Friday, September 23, 2011

Jetta Reaction On The Web

Uh Oh, Where Is Progress Taking Us?

Mark noted this interesting and alarming development:
UC Berkeley scientists have developed a system to capture visual activity in human brains and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Eventually, this process will allow you to record and reconstruct your own dreams on a computer screen.

...In this other video you can see how this process worked in the three experimental targets. On the top left square you can see the movie the subjects were watching while they were in the fMRI machine. Right below you can see the movie "extracted" from their brain activity. It shows that this technique gives consistent results independent of what's being watched—or who's watching. The three lines of clips next to the left column show the random movies that the computer program used to reconstruct the visual information.

Right now, the resulting quality is not good, but the potential is enormous.

Club Zumba, On Wednesdays!

The Wednesday night aerobics class at Pepper Von's Step One has been undergoing some changes of late.

At first, the changes were small. Sometimes the Wednesday night class is the testing ground for experiments, so I wasn't surprised that he announced that the class was going to become a Zumba class, a format he had experimented with before. Then he introduced a number of new participants originally from a health club in Natomas, and I figured these new folks were there to actually take over the class, but for now Pepper still taught the Zumbafied class. Then, first one percussionist was brought in, then a second percussionist, making for thunderous Africanized fun on Wednesday night. But little did I know that bigger changes were afoot.

On Wednesday evening, when I arrived at the lobby of the health club, I quickly glanced at the television monitor of the class, and my attention was arrested. The TV screen showed a platform at the front of the darkened class, but with extra illumination provided by flashing disco-style lights. Mary saw my arrested gaze, and said: "He's completely lost his mind, of course, but he said he wanted a club atmosphere, and that's exactly what he's got!"

Indeed! Flashing lights, loud sound system, two louder percussionists, a room packed with happy people, with Pepper leading the way on the platform. What more could anyone want for an aerobics class?

GOP Presidential Campaign, So Far

It's time to look at the Republican field again!

Here's what I wrote in February that still seems relevant:
The 2008 Republican nomination race displayed just how sensitive the GOP race is to the results of Super Tuesday. Candidates that can't instantaneously display a national reach, however feeble, fall flat on their face, immediately. In 2008, I thought John McCain displayed amazing guts by going deeply into debt, despite open rejection by the conservative base, in order to stay just-viable-enough for Super Tuesday (amazing guts, or proof-positive of insanity - take your pick). McCain knew he had broader reach than either Huckabee or Giuliani could muster, especially in places like California, and that he was the stronger candidate - but only if he could survive until Super Tuesday.

So, I suspect the key to 2012 GOP nomination race is deciphering just who has the broadest reach, and is able to stay viable in all quarters of the country. 'Broadest reach' is broadly-defined too: 'reach' can mean many things.
In February, I thought Sarah Palin had the broadest reach. Today, I think it's Mitt Romney.

I was surprised by the withdrawal or collapse of so many Southerners in the race - Huckabee, Gingrich, Barbour - particularly since the center-of-gravity of the party is now Southern. The entrance of Rick Perry into the race seemed to take care of this problem, setting up a Northern-Southern dichotomy with Romney, and promising what might be a very close race for the nomination.

But Perry seems to be having problems:
Perry has participated in three presidential debates now, and his performances have been shaky in all of them. But last night took the cake. On a question about Pakistan, he offered incoherent gibberish that made it clear he was entirely unprepared to discuss the subject. When he was handed a ridiculously easy opening to remind the audience of Romney's past crimes against conservatism, he utterly flubbed it, seeming to lose his concentration and spitting out this response:

...And, as has been his custom, he seemed far less focused and energetic as the night wore on. But Romney was sharp and on-point the whole time. He offered his own share of incoherent nonsense -- see, for instance, his response when Perry mentioned that a new edition of Romney's book had scrubbed a reference to making the Massachusetts healthcare plan a national model -- he knew how to sell it. Unlike Perry, Romney was confident and polished, feigning confusion over why anyone would challenge his conservative credentials and insisting he'd been a model of consistency.

The key here is that the Republicans who influence mass opinion in the party seem to be noticing this, and speaking out. After last night's debate, Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard opined that "no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry" and called it "close to a disqualifying two hours for him." Michelle Malkin ridiculed him for his inability to formulate intelligible responses. David Limbaugh pronounced himself "concerned" that Perry is in "deep trouble." Erick Erickson called his performance "a train wreck." And on and on.

Rick Perry doesn't yet have that national reach, but only a regional reach. He's going to have to reach out further, and like McCain, maybe suffer a lot, if he's going to prevail. As McCain showed in 2008, ideological consistency isn't important at all for the supposedly-inflexible but actually exceedingly-elastic Republicans. With winner-take-all primaries like they have on the GOP (but not Democratic) side, the only important thing that matters is national reach, by whatever means, by Super Tuesday. (And so, why isn't Rick Perry campaigning already in California?)

The South is more ideologically-coherent than the North, but just like in the 1860's, the North is bigger and more-populous, which is why the Northern candidate, Romney, now has the edge.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


This morning, preparing to leave for work, I brought down some food for Bailey the Rabbit down the back stairs (that bunny gets more spoiled by the day) and was startled to discover there was a huge crowd of people in the alley behind my house. The crowd spilled into my driveway, and a half-dozen people stood right next to my house, chain-smoking all around my car. So, I hesitated approaching my car and stood right behind the hedge surrounding my yard - a refuge from the madding crowd - and listened to the conversation.

The folks were in the alley because of a fire alarm in the large DMV building nearby. They had filed out of the building and sought refuge in the alley right behind my house. A woman mentioned she had seen a black cat flee from under my car as she approached the driveway. So, conversation revolved around a Halloween theme: black cats and black spiders, and the like.

All of sudden, the all-clear signal was given, and the crowd evaporated as fast as it had formed.

Bad Judgments

J.S. writes:
Rick Santorum is up in arms about a web site that seeks to redefine "santorum". Having visited the site, I think that he has a valid complaint, but all he's done is to draw attention to it. (On the other hand, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy!)
Isn’t this is Dan Savage’s effort from like the mid 00’s? It’s a fiendishly-clever campaign, and totally successful in every respect. Rick Santorum can join Thomas Crapper in that elite group of people whose name has been attached to things they might not like. But it only works with people with uncommon names, and things that aren’t otherwise defined. It very nearly happened with the noun ‘Lewinsky’ in the late 90’s, but in that case there was already an adequate nomenclature and the name was just a bit too common. Still, it was close.

It just goes to show that you shouldn’t strive to seriously anger the gay community, because you will pay, and pay, and pay for your bad judgment.

Managing The Phantom Menagerie In The Basement

E.: MMMMMAAAAAARRRRRRRCCCCC! I was looking out the window of the bathroom and I saw an enormous black rat with a black tail go into the garage and then into the basement!


E.: Bailey's going to be scared! Maybe that's why he spends so much time in the yard these days.

M.: Since we started propping open the basement door so Bailey can escape the heat of the day, we've been having problems with cats in the basement. Two nights ago, I heard noise in the basement at 2 a.m., so I went downstairs in bare feet and found the neighbor's black cat. I chased that black cat all around the basement. The white cat has been down there too. But if there's now a big black rat there too, maybe we shouldn't get rid of the cats, but encourage them to stay. We certainly can't put traps or poison down there.

E.: What's Bailey going to do?

M.: Oh, he'll be all right. Lately, he likes the yard. With all the cats pooping in the basement, I can't blame him. But what happens if we get raccoons and possums and skunks in the basement too?



Jetta Gets Her Fifteen Minutes Of Fame (Fifteen Seconds Is More Like It)

J.: I don't understand. They cut so much of my performance. I had the audience on my side. They were cheering me on, and booing Simon when he walked off the set. Two of the four judges liked me. There were some huge laughs. But they cut all of that out! The entertainment value was lost! I tell you, the people who did this are doing Simon a disservice. I wonder if I can get in touch with him? Do you know how to work this Twitter thing?

M.: Welcome to Hollywood! I notice that my Weblog is getting traffic from your performance.

J.: Why your Weblog?

M.: It's one of the very few ways people have of finding you on the Web.

J.: Why don't they get in touch with me?

M.: They can't find you easily. You need a Web Site.

J.: Can't I get a Web Site?

M.: Too late for tonight!

J.: I need to get to bed. I'm being interviewed on Toronto radio tomorrow.

M.: I regret to inform you about this negative comment on YouTube. Someone commented "What a beast!"

J.: Oh, that's not a negative comment. That's a compliment.

M.: It is?

J.: See their video, the belly-button piercing? They're punkers, so that's a compliment.

M.: Let me look up "beast" on Urban Dictionary:
UK Slang- a person who is very good at something
He's an absolute beast when it comes to football.
When referring to a person, beast status is achieved when the aforementioned person is so good at a certain skill that they have exceeded human comprehension, thus making them non-human.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just An Odd Way To Get Into Lambda Players

Just a strange shot, from September 12th, of folks trying to enter the former Lambda Players performing space on 21st Street.

"The King And I" - DMTC - Second Weekend

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

I wonder if the Breaking Bad folks read my blog?

Several months ago, in Post 4 of my Breaking Bad posts, I took note of Albuquerque lawyer Ron Bell’s boxing TV ad and compared it to Saul Goodman’s ad. Now, they have a Saul Goodman ad up featuring Saul wearing boxing gloves.

The BB folks might have bumped into Ron Bell’s ad on their own, or.....

Once again, it’s art imitating life imitating art, imitating life, etc!

I just hope they’ve clued in Ron Bell. It’s bad news, tweaking lawyers like that!

On other fronts, I realized that Don Eladio has an interesting name. Eladio’s root is Helas, meaning, “The Greek”.

But “Eladio” is also very close to the Spanish word “Helado”, meaning frozen, or icy. A very appropriate name for a dealer in crystal meth! Which makes me think it’s a nom de guerre, and likely not his real name at all (and what is the real name of a fictional character, after all?)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things Are Looking Up On Mars

Better living with better rocks!:
But the terrain Opportunity now is sampling — largely buried by lake bed sediments — pops up in places like the Endeavour rim and is much older, going back to the earliest days of the planet.

...CRISM spectral data and other orbital data on the part of the Endeavour crater rim named Cape York indicated a good possibility that clay minerals would be found there.

“Clays form in more neutral, less acidic conditions than the sulfate-rich sandstones we’ve been looking at,” Arvidson says. “Our hypothesis is that if there are clay minerals, the water was less acidic and therefore more conducive to life. The presence of zinc, bromine, phosphorus, chlorine and sulfur in the Tisdale rock is exciting in that it points toward water moving through and altering the rock, although we have no evidence for clay minerals in Tisdale. Further, the Tisdale surfaces were very rough and we were unable to make use of the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) to clean off the surfaces to expose fresh materials.

“Thus, we moved on and are now in the thick of the hunt to find these elusive clay minerals by traversing to other rock targets and making detailed measurements, including making chemical and mineralogical observations of natural, brushed and ground surfaces. The rock Opportunity is sitting over currently is called Chester Lake and will be our first target in which we will use the RAT to progressively expose deeper and deeper surfaces,” Arvidson says.

Morality Sags Again In Michoacan

Gabe sends this:
MEXICO CITY (AP) - The Mexican army captured a key figure in the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel that is sowing violence in western Mexico, a top officer announced Tuesday.

Saul Solis Solis, 49, a former police chief and one-time congressional candidate, was captured without incident Monday in the cartel's home state of Michoacan, Brig. Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas told reporters during a presentation of Solis.

Solis is considered one of the principal lieutenants in the Knights Templar, which split late last year from La Familia, a pseudo-religious drug gang known as a major trafficker of methamphetamine.

...Solis is a cousin of one of the Knight's Templar's main alleged leaders, Enrique Plancarte Solis. He served as director of public safety in the Michoacan town of Turicato from 2003-2005. He also ran for the federal congress in 2009 as a Green Party candidate, finishing fourth in his district with about 11,000 votes.

...President Felipe Calderon launched his attack on organized crime in 2006 in his home state of Michoacan, where much of the violence had been attributed to La Familia. Knights Templar became a splinter group after the leader of La Familia, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, was killed in a shootout with federal police in December.

...Both groups claim to be devoted to God and to be fighting poverty and injustice under a strict code of conduct.
The Mexican Knights Templar drug gang is notable for its heavy emphasis on personal morality, religiosity and upstanding behavior. The arrest of this fellow is just another sign of decaying morality in the state of Michoacan.

Gabe replies:
Stupid question from me:

Personal morality, religiosity, and upstanding behavior from a drug gang?
Yes: that’s the source of their strength, actually. The strongest possible emphasis on personal morality, and the best bargain on meth south of the border.

No one said it had to make any sense...

Craig replies:
A criminal organization trying to legitimatize themselves by calling themselves the Knights Templar. LOL

Cat And Roomba

Two videos posted at Badtux

Julissa Veloz - Mayhem Live Performance - Tampa, FL

The fabulous Julissa Veloz, just being fabulous!

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Tidal Wave" - Thee Oh Sees

Gus's revenge!

Breaking Bad - Season 4, Episode 10, "Salud"

That decrepit-looking Mexican meth lab appears to be in the glorious junked-out wonderland of the industrial South Valley; specifically:

Delta Power Co Llc
725 Electric Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM 87105

There is an interesting detail in the way they made up the building for the TV show. The upper floors have a curious, bombed-out look: darkened, with broken windows.

I visited Mexico on a cruise late last year as part of a wedding party. I noticed (particularly while visiting Puerto Vallarta) that there were a considerable number of buildings (typically buildings with sidewalk-level businesses and apartments above) with functional first and second floors, but bombed-out looking third and fourth floors. Why that would be the case, I can’t imagine (I don’t pretend to understand Mexico at all), but it is interesting that the Breaking Bad set people detailed this building in the same way, to give that extra air of Mexican authenticity.

I was very excited by the return to Don Eladio's Mexican Hacienda! If you look carefully at the views of the distant WNW horizon, you can see Cabezon (Season 3, Episode 1, "No Mas")!

I also got excited by Gus' gift of a special kind of Añejo Tequila to Don Eladio.

Visiting Puerto Vallarta late last year, I took a field trip to the old Doña Engracia tequila distillery NE of Ixtapa, NE of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. In order to catalyze tequila sales, the tour guides presented us with a class that might have been called "Tequila for Idiots" (but out of politeness, probably described as such in Spanish).

Tequila manufacture is surprisingly complicated. Here, our tour guide Victor explained the differences between Silver, Reposada and Añejo Tequilas. This nomenclature was simplified for novice students like ourselves (it's hard keeping track of more than three things at a time, particularly when tasting tequila and preparing to purchase tequilas). Doña Engracia Tequilas, like many tequilas from family-owned distilleries, are made from 100% agave, unlike popular tequila mixes that are more-commonly for sale in the United States (like Patron).

Blue Agave

The first step in tequila manufacture is removing the Blue Agave's starchy roots (piñas), from which tequila will eventually be distilled.

Wikipedia has more details regarding tequila:
Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:

Blanco ("white") or plata ("silver"): white spirit, un-aged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels;

Joven ("young") or oro ("gold"): a mixture of blanco tequila and reposado tequila (Ex. José Cuervo Oro).

Reposado ("rested"): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size;

Añejo ("aged" or "vintage"): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels;

Extra Añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged"): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This category was established in March 2006.

This particular kind of Breaking Bad Zafiro Añejo (Aged Sapphire) is not discussed by Wikipedia, but I must get some for my personal collection ASAP! You never know when guests might show up unexpectedly!

Meanwhile, TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz loved the episode:
Hell, let's just say it: Gustavo "Gus" Fring is one of the greatest characters in the history of TV crime dramas, as great as Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, Al Swearengen and Mags Bennett ("Justified"). And yes, he's the equal of Walter White -- as psychologically rich and in some ways more fascinating, because he's so more closed off and mysterious. Walt is emotionally transparent to us even when he's hiding things from other characters. But Gus remains a question mark even though he seems to know himself better than anyone else on "Breaking Bad," with the possible exception of Mike. Even if he'd been played by some other actor he would have been fascinating. But Giancarlo Esposito, with his haunted eyes and droopy-faced, Chuck Jones reactions, gives Gus an almost Shakespearean richness. I could picture this character sitting across a table from Macbeth or Shylock and having plenty to talk about.

Speed Grazing

Dyer posted this. Music is Nightnoise, "Wiggy Wiggy," 10 seconds/frame.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jetta's Going To Be On X-Factor!

My friend Jetta Linda Ostrofsky (in the red beret) appears at about 40 seconds in this teaser video for the premiere of X-Factor (Wednesday & Thursday this coming week). Do watch the TV show: apparently she quibbles with Simon regarding her song selection, so it will be entertaining! It's hard for anybody, particularly an outsider from Sacramento, to survive the audition process for these mammoth talent shows, and Jetta is to be congratulated for her determination!