Saturday, February 27, 2010

Airbus Flight 447 Post-Mortem

Airbus has a REAL problem! To lose the ability to guide the aircraft because all three pitot tubes ice up at once is a problem that can be anticipated in advance, since icing usually afflicts the entire aircraft all at once. The three pitot tubes do not provide true redundancy, since they are not independent of each other - each are subject to the same deleterious conditions all at once, and if one fails, the other two may soon fail too. To have the flight computer shut down because of that problem is unforgivable, because that is when you need a flight computer more-than-ever! In a complex aircraft, the flight computer controls a lot more than just the guidance, and in an emergency you need to retain every other capability the aircraft has. To have the aircraft simply surrender under duress betrays the pilots at the worst possible moment!

They may as well have made the hull of the Titanic out of plate glass!

I remember once, friend Walt sent me a record of the temperatures and altitudes he wrote down from the passenger-provided air display monitor on a Boeing 757, as he flew from San Diego to Atlanta, and began descending over Mississippi, on October 7, 2006. Comparing his records with the Shelby, AL, National Weather Service sounding underway at nearly the same time, I realized Walt's records were complete junk - the temperature was much too high. The temperature monitor likely had iced over and was no longer functional, even on this normal, humdrum flight. At the time, Walt replied:

I knew it!!! Those bastards!!! When I flew over from Italy in June, at 39000 ft, the temperature was about -50 or -60 F the whole way. On this trip, they reported it at -30 to -35 F at 39K and 41K feet everywhere from CA to MS. If you can't trust data, what can you trust?
I was mystified why icing may have occurred on this particular flight - perhaps water had somehow entered the device when the aircraft was on the tarmac in San Diego, or perhaps the aircraft had flown through rain clouds before rising to levels where the remnant water could freeze. It just illustrates how insidious ice can be. Granted, it is easier to ice up thermistors or thermocouples than pitot tubes, but still, icing is a chronic threat that has to be guarded against at every step!

How much more likely it is that icing will occur when flying right through powerful thunderstorms! As far as the thunderstorm was concerned, the Airbus aircraft was nothing but a giant hailstone, and a perfect icing target!

In addition, the aircraft was faced with a wall of thunderstorms (the Intertropical Convergence Zone near the equator can be like that at times) and there was no feasible way to fly around the wall without a huge detour - five hundred, or a thousand miles, perhaps. They had no fuel or time for such huge detours! The pilots thought they could fly high enough to avoid much of the turbulence and lightning and icing. Surely a modern aircraft should be sturdy enough to tackle such challenges as posed by thunderstorms. The pilots miscalculated. Their faith in technology was misplaced.

This manner of disaster will happen again, and again, and again, unless they get a handle on this! I just hope I'm not riding on any one of those fated aircraft!:
Air France flight 447 had been in the air for three hours and 40 minutes since taking off from Rio de Janeiro on the evening of May 31, 2009. Strong turbulence had been shaking the plane for half an hour, and all but the hardiest frequent flyers were awake.

Suddenly the gauge indicating the external temperature rose by several degrees, even though the plane was flying at an altitude of 11 kilometers (36,000 feet) and it hadn't got any warmer outside. The false reading was caused by thick ice crystals forming on the sensor on the outside of the plane. These crystals had the effect of insulating the detector. It now appears that this is when things started going disastrously wrong.

Flying through thunderclouds over the Atlantic, more and more ice was hurled at the aircraft. In the process, it knocked out other, far more important, sensors: the pencil-shaped airspeed gauges known as pitot tubes.

One alarm after another lit up the cockpit monitors. One after another, the autopilot, the automatic engine control system, and the flight computers shut themselves off. "It was like the plane was having a stroke," says Gérard Arnoux, the head of the French pilots union SPAF.

The final minutes of flight AF 447 had begun. Four minutes after the airspeed indicator failed, the plane plunged into the ocean, killing all 228 people on board.

...Over the course of several months of investigation, experts have gathered evidence that allows them to reconstruct with relative accuracy what happened on board during those last four minutes. It has also brought to light a safety flaw that affects all jet airplanes currently in service. "An accident like this could happen again at any time," Arnoux predicts.

...Captain Marc Dubois, 58, goes through the flight plan of AF 447: He enters a starting weight of 232.757 tons into the on-board computer, 243 kilograms less than the maximum permissible weight for the A330. As well as the passengers' luggage, the ground crews load 10 tons of freight into the cargo bay. Dubois has more than 70 tons of kerosene pumped into the fuel tanks. That sounds a lot more than it actually is, because the plane consumes up to 100 kilograms of kerosene every minute. The fuel reserves don't give much leeway.

It's only by means of a trick that the captain can even reach Paris without going under the legally required minimum reserves of kerosene that must still be in the plane's tanks upon arrival in the French capital. A loophole allows him to enter Bordeaux -- which lies several hundred kilometers closer than Paris -- as the fictitious destination for his fuel calculations.

"Major deviation would therefore no longer have been possible anymore," says Gerhard Hüttig, an Airbus pilot and professor at the Berlin Technical University's Aerospace Institute. If worse came to worst, the pilot would have to stop and refuel in Bordeaux, or maybe even in Lisbon. "But pilots are very reluctant to do something like that," Hüttig adds. After all, it makes the flight more expensive, causes delays and is frowned upon by airline bosses.

After takeoff, Dubois quickly takes the plane up to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (10.6 kilometers), an altitude known as "flight level 350." According to his kerosene calculations, he has to climb far further, to above 11 kilometers, where the thin air reduces his fuel consumption.

...It's hard to imagine a more precarious situation, even for pilots with nerves of steel: Flying through a violent thunderstorm that shakes the entire plane as the master warning lamp starts blinking on the instrument panel in front of you. An earsplitting alarm rings out, and a whole series of error messages suddenly flash up on the flight motor.

The crew immediately recognized that the three airspeed indicators all gave different readings. "A situation like that goes well a hundred times and badly once," says Arnoux, who flies an Airbus A320 himself.

The responsible pilot now had very little time to choose the correct flight angle and the correct engine thrust. This is the only way he could be certain to keep flying on a stable course and maintain steady airflow across the wings if he didn't know the plane's actual speed. The co-pilot must therefore look up the two safe values in a table in the relevant handbook -- at least that's the theory.

"In practice, the plane is shaken about so badly that you have difficulty finding the right page in the handbook, let alone being able to decipher what it says," says Arnoux. "In situations like that, mistakes are impossible to rule out."

Aerospace experts have long known how dangerous it can be if the airspeed indicators fail because the pitot tubes ice up. In 1998, for example, a Lufthansa Airbus circling over Frankfurt Airport lost its airspeed indicator, and a potential tragedy was only averted when the ice melted as the plane descended. At the time, German air accident investigators at the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) in Braunschweig demanded that the specifications of the pitot tubes be changed to enable "unrestricted flight in severely icy conditions."

As early as 2005, the French aerospace company Thales, which manufactures the pitot tubes used on flight AF 447, set up a project group called Adeline to search for new technical solutions to the problem. According to a Thales document, loss of the airspeed indicators "could cause aircraft crashes, especially in cases in which the sensors ice up."

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus was well aware of the shortcomings of the Thales pitot tubes. An internal list kept by the airline manufacturer shows there were nine incidents involving them between May and October 2008 alone.

More than two months before the Air France crash, the issue had been raised at a meeting between Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency. However, the EASA decided against banning the particularly error-prone pitot tubes made by Thales.

In fact, the problem with the airspeed indicators lies far deeper. To this day, the relevant licensing bodies still only test pitot tubes down to temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and an altitude of about 9,000 meters (30,000 feet). These completely antiquated specifications date back to 1947 -- before the introduction of jet planes.

What's more, most of the incidents of recent years, including that involving the ill-fated flight AF 447, occurred at altitudes above 10,000 meters (33,000 feet).

Did the pilots on flight AF 447 know about the airspeed indicator failures experienced by colleagues on nine other aircraft belonging to their own airline? Air France had indeed distributed a note about this to all its pilots, albeit as part of several hundred pages of information that pilots find in their inbox every week. One thing is certain: The pilots on flight AF 447 had never trained in a flight simulator for a high-altitude breakdown of the airspeed indicator.

The situation in the cockpit was made even more difficult by the fact that the flight computer of the A330 put itself into a kind of emergency program. The plane's digital brain usually supervises all activity by its pilots -- at least, as long as its sensors provide reliable data. Without a speed reading, the computer more or -less throws in the towel, which doesn't make things easier for the pilots.

"The controls suddenly feel completely different to the pilot," says flight expert Hüttig. The sheer complexity of the Airbus' systems makes it difficult to control in critical phases of the flight. It would be easier for pilots if they could simply switch the computer off in critical situations, as is possible on Boeing planes.

Pitot tubes sometimes also fail on Boeing aircraft. When SPIEGEL contacted the American Federal Aviation Administration, the body which oversees civilian flight in the US, the FAA confirmed that there had been eight such incidents on a Boeing 777, three on a 767, and one each on a 757 and a Jumbo. Boeing is currently conducting a study on the safety effects of "high-altitude pitot icing on all models in its product line," says FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette. The FAA did not, however, identify "any safety issues arising" during these incidents.

Could it therefore be that the flight computer, which is hard to manage in emergencies, actually contributed to the loss of control by the Airbus pilots? Air-safety experts Hüttig and Arnoux are demanding an immediate investigation into how the Airbus system reacts to a failure of its airspeed sensors.

...Not long after the airspeed indicator failed, the plane went out of control and stalled. Presumably the airflow over the wings failed to provide lift. Arnoux, from the pilots' union, estimates that the plane fell toward the sea at about 42 meters per second (95 mph) -- almost the same speed as a freefalling parachutist.

Arnoux's version of events is based in part on the timing of a transmitted error message about the equalization of pressure between the cabin and the outside of the plane, which usually happens at 2,000 meters (7,000 feet) above sea level. Had the airplane nosedived, this alarm would have been triggered earlier. "It takes almost exactly four minutes to freefall from cruising altitude to sea level," Arnoux says.

...According to this scenario, the pilots would have been forced to watch helplessly as their plane lost its lift. That theory is supported by the fact that the airplane remained intact to the very end. Given all the turbulence, it is therefore possible that the passengers remained oblivious to what was happening. After all, the oxygen masks that have been recovered had not dropped down from the ceiling because of a loss of pressure. What's more, the stewardesses weren't sitting on their emergency seats, and the lifejackets remained untouched. "There is no evidence whatsoever that the passengers in the cabin had been prepared for an emergency landing," says BEA boss Jean-Paul Troadec.

Two seemingly insignificant lines from the warning reports transmitted by the aircraft show how desperately the pilots fought to keep control. They read "F/CTL PRIM 1 FAULT" and "F/CTL SEC 1 FAULT".

This somewhat cryptic shorthand suggest the pilots tried desperately to restart the flight computer. "It's like trying to turn your car engine off and then on again while driving along the motorway at night at 180 kilometers an hour (110mph)," says Arnoux.

The attempt to resuscitate the on-board computer proved unsuccessful. For the last 600 meters (2,000 feet) before impact, the pilots' efforts would have been accompanied by the chilling calls of an automated male voice: "Terrain! Terrain! Pull up! Pull up!"

More than 200 tons of metal, plastic, kerosene and human bodies smashed into the sea. The sheer force of the impact is described in the forensic report, which lists in graphic detail how lungs were torn apart and bones were shredded end to end. Some of the passengers were sliced in half by their seatbelt.

...For several years now, Airbus has offered its customers a special safety program - called "Buss" -- at a cost of €300,000 per aircraft. If the airspeed indicator fails, this software shows pilots the angle at which they must point the plane.

Up to now, Air France has chosen not to invest in this optional extra for its fleet.

Massive Earthquake In Chile

One of Steve's favorite 'apps' on his cell phone is his earthquake monitor. During rehearsal downtime, we sometimes sit and ponder the strength of quakes in Tonga, the Kuril Islands, and even the recent unexpected tremor near Chicago.

Last night, Steve left the theater about midnight. I was locking up the theater when Steve returned in a frantic rush with the news that an 8.2 magnitude (since upgraded to 8.8) quake had struck Chile. This would be one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, and an utter catastrophe anywhere near the epicenter.

At the restaurant after the show, Travis recalled that the 9.5 magnitude 1960 Chilean earthquake was the largest ever recorded. Christine knew of a contingent of Chilean students attending UCD. She said, "they will be completely freaking out!"

Today, stunned Chileans are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Tsunami warnings are racing round the world. In New Zealand:
A tsunami surge of water measuring one metre has reached Northland.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said the surge reached Tutukaka Harbour, north of Whangarei.

A 40cm surge has reached Gisborne, while Pitt Island in the Chathams has been hit by a 1.5 metre surge and consistent one metre surges.
In Hawaii, a live blog announces:
12:35pm 3rd wave hit Oahu, they are not getting bigger than 3 ft. But they have not signalled a cancellation of the warning yet.

12:06 second wave has just hit and receding from Hilo, HI. Oceanographer can't predict what will hit Oahu and says the next 2 hours is the final window. Ventura, CA is reporting damage from their tsunami. Jeez, who saw that coming?

"Kiss Me, Kate" Opens

The biggest concern Friday night was whether Patrick Van had recovered enough from pneumonia to perform as 'Paul' and whether Rand Martin would have to step into his place.

Patrick was released from hospital at 6:30 p.m. and arrived at the theater with his plastic hospital bracelet still on his wrist. His meds didn't show up until Act 2, however, and he had coughing problems in the interim. Still, he made it!

Fun opening night! The weather was more-cooperative than expected, and the audience was larger than expected. A number of folks from RSP were in the audience.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thinking Of Going BOOM

February 15th's Sacramento Bee featured an announcement of a new publication:
A publication that proposes to "explore the history, culture, arts, politics and society of California" is taking on quite a challenge, but that's the goal of a quarterly now accepting submissions from "creative voices" – writers, photographers and artists.

Boom: A Journal of California, scheduled to debut next February, will focus on "informed, critical perspectives about the past, present and future of the state." Creativity and "unusual formats" are encouraged.

Boom will be published by the University of California Press and co-edited by two UC Davis professors. Carolyn de la Peña teaches American studies and directs the UC Davis Humanities Institute; Louis Warren teaches history.

"We think it's the right time to bring (to the forefront) some different perspectives about issues we're facing in California," de la Peña said on the phone.

"We're especially interested in (written-word and visual) stories that connect specific places and issues with larger concerns. For example, if you wrote a piece about a festival in your town, you would need to show how it's raising an issue about California as a whole and the challenges we face."

Guidelines for submissions and explanations of content are at www. assets/BOOM_ Guidelines_v4.pdf.
I've been thinking that I really should try and boil down my experience of the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall Election into something more-formal. So I contacted Carolyn de la Peña:
[T]he race had many features that might be of greater general interest. Many of the candidates saw themselves as tribunes of the electorate in various ways, but when shut out from access to the media, many were forced to cooperate with the other candidates (often their ideological enemies), in order to secure publicity together. That tale of cooperation under duress was rather heartwarming, and touched on many issues of current concern to all Californians.

If you would, let me know if something like this sounds like a good fit for your journal.
She responded:
I do think there is something there in exploring how the Recall process/experience revealed possibilities for collaboration or reconciliation across the aisles in the modern media circus that is California politics.
Do I detect a note of disdain there? She speaks about the modern media circus like it's a bad thing! As alternative candidates, all we wanted to do was be the ringleaders of the modern media circus. Was that too much to ask?

In any event, by next week I can start reviewing my materials. I’m thinking maybe by late April – May 1st - I’ll have something ready to submit.

Today's English Cri d'Coeur

Jerry has had enough:
It seems to me that the level of writing in newspapers has been going downhill. Perhaps the worst problem is the misplaced modifier. I saw two examples in today's edition of the San Jose Mercury News.

This appeared in an article about the apparently imminent demise of the
"The sale of the SUV brand with military roots to a Chinese heavy equipment manufacturer has collapsed."
And this, in a review of "The Crazies":
"It just so happens that they were the unfortunate souls in a rural Iowa town who drank the contaminated water resulting from the crash of a secret government plane carrying unidentified cargo in a nearby river."
What in the world happened to editors?
Unfortunately, as readers of this blog well-know, I make this error many times myself. So, it is good thing to have an editor with a fine-tooth comb go through the document first.

Speaking of misplaced modifiers, this essay gives some tips regarding avoiding their use:
Groucho Marx said it best: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know”. I’m sure you thought that was funny, but did you ever consider why it’s hilarious?

Prepositional Phrases and Misplaced Modifiers

You’ve probably heard the term “misplaced modifier” before. It refers to a phrase or clause that “acts on something other than what the writer intended …. The modifier is in the wrong position relative to what it should be affecting”. ...[W]e’ll explore the world of misplaced prepositional phrases, a kind of misplaced modifier. A modifier is a phrase or clause that describes something. A prepositional phrase is a short phrase that begins with a preposition. Prepositions include “in,” “at,” and “through.” A prepositional phrase gets misplaced when the writer puts in next to the wrong word.

Groucho’s joke is funny for the same reason that this real classified ad, laughed at in the book Sin and Syntax, is: “FOR SALE: Mahogany table by a lady with Chippendale legs”. Both sentences contain a misplaced prepositional phrase. Groucho intentionally put the phrase “in my pajamas” next to the word “elephant” to create the funny image of an elephant wearing PJs. Of course, the man, not the pachyderm, was wearing PJs. In the classified ad, the table, not the lady, has Chippendale legs. The writer carelessly put the prepositional phrase “with Chippendale legs” in the wrong place. Oops!

Sin and Syntax, which gave us the Chippendale legs mishap earlier, also quotes a student who once wrote this: “Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope”. This amusing sentence suggests that Lincoln traveled on the back of an envelope instead of wrote on the back of an envelope.

Also worth a few chuckles is this headline, quoted in Barbara Walraff's book Word Court: “Two Sisters Reunited After 18 Years in Checkout Counter”. So these ladies spent 18 years at checkout? Hmm.

Lastly, we have this incorrect sentence, found in the latest novel by a New York Times best-selling author: “We found the address he gave me without difficulty”. I’m glad it wasn’t difficult to give out the address. Here, the prepositional phrase “without difficulty” has been misplaced. It’s next to “gave me” instead of “found.”

Why We Make This Mistake

As you can see, even the best of us misplace our prepositional phrases. When we’re writing complex sentences, it’s easy to inadvertently put our phrases next to the wrong word. We sometimes make errors with our prepositional phrases because we are trying to join up too many ideas at once.

As might be expected, misplaced modifiers afflict television too. I posted this last year, but once again, here's the BBC's lead into last year's Jaycee Lee Dugard story, where the announcer fails to take a breath and makes an entire subordinate phrase into a misplaced modifier.

"Kiss Me, Kate" - DMTC - Final Dress Rehearsal

Travis Nagler (Gremio) and Mariana Seda (Lois Lane/Bianca).

Opening night, tonight!

Kyle Hadley as Gangster #1

Marguerite Morris as Lilly Vanessi/ Kate.

Michael Manley as Harry Trevor/Baptista, and Martin Lehman as Fred Graham/Petruchio.

Steve Isaacson as Genral Harrison Howell, and Mariana Seda as Lois Lane/Bianca.

More Rain!

Simple forecast for the weekend! For California, Friday & Saturday. For Arizona, Sunday & Monday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

That Isn't Fair!

Surprise ending to a date:
According to charging documents, Ricks and her husband, Joel Ricks, were out on a date when she drove him to her mother's Holladay condo.

Saying she had a surprise for him, Ricks blindfolded her husband and led him to the basement, where she spun him around, told him to count to 100 and then began striking him with a hammer, according to court documents.

After suffering several blows, Joel Ricks removed the blindfold and grabbed the hammer, although he was unable to get it away from his wife, who continued trying to hit him.

...Joel Ricks, who suffered only minor injuries, told sheriff's deputies that sleeping bags had been spread on the floor under his feet, and that nearby he saw a 9-inch-long kitchen knife inside a plastic bag.

It was that element of apparent premeditation that prompted prosecutors to file a charge of attempted murder.

Pakistan India Wagah Border Ceremony

Where nationalism is taken seriously....

Mississippi Fred McDowell - John Henry

I'm not much of a fan of the Blues, but today I can't seem to get enough of Mississippi Fred McDowell. The music seeps into your consciousness like river mud!

Funding The Terrorists, I Suppose

This morning, before I awoke, the Golden One Credit Union and VISA both urgently tried to reach me by telephone. I called Golden One back.

This morning, some folks at UNT Oma Dabali (phonetic transcription) in Saudi Arabia tried to lift $453.00 from my checking account using my VISA debit/ATM card. I was very much surprised by this, since, in another effort to get ahead of card-swiping scammers, the card was replaced by Golden One only last month. I just haven't had time to use the new card in many businesses yet. Still, the number got swiped, somehow.

Gabe says I'm the fourth person of his acquaintance to mention to him recently that a card number was swiped by Saudis. Apparently someone over there has got a booming business going.

I should go through my receipts. Let's see, the Hamas Gift Shoppe, the Al Qaeda Pottery Barn, Death-to-America cosmetics, etc., ......

Exit Hummer

Goodbye, and good riddance:
How low has the Hummer brand sunk? China, a country whose water and air pollution beggars description, a country that is the world's largest consumer of coal and the planet's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, a country where conspicuous consumption by newly affluent millions is considered a long-denied imperial birthright, cannot stomach the idea of bringing into its industrial fold "the poster child for American gas guzzling extravagance."

The quixotic dreams of the Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. have been dashed. The company could not get regulatory approval from the Chinese government. On Wednesday, General Motors announced that Tengzhong "was unable to complete the acquisition." GM didn't spell out the reasons, but on Thursday China's government made clear its own opinion.

Tengzhong hasn't provided China's Ministry of Commerce with a reasonable purchase plan and the government seeks to encourage renewable, green and environmentally friendly energy consumption, Yao Jian, spokesman for the ministry, said at a briefing today in Beijing, without elaborating.
When a country burns as much coal as China does, it's a real slap in the face for a business deal to be quashed because it's insufficiently green. It's also an invitation to accusations of hypocrisy. China's state-owned oil conglomerates certainly haven't been discouraged from snapping up oil companies and drilling rights all over the world, even though there is nothing "renewable, green and environmentally friendly" about oil exploitation.

But oil and coal are critical to Chinese economic growth. Hummers are not. So by rejecting Hummer, a brand whose whole point is to evoke grandiose excess, China gets to make a symbolically significant gesture at very little cost.

"Kiss Me, Kate" - DMTC - Wednesday Night Rehearsal

Bit of uncertainty as rehearsal proceeds. T. Patrick Van's cold is bad enough that he went to the hospital today. Rand Martin stood in for him tonight, but if Patrick is not well enough by opening night, Rand may well play the role of 'Paul' first weekend.

Potential for accidents, of course. Marie was carrying a kite prop, and Kyle stepped around a corner and impaled his eye on the kite's tip. Ouch! Nevertheless, Kyle seems OK.

I completely spaced out "Bianca" tonight. I didn't have enough time to fetch my pants, so I stepped onstage in tights. Chris Petersen had trouble not laughing while singing his solo. Opening night, Friday!

Marguerite Morris as Lilli Vanessi/ Kate.
Martin Lehman as Fred Graham/ Petruchio, and Michael Manley as Harry Trevor/ Baptista.
Martin Lehman as Fred Graham/ Petruchio
"Too Darn Hot"
Mariana Seda as Lois Lane/ Bianca.

Mississippi Fred McDowell "Goin Down The River"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Perp Takes Big Risks When Fleeing Police

Nursing Home Residents Form Biker Gang

We don't want no trouble around here:
Lydia Scheltes woke up in her bed at Bethesda Retirement Center one morning with pinkish hair, a tattoo on her arm and a hangover. Not a typical morning for the 90-year-old.

...Scheltes wasn’t alone: Seven ladies and one dude – aged 65 to 97 – all had a similar hazy look in their eyes after they hung out with bikers at the Evil Olive bar in Wicker Park on Feb. 11.

...Bethesda’s residents usually spend their time knitting or quilting or doing an activity typical of their age group, but they wanted something different for a change. They often drive past the Evil Olive during day trips and fantasized about what goes on inside.

One day Elizabeth Barrett, 68, asked their Life Enrichment Director, Ruth Werstler, if they could check it out.

“I did a little digging and found out it was a nightclub,” Werstler said. “But that didn’t deter them. They still wanted to go.”

In fact, Barrett upped the ante: She suggest going out as bikers.

“It was all my idea,” Barrett says with a devious laugh. “We aren’t the regular type of nursing home.”

Werstler indulged her crew and reached out to various people who could help transform the retirement home crew into a boss biker gang. She recruited hairstylists, make-up artists, a professional costumer and a tattoo artist from Artreach at Lillstreet to donate their time to make the ladies look fearsome.

About 100 people showed up to the club, including members of the Latino American Motorcycle Association and Chicago’s Chapter of A.B.A.T.E.

“These women were serious, man,” said Evil Olive General Manager Eric Bollard. “They showed up with pink hair and skull caps. It was for real. … One woman walked straight up to the bar and ordered a Dirty Martini. It was great.”

...Kaplan, who is wheelchair bound and admittedly extremely overweight, was disappointed when she first arrived at the club because there were stairs by the entrance.

“I said, We’re not going to make it,” Kaplan said. “Then before I knew it a group of bikers came and grabbed my wheelchair. All I saw was my head being tipped back and my feet were up in the air and they had me in the club.”

The bikers gave the women club hats, and spent time chatting them up, flirting and even dancing.

“One of our residents, Katie, just turned 97, and she got up with her walker and shook her booty," Kaplan said. "She shook it good."

...“Man, those ladies were an awesome bunch," Boland said. "Everyone was so into it that we’re thinking about arranging another party for them soon."

Sounds Like Dangerous Work!

Myself, I'd prefer to do safer things, like juggle bottles of nitroglycerine:
The son of one of Hamas' founders served as a top informant for Israel for more than a decade, providing top-secret intelligence that helped prevent dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, dubbed as "the Green Prince" by his handlers, was one of the Shin Bet security service's most valuable sources, Israel's Haaretz daily said. His reports led to the arrests of several high-ranking Palestinian figures during the violent Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, according to the newspaper.

Yousef's father — Sheik Hassan Yousef — was a founding member of the Islamic militant group Hamas in the 1980s. He is currently serving a six-year sentence in an Israeli prison for his political activities.

The younger Yousef converted to Christianity and moved to California in 2007.

If the Haaretz report is true, the revelation would deal another setback to Hamas, which is reeling from the assassination of a top operative in Dubai last month. There have been reports that a Hamas insider assisted the killers.

...Yousef's memoir, "Son of Hamas," is being published next week in the United States by Tyndale House Publishers.

Yousef could not be immediately contacted for comment, but an excerpt from the book on his Facebook page plugs it as "a gripping account of terror, betrayal, political intrigue, and unthinkable choices." It describes Yousef's journey as one that "jeopardized Hamas, endangered his family, and threatened his life."

It also says Yousef's relationship with the Shin Bet helped thwart an Israeli plan to assassinate his father.

...Yousef told the paper he hoped to send a message of peace to Israelis, though he remained pessimistic about the prospects for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He had particularly sharp comments for Hamas, the Iranian-backed movement that seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and has been branded a terrorist organization by Israel and the West.

"Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels," he told Haaretz.

"Kiss Me, Kate" - DMTC - Tuesday Night Rehearsal

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

McCain, Tangled

Via TPM Talking Points.

John McCain wants to distance himself from TARP, but this just isn't going to fly. In 2008, even schoolchildren knew that TARP was aimed specifically and only at stabilizing Wall Street, and not addressing any of the root causes of the economic collapse. No wonder Henry Paulson was so exasperated with him!:
Under growing pressure from conservatives and "tea party" activists, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is having to defend his record of supporting the government's massive bailout of the financial system.

In response to criticism from opponents seeking to defeat him in the Aug. 24 Republican primary, the four-term senator says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

"Obviously, that didn't happen," McCain said in a meeting Thursday with The Republic's Editorial Board, recounting his decision-making during the critical initial days of the fiscal crisis. "They decided to stabilize the Wall Street institutions, bail out (insurance giant) AIG, bail out Chrysler, bail out General Motors. . . . What they figured was that if they stabilized Wall Street - I guess it was trickle-down economics - that therefore Main Street would be fine."

Nearly 15 months later, commercial lenders still are in shaky condition and the commercial real-estate industry is in trouble, he said. On Friday, President Barack Obama announced $1.5 billion in funding for new measures to help Arizona and four other states hit hard by the tanked housing market and by joblessness.

But McCain stopped short of calling the TARP a mistake.

"Something had to be done because the world's financial system was on the verge of collapse," he said. "Any economist, liberal or conservative, would agree with that. The action they took, I don't agree with."

FOX News And Palestinian Suicide Bombers Now In The Same Happy Tent

It's just bidness - nothing to see here:
Now, according to Joseph Trento at the DC Bureau website, Fox’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, has struck a deal with Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal that will make the prince News Corps’ fourth largest investor:
The notorious Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, nephew to the Saudi king, met with Rupert Murdoch in Hong Kong on Jan. 14. The prince issued a press release after the meeting stating that the prince’s Kingdom Holding Company had discussions that “touched upon future potential alliances with News Corp.”

…Prince Alwaleed was about to become News Corp’s fourth largest voting shareholder (behind the Murdoch family, Liberty Media, and Fidelity Management & Research Co, a mutual fund). The prince has repeatedly defended his homeland as a problem-free place. What he has failed to mention is that he has personally donated huge amounts of money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Alwaleed is the same Saudi prince who made headlines right after 9/11 when he personally went to Ground Zero and offered then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani a $10 million check for the relief efforts. But Alwaleed could not keep his mouth shut. He released a bizarre statement that blamed the attacks — not on the 15 airline hijackers from Saudi Arabia — but on the United States’ support of Israel. Giuliani, “America’s mayor” [and a nearly constant presence of Fox today,] saw a political opportunity and, confident that his reaction was appropriate, immediately refused the prince’s donation. He said: “There is no moral equivalent for this attack.”
In the weeks since the Murdoch-Alwaleed deal was struck, Trento says he’s detected a noticeable softening in Fox News’ coverage of Saudi Arabia. It’s also a safe bet Fox will impose a blackout on coverage of the Saudi prince — and because its viewers only get their news from Fox, talk radio and other right-wing propaganda outlets, its audience — the same folks who were outraged over Saddam’s donations to the bombers — will never know that a latter day terror funder is keeping the network afloat.

Never Underestimate Annoyed Amish Businessmen

Religions and their loopholes:
NICKEL MINES, Pa. -- An Amish businessman, fed up with repeated burglaries at his Lancaster County store, set up a video surveillance system and captured an image of the suspected thief.

State police said someone has been breaking into four Amish businesses in the Georgetown area, near Nickel Mines, since October of last year. The burglaries continued until January of this year. One store was hit six times, according to police.

..."(The thief) might think it's an easy mark to go back to, but that's not the case anymore," Lt. Tracy Brown.

Amish tradition forbids taking photos of themselves, but some Amish business owners told News 8 that they have no problem taking someone else's picture -- especially if it helps catch a crook.

Limit It To Head Spins Until He Changes Clothes

Vladimir Putin says breakdancing is good for the youth - "This really is propaganda for a healthy lifestyle because it is hard to imagine breakdancing having anything to do with drinking and dope" - but in Elma, NY, they know better:
An 18-year-old Cheektowaga man was arrested on felony criminal mischief charges, after being accused of repeated attempts at 'break dancing.'

...The damage was caused when the suspect arrived at a house party held by the owner of the home's daughters, in an intoxicated condition.

He is accused of making repeated attempts at 'break dancing,' while wearing a large diamond buckle, causing extensive gouging damage to hardwood floors.

King For A Day

Today is the day my dentist wanted to give me a Temporary Crown! So, I am now Emperor of Lavender Heights!

Apparently they need to 'send out' for impressions (Why not take a poll today of the ignorant rabble in the Fort Sutter neighborhood? Am I not sufficiently-impressive to my subjects?), so I won't receive the Permanent Crown until March 15th.

As the dentists dismantled my mouth I watched the television helpfully located above me, on the ceiling. The Chinese and American women's curling teams at the Vancouver Winter Olympics were engaged in intense competition. With all the drilling I couldn't hear what was going on, and I have no idea what the rules of curling are, and I never saw the conclusion, but it was fun to watch the team's laser-like focus and hear them shout at the gliding stones.

Dying For That Svelte Look

As others have noted, modern civilization is modern civilization's greatest threat:
Most 12-year-olds in Britain think they are too fat, while half of the country's six-year-olds say they would like to be skinnier.

RIP, Georgelle Hirliman

Courtesy of Gabe, a NYT obituary for one of the people that make New Mexico an interesting place to live:
Georgelle Hirliman, whose innovative solution to writer’s block a quarter-century ago gave her a national career as a performance artist — and a book to boot — died on Jan. 29 in Santa Fe, N.M. She was 73 and a Santa Fe resident.

...In 1984, hopelessly blocked on a novel, Ms. Hirliman hit on the idea of setting up shop with her typewriter in a Santa Fe storefront. Beside her, she placed a sign:

Help Me Cure My Writer’s Block — Give Me a Topic.

People stopped and stared. Before long they began scribbling questions on slips of paper and taping them to the window. (Q. Where do the ducks go when ponds freeze over?) Ms. Hirliman fired off brief, aphoristic replies and taped them back up for all to see. (A. Warm, chlorinated pools in Miami and Beverly Hills.)

She never wrote her novel, but it no longer mattered: Ms. Hirliman was soon appearing in windows across the United States and Canada, her work widely reported in the news media.

In Manhattan she wrote in the windows of The Village Voice, Shakespeare & Co. on the Upper West Side and B. Dalton on Fifth Avenue, among other places, sitting daily for eight hours at a stretch. Store owners paid her $50 to $100 a day, New York magazine reported in 1985.

Ms. Hirliman’s project resulted in a volume of questions and answers, “Dear Writer in the Window: The Wit and Wisdom of a Sidewalk Sage,” published by Penguin Books in 1992. She later reworked her window act as a one-woman stage show, which she performed around the country.

Before Ms. Hirliman began writing in windows she was variously, by her own account in interviews over the years, a model, journalist, secretary, tarot card reader, astrologer, cigarette girl and call girl.

“Being a call girl is a very giving profession, just like writing,” she told The Washington Post in 1992.

Georgelle Cynthia Hirliman was born in Los Angeles on June 11, 1936. She was adopted as a baby by Eleanor Hunt, a Hollywood actress, and her husband, George A. Hirliman, who produced “Reefer Madness” and other films. Georgelle, who moved with her family to New York as a girl, was unhappy at home and left as a teenager.

Ms. Hirliman settled in Santa Fe in the early 1970s. In 1982 she published a nonfiction book, “The Hate Factory” (Dell). Written with W. G. Stone, it chronicled the notorious 1980 riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico, in which 33 inmates were killed and scores injured.

...In later years, she answered still more questions through her Web site,

They Just Do Things Differently In Sweden

Still, the vendor must be identified when product complaints are lodged:
A man walked into a police station in southern Sweden last week to complain about the quality of the hash that he had been sold, asking for a lump to be tested for traces of LSD.

The 26-year-old cannabis connoisseur declared to surprised police officers in the provincial Skåne town of Eslöv that he was not satisfied with the quality of his stash and would like to lodge a complaint, local newspaper Skånskan reports.

...The man told how that as he sucked on his joint, his television began to talk to him and he came to the realisation that his girlfriend was in fact a dolphin.

..."It could possibly be classified as assault, if the hash is found to contain LSD," Mats G Odestål at Eslöv police told Skånskan.

But either way it is unlikely that the dealer will face any charges as the 26-year-old proved reluctant to divulge the identity of his supplier.

Changing Mt. Diablo's Name

The mild-mannered campaign to change Mt. Diablo's name has run into a hurricane of opposition.

Good. First, long-established geographic names should not be changed. They are a nod to history and to tradition. Keeping these names is the conservative thing to do. Second, Reagan was a dismal, law-breaking President in many respects, achieving significance only by his readiness to engage with the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of perestroika. Reagan does not deserve the honor.
Arthur Mijares never saw it coming when he filed the federal paperwork to change the name of Contra Costa County's most famous landmark from Mt. Diablo to Mt. Reagan.

It's not that he's such a big fan of the 40th president of the United States. It's just that he believes, as a devout Christian, that naming a peak of such beauty and importance after the devil -- even in Spanish -- is "derogatory, pejorative, offensive, obscene, blasphemous and profane."

...In less than a month, more than 80,000 people have joined a Facebook group called "People AGAINST Re-naming Mt. Diablo to Mt. Reagan!!" The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, which will vote on the name change Tuesday, has been flooded with e-mail; the heated response runs nine to one against the idea, said Supervisor Susan Bonilla, whose district includes the beloved mountain.

Online comments -- and there have been thousands -- range from the sacred to the quite profane. It's hard to figure out just who Mt. Diablo's legions of supporters think is the real devil here: the gray-haired, retired rehabilitation counselor who would mess with history or the president he hopes to honor.

"I absolutely agree that Reagan was the Devil, and any monument that is dedicated to him is an absolute disgrace to anybody's sense of moral fortitude," fumed one post. "Per Nancy, just say 'no.' "

...Its name has long swirled with controversy. As legend has it, in 1805, Spanish soldiers were chasing a band of Bay Miwok who had escaped from a mission and apprehended them in a thicket at the base of a dramatic mountain. Darkness fell, and the Miwok disappeared.

When day broke, the mountain was shrouded in fog, and the soldiers realized that they'd been duped. So they dubbed the area Monte del Diablo, Thicket of the Devil.

"The name was transferred to the peak by non-Spanish explorers who associated 'monte' with a mountain and applied the Italian form Diavolo or Diabolo," according to the Save Mount Diablo website, which is dedicated to preserving open space on and near the mountain. Monte del Diablo first appeared on an 1824 map.

..."The name is historical," said Seth Adams, director of land programs for Save Mount Diablo. "Even though it's a linguistic mistake, it's got 200 years of history behind it. . . . Mt. Diablo is a special place in which people have invested huge reverence and love. They love it the way it is."

Another Chance (Kaskade)

Late night classic Trance.

There At The Very Beginning

Mankind's first big temple complex - so old that the Great Pyramids of Egypt may as well be modern:
Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn't just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago—a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture—the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember—the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.

Göbekli Tepe—the name in Turkish for "potbelly hill"—lays art and religion squarely at the start of that journey. After a dozen years of patient work, Schmidt has uncovered what he thinks is definitive proof that a huge ceremonial site flourished here, a "Rome of the Ice Age," as he puts it, where hunter-gatherers met to build a complex religious community. Across the hill, he has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that evoke the monoliths of Easter Island.

...The new discoveries are finally beginning to reshape the slow-moving consensus of archeology. Göbekli Tepe is "unbelievably big and amazing, at a ridiculously early date," according to Ian Hodder, director of Stanford's archeology program. Enthusing over the "huge great stones and fantastic, highly refined art" at Göbekli, Hodder—who has spent decades on rival Neolithic sites—says: "Many people think that it changes everything…It overturns the whole apple cart. All our theories were wrong."

Schmidt's thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.

This theory reverses a standard chronology of human origins, in which primitive man went through a "Neolithic revolution" 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. In the old model, shepherds and farmers appeared first, and then created pottery, villages, cities, specialized labor, kings, writing, art, and—somewhere on the way to the airplane—organized religion. As far back as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, thinkers have argued that the social compact of cities came first, and only then the "high" religions with their great temples, a paradigm still taught in American high schools.

Religion now appears so early in civilized life—earlier than civilized life, if Schmidt is correct—that some think it may be less a product of culture than a cause of it, less a revelation than a genetic inheritance. The archeologist Jacques Cauvin once posited that "the beginning of the gods was the beginning of agriculture," and Göbekli may prove his case.

...Unlike most discoveries from the ancient world, Göbekli Tepe was found intact, the stones upright, the order and artistry of the work plain even to the un-trained eye. Most startling is the elaborate carving found on about half of the 50 pillars Schmidt has unearthed. There are a few abstract symbols, but the site is almost covered in graceful, naturalistic sculptures and bas-reliefs of the animals that were central to the imagination of hunter-gatherers. Wild boar and cattle are depicted, along with totems of power and intelligence, like lions, foxes, and leopards. Many of the biggest pillars are carved with arms, including shoulders, elbows, and jointed fingers. The T shapes appear to be towering humanoids but have no faces, hinting at the worship of ancestors or humanlike deities. "In the Bible it talks about how God created man in his image," says Johns Hopkins archeologist Glenn Schwartz. Göbekli Tepe "is the first time you can see humans with that idea, that they resemble gods."

...Göbekli sits at the Fertile Crescent's northernmost tip, a productive borderland on the shoulder of forests and within sight of plains. The hill was ideally situated for ancient hunters. Wild gazelles still migrate past twice a year as they did 11 millennia ago, and birds fly overhead in long skeins. Genetic mapping shows that the first domestication of wheat was in this immediate area—perhaps at a mountain visible in the distance—a few centuries after Göbekli's founding. Animal husbandry also began near here—the first domesticated pigs came from the surrounding area in about 8000 B.C., and cattle were domesticated in Turkey before 6500 B.C. Pottery followed. Those discoveries then flowed out to places like Çatalhöyük, the oldest-known Neolithic village, which is 300 miles to the west.

The artists of Göbekli Tepe depicted swarms of what Schmidt calls "scary, nasty" creatures: spiders, scorpions, snakes, triple-fanged monsters, and, most common of all, carrion birds. The single largest carving shows a vulture poised over a headless human. Schmidt theorizes that human corpses were ex-posed here on the hilltop for consumption by birds—what a Tibetan would call a sky burial. Sifting the tons of dirt removed from the site has produced very few human bones, however, perhaps because they were removed to distant homes for ancestor worship. Absence is the source of Schmidt's great theoretical claim. "There are no traces of daily life," he explains. "No fire pits. No trash heaps. There is no water here." Everything from food to flint had to be imported, so the site "was not a village," Schmidt says. Since the temples predate any known settlement anywhere, Schmidt concludes that man's first house was a house of worship: "First the temple, then the city," he insists.

...Dating of ancient sites is highly contested, but Çatalhöyük is probably about 1,500 years younger than Göbekli, and features no carvings or grand constructions. The walls of Jericho, thought until now to be the oldest monumental construction by man, were probably started more than a thousand years after Göbekli. Huge temples did emerge again—but the next unambiguous example dates from 5,000 years later, in southern Iraq.

The site is such an outlier that an American archeologist who stumbled on it in the 1960s simply walked away, unable to interpret what he saw. On a hunch, Schmidt followed the American's notes to the hilltop 15 years ago, a day he still recalls with a huge grin. He saw carved flint everywhere, and recognized a Neolithic quarry on an adjacent hill, with unfinished slabs of limestone hinting at some monument buried nearby. "In one minute—in one second—it was clear," the bearded, sun-browned archeologist recalls. He too considered walking away, he says, knowing that if he stayed, he would have to spend the rest of his life digging on the hill.

...Whatever mysterious rituals were conducted in the temples, they ended abruptly before 8000 B.C., when the entire site was buried, deliberately and all at once, Schmidt believes. The temples had been in decline for a thousand years—later circles are less than half the size of the early ones, indicating a lack of resources or motivation among the worshipers. This "clear digression" followed by a sudden burial marks "the end of a very strange culture," Schmidt says. But it was also the birth of a new, settled civilization, humanity having now exchanged the hilltops of hunters for the valleys of farmers and shepherds. New ways of life demand new religious practices, Schmidt suggests, and "when you have new gods, you have to get rid of the old ones."

Life On the Surface - Nasty, Brutish, And Short

So, escape upwards!:
Evolutionary biologists have long predicted that natural selection should favour extending the lifespan of animals that live relatively safe lifestyles. And in fact, birds and bats, whose ability to fly helps them escape from predators, do have particularly long lives.

Like fliers, tree-dwelling mammals can easily escape many predators. To see if this might also help them live longer, biological anthropologists Milena Shattuck and Scott Williams at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gathered data on the lifespans of 776 species representing all the major groups of mammals. They discovered that the maximum lifespans of tree-dwellers were almost twice those of terrestrial species of similar sizes.

...The team is now setting its sights on burrowing mammals, to see if life underground also reduces risk and so ultimately extends the lifespans of those species.

Dwarf Dinosaurs On The Island

What are these - reptilian versions of Shetland Ponies? Nevertheless, it is interesting what island life can do to make animals small. But some animals - for example, Galapagos Tortoises - grew larger than their forbears, not smaller, because only large animals are big enough to survive the feast-or-famine swings of equatorial weather associated with El Niño:
The idea of the small prehistoric beasts on Hateg Island, Romania, was proposed 100 years ago by the colourful Baron Franz Nopcsa, whose family owned estates in the area.

He found that many dinosaur remains on Hateg were half the size of their close relatives in older rocks in England, Germany, and North America.

The baron's theory has been tested for the first time by Professor Mike Benton at the University of Bristol, and six other authors from Romania, Germany, and the United States.

The team found that the Hateg Island dinosaurs were indeed dwarfs and not just young dinosaurs.

A favourite theme of evolutionary ecologists is whether there is an ''island rule'' - where large animals isolated on islands evolve to become smaller.

Three species of the Hateg dinosaurs - the plant-eating sauropod Magyarosaurus and the plant-eating ornithopods Telmatosaurus and Zalmoxes - are half the length of their nearest relatives elsewhere.

The team examined these three dinosaurs, each represented by many specimens. They found no evidence of any large bones such as they would expect to find in their normal-sized relatives.

More importantly, a close study of the bones confirmed that the dinosaurs had reached adulthood so they were not just underdeveloped youngsters.

Detailed studies by Martin Sander in Bonn and his students also show that the bone histology (the microscopic structure) is adult.

The idea of ''island dwarfing'' is well-established in other cases. There were dwarf elephants on many of the Mediterranean islands during the past tens of thousands of years.

These well-studied examples suggest dwarfing can happen quite quickly, the team believes.

Professor Benton, a palaeontologist, said: ''The general idea is that larger animals that find themselves isolated on an island either become extinct because there is not enough space for a reasonably-sized population to survive, or they adapt.

''One way to adapt is to become smaller, generation by generation.''

Monday, February 22, 2010

You Never Know How Deborah Will Respond

I sent her John's cool link to the rocket passing near the sundog, and she responds with this (as far as I know untitled) piece of i-Phone art.

Pamela Trokanski Calling For Dancers

Hmm.... Interesting!:
The Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre of Davis is putting out a call for "non-traditional" dancers -- men and women 35 and older -- who would like to be involved in a movement project that explores social networking, the internet and interpersonal relationships.

No previous dance experience is required, nor is any specific body type sought. Choreographer Trokanski says her only requirement for the 12 to 16 participants she seeks is "a willingness to play and an interest in the theater/performance experience."

A general meeting and audition will be be held 12:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at Trokanski's Dance Workshop, 2720 Del Rio Place, Davis.

Trokanski issued a similar call for dancers in 1993. The resulting choreography, supported by a City of Davis Arts Contract, was "Coming of Age." Later that year, the Third Stage Dance Company, a multi-generational contemporary dance company, was formed.

The new call for dancers will result in a work to be performed at a yet-to-be-determined time.

For more information or to sign up for the audition, call (530) 756-3949.

Herpes Bombs

In MY day, we worried about herpes. NOW, in these new-and-improved days, people are worried about herpes bombs:
Not long after Amy Bishop was identified as the professor who had been arrested in the shooting of six faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Feb. 12, the campus police received a series of reports even stranger than the shooting itself.

Several people with connections to the university’s biology department warned that Dr. Bishop, a neuroscientist with a Harvard Ph.D., might have booby-trapped the science building with some sort of “herpes bomb,” police officials said, designed to spread the dangerous virus.

Only people who had worked with Dr. Bishop would know that she had done work with the herpes virus as a post-doctoral student and had talked about how it could cause encephalitis. She had also written an unpublished novel in which a herpes-like virus spreads throughout the world, causing pregnant women to miscarry.

By the time of the reports, the police had already swept every room of the science building, finding nothing but a 9-millimeter handgun in the second-floor restroom.

But the anxious warnings reflected the fears of those who know Dr. Bishop that she could go to great lengths to retaliate against those she felt had wronged her.

The House Of Marcus Lycus

A Google search reveals some of Mariana's past work....

Last Half Of Week Will See Escalating Wetness

I hope our Opening Night singing can be heard above the rain on the roof.

Strange Political Times Ahead

There is an interesting confluence of conservative and liberal political trends these days, with each side beginning to identify Congressional corruption (identified by conservatives with the budget deficit and by the liberals with excessive campaign spending) as the root of America's problems. There may be points of agreement that liberals and conservatives can agree on.

First, Ron Paul won the CPAC Straw Poll:
CPAC participants voted for Paul as their favored candidate by some 31 percent, giving him the largest margin of victory in recent years. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has won the vote over the last three years, was the runner up with 22 percent. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was third with seven percent.

..."Some older CPAC attendees don’t seem to care much for the Texas congressman, sure, but many young activists seem to regard him as a hero of sorts," he wrote. "When he talks about the debt, like he did on Friday, calling it a 'monster' that will 'eat up' our future, it was with a passion that you can’t fake in politics. He also didn’t mind challenging many of the room’s security hawks on foreign policy."

Indeed, Costa touched on a key undercurrent at this year's CPAC: youth. According to the straw poll's detailed breakdown [PDF link], 48 percent of the participants were students. A full 80 percent of respondents said their number one issue is "to promote individual liberty" and "reduce the size of government." Sixty-four percent of participants were male.

...FireDogLake noted that even Ann Coulter told a CPAC crowd that she agrees with Paul on everything, except his foreign policy. "Or, put another way," wrote FDL user Blue Texan, "Coulter and the neoconservatives that have taken over the Republican Party want Ron Paul’s pre-WWI, pre-Fed, pre-Social Security, pre-IRS federal government — to go with LBJ’s Great Society military."
And on the left, disappointment with Obama grows and grows, with the suspicion that the source of the failure is on Capitol Hill:
Yet a year into the presidency of Barack Obama, it is already clear that this administration is an opportunity missed. Not because it is too conservative. Not because it is too liberal. But because it is too conventional. Obama has given up the rhetoric of his early campaign--a campaign that promised to "challenge the broken system in Washington" and to "fundamentally change the way Washington works." Indeed, "fundamental change" is no longer even a hint.

...For Obama once spoke for the anger that has now boiled over in even the blue state Massachusetts--that our government is corrupt; that fundamental change is needed. As he told us, both parties had allowed "lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system." And "unless we're willing to challenge [that] broken system...nothing else is going to change."

...This administration has not "taken up that fight." Instead, it has stepped down from the high ground the president occupied on January 20, 2009, and played a political game no different from the one George W. Bush played, or Bill Clinton before him.

...On the right (the tea party) and the left (MoveOn and Bold Progressives), there is an unstoppable recognition that our government has failed. But both sides need to understand the source of its failure if either or, better, both together, are to respond.

At the center of our government lies a bankrupt institution: Congress. Not financially bankrupt, at least not yet, but politically bankrupt.

...But consistently and increasingly over the past decade, faith in Congress has collapsed--slowly, and then all at once. Today it is at a record low.

...The source of America's cynicism is not hard to find. Americans despise the inauthentic. Gregory House, of the eponymous TV medical drama, is a hero not because he is nice (he isn't) but because he is true. Tiger Woods is a disappointment not because he is evil (he isn't) but because he proved false. We may want peace and prosperity, but most would settle for simple integrity. Yet the single attribute least attributed to Congress, at least in the minds of the vast majority of Americans, is just that: integrity. And this is because most believe our Congress is a simple pretense. That rather than being, as our framers promised, an institution "dependent on the People," the institution has developed a pathological dependence on campaign cash. The US Congress has become the Fundraising Congress. And it answers--as Republican and Democratic presidents alike have discovered--not to the People, and not even to the president, but increasingly to the relatively small mix of interests that fund the key races that determine which party will be in power.

This is corruption. Not the corruption of bribes, or of any other crime known to Title 18 of the US Code. Instead, it is a corruption of the faith Americans have in this core institution of our democracy. The vast majority of Americans believe money buys results in Congress (88 percent in a recent California poll). And whether that belief is true or not, the damage is the same. The democracy is feigned. A feigned democracy breeds cynicism. Cynicism leads to disengagement. Disengagement leaves the fox guarding the henhouse.

This corruption is not hidden. On the contrary, it is in plain sight, with its practices simply more and more brazen....

As fundraising becomes the focus of Congress--as the parties force members to raise money for other members, as they reward the best fundraisers with lucrative committee assignments and leadership positions--the focus of Congressional "work" shifts. Like addicts constantly on the lookout for their next fix, members grow impatient with anything that doesn't promise the kick of a campaign contribution. The first job is meeting the fundraising target. Everything else seems cheap. Talk about policy becomes, as one Silicon Valley executive described it to me, "transactional." The perception, at least among industry staffers dealing with the Hill, is that one makes policy progress only if one can promise fundraising progress as well.

...[I]f money really doesn't affect results in Washington, then what could possibly explain the fundamental policy failures--relative to every comparable democracy across the world, whether liberal or conservative--of our government over the past decades? The choice (made by Democrats and Republicans alike) to leave unchecked a huge and crucially vulnerable segment of our economy, which threw the economy over a cliff when it tanked (as independent analysts again and again predicted it would). Or the choice to leave unchecked the spread of greenhouse gases. Or to leave unregulated the exploding use of antibiotics in our food supply--producing deadly strains of E. coli. Or the inability of the twenty years of "small government" Republican presidents in the past twenty-nine to reduce the size of government at all. Or... you fill in the blank. From the perspective of what the People want, or even the perspective of what the political parties say they want, the Fundraising Congress is misfiring in every dimension. That is either because Congress is filled with idiots or because Congress has a dependency on something other than principle or public policy sense. In my view, Congress is not filled with idiots.

The point is simple, if extraordinarily difficult for those of us proud of our traditions to accept: this democracy no longer works. Its central player has been captured. Corrupted. Controlled by an economy of influence disconnected from the democracy. Congress has developed a dependency foreign to the framers' design. Corporate campaign spending, now liberated by the Supreme Court, will only make that dependency worse. "A dependence" not, as the Federalist Papers celebrated it, "on the People" but a dependency upon interests that have conspired to produce a world in which policy gets sold.

No one, Republican or Democratic, who doesn't currently depend upon this system should accept it. No president, Republican or Democratic, who doesn't change this system could possibly hope for any substantive reform. For small-government Republicans, the existing system will always block progress. There will be no end to extensive and complicated taxation and regulation until this system changes (for the struggle over endless and complicated taxation and regulation is just a revenue opportunity for the Fundraising Congress). For reform-focused Democrats, the existing system will always block progress. There will be no change in fundamental aspects of the existing economy, however inefficient, from healthcare to energy to food production, until this political economy is changed (for the reward from the status quo to stop reform is always irresistible to the Fundraising Congress). In a single line: there will be no change until we change Congress.

Tour Of The International Space Station

Also courtesy from John, a tour of the International Space Station.

Sundog Plus Speeding Rocket Equals Wonder!

John sends this. Totally cool!
Solar Dynamics Observatory Launch, Feb 11, 2010.

A sun dog is a prismatic bright spot in the sky caused by sun shining through ice crystals. The Atlas V rocket exceeded the speed of sound in this layer of ice crystals, making the shock wave visible from the ground.

Sunday, February 21, 2010