Saturday, April 14, 2007

3D singing at Bryant park NYC

Cute! Kathi, Melody, and Mara Davi sing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."

This Volcano Is Extinct, Right?

Let's hope so:
Auckland has come up with a novel plan for getting rid of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of human waste - use it to fill one of its many extinct volcanos, then turn it into a regional park.

Local authority-owned Watercare Services announced this week that it had signed a $25 million, 30-year deal with Puketutu Island's owners to dump the 61 tonnes of biosolids - cleaned, treated and dried human waste - produced by its Mangere treatment plant each week.

...Auckland University vulcanologist Ian Smith said Aucklanders need not be concerned that they would be showered in "biosolids" in the event of an eruption.

Formed 30,000 years ago, Puketutu Island is one of about 50 volcanoes on the active Auckland volcanic field.

The next eruption from within that field was likely to form a new volcano, rather than come from an existing one, Dr Smith said.

"I think it is pretty safe."
Not That Fly For A White Guy

I dropped the income tax returns into the drive-up mailbox at 2:30 a.m., and started pulling out of the Post Office onto the street. Looking across Broadway at the AM/PM, I saw an anxiety-producing scene: 15, or even 20, young African-American males loitering in the convenience store parking lot. When Beth worked there, she said similar groups would sometimes dance on top of their cars in the parking lot in the AM hours - spirited, maybe, but utterly obnoxious, from her jaundiced, I-have-to-work-here point of view. Tonight, there was no dancing. Instead, they seemed to be jumping into their cars and quickly leaving the lot.

Something odd was going in the middle of Broadway: a motorcycle and a car were parked in the middle of the street, and the drivers were standing together and talking to one another. Debris in the street suggested some kind of minor collision had just occurred. I pulled onto the street just as the other cars were pulling onto the street. Everyone swerved to avoid the folks in the middle of the street, but instead of driving normally after that, the impressionable drivers took the initial swerve as a suggestion for yet more exaggerated swerving. Quickly, I was the only one left driving straight down Broadway. Everyone else was weaving and swerving, like writhing interlocked snakes, across all the lanes on the street, including the westbound lanes. Spirits were high, and there was lots of happy shouting from open car windows. I gripped the steering wheel, and hoped that they could at least avoid hitting me by accident.

My turnoff soon came and I turned right, escaping without incident. The swervers continued heading east on Broadway, in high spirits.
Tina Arena On The Talent Shows

Tina Arena is an excellent singer, but she's apparently not a fan of shows like 'Australian Idol':
AUSTRALIA'S biggest-selling female recording artist has launched a scathing attack on reality TV talent quests, as "completely ludicrous" and insulting.

Tina Arena, who is treading the boards in London's West End production of the musical Chicago, said her profession was being "prostituted" by the explosion in reality TV singing quests.

Arena, 39, said she was working hard to ensure her family - French partner Vincent Mancini and one-year-old son Gabriel - were "set up enough".

"Because I'm under no delusions either - when I do come back to Australia I probably won't be working anywhere near the extent that I work here," she said.

"There's not a lot of work in Australia, that's the reality. The only work that's left there is taken by reality TV.

"I've always been a great advocate for new talent and finding new talent. As to the ways and means they go about this, I think it's completely ludicrous.

"I'm tired of being constantly insulted by what I see on TV and people thinking that they're going to genuinely be stars when they are exploited financially, visually.

"They go off, they get this taste of something, the 15 minutes is over, they all wonder what they've been through."

Arena is well qualified to talk about the subject.

She burst onto the scene at the tender age of seven in the hugely popular TV show Young Talent Time.

That was decades before the public seemed to buy into the idea that anyone can be a "star" - a term she feels has "lost its shine and definition".

"I feel as though my job has been prostituted, totally," Arena said.

"I've spent 32 years honing my craft, I've had an extraordinary journey.

"It used to really disappoint me when people used to say, 'that Talent Time, it'd never work again'.

"Well, you guys are doing it now except you are taking what was a genuinely beautiful, wholesome concept and you are bastardising it and you are exploiting the people."

The solution, according to Arena, is to offer people quality content and to experiment and take risks.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let's Explore North Natomas!

After the dance concert, I decided to follow my whim and drive around North Natomas. I don't know that neighborhood very well, after all.

Following the avenue of least resistance through a traffic jam on Truxel Blvd., and past the traffic cops waving with their flashlights, I ended up lost in the Arco Arena parking lot, jammed between a bus and a SUV near the SE doors of the arena, as tens of thousands of pedestrians were leaving the arena from some event, and streaming past.

What I learned from my detour was that there are many, many cars in North Natomas....

Many, many, many, many cars.....
Beauty And Kaios

Left: Keith Turk, center. Summer Ayala with bouquet. Tina DeVine, second from left.

Spectacular evening! Some of the very best hip-hop and performance dancers in Sacramento were in action!

Many of the dancers are associated with Step One Dance Studio, at 19th and T Streets, in Sacramento, and a few are in the aerobics class I attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays: in particular, the superb Nancy Payne and the spectacular Tina DeVine. Tina is a former ballerina, and trained in the Cecchetti method - her sublime skills graced the evening, particularly with the number 'Pour Aimer Ou Destester'!

Friday evening, Pulse Dance Ensemble, together with Never Been Done Dance Co., performed "Kaios" at Natomas High School in Sacramento. The theme of evening was Cirque de Soleil, but, in fact, the evening was rather Cirque-light. Several dance groups contributed performances: Pulse Dance Ensemble, Never Been Done Dance Company, Full Circle Dance Company, China's Babies Youth Group, P.U.R.E. Youth Group, and Krump Kingz.

The fiercest number of the evening was 'Welcome To NBD', by Never Been Done Dance Company. The piece was short, but very direct and very well executed.

Krump kingz lived up to their name, with fine break-dancing moves and other dances featuring isolations and bravura actions.

Left: Keith Turk's and Summer Ayala's "Fever".

Left: Keith Turk's and Summer Ayala's "Call The Law", featuring Ana-Maria Schexnayder (far right).

Left: Ana-Maria Schexnayder (center) is hot! She has among the very best stage presences I've ever seen!

The Saturday April 14th shows are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.. Tickets start at $10. More information at (916) 534-4000.
Looking Out The Windows

Commuters and their tales:
Last year, Midas, the muffler company, in honor of its fiftieth anniversary, gave an award for America’s longest commute to an engineer at Cisco Systems, in California, who travels three hundred and seventy-two miles—seven hours—a day, from the Sierra foothills to San Jose and back. “It’s actually exhilarating,” the man said of his morning drive. “When I get in, I’m pumped up, ready to go.”

...This winter, a friend told me about a colleague of hers named Judy Rossi, a legal secretary at Arnold & Porter, a firm in Manhattan, who has a commute of three hours and fifteen minutes each way—six and a half hours a day, five days a week. If you discount vacation time, this adds up to two months a year. Rossi lives in Pike County, Pennsylvania, in the northeast corner of the state. (It is the fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania, owing in part to an infusion of extreme commuters.) Her alarm goes off at 4:30 A.M. She’s out of the house by six-fifteen and at her desk at nine-thirty. She gets home each evening at around eight-forty-five. The first thing Rossi said to me, when we met during her lunch break one day, was “I am not insane.”

...Americans, for all their bellyaching, are not the world’s most afflicted commuters. They average fifty-one minutes a day, to and from work. Pity the Romanians, who average fifty-four. Or the citizens of Bangkok, who average—average!—two hours. A business trip to Bangkok will buck up the glummest Van Wyck Expressway rubbernecker; the traffic there, as in so many automobile-plagued Asian mega-capitals, is apocalyptic. In Japan, land of the bullet train, workers spend almost ninety minutes a day.

...The term “commute” derives from its original meaning of “to change to another less severe.” In the eighteen-forties, the men who rode the railways each day from newly established suburbs to work in the cities did so at a reduced rate. The railroad, in other words, commuted their fares, in exchange for reliable ridership (as it still does, if you consider the monthly pass). In time, the commuted became commuters. In New York, and in cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago, railways begat reachable and desirable suburbs, so that, by the time the automobile came along, patterns of development, and a calculus of class and status, had already been established.

...Commuting makes people unhappy, or so many studies have shown. Recently, the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and the economist Alan Krueger asked nine hundred working women in Texas to rate their daily activities, according to how much they enjoyed them. Commuting came in last. (Sex came in first.) The source of the unhappiness is not so much the commute itself as what it deprives you of. When you are commuting by car, you are not hanging out with the kids, sleeping with your spouse (or anyone else), playing soccer, watching soccer, coaching soccer, arguing about politics, praying in a church, or drinking in a bar. In short, you are not spending time with other people. The two hours or more of leisure time granted by the introduction, in the early twentieth century, of the eight-hour workday are now passed in solitude. You have cup holders for company.

“I was shocked to find how robust a predictor of social isolation commuting is,” Robert Putnam, a Harvard political scientist, told me. (Putnam wrote the best-seller “Bowling Alone,” about the disintegration of American civic life.) “There’s a simple rule of thumb: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness.”

Commuter-wise, New York City is an anomaly. New Yorkers have the highest average journey-to-work times (thirty-nine minutes) of any city in the country, but are apparently much happier with their commutes than people are elsewhere. It could be that New Yorkers are better conditioned to megalopolitan hardships, or that public transportation ameliorates some of the psychic costs. Or maybe they’re better at lying to themselves.
Romance And The World Bank

Not a perfect match:
His staff in open revolt, World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz apologized Thursday for his role in landing his girlfriend a job at the State Department that gave her more than $60,000 a year in raises and a salary greater than that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The staff are restless:
Wolfowitz attempted to address about 200 staffers gathered in the bank's central atrium but left after some began hissing, booing, and chanting "Resign. . . . Resign." He had approached the gathering after holding a news conference in which he said, "I made a mistake for which I am sorry."
Some people are not amused:
The World Bank has moved from being a self-proclaimed exemplar of best practice in corporate governance to an example of shoddiness. As long as Mr Wolfowitz stays, this can be neither repaired nor forgotten, be it outside the Bank or inside it. In the interests of the Bank itself, he should resign. If he does not, the board must ask him to go.
Rain Teflon

Where the rains have been the weakest over the last year. The Darling Downs, once one of Australia's premier agricultural areas, but currently in a shambles, is at the center of the lowest-on-record east-Australian bullseye.

It seems like this malevolent drought was aimed specifically at those locations where people lived. No wonder Australians are particularly keen about Global Warming issues!

I blame Satan, or at least a Southern-Hemisphere-variant diabolic henchman spirit, for this evil drought.
Kamikaze Quail?

A disclosed location, however:
A bird appears to have flown into and damaged the engine of Vice President Dick Cheney's plane as it arrived in Chicago Friday morning.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Video Games

A new frontier for orangutans.
Blame Game

Acting dumb on the banks of the Potomac. Where did these annoying problems come from?:
WASHINGTON — Two infantry companies from the New Mexico Army National Guard will return to Iraq this summer, but Sen. Pete Domenici is questioning whether "we can keep relying on the National Guard with the kind of ineptitude we're seeing with training and equipment."

The Albuquerque Republican made the remark Wednesday at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing where he blasted Pentagon officials for not providing the New Mexico National Guard with the proper equipment for training.

...After the hearing, Domenici told The Tribune the people in the New Mexico National Guard are "terrific, but if you don't have the equipment you've got nothing."
...The office said the New Mexico Guard has only 34 percent of the type of equipment it needs for war and peacetime missions, such as radios, medical kits, trucks and generators - the lowest percentage of any state. Georgia and Colorado were highest, at 64 percent.

Domenici asked Blum, "We couldn't do any worse by New Mexico - is that a fair statement?"

"It's an accurate statement," Blum replied.

"Right now, New Mexico is the lowest in the nation and it should not be," Blum continued, but added, "They didn't get into that situation overnight and they won't get out of it overnight."

...But New Mexico Adj. Gen. Kenny Montoya told The Tribune the shortages have little to do with Iraq. He said the Army Guard did leave 70 trucks in Iraq, but those have been replaced.

He traced the state Guard's shortages from its conversion four years ago from air defense to missions that include light infantry, transportation, engineering and military police.

Montoya said the engineers, for instance, have to borrow equipment from local governments to train with, but it's not the same equipment they would use in the field. Truck drivers for the Guard train with the M-16 rifle, he said, but when sent to Iraq have to be certified first with the newer M-4 rifle.
Four years ago? Four years ago! Why Pete Domenici might even remember the events of four years ago! Maybe Pete Domenici should spend his time gazing in a mirror - the mirror labeled "Mission Accomplished" - rather than blaming the Army for these problems....
Cossies Go To China

Except this isn't a cossie - the cossies are somewhere else:
SPORTING yet another glamorous make-over, Kylie Minogue last night proved she is the master of reinvention as she stepped out for the opening of China's first H&M store to promote her new swimwear range.

The singer has taken on the role of bikini babe of European fast fashion giant H&M, putting the finishing stitches to a new swimwear line earlier this month.

Modelling the range - which includes metallics and Mediterranean-inspired prints – herself, Minogue looks incredible, showing the world she has beaten not only her battle with cancer but her heartbreak over the split with Olivier Martinez.

Last night in Shanghai, Kylie did her own take on the Suzie Wong look. Her boyish crop was replaced with a sleek blonde bob, pulled back from her face with a hair slide.

She matched her new hairstyle with a cream cheongsam dress and a slick of bright red lipstick, a look that was a huge hit with the crowds gathered outside the new store in Shanghai.
What is a cossie? According to the Australian Word Map they're not 100% sure Down Under which term is the best to use:
cossie - noun (also plural) a swimming costume: *On hot nights before the nor'easter came you changed into your cossie and ran under the sprinkler. --CLIVE JAMES, 1980. Compare bathers, costume, swimmers, swimsuit, togs. Also, cozzie. [abbreviation of costume + -ie, diminutive suffix]

Contributor's comments: cosi - NSW short for swimming costume; very confusing from state to state. Victorians use the poofy `bathers' or even `swimmers'. Although I've lived in Qld for 18 yrs I'm not really sure what they call them (`togs'??). I've been using the pathetic `bathers' for 20 years because my wife is Victorian but I'm chucking that and reverting to my NSW roots and going back to cosi.

Contributor's comments: In Perth I grew up with the word "bathers" instead of "cossie". However I had South African "friends" who used the word swimming costume. We would also use "speedos" or "ballhuggers" or "racing bathers" for racing bathers and "boardies" for boardshorts.

Contributor's comments: In country Victoria, it was always togs, and yet as an adult in NSW, I always say swimmers. Togs seems inappropriately regional here in Sydney, and my partner, who is Hong Kong Chinese, finds the word togs quite amusing. As a male, however, the word cossie has always sounded like a girl's word.

Contributor's comments: When I moved from Sydney to Tasmania, I went into a swim shop and asked for some cossies. When they asked me what I meant, I said 'you know, costumes'. They sent me to a fancy dress and party costume shop!

...Contributor's comments: Cossie is definitely the NSW term. In Tassie, where I grew up they were our 'bathers'. Gee the water was freezing in Tassie compared to Sydney, though. Boys' speedoes in Sydney were always called 'sluggos' but I was very amused to see the recent episode of 'The Secret Life of Us' on the telly the other night all about cossie etiquette and a man's self-image. At one point the character referred to his sluggos as 'budgie-smugglers'. That still gets a laugh out of me.

...Contributor's comments: In Canberra we used the terms swimmers, cossie and bathers. My Dad was English and used the word 'trunks' for what he wore (which were more like shorts), but I am curious to know just how widespread the use of Speedos was, because that was also a term bandied about a lot in the 50s and 60s - just like Hoover (but we didn't wear vacuum cleaners when we swam!!!!!!!)

Contributor's comments: In SE Qld we say togs, bikinis for bikinis, boardies for boardshorts.

Contributor's comments: In SA the word bathers was the norm. Later, togs also became common. It was always a joke to hear NSW friends talking about cossies, which I presumed were swimming costumes, a term which seemed a bit antiquated. In the 1950s I understood a costume to be a woman's fitted suit. (My mother was a dress maker).

...Contributor's comments: I only use the word 'cossie' in polite company or, as a child, in front of parents and teachers, etc. Amongst my peers, the word 'sluggos' has always been used. (Northern Beaches of Sydney).

Contributor's comments: I have never used this word. Brought up in Melbourne I always wore bathers but when I moved to Canberra people wore swimmers and now after 18 years here I've been converted and normally wear swimmers. Since I do aquarobics several times a week this is a fairly frequent use of swimmers.

Contributor's comments: In Western Sydney - male bikini or underpants style swimmers were called "Dick Stickers".

Contributor's comments: During 1956/7 I lived with two Adelaide girls in London. They constantly fell about laughing at my 'words for things' considering them 'old-fashioned'. 'Swimming Costume' amused them, but when I told them 'we' (Sydney people) usually said 'Cossie' they fell to the floor and rolled about laughing. Im very glad the term has not disappeared. (They said 'Bathers', which I thought a very 'stuffy' word, rather like their Adelaide accent, but never said so).

Contributor's comments: Growing up on King Island Tas, Cossie was used with almost as much frequency as togs, bathers or swimmers were hardly ever used except by those kids who came with their parents to work in the scheelite mine, the 'locals' prefered togs or cossie.

Contributor's comments: My comments relate to 'cossie'. I grew up in Brisbane and when our family went to the beach or the pool, we always wore togs. But I had a friend whose family had migrated from Dubbo in NSW. She insisted on calling her togs 'cossies'. I thought this was just disgusting and tried really hard to get her to change. Nowadays I guess she would be very uncool.

Contributor's comments: I grew up in Sydney and remember that the words "swimmers" or "cozzies". I think my family used "swimmers" and my mother grew up in various areas in south eastern Queensland and north eastern NSW. I think "cozzies" was more of a Sydney term.

Contributor's comments: I grew up in Sydney in the '50s. The things we wore to the beach were know by a variety of terms: cossy, swimmers, togs, bathers, swimming costume, swimming suit. They were all used interchangeably. 'Speedos' and 'racers' were the particular type used in competitive swimming, regardless of brand.

Contributor's comments: Cossies - as a daughter of a QLDer turned Sydney-sider and a Taswegian turned Victorian, I always used not only cossies, but bathers, swimmers, togs and trunks interchangeably when I grew up (in Canberra). But I never used called "little boys" (cocktail frankfurts) cheerios like our northern neighbours!

Contributor's comments: I grew up in the Inner Western suburb of Concord [in Sydney] and we used the term trunks as often as cossie.

Contributor's comments: "Trunks" or "swimming trunks" for male bathing atire was common in the UK but I have not heard the term in Australia except from ex-pats.

Contributor's comments: I grew up in Wollongong where the term cozzies was widely used. In my teenage years cozzies became less popular as a fashion item with the introduction of boardshorts. The Lifesavers who were not popular with the long haired surfie layabouts who referred to the cozzies worn by the Lifesavers as 'sluggos'.

...Contributor's comments: As an immigrant child of the 1950's I learned about cozzies when we went to the Georges River [Sydney] to paddle and swim. When 2-piece bathing suits and then 'horror-of-horrors' bikinis came on the scene we began calling them 'mozzies' cozzies' i.e. small enough to fit a mosquito (of which there were many where we lived). That term has endured in our neighbourhood. I have lived in Canada for several years and confuse the locals here, when they visit our home or cottage (term for week-end retreat) and I ask them if they've 'brought their mozzies' cozzies?" My last visit home to Oz in the summer of 2001 confirmed that 'mozzies cozzies' still exists.

Contributor's comments: [Brisbane informant] also 'meathangers', mostly (but not necessarily) restricted to school usage.

Contributor's comments: It was 'cossies' living just south of the NSW/QLD border, cousins from Vic called them bathers, and when my sisters moved over the border 'cossies' immediately became 'togs'. I've found that 'swimmers' work most places, and dick stickers was a fave term for paying out the boys in school :-)

...Contributor's comments: "Cossie" is NEVER used in WA.

Contributor's comments: This word was also heard in Melbourne on TV & radio, e.g. an ad with the song "Let's give a salute to the great Aussie Cossie", and on the comedy single "Australiana" by Austin Tayshus (sp?). But the term was never used in everyday speech.

...Contributor's comments: I associate 'cossie' solely and entirely with Dame Edna who, I suspect, relished the sibilance and the rhyme with 'Aussie'. I'm a child of 1950's Melbourne and I wore 'bathers' to swim at South Melbourne beach.

Contributor's comments: In the 1950s on the northern beaches of Sydney, they were cossies, but ten years later they became sluggos and it really wasn't cool to use cossies any more.

Contributor's comments: 'Cossie' was the word I was introduced to in 1974 after I came to Sydney from London [we always used 'swimming costume' there]. As residents of the Northern Beaches, we also came across the words 'togs', 'boardies', 'speedos' and 'sluggos' as alternatives. It didn't seem to matter which was used and nobody laughed at, or commented about, what you used.

This would be a fun film to watch, if we could only bring it here:
Over the course of one Broadway musical season (2003-2004), "ShowBusiness" follows the four high-profile productions that would eventually become Tony nominees for Best Musical: a big-noise musical named "Wicked," the Rosie O'Donnell/Boy George collaboration, "Taboo," the much-anticipated Tony Kushner musical, "Caroline, or Change," and an irreverent puppet show named "Avenue Q."
Maybe An Insight

Why some racial humor works, and some doesn't:
So when does race-based humor qualify as harmless entertainment -- albeit risqué and provocative -- and when does it qualify as actual racism?

With my friends of other ethnic backgrounds -- and okay, I probably need some more of these -- the back-and-forth of boorish jokes is simply a way to kill time, share a few laughs and ease subconscious tension: the other night I joked that my Japanese immigrant friend should have applied for a yellow card instead of a green card; he fired back that if my bad Jewish self ever walked into a brick wall with an erection, I'd suffer a broken nose. (Neither of us felt the need to file a petition with the Anti-Defamation League, although I might need to watch my back for the little guy's razor-sharp throwing stars.) The wider American culture's embrace of stereotype-laced humor serves a similar purpose to our banter: making people feel more comfortable with one another so they can get past their prejudices.

This is why Richards, Coulter and Imus landed on their faces even though Americans love to laugh at bigotry: these entertainers poured salt into centuries-old wounds with cheap punch lines-simple, worthless slurs; spiteful, desperate pleas for attention-instead of throwing our collective ridiculousness back into our faces. Their sin had nothing to do with edgy jokes; it was that instead of shedding light on everyone, they only shed light on themselves.
Casinos And Their Burdens

Sometimes people are dishonest:
Take, for example, the ambitious criminal who crawled into a casino with counterfeit chips, dazzling replicas except for one problem: they were minted with a misspelling. Instead of "dollar," they read "dolar." As in, one worthless "dolar." A casino employee noticed the error and assumed it was a rare misprint, a collectors item, like a coin stamped with mistakes. The counterfeiter's response to the employee's interest didn't help.

"This guy ran like Jesse Owens on fire right into a card table and almost knocked himself out," Longo says.

...Grainy security footage shows a casino guest approaching a casino dealer and slapping her on the face, hard.

...A little investigation reveals the slapper is a particularly loathed breed of casino parasite - a loan shark.

And the dealer? Well, she was in $100,000 over her head. She was also stunned when the casino fired her. Stunned the casino could no longer trust her to handle thousands of dollars a day.

"Casinos, if you think of them, we're just big banks," Longo says. "At some point, you don't know how much money there is. That's the one flaw at a casino. That one little moment in time, that one weak point."

Longo queues another surveillance tape, this one focused on a small white room, where a single staff member is watching hundreds of dollars fan across a cash counter. He folds a $100 bill into his sleeve, then reaches into his vest pocket for a pen.

That one little moment in time. That one weak point.

"The money falls into a pocket, and only the pen comes back," Longo says. "There is a connectivity of criminal activity that ends up in casinos. Internal, external, it's all connected."

Edwards has another acronym for casinos that don't follow security standards to deter criminals and hustlers: BOHICA. That's short for, "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again."

...But sophistication is a relative term when it comes to scams. Longo plays another security tape. This one lasts one and a half seconds, just long enough for the camera to catch a hand darting underneath a dealer's nose and snatching $13,000 in poker chips.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Seen One Leech, Seen 'Em All

Apparently there was a mix-up:
DECADES of medical research and hundreds of academic papers have been called into question after the discovery that scientists may have been studying the wrong blood-sucking leech.

At least 115 chemical compounds have been developed from what researchers thought was the medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis, with many being used in drugs.

Genetic analysis has now shown that the leech that led to the discoveries may have been the species Hirudo verbana.

The findings could prove disastrous to scientists and pharmaceutical companies because it suggests that their researches, new drugs and patents were based on the false premise that the medicinal leech H. medicinalis was what was being studied.

It could be equally devastating for the leeches themselves, which as H. medicinalis have legal protection but as H. verbana have no defence against being collected from the wild in their hundreds of thousands.

...In the blood
  • Leeches have three jaws, each with 115-120 teeth
  • They leave a triangular bite mark that bleeds for ten hours. The bite contains a natural anaesthetic and anticoagulant
  • Leeches can drink five times their own weight in blood
  • Each has 32 brains
  • Medicinal leech declared extinct in Britain in 1910. Rediscovered at Llangorse Lake, near Brecon, in 1938
  • First used in medicine in about 1000BC
  • In 1830 London hospitals used 7 million leeches a year
  • In 1809 Leicester Royal Infirmary used 500 leeches. A leechwoman was employed there until 1928
  • Stalin was reputedly treated with leeches shortly before he died
  • George Washington’s death was hastened by being bled four times a day
So It Goes

RIP, Kurt Vonnegut. He'll be missed:
An obscure science fiction writer for two decades before earning mainstream acclaim in 1969 with "Slaughterhouse-Five," Vonnegut was an American original, often compared to Mark Twain for a vision that combined social criticism, wildly black humor and a call to basic human decency. He was, novelist Jay MacInerny once said, "a satirist with a heart, a moralist with a whoopee cushion."
Shuffling Cars

So, the van parked for weeks in the driveway next to my car where I live - the van leaked gasoline, and reeked, until all the gas had leaked out - was finally towed away by the police in the early-morning hours several weeks ago (neighbors say it was stolen).

Now, a mysterious sedan has taken the van's place. A mysterious man had the trunk propped open several days ago, as he talked mysteriously into his cell phone.

Last night, at 3:40 a.m., the mysterious man drove up with two friends. With their headlights off, they loaded lots of luggage into the sedan. Then they all drove off, leaving the sedan sitting there by itself.

This morning, the sedan had disappeared.

It's all very mysterious....

But, hey, I found a $20 bill on the sidewalk last night while walking Sparky, so not all mysteries are nefarious.
The Wilsons Settle In To Santa Fe

Everyone likes the lifestyle.
Rudy, And The Numbers

I buy the stuff, but pay little attention myself:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani hasn't done a lot of grocery shopping lately — at least based on his answers about the cost of milk and bread.

Campaigning in Alabama on Tuesday, the former New York City mayor portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative and an aggressive fighter of terrorism who has a lot in common with the Deep South state.

But when asked about more mundane matters — like the price of some basic staples — Giuliani had trouble with a reporter's question.

"A gallon of milk is probably about a $1.50, a loaf of bread about a $1.25, $1.30," he said.

A check of the Web site for D'Agostino supermarket on Manhattan's Upper East Side showed a gallon of milk priced at $4.19 and a loaf of white bread at $2.99 to $3.39. In Montgomery, Ala., a gallon of milk goes for about $3.39 and bread is about $2.

Later Tuesday, the Giuliani campaign pointed out that the national average for bread is $1.17 per pound, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government agency also lists milk as costing, on average, $1.60 per half-gallon.

Giuliani was closer to the mark on the price of a gallon of gasoline.

"Gas, I think, is $2.89," he said.
Photo Gallery

The Rutger's Women's Basketball Team.
Clever Coyote

Jim McElroy shakes his head in admiration:
Coyote and the White Folks
by Bill Lewis

Coyote watches the pilgrim's land.
He'd been getting bored anyway.

After ten thousand years the native
population was wise to his tricks.

Fact is, he'd been too good at his
profession. Done himself out of a job.

Coyote invents the stock market.
Everyone falls for it.

Coyote teaches military tactics to Custer.
(That can be the only explanation.)

Coyote writes scripts for soap operas.
Everyone says they're like real life.

Coyote writes scripts for real life.
Everyone says it's just like soap operas.

Coyote works as a spin doctor, gets
a movie actor elected as president.

Coyote says, I think it's going to be
quite a few years until my retirement.

Kylie Minogue - Come Into My World (Fischerspooner Mix) TOTP


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Clueless Media

Glenn Greenwald on Gary Kamiya's article:
But I really question whether -- actually, I affirmatively doubt that -- most national journalists would agree with what Kamiya wrote. In response to some of the media criticisms I've been writing, I have had exchanges with some national journalists over the past few months, and the most surprising aspect of those exchanges -- at least it has been surprising to me -- is how little culpability they believe they have for the completely barren and corrupt public "debates" we had over the invasion and how little scrutiny there was of highly dubious Bush administration claims concerning Iraq, terrorism and related matters.

Many of them really do not agree -- at all -- "that the period of time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq represents one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media." Many of them will acknowledge that Judy Miller and a handful of other aberrational reporters produced bad journalism relating to Iraq, but they will insist that it was confined to a small circle and was not reflective of American journalism in general.
Sam Kinison

15th anniversary of his death (details of my own search for Sam's death spot).

(Here is another Web Site containing the difficult-to-decipher clues regarding the exact location of Sam Kinison's death.)
East Pacific Early Start?

The NOGAPS forecast for the next week shows what looks like a tropical depression starting up soon off the coast of Central America.

First the West Pacific, and now, maybe, the East Pacific too? Early! Way too early! Global Warming doing its work? Or a fluke?
LNG Gas Terminal

I'm following this with considerable interest, since I spent many months working on various air-quality aspects of the project:
The State Lands Commission decided late Monday not to award a lease essential to a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal off the Southern California coast, citing environmental concerns.

In the 2-1 vote, commissioners complicated efforts by Australia's BHP Billiton LNG International Inc. to build an $800 million terminal in the ocean northwest of Los Angeles, about 14 miles off Malibu and about 20 miles off Oxnard. BHP officials have said the facility would provide a reliable source of low-polluting energy.

...Commission Chairman John Garamendi, who is also the lieutenant governor, also voted against awarding the lease permit, while panelist Anne Sheehan, who represents state Finance Director Michael Genest, voted for it.

The decision was met with loud cheers by the estimated 900 people who packed the Oxnard convention center auditorium for Monday's commission hearing.

...Opponents have argued the terminal would not meet clean air requirements and could be a terrorist target. A host of celebrities who live in Malibu, including Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, have protested the proposal.

The plan called for subsea pipelines, which would be laid about 100 feet apart, be about 23 miles long but cross only about 4 1/2 miles of state land before reaching Ormond Beach in Ventura County.

The 30-year lease considered by the three-member State Lands Commission would have granted BHP the right to build, operate, use and maintain the pipelines. Without the subsea pipelines, the terminal would essentially be inoperable. As a result, the commission's vote technically killed the project, although BHP could file a lawsuit to keep it alive.

I don't think I want to see this. They say it's 'fun'. I saw the last Rodriguez extravaganza (Sin City) and they said it was 'fun', but I thought it was just awful. An epic film devoted to the worst of 70's cinema would not be progress:
A vanity project of butt-numbing proportions (three hours and counting), Grindhouse deposits us in a fanboy fantasyland of fast cars, cocked weapons, weeping sores and erupting cleavage. Resurrecting the B-movie double feature, Rodriguez and Tarantino divide the labor to produce an uneven, hyperventilating whole high on its own audacity. First up is Rodriguez's Planet Terror, a deliriously revolting tale of an abandoned military base, biochemical experiments and pustule-covered zombies. Rose McGowan is a preteen's wet dream as an amputee go-go dancer ("I wanted to be a stand-up comedian") with a machine-gun prosthesis, while little Freddy Rodriguez from Six Feet Under mainlines testosterone to play her badass ex.
Stale Male Whale Plus Desperate College Student Equals....

SANTA BARBARA — Federal agents are investigating reports that a college student tried to illegally hammer off the teeth of a rare sperm whale that washed ashore dead Sunday on a beach in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara.

"I arrived and this guy had a hammer and was hammering away on the teeth," said Shane Anderson, supervisor of marine operations at the UC Santa Barbara Marine Laboratory. "I explained to him that there was a federal law against doing that and that the specimen was important for science. He didn't want to hear it."

Anderson told the student that if he didn't stop, he was going to take his picture and report him. The student then became so verbally abusive that a Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputy arrested him and cited him for public disturbance, Sheriff's Sgt. Erik Raney said. David Harrison, 20, a UC Santa Barbara student, was released on the spot after being issued a misdemeanor citation, Raney said.

...Joseph Cordaro, who coordinates marine mammal strandings for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said it was extraordinarily rare for a sperm whale to wash ashore in California. The endangered whale typically remains far offshore, he said.

...Roxanna Behtash, special agent with the National Marine Fisheries Service, confirmed that she has begun an investigation into the college student's alleged violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. "It's illegal for someone to go and yank the tooth out of a dead marine mammal," Behtash said. "It's illegal to possess or sell marine mammal parts of any kind, unless you have a permit."

...In this case, the teeth of the whale have been badly damaged, which could compromise the scientific value of removing the jaw, Anderson said. He said the student wasn't very careful in trying to extract the teeth.

"This kid was busting them all up with a hammer," Anderson said. "I guess he wanted them really bad."
Don Imus

Two week suspension? TWO WEEKS? Such a feeble punishment - he's got mighty protectors!

And who can say with a straight face that racism is something of the past?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Texting Romance

Whatever helps propagate the species, I suppose:
A BRITISH man has met and married a 22-year-old woman after, by his own account, dreaming of her phone number and then sending her a text message.

..."It was really weird but I was absolutely hooked," Kitson told the Daily Mail newspaper. "My mum and dad kept saying 'But he could be an axe murderer', but I knew there was something special about it."

After a long courtship, the oddly matched couple - he's six foot seven inches tall and she's five foot four - have just returned from their honeymoon in the Indian resort of Goa.

A love-struck Brown said: "I've no idea how I ended up with her number in my head - it's only a few digits different from mine."
Blogging As An Aid To Thought

Where exactly does the impulse to blog come from? For me, one inspiration came from a college-level textbook on English composition, which proclaimed that any thought that isn't written down in some way may as well have never occurred. Sobering!

Nevertheless, my principal inspiration comes the writings of Ernest Dimnet, and his 1928 book "The Art Of Thinking." Who was Ernest Dimnet? According to Wikipedia:
Ernest Dimnet (1866-1954), French priest, writer and lecturer, is the author of The Art of Thinking, a popular book on thinking and reasoning during the 1930s. Born in France, he moved to the United States after the First World War. The Art of Thinking was on the best-seller lists in the US in the 1930s, alongside Dale Carnegie's self-help works, but it is mostly forgotten today.
Mostly-forgotten or not, Dimnet's thoughts are still useful. Dimnet divides his book into useful sections: "On Thinking," "Obstacles To Thinking," "Helps To Thought," "Creative Thought." Under Part Three, "Helps To Thought," in Chapter 9, "Elaboration Of Data In The Mind", Dimnet discusses "Preserving One's Thoughts." He discusses the method (section D reproduced, in full):
To keep no track of what one learns or thinks is as foolish as to till and seed one's lands with great pains, and when the harvest is ripe turn one's back upon it and think of it no more.

Some people have extraordinarily retentive memories and can do with a minimum of notes, but phenomenal exceptions do not count. Most men who have made a name in literature, politics, or business have found it necessary to have a paper memory and those who have thought it possible to dispense with the drudgery of forming such a one have inevitably someday rued it. For humorists who define memory as the faculty enabling us to forget only emphasize an unfortunate truth. Striking or vivid impressions which we imagine can never be effaced from our consciousness do not survive in it more than a few weeks, sometimes a few days, unless something is done to give them permanence. A busy life teaches even congenital idleness to do that. Anybody whom his fate compels to use his brain actively soon realizes that he cannot afford to lose any of his resources, and he devises some plan for stopping waste. If he is rich enough he buys the assistance of a trained secretary. If not, he reads the books in which the methods of erudition or those of business (they are almost alike) are expounded, or he invents devices of his own. We marvel at the immense knowledge which some writers possess of what used to be called foreign politics but should be called at present the politics of us all. We wonder at the enormousness of the archives they must keep and the difficulty for even them to find their way through that mass of papers. As a matter of fact, folio volumes of coarse paper on which clippings from the newspapers can be glued according to some happy combination of the vertical and the horizontal are all that is necessary. Red ink annotations will provide indication of richer dossiers. The secret is to clip all that seems important at once. Newspapers are historical documents prepared by men and women generally ignorant of, and indifferent to, history. An occurrence of far-reaching consequence may be mentioned in an inconspicuous column and in unemphatic type by so-called specialists who do not realize its importance and will never allude to it again. If the passage is not filed at once its absence may mean the loss of a capital link in the chain of events.

Facts are only the material for thought. Thoughts themselves, that is to say, the illumination produced in our mind by the presence of rich facts, should be preserved even more carefully. Certainly it is difficult and sometimes it may be dangerous - for its stops the working of the mind - to interrupt an intellectual reaction under the pretense of noting it. But while the final result of mediation is before us we can rescue it from the fate of all dreams. The note must be brief enough to preclude the danger of what the Veda calls "putting words between the truth and ourselves." but it must be full enough to be clear to the future, i.e., almost alien, re-reading. If we are conscious of an impulse to give a final form to an idea engrossing our mind it is foolish to resist or defer it. The best pages of a book are those written at a stretch under such an impulse. Many a writer compelled by life to do his work in spite of adverse circumstances has been grateful to himself for not giving in to laziness when the chance of thus fixing a glimpse or even a glimmer offered itself. He does not know the haunting and torturing phantasm that once his view of an object was higher and clearer than it is now.

Book-writing is the province of specialists, living is the business of us all. Moral life, sentimental life, religious life, whatever is above the terre a terre of mere existing, also consists of illuminations which once departed return no more. A diary, a few old letters, a few sheets containing thoughts or meditations, may keep up the connection between today and our better selves of the past. I was deeply impressed as a youth by the advice of a spiritual writer to read one's spiritual notes preferably to even famous works. All saints seem to have done so. The moment we realize that any thought, ours or borrowed, is pregnant enough not to be wasted, or original enough not to be likely to come back again, we must fix it on paper. Our manuscripts should mirror our reading, our meditations, our ideals, and our approach to it in our lives. Anybody who has early taken the habit to record himself in that way knows that the loss of his papers would also mean a loss to his thinking possibilities.
Dimnet then proceeds to describe how these habits have helped a magazine writer and a historian of religions rise to the top of their professions.

What Dimnet describes above is, in essence, pre-Internet blogging. The habit of blogging preserves information and the annotations one makes generates thought. It is a very good habit to have.

Of course, there are some who will say that blogging is useless, but they may not fully understand it.

Hooray for Dimnet! Long-live blogging!
Why People Get Banned From Flying

It used to be because they had terrorist connections. No longer! :
"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said. "

Alanis Morissette "My Humps"

You don't want no drama. No, no drama.

"But Don't You Want To Do More Than Just Dance In The Chorus?"

I'm glad I took the time to go through the old stack of newspapers - I very nearly missed Anita Creamer's column in the Sacramento Bee (dated February 23, 2007, and which has now slipped into SacBee Archives), and her interview with Greta Gerwig!

Greta Gerwig played the character of 'Judy Turner' in Woodland Opera House's Summer 1999 production of "A Chorus Line" (I was a Cut Dancer in that production). So what is she doing these days?

Her day job involves tutoring students from Manhattan's pressure-cooker high schools. ... What happens when a Sacramento childhood as a fencer, actress and ballerina -- as one season's Clara in the Sacramento Ballet's "Nutcracker Suite," no less -- collides with a Barnard College education and the professional theater world?

A budding career as an independent film actress.

In 2006, aside from graduating from Barnard magna cum laude with an English degree, Gerwig acted in four independent films, two of which she also helped write. One of her movies, "Hannah Takes the Stairs," premieres at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Texas next month, with a half-dozen other film festivals to follow.

... "It's an amazing world she's moving in," [Greta's father, Gordon] agrees. "She says, 'People would kill to do what I'm doing.' But she didn't plan it. It just happened."

Really, it did. A River Park childhood filled with dance and voice lessons didn't hurt. Neither did all those years of seeing plays at Sacramento's Celebration Arts and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

But until now, Greta Gerwig has been known only to a select audience -- for example, those who caught her performances at Sacramento's Actors Workshop while she was in high school or in Columbia University's Varsity Show.

She insists that she prefers writing to acting, and she's applying to graduate playwriting programs at the Juilliard School, Yale University and New York University.

It was her writing -- kind of -- that led to her budding indie film career.

She appeared in "LOL," which deals with technology and modern courtship, mainly courtesy of her voi! ce mails and instant messages to her then-boyfriend, one of the film's creators.

That led to "Hannah," which she co-wrote and filmed in Chicago last summer. (She plays Hannah, of course.)

And that, in turn, led to "Baghead," directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, whose previous film, "The Puffy Chair," played at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

And in December, she finished filming "Nights and Weekends."

..."I love acting," she says, "and I'd like to keep doing it. But I have no illusions. I'm not a trained actor the way actors onstage have to be. I don't have the kinds of gifts they have.

"As a 23-year-old blond girl, there are 50,000 of me. I don't feel I'm particularly needed in that capacity, but theater needs ! more female playwrights, and film needs more female directors."

Smart. Very smart.

She's struck up a friendship with theater veteran Dasha Epstein, who produced "Children of a Lesser God" and "Same Time, Next Year" on Broadway, and she's determined to have a play on Broadway, or off ... But for now, Greta lives in a Brooklyn apartment with five other recent Barnard grads and waits to see where the world of theater and independent film will take her.

"It's an exciting time to be where I am," she says.
Like 'Judy Turner' says: "Well, I want to be something besides the tall, skinny [blonde] second from the end."

At the "South By Southwest" Film Festival Website, the have some funny trailers. I recommend "McGriddles" (a discussion of the problem with blogs) and "Who's This Guy?", featuring Greta (and the indignities of filmmaking).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thunder Valley Friday

Hammered. Loss: $2,000.00
Leave My Rubber Chickens Out Of This

I heard that there was a search on for rubber chickens as props for "Annie Get Your Gun." I remembered that a friend had a collection of rubber chickens from Woodland Opera House's Spring 1999 production of "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum." When I approached her, she said sorry:
My rubber chickens were in the trunk when I had my head-on collision and I didn't get hurt. The rubber chickens protect me from harm. They go with me everywhere. I love my rubber chickens. I need my rubber chickens.
The Funny Part About Good Friday Mass

E. said everyone had to remove their shoes to approach the altar. "It was part of the veneration. Even though Our Lord Jesus Christ lived a long time - oh, maybe 7,000 years - ago, we still love him very much."

Anyway, the funny part - the man ahead of her in line had a big hole in his sock, and his toe popped right out.