Saturday, February 28, 2009

Opening Night Of "The Sound Of Music"

Left: Kay Hight as Maria.

I didn't take many pictures opening night - here are just two.

Left: Thomas Lea and Rami R.

We had a few opening night glitches.

The traveler curtain hung on one of the big rolling platforms. That ordinarily wouldn't have happened, because the platform is rolled into place after the traveler curtain is opened, EXCEPT someone closed the traveler curtain on me when I wasn't looking and when I opened it again, the traveler curtain caught and hung on the platform, pulling the platform off stage. We had to hurriedly push the snagged platform back into place and barely moved it into place before the front curtain opened.

I failed to clear a tray I left on the sofa in the mansion scene, and the kids had to sit on it.

The French doors kept opening on their own, because one of the brakes on its platform wasn't set, which tilted the platform, and the air conditioning kept blowing the doors open (that never happened in rehearsal!)

I kept wondering why was it that a little pillar placed near the end of the staircase's banister (which also helped hide a brake) kept drifting away from the staircase. First, the pillar was right next to the brake, then it was 6 inches from the brake, then it was a foot in front of the brake. How does a dumb post move downstage like that? I finally realized it was the staircase that was moving upstage, not the post moving downstage, and as the kids climbed the staircase for the party departure, the staircase began moving in earnest. It turned out the brake had worked loose from the staircase and it rolled into another rolling platform. No harm, but a bit worrisome, being on a big corrugated skateboard like that.

Then the escape stairs worked loose from one of the hooks holding it to the wall.

There was only one really clunky set change (several people *forgot* their set assignments).

At least the traveler curtain was open when it was supposed to be open, and closed when it was supposed to be closed. Some shows, it don't quite work out that way.

But the important parts of the show went fine. Kay Hight's singing was delightful, as was Emily Cannon-Brown's singing. I'm glad Marguerite Morris returned from being sick and knocked over the mountain with her "Climb Every Mountain". And the kids were great. Everyone was still excited over this morning's television appearance.
Duffy - Brit Awards "Warwick Avenue"

Just a delightful video!
DMTC On "Sacramento And Company" This Morning

Link to the video (under Friday, February 27th), featuring Kay Hight as Maria and the kids from "The Sound Of Music".

Friday, February 27, 2009

George Will's Column Today

Will pulled way back in his unfounded climate change assertions today, but still, there are enough errors remaining to keep this Discover Magazine blogger very busy. What gives over there at the Washington Post?:
What has kept me hooked on this saga is not George Will’s errors. Errors are as common as grass. Some are made out of ignorance, some carefully constructed to give a misleading impression. What has kept me agog is the way the editors at the Washington Post have actually given their stamp of approval on Will’s columns, even claiming to have fact-checked them and seeing no need for a single correction.

The climax to this part of the story came yesterday, when the Columbia Journalism Review was finally able to get Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor at the Post, to speak directly about the ice affair:
It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject–so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don’t make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn’t be allowed to make the contrary point…I think it’s kind of healthy, given how, in so many areas–not just climatology, but medicine, and everything else–there is a tendency on the part of the lay public at times to ascribe certainty to things which are uncertain.
I’ve heard that line before…the one about how people can look at the same scientific data and make different inferences.

I’ve heard it from creationists. They look at the Grand Canyon, at all the data amassed by geologists over the years, and they end up with an inference very different from what you’ll hear from those geologists.

Would Hiatt be pleased to have them writing opinion pieces, too? There is indeed some debate in the scientific community about exactly how old the Grand Canyon is–with some arguing it’s 55 million years old and others arguing for 15 million. Would Hiatt consider it healthy to publish a piece from someone who thinks the Grand Canyon is just a few thousand years old, with just a perfunctory inspection of the information in it?

At this point, it’s hard for me to see how the answer could be no.
It's "Da Bomb"

This sounds inviting. Presumably it's based on the Don Rickles or Dick's Last Resort (at the Excalibur) school of hospitality. (And maybe one shouldn't walk past the fast sections of the roller coaster without raingear):
LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Las Vegas casino cafe is rewarding patrons who can put away a 2-foot, 6-pound burrito with a most logical prize—free unlimited rides on a roller coaster that runs in both forward and reverse.

The offer comes with a caveat, though: Those who accept the challenge but can't finish "The Bomb" burrito have to take a picture with an extra small, pink T-shirt that says "Weenie."

The NASCAR Cafe at the Sahara Hotel & Casino began selling the cheese-and-guacamole slathered burrito on Thursday for $19.95.

Those who can finish the monstrous entree get it for free, along with two unlimited coaster passes and a T-shirt proclaiming they "Conquered the Bomb."
Regarding DMTC's Appearance On TV This Morning

Ann E-Mails and says:
You all did a great job and looked great. I was so afraid that you would be preempted by the president!
Jon Stewart Just Slays Me

U.S. Airways 1549

Out of the Hudson, wandering through New Jersey, looking for a new home.
John McCain Morphs Into Grandpa Simpson

At this link.
The Coen Brothers' Take On 'Clean Coal'

Pretty Sky Alert!

Friday night!:
On Friday evening, Feb. 27th, the 10% crescent Moon will glide by Venus, forming a gorgeous and mesmerizing pair of lights in the sunset sky. Moon-Venus conjunctions are not unusual, but this conjunction has some special qualities:

(1) Venus is at maximum brightness: magnitude -4.6. The planet is twenty times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. It is so luminous that it can actually shine through thin clouds and cast subtle shadows on the ground.

(2) As seen from North America, the Moon-Venus separation is only a little more than 1o. Stick up your thumb and hold it out at arm's length. Venus and the Moon will fit comfortably behind the thumb-tip. Tight conjunctions like this are the most beautiful of all.

(3) Not only is the Moon a crescent, but so is Venus. A small telescope pointed at the glittering planet will reveal a slender 20%-illuminated disk.

Add it all together and you've got a major distraction.
DMTC On Channel 10

Select cast members from DMTC's "The Sound Of Music" are scheduled to appear on News10's Sacramento & Co. this Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Oestrogen-Crazed Acquisitiveness"

I wondered why we had a credit crunch (courtesy of J.; column in the Irish Times):
So put the paper down, stare back and ask yourself a selfless question.

Does the woman in your life really need a job?

...Of course there will always be a place in the world of business for exceptional women. Women also have an important role to play in jobs that are too demeaning for men, like teaching. But the general employment of women is another matter. Indeed, working women almost certainly caused the credit crunch by bringing a second income into the average household, pushing property prices up to unsustainable levels.

Whether working women actually caused the credit crunch is now a moot point. The point is that removing women from the workforce would mitigate its effects.

...It would be ludicrous to suggest that women should be sacked purely to give men their jobs. In many cases, their jobs should be abolished as well.

Women are twice as likely as men to work in the public sector. They account for two-thirds of the Civil Service and three- quarters of all public employees.

Yet they are barely represented in the useful public services of firefighting and arresting people. Encouraging women to leave the workforce would go a long way towards addressing the budget deficit without any downside whatsoever.

...While the economic case for fewer women in the workforce is irrefutable, we should also acknowledge the social advantages. Women make the majority of spending decisions in Irish households and make almost all of the purchases. They are far more likely than men to regard shopping as a leisure activity, far less likely to make savings and investments, and were even almost twice as likely to spend their SSIAs.

In short, women were the driving force behind the greed, consumerism and materialism of the Celtic Tiger years and it was female employment that funded their oestrogen-crazed acquisitiveness.

The time has come to build a more sustainable, equitable and progressive society. Why not make a start by telling your other half to quit her job? She can ask you for the housekeeping on Friday.
Bobby Jindal Wants To Kill Sarah Palin

Otherwise, why would he advocate cutting volcano monitoring?

Mt. Redoubt, not far from Anchorage, Alaska, is the greatest current volcano danger in the U.S. An eruption there could occur with little warning, and volcanic ash clouds would pose an immediate, direct threat to aviation. Many people in Alaska travel by air to overcome the great distances there, and someone like Governor Sarah Palin, in particular, travels a lot by air, especially to and from Alaska's largest city. By cutting volcanic monitoring, Jindal could menace, or perhaps dispatch, his greatest rival for the 2012 Republican nomination.

Some people are more generous, however, such as Paul Krugman, who merely describes Jindal as stupid:
For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.

So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.
Oprah's Segment On Sacramento

John in Oklahoma City writes:
Hey Marc,

I'm sitting here watching Nightline--no, actually, Oprah--and there was a report about several tent cities in the vicinity of Sacramento. Are things really that bad out there? It's strange here in Oklahoma; so far there have been no real repercussions of the national/worldwide economic collapse. Perhaps it is that the economy here is still based on oil revenue and government jobs--hard to say. Anyway, I wonder if we're kind of like the castle inhabitants in Poe's Masque of the Red Death....

I reply:
Hi John:

It’s interesting. There are several earthen embankments in the vicinity of downtown Sacramento that serve as walls between settled middle-class communities, and a variety of old and new homeless communities.

One big wall (30 ft high) is the Union Pacific rail line that passes by the Blue Diamond Almond Plant about ¾ mile north of where I am right now. Beyond that wall are the levees of the American River (more big walls), near where it runs into the Sacramento River.

Homeless communities have been in these areas long before I got here in 1990. At first, coming from Salt Lake City, I was shocked at the size of the encampments, but as time passed, I got used to them (I suppose we can get used to almost anything).

My understanding of the Oprah segment was that she focused on the tent city near the Blue Diamond Almond plant. It may indeed be bigger than it used to be, but since it is on the other side of the railroad embankment, I don’t really know. (Since 2006, after working with Adam, I kind of got homeless fatigue and stopped paying as much attention to the situation.)

When I first moved here, I used to ride my bike through the Blue Diamond area to get to the bike trail along the American River, and at that time it was a homeless camp AND also a cocaine bazaar. Now, with the influx of new homeless, the drug aspect may be muted and the homeless aspect heightened.

Driving through the Northgate/ Del Paso corridor last week, which crosses between the levees of the American River at ground level, it’s true, I’ve never seen so many tents there, even in 1990.

In November, I took my car for windshield repair from work to a shop on the other side of the Union Pacific rail line embankment. Being now without transportation, I walked back to work, and since there are few corridors through the embankment, I ended up on foot in the 12th Street underpass, not too far from the Blue Diamond Almond Plant, and very near several homeless soup kitchens and support facilities. I was shocked how many people were on the street, generally loitering near the underpass, mostly because they had no where else to go, really. I felt conspicuous, but the discomfort was mitigated by the families. In 1990, mostly men were in these camps. Now, lots of families are in these camps too.

Ignorant as always of my immediate surroundings, but grateful to Oprah for shedding some light on what is happening ¾ mile north of here,

Shocking Idiocy On The Part Of Louisiana's Governor Jindal

Volcano monitoring is ESSENTIAL. Only an idiot would advocate cutting it:
After President Obama's speech on the economy last night, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal criticized government spending in the stimulus bill, citing examples including "$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.'"

The $140 million to which Jindal referred is actually for a number of projects conducted by the United States Geological Survey, including volcano monitoring. This monitoring is aimed at helping geologists understand the inner workings of volcanoes as well as providing warnings of impending eruptions, in the United States and in active areas around the world where U.S. military bases are located.

Most of the money from the stimulus bill earmarked for monitoring (only about a tenth of the total going to the USGS) will go to modernizing existing monitoring equipment, including switching from analog to digital and installing GPS networks that can measure ground movements, said John Eichelberger, program coordinator for the USGS's Volcano Hazards Program. Much of the expense of this technology comes from the manpower required to make and install it, he added.

...When he heard Jindal's remarks, Eichelberger said he "was frankly astonished" that the governor would use this particular example, given his own state's recent brush with a catastrophic natural disaster.

Among the scenarios in which the USGS’s monitoring can assist — the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, which killed 57 people (including a geologist monitoring the mountain) and was the deadliest and costliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history ($2.74 billion in 2007 dollars). This event was preceded by thousands of earthquakes in the two months before the volcano blew its top; some of these prompted the governor of Washington to declare a state of emergency and many residents were evacuated from a designated danger zone.

"This is a hazard we can do something about," Eichelberger said. "We can spend a modest amount of money and prevent a tragedy."

About 50 volcanic eruptions occur around the world every year, according to the USGS. The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, in its number of historically active volcanoes (those for which written accounts exist). Most U.S. volcanoes are located in the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, with the rest distributed around the West.

About 65 volcanoes in the United States are considered active; most of these are in Alaska, where an eruption occurs almost every year. Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has been erupting continuously since 1983.

The USGS has three volcanic observatories — in Alaska, Hawaii and the Cascades — set up to monitor volcanoes for signs of impending eruption.

USGS scientists are currently monitoring Alaska's Mount Redoubt, which has been threatening to erupt since late January. Seismic rumblings from the volcano have alerted geologists that magma might be moving around underneath the surface, preparing to make a potentially explosive appearance. Redoubt last erupted on December 14, 1989, for the fourth time in the 20th century, creating large ash clouds that clogged the air around Anchorage for days.

Monitoring of Redoubt's latest threat of eruption has been hampered by the lack of a GPS network which could not be put in place before because of a lack of funding, Eichelberger said.

"We're kind of half blind there," he said.

In addition to listening for rumbling of the Earth, researchers survey the surfaces of volcanoes, map volcanic rock deposits, and analyze the chemistry of volcanic gas and fresh lava to detect warning signs of eruptions and to determine what type of eruption is most likely to occur.

The USGS has issued several warnings over the past 10 years, though predicting the timing and size of eruptions remains a difficult task.

Volcano monitoring likely saved many lives — and significant money — in the case of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines (where the United States had military bases at the time), according to the USGS.

The cataclysmic eruption lasted more than 10 hours and sent a cloud of ash as high as 22 miles into the air that grew to more than 300 miles across.

The USGS spent less than $1.5 million monitoring the volcano and was able to warn of the impending eruption, which allowed authorities to evacuate residents, as well as aircraft and other equipment from U.S. bases there.

The USGS estimates that the efforts saved thousands of lives and prevented property losses of at least $250 million (considered a conservative figure).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"The Sound Of Music" - Tuesday Night Rehearsal

Left: Kay Hight as Maria and Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp.

Left: Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp and Kay Hight as Maria.

Left: Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Liesl (Moriah H.), Gretl (Rose M.), Kay Hight as Maria, Friedrich (Rami R.), and Louisa (Jasmin M.).

Left: Kay Hight as Maria and Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp.

Left: Kay Hight as Maria and Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp.

Louisa (Jasmin M.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Kurt (William C.), Liesl (Moriah H.), Marta (Ani C.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Gretl (Rose M.), Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp, Emily Cannon-Brown as Elsa Schraeder, and Kay Hight as Maria.

Left: Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp and Kay Hight as Maria.

Left: Matthew Kohrt as Rolf and Moriah H. as Liesl in "You Are Sixteen".

Left: Maria (Kay Hight).

Left: Louisa (Jasmin M.), Gretl (Rose M.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Maria (Kay Hight), Liesl (Moriah H.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Kurt (William C.), and Marta (Ani C.).

Left: Marguerite Morris as Mother Abbess and Kay Hight as Maria.

Left: Eimi Stokes as Sister Margaretta, Laura Sitts as Sister Sophia, Marguerite Morris as Mother Abbess and Mary Young as Sister Berthe.

Left: Maria (Kay Hight).

Left: Nun's Ensemble (listed alphabetically in the program as: Carlee Arnett, Brittany Bickel, Eva Chu, Carrie Jones, Erin Kelly, Wendy Mumolo, Taelen Robertson, Marie Scholl, Stacy Sheehan, Lydia Smith, Laura Wardrip, and Ann Williams).
Danielle Bollinger - When The Broken Hearted Love Again

Love Progressive House! Like this tune!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

High Speed Lightning Cameras

Dr. Phil Krider at the University of Arizona (from whom I took classes in the 80's) makes a lightning-like appearance in this story:

New high-speed video cameras are helping reveal the structure of lightning, allowing scientists to study these deadly bolts of electricity in much greater detail than ever before.

The cameras are showing images of lightning that have otherwise been invisible to the naked eye and have never been captured on traditional film or video cameras.

"The high-speed video recording systems are providing an entirely new dimension in our understanding of lightning — namely, time, with enough resolution to see entirely new processes in the spatial development of intracloud and cloud-to-ground flashes," says E. Philip Krider, an atmospheric scientist and lightning expert at the University of Arizona, in an e-mail.

...These images are not only invisible to the human eye, but they can't be captured by conventional video cameras, which produce just 30 to 60 images a second. High-speed video cameras can capture several thousand images a second.

Warner says Vlad Mazur, a scientist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., was the first to study storms using a 1,000-image-per-second camera in the early 1990s. Warner adds that it has been only in the past three or four years that technology has enabled him and other scientists to use high-speed video to study lightning, when "the speed and therefore the resolution increased significantly to allow for meaningful resolutions to be captured at speeds above 5,000 images per second."

Lightning is, well, "lightning fast." According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., a lightning bolt's downward leader (the initial discharge) speeds toward its target at 136,000 mph, while the luminous return stroke into the clouds moves at 62 million mph. These strokes are so fast that the human eye sees just a single flickering lightning bolt.

The high-speed cameras can show the previously unseen structure of the first part of lightning bolts, the forked "stepped leaders" that move toward the ground in a series of jumps and then spark the more visible return stroke. All of this occurs in less than half a second.
Downsizing In The Corporate Sector

Not what you think it is:
While Spansion Inc. was cutting 35 percent of its workforce, or 3,000 jobs on Monday, the company’s board was restoring full pay to its top executives.

The company had imposed a 10 percent pay cut last Oct. 6 for top executives. But in a securities filing, it said it was returning the executives to full pay as part of an “employee retention program.”
Way Cool!

Villareal "Multiverse" National Gallery of Art, Washington DC from Walter Patrick Smith on Vimeo.
What Was Going On Over At The Hyatt

Eric Zimmerman covers Republicans vs. reality:
A 12-foot inflatable ATM machine sat outside the Sacramento Hyatt this past weekend, emblazoned with the words "California Taxpayers--Already Taxed To The Max!" The display was one of many illustrations of the anger of delegates here at the California Republican Convention, which met just days after a handful of Republicans in the state legislature broke party ranks to vote for a budget that included $12 billion in new taxes. Facing a $42-billion deficit and unable to carry any debt over to next year due to California's balanced-budget requirement, the legislature conducted agonizing negotiations for months past its official deadline; breaking even without some kind of tax increases, it became clear, would have required drastic cuts to government programs. But activists at the convention didn't want to hear any excuses. "We need to send a message," said Mike Gomez, Solano County GOP chairman. "When you violate our core principles, you're going to have a problem."

Jon Fleischman, the southern vice-chair of the state party and publisher of the popular conservative blog, spent the convention shepherding through a resolution to punish the GOP Judases. "At the end of the day, the party needs to be able to enforce discipline, or everybody just does what they want," he told me, hurrying through the Hyatt lobby between meetings.

...The grassroots rage seems unconcerned with the actual challenges involved in the budget negotiations. The general fund over which the legislature has discretionary authority totals around $100 billion, meaning members would have had to immediately eliminate 40 percent of spending to avoid tax increases. Was this possible? "I always submitted that there was a way," Republican State Senator Tom Harman told me just before addressing a lunchtime audience. "But there was never any serious discussion of that." Others simply wanted to push the economic crisis to the brink as a test of political will. "I'd kind of liked to see how far it would have gone," said Paul Smith, a former Congressional candidate from the Sacramento area.

...Like the national party, California Republicans are finding it easier to hunker down in their ideological bunkers than reach cross the aisle. The trend is making it harder for any moderate Republicans in California to work with Democrats--and the more cohesive conservatives become, the more strongly they react to betrayal. State Senator Abel Maldonado--who even got Democrats to agree to place an open-primary referendum on the ballot in exchange for his vote--faced opponents at the conference gathering support for a special election to remove him from office. Speakers like Congressman Darrell Issa took open shots at him, and Fleischman called him out by name in front of a crowd of delegates. But Maldonado knew there was no other option. "Republicans couldn't come up with $42 billion worth of cuts," he said. "Nobody wants to decimate public education, decimate healthcare, decimate the environment, decimate transportation." But Maldonado also knows the party doesn't care for his reasoning anymore.
DJI Bounces Back

But only as high as 7,350, not as high as 7,500. Good, good! Keep the irrational exuberance away from us....
"Sound Of Music" Monday Rehearsal

Left: Marguerite Morris as Mother Abbess.
Left: Marguerite Morris as Mother Abbess and Kay Hight as Maria.
Thomas' Birthday

Insane Robot Dance

Insane Penguin

No explanation why the penguin lost its marbles.
Here We Go With The Alarmist Social-Networking Stuff

The concern trolls are out and hunting for victims:
Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred.
No, trendy ADD-like narcissism predates social networking sites. I blame the advent of movies about a hundred years ago.
The claims from neuroscientist Susan Greenfield will make disturbing reading for the millions whose social lives depend on logging on to their favourite websites each day.
The Susan Greenfields of the world disturb me not in the least. They never, ever go away, so one may as well get used to them.
More than 150million use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, share photographs and videos and post regular updates of their movements and thoughts.

A further six million have signed up to Twitter, the 'micro-blogging' service that lets users circulate text messages about themselves.
Good for them!
But while the sites are popular - and extremely profitable - a growing number of psychologists and neuroscientists believe they may be doing more harm than good.

Baroness Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist and director of the Royal Institution, believes repeated exposure could effectively 'rewire' the brain.

Computer games and fast-paced TV shows were also a factor, she said.
Do you know what rewires the brain? Life. Anything that happens to a person will rewire the brain. That's why we have brains.
'We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist,' she told the Mail yesterday.

'My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.'
The Susan Greenfields of the world need constant reassurance that they exist. I count myself among those "who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment," but I blame advertising for that state of affairs, not social-networking sites. Better yet, I blame the buzzing noises and bright lights.
Lady Greenfield told the Lords a teacher of 30 years had told her she had noticed a sharp decline in the ability of her pupils to understand others.
It may be her pupils are having a harder and harder time understanding what makes such worrywarts tick. I know I'm befuddled when I turn my short attention span to the question.
'It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations,' she said.
Yes, this is called "progress." When I talk to young people, I'm impressed with what a better sort we have today, compared to when I was growing up.
She pointed out that autistic people, who usually find it hard to communicate, were particularly comfortable using computers.
And this is relevant - how?
'Of course, we do not know whether the current increase in autism is due more to increased awareness and diagnosis of autism, or whether it can - if there is a true increase - be in any way linked to an increased prevalence among people of spending time in screen relationships. Surely it is a point worth considering,' she added.
No, this is a point not worth considering. How about we NOT consider this point, and say we did.
Psychologists have also argued that digital technology is changing the way we think. They point out that students no longer need to plan essays before starting to write - thanks to word processors they can edit as they go along.
Hallelujah for word processors! Planning essays is good, of course, but writing essays is better.
Satellite navigation systems have negated the need to decipher maps.
This may be more of a problem, since maps are useful and condense lots of information, but if people really don't need maps anymore, then they should dispense with them. Still, mapping utilities are among the most-popular uses of the Internet. If people really don't need maps, they nevertheless somehow spend lots of time looking at them.
A study by the Broadcaster Audience Research Board found teenagers now spend seven-and-a-half hours a day in front of a screen.
This is a problem, mostly for physical development and hand-eye coordination, but it's a hell of lot better of a problem than we had 40 years ago, hanging out in front of the TV for seven-and-a-half hours every day. At least computer use is interactive, and not passive, like TV. I rewired my brain long ago to remember every episode on "Gilligan's Island," and never fully-recovered. It's better to rewire young brains to play "Halo," like they do these days.
Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, said: 'We are seeing children's brain development damaged because they don't engage in the activity they have engaged in for millennia.

'I'm not against technology and computers. But before they start social networking, they need to learn to make real relationships with people.'
You know what prevents making real relationships with people. Isolation. Like what a rural upbringing did to children for millenia. Somehow, we struggled on.

Can we worry about something else?

Monday, February 23, 2009

DJI Forgot To Extend Flaps

Left: Image from Sad Guys On Trading Floors.

Losing altitude fast! Pull up! Pull up!

Down to 1997 levels already (7,115 and in a nose dive)! It's like a Time Machine! Soon, we'll clear the dotcom cloud deck and be free-falling through the S&L layer.

What's that announcement over the intercom?:
"What started as a subprime mortgage crisis became a U.S. credit crisis, then a U.S. recession, and now we are in a full-fledged, globally synchronous recession of historic proportions," says Leo Grohowski, chief investment officer BNY Mellon Wealth Management in New York. "There are very few areas that have been insulated from the decline in earnings and in stock-price performance."
Grab the parachutes! Prepare the cash boxes under the bed!

Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky:
"I apologize if my comments offended Justice Ginsberg," Bunning said. "That certainly was not my intent. It is great to see her back at the Supreme Court today and I hope she recovers quickly. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."
Arnold Is Right

There are times for self-reliance and there are times when one has to work for the team.:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a very simple message for any GOP governor who doesn't want federal stimulus package money earmarked for his or her state: "I'll take it."

"I feel very strongly that I think that President Obama right now needs team players," Schwarzenegger said Sunday morning on ABC's "This Week George Stephanopolous." "It's a very difficult time now, where we have to play together, rather than using politics and always attacking everything," he said.
CNBC's Rick Santelli, And His Little Revolt

I had read a little about this screed, so I wanted to see what it is all about.

I can understand people with mortgages getting a little peeved about spending money for people whose mortgages are in trouble. This extra money was never disclosed on the mortgage papers.

But to characterize the recipients of the money as 'losers' misses the point. These people aren't losers. These people are risk-takers. Daring risk-takers. The kind of people who made America great. Like the pioneers on the Oregon Trail, fighting off Indian attacks when they could have stayed in Missouri planting corn. Or the poorer Utah pioneers who couldn't afford wagons and who put all their possessions into wheelbarrows and pushed them 1,500 miles on foot to reach Brigham Young's paradise. Nutty but tough folks.

People who are willing to risk their stature in the community, their health, and even their family's safety on an ARM with a balloon payment have my respect. I'd never do that, but I understand why so many people did. Here, here's $50, and my admiration.

In short, these people are a lot more gutsy than the Wall Street pansies at their trading screens that Santelli characterizes as 'Americans' and the 'Silent Majority'. Santelli calling upon the august authority of the Founding Fathers to strengthen his position was ridiculous. Remember, Jefferson flirted with bankruptcy his entire life, and wanted to have an economic system where one's debts were erased every seven years as a matter of course. Jefferson wouldn't be rolling in his grave - he'd be out there in the Inland Empire getting home loans with no money down.

Calling struggling homeowners 'losers' before the game is over is certainly premature. Even in the Superbowl, the game is not over until the buzzer sounds. These days, the banks owe so much money and are so dependent on Uncle Sam that Santelli's traders seem much more fitting to bear the big "L" on the forehead than the struggling home owners in Stockton.

Remember, one's property value depends critically on your neighbors' property values. Why else do real estate people say that the most important factor in their business is 'location, location, location'? To allow your neighborhood to become gutted from foreclosures will impact your position, irrespective of anything you do. Everyone in your neighborhood hangs together, or everyone hangs separately. It's your choice.

The $75 billion in the Obama plan to help 4 million home owners isn't to subsidize losers. It's to subsidize you. Washed-up trader, meet the fellow who signed up for the liar loan you sold back in 2006. Have a drink together. You have a lot in common. Your fates are one and the same. You can go to hell together, or to heaven. It's your choice.
Green Comet

Comet Lulin approaches:
As­tro­no­mers are keep­ing a close eye on a green­ish com­et fast ap­proach­ing Earth’s vicin­ity, reach­ing its near­est point to us on Feb. 24.

Com­et Lulin will streak by the earth with­in 38 mil­lion miles—160 times far­ther than the moon—and is ex­pected to be vis­i­ble to the na­ked eye. Dis­cov­ered only a year ago, the com­et gains its green colour from poi­son­ous cy­an­o­gen and di­a­tom­ic car­bon gas­es in its at­mos­phere.

This will be the com­et’s first vis­it to the Earth’s in­ner so­lar sys­tem.

...Com­et Lulin, which is for­mally known as C/2007 N3, was dis­cov­ered last year by as­tron­o­mers at Tai­wan’s Lulin Ob­serv­a­to­ry.

...“The com­et is quite ac­tive,” said team mem­ber Den­nis Bode­wits, a NASA Post­doc­tor­al Fel­low at the God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter in Green­belt, Md. The tel­e­scope da­ta “show that Lulin was shed­ding nearly 800 gal­lons of wa­ter each sec­ond,” enough to fill an Olympic-sized swim­ming pool in less than 15 min­utes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Republicans In Town

On Saturday afternoon, I had a choice: I could mow the lawn or I could amble by the 2009 State Republican Convention and maybe get into trouble. Unable to decide what to do, I drove past the Hyatt Regency (and why was the gathering at the Hyatt Regency, you ask? Because it's non-union!) to see what might be happening outside. The storm was approaching, though, and hardly anyone was outside - no protestors, just a few clean-cut kids, and that was about it. So, I went home to mow the lawn.

It's interesting to see that Carly Fiorina seems just as tone-deaf regarding Hispanics as the rest of the party:
The panel also rejected a proposal by a few delegates to extend "a heartfelt and sincere apology" to former Gov. Gray Davis for promoting his 2003 recall. Schwarzenegger, the delegates said, has "proven to govern as a tax-and-spend politician precisely similar to the one he campaigned to replace in the recall election."

Disapproval of the party's own governor was a major theme at an event with little of the festive atmospherics usually on display at party confabs, apart from a life-size cutout of Sarah Palin that proved to be a popular photo stop.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is like passing a kidney stone, and we've got another year to go," said blogger Jon Fleischman, a vice chairman of the state party.

Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, who bankrolled the recall of Davis, put it less colorfully. "Quite frankly, he's failed to change the fundamental spending in California," Issa said.

Schwarzenegger's would-be successors joined in condemning the governor, without mentioning his name or specifying how they would have balanced the budget.

"The accountability for the budget lies at the leader's feet," Whitman said.

Schwarzenegger was a few thousand miles away at a governors' conference in Washington. Braving the crowd's snickers, however, was Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, the Republican who gave the governor and his Democratic allies the last vote they needed to raise taxes.

GOP old-timers "can beat me up all they want," Maldonado told reporters at a ballroom luncheon where he was surrounded by erstwhile allies who now see him as a traitor. Calling himself "the future of this party," Maldonado said the party needs more Latinos to be its public face.

"If we don't change, we're going to go back to the old ways, and we're going to continue to lose," said Maldonado, who faulted the party's hard line against illegal immigration. "They don't get it on illegal immigration," he said.

But a tough stance toward illegal immigrants was a given for the 1,250 delegates and guests at the convention. Carly Fiorina, a possible contender in the party's U.S. Senate primary next year to challenge Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, made them the butt of a joke in a hotel penthouse breakfast speech. When her family first moved to California, Fiorina recalled, her little brother asked, "Mommy, do they speak English there?"

"Wasn't that prescient," she joked, sparking a burst of guffaws.

A former Hewlett-Packard chief executive who left the troubled company with a severance package worth an estimated $21 million to $42 million, Fiorina also bucked the populist tide against lavish corporate salaries by denouncing President Obama's effort to cap annual pay at $500,000 for leaders of banks taking federal bailout money.

"When somebody makes $40 million a year for failure, we cannot defend that," she said. "On the other hand, I believe the solution should be, every CEO's pay should be put up for shareholder vote each and every year. Let the shareholders decide."

Including her severance, Fiorina was paid nearly $180 million during her five-year tenure at Hewlett-Packard. After she was forced out, shareholders sued, claiming that the board of directors should have let shareholders decide her severance.

A potential rival in the primary, state Sen. Chuck DeVore of Irvine, took his own turn at defying public opinion. In an interview, he denounced a landmark climate-change law that Schwarzenegger signed, a major plank of the governor's reelection campaign. Supporters of the law, he said, were "trying to pursue this chimera of reducing greenhouse gas emissions" at the expense of jobs at a time of high unemployment.

Other Republicans offered ideas on how the party might reach beyond the conservative voters who share such views. Wayne Johnson, a party strategist, pointed to the party's support for charter schools in urban areas and its alliance with black and Latino voters backing Proposition 8, the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage.

"I really, truly believe that's where we need to go," he said.

But few Republicans suggested any fundamental refocusing of the party's priorities. To Sen. Tony Strickland of Thousand Oaks, the party's future lies in drawing younger voters through Facebook, Twitter and text messages.

"Instead of issues," he said, "it's more about the way we communicate."
Cult Of The Amateur

I was feeling sad, so I went where I always go when I need an understanding ear: YouTube. There, I watched the Gregory Mantell show regarding the subject "Frenemies", which didn't do any good - it was virtually a parody of self-help California self-realization not-quite psychobabble.

Dissatisfied, I watched this other show regarding our debased media
User content is all the rage these days. But how good and how reliable is the content? Andrew Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur," says the do-it-yourself revolution is dumbing down society and undermining professionals.
Keen, in particular, decrys YouTube.

I didn't feel any happier watching this show, but I did feel a more-familiar emotion: irritation.

Almost everything Keen advocates is wrong. He is correct that the media needs gatekeepers but somehow fails to see that most of the media gatekeepers we have have been corrupted by money and political power. Better no gatekeepers at all, under those circumstances.

Long live YouTube!