Friday, August 27, 2010

A Walk Around Corrales, My Hometown

At the end of July, I travelled to New Mexico to see family, attend my high school reunion, and enjoy the Albuquerque area.

One of the things I did was to visit my hometown of Corrales, just NW of Albuquerque, and take two walks around the place.

I'm old enough now that when I walk the old roads, memories of what it used to be like when I was younger conflict with what it looks like today. In a sense, I'm walking through two places: the present landscape, and a ghost landscape of the recent past. The recent past wasn't that long ago, but time moves quickly on! Every day, it changes just a bit more!

So, here is that walk....

This crumbling adobe house on West La Entrada Road (my home road) has been disintegrating my entire life. When I was a kid, it was an active hazard: I never ventured inside, because it was too dangerous. But it looks like the disintegration process is nearing completion, and it isn't much of a hazard anymore.

This row of trees was planted around the time I moved away (1980). It seems strange to see these trees here.

When I was a kid, La Entrada Road was unpaved, and was maintained by Sandoval County with road graders. The washboard surface was bone-rattling to every car. The mud puddles in summer were a menace (but home to tadpoles). When did they pave it: 1975, or so?

The Corrales lifestyle, for those who have a bit of money, emphasizes horse ownership. So, you see horses in many places, even if the available land is painfully small. This plot of land near the Palladini's house is particularly good, and the adjacent meadow is amazingly lush: I've never seen it look so good!

This is the house I grew up in. My parents sold it in 1990, and the energetic new owners had transformed it to the point of unrecognizability by 1994. I mean, look at that gray-green Russian Olive tree! When did it appear?

Today, the house is for sale, for an asking price of $449,000.00 In 1960, I believe it cost my parents on the order of $10,000.00 - $12,000.00 to build. I'd like to buy it, but I know my parents would be horrified at the cost, and would recommend that I do almost anything else with my money.

This is the house next door, where the Lewises lived when we were kids. We spent so many play hours here! It's a pretty transformed house too (it's amusing how the reigning New Mexico Pueblo style has been applied even to this most-un-Pueblolike of residences). After the Lewises moved out, there was a short period when jewelry-making hippie Buddhists lived here. Afterwards, noted Sioux author Vine Deloria, Jr. lived here. Occasionally, we were jarred awake by Sioux Indians singing and banging on the drum.

The Goat Pen used to be located here. New owners have erected a large, handsome, and spacious barn in its place.

When I was very young, the goats were kept here. Later, approaching adolescence, we kids sold rock collections here with play money, and even rolled kids off the roof in cardboard barrels. We had political debates too. To this day, I'm still shocked how the Lewis kids pivoted on a dime and stopped supporting George Wallace in September, 1968, and supported Richard Nixon instead (because Wallace had no chance of winning).

Here's the Bus Stop, where we all caught the bus to school. At times, when the dirt roads provided lots of drying mud, we had clod wars with the Acostas and Bacas up the road (an impacting dirt clod explodes quite nicely). We got pretty aggressive too, but the inevitable happened: my sister got hit in the face, complained to a teacher, who told the school principal, and we all got chewed out pretty good. That pretty much put an end to the invigorating warfare.

Interestingly, near the new barn, this grove of locust trees is still here and looks as healthy as ever!

"The Desert". This narrow strip of land behind our house was simply too narrow to farm effectively, so as long as I was a kid, it retained some of its original desert character. We called it "The Desert". Unfortunately, someone finally decided to put The Desert under the plow, sometime in the 1980's, and it lost its original charm.

Looking west, towards the hills, at the intersection of Old Church Road and West Ella Drive. On the left, they now have a vineyard (Milagro Wines) where once was an open plot of land. Steve Baer's innovative solar powered house at the top of the hill still seems to be there.

This open piece of land, featuring sagebrush and four-winged saltbush, is probably very close to what the Corrales landscape looked like before the Spaniards expanded Pueblo farming operations in the area. Only recently have I become aware how unusual this landscape is in New Mexico: alkaline desert bottomlands like this are being erased by development. The Greens and the Smiths lived around here when I was a kid. Amazingly, signs pointing to the Greens' and the Smiths' houses are still here. Maybe they still live here!

Here's a closeup of the four-winged saltbush. This is perfect quail habitat, and indeed, I could hear (although not see) the quail under the bushes.

The Smith's house is totally obscured by this tamarisk (aka salt cedar) grove. Tamarisk is an introduced ornamental tree from Turkey that has conquered the Southwest over the last century. Beekeepers love the flowers, and tamarisk is pretty, but it tends to form thickets that do not support native wildlife very well, and it uses prodigious amounts of water, so the Fish & Game people absolutely loathe it. The Smiths have tended their tamarisks very well, maybe too well, to the point of losing their home in the jungle foliage.

Old Church Road looks so different from the dusty place I remember from my youth! The trees are so much taller!

I remember this old house! Was this where my classmate from first grade, Rudy Gonzales, used to live? I can't remember!

I saw two roadrunners fly into the San Ysidro Cemetery, so I ventured into the cemetery too. I wouldn't mind being buried here, but as a non-Catholic, it's probably out of the question.

The eastern end of San Ysidro Cemetery (seen here) is filled with graves, many dating back to the 19th Century. I remember, when I was a kid, how many grave markers there used to be in this area. As you can see, nearly all the grave markers in this area are now gone. The trouble is, the wooden crosses favored by humble San Ysidro parishioners have decayed away with time.

Here is classmate Rudy Gonzales' grave. When he was just 14, he and his brother Clifford were sitting in the Blake's LotaBurger restaurant that used to be located at Rio Grande & Corrales Road, when a car crashed through the plate glass windows and killed them both.

Here is a picture I took of Rudy's grave in 2005. As you can see, his grave marker has deteriorated quite a bit in recent years. The same weathering process that cast all the older graves at this cemetery into oblivion is threatening to do the same with Rudy too!

Adjacent to the San Ysidro Cemetery is the 'historic' Gutierrez-Minge house. Folks in Corrales are getting better than they used to be at recording their history.

Old San Ysidro Church, dating from the mid 19th-Century.

Here, Old Church Road heads east, towards Corrales Road. But it didn't always follow this path. I remember that it was moved to this location, for some unknown reason, around 1967, or so. The road used to run down the field to the right, which was reclaimed into a meadow. So, a field became a road, and a road became a field, for reasons, like I say, weren't revealed to us kids.

Corrales Elementary School (formerly Sandoval Elementary School), where my education first started. Federal money allowed the school to be completely renovated around 1967.

This Mercado de Maya, or whatever they call it now, across Corrales Road from the school, was Mr. Works' grocery store when I was a kid. What an amazing store it was, too, with the moist cement floor, and filled with the scents of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables! I also remember the day someone failed to apply their brakes, and drove right through the front of the store, noisily sending glass everywhere!

Century in, and century out, the Tijuana Bar is still open for business!

Here is the Sandia Bar. I remember my father taking me inside when I was about three years old. I remember looking down the bar, and watching all the old men at the other end of the bar looking back at me, and thinking what a strange place it was.

After my first walk, I decided to follow my sister's advice, and drive along the Romero Road access to the riverside bosque.

At last, by looking at the following map, I think I finally understand the ditch system in Corrales! Water comes down the Sandoval Lateral Canal from the Corrales Main Canal (from right to left in this photo). At this junction, water is removed into the Corrales Acequia (which recedes into the background). The Sandoval Lateral then runs east, where it meets and runs parallel to the Corrales Riverside Drain (aka the 'Clear Ditch'). It's important to remember that the Sandoval Lateral carries river water, but the Clear Ditch carries water draining from the high water table under farmland adjacent to the river.

"Coyote Activity Ahead!" Like I say, I saw the roadrunners at the cemetery, so it figures the clueless coyotes would be clear across town, over here, by the riverside bosque.

This is an admirable map of Corrales (the original is located on page 16 of this document).

The colonial Spanish method of land use is evident from this map. Land was divided into strips, such that each landowner was able to have both access to water and access to grazing to the hills beyond. The trouble came as land was passed down to succeeding generations. The strips were divided, and then divided again, until you got strips like the aforementioned "Desert" that were so narrow they were virtually useless from a sustenance point of view.

Ah! The Corrales Riverside Drain, fondly known by everyone as the 'Clear Ditch'. The reason it's clear is that it doesn't hold river water, but rather, water draining from the high water table near the river. The level of water in the clear ditch is intimately associated with the level of water in the river. There is so much wildlife in this immediate area! It's so nice!

The Rio Grande River at Corrales' Romero Road bosque access. The Sandia Mountains loom in the background.

I'm quite impressed: the river is running about three feet below the bank on the opposite side. The bank has been here long enough that Russian Olive Trees have had a chance to grow to maturity in the middle distance - that has got to be at least ten years!

In the 1970's, river watchers worried about the flooding potential of the Rio Grande. Sediment was relentlessly building up in the river bed, elevating the river, and creating what are known as 'yazoos': floodable areas adjacent to the river, and below the river level. They are named after the Yazoo River of Mississippi, one of the nation's most flood-prone rivers, because it builds up riverbed sediment in just this way.

Now, looking at that bank, though, I'm thinking the process is reversing, and the river is entrenching itself again. Even though the river here is running red with sediment washed in by monsoonal rains, and even though relentless development dumps sediment every year in to the river, the river may still have less sediment than it used to. The completion of Cochiti Dam upstream, in 1975, traps a lot of sediment that could have been dumped here. If this entrenching process continues, Corrales will have less to fear from flooding than it used to. The downside, though, is that as the river entrenches, the water table will go down to match the river's level, which could well make the 'Clear Ditch' dry up, in time. Now that would be a true disaster!

Unusual Pet Insurance Claims

Don't you just love dogs?:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A Labrador that ate a beehive containing pesticides and thousands of dead bees won an award on Monday that recognized the most unusual pet health insurance claim in the United States.

Ellie, who fully recovered from her encounter with the beehive in southern California, beat a border collie that ran through a window to get at a mailman, and a terrier that bit a chainsaw.

Every Day Is A Different Day In Weather Forecasting Land

Now it looks like Danielle might not bother Bermuda quite as badly as at first feared. Good! (Although Earl might make a direct hit, and the unnamed as yet "F" storm might head farther south and make an impact in the U.S.)

It looks like Frank might focus much-needed rain on Arizona and New Mexico. Good!

But it also looks like maybe no rain, here, in the valley, this weekend. Oh well. It will still be very nice, though!

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Life sometimes got chaotic in semi-rural Corrales, NM, when I was a kid. Fences were fewer in those days, and animals roamed more.

I remember when the neighbors' dog went into 'heat' when I was about eight years old, and all sorts of aggressive male dogs started appearing in the immediate neighborhood.

One morning, all three of the Mapstone's dogs appeared next door: two Doberman Pinschers, and their little yippee dog sidekick. They were chasing the female dog, but suddenly the two Dobermans decided their little sidekick cohabitant was a competitive nuisance. So, they turned on him. In a horrifying five-second spectacle of rage, they butchered him right in front of us kids.

When I read about Republicans inflaming the mosque controversy in New York, I'm reminded of the Dobermans. Imam Rauf worked closely with the Bush State Department. In many ways, he was one of the Bush Administration's most-effective go-to guys regarding the Muslim world.

But now, Republicans are pretending they don't even know the guy. And he was their guy too! Just like the little yippee dog, the Imam is now in the way. So, they butcher him.

At least the Dobermans had an excuse:
As you may have heard, former Bush senior adviser Karen Hughes came out against Cordoba House over the weekend. Hughes called on Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to move the project in order to "provide a path toward the peaceful relationships that he and his fellow Muslims strive to achieve."

What was mystifying about her opposition, as TPM noted, was that she did not mention that Rauf had a long-term relationship with the Bush administration. Nor did she mention that as the Bush State Department's chief of outreach to Muslims she participated with him in multiple bridge-building efforts to the Muslim world.
Here's her explanation: Hughes claimed in a statement to me that she doesn't remember any of the work she did with him.

As it happens, when people first started pointing out the connections betweeen Hughes and Rauf, I asked Ms. Hughes' office to comment. She sent me a statement, which I didn't get around to posting. Here it is:
"As Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, President Bush asked me to focus on interfaith dialogue to try to encourage greater understanding and respect between leaders of different faiths, and to encourage leaders of all faiths to speak out against all acts of terror and violence. As a result, I met with many Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and attended numerous events and conferences across the world and it's entirely possible he was at some of those, but I don't have specific recollections of that.

Exciting Day At The Airport

Fire is the big danger, of course, and I'm glad it didn't get away from them:
But for the 86 passengers of JetBlue Flight 262 from Long Beach, who left their burning plane on exit slides, the afternoon was nerve-wracking.

"It was a crazy experience you don't expect on a Thursday," said Stacey Benuzzi, 27, an 8th-grade teacher from Long Beach who was on her way to visit family in Rio Linda.

Benuzzi was sitting in the middle of the Airbus A320 when it landed hard at about 12:50 p.m. There was a bang, followed by the flight attendants' calls to exit the plane, she said.

As passengers surged toward the doorways, some reached for bags in the overhead bins.

"This plane is on fire. Get out of the plane," a flight attendant yelled from the rear of the jet, Benuzzi said.

Passengers "moved a lot faster," she said.

Benuzzi got to the rear exit and was surprised to see the slide. She and two other passengers jumped nearly at once, their bodies tangling on the way down, she said.

Her flip-flops came off and she ran across the pavement barefoot.

Sean Hannity Lies About The Mosque - Chapter MMMCDVIII

Yesterday, as is my wont, I listened to Sean Hannity further degrade his degraded self by flogging this mosque issue some more. I didn't realize just how ridiculous Hannity was, however, until I read this. Of course, what Hannity is doing is conflating different ideas in the Muslim world about what Sharia law is. Unsurprisingly for such a large religion spanning all continents and cultures, many Muslims have starkly different ideas about what Sharia law is. But you'd never know that listening to Hannity:
On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity repeatedly distorted Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's words to say that Rauf "scares" him by "wanting America to be Sharia compliant." In fact, Rauf has actually said that the current American political system, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, is Sharia compliant.

On the August 25 edition of his Fox News program, referring to Rauf, who wants to build an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan, Hannity said: He "says America should be Sharia compliant." Hannity also said of Rauf: "He scares me, wanting America to be Sharia compliant." Later, Hannity said he had "spent a lot of time going over this controversial imam" and claimed that Rauf "wants America Sharia compliant." Hannity's comments echoed his prior attacks on Rauf for writing in his 2004 book, What's Right With Islam, that "the American political structure is Sharia compliant."

In fact, Rauf does not call for making the United States Sharia compliant in What's Right With Islam; rather, he argues that the "American political structure is Shariah compliant" just like any other political structure that "upholds, protects, and furthers" the "God-given rights" of "life, mind (that is, mental well-being or sanity), religion, property (or wealth), and family (or lineage and progeny)."

Rauf writes in his book that the Declaration of Independence "opens with the words 'When ... it becomes necessary for one People ... to assume ... the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them' (italics added)." Rauf also comments that "[t]o Muslims, the law decreed by God is called the Shariah, and therefore the 'Laws of Nature and of Nature's God' are by definition Shariah law." He also writes: "What's right about America is its Declaration of Independence, for it embodies and restates the core values of the Abrahamic, and thus also the Islamic, ethic."

In his book, Rauf writes that "Muslim legal scholars have defined five areas of life that Islamic law must protect and further. These are life, mind (that is, mental well-being or sanity), religion, property (or wealth), and family (or lineage and progeny)." Rauf says that because the American political system "upholds, protects, and furthers these rights," it is "Shariah compliant, in its substance."

A Lot Of Chumps In The International WMD Black Market

Which is probably a good thing:
Moldovan police have seized 1.8kg of uranium-238 in the capital, Chisinau, officials say.

...The smugglers had reportedly been trying to sell the material on the European black market for 9m euros (£7.4m).

A nuclear expert has told the BBC that this form of uranium is of no use for making nuclear weapons.

He told BBC News that the amount was "trivial", and could safely be held in a person's hand.

"However any attempt to smuggle uranium is of concern," he said.

But investigator Oleg Putintica told Moldova's ProTV Chisinau channel the material could be used "both in the civilian nuclear industry and for military purposes to produce weapons of mass destruction".

The source and intended destination of the uranium were not clear, he said.

Uranium-238 is the most commonly found, naturally occurring form of the substance.

The type needed for nuclear fuel and weapons is the less common uranium-235.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Resisting Temptation

(Yelling at the McDonald's Drive-Up Window order box)

Hello! HELLO! HELLO? (Honk horn) H-E-L-L-O! (Honk horn again)

(After several minutes, leaving car to walk over to the cash intake window)

(Bellowing) HELLO! HELLO!

(Two people inside acknowledge my presence, and tell each other the intercom device appears to be broken, but don't really say anything to me, and keep on doing whatever it is they are doing with the cash register.)

(Returning to car and yelling at the order box)

Hello! HELLO!

(Driving past the non-responsive drive-up window) Well, if I'm heading to aerobics in 45 minutes anyway, I may as well state there that I had been sorely tempted to indulge in fast food, but years of aerobics have made me more resistant to temptation, in general, and that I was able to follow the healthier route instead by flatly refusing the lure of McDonald's hamburgers.

At Least It's Big, For A Prison

Paul Hogan, and his problems:
SYDNEY — "Crocodile Dundee" star Paul Hogan has been barred from leaving Australia because of a row over his tax affairs, his lawyer has said.

Tax officials served the actor, who lives in the United States, with an order stopping him from leaving after he returned for his mother's funeral last week, according to a statement reported by the AAP news agency.

...He is embroiled in a long-running dispute with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) over an alleged multi-million-dollar unpaid tax bill, AAP said.

The statement from his lawyer said the order means Hogan cannot leave Australia until the bill is settled.

A Strange Dream About Modern Friendship

I had a peculiar dream this morning that seemed to illustrate the trouble we all have just scheduling our social lives.

I dreamt that fellow musical theater volunteer Scott Griffith was highly-irritated with me. The reason was that I made a request that threatened to disrupt his social calendar.

It seemed that I was lonely, and wanted a friend to accompany me on one of my favorite activities, walking the length of the Capital City Freeway. So, I approached someone I didn't know, a Mormon photography buff. Turned out, this Mormon photographer was also a close friend of Scott's through his Mormon model railroading activities. Scott called this fellow his 'wingman', and would sorely miss him if he went on a hike.

Apparently Mormon model railroading was only a sliver of Scott's other model railroading activities. Scott was apparently busy from morning till night with model railroading. Surely Scott could miss this fellow just for an afternoon, but Scott disagreed.

I was left feeling a bit sad by my dream, but also in awe of Scott's amazing social skills: his ability to keep up with model railroading, musical theater, and a dozen other activities that I wasn't even aware of. Scott was apparently a bionic social wonder! Who knew?

I decided the dream was commentary from my unconscious self about Facebook, 'friending', making friends, and friendship itself. And modern life too.

'Sunset Strip' Coming Out Jan. 20, 2011

This looks like it might be interesting - a documentary about the Sunset Strip. They are having a big party on September 1 too (by invitation only, apparently). I guess I need to work my vast blog connections to get in....

Dogs Dressed Up Like Lady Gaga

It was so nice having Bella, Joe The Plumber's black Labrador Retriever, loping around the house this last weekend! Life goes better with dogs!

But even I didn't think of this....(check the gallery and click on the thumbnails)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Short-Sighted Corporate America

It's really not that hard to grasp: consumers can't jump start the economy if they don't have enough money to do so. Corporate America is waiting for the economy to surge before spending more money on labor, but unless it spends more money on labor, the economy won't surge.

What we need to do is to double the minimum wage - right now! No, better yet, triple the minimum wage! Whatever it takes to grab Corporate America by the shorts and start the recovery:
Some aren't above suggesting that American workers have simply become too lazy to get off unemployment and do some real work.

That was the theme of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal quoting several business owners marveling at the dearth of applicants for skilled job openings. But you had to do some math to find a clue to why this might be.

One business was looking to pay $13 an hour for machinists. That works out to about $27,000 a year (assuming vacation is paid for), or about the federal poverty line for a family of five.

...The idea that only a shrinking proportion of American workers deserves a solid middle-class income seems to have become ingrained in parts of the business community over the last few years. That was the thought behind the punishing Southern California grocery lockout and strike of 2003-04, when the supermarket chains pressed for a wage and benefit system on which it would be difficult if not impossible to raise a family. (They got their way for new employees.)

How has that worked out? The share price of Safeway Inc., the owner of Vons and Pavilions and one of the chief drivers of the dispute, has barely budged since January 2004. The company swung from a profit of $560 million in 2004 to a loss of roughly $1 billion last year, a performance it largely blames on the crummy economy.

This is just one more manifestation of increasing income inequality in America, where the rich have gotten richer and the middle and working class have gone into debt to merely hang on. Whenever I write about the need for corporations and the wealthy to shoulder their fair share of taxes, I can count on receiving numerous e-mails instructing me that we need to cosset the rich because they're the source of job growth. "I've never been offered a job by a poor person" is the usual refrain.

The answer to this argument is that there are precious few firms that can survive purely on the patronage of the top 1% of income-earners, or even the top 20%. When no one can afford to buy, no one has customers. Broadly distributing the fruits of economic growth is the only way to sustain that growth.

Ford Motor Co. understood as long ago as 1914, when it raised its daily wage to $5. The company's new living wage all but eliminated absenteeism, built workplace loyalty and helped create a huge new market for automobiles. You want to call Henry Ford a "socialist" for implementing this idea, go right ahead.

Corporate America, in the aggregate, has the apparent capacity to do the same today. The Federal Reserve reported in June that nonfinancial companies were holding cash totaling more than $1.8 trillion, having built up their hoards at a rate unmatched in more than 50 years. That's a lot of money being held out of the economy, dwarfing what the government stimulus program is putting in.

There's nothing inherently good or bad about a company's stockpiling of cash. It can bespeak a strong balance sheet. Or, if it's the proceeds of lots of expensive borrowing, a weak one. It can build corporate wealth if it's invested profitably in the business or stagnation if it just sits around in low-yielding instruments.

It can be the work of a visionary chief executive building a war chest for a big move or of a shrinking violet with nothing on his mind except inflating his company's bank account with big numbers.

The only important question is: "What are they doing with the money?"

I Still Have All That Bare Wood On The Porch

The newer forecasts really are showing signs of rain, here, Saturday evening! I gotta get the porch painted!

The newer forecasts show Danielle dancing all around, but not quite hitting Bermuda, and then instead of approaching the U.S., dithering around and scaring the Bermudans.

Lost opportunities. I'd really like a hurricane to hit D.C.

A Growing Metropolis Of The Future

A really dysfunctional future:
If California's unemployed residents banded together and formed a city, it would be the fifth-largest place in America, just behind Houston but ahead of Phoenix.

Interest In Global Warming Waned In This Recession

Not the slightest surprise.

Credit Card Debt Goes Down

Right now, credit card debt is one of the biggest hindrances to robust consumer spending. Let's pay it down and cut up the cards!:
The amount consumers owed on their credit cards in this year's second quarter dropped to the lowest level in more than eight years as cardholders continued to pay off balances in the uncertain economy.

The average combined debt for bank-issued credit cards — like those with a MasterCard or Visa logo — fell to $4,951 in the three months ended June 30, down more than 13 percent from $5,719 in the same period a year ago, according to TransUnion.

The credit reporting agency said it was the first three-month period during which card debt fell below $5,000 since the first quarter of 2002.

Credit card debt remained the highest in Alaska, but slid 7 percent there to $7,148. A total of 22 states recorded debt higher than the national average.

Residents of Alabama paid off the most debt, dropping their average balance by 27 percent to $4,753.

Magical Microbes Mop The Gulf

I'd have a lot more confidence in this microbe's existence if it wasn't so damned convenient for everyone to think it's there. It MAY be there, of course, but we know almost nothing about it. It's busily working everywhere, but it's slow enough in its action so to avoid depleting the oxygen content of the water and thus avoid killing fish. How CONVENIENT!

Still, what happens to the toxic compounds within the oil? The microbes won't want to eat those. Where do the toxics go? What do they do?:
Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf following the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

And the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers led by Terry Hazen at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., reported Tuesday in the online journal Sciencexpress.

"Our findings, which provide the first data ever on microbial activity from a deepwater dispersed oil plume, suggest" a great potential for bacteria to help dispose of oil plumes in the deep-sea, Hazen said in a statement.

Maybe Danielle Will Just Menace New England

Today's weather forecast shows Hurricane Danielle approaches the Northeast U.S. coast, then refuses to come on in. So, will the annihilation of the Northeast have to wait until another time? Too's a golden opportunity!

And in the Pacific we have Hurricane Frank! (my friend Frank will like that...)

Enrique Iglesias (ft. Pitbull) - I Like It

Pitbull has been on a run lately....

Are We Going To Get A NYC Hurricane?

Danielle is looking like it might be an interesting storm! And there is activity in the Pacific too!

A tedious August might go out with a bang!

Bugs In The Bed

I don't know what they are, but I have bugs in my bed.

I checked Wikipedia, and they seem to be too small, and they look different, than bedbugs.

Nevertheless, they kind of creep me out anyway. They don't seem to bite, but they sit on, and irritate, the skin when I'm not looking.

I wonder where they are coming from, and what their mysterious appearance means?

I mean, I do shower, and stuff....

Reaping The Whirlwind

Apparently some people realized the existing home sales figures were going to be really, really bad, and boy, were they!:
Existing home sales sank 27.2% in July, twice as much as analysts expected, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million units. Much of that drop is attributed to the end of the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit.

That credit brought buyers out in droves, as they tried to sign home contracts before the April 30 deadline. Now, two months later, sales are 34% below April's tax incentive-induced peak.

"Home sales were eye-wateringly weak in July," said economist Paul Dales of Capital Economics. "It is becoming abundantly clear that the housing market is undermining the already faltering wider economic recovery. With an increasingly inevitable double-dip in housing prices yet to come, things could get a lot worse."
Nevertheless, most of the naysayers were realtors, or otherwise connected to the business, and not economists. Economists, who actually don't know that much about real estate, tried to find a nice, low consensus figure to base their estimates on, so as not to stick out. No one wanted to take a risk:
So … where does the “consensus” come from, and why does it appear to be so far off?

Well, as best as I can determine A LOT of the economists surveyed for various “consensus” forecasts often don’t really know much about many of the statistics they are asked to project, but are still quite willing to be in such surveys. In the case of home sales, very few track local sales data, but surprising quite a few also don’t look at pending sales either! And for some others that do, they are often reluctant to project “really big” changes – they don’t feel comfortable being an “outlier” – and figure that if they get the direction right, well, THAT’S pretty good!
The existing home sales figures are said to be bad for Democrats, and they may, in fact, be so:
The continued problems in the housing market are bad news for Democrats, who are already struggling to convince the public their policies are moving the economy in the right direction. With the midterm elections less than three months away, voters say the state of the economy is their top concern, and most surveys show the public is souring on Obama’s handling of the issue.

The Obama administration has repeatedly defended its housing polices, even while conceding that the market remains weak.

White House spokesman Bill Burton was noncommittal on Tuesday when asked whether Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s efforts on housing have been a success.

“I'll leave that to the economists and the pundits to decide. All we can do is everything we can to grow this economy,” Burton said.
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration realized long ago the figures would be bad, so in a way the new numbers just met their expectations:
The conversation next turned to housing and HAMP. On HAMP, officials were surprisingly candid. The program has gotten a lot of bad press in terms of its Kafka-esque qualification process and its limited success in generating mortgage modifications under which families become able and willing to pay their debt. Officials pointed out that what may have been an agonizing process for individuals was a useful palliative for the system as a whole. Even if most HAMP applicants ultimately default, the program prevented an outbreak of foreclosures exactly when the system could have handled it least. There were murmurs among the bloggers of “extend and pretend”, but I don’t think that’s quite right. This was extend-and-don’t-even-bother-to-pretend. The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with “the system”, “the economy”, and “ordinary Americans”. Treasury officials are not cruel people. I’m sure they would have preferred if the program had worked out better for homeowners as well. But they have larger concerns, and from their perspective, HAMP has helped to address those.
The Obama Administration has planned their entire economic program around bailing out the big banks, and not helping out anyone else that much. But after that? That whistling sound you hear is the whirlwind - the only thing left to reap.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The GOP Must Take The Spotlight Off The Mosque Controversy Soon, Or Risk Big Trouble!

For months now, with an eye on the fall elections, FOX News and the GOP have been engaged in a carefully-calculated, carefully-calibrated Orwellian program of hate: hate Hispanics one week, hate a random Negro the next week, hate Obama the next week, hate a bunch of Negroes (like the supposed Black Panthers) the following week, and hate a whole bunch of Muslims for several weeks after that.

Why they think this is a good election strategy is beyond me. The strategy CAN backfire! The only contests I can figure might be helped by such a polarizing approach are the Louisiana and North Carolina Senate races. But why go national with Hate Week, with all the attendant risks, when you can just focus on the South, with a regional approach? The rest of the nation isn't the South, after all (duh!), and what works there doesn't necessarily work everywhere. Why not focus just on Louisiana and North Carolina, and leave everyone else alone? Beats me. That's why I don't get all that blogger payola the GOP is said to be scattering around.

Nevertheless, the Mosque Controversy, which seemed like such a big winner for the GOP just two weeks ago, is now showing its age. Joe Scarborough seems to have finally realized that there are troubles with the GOP approach, and has launched an attack on Newt Gingrich. If the GOP doesn't find a way to hate someone other than Muslims for a while - gays, maybe, or atheists, or French people, or the Chinese - then cracks in the GOP will start appearing at an alarming rate. That's why, despite all its attendant evils, I don't want the Mosque Controversy to disappear just yet. Keep it stoked, keep it rolling, keep it on Page One, keep it on Cable TV 24/7, day after day, week after week, month after month, and watch the whole campaign suddenly fly completely apart, just like the Deepwater Horizon oil platform did in the Gulf of Mexico. If we are lucky, the explosions happen just before Election Day!

The Mosque Controversy seems superficially simple, almost irresistible for demagogues, but like all NYC zoning squabbles, it is about as Byzantine as figuring out what is happening inside the Kremlin. Only fools stake everything on prevailing in Manhattan land-use squabbles!:
Republicans are going to be embarrassed at the way they've opposed a mosque -- known as Cordoba House or Park51 -- that's planned near Ground Zero, according to one conservative host.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough told Republicans Monday that they should "speak out against Newt Gingrich and the voices of hate." While he was at it, Scarborough threatened to leave the GOP for a party "that actually believes in small government."

Last week, Gingrich compared supporters of the mosque to Nazis. Appearing on Fox & Friends, Gingrich said, "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington."

Prior to that, Gingrich argued that the mosque shouldn't be built near Ground Zero until churches and synagogues are allowed in Saudi Arabia.

"This is demagoguery of the first order," Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, said Monday. "And people in the Republican Party need to separate themselves from these voices."

"And I talk to you, my Republican brethren," he said into the camera. "I don't know how much longer you'll be my brethren. I'll be honest. I'm looking for a conservative party that actually believes in small government and not engaging in Wilsonian wars but that's another discussion."

"I'm just talking, you know, as a friend," Scarborough continued. "I promise you this. You're going to be embarrassed. You're going to look back two, three, four years from now and this is going to be dark blot on your record if you don't speak out against New Gingrich and the voices of hate."

"This is an embarrassment and you need to speak out against it," he said.

The Secret World Of Blogging Cash

It does not surprise me that there might be a secret world out there where bloggers take payola from interested parties for offering supposedly-disinterested opinions. What surprises me is that no one has ever offered me any payola. I think it's mostly because my readership is so (the correct word is small, but I need a better word): select!

I long-ago decided it would be disastrous to do two things on the Internet: use a handle other than 'Marc Valdez', and use the blog to get payola of any sort. I've mostly kept to that (the only exception being that I sometimes go by the handle 'perv with a dog' on the Daily Rotten). And there was that free bottle of wine from Sac Bee, but that's not so much payola as a 'we'll scratch your back if you scratch ours' kind of thing.

When you use a handle or moniker on the Internet, you tend to become irresponsible with your opinions. You think no one knows who you are, so you are apt to say stupid, rude, or hateful things. Thus, I prefer not to go that route (on the Daily Rotten, I sometimes submit stories for consideration, but apart from my twisted judgement regarding what is newsworthy, I offer no opinions). And when you take payola, it's a shocking insult to your readers when they find out - and they will eventually find out! I won't do that either.

But I'd like to be offered payola, so I could at least blog about it....:
But increasingly, many bloggers are also secretly feeding on cash from political campaigns, in a form of partisan payola that erases the line between journalism and paid endorsement.

“It’s standard operating procedure” to pay bloggers for favorable coverage, says one Republican campaign operative. A GOP blogger-for-hire estimates that “at least half the bloggers that are out there” on the Republican side “are getting remuneration in some way beyond ad sales.”

In California, where former eBay executive Meg Whitman beat businessman Steve Poizner in a bitterly fought primary battle in the campaign for governor, it sometimes seemed as if there was a bidding war for bloggers.

One pro-Poizner blogger, Aaron Park, was discovered to be a paid consultant to the Poizner campaign while writing for Red County, a conservative blog about California politics. Red County founder Chip Hanlon threw Park off the site upon discovering his affiliation, which had not been disclosed.

Poizner’s campaign was shocked to learn of the arrangement, apparently coordinated by an off-the-reservation consultant. For Park, though, it was business as usual. In November 2009, for instance, he approached the campaign of another California office-seeker — Chuck DeVore, who was then running for Senate — with an offer to blog for money.

“I can be retained at a quite reasonable rate or for ‘projects,’” Park wrote in an e-mail to campaign officials. In an interview, Park defended himself by claiming, “nobody has any doubt which candidates I’m supporting,” and noting that his blog specifies which candidates he “endorses.”

But while Red County’s Hanlon expressed outrage at Park’s pay-for-blogging scheme, questions arose about his own editorial independence when it emerged that Red County itself had been taking money from the Whitman campaign.

In December of 2009, Red County received $20,000 from the Meg Whitman campaign, which has sent the site $15,000 a month since then.

The money is ostensibly for advertising, yet by conventional measures the numbers don’t add up. According to Quantcast, Red County reaches around 125,000 unique viewers per month. Two new media industry experts confirmed that, given such a readership, Whitman’s ad purchase is “ridiculously” expensive, surpassing the going market rate for such ads by 1,000 percent or more.

Spectacular Ohio Car Crash Video

Amazing the fellow is still alive!

Danielle May Flatten Bermuda, But Will It Flatten New England Too?

Trying to second-guess hurricanes.

A Few Business Signs Around Sacramento

Left: "Sins Of The Flesh Tattoo Piercing"

I've blogged about how good Albuquerque is for oddball business signs. In contrast, Sacramento is a little more buttoned-down; a little more sober.

But not everywhere. You just have to look a little harder. Bouncing around in Joe the Plumber's van this morning, returning unused lumber to the lumber place on Auburn Blvd., there were a few interesting signs to look at. I need to get up there more often.

Left: "Seeing Is Believing Grocery Store"

Auburn Blvd. is a gem! I don't think people quite appreciate it for what it is.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Riding With Joe The Plumber

(Waiting for the light to change, motorcycles roar past)

J: See that? The green and white on those bikers? I never flew the colors, but those are the ones I used to ride with; the Vagos.

M: You used to ride with the Vagos?

J.: You bet! See the colors of my company sweatshirt?

M.: Green and white!

J.: We used to ride over in Riverside County. We used to f*** people up! Well, they used to f*** people up. Not me. I'm just a plumber....

The Curious, Persistent Dust Devils Of Mammoth Mountain

Left: Frank takes note of these interesting dust devils that form in a saddle near the top of the Mammoth Mountain tram (or gondolas, or whatever transportation system they have up there). On the afternoon of 8/14/10, these dust devils were forming, disintegrating, and then reforming, all in about the same place.

Nearly-stationary dust devils are pretty common on desert playas, particularly on hot summer afternoons. It's curious to see the same phenomenon in what amounts to a little pocket in the mountains.

Mountainous terrain, in general, provides surfaces, higher than most others, where sunlight can be absorbed and used to the heat the atmosphere. That heating enhances the lapse rate in the atmosphere, and thus promotes convection.

Visit From The Past

Joe and I worked from morning to night on the porch repair. We finished many things, but there remains some bracing, and all the caulking, and most of the painting to go. We also took care of a few other problems too. Some slob left a hide-a-bed in the street next to my property when I was in NM at the end of July. We carted the ugly thing off to the dump.

Several curious people stopped to gaze. The most interesting people were a very old woman with a walker and a younger man (presumably her son) who stopped to pose for photos with our construction project in the background.

Turned out, the woman was named Connie Maguire, and she lived in my house from 1937 to 1939. They had a tiny yellowed photo showing two attractive women sitting on the steps to the front porch. Much was different; the brickwork on the steps was not the same and a hedge was in the photo that doesn't exist anymore, but the house next door was recognizable. Apparently they were compiling information suitable for a family history.

So charming and so touching!

(sent from my iPhone)