Saturday, July 19, 2003

This WMD Scandal Heats Up!

Reading this article, it looks like Kelly may have felt betrayed, because he expected the Ministry of Defense to come to his aid in defending his reputation before the Blair government, and they did not do so. Did Kelly tell MoD that Kelly WASN'T the main contact for Gilligan? Not clear, but Kelly probably thought by coming forth so readily, that was understood. Not so. Hoon sacrificed him, to defame the BBC. And of course BBC wouldn't come to his aid, because they're protecting their main sources. So Kelly was left to swing in the wind. The only option was suicide.

Politics ain't beanbag!

Friday, July 18, 2003

What's the Frequency, Paul?

I feel sorry for conservatives these days (well, no, not really, but bear with me). Various illusions about what was going to happen in Iraq once the war ended are being systematically demolished. Paul Wolfowitz bears a lot of responsibility for things going awry. Here is a prime quote:

"The so-called forces of law and order (in Baghdad) just kind of collapsed. There is not a single plan that would have dealt with that"

The PROBLEM is NOT that there was no single plan, the PROBLEM is that there was no plan AT ALL. Many outside observers predicted the chaos that removing the Baath party would cause - totalitarian societies depend on fear, and when you remove fear, order collapses (witness the old USSR). Here are various, thoughtful, older articles, by different writers, from just from one magazine (The New Republic) where our current difficulties were easily forseen (1, 2, 3). This is just the tip of the iceberg too. Except by the Administration, most everyone thought trouble was inevitable. Isn't it about time you got a clue, Mr. Wolfowitz?

LDS Dating Tips

The time for evasions had passed. I was between a rock and a hard place. Last year, at the California State Fair, against the recommendations of my friends, I signed up at the Mormon's booth for a free survey of my family's genealogy. "It's just a come-on," my friends insisted, "ignore these guys, and let's look at the dust mop demonstration instead." But no! I had to go ahead and sign up.

When the Mormons dropped off the survey, it was clear there was almost nothing in it that I didn't already know, with the exception of an address that might lead me to a branch of my mother's family that vanished somewhere in Nebraska or Kansas (what used to be called the Great American Desert) back in the 19th Century. But then the missionaries started calling. They tried several times. They even came the day I tried to evict Erlynda. Just as the police left, the Mormons arrived. I don't remember what what I said then - probably something along the lines of "not now, I have some domestic violence to attend to."

But they knew where I lived. They knew where I hid. They even knew my mother's maiden name. So it was time to talk to them. Because I finally had a question for them too.

They arrived Wednesday night. They had a clever visual aid, 20 or so paper cups in a pyramid, showing Jesus on top, virtues and ideals like charity, kindness, etc. below, and a base made up of 13 cups representing the Apostles, and how the LDS has attempted to replace the 13 dead Judean Apostles with 13 living Utahan Apostles, in order to restore the original heirarchy. I was alarmed because it looked like all the abstract virtues and ideals rested on a foundation of 13 fallible people, but then they explained that what they really should have done was dangle the cups on strings from Jesus, in order to show that everything radiated from Jesus, rather than rested on frail people (there is only so much you can do with paper cups, after all).

But then I said I had a practical question. What does the LDS think of a secular skeptic like myself dating a Mormon? What about marriages of mixed faiths, and what about the faith of the children? I waited for that famous rigidity that I've heard ascribed to Mormons, but surprisingly didn't encounter it. They talked about the need for the family to sort out within itself what to do about mixed faiths, and that there were plenty of such marriages in the LDS. The most important thing is mutual respect. They handed me a book of Mormon and we arranged another meeting (but I won't even look at it until I finish a WWII memoir I'm reading). "Remember," they said, "the most thing about the LDS - we aren't Catholics!"

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Coherent Claudette

I'm impressed how well former Hurricane Claudette has stuck together - after almost a thousand miles, it still is a recognizable weather feature, and passing right now through Arizona. That big, summertime Bermuda high is really pushing it west! Unfortunately the Naval weather forecasts from Monterey don't feature it - the storm is small enough that it slipped in-between weather stations when the computers were being initialized, so as far as the computers are concerned, the storm is invisible. Reality says otherwise, of course, but that's the nature of weather forecast modeling - missing the fine points!
Ping-Pong, Matrix-Style


Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Friend Peter Baldridge Made the Paper!

Better to be noticed than ignored, I suppose....

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

More Tales from Sacramento at Night

Sunday morning, at freakin' 2:45 a.m., several hours after dancing in "Show Boat" at DMTC, I walked my dog Sparky past a house that had always seemed devoid of life. Surprisingly, on the front door step, a beautiful woman dressed in a sarong was dancing a salsa step to soft music - apparently alone. So stunned was I by the magical vision that all I could muster was a sheepish grin and a hand wave. It occurred to me later that I should have danced a salsa past her, maybe drumming up a conversation about Cuban hip motion, but after "Show Boat" and everything, so late at night, I could hardly think clearly. I will pay more attention to this house from now on.

The night before, as I walked my dog Sparky near my house about 2 a.m., I looked in the window of a house and caught glimpses of a dressed male and an undressed female. "What's going on in there?", I thought, as I squinted through the distant portal. I stopped near a parked van and watched a moon pass from east to west, then from west to east. What's going on in there? Just then, pedestrians approached, and realizing I looked pretty foolish, I moved on. Sadly enough, I will probably pay more attention to this house too from now on.
California Air Quality

We are in the process of finishing up an article on California air quality for Sierra Research's monthly newsletter, CVS News. Already this summer, in the South Coast Air Basin, ozone levels have reached 0.216 ppm (sometime last week), after reaching only 0.169 ppm last year. A rather dramatic worsening of California air quality is apparently underway, probably driven by the lack of progress in developing air pollution control measures, plus population growth, with many more people driving ever so many miles. For the last several years, it's been fun to see whether Houston or LA would have the nation's worst air quality - the race would be SO close - decided by a nose! This year, LA, the Lance Armstrong of hacking coughs, may lap laggard Houston. Bad for California lungs, for sure, but probably good for Sierra Research's air quality business....
Music from "Show Boat"

Apparently the song "After the Ball" has quite an illustrious history.....
George Zoritch's CD

I took George Zoritch's CD of ballet barre music to my Sunday morning ballet class (class size, about 10), with Pam Kay Lourentzos. I gave the CD to her, in the expectation that after a review of the music she might play it the following week in ballet class, but to my surprise, she took the CD and started playing it directly. So we had an interesting class where we were all naive listeners, where no one including the instructor had any idea at all of what to expect from the music. Most comments were of the sort like "pretty music", or "very dramatic music", with one woman (Monica) laughing during degages that it reminded her of silent-movie accompaniment. I noticed that the class seemed to be working harder than usual, because we weren't switching CDs and because there was no wasted time between musical selections or when changing sides. In general, I think the CD made a very favorable impression on everybody. I anticipate it will become part of the standard repertoire of music in Pam's class. Next, I need to introduce it into Victoria Johnson's class. And with the third CD Zoritch provided gratis, I still have options.
"Show Boat" Closes

DMTC's "Show Boat" closed this weekend. I'm sad to see the show close - it was a pleasant experience. The cast was a real pleasure to work with. I don't have any pictures from James Stark yet, but I hope to have some soon.

Crossing a Few Lines in Vegas

Sport, the Hunter, and the Hunted.

Monday, July 14, 2003


A homeless man came up to me and, quite by surprise, gave me $100.

Let me explain.

Joe Coranado, the homeless guy who led the effort last September to paint my house, is no longer actually homeless - he has an townhouse apartment near Q and 16th. He's drinking quite a bit less too. But by both his estimate and mine, I overpaid him last fall, but I wasn't terribly worried about it. I figured I'd never see that money again, and I wasn't going to worry about it. But many months later, Joe still remembered. He tracked me down at Ron Cisneros' dance studio, called me out of class, and gave me a $100 bill. The only catch is that if times get hard again, say, sometime around Christmas, he wants somebody whom he might be able to touch for a little bit of cash. That's me. And so it goes, with debts of money and honor. Nice guy, Joe.

The homeless-guy painting crew was a real trip. I was lucky in getting a crew of mostly workaholic homeless guys (they really do exist: a hard-working but ill-organized gang of homeless guys). For example, "Dirty Steve" worked hard from sunup to dusk. People like "Irish" were a bit more of a problem. At one point, "Irish" was beginning to climb a ladder, and I thought, "What's wrong with this picture - a confirmed alcoholic with a bad leg standing precariously at the top of ladder, waving a paint brush around, on a blazing hot summer afternoon?" So we put "Irish" to work on something else.

Last November, Katherine Arthur's (and for a time too, my) cat, Ferguson, died. I promised to bury it. For a time, I drove around town with a dead cat in the back of my car, thinking to myself: "Not to stress too much about it, but eventually I'm going to have to bury this cat, or I'm going to be under even more stress. But no time! So I'll bury it when I can!" When burial day came, Joe Coranado happened upon me and helped me dig a hole for Ferguson's burial (right next to the small peach tree out back, under which Sylvie the cat is buried).

Joe was in a lot of pain as he dug the hole. He had been in a fistfight with several other homeless guys the night before, fighting side-by-side with "Irish" against former friends like "Dirty Steve". Joe had bruises on his head, his face, his ribs, and his hand was badly swollen, perhaps even broken. Joe put poor silent Ferguson in the hole, tamped the cat down with his foot, looked down at Ferguson, shook his head, and said "Shit Happens". I was aghast - what a horrible eulogy! Even a bad animal deserved better! But at least I understood where he was coming from. (If I die prematurely, Joe shouldn't preside over the funeral ceremony)......

Which reminds me of when Sylvie the cat died. The weather was warmer, so I put the cat in a translucent plastic grocery bag and put her away in the freezer. I left the house on a chore, but then Helga (who was renting the extra bedroom at the time and knew nothing about Sylvie's death) came home with her groceries, opened the freezer, and placed a gallon of sherbet right on top of chilly Sylvie! Funny in retrospect!

And I've seen "Irish" lately too. He's apparently got liver problems and he's looking less-healthy all the time. Looks like Joe and I might have to dig an extra-big hole before too long. And I worry about what Joe might say.....