Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scoring Kylie Minogue Tickets

Harder to do than you would think.

Fortunately for Oakland, they added a second show (October 1st) and so I bought a floor ticket there. For all I know, it might be a real zoo there, right near the stage, but nothing is so memorable as baying with the rest of the animals. And since Kylie seems to attract a glam crowd anyway, at least they will be well-dressed animals....

For Las Vegas, even though I was trying to buy tickets minutes after they went on sale, I couldn't find two tickets together anywhere (just single seats behind posts and other obstructions). So, I bought two cheapy balcony tickets at a reseller, for what looks like a 100% markup.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cost Of Marc's Gas Use

Left: Marc likes to consume natural gas, especially in winter. A nice seasonal signal shows up.

Left: Marc pays for his natural gas too, especially in winter.

Left: Interesting graph! Inflation really shows up here. The California Energy Crisis of 2000/01 really shows up too.

Wow, look how abruptly everything falls apart in 2008! The Great Depression II has arrived!

(Utility: Pacific Gas and Freakin' Electric)

Annie's Creator Really Didn't Like FDR

Which is one reason why the "treacly" musical is better than the comic strip:
The strip, launched in 1924, quickly became a huge success and a pop culture landmark. It was also one of the few popular voices raised in opposition to the New Deal.

The treacly 1977 Broadway musical Annie and the film adaptation that followed five years later glorified a lovable Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Annie creator Harold Gray (1894–1968) would have been appalled. “I…have despised Roosevelt and his socialist, or creeping communist, policies since 1932, and said so in my stuff,” Gray once wrote.

...But as Heer notes, Annie had something over many Dickens children: “Her goodness is not passive but active.” When competitors try to drive her from the corner where she sells newspapers, she doesn’t just cry “woe-is-me”; she smacks ’em with a horseshoe.

The strip sneered at organized and impersonal charity. But to survive, Annie counts not only on her own grit but on the direct kindness of strangers, at the same time having to avoid the depredations of the professional do-gooder. The comic’s early days hold a winningly libertarian disdain for the uplifters and professional licensing and child labor laws that stymie Annie’s attempts to support herself and others who fall under her care.

Heer once characterized Gray’s philosophy as a sort of “two-fisted conservatism.” These first two volumes of the series, both of them pre–New Deal, are individualistic, but the anti-government mood is generally quietly suggestive, not obtrusive. The subtle politics are highly individualistic, promoting the virtues of the hard-working common man. The strip was suffused with Midwestern values (hard work and cheerfulness) and prejudices (pro-fisherman, anti-beard) and a very populist sense that it was who you were inside, not money or station, that mattered, and that “just plain folk—and plenty of ’em” were best.

In the 1930s, as the New Deal proceeded and Gray became increasingly appalled, his opposition became more apparent. He never named the president, but it was obvious where he stood.

Super-Terminal Speeds

Interesting! And plausible too!:

Many raindrops travel at "super-terminal" velocities, faster than was thought possible. As a result, meteorologists may be miscalculating how much it rains.

Previously, it was assumed that all raindrops fall at terminal velocity, a constant maximum speed that is determined by the interplay of gravity and drag. The velocity for individual drops is considered to be largely controlled by their size: larger drops fall faster than smaller drops, due to their greater mass.

Fernando García-García of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and colleagues measured the shadows of natural raindrops passing through a ray of infrared light. They found that up to half exceed their terminal velocity. Some travel as much as 10 times faster, for their size.

"Others had detected this before, but everybody disregarded it, blaming it on an error," says Garcia-Garcia.

The team suspects that the super-terminal drops may be fragments of larger drops broken apart as they fall. "If a large drop breaks into several fragments, each drop will have the speed of the large drop, at least temporarily, until the smaller drops slow to their new terminal velocity," García-García says.

As a result, meteorologists may be overestimating total rainfall by up to 20 per cent, say the team. Weather forecasters use total rainfall figures to predict floods, and climatologists use the estimates to gauge how rain patterns are changing with climate change.

...Ana Barros of Duke University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says meteorologists' rainfall estimates are unlikely to be too far wrong, pointing out that the super-terminal drops would soon slow down after fragmenting from larger drops.
Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2008GL037111 (in press)

Hat In Hand

Michael Savage wants Hillary Clinton's help in getting his name off the Banned-in-Britain list. I'm sure she'll be happy to help!

California's Modern Ghost Towns

Squatters out in the 'burbs threaten to take over whole neighborhoods.


The U.S. tortured, not because high Bush Administration officials wanted to save any lives from terrorists, but because they had to cover their ass for ordering the invasion of Iraq to find non-existent WMD. Yeah, what a bunch of 'real patriots' they and their friends have proven to be!:
Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, "enhanced interrogation" was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence -- the aims that he constantly emphasizes -- but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.

In one report after another, from journalists, former administration officials and Senate investigators, the same theme continues to emerge: Whenever a prisoner believed to possess any knowledge of al-Qaida’s operations or Iraqi intelligence came into American custody, CIA interrogators felt intense pressure from the Bush White House to produce evidence of an Iraq-Qaida relationship (which contradicted everything that U.S. intelligence and other experts knew about the enmity between Saddam’s Baath Party and Osama bin Laden’s jihadists). Indeed, the futile quest for proof of that connection is the common thread running through the gruesome stories of torture from the Guantánamo detainee camp to Egyptian prisons to the CIA's black sites in Thailand and elsewhere.

Perhaps the sharpest rebuke to Cheney's assertions has come from Lawrence Wilkerson, the retired Army colonel and former senior State Department aide to Colin Powell, who says bluntly that when the administration first authorized "harsh interrogation" during the spring of 2002, "its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaida."

In an essay that first appeared on the Washington Note blog, Wilkerson says that even when the interrogators of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the Libyan al-Qaida operative, reported that he had become “compliant” -- in other words, cooperative after sufficient abuse -- the vice-president’s office ordered further torture of the Libyan by his hosts at an Egyptian prison because he had not yet implicated Saddam with al-Qaida. So his interrogators put al-Libi into a tiny coffin until he said what Cheney wanted to hear. Nobody in the U.S. intelligence community actually believed this nonsense. But now, al-Libi has reportedly and very conveniently "committed suicide" in a prison cell in Libya, where he was dispatched to the tender mercies of the Bush administration's newfound friends in the Qaddafi regime several years ago. So the deceased man won't be able to discuss what actually happened to him and why.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gil Rodriguez, And Open Mike Night, At Luna's Cafe

Left: Gil Rodriguez sings "Brasil" at Luna's Cafe on Thursday evening.

Because of DMTC rehearsal, I was late getting over to Luna's to see Gil and his group perform. Thus I heard only a portion of what he had to say: something about 'the death of poetry' (a favorite theme of Gil's), a tale about a Silver Salmon, and, of course, Gil sang "Brasil" to a nice samba rhythm.

It was great to see both Gil and Sherry (my former neighbors). Gil recited some Shakespeare (Midsummer's Night's Dream) for my belated benefit, and Sherry brought news of Samba The Dog and recounted snake tales from their recent misbegotten move to Tampa.

Following a break the host made an announcement:
WTF!: Join us on Thursday, May 21 at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento for the unveiling of the second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick. Next deadline, for issue #3, is July 15. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send your poems, photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. Copies of the first issue are at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.

Then, a number of local poets stood at the microphone and recited their works (bear with me; remembering names is my gravest weakness....)

A.... - interesting erotic poem

Leah Wynan - a nice poem about Gaia that reminded me of New Zealand, and an erotic poem that reminded me of...well, ....

.... others

Kimberley - new poet

John Malcom - an excellent poem about the 'San Francisco Blues'

"Jean le Bloom"

Gene.... - he brought a cassette recorder with him to the mike and sang a custom version of "Que Sera Sera". Loopy fun!

Jack Donaldson

David Thayer - political poetry, with vivid hurricane imagery.

Seth Walker - this traveling poet from Houston, Texas recited a haunting poem about a boy's life, as told from the vantage point of a tree growing in the boy's yard. Very powerful! I bought his CD. Here is his Web Site. He said his tree poem is up on Myspace, but I haven't found it yet.

Alex - the awkwardness of asking a waitress for a cappucino

Audrey Edley

I didn't catch the name of the last woman, but she had a really interesting poem comparing this moment in history to a clock running down, and how old things must die for new things to be born.

Either I'm Getting Fat, Or My Clothes Are Getting Old

I absent-mindedly scratched my shoulder, and ripped a hole right through my shirt's fabric!

(Did I clip my nails?)

"Zombie Fire Ants Wander In Texas"

Yes, I admit it, I posted this only because I love the teaser headline:
But now the researchers are trying a tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants originated. Researchers have learned that fire ants in their home region are kept under control by as many as 23 phorid species.

The flies lay eggs on the fire ants, and the eggs hatch into maggots inside the ant and eat away at the pest's tiny brain.

"There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.

Soon, the ant's head falls off - and a new fly emerges ready to attack another fire ant.

Men, Men, Men, Men; Men, Men, Men, Men

Utah is a very manly place:
"I get asked two or three times a night where the girls are," [Park City's] No Name bartender and manager Jason Miller said Wednesday. When the hordes of skiers leave town, he estimated, the ratio of customers is 8-to-1 in favor of the boys.

OK, so maybe the ski-town bar scene isn't the best gauge of wider demographics. But if ever you thought Utah was a male-dominated society, the U.S. Census Bureau says you've got a case, and Park City is Exhibit A.

The agency today released 2008 state and population estimates showing Utah as the fourth-manliest state -- and Summit County is about as manly as it gets.

Utah is 50.5 percent male and one of only 11 states with more men than women. Leading the U.S. pack, as usual, is the fabled frontiersman's hide-out, Alaska, at 52.1 percent. Nevada and Wyoming also have a higher proportion of men, and Utah is fourth.

...Some counties simply have more male-dominated jobs -- construction and gas drilling, to name two -- that attract transient workers. Those jobs also tend to be more available in the West than elsewhere, which in turn fuels the work-force youthfulness.

..."We've got a lot of construction jobs," Adams said, "and most of those guys are men."

Still, he laughed when asked if he had ever noticed the apparent imbalance. Adams was skeptical of the Census Bureau's estimate that Beaver County is 52.3 percent male, same as Summit County. There are barely 6,000 people in the county, so statistics of all kinds are suspect.

...One more caveat for women: Utah's most-male corner, 938-person Daggett County with 56 percent men, is pumped up by dozens of state jail inmates.

Let's Beat Up George Will Instead

I once found my cat hissing and spitting at close quarters with a neighbor's cat on my porch. I favored my cat, of course, but I decided to put an end to the squabble in an faux-objective, even-handed manner and stomped precisely in-between the two cats. Instead of ceasing their fight, both cats immediately launched ferocious assaults on my leg.

George Will decided to wade into the Chrysler bankruptcy proceeding with all kinds of sniffy opinion-talk about the sanctity of contracts and Obama's corruption and lawlessness.

Bankruptcy proceedings are interesting affairs, of course, because that's when you discover whose contracts are truly sanctified and whose contracts are just glossy toilet paper. It's a lot like a barroom brawl, with some parties waving chairs in the air and the other parties making stabbing gestures with broken beer bottles. Deciding these things is an ugly business, but George Will decides, first, to take a side, and then chastise the Obama Administration for taking a side too:
Anyway, the Obama administration, judging by its cavalier disregard of contracts between Chrysler and some of the lenders it sought money from, thinks contracts are written on water. The administration proposes that Chrysler's secured creditors get 28 cents per dollar on the $7 billion owed to them but that the United Auto Workers union get 43 cents per dollar on its $11 billion in claims -- and 55 percent of the company. This, even though the secured creditors' contracts supposedly guaranteed them better standing than the union.

Among Chrysler's lenders, some servile banks that are now dependent on the administration for capital infusions tugged their forelocks and agreed. Some hedge funds among Chrysler's lenders that are not dependent were vilified by the president because they dared to resist his demand that they violate their fiduciary duties to their investors, who include individuals and institutional pension funds.

The Economist says the administration has "ridden roughshod over [creditors'] legitimate claims over the [automobile companies'] assets. . . . Bankruptcies involve dividing a shrunken pie. But not all claims are equal: some lenders provide cheaper funds to firms in return for a more secure claim over the assets should things go wrong. They rank above other stakeholders, including shareholders and employees. This principle is now being trashed." Tom Lauria, a lawyer representing hedge fund people trashed by the president as the cause of Chrysler's bankruptcy, asked that his clients' names not be published for fear of violence threatened in e-mails to them.

The Troubled Assets Relief Program, which has not yet been used for its supposed purpose (to purchase such assets from banks), has been the instrument of the administration's adventure in the automobile industry. TARP's $700 billion, like much of the supposed "stimulus" money, is a slush fund the executive branch can use as it pleases. This is as lawless as it would be for Congress to say to the IRS: We need $3.5 trillion to run the government next year, so raise it however you wish -- from whomever, at whatever rates you think suitable. Don't bother us with details.

...The Obama administration's agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of "economic planning" and "social justice" that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail. The administration's central activity -- the political allocation of wealth and opportunity -- is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.
All of this high-falutin' talk ignores the fact that the hedge funds (the comically-named 'Non-TARP lenders') have apparently figured out a way to get a better deal from AIG credit default swaps, guaranteed by TARP funds, by driving Chrysler into bankruptcy:
AIG, thanks to the government bailout, has paid off swaps in the past at 100 cents on the dollar. Under the deal they would have had to accept with Chrysler, the bondholders would have received as little as 30 cents on the dollar, for example.

Why take 30 or 35 cents on the dollar from Chrysler when you can get the whole buck from the American taxpayer?

"The basic story is very simple," says economist Dean Baker of the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research. "If they hold credit default swaps on the bonds, they're totally happy with them defaulting."

In what would rank as one of the great scams of this financial crisis, government bailouts may be colliding. Wall Street may be raking in taxpayer dollars through AIG and returning the favor by driving the auto industry into bankruptcy.
The corruption problem George Will mentions is certainly a long-term danger, but the Chrysler bankruptcy proceeding is a terrible example to make the case. It's more like walking into a barroom brawl, and getting angry at the parties waving chairs in the air and completely ignoring the other parties making stabbing gestures with the broken beer bottles. And by getting angry with Obama for choosing the chair-wavers, Will ignores the fact that he has chosen the bottle-stabbers.

So, as with the cats, in order to bring this fight to a fitting conclusion, I think the best thing for George Will to do now is, in his faux-objective, even-handed pundit manner, to stomp precisely in-between the two parties in the Chrysler bankruptcy proceeding....


Here is a real interesting map showing the impact of the TARP CPP program on banks, county-by-county.

I had expected the impact to be biggest in coastal locations, where the real estate boom was the most egregious. Instead, the impact seems to be biggest in the West - even, or especially so, in Utah, Nevada, and Idaho! It just shows how the intermountain West still lags much of the rest of the country in economic strength (always has, really).

The intermountain West is culturally conservative - a legacy of its Yankee roots - but it just doesn't have the financial heft to be economically conservative too.

Marc's Electricity Use At Home

Left: I used electricity in a pretty carefree manner until the big electricity crisis in 2001; then I ran around the house and replaced as many incandescent bulbs as possible with CFLs. The drop in electricity use was radical!

Since those dark ENRON days, the amount I pay every month for electricity has been roughly stable (upper curve), even as the amount of electricity I use has actually been declining bit by bit with time (lower curve).

Left: The cost of electricity took a big jump at the beginning of 2001, but interestingly, never dropped after that, even though the crisis was over. The cost began climbing almost imperceptibly at the beginning of 2005, however.

Utility: Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Daily Show Visits ASU (Where The Standards Are High)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Arizona State Snubs Obama
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Moving Into A Summer-Like Weather Regime This Next Week

So sayeth the weather maps.


Up to my normal nighttime activity (Googling people I don't know very well), I came across this interesting scary short movie.

Penguin Races

The event running this month at the Kelly Tarlton Arctic Encounter in Orakei, just outside Auckland, [New Zealand] sees King and Gentoo penguins go beak to beak in five icy events – football, Frisbee, surfing, swing ball and waddle races.

Complaints In The UK

Are best handled personally:
A 109-year-old woman wrote to the Queen to complain about the birthday cards she received and Prince William turned up by surprise to apologise.

Catherine Masters from Oxfordshire wrote to say the Queen was wearing the same outfit in each of the five congratulatory cards she had received.

The Prince visited Ms Masters at her nursing home and said his grandmother would change her outfit this year.

...The great-grandmother told the Prince the Queen needed to find some new outfits.

...They chatted about the Prince's great-grandmother, the Badminton horse trials and his cooking.

"He told her he liked making shepherd's pie and said he used a masher to mash the potatoes, but she told him he was doing it wrong - he should use a fork to fluff the potatoes," Ms Mead said.

Catherine Masters has now been invited to a garden party with the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 7 July.

"She's off to buy a new dress and hat," Wendy added.


A node in Deborah McMillion-Nering's peer-to-peer network.

Crazyfornia...Am-I-Right, People?

"Crazyfornia"...Am I Right, People?
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

I didn't realize this 2003 Gubernatorial Race highlight was embeddable - so I'm embedding it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Greg Pritchard - Britain's Got Talent

Jesse Ventura On Torture

Give 'em hell, Jesse!

Miss Panama 2009 Explains That Confucius Invented Confusion

At last, we know whom to blame....

Merck PWNS Elsevier

I've always had doubts about Elsevier, and this just crystallizes those doubts. I blogged about the Merck Vioxx controversy four times before, in 2005, just because it was SO egregious. I didn't realize just HOW bad the corruption had gone, though:
A fascinating court case in Australia has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug ­Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck has paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America – however, they deny any fault.

British users of the drug have had their application for legal aid rejected, incidentally: the health minister, Ivan Lewis, promised to help them, but documents obtained by the Guardian last week showed that within hours Merck launched an expensive lobbying effort that convinced the minister to back off.

This is a shame, because court cases can be tremendously revealing.

The first fun thing to emerge in the Australian case is email documentation showing staff at Merck made a "hit list" of doctors who were critical of the company, or of the drug. This list contained words such as "neutralise", "neutralised" and "discredit" next to the names of various doctors.

"We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," said one email, from a Merck employee. Staff are also alleged to have used other tactics, such as trying to interfere with academic appointments, and dropping hints about how funding to institutions might dry up. Institutions might think about whether they wish to receive money from a company like that in future. Worse still, is the revelation that Merck paid the publisher Elsevier to produce a publication.

...This time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog, giving Merck an entire publication which resembled an academic journal, although in fact it only contained reprinted articles, or summaries, of other articles. In issue 2, for example, nine of the 29 articles concerned Vioxx, and a dozen of the remainder were about another Merck drug, Fosamax. All of these articles presented positive conclusions. Some were bizarre: such as a review article containing just two references.

In a statement to The Scientist magazine, Elsevier at first said the company "does not today consider a compilation of reprinted articles a 'journal'". I would like to expand on this ­statement: It was a collection of academic journal articles, published by the academic journal publisher Elsevier, in an academic ­journal-shaped package. Perhaps if it wasn't an academic journal they could have made this clearer in the title which, I should have mentioned, was named: The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine.

Things have deteriorated since. It turns out that Elsevier put out six such journals, sponsored by industry.

...The pharmaceutical industry, and publishers, as we have repeatedly seen, have serious difficulties in living up to the high standards needed in this field, and bad information in the medical literature leads doctors to make irrational prescribing decisions, which ultimately can cost lives, and cause unnecessary suffering, not to mention the expense.

...The real tragedy is that the cost of distorted information, and irrational prescribing, is far greater than the cost of the research that could prevent it. Health systems pay for these drugs – state-funded in almost every single developed country – and they largely pay for the journals, too. In a sensible world, countries would band together and pay for comparative research themselves, and the free, open distribution of the results, to prevent all this nonsense.

We do not live in a sensible world.

Theater as Therapy

Sacramento Parent Magazine ran this article about the SENSE program last month:
Fifteen-year-old Esteban Marchant used to find the sight and sound of crowds unbearable, yet last February he walked onto the stage of the Davis Musical Theatre, before an audience of more than 200 people, with an easy smile on his face, took his place under the lights, listened for his music cue, and began to sing.

He performed Elton John’s “Your Song,” swaying to the melody and smiling, beaming as he finished crooning that last line—how wonderful life is when you’re in the world. The crowd responded with applause that quickly swelled into a standing ovation. “I loved it,” Esteban says of the experience. Esteban’s achievement on stage that night would make any parent proud, but because Esteban has autism and did not speak for many years, it was an especially meaningful moment for his mom and dad. (To see a clip of Esteban's '07 performance of the same song on YouTube, click here.)

David Villasenor, Esteban’s dad, still remembers his son’s first sentence: I want outside. “It was like a metaphor,” David says, “like he wanted to go outside of his autism and start talking.” Now Esteban is helping other kids “go outside” of their autism. His solo performance in February was part of a community fundraising event for SENSE Theatre, a unique research program designed to help children with autism communicate better, stress less in social situations, and gain confidence.

... “It really doesn’t feel like therapy,” says SENSE Theatre co-founder and parent advocate, Christine Totah, “it feels like a lot of fun!” That fun factor is a key part of the program.

SENSE Theatre’s other founder, Blythe Corbett, Ph.D. and assistant professor of Psychiatry at UC Davis, is a pediatric neuropsychologist with a background in professional acting and writing. She researches autism at UC Davis’ MIND Institute (Medical Investigation of Neurological Disorders) with Joan Gunther, Psy.D., who has dedicated fifteen years to working with children with autism. (SENSE stands for Social-Emotional NeuroScience Endocrinology.)

SENSE Theatre debuts its first full production, Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids, in June at the Davis Musical Theater Company. Corbett and Gunther supervise the children’s progress while Jeni Price, who has a background in developmental psychology and early childhood special education, directs the show. The cast is currently comprised of thirty-five children (ages 7-16), eight of whom have autism.

...“Theater is so nice because it is practiced interactions,” says Gunther. “Children with autism are very comfortable with a routine and structure, so when something is scripted… it takes the fear away. They know what is coming… and what they can expect.” Over time, a child may come to understand why he is making a certain expression in a particular context. He may even learn how to use that expression appropriately offstage.

Judge Can Really Clear The Court

Hear ye! Hear (*cough*) ye!:
A coughing Italian judge cleared a panicking courtroom when he told lawyers: "I've just got back from Mexico."

More than 30 attorneys in Rome told Judge Giovanni Barese they were boycotting the court and adjourning their cases because of fear of swine flu.

..."I've never seen so many lawyers agree on anything in court so quickly but we all decided we had to get as far away from him as possible.

"Maybe he hasn't got swine flu but no one was prepared to take the risk.

Go, Alan Grayson!

Let's Go! Coming Soon!

"Let's Go! Reality Musical", a Pepper Von Production, is coming the weekend of May 22 - 24, at the Crest Theater.

Then, of course, Artistic Differences will be staging "Tommy" on Monday the 25th.

Then DJ Tiesto is coming on the 30th.

Then the Bolshoi Ballet is coming to Berkeley on the weekend of June 7th.

Just too much goin' on!

Uh Oh, Here We Go Again!

Just last Tuesday, fire engines raced to 926 J Street (10th & J Street), all for a false alarm.

It's Monday, and here they go again!

Wow, more fire engines, and they are all hooked up to the fire hydrants too!

Yet, even before they can raise their big hydraulic ladder, someone decides the alarm is over and everyone hastens to go back inside.

This is all very mysterious....

Monday, May 11, 2009

DJ Tiesto Is Coming

May 30th at the Sacramento Convention Center! This will be fun!

Artistic Difference's "Tommy" Traffic-Stopper

Nothing beats good marketing! And this exhibition at 20th and J Streets during "Second Saturday" is good marketing!

It's a bit curious no one else jumped in, but perhaps it was obvious even to the lay observer that it was a choreographed dance number.

Monday, May 25th at 7 p.m. at the Crest.

The North Koreans Know Dick Cheney

And they're no Dick Cheney:
Ling and Lee, journalists for former Vice President Al Gore's media venture Current TV, based in San Francisco, have become pawns in a global chess match.

"The girls have become hostages, and a lot of things will depend on high politics," said Andrei N. Lankov, a North Korea specialist at Kookmin University in Seoul and one of the last people whom the two Asian-American journalists contacted before they traveled to North Korea's border with China to investigate the situation of refugees.

Ling's family in suburban Sacramento, Calif., didn't respond to requests for comment. Lee's family couldn't be reached.

North Korea said this week that it would put the two Americans on trial, and suggested that they could face years in a prison camp.

Scholars of North Korea said the women's situation was dramatic but that Pyongyang probably would seek to exchange them for concessions rather than throw them in prison.

"I'm not overly worried about their welfare," said Aidan Foster-Carter, an author on North Korea issues who's retired from Leeds University in Britain. The North Koreans "will want to trade them for something or other."

North Korea appears to be holding the women in a protocol house in Pyongyang.

"The rumor was that they are being housed at one of the guest villas," said Han S. Park, a University of Georgia expert who was visiting North Korea as part of a private U.S. delegation after the women were captured. Park told CNN International that the North Koreans scoffed at any suggestion that the Americans were receiving harsh treatment.

"They laughed. 'We are not Guantanamo.' That's what they said," Park said.

Andrew Sullivan On Dick Cheney

Interesting post (reproduced in full):
I don't know how else to interpret his obviously self-destructive grandstanding this weekend. But think of the long view for a moment. Here is a former vice-president, who enjoyed unprecedented power for eight long, long years. No veep ever wielded power like he did in the long history of American government. In the months after 9/11, he swept all Congressional resistance away, exerted total executive power, wielded a military and paramilitary apparatus far mightier than all its rivals combined and mightier than any power in history, tapped any phone he wanted, claimed the right to torture any suspect he wanted (and followed through with thousands, from Bagram to Abu Ghraib) and was able to print and borrow money with impunity to finance all of it without a worry in the world. But even after all that, he cannot tolerate a few months of someone else, duly elected, having a chance to govern the country with a decent interval of grace.

What character does this reveal? The same character that sees torture - torture - as a "no-brainer". The same man who believes that freezing naked prisoners to hypothermia or strapping them to a board for a 175th near-drowning or stringing them up in stress positions so long the shackles rust up is in line with America's constitutional history and custom. The same tyrannical temperament that cannot abide another reality existing which isn't hammered or tortured into the shape he wants and demands.

Worse: he launches verbal assault after assault on the men and women who succeeded him. He accuses them of risking the lives of Americans, of making America less safe, and openly brags that his violation of the Geneva Conventions worked. Not content with writing his memoirs and letting history judge, he flails around like some prize fish, flapping on the deck of the boat, opening and shutting his mouth as his career expires.

And as history slowly accepts that this man disgraced his office more profoundly than any before him, as it sinks in that this man did not merely make mistakes, as all flawed politicians do, but committed war crimes, with pre-meditation and elaborate subterfuge, he slowly realizes what's happening to him. He can feel it. And so he resists the way he always resists - by lashing out, attacking, smearing, snearing, and grabbing every inch of the limelight he can.

Those of us who want him to face real accountability should, of course, welcome all this. Cheney does not seem to understand that he is incriminating himself further with every interview, every time he adjusts his story, every time he moves from torture as a "no-brainer" to a "last resort", every time he assaults yet another person who knows too much about him and what he did.

But does Cheney really believe that in a battle for the judgment of the American people, and for history, he will win a brawl with Colin Powell, with a man who is actually on record early on warning of the dire consequences of weakening or abandoning the Geneva Conventions?

Cheney wants a war with him? Now? Judged in the theater of public opinion - outside the Hannity-Limbaugh-Coulter ghetto?

They really do want to commit suicide, don't they? Well, I'm not in a rush to stop them.

The Solution To The Housing Crisis

Dragnet Explores The Drug Subculture

Mound Blog

If it piles up, they'll post a photo of it.

The Trouble With Lawns

Lots of work, and for what is not exactly clear:
I remember studying a tribal group in New Guinea during a college anthropology course, where the tribal members status was determined by the size of the pile of rotting yams in front of each hut (yams being their staple food). The bigger the pile of rotting yams in front of your hut the higher your status was. The people in the tribe worked very hard to pile up extra yams so they can be left to rot. I think that's a big part of the motivation at work here for creating these monster lawns.

Billy The Kitt

High Noon for New Mexico's favorite cat.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Second Saturday Suddenly More Popular Than Chicken

Is it just me or is there something weird going on? Like Mormon crickets on a desert rampage, Midtown streets were just swarming tonight.....

Maxfield Parrish Exhibit Opening - Crocker Art Museum

Left: The Crocker Art Museum on a pleasant Saturday evening.

Left: The Crocker Art Museum Expansion Project, scheduled for a 2010 completion.

Left: Nice ambiance!

DMTC YPT - "Schoolhouse Rock, Live!"


Left: Kelsey G. leads the ensemble in "Three Is A Magic Number".
Left: Ashley H., Tessa H., McKinley C., and x.

Left: Wyatt M. in "Just A Bill".

Left: Kailey S. and Taelen R. in "The Preamble".

Left: Kendyl I., flanked by Claire D. and x.

Left: "Do The Circulation".

Left: "Do The Circulation".

Left: Steven F. and Ashley H., and Katurah J. in "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla".

Left: "A Victim Of Gravity". McKinley C., Ashley H., Katurah J., Wyatt M., Danika C., Kelsey G., Natalie M.

Left: "Zero My Hero", featuring Petra F. Clockwise from lower left: Kailani C., x, Ashley H., Claire D., Natalie M.

Left: "Great American Melting Pot". Below, Genevieve K. and Natalie M. Above, left to right: Steven F., Claire D., and Ashley H.

Left: Left to right, Tessa H., x, Kelsey G., Kailey S., and McKinley C.

Left: McKinley C. behind, Left to right, Petra F., x, Natalie M., Danika C.

Left: Danika C. in "The Tale Of Mr. Morton".