Saturday, June 13, 2009

Science Budget Cuts

Doing more with less:
SONOMA, CA—Scientists at the severely underfunded HLM Research Laboratories announced plans Monday to have the facility's one remaining rat, Mendel, now cancer-ridden and covered in lipstick, run through a maze several hundred times.

Head researcher Dr. Linda Cho said that since the lab's $5.6 million budget was slashed by 90 percent last winter, Mendel, a blind 1-year-old albino Norwegian rat with advanced non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, has served as the subject for every experiment the lab has performed.

"The first few data sets were rendered null by Mendel's widely varying maze-completion times, which ranged from three seconds to two hours and 45 minutes," Cho said. "We think the confounding variable may have been the 5 cc injection of oven cleaner, a substance with the potential to interact with the residual methamphetamine-cocaine concoction still in his system."

"Although he seems to have reached equilibrium, in a manner of speaking," Cho continued. "We're confident that we'll be able to gather some useable data once we take the electrode out of his dopamine pathway and reattach the top of his skull."

...Fortunately, following the insertion of an experimental norepinephrine implant in May, the rat no longer requires sleep, making it "ideal" for around-the-clock testing.

"We'd prefer to take six weeks to run the trials, but our current fiscal situation demands that Mendel run the maze 9,000 times in 72 hours," Cho said. "We will have more time to run experiments on him—her? I'm sorry, Mendel's gender has been manipulated so many times. In any event, we will have some more funding coming in from the Johnson & Johnson company since we agreed to study the mammalian limits of organic hand-soap consumption."

..."Obviously, there are a great many things to sort out," Cho said. "But once we determine whether it's the loud, sudden noises or the seizure-inducing strobe lights causing Mendel's massive stress-related weight gain, then we'll really be able to start making strides forward in the field of oncological-cosmetic-stem-cell-drug-rehabilitation-acute-hallucinatory-psychoses research."

"Of course, we'll have to get him out of the hyperbaric chamber first," Cho added.

An Iranian Coup?

Since the MSM is doing such a bang-up bad job regarding events in Iran, blogs are all we have. Juan Cole is always good.

Bottom-Feeders Feed, Not Knowing If It's Really The Bottom

With this sweltering desert city (Phoenix) enduring one of the largest tumbles in housing prices for any urban area since the Depression, there is an unrelenting stream of foreclosures to choose from. On some days, hundreds are offered for sale at the auctions that take place on the plaza in front of the county courthouse.

There is also a large supply of foreclosed families that can no longer qualify for a loan. And that is prompting a flood of investors like Jarvis, who wants to turn as many of these people as possible into rent-paying tenants in the houses they used to own.

Real estate got just about everyone into trouble in Phoenix, and the thinking seems to be that real estate is going to get everyone out.

...Once again, just about everybody seems to be buying as many houses as they can, positive it will make them rich — or at least allow them to recoup some of their losses.

"I bought too high a few years ago," said Jason Fischbeck, an entrepreneur who lives across the street from Jarvis and is one of his clients. "It cost $225,000. Now it's worth $110,000. So I just paid $80,000 cash for another. "

Jarvis, 47, the former co-owner of a wood molding company that thrived in the boom and faltered in the crunch, also made some mistakes. Last spring, he contracted for three new homes in the distant suburb of Copper Basin, convinced that real estate was bottoming.

He was wrong. He managed to get out of two of the contracts but had to buy one of the houses, which is now substantially under water.

"You need to buy when there's blood in the streets," he said with a shrug. "Even if it's your own blood."

...As the day's auctions wind down, Jarvis goes back to the office to meet with a group that wants to put $5 million into the Phoenix housing market. A few miles away, the owner of that house with the monstrous power lines, Robert Corr, is being told his house was sold and he has five days to vacate.

Corr smiled when he heard the news, happy to be the latest of the 78,738 foreclosures in Phoenix since January 2005. He had already rented a van to take him and his family back to Alabama, where they would buy a mobile home and live on 10 acres of land.

Brewer Caldwell has bought about 125 houses this year for its clients. Only a quarter had owners who were living there already and willing to stay on as tenants. Filling up the rest, and all the other houses the company intends to buy, will depend on a steady supply of people who cannot afford to buy for themselves.

"If Phoenix loses population," Jarvis says, "then buying houses here is a bad bet."

As Jarvis scouts for houses, he sometimes finds a familiar one. In February, he saw a home that one of his brothers bought from a builder in 2005, camping out overnight for the opportunity. With its value now shrunk, the brother was letting it go to foreclosure.

Jarvis' daughter Jade also bought a house at the market's peak — in her case to live in. The other day she asked for advice: Should she keep paying the mortgage on something that had declined in value by 60 percent? His conclusion: "Probably not."

"Am I teaching my kids right by letting them walk away from something they made a commitment to?" Jarvis wondered.

"The Nation" Looks At Sacramento's Tent City

Even though Tent City is only about 3/4 mile from where I am right now, I haven't bestirred myself to take a look. As long as I've been in Sacramento (since 1990) the homeless have been in that general area. I've come close to Tent City on foot, particularly when walking near Fishes and Loaves back in November, and I see the outlier effects of Tent City every day with the drifters on J Street, but after the events of 2006, I'm just a little too burned by homelessness to want to look too hard. So, fortunately, someone else did:
"This is the bigger picture," said John Kraintz, with a sweep of his arm, indicating the roughly two dozen remaining tents pitched around him on a muddy, pockmarked field between the city dump and the slow green waters of the American River. Kraintz is a thin man of 57, a former electrician who had lived in Sacramento's parks and riverside lots for seven years. His home had been right here--in Tent City.

Kraintz had relocated to Tent City's outer boroughs. Its downtown, which briefly attracted camera crews from all over the world--a Third World shantytown in the capital of the richest state in the richest country!--was a couple of hundred yards away. Depending on whom you ask, somewhere between 150 and 300 people lived in Tent City between November and April. But by the third week in April, when I visited, most had already packed up. Some had migrated to this spot to avoid police attention. But the cops came, handing out notices announcing, "It is unlawful to camp in the City of Sacramento" and giving people two days to leave. ("This is not camping--we're living!" yelled one of Kraintz's neighbors.) By the end of the week, everyone had left. Tent City, for that moment at least, had disappeared.

Few people there, though, doubted that it would be back. Tent City is less a single location than a nomadic but constant phenomenon, a shifting blue-tarped shadow to the glass and steel American metropolis. In good times and bad, Tent City comes and goes, forms and scatters and takes shape again. Despite its momentary dispersal in Sacramento, it is still out there--in Seattle, Portland, Reno, Providence, Fresno, even in the sprawling exurbs of southern California in the small city of Ontario. Tent City existed at the height of the real estate boom too, hidden in plain view, an omen for anyone willing to look.

...As early as 1989, dozens of homeless were pitching tents on the precise site of this year's Tent City in Sacramento. They called their community, without irony, "Camp Hope." Since then, other tent cities have sprung up there for a few weeks or months. It's hardly an idyllic spot--no sanitary facilities, few trees, no shelter from the wind or rain--but it's out of sight and a short walk to Loaves and Fishes, a nonprofit that provides free meals and other services.

This latest Tent City was notable mainly for its density, a product of increased enforcement of anti-camping ordinances in the city's parkland, where Sacramento's homeless were once able to spread out unmolested. In November police broke up a camp of more than 100 people on the sidewalk outside the Union Gospel Mission. Police officers instructed them, Tent City residents said, to resettle here. The Sacramento Bee first reported on the newest Tent City in December. Oprah Winfrey sent a correspondent in February. After that, said Tent City resident Danny Valadez, "It went like a cyclone," buzzing with journalists and new arrivals. Most reporters focused exclusively on the few Tent City residents whose predicaments could be linked directly to the economic collapse. "They were all looking for Henry Fonda [in The Grapes of Wrath]," laughs Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

The rise of Tent City, though, says John Foley, director of the nonprofit Sacramento Self-Help Housing, had "almost nothing to do with the recession." But the recession has made poverty visible again, and Tent City tells the grueling backstory to the current recession--nearly thirty years of cuts in social services to the poor and mentally ill, the decimation of the industrial economy and the cruel underside of the housing boom. Kraintz, despite his soil-caked clothes and matted hair, summarized that narrative with more precision than most white-shirted economists can manage: "We've seen falling wages and rising rents. The two finally collided."

The economic collapse has without question pushed people out of their homes. The National Alliance to End Homelessness warns that 1.5 million Americans could be thrown into homelessness over the next two years. In Sacramento, homelessness has jumped 14 percent since 2007, even though the population categorized as "chronically homeless"--the disabled and mentally ill--has fallen by 35 percent. Sacramento was hit particularly hard by the mortgage crisis--the city had the third-highest foreclosure rate in the country in 2007--and folks who have recently seen their incomes disappear are finding themselves with nowhere to turn.

...Most of Tent City's residents, though, have been homeless for years. The original causes of their homelessness--an illness or injury, addiction, some life-shattering tragedy--blurred out in the distant past. "But on a structural, societal level," says Burke, the causes of homelessness are far from hazy: "It's the lack of housing that people can afford."

"I used to be a Republican. I voted for Ronald Reagan," a man who identified himself only as Tom M. told me, laughing. But it was Reagan who in his first year as president halved the budget for public housing. Over the course of his first term, more than half a million people were thrown off the disability rolls. "Until then," says Tim Brown, director of Sacramento County's Ending Chronic Homelessness Initiative, "basically there was no homelessness." Since then, neither the disability nor the housing budget has come close to recovering. Clinton-era welfare reforms cut all but the last remaining threads of the Great Society safety net.

Meanwhile, the real estate boom led to a drastic reduction in affordable housing. Through the 1980s and even into the '90s, says Sacramento Self-Help Housing's Foley, the city had no shortage of housing options for the poor: rooming houses, single-room-occupancy hotels, motel-like labor camps for cannery workers. "Almost all of that's gone," he says, victims of the insatiable housing market. Gone also are the vast majority of the unionized cannery and food processing jobs that for decades made it possible for workers here to become homeowners. Tent City sprawled just across the railroad tracks from one of the few major food processing facilities left in the city: the nonunion Blue Diamond almond plant.

Since 1996, the federal government has budgeted precisely zero dollars for new public housing. The waiting lists in Sacramento for Section 8 and public housing are five digits deep. Between 2001 and '09, however, the monthly income required to rent an "affordable" studio apartment here jumped from $1,025 to $1,433, "and wages have not gone up proportionally," Foley says. Working full time at minimum wage in California gets you just $1,280 a month. "It takes two people to rent an apartment," said Tent City resident Jessica McFarlin, "one to pay the bills and one to pay the rent, if you want to have food."

In Sacramento, some subsidized housing options remain for those with disabilities. "If you're disabled," says Brown, "your chances [of finding housing] aren't too bad in the next year." But as to the swelling ranks who are not disabled but simply can't find work--or who have jobs but still can't make their rent--Brown says, "they're shit out of luck."

D.W. Griffith's "The Birth Of A Nation"

I have to tread carefully in North/South matters, ever since I discovered a few years ago that I'm related to Jefferson Davis by marriage. I had never seen D.W. Griffith's "The Birth Of A Nation". I wondered what made it so controversial. So I rented the VHS tapes to find out.

The first half of the movie seemed quite mild. The northern Stoneman family, and the southern Cameron family, are on good terms, despite disparate politics. There is a definite southern bias, but like I say, quite mild. Elsie Stoneman (Lillian Gish) is clearly the heroine, but I found Margaret Cameron (Miriam Cooper) more attractive. I'm surprised to find that Flora Cameron (Mae Marsh) was actually born in Madrid, New Mexico: who knows, maybe she actually knew my forbears from that neighborhood?

Before seeing the movie, I wondered whether the Birth of the title referred to the Confederacy. Apparently not. Then I wondered whether it referred to the refounding of the United States after the Civil War.

We still look at the events of 1776 as the beginning of the nation, but there is an alternative interpretation, that it was only after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House that the nation actually was founded, and the States finally eclipsed. It's definitely a minority opinion, but still, it's a respectable opinion that some historians find attractive. Griffith seems to endorse this view, but nevertheless, that isn't the Birth he refers to.

Abraham Lincoln seems quite distant at first, but because of his magnanimous nature, and his mercy, he is seen as a genuine statesman. His assassination is treated by the southerners as a great disaster. So, excepting some weirdness regarding Austin Stoneman's mulatto maid, and many characters appearing in blackface, the first half of the movie is quite mild.

Then, the movie heads out into outer space. The second half of the movie is all about Reconstruction. A mongrel army of Negroes, mulattoes, scalawags, carpetbaggers, and Radicals afflict the South. Watching the Ku Klux Klan save the day, cavalry-style, to 'The Ride of the Valkyries' left me dumbfounded, my mouth agape. The 'Birth' of the Nation refers to the Birth of the Aryan Nation - Northern and Southern whites united together against the black horde. Oh, so this is why the movie is controversial!

The movie was accompanied with a small documentary explaining the origins of the movie and matters related to its filming. Very impressive! The documentary featured a quote from John Hope Franklin (related to some extent here):
As John Hope Franklin has written, "The supreme tragedy is that in The Clansman (the book on which the film is based) and in 'Birth of a Nation,' [author] Thomas Dixon succeeded in using a powerful and wonderful new instrument of communication to perpetuate a cruel hoax on the American people that has come distressingly close to being permanent."

..."First," Professor Franklin said, "we have a picture of negro rule that existed no where in the South. ... Second, it is a picture of a prolonged drunken brawl ... and third, it is a picture of a reign of black terror that began with the surrender at Appomattox and continued until the withdrawal of the last troops from the South."

Some 50 million people saw "The Birth of a Nation" in the five years after its release. And, as Pat Loughney, curator in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, writes in his notes to the film, "Griffith's heavily propagandized version of race history, reinforced by an emotionally charged melodrama, was absorbed as truth by a majority of those who saw it."

A great deal of the film's effectiveness can be attributed to the astonishingly innovative techniques Griffith brought together for the first time in a feature-length motion picture. Before Griffith, motion pictures were shot from random distances. Griffith varied the perspective from close-up, to medium, to long shots according to the dramatic effect he wanted to achieve. He edited the shots for continuity. He discovered that the audience had the capacity to follow cross cutting and multiple story lines within the same film. And he coached his actors toward a naturalistic style, away from the stilted, artificial poses that were the norm.

The heroic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as a sort of SWAT team of righteousness led to a dramatic rebirth of this secret organization. Although there was some disagreement among the panelists as to how much the film was used for actual recruitment, author Scott Cutlip provided a number of convincing historical details in a letter published after the event in The New York Times. According to Mr. Cutlip, the modern Klan had its beginning in 1920 when two out-of-work World War I publicists in Atlanta formed a partnership with the owner of a bottle club that was going out of business because of Prohibition.

In only three years, the 3,000- member club grew into a national force for bigotry and hatred with 3 million members, thanks to a propaganda campaign that featured sponsored screenings of "The Birth of a Nation," according to Mr. Cutlip.

...As a young man working on his Ph.D. dissertation 55 years ago in Raleigh, N.C., Dr. Franklin told the audience that he would regularly pass a courtly gentleman outside the courthouse. The gentleman always greeted Franklin with a warm smile.

The young graduate student was forced to reevaluate the significance of the man's cordial expression, however, when he found out his identity. It was Thomas Dixon, author of The Clansman, the very source of Griffith's racist version of Reconstruction. Far from offering a smile of welcome, Franklin concluded, Dixon's smile probably was more a reflection of his secret delight at keeping "the likes of me" out of any governmental office more influential than "a Jim Crow cubbyhole in the State Archives."

But Dixon's smile would have changed to a frown had he known that a cubbyhole was all Franklin needed. It was the start of a distinguished career that would enable him, among many other accomplishments, to marshall the facts to contradict Dixon's fabrications.

"The long reach of 'The Birth of a Nation' is nowhere seen and felt so much as in the picture of Reconstruction that continues today to dominate the thinking and even the writing of most lay persons and indeed too many professional historians who labor apparently under the spell of Thomas Dixon and 'Birth of a Nation,' professor Franklin said. "It is as if a certain picture of Reconstruction must be perpetrated in order to bar permanently African Americans from positions of public trust in the United States."

Among other things that reflected a "profound ignorance" of actual events, Griffith depicted a tide of corrupt black rule in Southern legislatures after the Civil War.

"No such thing happened," Dr. Franklin said.

...He concluded saying that "the only value that 'Birth of a Nation' has lies in its enormous contribution to the development of cinematography." He quoted Walter Lippmann's remark that "no one who had seen the film could ever hear the name [Griffith] again without seeing those white horses."

The horses, bearing members of the Ku Klux Klan, came at the audience straight out of the screen in a head-on tracking shot. The effect was electric. When the film was first released, audiences reportedly ducked to avoid being run over. Little did they know they had been hit already.
And Griffith's influence, of course, was profound, deeply affecting directors like Sergei Eisenstein:
The American director D W Griffith, considered by Eisenstein to be (despite his politics) the first great storyteller in film, took Porter's parallel montage technique and introduced different camera lengths, giving us the close up and the extreme long shot. Instead of Porter's objective distancing from the action, Griffith pulled the spectator into the scene through the subjective close up and different viewpoints, controlling what the spectator saw and manipulating their emotional and intellectual response. In his seminal films, Intolerance and The Birth of a Nation, Griffith not only utilised close ups for emotional emphasis, he also used flashbacks and dissolves, maximising tension and excitement by increasing the pace of cutting towards the climax.
I thought Griffith's telling of Col. Ben Cameron's charge at Petersburg was wonderful filmmaking!

Achy-Breaky Body

I've come down with a cold this weekend. My body aches all over. Thus, I will have a pretty quiet, solitary sort of weekend.

Too bad, though. Outside, the Second Saturday Art Walk is in full swing. The streets are thronged with people. All I want to do is crawl under a bush, and hide.

I suppose I could be a piece of performance art: Man Under A Bush. Not as if there aren't enough of those folks already, in and about Tent City!

I'll go outside after awhile....

7:35 in the Morning

Deborah recommends this. She explains:
This requires an explanation. We got this movie, "Timecrimes", from Netflix. It's a triple causality loop time travel event with no beginning. A Spanish film made more enigmatic by the spare filming and small event in the loop. [if you want to see it be sure to watch in Spanish with English subtitles as the dubbing is awful]

The director is known for his short films, and the recommended one was an Academy award nominee for short film. It was in the extras section on DVD. We were riveted. I don't know why but I've seen it about 8 times now and still can't get enough:

It must be the dancing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Not That We're Suggesting Anything

Lite Beer Makes An Excellent Shotput

Dusk neared Saturday as 28-year-old Kayte Taylor and three girlfriends pulled up to Sam's Market on Santa Rosa Avenue to buy beer.

Kayte and the one pal who accompanied her inside chatted merrily as Kayte reached into the cooler. Just then a man strode up, bumped Kayte and snatched her wallet from her other hand.

"He's got my wallet!" Kayte yelled as the robber headed for the door.

Taking chase, Kayte reached the sidewalk to see the guy pushing and trying to mount a bicycle. It dawned on Kayte there was something useful in her hand.

A 12-pack of Miller Lite -- bottles. Her friends' eyes widened as Kayte hoisted the box to shoulder height, reared back and shot-put the beer at the burglar maybe 12 feet away.

Pow. Down he went. Four women were on him like kids on a burst piñata. Kayte took back her wallet.

Rather than keep wrestling with the crook, the women let him up but took hold of his bicycle. He demanded it, pleaded for it, but he wasn't getting it.

When he started down the avenue on foot, one of Kayte's friends -- the one who's a security guard and was in uniform -- tailed him until police arrived to arrest him.

Back To 'Normal'

Interesting observation (via Matthew Yglesias):
Brad DeLong notes that the TED spread, a key indicator of banking system confidence, has returned to normal:

Unfortunately, while there was a long time when we were experiencing a financial panic combined with a fairly mild recession, for the past six months or so we’ve been in a severe contraction in the “real” economy. The financial system getting back to something approach normal is definitely a good thing, but it’s no longer clear that an end to the banking panic will lead to recovery. On the contrary, we’re to some extent now at a point where “real” problems are causing financial ones. After all, even a person with a very responsible mortgage or and little credit card debt is going to have trouble making his payments if he loses his job and spends 12 months unemployed.

Ordinarily, you’d be looking for an export-led recovery but there’s noplace to export to.
The Obama Administration's (and the Bush Administration's) reflexive response to the crisis has been to save the banks at all costs. Despite the problems of such an approach (such as shielding financial malefactors from the consequences of their actions), at least the response was coherent and powerful. And, it appears, successful.

Now comes the messy part. Wall Street is more-or-less intact, but the rest of the country, and the world, continue to suffer. The recent increase in mortgage interest rates underscores how difficult a recovery will be.

A Bar Mitzvah To Remember

Heads will roll on this (as they'd better, but Stern has the best connections, so who knows?):
Mayor Bloomberg said today that the city has launched an investigation into who allowed a wealthy inmate to host a lavish bar mitzvah behind bars for his son at the downtown lockup known as the Tombs.

"Clearly, this is not something that should have taken place," Bloomberg said.

The Post reported in an exclusive story today that Tuvia Stern, a financial-scam artist who jumped bail and spent nearly 20 years on the lam, was allowed to hold the party.

City Correction Department officials permitted him to use his own caterer, who supplied kosher food, china, forks -- and knives -- for about 60 guests who partied and danced the hora for six hours in the jailhouse gym.

Stern's family and friends were allowed to keep their cellphones -- normally a huge security no-no. And Stern was given the OK to dress in clothing appropriate for the occasion.

The guest list at the jail included several prominent rabbis as well as Yaakov Shwekey, a popular Orthodox singer, and a band.

The city threw in its own present -- overtime pay for the correction officers staffing the soiree.

The Dec. 30 bash was so successful that jailbird Stern chose the same venue four months later for his daughter Breindy's engagement party for 10 family members, sources said.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cirque du Soleil's Troops Jump On Their Stilts And Fight Back!

Via the Movable Buffet.

About That Exxon-Valdez-Like Spill In The Foyer...

Note to self: it is wise to put a lid on a cup of diet soda....

Making A Mint Off Of Insurance

If you could collect high homeowners' insurance premiums from Florida beach dwellers, but somehow, at a nominal cost, control the path of hurricanes so that they'd never hit Florida, you could make a mint.

If I understand the matter correctly, something like that happened with credit-default swaps: Amherst Holdings made a mint, and J.P. Morgan is screaming bloody murder:
The hot topic in the credit markets today was a controversial trading strategy by Texas brokerage house Amherst Holdings, which sparked losses for some Wall Street banks.

Amherst had sold credit-default swaps on a batch of subprime mortgage-backed securities and later arranged to pay down the souring bonds to avoid making big payouts to swap buyers. Banks that had bet against the securities by purchasing the swaps, which are insurance-like contracts, were left with worthless positions after the bonds were rescued in April.

Early today, members of the American Securitization Forum, an industry association, held a conference call to discuss the transaction and whether there ought to be certain ground rules for traders in the mortgage debt and credit-derivatives markets, according to a person who was on the call.

There also was a debate about whether institutions should be allowed to sell credit-default swap protection if they could exercise options to buy out the assets the swaps are tied to.

Wall Street traders have been buzzing about who Amherst was trading on behalf of. The firm is mainly owned by its principals and employees, but it also counts a number of private-equity firms and hedge funds as equity investors. Some hedge funds managed by Whitebox Advisors, of Minneapolis, hold stakes in Amherst. Andrew Redleaf, Whitebox’s founder, says he is unaware of the trade.


Frustrated spirits appeased?:
An Italian woman who arrived late for the Air France plane flight that crashed in the Atlantic last week has been killed in a car accident.

Johanna Ganthaler, a pensioner from Bolzano-Bozen province, had been on holiday in Brazil with her husband Kurt and missed Air France Flight 447 after turning up late at Rio de Janeiro airport on May 31.

All 228 people aboard lost their lives after the plane crashed into the Atlantic four hours into its flight to Paris.

The ANSA news agency reported that the couple had managed to pick up a flight from Rio the following day.

It said that Ms Ganthaler died when their car veered across a road in Kufstein, Austria, and swerved into an oncoming truck. Her husband was seriously injured.

Danny DeVito, The Last Word In Class

Greg Di Mano vs. Tim B ft. Cisily - Barcelona (Ian Carey Remix)

Wading Towards The Shores Of The Island Of Stability - Ununbium 112

It's just about official:
BERLIN (Reuters) – A new, superheavy chemical element numbered 112 will soon be officially included in the periodic table, German researchers said.

A team in the southwest German city of Darmstadt first produced 112 in 1996 by firing charged zinc atoms through a 120-meter-long particle accelerator to hit a lead target.

...The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), confirmed the discovery of 112 by the team led by Sigurd Hofmann at the Helmholtz Center. IUPAC has asked for an official name for the element to be submitted.

...The atomic number 112 refers to the sum of the atomic numbers of zinc, which has 30, and lead, which has 82. Atomic numbers denote how many protons are found in the atom's nucleus.
According to Wikipedia, the confirmation of ununbium's creation was quite complicated:
The IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party (JWP) assessed the claim of discovery by the GSI team in 2001 and 2003. In both cases, they found that there was insufficient evidence to support their claim. This was primarily related to the contradicting decay data for the known isotope 261Rf. However, between 2001-2005, the GSI team studied the reaction 248Cm(26Mg,5n)269Hs, and were able to confirm the decay data for 269Hs and 261Rf. It was found that the existing data on 261Rf was for a metastable isomer, namely 261mRf.

In May 2009, the JWP reported on the claims of discovery of element 112 again and officially recognised the GSI team as the discoverers of element 112. This decision was based on recent confirmation of the decay properties of daughter nuclei as well as the confirmatory experiments at RIKEN.
The lifetime of 285Uub is listed as 29 seconds, which seems like forever in heavy-element land. Are we approaching the island of stability?:
The idea of the island of stability was first proposed by Glenn T. Seaborg. The hypothesis is that the atomic nucleus is built up in "shells" in a manner similar to the electron shells in atoms. In both cases shells are just groups of quantum energy levels that are relatively close to each other. Energy levels from quantum states in two different shells will be separated by a relatively large energy gap. So when the number of neutrons and protons completely fill the energy levels of a given shell in the nucleus, the binding energy per nucleon will reach a local minimum and thus that particular configuration will have a longer lifetime than nearby isotopes that do not have filled shells.

A filled shell would have "magic numbers" of neutrons and protons. One possible magic number of neutrons is 184, and some possible matching proton numbers are 114, 120 and 126 — which would mean that the most stable possible isotopes would be ununquadium-298, unbinilium-304 and unbihexium-310. Of particular note is Ubh-310, which would be "doubly magic" (both its proton number of 126 and neutron number of 184 are thought to be magic) and thus the most likely to have a very long half-life. (The next lighter doubly-magic nucleus is lead-208, the heaviest stable nucleus and most stable heavy metal.) None of these superheavy isotopes has yet been produced, but isotopes of elements in the range between 110 through 114 have been found to decay slower than isotopes of nuclei nearby in the periodic table.

...The half lives of elements in the island are uncertain due to the small number of atoms manufactured and studied to date. Many physicists think they are relatively short, on the order of minutes, hours, or perhaps days. However, some theoretical calculations indicate that their half lives may be long (some calculations put it on the order of 109 years). It is possible that these elements could have unusual chemical properties, and, if long lived enough, various applications (such as targets in nuclear physics and neutron sources). However, the isotopes of several of these elements still have too few neutrons to be stable. The island of stability still has not been reached, since the island's "shores" are more neutron rich than nuclides that have been experimentally produced.

...Manufacturing nuclei in the island of stability may be very difficult, because the nuclei available as starting materials do not deliver the necessary sum of neutrons. So for the synthesis of isotope 298 of element 114 by using plutonium and calcium, one would require an isotope of plutonium and one of calcium, which have together a sum of at least 298 nucleons (more is better, because at the nuclei reaction some neutrons are emitted). This would require, for example, the use of calcium-50 and plutonium-248 for the synthesis of element 114 . However these isotopes (and heavier calcium and plutonium isotopes) are not available in weighable quantities. This is also the case for other target-projectile combinations.

...“ We search for the island of stability because, like Mount Everest, it is there. But, as with Everest, there is profound emotion, too, infusing the scientific search to test a hypothesis. The quest for the magic island shows us that science is far from being coldness and calculation, as many people imagine, but is shot through with passion, longing and romance." -- Oliver Sacks

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ADHD Makes Tracking Time Tricky

I self-medicate by jumping off of bridges:
Rubia believes this is evidence that faulty time perception causes the major symptoms of ADHD, by making children perceive even short periods of inactivity as inordinately long and boring. Because novelty-seeking and risky behaviour increase dopamine levels, children with ADHD may be become hyperactive as a way of "self-medicating" with dopamine.

Catalin Buhusi of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston is an author of another paper .... He says the results fit his own research on how intense activity or distraction warps our time perception, so that time appears to fly.

Buhusi's theory is that when we are engaged in an intense task, the working memory required to execute it is too large to allow simultaneous tracking of time, so it appears to pass without us noticing. "We know that disruptions, distractions or plain simple fun have the ability to disrupt tracking of time in normal people," he says. "I think ADHD children have even more of a problem with it."

Lunatics On A Roll

Bad day at the National Holocaust Museum:
The Associated Press reports, “D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes says a person walked into the museum with a rifle and shot the guard. Hughes says the shooter was also shot.”
I'm curious to see how people like William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer (neocons both, with dodgy allies), and Sean Hannity (who's been egging them all on) and Newt Gingrich, and Bill O'Reilly try to spin this. Of course, we still haven't fully-processed the last lunatic:
"For some few years I volunteered as an escort at Dr. Tiller’s and several other clinics. I didn’t know the good doctor well, but met with him on several occasions and was impressed with his kindness and the care he obviously felt for the women who needed his services.

"Of course I have been heartbroken by his assassination, but I’m not so full of hate towards his killer. I’ve seen too many of his kind on the lines; in fact I remember seeing him. We knew Mr. Roeder as 'Prom Queen' from the flowers he usually carried there, and the screaming fits he would throw when approached by escorts. He was one of many not-too-bright mentally ill recruited by various self-appointed fundie leaders who groomed them to scream the threats they themselves were so careful not to utter aloud.

"I’m pretty sure that he has been exploited again to shoot Dr. Tiller. I don’t know who is using him this time- when I saw him, he was in Troy Newman’s stable of nuts, but the fundie leaders are an incestuous bunch who tend to swap followers as needed.

"According to papers Roeder filed today, his possessions amount to a 16yr.-old Taurus and $10, and he only works occasionally at minimum-wage jobs. Yet he managed to finance several 400-mile round trips to Wichita from the KC area in the last month to case the church and know Dr. Tiller by sight, bought a handgun, gas and meals etc. Also, he asked- begged- for bail to be set today, despite his total lack of assets. Obviously, the poor bastard expects someone to post it, all of which leads me to believe that he is not the solitary nutcase the fundies claim he is.

"Somebody had to put him up to it, help him plan it and pay his expenses, and will now feed him to the sharks. Hopefully, and maybe with a bit of psych help, he will realize how he was used and name names."
And as Steve Benen noted:
Two months ago, Richard Poplawski, a right-wing extremist, allegedly gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, in part because he feared the non-existent "Obama gun ban."

...There are other recent examples that bear similar characteristics. This story out of Tennessee from last year continues to haunt.
Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children's musical. [...]

Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday's mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of "the liberal movement," and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."
Obviously, we're dealing with sick individuals here. There are key differences between violent right-wing radicals and mainstream Americans who happen to be conservative. Indeed, I'm not suggesting that conservative activists are necessarily dangerous, violent people.

I am suggesting that it makes sense of the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and communicate with law enforcement agencies about potentially violent extremists -- of every ideological stripe -- to help prevent tragedies like the ones we've seen lately.

The DHS report specifically addressed the possibility of violence from anti-abortion radicals and anti-Semitic extremists. And in the last two weeks, Tiller was assassinated and a white supremacist opened fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Republican hysteria over the DHS report -- which was, by the way, initiated by a Bush administration official -- was always based more on a partisan scheme than reality, but the incessant complaints look especially misguided today.
Make no mistake, with FOX leading the rabid cheerleading pack against liberals, the bloodshed will only increase.

Scrub Jays Seem Quiet Today

Hush, hush in Scrub Jay land.

Photos From Nancy's Trip To The UK

Recently, co-worker Nancy went to the UK. She sent a few snaps from that trip.

Left: Truth silencing Falsehood-- she's pulling out his forked tongue, and note his mask.

Below: Nancy visited the Victoria & Albert Museum. Below, is Dame Edna's "Breakfast Dress".

At the Victoria and Albert Museum, Nancy visited the Kylie Minogue exhibit:
One of the most popular aspects of the phenomenally successful 'Kylie: The Exhibition' at the V&A in 2007, the dressing room exhibit has come back to us once again and can be found in the V&A’s new Theatre and Performance galleries from now until the end of the year.

An exact replica of Kylie’s Wembley dressing room for the 'Showgirl: Homecoming tour 2007', the display features everything from her sheepskin seat cover to the good luck message from Danni Minogue written in lipstick on the mirror. The installation also includes a soundtrack of Kylie and her team in the last minutes before she go out on stage.

A sanctuary for Kylie and home away from home, the dressing room offers the visitor a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life on tour for one of pop’s most revered performers.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Tale Of The Naked Lesbian Drummer

E.: MMMAAARRRCCCC! Let me tell you about the naked drummer!

M.: Naked drummer?

E.: They had been drinking. She was inside, and she was trying to go outside, and her friends wouldn't let her. I looked over there and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

M.: Why was she naked?

E.: I don't know. MMMAAARRRCCCC! She's a lesbian!

M.: She is? How do you know?

E.: Because everyone knows! She's got that short hair like the lesbians got. I looked over there and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. She was inside, and she was trying to go outside, and her friends wouldn't let her. But there were more people inside than outside, so I didn't know why they wouldn't let her go outside. Maybe it was cold. Or maybe they were afraid she'd get in trouble. Or maybe there was another reason, you know what I mean? But all I know wa s hhh.? #) f q ......

E.: MMMMMAAAARRRRCCC! You're not listening to me!

M.: What? Sorry. How do you know she was a drummer?

E.: Because she is! I told my friend 'Go over there and see what's going on'. And so she went over there, and then she came back, and she said she couldn't believe what she was seeing. The drummer was inside, and she was trying to go outside, and her friends wouldn't let her. And then the drummer, she managed to get outside, but then her friends pushed her back inside. I looked over there and I couldn't believe what I was seeing; you know what I mean? I started asking around why she was naked, but no one seemed to know, except that they were drinking, and s..3;;d'9hhsjkkwopdifb bjeokklskl.......

E.: MMMMMAAAAAARRRRCCC! You're not listening to me! Did you hear any word at all I said about the drummer?

M.: What? Huh.... Is she single?

March Of The Meme

I'm impressed with the determination of the Irvine Foundation to spread its gospel about how arts groups need to spread their tentacles and develop their own donor communities in order to survive.

What I wonder, though, is whether this is a good idea. Art is often made within each group by a few deeply committed people and often works best if fundraising is kept at a minimum. These outreaching donor networks are hard to maintain, and self-limiting, since they inevitably crash into one another, as grasping artists try to bludgeon every dollar out of an increasingly-stingy donating subset of the general public.

I'm also impressed with how the Irvine Foundation gospel has spread everywhere, in Stepford Wife fashion, so everyone says just about the same thing these days, whether it is true, or not:
In today's economy, with its plunging endowments and reduced corporate giving, nonprofit arts organizations are looking to private donations as vital instruments of survival.

In Sacramento, where asking individuals for funds is not a deeply entrenched tradition, many of those donors will have to be first-time givers.

Lial Jones, executive director of the Crocker Art Museum, said it has not been common practice for Sacramento arts nonprofits to ask patrons to become donors.

"When I came to Sacramento 10 years ago, people said they never gave to the Crocker because no one ever asked them," Jones said.

..."The reality is that, for us, individual donors are (now) the biggest donor group," Jones said. "So, as we get reductions in public funds and our own endowments, we've had to redouble our efforts with individuals."....

"I've heard, anecdotally, that when patrons of arts organizations are asked why they have not donated they respond 'Well, I've never been asked,' " said Ruth Blank, executive director of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. That organization has been around for 25 years and oversees charitable funds established by individuals, families, businesses and organizations in the region; those funds are used for grants to local nonprofit organizations.

...To make sure the arts scene remains strong, the foundation recently established the Advancing Sacramento Arts Initiative. That effort seeks to create an endowment at the foundation that will go toward granting funds to small and medium-size arts organizations.

...When Feldman came to head the [Sacramento Philharmonic] three years ago, he also encountered a fundraising environment in which asking private individuals for donations was not a priority.

"I've had prospective donors tell me that they've never been asked to make an important gift," he said.

To reach those donors, the Philharmonic is putting together a fundraising committee that will come up with strategies on how best to increase private giving. Feldman said the committee will also seek ways to best approach donors who have already given to the Philharmonic and ask for an increased donation.

"Because there is this truism in fundraising that if you do not ask, you will not get," Feldman said.

Best Places To Live 2009

Guess who's Number 1?:
In selecting our Best Places to Live for 2009, U.S. News took a thrift-conscious approach: We looked for affordable communities that have strong economies and plenty of fun things to do....

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Along the banks of the Rio Grande, with the Sandia Mountains in the background, is the beautiful city of Albuquerque, N.M. The sunny climate and endless landscape have long drawn writers, poets, and artists to this spot, which includes an unconventional mix of American Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures. But it's not just freethinkers who drift to this Southwestern city of 511,000. Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, and Intel Corp. have helped develop the area into a manufacturing and research hub. They provide a stable anchor for the local economy.

Albuquerque's clear skies, calm winds, and abundant sunshine present plenty of opportunities to explore its natural splendor. Each October, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta fills the sky with more than 700 colorful hot-air balloons. Fourteen area golf courses are open year-round and allow duffers to tee off against spectacular backdrops of volcanoes and mountain peaks. Meanwhile, Albuquerque's foothills and network of trails make the area a wonderful destination for biking. Still, "it's kind of undiscovered at the same time," says Will McConnell of the Albuquerque Bicycle Center.

2. Auburn, Ala.

3. Austin, Texas

4. Boise, Idaho

5. Durham, N.C.

6. La Crosse, Wis.

7. Loveland, Colo.

8. San Luis Obispo, Calif.

9. St. Augustine, Fla.

10. Upper St. Clair, Pa.

Sleep Deprivation

Great article in the WSJ regarding the insidious dangers of sleep deprivation.

I'd comment more about it, except that I stayed up till 4:30 a.m. watching "Slumdog Millionaire" on DVD, and I can't even think straight right now.

Aaarrggh, Matey!

Keel-haul the copyright holders!:
A POLITICAL party that represents internet pirates has been voted into the European Parliament.

Sweden's Pirate Party wants to deregulate copyright, abolish the patent system and reduce surveillance on the internet.

It captured 7.1 per cent of Swedish votes in the Europe-wide ballot – enough to win it a seat.

"This is fantastic," said the party's top candidate, Christian Engstrom.

"This shows that there are a lot of people who think that personal integrity is important and that it matters that we deal with the internet and the new information society in the right way."

Not Inert, Or Explosive, But 'Passionate'

Driving around Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, I noticed signs I hadn't seen before at Shell gasoline stations: Nitrogen-Enhanced fuel. What could that mean? If the enhanced nitrogen is molecular nitrogen, then it's inert; if it's nitroglycerine or TNT, then it's too reactive. Is there a happy median? Any added nitrogen might pose a NOx air pollution problem too. What is this stuff?

This press release doesn't give me the warm fuzzies:
Today at Shell stations across the U.S., consumers will fill-up with a new product at the pumps. Shell is introducing the all-new Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines, containing a unique, patented cleaning system designed to seek and destroy engine “gunk” (carbon deposits) in all three grades of gasoline. The new Nitrogen Enriched cleaning system protects and cleans up gunky build-up on intake valves and fuel injectors left by lower quality gasolines.

Nitrogen is a key element of the active cleaning molecule in the new fuel, making it significantly more stable at higher temperatures common in modern engines, such as direct fuel-injection gasoline engines. The increased stability ensures that the molecule can work under much tougher engine conditions by resisting thermal breakdown better than conventional cleaning additives.

“At Shell, our ‘Passionate Experts’ are dedicated to helping motorists get the most out of every drop of gasoline,” said Jens Mueller-Belau, Fuels Portfolio and Category Manager North America, Shell Retail.. “With Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines, our scientists have increased the effectiveness of our cleaning additive, offering consumers our most advanced technology ever.”

...“In today’s tough economy, American drivers are concerned about protecting their vehicle since it’s one of their largest investments,” said Mueller-Belau. “We want to help protect that investment. That’s why we want them to educate consumers that there is a difference in the gasoline they choose. Using lower quality gasolines can result in gunky build-up on critical engine parts, negatively impacting engine performance. Shell gasolines help drivers say ‘No’ to gunk.”

Comedy, Or Not?

I had to study this closely before I realized it was satire. So hard to tell these days:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor today of faking a broken ankle in order to get sympathy votes during her Senate confirmation.

"She's only wearing that fake cast to help her rack up votes," Mr. Gingrich said. "The minute she's confirmed, she'll whip it off and start dancing a jig."

While Ms. Sotomayor reportedly broke her ankle while rushing to catch a plane, the former House Speaker said, "The fake-ankle-cast thing is the oldest trick in the book."

Mr. Gingrich said that if Ms. Sotomayor was counting on arousing the empathy of Republican senators by faking a broken ankle, she was "sorely mistaken."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Britain's Former Home Secretary Unprepared; Attacked By Cow

At least the Florida drug addict was armed and ready:
Mr Blunkett, who is registered blind, was out walking on Saturday in the Derbyshire Peak District with his guide dog Sadie and 26-year-old son Andrew when the incident unfolded. A herd of cows became enraged by the presence of labrador Sadie and charged towards the two men.

Mr Blunkett was knocked to the ground by one of the animals. He said it was a "miracle" that he wasn't killed.

"I let go of Sadie and she shot off," he said. "The next thing I knew, I'd stumbled to the ground and the animal fell over too.

"She hit my side and broke my rib. Had her full weight of around a ton hit me, I'd have been a gonner.

"I know the public are furious with politicians, but I didn't realise that anger has spread to Britain's cow population too.

...Mr Blunkett was rushed to a specialist doctor by his fiancée, Margaret Wiliams, 50, a GP. There, he was told that he was lucky to have avoided a punctured lung.

"There is a serious message from this – beware of herds of cattle, especially when walking a dog and when calves are about.

"I've made inquiries and the incidence of people being attacked by cattle is extremely high, especially this time of year."

Not Gonna Be Cowed By Cows

Can't be too careful, you know:
A 19-year-old Manatee County man was arrested Friday after he was found in a cow pasture collecting psychedelic mushrooms while carrying a crossbow, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said.

Jeffery Moore and three others were spotted by a Manatee County Sheriff’s helicopter in a cow pasture in the 2400 block of 38th Avenue East. According to the sheriff’s report, Moore was seen lying face down in an attempt to conceal himself from the helicopter’s spotlight.

Moore was found holding a small crossbow and sling shot. He told deputies that the weapons were for protection in case the cows in the pasture came at him.

Kick 'Em While They're Down!

Rush wouldn't have made a very good nurse:
Reacting to news that Sonya Sotomayor fractured her ankle in a slight stumble at a New York airport, Limbaugh asked, “Now, the question is, would a white, male judge have fractured his ankle in the same circumstances?”

Congress Debates The NBA Finals

The Wise Latina Says "I Think I Will Sit Down For Awhile"

Ow, ow, ow!:
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was taken to George Washington University Medical Center in the District this morning for X-rays of her right ankle after stumbling at the La Guardia airport in New York, White House officials said.

The X-ray revealed a small fracture in her ankle. She was released from the hospital after less than two hours and is now using crutches, said Ben LaBolt, an assistant press secretary at the White House.

Cambridge Is Better Than Oxford

But, oddly enough, the debate continues....

AF447 Speculation

Here is some useful speculation regarding Air France 447.

The most fundamental problem, of course, has hardly been talked about: how do you avoid thunderstorms when they are arrayed in the form of a wall hundreds of miles long? For AF447 to have avoided all thunderstorms would have required a detour of hundreds of fuel-devouring miles. I can understand why the matter wasn't seriously considered, especially after they were airborne. But that would have been the safest approach.

The pitot tube matter is likely a red herring....air speed wasn't what killed them, but rather, suddenly being faced with an insoluble problem of some sort:
Bypassing this line of storms altogether would have incurred a long detour to the west. Meanwhile, note the contours of what they had in front of them. It's possible to stay in the green (lighter precipitation and less turbulence, presumably) the whole way through. Other visual cues that indicate danger -- scallops, fingers, hooks, areas of attenuation -- look to be avoidable.

It was going to be rough, no doubt, and we'll never know for sure what their radar screens actually showed. But if the graphic is close to accurate, it becomes easier to understand why they went on through. It was a borderline call, but not a crazy one.

...My hunch is that an unusually potent lightning strike set off a cavalcade of serious electrical problems. As reviewed in this column last week, airplanes are hit by lightning fairly frequently. Although strikes aren't normally hazardous, when trouble does occur, it tends to affect the electrical system.

According to automatic status messages relayed from the airplane to its maintenance staff in Paris, the plane suffered a loss of its Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU) and Integrated Standby Instrument System (ISIS). Other messages told of a degraded condition in the jet's high-tech, fly-by-wire flight control stem (evidently triggered by multiple electrical faults) and what seems to have been a loss of cabin pressure.

In layperson's terms, they were losing the ability to maintain speed, altitude and pressurization as well as some of their maneuverability. Under different conditions, these malfunctions aren't liable to be catastrophic. But in the throes of a storm, in darkness, it's a different story. Eventually there was total loss of control, and the plane hit the ocean in one or more pieces.

Crew incapacitation (hypoxia as a result of the decompression) is another possible factor. On the A330, the model of airplane that crashed, loss of cabin pressure can result from certain electrical failures. So the automated status message indicating depressurization may not have been a structural issue or indicator of an in-flight breakup, as many have purported.

The crew was dealing with the loss of important instruments and controls. There would be confusion at this point, with warnings going off, messages flashing and some very urgent troubleshooting. If, as part of the mix, the cabin had suddenly decompressed, it may not have been noticed right away. Without use of supplemental oxygen, the pilotswould have had about 30 seconds of useful consciousness -- maybe less.

Could they have passed out? The autopilot was off at this point, and in powerful gusts the plane could have quickly gone out of control.

Some have also posited the idea of engine failure -- the loss of one or even both engines -- caused either by hail ingestion or extreme turbulence. This could explain the loss of cabin pressure and even the loss of control. Gliding, without engines or primary instruments, is relatively easy in calm, daylight conditions, as Capt. Sullenberger showed us. But this was another situation entirely.

And over the past few days, the media has become fixated on a report that the pilots were operating at the "wrong speed" as they penetrated the bad weather. Commercial aircraft have a so-called "turbulence penetration speed" that helps ensure structural integrity and controllability during very rough air. Of course, maintaining a precise speed can be difficult under such conditions, and any discrepancy was probably a symptom of other internal failures (see electrics, above) and not by itself a cause of the accident. The news has really jumped on this topic, but I'm wary of how relevant it might be.

The speed discrepancy has been traced to the possible failure of one or more the plane's so-called "pitot tubes" during unusually heavy icing conditions. These tubes -- among the many sundry probes, ports and sensors that dot a jetliner's exterior -- help determine airspeed. Conceivably, a pitot malfunction could have caused very serious problems and, if taken to the extreme, loss of the aircraft.

All exterior probes are heated, however, and ice accretion would have to have been particularly rapid and intense to overcome them. This was possible, but not likely. If they iced over, I suspect it was due to one or more electrical failures occurring first. Again, a symptom and not a cause.

Take A Dip!

Deborah's Web Site now has a section devoted just to her iPhone art!

Berkeley Miscellany

The UC Berkeley campus, with its famous campanile undergoing renovation, as seen from Zellerbach Hall.

The intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft - the Center Of The Universe.

Everyone loves tie-dye!

A quiet Sunday afternoon on Telegraph Avenue.


La Bayadère - Bolshoi Ballet - Berkeley, CA - June 7, 2009

Left: Zellerbach Hall.

Interesting and beautiful show!

On Sunday afternoon, Sally and I traveled to Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall to see the Bolshoi Ballet's "La Bayadère" (Choreography by Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Pavel Klinichev, conductor):

Exciting changes are in store for Russia's legendary Bolshoi Ballet, one of the world's preeminent artistic institutions. The company's 2009 visit marks the first under new artistic director Yuri Burlaka, a dynamic young talent famous for his extra- ordinary revivals of 19th-century dance classics. And in a development that has captured the interest of the ballet world, Yuri Grigorovich, the Bolshoi's Soviet-era artistic director, returns to oversee stagings of the full-length ballets that he choreo- graphed. The company's "profoundly moving" (Guardian, London) La Bayadère is a drama of passion, betrayal, and redemption, unfolding against the exotic backdrop of India and culminating in the radiant choreography of the "Kingdom of the Shades".
Left: Intermission #2 in Zellerbach Hall.

Left: A statue of Natalia Makorova in Zellerbach Hall.

Left: Bows, as seen from the balcony.

The impact of Act III was stunning: seeing 32 ballerinas in white, in unison (although in alternating unison).

Nadezda Grachev was wonderful as Nikiya the Bayadère, but I actually enjoyed more the dancing of Ekaterina Shipulina as Gamzatti, the Rajah's daughter. Andrey Uvarov played Solor the Warrior wonderfully, and the fellow who played what I believe was the Golden Idol (Denis Medvedev) did an excellent job too.

There was some weirdness after the second intermission. I noticed that worried ushers were working together to keep someone from entering the house proper (Berkeley does have some strange folks ambling about).

Afterwards, dinner at Stenger's fish restaurant, then a return to Sacramento!

World Peace Spiritual March In Berkeley

The traffic on University Ave. in Berkeley was shunted aside to make room for a parade. It was a little unclear to me whether it was a stand-alone event, or part of other events. This site states:
Berkeley, California (Friday, June 05, 2009) - On Sunday, June 7, the World Peace Spiritual March will travel in and around Downtown Berkeley, causing some traffic and AC Transit buses to be re-routed. The detours will be in effect between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Which sounds rather ecumenical, but this other site implies it was specifically a Sikh parade:
Gurbachan Singh, president of Gurdwara Sahib, Elsobrante, has appealed to the Sikh sangat to converge at at the gurdwara on June 7 (Sunday) in large numbers to participate in the Nagar Kirtan in connection with the martyrdom day of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

I think it was (probably) primarily a Sikh event.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fresh Strabewrries

Signs seen along I-80, on the way to Berkeley, Sunday afternoon:
Fresh Strabewrries
Fresh Strabewrries? Fresh Strabewrries!
Be Alert At Night
Okay. No promises regarding the day, however.
Pinole Dental!
We really don't have enough punctuation in our merchant names.... Examples might include:
Jiffy Lube?
(Black) Angus
McCormick & $$$$chmick