Saturday, December 25, 2010

Body Image, And Christmas Shopping 2010

Left: I KNEW there was a trick to all this!

I spent some time at the Arden Fair Macy's on Dec. 23rd. Didn't buy anything, but it was my patriotic duty to be there, encouraging everyone else there to be spendthrifts. Instead, I spent my time ambling through the aisles, E-Mailing my sister about her fondness for "New Moon", and stepping on the feet of elderly Filipina women shoppers as I did so.

On Dec. 21st, I was at the Truxel Wal-Mart. Fairly quiet there, except for an exchange between a very slender three-year-old girl, and her five-year-old brother:

Three-Year-Old Girl: I'm fat!
Her Baffled Brother: No, you're not!
Three-Year-Old Girl: Yes, I am!
Her Baffled Brother: No, you're not!
Three-Year-Old Girl (running down the aisle of Wal-Mart): I'm F-A-A-A-A-A-A-T!
Not sure what it all means, except maybe that consciousness about body image starts pretty early in our consumer society!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Ketones Reared Their Ugly Head, Friends And Family Turned Tail And Fled

Thinking, once again, about ketones:
They are called ketones, and entering into a fat-burning state of ketosis is the hallmark of the Atkins diet.

..."Carbohydrates aren't readily available, so you start to use other fats and proteins as your source of energy, and as a result you are going to get a breath problem," explains Kenneth Burrell, DDS, the senior director of the council on scientific affairs of the American Dental Association.

NOW He Tells Us....

Pat Robertson goes all soft and squishy about pot. About time:
Opening a segment on faith-based prison rehabilitation on his show The 700 Club this week, Robertson noted that many conservatives look at drug addicts and "think 'lock 'em up, throw away the key,' after which he played a segment highlighting how religious influence could help rehabilitate criminals that regularly end up behind bars. "We're probably spending more on prisons than on education," the segment notes, and argues that, given the "50% failure rate" of the prison system (a statistic based on one claiming that 50% of all prisoners end up committing a second crime), it's time for a change in the way prisoners are handled, this time with less "secular" appeal and with more of a biblical approach.

At the end of the segment, Robertson rails against conservative politicians who he says run on a "tough on crime" philosophy that wins votes but is ultimately "not the answer." Beyond putting criminals behind bars, he argues, "we've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes":

Julian Assange, Planetary Hacker

Bruce Sterling has written the best essay of the year. Just a few excerpts:
Way back in 1992, a brainy American hacker called Timothy C. May made up a sci-fi tinged idea that he called “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto.” This exciting screed — I read it at the time, and boy was it ever cool — was all about anonymity, and encryption, and the Internet, and all about how wacky data-obsessed subversives could get up to all kinds of globalized mischief without any fear of repercussion from the blinkered authorities. If you were of a certain technoculture bent in the early 1990s, you had to love a thing like that.

...Later, May described an institution called “BlackNet” which might conceivably carry out these aims.

...Now, Tim May and his imaginary BlackNet were the sci-fi extrapolation version of the NSA. A sort of inside-out, hippiefied NSA. ... Creating a BlackNet is like having a pet, desktop NSA. Except, that instead of being a vast, federally-supported nest of supercomputers under a hill in Maryland, it’s a creaky, homemade, zero-budget social-network site for disaffected geeks.

...Now we must contemplate Bradley Manning, because he was the first to immolate himself. ... It did not occur to his superiors that a bored soldier in a poorly secured computer system would download hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Because, well, why? They’re very boring. Soldiers never read them. The malefactor has no use for them. They’re not particularly secret.

...Instead, he’s very like Jerome Kerviel, that obscure French stock trader who stole 5 billion euros without making one dime for himself. Jerome Kerviel, just like Bradley Manning, was a bored, resentful, lower-echelon guy in a dead end, who discovered some awesome capacities in his system that his bosses never knew it had.

...The reason this upsets me is that I know so many people just like Bradley Manning. Because I used to meet and write about hackers, “crackers,” “darkside hackers,” “computer underground” types.

...Instead, Bradley had to leak all over the third rail. ... He’s got about as much to do with the political aspects of his war as Monica Lewinsky did with the lasting sexual mania that afflicts the American Republic.

That is so dispiriting and ugly. As a novelist, I never think of Monica Lewinsky, that once-everyday young woman, without a sense of dread at the freakish, occult fate that overtook her. ... Monica, too, transgressed in apparent safety and then she had the utter foolishness to brag to a lethal enemy, a trusted confidante who ran a tape machine and who brought her a mediated circus of hells. [T]hink of the quotidian daily horror of being Monica Lewinsky, and that should take a bite from the soul.

...Then there is Julian Assange, who is a pure-dye underground computer hacker. Julian doesn’t break into systems at the moment, but he’s not an “ex-hacker,” he’s the silver-plated real deal, the true avant-garde. Julian is a child of the underground hacker milieu, the digital-native as twenty-first century cypherpunk. As far as I can figure, Julian has never found any other line of work that bore any interest for him.

...I can recognize him as pure triple-A outsider geek. Man, I know a thousand modern weirdos like that, and every single one of them seems to be on my Twitter stream screaming support for Assange because they can recognize him as a brother and a class ally. ... He didn’t just insult the captain of the global football team; he put spycams in the locker room. He showed the striped-pants set without their pants. This a massively embarrassing act of technical voyeurism. It’s like Monica and her stains and kneepads, only even more so.

...Unfortunately for the US State Department, they clearly shouldn’t have been messing with computers, either. In setting up their SIPRnet, they were trying to grab the advantages of rapid, silo-free, networked communication while preserving the hierarchical proprieties of official confidentiality. That’s the real issue, that’s the big modern problem; national governments and global computer networks don’t mix any more.

...Now the US State Department has walked down the thorny road to hell that was first paved by the music industry. Rock and roll, baby. ... Diplomats have become weak in the way that musicians are weak. ... The one grand certainty about the consumers of Cablegate is that diplomats are gonna be reading those stolen cables ... because they were supposed to read them anyway, even though they didn’t. Now, they’ve got to read them, with great care, because they might get blindsided otherwise by some wisecrack that they typed up years ago.

...This stark fact makes them all into hackers. Yes, just like Julian. They’re all indebted to Julian for this grim thing that he did, and as they sit there hunched over their keyboards, drooling over their stolen goodies, they’re all, without exception, implicated in his doings. Assange is never gonna become a diplomat, but he’s arranged it so that diplomats henceforth are gonna be a whole lot more like Assange. They’ll behave just like him.

...Diplomats are people who speak from nation to nation. They personify nations, and nations are brutal, savage, feral entities. Diplomats used to have something in the way of an international community, until the Americans decided to unilaterally abandon that in pursuit of Bradley Manning’s oil war. Now nations are so badly off that they can’t even get it together to coherently tackle heroin, hydrogen bombs, global warming and financial collapse. Not to mention the Internet.

...But the American diplomatic corps, and all it thinks it represents, is just collateral damage between Assange and his goal. He aspires to his transparent crypto-utopia in the way George Bush aspired to imaginary weapons of mass destruction. And the American diplomatic corps are so many Iraqis in that crusade. They’re the civilian casualties.

...For diplomats, a massive computer leak is not the kind of sunlight that chases away corrupt misbehavior; it’s more like some dreadful shift in the planetary atmosphere that causes ultraviolet light to peel their skin away. ... It’s the damage to the institutions that is spooky and disheartening; after the Lewinsky eruption, every American politician lives in permanent terror of a sex-outing. That’s “transparency,” too; it’s the kind of ghastly sex-transparency that Julian himself is stuck crotch-deep in. The politics of personal destruction hasn’t made the Americans into a frank and erotically cheerful people. On the contrary, the US today is like some creepy house of incest divided against itself in a civil cold war. “Transparency” can have nasty aspects; obvious, yet denied; spoken, but spoken in whispers. Very Edgar Allen Poe.

House Washes Away In Littlefield, Arizona

Extreme northwest Arizona, along I-15 between Las Vegas, NV and St. George, UT.

10,000th Post

According to Blogger, my 'Foolish Optimist' post was my 10,000th post since I started this blog on October 13, 2002 (making it older than Facebook, and it hasn't generated a nickel yet, but it's still an abiding interest!)

Social Network parody (Facebook) - uShip Shipping Network

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Next Storm

The storm coming in on Christmas Day will have the sense to wait until after sunset to arrive.

Good To Get It All Out The System Before The New Year

Foolish Optimist

President Barack Obama:
"We are not doomed to endless gridlock"
With the new Congress, yes we are! Two solid years of it, leading up to 2012! But with the cudgel of the Dream Act and the growing importance of Hispanic voters in some locations there might be some limited progress over the next two years. Obama again:

"Maybe my biggest disappointment" was failure of the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. ...

"I'm persistent," Obama said. At a minimum, "we should be able to get the Dream Act done."

Stuck With A Bunch Of Loser Positions, GOP Caves At Last Possible Instant

Don't know where they thought they were going with all of this, but they finally realized they were boxed in:
Today in the Senate, they passed (by unanimous consent) the defense authorization bill that Republicans held up over objections to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell just two short weeks ago; they passed by a voice vote the 9/11 First Responders Health bill that had been the subject of so much drama and debate; and they passed by a 71-26 vote the START nuclear treaty with Russia despite Republican objections to that as well.

And, for good measure, they are currently voting to confirm Mary Helen Murguia to be a judge in the Ninth Circuit.

Update: At 3:40, they confirmed Murguia.
And this video is fun too. Barney Frank responds to the weighty question about gay and straight soldiers showering together in the military:

Plus, Barney Frank speaks to the "radical homosexual agenda":
“Four years ago, a Republican running for Congress in Indiana said don’t vote for his Democratic opponent because if he won, Nancy Pelosi would become speaker and she would let me enact the radical homosexual agenda,” Rep. Frank told the audience on Tuesday.

“So, let me own up to that agenda. It’s to be protected against violent crimes driven by bigotry. It’s to be able to get married. It’s to be able to get a job and it’s to be able to fight for our country. Hey, for those, for those who are worried about the radical homosexual agenda, let me put them on notice – two down, two to go.”

Senator Harry Reid Returns Lt. Dan Choi's Ring Upon Repeal Of DADT

DADT was a misbegotten policy that required people to lie as a part of their jobs, and thus was at odds with sound military discipline.

Jerry Brown, Neighbor

Wei noticed the KCRA Channel 3 TV truck, and checked it out. Apparently, Jerry Brown will take up residence just two blocks from where we both work. It is conceivable we might see him out-and-about town:
Gov.-elect Jerry Brown and his wife have chosen an upscale, midtown loft for their Sacramento residence.

The one-bedroom unit is at 16th and J streets, near the Capitol and across from Memorial Auditorium, a source said.

Brown was spotted last week visiting the 1530 J St. building, a renovated, one-time automobile dealership building. On the ground floor are two restaurants, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Mikuni Japanese Restaurant.

Twenty-Six Republican Nihilist Senators

From Wikipedia:
An important sub-branch of political nihilism advocates a dissolution of the current power systems, as in the previously described political nihilism, but then asserts the need for new systems to be remade from scratch.

Something about Russian dissidents in 1842 espousing nihilistic viewpoints. Here is a relevant quote Russian Nihilist Dmitri Pisarev:
"Here is the ultimatum of our camp. What can be smashed must be smashed; whatever will stand the blow is sound, what flies into smithereens is rubbish; at any rate, hit out right and left, no harm will or can come of it."
and another summary one "the negation of what exists ... for the benefit of the future which does not exist" - Russian anarchist Bakunin, 1842.

Having TWENTY SIX U.S. Senators who place partisan Republican loyalty above their loyalty to the United States of America is a real problem for the country - far more problematic than a few terrorists running around with plastic explosives in their underwear. John Kerry speaks:
I would say to my friend from Kentucky: Just because you say it, doesn’t make it true. Our friends on the other side of the aisle have a habit of repeating things that have been completely refuted by every fact there is. ... The facts are that this treaty is not being rushed.

This treaty has been delayed at the request of Republicans. It was delayed 13 times... to have more time to deal with the modernization issue, which the administration has completely, totally, thoroughly dealt with in good faith. I’d like to know where the good faith comes from on the other side. They [the administration] put extra money in, they sat and negotiated, they sent people to Arizona to brief Senator Kyl personally. For weeks we delayed the process of moving forward on this treaty in order accommodate our friends on the other side of the aisle. And now fully accommodated, with their requests entirely met, they come back and say ‘oh its being rushed.’ Well Mr. President today marks our sixth day of debate on the New START treaty. That’s a fact. ... I mean is there no shame.

Fun On Twitter

My recent post on "The Runaways" seems to be popular on Twitter today. Kristen Stewart seems to have a big following of fans spanning the entire Earth that I knew nothing about heretofore.

This is the first time I've had any real contact with Twitter. I've never had much interest in Twitter: the tight constraint on characters seemed a big turnoff to a stream-of-consciousness guy like myself. But tight constraints are a spur to artistic innovation. I suppose Twitter is the Web's equivalent to haiku!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"No Strings Attached" Movie Trailer

Movie with Sacramento's Greta Gerwig about to hit the theaters. I don't think I approve of the lame concept (which just probably means it will be a hit).

The Secret Of Why I Recently Went To Mexico Is Out!

Like Julian Assange has been demonstrating, it's hard to keep a secret forever! The cruise-ship trip was just a cover!

But, wait a minute, I thought I was one of the more "Viva Aztlan!" type of folks. This write-up suggests otherwise. I dunno, I guess I'll just have to read the book:
Dallas Police Detective Mark Valdez isn't just any cop - he's a psychic who knows that the cattle mutilations and torture murders he's been investigating are somehow tied together. He also knows that his meager psychic abilities aren't enough to identify the killers, much less stop them.

Luckily, Mark has an ace up his sleeve: an attractive young romance novelist who happens to be a practicing witch. And not just any witch, either - Diana Tregarde is a Guardian, charged with protecting the Earth and all its creatures.

Using modern science and ancient magics, Diana and Mark discover that they are tailing no ordinary serial killer but the awakened avatar of an Aztec god. Tezcatlipoca and his four beautiful hand-maidens are preparing for a great sacrifice that will transform North America into a new Aztec realm.

Diana isn't sure her powers are strong enough to take on those of a risen Aztec god, but she has no choice. As a Guardian, she is sworn to protect mankind, even at the cost of her own life. Luckily, she does not stand alone. Mark Valdez is more than just a cop. And Tezcatlipoca is not the only Aztec god walking in the world.

The Legacy Of Racism, And Haley Barbour's Comments

Yglesias summarizes what Haley Barbour was trying to say:
I think both what Barbour said and the context were pretty clear. In Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s most white people were white supremacists. And within the large and powerful white supremacist community, there was a split between more moderate and more radical factions. The moderates pursued a strategy of economic coercion and the radicals pursued a strategy of violence. There was also a small minority of white proponents of racial equality. In Barbour’s home town of Yazoo City, Mississippi the moderate faction of white supremacists had the upper hand. And Barbour thinks the strength of moderate white supremacists helped create a beneficial political atmosphere in his hometown.
Barbour may well have been correct that the Citizens Councils helped keep the peace in Yazoo City, but it's important to remember what kind of (unjust) peace that was, and who benefitted most from that kind of peace (namely, white folks like Barbour).

The legacy of racism lives on, coming alive in any number of ways, even when least expected. Like William Faulkner said:
The past is never dead. It's not even past.
The White Supremacists of the South are older now, and their numbers have dwindled with time, but in many cases they are still alive, or they have left their educational legacies through their children. It takes a long, long time for that history to pass away....

I remember about 25 years ago, when I lived in Tucson, being invited to the cabin of a fellow I knew, Dr. T., and discovering that he possessed an entire library of segregationist literature. Wow! I had no idea how vast a field white supremacist literature covered, or how many titles there were! So many cover illustrations dwelled on Big Lips! Kinky Hair! Outside Agitators! Egads!

I knew Dr. T. had been born in Alabama, but apart from a few clues, I didn't realize how he still felt about race, as well as some of modern life's other, more-questionable innovations. (Some things tickled his fancy, like his discovery one day that a local punk-rock band's acronym - UPS - stood for Useless Pieces of Shit. He laughed about that for months....)

I remember one hot summer day when I was trying to fix my VW Bug, and I had stuck my head into the engine compartment to check the carburetor. I thought there might be a blockage there, so I stuck my lips into the carburetor's intake, to make a better seal, and I was blowing hard into it. Dr. T. came up from behind me to ask a question. I spun around with a serious expression on my face. The dirty carburetor intake had left a perfect dark ring all around my dour, white-person lips, creating something of a Reverse, or Negative Blackface Effect. No happy tune from this unsuitable minstrel! Dr. T. gasped with surprise and fell into heap, he was laughing so hard.

Racism lives on, sometimes in the strangest of ways!

Don't We All

Julian Assange:
"I just really like women."


The Land of Enchantment gets crowded:
[D]ata released Tuesday by the Census Bureau, ... lists New Mexico's population at 2,059,179 residents. Census officials say that figure reflects a 13.2 percent increase over the population in 2000, which was 1,819,046.

The increase in New Mexico followed a national trend that showed 13.8 percent growth in Western states.

Architects Survey The Damage

The Cleveland Clinic (under construction in this October, 2009 photo), which will focus on the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's Disease.

Vast empires that crash always leave fanciful debris in their wake. Most of the debris is terrible to look at, but they are right regarding the aesthetic challenge and beauty of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health: it's a wonderful creation!:

Robert Fielden, who moved to Las Vegas to be an architect in 1964, isn’t bitter about what has happened to his city. For the most part, when he passes the half-finished eyesores and fully finished absurdities that dot the landscape, he points and gives a hearty laugh that comes from his West Texas belly.

...A Hong Kong developer has blasted the once scenic Henderson mountains to create luxury home sites, although there’s no building going on, and the developer says there are no immediate plans to begin selling lots.

Fielden likens it to an empty mining camp.

“It’s just a shame. Ruined those beautiful mountains,” he says. “Puts tears in my eyes.”

...He’s on a rant about a pet peeve. “Where does the sun track?” He gestures with his hand. “Look at all that glass. Exposed.” Only the north side of the structure will be spared the brutal sun. “East side. West side. South side. Glass!” Laughter.

...We drive west and then north on I-215 and stand looking at the half-finished Shops at Summerlin Centre, which halted construction in 2008, suspending 1 million square feet of retail, office and condominiums in an “urban village” atmosphere. Now, it’s like a massive, wildly overpriced avant-garde sculpture of steel and concrete.

...He laments the constant pattern, enabled by failed growth policies and myopic public officials, wherein a shiny new mall goes in, which cannibalizes a different mall, simply moving value from one place to another. In the end, we wound up with retail vacancy rates, for instance, of more than 10 percent.

...We drive east on 215 to ManhattanWest on Russell Road, another half-finished mixed-use development. Dense, high-rise urbanism plopped down in the suburbs, its name a great irony. Some windows are covered with plywood, like an abandoned property in a city that suffered a natural disaster.

It’s like a Hollywood set. But of what? It imagines that it’s supposed to look this way because somewhere, there’s something that’s cool and authentic and looks like this, perhaps? But there is no such place. This cardboard, Potemkin-village effect is only exacerbated by the surroundings.

...Then there’s the faux porches, which are meant to replicate a common feature of homes in the South or East, a place where families and neighbors swap gossip and tell tales. But these porches aren’t big enough for a single chair. “It’s decoration. They’re selling you something you’re not receiving,” Fielden says. In short, aside from a small grassy common area, the design elements encourage people to stay inside.

...We’re standing outside a complex filled with three-story single-family homes that Fielden approximates are a mere 6 feet 8 inches apart. Magic Johnson couldn’t lie down between them. And yet, just over the obligatory concrete wall sits a half-finished road and fields of rocky desert debris. The people live on top of one another, but still, they have to go to their garages and hop in their cars to do anything.

Roberts says this was typical. “We’re going to build all these and make these promises, sell houses and turn a profit, and eventually someone will deliver services.” Living in Southern Highlands, however, he waited years for a grocery store.

...Even for fans of Southern California, there was a downside. As Fielden and other Las Vegas architects point out, in Orange County, the houses face west, for gentle sunsets over the Pacific. As for faux Tuscany, it makes some sense in California, which is similar in many respects to the Mediterranean.

But here? The Western sun is the enemy. And the faux Tuscany here can allow heat to gather and leach into homes. But that has rarely been a consideration to developers.

...He tells an anecdote to properly sum up the building boom and what it wrought: He and about 50 others in the building community took a bus to Phoenix to see projects there. Suddenly someone at the back of the bus, with much commotion, yelled out, “We just passed my street! That’s my house!” Even the street name was the same in Phoenix as in Las Vegas.

...One outsider, one star, who has given us a significant building, Strain thinks, is Frank Gehry, calling his Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health building an important milestone for its civic and aesthetic provocation.

[Regarding UNLV:] Long stretches on campus have nowhere to sit. And although it may seem like nothing, Strain’s question is quite trenchant for a college campus: “Where do you throw a Frisbee?”

...But the library opens on to another quad that some paving contractor made a fortune on because it’s all concrete. “This, this is hideous. It’s like a runway. I’m surprised planes haven’t mistaken it for McCarran.”

Big Solar Energy Project Approved NW Of Tonopah

Lots of available land and sun out there!:
The 110-megawatt Crescent Dune Solar Energy Project, based in Nye County, is the design of California-based developer SolarReserve, and is expected to produce enough energy to power up to 75,000 homes during peak demand seasons.

It's unique among the state’s existing solar plants because of a heat storage technology that allows the turbines to keep working even after the sun has set. Slated to be completed in 2013, the project will eventually cover about 3,000 acres near Tonopah. NV Energy is expected to purchase whatever power is generated for distribution.

“Clean energy projects like Crescent Dunes not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but put Nevadans back to work,” Reid said. “I will continue leveraging my position as Majority Leader to make certain that Nevada always leads the nation in the creation of clean energy jobs.”

Las Vegas History - Where Are The Original Springs?

Interesting history of a pretty-dry place.


(Map here.)

Our population shifts south and west!

Some liberal commentators fret about the resulting loss of liberal power, but so be it, if that's where the people are. I certainly don't worry about it. And in any event, the loss of liberal power may be only temporary, since much of the population shift is between cities, and next to the regional North-South split, the urban-rural, liberal-conservative divide remains decisively important in American politics, as it has for at least the last 140 years, and especially so in the 1920's and 2000's.

(Interestingly, this MSNBC page doesn't mention Nevada's pick-up.) It's also important to emphasize that Nevada's gain of a Congressional seat in this census may prove only temporary if an improvement in Nevada's unemployment rate isn't forthcoming in a timely manner.:
WASHINGTON — After knocking on 50 million doors and handling tens of millions of surveys, the Census Bureau on Tuesday announced that the official population of the United States is now 308,745,538.

The 2010 census also shows America's once-torrid population growth dropping to its lowest level in seven decades.

The new number, based on the surveys taken on April 1, 2010, is a 9.7 percent increase over the last census, 281.4 million residents in 2000.

But that's slower than the 13.2 percent increase from 1990 to 2000. And it's the slowest rate of increase since the 1940 census. That is the decade in which the Great Depression slashed the population growth rate by more than half, to 7.3 percent.

The Census figures will be used to reapportion the 435 House seats among the 50 states. The numbers trigger a high-stakes process wherein the dominant party in each state redraws the election map, shaping the political landscape for the next 10 years.

In Congress, the steady migration to the South and West should be a boon for Republicans, with GOP-leaning states led by Texas picking up House seats.

The U.S. is still growing quickly relative to other developed nations. The population in France and England each increased roughly 5 percent over the past decade, while in Japan the number is largely unchanged and in Germany the population is declining. China grew at about 6 percent; Canada's growth rate is roughly 10 percent.

...The most populous state was California (37,253,956); the least populous, Wyoming (563,626).

The state that gained the most numerically since 2010 was Texas (up 4,293,741 to 25,145,561); the state that gained the most as a percentage was Nevada (up 35 percent to 2,700,551).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Digby, teh Funny!

She makes me laugh:
It just doesn't get any more obvious than this. From today's Hardball:
Matthews: Here it is. A new CNN poll shows President Obama approval rating among moderates rose five points since last month and it dropped eight points [among liberals.] Fair enough. It looks like the moderates were watching and the liberals were watching. He moved to the center.
...That amazing analysis was based on the fact that Obama lost 8% of liberals and only gained 5% of moderates. How that adds up to a big win I don't know. I guess liberals are only worth three fifths of a moderate in American politics.

...The Tea Party has shown that successful primaries against stalwart conservatives gives them power. Do the Villagers think the left didn't notice that? Do they think that the liberals in congress didn't notice it either?

Miscellany Of Mexican Pictures

When I went on the Mexican cruise at the end of November, I sometimes drove my primary digital Samsung camera to power exhaustion, so I had to rely on backup digital cameras (the old Olympus camera with the damaged CCD and my i-Phone's camera) in order to take photos. I'm just uploading those pictures now, and I hope to update previous posts incorporating these photos....

'El Tio Sam' - A store in Puerto Vallarta capitalizing on the imagery of Uncle Sam. Particularly since the modern symbol came into use in World War I, Uncle Sam has become a patriotic symbol in the United States, but in Mexico it has no such status and thus has apparently become a commercial symbol.

These rooftop water units on an apartment building in Ixtapa -manufactured by Rotoplas - maintain steady water pressure for household use. This part of Mexico doesn't necessarily require rooftop rainwater tanks for drinking water like they have in Queensland, Australia - it rains enough here - but water pressure is apparently a problem. And water purification too, of course.

A big Mexican prison near Ixtapa. This is apparently the CEINJURE (Centro Integral de Justicia Costa Norte) jail (800 male, 100 female capacity).

Ixtapa scene (population of Ixtapa about 24,000).

Mazatlan's 'Zona Dorada' (Golden Zone) as seen across the older downtown district from the distance of the docked cruise ship.

Not sure what this structure in Mazatlan is - a church? - but it looks nice!

Royal Caribbean's "Mariner of the Seas" as seen looking aft from the Sapphire Princess at Mazatlan.

Mazatlan's Cerro del Creston at sunset, with a Baja Ferries ship firing its engines up.

This gold-painted actor posed mannequin-style at the Cabo San Lucas marina, for tips (sadly, I forgot to tip, but he seemed to be doing well, nonetheless).

Mazatlan's Cerro del Creston.

A map of the trip.

Map in closer detail - north

Map in closer detail - middle

Map in closer detail - south

Left: Detail of map in the Punta Eugenia area.

In a display case on the Sapphire Princess a Wikipedia article was reproduced describing the distance to the horizon. This is a useful approximation: given a distance h (in feet) above the surface of the Earth of the human eye, the distance to the horizon (in miles) is about: d (miles) = SQRT(1.5 * h (ft)). The Sapphire Princess height is about 54 meters (nearly 18 floors tall). So that means pictures from the Sport Deck (floor 15?) will be about 149 feet above the surface, so the horizon will be about 14.9 miles away!

Here is a Web Page describing basic facts about the Sapphire Princess. The Princess Theater can seat 705 people!

Wikipedia describes the source of the propulsion power:
The diesel-electric plant consists of 4 diesel generators and a gas turbine generator. The diesel generators are Wartsilla 46 series common rail engines, two of the straight 9 cylinder configuration, and two of the straight 8 cylinder configuration. The 8 and 9 cylinder engines can produce approximately 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 MW of power respectively. These engines are fueled with Heavy Fuel oil (HFO or bunker c) and Marine Gas Oil (MGO) depending on the local regulations regarding emissions, as MGO produces much lower emissions but is much more expensive. The gas turbine generator is a GE 2500, producing a peak of 25 MW of power and being fueled my MGO. This generator is much more expensive to run than the Wartsilla generators, and is used mostly in areas, such as Alaska, where the emissions regulations are strict. It is also used when top speed is required to make it to a port in a short time period.

Regarding the power plant in Mazatlan with the amazingly-dirty exhaust, here is some encouraging news:
In the late summer of 2009 the oil-fired power plant near Mazatlan operated by Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) awarded a contract to Altrom Power to install air quality control systems. Alstrom is a Swiss based company that specializes in power development and clean air technology around the world. The work began with design and engineering to install electrostatic precipitator technology to capture and remove the larger particulate emissions (much of the “black stuff”) that is so readily visible from Estrella del Mar. The equipment installation is planned to be finished in 2011. The precipitators will filter the plant’s flue gas, greatly reducing particulate output to about one tenth of the current emissions.

"A Gift Of Music" - Woodland Chamber Singers' 35th Annual Christmas Concert

Sunday evening, Sally invited me to see "A Gift Of Music" - Woodland Chamber Singers' 35th Annual Christmas Concert, at the Woodland Opera House.

Lots of people began lining up early. This is what the line looked like at 6:50 p.m. At 7 p.m., it began raining, but the doors weren't quite open yet. Open, open, open!

It was very pleasant concert (marred a bit by vociferous tots, but whatcha-gonna-do?) The song I liked the best was "The Hands of Winter", in part because I don't believe I've ever heard it before.

Left: Bob Edmondson prepares to lead the audience in a Christmas sing-a-long.

The woman next to me leaned over and said, "that man singing behind us sure has a nice voice!" And she was right! The voice was rich and beautiful. But who was the mysterious man with the great voice?

Turns out, the mysterious man was Ryan Favorite, on holiday from school in Boston! Ryan's serving at the Cheesecake Factory while he's here, and preparing for an opera-singing education in NYC when he returns to the East Coast.

Lenore Turner-Heinson and the 2010's Woodland Chamber Singers.

Porch Update

Nothing like using the wrong caulking! It dissolved away like cream in the falling rain! I've got a tarp over the area now, and just as soon as it dries out - oh, say June - it will be time to take another stab.

Petroleum Explosions And Fire In Mexico

Amazing, and amazingly-stupid too:
A powerful pre-dawn pipeline explosion in a central Mexican state left at least 28 people dead on Sunday. The chief suspected cause of the blast is an illegal tap, possibly by the drug group the Zetas, as cartels increasingly attempt to steal crude and gas from state-owned oil lines.

Dozens were injured and 115 homes were damaged in what was described as a series of blasts at a pumping station in San Martin Texmelucan, a town on the main road between Mexico City and the city of Puebla, capital of Puebla state. The smoke plume that rose after the destruction was visible for much of Sunday from neighboring communities as well as in other states.

Witnesses said "rivers of fire" consumed the town's streets.

...The state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said in a statement that a rapid drop in pressure on the 30-inch pipeline suggested a "clandestine tap" (link in Spanish). The line, named Nuevo Teapa, carries fuel from its origin at a port in Tabasco state on the Gulf of Mexico and heads to a refinery in Hidalgo, northeast of Mexico City, Bloomberg reported.

Pemex loses millions of barrels a year to drug groups -- primarily, the Gulf Coast-based Zetas gang -- in thefts that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The stolen fuel is believed to be trafficked by the Zetas and sold in the United States as cartels seek to diversify their criminal enterprises. The Pemex chief said Sunday that the section of pipeline that erupted in San Martin Texmelucan had been tapped at least 60 times before, and 550 cases of illegal tapping have been reported nationwide.

Yet More Diet Advice - Get Rid Of Carbs, Not Fat

But maybe not-so-bad advice:
"Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."

...All carbohydrates (a category including sugars) convert to sugar in the blood, and the more refined the carbs are, the quicker the conversion goes. When you eat a glazed doughnut or a serving of mashed potatoes, it turns into blood sugar very quickly. To manage the blood sugar, the pancreas produces insulin, which moves sugar into cells, where it's stored as fuel in the form of glycogen.

...The first sign of insulin resistance is a condition called metabolic syndrome — a red flag that diabetes, and possibly heart disease, is just around the corner. People are said to have the syndrome when they have three or more of the following: high blood triglycerides (more than 150 mg); high blood pressure (over 135/85); central obesity (a waist circumference in men of more than 40 inches and in women, more than 35 inches); low HDL cholesterol (under 40 in men, under 50 in women); or elevated fasting glucose.

About one-fourth of adults has three or more of these symptoms.

"Put these people on a low-carb diet and they'll not only lose weight, which always helps these conditions, but their blood levels will improve," Phinney says.

..."Carbohydrates are a metabolic bully," Phinney says. "They cut in front of fat as a fuel source and insist on being burned first. What isn't burned gets stored as fat, and doesn't come out of storage as long as carbs are available. And in the average American diet, they always are."

Here's how Phinney explains it: When you cut carbs, your body first uses available glycogen as fuel. When that's gone, the body turns to fat and the pancreas gets a break. Blood sugar stabilizes, insulin levels drop, fat burns. That's why the diet works for diabetics and for weight loss.

When the body switches to burning fat instead of glycogen, it goes into a process called nutritional ketosis. If a person eats 50 or fewer grams of carbs, his body will go there, Phinney says.

"The Runaways"

Late at night on Sunday, November 28th, when I was quarantined on the Sapphire Princess cruise ship because of intestinal rebellion, I happened to catch another kind of rebellion while changing TV channels: "The Runaways", starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie. I missed the beginning of the movie, and I missed the end, but decided I had to see more. I mentioned the movie to Ben Wormeli, and he said he had already seen it and liked it.

Finally saw the whole movie. I really liked it too.

I think the reason I find the movie so affecting is that it describes events very-nearly of my generation (the band members have birthdates in the age range of my younger sisters). Plus, certain events placed on film are just intrinsically-interesting (like the innovative heckling training they underwent). Add in good acting and writing and cinematography, and there you are!

Reviews seem to be mixed, but I think many reviewers miss the care that has been devoted to creating the details and atmosphere of the mid-70's. Here's the trailer: