Friday, June 28, 2013

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and the Discovery of California

Above is a bronze medallion honoring the exploration of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.
It says that in 1542 in service to Spain, he was the first to explore the coast of California from Nativity Island to the North of San Francisco.  Cabrillo died during this exploration in early 1543 while returning home from his discoveries.
Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo (JOÃO RODRIGUES CABRILHO, ca. March 13, 1499 -- January 3, 1543) was a Portugese navigator sailing for the Spanish crown.  He is most noted for having been the forst European to sail along the California coast.  He sailed as far North as the Russian River, which is located in Sonoma County California, North of San Francisco.  He did not discover San Francisco Bay. That discovery would not occur for another 200 years. I have included below almost verbatim, from the Wikipedia entry about him.

Little is know of Cabrillo's early life.  He accompanied Francisco de Orozco to subdue the indigenous Mixtec people at what would eventually become the city ofOaxaca, in Mexico. 

In 1539, Francisco de Ulloa, who had been commissioned by Hernán Cortés, discovered the Gulf of California and reached nearly as far north as the 30th parallel. Cabrillo was then commissioned by the new Viceroy of New Spain,Antonio de Mendoza, to lead an expedition up the Pacific coast in search of trade opportunities, perhaps to find a way to China (for the full extent of the northern Pacific was unknown) or to find the mythical Strait of Anián (or Northwest Passage) connecting the Pacific Ocean with Hudson Bay. Cabrillo built and owned the flagship of his venture (two or three ships), and stood to profit from any trade or treasure.

Cabrillo shipped for Havana as a young man and joined forces with Hernán Cortés in Mexico (then called New Spain). Later, his success in mining gold in Guatemala made him one of the richest of the conquistadores in Mexico. According to his biographer Harry Kelsey, he took an indigenous woman as his common-law wife and sired several children, including at least three daughters. Later he married Beatriz Sanchez de Ortega in Seville during a hiatus in Spain. She returned to Guatemala with him and bore him two sons.

In 1540 the fleet sailed from Acajutla, El Salvador, and reached Navidad, Mexico, on Christmas Day. While he was in Mexico, Pedro de Alvarado went to the assistance of the town of Jalisco, which was under siege by hostile Indians, and was killed when his horse fell on him, crushing his chest. Following Alvarado's death the viceroy of Mexico took possession of Alvarado's fleet. Part of the fleet was sent off to the Philippine Islands under Ruy Lopez de Villalobos and two of the ships were sent north under the command of Cabrillo. 
Cabrillo's expedition recorded the names of numerous Chumashan villages on the California coast and adjacent islands in October 1542 — then located in the two warring provinces of Xexo (ruled by an "old woman", now Santa Barbara County, California) and Xucu (now Ventura County, California).On 27 June 1542, Cabrillo set out from Navidad (in Jalisco) in New Spain with three ships: the 200-ton galleon and flagship San Salvador, the ship La Victoria (c. 100 tons), and the lateen-rigged, twenty-six oared "fragata" or "bergantin" San Miguel. On 1 August Cabrillo anchored within sight of Cedros Island. Before the end of the month they had passed Baja Point (named "Cabo del Engaño" by de Ulloa in 1539) and entered "uncharted waters, where no Spanish ships had been before". On 28 September, he landed in what is now San Diego Bay and named it "San Miguel". A little over a week later he reached Santa Catalina Island (7 October), which he named "San Salvador", after his flagship. On sending a boat to the island "a great crowd of armed Indians appeared" — whom, however, they later "befriended". Nearby San Clemente was named "Victoria", in honor of the third ship of the fleet. The next morning, October 8, Cabrillo came to San Pedro Bay, which was named "Baya de los Fumos" (English: Smoke Bay), after the burning chaparral that raised thick clouds of smoke. The following day they anchored overnight in Santa Monica Bay. Going up the coast Cabrillo saw Anacapa Island, which they learned from the Indians was uninhabited. On 18 October the expedition saw Point Conception, which they named "Cabo de Galera". The fleet spent the next week in the northern islands, mostly anchored in Cuyler Harbor, a bay on the northeastern coast of San Miguel Island.
On 13 November, they sighted and named "Cabo de Pinos" (Point Reyes), but missed the entrance to San Francisco Bay, a lapse that mariners would repeat for the next two centuries and more. The expedition reached as far north as theRussian River before autumn storms forced them to turn back. Coming back down the coast, Cabrillo entered Monterey Bay, naming it "Bahia de los Pinos".
On 23 November 1542, the little fleet arrived back in "San Salvador" (Santa Catalina Island) to overwinter and make repairs. There, around Christmas Eve, Cabrillo stepped out of his boat and splintered his shin when he stumbled onto a jagged rock while trying to rescue some of his men from Chumash attack. The injury became infected and developedgangrene, and he died on 3 January 1543 and was buried. A possible headstone was later found on San Miguel Island. His second-in-command brought the remainder of the party back to Navidad, where they arrived 14 April 1543.
A notary's official report of Cabrillo's inconclusive expedition was lost; all that survives is a summary of it made by another investigator, Andrés de Urdaneta, who also had access to ships' logs and charts. No printed account of Cabrillo's voyage appeared before historian Antonio de Herrera's account early in the 17th century.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Dysfunctional US Constitution

I have concluded that after 225 years since the ratification of the Constitution of the United States it has become dysfunctional in it's current state.  While the founding fathers envisioned the need to tweak the supreme law of the land from time to time with the establishment of the ability to amend the document through Article 5, no such modification sufficient to cure the current situation appears to be a viable option.

Technology has now allowed us to consider a more direct form of democracy, instead of the more practical form of representative democracy that has been the law of the land since inception.

I have decided herein to propose an Amendment to the US Constitution which could solve many of these problems.

1.  Establishment of a national ID.  Each individual that is a current citizen or resident should be issued a unique identification number, and then when new persons are born or immigrate to the US they should be issued such an identification number.  This number must be implemented in such a way as to distinguish between citizens and residents, including age and zip code of residency.  There should be an official mechanism developed to allow for the modification of the information associated with these ID numbers for when the factual information changes.  Further, the ID should be developed in such a way that it may be used as a certain identifier on computer systems such that we will have certainty that an individual's communications are identified and verified.

2. Reduction in the powers of the legislative branch of the United States.  Subsequent to the implementation of the national ID, the legislative branch of the United States, including both the House of Representatives and the Senate will be changed in the following manner:
a. While Senators and Congressmen will continue to be elected in the manner they were elected in the past, they will not have the authority to enact legislation unless two thirds of each body ratifies the proposed legislation.
b. Legislatures may propose legislation so long as 40% of a given house is in accordance.  The filibuster rule will be abolished.
c. If both houses of Congress pass a proposed bill for legislation, then the matter will go before the public for an electronic vote immediately.  If, after two weeks, more than 50% of the respondents vote in favor of the legislation, then that legislation will then pass to the president of the United States for ratification or veto.
d.  If the President vetoes a legislative act that has been passed by the public, then they may override that veto if two thirds of the public vote for such an override.
e. A public petition to put forth legislation will permitted if 100,000 citizens approve of the petition.  In this case the the matter will be handled as though both houses of Congress had proposed the matter and will go before the public for ratification in the usual manner.

Comments, criticism, modifications would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Data Security in the Internet Era

There has been quite an uproar about the revelations this last week that the government has been snooping around our telephone and internet email communications, not to exclude our Tweets, Facebook postings, etc.  I, quite frankly, don't understand what the discomfort is all about.  Did people really think that existence and contents of their internet interactions were private like the letters we send via the US Postal Service?

I hardly store anything on my computer anymore.  I use Google for all my documents and spreadsheets, I use Gmail for storing my emails, and a host of other cloud company services to store anything else I might want to keep.  Hell, I even use PayTrust to store my bills -- I don't even have paper back up of them.  Usually, when I get a paper document that I do want to save, I scan it and file it on one of the services that is most appropriate for the document or image.  For example, in the rare event that I should actually receive a tangible bill for something, like for a delivery of compost for my garden that I paid for with cash, I mail the bill to PayTrust and file it there without paying it again.

Having served as an expert witness in matters involving computers for a number of decades, I have found that the typical non-computer person thinks that once they put something into their computer they think that it is no longer visible to others. Or worse, they think that if they destroy it once it was in their computer, that it is completely gone.  Where do these ideas come from?  This is not the old days where you could stash your old love letters in the attic and know, with a high degree of certainty, that unless someone was rifling around up there in your attic, NO ONE would know neither that they exist nor what they say.

If the government wants to legally get any information that I have had possession of, all they have to do is get a court order to have it produced by one of the firms that is holding my information.  They certainly don't have to rely on me to get the information.  They know that. I know that.  That is why I subconsciously know that any information I put into a tangible form can and will be available should the government ever want to avail itself of that information.

So, given this reality, I ask, why would I memorialize anything that could come back to haunt me?
--not that I have anything to hide that I should be haunted about.

The answer is that unless I am involved in some terrible illegal activity, or that I am trying to hide information about my personal behavior that I do not want others to know, that there is NO reason.

In fact, if I were to own a gun and didn't communicate or document the fact that I owned it, the government would have no way of knowing that I owned it.

Do you think that the government is sitting there with nothing to do on its hands but rifle through the gigabytes of information that I have created looking for juicy tidbits to tell the world about me?
If you do think that, you are very wrong.

In fact, the only thing I can think of that an ordinary citizen might produce that could be of interest to a repressive government would be some subversive political views which are threatening to the government.  For those who think that that is what our government is up to I have only two words to say: You're paranoid.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Monetize Plagiarism

There was an OP-ED opinion, 'How to Monetize Plagiarism' in the New York Times by Joe Nocera that appeared on June 8, 2013.  Upon reading the title, I thought, I would find an interesting OP-ED piece about the flagrant theft of internet original content by plagiarizers, which is rampant on the internet. I thought that Nocera was going to propose a solution for internet plagiarism something like what Apple did for the music industry.  I wanted to comment on this OP-ED piece, but found out that Joe had closed comments on the piece real quickly, as most of the comments were very unfavorable.  So, here goes my response here instead.

Just think what we could do.  We could set up a system whereby anybody could register their content as original, then the system would troll the internet looking for scoffers.  Then, the system would assess a small fee (or any fee that the content owner wanted to collect for his or her original content) on the scoffer. Some of the fee would be used to pay the owner of the content a royalty for its use, and the remainder would be used to support the system and also to pay for the costly litigation to enforce the payment of the fees by the scoffers, or, they would have to face the consequences in a judicial forum.

I'm not sure what the outcome would be. It might result in a lot less plagiarism on the internet. Or, it might result that people would be enticed to use some choice plagiarized content if the fee is not too exorbitant.  Sort of like subcontracting the building of a story or whatever.

I'm not saying that my idea goes without problems that have to be worked out.  What happens if someone, for example, plagiarizes content that was plagiarized from yet another individual?  Who gets the royalty?  Who gets to decide the rules for plagiarizing? Is it plagiarized if proper citation is included, in which case, should the fee be imposed or not, or should it be at a reduced rate?  I'm sure that there are many other problems with my proposal. If you want to chime in with a comment here, be my guest.

However, Nocera chose to use his valuable column to haunt two people who probably have been shamed enough for their crimes against humanity. The two journalists who were caught either fabricating facts or plagiarizing other peoples content in their work.  I am not going to propagate their names or squander my reader's time by repeating their acts or their names.  By the way, I don't even know if fabricating facts is technically considered plagiarism.  I thought that that was called fiction.  If the claim is that it was supposed to be fact, and turned out to be knowingly fiction, then that must have some other term, like lying, or libel, or something like that.

 Joe Nocera need not be told, "People in glass houses should not throw stones." Oh, is that a plagiarized quote? Please get real Joe.