All you ever wanted to know about 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a polarizing film. On the one hand, there are those like me who absolutely love it. The other pole does not consist of people who hate it, because there is nothing really objectionable in the film. Instead it consists of those who were utterly bored and baffled by it. Even those who loved it were baffled by it but did not let that reduce our enjoyment as we were swept along by the cosmic grandeur of this revolutionary science fiction film, the story it told, and the awesome special effects that blew us away even though (and perhaps because) they were done using models and film trickery in that pre-CGI age. They still hold up well in this CGI age.
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The cruel and inhumane US (in)justice system

The absurdly disparate sentences that are issued in the US legal system is vividly on display in the case of Michael Thompson, aged 68, who has served 25 years of a 40- to 60-year sentence in a Michigan prison. Tana Ganeva describes his case.

In 1994, Thompson sold 3 pounds of pot to a police informant. Michigan legalized pot in 2018, laying the groundwork for a profitable legal industry, making it that much harder for him to understand why he’s still behind bars. “You know after 25 years, you don’t feel nothing no more. You just feel numb,” he said.
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Meet the new kilogram and other new standards

On May 20th, the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures instituted a new standard for the kilogram mass. A metal block kept in a hermetically sealed vault in Paris had been the mass standard for 130 years. New standards were also introduced for the unit of current (Ampere), temperature (Kelvin), and the mole.

It used to be the case that standards for the basic units used in science had been defined in terms of macroscopic objects like this and thus could be easily understood. But the need for increasingly precise and unvarying standards meant that these were no longer suitable and standards have increasingly shifted to using the fundamental constants of nature and getting from those to the familiar quantities involves quite a long chain of reasoning. The kilogram is the last remaining physical object to be so displaced.
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Reactionary Alabama

The state of Alabama has been in the news as one of the wave of states passing highly restrictive laws on abortion, including a recent one that bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, so early that many women might not even know that they are pregnant. The only exception being the woman’s life being in serious danger, and not even for rape or incest. Doctors who perform abortions can be imprisoned for up to 99 years. Alabama already has only three clinics in the state where women can get abortions.
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Pardoning war criminals

The US penchant for absolving those in the military who murder foreigners is once again on full display. It begins with the US government hardly ever prosecuting those who commit such crimes and then even on the few occasions when the crime is so egregious that someone is tried and convicted (usually on lesser charges than they deserved), the punishment is often very lenient. But even that is considered too much and presidents often intervene to pardon or commute the sentences. A famous example is how the officers of the troops responsible for the murders of an entire village of Vietnamese people in My Lai were given mere slaps on the wrist.
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Coroners in the US

I like watching British police procedurals and a key person in those stories is the forensic pathologist who determines the cause of death and other particulars that help the investigators solve the crimes. These people are portrayed as highly trained, highly skilled medical professionals. I had assumed that in the US, the people who did similar work were similarly trained. Silly me. You would think that by now I would know better.
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Pete Buttigieg at the Fox News Town Hall

He spoke about why the Trump show is captivating but also why we need to change the channel because that show is taking our attention away from the unpopular positions of Trump and the Republicans.

He then addressed the question of whether Democratic candidates should appear on the Fox News network and makes pretty much the same point that I made in an earlier post.

What Game of Thrones says about America today

As I have said many times before, I had no interest in watching Game of Thrones but have been fascinated by it as a cultural phenomenon that garnered a huge amount of media attention. So I was interested in this article by Jon Schwarz titled THE RISE OF GAME OF THRONES WAS PART OF THE FALL OF AMERICA because he is enough of a fan that he watched the entire series and yet can provide a dispassionate analysis about what the show’s popularity says about its audience, by which I mean all of us, not just those who actually watched the show.
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