Hauling Mud in Santa Barbara County

The Thomas Fire’s effects linger. In this photo, two trucks that are hauling mud and dirt from Montecito to the ocean pass each other on Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria on a beautiful, sleepy Sunday afternoon. Three weeks after the Montecito mud slides, an entire city may well still be in the process of being relegated to the ocean and posterity. Two trucks hauling mud from Montecito to the ocean in Carpinteria.

Rockers Continue to Annoy

It is unclear whether the members of Kiss are investors in this endeavor or merely offering an endorsement for cash, but Rock and Brews is the singularly most annoying and cruel endeavor that either man has ever undertaken. The restaurant is situated next to gate 53B at LAX, whence my flight to Boston departs. The 80s hair rock and heavy metal music that is being blasted from this restaurant is so damn annoying that I had to escape the waiting area at the gate in order to compose this angry complaint. The members of Kiss–Gene Simmons in particular–are famous for an expansive history of misogyny and exploitation that stands unrivaled (if one believes their stories). Why on earth they would elect to annoy the hell out of tens of thousands of passengers who depart from the six nearby gates daily is testimony to their persistent sadism. They could have started a music school or a charity or a rehab program. Instead, they elected to blast some of the shittiest music ever recorded into the ears of hapless, trapped travelers. The real tragedy is that the overpriced beer will line their pockets in the end. It is hard to like the masochists who patronize this establishment. This nightmare of an eatery is the last thing one wants to endure after passing through the ordeals of getting to LAX and passing security.

Kiss members shilling overpriced beer.

Where are the Borders in the Computing Cloud?

Nominally, the case (linked at the end) is about “privacy”, but the underlying questions are far deeper and far more relevant to anyone who is using any form of “cloud” service: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, etc. The government insists that it can access data belonging to a suspect even if that data is stored on a server in another country, but the service company, Microsoft in this case, insists that it cannot provide that data because that act violates the terms under which it operates its servers in Ireland. The question is, therefore, where is the virtual border drawn? Is material belonging to an American subject but stored on a server in a foreign country under a foreign account that was created in that country subject to US law or the laws of the country in which the account was created. A question in the affirmative leads to the following conundrum.

“If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post on Monday.

Where is the line drawn? Does the account belong to the person and, thus, subject to the laws of whichever country in which the person is residing, or is the data owned by the provider and, thus, subject to the laws of the country in which that provider is operating? If the former, then, indeed, foreign countries can have free access to data stored on American servers. This will please Chinese officials who want to identify dissidents. If the latter, then some country–perhaps Ireland–may well become a haven for data akin to the way Switzerland is a haven for money. Neither branch of the dilemma is particularly satisfying. Not solving this problem is an invitation to disaster in the not too distant future as our data slowly come to represent the totality of our existence.

What do we  want as users? Do we want our data to be ours, or do we want to relinquish control to technology companies in order to relieve ourselves of the responsibility of living with the consequences of the data? The breakneck pace of progress in technology doesn’t leave much time for the deep discussion that the subject demands. When the shit hits the fan, it’s going to get really messy. Wear your best virtual rubbers.

Source: U.S. Supreme Court to decide major Microsoft email privacy fight

Facebook to Use AI to Alleviate Its Greed

Facebook plans to use artificial intelligence and update its tools and services to help prevent suicides among its users.

Artificial intelligence is touted as the solution to everything these days, but with respect to suicides committed on or because of Facebook,  AI feels like a band-aid. The only way Facebook can really help prevent suicides is by making its service less addictive so that users can spend more time in real social circumstances with real people instead of being trapped inside a cold illusion of a social experience spawned from their smart phone. Making FB less addictive, however, will make FB lose revenue because its revenues are tied intimately to the number of eyeballs that are glued to the FB web site. Hence, progress is not profitable. The only benefit to society may be the development of an AI baby sitter. As FB and the rest of “social” media infantilize us all, the market will be briskfor such a product.

Source: Facebook turns to artificial intelligence to tackle suicides

Peace Lily Blooms Again

For the first three years of its life in my domicile, this peace lily was constantly in bloom with one or two beautiful flowers, but it stopped blooming after I moved to the house. It’s unclear if it didn’t like the smaller confines of the bedroom in the house, or if it was not feeling any good vibes from other plants during the long drought, but shortly after I moved it to the dining room, it rewarded me with the most spectacular bloom it has ever produced. I can’t believe the size of this flower!

My seven-year-old peace lilly makes a comeback.


Ending a Legendary Career with Greasy Eggs

About 17 years ago, I ate at two Wolfgang Puck restaurants: Chinois on Main and Granita in Malibu. Both were culinary delights, but not worth the hassle. (Lucques was the only restaurant that was worth the hassle.) It is a mystery as to why he lent his name to so many mediocre enterprises like TV dinners and fast food stands at malls and airports. After all, he was already damn wealthy by virtue of his books, restaurants and TV appearances. Alice Waters, his mentor, never felt any such compulsion, and her brand remained undiluted. Based on the picture below, Puck’s brand is now so diluted and debased that he has his picture next to greasy eggs. It is a denouement that can only elicit schadenfreude, not any sympathy. Here is a man who abandoned a promising career in the culinary arts for a couple bucks shilling greasy eggs. 

What a slut. 

I had a bagel and cream cheese at Starbucks. That is a far better choice for the captive passenger. 

Statins for Los Angeles Traffic

The same way cholesterol clogs arteries, bad drivers clog freeways. People with persistently high cholesterol take statins to lower them. A good public transit system is the statin that will take some of the lousy drivers off the LA freeways and keep the traffic flowing. When that happens, I won’t resent my family for inviting me to endure LA traffic for an overpriced restaurant dinner, and I won’t have to end a very exciting freeway race with a Ferrari in the hands of a very capable driver just because the DAMN FREEWAY IS CLOGGED AT 2 PM ON A SATURDAY!!!!

405 Traffic at 2 PM on a Saturday
405 Traffic at 2 PM on a Saturday
405 N Slowdown at 10:30 PM on a Saturday

Ferrari Bucks the Trend After Brexit

It’s been a grim day in the stock markets after the United Kingdom narrowly elected to exit the European Union. This vote triggered a bloodbath in the global markets. All stocks are red in my stocks app, but Ferrari manages to eke a gain on this grim economic day. WTF?

Political Parties and Political Jokes

David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists were masterpieces of comedy. If he had a top ten list titled “Top Ten Signs Your Political Party is a Joke”, then the number one reason would almost certainly be “Your most popular candidate is Write-In”.  The results are still fresh, but that outcome is not likely to change for the American Independent “Party” in Ventura County. The screen grabs below show that candidate Write-In is the top vote getter for this political “party”.

As of this writing, the total votes cast in Ventura County were 81,991. This means the American Independent Party received 1.3% of the total votes cast, The Green Party 0.2%, and the Libertarian Party 0.5%. These statistics and the popularity of the respective write-in candidates overwhelmingly support the notion that the majority of the people in the AIP are the ones who erroneously confused its name with the unaffiliated voter designation. They likely wrote in Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders as a result. The math then means that the AIP chosen candidates garnered a mere 0.4% of the vote.

Does this make the Green Party a joke? After all, a hoax played on the public is attracting more votes than a party that has been active for over 20 years.

The strangest thing is that the Libertarians–people who are so obsessed with their own point of view–miraculously found enough consensus to support one candidate.

Of course, since none of these parties seems to have attracted more than 1% of the vote even statewide (results are all the way on the bottom, with 22% of precincts reporting), every single one is, frankly, a joke. We Americans like power and powerful parties. We seem to like it that way because we enjoy complaining about them. The fact that we distance ourselves from idealists who will undoubtedly irreparably disrupt the scantly orderly society we have  speaks volumes the wisdom of the American masses.

Unless there is a President Trump.

On second thought, maybe the greatest joke is a party that traces its roots to the abolition of slavery has managed to select a bigot as its leader.

Write-In is the most popular American Independent Party Candidate. The members are so independent that they can't reach consensus.
Write-In is the most popular American Independent Party Candidate. The members are so independent that they can’t reach consensus.
The Green Party is faring slightly better than AIP. Write-In candidate still registers, but it's the runner up.
The Green Party is faring slightly better than AIP. Write-In candidate still registers, but it’s the runner up.
Libertarians are almost looking like a bona fide party. The Write-In candidate is also the runner up but by a much larger margin than the Green Write-In candidate.
Libertarians are almost looking like a bona fide party. The Write-In candidate is also the runner up but by a much larger margin than the Green Write-In candidate.


Dem total



GOP total









Peace & Freedom






Luxe: The End of the Second Tech Boom

The fatality is terribly sad, but it highlights the fact that tech entrepreneurs are scraping the bottom of the barrel of ideas. Valet parking is little more than a peculiar appeal to the common man’s ego. Why would anyone want to undercut the patchwork of small businesses that use this gimmick to earn a meager living? Uber disrupted the taxi service, but they arguably provided opportunities for many people. Air B ‘n B is finding opportunity at a time when hotel vacancies are very low. Luxe is trying to make poor people poorer, it would seem.

The app economy is very quickly becoming very boring.

The on-demand valet parking service says it’s the first fatality involving one of its drivers since it started in October 2014. The accident comes weeks after the San Francisco company secures $50 million in financing.

Source: Luxe valet driver involved in fatal accident – CNET