Broken

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Broken.”

Beach, in the conservation area at the southern tip of Cozumel, Mexico:

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A lot of the trash did not appear to come from Mexico. Skiing, anyone?

The 2,500 acres set aside in Faro Celarain Eco Park, also known as Parque Punta Sur, are home to nesting sea turtles and several species of exotic birds.

Every year the nonprofit group Ocean Conservancy organizes volunteers around the world to pick up trash from beaches. The top ten items most frequently found:

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Photo Source: Ocean Conservancy

Two years ago our town banned the use of plastic bags for carrying out groceries (produce bags still allowed). Oh, the hue and cry. There were letters to the editor in protest. One letter writer threatened to shop in another town. Business would suffer! Yet now, no one complains. There’s a sense of civic pride.

How many other used, disposable and broken things could we easily re-use, fix or not use at all?

Have you been to the coast lately? Any broken stuff on the beach?

That’s an MRAP

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Enveloped.”

What kind of equipment does the police department own in your town?

Wrapped in MRAP

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Photo Source: Raymond Wambsgans, courtesy of Flickr.com

Remember back in 2013 or so? Reports were just surfacing that the U.S. military was giving away extra equipment to police departments and campus security offices. In my state, $11 million in surplus equipment was handed out to fifty law enforcement agencies, including several in our county. The program was part of the counterterrorism strategy set in place after Sept. 11, 2001.

Lane County, Oregon, is not exactly a haven for terrorists.

While in college, I visited Romania, when the country was run by the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu. What a shock to visit a country where airports and government buildings were ringed by soldiers toting automatic weapons.

Yet, here we are.

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Washington, D.C. police. Photo source: Matthew Bradley, Courtesy of Flickr.com

It took tragedies to raise awareness, but the spirit of protest is alive and well.

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Photo source: scottlum, courtesy of Flickr.com

In response to public pressure, this week President Obama banned the federal government from providing armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft , firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage uniforms to police.

To qualify for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles (MRAPs), drones or battering rams, law enforcement agencies will have to explain why they are needed, how they will be used, and how officers who use them will be trained.

We are far from recovering from September 11, 2001. The first response — to envelope ourselves in weaponry — will haunt us, perhaps for as long as we are a country. Still, we made progress this week. Maybe we’ll find our way out of the deep freeze.

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Does your state college have a mine-resistant vehicle? What do you think about the federal program to give surplus equipment to local law enforcement?

Water Withheld

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Forces of Nature.”

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Rain, evaporating before it hits the ground.

“The planet is fine. The people are f—ed.”
― George Carlin

How’s the weather in your part of the world?

Here in the northwest US, water and snow are in short supply. It’s a big change for us, who are used to winters so rainy that sometimes moss grows in the middle of the streets.

In the Willamette Valley where we live, the warm, dry winter brought a lush spring. Strawberries appeared at the farmer’s market two months early. Apple trees are loaded with fruit, and the roses are already in bloom.

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Apples

On the eastern side of the state, where we visit to watch birds, hike and enjoy the quiet, evidence of the dry winter is everywhere — empty ponds —

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Krumbo pond. Last time we visited, the pond was full of water, and migrating birds..

— Low snowpack.

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Riddle Ranch, South Steens Mountains

One dry year does not an apocalypse make, and, as climate scientists keep reminding us — the weather outside the window isn’t evidence of climate change one way or the other — but California is four years into a drought. Drought could happen here, too.

“Men argue. Nature acts.”

— Voltaire

 

 

Last days

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Motion.”

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Spawning salmon at Whittaker Creek

The air was still and cold when we took this photo, and there was only one fish holding in a ragged pattern below the surface of the water.

Salmon are a keystone species, that is, their effect on the immediate environment is disproportionate to size or numbers. They return  to their natal site to spawn before they die. Salmon runs push nutrients from the ocean far upstream, endowing richness and diversity, feeding aquatic plants, insects, soil and forest.  We’ve visited this site over the years, and seen the number of fish who return diminish steadily. All are in motion: water, fish, the times.

Where is that finch?

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”

Heard but not seen.

Note the narrow image. Makes it pretty hard to find the finch when you practically need a microscope.

It took me four days to figure out how to edit, transfer to iMovie, upload to YouTube and embed in WordPress, so this is as far Scribbler is going on this week’s photo challenge — but in the future it’s full screen or bust. The key? Check out this prepubescent techie’s solution to skinny videos.

Protect your junk, and your identity. Do these two things:

Have you ever been hacked? Ever had your I.D. used by someone else?

A couple years ago, a friend tried to file her tax return, and was shocked by a rejection from the IRS. Someone else had already collected a refund, using her personal information. This spring, same thing happened to one of my husband’s partners, and last week, to another friend.

All anyone needs to file a tax return is a name, birthdate and Social Security number, and as more company databases get hacked, that information becomes available to more thieves. This year, the IRS anticipates a potential $20 billion dollar loss to refund fraud.

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Image courtesy of Christopher Dombres, via Flickr.com

The problem stems from many sources, including under-funded enforcement, and timing which allows refunds to be paid before employers have forwarded updated information.

Just because it happens a lot, doesn’t mean it’s any easier to straighten things out. Re-establishing your identity is a pain.

Take these two steps to protect yourself:

1. Don’t give your Social Security number to anyone other than the I.R.S. For most of us, that cat’s already out of the bag. In the good old days, many of us gave our SSN out all over the place. My college for instance, used to require it for identification at registration. What’s done is done, but from here on out, protect your SSN.

All kinds of businesses ask for Social Security numbers, including department store credit card companies, doctors and dentists. If your doctor gives you a form that asks for yours, leave the space blank. He or she will still take you as a patient. When applying for a job, only reveal the last four digits of your SSN, unless you are dealing directly with the I.R.S.

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A Social Security number is not general I.D. It’s for you and the IRS, and no one else.

2.Juice up your password system.

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Courtesy of fixed gear, via Flickr.com

Password laxity is stunningly common. Don’t be lazy.

  • Choose good passwords (see my previous blog post on the best passwords ever).
  • Keep track of yours, and establish a safe place to keep them.
  • Do not use the same password, or a close variant, to access a dozen different websites.

A password app can make management much easier. These encrypt and store all of your data, are easily searchable and blind copy/paste i.d. and passwords to websites, so you don’t have to worry about painstakingly typing in those maddening cap/smallcap/symbol/numerals. All you have to remember is the master password — which you need to change regularly.

A couple apps to try (I’m not on their payroll, but tried and liked both):

KeePass, stores everything on your computer, is free, basic, pretty easy to use and set up, and while designed for Microsoft Windows, has a version that works on Mac OSX.

Dashlane, is a fancier storage service, for those who really don’t like messing with passwords. It’s also free, and not only stores and generates, but also can change all of your passwords in one go. It saves receipts and automatically signs you in when you visit a website. It’s pretty nice. All is encrypted. The only way for you, a Dashlane staffer, or a hacker, to get at it, is via your master password — so make it a good one.

Here are more suggestions from PC Magazine.

Can password manager apps be hacked?

Yep, everything is hackable — but these guys are in the business of staying ahead of crooks, unlike most of the rest of us, who just want to do our thing and tend to get sloppy. It’s a good idea to keep your most important passwords, like bank accounts, separate from those stored with a manager, preferably off your computer.

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Someday your iris may be your one and only password, but we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, don’t give in to the temptation to let your password system slide — and keep that Social Security number to yourself.

How is your password system? Any tips for making private information secure?

Citizens United and the Holy Ghost

What’s your take on the Citizens United case? 

My 87-year-old dad and his friends are continuing their weekly political discussions. At last check-in, the topic was labeling GMO foods.

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Not my dad or his friend. They sensibly request that their identities be protected. Photo credit: Raul Lieberwirth, courtesy of Flickr.com

This time it’s the Supreme Court case allowing unlimited contributions to political campaigns.

For perspective: English politicians are limited to £30,000 per seat in parliament (around $45,000).

Here in the USA, the Koch brothers have budgeted $889 million for 2016. A super pac has piled up tens of millions for Jeb Bush. Hillary Clinton’s head fundraiser was tasked with raising $1 billion. The Las Vegas Sands has given $70 million to Republicans, Soros Fund Management $45 million to Democrats.

My dad (a practicing Catholic) writes to his correspondent:

You asked me why five Catholic Supreme Court Judges would reach an absurd decision that Corporations, which are creatures of legislation, are Constitutionally privileged “persons.” These characters were raised with a concept of a “Body Of Christ”: a group organism like a school of fish. It is a small step from fish on Friday to fishing for campaign money.

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Photo Credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., courtesy of Flickr.com

How do you think things will shake out with all this money flowing to campaign coffers?

It’s Here! The 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign!

Are you celebrating this Sunday? Easter? Passover? Ostara? Seventeenth day of spring (or winter, depending on your hemisphere)? How about the kickoff of the 2016 US Presidential elections?

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Photo credit: Imprimages, courtesy of Flickr.com

Oh come on. You’re not one of those election-dreading party poopers? This will be fun. Let the speculation, scandal mongering, mud-slinging, perseverating, back-pedaling, secret taping, pontificating, and chest beating begin. Think of the swathes of time we won’t have to spend watching the news. Pollsters and pundits will saturate the airwaves, repeating the same gossip you read on Reddit with your first cup of tea. We will hear more, much more, about Bengazi, and deleted e-mails, and none of it will be new. For the next twenty months, it will take five minutes to read the papers.

Think of the entertainment ahead, although it might be hard to top 2012. Remember candidates with binders full of women? Threats to kill Big Bird? Conversations with empty chairs?

We’re off to a good start. Already, we’ve been treated to snarky comments of a few Liberty University students posted on the social media app Yik Yak, during Ted Cruz’s announcement speech.

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No drama ahead about birth certificates, since everyone with a chance of making it is white and born in the U.S. Wait! Ted Cruz was born in Canada!

If the finals come down to Clinton and Bush, maybe we can save taxpayer money by re-using ballots.

Let’s spice things up and take bets on how much will be spent by whom, and then follow up in 2017 to see who gets what.

Confused by all the players? Don’t miss this CNN spoof on the “Too Many Cooks” spoof. Unlike me, it’s equally mean to all candidates.

Happy Easter, Passover, or whatever you celebrate, especially now that we can turn off our electronic devices without missing anything, and carouse the old fashioned way.

Cheers —

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What’s your take on our lengthy Presidential election process? Have any favorite 2012 election moments?