Friday, September 22, 2006

Too Big

The Australian Army bought 18 Abrams tanks. Trouble is, they are just too large to get them to their base in Australia's interior:
THE army's newest frontline weapon, the Abrams battle tank, arrived in Australia yesterday and immediately encountered problems, with no rail transport available to carry the tank to the Northern Territory.

Its deployment will be further hampered because, at 68 tonnes, the Abrams is too heavy to travel across road bridges in the Northern Territory.

As the first 18 of the tanks were delivered to Port Melbourne, the operators of the Adelaide-to-Darwin railway said they lacked the equipment to carry them. Adelaide-based Freightlink said the tanks were too big.

"Freightlink has participated in a rail study with the implication for new rolling stock to be acquired," the company said.

It did not say when or if it intended to acquire the required rolling stock and suggested it was waiting for contracts to be signed with the Defence Department before going ahead with the purchase. A total of 59 refurbished tanks were bought from the US for $500 million.

Transporting them north by road is likely to be problematic.

A senior Northern Territory shire engineer said road bridges in the Katherine Shire had a maximum capacity of 50 tonnes, 18 tonnes less than the weight of one Abrams tank. Road trains weighing up to 50 tonnes are able to use the bridges by disconnecting a trailer, he said.

The tanks, described by federal Defence Minister Brendan Nelson as the best in the world, have a fuel economy as low as 200m a litre.

She may be wobbly, but she's a cosmic electrician:
An astronaut from the space shuttle Atlantis collapsed twice Friday during a welcome home ceremony, a wobbly return that officials attributed to the adjustment from 12 days at zero gravity.

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper left the hangar at Ellington Field through a side door but was not taken to a hospital. Officials said she was doing fine.

...Piper, a 43-year-old from St. Paul, Minn., is a commander in the Navy and was a mission specialist and cosmic electrician aboard the shuttle. She carried out two of the spacewalks, joining an elite club of only six other U.S. women and a single Russian woman who have made spacewalks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Panda Bites Man, Man Bites Back

Via the Daily Rotten, an animal story:
A drunken Chinese tourist says he bit a panda who attacked him after he jumped into a zoo enclosure to "hug" the bear.

Zhang Xinyan, 35, had drunk four draught beers before deciding to enter the Beijing Zoo pen belonging to six-year-old male panda Gu Gu.

The startled Gu Gu bit both legs of his intruder, who responded by biting "the panda on its back", Mr Zhang was quoted by state media as saying.

Mr Zhang said he had not realised pandas could be violent. ..."I bit the panda on its back but its fur was too thick," Mr Zhang recalled. He went on: "No one ever said they would bite people. I just wanted to touch it."

Beware! There are more of them coming!

Courtesy on an E-Mail chain letter forwarded by my sister, Marra:
SICHUAN, China -- One zoo in southwest China has its hands full with 16 baby pandas.

The Sichuan Wolong Panda Protection and Breed Center is dealing with the results of a breeding boom -- 16 pandas have been born since July, 2005. The brood includes five sets of twins. The cubs are weighed and measured every five days by a special panda nurse.

The heaviest tips the scale at just over 24 pounds, while the lightest weighs about 11 pounds. The pandas are due to stop being suckled by their mothers in February, 2006 just about the time they'll start learning to walk. Once weaned, the panda cubs will attend panda kindergarten. In the meantime, more little ones are expected at the center, since 38 giant pandas were artificially impregnated.
Rio Linda High School Craziness

E. calls today, at noontime, and says that all hell has broken out Rio Linda High School. Yesterday, they caught a student with a gun. Today, with reports that shooting is imminent, dozens of screaming parents are demanding that their kids be released from classes, cops are swarming the campus, students are being hauled into a stockroom for confidential questioning, and both KXTV-10 and KCRA-3 television trucks are present, with reporters filing video feed.

Ah! The good olde days! Reminds me of my high school, in Albuquerque. I remember one morning in 1973, when one student shot another in the West Mesa High School gym. When our school bus rolled up to the school to let us off, marksmen were on all the rooftops. But we were tough. None of us dreamed of calling our parents.

Tough - or stupid?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

William Baker, Stylist, Is Back

If rumor is to believed, he had been urging Kylie to get out of her comfort range before everything all fell apart.

I'm glad he's back.

Left: Kylie Minogue, endeavoring to get out of her comfort range, preparing for her upcoming revised "Showgirl" tour (and taking a few Calendar shots as well).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Così Fan Tutte - Sacramento Opera

Left: Intermission, Tuesday night

Went to the Sacramento Community Center Tuesday night and saw "Così Fan Tutte."

What a wonderful show! Great voices! Cute, and silly and risqué.

According to Wikipedia:
Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti, K. 588, is a dramma giocoso by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was written by Lorenzo da Ponte.

Written and composed at the suggestion of the Emperor Joseph II, the libretto was originally intended to be set to music by Mozart's colleague Antonio Salieri who completed only parts of the first act and then broke off his work. The first performance of Mozart's setting took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790.

Mozart and Da Ponte took as a theme "fiancée swapping" which dates back to the 13th century, with notable earlier versions being those of Boccaccio's Decameron and Shakespeare's play Cymbeline. It also incorporates elements of the myth of Procris as found in Ovid.

The plot did not offend Viennese sensibilities of the time, but throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries it was considered risqué. The opera was rarely performed, and when it did appear it was presented in one of several bowdlerized libretto. After World War II, it regained its place in the standard operatic repertoire.

There are many recordings of Così fan tutte, and it is frequently performed, being the fifteenth most performed opera in North America according to Opera America. The play Così, written by playwright Louis Nowra, features mental patients acting this opera. Many extracts from the opera were used as incidental music in the 2004 movie Closer.

The title literally means "Thus do all (women)" but is often translated as "Women are like that". The words are sung by the three men in Act II, Scene xi, just before the finale. Moreover, da Ponte used the line "Così fan tutte le belle" (thus do all beautiful women) in an earlier opera with Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro (in Act I, Scene vii).

Jennifer Lin and Tom Osborn, Ambassadors for Sacramento Opera, ambassadize away at intermission. At left edge of photo, Sacramento Opera Executive Director Rod Gideons.

Jennifer says that of the three shows this season, "Così Fan Tutte" has the smallest cast. The other shows, "Aida," and "Carmen," are much larger.

Jerry Frink, with the most innovative fashion statement of the night. Why did Jerry decide to attend the Opera (by the way, the best-dressed crowd I've seen in Sacramento) in a pink boa?

Jerry is a frequent protestor against the Iraq War, whether daily at the 16th and J street corner, or on Broadway, or elsewhere in the downtown Sacramento area. He was infuriated, and politicized, by the Bush Administration's efforts to place a gay marriage ban in the Constitution. Hence, the pink boa: the personal becomes political. Jerry goes everywhere with the pink boa these days.

Jerry opined that America was becoming something of a fascist state, susceptible to Orwellian double-speak, and that people must protest that trend, as was done to greater effect during the Vietnam War. I started expounding my theory that the so-called "War on Terror" was even better suited to totalitarian purposes than the three empires Orwell foresaw when he wrote "1984" in 1948 (I've discussed some these things here), since maintaining static empires is a big drain on resources, whereas the "War on Terror" is much easier to maintain - a pocket kind of war.

I began excitedly getting into the politics, but then I noticed Jerry was beginning to politely edge away from me, as if maybe I was just a wee bit too rabid for his taste. *sigh*

I need to get a boa - maybe a rainbow boa, since Jerry has cornered pink in Sacramento.

Left: Bindi Irwin

"My daddy was my hero - he was always there for me when I needed him," she said, reading from a piece of paper.

"He listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all he was fun.

"I know that Daddy had an important job. He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did."

She said her father built a hospital and bought land to give animals a safe place to live and she wanted to continue his legacy.

"I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end," she said.

"I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did."

Bindi said she would miss her father.

"I have the best Daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day," she said.

"When I see a crocodile I will always think of him and I know that Daddy made this zoo so everyone could come and learn to love all the animals.

"Daddy made this place his whole life and now it's our turn to help Daddy."
Steve Irwin State Memorial Today

In Queensland, with 5000 guests. 300 million are forecast to watch on Australian and international TV. PM John Howard, among many others, will attend. Speculation focuses on whether or not Irwin's daughter, Bindi, will speak.

Listening to B105.3, I've been trying to log the advertisements they feature on Brisbane's premier pop music station, for a variety of products, including:
  • a weight loss program;
  • a credit card;
  • a Comedy Club;
  • B105's 'Shag Me, Bag Me' amateur beauty promo;
  • a theme song contest for 'Neighbours';
  • two different kinds of sun tan body lotions;
  • the Hard Rock Cafe;
  • Harvey Norman stores;
  • career opportunities for personal trainers;

but most surprisingly, given the radio station's demographics;

  • a self-help, will-making kit.

Hmmm...... Something Irwin could have used, but perhaps neglected to do.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Chubby Bunny

Beware the Chubby Bunny:
LONDON, Ont. -- A 32-year-old woman was in critical condition yesterday after choking during a marshmallow-eating contest at the city's Western Fair.

Paramedics were called to the fairgrounds just after 7 p.m. Tuesday after the woman began to choke and collapsed.

The unidentified woman was taking part in the Chubby Bunny contest, in which contestants stuff as many marshmallows as they can into their mouths.
California Electricity Consumption Per Capita

Interesting graphic, via the Washington Monthly, from The New York Times (and the California Energy Commission):
No Power

I know I'll spend my retirement years getting into fixes like this:
A mall security guard who noticed a "call 911, help" note in a car window likely saved the lives of two elderly women who became trapped when their vehicle's battery died and the automatic locks failed, according to a Local 6 News report.

Officials said two women in their 80s were recovering Saturday from heat stroke and heat exhaustion after spending several hours trapped inside a Cadillac at the Volusia Mall.
Arrogant Governmental Intrusion? Or Time To Lose The Jelly Belly?

In Australia, government and entertainment seem to be even more intertwined than in the U.S.:
Radio shock-jock Sandilands attacked contestant Jessica Mauboy about her weight during the second elimination show last night.

Mauboy, who was wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and black jacket, appeared stunned by the advice that she "lose the jelly belly".

Victoria's Youth Affairs Minister Jacinta Allan said Mr Sandilands' remark was humiliating and had the potential to do significant psychological damage to all the young people in the audience.

"Kyle sent a message to millions of young viewers dreaming of a career in the music industry – don't bother if you're not stick thin," Ms Allan said.

She said mental and physical health issues relating to negative body shapes were already common among young people.

"Young people are bombarded with images of impossibly thin models and then have to sit through insensitive assessments such as the one delivered by Kyle on Australian Idol.

"It amounts to an assault on the self-esteem," she said.

"Australian Idol promotes young Australian talent ... unfortunately it can also indulge in needless humiliation with the potential for negative flow-on effects to its audience."