Money Monster Review

Money Monster

I saw Money Monster with my wife the other week and we both enjoyed it quite a bit.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the host of a financial show called Mad Money. Julia Roberts plays his director, Patty.

All seems like it’ll be just another normal day for the show until an armed gunman, played by Jack O’Connell, comes onto the show and threatens to shoot Lee if he doesn’t do what he says.

The gunman pulls out a suicide vest and straps Lee into it. The vest is wirelessly connected to a deadman switch that the gunman, named Kyle, holds in his hand. If Kyle lets go of the switch then the bomb goes off.

While arguing and threatening Kyle explains that he invested his entire savings into a stock named IBIS that Lee previously recommended. The stock has now tanked due to some unknown error.

Lee and Patty work to keep everyone in the studio alive until the police can deal with the situation. Eventually they come to
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Rice Husks and Video Games

I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.
I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.

Rice seeds grow with a husk around them. After the husk is removed they look like the rice you buy in a store.

Sometimes the seeds from a particular strain don’t grow right.

The lack of growth often happens because a fungus infected the seed from the start.

The fungus is removed by washing the seed.

The husk needs to be removed first to ensure the seed is fully cleaned, just like you have to take off all of your clothes to ensure your body is fully cleaned when you shower or bathe.

While I was washing the seeds in diluted bleach I talked with one of my friends in the lab about streaming Hearthstone.

The oldest member of the lab besides the professor (I sometimes call him the lab fossil) overheard us and was curious about what streaming was.

We described it to him and he was a little surprised that people would want to watch others play video games.

He’s seen his son play first person shooter (FPS) games and he dislikes them, but not for the usual reasons.

The lab fossil dislikes FPS games because they don’t match reality.

He feels they teach people that if you die/fail you can just get a do-over where you try again.

The real world and the real battlefield doesn’t work that way. If you die in real life, you’re dead.

You can’t respawn, you can’t start over from the beginning. It’s over.

He told us about when he was in the army for two years.

All the time they would do drills and the drills were about staying alive.

Not about shooting and killing others no matter the consequences to yourself like in FPS games.

One of the first things the lab fossil learned is that if you hear gunfire, you should immediately drop to the ground (something people in gang neighborhoods already know).

He told us that the way you survive a battle is by finding cover, not shooting your gun.

He said bullets are heavy, you don’t want to waste them, you might need them later to survive.

My past experience with army veterans is that they never want to talk about their experiences.

Out of respect, I’ve never asked them to recall memories that might be painful for them.

This was one of the first times I actually got to talk about war with a soldier, even if he’d never been actively deployed.

It was a good learning experience.

-Mister Ed

Montana Home Invasion

A still from a security camera of Diren Dede stealing from Markus Kaarma's garage.
A still from a security camera of Diren Dede stealing from Markus Kaarma’s garage.

What topic do I want to write about tonight?

Hurray! It’s another sketchy self-defense/homicide case that went international on the news! (sarcasm)

I read this on the New York Times. You can check it out at this article.

So what’s the story?

Diren Dede was a 17 year-old exchange student from Germany going to school in Montana.

He thought it’d be fun to go out and steal stuff from someone’s garage.

He found an open garage and went in to take some stuff.

The owners, Markus Kaarma and Janelle Pflager, were cautious because there had been other burglaries in the area.

They’d installed cameras and motion sensors in the garage.

They chose not to actually close the garage all the way because they like to duck under it to smoke outside.

Not closing the garage didn’t make sense to my Californian mind at first. Why not just open your door to go smoke?

The case is in cold Montana though. The couple probably smoke in their garage and just duck down to breathe the smoke outside.

Anyways, Markus Kaarma saw the motion detectors. He grabbed his shotgun and fired into the garage.

Janelle Pflager says she heard someone in the garage shouting, “Hey! Wait!”

Montana law gives someone the right to use a gun against a home invader only if the trespasser is violently threatening someone in the house.

That’s pretty clearly not the case.

To make it worse, Kaarma had spoken with his barber recently about wanting to “shoot some kid.”

And there’s a purse at the back of the garage that was placed there with marked items, so that if it was stolen they could track down the thief.

So… it’s almost a clear case of premeditation.

They didn’t burglar proof their house. They set up stuff to tell them if a thief was in the garage. And Markus talked about wanting to kill someone.

The facts as I see them make the case clearly second-degree murder, if not first.

People have the right to protect themselves and their property, but there is a limit to how far that protection goes.

Kaarma could use his gun for intimidation, but when he heard Dede telling him to wait, he should’ve realized that firing his gun was a bad choice.

All that aside, I’m also a little surprised he could afford bail for a murder case.

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

Jordan Davis Case

One of my friends posted this on Facebook today.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/02/17/no-justice-for-jordan-davis-more-worry-for-parents-of-black-children/

I found it pretty interesting. I followed the Trayvon Martin case and this one is very similar. A young black teenager is killed in supposed self defense. The court system supposedly commits errors. And the accused walks away.

Of course both cases are more complex than that. In the Martin/Zimmerman case the justice system did commit errors. The police checked Martin’s body for signs of drug use, but conducted no such tests for Zimmerman. The police also let Zimmerman walk free for a month after the killing based only on his own word that it was in self defense. The police most likely did this because Martin was black and Zimmerman was not.

I do believe the correct verdict was reached in the Martin/Zimmerman case. The physical evidence reported clearly shows that Zimmerman was attacked. Zimmerman had several injuries while Martin had one. Zimmerman stated that Martin saw Zimmerman’s gun and that Martin then said, “I’m going to kill you.” If that was true, then stand your ground laws would certainly apply. The incident would not have happened if Zimmerman had not profiled Martin as a troublemaker, but that doesn’t excuse Martin’s decision to attack Zimmerman and threaten to kill him.

The Jordan Davis case suffers from the same problem of racially profiling the deceased. Dunn clearly saw Davis and his friends as “thugs” because of their race.

Let’s talk about the word “thug” for a minute. I haven’t experienced the word’s usage myself that much in my sheltered suburban life, but it is beginning to have the same racial connotations as nigger. When used in an offensive way thug will almost always mean a young black man who is making too much noise, carrying a weapon, selling drugs, etc. Any crime in a neighborhood will be explained away, “Oh, the thugs did it.” Meaning that the young black men did it.

So when Dunn calls Davis and his friends thugs, he’s already setting himself up as the committer of a hate crime. Davis and his friends were playing loud rap music at a convenience store. Dunn got out of his car and told them to turn it down. A reasonable enough request. They did and he went in to shop. Upon coming out they turned the music back up, presumable thinking he wouldn’t mind as he was leaving. He told them to turn it down again and they refused.

This is where the witness reports conflict. Dunn said that he saw a shotgun stick out the window of Davis’ car. No one else saw that. None of Davis’ friends saw that. Dunn’s wife didn’t see that. No one in the convenience store saw that. No shotgun was found in the car and none of the Davis’ friends owned one that mysteriously went missing. Dunn reacted to the imaginary shotgun by grabbing his pistol from his glovebox and firing on the teens before driving away. Davis was killed and his three friends drove away fearing for their lives. Dunn turned himself into the police soon afterward.

The trial just concluded and Dunn was found guilty of attempted second degree murder for Davis’ three friends. A mistrial was declared on a first degree murder charge for the killing of Davis. In order to deliver a verdict in a murder case, the jury must be unanimous, but they apparently weren’t for the murder of Davis. This isn’t particularly unusual. I imagine that it is very stressful to decide cases of life and death as a juror. The prosecution is appealing the case.

My personal opinion, Dunn is not guilty of first degree murder. He’s guilty of second degree murder. First degree murder is premeditated. Second degree murder is committed in the moment. The state views first degree murder as worse because most people will not choose to kill someone after thinking about it.

Did Dunn think about killing Davis? I seriously doubt that. Additional evidence makes it clear that Dunn hated black people, but he no evidence suggests that he went to that convenience store with the intent of killing someone. He went there to get some wine and chips. I hope the appeal court decides Dunn is guilty of second degree murder as that appears to be the truth to me.

The Davis/Dunn case is a great example of how complicated our justice system can get. More importantly, its an example of how racist my country continues to be.

-Mister Ed