Saturday, December 15, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2007

Björk - Declare Independence

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

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

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

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

[x4] Make your own flag!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raise the flag!

[these lyrics are found on]

DMTC - "Rudolph’s Christmas Magic" Opens Tonight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Not Enough Numbers, And No Courage Either

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

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

GAO: "USA is living beyond its means"

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

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

Siren Call Of The Sunflower Seeds

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Calling Greenspan On His Baloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fine musician and singer.

Mike Huckabee's Message to Iowa

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

Sandias Photo

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

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

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

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

I've hiked up there on several occasions.

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

What year was this? 1978?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Strip The San Augustin Plains Of Its Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

''This is a new form of terrorism,'' Myers said. ''I've got a 100-foot well. Mine will be the first to go dry.''
Can't Decide Whom To Vote For?

The Candidate Calculator will tell you!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Subtropical Storm Olga Forms

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

Left: Marcial Valdez (dad)

Left: My sister Michelle Browning

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

Left: The Manzano Mountains, SE of Albuquerque.

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

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

Left: Pittsburg Point, Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Below: Riverside Junction.

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

Left: Cucamonga Canyon and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Left: The Whittier Narrows and the San Gabriel Valley.

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

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

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

Left: Gertrude Zachary's new house, under construction.

I was a bit mystified, yet heartened, by this phenomenon. Gertrude Zachary, a long-time Indian jewelry and antiques entrepreneur, and also one of New Mexico's most-successful and best-recognized business women, is building a new home (in what appears to my uneducated eye to be the 19th-Century Huning Mansion style) near Lead and First Streets, SW, in Albuquerque, adjacent to one of her shops. By itself, this would not be such a big deal, but that entire neighborhood is ground-zero for Albuquerque's homeless problem, a pernicious blight since the early 70's. It takes a far-sighted, steely energy to make that kind of commitment to the area when the faint-of-heart took flight decades ago. She must know something we don't!

The very best to Gertrude Zachary!
The Flight There....

Some nice views out the window.....

Left: An old favorite: Arizona's Verde River Valley, and the Ft. McDowell Indian reservation. The Beeline highway can be seen crossing the Verde River near the big Indian casino.

El Malpais, the big 2000-year old lava flow, south of Grants, NM.

The Rio Grande, and the South Valley, south of Albuquerque, NM.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Arrived Back!

Not gone too long!
Weird NM Tech Initiatives

According to KOAT-TV, NM Tech's TERA research unit (the folks who brought you the Claymore mine) are going to be developing made-to-order blasts for better Roadrunner and Coyote animations, and the History Channel wants to look at life on a research-oriented campus.

The line between reality and fantasy gets fuzzier every day, especially in New Mexico.....
My Nephew's Idea Of A Funny Video

Second Puberty (advertising - particularly amusing are the various "stages"). Juvenile humor is teh funny....