Friday, November 30, 2007

Mystery Of The Missing Bracelet

So there's where it went:
It won't fit him anymore, but a Gloucester, Massachusetts man has his metal identity bracelet back after it was found inside a chicken gizzard in Fairmont, Minnesota.

Aaron Giles, who is now 32, lost the bracelet in his grandfather's barn 28 years ago.

Giles lived in Fairmont as a child and played hide-and-seek and other games with his brothers in the barn.

He told the Fairmont Sentinel he thinks he lost the bracelet when he was 4 or 5 years old.

The barn was dismantled a few years ago, and the materials were used to construct another barn in a town about 45 miles away. Giles thinks his bracelet was imbedded in the barn materials when they were moved.

Workers at a meat store were cutting up chickens when they spotted the bracelet in a chicken gizzard recently. Giles told the paper the bracelet pieces are intact and the clasp still works.

It had the street address and phone number of his childhood home engraved on the steel, along with his father’s name, Doug Giles. That allowed a worker to track him down.
RIP, Evel Knievel

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho's Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died today. He was 69.

Knievel's death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs.

Knievel had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills.
The Clock Rewinds

Something new from Deborah McMillion-Nering.
Gabe's Trip To Italy

Walt says:
Hey Gabe! Tell me about your trip to Italy!
Gabe replies:
Gosh, where to start?

Well, strictly speaking (or writing), I spent most of the week in Rome, with one day in Assisi.

I enjoyed both places, but would only visit Assisi again for the visit to a particular church that I missed. It was a place of pilgrimage for me, even though the place was beautiful, there are probably other places to visit in Italy before I would go back for a long visit.

I loved Rome. Let me say that again. I loved Rome.

It is a beautiful place, filled with wonderful people, many of them are tourists, but many more are residents who are pleasant, kind, and forgiving of one’s lack of knowledge of Italian.

I loved walking along the Tevere River (as we call it the Tiber). It is beautiful, and the Romans have constructed a marvelous levee and bridge system to contain it (though it seems like it seldom needs containing.

The churches are generally beautiful. Even the most remote and unused have exquisite side altars in addition to the main altar. I loved the Gesú; the Jesuit world headquarters most of all (even though I also fell in love with the Churches of St. Paul Outside the Walls).

You can find pictures of the Gesú here. Among the many paintings is one of the Sacred Heart that I find most moving (left).

St. Paul Outside the Walls is a wonderful Church, probably even better than the Gesú. This church is notable for many things, among them being one of the four major basilicas in Rome and the series of Papal medallions on the inside upper ridges of the church. This site has better pictures.

The reason I include these two is that I did not take pictures of either site. I did not have my camera for St. Paul OTW, and I was too enthralled by the Gesú.

Another wonderful church was St. Gregory the Builder. This church is wider than it is long! Again, no pictures, as I attended during Mass. It is run by the FSSP, a fraternity of priests whose charism is to perform the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (the old Latin Mass). Take a look here.

I loved that place. More later.

Hostage Crisis

One of the problems the Iraqi War has created is that we are beginning to introduce new, foreign ideas, like suicide bombing, into our domestic politics.

The longer we stay in Iraq, the more we become like our enemies.

Hello Campaign 2008!

MMMMMAAAAARRRRCCCCC! They are just a bunch of dumbies - uh, uh.....uh, zombies over there! One of the kids ran into a pole and chipped his front tooth. And it hurt! And so I called his dad, who said "send him back to class, he's a tough kid." MMMMMAAAAARRRRCCCCC! They don't take care of their kids!

And then I had to call the Russian woman, who has two sons - she's so nice - 'cause someone walked up to her son, and kicked him! Hard! Just like that! They are like the Three Stooges over there! MMMMMAAAAARRRRCCCCC!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why Should Mortgages Be Recorded?

THIS is why mortgages should be recorded - the corruption case of Tommy K and his relation to the bigger mess of Republican Congressional corruption.
Expansion Crests

Only so far you can go:
After 25 years of what health officials call an obesity epidemic, American adults finally may be getting a handle on the battle of the bulge, according to federal data released Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 34.3% of adults -- or more than 72 million people -- were obese in 2005 and 2006. The figures were essentially unchanged from the previous two-year period for the first time since 1980.

...The report didn't weigh in on why Americans seem to be holding steady. Experts surmised that the government's incessant calls for people to slim down may be finally paying off. They added that membership in fitness clubs is on the rise, and prohibitions against artery-clogging trans fats in restaurants are gaining ground in the name of public health.

Others raised a more fundamental explanation.

Glenn Gaesser, an exercise physiologist at the University of Virginia and author of the iconoclastic book "Big Fat Lies," said there just may be metabolic limit to body weight.

Americans may have finally reached that point. "You can only get so fat," he said.
"The Producers" To Close In Vegas

Apparently "Springtime For Hitler" just doesn't hit those buttons they way it used to. What is needed is a Vegas concept show independent of Broadway. Making Max Bialystock a Rat Pack wannabe and giving Leo Bloom an Ernst & Young pedigree might be a half-measure that would flop as well.

What would be inspired, yet tastelessly offensive, in Vegas? Maybe "Lust For Life," starring Steve Wynn as Michelangelo? Or "The Sound Of Music" featuring Jenna Jameson as Maria and Pamela Anderson as the Mother Superior? "Driving Miss Daisy", starring Kanye West and Paris Hilton?

I don't know....

Anyway, Richard Abowitz writes:
..."The Producers" will have lasted exactly one year to the day in Vegas when closing in celebration of its one-year anniversary on Feb. 9, 2008. I say celebrate because, as always in Vegas, shows don't fail.

Rather the press release announcing the show's Vegas death refers to its "successful Vegas run." We all define success differently, I guess. But in my world, the rule of thumb is that with the exception of Celine Dion, nothing successful closes in Vegas.

The obvious point is that Vegas as Broadway West has proven to be a very expensive and elusive dream for a lot of resorts. The only obvious success of a Broadway-style show in Vegas has been "Mamma Mia" at Mandalay Bay, which has lasted for a few years. But even "Mamma Mia" is targeted to close next year. "Avenue Q" at Wynn and "Hairspray" at Luxor did not even last a year on the Strip.

It is unclear to me how well either "Spamalot" at Wynn or "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular" at the Venetian are doing right now. But of the Broadway shows to set up shop here, they are also the two most compatible with Vegas. "Phantom" offers a theater experience like no other: where the stage, sets, props and special effects get more applause than even the talented cast. It is shorter and sharper than the Broadway version, and much more a Vegas show. "Spamalot" sports the Monty Python brand, of course, as well as a comic sensibility that is perfect for the absurdity of a night in Vegas.

Anyway, it isn't like the Broadway West dream is entirely dead. The next Broadway show to set up a theater in Vegas will be "Jersey Boys" at the Venetian's expansion. It begins previews April 4.
The Disadvantages Of Celebrity, I Assume

Rodney King's current woes:
King was riding his back home to Rialto late Wednesday when someone fired on him with a pellet gun. King made it home and called police, said Rialto police Sgt. Don Lewis. King suffered minor injuries to his face, back and upper torso, according to police description.
Is This A Piece Of The Puzzle?

Trent Lott's brother-in-law, indicted:

Sen. Trent Lott's brother-in-law, Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, a high profile trial lawyer best known for suing big tobacco and insurance companies, has been indicted on bribery charges.

Several media outlets are reporting the news about Scruggs, who has been accused of trying to bribe a Mississippi judge. Scruggs is perhaps best known for suing tobacco companies in multi-billion dollar lawsuits in the late 1990s. But he also acted as Lott's lawyer, as well as the attorney for many Mississippi homeowners, in a successful lawsuit against State Farm Insurance when the firm denied thousands of claims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Scruggs is perhaps the most powerful attorney in Mississippi, but is well known in Washington for his involvement in tobacco and asbestos litigation over the years.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yes, They Want Fries With That

Teed off Trannies come to a Memphis McDonald's:
Police Lieutenant Trevor Tisby says the cross-dressers came inside and decided they wanted to fight with the restaurant crew.

Witnesses say the men hit the manager with a tire tool and -- when he swung back at them -- kicked off stiletto boots and pulled off hoop earrings and jackets for a fight.

When it was over, the manager was taken to the hospital after being hit in the head with a "wet floor" sign and Albert Bolton was bandaged from where he said his attackers used their fingernails to scratch him.

Before they drove off, the three attackers smashed the drive-through window.

All three were charged with Aggravated Assault and Vandalism.

I Am What I Am--Tony Awards

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap......

Mob Museum

A non-profit organization in Las Vegas will receive license plate fees to help run a museum about the Mob.

Taxpayers will be asked to buy back things that were probably stolen in the first place.

Follow the money, follow the money:
And while previous city announcements have said the museum will focus on broader Las Vegas history, "including the influence of organized crime," a presentation Monday indicated that the museum's exhibits will be tightly focused on the valley's colorful Mafia past.

..."It's a very complex project," said Nancy Deaner, manager of cultural affairs for the city of Las Vegas. "Not only is it a historic project for our community, but it has far-reaching tentacles all over the United States."

Deaner provided an overview of what the exhibits in the three-story building would cover, including:

• Las Vegas' development in the days of Prohibition and bootlegging.

• The influx of organized crime.

• How mob operations in various cities were connected.

• A guide to "following the money" from its sources through the money laundering process.

• The infamous Kefauver hearings on organized crime.

The post office building, located on Stewart Avenue next to the shuttered Lady Luck Casino, was also the city's first federal courthouse and was one of the sites of the Kefauver hearings, named for crusading U.S. senator C. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee.

Organizers recently met with FBI officials in Washington D.C. and secured a promise that the agency will locate and loan organized crime artifacts for the museum's displays.

That could include photos, weapons, cars and other evidence, said Ellen Knowlton, the former head of the Las Vegas FBI office and president of 300 Stewart Ave. Corp., the nonprofit that's working with the city on the museum.

The commission approved a grant of $300,000 that the nonprofit will use to buy artifacts as they become available.

In addition, Mayor Oscar Goodman said Pileggi -- who wrote "Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas" as well as the screenplay for Martin Scorsese's 1995 film -- is willing to join the project, perhaps initially by writing a script for an introductory film.

"He said whatever we need," Goodman said. "He wants to be a part of this."

Goodman, who defended organized crime figures in his pre-mayoral career as an attorney, has long championed the idea of a mob-themed museum. On Monday, he gushed again about some crowd-pleasing possibilities, including allowing visitors to purchase "mugshots" of themselves and having a recorded voice read visitors their Miranda rights as they enter the exhibits.

Projections call for the museum to attract 800,000 visitors a year and to serve as a daytime destination downtown.

"I think our numbers are fairly conservative," Knowlton said, noting the popularity of the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. That museum saw more than 1 million visitors in its first year, more than twice as many as estimates predicted.

The exhibits at the Las Vegas museum won't glorify organized crime, she said. The aim is to show the history of organized crime in America and how law enforcement worked to extract the mob's influence from gaming.

"There's no other museum like this," Knowlton said.
The Wile E. Coyote Moment?

The stock market took off today (DJI climbed 331 points, to 13,289). The volatility continues and people are happy (for the instant).

Nevertheless, a shadow crossed the economists' doorsteps today, with Brad Setser's graph showing capital flows in and out of the U.S. They've stopped. That means trouble....

Since we've shipped so much of our manufacturing base overseas, and ship so much our currency overseas as well, in order to purchase manufactured goods, we must, in turn, attract investment from overseas in order to retain our standard of living. Anything that interferes with that process will cause people everywhere to suffer.

As Econospeak sayeth:
The blue stuff is private sector financing of the US current account deficit; the red stuff is life support from foreign central banks and SIV’s (sovereign investment funds). Brad Setser points out, as he has from the beginning of his blog, that official flows (red) are greatly underestimated; by arithmetic logic they have to make up the difference between private flows and the current account.

But the point is clear: if the US were any other country (i.e. too big to fail), we would be in the grips of an economic crisis at this very moment. Foreign exchange would freeze up, essential goods would be unavailable, mass layoffs would ripple across the land, while the dollar would sink like a stone. This would be Mexico 1994, Argentina 2001.

But it’s not, at least not right now. By the grace of central bankers and oil fund managers we in the US get to sip our latte (or in my case Darjeeling) and muse on this question in tranquility. But the dollar keeps going down, and the governments that prop us up are taking really big losses.
The dollar is poised for a collapse. As Paul Krugman mentioned in September:
I could say that I saw this coming; the problem is that I’ve been seeing it coming for several years, and it keeps not arriving (and I don’t know if this is really it, even now.) The argument I and others have made is that the U.S. trade deficit is, fundamentally, not sustainable in the long run, which means that sooner or later the dollar has to decline a lot. But international investors have been buying U.S. bonds at real interest rates barely higher than those offered in euros or yen — in effect, they’ve been betting that the dollar won’t ever decline.

So, according to the story, one of these days there will be a Wile E. Coyote moment for the dollar: the moment when the cartoon character, who has run off a cliff, looks down and realizes that he’s standing on thin air – and plunges. In this case, investors suddenly realize that Stein’s Law applies — “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop” – and they realize they need to get out of dollars, causing the currency to plunge. Maybe the dollar’s Wile E. Coyote moment has arrived – although, again, I’ve been wrong about this so far.
The dollar keeps sliding against the Euro. A breaking point is near.

And then what? A recession? Another Great Depression? Egads.....
The Impact Of History On The Popular Imagination

There was a short article in the Wilson Quarterly regarding a list compiled by Japan's NTV from surveys of its viewers of the "100 Most Influential People In History". Some of the results made me fall over laughing. On the list, for example, some historical heavyweights like Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, or Mao Tse-Tung were nowhere to be found, but people like Freddie Mercury (lead singer of 'Queen') and the glamorous actress Audrey Hepburn were to be found (plus Walt Disney, of course). And while Jesus Christ is more popular than Confucius, John Lennon is more popular than either. I had to chase down this list....

On the Japan Probe web site, they feature three lists, actually, reflecting different surveys, at different times: "Historical Heroes" (presumably the 100 most influential people in all of history), plus the "100 Favorite People In History", and the "100 Favorite Women In History". I've compiled the three lists below....

The lists are an amazing mish-mash: A well-educated, well-grounded understanding of history on the part of the viewers (indicating a sound education), but with numerous, fantastical elements that reflect, in part, recollections of recent historical mini-series featured on Japanese television, plus numerous specialty interests (Jean Henri Casimir Fabre, the founder of modern Entomology, the study of insects, places 88th on the Favorites list), plus numerous singers, actresses, and even athletes.

I remember taking a course in college on Japanese history, and at the time, the person who caught my imagination as the single most important person in the entire sweep of all of Japanese history was Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. If anyone had a claim to Number One, El Supremo, Numero Uno, it was him.

Nevertheless, Japanese television viewers do not agree. They place Tokugawa Ieyasu twelvth. Instead, they place Sakamoto Ryoma, the nemesis of the Tokugawa Shogunate, as the single most important person, not just in Japanese history, but in ALL of human history.

Ryōma is often regarded as the ‘father of the Imperial Japanese Navy, as he worked towards creating a modern naval force (with the aid of western powers) to enable Satsuma and Chōshū to hold their own against the naval forces of the Tokugawa bakufu.

Chōshū’s subsequent victory over the Tokugawa army in 1866 and the impending collapse of the Tokugawa bakufu made Sakamoto a valuable commodity to his former masters in Tosa. Ryōma was recalled to Kochi with honours. Tosa domain was anxious to obtain a negotiated settlement between the Shogun and the Emperor, which would prevent the powerful Satcho Alliance from overthrowing the Tokugawa by force and thus emerging as a new dominant force in ruling Japan.Ryōma played a crucial role in the subsequent negotiations which led to the voluntary resignation of Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu in 1867, thus bringing about the Meiji Restoration.

Nevertheless I'm still looking to find a place for poor, friendless Adolph.......

Historical Heroes_______Historical Favorites_____Historical Favorite Women

Sakamoto Ryoma_____________01 Oda Nobunaga_______________1. Natsume Masako
Napoleon I_________________02 Sakamoto Ryoma______________2. Audrey Hepburn
Oda Nobunaga________________03 Thomas Edison_______________3. Princess Diana
Saigo Takamori______________04 Hideyoshi Toyotomi__________4. Cleopatra
Miyamoto no Yoshitsune______05 Matsushita Konosuke ________5. Mother Teresa
Joan of Arc _______________06 Tokugawa Ieyasu_____________6. Florence Nightingale
Hideyoshi Toyotomi__________07 Noguchi Hideyo______________7. Grace Kelly
Albert Einstein_____________08 Mother Teresa ______________8. Marilyn Monroe
Yutaka Ozaki________________09 Helen Keller________________9. Joan of Arc
Akechi Mitsuhide____________10 Hijikata Toshizo____________10. Marie Antoinette
Genghis Khan_______________11 Saigo Takamori__________11. Honda Minako (singer)
Tokugawa Ieyasu_____________12 Princess Diana _____________12. Yang Guifei
Thomas Edison_______________13 Albert Einstein_____________13. Helen Keller
Florence Nightingale _______14 Misora Hibari_______________14. Vivien Leigh
Chiune Sugihara_____________15 Fukuzawa Yukichi____________15. Ingrid Bergman
Kyu Sakamoto_______________16 Anne Frank _____________16. Teresa Teng (Singer)
Hijikata Toshizo____________17 Florence Nightingale _______17. Okada Yukiko (Singer)
Rikidozan_________________18 Yoshida Shigeru_____________18. Katharine Hepburn
Yoshida Shoin_______________19 Walt Disney_________________19. Marie Curie
Mahatma Gandhi____________20 Ludwig Van Beethoven________20. Eri Chiemi (Singer)
Prince Shotoku_____________21 Minamoto Yoshitsune_________21. Jang Geum (Doctor)
George Washington_________22 Ayrton Senna (Auto Racer)___22. Anne Sullivan(teacher)
Sanada Yukimura_____________23 Da Vinci____________________23. Natalie Wood
Mother Teresa ___________24 Tezuka Osamu_____________24. Yosano Akiko (Author)
Yujiro Ishihara___________25 Napoleon Bonaparte__________25. Ono no Komachi (Poet)
Kakuei Tanaka_______________26 Prince Shotoku______________26. Anne Frank
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart_____27 John Lennon_________________27. Hojo Masako
Abraham Lincoln_____________28 Zhuge Liang_________________28. Mukoda Kuniko
Oishi Yoshio________________29 Miyamoto Musashi____________29. Marlene Dietrich
Okita Soji__________________30 Ozaki Yutaka____________30. Emon Yuko (Essayist)
Christopher Columbus________31 Audrey Hepburn _____________31. Empress Himiko
Admiral Togo Heihachiro_____32 Mahatma Ghandi___________32. Tomoegozen (Warrior)
Martin Luther King Jr.______33 Soseki Natsume______________33. Nene (Famous Nun)
Andy Hug______________34 Takasugi Shinsaku___________34. Maria Theresa (Queen)
Amakusa Shiro_______________35 Murasaki Shikibu____________35. Kasuganotsubone
Hideyo Noguchi______________36 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart_____36. Elizabeth I
Bruce Lee______________37 Yamamoto Isoroku____________37. Kaneko Misuzu (Poet)
Leonardo da Vinci___________38 Miyazawa Kenji______________38. Maeda Matsu
Abe no Seimei_______________39 John F. Kennedy_____________39. Chiyo
Walt Disney_________________40 Ninomiya Sontoku________40. Kaai Kazumi (Singer)
Kondo Isami_________________41 Kondo Isami_________________41. Shizuka Gozen
Date Masamune_______________42 Okubo Toshimichi____________42. Princess Noh
Akira Kurosawa______________43 Takeda Shingen______________43. Suzuki Sonoko
Julius Caesar_______________44 Himiko______________________44. Maria Callas
Chosuke Ikariya_____________45 Ino Tadataka______________45. Sei Shonagon (Poet)
Audrey Hepburn _____________46 Ishihara Yujiro_____________46. Ichikawa Fusae
Liu Bei_________________47 Sen no Rikyu______________47. Aoe Mina (Enka Singer)
Ryunosuke Akutagawa_________48 Charlie Chaplin__________48. Higuchi Ichiyo(Writer)
John Lennon________________49 Sugihara Chiune_____________49. Hosokawa Gracia
Takasugi Shinsaku__________50 Date Masamune____________50. Taichi Kiwak(Actress)
Naomi Uemura________________51 Tanaka Giichi______________51. The Virgin Mary
Freddy Mercury______________52 Bruce Lee___________________52. Okada Yoshiko
Isoroku Yamamoto____________53 Okita Souji_____________53. Hitomi Kinue (Athlete)
Osamu Tezuka________________54 Matsuda Yusaku______________54. Oichi no Kata
Ninomiya Sontoku____________55 Marie Antoinette________55. Miyako Chocho(Actress)
Charlie Chaplin_____________56 Oishi Kuranosuke________56. Tsuda Umeko (Educator)
Princess Diana _____________57 Ikariya Chosuke___________57. Empress Dowager Cixi
Ludwig van Beethoven________58 Wright Brothers_____________58. Princess Sen
Ryotaro Shiba______________59 Katsu Kaishu____________59. Horie Shinobu(Actress)
Pablo Picasso_______________60 Martin Luther King Jr.______60. Shirashu Masako
John F Kennedy______________61 Yoshida Shoin_______________61. Sakamoto Oryo
Yuri Gagarin________________62 Jesus Christ________________62. Ariyoshi Sawako
Shohei "Giant" Baba_______63 Kurosawa Akira_____________63. Jackie Kennedy
Kong Ming_________________64 Uesugi Kenshin__________64. Kazu-no-Miya Chikako
Anne Frank _________________65 Marie Curie________________65. Okamoto Kanoko
Daijiro Kato________________66 Sato Eisaku_________________66. Yamaoka Hisano
Cao Cao_____________________67 Sanada Yukimura_____________67. Koshiji Fubuki
Tokugawa Yoshimune__________68 Cao Cao__________________68. Kobayashi Chitose
Arthur Conan Doyle__________69 Kato Daijiro________________69. Izumo no Okuni
Elvis Presley_______________70 Cleopatra (Egyptian Queen)__70. Aratama Michiyo
Galileo Galilei_____________71 Tokugawa Mitsukuni__________71. Takamine Mieko
Empress Himiko ___________72 Elvis Presley_______________72. Izumi Shikibu (Poet)
Yusaku Matsuda______________73 Ogi Akira (Baseball Player)_73. Catherine I
Pierre and Marie Curie______74 Togo Heihachiro_____________74. Oya Masako
Ferdinand Magellan__________75 Christopher Columbus________75. Noguchi Shika
James Dean__________________76 Ito Hirobumi________________76. Empress Jito
Yukio Mishima_______________77 Pablo Picasso_______________77. Komori Kazuko
Taira no Masakado___________78 Marco Polo______________78. Awaya Noriko (Singer)
Hokusai____________________79 Albert Schweizer____________79. Chusonji Yutsuko
Sen no Rikyu____________80 Yosano Akiko (Author)_______80. Matsui Sumako(Actress)
Kiyoshi Atsumi______________81 Andy Hug (Star of K-1)______81. Hasegawa Machiko
Federic Chopin______________82 Tsuburaya Eiji______________82. Tanaka Kinuyo
Babe Ruth_______________83 Joan of Arc _______________83. Yododono (Concubine)
Sun Yat-sen______________84 Honda Minako (singer)_______84. Ginsan/Kinsan (Twins)
Ayrton Senna________________85 Uemura Naomi________________85. Gubijin
Takanohana Koji_____________86 Sugita Genpaku_____________86. Matsuo Kazuko
William Shakespeare_________87 Confucius________________87. Jackie Sato (Wrestler)
Shirasu Jiro________________88 Jean Henri Casimir Fabre ___88. Sakamoto Otome
Taira no Kiyomori___________89. Natsume Masako (Actress)___89. Maehata Hideko
Eisaku Sato_________________90 Ferdinand Magellan__________90. Eva Peron
The Wright Brothers_________91 Honda Soichiro______________91. Murasaki Shikibu
Stanely Kubrick_____________92 Anne Sullivan_______________92. Sugimura Haruko
Theodore Roosevelt__________93 Shohei "Giant" Baba_________93. Iwasaki Chihiro
Hiraga Gennai_______________94 Abraham Lincoln_____________94. Mata Hari
Miyamoto Musashi____________95 Dazai Osamu________________95. Agatha Christie
Eiji Tsuburaya______________96 Chopin___________________96. Florence G. Joiner
Abebe Bikila________________97 Ikkyu_______________________97. Tojin Okichi
Eiji Sawamura____________98 Akechi Mistuhide____________98. Kawakami Sadayakko
Isaac Newton________________99 Isaac Newton________________99. Yamano Aiko
Matthew Galbraith Perry_____100 Matsuo Basho_______________100. Mary Carpenter

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hillary Clinton, And Her South Carolina Campaign

Walt went down today to see Hillary Clinton make a speech in Aiken, SC:
Hillary came to Aiken today, and I went to hear her speak. I do not count myself as a Hillary supporter, but she is a famous personage, and she may become President, so I thought it would be worthwhile. Also, I thought maybe I could make a few extra bucks by asking a planted question on behalf of her campaign. In this I was mistaken, however; nobody made me an offer.

About 1,200 people showed up, but 200 were turned away because the gym could only hold 1,000. Most attendees were older than 50; there were also a lot of teenagers, but very, very few people in between. It was during business hours, and most people were at work. Blacks were under-represented in the crowd. Although Aiken County is 30% black, only 10% of the audience was. This under-representation is even more striking when you realize that about 60% of democratic voters in South Carolina are black! However, the delegation of local Democratic dignitaries (County councilmen, chairs of local Dem organizations, etc) was about half black. I interpret this to mean that Hillary has more support among black politicians than she does among the black population at large. There were about 20 volunteer staffers handing out buttons and placards, etc. More than half of these folks were black. I don’t know what that means.

The newspaper had made a big deal about how security was going to be “tight”, but I was surely impressed in the other direction. There were no magnetometers, people did not have to open their bags, there were no rules about what could be brought in and what couldn’t, people did not even have to walk by a cop to get in. Truthfully, fans going to Penn State football games are vetted more carefully than the public was here. There were a few cops standing around, and Hillary had about 5 Secret Service men watching the crowd, arriving long after everyone was already seated. The general public sat as close as 30 feet from her; if anyone wanted to throw a pie at her, it would have been easy to get within range.

Hillary arrived 15 minutes late, which is about as close to being on time as I’ve ever seen for a politician. She gave a 45-minute speech. There was one rude interruption during her presentation. Pretty close to the beginning, a young guy with long hair and a beard stood up in the aisle and shouted at her. Hillary did not miss a beat; she did not stop talking, and since she had the microphone and the protester didn’t, I couldn’t hear a single word the guy said. He shouted about two sentences from about 100 feet away, waving his arms; a cop and a Secret Service guy approached him from behind. I thought they might wrestle him to the ground, or taser him, but the guy stopped on his own, and the cops did not restrain him. The guy turned around and walked out, with the cop following closely.

I think Hillary looks better now than she did when Bill was president. I guess she’s paying more attention to her appearance. She is an effective public speaker, but she did make a mistake (which I believe went unnoticed by most of the audience). She started out saying that her presidency will have four goals. I thought good, when speaking to inform or persuade, it helps to put the main ideas explicitly in front of the audience. However, she then did not list the goals, but rather went right into Goal #1, Restoring American Leadership. Her next goal was Goal #3, Reforming Government! She never said what Goals 2 and 4 were!

The content of her speech could not have been a surprise to anyone. We should get out of Iraq. Universal health care. Develop alternative energy sources. More education spending. America has been on the wrong track for 7 years. If the Democrats want to win, they need a candidate with experience.

Right now I’ve got three issues which concern me: (1) global warming, (2) homeland security, (3) illegal immigration. I’m not sure which one is my highest priority now, and I certainly don’t know which will be my highest next November. I will make my choice based on a subset of those issues. If Global Warming is my Number 1 in eleven months, then I will vote Democratic. If it’s Homeland Security, I’ll vote Republican. If it’s Illegal Immigration, I don’t know what I’ll do. Here’s what Hillary had to say:

Global Warming: She mentioned it, fairly early in her speech. She wants to do an “Apollo Project” effort on alternative energy sources, such as biofuels, ethanol, hydrogen, solar power, geothermal, and wind power. She left out nuclear. That tells me that although she may (or may not) attach more importance to climate than President Bush, global warming is not her first priority. But we knew that – her first priority is socialized health care.

Homeland Security: She said nothing on this subject during her 45-minute prepared speech.

Illegal Immigration: She said nothing on this subject during her 45-minute prepared speech.

After her prepared speech, she took about 8 questions from the audience. It made me reflect on the stupidity of politicians and their staffs. Hillary has taken some hits recently for “stacking the deck” at public appearances – having campaign workers planted in the audience, asking questions for which the answers have been prepared in advance. It is a way to make the candidate look smarter and more well-informed than he/she really is. Well shit, there’s no need to plant questions here in Aiken. Person after person delivered up creampuff cotton candy questions. I don’t think they were planted; I think the questioners wanted to show common cause with the candidate.

Except for the very last question. A teenage girl, so nervous she could hardly get the words out, asked “What do you think about illegal immigration?” Hillary was ready. Without hesitating at all, she said that we need to strengthen the border. However, from a practical standpoint, we cannot deport all the illegal aliens. Hillary said that she wants to identify the illegal aliens, so that they may pay their back taxes. If they’ve been using a false SS number, then they will not get back those contributions. These aliens should get in line for citizenship, behind those aliens who have come here legally. And, they should speak English! At the English remark, the audience burst into spontaneous applause!

It was a very well composed answer, and it was delivered with perfect timing, without pausing to gather her thoughts. She or her speechwriter developed her position beforehand. Her position is offering illegal immigrants citizenship, and getting tough on them at the same time. In fact, it sounds kind of too tough, for a Democrat, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think: Although she has obviously put a great deal of thought into this detailed position, she does not think it’s important enough to mention during her 45-minute prepared speech. And it has been this exact issue which has embarrassed her in the recent debates! In the past month or so, Hillary has been conspicuously waffling on the illegal issue, and she has been slipping in the polls. She is not stupid; her waffling was not because she didn’t know what she thinks. She waffled because her opinion is contrary to the opinion of most Americans, and she knew that being honest about it would cost her the election. So, over the past weeks, she has built up the courage to…well…mislead us about her intentions. She wants to win, so she’ll give us the impression that she will be tough with these people, even though that is not her actual intention. Is Hillary the first candidate to lie to the public? Hell no, most of them in both parties lie. However, it is important for us to recognize it when they do, so we can accurately gauge who will represent the majority, and who will represent a special interest.

One last thought. I was surprised when even a Democratic audience applauded about making illegal aliens speak English. If liberals feel that way, how does the average American feel? The immigration issue is a runaway winner for whoever wants to pick it up. The Republicans are supposedly behind in the election. Maybe so. But if any Republican candidate is man enough to turn his back on the corporate campaign donors, who want to displace American workers with low-paid foreigners, he’ll win the election. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic that this will happen.

Jingle Bells (Streisand Version)

The general consensus in the "Brigadoon" men's dressing room is that Bab's version of "Jingle Bells" is the worst rendition of a holiday song ever attempted in human history (and that includes Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad")

Jingle Bells

I - can't - stop.....

The horse was lean and lank
misfortune seemed his lot....

More, more, more!

Barbra Makes An Endorsement

Barbra Streisand likes Hillary:
"Madame President of the United’s an extraordinary thought. We truly are in a momentous time, where a woman’s potential has no limitations," said Streisand. "Hillary Clinton has already proven to a generation of women that there are no limits for success. She is driven by her passion for public service and her belief in the enormous potential of our country. Smart, capable and strong in her convictions, Hillary has transcended the dictates of what is thought to be possible for our time.
Economic Madness

Citibank gets a big infusion of cash from Abu Dhabi at 11% interest, and Wall Street goes nuts with joy!

Like these folks say:
Citibank has essentially become a sub-prime borrower -- only without the advantages of teaser rates!
The End of the American Empire is nigh!
Terrible Fall

This recent death, apparently accidental, of Megan Rountree, strikes close to home. I know one of the architects who helped design the parking structure at 14th and H, and I know it must come as a shock to them. And Crepeville, where she worked, is just around the corner.

Megan, we hardly knew ye....
Totally Tubular

Massive rain event coming to AZ, this weekend…...
The Long Reach Of The Sub-Prime Crisis

I'm continually struck at just how far-reaching the effects of what, so far, seems to me to be a rather-modest shortfall amongst the sub-prime mortgages (with only 17%, or so, two months or more behind in payments). It just shows how tightly-wound the economy really is, and how we really are all interdependent. What happens if we get a recession too?:
The Norwegian port town of Narvik is 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, but that's not far enough north to escape the long arm of Citigroup. One of four Norwegian towns that invested millions of dollars in complex "structured finance" products cooked up by Citigroup, Narvik is now facing huge losses after the investments went sour, presumably because of their exposure to subprime credit woes.

From the Aftenposten:
So acute is the funding squeeze that some towns, like Narvik, couldn't meet payroll for December. Cuts in everything from education to child care programs to elder care and holiday Christmas parties loom.
Terra Securities, the investment banking arm of a coalition of Norwegian banks, marketed the Citigroup products to the towns, and representatives of the broker are making predictable comments about how investment success is never guaranteed. Buyer beware! But there's a catch. According to Norwegian press reports, Terra Securities provided translations of the prospectus in both English and Norwegian. But the part of the prospectus warning of the risk that one might lose one's shirt (and one's Christmas parties) was somehow omitted from the Norwegian materials.

Funny, that. A skeptic might wonder whether a full translation would really have made any difference even if the risks had been spelled out and written across the sky in giant pulsating neon letters. Certainly, the Norwegian municipal politicians who made the decision to go for the big returns weren't anticipating one of the worst credit crunches to hit global financial markets in decades. How could their child care program funding possibly be connected to whether or not a homeowner in Granada Hills, Calif., made sensible decisions on whether to refinance her mortgage?
Citigroup is also denying any responsibility for the bad Narvikian investment decisions.

But Citigroup has bigger problems. On Monday, it was vigorously denying a CNBC report claiming the bank would be forced to lay off of as many as 45,000 employees. (Thanks to Calculated Risk for the tip.) Meanwhile, a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal reported in great detail on problems Citigroup is facing working out loan modifications for homeowners facing foreclosure, especially for those whose mortgages are part of a $45 billion portfolio of subprime mortgages handled by AMC Mortgage Services, which Citigroup bought in September.
How Many Of Us In The American West Missed Our True Calling?

The ways some people manage to make money ($40,000+ a year):
Linda started her online business, the Prairie Tumbleweed Farm, as a joke. It was 1994 and she wanted to teach herself how to design a website. Since she lived on the prairie in southwest Kansas, where rolling tumbleweeds are sometimes the only dynamic feature of an endless flat horizon, she invented a farm that sold tumbleweeds, listing prices at $15 for a small one, $20 for a medium and $25 for large.

...“When I got an order I was just amazed,” she says, sitting on the porch of her home in Garden City, Kansas. “And each order I got, I thought it would probably be the last order. I remember thinking they would probably get them and send them back immediately as soon as they find out what they are.”

But that didn't happen. In fact, the orders just kept coming -- an average of 15 per week. Though she’s coy about her annual income from tumbleweed wrangling, she says it is over $40,000 a year. Not bad for a bunch of dead, dried-up weeds. Who buys them? Well, says Katz, rocket scientists, for one. NASA purchased tumbleweeds when they were designing their Mars Tumbleweed rover.

...Hollywood has also come calling. Katz’s tumbleweeds have appeared in films like Johnny Depp’s “Neverland.” And she has supplied tumbleweeds to the big purple dinosaur kid’s show, “Barney.”
And stores sometimes use them for display windows....

Who knew?
Divining Political Portents With The Liberals

How embarrassing! I got distracted by a telephone call and completely forgot about Monday night's exercise class with Step One's glamorous aerobics fanatics. Instead, I went to a late-Thanksgiving dinner with a group of liberals in Davis.

(Gabe asks: Liberals in Davis? Liberals in Davis? Is that possible? I respond: Yes, Gabe, there are liberals in Davis!)

The question of the evening was: Why did Trent Lott decide to resign from the Senate? He stated that his health wasn't to blame, which only deepened the mystery about what was to blame.

So we kicked around some ideas:
  • Bush is putting big plans into action and insisted on total support from all Republicans in the congressional leadership, support that Lott couldn't extend;
  • We are about to attack Iran, and Lott didn't want anything to do with it;
  • Larry Flynt's recent ruminations about a brewing sexual scandal point at Lott;
  • Republican electoral prospects look poor at the moment, and Lott didn't want anything to do with it;
  • It's time to shepherd all the liberals into Guantanamo-style prison camps, and Lott didn't want anything to do with that either;
  • Lott saw big opportunities in lobbying, and he wanted to jump the gun on the new law that takes effect soon that requires a two-year waiting period before becoming a lobbyist.
Basically, we have no idea why Trent Lott decided to resign from the Senate.
Mystery Prize

The siren song of the Capay Hills called after the Woodland Thanksgiving dinner. Having travelled from Sacramento, we were 60% the way there already. Time for blackjack at Cache Creek Casino!

At the casino, it was slow-going before take off occurred. At one point I pulled ahead $400. But I blew that lead, and slowly sank into ignominious disgrace.

E. found the evening very upsetting. At one point, she won 15 free spins on her slot machine, and won 5,000 pennies during the 15 free spins - a pretty-big prize on the penny machines. Then the slot machine presented her with a dialog box, and posed three choices for her consideration:
  • Claim her winnings now;
  • Take a shot at winning another 15 free spins;
  • Take a chance at the Mystery Prize.
She repeatedly pressed the button for the first option, in order to claim her winnings, but the machine seemed to be defective - it wouldn't respond. She didn't want to take a shot at winning another 15 free spins - the odds seemed too long. So, very reluctantly, she tapped the button for the Mystery Prize.

Her $50 winnings vanished instantly - that was the Mystery Prize.

Shocked, she protested vehemently to casino management, who decided against her claim on the spot, arguing at one point that she couldn't have won the 15 free spins in the first place because her original bet was too low, and then, that if the machine was defective, she should have called the attendant immediately rather than tapping another button.

The odds are always stacked against you when you argue with casino management.

I've always been very impressed at the stoic endurance of gamblers in casinos as they suffer cripplingly-cruel punishments at the hands of fate. You see all these people, and you know many of them make hardly more than a minimum wage, and here they are, losing thousands and thousands of dollars, and they just smile rueful smiles and make rueful jokes. Admirable!

But it's a different story when the gambler feels that it wasn't chance to blame, but rather, that the gambler was actually cheated of money. Even if amount in question is just a quarter, it's a loss that's hard to bear when it was taken from you. Once in a while, you see a dark, broken, taped-off slot machine, where some outraged gambler had gone absolutely medieval with rage - the rage of having been cheated, rather than of having lost. Unendurable rage.

It's nearly an hour drive from Cache Creek back to Sacramento. E. wailed the entire way about the lost $50. She wanted to complain further to casino management, and blame her lack of English skills for the slip up, but I thought the effort would be futile - the entire casino was packed to the brim with English-challenged people, and casino management could hardly be selective about whose hard-luck story had more merit.

Returned by 4 a.m. Total loss for the evening, including E.'s stake: $603.
Thanksgiving Day (With Exercise)

Dannette and Arthur cooked a fine Thanksgiving meal. Pleasant company, good time!

Thursday morning, however, was a two-hour, club-wide exercise marathon at Step One, a special treat for the exercise fanatics, who needed to prep for turkey without guilt. I wanted to go, in part, to see all of Step One's exercise fanatics in one room.

I got up late, and so missed the hard core stuff. I got the abs and Pilate's stuff instead. And the fanatics, with just a few exceptions, were the folks who were already in Pepper's step class.

As good as Thursday's fanatics were, the best-looking fanatics of all showed up on Saturday morning. The guilt hangover from indulgence cast a long shadow.

WORK! as Ru Paul sings....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming True?

Looking at the long-range forecast on the 19th, I predicted:
Maybe a Pineapple Express type storm for Southern California, in about ten days.
Then it looked like the long-range forecast betrayed me and took back the forecast. Chalk another failed forecast to finicky Mother Nature....

Nevertheless, it looks like a storm will move into S. CA and AZ on Saturday morning, just two days off from that original ten-day forecast. So, maybe Mother Nature will behave after all! It's not a huge storm, but the area is so dry, anything is welcome....
Simple Nostrums For Simple Times

Left: In DMTC's recent production of "Brigadoon", the introduction of the deceased clergyman Mr. Forsythe in a walk-on part as a Roman Catholic priest was somewhat controversial among musical-theater traditionalists. But then again, no one EVER expects the Spanish Inquisition!

On Saturday night, Brennen and MikeMac found my presence in the wings highly-amusing. What's so funny? All I was doing in my clerical garb was taking refuge in the darkness and taking pictures of the pretty girls frolicking in the center-stage spotlight. Brennen said it looked like I had altogether too-much experience at this particular task....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Brigadoon" - Sunday, DMTC

Views from the wings.

Left: Tommy Allbright (Brennen Cull) gets the urge to go back to Brigadoon, and calls Jeff Douglas (Michael McElroy) on the hotel phone, in order to wake him from his drunken stupor. Mysteriously, Michael McElroy, in the wings, signals his approval of this turn of events with a 'thumbs up' (foreground).

Left: Fiona MacLaren (Caitlin Kiley) and Tommy Allbright (Brennen Cull).
Below: Jeff Douglas (Michael McElroy) and Fiona MacLaren (Caitlin Kiley).

Left: Jeannie MacLaren (Katherine Coppola) in "Come To Me, Bend To Me".

Jeannie Maclaren (Katherine Coppola) and friends are startled by the unexpected (and somewhat unwelcome) appearance of her fiancee Charles Dalrymple (J.R. Humbert), just prior to "Come To Me, Bend To Me".
"A Christmas Carol" - DMTC Young Performers' Theater (first draft)

Left: Ebenezer Scrooge (Chris Petersen), weighed down by an empty Christmas Future.
Left: The Ghost of Jacob Marley startles Ebenezer Scrooge.

Left: The Ghost of Christmas Past (Catherine Williamson) takes Ebenezer Scrooge on a nostalgic reminiscence.

The Fezziwigs sure knew how to put on a good party - Mrs. & Mr. Fezziwig (Livvy Bonner and Andrew Lemons).

Left: Memories of long ago: Young Ebenezer (Carver Simmons) asks Emily (Lisa Parente) to be his bride.

Left: The Ghost of Christmas Present (McKinley Carlisle) shows Ebenezer things happening right under his nose.

Left: The Ghost of Christmas Present (McKinley Carlisle) goes into her dance.

"Brigadoon" - Friday and Saturday

Guilty Pleasures
Rudd Wins!

And a new era begins:
Prime Minister John Howard has formally conceded defeat to Kevin Rudd in the federal election and paid tribute to the Australian people.

Addressing a gathering of Liberal party supporters at Sydney's Wentworth Hotel, Mr Howard admitted it was "very likely" that he could lose his own seat of Bennelong to Labor challenger Maxine McKew.

..."My fellow Australians, I telephoned Mr Kevin Rudd and I congratulated him and the Australian Labor Party on a very emphatic victory," he said.

"This is a great democracy and I want to wish Mr Rudd well.

"There is no prouder job in the world that anyone can occupy than being prime minister of this country."

Evolution of Dance

Courtesy of Gabe: Judson Laipply dances (