Saturday, August 27, 2005


Katrina is turning into an awesome storm. I hope it weakens, but fear it won't!
Cudgel And A Shield

Cindy Sheehan's strength:
And no amount of political capital can compete with the moral gravitas of a grieving mother. The mothers of dead soldiers have no credibility issues. They command attention and demand respect. And if this lone crusade manages to attract just one more mother of a dead American soldier, it’ll turn into a movement impervious to any kind of political assault. The White House will continue to have trouble disparaging and discrediting Sheehan, because she is immune from political attack. And despite her growing political clout, all the efforts so far to turn her into a political caricature and paint her as a partisan with an ax to grind have failed. That is because having buried a son who gave his life for his country is both a cudgel and a shield.

She cannot be dismissed and she cannot be threatened. What are they going to do to her now? Having lived her worst nightmare, what more does she have to fear?

Friday, August 26, 2005

YPT Summer Workshop "Bye, Bye, Birdie" (Cast Two)

I saw most of the Friday night performances of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" at the Varsity Theater. Most of lead actresses switched roles from last week, so in some sense it was a new show. Arriving late, I missed the technical problems with lights and set changes, plus the guy yammering on his cell phone in the break-out area, so I really can't comment on all that.

The guys seemed to do much better this week than last (with the exception of John Ramos, who was already good and thus had little room for improvement). Ryan Warren as Albert, Julien Biewer-Elstob as Birdie, and Jordan Ferris as Hugo Peabody all improved considerably this week, given last week's experience. Despite a good first act, though, Julien was a bit too quiet in the second act, given the large space of the Varsity Theater to fill with song.

I thought that Katherine Vanderford, who played Rosie Alvarez last week, set a very high standard for this week's Rosie, Kayla Berghoff, to meet. Kayla proved to be a superb actress and singer, though, so it's really hard to say who might have been best: Kayla had a bit more poise and Katherine had a bit more charisma. Both are excellent at their craft!

I guess a lot of the lead actresses have more stage experience than I counted on for a summer workshop: several come from River City Theater Company (RCTC), or otherwise have impressive resumes. They are kind-of intimidating, with their catalog of strengths!

Once again, Julia Soto did an excellent good job as Albert's mother, Mae Peterson. I like watching Julia's control and discipline, her careful movements, her mannerisms. I hope I see more of her on stage in the years ahead. Anna Miles played an enthusiastic Kim MacAfee. Jessica Greenstreet played a crowd-pleasing, excitable Gloria Rasputin. It was distracting to see Hailee Ketchum-Wiggins in an ensemble role - she distracts by being such a good performer.

For me, one weakness of the show is the oversimplified choreography. Maybe there just isn't enough time in a summer workshop to put together something more challenging. Plus, dance steps are hard for the youngest cast members to memorize - in general, from ballet, I find that kids should be older than 12 to really have a good shot at getting the steps (and there were a number in the cast younger than that age).

In any event, there are just a few performances left - see it while you can!
Heading West

The western forecast wins! National Hurricane Center (NHC) is now calling for Katrina to go for Biloxi, MS. Interestingly, NOGAPS is moving west as well, calling for landfall on the southwestern side of the Mississippi delta. The storm is picking up strength, but it is also moving forward much more slowly than previously forecast. Landfall is now forecast by NHC to be 8 p.m. Monday.

In any event, it looks like Tampa is in the clear: no hurricane there this time!
Dreaming of Food

I'm beginning to push the diet harder. Last night, I went into aerobics rather food-deficient, and it was a real struggle getting through. Later on, I didn't sleep much - what - with caffeine, muscle aches and dreams of Progresso beef barley soup. But there is no question the diet is beginning to take hold: 6 pounds lost so far!

I'm beginning to get an insight on anorexic thinking. When I see a sandwich, I think "that sandwich is mocking me. Hah! I will mock the sandwich!" So we mock each other, testing each other's will. It's fun! I'm convinced anorexics have a rollicking good time, pushing the limits of denial.
Man Drought

Australia is deficient on more than just rain.
Message to Tampa, FL, Regarding Katrina and Weather Forecasting

Here is a very helpful blog: Central Florida Hurricane Center, which seems perfectly-suited for your current needs.

In regards to certain questions regarding how often forecasts are generated, and where one can check out the NOGAPS model....

Updates occur every twelve hours, 365 days a year. The U.S. National Weather Service sends up radiosondes by balloon every twelve hours from its network of stations, as do all Weather Services for all nations worldwide. The times are noon (labeled 12 Zulu, or 12Z) and midnight (labeled 00 Zulu, or 00Z) Greenwich Mean Time, which works out to 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The data are quickly gathered, computers run, and several hours later, maps are updated to account for the new data.

I get NOGAPS (also abbreviated as NGP) model results at Monterey, California's Fleet Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Center (FNMOC) Web Site. I access the loops by clicking on North America NGP in the upper-left-hand corner (GFS is another model), then click on the "loop" button for "Previous 12-hr Precipitation Rate [mm/12hr] and Sea Level Pressure [hPa]." At a minimum, I also check out the 500 millibar maps. My understanding is that NOGAPS is a baroclinic model and GFS is a barotropic model: barotropic models make some simplifying approximations regarding temperature gradients and are thus prone to error in some regards. My experience is that, even in the tropics, where temperature gradients are small, NOGAPS does a superior job with respect to the timing of events, which is really what hurricane path forecasting is all about. NOGAPS doesn't jump and swerve, like UKMET and some of the other models do. I notice that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) tends to poll models in order to make their path forecasts, which isn't a very good idea, since some models are simply better than others. It's like asking 50 people on the street where they think the storm is going to go, and weighing everyone's opinions equally. My experience is the GFS model watches too much TV: the NOGAPS model is better, and probably better than most of the other models.

Another helpful Web Site is Calvert Maryland's Center for Ocean-Land-Atmospheric Studies' (COLA's) Web Site. I worry a bit about the ETA model's tendency to have hurricanes wobble all over the place, but second opinions are always welcome.

Today, NOGAPS seems to be pushing Hurricane Katrina, west, towards the Mississippi delta, which is good for Tampa (and bad for Biloxi). For some reason, the Monday 12Z part of the loop is missing, making it hard to evaluate when the NOGAPS model run says Katrina begins angling NE (which it is bound to do sometime), so its hard to say how different it is than the NHC consensus. Nevertheless, it is probably reasonable to say that NOGAPS is west of the NHC consensus.

The question is, is the NOGAPS western forecast reasonable? By looping the NOGAPS loops repeatedly, and comparing them to the GFS loops, I think what NOGAPS is trying to say is that the midlatitude storm system currently moving through the northern Mississippi Valley (here is the Weather Channel map) is moving too rapidly eastwards to help Katrina angle NE - Katrina is simply too far away to be much affected by this fast-moving storm system. On the other hand, GFS says the storm system is moving at a stately pace, and will strongly affect Katrina's path. Catching the speed and magnitude of midlatitude storm systems is NOGAPS strength, and GFS' comparative weakness, and so right now I'd say - watch out Biloxi!

But, as always with all weather forecasting, the proof will be in the pudding!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pushed South

As it crossed the Everglades, Katrina was pushed a little farther south than expected, which is very helpful for keeping the storm as far away as possible from Tampa. The storm has to make up that distance as it turns north, and that means it will be farther to the west when it finally passes Tampa Saturday night.

The NOGAPS model now is calling for the storm to make landfall around Pensacola, which is a little farther west than the official National Hurricane Center forecast landfall, with landfall mid-morning on Monday. Still, nothing is settled: rain intensity can vary dramatically so close to a hurricane's center - twenty miles one way or the other can make a big difference. So, Tampa might get lucky, and maybe the experience will be much like with Dennis: rain, clouds, but not so windy.

We'll see!
Katrina Cometh

Here's a map of several model-forecast paths for Katrina. The blue path closest to Tampa is the most likely - National Hurricane Center is choosing it for its forecast. I suspect it's a good forecast - the storm will hasten north to meet a trough moving through the eastern states, and since those mid-latitude troughs move fast, it will turn quickly. Intrusions of dry air are hampering development of the storm, which is good, but the storm will have a chance to strengthen again over the Gulf of Mexico.

Things will be uncomfortable in Tampa through Monday evening - a long time! Tampa will be the pivot point of the storm, as it changes direction from west to north, which means it will linger - and linger. Maximum wind forecast is still about 35 mph, but wind is unlikely to be the big challenge: there may be quite a lot of rain with this storm. I haven't seen a rainfall outlook yet, but it's likely to be high.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Whatever Became of John Trijonis?

Yesterday, a friend asked, "do you know John Trijonis?" I replied that I had talked to Trijonis once on the phone when I was in graduate school. If I recall (it was 20 years ago), Steve Baruch (cousin of a friend) had suggested I talk with Trijonis regarding career tips in environmental science. At the time, one of my Atmospheric Sciences professors had been very critical of Trijonis (criticism I took by flinging numerous sacks of granulated salt over my shoulder, since the professor had just started consulting with a major copper producer regarding visibility issues in the American Southwest), so I was curious about Trijonis. My friend sent me an update regarding Trijonis' career (written in Engineering and Science, in 2001).

The opening picture of the article completely blew my socks away! The picture comes from the balcony of the Foundation Room, high atop the Mandalay Bay Hotel, in Las Vegas. I had copied and published the identical picture in my Weblog in October, 2003. What a trip that had been - I had managed to secure a scarce invitation up to that topsy-turvy nightlife fantasyland! It was very confusing, though: for a second, I thought my Weblog had been published in Engineering and Science!

Turns out, Trijonis has become a professional gambler: specifically, a consultant on sports betting. He has been using his proficiency in data analysis, and mastery of arcane archives, to exploit small advantages in knowledge of sports events, for himself and his clients. With my interest in blackjack, it seemed like I was following in Trijonis' footsteps to some extent - similar arcs in life's trajectory, so to speak, although Trijonis uses his knowledge to the fullest, opposed to my use of magical incantations and the power of delusion. Similar arcs in life's trajectory, like Evel Knievel leaping the Snake River Gorge, except that Trijonis makes it to the opposite side, whereas I entertain myself in the river rapids. Trijonis didn't suggest blackjack as the wave of the future: winnings were headed downhill for that game, but the future of poker looked bright.

Trijonis had a number of useful observations regarding gambling. As late as 1996, Cache Creek Casino allowed people to bank (or host) games of blackjack: sweet! Trijonis points out the Achilles heel of banking:
Taking the banker role in such situations can yield a great mathematical edge to the professional gambler. One big problem with banking is that, unlike the situation with its own games, the casino host has little incentive to prevent cheating against a private banker, so that fraud and chicanery have severely pared (and in many cases eliminated) profits.
Who would have thunk? Cheating. In a casino. How dare those nasty players! And with my money! Glad I eventually found out without having to pay that price!

What about the mathematical and scientific literature regarding gambling? The stuff I read was either too simplified to be of much use in dealing with chaotic casino realities, or just too hard to usefully grasp:
Concern over competition also explains why there is little decent academic literature on gambling; the winners cannot afford to alert their opponents. (In 1980, Professor of Mathematics Gary Lorden wrote an excellent article for Engineering & Science explicating how you can maximize your chances for a windfall in casino games with the percentages against you. There is little or nothing written of comparable quality, however, on how to turn the tables on Las Vegas and get the percentages in your favor.) As to sports betting, I have come across a few articles in the scholarly literature, especially economics journals, but they have all bordered on the nonsensical—with a few far over the border. To paraphrase an old maxim: in gambling (as perhaps in stock and commodity trading), those who can, do; those who can’t, publish.
I will have to track down Lorden's article!

I especially liked Trijonis disquisition on environmental science, and gambling:
In air-pollution research, there are only two significant sources of funding— governmental agencies and private industries (basically, the polluting industries). In my perception, the government agencies essentially want to determine if there is a problem and what can be done about it. The polluting industries, on the other hand, often seem in deep denial. They tend to assert that (1) there is no problem, (2) even if a problem exists, they aren’t the cause, and (3) even if they were the cause, the nature of the problem is too uncertain to try to do anything about it. Being a product of the ’60s and a little quixotic, I could only bring myself to work on government studies. Unfortunately, the largest and most lucrative consulting contracts came from industry. This situation not only severely limited my income, but it meant that my research was, in my view, subject to incessant carping from industry scientists and their consultants. (It appeared to me that I was continually trying to defend a simple, reasonable $40,000 government study from red herrings raised by some multimillion-dollar industry project.) The gambling was a godsend, providing me a great income and an objective test that my way of interpreting data was truly correct.
Funny! Funny! Funny! This I can appreciate!

Anyway, all of this was a bit too much. There had been a good portent lately: a friend had recently had some luck with slots. Plus, I hadn't played since the beginning of the year. So last night, I drove up to Rocklin, to Thunder Valley Casino, to tempt the Goddess Fortuna.

At Thunder Valley, they pump music into the parking lot to soothe the nerves of the arriving and departing players - ambient music to calm the quarrelsome masses. When I arrived, they were playing Nelly Furtado's "Powerless," my favorite song from all of 2004. Another good omen - I could feel the stars aligning! After several hours, and experiencing four boom-and-bust blackjack cycles, I came away ahead: $915 - $215 = $700.
Tropical Storm Katrina

Aha! They have labelled this Tropical Storm Katrina. The new forecasts make this storm a lot stronger than the old forecasts did, with the storm generating in the Bahamas, crossing S. Florida, turning north, and then following a Dennis/Ivan like path into the Pensacola area. Currently the weather maps show Tampa just barely escaping without big problems, just like with Dennis, but it will be close (hopefully the storm won't be as powerful as Dennis - current forecasts don't show the same intensity).

DMTC received two short-term loans today for New Theater construction purposes: $200,000 from the Hoblits, plus an additional $20,000 from another source. The total amount of $220,000 will be conveyed to Harrison Construction, ASAP.

Is it just me, or is everyone experiencing 'Spiders Gone Wild?' I mean, webs blocking doorways, webs blocking sidewalks, spiders carefully attaching parked cars to nearby bushes? These construction efforts are quixotic and insignificant, and nothing at all like building a New Theater!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Suburban Shopping Center Architecture

There once was a time when American shopping center architecture was reviled worldwide for its bottom-line utilitarian functionality. These days, however, since that's where the money is going, shopping center architecture is getting arty - and weird. Here's what I mean (from Roseville, CA: Douglas Blvd. and Rocky Ridge Dr.). I mean, what is this stuff exactly?

Bravo Ristorante Italiano

Through MDF Productions, Andee Thorpe and others will be at Bravo Ristorante Italiano Thursday night (since Max's closed at Arden Fair, Sacramento needs more of evenings like this):
Need a Date Idea for Thursday Aug 25, or just want to try something new with your friends/family?

Consider dining out at Bravo Ristorante on Fair Oaks Boulevard in Sacramento, between 7 and 10PM!

The evening’s ambiance music entertainment will be provided by Andrea Eve Thorpe, with accompaniment by Paul Galloway, and special guest Jason Petit.

Bravo Ristorante is located at 2333 Fair Oaks Boulevard, between Howe and Fulton. The best landmark is that it is behind Swanson’s Cleaners. Bravo’s phone number is (916) 568-0494.
DMTC, 2020

•Brian Richard Sullivan
•Born August 22nd, 2005 at 3:15 AM
•5.0 lbs and 18.5 inches
Sunset From the Spaceship Columbia

Friends Julia and Fred sent this photo by E-Mail, with the enclosed caption. One Web Page with more information is here. One great photo, from Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 (Jan. 16 -Feb. 01, 2003)!

The photograph attached was taken by the crew on board the Columbia during its last mission, on a cloudless day.

The picture is of Europe and Africa when the sun is setting. Half of the picture is in night. The bright dots you see are the cities' lights.

The top part of Africa is the Sahara Desert. Note that the lights are already on in Holland, Paris, and Barcelona, and that's it's still daylight in Dublin, London, Lisbon, and Madrid.

The sun is still shining on the Strait of Gibraltar. The Mediterranean Sea is already in darkness.

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean you can see the Azores Islands; below them to the right are the Madeira Islands; a bit below are the Canary Islands; and further south, close to the farthest western point of Africa, are the Cape Verde Islands.

Note that the Sahara is huge and can be seen clearly both during Daytime and night time.

To the left, on top, is Greenland, totally frozen.
"Thou Shalt Not Kill"

Founder of the Christian Coalition of America, Pat Robertson, has had enough of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and wants U.S. operatives to kill him:
You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.
These things tend to work both ways, Pat. Are you prepared to pay the ultimate price to make your point?
Chautauqua Playhouse's "Lend Me A Tenor"

Here's a nice note from Lenore and Gil Sebastian:
Greetings, friends! Lenore & Gil are at it again, this time with a madcap, crazy farce called LEND ME A TENOR at Chautauqua Playhouse in Carmichael. No, it’s not a musical, it’s a fast-paced, six-door farce. It’s about opera folk, and you know how meshugenah they can be! It’s 1934, and the Cleveland Grand Opera Company has hired world-famous tenor Tito Merelli to perform his signature role of Otello for their gala season opening. Through a series of hilarious mishaps, Tito can’t go on! Who can replace him? Come & find out!

Gil is directing, and the cast includes old favorites Rodger Hoopman, Jeff Labowitch, Paul Fearn, Erin Jones, Savannah Scott, and Lenore (as the high-strung Signora Merelli!), along with wonderful newcomer Kevin Carvalho as Max.

We open this Friday, August 26th, and run Fridays & Saturdays @ 8:00 thru October 1st. There are only three Sunday matinees @ 2:00: September 11, 18 & 25. Tickets are $15 general, $13 students/seniors. There are only 95 seats in this theater, so get your tickets soon! Call Chautauqua Playhouse at (916) 489-7529 or go to their work-in-progress website: Gil & I promise you a very entertaining, laugh-filled afternoon/evening!

Merck Fantasyland

It's amazing that Merck doesn't quite realize how bad the Vioxx law suit blowback will be. Merck utterly corrupted the scientific review process for the drug, and so a bad verdict in court shouldn't have come as a surprise, but they seem to think they can just talk their way out of the problem. That's the hubris comes from out-of-control corporate power!
Mr. Lanier offered jurors a trove of company documents and e-mail messages that revealed how Merck researched Vioxx's heart risks and presented what it knew to doctors and consumers. The documents showed that scientists at Merck were worried about Vioxx's potential cardiovascular risks as early as 1997, two years before Merck began selling the drug.

...They showed Dr. Scolnick later referring to scientists at the Food and Drug Administration as untrustworthy. And they revealed that Merck had stridently resisted the F.D.A.'s efforts to add warnings to Vioxx's label, and that it eventually complied only in ways that the Texas jury found unacceptably obscure. ("You had to dig three levels to see it," one juror, Lorraine Blas, said of the potential heart problems described in one version of the drug's labeling material.)

Mr. Lanier also introduced a marketing videotape that showed Merck sales representatives being trained to view doctors' concerns about Vioxx's heart risks as "obstacles" to be avoided or dismissed. Another marketing document taught representatives to play "Dodgeball" when doctors voiced concerns.

... In interviews, several jurors said they had intended the verdict, which included $229 million in punitive damages, not to reward Mrs. Ernst but to punish Merck for its actions. Derrick Chizer, one of the jurors, said that the jury wanted to send Merck and the drug industry a message: "Stop doing the minimum to put your drug on the market." Other jurors made similar comments.

The $229 million punitive damages figure was not picked at random, but referred to a 2001 Merck estimate of additional profit the company might make if it could delay an F.D.A. warning on Vioxx's heart risk. Mr. Lanier mentioned that monetary figure in his closing argument.

Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School and frequent critic of the drug industry, said he was not surprised that the jury responded as vehemently as it did.

"Even as a seasoned observer of drug company affairs, I have been surprised at the way Merck handled the emerging evidence about cardiac risk with this drug," Dr. Avorn said. "There was an element of the Watergate tapes that I was reminded of: many people had been critical of Nixon for a long time, but even Nixon's critics did not expect to find the documentation of their worst fears made so clearly evident."

... But many provocative documents, such as the e-mail messages in which Merck scientists discussed their early concerns about Vioxx, are clearly relevant to the litigation and will be allowed everywhere. And unless Merck can quickly figure out how to explain those documents to juries, it will soon face an enormous problem. Even Merck, with $22 billion in sales and $6 billion in profits last year, can withstand only so many $250 million verdicts before it is forced to rethink its plan to fight every Vioxx lawsuit.
I Like the Headline
Critics Say Soda Policy for Schools Lacks Teeth
Cindy Sheehan

Gets attention, because she is a white woman and a victim.
Disability Insurance

I wonder if its degrading to the point where it's becoming a scam?
Until a few years ago, Debra Potter made sure that her family could cruise the Caribbean, watch the NFL on big-screen TV and keep her elderly mother and in-laws at home in comfort.

She did so by earning $250,000 a year selling more insurance than almost anybody else in the state of Virginia, virtually all of it disability and health policies that she thought put a safety net under middle-class and affluent families such as her own.

Potter so believed in the protection she was providing that she made sure she was covered under a policy her employer, Southeastern financial services giant BB&T, had with UnumProvident Corp., the nation's largest disability insurer.

But when Potter began falling down in 2002 and was subsequently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she discovered that the protection didn't work anything like she'd expected.

... The $10.5-billion-a-year insurer denies mishandling Potter's case, saying only that "new information" caused it to change its position and start paying.

"People need safety nets, and that's what I thought I was selling them," Potter said. "But here I am with all my knowledge of insurance and I couldn't make it work for me."
Whatever Became of Harold Holt?

Antipodean weirdness:
Some theories suggest the CIA assassinated Mr Holt before he could pull Australian troops out of Vietnam; or he ran off with a lover; or he committed suicide.

The most popular one was British author Anthony Grey's claim that Mr Holt was actually a Chinese spy who fled in a Chinese submarine.

... Mr Holt was with four friends on Cheviot beach, including secret lover Marjorie Gillespie.

"I watched Harold continuously and the water became turbulent around him very suddenly and seemed to boil and these conditions seemed to swamp him," Ms Gillespie told police, according to the brief of evidence tendered to the court.

Alan Stewart was the other person in the group who decided to go swimming, but only ventured out 10m because he was wary of the conditions.
Eastern Gulf of Mexico

From the numerical weather forecasts, there are some indications that a tropical depression may generate in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, immediately adjacent to Tampa, by next weekend. The system would likely be weak while in the Tampa area, probably wouldn't pick up that much strength, and would drift away to the northwest. But it's just another reminder that the season is still quite active.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

YPT Summer Workshop "Bye, Bye, Birdie" (Cast One)

I saw portions of the Friday and Saturday night performances of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" at the Varsity Theater. Nice show, particularly considering some of the technical pressures: DMTC could not afford more than the bare-minimal stage rehearsal time on the now-pricier Varsity Theater stage, and the Summer Workshops in general have always had less rehearsal time available overall than YPT shows usually have. Nevertheless, the show looked better-rehearsed than the "Bye, Bye, Birdie" Summer Workshop three years ago, and the set looked very nice indeed (the sparkling 45 rpm record emblem on the set was painted in the form of a "Z", an inadvertent, unconscious tribute to Jan Isaacson's favorite television hero from the early 60's, "Zorro").

It was interesting to watch the cast portraying characters considerably older than themselves. That's when the actor's craft gets tested: inhabiting another person's life, and living through it. For Cast One (Cast Two next week) Ryan Warren played Albert Peterson and Katherine Vanderford played Rosie Alvarez.

Ryan Warren dressed in a very professional manner, and played Albert in a professional way as well. From the back of the theater, he looked a bit like film actor Tony Roberts, who was cast in several movies as Woody Allen's calm, professional foil: remember, 'Rob' from "Annie Hall", listening to neurotic 'Alvy Singer' (Woody Allen) as he explained the day's latest outrage?
You know, I was having lunch with some guys from NBC, so I said, 'Did you eat yet or what?' And Tom Christie said, 'No, JEW?' Not 'Did you?'...JEW eat? JEW? You get it? JEW eat
Anyway, 'Rob' thought 'Alvy Singer' was imagining things. So, to me, Ryan's Albert was more like calm 'Rob' than neurotic 'Alvy', but the script seemed to call for more of a neurotic. So, I worried about that a bit, but what I did like was that Ryan and Katherine worked together very well as a couple, and so some of my concerns were allayed.

Katherine seemed to have trouble establishing herself in the First Act, when she had to share the spotlight with other people, but once she became 'Spanish Rose', and was clearly, unmistakably identified as the star, she began enjoying herself (I think Katherine likes being the star!)

Julia Soto did a very good job with Albert's mother, Mae Peterson. Despite her young age, Julia effectively captured the pressures of aging, and the threat posed by Rosie. I liked Julia's crisp diction. Julia's performance was much different than Savannah Scott's brilliant, raging, over-the-top Mae Peterson from the Summer Workshop three years ago. Nevertheless, I think Julia got much closer to the essence of the character than Savannah did. Excellent job!

John Ramos was a very winning Mr. MacAfee: very pleasant and enjoyable to watch on stage. Jessica Greenstreet played Mrs. MacAfee very well: lots of smiling suburban housewife energy (the epitome of the 1950's ideal) was evident. And this was the first time I've seen Hailee Ketchum-Wiggins perform in an way that could be clearly evaluated (unfortunately, I missed Wizard of Oz in the spring). Just perfect! She's a real asset to Sacramento-area theater!

Cast Two will perform, with some of the actors (the girls particularly) trading places. It will be fun to see how a different mix of personalities deal with the same acting challenges!

(insert pictures, when available).
Right-Wing Attacks on the Families of the Dead

Joe Conason is right: the American right-wing overreacted to Cindy Sheehan, and descended to really vile depths to slime her. The reason they did so is that Cindy Sheehan and mothers like her are the Republicans' Achilles Heel:
Whatever Sheehan has said or done, the real problem for the right is her demand that the president address questions for which he and his conservative allies have no convincing answers. He cannot explain the shifting rationale for the war that has cost the lives of Casey Sheehan and thousands of others. He cannot explain why the war was so poorly planned. He cannot explain why he has no plausible exit strategy.

For the right as much as for the left, Sheehan is a symbol. She represents a growing threat to Republicans, who fear that they will pay a heavy electoral price next year for the unjustified and unnecessary bloodshed in Iraq. And that is why, from the beginning, Bush's defenders have tried to change the subject to her supposed mistakes and misstatements. They would far prefer to mock and malign her than to talk about the supposed reasons that her son and so many other innocents are dead.
For reasons that escape me (probably because I blog), I'm on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal E-Mail alert list. One example of the vile character assassination the Wall Street Journal engaged in was how they forwarded Tom McMahon's denigration of Cindy Sheehan's sacrifice by trying to equate it with light-weight Hollywood preoccupations: Cindy Crawford vs. Cindy Sheehan in Crawford. Get it? Ha, ha!

When I was a kid, growing up in New Mexico, we would often come across insects, but every so often we would dig up a very rare insect called an Earthbaby. Earthbabies were so ugly and ominous-looking that we would wouldn't take the time to smash them like other insects: we would run in fear and loathing. That's what I felt like when I came across this McMahon character. I don't know who he is or what he is: I just know he's an unspeakably-vile Earthbaby, and one MUST run!

The Wall Street Journal also approvingly quotes a blogger named Scott Randolph, who seems to feel that since Iraq is an accomplished, inevitable intervention now, there's nothing anyone can do anything about it, and it's time to just stop complaining about it:
I hate the fact that our boys are getting killed over there, and I wish it didn't have to happen. But, it is, there's nothing we can do about it, except for doing everything we can to offer support and hope to the folks fighting over there. Arguing and whining about the reasons we're there, and the need to come home not only kills morale, but it is a complete waste of time.
Wow! This fatalistic response is SO out-of-character for the Wall Street types to approve! The Masters of the Universe, who are always bloviating about how they make history, not follow it, suddenly have their hands tied! Who could have imagined such impotence?

Before Cindy Sheehan, there was Lila Lipscomb (from Fahrenheit 9/11). After Cindy Sheehan and Lila Lipscomb, there are thousands of relatives who want answers, and who will demand them. I am with them. Are you?

Gravity, finally explained. Every word, God's own truth!:
"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.
Hell Hath No Fury Like A Filipina Ripped Off

The Texan twins, Hal and Al, explained it pretty carefully. They were offering only $60 for the washer/dryer, and $2 for the portable heaters, because that's what the market would bear. Besides, the space saved by moving the stuff out would allow a move into a smaller storage unit, thus saving money. And who could argue with that? It's just business.....right? Right?

They got the washer/dryer (necessity), but not the portable heaters (pride).
More Tales of Sacramento At Night

Last night, Sparky and I walked past a nice house with a perfectly-manicured lawn. There was some kind of party going on inside. Just as we walked past, the front door opened, a handsome man in his 30's came out of the house, fell like a tree on the perfect lawn, and started throwing up.

Sparky wisely chose to keep on walking, but I started thinking about how the man's private drunkenness had inadvertently become public, and about public drunkenness in general in California, compared to Utah. Alcohol sure helped make the move jarring when I first came to Sacramento from Salt Lake City in 1990. My first day of work, I went to the bus stop in Citrus Heights, and found a man there drinking beer - at 8 a.m.: never see that in Salt Lake City!

Here in Sacramento, I'd go to to the supermarket and ask, "why was there such a wider range of consumer choices in Utah, rather than this richer California place?" Then you'd walk around the corner and see the vast floor space of the store wasted on beer, wine, and spirits. The answer was obvious - alcohol crowded out consumer products, so instead of, say, eight different kinds of batteries, you could get only three kinds.

Utah law mildly harrasses alcohol drinkers. Alcohol is sold ONLY in state liquor stores, and bright, splashy advertising displays there are banned. Scarce night clubs allow members-only drinking, and even though it's laughably easy to get someone to sponsor your entry into the club, it places an additional barrier to easy entry into the club. Mixed drinks cannot be sold: if you want a mixed drink, they sell you the components, which you have to mix yourself. When it became wide knowledge that limousine services were serving alcohol to Salt Lake City residents riding to distant stateline Nevada casinos, it became a scandal, and the Utah legislature passed a law specifically banning the practice.

The official harrassment in Utah is certainly not enough to deter serious alcoholics, but it does help place a stigma on the drinking of liquor. California, the epicenter of one of the world's greatest viticultures (oh my God! take a look at the Napa Valley!), DOES NOT place a stigma on the sale and consumption of alcohol. The net effect is much more public drunkenness in California compared to Utah. Sometimes the effect is amusing: in 1990, the Salt Lake City TV stations carried lurid specials on the seediness of State Street - any major thoroughfare in Sacramento is seedier than State Street!

I love California's liberality, but I also like Utah's liquor laws. That extra Mormon touch keeps a place nice. I'm sure it helps keep Las Vegas, Nevada nicer than it could be. Las Vegas is one of Mormonism's most important cities, but it is also one of the world's greatest dens of sin. There is a tremendous cultural clash there, and I'm sure there is a price to pay for that. Still, keep that tension - keep the neighborhoods clean and safe, and the Strip fraught with illicit danger, and everyone will be happy!