost during the War on Terror. That means every five days, the allies lost the same number of soldiers we lost during the Vietnam War.

The First World War was a terrible, pointless affair, best summed-up in this exchange from Blackadder Goes Forth.

Baldrick: The thing is: The way I see it, these days there’s a war on, right? and, ages ago, there wasn’t a war on, right? So, there must have been a moment when there not being a war on went away, right? and there being a war on came along. So, what I want to know is: How did we get from the one case of affairs to the other case of affairs?

Edmund: Do you mean “Why did the war start?”

Baldrick: Yeah.

George: The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire-building.

Edmund: George, the British Empire at present covers a quarter of the globe, while the German Empire consists of a small sausage factory in Tanganyika. I hardly think that we can be entirely absolved of blame on the imperialistic front.

George: Oh, no, sir, absolutely not. [aside, to Baldick] Mad as a bicycle!

Baldrick: I heard that it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich ’cause he was hungry.

Edmund: I think you mean it started when the Archduke of Austro-Hungary got shot.

Baldrick: Nah, there was definitely an ostrich involved, sir.

Edmund: Well, possibly. But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war.

George: By Golly, this is interesting; I always loved history…

Edmund: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other’s deterrent. That way there could never be a war.

Baldrick: But this is a sort of a war, isn’t it, sir?

Edmund: Yes, that’s right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

George: What was that, sir?

Edmund: It was bollocks.

Baldrick: So the poor old ostrich died for nothing.

Sadly the ostrich wasn’t alone, and by the end of that episode, had plenty of company.

World War One doesn’t loom large enough in the American consciousness, and that’s a shame. We like to remember our clear-cut, wonderful victories, like in Revolution, when we beat the British, World War II, where we beat the Axis, and the Civil War, where we beat…well, other Americans.

But World War I is different. On paper, the US and the Allies won. But in reality, no one won that war. Millions dead, billions of dollars wasted, huge swathes of land devastated, nations destabilized, and the stage set for World War II: Adolf’s Revenge. It was a pointless, terrible waste, and maybe, just maybe, if we focused on this war and it’s outcomes more often, we might be somewhat less eager to rush into the next war.


Sic Transit Fresh and Easy

You know the kind of person who means well but has no clue how the real world works? They fall for multi-level marketing scams, or make heavy financial donations to lost causes, or try to support the right causes, but do so in a very silly, inefficient way?

Allow me to tell you the tale of Fresh and Easy, a store chain with an interesting, even laudable, concept that utterly failed when exposed to reality.


Fresh and Easy was founded in 2007, and was originally owned by Tesco, a very, very large food retailer based in England. The concept of the store was pretty simple: provide high-quality, including organic (so not always high quality, it seems), fruits and vegetables (fresh), and high-quality pre-prepared meals that could be heated in ovens or microwaves (easy), in smaller-scale, limited selection, stores based generally in high-density urban areas. They also wanted to do these things in an environmentally-friendly way, which included things like special parking spaces for hybrid vehicles.

As a concept, this is pretty great. It’s worked wonders for places like Tesco over in the UK and other grocery chains throughout Europe. On the East Coast of the United States, where German grocery store giant Aldi has found much success, this concept could have probably worked out very well. But it failed. Why?


There’s an F&E about 1/4 of a mile from me. My neighborhood is not terrible by any means, but it’s a lower-middle class neighborhood, with a fair number of condos, apartments and single-family homes. Once you get north of the F&E location (my neighborhood is south of it), things get a bit more sketchy, and the “middle” part generally drops out of the neighborhood description.

Now this wouldn’t be a problem if the Fresh and Easy were instead, say, a smaller Wal-Mart. But Fresh and Easy’s prices were, and even still are, quite insane. It’s not Whole Foods-level insanity, but it’s pretty bad. How bad?

Right now the store is having its closing sale and I just came back from it a few minutes ago. Everything in the store is 10% – 30% off. Great, right? Time to go stock up.

Well, let me give you an example of what this means in reality. You know those little Totino’s party pizzas? They’re small, but basically pretty tasty, if not the best. They usually retail for about $1.25 to $1.50, and if you’re lucky, you can get 5 for $5 sales. Great!

Fresh and Easy sells these things for $1.79 each. Ok, so financially that’s not a huge difference, but percentage-wise it very much is. When I bought one today, it was 30% off. $1.79 minus 30% is…$1.25. So their close-out clearance sale price is only just the same as other stores charge normally.

Here’s another example from my receipt: Hormel Chili. Most places sell it at $1.99. On sale you might find it for as low as $1.49, or even $.99, if you’re especially lucky. Fresh and Easy’s normal price is $2.49. After what I think was a 20% discount (I don’t remember for sure), it winds up being…$1.99. So, again, their cheapest price ever is what other stores normally sell the product for.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The selection at the stores was very limited, the prices were very high, and while their store brand stuff was excellent, even those items were generally priced higher than “premium” food items at other stores.

If I were a parent living in this area and had to go out shopping for a family of four, had no car, and had a Fresh and Easy right across the street from me, I’d still hire an Uber driver and go to the nearest Safeway (somewhat better), Fry’s Foods (quite a bit better), or WinCo (best). I might hit F&E once or twice a month to do things like get a jug of milk and some fresh greens, but that’s about it. I simply couldn’t afford anything else.

A real-life example here: last year I had to, to my annoyance, go onto food stamps for the first time since the late 1990s. I got $189 a month. A friend and I would, each month, go to WinCo, where we’d fill up all of a shopping cart with a month’s worth of food, end up with so much stuff I ran out of space to store it, and still have $40 or so left over. My benefits were not renewed, which didn’t bother me too much, but I did regret it in one way. My friend and I had planned to take my final month’s food stamps and, as an experiment, go by all my month’s groceries at Fresh and Easy. I can pretty much guarantee that I Wouldn’t have had $40 left, nor so much food that storage would be an issue.

Fresh and Easy remains an excellent idea, and there are many areas that could benefit from having a store like this. But the concept was badly mishandled, and ultimately the customers weren’t willing to pay a premium, especially in neighborhoods like mine, which is home to what was, at least as of a couple of years ago, one of the busiest stores in the chain. A store where I never once, not even one time, had to wait in a line to check out.

I do hope that someone like WinCo picks up this concept and runs with it, because I do like it. But whomever does it needs to be a lot more connected to reality.

Good Job, Queen!

So Queen Elizabeth II has beaten out her great-great grandmother to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

Good for her!

Elizabeth II has been a great asset to the British as they transitioned away from Empire and into the Commonwealth. She’s been a steadying influence during times of crisis from World War II, throughout the Troubles, on up to the 7/7 attacks and beyond. It is true that her role is almost entirely symbolic, but that’s ok; there’s nothing wrong with having basically a powerless mascot for your country.

So good for the Queen and good for the UK!

Congrats to you!

Congrats to you!


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