Friday, December 16, 2011

Company Christmas Party

Beware - Bloggers Be Here!

After sweaty aerobics on Thursday evening there wasn't much time for Sacramento Connect's Blogger Meet-up at the Fox and Goose, but I headed over there anyway. These events are often fun and quite informative.

The bangers had all been scavenged by the time I arrived, but there were leftover fragments of pineapple, apple, pita bread, and cheese. I talked with Lisa Howard, plus several bloggers, including Sue at Sue's Dog Blog, Eileen at Bringing Up Bronwyn, and also the fellow who runs Elk Grove News.

I really enjoyed talking with Margaret Andrews about converting Blogger blogs to Wordpress, and also about Fear of Falling (it worries her, but I secretly crave it).

Looking forward to more get-togethers like these!

License Plates

Stuff Happens
Neuter 'Em

FOX News And I Agree....

Channel surfing at 2 a.m., I ended up watching Brett Baier and his crew discuss the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. Interestingly, everyone agreed, including myself, that Ron Paul might win!

Salon had an interesting article regarding the similarities between's Paul's role in the 2012 GOP campaign, and Jesse Jackson's role in the 1988 Democratic campaign:
Jonathan Bernstein first made the Paul/Jackson comparison last week, and there’s a lot to it. Like Paul, Jackson was a repeat candidate who enjoyed much wider support in his second bid. He was also seen as a niche candidate and was persona non grata to most Democratic leaders, who saw his far-left views (particularly on foreign policy), penchant for controversy (“Hymietown“), and ties to black urban politics as potentially damaging to their party. And, just like Paul, his unfavorable poll scores among his own party’s voters tended to be much higher than those of his opponents.

Breaking Bad/Simpsons Mashup

Home Protection

Several times a day I receive robocalls for installations of Home Protection Units, but thanks to Bailey The Bunny's diligent service, I have no need.

The Hordos Of Evil

M.: Reading this proposed agreement, I see a big problem. The school district is willing to keep you on in an employed status until March 1st, so that you then have five years service as a permanent employee, and therefore able to become fully-vested with CALPERS and eligible to receive a pension. That is a very generous offer. But according to these reports you've been receiving from CALPERS, you'll have only a little more than four years service: apparently your summers-off don't count! So, unless the school district can persuade CALPERS to give you five years, the agreement won't count. I wonder if they even bothered to talk to CALPERS?

E.: MMMMMMMAAAAAARRRRCCCCCCCCC! They've been causing me nothing but a big headache! They are discriminating me because I'm old!

M.: Maybe the school district can take into account your years of part-time work. I don't know. I suggest not signing the agreement, at least for now. The agreement says they won't interfere with unemployment claims, but what that means is unclear.

E.: They are pressuring me a lot over there. They said they can get me back on health insurance in the meantime, but only if I sign the agreement. But maybe I should sign. That's four months pay!

M.: And no work!

E.: And they keep saying I can claim disability. SIS? But I'm not disabled! I love my job! And the money I spent getting my certificates! All this trouble started when they stole my money over there. None of this is my fault. What I want is to put all of this behind my mind.

M.: Good luck!

E.: (Illustrating horns, using fingers on the forehead) They are like the Hordos Of Evil over there!

Poor Scott Walker!

The Governor of Wisconsin is SO oppressed! His human rights are so much at stake he might just faint!

Funny, California has similar sorts of laws, but no one in the GOP in 2003 complained on behalf of poor Gov. Gray Davis.

Call the Wahmbulance!:
And here is the argument that the Walker campaign’s rights are being violated by having to do the work of challenging signatures:

21. A government agency may not place unequal burdens on respective electors. Under the GAB’s position, an elector signing multiple petitions with the intent that the signatures be counted more than once faces no deterrent or penalty. In order to be counted equally with that person, Scott K. Walker must undertake the burden (without the assistance of the GAB) of identifying and challenging multiple submissions of signatures by the elector.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Afternoon Train

A southbound BNSF train at J Street in Midtown Sacramento on Thursday afternoon.

We had work reviews today. Given the slow pace of work over the last four years, and the likelihood of the slow pace continuing for the indefinite future, the partners were receptive to the idea of me either:
  • Becoming much-more-flexible and much less of a royal pain in the ass to work with (which, as a much older dog than I was 21 years ago when I joined the firm, is difficult to promise), or;
  • Obtaining part-time work elsewhere, provided it doesn't interfere with their needs.

So, I'm thinking about Noel's suggestion of reaching out to YCC. Goodness knows, I could use the money, and the change of pace.

"Xanadu" Trailer

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sorting Out Illegal Theft From Legal Theft

Because if you call it an investment that makes it legal:
Regulators now have a full picture of money transfers in the final days of bankrupt brokerage MF Global, and are working to sort out which transactions were legitimate, a top official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We are far enough along the trail that we know where all the money went. Now it's just finding out which ones of those transactions are legitimate and which ones of them are illegitimate," said Jill Sommers, who is heading the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's review of MF Global.

...In an interview, Sommers told Reuters that just because money was transferred out of a customer account to the broker-dealer account "doesn't mean it was illegitimate."

...Until regulators can determine which transactions were illegitimate, they will not be able to determine the shortfall in customer funds, and how much money will ultimately be distributed back to customers, she said.

Under certain circumstances, futures commission merchants are allowed to take customer funds and invest them in a range of approved securities.

In exchange for using the cash, firms are required to back it up with high-quality collateral such as U.S. government securities.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Call Of The Wild

Since adopting Bailey The Bunny last June, I've generally tried to give the bunny maximum space, in order for Bailey to be all the bunny he can be. Bailey has free reign over the back yard, and can enter and leave the garage at will.

Not surprisingly, given all the space, Bailey has soldiered on by being quite independent - even standoffish. Bailey is determined to live as free and wild a life as he can, under the circumstances.

As the weather turned colder, Bailey coped by growing thicker fur. It hasn't been really very wet yet, so there hasn't been any shelter crisis to speak of, but Bailey seems to prefer to remain outside, or hide under a tree branch in the rain, rather than seeking shelter, so there may be time for a shelter crisis in the months to come.

Bailey's habit, strangely enough, is to seek shelter in the garage during the day, when it's warmest, and remain in the open in the back yard at night, when it's coldest. I didn't understand this habit at first, but there have been several nights when I've seen a nasty-looking, rat-like little possum enter the garage at about 3 a.m. to scavenge bits of Bailey's food. There are no guarantees that other animals like raccoons can't enter the yard. Even though there is a light on in the garage at all hours, it may be that Bailey fears being cornered by predators in the garage at night. Remaining in the open is preferable at night, particularly since hawks can't see him then.

The only flaw in Bailey's give-me-room strategy is the need for food. The yard isn't big enough to provide all the food a rabbit might need, so I helpfully provide Bailey ample vegetable material. He's so cute, the eager way he runs over when he realizes it's me in the yard. And he is so crude too, the way he selfishly rips food right out of my hands.

Bailey clearly hears The Call Of The Wild, and he acts on it.

FOX News Maps Out Obama's 2012 Strategy

Apparently it involves sowing maximum confusion in the West.

Marc Needs Some Faith Mojo To Keep From Being Baptized By Dinosaur Jesus

Wait, a minute, I don't play FarmVille.....

Eddy Lewis' Revenge

You know, the day will come when I travel down that long tunnel towards the glowing white light, and lay my weary agnostic bones down. When I wake up on the other side, it's crap like this that I ignored for so long that I will finally have to contend with.

(h/t Mark on Facebook)

(Eddy Lewis was a childhood friend and neighbor who always warned me that my soul was in grave, grave danger)

S*** Girls Say

(h/t Kat on Facebook)

Pictures From TRB's "Southwest Nutcracker"

KGUN TV-9 in Tucson has some nice pictures from Tucson Regional Ballet's "A Southwest Nutcracker" (Founder and Artistic Director Linda Walker). Way back in the day, I performed with TRB (when it was known as Tucson Community Ballet):
The original, full length classical ballet translates the traditional Nutcracker to Tucson in the 1880's complete with the battle of the coyotes and the US Cavalry. Watching a Southwest Nutcracker, you travel with young Maria (Clara) and the Nutcracker General over the glistening, falling snow of Mt. Lemmon to a Desert Dream of Chili Peppers, Mama Pinata and the waltzing Desert Poppies.

Meet "El Lucky"

One of the founders of Los Zetas (I've tried to clean up the Google translation, but I liked the term 'regional manager', so I kept it):

The Procurator General of the Republic (PGR) today presented "El Lucky", one of 37 leaders of criminal organizations most wanted by the agency since 2009, for whom was offered a reward of 15 million pesos (and the DEA offered a million dollars).

"El Lucky" was the founder of "Los Zetas" and is currently serving as regional manager in the states of Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi and Quintana Roo state of Mexico.

Authorities of the Attorney General's Office (PGR) and the Navy Secretariat of Mexico (Semar) state that "Lucky" was a direct collaborator with Heriberto Lazcano, nicknamed "The Lazca", alleged leader of the criminal organization known "Los Zetas."

The arrest of "Lucky" was carried out after an armed confrontation on the Veracruz-Mexico highway near the town of Cordoba. "El Lucky" also known as "Z-16" or "APA" was arrested with four of his collaborators: Germaine Hernández Flores, Nicolas Garcia, Rafael Méndez and Cristóbal Salinas.

...Authorities seized 132 long rifles, 36 handguns, a rifle, five grenade launchers, 2,641 porters, 28,000 cartridges of various calibers, 29 fragmentation grenades, a van, a vehicle, a trailer and a truck, and military uniforms, with shirts bearing the initials of the SIEDO, AFI and Marina.

Lee Hartgrave Weighs In On "Xanadu"

Lee Hartgrave from Beyond Chron liked "Xanadu":
What a wonderful dancing, comedy and roller skating trip. Wide-eyed lovers (a Muse and a young man) accidentally fall for each other. She is the quirky and exuberant Joie and he is a naïve sexy young man that is just as ditzy as his newfound love. Their mission is to try to resurrect an old Theatre to make magic and Art. But, first they have to deal with an older cranky landlord that wants to tear the Theatre down. Gee – sounds like San Francisco’s Fox Theatre days. Hello Mr. “C”.

There is no denying the extreme comic energy of this cast as they sing the insanely pleasurable, romping musical score (directed by G. Scott Lacy).

...Perfect endings are hard to come by but this charming little musical makes it more than perfect.

And for that: Thanks STEPHANIE TEMPLE for the Great Direction and Choreography.

...THE AMAZING CAST IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. They Are: Chloe Condon (Kira) – Jesus Martinez Jr. (Sonny) – Joe Wicht (Danny Zeus) – Jamelee Roberts (as Calliope and Aphrodite) – Nikki Arias (Melopmene and Medusa) – Angel Burgess (plays five different roles) – Molly Kruse (plays five different roles) – Nathan Marken (Plays four different roles) and Alex Rodriquez (Plays five different roles). And to them I say:

YOU ARE ALL HILARIOUS, SHOCKING AND BRAZENLY HONEST. You left me gasping and gagging with laughter!


RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating)–trademarked-

Works For Me

you better work ( cover girl )
work it girl ( give a twirl )
do your thing on the runway

work ( supermodel... )
you better work it, girl ( ...of the world )
wet your lips and make love to the camera

work, turn to the left
work, now turn to the right
work, sashay shante

it don’t matter what you wear
they’re checkin’ out your savior faire
and it don’t matter what you do
cause everything looks good on you ...supermodel

The Fake Debate About The Deficit

The GOP hasn't been the least bit interested in the federal deficit since the early Seventies, and it's surprising how many believe otherwise. As Paul Krugman says:
But it’s not odd at all, once you realize that the GOP is not now, and never has been (at least not since the 1970s) concerned about the deficit. All the fiscal posturing of the last couple of years has been about using the deficit as a club to smash the welfare state, with the secondary goal of frustrating any efforts on the part of the Obama administration to help the struggling economy.

The entire debate has been fake. If you don’t understand that, or can’t bring yourself to admit it, you’re missing the whole story.

Alien Gold Fever

South African UFO followers say it's all perfectly-clear:
Aliens -- much like humans -- have been plundering the planet for gold for thousands of years, according to the organizer of South Africa's first UFO Science and Consciousness Conference, held in Johannesburg last week.

"There's a battle for Earth by some interesting dark forces," conference organizer Michael Tellinger told News 24. "All the governments in the world are puppets and instruments to implement the will of a small group of individuals. The royal political bloodline goes back thousand of years."

..."They came to Earth looking for gold. We are all still obsessed with gold," Tellinger said, according to News 24.

And thanks to its diamonds and gold deposits, South Africa is "at the heart of this," Tellinger reportedly said.

"South Africa has been dubbed as the cradle of humankind and the place where all life form began, thus the reason [South Africa] was selected as the host for the UFO Science and Consciousness Conference," he told The Citizen. "We have scientific evidence that there was physical life before humans which were African knowledge keepers and custodians of secret knowledge."

Tellinger's statements about gold-hunting aliens were widely reported by the South African press, while comparisons between the gold-digging alien theory and the plot of the film "Cowboys & Aliens" were noted by the sci-fi blog io9.

...Laura Eisenhower, who describes herself as the great-granddaughter of president Dwight Eisenhower, claims world leaders have experienced close contact with aliens, signing treaties with them every decade.

"Extra-terrestrials have been working with governments for a while," she told News 24.

At Least The Southwest Is Getting Rain

And there are indications there will be persistent rain this weekend and early next week in Texas, which is a welcome change.

Still, things look bleak for Northern California. Nothing on the horizon....

Back When The Palestinians Weren't An Invented People

Newt's been all over the map when it comes to his positions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Will Someone Please Tell Cinderella That The Ball Is Over

Life is tough in Hollywood:
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Palin and Burnett are pitching another reality series, this one more focused on Palin’s husband Todd and his career as a championship snowmobile racer. But for now, TLC owner Discovery Communications has passed, say sources. And A&E Networks, which entered into a bidding war with Discovery for Sarah Palin's Alaska, also is not interested.

Creepy New New Mexico Town Is To Be Built, And Fast

This just creeps me out:
The $200 million Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation would be built with all the dressings of a typical midsize American city. There would be houses, office buildings, roads, highways, gas stations, banks and even a shopping mall, all connected by working utilities and telecommunications infrastructure. But no one would live there. The only people around would be experimenters and workers in an underground control center who run all the city's systems.

Over the next six months or so, Pegasus will figure out what technical systems the center would have, design the town and then figure out just where in New Mexico it's going to build it. Pegasus hopes to break ground in June 2012 and have the city up and running two years later.
Look, if they want to experiment on a real New Mexico city without the inconvenience of real people in it, why don't they just use Rio Rancho?

(Was that my outside voice?)

But seriously, even a fake city will have a big environmental footprint. Where's all the water supposed to come from? All those flushing toilets, you know. And they are rushing this thing through FAST! Start construction by June? Are they crazy?

Why don't they use former company towns? There are a few underpopulated places like that lying around the state. Probably too many real people there, despite all the houses decaying into dust.
Brumley envisions it as a place where people developing new technologies could run large-scale experiments in real-world conditions that — for practical, financial, bureaucratic or safety reasons — they wouldn't be able to do elsewhere. "People can go there and experiment without restrictions," he says.
Probably out-of-control robots chasing homeless squatters and illegal drug runners in the wee hours of the morning. Lasers and car bombs and AK-47's and tumbleweeds in the desert. Like something out of 'Blade Runner'.

And what do the politicians have to say about this?:
“I am confident this innovative project would provide a great boost to New Mexico’s economy,” Governor Susana Martinez said. “We are pleased to be able to offer the resources, open spaces, and talented workforce required to make this effort a success. My administration is committed to an ongoing relationship with Pegasus that will allow the Center to thrive and create New Mexico jobs.”

“I want to thank Governor Susana Martinez for her support. We were drawn to New Mexico by her and her administration’s encouragement of private-sector led, technology-based projects,” Brumley added. “That along with the state’s leadership in science and technology, strong university system, national laboratories, military bases, renewable energy resources, developing commercial space industry, motivated work force, and land availability made New Mexico an ideal location for The Center.”
A couple of kissing zombies, those two!

Even When FOX News Gets The Numbers Right, They Can't Plot Them

They must think their audience is stupid, or something.

"Xanadu" - NCTC - Opening Night, Dec. 10, 2011

Stage, with Muses mural, at start of show. NCTC contains three theaters, of which this, the Decker Theater, is the largest (seating roughly 120 people).

As mentioned, I wanted to see Chloe Condon play 'Kira' in "Xanadu" at New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) in San Francisco, so I headed down to check out the show.

Waiting to enter the theater, I was pleased to run into Chloe's father, Frank Condon. I was also puzzled by the appearance of a special table, like a will-call table, containing principally tickets for people with press passes. "Why press passes," I thought. The opening was last weekend, was it not?

Turns out, the several previous shows of "Xanadu", starting last weekend, were all previews. TONIGHT was the formal opening!

My expectations of a fairly-young audience were upset by the appearance of a large cohort of largely-middle-aged, even elderly group of people, most of whom seemed to have known one another for years. These were the CRITICS! Real Critics! A whole bunch - a gaggle; a murder - of critics! EN MASSE! OMIGOD! Writing for who knows how many publications and Web Sites! And here I was, sitting right in their midst! So, I started networking with them (and suddenly grateful I had a few DMTC business cards on me that John Ewing made a few months ago).

The show got off to a great start. Chloe has awesome comic timing: a great lead player! Chloe's supporting cast members were dreams-come-true. Her co-star Jesus Martinez (Sonny Malone) was wonderful, as was Joe Wicht (playing Danny - the Gene-Kelly character). Nathan Marken (Thalia) has a wonderful voice. I particularly liked Jaimelee Roberts (Calliope), and the way she completely-committed to her performance.

I had trouble with parts of the script. "Xanadu" the movie meets Susan Sontag's description of camp (whereby performances are naive and in earnest), but "Xanadu" the musical is one big campy wink-of-the-eye to the audience. So, it's self-conscious camp, which isn't quite camp:
One must distinguish between naïve and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naive. Camp which knows itself to be Camp ("camping") is usually less satisfying.
People who aren't quite in the camp spirit (like some traditional theatre-goers) might have trouble adjusting to the show, its pace, and its spirit.

In addition, I found some of the period-specific slang to be tone deaf. For example, the word "bummer", used most often in the early 70's, was more Nor-Cal, and probably used less-often in Venice Beach. Yet Sonny uses it several times. The writers apparently did not spend enough time watching a more-authoritative TV show regarding So-Cal slang, "Three's Company", where I doubt "bummer" was used very often. (Which reminds me, I once met a Doberman Pinscher in Los Alamos, NM, named "Bummer".) And the phrase: "Pity the fool". Omigod, that's A-Team 1986; not 1980!

I see "Xanadu" as a 70's musical, but the writers of the book seem to see it as an 80's musical. WTF? I pity the fools!

(But nevermind, Marc. Get back into the spirit of things!)

Still, Act I went very well. There was only one problem. At several brief moments in Act I, while singing, Chloe became nearly-inaudible. From where I was sitting, I couldn't be sure what the problem was. The problem was worst when she was facing upstage and riding on roller skates, so it could have been a combination of factors.

Nevertheless, Act I was so successful that, at intermission, the critics had little to complain about. Deprived of targets, they naturally zeroed-in on the audibility problem. Was it a technical problem with the mikes? Or was it, as I overheard one critic suggest, that Chloe was 'no Olivia Newton-John'? I didn't like the sound of that meme at all, but nothing was fixed in print yet, so it was time to start running interference by spouting out new memes. Like the way intercontinental ballistic missile warheads spout out metal-coated mylar chaff, in order to confuse radar.

I asked Critic A what he thought about the audibility problem. Was it because it was difficult to sing and roller skate at the same time (core stability and breath control working at cross purposes), or was it a technical problem with the mikes? Critic A thought it was a technical problem.

The need-to-know drove the critics forward. Fortunately they were in a good-hearted inquiring frame of mind. After the show and during the party, Critic B explained in Olympian style his research to all within earshot: "They admitted it; it was a technical problem!" So, the reviews will likely remark upon slight technical problems.

Act II went off perfectly, with no audibility problems, or problems of any sort. My issues with slang also largely-disappeared. Act II was very funny too.

Afterwards, party!

One guest raved at how much fun the after-show party was. Apparently he had been at other opening-night parties at this theater which were much more subdued. This theater usually features dramas, not musicals, so generally people have just one glass of wine before slinking off, for - a good cry? Not this time! Everyone was having fun! Musicals make for better parties!

Three cups of champagne, in my new, favorite, hot-pink "Xanadu" souvenir cup!

Director Stephanie Temple.

Molly Kruse (Euterpe).

Nathan Marken (Thalia).

Chloe Condon (Kira), with Joe Wicht (Danny) in the background.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday Trip To San Francisco

Left: The North Concord/Martinez Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stop.

I wanted to see Chloe Condon play 'Kira' in "Xanadu" at New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) in San Francisco, particularly before the holidays started in earnest, so on Thursday I decided Saturday was the day. A few single seats were still available, and I managed to wedge myself into the front row for the show. (My impressions of the show here.)

Chloe appeared in only two shows at DMTC (As 'July', in "Annie" in March 2005, and as 'Anybodys' in "West Side Story" in September 2006). Nevertheless, Chloe represented the best of young Sacramento theater talent. She had already appeared all over the Sacramento area in a variety of theatrical productions, having essentially grown up in the theater. Her father, Frank Condon, had been Artistic Director at Cosumnes River College's 'River Stage' for 16 years, and her mom, Kim, had been Costume Designer for a number of those shows. I found it exciting that Chloe was going to play Kira: 1980's film "Xanadu" was a favorite of mine.

Still, I didn't want to take my car. It would be hard to find parking in the heart of SF (and I don't have much experience parking in SF) and I was by myself for this trip, so I decided to drive to the North Concord/Martinez Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stop, park my car there, and ride the rest of the way in. Easy in; easy out.

There were a number of posters on the BART station walls promoting theatrical shows. This poster is for a biographical show for an indispensable person that I've never heard of before.

Here comes the train!

I remember first riding BART in 1974. I was so excited! It was the cutting edge of the future.

Once again, on this day, I'm riding BART. It's still the cutting edge of a Jetson-like future that never seems to arrive. Travel to the stars was supposed to be here by the 1980's. What happened?

The carpet was stained by surreptitious coffee spills, but otherwise the trip was appropriately, futuristically comfy. With minor delays. A sort of glitchy, not-quite-perfect 'Star Wars' kind of future.

Civic Center Station. Attractive, futuristic people down here under the streets of San Francisco.

A disorienting emergence from the tubes onto Market Street on a San Francisco Saturday night. People seem less attractive here. Like an inverted "Time Machine" world, where the attractive Eloi are down below and the scary Morlochs are up above.

New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC).

Unique facilities at NCTC

NCTC Lobby

Since there was plenty of time before the show, I started wandering around San Francisco's theatre district, looking at the sights. Here is Marion Davies Symphony Hall.

Eager ballet fans were flooding in to see the San Francisco Ballet's "Nutcracker".

Convincing "Nutcracker" evidence.

A pensive Abraham Lincoln, San Francisco style, with Santa cap and tinselly lei.

Sara Bareilles was performing on the night of December 10th at the Bill Graham Auditorium. Her fans were lined up right around the block. Strangely-enough, I have barely heard of her at all. I think I heard 'King Of Anything' for the first time on the radio just this week. It is clear my music tastes are out-of-date.

Everything in San Francisco seems curiously inverted. At first, I thought this was pure whimsy on the part of the City, but it turns out they just want to keep derelicts out of the Civic Center playground.

City Hall.

Thoroughly plowed under by champagne after seeing "Xanadu", it was time for the long, glitchy BART trip back to North Concord with the sleepy Saturday-night party people.