Monday, November 28, 2011

Says What It Does And Does What It Says

The infamous Lars von Trier delivers in Melancholia...

Melancholia is the first film by Lars von Trier I actually wanted to see and the only one I've ever been able to sit through.  Presented in two parts, the first begins with an opulent and disastrous wedding reception featuring Kirsten Dunst as the horridly dysfunctional bride, the second ends with the destruction of the earth when it collides with the titular rogue planet.  No, that's not a spoiler, unless you arrive late for the prologue.  Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play sisters dealing with depression, fear, and anger one can easily credit to their upbringing when we are subjected to their estranged parents at the reception.  Gainsbourg is very interesting to watch but most of her work - other than the unwatchable Antichrist - has been in French cinema so this is the first performance of hers I've watched all the way to the credits.  Kiefer Sutherland is present but has little to do and...well, let's just say he's no Jack Bauer when it comes time for the end of the world.  Dunst plays a severely depressed woman who comes to terms with her impending fate with a firm resolve.  She's always been an interesting actress but she wades into this rather surreal material and demonstrates some serious depth in Melancholia.

Photo Credit: Christian Geisnaes

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

John, John, John...What Have You Done?

From Lt. John Pike, U.C. Davis Police...

Photo by Louise Macabitas by way of Reddit, which is not good if you've been bad.

To "Pepper-Spray Cop" cultural meme in about 72 hours...

From the pointed send-up of the new meme at Wired's Underwire


I'm pretty sure Lt. John Pike didn't get out of bed Friday 18 November 2011 intending to become the poster boy for the use of excessive force against passive resistance and civil disobedience.  But by the time his Defense Technology MK-9 Pepper Spray was empty he had secured his place in history.

Regardless what you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement (or whether it will ever get its act together and come to mean anything) this was not an escalation of force scenario, this was civil disobedience and passive resistance. If peaceful protesters must be removed you bring in enough officers to pick up each one and remove him or her to the paddy wagon. If anyone actively resists then the officers making the arrest apply sufficient force to proceed. At least that's the way it's suppose to go ever since the Birmingham cops quit using German Shepherds and fire hoses on civil rights protesters and the Ohio National Guard quit using live ammo on Vietnam war protesters.  Anything less than TLC is a win for the protesters and they know it. It's important that those with responsibility for public order understand it too. In this case, regardless whether or not the force applied was strictly legal or within department guidelines, the techniques applied and video collected played precisely into the hands of the protesters. The incident represents a massive fail on behalf of those in authority.

O.C. sprays - like Tasers - have undoubtedly saved many criminals from serious injury or death due to the baton blows, choke holds, or gunshot wounds used to subdue suspects in the days before these non-lethal force alternatives were developed.  Likewise, their use reduces injuries to law enforcement officers and is safer for the public.  But non-lethal does not mean harmless, and force is still force.  And this force is being applied on our behalf.  We had better be sure what objectives we wish to achieve.  The Occupy movement couldn't have stage managed a better PR coup had they tried; was that the objective? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whack Another Mole

Power Balance files for bankruptcy!

The woomeisters (actually cynical fraudsters, there's no way they believed this crap actually worked) at Power Balance lost the class action lawsuit filed against them in January and now owes $57 million dollars in refunds to customers duped into buying the spendy yet worthless rubbery bracelets.  Now they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  Power Balance Australia went under last year.  Power Balance even admitted the con in January.  Now that the class action has been decided against them the corporation has finally run out of track, but not before selling nearly 3 million bracelets at $30 each.  Guess baseball players will have to go back to rubbing magic chicken bones on their bats for good luck.  So, any ideas for a new name for the Power Balance Pavilion, home of the Sacramento Kings? 

All together now: "WOO, Woo, woo, woo, woo..."

Besides, everyone knows the new triple braided titanium ion necklaces are the latest thing in performance enhancing placebo jewelry.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quirky, heartfelt, and sad...

Saw The Descendants last evening at the Uptown Theater...

This drama is not quite so funny as the trailers suggest, dealing as it does with loss, betrayal, regret, terminal illness, death, parenting, aging, responsibility, our desire for second chances and our response when we are denied them.  George Clooney does a nice turn, but I was most impressed by the work displayed by young actors Shailene Woodley and Nick Krouse.

Here We Go Again

Workplace Violence on the Rise?

The following lead-in introduced a story that appeared on 8NewsNow in Las Vegas, NV. It was a tidy little article written by Reporter Jessica Lovell.

"LAS VEGAS -- Violence in the workplace is an unfortunate growing trend. On average, two people a day are killed as a result of workplace violence. That's why more and more businesses are turning to security companies to help educate their employees about the dangers."

In the article she quotes security consultant Steve Albrecht and Tom Donahue of Allied Barton Security among others.

Where have we heard this before?

I wrote to Ms. Lovell:

I read with interest your article “Workplace Violence on the Rise” which was picked up by "The Security Management Daily," a security news summary sent by Security Management to its subscribers worldwide.

There are some errors in your piece, which most likely arise from an unfortunate tendency of security professionals – especially those with something to sell – to use the raw numbers in a hyperbolic manner.

They tell you, "Violence in the workplace is an unfortunate growing trend."

Yet deaths due to workplace violence are near an all time since 1992 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the numbers.

They say, "On average, two people a day are killed as a result of workplace violence."

This is only true if we divide the number of workplace deaths in 2009 (the most recent year for which the records have been finalized) due to "Assaults and Violent Acts," 837, by 365, for a daily rate of 2.3. What most don’t tell you is that this BLS category includes suicides and animal attacks in addition to homicides.

Likewise, most alarmists are content to let their listeners believe workplace violence is most frequently perpetrated by customers, coworkers, or family members. In truth 75% of all workplace homicides are perpetrated in course of other crimes – frequently robberies of late night retail establishments, or assaults on police and security personnel.

The last important detail most miss by not considering self destructive behavior, is that unlike those due to workplace violence, suicide deaths at work are on the rise.

This behavior of my peers, whether due to ignorance or in the course of cynical manipulation, is a pet peeve of mine. I have dealt with it on several occasions at my blog, most recently hereThere you will find links to the BLS statistics I’ve cited in this email...

Ms. Lovell replied within minutes.  She was receptive to my criticism and interested in learning more.  We'll talk next week.

UPDATE: I haven't heard from Reporter Lovell but it's a busy news week I'm sure, even in Las Vegas.  I sent her a note though:

Here are some sources of statistics that are a little more dispassionate than those you were provided the other week.

The work is hard enough without the security pros getting excited.

Photo credit:

Monday, November 14, 2011

I can see Canada from my deer blind

Well, you might have to squint a little...

We're just back from a productive and enjoyable vacation hunting whitetail deer north of Badger, MN (aka "Almost Canada").

My buddy Greg shot only one deer, but not for lack of trying; not for nothing was his elevated hunting shack nicknamed "Disaster Stand."  My son Erik shot two nice does, one on Saturday, another Sunday, and then went back to school.  His Ameristep "Doghouse" pop up blind was in a very productive spot so I sat inside it Monday and Tuesday, harvesting mature does each day.  While waiting for my deer to arrive I read Inferno, written in 1976 by sci-fi collaborators Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle ($0.50 at Half-Price Books, Apple Valley, MN).  I also got caught up on a variety of podcasts on my iPhone.

Most evenings Greg prepared our meals at the home of our host Kasey, the son of my cousin Rick, but three nights we drove to Roseau, MN, to dine at The Silver Dragon, our favorite Asian eatery north of Minneapolis.  Word on the streets of Badger (yes, it has at least two) is that Kasey enjoyed meals that didn't come from the microwave and which were served on plates he didn't have to wash.  We even vacuumed before we left.

After sleeping in Wednesday I commenced to skinning, cutting, and wrapping our venison, which took two days. This work was accompanied by Richard Pogge's most excellent Ohio State University Astronomy 161 - Introduction to Solar System Astronomy course on iTunes.  I did not get a chance to listen to Astronomy 162 - Stars, Galaxies, & the Universe, which is even more fun.  Yes, this in one of the podcast lecture series that I've listened to more than once.

Once I had some spare time I got to engage my most recent book purchase, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, by Robert Neely Bellah.  Be warned, the first chapter or two is a mind-stretching conceptual slog, but then it picks up and becomes very readable.

On Thursday my vacation finally became fully effective - I forgot what day of the week it was.

Minnesota is a party hunting state - we can shoot to fill the tags held by others in the hunting party.  On Saturday morning I was asked to join an old-fashioned deer drive.  The youngsters and the huntmaster did the pushing through the thick stuff.  The elder cousins and uncles sat post - stationary spots where we prevent the deers' escape if they bust out to the left, right, or rear of the drive.  It just so happened two ran past me so I made quick work of them with Erik's Kimber 308 (I had loaned my Remington 30'06 to a cousin for the morning).  I chose factory loaded 150 grain bullets for both rifles this year as time and money got a little tight.  These conventional "cup and core" bullets are too destructive if you hit anything edible up close (despite our scenic vistas our longest shot was 125 yards), and are made of lead, which is less that good.  That said all six fell to the hit and our four now reside in our freezer.  We will use non-lead and perhaps heavier (slower) bullets in 2012.

All in all, it was a fine season.