Saturday, May 05, 2012

Looking For Pieces Of The Meteorite

I was sorry I slept through the spectacle in the sky on April 22nd, but at least I saw the zeppelin floating around this week:
The meteorite did not arrive quietly early on that Sunday morning. Residents throughout the Sierra Nevada, from Lassen to Kernville, reported hearing explosive sounds as it burned in the atmosphere. Many saw a bright white streak in the sky.

The track of that streak ended around Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, where pieces of the meteorite were found in the parking lot. It was here, in 1848, that gold was discovered in the American River's south fork, touching off the legendary Gold Rush that transformed California and the West.

In honor of the location, scientists have dubbed it the Sutter's Mill Meteorite. They estimate it must have been about the size of a minivan, and weighed around 150,000 pounds, before it broke up.

...Which helps explain why the scientists did not hesitate to charter Eureka, the only zeppelin in North America, which conveniently shares space with the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field near San Jose.

...Scientists say the meteorite is probably the most significant event of its kind since the late 1960s. That is because it likely is composed of carbonaceous chondrite, the earliest solid material to form in our solar system more than 4 1/2 billion years ago, before the planets took shape.

...Scientists will likely probe these samples for decades in search of clues about the universe and life itself. The last major carbonaceous chondrite find occurred in Australia in 1969 – the same year Americans first landed on the moon – and scientists have been learning from those samples ever since.

"This material is unique. It's capturing the very first moments of planet formation," Yin said. "It is, perhaps, one of the most primitive objects you would ever hope to find."

This Weekend!

Wax Tailor - Ungodly Fruit

A. posted this strange but interesting song on Facebook yesterday. Kind of tango-ish. After all, we had been tango partners on stage, in 2008! But not really tango-ish. Just different. Or, as she said, "sexy"!

Friday, May 04, 2012

"Let's Believe In Change"

, and maybe no hope:
YEREVAN — More than 140 people were injured on Friday when gas-filled balloons exploded at a governing party campaign concert in the Armenian capital ahead of parliamentary polls on Sunday, officials said.

The emergencies ministry said 144 people suffered burns when scores of promotional balloons burst into flames at a concert staged by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican party in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.

...It was not immediately clear what caused the explosions although police said they were looking into various potential reasons including the “improper storage of flammable substances”.

...The promotional balloons were decorated with the governing party’s election slogan “Let’s believe in change”.

Russia Threatens Destruction Of Anti-Missile Sites

Russia is making menacing noises:
Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov, in a sign of the tension between Russia and the United States over the missile defense plans, said during an international conference that a strike by his country might be possible.

...In November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to withdraw from the New START nuclear arms control deal with the U.S. and deploy missiles aimed toward U.S. defense installations in Europe after becoming upset over missile defense consultations between the two countries.

Russian officials Thursday showed a computerized version of imaginary strikes by Russian nuclear missiles on imaginary targets on the U.S. East Coast.
Actually, I'm quite sympathetic to Russian demands here. The Russians have emphatically, consistently, and loudly opposed anti-missile deployments anywhere near their borders for the last thirty years. Did I say they LOUDLY opposed such deployments? LOUDLY! Do you hear me? Do you care?

In contrast, the United States has immediately retreated into dreamy fantasy whenever challenged on the matter. The fog of fantasy was particularly thick during the Bush Administration, when Condoleeza Rice was calling the shots, but unfortunately the nightmare's continued under Obama. These days, the U.S. says the deployments are meant to oppose offensive Iranian missiles, but the U.S. will basically say anything, and make any excuse, however implausible, to install those missiles. These deployments curry favor all around the Black Sea, and are good for business.

It's too bad that the Russians have to club the U.S. across the forehead with the equivalent of a baseball bat to get American attention. We have lots of common interests - controlling Afghanistan, controlling Middle Eastern terrorism, strengthening ties in central Asia - and the rest. We should be cooperating; not fighting. But the U.S. still wants its damned missiles next to the Russian border, for some damned reason, so there's friction too.

So, what's so bad about missile defense installations? Wouldn't that stabilize the strategic situation there? If that was only the case!

Missile defenses are likely to be quite ineffective - missiles move so fast that any missile battle is bound to be won by the aggressor, not the defender. Nevertheless, missile defenses give small powers on the Russian periphery a false sense of security, which could give them enough confidence to attack Russia. THAT'S what the Russians are concerned about! And they have good reason to be concerned too. Look what happened in 2008!

Reading about the South Ossetian War of 2008 is sobering. After a major military buildup (featuring lots of help from the Americans and Israelis) over the years, and after a period of severe border tensions, Georgia felt emboldened enough to attack the Russian-held city of Tskhinvali. Even without missile defenses, a minor power on the Russian periphery felt emboldened enough to directly attack one of the most powerful military powers on Earth, possessing enough nuclear might to kill nearly everyone on the planet! How much more emboldened Georgia might have felt with missile defenses (and perhaps a guarantee from NATO to come to its aid and defense)? Could nuclear war with the West be forestalled? What were our 'strategic thinkers' - warmongers like John McCain - thinking?

That's one reason why Georgia should never become part of NATO: it might mean our annihilation, perhaps even if accidentally. But it also illustrates that Russia's concerns are real, and not just arrogant talk.

So why are Americans so deaf to reason that Russians have to threaten our East Coast cities with Armageddon just to get our attention?

Location Hints Here!

35.201494°, -106.751956°
Roughly 10526 Box Canyon Place NW

The B-52's - Debbie

Thursday, May 03, 2012

My Dad Used To Give Me Advice Like This

As a kid, I remember watching TV coverage of the Winter Olympics, and watching figure skaters spinning away under the lights. "I can do that," my dad said. I replied skeptically, "YOU can do THAT?" He answered, "You can do anything you set your mind to!"

It's Satire! - Or Is It?

That thin line between reality and chaos: otherwise known as the Mexican border!

I always liked the Mexican border in the Colorado Desert between Arizona and Sonora, where Highway 2 between Hermosillo and Tijuana comes up within a few hundred feet of the parallel dirt road in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, with that thin border lying in-between.

The First-World Mexicans ride on the paved road knowing full-well they are passing through a blasted wilderness. The Third-World Americans ride on the dirt road knowing full-well they are passing through a park. Which interpretation is real, and which is fantasy? Just too surreal!:
If Governor Jan Brewer gets her way, Arizona radio stations will soon be prohibited from playing Latino music over the airwaves. On May 3, the Arizona House will vote on a bill that would ban any music that:

1. Promotes the overthrow of the United States government.

2. Promotes resentment toward a race or class of people.

3. Is designed primarily for listeners of a particular ethnic group.

4. Advocates ethnic solidarity instead of treating listeners as individuals.

According to the bill, “Any music that includes more than five words in a language other than English will be reviewed by an independent commission for seditious overtones.” By these standards, many popular artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Shakira, Pitbull and Selena Gomez will likely find their songs banned from Arizona radio stations. According to Brewer, this legislation is necessary to “curb the growing use of subversive music to manipulate young Latinos into hating the United States.”

Looking At The Status Of One Set Of Retirement Accounts

I pay virtually no attention to my retirement accounts (which is bad in some ways, but at least I don't engage in the bad habit of trying to time the stock market). Nevertheless, for the first time in a decade, I wanted to take a look at my TIAA-CREF accounts, since I had recently noticed a spike there.

There have been no additions or withdrawals to these accounts since 1990. These funds have been riding the surf of the stock market since then, and so may be a pretty-good indicator of how things are going with retirement funds in the stock market, in general.

The 20-year-graph (1992-2012) shows an increase of about 6.6% per year (the plotted fit). The two great recent bubbles - the Dot-Com boom and the Real Estate boom - are clearly-evident. The recent spike in returns appears to be just part of the complicated noise of the recent market. There have been other spikes in the recent past - even bigger than the current spike - that ultimately meant little, since crashes soon followed. No new bubble is clearly evident - yet - but may come sooner than we think. Booms are when the biggest players make their biggest killings, and so they are earnestly trying to recreate those conditions even as we speak.

Meanwhile the Consumer Price Index (CPI; 1982-84 average of 100 is baseline) is increasing at a remarkably-stable rate of 2.5% per year (with only a mild burst of inflation evident in 2008; when credit momentarily seized and everything else was spinning out-of-control). The difference between these two rates is 4.1%, which is what I clear.

Nevertheless, there are many potential pitfalls. If I can't avoid touching these funds until retirement (as appears increasingly-likely, given my shaky job situation), then I have to pay taxes on them, so I ultimately won't clear 4.1%. And if the stock market tanks again, then that's more grief too.

Like Dostoevsky knew, in a casino, you have to have nearly-inhuman patience, and uncommon luck, to do well.

Getting My Fee-Fees Hurt On Facebook

OK, well maybe my comment wasn't as witty as I thought. Did it merit removal? And how does comment removal work anyway?

And my request to give a tourist (who left his driver's license at home) a lift. On the one hand, he offered cash. On the other hand, it's true, he's from overseas and has no ID. I know; I know: the glass is half full; the glass is half empty. But still; no reply.

But maybe I stumbled into a zone where Facebook just didn't operate properly. Maybe no one got my messages at all. Maybe no one knows what I'm talking about.

Just like the ending of "The Social Network": I stare at the blue-themed screen, and click away with the mouse, and it doesn't tell me a damned thing.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Blaming Everything On The Mexicans

The profound evil at the heart of the vigilante movement has never been clearer! This J. T. Ready looks like a real piece of work:
The Arizona Republic reported the victims were Ready’s girlfriend, her daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend and the daughter’s 18-month-old baby. Ready still somehow managed to use the event to blame immigrants even after his death. A posting on his Facebook page appeared hours after the massacre took place.

“Reports are unconfirmed that a cartel assassination squad murdered JT Ready and several of his friends and family this afternoon in Gilbert Arizona,” the posting said. “This page’s admin will keep you updated of the situation as soon as possible.”
This guy planned to murder a toddler, among others, and blame the Mexicans for it (but failed to foresee that one of his victims would survive).

Reactionaries never, EVER take personal responsibility for the things they plan and do! No sirree! Blame the Mexicans!

And that, in a nutshell, is why I will never be a reactionary, or a vigilante, or a "conservative". As made transparently clear every night on FOX News, to an inordinate degree, they possess no sense of personal responsibility.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Funny as hell!:
According to Gillespie, Republicans in 2004 simply depicted Bush as “a strong leader. You don’t see him saying, ‘and that guy [John Kerry] would have done something different.’ ”

Really? Let’s go back and look at the 2004 campaign. Let’s see what McCain, Gillespie, and other Bush surrogates said about Kerry, Iraq, and Saddam Hussein.

...Here’s Gillespie on CBS in February 2004: “If his policies were in place, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad; he'd still be in Kuwait.” And on CNN: “If his policies were in place, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad today, he'd still be in Kuwait, and we would not be waging an aggressive war against terror.” And on NBC: “If John Kerry had his policies in place today, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad, he'd be in Kuwait.” And on Fox: “If his policies were in place today, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad, he'd be in Kuwait.” And at a Republican dinner: “"If Sen. Kerry's policies were in place today, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad, he would still be in Kuwait.” And so on.

That summer, Gillespie turned the Republican National Convention into a martial victory parade. Speaker after speaker bragged that Bush had defeated, deposed, and captured Saddam—and that Kerry couldn’t be trusted to make such tough calls. “We have captured or killed hundreds of al-Qaida,” Vice President Dick Cheney crowed. “In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. … Tonight he sits in jail.” Cheney went on: “Time and again, Sen. Kerry has made the wrong call on national security. … America needs and America has a president we can count on to get it right.”

...Is Obama using his Bin Laden gamble, and its success, to score political points? You bet. Is he cynical to imply that Romney, in the same situation, wouldn’t have done the same thing? I think so. But, please, let’s not hear such complaints from the people who spent 4,000 American lives and $1 trillion to get the wrong guy—and then played the patriotism card all the way to re-election.

Like The Folks At Kos Say, Best Political Ad Ever

Stockbrokers As Psychopaths

Works for me:
Recently, an article in CFA Magazine by Sherree DeCovny garnered online buzz when DeCovny cited Wall Street psychotherapist Christopher Bayer’s claim that 10% of people in the financial services sector are psychopaths. A “conservative estimate,” according to Bayer, but one that makes sense when you run Hare’s checklist against the qualities that make a successful broker. And this estimate certainly plays into the general population’s current perception of Wall Street as a Caligulan den of amoral iniquity.

...So, be careful out there, I suppose. With a few dozen million psychopaths and sub-psychopaths cruising the corridors of the finance world, chances seem pretty high that at least one person you know is currently dispassionately planning a path to success that will, as merest byproduct, leave you crawling in the wreckage of your hopes like the vile creature you are.

I Wonder What's Up With The Stock Market?

I opened up my recent TIAA-CREF retirement account statement, and I was floored. The return was up nearly 8% in the first quarter alone. That's a 30% annual rate of return!

Well, it probably doesn't mean much. It's just the Wall Street Casino doing its Wall Street Casino thang, so good luck holding onto all that cash! But still, it makes me wonder, what the heck is going on there these days? Back to 1929 again, so soon?

Nartnoside Posted Kaskade's Entire Set At Coachella 2012

"The Three Stooges"

Went and saw "The Three Stooges" last night. Had a good time. These new Stooges are quite talented! And the difficulties of moving such a time-specific act from vaudeville into the modern age are handled quite well.

I thought the movie began to weaken when it began moving into the realm of Reality TV. To me, the Stooges always worked best in obscurity: crummy apartments, crowded alleys, and obscure street corners. Not for the bright stage lights!

Then, I remembered the original Stooges were also a bit addled by stage and screen. A few celebrities show up in the original shorts, but usually C-list celebrities that even folks in the 1940's had barely-heard of. The original Stooges would have been flattered to know that these new Stooges had snagged B-list celebrities like the cast from Jersey Shore. So, this particular weakness in the new movie was present in the original shorts too. No one can seem to get enough of celebrities!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


The Hardest Thing About Calling A Gangster A Gangster actually calling him a gangster:
Murdoch has insisted he was unaware that hacking was widespread at his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, blaming underlings for keeping him in the dark.

The legislators said if that was true, “he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies.”

“We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company,” the report by the panel of 11 lawmakers said.

"Just Keen To Keep Dancing"

Cloudy Weather On Thursday

Maybe even rain!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Joseph Nocera Steps Away From His Own Book, And Rethinks The 401K

I remember Joseph Nocera's book. I HAVE his book on my bookshelf! Reality is a hard teacher!:
Like millions of other aging baby boomers, I first began putting money into a tax-deferred retirement account a few years after they were legislated into existence in the late 1970s. The great bull market, which began in 1982, was just gearing up. As a young journalist, I couldn’t afford to invest a lot of money, but my account grew as the market rose, and the bull market gave me an inflated sense of my investing skills.

I became such an enthusiast of the new investing culture that I wrote my first book, in the mid-1990s, about what I called “the democratization of money.” It was only right, I argued, that the little guy have the same access to the markets as the wealthy. In the book, I didn’t make much of the decline of pensions. After all, we were in the middle of the tech bubble by then. What fun!

The bull market ended with the bursting of that bubble in 2000. My tech-laden portfolio was cut in half. A half-dozen years later, I got divorced, cutting my 401(k) in half again. A few years after that, I bought a house that needed some costly renovations. Since my retirement account was now hopelessly inadequate for actual retirement, I reasoned that I might as well get some use out of the money while I could. So I threw another chunk of my 401(k) at the renovation. That’s where I stand today.

When I related my tale recently to Teresa Ghilarducci, a behavioral economist at The New School who studies retirement and investor behavior, she let out the kind of sigh that made it clear that she had heard it all before. The sad truth, she told me, is that I’m the rule, not the exception. “People have income shock, like divorce or loss of a job or a health crisis,” and those crises tend to drain retirement accounts, she said.

But even putting income shocks aside, she said, most human beings lack the skill and emotional wherewithal to be good investors. Linking investing and retirement has turned out to be a recipe for disaster.

“People tend to be overconfident about their own abilities,” said Ghilarducci. “They tend to focus on the short term rather than thinking about long-term consequences. And they tend to think that whatever the current trend is will always be the trend. That is why people buy high and sell low.” Financial advisers — at least the good ones — are forever telling their clients to be disciplined, to create a diversified portfolio and to avoid trying to time the market. Sound as that advice is, it’s just not how most humans behave.

...I laughed, but it’s not funny. “The 401(k),” she concluded, “is a failed experiment. It is time to rethink it.”

Testosterone Time

Barack Obama bitch-slaps Mitt Romney regarding Osama bin Laden:
Let’s start with the premise that absolutely any sitting President who made a high stakes choice to order a commando raid that killed one of the most notorious enemies of the United States in American history would make that decision a center point in his or her campaign for a second term. To pretend otherwise is not only ludicrous; this is actually what a president should do. So much of what goes into a presidential campaign are indiciators - some bogus, others acute - about what a president would do in impossible to foresee, high stakes moments. Obama made a high stakes call. He was proved right. And he’ll bring that before the electorate to make his argument to keep him as president.

But as I first argued back in 2004, national political campaigns are only loosely about ‘issues’ as news obsessives construe them. Contemporary American campaigns are much more meta-battles over power, masculinity and dominance, what I once called “bitch-slap politics.” Not pretty perhaps but you’ll never understand campaigns without understanding things through this prism. And that’s very much what’s happening with the Obama campaign’s latest fusillade against Mitt Romney. This isn’t simply - maybe not even mainly — about the actual decision to risk so much to kill bin Laden. It’s a dance to - let’s not run away from what it really is - unman Romney in his contest with the president.

People don’t expect Democrats to make such brash moves on national security politics. It’s been a very long time since a Democratic president has been in a position to do it. Its aforementioned obviousness aside, it’s garnered a collective gasp from the pundit class. It was a smack right across the face of Mitt Romney right as he’s making a reasonably successful reintroduction of himself to the American people.

The key is less the attack itself than how Romney responds. In this sort of schoolyard power play, if you attack someone and they’re unwilling or unable to defend themselves they become weak, dominated, pathetic. And the perception among voters is much more important than most of the policy minutiae political types focus on. This is what the Swift Boat attacks were really about. I’ve always doubted that many people actually believed the attacks on John Kerry. That wasn’t the point. It was his inability to defend himself that was devastating politically. It made him an object of ridicule and contempt, demoralizing supporters and inspiring opponents. Bush owned Kerry as a result. This is the position that the Obama team is trying to put Romney in.

On its face it calls for an aggressive, hardcore response from Romney, putting to rest any idea that he lacks the inner resolve to have taken down bin Laden or stand toe to toe with Obama. But I suspect that folks in Chicago are figuring that with the wringer Romney’s been through in recent months, putting on so many different masks and faces, done so awkwardly and with diminishing credibility, that that itself will put him in a bind from which he can’t escape. Can Romney now credibly refashion himself as some mix of Conan the Barbarian and Rambo? Or will that simply reinforce the impression of falseness and unbelievability?

Dogfighting Violet-Green Swallows

Dyer in Tucson caught this yesterday.

RIP, Valerie Cogdill

News has come that Valerie Cogdill, a dear friend of DMTC, has passed away. The six images presented here summarize her DMTC days....

The B-52's - Private Idaho (1980)

Kylie Minogue - Cherry Bomb - Anti Tour 2012

I Like Kelsey's Photo Here

Life as a singer in LA!

To me, it looked like Kelsey is trying to explain to aliens that her communications need not always be logical.

Julissa Veloz- Very Brady Day

"Alice In Wonderland" - DMTC - Young Performers' Theatre


Nice show. I was struck how similar Annie R. as Alice looks like pictures of Jenifer Foote, who played Alice in DMTC's first production of this show in 1990 (which apparently was the first production nationwide that used this script). It's like a channel back in time!

Glad to see Dre C. as the Queen of Hearts, Shae L. as the White Rabbit, and Sarah G. as the Duchess!

Spring Celebration At The Maidu Museum & Historic Site

Left: Nice oak trees at the Maidu Museum in Roseville. Beautiful (but remnant) oak woodland.

On Sunday, Sally and I went over to this event:
This weekend: Yomen, A Spring Celebration

Join us 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sun, Apr. 29 to celebrate the spring season. Explore and experience California Indian culture: opening blessing, dance groups, traditional art and craft demonstrations, guided tours, storytelling, children's activities and craft fair. Great event for the whole family. Indian tacos, other foods, and crafts for sale. Free event.

Maidu Museum & Historic Site
1970 Johnson Ranch Dr, Roseville

Left: No pictures of the dancers were permitted. I wanted to compare the dancers with dancers of Southwestern native peoples. The California natural landscape is richer than the Southwest, and the native costumes are more varied, and more curious.

First time I've been to this place. Sally had become interested because one of Brian's second cousins, Pat Lindgren-Kurtz had recently appeared here, to celebrate her new book on Maidu basketweaving:
In her heartfelt memoir, Lindgren-Kurtz not only retells the story of a lifelong friendship, but also details how two cultures intertwined while Daisy and Lilly create beautiful baskets to be cherished by many generations. As she shares charming anecdotes from her life living with the California Mountain Maidu people, picking willows, and observing their basket-making techniques, she offers an intriguing glimpse into the Maidu culture, their personal trials and tragedies, and the dramatic environmental changes affecting Maidu life from the Gold Rush to contemporary times. Lindgren-Kurtz details that Lilly and Daisy, as part of a large family of skilled basket-makers, persisted in sharing their culture and and traditional art through hands-on demonstrations for thousands.

Rich landscape.

Children hard at work using the traditional Maidu mortar-and-pestle method to grind acorn powder.

A red-tailed hawk.

A battered (but hopefully recovering) kestrel.

Oak woodland.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Guys And Dolls" - C.K. McClatchy High School

Saturday evening was the closing show of "Guys and Dolls" at McClatchy High School, in Sacramento.

Pretty tree in the setting sun.

Sally called this a Mexican Rose.

Apparently a rhododendron.

Adelaide (Morrigan McLean-Haas) is presented for her bow by Nathan Detroit (Scott Newman).

Morrigan is Choreographer Heidi McLean's daughter. Together with Pam Kay Lourentzos and Lisa Gardner (and others), Heidi McLean runs Bobbi Bader's legacy, The Ballet Studio, on Folsom, near Bradshaw Road.

The closing cast at Bows (the show was double-cast).

I was surprised how wordy the script was. Apparently the script was 'fortified' with additions from the movie, and elsewhere. I felt the additions were interesting, but unnecessary.

The closing cast at Bows.

Scott Newman thanks everyone involved behind the scenes after Bows.

Thanking the Technical Director, Isaiah Leeper.

David Avis (Sky Masterson) enthusiastically thanks Director Patrick Stratton.

Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Will Block).

I thought Will Block was particularly-good on stage: a real natural!

I liked Harley Carlson's voice (she played Sarah Brown tonight).

The opening cast's Sarah Brown (Kendyl Ito).

Kendyl played Sarah Brown for the last time last night. This morning, she injured her ankle playing volleyball, so it was quite fortunate she was at least able to finish the run of the show as a lead player. She was supposed to be part of the ensemble tonight, but no dice!

Kendyl is very busy, as always. She is planning to spend the month of July in Rwanda (of all places)!

Kendyl wasn't the only DMTC player in the McClatchy High School production. Kevin Dimaculangan played Liver Lips Louie. I liked his punches in the Havana scene!

Other DMTC veterans helped support the show: Pat Stratton as Director, Mary Young as Vocal Director, and Eileen Beaver as Costume Designer, and Karen and Larry Ito in the Box Office, and tending to various tasks.