Friday, October 24, 2008

Vegas Hiatus

Yes. It is time.

A brief blogging break, so I can travel to Las Vegas tonight and attend the bar mitzvah of Daniel Gershin.

And no, I will not do the "Bottle Dance" at the bar mitzvah, because it will just cause trouble with Daniel's relatives.

I hope to blog intermittently, but I will return on Tuesday of next week.
Atheist Bus Campaign

Send us money, not your prayers.
Blubber Lover

The loudest-sounding thing in the Arctic.
The Bottle Dance At Phoebe Hearst

As part of a section regarding traditions, George Morales, Lindsay Carpenter, and myself did the "Fiddler On The Roof" Bottle Dance at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School, in front of George's son Chris' second grade class (taught by Mr. Yee).

We discussed with the class what traditions they follow at home. Most students decribed Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's traditions, but one girl described a summertime camping tradition, whereby she gets to eat large amounts of cotton candy. This tradition, I thought, would be best followed in moderation.

The linoleum dancing surface was actually smoother than the stage, and easier to deal with.

A good time for everyone!

In the parking lot, I struck up a conversation with a fellow who turned out to be the cousin of Amanda Yount (who played Tzeitel in DMTC's most-recent production of "Fiddler") and also met Amanda's aunt. It's a small world after all!
The Scariest Man In Davis

Jason Hammond, who frequently does theater at the Woodland Opera House and DMTC, heard that they also do theater at the UC Davis campus, and he went ballistic!

Here is marvelous video footage from KCRA TV-3.

God forbid that they actually do musicals at UC Davis, or Jason *SMASH* Hammond might really get mad! FIRE! BAD!

Or maybe it was this tidbit from UCD researchers:

From partisans at a political rally to fans at a football game, groups that engage in pompous displays of collective pride may be trying to mask insecurity and a low social status, suggests new research led by University of California, Davis, psychologists.
Were they talking about WOH or DMTC? Maybe that's what set him off!

And just who is this "Maria"?

But whatever it was, it was just a drill! It was just a drill!

Under that actor's tough exterior shell, Jason is a sensitive soul. Just don't make him mad! (And please don't tell him about them doing musicals at UC Davis!)

Here's the Davis Enterprise article:
This one's only a drill

Lauren Keene
Enterprise staff writer
Published: October 23, 2008

The call from Vallejo police came at about 8 a.m. A man there had just beaten his mother-in-law, and was on his way to UC Davis to confront his estranged wife.

He was armed with a gun, and due on campus in 10 minutes or less.

Campus police promptly alerted the Cowell Student Health Center, the wife's workplace, where employees put into action a formal lockdown procedure that would protect the hospital's patients and staff until officers could arrive on scene.

Fortunately, the scenario that played itself out on the UCD campus Wednesday morning was not an actual threat. It was a training exercise focused on securing an older or historic building that lacks electronic access, such as card-key entries, automatic locks and sophisticated alarms.

The exercise arose from the UCD Police Department's "active shooter" training program, which Lt. Matt Carmichael created last year following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people.

Now taught at colleges, school districts and police agencies across the country, the program teaches strategies for surviving a shooting incident in a school, workplace or other public setting.

Michelle Famula, director of the Cowell Student Health Center, said the training prompted some of her employees to question how they could make their 56-year-old building safer in the event of an external threat.

Working with police, those employees developed a draft policy and tracked down the low-cost equipment — such as walkie-talkies — that were needed to carry it out.

Highlights of the plan include a hierarchical incident-command structure, the strategic location of equipment to lock doors, and an emphasis on communication among the hospital's 120 employees.

"It's an impressive plan," said Carmichael, who added that a lack of communication can be one of the biggest failures in an emergency situation.

"That causes panic, and that causes people to react with not the best judgment," he said.

Organizers of Wednesday's training exercise opted for a domestic violence scenario because "this is, unfortunately, a common call," Carmichael said. "We know the leading cause of death for women in the workplace is homicide."

Administrators from the Yolo County and Vacaville school districts, as well as California State University, Dominguez Hills, and Santa Clara's Mission College were on campus to observe the drill.

Famula, the Cowell Student Health Center director, called the exercise a success.

"I think it went very well," she said. "It was a real opportunity to assure our staff that we can do this, if we keep our heads cool."

— Reach Lauren Keene at or (530) 747-8048. Comment on this story at

Copyright, 2008, The Davis Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.
McCain Muzzles The Muslim

No good deed goes unpunished:
CNN host Rick Sanchez said he was "mystified" by a last minute decision by the McCain campaign to pull a Muslim grassroots organizer from appearing on his show.

The aide, Daniel Zubairi, had been scheduled to appear on Sanchez's mid-day program after he was caught on video talking down an anti-Muslim protester outside a McCain rally in Woodbridge, Virginia. But, even after telling the network that an interview was "good to go," the McCain shop pulled Zubairi at the last minute, leaving Sanchez in limbo on live TV.
Weather, From The Onion

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ticket Blunder

Through an Internet blunder, I have accidentally purchased two tickets for Kylie Minogue's concert in Auckland, New Zealand on December 9th. I'm thinking of giving the ticket away to a charity for distressed Southern Electro Fans, or the like, but if you know anyone else who will also be there then, and who likes Kylie Minogue, let me know.

[UPDATE: I'll just get a refund - too complicated!]
So Who Does Alan Greenspan Blame?

For months, Wall Street has been blaming Alan Greenspan for the financial crisis. Alan Greenspan returns the favor, and blames Wall Street:
The truth is, Alan Greenspan made a very important point in his initial testimony that bears repeating. The blame for the credit crisis belongs to Wall Street.
The evidence strongly suggests that without the excess demand from securitizers, subprime mortgage originizations, undeniably the original source of the crisis, would have been far smaller and defaults accordingly far fewer. But subprime mortgages pooled and sold as securities became subject to explosive demand from investors around the world.
...That's right. Alan Greenspan went before Congress and did not, at least in his initial statement, blame Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or the Community Reinvestment Act or stupid homeowners or fraudulent lenders for the subprime meltdown and the ensuing credit crisis. He blamed the demand for risk from both the banks who would repackage the dodgy loans as exotic securities and the investors whose taste for these hotcakes could not be satisfied.

The private sector created the incentive to make bad loans. The private sector, despite its vaunted reliance on a "vast risk management and pricing system [that] has evolved combining the best insights of mathematicians and finance experts supported by major advances in computer and communications technology," failed to properly judge the risk inherent in those securities. The private sector, voracious for high-yielding risk, and unmindful of history, steered the global economy right off the tracks.

Alan Greenspan said it. It must be true.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Predicting Exercise Program Success

So, the main factors pointing towards exercise success are:
self-efficacy (the belief that one can perform in a specific way to succeed or meet goals),
Having access to home exercise equipment was a big predictor of starting an exercise program.
Now, I can see self-efficacy as an important motivating factor - I feel good when I (more or less) get the aerobics routine. It's important to have reasonable, achievable goals.

But I also see exercise partly as a social activity. If I felt I could do serious aerobics at home, I wouldn't do it at all - better to relax and watch something other than Denise Austin on TV. Like theater, I do aerobics specifically because I can't do it at home.

The money I spend on aerobics is probably the best-used money I spend on anything, including things like food, electricity and water. My goals are achievable and in sharp focus. And I know that, by hopping around in the company of beautiful women, if I work hard enough, I too can become a beautiful woman.
Johnny Cash - I Am The Nation

Amazing Migration

Can't even begin to fathom the focus and energy expenditure required:
A wading bird has spent more than nine continuous days in the air to cross the Pacific, without ceasing to flap. Bar-tailed godwits fly from Alaska to Australia and southern hemisphere islands each year to breed and this has now been shown to be without stopping. Nine of the birds, Limosa lapponica baueri, were fitted with electronic tags before flying between 4,355 miles (7,009 km) and 7,258 miles, depending on the route. They took from six to nine days. The bird that flew for nine days covered 6,230 miles to reach the Solomon Islands. The study, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was carried out by an international team of scientists. “This far surpassed previous maximum flight-range estimates for birds with flapping flight,” they said.
I'm Going To Buy Everyone I Know One Of These

They are just the coolest toy ever!
Pole Dancer Cracks Glass Ceiling

Irresistible headline from the Daily Rotten:
A United States man is suing a Florida strip club after he says a performer's shoe flew off during a pole dance, shattering the mirrored ceiling and causing glass, as well as the shoe, to hit him.

The Booby Trap breached "its duty when its employee failed to perform her routine in (a) reasonably safe manner,'' according to the Broward Circuit Court lawsuit filed by Charles Privette, 35. He is seeking at least $15,000 in damages.

Privette's attorney, Omar Demetriou, said his client suffered a small laceration to his eyebrow, headaches and nose bleeds as a result of the Jan. 14 pole dance.

Booby Trap general manager George Gettinger acknowledged paramedics were called. ``A quote from the paramedics was, 'I can't believe you even called us for this,' '' Gettinger said.
John McCain, Jihadist's Tool

The latest from friends of Al Qaeda:
Al-Qaida supporters suggested in a Web site message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the U.S. as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," the message said. "Then, al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Man

The Russians Are Coming!

Intrepid explorer Jim McElroy visits the East Coast:
I just returned from a fly/drive trip to the East Coast, where I drove from Bay Ridge Brooklyn to Ithaca New York, across Northern NJ and a corner of PA into Central Upstate NY. I thought that the attached photo is of interest. It is located just off Exit 4 on I-280 in Northern NJ. The date was Oct 20.

One would think this station was a outlying discounter, but I saw at least three of them on the trip, all with the same prices. Other stations in the area were displaying prices from $3.339 to $3.399, except for the Chevron station just across the street which showed $2.939. I'd never heard of this company before so I Googled it and found their web page, which was very interesting. It is a Russian Oil Company, which as far as I was able to determine only had refineries in Russia and a few Eastern European Countries. They refine the gas in Russia, ship it to the US by tanker, probably landing it in the New Jersey Ports. They seem to be setting up a chain of retail stations, undercutting the US oil companies by about 50 cents per gallon. There are so many questions about how this happened, or is happening, that it is worthy of further investigation.

In other related topics, the road systems in the East are in way better shape than California roads, especially the smaller state and county road systems. This is in spite of the much more severe weather conditions. They actually maintain the roads. The flip side of this is that you encounter a lot more construction delays, especially in fall before the first freeze. Traffic load is about the same.

The weekend before this trip was spent driving from San Jose to San Diego and back via Santa Barbara and I was amazed at the reduction in traffic relative to a year ago. On a Friday afternoon about 6PM we traveled the speed limit between US101 and I-5 over Pacheco Pass. Most of that was due to the new overpass at 152/156 but even so traffic was very light. The traffic along I-5 south was representative of a mid-week day, not a fall weekend. Also, the endless stream of trucks were all traveling at 60 mph or slightly lower, and few cars were going over the 70mph speed limit. It has finally sunk in that slower travel costs less. The reduction in travel and the slower speeds are sufficient explanation for the reduction in fuel consumption. I am however, still predicting a noticeable bump in prices shortly after Nov 4, maybe as much as 10 percent. We'll see.
Traitorous Accusations

One reason Republicans have been so fond of publicly calling Democrats traitors (particularly since World War II, but especially in Joe McCarthy's days, and since 9/11) has been that there has been absolutely no cost to doing so. The mainstream media he-said/she-said method of reporting imposes no penalty for the most scurrilous of accusations. So, why not accuse your opponents of being the vilest dregs of humanity, if that's the way you feel? Hardly anyone will call you on it, and you might win advantage through bravado.

That standard approach may be changing now, in part thanks to YouTube. Michele Bachmann's views expressed on "Hardball" attracted a wave of money for her opponent and condemnations from many, including Colin Powell. Not what you want when you are in a close race! And her denials of having ever said these things:
Despite the way the blogs and the Democratic Party are spinning it, I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.
can easily be judged by watching the video - you can bypass the he-said/she-said media baloney and judge for yourself.

(Her defense is perhaps technically true - she said Obama surrounds himself with anti-American liberals, but said nothing directly about Obama, and called for the media, not the HUAC, to lead an investigation - weasel words, to be sure.)

Politicians are like dogs playing on the freeway - they resist crossing to safe harbor, but they are capable of learning discretion if they see enough of their own (like Michele Bachmann) get thrashed in the axles of semi-trailer trucks. In fact, fear is the only way most politicians EVER learn anything!
Scacchi Chess Clay Stop Motion

Thanks, Gabe!

Chess - next to Argentine Tango, the most ruthless of pursuits!
Muslim McCain Voters Respond To Anti-Obama Xenophobia

At one time, Republican strategists like Karl Rove saw in places like Michigan an expanding field of opportunity, by catering to the needs of small Muslim, Republican businessmen.

How long ago that seems! As the McCain campaign sinks into incoherence, those opportunities are being lost.
John Adams - Doctor Atomic: The Countdown

"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Womanizer - Britney Spears (The 100th Foehr Kidz Version)

Via's dance page, where several interesting dance versions are also presented.
College Dance Team 2004 University of Minnesota-Minneapolis

Breathtaking precision! What a great team!

Well done, to Aerosmith's "Dream On".
Ringo Doesn't Want Fan Mail

40+ years in the public eye must take a toll:
"I'm warning you with peace and love I have too much to do. So no more fan mail. Thank you, thank you. And no objects to be signed. Nothing."

A Columbian version of the bookmobile:
“I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” said Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings.

“This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained, squinting at the hills undulating into the horizon. “Now,” he said, “it is an institution.”
Freddie Mac's Lobbying Campaign

Fascinating article about where the power lies in Washington, D.C.

When Freddie Mac (often construed as a Democratic outfit) found itself the target of unwanted regulation, it aimed its efforts at lobbying not Democrats (who were generally supportive but not of importance) but a faction of influential Republicans - at the time, the only ones who held decisive power. John McCain at the time supported regulation, but anti-regulation leaders now run John McCain's campaign - one big flip-flop!:
Freddie Mac secretly paid a Republican consulting firm $2 million to kill legislation that would have regulated and trimmed the mortgage finance giant and its sister company, Fannie Mae, three years before the government took control to prevent their collapse.

In the cross hairs of the campaign carried out by DCI of Washington were Republican senators and a regulatory overhaul bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. DCI's chief executive is Doug Goodyear, whom John McCain's campaign later hired to manage the GOP convention in September.

Freddie Mac's payments to DCI began shortly after the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent Hagel's bill to the then GOP-run Senate on July 28, 2005. All GOP members of the committee supported it; all Democrats opposed it.

In the midst of DCI's yearlong effort, Hagel and 25 other Republican senators pleaded unsuccessfully with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to allow a vote.

"If effective regulatory reform legislation ... is not enacted this year, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole," the senators wrote in a letter that proved prescient.

Unknown to the senators, DCI was undermining support for the bill in a campaign targeting 17 Republican senators in 13 states, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The states and the senators targeted changed over time, but always stayed on the Republican side.

In the end, there was not enough Republican support for Hagel's bill to warrant bringing it up for a vote because Democrats also opposed it and the votes of some would be needed for passage. The measure died at the end of the 109th Congress.

McCain, R-Ariz., was not a target of the DCI campaign. He signed Hagel's letter and three weeks later signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

By the time McCain did so, however, DCI's effort had gone on for nine months and was on its way toward killing the bill.

In recent days, McCain has said Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were "one of the real catalysts, really the match that lit this fire" of the global credit crisis. McCain has accused Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama of taking advice from former executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and failing to see that the companies were heading for a meltdown.

McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, or his lobbying firm has taken more than $2 million from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dating to 2000. In December, Freddie Mac contributed $250,000 to last month’s GOP convention.

Obama has received $120,349 in political donations from employees of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae; McCain $21,550.

The Republican senators targeted by DCI began hearing from prominent constituents and financial contributors, all urging the defeat of Hagel's bill because it might harm the housing boom. The effort generated newspaper articles and radio and TV appearances by participants who spoke out against the measure.

Inside Freddie Mac headquarters in 2005, the few dozen people who knew what DCI was doing referred to the initiative as "the stealth lobbying campaign," according to three people familiar with the drive.

...Freddie Mac executive Hollis McLoughlin oversaw DCI's drive, according to the three people.

"Hollis's goal was not to have any Freddie Mac fingerprints on this project and DCI became the hidden hand behind the effort," one of the three people told the AP.

Before 2004, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were Democratic strongholds. After 2004, Republicans ran their political operations. McLoughlin, who joined Freddie Mac in 2004 as chief of staff, has given $32,250 to Republican candidates over the years, including $2,800 to McCain, and has given none to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

On Friday night, Hagel's chief of staff, Mike Buttry, said Hagel's legislation "was the last best chance to bring greater oversight and tighter regulation to Freddie and Fannie, and they used every means they could to defeat Sen. Hagel's legislation every step of the way."

"It is outrageous that a congressionally chartered government-sponsored enterprise would lobby against a member of Congress's bill that would strengthen the regulation and oversight of that institution," Buttry said in a statement. "America has paid an extremely high price for the reckless, and possibly criminal, actions of the leadership at Freddie and Fannie."

...Last month, the concerns of the 26 Republican senators who signed Hagel's bill became a reality when the government seized control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae amid their near financial collapse. Federal prosecutors are investigating accounting, disclosure and corporate governance issues at both companies, which own or guarantee more than $5 trillion in mortgages, roughly equivalent to half of the national debt.

...Freddie Mac's problems began when Hagel's legislation won approval from the Senate committee.

Democrats did not like the harshest provision, which would have given a new regulator a mandate to shrink Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae by forcing them to sell off part of their portfolios. That approach, the Democrats feared, would cut into the ability of low- and moderate-income families to buy houses.

The political backdrop to the debate "was like bizarre-o-world," said the second of three people familiar with the program. "The Republicans were pro-regulation and the Democrats were against it; it was upside down."

Sen. Richard Shelby, the committee chairman at the time, underscored that in a statement Wednesday, saying that with Democrats already on their side, it was not surprising that Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae went after Republicans. "Unfortunately," said Shelby, R-Ala., "efforts then to derail reform were successful."

In a sign of bad things to come, Freddie Mac was already having serious problems in 2005. Auditors had exposed massive accounting issues, so improved regulation was one obvious remedy.

Once Freddie Mac's in-house lobbyists failed to keep Hagel's bill bottled up in the committee, McLoughlin responded by secretly hiring DCI.

DCI never filed lobbying reports with Congress about what it was doing because the firm was relying on a long-recognized gap in the disclosure law.

Federal lobbying law only requires reporting and registration when there are contacts with a legislator or staff.

"To have it stealthy, not to let people know who is behind this, in my opinion is unethical," said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University who long has taught courses about lobbying.
Broadway Hardware Closing

The closest source to home of stuff:
After "working 88 hours a weeks for 18 years," Dave Haskin, who owns and runs the place with his wife, Gisela, are ready to take it easy.

A liquidation sale starts this week. The business will shut down late next month, leaving Capitol Ace at 18th and I streets as the only remaining hardware store in the downtown area.

Like other family-run hardware operations, Broadway Hardware saw competition from big-box discounters like Home Depot. The economic slowdown made things worse, cutting sales by 25 percent over the past year, Haskin says.

Still, he says, the business remained profitable.

...Speaking of Broadway Hardware, the place boasts a fascinating subterranean surprise: a massive, basement bomb shelter built at the start of World War II.

Taking up half of the store's footprint, its 8-foot-thick walls are made from reinforced concrete.

The Haskins used it for storage. Dave thinks a new building tenant could put it to better use: "It would make a perfect wine cellar," he says.
Early Voting Protest, In North Carolina

This seems almost self-defeating, by nature. People tend to be wary around polling places and would resent being hectored at a polling place.
The Hills Are Alive!

Left: Late September, on Tome Hill, north of Belen, NM. Couldn't ask for a better fall day!

But what's that in the middle distance?

Left: Oh!

Guess I know what I'll be dreaming about tonight!

(via an E-Mail chain from my sister's acquaintance).
Squirrels, Raccoons, Or Sasquatch?

Cleaned about half my gutters on Sunday, and learned that somebody has been leaving large turds on my roof.
E.'s Helpful Health Hints

Lately, I've been getting morose about a bit of popcorn kernel stuck between two healthy, robust molars. Unwaxed dental floss hadn't succeeded at removing the fragment, and in order to remove the gum irritant, I was considering jackhammering out at least one of the two molars.

E. suggested using slimmer, waxed dental floss, and to my surprise, it worked!
Dorothy Looking Just A Bit Too Worldly Here

So, what's new at Cache Creek?

Nothing. Loss: $622.00
The Limitations Of Suicide Bombing

Substandard recruits:
A British Muslim convert with a mental age of ten was unable to blow up a restaurant because he'd locked himself in a toilet.

Nicky Reilly, 22, had gone into the cubicle of an Exeter eaterie to assemble the nailbombs from chemicals in bottles. He then planned to rush among the 50 diners - many of them children - and detonate the devices.

However, he found he couldn't unfasten the lock and then one of the bombs exploded, setting the others he was holding off.

Reilly, who was groomed over the internet by extremists into becoming a suicide bomber, was arrested when he staggered outside with serious facial injuries.

...Prosecutor Stuart Baker said: 'He was unable to open the lock of the cubicle door and come out, by which time the first device had already exploded.'

Anti-terror investigators believe Pakistani radicals targeted Reilly because of his history of mental illness.

A plot was hatched involving the Giraffe restaurant in Exeter, where 50 diners, many with their children, were enjoying the half-term break on May 22 this year.
Yesterday, Reilly, who has changed his name to Mohammad Abdul-Aziz Rashid Saeed-Alim, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to preparing a terrorist attack and attempted murder.

...Officers are still trying to trace the extremist cell that successfully targeted him via his YouTube page – on which he called himself Chechen233.

The case is a chilling echo of terrorist methods in Iraq, where the disabled have been persuaded to blow themselves up.

...'There was some debate, which is revealed by comments on the computer,
about what sort of person should be targeted in due course, whether public servants such as police officers or other public servants or ordinary citizens.

‘In the end the decision was made to target ordinary citizens in a restaurant.’

...Incredibly, Reilly’s YouTube page was still online yesterday. It included clips of the September 11 attacks and a video entitled‘How to make a benzine bomb’.