Friday, August 12, 2005

Strange News

How do you forget about bringing the pipe bomb in your luggage?
More on that amazing Utah explosion.
Suicide theme park.
250,000 chickens go up in flames.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Daddy, I Want Another Pony!

The inimitable Veruca Salt's best line!

Nice movie, very pleasant: willful kids and the Industrial Revolution meet.

You May Have Already Won.....

Sigh.... Didn't make the B3ta 'Best' page this week. Still, I wanted to share my entry, in answer to their question (of a sort):
Competitions, raffles, give-aways... sure the prizes look great, but don't they always turn out a bit crap should you happen to win them?
Anyway, here's my entry:
You May Have Already Won....
I'm a winner! Look at this loot!

The pictures come from the California State Fair (1998-2000). You can win them on the midway by throwing balls at stacked bottles. If you never hit the bottles, but buy enough chances, they'll feel sorry for you and give you the pictures anyway. I shot, I missed, I scored!

The trophies and ribbons come from ballroom dance. The ballroom dance crowd is great for prizes. I remember attending a strange 'Battle of the Ballroom Dancers,' in Casa Grande, Arizona, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Various dance studios made the trek to this neutral turf, ready to rumble: the Jets and Sharks on stilletos. Ambitious teachers, lame students, fake palm fronds and rotating ceiling fans in the insufferable summer heat: confusing routines, the forced applause - everybody got a big trophy or plaque, except for one old woman, who may not have even noticed: she was bent horizontally at the waist and could see little else but the stilletos.

But the pieces de resistance were eaten long ago: the 646 pieces of candy I won at a McDonalds in Salt Lake City, Utah, by guessing the exact number of the sweets in a jar.
Indonesian Idiots

They are burning Sumatra again, like they do every year (freakin' morons):
Malaysia's leader declared an emergency in two regions Thursday, closing workplaces and calling on mosques to hold special prayers for rain to rid the country of hazardous haze drifting from forest fires in neighboring Indonesia.

... Hundreds of forest fires on Indonesia's Sumatra Island, just across the Malacca Strait, have stoked choking, acrid haze that causes eyes to redden and leaves throats raspy.

The fires are an annual occurrence, and Malaysian officials have expressed frustration over Indonesia's failure to tackle the problem. Indonesia's forestry minister, Malam Sambat Kaban, countered Thursday that 10 Malaysian firms clearing land in Indonesia had contributed to the problem.

The two countries did agree Thursday to use cloud seeding to try to induce rain over the forest fires.

... Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi declared a state of emergency in Port Klang and in Kuala Selangor, a tourist area known for its fireflies, after the air pollution index reached 500 — the emergency level.

It is the first time the 500-level has been breached in Malaysia.

... The prime minister urged people to seek divine help to overcome the crisis and called on mosques to hold special prayers for rain that would wash away the haze.

"This is my approach. When such things happen, we must also pray to God to seek help," Abdullah told reporters.

...The Meteorology Department said no respite was expected until October, when rains would help wash away the haze, a mixture of dust, ash, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide.
DMTC Board Meeting

Wednesday night, DMTC had its monthly board meeting.

The board began to consider the question: What form of government would be most ideal to run the City of Davis?

  • a parliament of hereditary noblemen;
  • a business-oriented tyranny; or
  • an anarcho-syndicalist commune?
Then someone asked: What are the chances of the Kings making the NBA playoff finals this year? Everyone got all distracted then, and we lost our train of thought.

Then we remembered that Steve wanted to step down as DMTC Board President after having served in the post for eight or nine years and so we needed first to choose a head for our own government.

We opted for a Latin dictatorship, with fascist caudillo overtones, and lots of star power.

New DMTC Board President Ryan Adame. In this photo, Ryan was making an obscure Italianate hand signal that I did not understand (not being Italian and being fairly innocent), but not wishing to cause possible offense out of ignorance, I cropped the photo so as to concentrate instead on Ryan's clear focus on the future.

[Postscript, 8/19/05: Steve subsequently informed me that Ryan's peculiar partial thumbs-up gesture was used frequently by Bill Clinton, and was later adopted by John Kerry, and has particular resonance in political circles. Here is the wider view:]

In his first function as President, Ryan addressed the Board:
It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feel
That I still need your love after all that I've done
You won't believe me
All you will see is a guy you once knew
Although he's dressed up to the nines
At sixes and sevens with you

I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at heel
Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
So I chose freedom
Running around trying everything new
But nothing impressed me at all
I never expected it to

Don't cry for me DMTC
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don't keep your distance

And as for fortune, and as for fame
I never invited them in
Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired
They are illusions
They're not the solutions they promised to be
The answer was here all the time
I love you and hope you love me

Don't cry for me DMTC......

Don't cry for me DMTC
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don't keep your distance

Have I said too much? There's nothing more I can think
of to say to you
But all you have to do is look at me to know that every
word is true

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Utah Explosion

Spanish Fork Canyon, SE of Provo - boom!
The Great Pop Vs. Soda Debate

Soda, pop, or Coke? I remember using "Coke" as a kid, but today I use "soda": when did that change happen?
Strange New Mexico News

Police helicopter brought down by gunfire. (update: the pilot has decided to hang it up!)

Plus, there was news that flashed across the TV at the Golden One Credit Union yesterday about a woman thief who was caught at the Expo New Mexico trade fair, and who tried to flush her stolen jewelry and pottery and paintings down a toilet, in order to avoid capture, but the story doesn't seem to be on the Web, as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Aguilera Dishes

Some things a pop star just can't do?:
CHRISTINA AGUILERA has warned pop rival BRITNEY SPEARS not to expect a comeback after her baby is born - because she's "let herself go" too much to reclaim her sex symbol status.
There is some merit in this worry, but it's not about having a baby: Britney's knees may be too badly-damaged to keep the dancepop star status. But having kids? It's nothing: look at Madonna!
Angular Momentum

Those Cabaret cartwheel things were fun! Let's do them again!
Southwestern Monsoon In Full Swing

The annual monssonal flow into the Southwestern U.S. has been going strong for several weeks now. It's surprising how little the general meteorological situation has changed in the last several weeks. There's some moisture feeding into the Southwest from a tropical depression that never quite made it to tropical storm status, and there's also a tropical wave that's been passing through northern Mexico setting off showers there, and in AZ as well. More tropical moisture might feed into the area in a week. Right now, AZ is awash in moisture!

I was getting really depressed there about the Ahwatukee point forecast - rain everywhere, all around Phoenix, except that specific point called Ahwatukee. I guess that's why the region is a desert. Glad to see things are looking up there!

Current forecasts show drying over the next few days (I hope that's wrong).

Deborah's cat contemplates the Southwestern monsoon.
Gambling And The Brain

Interesting article, and one I can relate to:
Researchers are learning that the heads — or to be more accurate, the brains — of pathological gamblers are biologically different from those of most of the estimated 73 million Americans who are able to play bingo, pull the arm of a slot machine or flip some aces and then simply stop.

... About 1.6% of Americans have a full-blown gambling addiction and an additional 2% have a serious problem with gambling, says Jon Grant, assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown Medical School and author of "Stop Me Because I Can't Stop Myself," (McGraw Hill, 2003). By these estimates, nearly 4% of the population experiences a mild to severe gambling problem — and as the number of gamblers goes up, so does the number of those with a gambling problem.

... Now, with the aid of neuroimaging techniques and a greater understanding of neurotransmitters, researchers are discovering that the brain's hard-wired reward system and frontal lobes have certain unique characteristics in these gamblers. Even some of their personalities and genes may be different from those without gambling problems.

"We are finding that pathological gambling is very definitely a brain disease," says Timothy Fong, a psychiatrist and codirector of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program. "The central question is: Were pathological gamblers born that way or are the changes in their brains the results of excessive gambling? We are far from answering that question in a meaningful way."

... The brain can become addicted to behaviors as well as substances, Grant says. "It can be addicted to anything that we find rewarding," he says. "If we find it too rewarding, we will want to do it again and again. Even when they lose all their money and credit cards, they describe intense cravings much like people do for drugs."

The explanation for why gambling is the drug of choice for one person, and for another it's heroin is still unknown. But the key to most addictions can be found in the brain's reward system, particularly a region called the ventral striatum. Neuroimaging studies of compulsive gamblers point to a different functioning in this neural system.

... When the area is working normally, it responds appropriately to pleasure stimuli — such as winning money or getting a gift — filling us with a sense of happiness or satisfaction. When it is not working properly, as in cocaine addicts, this area seems almost indifferent. What would make a normal person react does nothing for people addicted to substances or behaviors. Even more stimuli, such as drugs, alcohol or gambling, are needed to feel the pleasure from a particular activity.

"You experience something very nice that gives you pleasure," says UCLA's Fong. "But then other parts of the brain seem to shut down and you need to have the reward so much that it takes over the rest of the brain."

... Research presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in April found that executive function, the brain circuitry that underlies inhibition and self-control, was deeply impaired in pathological gamblers. These impairments made the gamblers unable to truly comprehend the trade-off between short-term reward and long-term negative consequences.

This loss of self-control in turn affects other important brain functions needed to step on the brakes when emotions spin out of control. Those who suffer from attention-deficit disorder experience difficulty with executive function, and researchers have found, not coincidentally, that a high percentage of pathological gamblers also have ADD.

Many studies suggest that compulsive gamblers may have reduced frontal lobe activity, which may in turn be triggered by decreased activity in the basal ganglia, a deeper part of the forebrain that generates two important neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine.

The feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, in particular, has intrigued those studying compulsive gamblers. Several studies have looked at a dopamine receptor gene and have found real differences in the structure of that gene between gamblers and non-gamblers.

That genetic predisposition has direct consequences on brain chemistry. The dopamine receptor sites in the midbrain that are driven by anticipation, but uncertain of the rewards, are especially sensitive. They require more and more dopamine to create the rush of happiness and satisfaction. When gambling is the trigger for the dopamine rush, a vicious cycle is created.

... "This research makes us more sensitive to the idea that there are deficits in certain brain areas of gamblers," says Leann Dodd, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic and lead researcher in the study. "It adds to the evidence that gamblers might have a decreased capacity to get stimulation from their pleasure system and they need extra stimulus to get there."

... In a paper last month in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers looked at the personality and temperament of 939 men and women, all born in 1972 or 1973, to see if they could discern some personality traits that compulsive gamblers all shared. They also wanted to find out if these traits related to those in substance abusers.

All the participants were given a personality test when they were 18, and then at 21 they were screened to see if problem behaviors such as compulsive gambling, drug and alcohol abuse or nicotine dependence, had emerged. The researchers found that the problem gamblers shared many personality traits with others with addictive disorders: risk taking and impulsivity.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Call to Arts

Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC) hosted a tour, and financing discussion regarding the New Theater, on Sunday, August 7, 2005 (607 Pena Drive in Davis). DMTC's funding guarantor was present to answer questions, as were DMTC Board Members and other supporters.

Several people offered financing assistance, including one DMTC enthusiast who is not yet twenty years of age.

It now appears the New Theater will be dubbed the Hoblit Performing Arts Center.

DMTC Co-producer Steve Isaacson makes a presentation and answers questions.

Erik Daniells had the honor of playing the first-ever musical notes in the New Theater. After a successful discussion, Erik plays a little incidental music to spirit everyone home.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

"Guys and Dolls," Magic Circle

A nice evening with the DMTC crew last night, checking out "Guys and Dolls," at Magic Circle's Roseville Theater. This was their closing night for the show, and we had friends and acquaintances to see in performance.

In general, it was a very good show. As Jan repeatedly mentioned, it was so nice seeing the show when Sky Masterson and Sister Sarah Brown (Steve Campbell and Jennifer Schmelzer) seemed to have that magical quality known as "chemistry." Casting "chemistry" is very hard, and Magic Circle did a good job. Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide (Doug Kester and Christi Axelson) were also well cast. Doug Kester seemed to have some of that Bob Amaral energy about him: someone said he works primarily in the Lodi area.

It was great seeing friends again: David Holmes, Bob Eggert, Richard Spierto, Keri Newton, Samantha Ellinwood, and Brent Null. I was particularly happy to see that David hadn't moved to Idaho after all: he is a major asset in the Sacramento area. Bob Eggert sang beautifully: he said he's now performed the show about 80 times now as his alter-ego Arvide Abernathy. As a former drunk in both DMTC's and Woodland's "Guys and Dolls," I particularly liked Bob Gerould's imaginative rethinking of the character as a high-society tippler: in hat and tails, like that cartoon character from "Monopoly." Also, the kitchen "jewelry" was also a very nice prop!

I also enjoyed meeting new people, particularly Alexander Dominitz (Harry the Horse), who now begin attending Yale, majoring in Theater, PLUS an amalgam of subjects that sounded, upon Babelfish translation, kind-of-like pre-law. Alexander has been doing a lot of work at Sacramento Theater Company.

Most of the DMTC crew liked the dancing (choreography by Stephen Hatcher), but I thought it was too restrained. It was as if Stephen was working against a constraint of some sort. The hard part was figuring out what the constraint was.

Often in these shows, the dance corps is not given priority: amateur musicals tend to attract singers and actors instead, who may be too old, too young, too lame, too halt, too slow to provide first-rate dance entertainment. But I don't think that was the problem here. There were some fine dancers available, the J's in particular (Jacob Keller and Jordan Tillotson), plus Melinda Olivera and her gloriously-long legs.

I think the problem may have been the rapid tempo chosen by musical director Jennifer Vaughn. The Broadway revival of "Guys and Dolls" featured an alarmingly-rapid tempo, which goes well with the mid-20th-Century-urban setting of the show, but necessarily requires everyone to make adjustments to suit. Dancers can't attempt as much, and actors can't milk the songs for humor (noticeable with Christi Axelson's portrayal of Adelaide - Adelaide's various laments were too quick).

In any event, the show was excellent!

Doug Kester and Christi Axelson take their bows as Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide.

David Holmes as Benny Southstreet.
Dead Birds

I've been finding dead birds around lately. A bluebird died for unknown reasons in my driveway. There was a dead crow, feet up in the air, on the sidewalk in front of Subway the other day. I went into Subway and said, "there's some chicken teriyaki feed stock out here!"

I prefer to concentrate on live birds: here's some nice pictures, courtesy of Fred and Julia, of a hummingbird's nestlings.

The County is going to be spraying for West Nile virus soon:
County officials said the pesticide's active ingredients, pyrethrins, a natural toxin from chrysanthemum flowers, is considered one of the safest insecticides on the market.

The insecticide, which goes by the brand Evergreen EC 60-6, will be heavily diluted from concentrations applied on farms and will be sprayed in droplets smaller than a grain of pollen.

That's large enough to kill mosquitoes and other airborne insects but too small to affect mammals and people, said Dan Markowski, one of a team of specialists with Vector Disease Control Inc., which the county hired to conduct the aerial spraying.

The spray will not kill all the mosquitoes and will not end the virus threat, officials said.

The spray is designed to kill adult mosquitoes that are airborne but not insect larvae on the ground, official said.

Markowski said the planes will dispense two-thirds of an ounce of pyrethrins for every acre sprayed, an "ultra-low" concentration, and that the aerosol will be
virtually unnoticeable.

"If you were standing on the ground, and the airplane was flying right over, you might see a very fine mist coming out, but I'd doubt you will feel it," Markowski told The Bee.

A pair of Piper Aztec twin engine planes will release the aerosol from about 300 feet above ground, covering the same 71,000 acres in the north county on each of the three nights.

The spraying will last about four hours, between 8:45 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., Markowski said.

He said the pyrethrins formulation is considerably less toxic than the insecticide the company has used in aerial sprays of residential areas to combat the West Nile virus in Houston and mosquito-borne diseases in Miami.

"Last week we treated 189,000 acres in Houston with Dibrom and had no reports of problems," Markowski said.
Occult Waterfall

This is cool: an obscure waterfall is rediscovered.