Friday, May 11, 2007

In Thrall

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them:
Number of moderate Republicans who met with the president this week to give him a "blunt warning" about the need to change course in Iraq: 11

Number of those moderate Republicans who voted Thursday in favor of a bill that would require the president to show progress in the war before getting more funding for it: 0.
Eurovision Song Contest 2007 Final Tomorrow

Maybe not vapid enough for my taste, not at least since Poland's entry, the Jet Set's "Time To Party" didn't make it to the finals. But I'm sure it'll be a great final - where else do Norse singers sing pop Spanish lyrics for hundreds of millions of adoring fans?
"Free Paris"

Big rally in NYC:
Two self-made human rights activists had attracted an impressive amount of media attention (including your intrepid New York Press reporter) through a livejournal page that implored NYU students to come with “signs and ATTITUDE” to defend Hilton. According to the website, “This is about the freedom to do what you want vs. overly conservative judges coming down hard on anyone who likes to party.”

Inspired by their moving plea, I arrived on the scene at the appointed time to find a clutch of bored reporters with cameras and notepads, silently cursing their editors and the money they’d sunk into journalism degrees. Things livened up a little when Billy Bush of Access Hollywood showed up, shouting into his cell phone, “it’s like I was saying to Angelina Jolie…” and commenced pacing back and forth in front of the park. A woman in stilettos hobbled over to him and asked if he was part of the protest. “No, I’m the host of Access Hollywood!” he barked.

Finally, at 4:15, the two rabble-rousers arrived bearing pictures of Paris that read “Martyr” and “Victim”. The press, which now numbered about 25, including Bush’s camera crew, mobbed the pair, who managed to answer questions and pose for pictures with a straight face. After about ten minutes, they strode off, smiling.
Fussy Baby

Where are you? You're not in your nest! I DON'T SEE YOU! Let's go see if Sparky invited you to snack (with you as the snack...)


Well, Sparky doesn't know where you are. Are you under the bed?

YOU'RE UNDER THE BED! It's scary under there! How did you end up there?

Do you want the grape? You don't want the grape. How about the peanut? You spat it out! The nectarine? Nevermind - too stringy. YOU DON"T EVEN WANT THE SHRIMP!

I know what you do like: I'll scratch the feathers just above your nostrils. Cloudy the Bunny likes that too. But I can't do this forever....

OK, you can sit on my shoulder. THAT'S what you want....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Baby Blue At The Office

Left: What do you do at work, Mommy?

Learning ten-key

Ahoy, maties!
Nice Little Nest Up There

Today, Baby Blue is seated on my shoulders, inside the collar of my shirt. It's a lot more interesting there than on the desk - warm, a little elevated, moves around gently like a tree swaying in the breeze. I'm worried about the little fashion statements I may be wearing soon, like beads around the collar, and she's shedding leaf dander like an autumnal tree shedding leaves (her feathers are growing at a furious clip). But she seems to be happy and content and attentive - one nice little baby!
Jogging Childhood Nightmares

There are certain kinds of traumas that become your own obsessions after awhile, because they bothered and obsessed your parents. For me, one such horror is the train-car collision. My Dad used to fret about these a lot when I was a kid, I think, because he once witnessed one himself when he was young. Maybe more than one - maybe several. He instilled a life-long fear of these things in me. So, even today, I still get the heebie-jeebies when the rail crossing arms come down, or fail to come down, or when people go around the arms, or park on the tracks, etc., etc.

The recent tragedy in Riverbank is enough to give me the hives:
Bill Ingalls, 50, of Modesto, was stopped on the opposite side of the tracks from the SUV when the accident happened.

"The bar came kind of like on her windshield, and I then I started waving for her to go back, and she didn't back up," Ingalls told the Modesto Bee. "So I started to go back, thinking I knew there was going to be an impact.

"So I went back a few feet, and still looking at her, and she still wasn't moving. She still wasn't trying to get backwards out of the way," he said. "At the last second she pulled forward. She didn't really accelerate to try and beat the train or anything. She just pulled forward, literally right into the train."

Left: From The Figurative Pineapple

B3ta's most-recent 'Question of the Week' asked it readers to submit the 'best graffiti ever'. In reponse came a deluge of strange images and various bizarre scribblings from around the globe - one of their best efforts ever! Some of these are classics!

From random ferret

From two_hats_shakir

From littlematt

From Baj

From mooglemania

From pixieelf

From is0lati0n

From (stolen by) sky blue sam

From crackhouseceilidhband

Underworld - Cowgirl [Everything, Everything]


in one final scream of love who could climb
this high she looks beautiful like a child
I feel tears
and I want to scream
you know what I mean cause this is hurting no one
am, an erazor of love

hurt the necessary feeling

why dont you call me I feel like flying in two (x4)

am, an erazor of love (x8)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

All That Paper

Just use computers!:
German researchers said Wednesday that they were launching an attempt to reassemble millions of shredded East German secret police files using complicated computerized algorithms.

The files were shredded as the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and it became clear that the East German regime was finished. Panicking officials of the Stasi secret police attempted to destroy the vast volumes of material they had kept on everyone from their own citizens to foreign leaders.

So great was the task that it overwhelmed the shredding machines, and a large number of the documents were torn by hand into between eight and thirty pieces.

Some 16,250 sacks containing pieces of 45 million shredded documents were found and confiscated after the reunification of Germany in 1990. Reconstruction work began 12 years ago but 24 people have been able to reassemble the contents of only 323 sacks.

...Berlin's Frauenhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology estimates that putting everything back together by hand would take 30 people 600 to 800 years.

Researchers are hopeful they will be able to put together 400 sacks in two years using new computer technology employed by the Frauenhofer Institute.
Vague Rumor

Tori Amos is writing a musical.
Death By "Battle Dancing"

As a way to go, it's OK:
A 48-year-old man has died while dancing, trying to outdo a rival with an acrobatic move while ``battle dancing," police said.

Robert Stitt and his rival were competing in a parking lot on Main Street Monday night when he tried a forward flip and landed on his head.

...Police said several people were in the parking lot drinking and battle dancing – a competition in which each dancer tries one-upmanship with unique dance moves.
The Travails Of Paris Hilton

So much schadenfreude, so little time:

The hotel heiress urged fans to join her in a desperate plea to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep her out of jail.

She wrote on her blog: "My friend Joshua started this petition, please help and sihn (sic) it. i LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!"

The petition reads: "Paris Whitney Hilton is an American celebrity and socialite. She is an heiress to a share of the Hilton Hotel fortune, as well as to the real estate fortune of her father Richard Hilton. She provides hope for young people all over the US and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives."

"We, the American public who support Paris, are shocked, dismayed and appalled by how Paris has been the person to be used as an example that Drunk Driving is wrong...

"This petition is to ask Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon Paris Hilton for her mistake. Please allow her to her return to her career and life."

But legal experts say Paris has little chance of staying out of jail.

One experienced attorney who specialises in driving under the influence (DUI) cases said: "Her chances of winning an appeal are little to none. The prosecutors had a slam dunk case. The evidence was overwhelming that she repeatedly violated her probation."

Paris has claimed that police only stop her so they can hit on her. She said: "I think I get in more trouble just because of who I am.

"The cops do it all the time.

"They'll just pull me over to hit on me. It's really annoying. They're like, 'What's your phone number? Want to go to dinner?' "
Blue's First Hike

Quite unexpectedly, Blue jumped from her nest this morning, stationed on my desk top, and then jumped on top of the keyboard (where all the action is, of course). Then she clambered across the keyboard and started climbing on my shirt. I helped her up to my shoulders, where she sat for awhile. She then moved between the shoulders and the chair back. Then she started falling off the chair back, so I helped her into my palm. I started flying exercises, quickly raising and lowering my hand, which triggers her flapping insinct, until she pooped in my hand. Then I released her on top of the desk so I could fetch a kleenex. She momentarily played with the keyboard, until she sat down and started dozing on the mousepad. Then, she got hungry again. Then, back to the nest for lunch!
Subtropical Storm Andrea

First named storm of the season! It's a strange one too, formed from an unusually-vigorous low that became cut-off from the mid-latitude circulation and found sustenance from warm Gulf Stream waters, so it's not entirely tropical in nature, nor entirely mid-latitude either:
Subtropical Storm Andrea had top sustained winds around 45 mph Wednesday morning and didn't appear to be much of a threat, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Still, a tropical storm watch was issued for parts of Georgia and Florida, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

"We're not looking at this system strengthening significantly," said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist at the center. "We're not viewing this as a major threat."

At 11 a.m. EDT, Andrea was centered about 140 miles southeast of Savannah, Ga., and about 150 miles northeast of Daytona Beach. The storm was moving west at about 3 mph.

Forecasters said no significant rain from the storm was expected to fall over land through at least Thursday morning. But wind-driven waves have been causing beach erosion in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and the ocean has lapped at beachfront homes and condominiums.

Subtropical systems are hybrid weather formations that are usually weaker than hurricanes and tropical storms. They are kind of a half-breed, sharing characteristics of tropical systems, which get their power from warm ocean water at their centers, and more typical bad weather that forms when warm and cold fronts collide, Pasch said.

Forecasters said Andrea has the warm center characteristic of tropical storms but its core is not particularly well defined. In addition, its winds are farther out from the center than they would be in a tropical storm.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Weasel Defense Coming Apart

The friends of Paul Wolfowitz must be smashing beer cans against their foreheads by now:
Paul Wolfowitz yesterday backed away from earlier claims that the World Bank's ethics committee had been kept informed of his handling of the pay and promotion of a colleague with whom he was romantically involved.

The president of the bank said in a letter to a special committee investigating allegations against him that earlier assertions that the bank's board was kept informed referred to an anonymous e-mail it had been sent by an angry member of staff.
Bush Finally Getting Some Good Advice

Just a bit late, that's all:
Sir Alistair Horne may be the only author in the world whose books have been read and praised by George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and Robert Fisk. ... The distinguished British historian, author of 18 books, became the talk of the U.S. chattering classes when it was revealed that President Bush was reading his classic account of the 1954-1962 Algerian War, "A Savage War of Peace." Indeed, Bush was so impressed with "A Savage War of Peace" that he invited Horne to come to the White House for tea and a talk last Thursday.

..."He was extremely courteous, very cheerful, loves jokes and he couldn't have been more charming. I was very honored," Horne said. "He was very determined. 'We're not going to give up, we're not going to give up,' he repeated from time to time. He was very interested in my book, had obviously read it most thoroughly, as he had my other book, 'The Price of Glory' [about the WWI battle of Verdun].

...That "A Savage War of Peace" is on the Bush administration's must-read list is one of the more remarkable intellectual ironies in recent years. Horne's book recounts the inevitable defeat of a colonialist power at the hands of a small but determined group of insurgents, the National Liberation Front, who effectively used terrorism to win their nation's freedom -- not exactly the sort of book you would expect Bush and his inner circle to curl up with. As Horne notes, the Algerian War "remains on the statute books as a prototype of the modern war of national liberation." Nelson Mandela's African National Congress guerrillas and Palestinian leaders both studied it, Horne points out. So did al-Qaida. And now, so has George W. Bush.
Backgrounder On Gustavo Arellano

The "Ask A Mexican!" columnist:
Ever wondered why Mexicans swim in the ocean with their clothes on, but were just too damn politically correct to ask? Well, OC Weekly columnist Gustavo Arellano is neither afraid of the question, nor afraid to give you a truthful, well-researched, and often hilarious answer. A compilation of his nationally syndicated “¡Ask a Mexican!” columns has just been released as a similarly titled book and should be required reading for every gabacho who thinks he knows just where he stands on immigration, burritos, and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Beloved for its bravery and derided for entertaining patently offensive notions of cultural stereotype, Arellano’s refreshing approach is to accept any question and research an answer that is rooted in history, etymology, and the best scholarship available. The effect is one of brilliant detournement, rendering explosive, hate-filled suppositions into lessons on culture and habit. Oh, and he might rip you a new culo while he’s at it.

And the reason you see all that denim at the beach? Arellano writes: “Unlike gabachos, Mexicans respect the public when it comes to flashing our flabby chichis, pompis, and cerveza guts – so when we’re out near the pool or by the beach, we cover up. It ain’t Catholicism, machismo, or an homage to our swim across the Rio Grande. It’s good manners.”
Preparations For Flying

Let's play "Totally Now - Workout!" on the CD player.....

Stretch right, stretch left, flaps out, tail under;
Stretch right, stretch left, flaps in, tail out;
Flap!, flap!, flap!, flap!;

Come on, no pain, no gain;
Stretch right, stretch left, stretch down the middle....;

Oh come on, you're not hungry again, are you?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rare Frogs Aren't Croaking

Relict leopard frogs near the Colorado River, in Nevada:
With their spotlights shining on a spring-fed creek off Lake Mohave, biologists Jef Jaeger and Dana Drake searched for one of the rarest creatures in Nevada, a once-forgotten frog that was thought to have gone extinct more than 50 years ago.
Binge Flying

It's so seductive and tempting! :
Ellingham now says travelling is so environmentally destructive that there is no such thing as a genuinely ethical holiday. He wants the industry to educate travellers about the damage their holidays do to the environment. The development he regrets most is the public's appetite for what he calls 'binge-flying'.

'The tobacco industry fouled up the world while denying [it] as much as possible for as long as they could,' said Ellingham. 'If the travel industry rosily goes ahead as it is doing, ignoring the effect that carbon emissions from flying are having on climate change, we are putting ourselves in a very similar position to the tobacco industry.'

...In the past 25 years, he said, there has been 'a huge growth in expectation of what people think they can do on holiday. People have more money. Flights cost a fraction of what they did then.'

...While determined to encourage people to reduce the number of flights they take, Ellingham admits he has no intention of stopping himself, and he does not expect others to do so either. 'As a "recovering travel writer", I fly less than I would like to, but more than I know that ethically I should. The deal I have made with myself is to limit the number of flights I take to one long-haul and two or three shorter flights each year,' he said. 'I very much respect the purist attitudes of those who say they will never fly again, but it's totally unrealistic to expect the majority to do the same.'

...Encouraging people to reduce the number of flights they take, however, is no easy task. Ellingham said he has been horrified by a new travelling trend. 'If there was just one thing I could change, it would be this new British obsession for binge flying,' he said. 'We now live in a society where, if people have nothing to do on a Saturday night, they go to Budapest for 48 hours. We fly anywhere at the slightest opportunity, 10 times and upwards a year. This needs to be addressed with the greatest urgency.'
The Enhanced Connecting Lackluster Omnivore

I fall squarely in-between all of these pigeon holes:
The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that adult Americans are broadly divided into three groups: 31 percent are elite technology users, 20 percent are moderate users and the remainder have little or no usage of the Internet or cell phones.

...Many longtime Internet users, the lackluster veterans, remain stuck in the decade-old technologies they started with, Horrigan said. ... The moderate users were also evenly divided into "mobile centrics," those who primarily use the cell phone for voice, text messaging and even games, and "connected but hassled," those who have used technology but find it burdensome.

...The Pew study found 15 percent of all Americans have neither a cell phone nor an Internet connection. Another 15 percent use some technology and are satisfied with what it currently does for them, while 11 percent use it intermittently and find connectivity annoying.
The Host Can't Help But Listen

The kid with spiders in his ear.

And don't forget the chicken-eating spider...

And the spider venom that has viagra-like effects....
Last Of The Silver

All my silver fillings have now been removed, as of today, and changed into that white porcelain-like stuff.
Early Atlantic Tropical Storm?

Very odd storm has developed off the Carolinas, that might turn into the first named storm of the season, even though the season doesn't even start until June 1st.
Marcus Crowder Liked "Hair"

Good review!
Theater's transcendent magic lives right now in a vibrant new production of "Hair" at The Space. Earnest, irreverent, lewd and lovely, the musical that put hippies on Broadway gets a glorious revival from the upstart Artistic Differences theater company.

...Electricity surges through the production, from Netty Carey's arresting lead vocal on the opening anthem "Aquarius" to Lindsay Grimes and Cierra Tahsini bringing home the soul-stirring closer "Let the Sunshine In."

Director Maggie Hollinbeck and her youthful tribe capture both the innocence and arrogance of the 1968 musical. The counterculture was still more a curiosity than a commodity then, though the interests and excesses of youth change little from generation to generation. As much a social phenomenon as a bracing breath of radical musical theater, "Hair" broke new ground when first produced in 1968.
Here is the SacBee multimedia presentation.
"A Wide Variety Of Food"


The Web Site says that Western Scrub Jays can eat a wide variety of food.....

Do you want the salmon? Lot's of good salmon! How about rice? Here's some hamburger! Or maybe the pineapple? Crushed peanuts? Strawberry is good this time of year. The tuna part of the tuna/cucumber delight is excellent. Apple? How about the beans? Beans are very nutritious! Navy or pinto? The cat food looks great. Look, E. bought two kinds, including salmon with vegetables....


Asparagus tip is great. You should try it. Look what E. insists on - shrimp! I would never have thought of shrimp! Banana is wonderful (maybe a bit pasty, so don't choke, but yummy!) Mandarin oranges? Lots of vitamin C! How about grapes? Here, let me peel them.... And don't forget the chicken chunks!

Pictures From "Annie Get Your Gun"

Left: Lauren Miller as "Annie Oakley". Also pictured are Mary Young as "Mrs. Wilson", (and largely obscured) Matthew Fyhrie as "Little Jake", Petra Favorite as "Jessie", Arrin Graham as "Nellie", and Sabrina Schloss as "Minnie".

Left: Mary Young as Mrs. Wilson, (largely obscured)Lauren Miller as "Annie Oakley", Arrin Graham as "Nellie", Petra Favorite as "Jessie", and Sabrina Schloss as "Minnie", and Matthew Fyhrie as "Little Jake".

Left: Lauren Miller as "Annie Oakley" and Michael McElroy as "Frank Butler".

Left: Lauren Miller as "Annie Oakley" and Mary Young as "Mrs. Wilson".

Left: Michael McElroy as "Frank Butler" and Lauren Miller as "Annie Oakley".
Baby On Board

It was early evening Saturday, 6:30 p.m., and I had to get to Davis from Folsom pronto, for DMTC's "Annie Get Your Gun." So, it was 75 -85 mph in the fast lane, down the hill and across the Sacramento Valley, Baby Blue and myself (the bird had been waiting patiently in the car while I had attended the housewarming party).

Bounding along the freeway, I thought it was a learning opportunity for Baby Blue, to experience - velocity! After all, how is a bird supposed to learn speed without actually experiencing it? So, I removed her as she sat upon her supporting masking tape and pie plate from the cardboard box and placed her on the dashboard as we raced through the eastern Sacramento suburbs on Highway 50. As we passed the Watt Avenue exit, she got into the spirit of things and clumsily flapped her wings three times, the first time she had ever done that so many times.

Approaching Howe Avenue, she moved out of the pie plate and started do her little pterodactyl crawl along the dashboard, which seemed slightly-hazardous as the car bounced vigorously along the pavement on its tight suspension, so I picked her up and set her in my lap. She painstakingly experimented with my finger as we drove past downtown Sacramento and as we joined Interstate 80 and emerged onto the Yolo Causeway, for the first time ever, she perched on my finger. I held her aloft with my right hand as I steered with the left. After awhile, her legs lost strength, so she was no longer exactly perched, but more or less sitting on my hand, but she didn't complain. She effortlessly flew into Davis watching the great views out the windows, as her driver took care of the more-mundane driving chores.
Folsom Housewarming

Left: Home, sweet home for Jim Lyons and Janice Da Silva.

Pleasant drive up to Folsom Saturday afternoon, but since I rarely go to Folsom at all, I did not know how to out-think ambiguous driving directions. Turns out Evite maps are no longer available after the party starts, rather than after the party ends, so mapless, I ended up driving randomly all over Folsom, but eventually located the party after violating the most sacred of the Sacred Laws of Men (I stopped at a convenience store and asked for directions).

Very pleasant house and very pleasant company! Decor is Mediterranean/Italianate.


Great dining room. Over hors d'ouevres, we bandied around the idea that I should debate my company's Big Boss regarding the merits/demerits of global climate change. Sounds scary, but fun!

Living room fireplace.

Learning how to make truffles. In background, co-worker Mark Peak.


Hi-tech see-saw.