Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring Concert 2007 - Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre

Left: Dancer Rebekah Shepard presents - well, presented - she's on her way home here!

An amusing and diverting evening at Pamela Trokanski's.

The first dance was 'Voice Mail', an illustration of the nightmarish journey we all face in our daily lives, trying to find a human voice somewhere in the automated telephone tree.

The second dance was 'Singing Over Bones', featuring a strange ritual, whereby (according to narration) a wolf reconstructed from bones is released. If the wolf succeeds in reaching the mountain ridge before sunrise, a woman, with all her humor, is born again - the only way her stories become immortal. The part about humor was delivered in a leaden way, which I found, ironically enough, amusing. The dance began with an inward spiral, like a ram's horn, which made me think the ritual animal was going to be a ram, and the bones were very reminiscent of Georgia O'Keefe's cattle bone paintings, but as mentioned, the ritual animal was a wolf. Latin-like dances, and skirts swept along Mexican-style helped complete a very Southwestern feel about the piece.

The third dance was called 'Come Naked, Bring Beer', and featured a voice-over detailing the elements of courtship in a cracked, faux-academic style. Quite amusing! What exactly is it that women like in a relationship? In the end, it becomes clear - they like Superman! The dancers set wooden stools in front of Superman, creating a causeway that Superman strode across in grand slow motion as he approached the audience. I kept thinking that there is a second causeway not far away, the I-80 Yolo Causeway, where swarms of bats can be seen departing for dinner nightly precisely at sunset. A tale of two causeways: women love Superman, but most men can be found hanging with the bats.

Jim Carnes at the Sacramento Bee previews this show.
"Cats" - River City Theater Company (RCTC)

Left: Demeter (Monika Neal).

Monika is the most amazing fireball of energy!

I first met Monika in the 2000 production of "Evita" at DMTC. She was a 10-year-old in the Children's Chorus - a bit shy, a little careful. In just a short seven years, she's come light years. Every time I see her perform, I barely recognize her, she's transforming so quickly into musical theater's most-serious triple threat!

Monika has just been accepted by University of California, Irvine, where she will be majoring in musical theater, the first time UCI has had this major (before, they've had a dance major with an emphasis in musical theater).

Left: Munkustrap (Timothy Stewart).

Left: Victoria (Katelyn Moorhouse). Katelyn is a fine dancer, and amazingly limber. She trains in Folsom.

I awkwardly tried imparting some wisdom to her, saying to keep on dancing, since the brain effectively rewires itself from ages 12 to 15, and dancing is the best possible activity during that age span. Whether or not it's true, it all sounded a bit foolish, but she was very gracious and heard me out.

Left: Cast at bows. Pictured in the front row include Growltiger (Andrew Lemons), Mr. Mistofeles (Alex Stewart), Grizabella (Katherine Vanderford), Munkustrap (Timothy Stewart), Old Deuteronomy (Sean Nill), Rum Tum Tugger (Elliot Mende), Victoria (Katelyn Moorhouse), and Demeter (Monika Neal).

Left: The entire cast.

"Cats" set.

Left: Orchestra escorts the theatre-goers out with music.

One awesome show at Hiram Johnson High School!

After having played on Broadway for 21 years, rights to perform "Cats" are only now becoming available for community theaters, and they are still just restricted to youth groups.

"Cats" has its inherent weaknesses - Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals often do. The various tales of various cats has very little dramatic velocity - I doubt T.S. Elliot intended his poems to serve such a function, and there is little any playwright can do to improve things.

But given its flaws, "Cats" nevertheless DOES allow the costume designers to run riot, and it DOES allow the scenic and lighting designers to have a party, and it DOES give numerous opportunities for numerous lead singers to perform, and it does permit a large ensemble, and it DOES allow plenty of room for extended dance sets. In other words, it is the PURRfect show for RCTC!

RCTC alternates casts - we came Friday, since many DMTC/YPT veterans were present in the Winter Garden lead roles that night.

One difficulty with the show was that it was hard to understand all the lyrics being sung. In the end, that doesn't matter much, since the words serve little to advance whatever plot there is (more evidence that T.S. Elliott wasn't thinking Broadway when he came up with clever, complicated rhyming lines, or he would have simplified things). The singing is all pretty, and that is what matters in the end.

Certain people really stood out. I had no idea Alex Stewart (Mr. Mistofeles) was so good at ballet! Elliot Mende (Rum Tum Tugger) has excellent stage presence. Andrew Lemons was fun as Growltiger (he dressed as a pirate, and covered an eye with a dashing bandana, but then battled annoying depth-preception issues as a result)! Kristen Meyers was fine as Jellylorum/Griddlebone, and Christopher Baeta-Orick was effective as Gus, The Theatre Cat. Katherine Vanderford (Grizabella) brought forth tears when she sang 'Memory' - so beautiful!
Can't Freakin' Believe It!

The first tropical depression in the 2007 northern hemisphere tropical weather season has popped up in the western Pacific, north of New Guinea. And it's not even April yet!

Last year was bad in the western Pacific. This year may be too.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Worship FSM, Get Suspended

Pastafarian student wears pirate costume to school and runs afoul of the authorities.
What's That Being Served In The First-Class Dining Saloon?

Why, it's poetry, of course!
In retrospect, it was brave for Elk Grove High School senior Kristi Avila to quote Marianne Moore to the hundred and some odd poetry appreciators gathered before her in the Secretary of State Building auditorium last Saturday. Avila had chosen to recite Moore’s poem “Poetry,” which takes stock of the medium and its social usefulness, and counsels not to “discriminate against ‘business documents and / school-books’: all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction / however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry.”

Considering the occasion--the state finals of Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest for high schoolers supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council--one couldn’t help but figure them’s fightin’ words.

...A natural, and apparently practiced, performer, Avila delivered the goods. One of the preliminary judges confided before the contest began that Avila’s reading of Sharon Olds’ “I Go Back to May 1937” had made him so emotional it nearly distracted him from monitoring her accuracy (which, fortunately, also was good.)

She won’t be advancing to the national finals in Washington, D.C., on April 30 (that’ll be Santa Rosa’s Karen Hong), but, for distinguishing herself from an afternoon’s worth of what Moore would call “high-sounding interpretations,” Avila took the runner-up prize. That’s $100 for her and $200 for her school to stock up on poetry books (or perhaps a single science book).
I Felt Lucky

What was I thinking? Must have been the endorphins from aerobics.....

Went to Thunder Valley, and immediately cratered. First I was $400 down, then $600. Ultimately I went down $1,200, before the luck began turning. Hours of sturm und drang later, I fought back to where I had started. As the dealer said, if you leave with the money you started with, plus an ice cream cone, you're a winner.

Winnings: $1,550 minus $1,400, minus $100 E. stake = $50.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

How Green Is Your Antichrist?

Apparently pretty green:
An arch-conservative cardinal chosen by the Pope to deliver this year’s Lenten meditations to the Vatican hierarchy has caused consternation by giving warning of an Antichrist who is “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist”.

Cardinal Biffi said that Christianity stood for “absolute values, such as goodness, truth, beauty”. If “relative values” such as “solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature” became absolute, they would encourage “idolatry” and “put obstacles in the way of salvation”.
Bill Patzert

Independent-minded weatherman:
Over the last two decades, the climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge has emerged as perhaps the leading expert on weather in Southern California. He was one of the scientists ahead of the curve on predicting the effects of a huge El Niño in 1998 and ever since has tilted with the windmills of meteorology convention.

...To some meteorologists, Patzert has become just like one of those TV weathermen — quick with the flashy quote.

But the 65-year-old surfer has also gained a loyal following from those who say his forecasts for Southern California are simply the most accurate. Over the last five years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington predicted three times that increasing sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific — the phenomenon known as El Niño — would result in wetter-than-normal winters in Southern California. Each time Patzert disagreed.

Much to the dismay of federal scientists, he started talking about "fictional El Niños," flaccid "El Wimpos" and disappointing "El No Shows."

In July, NOAA predicted another global El Niño, expected to affect Southern California and the Southern states. The 2006-07 season, it said, would be warm and rainier than average.

Patzert's forecast: Dry. Really dry. And he was willing to stake his reputation on it.

WHY are there such enormous disparities between forecasts?

One reason: When it comes to El Niño, NOAA tends to emphasize data from a network of buoys running across the equatorial Pacific from Asia to the Americas. They make measurements on the upper 500 meters in the ocean, where the major deviations in temperature take place. The weather consequences can be dramatic depending on the size of the temperature increase, the area of ocean involved and the duration of the phenomenon. For NOAA, an increase of about 1 degree Fahrenheit over three months in a defined area of the Pacific meets the threshold for El Niño.

Patzert, on the other hand, is an expert in analyzing satellite data.

The satellites measure the elevation of the sea surface as a result of the expansion of water as temperatures increase in the upper 500 meters. The satellites are not as hyperfocused on El Niño and look beyond to other climate patterns.

One of those patterns is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a slow-moving variation of temperatures between the western and eastern sections of the Pacific. In 1998, the western Pacific was becoming warmer than the eastern Pacific, leading Patzert to conclude that in the long term, an "El Niño-repellent" pattern was forming that would favor drought in Southern California for many years.

...Those who disagree with Patzert sometimes point out that he is not a meteorologist but an oceanographer. But Patzert said that as far as El Niño was concerned, that was no disadvantage.

...In 1998, a "monster El Niño" began to develop in the Pacific, and Patzert emerged as one of the most prominent scientists who explained it.

...One day he drove by a Burger King, so the next time he talked about the coming El Niño, Patzert called it "a real whopper." Then he called it "El Niño Grande," a nod to a Taco Bell item. El Niño became "the real deal" based on a McDonald's marketing campaign at the time.

But as January 1998 came to a close, and Southern California remained dry, some climatologists began to waver on El Niño, thinking it might be a bust.

That put Patzert on the defensive.

In late January, Robert Jones, then a columnist for The Times, visited Patzert at the JPL campus. Patzert stared at the sky and excitedly pointed out tropical clouds.

"He's a desperate man, of course," Jones wrote the next day.

Jones was sure Patzert would have egg on his face over El Niño, so he did not hesitate to accept the scientist's $10 bet.

"Sure enough, it started raining, I think a week later," Jones said recently with a laugh. In that February, more than 13 inches of rain poured down on L.A.

...Some scientists criticized him for talking to the media instead of waiting to publish his findings. They whispered about him become a talking head — someone who liked the sound of his own voice.

But others came to respect the fact that he marched to his own drum — something that was becoming increasingly rare in the button-down, highly politicized world of climate and weather forecasting.

"NOAA sees themselves as the official arbiters, so they're always conservative about what they say," Baker said. "There's a little bit of an art to the whole process. It's an inexact science."

And nowhere is the science more inexact than when it comes to El Niño. In 2002, NOAA announced that El Niño was "baaack!" Patzert shrugged it off, saying it wasn't much of an El Niño. Locally, the result was a kind of a draw. Southern California was wetter-than-average — but only by an inch. Two years later, when NOAA forecast a weak El Niño, L.A. experienced record rainfall, but it was from the Arctic and not related to El Niño. (Patzert had predicted dry conditions.)

For Patzert, El Niño had become a convenient explanation for too many things going on in the world. Patzert wasn't arguing that El Niño would have no effects, just that it was being overhyped.

In December, he projected that if El Niño was going to affect the U.S., it would most likely be in the Gulf Coast and Florida —which, in fact, turned out to have wetter weather than the other Southern states.

He quipped that El Niño was even being blamed for stupid things people did that turned out bad — such as taking a trip down a roaring flood control channel on an inner tube.

"Don't blame El Niño," Patzert said. "That was El Nincompoop."

This season, NOAA was back with an El Niño forecast.

As winter came, the government forecasters were looking like they might finally have it right.

The mild, spring-like temperatures that descended over much of the East Coast in the early winter — giving rise to unseasonal daffodils in places like New York — were attributed by some weather scientists, including some at NOAA, to El Niño, rather than to global warming or other climate patterns. El Niño had struck as predicted in Australia, where drought is the result.

But Patzert shook his head. To him, this was the season of "La Nada." The nothing.

In early January, more than 1,000 weather experts from the U.S. and around the world attended the American Meteorological Society conference in San Antonio.

Scientist after scientist rose to present evidence that El Niño was coming.

Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md., declared: "I think we're starting to see signs, signatures of El Niño."

But Patzert repeatedly described El Niño as "El No Show," to the clear irritation of Robert Livezey, the head of NOAA's Climate Services Division.

"I don't want to hear anything more about 'No Show' until the end of January or February," Livezey said. "If we don't see the impacts, then OK. Let's make the noise. Let's get the attention." The conference ended with the debate over El Niño unresolved.

Then on Feb. 1, NOAA put out a news release. The agency said it had given up on El Niño having much of any impact in North America. As of today, L.A. has experienced 2.47 inches of rain for the rain year, making it the driest on record so far.
Mammals Took A While To Flourish

Even after the asteroid hit, it wasn't a quick take-off:
But it was not until at least 10 million to 15 million years afterward that the lineages of living mammals began to flourish in number and diversity.
Sparky says that's because flourishing is hard work. Cloudy says flourishing is actually pretty easy, if you are a bunny, but is willing to listen to arguments about the matter.
As If The Desert Didn't Have Enough Problems

Why not let it roam around in Tokyo, where they at least have more experience with rampaging creatures making surprise appearances?:
Michael Jackson is in discussions about creating a 50-foot robotic replica of himself to roam the Las Vegas desert, according to reports.

...It is the centerpiece of an elaborate Jackson-inspired show in Vegas, according to Andre Van Pier, the robot's designer.

..."Michael's looked at the sketches and likes them," he told the New York Daily News.

On the subject of the robot, he continued: "It would be in the desert sands. Laser beams would shoot out of it so it would be the first thing people flying in would see."
Worries About Warring U.S. Making Oil Prices Rise

In February, Andrew Schmookler wondered why oil prices weren't going up if rumors of a U.S. attack on Iran were valid.

Well, now they're going up.
High Strange New Mexico

Left: Caption from the 'High Strange New Mexico' web site:Becky Jaramillo runs "UFO City" near Roswell, New Mexico. Becky and her family claim the property has been the site of various supernatural occurrences, and hundreds of UFO visitations.

Now this looks interesting! A filmmaker takes something of an anthropological look at the impact of UFOs on the popular culture of New Mexico.
Along the way, they introduce viewers to a subculture populated by UFO enthusiasts, abductees, skeptics, cattle mutilation investigators, abductees and just plain folks who believe they've contact with extraterrestrials. Humorous, compelling and stripped of tabloid-TV sensationalism, "High Strange New Mexico" examines the cultural, economic and metaphysical factors behind the phenomenon and tells the extraordinary stories of ordinary people.
I've taken a look at the free 9-minute trailer, and it looked like fun!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mormons Begin Edging Away From The Iraq War

Utah, the reddest state in the country, is reconsidering:
A January poll by The Salt Lake Tribune showed a precipitous drop in support for Bush's handling of the war among Utah's Latter-day Saints.

In the survey, just 44 percent of those identifying themselves as Mormon said they backed Bush's war management. That's a level considerably higher than Bush gets from Utah's non-Mormon population and the nation at large, but it's also a 21 percentage point drop from just five months earlier. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Such abrupt moves in group opinion are uncommon. Pollsters say numbers generally move gradually, unless "spooked" by something. But what?

...Rather than one unmistakable message from the church, the change may have been ushered by a rapid series of more subtle signals that it was indeed acceptable for Mormons to question their president during wartime. And it all may have started at the very top.

Speaking to Brigham Young University students on Oct. 31, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley lamented "the terrible cost of war."

"What a fruitless thing it so often is," he said. "And what a terrible price it exacts."

Hinckley recalled standing at the graves of some of history's most powerful military and political leaders. "In their time they commanded armies," he said. "They ruled with near omnipotence, and their very words brought terror into the hearts of people," he said.

And yet, he noted, all of them were now dead: "They have all passed into the darkness of the grave."

Though brooding heavily on the consequences of war in general, Hinckley never mentioned Iraq or President Bush specifically. But in the following days, online message boards and e-mail discussion groups lit up with conversation about what Hinckley - "prophet, seer and revelator" to millions of Mormons worldwide - might have meant in regard to the nation's current wars.

"He may or may not have intended anything by it, and he certainly didn't mention Iraq in that speech, but the speech certainly may have been interpreted by the LDS community as an indictment against the world's violence," said Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "Small phrases by President Hinckley are to the LDS community as Alan Greenspan's words were to the financial community."

...The month after Hinckley's speech, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. - one of the more prominent politicians who are LDS members - returned from Iraq with an unfavorable report about the chaos he saw in the war-torn nation's capital city.

"The security situation is Baghdad is out of hand," said Huntsman, who enjoys wide popularity among Utahns. "I am less optimistic about a successful outcome."

Huntsman's dismay echoed that of other well-known Mormon politicians from both sides of the aisle - Sens. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon - who were also issuing disappointing proclamations about what the Bush administration had hitherto referred to as Iraq's "progress."

..."It's true that, in general, LDS members are more conservative as a whole, but at one point the whole country backed this war and this president," said [blogger Guy] Murray. "Over the years, the country has soured on this war, and Mormons may be just following the national trend."
Among The Reasons Why U.S. Attorneys Were Fired

U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton hesitated in filing obscenity charges. Why?:
The government wanted to charge a porn distributor for shipping obscene movies across state lines. The problem is, another Arizona distributor just a few miles a way was selling several of the same movie titles. The second distributor had recently declared bankruptcy, and was being run by trustees for the federal government to fill its federal tax obligations.

The discrepancy understandably gave Charlton pause: How could he prosecute a company for violating federal obscenity laws when another company was making money for the federal government selling the same titles?
Stress In The Sky Islands

Interesting article regarding Mt. Lemmon, just outside Tucson, AZ. The fires there in 2003 were just devastating:
SUMMERHAVEN, Ariz. — High above the desert floor, this little alpine town has long served as a natural air-conditioned retreat for people in Tucson, one of the so-called sky islands of southern Arizona. When it is 105 degrees in the city, it is at least 20 degrees cooler up here near the 9,157-foot summit of Mount Lemmon.

But for the past 10 years or so, things have been unraveling. Winter snows melt away earlier, longtime residents say, making for an erratic season at the nearby ski resort, the most southern in the nation.

Legions of predatory insects have taken to the forest that mantles the upper mountain, killing trees weakened by record heat. And in 2003, a fire burned for a month, destroying much of the town and scarring more than 87,000 acres. The next year, another fire swept over 32,000 acres.

“Nature is confused,” said Debbie Fagan, who moved here 25 years ago after crossing the country in pursuit of the perfect place to live. “We used to have four seasons. Now we have two. I love this place dearly, and this is very hard for me to watch.”

The American Southwest has been warming for nearly 30 years, according to records that date to the late 19th century. And the region is in the midst of an eight-year drought. Both developments could be within the range of natural events.

But what has convinced many scientists that the current spate of higher temperatures is not just another swing in the weather has been the near collapse of the sky islands and other high, formerly green havens that poke above the desert.

Fire has always been a part of Western ecology, particularly when the land is parched. But since the late 1980s, the size and reach of the fires have far exceeded times of earlier droughts. And the culprit, according to several recent studies, is higher temperatures tearing at a fabric of life that dates to the last ice age.

“A lot of people think climate change and the ecological repercussions are 50 years away,” said Thomas W. Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “But it’s happening now in the West. The data is telling us that we are in the middle of one of the first big indicators of climate change impacts in the continental United States.”
Republicans, And The Hatch Act

Back in the 60's and the 70's, Republicans were the staunchest supporters of the Hatch Act, which bans federal government resources from being used for political purposes. Even minor infractions were ballyhooed as Democratic conspiracies. But in the current GSA hearings (YouTube video available here) recent Bush Administration violations were both shocking and flagrant. So much for consistency!
Scary Fireworks

Uncomfortable night in the South Pacific:
Pieces of space junk from a Russian satellite coming out of orbit narrowly missed hitting a jetliner over the Pacific Ocean overnight.

The pilot of a Lan Chile Airbus A340, which was travelling between Santiago, Chile, and Auckland, New Zealand, notified air traffic controllers at Auckland Oceanic Centre after seeing flaming space junk hurtling across the sky just five nautical miles in front of and behind his plane about 10pm.

According to a plane spotter, who was tuning into a high frequency radio broadcast at the time, the pilot "reported that the rumbling noise from the space debris could be heard over the noise of the aircraft.

"He described he saw a piece of debris lighting up as it re-entered [the earth's atmosphere].

"He was one very worried pilot, as you would imagine.

..."[It's] not something you come across everyday and I am sure the Lan Chile crew will have a tale to tell."

... Airways New Zealand had been warned by Russian authorities almost two weeks ago that a satellite would be entering the earth's atmosphere sometime today between 10.30am and midday [NZ time].

... "But clearly there has been a timing issue," the spokesman said.

"Either the time that was indicated to us was incorrect or the satellite de-orbited early."

Because the timing was wrong, the coordinates of where the satellite was supposed to enter the Earth's atmosphere also turned out to be incorrect.
Blog Lingo

OK, what is a "concern troll"?:
Democratic Underground (through TPM) defines a 'concern troll' as one who professes complete faith in the progressive cause, but who deliberately works to destroy it by claiming falsely that its displays of courage and strength are actually a weakness.

They typically emerge from under their bridge of misinformation when progressives have a victory of some sort, or have plainly spotlighted issues that are of embarassment and/or those that clearly paint conservatives in a bad light. Their goal is to mitigate resolve in an effort to ensure that any perceived current of reform does not become a tidal wave. They are the 'minute men' of the right.
Not necessarily - sometimes nightwatchmen of the left! I suppose the scout who informed Custer that the Indian village in the valley ahead was the largest he had ever seen was a 'concern troll.' I guess the critical term is 'claiming falsely'. For, as Custer eventually learned, his scurvy scout's report was accurate.
Calling Bush's Bluff - Part II

I find this whole business of the Republican Administration holding hostage U.S. troops in Iraq to be nauseating. Here is Joe Scarborough's wrap-up of Pat Buchanan's analysis:
SCARBOROUGH: We're going to have to leave it there. Craig Crawford, Nico Pitney and Pat Buchanan, thank you. And Pat is laughing. If you want to know why Pat's laughing, that's sort of the smile of a Cheshire cat. Pat knows what's coming. He's seen it before, and he knows that the Democratic Party is absolutely horrified of being set up as an anti-war party that is not going to fund troops in the war zone. It is a high-risk game not only that the Democrats are playing but that George W. Bush is playing. And when I use "game," it's just an expression describing the political back-and-forth. It's obviously both sides understand how serious these stakes are, but also both sides care very deeply about what they're fighting for, and they believe that they're right on Iraq. And they believe lives are at stake, and so they're willing to fight to the bitter end. We're just going to see, though, who blinks first and who never blinks first will determine the future course of this war and U.S. history for at least the next 20 years in the Middle East.
Republicans seem to think they have a winning hand here. It's a bluff. It's time for Democrats to call. Democrats need to be deadly serious and do whatever is necessary to stop this war, including the removal of funding. If they waffle, then nothing more will happen to end the war until the next election, and more troops will needlessly die and American influence in the world will continue to degenerate.

[UPDATE: David Sirota games the possibilities.]
Mysterious Hexagon

Saturn's north pole features this interesting shape:
It is a hexagon twice as wide as Earth encircling Saturn's north pole. First observed by the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s, the hexagon has been sighted anew by the Cassini probe.
What's up with that? Some kind of stationary wave? But why hexagonal?
Calling Bush's Bluff

Slowly undercut this pointless war:
Defying a veto threat, the Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly signaled support Tuesday for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next March.

Republican attempts to scuttle the non-binding timeline failed on a vote of 50-48, largely along party lines. The roll call marked the Senate's most forceful challenge to date of the administration's handling of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops.
Late-Night Sports Poetry

There once was a dancer named Shelley
With nary the trace of a belly
Leaps like a gazelle
Moves faster than hell
Wonder that she's not on the telly?
Yeah, But Who Could Blame Them?

Left: Q1 Building on the right, in this photo...

Such a beautiful building to launch from!:
TWO New South Wales men have been charged over BASE jumping from the Q1 building on the Gold Coast.

A 26-year-old man from Wollongong and a 30-year-old man from Bulli were issued with a notice to appear in Southport Magistrates Court on May 1, police said.

Both were charged with BASE jumping from a building, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail or a $1600 fine.

Q1 at Surfers Paradise is the world's tallest residential tower.
A Specter Is Haunting Texas

Well, it is, if you believe this report. Is this report the work of Chicken Littles, or have they confused bill collectors and market researchers with stalkers, or is Texas maybe the weirdest place on the planet?:
Nearly one in five Texans questioned by researchers in a Sam Houston State University study identified themselves as victims of stalkers over a recent two-year period.

The study by the Crime Victims Institute at the Huntsville school's Criminal Justice Center, believed to be the first-ever on stalking in the state, reported three-quarters of those victims experienced emotional and/or other personal problems. The most common reaction was anger, followed by sleeplessness. Other effects included loss of concentration, fear of being alone and feelings of helplessness.

''Stalking can affect every part of a person's life,'' Glen Kercher, the institute's director, said of the ''Stalking in Texas'' survey, based on questioning of 701 randomly selected Texas residents last spring. ''The psychological effects of stalking can also be daunting. Understandably, many victims were more easily frightened and paranoid, less outgoing and assertive.''

The 18 percent who reported being stalked reported an overall 453 stalking incidents over the 24 months covered by the survey. The most frequent instance was repeated telephone calls, reported by 35 percent of victims, followed closely by 34 percent of victims who said their stalker stole items from their house, car or workplace.

Others reported that stalkers made threatening phone calls, spied on them at home, tampered with their vehicles, waited for them outside their home or work and breaking into their house, car or business.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pointless Fretting

J. is worried about the public-relations aspect of a recent Climate Change report
Looks like the IPCC botched the section on sea-level change in the Summary for Policy Makers from their latest report. It plays right into the hands of the "I told you that global warming was a load of crap" crowd.

They should have presented a graph showing "comparable estimates", instead of burying that information in the text.
I'm not worried about it, though. Minor botches are tolerable in front of the global-skeptic crowd. Hell, they know so little anyway. It's the paralysis they impose on policymakers that's the big problem, not this niggling over details.
Dancing Etiquette

Thelma Domenici, the sister of New Mexico's Senator Pete Domenici, in addition to her various fundraising duties for Thelma Domenici and Associates, also writes an etiquette column for the Albuquerque Tribune. Recently, she opined about dance etiquette:
Dear Thelma: I recently attended a fund-raising event that included a dinner and dance. The dance floor was small and sometimes very crowded. That didn't matter to a number of couples who seemed to believe they were auditioning for "Dancing with the Stars." Are my partner and I to make way for them or are they obliged to tone it down when the floor is crowded?

Answer: Common courtesy and common sense tell us that when the dance floor is crowded, everyone should make an effort to keep their dancing compact and their elbows in close. It may even require you to alter your style until more space is available or to move to a more open area if there is one. Respect those around you by doing so.

If you bump into someone or fling your partner into another couple, do apologize and take note of any alterations you need to make to avoid it happening again.

Of course, if a couple is oblivious to this need for dance-courtesy, give them room if only to protect yourself.
This sort of advice depends on circumstance. For exhibition, the style of dancing should not be altered, courtesy or not, even if the floor is crowded, except as a matter of self-preservation or preserving the integrity of the show, but it's fine advice for social dancing.

Social dancing! I remember the Seventies! A glorious decade!

Once, I was dancing in a discotheque, when someone stepped on my foot. I did not follow Thelma Domenici's generally-sound advice, and seek out the person and apologize. Instead, I merely surmised I was too close to this particular dancer, and started boogeying away across the dance floor, in order to find more space.

There was still 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 my own. 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 was frantically signalling for my attention. Apparently, I had wrenched the shoe off of her foot, and as I boogied across the floor seeking space, this elegant woman had been limping after me, desperately trying to catch up.

Yes, dance etiquette! Very important!

Next, bicycle etiquette, and the time I gregariously waved at a bicyclist apparently engaged in fantastic feats of off-road derring-do in the landscaping right next to the street, but only later realized that it had been a matter of self preservation - I had apparently forced him off the road....
Weird Second Harvest In The Mojave

Where's Erin Brocovitch when you need her?:
Paiva, a free-lance photographer and graphic designer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, was seeking fresh material for his passion of “night photography of the abandoned roadside West,” when he and a friend stumbled across the food cache near the hamlet of Helendale, along the fabled Route 66 highway between Barstow and Victorville.

Looking for a museum run by retired strip-tease dancers in early March, they ventured up a dirt road and came to what appeared to be an abandoned ranch. When they opened their car doors, they were nearly felled by the stench.

“It was horrendous,” Paiva recalled Friday. “It was really bad. Sometimes you smell dead animals and that’s what it smelled like. Creepy, spooky, gross, disgusting, filled with animals and bugs.”

... They snapped a few images of old cars, trailers and buildings, then rounded a corner and saw an awful buffet spread before them. “There was a case of eggnog … whole cases of spinach that are just desiccated into a bunch of dry leaves … a case of Rembrandt tooth whitener, which I find highly amusing as a food bank item anyway.”

The stuff may have covered an acre of land, Paiva estimated. In among it all were several barrels with the name and telephone number of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, a program that works with 390 member charities to help feed 200,000 people a month, according to its Web site.

Shown Paiva’s photographs of the macabre scene by, food bank General Manager Jerry Creekpaum immediately recognized the crates and pallets as “the product that we send out to our pig farm, product that has gone beyond code shelf life.” Checking into the matter further, Creekpaum found that the pig farmer had been evicted from the ranch in January before he was able to feed the stuff to his animals or move it.

“I was unaware that he had been evicted,” Creekpaum said. “Nobody knew that there was still food on the land.”

Monday, March 26, 2007

Thunder Valley Late Night

It's quite impressive, really, how nice people are in casinos. Playing cards or slots, long losing streaks are common, but people suffer through these horrible tragedies with grace, tolerance, and understanding.

Sometimes there are exceptions, though. Once in a while, you see a broken slot machine - obviously shattered by someone who went medieval on the thieving machine. In general, casino management deals with these cases through inconspicuous ergonomic engineering. Enraged people find that not only is the slot machine encased in armor, but all the chairs are bolted to the floor and all the trash cans affixed to pillars. You are left without weapons, only able to pound your fists into a pulp without leaving anything more than blood on the machine.

I have a friend who can no longer visit Thunder Valley casino with the rest of her family. Several months ago, her brother-in-law became enraged at his long losing streak. He removed all his clothes and proclaimed:
You want my clothes too? Well here they are! You want my body too? Well, HERE IT IS!
This kind of conduct is highly-admirable - exemplary even! But the spectacle of a naked, drunken (not to mention obese) man shouting venemous insults at the casino staff in front of hundreds of patrons was not consistent with casino management goals. He was escorted from the premises and banned from returning. And so my friend has to go elsewhere if she wants to entertain her family in public.

About 3 a.m. Sunday morning, playing blackjack, I began getting enraged. I encountered a massive losing streak that clipped $600 from my bankroll in just twenty minutes. But I had less reason to complain than my friend's brother-in-law: I was still ahead. So I kept my cool - for now.....

Winnings: $1,800, minus $383 original stake, minus $60 E. stake = $1,357.

"Nine Sinatra Songs", And Other Dances - Sacramento Ballet

Left: Question time after the show. Ron Cunningham on the microphone. Seven dancers visible - left to right - Jack Hansen, Kirsten Bloom, Ilana Goldman, (obscured), Nicholas Pabst, (Tarah Finley?), Alexandra Cunningham.

Wonderful program! It was time to check into my crush on dancer Tarah Finley.

But wait! So many other crushes too! Amanda Peet is an AWESOME dancer!

The first offering was George Balanchine's "Scotch Symphony" (1952), with Kirsten Bloom and Jack Hansen dancing pas de deux, and Nicole Haskins in a solo role. Lightning-fast classical ballet, with some characteristically-Scotch toe taps.

One interesting feature of the evening was the unexpected rearward motion of the woman dancer towards her partner. In Scotch Symphony, the rearward motion was simple - pirouette, developpe, arabesque - but the Twyla Tharp dances featured a much more aggressive rearward attack.

The second offering was Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs" (1982). The funniest number was "All The Way", with Kirsten Bloom and Michael Vester. Amanda Peet displayed an almost feline approach to ballet that was riveting to watch! There was one trick that wowed the audience: Peet began running from stage right and launched herself feet-first, like a javelin in flight towards Jack Hansen, stage left, as he distractedly put on a coat. Hansen caught Peet midair at the last possible moment. It looked as if he could not track her movement even in peripheral vision until the last moment, and thus had to rely on musical timing. As a trick, it wasn't the most-complicated thing of the evening - it required perfect timing, of course, but more sophisticated wizardry had been on display all evening - but as theater, it was AWESOME!

The third offering was a world-premiere: Trey McIntyre's "Wild Sweet Love". Ilana Goldman was frequently featured as the (unloved) single woman looking for love. The first selection featured awkward music (by the Zombies) which I felt was actually too awkward for the circumstances. The second selection featured the world's most popular song (and the scourge of the single woman), Felix Mendelsohn's "Wedding March." Otherwise, it was an interesting and engaging piece, but hard to characterize in regards to style - lots of pop music, like from Queen, or the Partridge Family's theme.