Friday, May 20, 2005

Microphysical Dyslexia

I saw this headline:
"Scientists hail creation of cloned embryo"
and I thought it said:
"Scientists create clone of hail embryo."
The second headline makes sense, in a cloud microphysical sort of way, but it would be even more of a surprise than the first headline, because it's so hard to duplicate the structure of ice!
Brisbane Pop Music

Radio B105.3, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia recently had a promotional gimmick by which they gathered popular songs from numerous radio listeners, and organized them into a "Top 1000."

I was less interested in the popularity of songs than the popularity of various acts. Here are the Top 20 songs, plus the acts that succeeded in placing the most songs into the Top 1000.

Top 20:
1 DANCING QUEEN - ABBA
2 BLISTER IN THE SUN - VIOLENT FEMMES
3 CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD - KYLIE MINOGUE
4 YOU SHOULD BE DANCING - BEE GEES
5 GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN - CYNDI LAUPER
6 DECEMBER 1963 (OH WHAT A NIGHT) - FOUR SEASONS/FRANKIE VALLI
7 ARE YOU GONNA BE MY GIRL - JET
8 Y.M.C.A. - VILLAGE PEOPLE
9 KIDS IN AMERICA - KIM WILDE
10 HEY YA! - OUTKAST
11 WE ARE FAMILY - SISTER SLEDGE
12 PRETTY FLY(FOR A WHITE GUY) - OFFSPRING
13 BILLIE JEAN - MICHAEL JACKSON
14 PUSH UP - THE FREESTYLERS
15 I WILL SURVIVE - GLORIA GAYNOR
16 WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO GO - WHAM/GEORGE MICHAEL
17 PUSH IT - SALT 'N' PEPA
18 TEENAGE DIRTBAG - WHEATUS
19 SUPERFREAK - RICK JAMES
20 GREASE MEGAMIX - JOHN TRAVOLTA/OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

Most Songs in Top 1000 (arguably George Michael should be third, because he also appears in Wham!):

First: MADONNA (17)
Second: KYLIE MINOGUE (14)
Third: ABBA (10)
Tied for Fourth: PRINCE and ROBBIE WILLIAMS (9)
Tied for Fifth: BRITNEY SPEARS, EMINEM and GEORGE MICHAEL (7)
Tied for Tied for Sixth: DESTINY'S CHILD, DURAN DURAN, EURYTHMICS and ROXETTE (6)
Tied for Seventh: JAMIROQUAI, NO DOUBT/GWEN STEFANI, RICHARD MARX, SHAGGY and U2 (5)
Tied for Eighth: AVRIL LAVIGNE, B52'S, BEE GEES, BELINDA CARLISLE, GREENDAY, HUEY LEWIS & THE NEWS, JANET JACKSON, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, KELLY CLARKSON, MAROON 5, MICHAEL JACKSON, OUTKAST, POWDERFINGER, SUGABABES, VILLAGE PEOPLE, and WHAM/GEORGE MICHAEL (4)
Wal-Mart Rules

Interesting photo, via David Sirota. In the past, corporate CEOs were very circumspect about public appearances, particularly those where they might be seen to be exercising influence or engaged in lobbying. No longer. And this Ehrlich guy: what a tool!


Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) yesterday vetoed legislation aimed at forcing Wal-Mart to provide its workers with more adequate benefits. That wasn't a surprise - Ehrlich is the standard "corporate whore in politicians clothing" that now occupies many of our nation's highest public offices.

What is shocking, however, is how open he was about acknowledging that Big Business pulls all of the strings when it comes to public policy. As the Los Angeles Times notes, "Eduardo Castro-Wright, chief operating officer of Wal-Mart stores USA division, stood at the Republican governor's side as he signed the official veto." The photo ... captures it on film - Ehrlich is waving after the veto, as Wal-Mart's CEO prowls behind him.
Censorship

And how it works in the U.S. Government....

(as much as I don't like Galloway, it was refreshing to hear how someone trained in the parliamentary style of debate was able to grab Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota and just wax the floor with him!)

Here, apparently, is a link to the video....

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

'It's the Mysticism!'

Driving west to Davis this evening, wearing my new long-distance glasses, there was a pretty rainbow to look at. The only trouble was the rainbow was behind me, so I relied heavily upon the forbearance of the other drivers on the Yolo Causeway, as I weaved my way along Interstate 80, craning my neck and checking out the sight.

The rainbow had numerous (at least three), prominent, supernumerary bows, just inside the primary rainbow, where the rainbow met the ground. According to Greenler's excellent book (Robert Greenler: Rainbows, Halos and Glories; Cambridge University Press, 1991 reprint), supernumerary bows are most prominent with a uniform drop-size distribution composed of small drops, and are usually seen near the top of the rainbow, not near the ground, since the drop-size distribution generally broadens near the ground. A uniform, small, monomodal drop-size distribution can generally be achieved near the ground only with rainfall from fairly shallow clouds with low cloud bases (so there isn't enough time or depth of fall for the drop-size distribution to develop and broaden), and indeed, that's the sort of clouds we had around here today. Cool stuff! Unusual sight, and a refresher course on atmospheric optics!

In Davis, the cinema behind the Varsity Theater was surrounded by a line of people waiting for the opening of 'Revenge of the Sith.' A young woman posed 'en garde' with a plastic saber. Good grief!

At the Varsity Theater, DMTC had a special showing of "Man of La Mancha," aimed primarily to the actors at Runaway Stage Productions, many of whom are DMTC veterans, but who can't come on weekends since they are currently starring in "Pirates of Penzance." Rodger McDonald was there (Rodger triumphed as Don Quixote with DMTC's 'La Mancha' in 2000, just as Byron is doing this year.)

I hung around the lobby until the intermission, then left. Outside, a woman with a bullhorn was explaining the rules of cinema etiquette to the young, mostly-washed Star-Wars-struck masses, standing in a tidy line that almost completely encircled the theater. First time I've ever seen anyone explain ground rules to a cinema audience (except maybe on an airliner, and then the focus is on the floatable seat cushions and emergency exits!) The woman stumbled through several warnings, including one against bringing any recording devices of any sort into the theater. The patient audience-to-be sported numerous cell phones, many of which had cameras: not high quality cameras, of course, but enough to catch and distribute fuzzy images of Yoda if desired. Enough to make a Hollywood lawyer despair!

What is it going to be like in the near-future, when cell phones sport high-quality cameras? Or high-quality video cameras? Phony, plastic Hollywood-lawsuit saber, versus a high-tech cell phone light saber: no contest! The only recourse will be to hypnotize the audience-to-be with mystical Tatooine incantations, so even if they wanted to film the motion picture, their will to do so would be taken away. Or maybe drugs. It's not the mysticism, it's the rohypnol in the popcorn! The future approaches faster than we are ready!
Great Gravity Waves

In the Great Basin today!

Courtesy of Jerry, another view. It's amazing how the abrupt drop on the east side of the Sierras and Cascades can set off gravity waves that extend all the way to Yellowstone!:

Waiting for News

Even though my airline tickets for next month's trip to Brisbane, Queensland are clearly labelled 'nonrefundable, nonexchangeable,' the touring company I used to secure them (Travel.com) appears to be making something of an exception (probably because I haven't demanded a refund, just a change to dates yet unknown, and because it became clear that Quantas Airlines themselves had no problem with a date change.) This is good, because I paid US$ 1325.00 for them, which is a cheap rate for some, but expensive enough for me!

Fortunately, I had not secured lodging or a car rental yet!

What I will do now is wait, and hope Kylie's concerts are rescheduled soon. If the concerts are:

  • rescheduled, I will use the concert tickets I now have, as planned; or if,
  • cancelled, I will, upon travelling to Brisbane anyway for vacation, attempt to get a refund in person.

I suppose I could cancel the Brisbane trip entirely, but then the touring company would revel in their windfall of nonrefundable US$ 1325.00. I would go to great lengths, even travelling halfway across the world, to deprive them of that pleasure!

What I want from the touring company is some say regarding when I travel to Australia. I'd hate to be forced to travel there in early June, if Kylie were to reschedule her concerts for two weeks after I'd leave, and there'd be nothing I could do except to pay for another quick trip to Australia, for another US$ 1325.00!

Many prayers for good news and a speedy recovery! Meanwhile, I must content myself with this:

Minogue is insistent that her tour is only postponed, not cancelled. Her tour's promoter, Michael Gudinski, who has been Minogue's friend for 20 years and one of the first outside her family to learn of her condition, said: "All the equipment will be staying in Australia and hopefully we'll be able to reschedule the dates pretty soon. But there's no pressure. We can't hypothesise but we'll see in a couple of weeks."
Instant Summer: The Weather Gods Throw the Big Toggle Switch

The FNMOC weather forecasts over the next week show a rapid warm-up in the West and Southwest, complete with monsoon-like summer afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains of AZ by next Tuesday! Really remarkable: the Weather Gods seem to be throwing a big toggle switch, from Winter to Summer. It's strange to catapult straight from winter storms to the summer monsoon season, without the usual dry spring in-between, but the Gods seem to have other ideas. Maybe it won't quite take: it's still a bit early!

Plus, there's that strange tropical storm hitting Central America (El Salvador) right now, the first eastern Pacific tropical storm in May since 1966. Over the next week, it's going to cross Central America, the Caribbean, afflict central Cuba, and head NE across the Bahamas and the Atlantic. The Weather Gods seem to be saying: Let the tropical storm season begin!

All right, all right, Your Highnesses! Slow down, you don't have to push quite so hard!
Atheism and Evolution

Chris Mooney points out that 'Intelligent Design' people, and other anti-evolutionists, are working from an incorrect assumption, that evolutionists are necessarily atheistic. This is a major error and it will alienate potential allies:
In Kansas, criticisms of evolutionary theory have been accompanied by a direct philosophical assault upon the nature of science itself.

Kansas’s previously proposed science standards had appropriately defined science as "the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." Anti-evolutionists want to change this language to the following: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

This may seem harmless at first glance. But the change carefully removes any reference to science's search for natural explanations in favor of “more adequate” explanations, creating a opening for creationists to insert the supernatural. Such a change reflects the fact that the new generation of anti-evolutionists has launched an attack on modern science itself, claiming that it amounts, essentially, to institutionalized atheism. Science, they say, has a prejudice against supernatural causation (by which they generally mean “the actions of God”). Instead, the new anti-evolutionists claim that if scientists would simply open their minds to the possible action of forces acting beyond the purview of natural laws, they would suddenly perceive the weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

...scientists since the Enlightenment have seen fit to distinguish between supernatural beliefs based on faith or metaphysics and scientific findings based on observed evidence and inferences about natural causation. Such inquiry is technically termed "methodological naturalism," more commonly known as the "scientific method." It has quite a successful track record over the years, from medicine to nuclear science.

But methodological naturalism deeply offends today's anti-evolutionists. Because the theory of evolution is perceived to have contributed to the undermining of religious belief, the intelligent design movement has taken to arguing that the theory itself betrays a deep philosophical prejudice against God and the supernatural. Hence, they seek to overturn not just evolution but methodological naturalism itself.

...The Boston Globe's Nina Easton effectively refuted the argument equating evolution with atheism with a single article: A profile of Kansas scientist Keith Miller, an evangelical Christian who says he was "called by God to be a geologist" and who has been a leading critic of the new attacks on evolution, including in his book Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (a collection by Christian evolutionists). "Science does not affirm or deny the existence of a creator," Miller told Easton. "It is simply silent on the existence or action of God."

As Miller's words suggest, while evolution may well suggest atheism for some people, it does not suggest it to all. The atheistic conclusion is itself philosophical, not scientific -- as is the theistic conclusion, for that matter. That's crucial to bear in mind, because attacking science as atheism isn't just wrongheaded; it's dangerous. Going down this road will only generate still more strife between the scientific community and the overlapping community of people of faith -- two groups we should be bringing closer together rather than driving further apart.
Get a Postcard...

...and post a secret.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Resistable Force and the Immovable Object

The 'San Francisco' vs. a seamount:
Blood was everywhere. Sailors lay sprawled across the floor, several of them unconscious, others simply dazed. Even the captain was asking, "What just happened?" All anyone knew for sure was that the nuclear-powered attack submarine had slammed head-on into something solid and very large, and that it had to get to the surface fast.

In the control room, a senior enlisted man shoved the "chicken switches," blowing high-pressure air through the ballast tanks to force the vessel upward. Usually, the submarine would respond at once. But as the captain, Cmdr. Kevin G. Mooney, and top officers stared at the depth gauge, the needle refused to budge....Ten seconds passed. Then 20, 30.

"I thought I was going to die," Commander Mooney recalled.

...The submarine crashed at top speed - 33 knots, or roughly 38 miles an hour - about 360 miles southeast of Guam. The impact punched huge holes in the forward ballast tanks, so the air being blown into them was no match for the ocean pouring in. The throttles shut, and the vessel briefly lost propulsion. As the emergency blow caught hold, mainly in the rear tanks, the sub was just drifting in the deep, its bow pointing down.

Luckily, the thick inner hull protecting the nuclear reactor and the crew's quarters held. But within was pandemonium - bodies pinballing, heads striking steel in the warren of lethally sharp surfaces in impossibly tight spaces. There was so much blood on the instruments and on the control-room floor that the place, Chief Hager said, "looked like a slaughterhouse."
Brown Recluse Spiders

And why one should avoid them (are these photos fake?).
Hitchens Screed

Christopher Hitchens has an insulting article over at Slate, taking the New York Times to task for using the term 'insurgents' to describe fighters in Iraq. To Hitchens, everything in Iraq is either bin Ladenist (Zarqawi) or Baathist: black and white, no gray, no need for thought. To Hitchens, people who insist upon looking deeper into Iraqi politics must be fools.

One of the interesting things about Iraq is that many, perhaps most, of the fighters are neither associated with Zarqawi or Saddam's old regime. There are a number of fighters of all stripes (Muqtada al Sadr's cadre to start, plus various salafists). It's inexcusable for Hitchens to take such a thuggish attitude to anyone else who might want to spend more than five minutes trying to puzzle it all out. If the New York Times wants to use the fairly-bland overarching term 'insurgents,' it's fine with me: just don't use the unhelpful, overused, undescriptive term 'terrorists.'

When did Hitchens become such a jerk? Why does he mock Orwell, with his straw men arguments and jackboot mentality?
First Tropical Storm of the Year!

According to FNMOC, this storm will head across Central America, the Caribbean, central Cuba, and points NE.
From Sea to Rubber Sea

This story sounds ridiculous, but friend Jeff assured me that when he worked at the sewage treatment plant, these things came down the sluice like little bobbing duckies and were the bane of everyone's existence.
"Man of La Mancha" Review

As I thought likely, the Davis Enterprise review of DMTC's show was quite favorable:

Quite a 'Dream'

Superb lead actor highlights strong local production of 'Man of La Mancha', By Bev Sykes, Enterprise drama critic, Published: May 11, 2005.

Director Jan Isaacson's Davis Musical Theatre Company production of "Man of La Mancha," which opened Friday at the Varsity Theater, is quite good.

Dale Wasserman's Broadway hit, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, is a musical drama — a play within a play within a play — that tells the story of Miguel de Cervantes, thrown into prison while awaiting examination by the Holy Inquisition for having the effrontery to foreclose on a church that had not paid taxes.

Cervantes' fellow prisoners hold their own Inquisition — a mock trial — and accuse the writer of being, among other things, an idealist and a bad poet. If "convicted," he will lose his belongings, which consist primarily of an unfinished manuscript and a trunk of theatrical costumes and props.

In his defense, the author proposes that he act out the story of the manuscript, using other prisoners to fill in the roles.

Cervantes' manuscript is the story of Alonso Quijana, an idealistic old man who imagines himself to be living in Medieval times as an errant knight, Don Quixote de La Mancha, who travels the countryside fighting beasts and rescuing damsels in distress: "He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity."

The delusional Quijana, who promises not to allow wickedness to flourish, is an embarrassment to his respectable family.

Without a commanding Cervantes, a theatrical company has no "Man of La Mancha," and Isaacson has it a gold mine with DMTC newcomer Byron Westlund (who played this role at Cabrillo Stage, in Aptos). Westlund is tall, rugged and stately; he has a rich baritone and is an excellent actor. What more could one want?

As Sancho Panza, Cervantes' manservant, Ryan Adame gives the character an endearing boyish enthusiasm.

Quixote sees things as he wants to see them, not as they really are. Thus a windmill becomes a giant beast to be attacked, and a country inn becomes a castle. Aldonza, the serving wench and town whore, becomes the lovely "Dulcinea," a fair lady whom Quixote insists on treating with dignity, gentleness and respect; he thus becomes her protector.

Lauren Miller is a world-weary, jaded Aldonza, confused by the eyes through which Quixote sees her. Miller has a bit of trouble with her high notes, but otherwise gives a strong performance. Her rape scene is disturbingly effective.

Other noteworthy performances include Steve Isaacson as the "Governor" of the dungeon, who doubles as the innkeeper who agrees to make a knight of Quixote, and dubs him "Knight of the Woeful Countenance."

John Hancock gives a high-powered performance in the dual roles of the Duke and Dr. Carrasco who — along with J.D. Diefenbacher (the Padre), Dannette Vassar (the Housekeeper) and Emily Beal (Antonia) — sings the delightful "I'm Only Thinking of Him."

The ensemble is strong, and particularly lovely in the harmonies for the gentle "Little Bird, Little Bird."

Steve Isaacson's set design exhibits better production values than the usually struggling company sometimes is able to afford, and the lighting — also designed by Isaacson, and run flawlessly by first-time technician Julie Kuhlman — dramatically sets the scene of an underground dungeon, with a window at ground level through which fog can be seen. The lighting is particularly dramatic when steps are lowered to permit new prisoners to enter the dungeon.

Long-time company costumer Jean Henderson turns out her usual collection of good-looking costumes, all appropriate to the period.

The 15-piece backstage orchestra produces a full sound that nicely accompanies the on-stage events. Ben Wormeli, the on-stage guitarist, complements the action quite well.

"Man of La Mancha" continues through May 29.

Copyright, 2005, The Davis Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.
Anti-Telemarketing Script

For those precious conversational moments (check out the pdf):
The Direct Marketing sector regards the telephone as one of its most successful tools. Consumers experience telemarketing from a completely different point of view: more than 92% perceive commercial telephone calls as a violation of privacy.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Oh No!

Early reports: Kylie Minogue's "Showgirl" tour is postponed, due to the diagnosis of early breast cancer in the pop star.

What to do now? Should I go to Australia or not? The air ticket is nonrefundable. Presumably the two concert tickets will be honored, at some indefinite time in the future, but it's unlikely I'll be able to attend. Maybe Travel.com will be merciful and let me suspend the reservation until new concert dates are announced.

Part of the equation, of course, is whether Kylie will be able to resume touring soon. I had some kind of premonition that it was important to see her perform now, before much more time passed, while she is in her full glory. I had thought to see her perform in Dublin in April, but decided instead to try Brisbane in June. Perhaps I waited just a touch too long! If I recall, she also left the 'Fever' tour early, so there was a history there of abbreviated tours.

Kylie could well perform for decades more, but her show will inevitably change in nature, and maybe lose its current brilliant lustre. It's sad that I may have been just one month too late to see Kylie in her full glory! Those drugs they use can debilitate even healthy people: it may be too much to expect her to return rapidly to the stage. I guess I should have gone to Ireland in April after all!!!

In any event, I hope my fears are groundless. My prayers are with her in her time of need........
Woodland's "Coppelia"

Show went off well...lot's of work on everybody's part, particularly Leah Miller as "Coppelia": she's always fun to work with!

On Friday, the janitors began to open the roll-up door behind the stage while the show was in progress. Strange sound of an electric motor whirring, and clanking chains, during Act II!

Bob Eggert came to see the Saturday show (his niece Lisa Marie was among the dancers). Kelly Challender guided her hip-hop students and made a guest appearance in Act 3 of the ballet as "War."