Friday, April 21, 2006

'The Merry Old Land of Oz'

(Left) The Lion, our brave and courageous leader (Steve Isaacson).

Pictures from dress rehearsal ('The Merry Old Land of Oz'). Opening TONIGHT at DMTC!

They defy gravity in the Emerald City!

The brilliant Scarecrow (Kevin Caravalho) gets refurbished.

Torrent of Torpedoes

There is an interesting use of language in the latest issue of Harpers Magazine, rather striking really, regarding the importance of Artificial Insemination (AI) in the factory farms of the pork industry. The approximate quote goes something like: AI has had much to do with turning hogs from "affable, potbellied forest dwellers into panicky, torpedo-shaped clones who can no longer live out-of-doors."

Nothing worse than cornering a panicky, torpedo-shaped clone, I suppose....

I take that back. It would be worse to corner one hundred panicky, torpedo-shaped clones.
Office Procedures Awry

Or, perhaps the first time a member of Congress spoke freely to a constituent:
Nobody expects to get a letter from a member of Congress that ends with an expletive.

But that's what happened when Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., recently corresponded with a resident of her southeast Missouri district.

The letter ended with a profane, seven-letter insult beginning with the letter a — "i think you're an. ..."

... "We cannot determine whether the addition to the letter was made by someone within the office or by someone with access to the office, but it is on my letterhead and the responsibility for it lies with me. A valuable lesson has been learned and new procedures will be adopted as a result."

... Connor said that Emerson personally signed the letter, dated Feb. 15. She included a handwritten personal message at the bottom: "PS - please forgive the delay in responding."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Physicists Respond

To President Bush's alarmingly dangerous pronouncements that "all options are on the table" with respect to Iran. Indeed, the Administration's reckless rhetoric has been giving me nightmares of late:
Their letter was prompted by recent articles in the Washington Post, New Yorker and other publications that one of the options being considered by Pentagon planners and the White House in a military confrontation with Iran includes the use of nuclear bunker busters against underground facilities. These reports were neither confirmed nor denied by White House and Pentagon officials.

... “We are members of the profession that brought nuclear weapons into existence, and we feel strongly that it is our professional duty to contribute our efforts to prevent their misuse,” says Hirsch. "Physicists know best about the devastating effects of the weapons they created, and these eminent physicists speak for thousands of our colleagues.”

“The fact that the existence of this plan has not been denied by the Administration should be a cause of great alarm, even if it is only one of several plans being considered,” he adds. “The public should join these eminent scientists in demanding that the Administration publicly renounces such a misbegotten option against a non-nuclear country like Iran.”

The letter, which is available at, points out that “nuclear weapons are unique among weapons of mass destruction,” and that nuclear weapons in today's arsenals have a total power of more than 200,000 times the explosive energy of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima, which caused the deaths of more than 100,000 people.

It notes that there are no sharp lines between small and large nuclear weapons, nor between nuclear weapons targeting facilities and those targeting armies or cities, and that the use by the United States of nuclear weapons after 60 years of non-use will make the use of nuclear weapons by others more likely.

“Once the U.S. uses a nuclear weapon again, it will heighten the probability that others will too,” the physicists write. “In a world with many more nuclear nations and no longer a ‘taboo’ against the use of nuclear weapons, there will be a greatly enhanced risk that regional conflicts could expand into global nuclear war, with the potential to destroy our civilization.

”The letter echoes the main objection of last fall’s physicists’ petition, stressing that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be irreversibly damaged by the use or even the threat of use of nuclear weapons by a nuclear nation against a non-nuclear one, with disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world.

“It is gravely irresponsible for the U.S. as the greatest superpower to consider courses of action that could eventually lead to the widespread destruction of life on the planet. We urge the administration to announce publicly that it is taking the nuclear option off the table in the case of all non-nuclear adversaries, present or future, and we urge the American people to make their voices heard on this matter.”
Martian History - The Cliff Notes Version

Compared to Earth, a simple story, and quite ancient, really:
The planet formed about 4.6 billion years ago. During the first era, clay materials, which need abundant water and moderate temperatures, formed, the researchers said.

Then, starting about 4 billion years ago a second era began, marked by volcanic activity spewing sulfur into the environment. That was the start of a drying out of the planet.

Between 3.2 billion years ago and 3.5 billion years ago the third era began. It was marked by minerals dominated by ferric oxides, which have not been formed or altered by water, the researchers said.
Bede Griffiths

Via Gabe, words of insight from the British/Indian Christian/Hindu/Buddhist mystic:
Father Bede insisted that the time from age 40 on is what life is all about; all the rest was preparation for the flowering of the whole personality. For him, here the spiritual powers begin to develop and transcend the capacities of mind and body. These are not left behind but are integrated into what opens us to the Eternal, the discovery of the Absolute, the Transcendent, the deep Source of all Reality. This is the breakthrough to the mystical and this, Fr. Bede believed, is the great hope for everyone.
History, and George W. Bush

Sean Wilentz's article is just a taste of judgments to come from fellow historians:
George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. ... Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

... How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

... Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities.

... Bush has more in common with post-1945 Democratic presidents Truman and Johnson, who both became bogged down in overseas military conflicts with no end, let alone victory, in sight. But Bush has become bogged down in a singularly crippling way. On September 10th, 2001, he held among the lowest ratings of any modern president for that point in a first term. (Only Gerald Ford, his popularity reeling after his pardon of Nixon, had comparable numbers.) The attacks the following day transformed Bush's presidency, giving him an extraordinary opportunity to achieve greatness. Some of the early signs were encouraging. Bush's simple, unflinching eloquence and his quick toppling of the Taliban government in Afghanistan rallied the nation. Yet even then, Bush wasted his chance by quickly choosing partisanship over leadership.

No other president -- Lincoln in the Civil War, FDR in World War II, John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the Cold War -- faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonized the Democrats. Top military advisers and even members of the president's own Cabinet who expressed any reservations or criticisms of his policies -- including retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill -- suffered either dismissal, smear attacks from the president's supporters or investigations into their alleged breaches of national security.

... All the while, Bush and the most powerful figures in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were planting the seeds for the crises to come by diverting the struggle against Al Qaeda toward an all-out effort to topple their pre-existing target, Saddam Hussein. In a deliberate political decision, the administration stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demonstrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to American security, one that the White House suggested included nuclear weapons. Instead of emphasizing any political, diplomatic or humanitarian aspects of a war on Iraq -- an appeal that would have sounded too "sensitive," as Cheney once sneered -- the administration built a "Bush Doctrine" of unprovoked, preventive warfare, based on speculative threats and embracing principles previously abjured by every previous generation of U.S. foreign policy-makers, even at the height of the Cold War. The president did so with premises founded, in the case of Iraq, on wishful thinking.

...When William F. Buckley, the man whom many credit as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes categorically, as he did in February, that "one can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed," then something terrible has happened.

... According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever -- with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush -- sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that "prosperity is just around the corner" -- insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!

... But no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country. The White House's sectarian positions ... have led some to conclude that Bush has promoted the transformation of the GOP into what former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips calls "the first religious party in U.S. history."

... Reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security, the once efficient Federal Emergency Management Agency turned out, under Bush, to have become a nest of cronyism and incompetence. During the months immediately after the storm, Bush traveled to New Orleans eight times to promise massive rebuilding aid from the federal government. On March 30th, however, Bush's Gulf Coast recovery coordinator admitted that it could take as long as twenty-five years for the city to recover.

... The full report, of course, has yet to come on the Bush administration. Because Bush, unlike Reagan or Clinton, enjoys a fiercely partisan and loyal majority in Congress, his administration has been spared scrutiny. Yet that mighty advantage has not prevented the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges stemming from an alleged major security breach in the Valerie Plame matter. (The last White House official of comparable standing to be indicted while still in office was Grant's personal secretary, in 1875.) It has not headed off the unprecedented scandal involving Larry Franklin, a high-ranking Defense Department official, who has pleaded guilty to divulging classified information to a foreign power while working at the Pentagon -- a crime against national security. It has not forestalled the arrest and indictment of Bush's top federal procurement official, David Safavian, and the continuing investigations into Safavian's intrigues with the disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently sentenced to nearly six years in prison -- investigations in which some prominent Republicans, including former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed (and current GOP aspirant for lieutenant governor of Georgia) have already been implicated, and could well produce the largest congressional corruption scandal in American history.

... By contrast, the Bush administration -- in seeking to restore what Cheney, a Nixon administration veteran, has called "the legitimate authority of the presidency" -- threatens to overturn the Framers' healthy tension in favor of presidential absolutism. Armed with legal findings by his attorney general (and personal lawyer) Alberto Gonzales, the Bush White House has declared that the president's powers as commander in chief in wartime are limitless. No previous wartime president has come close to making so grandiose a claim.

The president's defenders stoutly contend that war-time conditions fully justify Bush's actions. ... But Lincoln, under pressure of daily combat on American soil against fellow Americans, did not operate in secret, as Bush has. He did not claim, as Bush has, that his emergency actions were wholly regular and constitutional as well as necessary; Lincoln sought and received Congressional authorization for his suspension of habeas corpus in 1863. Nor did Lincoln act under the amorphous cover of a "war on terror" -- a war against a tactic, not a specific nation or political entity, which could last as long as any president deems the tactic a threat to national security. Lincoln's exceptional measures were intended to survive only as long as the Confederacy was in rebellion. Bush's could be extended indefinitely, as the president sees fit, permanently endangering rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to the citizenry.
Retro-UFO Convention

I wonder if the Jetsons will be there under the Landers dome?:
The life's work of a onetime aircraft engineer, the bizarre 38-foot wooden structure ... will be put to a more modest use — host to the first Retro UFO convention April 29.

The all-day affair offers a kitschy modern homage to the 1950s- and '60s-era reports of flying saucers that became the stuff of legend in this San Bernardino County outpost, organizer Barbara Harris said.

"It's a new chapter in ufology," said Harris, a graphic artist by trade. "When you go on that property ... there is something that touches your heart, that touches your soul."

Harris hopes to preserve and propagate this most mysterious slice of the desert's history, sharing the stories of those who once flocked to Landers, necks craned skyward.

To that end, next weekend's extravaganza will include talks by old-timers of strange encounters; tours of Giant Rock, now grimy with graffiti and missing a giant chunk that fell off in 2000; a contest for the best aluminum foil deflector beanie; old movies; classic cars; fire spinners; and a live poetic opera by a group called UFOetry titled "Did We Really Go to the Moon?"

Harris hopes the event will draw about 500 people to the 10-acre site; some proceeds will benefit the Morongo Basin Historical Society and help renovate the dome.

It's a fitting place to gather, considering the closest thing to a Retro UFO celebrity may be the Integratron's patron saint, engineer George Van Tassel. He built the dome for $150,000 over 18 years starting in 1957, claiming that he was inspired by a predawn meeting with a visitor from Venus named Solgonda.
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

For some reason, Rep. John Doolittle (R) simply can't see the obvious, that funneling campaign contributions directly into his family's pockets is unethical - a flashing-neon, Las-Vegas style invitation to rampant bribery. The professional fundraisers, of course, are more lax - they're OK with flat rates, but even they cringe when they see what Doolittle has done.
Bush Popularity Tanking

Even cheerleader Fox News registers him at 33%:
President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).
No President has ever tried to function at levels like this, not even Richard Nixon during Watergate. Indeed, even after Nixon resigned, he still had about a 10% approval rating.

So, what does Bush have up his sleeve? More war, this time with Iran? More Social Security reform? Tax simplification, even though, with recent anti-progressive changes to the tax code, we're already rather close to Steve Forbes Flat-Tax Nirvana? Building a wall at the border?

The long-term trouble with Rove's Bolshevik-style counterintuitive strategy of aggravating partisan differences is that it loses friends and earns you an ocean full of enemies....
Shows Opening Soon At DMTC, Starting With "Wizard of Oz"

"We're Off to See the Wizard..." (L-R) Jason "Clocky" McDowell (Tinman), Steve Isaacson (Cowardly Lion), Alissa Steiner (Dorothy) and Kevin Caravalho (Scarecrow) .

"Wizard of Oz" opens tomorrow night at DMTC! For some reason, YPT's "Suessical" opens two weeks from the opening of "Wizard of Oz" (May 6 - May 21) instead of the usual one week. Maybe this is connected with YPT outreach to Rumsey and Esparto, or maybe it's altogether unrelated:

DMTC's Opens Wizard of OZ on the Main Stage
Purchase Tickets for Wizard of OZ
The Davis Musical Theatre Company invites you to relive your childhood as you go over the rainbow with Dorothy and Toto to the merry old Land of Oz and meet the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion. Jan Isaacson directs this stage adaptation of the 1939 MGM movie musical, with musical direction by Steve Isaacson and choreography by Dian Hoel. Songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg include "Over the Rainbow," "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead," "If I Only Had a Brain" and "We're Off to See the Wizard."

Performances for WIZARD OF OZ will be on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:15 p.m., and Sunday afternoons at 2:15 p.m., from April 21-May 14, 2006 at the Hoblit Performing Arts Center, 607 Peña Drive, Davis. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for students/seniors (55 & over), and $10 each for groups of 10 or more. The cast features DMTC newcomer Alissa Steiner as Dorothy, Kevin Carvelho as the Scarecrow, Clocky McDowell as the Tin Man, Steve Isaacson as the Cowardly Lion, Buffee Ann Gilliham as the Wicked Witch, Jill Wright as Glinda and Adam Sartain as the Wizard.

DMTC's Young Performers Open Seussical at the Hoblit (Sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank)
Purchase Tickets for Seussical
DMTC's Young Performers Theater Division, which is now underwritten for the 2005-2006 season by a generous donation from Wells Fargo Bank, will open the musical “SEUSSICAL,” based on the works Dr. Seuss, at the Hoblit Performing Arts Center, 607 Peña Drive. Jeni Price is directing the production. This show features all of your favorite Seuss characters: The Cat in the Hat, played by Elliot Mende; Jojo, performed by Hudson Shivley; Horton the elephant, played by Andrew Lemons; the Sour Kangaroo, performed by Julie Soto; Gertrude McFuzz, played by Jocelyn Price; and Mayzie LaBird, the selfish and self-centered bird, played by Anna Miles, to name a few.

Andee Thorpe Versus Portland

Or something like that:
Alright, Baseball Fans! I'm singing "The National Anthem" for the Rivercats on May 4th, 7PM against Portland!!!
Update: Andrea might have to shift dates - she will update as required. Here's what she says:
It is quite possible I may have to change dates for singing at the Rivercats game, as I am a finalist in the Flash 92.1 Jingle Singer Search, and Finals are May 4th... I am hoping I might switch dates for the game, otherwise I will either sing and dash to the competition, or forfeit my opportunity to sing for this month.
1979 - The Good Old Days

Cloudy's cousin, no doubt:
April 20, 1979 - President Jimmy Carter is attacked by a Killer Swamp Rabbit, while on vacation in Plains GA. The rabbit swam menacingly towards him, and he had to repel the ferocious creature with a paddle. There were no injuries. Press Secretary Jody Powell leaked the story to the press, and the White House had a lot of explaining to do.

If we have a nuclear war, these things will survive:
Lance Nesta did what many people do when receiving a fruitcake - he set it aside, only to rediscover it more than 40 years later in his mother's attic. Nesta couldn't resist taking a peek at the cake, still in its original tin and wrapped in paper.

"I was amazed that it hadn't changed at all," he said.

Nesta's two aunts sent him the fruitcake in November 1962 while he was stationed in Alaska with the Army.

"I opened it up and didn't know what to do with it," Nesta said. "I sure wasn't going to eat it, and I liked my fellow soldiers too much to share it with them."

As best he can remember, he packed the cake with the rest of his belongings and shipped it home to Waukesha when he left the military a few years later. He recently rediscovered the boxed fruitcake in the attic of his mother's home in Waukesha.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's With All These Strange Things?

What's with all the bald men, and the one's who shave their heads? I saw two bald, well-dressed guys walking together down the sidewalk, one in his 20's and the other in his 40's, almost like master and disciple. Cute, but what's with that?

And all the possums? Sparky cornered the cutest possum ever in the tool shed two nights ago (I engineered an escape for the baby), and last night I intervened to scare off a lumbering adult possum from crossing 21st Street before oncoming traffic rendered it into faux-armadillo chili. Where are they all coming from? They're almost as common as bald guys!

And K. says he knows someone who's building an Ark. But the rains finally seem to have stopped. So, didn't the guy get the memo? What's up with that?

And why do I sound like Andy Rooney? What gives?
There Are Only Two Kinds Of People

People who divide people into two kinds, and people who don't:
The research aimed to get beyond the recognized geek population and gauge interest in science among the roughly 150 million Americans age 18-54. About 40 percent of them, or 60 million people, were found to be "intellectually curious" about politics, the arts and science, all spending significant time with newspapers, related television channels and online media.

... Further study of the intellectually curious segment revealed three distinct groups. If you are reading this, you likely fit into one of them:

Science with Passion (14 percent of the 18-54 group): This group contains the geeks and nerds. They don't need to be prompted to share their love of science. "They might switch a cocktail party from politics to science," said OMD researcher Mike Hess in a telephone interview. They watch the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel and PBS. Prime interests: nature, medicine and the environment. This group is 53 percent female.

Money, Success and Science (11 percent of the 18-54 group): These people are also very interested in science. But they're unlikely to discuss it. The study did not reveal why, but they were also very interested in privacy and their higher interest in careers and success suggests they do not want to be perceived as nerdy, Hess speculated. They are notably interested in the Sci-Fi channel as well as science programming. Prime interest: technology. This group is 64 percent male.

Style with Science (15 percent of the 18-54 group): This high-income group follows science but would rather be throwing a party or out on the town than watching TV or having a quiet evening. They do like "Desperate Housewives," however. "If an opportunity arises at a cocktail party [to discuss science] they'll engage," Hess said. Prime interests: technology, weather and nature. This group is 57 percent male.
Hispanics in New Orleans

Part of the reason for the current backlash is that so many Latinos are showing up in places they didn't used to be before in significant numbers, like the South, and in particular, New Orleans:
Latino migration follows an economic logic. Immigrants are prominent in the construction sector; 40 percent of the workers who rebuilt the Pentagon after Sept. 11 were Latino. So, if you are looking to rebuild, you will hire Latinos, many of them illegal. New Orleans is a low-services, low-infrastructure, clean-up and construction-intensive city and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Most of the low-wage (often African-American) labor that served the city before Katrina struck left New Orleans afterward and did not return. Just as Chinese immigrants worked on the railroads out West, Irish immigrant laborers built much of the Erie Canal, and Italian immigrants put together much of the New York subway system, so will Latinos rebuild New Orleans.
Revolt Of The Servant Class

Steve Gilliard makes some good points regarding the big illegal (and legal) immigrant marches lately (dang it - I was in Phoenix for the last big march, but I missed it because my relatives and art friends sandbagged me with dilatory tactics to keep me out of trouble, like serving Virgil's Root Beer - the best root beer ever - and I simply ran out of time):
Hispanics inclined to support the GOP now see them as a group of racists. All because the GOP framed the immigration problem as one with brown people and not with bad laws and ineffective enforcement.

Once it became a matter of talk about not loving the US and destroying the culture, especially when so many Hispanics are serving in combat, was destined to turn them against the GOP. The GOP had made serious inroads into the Hispanic community outside California, who had been radicalized by Prop 187 which passed and then died in courts, until this.

What you basically have is the revolt of the servant class. All those Republiklans calling for the Army on the border and walls think the people who serve them will remain mute. And it isn't just the immigrants, either, it's the small business owners, the civil servants, the panoply of people who make a community work. They're all supposed to bow before the anger of the white ruling class and arm the border.

God forbid that they take pride in their heritage and petition the government for a redress of grievances. They should be rounded up.

Only problem, most of the people marching are as American as the Republiklans, and plan on voting to show that.
Roswell Autopsy Hoax

Apparently the creator of Max Headroom is implicated:
THE creator of Max Headroom, a 1980s television cyber-presenter, has claimed he was one of the hoaxers behind the Roswell film, the grainy black and white footage supposedly showing a dead alien being dissected by American government scientists after a UFO crash.

Alien Autopsy, a movie about the footage, is currently on release across Britain. It stars real-life television presenters Ant and Dec.

John Humphreys, a sculptor and consultant on Alien Autopsy who has also worked on special effects for Doctor Who, said it was he who made the models for the alien dissected in the original fake footage.

His confession, 11 years after the Roswell footage was first shown, will raise questions about the role of Channel 4, which unleashed Max Headroom on the world in the 1980s and bought the UK rights to screen the Roswell footage in Britain.

The footage was first exposed as a fake by The Sunday Times, but an estimated billion people still watched it around the world.

Rather than being shot in 1947 near Roswell in the New Mexico desert as previously claimed, the film was actually made at a flat in Camden, north London, in 1995.
When I was a kid growing up in New Mexico, the flying saucer sighting that caught everyone's imagination was the Socorro incident. As I recall, two off-duty Socorro lawmen said they had seen an alien craft of some sort taking off, sometime in the mid-60's. The older Roswell incident was only a minor footnote.

Of course, as years went by, and especially after about 1980, the Roswell incident grew and grew in the popular mind, celebrated on TV, in the movies, and even in song (e.g. Sheryl Crow). The Roswell incident is celebrated especially by the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, which has built an alien museum, "Welcome to Roswell" signs featuring green aliens, and other tourist attractions. In comparison, the formerly-compelling Socorro incident is now all-but-forgotten. I wonder why that is?
Good Luck and Bad Luck

Luck is so mercuric. Last night, I felt that I had to feed the need, so I ran up to Thunder Valley and picked up $1750. Even perennial loser E. did well, picking up $20. And A., who had to stay behind to meet a Craig's List contact, not only never made contact with the contact, but also somehow lost his billfold.

Next time, I bet the tides of luck will ebb instead of flow.

[Update: Even the bad luck isn't so bad ... the billfold was only misplaced, not lost.]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Safe Teeth

Mercury amalgams appear to be safe for kids:
Two long-awaited, government-funded studies found no evidence that dental fillings containing mercury can cause IQ-lowering brain damage or other neurological problems in children.
This is good news. I wasn't particularly worried anyway: the dentist has been systematically removing amalgam fillings from my mouth for years, and replacing them with white resin fillings, and I presume the same has been happening among others elsewhere as well.

Yesterday, I got my first white-gold crown for a molar. It looks cool. If I get enough such crowns, maybe I'll look like a rap star. And who knows if they are hazardous? If they are, perhaps I can finally achieve that level of idiocy I've been aiming for all these years. What did she-whose-name-shall-remain-xxxx call me: a 'failed nerd'? Injest enough toxics and maybe she'll end up being right!
Holly Cruikshank and "Movin' Out" in London

Originally from Phoenix, Mary Adams' former student, Holly Cruikshank, slays the London theater critics:
Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, the Who's Tommy - you can count the truly great rock musicals on the fingers of one hand. And to that exclusive list must now be added Movin' Out, featuring the songs of Billy Joel and the choreography of Twyla Tharp.

... Holly Cruikshank as Brenda has the most impossibly long legs you are ever likely to see and does things with them that seem to defy the basic laws of human anatomy. In Noel Coward's immortal phrase, she uses sex like a shrimping net - and catches every red-blooded male in the audience.
The Easter Bunny

Gets violent. Somehow, I know Cloudy would approve:
Some young children who saw the Easter Bunny this weekend at Edison Mall no longer see him as the lovable cuddly rabbit that delivers eggs and candy.

This 6-foot-2-inch, 280-pound bunny — also known as Fort Myers resident Arthur J. McClure, 22 — is facing battery charges after he allegedly punched a woman in the back of the neck and head during a fight near a photography set.

In boxing circles, that’s considered a rabbit punch.

... After the punch, Frechette pulled Johansson’s hair, and they both fell to the ground, according to arrest reports. That’s when McClure, who was still in the Easter Bunny costume, came to his wife’s aid. McClure took off the head part of the costume and then punched Johansson in the back of the head, police said.

Dozens of people watched the brawl, including about 15 children who were still in line, witnesses said. Johansson said many children had the look of “shock” on their faces. She said she doesn’t know how to explain what happened with the Easter Bunny to her 3-year-old niece.

... “It was horrible,” said Robert Johansson, whose son Victor, 8, also witnessed the fight. “They were trying to shield the kids from it. Now my son thinks the Easter Bunny is bad and went to jail.”
The Fungus Among Us

Is apparently on our contact lenses. I wonder if it's a nationwide problem, or mostly just a Floridian semi-tropical idiosyncracy?:
Spadafora, of Malden, Mass., is among the dozens of contact lens wearers in the United States left groping for glasses thanks to blurred vision and pain from Fusarium keratitis, a nasty fungal infection. Health authorities say most of the victims in 17 states were using ReNu with MoistureLoc eye solution to cleanse their contacts.

The outbreak also has many of the nation's 30 million soft contact wearers tossing out their ReNu-MoistureLoc bottles and turning to other products. Stores and optometrists are taking the solution off their shelves.

Optometrists around the country say they're inundated with calls from patients asking what to do. Florida has the highest number of cases in the country, with more than 50 reported so far.

... The stock price for Bausch & Lomb, the maker of ReNu, has plummeted -- even though not everyone is convinced the company's product is the real culprit, including Dr. Harry Zink, president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Bottles of the solution have been tested by Bausch & Lomb and independent doctors and no contamination has been found.

Fusarium is commonly found in plant material and soil in tropical and subtropical regions. Without eye drop treatment, which can last two to three months, the infection can scar the cornea and blind its victims.
The Chinese Are Getting Really Desperate

(Left) Photo from Drudge, and presumably they lifted it from some isolated little corner of HobbySpace somewhere. Cool view, from space, of an obnoxious Chinese dust storm.

The Chinese are getting really desperate when they start believing that cloud seeding will get them out of their jam:
Beijing will use artificial rainmaking to clear the air after a choking dust storm coated China's capital and beyond with yellow grit, prompting a health warning to keep children indoors, state media said Tuesday.

... The government was preparing to seed clouds to make rain to clear the air, state TV said, citing the Central Meteorological Bureau. It did not elaborate, and the bureau refused to release more information.

Storms carrying chalky dust from the north China plain hit Beijing every spring, but newspapers said this week's was the heaviest since at least 2001. The Beijing Daily Messenger said 300,000 tons of sand and dust were dumped on the city Monday.

... The dust reached Tokyo on Tuesday, the first time that has happened in six years, said Naoko Takashina of Japan's Meteorological Agency. Dust from China was found in more than 50 locations throughout the country, she said.

... In South Korea, a light layer of dust blanketed the country, but no ill effects were reported. Rain was forecast overnight Tuesday, and the weather bureau said it should clear the air.

The dust storms are expected to last through at least Wednesday in Beijing, neighboring Tianjin and a swath of north China stretching from Jilin province in the northeast through Inner Mongolia to Xinjiang in the desert northwest, the China Daily and other media said.

... China's government has been replanting "green belts" of trees throughout the north in an effort to trap the dust after decades when the storms worsened amid heavy tree-cutting.

Last week, the western Xinjiang region was hit by its worst sandstorm in decades, which killed one person and left thousands stranded after sand covered railways and high winds smashed train and car windows.

Monday, April 17, 2006

So Good, He Put His Name On Them

Mikhail Kalashnikov is jazzed that U.S. troops in Iraq are dropping their military-issue rifles in favor of his own (via GunGuys):
"Even after lying in a swamp you can pick up this rifle, aim it and shoot. That's the best job description there is for a gun. Real soldiers know that and understand it," the 86-year-old gunmaker told a weekend news conference in Moscow.

"In Vietnam, American soldiers threw away their M-16 rifles and used (Kalashnikov) AK-47s from dead Vietnamese soldiers, with bullets they captured. That was because the climate is different to America, where M-16s may work properly," he said.

"Look what's happening now: every day on television we see that the Americans in Iraq have my machine guns and assault rifles in their armored vehicles. Even there American rifles don't work properly."

Some U.S. troops in Iraq have reportedly taken to using AK-47s in preference to the standard-issue M-16. The Cold War-era gun, renowned for its durability and easy handling, is plentiful in Iraq.
All Wet

The government says we aren't losing wetlands to development (provided you count golf course ponds). Field and Stream isn't happy:
In fact, at the same press conference, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported a continued loss of 523,500 acres of natural wetlands during the same time period. So how could the nation have come out ahead if it lost more than half a million acres? Norton didn't try to hide the truth: The 715,300-acre “gain” was mainly artificial ponds.

While saying the nation's wetlands picture remains “precarious,” Norton added that "even ponds that are not a high quality of wetlands are better than not having wetlands." Now there's ringing endorsement of the president's program.
New Las Vegas Resort Opens

The new Red Rock Casino and Resort, located in Summerlin, not far from Suncoast, opens tomorrow.
The New Republic, And Me

The New Republic (TNR) has suffered a precipitous decline in readership, mostly because its Editors refuse to concede that they erred in regard to their support for the Iraq war.

Now, new Chief Editor Franklin Foer, has sent a missive to those of us who cancelled subscriptions, asking us to renew our subscriptions. Here is my reply:
Mr. Foer:

I was a loyal subscriber for a quarter-century. I endured the onslaught of neocon articles out of an interest in enlivening political debate. The ideas TNR promoted are directly implicated in the current Iraq debacle, and the Iran debacle to come. To resume my subscription, when your "murderer's row of journalists and intellectuals" aspires to be murderers would fly in the face of my own experience.

I am not "frustrated" by TNR: I have been betrayed by TNR. TNR MUST be annihilated. You are in league with Satan.

Marc Valdez
Life of Crime

So, what would that life look like?:
The subject was raised last year in Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's bestselling book Freakonomics. In a chapter called "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?" the authors described a drug-dealing operation as a bloated, inefficient organization. There were a few wealthy members at the top and a slew of underpaid minions at the bottom. They compared the gang's organizational structure to that of McDonald's.

... Dennis Chevalier, a "forensic investigative psychological criminologist" based in Fort Worth, Tex., says that while there is lots of cash circulating among the criminal element, much of it gets hung up in a kind of underworld bureaucracy.

"People aren't getting rich because there are too many people involved," says Chevalier. "There are payments to keep people quiet, there are cops to pay, security guards to pay, you have to pay the people who arranged the selling of the merchandise... There's not a whole lot of people getting rich."

Chevalier also points out that goods are devalued in an underground economy. The value of, say, a diamond priced at $10,000 in a store takes on a cash value of $2,000 on the streets.

But even if more money were flowing into the hands of criminals and gangsters, they probably wouldn't know what to do with it. It turns out criminals have poor money-management skills. The Oregon Mail Tribune reported in 2001 that only seven per cent of inmates in Oregon prisons have more than $200 in their bank accounts.

"They're not people who defer gratification in the first place," says Greek. "The money those people make, they just go spend it. It's not like they're investing in a nest egg and at the age of 40 they're going to go live in Tahiti. They don't have long-term goals like that.

"People doing robberies are basically living from one robbery to the next. They may go out and do a ton of robberies over a weekend, then they don't have to do any for a month and a half. But they know that when the money's gone, they'll have to go do some more robberies. That's as far ahead as it's planned."

... "They go through psychological trauma knowing what they've done to hurt people," says Chevalier "They start envisioning those things happening to them. They don't trust anyone and anything.

"That makes a great afternoon movie, but in real life the human mind cannot take that kind of heightened sensitivity and alertness and awareness all the time. There's sleep deprivation, a loss of appetite, you end up having paranoia to such a degree that you can't even function as a criminal any more."
Doo, Doo, Doo, Looking Out Ray's Back Door

"Hi Marc," Ray Fisher said. "We've been expecting you. Adam's out in the back yard. He's not terribly social tonight."

After introductions to everyone there watching "The Chronicles of Narnia" on the big home theater system, I excused myself and went out back to see Ray's (and Adam's) big project. Nice project, although it was a little hard to tell since it was well after sunset. Looked a little raw, but Adam had been yanking weeds just that afternoon, so that explained it. Still working on some things, like disguising the skimmer, but now I begin to see where Adam is coming from. Summer approaches, and pleasant back yard barbeques await.

Went out to Thunder Valley. Picked up $480. Interestingly, Adam seemed to like the social mix there, and loosened up.