Friday, August 17, 2018

Dealing with a riot or political unrest

We've seen how demonstrations on both the left and right of US politics have led to increasing violence on our streets.  For those of us living in cities where this sort of thing is common, it's an unpleasant reminder that we aren't necessarily safe from extremists, even in our own homes.  There's also the criminal element that takes advantage of such unrest for its own purposes.  Those of us living further away from such incidents may nevertheless find ourselves at risk if we have to travel to other centers.

Greg Ellifritz, whom we've met in these pages before, recently compiled a list of useful articles about what to do in a riot or unrest situation.  He begins:

With the riots heating up in the Pacific Northwest,  lots of folks have contacted me about re-posting some of my riot survival articles.

Here is my best advice...

Stay away from any scheduled protests, riots, uprisings, or large political gatherings.  It is absolutely not safe to attend such an event in today’s political climate.  I hope my readers are smart enough to recognize that.   Both sides of most of these “protests” are at fault.  Both sides show up looking for a fight.  Both sides get exactly what they came for.  The only way to avoid violence like that on a personal level is to avoid being present in the first place.

The only way to avoid such violence on a societal level is to refuse to give either group the attention they are looking for.  Don’t attend the rallies.  Don’t post news of the event on your Facebook wall.  Let these idiots die the obscure death they deserve.

There's more at the link, including links to several very useful articles.  They make informative and educational reading.

I strongly recommend that any of my readers who live in areas at high risk for such problems should read all the articles, share them with their families and friends, and bookmark, or save, or print them out for future reference.  The biggest aid to security is being aware of problems before they arise, and knowing what to do about them when they do.  These articles will help you do both.


The cashless society is meeting opposition again - this time from banks

We've discussed the so-called "cashless society" in these pages on prior occasions.  I'm fundamentally opposed to it for several reasons, not least of which is the added control it provides to Big Brother to monitor and control our every financial transaction.  However, its practical disadvantages now appear to be taking center stage with central and commercial banks.

“The digitalized system, it is easy for someone in Russia, China, whatever to just shut it off,” Björn Eriksson, the head of a pro-cash lobby group Cash Uprising and former head of crime-fighting agency Interpol. “[Cash] you can hide in your car, or your stove, or whatever.”

He added: “I can see a growing concern in my country about what is going to happen when someone decides to switch them off. What are the activities you can do to keep society moving?”

Central bankers are watching — and getting anxious.

“Increasingly, central banks insist that cash will also play a role. We do not foresee a totally cashless society,” said Ewald Nowotny, governor of the Austrian National Bank, at a recent conference in Brussels. “If there is for instance an energy blackout, cash is the only surviving way of payment.”

A senior official at the Dutch central bank echoed the sentiment.

“We’re under attack every day. If you don’t have your shields up, you notice activity straight away,” said Petra Hielkema, director of payments at the Dutch Central Bank, who watches over cybersecurity policy.

. . .

An outage of Visa services in June— caused by a system failure — gave a small taste of the risk, said Kevin Curran, a professor of cybersecurity at Ulster University in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Customers across the EU were left unable to pay for goods and services, and the situation revealed “there really is no backup,” Curran said.

“When the trolley came around on the train and the card payment wasn’t working, the only people who could eat were those with cash,” he said.

The move away from cash is driven partly by commercial interests, as businesses go card-only for efficiency and in response to consumer demands. Commercial banks are also shutting down branches in favor of digital services.

Some governments encourage a shift toward digital services because they see it as a way to address money-laundering and tax evasion, and also to boost competition in financial services.  Others argue that digital payments protect consumers from being robbed or losing money, as well as sparing them the hassle of constantly carrying a wallet.

There's more at the link.

Credit and debit cards, payment apps on a smartphone, and other electronic payment systems are dominant in many countries - and not just in the First World.  Africa has seen an explosion of smartphone payment and money transfer systems, because the banking infrastructure in many countries on that continent is still sparse and inefficient.

Nevertheless, the problems described above remain.  We've seen them here in the USA on several occasions.  It's one reason why keeping one to two months' worth of cash in reserve - enough to pay all your routine bills and expenditures - is a very good idea;  and not in a bank, either, but in cash, in a safe place (not necessarily at home, but somewhere thieves are unlikely to suspect it might be stashed).  If a technological or criminal crunch comes, and banks and other payment systems are no longer available for some time, it might be a life-saver - literally.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

If not Mormon, are they now Less-Mon?

I can understand the call by President Nelson for his denomination to use the name given to it by its founder, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", rather than the appellation "Mormon" that has become widespread.  The latter has taken on a certain negativity, particularly in liberal political circles, and the longer, more neutral original name of the church will hopefully get away from that.

I can't help poking fun at my many LDS friends, though.  If they're not Mormons any more, should they now be considered Less-Mons?


Sometimes the police can't win for losing

Calibre Press posted this video a few days ago.

In an accompanying article, the author pointed out:

Only one person should be talking to the witnesses and taking information—confidential information, as it is—from the victims. That person in this case, Officer Bartynski. No one else should inject themselves into the investigation.

This is too much, it seems, for Rev. David Bullock.

. . .

I’m not going to detail everything Reverend Bullock said over the course of the video. But what I will say is that this is a sad state of affairs we’re in.

Elites criticize peace officers with impunity. They talk about the “epidemic of police violence” and “systemic racism.” And this has consequences. People, like Rev. Bullock, apparently, have come to see police, laws, and, ultimately, our democracy as illegitimate.

Upon his release the pastor again disparaged the entire police profession stating that racist arrests like his are why the community doesn’t cooperate with the police.

Let’s consider this specific incident. Once Bullock clearly states he isn’t going to obey the officer, what are Bartynski’s options? Let him continue to interfere? Allow the pastor to give his uneducated opinions to the victim and her family? Wait until the pastor has confused and delayed the process for as long as he likes?

There's more at the link.

I think the author is exactly right.  This sort of racially motivated interference in routine police work is inappropriate, unacceptable and inexcusable.  If actual police misconduct is observed, then of course those comments no longer apply:  but in this case, no such misconduct is evident.  There's merely a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the pastor, who seems to anticipate that every police intervention is or will be motivated by animus rather than the requirements of the law.  (He also needs a few lessons in the use of language more appropriate to his calling.)

That sort of bias is what's destroying many communities.  Yes, some police deserve suspicion and distrust - but the majority of them don't.  Unless and until we can educate our community leaders to distinguish between those two categories, things are not going to improve.


Not just a moral or public relations crisis, but a criminal crisis

I didn't write more yesterday about the latest child sex abuse scandal - "scandal":  what a pathetically inadequate word! - to hit the Catholic Church.  The reality was too stomach-churning for me - or anyone in his or her right mind - to face.  Nevertheless, I've returned to reading more of the Pennsylvania report, and other people's views and comments on it.  I think there's an aspect of this situation that isn't being properly addressed.

The Catholic Church is already trying to "spin" this as a public relations crisis rather than anything more.  Efforts are being made to minimize the damage by pointing out that the offenses concerned took place a long time ago;  that things have improved since then;  that new measures now in place would have resulted in a very different outcome had they been in operation when the sins/crimes/whatever actually happened;  and so on and so forth, ad nauseam.  This ignores the reality that at any time, the acts concerned were crimes.  They were not merely moral offenses (although they certainly were that, in the most grievous possible way).  They were offenses against the laws and standards of civilized society.

The Pennsylvania report describes, in horrific detail, how child rape was deliberately described as "crossing boundaries" or "inappropriate contact" rather than what it was.  Bishops and administrators actively took steps to hide such crimes from police, and/or to subvert their investigation by dealing with compliant (dare one say co-conspirator?) agencies and individuals.  Official "fixers" working for or with secular authorities connived with the Church to suppress reports, prevent or hinder investigations, and cover up settlements.

Such connivance has a legal name.  It's called being an accessory to a crime.  It may involve elements of criminal conspiracy and/or criminal facilitation.  In the cases under discussion, these elements are arguably present before a crime when a Bishop or other church authority, knowing that a priest has already committed sexual offenses against a minor, reassigns him to a post where he can reoffend.  They are arguably present after a crime when Church authorities seek to minimize, cover up, dismiss, or obstruct the investigation of the offense(s) concerned.  Being an accessory to a crime means that one shares the guilt of the actual criminal, to a greater or lesser extent.

Much play has also been given to the fact that most of the criminals responsible for offenses enumerated in the Pennsylvania report can no longer be prosecuted, because the statute of limitations for such offenses has run out.  Effectively, they've got away scot-free, with no fear of secular punishment for their crimes.  The same applies to Church authorities who permitted, tolerated or enabled them to do so.  That's absolutely sickening, monstrous beyond belief . . . but it's the reality of the situation.

I submit that the statute of limitations governing such offenses needs to be removed in its entirety.  If the crime was committed, let it be prosecuted and punished.  Let there be no "get out of jail free" card for the criminal(s) who perpetrated it.  Let that apply also to all who were accessories before or after the fact of the crime.  They, too, should face condign punishment.  Anything less is a travesty of justice, and a moral obscenity besides.

The secular authorities can't demand that suspects undergo a polygraph examination.  Even if they voluntarily do so, its results aren't admissible in court.  However, I think the time has come for the Church to demand, in terms of their vows and/or promises of obedience, that all suspected of involvement in this crisis, from the highest-ranking to the lowest, should undergo polygraph examination by Church investigators.  Any issues uncovered by it should be the subject of further, urgent investigation, and anything confirmed by such investigations should also be reported - in full, without redaction or attempts to mitigate its consequences for the institution - to the secular authorities.

Pious platitudes will no longer serve any purpose except that of the Devil.  It's time to once again drive the wrongdoers out of the Temple, to bring "not peace, but a sword" to the structure and hierarchy of the Church.  Anything less will allow this rottenness to continue to fester in her bosom, to her permanent and eternal detriment.

Those familiar with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement will recall a prophetic message delivered in Rome in 1975, in the presence of Pope Paul VI.  It has resonated in and through that movement, with its particular spirituality, ever since.  You can read about it here, if you're interested.  Whether or not one is a member of that movement, if this present crisis isn't a dramatic affirmation of that message, I don't know what is or will be.

I know that at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the USA have either left the Church for another spiritual home, or ceased practicing their faith (in the public forum, at least).  I've heard from more than a few of them over the years.  I can only speculate how many may have done so in other countries.  For all their (and my) acceptance of the teaching of the Church, her implementation of that teaching in her own structure and hierarchy, in the context of the clergy sex abuse crisis, has been so fundamentally flawed, so gravely sinful, so morally catastrophic, as to obscure every other element of her ministry.  That factor alone has made it morally impossible for many formerly faithful Catholics to stand with her in her present human form, to cleave to her in unquestioning fidelity.  Unless and until she takes the situation seriously, and accepts that many of her leaders have been criminally as well as morally guilty of the gravest possible offenses, that situation cannot and will not improve.

Some will reject what I've just said.  They'll point to spiritual rather than temporal issues, and claim that one's duty to God must necessarily include fidelity to his Church.  To them, I can only say that I think they've never experienced serious abuse as children.  The reality of that abuse in the hearts and minds and souls of the victims is simply indescribable.  I invite all of you to try to put yourselves in the shoes of a child as he or she (in the context of the Catholic crisis, usually he) is stripped naked, fondled, abused, raped . . . and then told, by the perpetrators - those he's been taught by his parents are spiritual authorities - that it's his fault, or that he mustn't talk about it, or that God will be angry if he doesn't allow future abuses.  That reality is so ghastly, in the mind of a child, as to defy description.  Is it any wonder that so many victims grow up permanently warped and twisted, psychologically and spiritually, by that experience?  Is it any wonder that some of them have been so deeply, profoundly scarred by the experience that they've never been able to live normal lives with their spouses, and have handed down their trauma and damaged psyches to their children?  Is it any wonder that some have taken their own lives, rather than live with the shattering effects of past abuse?

If anyone of faith can gloss over all that, and still insist that fidelity to the institution, in spite of its human conduct, is more important than holding it accountable for such monstrosities, demanding real, meaningful reform to prevent it ever happening again on such a scale or being connived at by Church authorities . . . I submit that their faith needs serious re-examination.

The Church proclaims herself to be the eternal Bride of Christ, but that reality appears to be no longer found in all those who lead her.  If the Bishops are the successors to the Apostles, one can only speculate which Apostle some of them have chosen to follow.  I can think of one in particular.  His name wasn't Peter, but Judas.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pedophilia and the Catholic Church: It's time for action

I'm sure most of my readers have by now heard about the publication of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania.  It investigated pedophile acts by clergy and laity in the Catholic Church over a period of some decades.  The full report is devastating.  Over a thousand known victims;  hundreds of guilty persons;  and a massive, deliberate, institutionalized cover-up of the facts by bishops and other authority figures within the Church.

I've written about this many times before, in the light of my own experiences within the Church - most recently just a few weeks ago.  I won't repeat my sentiments here.  It would be pointless.

However, for me, this grand jury report is the last straw.  There is no longer any excuse for allowing the Church to police herself.  The time has come to enforce policing upon her.  If we don't, this will happen again, and again, and again.  Sooner or later, we have to draw a line in the sand and say, "No further!"  I believe that time has now come.  I suggest the following steps.

  1. The first measure must be imposed on the Church by civil authorities.  Investigations under the RICO statute(Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) should be summarily launched in every single diocese where clergy pedophilia is known to have occurred.  All those involved in it - actors, those who covered it up, those who permitted it to continue by transferring priests to different locations where they could offend again, those who selected or approved candidates for ordination knowing of their deviant sexual status, the whole schmear - should be prosecuted under RICO, wherever possible.  Where the statute of limitations on those offenses have expired, it should be extended to permit prosecution.  If a long-term, repeated pattern of abuse can be identified and proved in court, that diocese as an entity or organization should face the maximum penalties under RICO, up to and including being shut down by the law.
  2. The Church must deal publicly and ruthlessly with its own "problem children".  Every single bishop, vicar general, chancellor, vocations director, seminary professor or lecturer, etc. who ever permitted, tolerated, covered up, or otherwise enabled pedophile actions, by commission or by omission, should be forced to resign their positions, and never again trusted in public ministry.  Those who have made vows or promises of obedience should be ordered to live the rest of their lives penitentially and prayerfully, perhaps in a monastery of strict discipline, perhaps in another form of private life where separation from the people of God is enforced.
  3. Those who do not merit removal from office must nevertheless be aware that this problem must be, and will be, rooted out.  In the past, one would have presumed that those in ordained ministry would have at least some fear of God's justice.  Sadly, events have demonstrated that this is probably a pipe dream.  Nevertheless, every single ordained minister of the Church should be ordered, on pain of instant and irreversible removal from the clerical state, to swear an oath, under the most severe penalties, that he has never engaged in any pedophile act, never covered one up, never helped to enable a pedophile to continue his career, or in any other way permitted, tolerated or encouraged this sin.  If they won't take the oath, laicize them on the spot.  The penalty for perjury, if and when discovered, should be instant, automatic, and irreversible excommunication from the Church.  I think Matthew 18:6 is sufficiently explicit to warrant such a punishment.
  4. The Church's structures and institutions for selecting, educating and ordaining candidates to the priesthood must be reformed to eliminate, as far as possible, every influence and individual who might select any but the most orthodox, committed and faithful would-be clergy.

The book "Goodbye, good men" describes the situation that developed in US seminaries and dioceses in the past.  Sadly, this is often still the case.  The entire process must be reformed.  If the US church will not do it itself, then reform must be imposed from outside.

For myself . . . I find myself saddened, yet again, beyond my ability to describe it.  I've been accused of being a traitor to God and the Church by turning my back on it and my vocation, and walking away from the priesthood.  I was excoriated for not staying in the priesthood and working to fix the problem, instead of running away from it.  I did not do that because I saw no meaningful way whatsoever of working to correct the problem, inside an institution that was working to cover it up rather than fix it.  I believed that staying within so fundamentally flawed an institution - not in its Divine sense, but in its human sense - would actually help to perpetuate the problem, rather than solve it.  Nothing I've seen in recent years has led me to revise that belief.  Instead, events have reinforced it.

I believe that the human institution of the Catholic Church has so damaged itself that it is no longer salvageable except by radically stripping and pruning it of all who are or have been complicit in this disaster, from the highest levels to the lowest.  It appears that the Church cannot or will not do this from within;  therefore, I believe the time has come that it must be imposed from outside.  The alternative is to see this situation continue - and that is so wrong, on moral, ethical and legal grounds, as to be absolutely intolerable.

Meanwhile, until that is done, I suggest that the faithful should withhold their support from the Church for all except its local needs.  A parish should support its own activities, that goes without saying;  but any special collections, any appeals for Diocesan projects, any funding of anything outside the immediate oversight and scrutiny of those donating the money, should be summarily rejected.  The institution of the Church depends on its deep pockets - so sew them shut.  Deprive those who have allowed this problem to arise and continue, of the financial wherewithal to keep on doing so.

Finally, to those who are still faithful, please don't be angry at the press and others who have exposed this problem for what it is.  As I said a long time ago:

I ... had to ask whether God wasn't deliberately using the news media to accomplish something He'd been trying to get His bishops to do for years – decades! - without success. Since they'd so signally failed in their responsibilities, it seemed to me that the Lord appeared to be using the news media instead – conspicuously less than holy though it might be in many ways – to clean up His Church.

I've seen nothing to make me change that opinion.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the reporters, legal professionals, and others who've refused to let things lie, and have continued to investigate this crisis and bring it to the attention of the public.  I believe they are doing God's work, where the bishops have failed to do so.

Nevertheless, I remain sickened, saddened and in mourning for what the bishops have done to what was once the institution to which I swore obedience, and expected to serve for the rest of my life.  I no longer know what to expect when my own time comes to encounter God's judgment.  Heaven knows, I'm at least as much of a sinner as anyone else.  Will I find understanding and mercy at the end?  Or have I forfeited them by "looking back" after my ordination?  I don't know, in human terms.  All I can say is, if I had to make the same choice again, I'd probably do today what I did at the time.  In conscience, I could do no less.  May God forgive me if I'm wrong.


EDITED TO ADD:  Go read Rod Dreher's impressions of the report.  He lays it out in sickening detail.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I approve this message

Shamelessly stolen from Daily Timewaster:

Short, succinct, and to the point.


Remembering the Vela Incident

Older readers may remember rumors of a nuclear explosion in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1979, which could not be verified at the time.  This became known as the Vela Incident.  A recent news report claims new evidence indicates that it was, indeed, a nuclear bomb.

Ever since the flash was observed by a U.S. “Vela” satellite orbiting above Earth in September 1979, there’s been speculation that it was produced from a nuclear weapon test by Israel.

. . .

The flash was located in the area of Marion and Prince Edward islands, which are in the South Indian Ocean about halfway between Africa and Antarctica.

. . .

The researchers conclude that iodine-131, which is an unstable radioactive form of the element iodine found in the thyroids of some Australian sheep, “would be consistent with them having grazed in the path of a potential radioactive fallout plume from a [September 22, 1979] low-yield nuclear test in the Southern Indian Ocean.”

Thyroid samples from sheep killed in Melbourne were regularly sent to the U.S. for testing—monthly in 1979 but also in the 1950s and 1980s, researchers say.

According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, the sheep had been grazing in an area hit by rain four days after the flash incident was observed, which would have been in the downwind path from the suspected explosion site.

Researcher also said the detection of a “hydroacoustic signal” from underwater listening devices at the time is another piece of evidence pointing to a nuclear test.

There's more at the link.

Here's a rather dramatic, overly florid documentary about the Vela Incident. It's not altogether accurate; for example, the flash was not detected near Bouvet Island, as it claims, but near the Prince Edward Islands. Nevertheless, it provides more information about the initial investigation into the incident.

Almost forty years after the Vela Incident, I suppose there's not much risk involved in talking about it.  I was in a position to know something about it.  According to what I was told, then and subsequently, the explosion was to test an initiator for an Israeli nuclear warhead.  Apparently only a very small device was tested, because all it had to do was prove that the initiator worked.  That would then guarantee the ignition/detonation of a much more powerful nuclear bomb, which would not have to be tested at full strength - something that was sure to be detected, and therefore was most undesirable.

I understood that Israel approached South Africa for assistance in arranging the test in a remote part of the South Atlantic Ocean.  The Prince Edward Islands were (and still are) South African possessions.  There is no normal sea traffic in the vicinity except to resupply a weather station on Marion Island, once or twice a year.  Their extreme isolation therefore made this an ideal location for a very small-scale nuclear test.  It would be conducted at sea, not on land, so as to leave as little evidence as possible.  It was hoped that the (usually severe) weather conditions in the area would help to mask an atmospheric detonation, so that its very small shock-wave would not be detected.  However, the clouds cleared momentarily during the test, allowing a US Vela satellite to detect the characteristic double light pulse of a nuclear explosion.

At the time, both Israel and South Africa denied that the flash was the result of a nuclear explosion.  Other evidence was inconclusive, made more so by the difficulty of gathering it in so remote a location.  By the time WC-135 "sniffer" aircraft could be sent downwind of such a remote location to test the air (it took days after the blast to get them there), the atmospheric residue of the blast had largely dissipated.  I'm not surprised to hear that a small increase in radiation was later detected in sheep in Australia;  the "Roaring Forties" would have carried radioactive particles that far without difficulty.

Quite apart from what I heard and was told at the time, Commodore Dieter Gerhardt, then Commanding Officer of the South African Navy Dockyard at Simonstown, and who was later unmasked as a Soviet spy, later confirmed that he had similar information about the Vela incident.  Subsequent investigations tend to confirm that what we knew then was substantially correct, although details differ according to the source(s) they used.

I think the latest news report is substantially accurate.  If what I learned at the time is correct, it would imply that Israel possessed at least boosted fission weapons, and possibly full-blown thermonuclear bombs, by the early 1980's.  In the almost four decades since then, I'm certain they've gone a long way further.  They've developed their own cruise missiles for a submarine-based deterrent, the so-called "Popeye Turbo" weapon, which suggests that they now have miniaturized thermonuclear warheads to fit them.  I'm sure they also have air-launched missiles capable of carrying similar warheads, as well as gravity bombs, probably fitted with guidance systems similar to the JDAM used by the USAF (and Israel).  They also developed, and still field, the Jericho series of ballistic missiles.


A different view of President Trump's election and the backlash against it

Courtesy of a link at Borepatch's place, I found four articles analyzing the history of the Trump "insurgent campaign" for the presidency, and why the reaction against it - and him - from the progressive Left has been so overwhelming.  They provide additional details and insight that I haven't found elsewhere.

The author calls the series "The Kek Wars".  The four parts are:

To whet your appetite, here are the final two paragraphs of the last article in the series.

In the history of every empire, there comes a point when the costs of maintaining the empire exceeds the profits. We got to that point quite some time ago, and the policies that drove the US working class into destitution and misery can best be understood as attempts to keep the privileged classes comfortable by shoving the rising costs of empire onto everyone else.  The end of free-trade arrangements, the retreat from foreign military commitments such as NATO, and the first steps toward a modus vivendi with Russia, North Korea, and other rival nations are necessary steps in the retreat from empire. Off in the distance, on the far side of the Changer’s upriver journey, we can see the first dim foreshadowings of post-imperial America, and with any luck, of a nation a little less riven by rigid class barriers and so a little more likely to deal with its many pressing problems.

Mind you, fifty years from now, there will doubtless still be people who get their moth-eaten pussy hats down from a box in the attic, and reminisce fondly about the good old days when the United States could still pretend to be the world’s irreplaceable nation, when Barack Obama used drone strikes to vaporize wedding parties on the other side of the world and the deplorables still knew their place. That’s the nature of outworn aristocracies; on a broader scale, it’s the nature of historical change—especially when the deep patterns of the collective psyche surge into action and leave the presumptions of a fading era shattered in their wake.

I highly recommend reading all four articles in sequence.  I think they're worth your time.


Chopsticks that give you an electric shock???

I'm a bit mind-boggled by what promises to be a genuine taste sensation - albeit not the sort of sensation I want anywhere near my mouth!

Scientists have developed a pair of chopsticks, that can make food taste saltier, sour or bitter without the need for extra seasoning.

They are also working on a spoon and fork that could make food taste spicier or sweeter.

. . .

The utensils work by delivering pulses of electricity to the tip of the tongue to stimulate the taste buds.

Dr Nimesha Ranasinghe, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maine who led the work on the electric cutlery, said:

"This technology is aimed at overlaying a virtual taste sensation. Depending on the food or beverage, it will augment the flavor.

"For example, when we eat mashed potato by applying an additional layer of electric salt, the overall flavor is enhanced."

Some Chinese takeaway food and ready meals were recently found to contain up to 11 times more salt than a bag of crisps - more than half an adults daily allowance. Salt is known to be linked to serious health problems like heart disease and stroke.

But using a pair of electric chopsticks could help cut salt levels without leaving it tasting bland, said Dr Ranasinghe.

The technology, which Dr Ranasinghe initially developed while at the University of Singapore, works by installing two electrodes into each chopstick or the end of a spoon.

These send a weak current through the tip of the tongue when they touch it to stimulate the taste buds.

By controlling the frequency, amplitude and strength of the electric current, the researchers can stimulate either sourness, saltiness and bitterness.

There's more at the link.

Electric seasonings???  Ye Gods and little fishes . . . what a shocking idea!  However, I suspect it'll only work in restaurants.  Most of us wouldn't want to use that at ohm.

(Go on - contribute your own puns in Comments!)


Monday, August 13, 2018

Keeping his cool

Received by e-mail, origin unknown:


The world is NOT a big, happy, adventurous playground . . .

. . . and, with surprising frequency, people who assume it is, die for their mistake.  The latest victims were a cycling foursome in Tajikistan.

[JAY Austin and Lauren Geoghegan] dropped everything in pursuit of a worldwide adventure in July 2017 — but it would eventually lead to them being horrifically killed for being “unbelievers”.

The well-travelled couple, both 29, kept a detailed blog and Instagram posts which revealed an incredible trip reaffirming their faith in humanity and seeing them reach some of the world’s most untouched paradises.

The in-depth online accounts show there were moments of tenderness, euphoric highs and difficulties for the adventurous pair from Washington DC.

However, just over a week ago, on day 359 of their life-changing trip, it all came to a horrific end when they were cycling with a group of other tourists on a scenic stretch of road in southwestern Tajikistan.

They were travelling along the Pamir Highway, a Soviet-era road that stretches across 2000km near the border with Afghanistan and has spectacular views, when a carload of men who are believed to have recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group spotted them.

They sped towards the group of tourists, rammed them, jumped out and attacked the cyclists with knives. The horrendous slaying was captured on grainy footage from the attackers — who also took the lives of one Dutch and one Swiss national.

Just days later, the Islamic State released a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting in front of the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill “disbelievers”.

Their world view was fundamentally at odds with what Ms Geoghegan and Mr Austin believed — they saw the world as a warm, welcoming place where strangers would commit random acts of kindness every day.

. . .

Friends and wellwishers posted messages of condolences on the American victims’ SimplyCyling Instagram page.

One, Robert Renner, wrote: “My condolences to the family and friends of Jay and Lauren.” Another, Angela Wuerth, wrote: “I’m so sad that something so tragic could happen to such beautiful, kind people.”

There's more at the link.

They may have been beautiful, they may have been kind . . . BUT THEY WERE ALSO UNBELIEVABLY, CRASSLY, UNCONSCIONABLY STUPID!!!

With Islamic fundamentalist terrorism spreading across Asia in the wake of ISIS's defeat in Syria and Iraq, anyone with half a working brain cell could have predicted that something like this attack was inevitable.  Terrorists don't need guns to be dangerous.  Vehicles and knives will be more than adequate if their victims aren't able to defend themselves . . . and cyclists traveling in a foreign country are very unlikely indeed to be armed.  Basically, these travelers presented themselves on a plate as an inviting, can't-resist-the-temptation target to a bunch of cowardly, murderous thugs.

Now their parents have to mourn the loss of their children, and their friends get to post inane, abysmally stupid condolences like that mentioned above.  Will any of them learn anything from this tragedy?  I beg leave to doubt it.


Spelling it out

This cartoon made me laugh, and not just for its humor, but because the underlying problem is so real.  Click it to be taken to a larger view at the strip's home page.

The difference between English-English and American-English can be startling - and they're often scatological.  A couple of examples:
  • I was having breakfast with a family in the Baltimore area in 1996, during my first visit to this country.  There were the father and mother, their teenage daughter, and myself.  I noticed that the daughter was picking the cherries out of her fruit salad and placing them on the side of her plate.  Since I'm rather fond of that fruit, I said to her in all innocence, "May I have your cherry?" - pointing to the fruit on her plate.  She blushed scarlet and fled the table, while her parents collapsed in helpless laughter.  It took some time before they recovered enough to tell me what I'd asked for in slang American-English . . . a use of that word that I'd never before encountered.  Embarrassing, that.
  • My mother informed me that during World War II, it was a source of endless amusement to American soldiers that there really was a job in England called a "knocker-up".  He'd go around the streets, knocking on doors and windows very early in the morning to wake up the first shift at war production plants.  The Americans all thought that "knocking someone up" meant something entirely different - and as a result, they all wanted that job, until they learned better!

Words can be very funny, but also very cruel.  It behooves us to use them carefully.