Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lizard Brain

Ah, the term 'lizard brain' was popularized by 'marketing guru' Clotaire Rapaille! It's an appropriate term for the way we make consumer choices. I've always thought that the automobile industry is a very lizard-brain enterprise, because it is driven so much by our desires and wants. The oil industry, on the other hand, is always tethered to reality by the geological nature of its starting point. No matter how conservative they might be, oil men are always rational in the end - they have to be - whereas auto men can never afford to be rational, ever.

I was going a bit out of my mind trying to make a marathon dash in finishing up shredding Katherine's law office papers on Friday and Saturday. My last push fell short: there are still four boxes to go.

A bit stir crazy, and suffering a bit from hearing loss (it's not my headphones at work - the shrill whine of one of the shredders grates after many hours), I went to Arden Fair Mall, to meet up with the DMTC gang, who are going over to see "Guys and Dolls" at RSP this evening.

Entering Arden Fair Mall, two teenage girls were doubled over with paroxysms of laughter just outside the store windows for 'Bebe.' As I passed, their laughter only intensified. What was so amusing? Two girl friends were inside Bebe, standing in the store window, doing their mannikin best to be both elegant and motionless....

Friday, May 19, 2006

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Identification Kit

I was thinking of buying a new digital camera, but maybe I should be thinking on a bigger scale. You never know when you might stumble across some WMD, at home, or just around town:
The Environmental Protection Agency requires the following items, BRAND NAME OR EQUAL, to the following: LI 001, KT1040-1 MicroCat WMD System with new Sony HD Series Camera. Includes 1 free seat for the S1803 training class. (See attached SOW for details), 1, EA; LI 002, KT1044 CommercialCat System, 1, EA; LI 003, Freight S&H, 2, EA.
Oy Vey!, Broadway!

This should be a wonderful show! Gil said the idea was to do a show featuring Broadway songs created by Jewish composers. That is a huge number of songs though; basically, most everything ever sung on Broadway. With such a vast array of material to work with, how can one go wrong?:
OY VEY! BROADWAY! Musical Revue - Directed by Lenore & Gil Sebastian
May 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, 28, June 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16 and 17

Lenore and Gil Sebastian, the creators of last season's hit SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY present a revival of their 1992 smash hit musical revue honoring the Jewish songwriters of the Broadway stage. From Romberg to Rodgers, Hart to Hammerstein, and Berlin to Bernstein, enjoy the musical showstoppers that have delighted audiences on the Great White Way for generations. Don't miss this one!

Friday and Saturday evenings, 8 p.m.
3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays, 2 p.m. [Sundays almost sold out!]

You've got to hand it to the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page. As a snarky aside, with no evidence whatsoever, they casually accuse Massachusetts Senator John Kerry of treason.
If only there had been a border fence between Vietnam and Cambodia, he might never have run weapons to the Khmer Rouge!
Well, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board is actually a cabal of cannibals intent on eating Catholic flesh!

So there!
Train Loses Air

A pneumatic hose broke, or something, and so they've stopped a train right across all of Midtown's rail crossings, from the American River levee, to S Street, creating a huge traffic jam.

Actually, I think they are looking for my penny....

There have been several stories in the media in the last several days about intelligent putty-nosed monkeys, who compose grammatically-correct sentences:
“The pyow-hack sequence means something like ‘let’s go’ whereas the pyows by themselves have multiple functions and the hacks are generally used as alarm calls.”
And apes who plan ahead:
Both orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later, researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
No stories about more common apes, however. B., who used to work graveyard at the AM/PM convenience store, told me about one customer she particularly loathed. He would walk up to the service window at 3 a.m., fling coins in the change tray, and without further elaboration or even making eye contact, shout "GUM!" at the window.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Unexpected Hostility

At 10:16 p.m., I was driving north on 21st Street behind a small black sedan carrying several people, when the front-seat passenger stood up, leaned outside the window, and flung a bottle directly at a pedestrian just north of, and walking away from, the Press Club, at P Street. The nonplussed pedestrian didn't flinch as the bottle shattered on the sidewalk. The car turned left at L Street.

Didn't get a make of the car, but I did get a plate: 3RWD570. Called the police - who knows what's next?
What Happened To My Penny?

Returning from lunch at (where else?) Subway Restaurant (where I've eaten most of my lunches, since 1997), I noticed a train approaching from the north on the Southern Pacific tracks that run through Midtown Sacramento. I felt an impulse I haven't felt since childhood.

When I was a kid, my Dad told me there was a powerful wind next to a passing train, right at track level, that could suck you unawares right underneath the train. I wanted to see this wind in action, so on a visit to my grandmother's house in Bernalillo, NM (where the AT&SF rail line was to be found), I decided to place a piece of paper under a small rock right next to the rail. The powerful wind would surely wrench the paper loose from under the small rock and the train would rip it into confetti. Only one problem, though: I was not allowed out of the yard.

The kid next door was under less-demanding supervision, however, so I persuaded him to set up the experiment. The train came too quickly, though, and in haste, he mangled the experiment, by placing the piece of paper, topped by a big rock, right on top of the rail. I panicked and fled, sensing that the speeding train would derail when it hit the big rock, and careen out-of-control, sending thousands of tons of metal flying through my grandmother's kitchen.

Nothing like that happened, though. After the train passed, no sign of the rock was to be found. Likely, either the train crushed the rock into dust, or simply knocked it off the rail.

Today, being a mature adult, instead of rock and a paper, I decided to try a penny. I laid the penny right on top of the rail and waited for the train.

The first few Diesel BNSF locomotives rolled right over the penny. Looking at the penny between the passing wheels, I could see it had flattened out under the incredible weight. The penny was apparently glomming onto, and fusing with, the rail. I quickly looked away, then back, but the penny had abruptly vanished. It couldn't have been knocked off the rail. Like a wad of gum on the sidewalk sticking to the bottom of some passersby's shoe, the penny had apparently glommed onto the passing wheel of one of the lumber or petrochemical rail cars, and simply rolled off, to the south.

I'll miss that penny....
Cy Feuer, RIP

Producer of "Guys and Dolls", among other shows, passes away at 95:
Feuer and [Ernest H.] Martin made their Broadway producing debut with "Where's Charley?" — hiring a Hollywood songwriter, Frank Loesser, to compose the score.

The show, based on the farce "Charley's Aunt" and starring Ray Bolger, was panned by most critics. But it became a hit after Bolger began leading the audience in singing what became the musical's best-known song, "Once in Love With Amy."

The two producers collaborated next with Loesser on "Guys and Dolls," considered one of the greatest of all Broadway musicals. Based on a Damon Runyon short story, it chronicled the colorful characters of Times Square. "Guys and Dolls" ran for 1,200 performances and had a successful Broadway revival in the 1990s.

In 1953, Feuer and Martin produced Cole Porter's "Can-Can," which also was derided by critics. Yet the show was embraced by audiences because of Porter's score, which included "I Love Paris" and "C'est Magnifique," and because it featured a blazing new dance talent, Gwen Verdon.

The following year, Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in "The Boy Friend," Sandy Wilson's gentle spoof of 1920s musicals. And in 1955, Feuer and Martin produced Porter's last Broadway musical, "Silk Stockings," which was based on the Greta Garbo film "Ninotchka."

In 1961 they again collaborated with Loesser and writer Abe Burrows on "How to Success in Business Without Really Trying," which starred Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee. It told the story of a disarming young man who works his way up the corporate ladder to become chairman of the board of the World Wide Wicket Co.
Fallout From The Terry Schiavo Case

I have a relative who wants me to be on a committee to decide her fate should she be incapacitated. This Iowa woman has a suggestion about what one should do:
"People might think I'm crazy, but that's OK," Wohlford said. "Sometimes the nuttiest ideas are the most advanced."

Medical and legal experts expressed doubts that Wohlford's tattoo would prove binding, either in the emergency room or in the courts, but they give her credit for originality.

"I'll be darned," said Bob Cowie, a Decorah lawyer and chairman of the Iowa Bar Association's probate and trust law section. He added, "There are easier ways to do it than that," such as signing a living will or authorizing a medical power of attorney.
Big Sale

This looks awful tempting (I live just three blocks from RSP, and I've got what seems like a world o' superfluous stuff:
Runaway Stage Productions

Call for Donations!

It's that time of year again. The 27th annual SCNA Flea Market is June 3rd from 7:30am-2:00pm and Runaway Stage will be there. This is a wonderful opportunity for Runaway Stage Productions to raise money and a fantastic way for you to support Runaway Stage. We are sending out this request for donations. If you have clothes, furniture, appliances, kitchenware, toys, CD’s, DVD’s or other yard sale items that are in good condition, you can donate it to Runaway Stage Productions. Please bring your items to "the RSP Studio" located at 2424 Castro Way, Sacramento, California between the hours of 5:00pm and 7:00pm, Friday June 2nd. All of your donations are tax deductible and we will be providing receipts at the time of drop off.

Donation Dos
- Wash or dry-clean clothing.
- Test electrical equipment and battery-operated items.
- Include all pieces and parts to children's games and toys.

Donation Don'ts
- Leave items at the cottage or studio outside the 2-hour donation window provided without prior arrangements with Heather Giovanni sale coordinator (see below).
- Donate broken or soiled items.
- Give items that have been recalled, banned, or do not meet current safety standards.
- For safety reasons we cannot accept car seats.
- Due to environmental regulations we will not be able to accept televisions, computers, or computer monitors.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Noted Geophysicist Predicts Trouble

Even a stopped clock is right, twice a day!
The Rev. Pat Robertson says God has told him that storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America's coastline this year.

..."There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest," he said.
Dart Of Love

One nice thing about the Internet is finding people with the same name, but different interests.

My wild, gay side is over here.
Observations Regarding Illegal Tapping

As much as I hate the idea of the government tapping phone lines, and as unconstitutional and illegal as it undoubtedly is, I'm not surprised that people seem resigned to it. When technology allows something to be accomplished (e.g., tapping), hurricanes of high-minded rhetoric will not be enough to stop it from happening. Technology trumps all. It's actually refreshing that the American people seem to be resisting the impulse to get up on their many soapboxes and fulminating about the injustice of it all.

Nevertheless, allowing the Administration - any Administration - to have unfettered, unsupervised capabilities in this area will lead directly to disaster, as it did during Watergate.
The potential for mischief, meanwhile, is large. Allegedly, the purpose of this phone records database is to search it with some kind of computer algorithm to somehow try to locate terrorists. Whether there is any sort of algorithm, or whether it works, or how it works nobody can say. And nothing in the current administration’s record inclines one to believe that something is true just because they say it’s true. After all, until last week there position was that there was no such database. Far and away the most obvious use for the information they’ve illegally attended is the much less high-minded one of pinpointing and persecuting leakers and whistleblowers -- see a story you don’t like show up in The New York Times and run a search to see which federal employees have made calls to Times employees or vice versa.
Politicians cannot resist the impulse to spy on their fellow politicians: it's crack cocaine to that class of folk. Why investigate bin Laden, when George Soros makes a much more immediate, and appealing subject?
Observations Regarding Illegal Immigration

I missed George Bush's speech, because I knew that there are too many hypocrisies regarding illegal immigration in American life to make it possible for him to say anything straightforward. I just wanted to point out that hi-tech solutions to border crossing enforcement issues can help, but it's not a cure-all, because of numerous, expensive technical bugs. For example, one of the unmanned, 14-million-dollar Predator aircraft sent to Arizona last year to help with border enforcement there crashed recently, and no one apparently knows why.

I'm also mystified why conservative opinion jelled so early on the desirability of pushing this issue at this time. By the end of 2003, Mark Williams at Sacramento's conservative talk radio station, KFBK- AM 1530, was already flogging illegal immigration as the natural successor of the California gubernatorial recall as the next big conservative populist issue, not just for Californians, but nationwide. But why? Why now? After California Republicans were marginalized in the late 90's by the issue, it would have seemed wise to avoid the issue evermore, like the plague. Nevertheless, the coordination was too good for this conservative campaign to have been an accident (lifestyle liberals, meanwhile, were pushing gay marriage, which was also equally puzzling, and also equally not an accident).

Judging from conservative reaction to the President's speech, right now, it's mostly conservatives who are getting sliced up by the issue. Not every hot-button issue works out for the benefit of political instigators. Play with fire, and sometimes you get burnt!
Couldn't Resist

Saw this picture yesterday on conservative web site Lucianne.
Cirque Du Soleil Auditions

Coming soon, to Las Vegas.
We are looking for dancers with the following abilities:

Modern, contemporary and/or jazz dance;
Classical dance;
World and ethnic dance;
Acrobatic rock'n' roll;
Acrobatic abilities an asset (trampoline, tumbling, etc.);
Improvisational skills;
Unique and diverse styles;

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Leek Nine From Outer Space

A whole galaxy of aromatic flavorful bulbs! (created by n8ive at
The Perils Of Performing For Kids

They can be a tough crowd:
The rest of the act I forgot under the pressure. I went to my fail-safe, the freeze dance. I turned on Bobby Darin singing "Splish Splash," got the kids to their feet, and said, "Let's dance!" I turned off the music and said "Freeze!" I repeated this half a dozen times. Later, Jacob's grandmother told me this was her favorite part of the act. "It was so funny because you couldn't get them to dance, so whenever you yelled 'Freeze,' they were already frozen."
"Take Me Out"

(Left) Group shot of all the actors who play team members of the New York Empires (based loosely on the New York Yankees). Front row from left to right: Russ Marsh, John Hancock, Ethan Proa. Back row standing from left to right: David Memmler, Brent Reese, Juan Ramos, Curtis Brown, Robbie Raaf and Justin Wilhelm.

Courtesy of Juan Ramos, here is a promo shot from Lambda Player's "Take Me Out." According to Juan:
We opened last weekend to very responsive audiences with a sold out audience on Saturday. A very intense and adult drama.
It runs through June 17th with a Sunday matinee on May 21st and June 4th at 2427 17th St, Sacramento, CA!
* Cough! *

Casinos can cause calamitous damage to your personal finances, which can impact your health in 50 different ways, but do people want to talk about that? N-O-O-O!. People want to talk about second-hand smoke! Well, whatever keeps you out of casinos, I suppose!:
Five years of research led by a University of Nevada, Reno department head in Reno and Las Vegas casinos have concluded there is a direct correlation between exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace and damage to the employees' DNA.

"The more they were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, the more the DNA damage, and that's going to lead to a higher risk of heart disease and cancer down the road," said Chris Pritsos.

Funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the clinical trial followed 125 employees who work on the gambling floors of casinos in both northern and southern Nevada.

The subjects of the study were nonsmokers who were not exposed to secondhand smoke in their households, said Pritsos, chairman of the nutrition department at UNR.

"This is the first major study ever done looking at exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in the work force," Pritsos said. He added that casino floor workers are exposed to four times the amount of secondhand cigarette and cigar smoke than any other work force population.

... Woodbury is adamant in her view about the dangers of secondhand smoke. "For every eight smokers that die of smoking, they take one nonsmoker with them. Innocent victims like Dana Reeve," she said.

The widow of the late actor and quadriplegic Christopher Reeve died in March of lung cancer.

"She used to perform in smoky nightclubs and now she's dead," Woodbury said. "Only 44 years old, the same age I am."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Go, Brittney, Go!

(Left) Extension, développé à la seconde

After "Wizard of Oz" on Sunday afternoon, I heard episodic screaming, broken by deathly silences, coming from the lobby of the Hoblit Performing Arts Center. What could that be all about?

Turned out, it was Brittney Almendariz, taking advantage of the expanse of the carpeted lobby to perform her athletic abilities for her friends!

According to the "Wizard of Oz" program, Brittney, age 10:
is a level 7 gymnast at Pozsar's Gymnastics and is highly ranked in the state for her age and level. She also takes tap and jazz at Deane Dance Center, and has been in the Sacramento Ballet's, "The Nutcracker" twice.
Dancers really blossom in ability between the ages of 12 and 15. Brittney hasn't even reached that age range, yet has already mastered crucial details. In six years, she is likely to be strong indeed!

Brittney body-flipped the length of the lobby several times. She also performed other gymnastic feats, like a "bridge" (arching backwards with feet and hands on the ground, while looking squarely at the floor) and at Clare Lawrence's urging, began showing her ballet abilities as well.

Brittney, en-route between Point A and Point B

Below left, a handstand. Below right, an arabesque penchée.

(Left) Bridge

Brittney is to be commended for her skills!

Why is it that people have such a hard time retaining gymnastic skills into adulthood? Size is the big problem: it's not even weight, it's height! As Kenneth Laws points out in "The Physics of Dance", the longer the limbs, the more time it takes to move them around. Longer limbs also means greater torques are required.

For example, in Appendix D, Laws calculates that a 15% increase in height and length of limbs effectively doubles the moment of inertia, and thus doubles the amount of torque required, to carry off a pirouette. Now there is some compensation: strength also increases with increasing size. Nevertheless, the moment of inertia increases roughly as a function of limb-length, cubed. At some point, at some size, it becomes difficult to move fast enough to accomplish the moves.

Nevertheless, with consistent, dedicated training, many of these skills can be retained well into adulthood. It's all about coping with longer limbs!

[P.S.: Brittney's mom approved the general idea of posting these photos, but she hasn't seen these specific photos yet.]
Arizona Weather Update

Proto-Summer is here! The cloud imagery looks cool, like the cloud bands of Jupiter. NW of the Kaibab Plateau, clouds are moving NW: SE of the Kaibab Plateau, clouds are moving SE.

Too dry for rain in the Valley of the Sun today, but maybe that will change by Wednesday.....
"Wizard of Oz" Strike

(Left) Jason 'Clocky' McDowell (Tin Man) and Kevin Caravalho (Scarecrow) lament the end of the Yellow-Brick road.

Mother's Day, Sunday, May 14th: last show for the Wizard! A lot of good times for the folks involved!

Kevin's got a number of bruises from his energetic portrayal of the Scarecrow over the last month. Question is, was Kevin's entertainment/bruise ratio high enough? Only the audience can answer that question, but I suspect the answer is yes!

Brittney Almendariz, who was in the show, entertained her friends afterwards by flipping across the lobby floor. Pretty amazing!

I'm worried that we didn't stay at the Theater nearly long enough to give it a proper cleaning, even just a good Wizard cleaning. Everyone was too much in a hurry to get to Steve's Pizza, Board members included. Keeping the place clean is, and remains, a challenge!

"Scruffy", who shared the role of "Toto".

Buffee Gillihan (Wicked Witch of the West), and who, incidentally, was Miss El Dorado County, 1999, poses with The Lullaby League, the Almendariz sisters: Brittney (age 10), and twin sisters Paige and Macy (age 8).

Alissa Steiner (Dorothy), and co-star.
"Thank You For Smoking"

Saw this movie at the Tower Theater, with Gabe, on Saturday night. A nice case study of that particular American specialty: bullshit. The 'hero' of the movie is Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a quintessential creation of the public relations/lobbyist industry, as he defends the indefensible - the tobacco industry - and interacts with the press, his family, particularly his impressionable son, Joey (Cameron Bright), and the entire world (IMdB summary by Jim Beaver):
Tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor has a seemingly impossible task: promoting cigarette smoking in a time when the health hazards of the activity have become too plain to ignore. Nick, however, revels in his job, using argument and twisted logic to place, as often as not, his clients in the positions of either altruistic do-gooders or victims. Nick's son Joey needs to understand and respect his dad's philosophy, and Nick works hard to respond to that need without compromising his lack of values. When a beautiful news reporter betrays Nick's sexually-achieved trust, his world seems in danger of collapsing. But there's always one more coffin nail in Nick's pack.
Several nice touches:

  • The regular MOD (Masters of Destruction) squad lunches, where spokespeople of the liquor, cigarette, and guns industries get together to compare notes on their battles with do-good reformers and the nanny state;
  • Use of the savage, nature-show footage from Patagonia, showing the remarkable skill of killer whales in momentarily beaching themselves in order to kill startled sea lions. Killer whales will die if they linger too long out of the ocean, but for a tasty meal, they'll take that risk. Both Nick and Joey were transfixed by this metaphorical display of modern savagery. Who knew how savage killer whales could be? Or modern capitalists, for that matter?;
  • the clever kidnapping sequence; and,
  • the relentless emphasis on puncturing everyone's favorite hypocrisies, even those of the do-gooders, while making everyone quite likable and human in the process.

Like the movie says, it's all about paying the mortgage! And the extra-credit moral I got was:

  • You don't have prove that your opponent is wrong. All you have to prove is that your opponent is not right.
I Can't Hear You

On Friday, I was listening, for the first time, to Fresh FM on Multikabel Quicknet, from Amsterdam, Netherlands, on the headphones. After an hour, I realized my ears (particularly my left ear) was ringing, and that I was noticeably deafer than I had been just an hour before. This seemed alarming, and so I stopped using the headphones for the day, and decided to baby my ears. I have a friend who went to bed with a ringing ear, and woke up permanently deaf, so the possibility of abrupt hearing loss seemed real.

Of course, it's easier to baby your ears in theory than in practice. Saturday night, together with A., I went to "The Depot" for the first time, and then crossed the street to "Faces." The two clubs on K Street, in some ways, compose the beating heart of gay Sacramento. A musical theater friend (P.J.) often made The Depot his home, and so I wanted to see what he liked so much about the place.

There were some pool tables there, but they weren't being heavily used. Instead, lots of people were gabbing loudly over the music. There is a row of what seemed like display chairs against the west wall. My first thought was shoeshine chairs. My second thought was that the chairs were like a display case, almost like a supermarket display case for - meat? Perish that thought! Anyway, A. and I went to get a drink, and I saw a pretty, reddish drink that looked interesting. The bartender was momentarily confused, and thought I wanted a "red-headed slut", which is apparently a reddish shot of some sort. He got me the pretty drink instead, the one I wanted, but I can't remember the name of the drink - the mistaken name stuck in my head instead.

Crossing the street and entering "Faces," I parked myself on the corner of the dance floor right under a speaker, and jammed to the loud music for 45 minutes. Colorful crowd, including cross-dressers, but what I thought was interesting was watching the various 'emotional shells' people assume when they get on the dance floor. People tend to be shy when they dance publicly, and so they deliberately limit their emotional expression while moving around to the music. Even the butch lesbians and flamboyant queens put on shells. The woman next to me was shuffling listlessly from one foot to the other, and seemed, not just emotionless, but actually depressed. There's no telling though: she might have actually been pretty chipper, but just shy. It's so hard to read people, sometimes. For some reason, my ears were acting up again, so it was probably good that 'last call' came so quickly.

Today, I'm listening again to Multikabel Quicknet from Amsterdam, Netherlands, but I'm afraid to put the headphones on just yet, so instead, the headphones broadcast loudly from the desk.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Successful Military Campaigns...

...Of the recent past, as seen through the glow of time. A lot less problematic than the current campaign. Tommy C. was in the Panamanian campaign, in the 82nd Airborne (VFW Post 4647, North Highlands).