Friday, July 15, 2011

Salon "Breaking Bad" Slideshow


The Bachmanns On 'Marriage'


Sunday evening, everyone! "Breaking Bad" is back!

It All Adds Up To Psychological Abuse

On Facebook, ME notes:
I love discovering new words for otherwise hard-to-describe stuff.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre event.
That's interesting! I joined the conversation.

When I was a Physics undergraduate, the Department Head called me in and accused me of taking a freshman-level test on behalf of a failing student. When I denied the charge, he produced the test in question - with my handwriting on it! It took me a minute to realize that the letter "p" was written ever-so-slightly different from my usual practice, but that was the longest minute! The similarity of handwriting was eerie! It wasn't abuse, but it makes you realize where false confessions come from. Is there a word for that?
There is! you were on the brink of making a 'coerced internalized false confession'. This is a situation in which 'interrogative suggestibility' results from the combination of uncertainty (the similar handwriting was disorienting), interpersonal trust (the professor was a trusted authority figure), and expectation of dire consequences to produce in you a temporarily suggestible state where you doubt your own recollection of events. In high pressure interrogations, subjects can become convinced they are guilty of a crime they didn't commit, and even re-write their own memories!
When I pointed out the slight difference in handwriting, the professor said he had noticed that, but felt confident enough to proceed anyway. When I urged him to investigate the case further, he said he was about to retire and didn't want the fuss. I could appreciate his troubles, but I thought the price of having to surrender my effort to get a degree was rather a steep price to pay.
So you weren't exonerated?
No. I suppose it's still an open matter, although I got my degree, and the professor retired and passed away in the interim. Someone out there with my handwriting cheated 32 years ago, and got away!
I say you dedicate your blog to finding and apprehending the real physics test cheater and clear your name once and for all!
Like Ahab chasing the white whale, I will pursue that physics test cheater for eternity! That cheater cannot escape my blog!

California Gurlzzz

I made an abortive effort to go to lunch. On the sidewalk, I passed by four young women heading the other direction. They were all about 18 years old. The Queen Bee said "Yo, are you a sinner?" I smiled, shrugged my shoulders, said nothing, and kept walking, because I knew there was no answer that wouldn't end up with me either holding a religious pamphlet that I didn't want, or getting trouble with the law.

To Infinity, And Beyond!

Obama Is Finally In The Driver's Seat On This Default Mess

Yglesias notes:
Watching the press conference today, it was hard not to be struck by the extent to which Barack Obama really and truly wants a grand bargain on the deficit. One doesn’t say this kind of thing at a press conference, but you could easily imagine him saying, “Look, Republicans, I agree with you — I want to enact steep cuts in spending, but to sell my base on it you need to throw me some tax hikes.”
The GOP is finally signalling it wants out of the looming debacle, and the McConnell plan is the fastest way out, but Obama has bigger ambitions. He wants a grand bargain.

Apparently Eric Cantor feels he's in some kind of pissing contest with Obama, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. Because of the relentless growth of the debt, the debt ceiling acts like an alarm clock. Default will occur on schedule whether the GOP wants to shoot the hostage (aka, the U.S. economy), or not. When you engage in a pissing contest with an alarm clock about whether it will strike midnight, or not, you ALWAYS lose!

If default occurs, Eric Cantor will be the scapegoat. Obama can rest easy on that.

So, does Obama shoot the hostage to get what he wants? Time is on his side, after all!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"They're All Priorities"

And that, my friend, is the problem:
Republican lawmakers are pushing President Obama to put seniors, troops, and bondholders at the front of the line should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling. The rest? Well, that's up to him.

"We're just calling on the president to assume the role of CEO and prioritize accordingly," Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) said at a press conference on the issue. Participants repeatedly accused Obama of trying to "scare seniors" by suggesting Social Security payments might be suspended in the wake of a default crisis.

One reporter shouted a question as to whether things like, say, keeping criminals in federal prisons or securing the border might also be added to the list.

"They're all priorities," Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). "As our colleagues here have said, we need to keep our promises and the money is there to do that."

But where will the immediate 44% cut in overall spending needed to avoid default come from instead? Michele Bachmann, who has gone so far as to demand the debt ceiling never be raised, dodged questions on the issue Wednesday by simply repeating her assertion that Social Security and troop pay be left sacrosanct.

Tragedies Make The Best Country Songs

He was probably trying to work "Texas", "trains", and "Mama" into the chorus, when she interrupted his train of thought:
AMBRIDGE, Pa. -- Authorities say that when a Beaver County woman complained that her songwriter boyfriend had never written a song about her, he choked her and hit her in the face.

Ambridge police say 29-year-old Jason Banks attacked his girlfriend June 30 after she complained and pointed out he had written songs about other women.

When It Comes To Raves, The Folks In Las Vegas Smell Money

Their senses don't lie either!:
And of course the event, which drew 230,000, pumped some money into the local economy. That drew notice from board members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which, before the festival, sort of wanted nothing to do with it.

At a board meeting Tuesday, “several board members spoke about developing a closer relationship with producers of the three-day electronic music rave,” my colleague Rick Velotta reports.

As Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins put it: “The participants were the most polite young kids that I’ve ever been around.”

(The kids were all rolling on ecstasy, which I understand causes acute politeness.)

Even Metro Police officers know the score. As one told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “I don’t see the nuance in staring at lights for hours. But it doesn’t take much to see this has generated some money for the valley.”
The event sounded like fun!:
Caroline Miller of the Flaming Lotus Girls, a volunteer art collective in San Francisco, has been working at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a week on the group’s metal sculpture, “Mutopia,” a series of what she called “spirals of mutating plant-animals.”

Also, they shoot fire.

“I’m all about propane,” she says with a laugh. She’s a scientist at a university in San Francisco when not working with the art collective.

They go through 1,000 gallons of propane each night, plus an additional amount of methanol for extra fire. Different salts give the flames their distinctive colors.

To get in the collective and play a role, “Just show up — that’s all it takes,” she says, a good life rule.

The 40 Worst-Dressed Cities In America


28: Burlington, VT.

16: Santa Fe, NM (That's a nice ensemble, really!)

Christchurch Shards

I didn't know about this "Snip" utility on Windows 7 that has apparently replaced screen shots. I got excited about "Snip" when I learned about it today, because now I could finally capture the map on this Web Site, showing Christchurch quake epicenters.

In particular, I was interested in ALL Christchurch quakes since September 4th of last year. In addition to the main faults being made manifest by densely-packed rows of dots, some of the subsidiary faults make a ghostly appearance too. You just need a large enough sample of quakes to see these other faults!

Several main features are evident on the map. The original Greendale Fault, of course, with its western fork, with one branch snaking west and the other branch heading towards Darfield. Then the subsequent extension eastwards: The Port Hills Fault, which seems to stop abruptly just offshore. But then there is a ghostly line of dots heading south, along the western shore of Lake Ellesmere. And the southeastern spear of dots through Akaroa, which intersects the Port Hills Fault and then continues northwestward until it reaches a vertex at the base of the mountains.

The faults seem to define a triangular shard of the northern Canterbury Plains where quakes are fewer in number. Based on the literature, this triangular shard appears to be rotating counterclockwise.

Christchurch quakes are unusually shallow. Compared to most places, the rock that is being shattered here is cold and brittle. The Canterbury Plains are like a shattered, rotating porcelain plate, with the various shards rubbing against each other. Why did it shatter in quite this way? Who can say?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Jerry sends news of the Derecho that blasted through his neighborhood on Monday:
A complex of severe thunderstorms raced across the region on July 11, producing widespread wind damage in portions of northern Indiana, southern Michigan, and northwest Ohio. The thunderstorm complex developed on the northern periphery of a staunch upper level ridge in place across the southern US. A middle atmospheric disturbance ejected out of the western US and supported the development of thunderstorms across eastern Colorado, northwest Kansas, and southwest Nebraska. The thunderstorm’s outflow congealed and a Mesoscale Convective System developed. The thunderstorm complex remained on an eastward trajectory, following the gradient of instability and the mid-level atmospheric flow, failing to build south into the most unstable air due to intense low level capping in place. Hence, this type of system is commonly referred to as a “ridge rider” as the system remains on the edge of the upper level ridge as they propagate. This complex of severe thunderstorms produced wind damage from southwest Nebraska to Maryland, approximately 1,400 miles with the strongest winds from central Iowa and east. A convective system that produces widespread wind damage for several miles is known as a derecho. (Click here to learn more about derechos.) Winds gusted as high as 85 mph, with damage to structures and trees. The hardest hit part of the local area was along the Indiana and Michigan state line.

This Jonathan Rees Fellow Is A Marvel!

When you have all-but-complete access to private databases, and all-but-complete access to the police, as this article from last March shows, you really have all-but-complete power! The world is your oyster! Your people can commit any crime, and escape! Working in the shadows of Rupert Murdoch's empire, Jonathan Rees must have been, in fact, England's unacknowledged monarch!:
The money came pouring in. Jonathan Rees worked from a dingy office in south London. He lived in a cramped flat upstairs. He was divorced, overweight and foul-mouthed but his business was golden: he traded information. His sources may have been corrupt. His actions may have been illegal. But the money kept coming – from one golden source in particular. As Rees himself put it: "No one pays like the News of the World do."

...The bug recorded the sound of Detective Constable Tom Kingston from the south-east regional crime squad collecting cash for himself and for his mate who was an intelligence officer involved in the protection of the royal family and other VIPs. DC Kingston sold Jonathan Rees a Special Branch report disclosing police knowledge of an Albanian crime gang in London, Police Gazette bulletins which listed suspects who were wanted for arrest, and threat assessments in relation to the terrorist targets his mate was supposed to be protecting. Rees sold them to newspapers – primarily the News of the World, the Sunday Mirror and the Daily Mirror.

...And the corruption did not stop with the police. The listening device caught Rees boasting that he was in touch with: two former police officers working for Customs and Excise who would accept bribes; a corrupt VAT inspector who had access to business records; and two corrupt bank employees who would hand over details of targets' accounts. (One of them had the first name Robert and was wittily referred to as Rob the Bank. The other was simply Fat Bob.)

Beyond that, Rees regularly hired two specialist "blaggers" who tricked their way into phone company records to obtain names and home addresses of subscribers and also itemised phone bills, highly valued on Fleet Street as a list of potential sources. One was a Londoner named Shaun who routinely provided lists of phone numbers called by Rees's targets. The other was John Gunning, a private investigator who has since been convicted of blagging the private information of subscribers from British Telecom's database.

Rees's relationship with journalists was a two-way street. An executive from the News of the World developed a corrupt source in the Passport Office who could provide home addresses, personal details and photographs of anybody who applied for a passport. Rees was paying the executive £100 a time for information from the source (although the executive was passing the source only £25 a time).

One person who is familiar with Rees's operations claims that he or one of his associates started using Trojan Horse software, which allowed them to email a target's computer and copy the contents of its hard disk. This source claims that they used this tactic when they were hired by the News of the World to gather background on Freddy Scapaticci, a former IRA man who had been exposed as an MI6 informer codenamed Stakeknife.

Two other sources claim that Rees was commissioning burglaries. One is a private investigator who was told directly by Rees's network that they had broken into targets' home on behalf of a Fleet Street newspaper. The other is a lawyer who claims to have evidence that a high-profile client was the target of an attempted burglary by Rees's associates in search of embarrassing information. There is no independent confirmation of this.

The bug betrayed the sheer speed and ease with which Rees was able to penetrate the flimsy fence of privacy that shields the vast reservoir of personal information now held on the databases controlled by the police and the DVLA, the phone companies and banks.

PM Questions, July 13th

Good grief! Interesting, and beyond belief!

(It's amusing that my friend Andrew resembles David Cameron to some extent in look and voice. It's almost like I have a personal investment in this thing, even though I'm purely a spectator.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Richard Ruelas' Life Was Nearly Forfeit!

What a damned fool Lori Klein is!:
A freshman Arizona state Senator may be in need of some gun safety lessons.

Richard Ruelas, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, found himself staring down the barrel of Republican state Sen. Lori Klein's raspberry-pink firearm during a recent interview at the Capitol.

"Oh, it's so cute," Klein said of the .380 Ruger that she carries in purse at all times.

While the loaded pistol had no safety and the laser pointer was centered on the reporter's chest, Klein explained that there was no need to worry.

"I just didn't have my hand on the trigger," she said.

Snails Take Wing

That's a pretty cool skill!:
Experts on the remote island of Hahajima, 620miles south of Tokyo, made the discovery after studying the dietary habits of the white-eyed Mejiro bird, which feasts on a tiny species of land snail known as Tornatellides Boeningi.

They carried out the research by feeding the snails to the birds under laboratory conditions - and discovered that around 15 per cent of those consumed survived, emerging intact in the birds' droppings.

...The research has also suggested that snails use the birds to spread their populations over a wider area, in the same way that plant seeds are dispersed by fruit-eating birds.

One of the snails which survived the process gave a further indication of this by giving birth shortly after emerging from the bird's gut.

OK, Now Mitch McConnell Is a Traitor

No, McConnell's not a traitor, he just sees the handwriting on the wall and wants the best possible deal while he can still get it:
The verdict is in: conservatives and tea partiers are incensed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to end the debt limit dispute.

McConnell now faces the same kind of angry base President Obama did when he suggested putting entitlements on the table to strike his grand bargain.
Every day that there's no deal, the GOP loses just a little bit more. They have to accept victory now, or risk losing everything!

Of course, victory can cut both ways. Josh Marshall suggests Obama should 'declare victory':
Obama needs to quickly move to declare victory in this thirty-year debate on taxes. Do it now, with the biggest, wickedest grin he can muster while Republicans are in disarray fighting amongst themselves.
Marshall's idea is the dumbest idea ever in human history, seeing how Obama hasn't won a thing yet, but the media people in the Beltway are so captivated by atmospherics and staging of this grand drama that it just might work. In fact, I'm sure it will work!

I know every day that I don't have to go stand in line at the DMV is a good day. So, every day I preemptively declare 'Victory Over The DMV Day', and stage a happy little parade. The only days that don't feature a happy little parade (and that's most days!) are the days when I actually have to go stand in line at the DMV.

The GOP Makes An Offer

NOW is the time for the Democrats to say NO!:
The plan is designed to give President Obama the power to raise the debt limit on his own through the end of his first term, but to force Democrats to take a series of votes on the debt limit in the months leading up to the election. This would stave off the threat of defaulting on national obligations, but keep the charged issues of debt and spending at the center of political debate for months.
Of course, no one says it better than Monty Python:

The Rich Have Been Using Howitzers On Us For Years, But Now It's All Our Fault!

Drama queen, know thyself!:
Ahead of a third consecutive day of meetings on raising the nation's debt ceiling, Republican leaders signaled increasing pessimism about the likelihood of a deal and laid the blame for deteriorating negotiations squarely on President Obama's shoulders.

"I was one of those who had long hoped we could do something big for the country," Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said in a floor speech Tuesday. "But in my view, the president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. Republicans choose none of the above."

McConnell said Obama for too long failed to lead on the issue, and since becoming more engaged has only "put the burden on us" and "retreated behind the poll-tested rhetoric of class warfare.

..."Lawmakers are due to return to the White House at 3:45 p.m. EDT for their fourth round of negotiations in six days. Paradoxically, it seems that the more negotiators meet, the more toxic the situation becomes.
Drama, drama, drama! They wouldn't have it any other way!

The Game Changes On August 2

Steve Benen's analysis jibes with what I think. Until the country actually starts defaulting the GOP has all the advantages. They can make any irrational demand they please, because there is no price. Indeed, as August 2nd approaches, we'll start seeing the demands escalate and become ever-more hysterical, because that's how to get the most bang for the buck.

(After spending so much time in the theater, I finally understand how these drama queens think.)

As soon as the country actually starts defaulting, however, the GOP loses every single one of their advantages, and the Dems gain every single advantage. The GOP will be frantic to make a deal, because their constituencies are unusually-exposed to market turmoil, of which there will be much - too much!

My own opinion is that Dems should let the process drag on until November, and let the credit rating of the U.S. be utterly-destroyed, because then there will be no choice but to impose a shocking increase in taxes, which will be paid primarily by the rich (because that's where the money is), and we will stop deficit spending altogether. We will bring an end to the corrupt paradise the rich now enjoy, where others pay the taxes, yet they get the full advantage of the borrowed money, particularly for financing foreign wars. The readjustment will be dreadful, but it will be instructive, and honest, for a change.

In any event, Steve Benen notes:
Adam Serwer wasn’t commenting specifically on the GOP leaders’ comments, but his piece this morning about the bigger picture rings true:
Republicans are furious because President Obama’s gambit — to make himself look like the “adult in the room” by offering Republicans a disastrous but sweeping debt reduction deal that would combine tax increases with cuts to the social safety net — appears to be working. It’s working in the sense that it has revealed for all to see that Republicans aren’t really interested in cutting the debt.
It’s really not even close. On the one hand we have President Obama, who proven himself eager (perhaps too much so) to compromise, ready to make concessions that anger his base, prepared to pursue $4 trillion in debt reduction, and even willing to make risky changes to entitlement programs. When the president told reporters yesterday he’s “bent over backwards to work with the Republicans,” no one anywhere suggested he was wrong.

On the other hand, we have congressional Republicans, who’ve taken the debt limit hostage for the first time in American history, are threatening to crash the economy on purpose, want less debt reduction than the White House, and refuse to compromise on anything.

It’s precisely why David Brooks wrote last week, “If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.”

OK, So Kelsey B Is Working With This Guy....

So time to put Vaski on the radar screen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Overcoming Those Niggling Fears Of Immediate Death

The problem took about five years to develop.

First, a tree branch slowly began enveloping itself around the electrical line leading to the house from the power line pole, and started brushing up against it. Then, the big branch above started breaking off the tree, in segments. Two weeks ago, the tip of one of those segments fell onto the electrical line, and began weighing it down. Too many more weeks of this kind of chafing, and maybe I would have a real problem!

Clearly, something had to be done. But what? I suppose I could call the electrical utility (SMUD), but the trouble was clearly on my property (even if the tree trunk itself was rooted in the alley, maybe right on the property line). I think this fell under my responsibility.

My hesitation regarded the nature of the electrical line leading to the house. What would happen if I came in contact with it, as I would almost certainly do? What kind of insulation did it have? It always had a metallic look to it, but it just wouldn't make any sense to have that line not be insulated.

But did I know if that line was insulated? For sure? With 100% confidence? No, not really. Sure, birds could touch it, but they aren't grounded, unlike the sorry primate-on-a-ladder who would helpfully provide an electrical ground with his body.

I remember graduate school, when Dr. Sean Twomey told a story about a weekend day long ago, when he was all alone. He touched a piece of equipment and received a powerful electrical jolt. He stood back in surprise for a few seconds to collect his thoughts, when he suddenly realized he was no longer breathing. Unless he could figure out how to breathe again, and soon, he would lose consciousness, and die. Fortunately, he was able to quickly teach himself rudimentary breathing, and save himself from a terrible fate.

But then, sometimes it's not the electrical shock: it's the fall. When I moved to Denver in 1976 to work at Martin Marietta Aerospace, I remember one day when an electrician working on a line in the ceiling got shocked and fell about 20 feet off of a tall ladder. He died about a month later.

So, there were multiple ways of taking a bullet here.

Oh, what the hell! Life is full of risks! I got out the really tall ladder and the extendable tree limb branch trimmer, and got busy. Bailey the Bunny panicked at all the sudden movement in the yard, and hid.

As expected, there was no way to avoid contact with the line. No shock, though. The line was well insulated. Whew! Now I knew, for sure! And I managed to get the tangled branches off the line, and off the tree altogether, without punishing blows or sad falls. No trips to the hospital. No crash courses in Breathing 101.

Some of those branch segments might still pose a problem in the future, but the immediate crisis is abated.

"Peter Pan" - DMTC - Show Closes

Just barely got this photo snapped before Final Thank Yous ended after Final Bows.

A very successful run! Indeed, DMTC had to add an extra performance just to handle the throngs!

Upcoming at DMTC, starting this weekend, is "Peter Pan - A New Musical Adventure" (similar story, different script, different production team, and for the most part, younger actors.)

Colorful Freight Car

On the UPRR siding just outside Sudwerks, in Davis.

Zombies Plunder San Francisco

On Facebook, Chloe C., who lives in the Bay Area, posted this photo.

At least she is forewarned. Newspaper cutbacks are making it harder and harder to stay informed and to receive even important news. The news these days can come from any direction: TV, blogs, Comedy Central, the Onion, even your friends.

And even from helpful roadside signs.

Where The Government Jobs Are (Or Were)

Local and state governments are where the action is (the Feds contracted out a lot of their work).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eat Your Vegetables

Several weeks ago, I got a frantic call from Joe The Plumber. "Quick, come home from work! There's a real pretty girl at the door selling vegetables! I'm trying to stall her and keep her here, but she's trying to leave!"

So, not wanting to miss seeing a pretty girl selling vegetables, I quickly departed work for home.

I arrived too late, and the pretty girl was gone, so we started wandering up and down the sidewalks trying to find her. Eventually we found her down the street, and I ended by signing up for a biweekly box of vegetables delivered to my door by "Farm Fresh To You". The selling point for me was that the vegetables are from the Capay Valley, an area I've always liked. (And the girl's prettiness didn't hurt either.)

The question now is whether I'll eat all the vegetables. I'm not real big on vegetables. I'm bigger on things like Dairy Queen chocolate-dipped soft-serve cones. But it can't hurt having vegetables around. I whomped up some vegetable stir-fry last night, and the vegetables were tasty, particularly the interesting-looking tomatoes (meaning they don't look like store-bought plastic orbs, but instead showed stripes and other signs of variety and individual distinctiveness).

E. looks askance at these vegetables, because they haven't passed through the extensive vetting process provided by Belair Supermarkets. Which is exactly the point of having organic farm-grown vegetables, in my view.

S. says these vegetables are likely to be too expensive, at least when compared to other sources. She may be right, for all I know, but a slackard like me probably wouldn't seek out those other sources anyway. Having vegetables mysteriously appear every two weeks on my doorstep is an important signal that it is time to eat more vegetables. Especially if I think they were delivered by a pretty girl!

Bailey the Bunny also approves of the carrots....

Predictability Is A Liability

With my predictable ways, I'd be "DOA" in Juarez!:
The smugglers selected their targets by placing lookouts at the port of entry who identified vehicles that daily used the SENTRI express lane, according to the affidavit. Once a vehicle and driver were selected, the smugglers would secretly obtain the car's vehicle identification number. The VIN was then used to make spare keys for that car.

The keys would be used at night by smugglers to unlock the car, put drugs in it and lock it. The next morning, the drivers would get in their cars and drive to El Paso -- without ever knowing that drugs had been placed in the vehicles overnight.

...The FBI affidavit says Chavez and Gomez targeted professionals and students who travel to El Paso on regular schedules using the express line. After obtaining the VIN, Chavez and Gomez would provide it to a Texas locksmith to prepare two keys for the vehicle. The men in El Paso would keep one of the keys, while the other would be given to their Juárez-based co-conspirators, the affidavit states.

...The recorded telephone calls show that the alleged smugglers worried about Martinez and even discussed whether they should write a letter on her behalf. One of the suspects said Martinez was targeted because she was punctual and predictable when commuting across the border.

"We have seen that girl (Martinez Amaya) for about a year because she's like a clock, boss," Gomez stated in a recorded call. "At 5:00 -- she was there. Boom-boom-boom! Always."