Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

Something for computer geeks this week. Here’s how you separate the computer savvy from the AOLers. Ask them what EBCDIC stands for. Also, what is it?

Post your answer in the comments section.

Update and answer

Yes, Mike and Mike have a clue what it means. EBCDIC stands for Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code, and it’s the data representation form used in IBM mainframes (System 360, System 370). Here’s what’s quirky about EBCDIC: arithmetic operations are not performed in binary. Numbers are represented as EBCDIC strings, and operations are executed in decimal on these strings of characters. It has the advantage of exactly duplicating the results you would get if you worked out an accounting tabulation with pen and ink in a ledger book, which operation the IBM systems were intended to duplicate, exactly.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Missed this when it came out in 1960. I must have been out at sea at the time. Good thing. It’s The Walking Target, starring Joan Evans and Ronald Foster, not exactly headliners even in those days. This was released by United Artists. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

After a very dramatic title poster, we see convict Nick Harbin (Foster) talking tough with the prison Warden. We are informed in no uncertain terms this is the California State Prison. The warden is talking tough right back. He lauds Harbin  for being such a straight arrow for five years, but there is a remaining account he needs to settle. That’s the matter of the $260,000 he and his gang stole in an armored car robbery. Harbin says no dice and walks out.

He walks into the arms of waiting ex-girlfriend Susan (Merry Anders). She is dressed to kill and there is no doubt she has in mind the 260K. Harbin gets physical with some pesky reporters, and he and Susan head off to his bungalow in the country.

Been there. This setting seems to have been shot in those hills up coast from Malibu, where a lot of studios still shoot rural scenery. Also at the cabin is Nick’s friend Dave (Robert Christopher). Doesn’t take much figuring to know lots of people are looking to snag the stolen loot.

Nick goes looking for an old sweetheart, Gail Russo (Evans). Way back when she ditched Nick and married Nick’s friend Sam Russo. Then Nick convinced Sam to go in with him on the armored car caper, and Sam got killed. But only after Sam and Nick sealed the cash inside a welded compartment of a car, now belonging to Gail. An old geezer, living in the late Sam’s garage, tells Nick that Gail has gone back home to Gold City, Arizona.

A flash back shows Sam bluffing his pretty wife, even as he and Nick make preparations for the heist.

The flash back shows the death of a third partner, shot by an armored  car guard.

When Nick gets back to the bungalow he finds old friend Dave and old girl Susan making out. The layout falls into place for Nick.

Other gangsters are after the loot, and they’ve contracted Dave to get it for a cut. Meanwhile, Nick tracks Gail to her diner in Arizona. She still has the car, and the money is still there.

The gangsters track Nick to the diner and put the squeeze on, threatening to work Gail over.

Guess who. The police have not been idle, and two arrive shortly. Both get shot, but one is only badly wounded. Nick prevails in a row with the gangsters, and he reveals his plan to return the money.

And everybody goes home.

Not a bad plot, if fairly straight line. Acting is about par, no great demands placed on the players. Some visuals don’t ring true.

The cops see what’s going on in the diner and they enter after kicking in the door. The first is apparently killed in the exchange of gunfire, and the second is badly wounded. He finishes out the movie without showing an ounce of remorse for his dead friend.

Nick meets Gail at the diner and tells her the money is in her car. The drive out into the boondocks where Nick cuts open the sealed compartment with a cutting torch. Five years before, there was ample welding and cutting equipment at Sam’s garage, but where is Nick getting the torch to cut the compartment open?

Interesting that Gail kept the used car for five years and never junked it or traded it in.

Nick organizes an armored car heist, no guns used, but two guards are clubbed senseless. Then one of the gang gets killed by the police. Usually that would mean a murder charge for Nick. He gets only five years. Of course, it had to be a short term, because there was no way Gail was going to keep the car forever.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Mother of Jesus, please come back.

A man was walking down the sidewalk. From out of nowhere a voice spoke to him. “Stop. Don’t take another step. A brick is about to fall on your head and kill you.”

The man stopped, and a brick crashed to the sidewalk in  front of him. He was amazed. He looked up. He looked around. He couldn’t find the source of the voice. He kept walking.

The voice came again. “Stop. Don’t cross the street. A car is about to run a red light, and it will kill you.”

The man stopped at the curb, and a speeding car charged through the intersection. The man was astounded. He looked around, but he saw nothing.

He spoke, “Where are you? Who are you?”

The voice spoke to him, “You can’t see me. I’m your guardian angel. I make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

The man was amazed. “Really? A guardian angel? Where were you when I got married?”

Don’t cry for me, Venezuela


The sordid tale continues. I started following this story during the rule of Hugo Chavez, a populist anti-American, who bolstered his  position by invoking wage and price controls, during the course of which action he violated some basic economic principles and shorted civil rights. With Chávez dead and Nicolás Maduro in the driver’s seat, the situation continued to dissolve:

In close parallel to the Castro regime in Cuba, the ideologically-based rule in Venezuela has sent the country’s economy into a downward spiral. Only Chávez, and now Maduro, haven’t had somebody like the former Soviet Union to prop them up. As with the failing Cuba, the staggering Venezuela has cast about for somebody to blame. A villain is needed. For such as Mr. Maduro there is always one close at hand.

Today CNN aired a report produced by one of their reporters who entered the country disguised as a tourist. In February the government banned CNN from the country after that network published a report about the issuing of passports to potential terrorists:

Conatel [Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission] accused the channel of attempting to “undermine the peace and the democratic stability” of Venezuela.

It did not specifically mention the passport story, but government officials had earlier in the day disputed it at a press conference.

The story was the product of a year-long investigation into allegations that Venezuelan passports and visas were being sold to people in Iraq, including some with terrorism links.

The report alleged that Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami was directly linked to the granting of 173 passports, including to members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and other Western powers.

The video report, apparently smuggled out of the country and airing this afternoon, shows people digging through trash for food scraps. A street juggler, once able to earn money by performing at weddings, now spends his time looking for food. His face shows sever damage he says came from his encounter with police attempting to suppress protesters. People are being killed.

Claiming to be primed for civil war, a Venezuelan general issued orders to prepare for the future use of snipers against anti-government protesters, according to a secret recording of a regional command meeting held three weeks ago at a military base in the northwestern Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.

On the recording, obtained from a Washington source that has provided el Nuevo Herald with information on Venezuela for previous stories, the generals discuss the legality and risks of using snipers during the massive demonstrations taking place almost daily against President Nicolás Maduro.

Aljazeera offers a broader look:

Venezuela’s political crisis is escalating fast.

With the economy in freefall, protesters have hit the streets and violence is on the rise.

Has the Venezuelan government gone authoritarian?

“It’s important to say Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected,” says Gabriel Hetland, a professor at the University of Albany. “But I think actions over the last 16 months have moved Venezuela unfortunately in a more authoritarian direction.”

“It is a government under siege,” counters Venezuelan-American journalist Eva Golinger, who also served as an adviser to former President Hugo Chavez. “The opposition doesn’t play by democratic rules, unfortunately has not, and as of yet we haven’t seen any such initiative or indication that they will in the near future.”

Whatever the rules are supposed to be, the socialistic government is rapidly losing support from its base. From The New York Times:

The threats Venezuelans face today are not the result of foreign or domestic conspiracies, but Mr. Maduro’s disastrous leadership. On his watch, the country’s health care system has atrophied so severely that scores of Venezuelans are dying every week because of chronic shortages of medicine and ill-equipped hospitals.

Violence has soared as armed gangs loyal to the government roam the streets. During the first three months of this year, 4,696 people were murdered in Venezuela, according to the government, and in 2015 more than 17,700 were killed. The three-month death toll is higher than the 3,545 civilians killed last year in Afghanistan, a record number.

Shortages of food and basic goods are likely to worsen as Venezuela’s economy continues to contract this year. Political prisoners, meanwhile, have languished behind bars for years, victims of a corrupt and broken justice system.

My title for this post reflects, of course, the history of the Peron regime in Argentina over 60 years ago. Evita, we will not cry for you.


New game in town

I was trying to catch some news on TV. There was President Trump. He was saying something. It was remarkable. Truly remarkable:

President Donald Trump on Thursday again denied that he or his campaign colluded with the Russian government’s suspected attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

“Believe me, there’s no collusion,” Trump told reporters in the White House. “Russia is fine, but whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.”

What? What? Donald Trump said, “Believe me?” He did. He really did. But in fact, he has said this before. Lots of times. He has said some other things, besides:

And I’m not going to bore you with the remaining litany of Donald Trump’s falsifications since his inauguration. Daniel Dales’ list  in the Toronto Star has grown since I quit at number 80 on 8 May:

Donald Trump has now said 250 false things as president. Here are all of them

The Star’s running tally of the straight-up lies, exaggerations and deceptions the president of the United States of America has said, so far.

So much for, “Believe me.”

In addition to what President Trump says, of significance is where and when he says it. For example, yesterday he held a joint news conference with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, using the opportunity to assuage his bruised feelings:

May 18, 2017 1:32pm PDT

“There was no collusion and everybody – even my enemies – have said, ‘there was no collusion,'” Trump says.

May 18, 2017 1:31pm PDT

“We don’t have health care. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone,” Trump says.

May 18, 2017 1:28pm PDT

“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” Trump says.

May 18, 2017 1:28pm PDT

“No. Next question,” Trump says when asked if he pressed former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn.

May 18, 2017 1:21pm PDT

Trump: Believe me, there’s no collusion.

May 18, 2017 1:21pm PDT

Trump: We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100 days.

May 18, 2017 1:20pm PDT

“The entire thing has been a witch hunt. I think it divides the country,” Trump says of the appointment of a special counsel to head the Russia investigation.

[Emphasis added]

Were I President Santos about then, I would be nervously fidgeting and glancing over at the man standing next to me and mouthing these words. “Is this person  really the President of the United States, and does he have anything more of substance to say right now?”


Friday Funny

One of a series

Last week’s Friday funny (see the link above) reminded me of this. I apologize. I do not have the original news item. It’s from 30 years back, but I can still relate the essentials from memory. It goes like this:

Conroe, Texas (why does this stuff always happen in Texas?). A 72-year old man was arrested for solicitation of prostitution. He had to phone his mother to come and bail him out.

And that is funny. Embarrassing, as well.

Seven Days In May

I don’t know why this movie came to mind just now. Maybe it’s because today, 18 May, is the critical day in the plot. It could be that recent developments in the news made me think of it. Anyhow, it’s Seven Days in May, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. It was directed by John Frankenheimer, with a screenplay by Rod Serling, of The Twilight Zone fame. Here are Airforce General General James Mattoon Scott and Marine Colonel Martin “Jiggs” Casey.

They are participating in a congressional hearing that pits General Scott’s pro-military stance against that of liberal President Jordan Lyman, played by Fredric March. It’s about an attempt to usurp the United States Government by military coup.

Here is the point in the plot where Colonel Casey begins to become suspicious that something fishy is going on. He hangs up the phone and asks himself, “What the hell is going on?”

But don’t worry. It’s only fiction. Get a good night’s sleep. Everything will be all right in the morning.


New game in town

Here is the President of the United States standing in front of the graduating class of the Coast Guard Academy whining about how he is being treated. Specifically:

No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly,

Amazingly, reports reflect that this self pity was received positively by a decidedly pro-Trump audience. Although the President sought to put his complaining in a positive light, telling the graduates, “You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. I guess that’s why I want to thank you,” I have  to wonder how they will  recall this in later years. Here is their commander-in-chief complaining about receiving some rough treatment. These are people who may someday serve their country in situations at the peril of their own lives, and they will carry with them a memory of their leader feeling hurt that bad things were said about him.

Published reports on President Trump’s talk omit critical phrasing. Here is my partial  transcription.

Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, [evokes a giant shrug] especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse, or more unfairly.

“No politician in history,” that’s a deep well to draw from:

  • Adolf Hitler, roundly criticized by the world press (but not the German press), attacked by the largest military force ever assembled, survived numerous attempts to kill him, eventually driven to  commit suicide.
  • Benito Mussolini, cast from office by his own people, held as a prisoner until freed through action by Adolf Hitler (see above), snatched from a motorcade while fleeing persecution, imprisoned, shoved against a stone wall beside a rural Italian road way, killed at close range by machine gun fire, strung up by his feet at a service station in downtown Milan.
  • Julius Caesar, ambushed and knifed to death by members of his own Senate, including by his close friend Marcus Junius Brutus.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte, cast out of office following a string of military failures, vilified, imprisoned, again taken prisoner after escaping prison and suffering another military setback, sentenced to spend the remainder of his life on  one of the remotest islands on this planet.

Yes, compared to some other politicians, Donald Trump has had a pretty rough ride. I urge my readers to take this into account and go easy on this, the tenderest of presidents in my lifetime. Cast off your nay saying, speak softly of this gentle soul, let not ye multitudes cast aspersions on his daily misdeeds.

That’s my job.

May Donald Trump serve long and wretchedly, exposed daily to a public eye grown weary and jaundiced at the sight of vainglorious self-destruction. His embarrassment is my joy, and I intend to flog this vision of abject misery daily. Until there is no skin left.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

Let me know when you get to feeling safer: ABC News had the story:

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams announced today in a press conference that 23-year-old Aaron Juan Saucedo has been arrested in connection with a string of shootings that resulted in nine deaths.

The shootings took place between August 2015 and July 2016.

According to police, Saucedo was already in jail for the murder of 61-year-old Raul Romero, who was shot multiple times in his driveway in August 2015 and died at a hospital shortly after. Saucedo has been booked on an additional 26 felony counts including homicide.

There is no known correlation between the victims and the suspect, police said. Police added that there may be additional victims out there and they are continuing to investigate.

The Second Amendment works to keep us safe by allowing just about anybody to own a firearm of almost any kind. How is that working out?

Someone left the cake out in the rain.

We can’t make this stuff up.

Watching the TV news this morning a vision from long ago popped into  my head. I have never been the one to make sense out of poetic symbolism, so my interpretations are reflections of my own mental workings. To me, it does appear as though somebody left the cake out in the rain.

Yesterday, in a post, I unloaded, not on Donald Trump, President of the United States, but on the people who supported him in his candidacy, voted for him, and still support him. I castigated the entire American conservative community for its mendacity, its shameful disdain for the truth, its sordid and phony moral basis. I pinned American  conservatism to the current president, and bathed them in his stench. I could have waited one more day.

Since yesterday the mire has deepened, as it does without pause. A story that broke late in the day on Tuesday has crystallized the issue for many: From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Contemporaneous notes and memoranda by FBI agents have been ruled to be admissible evidence in court, so the story distills down to whom we believe. The President denies this happened, so it’s going to be President Trump’s word against that of the FBI Director, whom he subsequently fired while issuing a fraudulent explanation for that action. It’s a game the President should avoid. In a string of falsifications, beginning two years ago when he launched his campaign and continuing without letup since inauguration day, this President has flogged us with a litany of lies and various other untruths. His veracity would find difficulty stacking up against one of those illegal Mexicans he so disdains.

One thing I’m seeing on the TV news I find easy to believe is that members of the President’s own party will start to make some distance from  him only when the scandal begins to touch their electorate. Recent town hall meetings with congressional Republicans have seen  scathing  backlash from voters, but this has mainly been with regard to the Party’s movement on health care insurance. The President lies, the President doesn’t lie; the President is a fool, the President is not a fool; the President is inept, the President is not inept (sort of a double negative)—these are the kinds ot things that do not hit voters right in the gut. The question is whether President Trump’s base of conservative voters will start to come out of a deep slumber and realize this is not the person they thought they had voted for. Don’t count on it. This is the candidate who boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” That’s an astounding grade of Teflon.

Meanwhile we may be watching the actualization of a meme from days gone by. It could be that MacArthur Park is melting in the dark.