Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Gala, Tonight!

"La Cage Aux Folles" at DMTC!

Left: Jean-Michel greets Anne. Left to right; Marie Dindon (Monica Parisi), Messr. Dindon (Michael Manley), Jean-Michel (Jason "Clocky" McDowell), and Anne (Kris Farhood).

Left: "Dishes." Nic Candito, airborne!

Left: Maman (Ryan Adame) and Anne (Kris Farhood), meet. Sitting, Monica Parisi and Michael Manley.

Left: Choreographer/director Ron Cisneros.

Left: Playing paparazzi in the wings with the Dindons.

Left: The Can-Can. Left to right, Kris Farhood, Monica Parisi, Daryl Clark, Brad Bong, Andrew Read, Catherine Williamson.

Left: (Jacob) Nic Candito departs; Albin (Ryan Adame) remains.

Left: "In the French Foreign Legion." Left to right, Georges (Martin Lehman), Jean-Michel (Jason "Clocky" McDowell, Anne (Kris Farhood), Marie Dindon (Monica Parisi), Messr. Dindon (Michael Manley).
Kylie Gets OBE

The Queen takes notice:
KYLIE Minogue, whose battle with cancer has inspired millions, gets an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List published today.

The Australian performer is joined by Michael Parkinson, the master of the TV chat show, who gets a knighthood.

The Order of the British Empire recognises service to the arts and sciences, public services and work with charitable and welfare organisations.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Just When You Thought It Was Safe....

To go to the mall:
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Dozens of girls fought -- possibly about a boy -- outside a mall on Wednesday, and the brawl ended with mall security officers using pepper spray and police using Taser guns, authorities said.

It happened outside an Applebees at Independence Center and involved about 20 to 30 teenage girls, police said.
Rehearsing "La Cage Aux Folles" For DMTC's New Year's Eve Gala

So little posting, so much going on the last several days! Cramming these rehearsals has taken up every available moment! I haven't even sent out Christmas cards yet!

Left: The Can-Can. Cagelles, left to right, Brad Bong, Monica Parisi, Catherine Williamson, Marissa Tidrick, Daryl Clark, Kris Farhood, Tim Stewart, Andrew Read.

Left: An awkward meeting of the families. Left to right, Jacob (Nic Candito), Georges (Martin Lehman), Albin (Ryan Adame), Jean-Michel (Jason "Clocky" McDowell).

Left: "Dishes." Top row, left to right, Jacob (Nic Candito), Jean-Michel (Jason "Clocky" McDowell), Georges (Martin Lehman). Bottom row, left to right, Anne (Kris Farhood), Marie Dindon (Monica Parisi), Messr. Dindon (Michael Manley).

Left: Cagelle Brad Bong.

Left to right: Marissa Tidrick, Daryl Clark, Brad Bong, Martin Lehman, Andrew Read, Tim Stewart, and Catherine Williamson.

Left: The Can-Can. Left to right, Daryl Clark, Marissa Tidrick, Andrew Read, Catherine Williamson.
Applying Analytical Skills To Changing A Tire

These days, I have a slow leak in my right rear tire. Instead of getting it fixed, like a sane person, I fill up the flattening tire every two days, so, I spend lots of time near an air hose these days.

Yesterday, I pulled into a space near an air hose at an AM/PM just as calamity struck. The fellow changing a tire in the space next to where I was pulling in saw his car slip off the jack and the car came crashing down onto the tireless wheel. He barely escaped serious injury.

Defeated, he asked, "Do you have a car jack that works?" But I wasn't having any of that. The jack looked fine. So why did the car slip off of it?

"Aha," I said, "one must put the emergency brake on first before jacking up a car." The fellow smacked his head and said, "Oh yeah, I forgot!"

I quickly got my air and took off before I would have to do his tire changing for him.....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beta Version Of DMTC Master Cast List Ready

After five years of messing around with this thing, I've finished a beta version of a computerized version of a DMTC Master Cast List. Anyone who was a cast member, crew member, played in the orchestra, or otherwise had anything to do with any regular-season DMTC or YPT show is included.

Currently, there are 15,654 entries in the list, encompassing the 2,683 people, plus an assortment of dogs, laptop computers, and even a hawk, that have made DMTC function over the years (covering the period June 1984 through December 2007).

The list is about 98% complete, meaning there were only a handful of programs that I wasn't able to obtain to help compile the list. These missing programs (all involving the Young Performers' Theatre) are:

MUSIC MAN: MAR 94 Missing program altogether
PETER PAN: MAR 96 Missing program altogether

If anyone has these programs, I'd very much appreciate if you'd let me know, so we can make copies for our files and pop the names into the list as well!

Not all shows are included. Occasional fundraisers, or shows outside the regular season (like last summer's "Tommy") are not included, nor are Summer YPT Workshops. These shows need a list of their own, at some future date.....

After combing through the Master Cast List for lingering errors, we will convert the Master Cast List spreadsheet into a more-facile database format and pop it up on the DMTC Web Site for general public access.
A Metaphorical Dream

Last night, I dreamt that Ron Cisneros took me on vacation with him and his friends to Indonesia, where the hotel rooms featured ocean access, so one could swim into and out of your room whenever one pleased, and where I could swim with the bright tropical fish.....
Hell's Wrath In Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto is assassinated and chaos will ensue. Indeed, speculation is already rife that Musharraf had her snuffed:
PAKISTANI opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack after a rally in the city of Rawalpindi today, her party said.

"She has been martyred," party official Rehman Malik said.

Mrs Bhutto, 54, died in hospital in Rawalpindi. Ary-One Television said she had been shot in the head.

Police said a suicide bomber fired shots at Mrs Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up.

"The man first fired at Bhutto's vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up," police officer Mohammad Shahid said.

Police said 16 people had been killed in the blast.
"Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street"

Left: Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, aka Benjamin Barker.

A quote from imdb:
When filming began, there was to be an inclusion of the ghosts of Sweeney Todd's victims (including actors Anthony Head and Christopher Lee), who would sing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd", its reprises, and the "Epilogue". These songs were recorded, but eventually cut before filming began, since director Tim Burton felt that the songs were too theatrical for the film.
Timothy Burton apparently wanted to rid Sweeney Todd of some of its more theatrical excesses, and make the movie more of a character study. In that light, the movie is a great success. But for some of us who thrive on theatrical excesses, the movie seems to collapse in on itself, becoming, in the end, a smaller enterprise than it had promised to be - less operatic, less apocalyptic, and more like Quentin Tarantino on a bad weekend in Las Vegas. In particular, the ensemble songs are missing or pared down (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, City On Fire, More Hot Pies), which is to be lamented.

Timothy Burton's trademark, which he shares with filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, and explains a lot of his appeal, is the sense of the lonely child, lost in a heartless world. This lonely kid theme reappears time and again in Burton's movies, movies like "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and "The Corpse Bride." Thus, it was interesting that the character of Toby (Ed Sanders) was cast with an actual kid, rather than a simpleton adult, as in the play. The lost, lonely child as surviving witness appealed to Burton. Interesting too how young Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Johanna (Jayne Wisener) are cast as well - young enough to be lost, lonely children, surviving in a heartless world.

So, good movie, but could have been better. Too bad the character of Pirelli didn't survive to teach Burton a few Mediterranean tricks. Too bad Timothy Burton himself isn't italiano - now those folks know something about operatic excess!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007

Fun list of the people we love to hate, 2007.
Queensland Weather Forecasters Take Heed

Itsa comin'!:
BRISBANE'S parched dams could finally be in for a big drink, with forecasters last night predicting a "high" chance of a cyclone developing off the Queensland coast this weekend.

Despite cooler weather across the state over the Christmas and Boxing Day break, the weather bureau last night said a low pressure system was expected to develop in the Coral Sea off Mackay today and move southeast tomorrow before potentially forming into a cyclone over the weekend.

Forecasters said the best estimate was that any cyclone would remain out to sea, off Fraser Island. But the last cyclone to cross the coast near Fraser Island was the system which filled the Somerset Dam and led to Brisbane's 1974 floods.

The combined dam levels of Brisbane's main dams dropped below 20 per cent again over Christmas.

Forecaster Craig Mitchell said the only certainty last night was that the state's coastal waters were in for a wild weekend. A coastal wind warning had already been issued between Cardwell in north Queensland and Hervey Bay.

"It's going to cause some dangerous conditions around the coastal beaches, bringing with it large swells which will be dangerous for swimmers and for boaties generally around the southeast," Mr Mitchell said.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ruthless Like Scrooge

You try to save money, but somehow it never quite works out, and you try to live within your means, but you can't help but expand beyond those narrow confines, and you try not to charge anything on your credit card, but woah, look at that balance! Does it mean you are weak, or bad?

A friend of mine is becoming something of a nuisance in the local press, because she publicly doles out advice to thousands of readers to live frugally, and invest your money, and avoid using the credit card - all good things, surely - but she also has begun offering her personal history as an example of the virtues of what she preaches.

Only trouble is, her personal history, as related in the press, is incomplete:
  • When she was married, she also had the advantage of a two-income household - the only solid way most people have to advance beyond subsistence, after all, but which she never mentions; and,
  • When her husband contracted a virus and went blind, she divorced his sorry ass and sent him back to live with his parents.
More than most people realize, advances in personal finance depend on a ruthless, determined energy. Personal finance columns never mention this aspect of life. Anyone in your life with any problems? Gotta throw those folks under the bus! Not only must you clip coupons, you must avoid getting sick. Only losers get sick, after all.

Does baby need new shoes? Does baby need new shoes? Time to park the car at the nearest freeway exit and drop kick baby towards the closest truck stop. That'll teach baby some personal responsibility!

Remember Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," when Ebenezer Scrooge was approached by his kindly but careless mentor, Mr. Fezziwig, for a loan? Not for a second did Scrooge even consider saying yes.

Why are romance novels like "Forever Amber" or "Gone With The Wind" so popular? The fascinating, ruthless heroine is willing to do what is necessary to succeed, whether it seems Christian, or appropriate, or whatever. Most people are made of lesser stuff and we are fascinated by the willful rulebreaker, even as we condemn her.

With all the Southern plantations in ruins after the War Between The States, and the region crawling with boll weevils, you just know Scarlett O'Hara's Tara will prosper, because she'll cut any corner and make any deal she has to to make it so.

Meanwhile, people like me will join Rhett Butler and exclaim that, frankly, we don't give a damn. Even if we, secretly, do give a damn. Because society has to rein these folks in from time to time, and we had better give a damn if society won't mutate into something radioactively unpleasant, and unrecognizable.


Please forgive me for not providing any names, or links. Because this person, for all her faults, is lots of fun, and dances well.....kind of like Scarlett O'Hara! And I wouldn't want to burn any bridges. Because, like Scarlett says at the end of "Gone With The Wind," 'tomorrow is another day!'
Wishing Everyone A Merry Sparky Christmas!
Twisting And Turning In The Wind

For the last year, two large, broken branches have hung from the tree over my house. Because of their height, I haven't been able to successfully pull them down. So there they remained, twisting and turning in the wind, almost like accusatory fingers pointing downwards, saying to all passersby, 'the weird haunted house on the block is here.'

Yesterday, I stood atop a tall ladder, cleaning gutters underneath the broken branches. It's hard work cleaning gutters, digging through the advanced ecosystems that have developed over the past year or two, complete with flora (clover), fauna (worms, spiders), and lots of wet soil from all the decayed leaves. Sometime you find interesting things, like the year I found a spent bullet in the gutter. Where did that come from? But this year, all I found was a stake that Adam had glued into the gutter for some inscrutable reason.

But I also noticed the connections between branches and tree were now looking a little threadbare. So, it was time to try again.

So, there I stood with a long, long hook, trying to get a purchase on the bigger branch high above, and twisting it around, while standing on top of a 12-foot ladder.....


I look up and see rapidly-approaching, ginormous expanse of tree bark filling my field of vision. "Ooooh, this is going to hurt," I thought.

BANG! The tree branch slammed into my shoulder, giving me a nice, throbbing bruise there, and ripping my "Pirates of Penzance" sweatshirt in the process as well. But because the blow was still a glancing blow, considering the weight, I didn't fall. Instead I remained, atop a tall ladder, trying to reach the second branch, which I was just able to do, reaching upwards and grasping with my left hand, and twisting, twisting.....


For the briefest second, I held a fifteen-foot long witching rod at the end of my outstretched arm, almost like an enormous wand. Then it too came crashing down, fortunately not hitting me on the way past, since I was able to push it away as it fell.

So, with those two accidents-waiting-to-happen out of the way, I'm farther from the lawsuit frontier, and I feel much happier.

And now, for the aspirin.....
NOGAPS Really Going Nuts

Rains are quieting in Australia, except along tropical coasts. The NOGAPS model is trying to nucleate three tropical cyclones in the general Australian area, however, including the one mentioned before, along the Queensland coast, by December 30th.

Awesomely wet on the crocodile frontier!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Interesting, But Ambiguous Australian Weather Forecast

The weather model I most prefer, NOGAPS, is suggesting that a tropical cyclone will soon develop off of Queensland, and come ashore somewhere in the vicinity of the Sunshine Coast, on or about December 30th. The forecast is a little too long range to be necessarily reliable: the Australian Bureau of Meteorology doesn’t yet forecast such an event. And the NOGAPS threshold for the development of tropical cyclones tends to be too low anyway. Nevertheless, even if no such storm occurs, it might be quite rainy anyway.

Credit card weakness everywhere:
Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments at an alarming rate, sending delinquencies and defaults surging by double-digit percentages in the last year and prompting warnings of worse to come.

..."Debt eventually leaks into other areas, whether it starts with the mortgage and goes to the credit card or vice versa," said Cliff Tan, a visiting scholar at Stanford University and an expert on credit risk. "We're starting to see leaks now."

...Until recently, credit card default rates had been running close to record lows, providing one of the few profit growth areas for the nation's banks, which continue to flood Americans' mailboxes with billions of letters monthly offering easy sign-ups for new plastic.

Even after the recent spike in bad loans, the credit card business is still quite lucrative, thanks to interest rates that can run as high as 36 percent, plus late fees and other penalties.

But what is coming into sharper focus from the detailed monthly SEC filings from the trusts is a snapshot of the worrisome state of Americans' ability to juggle growing and expensive credit card debt.

...Economists also cite America's long-standing attitude that debt - even high-interest credit card debt - is not a big deal.

"The desires of consumers to want, want, want, spend, spend, spend - it's the fabric of our nation," said Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which has advised more than 5 million people in debt. "But you always have to pay the piper, and that can be a very painful process."

Filing for bankruptcy is no longer a solution for many Americans because of a 2005 change to federal law that made it harder to walk away from debt. Those with above-average incomes are barred from declaring Chapter 7 - where debts can be wiped out entirely - except under special circumstances and must instead file a repayment plan under the more restrictive Chapter 13.

...In the wake of the jump in defaults on subprime mortgage loans made to borrowers with poor credit histories, banks have been less willing to allow consumers to consolidate credit card debt into home equity loans or refinanced mortgages. That is leaving some with no option but to miss payments, economists said.

Investors also are backing away from buying securitized credit-card debt, said Moshe Orenbuch, managing director at Credit Suisse. But that probably has more to do with concerns about the overall health of the U.S. economy, he said.

"It's been getting tougher to finance any kind of structured finance - mortgages, automobile loans, credit cards, student loans," said Orenbuch, who specializes in the credit industry.

...Many personal financial coaches expect this trend to accelerate in 2008 - particularly among people who took out untraditional loans whose interest rate has risen, requiring owners to pay mortgages several hundred dollars more than just a year ago.

"You're looking at more and more distress - consumers desperately trying to preserve their credit lines, but there's nowhere else to go," said Robert Manning, director of the Center for Consumer Financial Services at Rochester Institute of Technology. "It's like a game of dominoes."
Finding A Consultant

Cruising the makeup counters at Arden Fair Mall:
"Is there anything we can help you with?"

"Yes, actually, I um..... I - I need some help with full drag makeup?"

(With the most diabolically-delicious grin) "We have just the person to help you!"
Enter, the Reverend Mother Joseph....

Dentist Sketch - The Carol Burnett Show

Carolyn sent this - as funny as ever!

Friday, December 21, 2007

One In 75 Chance

That an asteroid will hit Mars next month:
The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan. 30 at about 1 in 75.

..."We're used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million," Chesley said. "Something with a one-in-a-hundred chance makes us sit up straight in our chairs."

The asteroid, designated 2007 WD5, is about 160 feet across, which puts it in the range of the space rock that exploded over Siberia. That explosion, the largest impact event in recent history, felled 80 million trees over 830 square miles.

The Tunguska object broke up in midair, but the Martian atmosphere is so thin that an asteroid would probably plummet to the surface, digging a crater half a mile wide, Chesley said.

The impact would probably send dust high into the atmosphere, scientists said. Depending on where the asteroid hit, such a plume might be visible through telescopes on Earth, Chesley said.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is mapping the planet, would have a front-row seat. And NASA's two JPL-built rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, might be able to take pictures from the ground.

Because scientists have never observed an asteroid impact -- the closest thing being the 1994 collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter -- such a collision on Mars would produce a "scientific bonanza," Chesley said.

The asteroid is now behind the moon, he said, so it will be almost two weeks before observers can plot its course more accurately.
"Rudolph's Christmas Magic" - DMTC's First Storybook Theatre Show

Left: Suzie McSneezer (Emily Jo Seminoff)

Three more performances remain!:

Friday, December 21st, 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, December 22nd, 11:15 a.m. & 2:15 p.m.
Cost - $10, all ages.
Left: The Davisville Junction Barbershop Quartet warms up the audience just prior to the show (Scott Scholes, Rick Price, Andy Hyun, Wayne Raymond.

Left: Everyone loves the snowflakes! (Leah Pinto, Cassidy Patterson, Rebekah Hall, Raven Crosby).

Left: Bobby McBaggins (Andy Hyun).

Left: A pyramid (Ashley Browne, Katelyn Browne, Javen Crosby, Tessa Macias, Alice Moylan, Sara Pinto, Casey Powers, Mary Ellen Price, plus a mysterious ninth elf).

Left: "The Shrug Bug" finale.

Left: Suzie McSneezer (Emily Jo Seminoff) and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Karina Summers).

Left: Suzie McSneezer (Emily Jo Seminoff) gets a gift.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A St. Tropez Quinceañera

Left: Presenting Zaza! (aka Albin, aka Ryan Adame).

Left: Albin (Ryan Adame) and Georges (Martin Lehman) at Wednesday night's "La Cage Aux Folles" rehearsal.
Fire Snark

Among the records destroyed in the electric-utility closet fire near the Vice President's ceremonial office:

Countless ... records and computer systems were apparently stored in the 3 foot by 3 foot utility closet, the content of which shall be revealed as destroyed as necessary pending any future investigations.
  • All RNC computer servers, back-up servers, and archival back-ups
  • The original Downing Street Memo and associated notes
  • Valerie Plame and the White House investigation of the leak (W.H. UPDATE: no records of Valerie Plame investigation destroyed as there was no investigation)
  • God’s personal correspondence with President Bush including those related to the invasion of Iraq
  • No-bid Halliburton contracts
  • War crimes committed by U.S. contractors in Iraq
  • Scuttling of the original Abramoff investigation, by the President
  • Federal court appointees and their qualifications and records
  • Negroponte’s activities in Iraq
  • Judith Miller’s embedded reporting and using her influence to override generals
  • Bombing Al-Jazeera television
  • Bribing and threatening of journalists and planting of stories in the U.S and Iraq
  • Stopping the NY Times from revealing White House secret spying on Americans
  • Jeff Gannon/Guckert
  • Terror alerts
  • The Vice Presidents Energy Task Force and all meetings dividing up Iraq’s oil fields pre 9/11
  • Enron and all related activities during California’s "energy crisis"
  • The Congressional records relating to passing legislation with last second changes, midnight votes, and the minority excluded from committee meetings.
  • The U.S. national debt and holders of the debt
  • The "Bin Laden determined to Strike in U.S." PDB
  • All copies of "My Pet Goat"
  • Extrication of Saudis after 9/11, especially Saudis named "Bin Laden"
  • Bush and Cheney’s joint un-sworn "conversation" with the 9/11 commission
  • Library checkout and Amazon shopping records of every American
  • Bin Laden’s actual location after he "escaped" from Tora Bora
  • Yellowcake documents from Niger
  • Attempts to dismantle PBS
  • Using American troops as speech props for Presidential speeches
  • Ohio voter suppression
  • Questioning the full faith and credit of the United States to scare people into dismantling Social Security
  • Payola related to the Medicare bill
  • Targeting and surveillance of peace lovers as terrorists
  • Duke Cunningham of San Diego and related bribes and treason
  • The U.S. Attorney firings of the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Duke Cunningham and who was pursuing the investigation to the White House.
  • Tom Delay’s redistricting in TX and using anti-terror assets to track down legislators
  • Bush’s cocaine use and failure to take the ANG drug test
  • Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service
  • Bush’s Arbusto stock sale, Saudi bailout, and lack of SEC follow-up
  • Bush’s insider trading at Harken and Bush 41’s quashing of the investigation
  • Push-polling smear on John McCain during the 2000 Republican primary
  • All records of clients of the DC Madame
  • All IMs and emails between Republican congressmen and underage Congressional staffers
  • Iranian Nuclear Program National Intelligence Estimate
  • FEMA staged news conferences
  • New Orleans reconstruction contracts
  • Alberto Gonzales’ memory (and "meeting" with Ashcroft in hospital)
  • De-listed superfund toxic waste dump sites
  • Walter Reed facility maintenance
  • NASA’s evidence of global warming (redacted and sealed by the administration)
  • Looting of the Native American Trust Fund
  • Forensic reports from 2001 anthrax attacks against key Democrats and media
  • Dubai Ports deal
  • Under-funding of Russian loose nuclear materials security programs
  • Guidelines for putting American citizens on no-fly and terror watch lists
  • The Vice President’s red phone that directly connects the Vice-President’s office to the on-air Fox news desk (possibly salvageable)
And who would have thought?:

  • The original Nixon Tapes (!)
  • New Year’s Eve Comedy, Dinner, Dancing

    Here is Bruce's press release for DMTC's upcoming annual New Year's Eve gala:
    DAVIS - Plenty of excellent seats remain for one of the best kept New Year’s Eve secrets in the greater Sacramento area. The Broadway hit musical comedy "La Cage aux Folles," opens on Dec. 31, at 8 p.m., as a production of the Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC) at 607 Pena Drive in Davis.

    Following the performance, a turkey meal with all the trimmings will be offered as part of the $40 admission ticket. The all-star menu, catered by Ludy’s Main Street BBQ in Davis, features tri-tip, pasta alfredo, desserts including cheesecake, and for the pallet champagne, sparkling apple cider and punch.. For your listening pleasure and the opportunity to dance in the New Year, an on-site disc jockey will crank out tunes from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

    "La Cage aux Folles," entertains with the music of Jerry Herman of "Mame" and "Hello Dolly" fame. Herman wrote both the music and lyrics for "La Cage aux Folles," and Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein wrote the book. The movie "Bird Cage," starring Robin Williams, was based on the play.

    The story about two lovers, George and Zaza, who run the St. Tropez nightclub, first opened on Broadway on Aug. 21, 1983, at the Palace Theatre in New York. The "Daily News" once reviewed "La Cage aux Folles," as a "family show, a glittering, fast-stepping extravaganza."

    Director and choreographer Ron Cisneros, who has choreographed many DMTC productions, has the dancers stepping out for this hilarious show.

    Tickets can be easily purchased on the web at, or by calling the box office at (530) 756-3682. Directions to the theater, just 12 miles west of Sacramento and minutes from the Mace Boulevard exit off of Interstate-80, can also be found at
    Photos from The Space Shuttle Endeavour

    Left: I was looking at the land surfaces far below, trying to figure out where they were, and I finally figured it out: New Zealand, with the South Island to the left, the North Island to the right, and looking down into the valley of the Waiau River.

    Bruce Warren sends a link to some great photos:
    Check out these space station pics that my sister, the scientist, ... , sent me. Apparently she has a friend whose sister works for NASA.
    Great photos, Bruce!

    Here’s more about this particular mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour, from late last summer.

    Left: Very interesting pentagonal cellular convection, featuring cumulus clouds, over a vast, uniform sea surface.

    It's amazing to see this kind of uniform convection over such a vast area!

    Left: The nice, inviting eye of Hurricane Dean.
    Journey Of Cathy Liu

    I found the two-part Sacramento Bee series of articles on new M.D. Cathy Liu, and her effort to recover from brain damage after being struck by a car last July 6th, very sad, not just because of the terrible nature of the accident, but because it's all local-neighborhood stuff.

    The apartment house where she was living is one block from my house. The location where she was struck, on Freeport Blvd. near Taylor's Market, is four blocks from my house. Her last memory before being struck, of the Cal Expo 4th of July fireworks extravaganza, is the same one I attended with Ira, Marcy, and family.

    That stretch of Freeport Blvd. has always terrified me at some dark, primal level. The street is hemmed in by large trees, but traffic nevertheless moves very quickly on the one-way segment. Poor lighting, and the sudden bend where the street joins 21st St., complicates visibility, and adds to the unease.

    Crossing Freeport near Taylor's Market is like crossing the business end of a bowling lane during a tournament. And that's even without complicating factors, like this Ipod Liu was wearing while she jogged, her newness to the neighborhood, and poor visibility in the early-morning gloam.

    I sincerely hope the traffic-calming construction underway now will mitigate the danger there, by eventually converting the one-way street into a two-way street, and slowing the traffic down.

    And I hope Cathy Liu is able to make the best recovery she can.
    Of Cockroaches And Markets

    Interesting analogy:
    There is a tendency we have to take the environment as we know it now, and think this is it, and construct things that are ideally suited to the current environment. The problem with financial markets is that we also know they can change in unexpected and unanticipated ways. My argument is that you want to construct the markets and construct the way you behave in the markets so that if the world tomorrow is exactly like the way it is has been for the last year, maybe what you are doing is not optimal. But if things change in surprising ways, what you're doing is more robust and there is a higher probability that you will do well in the long run.

    Taking the cockroach as an example, as we look back hundreds of millions of years, we have jungles that became deserts, and the deserts turned into cities, and if somebody looked at the cockroach, it never would have won the Best Designed Insect of the Year award, because it's very simplistic in what it does. So in any one environment people would point to the cockroach or point to the market that was behaving the way that I would argue we should behave, and say: You're ignoring what's going on right now, you're not fine-tuned to the degree that you could be to do the best possible job in the present market.

    But that's kind of like somebody saying: Hey, in this particular jungle there is a seed that is really abundant and unless you have an insect with a mandible that is designed in this particular way you can't really optimize on the abundant seed. But that insect doesn't survive if the environment changes and the plants with those seeds disappear.

    ...There's incredible volatility now. ... I do think that there is potential that this could be a very unusual crisis. Usually when we think of a market crisis we think of things that go boom, that sort of blow up, and then dust settles, and five months later it's back to normal.

    But the current crisis could be different. It could be so long term that we could be in the middle of it and not really realize it. A great analogy for this is what happened in Japan, with the equity markets. A whole generation of people in Japan have grown up thinking that stock markets don't move because for 17 years or so the Nikkei has been bouncing around in the same trading range and hasn't gone anywhere. I'd call that a crisis. An equity market that is the same place 20 years later that it was before is the same thing as having an equity market that over the course of one year drops 50 or 60 percent and then just slowly crawls out from that pit.

    So it may not even be that we see housing prices plunge 30 percent or 40 percent. It could just be that the housing market, which we have always thought of as not just being a store of wealth but something that appreciates, instead sits and stagnates or doesn't do anything for a number of years. And that would be a crisis that took place over a period not of months but of years. It could be a real slow burn.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Orwell Wept

    Christmas wishes from Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.
    The Trouble With Advice About Parenting

    Keeping up with the twists and turns:
    Lindsey Nobles, a spokeswoman for Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Inc., said Wednesday that the memoir by the mother of Britney Spears was put on hold last week. She declined to comment on whether the delay was connected to the revelation that Spears' 16-year-old daughter, Jamie Lynn, is pregnant.

    ..."Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World" was initially scheduled for release May 11, Mother's Day.

    Left: Just prior to 'Song On The Sand': Albin (Ryan Adame) and Georges (Martin Lehman) in Tuesday night's "La Cage Aux Folles" rehearsal.

    Prior to starting rehearsals, for me, the most anxiety-producing part of "La Cage Aux Folles" wasn't the gender-role stuff, but whether or not the high heels would work. I have such strange feet - wide, stiff, flat, with bunions - that failure could be an option.

    The character shoes we have been given seem nice, however - stable, OK on stairs, even a bit flexible. I am mildly uncomfortable wearing the high heels - left bunion inflaming slightly, slight plantar fascitis on the right sole, right calf cramping a bit - but not anything like the agony I expected.

    I could get used to this.....

    Which reminds me of my favorite story about stilettoes (which I blogged about once, but which I repeat, because that's what old guys do). At the time, I was a college student living in Albuquerque. It was the Seventies, and most everyone was dancing:
    I was dancing in a discotheque, looking all suave, when someone stepped on my foot. I didn't glance around and seek out the person at fault. Instead, I surmised I was just too close to this particular dancer, and started boogeying away across the dance floor, in order to find more space.

    There was a problem, though. My foot still hurt. Indeed, the pain seemed to be increasing as I continued to dance. What could it be? Finally, I looked down, and I was shocked: a high-heel shoe was affixed to the outside of my own shoe. The stiletto heel had become firmly wedged between the outer surface of my foot and the inner surface of my shoe. I looked up, and I was shocked again: the owner of the shoe, an elegant beauty, was frantically signalling. Apparently I had wrenched the shoe off of her foot, and as I boogied across the floor, she had limped after me, desperately trying to catch up.
    And so, with the shoe issue apparently under control, I can now focus on the show itself - the challenges of makeup, line memorization, songs, and dance steps - and in particular, the atmospherics, so well summarized by that distinguished musical-theater authority, Mel Brooks:
    Keep it happy, keep it snappy, keep it gay!
    Quite A Feat!

    The silliest things make me laugh. The editors of my local neighborhood newspaper, the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association (SCNA) "Viewpoint", are apparently unfamiliar with ballet photography, and what the body can do, and can't.

    Thus, here is a picture of ballerina Kinsey Webb doing the improbable - a grand jeté, straight up.
    Soporific Flies
    "MMMAAAAARRRRCCCC! Look! Flies!"
    Sure enough - sluggish flies everywhere, sitting on dishes, falling from lamp shades, languishing on the floor. But why?

    Something must be dead, somewhere. But where? Nothing smells....

    A month ago, I discovered a dead mouse in the basement. And wouldn't you know it, tell-tale flies were everywhere in the basement too. Could it be....?

    Sure enough, this morning, I found a second dead mouse, just two feet away from where I had found the first dead mouse. It's possible I never noticed the second dead mouse, grateful as I was for the improved basement scent that resulted when the first mouse was removed, so the second mouse's decomposition had gone much further than anyone would have wished.

    Anyone, that is, but the flies.....
    Be Afraid

    Be very afraid:
    Bill Richardson on the attack

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Self-Victimization And The Single Student

    Gulled by the Nava Hoax:
    The emails prompted new calls from conservatives about the repressive pro-sex, anti-conservative atmosphere on campus and claims of a double standard applied to intimidation against conservative students. And the outrage only spiraled further out of control when Nava claimed that on Friday evening two pro-sex advocates wearing black clothes and ski caps accosted Nava near campus and severely beat him.
    Tangled Trends

    Keeping Amy Winehouse Out Of The Public Eye

    Prison will do, for now.

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    A Pro Takes Stock

    And blames buyout firms and governments:
    British financier Guy Hands, known for his outspoken views, has sent bankers, investors and journalists a letter of best wishes for 2008 with a Christmas gift of a book -- "The Great Crash 1929" by John Kenneth Galbraith.

    As buyout firms such as his Terra Firma Capital Partners brace for possible bankruptcies among their businesses and struggle to raise debt, Hands sent out the book accompanied by a letter pointing to similarities between 1929 and now.

    "The most obvious being that complex financial instruments have been invented which no one really understands and have led to a loss of confidence in the banking system," said Hands.

    Hands, 48, has very close links with the structured finance market. He made his name in the 1990s at Nomura International where he set up the principal finance group, making extensive use of securitization to finance takeovers.

    But late in 2005 he said that he had a less favorable view of securitization as it removed flexibility from companies to make operational changes, as cash flows are so closely accounted for.

    ..."As we go into a new year, the big question for private equity, and one which I believe will affect the wider economic system, is whether liquidity will return to the broader markets in 2008," said Hands. "It is in this light that I chose this year's book."

    The financier added that buyout firms are not the only ones to blame for the rise in debt and liquidity that fuelled the record M&A volumes and debt boom of the past few years and which is now clogging up the arteries of the financial system.

    Hands placed part of the blame for the current liquidity crisis on governments, saying that while borrowing by both individuals and companies soared in the last 25 years, loans were allowed to slowly become too generous in their terms.

    "Governments have had a vested interest in making everything appear rosy, and thus have encouraged ever increasing borrowing as the alternative would have been a slowdown in growth," said Hands.

    And throwing the gauntlet back to governments, he said Western states must, in order to avoid a "great crash" now "find a way to unwind this excess in liquidity without social and economic chaos."

    Joe Lieberman endorses John McCain.
    Droughts Begin Easing In Eastern Australia

    Left: Current rainfall maps from the Bureau of Meteorology.

    Many areas suffer still - SW Australia; Murray-Darling basin, etc., even Tasmania. Still, the rains have begun making an impact....

    THE grass on Craig Mitchell's property near Cooma in southeast NSW is over the fence - and he's "over the moon".

    "It's unbelievable, just unbelievable," said the wool grower, standing amid the lush grass on his property, Gaerloch.

    Mr Mitchell's area has been in and out of drought since 2002 and was most recently drought-declared in March last year. But a week ago, after the rains, the tag was lifted from Cooma, along with 12 per cent of NSW.

    Mr Mitchell called the recent rains the best Christmas gift farming families could receive.

    Winter brought snow and rain to the Monaro region, but in such a cold climate grass only really begins to grow in October. Spring was dry. Then it started raining in November. "We've had 136mm in November, and since then we've had 55mm in December, so it has been very good," Mr Mitchell said.

    "At this stage we have a couple of spots where the grass is over the fence. We're usually struggling to get it over the bottom wire, let alone across the top wire. It's just amazing how it has grown in the last five weeks." The rains have come at a good time for the wool growers. The wool selling year closed on a high last week.

    "It's been fantastic," Mr Mitchell said. "We're getting grass and good seasons and good wool prices. I feel pretty confident about farming. There is a little bit of money to do the things you want to do, like fixing up the drive up to the house."

    Blair Trewin, from the National Climate Centre, said that over November and December, southeastern Australia had enjoyed consistent above-average rainfalls.

    "Queensland has been doing OK since June, although as the wet season picks up the totals involved have got bigger," Dr Trewin said. "November was above average over most of NSW and also most of Victoria and eastern South Australia."

    This month NSW reduced the area drought-declared from 81.9per cent to 69.4 per cent. Last week 16 areas were moved from the drought-declared list, including parts of Bombala, Braidwood, Casino, Central Tablelands, Cooma, Coonabarabran, part of Goulburn, part of the Hunter, Kempsey, Molong, Mudgee, northern NSW, part of the northern slopes, the south coast, Tamworth and part of Yass.

    In Queensland, 62.4 per cent of the state, plus five individual properties, were drought-declared at November 30, slightly more than in October.

    The National Climate Centre's outlook for January to March is for a good chance of above-average rainfall for southeast Queensland, northeast NSW and southwest Western Australia. But for the rest of the continent, including the Murray-Darling Basin, the outlook is for a drier than normal three months.

    Dr Trewin said the outlook was consistent with a La Nina event. He pointed out southeast Queensland was wettest over summer.

    Dr Trewin said that during La Nina events, there tended to be a lot of easterly and northeasterly systems over southeast Australia in summer and autumn.

    "That is very good for rainfall on the east coast and areas that get moisture from that direction, but by the time the easterly-to-northern flow gets as far as Victoria and South Australia, it has often lost quite a bit of its moisture," he said.

    ...The La Nina rains have been filling Sydney's dams, which are up to 60 per cent.

    But Brisbane's dams are still low, on 20 per cent, Melbourne's are on 39 per cent, Canberra's dam is nearly 44 per cent full and the Murray River storages (Dartmouth, Hume, Lake Victoria and Menindee Lakes) are at 20 per cent.
    Christmas At The Ritchies

    Remember, crunches after stretches, not before:
    Somewhat breathtakingly, the main reason for not exchanging gifts is that Madonna is very much against the commercialism of Christmas.

    This seems rather a cheek, given the way she has unblushingly flogged her image and her sexuality in the most commercial way possible for three decades.

    She is quite sincere about it, though. Her children will get just three presents each -- a modest tally, given that their mother's fortune stands at $550 million.

    Ritchie says this is enough, though: "As long as the kids get three presents at Christmas, everyone's happy.''

    The day's highlight will be a low-fat, macrobiotic feast prepared by their chef. (Neither Ritchie nor Madonna cook.) It is highly unlikely to feature turkey, as Madonna has issues with the rearing and slaughtering of poultry. Instead, the "feast'' will be based on grains - such as quinoa - and vegetables.

    Friends of the family say there will be a small amount of unsalted meat for the children and for Ritchie, but salty, fatty treats such as stuffing are completely out.

    Indeed, the festive season is seen by Madonna as no excuse to stint on her punishing health regimen. She has even hired a nutritionist to advise on her children's food.

    As a result, except for the very occasional ice cream as a treat, they have controlled amounts of dairy food, no cheese, no cream, no salt, no preservatives and no sugar.

    Although Madonna tries to send out the message that she isn't too controlled to have fun (``We will be drinking copious amounts of beer for the holidays,'' she trills, unconvincingly), she is far too self-disciplined to deviate from her strict diet.

    She works out every day, no matter where in the world she is, for between two and three hours. ... So there's no reason to believe she won't sneak in a workout on Christmas Day.

    ..."A housekeeper will set out a great big table covered in stuff, all macrobiotic, which no one dares eat unless Madonna tucks in.

    "They're all terrified of her.''

    Hardball - Star Fighters Of The New Century

    At Obsidian Wings:

    "A few notes here -- first, Mark Penn really shouldn't be on TV. I could almost smell him through my computer screen. To see what I mean, check out the exchange beginning at 3:50 (specifically, at 4:14). Penn, pretending to backtrack from the Obama drug allegations, goes out of his way to throw the word "cocaine" out there. Trippi rightly calls him out though. Penn's tactic here is hardly novel (see, e.g., Edwards praising Cheney's love for his lesbian daughter in the debate), but Penn is so transparently phony that it doesn't work.

    Second, check out the exchange beginning at 5:30. The look that Trippi gives Penn at about 5:45 is priceless. It's quick - but it's just pure disgust. I thought it was hilarious."

    Saturday, December 15, 2007


    Leaves, Leaves, Leaves, Leaves, Leaves, Leaves
    "Beowulf" - IMAX 3-D

    Left: That crafty she-monster, Angelina Jolie, dons a disguise so as to look like Queen Wealthow, and appears to Beowulf in a dream.

    Donned the magic glasses and saw the spears thrust rudely in my face, but what else transpired?:
    In Denmark in the year 507 a.D., elderly King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) dedicates his new mead hall in a drunken revelry. He and his people have conquered other lands and collected much booty. Although his queen, Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn) clearly disapproves, the assembled warriors and maidens clearly enjoy themselves. However, in a cavern not far from the mead hall, the singing and dancing is a painful nuisance to the misshapen half-human, half-demon Grendel (Crispin Glover). Enraged, Grendel attacks the mead hall and kills or maims many of the warriors. He spares Hrothgar's life, however. After he returns to the cavern, his mother, a water demon (Angelina Jolie) soothes him. The next day, Hrothgar orders the mead hall sealed and sends out a call for a hero to come and rid the kingdom of Grendel.
    Thus, in time, comes Beowulf, the fearless Geat warrior, to the rescue....

    Much killing part, by a wicked (but fetching) Angelina Jolie....

    By and large, the script was pretty lame: a dim-witted adolescent's idea what 6th-Century warriors must have sounded like. The 3-D aspect was fun, but gave the entire production an artifical aspect - entirely-too-much-animation.

    Here is a selection from an interesting review:
    This is what I expected from 300. Pure, unadulterated, throbbing, awful, awesome, cock-swinging spectacle from first frame to last, if Beowolf kicked any more ass you’d have to watch it standing up. Similar almost to Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers in the way it uses its own source to devour itself, it’s not quite as slobberingly juvenile as it may first seem, but then again, it really kind of is, and said juvenility is but part of its grunting efficacy. I can’t really claim that Beowolf is any damn good, but it is what it is, and its peculiar genius is that it couldn’t possibly be what it is any more so.

    ...Instead, it’s simply testosterone awesomeness, in all the heinousness and exhilaration that that implies, to the point that it plays like the raging successor to Conan the Barbarian, but even more outlandish and penile by dint of its technological remove from actual humanity. Best of all, it has a soundtrack that’s like pure pumping muscle expressed in music, as if Basil Poledouris’s flaming skeleton had erupted from the earth and belched fiery Wagnerian fifths onto parchment (who knew Alan Silvestri had that in him?). Look: at one point Beowolf is swallowed whole by a sea-monster and then, sword-first, thrusts out of its eyeball, stands covered in viscera atop its head, and bellows “BEOWOLF!!!” Need I say more?

    Trio from Reno, W. Sacramento, and Woodland, at "La Rosa Blanca" Restaurant, Fridays and Sundays. Good!
    Annual Company Christmas Party

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Björk - Declare Independence

    Things have come to a sorry pass when Europeans have to lecture Americans about freedom, but that's where the authoritarian Republican Party has led us:
    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!
    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!

    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!
    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!

    Start your own currency!
    Make your own stamp
    Protect your language

    Declare independence
    Don't let them do that to you
    Declare independence
    Don't let them do that to you

    [x4] Make your own flag!

    [x6] Raise your flag! (Higher, higher!)

    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!
    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!

    Damn colonists
    Ignore their patronizing
    Tear off their blindfolds
    Open their eyes

    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!
    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!

    With a flag and a trumpet
    Go to the top of your highest mountain!

    And raise your flag! (Higher, higher!)
    [x5] Raise your flag! (Higher, higher!)

    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!
    Declare independence!
    Don't let them do that to you!

    Raise the flag!

    [these lyrics are found on]

    DMTC - "Rudolph’s Christmas Magic" Opens Tonight

    Looks like an interesting show - the first of the "Storybook Theater" series (children shows, but unlike YPT, where both adults and children are onstage).
    Please come early for:
    Complimentary Refreshments
    Holiday Crafts
    Holiday Christmas Quarteting By Davisville Junction Barbershop Quartet
    Doors open 45 minutes before the show.

    Announcing: Santa Auditions
    1/2 hour before show time - be prompt!

    Ever feel the Christmas Spirit just bursting from your heart? Well come share your Christmas joy! Audience members are encouraged to come audition for the role of Santa Claus - a new Santa each show. All ages and sizes encouraged to apply - just bring a jolly disposition and a big "HoHoHo! Merrrrry Christmas!"

    Performance Dates:
    Friday, Dec 14th, 7:15 p.m.
    Saturday, December 15th, 12:15p.m. & 6:15 p.m.
    Sunday, December 16th, 12:15 p.m.
    Thursday, December 20th, 7:15 p.m.
    Friday, December 21st, 7:15 p.m.
    Saturday, December 22nd, 11:15 a.m. & 2:15 p.m.
    Tickets: $10 all ages

    All Performances are at the Hoblit Performing Arts Center, 607 Pena Drive, Davis
    A Jewish Joke

    Applicable to many contexts (Digby refers to the Democratic electoral strategy):
    Here's a little story from a book called "The Genius of the Jewish Joke" by Arthur Asa Berger:

    Three Jews were going to be executed. They were lined up in front of a firing squad and the sergeant in charge asked each one whether he wanted a blindfold or not.

    "Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the first. "Yes," he said, in a resigned tone.

    "Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the second. "Ok," said the second.

    "Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the third. "No," said the third.

    At this point the second leaned over to the third one and said "Take a blindfold. Don't make trouble."
    Foolhardy Mice

    And the scientists who make them:
    Japanese scientists say they've used genetic engineering to create mice that show no fear of felines, a development that may shed new light on mammal behavior and the nature of fear itself.

    Scientists at Tokyo University say they were able to successfully switch off a mouse's instinct to cower at the smell or presence of cats -- showing that fear is genetically hard-wired and not learned through experience, as commonly believed.

    "Mice are naturally terrified of cats and usually panic or flee at the smell of one. But mice with certain nasal cells removed through genetic engineering didn't display any fear," said research team leader Ko Kobayakawa.

    In his experiment, the genetically altered mice approached cats, even snuggled up to them and played with them. Kobayakawa said he chose domesticated cats that were docile and thus less likely to pounce.
    Global Warming Skeptics Make A Funny

    Left: When is a beach not a beach? When it's a crossroads.

    AFP caption: Greenpeace activists form a human chain in the shape of the Earth on a Bali beach.

    The folks who hate on Kyoto Protocol can nevertheless be funny. As quoted in the press:
    The negotiations at the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference under way in Bali, Indonesia, represent a turning point in the fight against global warming, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

    “Today, we are at a crossroads, one path leading towards a comprehensive new climate agreement, and the other towards oblivion. The choice is clear,” he said, underscoring the importance of the Bali meeting.
    From Woody Allen:
    "More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
    Isn't Incest The Best?

    Just as I get a new subscription going, Camille Paglia makes a deflating judgment:
    Oh, I remember the New York Review of Books -- it's something I subscribed to faithfully in the 1970s and '80s. I had to jog myself to recall that it's still being published. The NYRB is now a fringe periodical that I never see anywhere and hardly hear mentioned. When one of its articles ends up posted by chance online, my eyes cross at its dreary, archaic verbosity. What a small, incestuous world its readers and writers inhabit.
    Approaching The Spandex Frontier

    So many costumes, so little time......

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Not Enough Numbers, And No Courage Either

    The pathetic Democrats in Congress:
    For Congressional Democrats, the "victory" they are touting is that they are only giving Bush $70 billion for the war now, and they won't give him the other $130 billion he is demanding until they return in a few weeks. They really showed him.

    But all of these complaints are extremely naive and unsophisticated. You see, all of this behavior by the Democrats is absolutely necessary. They have no choice. Otherwise, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News will attack them for being weak (as though there is some circumstance under which they wouldn't) and that would be terrible. Nothing exudes strength, courage, toughness and resolve like having your behavior continuously described -- accurately -- as "bowing," "capitulating," "backing down," "caving" and "surrendering." Those are the verbs Americans love most when looking for the party to lead them.

    GAO: "USA is living beyond its means"

    The large-scale structural deficit put into place by the Bush Administration, plus health care inflation, mean serious problems will grow automatically as time goes on....

    Time to start raising taxes, especially on the lightly-taxed rich.

    Siren Call Of The Sunflower Seeds

    Several months ago, I started leaving bird seed in the alley out back. I left the seed out in the open, making it unlikely that cats could catch birds unaware.

    I won a small following of birds, plus several of the neighboring squirrels as well. Everyone loves the sunflower seeds.

    Nevertheless, the squirrels have to cross the alley to get to the seeds. Over the last two weeks, two sunflower-seed-addled squirrels have been squashed by passing cars in the alley.

    At first, I had thought of the squirrels as parasites, but now I see them as victims.....

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Calling Greenspan On His Baloney

    Someone has to do it.
    "Just Talking To My Voices"

    Madness and religion make a bad mix:
    Matthew Murray's world was haunted by demons....He sought refuge in everything from an online forum for recovering Pentecostals to an occult group.

    Those volatile ingredients combined Sunday morning when the 24-year-old Murray killed four people and injured several others in a rampage that spanned 70 miles, from a missionary training center that expelled Murray to Colorado Springs' New Life Church, a symbol of the Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity he so despised.

    ...One posting obtained by The Associated Press was to a site called Independent Spirits, a gathering place for those affected by a strict Christian homeschooling curriculum.

    The author describes going with his mother to a conference at New Life. The poster said he "got into a debate" with two prayer team staff members, who monitored him then tracked down his mother and "told her a story that went something along the lines of I 'wasn't walking with the lord and could be planning violence.'"

    ...Murray directed his anger toward Christianity and religion in general....He fixated on people and groups that explore the dark side of spirituality, becoming obsessed with the satanic lyrics of Swedish metal bands.

    ...Some of Murray's vitriol was published on a site catering to ex-Penecostals.

    Joe Istre, who runs the site and is president of the Association of Former Pentecostals, said that while people who leave any faith traditions hold grudges, leaving Pentecostalism carries unique challenges. That includes feeling isolated from family and former friends, and emotional scars from leaving churches with dictatorial pastors and little financial transparency.

    "Not that it was a necessary ingredient, but his Pentecostalism was part of the recipe" of the shootings, Istre said.

    In an Internet post about four hours before the shootings at New Life, a poster going by "DyingChild—65" said he searched for spiritual answers.

    All the poster found in Christianity was "hate, abuse (sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional), hypocrisy, and lies."

    The rant ended: "I'm going out to make a stand for the weak and the defenseless this is for all those young people still caught in the Nightmare of Christianity for all those people who've been abused and mistreated and taken advantage of by this evil sick religion Christian America this is YOUR Columbine."
    RIP, Ike Turner

    Fine musician and singer.

    Mike Huckabee's Message to Iowa

    I haven't paid too much attention to the campaign so far, but this is fun.....

    Sandias Photo

    Left: Photo of the Sandia Mountains (just east of Albuquerque, NM) in winter (copyright Bruce Warren).

    Former New Mexican Bruce wanted to share this beautiful photo of the Sandia Mountains. The photo brought back a rush of memories.

    An acquaintance from Puerto Rico described his first encounter with the mountains. Flying into New Mexico for the first time ever, he saw the name on a map (Sandia means 'watermelon' in Spanish), and he wondered how the mountains had come to be called that name. The airliner zoomed over the mountains' crest and began descending into Albuquerque at sunset. Looking out the window from that excellent vantage point, my friend saw the rugged granite face of the mountains painted a brilliant sunset red, with the rim of cool coniferous green on the top, and he knew instantly where the name came from.

    My understanding is that the very first Spanish Conquistadors in New Mexico, under Coronado in 1541, gave the mountains its name.

    I've hiked up there on several occasions.

    One hike, in particular, crossed the ground in the lower right of this very photo. Just to the right of the photo, a tramway from the mountain base to the top allows easy and scenic access for city dwellers to get to the ski area near the top of the mountain on the other side.

    What year was this? 1978?

    Friend Walt wanted to visit the site of a 1955 airliner crash located in one of the side canyons on the west side of the mountains almost directly below the cables of the tramway. If memory serves, about 30 people died when the airliner failed to turn one winter morning in order to avoid the cloud-enshrouded mountain after takeoff from Albuquerque. Indeed, one of the passengers was the young wife of a college professor known to both of us.

    So, one winter's day, we drove to base of the mountains in order to take the tram to the top of the mountains. The start of the trip was odd - we saw a jeep-like vehicle attempt to turn onto a side road off of Tramway Blvd., completely fail to locate the side road, and instead calmly roll off of Tramway Blvd's embankment. The traffic accident seemed so implausible to rational understanding that we didn't even bother to stop and ask if the passengers were OK.

    Instead, we got onto the tram, rode to the top, and carefully hiked down to the airliner crash site. In the mid-60's, when the tram was under construction, a team of folks had did their very best to hide the wreckage in a natural cave, and under dirt and tree limbs, in order to disguise it from casual sightseers passing in the tram not far away. We spent the afternoon picking through the shattered aircraft, gawking at items like the landing gear, and marvelling at where fire had melted the aluminum edges of cockpit instruments.

    Towards sunset, we started heading downwards again, but we had not reckoned how short wintertime days can be. Suddenly we realized that, given the rugged terrain, we weren't going to make it in time. We were going to get caught in the long, frigid darkness of a Sandia Mountains' night, without any more protection than our clothes.

    The sun set as we scrambled across the rugged terrain along the right side of Bruce's picture. We were screwed!

    Fortunately (we certainly hadn't planned it), in just a few minutes, a brilliant full moon rose over the mountains to the east. The illumination was sufficient to allow us to continue hiking in the darkness. We were saved!

    One big primal fear I have is getting caught in the wilderness by sunset. It has nearly-happened several times (Sycamore Canyon west of Nogales, AZ; on the North Rim's Tonto level within the Grand Canyon, and even in Carnarvon Gorge in Australia) but it actually occurred only this once (so far), and yet we managed to escape the full consequences of the calamity.
    Patronizing The Hum Hearers

    The latest thinking on the Taos Hum? That it's in your head (to read it on-line, try trial premium pass).

    Yet my sister heard the Taos Hum when she was up in the Rio Grande Gorge.

    There must be a rational explanation....
    Whatever the source, the low-pitch "Taos hum" is still in town, keeping folks awake at night and taking a solid place among unexplained phenomena like mutilated cattle and jet contrails.

    First attracting serious attention in the early '90s through the efforts of then-congressmen Bill Richardson and Steve Schiff, the hum has been poked and prodded with the best scientific equipment New Mexico's federal labs have to offer with no answers and no relief.

    ...Boyer, a native of Taos, says most of the people who have heard the hum live on the west side of town near the Gorge.

    "Maybe it's the wind and the electrical charges," said Boyer, who has never heard anything until recently, when she moved into a new house closer to the Gorge. "I think you can hear the electricity run through the house."

    ...The story makes perfect sense to Joe Mullins, the retired University of New Mexico physicist who in the 1990s headed up a task force of scientists from the national laboratories at Sandia and Los Alamos and from Phillips Air Force Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base to interview "hum hearers" and examine every possible sound surrounding them.

    "I don't think it's Taos at all," says Mullins, who lives on Albuquerque's West Side.

    "It's a worldwide thing" that's been reported everywhere from China and Japan to Kokomo, Ind.

    The Internet has numerous site and chat rooms, including the "hum forum" on Yahoo, where hearers from around the world gauge relief methods and discuss hum locations.

    ...Mullins says the task force conclusion was that the hum stems from some kind of ear condition that probably affects about 2 percent of the population.

    "It's generated from the inside," he said, comparing it to tinnitus, which is a high-pitch sound.

    But the hum can't be categorized as tinnitus because what hum-hearers describe is a low-pitch noise.

    The task force considered further research on the ear condition, but Mullins said it was difficult to get funding.

    "This is not life-threatening," he said.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Strip The San Augustin Plains Of Its Water

    On December 9th, the Albuquerque Journal ran an alarming story on its front page (to read it on-line, try trial premium pass) regarding an effort to strip the San Augustin Plains of New Mexico of the recoverable water in its aquifer and pump it to the Rio Grande Valley. Such a massive effort would likely annihilate towns like Datil, and seriously-cripple the ranching economy of Catron County, by depriving the area of its well water. Yet, because the San Augustin Plains is more-or-less a closed basin, natural water flows into the Gila and Rio Grande would likely be unaffected. The devastation would be more-or-less local, and more-or-less unnoticed by laws governing the apportionment of water flows in the Southwest. Like the early-20th-Century farmers of the Owens Valley in their unequal battle against the thirsty City of Los Angeles, the ranchers of western New Mexico can count on little help from what passes as justice. Remedies have to be political in nature.

    Here is some commentary on this subject regarding the law and the need to show 'particular injury' in order to object to the project.

    Here are some excerpts from the Albuquerque Journal article:
    [A] sizable chunk of the region's sparse population— about 300 people— packed the Datil Elementary School gym on Tuesday night because of an application to drill deep for a stunning amount of water and possibly pipe it 60 miles ... to the Rio Grande.

    ''We're all just horrified by this,'' Datil resident Cheryl Hastings said before the meeting, word of which was spread through an old-fashioned phone tree. ''We are doing everything we can to mobilize.''

    The cause of the anxiety is the application by the owner of the 18,000-acre Augustin Plains Ranch for a state permit to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet of water per year in Catron County.

    The water would be obtained by drilling 37 wells on the ranch, each as deep as 2,000 feet, with the proposed diversion amounting to about about 17.6 billion gallons per year— more than half the annual consumption by the city of Albuquerque.

    Augustin Plains Ranch is owned by Italian businessman Bruno Modena, who ranch representative Everett Shaw said is principal of a New York-based firm called S Management. The company's New York City address is the same as that of a general contracting outfit called PM Contracting.

    ...The ranch company proposes a variety of standard uses for the water, such as for livestock, irrigation, real estate development and municipal needs. But another proposed use— again only broadly referred to— was really what caught local attention: providing water to the state to help New Mexico meet its delivery obligations to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact.

    If the state needed to find more water to meet its compact obligations, ''We'd be able to explore the market for other large users," Shaw said.

    As any longtime New Mexican knows, the mere mention of water and Texas in the same sentence is enough to make the ground shake— let alone an application for water rights sufficient to supply a small city.

    The major concern, voiced by a number of residents, is that such a huge appropriation will dry up other wells in the area, lower groundwater levels and dash the local economy.

    ...The big water rights application is likely to take several years to resolve, said D'Antonio, whose office is in charge of state water permits.

    "Obviously, there are a whole lot of protesters who will want assurances that it's not affecting their water supply," he said. ''What comes into question is the feasibility of the plan itself and if it's do-able— is the water there?

    ''I can't stop anyone from filing an application," D'Antonio said. "We'll see how this plays out.''

    ...Augustin Plains Ranch LLC is proposing to access the water by drilling the 37 wells north and south of U.S. 60 between the Catron-Socorro county line to the east and Datil on the west.

    With water rights in the Middle Rio Grande area selling for between $15,000 and $25,000 per acre-foot, the proposed appropriation would be worth about $1 billion, said Suzanne Smith, a Socorro-based water rights consultant.

    ''It's huge money, just based on that,'' Smith said.

    The cost of building 60 miles of pipeline to get the water downslope to the Rio Grande could also carry a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars, said Socorro Rep. Don Tripp, who based his estimate on similar projects.

    ''The only market for this water would be the state of New Mexico,'' Tripp said, ''and I'm not sure we have that much (money).''

    ...The project's developers must show that the diversion of 54,000 acre-feet of water per year will not have any effect on underground water flowing west as part of the Gila-San Francisco watershed, a fully-appropriated basin.

    The application to the state Engineer Office says that, based on initial modeling, hydrologists have concluded the Augustin Plains basin ''contains an extraordinary amount of potable groundwater in storage that could sustain diversions of 54,000 acre-feet per annum for a period of 300 years.''

    The application says the ranch ''believes that the State Engineer could impose conditions on the use of water under a permit to avoid impairment to all other existing users.''

    The Augustin Plains Ranch has retained the engineering firm of Bohannon-Houston Inc. to evaluate the cost of a pipeline from Datil to the Rio Grande.

    ...[State Engineer] D'Antonio said the Augustin Plains basin is not a closed basin, meaning applications for new water diversions still can be made.

    ''But the question is the connectivity between it and the Rio Grande or the Gila Basin, and that's not well understood,'' D'Antonio said.

    Catron County manager Bill Aymar called the application a ''ridiculous request'' and said the County Commission would file a protest.

    Tripp said the scale of the request, and how long it would take to put the water to beneficial use, made him ''a little dubious about what they are trying to do.''

    Bob Myers, a 66-year-old Datil electrician, said he was upset enough by the application to call the FBI and file a report.

    ''This is a new form of terrorism,'' Myers said. ''I've got a 100-foot well. Mine will be the first to go dry.''
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    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Subtropical Storm Olga Forms

    Subtropical Storm Olga? Subtropical Storm Olga.
    A Few Family Photos

    Left: Marcial Valdez (dad)

    Left: My sister Michelle Browning

    Left: My sister Marra Newman, and her husband, Ken.
    Pictures On The Way Back

    Left: The Manzano Mountains, SE of Albuquerque.

    Left: The Rio Puerco River Valley, and, from the distance, the Devil's-Tower-like extinct volcanic plug called Cabezon. One time we climbed Cabezon, and found masses of ladybugs crawling around.....

    Left: Northwestern New Mexico canyons, with some kind of mining operation going on (the whiter mesa tops).

    Left: Pittsburg Point, Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

    Below: Riverside Junction.

    Left: The Santa Ana River Valley with Riverside at the bottom, Norton, Air Force Base in the middle, and the San Gabriel Mountains at the top.

    Left: Cucamonga Canyon and the San Gabriel Mountains.

    Left: The Whittier Narrows and the San Gabriel Valley.

    Left: The Commerce Railroad yard. Diesel exhaust from locomotives has been a major air pollution issue for several years now, and I've helped out on work for this yard in particular.

    Left: The Crenshaw Christian Center's Faith Dome. Placement under the LAX flight path gives the enterprising faith unique advertising opportunities!

    Left: Downtown Los Angeles. The City On A Hill, indeed!