Friday, August 26, 2011

Tweets Can Propagate Faster Than Earthquakes

Via Ezra Klein.

Sticky Readers

After aerobics class at Pepper Von's on Thursday evening, I quickly threw on some clothes and headed over to the Sacramento Bee, to see a talk entitled "Sticky Readers: How To Attract a Loyal Blog Audience By Writing More Better" by Margaret Andrews, who writes the popular local blog "Nanny Goats In Panties".

Margaret focused on good writing as the key to retaining a loyal blog following. All the marketing people say "content is king", but then are mysteriously silent as to what that means. To paraphrase Margaret, the gooder you write, the loyaller the readers will be.

Margaret has self-published a book with the same title as the talk through Amazon. I was curious about this self-publishing arrangement, because it might well be fun to self-publish some books some day.

I introduced myself to Margaret at a Sacramento Connect function in March, 2010. Tonight, I think she may have forgotten who I was, which suits me fine. Last year, I referred to her as my "nemesis", a rather-strong term that caught her by surprise. What I meant to say is that we are "friendly rivals", since we often jockey for that crucial eighth-place slot on Sacramento's Top 25 sites. Since she is now busy assembling a media empire, with her Coconut Queen video game and her new book, I'd better get busy too! Time's a-wastin'!

Afterwards, Sacramento Connects' Lisa Howard kindly favored me with a tour of the Sacramento Bee newsroom, the nerve center of the entire Central Valley! And I must say, we Bloggers are the Endorphins of said nerve center of said Valley!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Chinese May End Up Being Everyone's Fools

This article compares the Thrifty Chinese with the Spendthrift Americans:
Spurred on by state media which have let rip at the "debt-riddled" United States, the Chinese have listened with wide-eyed amazement to tales of American people living well beyond their means.

The US credit crisis has brought to light a fundamental difference between thrifty consumers in China -- the largest foreign holder of US debt -- and their credit-loving US counterparts.

After Standard & Poor's downgraded Washington's top notch credit rating this month, some Chinese have shown scorn for Americans they see as spending money before they earn it.

"They should just buy what they can pay for," said Zhao Kai, a Beijing resident, explaining that like many Chinese people he "prefers to pay cash and does not like being in debt".

According to Forbes magazine, the average Chinese household had debts worth just 17 percent of its annual income last year, against 136 percent in the United States.
It's good on a personal level being thrifty, of course, but a very curious bipolar relationship opened up between the Chinese and the Americans over the last 30 years. The Chinese have an export-oriented economy now, whereas we have an import-oriented economy. They save, and invest in us rather than themselves: we spend and finance our budget deficits with their money. It works, for the moment, but only as long as everyone plays their role.

If Americans just bought what we "can pay for", imports would collapse and the Chinese economy would be crushed. If the Chinese stopped investing here, interest rates would rise, and higher taxes would be necessary for us, but they'd suffer to from poor returns.

If the Chinese want to scold us, we can't stop them, but if we follow their advice, we'll all be in deep, deep trouble. So, we'll listen to them and smile, forget everything they say, and then head down to Best Buy later in the evening to buy new (Chinese) electronic toys. Because that's how the world works, these days, and there's hell to pay if we do it any differently.

I Guess That Is A Problem, Isn't It?

Live-Blogging ABQ Storms - 08/24/11

(2;45 p.m. PDT) Went to lunch. Came back. The weather's been busy!

Nice thunderstorm making its way from the Sandias, across Albuquerque, and across the South Valley. A nice gust front is radiating away from that storm, as well as from a storm just west of Belen. And there is another storm approaching the Sandias from the northeast. The rain isn't over by any means!

Come on, folks, let's bump up those rainfall totals!

(3:15 p.m. PDT) Raining heavily just south of I-40 and east of the Manzanos. A gust front is beginning to radiate from that storm too. It looks like this storm will follow its predecessor over the mountains and into the South Valley.

It Seems To Be Raining At Least A Little Bit In ABQ

May it rain more!

The Old Dominion Will Prevail!

"OldeSaultie" in Virginia sends this.

From Ft. Worth

For what it's worth (via Facebook).

Stress, And Its Toll

The last year has been terribly-stressful in Christchurch:
Janine Antram, a government-approved wig provider, said about 100 Canterbury women and girls, mostly aged between 10 and 30, had contacted her since last October asking for wigs because they were suffering from alopecia.

"There is huge hair loss going on in Christchurch.

"I don't know if it is related to the earthquake, but I do know alopecia is related to stress, and clients have said [alopecia] has come on since the earthquakes."

Her youngest client was eight.

'Happy Feet' To Return Home

Andrew in Christchurch sends this sweet story.

Godspeed, 'Happy Feet'!:
The emperor penguin who became world famous when he washed up on a Kapiti Coast beach in June will have his last hurrah this weekend.

Happy Feet will be shipped out to sea on Niwa's research vessel Tangaroa on August 29.

The penguin, who has lived at Wellington Zoo since he was found on Peka Peka beach, would be released in the Southern Ocean four days into the ship's month-long trip to the Campbell Islands, 700km south of New Zealand.

On Sunday, Wellington Zoo is hosting a "Haere Ra Happy Feet'' day where visitors have the chance to sign a farewell card and are encouraged to dress up in black and white.

At 3pm Happy Feet will go under anaesthetic for the final time so a GPS tracking device can be attached to him.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Still Worried About The Epicenter Area

I'm worried about the area near the epicenter of this East Coast quake. The strength of this shallow quake is on a par with the similarly-shallow quakes near Christchurch, NZ, which did terrible damage. Some towns in VA got hammered, I'm sure!

No news of any Virginia calamities yet. The Washington Post has coverage:
Any assumption that the region is seismically serene was corrected at 1:51 p.m. when a fault near the small town of Mineral, Va., suddenly ruptured.

...The first warnings of the earthquake may have occurred at the National Zoo, where officials said some animals seemed to feel it coming before people did. The red ruffed lemurs began “alarm calling” a full 15 minutes before the quake hit, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said. In the Great Ape House, Iris, an orangutan, let out a guttural holler 10 seconds before keepers felt the quake. The flamingos huddled together in the water seconds before people felt the rumbling. The rheas got excited. And the hooded mergansers — a kind of duck — dashed for the safety of the water.

"Breaking Bad" - Season 4, Episode 6, 'Cornered'

Left: A prominent billboard on Broadway Blvd. SE, July 27, 2010.

Episode 6 featured several new locations. "OldeSaultie" has already posted these on his map for Season 4.

The "Tucker! Tucker!" scene was located at 1400 San Jose Avenue SE, in the Kirtland Community. That scene was freaky and strange - a real favorite! I love it!

Skyler's flight to Four Corners represents the first time the main action of the show has left the state of New Mexico. Characteristically, that flight was very tentative, leaving the state by only a few feet. Nevertheless, what a place for a quandary!

Just like the Superlab represents a dungeon, New Mexico represents a sort of trap or prison too. In my "Breaking Bad" post Number Two, I wrote that "Albuquerque tends to attract impractical dreamers. ... People who don't understand why their plans never worked out." And the way you know you are a true New Mexican is that claustrophobic trapped feeling you get just by living there. Skyler, it's time to flee to Denver! Skyler! Skyler, do you hear me?

It's been years since I've been to Four Corners, and so I'm assuming that the brief vista shown represents the area in the immediate vicinity: e.g., the descent into the valley of the San Juan River, which runs nearby.

The refrigerator truck reprise occurred at exactly the same place the other refrigerator truck hit occurred, on Los Picaros Drive, SE.

Loyola's Family Restaurant on Central Avenue was also used, to great effect.

Late Afternoon In Davis

By a quirk of fate, I'm in Davis, at the DMTC Box Office. The YPT rehearsal is underway in the theater. It just feels really weird to be here so early!


A 5.9 earthquake hits the center of the freakin' media universe. And it's not California!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Matt Fox feat. Kelsey B - "Downtown" (VJ Nightshade Video Edit) (Explicit)

Kelsey and Matt do a wonderful job with this song!

I was hesitant at first about this collaboration, because I find some Dub Step to be strangely-undanceable. I wondered if this was a misstep. Matt Fox figured a way out of that trap, however! It's got a solid driving beat - perfect for dancing!

The result of the collaboration is a fresh new sound. Hard to come up with a fresh new sound in dance music!

The best of good luck and good fortune to the 'Beauty Queen' as she pushes her way up in the charts! (Link to iTunes.)

Barack Helped Win A War!

We need to take a minute and thank Barack Obama and his Administration for the manner in which they have supported the Libyan rebels, and for not losing determination or focus despite the rough going. Obama has been roundly mocked for his rather passive leadership, but here it was of the utmost importance that the United States let the Libyans and the Europeans dictate the pace by which Muammar Ghaddafi got stripped of power. It's their country, after all, not ours. They had to take the lead!

And we get the best-case finish too! Barack is a statesman!

Juan Cole has more:
The secret of the uprising’s final days of success lay in a popular revolt in the working-class districts of the capital, which did most of the hard work of throwing off the rule of secret police and military cliques.

...The end game, wherein the people of Tripoli overthrew the Qaddafis and joined the opposition Transitional National Council, is the best case scenario that I had suggested was the most likely denouement for the revolution. I have been making this argument for some time, and it evoked a certain amount of incredulity when I said it in a lecture in the Netherlands in mid-June, but it has all along been my best guess that things would end the way they have. I got it right where others did not because my premises turned out to be sounder, i.e., that Qaddafi had lost popular support across the board and was in power only through main force.

...But here I agree with President Obama and his citation of Reinhold Niebuhr. You can’t protect all victims of mass murder everywhere all the time. But where you can do some good, you should do it, even if you cannot do all good.

...Moreover, those who question whether there were US interests in Libya seem to me a little blind. The US has an interest in there not being massacres of people for merely exercising their right to free assembly. The US has an interest in a lawful world order, and therefore in the United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that Libyans be protected from their murderous government. The US has an interest in its NATO alliance, and NATO allies France and Britain felt strongly about this intervention. The US has a deep interest in the fate of Egypt, and what happened in Libya would have affected Egypt (Qaddafi allegedly had high Egyptian officials on his payroll).

Given the controversies about the revolution, it is worthwhile reviewing the myths about the Libyan Revolution that led so many observers to make so many fantastic or just mistaken assertions about it.

...3. It was only natural that Qaddafi sent his military against the protesters and revolutionaries; any country would have done the same. No, it wouldn’t, and this is the argument of a moral cretin. In fact, the Tunisian officer corps refused to fire on Tunisian crowds for dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and the Egyptian officer corps refused to fire on Egyptian crowds for Hosni Mubarak. The willingness of the Libyan officer corps to visit macabre violence on protesting crowds derived from the centrality of the Qaddafi sons and cronies at the top of the military hierarchy and from the lack of connection between the people and the professional soldiers and mercenaries. Deploying the military against non-combatants was a war crime, and doing so in a widespread and systematic way was a crime against humanity. Qaddafi and his sons will be tried for this crime, which is not “perfectly natural.”

4. There was a long stalemate in the fighting between the revolutionaries and the Qaddafi military. There was not. ... Any close observer of the war since April has seen constant movement, first at Misrata and then in the Western Mountains, and there was never an over-all stalemate.

5. The Libyan Revolution was a civil war. It was not, if by that is meant a fight between two big groups within the body politic. There was nothing like the vicious sectarian civilian-on-civilian fighting in Baghdad in 2006. The revolution began as peaceful public protests, and only when the urban crowds were subjected to artillery, tank, mortar and cluster bomb barrages did the revolutionaries begin arming themselves. When fighting began, it was volunteer combatants representing their city quarters taking on trained regular army troops and mercenaries. That is a revolution, not a civil war.

..6. Libya is not a real country and could have been partitioned between east and west.

Alexander Cockburn wrote:
“It requites no great prescience to see that this will all end up badly. Qaddafi’s failure to collapse on schedule is prompting increasing pressure to start a ground war, since the NATO operation is, in terms of prestige, like the banks Obama has bailed out, Too Big to Fail. Libya will probably be balkanized.”

I don’t understand the propensity of Western analysts to keep pronouncing nations in the global south “artificial” and on the verge of splitting up. It is a kind of Orientalism. All nations are artificial.

...7. There had to be NATO infantry brigades on the ground for the revolution to succeed. Everyone from Cockburn to Max Boot (scary when those two agree) put forward this idea. But there are not any foreign infantry brigades in Libya, and there are unlikely to be any. Libyans are very nationalistic and they made this clear from the beginning. Likewise the Arab League. NATO had some intelligence assets on the ground, but they were small in number, were requested behind the scenes for liaison and spotting by the revolutionaries, and did not amount to an invasion force. The Libyan people never needed foreign ground brigades to succeed in their revolution.

8. The United States led the charge to war. There is no evidence for this allegation whatsoever. ... The excellent McClatchy wire service reported on the reasons for which then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Pentagon, and Obama himself were extremely reluctant to become involved in yet another war in the Muslim world. It is obvious that the French and the British led the charge on this intervention, likely because they believed that a protracted struggle over years between the opposition and Qaddafi in Libya would radicalize it and give an opening to al-Qaeda and so pose various threats to Europe. ... Whatever Western Europe’s motivations, they were the decisive ones, and the Obama administration clearly came along as a junior partner (something Sen. John McCain is complaining bitterly about).

Into The Mouths Of Babes

New neighbors are present in the apartments on both east and west sides of my house now. That means small children are now present on both sides too.

Last weekend, as I watered the embankment out front, two little girls started playing 'Peter Pan' in their front yard, on the west side of my house. I could hardly believe my ears! Did they see the recent DMTC show, or had they been viewing a DVD? I don't know, but one girl was playing Tinkerbell and the other was playing Wendy. Then, they started discussing who was going to play Captain Hook. I could barely hear their voices, and I know it wasn't any of my business, but if their parents hadn't been there I might have burst out: "The baby plays Hook!"

This weekend, I focused on painting the east wall of the shed. Since the shed abuts the neighbors' yard on the east side, that meant spending the entire weekend trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible in their yard.

Inconspicuousness comes at a price. One fellow came out of the apartment house talking on a cell phone. Regardless of my presence, he explained quite loudly a lot more than I really needed to know about his year-long experiment with celibacy. I also heard arguments I didn't need to hear too.

Saturday afternoon, a toddler appeared in the yard with his mother. The toddler was attracted by the discarded bright, shiny soda cans that I had casually tossed on the ground during the afternoon. In true toddler fashion, he tried to jam both soda cans into his mouth.

In the old days, the child's mother would have acted immediately to pull away the soda cans from the child's face. Germs, you know. Nevertheless, this child's mother did not do so. Indeed, the mother seemed inclined to let the child experiment, and pulled the child away only when he began moving towards the paint.

I hope this mother's approach is the harbinger of a new, more-realistic approach by parents to letting their children get exposed to at least some of the germs of the world. An antiseptic upbringing can be deleterious to children. Indeed, some authorities blame FDR's antiseptic upbringing for his later vulnerability to polio. In places like the Nile Valley, where polio was more-common than New York State, children rarely got sick from it. Their dirtier upbringing may have been crucial!