Friday, January 11, 2013

Forever Young

Problems with the DNA?:
Doctors have told Melanie and Howard, who live in Maryland, that there is no other known case like Brooke's in the world. And at least one medical expert believes that Brooke's condition could hold the key to the fountain of youth.

"Here's a woman 20 years old who has literally stopped aging," explained Dr. Eric Schadt, director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multi-Scale Biology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, who also appeared on the broadcast. He said he took an interest in Brooke's case after years of her receiving no diagnosis from other doctors, and that her case could "blow a whole field of science wide open."

Pigeons As Ninja Stars

Damn, they sure are strange over there in Russia!

James Meek's Fine "Breaking Bad" Review

London Review Of Books:
I’m not sure why Breaking Bad comes across as such a political drama: whether it’s because Gilligan and his collaborators intended it that way, or because the creative space afforded by the medium encouraged a deliberate, unblinkered look at American society that was bound to result in social comment, or because I’m projecting my own preoccupations onto its rich storyscape. But it does. And the glaring drawback of America’s war on drugs – that the war has become a bigger problem than the drugs – is the least of it. Albuquerque is presented in bleak terms: the faded, badly-lit, over-upholstered clutter of ugly furniture in middle-class homes, Walter’s mean little swimming pool in which no one ever swims but which will over time receive all kinds of substances (money, vomit, a false eyeball from an exploding plane), the cold carpet-tiled fluorescent barns of office space, the strip malls. Saul the criminal lawyer has an office on one of these, with an inflatable Statue of Liberty wagging on the roof. He sits at his desk inside against a backdrop of fibreglass classical columns and a wall-print of the US constitution, dealing out counsel on how to lie, kill and cheat without being caught. In a flagrant violation of traditional American aesthetics, including the aesthetics of crime, Walter and Jesse end up driving two of the ugliest cars ever seen on the American screen. The only haven against the man-made desert of Gilligan’s Albuquerque is the beauty of the actual desert, criss-crossed as it is by drug dealers, drug makers, killers and illegal migrants.


Which reminds me, I need to be spending more time at the gym.

The World Of Japanese Drag

"I watched and learned." (English translation provided by activating the 'CC' button.)

Answering Clueless Spam

Spam is the curse of modern existence, but it evolves with time. On Blogger, it used to be really weird stuff, but these days it's fawning, and thus more tolerable, even as the spammers promote weird non-existent Web Sites, or odd ideas that no one holds, or flog goods and services no one but the miserable wants. Here's a sample:
First of all I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you don't mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I've had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thanks!
For myself, I eat a raw egg every time I start a blog post. That way, I get my minimum daily requirement of artery-clogging cholesterol. In season, I eat a live frog instead, especially in the morning, because if you eat a live frog first, the rest of the day is bound to get better.

Thanks for asking!

Digging Through The Box Of Political Memorabilia

A hearty shout-out from the past to the future! Walt Kubilius and myself with U.S. Senator (and former astronaut) Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt (R - NM), in his Washington, D.C. office (early August 1978). We didn't expect to see him when we visited his office, but for some unknown reason he seemed to be idle, and welcomed us in.

Walt adds:
That was a fun visit. Marc, you may have forgotten that we had an appointment to see him - that's why the photographer was there. At the time (22 years of age), I was very impressed with him. I don't remember why he failed to get reelected.
I reply:
I was surprised we got in. I don't remember the appointment: you probably set that up. According to Wikipedia: "He sought a second term in 1982, but due to a deep recession and concerns that he wasn't paying attention to local matters, he was defeated in a re-election bid by the state Attorney General Jeff Bingaman by a 54% to 46% margin. Bingaman's campaign slogan asked, 'What on Earth has he done for you lately?'."
Walt replies:
Tough luck for him. If he had been elected in either 74 or 78 (instead of 76), he would probably have been reelected in 80 or 84, on Reagan's coat-tails.
I reply:
Politics is a crap shoot! Bingaman adjusted well to the seat, and Domenici had the other seat, so the Senate was closed off to him forevermore. Technically-trained folks have trouble adjusting to politics, in general. Maybe John Glenn is the only counterexample.
Official portrait of the Apollo 17 crew.

Caption: Official portrait of the Apollo 17 crew.

U.S. Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr. (R - NM, 1st District)

Limping Around Today

Last night, I curled my foot in order to clip my toenails, and got a cramp severe enough to do real damage.

Platinum Coin Idea Started On A Blog

Give bloggers a place to stand and we will move the Earth:
The platinum coin dates back to May 2010 ... Its origin can be traced back to the comments section of a blog.

An American lawyer writing under the pseudonym Beowulf first explained the platinum coin concept in the comments section of a post titled “ Repeat After Me: The USA Does Not Have A ‘Greece Problem’,” written by Marshall Auerback and published on a blog called The Center of the Universe.

His comments caught the attention of other writers, including management consultant Joe Firestone (.pdf), who pressured him to expand on the idea.

“He eventually just broke down and wrote something on it,” said Stephanie Kelton, an economics professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and an early evangelist of the platinum coin plan, in a telephone interview. Kelton is the creator and editor of a website on economic policy called New Economic Perspectives where Firestone and Auerback are both contributors.

“It’s a variation on a theme that many of us have been writing about for a long time,” Kelton said. “If you boil things down to who issues the currency, you can do it via the banks, or you can have the government do it. This goes way back in the academic literature. … Now it’s being referred to as the magic coin and a gimmick, and certainly it has that aspect to it — but this law basically says the U.S. currency can come from the U.S. government. That’s really all the coin is. It doesn’t do anything terribly scary from my perspective. It doesn’t have any danger economically.”

We reached out to Beowulf through a fellow writer at his blog Monetary Realism on Thursday, but did not receive a response in time for publication. But Beowulf did explain his epiphany to Wired Magazine.

The platinum coin idea occurred to him after reading a December 2009 Wall Street Journal article about a clever but shady form of arbitrage in which travelers would purchase commemorative coins being sold at face value by the U.S. Mint using frequent flier credit cards and, upon receipt of the coins, deposit them in their bank accounts, pay off their credit cards, and rack up miles.

Several months later, in May 2010, Beowulf and his fellow monetary enthusiasts were spitballing with each other about what would happen if Congress at some point failed to increase the debt limit, and it hit him. Rather than default, or jerry-rig an overdrafting system with the Federal Reserve, why couldn’t the Treasury mint a “commemorative” coin with, say, a $1 trillion denomination? Not for purchase, of course but to deposit at the Fed, and thus provide Treasury the funds it would need to meet its payment obligations.

The only catch, according to the law, is that the coin would have to be platinum.

California Paradise, Now That We've Kicked The GOP To The Curb

With 2/3 control over the legislature, Good finally triumphed over Evil, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that over-concern about deficits was the biggest bunch of BS ever devised:
Gov. Jerry Brown declared Thursday that California's budget deficit has vanished thanks to new tax hikes and past spending cuts, marking the first time since the recession that state leaders haven't faced a deep fiscal chasm in January.

The Democratic governor proposed additional money for K-12 schools and higher education in his $97.7 billion general fund budget while restraining growth in most other programs.

"We have to live within the means we have, otherwise we get to that situation where we get red ink and then go back to cuts," Brown said. "So I want to avoid the boom and the bust, the borrow and the spend, where we make the promise and then we take it back."

I'm Still Nervous!

The crescendo this weekend!:
Las Vegas, Nevada - January 10, 2013 - Miss North Dakota Rosie Sauvageau was named Thursday night's preliminary Talent winner for her Vocal/Piano Solo performance "To Make You Feel My Love," during the third night of the 2013 Miss America Competition at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Rosie will receive a $2,000 Amway scholarship. Also in the spotlight was Miss Washington Mandy Schendel, who was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in a white Catalina swimsuit. Mandy will receive a $1,000 Amway scholarship.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

To Hide Possibly-Criminal Tactics, Michelle Bachmann Stiffs Her Staff

Hardball from Minnesota:
Waldron said the staffers are owed a mere $5,000, and that Bachmann has more than $2 million in her campaign account, but has refused to pay unless the staffers sign the agreement.

...“I feel a moral obligation to see that my Christian brothers and sisters are paid for worked performed in good faith. I’ve continually communicated by telephone and email with Mr. Pollack for 1 year but he broke every promise made to me to pay the staff.

...“It is sobering to think that a Christian member of Congress would betray her testimony to the Lord and the public by withholding earned wages from deserving staff,” Waldron added.

Reached my phone, Waldron confirmed the details and said the non-disclosure agreement stems from the campaign’s alleged misuse of an email list. A homeschooling group accused the Bachmann campaign of stealing the list, which was contained on a volunteer’s laptop, and then using it to fundraise for the campaign. The homeschooling group has sued the campaign and Waldron said there is also a criminal investigation pending, explaining that he spoke with police about the incident “several times.”

“They wanted us to have no further conversation [with police] without first notifying Michelle’s attorneys, and we just refused,” he told Salon. “We’ve been lied to at every turn.”

I Love The Platinum Coin Option

Hell, it doesn't have to be platinum. Zinc will do:
The president would do a live broadcast the day we hit the ceiling, explaining calmly that he is in a legal bind. Congress has passed a budget forcing the government to spend certain sums of money, but they have not given him the authority to borrow the money they themselves are forcing him to spend. He’d explain how on consultation with his lawyers he’s determined the platinum option is legal, and he’d cite chapter and verse. He’d explain that there is no danger of inflation and that things will be returned to normal the moment Congress raises the debt limit. He could propose that he give up his power to print in return for abolishing the debt ceiling. Most of all, he’d be the classic cool, reserved Obama, reassuring everyone that this is only a little hiccup, a simple technical workaround a goofy obstacle, that won’t affect anything important.

Department Of Clarification Department

Oh, just not now:
James Yeager, the Tennessee firearms instructor who made waves when he posted a video online threatening to "start killing people" if the White House issues an executive order on gun control, released a second video Thursday in which he refused to back down from most his statements.

"I do not condone anybody committing any kind of felonies up to and including any aggravated assaults or murders, unless it's necessary," Yeager said in the second video. "Right now it is not necessary."

"I have drawn my line in the sand: Not one more inch," he said.

Getting Nervous About Miss America

The first two nights are done. Miss Arizona's got to pace herself and peak at the right time!:
Las Vegas, Nevada - January 8, 2013 - Miss Oklahoma, Alicia Clifton was named Tuesday night's preliminary Talent winner for her Tap performance "Money Can't Buy Me Love" during the first night of the 2013 Miss America Competition at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Alicia will receive a $2,000 Amway scholarship. Also in the spotlight was Miss South Carolina, Ali Rogers who was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in a white Catalina swimsuit with gold embellishments. Ali will receive a $1,000 Amway scholarship.
Las Vegas, Nevada - January 9, 2012 - Miss Maryland, Joanna Guy was named Wednesday night's preliminary Talent winner for her vocal performance "I Dreamed A Dream," during the second night of the 2013 Miss America Competition at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Joanna will receive a $2,000 Amway scholarship. Also in the spotlight was Miss Illinois, Megan Ervin who was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in a Catalina swimsuit. Megan will receive a $1,000 Amway scholarship.

Uh Oh. Diet Soda Linked To Depression

I drink diet soda in place of water. My brain is pickled in diet soda. What does this mean?

My guess is depressed people tend to drink diet soda. But, who knows?

My tears fall:
Does drinking a lot of diet soda make you depressed, or do depressed people drink a lot of diet soda? Or do depressed people drink a diet soda, feel terrible about the state of the world because that stuff tastes so disgusting, and then drink more diet soda? All we can say for sure is that a bunch of older people who drank a lot of diet soda in the mid-’90s are now dealing with depression. And when you put it like that — who wouldn’t be? Totally speculatively: These were probably people with Office Space-like jobs who now don’t even have those jobs anymore and had their 401ks tank during the recession.

Julissa Veloz "Overload"

Julissa sang this song on her July performance at K-Bar in Sacramento. First time I'd heard it!

Mystery Of The Norwegian Coin

I was putting away Christmas cards, and realized I hadn't opened the card from childhood friend, Joe Lewis. So, I opened it.

Along with the card, he sent me a silver Norwegian 50 Ore coin, dating from 1896, and featuring a likeness of Oscar II. It was accompanied by a record from E-Bay indicating he paid $11.50 for it (plus $2.50 handling).

What the ....?

With brother Eddy's death in 2009, Joe has lately taken up the mantle of trying to convert the Heathen Valdez to Jesus. Joe's style is different than Eddy's was, though. Eddy's style was more like "JESUS!" Joe is more like "got Jesus?"

Could the coin be related to Jesus?

I put numismatics, philately, and other activities of this sort in a different mental pigeonhole than Jesus. Forcing a connection requires a flight of fancy.

I'll be like those folks in Lake Arthur, NM, who saw Jesus in a tortilla. Except people will say, "Marc, this doesn't look like Jesus. Jesus wasn't bald. It looks more like Oscar II."

It was probably just Joe's way of saying, "Merry Christmas!"

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


It would be interesting - maybe even a good idea - if humanity winks out this way:
Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.

And then it will fall.

...In Germany, the birthrate has sunk to just 1.36, worse even than its low-fertility neighbors Spain (1.48) and Italy (1.4). The way things are going, Western Europe as a whole will most likely shrink from 460 million to just 350 million by the end of the century. That’s not so bad compared with Russia and China, each of whose populations could fall by half. As you may not be surprised to learn, the Germans have coined a polysyllabic word for this quandary: Schrumpf-Gessellschaft, or “shrinking society.”

...Moreover, the poor, highly fertile countries that once churned out immigrants by the boatload are now experiencing birthrate declines of their own. From 1960 to 2009, Mexico’s fertility rate tumbled from 7.3 live births per woman to 2.4, India’s dropped from six to 2.5, and Brazil’s fell from 6.15 to 1.9. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average birthrate remains a relatively blistering 4.66, fertility is projected to fall below replacement level by the 2070s. This change in developing countries will affect not only the U.S. population, of course, but eventually the world’s.

...Instead of skyrocketing toward uncountable Malthusian multitudes, researchers at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis foresee the global population maxing out at 9 billion some time around 2070.

...And in the long term—on the order of centuries—we could be looking at the literal extinction of humanity.

That might sound like an outrageous claim, but it comes down to simple math. According to a 2008 IIASA report, if the world stabilizes at a total fertility rate of 1.5—where Europe is today—then by 2200 the global population will fall to half of what it is today. By 2300, it’ll barely scratch 1 billion. (The authors of the report tell me that in the years since the initial publication, some details have changed—Europe’s population is falling faster than was previously anticipated, while Africa’s birthrate is declining more slowly—but the overall outlook is the same.) Extend the trend line, and within a few dozen generations you’re talking about a global population small enough to fit in a nursing home.

Selling Filibusters

Can't be too surprised with this Congress, but it still has the capacity to shock:
Two years ago, I took a screen shot and saved a tidbit from Duffield’s now-deleted consulting website. Duffield’s firm, still lobbying and called Endgame Strategies, was quite candid in it’s pitch to potential corporate clients to use “backbench Senate Republicans” to block legislation (emphasis added):
Managing Holds and Filibusters. Your organization has an interest in a bill that has proven controversial and you require advocacy before those legislators—often backbench Senate Republicans—who may exercise their prerogatives to delay or obstruct. Endgame Strategies will give you new ways to manage your interests in a legislative environment that gives great power to individual senators.
Duffield, a former Senate aide to Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, literally sold filibusters, anonymous holds and the other forms of obstruction. In 2011, he reported at least $230,000 in lobbying fees. Current rules allow a senator to secretly block any legislation or nominee and then, without actually performing a talking filibuster, require a two-thirds majority vote—twice—to proceed eventually with a regular majority vote, a process ripe for abuse by well-connected political operators of both parties.

I’ve detailed before how lobbyists, even agents for foreign governments, have secured Republican filibusters at a shocking rate. The cottage industry around monetizing filibusters has grown rapidly since Obama’s first election. From 2009 to 2010, there were more filibusters filed than during the 1950s through 1960s combined, as The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel observed.

It's Sweet Not Having Him To Kick Around Anymore

Tricky Dick Nixon would have been 100 years old, today. Digby quotes Hunter S. Thompson:
It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive -- and he was, all the way to the end -- we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon's style -- and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don't fight fair, bubba. That's why God made dachshunds.

What A Good Fit!

This is pretty remarkable regression. The scatter probably results from a sort of hysteresis - maybe the results of the previous presidential election. A three-factor regression might be even better:
Larry Bartels reminds us today that despite all the hue and cry about how Obama won despite a lousy economy, he actually did about as well as you'd expect a one-term incumbent to do with the economy he had:
[B]ased on just two factors: the income growth rate in the second and third quarters of the election year and the incumbent party’s tenure in office.

.... The 2012 election outcome [] fits the historical pattern of post-war presidential election results splendidly; Obama’s popular vote margin was 3.8%, while his expected margin (based on the preliminary tabulations of real disposable income currently available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was 4.6%.
Bartels' regression line is based on a simple formula that takes into account two things: number of years in office and the growth of real disposable income per capita between Q1 and Q3 of the election year. Income growth this year between Q1 and Q3 was about 0.3 percent, and when you plug that into his formula you get a prediction that Obama would win the election by 4.6 percentage points. Read his whole post for all the usual caveats and warnings.

In comments, Bartels notes that one implication of this formula is that "events before the start of the election year have no effect, for better or worse." This isn't quite true, of course.

"Methopoly" Is Live!

"Breaking Bad" spurs such devotion from its fans!

I Watch What They Tell Me

Steve, et al., were watching this in the dressing room during "A Christmas Carol". It features Belle from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on the streets of Watts. Apparently mostly shot in single takes on a shoestring budget. According to lore, the fellow at the fountain was just some random guy who happened to be sitting at the fountain that day.

YouTube (via Google's magical algorithms) offers suggestions about what to watch next, based on one's previous viewing habits. The algorithms are getting better and better....

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Miss America Contestants At Fashion Show Mall

So, now all 53 contestants gather for a nerve-rattling week in Las Vegas. Here they are at the Fashion Show Mall.

There's my favorite, Piper Stoeckel (Miss Arizona), on the left, in purple.

I visited Fashion Show Mall, I think, in 2009, and watched a fashion show there. One of the models slipped on the runway and landed flat on her ass.

A few contestants may land flat on their ass this week - if not literally, then figuratively.

May all the contestants remain calm, happy, and poised. And may the best contestant win!

Cool Pictures Of Cumulonimbus Clouds

Thunder and lightning!

Davis Musical Theatre Company « Good Day Sacramento

Davis Musical Theatre Company « Good Day Sacramento

Shopping For The New Year

Misplaced my wallet (Tengrain, via Dependable Renegade):

If Fear Of Bullets Isn't Enough to Promote Gun Control, Then Maybe Fear Of Bullets Can Help

Interesting article, but N. is dubious:
I’m afraid I don’t have much confidence in the piece when it says, “OSHA sets the permissible level of atmospheric lead at 50 micrograms/meter2”, but then I don’t need more reasons than I already have to be afraid of bullets!
I reply:
Maybe that's a spatial average when bullets are flying!
Here's a quote:
A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences found that OSHA lead exposure standards are too lax to protect military firing range employees.

...Lead is found in bullets as well as the explosive that ignites gunpowder. When a bullet is fired, it gets so hot that that lead actually vaporizes. Firing range employees breathe in the lead fumes, as well as ingest lead dust that settles on their body and clothes. OSHA sets the permissible level of atmospheric lead at 50 micrograms/meter2, but the report found that level frequently exceeded at military firing ranges, sometimes by several orders of magnitude.

...The new report also finds OSHA's blood lead level recommendation of 40 µg/dL or lower to be too high. That limit hasn't changed since 1978, but subsequent research has found health problems at blood lead levels as low as 5 µg/dL.

So, What Do The Fainting Violets At The New Republic Think?

Damn the torpedoes:
These lessons call for a degree of toughness in Obama we have not yet seen. He should not only refuse to negotiate with the Republicans on the debt ceiling, he should evoke all the extraordinary powers at his disposal—including platinum coins and a creative reading of the 14th amendment—to make that position credible in even the most dire circumstances. He should actively seek to get Republicans to show their cards on cutting Social Security and Medicare, rather showing them his. He should put the need for growth and jobs front and center, rather than the elite-led drive to fix the debt. And in all this he should be unafraid of, indeed welcome, the opportunity to take his case to the public and contrast his priorities with those of his opponents.

Nine-To-Five - Runaway Stage Productions

9-to-5 Bio Board.

Experimenting with the iPhone 5 camera. Not very good under these lighting conditions, I'm afraid, but I had misplaced my regular camera.

On a rainy Saturday night, it was time to visit RSP, and see "9-to-5".

Excellent show - almost cartoonish, in a good sense. For being such a 'bad' boss, Tev Ditter was very likeable as Franklin Hart, Jr. The central trio - Andrea St. Clair, Ruth Philips, and Cassie March - were very good (Andrea, in particular, seemed to be "on").

I particularly liked how Celia Green has finally come into her own, playing the character Roz. Excellent in 'Heart to Hart'!

After the show in front of the 24th Street Theater.

(I took a bad picture of Scott Griffith, but today I will spare the Internet from that.)

Flew The AR Drone 2.0 Again Last Night

Even though its leg done broke, with a hacksaw blade as a splint, it still flies. Trouble is, the propeller-bearing leg rotates a bit, which makes it fairly-hard to control. It won't hover properly, but meanders around. It was zooming this way, and that way, and at the most inconvenient time, when the drone was flying towards the cemetery, Jetta called, occupying the iPhone and its drone control for a few panicky seconds.

I just placed an order for a "central cross" replacement, and some specialized tools.

This reminds me of when I was a kid, about ten years old. I shot at a bird with my BB gun, and just managed to hit it. I grazed its forehead with the BB. For the next week, the brain-damaged bird flew all around the house in a really-chaotic, guilt-inducing manner (until, one night, it had an accident during a thunderstorm, and perished).

This feels quite a bit like that.

Mariah Carey On Nicki Minaj

More interesting than debt ceiling:
Carey seemed to roll her eyes and replied, "Don't know. I didn't know she sang. I thought she rapped. Or whatever."

Down Under, The Hottest Day, Ever

Between Jan. 3 and Jan. 6, an amazing 18 different weather stations recorded all-time temperature highs, according to a special climate statement from the country’s Bureau of Meteorology. Those included a mark of 118 degrees in Eucla, Western Australia, and an unheard-of 107 in Hobart, Tasmania, which bills itself as the gateway to Antarctica.

But the bureau’s forecasters believe the worst is yet to come—which is why they’ve added a new color to their official weather maps, for temperatures up to 54 degrees Celsius (129 Fahrenheit). In other words, they believe the country’s all-time high temperature of 123 degrees, set in 1960, is about to go down, and hard.

Terrible fires in Tasmania, and the situation may get worse:
Today marks the beginning of a week-long stretch of sizzling temperatures for the southeast, with experts saying such a prolonged hot spell is unusual for this time of year.

It comes after Australia posted its hottest collective day on record on Monday, with temperatures across the nation reaching an average of 40.33C.

It outstripped the previous record of 40.17C set in 1972.

...The heatwave was so extreme it forced the bureau to earmark new colours to represent up to 54C.

The colours - a deep purple and pink - extends the bureau's temperature range that was previously capped at 50C.

..."The unusual thing is that we're expecting very warm to hot conditions to last almost a week," he said.

"You can get hot days in January but it doesn't happen all that often."

...Today's anticipated maximum of 37C will almost beat the hottest day this summer on December 4, when the mercury hit 37.9C.

...The hottest January day on record in Brisbane was 43.2C at the bureau's old recording station at Spring Hill in 1940.

...But it's nothing compared to the outback town of Birdsville, which is bracing itself for an expected 46C today, rising to 48C by the weekend.

The central west Queensland town, with a population of less than 300, this week broke its own record for consecutive days above a top of 45C. For six days from January 2, the mercury hovered between a maximum of 45.1C and 47.3C - the longest period of temperatures above 45 degrees in Birdsville since records began there in 1892.

...Charleville Police District Inspector Mick Dowie said there were several fires burning across the district, with some cattle stations facing the prospect of losing infrastructure such as fences, sheds, water tanks and feed sheds.

...A huge fire is also burning at Banksia Beach on Bribie Island and was yesterday sending huge smoke plumes into the air across nearly 80km - smoke could be smelt in Brisbane.

..."We cannot stress enough how important it is to avoid all areas of bushfires and use your common sense.

"Out here, some fire fronts are 20 kilometres wide and before you know it you can be in the middle of a bushfire."

This Is Totally, Totally Me

Monday, January 07, 2013

Bev Likes "Follies"!

The quality shines:
What you must have, however, is a stellar cast of principal-quality voices and, to his credit, director Steve Isaacson has managed to assemble just that for DMTC’s current production.

The story is pretty simple — the old stars having one big reunion and reliving their former glory days. The tension comes between two couples, Buddy and Sally, and Benjamin and Phyllis. Two chorus girls dating two admirers, and later marrying, with problems in both marriages. The unfolding revelations are at the heart of the action.

...This is a show about youthful enthusiasm and middle-aged regrets mixed together with nostalgia and cynicism, a recipe for a hearty evening of entertainment.

Air And Space Museum

Image by benkai at B3ta.

My First AR Drone 2.0 Flights

This video is a compendium of about five videos, selected from about ten videos, of my first AR Drone 2.0 flights. These flights consist of:

1.) First flight inside my house.

2.) First daytime flight in the DMV parking lot behind my house, featuring the homeless guy I brawled with last July and his scurvy dog. Accompanying music is 'Be With You' (LoveHigh Club Mix) by Kelsey B, which is hilarious in this context: even though I'm trying to be nicer to him these days, I really don't want to 'be with him'. I just like the song. Flight features first crash into telephone pole.

3.) Two flights that rise higher than the first, and feature St. Joseph's Cemetery and the Sacramento Skyline. Second of these two flights ends in a destructive crash, when the battery ran too low, the drone declared an 'emergency', stopped flying, and fell from the sky, breaking the drone's 'central cross' and its support of one of the drone's legs. Accompanying music is 'Nation' by SK8 (Outstanding Velvet Mixshow).

4.) A visit to my house. It's still unclear whether I can patch the leg, or must wait for parts for a more-thorough repair.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Just A Mental Note about Starlings

Driving to Davis across the Yolo Causeway on New Year's Day, I was startled to see large flocks of European starlings cruising above the Vic Fazio Wildlife Refuge. One flock extended for at least a mile and contained thousands of birds.

I didn't realize the flocks were that big. I remember one evening several years ago, getting trapped for half an hour in a convenience market at Anderson & 5th in Davis, across from UCD, by a veritable shit storm raining down from a flock of starlings. Still, I had forgotten.

Modesto and Merced have had their troubles with starlings this winter. I guess we're next.

Instagram Users Just Cause Trouble

Networking at the mall:
East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies Saturday night investigated what appeared to be a large fight involving as many as 200 juveniles in the Mall of Louisiana food court as well as outside the mall, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

...Shane Ash, 30, of Central, said he was with his wife, daughter and parents in the Build-A-Bear when they heard “a stampede of people above us.”

...“For about 10 minutes, there were still people running everywhere,” Ash said, adding half of the people in the crowd were “screaming in terror and half were giggling and running like it was a joke.”

...Keaneu Eaton, 17, of Baton Rouge, said the incident did not involve a flash mob, but started with an Instagram “meet and greet” invitation so Instagram users could meet up with their followers. He said he and other friends shared the Instagram post of others and spread the word.

...The unruly gathering caused major traffic jams in and around the mall, Hicks said.

Getting Inside The Head Of A Python

It's a pretty small head:
A MOTHER woke to find a 1.85m-long python wrapped around her two-year-old daughter yesterday morning.

Tess Guthrie, 22, from Lismore on the far north coast, was woken by her cat hissing at 3.30am and discovered the python wrapped three times around her daughter Zara's arm, who was sleeping in the bed with her.

At first she thought it was a dream but soon realised the horror and grabbed the snake by the head to pry it off her child, which caused the reptile to bite Zara three times on her left hand.

...Tex Tillis, from Tex's Snake Removals, who removed the reptile, said the coastal python, or carpet snake, wasn't trying to hurt the child.

"The snake, not in any way, shape or form, had intended to eat the baby - it was trying to have a group hug," he told The Daily Telegraph.

...But Ms Guthrie insisted that the reptile not be killed and instead it was released back into the wild about 5km from the house.

Mr Tillis said: "Not only is she courageous and gutsy but she's compassionate."

Trying To Scope Out The Debt Ceiling Matter

Like they say, history repeats itself - first as tragedy, then as farce. I suspect we are entering the farce part.

The GOP has gone so bonkers over its plan to drive the nation into insolvency, whether it belongs there or not, that I'm beginning to suspect it's all part of a plan, and that they are nearly not as crazy as they seem.

I don't think the GOP is serious about national insolvency. What I think they plan to do is to force Obama to declare the debt ceiling null and void: fidelity to the 10th Amendment, and all that. Obama would then toss the matter to the Supreme Court for ultimate resolution, which would likely eventually side with him. Nevertheless, the House GOP would use the supposed outrage of Obama's action to force an impeachment. The Benghazi matter and Fast and Furious would be added to fortify the bill of indictment. The Supreme Court's opinion in support of Obama would be moot after an impeachment had been initiated.

Impeachment is unlikely to work: the trial would be held in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Still, impeachment is a political procedure, not a judicial one, and the effort would be enough to put the Obama Administration on the defensive. Opportunistic Republicans might seize on new matters to make things as hard as possible. Remember, this approach almost worked to drive Bill Clinton from power in 1998. Why not Barack Obama in 2013?

What is happening is that the Tea Party Republicans are using the sliver of undemocratic power provided by House of Representative's Hastert Rule to try to leverage power: first, within the House GOP, then the entire House, then the entire U.S. government, then the entire nation. In a funny kind of way, U.S. history is beginning to parallel the history of the Russian Empire. It is very much a conspiratorial authoritarian approach. It resembles the way the Bolsheviks eventually seized total power over Russia.

There is a specific episode in Russian history I'm thinking of: the coup of June 1907. The Tea Party folks may be using this as their template, with Obama standing in place of the Tsar:
The desired pretext came when the government became aware of ongoing revolutionary agitation among Tsarist soldiers.... On June 2, the imperial government demanded that the Duma hand over 55 Social Democratic deputies, who had (like all the members of the Duma) been guaranteed parliamentary immunity by the Fundamental Law, unless stripped of it by the legislature itself. Impatient at the Duma's lack of cooperation, it chose to arrest them anyway on the night of June 3, without awaiting the decision of a Duma commission set up to investigate the government's accusations. On June 3 the Duma was formally dissolved by Imperial Manifesto followed by Imperial edict (ukase), with Prime Minister Stolypin playing an important role in this act.

This action, which was perfectly legal according to the Fundamental Law (which gave the Tsar unlimited authority to dismiss the Duma at any time, for any reason that suited him), was followed by a dubious political maneuver. On June 3 a new electoral law was published, entirely on the Tsar's authority and without the consent of the Legislature. According to the new scheme, the wealthier landlords obtained sixty percent of the electors for the Duma; peasants got twenty-two percent, while merchants got fifteen percent and the remaining three percent went to the urban proletariat. Areas such as Central Asia were deprived of representation altogether....

The legality of this act was immediately challenged: according to the October Manifesto, new laws could not be enacted without the approval of the Duma, and neither Nicholas nor Stolypin has obtained the Duma's agreement prior to issuing this decree. The Fundamental Law did permit the Tsar to implement or change new laws without the Duma's consent, in intervals between sessions of the Duma (which is when the "coup" law was enacted), but these were supposed to be submitted to the new Duma within two months, and were subject to that Duma's power to suspend or repeal them. Furthermore, no such edict could ever make any changes in the Fundamental Law itself, which required not just the emperor's initiative but also the Duma's approval. Hence, the Tsar's new electoral statute had been enacted contrary to his own Fundamental Law. This raised the question of whether Russia was fundamentally a state ruled under an immutable organic statute (the Fundamental Law), or one still ruled by an all-powerful monarch.

The Tsar's government countered by insisting that since the Emperor had granted the Fundamental Law to begin with, he had the God-given right to unilaterally alter it (even though the Fundamental Law clearly said otherwise) in extraordinary instances, such as Nicholas claimed this to be. The manifesto of June 3, 1907 announcing this change specifically appealed to the Tsar's "historical authority" as the legal basis for these changes, which Nicholas asserted "cannot be enacted through the ordinary legislative route" since the Second Duma had been "pronounced unsatisfactory" by him.

The Tsar clearly indicated that his own authority, which he claimed to have received from God himself, superseded the authority of any law, even the Fundamental Law itself, which he himself had granted. This convinced many Russians that Nicholas had never embraced constitutionalism to begin with and that Russia ultimately remained an absolute autocracy hiding behind the facade of a constitution. Thus, the term "coup" came to be used to refer to the emperor's act even if it was not a coup d'état in the usual sense.

... Nicholas' heavy-handed actions in the "coup" crisis irreparably damaged his image (already battered from previous policies he had pursued). This, in turn, caused many of his subjects to eagerly embrace the next revolution when it finally came.
Our main salvation is that the Tea Party folks appear to be almost incompetent, and would blow up their plan along the way. But maybe the appearance of incompetence is window dressing. I smell a rat on Capitol Hill, and I hope a brewing coup d'etat would elicit some principled resistance from people who haven't sipped the 'tea'. But maybe we really are just this vulnerable to Tea Party dictatorship.

Back in the 1940's, George Orwell hazily foresaw something like this in America's future:
Certainly his criticism of totalitarianism can be applied to non-socialist ideologies (such as fascism), as his preface suggests by mentioning that for American audiences, "Ingsoc" could be replaced by "100% Americanism" or some such phrase.
We have met our masters, and they wear tricorner hats.

It Wasn't Supposed To Rain Much

But it's been raining a lot! So far, about 0.60" at Sacramento Executive Airport, and piling up!