Friday, April 10, 2009

New Zealand Trip Slide Show

I showed it to the people at work today. They seemed to like it!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Jetta At Callison's

The first part of "I Touch Myself" (the second part was a bit over the top).

She wants me to be her agent. I have no idea how to discharge this responsibility....

Another Drunken Party Next Door Last Night

"No Trespassing"

Took me by surprise. I left home at 9 p.m. and there was no party; returned at 2 a.m., and wham! Party!

This time, they stayed out of their courtyard and tried to run it as a tailgate party in the parking lot. They tried to stay away from my driveway, too. Good.

Still, the shouting didn't die down till 3:30 a.m., and the last guest didn't leave until 4 a.m.

Here are a couple of "No Trespassing" signs, from Fairbanks, AK, that summarize my feelings. Fortunately for my neighbors, I don't endorse gun ownership, and possess no firearms:

"No Trespassing"
Feature Regarding Big Idea Theater Company

Left: Kristine David, left, Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly and Kelly Ogden rehearse a scene from the Big Idea Theatre Company's upcoming production of "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," directed by company co-leader Kirk Blackinton. (Hector Amezcua, the Sacramento Bee)

Marcus Crowder had a nice article regarding Big Idea Theater Company recently, but I was happy mostly just to see what Kris David is up to:
"Do you do a show that everybody knows to try and get an audience? Do you go for something edgy?" Mahoney asks.

They've settled on a balance that runs a broad gamut of styles and genres. The classics are also important, and they'll do at least two Shakespeare productions a year.

Mahoney says that ultimately what they're able to do depends on the people they work with.

"We can do these bigger shows, hard-hitting shows, really emotionally driven shows, or crazy-silly shows and really commit to it – but we couldn't do it without the talent we're picking up."
RIP, James G. Boswell, II

One of the most important people in California history just died:
FRESNO, Calif. -- When cotton was king in California, it had a reticent monarch in James Griffin Boswell II, who built the company that bears his name into a global fiber operation. Boswell died having successfully kept himself out of the public spotlight for most of his illustrious life. He was 86.

"A lot of people pride themselves on their anonymity, and I happen to be one," he said in an interview.

Boswell died Friday of natural causes at his Indian Wells home, according to the Riverside County Coroner's Office.

Under his leadership, J.G. Boswell Co. grew into one of the world's largest, privately owned farms. The company farms 150,000 acres of Pima cotton, tomatoes and other commodities on land mostly in Kings County in the San Joaquin Valley. The company headquarters is in Pasadena.

Boswell is credited with the phenonmenal growth enjoyed by the company - started by his father and uncles - while he was president and CEO from 1952 until 1984. According to business analyst Hoover's Inc., J.G. Boswell Co. is the largest producer of cotton in the United States, supplies textile mills worldwide and boasts sales topping $150 million annually.

Land he retired from farming in Arizona 40 years ago became what is known today as the retirement community of Sun City.

Boswell was born in Greensboro, Ga., in 1923, and his family moved to California as the boll-weevil descimated cotton plantations across the South. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University in 1946 and served in the Army during World War II in the South Pacific.

A 2003 book about this life, "The King of California," calls him the last land baron of California. It chronicles the family's political clout that allowed them to drain the massive Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater body West of the Mississippi, and plant cotton in the early 20th century.
Graceless And Disappointing Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia disses Woodland:
Pedroia said of Woodland: "It's a dump. You can quote me on that. I don't give a … "

Pedroia was The Bee's Player of the Year out of Woodland High School in 2001 before attending Arizona State.

Pedroia admitted to Boston Magazine that he was upset with the city for an unspecified reason. However, his brother was arrested in Woodland in January on child-molestation charges. Brett Pedroia has pleaded not guilty.

"Everyone wants to get out of there," Dustin Pedroia said. "You don't want to stay in Woodland. What do you want to stay in Woodland for? The place (stinks). The newspaper there, I don't really get along with.

"I come from your town. You should embrace me. I play for the Boston Red Sox. You haven't had a lot of major leaguers come out of your city."
Listen, Dustin, I come from New Mexico. There are towns there that make Woodland look like the Garden of Eden. But even those New Mexico towns are full of interesting people and unforgettable places. It's the attitude you bring to a town that matters most when you are trying to come to grips with it. Woodland is great. Get over yerself, for chrissakes.
Sponge Bob/ Burger King Ad

Via The Evil Beet, where they have the lyrics too.

There are two ways of looking at this - Good Fun, or The End Of Human Civilization (I'm thinking maybe the latter).
Silent Sentinels

Deborah likes what she can do on her iPhone.
Just Don't Know Enough To Be Mad As Hell

Kevin Philips is pessimistic that the news media today is doing as good a job as it did in 1910 or 1930 to provide Americans with enough solid information about the financial crash to force necessary changes on Wall Street:
Today's disaster stage of American financialization - the bursting of the huge 25-year, almost $50 trillion debt bubble that helped underwrite the hijacking of the U.S. economy by a rabid financial sector -- won't be nearly so kind. It is already ushering in the reverse: a global realignment in which the United States loses the global economic leadership won in World War Two. The ignominy deserved by Wall Street after 1929-1933 is peanuts compared with the opprobrium the U.S. financial sector and its political and regulatory allies deserve this time.

...Thus, it was pleasing to read MIT economics professor Simon Johnson's piece in the April Atlantic fingering financial "elites" who captured the government for the latterday financial debacle. This is broadly true, and judging from my e.mail, even some conservatives accept Johnson's analysis and indictment. After the furor over the AIG bonuses, the public and some politicians may be ready to start identifying and blaming culprits. This would be useful. Having an elite to blame is a often prerequisite of serious reform.

Nevertheless, the extremes of financialization, together with the havoc we now know it to have wrought, represent a much more complicated historical and economic genesis, one which U.S. leaders must be obliged to confront if not fully acknowledge. Elite avarice and culpability has multiple and longstanding dimensions. It has been fifteen years since Graef Crystal, a wellknown employment compensation expert, brought out his incendiary In Search of Excess: the Overcompensation of American Executives. The data was blistering. Over the last decade, New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston has published two books - Perfectly Legal and Free Lunch - describing how the U.S. tax code, in particular, has been turned into a feeding trough for the richest one percent of Americans (especially the richest one tenth of one percent).

...This could be a powerful framework. All of these critiques have merit, and ideally they might converge as earlier indictments of elite and governmental abuse did during the Progressive and New Deal eras. But I have to return to whether the public will ever be given full information on the fatal magnitude of financialization, who was responsible, and how it failed and crashed in 2007-2009. So far, political and media discussion has been so minimal that the early 21st century American electorate has much less readily available information on what took place than did the electorates of those earlier reform eras.

...To try to put 20-30 pages into a nutshell, the financial sector hyped consumer demand - from teen-ager credit cards to mortgages for the unqualified - to make credit into one of the nation's biggest industries; nearly $15 trillion was borrowed over two decades to leverage de facto gambling at 20:1 and 30:1 ratios; banks, investment firms, mortgage lenders, insurers et al were all merged together to do almost anything they wanted; exotic securities and instruments that even investment chiefs couldn't understand were marketed by the trillions. To achieve fat financial-sector profits, the housing and mortgage markets might as well have been merged with Las Vegas.

The principal inventors, hustlers , borrowers and culprits were the nation's 15-20 largest and best known financial institutions - including the ones that keep making headlines by demanding more bail-out money from Washington and giving huge bonuses. These same institutions got much of the early bail-out money and as of December 2008 they accounted for over half of the bad assets written off. The reason these needed so much money is that they government had let them merge, speculate, expand and experiment on dimensions beyond all logic. That is why the complicit politicians and regulators have to talk about $100 billion here and $1 trillion there even while they pretend that it's all under control and that the run-amok financial sector remains sound.

This is a much grander-scale disaster than anything that happened in 1929-33. Worse, it dwarfs the abuses of debt, finance and financialization that brought down previous leading world economic powers like Britain and Holland (back when New York was New Amsterdam). I will return to these little-mentioned precedents in another post this week.

But for the moment, let me underscore: the average American knows little of the dimensions of the financial sector aggrandizement and misbehavior involved. Until this is remedied, there probably will not be enough informed, focused indignation to achieve far-reaching reform in the teeth of financial sector money and influence. Equivocation will triumph. This will not displease politicians and regulators leery of offending their contributors and backers.
Well, I Suppose We Could Have National ID Numbers

Or, we could just try harder to understand the difficulties and to make sure eligible voters are allowed to vote:
In a puzzling move which she insisted isn't about race, a Republican state lawmaker in Texas said in House testimony Wednesday that Asian Americans should change their names to ones that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

Democrats jumped on the comments by state Rep. Betty Brown. Her remarks came during a Texas House Elections Committee hearing, who'd invited a Chinese American representative to testify about ballot accessibility.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown remarked.

“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?” she added.

A spokesman for the Texas Republican legislator told the Houston Chronicle her comments weren't about race -- she was only attempting to "overcome problems" with identifying Asian names "for voting purposes." Brown made the comment after the Chinese American representative, Ramey Ko, said people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent had trouble voting because their legal name may differ from the English name they use on their driver's licenses.

Democrats demanded an apology. Local Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said that the Republicans were trying to suppress votes with a voter ID bill and that Brown is “adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
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Chip Conrad Is Showing Off His Abs Again

I could do push-ups inverted too, maybe once, if I thought real hard about it first (and drank a bottle of White Zinfandel):
"The push-up should be a little scary," says Chip Conrad, owner of Body Tribe Fitness in midtown Sacramento. "You can't take the quick and easy route with a push-up. It takes practice, so you need some fear and reverence of it. As with anything, it can either empower or destroy."

Then again, put aside deep thinking. Push-ups may just be a great workout. And certainly one for this age of frugality.

Such utility, really, is the overriding reason such an old-school exercise has endured in this era of fancy gym equipment, elaborate cross-training regimens and scientific advancements.

What other single exercise in a fitness buff's repertoire involves muscle groups such as the chest, shoulders, back, arms, abdomen, hips and legs? And if you perform enough push-ups in a short enough amount of time, it even can provide an aerobic workout.

..."People living on the lower income don't have the luxury of personal trainers, gym memberships, supplements and flex machines – this is free and portable," Skup said in an interview. "You come home from work and got to take kids to basketball or swim practice. In the real world, you don't have time to drive to the gym, spend two hours there on a complete workout. Life doesn't work like that."

So Skup weaned himself from the gym and started doing push-ups during breaks at work, at home, at the mall – any time he could fit in five minutes or so.

"After a year, I looked in the mirror and saw I looked just as good as I did when I lifted weights," he says. "It's like being in a health club and doing everything at once. It's the most portable exercise ever invented."
Moon Amtrak

There is something about Orange County culture I just can't quite get:
For decades, a growing stream of regulars has come from as far as France to the Mugs Away Saloon and — full of beer and confidence — mooned the passing passenger trains. Last year, however, the annual moon-fest got a little too exuberant, drawing 8,000 beer-swilling, clothes-dropping patrons who bared more than their behinds when the Amtrak came rolling down the tracks.

Now, officials in the south Orange County city are planning to crack down on the event, which has grown from a small barroom bet among friends to a full-scale festival with reports of people passing out, having sex and freely sprinkling their clothes every which way as passenger trains chug past.

Tonight, the City Council will vote on a series of ordinances designed to eclipse the 30-year-old “Moon Amtrak” event, scheduled for the second Saturday in July. The measures, which include banning street parking and cordoning off the mooning grounds for four days and permanently banning public alcohol consumption, are part of an effort to bring a little modesty and order to the tradition.

“What was originally just a fun, family-type of event of showing your rear end to the train has just gotten out of control,” said Linda Solorza, the city’s police chief.

Last year’s event was shut down by authorities, who brought in more than 50 officers and a squadron of helicopters to restore order.

“There were people that were drunk, unable to care for themselves and in various stages of undress. There were sex acts,” Solorza said. “This year, we want it to be as safe as possible.”

But why mess with success, especially in the midst of a recession, wondered one bartender at the saloon, which sits in a strip mall across the train tracks and is filled with mooning memorabilia and photos of past events.

“When the mooning happens, all these businesses up and down here, they make money,” said bartender Linda Aleman, who said she’s known as the “mooning girl” after more than five years of serving up drinks at the event.

“It’s something that keeps people happy with what’s going on with the economy. It’s just something that takes the edge off.”
Queensland's Model For California's Drought Response

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about how it is illegal to collect rainwater in Colorado, even if your intent is just to move the water a short distance in order to water plants, because the state's water compacts already incorporate where and how the rain falls, and it's illegal to mess around with the laws of either Man or Nature:
Colorado, like most Western states, lives by a rigid and byzantine knot of water laws. Vast quantities of river water are made available, free of charge, to a variety of public and private interests, including oil companies, ski resorts, fire districts and breweries. The international food conglomerate Nestlé has applied for a permit to draw water from a Colorado aquifer and sell it in plastic bottles under its Arrowhead brand.

Those appropriations are made under a seniority system based on first-come first-serve claims staked out as far back as the 1850s. Colorado law explicitly states that every drop of moisture suspended in the atmosphere must be divvied up according to those claims. That means each drop must be allowed to hit the ground and seep through the watershed into distant rivers, where it can be doled out to claimants ranging from alfalfa farmers to ExxonMobil.
That would make people laugh in Queensland. Particularly in the Outback, if you don't collect rainwater, you die.

Australia in general, and Queensland in particular, provide many excellent models for dealing with the effects of prolonged drought. California needs to adopt similar ways of thinking:
At the forum, The Bee interviewed Greg Claydon, director of strategic water initiatives for the state of Queensland, Australia. That state will spend $9 billion on three wastewater recycling plants, a desalination plant, two new dams and 120 miles of pipe to link them in a flexible new supply network.

Similar solutions – desalination, wastewater recycling, dams and major diversions of river water – also are on the table here, as California struggles through water-supply threats in a third year of drought.

Australia's work has been sweeping, from severe water rationing and new plumbing standards to rainwater catchment and ocean desalination.

That's just the hardware.

Australia also assessed the true yield of all its watersheds and is buying back water to protect the environment.

It rewrote water laws to give agriculture a legal entitlement to water akin to a property right (as in California, farmers are Australia's biggest water consumers). This seems counterintuitive, but was necessary to ensure a supply for everyone. It also created a cap-and-trade water market to prevent waste, similar to efforts to control greenhouse gases.

Rather than use water for low-value crops like cotton, some Australian farmers now earn a living selling water to cities or other farms that grow high-value crops, like grapes.

How would these changes fit in California's water culture?

"They would be very radical," said Eric Garner, an attorney in Riverside and chair of the International Bar Association's water law committee. "Quantifying all (water) rights in California would be a very radical shift, and allowing them to be traded – to be bought and sold freely – would be a very significant change."

Queensland's Claydon explained how they're doing it in Australia:

...What have you asked the public to do?

We started something called Campaign 140, to encourage residents to reduce water use to 140 liters per person, per day (about 36 gallons). They've more than met that goal. Many people have reduced their consumption as low as 120 liters per day. Before the drought, the average person used 300 liters per day. (The average Sacramentan uses about 1,000 liters daily.)

How did you get this message to the public?

We handed out egg timers to encourage four-minute showers, and ran advertisements where people give tips on how they do it. We offer subsidies for rainwater catchments ($1,000 for a 3,000-liter or bigger tank), and for pool covers (now mandatory). In the last three years, we've installed more than a quarter-million rainwater catchments on existing properties. In new developments, it's now mandatory. We also made water-saving toilets, faucets and other plumbing mandatory. There was a directive to power stations to go off the mains for their water usage. They all had to go onto recycled water.

...What about water rates?

The residential cost is now $1.20 (Australian) per kiloliter (about 10 times more than metered customers pay in the Sacramento area). It will increase as the additional infrastructure comes online. In 10 years' time, the price will double or more. The cheap water sources have been developed and now we're into more expensive ones. Those cheaper sources aren't reliable in a highly variable climate scenario. That's the reality.

Are people upset about these changes?

There hasn't been a big political outcry – yet. No one likes paying more. But people don't like severe (water) restrictions either. If you want a more reliable supply, you've got to pay for it. By early 2007, our water supplies declined to only 17 percent of storage. People began to recognize there's a real risk we'd even run out of water totally. For a number of reasons, there's been an embedded behavior change.
The Same Name

I got creeped out when I saw my sister's name among the dead in this story:
Police on Friday identified the remains of two more women among several bodies found in a desert mass grave west of Albuquerque.

...Police already had identified the bodies of Cinnamon Elks, Julie Nieto, Michelle Valdez and Victoria Chavez, all of whom disappeared in 2004. A fetus was found with Valdez's remains.

Police had been excavating a 92-acre site since February, when a hiker discovered a human bone. They had said they believe the remains were buried by one person.
Sadly for another Valdez family (to whom we might even be related), the deceased just happened to have the same name as my sister.

My sister responded:
Hi Marc,
When this story broke a couple of months ago, it was very alarming to me to see my name in the dead list. Aunt S. called dad and asked him if I was still alive. PRETTY CREEPY ! ! ! !
Non-Smokers Live Just Too Damn Long

I'm going to live forever and I'm going to make a lot of teen smokers pay for my health care:
Smoking takes years off your life and adds dollars to the cost of health care. Yet nonsmokers cost society money, too - by living longer.

...Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.

"It looks unpleasant or ghoulish to look at the cost savings as well as the cost increases and it's not a good thing that smoking kills people," Viscusi said in an interview. "But if you're going to follow this health-cost train all the way, you have to take into account all the effects, not just the ones you like in terms of getting your bill passed."

...A Dutch study published last year in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal said that health care costs for smokers were about $326,000 from age 20 on, compared to about $417,000 for thin and healthy people.

The reason: The thin, healthy people lived much longer.

Willard Manning, a professor of health economics and policy at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy Studies, was lead author on a paper published two decades ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that, taking into account tobacco taxes in effect at the time, smokers were not a financial burden to society.

"We were actually quite surprised by the finding because we were pretty sure that smokers were getting cross-subsidized by everybody else," said Manning, who suspects the findings would be similar today. "But it was only when we put all the pieces together that we found it was pretty much a wash."

...Dr. Terry Pechacek, the CDC associate director for science in the office on smoking and health, said that data seeking to quantify economic benefits of smoking couldn't capture all the benefits associated with longevity, like a grandparent's contribution to a family. Because of such uncertainties the CDC won't put a price tag on savings from smoking.

"The natural train of logic that follows from that is that then anybody that's admitted around age 65 or older that's showing any signs of sickness should be denied treatment," Pechacek said. "That's the cheapest thing to do."
Garbeau's To Close

I wondered how things were going out in Rancho Cordova since February's desperate struggle to survive. I had heard nothing, and the ominous silence worried me:
The final curtain has dropped on Garbeau's Dinner Theatre. Despite recent fundraising efforts and a "Save Garbeau's" campaign, the Rancho Cordova theater will shut down by May31.

Spiking gas prices were blamed for the initial loss of business, which never recovered during the down economy. Recent efforts to renegotiate Garbeau's rent with Washington- based landlord Andy Lakha also failed.

The theater's current production, "There's a Little Bit of Broadway in Everyone," will run throughMay 10 and possibly run an additional week, said Garbeau's co-owner Andrea Castel.

Garbeau's avoided closure in March by raising $8,000 and selling gift cards and season passes to boost funds.

"The theater community has been wonderful, and many said in some fashion that they will honor (our) 2009 season passes," Castel said.

"Right now we're in the process of confirming what those stipulations will be."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lesser Sentence

I'd give him a one-hour sentence:
The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at former US President George W Bush has had his sentence cut from three years to one year on appeal.

Muntadar al-Zaidi's lawyer argued that the charge should be changed from assault to insulting a foreign leader.

The judge agreed and reduced the term in line with the less serious offence.
Beautiful Sunset Alert

Maybe, if the clouds permit:
A loop of sulfur dioxide gas approximately 600 miles in diameter is swirling off the coast of California. It came from Alaska where Mt. Redoubt unleashed its biggest eruption yet on April 4th.

The April 4th eruption produced a long plume of stratospheric SO2 which has since split. Half is drifting across the northern reaches of Canada; the other half is having a close encounter with the Pacific coast of North America.

Sulfur dioxide and associated aerosols have been known to produce sunsets of exceptional beauty. Examples from the 2008 eruption of Kasatochi may be found here and here. Readers in the path of Redoubt's clouds should be alert for rare colors and rays in the evening sky.
Gjerstad & Smith Opinion Piece In the WSJ

Beware all opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal! They usually can't get there unless the are full of lies!

Nevertheless, this one is quite interesting, mostly because it seems to be written in a more academic manner than most, and because it compares the Great Depression to our current difficulties. The authors ask why the dot-com crash caused so many fewer difficulties than the subprime crisis. The answer seems to be that bubbles fueled at the lower end of income spectrum, like today's housing bubble is, are vastly more damaging to the financial system, because nearly everyone is playing with borrowed money.

The authors also indicate the causes of the Great Depression have been inadequately studied. In particular, real estate bubbles have been overlooked as a cause of both the Great Depression and the current crisis. I find this assertion to be astonishing. For economists, the Great Depression is full of color and drama, and I would have supposed its causes would have been examined from many angles over the last 80 years, including from the real estate angle. Is this more anti-New-Deal or pro-wealth rubbish? Or have people left huge holes in the standard explanation of the Great Depression? I don't know, but it's interesting reading:

Regarding the dot-com crash, and today:
How can one crash that wipes out $10 trillion in assets cause no damage to the financial system and another that causes $3 trillion in losses devastate the financial system?

In the equities-market downturn early in this decade, declining assets were held by institutional and individual investors that either owned the assets outright, or held only a small fraction on margin, so losses were absorbed by their owners. In the current crisis, declining housing assets were often, in effect, purchased between 90% and 100% on margin. In some of the cities hit hardest, borrowers who purchased in the low-price tier at the peak of the bubble have seen their home value decline 50% or more. Over the past 18 months as housing prices have fallen, millions of homes became worth less than the loans on them, huge losses have been transmitted to lending institutions, investment banks, investors in mortgage-backed securities, sellers of credit default swaps, and the insurer of last resort, the U.S. Treasury.

In an important paper in 1983, Ben Bernanke argued that during the Depression, severe damage to the financial system impeded its ability to perform its economic role of lending to households for durable goods consumption and to firms for production and trade. We are seeing this process playing out now as loan funds for automobile purchases have withered. Auto sales fell 41% between February 2008 and February 2009. Retail and labor markets too are now part of the collateral damage from the housing debacle. Housing peaked in early 2006. Losses from the mortgage market began to infect the financial system in 2006; asset prices in that sector began to decline at the end of 2006. Meanwhile, equities and the broader economy were performing well, but as the financial sector deteriorated, its problems blindsided the rest of the economy.

The events of the past 10 years have an eerie similarity to the period leading up to the Great Depression. Total mortgage debt outstanding increased from $9.35 billion in 1920 to $29.44 billion in 1929. In 1920, residential mortgage debt was 10.2% of household wealth; by 1929, it was 27.2% of household wealth.

The Great Depression has been attributed to excessive speculation on Wall Street, especially between the spring of 1927 and the fall of 1929. Had the difficulties of the banking system been caused by losses on brokers' loans for margin purchases in 1929, the results should have been felt in the banks immediately after the stock market crash. But the banking system did not show serious strains until the fall of 1930.

Bank earnings reached a record $729 million in 1929. Yet bank exposures to real estate were substantial; as the decline in real estate prices accelerated, foreclosures wiped out banks by the thousands. Had the mounting difficulties of the banks and the final collapse of the banking system in the "Bank Holiday" in March 1933 been caused by contraction of the money supply, as Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz argued, then the massive injections of liquidity over the past 18 months should have averted the collapse of the financial market during this current crisis.

The causes of the Great Depression need more study, but the claims that losses on stock-market speculation and a monetary contraction caused the decline of the banking system both seem inadequate. It appears that both the Great Depression and the current crisis had their origins in excessive consumer debt -- especially mortgage debt -- that was transmitted into the financial sector during a sharp downturn.

What we've offered in our discussion of this crisis is the back story to Mr. Bernanke's analysis of the Depression. Why does one crash cause minimal damage to the financial system, so that the economy can pick itself up quickly, while another crash leaves a devastated financial sector in the wreckage? The hypothesis we propose is that a financial crisis that originates in consumer debt, especially consumer debt concentrated at the low end of the wealth and income distribution, can be transmitted quickly and forcefully into the financial system. It appears that we're witnessing the second great consumer debt crash, the end of a massive consumption binge.
ForWord's Upcoming Show

At the Derrick Barry show on Friday, a fellow was going around Badlands handing out leaflets promoting his upcoming poetry show. It doesn't sound like poetry for the faint-hearted, though:

Featured @ Queen Sheba Restaurant
1704 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
9:00 pm - 11:00 pm
$5 cover

After being in the slam scene for only 2 years, ForWord is already proving he has something to say. Born in the Bay Area and raised in Sacramento, he has been winning slams all over Northern California. A member of the 2008 Sacramento Slam Team and also a freestyle hip-hop lyricist, ForWord is not only breaking stereotypes with his controversial content, but has also gained respect in communities that historically have not been supportive of artists of his nature. Early in 2008 he was the first openly gay MC to win the grand prize at the popular Oakland venue "Tourettes Without Regrets" and has won numerous battles and poetry slams throughout the valley and Bay Area. he proved himself to be a fierce competitor after being hand selected in Modesto's highly respected "Ill List 5" poetry slam, where he performed in front of a crowd of 600 at the Modesto State Theater.
Centraal Station Antwerpen gaat uit zijn dak!

Laura sends this to all fellow cast members of "The Sound Of Music" (and to anyone else who likes the musical!)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Buena Vista Winery

California's oldest premium winery (est. 1857).

Left: We bellied up to the bar and displayed our vast knowledge of viticulture.

This wine doesn't taste like White Zinfandel.....

This wine has a darker color than White Zinfandel....

You're right! This wine tastes like matchsticks! But why do they make wine out of matchsticks?

This wine is supposed to taste like berries, but I don't taste any berries....

We ended up buying a bottle of Pinot Gris, because of the seven wines provided, it tasted the most like White Zinfandel.

Left: Picnic lunch.

Left: Dangerous predators roam the winery grounds.
Governor Vallejo's "Lachrymis Montis"

We arrived about five minutes till five o'clock at Governor Vallejo's estate just outside Sonoma, and so we had five minutes to settle into a nice, 19th-Century groove.

Left: Camphor Tree, in bloom.
Mission San Francisco Solano

Left: Northernmost of the Spanish colonial missions.

Left: Elaborate prickly-pear cactus.

Left: California Poppy.

Left: Chapel.
Sunday Visit To Sonoma

Left: Sonoma street scene.

Left: 'Valley of the Moon' mural.

Left: Stark-looking eucalyptus windbreak along the highway between Napa and Sonoma.

Left: Stark transition between natural cover and vineyards. Viticulture must have a large (probably negative) impact on birds and other wildlife.
Overheard In Downtown Sonoma, Sunday Afternoon

Her (referring to a tiny dog): Look! It's cute!
Him: That's one of them chih-hooah-hooahs! It's "special". Not cute.
Northeast Arizona Dust Storm

Frank sent me this:
A dust storm struck northeastern Arizona on April 3, 2009. With winds over 145 kilometers (90 miles) per hour reported near Meteor Crater, east of Flagstaff, the storm reduced visibility and forced the temporary closure of part of Interstate 40, according to The Arizona Republic.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image on April 3, 2009. In this image, clear skies allow a view of multiple source points of this dust storm. The source points occur along an arc that runs from northwest to southeast. Blowing toward the northeast, the dust plumes exhibit a range of colors, including pale beige and red-brown, reflecting the varied soils from which the plumes arise.
I reply:
Wow! I hate that when that happens! Too many sheep graze the dessicated lands of the Navajo and so when the wind increases, as it always does in spring, there is nothing to hold the soil down.
Frank replies:
At 90 mph they may also lose a few sheep…
McCain Rebukes Hispanic Voters

It's not personal, it's just that the Democrats seem to be better stewards of Hispanic interests right now than Republicans. Nevertheless, McCain has a thin skin:
"He was angry," one source said. "He was over the top. In some cases, he rolled his eyes a lot. There were portions of the meeting where he was just staring at the ceiling, and he wasn't even listening to us. We came out of the meeting really upset."

McCain's message was obvious, the source continued: After bucking his party on immigration, he had no sympathy for Hispanics who are dissatisfied with President Obama's pace on the issue. "He threw out [the words] 'You people -- you people made your choice. You made your choice during the election,' " the source said. "It was almost as if [he was saying] 'You're cut off!' We felt very uncomfortable when we walked away from the meeting because of that."

In 2006 and 2007, McCain was a leader on immigration, but his efforts ran aground largely because his legislation included what many Republicans derisively characterized as "amnesty," a pathway to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants if they took a series of steps to earn legal status.

Having stuck his neck out in the past, McCain apparently is in no mood to do so again for an ethnic group he seems to view as ungrateful. On NBC's Meet the Press on March 29, McCain repeated his message that the ball is in the Democratic president's court.
Wilkins Ice Shelf Breaking Up

Disturbing video from the Antarctic. Ice shelves help lock continental glacial ice at higher elevations into place. People worry that higher sea levels from global warming may destabilize ice shelves and cause them to break up, triggering a cascade of glacial ice to flow into the ocean, and further aggravating sea level rise.:
Satellite imagery from the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder reveals that a 13,680 square kilometer (5,282 square mile) ice shelf has begun to collapse because of rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of Antarctica.

British Antarctic Survey has captured dramatic satellite and video images of an Antarctic ice shelf that looks set to be the latest to break out from the Antarctic Peninsula. A large part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula is now supported only by a thin strip of ice hanging between two islands. It is another identifiable impact of climate change on the Antarctic environment.

Scientists monitoring satellite images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf spotted that a huge (41 by 2.5 km) km2 berg the size of the Isle of Man appears to have broken away in recent days -- it is still on the move.

Glaciologist Ted Scambos from the University of Colorado alerted colleagues Professor David Vaughan and Andrew Fleming of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that the ice shelf looked at risk. After checking daily satellite pictures, BAS sent a Twin Otter aircraft on a reconnaissance mission to check out the extent of the breakout.

Jim Elliott was onboard the BAS Twin Otter to capture video of the breakout for Vaughan and colleagues. He says,

"I've never seen anything like this before -- it was awesome. We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage. Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion."
Puzzling Over The Long Wavelength Array

What's that dad gum thang over there? John wonders:
Seems a bit redundant...or maybe it's just an improvement over 1975 radio telescope technology. Have you heard anything about this?:
The University of New Mexico plans a new radio telescope near the site of the Very Large Array telescope west of Socorro.

Project director Lee Rickard says the university hopes to have the first field of 256 antennas ready about November 2010.

The arrays are called stations, and Rickard says up to 16 stations could be built in the following four years.

State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons and UNM officials signed an agreement this week to start building the first two sites of the Long Wavelength Array on state trust lands in Catron and Socorro counties.
I reply:
Here’s a little bit more. Apparently it’s for low frequencies, and will features stations spread over a broader area (most of SW NM).
The LWA will be a low-frequency radio telescope designed to produce high-sensitivity, high-resolution images in the frequency range of 10-88 MHz, thus opening a new astronomical window on one of the most poorly explored regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This will be accomplished with large collecting area (approaching 1 square kilometer at its lowest frequencies) spread over an interferometric array with baselines up to at least 400 km, located mainly in the state of New Mexico.