Friday, April 30, 2010

Mars Rover Beginning To Hate The Place

From The Onion:
PASADENA, CA—NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists overseeing the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission said Monday that the Spirit's latest transmissions could indicate a growing resentment of the Red Planet.

"Spirit has been displaying some anomalous behavior," said Project Manager John Callas, who noted the rover's unsuccessful attempts to flip itself over and otherwise damage its scientific instruments. "And the thousand or so daily messages of 'STILL NO WATER' really point to a crisis of purpose."

..."We began getting the occasional transmission along the lines of 'ANOTHER SOIL SAMPLE OF THE EXACT SAME COMPOSITION AS THE LAST ONE,'" Callas said. "Most of the time, she'd power down and not transmit much of anything, which, at the time, didn't particularly concern us."

But as the winter lingered, Spirit began producing thousands of pages of sometimes rambling and dubious data, ranging from complaints that the Martian surface was made up almost entirely of the same basalt, to long-winded rants questioning the exorbitant cost and scientific relevance of the mission.

Project leaders receive data from the Mars rover Spirit."Granted, Spirit has been extraordinarily useful to our work," Callas said. "Last week, however, we received three straight days of images of the same rock with the message 'HAPPY NOW?'"

Mission Project Scientist Bruce Banerdt said that Spirit will often roll down Gusev crater and up the opposite side for no apparent reason, missing "countless" potential opportunities for scientific discovery.

..."The orbiting Mars Odyssey has cut off transmissions from Spirit, which seems to envy the craft's ability to fly freely around in space," Banerdt said. "Similarly, data suggests Spirit is convinced that [sister rover] Opportunity has found water and isn't telling anyone."

..."Hopefully these malfunctions will straighten themselves out," Callas said. "In the meantime, we'll simply have to try to glean what usable data we can from 'OVERPRICED SPACE-ROOMBA AWAITING MORE BULLSHIT ORDERS.'"

NASA remains optimistic that the rover will remain at least partially operational for the foreseeable future. However, because of the Spirit's recent proclivity toward ramming into boulders at full speed, scientists have remotely disabled its 1.5-pound rock-abrasion tool so the rover is unable to terminate the mission prematurely.

Michael Moore On Illegal Immigration

A trade:
"... any illegal immigrant they catch in Arizona, they should let him keep doing his job because he's adding to the economy. For every one they catch, they should send one Goldman Sachs guy to Mexico."

"Telephone" - The Afghanistan Remake

World's Biggest Bunny

What does the world's biggest bunny eat for lunch? Whatever it wants!:
"Darius," a 1-year-old continental giant rabbit from England, has been crowned the world's largest bunny, weighing in at 50 pounds and standing a whopping 4 feet 3 inches tall. And he's still growing.

His owner, 59-year-old model and grandmother Annette Edwards, showed him off Thursday on "The Today Show" via satellite. He is her fourth rabbit to end up in the record books.

“He could grow another 4 to 6 inches,” Edwards said. “It’s quite scary.”

Guinness World Records has certified Darius’ record, which is based solely on his length. The record-keepers used to also list animals by weight, but dropped that measurement for fear that people were overfeeding their pets to get them in the record book.

Darius thinks he’s a dog, Edwards said. He eats at the table and lays across Edwards’ lap to be petted when she watches TV. Every day, he wolfs down a bowl of rabbit chow, two apples, a dozen carrots and half a cabbage.

Darius is insured for $1.6 million, has an agent and travels with a bodyguard.

We Won't Have Any Of That Around Here!

Is this a problem? Seems like we have plenty of other problems:
The Arizona state Senate on Thursday passed a bill making it illegal for a person to “intentionally or knowingly creating a human-animal hybrid.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Weatherman Sees A Cockroach

Charlie Crist Says He'll Be With Us Forever

Crist decides to do a Lieberman and take his chances on the outside:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has just officially announced that he is leaving the Republican primary for Senate, and is instead running in the general election as an independent.

"My decision to run for the United State Senate as a candidate without party affiliation in many ways says more about our nation and our state than it does about me," said Crist, at a rally in his hometown of St. Petersburg. "As someone who served the people in Florida more than 15 years, from the state Senate to the governor's mansion, I can confirm what most Floridians already know. Unfortunately our political system is broken. I was never one who sought to hold elective office to demagogue, to point fingers. For me, for me, public service has always been about putting the needs of our state and our people first. And every single day, as your servant, I have tried to do exactly that."

...Crist's speech was given in the face of certain defeat in the Republican primary after he angered the party's base. It was somewhat reminiscent of the speech give by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) after he continued as an independent candidate when he lost his 2006 Democratic primary, and also similar to Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-PA) speech when he left the Republican Party in 2009. Crist said that he was not leaving this big decision, of who would be Florida's Senator, up to a narrow primary electorate, and that he wanted a better tone in Washington.

"Now I could have chosen to stay in the primary, but frankly for me, it's your decision. It's not one club's decision or another, or even a club within that club. It is a decision too important, it is a decision for all the people of Florida to be able to make," said Crist. "And so that's why we go straight to November, we give you the chance to make that decision. It's your decision to make. Now I know, I know this is uncharted territory. I am aware of that. And I am aware that after this speech ends I don't have either party helping me. But I need you, I need you the people more than ever. And I guarantee you, I'm counting on you. I'm counting on you, and I believe in you. And you can believe in me, and I'll be with you forever -- forever."

Big Portion Of Fast Food

Walking back from lunch, I saw a lot of Unhappy Sparrows pursue a Crow as it alighted on the sidewalk in front of the door to Una Mas Mexican Food on J Street. The Crow grabbed something big from right in front of the door of the fast food restaurant and flew across the street, landing on the roof of the Spaghetti Factory, where it began dismantling whatever it was. The Unhappy Sparrows pursued the Crow, but landed in a nearby tree and watched the Crow from the distance, all the while chattering unhappily.

At first, I thought maybe the Crow was gathering nest materials, because the weatherstripping is falling apart on Una Mas' door and the weatherstripping pickings there are easy, but apparently whatever it was was an item of food. Too big a piece of food for a gaggle of Unhappy Sparrows to control successfully, even as a committee, but just the right size for a big, hungry Crow to feast.

New York City?????

Trying to distance themselves as far as possible from that politically-damaged name, Arizona:
To All Our Friends, Customers and Loyal Fans,

We have become aware of misinformation being circulated about AriZona Beverages and we would like to make sure statements about our company are correct. As many of you know, AriZona Beverages proudly traces its origins back to New York. In 1992, two hard working guys from Brooklyn with a dream created AriZona Iced Tea. Since then, and despite the wonderful success AriZona has enjoyed throughout the United States and internationally, we have remained loyal to our family run business based in New York. For the last 16 years our headquarters have remained on Long Island where we continue to sell and distribute AriZona Iced Teas and beverages.

We are very proud to be an American company with roots in New York and we look forward to continuing to provide you with the high quality and value driven products we've been making for the last 18 years.

Legislators Could Extend Unemployment Benefits Nearly-Indefinitely If They Gave a Rip

But they don't:
April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Since the U.S. recession began in December 2007, Congress has extended the length of unemployment benefits for the jobless three times. Now, the lawmakers may have reached their limit.

They are quietly drawing the line at 99 weeks of aid, a mark that hundreds of thousands of Americans have already reached. In coming months, the number of those who will receive their final government check is projected to top 1 million.

It’s a deadline that has rarely been mentioned in recent debates over jobless benefits, in which Republicans have delayed aid because of cost concerns. The deadline hasn’t been lost on Teauna Stephney, a 39-year-old single mother from Bothell, Washington, who said she could become homeless once her $407 weekly checks stop in June.

“What are people like me supposed to do?” said Stephney, who said almost two years of benefits haven’t proved long enough for her to find work after she lost her last job in August 2008. Referring to lawmakers, she said, “I would like them to come and talk to me and spend a day in my shoes.”

Democrats who have pushed through the past extensions agree there’s insufficient backing to go beyond 99 weeks, largely because of mounting concern over the federal deficit, projected to reach $1.5 trillion this year.

“You can’t go on forever,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, of Montana, whose panel oversees the benefits program. “I think 99 weeks is sufficient,” he said.

...Some Republicans say cutting off aid will spur people to find work.

“We have study after study that shows people are more anxious to get a job after they run out of benefits,” said Representative John Linder of Georgia, the top Republican on the Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over the unemployment program. “Continuing to extend this isn’t helping them or us.”

...Democrats have struggled to pass legislation just to maintain current benefits over Republican objections about adding to the deficit. Benefits have been interrupted twice because of efforts by Republican Senators Jim Bunning, of Kentucky, and Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma.

“We’re trying to extend unemployment assistance as it currently exists and we’re having a devil of a time getting that done,” said Dorgan.

President Barack Obama signed into law this month a measure extending until June the date by which individuals can qualify for 99 weeks of aid, a move designed to buy lawmakers time while negotiating a bill that would continue such eligibility through year’s end.

"Drill, Baby, Drill!"

Because it's closer to shore, this spill could be infinitely-worse for wildlife and the economy than the gargantuan Ixtoc Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 1979:
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Thursday declared a state of emergency due to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that threatens the state's fragile coast.

The declaration issued by the governor's office in the capital city of Baton Rouge empowers officials here to deploy state resources and seek federal assistance for the "predicted impact of oil along the Louisiana coast."

Magic Circle Exit; Enter Civic Theatre West

The Roseville theater relaunches itself.

Which reminds me; I just bought a semi-season ticket, or whatever they call it, with the Magic Circle folks. Presumably the ticket will continue to be honored until September, when it's supposed to expire.:
Curtain down on Magic Circle Theatre and throw a hot spotlight on Civic Theatre West.

The nonprofit Roseville community theater, founded in 1987 by Bob and Rosemarie Gerould, has changed its name and its mission.

Civic West board president Calvin Stevens said the organization began re- examining its vision and goals last summer. The theater decided to rebrand itself after input from a task force made up of community, staff and board members.

"The impulse was really to answer the questions: What is our vision? What are we in business to do?" Stevens said.

The theater's new mission statement is "to entertain, engage and educate through inspired theater experiences that enrich the cultural lives of Northern Californians, serve as a magnet for diverse community involvement and encourage lifelong participation in the arts."

Civic Theatre West is the second-largest community theater in California, operating two performance spaces in Roseville – the Roseville Theatre and the Tower Theatre – with an annual operating budget of $1.1 million. There are 16 employees, and eight work for the organization full time. Civic Theatre West also has the largest children's theater workshop in the state and more than 1,200 subscribers for its current season.

...Civic Theatre West has undergone significant changes since last year, when the board of directors chose not to renew the contracts of the Geroulds, who had run the theater since founding it. Brent Null, who was president of the board at that time, is now the artistic director.

Last year, Null said, "We need to bring in new management and that's what we're going to do. I have no desire to be in charge of theater."

Apparently, he had a change of heart.

Stevens, who took over as board president last fall, said, it "was an impulse of the theater" to ask Null to step into the artistic leadership role.

Just A Suggestion

It's just a suggestion. To get the debate going. A rhetorical trope, if you will. Not that anyone is advocating it, of course.:
Iowa Republican Congressional hopeful Dr. Pat Bertroche thinks the immigration debate in this country is hopelessly stuck, and says he was only trying to get the dialogue jump-started when he suggested we place microchips in illegal immigrants.

...The commotion started at an event on Monday, where Bertroche appeared alongside other Republicans looking to take on Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA). During a discussion of illegal immigration, Bertroche said: "I think we should catch 'em, we should document 'em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going," according to a local news report. "I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I microchip an illegal?"

Bertroche doesn't deny what he said. He just says his comments were meant as "a critical social commentary," and that he wasn't able to complete his thought, because he felt pressured to say something quickly, and audience members were starting to get up and leave.

...In his official statement addressing the incident he wrote:
At what point do we stop with the political ideologies, and start discussing common sense solutions? How many more boxcars full of dead immigrants do we need before we start addressing, in realistic terms, this tsunami of human slavery? How many more torn and broken families do we need before we agree to address, in practical terms, the magnitude of human misery created by illegal immigration?

B3tans Try To Help Me With "Mysterious Collision"

I like to submit stories in answer to "Question Of The Week" at the British humor Web Site B3ta, but frequently get foiled in getting favorable mention on their "Best" answers Web Page, because my stories are neither British enough, nor juvenile enough, nor interesting enough. I just can't compete with mad, drunken Brits causing havoc on a Saturday night.

This weeks "QOTW" seems to have ended early, on Wednesday instead of Thursday, for some reason. Why so early? Are the Brits going on holiday? I don't know (and that may be part of the problem).

Once again, this week, I failed in my struggle to reach the "Best" answers Web Page, but some of the B3tans try to help me out, to lift my story above the common level.

Here is the "QOTW", followed by my story, and their suggestions. And this event actually happened, back in high school, about 1974, on a stretch of dirt road just SW of San Luis, NM, near Cabezon, about eighty miles NW of Albuquerque:

"Here in my car", said 80s pop hero Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all". He obviously never shared the same stretch of road as me, then. Automotive tales of mirth and woe, please.
Mysterious Collision
We were exploring remote, rural New Mexico one bright, sunny Sunday. My friend was driving his parents' aging road yacht down an unfamiliar desert road when we approached the rails of a cattle guard (or grid).

Just as we got to the cattle guard, the car came to an instantaneous halt. My friend bloodied his nose on the steering wheel and I shattered the windshield with my forehead.

But what did we hit? Staggering out of the car, spattered with blood, we could see there was no obstruction to our travel, none at all. But we obviously had to have collided with *something*, right? But what was that *something*. Air? Unobserved cows? N-dimensional wormholes? Was this some bizarre trick? Did some unobserved person tie the back bumper to a fence post, perhaps? But how? What happened?

The explanation was strange. The car had been pitching forward-and-back on its aging shocks while rolling down the washboard dirt road. The car pitched forward just as we reached the first iron rail of the cattle guard. Under the car, the tip of the car's "A"-frame dipped far enough down to just clip the top of the iron rail. Resistable force hit immovable object. Bang! Immediate stop!

In addition, the impact damaged the suspension. The front tires splayed open at a frightening angle. The tires could no longer roll efficiently. Once we hit pavement, the splayed, smoking tires squealed like a chorus of hell's demons for the eighty miles back to civilization.

My friend's parents never believed the vengeful cattle guard story. They preferred to believe we panicked after driving over parking barriers.
(Marc Valdez)

Nicely written
You make a car accident sound like an Annie Proulx short story. ALthough it needs more gay cowboys.
(Smale is stuffed)

The World
Needs more gay cowboys
(Draco Rattus)

I believe in giving B3tans what they want
With blood dribbling onto his lips, my friend turned towards me and said, "I wish I knew how to quit you." Dazed by my concussion, I turned and ran into the desert....

(Hmmm....Won't work....Unsatisfactory conclusion....

Or am I just resisting the inevitable pull of the storyline?

I need help....)
(Marc Valdez)

Heart Of Gold

The wheels of justice grind fine:
A NEW York City man dodged the threat of a 20-year prison sentence thanks to the kindness of a porn star.

Carlos Simon-Timmerman, a pizza delivery man from Brooklyn, was put on trial in Puerto Rico for allegedly transporting child pornography, the New York Post said today.

US customs agents found a dirty DVD called Little Lupe the Innocent in his bags as he passed through San Juan Airport security in Puerto Rico on his way back to New York.

The agents said the actress in the video, porn star Lupe Fuentes, was underage, and they arrested him.

But Mr Simon-Timmerman was sprung earlier this month after Ms Fuentes flew to Puerto Rico and proved in court that she was 19 at the time the film was made.

...At his trial this month, a pediatrician insisted Lupe Fuentes was underage.

But that was before Mr Simon-Timmerman was able to put "Little Lupe" - a Spanish native whose real name is Zuleydy Piedrahita - on the stand, where she produced her passport and photo ID.

His lawyer, Hector Ramos-Vega, said he tracked her down through her website and persuaded her to appear in court.

She asked for no money and was enthusiastic about helping, Mr Ramos-Vega said.

Irish Head Shops Face Terrorist Assault

DUBLIN, Ireland ─ It started with an explosion that destroyed the Nirvana shop in Dublin’s Capel Street on Feb. 12.

Five days later a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Happy Hippy store in North Frederick Street.

Since then seven retail outlets with similar exotic names have been attacked with incendiary devices in different parts of Ireland, the latest being the Magic Bus Stop in Dundalk on April 15.

They are all so-called "head shops," which specialize in the sale of legal drugs and associated paraphernalia. There are 70 such stores in the Republic of Ireland, and clearly some organization or group of citizens wants to put them out of business.

The head shops' products have become something of a craze among Ireland’s middle-class youth. This makes them lucrative business ventures in recession-hit Ireland. In a two-hour period on a recent Friday night, a television crew recorded 400 young customers lining up at a head shop to pay an average of 40 euros ($53) for drugs with names like Snow Blow and Wild Cat. These substances often contain mephedrone, a chemical in white powder form that mimics cocaine and is completely legal in Ireland.

...The police do not know who is behind the attacks on the head shops, Quilter said. The chief suspects include local drug dealers who are losing business or vigilante groups worried about the effect of the shops on their neighborhoods.

...Twenty-four new, legal, chemical-based drugs emerged in Europe last year to satisfy a continent-wide demand for synthetic highs, according to a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Nine of these are marketed as plant foods or spices but can be smoked to give a similar effect to cannabis.

...Because of the adverse publicity they have received recently, some head shops have begun distributing leaflets offering home delivery. In some parts of Dublin it is now as easy to get artificial cocaine or cannabis delivered to your door as it is to order a pizza.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Camera Shutter Speed Synchronized With Helicopter Blades

John sends this:
An old photographic trick but still impressive.

Follow The Money

Unfortunately, I must agree with the no-fun folks at the NY Tax Appeals Board:
ALBANY, N.Y. - Is stripping an art?

No way says a New York tax appeals board.

The board was considering a sales tax exemption for the Nite Moves exotic dance club near Albany.

A lower court judge had ruled the strippers were engaged in the "dramatic or musical arts" and qualified for tax-free status.

But the appeals board ruled lap dances and the like can't be considered in same tax bracket as a ballet performance.

"Crazy For You" Callbacks

Tuesday night at DMTC, I caught just the tail-end of callbacks, featuring readings from the "Crazy For You" script.

Readings are an important part of the process in choosing a cast.

What are dramatic readings like? Well, sorta like this.

Ruben Navarrette, Jr., On The New Arizona Law

Listening last night to Talk Radio, I was struck at how many conservatives, or at least the conservatives I was listening to, assumed there would be substantial support in the Latino population for the new Arizona law empowering state police officers to pursue illegal immigrants. I think they are in for a surprise.

It is true that native-born Hispanics do not share the same interests as recent immigrants, in particular, recent illegal immigrants, partly because of competition for jobs. Nevertheless, I don't think conservatives understand that, rather than heightening distinctions between native-born and illegal immigrants, the new law helps erase these distinctions. Rather than making it easier to harass illegals, the new law will make it easier to harass people like me (my latest arriving forebear passed through El Paso in 1854).

Let Ruben Navarrette, Jr., explain:
Arizona Senate Bill 1070 is ghastly legislation signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer because she lacked the courage to stop the madness. It specifies: "For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official ... where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person."

Note the clever word choice. In order to get the ball rolling, an officer need only establish "lawful contact." Misguided defenders of the legislation are desperately attempting to portray the law as consistent with how things have been done for years. They say that "lawful contact" means that the officer must have already pulled over a motorist or questioned him about a crime or infraction. The inference is that only people who break the law need worry about being asked for documents to prove they have the legal right to be in the United States.

This is not so. Proponents spent months touting the bill because, they said, change is necessary. And now that it's a law, they want to convince us that nothing has changed. Then why pass a law in the first place? Also, "lawful contact" is simply the opposite of "unlawful contact." A police officer passing someone on the street and saying "Good morning" is lawful contact. And from that point, it's game on.

So the Fourth Amendment and the due process rights of a Latino population that accounts for about 30 percent of the state now hinge on how beat cops and state troopers interpret the phrase "reasonable suspicion." This law is a reality check for all Latinos. It's a helpful reminder that - as hard as we work, as much as we accomplish and progress - we are, by virtue of skin color or accent or Spanish surname, still on probation as far as some people are concerned. And we will be for life.

We might be Rhodes scholars, federal judges, governors, FBI agents or Medal of Honor recipients and yet we're just one short phrase away from being put in our place and forced to prove that we belong here. The phrase: "reasonable suspicion."

This law is also a different sort of reality check for everyone else. It clears up a mystery. Many Americans have long been baffled by the fact that Latinos who have the right to be in the United States - whether they are native-born citizens or here legally - will often interfere with efforts to harass, round up and remove illegal immigrants.

Some of them want to know: "What's this to you?" Others accuse the obstructionists of having "divided loyalties." Still others assume it's because these Latinos must have "relatives who are illegal."

Now you know the real reason. Look at Arizona. To some people, we're all the same.

Fine. In that case, this isn't some someone else's fight. This is ours. Game on.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Help! We Don't Know What We Are Doing, And We Are Broke Anyway

It figures:
The Arizona agency tasked with training 15,000 law officers to enforce the state's controversial new illegal immigration law has asked federal authorities for assistance....

..."Participation by federal authorities is critical in ascertaining how to implement a standard of enforcement," says Mann, who made the request through the Department of Homeland Security's division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A Brit Raps His Pity For America's Health Care System

With Dutch subtitles.

Our Supposedly Liberal Media At Work

Hard to believe they've descended to this, even by mistake.

The Daily Show, & AZ

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Law & Border
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Futility Of Bashing Spanish Speakers

Listen, GOP, anti-Latino policies are poison pills! But don't let me stop you! While you are at it, go ahead and make English the official language of Arizona. Come on, now, you know you want to do it! Let's go! Andale!

Oh, you already did that in 2006! Great!:
In 1994, California conservative activists pushed through Proposition 187, a ballot initiative that prohibited undocumented immigrants from using social services or public education in the state. Legal challenges and the election of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 1998 killed the law, but not before California Latinos were lost to the GOP for generations.

...Arizona Republicans seem intent on following the same path. The GOP-dominated Arizona legislature last week passed a bill making it a misdemeanor to lack immigration paperwork and requiring police to question people if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is an illegal immigrant. But undocumented white Canadians or Irish need not fear, because “reasonable suspicion” is not-so-veiled code for “brown skin.”

God forbid you are darker-skinned and leave your wallet at home. In modern-day Arizona, that is grounds for jail.

...If this were happening at the federal level, the Tea Party crowd would be in hysterics over this gross assault on “freedom,” but given the target of the law — Latinos — loud approbation is more likely. Indeed, locked in a primary battle against far-right former Rep. J. D. Hayworth, Sen. John McCain (R) has surrendered what remained of his moderation on immigration issues by wholeheartedly supporting this regressive bill.

But while conservatives might pat themselves on the back for passage of this law, the long-term effects shouldn’t be so comforting. Latinos make up 29 percent of Arizona’s population. If current population trends continue, Arizona will become a majority-minority state by 2015. In 2003, more Latino babies were born than non-Hispanic white babies. And by 2007, Latino babies were 45 percent of the total, compared to 41 percent for non-Hispanic whites, and 14 percent for non-Hispanic Asians, Native Americans and African-Americans.

In 2008, Arizona Latinos opted for Obama 56-41, which seems lopsided, but nationally, the number was 67-31 for Obama. Sen. Jon Kyl also got that respectable 41 percent in his 2006 reelection battle. In 2004, John McCain won 74 percent of the Latino vote.

While Arizona Latinos aren’t a solid Democratic voting bloc, this law may very well change that. The Proposition 187 analogy is instructive — the GOP engages in heavy-handed, hateful, discriminatory and partisan demonizing of immigrants at its own electoral peril.

Airspace Reboot

Airspace Rebooted from ItoWorld on Vimeo.

Pretty! (h/t John):
A visualisation of the northern European airspace returning to use after being closed due to volcanic ash. Due to varying ash density across Europe, the first flights can be seen in some areas on the 18th and by the 20th everywhere is open.

The flight data is courtesy of and covers a large fraction of Europe. There are a few gaps (most noticeably France) and no coverage over the Atlantic, but the picture is still clear.

Philosophy Wall

Above: Friend Dyer took an interesting photo of a sort-of Philosophy Wall, a "shrine next to the dog play area up Brewery Gulch" in the former mining town Bisbee, Arizona, not far from the international border.

This morning, Rush was on the radio lambasting liberals for criticizing the recently-signed Arizona law giving state police expanded powers to question people regarding their immigration status. Rush stated that liberals were so dedicated to their "compassion agenda" that it amounted to - let's see if I remember this correctly - to "genuine, full-fledged stupidity" (that's not quite correct - there was a third adjective there - but you get the drift).

Well, unlike Rush, I don't claim to have powers of omniscience, and thus have no magic formula for correcting the border's many ills. The border defies simple-minded analyses. The border doesn't follow any logic of the natural landscape or ethnic history. Like many things in the Southwest, the border's meaning seems to shift almost with the hour of the day. In a way, the border is almost a kind of Philosophy Wall, and people believe all sorts of things about it that aren't necessarily true, but good luck convincing them otherwise.

It sounds good to urge the rule of law, like Rush does, but the scarcity of agricultural (and sometimes construction) labor makes certain that Arizona's most influential interests will ensure that the border not be too tight. Businesses are required to determine the immigration status of employees, so they subcontract the checking-out process to people who don't mind fudging the papers. The ag-interests remain in denial, in almost-willing ignorance, and then blame the Feds for the bad situation. Everyone blames the Feds. At the same time, everyone handcuffs the Feds and keep them from doing their job. There's a million ways around laws. It might be a good idea to increase immigration quotas, to keep the everything legal, but that's politically unpopular - very unpopular. So, everyone settles for an unsatisfactory situation. This unsatisfactory condition took generations to take root, because it's the best compromise people can come up with, and it will not change quickly, because it's the best compromise people can come up with.

Liberals in Arizona worry about several things. First, there may be a kind of incipient police state brewing in Arizona. After all, it's the kind of place where the Phoenix police chief can interpret reasonable criticism by state officials as insolence and corruption and order his staff to keep the Attorney General's home under surveillance without any warrants. Giving the police in Arizona yet more power may be a mistake. Second, the Constitution makes quite clear that matters of immigration are a federal responsibility, so unless there is an urgent breakdown of law and order, state officials need to stay out. The new law is almost-certainly unconstitutional. Third, most Hispanics in Arizona are legal, and should not be required to have ID on them every instant. The new law is an invitation to massive civil-rights-law violations.

At the same time, liberals, like everyone else, are growing increasingly-worried about the terrorized narco state that Mexico is degenerating into. Matters may yet get desperate. The border is increasingly unstable and dangerous.

At the same time, we have to keep lines-of-authority clear, and keep everything legal. Federal authorities have the authority they need, should they be required to exercise it.

"Tenterfield Saddler"

I don't know much about Australia, and when I was blundering about there in 2006, I figured I must have been crossing all sorts of historical paths, but didn't grasp the connections because I was a tourist.

Nevertheless, I spent a rainy night in Tenterfield: beautiful place! Goodness knows, the terrible drought year of 2006 provided little rain anywhere - except maybe in a few places like Tenterfield, on the New England Plateaus, where rainfall was about normal for the year.

Turns out, Tenterfield has a specific place in Australian song, as the hometown of singer/performer Peter Allen, who is best known in Australia for "Tenterfield Saddler", evoking his family's long history on that distant stretch of the New England highway. (And he married Liza Minelli? Odd, that.) The song is now an Australian favourite. It's nice to finally make that connection!

The late George Woolnough
Worked on High Street
And lived on manors
52 years he sat on his veranda
And made his saddles
and if you had questions
About sheep or flowers or dogs
You just ask the saddler
He lived without sin
They're building a library for him

Time is a traveller
Tenterfield Saddler turn your head
Ride again Jackaroo
Think I see kangaroo up ahead

The son of George Woolnough
Went off and got married
And had a war baby
But something was wrong
And it's easier to drink than go crazy
And if there were questions about why
The end was so sad
Well George had no answers about why a son
Ever have need of a gun

Time is a traveller
Tenterfield Saddler turn your head
Ride again Jackaroo
Think I see kangaroo up ahead

The grandson of George
Has been all around the world
And lives in no special place
Changed his last name
And he married a girl with an interesting face
He'd almost forgotten them both
Because in the life that he leads
There's nowhere for George
And his library
Or the son with his gun
To belong
Except in this song

Time is a traveller
Tenterfield Saddler turn your head
Ride again Jackaroo
Think I see kangaroo up ahead

Time is a medler
Tenterfield saddler make your bed
Fly away cockatoo
Down on the ground emu up ahead

Time is a tale teller
Tenterfield saddler turn your head
Ride again Jackaroo
Think I see kangaroo up ahead

Time is a tale teller
Tenterfield saddler turn your head
Ride again Jackaroo
Think I see kangaroo up ahead

"Modern Masters" - Sacramento Ballet

Photo by LEZLIE STERLING at the Sacramento Bee.

Caption: Sacramento Ballet dancers Richard Porter and Megan Steffens perform choreographer Stefan Calka's "The Three and the One" in the Modern Masters program at California State University, Sacramento

Very nice show Sunday afternoon at Sac State. All the dances were pleasing, but in different ways.

Unconscious Surrender - I particularly liked this dance, choreographed by Nicole Haskins. A constant flux of people suggested the flux of time, with incidents and accidents affecting people along the way. Certain dancers seemed to stand out in various ways (e.g., John Whisler). Yes, in my estimation, the best of the dances!

There was an unscheduled duet between two dancers [I believe Ethan and Nikki Trerise White]. Very good dancing, particularly as the lady seemed capable of great elastic feats of body, and the man was very strong.

The Three and The One - This was the longest dance, choreographed by Stefan Calka. This dance was the most problematic, because no one seemed to understand quite what it was all about. In the meet-and-greet following the show, Calka tried to explain a bit, but his answers, if anything, were even more cryptic than the dances. What I interpreted as yellow leaves (towards the end of what I interpreted as a lifetime) Calka said were blossoms. Hmmm..... Calka seemed satisfied to let people come to their own conclusions. Myself, I thought the dances and vignettes were the arc of a lifetime of a man (Richard Porter), the Lady in Red (elegant Megan Steffens), the black gloved and white gloved lady (the electric Amanda Peet), and the cryptic teacher (?) In this lifetime arc, certain themes suggested themselves: society, money, and loneliness.

It's Not A Cry - A duet featuring Stefan Calka and Amy Siewert, to music written by Canadian singer Leonard Cohen: "Halleulujah" (I love Leonard Cohen!) Well done, but like I say, I preferred "Unconscious Surrender".

The dancer that caught my attention the most Sunday afternoon was Megan Steffens: very elegant; very pretty. I need to send her a bouquet, or something.

Jim Carnes wrote a preview of Modern Masters in the Sacramento Bee. Jim Carnes also reviewed the Friday performance:
Nolan T'Sani, who teaches dance at CSUS and is a character dancer with the company, choreographed "Futabashira" to music by Watsonville Taiko and Kevin Kmetz. Some of its movements were stereotypically "Eastern" – bows, arm gestures and the like – but well- suited to the taiko music. The dance took on a burst of male energy perfectly timed to a deepening rhythm in the drumming at one point, and at another featured Timothy Coleman and Heidi Zolker in a very slow and elegant pas de deux.

Ballet company member Nicole Haskins choreographed "Unconscious Surrender" to music by Samuel Barber. Employing an ensemble of 15, Haskins began the piece with dancers in seeming nightshirts, slowly crossing the stage as if sleepwalking. Periodically they'd give themselves to the music, alone or as couples participating in brief encounters. The movement gradually returned to the dancers' solitary sleepwalk. It was lovely and touching and sad.

Stefan Calka's "The Three and the One," to music by Gabriel Fauré and the White Stripes, was perhaps the evening's most ambitious – and challenging – work. Dramatically lit and inventively staged with quick vignettes apparently detailing some dark deal being made, the dance is a dreamlike piece of theater in which love is desired, won and ultimately lost. The jarring White Stripes music sets up a nightmarish scene that sends the dance toward its sad and unsettling finale when the devil gets his due. Richard Porter, Megan Steffens, Amanda Peet and Richard Smith are featured – Porter most prominently – with 14 dancers in the ensemble waltzing through.

Yuri Zhukov, a onetime dancer with the Kirov and the San Francisco Ballet companies, reworked a piece he created for City Youth Ballet into a six-woman dance called "With Time We Go." Performed to music by Vladimir Martynov, the dance had an air of coolness about it as the women performed in solo and group work. The choreographer's use of a musical cue for little hops in the steps was the only light moment in an elegiac dance about longing and separation. Zhukov's dance, at once contemporary yet classically grounded, is a perfect fit for the company.

Former Sacramento Ballet dancer Amy Seiwert proved once again to be an audience pleaser with her work "It's Not a Cry," which she created for the company last year. Danced by Calka and Chloe Horne to Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the dance drew four curtain calls at its conclusion. Seiwert's dance is sculptural in design and demanding in execution. It's a beautifully erotic pas de deux that relies on the geometry of the relationship between the dancers' bodies to create a physical tension that mirrors the emotion of the piece. It was exquisitely performed by Calka and Horne, who expertly covered for a slipping jacket sleeve that could have wrecked the balance.

The final piece on the program is Sunchai Muy's "Os Rufos," performed to an entirely percussive score. With men dressed in what can best be described as underpants and corsets and the women adding tank tops to their attire, it's a lighthearted – but seriously conceived – work. It's the program's only piece that has dancers on pointe for any amount of time, and it's also very athletic. Among its demanding moments is a duet featuring Christopher Nachtrab and Brik Middlekauff that is a rush of jumps and spins performed first by him and then matched by her. It's some feat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Starving For Good Collateral

Interesting explanation for what really happened in 2008:
Subprime shouldn't have been big enough to cause this sort of crisis. In 2005 and 2006, the market originated about $1.2 trillion in mortgages -- big, but not a vital organ of the American economy.

Subprime was the trigger for the crisis, but not the cause. What happened, rather, was that the subprime crisis set off an old-fashioned bank run in a newfangled market: the shadow banking market, which was, and is, vulnerable to runs.

... The shadow banking market is where big banks, institutional investors, and other folks who have a lot of money do their banking -- particularly their short-term banking. So let's say I'm Ezra Bank. I've got a $100 million that I'm going to invest next month, but for now, I need to put it somewhere. I head to the "repo market," and I ask Bear Stearns to hold my money and pay me interest. They agree. But how do I know Bear Stearns won't just keep my money?

Individual depositors in the normal banking market never have that fear. The government insures our deposits. But they don't insure massive institutional deposits. So Ezra Bank would ask Bear Stearns for "collateral" -- something that is low-risk and valuable they could hold in order to make sure Bear Stearns returned their money. Something like, say, AAA mortgage-backed securities.

This manner of banking created a massive hunger for collateral. And it was this hunger, Gorton thinks, that drove the wild demand for mortgage-backed securities.

But think about the difference between the shadow banking market and your bank: The FDIC's deposit insurance exists to prevent bank runs (which happen when creditors become scared that their bank is insolvent and rush to get their money back, which in turn makes their bank insolvent). The shadow banking market doesn't have deposit insurance. So how does it deal with the problem of bank runs?

Answer: It doesn't. What we had in 2008, Gorton says, was a bank run. No one knew which banks were exposed to the subprime crisis, so everyone froze. But it didn't need to be the subprime market that experienced the shock. A lot of different types of shocks would've done the trick. The underlying problem is that the collateral is "informationally sensitive": That is to say, information can dramatically and unexpectedly change its worth (i.e.. news that subprime mortgages are defaulting makes securities based on subprime mortgages worthless), and then confidence drains out of the whole system. "It's the e coli problem," Gorton says. "When they recall 10 million pounds of burger, it brings all sales of ground meat to a halt because no one knows how much e coli there is or where it is."

Sarah Benincasa Channels Michelle Bachmann

Eyjafjallajökull Shock Waves

Shake and quake:
Quick explained that in a vulcanian eruption like that going on at Eyjafjallajokull -- the term describes a volcano exhibiting a series of explosive bursts -- you'll see explosions called Plinian events, after the historian Pliny who described the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

These events are essentially explosive releases of gas. "You have volcanic gases that are held by the magma as it rises toward the surface. Eventually you get to the point where the gases separate from the magma, like popping the top from a soda bottle," Quick explains.

The gases expand rapidly and separate from the magma, causing explosive bursts of tremendous magnitude equivalent to a significant dynamite explosion. As the video shows, the explosion hurls incandescent blobs of lava hundreds of feet into the air -- and cause visible shockwaves.

Paranoia On The Rez

Tentacles everywhere!:
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Nearly two dozen people have been charged with dealing methamphetamine on and around the Navajo Nation, a distribution network that authorities said is unparalleled on the reservation.

Federal, tribal and local law enforcement officials announced the arrests Thursday of 16 people and said six others have been charged in a yearlong investigation. They said the supply line for the dangerous drug stretched from Tuba City to the Phoenix metropolitan area with connections to Mexican drug cartels.

"We believe in taking this action we have broken key links in the supply chain to the Navajo Nation," Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said.

Court documents outline charges ranging from conspiracy, possession with the intent to distribute meth, and aiding and abetting the distribution of meth to tribal members. Burke said the investigation included 74 drug buys for anywhere from five to 50 grams of meth, which has spurred violent crime on the reservation.

Up to 95 percent of the violent crimes cases handled by Burke's office have some connection to controlled substances, though not always meth, officials estimated.

...A decade ago, the use of meth on the Navajo Nation was rare. But police there increasingly saw signs of paranoia among people stopped for traffic violations, more meth paraphernalia littering the landscape and tragic cases of meth-related violence and neglect.

The tribe outlawed meth in 2005 and increased training for police. Although Navajo authorities can charge anyone for the use, possession or distribution of meth, federal penalties are much more harsh.

The tribe handles only misdemeanor crimes with penalties of up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines. One defendant arrested as part of the federal investigation faces up to 80 years and $4 million in fines if convicted of possession of meth with the intent to distribute near a school. Most others are facing up to 20 and 40 years.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Hope MacDonald LoneTree said she pushed for the tribal law after hearing a presentation about a 6-month-old child who was assaulted by a person using meth.

"The uprooting of these drug dealers in our communities is going to have a huge effect," she said. "The communities on Navajo suffer greatly from drug abuse and the drug trafficking. The violent crime is something that we can see for generations because of the age of the victims."

Glee vs. Madonna: "Vogue"

Los Cuates De Sinaloa - Negro y Azul

I've gotten this far in watching "Breaking Bad", Season 2. I saw this video, stopped the DVD player, and panicked.

La ciudad se llama Duke
Nuevo Mexico el estado
Entre la gente mafiosa
su fama se ha propagado
Causa de una nueva droga
que los gringos han creado

Dicen que es color azul
y que es pura calidad
Esa droga poderosa
que circula en la ciudad
Y los dueños de la plaza
no la pudieron parar

Anda caliente el cartel,
al respeto le faltaron
Hablan de un tal Heisenberg,
que ahora controla el mercado
Nadie sabe nada de el,
por que nunca lo han mirado
El cartel es de respeto
y jamas ha pardonado
Ese compa ya esta muerto
Nomas no le han avisado

(y asi suenan los cuates de sinaloa mi compa)

La fama de Heisenberg
Ya llego hasta michoacan
Desde alla quieren venir
A probar ese cristal
Ese material azul
Ya se hizo internacional

Ahora si le quedo bien
a Nuevo mexico el nombre
A mexico se parece
En tanta droga que esconde
Solo que hay un capo gringo
Por Heisenberg lo conocen

Anda caliente el cartel,
al respeto le faltaron
Hablan de un tal Heisenberg,
que ahora controla el Mercado
Nadie sabe nada de el,
por que nunca lo han mirado
A la furia del cartel
nadie jamas ha escapado.
Ese compa ya esta muerto
No mas no le han avisado.

As California Went In 1994, So Arizona Goes

Kiss the Hispanic vote goodbye!:
Severe recessions can make people crazy and mean. During the Great Depression, immigration to the United States from Mexico virtually ceased, but states began arresting and deporting Mexicans, many of whom were in the country legally. The Mexican population of the United States fell by 41 percent during the 1930s. And the same kind of thing is happening again.

The recession has sharply curtailed illegal immigration to the United States. According to Princeton political scientist Douglas Massey, the number of undocumented residents in the United States peaked at 12.6 million in 2008 and fell to 10.8 million in 2009. Nowhere did it fall more sharply than in Arizona, where the number of illegal immigrants dropped by 100,000 over the last year. But Republicans in Arizona are acting as if illegal immigrants are pouring across the border and must be stopped by any means necessary. “The back door to the United States for all intents and purposes remains wide open,” Republican Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth declared at a North Tucson town hall meeting last month.

Last week, the hysteria of the state’s conservatives took its most concrete form: The Arizona legislature passed a bill on a party line vote, and Republican Governor Janice Brewer signed it, making illegal immigration a state as well as federal crime and requiring Arizona police to require proof of citizenship if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally.

...Of course, there will be legal challenges, and there will likely be boycotts of Arizona’s hotels and conventions. That happened after the state refused to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, and led eventually to Arizona giving in. There will also be political repercussions. While Republicans may pick up a few more percent of the angry white vote in November 2010, they can kiss the Hispanic vote goodbye—and not just in Arizona. That may not have meant much in 1935, but in the years to come, it could seal the Republicans’ fate as a minority party. That’s at least one price they’ll pay for being mean and crazy.

Dancers of the Sacramento Ballet Introduce Themselves

At co-Artistic Director Ron Cunningham's urging, the dancers of the Sacramento Ballet introduced themselves to their adoring public at the meet-and-greet following "Modern Masters" at CSU-Sacramento on April 25, 2010.