Saturday, April 16, 2005


Last night, I went out with the DMTC theater crowd and we saw the new action-adventure movie "Sahara," with Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, and Penélope Cruz. The movie was fun and fast-paced, with an interesting NW Africa setting that has rarely been exploited before in cinema. The picture's rapid-fire pace resembled that of the Indiana Jones movies (e.g., "Raiders of the Lost Ark.") Most everyone in our group thought it was an excellent picture.

Nevertheless, I had issues with "Sahara." I have the same issues with the Indiana Jones movies too. For an action-adventure movie to work for me, even if the premise is a bit far-fetched, it has to be somewhat plausible and operate in the same universe I live in. The early James Bond flicks were grounded in reality, and I liked them a lot. The later James Bond flicks departed too far from reality to be pleasing, and the Indiana Jones movies were so far outside reality as to be utterly uninteresting.

"Sahara" has the following problems, from my point-of-view:
  • A proposed journey of 72 hours, to go against the flow of the Niger River, in a motorboat, from Lagos, Nigeria to Goa, Mali, and back again? 800-or-so miles as the crow flies, and probably more than a thousand on the winding river? Yeah, right!
  • Ironclads crossing the Atlantic and going up the Niger River 140 years ago, when they had trouble managing to just get across the James River? Yeah, right!
  • Just a short drive to the Algerian border, through Mali? Through one of the world's most desolate wastelands? Yeah, right!
  • A high-tech toxic waste dump? In Mali? Yeah, right!
  • A limited toxic waste spill, in Mali, threatening the whole world? Through eutrophication? Yeah, right!
  • No one noticing all that Confederate gold for so many years? Yeah, right!

You get the idea. Call me a pill. Maybe I'm just too old for the modern era (meaning since about 1980, when 'Raiders...' came out.)

But it was a 'fun' film! At least talented Penélope Cruz will get a sure-fire hit out of it (fortunately her lack of chemistry with Matthew McConaughey didn't affect the movie much).

Friday, April 15, 2005

Weather Service Budget Dilemmas

We really do need a National Weather Service. There are core functions, like launching rawinsondes, that private weather firms don't do and which they can't duplicate. The budget has to be adequate or people get killed by floods and tornadoes. It's that simple.
Resuscitating Chickens

Tales of strange Colorado chickens.

The trip back last night from Anaheim was wearisome despite the sparse crowd at John Wayne airport. There were few passengers on the last Southwest flight of the evening from Orange County to Sacramento. The flight was half an hour late taking off, and upon arrival, they parked the plane for the night without bothering to check whether any bags were in the luggage hold. Several of us were inconvenienced. I guess we were lucky they remembered to deplane the passengers!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Side Show

Class in Anaheim continues today. Tonight I return to Sacramento.

Last night, in the Carl's Jr. drive-through, I got a salad (for the roughage), and consequently dreamed about chewing apart a crystal-clear drinking glass to soothing music. Some roughage: I need a better diet!

Last night, I blindly went to Elizabeth Howard's Dinner Theater in Tustin, not knowing what I'd find playing (I had thought about visiting Hollywood, but it's too far away). The show at the moment in Tustin is "Annie Get Your Gun," but that show was dark on Wednesday night. Instead, a fundraiser was being held to support 'The Academy For Performing Arts,' the magnet component of Huntington Beach High School. The show featured many recent Academy alumni in performance, plus as much cheesecake as one could eat.

Act I featured a number of songs from a musical I'm unfamiliar with: "Side Show." It's about the occupational and romantic dilemmas of the Hilton sisters, Siamese twins in a traveling circus. The Hilton sisters (not Paris and Nikki, but rather Daisy and Violet) were played by Amie Shapiro and Nicole Gerardi. It's a modern-style musical, where the dialogue is all sung, and there is a lot of dialogue to sing. Amie and Nicole sang several anthems: 'By Your Side,' and 'I Will Never Leave You.' The two were strongly matched (as might be expected) and they both sang very well. The best of the ensemble numbers was 'The Devil You Know.'

"Side Show" seems to be an anti-Carnival-type musical. Instead of the thrill of life changes by joining the circus, plus the anticipation of romance, there is the dread of life changes by leaving the circus, plus the anticipation of romance. The former seems inherently more interesting, at least to me. Musicals seem to work best when they place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Here, extraordinary people were placed in more-or-less ordinary circumstances. Well, whatever gets the beautiful songs sung: that's what counts most of all!

Act II featured a number of songs from other musicals: 'Hey, Big Spender' from "Sweet Charity," 'Lida Rose' from "The Music Man," 'Good Morning Baltimore' from "Hairspray," 'Waiting for Life to Begin' from "Once on This Island," etc. "D" Pull and Matt Bartosch made a good team of male singers in several contexts: "Side Show" in Act I, and 'High Flying Adored' from "Evita" in Act II. The singer I most enjoyed, however, was Katie Dixon, who sang 'Come To My Garden' from "The Secret Garden." Beautiful voice!

In the same shopping center as Elizabeth Howard's Dinner Theater is "Deva's", the bar run by Reva Renee Renz, one of the 135 gubernatorial candidates from the 2003 Recall Election. Last year I narrowly and stupidly missed seeing her. This year, I quickly peeked in, unannounced and unanticipated, to see if she was running bar: it seemed to be a slow Wednesday, and I didn't see her, so I didn't go in.

'Welcome to the Sixties' finale, from "Hairspray." Looks kinda cool (in an abstract way). Energy and enthusiasm conquer all shortcomings, including my inexpert photography!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

One Too Many Oops

From Salon, and everyone else:
Britney Spears has revealed what might be Hollywood's worst-kept secret: She's pregnant. In a posting on her Web site, Spears told fans that she and husband, Kevin Federline, were expecting their first child together. The couple were married in September.
New Horizons

Well, here I am again, back at New Horizons in Anaheim, exactly a year to the date that I was here before!

The flight down yesterday was uneventful. The plane was a Southwest 737, in AZ Grand Canyon colors, with a *swoosh!* wing tip. The airport was uncrowded and unrushed (is the post 9/11 fever dying out, have all the passengers fled, or was it just a slow time?). Kids in the back of the plane made a lot of noise counting down the takeoff roll. I would have fallen asleep just before landing, but the kids started up again, counting down the landing touchdown.

The rent-a-car drive from the airport was weird. My eyesight is so bad now (I have an optometrist appointment for about a week from now), and it's impacting my driving: I can't read the signs. Plus, I have a totally unwarranted confidence in my ability to negotiate the streets of unfamiliar cities (which got me in trouble at Christmas in Las Vegas). Plus, I rarely plan ahead and don't look at maps. Unsurprisingly, I ended up on the wrong road, instead of taking Highway 55 to Tustin, I took the 405 to Long Beach. I drove all over Orange County, transitioning eventually to the 605. All these city names - Westminster, Artesia, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens - and I don't know where the freak I am! But after a while, I figured it out. Finally stopped and looked at a map. Drove two to three times as far as I had to to find the hotel. The Marriott Towne Suites are exactly the same as last year. I am a "Platinum Guest," whatever the hell that is. I get two free Milano wafers and a bottle of Dasani purified water. Sweet!

Met a fellow student named Austin Kerr, who lives in Davis and works at EDAW, just two blocks away from Sierra, directly across J street from the Subway Restaurant (my most famous rut of all: where I've eaten lunch almost every day since 1997). Sometimes you have to travel far to meet your neighbors!

I like this tree just outside New Horizons (a picture of the same tree a year ago is on the blog)

A picture of the Metrolink train (similar picture as a year ago).

Springtime in Anaheim - a "Painted Lady" butterfly?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Looks like it's time to go to Anaheim for two days. The purpose is to learn the workings of a computer program called HARP. I'm not too keen on this class or this trip, but maybe there will side benefits. A chance to get some sleep for a change. A chance to visit that dinner theater in Tustin. An opportunity to visit Deva's, maybe. See what's going on in the Southland. Catch some rays. Learn about the hazardous interface between toxics modeling and dispersion modeling. Get more work tasks. Like that's what I really need these busy days.

I'll try to blog while I'm down there, but if I don't, at least I'll have stories when I get back.
Hotel Rwanda Review

An excellent review of a superb and memorable film:
One of the most remarkable things about Hotel Rwanda, then, is that the movie is not a sermon--or at least not only a sermon. Its backdrop may be this recent history of African horror and Western disgrace but in the foreground it tells a tale intended less to shame than to inspire, that of Paul Rusesabagina, a real-life luxury hotel manager who used his wits, connections, and sheer decency to save more than 1,200 Tutsi and Hutu refugees from the carnage that claimed the rest of his country.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Mountain Biking...

...Copper Canyon, haunt of the Tarahumaras.

In a corner of Red-State Kansas.
What Is He Thinking?

Strange story:
...Finkelstein is putting together a "Stop Her Now" campaign designed around Swift-Boat style anti-Hillary charges.

It won't be the first time that Finkelstein has led the attack against a Democratic candidate: again and again in his career, the reclusive advisor has made "liberal" a dirty word as he's bashed and smeared his clients' opponents. But Finkelstein's anti-Hillary campaign will be his first since the right-wing partisans who fund his work found out this little truth about Finkelstein: In December, he got married -- to another man.

Interesting stuff, among the things posted on Drudge - zapping fruit flies with mind-controlling lasers. Orwell would be impressed:
Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly.

Even headless flies took flight when researchers stimulated the correct neurons, according to the study, published in the April 7 issue of the journal Cell.

Scientists say the study could ultimately help identify the cells associated with psychiatric disorders, overeating and aggressiveness.

Biologists have long known that an electrical stimulus can trigger muscle response, but this approach used focused beams of light to stimulate neurons that would have been impossible to study using electrodes.
Such a Fate for a Cheerleader

From the Carpetbagger Report, regarding George W. Bush's recent trip to Italy:
Let me get this straight, many Catholic pilgrims were booing — at the pope’s funeral — at the very sight of the president on a TV screen. Want to talk about unpopular? That’s unpopular.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sin City

Went and saw "Sin City" last night. I was attracted to the talk on the "Charlie Rose Show": cutting-edge film-noir animation. I forgot that Quentin Tarantino's inclusion in the project meant just one thing: violence. Stupid violence, funny violence, tedious violence, colorful violence, good violence, bad violence, and regular, old bruising violence. Can't remember much now except the blood and the stylized evil of the thing.
When Nature Gets Rambunctious

Fun story:
It's interesting to read the story behind the photos. This occurred on April 28th, 1979.

The river is the Tombigbee River and this happened to be the record high water ever for that area. The towboat you see coming down on the bridge is the Motor Vessel Cahaba owned by Warrior Gulf Navigation out of Mobile, Alabama. Warrior Gulf is a subsidiary of Pittsburgh Steel.