Friday, November 21, 2008

Deconstructing "Piece Of Me"
By embodying the song in which she sings about embodying the song in which she sings about embodying the song and so on, Spears becomes a modern-day symbol of ouroboros: the serpent eating itself in an eternal loop. Whether through the infinite reference loop she forges with this line, or simply from the positive repercussions of her noble sacrifice, her derrière is rendered immortal, and her history of playing with snakes on stage suddenly makes a lot more sense.
After taking part in a comic sketch that kicked-off the headline-prone event, Spears returned to the MTV stage three times as "Piece of Me", a dance song about the incessant media scrutiny and sensationalism of her life, won the Best Video, Best Pop Video and Best Female Video gongs.

The MTV awards carry none of the prestige of rival events such as the Grammys or Ivor Novellos, but they are seen as a crucial barometer of American celebrity. By simply turning up, smiling sweetly, and not making a fool of herself, Spears earned a standing ovation. She appeared to be sober and in rude physical health – noted by the host, the British comedian Russell Brand.
This one was written and produced by Bloodshy & Avant (architects of In the Zone's big hit "Toxic") and they also contribute Britney's most direct personal assault on her media image on "Piece of Me":

I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17
Don’t matter if I step on the scene
Or sneak away to the Philippines
There still gon' be pictures of my derrière in the magazine
You want a piece of me?
You want a piece of me...
I’m Miss bad media karma
Another day another drama
Guess I can’t see no harm
In working and being a mama
And with a kid on my arm
I’m still an exceptional earner
And you want a piece of me


Again, it's eerie that such intimate ruminations would not be penned by Spears herself. Speaking of eerie, the vocal manipulations they put the poor girl through make me wonder if Britney was ever in the studio for this track.
What's New In San Francisco?

Just the usual.
What's New In England?

Nospoon at b3ta notes:
Found this in Leicester's Fosse Park in early October and only just remembered about it when I saw it on my phone today.

A motorbike for a girble seems a pretty good exchange.
Scapegoats For The Economic Crisis

E.: MMMMAAARRRRCCCC! This country is the GREATEST country in the world and it breaks my heart to see it suffering so with the economic downturn.

M.: It's sort-of like the Great Depression all over again!

E. In 1933, the U.S. President Roosevelt did an amazing thing to save the day. He started the Good Neighbors policy, and that policy - um, that policy - well, that policy did something that saved the day.

M.: FDR had several policies, I think.

E.: What we need is for the U.S. President Bush to do some of those same policies again, and save the day!

M.: Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

E.: It's the welfare, and the DDE, and the Social Security that are causing the problem! They are just sucking the money from the hard-working people! Plus the casinos. The casinos have all the money! Why don't they ask them for some of that money back? And what's going on with the economists? The economists are responsible for modifying the economy. What's going on with them? Are they sleepwalking?
Shooting For A November Record

Instant Australian swamp time! This is the time in all those nature documentaries that the birds start mating in a berserk frenzy and rarely-seen amphibians and snakes make surprise appearances. Who knows how long the good times will last?

Brisbane rainfall: 277.4 mm for the period Nov. 1st-21st. The November record is 412.8 mm (year 1981). And it's going to rain some more tonight!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unwanted Imported Cars; Unwanted Exported Cardboard

Life at Long Beach:
Gleaming new Mercedes cars roll one by one out of a huge container ship here and onto a pier. Ordinarily the cars would be loaded on trucks within hours, destined for dealerships around the country. But these are not ordinary times.

For now, the port itself is the destination. Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars are being warehoused on increasingly crowded port property.

And for the first time, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Nissan have each asked to lease space from the port for these orphan vehicles. They are turning dozens of acres of the nation’s second-largest container port into a parking lot, creating a vivid picture of a paralyzed auto business and an economy in peril.

“This is one way to look at the economy,” Art Wong, a spokesman for the port, said of the cars. “And it scares you to death.”

...But the inventory glut in Long Beach is not limited to imported cars. There has also been a sharp drop in demand for the port’s single largest export: recycled cardboard and paper products.

This material typically goes to China, where it is used to make boxes for new electronics and other products that are sent back to the United States. But Chinese factories reacting to sharply falling demand are slowing production, so they need less cardboard. Tons of paper are piling up recycling businesses around the port, the detritus of economies on hold.

...In the 150-acre terminal where Toyotas are unloaded, there is a sea of Corollas, Camrys and RAV4s. The mere presence of so many cars is not unusual, given that Toyota brings in 250,000 cars a year in biweekly shipments. But in a sign that something is amiss, dozens of tractor-trailers that transport new cars to dealers sat empty last week amid the rows of Toyotas.

Kurt Golledge, 48, was one of just two truckers loading his green, 75-foot-long hauler with cars last week. Mr. Golledge said eight of his colleagues were laid off this month because Toyota dealers did not want more deliveries.

“I was dropping cars in Henderson, Nev., about a month ago and the dealer told me: ‘Take ’em somewhere else and dump ’em,’ ” said Mr. Golledge, who works for a company called Allied Systems. “All the dealers are telling us the same thing.”

...“The ships keep coming, but there’s nowhere for the cars to go,” Mr. Golledge said. He said he believed the vehicles he was loading would be his last before he was laid off, and he was already considering where he might find a new job.

...The mothballing of cars is nothing new for Detroit, where thousands of unwanted American-made cars have been parked over the last two years at Michigan’s state fairground and in lots at its airports.

It is more unusual to see a lot at the California port filled with thousands of unsold Mercedeses, most of them gathering dirt on the plastic white film that protects their hoods and trunks. Some appeared to have been stashed at the port for several months.

...“A year ago, I was looking into buying one of these for my wife,” said Kurt Garland, the terminal manager overseeing the unloading of the white, silver and black sports cars, sport utility vehicles and sedans. “Now I’m not. I’m saving money, paying bills, hunkering down.”

Not far away, metal, cardboard, paper and plastic are piling up in the lot of Corridor Recycling. The company takes in refuse from around the country, then bales it for shipment to China. The cardboard is used to make new boxes while used shrink wrap is turned into shoe soles and insulation for sleeping bags and coats.

For much of this year, the company shipped about 25 containers a day, each filled with 23 tons of refuse to be recycled. But after the Olympics, demand slowed for recycled metal. In October, demand for everything else took a sharp downturn, and for the last two weeks the company has not shipped a single container.

“It just came to a complete stop. Absolutely a stop,” said Gilbert Dodson, the recycling company’s co-owner. “I’ve seen it slow over the last 25 years, but this is the worst,” he said of the current downturn.

...“It keeps coming in,” he says. “But no one is buying.”
Holy Mackerel!

The Dow Jones Industrials reaches 7,552.29! Right where it belongs!
DMTC's YPT "The Wizard Of Oz" - Wednesday Night Rehearsal (draft)

Left: Dorothy (Cass O.). Also, Uncle Henry (Brian S.) and Auntie Em (Ashley H.).

"The Wizard Of Oz" opens this weekend!

"The Jitterbug"
"The Jitterbug" ending tableaux.
Left: Wicked Witch Of The West (Kennedy W.) and Dorothy (Cass O.).
Left: Director Jan Isaacson verifies that The Wicked Witch Of The West (Kennedy W.) melts properly.
Left: "Ding Dong, The Wicked Witch Is Dead!"
Left: Meeting The Wizard Of Oz. Left to right, Lion (Chris P.), Scarecrow (McKinley C.), Tin Man (Kim C.), Dorothy (Cass O.), and The Wizard Of Oz (Spencer M.).
Left: Glinda (Jenny K.) appears.

Following up on an anonymous complaint to the Board of Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), and in voluntary cooperation with a new DMTC Board policy, I'm implementing a new policy on this Weblog.

Henceforth, children under 18 will be identified by first name, and last name initial. Last name will not be provided.

Second, a disclaimer:
Marc Valdez, not Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), is responsible for the content of this Web Site.
And third, advice: if you have a problem with this Web Site, let me know directly rather than anonymously through intermediate third parties. It causes less hassle for everyone. Most problems are easily addressed, and I'm generally more than willing to do so.
Everyone Hates A Bully

World leaders give the ultimate dis to George W. Bush at the G20 Summit.
Because We Wouldn't Want To Inconvenience Them With Delays, Or Anything

A new day dawns for the Big Three:
"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

Fun Toilet Facts

From the World Toilet Summit:

  • The average person spends three years of their life on the “john”.
  • The average person flushes a toilet about 2500 times a year, while using about eight sheets of toilet paper per day.
  • An estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to proper toilet facilities, particularly in rural areas of China and India.
  • Lack of suitable toilets and sanitation kills approximately 1.8 million people a year, many of them children.
  • According to Jack Sims, a further 500 million toilets are needed to bridge the gap in sanitation.
  • The first flushing toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a British noble and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. He only invented one, as he was ridiculed by his peers, but he still used it for himself.
  • Most toilets flush in the key of E flat.
  • On average, a person will use 22 litres of drinkable water every day flushing a toilet.
Yet More Rain For Brisbane Area

Third time this week - this time, at the south end of the metropolis. Even though the rainfall totals were somewhat lower than earlier this week, the ground was already saturated, and they were ill-prepared for more superfluous water:
FLASH storms again hit the Gold Coast and Hinterland last night, dumping up to 20mm of rain in an hour, knocking trees on to roads and houses and leaving 3400 homes without power.

It was the third night this week that torrential rains had drenched the Coast and came on the tail of Wednesday night's deluge that flooded areas of the southeast.

...More than 100mm fell across the northern Gold Coast overnight Wednesday, more than the usual rainfall for the month of November.

Although no daily or monthly rainfall records were broken on the Coast, the night-time downpour was more than the city has seen for November since 2004.

The barrage inched the Hinze Dam's water levels up to 95.3 per cent.

Oxenford recorded the highest overnight total, with 136mm bucketing down compared to only 76mm for the whole month last year and 61mm in 2006.

At Wongawallan, rain gauges were topped up with 126mm, a huge increase on last year's monthly total of 84mm.

The Gold Coast Seaway recorded 105mm.

Other recordings were Molendinar 96mm, Carrara 79mm, Mount Tamborine 77mm, Evandale 75mm, Nerang 76mm and Hinze Dam 57mm. Hail was reported at Varsity Lakes and Nerang.

...Weather bureau meteorologist Gavin Holcombe said it was unusual for such a quantity of rain to fall at this time of year.

However, the changing weather patterns signalled a return to normal November weather conditions and a typical 'wet spring' which had not been seen since the 1970s and '80s, he said.

"Now is more a return to November conditions ... it's not unusual but most people have forgotten what it's like to have a wet November," said Mr Holcombe.

He said the heavy rains were generated by warm, moist air from the Coral Sea.
Buried Martian Glaciers

Presumably much like what they call 'rock glaciers' in the mountains around here. This is encouraging!:
NASA scientists have discovered enormous underground reservoirs of frozen water on Mars, away from its polar caps, in the latest sign that life might be sustainable on the Red planet.

Ground-penetrating radar used by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals numerous huge glaciers up to 800 metres thick buried beneath layers of rock and debris. Researchers said one glacier is three times the size of Los Angeles in area.

"All together, these glaciers almost certainly represent the largest reservoir of water ice on Mars that's not in the polar caps," said John Holt, a geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of a report about the discovery, which appears in the November 21 issue of the journal Science.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Meanwhile, In Brisbane...

Left: This car was snapped driving through floodwaters in Eranga St, The Gap. Picture: Kerri Grott.

Things are quieter today, and people are finally getting a chance to look around their neighborhoods.

Left: Radar image of when things were at their worst.
Dow 30,000 - Wait! Scratch That, Make That 7,500

I've long thought the Dow Jones Industrials (DJI) should really be around 7,500, in order for stocks to get back to historical P/E ratios of about 15/1, and it looks like this particular version of nirvana is almost in sight, with the DJI closing today at 7,997.28.

Not that anyone is real happy about it. Remember, nirvana isn't really about feeling happy, but about feeling nothing. And Wall Street traders are now about as close as you can ever get to feeling utterly numb.

And why the decline today?:
  • Housing starts dropped for the fourth straight month, signalling that the housing market has yet to stabilize. Housing permits also dropped -- promising further declines to come. (The 4.5 percent drop in housing starts translate to an annual rate of 791,000, the lowest such number since the Commerce Department began keeping records in 1959.)
  • The minutes of the last meeting of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors indicated that the Fed is open to another rate cut, pushing the Fed Funds rate down to its lowest point in 50 years, because current economic problems "could persist for some time."
  • The CEOs of Ford and GM told the House Financial Services Committee that bankruptcy would mean liquidation of their respective enterprises.
  • Citigroup announced it was buying $17.4 billion worth of toxic assets previously squirreled away in "Structured Investment Vehicles," (SIVs) an acknowledgement that the reeling financial giant had no other option but to assume the debt on its own books.
  • Consumer prices fell in October at the sharpest pace in 60 years.
McCain Wins Missouri

A very close win for the Arizonan.

Final Electoral College tally: 365 for Obama to 173 for McCain.
Among World's Worst Movie Chase Scenes

I was looking up world's worst credit card, but this is more interesting. Somehow, I remember the entire decade of the Seventies as being a lot like this.

I strongly suspect this is a spoof (the one style of legal-form white box they show came into use in the 1990's, not the 1970's). And isn't that the sound track to 1977's "Saturday Night Fever"? Besides, imdb doesn't register any 1973 movie with the title of "Hard Streets" (which is amazing all in itself because it's such an obvious title for a movie.)

Nevertheless, much fun from a talented crew!
California Judge Rules Only Nurses Can Give Insulin To Kids

I very much sympathize with the affected parents, but it's important to note that this ruling effectively prevents E. from jabbing kids with needles, and that can only be a good thing:
A Sacramento Superior Court ruling Friday marks a major shift in the treatment of nearly 14,000 California schoolchildren with diabetes.

Judge Lloyd Connelly sided with the California School Nurses Organization, the American Nurses Association, the California Nurses Association and other nursing groups in their challenge to a 2007 rule that enabled trained school staff – not just school nurses – to administer insulin shots to diabetic kids.

"This is a big setback," said Jim Stone, who has a 12-year-old diabetic son and has fought, with other parents, to expand the number of people who can administer insulin to diabetic children in public schools.

There are 2,800 nurses in the 9,800 public schools across the state.

In a class-action lawsuit filed in 2005, parents had argued that with so few school nurses left in California, they were having to keep their diabetic children out of school or leave jobs to administer insulin shots themselves.

The California Department of Education settled with parents in 2007 and sent an advisory to districts throughout the state urging them to allow trained, unlicensed school staff to give the shots if a nurse or parent wasn't available.

Friday, Connelly ruled that the advisory is in conflict with state law that says only licensed nurses can administer injections.

Nancy Spradling, the executive director of the California School Nurses Organization said that "state law and the Business and Professions Code and the Nurse Practice Act all state clearly what falls under the category of nursing, which includes administering injections."

Improper administration can lead to low blood sugar, which can result in coma and death, she said.

...Spradling, with the School Nurses Organization, said "districts need to be told that school nurses are not a luxury, but a necessity, and with so many children with chronic conditions, they have to find a way to fund them."

According to the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund, California has one of the highest ratios of students to school nurses in the country: 2,150 to 1.
India Sends Probe To The Moon

The press is tending to describe the event as a landing, although the 3,100 mph landing speed sounds more like an impact to me. Nevertheless, since the landing craft was released from an orbiting satellite, as a technical demonstration of an approach towards future landing missions, it was very impressive indeed - more sophisticated than the U.S. Ranger missions of the 1960's!:
NEW DELHI (AFP) — India rejoiced Saturday over the landing of a lunar probe on the moon's surface that vaulted the country into the league of space-faring nations like the United States, Russia and Japan.

The TV set-sized probe, painted in the green-white-and-orange colours of the Indian flag, made a "precise-to-the-second" landing on the lunar surface late Friday after being released from the unmanned moon-orbiting Chandrayaan-1 satellite, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

Politicians across the spectrum buried their differences to hail the milestone in India's space history in which the nation joins Russia, the US, Japan and the European Space Agency in successfully landing moon probes.

"Today is a historic day for India," said Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party. Opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani called it an event "to be recorded in golden letters".

Former Indian president and rocket scientist Abdul Kalam said the landing of the probe -- which coincided with the anniversary of the birth of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru -- "will kindle a dream in children".

"In 15 years I want to see an Indian on the moon," said Kalam, who conceived of the so-called moon impact probe, or MIP, and is popularly known in India as "missile man".

The media was similarly ebullient. "The tricolour has landed," trumpeted the Hindustan Times daily in a banner headline, referring to India's flag. The Indian Express newspaper said: "India touches the moon."

India's first lunar mission began October 22 when a rocket transported Chandrayaan-1 into space. Chandrayaan -- the Sanskrit word for moon craft -- is on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface.

The landing of the probe is a step toward landing an unmanned moon rover by 2012. ISRO also plans to launch satellites to study Mars and Venus.
Brisbane Area Absolutely Crushed By Rain!

Left: Photo of downtown Brisbane by Marc Robertson.

It's hard to believe they are still in a drought in SE Queensland (though technically that's still true)!

Debate continues whether The Gap was hit by a tornado on Sunday, or just a very powerful thunderstorm:

Mr Rolstone said supercells do have the potential to create tornados but it cannot be confirmed whether a tornado occurred during Sunday's storm.

"Supercells do produce tornados. They are rotating storms which create a funnel underneath them. They move in a different direction to a normal storm. They move left of the normal direction a storm takes and come from the south rather than from the west," Mr Rolstone said.

He said it was this intense rotating storm which devastated The Gap and surrounding areas but it was definitely not a cyclone.
Even before this latest series of storms, things were looking up rainwise:

BRISBANE could be headed for its wettest November since 1981 with the city already experiencing well above the monthly average rainfall.

...Thanks to last night's soaking, Brisbane's total for November is already at close to 170mm compared with the monthly average of 100mm.

..."We've almost become acclimatised to the dry weather in the last few years but we're getting back now to what's traditionally a south-east Queensland spring, heading into summer. We haven't seen it very often in the last few years."

Last November Brisbane had just 62mm of rain but with 12 days of the month to go, the city had already recorded 169mm with more expected in the next few days.

"In 2001, we had 192mm for the month but we look like beating that this year," Mr Banks said.

The biggest monthly fall on record for November was 413mm in 1981.
So, with the 80 mm they received last night, that means they easily beat 2001's 192 mm, with a total so far of about 250 mm. They still have time to make a lunge for 1981's record of 413 mm!

The rainfall totals from the latest storm are just staggering. Gatton received 170 mm+ in the last 14 hours (that's about 7 inches!) The perils of living in the semi-tropics, I suppose: no rain for months, then half a year's worth in a day!

Fortunately the front is blowing out to sea, and so, excepting the odd thunderstorm, maybe now they'll get a break. But most people will be too busy trying to swim to land to notice.....

SOUTHEAST Queensland has been hit by floods after an overnight deluge dumped 240mm of rain in some areas.

...Brisbane's Inner City Bypass, the Ipswich Motorway and Warrego Highway are all cut, along with suburban streets across Brisbane, Ipswich and the Gold Coast.
Primary areas affected include Ipswich, Oxley, Darra and Forest Lake plus The Gap, Ashgrove, Sherwood and Indooroopilly.

...All bus services are still operating, though with diversions in place, but no trains are running between Ipswich and Redbank, and Ferny Grove and Keperra. Buses are in place.

Police have responded to calls for assistance overnight – four homes were unroofed in Paddington and a number of cars underwater.

There have been at least nine swift water rescues of people in cars which have occurred at Ipswich, Woolshed Creek, Maudsland, Forestdale.

...The SES received more than 10,000 calls overnight as the severe storms swept through the region, causing the most problems at Ipswich and in Brisbane' west and north.

The weather bureau said rain fell at a pace of 100mm an hour in some parts.

Ipswich was badly affected _an Emergency Services spokesperson said nine swiftwater rescues were performed overnight to get people from cars in swollen creeks and rivers.

...The weather is pushing emergency volunteers to breaking point as they try to cope with one of the worst weeks of weather in the region in recent memory.

...The only bright note has been the falls in the dam catchment areas. The weather bureau said 75mm had fallen at the Wivenhoe Dam wall overnight.

Gatton had 164mm overnight while Rosewood had 208mm, mostly in a two-hour deluge.

But the heartbreak continues in Brisbane' northwest, where residents still cleaning up from last Sunday spent a sleepless night bailing water from their houses.

"We're exhausted," The Gap resident and Courier-Mail journalist Michael Lund said.

"We're a suburb that's used to watching storms go around us."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So, How's My 401K Doing?

Half of the 401K is in JADGX.

The Water Cycle

I had forgotten about Earth Science basics.
"Bottle Dance" Letters Of Thanks

On October 24th, George Morales, Lindsay Carpenter, and myself performed the "Fiddler On The Roof" Bottle Dance at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School for Mr. Yee's second grade class.

In turn, the students responded with letters of thanks to all three of us. According to George, Lindsay received a very long letter from one impressed student: virtually a valentine! (As the youngest performer, the students identified most with her).

Here are a few of the letters I received:
Thank you for comming to our class. I like the bottle dance because the bottle did not fall of your head. We were happ that you came to our class. You came to a great class.

Thank you for coming to my class. I had a grate time when you were here. I like your dance.

Thank you for doing a bottle dance for us. We had fun watching you play for us.

Thank you for comming to ower class. It was relly cool when you did the Boddle Dance. You were alsome!

Thank you for coming to my class. I want to watch again.

Thank you for showing us your bottle dance for us. I really liked the dance you were doing.

You ar great at danceing.

That bottle dance was cool and fun to watch. I wish I did a bottle dance.

Don't they drive you nuts?:
Dallas police are searching for a man who marched into the Dallas Animal Shelter Monday morning and took a cat while fending off employees with a baseball bat, authorities said.

Kent Robertson, the shelter’s manager, said the man had come to the shelter in the 1800 block of North Westmoreland Road in early October and found his cat among the other animals. The cat had been brought to shelter by someone who thought it was a stray.

The man became upset when employees told him that he had to pay a $132 fee to retrieve his gray and blue short-haired cat.

According to police, the man returned about 11:30 a.m. Monday and signed into the guest book. Once he found his cat, he retreated to his truck and returned with a bat and an animal carrier.

After he loaded the cat into the carrier, staff members told him that he needed to pay the fee. The man raised the bat over his head and threatened the staff. He then walked to his truck, keeping employees at bay by swinging the bat.

He drove away in his 1986 brown Ford F-150, nearly running over two shelter employees, said Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse, a Dallas police spokesman. No one was struck or injured.

“I haven’t ever experienced this before,” Mr. Robertson said. “Usually, people thank us for rescuing their animals. This was pretty extreme.”
Getting Slammed

Left: A sulfur-crested cockatoo inspects the damage.

Lots of storm damage already done in SE Queensland, and more storms on the way!

Brisbane received 77.2 mm (3 inches) of rain in a 24-hour period!

Left: Lovely panorama of the Glass House Mountains.
Bev's "La Mancha" Review Is Out!

Two thumbscrews up! (or whatever prison reference will do):
The Davis Musical Theatre Company has mounted another enjoyable production of 'Man of La Mancha,' continuing through Dec. 7 under the capable direction of Jan Isaacson, with musical direction by Jonathan Rothman,

Dale Wasserman's Broadway hit - with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion - is a musical drama: a play within a play within a play, which tells the story of Miguel de Cervantes (Tae Kim), who has been thrown into prison to await examination by the Holy Inquisition, for having the effrontery to foreclose on a church that did not pay its taxes.

As is their custom with new arrivals, Cervantes' fellow prisoners hold their own Inquisition - a mock trial - and accuse the writer of being, among other things, an idealist and a bad poet. If 'convicted,' he'll lose his belongings, which consist primarily of an unfinished manuscript and a trunk of theatrical costumes and props.

Cervantes mounts his defense in the form of a play, in which he takes the role of Alonso Quijana, an old gentleman who has become delusional and now believes himself to be a medieval knight errant.

Quijana renames himself Don Quixote de La Mancha, and travels the countryside with his trusty squire, Sancho Panza (Jason Hammond), fighting beasts and rescuing damsels in distress: 'He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity.'

He promises not to allow wickedness to flourish.

At first sight, the diminutive Tae Kim seems an unlikely Cervantes; the character is more traditionally a taller, older and more commanding presence. But all doubts are erased once Kim begins to sing, and he steps comfortably into the playwright's shoes.

Kim did have a few difficulties opening night, trying to stay with the orchestra in a couple of places, but otherwise he was excellent.

Hammond is outstanding as Sancho Panza, a large but gentle man who is extremely protective of his master.

The two ride out from Quixote's home on trusty horses. The latter are prisoners in horse costume, and it's unfortunate that the actor playing Quixote's horse is so tall that he prevented the actor from being seen for most of this number.

En route, Quixote does battle with a 'monster' - actually a windmill - and decides to take refuge in a neighboring 'castle,' actuality a local tavern that only appears to be a castle in the faux knight's delusional mind.

The pair encounter Aldonza (Lauren Miller), the weary and bitter barmaid and town trollop, who appears to Quixote to be the lovely and virginal Dulcinea, the maid he pledges to serve, protect and defend with his life. Aldonza is confused by the gentle, courtly manner in which he treats her.

Lauren Miller has made quite an impact while playing roles such as Annie Oakley in 'Annie Get Your Gun,' the secretary Gladys in 'Pajama Game' and Audrey from 'Little Shop of Horrors.' All are brash, bold, colorful women, and Miller delivered them well.

Aldonza is a different type of a role, and Miller definitely has the singing voice for it - despite some harsh notes in her upper register - but her speaking voice occasionally echoes the brassy manner of all those other characters, which could be a bit grating on the ear. Despite that, Miller's Aldonza displays the proper balance of harshness and tenderness toward Quixote.

Steve Isaacson returns in the dual roles of the 'Governor' of the prisoners and the Innkeeper who is talked into knighting Quixote, and giving him the title of 'Knight of the Woeful Countenance.' As always, Isaacson's performance does not disappoint.

Mark Ettensohn is the 'Duke,' who takes an instant dislike to Cervantes; Ettensohn also plays Dr. Carrasco in the charade performance. He too, does a memorable job.

The delusional Quijana is an embarrassment to his respectable family, and the tuneful 'I'm only thinking of him' is sung by Quijana's niece Antonia (Jennifer Berry), his housekeeper (Emily Beal) and their priest (Michael Manley, who has the widest vibrato I've heard from a man in a very long time).

Isaacson's massive set is impressive, with a huge staircase that lowers whenever anyone enters the prison.

The six-piece orchestra is fine overall, although the horn section displays occasional weaknesses, particularly during the overture.

Overall, though, this is a very good production of 'Man of La Mancha,' and it's certain to satisfy audiences.
A Hero For LA

You do what you can with what you got:
Jeff Reeves became a local hero in one Yorba Linda neighborhood after spending a day and a half spraying down his neighbors' homes with his water truck.

Reeves, a grading contractor, heard that people in his neighborhood were encountering a fierce fire. So he pulled the water truck out of his yard, filled it with 2,250 gallons of water and, at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, when the fire hit, began spraying homes with loads of liquid.

He kept going all day and all night, repeatedly spraying dozens of threatened homes with gushes of water, which emerged from a nozzle on the side of the white vehicle bearing a U.S. flag. He sprayed out 49 loads, finishing up at 5 o'clock the next morning.

On Sunday his neighbors and friends on Big Horn Mountain Way and Blue Ridge Drive showed their appreciation as he took joyrides with the vehicle, children clinging onto the side.

"This dude saved a ton of houses," said Tim Tooney, a friend whose house Reeves passed over with the water many times.

"I owe you my life, man," said Bob Tillmon, Tooney's next-door neighbor and a 16-year homeowner, snapping a photo of the truck. "This guy's a hero."
TV As Downer

Don't watch it; be happy!:
An extensive new research study has found that unhappy people watch more TV while those consider themselves happy spend more time reading and socializing.

..."The pattern for daily TV use is particularly dramatic, with 'not happy' people estimating over 30% more TV hours per day than 'very happy' people," the study says. "Television viewing is a pleasurable enough activity with no lasting benefit, and it pushes aside time spent in other activities -- ones that might be less immediately pleasurable, but that would provide long-term benefits in one’s condition. In other words, TV does cause people to be less happy."

..."TV is not judgmental nor difficult, so people with few social skills or resources for other activities can engage in it," says the study. "Furthermore, chronic unhappiness can be socially and personally debilitating and can interfere with work and most social and personal activities, but even the unhappiest people can click a remote and be passively entertained by a TV. In other words, the causal order is reversed for people who watch television; unhappiness leads to television viewing."

...Concludes the study: "These points have parallels with addiction; since addictive activities produce momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret. People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged, with TV becoming an opiate."
Don't Mess With My Lap Top

Some things are holy:
Arizona State University student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.

When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.

"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes…that's four months of work!"

...At that point, the law student wrestled the bat away and began punching Saucedo, Botsios said.

...Janet Botsios, Botsios' mother, said she took the first flight from Texas as soon as she heard what happened.

"I'm like putting my face in my hands, and I just couldn't believe it," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God.' I'm so glad he watched all those police shows his whole life … He knew how to take care of himself … I'm very, very, very proud of him."

Alex Botsios said he learned one lesson from the incident: don't leave windows open.

Otherwise, he said he is happy that his laptop is unharmed.

"It's my baby," he said. "Don't mess with my computer."
This Can't Possibly S**k Enough

Letting Joe Lieberman off the hook. At the very least, they should have gelded the guy, or turned him into a valet boy, or Senate dishwasher, or something:
As expected, Lieberman will get to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security committee, and will have a subcommittee chair stripped from him. Still, it was surprising to see him actually take the podium at the press conference -- indeed, it seemed that Democrats had not planned in advance to let him use their forum to talk to the press. And when he did speak, Lieberman came off as the clear winner, and did no favors for the party that had just let him off with a slap on the wrist.
As Steve Benen reports:
If we put everything else aside, the precedent here really is startling. As I reported last week, in 1964, Rep. John Bell Williams (D) of Mississippi and Rep. Albert Watson (D) of South Carolina both endorsed Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, and both were punished by losing their seniority. Four years later, Rep. John Rarick (D) of Louisiana endorsed George Wallace's presidential campaign, and the party stripped him of his committee seniority, too.

Now, Lieberman endorsed McCain, spoke at the GOP convention, helped down-ballot Republicans, and smeared the Democratic nominee at every available opportunity, and the caucus decided to let him off the hook entirely.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Interesting Fire Photo

This photo, that was posted at the LA Times, of a Sylmar fire-retardant drop, drives home just what risks firefighters have to cope with.
Nov. 17, 1968

Wow! Forty years ago! Feels like it happened yesterday! (From the Daily Rotten):
NBC preempts the final 1:05 from a very close Jets-Raiders NFL football game with "Heidi". Two touchdowns were scored during this missing time. Sports fans everywhere applaud and understand the network's decision.
Peter Schiff Vs. The FOX Business News Tools

Over the last two years, Peter Schiff was right about the financial markets.

Arthur Laffer, Ben Stein, and everyone else was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
"Man Of La Mancha" Opening Weekend

Left: Don Quixote (Tae Kim).

Below: Aldonza/ Dulcinea (Lauren Miller) and Don Quixote (Tae Kim).

We are off to a good start! The cerebral nature of the musical, and its slow and deliberate pacing, makes for fewer accidents and pratfalls than in most musicals.

On opening night, the stairway had trouble descending at one point (it had been tied off as a safety measure, and not unitied for actual use). There were a few verbal and musical miscues, but really, lower than average!

Left: Horse (Brennan Ballard), Aldonza/ Dulcinea (Lauren Miller), and Mule (Monica Parisi).

Below: Sancho Panza (Jason Hammond) and Aldonza/ Dulcinea (Lauren Miller).

Saturn Of Elk Grove Closes

Oh, this is a catastrophe! This is where I bought my Saturn Sports Coupe in 2002, and this is where I get it serviced for major repairs! At one time there were three Saturn dealers in the Sacramento area, but now there is just one (Saturn of Roseville, where I bought my first Saturn in 1992).

Getting auto service through a dealer is expensive, but I rest assured that there was at least someone in the city who understood my vehicle, no matter how obscure the mechanism, and could fix it if need be. As an example, they did obscure transmission work on my car as recently as last spring! Plus, the accomodations for customers at a dealership are often better than at other shops.

I used to place my left hand on my car and wave my right hand in the general direction of Elk Grove, secure in the knowledge that there were good people down there who were my allies in keeping my car running. I suppose they needed more than my goos wishes, however; my patronage, for example. Nevertheless, for common matters like oil changes, I use Jiffy Lube instead, because they are more conveniently-located than Saturn of Elk Grove's far suburban location.

Now, I am doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed!:
Another Sacramento-area auto dealership has abruptly closed its doors, the latest apparent victim of an economic downturn that has battered the auto industry nationwide.

Saturn of Elk Grove in the Elk Grove Auto Mall closed Friday afternoon, adding to the list of about a dozen area dealerships that have gone away this year alone.

The National Automobile Dealers Association recently said 590 U.S. car dealerships have closed in 2008, and the number is expected to reach 700 by year's end, up from 430 last year.

Louis Solis, general sales manager of the Saturn dealership at 8480 Laguna Grove Drive, said 32 employees were given a severance package that included six weeks' pay and vacation pay.

"Unfortunately, we just let our employees know that we're shutting the store down," Solis said. "We all went to lunch. … It was hard to see all those who have been working for us for years. It was very difficult."

Word of the closing started spreading to local media by midafternoon Friday. By 3 p.m., the store's glass doors were closed and a sheet of paper taped to the inside read: "No longer open for business."

At about the same time, a new voice message greeted callers to the Saturn store's main number. The message said: "We are sorry to say that we are now closed for business. We thank you for your years of patronage with our company, and we will sadly miss our Saturn family."

A year ago, Texas native Wil Dean was named the new president and general manager of the dealership, but attempts to talk with him Friday were rebuffed.

An employee inside the dealership said, "Mr. Dean is not seeing anyone. We are not answering any questions. … We have gone through a lot today, and a lot of people have lost their jobs."
Chevy HHR

I drove this rent-a-car all last week while my car's rear fender was being repaired in the shop way down near Grant Line Road and Highway 99.

Seems like a good car....
Storms In SE Queensland

The rainy season has arrived! But not without a cost:
BRISBANE has been declared a natural disaster area, as soldiers help repair damage caused by one of the biggest storms to hit the city in two decades.

More than 32,000 properties across Brisbane, Redcliffe and the Gold Coast were without power this afternoon after yesterday's storm brought hail and wind gusts of up to 130km/h, ripped roofs from houses and toppled power lines and trees.

...Earlier today reside living in Brisbane's storm-battered western suburbs have been warned that their tap water is not safe to drink after the roof of a reservoir collapsed.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has warned all residents and visitors to The Gap not to drink tap water without boiling it first.

The roof of the reservoir at The Gap, which provides water to homes in The Gap in Brisbane's west, caved in following last night's storm.

The roof would have been covered in bird droppings and other animal faecal matter, making it potentially hazardous to human health.

...This afternoon, 58,000 Energex customers were still without power, although Energex was hoping to reduce that number to between 15,000-20,000 by 6pm.

Premier Anna Bligh said the damage was as bad as that caused by Cyclone Larry, which flattened Innisfail in 2006.

...Dalton stood on a resident's back deck and looked out "to views across The Gap that were never once there".

He said houses which had once been completely concealed by trees were now laid bare.

"It looks like someone's dropped a military airstrike on this particular part, right through The Gap."

Dalton said any tree taller than 10m "has just sort of snapped in half".

He said a 45cm thick pine tree at the back of Mr Rowe's house snapped in half and the missing piece had disappeared.

Reporter Robyn Ironside visited damage along Waterworks Road and Settlement Road.

"It was accurate in the way police were saying it looked like a war zone - I've never seen anything like it," she said.

"Big trees were snapped off, there are trees in pools, trees in gardens ..."

She said the playground at The Gap State School was completely demolished after a large tree crushed all the play equipment.

"I don't think there's a a single swing or slippery dip that could be salvaged", Ironside said.

She said the surprising nature of the damage was that it was confined to such a narrow area.

"There's an obvious area where it was just pummelled - and metres either side of it doesn't look like anything's happened at all".

She said trees and branches tangled in powerlines were such a mess. "It looks like they've been crocheted into them.
Paul Krugman Kicks George Will's Lazy Ass

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Very bad time, first at the wildland/urban interface, then into communities:
"Prepare yourselves for the worst," Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Steve Ruda told the crowd of frightened, exhausted people who had been evacuated early Saturday from Sylmar's Oakridge Mobile Home Park. "I don't have good news."

As some of the 200 evacuees wept nearby, Ruda held up a charred, tattered flag. "Let this American flag be a sign of hope," he said, choking up.

But by day's end, that hope was hard to cling to, as 501 of the park's 600 mobile homes had been destroyed and at least 40 more had suffered significant damage.

The park was a scene of devastation, where 50-foot flames had leveled street after street of homes and melted hastily dropped fire hoses into the pavement after even the firefighters were forced to flee. With rare exceptions, only ash and twisted metal remained.

The blaze tore through the mobile home park so fast that firefighters barely had time to rouse people from bed and urge them to safety. Several residents were put into fire engines and rushed out of the neighborhood, in some cases dropped off under freeway overpasses, the nearest safe location, before crews raced back to the battle.

Fire officials said that by early Saturday, the winds had whipped to 50 mph and firefighters reported towering flames and zero visibility. Water mains had run dry or lacked adequate pressure. The conditions became so dangerous that crews, at least for a while, were ordered to evacuate.

"We realized it was a losing battle," veteran firefighter Steve Marotta said.
Scratchy Early Morning Walk

Walking with Sparky through the shadows early on Sunday morning, scratchy sounds could be heard everywhere in the neighborhood. Most of the scratchy sounds were falling leaves. Some trees are so large the sound is essentially constant under each tree's canopy: there is always at least one leaf gently finding its scratchy way to the ground.

In one case, however, the scratchy sound came from a raccoon perched on a tree trunk, and doing his scratchy best to keep his claws in the bark. We were separated by a low fence, so I couldn't reach him, so I contented myself with waving the pooper scooper in his general direction, making him anxious and eager to dig even deeper into the bark.

In the distance, I could hear scratchy sounds approach. A homeless person approached on the sidewalk with his shopping cart full of cans for recycling. To my surprise, it was Mr. O., the homeless vet. I had never seen him out at night. He looked worried, and a bit winded. I shook his hand and he said, "I thought I had seen you. What time is it?" I replied, "It's after two: maybe 2:45." He said, "Sounds good!" Then, in businesslike haste, off he went, heading south with his burden. I knew Mr. O. attended church in south Sacramento on Sundays, so he was likely in a hurry to travel the remaining four miles, offload the cans and prepare for services. (Just because someone is homeless doesn't mean they don't have places to go and people to see.)

I worry about Mr. O. and the other homeless folks here in Sacramento this winter. The economic woes we've been facing this year have killed the recyclables market: the Chinese are no longer in a hurry to buy the scrap metal, and the stuff is piling up everywhere. The best to them all!