Saturday, June 10, 2006


Stumbling through the book department of the large retail store, I came upon Ann Coulter's new book "Godless - The Church of Liberalism."

What should one do when coming upon a book written by a thoroughly-objectionable person? In a civilized society, there should be a tolerance of ideas, but some ideas are quite evil, and indeed, if applied faithfully, would see oneself eradicated (e.g., a recent, widely-advertised conservative T-Shirt slogan "Imagine - No Liberals", or Rush Limbaugh pining for the exile of all liberals). What should one do, for example, upon finding a best-selling version of "Mein Kampf?" These days, Ann Coulter is busy trying to restore the reputation of the late, not-so-great junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, the alcoholic red-baiter who needlessly destroyed the reputations of many innocent people. I'm certain Coulter has no respect for people like me, and as a self-respecting liberal, I shouldn't have any for her either, and indeed, for anyone who sells her book.

So, I toyed with the idea of defacing several of her books, but upon noticing a nearby garbage can, I instead discarded two tomes as surreptitiously as I could on a busy shopping day. Send a message! Fight back against the conservatives' dream of a 'final solution'!
Tropical Depression Number One, aka Alberto

Dwight and Linda write:
Hi Marc. Heard the weather in Sacramento was perfect. Until early this evening, it's been just fabulous here. Even the humidity is staying lower that normal. But now it is cloudy and looking like rain. The local weather prophets are saying that this "Tropical Depression One" is supposed to have some impact on Tampa's weather.

Got any thoughts on it?
Holy freakin' mackerel, where did that come from? Yeah, it looks like Tampa and area will get A LOT of rain Sunday night and Monday morning from this system (4 inches plus)! It's poorly-organized, with the center of circulation well to the west of the rain, meaning it's not entirely tropical in nature, but rather some kind of mid-latitude/tropical hybrid. So, maybe not that much wind, but rain, rain, rain! Keep your eyes peeled!

Central Florida Hurricane Blog says:
Tropical Depression One has formed. Advisories have been issued.

This system is still not poised to strengthen too much quickly, at least now. Most of the convection is on the eastern side of the storm, which means Florida will likely see more rain from it. Models are still not all that reliable as to future location, but Cuba and the Southeaster Gulf will want to watch it.

The current official forecast takes the system near Cedar Key (north of Tampa and south of the big bend). However, the hurricane center states that the track is highly uncertain, and after crossing Florida it would likely transform into an extratropical system and head northeast near the US coastline. It is projected to remain a Tropical Storm at this time, roughly 60 mph winds as it nears the coast. This and the track could change so keep an eye out on it.

Tropical Storm warnings are recommended, but not yet issued by the Cuban government for Pinar Del Rio and the Isle of Youth.

It's fairly likely to become Alberto sometime today as well.

More to come later.
National Hurricane Center says:
WTNT31 KNHC 102047
400 PM CDT SAT JUN 10 2006












The fellow in the car next to mine at the traffic light on Bradshaw said it all: nice car! He was driving a burnt orange 2002 Saturn SC2 Sports Coupe with automatic transmission. I was driving the exact same model, of course.
Pennsylvania Variegated Bluestone

If you go out to the rockyard off Excelsior Avenue, south of Mather Airport, the rockyard shared by Roundtree Company, and hop up and down on the pretty boulders, you can just peek over the berm across the road and see the stock car and funny car races out there!
"Godspell" - Garbeau's Dinner Theater

(Left) "Alas For You" - Jesus (Kevin Caravalho)

Fine show, with a strong ensemble, featuring many acquaintances and friends. The small space, and the informal set, lent an air of intimacy often missing in bigger spaces.

I remember obsessively seeing the movie "Godspell" in high school - Anderson, Baltz and myself must have seen it fifteen or twenty times in two years. The tempo of the movie music is emblazoned on my brain, and so Roger Clark's slower pace seemed to throw me a little bit. Nevertheless, fine music (Mark Ferreira, Greg Mullen, Bruce Weisz, and Roger Clark).

I hadn't seen Wendy Modlin before - I liked her energetic rendition of 'O Bless The Lord, My Soul.'

Was that Lee Hudson who went through the hoop? If so, he's got more talents than I had thought.

I had never seen, or even known the existence of, 'Tower of Babble,' which leads off the show. Nice to see it performed!

Amber Jean Moore does a fine Valley Girl imitation at one point (nothing better than the California accent, suitably exaggerated!) It is good to see her onstage again (has it really been since RSP's 'A Chorus Line'?)

Both Troy Thomas (John the Baptist) and Kevin Caravalho (Jesus) have wonderful voices. Patricia Glass was fine in 'By My Side.'

'Turn Back, O Man' - Deborah Douglas

"Godspell" Set

Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi Dead

It will be interesting to see what happens to Al Qaeda in Iraq now that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is gone. Presumably they'll pick a new leader and continue. The effect on the insurgency may not be great, however, since Iraqi Sunnis already were embarrassed by Jordanian-born Zarqawi's bloody tactics and civil-war impulses, and wished him gone. As civil war ramped up over the last six months, American casualties declined. With Zarqawi gone, the focus may be on killing Americans, now more than ever.
Ava Ireland Crates

Photographer Persia Nelson-Crates announces the birth of her daughter, Ava Ireland Crates (May 24th, 9 lbs. 8 ozs.), suitably enough, with a nice photo mailer showing her and Dustin holding baby Ava!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

John Hancock's Moving Over to Kaiser On Morse Avenue

Message from Juan Ramos regarding John's imminent move:
John has completed his surgeries/trauma treatment at the UCD Trauma Center. The Doctors, nurses and staff have been nothing but exemplary. He will be transferred to the Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center (Morse Facility) at 2025 Morse Avenue. If you are on Arden coming from the Arden Shopping Mall past "Howe about Arden," take a left at Morse and the facility will be to your left. Transfer will take place after 5:00 p.m. today. Please bear in mind that John is now very aware of the acute pain he will have to endure for quite awhile and will need to get as much rest as his pain medication will allow. This is a very difficult stage of his recovery so if you do decide to visit, keep the visits to a minimum. He is really hurting and it is not the easiest thing to witness. He will be in ICU in Room# 3512. Visiting hours are for the most part 24 hour. Enter the hospital through the main entrance and take the HOSPITAL ELEVATORS not the clinic elevators to the third floor. As you exit the elevators you will see a brick wall to your right so you go left where there will be an intercom to announce your visit. If you have any questions you may call 973-7146 beforehand.
Message from Julie Kaplan (via MikeMac):
John is being transferred to Kaiser Permanente - Sacramento Medical Center today. The address is:

Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
2025 Morse Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825

(916) 973-5000
Map to the place

He will be admitted to the ICU unit and his room number will be #3512. Since he will still be in the ICU, he cannot receive flowers at this time. I will let you know when he can receive them. John is experiencing an extreme amount of pain at this time and it is very difficult to see him hurting. His family has asked to give him a little bit of time to adjust to his new surroundings. When you do go and see him, again the family has asked to please keep your visits short. John is tiring easily right now. He will need all of you very much during his long recuperation.

I want one of these so bad it hurts....:
Elite special forces troops being dropped behind enemy lines on covert missions are to ditch their traditional parachutes in favour of strap-on stealth wings.

The lightweight carbon fibre mono-wings will allow them to jump from high altitudes and then glide 120 miles or more before landing - making them almost impossible to spot, as their aircraft can avoid flying anywhere near the target.

The technology was demonstrated in spectacular fashion three years ago when Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner - a pioneer of freefall gliding - famously 'flew' across the English Channel, leaping out of an aircraft 30,000ft above Dover and landing safely near Calais 12 minutes later.

Wearing an aerodynamic suit, and with a 6ft wide wing strapped to his back, he soared across the sea at 220mph, moving six feet forward through the air for every one foot he fell vertically - and opened his parachute 1,000ft above the ground before landing safely.

...Resembling a 6ft-wide pair of aircraft wings, the devices should allow a parachutist to glide up to 120miles, carrying 200lb of equipment, the manufacturers claim.

Fitted with oxygen supply, stabilisation and navigation aides, troops wearing the wings will jump from a high-altitude transport aircraft which can stay far away from enemy territory - or on secret peacetime missions could avoid detection or suspicion by staying close to commercial airliner flight paths.

The manufacturers claim the ESG wing is '100 per cent silent' and 'extremely difficult' to track using radar.

Once close to their target landing zone, the troops pull their parachute rip cord to open their canopy and then land normally.

Weapons, ammunition, food and water can all be stowed inside the wing, although concealing the 6ft wings after landing could prove harder than burying a traditional parachute.

ESG claims the next stage of development will be fitting 'small turbo-jet drives' to the wings to extend range even further.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wet Day In Phoenix

Who'dathunk? After yesterday's false and windy and dusty start (habooby, as we meteorologists say), proto-monsoon kicks into gear with a vengeance in the Valley of the Sun.
Bird Flu Hits Florida Trailer Park

Oh, the humanity!

(via E-Mail chain from my sister)
Red Rain

Sigh.... "The Day After Tomorrow" for the panspermia set.....

Red rain, and aliens:
In April, Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that the samples -- water taken from the mysterious blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis's home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001 -- contain microbes from outer space.

Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit . (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250 degrees Fahrenheit .)

So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India.

...Meanwhile, more down-to-earth theories abound. One Indian government investigation conducted in 2001 lays blame for what some have called the "blood rains" on algae.

Other theories have implicated fungal spores, red dust swept up from the Arabian peninsula, even a fine mist of blood cells produced by a meteor striking a high-flying flock of bats.
Entrepreneurial Rocketfest

Despite the boosterish rhetoric, the presence of all these large amateur rockets all in one place makes me feel uncomfortable:
2006 X PRIZE CUP Scheduled for October 19-22nd in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Santa Monica, CA - February 21, 2006 A combination of high powered, high adrenaline rocket racing, hands-on exploration, entertainment and education. Experience the new generation of private spaceships, fly the simulators, meet the pilots and astronauts, speak to the designers and sit in the cockpits. Win a flight on Zero G!

Witness the debut of the world’s first X-Racer - Grand Prix Racing in the sky - and the awe inspiring sport of vertical drag racing. Watch X PRIZE teams compete for $2.5 Million in cash prizes and cast your vote for the best rockets in the $50,000 Amateur X PRIZE competition - where hundreds of teams comprising fathers and sons, mothers and daughters from all over the world compete with their home-built rockets.

Between Rocket ignitions, interactive gaming and visually arresting New Mexico landscapes, listen to your favorite rock bands and view award winning space movies in the giant outdoor theater. Join in ‘star parties’ and fireside chats with astronomers and celebrated astronauts as part of the RocketTown experience.

From families to executives, rocket builders to rocket dreamers. From girl scouts to Shuttle astronauts, home-built model rockets to heart stopping rocket planes. Join this loyal community of space enthusiasts, watching the future unfold before their eyes.
John Hancock In Surgery Today

Message this morning from Juan Ramos:
The surgery scheduled originally scheduled for Thursday has been moved up to today for John. Your thoughts and prayers on this operation to his right hip and pelvis as it is a very important surgery for John and in my mind his most serious fracture. I also would not encourage any visitors today because of the length of the surgery itself and the much needed recovery period. It has been a good week for John primarily because of the removal of his respiratory tube. He has had many visitors and has greeted them all by name. It has been good for everyone who has visited him to see and hear him talk, smile and laugh even has he has faded in and out because of his pain medication. This may be the last surgery he will have at UCD and there is a possibility he may be transferred to a Kaiser facility within the next week or two. Which facility that will be, I do not know at this point.
"Hairspray" Closing In Vegas

Figuring out Vegas is really hard for Broadway musicals!

Pepper Von is back from Brazil, with gripping stories about working with homeless kids in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. Makes all our problems shrink into insignificance....

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Jesuits Grapple With The Beast

More fun:
666 - Biblical Number of the Beast
660 - Approximate Number of the Beast
DCLXVI - Roman Numeral of the Beast
665 - Number of the Beast's Older Brother
667 - Number of the Beast's Younger Sister
668 - Number of the Beast's Neighbor
999 - Number of the Australian Beast
333 - Number of the Semi-Beast
66 - Number of the Downsized Beast
6, uh..., I forget - Number of the Blond Beast
666.0000 - Number of the High Precision Beast
665.9997856 - Number of the Beast on a Pentium
And many more!
More on John Hancock

Message today from MikeMac:
John's doing well. He was joking around a lot yesterday, and we were glad he had his sense of humor. His face is very expressive, but sometimes he drifts off to sleep in the middle of a sentence. He was able to move his toes a bit, and his left arm is very mobile. He tried to scratch his face a lot (he hasn't shaved in quite some time), but couldn't quite make it. He was very thirsty, and tried to get more ice chips out of us, but he just wanted to chew them, instead of letting them melt like he's supposed to. We chided him for it, saying he should do as mother (and the nurse) say. He rolled his eyes and kept telling Juan, "I've got it down now, let's try again," and opened his mouth for more ice.

The nurse said his red blood cell count was pretty low, and when the viscosity of the blood drops, your body responds by making you thirsty. His eyes don't seem to close all the way, but they have some goop they put on his eyes to keep them from drying out. He can see well enough to recognize people if he's focused, but his hearing is top notch. The feeding tube will be coming out today, and John will receive his first meal in two-and-a-half weeks: Chicken broth and Jell-O. John says, with a huge grin, "It's gonna be delicious". He's making truly awesome progress.
Just Make Fun Of Them

Digby has written how George W. Bush will frequently bully his critics by singling out one hapless person and making fun of some personal characteristic. It's supposed to be "funny," and if you complain, you get accused of not having a sense of humor. Not long ago, Bush mocked an elderly man for being in a wheelchair:
There's an interesting simple psychology involved in such things. If someone can coerce those in a group to help him attack a single member they become his accomplices. For instance, getting everybody in the press corps to laugh at a reporter's baldness makes those reporters part of the president's gang. And, of course, it intimidates them. If they stray, they too will be subject to that kind of public humiliation. It's the evil fratboy theory of social relations, very primitive stuff.
Today, Bush turned and mocked fellow Republican, Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico, a conservative whose positions are nevertheless at odds with Bush:
Mr. Bush tried to strike a friendly, bipartisan tone. He warmly recognized Gov. Bill Richardson, Senator Jeff Bingaman and Representative Tom Udall, all Democrats, as well as Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Steven Pearce, both Republicans.

Mr. Pearce, whose district includes Artesia, differs sharply with Mr. Bush on immigration policy, but the president greeted him like a friend and ally, kidding him for seeking shelter from the heat. "Pearce has got that umbrella up because he's bald-headed," Mr. Bush said as the crowd erupted in laughter. "He's also a fine Congressman."
Ann Coulter, Monster

Ann "Abaddon" Coulter on the 9/11 widows:
These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.
And all because the 9/11 widows have the gall to want their questions regarding 9/11 answered by the Bush Administration! Before long, Coulter will be accusing the ambitious widows of having organized 9/11 themselves, to better serve their pimp, Osama bin Laden.
Kelly Daniells Feature

Nice feature article on Kelly Daniells in Celebrating Natomas

[Update: Courtesy of Jon and Kelly, here is the feature article.]
Is This Woman The Antichrist?

I had trouble last week with blurred images on my camera, but that was because I went to the Madonna concert, and I'm pretty damned ignorant about my own camera, and Madonna was moving all over the place, and besides, we know Madonna couldn't be the Antichrist (could she?), but what about this woman?:
A candidate less likely to be the antichrist is Brighton pensioner June Dumas. The retired nurse, who was born weighing 6lbs 6oz at 6am on 6 June 1940, is 66 today.

Ms Dumas has had no problems with evangelicals picketing her home in Hove, east Sussex, but nevertheless faces this birthday with dread. "I have a got funny feeling it could be my expiry date," she said. "I have always thought that 66 would be it. My mum, who was a psychic, told me to watch myself when I turned 66 because of the date. I am superstitious and really quite concerned about it. It's silly really."

She added: "I plan to take things really easy. I'm intending to do all my jobs today so that I don't have to use the car tomorrow because I've had a few nasty accidents in the past."
Forensics Lab

With their luck, I suppose this'll be on their midterm too....:
Their teacher had set up a mock crime scene at Holiday Park for their class. The students were supposed to bag evidence, take pictures of the scene and try to solve the fake crime.

The students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School soon discovered a man's body and began taking notes and pictures as they were taught. But at the time, they didn't know it was a real dead person. One student even said he thought his teacher "planted it there."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Merry Mark-of-the-Beast Day!

(Bush Antichrist - credit: Keith Wise)

[UPDATE: Keith Wise, who created the Bush Antichrist image I posted two years ago, now has a Web Site, where he offers talismans, tarot readings, and other items on the occult side of life.]
Stop Having Fun - This Goes On The Permanent Record!

Regarding "The Da Vinci Code," Gabe writes:
Marc -

The person from Opus Dei is a priest by the name of Fr. John Wauck. His blog on the book and film itself can be found here. His article is below.

By the way, Marc, I completely agree with you. Christianity must get rid of its silly doctrines in order to survive.

I thought exactly the same way about nature and its fixation with gravity after seeing The Day After Tomorrow.

Have a nice day!


Does Gabe have his tongue in his cheek? No, not Gabe - this is a serious matter! How dare he invoke the worst movie in history "The Day After Tomorrow" to make his point about gravity? My head is ready to burst with humorless righteousness!

In any event, here is Wauck's review, quoted in full:
May 19, 2006, 6:31 a.m.

Laugh When You Watch That
TDVC’s shortcomings aside, at least Dan Brown can poke fun at himself.

By Fr. John Wauck

Naturally, as a priest of Opus Dei, I can’t claim to be thrilled about Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, or this weekend's movie opening, but it seems to me that there is, despite the copious ink spilled and still awaiting spilling, something that commentaries on Dan Brown’s work consistently overlook: its author’s self-deprecating sense of humor.

He has designed something that, for all its faults, artfully resists being taken too seriously. In fact, there’s a key scene in the novel which stands out both as a testimony to Brown’s humility and as a clever invitation to laugh with him when you watch the movie.

The hero, Harvard professor Robert Langdon, is in New York having a “power lunch” with his editor, Jonas Faukman, to discuss his upcoming book on the “symbology” of the sacred feminine. Faukman, worried by the manuscript’s daring conjectures about Jesus, Mary Magdalen, and the Holy Grail, wants to make sure that Langdon has scholarly support for his theory, so he reminds him: “You’re a Harvard historian, for God’s sake, not a pop schlockmeister looking for a quick buck.”

Of course, what makes Langdon’s imaginary manuscript controversial is precisely what has made Brown’s real novel controversial, and, just in case anyone misses the parallels, Brown has made the editor’s name an anagram of his own editor’s name. The scene is clearly meant to conjure up a real-life conversation between Brown himself and his editor Jason Kaufman.

What makes this an impressive tribute to Brown’s humility is the comparison that he invites the reader to make. The fictional Robert Langdon is indeed a Harvard historian, but everyone knows that Dan Brown is not. In fact, most readers will naturally wonder if the author of second-tier thrillers like Digital Fortress and Angels and Demons isn’t—to use a word much abused in the novel—literally a “pop schlockmeister.”

So, in an amusing way, Brown calls attention to his own lack of academic credentials and the sub-literary quality of his novels—points which certainly haven’t escaped notice. The art historian Bruce Boucher has suggested that the book be turned into an opera instead of a movie, because “If something is too stupid to say, you can always sing it.”

And yet, the joke is not on Brown, because he’s clearly in on it himself. In fact, before that New York “power lunch” ends, the comedy gets richer and even more self-aware: Prof. Langdon triumphantly pulls out a bibliography of fifty historians who support his theory, and Faukman, glancing at the list, gasps, “They’re… real historians!”

Here again, Brown is winking at the reader, because it’s perfectly clear that there are no real historians who support the nonsense that Langdon has written: only one of the “real historians” on the list is mentioned, and he’s entirely fictional. In fact, he’s the novel’s villain: Sir Leigh Teabing, the famous “British Royal Historian.” Obviously, were a real historian available, it would have cost Brown nothing to include the name.

As everyone now knows, “Teabing” too is a coded name: an anagram of the last name of Michael Baigent, one of the unsuccessfully-litigious authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the popular work of pseudo-history from which Brown got many ideas for his novel. Needless to say, Baigent is not an historian. Not content, though, to make Teabing the villain, Brown also makes him criticize his namesake. Commenting on Holy Blood, Holy Grail (in an odd way, his own book), Teabing adds insult to injury by telling the heroine Sophie, “To my taste, the authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis.”

By this point, it should be obvious that the author of The Da Vinci Code is having far too much fun to worry about getting his facts straight or making much sense. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the entire novel is a convoluted search for Saint Mary Magdalen’s tomb, which has been a popular pilgrimage site in Provence for about thirteen centuries.

By the end, Brown emerges as a remarkably daring writer. He even mocks his own novel’s appeal, introducing the phrase “Everyone loves a conspiracy” like a weary refrain. At one point, a librarian laughs at Langdon and Sophie for their tiresome search: “I wish I had a shilling,” she says, “for every time I’d run searches for the Rose, Mary Magdalen, Sangreal, Merovingians, Priory of Sion, et cetera, et cetera. Everyone loves a conspiracy.” Prof. Langdon himself recalls people talking about the Holy Grail “ad nauseam” on the Internet and says to himself: “Everyone loves a conspiracy.” Yet again, Brown is teasing his readers, because “a conspiracy” is precisely what he’s selling.

Brown is clearly a good sport who knows perfectly well what he’s up to, and he can’t resist tipping his hand to let us in on the joke. So hats off to an author who’s not ashamed of coming across as a “pop schlockmeister looking for a quick buck”—and, as we now know, finding it with a vengeance… literally.

—Fr. John Wauck studied renaissance history and literature at Harvard and lives at the world headquarters of Opus Dei in Rome, where he is a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He blogs on The Da Vinci Code at
And yet, "The Da Vinci Code" wouldn't be as popular as it is unless it's touching something more genuine than a conspiracy theory. Big things can flow from it!
Just A Friendly Reminder

Tomorrow is 06/06/06! Mark of the Beast Day!

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Hmmm.... My Dad served in the 666th Artillery Battalion in WWII. It made them a bit uncomfortable, but they spun it as bringing Satan to Nazis.

Here is an article about 500 conspiracy theorists getting together and spinning away about 9/11. At first, I thought it was a Joint Session of Congress...
Whatever one thinks of the claim that the state would plan, then execute, a scheme to murder thousands of its own, there was something to the fact that more than 500 people — from Italy to Northern California — gathered for the weekend at a major chain hotel near the runways of O'Hare International. It was, in tone, half trade show, half political convention. There were talks on the Reichstag fire and the sinking of the Battleship Maine as precedents for 9/11. There were speeches by the lawyer for James Earl Ray, who claimed that a military conspiracy killed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and by a former operative for the British secret service, MI5.

"We feel at this point we've done a lot of solid research, but the American public still is not informed," said Michael Berger, press director for, which sponsored the event. "We had to come up with a disciplined approach to get it out."
The Chumps Line Up

People consistently exaggerate the value of ethanol in the American fuel mix, because they don't see how much petroleum needs to get burned to produce the ethanol. But Wall Street knows a mark when they see one, and so they're lining up the fools who have money to burn in sterile investments:
Ethanol production in the United States is growing so quickly that for the first time, farmers expect to sell as much corn this year to ethanol plants as they do overseas.

"It's the most stunning development in agricultural markets today - I can't think of anything else quite like this," says Keith Collins, the U.S. Agriculture Department's chief economist.

The amount of corn used for ethanol, estimated at 2.15 billion bushels this year, would amount to about 20 percent of the nation's entire crop, according to department projections.

Even as ethanol devours corn and pushes prices higher, the president and Congress are calling for even greater ethanol use. Wall Street cannot seem to get enough of ethanol-related investments. Automakers are speeding ethanol-capable vehicles onto the road.

Yet the ethanol industry is not without its critics, who question whether tax incentives provided by Congress are really needed.

The enthusiasm for ethanol makes farmer Lynn Phillips want to grow more corn. Phillips helped raise the money for the farmer-owned Tall Corn plant, which opened in 2002 as a way to make more money by processing every kernel of locally grown corn.

"We saw train cars after train cars of raw material being shipped away and value being added somewhere else," said Phillips. Now, the corn "is still going out on train cars - it's just going out in the form of ethanol and distillers' grain."
Plunge Kills Experienced Climber

Her friends and family sound mystified why she couldn't save herself, but a rapid 200-foot slide on icy snow wouldn't have given her much time to react, starting and ending in just two heartbeats. Scary way to go!:
In the world of California mountaineering, Patricia Rambert was closing in on the Holy Grail.

The 57-year-old Laguna Hills woman had just 39 peaks to "bag" before making a clean sweep of the 247 summits that climbing enthusiasts consider the most notable in the Sierra Nevada.

...But on Wednesday, just 300 feet short of the summit, the mother of two plunged 300 feet to her death while scaling the east face of 13,710-foot Mt. Mendel in Kings Canyon National Park, friends and relatives said Sunday.

Bowman, as well as Rambert's husband, Carl, said the climber was equipped with a helmet, boot spikes called crampons and an ice ax that could have been used to break her fall. Neither understood why, after she lost her footing, she was not able to do so. She slid helplessly down 200 feet of a snow field before dropping 100 feet through the air.

...The peak where Rambert died was where a World War II Army airman was found last fall, buried in ice since a training accident 63 years earlier.

...Her quest earned her a reputation within hiking circles as a first-class "peak bagger" who, according to her husband, was either out hiking or scaling mountains 150 to 200 days a year, sleeping every night in a tent.
All I Want Is To Be Next To You

Surprised the Daily Rotten used my contribution, regarding a local Sacramento story! Still, it's fun to read the Comments Section, and read people's opinions of the Sacramento Bee's policy of requiring registration before viewing articles, and thanks to the folks who published the article in the Comments Section despite the Bee's lame policy.
Didn't Win, But....

Idaho Gem was third; Idaho Star was seventh.
MikeMac Visits John Hancock

After seeing Julie Kaplan's message, MikeMac went down to talk to John Hancock himself:
Went to see John just after hearing about this. He's surprisingly lucid and was moving around a bit (he even sort of stretched his left arm across his body to his other arm. He was able to carry on conversations, but the painkillers are making it pretty difficult for him to focus, but he very definitely recognized me (when I greeted him, his eyes flew open and he said, "MikeMac? I love MikeMac! Where's Lauren?")

His voice is quiet and raspy, and his breathing seems labored, but he still enunciates very well (thank you, theatre training). John kept asking for ice for his mouth, and we eventually talked the nurse into giving him ice a day ahead of schedule. He was in heaven with the ice. He was joking with us, as well. His mother said that one of his brothers would be flying up this weekend to visit him, and John said, "That's so sweet [...] but I'm still the best son."

He also said that he doesn't "like the way [his] body hurts." He seemed pretty exhausted after talking to us for a while, so we let him get some rest. Barbara will be staying with him most of today. The doctors came in for a little while and said that he was doing "just great". Swing on by and say "Hi!"
Blood-Soaked Bill O'Reilly

O'Reilly has twice gotten the facts wrong regarding the Nazi slaughter of American prisoners at Malmedy, in World War II. Nazis slaughtered Americans, not vice-versa, as O'Reilly has twice said. O'Reilly persists, in order to make wartime massacres seem typical, in order to defend the perpetrators of the Haditha massacre. But having blown it twice now, what seems more likely is that this isn't a mistake at all, that O'Reilly is banking on American ignorance of history, in order to defend the indefensible.

My Dad was in the Battle of the Bulge. He remembers the massacre at Malmedy, as do many other veterans who came close to the same fate as the soldiers at Malmedy.

Evil bastard, that O'Reilly.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

John Hancock Breakthrough

(note that this message posted 11:50 a.m. Monday morning, not 11:50 p.m. Sunday night....Blogger seems to be having some issues)

A big development this weekend! Three messages this morning, the first of which was from Michael McElroy, summarizing John's state on Friday:
When we saw John on Friday night, he was wonderfully responsive to various external stimuli, although he still looked rather drugged up. One of his eyelids was drooping, and his pupils were contracted, but there were some times we were talking to him and he opened his eyes nice and wide and sometimes wiggled his eyebrows. He still can't talk because of the respirator, but he can apparently communicate and understand people. Noemi, SM for "Take Me Out" apparently saw him earlier and, while putting her hand on his forehead, asked if that felt okay. He nodded yes. She asked if he wanted to get some rest. He shook his head no. She asked if he wanted his iPod from home. He nodded yes. Reportedly, he has already rolled his eyes at his mother.

He is not scheduled for surgeries for a while (until, at my best knowledge, Wednesday or Thursday). He will be resting the next few days and is on some painkillers, but nothing heavy. If his demeanor Friday is any indication, he will be more and more lucid as the week goes on. He gets better and better each day. His breathing is much stronger. It seems like his lungs are initiating each breath very strongly, whereas about a week ago, every now and then the machine would have to force a breath. We're not sure if the kidneys are working completely yet, but the indicators are very positive. His liver activity numbers were also inconclusive, as it seemed the liver was working very hard, which could indicate damage, or (more likely and hopefully) a response to the trauma and shock of the accident and subsequent drug treatments.

Keep both Juan and John in your thoughts!

The second message came from Juan Ramos:
This weekend was a breakthrough. John was able to come out of sedation enough to recognize and react to faces of family and loved ones. He of course could not talk, but that did not stop him from moving his mouth and trying. He did a lot of smiling, raising his eyebrows, shrugging his shoulders and even raising his left arm and slightly moving his left leg. I took the opportunity after Friday evening's performance of "Take Me Out" to closely explain to John every detail I could remember about the accident, all the facts regarding his injuries, the operations he has had, the operations ahead, that he will be facing a long and difficult recovery period, but that he will indeed recover and the fact that family and loved ones have stepped up to plate to see that his work, home and financial responsibilities are being addressed. And of course that I will be by his side every step of the way. He listened intently to every word and he fell asleep shortly afterward.

He is scheduled for an operation of sorts to insert a filter that will keep blood from clotting during pre-dialysis before his upcoming operations and an operation on Thursday to address his right hip and pelvis which is still being aligned with weights at his bed. So visits before and after Thursday are encouraged. I also received very good news this morning that his respirator tube has been removed today, possibly until his scheduled surgery on Thursday. I wish to express my appreciation and gratefulness to all those who have taken the time to visit him. I know you were and will continue to be a very important part of his healing. Thank you.
And the last message came from Julie Kaplan:
All of our prayers have been answered! John was removed from the ventilator this morning and is talking!! The doctors are giving him a well earned rest prior his surgery which is scheduled for this Thursday. The pelvis surgery will take approximately 12 hours to complete. He will have one more surgery, a very minor one, which has not been scheduled as of yet.

Thank you for your caring!
Goodbye Party For The Ketchum-Wiggins

The invitation was bittersweet:

One Last Hurrah in the Orchard!!!

Please come and join Hail(ee) and our family in saying a sad good-bye and in celebrating our move to Southern California!

Dear Friends,

As most of you know, our family will be leaving June 10 for Southern California. None of us can imagine leaving Northern California without saying good-bye to the many wonderful friends we have here—so—we hope you can join us for one last party in the orchard!

BRING: a picnic blanket and/or lawn chairs and we will provide food, drinks (non-alcohol) and music…showtunes of course!
But the party itself was really wondrous.....

There is a kind of California idyll that has common features:
  • A beautiful home;
  • clear, beautiful skies;
  • the most pleasant company;
  • food, music, song;
  • an emphasis on creativity and the arts.

The details can be different - a redwood forest, or a ski chalet, or a sunny beach - but the California idyll touches very deep chords in the human soul and is the touch of grace that makes us happy to live here.

The Ketchum-Wiggins party was in an almond orchard in Winters, the Central Valley variant of the California idyll. The place was amazing - unusual and interesting house, a peacock strutting around, a trampoline, an inflatable toy castle, Rocky Horror on DVD, Erik Daniells on Keyboard, various members of the Musical Theater community singing and laughing. Paradise on Earth. Achingly beautiful, really. (and my digital camera discharged!)

We will miss the Ketchum-Wiggins, but it is likely they will return often to our area, and for that, we will be grateful!
No Juice

On the way back from Auburn Saturday night, I saw an unusually bright meteor! A good omen? Not quite! My car's battery failed at the 24th St. & Broadway Valero station, and I had to spend Sunday morning figuring out how to get a new one.
The Dark Con Of Man

Never read the book. Read the bad reviews. So when I went up to Auburn Saturday night to see "The Da Vinci Code," I had low expectations.

A really interesting movie! It makes me wonder about the future of Christianity. Poisonous misogyny at the heart of the Church is just killing the faith of possible adherents. It may be that a new Church will eventually arise and displace the Church of old (note my passive construction of this sentence). But how? It wasn't until I saw this movie that I saw an active principle at work. It would be an amazing revolution! Progress, even.

Hey, Gabe, where is that movie review of "The Da Vinci Code" you saw, the one written by a member of Opus Dei?
Qualifying Heat

Yay! Idaho Gem beat Idaho Star in the qualifying heat. But the big race was today. Who won?
Idaho Gem covered his 350-yard sprint Saturday in 21.817 seconds, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over five rivals. Idaho Star was less than three hundredths of a second faster, finishing in 21.790 seconds to win by a half length over four competitors.