Friday, December 05, 2008

New Zealand Trip Preview

The computer support person here has outfitted me with a laptop. So, in theory, I should be reachable by E-Mail, even in NZ ( I hope that this is actually true.
Of course, one way or the other, I will be checking in on this blog, and so messages can be left in the comments section of the most-recent post (although they will be open to public view).

Here is my itinerary, such as it is.

Leg 1: San Francisco to Auckland, via Sydney (Dec. 7th – Dec. 9th):

There are more direct flights, but this seems to be the only flight that both allows me to perform the last show in DMTC’s “Man of La Mancha” in Davis on Dec. 7th, as well as getting me into Auckland in time for Kylie’s second concert on Dec. 9th.

Wednesday and Thursday I thought I’d sightsee in the Auckland area. I’ve made plans to stay at a little place for backpackers called City Garden Lodge, 20 minutes walking distance from Vector Arena, in the Parnell neighborhood just east of central Auckland (09-302 0880). It appears to be lodge run by yogis, and thus might prove interesting for local color.

Leg 2: Auckland to Christchurch (Dec. 12th)

My original plan was to arrive in Christchurch on Friday, so as not to disturb my host Andrew's week, but he plans to be entertaining Canadian guests that first weekend. He already has a house rented in spectacular Arthur's Pass National Park.

Friday night is no problem at all as it will be only us two. But then the four Canadians arrive Saturday. That is when it will be more tricky as the house is not that big. Options include:

  • I sleep outside in the garden, whether in a tent or under the stars. Sleeping outside at Arthur’s Pass, even without a tent, doesn’t bother me as long as it isn’t raining, too cold, or there isn’t a heavy dewfall. There are no animal hazards (excepting a rare and protected spider), although I suppose I could always be savaged by sheep;
  • Borrow Andrew's car and head visit Greymouth or the West Coast which is an hour or so from there for Saturday and Sunday nights and then back Monday morning;
  • Or stay at Andrew's house in Diamond Harbour for the weekend.

    The decision is yet to be made on this.

    The second weekend, we plan to rent this divine house at Lake Wanaka.

    Leg 3: Auckland to Christchurch to San Francisco

    December 24th.

    There seemed to be no natural time to end the trip, but if I leave on Christmas Eve, I get back in time to help out with logistics at the theater for the New Year’s Eve Gala.

    Here is my airline itinerary:
  • Sun, Dec 07, 2008 Sacramento, CA (SMF) to San Francisco, CA (SFO)
    United 5564
    Operated by: United Express/skywest Airlines Depart: SMF 8:35 PM
    Arrive: SFO 9:22 PM Non-stop
    Embraer 120
    86 miles traveled Seats:09A

    Sun, Dec 07, 2008 San Francisco, CA (SFO) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
    United 0863
    Depart: SFO 10:38 PM
    Arrive: SYD 8:05 AM
    Arrives 2nd day
    Dec 9 Non-stop
    14h 27m
    Boeing 747-400
    7,412 miles traveled Seats:55K


    United 9564
    Operated by: Air New Zealand Limited Depart: SYD 9:40 AM
    Arrive: AKL 2:40 PM Non-stop
    Boeing 767-300
    1,345 miles traveled Seats:N/A

    Wed, Dec 24, 2008 Christchurch, New Zealand (CHC) to San Francisco, CA (SFO)
    United 9526
    Operated by: Air New Zealand Limited Depart: CHC 4:30 PM
    Arrive: AKL 5:50 PM Non-stop
    1h 20m
    Boeing 737-300
    463 miles traveled Seats:N/A


    United 9570
    Operated by: Air New Zealand Limited Depart: AKL 7:30 PM
    Arrive: SFO 10:30 AM Non-stop
    Boeing 747-400
    6,514 miles traveled Seats:N/A
    Landslide Al

    Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Al Franken's campaign claims a lead of four votes. Sounds like a mandate to me!
    The Master Of Misunderstatement

    Cakewalk Man speaks:
    Bush said his policies in the Middle East have not always been popular and sometimes have fallen short of the administration's goals. "For example, the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected," he said.
    Government Bailout

    Five years and few tattoos later....
    If Steve Liked Pole Climbing

    Unlike this guy, Steve is thankfully not keen about climbing on poles:
    The first time Robert Tubandt III nearly lost his life was when the cable company lineman was high up on a power pole near Phoenix, Ariz.

    “The power lines over my head exploded,” said the Wadena native. “I was just lucky to be alive.”

    The Aug. 20, 2003, accident left second- and third-degree burns on Tubandt’s arms, hands and face. In the burn center in Phoenix, he spent two weeks lying in a tub of water while nurses peeled his skin off with what looked like a butter knife.

    ...Two months later, Tubandt was back at work, scurrying up a pole.

    ...The second time Tubandt nearly lost his life was also on a pole.

    ...Tubandt went through the game plan with the two helpers, explaining both the safety precautions necessary and the work that needed to be accomplished as they strung overhead line between poles over a highway and into a business for an owner who wanted a cable modem. He said the two indicated they fully understood his instructions, but he said they made a series of errors that led to his accident.

    Tubandt scaled the pole and started working, when out of the corner of his eye, he saw the line he was stringing go slack, and sag down to a foot off the highway, snagging a car in oncoming traffic. Before he could react, the car dragged the slack in the line and the car was instantly — almost cartoonishly — stopped in its tracks, Tubandt said.

    “It came to a dead stop — like, right now,” Tubandt said.

    The pole he was on and the next pole over both bowed, then snapped back. The wire retracted like a whip.

    “Before I could do anything, it was buzzing by my head at 30 miles per hour,” Tubandt recalled.

    He reached down to release his belt with one hand while the other hand held him to the pole. There was just one problem. His hand was missing.

    Tubandt’s hand — still inside his glove — was found about 100 feet away. Meanwhile, he had another problem. Without two hands, he wasn’t going to be able to climb down.

    He lost three pints of blood as he hung on the pole, waiting for rescue workers to free him. Luckily, he said, he had a piece of rope to tie around his arm to act as a tourniquet. Doctors told him that saved his life.

    He was again airlifted to Phoenix. The owner of the store found Tubandt’s hand, put it on ice, and sent it in the helicopter with him. Someone standing in the road fainted as they watched the scene.

    Surgeons took veins, nerves, muscles and tendons from Tubandt’s legs, side and arms. They reattached the hand and wrapped it with what they called a “meat flap” — a Frankensteinish mix of other parts of his body. It was the first of 20 surgeries already (with more still scheduled.)

    Asked if he has a high tolerance for pain, Tubandt said, “I do now.”

    After the surgery, nurses came in to poke holes in every one of his fingers on his hand to attach leeches, which promoted circulation through the hand to keep the tissue alive. Sometimes the nurses would bristle a bit at touching the leeches. Ever the Minnesota boy, Tubandt helped out.

    “I’d just grab the leech and put it on,” he said. “I’m from Minnesota. It’s no biggie to me.”

    With nearly two dozen surgeries and weekly physical therapy, Tubandt has not only regained motion in the hand, he sports a firm grip for a handshake. But he also has to wear a large mitten on the hand to keep it warm. He said if it gets cold, he has two hours of excruciating pain ahead of him — pain so bad he said he considers cutting the limb off again.

    Again, two months after the accident, Tubandt was back on the job. He said he needed to work again, and though he wasn’t allowed or able to climb poles right away, he could supervise on jobs and do a lot of prep work.

    ...And he’s not slowing down. He was driving an ATV on July 8, 2008, and was thrown from the vehicle, fracturing his back and breaking his ribs.

    “I’m lucky to be walking,” he said.

    He’s fully recovered from that accident, which he said was minor compared to his previous two. But Tubandt said it’s not lost on him that he’s nearly died three times, and has lived to tell the tale.

    ...“Maybe this story will touch some people,” he said. “Being clean and sober has made a big difference in my life.”
    Things To Worry About Before Heading To New Zealand

    Keep focus!:
    LONDON -- An American who killed three people in a head-on collision after driving on the wrong side of an English road was sentenced Friday to 20 months in prison.

    Nathan Doud of Ventura, California, had pleaded guilty to three counts of causing death by dangerous driving. His lawyer, Chris Batty, said the 26-year-old had limited experience driving in Britain and was inadvertently on the wrong side of the road.

    ..."In this case, driving on the right-hand side of the road was not a deliberate act causing a risk," Marson said. "The risk created rose out of a lack of experience, confusion as to his route and failure to see or understand traffic indicators."

    Actor Matthew Broderick was fined $175 for careless driving after he was involved in a car crash that killed a mother and daughter while he was on vacation in Northern Ireland in 1987. Prosecutors said he had been driving on the wrong side of the road. Broderick said at the time he had no recollection of the collision.
    Rocky Mountain News In Trouble

    If I'm not mistaken, this the conservative alternative paper for the Denver area, but the Internet consumes everything in its path, conservative or not.

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    Hunting Fail

    Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
    Juan Cole Discusses The LeT

    Pakistani terrorist groups are mutating into new, dangerous forms in response to "Pakistani Reaganism". There is still time before the nukes get rolled out, but the window of action is shrinking:
    The sole captured LeT operative, Kamal, is said by the Indian press to be from Faridkot village near Dipalpur Tahsil in Okara District of Pakistani Punjab, southwest of Lahore ... This is such a remote and little-known place that even Pakistani newspapers were having difficulty tracking it down.

    Kamal is said to be telling Indian security that he and the others trained in camps in Pakistani Kashmir. (The original princely state of Kashmir, largely Muslim, is divided, with one third in Pakistani hands and two-thirds in Indian; India joined its portion to largely Hindu Jammu to create the province of Jammu and Kashmir.)

    The Kashmir police have gotten good enough at counter-terrorism measures that elements of the LeT may have decided to go after a soft target such as Mumbai instead.

    ...The model that the Reagan administration pressed on the Pakistani military, of funding rightwing "Islamic" militias to kill Soviets, gradually became standard operating procedure. But then the Pakistani Religious Right began adopting the model for themselves. If it is all right to mobilize death squads in one righteous cause, why not in others?

    ...Others, including elements in the Pakistani military began wondering why they should not apply the Reagan Jihad model to Kashmir. And they did. In the late 1980s, Hafiz Muhammad Said (once a professor of engineering at Punjab University) set up the Center for Mission and Guidance (Markaz al-Da'wa wa al-Irshad) in a huge compound at Muridke outside Lahore. The Center soon established the Lashkar-e Tayiba as its paramilitary. With the behind the scenes encouragement of elements in the Pakistani military, the LeT sent guerrillas into Indian Kashmir to attack Indian troops and facilities. The Lashkar prided itself on not killing civilians, on not targeting Shiites, and on keeping its focus on what they thought of as the Indian occupation forces.

    ...The SSP and the Lashkar-e Tayiba was joined by other Sunni militias, including the Movement of the Holy Warriors (Harakat ul Mujahidin). In 2000, Mawlana Massoud Azhar broke off from the latter to form the Jaish-e Muhammad or Army of Muhammad, a particularly violent group focusing on Kashmir. All these Pakistani organizations trained their fighters in the Taliban camps, some of which were actually run by al-Qaeda once Bin Laden allied with the latter in 1996. (It is said that the Inter-Services Intelligence made the introduction).

    High Dudgeon of Americans directed at the Pakistani military for this activity is the height of hypocrisy. The Reagan administration actively encouraged Islamabad to mount precisely such activities against the leftist government of Afghanistan (which, while dictatorial and brutally oppressive, was busily educating girls, admitting women to professions, spreading literacy, working against the vestiges of landlord feudalism, etc.) From a Pakistani point of view, Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and Indian-occupied Kashmir were morally equivalent.

    ...The Pakistani military is itself now suffering blowback for its past policies. Its name is mud in Pakistan. A Pakistani Taliban has emerged that often declines to be its puppet, and which has killed hundreds of Pakistani troops. The Marriott in Islamabad was blown up by the Pakistani Taliban.

    The cell that hit Mumbai was probably a rogue splinter group. They completely disregarded the old Lashkar-e Tayiba concentration on hitting only Indian troops in Kashmir, targeting civilians instead. It is very unlikely that anyone in the Pakistani military put them up specifically to this Mumbai operation. This attack was much more likely to be blowback, when a covert operation produces unexpected consequences or agents that were previously reliable go rogue.

    The Mumbai attacks were not the first of this scale on an Indian target by the LeT.

    If the Pakistani government does not give up this covert terrorist campaign in Kashmir and does not stop coddling the radical vigilantes who go off to fight there, South Asian terrorism will grow as a problem and very possibly provoke the world's first nuclear war (possible death toll: 20 million).

    The civilian government that has recently taken over Pakistan is weak. If it puts too much pressure on the military too quickly, it risks another coup and destabilization. But the training camps in Azad Kashmir must be closed.

    India, Pakistan, and the Obama administration need to do some serious diplomacy on Kashmir, and try to settle this major global fault line before the 10.0 earthquake finally hits.
    "We're Going To Own Your Ass"

    Michael Moore on Olbermann (video at link):
    Despite his anger at Washington, however, Moore was no more sparing of the automakers, who were back before Congress on Thursday to insist that if they are not given $34 billion right now, they risk going out of business by the end of the month.

    "Any money given to the current management is just going to be money that's being flushed right down the toilet," Moore insisted. "They don't have a clue about how to run these companies."

    Moore pointed out that "GM wants $18 billion. The total worth of all the common stock in GM right now is a little less than $3 billion. ... Why would we give them $18 billion?" He believes that if the government bails out the auto firms, it needs to receive a degree of control over their operations in return.

    "This new president and this Congress has to say to the Big Three, 'I'm sorry, but this car thing isn't working out," Moore suggested. "We're running out of oil, so you need to build hybrids, electrics, and we need mass transportation. ... If we give you $34 billion, we're going to own your ass."

    "These geniuses thought that everybody would want to buy a Hummer and that somehow there was an untold amount of oil under the earth," Moore concluded sarcastically. "Why would we reward them?"
    To The Moon With Saturn

    No! No! My car! Am I going to be driving the Edsel of the 21st Century? Make them stop!:
    General Motors Corp. launched its Saturn division in 1985 as a "different kind of car company," one given the task to sell cars in a new way and compete with Japanese juggernauts like Honda and Toyota.

    The idea, simply, was to make money on the small, economical vehicles that had always been losers for the Detroit giant.

    Now GM may be abandoning the brand altogether.

    The sweeping restructuring plan GM released this week in hopes of squeezing $18 billion in aid out of Congress includes a pledge to "explore alternatives" for Saturn.

    GM officials say options include overhauling the lineup, partnering with another carmaker, selling the brand and, potentially, sending Saturn off to the junkyard.

    GM's Swedish luxury brand Saab might also be sold, and Pontiac could be transformed into a "niche" brand inside other dealerships.

    But the decision to consider pulling the plug on Saturn, the agile little start-up that GM developed to reinvent the way it produced and sold cars, is a bitter reminder of just how deep the automaker's troubles run.

    Saturn, after all, was created to do almost everything that GM, industry experts and many members of Congress say a modern car company has to do to survive in today's market: Make a limited range of small, fuel-efficient cars, then sell them through a small network of dealers for a profit.

    There was just one hitch: GM says Saturn never made a profit.

    At its plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., Saturn made simple, unfussy cars designed to appeal to penny-wise drivers. But the price point of the vehicles -- in recent years as low as $12,000 on some models -- was far too low to cover the cost of producing and marketing them, analysts say.

    In response, the company raised prices substantially, to an average of about $17,000 two years ago and about $24,000 today. To accomplish that, however, the company had to stock the lineup with larger, fancier vehicles like the hulking Outlook sport utility vehicle.

    The Outlook, which seats eight, starts at $31,000 and seemingly has nothing in common with the no-fuss economy sedans like the S-Series, which debuted in 1991 with a sticker price of $7,995.

    "To broadly stereotype, Saturn buyers are single women teachers," said Eric Noble, president of Car Lab, an industry consulting firm in Orange. "They don't need an eight-person SUV."

    So far this year, Saturn sales are down 21% from 2007 levels, compared with a 16% drop for the auto industry as a whole.
    Sean Nill Profile

    Pleasant article in today's sports pages:
    Nill is Laguna Creek High School's terrorizing lineman, a teenager with a thirst to block and tackle. And to go musical. Football is in his blood – his dad, Mark, is the Cardinals' coach – and theater, dance and the sounds of song are in his heart.

    "And as soon as he gets far enough away so no one can hear him, you know he's singing again," Laguna defensive coordinator Winston Young said. "He can't stop."

    And no wonder. The Cardinals, with father Nill and player Nill at the forefront, are humming to a fresh new tune this season. It has been a season of milestone achievement for Laguna Creek as it barrels into Friday's City Championship against another playoff upstart in Pleasant Grove.

    ..."It's been a season of making history here," coach Nill said. "It's a unique team."

    ...It was in the fifth grade Sean Nill discovered the joys of theater. He had already found football. He performs each spring in the River City Theatre Company.

    His father jokes with his son, asking, "Would you rather win a Heisman in football or a Tony award?" The truth? Player Nill will take a section title ring and the Tony, thanks.

    "I love theater," Sean Nill said. "That and football have always been in my life. Gives me good balance."
    How We Do It In Sac-Town

    Troubles for the Núñez family:
    Full of beer, rum and rage after being turned away from a fraternity party, four Sacramento men – including the 19-year-old son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez – killed a San Diego college student and then tried to destroy evidence, according to allegations contained in court documents.

    Esteban Núñez assured his friends that he would "take the rap for it" and expressed hope that his "dad would take care of it," according to an arrest warrant affidavit that detailed interviews conducted by San Diego Police Department investigators.

    ...Rafael Isaac Garcia, 19; Leshanor Thomas, Jr., 19; Ryan Kelly Jett, 22; and Núñez each face one count of murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of misdemeanor vandalism in connection with the Oct. 4 slaying. If convicted of murder, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

    ...A woman who was hosting the men at her apartment told police the four were drinking and showing off their knives. They talked about wanting to show people "how we do it in Sac-Town," according to the warrant.
    "Bitter, Table For Two!"

    Fred Thompson on our economic woes.
    Frank Zappa On "Crossfire" (1986)

    Warring Impulses

    fail owned pwned pictures

    Just too much good stuff over at failblog.

    When I saw the above, I laughed so hard that I thought I would suffer a stroke, and so had to leave the room.

    This is pretty good too.....

    fail owned pwned pictures
    see more pwn and owned pictures

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Charlie Brown Concedes

    Sad, that. Nevertheless Tom McClintock, who has built his entire career on ideological consistency, will arrive in a drastically-changed Washington, where Republican power is curtailed and economics will rule the day. In short, failure on steroids. In two more years, the 4th District will get a chance to judge the efficacy of ideological consistency.
    Searching On The Fairness Doctrine

    I used Google to look at the counts of 'Fairness Doctrine' in the news archives, and there are distinct waves in the number of mentions of the term in the news. There was one big wave around 1950, apparently when conservatives were trying to use the 'Fairness Doctrine' to break liberal hegemony over the news. Then there is another wave in 1987, when the 'Fairness Doctrine' was dropped. There was a third, smaller wave in 2007 regarding efforts to revive the 'Fairness Doctrine' to put FOX News out of business and/or defend FOX News. Check it out!

    fairness doctrine - Google News Archive Search: "2000-08 Search other datesSearch other datesFrom To"
    Proposition Eight - The Musical

    See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

    From the LA Times:
    Written by Marc Shaiman and directed by Adam Shankman, the piece shows gay marriage backers and foes debating the issue in song against the backdrop of a Sacramento community college theater. John C. Reilly and Allison Janney lead the gay marriage foes -- all dressed in dark Sunday-best suits. The anti-Prop. 8 crowd includes Neil Patrick Harris and Andy Richter.

    The musical begins with the gay marriage supporters singing about "a brand new bright Obama day.... Happy days for the gays." The anti forces then move in, singing: "Nobody's looking, let's spread the hate ... Proposition 8!"

    Jack Black then appears as Jesus, who takes part in some mediation. By the end of the video, everyone seems to oppose Prop. 8 (in part because of the lawyers and tattoo removal required to end those same-sex marriages).

    The video posted just recently. Early reviews?

    Gawker: "This reminds us how smart Obama was to keep celebrities from too-vocally supporting him.... Because usually they seem really obnoxious and do more to aggravate than they do to inure. Oh, plus the music sucks."

    Playbill has some of the cast names: The "Proposition 8'ers and The People That Follow Them" include John C. Reilly as Prop 8 Leader; Allison Janney as Prop 8 Leader's #1 Wife; Kathy Najimy as Prop 8 Leader's #2 Wife; Jenifer Lewis as Riffing Prop 8'er; Craig Robinson as A Preacher; and Rashida Jones, Lake Bell and Sarah Chalke as Scary Catholic School Girls From Hell.
    Rupert Murdoch Drifting Away From FOX News

    Intriguing interview clip here:
    According to Wolff, however, the real issue is that Murdoch has "come to like the liberals more than the conservatives -- and many of them have come to like him, too. ... His life is now largely spent around people for whom Fox News is a vulgarity and a joke."

    "If he became utterly convinced," asked Olberman, "not only would a liberal network make you five times the money that Fox News makes you, but one will exist and it will put Fox News out of business, would he go down the street tomorrow, shut off Fox News, and put on a liberal version of it just for the money?"

    "In a New York minute," Wolff replied.

    "He saw a market niche," Wolff explained. "It was easy to get into, it was easy to service these people, it was cheaper to service these people, and he went for it. ... He saw a money-making formula."

    Wolff believes that now Murdoch, "wants something else. ... He is becoming something else."

    Wolff explained, "One of the interesting things about Murdoch is that he is -- how would we say this? -- henpecked." In the 1980's, Murdoch was influenced by his second wife, who was "classically, and in a doctrinaire way, a Catholic conservative." But "now he's with a woman 38 years his junior, quite young, quite liberal, quite open, and certainly engaged with all of the Hollywood people."

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    The Gay Bible

    And the Lord spoke:
    A gay version of the Bible, in which God says it is better to be gay than straight, is to be published by an American film producer.

    New Mexico-based Revision Studios will publish The Princess Diana Bible – so named because of Diana's "many good works", it says – online at in spring 2009. A preview of Genesis is already available, in which instead of creating Adam and Eve, God creates Aida and Eve.

    "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Aida, and she slept: and he took one of her ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from woman, made he another woman, and brought her unto the first. And Aida said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of me. Therefore shall a woman leave her mother, and shall cleave unto her wife: and they shall be one flesh.' And they were both naked, the woman and her wife, and were not ashamed."

    The film studio said it would also adapt and direct the revised Bible as a two-part mini-series, The Gay Old Testament and The Gay New Testament, once it is completed.

    "There are many different versions of the Bible; I don't see why we can't have one," said Max Mitchell, who directed the science fiction comedy Horror in the Wind, in which an airborne formula invented by two biogeneticists reverses the world's sexual orientation.

    "I got the idea for the Princess Diana Bible from Horror In The Wind," he added. "After the world becomes gay, religious people create The Princess Diana Bible, which says that gay is right and straight is a sin. Then they burn all the King James Bibles."
    Conjunction Sunday

    Left: Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon, in conjunction, Sunday night. The view is to the southwest, from DMTC in Davis, looking above the building housing 24-Hour Fitness.

    Bruce sent this on Sunday evening:
    Jupiter and Venus begin December in conjunction at dusk in the southwestern sky. If the sky remains clear, the Jupiter-Venus conjunction, officially occurring tomorrow night, will be spectacular. Venus is the brighter of the two planets, and it remains high in the southwest throughout December, while the gaseous Jupiter descends the western horizon all month.

    Venus, ever effervescent, is visible at negative fourth magnitude (ultra bright), and it is easily mistaken for a distant jetliner approaching Dulles International Airport with its landing lights on. Jupiter at negative second magnitude is bright enough to enjoy from the urban light-polluted sky. At month's end, Venus sets after 8 p.m., and Jupiter sets before 6 p.m.

    Tonight, notice that the sliver of a young moon is below Jupiter and Venus, while tomorrow night the crescent can be seen above the planetary duo. Young moons always appear briefly in the western sky at dusk and early evening.

    At the very end of December, the fleet Mercury (zero magnitude, or bright) joins with Jupiter at dusk in the southwest for another conjunction. The brighter Jupiter is to Mercury's left, and Venus is far above the fray.

    The full moon Dec. 12 will be at its closest (356,556 kilometers, or 221,554 miles) to Earth since 1993, and the full moon won't be this close again until 2016. Once a month the moon gets close to Earth at perigee, but sometimes the monthly lunar perigee coincides with the full moon. On Jan. 1, 2257, the full moon will be closer than this year's event -- at 356,371 kilometers, or 221,439 miles -- according to Belgian astronomer and mathematician Jean Meeus.
    Bruce also sent this regarding the recent presidential election:
    (from December 2008 Celestial Timings By Cayelin K Castell):

    ...There was a wave of heart opening energy that swept the globe and set a powerful heart directed template for the coming revolutionary changes. I also know there were many who did not share in the joy of this event for many reasons. Even so it seems the genuine joy, hope and love experienced by so many reached a critical mass that altered our reality and established a new template for the Earth.

    Speculation about the effect of the Uranus/Saturn opposition on election day ranged from no election, to another stolen election, to concerns about riots and unrest if the election appeared to be stolen again. Ultimately, Uranus surprised us when it came through with an unexpected outcome, a land slide victory that powerfully opened the hearts of so many around the globe. I experienced an unprecedented profoundly powerful physical shift in my surroundings when the announcement came that Barack Obama had been elected our 44th president.

    The only way I feel I can come close to describing my experience is by saying I felt the whole room literally spin around me and I knew a major assemblage point had shifted as we were clicked into an alternate reality or alternate timeline. I have read other accounts that though worded differently seem to have expressed a similar experience acting as a confirmation for me. I feel we were witness to the imprint of a whole new planetary template anchored in the vibration of love, hope and inspiration.

    The news was full of stories about the joyous reactions and celebrations around the planet suggesting we reached a large enough critical mass to establish a new holographic field. Meaning those waves of hope, inspiration, joy and love are now fully anchored into the new template and the new timeline of the mass consciousness. My sense is that this new template will be the basis for the recurring Saturn Uranus oppositions still to come and will be greatly assisted when we remember to keep it energized with our thoughts, feelings and actions.
    Catastrophe For AMTSJ

    Jim sends word of this calamity:
    The final curtain has fallen abruptly on the American Musical Theatre of San Jose.

    The group sent out a press release today announcing that it will cease operations effective immediately and that their productions of “Tarzan” and “42nd Street” and the presentations of touring shows “Chicago” and “Avenue Q” have been canceled.

    Here is more information from the press release:

    "We received a telephone call a few days ago from our co-producer for `Tarzan,’ which was the Theater of the Stars in Atlanta, Georgia basically telling us that they had used all of the funds that we had paid them towards the production for other things," said Michael Miller, CEO and executive producer of AMTSJ. "In essence, they cancelled the show without giving us any warning, and we discovered that the funds we had paid for `Tarzan’ were spent on another production of theirs, which lost a significant amount of money," Miller continued.

    Added Robert Nazarenus, AMTSJ's chief financial officer: "The cancellation of `Tarzan’ meant nearly a $2 million dollar loss to us. The disappearance of the six figures that we paid to Atlanta's Theater of the Stars in good faith coupled with the huge loss of revenues we anticipated from `Tarzan’ was just too much to overcome, particularly in these economic times." Nazarenus went on to say "Despite the harsh economic times, we were operating prudently, and had a solid strategic plan in place. We have always found a way to succeed, with quality productions, patron loyalty, and community support. This season was no different. But, when you in essence lose nearly two million dollars, it is impossible to recover. What makes this even more frustrating is the fact that this is caused by the wanton actions of another theater company."
    Romish Plots

    Walt stumbles upon a new angle regarding papal ambitions:
    No doubt you already knew that the 1929 stock market crash was a Jesuit retaliation for the electoral defeat of Al Smith in the 1928 election. And that so-called "leader", Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a willing tool of the Papists. But did you also know that the Iraq War is an attempt to recover the lost Papal States for the Vatican? Find out more.
    Gabe suspects the fellow is misinformed:
    I am quite wary of communicating with this fellow, because his logic (or reason) seems to be quite out of the window.

    What was the Pope doing when he opposed the Iraq War in 2002-2003? What was Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) doing when he claimed the war to be unjust according to the Catechism in 2003?

    Again, I doubt that this fellow does not allow for logical discussion.
    Meanwhile, I'm impressed:

    Who knew?

    I’ve often thought there were parallels between Al Smith in 1928, and John Kerry in 2004 (both Catholics). Yet this fellow doesn’t even mention these parallels.

    Conspiracy theories just aren’t what they used to be. I suspect a Catholic somewhere is in charge of quality control.
    Surfeit Of Serpents

    Left: Snake catcher Geoff Brouff with a handful of snakes he found at Esther Honegger's Fannie Bay home. Picture: BRAD FLEET

    It's important to remember these babies aren't poisonous. Mean, nasty, ill-tempered, and aggressive, yes, but fairly benign by Australian standards (via Wicked Thoughts):
    IT WOULD be enough to put phobia sufferers in their grave - 14 baby carpet pythons slithering around in your bedroom.

    Esther Honegger was "horrified" when she found the baby snakes in her Fannie Bay home.

    "I thought 'Oh my God, how many of them are there?'," she said.

    "I hate snakes and as I walked backwards and forwards I would see another one."

    "They were everywhere - there was one curled around my bedhead, another around the bottom of the chair, and when I went outside there was one in the hallway, another on the (stair) railing and another on the step.

    "It was like I was having a nightmare.

    "Everywhere I looked they just kept popping up."

    The self-employed driving instructor first noticed the snakes when going to bed about 9pm on Wednesday.

    She called friends, who she says didn't believe her, and then called the police.

    She was then told to call the 24-hour snake hotline.

    Snake catcher Geoff Brouff attended her home on Geoffrey Crescent and managed to wrangle seven of the snakes.

    But the next morning he received another frantic call from Ms Honegger who had found five more of the reptiles in her house.

    Another trip back to her unit on Thursday afternoon found another two.

    Ms Honegger is now tippy toeing around her home as Mr Brouff said it was likely there could be more hiding around the place.

    "Carpet snakes lay an average of 25 to 30 eggs so yeah it's definitely possible there will be more," he said.

    He said the mother was likely living in the roof and the babies came through the air-conditioner vents.
    Lost Top End, Down Under

    People lose the craziest stuff:
    A MEN'S magazine says 130,000 inflatable breasts intended as a free gift for its January issue have gone missing en route to Australia.

    A spokeswman for Ralph magazine said the container carrying $200,000 worth of plastic breasts left docks in Beijing two weeks ago but turned up empty in Sydney this week.

    The magazine has put out an alert to shipping authorities but if the breasts didn't turn up in the next 48 hours it would be too late for the next issue, she said.

    Ralph editor Santi Pintado urged anyone with information to contact the magazine.

    "Unless Somali pirates have stolen them its difficult to explain where they are," Pintado said.

    "If anyone finds any washed up on a beach, please let us know."
    "Do You Like Rihanna Too?"

    Last night, at Target, among other things, I purchased a DVD of Rihanna, in live performance of her album "Good Girl Gone Bad". The checkout clerk and I began talking about various pop stars.

    "Who's your favorite pop star?" I asked. "Well, there's several," she said, "but right now I'd have to say Janet Jackson. We spent $1,000.00 and saw her in San Jose." "Oh, so you must have stayed down there and that's why it cost so much," I said. "No, that's what the tickets cost," she said. I replied: "Really?" and she just nodded her head. "But we were in the third row," she added.

    I told her about my forthcoming trip to New Zealand to see Kylie Minogue, and she thought that was so exciting. We both agreed that both Madonna and Beyonce were excellent. And with Britney Spears coming to Sacramento's ARCO Arena on April 11th, the new year was bound to be pop heaven!

    In fact, we got so excited about pop stars that it wasn't until I reviewed the store receipt hours later that I noticed she failed to charge me for four bottles of toilet cleanser.
    Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This

    The doctor bid me to take my clothes off and lie down on the examination table. I hesitated, but slowly complied, and explained how the groin pull two Fridays ago made it hard to lie down.

    Looking at my thigh, he said "That's a significant bruise! It looks like you really hurt yourself! No doubt you tore some muscle!"

    I replied that the bruise appeared about the same time as the groin pull, but I wasn't sure the two were connected, since it's so easy to bumble into furniture during a show anyway and get bruises. And besides, this bruise was eight inches away, or so, from the groin pull.

    He replied, "Oh, there's no doubt the two are connected. It's called gravity. The torn muscle bleeds, and the blood runs down the inside of the leg and pools just below the skin of the thigh."


    I explained how I had continued doing aerobics despite the injury. Last night I felt like a shambles, huffing and puffing, and it hurt like Ow! Ow! Ow!, but I was still more active than the week before. Rather than cautioning me against the activity, the doctor said I was courageous to continue. He suggested heat compresses and said it would heal in eight weeks time.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    Munchkin Respect

    Some of the Munchkins in 1939's "The Wizard Of Oz" were children, not midgets, and they've had some trouble getting respect:
    Everyone knows about the Munchkins, portrayed by 124 pituitary midgets in the 1939 motion picture starring Judy Garland. These days, the word "Munchkin" -- now included in some dictionaries -- is synonymous with small. Credited in the film as the Singer Midgets, the diminutive cast was comprised of little people from all over the United States, with the core group being part of the famous troupe of performing midgets managed by Leo Singer.

    But not all of the Munchkins were little people. It may be a footnote in Hollywood history, but let the news be spread that about 10 young girls of normal height, ranging from 7 to 9 years old, danced and sang alongside the little people 70 years ago on MGM's massive Soundstage 27.

    ...Last year, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored the entire diminutive citizenship of Munchkin Land with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame near Grauman's Chinese Theatre that simply reads: "The Munchkins." Nothing about "midgets only." Yet, the handful of former child Munchkins who had been invited to the event were denied introduction and participation in the unveiling because they were not "vertically challenged." Where is the Lollipop Guild and their sweet greeting when you need them?

    "That was disappointing because my family was with me," says Todd, of West Covina. "You can pick me out as clearly as any of the midgets in the film, but they knew the midgets would draw the crowds, I guess."

    ..."I can pick myself out in the movie right there on the yellow brick road, dancing the skip, and I recall it so vividly," says Clark, a former dancer and now a grandmother of four who lives in Corona del Mar. "The set was so huge. I was in awe. I felt like I was in the middle of a fairy tale . . .

    ...The girls didn't have a lot of interaction with Garland. Bruno recalls that she tried to get an autographed picture from the young star: "It was frightening. I'd go up to her trailer and knock on the door and ask for a picture. I remember screwing up my courage every day. When I asked, she'd look down at me with those great big eyes and she'd say, 'I'm sorry, I don't have a picture today. Can you come back?' "

    ...Clark can still kick up her heels and do the Munchkin skip, the choreography they learned on the yellow brick road. Her grandkids have begged her to teach them the recognizable step.
    Division Of Responsibilities In The Australian Government

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain:
    Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen is refusing to be drawn on by how much the Australian economy has slowed during the past three months.

    ...Mr Bowen said it was the job of other people to track key performance indicators to predict numbers, such as growth.

    "Our job is to keep the economy as strong and growth as robust as possible," he told ABC Television on Tuesday.
    Farewell To The Noiseless Neighbors

    Pulling up to my driveway in the foggy night shortly after 2 a.m., it was hard to avoid noticing a half dozen police cars down the alley, just past 'Skunk Corner', next to the big apartment building on Second Avenue. Ah, the cops struck the neighbors with the little 'compound'!

    Day and night, there always seemed to be a dozen young men at this compound. The compound had high wooden walls and they would back their large vans right into the compound gate, and they appeared to socialize all night long, with vans pulling in and out at all hours.

    Nevertheless, there was never any loud music emanating from the compound: no booming car stereos, or anything. They weren't very outgoing, these anonymous young men, but they never caused any trouble for Sparky or myself. Well-mannered neighbors, but nocturnal neighbors that seemed wedded to big vans.

    Sigh. Well, I suppose they had their own free-wheeling agenda that crossed some bright legal lines. Now, I'll bet they put a noisy troublemaker in there - maybe even a percussionist!
    Disturbing Fog

    How thick was the fog last night? It was so thick, E. observed, that she was "as blind as a hawk."

    Driving through Midtown at 2 a.m., the most disturbing sight was seeing a car creep through a red light while heading west on J Street.
    Skulking Cop

    Returning to Sacramento from Davis on Highway 50 on Friday night, I ended up behind a car that seemed to weave in and out of its lane.

    A Highway Patrol car quietly pulled up beside me that also seemed to weave in and out of its lane.

    Driving is like Relativity: if you are the only one staying in your lane when everyone else is weaving, you are the menace to traffic safety.

    Then, the Highway Patrol car quietly pulled directly behind me. Suddenly, I realized what was happening: the cop was weaving because he was observing the car in front of me and he was skulking behind me in order to avoid discovery.

    The inevitable happened. At the first clear opportunity, the cop turned on his lights and pulled aside the car in front of me.
    Pulling Back

    Apparently we've been in a recession for a year (no surprise there, really). And the DJI is off 428 points (the only surprise there is why the market took off last week; the big Citi bailout was a sign of continuing failure, not a reason to celebrate). Then this:
    The U.S. credit-card industry may pull back well over $2 trillion of lines over the next 18 months due to risk aversion and regulatory changes, leading to sharp declines in consumer spending, prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney said.

    The credit card is the second key source of consumer liquidity, the first being jobs, the Oppenheimer & Co analyst noted.

    "In other words, we expect available consumer liquidity in the form of credit-card lines to decline by 45 percent."
    Cross-Border Anxiety

    While folks in the USA worry about illegals and drugs, folks in Mexico worry about drugs and guns:
    HOUSTON – Houston has become the top source for firearms going into Mexico, supplying drug cartel gangsters with weapons for their deadly battles, according to federal law enforcement officials.

    "Our investigations show Houston is the top source for firearms going into Mexico, top source in the country," J. Dewey Webb, special agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Houston division, said in the Houston Chronicle.

    Federal law enforcement officials said gangsters have chosen Houston because of its numerous gun shops, proximity to the border and its long-established networks for smuggling narcotics into the United States.

    Mexican officials estimate 90 percent of nearly 27,000 weapons seized from stash houses or recovered from crime scenes in the past two years came from the U.S.

    Authorities say numerous crimes, including a 2007 Acapulco massacre, show the carnage brought on by Houston-bought guns.

    ATF is targeting at least three Houston groups it contends supply weapons to the Gulf Cartel, which operates along the Texas-Mexico border, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

    Agents working with their Mexican counterparts have traced at least 328 Houston-bought firearms to those groups since 2007, when the investigation was launched after an audit of a gun store's sales records.

    ...U.S. officials have an obligation to do more to keep guns on this side of the border, Mexican authorities said.

    "All the weapons the drug syndicates are using in Mexico come across the border from the United States," said Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S.
    Third Weekend Of "Man Of La Mancha"

    Glad we got through it!

    Typically this show is not hazardous in the way lots of shows are - the slow, cerebral, deliberate pace aids the actor's health. But because of cast changes among the muleteers, plus my injury last weekend, I've been really worried that further harm could fall on the cast.

    Nevertheless, we got through it without too much trouble. We had trouble getting Matt from Fairfield up the stairway - at one point I lost my balance - but Brennan helped save me.

    Focus is a tiny bit of a problem. Instead of studying our lines in the men's dressing room, like we should always be prepared to do (even though it's already the third weekend of the show), we are studying a joke almanac instead, and we sometimes seem to be hunting for punch lines.

    Here's hoping the last weekend goes OK!
    Feminine Wiles

    Out of Africa:
    UGANDA'S police warned male bar-goers to keep their noses clean after a probe found a gang of robbers had been using women with chloroform smeared on their chests to knock their victims unconscious.

    "They apply this chemical to their chest. We have found victims in an unconscious state," Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) spokesman Fred Enanga said.

    "You find the person stripped totally naked and everything is taken from him," he said.

    "And the victim doesn't remember anything. He just remembers being in the act of romancing."

    Mr Enanga, who explained that several types of heavy sedatives had been used, said he first came across the practice last year when an apprehended thief named Juliana Mukasa made a clean breast of the matter.

    "She is a very dangerous lady," he said.
    What Do The Narnia Chronicles Mean? A New Theory

    Cosmic analogies:
    Dr Ward made his discovery in 2003 after reading The Planets, a poem by Lewis which refers to the influence of Jupiter in "winter passed / And guilt forgiv'n" – a theme echoed in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

    He claims Lewis' knowledge of medieval history, of which he was one of the leading scholars, made him familiar with the characteristics attributed to the seven planets during the period. Each of these planets gives one of the books its theme. Prince Caspian, for example, is a story ruled by Mars, who is manifested by soldiery and battle, while The Voyage of the Dawn Treader focuses on the Sun, with its light and gold themes. In The Horse and His Boy, based on Mercury, the planet that rules the star sign Gemini and is associated with the power of communication, the characters include twins and a talking horse.

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    Troublesome Gay Penguins

    Neurotic pro-Prop. 8 fears find a neurotic natural analogue:
    The two penguins have started placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs, in a bid to hide their theft.

    But the deception has been noticed by other penguins at the zoo, who have ostracised the gay couple from their group. Now keepers have decided to segregate the pair of three-year-old male birds to avoid disrupting the rest of the community during the hatching season.

    A keeper at Polar Land in Harbin, north east China explained that the gay couple had the natural urge to become fathers, despite their sexuality.

    "One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite this being a biological impossibility for this couple, the natural desire is still there," a keeper told the Austrian Times newspaper.
    And what could be more neurotic than this zoo bird harlotry?:
    A German zoo provoked outrage from gay lobby groups after attempting to mate a group of gay male penguins with Swedish female birds who were flown in especially to seduce them. But the project was abandoned after the males refused to be "turned", showing no interest in their would-be mates.
    The comments on this story make me laugh:
    I'm Canadian and I suggest they be clubbed.

    Ann Coulter's Jaw Wired Shut

    Prayers answered!
    Wet November in Australia

    The rainy season got off to a good start!

    The Brisbane November rainfall of 326.6 mm fell short of the record of 412.8 mm, but it nevertheless appears to be runner-up to the record.

    Take a look at this record of the Gap Cyclone! Just AMAZING!