Friday, December 17, 2010

Kaiser Emergency Room

Out of an abundance of caution, I've brought E. over for a checkup, and to create a formal record.

Annual Sierra Xmas Party

I liked the grilled vegetables....

E. Has A Very Bad Day

Shortly before noontime, E. headed home to deep-fry the lumpia for a Christmas Party at the Smythe Academy where she works. Christmas break starts today for teachers and students alike, and everyone was looking forward to the party, and her lumpia.

On the drive back to school, about 12:30 p.m. PST, she was travelling in the left-hand lane on 16th Street (a one-way street, travelling north) when the car in the middle lane (on her right) decided to turn left onto C Street (an illegal movement) across her path with no warning whatsoever. A collision resulted.....

Here is the car of the driver who crossed E.'s path, showing the collision point on the left fender.

Upon collision, E. swerved to the left, smashed through the fence of John Muir Park at 16th and C Streets, and plowed deep into the park. Because it took her fifty feet, or more, to come to a rest, the violence of the collision was greatly mitigated. Surprisingly, her air bag did not deploy.

The collision point on her right fender, together with demolished wheel.

The iron fence snapped free upon collision and got wedged under the front end.

Not much lumpia was left in the container she had placed on the front seat for the trip back to school.

Lumpia everywhere on the dashboard and on the floor!

Left turns onto C Street are permitted from the left lane. The option to continue straight is also permitted. What is not permitted is to turn left from the middle lane: an option the dumbass driver in the red car decided to exercise, and without warning either.

Demolished landscaping.

E., looking forlorn.

Wheel thrashed.

Looking SSE towards the intersection. Fortunately, E. did not hit any park benches, or the park sign, or anything else besides the fence and the landscaping.

Lumpia everywhere, behind shattered glass!

The car was a bit awkward to hoist upon the tow truck.

I don't know how she did it, but E. managed to thread the narrow space in-between the cement sign, and the metal traffic light post, without hitting either obstacle, and thus averted much of the violence of the collision.

Falling Short

The best newspaper reporting on the troubles with Civic Theatre West have been in the Granite Bay View:
After nearly a month of trying to save Civic Theatre West, the defunct theater group fell short of its goal Wednesday.

The nonprofit organization, and formerly the second-largest community theater in California, needed to raise $350,000 by Dec. 15 to become financially solvent, but only ended up receiving about $57,000, said board of directors President Calvin Stevens.

...“When we started the pledge drive, I was naively optimistic,” Stevens said Thursday. “Now, I’m just exhausted. I feel empty.”

Although about 150 donors, including individuals, families and local businesses, contributed to the cause, much-needed big-ticket donors failed to manifest with large companies choosing not to open their checkbooks and the City of Roseville declining to help monetarily.

But Stevens said the high number of donors signaled to him that people wanted to save the theater company, but couldn’t afford to give large amounts of money.

...Pounds said he understands people are struggling to make ends meet in the current economic recession, but wishes more people would have stepped up to the plate.

“We’re probably the wealthiest community in the region,” he said. “It’s sad we couldn’t find 350 people to donate $1,000. If I had significant wealth, I would have funded the whole thing myself, I feel it’s so worthwhile.”

I have my own view about the problems at Civic Theatre West. It doesn't seem to me the Board of Directors wants to surrender their current operational structure, whereby certain people involved in the theater get paid. I can certainly understand their reluctance to fire everyone and start over with a different operational structure with fewer paid positions, but unfortunately that may be what they have to do to save the theater. In other words, the Board of Directors would prefer to commit suicide rather than get sufficiently-ruthless and do what they HAVE TO DO to save the theater. Even more than the debt, it's the payroll that's killing them.

The folks in Roseville can save Civic Theatre West if they want to - there is scarcely any wealthier community in all of California, and the audiences there are large and the acting community is vibrant. There is no more inviting climate anywhere else I know of. But there has to exist the WILL to do so!

Community theaters live within a web of community support that hums with numerous unspoken and unwritten pledges of trust and support. My worry is that Civic Theatre West chased away their supporters by surprising them with news of the theater's closure: supporters were scarcely aware that there was even a decline. People naturally resist sinking money into declining enterprises, particularly when they are surprised by the decline. Surprises make people wary. And as for not being able to "find 350 people to donate $1,000": I'm sorry, that is simply an unrealistic expectation even in a wealthy community like Roseville. 350 people is a lot of people! Reality can be hard....

Holiday Spending Debate

I like this map feature on the Granite Bay News. Today's hot question is:
Will you spend more or less on holiday shopping this year?
Votes as of 12:07 PM, 12/17/10 show 1,158 saying "More!" (mostly in the northern Great Plains) and 3,507 saying "Less!" (just about everywhere else).

Meanwhile, Granite Bay is currently undecided about today's hot question, with zero saying "More!" and zero saying "Less!"

Trouble In Provo

Spiritual heart of the community:
Firefighters are battling a blaze at the historic Provo Tabernacle in Utah.

Fire Battalion Chief Gary Jolley tells the Daily Herald of Provo that crews have the fire, which broke out early Friday, contained but not controlled.

The fire collapsed the roof of the gabled landmark. Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield says there is serious structural damage to walls, peaks and gables of the building.

The history of the Mormon building dates to the 1880s. It was renovated in the 1980s.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, church spokesman Scott Trotter calls the fire tragic. He says the damage appears severe and that it's unclear whether the building can be saved.

Snowfall Totals For Recent Lake-Effect Event

Jerry sends this astonishing map!

As he has mentioned, when winds are from the north, and you have the entire fetch of Lake Michigan from which winds can gather moisture, breath-taking totals are possible!

Kylie Minogue - Confide In Me (North America Tour : Aphrodite Deluxe DVD)

I recently purchased Kylie's "Aphrodite" CD/DVD, and her rendition of 'Confide In Me' here is an acting highlight. Every city had its own cityscape backdrop (I saw the Las Vegas and Oakland shows on the 2009 North American Tour, but the skytower in the backdrop identifies this clip as being from the Toronto show).

Kelis - Acapella

Really nice concept, good singing, fine costumes - excellent!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Plethora Of Pineapples!

Wow! This is going to be a wet week!

Two discrete storms will pass through California by Tuesday, but there is also a long, long train of moisture out there over the Pacific that will pass through afterwards, generating lots and lots of orographically-induced precipitation in the Sierra Nevada. And the moisture will come from tropical latitudes too, from just east of Hawaii.... Christmas might be clear, but the process could repeat before New Year's Eve....

In other words, in addition to two significant storms, we will also experience a classic Pineapple Express! Remember 1997? Here we go again! Time to gather the animals, two by two....

Joe The Plumber Agonistes

Joe is a Plumber, but I enlisted him (and co-worker) to construct my new front porch back in September (yes, the recession has ensnared Joe The Plumber too, and work is light for him these days).

Nevertheless, the porch has been retaining rainwater at the western end (Joe's feud with his co-worker just before starting work on the western end may have undermined porch-repair planning), so several weeks ago he made an effort to correct it. (The effort was not sufficient for success.)

So, today, with vast flooding rains right around the corner, I stayed home from work and we made a third, and last, and hopefully-successful effort to correct the porch's drainage deficiencies.

Work got off to a slow start (a little less yada-yada-yada would have helped, but whaddya gonna do? - I mean, it's Joe the Freakin' Plumber!), so, by nightfall, he was hurriedly rushing to finish the job. Joe the Plumber was under stress.

Joe had his black Labrador Retriever, Bella, beside him when he worked. Bella did not have a leash on. A lady was walking her two dogs past the house when Bella came bounding down the porch steps to greet the two dogs with a hearty canine hello. The lady over-reacted to the abrupt approach of Bella, and freaked....

A minute later, Joe called me from the back yard, where I was busy raking leaves. "She raised her hand to hit my dog! I told her 'don't hit my dog!' Then we started yelling at each other. She threatened to call the police. I gave her my cell phone and told her to go ahead and call the police: I have nothing to hide!"

I thought: "Uh, oh! Diplomacy is not Joe's strong suit." So I headed out front to see what was going on....

The irate lady on the sidewalk was holding Joe's cell phone. I identified myself as the property owner. The lady said "911 suggested I call Animal Control, and I'm on hold with them at the moment." Joe said: "MY dog did NOT threaten YOUR dogs!" The lady said: "The law REQUIRES you to have your dog on a leash!" I said, "everyone, please CALM DOWN!"

Joe said: "Lady, you're crazy; you need psychiatric help! You're going to be sorry!" The lady replied, "are you threatening me?" Joe repeated, "you're going to be sorry!" The lady repeated, "are you threatening me?"

I intervened, and said, "Joe, PLEASE, this doesn't help! Please! Both of you!" Then more calmly to the lady, I said, "it seems to me that there has been no harm here: the dogs didn't fight, and no one's been hurt."

Mollified that she had made her point regarding leash laws and that, true enough, there had been no harm to anyone (so far, anyway), the lady handed over Joe's phone and continued on with her walk.


(If there ever was a romantic phase to this porch-repair project, it's definitely over now. Let it rain! I don't care anymore....)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Clean Getaway!

Wow! Crimes committed and the law closing in, Republicans have decided to blame a Patsy for the entire Mortgage Crisis!:
The four Republicans appointed to the commission investigating the root causes of the financial crisis plan to bypass the bipartisan panel and release their own report Wednesday, according to people familiar with the commission's work.

The Republicans, led by the commission's vice chairman, former congressman and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas, will likely focus their report on the explosive growth of subprime mortgages and the heavy role played by the federal government in pushing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase and insure them. They'll also likely focus on the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1977 law that encourages banks to lend to underserved communities, these people said.

The Republicans' report is expected to conclude that government policy helped inflate the housing bubble and that prices weren't expected to crash because the government pushed homeownership so aggressively. They say that the report will note that once the bubble burst, a financial panic followed because firms weren't adequately prepared.

...During a private commission meeting last week, all four Republicans voted in favor of banning the phrases "Wall Street" and "shadow banking" and the words "interconnection" and "deregulation" from the panel's final report, according to a person familiar with the matter and confirmed by Brooksley E. Born, one of the six commissioners who voted against the proposal.

...The shadow banking system refers to the part of the financial system in which investors and other nonbanks like hedge funds and investment firms provide credit to borrowers, as opposed to more traditional banks. Interconnection refers to the links that bind financial institutions to one another, like derivatives, borrowings, and investments.

"I certainly felt, and I think the majority of the commission felt, that deleting those phrases would impair the commissioners' ability to give a full and fair and understandable report to the American people about the causes of the financial crisis," Born said.

"Certainly, it's hard to imagine Wall Street wasn't involved," she added.

...Experts agree that while Fannie and Freddie and the federal government's push to encourage homeownership played a significant role in causing the crisis, actions by Wall Street magnified the fallout and caused a crisis that led to the Great Recession. Economists from the Federal Reserve, as well as bank regulators first appointed by Republicans, agree that the Community Reinvestment Act played virtually no role in causing the financial crisis.
First, it's important to note that the Mortgage Crisis was international in scope, affecting primarily coastal areas, in the U.S., the Meditteranean, South Africa, and Australia, among many diverse locations where the U.S. Government's reach is weak (but where Wall Street's reach is strong). Second, commercial real estate was affected just as bad, or sometimes worse, than residential real estate in the Mortgage Crisis. How could that be if RCRA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac bore sole responsibility?

The Mortgage Crisis exposed how the Entire. Freakin'. Economy. was being run as a Ponzi scheme. Picture the role of RCRA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac as being like Street Kids ushering the sappiest rubes of the neighborhood (Hispanics like myself) into a great, big meeting hall, where they would hear a Spellbinder (the Real Estate Industry) say things like "paying rent is like throwing your money down the toilet (with appropriate glug-glug sound effects), so why not buy-to-own?" The Spellbinder created mortgages from the saps' money and sent the mortgages to Wall Street. Wall Street, in turn, bundled the mortgages into investments that were then sold as safer than they really were to Clueless Investors, and made a killing. And truth be told, they'd like to do it again!

And now that blame is circling, looking for a place to land, instead of being pointed at Wall Street, or even the Spellbinder, Republicans are aiming the sole blame at the Street Kids. Now RCRA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac weren't blameless, but they certainly don't carry a majority of the blame. Come on, they were the Street Kids! Patsies!

Most of the big-money action wasn't even with the banks, but with the mortgage companies, like Countrywide, who aren't even subject to RCRA! I mean, just how stupid do they think we are? And trying to ban use of the term "Wall Street"! Ban the term! As Orwell understood long ago, the words you are permitted to use govern the thoughts you are permitted to have. Talk about thought control! Truly Orwellian!

The Kardashians Wish You A Merry Christmas!

Weasel Words Of The Day

Misunderstanding, my ass:
[Rep.-elect Allen West (R-Fla.)] told a radio audience that U.S. officials "should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled" WikiLeaks, and that such media outlets were "aiding and abetting" a "crime."

...After this generated some attention, West responded, not with an apology, but by claiming he was misunderstood.
On his Facebook page, West responded with a note claiming that he never called for censoring the media. "I am heard on the African-American Conservative Radio Show saying the media should be censured- meaning 'harshly criticized,'" wrote West.
So, West would have us believe he said U.S. officials should be "censuring" American news organizations, not "censoring."

Tragedy At Christmas Island

Severe dislocations of civilian populations, mostly resulting from our glorious war-of-choice in Iraq, continue to scatter disaster like chaff in the wind:
Shortly after dawn Wednesday, residents of an isolated Australian island community heard the screams of children just offshore.

One by one, the inhabitants of tiny Christmas Island ran to the water's edge to find scores of asylum-seekers -- their wooden boat dashed against razor-sharp rocks -- being tossed about by seas one onlooker likened to "an open washing machine."

Late Wednesday, officials were still searching for survivors and tallying the mounting deaths. So far, 27 bodies have been recovered from the water. Forty-one survivors were rescued from the sea and one passenger made it to shore of an estimated 70 on the boat.

" Australia, Australia, help, help, help!" the survivors, who authorities believe hail from Iraq and Iran, called out to bystanders garlanded along the steep limestone cliffs.

As naval rescue boats edged in to pluck survivors from the sickening swells, townsfolk made one valiant effort after another to save the lives of total strangers, according to local newspaper accounts. They lowered ropes and ladders and tossed life preservers and makeshift flotation devices into the water.

But winds from a nearby cyclone blew many of the preservers back into their faces. Those that did reach panicked passengers, most of whom apparently couldn't swim, were often of little help.

..."There are bodies all over the water," one resident told the Western Australian newspaper. "There are dead babies, dead women and dead children. The swell is unbelievably big."

Christmas Island, a phosphate mining center about 1,600 miles northwest of Perth, is home to Australia's main offshore immigration detention center. The island has about 1,400 residents, most of them living near the community of Flying Fish Cove.

The refugee issue has divided Australia and played a role in recent parliamentary elections, where one conservative candidate campaigned on a platform to "stop the boats." As many as 6,000 undocumented boat refugees arrive in the country each year.

The Rain Machine Firing Up!

Starting on Friday, we are going to see a series of storms that mean rain almost every day until Christmas, at a minimum, and maybe last much longer, until New Year's Day perhaps, or even beyond! The first storm doesn't seem to have much upper-level support, but second storm sure will! Basically, by New Year's Day, we'll be looking for Noah....

2005-09 Census Tract Data, On Maps

Great new tool to explore racial diversity where you live!

The Collapse Of Journalism - Relying On What People Tell Us

Living in a fact-free universe hurts us all:
To understand how badly we’re doing the most basic work of journalism in covering the law enforcement beat, try sitting in a barbershop. When I was getting my last haircut, the noon news on the television—positioned to be impossible to avoid watching—began with a grisly murder. The well-educated man in the chair next to me started ranting about how crime is out of control.

But it isn’t. I told Frank, a regular, that crime isn’t running wild and his chance of being burglarized today is less than one quarter what it was in 1980. The shop turned so quiet you could have heard a hair fall to the floor had the scissors not stopped. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: Upon further checking, I learned that the chance of getting burglarized today is actually 42.5 percent of what it was in 1980.)

...“So why is there so much crime on the news every day?” Diane, who was cutting Frank’s hair, asked.

“Because it’s cheap,” I replied. “And with crime news you only have to get the cops’ side of the story. There is no ethical duty to ask the arrested for their side of the story.”

Cheap news is a major reason that every day we are failing in our core mission of providing people with the knowledge they need for our democracy to function. Barry Glassner, in an important book every journalist should read, tells us how cheap news badly done spreads false beliefs and racial distrust. It’s been a decade since he came out with “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things.” By my sights, the problems Glassner described have gotten worse, much worse.

Beats are fundamental to journalism, but our foundation is crumbling. Whole huge agencies of the federal government and, for many news organizations, the entirety of state government go uncovered. There are school boards and city councils and planning commissions that have not seen a reporter in years. The outrageous salaries that were paid to Bell, California city officials—close to $800,000 to the city manager, for example—would not have happened if just one competent reporter had been covering that city hall in Southern California. But no one was, and it took an accidental set of circumstances for two reporters from the Los Angeles Times to reveal this scandal.

...Increasingly what I see are news reports evidencing a basic lack of knowledge about government....Far too much of journalism consists of quoting what police, prosecutors, politicians and publicists say—and this is especially the case with beat reporters. It’s news on the cheap and most of it isn’t worth the time it takes to read, hear or watch. Don’t take my word for it. Instead look at declining circulation figures. People know value and they know when what they’re getting is worth their time or worth the steadily rising cost of a subscription.

...Far too much of what we produce today is already widely known. We fill so many pages with rehashed or known information that on many days these publications could properly be called oldspapers. It’s not like there isn’t important and revealing news all around us. There is. It’s just that we seem swept up in a herd mentality with too narrow a focus and too much eagerness to rely on what sources tell us rather than asking these same people to address important facts that lie in plain sight in the public record.

Much of what passes for reporting about government these days is not only information that is useless, it is laughable nonsense, and I have the coffee stains on my robe to prove it.

...What these stories have in common is a reliance on what sources say rather than what the official record shows.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jerry's Operative Word Is "Snow!"

Jerry's up in northern Indiana, and the white stuff is on his mind. So I asked him:
Where are you located, precisely? What town?

I was talking to some folks from DeKalb County, IL, and they surprised me by saying lake effect snow is rather rare where they are. Maybe it’s because they are too far west?
He replied:

Mishawaka (adjacent to South Bend) is located in extreme northern Indiana, about 30 miles or so east of the southern tip of Lake Michigan. In order for us to get significant lake effect snow, the wind has to be from the northwest (as it is today!). Yesterday, however, the wind was almost due northerly and very steady, so the area just south of the lake got hammered. As the winds in these polar outbreaks are generally from the northwest quadrant, it is rare for Illinois to get significant lake effect snow.
I replied:
Mishawaka! I had forgotten!

There was an interesting news story about people trapped on the freeway up there.
He updated today's report with:
One town about 30 miles east of here (Wanatah, IN) received 33 inches of snow over a three-day period!

When the wind is from the north, the fetch is the entire length of Lake Michigan, so amazing totals are possible.

"The Secret"

On Saturday, I watched "The Secret" film on DVD.

I'm the wrong one for this stuff. I'm w-a-a-a-ay too secular! Hardly a spiritual bone left!

Part of this reminds me what the hippie Buddhists who lived next-door were peddling when I was a teenager (but with better cinematographic values). And you couldn't fault the hippie Buddhists either (they got in on the Indian jewelry boom of the early-70's, and prospered, when the rest of us were edging towards hunger), but I attribute that to timing, not message.

The Law of Attraction seems a little different than related laws offered by the evangelical Buddhists, but I just have NO ability to focus on it. No focus means no education.

For me, The Secret remains - The Secret....

YouTube's Number One Video Of 2010

Phone conversation:
J.: You've got to E-Mail them and find out how they promoted their video so that it became YouTube's Number One video of all of 2010!

M.: They receive a comment on their video about every ten seconds. Why should they answer me?

J.: You never know until you try!

M.: Why should I care? It started locally, and then it blew up. There is no surefire secret to make a meme go viral. It usually happens because there is something unique and entertaining about the video. It's something you can't plan!

J.: So, how do we get their secret?

M.: There's no secret! If you could determine in advance which videos go viral, everyone's videos would go viral. But most don't.

J.: We've got to know!
So, how did "Bed Intruder" become 2010's equivalent to the Ebola virus?:
“Kelly and Antoine may be victims but they are fearless,” Kenyatta told me. “They both take control of the camera and call out their attacker. They issue a call to action telling people in their community to look out for the perpetrator. And yes, Antoine may not seem traditionally articulate, but he uses his time on camera to be performative and create spectacle and that gets our attention. In that sense, he's probably more effective in getting his message out there than a more traditional community 'representative' would ever be.

J. Had A Party

I got to the party late, so conversation had already was turning to more-depressing matters. J. was unhappy with the settlement she received after suing for dental surgery malpractice. Party-goers urged her to sue again regarding unresolved matters in the law suit. Amongst the older crowd, litigation rules!

As I get older, parties just don't seem like the carefree events I remember when I was younger....

7th Annual "Nuts And Berries" Fundraiser For The Wildlife Care Association (WCA)

This WCA volunteer described himself as "An Owl From The 1970's." I still remember the 1970's. I think I remember this owl too (which reminds me of the old saw that if you can remember the 1960's you weren't really there).

On Sunday evening, I went to the Lion's Gate Hotel at McClellan Park for the 7th annual "Nuts And Berries" fundraising event for the Wildlife Care Association (WCA). This is the first time I've attended any WCA fundraising event.

The WCA are the first responders in the Sacramento region when injured or stranded wildlife are picked up by people. They have veterinarians and other volunteers working with them who stabilize, heal, and release birds and other animals back into the wild. Animals often have eccentric health needs and diets that make them a challenge for average people to care for, but the WCA folks have experience in these matters (my fledgling Scrub Jay encounters over the last four years have led me to their important work). I also brought over an assortment of blankets and flannel bed sheets to lay under their Christmas Tree for donation.

The "Nuts And Berries" fundraiser features an enormous Silent Auction - the biggest Silent Auction I have ever seen! Baskets and boxes of donated merchandise are assembled by volunteers and packaged into pleasing bundles for purchase.

I really wanted this stuffed penguin featured for raffle (it looks like a life size Hoiho penguin from New Zealand), but alas, fate conspired to send a nice Christmas Basket to me instead.

I also purchased two boxes, plus jewelry, and a handsome vase. I purchased more than was prudent, but that is what one does for worthy organizations!

I admired a nice sculpture secured by one woman's successful bid. My memory was that the sculpture was one of the most-sought after items at the Silent Auction. The woman demurred, and said only three bids were offered, but I noted that that number of offers exceeded most. In her opinion, people just weren't making many bids this year, due to penny-pinching tendencies in the recession, but my take was that there was such a bounty of merchandise being offered that there just weren't enough people available to purchase it all. So, competition was thin, but it also meant you could purchase almost what you wanted (it's true, I missed out on the 1000-piece duck jigsaw puzzle, but I did get the Eagle box instead, which was quite handsome).

At one point, I was cornered by two DMTC Season Ticket holders, who asked me what I was doing there. I explained "I like birds." They smiled and released me back into the wild of the "Nuts and Berries" event.

WCA bird enthusiast Doug Forbes brought this leucistic crow for everyone to admire (leucism is one step short of albinism - the bird can't produce BLACK pigmentation). The bird's distinctive whitish appearance renders it too vulnerable for release back into the wild.

Peace on Earth & The Little Drummer Boy

David Bowie (Will Ferrell) visits Bing Crosby (John C. Reilly) during the holidays to sing a duet of two Christmas classics, Peace on Earth & The Little Drummer Boy.

Some commentary, plus original collaboration.

Enjoy The "Titanic" While You Can

Going, going...:
Nearly 100 years after it struck an iceberg and sank, the Titanic has a new enemy: iron-eating bacteria.

A newly discovered microbe dubbed Halomonas titanicae is chewing its way through the wreck of the famous ship and leaving little behind except a fine dust, researchers report in today's issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

The hungry bug means that the wreck of the Titanic could vanish from the ocean floor far sooner than anyone expected.

"In 1995, I was predicting that Titanic had another 30 years," said Henrietta Mann, a civil engineering adjunct professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "It's deteriorating much faster than that now."

DMTC's 2nd Annual Poker Tournament

On Friday night, December 10th, DMTC hosted its second annual Poker Tournament fundraiser. Nick Johnson (pictured) was the overall big winner.

There were fewer participants than last year (35, vs. 50 or so last year), but our new liquor license, plus better management of most aspects of the event, allowed us to capture just about as money as last year (I'm still working on that report). So, from my green eyeshade point-of-view, the fundraising event was a big success!

Judith Shearman (pictured) placed second in the tournament. Judith always seemed to me to be as bright, sunny, and guileless as a springtime afternoon, and seeing her place second here suggests I may not really know her at all!

Entertainment was provided by DMTC singers (Eimi Taormina pictured here with arms outstretched, together with Christina Rae, Christine Deamer, Brittany Bickel, and Mariana Seda), and accompanied by Chris Congdon on keyboard.

On The Passing Of Richard Holbrooke

The sudden death of Richard Holbrooke leaves a gaping hole in American foreign policy at an important time:
World leaders on Tuesday praised U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke for engineering the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war — Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II — and for seeking to bring stability to war-torn Afghanistan.

Even Holbrooke's main opponent in the war in Bosnia, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, expressed "sadness and regret" over Holbrooke's unexpected death Monday following surgery for a tear in his aorta. Karadzic had been hoping to call Holbrooke to testify in his genocide trial.

But in Afghanistan, the Taliban rejoiced at news of his death, claiming it was caused by failures in the U.S.-led war there and Holbrooke's "grappling with a constant psychological stress" from his position as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The protracted Afghan war and the descending trajectory of the Americans' handling of the warfare in the country had a lethal dent on Holbrooke's health," the group said on jihadi Web sites monitored by SITE Intelligence Group, a private U.S.-based group that tracks Islamic militant communications.

...Not all Bosnians admired Holbrooke's efforts to achieve peace, arguing that the multiethnic state he set up as part of the Dayton peace process had proven too unwieldy for effective governance.

"He was instrumental in bringing peace to Bosnia. An unjust peace, but still a peace," said Haris Silajdzic, Bosnia's wartime foreign minister who participated in the Dayton negotiations.

But Sarajevo's citizens, who suffered a 3 1/2-year siege during the Bosnian war that killed thousands, were more positive about Holbrooke's legacy.

"The Dayton agreement was reached to end the war, but it is no longer good for us and the time has come to change it," said Dalila Cikusic, a Sarajevo resident. "But that has nothing to do with Holbrooke, we must do it ourselves ... as far as Richard is concerned, I only have words of praise for him."

In Kosovo, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has proposed naming a square after Holbrooke in the capital of Pristina for his role in helping the province gain independence from Serbia.

The Face Gets It

Hugh Jackman gets distracted:
Live television showed Jackman sliding down a cable from the top of the Sydney Opera House towards a giant outdoor stage, but he failed to stop, crashing into the stage's light rigging and hurting his face.

"That was so much fun, until the end," joked Jackman, famed for his tough Wolverine role.

Jackman, later sporting a small bandage under his eye, told Winfrey that the excitement of sliding down the cable caused him to brake too late.

"I came down waving to everyone, looking over Sydney Harbour, saw my dad, the kids and you (Winfrey), went to pull the brake and then boing," he said.
Plus, the perils of no rehearsal:
[Usher] brought an ecstatic female fan onstage for a serenade of his sensual song "Trading Places" at Madison Square Garden. He sat her on a couch while he caressed her.

Then, after they changed positions, the overexcited fan tried to move her leg to get closer to him. Her stiletto boot heel knocked him in the nose.

The fan tried to smooth things over by massaging Usher's face, but there was no need: Usher wasn't hurt and cracked a joke about it.

Time To Swap The Chips

Daring, but ultimately futile:
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas police are looking for an armed casino bandit who escaped on a motorcycle with perhaps $2 million worth of gambling chips from the posh Bellagio hotel-casino.

Police Lt. Clinton Nichols told The Associated Press the robbery happened quickly.

He says the bandit wore a full-face motorcycle helmet as he displayed a gun in a casino pit area then demanded chips and sped away on Flamingo Road on a black sport-style motorcycle.

Big Storms Coming This Weekend

Starting on Friday, and lasting for at least a week. Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain!

Monday, December 13, 2010

"The Nutcracker" - Sacramento Ballet, 2010

A large audience gathered for Saturday afternoon's (Dec. 11) performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Sacramento Convention Center Theater.

I was very surprised to see this performance's Clara (Claire Westerman) available at intermission for photos and autographs. Normally, dancers wouldn't have time for such niceties, but fortunately Clara doesn't have to be onstage at the top of Act II.

Sacramento Ballet has done its utmost, particularly over the last several years, to cater to its audience, to the point where it is almost on the verge of causing itself harm, but that is what you do when you realize just how much you rely on your audience! No one can complain about Sacramento Ballet being too aloof!

Taking questions.

Charles Krauthammer Sees Defeat Where Other Conservatives See Victory

I wish Charles Krauthammer was right about this, but he didn't get the reputation of being "The Man Who Is Wrong About Everything" for no reason:
Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 - and House Democrats don't have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years - which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. This is a defeat?

...Some Republicans are crowing that Stimulus II is the Republican way - mostly tax cuts - rather than the Democrats' spending orgy of Stimulus I. That's consolation? This just means that Republicans are two years too late. Stimulus II will still blow another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.

...Obama is no fool. While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection chances, he gets them to make a mockery of their newfound, second-chance, post-Bush, Tea-Party, this-time-we're-serious persona of debt-averse fiscal responsibility.

Why Wikileaks Scares Governments

It's not about the content of the leaks, but who gets to tell the story:
But then, WikiLeaks isn't about the details of the story. It's about who gets to be the storyteller.

In the traditional view (as outline by Dick Cheney), nations are sovereigns. And as sovereigns they're subject to the control of... well, nothing and nobody. At least nothing short of the forceful action of another sovereign. Think of them as a race of giants, stomping around the world, swinging swords and clubs. That they occasionally stomp across individuals isn't just forgivable, it's inconsequential. Like Li Qiming, they're more concerned about the damage to their paint jobs than the effects on the little people they run over.

The government, and conservatives in particular, are concerned about WikiLeaks because you believe them. You accept the documents coming from WikiLeaks as the unvarnished truth in a way that you would not accept the same documents if they were produced by "official sources." And for good reason. In an age where you know for certain that the view of the world you get from the government is not just filled with, but utterly dependent on "spin" (in other words, narrative) you can't be allowed to see the story without it.

...It's not that the contents of the WikiLeaks documents threatens US diplomatic efforts, it's that the existence of organizations like WikiLeaks and the increasing ability of individuals to counter "official" information threatens the ability of sovereigns to continue defining the core of their own story.

The giants have discovered that the individuals underfoot have created grappling hooks and lines. Worse, they have their own pens and paper. The sovereigns are very, very concerned about that. And what they'll do to make sure the pen stays in their over-sized hands is... anything at all.

The Neighborly Thing

It wasn't until rain started falling that a critical weakness of the refurbished porch became evident: it didn't have a consistent slope and water pooled at the western end. Joe the Plumber became obsessed with the flaw in his creation and begged for time to carry out repairs. I tend to be pretty fatalistic about engineering flaws, and was in no hurry, but Joe persisted. This weekend I gave the go-ahead to effect repairs.

But it was hard to keep Joe focused on the job. Saturday afternoon, I came out onto the front porch, and found him shouting at the lady next door, who was trying to hang Christmas lights. Joe turned to me and shouted: "Hey Marc! I've been hitting on your next door neighbor!". I rolled my eyes and gamely replied: "That's nice! That's the neighborly thing to do!"

The lady next door smiled. Truth is, I think she liked the attention.