Saturday, June 06, 2009

Fun Wedding Dance

Scrub Jays Come Bursting Out The Hedge!

Ever since I lost Baby Blue two years ago, I've been setting out bird seed in the back alley to help make the neighborhood more bird-friendly, and maybe encourage other Scrub Jays to make another attempt at nesting in my back yard.

I've been attracting all sorts of urban-type birds - flotillas of sparrows arrive in the morning, followed by doves (midday), pigeons (afternoon), and crows (evening) - but given their large numbers in Sacramento, Scrub Jays have been surprisingly scarce at my feeding station.

Nevertheless, lately I noticed a couple of Scrub Jays making occasional visits. I was happy to see them there.

Last week, I thought I heard baby birds, but convinced myself they were next door, or at least somewhere out-of-sight.

Leaving my back yard gate this morning, I was startled by a panicked juvenile Scrub Jay falling through the hedge and landing nearly at my feet. Unlike Baby Blue, who I rescued at a much earlier stage of development, this bird was nearly adult-sized, but was clearly inexpert at flying. The bird ended up in my yard, where fortunately no cat is to be found, and was followed by a watchful and concerned parent. I set out some bird seed on the ground, and left for twenty minutes.

When I returned, the juvenile was gone - he must have figured out how to fly well enough to escape - but I was baffled how he had ended up there. The only way I could figure out how a juvenile fledgling had ended up in the hedge was if the nest was already in the hedge. But surely, I would have noticed a Scrub Jay nest in the hedge long ago. After all, Scrub Jays aren't secretive birds, and I'm not THAT dense to have completely missed their presence.

Call me clueless.

Suddenly I realized the hedge was fairly bursting with Scrub Jays! Amazingly, a family of Scrub Jays had set up a nest in my hedge, virtually in the same place the Scrub Jay nest had been two years ago (I wonder if they are the same parents?) Somehow, the birds managed to do all this without attracting my attention. Now, several baby birds were all learning to fly at the same time, and their presence could no longer be concealed even from the densest sort of humans (such as myself).

I spent the afternoon watching several Scrub Jays flying to and from the hedge and the 'fountain', where a small but rather nasty-looking remnant of water provided sustenance. The parents grabbed seeds and bugs and repeatedly fed their hungry charges. The parents also harassed squirrels that entered the yard and generally policed the perimeter.

The next several days are a dangerous time for the inexpert baby fliers, and there are cats in the yards to the left and right of me. Still, the encouraging success of the parents to date makes me optimistic. If these parents are the same parents as two years ago, they've clearly learned a lot, and aren't making the same mistakes. Working together, we might succeed in emptying the entire nest without incident!

New Zealand Is First On The GPI

All quiet in the marine hemisphere:
Tunis, June 4, 2009- The 2009 Global Peace Index which provides rankings for 144 countries, has ranked Tunisia second safest country in Africa and the 5th in the Arab world. Tunisia which is credited with a score of 1.698 points, is ranked 44th in the world.

...New Zealand is credited by the report as being the first most at peace nation in the world; it is followed by Denmark and Norway. By comparison, Great Britain is ranked 35th and the United States appear in 83rd position. In Africa, Botswana is ranked first and is credited with being 34th in the world.

Among Arab nations Qatar is first (16), followed by Oman (20) the UAE (40) and Kuwait (42). Iraq is ranked at the bottom of the list (144).

Sob Story

I'm a liberal. Give me a sob story, and I'll sob, but this story is still too hard to sob over unless I squeeze some lemon juice in my eyes. After all, when blacks attack whites, the solution is to jail 'em. Right? R-I-G-H-T? At least Epstein is still free. He can enroll in a less-tony law school somewhere else:
Last month the left wing blog, One People’s Project, posted a story about one Marcus Epstein. Within this story it was reported that two years ago next month Marcus assaulted a black woman in Georgetown calling her the “n” word.

That blog and its hundred spinoffs then got to the juicy part of the story: Marcus Epstein is executive director of The American Cause, founded by Pat Buchanan and of Team America, founded by Tom Tancredo.

...What happened next was a modern day lynching by a faceless, angry, ignorant mob who reveled in the collective assault on their victim. They had wounded an adversary and drawn blood -- without pausing to ask how so talented a young man could have found himself in such a mess.

...While his intelligence and ability were evident, Marcus had serious problems. He drank to excess and suffered periods of deep depression. One Sunday early in 2007 Marcus called and asked if he could come to my home to talk. He was afraid of what he might do if he were alone another minute.

...Early one Saturday evening, several months later, I received a call from a friend of Marcus’. “Marcus is in jail,” he told me. The two of them had gone to Georgetown to have a drink before joining others for dinner, he explained. When they left their drinking hole, however, Marcus was completely intoxicated, nearly incapable of walking. It was then that the incident occurred.

Marcus was arrested and released that same evening. Unable to face this new level of disgrace and failure, he went to his office where he drank to make the pain go away -- for good. He was hospitalized for a week. His parents flew into town, conferred with Marcus, his doctors and his friends. It was clear. Marcus urgently needed professional help.

...As for the assault Marcus was charged and a plea bargain was worked out.

It took Marcus a year after this incident to start thinking about a future. He took the LSATs and was accepted at the University of Virginia Law School on early admissions. The presence of a strong recovery community was one of the reasons he chose UVA and was ready to move to Charlottesville next month.

But the Left doesn’t care about any of this. They kept moving this little tidbit, watching it ricochet around their shallow world in the blogosphere, until it landed on a popular site for incoming law students. There individuals who claim they’re interested in carrying-out justice in this world saw to it that Marcus paid again for his offense. With nothing but a skeleton of a story they initiated a campaign targeted at UVA’s Admission Office. And they won -- Marcus will not be attending UVA Law School in the fall.

Marcus Epstein is one of the bravest young people I have ever known. He deserved a second chance -- as do all of us.

Comedian Don Friesen Plays The "Industrial Warehouse Musical Theatre Company"

Because I was gazing at children's art in Woodland, I was late in arriving at DMTC to see Don Friesen (and the comedian who warmed up the audience of about 60). Nevertheless, I did get to see some of his act.

On marriage, and being a 'wuss'.

'Jerry Seinfeld'

Starting the "Airline Pilot" skit.

'Travel between LA and Sacramento is so easy on Southwest Airlines. Only 5 stops.'

First Friday Woodland Art Walk

Went with Sally to the Studio Art Gallery and to Gallery 625 (basically, in the big building adjacent to the Courthouse). Looked at some nice paintwork on metal, some vase-type things, and children's art. Met Woodland Mayor Skip Davies, and his wife. A nice time!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Making NZ Islands More Kiwi Friendly

These islands are very close to Auckland (although Rangitoto's fairly-recent volcanism makes it a less-inviting sort of place, in general). Here's hoping for some success stories, because the kiwi need them:
Helicopters will begin dropping poisoned rat-bait on Rangitoto and Motutapu islands in less than a fortnight as the Department of Conservation prepares to repopulate them with rare birds including the kiwi.

The bait drop is the latest stage in more than a decade's work to turn the islands into a bird sanctuary.

Between June 15 and the end of October, helicopters will sprinkle the islands with green bait containing the rat poison Brodifacoum. There will be three bait drops lasting two to three days at least two weeks apart and the islands will be closed for a week after each drop.

...Ms Jack said notices would be posted on ferries to the islands advising people to keep an eye on their children in the few weeks after the bait drops.

"You would have to eat a lot of it [to be harmed]," she said.

About 30 staff will be involved in each bait drop, loading helicopter buckets and keeping an eye on operations from the ground.

After each drop bait will be cleared from the areas where dotterels make their homes in case the rare birds become ill from eating sandhoppers or other insects affected by the bait. Possums and wallabies were cleared from the islands in 1996. Once the remaining pests are gone DoC will introduced kiwis and other ground-dwelling birds, while strong fliers such as bellbirds and tui are expected to find their way over in larger numbers.

The Wise Latina Says You Don't Eat Enough Fiber

So, avoid the Metamucil and eat some carrots, or something.

Rarely Is The Question Asked Is Our Politicians Computer-Literate?

It's always amusing when politicians get all optimistic and futuristic and talk about things they have only the fuzziest understanding about. With just a few exceptions (Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, maybe Al Gore), when it comes to technology, they're all C students.

In the 60's, LBJ drove NASA engineers to bang their foreheads on the wall when he described how their beloved moon rockets worked, but it was all a labor of love, wasn't it? Ronald Reagan never understood Star Wars, of course, or why it could never work, while nevertheless spending billions on it. And, of course, Al Gore loves the Internet!

Today's technology-challenged pol is Minnesota's Norm Coleman:
"In the end, we need to compete, as I've said before, we need to compete in each and every kind of forum," said Coleman. "And whether it's on the ground traditionally, or today it's in -- it's in the ethernet. It's in the -- you know, it's online. It's in the blogs, it's Twitter, it's Facebook, and the next iteration."
Despite the cramped conditions, if Norm Coleman wants to climb into my computer's cabling and compete in there, then the more power to him! Better that, than his current quixotic efforts to keep Al Franken from taking his rightful place in the U.S. Senate.

Feeling The Hate

Here is a remarkable video regarding what some young American Jews abroad in Israel think about Obama.

As Joseph Dana writes:
It’s about entitlement, stupid.

Max and I went on to the streets of Jerusalem at ten o’clock on a Wednesday to ascertain the feelings of the young population about Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo. As is often the case, the streets of central Jerusalem were not filled with native Israelis but American Jews. Doubtlessly anyone who has visited Jerusalem has encountered the droves of American Jewish kids that are sent to Israel to study for a period of time from Teaneck or Westchester. We asked people a simple question, “What do you think of Obama and Israel?” Most of the people that we talked to were dual American Israeli citizens. The answers in this video reflect the education and worrisome perspectives that many American Jews harbor towards Israeli politics. The sense of entitlement that the American Jewish community has when it comes to Israeli policy is on full raw display in the words of these young adults.
Neocon pandering just to a certain strain of Jewish sensibility is what ultimately gave us the Iraq War, and what ultimately might give us an Iran War too. It's time to take back control of American foreign policy, make it more even-handed, and not automatically equate every Arab grievance with terrorism. Not only would that be good for the U.S., but by slowing down Jewish expansion in the West Bank, it'll help calm the waters, and ultimately be good for these folks too.

"Public Enemies" - Johnny Depp

Nancy from Downers Grove, IL, wrote a very nice letter to me describing an experience last year: being an extra in the upcoming movie, "Public Enemies" , starring Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, and Christian Bale:
In the action-thriller Public Enemies, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard in the incredible and true story of legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Depp), the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover's fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public. No one could stop Dillinger. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone, from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard), to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression. But while the adventures of Dillinger's gang (later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham)) thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw's capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America's first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing "Clark Gable of the FBI". However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis' men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptized as agents), who were real gunfighters, and orchestrating epic betrayals, from the infamous "Lady in Red" to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti, were Purvis and the FBI able to close in on Dillinger.
Nancy writes:
I'm in the nightclub scene with dancers & band & singer (Diane Krall). You aren't likely to see me (sitting at a table or walking in the background), but you never know. It was a killer schedule - took way too long with very little time to sleep - but at least that scene only took 2 or 3 days to film (it took place last May '08). The costumes and hair took hours and hours (all day). Now I watch movies with a very different eye, knowing just a little bit of what goes into it. I was not at the audition for the dancers (it got screwed up and wasn't advertised), but I'm glad I didn't have to suffer standing up all night, wearing terrible shoes that were very painful. Those guys were tortured! The director was exceptionally picky and took SO many re-shoots and made us wait while he studied each re-shoot.
Odlly enough, though, all this ties in with a previous part of my life.

When I lived in Tucson, AZ, attending the University of Arizona, I lived at Dr. Tom's house, which was directly across the street from what was known as the "Dillinger House": where John Dillinger was once captured:
The Dillinger gang, hiding from its recent East Chicago, Ind., bank robbery, might have enjoyed Tucson weather longer if a grease fire hadn't started in the basement of the Hotel Congress. Flames roared up the elevator shaft, engulfing the third floor. Hotel occupants quickly evacuated, but gang members delayed trying to collect their bags. With the hall blocked by fire and smoke, the gang members retreated to a window, where the Tucson Fire Department rescued them with an aerial ladder. As soon as he was rescued, gang member Charles Makley tipped firemen William Benedict and Kenneth Pender $12 to climb back up and retrieve his bags. That baggage would be the downfall of the Dillinger gang.

Today, the actual 1928 LaFrance firetruck involved in the rescue of the gangsters is on display. When James Timney of Flagstaff looked at an old photograph of the Hotel Congress fire, he realized the dilapidated firetruck in his back yard was the one in the photo. He donated the truck to Tucson, which is trying to raise funds to restore the truck.

After the 1934 blaze, firemen Benedict and Pender were thumbing through a copy of True Detective magazine and noticed two of the magazine's "wanted men" seemed to be the same as the ones eager to have their luggage rescued. Suspecting they had big-time criminals there, the police set up stakeouts. The work paid off. Makley was captured at Grabe Electric Co., where he was looking for a radio that monitored police calls. The local lady with him was released and cautioned to "pick her friends more carefully."

Next to be drawn into the police net were Russell "Art" Clark and his girlfriend, Opal Long, arrested at a rented house at 327 N. Second Ave. (MPV note: I think the address is incorrect here, but nevermind) Clark and Long put up a fight until a knock on the head convinced Clark to cooperate.

Gang member Harry Pierpont and his girlfriend, Mary Kinder, actually drove to the police station, not knowing they were turning themselves in. The police had spotted Pierpont's car leaving a motor court and, thinking fast, stopped him. Ad-libbing, they politely explained that because he had out-of-state license plates, he must stop by the police station and pick up a "visitor sticker." Pierpont agreed, and one of the policemen rode with him to show him the way, pretending not to notice the machine guns under the back seat. Inside the police station, Pierpont realized he'd been duped when he spotted some of the vests and guns taken from other gang members. He reached for his gun, but policemen stopped him.

That left Dillinger and his girlfriend, Evelyn "Billie" Frechette. Again, police staked out the house on Second Avenue and surprised Dillinger as he arrived. Dumbfounded that the "hick-town cops" had caught him, he surrendered.

Dillinger and his gang resided in Tucson for only 10 days, from the time they arrived until they were extradited to Indiana, but Tucson still celebrates the capture with Dillinger Days.
So, it all ties together, somehow. The reason John Dillinger robbed them Indiana banks in the 1930's was so that Nancy would write me a nice letter 75 years later. Or something like that....

You'd Have A Point, If....

Reality is a hard mistress:
Jim Inhofe (R-OK) calls them like he sees them:
Sen. Jim Inhofe said today that President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo was “un-American” because he referred to the war in Iraq as “a war of choice” and didn’t criticize Iran for developing a nuclear program.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, also criticized the president for suggesting that torture was conducted at the military prison in Guantanamo, saying, “There has never been a documented case of torture at Guantanamo.”

“I just don’t know whose side he’s on,” Inhofe said of the president.
And Inhofe would have an excellent point if it wasn't for the fact that Iraq was a war of choice, Obama did criticize Iran, and we did torture detainees at Guantanamo.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

24-Hour Rainfall Amounts For The Sac Metro Area

Sac Exec Airport, the station closest to my house, is on top! Woo hoo!

: 1 HR 2 HR 3 HR 6 HR 12 HR 24 HR
: ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
: 3PM 2PM 1PM 10AM 4AM 4PM
: 4PM 4PM 4PM 4PM 4PM 4PM

WDDC1 : WOODLAND R( 70) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.05/ 0.15
SMF : SAC INT`L ARPT Z( 20) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.05/ 0.43
SAPC1 : SAC INT`L APRT R( 20) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04/ 0.40
RILC1 : RIO LINDA R( 42) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04
SMTC1 : CSU - SACRAMENTO R( 38) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04/ +
SAC : SACRAMENTO EXEC Z( 21) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.02/ 0.56
ELGC1 : ELK GROVE R( 45) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.16
COSC1 : WILTON R( 75) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.12
GGSC1 : WALNUT GROVE R( 20) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04/ 0.12
RNCC1 : RANCHO CORDOVA R( 72) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.08
ORGC1 : ORANGEVALE R( 233) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.20
CHCC1 : FAIR OAKS R( 220) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.12
FCRC1 : FOLSOM R( 340) : + / + / + / + / + / +
FSLC1 : FOLSOM POINT R( 550) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04/ 0.08
NUNC1 : CITRUS HEIGHTS R( 140) : + / + / + / + / + / +
RTPC1 : ROSEVILLE R( 410) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.16
SRCC1 : ROCKLIN R( 340) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04/ +
LICC1 : LINCOLN G( 200) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.03/ 0.19
LDOC1 : LOOMIS R( 440) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.12
NWCC1 : NEWCASTLE R( 890) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ +
AAPC1 : AUBURN R(1550) : 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.00/ 0.04/ 0.40

Everyone Needs To Do Karaoke....

Because it's the best way to discover your limitations and learn a bit of humility.

Dick Cheney Blames 9/11 On Richard Clarke

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As Jon Stewart says:
Cheney naturally was unable to acknowledge this criticism. In his patented f-you manner, he replied, “Dick Clarke? Dick Clarke who was the head of the counter-terrorism program in the run-up to 9/11. He obviously missed it.”

“Holy crap!” commented an awestruck Stewart. “Did he just blame 9/11 on Dick Clarke?”

“The same Dick Clarke,” Stewart continued. “who had written a letter to Condoleezza Rice on January 25, 2001 — five days after Bush and Cheney took office — warning them about al Qaeda and asking for a high level meeting? Or the same Dick Clarke that on September 4, 2001 — a week before the attack — sent them a memo warning them of an attack that would leave hundreds dead?”

“Or are you maybe talking about the Dick Clark who hosts New Year’s Rockin’ Eve?” Stewart added sarcastically. “Because that one I can understand — not the other one.”

Stewart was as appalled, however, by the audience’s response to Cheney as by Cheney himself. “Let’s now look at the moment,” he suggested, “that epitomizes everything that is wrong with Dick Cheney — his arrogance — the media — their acquiescence — and the delightfully witty relationship between the two.”

“You said that Richard Clarke must have missed 9/11,” the NPC interviewer asked. “Wasn’t he warning the White House for months of chatter about an attack?”

“That’s not my recollection,” Cheney sneered. He added to laughs from the audience, “But I haven’t read his book.”

“That’s a good one, Mr. Cheney!” Stewart chortled, mocking the Nation Press Club audience’s response. “I guess you never read the memos either … and then we went to war in Iraq because of bad intelligence distributed in your behest … and then we started torturing people. Good times!”

What They Know Right Now...

Left: Reconstruction from here.

...And given the location, maybe mostly all that they'll ever know:
A Brazilian helicopter crew recovered the first wreckage from Air France Flight 447 today, pulling a cargo pallet from the sea. No sign of human remains have been spotted, and Air France has told families that the jetliner broke apart, killing all 228 people on board.

Two buoys -- standard emergency equipment on planes -- also were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean about 340 miles (550 kilometers) northeast of Brazil's northern Fernando de Noronha islands by the helicopter crew, which was working off a Brazilian navy ship.

Air France's CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told family members at a private meeting that the Airbus A330 disintegrated, either in the air or when it slammed into the ocean and there were no survivors, according to Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, a grief counselor who was asked by Paris prosecutors to help counsel relatives.

...With the crucial "black box" voice and data recorders still missing, investigators were relying heavily on the plane's automated messages to help reconstruct what happened as the jet flew through towering thunderstorms.

The messages detail a series of failures that end with its systems shutting down, suggesting the plane broke apart in the sky, according to an aviation industry official with knowledge of the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the crash.

...France's accident investigation agency said only two findings have been established so far: One is that the series of automatic messages sent from Flight 447 gave conflicting signals about the plane's speed; the other is that the flight path went through dangerously stormy weather.

...Seas were calm today with periodic rain as ships converged on three debris sites to recover wreckage, but French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said extreme cloudiness" prevented U.S. satellites from helping.

"The clock is ticking on finding debris before they spread out and before they sink or disappear," Prazuck said. "That's the priority now, the next step will be to look for the black boxes."

French planes and a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion surveillance plane joined Brazil's Air Force, whose pilots guided Navy ships to debris areas across a search zone of 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers), said Brazil Air Force Gen. Ramon Borges Cardoso.

Other debris spotted so far includes a 23-foot (seven-meter) chunk of plane, an airline seat, an oil slick and several large brown and yellow pieces that Cardoso said probably came from inside the plane.

Brazil's Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said debris had spread more than 140 miles (230 kilometers) apart in currents roughly 400 miles (640 kilometers) northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil's northern coast, where the ocean floor drops as low as 22,950 feet (7,000 meters) below sea level.

The Pourquoi Pas, a French sea research vessel carrying manned and unmanned submarines, is heading from the Azores and will be in the search zone by June 12, Prazuck said. The equipment includes the Nautile, a mini-sub used to explore the undersea wreckage of the Titanic, according to French marine institute Ifremer.

But the lead French investigator has questioned whether the recorders will ever be found in such deep and rugged underwater terrain.

...The last message from the pilot was a manual signal at 11 p.m. local time Sunday saying he was flying through an area of black, electrically charged cumulonimbus clouds that come with violent winds and lightning. The automated messages that followed suggest the plane broke apart in the sky, according to the aviation industry official.

At 11:10 p.m., a cascade of problems began: the autopilot had disengaged, a key computer system switched to alternative power, and controls needed to keep the plane stable had been damaged. An alarm sounded indicating the deterioration of flight systems. Then, systems for monitoring air speed, altitude and direction failed. Then controls over the main flight computer and wing spoilers failed as well. At 11:14 p.m., a final automatic message signaled loss of cabin pressure and complete electrical failure as the plane was breaking apart.

Patrick Smith, a U.S. airline pilot and aviation analyst, said the failures could have begun with a loss of electrical power, possibly as the result of an extremely strong lightning bolt.

"What jumps out at me is the reported failure of both the primary and standby instruments," Smith said. "From that point the plane basically becomes unflyable."

"If they lost control and started spiraling down into a storm cell, the plane would begin disintegrating, the engines and wings would start coming off, the cabin would begin falling apart," he said.

The pilot of a Spanish airliner flying nearby at the time reported seeing a bright flash of white light plunging to the ocean, said Angel del Rio, spokesman for the Spanish airline Air Comet.

"Suddenly, off in the distance, we observed a strong and bright flash of white light that took a downward and vertical trajectory and vanished in six seconds," the pilot wrote in his report, del Rio told the AP.

The pilot of the Spanish plane, en route from Lima, Peru to Madrid, said he heard no emergency calls.

Scary Night

3:45 a.m.

Time and again, "Bang!" and "Pow!"

Then the dim ambient light suddenly went to zero and then: "Bang!"

The dim light came back, with the alarm clock twittering and blinking in alarm.

So, I decided to mop the front porch. Not often that I do that, and it needed it. It was certainly fun, with the wind-whipped water spashing around and the tree leaves fluttering and the few passing cars at a crawl.

RIP, David Carradine

Working in Bangkok on a movie.

Badtux Recommends Leonard Cohen

I wandered over to Badtux The Snarky Penguin to see what he was up to. He recommends Leonard Cohen's "The Future":
Leonard Cohen wrote this song in 1992, when it seemed that the future was going to be all roses and peace and such and he was a callow young man of 60 years of age.

I now declare it official: Leonard Cohen is a prophet.
And Badtux is right! Somehow Leonard Cohen was the fly stuck to the wall inside of Dick Cheney's bunker! How did he do that?

What does Wikipedia say about Leonard Cohen?:
Leonard Norman Cohen, CC, GOQ (born September 21, 1934 in Westmount, Quebec) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet, novelist, and artist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. His work often deals with the exploration of religion, isolation, sexuality and complex interpersonal relationships.

Musically, Cohen's earliest songs (many of which appeared on the 1967 album, Songs of Leonard Cohen) were rooted in European folk music. In the 1970s, his material encompassed pop, cabaret and world music. Since the 1980s his high baritone voice has evolved into lower registers (bass baritone and bass), with accompaniment from electronic synthesizers and female backing singers.

Over two thousand renditions of Cohen's songs have been recorded. He has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour. While giving the speech at his induction into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008, Lou Reed described Cohen as belonging to the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters."


...In 1992, Cohen released The Future, which urges (often in terms of biblical prophecy) perseverance, reformation, and hope in the face of grim prospects. Three tracks from the album - "Waiting for the Miracle", "The Future" and "Anthem" - were featured in the movie Natural Born Killers.

In the title track, Cohen prophesies impending political and social collapse, reportedly as his response to the L.A. unrest of 1992: "I've seen the future, brother: It is murder." In "Democracy," Cohen criticizes America but says he loves it: "I love the country but I can't stand the scene." Further, he criticizes the American public's lack of interest in politics and addiction to television: "I'm neither left or right/I'm just staying home tonight/getting lost in that hopeless little screen."

Here are the lyrics:
"The Future"

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it's lonely here,
there's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that's an order!
Give me crack and careless sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

There'll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You'll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
coming round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin'

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

When they said REPENT REPENT ...

Thunderstorms Around Sacramento!

Ack! After years in California, I now have an utter lack of familiarity with this meteorological menace! Run away!

Or better yet hide under a tree......

Ice Fog over Fairbanks, Alaska

One of the interesting things here at work is trying to puzzle out Fairbank's ice fog - how it generates, how it moves, how it interacts with air pollution.

Here are two interesting time lapse videos (from Paul Jensen) showing the ice fog in motion.

(Feb. 6, 2008) Temperatures are around -45F/-43C in the valley, and dense ice fog forms under the very stable inversion layer. A significant source of the ice fog is quite visible - the university power plant.

(Apparently from 2007) The steam plumes from power plants rise until they encounter a lid in form of a strong inversion layer. Here they flatten out and form ice fog which drifts around erratically.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Regulators Vs. The Bullfighters

We need to protect against animal cruelty, of course, but we CAN overdo it. The bullfighters were perfectly justified in getting physical with these intruders:
More than 40 people showed up at an arraignment Tuesday to support two men arrested Friday at a bullfight in Thornton and to defend a decades-long cultural tradition.

Bullfighters Darren Nunes, 24, and Cesar Rocha, 39, were charged with misdemeanor counts of battery on law-enforcement officers. They were released on their own recognizance.

Outside the hearing in San Joaquin Superior Court in Lodi, Sheriff's Deputy Les Garcia said Nunes choked an animal cruelty investigator with the nonprofit Animal Cruelty Investigations who was attempting to confiscate a nail-pointed stick used to shock the bulls.

The deputy said a scuffle broke out, and Rocha became combative with officers and resisted arrest.

Deputy District Attorney Frank Kooger said the investigator suffered stomach and hand injuries, and a deputy suffered back injuries.

The bullfight was part of the 2009 Annual Holy Ghost Festa, a weeklong cultural celebration, sponsored by Elk Grove Sociadade Do Espirito Santo.

In an interview, the supporters, mostly people of Portuguese descent who witnessed the two arrests, said the bullfighters acted in self-defense.

"They thought it was unjust what happened, and that's why they're all here," said Rocha's wife, Luisa.

Attorneys at the arraignment said the animal rights investigator is licensed through the state corporations code to enforce anti-cruelty laws.

Witnesses said he entered the bull arena unprotected, wearing a flannel shirt, shorts and a backward hat, and didn't show his badge until after the incident.

"He could have gotten killed," spectator Ken Rocha said. "He's not supposed to cross the arena the way he did."

Animal Cruelty Investigations attorney David Casselman said the officer notified deputies he would be at the event and was wearing street clothes so he wouldn't be recognized.

"We'd rather people weren't arrested," Casselman said. "We'd rather these bullfights stop."

The California penal code allows bloodless bullfights under certain circumstances, like Friday's religious Holy Ghost celebration, Kooger said.

At Friday's bullfight, the investigator intervened because he thought bulls were being injured, Casselman said.

Fighter assistant Annie Bertao said the spikes don't draw blood when they puncture, but only shock the bulls to give the matador enough time to get away.

Bullfighting follows a Portuguese tradition of more than 1,000 years. In California, bullfights occur at the end of weeklong religious celebrations all summer, Bertao said.

"Forty years of this, and we've never been interrupted this way," Bertao said.

More than 2,000 attended Friday's fight at the Praça São João arena, attendee Sam Tunnell said.

Air France 447 Accident Meteorology

John sends this:
Much of this is beyond me but it seems pretty interesting.
Very interesting analysis! That’s a pretty formidable wall of thunderstorms they were trying to go over, or through. Because of the Hadley Cell circulation, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), generally 5 to 10 degrees north of the equator in a belt all around the globe, is a predictable place for thunderstorm activity. Even though I’m a baby at these things, I knew enough when traveling to NZ and AU to do a double check on the ITCZ before leaving. Fortunately all we experienced was slight bumpiness, and no storms. Not everyone is so lucky, though. Like the fellow says, precipitation formation can lag in young, violent updrafts, so despite their weather radar, the air crew may have been surprised by the violence of the storms.

The fact that the debris is scattered, concentrated perhaps into two patches, suggests the aircraft broke up in flight. Perhaps there was an explosion, something like 1996’s TWA Flight 800. Could lightning have triggered an explosion, perhaps because turbulence- or hail-induced damage to the wings or the airframe reduced its faraday-cage protection against lightning?

Like the fellow says, the temperatures seem too cold for hail, but mesoscale convective systems (MCS) are powerful and sometimes act like overheated popcorn poppers, chucking hailstones far from where one would normally expect to see them. So, theoretically you shouldn't see any hail at all? Fine. Here's a block of ice the size of a baseball to chew on while we ponder this riddle.

Like they say, there probably isn’t a single cause. In 1912, the Titanic’s multiple failures revealed how modern systems are vulnerable to failure cascades, no single event of which is fatal, but only in combination. Many aircraft accidents feature a failure cascade of some sort, like the recent commuter plane crash in Buffalo, where perfect icing conditions, shoddy pilot training, poor pay and resulting pilot fatigue combined to create a disaster. The Air France accident somehow seems like it should have been avoidable – people avoid similar conditions every day around the globe – but that’s the trouble with accidents – you don’t see them coming.

DJ Tiesto, Sacramento - 5/30/09

Disney's: The Jungle Book Kids Opens This Weekend

DMTC Storybook Theatre and SENSE Theatre - A Stage of Hope For Children with Autism Present: Disney's: The Jungle Book Kids

The jungle is jumpin’ with jazz is this exciting Disney classic! Join Mowgli, Baloo, King Louie and the gang as they swing their way through madcap adventures and thwart the ferocious tiger, Shere Khan. Specially adapted from the beloved film, this musical includes all your favorite Disney tunes, like “The Bare Necessities,” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.” With colorful characters and that toe-tapping jungle rhythm, The Jungle Book KIDS is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for audiences of all ages.

Directed by Jeni Price
Vocal Direction by Luann Higgs

Saturday, June 6 at 2:15 pm & 7:15 pm**
Sunday, June 7 at 2:15 pm
Saturday, June 13, at 2:15 pm & 7:15 pm
Sunday June 14 at 11:15 am
Tickets: $7 all ages

**Special Gala Performance with proceeds to Support the SENSE Theatre Research Program: tickets will be $20. Please join us for Indian appetizers, refreshments and dessert.

Tickets $7 all ages for all other performances (seating reserved); For all audiences.


Children with autism have challenges with basic communication, social interaction, and expressing emotions in age appropriate ways. SENSE Theater is combining art and science to enhance social interaction in those impacted by this prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 150 American children.

SENSE Theater is a unique theatrical intervention research program designed to improve the social and emotional functioning of children with autism. The highly innovative program provides supportive behavioral intervention in a theatrical setting and joins youth actors, who are experts in social communication and language, with autistic children to facilitate change.

SENSE Theater's first full stage production, "Disney's The Jungle Book Kids," is in collaboration with Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), directed by Jeni Price, and runs June 6 - June 14, 2009. The inaugural production includes 36 performers, including several children with autism participating in the SENSE Theatre program. A special gala performance will be held on Saturday, June 6 at 7:15 pm with proceeds to benefit the SENSE Theatre non-profit research program. Tickets are available for $20 for the gala night at the 238-seat Davis Musical Theatre, located at 607 Peña Drive in Davis. Regular performances are held June 7th, 13th, and 14th (for $7 a ticket). Tickets can be purchased online at

Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., founder of SENSE Theatre and assistant professor at University of California, Davis Department of Psychiatry and the M.I.N.D. Institute shares, "By providing an environment for enhanced social communication and interaction, the theatre can be transforming for many people, especially those with autism. SENSE theatre shows how art and science can come together to both create and educate." For more information, visit

Comedian Don Friesen At DMTC This Friday

"I have watched his DVD and it is one of the funniest things I have seen! Come see this, he is hilarious!!!" -Steve Isaacson, DMTC

Award-winning comedian Don Friesen returns to Northern California for an evening of laughter.

Friday June 5th 2009-8pm

Has the economy got you down? Looking for a bit of escapism?… If so, this might be just what the doctor ordered…

Don Friesen, the stand-up comedian who in the past several years has brought the hit shows “Inexplicable,” the “Fresh and Frenetic Comedy Tour,” and “Laughs for Lovers” to the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, and the only two-time Winner of the prestigious San Francisco International Comedy Competition, is returning to the Northern California for an outrageous night of comedy at the DMTC Performing Arts Center in Davis, CA.

With an act that has been described as a satirical skewer of his own life as a suburban husband and father of two, Friesen ignites the stage with a highly-caffeinated blend of angst and charm.

Employing an arsenal of impressions and characters, and a background in improvisational theater, Friesen is able to take standard topics like marriage, fatherhood, and money problems, and exploit them to maximum comedic effect by mocking himself, and, inadvertently, most of the audience along with him. "His energy just takes over," says Kevin Kearney, national booking manager for the Catch A Rising Star Comedy Clubs. "The audience doesn't have to worry about where he's going because they'll go with him wherever he decides to go."

Where Don goes is anyone's guess. But there is no guesswork about where he gets his material. Don has always had the innate ability to recognize his flaws and relate them to his audience in an hysterical way. And he manages to do all of this with an act that’s clean enough for prime time TV.

When Friesen talks about bedwetting as a child, he's telling the truth. When he shares his stories about being a father, about having credit problems and about going bankrupt, he's sharing the truth. When he relates his manic frustration with cell phones, computers and runaway technology he's telling the truth.

Don is a favorite in Los Angeles on the KLOS 5:00 Funnies, and can be heard regularly on Sirius and XM Satellite Radio. Don was recently featured in the TBS Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and the “Just For Laughs” comedy festival in Montreal, His credits include The Martin Short Show, Comics Unleashed, Later, and Friday Nights.

Comedy clips can be found here.

The DMTC Performing Arts Center Theatre is located at 607 Pena Drive, Davis, CA 95618Showtime: 8:00PM, $15.00 in advance ($1 service charge/$20 day of the show ($1 Service charge) at the DMTC box office: 530-756-3682 or online at

Lard Becomes Trendy

Healthy, happy lard:
Wait long enough and everything bad for you is good again. Sugar? Naturally better than high-fructose corn syrup. Chocolate? A bar a day keeps the doctor away. Caffeine? Bring it on.

Lard, however, has always been a ridiculously hard sell. Over at least the last 15 years, it's repeatedly been given a clean bill of health, and good cooks regularly point out how superior this totally natural fat is for frying and pastries. But that hasn't been enough to keep Americans from recoiling—lard's negative connotations of flowing flesh and vats of grease and epithets like lardass and tub of lard have been absurd hurdles. But no longer. I'm convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter.

Lard has clearly won the health debate. Shortening, the synthetic substitute foisted on this country over the last century, has proven to be a much bigger health hazard because it contains trans fats, the bugaboo du jour. Corporate food scientists figured out long ago that you can fool most of the people most of the time, and shortening (and its butter-aping cousin, margarine) had a pretty good ride after Crisco was introduced in 1911 as a substitute for the poor man's fat. But shortening really vanquished lard in the 1950s when researchers first connected animal fat in the diet to coronary heart disease. By the '90s, Americans had been indoctrinated to mainline olive oil, but shortening was still the go-to solid fat over lard or even butter in far too many cookbooks.

...That's all changed. Now you could even argue that lard is good for you. As Jennifer McLagan points out in her celebrated book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes, lard's fat is also mostly monounsaturated, which is healthier than saturated fat. And even the saturated fat in lard has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. Not to mention that lard has a higher smoking point than other fats, allowing foods like chicken to absorb less grease when fried in it. And, of course, fat in general has its upsides. The body converts it to fuel, and it helps absorb nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamins.

What matters more, though, is that lard has become the right ingredient at the right time. It fits perfectly into the Michael Pollan crusade to promote foods that have been processed as minimally as possible: Your great-grandmother surely cooked with it, so you should, too.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Elegy For A Queen

RIP, Danny La Rue:
With his dazzling coiffures, extravagant costumes, immaculate make-up, fitted eyelashes, blonde peek-a-boo wig and high heels, La Rue — tall and handsome — brought an air of amiable and poised self-mockery to clubs, cabarets, variety halls and summer shows for nearly 40 years.

Beneath huge headdresses and decked out in sequin-studded gowns, La Rue in his heyday would don specially-designed creations of beaded pink lace and tulle with trains of ostrich feathers up to 20ft long. Thus glorified, he became one of the best-loved professional cross-dressers of his time.

...Critics may have complained about the quality of his material, but they never denied his likeability on or offstage. To every performance he brought elegance, humour and glamour in an old-fashioned, overdressed style which (for all its mannered femininity) yielded unexpected dignity and charm. With sundry winks and nods and saucy asides, La Rue — all big brown eyes and hands-on-hip camp — took so much pleasure in his appearance and so much trouble to look glamorous that his actual performance could often seem an anticlimax.

Whether he sang, impersonated celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Carol Channing or Shirley Bassey (all close friends), or chatted directly to the audience, his costume was apt to swamp his personality. There was no attempt at sexual disguise. “I work in drag,” he used to say, “but I don’t want to be a drag queen. I’m a variety performer, and I never want people to forget that I’m a bloke in a frock.”

...La Rue was perhaps the only man to take over a woman’s role in a West End show, replacing Avis Bunnage in Oh What a Lovely War! He was highly popular as a pantomime “dame” and “ugly sister” even though he looked exactly like a glamorous woman. He starred in Aladdin, Mother Goose and The Sleeping Beauty. “Of course there was nothing ugly about me”, he recalled. “I had to express all the nastiness through character, which is where my acting talent comes in.”

When La Rue starred in a production of Charley’s Aunt, one critic wrote that he was “so totally convincing as a woman that it defeated the humour of the play”.

Daniel Patrick Carroll was born on July 26 1927 in Cork, the youngest of four children of an Irish carpenter, but his family moved to England when he was six. When the family home in Soho was destroyed during the Blitz, his mother, a seamstress, moved her children to the Devon village of Kenn, where Danny took a keen interest in amateur dramatics. “There weren’t enough girls, so I got the pick of the roles,” he recalled. “My Juliet was very convincing.”

After leaving school at 15, La Rue worked as a baker’s assistant, lift operator and window dresser in a local shop. At 18 he entered the Royal Navy and joined the ship’s concert party. “My first part was the native girl in White Cargo,” he remembered. “I looked stunning.”

...In 1964 Danny La Rue opened a nightclub in Hanover Square to which he gave his own name. “I wanted it to be pure glamour,” he recalled, “but I also wanted it to be a family club, so we had no hostesses.” The club became extremely popular for its satirical revues. “We were doing marvellous satire years before That Was The Week That Was,” La Rue observed. The club attracted royalty, celebrities and coach parties in huge numbers and at the peak of its success had more than 13,000 members.

The year 1968 was particularly successful for La Rue. He made his first television special, An Evening with Danny La Rue, and followed it by appearing in that year’s Royal Variety Performance. His rendering of On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep was later released as a single and reached the pop charts, and he opened in pantomime as the wicked queen in Queen Passionella and the Sleeping Beauty.

Danny La Rue’s nightclub was extremely popular until its closure in 1972. After that he began a variety show, At the Palace, which was sold out throughout its run.

...His proudest boast was that in half a century he had never missed a performance.

El Niño On The Horizon

The SOI has swung abruptly negative, one of the indicators that suggest a developing El Niño:

The recent evolution of climate patterns across the equatorial Pacific is consistent with the early stages of a developing El Niño. Moreover, during the past few months computer forecasts have increasingly shown El Niño as a distinct possibility for 2009. The odds of an El Niño are now thought to be above 50%, which is more than double the normal risk of an event. However, it is still possible that the recent trends may stall without El Niño thresholds being reached.

Since the start of April, surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have risen by about 0.8°C and now stand at around 0.5°C above average (the El Niño threshold is 0.8°C above average). In addition, there has been a marked warming below the surface and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has dropped to around −7. Also, the Trade Winds were weaker than normal over much of the tropical Pacific from late April to late May. However, patterns of Pacific cloud haven't as yet shown any clear trends towards El Niño: this indicates that the ocean-atmosphere coupling which amplifies and maintains El Niño isn't established.

Blonde Parade

I like this idea a lot:
Several hundred blondes marched through the Latvian capital Riga Sunday in a bid cheer up the crisis-hit Baltic nation, suffering the worst recession in the 27-member EU.

Led by an orchestra, the first-ever blond parade featured women dressed in pink and white, some accompanied by lapdogs, in a charity fund-raising event that organisers hope will become an annual event.

"I'm not stupid. I'm beautiful and I'll prove it," blonde participant high school student Ilona Zigure told AFP.

Organisers said they were determined to bring positive energy to their country, expected to see its economy contract by 16 percent this year.

The parade is part of the what they are calling Blonde Weekend, which will also features a blonde golf tournament, a little lady fashion show, an evening ball, and a children's drawing competition.

...The event attracted many locals and puzzled tourists.

Following the parade, blondes climbed into open-topped cars and drove to the local shopping centre to go shopping.

Mid-Ocean Debris

Mysterious accident - the aircraft was virtually new:
An airplane seat, a life jacket, metallic debris and signs of fuel were found in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday by Brazilian military pilots searching for a missing Air France airliner.

The debris was spotted from the air about 410 miles (650 kilometers) north of the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, roughly along the path that the jet was taking before it disappeared with 228 people on board, said Air Force spokesman Jorge Amaral.

There were no signs of life in two sightings of separate debris areas about 60 kilometers (35 miles) apart.

"The locations where the objects were found are towards the right of the point where the last signal of the plane was emitted," Amaral said. "That suggests that it might have tried to make a turn, maybe to return to Fernando de Noronha, but that is just a hypothesis."

Amaral said authorities would not be able to confirm that the debris is from the plane until they can retrieve some of it from the ocean for identification. Brazilian military ships are not expected to arrive at the area until Wednesday.

Getting The Water Heater Fixed

E.: MMMAAAARRRRCCCC! Wake up! He's here!

M.: Who's here? What time is it?

E.: Get away from here! Get out! Stop following me! Gosh, who do you think you are! This is the bedroom!

M.: (stumbling out of bed) Don't yell at him. He doesn't know.

The Fellow From Sear's: Sorry ma'am!


The repairman was scheduled to arrive somewhere in the range of 8 a.m. till noon, and here it was only 7:45 a.m., but here he was already in the house - happy, eager, bright-eyed, durable military-grade laptop in one hand and a box of tools in the other. The repairman replaced the thermocouple, and so now I have hot water again. He also informed me that the water heater was nearing the end of its expected lifetime and so I should think about a replacement in a year or two.

The Elements Of Fashion

E.: MMMMAAAARRRRCCCC! It's very important, when you go shopping at the mall, to buy ONLY designer labels. That way you know you are getting quality. For example, when you buy pants, you always get quality when you buy 'Dockers'.

M.: 'Dockers' is a designer label?

E.: Yes. Well, maybe not so much anymore, they've gotten so big, but ten or fifteen years ago, certainly.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Michael Moore On The GM Bankruptcy

The gadfly witnesses the end:
I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

...It is with sad irony that the company which invented “planned obsolescence” — the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one — has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh — and that wouldn’t start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the “inferior” Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to “improve” the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company’s body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with — dare I say it — joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know — who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let’s be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Interesting Juxtaposed Images

Courtesy of John, and from the NY Times.

The "Personal Responsibility" Party Says "Who, Me?"

Evil harvest coming:
Tiller was better known to Fox "News" viewers as "Tiller the Baby Killer," as he's long been described by Bill O'Reilly, who has spent years targeting Tiller on the most-watched show in cable news. O'Reilly has long demonized him with allegations of performing illegal late-term abortions, characterized as murder by O'Reilly and his guests.

Of course, it's no more O'Reilly's fault when a lunatic takes action to murder someone the Fox host has targeted for years on his popular television show than it was when another lunatic gunned down church-goers in Tennessee last year, claiming in his pre-murder "manifesto" that it was "a symbolic killing," and that he had "wanted to kill...every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book." Goldberg is a regular featured guest on O'Reilly's show, and the author of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is #37).

Jim David Adkisson, the Knoxville, TN, murderer, also advocated the murder of "liberals" in his manifesto, echoing comments frequently made by O'Reilly that "The Major News outlets have become the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party. Liberals are evil, they embrace the tenets of Karl Marx, they're Marxist, socialist, communists."

Those are all merely coincidences, of course. Nobody, other than the murderers themselves, should feel it necessary to take any personal responsibility whatsoever when such events occur.

Conversation With A Police Detective

Walt writes:
Hey Marc: Hope all is well with you. I recently had a nice talk with a cop -- I've attached some things that he told me.
Hi Walt:
Interesting stuff. I’m perturbed, however, that extreme patience in repeatedly explaining the same events over and over might be interpreted as a sign of guilt. I tend to be very patient with explanations and would hate to be misinterpreted.

Recently, while waiting for a plane, I had a long talk with a police detective, and no, I was not a suspect. Here are some of the things I learned.
  • Cops are permitted to lie to suspects. They can say “a witness made you”, or “your prints are all over the scene”, even when it’s not true. I did not realize this, although I should have. He said that they couldn’t carry out undercover operations otherwise.
  • They ask a suspect to tell his version of events over and over, in order to determine whether he is lying. A person telling the truth will vary his story somewhat, but a made-up story will be repeated with little or no variation. Also, the detective said that innocent people will tend to get angry after being asked the same question a hundred times, while guilty perps will remain calm. He stressed that these are not hard-and-fast indicators of guilt/innocence, but items to consider.
  • I wanted to know who holds up better under harsh questioning – white-collar criminals, or the blacks. He said it was a wash - guys from the hood have more experience talking to cops, but white-collar perps lawyer up quicker. Surprisingly, he told me that almost everyone picked up by the police feels compelled to answer questions to some degree.
  • Despite the high reputation of drug-sniffing dogs, not all of them are worth their weight in dog food. Some can’t stay focused on the job, and some screw up a lot. They send the burn-outs to visit schools.
  • This detective did not have a high opinion of small-town criminal justice. He told me, “If you kill someone, and there are no witnesses, keep your mouth shut and you’ll probably get away with it”.
  • One time he was searching for a suspect on the lam, and he visited the perp’s mother. She claimed that she had no idea where her son was. While they were talking, she got a phone call, and the detective had a feeling it was the suspect. So, after the call, he asked a few more questions, and then made to leave. But, before walking out, he asked if he could use the phone to call home. She said yes, and he dialed *69, and got the number of the caller. After that, it was easy to look up the location, and he nabbed the perp.
  • There is a big industry smuggling stuff into prisons. It’s not just drugs, but also things that are legal on the outside, like pornography. Some prisons are “smoke-free”, so the inmates are not allowed to have cigarettes. A pack of smokes can sell for $40 inside! Some prison guards are complicit in this. If an inmate wants to buy something, he will contact a “broker” inmate, who will in turn ask a certain guard to bring it in. All money changes hands on the outside. The buyer inmate will phone/write his cousin to give money to the broker inmate’s wife, who will in turn pay the guard’s brother. Some “broker” inmates are able to sustain their families this way, all without ever seeing any actual money.
  • Money robbed from banks is FDIC-insured. I had never thought of that – when a bank is robbed, it suffers no financial loss, other than a deductible! Occasionally, a bank reports a robbery loss as higher than it actually was. If they’re found out, it’s not a problem – after all, anybody can make a mistake.
  • The detective had some advice for under-cover cops: never tell anything to a corrections officer, or to a cop who works in a jail or prison. Every jail has a crooked jailer – someone who informs crooks about police doings. And every DMV has someone bad working there.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

DJ Tiesto's Sonic Cathedral

Left: DJ Tiesto.

I dawdled before heading over to the Community Center, and the show had already started by the time I got there. Since I hadn't bought a ticket in advance ($45 each, apparently) I had to buy the $75 ticket at the door.

Well, I suppose I'll have to do a lot of extra dancing to make up that extra $30!

After buying the ticket, I joined the long line of people waiting to get in. We could hear the music in progress inside, but I overheard someone say that Tiesto wasn't going to start till about 10 p.m. Well, then, who was playing now? "Oh, they'll find someone local who'll be happy to just play for anyone at all, and they'll just throw him up there," someone explained.

I started talking to another fellow. I said, "All my friends went to go see the Patty LuPone concert tonight in Davis." He said, "They really don't know what they're missing!" I also mused whether I would see anyone I knew inside. He said "Oh, they'll all be there, but you won't see them!" Startled, I asked why - was it too dark? He said they'll all just blend into the crowd.

I was never able to penetrate all the way to the stage, so I shuttled in an arc, from House left to House right, and back again. The crowd House right seemed more agreeable somehow. Either side, I made sure to dance in front of the Tower of Speakers - just to be sure I could hear the beat. The style of music, I would call Deep House, but there are so many types and subtypes of House music I'm sure I've mistaken in some picayune way.

The crowd was about 2/3 guys; 1/3 girls. I was impressed how Asian the crowd was. I had never before associated House Music specifically with Asians, but there was no denying the connection, at least in Sacramento.

As I danced House right, a Filipino fellow approached, and asked his girlfriend to dig deep into her purse. Much like Santa Claus with candy canes, he handed me two glow sticks from her purse, and through gestures, gave me some elementary instruction in their use. How unexpected! How nice!

House left, I ran into another group of Filipinos, and through gestures, they got me to perform a light show for them with my glow sticks, as they sat down on the floor, leaned back, and took it all in. In retrospect, I think my gestures were too big (first time I had ever done this). In response, they took my glow sticks and then performed for me, with a finely-tuned, less windmill-armed performance aimed directly at my face for my amusement. Oh, now I get it! This approach to glow sticks is almost like a cult, with performers hypnotizing their audience, and then switching places with them. Interesting! I liked what they did so much I surrendered my glow sticks to them, since they clearly knew better how to use them.

Several days ago, I was walking down the street, and I said to myself, "Self, it's been ages since you smelled marijuana smoke." Somebody's ears must have been burning - suddenly I smelled that unmistakable sweet smoke floating in the air (predictably, more on House right than House left).

DJ Tiesto finally came on, and the thundering music became even more thunderific. I couldn't imagine that they hadn't already cranked up the volume, but apparently there was still room on the dial. Standing near the Spaeker Towers, which looked like they contained a hundred speakers each, the sound waves were so impressive you could feel the wind they'd generate as the passed through the hairs on your arms.

And who is DJ Tiesto?

Wikipedia says:
Tiësto (pronounced [tiɛsto] in Dutch; born Tijs Michiel Verwest ([tɛɪs mixiɫ vərʋɛst]) on 17 January 1969) is a Dutch trance DJ and record producer. He was appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2004 by Queen Beatrix. He has become one of the world's most famous people in the trance and electronic dance music scenes. Although he has used many aliases in the past, he is best known for his work as DJ Tiësto. On his latest productions, however, he has dropped the "DJ" label and is now known simply as "Tiësto", an alias which is a twist on his childhood nickname.

Left: I liked this projection, because it seemed to take the viewer on an endless journey down an endless tube filled with tree roots, or bacteria, or something - something like my home plumbing system.

I was impressed with the women who wore totem animal backpacks: tigers, bears, and Patrick Star from Spongebob Squarepants. Apparently it's a harajuku kind of thing, but I like it.

Then suddenly, at 1 p.m., it was over. Like the fellow said at the beginning, I didn't recognize a soul in the place. But my friends had to have been there all along, of course.

After the dance, I walked back to my office, stopping to help several people find Azucar nightclub. When I approached my workplace, a fellow who must have been at the dance leaned out the window of a passing car and shouted, "Hey, you're a pretty good raver!"

How unexpected! How nice!