Government shutdown

Many people thought that it was too risky, but by George, our man in Washington did it. Unable to get what he so ardently promised to his base, the man-child threw a temper tantrum and shut down Government.
It’s my party and I will sulk if I want to.
If I cannot have my way, I will ruin the shindig for everybody else.

For most Americans government shutdown is slightly inconvenient, proving one more time that the nation would be better off without most of the overpaid, complacent, and gutless congressmen.

But for some, it is a tremendous hardship. The shutdown means that many federal employees are “furloughed”. A nice euphemism for “you won’t get paid for your work”.

According to a new survey from CareerBuilder: “Almost 8 out of 10 American workers say they live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet.” 

 This puts a lot of people in a very precarious situation. Not being able to provide for your family is one of the most heartbreaking situations anybody can face. If the government shuts down, then no congressman, including the president, should get paid.

Our president might be under the delusion that he has broad dictatorial powers, but it is not so. An American president is (fortunately) nothing like a Russian czar/president. He cannot dictate, intimidate or liquidate the opposition. A painful realization for somebody who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and used to always get his own way.

There might come a time when our Chief Executive Officer will curse the day when his vanity prompted him to run for the highest office in the land. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice  he is woefully unqualified for the job.
To his sorrow, in his actual position he is under the constant glare of public scrutiny; as a private citizen, surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers, he could practically do whatever he wanted.

A president is normally surrounded by advisors. A good advisor is somebody who is not afraid to challenge his boss’s views. But obviously, there is an acute shortage of those in the White House.

Governing also means negotiating. Getting part of what you want is always better than not getting anything at all. Any diplomat worth his top hat knows that.

There is no shame for an honorable man to extend an olive branch to the other side but..

“An honorable man is fair even to his enemies; a dishonorable man is unfair even to his friends!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

Somehow, this saying has a very familiar ring!


Slippery when wet

September Deignan

So, how was it? you might ask. Well, the ground was a bit soggy but playable, especially for people who can plomber* properly.

In this so-called “Home and Home” tournament, 8 doublettes from Sonoma met 8 doublettes from Marin on the San Rafael court. On Saturday, February 2nd, the same Marin players will go to Sonoma to compete for the second half of this tournament.

The weather was cool in the morning, and partly sunny in the afternoon. Two games were played in the morning and two in the afternoon. One more time alas, the Sonoma youngsters bested the Marin old timers.

Feeling that the ground was a little too wet for my taste, I opted not to play and concentrated instead on photographing this event. For me, it is as much fun and as much challenging as playing.

Taking decent pictures is demanding, requires a lot of work, and nobody is more critical than the photographer himself. The light, the shooting angles, the shades, as well as the right moments, everything is important.

When I take pictures, it feels like using a submachine gun. I shoot in bursts, hoping that just like in a volley of bullets, one of my shots is going to hit the target properly.
And let’s face it, some subjects are definitely more photogenic than some others.

While playing, some competitors always remain cool and composed; those are not my favorite subjects. Besides good form, I am looking for passion, even some suffering. To me, a grimacing player is like the Mother Lode.

Yesterday, I liked the form of Erin McTaggart, the unorthodoxy of September Deignan, the passion of Steve Jones, the star quality of Jean-Michel and the composure of Bernard Passemar.
I also liked the photogenic form of Mark (Indiana) Shirkey. He always looks like he is giving it his best.

Everything was over by 4:00 pm and just about everybody left the field at that time.

I hope that you will like some of my pictures and let me know about it.


PS: Feel free to download any of my pictures, but when posting any of them on social media, please include photo credit (Photos by Alain Efron). Thank you.

*Plomber: To throw your boule high enough in the air to get it to fall close to the cochonnet, and making it stop through its heavy impact on the ground.

Robots are here

Frankly, the future scares me.
Very soon we will be surrounded by a multitude of robots that will carry out most of our regular tasks. But since many people are still unable to deal with remote control, managing bots might be problematic.

Of course, pipsqueaks will feel at ease with the humanoids and sneer at their elders… and that’s part of what scares me. I don’t want to be in the ignominious position of asking a first grader how to proceed. It would be like asking my cat how to make an omelet. The beast would lose the little respect it presently has for me.

This morning I visited my periodontist in order to get a dental implant. He told me that he had to take x-rays of my actual dentition in order to properly insert the implant.

A technician led me to a rather scary device looking like an electric chair. I sat down and he strapped my head with another Frankenstein looking apparatus. He covered my torso with a lead apron and ordered me to stand still.
Incidentally, he didn’t bother to ask me for my last request.

He left the room and suddenly something started to rotate silently around my head… with the obvious purpose of extracting my most inner thoughts… or how much money I had in my checking account. I tried to resist by conjuring a defensive shield, but the machine was too quick and too powerful.

This is the position we are going to be in, in just a few short years. Helpless and at the mercy of power-hungry machines.

Soon humankind will be a minority, treated with contempt by haughty androids. We might be subjected to random searches or arbitrary arrests. It would be a good idea to secure a lawyer ahead of time… an android lawyer of course, smarter than our regular mouthpieces.

Robots have already invaded many domains. They are numerous in government (yes), in manufacturing plants and even in operating rooms. Very soon a surgeon would not dream of doing a heart transplant without the assistance of a robot… preferably an attractive looking robot.

I don’t want to be alarmist, but it might be a good idea to establish defensive alliances with other human beings in order to counter the robot menace.

Artificial Intelligence is a dangerous thing.

“I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. I mean with artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon.”Elon Musk 

I don’t want to be another Chamberlain. Don’t ever say that I didn’t warn you.