Another year, another Midwest record breaking cold front. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories, freeze warnings and an approaching “arctic cold front” that will blanket most of the country and, apparently, affect almost 75% of the U.S. population. That's about 225 million people threatened by below zero temperature. And what's really, really bad news for my little dog, is that three day 20-40 below zero front we're expecting here in the Midwest. My poor little guy just can't figure out what those puppy pads are for and pretty much, will only go number 2 outside. But when it's this cold all he does is go in the back yard and then, ten seconds later think, "Nope! This is BS! I'm going back inside and I'll just hold it until it's warmer!" (Good luck with that, little buddy, and it's totally okay if you have an in house accident or two during this kind of freak weather).
Anyway, if you live in the Midwest, like I do, you’re already familiar with the cold. But still. Every once and while it's like, "It's going to be HOW cold?" In fact, every year, GCN’s medical columnist, Dr. Daliah Wachs writes “How to Prevent Hypothermia” anticipating this type of weather.
Just for "fun" comparison; temperatures in MN will plunge to -37C making my home state colder than Antarctica and even colder than parts of Mars. Author Andy Weir knows what we are going through -- he writes, in his novel, The Martian:
“And thanks to decades of reconnaissance by Curiosity, Opportunity, and the rest of NASA’s band of merry Rovers, we know most of what astronauts will need to survive on Mars once they get there: souped-up spacesuits to protect against massive dust storms and sub-freezing temperatures; tons of freeze-dried food; housing pods that can shield against radiation; and a big drill to unlock the frozen water beneath the Mars surface. It’s not easy living, but not too unlike, say, Minnesota.”
Thanks, Mr. Weir! We Minnesotans will keep that in mind. =)
Anyway. Stay warm. Keep your pets indoors, or keep their outdoor activities to the barest of bare minimums; and dream of warmer days.
They are not so far away.
There will be a temporary deal to open parts of the government for a few weeks, mainly for critical issues. Of course, there will be no wall. Which is fine. Walls are medieval and not terribly effective, but whatever. There will be; however, additional money to increase the current level of fencing and assist with said fence repair costs (about $1 billion). There will also be some back pay available to specific workers (but as far as I can tell - as of yet, it’s unnamed as to which workers will receive back pay and which will not). And, I guess, finally there will be a State of the Union.
And it’s this last point that makes me go, “Hrmmmmm.” (Just like in the old Arsenio days). A few days ago when the President announced he won’t have a State of the Union until after the shutdown ends. BUT it is also clear that Nancy Pelosi kind of .. uninvited him from delivering the State of the Union in the House chambers.
And then, Trump agreed to delay with this Tweet:
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!”
Okay. This immediately made me wonder, “Wait. Is it actually her prerogative?” I mean, obviously, she does not, nor did she ever say she was denying the President to have a State of the Union - she is denying him use of House Chambers. Um, okay. But aside from that - so what? Can Nancy Pelosi deny him use of House chambers? Can the Speaker, actually do that? I’m honestly not sure. I read over lots of online sources today from CNN, to the NYT and Fox News and all of them keep mentioning “according to House Rules,” but none of them linked to any House Rules.
And then I found the House Rules. And now I know why no one linked to them, because it’s a nightmare 50+ pages of tightly fonted legalese. Ugh. It’s bloody painful to read. And confusing. Anyway. Let me dive into it.
First, let’s check the Constitution and see what it says about a “State of the Union:”
“The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”
The key phrase seems to be my emphasized, “convene both Houses, or either of them.” Convene, as you may or may not know means, “come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble. Summon. Order.” In other words, the President may “summon/order” either or both houses to a State of the Union.
Now, the reason that the State of the Union is in the House chamber is because, well - it’s large. And fitting. And so now we ask the question - can a Speaker of the House prevent a President from delivering a State of the Union in House chambers?
As far as I’ve been able to determine the answer is very clearly - no. But the Speaker DOES have a lot of power over what can and can not happen on the floor of House chambers. You see, not just anyone can walk onto the House floor and have a speaking role. That privilege is restricted to the usual suspects one would assume - current members of Congress, House staffers, invited VIPs, dignitaries, ambassadors, delegates, etc. and, of course, the President / Vice President. Former members of Congress and former Presidents may also enter the House chamber and deliver speeches, if invited.
So, the Speaker can’t prevent an acting President from entering House chambers BUT according to House Rules, and as much as I understand the 50 pages of legalese I just waded through, a Speaker is, in fact, in charge of several key House chamber factors including (but not limited to):
“Use and Admittance. 1. The Hall of the House shall be used only for the legislative business of the House and for caucus and conference meetings of its Members, except when the House agrees to take part in any ceremonies to be observed therein.”
Okay, fair enough. So, it’s possible the Speaker can just decide to not agree to take part in the State of the Union, and if the Speaker decides this, congress will not attend. And if congress does not attend, then the chamber is technically not “in session,” and can not be used.
Does this supersede the Constitution’s statement that the President may “convene both houses?” Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it’s all debatable, but even if the President could order congress into session for the State of the Union, I did find a couple of picky (perhaps juvenile) things a Speaker could do to make the State of the Union, (if held in House chambers) a disaster. For example, according to House Rules:
“BROADCASTING THE HOUSE. 1. The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for closed circuit viewing of floor proceedings of the House in the offices of all Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and committees and in such other places in the Capitol and the House Office Buildings as the Speaker considers appropriate. Such system may include other communications functions as the Speaker considers appropriate. Any such communications shall be subject to rules and regulations issued by the Speaker.
This all means the Speaker of the House could order all close circuit cameras turned off so the speech wouldn’t be broadcast to anyone in the building. AND the Speaker could order that no cameras or press would be allowed onto the floor (although, I believe that currently only C-SPAN is allowed on the House floor). So, sure, the President could still deliver the State of the Union, but the Speaker could make sure that no one ever heard it or recorded it. In fact, it sounds as if the Speaker could, literally, order the lights shut off. So the President would have to deliver the speech in the dark, to no one. And this all may be juvenile tactics but “juvenile tactics” seem to be the ways and means of politics in the last several years.
Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to further dig through the House Rules for more information because that is some sucky reading, let me tell you (and I’m done with it).
Finally, and again, I am not suggesting that House Rules should always supersede the Constitution. I am only suggesting there does appear to be clear reasons why a Speaker of the House can make a State of the Union, at best - difficult, assuming the President decides to address the nation in House chambers.
A Speaker of the House, obviously, can not stop the President from delivering the address elsewhere, or to Congress or directly to CNN or Fox News or, in the probably case of our current President - on Twitter.
Imagine that. A SOTU address. On Twitter.
This year’s Oscar nominations are locked in. As someone who worked on and off in film, video and TV production for 20+ years and has “starred” five thousand movies on Netflix, I usually have plenty to bemoan about after reading said nominations. This year surprises me. This year I’m more like, “Yeah, I guess that mostly looks okay to me and my snotty ass opinion.” Although, I must say that it is certainly an odd choice (at least, so far) to go without a host this year. We’ll see how well that goes. Hopefully, better than the last time the Oscars went without a host (back in 1989.)
This year (like every other year) offers a series of fun “firsts.” As in, first time a superhero movie has been nominated for Best Picture (Black Panther), first time Spike Lee has been nominated for Best Director (BlacKkKlansman), first time Sam Elliott received an Academy Award nomination for acting (A Star is Born).
It’s that last one that made me actually go, “Wait. What? Really?”
Yes, really! After 50 years in the industry and having acted in about 100 films and TV shows we will now see the (kind of annoying) Academy Award Nominee (or, probably - winner) moniker in front of Sam Elliott’s name, too. I really do love him as an actor. And I love him even more for the fact that, when Elliott first learned of his nomination he jokingly said, “It’s about fucking time.”
Indeed it is. (And he’s probably going to win).
All that interesting stuff being said, it really does seem like a typical Oscar year with some obvious front runners. A Star is Born is going to win a lot when the awards should probably go to Roma. Although, in terms of A Star is Born, which I liked just fine (but do NOT buy the ending, like - at all!), how a movie can have three best actor nominations, a best screenplay nomination AND be nominated for Best Picture without having a Best Directing nod is, frankly, absurd.
But, whatever. It’s not like they need to check with my snotty ass opinion before they make their list of potential nominees. (But, they totally should).
Aside from that, I’m really hoping that “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” pulls out a win against the (Pretty Much Always The Winner!) Pixar film. If you have not yet seen the new animated Spider-Man flick, you should. It really is a charming and delightful “for the entire family,” kind of movie.
Oh yeah, and another first - First Time Meryl Streep has NOT been nominated for Best Actress. (Okay, that’s not actually true, but still - you all know what I’m talking about).
But, for the record, Trump is wrong. She is NOT way overrated. She’s, bloody, great! And she probably should have like, ten Oscars by now. But whatever, Again, they don’t ask for my opinion.
But, again - they totally should. =)
Full list of this years nominations:
“A Star Is Born”
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine
“Bao,” Domee Shi
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay
“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique
Best Documentary Feature:
“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Best Documentary Short Subject:
“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins
“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald
“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi
Best Live Action Short Film:
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv
Best Foreign Language Film:
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin
“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay
“A Star Is Born”
“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez
“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Makeup and Hair:
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter
“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
I am no gymnastics expert, but I certainly know a thing or two about a thing or two. In fact, back in the prehistoric age of the 90’s, I watched as Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller dominated American gymnastics and headed with high hopes into the 92 Barcelona Olympics. Alas, things didn’t work out for that team.
It wasn’t until the 96 games that the Magnificent Seven - Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug became the first US team to win the gold medal, as well as winning individuals medals for Miller, Dawes and Chow. Of course that team is probably best known for Kerri Strug winning the team gold medal while landing her 2nd vault performance on an injured ankle. Sadly, Zmeskal, missed the 96 games with a torn ACL.
But I haven’t really paid much attention to gymnastics since the end of the 90’s. So, imagine my surprise when even my non-gymnastic following ears perked up at the name Katelyn Ohashi.
“Wait,” Said I, “I’ve heard that name before. Hasn’t she had, like, a few perfect 10’s in modern competitions?”
Turns out, she has.
Twice on balance beam in 2017, three times for floor exercise in 2018 and now, the ultra famous floor exercise that is currently skyrocketing across the internet. That’s five perfect Collegiate level 10’s in the last year and half. And Ohashi does it with the most charming dancing/playset I’ve seen/heard in gymnastics - maybe, ever. Which, as Rebecca Schuman describes in her delightful Slate piece, Ohashi’s exact set (meet?) could only happen at the Collegiate level. From Schuman’s “Why Isn’t All Gymnastics This Fun?” story:
“You see, in the NCAA world, there are rules more befitting the humans of Earth … On floor, this means exactly three tumbling passes and a maximum start-value of 10. And because of this emphasis on execution rather than difficulty, NCAA gymnasts have the time and incentive to train in dance. Simultaneously, because elite gymnasts don’t really dance anymore as NCAA choreography has become more dynamic, with few notable exceptions (such as Dutch wood sprite Eythora Thorsdottir), elite choreography has become … belabored, which is the official gymnastics term for eeeeeeeeeech. The days of Bolshoi-trained masters of the avant-garde such as Svetlana Boginskaya or Olga Strazheva are as forgotten as a Yakov Smirnoff set.”
Wow! Schuman just name dropped Yakov Smirnoff! I forgot all about him. (No, seriously, I did). =)
Anyway, twenty one year old Katelyn Ohashi is at the top of her game right now and her delightful new floor routine shows it. I hope she continues strong and we can all cheer her on in the 2020 Olympic games.
I’ve only watched the video about a, ohhh, say - a dozen times, but I think her playlist from her recent 10 is as follows:
Proud Mary by Tina Turner
September by Earth, Wind and Fire
Maybe another song here but I can’t tell what or who because of the cheering
I Want You Back by The Jackson 5
Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson
Remember the Time by Michael Jackson
The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson
Thriller by Michael Jackson
Wow. Gillette sure hit the viral jackpot with their new We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, commercial (this is the same video link that is on the front page). And by viral, I don’t only mean “good” because there seems to be about twice as much pushback and rage than positivity. I mean, Piers Morgan really hated it (which, probably means it can't be all bad, right?)
That being said it’s generally drawing overwhelming critical praise from social media, lots of news sites and … well, critics. But that was day one. By day two, pushback began and now it appears to be drawing a lot of negative feedback from a- (I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and say … ) predominantly male crowd of internet folks.
You should take two minutes to watch the video.
So, what’s the big deal?
Well, for starters, Gillette’s short film, “We Believe...,” focuses heavily on three hot button topics - toxic masculinity, sexual harassment and the #metoo movement. Of course, they probably shouldn’t be hot button topics but, they are. More on that in a bit.
Anyway, like millions of other folks, I watched the video. And it’s fine. I don’t think it’s great, but it’s a fine commercial with a fine message about life. It’s a bit heavy handed. Okay, it’s a lot heavy handed as it shows overwhelmingly negative situations as men stand by ignoring or actively participating in - confronting bullying (or not), stepping in when women are harassed (or not), actively reinforcing sexist stereotypes and actually noticing that women are not objects.
These are all fair and fine points. In general.
I mean, the video basically has a "controversial" view that asks men to notice more and behave better-in some situations. I literally, can’t think of anything controversial about that.
BUT - before you rage clench and say, “This article is a Libtard Safe Zone Hit Piece against men, ain’t it? I am so OUT of here!”
Hold up! Slow down!
I am not saying the commercial is - genuine! Far from it! I am saying it’s a fine commercial that, in a slightly heavy handed way, does a nice job of communicating a message about life. And, perhaps, there are some men who could learn a thing or two within said message.
That being said.
Gillette is a company. A huge company. And it wants to make money. And, as someone who worked freelance film, TV and video, on and off, for twenty years, I can guarantee you that this is how said video was produced:
First. Gillette hired a marketing company. Then, said marketing company did test research on how best to market the Gillette brand and explored controversial and non-controversial topics.
Then: Multiple scripts were written. Some about gender equality. Some about ZZ Top using Gillette’s to shave their beards on TV. Some comedy. Some drama. Some with monkeys. Some with dogs. Etc, etc.
Then: Gillette narrowed the scripts down to a handful but “needed more research.” And so their marketing company took all the approved scripts and produced them, shot them, cut them together and ... showed them to test groups!
And test groups freaked out over the gender equality commercials - “Too political!” (They said).
And test groups loved the commercials with the dogs. And the monkeys! “Dogs and monkeys are cute!” (They said).
And test groups were indifferent to a whole bunch of other commercials. "Meh!" (They said).
Then: The marketing company went back to Gillette and said, “Look, people love the dogs and the monkeys (who doesn’t). BUT … controversy equals huge hits. And huge hits on the internet always, always, always turn into dollar signs. And the most controversial commercial we have for you is this, kind of, #metoo commercial about toxic masculinity.
Then: Gillette, decides to go with the “controversial” commercial. Not because they necessarily believe in the message (although, they might) but because it gives them the most chance to generate the most hits, the most viral awareness, the most likes and the most internet rage (which turns into more hits). Which is all an artificial way a marketing company can force a Trend Up and manipulate folks into watching a video therefore giving it a high percentage chance of going viral.
Which brings fist fulls of $$ to their client, in this case - Gillette.
And so far it’s worked.
Now, to be honest - what I’ve just described is nothing new. It’s, generally, the same principle of how ad men worked in the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s and so on and so forth. It’s advertising. As quoted in Fight Club:
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. ”
Except, too many people have not learned "that fact." Too many people believe that altruism begins at the top of the company and works its way down, thus producing the “We Believe…” short film for the common good of all humankind!
But it doesn’t work that way. It’s all about the $$.
Finally, as the general principle of the video goes, I agree with it all. Maybe you don’t. That’s fine. But I believe that many men should be more aware of a lot of things they are doing and saying. It doesn’t matter if you think “not all men need such a lesson!”
Yes, it’s obviously true that not all men need all lessons about all things in relation to gender equality & toxic masculinity. We all know that. Stop saying something as statistically obvious as #notallmen. You know why? Because too many of them - do need these very lessons.
So, despite the growing internet rage, Gillette's "We Believe…” commercial is a very effective, very poignant short film about (potentially) valuable life lessons.
And, sure, maybe it’s all a marketing scam, maybe we shouldn’t trust every single thing we agree with on the internet. Maybe, by the way, I’m wrong and maybe the top brass at Gillette is 100% behind this campaign for only socially aware and altruistic reasons.
Well … maybe.
But, I doubt it.
We’re living in the future, for sure.
Why do I say that, you ask? Well, a few scientists have recently discovered that, in a galaxy, far, far away...something is sending radio waves our direction. Now, before you get excited at the thought of visitors from benevolent galaxies, or terrified that green tentacled horrors are invading, be aware that the “something,” I just mentioned - is probably "nothing." In fact, GCN's very own paranormal phenomenon radio program, "The Paracast," (host: Gene Steinberg) brings all this up in the opening of their most recent program, which you can find here.
And now, I would like to mention that when I wrote “nothing," up above, I did not mean “absolutely nothing,” just - probably, not aliens. The most likely theory being tossed around is that the radio signals are created by, “astrological phenomenon.” Editor's note: Which, thanks, by the way, Scientist Folks - because "astrological phenomenon" tells us absolutely nothing at all! The phrase could literally mean "anything happening out in space!" (But, in this case, probably means something like - a black hole).
Anyway, this is not the first time radio waves have been discovered heading our direction. In the way back time of 2007 (before there was even an iPad!) an astrophysicist at Australia's Parkes Observatory was analyzing data from 2001 and discovered radio bursts. Movie pun not intended. That’s actually when it happened. Of course, astronomers of the day were skeptical and most thought it was just "interference;" but he published his findings and has since been proven accurate. And now we have multiple “fast radio bursts” on record but the 2007 case, and now a brand new one uncovered a few days-have something unique in common - a repeating signal.
Now, to my understanding (which, is limited to some very recent Googling, lots of wiki reading and some science journal perusing) the 2001 burst had a “single repeating fast radio burst.” The Jan. 9th, 2019 discovery has - six repeat bursts. Which as far as I understand, is extremely unusual to find that many repeating bursts occurring naturally; and while it certainly does not prove the existence of our beloved masters and eventual overlords … errr, I mean, aliens … it is still cool.
From the Jan. 9th, 2019 study reported in Journal:
“The discovery of a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source. 1,2, FRB 121102, eliminated models involving cataclysmic events for this source. No other repeating FRB has hitherto been detected despite many recent discoveries and follow-ups. 3–5, suggesting that repeaters may be rare in the FRB population. Here we report the detection of six repeat bursts from FRB 180814.J0422+73, one of the 13 FRBs detected. 6 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) FRB project7 during its pre-commissioning phase in July and August 2018. These repeat bursts are consistent with originating from a single position on the sky, with the same dispersion measure, about 189 pc cm−3. This traces approximately twice the expected Milky Way column density, and implies an upper limit on the source redshift of 0.1, at least a factor of about 2 closer than FRB 1211028. In some of the repeat bursts, we observe sub-pulse frequency structure, drifting, and spectral variation reminiscent of that seen in FRB 1211029,10, suggesting similar emission mechanisms and/or propagation effects. This second repeater, found among the first few CHIME/FRB discoveries, suggests that there exists—and that CHIME/FRB and other wide-field, sensitive radio telescopes will find—a substantial population of repeating FRBs.”
The 116th Congress opened today with second time speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) as Speaker of the House. Despite the pointless “Never Nancy” posturing of several freshman (and a few veteran) Congress Folk - Nancy Pelosi is the first and second woman to hold the role of Speaker. She’s also the first congressperson to win the role a second time since 1955.
That being said, in order to appease some of the vocal “Never Nancy” folks, Pelosi made some behind closed doors deals with them (which, is all they wanted in the first place) and agreed to step down as Speaker after a four year term.
Pelosi won with 220 votes (of the 218 she needed to win), defeating Republican nominee Kevin McCarthy who now takes the role as Minority Speaker. Here are all the leaders for the 116th Congress (from the House.gov site).
As for the “why” of the “Never Nancy” folks? Well, it doesn’t matter much now (the “pointless “Never Nancy” link above explains some of it), but a lot of them were merely “out with the old, in the with new” types. Which is totally fair. But Nancy Pelosi has become the most powerful female politician the US has ever seen. For a reason. And so all the, “out with the old, in with the new,” folk, as fine an idea as it is, might want to apply some common sense and reason in respect to our current political climate. Experience might be what we actually need to move forward.
Or not. Maybe the “Never Nancy” folks are correct. I guess we’re all about to find out. As for the dissenters - I often find great interest in what dissenters against popular opinion have to say and I am keeping my eye on them. They may have lost this battle but as they say - the war is not over, yet.
Here are the congress people who voted for someone other than/against Pelosi:
Freshmen: Anthony Brindisi (New York), Jim Cooper (Tennessee), Jason Crow (Colorado), Joe Cunningham (South Carolina), Ron Kind (Wisconsin), Conor Lamb (Pennsylvania) Ben McAdams (Utah), Max Rose (New York), Kathleen Rice (New York), Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey), Kurt Schrader (Oregon), Elissa Slotkin (Michigan), Abigail Spanberger (Virginia), Jeff Van Drew (New Jersey) and Jared Golden (Maine).
If you’re a gamer you are already well versed in Twitch and know the name Ninja like the back of your hand, but for most folks, mentioning either will make them say, “What, who?” and “Ninja’s are cool.”
Well, I mean - obviously that’s what they’d say because ninjas are cool (and by cool I mean, totally sweet!). And also, because - Ninja’s have real ultimate power!
But I digress.
So, what is exactly is Twitch and how does one make $10 million dollars on it?
Well, according to Wikipedia:
“Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, "in real life" streams. Content on the site can be viewed either live or via video on demand.”
Um, okay. But where exactly did this Twitch thing come from?
Well, Justin.tv used to be a site where anyone could broadcast a video about … well, whatever they wanted. They idea was supposed to be - broadcast about life. And people did. And Justintv kept adding new content, eventually expanding and including all the good and bad content you can expect when you allow anyone to broadcast anything they want. Then, in 2011 Justintv added a “broadcast about your gaming experience” section, called - Twitch.
And Twitch was popular. I mean, hugely, mind bendingly popular. Far more popular than anything else on Justintv. Suddenly, Justintv exploded upwards of 45 million unique monthly viewers. The company saw opportunity and rebranded as Twitch Interactive and most of (if not all of) the content outside gaming - was shut down.
And then, megacorporation Amazon snapped up Twitch Interactive for a measly $970 million. Now, Twitch has about 27 thousand partner channels, approx. 2.5 million broadcasters, approx. 15 million daily users with about 100 million monthly viewers.
Which means it was probably a $1 billion dollars well spent.
Okay. But how does it work?
Well, you or me, or anyone - create an account on Twitch and then you play games and stream them online. And Twitch broadcasts the game. Live. And folks can watch. And then folks can choose to give you money - so you play more games. Online. So that folk can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online. On Twitch. So folks can watch. And give you more money. So you can play more games. Online - you know what? I think you see where this is going.
Basically, Twitch provides the platform for you to stream games online. And if you’re good enough, or entertaining enough, or cute enough - you can build an audience. And your audiences pays you. Or not.
And you become a success. Or not.
But that’s how you make money (or not). And Ninja (Tyler Blevins) just happens to be the number one earner on Twitch. At one point Ninja had almost 250 thousand subscribers to his Twitch account. Most of which paid him $5. To watch him play games. Some quick math tells me - that’s $1,250,000. After Amazon and Twitch took their fee Ninja still cleared over $800,000.
He’s so popular- he has advertisers. Lots of them. He has merchandise. Lots of it. And he’s sponsored by Red Bull. He’s Red Bull’s official gamer.
Now, Ninja is an extreme example. Not everyone is as popular, or makes as much money as Ninja. But still. There is actually a thing now, that’s out there where you, or me, or your kid - can make $$ - by playing video games. And, I kind of love that.
And that's not ALL because of Twitch. But it mostly is.
From their website:
“Welcome to Twitch. We are a global community of millions who come together each day to create their own entertainment: unique, live, unpredictable, never-to-be repeated experiences created by the magical interactions of the many. With chat built into every stream, you don’t just watch on Twitch, you’re a part of the show.”
So, apparently package theft is even MORE of a problem than I expected. I mean, I know it happens. It’s never happened to me yet, thankfully. But I only order online a couple times a year. It sounds like, for those that order online a lot, you can expect that your packages will just - occasionally, vanish.
According to a 2017 holiday survey by Shorr.com (a packaging company) of more than 1,000 people, if you receive 1-2 packages a month - almost 40% of responders said they had things stolen off their porch. As Mark Rober explains in the video, the police don’t really have the resources to look into a package theft so such crimes largely go unsolved, and in most cases, unreported. Because if it’s happened to you before, and you’ve called the police and they say, “Sorry, there is nothing we can do,” then you will probably not even bother reporting it if it happens to you again.
Well, crazy madman genius NASA engineer Mark Rober has something to say about this. In fact, he has a fart-bomb-glitter-spewing-over-engineered-fake-package-masterpiece to say about this. I’ll let the video speak for itself (it’s the same one on our front page).
My first thought, because I’m a cynic is - “Yeah, this is fun - but are the “thieves” in the video just actor friends of Mark’s?” After some minor Google sleuthing it turns out the answer is - probably not.
It doesn’t matter which source you look into, it sounds as if about one third of Americans report package theft. In the US alone, it appears as if both UPS and FedEx deliver approx. 7 million packages a day and the Post Office handles approx. 1.5 million packages a day (not counting mail). That sum adds up to billions of packages a year. In the US alone! And about one third of Americans report package theft of some kind.
That, my friend, is big package business for thieves. So, I do believe that Mark built his package glitter bomb and when it came time to test it out, sadly, it just wasn’t hard to find actual thieves to came up and steal his fake box. His video does not say one way or another if these people were caught and / or the information used from Mark’s fake package will be used to prosecute the thieves. So if you are looking for some justice, well - we can only hope.
So, who is this guy making said video? Well, Mark Rober is a former NASA engineer who has become an internet sensation because of this (and many other videos). His YouTube channel can be found here. His, attached video, Glitter Bomb vs. Package Thieves has garnered the most attention with more than 25 million views and counting.
Mark’s video certainly will not end package theft but it’s a nice reminder, as many have said, that “Not all superheroes wear capes.” The video is as great as you’d expect it to be.
Finally, here are five things you can do to help keep your package safe:
Movie Pass, a subscription based movie theater service exploded early last year when they offered a “$10 per month to see one movie per day” deal. Many thought it was too good to be true. And many NON subscribers to Movie Pass got high and mighty and wrote smug article, after smug article about how Movie Pass was going to crash and burn.
Well, they were all wrong. Movie Pass has actually been around for several years and it’s still here. Will it be here in five years? I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you that it’s currently still a good deal. It’s certainly not the sweetheart deal it once was, but it’s still good. And now, starting in January 2019, it’s going to get better. Again, not the sweetheart deal it used to be, but much better than the current, “Decent but kind of a pain in the ass” deal it is right now.
Movie Pass, currently, offers a subscriber three 2D movies per month for a $10 monthly fee. Which is a fine deal; however, Movie Pass chooses which movies you are allowed to see each day. And each day they offer a completely different selection. Which means you have to dig through their calendar and find the movie that you want to see. Then you note, “Oh, the movie I want to see is only being offered through Movie Pass at 4:20pm on Wed at a theater that’s 30 minutes away from me. Well, I guess that’s when / where I’ll go see it then!”
So, you will (probably) still get to see the movie you want to see. But you have to put some legwork into it. This is a far cry from their initial “You can see one movie per day for $10 per month.” So, I can understand why customers were reasonably pissed off with terms of service change after change.
But most writers are clearly not subscribers to Movie Pass. So they’re smugly writing snotty hit pieces so if Movie Pass fails they can say, “I told you so! I knew it was going to fail! That’s why I never signed up!”
Um. Okay. You go ahead and do that then. I’ll be over here saving lots of $$$ by using my Movie Pass three times a month. Here are their new terms of service starting in January.
The Select Plan ($9.99 per month): Three movies a month but your choices are restricted to selections by Movie Pass that changes each day. This is exactly what Movie Pass has been offering since August.
The All Access Plan ($14.99 per month): Three movies a month and you can see any standard 2D screening of any movie in your area. This looks to be the best deal.
The Red Carpet Plan ($19.99 per month): Any three standard 2D movies per month plus one Imax or 3D screening per month. I don’t give a damn about 3-D movies. Perhaps you do and this is the plan for you but I’ll be sticking with the All Access. (Here’s how I feel about 3-D films).
This is exactly what they should have been doing since day one. Three plans. I don’t see why it took them so long to figure this out. Now, just as Movie Pass offered last year, the best deal out of a subscription will be if you pay for the entire year up front. For example: if you sign up for the one year All Access Plan you only pay $120.00. Which is a significant discount. But, obviously, that means you have to pay the full $120 up front. Which I’m fine with but some folks might not be. You won’t be able to sign up for the plan until January but Movie Pass has them displayed at their site here for you to check out.
Finally, does this mean Movie Pass will succeed brilliantly? I don’t know. But the bottom line is this - they are currently offering a really great deal (again). Even at $15 a month, as long as you see three movies per, you are saving a ton of cash. I paid about $120 for my yearly subscription to Movie Pass and I watched about 30 movies in 2018 with an average ticket price of $12 per. That’s about $360 worth of movies for $120.
So, if Movie Pass lost $240 on me alone, how does Movie Pass make money, or stay in business? Well - that’s not my problem. =)
But to give you a general example of how they (potentially can) make money: they are investing in feature films, they are looking into building theater chains, they are advertising specific movies to the customers, they are data marketing and mining. Here is a good piece about how they (potentially can) make money if you want to spend more time reading into it.
Again, I don’t claim to know how long Movie Pass will be around. But for now, Movie Pass is still a good deal. And the pain in the ass “we change what movies you can see every day” will go away if I upgrade my subscription for an extra $5 monthly fee.
Which I will totally do as soon as I am able.