Friday, September 19, 2008

Christopher Buckley Interview

J. recommends:
Christopher Buckley (son of William) was a guest on "Forum" on KQED the other day. He predicted that Obama would win handily, mainly based on the current financial debacle.
Today's Moment Of Zen

Yes, it's all Obama's fault:
"This morning Senator McCain gave a speech in which his big solution to this worldwide economic crisis was to blame me for it," Obama said.

"This is a guy who's spent nearly three decades in Washington, and after spending the entire campaign saying I haven't been in Washington long enough, he apparently now is willing to assign me responsibility for all of Washington's failures.

"Now, I think it's a pretty clear that Senator McCain is a little panicked right now. At this point he seems to be willing to say anything or do anything or change any position or violate any principle to try and win this election, and I've got to say it's kind of sad to see. That's not the politics we need.

"It's also been disappointing to see my opponent's reaction to this economic crisis. His first reaction on Monday was to stand up and repeat the line he's said over and over again throughout this campaign -- 'the fundamentals of the economy are strong' -- the comment was so out of touch that even George Bush's White House couldn't agree with it."
Aaarrgghh Maties!

Left: Image via not-a-pedophile at B3ta.

Today is the annual "Talk Like A Pirate" Day!
Technology Helps Disseminate The Bad News

Left: The neighbors' house across the street, before Hurricane Ike.

Like tens of thousands of folks who left Galveston in advance of Hurricane Ike, my coworker's friend's brother was trying to figure out if his house was still standing, or not. But how to learn this information with return to the city so difficult?

Left: The same neighbors' house is clearly visible at the upper left. My coworker's friend's brother house appears to have moved 80 feet, or so, off its foundation (indicated by arrow).

Hard information came at 11:45 into this Sept. 15th video carried by Houston's KPRC Channel 2. Frank Billingsley narrated what he found in a helicopter tour of Galveston.

My coworker states:
Here's the bullshit thing of it all. [My friend's brother] was fully covered with fire, hurricane and flood insurance. His insurance company is now claiming that it was the "STORM SURGE" that was responsible for the damages and a surge is not covered by flood insurance.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obama In Española, NM

Besides the fact President McCain wouldn't have the power to fire SEC head Chistopher Cox, I like this approach:
ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised new ideas Thursday to calm America's financial meltdown and help struggling families avoid mortgage foreclosure, saying "this is not a time for fear and it's not a time for panic."

Obama heaped criticism and sarcasm on John McCain, his Republican rival, and mocked his call to fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"I think that's all fine and good but here's what I think," Obama said. "In the next 47 days you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path. Don't just get rid of one guy. Get rid of this administration. Get rid of this philosophy. Get rid of the do-nothing approach to our economic problem and put somebody in there who's going to fight for you."

He said McCain was so out of touch that the White House had to distance itself from his statement Monday that the fundamentals of the economy were sound. President Bush has used that same language but his press secretary would not repeat the line Wednesday in the face of historic financial turbulence.
It's A Diverse World Out There!

Look and ye shall find
Marine scientists have discovered hundreds of new animal species on reefs in Australian waters, including brilliant soft corals and tiny crustaceans, according to findings released Thursday.

The creatures were found during expeditions run by the Australian chapter of CReefs, a global census of coral reefs that is one of several projects of the Census of Marine Life, an international effort to catalog all life in the oceans.

"People have been working at these places for a long time and still there are literally hundreds and hundreds of new species that no one has ever collected or described," said Julian Caley, a scientist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science who is helping to lead the research.

"So in that sense, it's very significant in that if we don't understand what biodiversity is out there, we don't have much of a chance of protecting it," he said.

Scientists at several Australian museums have begun the complex process of working with the samples for genetic barcoding and taxonomy, the formal system of naming living things. That work is expected to take years, Caley said.

Among the creatures researchers found were about 130 soft corals — also known as octocorals, for the eight tentacles that fringe each polyp — that have never been described in scientific literature, and scores of similarly undescribed crustaceans, including tiny shrimp-like animals with claws longer than their bodies.
Obama's Spin; McCain's Flat Effect

Analyzing it all with computers:
Technology is here to help. Software programs that analyse a person's speech, voice or facial expressions are building upon the work of researchers like Ekman to help us discover when the truth is being stretched, and even by how much. "The important thing to recognise is that politicians aren't typically good at out-and-out lies, but they are very adept at dancing around the truth," says David Skillicorn, a mathematics and computer science researcher at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. "The 2008 election has so far given us plenty of chances to see them in action."

Skillicorn has been watching out for verbal "spin". He has developed an algorithm that evaluates word usage within the text of a conversation or speech to determine when a person "presents themselves or their content in a way that does not necessarily reflect what they know to be true".

The algorithm counts usage of first person nouns - "I" tends to indicate less spin than "we", for example. It also searches out phrases that offer qualifications or clarifications of more general statements, since speeches that contain few such amendments tend to be high on spin. Finally, increased rates of action verbs such as "go" and "going", and negatively charged words, such as "hate" and "enemy", also indicate greater levels of spin. Skillicorn had his software tackle a database of 150 speeches from politicians involved in the 2008 US election race (see diagram).

...Additionally, he says, little details count: pronouns such as "we" and "I" are often substituted subconsciously, no matter what is written in the script.
Each of the candidates had made speeches containing very high and very low levels of spin, according to Skillicorn's program, depending on the occasion. In general though, Obama's speeches contain considerably higher spin than either McCain or Clinton. For example, for their speeches accepting their party's nomination for president, Obama's speech scored a spin value of 6.7 - where 0 is the average level of spin within all the political speeches analysed, and positive values represent higher spin. In contrast, McCain's speech scored -7.58, while Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention scored 0.15. Skillicorn also found that Sarah Palin's speeches contain slightly more spin than average.

..."When you see these crises come along, the spin goes up," Skillicorn says. "Obama is very good at using stirring rhetoric to deal with the issues. And it seems to work if you look at what happens in the polls afterwards."
McCain does not seem as adept at using spin to his advantage, and his "straight talk" can make his speeches fall flat from a motivational point of view, according to Branka Zei Pollermann, founder of the Vox Institute in Geneva, Switzerland, who has analysed the candidates' voices for communication consultants Clearwater Advisors, based in London.

"The voice analysis profile for McCain looks very much like someone who is clinically depressed," says Pollermann, a psychologist who uses voice analysis software in her work with patients. Previous research on mirror neurons has shown that listening to depressed voices can make others feel depressed themselves, she says.

Pollermann uses auditory analysis software to map seven parameters of a person's speech, including pitch modulation, volume and fluency, to create a voice profile. She then compares that profile with the speaker's facial expressions, using as a guide a set of facial expressions mapped out by Ekman, called the Facial Action Coding System, to develop an overall picture of how they express themselves.
Her analysis shows that McCain's voice changes little in pitch as he speaks, and so conveys very little emotion or impact. Whether he is addressing positive prospects or discussing sad facts, his voice always sounds the same.

Additionally, McCain's voice and facial movements often do not match up, says Pollermann, and he often smiles in a manner that commonly conveys sarcasm when addressing controversial statements. "That might lead to what I would call a lack of credibility."

People are unlikely to trust statements made in a flat tone, particularly when they do not match the person's facial expressions. According to Pollermann's analysis, it may not make any difference that McCain does not pepper his speeches with spin, if the way he talks does not strike people as believable.
Narcissism Watch

(via The Evil Beet):

Ice-T's wife Coco has started a magazine called "Coco" and it's pretty much all about herself.

She should have been a blogger, but she'll probably make more money this way....
Hate On The Spanish Day Over At McCain HQ

Apparently all McCain is doing is continuing the Bush policy of throwing spitwads at the Spanish:
Republican presidential nominee John McCain suggested this week that he would continue President Bush's policy of having cool relations with the government of Spain, despite having made starkly contrasting statements to the Spanish press earlier this year saying he looked forward to normalized relations with the NATO ally.

In comments that have caused a kerfuffle in Spain, McCain seemed to lump Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero in the same category as the anti-American leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. McCain's remarks came during in an English-language interview with Radio Caracol WSUA 1260AM in Miami, part of the Spanish-language radio group Union Radio, conducted Tuesday.

President Bush has never forgiven Zapatero for pulling troops out of Iraq shortly after his victory in 2004. Though the Spanish prime minister has tried repeatedly to rebuild relations and win an invitation to visit Washington, Bush has yet to hold a formal bilateral meeting with him.

Zapatero is a center-left politician, but McCain has suggested that as president he would seek to repair relations that have been badly frayed in Europe during Bush's tenure. In an early-April interview with a reporter from Spanish newspaper El Pais, McCain said, "This is the moment to leave behind discrepancies with Spain."

He added: "I would like for [President Zapatero] to visit the United States. I am very interested not only in normalizing relations with Spain but in obtaining good and productive relations with the goal of addressing many issues and challenges that we have to confront together."

The reporter for the Miami radio station seemed surprised that McCain, after discussing anti-American antagonists in Latin South America, acted so coolly to the idea of meeting with Zapatero.

"I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion," McCain said, throwing in words of praise for the Mexican government.

The reporter asked a second time: "Would that invitation be extended to the Zapatero government?"

McCain repeated his talking point: "I can assure you I will establish closer relations with our friends and I will stand up to those who want to do harm to the United States of America."

The reporter pressed again, and McCain replied: "I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not."

At this point, the reporter sought to clarify that McCain was not mixing up South America with Europe.

"I'm talking about the president of Spain," she noted.

Given this fourth opportunity to extend an olive branch, McCain stuck to his guns: "I'm willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom and I will stand up to those who are not."

That McCain would lump Zapatero in with such Latin American bad guys as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez comes as a surprise, because Zapatero and Juan Carlos, the King of Spain, were the protagonists in one of the most public anti-Chavez moments in the Spanish-speaking world.
McCain Is Old - Really Old

Pesky details, like whether Spain is an American ally, or not, and just who is Prime Minister Zapatero anyway?

You would think that Spain being one of Al Qaeda's chief worldwide targets would grant it special favor with the Americans, but we're going to stand tall against the Spanish anyway:
This isn't funny. It's actually quite serious. We may have the first evidence, on tape, that McCain's age, or illness, or both are catching up with him and he's losing his mental faculties.

I just listened to an interview John McCain did with a Spanish journalist recently. The interview is in English, but there's a Spanish translator translating the tape into Spanish at the same time. So the English part is difficult to hear. I am however fluent in Spanish, and what Josh reports is exactly what the Spanish version shows.

Namely, that John McCain didn't appear to know that Spain was in Europe, or that the leader of Spain was named Zapatero, even after he was told that Zapatero was the leader of Spain.

When asked about Spain and Zapatero, by a Spanish reporter for a Spanish newspaper, McCain responded about Mexico and Latin America. A reader suggested something that Josh had already considered, that perhaps McCain thought the reporter was talking about the Zapatistas in Mexico, the guerilla group. But that's not possible as the reporter clearly said she was talking about Spain and Spain's leader, Zapatero. She told McCain this twice. Let me tell you exactly what she asked McCain (per the translation):
"Senator, finally, let's talk about Spain. If you're elected president, would you invite President Zapatero to meet with you in the White House?"
McCain then gives this odd answer about America's friends and America's enemies. He also, oddly, talks about Mexico (why Mexico? The question was about Spain) and how he'd invite friendly leaders to the White House. She then asks him again, would that invitation include President Zapatero? He says again that he'd have to review relations first, blah blah. She then says again, "so you'd have to wait to see, so would you meet with him in the White House?" He again repeats his weird statement about friends and enemies. McCain also throws in, oddly, to the Spanish reporter, when she's asking him about meeting the Spanish president, a line about the importance of our relationship with Latin America (this is now the second time he answered a question about meeting the president of Spain with an answer about Latin America). She then says to McCain one last time:
"Okay, but I'm talking about Europe - the president of Spain, would you meet with him?"
This time, there was no room for confusion. McCain then gives this very bizarre answer:
"I will meet with any leader who has the same principles and philosophy as us in terms of human rights, democracy, and freedom and I will stand up to those who do not."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not A House Divided Against Itself

But still a house to make you ill:
A HOUSE that has been built entirely upside-down has backfired with tourists in Germany, with many visitors complaining of feeling sick when inside.
The family-sized house, built on the northern German island of Usedom, is furnished with chairs, tables and carpets stuck to the ceiling.

Designed by Polish partners Klausdiusz Golos and Sebastian Mikiciuk, the building is part of the Edutainment exhibition and is supposed to attract tourists to the region.

But upon entering the construction, visitors have reported feeling dizzy and disorientated.
Up North, In Alaska

The McCain/Palin campaign has decided to destroy Walt Monegan:
You really can't experience the full effect of Monday's news conference featuring Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton unless you hear it for yourself. Stapleton passionately attacked former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan. Her rhetoric was plain, desperate, and obvious. Her tone, pure shrill.

With intensity, urgency, and alarm in her voice, Stapleton described Monegan's behavior as commissioner as egregious insubordination, full of obstructionist conduct and a brazen refusal to follow instructions.

Did Walt Monegan, former Marine, and lifetime crime fighter deserve this? Of course not.

But history has proven, get in the way of Sarah Barracuda's political ambition, and you won't know what hit you.

If anyone should be on the hot seat, it's not Monegan, but Palin for her inconsistencies.

The governor has given so many different reasons for firing Monegan I've lost count. From the "we need new direction" and "new energy" to "he wasn't hiring enough cops," to "he wasn't doing enough about alcohol in the bush" to "he lobbied for budget increases" to the latest version, which is a doozy; Monegan displayed "egregious rogue behavior."

The governor also originally said that neither she, Todd nor anyone from her administration pressured Monegan regarding Trooper Wooten. Palin then was forced to admit there was serial contact once the Frank Bailey tape surfaced. But she insisted she was just learning of it. But e-mails have surfaced detailing Palin complaining to Monegan about Wooten.

The governor also originally said an investigation was needed and promised to cooperate. Then she instructed her employees not to talk to the investigator and has herself refused to be interviewed.

Palin can't constantly change her story and expect us to believe her each time she does.
The Ol' Boy's Network

Elko, NV:
"But it sounds like he got a little carried away, because yesterday, John McCain actually said that if he's President, he'll take on the -- and I quote -- 'ol' boys network' in Washington. I am not making this up. This is someone who's been in Congress for 26 years -- who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign -- and now he tells us that he's the one who will take on the ol' boy network. The ol' boys network? In the McCain campaign, that's called a staff meeting."
Getting Steamed Again About Illegals

I get so mad. Illegal Mexican labor BUILT this country, and everyone here got rich off their efforts, and everyone continues getting rich off of their efforts, and EVERYONE denies it!

Here's something from Oregon (off the Daily Kos):
Last week the Oregon alternative paper, Willamette Week broke the story that Republican incumbent Senator Gordon Smith, an advocate for "immigration reform" in the form of building a big fence, employed undocumented
at his frozen foods processing plant in eastern Oregon.

Smith's response was unequivocal:
“I have never had such a hit-piece hatchet-job slimeball done to me before in my 16 years in public life,” Smith told KXL radio host Lars Larson the same day WW published “Señor Smith”. “The policy of that company is to obey the law and document every worker.”
Except, of course, when it isn't. In a follow up article, WW locates former and current employees who were or are undocumented or got the job with fake papers.
Tomás Salgado wasn’t the first undocumented worker to pack vegetables at Smith Frozen Foods, and he wasn’t the last. To say otherwise denies the truth, says Salgado—a short, heavyset 45-year-old man with a round face and buzz-cut hair.

“What they’re doing is an injustice,” Salgado says in Spanish of Smith Frozen Foods. “Undocumented workers have always helped [Smith]. In reality, they helped grow the plant. And right now they’re still bringing the senator riches.”
Bev's Fiddler Review Out

She likes most stuff in the show, but she's iffy about others....
Nauer reprises the role he played at the Woodland Opera House a year ago. He has a strong voice and is a good actor, but his Tevye is more a combination of a downtrodden Jewish milkman and Santa Claus. Try as he might, whatever he does, Nauer can't get rid of that twinkle in his eye.

That said, he has wonderful moments, particularly during the scenes with his daughters, when this man of strong traditional values must confront a changing world and realize that his children have very different views on life and love ... and can he accept them?

His duet with Isaacson's Golde - when the couple discovers, after 25 years, that they've grown to love each other - is quite touching.

The three daughters are simply marvelous: both individually and together, during their trio in 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker.'

Amanda Yount is Tseitel, the eldest, who pleads with Tevye not to betroth her to Lzar Wolf, the butcher (Jon Mounts), because of her love for her childhood friend, Motel (Brennan Ballard).

Hodel (Josephine Longo), the intellectual middle daughter, decides to marry the student Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio), and she shocks her father by asking for his blessing, instead of his permission.

Selvaggio is one of those performers who suddenly displays a huge voice that we don't quite expect; he's a delightful surprise.

Shannon Kendall is radiant as Chava, Tevye's favorite daughter, who breaks her father's heart when she falls in love with Fyedka (Trevor Hoffmann), a Russian and therefore Tevye's sworn enemy.
CORE Dance Collective Workshops

The folks at CORE are offering a Master Tap dance workshop on Sunday afternoon, taught by Alyson Meador, and a contemporary dance/hip hop workshop at Antelope High School this Saturday, midday.

Good dancers, those CORE dancers!
Gallup Tracking Poll

Statistical tie:
PRINCETON, NJ -- The Sept. 14-16 Gallup Poll Daily tracking update shows Barack Obama regaining a slight, although not statistically significant, edge over John McCain, 47% to 45%, among registered voters, marking the first time since the week of the Republican National Convention that McCain has not held at least a one percentage point margin over Obama.

From a broad perspective, the race remains a statistical tie. But there has been a general drift towards Obama since McCain moved to a five-point lead over Obama through the weekend after the GOP convention.

Today's report includes two days of interviewing conducted after reports of the collapse of Wall Street financial institutions and changes in the stock market began to dominate the news on Monday. Gallup Poll Daily tracking data show that in each of these individual days (Monday and Tuesday) consumer ratings of the U.S. economy have become more negative. Similarly, in each of these individual days' interviewing, Obama has led McCain in election tracking. There is thus a correlation between the bad financial news and Obama's gains, although the data do not allow us to conclude definitively that there is a causal connection between the two.
Glittery Haven

Another dreadful day on Wall Street (off 460 points). So, what to do?

Today, it looks like everyone is going all conquistador, and buying gold:
Gold prices exploded Wednesday -- posting the biggest one-day gain ever in dollar terms -- as fears of more credit market turmoil unnerved investors and triggered a flood of safe-haven buying.

Gold for December delivery rose as much as $90.40, or 11.6 percent, to $870.90 an ounce in after-hours trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after jumping $70 to settle at $850.50 in the regular session. That was the biggest one-day price jump ever; gold's previous single-day record was a $64 gain on Jan. 29, 1980.
After The Apocalypse

In Galveston, water and sewer systems aren't working. Its hospital is closed. The city is littered with debris and officials are asking for help against disease-carrying mosquitoes. One of the biggest challenges may be ensuring clean drinking water for the region.

``We're telling people who are here if they can leave, leave,'' Galveston spokeswoman Mary Jo Naschke said by telephone today. ``We are telling residents we will let them know when it's OK to return. Right now it's not good.''

When Ike hit land as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 13 with 110-mile per-hour (177 kph) winds, its eye passed over Galveston, perhaps sparing the city the worst of the storm's fury. The storm surge in Galveston, predicted to be as high as 25 feet (7.6 meters), may have peaked at half that level, according to a National Weather Service tidal gauge.

Forty percent of the city's 57,500 residents opted to ride out the storm, Steve LeBlanc, the city manager, said the day before Ike struck.

Most of Galveston is still covered by floodwaters, which have begun receding, according to a city statement.

...In the U.S., most deaths from hurricanes typically occur after the storm passes, said Thomas Kirsch, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response in Baltimore.

Access to clean water is the most pressing issue, he said. Power failures can idle purification plants for weeks, seawater can make water undrinkable, and pipes have often been contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Tainted water can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

...In Galveston, a medical clinic is handling emergencies and giving out tetanus shots, Naschke said. The city has asked Galveston County to start spraying for mosquitoes, which carry and spread disease.

Officials need to attack the pests as soon as possible, said Richard Pollack, a mosquito researcher at Harvard University's School of Public Health in Boston.

``Within a few days, if they don't do this, life is going to be fairly unbearable,'' he said. ``It is a real problem. It is a quality-of-life issue. You can't tell if the mosquito landing on you or your child is infected or not.''

If unchecked, mosquitoes carrying diseases including West Nile virus could get out of control, he said.

Galveston's hospital, the University of Texas Medical Branch, lost its generators and had to evacuate the last of its patients, Naschke said.

...Elsewhere along the Texas coast, entire towns were all but erased by Ike's storm surge. Ike has killed 41 people in 10 states, the Associated Press reported.

...``It's going to be a while before people can live in their homes,'' Paulison said today aboard Air Force One with Bush. Some residents may wait 18 months, Paulison said.

Curfews are in force in many of Texas's hardest-hit communities and about 1.8 million customers in the state are without power. Thousands of residents have been lining up for water, food, ice and gasoline.

...A 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is in place in Galveston and 11 people have been arrested for looting, Naschke said. National Guard troops are backing up city police in enforcing the curfew, according to the city's Web site.

About 70 percent of Houston should have electricity back by the end of the week, FEMA's Paulison said.

About 3,300 residents and 110 pets have been rescued along the Texas coast, according to the office of Governor Rick Perry.

``Residents who have evacuated, stay where you are,'' Perry said in a statement. ``The worst thing that could happen is for people who are in a safe area where there is food, water and electricity to return to communities that have yet to have essential services restored.''
Comparing Hurricane Ike With The 1900 Galveston Hurricane

Left: Surface weather analysis of the 1900 Galveston hurricane on September 8, just before landfall.

As bad as Hurricane Ike has been for Galveston, it could have been a lot worse.

In general, in the Northern Hemisphere, the biggest storm surge is to the right of the hurricane eye. Hurricane Ike's eye passed over Galveston, with the eye's center passing a short distance east of the city, and the storm surge caused problems everywhere, but particularly to the east, towards Port Arthur and Louisiana. Unfortunately, the storm surge was high enough to overtop the Galveston Seawall, but at least the island wasn't swept free of buildings altogether.

The eye of the 1900 hurricane crossed the coast southwest of Galveston, so Galveston took the full brunt of that storm's surge. And the 1900 hurricane was more powerful: Category 4 (120 mph+; 935.7 mb), stronger than Ike's Category 2 (110 mph; central pressure of 952 mbar).

So, in a way, this time, Galveston was lucky.

Which reminds me of what George Orwell wrote in his personal account of the Aragon front of the Spanish Civil War, in "Homage To Catalonia". Orwell was shot through the neck, and he suffered terribly, but because the bullet missed the carotid artery and the spine, the medics and the nurses kept telling him how lucky he was. Orwell said that, despite managing to survive, he didn't feel lucky at all.

Left: NY Times' graphic showing the path of Hurricane Ike's eye.

Regarding Ike, Wikipedia notes:
Over the next two days, Ike maintained a steady course towards Galveston and Houston. It increased only slightly in intensity to 110 mph (177 km/h) - the high end of Category 2 - but exhibited an unusually large wind field. As it approached the Texas coast, the inner structure and eyewall became more organized.

Ike made U.S. landfall at Galveston, Texas, on September 13 at 2:10am CDT (07:10 UTC), as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph (177 km/h) and a central pressure of 952 mbar (28.11 inHg). The 2:00 am NHC advisory cited tropical storm and hurricane force winds extending 275 miles (445 km) and 120 miles (190 km), respectively, from the center.

Left: Radar image of Hurricane Ike at landfall. HGX Radar, Base Reflectivity, 1:07am CDT.

Regarding the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, Wikipedia notes:
At the time of the 1900 storm the highest point in the city of Galveston was only 8.7 ft (2.7 m) above sea level. The hurricane had brought with it a storm surge of over 15 ft (4.6 m), which washed over the entire island. The surge knocked buildings off their foundations and the surf pounded them to pieces. Over 3,600 homes were destroyed and a wall of debris faced the ocean. The few buildings which survived, mostly solidly-built mansions and houses along the Strand District, are today maintained as tourist attractions.

The highest measured wind speed was 100 mph (160 km/h) just after 6 p.m., but the Weather Bureau’s anemometer was blown off the building shortly after that measurement was recorded. The eye passed over the city around 8 p.m. Maximum winds were estimated at 120 mph (190 km/h) at the time, though later estimates placed the hurricane at the higher Category 4 classification on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The lowest recorded barometric pressure was 28.48 inHg (964.4 hPa), considered at the time to be so low as to be obviously in error. Modern estimates later placed the storm’s central pressure at 27.49 inHg (930.9 hPa), but this was subsequently adjusted to the storm's official lowest measured central pressure of 27.63 inHg (935.7 hPa).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Picking Up The Pieces

Left: Christopher Cox of Galveston surveyed the damage to his trailer and property. Hundreds of power lines must be fixed before electricity can be restored to the island city, and the sludge left behind represents a "toxic soup" of mud, waste, asbestos, lead and gasoline. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters, via the NY Times).

Really interesting stories are beginning to emerge from the fetid, humid, post-apocalyptic wasteland left by Hurricane Ike in the vicinity of Galveston.

It is a very difficult decision to leave one's home, even under the threat of death, and it's no surprise that many people refused to do so and rode the storm out rather than endure traffic jams and the uncertainty of life on the road. The big surprise is how few people seem to have died.

But now, the survivors face life in a place that cannot support them: no electricity, no clean water, few services. Perhaps disease and death still lurk to cull the weak. And the refugees can't return yet.

This unacceptable situation might last for months, despite people's best efforts.
Meanwhile, Back On Mars....

Left: Rover Opportunity's tracks upon leaving Victoria Crater.

What-up with Opportunity? The rover has left Victoria Crater!:
Opportunity has completed one of the most fantastic scientific campaigns of the Mars Exploration Rover mission -- the interior investigation of "Victoria Crater." After spending more than 340 Martian days, known as sols -- almost one Earth year -- inside the crater, Opportunity climbed back out on sol 1634 (Aug. 28, 2008). To do so, Opportunity retraced the wheel tracks the robotic geologist had made while crossing a large sand ripple and entering Victoria on the slopes of an alcove known as "Duck Bay."
And what-up with Phoenix? They saw some dust devils - an expected oddity in the polar summer - but I'm most interested in this business about humidity swings.

These paradoxical humidity measurements are consistent with extremely-cold temperatures, and big temperature swings. The difference between high humidity and very low humidity is very small when temperatures are very low. There is no need to invoke big moisture fluxes:

A fork-like conductivity probe has sensed humidity rising and falling beside NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, but when stuck into the ground, its measurements so far indicate soil that is thoroughly and perplexingly dry.

"If you have water vapor in the air, every surface exposed to that air will have water molecules adhere to it that are somewhat mobile, even at temperatures well below freezing," said Aaron Zent of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., lead scientist for Phoenix's thermal and electroconductivity probe.

In below-freezing permafrost terrains on Earth, that thin layer of unfrozen water molecules on soil particles can grow thick enough to support microbial life. One goal for building the conductivity probe and sending it to Mars has been to see whether the permafrost terrain of the Martian arctic has detectable thin films of unfrozen water on soil particles. By gauging how electricity moves through the soil from one prong to another, the probe can detect films of water barely more than one molecule thick.

...Preliminary results from the latest insertion of the probe's four needles into the ground, on Wednesday and Thursday, match results from the three similar insertions in the three months since landing.

"All the measurements we've made so far are consistent with extremely dry soil," Zent said. "There are no indications of thin films of moisture, and this is puzzling."

Three other sets of observations by Phoenix, in addition to the terrestrial permafrost analogy, give reasons for expecting to find thin-film moisture in the soil.

One is the conductivity probe's own measurements of relative humidity when the probe is held up in the air. "The relative humidity transitions from near zero to near 100 percent with every day-night cycle, which suggests there's a lot of moisture moving in and out of the soil," Zent said.
Melamine's B-A-A-A-C-K!

Except now it's in infant formula instead of pet food:
SHANGHAI -- China's troubles with tainted baby formula grew into a national crisis today as health officials reported that a third infant had died, the number of illnesses skyrocketed to 6,244 and products from 22 companies tested positive for contamination with the industrial chemical melamine.

The number of infants sickened after ingesting the tainted powdered milk was five times more than what the government reported Monday. The new figures showed that 1,327 babies remained hospitalized, with 158 suffering from acute kidney failure, China's health minister, Chen Zhu, said at a news conference today in Beijing.

This massive weekend meeting on Wall Street concerning the fate of Lehman Brothers must have been intensely gripping - the Masters Of The Universe, humbled. The stuff of movies!:
One person in the Fed meetings Saturday night described them as "the world's biggest game of poker."

With different doomsday scenarios being batted around the meeting rooms, some participants felt the government would blink and do a bailout. "This is going to go down to the last second," one participant said.

With Bank of America backing away from a deal, the enormity of a potential bankruptcy filing by Lehman started settling in. Even understanding Lehman's current trading positions was tough. Lehman's roster of interest-rate swaps (a type of derivative investment) ran about two million strong, said one person familiar with the matter.

Overnight, the outlines of possible deals started to crystallize. The idea that Wall Street firms would fund a "bad bank" full of Lehman's problematic assets was dead. Unlike when Wall Street firms stepped in to bail out hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management a decade ago, today's banks are much weaker. Some were loathe to provide support when a rival like Barclays might still buy Lehman.

By Sunday morning, the U.K.'s Barclays looked like the sole potential buyer. That further minimized the chances of a government bailout: If the Bush administration wouldn't help to fund a Wall Street solution, aiding a foreign buyer was even less likely.


By the middle of Sunday afternoon, Barclays was out. Its plan -- to buy Lehman's subsidiaries -- was contingent on government support, which wasn't coming.

At a meeting held at the Fed offices, Mr. Paulson, Mr. Geithner and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox addressed a group of about one dozen banking chiefs. Their message was steadfast: They would not put up money to assist in salvaging Lehman. In the meetings with Mr. Paulson were his chief of staff, Jim Wilkinson, and two advisers, Dan Jester and Steve Shafran, both of whom used to work at Goldman Sachs.

Somber Mood

The mood turned somber as it became clear that the group would have to turn its attention to dismantling Lehman in a way that didn't seriously disrupt the financial system. Soon the group began discussing the mechanics of such a plan.

A sense of foreboding descended over the rival bankers. They focused on the fear that drove down shares in Lehman, worried that would now spread to Merrill, another storied name facing losses from mortgage-related holdings, despite the reputation of its wealth-management business.

"I think the government is playing with fire," said a top executive of a big bank.

The worry for Merrill, said people briefed on the conversations, was that as its stock tumbles, its credit rating could change, increasing its cost of borrowing. Faced with rising borrowing costs -- a key expense for giant Wall Street financial firms -- its business might be severely crimped. As well, as concerns mount, its trading partners might stop doing business with it.

Many in the room began to wonder when Merrill would sell itself. "Tonight, or tomorrow?" said one of these people in an interview. In fact, within a few hours, the bankers learned that Merrill was in talks to be acquired by Bank of America.

As word that a Barclays deal was off filtered across Wall Street, traders scrambled to extricate themselves their various financial transactions with Lehman. Traders at many Wall Street firms were told to come to work immediately.

The European Central Bank was also in a state of high alert on Sunday, with employees in divisions from money-market operations to financial stability camped out in the bank's 37-story glass-and-steel tower in Frankfurt, preparing for what Monday might bring. "We are in the hands of the Americans," said one employee.
Geography Is Destiny

Interesting maps.....

What's up with Arkansas? There are lots of neurotics in the Northeast U.S. And look at how different Utah and Nevada are in regards to agreeableness!

I've often been struck at just how different life in Utah and Nevada feels, even though there are many Mormons in both places, and the states are adjacent to each other. The casino economy really changes the way people interact with each other!

Become What You Wish

This is America, right? And we should be able to reach for the stars and become what we wish to become, right? That's the American ethic, distilled to its essence everywhere in America.

There are certain problems, however:
GREEN BAY, Wis. - A 33-year-old woman is charged with stealing her daughter's identity to attend high school and join the cheerleading team.

Wendy Brown, of Green Bay, faces a felony identity theft charge after enrolling in Ashwaubenon High School as her 15-year-old daughter, who lives in Nevada with Brown's mother.

"The defendant stated she wanted to get her high school degree and be a cheerleader because she had no childhood and was trying to regain a part of her life she missed," according to the complaint.

She allegedly attended cheerleading practices before school started, received a cheerleader's locker and went to a pool party at the cheerleading coach's house.

A high school employee, Kim Demeny, told authorities that the woman, posing at the teen, seemed very timid, told her she was not good in math and even cried when she talked about moving from Pahrump Valley High School in Pahrump, Nev. Although she looked older than a student, Demeny said she believed her demeanor was consistent with that of a high school girl.

A school liaison officer started investigating Monday after Brown only showed up for the first day of classes last week, the complaint said.

Assistant Principal Dirk Ribbins later learned Brown's daughter was enrolled at Pahrump Valley High School. Ribbins also spoke with Brown's mother who told him she had custody of the girl. She also said Brown has a history of identity theft crimes, the complaint said.

The complaint also said the $134.50 check Brown gave to the cheerleading coach for her uniform bounced.
Looking For Recognition

'Tis true, not everyone can do it:
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - It was a busy time for pole dancers in Amsterdam at the weekend.

While the red light district's troupe were gyrating as usual on Friday night, a host of girls from Albania to Spain flew in to compete for the European pole dance championship title.

Wearing sportswear reminiscent of Olympic gymnasts rather than skimpy leotards, girls performed gravity-defying dance routines based around two 6-metre poles -- one rotating, one fixed.

"Everything which we do requires so much strength. You train your legs and your muscles. It has nothing to do with eroticism. You have no time to think of that!" said Jeannine Wikering, the 26-year-old competitor for Germany who came third.

"I think one day it should be an Olympic sport -- but that will take time. You would have to agree which moves on which to judge competitors, at the moment we all have such different routines," she added.

Galina Troschenko, a 36-year-old representing Spain, won the event judged by a panel of five with a virtuoso performance full of acrobatic feats.

"I've only been doing this for three years, but I suppose I have a background as a dancer," she said.

Enthusiasts say pole dancing has taken off in recent years, with a rising number of classes set up to show women how to pole dance safely -- without pulling muscles or falling from the top of the pole.

The 10 girls of different nationalities taking part had competed for the contest in their home countries and most donned tracksuits at the end, reinforcing the sporting image.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Feel That McCain Momentum!

Without Sarah Palin, McCain has problems:
As reported by MSNBC's First Read, the Republican presidential nominee addressed a crowd of roughly 3,000 people in a stadium that seats 16,000.

The pictures, however, tell many more words. The Jacksonville [Florida] Veterans Memorial Arena where McCain spoke had large swaths of sections entirely empty, an American flag draped over the seats.
Nouriel, Two Months Ago

Two months ago, noted pessimist (and clairvoyant) Nouriel Roubini foresaw today's events on Wall Street, and said "I see a situation where, the sooner you do this thing, the better."
"Fiddler On The Roof" - Sunday Pix

Left: "The Dream". Fruma-Sarah (Virginia Shaw/Brennan Ballard) and Golde (Jan Isaacson).

I haven't been able to take too many shots, being busy with costume changes and all, but Correspondent SBI has been willing to help.

Left: "The Dream". Fruma-Sarah (Virginia Shaw/Brennan Ballard), Tevye (Jeff Nauer), and Golde (Jan Isaacson).

Left: "The Dream". Fruma-Sarah (Virginia Shaw/Brennan Ballard), Tevye (Jeff Nauer), and Golde (Jan Isaacson).

Left: "The Dream". Fruma-Sarah (Virginia Shaw/Brennan Ballard).

Left: Tailor Shop, Act I. At left, Russian George Morales strides on-stage.

Left: "Bottle Dance". Facing camera, Lindsay Carpenter.

Left: "Bottle Dance". Left to right, Marc Valdez, George Morales, Lindsay Carpenter, and Herb Shultz.

This photo was taken just two seconds before I dropped the freakin' bottle. This is the third time I've been a bottle dancer (WOH: 1997; DMTC, 2003), and this was my 27th performance as a Bottle Dancer.

Dance on the razor's edge long enough and eventually you get sliced up!

Left: "Final Scene". Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Left: "Final Scene". Bielke (Ana Hansen), Golde (Jan Isaacson), and Schprintze (Lauren Mills).
Wall Street Dominoes Crashing Today

And it's no surprise the DJI is down today 500 points, or so.

It's really shocking how rapidly things deteriorate when they start deteriorating on Wall Street. Sturdy, long-lived banking institutions evaporate like mirages.
Even FOX News Troubled By McCain Campaign Lies

SNL's Take

Featuring Tina Fey.
Sarah Palin - Petty And Vindictive

The Alaskan record isn't pretty:
Last summer State Representative John Harris, the Republican speaker of the House, picked up his phone and heard Mr. Palin’s voice. The governor’s husband sounded edgy. He said he was unhappy that Mr. Harris had hired John Bitney as his chief of staff, the speaker recalled. Mr. Bitney was a high school classmate of the Palins and had worked for Ms. Palin. But she fired Mr. Bitney after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.

“I understood from the call that Todd wasn’t happy with me hiring John and he’d like to see him not there,” Mr. Harris said.

“The Palin family gets upset at personal issues,” he added. “And at our level, they want to strike back.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Fiddler On The Roof" - Weekend Pix

Left: Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Below: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount).

Left: Motel (Brennan Ballard), Bielke (Ana Hansen), and Tzeitel (Amanda Yount).

Below: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio), Tevye (Jeff Nauer), and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: Tevye (Jeff Nauer), Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: Hodel (Josephine Longo), Tevye (Jeff Nauer) and Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio).

Left: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount), Chava (Shannon Kendall), and Fyedka (Trevor Hoffman).

Below: Golde (Jan Isaacson) and Yente (Dannette Vassar).

Left: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount), Tevye (Jeff Nauer), and Motel (Brennan Ballard).

Below: Motel (Brennan Ballard), and Tzeitel (Amanda Yount).

RIP, Peter Camejo

What an inspiring guy! I saw him give a really moving speech during the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall Election campaign and I was filled with admiration. May we all live up to his shining example!:
SACRAMENTO -- Peter Camejo, a Green Party leader who was a third-party candidate in three California gubernatorial elections before becoming Ralph Nader's running mate in the 2004 presidential race, died Saturday. He was 68.

Camejo, who had been battling lymphoma, died at his home in Folsom, a suburb east of Sacramento.

"Peter was a friend, colleague and politically courageous champion of the downtrodden and mistreated of the entire Western Hemisphere," Nader wrote in a statement released Saturday. "Everyone who met Peter, talked to Peter, worked with Peter, or argued with Peter, will miss the passing of a great American."

Camejo ran for the state's top office in 2002, 2003 and 2006, supporting abortion rights, the legalization of marijuana, universal health care and a moratorium on the death penalty. Before joining the Green Party, he also ran for president as the Socialist Workers Party nominee in 1976.

In 2004, Camejo was independent Nader's vice presidential pick.

Last month, Camejo, who lost his hair from chemotherapy, attended the Peace and Freedom Party convention in Sacramento to endorse Nader's current bid for the presidency with running mate Matt Gonzalez.

"Ralph Nader is more than a candidate, he's an issue," Camejo said in his Aug. 2 speech, adding that Nader brought true reform, offering an independent choice to the "ruling party."

Camejo passed away a few days after completing his autobiography, according to Nader.

Born on New Year's Eve 1939 in New York City, Camejo, a first-generation Venezuelan-American, became an activist at an early age, speaking out against the Vietnam War and for migrant worker rights. He marched in Selma, Ala., with Martin Luther King, Jr.

His fiery activism also got him expelled from the University of California, Berkeley in 1967 for using a school microphone during a demonstration. A year later, then-governor Ronald Reagan put him on his list of the 10 most dangerous people in California because he was "present at all anti-war demonstrations."

In 1987, Camejo co-founded Progressive Asset Management Inc., an Oakland investment firm that steers its clients' money into socially responsible funds where he remained its board chairman until his death. He also served as a board member of Earth Share, a federation of more than 400 environmental organizations, where he worked to promote solar energy.

"Peter Camejo was a man of great passion and boundless compassion for the poor, uninsured workers and for immigrant workers in their struggle for justice and legalization," Mike Wyman, a longtime friend, said in a statement on behalf of the Green Party of California. "He became a leader in the environmental justice movement and helped organized communities of color around environmental issues that affected them directly."
Wedding Scene - "Fiddler On The Roof" - Saturday Night

Left to right: Herb Schultz, Lindsay Carpenter, Marc Valdez, and George Morales.

Correspondent SBI got some fortunate shots!

Left: Wedding Dance #2 finale. At left, the Rabbi (Rich Kulmann).

Left: Groom, Motel the Tailor (Brennan Ballard). Bride, Tzeitel (Amanda Yount). Standing, Mordcha the Innkeeper (Dave Isaacson).