Sunday, August 9, 2020

artificial intelligence

 I took a book to a spot by the Charles River yesterday.  There's a large parking lot nearby, lots of walkers, bikers, picnickers. It is within a ten minute drive of five major research universities- Boston College, Boston University, MIT, Northeastern, and Harvard.     All five schools are within the top forty ranked universities in the country.  Harvard and MIT are ranked second and third respectively.

I've brought a coffee mug to my bench.  Just before I exited the car I poured the coffee out and filled the container with beer.  There was no need to be sneaky.  I noticed a couple on a nearby bench that had a cooler out and had stacked an impressive number of empty bottles nearby.  I'd seen picnickers on other occasions with open wine bottles on their blankets.

From my perch I could see the river and the practicing crew teams.  Looked very peaceful by the Charles. But what bothered me and has increasingly unnerved me since last evening was what was going on behind me and a little bit to the east on the winding bike, walking trail.  On a number of spots along the river, beer gardens have sprung up. There are at least two of these that I know of. One is closer to downtown than where I was yesterday. The one near where I was reading sits adjacent to some public gardens and a now defunct open theatre.

I've got nothing against the concept of a beer garden. I've been in this one in previous years, and my buddy Kenny and I spent a good afternoon a year or two ago sitting in the one that is further east. (Quite an operation that. It started to rain that day and it was impressive how they were able to close shop in moments to avoid the thunder and lightning).

I strolled east on the path and saw the beer garden.  In optic deference to COVID the picnic tables where the drinkers could be seated were spread six feet or close to six feet apart. However, what troubled me was that the imbibers were sitting sometimes six or seven to a table while consuming their beverages.  And noone, but noone at any of the tables were wearing masks.  Now, I know they were on occasion raising a glass to their mouths and the masks could get in the way. But this was not a guzzling contest, most people were just conversing. And I did not see anyone with a mask or anyone who seemed to give a whit about the fact that we are in a pandemic.

This is not Sturgis, South Dakota where 250,000 fools are flaunting reality and will be sickening innocent people. The governor of Massachusetts, (unlike his criminal South Dakota counterpart that encourages gatherings--nothing short of conspiring to commit murder) has urged caution.

But here in blue state MA, within a ten minute drive of five major universities are adults--some I am guessing are students and faculty members at these institutions--sitting hip to hip, without face coverings, during a pandemic.

 

Friday, August 7, 2020

joe--fifty years later

Sometime in 1970--it likely was the fall after Kent State-I saw, on the Albany State campus, the movie Joe.  One of the great things about going to a large research university (and working at one) is that there are daily so many things going on that one, if one so chose, could spend the day attending one event after another. When I was an undergraduate at Albany I, appropriately I guess, often engaged in sophomoric activities as opposed to those academic ones held for the benefit of Sophomores.  But I did go to see Joe. It was not in the movie theatre, but there was a screening--as I recall it--in a room in the library.  I spent a fair amount of time in the library during my college years.  It could have been that I was stumbling out of it one day and saw a poster advertising the screening. And it could have been that a crony had seen it earlier and urged me to go.

Fifty years later, last night to be exact, I thought to use the On-demand feature (misnamed for sure, since unless you want to shell out additional money beyond the exorbitant amount one pays for cable, many of the movies you want to see are not available on demand without shekels).  Joe, however, was available. 

I think of the movie from time to time when I write about organizations and culture. And recently, I have been doing that.  (The fourth edition of my org comm text is, lick your chops, essentially done and will be available for those hungry for my wisdom and recap of theories in January--knock on wood).  I think of Joe because the main character in the film Joe, a bigot, is first seen in the movie spewing a venomous monologue disparaging minorities and "hippies." It is a classic rant of an Archie Bunker three notches down.  Bunker, but nothing funny about it.  He, Joe, is moaning about how the culture is going south because of everyone but those of his ilk.  Later in the movie he issues another rant about how culture is being ruined by hippies.  I think of Joe and include mention of him in the book, because among the many things Joe does not get, one such thing is that culture is a function of communicative behavior. And what becomes societal (or organizational) culture is the distillate of all peoples' communications.  So Joe can squawk about how the so called hippies are ruining the culture, but the reality is that the culture that he claims is being sullied is a function of his rants and behaviors just as the amalgam that becomes the culture is affected by those he derides.  

The movie was apt for the era around Kent State because it attempts to present a clash between "hippie" culture and their parents. I recall being affected by the movie and thinking it was powerful.  

How does it hold up fifty years later?

Well, I knew how the movie ended up so any drama and powerful effects that were based on surprise were gone.  I was surprised at how I remembered specific lines from the movie exactly as they were uttered, and remembered scenes precisely as they happened.  So, I knew what was going to happen and that could have limited its value on the second viewing. Still.....

It is a lousy movie.  Stunningly trite at least from a distance of half a century.  The opening scene--which I remembered nearly event for event--is as lame as a scene can be.  I don't remember thinking that was the case at the time.  Peter Boyle as Joe is very good. And the young Susan Sarandon as the female lead, is excellent as well.  But the story is just a cliche.   I was "there" so to speak and recall the counter-culture (which as I suggest above is just another part of the culture).  The so-called hippies in the film are caricatures. There is an orgy scene in the movie which, at least to my experience, was beyond unlikely. 

Were there "Joe's" during that time? yes.  Were there people in the counter culture who bore some resemblance to those played in the film? Yes.  But the event on which the film sits, is very unlikely to have occurred, and what happens in its aftermath, just is ridiculous.

So, how does the movie hold up in retrospect?  Not that well.  The media is a powerful player in creating culture. That film could not have done a good deal to inform our troubled 1970 society or affect our culture positively.  Probably worth it to see Peter Boyle as a young actor, and Susan Sarandon as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

anniversary

It's been a year. Today, at right about this time, I was being carved up.  And, as far as I can tell, I am on the road to complete recovery or already am fully recovered.  I have to take medication daily, and I've  cut down significantly on red meat consumption.  (Have had next to no red meat in the 365 days).  But I am alive and from what I was told had the problem not been detected I would not know from COVID and would not have lived long enough to see Donald Trump ignominiously defeated on November 3rd. I trust that I will be alive to witness the latter, and will be alive when we have therapeutics for COVID.

 The top photo was taken two weeks after the surgery.  The bottom was taken just this morning at around the time, a year ago, that I was taking a tomahawk to my chest.






Monday, July 27, 2020

Baseball. Mistome.

I've heard some people say that it might take time to get used to watching baseball with no fans in the stands.

Well, you will not have time to get used to it. I have said this to anyone who will listen--the baseball season will not last fifteen games.  It will not last fifteen games because there are enough people who are foolishly irresponsible such that it is inevitable that players will become infected. Once infected, because teams and players are in close proximity, more players will catch the virus.

This morning nine Miami Marlins tested positive. Three games into the season. A number of games were cancelled. Just a matter of time before the league throws in the towel.

I walk every day.  Sometimes long walks. Today was a short one because it was hotter than some saunas in Boston today.  The percentage of people wearing masks whom I pass while walking is less than 50 %.  Today on my short walk around an adjoining park, there were tennis players, playing doubles, near the sign that says singles only.  There were two little league games (there are four fields in the park).  At the larger of the fields where games were ongoing, there were close to fifty parents and kid brothers/sisters sitting on bleachers or horsing around near the dugouts.  Each dugout (genuine dugouts) had fifteen or so kids congregating when one team or the other was up at bat.  I did not see a single parent wearing a mask. I saw one coach wear a mask.  Parents who are supposed to set an example, sitting in the bleachers two feet next to each other-- without masks.  As I walked around the park path I came to the second field. There, parents had set up chairs beyond the fence to watch the kids. Did not see one mask. I attempted to give the stink-eye to all the maskless, but with my mask covering my kisser, they could not get the full measure of my facial scorn.

But that is why major league baseball will be cancelled.  Too many people have borscht in their brains and believe that because they do not have the virus yet, they will not get it.  And of course teenagers are invulnerable, just ask them.  It is not cool to wear a mask. I read that a moniker for responsible individuals is now "mask-holes".  Maybe I got that wrong and the phrase is used for both those who do, and those who do not, wear the masks, depending on what side of the divide you are on.  If your ancestors were from Chelm, then those who wear masks are mask-holes. But, now that I think of it, this is too sophisticated and clever a pun for fools. 

I read that Kentucky polls have Trump leading by 25 points in that state.  Must have a lot of Rhodes Scholars in Kentucky.  That is as red as you can get.  Trump decided the other day that he was going to postpone throwing out the first ball at a baseball game until later in the season because he wanted to concentrate on the virus.  

As my mother would say at her sarcastic Yiddish best, "Mistome" (pronounced mis-TOM-uh).

Yeah, let him concentrate on the virus that he energized.

Baseball is history. Fifteen games tops.  Basketball might make it, because they are in that bubble. Football? Sure, plenty of social distancing in football.




Thursday, July 23, 2020

Testing

There is a walking path near where I live which is just drop dead beautiful. I discovered it after living here for three decades and found it by chance.  It runs nearly from my house all the way through Boston along the Charles River. There is a stretch at around where Waltham and Watertown meet that is particularly attractive.  Leafy, meandering, shaded, with the river right along side the walkers or bikers.

Today it was hot. And because there was a prediction of a thunder storm in the evening when I typically walk, I decided to drive to my spot, and then begin walking along the shaded area that I have just described.

I noticed for the second time--the first about two weeks ago--that there is a free COVID testing site very close to where I park. I have not been tested. I feel fine, but every now and again I'd like to know for sure that I am clean.  I approached the attendant and asked her how long it would take to get the tests back.

She said that at this time it takes from 7-10 days.

Now, do you need to be a college professor to know how absolutely absurd that is.  Are we a banana republic or what.  

Okay, so let's say I got tested today, which I did not, and waited ten days and found out I was positive. That would mean that in the interim I had a chance of infecting those people with whom I came into contact. And also I would not be doing whatever one does to attempt to get through the infection.  That's if it was positive.  

However what is more ridickalus (as my grandfather pronounced the word) is what it would mean if I tested negative.  It would mean absolutely nothing.  

It would mean that today I was negative, but in the interim I could have been infected. So, all it would be would be an historical marker. 

"Say, good for you on July 23rd you were negative. Now, who knows."

The good news of course is that we have a sage in the White House who is looking after us all. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Tonight: Wow

Beneath the weather report in the Boston Globe is the horoscope. I often read the weather forecast and, about once a week, I read the horoscope just for fun.

Today mine was a bit startling.

Your physical magnetism will be particularly high today. A passionate yet sometimes stormy relationship is on the horizon.  If already attached, decide carefully what you want to do. But you are promised a genuinely joyful time regarding matters of the heart. Tonight: Wow.

Is that so?  Maybe I should comb what is left of my hair to be prepared for the next 24 hours.  Definitely should change my tee shirt and underwear.  I was actually going to sit in front of the computer all day working on chapters 9-11 of my text revision. But now?

I wonder about the credibility of the horoscoper. I remember once buying a car and while chatting with the salesman he told me that he had written a graduate thesis on astrology.  "Astrology?" I said.  Very soberly he nodded. Then he began to tell me why astrology actually made sense. I was amused but of course not convinced.  The wisdom of my skepticism was supported the next day when I arrived to pick up my car.  He was not there when I got to the show room.  Then, when he arrived, he apologized. He told me that there was some confusion at home; his wife had taken the car when he thought that she was not going to need it because it had not been marked on their calendar, so he had to wait until she returned before he could get a car to drive to the dealership.  I asked why in the world he would need a calendar? Why couldn't he just consult the stars?  I can still see his sneer.

But back to my day's forecast.

I have some doubts. First in terms of my magnetism.  I looked at my mug at about 616 this morning and it did not look particularly magnetic. But I took a gander after I read my horoscope and not so bad either.

"A passionate yet sometimes stormy relationship is on the horizon."   Hmm.  I wonder who it could be. I don't think it is referring to the person still sleeping in the bed.  Should I show it to her when she wakes up? Nah. She will probably snort and ask if there is any coffee left and if I emptied the dishwasher.

"A passionate yet sometimes stormy relationship" eh? I've had a few of those. Who is going to resurface?  Maybe it is someone new?  Probably not. What with social distancing I don't bump into too many people these days, unless you count the postal clerk now and again, and the people I pass during my walks.  None have seemed particularly interested in romance.  So I have to think it is someone from the past.  Maybe I will receive a steamy e-mail today. Then what? According to my horoscope I will have to decide carefully what to do, but regardless, "you are promised a genuinely joyful time".  Zoom sex, maybe.  I don't know. Seems like a reach. But: "Tonight:  Wow." 

Tonight: Wow.

I was thinking of getting a haircut. And I did buy a new shirt on Amazon. 

At least, I'll take a shower and see what happens.


Friday, July 3, 2020

chelm

Last night I caught a part of a video clip that was broadcast on CNN.  I must have been dozing when it came on because my first reaction was that I must not have heard it right. Even in this zany Trump world it seemed too bizarre.

It was the governor of South Dakota who was talking about a ceremony/rally combination that was to be held at Mount Rushmore. Trump was going to be there to celebrate or kick off Independence Day celebrations.  That, itself, is not preposterous, particularly compared to the Tulsa nonsense of two weeks back.

But it was what the governor said about the celebration that made me wonder if I had misheard. She said, almost defiantly, there will "be no social distancing."  They would congregate around the monument, cheer on the president, and phooey on this social distancing nonsense.

When I came around to acknowledging that I'd heard it right, a number of thoughts went through my head.


  1. Who could the lunkhead possibly be who lost to this idiot in the race for governor.  If this shit for brains person who proudly--with head up to the shoulders inside the terminus of her very own alimentary canal--could say, "not here, not in my state, we are no cowards here, we are not social distancing"  then who could have been the lunkhead who lost the election.
  2. If the election for governor would be held today, would more people in the state of South Dakota vote for her than another person, no matter how vapid the other opponent might be?  
  3. How could this person possibly think it is wise to PROMOTE no social distancing. South Dakota does not have a wall around it. Currently, it enjoys a low COVID rate, but that could change. Why would the governor encourage the possibility of death and infection?
  4. Could Trump win in November, if there are more people in the state of South Dakota who voted for this nitwit than voted for whoever was the opponent? 
  5. Does she breed? If so, big trouble in 25 years.
It would be great if Roosevelt, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington could somehow turn their backs on Trump and his idiot followers.