Saturday, January 16, 2010

Memorial Service For Will Smith

A solemn memorial service at Arcade Baptist Church in Carmichael for Will Smith.

I guessed that 400 people were in the pews downstairs, and another 100 in the balcony above, for a total of 500. Steve heard on authority that they expected 500 people to show up, and 900 arrived.

Whatever the exact figure, a large number of people were moved by the shock of the tragedy to express their sorrow, and express their support, to the Smith family.

Among the testimonials, the song featuring Laura Wardrip on piano and vocals, and Lydia Smith singing, was the most-touching. Also touching was Anissa's brother's efforts to make sense of Will's death. It was reassuring that Senator George Runner and his wife Sharon were there to lend support (Will Smith had been George Runner's Chief-of-Staff). Their legislative staffs were there too, and several of them gave moving testimonials as well.

Afterwards, food was served in the gymnasium. Sometimes it was a bit awkward: young Caleb Smith waved at me, but my hands were filled with food, so I just nodded in response. Still, the food was good and the company fine, and I know we were all reassured to see Anissa and the family and able to express our love and support.

Finished Edward Gorey's "Frawgge Mfrg. Co." Jigsaw Puzzle

The Frawgge Mfrg. Co. was a phenomenally-successful commercial enterprise, but left the family a legacy of ill-will, murder and mayhem!

Latest Forecast

Rain should start by tomorrow morning. They now seem to be suggesting the biggest punch will come on Wednesday.

Queensland Is The Best Model For California's Future Water Use

In rural Queensland, almost every home has always collected rainwater (the semi-tropical desert climate has always been too unpredictable not to). Only in urban areas did short-sightedness leave a significant proportion of the populace without rainwater tanks. Still, the population has long been braced against drought.

It's really quite shocking: Californians use as much as ten times the water as Queenslanders, per capita! Such a comparison makes us seem wasteful, but Queenslanders were driven to their amazing miserliness out of misery: it just stopped raining, and they no choice but to adapt, and fast! But they kept their first-world lifestyle, and so can we, but only if we make the necessary choices before we are bludgeoned into it like they were.:
When California water officials look into the future, many of them see Australia: a vast, arid continent that has been suffering through drought for more than a decade. Severe shortages have prompted Australia to implement strict water-saving measures throughout the country. It has required residents to use less water in their homes, caused government to build large-scale desalination plants and led farmers to implement drip irrigation systems.

Australia, it seems, could offer a model of how to adapt in California, where, despite this weekend’s rains, the state remains in a third year of drought -- a drought many water officials expect not only will continue but continue to be exacerbated by a growing population and climate change considerations.

Recognizing that California and Australia are "inextricably linked to the serious changes and challenges of an accelerating decreasing availability of water and its supply juxtaposed to the demands of ever increasing populations," according to Grame Barty, regional director of the Americans for the Australian Trade Commission, the L.A.-based commission hosted a one-day event Thursday to bring together water sustainability experts from both sides of the Pacific in what it hopes "will become an important annual exchange of issues and solutions between the USA and Australia." It's part of the annual G'Day USA: Australia Week celebration.

...Griggs cited rainwater harvesting and demand management as the least expensive options for increasing water supplies. Pipelines and dams were among the most expensive options, he said.

"Urban storm water is a large untapped source of water generated close to where it’s needed. ... In most Australian cities, as much water falls on that city as the city needs," Griggs said.

In Queensland, Australia’s fastest-growing state, with 2.7 million residents, about 20% of the population has installed rain-catchment tanks since 2006, when the area received just 7.4% of its average annual inflow to the major dam that supplies it. In 2007, that flow had declined to just 4%.

Responding to its dire circumstance, the Queensland Water Commission implemented a variety of drastic measures.

On the management end, it reduced the number of utilities in the state from 23 to seven. It too built a desalination plant. In addition to developing a system to connect dams supplying the area, it installed an indirect potable reuse system similar to what currently exists in Orange County, said Dan Spiller, principal executive director of the Queensland Water Commission.

On the consumer end, Queensland instituted an aggressive campaign to change the behavior of its residents because about 70% of the water used in Australia is residential. In 2006, when Queensland’s dams had declined to 30% capacity and severe water restrictions were already in place, prohibiting homeowners from watering their landscapes and washing their cars and homes’ windows, "residents reported restriction fatigue," Spiller said.

Yet further water restrictions were necessary.

So Queensland gave them goals. Specifically, it asked that residents use just 35 to 40 gallons of water per person per day -- a savings that could be more easily attained if residents reduced their seven-minute showers to four minutes. In addition to giving residients free shower timers, that message was widely advertised on televison and in outdoor advertising. Those who significantly exceeded the goal were sent letters asking them to explain their water use; of those, 34% reduced their consumption to the appropriate level immediately and 9% discovered they had a leak.

In addition to outreach, Queensland was aided by a $261-million rebate program that provided its residents with 508,000 water-saving devices, including rainwater tanks, low-flush toilets and water-efficient shower heads. The result was a population that didn’t just meet the stated goal but exceeded it.

Although rain has since returned to Queensland, and water use levels are now less restricted, Spiller said, "one of our objectives is that residents use only what they need."

By Queensland standards, that’s about 30 gallons per person per day, compared with 200 to 300 gallons per person per day in Southern California, said Peter Beattie, commissioner to the Americas of the Queensland state government.

Any Rain For The Rest Of This Month?

Will California and Arizona receive any rain before the end of this month?

Unequivocally yes! According to Jerry:
Here's an impressive loop of cumulative rainfall for the next couple of weeks, according to the GFS model

Mortality And Materiality

(It's rather difficult after a death to make the many choices about what to keep and what to throw away. I can help.)

M.R.: I'm so sorry; someone else took the cereal and the milk that I told you about yesterday.

M.V.: That's OK; I wasn't depending on it.

M.R.: Do you want these pillows?

M.V.: Uh, OK.

M.R.: Have this big pillow too! It makes me mad, though: the other folks took my twin bed. It's not important enough to talk to the lawyer, but it was MY bed!

M.V.: That's bad; they shouldn't have done that! But look at all this Tylenol!

M.R.: You go ahead and take it - just leave me one bottle.

M.V.: Five bottles of Tylenol! Tylenol enough for years of pain! If you ever need any Tylenol, just give me a call!

M.R.: Do you like cream cheese?

M.V.: No, but.... Wow, that's a LOT of cream cheese; a whole vat of cream cheese!

M.R.: Have the cream cheese! Now (holding a pair of loaves), can you guess what these are?

M.V.: Bread?

M.R.: Baked potatoes!

M.V.: Wow, those are the largest potatoes I've ever seen in my life! And (tasting a offered slice), they seem to be charred!

M.R.: Take the potatoes! And the Swiss Miss mix, too. And the nuts!

M.V.: And the toaster?

M.R.: And the toaster! It cost $3.00 at a yard sale. I won't offer you the microwave because it came from a yard sale too, and it's underpowered.

M.V.: Are there any bequests for local dance and theater groups?

M.R.: All relevant donations were made beforehand. The investment counselor lost most of the rest of the money and the kids took the remainder. Do you want these crutches?

M.V.: Gee, this pair is too short, and I have two other pair at home that are too tall!

M.R.: Take the crutches!

M.V.: OK!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Conan Should Have Listened

Listen to the man in the suit!:
Oh, snap! The Leno/Conan switcheroo finally makes sense! Thanks to a priceless report by the New York Times today, we've learned that Conan O'Brien refused to take some really great advice from NBC executive Dick Ebersol about how to broaden his appeal by adjusting the style he used for 16 years on "Late Night." Apparently Ebersol recognized clearly that Conan's quirky style would never play in the central time zone, and he warned him of that fact. But did Conan listen?

No! The stubborn redheaded stepchild brattily stomped his feet and refused! The comedian and host arrogantly resolved to follow his own instincts about what is and isn't funny and entertaining instead of relying on invaluable comedic advice from the head of NBC Sports.

Doesn't Conan know that graying executives who spend half their time on the golf course retelling old Henny Youngman punchlines with their executive buddies know much more about comedy than he does? How could he be so foolish and naive?

After asserting that Jay Leno was blameless, Ebersol went on to call Conan's short tenure on "Tonight Show" an "astounding failure," and said Conan was "gutless" and "chicken-hearted" for criticizing Leno and NBC, even if it did make millions of Americans laugh heartily, even if Conan's ratings are steadily climbing as he lashes out, even if millions of Americans are rallying to Conan's defense.

Understand, Ebersol is a highly paid television expert at the least successful major network on the air. He knows what's best for NBC. He knows what America likes. And look, can he help it that America likes slow-witted guys with big chins who remind them of their deeply unfunny uncles?

Conan O'Brien should've listened, damn it. But now it's too late.

...So, whether or not Conan O'Brien spins comedy gold every single night, let's give him a round of applause for his supposedly chicken-hearted, gutless move to stand his ground, to ignore lame advice about – let's just guess – dumbing things down and making his subtle jokes more clunky and obvious, since Americans aren't smart enough to appreciate anything weird. We Americans, who embraced "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons" and a million other weird things that were initially judged as far too out-there and experimental to hit it big, we Americans, who are besieged by crappy TV that's supposedly right up our alley? Let's applaud Conan for giving us a little credit, the way the creators of the very best shows on television did.

Because there's nothing in the world that's more gutless and chicken-hearted than assuming that your audience is stupid, and serving them up something stupid to please them. Great television, from "The Sopranos" to, yes, "American Idol," is created by passionate people who actually believe in what they're doing. That's why Conan said no to moving "The Tonight Show," because he believes in the franchise. And that's why we'll say no to "The Tonight Show" hosted by Jay Leno. Despite what Dick Ebersol and the other geniuses at NBC assume, we're not that stupid.

Jake Chec And Sy Sylver Ft. Zoy Nicoles - Hypnotized

Homeless Man Tries To Be Helpful

Walking to Subway for lunch yesterday along J Street, I stopped on the sidewalk next to the railroad track, and gazed across the street, towards the south.

On the other side of the street, a homeless man trying to cadge a few coins by sitting next to the sidewalk and begging, misapprehended my intention, and tried to be helpful.

"You can cross the street now," he shouted. "The traffic light at 19th Street is red! You can cross now!"

I replied: "No, I'm waiting to watch the train roll by." Unbeknownst to the homeless man, a freight train was approaching from the south.

We both laughed about that.

It's All In The Knee

Earlier this week, Deborah appealed for pictures of clouds:
I am looking for images of a kind of cloud formation that occurs in monsoon season here. I found 2 OK ones but it's that huge puffball that ruffles out along the horizon, very white at top.
I replied:
The folks at the Cloud Appreciation Society have many interesting pictures.

Here's a nice one from Argentina under 'Cumulus' clouds.

She replied:
THANKS!!! Good resource!
And a couple of days later comes this picture! I replied:
I have a good friend in Seattle who makes her living, in part, by designing Rubber Duckies for all occasions. This last year, she came out with a line of holiday-themed Rubber Duckies, including “Hannukah Duck”. Until now, however, I had not connected Rubber Duckies with Meteorology with Commercial Art. It’s hard to connect dots when they are lost in the Bubble Bath!
She replied:
Haha--the clouds were a serendipitous addition since I'm really connecting them with those white 50s prom dresses!
I'm not sure what that means, but I'll bet I'll learn soon enough!

Chicken Little, 'The Sky Is Falling!!!' - Episode MMX

Mr. Johnson clubs complacent Californians with tales of approaching calamity:
Currently, the strong El Nino is reaching its peak in the Eastern Pacific, and now finally appears to be exerting an influence on our weather. The strong jet has been apparent for quite some time out over the open water, but the persistent block had prevented it from reaching the coast. Now that the block has dissolved completely, a 200+ kt jet is barreling towards us. Multiple large and powerful storm systems are expected to slam into CA from the west and northwest over the coming two weeks, all riding this extremely powerful jet stream directly into the state. The jet will itself provide tremendous dynamic lift, in addition to directing numerous disturbances right at the state and supplying them with an ample oceanic moisture source. The jet will be at quite a low latitude over much of the Pacific, so these storms will be quite cold, at least initially. Very heavy rainfall and strong to potentially very strong winds will impact the lower elevations beginning late Sunday and continuing through at least the following Sunday. This will be the case for the entire state, from (and south of) the Mexican border all the way up to Oregon. Above 3000-4000 feet, precipitation will be all snow, and since temperatures will be unusually cold for a precipitation event of this magnitude, a truly prodigious amount of snowfall is likely to occur in the mountains, possibly measured in the tens of feet in the Sierra after it's all said and done. But there's a big and rather threatening caveat to that (discussed below). Individual storm events are going to be hard to time for at least few more days, since this jet is just about as powerful as they come (on this planet, anyway). Between this Sunday and the following Sunday, I expect categorical statewide rainfall totals in excess of 3-4 inches. That is likely to be a huge underestimate for most areas. Much of NorCal is likely to see 5-10 inches in the lowlands, with 10-20 inches in orographically-favored areas. Most of SoCal will see 3-6 inches at lower elevations, with perhaps triple that amount in favored areas.

This is where things get even more interesting, though. The models are virtually unanimous in "reloading" the powerful jet stream and forming an additional persistent kink 2000-3000 miles to our southwest after next Sunday. This is a truly ominous pattern, because it implies the potential for a strong Pineapple-type connection to develop. Indeed, the 12z GFS now shows copious warm rains falling between days 12 and 16 across the entire state. Normally, such as scenario out beyond day seven would be dubious at best. Since the models are in such truly remarkable agreement, however, and because of the extremely high potential impact of such an event, it's worth mentioning now. Since there will be a massive volume of freshly-fallen snow (even at relatively low elevations between 3000-5000 feet), even a moderately warm storm event would cause very serious flooding. This situation will have to be monitored closely. Even if the tropical connection does not develop, expected rains in the coming 7-10 days will likely be sufficient to cause flooding in and of themselves (even in spite of dry antecedent conditions).

In addition to very heavy precipitation, powerful winds may result from very steep pressure gradients associated with the large and deep low pressure centers expect ed to begin approaching the coast by early next week. Though it's not clear at the moment just how powerful these winds may be, there is certainly the potential for a widespread damaging wind event at some point, and the high Sierra peaks are likely to see gusts in the 100-200 mph range (since the 200kt jet at 200-300 mb will essentially run directly into the mountains at some point). The details of this will have to be hashed out as the event(s) draw closer.

In short, the next 2-3 weeks (at least) are likely to be more active across California than any other 2-3 week period in recent memory. The potential exists for a dangerous flood scenario to arise at some point during this interval, especially with the possibility of a heavy rain-on-snow event during late week 2. In some parts of Southern California, a whole season's worth of rain could fall over the course of 5-10 days. This is likely to be a rather memorable event. Stay tuned…

--
Samuel Y. Johnson
Western Coastal and Marine Geology
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 427-4746 voice
(831) 252-0812 cell
(831) 427-4709 FAX
sjohnson@usgs.gov
Mr. Johnson’s choice of language is alarmist, but it’s true that several large storms will roll through over the next week, and likely after that as well.

It’s important to remember that El Nino’s main influence is in the equatorial Pacific, and that we are quite removed from most of it’s effects. El Nino has actually been “at its peak” for about the last six months. Some ‘peak’, that only now are we feeling its wrath!

In popular parlance, El Nino is taken to mean extended periods of intense rainfall, particularly the “Pineapple Express”, but these periods occur every winter at our latitude, even if they don’t always occur at California’s longitude. El Nino is not required for periods of intense winter rainfall, and even if El Nino occurs, its predominant impact could easily be felt in Alabama as in California.

The trouble with the approaching storms is that one storm will quickly follow the other, each stronger than the last, so by the end of next week, there will be lots of water and snow accumulation, with little capacity to easily absorb more. Sunday will be somewhat wet, Monday much wetter, and Tuesday will be very, very wet. Tuesday evening rush hour will be an unholy mess. Flooding is likely.

Here is an animation of expected rainfall over the next week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Pain Of EMS

I think all of us from New Mexico suffer this to one extent or another. Mine is a bit fussy: the i_Phone can stay, for now:
A Santa Fe man who says he suffers from electromagnetic sensitivity is suing his next-door neighbor for refusing to turn off her cell phone and other electronic devices.

Arthur Firstenberg, who has actively opposed the proliferation of wireless systems in public buildings, claims he has been made homeless by Raphaela Monribot's rejection of his requests.

Firstenberg and Monribot, who have homes only 25 feet apart in a west-side neighborhood, both declined to discuss the lawsuit Thursday.

Monribot's actions have effectively ousted Firstenberg from the house he bought last year and forced him to stay with friends or in his car, says a document filed Monday in state District Court by lawyer Lindsay Lovejoy Jr.

Firstenberg "cannot stay in a hotel, because hotels and motels all employ wi-fi connections, which trigger a severe illness," says the request for a preliminary injunction. "If (Firstenberg) cannot obtain preliminary relief, he will be forced to continue to sleep in his car, enduring winter cold and discomfort, until this case can be heard."

...According to an affidavit signed by Firstenberg, Monribot has known about his electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMS, since May 2008, when he hired her to cook meals for him in her home. He said that after he explained his predicament, she began turning off her cell phone and computer "to spare me the pain of EMS."

Firstenberg said he began to sublease a house Monribot rented at 247 Barela St. when Monribot went to France, where her husband, Jean-Pierre Monribot, is a citizen and where one of their daughters lives. But, after the landlord threatened eviction because the rent was unpaid, Firstenberg said, he purchased the house on Sept. 26, 2008, for $430,000.

When a house at 246 Casados St. — which backs up to the one on Barela Street — came up for rent, Firstenberg said, he notified Monribot, who rented that house in October 2008.

"Within a day of (Monribot) moving in, I began to feel sick when I was in my house," Firstenberg wrote in his affidavit. "(Monribot's) house is located 25 feet from my house. Further, because the two houses at one time were on a single lot, their electrical systems are fed from a single main cable. In fact, the electric meter for my house is mounted on (Monribot's) house. Electromagnetic fields emitted in (Monribot's) house are transmitted by wire directly into my house."

Firstenberg said that when he visited Monribot in her new house, she told him she had purchased a new iPhone and leaves it turned on at all times so family members can reach her. When he asked her if she could use a land line in the house, she "flatly refused without explanation," he said.

"I also observed a computer in use, compact fluorescent lights, dimmer rheostats, and other sources of electromagnetic radiation," he said. Monribot "agreed to phase out the fluorescent lights, but she declined to consider any limitation on her cell phone, or to turn off her computer when not in use, or to replace dimmer switches. In fact, a few days later, (Monribot) installed a wireless network for her computer. All of these devices emitted electromagnetic radiation and triggered my EMS with life-threatening reactions, which included a heart arrhythmia."

Firstenberg said he looked into separating the utility connections between the two houses, but Public Service Company of New Mexico has not yet suggested any solution. He said Monribot inquired about the PNM discussions last fall, saying, "I am feeling a bit guilty."

Firstenberg's motion is accompanied by dozens of notes from doctors, some dating back more than a decade, about his sensitivities. Firstenberg, 59, said he began to experience stomach pains, memory loss and other symptoms as a medical student at the University of California, Irvine, in 1980. Since then, various physicians have diagnosed him as being extraordinarily sensitive to both chemicals and electromagnetic radiation, he said.

Since moving to Santa Fe five years ago, Firstenberg has been active in groups that have unsuccessfully tried to stop the city from installing wireless systems at City Hall and public libraries. He has also opposed the installation of cell towers in ChimayĆ³ and Madrid, a remote monitoring system for the city water system and controlled burns in national forests.

...Firstenberg declined to be photographed Thursday outside his home on one-lane Barela Street. The back seat of his car, a Nissan with California license plates, contained the bedding he uses to stay warm at night.

"Everybody's trying to find me," he said. "I'm trying to lay low."

The Dumbness Of Doomsday Clocks

Back and forth; back and forth:
NEW YORK — The minute hand of the Doomsday clock was moved back slightly Thursday, indicating the world has inched away from nuclear or environmental catastrophe, but stressing it was not out danger.

"It is six minutes to midnight," the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which created the Doomsday clock in 1947, said in a statement read out as the clock's countdown to midnight was nudged back by one minute from where it has been since 2007.

"For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material," the statement by the panel of international scientists, including 19 Nobel laureates, said.

"For the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable.

"These unprecedented steps are signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilization -- the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change," it said.

Since it was created by scientists who helped to develop the world's first atomic weapons, the Doomsday clock has come to be seen as a barometer of what progress, if any, the world has made in moving away from the risk of nuclear, climate-caused or bio-warfare catastrophe.

Midnight on the clock signifies the apocalypse, and the minute hand symbolizes the countdown to disaster.

The last time the minute hand of the clock was moved was in 2007, when it was bumped two minutes closer to midnight.

In resetting the clock this year, the scientists said they were encouraged by recent developments, but had put back the clock by only one minute to show they were "mindful that the clock is ticking," said BAS's Lawrence Krauss.

RIP, Bill O'Brien

Left: Bill was in love with the ultra-cool, sophisticated look of Modern Dance, but for variety, sometimes he would consent to watch the more-traditional look on display in Classical Ballet. When all else failed, just in order to get out of the house, maybe to see friends and associates perform, and to eat a cookie, he would consent to see a Musical. (Truth is, he loved them all!)

Here he is on his last visit to DMTC, in order to see "Mame", on January 28, 2007.



Just got a call from Marcia Raphael: Dr. G. W. (Bill) O'Brien passed away on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

Bill was a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA (I believe), had an active medical practice in Sacramento for many years (I believe he was a psychologist) and (if I'm not mistaken) also practiced at the California Medical Facility near Vacaville.

Bill was nearly 90 years old, and bedridden for much of the last decade of his life, but judging from the number of books he read, his mind was active and engaged right to the end (I visited him about two months ago).

Bill seemed to be a confirmed skeptic. I asked him once if the approach of death made him more spiritual. He answered flatly: "No!"

Bill was an active balletomane. I met him in dance classes at Bobbi Bader's "The Ballet Studio" in Rancho Cordova, where we religiously took barre together, until strokes began to claim his ability to walk in the early 90's.

Bill particularly loved modern dance and sought it out wherever he went. He was especially fond of Mark Morris, and even claimed a sort-of career paternity: "I discovered him," he told me once (but I'm not sure what that meant).

An intelligent inspiration to us all!

Matchmaker For Giants

(J. doesn't have ready Internet access, so when she wants to make a late-night Google search, she gives me a call.)

J.: Do you have Internet access?

M.: I don't have a home computer, but can use my i-Phone!

J.: I want you to look up a Turkish man - Sultan Kosen.

(later)

M.: Got it! Sultan Kosen, at 8' 1", the world's tallest man. Wikipedia says the part-time farmer walks with the aid of canes because of growth-related knee problems, helps out around the house changing difficult-to-reach light bulbs, likes the Internet, and he is in search of love.....

J.: In search of love? The TV said the same thing. He's in New York City right now!

M.: He is?

J.: Yes, apparently he's looking for a girl friend. He's never had a girl friend before because they are all afraid of him.

M.: Well, there are probably more girls in New York than in his hometown in Turkey, particularly tall girls.

J.: How do I get in touch with him? Does it say on Google how to get in touch with him?

M.: Well, no, it doesn't say. I suppose he might have an agent, or maybe a Web Site, or something. Why do you want to get in touch with him?

J.: Do they speak English in Turkey? What do they speak in Turkey?

M.: They speak Turkish in Turkey.

J.: Turkish? Does he know any English?

M.: I don't know - maybe a little - enough to get around New York City.

J.: I'd like to have coffee with him. It'd be really something to have coffee with the world's tallest man!

M.: You want a date with the world's tallest man? You want to be the world's tallest man's girl friend?

J.: Sure, why not? I'm not afraid of him. Tell me how to get in touch with him!

M.: I'm not sure how....

J.: He's such a big man - I wonder if it means everything is big, like....

M.: I'm sure I don't know....

J.: It'd be really something to have coffee with the world's tallest man!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google, And The Meaning Of Standing Up

Good for Google. Ultimately, the Chinese need Google more than Google needs the Chinese:
On Tuesday, Google had enough. After an investigation revealed that hackers from China had tried to penetrate the computer systems of not just Google, but 20 other American companies in an effort to spy on human rights activists, the search engine struck back. Google lawyer David Drummond exposed the whole sordid affair to the world and declared that from now on, the company’s soul would no longer be for sale. “We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all,” he wrote.

...China’s value lies entirely in its undeniable future as the center of commerce in the world; by challenging its government, Google is almost guaranteed to abandon that market. Beijing never backs down, and Larry and Sergey know this. By so starkly challenging China, they have set in motion a chain of events that will almost surely end their relationship with Asia’s most important country.

Even ordinary Chinese seem to know this. Yesterday, as word of Google’s move spread throughout the country, people began to lay wreaths of sad farewell at the entrances to Google’s regional offices, in a Twitter-spread campaign dubbed “GoogleBye.” People accompanied the flowers with notes vowing to find a way around their government’s censorship firewall and reconnect with the world. Meanwhile, Beijing seemed utterly taken aback by this turn of events. Xinhua, the press organ of the government, initially reported that China’s leaders were studying the situation, even as the story ended with some predictable bluster about how Google needs China more than the converse.

...But hey, Google’s got $20 billion in cash with which to absorb this loss. And let’s face it: The company has never replicated its phenomenal American success overseas. So maybe there just wasn’t that much of a downside to Google disengaging with China. The company’s executives might think that, all evidence to the contrary, everyone can still walk back from this precipice.

Or perhaps we’re seeing something entirely new here—a company that knowingly does something that is contrary to its long-term economic interests. Vaclav Havel once said that when the United States forced Serbia to end its rape of Kosovo, this marked the first time in history that a country went to war entirely for humanitarian reasons. Maybe we’re too easy to fool, and there’s some angle we’re missing. But 24 hours into this remarkable move, Google appears to have finally listened to the better angels of its nature.

Will Smith Memorial Service Scheduled

Marie just sent this information regarding the memorial service for Will Smith (I'm not publishing the Memorial Fund account number, but mailing checks will suffice):
Sen. George Runner (R-Antelope Valley) today announced the details of memorial services and trust fund information for Chief of Staff Will Smith, who passed away Monday, Jan. 11.

Memorial Service:
Date: Saturday, Jan.16
Time: 11 a.m.

Address:

Arcade Baptist Church
3927 Marconi Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95821

Memorial Fund:

In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established for his wife and four children. ... Golden 1 account holders may have money directly transferred from their own accounts to the Memorial Fund, or they can contribute by check or cash. All others may contribute by check or cash.

Checks should be written to the “Will Smith Memorial Fund” as the payee.

Contributions can be mailed to:

Will Smith Memorial Fund
Golden 1 Credit Union
1109 L St., Sacramento, CA 95814


Other contributions opportunities:

If interested in contributing to defray the cost of the service, please contact Nick Warner at nick@warnerandpank.com.

Improv Class Was Fun Last Night

Particularly the exercise where one is required to finish your partner's sentences. Keeps you on your feet!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's Good To Have Rights

Even when they come with a bite:
AFTER winning a lengthy legal battle for the right to keep exotic pets, the Canadian owner of a tiger has been mauled to death by the 300kg cat.

Norman Buwalda, 66, was found dead in the tiger's pen on his property in rural Ontario on Sunday afternoon, local time.

"He had gone in to feed the tiger and possibly had been attacked," Ontario Provincial Police Constable Troy Carlson said, indicating there were no witnesses.

...In 2004, a tiger attack on a 10-year-old boy visiting the property sparked a two-year legal battle between Mr Buwalda and the nearby Southwold Township over the council's subsequent ban on keeping wild animals as pets.

...Mr Buwalda challenged the ban in court, and won. An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled the bylaw was flawed and too broad.

Deborah McMillion Nering - New Works for 2009

SacBee Obituary For Will Smith

Will Smith, chief of staff to Republican Sen. George Runner, died Monday night after he collapsed while playing basketball. He was 41.

Smith, who grew up in Weaverville and attended Sacramento State, first came to the Capitol as an Assembly Fellow for former Assemblyman George House, R-Hughson.

In 1996, Smith joined Runner's Assembly staff. For the next 14 years, he worked in various capacities in Runner's Assembly and Senate offices, as well as for Runner's wife, former Assemblywoman Sharon Runner.

"He was just an incredibly loyal individual. He was loyal obviously to us, but he was loyal to his passions, to his faith," George Runner said. "He was loyal to his conservative convictions, but yet he did it in a way that no matter where you were and who you were you respected him."

Russell Lowery, chief of staff to the Senate Republican Caucus, said Smith's "unparalleled competence and affection and compassion for the people he worked with and the issues he worked on" earned him the reputation of one of the Capitol's best chiefs of staff.

"He constantly fielded job offers (from the private sector) and turned them down and counseled other Republican staff not to leave, not to take the money," Lowery said. "He genuinely believed that the policy he was pursuing would help people."

Smith is survived by his wife Anissa and four children; Lydia, Joshua, Julia and Caleb.

"We are devastated but we rejoice knowing that Will is home with Jesus at this very moment," Anissa Smith said in a written statement. "He lived his life on earth for Christ and now he will spend his eternity with Him."

Oxfam Donation Page

For the Haitiian Earthquake.

Earthquake Clobbers Haiti

I was looking at the weather maps this morning, and looking at how nice the weather is in Haiti these days, and thinking that if anybody deserved nice weather, it was the Haitians, after all the hurricane damage there in recent years.

An earthquake. Who could have guessed that was in store next for those long-suffering folks?:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and damaging other buildings. An aid official described "total disaster and chaos."

Communications were widely disrupted, making it impossible to get a clear picture of damage as powerful aftershocks shook a desperately poor country where many buildings are flimsy. Electricity was out in some places.

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in the capital of Port-au-Prince, told U.S. colleagues before phone service failed that "there must be thousands of people dead," according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo.

"He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince," Fajardo said from the group's offices in Maryland.

The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It had a depth of 5 miles (8 kilometers). It was the largest quake recorded in the area and the first major one since a magnitude-6.7 temblor in 1984, USGS analyst Dale Grant said.

...Minor earthquakes are common in the Caribbean, but there has not been a major one in Haiti in 16 years. The country of about 9 million people, most of them desperately poor, has struggled with political instability and has no real construction standards. In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 percent of the buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.

The quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, and some panicked residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled from their shaking homes. But no major damage was reported there.

In eastern Cuba, houses shook but there were also no reports of significant damage.

Going Down In Flames, But Enjoying Every Minute Of It



People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Yours,

Conan

Great Picture Of The Zodiacal Light

This is an unusually-good picture of the zodiacal light!

I've clearly-seen the zodiacal light just once before, in 2006, in Queensland. It was possible to get a sense of depth too, and get the feeling that one could see dust nearly on the opposite side of the sun, out towards the orbit of Mars, hundreds of millions of miles away! If that sense was an illusion, it was a real-powerful illusion!






This is the rarely seen zodiacal light, a triangular glow visible only in night skies free of overpowering moonlight and light pollution.

Zodiacal light is sunlight reflected by dust particles between the sun and Earth, and is best seen close to sunrise or sunset. The celestial glow spreads over the same band of the sky as the constellations of the zodiac.

The image was taken at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, facing west some minutes after the sun had set. A sea of clouds has settled in the valley below La Silla, which sits at an altitude of 2400 metres.

(Image: ESO/Y. Beletsky)

Man Poses Reasonable Questions, But Gets Grounded Anyway

Gotta be careful with those notes:
CNN is reporting that a man who wrote a strange note that mentioned "Gilligan's Island" and handed it to a flight attendant while enroute to Hawaii was the reason the flight was turned around and returned to Portland, Oregon.

...Authorities report that while Johnson and his girlfriend were on a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Maui, the 56-year-old man became upset when he was not permitted to store his bag under his seat, which was in an exit row.

About 45 minutes into the flight, Johnson gave a comment card in a sealed envelope to a flight attendant who opened it, read it and gave it to the lead flight attendant, who then gave it to the captain.

CNN reports that the note read:
"I thought I was going to die, we were so high up. I thought to myself: I hope we don't crash and burn or worse yet landing in the ocean, living through it, only to be eaten by sharks, or worse yet, end up on some place like Gilligan's Island, stranded, or worse yet, be eaten by a tribe of headhunters, speaking of headhunters, why do they just eat outsiders, and not the family members? Strange ... and what if the plane ripped apart in mid-flight and we plumited (sic) to earth, landed on Gilligan's Island and then lived through it, and the only woman there was Mrs. Thurston Howell III? No Mary Anne (my favorite) no Ginger, just Lovey! If it were just her, I think I'd opt for the sharks, maybe the headhunters."

Bev Was Tickled By "The Producers"!

Received via E-Mail:
Local production of 'The Producers' is a total hoot 'n' holler
Davis Enterprise, The (CA) - Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Author: Bev Sykes ; Enterprise drama critic

If you want something to tickle your funny bone, do catch director Steve Isaacson's rollicking production of "The Producers," a first for the Davis Musical Theatre Company.

If you've just returned from a deserted island and have no idea that this delicious show was written by Mel Brooks, it wouldn't take more than a scene or two to figure it out. This is the show that Brooks has wanted to write his entire life: the musical that we've briefly glimpsed in several of his movies ... especially, of course, the 1968 comedy from which the plot of this show was taken.

"The Producers" is a fast-paced laugh from start to finish, with enough material to offend just about everyone: Jews, Nazis, old ladies, dumb blondes, corporate drones and just about anyone in between. And yet it's all done with such a sense of fun that you're amazed at the things that make you laugh.

It's burlesque all grown up.

For those few who may not have seen Brooks' original film, the story centers around Max Bialystock, a formerly successful producer who now can't get a hit to save his life, and who has become famous for his flops. DMTC's Martin Lehman doesn't quite have the bombast of Zero Mostel (but then who does?), but he's very funny in a role that seems perfect for him.

Into Max's office walks mild-mannered accountant Leo Bloom (Andy Hyun), who carries a strip of his baby blanket around in his pocket, to soothe himself in times of stress. Bloom discovers that it's possible for a producer to make more money with a flop show than with a hit ... if they plan it properly.

Hyun makes a perfect Bloom, with the wide-eyed innocence of a man who can be perfectly molded by the likes of Max.

And, thus, the team of Bialystock and Bloom is born.

They need the worst play in the world, the worst director in the world, and a bunch of gullible, horny old ladies as backers. When the show fails, as it is destined to do, Bialystock and Bloom will take off with their millions, to sun themselves on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Let the fun begin.

And fun it is. It's difficult to pick any one scene as the best, but ranking right up at the top would be the chorus of horny little old ladies whom Bialystock will woo for their money, all tap-dancing with their walkers. It's one of the most inventive bits of choreography I've ever seen, and DMTC choreographer Ron Cisneros adapts it beautifully from the original Broadway production.

While "The Producers" centers on Bialystock and Bloom, they're surrounded by a host of perfectly cast supporting players. First up is Kyle Hadley, as the pigeon-raising Nazi, Franz Liebkind, whose script — "Springtime for Hitler" — is chosen for performance.

Then there's the fabulous director, Roger DeBris, played in beautifully campy style by Richard Spierto, along with his partner Carmen Ghia (Joseph Boyette), who gives new meaning to the term "flamboyant." Newcomer Boyette is a real find for DMTC, and easily steals his scenes.

Amy Jacques-Jones is Ulla, the Swedish bombshell who can run an office, paint a room during intermission, and star in a musical all without mussing a blond curl. Jacques-Jones, another newcomer to DMTC, is a real triple-threat; she not only acts, but dances and sings beautifully as well.

Everyone behind the scenes has pulled out all the stops for this production. Jean Henderson's costumes are outstanding, especially for the Busby Berkeley number. Dannette Vassar has concocted some pretty dramatic lighting, particularly for Roger DeBris and Carmen Ghia. Isaacson's set design, while merely utilitarian, serves the production quite well.

The only place where the show falters concerns the orchestra, with some downright painful passages by a few instruments, loud buzzing and then a booming electronic piano that nearly drowned out the singers in the finale.

Fortunately, the performers worked around the problems in the pit, and the audience still was treated to one of the most enjoyable shows ever to come out of DMTC.

"The Tea Party Movement Is About To Be Hijacked"

What do I think about this sentiment?:
"The Tea Party Movement is about to be hijacked"
Well, what does it mean to hijack, say, an airliner, when the airliner is operated by Al Qaeda? The concept approaches meaninglessness.

All I know is that when I went to the Sacramento Tea Party demonstration last April 15th, I was very impressed by the leg work on display. Great signs, lots of great organization on display, and FOX News' national operation was there. But political work is grueling and hard, with impressive displays barely within the reach of volunteers, particularly at the initial stages of a movement, and so that meant someone had to pay for the work. I mean, FOX News isn't going to bother showing up unless they were relying upon intelligence from pretty-high muckety-mucks. After all, no one else gets FOX News to come to their inaugural demonstrations! And it was no surprise to me to eventually learn that Sacramento lobbyists, Russo Marsh & Rogers, were running the show. The lobbyists had hijacked the movement before there was a movement!

Nationally, there seem to be different groups of Tea Party activists, some under the sway of lobbyists, and some not. Some Tea Party activists have alleged that the mainstream media is ignoring them, but I bet that's not true. It may be true, however, that some Tea Party folks can make FOX News and the MSM media folks jump, and some can't.

Demonstrations + Volunteers = Media Eclipse

To describe the growing importance of lobbyists as a hijacking misses the point. There is a lot of work involved and someone has to do that work. Volunteers can't do it all.

What prompted this thought was this post:
Many on the right believe the burgeoning Tea Party "movement" is the key to a resurgent conservatism nationwide. But it's hard not to notice that the divisions among Teabaggers will need to be resolved sooner or later.

In the latest sign of rancor in Tea Party circles, a convention billed as an effort to bring together conservative activists from across the country is being attacked by some leading Tea Partiers as inauthentic, too tied to the GOP, and -- at $549 per head -- too expensive for the working Americans the movement aspires to represent.
The National Tea Party Convention, scheduled for early February in Nashville, grabbed headlines after announcing that Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann would appear as speakers, Palin as the keynote. According to a message on the convention's website, the event "is aimed at bringing the Tea Party Movement leaders together from around the nation." But organizers are a long way from unifying the notoriously fractious movement.

Tea Party Patriots, which helped put together a September rally that drew tens of thousands to Washington, view the confab -- which is being held at Nashville's swank Opryland Gaylord hotel -- as the "usurpation of a grassroots movement," according to Mark Meckler, a leader of the group. "Most people in our movement can't afford anything like that," Meckler told TPMmuckraker, referring to the price tag. "So it's really not aimed at the average grassroots person."

"The Tea Party Movement is about to be hijacked," wrote one activist in an online comment recently.

Upon The Return Of Her Car (From Golden State Towing)

M.: You are lucky it was just a detached hose. It could have been much, much worse!

E.: I am so grateful there are still auto mechanics in the world who won't take advantage. They were so nice, and reassuring, and they kept the shop open late for me too.

M.: The hose might come off again. You should be ready in case that happens.

E. Now I know what to do.

Here Comes Mecha-Bunny!

In regards to the idea of torching Notebooks of Dreams, Deborah replies:
I respect that. Dreams are far more private than mere diaries. We can control those but not so dreams.

Mecha-Bunny Returns

I like Mecha-Bunny (I purchased Deborah's original Mecha-Bunny, and he hangs on my wall).

“He said the least dream should be observed”

When my father moved from our Corrales, NM, home in 1990, he regrettably torched the Notebooks of Dreams that he kept, part of a long-running effort he and a local baker had invested in observing “the least dream.” Still, in 2009, I inherited scattered chronicles of post-1990 dreams.

Like the instructor said in Freshman English class (and which I took to heart), "if you don't write down your thoughts, it's as if they never occurred."

That goes with dreams too....

Sad News

Marie just sent this out.
Anissa Smith and her four children were all in "Music Man". Sadly, her husband suddenly passed away last night at age 41.

...Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
I will post funeral service information as soon as available. Particularly in 2009, the Smith family has been very active in DMTC.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tim Hawkins - The Government Can

My sister (the one who likes Sarah Palin no matter what anyone says) wrote to say:
A friend of mine sent this to me, I thought it was funny, check it out.
And so I checked it out. And it is funny - a little - but it goes completely against every one of my liberal biases.



Ha de ha ha ha.

Ha.

And who is this Tim Hawkins?:
Hawkins has been accused of being equally gifted and twisted. Whatever your take, he has indeed become one of the most in-demand comics in the country. His arsenal is unique: high energy stand-up, physical comedy, slick guitar skills, a thousand faces and voices, improvisational chops. It all combines to create an insane comedy experience. And yes, the guy can really sing. “People think I live a rock-star life”, said Hawkins. “Believe me, Mick Jagger never gets lost in a Hertz parking lot looking for his Ford Focus.”

Tim is a busy comic… and getting busier. He is already on track for 120 events in 30 states in 2008 including churches, corporations, comedy clubs, and colleges. A former All-American baseball player, he traded the sports stage for the comedy stage and never looked back. The St. Louis native taught himself to play guitar and tested the waters at area comedy clubs. But over the next 10 years, working to support his family was full-time. Comedy was only part-time. By 2002, Hawkins was ready to launch his full-time career as a professional comedian.

His art form was honed primarily in churches, with a brief 6-month stint performing in prisons as part of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship. Since his shows ranged from little kids to youth groups to married adults, he had to develop material that would hit a wide age range. “Survival mode, pure and simple. I learned comedy in front of a lot of multi-generational audiences, so I had to find material that would cater to all ages. It’s a thrill to provide a family connection where they can share the experience… and then take a DVD home for another family comedy night. But really, I think my fans are probably just the same people who voted for Sanjaya.”

...Even though Hawkins recently headlined at the Tempe (AZ) Improv, he determined early in his career that he did not want to focus on the comedy club circuit alone. “People love stand-up, but many choose not to go to comedy clubs. So we’ve gone underground, even counter-culture in a way. And it’s a blast.”
So, what's wrong with it? Populist, visceral opposition to government is deeply-rooted in American history, of course (I'm reminded of the song "Dad Gum Gummint" from "Big River"), and I'm just as prone to hate the government as anyone, but one needs to be selective in indulging that prejudice. We are all deeply-enmeshed with the federal government, in more ways than we realize. Even conservative nutjob Michelle Bachmann collects hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in government farm subsidies. Indeed, I bet the more opposed you are to government, the more likely you are to be dependent on it, in one way or the other. Even militia members in the Idaho wilderness need their SSI checks.

We all need government to succeed in its mission. For example, the Big Government bailout of Wall Street. I hate it. It supports slimeballs. But do I want it to succeed? Yes, you bet! Because my 401K is in their hands. My retirement is hostage to Wall Street slimeballery! So is yours! If they get what they need, I will get mine too!

Support Big Government! In this evil, evil world it is the only real friend that will come to your aid!

Weekend Of "The Producers"

I didn't go to the theater on Friday or Saturday, but I was there on Sunday. It was fun to hear the audience laugh. I was sitting near Jetta, who kept up nearly a non-stop chuckle, and that was amusing too. Every time Darryl Strohl (who was sitting in the back) laughed out loud, I lost it as well. His laughter is infectious!

For example, when Leo Bloom decides to leave his accounting job, he tries to slip out the door. His boss, Mr. Marks, asks: "Where are YOU going Bloom? You've already had your toilet break!"

Leo Bloom responds, "I'm not going into the toilet, Mr. Marks. I'm going into show business!"

Darryl thought that line was a riot!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sounds Like An Entertaining Compilation Of Campaign Gossip

Halperin and Heilemann's new book sounds interesting (as described in this list of pithy vignettes). Anything that makes you agree with Dick Cheney must be fun!