Friday, January 13, 2012

Marketplace Feature On Private Equity Firms Missed The Controversy

Last night, APM's "Marketplace" on NPR featured a short, explanatory radio segment on private equity firms (like Bain Capital). Nevertheless, the segment completely missed what people find objectionable about these firms.

Private equity firms are so focused on the bottom line that they often engage in utterly destructive behavior. They take functional firms providing a living for taxpaying citizens and load them up with unnecessary debt. They decimate and offshore the available jobs, ravage the pensions and force workers to become wards of the state. Their asset-shifting is not much different than simple looting. And the weakened firm left behind often doesn't survive long. Their actions are little better than those of your typical arsonist, who, after all, is also focused on the bottom line.

As CEPR notes:
The question is whether the high profits earned by the partners are primarily due to increasing economic efficiency or to rents earned by dumping costs on others.

As noted here, it is standard practice for private equity to load firms with debt. This means that taxable profits are turned into tax-deductible interest payments. The difference can be a gain to Bain and other private equity firms, but it is coming at the expense of taxpayers.

In the same vein, private equity companies often in engage in complex asset shifting. This can leave a heavily indebted firm with few valuable assets. If it eventually goes bankrupt, the creditors collect little money because the private equity company has transferred the assets with value into an independent company. This can also mean big profits for Bain and other private equity companies, but this is not a gain to the economy.

Another frequent game of private equity companies is to dump pension obligations on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. The reduction in liabilities can mean big profits for Bain and other private equity companies, but does not provide any benefit to the economy.

These are the sorts of issues that appear in serious discussions of the benefits of private equity.

PG&E's Actions Getting Scrutiny

A public menace:
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.

...The documents link a deficient PG&E safety culture - with its "focus on financial performance" - to the pipeline explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010, that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The "low priority" the company gave to pipeline safety during the three years leading up to the San Bruno blast was "well outside industry practice - even during times of corporate austerity programs," said the audit by Overland Consulting of Leawood, Kan.

...By cutting back on pipeline-replacement projects and maintenance, laying off workers, using cheaper but less effective inspection techniques and trimming other pipeline costs, PG&E saved upward of 6 percent of the money designated for pipeline safety, maintenance and operations programs, the Overland audit said.

Meanwhile, on the revenue side, transmission pipeline operations were "very profitable" for PG&E since March 1998, the audit said.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, whose district includes San Bruno, called the company's diversion of customers' money "criminal behavior."

"When you divert funds intended for maintenance and safety to profits, there is nothing clearer," Hill said. "It is criminal."

..."It is truly unconscionable that PG&E was allowed by the CPUC to steal ratepayer monies that should have been spent on safety and, instead, was put in the pockets of PG&E shareholders," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who represents the devastated San Bruno neighborhood. "All these monies identified in the audit should be returned to ratepayers, presumably as a credit against the work that PG&E should have done, but didn't."

...Before PG&E "seeks additional ratepayer funds," the commission said, it should:

-- Allocate $95.4 million that the company under-spent on capital expenditures since 1997 - including pipeline replacement - for those purposes.

-- Use the $430 million in additional revenue it collected since 1999 "to fund future transmission and storage operations."

-- Use $39.3 million that it collected but failed to spend for pipeline-transmission operations and maintenance since 1997 for those purposes.

...A Chronicle investigation published in March revealed that in 2000, PG&E sharply curtailed a program started in the mid-1980s to replace hundreds of miles of aging gas-transmission pipe. Records obtained by The Chronicle showed the decision was made by PG&E and approved by the utilities commission's safety chief.

The Overland audit noted that PG&E's replacement of transmission pipelines for safety purposes all but ceased in 2000.

...Some key revelations in reports by the California Public Utilities Commission and auditors hired to investigate the deadly 2010 explosion of a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gas pipe in San Bruno.

Testing: PG&E violated U.S. law by not conducting pressure-test inspections of the San Bruno pipeline after the company spiked gas levels in 2003 and 2008. Such tests would have revealed the substandard condition of the pipe and averted the 2010 disaster.

Video: PG&E destroyed a video of events at its gas-control center in Brentwood the night of the explosion, violating a state order.

Upkeep: PG&E diverted over the years more than $100 million collected from customers for pipe maintenance, replacement and safety to other purposes, including profit and executive bonuses.

Money: PG&E's gas transmission and storage operations collected $430 million over what the PUC authorized from 1998 to 2010.

The Canada Party

First Big Rain Event This Winter?

Providing you ignore the rain we had last October, the first big rain event might
start Wednesday of next week.

Heretofore, the weather forecasts showed the rain event being confined to Oregon and Washington State, but the newer forecasts showing it affecting Northern California as well.

Scenes From The Pilgrimage

Here's That Wood Chipper Story

Industrial machinery and people sometimes don't mix.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Breaking Bad Remix // POV Compilation

Breaking Bad Remix // POV Compilation from kogonada on Vimeo.

Kate writes:
In case you haven’t seen this (some day I’ll have to watch the show!)
That’s cool!

Yeah, the cinematography in the show is wonderful! They love the southwestern sky and they use it whenever possible. And they like to set up strange vantage points, often from the ground, or as in this video, upward from within containers of various sorts.

Not So Chipper

On Facebook, Alex in Nevada County is trying to get more details:
Just heard someone went thru a chipper in nevada county. Anybody have more info? It just happened today
I have no info, but all I can think is ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!

New Mexico: Close To Arizona

Working on the image-thang again. And New Mexico does have its image issues. For example, NM has some pretty crappy beaches, but it's mostly because of the absence of water than inferior sand. My idea would be to emphasize "Breaking Bad", but would the tourism folks want to make a direct link to drug use? Meth, for what ails you....

Oh well, it's just as well to remain obscure:
SANTA FE, N.M.—New Mexico calls itself the Land of Enchantment. But the spell isn't working all that well.

Overnight tourist trips in New Mexico have dropped by nearly 10% in the past three years, and spending on everything from souvenir magnets to turquoise jewelry fell by hundreds of millions of dollars.

When state tourism officials convened focus groups in Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles to ask prospective travelers about their perceptions of New Mexico, the same depressing descriptions kept cropping up: "Arid." "Barren." "Dull."

Also: "Close to Arizona."

So state officials are launching a $2.5 million effort to rebrand New Mexico as a place of charm and character, adventure, excitement—and really good green chili cheeseburgers. As a model, the state is looking north to Colorado, which routinely gets praised in focus groups as "majestic," "glorious" and "heavenly."

...New Mexico, too, has had some marketing misfires. One recent come-hither campaign played off conspiracy theories about UFO landings in Roswell, N.M., and featured bug-eyed green aliens. The state's Rose Parade float in 2008 featured the creatures.

"I don't know that it resonated," said Veronica Valencia, who recently joined the Tourism Department as marketing director.

...Indeed, the focus group members seemed clueless about New Mexico, which is celebrating its centennial. It entered the union as the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912. Yet several focus group members wondered aloud whether they needed passports to visit. Others, apparently confusing Albuquerque with Acapulco, said they had heard good things about the landlocked state's beaches.

Even some tourists who ventured into New Mexico over the holidays had low expectations. Kamran Mogharreban, who is 57, came from southern Illinois to visit his brother—and was surprised to find himself enjoying touring museums in Albuquerque, shopping in Santa Fe and taking the commuter rail that zips between the two cities. It wasn't at all what he had expected of New Mexico. "I thought it would be more backward," Mr. Mogharreban said.

...At the moment, fully a third of overnight visitors to New Mexico are just passing through, state officials said. That pains Lynnae Molidor, who owns a clothing boutique in the historic Santa Fe Plaza. "People think New Mexico is all hoity-toity, high-end—or, for the real out-there people, there's Roswell" and flying saucers, Ms. Molidor said. "They don't think there's an in-between."

All The Lost Bunny Toys

Deborah McMillion-Nering.

We Print The Truth; We Print The Lies; We Print The Truth; We Print The Lies

And this is why I no longer read the Sunday NY Times! After Wen Ho Lee and Judith Miller and the Plame controversy, ad infinitum, you'd be a fool to believe the NY Times about anything, even about simple matters like the weather, without some kind of independent corraboration:

Should the New York Times — America’s “newspaper of record” — print the truth? That is the question posed by the paper’s “public editor,” in a very funny blog post today.

Public editor Arthur Brisbane would like to know if it is professionally appropriate for an objective journalist to “take sides” by noting that someone lied. When you read the newspaper, would you like it to contain “facts”?

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

The New York Times in particular is under constant assault by very powerful interests who do not want the truth to be printed. If someone at the New York Times doesn't take at least some minimal interest in getting facts straight and calling a lie "a lie" then there is absolutely no reason to bother reading it.

Romney, Our First Hispanic President

J. writes:
Romney, first Hispanic president?

Hey, I took Spanish in high school; does that make me Hispanic? (Soy un hombre sincero.)
Ha! That’s funny! Actually, it hasn’t been until recently that the Mormons in their enclave in northern Mexico have stopped using English as their primary language. Technically they are in Mexico, but they see themselves as an offshoot from Utah.

The Mormon enclave in Chihuahua is under heavy pressure these days, with drug smuggling in all directions and no real protection. You would think Romney would want to help shore the enclave up, but that would require some kind of engagement with the problem, and maybe that’s too much to ask.

I don’t think Hispanics are under any illusion about U.S. politicians. They will support politicians who support them. Plain and simple.

Here is an excerpt from Ruben Navarrette's article:
Que? You didn't know that Mitt Romney was half-Mexican? It's true. In fact, if he makes it to the White House, in addition to becoming the first Mormon in the Oval Office, he could also be the nation's first Hispanic president.

...Yet, I would imagine that a lot of Americans aren't aware of this branch of the Romney family tree, and that's because it is not a detail that Romney usually talks about publicly -- and especially not on the campaign trail.

...Romney's great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, fled the United States and crossed into Mexico in 1885 to escape religious persecution. He helped build the Mormon enclave of Colonia Juarez in Chihuahua.

Miles Park Romney never became a Mexican citizen, and neither did his son, Gaskell, or grandson, George. They were all denied Mexican citizenship because statutes on the books in Mexico denied that right to American settlers and their offspring.

Speaking to the crowd in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney compared his father's story to those of countless other immigrants who have come to this country seeking economic opportunity.

...This is ironic given that I've spent the last 20 years criticizing politicians who twist the facts, propose simple solutions and pick on those who don't have a voice.

And Romney has spent the last several months doing precisely that, just like he did during his failed 2008 presidential bid. He has used illegal immigration as a weapon against Republican opponents who propose reasonable solutions and in the process portrayed illegal immigrants, most of whom come from Mexico, as takers who come to the United States for free public benefits and ought not be rewarded with "amnesty."

The Most Wretched Winter Ever Continues

Looks like a weak disturbance will come in this weekend: that 'tropical' cutoff low I've been keeping an eye on, that started off far to the southwest, at Hawaii's latitude and about halfway in-between Hawaii and the mainland. Nevertheless, it doesn't look like there is much, if any, precipitation associated with it. After that, maybe NEXT weekend will have some rain. Maybe.

It is quite possible it might not rain in any significant amount in northern California this winter. A true disaster! We are so far behind normal that even flooding inundation probably won't get us to where we usually are at this time of the rainy season. And any kind of flood is so far over the horizon it's unthinkable.

But it's not bad everywhere. Jerry writes from Indiana:
The NWS has issued a winter storm warning for southwestern lower Michigan and northern Indiana:

This storm looks very similar to the one we had last week. The isobar configuration looks ideal for heavy snow in our area -- a northerly fetch over most of the lake, with winds curving to a more northwest trajectory in the south.

Bathing Baby Sloths

Arizona's Leadership Is As Dumb As A Bag Of Rocks

Unless the idea was to rob the state blind:
PHOENIX — Citing the state's upcoming 100th birthday, Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday asked lawmakers to buy back three buildings at the Capitol that were mortgaged off two years ago to balance the budget.

The move will cost the state $105 million out of its current budget surplus. Brewer press aide Matthew Benson said the state has the cash.

Benson acknowledged the state actually got only $81 million for the state House, the Senate and the nine-story executive tower that includes Brewer's office when it negotiated a “sale-leaseback'' arrangement in 2010.

But he said that $24 million difference should not be seen as an exorbitant interest rate for just two years of borrowing. Instead, Benson said, it actually is a savings: If the state had taken the full 20 years to pay off the debt, the cost would be far more.

...When Arizona borrowed the money two years ago, it essentially promised investors they would get interest for at least 10 years. Hence the $105 million pricetag.

Under the governor's plan, the state would put that $105 million into a special account, with the proceeds earmarked solely to make payments through 2020. That would be enough for the lenders to release their hold on the buildings.

“Together we can celebrate the burning of that mortgage,'' Brewer said.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell was skeptical of the move because paying off the debt now — plus future interest — does not save any money compared with simply paying off the buildings after 10 years. More to the point, Campbell said, paying off the debt does nothing to create jobs.

Word From The "Breaking Bad" Pilgrimage

The E-Mail exchange started simply:
Do you know when season 5 starts filming?
I replied:
I read somewhere (and I need to track down the reference) that the writers reconvene in November 2011, filming starts anew in March 2012, and that Episode 1 of Season 5 gets aired in July 2012.
He replied:
Well thanks for the reply. That kinda sucks that I am in ABQ from Australia visiting right now and there is no filming. I read somewhere of a woman who came across a suburban street at night LAST January around this time of the month, and saw Cranston doing a scene outdoors. Awesome for her.

But you, you my friend, have given me what I need to put in my GPS to get to see some of the sites. I will tomorrow go to the Twisters, the White house, and the car wash, and Pinkman's house.

Do not think you putting those photos up was for nothing. There are people from all over the world making the ABQ pilgimage. So thank you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taking Pity On Rick Perry

CNN let's Rick Perry into their next debate, even though his showing so far has been so weak that he doesn't meet CNN's criteria.

Beauty On The Streets

Some of Kelsey's friends in LA put this together. Totally crude - NSFW - but amusing.

As I told Kelsey:
Gawd! Too close to home! I just gave the OK over the phone for a homeless friend to break into my yard and park a 5' x 8' black velvet painting of a Barbarian Princess in my garage. He's losing the storage unit today and has to cram almost everything into a van. He knows I like art, so of course I get the tasteful painting.
I got a brief look at the painting last night. It's more of an Indian Princess than a Barbarian Princess, and it's not black velvet. Has a horse in it. Actually, kind of nice!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Banner Day For "Chicago" Reviews!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Bev Sykes at the Davis Enterprise:
And now we have it right in our own back yard, with a sparkling production directed by John Ewing, choreographed by Pamela Lourentzos, and featuring a stellar cast — each one as good or better as the last one.

Amber Jean Moore is outstanding as Roxie Hart, a housewife with stars in her eyes, who shoots her lover and then tries to use her crime to launch a show-biz career.

Roxie’s crime steals the headlines from Velma Kelly (Jennie Ribadeneira), a once popular singer/dancer, now also languishing in prison for shooting her multi-married lover. Her exciting “All That Jazz” was the show’s opener and set the tone nicely for the rest of the show.

Tony Ruiz is marvelous as the smooth, charming, yet slick lawyer, Billy Flynn, who knows how to work the press and, for a price, make his clients such sympathetic figures that no jury would convict them. Billy’s “All I Care About,” performed with several chorus girls armed with fans that would do credit to Sally Rand, is a knock-out.

A ventriloquist number, “We Both Reached for the Gun” — with Roxie in Billy’s lap as he literally puts words into her mouth — is outstanding.

Andrea Eve Thorpe is by no means the large matron we associate with previous actresses playing the role of Matron “Mama” Morton, but instead of heft, Thorpe achieves her dominance with strength and a cold, forbidding wardrobe and severe hair style. The effect works well for her.

Amos Hart is Roxie’s all-but-forgotten husband, played beautifully by Dan Masden. There is a lot of heart in this Hart and his “Mr. Cellophane” was very moving, as he describes what it’s like to be invisible to the people in his life.

Jacob Montoya deserves applause for his role as the Master of Ceremonies. When Montoya mixed with dancers Michael Cesar, Elio Gutierrez and Randy Noriega, it was a sight to behold.

Mary Nares at the Sacramento Press:
The latest offering from the Davis Musical Theatre Company is an enthusiastic production of the blockbuster musical “Chicago.” At Friday’s opening night performance, DMTC handled the show with sufficient grit and guts to bring the tale of crime, celebrity and sensationalism in the Jazz Age alive with fun and razzmatazz.

...In the DMTC production, director John Ewing has brought all the excitement of the Broadway musical to the small stage.

...The play is riddled with flashy dance numbers as numerous and arresting as machine-gun bullets, and the dance troupe is skilled and sexy.

Both Ribadeniera and Moore have lots of vocal talent, although “All That Jazz” challenged Ribadeniera’s range on opening night, and “Funny Honey” didn’t have the power one would have wished from Moore. Thorpe’s solo “When You’re Good to Mama” was a showstopper, a fine showcase for her strong voice.

Ruiz plays Flynn with strength and style, and his tenor is smooth and easy as the slick lawyer’s patter to the press. Surrounded by feathery fan dancers, he almost convinces the audience that “All I Care About” is love.

Masden turns in a solid performance as the long-suffering patsy Amos Hart, and his “Mister Cellophane” was sad without being maudlin. Holmes brings a strong comic dimension to the slightly ridiculous Mary Sunshine role, with a unique performance of “A Little Bit of Good.”

Thomas Frank On Mitt Romney

I just finished Thomas Frank's "The Wrecking Crew". Excellent book!

Here is Frank's open letter to the Tea Party regarding Mitt Romney:
Start with those issues where Romney’s positions so offend the sensibilities of you Robespierre Republicans. First, of course, the social issues. If nothing else, you in the Tea Party movement have spent the last three years teaching Americans that they no longer matter — not when we’re supposedly in a battle for the very soul of capitalism.

And here comes Mitt Romney, the soul of American capitalism in the flesh. Look back over his career as a predator drone at Bain Capital: Isn’t it the exact sort of background you always insist politicians ought to have? Isn’t it the sort of titanic enterprise for which you lust, as you wave your copy of “Atlas Shrugged” in the air?

You accuse the former Massachusetts governor of opportunism, but from where I stand, the bad faith is all on your side. What offends you about Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare plan, for example, isn’t that it crushes human liberty, but that it provided the model for President Obama’s own healthcare overhaul, which you spent the last two years decrying as the deed of a power-grabbing socialist.

...And yes, Mitt Romney has also said that the bank bailouts of 2008-2009 were necessary, while you regard them as a mortal sin against free-market principles. (To his credit though, at least in your eyes, he was also a total hardliner about the auto industry bailouts, displaying the pointless meanness you seem to admire in nearly any other politician.) In truth, though, the candidate’s only offense on the bailout question was his candor. He merely admitted what should be obvious to any billionaire from a study of bank history: that conservatives have no problem doling out, or grabbing for, government money when the chips are down.

...The reason they — I mean, you — do these things should be as obvious as it is simple: “Free market” has always been a high-minded way of saying “gimme,” and when the heat rises, the “market” is invariably replaced by more direct methods, like demanding bailouts from the government you hate. Banks get bailouts for the simple reason that they want bailouts and have the power to insist on them — the same circumstances that got them deregulated in wave after wave in the Eighties, Nineties and Aughts.

In this sense, Romney, who is loud and proud when it comes to the need for further deregulation, has actually been more consistent than you. He’s the gimme candidate of 2012 and so he should really be your guy.

Bringing Up The Funny

On Saturday night (Sunday morning, technically), at about 1:30 a.m., I was watching a comedy TV Show (produced by Levity). I tuned in late, so I missed the name of the comic. She was an overweight comic who mixed in overweight jokes with being-stoned jokes with wannabe-a-cougar-is-there-an-age-limit? jokes. Talked a mile-a-minute, and was very funny!

Anyway, the show ended and the credits rolled by, rather fast, when suddenly I recognized a name. I missed the function of the person: all I remembered was ‘Melissa Verdugo’.

Melissa Verdugo? The same person who was active in local community theater for at least a decade? I looked her up, and sure enough, it was the same person! I even mentioned her to Pam Kay Lourentzos in her Sunday morning ballet class. Pam was impressed. She said: “we knew her when!”

So, here at last was proof that community musical theater can get into the entertainment business, if not on stage, at least back stage. So I decided to drop her a line....
Hey Marc,

So nice to hear from you! And very exciting that you saw my name on the credits :) Do you remember which special it was?

I am down in Los Angeles Managing comedians and helping to Produce our Hour Specials and TV shows. You probably saw my name under Executive Assistant, but I have been promoted since!

I was not involved in Comedy at all in Sacramento. I actually didn’t get involved in Comedy until about 3 years ago when a contact from Musical Theatre got me the job at my current company :) Funny how life works.

Please give Pam my love!!

Thank you,
Melissa Verdugo

We Hate Math

(h/t John)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Hard To Believe This Is A GOP Ad

"Xanadu" Reviews

Image at the Sentinel.

I was waiting for Richard Connema's review:
This is a fun musical with 1980s style disco music and a talented, young, energetic cast under the direction of Stephanie Temple, with musical direction by G. Scott Lacy. It is something that would shine in Forbidden Broadway revues. Recent graduate of San Francisco University Chloe Condon makes her N.C.T.C debut playing Clio. This talented young songstress has a charming singing voice that was not done justice on opening night due to a poor sound system. Hopefully, that has been rectified.

Jesus Martinez Jr. is actually an opera singer who just graduated from DePaul University and, as Sonny, has excellent reverberation on his songs. He ambles through the stupidities with assurance. (When Sonny enters the hallowed halls of Zeus, he says, "Just like it looks in the '80 film Clash of the Titans.") He also has some of the best legs I have seen on the stage this year. The two actors have thematic resonance singing "Magic" and "Suddenly." Nikki Arias and Jaimelee Roberts are peerless as two Muses of myth, Melpomene and Calliope, costumed in haute Grecian chic by Jeffrey Hamby. Both can really belt on the song "Strange Magic" along with Angel Burgess who is very good as Erato. Molly Kruse gives a fetching performance as Euterpe.

The Muses include two outstanding male actors. Alex Rodriquez plays Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, and this guy certainly can dance. He does a bang up job tap dancing in one of the numbers. And Nathan Marken is a real hoot as Thalia, and really camps it up when he plays Mercury in a scene.

A real highlight of the show is Joe Wicht playing Danny the owner of the roller rink. He has the undesirable task of performing a role originated by the legendary Gene Kelly. Joe is able to balance both the humor and the narrative in this wild production, and he has an excellent singing voice.
The Bay Times:
Like the flick with Olivia Newton-John starring, it is the tall tale of a beautiful young Greek muse, Clio (played by perky Chloe Condon), one of nine daughters of Zeus who descends from ancient Mount Olympus smack dab into the ’80s in Venice Beach (which she mistook for ancient Venice, Italy). Her job is to inspire a struggling young artist, Sonny, (played by cute Jesus Martinez Jr.) who hates his artwork and plans to end it all until rescued by Clio, who changes her name to Kira and her accent to Australian. That last is a little in-joke on Olivia N.J.’s Aussie accent. Previously Clio was a muse (in the form of a Southern belle with the drawl) to a ’40s wannabe clarinet player, Danny (Joe Wicht, also known in drag as Trauma Flintstone), who presently has aged, given up his music, and become a rich but unsatisfied real estate player.

Meanwhile Clio’s muse sisters watch the action from above, then join Clio on earth, with one evil sister, Melpomene (brilliant Nikki Arias), and her accomplice sister, Calliope (deadpan Jaimelee Roberts), being terribly jealous of Clio as head muse and therefore placing a curse upon her to fall in love with a mortal and create art – two forbidden actions that should immediately send the perpetrating goddess to eternal damnation in Hades. The other sister muses are Erato (Angel Burgess), Thalia (a drag role for Nathan Marken), Euterpe (Molly Kruse), and Terpsicore (Alex Rodriguez in drag). The ensemble cast (except for Danny) end up eventually wheeling around the stage on roller skates, which is a treat in itself. They really are accomplished with some impressive choreography (director Stephanie Temple, take a bow) and skating ability (thanks to Redwood Roller Rink coaches Aubrey and Sara Orcutt).

...You will be immediately drenched in 1980s lingo, from the very start when an offstage valley girl, like, totally tells you to turn off your cell phones and electronic devices that haven’t been invented yet, like, for sure. The dialogue freely utilizes ’80s slang and plays off the youthful Sonny not comprehending culture references that much older Danny frequently makes. The players occasionally break the fourth wall and speak right to the audience. And there are many in-jokes making fun of the Xanadu movie, not to mention some 1980s lackluster arts. The players might even explain why there are only seven of the nine muses present, as well as the curse of double-casting (seven members each play two other characters, and two are quadruple-cast).

Don't Forget The Crocodiles!

AMAZING presence of mind, under very trying circumstances! After being slapped HARD (and getting her collar bone broken) she had to swim down to the bottom (while her feet were tightly bound) in order to free the rope. If I had been in her place, I probably would have drowned.

Oh, and the river had crocodiles too!:
An Australian tourist bungee jumping in Africa plunged 365 feet into a river when her cord snapped, but she managed to swim to safety with a broken collarbone and her legs tied together.

Erin Langworthy told Nine Network television news Sunday that she blacked out briefly when she hit the Zambesi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe on Dec. 31.

"I felt like I'd been slapped all over," the 22-year-old from Perth said.

Video taken of the jump shows the cord snapping and Langworthy smacking into the river before the current pulled her into rapids.

"You get sucked under and then you pop up so it's very disorienting -- I didn't know which was up or down," she said.

She said the trailing cord repeatedly snagged, so she "had to swim down and yank the bungee cord out of whatever it was caught on to make it to the surface."

Langworthy swam through the rapids to reach the Zimbabwe bank.

Southern Province Police Commissioner Brenda Muntemba told the Post Zambia newspaper that Langworthy was treated at a clinic in Zimbabwe before being evacuated to South Africa.

Blaming The Arctic Oscillation

So this most bizarre winter ever is the fault of the Arctic Oscillation:
The cause of this warm first half of winter is the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The Arctic Oscillation (AO), and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (which can be thought of as the North Atlantic's portion of the larger-scale AO), are climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere defined by fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure in the North Atlantic between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. The AO and NAO have significant impacts on winter weather in North America and Europe--the AO and NAO affect the path, intensity, and shape of the jet stream, influencing where storms track and how strong these storms become. During December 2011, the NAO index was +2.52, which was the most extreme difference in pressure between Iceland and the Azores ever observed in December (records of the NAO go back to 1865.)
And the swing in this index! Dizzying!:

Meanwhile, the hoped-for forecast change in California has fizzled out, so January looks like it will be a miserable month too. There is a chance for a weak storm on the 15th. Then, that's about it on the horizon.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

"Chicago" - DMTC - Final Dress Rehearsal

Went To Church On Sunday Morning

Well, not church, precisely.

For nineteen years, every Sunday morning, I would attend Pam Kay Lourentzos' Sunday morning ballet class. The only real church there is!

When I broke my tendon in October, 2009, it pained me to leave the class and basically surrender my religion. I tried returning on Christmas Day, 2009, but I reinjured myself. So, I had no option but to leave, and enter spiritual exile.

On Friday evening (the opening evening of "Chicago" at DMTC) Pam suggested maybe I should return for a class. Maybe just barre; not center.

Nothing has fundamentally changed about the tendon, or the leg: maybe I'm slightly-stronger than I was, but that's about it. But spiritual hunger is deep!

So today, I took barre; not center. And it felt good! Returning to the fold!

Intruder Wannabe

Last night about 3 a.m. I heard noises out in the driveway/parking lot/garbage can area behind my house, so I looked out the window. There was a man dressed like a crossing guard busily trying to enter several of the cars parked out there.

Normally, I would have opened the window right away and yelled at him, but I'm a bit leery of doing that these days. Last spring, in the middle of the night, I saw someone trying to enter my car, so I started yelling at the top of my lungs. Trouble was, I was sleepwalking. When I finally roused I realized I was yelling at an empty driveway: there was no intruder there, but I was yelling at the top of my lungs and maybe alarming the neighbors. Embarrassing!

So, I watched last night's stranger for at least a minute before finally starting to open the window. The stranger heard me open the window, and sauntered off as if he was just passing by.

In the morning, I noticed that the crossbar on the outside of my garage was loose. The stranger had tried to open my garage in the middle of the night. Even though there is no lock per se on the door, there is a crossbar on the inside of the door which can only be reached by running an obstacle course through the garage. It's enough to deter opportunists.

Hopefully the stranger won't return.