Saturday, April 28, 2012

Square Pegs In Round Holes

I've been feeling a bit of trepidation the last two weeks regarding the drumming class, because today was the last day of the six-week Saturday class, and I could tell the instructor wanted to move the class to the next level: namely, forming part of his musical backup as he transitioned to playing for the show "Ruined", which will premiere next month at the Guild Theater. The problem was now acute, since his Djun-Djun player had found a paying job, and could no longer participate.

"Ruined" looks like it will be an interesting show:
SYNOPSIS: RUINED is a powerful, gripping, gut-wrenching play, set in a bar and brothel in a mining town in the rain forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sexy, shrewd, proprietor, Mama Nadi both profits and protects the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds for the rebel soldiers and government workers, alike. The women who live and work at Mama's Place, have been brutually raped, ravaged and ruined by the men of the Congo and are caught up in a devastating and spiraling tragedy, yet they continue to fight to hold onto hope and their sanity. The soldiers and Government workers continue to war, and mark their territory as perpetrators as they march in and out of the bar/brothel taking what they want, and leaving more pain and devastation in their aftermath.
But how would our transition work? We are, in large part, a beginning class. It's hard enough running a bar and brothel in the Congo without also having some dancers who barely know their steps and some drummers (me, specifically) who can barely keep the rhythm. A responsible participant would invent excuses and reasons, like innumerable conflicts on the schedule, to stay away, but I had actually identified few conflicts. I'm the guy who can never say "no", even when it is a good idea. So, on Saturday, we would find out what would happen.

At the end of today's last session, the instructor suggested we immediately travel to the Guild Theater and present ourselves to the director of the show. He wasn't sure what would happen, but there was a chance we might slip into the show.

When we arrived at the Guild Theater, the rest of us were politely informed that it was a closed rehearsal, and that the cast and participants had already been chosen. We might be able to pound drums, but for the purposes of the show, we may as well pound sand.

One of the dancers was embarrassed by the disinvitation, but I wasn't. We were just square pegs trying to fit in round holes. People gathered for one purpose can't simply be redirected for another. Someone had to say "no": the director did the right thing. With a good director I'm sure it'll be a good show. The instructor still has a Monday-night session where we can continue to hone our skills, and there might be private lessons and other classes in the future.

But still, I can see where the instructor wants to go with it all. He wants to ADVANCE! But as the spirit is strong, the flesh is weak. This ambition will take time....

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Need To Visit This Place

The Black Hole Museum of Nuclear Waste in Los Alamos:
Run for over 50 years by a guy named Edward Grothus, the museum is more like the backlot of a Mad Max film. In fact, in an irony I am certain is not lost on Grothus the place looks exactly like some archaeology dig where future humans are uncovering the remains of a once-great society’s technology after a nuclear catastrophe.

One-Upmanship In The Emergency Room

It's been 18 years since I came to Mercy General Hospital. I come here far too often!

J. came in because of a medication side effect, after being clobbered by a pickup truck while walking along a sidewalk earlier this week. At one a.m. this morning, I went down to pick her up.

They buzzed me into the emergency room proper, where I was soon surrounded by the injured and the sick. I found myself engaged in a rather surreal conversation with a former clown with heart issues. J. is a former clown too, so the subject was pertinent. The former clown discussed once being in a delegation of American clowns that went to the UK. He had appearances with Red Skelton too. He also discussed the importance of gentleness, particularly with shy children (which reminds me of A.'s story: as a young kid she was stalked and frightened by a clown, and fears them to this day.)

The two of us were soon engaged in a game of one-upmanship, discussing the issue of modern slavery. The former clown brought up the enslavement of certain Americans in Kuwait after the First Gulf War, but I had newer information regarding the enslavement of Britons, and their transport to Scandanavia, in order to pave driveways there for Nordic cheapskates.

The former clown upped the ante and discussed having been struck by a convertible during San Francisco's St. Patrick's Day Parade some years back and tossed over the windshield into the passenger compartment, where he landed upright on the seat. He coolly waved to the crowd, as if it was all planned. The moment was caught and broadcast by local TV. I had nothing similar to share, though, so I suppose he won that game.

In the lobby, preparing to leave, J. soon found herself comparing injuries with a new arrival who had just slipped on a wet floor. The emergency room lobby can be a sociable place, provided the injuries aren't so severe they inhibit conversation. Just right to swap relevant information regarding injury law!

Sacramento can be a dangerous place! Caveat Sacramento!

Bryan Cranston Transforms Into Walter White

Yanking On The Possum's Chain

Yesterday evening, I cleaned out Bailey the Bunny's corner of the garage, and left the newspapers in a black garbage sack near the air conditioning unit. There was no food in last night's sack, but the last time I did this, there was also a discarded pastry present in the sack. I also left the sack in the same place, and that was eventually rifled by the local neighborhood possum.

Heading to the emergency room last night, I noticed the bag had been rifled. Did I condition that opportunistic marsupial to expect food there? Sure enough, there was the possum, frantically trying to scramble over the ivy-covered fence, and escape. I made a big noise - something like fe-fi-fo-fum - and the possum panicked and fell back into the yard. The possum played dead somewhere under the ivy leaves.

I went to check on the bunny at the end of the yard. He was fine: he doesn't associate with play-acting marsupials.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Danger Mouse & Norah Jones "Black"

A musical ode to Breaking Bad's Season Four, and Bryan Cranston's Walter White.

We touched the walls of the city streets and
Dead ends plain, sadly showed us our ways
Of never asking why

Cast down it was heaven sent and
To the church, no intent to repent on my knees
Just to cry

Until you travel to that place you can't come back
Where the last pain is gone and all that's left is black

Grey nights he's coming to me and
Some day they'll punish my deeds and they'll find
All the crimes

But then they ask when they gonna see them
Then they gonna ask to feel the ghosts, the walls, the dreams
Well I've got mine

At last those coming came and they never looked back
With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black

Fooled them hoping to seem
Like a slave of evil but the product of greed and
It's not a mass so be honest with me
We can't afford to ignore that I'm the disease

Practical since we had to be and
When they were old they came back to me and they tried
Oh they tried

And when you follow through and wind up on your back
Looking up at those stars in the sky, those white clouds have turned it black

Bay Area Hoarding And Cluttering Conference Opens

May the Bay Area hoarding and cluttering conference begin!

Competitive games feature quick decision-making as a key component. Hoarding's hallmark, however, is an inability to decide (I know I suffer from the mail-sorting issue mentioned below).

I wonder if there is a way to turn hoarding into a competitive game? (It would be the strangest competitive game ever!) Hoarding can be a part of a competitive game (like the Hoard by the Lake in "The Hunger Games") Can hoarding ever be MORE, though?:
Mathews has performed brain imaging scans on hoarders that show abnormalities in parts of the brain associated with decision making and categorization. Anomalies have also appeared in the parts of the brain associated with error processing, which may explain why so many hoarders hate throwing away items for fear that they'll regret the decision later, Mathews said. She is presenting her brain imaging studies at the conference Thursday.

Dr. Mason Turner, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser San Francisco and acting president of the Mental Health Association Board of Directors, said he's treated people who had problems simply sorting through a pile of mail.

"I might go through my mail and say, 'This is trash, this is a bill.' They will have a hard time deciding what's important and what's not," Turner said.

It's not unusual for hoarders to spread their collections into multiple apartments or homes. Turner said he's seen homeless hoarders who will use cash to rent lockers instead of pay for food - and he's treated people who owned three or four houses to hold all of their stuff.

...She prefers not to call herself a hoarder because of the negative connotations with the word.

"I usually tell people I'm a recovering over-collector," she said.

Apparently A Record For The Date

The National Weather Service is showing the 0.54" of rain we received last night at Sacramento Executive Airport to be a record for the date, just exceeding the prior 0.53" record set in 1952. Precipitation-wise, we are 67 percent of normal for the season.

The amounts being shown around town seem to be pretty irregular, though. I don't quite understand the variation: when it was falling I thought it seemed pretty uniform to me. Recording problems, maybe?

Forecasts show a slim chance of rain in a week.

Winter now appears fully dead. Spring has arrived, in all its glory!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Campaign Payment Disclosure By Bloggers Seems Unworkable To Me

This news came out last week, but it's sufficiently annoying that, even with my terminal blogging ADD, I'm still annoyed by it this week.

It's always a good idea, of course, to know which bloggers are on the take, and which aren't, but with deception so easy to practice, how could one ever know for sure? As always, caveat emptor!

Oh yes, then there's that pesky thing about the First Amendment too.

Besides, how many campaigns have sufficient resources to pay out enough cash-money to sway any opinions among the bloggeratti? I doubt all that many. You'd think payments would have to be carefully-calibrated against political impact in the electorate, but how can one accurately-measure the (usually) ant-like impact of a blogger? If you are spending all your campaign cash buying ants, you may very well not have enough for other important purposes, like advertising.

For myself, my opinion is not-for-sale (but, then again, there have been no offers either). So, for now, I will pose as incorruptible (and hope I ever get a chance to prove it):
The leader of the state's political watchdog agency said Thursday that she wants bloggers to be required to disclose payments received from campaigns.

"The public should know about such a connection in the political arena so they can properly evaluate endorsements," Chairwoman Ann Ravel said.

The proposal is sure to be watched closely nationwide for targeting a mass medium known as a bastion of anything-goes free speech.

FPPC officials said they believe California would be the first state to place strings on political commentary.

Critics contend that government could be overstepping its bounds.

"I think if people are blogging an opinion, they have a right to do it," said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda. "I just think a free press is fundamental, even if people are paid to (blog)."

Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, countered that voters have a right to know who is getting paid to sway their opinions.

"Transparency is always good in government," he said.

Ravel said she initially will ask the FPPC to adopt guidelines asking bloggers to disclose before the November presidential election.

Her goal for future elections is mandatory disclosure, Ravel said.

"I think this is one of those issues that's extremely controversial, so it needs to be done incrementally," Ravel said. "But my view is, it should ultimately be required."

Payments to bloggers became a public issue in the 2010 gubernatorial election after a Placer County blogger, Aaron F. Park, was removed from a conservative website when it was learned that he was paid by a consultant for Steve Poizner.

Park said he did not hide his connection to Poizner's consultant – in fact, he personally disclosed that to the operator of the website, which was receiving money from Meg Whitman's campaign, he said.

"A lot of people out there that pilloried me and talked about what I dirtbag I was, they've all been on the take for years," Park said.

A Rocklin resident, Park now operates a conservative Republican website,, that discloses its consultants are paid by Les Baugh's state Senate campaign.

"A lot of the bloggers out there are getting paid in one form or another," Park said. "Some of them do it by selling advertisements on their website and some actually take direct payments from campaigns."

Park said he opposes "government telling anybody to do anything, but if these idiots would start being ethical about what they're doing there would be no reason for government to be stepping in with more regulations."

...But Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, applauded Ravel's proposal.

"I think people should have the right to say whatever they want, in any format, on any platform, unless they're being paid by someone else to make those comments," she said. "And if that's happening, you need to identify who you are and who your donors are."

Hedging One's Bets

Why The Police Freaked Out During Last Week's Manhunt

Among the newly released details is the fact that authorities found out during the course of their search Friday that the suspect, later identified as 38-year-old Jimmy Lee Graves, had stolen a high-powered and "extremely dangerous" rifle from the machine shop where the manhunt began, said Sgt. Nathan Steele, spokesman for the West Sacramento Police Department.

The Remington Model 700 rifle is the same used by most police snipers, Steele said, and has a reach of more than 400 yards. It is a legal weapon often used for hunting.

Police later discovered Graves dumped the rifle a few blocks from the machine shop, and that he never had ammunition for it, Steele said. But before police had that information, Steele said authorities had to assume he was armed and capable of "catastrophe" - playing into their decision to keep Interstate 80 closed between Sacramento and Davis for six hours.

...Steele also said police later learned that when Graves fired upon the arriving employees, he narrowly missed hitting one of them: One victim had a through-and-through bullet hole in his loose-fitting shirt.

"We're not talking about him shooting in the air," Steele said. "He was shooting at them and actually hit ... this guy's shirt."

...Graves then jumped from the car, running with gun in hand and carjacked a pickup truck in front of the officer, Steele said. "Fearing for public safety and his own safety," the officer then fired at Graves, but missed.

The officer again was in pursuit of Graves when the suspect let go of the steering wheel, leaned out the truck's window and fired with two hands at the officer pursuing him, Steele said. The officer swerved and was not hit.

Del Paso Heights Facebook Brawl

L. posted this on Facebook. I thought it was strange - like a Flash Mob, but less frivolous:
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – More than 30 women brawled in the street, all reportedly over Facebook posts.

“I saw the girls yelling and pushing each other and one girl tried to push them apart,” one witness said of the fight in Del Paso Heights on Sunday.

“People shouldn’t be posting their business on Facebook,” said another woman.

It happened on Grand Avenue and Clay Street when police responded to reports of a large fight with women swinging fists and baseball bats. All suspects had fled by the time officers arrived.

Truck Plus Pedestrian On The Sidewalk Is Bad News

M.: Here, let me try and take a photo of the inside of your mouth, to add to the other photos.

J.: All I heard was a boom! Never saw it coming!

Out Of Gas, With Joe The Plumber

(At C Street and Coloma, not far from Sutter Memorial Hospital)

J.: So, she gave me $20 for gas, but then accused me of using it for something else, even when she knew I had traveled to South Sacramento yesterday evening to look at a job. No benefit of the doubt.

M.: Nope, no benefit of the doubt.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breaking Through The "Breakage" Logjam

Breaking Bad episode 5, season 2 ("Breakage") features a long montage sequence, and a number of interesting Albuquerque sites. We've puzzled out most of these sites over the last couple of years, but a few still remain.

Unknown house, (Season 2, Episode 5, "Breakage"). Montage (part 17)

This appears to be Patio Plaza, approximately 671 Manzano St. NE., just off of Lomas Blvd.

I've seen this odd-looking building before on my journeys around Albuquerque via Google Earth, but it didn't click with me that it was a Breaking Bad site until yesterday.

This brief scene, from the same Montage, and concatenated with the scene above, appears to show businesses across the street: specifically, Action Disability Representatives, 630 Manzano St NE.

"OldeSaultie" surprised me with this screen shot from "Breakage". The location is 631 Manzano St. NE, immediately behind Flea Mart, 5015 Lomas Blvd., NE.

Excellent catch! I always figured that location was behind the Tri-H Convenience Store at Yale and Lead, but quite apparently not!

It seems like a general rule with Breaking Bad montages that the scenes are usually filmed in fairly-close proximity with one another. It’s probably a matter of practicality as much as anything else. Plus, you get general coherence of neighborhood too.

This morning, I’m thinking of a Possible Rendezvous Site at the end of ‘Breakage’. Here’s one that might work. Trouble is, these sort of views are very common on northern NM plateaus, so there is nearly an infinite set of places to work with. Nevertheless, this location is on Santa Ana Pueblo land, and is in close proximity to the two other Santa Ana locations used in ‘Breakage’, and could well have been convenient.

Possible Rendezvous Point
35.369786°, -106.546615°

It requires a site visit to be sure. I’ll list it as a possible location. That parcel of Santa Ana land out there is ‘Restricted Access’, however, so getting confirmation will require either skullduggery or social graces with the Pueblo.

Last time I was there I ALMOST made a visit. I already knew of the power lines site on Santa Ana land and I wanted to visit it. The gate was marked, but partially-open. I thought long and hard about making the two or three mile dash up there, but chickened out. Next time, I hope to take more time!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Annual Review Of My Eyeballs

If it's April, it's time for the annual Opto-Map!

Here's the retina of the right eye, showing the gray patch in the upper left corner where they spot-welded the retina with a laser back in 1994 in order to give it some integrity and strength.

Here's the retina of the left eye, showing the dramatic grey arc along the bottom. After the retina detached in 1994, they put a silicone band around the eyeball and applied liquid nitrogen onto the outside, in order to freeze-tack the retina back onto the back of the eyeball. Eighteen years later, the silicone band is still there! And eighteen years later, I can still see with my left eye!

Drunk Makeup Tutorial

Matt Dunn shared this on Facebook.

An Engineer's Guide To Cats

A 2006 Video Regarding Huygens' 2005 Landing On Titan

Titan's Ontario Lacus Is Like A Salt Pan

Caption: The lake known as Ontario Lacus on Titan (left) bears striking similarity to a salt pan on Earth known as the Etosha Pan (right).

Lately, I've become interested, once again, in the state of science regarding Saturn's moon, Titan. (I saw a TV special on Titan recently that fired up my curiosity again.)

One surprising result of the Huygens mission was that Titan appeared to be 'drier' (less hydrocarbon liquid on the surface) than people expected. People made analogies between Titan and desert areas like Arizona. The evidence for liquids was everywhere to be seen, but the liquids themselves were not in immediate sight.

Here is another result in the same vein. We have salt pans in the Southwest too. Searles Lake in the Mojave Desert, near China Lake, would be a close analogy:
A new study analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggests that the lake, known as Ontario Lacus, behaves most similarly to what we call a salt pan on Earth.

A group led by Thomas Cornet of the Université de Nantes, France, a Cassini associate, found evidence for long-standing channels etched into the lake bed within the southern boundary of the depression. This suggests that Ontario Lacus, previously thought to be completely filled with liquid hydrocarbons, could actually be a depression that drains and refills from below, exposing liquid areas ringed by materials like saturated sand or mudflats.

...These characteristics make Ontario Lacus very similar to the Etosha salt pan on Earth, which is a lake bed that fills with a shallow layer of water from groundwater levels that rise during the rainy season. This layer then evaporates and leaves sediments like tide marks showing the previous extent of the water.

...While the liquid on Titan is methane, ethane and propane rather than water, the cycle appears to work in a very similar fashion to the water cycle on Earth. Beyond Earth, Titan is the only other world known to bear stable liquids on its surface.

Another Shot At The Rain Faucet

Thank goodness for cutoff lows! Wednesday looks like it will be wet; not just in northern California, but southern California too!

The initial forecasts last week were suggesting the storm would come in on Wednesday night, but the newer forecasts advanced the schedule. The movement of cutoff lows tends to be a bit erratic and unpredictable, so it's no surprise the schedule has had to be jiggered to accomodate reality.

I just hope we get more drinks from the rain faucet. This is the time of year when we generally lose access to more drinks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saw "The Hunger Games" A Second Time

I wanted to see if my initial good impression of "The Hunger Games" lasted upon a second viewing.

Yes, it's still a good movie. I'm reminded even more strongly this time of Frank Herbert's novel "Dune". Both movies feature the problems of worthy youth, but from different perspectives.

In "Dune", young Paul Muad'Dib, worthy scion of a dynasty under threat, has to flee assassins and vanish onto the desert world Arrakis, where he goes through a difficult apprenticeship featuring secret knowledge, before reemerging as a Messiah to lead a rebellion against the Empire.

In contrast, in "The Hunger Games", Katniss Everdeen, a worthy woman from humble origins, has to undergo a rigorous crash course, but suffer no particular apprenticeship, and gain no secret knowledge (with the exception of a little gained from Rue), before demonstrating gladitorial personal valor in a vast arena. Her apprenticeship, such as it is, is ordinary life: hunting squirrels, enduring hunger, and the like.

"Dune" seems to show an Asian (specifically Chinese) influence, with its emphasis on master-student relationships - like a kung-fu movie - but with a feminine edge and a messianic addendum. With its desert backdrop, the Jewish/Muslim past isn't far away either. In contrast, "The Hunger Games" displays a Roman influence throughout. Katniss' travails reminds one of 'American Idol': personal valor in a vast arena.

In our technological age, we live under circumstances where the Jewish/Chinese approach actually works better to stay abreast of the digital tsunami we are all experiencing, but Americans betray our cultural inheritance from the Romans with our enduring impatience with long educations.

We resist long educations, but we know deep in our heart of hearts that the Jewish/Chinese approach is better. Just sayin'!

Will Durst Compares the GOP Nomination Battle To 'Angry Birds'

And Will Durst's analogies last longer than Stonehenge.

At Davis' Cowell Blvd. Safeway At Midnight On The Eve Of Picnic Day

All day long on Friday, there were all kinds of dramatic events on the highways near Davis. There was the big chase with multiple hijackings that forced the cops to close the Yolo Causeway for six incredibly-inconvenient hours. Once they reopened the freeway, there was some kind of traffic accident on Chiles Road east of Mace that forced bystanders to bust out a car's windows in order to save a passenger from being roasted alive (or, at least that's what they said on KFBK radio). Nevertheless, my schedule was such that all these dramatic events did not delay my particular schedule.

Nevertheless, after House Managing for "Titanic - the Musical" at DMTC Friday evening, I thought I'd pick up just a few groceries at the Safeway.

Big mistake. My luck ran out. Just two checkout lanes open, and everyone in Davis was trying to fit through them!

Leaving Safeway, I was startled to encounter Young Fiona waiting near the exit. She explained she was heading to a sleepover, but her friend's mom was still trapped in line (like a bug in amber).

People who have been through a shipwreck deserve better!