Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Big Earthquake Off Of NZ's South Island

Some damage in Invercargill, apparently. Hope Andrew wasn't discomfited, whether in Christchurch, or elsewhere:
A tsunami warning issued by the center was in effect for about 2 1/2 hours after the quake hit at 9:22 p.m. New Zealand time yesterday, with the residents of Auckland and Wellington advised of a possible threat, according to e-mailed alerts. No other countries in the Pacific were affected. The quake was followed by a magnitude-5.8 aftershock 19 minutes later.

Sea-level readings indicated a tsunami had been generated by the temblor, the center said, though there was no report of any impact. At Jackson Bay, the sea had risen 0.17 meter (6.7 inches) above normal, the agency said. The coastal area near the epicenter is sparsely populated and includes Fiordland National Park.

“When no major waves are observed for two hours after the estimated time of arrival or damaging waves have not occurred for at least two hours then local authorities can assume the threat is passed,” the center said. “Danger to boats and coastal structures can continue for several hours due to rapid currents.”

The temblor struck 150 kilometers (95 miles) west-northwest of Invercargill on the South Island, at a depth of 35 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The earthquake shook buildings as far away as Christchurch, the biggest city on the South Island and 532 kilometers to the northeast of the epicenter.

The quake brought down some power lines in Invercargill, local police inspector Olaf Jensen said by telephone. He said he didn’t have any reports of serious damage and couldn’t confirm an NZ Radio report of cracked buildings in Tuatapere, the closest town to the epicenter. Police don’t expect to get a better sense of damage until daylight, Jensen said.

Hiatus - Preparing For New Mexico Trip

I'm doing various errands today, preparing to travel to NM. I'm not very optimistic about my father's odds: he's been fighting emphysema for years, but suddenly he's having to cope with a bleeding ulcer as well. Not good in his precarious state of health. I know I should probably fly, but I had already been planning an auto trip next week anyway - a holiday trip through the SW. I'm still planning to drive, probably starting with first light tomorrow. That puts me in ABQ by Friday, and I hope that's soon enough.

I will continue blogging over the next two weeks as conditions and events dictate. I plan to be back in Sacramento by August 1, but no guarantees. I will likely miss DMTC's 25th Anniversary Gala, but who can say for sure?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marcial Valdez Hospitalized

My father entered the hospital today, and I'm trying to clear the decks to travel to New Mexico as soon as I can responsibly do.

Now, Do The Pills Work?

I mentioned to my doctor that I was going to try ordering expensive medication from Canada (which subsequently sends the order to India) in order to avoid what I consider ripoff American prices. He said fine, but he had heard that sometimes they send fake pills instead, and he wanted me to let him know how all that went.

Yesterday, I received a mysterious little package from India. Now, the question is, are the pills effective, and would I even be able to tell the difference (the placebo effect)?

Bouquet Fail

A romantic wedding in the Tuscan countryside ended with injuries after an attempt to launch the bride's bouquet from a plane brought down the tiny aircraft. Italian police say two people were hurt in the crash of the ultralight plane after the bridal bouquet they launched got caught in the aircraft's rear rotor.

The flowers blocked the engine, bringing the plane down by a youth hostel.

Police in the nearby town of Piombino said Tuesday the pilot was lightly injured in Saturday's crash, while the passenger who threw the bouquet had several broken bones.

Tottering CIT

The game changed, and they apparently didn't:
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- CIT Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Peek moved from a New Jersey office complex to a 28-story glass tower on Manhattan’s 42nd Street featuring a lobby bathed in blue, green and red. Three years later, he’s fighting to keep the lights on at the century-old finance firm.

Peek, 62, who joined CIT in 2003 after failing to land the top job at Merrill Lynch & Co., pushed the lender into subprime mortgages and student loans to pump up growth. Now, as investors flee the 101-year-old company’s bonds and shares on concern it may become the year’s biggest financial industry failure, Peek is trying to gain additional government support after receiving more than $2 billion last year.

“You could make a cogent argument that senior management didn’t have a good grasp of the financial storm that was on the horizon,” said Sean Egan, president of Egan-Jones Ratings Co. in Haverford, Pennsylvania. “CIT has been through a number of near-death experiences. This time they cut it too close.”

...On Peek’s watch, the shares soared to a record $61.59 in February 2007 before plunging 98 percent as the company reported eight straight money-losing quarters. CIT’s debt rating was cut by Standard & Poor’s yesterday to seven levels below investment grade, as the ratings firm cited company requests to draw down on credit lines.

Moody’s also slashed its rating yesterday, to B3 from Ba2, or six levels below investment grade, because of “inadequate progress” toward improving liquidity. CIT, which lends to 950,000 businesses, warned that a collapse would put manufacturing and retail clients at risk.

CIT shares climbed to $1.66 in early trading at 8:10 a.m. in New York after closing at $1.35 yesterday.

"My Friend Judge Cedarbaum Is Here This Afternoon"

Like Josh says:
Here's a fun moment from this morning's hearings. Remember that scene in Annie Hall where the Alvy and Annie are waiting in line at the movie and Alvy is going nuts listening to the pontificating blowhard going on about Marshall McLuhan and then Alvy pulls McLuhan himself out from behind the movie poster to tell the guy he's an idiot. Not quite identical and Sotomayor could have driven the point a bit harder but Judge Sotomayor managed to pull off something like that.

Starmites Auditions Approach

On Monday, July 27 & Tuesday, July 28, DMTC Young performers will hold auditions for their upcoming production of “Starmites!”

Barry Keating's 1989 Tony Award-nominated musical Starmites tells the story of a shy teenager who builds a fantasy world around the characters in the science fiction comic books she collects.

If you are a young performer interested in auditioning and would like to learn more about “Starmites,” stop by DMTC Tuesday, July 14th at 4:00 pm. We will be listening to the music and the artistic team will be providing snacks and answering questions about our upcoming production. Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about this awesome, fun-filled show.


Paula Clanton-Director

Show information:


Audition dates: Monday, July 27, 2009 or Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.
Callbacks: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.
Rehearsals begin: August 3rd, at 4:30pm
Directed by Paula Clanton
At the DMTC Performing Arts Center, 607 Pena Drive .


Music and Lyrics by Barry Keating. Book by Barry Keating and Stuart Ross

Performance Dates

Sat Sep 26. 2009-2:15pm
Sat Oct 3, 2009-2:15pm
Sat Oct 10. 2009-11:15am & 2:15pm
Sat Oct 17, 2009-2:15pm
Sun Oct 18, 2009-2:15pm
Plus one additional date TBD

Character Descriptions

Actors ages 7 through 17 (as of the first performance) may participate. 18-year-old students still enrolled in high school are also permitted to participate.

Eleanor Fairchild: a teenage girl who eventually becomes Milady-Superhero of Innerspace. Must be an excellent singer.

Eleanor's mother: an unassuming woman who loves her daughter and anxiously awaits the day when she will grow out of her comic book craze.

Banshees- Amazonian Bombshells who terrorize and rule Innerspace. Banshees must be able to sing and dance well.

They include:

Diva: Imposing and powerful Queen of Innerspace. (Actor playing Eleanor's mother also plays Diva). Must be an excellent singer,
Bizarbara: Awkward and shy daughter of Diva, possessed with a heart of gold and yearning to be a normal teen. (Actor playing Eleanor also plays Bizarbara).
Shotzi: Diva's sergent at arms.
Balbraka: delights in terrorizing the Starmites.
Cannibelle: delights in devouring the Starmites.
Maligna: delights in tormenting the Starmites.
Ensemble Banshees: 5-10 ensemble Banshees

Starmites- teenaged band of boys dedicated to fighting the deadly forces of the Universe. May be played by boys or girls ages 7-17. Starmites must sing and dance well.

They include:

Space Punk: the hero, captain of the Starmites, and hearthrob of the Universe.
Herbie Harrison: the organized and methodical member of the group. He is the brains of the group.
Dazzle Razzledorf: the bumbling show-off of the group. He is the youngest of the Starmites.
Ack Ack Ackerman: the groups tough guy. He is second in command to Space Punk.
Ensemble Starmites: 5-10 ensemble Starmites

Shak Graa: High Priest of Chaos, determined to destroy both Earth and Innerspace.

Trinkulus: a reptilian minstrel, once enslaved by Shak Graa, acts as a guide to the Starmites. (Actor playing Shak Graa also plays Trinkulus).

Droids: two creatures in black who assist Shak Graa in his evil endeavors.

Plot Synopsis

Eleanor Fairchild, a teenage outcast, lives in a fantasy world built around her favorite science fiction comic books ( Super Hero Girl). Her mother, convinced her daughter would be a normal teenage girl if she were not obsessed with comics, convinces Eleanor to sell her books. Right before Eleanor relinguishes her beloved comic books she is kidnapped by the evil Shak Graa and transported to Innerspace. Shak Graa is intent on sacrificing Eleanor so he can rule the world. Starmites, led by the handsome and charming Space Punk, rescue Eleanor and inform her that she is pre-ordained to save the universe from destruction ( Don't Be Afraid of the Dark). Eleanor and the Starmites set off on an adventure to find "The Cruelty," a powerful musical instrument, which they must find before it falls into the hands of Shak Graa.

In Shreikwood Forest Banshees, a band of cruel, flesh eating women, kidnap Eleanor and the 'Mites. The Banshees take their hostages to Diva, the manipulative Queen of the Banshees ( Diva). It doesn't take long for Diva to realize her hostages are worth more alive than dead and her and the Banshees joins forces with Eleanor and the Starmites to save the universe from Shak Graa ( Reach Right Down).

Popping Bubble

Left: English photographer Richard Heeks used a fast shutter speed of 1/500th of a second and chose a perfect wind-free day.

As the finger breaks the surface tension, the sphere is replaced by a round mass of soapy droplets which dissolve into the air.

Debt - That's SO 2008!

I don't know where these folks live, but it's not my experience:
Debt-related stress was 12 percent lower this year than in 2008, according to the poll. “People now have some optimism that the worst is behind them,” said Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the results of the survey.

The recession, the longest since World War II, is prompting Americans to take steps to get their finances in better shape. It’s led to a newfound frugality that some believe will continue long after the recession ends.

“People are doing things that make them feel they are taking charge of their lives again,” said Patricia Drentea, associate professor of sociology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who studies debt and stress.

...The questions and results for this poll are available at

Ironically, some of these changes — notably a more cautious consumer — could add to the national economy’s stress. If Americans were to sharply cut back spending, that could prolong the recession and short-circuit any hopes for a recovery this year. Meanwhile, fallout from the recession and government efforts to lift the country out of it have propelled the federal budget deficit past $1 trillion for the first time, the Treasury Department reported Monday. The exact figure: nearly $1.1 trillion of red ink run up in the nine months of this budget year.

There was a stark break in the poll between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats reported a big drop in their debt stress, while Republicans registered a sharp rise, a development political scientists attributed to the election of Barack Obama, which put the White House — and economic policy — back in the hands of Democrats following eight years of Republican George W. Bush.

Now 48 percent of those polled say the country is headed in the right direction, compared with just 18 percent who said that in 2008, the poll says.

But that confidence could prove fragile, said Terry Madonna, political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. “At the moment, Obama is personally more popular than his programs. Ultimately, his approval rating will be tied to his performance.”

There’s no doubt the recession, which started in December 2007, has taken a toll on Americans.

It has snatched a net total of 6.5 million jobs, and driven the unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June.

Americans watched their net worth shrink by $1.3 trillion in the first three months of this year, due mainly to declining stocks and home values, the Federal Reserve says.

On the other hand, Americans aren’t dealing with record-high gas prices as they were last summer. Credit and financial problems, which reached a crisis point last fall, have shown some signs of easing. But it’s still hard for many people to get loans.

“I wouldn’t conclude by any stretch that consumers feel safe or comfortable. But I think the uncertainty has mitigated. Some of the big fears people had at least disappeared some,” said James Hamilton, economics professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Last year, 33 percent said they were at least “somewhat concerned” that they would never be able to pay off their debts. That’s dropped to 27 percent this year, the poll shows.

Other encouraging changes: The proportion of people saying they worry all or most of the time about debt fell to 19 percent, from 24 percent last year. And, the share of people who hardly ever fret or don’t worry at all about debt grew to 47 percent, from 41 percent last year.

...Nationwide, total household debt — including mortgages, credit cards, autos and other consumer loans — stood at $13.8 trillion in the first three months of this year. That amounts to roughly $124,000 of debt per household. The total debt figure is down only slightly from a peak of $13.9 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, according to the Federal Reserve.

Although households are shedding debt, they aren’t doing it quickly. Consumers’ debt exceeded their after-tax “disposable” income by 28 percent in the first quarter, according to Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s So consumers’ debt was almost a third more than their income. This debt-to-disposable income ratio peaked in the first quarter of 2008, when debt exceeded income by 33 percent.

The savings rate jumped to 6.9 percent in May, the highest since December 1993. The amount of money saved — $768.8 billion — was the most on records that started in January 1959, the government recently reported.

Currying Favor

Conservative media fell all over themselves trying to defend and curry favor with Gov. Mark Sanford's office when he had been missing for a few days and people were starting to ask questions:
In an email to Sanford press secretary Joel Sawyer, Brendan Miniter, an editor of the Wall Street Journal's, called out his own paper's first-day coverage (sub. req.) of the story, writing: "Someone at WSJ should be fired for today's story. Ridiculous."

On June 23rd -- by which time Sanford had been missing for five days and his staff had offered unconvincing explanations about his whereabouts -- a Fox News Channel correspondent wrote to Sawyer:
Having known the Governor for years and even worked with him when he would host radio shows for me -- I find this story and the media frenzy surrounding it to be absolutely ridiculous! Please give him my best.
And a Washington Times staffer at one point wrote in an email to the governor's office:
If you all want to speak on this publicly, you're welcome to Washington Times Radio. You know that you will be on friendly ground here!
In fact, it may have been a "conservative," rather than a conservative, who went furthest in dismissing the story to Sanford's office. Stephen Colbert, himself a native South Carolinian, wrote a friendly email to Sawyer on the 24th, in an effort to get Sanford to come on his show:
As you may know, I declared myself Governor of South Carolina last night. I went power mad for abut 40 seconds before learning that Gov. Sanford was returning today.

If the governor is looking for a friendly place to make light of what I think is a small story that got blown out of scale I would be happy to have him on. In person here, on the phone, or in South Carolina.

Stay strong, Stephen

The Wise Latina Stays On Track

All of this is silly, of course. Sonia Sotomayor never intended to disparage anyone's judgment, but rather to just state the obvious, that a wise Latina is likely to spot certain biases before others do (and certainly anti-Latina, anti-Latino, or anti-woman biases), simply based on life experience, the same way that, say, Irish Catholics can more-easily spot anti-Irish biases than the general population, or the way that Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia or Sam Alito, for example, can spot anti-Italian biases. The fact that the Republicans keep hammering away at this point shows a dispiriting, misogynist Latino-hatred that will serve them poorly at the polls anywhere women or Latinos are registered to vote.

Reflekt - Need To Feel Loved

Beautiful sunsets, set to the tune of Reflekt's Trance classic.

Tango Treasures Now Open, Online

Today was the Big Announcement we've all been anticipating for some months now!

Sadie's done a lot of extensive travel in South America, looking over the merchandise and talking with the artists, and now she's ready to go into business, selling Argentine Fashion!
We just wanted to share with you our boutique collection with a focus on Argentina... created from a mixture of antique, rustic and fashion idea products portraying an enormous amount of creativity.

Our collection features artistic and designer creations that represent the culture of this South American country. from bijouterie (trinkets and jewelry), Fashion wears, decor and country classics, Kitchen specialties and art, to tailored gifts and many more treasures.
For now, she is selling her Tango Treasures online, until she gathers enough money to open a brick-and-mortar boutique.

Nevertheless, Linda in Isleton has put up a display showing off and selling Sadie's goods.

Sadie has also been working in close collaboration with Step One Dance Studio. Large purchases from her boutique help support dance classes for disadvantaged youth on the one hand, and on the other hand, help support another of Step One's projects, the Toukoul Orphanage in Ethiopia.

Let's help make Sadie's project a success!

Darwin Loves You

Left: "Darwin Loves You" - a bumpersticker seen in Davis.

Not 100% sure I should feel loved. After all, natural selection is what advances the species, and that means somebody's got to go.....

Music Man Post-Show Cast Party

"The Music Man" - Final Sunday

Monday, July 13, 2009

E. Reviews DMTC's "The Music Man"

E. brought her country-western band friends A., M., and C. to see DMTC's final performance of 'The Music Man' on Sunday afternoon.
M.: How did you and your friends like 'The Music Man'?

E.: Oh, it was wonderful! It was the first time A. & M. had ever seen a theater play. And C. liked the play too! The members of the band make a point to wear their uniforms wherever they go, but they made an exception on Sunday afternoon and didn't wear their cowboy hats, in consideration of the others sitting behind them. But it didn't matter anyway, since we were in the back row and there was no one behind us.

M.: What did you think of the show?

E. It was different than 'The Music Man' in Woodland. There, the leading character was a man; Rodger McDonald. And they had those tumbling girls (the Almendariz twins). But in your 'Music Man', the lead was the woman.

M.: Did you like her?

E.: Oh, yes, she had an amazing voice!

M.: What else did you think?

E.: I expected more singing.

M.: !!! But there was a lot of singing!

E.: Yes, of groups. But not much otherwise. Neither Jan or Dannette or Mary sang.

M.: Did you like the kids in the show?

E.: Yes! Lots of kids. I especially liked that boy who sang....

M.: Gary, Indiana....

E.: Yes, Gary Indiana. When he finished, he did a lock step, and a little bow. Like this (showing an example). Did you see that?

M.: No. That was just before I was going to go on, and usually I was busy in the wing. And sometimes his mother, Wendy, would come out and stand in the wing to watch.

E. OH! He's Wendy's boy?

M.: Yes!

E.: Wow!

M.: What did you think of the Barbershop Quartet?

E.: (unsure) They seemed to be good, the Quartertet Barber - what did you call them? I liked that part when the Music Man fooled them into singing, and he just left after that. That was funny!

M.: What did you think of Marcellus, Harold Hill's sidekick? (producing a fuzzy image of Paul from the camera, in order to jog her memory).

E.: (after a long hesitation) MMMMAAARRRCCCC! I think something is wrong with me! I sat down and nodded off and C. had to nudge me awake!

M.: Well, that could happen to anyone. What else did you think of the show?

E.: The lighting was fantastic! Who did the lighting?

M.: That was Dannette.

E.: Dannette did a perfect job! You know, if you point the lights in the wrong direction you can make the people on stage look just TERRIBLE, but they all looked great. It takes TREMENDOUS experience to make the lighting so perfect. Of course, I don't understand how that works myself, but I know this from my commonsense understanding.

M.: After the show, I was worried that M. didn't have a good time. She looked kind of unhappy.

E.: (Laughing) Oh, that was probably because she was wearing heels! After the theater play, we all went to play at the musician gig, and so we were completely ready and dressed! And I'm a part of the band these days too!

M.: But you all had a good time!

E.: Oh yes, it was fun!

Drawing On A Big Talent Reserve

Catholic back-bench:
As one high profile Hispanic Catholic pick of the Obama administration sits today before the Senate Judiciary Committee and another awaits his hearing, the President drew further from the US church's diverse ranks this morning with the nomination of his Surgeon General -- this time, an African-American Catholic.

Founder of a health clinic for Alabama's rural poor that's been destroyed and rebuilt three times (twice by hurricanes, once by fire) since its founding in 1990, Dr Regina Benjamin was reelected to a second term on the board of the US' Catholic Health Association at its yearly assembly last month in New Orleans. Even more notably, though, the family physician's work both at home and beyond was recognized in 2006 when Pope Benedict awarded Benjamin the papal cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice ("For the Church and the Pontiff") -- the Roman accolade reserved for laity, religious and permanent deacons who've given distinguished service both at the Vatican and in the wider church.

Awkward Moment On The Bridge To Nowhere