Saturday, March 06, 2010

Up To My Neck In Owls

This week, B3ta features a kind of confessional. I confessed guilt about the Australian Owl I clobbered in 2006:
I'm sorry for driving into you. When I traveled around the world, I didn't mean to go on a wildlife killing spree
In response, a B3ta reader suggests the owls are coming for revenge....

NSW Rains

The report below was for NW New South Wales last month, but it still remains valid. Some parts of eastern Australia are seeing really impressive rains this summer - so welcome after having been absent for so long!

Of course, weather being what it is, western parts of Australia are seeing no rain at all, but that's just Australia for you:

Farmers are delighted with replenished subsoil moisture and full dams, which in many areas have been dry for 18 months or more. The rain follows good falls on 5-6 January. A number of highest daily rainfall records were set of which the most significant were 120.4mm at Tilpa (Trevallyn) in the far NW of the state, their heaviest February fall in 35 years of observations, and 92.0 at Burrinjuck Dam, its heaviest February fall in 102 years. Cootamundra Airport's 84.0mm and Ivanhoe Airport's 62.6 were all-time records for the stations in fairly short periods of operation. I was in the Cootamundra area at the height of the rain, and seeing sheets of water stream off paddocks filling dams as I watched was an unforgettable sight.

ABC Regional Radio reported that one farm near Tullamore, 80km NW of Parkes, received 230mm over the weekend, and that other good weekend falls across the region included 150mm at Grenfell, 130mm at Condobolin and Parkes, 112mm at Hillston and 110mm at Forbes. The Bureau of Meteorology said it was the wettest three days for Forbes in at least 15 years and the wettest two days in Condobolin for February in 15 years. In Canberra, some of the best rain since 2002 fell with totals for the event of 100mm or more.

Some interviews conducted by ABC Rural give an idea of the significance of this rain event.

Chris Groves has lived on his Cowra wheat and sheep farm for 16 years and says he has not seen a rainfall event like it since he moved there. "The only other one that comes anywhere near it was back in 1995 and that was when we recorded 85 mm in one event. Every dam on the farm now has water in it and I think there's only two which haven't overflowed. Of the 25 dams on my farm, just two had water in them in December. The weekend before this weekend just passed we had 60mm of rain, so it's starting to add up. Some of the grass paddocks are now coming away well. There's also a good germination of clover, and we're set up well for lambing in a few weeks."

Graham McDonald, who grows wheat and has about 4000 sheep at Condobolin, says his property had 120mm over three days. "It was beautiful rain," he told ABC Rural. "This is probably the best rain I can remember that's spread over the entire district. I think most dams in the district are now full or overflowing." Mr McDonald flew over the district on Sunday to see the rain's impact. "Nearly all of the creeks have water running into them," he said. "There's a lot of water out there. There was some isolated flooding. There were a couple of properties where the water was up around the house. But I don't think it's been damaging flooding." Mr McDonald says he will be starting lambing in a month's time.

Daniel Cooper runs a mixed cropping and sheep operation at Caragabal. He told ABC Radio the weekend storms delivered the best rain he's seen in years. "We got between 100 mm and 120 mm over the weekend. It's been fantastic. It's filled up all our water storage dams, which means we won't have to cart water for our stock anymore. It's a job we're glad to see the back of. We had between 20 mm to 40 mm last weekend as well. So the soil is starting to get quite damp. We start lambing in a couple of months, so it'll get some feed growing and give us an opportunity to sow some forage crops."

...Warm conditions accompanying the moisture are causing weed growth, while the Australian Plague Locust Commission says the wet weather in the state's west has made conditions ideal for locust plague development, but is having difficulty getting into the area due to impassable roads. The heavy rain has also caused some fruit damage, and splitting of wine grapes ready for harvest.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Arizona Rest Stop Closures

Nothing makes the heart sing like knowing there are hordes of desperate, tax-cutting Republicans tangling with equally-desperate Teddy Bear Cholla cactus, just over the hill, and just out-of-sight of the Interstate:
“Why don’t they charge a quarter or something?’” said Connie Lucas, who lives in Pine, Ariz., about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from here. “There was one rest stop between here and Phoenix, and we really needed it.”

Arizona has the largest budget gap in the country when measured as a percentage of its overall budget, and the state Department of Transportation was $100 million in the red last fall when it decided to close 13 of the state’s 18 highway rest stops.

But the move has unleashed a torrent of telephone calls and e-mail messages to state lawmakers, newspapers and the Department of Transportation deploring the lost toilets — one of the scores of small indignities among larger hardships that residents of embattled states face as governments scramble to shore up their finances.

“People in this state are mad about this,” said State Representative Daniel Patterson, a Democrat from Tucson who has sponsored a bill that would allow other entities to reopen and maintain the rest stops. “This bill may have the broadest support among members of any bill this year.”

Some residents see something sinister in the closings. Betty L. Roberts, who lives in Sun City, west of Phoenix, said the topic was a hot one among her friends.

“I honestly think they are setting us up because they want to do a tax increase,” Ms. Roberts said. “I think by shutting down things people want, they will give us one.”

Arizona is not alone in singling out toilets. Colorado, Georgia, Vermont and Virginia are among states that have also closed rest stops, though Virginia’s new governor, Robert F. McDonnell, has vowed to reopen 19 stops that closed last year.

“It’s a safety problem, not only for us but car drivers,” said Clayton Boyce, the spokesman for the American Trucking Association, which has fought rest stop closings in Virginia and elsewhere. “We think it is a pretty bad idea.”

The Arizona Transportation Department has suffered an ever-ugly combination of large cuts and unforeseen costs. More than $500 million of the transportation budget was recently diverted to the state’s general fund — a common move among struggling states — and the department has closed 12 field offices, deferred $370 million in highway construction projects and cut 10 percent of its staff.

Further, two winter storms recently battered the north of the state, at a cost of roughly $4 million to the department. The roughly $300,000 a year it cost to operate each rest stop was something the department decided it could no longer manage.

“People think, ‘You just go in and change the toilet paper, don’t you?’ ” said Kevin Biesty, the government relations director for the Transportation Department. “The answer is, no, we have to maintain the water quality, we have do maintenance to the buildings and so on. Some of those places in the middle of nowhere are like their own little cities.”

Mr. Patterson’s bill, which is supported by a majority of legislators, Republicans and Democrats, would allow local governments, American Indian tribes and private groups to pay to keep the rest stops open.

The problem is that most localities in the state are broke, too. Further, federal law prohibits states (including Arizona) with Interstates built after 1956 from privatizing or commercializing their rest areas. “This bill doesn’t really give us any new tools,” Mr. Biesty said.

AM/PM Skimming Scam

It's likely these are the folks who stole my debit card information. I only had the card a month, and so there weren't that many merchants I patronized in that time. AM/PM is at the top of that short list.:
It started as a routine check on a gasoline pump.

It blossomed into the unraveling of a suspected "skimming" scam that authorities believe was bilking $20,000 a day from Northern California debit and credit card holders, including $43,000 from customers at a Rocklin AM/PM service station.

Martinez police detectives on Feb. 26 arrested two Southern California men on suspicion of installing illegal data-capturing devices inside card readers at gasoline pumps. Police have recommended that prosecutors file 32 counts of identity fraud, conspiracy and enhanced charges related to gang activity.

"We don't think it's just these two guys," said Martinez Police Cmdr. Gary Peterson.

This kind of skimming is fairly rare, say law enforcement and retail experts. But it's a highly sophisticated crime that bedevils retailers who must balance security with service to customers who have come to enjoy the ease of swiping their plastic through card readers to pay for gasoline and a growing number of services and products.

Eleven skimming devices, each loaded with information for as many as 400 to 500 accounts, were found in the car in which David Karapetyan, 31, and Zhirayr Zamanyan, 30, were stopped by detectives from the Martinez Police Department.

Using keys that are standardized and widely available – much like keys to golf carts – the two suspects opened gas pumps and installed devices inside to capture information from the card readers, Peterson said. The process can be done quickly without arousing much suspicion, he said.

For the next driver who pulls up to the pump, there are no clues that anything is out of the ordinary.

Other types of skimming use miniature cameras to record strokes on the keypad or use devices attached around the card reader that could be spotted by careful observers.

Once the skimming devices are retrieved, information they have captured can be sold or used to make counterfeit debit and credit cards.

The ongoing Northern California scam was broken when an employee at a 7-Eleven store in Martinez was changing receipt tape at a pump and spotted a device inside, Peterson said. He called detectives, who replaced it with a decoy device and waited for someone to retrieve it.

Officers said they watched Karapetyan and Zamanyan remove the fake device, then followed and arrested them.

Because the two suspects were caught with a GPS device that had the addresses of "numerous" gasoline stations punched in, Peterson's department is waiting to hear from other service stations.

Service stations in the Sacramento area and other Bay Area cities have reported finding six skimming devices, Peterson said. He's gotten calls from authorities in Washington, Oklahoma and Texas who've had similar cases, but no links have been established with the local case.

The Weakest Link?

E.: MMMMAAARRRCCC! Jury duty isn't like the last time I had jury duty. They had their questions in a pamphlet and we had to fill it out right there! No Internet; no Google!

M.: Like a standardized test. You are pretty good with standardized tests. How was it?

E.: I ran out of time. I didn't answer all the questions. I hope I didn't pass. Yesterday, the judge said the case will last THREE months! We are supposed to go back on Tuesday. I can't tell you any details, except that the case is very, very disturbing. I really felt for the victim, and I have nothing for the defendant except hatred.

M.: Did you write that down?

E.: No, not exactly, but I wrote down something like that.

M.: Then on Tuesday the defense attorney will probably complain and the judge will say "Thank you very much. Don't call us; we'll call you. Goodbye. You are the weakest link!"

E.: (laughter)

M.: We'll see what happens Tuesday!

Taped To The Bottom Of A Bottle Of Water

John sends this.

Matt Darey Pres. Urban Astronauts Feat. Kate Louise - See The Sun (Aurosonic Remix)

Citi Never Sleeps

Last week, while surfing Credit Karma, I took note of current low interest rates and a fleeting thought occurred: maybe I should refinance my mortgage. So I clicked on a button, and alerted dozens of lenders that I was 'in the market'. I regretted my impulsiveness immediately, but the lenders had already scrambled.

One of the lenders alerted by my button-push was my current mortgage-holder: Citibank. Yesterday, I received a special-delivery FedEx envelope that fairly reeked of panic, offering me almost anything - provided I stuck with Citibank.

Citibank's slogan is: 'Citi Never Sleeps'. I guess that's right!

Unexpected Crowd Surfer

Authorities are investigating
A quadriplegic man has been seriously injured at an AC/DC concert after his friend hit the joystick of his motorised wheelchair, catapulting him into the mosh pit.

Witnesses said a metal pin used by the 31-year-old man to manoeuvre objects embedded in his eye as his chair crashed more than a metre to the floor of Brisbane's Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre.

The venue is facing criticism for not placing a proper barrier in front of the wheelchair podium.

The platform had side and rear barriers, but the only barrier at the front of the podium was a strip of timber and plastic caution tape.

'Extinct' Frogs Reappear

Maybe some hope yet:
A species of frog thought to have been extinct for 30 years has been found in rural Australian farmland, officials said Thursday.

The rediscovery of the yellow-spotted bell frog is a reminder of the need to protect natural habitats so "future generations can enjoy the noise and color of our native animals," said Frank Sartor, minister for environment and climate change.

A fisheries conservation officer stumbled across one of the frogs in October 2008 while researching an endangered fish species in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales state.

The officer, Luke Pearce, told The Associated Press he had been walking along a stream trying to catch a southern pygmy perch when he spotted the frog next to the water.

Pearce returned in the same season in 2009 with experts who confirmed it was a colony of around 100 yellow-spotted bell frogs.

Dave Hunter, threatened species officer with the Department of Climate Change and Water, said the find is very important.

"To have found this species that hasn't been seen for 30 years and that professional researchers thought was extinct is great," he said. "It gives us a lot of hope that a lot of other species that we thought were extinct aren't actually extinct -- we just haven't found them."

...Mike Tyler, a frog expert at the University of Adelaide, said around a dozen species of Australian frogs are regarded as critically endangered.

"Most of them are on the east coast, mainly in Queensland and New South Wales," he said, but added there are probably other species that never have been identified.

Tyler said the cataloguing of fauna in Australia is still far from complete.

"In the last decade, three new species of frog have been discovered in the Kimberley," he said, referring to a northern region of Western Australia state. "I know of two more in the Northern Territory which haven't even yet been described ... one of the specimens is sitting here on my desk looking at me."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lots Of Latinos; Few White Guys

The press loves nothing so much as a bit of hypocrisy. Is that what we have here? I don't know. I mean, I've been to Faces too, sometimes with other guys. But no one is interested in straight guys who can't even act gay in a gay nightclub. Guys who trash gays during the day and hang out with them at night - now that seems more intriguing:
The manager of the night club where anti-gay California state Sen. Roy Ashburn was reportedly hanging out before his 2 a.m. DUI arrest Wednesday tells TPMmuckraker she didn't see him at the club that night.

Tuesday night is Latin night at Faces, explained manager Laurie Bonifield in a phone interview. The club describes itself as "Sacramento's premier GLBTI Nightclub since 1985."

"Tuesday nights are a very, very huge Latin crowd. We don't see a lot of white guys here on a Tuesday night," Bonifield said. "A white guy would stick out like a sore thumb."

Citing unnamed sources, CBS13 reported last night that Ashburn's drunk driving arrest early Wednesday morning came after leaving Faces.

CBS13 and the Bakersfield Californian both reported that an unidentified man was in the car with Ashburn.

Noting that there are other gay and straight clubs in the area, Bonifield speculated that Ashburn was at another club. She said she had not heard from the police, who did not immediately respond to our call seeking comment.

She said she hasn't yet talked to her staff about the issue because they work late and are "sound asleep." The CBS13 story came out last night.

Ashburn said in a statement after his arrest, "I am deeply sorry for my actions."

E.'s First Day Of Jury Duty

E.: MMMAAAAARRRRRCCCC! They sent us home at 11 o'clock. Tomorrow they'll interview us. The judge said it was a criminal case and the trial will last two months!

M.: Oh no!

E.: Oh no! I don't want to get picked!

M.: Was it interesting?

E.: The judge threw one guy out. The judge read a name and asked if that person was present, two people answered. But they already knew everyone's names - the one guy was lying. So the judge said "You are in contempt of the court!" and threw the guy out!

M.: What else happened?

E.: (laughing) There was a guy in a wheelchair and they asked him (laughing) "Are you Robert Hu?" (laughing) and he said (laughing) "Who?" (laughing) MMMAAARRRCCC! There are so many stupidities there!

M.: I'm sure!

E.: But MMMAAAARRRCCC! I got lost leaving the court! I was trying to drive to work and I wanted to find the Norwood exit off I-80. But I got in the middle lane on I Street and ended up on the freeway!

M.: So, you were southbound on I-5.

E.: No, they call it Highway 99. Then I saw a sign for San Francisco and thought maybe I could get I-80 that way. MMMMAAARRRCCC! I drove and I drove, but I couldn't get off the freeway! Then I was on a long bridge and I completely left Sacramento!

M.: Goodbye, Sacramento! So, where did you get off the freeway to turn around?

E.: Chillees? Doubletree Hotel? Mace?

M.: Mace? You mean you drove all the way to Davis?

E.: MMMMAAAARRRRCCC! It was scary! They had big trucks everywhere. I hate the big trucks! Especially when they blow their horns! I get so nervous!

M.: But you found your way back?

E.: Yes. It took awhile, but they were happy to see me. But I don't want to be on the jury for two months!

M.: I hope not!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Big Gale Approaching New Zealand

Going to be windy!:
During the weekend a southeast airstream is expected to strengthen over northern and central New Zealand as a low edges closer to East Cape, bringing heavy rain in the northeast of the North Island.

Forecasters have moderate confidence that winds could reach severe gales at times in Gisborne north of about Tolaga Bay also in eastern Bay of Plenty and Taupo from late Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. Note that it is also likely to be windy on the central plateau, in Horowhenua and Manawatu close to the ranges, and Taranaki.

Heavy rain is expected to spread southwards in Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and on the eastern ranges of Bay of Plenty from late Saturday. MetService forecasters have moderate confidence of warning amounts from Mohaka northwards and lower confidence near the coastal hills and main ranges further south in Hawkes Bay.

This is pretty interesting! What do they think in Fiji?

Wow! I bet they don't even care. The storm's heading out of their jurisdiction and they're probably thinking good riddance!

Trying To Make Sense Out Of The Sky

Frank sent this from his flight yesterday from Seattle to Sacramento. I replied:
That’s really cool. It looks like some kind of coil. Is that central part a plume of some sort, some kind of terrain barrier, or just cloud?
He responded:
It's interesting that the photo does look like a corkscrew, although I don't remember it looking at all like that when I saw it. Rather, what I thought I saw was a blanket of solid clouds with a series of regular humps, like speed bumps, along the blanket (convection cells?). For a moment, I thought I might get a photo of that, but it was just a little too far behind the plane by the time I realized what I was seeing.

It was solid overcast leaving Seattle around 5 pm, but as we got toward Sacramento, from around 6:30 PM or so, there was a spectacular cloud show with multiple layers of cumulus, stratus, and all manner of shapes, a few with anvil tops. We were flying in and around those for maybe 15 minutes. The blanket (above) ended quite abruptly with a patch of clear sky around Sacto.

Enlisting The Food Industry To Help Reduce Salt Intake

I'll believe it when I see it. Several years ago, France declared a doctor to be an enemy of the state for a similar campaign and had his movements shadowed (the logic being; the food industry is important to France; salt is important to the food industry; therefore trying to remove salt from products of the food industry is a strike against the state).

Hey, folks, I have high blood pressure. I could really benefit from this!:
Eating too much salt is a major cause of high blood pressure, which the Institute of Medicine, one of the National Academies of Sciences, last week declared a "neglected disease" that costs the U.S. health system $73 billion a year.

Several governments including the United States are looking for solutions to curb salt intake as a way to head off future heart attacks and strokes that help drain healthcare systems.

The study by a team at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in California used a computer model to measure the impact of two different scenarios for reducing salt intake on a population level -- a voluntary collaboration with the U.S. food industry and a national tax on salt.

They found the voluntary program, based on a similar salt-reduction campaign in Britain, to be the most effective.

The team estimated that a government-industry effort could cut Americans' salt intake by 9.5 percent.

"In our analysis, we found these small decreases in blood pressure would be effective in reducing deaths due to cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler of the VA, whose study appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The salt reduction campaign would prevent 513,885 fatal strokes and 480,358 heart attacks over the lifetimes of U.S. adults who are aged 40 to 85 today. That would save $32.1 billion in health costs during the lifetime of this group, including $14 billion in hospitalizations for strokes and heart attacks.

"The numbers of affected people are huge, so even a small decrease is significant if you have large numbers of people involved," Smith-Spangler said in a statement.

By contrast, a tax on salt would cut salt intake by 6 percent, resulting in 327,892 fewer strokes and 306,173 fewer heart attacks, the team calculated.

The "B" Students Apparently Choose Atheism

Hmmm. Do I understand this correctly? Some brilliant people apparently are "religiously musical" and get religion, and many stupid people place their faith in God, but the rest of us, who fancy ourselves smart but can't figure out how to make the DVD player work - we're the atheists!:
HERE's a fact to flatter the unbelievers among you: the bright young things at the University of Oxford are among the most godless groups ever studied in the UK. Of 728 students surveyed in 2007, 48.9 per cent claimed not to believe in any god, with 49.6 per cent claiming no religious affiliation. And while a very small number of Britons typically label themselves as "atheist" or "agnostic" (most surveys put it at about 5 per cent), an astonishing 57.3 per cent of the Oxford sample did.

...What is more, the survey shows a far stronger correlation between education and certain "irrational" beliefs: for example, only 29.6 per cent of those without even an elementary education believe in telepathy, compared with 51.8 per cent of people with degree-level education.

Closer to home, an analysis of the 2008 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey by David Voas of the University of Manchester reveals that the historical correlation between being educated and being "non-religious" has not only weakened but reversed. Looking at white British people, for example, the findings show that only around 25 per cent of men aged between 25 and 34 claiming "no religion" have degrees, compared with around 40 per cent of those describing themselves as religious. For women in the same age group, the difference is less marked but the trend is the same. The picture is more complicated across different ethnic groups, although the overall trend remains the same.

It appears that Enlightenment assumptions about the decline of religion as the population becomes more educated will no longer do - at least, not without considerable qualification. Why is it that, despite the long history of the study of religion, the picture seems to be getting more and not less confused about what it means to believe in God? We, and the scholars who gathered in December last year for a conference at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, think we may have the answer. The problems stem from a long-term, collective blind spot in research: atheism itself.

This oversight might seem remarkable (or remarkably obtuse on the part of the social scientists) but it is one with deep historical roots. Many of social science's 19th-century founders, including Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Auguste Comte and Max Weber, were unbelievers, or "religiously unmusical", as Weber memorably put it. For them, religion was the great explicandum: how, they wondered, could so many people believe in something so absurd? What they failed to recognise was that their own, taken-for-granted, "lack" of belief might itself be amenable to inquiry.

Ironically, sociologists, psychologists, economists and, particularly, cognitive anthropologists have become so skilled at explaining why humans seem to have such a widespread bias towards theistic beliefs that a new question readily presents itself: if religion comes so naturally to us, why are so many people, especially in western Europe, apparently resistant to it? In the UK, for example, a sizeable 43 per cent said they had "no religion" in the 2008 BSA survey.
Meanwhile, in Texas, there's a porn for Bibles exchange taking place. Just the thing for the "B" student!:
A college atheist group is offering students pornography in exchange for Bibles.

Atheist Agenda calls the exchange "Smut for Smut," prompting prayers and protests from Christian students at the University of Texas San Antonio campus.

Student Monica Cornado says it's offensive to compare pornography to "the Word of God."

University officials say the atheist group has the right to conduct the swap.

UTSA spokesman David Gabler says, "As long as students are not violating laws or violating the Constitution, they have the freedom of speech and assembly."

Bad Week To Be On Trial In Sacramento

Why is it a bad week to be on trial in Sacramento? Because E. is down at the courthouse right now: a prospective juror!

Speaking of prospective jurors:
A Michigan judge has ordered a stay-at-home mom to attend a murder trial and serve 24 hours in jail because she arrived late for jury selection.

Carmela Khury was released Monday after a day and a half as a spectator in Oakland County Circuit court.

The State Court Administrative Office told Judge Leo Bowman he had no authority to punish Khury and to drop the order or face sanctions.

Bev Hearts Marguerite!

In her review, Davis Enterprise's theater critic liked Marguerite's performance in "Kiss Me Kate".

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

New Zealand Prepares To Drop The Right-Hand Turn Rule

This rule made driving in New Zealand interesting, because you never knew what was going to happen if foreigners were at the wheel and pedestrians were in the crosswalk. So now, New Zealand will be safer, if a little more boring:
The days of rental car companies giving pamphlets to confused overseas visitors and crossing their fingers that they will cope with New Zealand's oddball right-hand rule look set to be over.

The right-hand rule, a relic of an old Melbourne tram system and cause of 2560 crashes a year, has been marked to be reversed by Transport Minister Steven Joyce.

...New Zealand is the only country in the world to have the right hand rule, where a car making a big turn to the right across oncoming traffic goes before an oncoming car making a little turn to its left into the same road.

At uncontrolled T-intersections with two cars wishing to turn right, traffic on the driver's right get priority.

It means drivers have to check in three different directions, opposite and behind them, and also on the road they are entering.

...The Automobile Association also said it supported the change. There was evidence that the give-way rules were a factor in the 2560 intersection crashes, and one or two deaths, each year, it said.

It is estimated changing the rules to align with other countries would reduce intersection crashes by 7 per cent and the social cost by about $17 million a year.

It would improve pedestrian safety at intersections, where there has been an 88 per cent increase since 2000 in pedestrians being hit, many of them hit by a turning vehicle.

The rule was introduced in 1977 shadowing changes in Victoria, Australia, which made the rule to help trams on Melbourne's streets, according to the Automobile Association.

But Victoria changed back in 1993 and experienced a decline in intersection crashes, leaving New Zealand on its own.

Q&A Regarding "Greenberg"

Q&A with Noah Baumbach (NB) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (JJL):
Q: Speaking of the characters, the movie’s title is Greenberg, but when the picture starts we enter the movie through Florence’s perspective, which is lovely. We really fall for her immediately because she’s so likable. Did you know that you were going to begin things that way, or was that something that came out of having cast Greta Gerwig?

NB: It came before Greta, but it came late in the writing process. The early drafts all started with Greenberg. Some with him in New York. I don’t remember why I chose to start with her – it felt right and it was satisfying to delay his entrance. The beginning plays almost like a short film about Florence and then she hands the movie over to Greenberg.

Q: The compassion that is shown Greta’s character in Greenberg – if not always by Greenberg himself – seems to come from some place very personal, whether via Greta or yourselves. Do you feel you know women like that?

NB: Yes, we’ve both known young women like Florence.

JJL: She’s unsure how to form a relationship, or of how one comes about. Her sexuality is somewhat mysterious to her and not yet precious; there’s an innocence to Florence. There’s no weariness; the hurts she has experienced haven’t yet left their mark.

Greta was the first actress we read for the role. She understood Florence in such a complete and lived-in way that we immediately felt the role was hers. Greta brought a kind of sunny open ungainliness to Florence; she can look very beautiful but also very awkward. She’s funny and terribly sweet, and so natural in the role it’s jaw-dropping.

NB: Greta connected very deeply and very personally to something about the character. She broadened what was written. Once she got going, I tried to stay out of her way.

Ya Think?

The headline for this story in this morning's dead-tree edition of the Sacramento Bee was:
"Could your kid become an entertainment addict?"
Note that this question is posed to the most entertainment-addled, ADD-afflicted generation in the history of the universe (at least, until the day-before-yesterday, when today's kids came along).

Whaddya think? Is it conceivable that your kid could become an entertainment addict?"

'The Hand That Feeds' - "Chambers" - CORE Dance Collective

The CORE Dance Collective 2010 (unfortunately I don't know all the dancers in the company, but here's what I know, or guess: Left to right; x, Jake Montoya, Raelyn Guerrero, Kenna Wright, Kelli Leighton, x, Tina DeVine, Marguerite Knipe, Catrina Davis, Blair Kendall, and Anne David)

This evening, the CORE Dance Collective rehearsed Kelli Leighton's half-hour long piece 'The Hand That Feeds', one of three pieces that CORE will present during their upcoming show, "Chambers", at the Benvenuti Auditorium at Natomas Charter School.

CORE is amazing! Get all your friends together and see their show!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Japanese Folk Dancing Again

I went to visit Sally at Japanese Folk Dancing. The dancers suggested I jump in during a simple dance, and I did.

Gabe's Dream

Gabe says last night he dreamt that he and I were taking separate cars from Kansas to California and that we stopped for the night somewhere in Nevada. Gabe suddenly realized he didn't have enough money for a motel room, and asked to borrow some. I refused, saying something to the effect that I was tired of always having to give money to various organizations and people, and it was time for it all to stop. Humbled, Gabe drove back to Kansas.

If that portrait of my character was only true!

From Socorro To The Grammys

Walt sends this regarding a fellow from familiar, small-town New Mexico who co-won a Grammy for Best Rap Song:
No, Jeff Bhasker's Grammy-winning song "Run This Town" is not about his dad being the mayor of Socorro.

"Actually, Kanye West wrote that part," he said, in a Feb. 5 telephone interview. "I wrote some of the part that Rihanna sings."

"Run This Town," won Best Rap Song at the 52nd Grammy Awards on Jan. 31. The song was co-written by Jeff Bhasker, Shawn Carter, Robyn Fenty (Rihanna,) Kanye West and Ernest Wilson.

This is the first Grammy for Jeff Bhasker, but not his first Grammy nomination. He's come a long way from that first gig at El Sombrero Restaurant and he credits his success with always trying to work hard at it, believing in himself, and being really lucky.

"I've been really lucky to run into people who reinforced the idea in me that I could do it," he said. "The most important thing is to not give up."

After graduating from Socorro High School in 1993, Bhasker attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he started out studying jazz. He traveled back and forth between Boston and New York for several years. The day he finally packed his car and moved to New York was a day that changed not just his life, but also the lives of many others.

"Actually, I moved to New York on 9/11," he said. "That made it a different place. It was kind of a struggle, people were in survival mode. It was a toughening up process."

In New York, Bhasker said he became more interested in art and design. He began to focus less on the technical aspects of music and more on the artistic side, and worked with musicians who really inspired him.

"New Yorkers have a real 'let's do this' attitude," Bhasker said. "I took that attitude with me when I moved to L.A."

Bhasker's first big break came when he produced the title track on The Game's "The Documentary," which sold more than 3 million albums. At the time he was working on composing hip-hop beats for rappers and says he gradually became more interested in melody to "unite the words and music together."

"Kanye West is really interested in melody, and he's a really inspirational person to work with," Bhasker said. "He has the confidence to believe that he can be great and the attitude to work at it every moment."

Bhasker comes back to Socorro fairly often.

"I love Socorro," he said. "It's not your average little small town. I had lots of great teachers in Socorro, and great opportunities."

...According to Neil Jacobson, senior vice president of Interscope Records, "Jeff Bhasker is by far the hottest new producer in the music industry."

Bhasker's credits include producing and co-producing songs on albums by Goapele, The Game, Myka Nyne, Kanye West, Leona Lewis, Adam Lambert, Kid Cudi and Jay-Z. Other artists he's worked with include Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke. In addition to his production and writing credits he's also a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist.

"He has an uncanny ability to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to," said Nick Fleming, who was Bhasker's teacher in Communication Science at Socorro High School. "And he's been on Saturday Night Live five times."

Bhasker is the first person from Socorro Schools ever to win a Grammy.

It's Only Life

Theater doings tonight in Sac-of-Tomatoes:
After an amazing first year, which included the critically praised productions of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and also Tick, Tick...BOOM (so good they had to bring it back), New Helvetia Theater hosts a unique musical event tonight at the Crest Theatre.

Tonight's one-night performance of It's Only Life not only reunites some of the fledgling theater company's most admired performers (plus some great newcomers to the New Helvetia stage) but teams them with the work's composer/lyricist John Bucchino at the piano.

John came to Sacramento for this unique performance and has been working with the cast in preparation for the show. I had the privilege on Friday to watch them interact in a masterclass setting and it just made me even more eager to see the show. There's something special about watching actors interpret a song and then hear directly from the writer what motivated the song and lyrics: It's a transformative experience, both literally and figuratively, as the song is then re-interpreted and brought to life with a new level of emotional invetsment and authenticity.

It's Only life is tonight at the Crest Theater at 7pm, followed by an after-party around the corner at Parlare Eurolounge.

For more information:

Garduños Topples Into Chapter 11

Bruce sends sad news from Albuquerque. Even popularity isn’t enough to rescue one from embezzlement.:
After 40 years doing business in Albuquerque, the owner of one of the city’s most popular restaurants is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

ALBUQUERQUE - Dave Garduno, the founder and CEO of Garduno’s restaurants, says that he’s made arrangements to pay over a million dollars in back taxes to the state within a year.

Effective on Monday, three of the five Garduno’s restaurants in Albuquerque have closed their doors – the restaurants on Academy, Montgomery and North Fourth Street. About 100 people will lose their jobs, roughly half of the Garduno’s work force.

“The difficulty has been the domino effect,” Garduno said on Monday. “When one thing spirals wrong, it just keeps going and we get to the point where we have to use the law to reorganize.”

Garduno blames the sour economy and a former employee accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of thousands of dollars for the chain’s troubles.

The locations at the Cottonwood and Winrock malls will remain open, as will the two Graduno’s franchises in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Meteoric Fish

(Photo by Christine Balmer. Via Wicked Thoughts)

What's new in the Outback? Oh, the usual improbabilities:
WHILE the Top End and Central Australia have been battered by torrential rains, a Territory town has had fish falling from the sky.

The freak phenomena happened not once, but twice, on Thursday and Friday afternoon about 6pm at Lajamanu, about 550km southwest of Katherine.

NEWSBREAKER Christine Balmer, who took these photos of the fish on the ground and in a bucket, had to pinch herself when she was told ``hundreds and hundreds" of small white fish had fallen from the sky.

"It rained fish in Lajamanu on Thursday and Friday night," she said, "They fell from the sky everywhere.

"Locals were picking them up off the footy oval and on the ground everywhere.

"These fish were alive when they hit the ground."

Mrs Balmer, the aged care co-ordinator at the Lajamanu Aged Care Centre, said her family interstate thought she had lost the plot when she told them about the event.

"I haven't lost my marbles," she said, reassuring herself. "Thank god it didn't rain crocodiles."

Lajamanu sits on the edge of the Tanami Desert, hundreds of kilometres from Lake Argyle and Lake Elliott and even further from the coast. But it's not the first time the remote community has been bombarded by fins from above.

In 2004, locals reported fish falling from the sky, and in 1974, a similar incident captured international headlines.

The small white fish are believed to be spangled perch, which are very common through much of northern Australia.

Weather bureau senior forecaster Ashley Patterson said the geological conditions were perfect on Friday for a tornado in the Douglas Daly region.

He said it would have been an ideal weather situation to allow the phenomena to occur - but no tornados have been reported to the authority.

"It's a very unusual event," he said. "With an updraft, (fish and water picked up) could get up high - up to 60,000 or 70,000 feet.

"Or possibly from a tornado over a large water body - but we haven't had any reports," he said.

Unwelcome Guests

When I was a child, a very well-mannered bull escaped its lot and entered our home through an open French door in order to escape the summer heat.

Escape was on the minds of these cows, but they were less well-mannered:
(Pike County, AR) - A Pike County homeowner can say she's seen it all after arriving home to see unlikely visitors inside her house.

A cow was sticking its head out the front door when Latisha Francis got home on Monday, but that was only the beginning.

Another cow was found in the living room and a third in the master bedroom.

The hooved heavyweights had trouble walking on the home's wood floors. When they slipped and fell, they took one piece of furniture after another down with them.

The cows adventure began when they got out of their enclosure and were then chased by dogs. In trying to make their escape from the dogs, the cows forced their way inside the house.

It wasn't long before they found a 50-pound bag of dog food and dug in. On their way out they left enough manure to fill a wheelbarrow.