Friday, May 13, 2011

The Socorro Isopod Is Still Around

Just checking in on the bug. I hadn't heard any news about it for some time.

In the 80's, I remember wearing a Socorro Isopod T-Shirt while riding an elevator in the Physics & Astronomy building at the University of Arizona in Tucson, when the door opened and an renowned authority on isopods (nearly as rare in the world as the isopods themselves) entered the elevator, saw my T-Shirt, and got really excited.

The Socorro Isopod has the habit of cannibalizing its own young, which is a really-bad attribute for an exceedingly-rare species, particularly one that lives in such close confines. They have to get more of these bugs out in the world, if they are to stand a chance.

It Figures It Would Be The Cheeseballs At FSU Who Would Do This!

Completely for sale! I mean, at least prostitutes have standards! Apparently not FSU!:
In response to news that the billionaire Koch brothers now have a hand in hiring certain FSU professors, the liberal-leaning activist group Progress Florida has unveiled a campaign aimed at stopping what they say is “an unprecedented assault on academic freedom.”

In an e-mail sent out today, Progress Florida called on supporters to sign a petition to FSU President Eric Barron, urging him to “cancel this outrageous deal with the Kochs and protect academic freedom.”

A foundation bankrolled by Charles Koch, one half of the notoriously anti-regulation Koch brothers, has pledged $1.5 million for a program that promotes free enterprise. The foundation has a hand in screening new hires for the program, to which it gave a $1.5 million donation.

Beware Of Your Footing After Assaulting Marines

Because accidents do happen!

I Don't Blame The Dam Operators At All

The blame game continues in Queensland regarding the January floods on the Brisbane River.

I think assigning blame is the wrong priority. One can certainly understand the reluctance of dam operators to let go of all that water, particularly shortly after the end of an epic drought that brought the entire region to its knees over the past decade. Mother Nature delivers the punches, and sometimes you just can't make yourself roll with them fast enough:

AN EXPERT hydrologist working for the floods inquiry has confirmed dam releases were a "major component" of January's destructive floods but rejected critics' suggestions that Brisbane and Ipswich could have been saved by earlier dam releases.

Flood hydrologist Mark Babister, of Sydney-based WMA Water, chairman of the National Committee on Water Engineering, said Brisbane might have been saved damage but not Ipswich.

In his 53-page report, Mr Babister is critical of the manual used to control Somerset and Wivenhoe dams.

The document had limitations and did not account for the "natural inclination" of dam operators to withhold dam releases, he wrote. He also noted failures to take weather forecasts into account when making releases.

...During January's flood, dam operators held back releases until January 10, when the equivalent of two North Pine dams was released into the Brisbane River.

..."With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that an earlier escalation of the dam outflow rate would have reduced the ultimate peak release discharge downstream of Moggill, including at the Brisbane CBD," Mr Babister wrote.

"However it appears that earlier releases could have exacerbated flooding at Ipswich and the lower Lockyer Valley.

..."Incorporation of predicted rainfall into the decision-making process for the manual should be considered."

The consultant agreed with other dam critics who said outdated technology was used by the Queensland Government to make important decisions during the flood.

..."The current suite of forecasting models does not include a functional hydrodynamic model," Mr Babister said.

"Such models have the advantage that they properly account for the interactions that occur at the confluence of major tributaries."

Progress In Indiana

Robins comin' along!

This White Chick's 'Fly'!

Sarah Palin joins the conservative chorus demouncing Common, but makes an important distinction:
She added, “I’m not anti-rap. In fact, like Bret Baier, I know the lyrics to ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ too.

Step One Aerobics On "Good Day, Sacramento" This Morning

We opened up our closets, got dressed up, and got televised this morning on "Good Day, Sacramento" as part of their 70's theme party! My peeps, the diehard aerobics folks, worked out with Pepper Von at his Step One studio, from 5 to 6 a.m. (which is usually when I'm just falling asleep).

Like we used to say in the 70's: "Have a nice day!"

Sadie reviews the Wednesday routine, in order to jog our sleepy memories.
"It's like this!"
The in-field "Good Day, Sacramento" host, "Coco" (Courtney Dempsey), arrives with her 'fro.
Stopping for a photo.
Gettin' ready.

Joe The Plumber Is Everywhere

Driving to work yesterday, I heard a horn honk from the white van traveling next to me on 21st Street. I looked over, and Joe the Plumber waved back.

Caught in yesterday's traffic jam, I received a phone call from Joe the Plumber. He had just seen me pass through the I St./15th St. intersection, and he wanted to wish me well.

That Was Among The Worst Traffic Jams I've Ever Seen!

Yesterday evening, at 5:45 p.m., I jumped onto I-5, heading south, and prepared to exit west, on Highway 50, towards Davis. And the rush-hour S-T-O-P! I spent the next 40 minutes on the exit ramp, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

Apparently what happened was that a River Cats baseball game was about to start, and people arriving for that event were exiting onto Jefferson Blvd. from Highway 50 westbound, in West Sacramento. For some crazy reason, that exiting traffic couldn't clear the exit ramp, came to a dead stop, and stayed that way. That roadblock completely sealed off the exit ramp I was on, since the traffic from both movements is forced to merge.

At least the car didn't get too hot (it's still spring), but it made me very late in Davis. But maybe it's a harbinger of better times. From 2005-2007, Sacramento traffic jams were legendary, but the economic crisis of the last few years forced people to stay at home more. As better times return, so too will the legendary Sacramento traffic jams.

Blogger Has Been Off-Line, And Some Posts Are Still Missing


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Las Vegas Is Under Water

U.S. home values fell faster in this year's first quarter than during any quarter since 2008. In Las Vegas, that tumble has left 85 percent of homes with mortgages underwater, according to online real estate service Zillow. Las Vegas had the country's highest rate of underwater homeowners. Nationwide, Zillow reported that 28.4 percent of homeowners with a mortgage owed more than their house was worth.

Palin As Statesman

Interesting article. Don't know if I accept the premise exactly, but there it is:
As governor, Palin demonstrated many of the qualities we expect in our best leaders. She set aside private concerns for the greater good, forgoing a focus on social issues to confront the great problem plaguing Alaska, its corrupt oil-and-gas politics. She did this in a way that seems wildly out of character today—by cooperating with Democrats and moderate Republicans to raise taxes on Big Business.

...Murkowski’s willingness to cater to the oil producers, and his secrecy, caused tensions in his administration that burst into view when he announced his deal, in October 2005. It was a breathtaking giveaway that ceded control of the pipeline to the oil companies and retained only a small stake for Alaskans; established a 30-year regime of low taxes impossible to revoke; indemnified companies against any damages from accidents; and exempted everything from open-records laws. In exchange, the state got an increase in the oil-production tax. (Palin later released a private memo in which Murkowski’s top economic adviser complains that he has “gone completely overboard” and is treating “Alaska as a banana republic in order to secure the gas line.”) The deal conceded so much that Murkowski’s natural-resources commissioner, Tom Irwin, publicly questioned its legality—and was summarily fired. Six of Irwin’s aides quit in protest, and the “Magnificent Seven” became a cause célèbre. In the end, the legislature rejected the gas-line deal. But, in a twist, it agreed to the oil tax—which had been intended as an inducement to pass the rest of the package.

Palin came out hard on the other side of the philosophical divide from Murkowski—and made it personal. She announced she would challenge him for governor. She assailed the “secret gas line deal” and the “multinational oil companies that make mind-boggling profits off resources owned by all Alaskans.” She put an “all-Alaska” pipeline at the center of her campaign. And she declared her intention to hire Tom Irwin to negotiate the deal. “She’s what I call ‘alley-cat smart,’” Tony Knowles, the former Democratic governor, told me. “It’s not about ideology. She knows how to pick her way down the political route that she feels will be the most beneficial to what she wants to do.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Most Exciting Place On Earth! - Tehran's Tohid Tunnel

Mexican Violence Advances To Whole New Level

This is like a quantum leap in murderous ambition! The mystery, really, is why is this necessary? These are state-violence-level statistics: the kind of thing you see, maybe, in the Balkans, or the Congo. Perhaps that is part of what is going on: the Mexican state is being supplanted by a shadow narco-state. It doesn't make much sense on any level, but there it is:

DURANGO, Mexico — ...In less than a month, the upturned killing fields of this colonial city had given up 180 bodies by Tuesday, by official count, a horrific tally that's forced the local morgue to rent a Thermo King refrigerator truck.

And the ground keeps offering fresh bodies, making it seem likely that Durango's mass graves soon will eclipse what previously had been the largest set of unidentified corpses uncovered in Mexico: last month, in northeast Tamaulipas state, where 183 bodies piled up.

Never have such massive killing fields been found in such a short time in Mexico or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, for that matter. The victims were lost to violence that only seems to intensify in a nation where prosecutors treat evidence shoddily and rarely bring mass murderers to justice. Most of the victims are likely to remain unidentified.

...Such mass killings have only a few parallels in this hemisphere. One would be Argentina's "dirty war," when thousands of leftists died or disappeared during the 1976-83 military rule. Another might be the El Mozote massacre in 1981 in El Salvador, when U.S.-trained troops killed hundreds of villagers.

...Officials suspect that some of the victims are foot soldiers from rival Sinaloa factions — Los M and Los Cabrera — that began fighting earlier this year. Others are thought to be kidnapping victims and other innocents.

...Experts on mass graves, such as those in Argentina or the former Yugoslav republics, where ethnic cleansing was rampant, say the work must be done with the precision of an archaeological excavation.

"Exhumation by backhoe is tantamount to tampering; evidence is likely to be irretrievably lost," said Gordon Housworth, who follows Mexico closely for Intellectual Capital Group, a consultancy in Franklin, Mich.

..."Add to that the tiny number of coroners, especially forensic coroners, lack of sustained site protection . . . limited DNA and genetic testing, high case backlogs and historic reticence of relatives to come forward, and the chances of proper due diligence are diminished," he said.

...The Durango governor's chief security aide, Juan Rafael Rosales, was equally uneasy talking about the subterranean criminal conflicts that have roiled the state, resistant even to utter the names of gangs or talk about the banners the groups occasionally hang from bridges or buildings, which disappear only hours later.

The head of the National Action Party in Durango, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, an opponent of the governor, said criminal groups composed a "parallel state" in Durango.

"They collect extortion — a kind of tax — and they have armed forces that seem almost like a clandestine army," Gutierrez said. "These are the characteristics of a state: have an army, collect taxes, maintain peace."

But the mass graves reveal that there is no peace, and that powerful criminal groups are doing the killing.

...The mass graves of Durango and Tamaulipas state, which abuts Texas, are quite different. Most of the bodies in the Tamaulipas graves appear to be of passengers on two interstate public buses pulled off by hooded members of Los Zetas, a brutal drug gang, who gave them a choice: Join the gang or face execution.
One surprising thing is that the Durango massacre occurred there at all. Until lately, it's been quite quiet there (translated by Google):

Durango used to be a very quiet, however the last few months the violence has grown, members of various criminal groups do their will in the capital and in towns.

Role Model

J.: Look, don't you want to get anywhere? Time is passing!

M.: There's nothing I hate worse than marketing!

J.: This is something that can be done!

M.: (Frackin' ambition.... But one must admit, it's a good role model):
A Modesto woman has won $35,000 and a trip to New York because of her entertaining and creative YouTube videos.

Meghan Camarena, known as Strawburry17 on YouTube, is one of 25 people selected nationwide to be a part of the Web site's first NextUp program. As part of her New York trip, she will attend YouTube Creator Camp, where she will receive mentoring to improve her skills.

Camarena started making YouTube videos in 2008 when her parents got her a camera. She began by asking record labels and artists for permission to use their music to make her videos, then started lip-syncing to their songs, with her brother dancing in the background.

She has had 16 million views of her videos and 3 million people look at her YouTube channel. She has 100,000 subscribers who get updates on her new videos. She got her biggest boost in viewers when YouTube featured her on the front page for a few days in February 2009.

...Camarena has been so successful at YouTube that it has become her full-time job. She is a partner in the Web site and makes money from ads placed on her videos. She also makes money by selling her work on iTunes.

A friend taught her the basics of video editing — the rest she taught herself. An online fan gave her a free Macbook that was loaded with Adobe Premiere Pro video-editing software.

Time To Check Into "Breaking Bad" Again

Since I'll be in ABQ next week, it's time to dust off my camera and look into locations again.... Here's some links (mostly from Duke City Fix).

Season 4 links

First day of shooting.

At the rail yards.

Catholic-oriented (but unarguable) commentary on Breaking Bad.:
I have never seen a show which portrays the addictive and destructive nature of sin better than Breaking Bad. Walter White uses the very good desire to provide for his family to justify some very bad behavior. At first, Walter convinces himself that while he is doing a bad thing, he is not a bad guy. He just can’t see himself as the bad guy.

What makes the show so brilliant, in my estimation, is how the story telling stays true to the title of the show. Becoming bad is a process.

...At first Walter tries to convince himself that what he does isn’t hurting anyone and that those who choose to take the drug would do it whether he provided it or not. But the reality of the lives destroyed through drug use is vivid and unavoidable. Beyond that, the show brilliantly shows the unintended consequences of sin and its destructive force on the completely innocent, including the family he sought to protect.

...The amazing part of the show is that you know that the show will, nay must, end in disaster. The wages of sin is death and Breaking Bad would have it no other way. For that reason, it is my favorite show on television.

A Location Google map

Facebook page

Scenes From The "Big Secret"

Blow-by-blow reporting.

An Inexcusably Ignorant Old Man

Doing his irresponsible best to ruin the country:
That’s right, according to former Senator Alan Simpson not only did he not familiarize himself with the relevant life expectancy data during his many years in the Senate, he’s never once brought it up during his months of work on a commission specifically charged with re-evaluating America’s retirement programs. And this, in turn, tells you a lot about how Washington works. There are tons of people in this town who know lots of things about public policy. But possessing this knowledge isn’t considered an important qualification for these kind of jobs. Simpson is old, and he used to be an influential Senator, and since he was pro-choice he’s also “moderate.” That’s all the qualification you need. Actual knowledge isn’t important.

Trump Implodes, At Least For The Moment

Recover, Donald, please!:
One month ago, a handful of surveys showed Trump trouncing the GOP field, leading all comers by as much as a nine-point margin. But now, after a month of bruising press coverage, the latest PPP poll shows that Trump's support has quickly dried up, as he's dropped back to a tie for fifth place.

In the poll, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney paced the GOP field at 19% and 18%, respectively. Newt Gingrich took third at 13%, followed by Palin (12%), Trump (8%), and Ron Paul (8%.)
My sense, of course, is that the front-loading of the primary calendar with the nationwide Super-Tuesday primaries makes it essential that the Republican candidates have a national presence by January (no matter how ramshackle that national presence may be) in order to have any chance of surviving Super Tuesday. Mike Huckabee's stint on FOX News may have given him sufficient stature by now - he's certainly in better shape than he was in 2008 - but Palin's there too. And Trump has his own national presence, and he can survive a long time, no matter what else happens. Are these national presences enough? (They are certainly ramshackle enough....)

My New Mexico patriotism gets the better of me: Go, Gary Johnson!

A Litany Of Lies From The Bald-Headed Buzzard From Wyoming

Remember, Social Security was set up as a retirement program: it was deliberately not set up as a welfare program (Roosevelt nixed the idea of means-testing for precisely that reason, because successful-labeling Social Security as a welfare program is the first step to killing it, and means-testing is the first step to labeling it as a welfare program.) Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme. (Ponzis schemes hinge on recruitment, so if it's a Ponzi scheme, where's the recruitment? Are older people encouraging younger people to age faster? And please, leave Denny's 55-and-older menu out of this!) And it completely figures that Simpson gives this talk to the financial industry buzzards, who are waiting to sweep in any second and thieve away trillions of dollars of retirement money already paid into the system, in order to feather their own nests. Simpson lies about the life-expectancy statistics too! It's almost impossible to pack so many lies and distortions into such a small number of sentences. I'm sure he has almost no competition with such deliberate and artful lie-packing. He's ventured out onto Hitler-level terrain here. One evil, rich, wrinkly 80-year-old man!:

WASHINGTON -- Alan Simpson’s cold relationship with AARP is no secret, but the former Republican Senator from Wyoming took it to a new level Friday. At an event hosted by the Investment Company Institute, Simpson delighted the finance industry audience members by aiming a rude gesture at the leading lobby for senior citizens.

Financial and investment interests have long been supportive of Simpson’s broad critique of Social Security, since privatizing the old-age and disability support program would be a tremendous boon for Wall Street’s financial managers. ICI represents mutual funds and other money managers who control more than $13 trillion in assets.

Simpson’s forceful gesture came after an extended diatribe against Social Security, which he said is a "Ponzi" scheme, "not a retirement program.”

Simpson argued that Social Security was originally intended more as a welfare program.

"It was never intended as a retirement program. It was set up in ‘37 and ‘38 to take care of people who were in distress -- ditch diggers, wage earners -- it was to give them 43 percent of the replacement rate of their wages. The [life expectancy] was 63. That’s why they set retirement age at 65” for Social Security, he said.

King Checks Wizard

The one thing entrepreneurs hate more than any other thing in the universe, is competition:

A 'living statue' artist who nearly killed a rival street performer in front of horrified tourists at the London Eye was jailed for a minimum of four-and-a-half years.

Dechko Ivanov, 37, regularly performed as the 'Invisible King' taking hundreds of pounds a week on the Southbank.

But when 'Silver Wizard' Rumen Nedelchev, 45, beat him to his choice slot beside the famous landmark Ivanov bitterly accusing him of stealing his audience.

Witnesses including an off-duty policeman watched the Bulgarians' macabre clash on a summer morning last year, which left the victim 'within a whisker' of death.

Father-of-one Ivanov used a concrete block concealed in a bag to batter his rival, who was still covered in metallic paint and holding a silver branch.

...Jurors heard the two men lived together in a shared house in Kennington, a short distance from the world-famous tourist attraction.

But tension built after Ivanov accused Mr Nedelchev of trying to beat him to the best pitch on several occasions.

The Silver Wizard was known to start work as early as 4.30am in his bid to reap the most profits.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ha! Easily-Recognizable!

[UPDATE: Holy, moly, they removed that video within seconds after I posted it!]

The "Big Secret" Is Over, But The "Big Secret" Goes On

Upon return:
It was the strangest damned thing. I had to spend money and get ripped off down at the food truck, and then they brought us a bunch of food! They didn't tell us: they are so disorganized! S. got in a joke at my expense, and we argued, because he wouldn't let me sing the song I wanted to, and he walked out on me and didn't vote for me, but then he came back and said I sang well. Beats the hell out of me! And P. couldn't decide, and was looking around at the others trying to get a clue how to vote, and I just had to get her vote to proceed further! I know I should have tried to persuade her to come around, by singing another song, but I didn't. Maybe it's better this way. Just as long as I get on TV - that'll be in September. Remember, no blogging about this! But the audience liked me. They laughed when I didn't want to say my age. I had a panic attack when I first saw them, but once I was out there, they were with me, and it was OK. They liked me! You know, I have a talent that's really, really special!

Mississippi Flood Primer

Perhaps now is the time for the Atchafalaya option!:
Always it is the river’s purpose to get to the Gulf by the shortest and steepest gradient. As the mouth advances southward and the river lengthens, the gradient declines, the current slows, and sediment builds up the bed. Eventually, it builds up so much that the river spills to one side. Major shifts of that nature have tended to occur roughly once a millennium.

The Mississippi’s main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier--arcuate strings of Cajun towns.

Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years.

In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river’s present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines.

By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it. By the route of the Atchafalaya, the distance across the delta plain was a hundred and forty-five miles-- well under half the length of the route of the master stream.

On The "Big Secret" Front

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Simon Cowell blames attorneys for the fact that Paula Abdul's deal to serve as a judge on Cowell's "The X Factor" closed at the eleventh hour Sunday -- just as the judges' rounds of auditions were about to start.

..."I would've canceled today (if deal hadn't gone through)," Cowell told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday at the University of Southern California's Gaten Center before the judges auditions began.

"The issue was that these conversations had gone on long enough. It's not like I sprung this on somebody. I just thought it's time for everyone to do their job and get the deal done. I couldn't have sat in front of you lot and said (Paula) wanted to do the deal and we couldn't."

Arizona Has A Tin Cup

Eh? All I have to contribute is a tin earhorn:
Arizona lawmakers want more fence along the border with Mexico -- whether the federal government thinks it's necessary or not.

They've got a plan that could get a project started using Internet donations and prison labor. If they get enough money, all they would have to do is get cooperation from landowners and construction could begin.

...Part of the marketing pitch for donations could include providing certificates declaring that individual contributors "helped build the Arizona wall," Smith says.