Saturday, July 02, 2011

I'm Going To This Place For Fourth Of July

But I don't have enough bird seed....

Cute, Frilly Cowboy Boots Befuddle The Homeless

When I arrived home this evening about 7 p.m., I noticed a cute little suitcase sitting in the driveway outside the back gate. I was wondering, 'is there a bomb in there?'

So, I took the suitcase upstairs and opened it. It was filled with little shoes, including cute, frilly little cowboy boots. This must be E.'s suitcase! Earlier today, she was heading out to Minden Lake for the 4th of July weekend. Whether it was a senior moment, or crossed signals, the suitcase failed to make the journey.

Around midnight, she contacted me. She had left about noon. The suitcase must have sat in the driveway, where the homeless troll 24/7, for seven hours without being opened, or bothered in the least.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Carefully-Planned 'Dick' Remark

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mark Halperin Calls Obama a Dick
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

How interesting! Meticulous planning for the expletive! Control freaks all the way!

Las Conchas Fire Still On The Move

Perimeter diagram from GeoMAC.

Once again, folks (like Bruce) in Albuquerque are agitated by the smoke. But not half as agitated, I'm sure, as the folks in Los Alamos!

For days now, we've been hearing all kinds of Panglossian announcements from the federal officials at the labs there that everything is under control. It scares the hell out of me!
Six days after the Las Conchas fire broke out officials have reported it is now the largest wildfire in state history, burning at over 103,841 acres.

More than a thousand personnel are fighting the blaze which is now three percent contained. Air tanker will begin to attack the fire in its most aggressive area, north on sacred Native American sites.

Santa Clara Pueblo is under a state of emergency as more than 6,000 acres of Santa Clara's watershed has been damaged by the fire. The pueblo's governor said they are working with forest officials to make sure the flames don't reach homes.

The Bandelier National Monument property has burned more than 50 percent but officials said they have the flames under control in that area.

Governor Susana Martinez stated at a press conference that $2.8 million has been spent on the firefighting efforts and that the blaze is the number one fire priority in the country.

...As the fire moves northeast, it is hitting burn scars from the old Cerro Grande fire, slowing down the speed of activity. The position of the flames, lack of fuels and wind speeds will help firefighting efforts.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Insects Dazzle In Yolo Bypass Display

Last night, I thought I'd drive over to the DMTC theater in Davis. Perhaps I'd be able to catch some of "The King And I" callbacks.

On the drive on Interstate 80 across the Causeway across the Yolo Bypass, I noticed what appeared to be the strangest-looking fog I had ever seen. Why was there fog? Even though it had rained the day before, it wasn't nearly humid enough for fog.

The light of the setting sun was catching the fog, creating a light spectacle on the Yolo Causeway. The fog looked a lot like someone had set up a vast array of sprinklers in the Yolo Bypass, but why would anyone do that? It's a Wildlife Refuge (the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area).

Stranger still, the fog seemed organized into rays radiating away from the roadway at periodic intervals, with each ray suspended about sixty degrees above horizontal. Instead of driving to Davis on Interstate 80, it looked more like I was driving to the Emerald City on The Yellow Brick Road!

Slowly it dawned on me: these were insects!

The Yolo Bypass is host to insects, of course, including Hydrobaenus saetheri, a unique midge important in the life cycle of salmon. Were these insects those insects? Maybe! I wanted to get some pictures of the display, so I pulled off at the Chiles Road exit to get a closer look before the sun set.

Left: The only good picture I got showing the sprinkler effect of these insects. Large, suspended particles like flying insects are best viewed looking towards the sun, where Mie forward-scattering is most-effective.

As it turned out, the best place to look at this phenomenon was not from below the roadbed of Interstate 80, but from Interstate 80 itself. I wanted to stop on the roadway shoulder, but that is really too dangerous: the fast-moving traffic is too close! So, for the most part, I had to make do with back-scattered light, which doesn't look nearly so spectacular.

Flying insects.

Reddish Amaranth plants, with the Interstate 80 Causeway across the Yolo Bypass in the background. Sometimes I buy Amaranth Flakes as a breakfast cereal in the Organic section of the supermarket. What do they call it? Food of the Aztecs? Food of the Gods? Whatever they call it, it tastes good!

Underneath the roadway, looking up at the insects. No sign right here of the roosting bats that sometimes are found here.


Insect Rays seeming to emanate from the Interstate 80 roadbed at an angle of about sixty degrees from the horizontal.

Insect Rays seeming to emanate from the Interstate 80 roadbed at an angle of about sixty degrees from the horizontal.

Insect Rays seeming to emanate from the Interstate 80 roadbed at an angle of about sixty degrees from the horizontal.

Insect Rays seeming to emanate from a tree at an angle of maybe a bit less than sixty degrees from the horizontal.

This evening, I hadn't planned to charge headlong into a Wildlife Refuge. I was an Urban Boy suddenly dropped into the wilds. The pace of life here is different, and slower, than I had prepared myself for.

As sunset advanced, and shadows lengthened, little fears began to gnaw away at me. Are there snakes around here? Maybe. There are certainly lots of mosquitoes. Am I going to get West Nile?

There seemed to be a lot of noise emanating from the nearby grove of trees. It sounded like flowing water. Is there a waterfall over there? Am I hearing an echo of the freeway traffic? Are there a lot of birds over there?

Or is there a monster over there?

Sutter Buttes in the distance.

I love trains, so I waited for one of the frequent trains along this route to make an appearance. Nevertheless, I waited quite awhile. Catching West Nile from the mosquitoes, no doubt.

Here's the Capitol Corridor train blasting its way east, to Sacramento. The worried engineer honked his horn to warn me to keep my distance from the tracks, and there was a nice, satisfying blast of air as the train zipped by.

When I arrived at the DMTC theater, no one was there. "The King and I" callbacks were on Tuesday, not Wednesday. I am an idiot! An idiot with West Nile, but one with a renewed appreciation of what insects can do!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Murdoch Unloads MySpace

And so it ends with a whimper:
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but multiple news reports put it at around $35 million -- far less than the $580 million News Corp. paid for Myspace in 2005.
Wow! They lost almost every dime they put into it!

And to think when Rupert Murdoch purchased MySpace, my biggest fear was that he was going to turn MySpace into some kind of unstoppable, ideologically-driven behemoth that would swallow the brains of America's youth. Instead, rival Facebook turned into an unstoppable, social-driven behemoth that swallowed the brains of America's youth.

As far as I could tell, the only thing MySpace did wrong was to have just a bit too much advertising. For that unspeakable crime, America's youth hurled them into the darkness of space far beyond Pluto's most-distant orbit from the sun.

No mercy!

But maybe a bit of justice....

The Folks At The Medical Center Like Gender Confusion Jokes

I was back at the med center a few minutes ago, and made an appearance at the phlebotomist's place.

"Dr. N. wanted me to get my blood retested," I told the lady. "Well, we want to do whatever she wants," she replied. Whatever "he wants," I corrected. "Oh, so she's a he," she said. I said: "Imagine my surprise!" She laughed and said, "you're messing with someone who is about to get off work!"

When I got in the elevator, I pressed the "Down" button, but the elevator journeyed upwards instead, visiting all the floors on its lugubrious journey back to the lobby. I complained to the last woman to enter the elevator that "the elevator is doing whatever it wants, going wherever it pleases, and not paying attention the slightest to my wishes." She replied: "If I didn't know better, I'd say the elevator was a man!"

"Circle of Life" - Philippine Madrigal Singers

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

And Speaking Of CORE, A Spring Show Rehearsal Video!

Dancers Leading Roseville Theater Benefit

Join CORE and other Sacramento dance companies for an evening of dance for this good cause!

Tickets available at the door or contact the theater at 916-772-2777
General admission $15; Students $10

Generations of talent have graced the historic Roseville Theater stage: young and old have signed the walls of the dressing room, sang, danced, cried, and laughed in this building. Recently, lack of funding has threatened to close this beautiful space forever. Recognizing the value of performing arts in the community, dance companies from around Sacramento are helping “Save the Stage” - holding a benefit concert to raise proceeds for Roseville Theatre Arts Academy’s preservation efforts. Join us for this unique performance and with your support, we will insure our corner of the sky is here for our community for a very long time.

Goldman Sachs Now Outsourcing Some Of Its Best Jobs

It figures.
Goldman Sachs is going to fire employees in the U.S. and some other countries so that it can hire 1,000 in Singapore, where it's cheaper.

BP Whistleblowers Have Bullseyes On Them

Filing E-Mail, I came across something John sent several months ago: BP whistleblowers have been getting crushed in all manner of ways.

I'm Hoping The Republicans Shoot The Hostage

People are getting nervous about the GOP's refusal to go along with an increase in the debt limit that also includes higher taxes. The GOP is acting as if they are in a position of strength and that the Federal Government's finances are a hostage:
If Congress fails to raise the national debt limit by early August, the Obama Treasury Department will have to choose between defaulting on obligations to the country's creditors -- triggering higher interest rates and perhaps damaging the country's credit rating for months and years to come -- or freezing outlays to contractors, entitlement beneficiaries and others who are also expecting prompt payment as well. In either case, the macroeconomic impact will be staggering, according to Zandi.

"I think we go into recession and my forecast would be blown out of the water," he said. "I think if we get to August 2nd and there is no debt ceiling [increase] and there has to be significant spending cuts, I think even if Congress and the administration reverse themselves days later, I think the damage will have been serious and we'll probably be thrown into a recession."

Additionally, Zandi noted, "The cost to taxpayers would be enormous, because we would nail tax revenue and spending would increase because of the automatic stabilizers in the budget. So it would be just the wrong thing for the economy and the wrong thing for trying to address our long-term fiscal issues."
The truth is, though, that markets are excruciatingly-sensitive to uncertainty of this order. If the GOP pulls the trigger it will be rich Republican interests that will suffer immediately, and foremost. Remember, it is the rich who are primarily in the stock market in the first place.

Big budget deficits primarily serve the interests of those who want to shield the economy from the costs of boondoggles like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having the costs abruptly reveal themselves like this does not serve the interests of the Pentagon and its allies.

Democrats, on the other hand, can afford to wait, as Republicans first lose their shirts in the howling gale of calamitous stock and bond market crashes. Serves the GOP right, too, for such stupid mismanagement guaranteed to inaugurate a new recession. A new recession brought about primarily by Republican stupidity (aided by Democratic stubbornness), but for which the GOP will receive 100% of the well-deserved blame.

And it's all pointless anyway. We cannot seriously default on debt, because the Constitution requires us to make good on all debts, whether we like it, or not. It's really not up to Congress to assent to an increase in the debt limit: they are at the mercy of the Constitution, and have to make good on all debt, no matter what it is. Heck, Obama could wave a wand an increase the debt limit on his own authority, because he is as much in thrall to the Constitution as they are.

The Democrats hold the whip hand here, not the Republicans.

So, GOP, you feeling lucky? Go ahead: make my day!

A Late-June Surprise!

Lightning and thunder too.

It happens, even here!

The forecast showed the center of the low passing over the SF Bay area. I resisted believing in rainfall fairies, however, until rainfall fairies were everywhere!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Natalia Flores - "Dumb"

MJ Collectives Complaining About Something

Last week, or the week before, the medical marijuana collective people were protesting something at everyone's favorite protest location, 16th and J, but you know how that stuff plays with your sense of perception, and so I have no details about the specifics.

Capital Public Radio Fundraiser

On Friday evening, I was out blowing a lot of money on used CDs and DVDs at the KXPR/KXJZ Capital Public Radio Fundraiser at Howe 'Bout Arden. The real action there wasn't associated CDs and DVDs, however, but one-dollar LPs, instead.

There were large numbers of LPs related to opera, jazz, and classical music, of course, but my attention was drawn to the folks buying all sorts of Classic Rock albums from the Seventies: Poco, Boston, Bachmann Turner Overdrive, and the like. These folks had a determination about them - almost a grim fierceness - that I hadn't seen since these very same folks had originally bought these very same albums, back in the Seventies.

Torch Club Steals A Moment

I saw a brief announcement in the paper stating that they were going to be filming a little movie there this afternoon, and sure enough, the Torch Club is shuttered at the instant.

The Animals Opt For Low Visibility

Left: E. feeds Bailey a salad of kale and carrot. She was just glad to see him at all.

When animals don't want to be seen, they really go all out. Bailey vanished for two days, living a kind of subterranean existence in the basement, well out-of-sight of pesky humans.

I saw the Big Chicken for a few minutes yesterday (but she quickly vanished too).

And no one has seen the Baby Chicken for a week.

Ethanol, And Its Varied Impacts

John brings up the subject of ethanol:
Ethanol has been a political football recently and I have wondered at times if federal subsidies make sense. But this farmer's point of view puts it in a very favorable light:
The big thing with ethanol from my perspective is it ate up the surplus that was a drag on the national commodity market.
It may be a $6 billion subsidy but it may also be protecting the agricultural economy of the midwest--which has been pretty marginal for some time. And in the grand scheme of things, does an arguably good subsidy of that size really matter when we are spending a couple billion every week in wars that tend to increase petroleum prices
That's an interesting blog post. "Ditch Manuals" indeed!

I have a problem with ethanol for several reasons.

First, there is a bit of deceit with regards to ethanol’s influence on air pollution. There is a campaign to make ethanol’s use seem green, or Earth-friendly, but it isn’t a complete blessing. Ethanol’s incorporation into fuel helps with carbon monoxide problems (because it introduces more oxygen into the fuel, which promotes more-complete combustion, which reduces carbon monoxide pollution). In addition, ethanol helps with greenhouse gases (since it’s not a fossil fuel). Still, ethanol increases the vapor pressure of the gasoline it is added to (specifically the Reid Vapor Pressure, or RVP), which promotes evaporative emissions of fuels, which, in turn, aggravates ozone air pollution, since the evaporated organics are ozone precursors. In California, on balance, ethanol in the fuel may be viewed as more harmful than helpful to human health, but the ethanol lobby will never tell you that.

Second, farming is hard on the land, particularly in regards to soil nutrients and soil stability. To the extent that ethanol promotes over-farming, ethanol shares in this impact.

Third, nutrients washing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River helps create the anoxic zones they see down there every summer. To the extent that ethanol promotes the spread of dead zones in the sea, ethanol shares in this impact.

But there is no question the promotion of ethanol through federal subsidies is helping stabilizing the agricultural economy of the Midwest. The vast surplus of corn gets used, rather than tossed. The Midwest’s and Great Plains’ populations, which were decimated by mechanization and other related phenomena, are being stabilized by this subsidy. Land prices have been rising all through the Midwest, creating what may be a property value bubble.

We might decry the appearance of bubbles in the economy, and the long-term harm they cause, but they sure feel good at the moment (as people involved in California real estate from 1970-1978, 1983-1990, and 1995-2007 can attest). There was a recent news article describing how well certain Illinois farmers have been doing lately (through careful management of the bubble’s impacts):
A decade ago, they began seeing land values escalate as homebuilders needed raw land to satisfy demand. They sold land to homebuilders at high prices, took their profit and invested in land downstate that they leased to local farmers. Now they are back in Chicago's far-flung suburbs, spending a pittance of what land sold for five to 10 years ago, planting crops and profiting from surging commodity prices.

"Farmers have been the wisest investors, especially in the collar counties," said Mark Goodwin, president of Goodwin & Associates. "They were smart enough to hang on to their money and reinvest it in the land. It's like any other business: Invest in what you know."
So, whether you like ethanol, or hate it, depends a lot on where you are.

John replies further:
There are good scientific arguments concerning the negative effects of ethanol/gasoline blends, as you pointed out. There are also economic arguments against its use. The return on energy put into producing ethanol is only around 1.3 to 1 compared to, on average, 30 to 1 for oil. Whether or not the efficiency of ethanol production can be improved remains to be seen. The efficiecy of oil extraction is definitely declining, however, so the gap will tighten as oil reserves are depleted.

I disagree with your opinion that ethanol production is causing over-farming in the Midwest. The same acreage is being farmed now as was the case in 1950. In fact, it may be a bit less than when Earl Butts encouraged farmers to pull up fences to eke out more land for Russian grain sales in the 1970's. Midwestern soils have been depleted of nutrients continusously since the mid-19th century. From a conservation perspective it might make sense to return large areas of farm land to tall grass prairies, but from an economic perspective it would not be practical.

The Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio River system drains around 40% of the lower 48 states. It carries--and concentrates--huge amounts of pollutants form agricultural, industrial and urban sources. Topsoil erosion has actually been reduced significantly in the last 40 years as no-till agriculture (use of chisel plows rather than tradional deep plows) has become the norm. Again, I do not see that corm grown for ethanol production has exacerbated the problem.

The big question, of course, is whether it is appropriate for the federal government to be subsidizing ethanol production. Anti-government extremists say there should be no federal programs of this sort and that the private sector should be the only driving force in the economy. Some, such as Grover Norquist, would carry that to an absurd extreme. Last night on the Colbert Report, he said that there is "NEVER" an excuse for new taxes. One would suppose that, in 1941, he would say that the defeat of the Axis powers should be left to private sector organizations such as Blackwater and that the Manhattan Project was a huge boondoggle that would be a waste of tax dollars. But I digress. My point is, as was pointed out in the original piece by Frank James, that a program which has spurred production of more versatile and efficient engines, as well as stabilizing the economy of a large portion of the nation is probably a pretty good deal for the taxpayers. Even so, the economy of the upper Midwest is in very poor shape--I cannot imagine where it would be if corn prices collapsed. The program cost is a tiny fraction of the cost of the bailout of the mortgage industry, and the positive results are much more apparent. From a return on investment perspective, it clearly works better than military action or subsidies to oil companies. The Republican calls for "shared sacrifice" remind me of a movie scene where two individuals are pointing guns at each other and one tells the other, "I'll drop mine when you drop yours" in the hope that the other would be foolish enough to fall for that con.

A good book on the topic of reducing government spending and the sell off of government services to the private sector is "The Wrecking Crew" by Thomas Frank. It is probably the most damning indictment of the entire system of privatization ever written. (In fact, I would say that if you only read one book this year, it should be that one.) While ethanol production is not specifically mentioned in the book, it seems to me to be a program that the federal government has a right--even a duty--to pursue in order to promote betterment of the nation as a whole. Alternative sources of energy are no longer optional and government spending is the most viable way to pursue that goal. There will be dead ends in that pursuit--as there are in any other sort of scientific research--but such funding should, with some oversight, keep things moving in the right direction.

Michelle Bachmann Toying With Spirits?

The Lamestream Media wants to know: Why does Michelle Bachmann possess a serial killer's spirit? Does she plan to return said spirit, or keep it for future use?:
“Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too,” she told Fox News prior to the official announcement of her candidacy in Waterloo.

Conservative newspaper The Washington Times was first to point out that the presidential hopeful had picked the wrong John Wayne.

“Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer,” Stephen Dinan wrote.

You Just Know It Would Be Screaming Divas On A Mercilessly-Hot Summer Afternoon

Michelle on Facebook says:
*facepalm* Michele Bachman, please stop talking
For myself, I want to know:
If they teach homosexuality in the schools, what happens if you flunk homosexuality? The last thing I'd want to be doing is failing to understand exasperated Queens on the finer points of Remedial Cross-Dressing in Summer School.

Death Not Suspicious - Move Along, Nothing To See....

Maybe the police don't think it's suspicious, but the death of the Prime Minster's close friend nevertheless strikes me as odd:
An inquest into the death of senior Tory Christopher Shale - a close friend of David Cameron - heard today that a pathologist had not been able to ascertain how he died, after his body was found in a Glastonbury Festival portable toilet.