Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Peter Pan" Fire

Video of high school students fleeing a theater fire in Elgin, IL.

I'm going this way slower than some, but it's an encouraging trend, nonetheless:
“Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library. “Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”

Some homes may no longer have phone books, but many have scanners — and, increasingly, more than one. Flatbed scanners, which most people use for photographs, offer high resolution but are cumbersome for scanning large volumes of paper. New, cheap document-feed scanners that can digitize a stack of papers, receipts or business cards in seconds are becoming popular. Add multiple computers, digital cameras and maybe an electronic book reader, and suddenly paper seems to be on the endangered-species list.

After rising steadily in the 1980s and ’90s, worldwide paper consumption per capita has plateaued in recent years. In the richest countries, consumption fell 6 percent from 2000 to 2005, from 531 to 502 pounds a person. The data bolsters the view of experts like Mr. Kahle who say paper is becoming passé.

...A paperless world isn’t automatically a boon for the environment, though. While these digital toys reduce dependence on one resource, they increase it on another: energy. Some devices are always plugged in, eating electricity even when not in use, and gobbling huge amounts of power when they are. Others, like digital cameras and laptop computers, use electricity while they are recharging.

And the shift might not happen as fast as some technology gurus predict. The paperless office, which some experts had said would be the norm by the 1990s, has so far failed to materialize.

...“Some people are happy to throw away their past. Not me,” says Brad Templeton, who has founded an Internet newspaper and a software company and is the chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I’m a digital pack rat. I have phone bills from 1983 and taxes from the 1990s. But I have everything scanned, so it takes up no physical space. For me, scanners provide the magic of still having all my documents without the clutter.”

Although he would like to scan his entire book collection, Mr. Templeton, who is based in Silicon Valley, instead typically reads e-books when he is delayed at the airport or caught in a line somewhere. “It’s not as pleasant as reading a paper book,” he said. “But the e-book you have is better than the book you don’t.”

...Some people prefer to bypass the purchase of a scanner and instead farm out the scanning — to India, where it can be done on the cheap. ScanCafé, which specializes in digitizing and retouching photographs, has an office in the San Francisco Bay Area, but most of its employees are in Bangalore. They will take a shoe box full of prints or a photo album and return the originals with a CD and your own online digital library. They scan paper documents, too, for about 40 cents a page.

Those services are useful for getting rid of accumulated paper, but the trend is not to produce the paper at all. Students and professors at colleges have traditionally used large amounts of paper, but they are moving away from the bulk of it as readings, papers, problem sets and exams are posted online.

Robert Burdock, a student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, carries a digital camera to class so he can take a picture of any handout and immediately turn it into a text-searchable document on his laptop.

“Say I’m writing an essay on Edward III. A quick input of the term in Google Desktop and I’m presented with everything I have on the subject,” Mr. Burdock wrote in an e-mail message, which had a note at the bottom asking the recipient to consider the environment before printing. “This is a massive time saver when compared to manual searching and sifting.”

IN the desire for efficiency — to find exactly what you need the moment you need it — paper is being left behind. Mr. Uhlik, who also worked on Google’s Book Search, the book scanning project, has scanned about 100 of his reference books to try to make his home library digital and searchable. Because he wants to keep the house nearly paper-free, most of his remaining 1,000 books are in a shed. He occasionally pays his children to help scan them.

“Once the books are all scanned and backed up on several hard drives, I’ll never have to worry about the shed roof leaking and ruining them,” he says. “I’ve preserved them forever if I put them on the computer.”
The Curse Of Adam's Suitcase

As part of spring cleaning, I had tossed Adam's old suitcase into the trash, but since the trash can was overloaded, the City refused to take it away. For the last several days, the suitcase has been sitting next to the trash can, moving hither and thither as the trash scavengers moved it around, until the inevitable happened: E. rolled her car over it as she backed out of the driveway, and wedged it into her wheel well. I caught up to her as the tow truck was pulling away.....

E.: "I was yelling and yelling at the AAA in Arizona: 'What is wrong with you people? I want to talk to someone in California - NOW!'"
Admiring The Flowers at Crimson Crustacean

Man passing by: "That's Star Jasmine!"

E.: "That's a wonderful smell! Flowers smell almost like a mild form of perfume. Isn't that right?"
Meshuggah-Nuns! - Vallejo Music Theatre

Left to right: Robert W. Wilson, Vicki Reza, Adele Margrave, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Jeanine Perasso-Kaczmarczyk.

Went to Vallejo with a few of the DMTC group to see Michael Manley's latest directorial venture, Meshuggah-Nuns! at Vallejo Music Theatre (VMT). Friday was opening night.

The premise is that a cruise ship's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" is torpedoed by seasickness, forcing the nuns, and a Tevye who didn't get sick, to improvise a variety show. The show is the fifth of the 'Nunsense' series (sixth if the all-male 'Nunsense - Amen!' is counted).

I had some trouble with the first half of the first act. The trouble was the script: the jokes seemed older than vaudeville, and a warm and winning cast wasn't enough to compensate. But then, they did an elaborate takeoff of boats in trouble, called 'Das Boat', featuring ships in trouble - the namesake German submarine, the Titanic, the Poseidon, and the S.S. Minnow. Very good - it saved the first act!

The second act featured a beautiful duet, "A Love Like This," between Sister Robert Anne (Jeanine Perasso-Kaczmarczyk) and Howard (Robert C. Wilson). An audience participation number was included as well ("Fiddlerspiel").

Overall, a nice show, much more Jewish than Catholic in nature.

Howard Liszt (Robert W. Wilson), with Sister Mary Paul, aka Amnesia (Elizabeth Mitchell) on puppet.

Left: Sister Robert Anne (Jeanine Perasso-Kaczmarczyk).

"Three Shayna Maidels" - Sisters Robert Anne, Amnesia, and Hubert (Jeanine Perasso-Kaczmarczyk, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Adele Margrave).

Elizabeth Mitchell has been featured as Amnesia in the other Nunsense shows presented by VMT. Despite the fact that she recently moved to Santa Fe, NM, she wanted to do this show so bad she made significant sacrifices in order to return temporarily and participate.

Left: "Matzo Man" (after the Village People's 'Macho Man').

Show dates and ticket prices:
February 8, 2008 - 8 PM, February 10 - 2PM - all seats opening weekend deal - $15
February 9, 2008 - OPENING NIGHT GALA - Dinner, Show and Auctions at 5 PM
February 10. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, March 1, 2, 2008
3467 Sonoma Blvd., Suite 10, Vallejo, CA 94590

Friday, February 08, 2008

The MSNBC Women-Haters At It Again (And Again, And Again, And Again)

Not just Tweety:
A distasteful comment about Chelsea Clinton by an MSNBC anchor Thursday could imperil Hillary Rodham Clinton's participation in future presidential debates on the network, a Clinton spokesman said.

In a conference call with reporters, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson Friday excoriated MSNBC's David Shuster for suggesting the Clinton campaign had "pimped out" 27-year old Chelsea by having her place phone calls to Democratic Party superdelegates on her mother's behalf. Wolfson called the comment "beneath contempt" and disgusting.

"I, at this point, can't envision a scenario where we would continue to engage in debates on that network," he added.
That Long-Suffering Martyr, Bill Clinton

Puh-leeze! Bill, you can defend your wife all you want. What we don't want is any more is "factually-correct" rubbish that follows time-honored, long-established, race-baiting tactics in the South. As you well know from a long, sorry history, all you need to do is paint one candidate as the "negro candidate," and leave it at that. By default, the other candidate is the favored, majority, white candidate, and you leave it to the good, racist voter to choose sides.

You aren't stupid, Bill. Why do you think we are stupid?

And this stuff about not interfering with "strong" Cabinet members in a HRC Administration - you can drive a truck through that loophole!:
Former President Clinton says he's learned a valuable lesson from the dustup over his remarks on the campaign trail - he can promote his wife's presidential candidacy, but he's not free to defend her.

Clinton also said that everything he said in South Carolina about Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was "factually accurate," but a lot that has been said about what he said is "factually inaccurate."

...Later, campaigning for his wife in South Carolina, Clinton suggested an Obama victory there would be a racial one, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson's twenty years ago.

Critics accused Clinton of injecting race into the Democratic campaign.

"A lot of the things that were said were factually inaccurate," Clinton said. "I did not ever criticize Senator Obama personally in South Carolina. ... But I think whenever I defend her, I, A, risk being misquoted, and, B, risk being the story. I don't want to be the story."

While he's toned down his defense of his wife, Clinton said he doesn't intend to stop campaigning for her even though some critics have suggested it's inappropriate for a former president to take sides in a nomination race.

...If his wife is elected president, Clinton said he will not interfere with her work or her advisers.

"I will do what I'm asked to do," Clinton said. "I will not be in the Cabinet. I will not be on the staff full-time. I will not in any way interfere with the work of a strong vice president, strong secretary of state, strong secretary of treasury.
Sugar Dust Explosion

Oh, this is awful!
PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (AP) - Firefighters working gingerly through a still-burning sugar refinery found three bodies Friday and were trying to reach the remains of three others killed in an explosion overnight, Georgia's top fire official said.

Crews found the three bodies in tunnels beneath the building, which was reduced to a mass of rubble, twisted beams and mangled metal, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said.

...Police Chief Michael Berkow told families of missing workers that rescue efforts at the massive Imperial Sugar Company refinery had shifted to recovery operations hours after the explosion erupted late Thursday. Dozens of the nearly 100 people were working inside at the time of the blast were hurt, many critically burned.

...Officials had not determined what caused the explosion Thursday night but said they suspect sugar dust, which can be volatile.

"There was fire all over the building," said Nakishya Hill, a machine operator who escaped from the third floor of the refinery on the Savannah River.

..."It was like walking into hell," Joyce Baker said. "We had approximately 13 men who were coming out and they were burned, third-degree burns on their upper bodies. And they were trying to sit down and the only thing that they wanted was to know where the friends were."

Some of the burned men had "no skin at all" and some had skin "just dripping off them," Baker said.

..."A far as we know, it was a sugar dust explosion," Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor said. He said it happened in a storage silo where refined sugar is stored until it is packaged.

Workplace disasters involving combustible dust have been a concern for federal safety officials for years.

In a November 2006 report, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial chemical accidents, recommended that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issue a comprehensive combustible dust standard for general industry.

A posting on the CSB Web site Friday said the 2006 recommendation was still open. An OSHA spokeswoman did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

...Sugar dust is combustible, according the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration's Web site. Static electricity, sparks from metal tools or a cigarette can ignite explosions. Sugar dust is suspected of sparking a nonfatal explosion last summer at a factory in Scottsbluff, Neb., and one that killed a worker in Omaha in 1996.
It's amazing just how combustible a lot of dusts are. The large surface area available within dusts is largely to blame for the phenomenon. Some people have even been moved to make an internal combustion engine that runs on grain dust:
RICHEY, Mont. - Living in a county rich with oil, Bob Candee thinks he may have the answer to the nation's energy problems. This Richey farmer believes wheat flour can be used as an alternative source of fuel.

Candee has had the idea to use flour, or grain dust, as an energy source for nearly 40 years. Now, he has a patent pending on this alternative to power an internal combustion engine.

“The fuel particles when combined with the proper amount of air can be atomized into a combustible substance,” he explained. “The resulting combustion will power a special made piston engine with a large bore. A gas vapor is used only for the ignition enhancer as the power comes from the fuel air mixture. The fuel is plain old wheat flour.”

Grain dust is a highly flammable substance. Candee said he was inspired to get going on his idea when the grain elevator at Circle, Mont., burned. In fact, grain dust is responsible for as many as 10 grain-elevator explosions a year in the U.S.
Of course, flour dust is bad too.
German television (the WDR, specifically) still reports on its Internet pages on one of the biggest flour explosions in post-war Germany, when a small fire in 1979 caused a chain reaction in the Roland Mill in Bremen, which stored large amounts of flour. Each new explosion caused more flour to rise into the air where it then exploded. The bottom line was 14 dead, 17 injured and damages of over 50 million Euro.
Dairy creamer can be bad too (here, with an illustrative video).

Fortunately, because it isn't flammable, talcum powder appears to be safe. Nic Candito used talcum powder on stage to create the illusion of smoke in our most recent production of "La Cage Aux Folles." If Nic had used flour instead, we could all have suffered terrible burns from an on-stage explosion.
Thursday Night At DMTC

Never a dull moment! (Rehearsal for "My Fair Lady", which opens February 22nd).

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Hothouse Plant

Internet politics is nice, but it can't beat the effective grind of old-style politics:'s Declan McCullagh points to an interesting bit of Super Tuesday data: Barack Obama lost Silicon Valley to Hillary Clinton.

...Statewide, Clinton beat Obama by 9.7 points, 52.0 percent to Obama's 42.3 percent. But in Santa Clara county, home to the biggest tech companies in the country, Clinton got 54.8 percent and Obama got 39.3 percent -- a 15.5 point margin.

...There is no doubt, too, which candidate won the hearts and minds of SiliValley types. Many of the candidates were invited to speak to Googlers, but only Obama said anything to appeal to them. When CEO Eric Schmidt asked Obama a software engineering question during a session at the company's Mountain View campus -- "What is the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers?" -- the senator replied with a joke only Googlers would get: "The bubble sort would be the wrong way to go," he said.

And look at the Internets! Obama's got, by far, the most followers on Facebook and the savviest YouTubers. Everyone online who's not supporting Ron Paul seems to be for him.

But looking at the Internets is the problem. The Web tells us little about what's going on in the real world. McCullough credits Clinton's win to a good ground operation; Obama does well online, he says, because clicking buttons is easier than going to vote.

That's probably right. More fundamentally, though, maybe it's time to start thinking about the Internet as a precious, blessed alien culture completely foreign to everyplace else, kind of like Japan. Indeed, this is old news: Howard Dean's explosion four years ago pretty much proved that what happens online stays online.
Warren Buffet, Optimist

Not as downcast as some:
Buffett, one of the world's wealthiest people, appeared to see irony in the fact that many of the banks who marketed complex investments which have now crashed are bearing much of the fallout.

"It's sort of a little poetic justice, in that the people that brewed this toxic Kool-Aid found themselves drinking a lot of it in the end," he said.

Buffett, a legendary investor who has amassed a huge fortune through plays in a wide range of industries, has bet against the U.S. dollar in the past.

In 2005, Berkshire had made a $21.8 billion bet that the U.S. dollar would fall. It later unwound that successful position as it found other non-U.S. investments.

Buffett said on Wednesday in Toronto that the turmoil that has rocked the U.S. economy in recent months has imbued the markets with a healthy degree of caution, while the rate-cutting response from central bankers has ensured that cheap money remains available for borrowing.

"I wouldn't quite call it a credit crunch. Funds are available," Buffett said during a question and answer session at a business event. "Money is available, and it's really quite cheap because of the lowering of rates that has taken place."

He added: "What has happened is a repricing of risk and an unavailability of what I might call 'dumb money,' of which there was plenty around a year ago."
Attorney General Mukasey Asserts Extreme Privilege

Bush is King, and there is no King but Bush.
What An Ass!

Mitt Romney does the patriotic thing, and leaves the ring:
"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
And what about his spawn, the five military-eligible, campaign-helping, but now unemployed sons? Are they going to join the military? When, may I ask? Or would getting a straight answer reveal secrets and thus be a "surrender to terror"?

Drunk Vegas Lawyer causes mistrial Part 4

Lies! Lies! Lies!

In Parts 1-3, Lawyer Caramagno tells a series of transparent falsehoods and digs himself a credibility hole way too deep to escape. In Part 4, the Judge has a breathalyzer test administered and is basically very disappointed.

A Labor Of Sisyphus

Trying to get the First Amendment to apply in Las Vegas, where the autocratic hand of the entrepreneur is everywhere:
Here is how it works: The city of Las Vegas lost the Fremont Street Experience case in a 9th District Court of Appeals ruling in 2003. But the city then rewrote its ordinance to essentially accomplish the same goal of limiting the 1st Amendment under the Fremont Street Experience canopy. The ACLU took the new ordinance to court and everything started all over. In 2006, the case, now nearly a decade old, required yet another 9th District Court of Appeals ruling. As with the previous ordinances, Las Vegas again lost. And this still isn't over. Las Vegas and Mayor Oscar Goodman have not given up believing that an ordinance can be crafted that allows the goal of keeping undesirables from irritating tourists under the canopy without violating the 1st Amendment. The ACLU still believes this to be impossible.

At the core of this dispute (as with the one between the Venetian and the union) is the question of whether there is any way in which a public thoroughfare pedestrian space can be considered private property where the 1st Amendment does not apply. For years and years this argument has been rejected by federal courts.

As with most things that have a serious side, there is also a ridiculous one. Well, not entirely ridiculous as a lady is in jail. Today, Las Vegas Review Journal reports the story of Diana Bickel, who was unhappy with the service she received from Tower of Jewels, a local jewelry store. Bickel decided to stand on the sidewalk in front of the store with a sign reading "I have a problem with Tower of Jewels." Now she is in jail for two days. How can that have happened in the land of the free?

Well, Tower of Jewels used the familiar claim that it owned the sidewalk in front of the store. And, despite all of the cases that preceded this one, District Judge Susan Johnson agreed with Tower of Jewels. The judge issued a preliminary injunction against Bickel. Even then the resourceful Bickel did not back down. Obeying traffic lights and staying in the crosswalk, Bickel marched back and forth across the street with her sign. Apparently, that was enough for Judge Johnson to throw Bickel in jail for contempt for two days, along with a $500 fine.

The Review-Journal, by the way, conveniently quotes the 2003 9th District Court of Appeals ruling on how public and private space should be distinguished in Las Vegas, and the guideline does not focus on ownership for 1st Amendment issues:

"Factors considered in determining whether an area constitutes a traditional public forum for 1st Amendment purposes are: 1. the actual use of the property, particularly the status as a public thoroughfare and availability of free public access to the area; 2. the area's physical characteristics, including its location and the existence of clear boundaries delimiting the area; and 3. traditional or historic use of both the property in question and other similar properties."

Obviously this is written in judicial language, but if you read 1-3 again with a sidewalk in front of a store in mind or a crosswalk at an intersection you will understand why the ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein has leaped to Bickel's defense, telling the Review-Journal, "This is an issue that obviously goes beyond these two parties."
Mixed Metaphors

And other amusing horrors - commentary regarding the subprime mortgage crisis:
That's right: Knowing that subprime mortgages were pigs, bankers applied enough lipstick and rouge to make the loans attractive to investors. But the banks made these packages so attractive that they bought them from each other.

The misuse of CDOs reminds us of Mel Brooks' 1968 film and recent Broadway musical, "The Producers." You may recall the premise: Two con men oversell shares of a musical, intending to produce a flop, which will allow them to keep the money their investors will write off as losses. Unfortunately, the play is an inadvertent smash hit, ruining the con men's plans.

CDOs were invented so banks could transfer risk and earn fees in the process, but when banks started issuing multiple CDOs based on the same securities and buying them from each other, things got out of hand.

Those watching the subprime debacle and waiting for "the other shoe to drop" are in for an unpleasant surprise: it will soon be raining shoes.
Why Clinton Won California

Good memories, plus Obama made a classic outsider's error:
The efforts paid off. Women backed Clinton 59% to 36%, contributing to a giant gender gap compared with men, who sided narrowly with Barack Obama, according to an exit poll by a consortium of news organizations.

Latinos went for Clinton by a 2-1 margin. What made that margin even more significant was that Latinos made up a record proportion of the electorate. Three in 10 of those who voted in the Democratic primary were Latino, the exit poll said, almost double the proportion in 2004.

Latino political strength has grown substantially over the last several elections in California, pushed along by the growing Latino population. In 2000, only 7% of the primary electorate was Latino, according to a Times exit poll.

The increased power can also be seen in the number of Latino elected officials in the state, many of whom endorsed Clinton and provided her with an influential base of support.

Clinton -- who had difficulty among California's non-Latino white voters, splitting them with Obama -- was hoping to press her advantage among women and Latinos in future states. Of the major states with primaries still to come, however, none but Texas, which votes March 4, has a particularly large number of Latino voters.

...One target was mail-in voters, who tend to be more white, more female and more Northern Californian by residence than voters overall. Women in particular were targeted with mailers, beginning in November. Campaign officials mined data at each registrar's office to determine who had voted and who had not.

Making more than 1 1/2 million phone calls, "we literally vote-by-vote rounded up" those voters, said Ace Smith, Clinton's campaign director in California.

While that effort was targeting mail-in voters, another was pressing Latinos, who had backed former President Clinton during his administration, to side with his wife. If gender helped Hillary Clinton among the women mail-in voters, tradition helped her with Latino voters.

Clinton's early endorsements included United Farm Workers icon Dolores Huerta, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez. In the closing days of the campaign, Los Angeles County supervisor Gloria Molina endorsed her. She also had in her corner a number of popular Latina members of Congress.

Among most voters, endorsements carry little weight. But the Latino endorsements deepened Clinton's volunteer ranks and offered her the borrowed credibility of people who had cachet where it counted.

"There is still a lot of trust and reverence for that community that does not exist in other communities anymore," Smith said. And, since many of the Latino members of Congress and the Legislature are women, "being a woman of stature is a huge positive," he said.

Clinton's emphasis on healthcare and the economy also helped, allowing her to trade on the prosperity that many Latinos enjoyed during her husband's administration.

The Obama campaign, by contrast, aired Spanish-language radio ads promoting his support for issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. That was a "classic Northeastern assumption" that licenses were the primary concern of Latinos, according to Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC.

"It's not. I think he would have had much more traction on issues like education, or the loss of jobs . . . issues that resonate with Latino homeowners," Pachon said.

Obama had some influential Latino supporters, particularly Maria Elena Durazo, head of the 800,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. She said the Clinton name still carries heft with Latinos because of the relative prosperity of the 1990s.

"There's no doubt we made tremendous progress in the Latino community, but there was no way we could close the gap. It was just too deep," Durazo said.

Clinton's dominance in Latino neighborhoods contributed to a huge margin in the state's most populous county, Los Angeles. By late Wednesday, vote tallies showed her winning L.A. by more than 162,000 votes. That dwarfed Obama's margins in his Bay Area power base, where his leads in Alameda, San Francisco and Marin counties totaled only 37,000 votes combined.
The Brits

A bit hard to keep the Brits straight.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Slinky

I picked up the DVD for the musical "Hairspray," and I thought I heard an anachronism. Wilbur Turnblad (Christopher Walken) tries to win his way back into the good graces of Edna Turnblad (John Travolta) by saying "Doll! You're as spry as a Slinky!" Trouble is, I remember seeing Slinkies for the first time in 1966, well after 1962, the year "Hairspray" is set in.

Alas, nothing for imdb. Turns out, the Slinky first met the public eye in 1945:
In 1943, Richard James was a naval engineer trying to develop a meter designed to monitor horsepower on naval battleships. Richard was working with tension springs when one of the springs fell to the ground. He saw how the spring kept moving after it hit the ground and an idea for a toy was born.

Richard James told his wife Betty, "I think I can make a toy out of this" and then spent the next two years figuring out the best steel gauge and coil to use for the toy.

Betty James found a name for the new toy after discovering in the dictionary that the word "Slinky" is a Swedish word meaning traespiral - sleek or sinuous.
Slinky debuted at Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the 1945 Christmas season and then at the 1946 American Toy Fair. Richard nervous at the first demonstration of his toy convinced a friend to attend and buy the first Slinky. However, this turned out to be unnecessary as 400 were sold during the 90 minute Gimbel demonstration.

Richard James and Betty James founded James Spring & Wire Company (renamed James Industries) with $500 dollars and began production. Today, all Slinkys are made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania using the original equipment designed and engineered by Richard James. Each one is made from 80 feet of wire and over a quarter billion Slinkys have been sold worldwide.

Around 1960, Richard James suffered from a mid-life crisis and left his wife, six children, and the Slinky Empire to join a Bolivian religious order/cult. Betty James took over as CEO of James Industries and rescued the company from the debts left by her husband's generosity to his religion. She moved the company to its current Hollidaysburg location from Philadelphia and began an active advertising campaign complete with the famous Slinky jingle. Richard James died in 1974.
Urban Vs. Rural

Joe Monahan suggests New Mexico split for Clinton and Obama based on geography - urban (Obama) vs. rural (Clinton), with southern NM edging towards Clinton:
[Obama] looked like a real city slicker, losing just about every county in the mostly conservative Second District. His performance was incredibly narrow in a geographic sense. He picked up the lion's share of his support in Bernalillo, Santa Fe and the aforementioned Los Alamos. He carried them all. Hillary owned much of the state, but voter turnout was lightest in her strongest areas. Obama also ceded to Hillary Dona Ana, Grant and Eddy--the southern counties with a tinge of liberal Dems.
The Callow Chris Matthews

What's next for America's great political commentator, fart jokes?:
On the February 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, discussing the 2008 Democratic presidential race, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson asserted: "The tenor of the race did change when [former President] Bill Clinton inserted himself in the race." Host Chris Matthews responded: "By the way, things always change when he inserts himself." Later in the program, Matthews stated: "Eugene Robinson, thanks for that nice line about the injection by Bill Clinton. ... [I]t's your line, not mine." Robinson responded: "Oh, no, no, no ... no, no, no."
Al Qaeda Tactics Finally Hit Home

I knew that suicide bombing tactics would eventually come to roost somehow in American politics, but I did not anticipate this angle:
Still, McCain has so radicalized key conservatives that some have vowed to turn themselves into suicide voters next November by pulling the lever for Hillary Rodham Clinton over him.
Hyperventilating Over New Mexico Again

The extremely-close race between Clinton and Obama in New Mexico has everyone excited. The big snowstorm in northern NM bollixed up the voting there, and with the margin so close, every irregularity is looming like a mountain.

Heath Haussamen's blog is a good vantage place... Joe Monahan is a good place too.

Hmmm.... Poorly-organized volunteers are blamed for long lines in Bernalillo.

Wow, this is some of my old stomping ground....
Polling places such as the Our Lady of Sorrows gymnasium in Bernalillo — one of the four precincts whose vote totals are still not known — ran out of ballots around 4:45 p.m. The same happened at LBJ Middle School in Taylor Ranch.

At Rio Rancho High School, where all 37 of Rio Rancho's polling places were consolidated, thousands of people were waiting to vote around 5 p.m., Capt. Jimmy DeFillippo of the Rio Rancho Fire Department said at the time.

"They're just trying to maintain order," DeFillippo said. "They're shuffling people from the gymnasium into each room to get voted."

Turnout was so high that Rio Rancho police were called out for traffic control, said Laura Sanchez, executive director of the state Democratic Party. She also said party workers were dispatched there to help process voters.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The 800-Pound Gorilla

It looks like Obama went mano a mano with the California Latino vote, and got crushed. Wow, in Imperial County, there isn't even a banana peel left....
Early Exit Polls....

...Suggest Hillary takes New York, the upper South (OK, AR, TN), and narrowly takes California. Obama takes everything else, by big margins.
Country-Western Not Big With Brits

Especially not over and over:
A Country and Western fan who plagued neighbours by playing Dolly Parton songs around the clock has been evicted from her home.

Diane Duffin, 36, was ordered to leave her house in Heights Drive, Leeds, by police on Monday.

She was found to have repeatedly and persistently ignored warnings from the council to stop playing loud music.

The mother of four told the BBC that it was her children who were playing the music to "let off steam".

...Last October she was handed an anti-social behaviour injunction (Asbi) along with an eviction notice, suspended for 12 months, which meant she could lose her home if she failed to comply with the conditions of her tenancy.

The court heard that her neighbour had moved out and their house and it had stood empty ever since.

Neighbours told the earlier hearing she had repeatedly played Dolly Parton's Nine to Five track.

One neighbour had complained that on one day alone the Tammy Wynette track D.I.V.O.R.C.E was played 20 times from Miss Duffin's home.
The McCain Mutiny

Yes, not all is well on the HMS "Bounty":
Rush Limbaugh has been relentless in his criticism of John McCain, prompting suggestions that he may have to soften his stance if the Arizona senator wins the nomination and faces off against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

..."If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit . . . rather than a Republican causing the debacle," he said. "And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative."

When it comes to the McCain mutiny, Limbaugh has plenty of company on the right side of the dial. Laura Ingraham endorsed Mitt Romney last week, saying, "There is no way in hell I could pull the lever for John McCain." Sean Hannity, who also endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, regularly rips McCain. Hugh Hewitt is urging the audience for his syndicated radio show to fight for Romney against what he calls a media-generated "McCain resurrection." But with a program heard on 600 stations, including Washington's WMAL, Limbaugh is the loudest and brashest voice inveighing against the man he derides as "Saint John of Arizona."

Limbaugh dismissed the notion that a McCain victory would be a "personal setback" for him. "My success is not defined by who wins elections," he said. "Elected officials come and go. I am here for as long as I wish to stay. . . .

...McCain's strategists have been quietly reaching out to commentators such as Hannity but don't believe the attacks are costing their candidate many votes, noting that McCain won Florida last week even though Limbaugh broadcasts from Palm Beach. But the campaign yesterday released a letter to Limbaugh from Bob Dole, saying McCain has been a loyal Republican on many issues and that "I proudly wore his POW bracelet bearing his name while he was still a guest at the Hanoi Hilton."

...Limbaugh challenged the Republican establishment once before. In the 1992 primaries he helped boost conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan against the incumbent, George H.W. Bush. But after Bush secured the nomination, the president mended fences by inviting the talk-show host for an overnight stay in the Lincoln Bedroom.

...Politically, Limbaugh remained loyal for much of President Bush's tenure, but after the GOP lost both houses of Congress in 2006, he declared himself "liberated," saying the Republicans had "let us down" and that "I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried."

After McCain won the New Hampshire primary last month, Limbaugh served notice that if either McCain or former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got the nomination, "it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever."

As McCain has kept winning, Limbaugh told listeners that the liberal media were boosting the senator and "predicting my demise." It was pointless, he said, "to pretend that Senator McCain is the choice of conservatives when exit-poll data from every primary state show just the opposite." In Florida, for example, voters calling themselves "very conservative" favored Romney 2 to 1 over McCain.

Yesterday Limbaugh took on conservative Beltway pundits, such as the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, who have written sympathetically about McCain, saying that for them "it's not about conservatism at all, it's about their own personal desire to matter, to have some influence."

...McCain, for his part, has refused to engage with Limbaugh, telling reporters: "I don't listen to him. There's a certain trace of masochism in my family, but not that deep."
Vote For Mad Max

Well, that's what Gabe says:
If Mad Max is not elected President of these United States and our Republic in 2008, the next four years will see Congress continue to tax our hard earned Social Security, pass legislation raising taxes, fail to protect our borders, give amnesty to over 25 million illegal aliens, ban and confiscate all guns and ammo, and continue the Wars, along with starting yet another war with Iran.

Now what part of that don't you like or understand?
Well, not today. I voted an hour ago for Rush Limbaugh's Magic Negro instead. Gabe replies:
No voting early and often? What a shame…
Yes, I'm letting my Democratic heritage slip, but I'm busy today, and can't vote more than once.

Actually, I'm worried about how quickly votes from Sacramento will be counted. There was a report in the Sacramento Bee (can't find the link) indicating that optical scanners will not be used, because of new problems that have developed there, so vote counting will be done manually, which means a very slow count. Indeed, I noticed the absence of an optical scanner at the polling place for the first time in several years. Patience, a rare commodity, will be required by those hungry for results. Now what part of that don't you like or understand?
More Problems On Wall Street Today

DJI down about 270. [Update: Down 370 at the close.]

Markets in decline frequently have sudden rallies and abrupt collapses. I remember being surprised, looking at a chart of tulip prices following the 1637 tulip mania crash (can't find it on the Web, though), and how volatile prices were for the following ten years. The same kind of volatility affects other markets as well, such as stocks.
Obamacans, And Whatever Happened To Dwight Eisenhower?

John wrote last week and wondered when, and why, Republicans stopped respecting the memory of Dwight Eisenhower, and also refers to this article regarding 'Obamacans' - Republicans who like Obama.
I just finished watching the last half of the Republican debate. It was hard for me to keep an open mind about the candidates as I watched McCain and Romney smirk and roll their eyes each time Ron Paul would address issues (that they were afraid to tackle) in a manner that a true conservative from only a generation ago would find completely appropriate. Mike Huckabee at least came across as a good and reasonable person who genuinely listens to others and respects their opinions.

But what struck me as simply bizarre about this debate was the unfettered worshipping of Ronald Reagan, ending the debate with Romney, McCain and Ron Paul all solemnly assuring viewers that Reagan would support their candidacies if he were still alive (again, Huckabee showed some reasonable humility and did not make such unfounded speculations). Clearly, the candidates were acting in this manner because they were in the Reagan Library but was it was also a dramatic reflection of what Bill Maher calls the puzzling deification of Reagan. And it made me wonder: isn't there another republican who they could cite as a great leader?

There are certainly choices out there. Nixon would be too controversial, although his administration did engage in negotiations with nations regarded as less than friendly to the US. And he did some good controlling federal spending. Ford was a good caretaker president who had stong ethics and values. Goldwater was a very principled conservative who, while viewed as an extremist at the time he ran for the presidency, remained true to his conservative principles as real extremists attempted to pander to religious fanatics by eroding the separation of church and state. Of course, everyone wants to claim Lincoln as their own but he is an icon from generations ago when the world was very different--and no living person has any memory of him.

But what about Eisenhower? Here is a man highly respected by virtually everyone in our parent's generation. A man who was a true military hero whose planning and actions were crucial to the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany. A man who presided over the booming US economy of the 1950's. A man who envisioned and built the interstate highway system, linking the nation in a way that was scarcely imaginable a generation before. A man who, though conflicted about the civil rights struggles beginning in the US, still saw that sending federal troops to enforce a federal court decision integrating schools in Arkansas was the right thing to do. A man who ended on the best possible terms the disastrous war in Korea. A man who controlled the expansionist aims of the Soviet Union with reasonable but not excessive force. And a man who warned in his farewell speech of the dangers of the military industrial complex. He was a president of whom we can all be proud, but it seems that the republicans now have no memory of him.

Contrast Eisenhower with Reagan. Reagan moved the US from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation. He retreated from an ill advised military adventure in Lebanon in the face of heavy losses, thus emboldening Islamic terrorists for at least a generation. In his hatred for the Soviet Union and to settle the score of our loss in Vietnam he gave anti-aircraft missiles to Islamic terrorists, thus creating a breeding ground for later, larger terrorist movements. He discarded the conservative value of fiscal responsibility by cutting taxes and increasing federal spending, leading to a federal deficit four times larger than that left by his predecessor whom he demonized in the presidential campaign for his fiscal recklessness. He authorized the sale of military hardware to a terrorist state and the funds from that sale were used to support a band of outlaws who committed atrocities in Nicaragua. He fantasized about "Libyan hit squads" which never existed. He stood in front of the Israeli Knesset and spoke of his imaginary military service as a wartime photographer during the liberation of the death camps--while such claims were known by the entire world to be completely false.

So I look at the Republican party and just have to ask why in the world do they ignore Eisenhower and worship Reagan. Have they lost all sense of reason so that they see honorable service as somehow quaint and dated while fiscal irresponsibility and the eroding of American economic strength are honorable? Do they see a movie actor as a greater example of leadership than a general who lead the greatest military force in history and later oversaw stability and economic prosperity to our nation?

If this is the true philosophy of Republicans--and it may be, with the purge of virtually all moderates and true conservatives from the party starting in 1980--then they will surely lose the White House and their strength in Congress this year, deservedly so. They may need a few "years in the wilderness" to contemplate the values and leaders that made the republican party great. But are there any voices left within their ranks to tell them the truth? I wonder...
Dwight Eisenhower saw too clearly what would happen to America, I think. He tried, but failed to curtail the growing power of McCarthyite and John Birch conservatives in the Republican Party. He even saw what would happen with the Pentagon - his famous and badly-misunderstood 'Military-Industrial Complex' speech.

I think that conservatives saw Ike as a stumbling block and decided to effectively erase him from Republican Party history. They succeeded. It is up to a new generation of Republican moderates, should they ever appear, to restore the memory of Ike. The Republican Party is now lost, and won't really recover again until it understands its own history, and looks anew to the example of Dwight Eisenhower.

Tom Cruise Scientology Video - ( ORIGINAL UNCUT ) 9:34 min

Keith is very excited about all the insider Tom Cruise Scientology videos being abruptly (and apparently vengefully) released on the Web. Apparently there are hours of the videos that have been uploaded to YouTube.

"White Diamond" In Drag

Sublime version of Kylie's hit.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Finally, Lake Wivenhoe gets a piece of the heavy Australian rain.
Wonder What That Was About?

I was loping around the basement with my dust mask on, when I heard screaming from the parking lot out back, adjacent to the cemetery. The screaming had that distinct, teenaged, just-too-much-fun emotional edge. I went out the back gate and saw a pickup truck by the cemetery fence. The truck quickly backed up and drove away. I could hear the screams dwindle away in the distance as the truck departed.

My only regret is that I did not pick up a garden tool and quietly lope over to the driver's window to make an unexpected appearance....
Ewwww! Not Again!

Lieberman and McCain kiss. I can't quite find the proper term on Urban Dictionary, but "ho ray" comes close:
As Shays handed the mike to Lieberman, Connecticut's lone House Republican and its formerly Democratic senator drew very close together. From up on the press platform, it was hard to tell how close. "Did they?" I asked Hartford Courant reporter Mark Pazniokas. He was uncertain. "I was looking down to write something," a blogger named Connecticut Bob chimed in. "I missed it."

It was left to Lieberman to erase all doubts. "Notice we kissed each other," he announced to the crowd of 1,500. "I don't want to go into details."
Good And Solid

Dubya presents his budget and sends it to Congress through the Internets (a series of tubes, according to AK Senator Ted Stevens):
"This is a good, solid budget," the president said. "It's not only an innovative budget in that it's coming to Congress over the Internet. It's a budget that's balanced—gets to balance in 2012 and saves taxpayers money."
Queensland Rains

Good, but SO uneven. At any event, today and tomorrow should be excellent for them.
Brisbane's hinterland dams received only light rain, but their combined levels of about 28 per cent are expected to be boosted through the week.

There were heavy falls over the dams late yesterday, but nothing like the huge 205mm that fell on Redlands' Leslie Harrison Dam, east of Brisbane, between 9am Saturday and 1pm yesterday. The small Enoggera Dam in the city's northwest recorded 92mm over the same period.

A round-up of 70 SEQwater and SunWater dams across Queensland shows that in the northeast, northwest and central Queensland many storages are full, with dams up an overall 26 per cent thanks to the wet summer.

But the situation remains dire in the southeast corner, the far southwest and the Burnett.

Atkinson Dam in the southeast's Lockyer Valley is empty and the nearby Lake Dyer on 1 per cent, the Bjelke-Petersen near Murgon is on 4 per cent and Boondooma inland from Gladstone has 13 per cent.

In the Warrill Valley, Moogerah has crept up to 17 per cent after years of single-digit rainfall, while Wuruma Dam in the Upper Burnett is still hovering on 1 per cent.

Further north, the Burdekin Falls Dam continues to spill, with more than six million megalitres pouring over the dam crest since December 28 enough to fill Brisbane's Wivenhoe more than five times.

"Overall, this is the best wet season Queensland has seen in many years and it has lifted the total volume of water stored in SunWater's dams and weirs from 43 per cent in November to a very healthy 69 per cent," Water Minister Craig Wallace said.

Rain in Brisbane dam catchments in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday included KiIcoy 15, Dayboro 17, Maleny 20 and Obi Obi 30. On the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore recorded 74, Pomona 66 and Cooran 94.
Todd Gitlin Goes For Obama

The Sixties generation's best herald's ouija board finally budges.
Equanimity In The Face Of Raccoons

Last night, while walking Sparky, I saw the most extraordinary sight. Three raccoons were running west at full gallop on the sidewalk towards the intersection of 21st Street and Second Avenue. One of the raccoons was chortling like a hyena. They crossed the intersection towards the small postage-stamp parcel there that functions like a park. After Sparky and I passed by, one of the raccoons crossed back across the street to mark territory, due to the recent passage of the infidel dog.

But the entire time, Sparky showed not the least sign of interest in the raccoons. I'm not sure if he already knew about the raccoons, from their scent, and thus discounted their actual presence, or whether he never saw or heard them at all, because of his age-limited senses. Maybe raccoons are for puppies - he's a grown-up dog now, with better things to do....
Going For A Bigger Win

Reasons to support Obama:
...I think we are on the verge of a possibly transforming election akin to the 1932 election. In 1930 Democrats posted big gains in the House and Senate, and eked out narrow majorities in both chambers for the first time in a generation. In 1932, largely because of disgust with Herbert Hoover and the Republican party, the Democrats again scored huge gains, creating powerful governing majorities in both chambers of Congress. And the presidency was won, of course, by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

... FDR didn't entirely create the 1932 landslide, and that the President FDR eventually became was not foreseen by many observers of the 1932 election. In fact, in important ways, the 1932 landslide helped FDR being a great President. It was in part because he had a huge Democratic majority, and they had a powerful mandate from the American people, that they could embark on their bold crusade of fundamental change to ameliorate the devastation caused by the great depression. But contrary to the beliefs of many today, Roosevelt did not campaign on or enter office with a detailed policy platform. In fact, about the only concrete policy he espoused was to balance the federal budget, a policy he quickly jettisoned in favor of massive public spending and the accompanying debts to stimulate economic growth. Public spending to stimulate an economy is now axiomatic, but Roosevelt's administration was possibly the first to adopt such a Keynesian economic policy, something that was not foreshadowed in Roosevelt's almost content-free campaign.

Roosevelt also didn't win that election by as much as most people believe. In 1920 Democrat James Cox (with running mate FDR) got only 34% of the vote. In 1924 John Davis received only 29% of the vote, and in 1928 Al Smith took less than 41%. So the 57.41% Roosevelt received was a huge jump from previous Democratic performances. But his percentage was roughly equal to Eisenhower's total in 1956, and less that what Johnson (1964), Nixon (1972) and Reagan (1984) garnered.

What mattered in 1932, however, was the mandate from the voters, the 13 Senate seats and the 97 House seats that came along with Roosevelt's landslide. Roosevelt was one of our two or three greatest presidents because he took advantage of the political opportunity of an electoral mandate, 60 seats in the Senate and 313 in the House.

There's no way Democrats will gain the 73 seats it would need to get us to 313 in the House. But it's not inconceivable that we could hit 60 seats in the Senate. And even if we only pick up 20 or 30 seats in the House, with the much more cohesive House (where individual "mavericks" have less ability to gum up the works than they do in the Senate), Democrats could push through much more progressive legislation than the sclerotic majorities sustained by residual Dixiecrat influences that the Republicans finally swept out in 1994.

This is maybe the most important difference between a ticket led by Barack Obama and one headed up by Hillary Clinton. As I said above, I think Hillary Clinton will win if she's our nominee. But I believe Barack Obama could win in a landslide.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Secret To Vegas' Popularity Among Celebrities

Actually, I think the powers-that-be can make this oasis last forever. After all, it's their life-blood at stake:
What is stunning, however, is that [Michael Jackson] managed to live at the Palms for at least two months before a local gossip columnist wrote about it on Jan. 16.

How is it that the whereabouts of a tabloid target like Mr. Jackson could stay concealed for so long? Well, one might have noticed what did not happen after Norm Clarke’s article appeared in The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

No swarm of paparazzi descended upon the Palms. No enterprising photographer sneaked inside to snap Mr. Jackson heading to an elevator. No hotel guest made a cellphone video to sell to or to post on YouTube.

“Does that surprise me? Not really,” said Larry Fink, public relations director for the Palms. Citing the privacy of guests, Mr. Fink would neither confirm nor deny Mr. Jackson’s presence. “The celebrity media here is — I don’t want to say they’re well behaved — but there’s a certain level of respect between us and them,” he said.

It’s true. Despite the constant star visits and red carpet events in Las Vegas, few if any images of pantyless pop stars, married actors getting lap dances or even paparazzi mobs chasing celebutantes into limousines have appeared online or in publications.

The most notorious illicit video out of Las Vegas in recent years was last summer’s footage of an intoxicated David Hasselhoff crawling on the floor of his hotel room while trying to eat a hamburger. It was shot by his daughter and leaked by a member of his family.

Las Vegas is a city where stars can avoid the aggressive breed of stalker photographers who shadow their public events in Los Angeles and New York. At the very least, stars exert more control over their exposure. Ensconced in the protective resorts, and guarded by private security teams, the stars find the celebrity news media in Las Vegas far less invasive.

...“All of our photographers are known to the casinos almost as if they’re registered,” said [Robin] Leach, who writes the Vegas Luxe Life blog for Las Vegas Magazine. “If a photographer breaks the spirit of the unidentified terms of his access, that’s the last time he gets red carpet or nightclub privileges.”

That powerful, lingering threat is the difference between Las Vegas and other cities. The casino mega-resorts are private property. Many have private elevators, tunnels and garages for those not wishing to be seen.

...Even when celebrities do embarrass themselves here, their actions rarely receive widespread coverage. Last February, the hotel magnate Steve Wynn fell to the floor after bumping his head on a boom mike while walking a red carpet for Elizabeth Taylor’s 75th birthday party. Mr. Clarke reported the incident in his column, but no images of the fall emerged, even though many photographers were present.

...“A publicist at one of the properties once told me he’s surprised with all the members of an entourage traveling with these stars and all the people having sex in rooms, that somebody doesn’t take a picture of an A-lister laying next to a stripper,” Mr. Clarke said. “I’m amazed I don’t get more of that, too.”

...Even if the paparazzi aren’t out in force, what about the thousands of visitors with camera phones? Gary Morgan, chief executive of the celebrity photo service Splash News, doubts Las Vegas visitors understand the value of what they may have. “In L.A., people snap a picture and go, ‘Oh, oh, oh, I’ll give it to someone,’ ” Mr. Morgan said. “A lot of people are in Vegas to have fun, gambling and drinking, and they’re not in the mind-set.”

All this may soon change. The syndicated entertainment-news show “Extra” has opened a bureau in Las Vegas ... “Extra” opened its bureau here, said Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, senior executive producer of the show, because she “got tired of having to have crews and reporters get on planes” to cover the many celebrities visiting the city. “There was this giant curtain over Vegas and nobody knew what the secret code was to get inside, but now we feel we own Las Vegas because we’re here all the time,” Ms. Gregorisch-Dempsey said.

...“The celebrities are probably wandering the streets of Vegas going, ‘Man I can’t believe this is the last place on Earth where I’m not being photographed by telescopic lenses,’ ” said Peter Castro, deputy managing editor of People. “They’re probably thinking, ‘What’s the catch here?’ ”

But he predicted that this would soon be brought to a close by the public appetite for celebrity scandal. “There’s too much money in it for that to last,” he said.
The Impact Of Media

It happened first here. Now, it's spreading to the other side of the Pond:
LONDON (AFP) - Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.

The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth.

And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist.

Three percent thought Charles Dickens, one of Britain's most famous writers, is a work of fiction himself.

Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi and Battle of Waterloo victor the Duke of Wellington also appeared in the top 10 of people thought to be myths.

Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Holmes actually existed; 33 percent thought the same of W. E. Johns' fictional pilot and adventurer Biggles.
Too Much Snow

Wei asked me what I thought about the terrible crisis in China with the snow storms paralyzing the country. I pointed at a map of Australia and said "How is it that it is raining heavily everywhere except in the City of Brisbane's watershed?" Wei persisted with asking my opinion about the Chinese snow. I said, "Well, it snows in China in the winter, and that's just the way it is." Then he pointed out where in China it's snowing, including neo-tropical Guangdong Province.

Oooooh..... Nothing to say!
On The Influence Of The Liberal Blogosphere

Excellent commentary:
Thanks. None of this would have been possible if we weren't willing to say "fuck" a lot, though -- an important point which is often glossed over. Somebody had to say that the war was a stupid fucking idea, for instance. Because, you know, it was a stupid fucking idea (as was the bankruptcy bill and telecom immunity), and yet the media (including, shamefully, the NYT) just sort of forgot to point this out.
An Interesting Question

Every once in a while, amongst the many questions asked of Google that unaccountably leads the perplexed to this Weblog, a genuinely interesting question is posed, such as this one:
What are some things that Tupac and King Arthur had in common?
That's a good question. It had never occurred to me that they might have anything in common.

This post on the Web suggests Tupac was a flawed hero, and in that sense, resembles King Arthur. But then he also compares Tupac to J.R.R. Tolkein, and I don't that comparison will stand inspection.

In any event, I still don't think Tupac and King Arthur have anything in common....
Getting Started With Spring Cleaning

Even though Steve and Jan said their Superbowl party today was just an excuse to get together and watch the new TV ads, I elected not to go, and with Bruce's help, got started cleaning the basement instead. I mean, the only thing I dislike more than watching team sports is watching television commercials. Together, too toxic! Better to shuffle foul-smelling liquids around in the muddy dungeon instead....
Scott Griffith's Birthday Party

Excellent time with some of the DMTC crew, celebrating Scott's birthday at the new house in West Sacramento. Not sure how old he is: 18, 22, 26; something like that.... He does seem rather timeless....

Prior to arriving at the party, however, I had misremembered the house number and we ended up at a different house, about a block away from the proper address. An older couple, deeply responsible and eager to help the wayward travellers on their doorstep, appeared perplexed about a neighbor they had not yet heard of.

The woman said, "We've lived in this house for fifty years. We bought this house for $12,000! The neighbors across the street recently sold their house for $383,000. Isn't that terrible? But we have never heard of anyone named Griffin."

"Griffith," I repeated. "Scott Griffith."

The man looked through a drawer and told his wife, "Dear, we have three yellow page directories for West Sacramento here, but no white page directories. This directory indicates that there is someone named Griffin living in Natomas, however."

"Griffith," I repeated. "Scott Griffith."

"Maybe the Takahashis know someone named Griffin," she replied. "They've lived in this neighborhood for years and they know everyone."

After making a phone call, I got my memory updated, and we left for the proper address, leaving the couple eager to get to know their new neighbors, the Griffins.
NM Poll Has Obama Leading

The statewide survey of 207 New Mexico Democrats who are likely to vote, conducted Jan. 22-31, had Obama up 48 percent to 42 percent, with 10 percent undecided.