Friday, January 09, 2009

Art, Fashion And Time

I wonder if this is true?:
JEAN COCTEAU ONCE SAID, “Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.”
NYC Smells Like Maple Syrup

And some people don't like maple syrup.
Palin Objects To Media Bias

Sarah Palin objects in this recent documentary interview to the way her and her family were treated in the national media during the election campaign.
Conservative talk show host and documentary filmmaker John Ziegler is determined to prove that Barack Obama won the 2008 election because of media bias, and that "the media assassination of [Sarah Palin], her character and family, was one of the greatest public injustices of our time.”
Ziegler does have a point that class bias was at work:
It's difficult to tell from the brief clips to what extent Ziegler may have been prompting Palin for answers that would support his thesis of "class bias" producing a media "double standard." In one case, however, when Ziegler asked about Caroline Kennedy's interest in the New York Senate seat, Palin definitely did appear to be following his lead.

"I've been interested also to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled," Palin stated, "and if she'll be handled with kid gloves or if she'll be under such a microscope also. ... We will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy."
In the media, liberals and progressives have often relied on irony and satire to make their case (e.g., The Daily Report, Tina fey, etc.). Class bias seeps in there, for sure. What I find most interesting is how effective these tools have been against Palin. Even the international audience has been fascinated by the entire spectacle.

Palin is no doubt still most angry with the 'anonymous blogger' smear regarding who was Trig's mother, which forced the McCain/ Palin campaign against their better judgment to announce Bristol Palin's pregnancy. The Trig allegation appeared for a day over at the Daily Kos and quickly disappeared. I'd like to think they pulled the allegation for lack of credible sourcing, but the utter lack of explanation for their actions makes me think someone there (not necessarily at the top) knew exactly what they were doing (or else they got lucky). Someone pulled on a thread and unravelled a tapestry.

Nevertheless, Palin goes too far with the outrage. She asks:
"When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially? It's a sad state of affairs in the world of the media today, mainstream media especially, that they're going to rely on bloggers, anonymous bloggers, for their hard news information."
HELLO?! The 24-hour Cable TV universe long ago created a perfect smear hothouse environment. The Republicans, in particular, have relied heavily on anonymous smear merchants, first with regard to Whitewater, then to a bevy of false scandals during the Clinton Administration, and then delegated the smear to the right blogosphere. In some situations, like the Wen Ho Lee case, people were falsely imprisoned for years and had their careers ruined. In others, like the Plame case, valuable intelligence assets were ruined and American spies in Iran were likely killed. Indeed, smear was institutionalized, with the Drudge Report serving as the de facto national assignment editor for the entire MSM. The entire MSM!

Now, having created a perfect media monster, the Republicans have seen it break its chains and start damaging their own. Where was the outrage when it would have helped? We need another novelist of Mary Shelley's capacity to do the matter justice. For now, we have to content ourselves with Paddy Chayefsky's "Network".
Muckraking Onion

Locates health-care corruption:
WASHINGTON—A two-year investigation conducted in five major cities has exposed a widespread campaign by the formidable Rest and Fluids industry to infiltrate thousands of doctors' offices and dictate how they treat minor illnesses.

The investigation—the full details of which will be disclosed in this newspaper over the coming months—documented thousands of instances in which sick patients were repeatedly instructed, often verbatim, to "lie down and drink plenty of liquids." This treatment, recommended a staggering 4 out of 5 times on average, was in each case prescribed by a physician known to have recently enjoyed a golf vacation courtesy of Big Rest and Fluids.

"You have no idea how deep this goes," said Dr. X, a physician who wished to remain anonymous. "They've got everyone, from the pediatricians and family doctors, right on down to the school nurses. We've had the cure for the common cold for nearly 40 years, but it's still 'rest and fluids, rest and fluids.' Why? Because these guys are getting paid through the nose, that's why."

"The complimentary king-sized beds, the downy soft comforters, the absolutely ravishing women," Dr. X continued. "It's a sick, sick world."

The American Rest and Fluids industry first rose to prominence during the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, when there existed only meager competition from quarantines and prayer. After gaining influence during the '20s and '30s, mainly through mob connections and a few corrupt U.S. senators, R&F was again buoyed in 1947 following the introduction of employee sick days.

What began as a small-scale racket has today grown into a multinational organization, with billions of dollars devoted each year to pushing its pro-napping, broth-focused agenda.

...To date, no doctors have been willing to testify against these so-called Rest and Fluids "fat cats" for fear it would destroy their careers. In fact, a number of physicians have already been blackballed for prescribing echinacea and other over-the-counter remedies.

Worse yet, some fear violent retribution for not toeing the Rest and Fluids line. In 1997, four Chicago doctors who were known to prescribe cough syrup were found dead at the bottom of a pool of NyQuil. Officially, these deaths were blamed on the less-powerful Natural Causes industry, but many still believe the message delivered that day was clear.

...With a recent $12.3 million donation to several prominent Washington bureaucrats, Rest and Fluids will most likely continue its stranglehold for decades to come. That is, unless one young and energetic nurse-practitioner from Louisiana has his say.

This newspaper has recently learned that whistle-blower Nathan Bellows has collected a mountain of evidence outlining years of blackmail and corruption on the part of R&F. Evidence, Bellows said, he plans to leak to 12 major media outlets later this week.

Bellows lives at 138 Juniper St., Apt. 3H, Folsom, LA, 70437. He goes jogging every morning around the nearby reservoir and is always alone.
Gravity, And The Hoarder

The LA Times labeled this 'Shop Till You Drop', but instead of a frazzled shopper brought down by exhaustion, it's another hoarder lost to the force of gravity.

In general, a shopping addiction is not as bad as a gambling addiction. At least the bankrupt shopper has *something* to show for their efforts. But hoarders have to beware of the principle of conservation of mass:
A spinster who obsessively hoarded clothes died in her home after a mountain of suitcases fell on her, burying her alive.

Joan Cunnane, 77, owned 300 scarves as well as thousands of trinkets and valuables.
They took up so much space in her bungalow that she had only a 2ft-wide path to get around them, and her car and garage were packed with other goods.

After she was reported missing earlier this week, it took police searching her home two days to sift through her possessions.

Miss Cunnane was eventually found buried under a 3ft pile of cases in a back bedroom where she had apparently gone in search of a favourite item.

The eccentric pensioner, who had no known family, is thought to have died of dehydration several days earlier on Boxing Day.

...Her closest friend, Roy Moran, 77, said: 'I think it just gave her pleasure to buy things - none of it was really essential. I once asked her how many scarves she had.

She said she thought about 300. I asked her why she needed that many. She said they were all different colours.

...An expert search team and environmental health officers were also called in to help and on Wednesday evening her body was finally found buried under the suitcases.
The house was stacked with brand-new umbrellas, candles, ornaments, trinkets, clothes and electrical items, many of them unopened, as well as piles of videotapes.

Mr Moran said his friend would spend hours at branches of Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Ikea rather than spend evenings at home, which was crammed full but amazingly tidy.

'I went in three times and couldn't find her,' he said.

'There was stuff in every room - it was so bad there were concerns about the police dogs going in.

'There were thousands of videos. When I walked they all fell down. It was a deathtrap, really.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Thicket Of Constabulary

(11 p.m. in rural Yolo County)

Slicing through the night like a streamlined bat on Yolo County's Road 27, I noticed a rather aggressive driver approach from behind. I sped up a bit in response, to almost 65 mph.


(cue bright red-and-blue bubblegum lights)

The policeman explained "the speed limit on Yolo County Roads is 55 mph. I will let you off with a verbal warning this time, though." I was rather relieved - my registration isn't yet complete (I still need the car smogged), and I wasn't in the mood to listen to policeman lectures.

Grumbling inwardly about my innate natural right to drive along Yolo County Roads at any damned speed I felt like, I drove up to DMTC to make a delivery. Everyone had long gone home. The place was dark and I was alone - except that there was *someone* in a car, clear over at Peak Performance, watching my every move as I approached the locked door. Could it be? Yes it was! I gave a hearty wave and an insincere grin to a City of Davis policeman as he drove past.

Now cops come in threes. My drive across the Yolo Causeway back to Sacramento featured paranoia and preparations to have all my papers in order in case I forgot to comply with the West Sacramento Mandatory Wheelies Act of 2009, or whatever excuse they would have to further trouble my repose. Nothing else happened, however, and I crossed the Sacramento River bridge on Highway 50 and departed Yolo County without further incident.
Got My Heels Dug In So Far The Rest Of The World Spun Past

I joined the BMG Music Service CD-of-the-month club long after it was fashionable, and given my stubborn resistance to change, it was likely that I would remain a member forever. After all, I had accumulated dozens of Music Points for CDs that I really wasn't interested in. But given the rapid pace of technological change and the economic crisis, I just may outlive the club. And I have little time to redeem my points!:
BMG Music Service stopped accepting new members this week, marking the end of the once-ubiquitous "12 for the price of one" offers that the mail-order CD club was known for.

A spokesperson for BMG Music Service parent Direct Brands confirmed Tuesday that the music club is no longer accepting new members, although she declined to comment on whether the company plans to shut down the club completely.

"We are still very actively engaged with our existing member base and will be making more changes to serve them...more effectively later in 2009," the spokesperson said.

The club's former home page now greets visitors with an invitation to join Direct Brands' other music service, which sells all CDs in its catalog for $6.99 each, but requires members to purchase at least one CD a month.

BMG Music Service informed its members earlier in December that it will discontinue its Music Points Program at the end of January. The frequent-buyer program awarded points for each purchase that could be applied toward a free CD. The club said members can continue to redeem existing music points through April 30.

...In Bertelsmann's 2007 annual report, which was released in March before the sale of the direct marketing business, the German media conglomerate said it planned to discontinue its CD clubs in 2010 "on account of the slump in the physical music market."
Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves In Fairbanks, AK

Here is a fun picture of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves near the surface at Fairbanks, AK, in December (I received it on 12/16). The diametrically-opposed power plant plumes, the higher one at the left, and the lower one on the right, help make this photo a unique teaching aid regarding the cause of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, namely, opposed wind directions at different heights create wind shear that generates waves in stable air:
Downtown Fairbanks as viewed looking southward from the Borough's webcam on Cranberry Ridge. Left side plume is from the Aurora downtown power plant, blowing westward, and right side plume is from the University power plant blowing eastward.
Dark Wall Street Humor

Monty Python - Office Sketch

Seems apropos after a German billionaire stepped in front of a train earlier this week. Here's a compendium over at Wicked Thoughts:
1. The US has made a new weapon that destroys people but keeps the building standing. Its called the stock market.
2. Do you have any idea how cheap stocks are? Wall Street is now being called Wal Mart Street.
3. The difference between a pigeon and a London investment banker. The pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW.
4. What's the difference between a guy who lost everything in Las Vegas and an investment banker? A tie!
5. The problem with investment bank balance sheet is that on the left side nothing's right and on the right side nothing's left.
6. I want to warn people from Nigeria who might be watching our show, if you get any emails from Washington asking for money, it's a scam. Don't fall for it - Jay Leno
7. Bush was asked about the credit crunch. He said it was his favourite candy bar.
8. The rescue bill was about 450 pages. President Bush's copy is even thicker. They had to include pictures.
9. President Bush's response was to meet some small business owners in San Antonio last week. The small business owners are General Motors, General Electric and Ford Motor Co.
10.What worries me most about the credit crunch, is that if one of my cheques is returned stamped 'insufficient funds', I won't know whether that refers to my account or my bank's!
Digital TV Conversion Rant

Well, for some, it IS an inconvenience:

I think I fall in the category of people the blogger refers to as "doesn't have enough intelligence to live independently and make decisions about television reception or any other life matters":
...Obama transition team co-chair John Podesta said the government funds to support the change are "woefully inadequate" and said that the digital switch date, Feb. 17, should be "reconsidered and extended."

"With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient, and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change to the legislatively-mandated cutoff date," Mr. Podesta wrote.

This fills me with a rage I can hardly describe.

Here are my reactions, point by point.

1. Coupons unavailable: The federal government should never have given out converter-box coupons to all applicants in the first case. There's no excuse for using federal funds to subsidize the TV viewing of wealthy and middle class Americans, particularly given that the boxes cost well under $100. You might be able to make some case for helping out very poor people, but even that is a weak case. TV is not food. It's not medicine. It's not a necessity of any kind.

As for those coupons being unavailable now, I have little pity for folks who missed out. They've been available for nearly a year. Anyone who put in two minutes of effort at any point during that time would have the coupons now. If you didn't bother, then tough luck. Decisions have consequences. You will just have to buy a box yourself, but don't worry. I'm sure you'll be able to mail your receipt in for reimbursement.

2. Education and Support have been Insufficient: That's just a lie. The government has multiple Web sites dedicated to explaining the transition. Every news publication in the country has run stories about it. Every broadcast TV station has flooded the airwaves with announcements, explanations, tests and every other conceivable aid.

Anyone who hasn't heard of transition and come to understand it either doesn't watch television, doesn't take the slightest responsibility for learning about the world or doesn't have enough intelligence to live independently and make decisions about television reception or any other life matters. The first group of people won't care about the transition much. The last group clearly needs help in more areas of life than TV. The middle group deserves whatever inconvenience it encounters as a result of its apathy.

3. The most vulnerable Americans exposed: To what? Lack of TV isn't starvation. It's not a disease. It's a temporary inconvenience -- one that can be fixed in 30 minutes by driving to the Walmart, buying a converter, plugging it in and attaching one wire to your TV. Yes, I realize that there are some Americans who are actually so "vulnerable" that they can't handle this, but such people should clearly be under the care of others and, if they aren't, lack of TV is the least of their problems.

Moving from the specific to the general, I think it is safe to say the digital TV transition is the most overblown nonsense in the history of American government. Every time I hear a politician or bureaucrat or TV exec talk about it, I feel like I'm reading a quote made up by The Onion. The digital TV transition is FAR less confusing and FAR less consequential than the twice yearly switch from standard time to daylight savings time.

99.9 percent of the nation will be fine. The rest of the country will wake up, notice their TVs don't work and go buy a converter box on the way home from work. If Americans were really as helpless as people in Washington believe, we would not be able to feed ourselves or drive cars or hold down jobs or otherwise survive. Hell, we would not be able to operate TVs at all, so it really wouldn't matter if we got a signal.

John Podesta may not realize this, but the nation has actual problems right now. Using this sort of hyperbolic language to describe the possible impact of something so trivial as the digital TV transition makes me question his very sanity and the seriousness of any administration that would distract itself from important matters at hand to issue even a single press release about this nonsense.
Surviving Dr. Mengele

Scary Holocaust story:
Her mother gave her four diamonds to be used to buy bread should she ever find herself hungry during World War II, but those diamonds gave Irene Weisberg Zisblatt the fortitude to survive the Holocaust.

''I can not buy bread with your diamonds, mother, but as long as I am alive they will stay with me,'' she wrote in her memoir, The Fifth Diamond: The Story of Irene Weisberg Zisblatt.

...Zisblatt's entire family was killed in the gas chambers, and those four diamonds were the last mementoes of them. The only way Irene could keep the diamonds hidden was to swallow and retrieve them over and over again. She did this for 15 months.

Zisblatt told the audience how, as a young prisoner in the camps, she was a favorite of Dr. Josef Mengele, who performed experiments and surgeries on her and other prisoners without anesthesia. A girl named Sabka was another of Mengele's regular victims. Though they weren't allowed to speak, they formed a friendship and Zisblatt drew strength from their bond.

''The diamonds survived because, to me, they were the strength, the hope, the courage, and my mother, so they had to survive,'' Zisblatt said. In having a valuable secret from the Nazis, she felt that she was defeating her torturers. ``For every time that I was hungry, beaten or was tortured with experiments, I was hitting back by keeping my mother's diamonds.''

Mengele injected chemicals into her eyes in an attempt to change their color and forced her to remain in a cold room for days. He injected viruses under Zisblatt's fingernail and surgically experimented on her to find a way to remove the numbers tattooed on her arm. Afterward, he ordered the nurse to administer a lethal injection to both girls, but the nurse worked for the underground and was able to free them, one of many miracles Zisblatt experienced.

''Mengele was the most good-looking man,'' she said. ``He could have been the one scientist in the world who could have developed extraordinary things for humanity, but he became a murderer. He would look at me and smile and at times I could not believe this man could ever hurt me, he could be so charming. But the next minute, he was cutting me up into little pieces.''

In 1945, Irene and Sabka were part of a group of 5,000 prisoners forced to march in the cold. Every day, weakened prisoners dropped dead around her. After two months, they escaped. Exhausted and covered in lice, they walked through the forest and managed to stay alive by digging up food.

The pair were finally liberated by Gen. George Patton's Third Army, but Sabka died the very next day. Once again, Zisblatt lost her only family. After her recovery, she was taken in by relatives in America and began a new life with a new name. She married in 1956, and although she had been given watery soup filled with chemicals to destroy her reproductive organs, she gave birth to a son and a daughter in the 1960s.

...''For 50 years, I didn't say a word. I didn't want my children to live with my pain,'' she said.
The House Dog's Grave

Kate sends this nice poem, told in the voice of a dog, by Carmel poet Robinson Jeffers:
The House Dog's Grave
by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you,
If you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no,
All the nights through I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read‚
And I fear often grieving for me‚
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.

No, dears, that's too much hope:
You are not so well cared for as I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided...
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.
Monty Python Communist Quiz Sketch

"Hello Dolly!" Davis Enterprise Review

Looks good (but no mention of costumes, etc.):
DMTC's 'Dolly': elegance

By Bev Sykes Enterprise drama critic January 07, 2009 07:50
Matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levy is a woman who arranges things, like furniture and daffodils ... and lives.

In the Davis Musical Theatre Company production of 'Hello, Dolly!' - the popular Jerry Herman/Michael Stewart musical, based on the book by Thornton Wilder - veteran actress Mary Young may have found one of her better roles as Dolly. Although the show's music doesn't always sit comfortably in Young's register, she gives Dolly energy and heart as she sets her cap for the curmudgeonly 'half-millionaire' Horace Vandergelder (Steve Isaacson).

In the process, of course, she manages to pair up a few other couples as well.

Isaacson is a great Vandergelder, although his chauvinistic 'It Takes a Woman' - which explains why he needs a woman in his life - makes one wonder why Dolly would be interested in the job in the first place! ('It takes a woman all powdered and pink/To joyously clean out the drain in the sink.')

Isaacson provides just the right amount of bluster, without being too bombastic.

Vandergelder's two clerks are played by David Holmes (Cornelius Hackl, the chief clerk) and Matthew Kohrt (Barnaby Tucker, his assistant). Both are excellent, particularly Holmes. The two men, who never have left Yonkers, decide to embark on an adventure in New York, while their boss is marching in the Fourteenth Street Association Parade.

The 33-year-old Cornelius vows not to come home again until he's kissed a girl.

'The girl' turns out to be Miss Irene Molloy (Emily Cannon-Brown), who runs a millenary shop with her clerk, Minnie Fay (Icarina Summers). These two, having become convinced that Cornelius and Barnaby are eccentric millionaires, spend the entire day with them.

The Big Apple also is being visited by artist Ambrose Kemper (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Vandergelder's niece, Ermengarde (Josephine Longo). These two want to marry, but do not have Vandergelder's permission, as he feels Ermengarde is too young and immature. (Dolly has promised to fix that little situation, as well.)

Longo doesn't have much to say, but she certainly whines and cries memorably.

Jan Isaacson is perfectly cast as Ernestina Money, a girl in a buttercup-colored dress and the pink slippers, who is hired by Dolly to annoy Vandergelder and set him up for eventual conquest.

Most of Act II takes place at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, 'the fanciest place in New York.' The choreography for its waiters always has been one of the most memorable parts of 'Hello Dolly,' and this production is no exception.

The waiters here - David Dickson, Nick Jackson, Monica Justice, Andrew Lampin and Adam Sartain - do a credible job in 'Waiter's Gallop,' also this production might better dub it 'Waiter's Canter.' Even so, the scene energetically sets up the moment everyone waits for: the arrival of Dolly herself, singing the title song.

Sartain deserves to be singled out as the ensemble member who looks the most comfortable on stage.

Rand Martin has directed and choreographed an enjoyable production, and one with lots of entertaining moments. The dance 'Elegance,' for Cornelius, Barnaby, Irene and Minnie, is particularly delightful.

John Ewing is credited with scenic design; his work is rather mundane in Act I, but he saves the good stuff for the Harmonia Gardens, in Act II.

Minor problems plagued the opening night performance, with missed lighting cues and overlapping dialogue in spots, but these should work themselves out with time.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Sparky Gallery

Here are some photos of Sparky from over his lifetime....

Left and below: First known pictures of Sparky - May, 1994.

Left: Sparky and his master enjoy the ocean breezes at Carmel, CA, Memorial Day weekend, 1994.

Left: Katherine and Sparky, Christmas 1994.

Left: 1995

Left: About 1996.

Left: Wolf Dog (about 1998 - photo by Persia Nelson-Crates).

Left: About 2001.

Left: Sparky and Hailee Samans, in about 2001 (photo by Persia Nelson-Crates).

Left: About 2002

Below: Photo by Persia Nelson-Crates (about 2003)

Sparky, looking doleful and dutiful, Christmas 2003

Sparky knows to bark at doorbells, because strangers are certain to be near, but he doesn't understand that, in Albuquerque, he is the stranger (Christmas 2004).

Above: After a visit to the Canine Cottage grooming salon, 4th of July, 2005.

Left: Sparky recounts his haircutting adventure at Canine Cottage Wednesday afternoon. (October 19, 2005)

Below: Hopelessly out of his element, Sparky, the city dog from California, doggedly trudges through the New Mexican bosque in pursuit of his mad master, and tries hard to learn the thrills of being a rural dog.
Christmas 2005

Left: Sparky, June 2006

Below: August, 2007 (after a haircut from his master).

Left: Courtesy of Jim McElroy's digital "Night Vision" (TM), September 2007.

Left and below: Three photos from November 2007

Below: Sparky, Christmas 2007

Left and below: Two nice photos from March 2008

Left: The last photo of Sparky, in September, 2008 (Photo by Bill Caruthers).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Lullaby For Sparky

ABBA - Like An Angel Passing Through My Room
Long awaited darkness falls
Casting shadows on the walls
In the twilight hour I am alone
Sitting near the fireplace, dying embers warm my face
In this peaceful solitude
All the outside world subdued
Everything comes back to me again
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

Half awake and half in dreams
Seeing long forgotten scenes
So the present runs into the past
Now and then become entwined, playing games within my mind
Like the embers as they die
Love was one prolonged good-bye
And it all comes back to me tonight
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

I close my eyes
And my twilight images go by
All too soon
Like an angel passing through my room

M.: Sparky, you're in lots of trouble! The cats are getting theirs!
S.: ---
Dr.: Oh, are there cats at home who will be missing Sparky?
M.: No, but Sparky loved to chase all the neighborhood cats.
Dr.: So, this is payback?
M.: Yes.
End Of The Road

Last night, for the first time ever, Sparky didn't have the strength to even start his nighttime walk. He stood there at the end of the driveway, forlorn, standing stock still, unable to move. (That was always my primary criterion - as long as he could do his nightly walks, he had some quality of life left.)

This morning I took him over to his usual vet at La Riviera, but they wanted an electrocardiogram and kidney work, and their computer was temporarily down. So, off to the VCA Hospital in Rancho Cordova. (I'm not sure how Sparky was taking all this newfound attention - he was unhappy about the sudden enthusiasm to stick thermometers up his butt.)

At VCA, where high-tech medicine rules, I gave away my right arm ($1,405.00 deposit, with a bill expected to rise to about $3,500.00, for a 3-day hospitalization) to see if they could do something to make him more comfortable (like maybe an enema?) Nevertheless, they did not notice any constipation (Sparky had other abdominal issues going, contributing to his discomfort).

It looks like the hit to the wallet will be less than expected: no 3-day hospitalization is forecast for Sparky.

Their initial diagnosis was cardiac arrhythmia featuring atrial fibrillation. They needed the ultrasound test and the kidney work to see if there was a drug approach that might make Sparky more comfortable.

Later this afternoon, VCA got back in touch with me. X-rays revealed severe heart enlargement, primarily on the left side, but also on the right. The electrocardiogram also revealed heart failure on both sides. Fluid was accumulating in the abdomen (ascites), causing the congestion of veins in the abdomen. His kidney readings also revealed kidney failure (BUN level of 215, vs. a too-high level of 61 just two months ago). Since drug treatments can address the kidney failure, or the heart failure, but not both, there are no treatment options. And Sparky is very frail and very uncomfortable.

So, this afternoon, I will head over to VCA for my last visit with Sparky....
On The Politeness Of Countries

Jim McElroy had a few thoughts regarding politeness....

Your recent post regarding the politeness of New Zealanders pinged a memory cell. Recently, I ran across a post by some blogger that was directly pertinent to that subject, but I have lost the link and a serious google search was unable to locate it. The gist of the post was the definition of a function "canada" to describe the transformation between the population characteristics of countries or other large groups.

The function was defined by canada(X) = Y where X is the set of any large, loud and obnoxious country or group, and Y an example of a smaller, nearby but tightly linked neighbor. The defining relationship was given as:

canada(United_States) = Canada

Because of the strong overwhelming if not overbearing relationship of X to Y, the characteristics of Y were a bit of inferiority complex combined with a strong desire to differentiate themselves from the characteristics of X. To a large extent the citizens of Y define themselves as ~X (not X) and as a result take great pride in the equation Y = ~X. Several other examples of the canada function were given, but I cannot recall them all. Some memorable ones however were:

canada(England) = Scotland
canada(Australia) = New_Zealand
canada(Canada) = Quebec

Because of the Y = ~X factor it is not surprising that one of the most quoted characteristics of Canadians is, "Canadians are so nice". Now your note about the politeness of New Zealanders is easily explainable by Y = ~X.

The post went on to describe the inverse function, which is a test to determine whether an individual belongs to set X or Y. It works everytime and is easily tested. To determine if an individual is a Canadian or US citizen simply make the offhand comment, "I find it really hard to tell the difference between Canadians and Americans". If the response is, "who cares?", the're US. If your ears burn for days afterward they are Canadian. The same would be true for other examples of the transform function.

It is amusing to compile lists of additional examples of the canada function, remembering that X and Y need not be actual countries but may be large definable groups. For example I offer the functions:

canada(Bay_Area) = Sacramento
canada(Sacramento) = Davis

and finally,

canada(China) = all other countries, severally or jointly

Have fun.

Jim McElroy

Monday, January 05, 2009

On The Politeness Of New Zealand's Citizens

On my recent trip to New Zealand, I traveled quite a bit on the bus system in both Auckland and Christchurch, and got to see how the folks there behave in a regular setting.

One thing that struck me was just how many people thanked the bus driver upon exitting the bus. They didn't have to thank the bus driver, of course - there was no obligation to do so - and many people didn't.

Nevertheless, about half the bus riders - particularly the young - bid the bus driver a thank you. They were genuinely glad the bus driver got them to their destination - safely, and with dispatch - and made a point of expressing their appreciation.

Left: New South Pole - A few km south of Milton, Otago, South Island, NZ (2008).

As a geography hound, I am fond of the concept of poles: the farthest north, south, east, and west that one has ever traveled in one's life.

In college, my friends and I decided that air travel doesn't count - you have to be in proximity to the Earth's surface. So, over-the-pole air travel is just an abstraction, and doesn't factor in. Sea travel would, however.

In my life I haven't traveled much, so for many years my poles remained constant:
  • North: Road junction, Jasper, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada (1974);
  • South: City streets of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (1984);
  • East: Just outside the UN Building, Manhattan, NYC, NY, USA (1978); and,
  • West: Amongst the tidal pools just west of Cape Alava, WA, USA (1974).

Left: New East Pole - Little Oneroa Beach, Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island, near Auckland, North Island, NZ.

In 2006, my east and south poles changed radically:

  • South: Sydney International Airport, Sydney, NSW, AU (2006); and,
  • East: Cape Byron (easternmost location in AU), NSW, AU (2006).
In 2008, my east and south poles changed radically once again:
  • South: A few km south of Milton, Otago, South Island, NZ (2008); and,
  • East: Little Oneroa Beach, Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island, near Auckland, North Island, NZ.
About time! It's good to get a life!

I should visit Hawaii some time. Or Alaska. Push those poles outwards!
Snowball The Dancing Cockatoo

Because better fitness is an important objective in 2009.
Mt. Isa Flooding

Heavy rains in NW Queensland, AU:
SEVERE flooding in northwest Queensland is shaping up to be a multimillion-dollar windfall for farmers and the state's faltering economy.

However, the positive outlook comes amid fears the low pressure system that dumped all the rain could form into the state's first cyclone of the season.

Dozens of stranded tourists, cattle station workers and mining contractors have been airlifted to safety as floodwaters turn the drought-stricken outback into an inland sea.

Roads into Mount Isa have been cut in every direction, Cloncurry is an island and planning is under way to fly food and medical supplies into the isolated towns of Burketown and Doomadgee in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Tourists marooned on sections of the Barkly Highway, west of Mount Isa, yesterday told how they were stuck for two days as torrents of water carved huge chunks out of the road.

A mother and two babies had to be evacuated during a food drop by a Cessna fixed-wing aircraft that landed on the highway.

Outback dams are full and overflowing. Lake Julius is 1.3m over the spillway, raising hopes of an Outback economic boom for the besieged cattle and mining industries.

Some parts have recorded more than 400mm since New Year's Day.

"It is manna from heaven," said Independent federal MP Bob Katter, whose electorate of Kennedy covers the vast flooded region the size of France and Germany.

"It is raining dollars. This is worth millions.

"We've had a terrible time with cattle dying of starvation and thirst, 60,000 head of stock have been shipped out because there is no food or water, and the mining industry has been on the brink of closure because of water issues."

It is the best rainfall the northwest has received in five years.

Mount Isa reported 169.2mm in four days, just 4mm short of last year's entire annual total (173.8mm).

"No one is complaining," said Mount Isa weather bureau field officer Les Lever.

"This is the sort of rain that can set up the graziers and mining companies for a year."
Bollywood Does Zombies Too

Because 2009 will be a troubling year for the restless dead....
Kylie Minogue - Like A Drug (DVD KylieX2008 Projection)

Playing with geometric digital imagery!
La Vie En Rose (aka La Môme)

I got this 2007 biopic movie about iconic French singer Edith Piaf on DVD because I was quite curious about Marion Cotillard and her performance in the title role.

Cotillard got the Academy Award for Best Actress, no questions asked, no debate, axiomatically. Usually the competition for that Oscar is blisteringly hot! Cotillard must have turned in just a killer performance to win the award hands-down! But I hadn't seen the movie in a theater....

And it is a dream role, really! Cotillard got to portray Edith Piaf from youth to a premature old age (caused by liver failure). The range of emotion is fatiguing. Overwhelming! At 5' 6", Cotillard is a bit tall for the role, but nevermind. Cotillard is especially adept at capturing Piaf's dislike of sunny rooms - close the drapes please! In an interview I remember seeing last year, Cotillard said that Edith Piaf feared solitude, but for some reason (probably because of the hallucinatory focus of parts of the film), that particular fear doesn't come through.

Here is the summary from imdb:
An un-chronological look at the life of the Little Sparrow, Édith Piaf (1915-1963). Her mother is an alcoholic street singer, her father a circus performer, her paternal grandmother a madam. During childhood she lives with each of them. At 20, she's a street singer discovered by a club owner who's soon murdered, coached by a musician who brings her to concert halls, and then quickly famous. Constant companions are alcohol and heartache. The tragedies of her love affair with Marcel Cerdan and the death of her only child belie the words of one of her signature songs, "Non, je ne regrette rien." The back and forth nature of the narrative suggests the patterns of memory and association.
The flashback sequences lend a hallucinatory quality to much of the movie. Quite interesting, particularly towards the end, when Piaf starts having - hallucinations!

And who is Cotillard?:
Marion Cotillard, who won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as Édith Piaf in Môme, La (2007) (retitled "La Vie en Rose" in the United States), is the second actress to win an acting Oscar performing in a language other than English next to Sophia Loren who won for Ciociara, La (1960). Only two male performers (Roberto Benigni for La Vita e Bella and Robert DeNiro for The Godfather, Part II) have won an Oscar for solely non-English parts.

A Libran born in Paris on September 30, 1975, Cotillard is the daughter of Jean-Claude Cotillard, an actor, playwright and director, and Niseema Theillaud, an actress and drama teacher. Raised in Orléans, France, she made her acting debut as a child with a role in one of her father's plays. She studied drama at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique in Orléans.

While still a teenager, Cotillard made her cinema debut in the film Histoire du garçon qui voulait qu'on l'embrasse, L' (1994). Her first prominent screen role was as Lilly Bertineau in Taxi (1998/I), a role which she reprised in two sequels. Director Olivier Dahan cast Cotillard to play Édith Piaf, the legendary French singer, in "La Môme" because to him her eyes were like those of Piaf. The fact that she can sing also helped Cotillard land the role of Piaf, although most of the singing in the film is that of Piaf's.

Her turn as Piaf brought Cotillard the Oscar, the César (France's equivalent to the Oscar), a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe among other prices. Trevor Nunn called her portrayal of Piaf "one of the greatest performances on film ever". At the Berlin International Film Festival, where the film premiered, Cotillard was given a 15-minute standing ovation.
One very strange thing about the movie, however. There is no mention of World War II in the film. A biography of Edith Piaf without mentioning World War II is sort of like a biography of Abraham Lincoln without mentioning the Civil War. Clearly the movie is intended to capture Piaf's internal personal life, much of which was tumultuous. Her external personal life was just as tumultuous too, but perhaps they need a second movie to capture that!
Positive Thoughts For A New Year

Bring on the recession:
The strange thing is that people get healthier in a recession, according to Chris Ruhm, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina. Some years ago he decided to test the conventional wisdom that hard times make people sick. He found the opposite.

“People get physically healthier and mortality rates fall during bad economic times,” he tells me. “It’s the opposite of what I expected to find.”

Studying recessions since the 1970s, Ruhm found that traffic deaths fell noticeably, probably because of a combination of less drink consumed and fewer miles driven. Even deaths from heart attacks, strokes, flu and pneumonia fell.

Out of work and not eating out, people lose weight; and they tend to find something more active to do than sitting in front of a computer screen. Also, of course, they can’t afford to smoke and drink as much. “When times are hard, they control the things they can control – they live healthily.”
Danger? Where?

From Wicked Thoughts.
Stop Corruption In World Philately!

Stop the corruption! Stop it RIGHT NOW!

You better stop the corruption! NOW!


If you don't stop the corruption RIGHT NAOU we'll send this fellow to lick all your stamps!!!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christchurch Botanical Gardens, And Vicinity

Left: Rhododendrons, and a plenitude of other flora.

Below: Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Left: A magnificent Atlas Cedar (from Northern Africa).

Below: A statue of William Rolleston, a Canterbury notable, at the Christchurch Museum.

Left: The pedestrian mall (with telephone booths) from the Arts Center to Cathedral Square is really pleasant.

After two weeks in Christchurch, I began feeling like I was going native. An abashed teenaged girl on the street approached and asked me "Do you know where the Arts Center is?" And I knew where it was!

Left: Here is a photo of that TV One news crew I met in Cathedral Square. I asked them what they were doing:

TV 1: You're not local are you?
MPV: No, but what are you asking people?
TV 1: "Given the pressure of the world's economic collapse, are you changing your Christmas shopping plans?"
MPV: Well, I flew to New Zealand.
TV 1: (Laughter).

A very striking statue! And haunting!

This is Robert Falcon Scott, the Briton who was narrowly bested by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1911/1912 to reach the South Pole first. Scott, and all his party, perished, making him an iconic hero of the British Empire for many years.

This statue, carved by Scott's widow Kathleen, was erected in 1917.

The statue's inscription reads:
I do not regret this journey which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships help one another and meet death with as great fortitude as ever in the past.
Oneroa Bay

Left: On December 11th, while in New Zealand, I took the ferry from Auckland to the island of Waiheke, and spent the afternoon picking up seashells at Oneroa Bay.

Left: Returning to Auckland on the ferry.
The Stubborn Dog And His Clueless Master

M.: OK, Sparky, I'm going to make you eat this cat hairball medicine. I want to be able to tell the world you died from heart disease, not from constipation. The first is serious and dignified; the second is simply absurd.

S.: ----

M.: And you will eat this dog food, even if I have to put it in your mouth and make you swallow it! How else can we get your system working, if you won't eat?

S.: ----
The "Dancing Princess" Prepares For Another Evening On The Town

E.: D-I-V-O-R-C-A! D-I-V-O-R-C-A!
M.: That's D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Tammy Wynette was spelling out the word 'divorce' in her song.
E.: Oh....


E.: D-I-V-O-R-C-E! D-I-V-O-R-C-E!