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Lionel Mandrake

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: The Left Coast
Home country: USA
Current location: electrical wires
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2007, 06:47 PM
Number of posts: 3,426

About Me

I study, play the piano, play chess and go, and enjoy the company of my wife, children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends. I am a perennial student at a local university, where they let me take classes and use the library for free (because I'm old). My serious reading includes math, science, history, and biography. I enjoy science fiction and mysteries, which my wife and I refer to as "mind rot". And now on to politics. I hated Nixon and Reagan. I think W is a war criminal and was easily the worst president in US history. Thank Darwin he's gone. I will support any candidate who is a "dove". I support "plan B" without prescription for girls of all ages. I support free abortion on demand, without delay, and without the requirement to notify anyone, for all women and girls who want it. I think it's time to repeal the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the very rich. I think other damage done by conservative Supreme Court Justices rivals that done by the monster they put in the White House.

Journal Archives

Comparisons among Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Verizon Fios VOD

These are three different streaming services for movies and TV shows. From my vast experience with all three services, I offer the following list of their advantages and disadvantages.

Netflix HD streaming costs me about $9 per month. This is in addition to Netflix DVD service, which costs a similar amount. Old TV shows are streamed without commercials, which is a huge advantage. My TV remote control has a button labelled "Netflix", which I use frequently.

Amazon Instant Video is generally a high-priced pay per view service, but some of their content is free for those of us with Amazon Prime accounts. An Amazon Prime account costs about $100 per year, which is comparable to the price of Netflix streaming, but it also includes free second-day shipping of books and other merchandise from Amazon.com. My TV remote control has another button labelled "Amazon", which would be convenient if the interface were less cumbersome and not so full of glitches. I use this service to watch stuff that does not stream on Netflix.

Verizon is the local phone company and supplies TV and internet service as well. "Fios" is their acronym for the service with the highest bandwidth, which uses FIber OpticS (get it?) rather than copper wire. "Video on demand" (VOD) is their jargon for streaming. With VOD I can only get replays of TV shows from channels I subscribe to. Old TV shows are streamed complete with the fucking commercials. And what's worse, Verizon won't let me skip the fucking commercials. This "service" really SUCKS.

Have I gotten anything wrong or left anything out?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Tue Dec 16, 2014, 08:04 PM (10 replies)

Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico's fields

By RICHARD MAROSI
Photography & Video by DON BARTLETTI
DEC. 14, 2014

An estimated 100,000 Mexican children under 14 pick crops for pay. Alejandrina, 12, wanted to be a teacher. Instead, she became a nomadic laborer, following the pepper harvest from farm to farm.

Fourth of four stories

REPORTING FROM TEACAPAN, MEXICO

Alejandrina Castillo swept back her long black hair and reached elbow-deep into the chile pepper plants. She palmed and plucked the fat serranos, dropping handful after tiny handful into a bucket.The container filled rapidly. Alejandrina stopped well before the pepper pile reached the brim.

She was 12, and it was hard for her to lift a full 15-pound load.

One row over was her brother Fidel, 13, who couldn't keep up with her. He was daydreaming as usual. Their 10-year-old cousin, Jesus, was trying harder but falling behind too.

Alejandrina looked in the distance for the food truck. It was almost noon, five hours since she had a tortilla for breakfast. The sky was cloudless. It would be another 90-degree day in the palm-lined coastal farmland of southern Sinaloa.

"I wish I was home with my baby brother," she said.

Read more: http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-children/
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Dec 14, 2014, 12:43 PM (12 replies)

The Company Store is alive and well in Mexico.

A story in the LA Times reminded me of a song:



The story is part 3 of a 4 part series. I posted parts 1 and 2 earlier. The story begins as follows:

Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt

By RICHARD MAROSI
Photography by DON BARTLETTI
DEC. 12, 2014

The mom-and-pop monopolies sell to a captive clientele, post no prices and track purchases in dog-eared ledgers. At the end of the harvest, many workers head home owing money.

Third of four stories

REPORTING FROM CAMPO ISABELES, MEXICO

The farmworkers lined up right after work, clutching crumpled pesos. The shelves before them were stacked high with staples: corn flour and beans, diapers and Mexican sweet bread.

Most weren't buying, however.

Dionisia Bustamante handed 1,000 pesos, about $70, to Israel Gastelum, owner of the company store at Campo Isabeles. She was short 2,000, but it was the best she could do. “We’re running out of vegetables to pick,” she explained.

A wiry man held out 400 pesos. "You still owe 500," Gastelum said. "How am I going to pay?" the laborer asked. "We're not earning enough."

Other field hands at Campo Isabeles, part of a farm complex near Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa, stayed away from the store so as not to add to their debts. Catarino Martinez said he had gone without eating that day. Esteban Rodriguez said the storekeeper had threatened to call the police if he didn't pay the 2,000 pesos he owed. Pedro Castillo feared something worse. "The owners said they will take my son or my daughter if I don't pay my bill," he said.


Read more:

http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-stores/
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Fri Dec 12, 2014, 12:40 PM (6 replies)

Desperate workers on a Mexican mega-farm: 'They treated us like slaves'

As promised, here is part 2 of a 4-part LA Times series
by RICHARD MAROSI
DEC. 10, 2014 | REPORTING FROM SAN GABRIEL, MEXICO

Scorpions and bedbugs. Constant hunger. No pay for months. Finally, a bold escape leads to a government raid, exposing deplorable conditions. But justice proves elusive.

Ricardo Martinez and Eugenia Santiago were desperate.

At the labor camp for Bioparques de Occidente, they and other farmworkers slept sprawled head to toe on concrete floors. Their rooms crawled with scorpions and bedbugs. Meals were skimpy, hunger a constant. Camp bosses kept people in line with threats and, when that failed, with their fists.

Escape was tempting but risky. The compound was fenced with barbed wire and patrolled by bosses on all-terrain vehicles. If the couple got beyond the gates, local police could arrest them and bring them back. Then they would be stripped of their shoes.

Martinez, 28, and Santiago, 23, decided to chance it. Bioparques was one of Mexico's biggest tomato exporters, a supplier for Wal-Mart and major supermarket chains. But conditions at the company's Bioparques 4 camp had become unbearable.

They left their backpacks behind to avoid suspicion and walked out the main gate. As they approached the highway, a car screeched up. Four camp bosses jumped out. One waved a stick at them.

Read more: http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-labor/
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Dec 10, 2014, 11:31 AM (6 replies)

Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables

By RICHARD MAROSI
Photography & Video by DON BARTLETTI
DEC. 7, 2014

A Times reporter and photographer find that thousands of laborers at Mexico's mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers.

Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply. Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods. Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It's common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest. Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.

The farm laborers are mostly indigenous people from Mexico's poorest regions. Bused hundreds of miles to vast agricultural complexes, they work six days a week for the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day. The squalid camps where they live, sometimes sleeping on scraps of cardboard on concrete floors, are operated by the same agribusinesses that employ advanced growing techniques and sanitary measures in their fields and greenhouses.


Read more: http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-camps/

This thread is being reposted from Latest Breaking News, where it was locked as off-topic.


The story also shows the chain of distribution of the produce to WalMart, Olive Garden, Subway, Safeway, etc. (In response to one post in LBN let me just say that this list of stores and restaurants is only meant to be representative, not exhaustive.)
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Dec 7, 2014, 01:42 PM (44 replies)

Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables

Source: Los Angeles Times

By RICHARD MAROSI
Photography & Video by DON BARTLETTI
DEC. 7, 2014

A Times reporter and photographer find that thousands of laborers at Mexico's mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers.

Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply. Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods. Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It's common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest. Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.

The farm laborers are mostly indigenous people from Mexico's poorest regions. Bused hundreds of miles to vast agricultural complexes, they work six days a week for the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day. The squalid camps where they live, sometimes sleeping on scraps of cardboard on concrete floors, are operated by the same agribusinesses that employ advanced growing techniques and sanitary measures in their fields and greenhouses.

Read more: http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-camps/



The story also shows the chain of distribution of the produce to WalMart, Olive Garden, Subway, Safeway, etc.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Dec 7, 2014, 12:54 PM (5 replies)

R.I.P. Alexander Grothendieck

The great mathematician Alexander Grothendieck died a few days ago. He was 86 years old.

Alexander Grothendieck ( ... 28 March 1928 – 13 November 2014) was a German-born French mathematician, and the leading figure in creating modern algebraic geometry. His research program vastly extended the scope of the field, incorporating major elements of commutative algebra, homological algebra, sheaf theory, and category theory into its foundations. This new perspective led to revolutionary advances across many areas of pure mathematics.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Grothendieck
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Nov 16, 2014, 02:43 PM (4 replies)

Why I like some dictionaries more than others

I am the proud owner of what will probably be the last print edition of the granddaddy of all English dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Among its other virtues, when describing etymology it does not transliterate Greek words. It prints them using the Greek alphabet. The same is true of Cassell's Latin dictionary and the monumental Oxford Latin Dictionary.

Transliteration made some sense in the era of typewriters and hot-metal typesetting, but those technological dinosaurs are nearly extinct. Almost all printing is now done by computer. Since Greek fonts are widely available, there is no excuse for new dictionaries not to print Greek words in the Greek alphabet.

Many dictionaries now in print are photographic reproductions of older editions, so transliteration can not be replaced by Greek text.

Last time I checked the online OED it had not evolved much from the print edition. The Greek alphabet was used where appropriate, but unfortunately no Greek font was used. Instead, each Greek letter was a Graphics box, which means that those of us with bad eyesight could not zoom in on Greek words the way we could on English words.

Another criterion for dictionaries is the way they describe pronunciation. The gold standard for pronunciation is the alphabet of the International Phonetic Association (IPA). The best dictionaries (e.g., the OED) use the IPA alphabet, at least as a starting point.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Nov 16, 2014, 01:43 PM (4 replies)

Pronunciation of articles in English

Everyone knows that the pronunciation of the indefinite article depends on whether the following word begins with a vowel or a consonant. The spelling reflects the pronunciation. Thus we say "a dog" and "an owl". (There are borderline cases: some say "a historical drama"; others say "an historical drama".)

Did you know that the pronunciation of the definite article also depends on whether the following word begins with a vowel or a consonant? The spelling is always "the", but "the" usually rhymes with "knee" in front of a vowel, and usually rhymes with "uh" in front of a consonant. (There are exceptions; can you find them?)
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Nov 12, 2014, 03:11 PM (11 replies)

Today is the anniversary of two important events.

1. November 9, 1938 was Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) in Germany and Austria. Jews were attacked by Nazi storm troopers and civilians. Jewish shops had their windows broken (hence the name). Synagogues were damaged or destroyed. About 100 Jews were murdered, and tens of thousands were sent to concentration camps.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristallnacht

2. November 9, 1989 was Mauerfall (the fall of the Berlin Wall).

"the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere."

This was part of a sequence of events that led to the reunification of Germany and, eventually, the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Wall
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Nov 9, 2014, 01:01 PM (4 replies)
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