Sunday, October 19, 2014

Someone Wrote A Check

On E.'s closed checking account. Recipient may be a known car thief. Troublesome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Visit From The Skunk

(Looking down at the driveway at 1:30 a.m.)

M.: Look at who's poking their nose under you car!

E.: A skunk!

M. and E.: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

M.: He's drinking the birds' water.

E.: Look how thirsty he is! They carry the rabies!

M. and E.: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

M.: Big tail. Looks cute.

E.: Why did God ever make the ants and the worms and the skunks?

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Breaking Bad/Anasazi Analogy

(draft - argument is still in pieces)

In "Breaking Bad", Season 5a, episode 5, "Dead Freight", Lydia is kidnapped and taken to a hidden basement. To save her life, she describes a railroad radio dead zone by pointing at a map. There is no railroad where she points, however. What is at that point?

Whitehorse, just across Chacra Mesa from Pueblo Pintado, the easternmost "gateway" community of Chaco Canyon.

To me, this proximity isn't accidental, but speaks to something deeper. Lydia is pointing at a location on the very edge of the center (but not directly at the center) of Anasazi civilization at Chaco Canyon. But why? What does it mean? Perhaps "Breaking Bad" is making a commentary on Anasazi history and suggesting an analogy to Walt's drug empire.

In "Breaking Bad", the radio silence zone on the railroad is a place where a conspiracy can subvert modern civilization without being observed. Similarly, Whitehorse is a place where Chaco civilization can be subverted.  Whitehorse is very close to, but out of direct visual sight, of Chaco Canyon. Imagine the summit of La Fajada Butte at Chaco Canyon as possessing an ‘Eye of Sauron’ lighthouse-like beam surveying the landscape. Seen from La Fajada Butte, Whitehorse is just behind Red Mountain, just out of view of the ‘Eye of Sauron’, and is thus a reasonable location from which to hatch conspiracies against the central power in adjacent Chaco Canyon.

Chaco Canyon is a natural Panopticon. Views across most of the central area of power at Pueblo Bonito are easy to obtain. Even though it was a premodern society, Chaco Canyon at least contained this element of modern society: power mediated by the direct view. Theatricality was central to Anasazi power. Chaco Canyon dominated the San Juan Basin in a similar way. It was centrally located, functioning almost as a 'Mecca' of the Pueblo world. Perhaps like the Panopticon, Chaco Canyon experienced other phenomena that might be considered modern too: e.g., revolution.

Anasazi spiritual power derived from command of astronomical knowledge, whose patterns were embedded in the landscape. Virtually every structure featured walls oriented to azimuths of solar or lunar importance (particularly major or minor lunar standstills), and corners aligned with these directions, and were located with respect to one another along these azimuths (Sofaer, et al., 2008). These patterns were embedded in the landscape by the locations and orientations of these buildings.

The Whitehorse area contains a number of Anasazi ruins. Nevertheless, there is no indication it contained elements central to Anasazi astronomical observations and political power. It doesn't sit along any notable azimuths with respect to Pueblo Bonito and Chaco Canyon. It is out of sight of Chaco Canyon. Even though Pueblo Pintado is also out of direct sight of Chaco Canyon, it is still part of the central design (sitting on a minor lunar standstill azimuth), in a way that Whitehorse is not. In or about Whitehorse, particularly along the fringes of Chacra Mesa, privacy can be found.

Walt’s spiritual power derived from his dedication to his family. That dedication is very persuasive!

Modern spiritual power derives from democratic consent, but those patterns aren't embedded in the landscape. Instead, patterns of economic power - national and international trade - have been embedded in the landscape, in the form of railroads.

From "Breaking Bad, Season 5b, episode 6, 'Ozymandias':
W.: Listen, I was thinking, um, maybe we can have a little family time this weekend.
S.: Oh yeah?
W.: Yeah! You know, just take a drive; the almost four of us. (nervous laugh) Maybe we can head up the Turquoise Trail and stop at Tinkertown; maybe grab some lunch in Madrid.
S.: Omigod, we haven't been there in forever.
W.: I know, and so, why don't we just do that? Take a little break.
S.: Sold. Sounds fun!

So, Walt and Skyler decide to take their family on a metaphorical "Turquoise Trail". What could go wrong? Maybe history is a guide.

Turquoise is a blue mineral, akin to blue meth in terms of color:
Like the Aztecs, the Pueblo, Navajo and Apache tribes cherished turquoise for its amuletic use; the latter tribe believe the stone to afford the archer dead aim. Among these peoples turquoise was used in mosaic inlay, in sculptural works, and was fashioned into toroidal beads and freeform pendants. The Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) of the Chaco Canyon and surrounding region are believed to have prospered greatly from their production and trading of turquoise objects.
Interestingly, the filming location of "Dead Freight" is only a short distance (11 miles, or 18 km) from the Anasazi's primary source of turquoise, at Mt. Chalchihuitl, between Santa Fe and Cerrillos. The material basis of power at Chaco Canyon was control of the turquoise trade of the Southwest and northern Mexico. For many years, the Anasazi held close to a monopoly on the turquoise trade with the Toltec Empire, and that trade brought them the accoutrements of wealth and status:
Anasazi commerce centered on one item: turquoise. Trading groups from the Toltec merchants' capital (Tollan or Tula) in central Mexico visited regularly. Chaco governors tightly controlled the turquoise mines at Cerrillos. Raw stone was brought to Pueblo Bonito to be cut into small tiles, which the merchant-traders took back to Tollan for use in jeweled and tiled creations. Trade must have diffused from the north, too, because in Chaco and other Anasazi sites are found many small beads and inlays made of carved caitlinite -- pipestone -- from Minnesota and Great Lakes quarries, like the mosaic eagle icon of this page, made of caitlinite and tiled with turquoise. Foreign trade, through the rigidly-controlled Cerillos turquoise mines, was the major source of wealth -- foreign luxury products -- of the Anasazi civilization.

Turquoise was also a local medium of exchange -- a kind of money. About 5,000 people lived permanently in the towns of Chaco Canyon in 1100 AD (and tens of thousands visited for big fairs and ceremonies). But in spite of their ingenuity with waterworks, there was arable land near enough to work to feed only 2,000.

...Some 2,500 outlying Anasazi abandoned rural farm villages or single-family pit - and - adobe homes have been found. Turquoise, the medium of exchange, was one thing that pulled their inhabitants into Chaco for the large religious festivals and trade fairs, packing all they could carry of surplus food (such as dried corn, beans, squash rings) on their backs, for there were no burden-bearing animals and no wheeled vehicles.

Outlying farmers could exchange surplus food for turquoise, a permanently-storable wealth, which could be traded later, if necessary, for food and craft goods from the center or locally. Turquoise thus functioned for all the people of this civilization as money -- wearable, beautiful, spiritually enhancing, and religiously iconic, but practical, too. At least until the 3-pronged disasters struck.

First came Chaco's loss of control of turquoise sources. New mines opened up in Arizona and Nevada. ... Competitive turquoise trade with their best and only large customer -- the Toltec empire -- began with those uncontrolled mines, but considerable uncontrolled turquoise also entered the Chaco economy, devaluing it as turquoise became more common. More turquoise in circulation was a kind of inflation. Then the foreign market collapsed, as a civil war destroyed the Toltec empire (around 1100 AD). There was no longer a large foreign customer for the turquoise. No more foreign trade. Even more turquoise from the uncontrolled mines flooded the Anasazi economy, further inflation.

The final disaster was a 50-year drought, beginning in 1130. Ingenuity in channeling and storing water could not save the worsening situation. Food became very scarce. The outlying villagers had no surplus to bring to the markets in Chaco.

They wanted what food they had for themselves anyway. You can't feed your family turquoise, however beautiful, however sacred. And their lands were drying out and dying, too. So the Anasazi began to leave -- not only Chaco Canyon, but other large Anasazi centers established in cliff caves, like those at Mesa Verde.

...The Anasazi people did not mysteriously vanish. They moved in stages, taking with them most of their valuables, to establish the string of pueblos along the Rio Grande and a few other desert rivers. By 1200 AD, the Chaco Canyon center, and most high desert settlements of the Anasazi civilization were entirely deserted. The turquoise road over the Mexican High Sierra was forgotten, except probably for Mexico-based rumors people there later told the invading Spaniards: about 7 cities of gold somewhere to the north.
Along with the collapse of Toltec trade came the drought of the mid-1100's:
Around 850-900 AD in the mesas and canyons of the American Southwest, tribal peoples now known as the Ancestral Pueblos (formally the "Anasazi" which means "ancient enemies" in the Navajo language) began to build and live in above ground structures with contiguous rooms known by the Spanish word "pueblos" meaning village. Their agricultural society revolved around corn that was well-adapted to the arid climate, and some large communities, such as those that were built in Chaco Canyon, were built in open areas. But about 1200 AD some of these native peoples moved into cliff dwellings in the Mesa Verde area and in Tsegi Canyon.

...According to the National Park Service World Heritage Program, drought was a factor in the abandonment on Chaco during the 12th Century:
"The decline of Chaco apparently coincided with a prolonged drought in the San Juan Basin between 1130 and 1180. Lack of rainfall combined with an overtaxed environment may have led to food shortages. Even the clever irrigation methods of the Chacoans could not overcome prolonged drought. Under these pressures Chaco and the outliers may have experienced a slow social disintegration. The people began to drift away."
During the 13th Century, the Ancient Pueblo peoples of Mesa Verde and nearby regions also abandoned their masonry homes. For many decades the conventional wisdom was that severe drought pushed them from the region due to crop failures. Paleo proxy data from tree rings and packrat middens have been used as evidence that a severe drought had hit the region. Analysis of bones from the inhabitants which showed malnutrition seemed to confirm the drought theory.

...The more scientists study the situation, the more complex the problem actually becomes. Yes, there was a drought ... but was it really severe enough to force the Ancient Pueblos from their homes? Some researchers were skeptical.
More climate data are available from the Grissino-Mayer dissertation from U of A in 1995 based on tree-ring data from the Malpais near Grants.

The drought of the 1100's eased in the 1190's - the early 1200's were a wet period - but a much-worse drought occurred in the 1240's.

Still, it is likely that as wealth departed Chaco Canyon and drought decimated the civilization, the power elite clung to power. Civilizations usually don't change leadership when conditions are deteriorating.

There are a number of theories regarding the nature of revolutionary change in societies, but few have improved on de Tocqueville:
The French Revolution, Tocqueville ... notes, drew much of its strength from districts near Paris where 'the freedom and wealth of the peasants had long been better assured than in any other [district].' Under the influence of the democratic ideas in the air, King Louis XVI and his men had simply 'lost the will to repress'. In Iran, the impetus for reducing repression seems to have come from U.S. President Jimmy Carter's human rights campaign. Aiming to preempt Carter to avoid the appearance of being pressured by the U.S., the Shah took some measures on his own initiative: he gave the press more freedom and permitted open trials for civilians brought before military tribunals .... Regardless of the merits of the measures themselves, it stands to reason that they helped the opposition grow. If hatred for the government is widespread, providing greater opportunities for criticism serves to publicize this fact, thereby encouraging more people to side openly with the opposition. Also significant no doubt is the Shah's vacillation with regard to the use of force against the growing crowds, perhaps because the cancer treatment he was receiving impaired his judgment. Inasmuch as vacillation is seen as a sign of weakness, it raises the relative attractiveness of joining the opposition.

As mentioned earlier, the Marxian and relative deprivation theories of revolution trace political explosions to policies and institutions that are unpopular. We have just seen, however, that both the French and Iranian Revolutions were precipitated by government measures that were popular. The following
remarks by Tocqueville are apposite:
[I]t is not always when things are going from bad to worse that revolutions break out. On the contrary, it oftener happens that when a people which has put up with an oppressive rule over a long period without protest suddenly finds the government relaxing its pressure, it takes up arms against it. Thus the social order overthrown by a revolution is almost always better than the one immediately preceding it, and experience teaches us that, generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways....
The Russian Revolution, it appears, was ignited by a major strategic error on the part of the authorities, coupled with a series of coincidences. The Petrograd regiments normally responsible for protecting the Tzar were at the front in early 1917, and most of their replacements were new recruits who were not only less well trained and less experienced, but also more attuned to the mood of the civil population. This proved to be a grave error, since the new regiments fell apart as they came in contact with the crowds.... It is well worth reiterating in this connection that no one, not even Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries, foresaw that the regiments in Petrograd would melt away when called on to control the crowds.

But what brought the crowds into the street in the first place? Four factors seem to have played a role. On 23 February, the day the uprising began, many residents of Petrograd were standing in food queues, because of rumors that food was in short supply. 20,000 workers were in the streets after being locked out of a large industrial complex. Hundreds of off-duty soldiers were outdoors, looking for a distraction. And as the day went on, multitudes of women workers left their factories early to march in celebration of Women's Day.... The combined crowd quickly turned into a self-reinforcing mob. It managed to topple the Romanov dynasty within four days.
So, improving conditions are often crucial to revolutions, because discontented folks can easily imagine improved circumstances if only the leadership is changed. Various incidents and accidents are important too.

But the Anasazis based their spiritual power on astronomical understanding. The only really plausible way to carry out a revolution against the power elite is for some unexpected astronomical event to undermine the leadership. What kind of event would that be?

One possibility would be the Crab Nebula Supernova of 1054 A.D. It was completely unexpected. Still, the stars were not the primary competency of Anasazi leadership: the Sun and the Moon were. The Crab Nebula Supernova of 1054 A.D. likely wasn't the triggering event.

Total solar eclipses are very rare at Chaco Canyon, occurring typically once a century. There was one particularly dramatic total solar eclipse, however, on April 22, 1194: a "Black Dawn" - total solar eclipse at sunrise. It's conceivable the Anasazis did not expect this solar eclipse. In addition, there was a second partial solar eclipse on September 23, 1196, which wasn't a total eclipse, but did occur at a sensitive time: Autumnal equinox in a minor lunar standstill year.

The azimuth of sunrise on "Black Dawn" was about 73 degrees, somewhat close to the northern minor lunar standstill limit. A dawn eclipse would be most dramatic.

By the 1190's, the drought was easing. Conditions were improving. Signs of incompetence in the leadership predicting eclipses would be enough for a restless population to rebel. Chaco Canyon's Panopticon could instantly turn into Synopticon, as the Chaco Canyon’s great kivas were decommissioned and filled with dirt, and the population escorted the leadership out of Chaco Canyon.

There are indications the population split in two, with some migrating to Aztec and others to Mesa Verde. Lexson believes the leadership might have eventually migrated to Aztec, then Casas Grandes in northern Mexico.

Similarly, Walt failed to anticipate how the power of family (Uncle Jack and his crew) could be used against him. Walt’s empire never reaches point of public exposure, however, until the very end of the series.

How unexpected might the solar eclipse of April 22, 1194 have been? What did the Anasazi know about solar eclipses? Were, say, 250 years of observations sufficient to allow them to feel confident predicting eclipses? It's always hazardous to prove a negative, of course, but it may give some sense of the difficulties involved. What didn't the Anasazi know, and when didn't they know it?

Solar eclipses follow a complicated pattern known as saros cycles:
After one saros, the Moon will have completed roughly an integer number of lunar orbit cycles and synodic, draconic, and anomalistic periods (241, 223, 242, and 239) and the Earth-Sun-Moon geometry will be nearly identical: the Moon will have the same phase and be at the same node and the same distance from the Earth. In addition, because the saros is close to 18 years in length (about 11 days longer), the earth will be nearly the same distance from the sun, and tilted to it in nearly the same orientation (same season). Given the date of an eclipse, one saros later a nearly identical eclipse can be predicted. During this 18-year period, about 40 other solar and lunar eclipses take place, but with a somewhat different geometry. One saros equaling 18.03 years is not equal to a perfect integer number of lunar orbits (earth revolutions with respect to the fixed stars of 27.32166 days sidereal month), therefore, even though the relative geometry of the Earth-Sun-Moon system will be nearly identical after a saros, the Moon will be in a slightly different position with respect to the stars for each eclipse in a Saros series. The inclined orbit of the Moon rotating in fixed space results in the precession of the lunar node in relation to completion of lunar orbits (one turn of lunar orbit equals 18.59992 years).

The saros is not an integer number of days, but contains the fraction of ⅓ of a day. Thus each successive eclipse in a saros series occurs about 8 hours later in the day. In the case of an eclipse of the Sun, this means that the region of visibility will shift westward about 120°, or about one third of the way around the globe, and the two eclipses will thus not be visible from the same place on Earth. In the case of an eclipse of the Moon, the next eclipse might still be visible from the same location as long as the Moon is above the horizon. Given three saros eclipse intervals, the local time of day of an eclipse will be nearly the same. This three saros interval (19,755.96 days) is known as a triple saros or exeligmos (Greek: "turn of the wheel") cycle.

Solar eclipses occurring near the Moon's descending node are given even saros series numbers. The first eclipse of each series starts at the southern limb of the Earth and the eclipse's path is shifted northward with each successive saros.

Each saros series starts with a partial eclipse (Sun first enters the end of the node), and each successive saros the path of the Moon is shifted either northward (when near the descending node) or southward (when near the ascending node) due to the fact that the saros is not an exact integer of draconic months (about one hour short). At some point, eclipses are no longer possible and the series terminates (Sun leaves the beginning of the node). Arbitrary dates were established by compilers of eclipse statistics. These extreme dates are 2000 BCE and 3000 CE. Saros series, of course, went on before and will continue after these dates. Since the first eclipse of 2000 BCE was not the first in its saros, it is necessary to extend the saros series numbers backwards beyond 0 to negative numbers to accommodate eclipses occurring in the years following 2000 BCE. The saros -13 is the first saros to appear in these data. ... It takes between 1226 and 1550 years for the members of a saros series to traverse the Earth's surface from north to south (or vice-versa). These extremes allow from 69 to 87 eclipses in each series (most series have 71 or 72 eclipses). From 39 to 59 (mostly about 43) eclipses in a given series will be central (that is, total, annular, or hybrid annular-total). At any given time, approximately 40 different saros series will be in progress.

At Chaco Canyon over a 250 year period, roughly 30 of the 40-or-so operating saros cycles will be observed. Saros cycles repeat at 18 year intervals, but eclipse locations change position. At any one point like Chaco Canyon, cycles may thus appear to skip, and detecting the 18-year pattern is difficult. It is easier to observe the 54 year cycle (54 = 3 * 18) however, since the location will be nearly the same. Still, the 54 year cycle is ephemeral. After a few repetitions, old saros cycles get dropped and new ones get introduced, so, after a two hundred years, the 54-year pattern has changed considerably. How likely is it that the 1194 solar eclipse wasn't anticipated?

A Fourier Transform of the eclipse frequency was obtained, which shows the importance of the 54 year cycle.

Caption: Cycle magnitude as a function of repeat period.

There is a rival 36-18-36 year cycle, but it is harder to notice in the record, because it doesn't occur at regular intervals. Roughly half of all solar eclipses at Chaco Canyon will follow a 54-year-cycle. The 1194 eclipse could have been anticipated on the more-complicated 36-18-36 year cycle, but not on the easier-to-observe 54-year cycle. Thus, it is plausible that the Anasazi did not anticipate the "Black Dawn" of April 22, 1194.


o Chaco Canyon as a natural Panopticon;
o Control of blue turquoise trade as a source of material wealth (“Jesus Christ, Marie, they’re minerals!”) parallels Breaking Bad’s blue meth empire;
o Anasazi turquoise mines located at Cerrillos, just a few miles from the ‘Dead Freight’ filming location for the radio silence zone;
o Anasazi power derived from command of astronomical knowledge, whose patterns were embedded in the landscape (architectural design of buildings and location of structures).
o Walt’s power derived from focus on family;
o Modern economic power derived from national and international trade, whose patterns have been embedded in the landscape in the form of railroads.
o Lydia identifies Whitehorse/Pueblo Pintado area as a zone of radio silence (behind Red Mountain and just out of view of La Fajada Butte’s ‘Eye of Sauron’): a reasonable location from which to hatch conspiracies against the central power in adjacent Chaco Canyon.
o North-south axis of railroad filming location fiendishly mirrors Anasazi/Pueblo north-south spiritual power axis, as does Walt’s attack from below.
o Decline of Chaco Canyon due to first megadrought (1130-1150), turquoise inflation due to wildcat mines, and loss of trade as the Toltec power center collapsed. Impoverished power regime hangs on despite steady erosion of people and wealth.
o De Tocqueville’s theory: despite discontent and suffering, revolution doesn’t happen until conditions and the regime itself have actually improved. Rainfall increases markedly through the 1190’s and the area enters a wet period, improving prospects.
o Trigger for final collapse of the Anasazi likely unprecedented astronomical events (the power regime’s field of prime competency). Total solar eclipses occur typically once a century at Chaco Canyon – rarely enough that they weren’t of much concern. Still, there was the unprecedented ‘Black Dawn’ – a total solar eclipse (possibly unexpected) at sunrise on April 22, 1194 (possibly aggravated by the insufferable dust storms that are so common in April). Another possible astronomical shock could have been the lunar standstill partial solar eclipse at autumnal equinox on September 22, 1196.
o Trigger for Walt’s collapse was inclusion of the wrong family in his empire (Uncle Jack, Todd, and their ilk);
o No modern parallel. Modern society doesn’t collapse from drugs (yet).
o Chaco Canyon Panopticon instantly becomes Synopticon as Anasazi regime loses face regarding eclipse(s). Chaco Canyon’s great kivas decommissioned and filled with dirt and the remaining people migrate, principally to either Aztec or Mesa Verde.
o Walt’s empire never reaches point of public exposure until the very end of the series.

"Foucault - A Very Short Introduction", Gary Gutting, Oxford University Press, 2005.

"Foucault For Beginners", Lydia Alix Fillingham, Writers and Readers Publishing, 1993.

"Chaco Astronomy - An Ancient American Cosmology", Anna Sofaer and Contributors to The Solstice Project, Ocean Tree Books, 2008.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Purse Stolen At Arden Fair Macy's

Well, this sucks balls. Accompanied E. to Arden Fair Macy's on Tuesday evening to buy a dress for an upcoming wedding. Thief was already in the fitting room and posing as store personnel. She walked out with E.'s purse and $300 in cash.

Store management was rather clinical about the whole thing. Wonder if this happens often, or maybe it's just no one knows how to react to events like this: "sorry for your loss"? Security wasn't able to locate purse outside (assuming it had been rifled and quickly tossed).

Thief took E.'s iPhone 3. Didn't have Enhanced Support on it, so they couldn't trace it. Maybe time to upgrade that phone! Still, she couldn't call her BF, or cancel checks quickly, or attend to changing house keys quickly because we had to go to Kaiser ER first to try and to get meds replaced. Wanted to get Sac PD to do a driveby of the house just to make sure it was safe, but Sac PD don't do drivebys, it seems. Call them back if the place has been ransacked, they recommend.

The ironic thing is that E. never, ever, EVER wins at the casino - no one in the Universe has ever had worse luck - EXCEPT the day before, when she apparently crept over there and won $200. Universe is trying to tell her something.

It was interesting was how the thief posed as store personnel and guided E. to the preferred location in the fitting room for the theft, then departed just as E. came out to model the dress, thus distracting me. Diabolical. No description at all. A fuzzy picture of the thief departing the store was apparently recorded, but nothing clear. That door on the north side of the second level is just too close to the fitting room.

"Shrek - The Musical" Closes

Dinosaur Egg Smuggling

Holy cows!
CEDAR CREST, NM (KRQE) - Federal agents raided a New Mexico-based gallery company last week looking for evidence in a dinosaur fossil smuggling case. The investigation centers around Touchstone Gallery. The company, which sells jewelry, fossils and minerals, has four locations in New Mexico and Arizona.

Agents searched the company’s Cedar Crest headquarters, its Taos location and owner Joe Wilhelm’s Sandia Park home. A federal search warrant application filed in late September and obtained on Wednesday by KRQE News 13 explains why.

In July 2013, Homeland Security Investigations agents were first given a tip that Touchstone was selling Oviraptor eggs at its Sedona location. Months later, agents say they entered the Santa Fe location and spotted a pair of Oviraptor egg clusters for sale, advertised as coming from Mongolia. That caught investigators’ attention. HSI has been returning fossils to Mongolia for the last few years because of that country’s artifact laws.

Ant Attack!

John E. posted this a few days ago:
A routine patrol for a Tracy-area California Highway Patrol officer, Daniel Garza, turned into a fight to save the life of a 41-year-old Los Angeles man paralyzed by an attack that no one saw coming.

...As he changed the tire, Johnck said he noticed a dozen ants climbing over his feet, which were exposed by his flip-flops.

...“All of a sudden, the dozen turned into 10 dozen and my whole leg was blackened with ants,” Johnck said during a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home on Sept. 24. “I freaked out and started to brush them off, and that’s when they started to bite me.

...Within minutes, he said, he became lightheaded and thought he was going into shock. He said he lay down and put his feet up on a cooler but soon realized he needed help fast.

...He was going into anaphylactic shock.

...Johnck said he researched red ant attacks and discovered that they cause a few deaths in the United States each year. As a director and producer of travel films, he has climbed Mount Everest, Mount Whitney and the Swiss Alps and been bitten by many insects in different parts of the world, but he has never had a reaction like the one he experienced in Tracy.

Garza said he was happy he was in the right place at the right time.

“With most incidents, we get there after the incident,” he said. “We don’t usually get there from the start to finish. It was one heck of an experience. Something you don’t expect to happen while out on patrol every day. I was glad I was able to do what I could to help save him.”

Yuba City, Land Of Mysterious Smoke Plumes

When I first moved to Sacramento in 1990, Sacramento was the Land Of Mysterious Smoke Plumes. That was the case until rice field burning was largely-phased out in the area by the Air Resources Board and McClellan Air Force Base was closed.

Now, it appears Yuba City is the Land Of Mysterious Smoke Plumes....

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The First Annual Breaking Bad Fan Fest - Coming Soon!

Coming soon! The First Annual Breaking Bad Fest, November 7th & 8th. I will have a table and be selling books there:
THE ALBUQUERQUE BREAKING BAD FAN FEST: The 1st annual ABQ Breaking Bad Fan Fest is more than just a festival, yo. It’s a chance for Breaking Bad fans to make their pilgrimage to Albuquerque, see the filming sites, meet Breaking Bad cast, and meet other fans from all over the world. Come be a part of Breaking Bad fandom history. There will be lots of surprise guests at Fest events. Let’s Cook!
Friday Nov 7th:

$48 for 6 tickets (Buy Now) 2pm-4pm Geeks Who Drink Breaking Bad Trivia Contest at Tractor Brewery--Wells Park. Prizes are VIP passes for the winning team. Under 21 must be accompanied by adult and are not eligible for VIP passes. Open to the public.

$10 (Buy Now) 5pm-7pm Karting Bad. Go Kart races at Albuquerque Indoor Karting (as seen in Breaking Bad). The fastest time wins Breaking Bad: The Complete Series 2014 Barrel [Blu-ray] collection. This is a great all-ages event. Open to the public.
Saturday Nov 8th:

$30 General Admission (Buy Now) includes entrance to all events at the Kiva Auditorium Sat. Nov 8th:

1pm-2pm "Behind the Scenes" panel discussion of Breaking Bad crew moderated by podcasters Jim & ARon of Baldmove.

4pm-5:30pm Costume Contest! (Want to be a contestant? Free and open to the public). Prizes include Mezco toys for under 21, or VIP passes for 21+. Contestants please arrive at 3pm.

7pm-8pm "Breaking Bad Cast" panel discussion featuring Steven Michael Quezada, Charles Baker, Jeremiah Bitsui, Luis & Daniel Moncada, and Max Arciniega, moderated by podcasters Jim & ARon of Baldmove.

$225 VIP Admission (Buy Now) includes all of the events on Sat Nov. 8th at the Kiva Auditorium listed above PLUS:

8:30 pm fully-catered VIP After-Party at Casa Esencia where you can MEET THE CAST featured on our panel and other special guests! Panel cast members will be signing autographs for free. 21+ only!

AND the first VIP ticket buyers will receive a free 1.5 hour RV tour of Breaking Bad locations! Thats church, yo. Please see the Tours tab for more information. Seats are limited. As of today there are still seats available.

10% of all ticket sales will go to two local Albuquerque charities benefiting children & youths, YDI and PB&J.

Die Antwoord - Fatty Boom Boom

Their treatment of Lady Gaga is lamentable. I know if Lady Gaga asked me to open for her I'd be flattered beyond endurance. Nevertheless, Die Antwoord's song is so energetic is precious on its own terms.

Interesting Article About Making The U.S. The Home Of Chess

Like this:
Sinquefield launched the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in 2008 on a quaint, brick-laden block in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. The center has 6,000 square feet of playing halls, libraries, and classrooms, and more than 1,000 dues-paying members. Across the street—past a phalanx of outdoor chess tables arranged on the sidewalk—sits the World Chess Hall of Fame. Sinquefield apparently dug its archives out of mothballs from some sad venue in Florida, augmented the existing collection with his own trove of chess memorabilia, and housed it all in a gorgeous, dedicated facility replete with a gift shop full of Bobby Fischer tchotchkes. Not far from here, on the same side of the city, is Webster University, home to the nation’s best college chess team.

Together, these institutions have made St. Louis the new center of American chess.

Drinking From The Half-Full Glass

The nice thing about looking haggard after a sleepless night is automatically getting the senior rate for the buffet.

Drone Footage Of La Bajada Hill

Here is a wonderful video of drone footage of the National Old Trails Road (NOTR) road up La Bajada Hill, the old Spanish boundary between Rio Arriba and Rio Abajo, between Santo Domingo Pueblo and Santa Fe.

There are some wonderful pictures of La Bajada Hill in the old days, like this one:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Fragments of Concert - Die Antwoord, Oakland, CA, Sept. 25, 2014

This is what I recorded at last week's concert. Very hard to focus on the task, so just impressions here.

Die Antwoord Live Atlanta 10.20.12 "Fatty Boom Boom"

This is “Fatty Boom Boom”, Die Antwoord’s anti-Lady-Gaga song, performed live. Great band from Capetown, South Africa (rapping in slang Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English), with the most disturbing videos on the Internet. Lead singers are Yolandi Vi$$er and Ninja.

I don't see any videos from last Thursday's Oakland show on the Web yet, but this is close. The vantage point here is very similar to the one I had in Oakland:


Science! Driving from Sacramento to Yuba City this morning, away from the sun and towards the anti-solar point, I passed through several dust clouds kicked up harvesters bouncing through drought-stricken fields on a windy day. In the dust, I could see an optical display known as heiligenschein. I don't think I've seen heiligenschein since 2010! I excitedly relayed this news to my class. I was pleased. They were mute. I can be such an insufferable ass when I try. Next time, I should say I saw something else. Ghosts, maybe, or Jeezuz on a tortilla, or whatever else might undermine their confidence.

More Songs from Monday Evening Zumba

Monday, September 29, 2014

David Ewey Birthday Party

"The Velveteen Rabbit" - DMTC YPT

A sweet and touching show. Reminded me of the "Playland Surprise" game I got for Christmas (but rejected too soon) when I was a kid.

The Tree TP Incident

It was 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning, which meant it was time to go outside, scout for skunks and do some watering. I was lurking in the darkness when down the street a vehicle parked and a gaggle of giggling teenage girls emerged. It took me a while to realize they were TP'ing a tree. I watched grimly as they tossed the TP roll repeatedly in the air. I was baffled about why they chose that tree, since it's in front of no one's house, but rather, in front of a small auto repair shop. They were remarkably inefficient at their chosen task, often missing the tree altogether with their tosses, because they were giggling too much. "Well, guess I should call the cops," I thought, "since inefficient distribution of toilet paper in the trees just promotes disorder in the neighborhood." Just then, they piled back into the vehicle and gaily drove off, laughing and frolicking, and leaving the task essentially undone. I'll probably have to get out there myself and demonstrate to the neighbors how it's really supposed to be done.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Die Antwoord" - Fox Theater - Oakland, CA - September 25, 2014

Last night's "Die Antwoord" show started with a video of very peculiar looking DJ Solarize (Leon Botha) staring back at the audience and blinking (he recently passed away from his progeria).

"Lairygirl" has posted several videos on YouTube. Her video for the show's finale, "Enter the Ninja", is notable because at 4:30 the crowd dropped Ninja on the floor as he surfed the mosh pit. I was nearby and was nearly bowled over by the surge of bodies. At the very end, Yolandi introduced family members, who have appeared in some videos.

Nevertheless, I like the energy of this video, particularly "I Fink U Freeky". The crowd began jumping in unison and pumping fists in the air. I could feel the floor rebounding and hoped it wouldn't buckle. Nearby girl stomped on my foot and I blinked back in response.


Some pictures of the Fox Theater, and the show:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sierra Research Celebrates Successful Merger With Trinity Consultants

Strange Thursday

This is shaping up to be a strange day.

First, it rained 0.35" in Sacramento, the first rain in five months (since April 25th). The rain was greater than expected (but forecasts suggest it isn't a harbinger of more in the immediate future, so the drought continues for now).

Second, my employer's merger completes tomorrow, and in a fit of celebration they issued an unexpected bonus. So, for the moment, I have cash to burn. Time to celebrate!

Third, in a decision I'm sure I will really, really, really regret (or maybe even like, depending on events), I purchased a ticket to see Die Antwoord perform in Oakland tonight. So, bring on the vermin....