Saturday, January 19, 2013

First Post-Work Beer Of The Year

Friday Train

Damn, I like trains!

Surgery Friday

AR 2.0 Drone 1 under the knife.

I started surgery Friday evening on Drone 1. I replaced the Central Cross: hope the electrical connections work! Now, I need to finish surgery, by moving all four motors from the broken Central Cross to the new Central Cross.

Meanwhile, Sally had knee surgery Friday morning, and seems to be recovering well.

The Parking Lot At Work Was Frosty Friday Morning

I've never seen that before.

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Obama Had To Do Was Show A Little Backbone

Barack "Gumby" Obama finally learned something in Washington:
When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. I thought that by ruling out any way to bypass the debt limit, the White House was setting itself up, at least potentially, for an ignominious cave-in. But it appears that the strategy has worked, and it’s the Republicans giving up. I’m happy to concede that the president and team called this one right.

Sydney Sets A Record

Temperatures in Sydney hit their highest level on record on Friday, with the mercury in Australia’s biggest city reaching 45.8 degrees Celsius (114.4 Fahrenheit) in the mid-afternoon.

Sydney’s previous hottest recorded temperature was 45.3 degrees set in 1939.

The Second Amendment Was Intended To Preserve Slavery, Not The Ownership Of Guns

Digby highlights this article, and it is persuasive. That's why the Second Amendment has the odd language it does:
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote.

...In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.

...It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?" If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

...Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 - including physicians and ministers - had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

...By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South. Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings. As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

...Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

This was not an imagined threat. Famously, 12 years earlier, during the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunsmore offered freedom to slaves who could escape and join his forces. "Liberty to Slaves" was stitched onto their jacket pocket flaps. During the War, British General Henry Clinton extended the practice in 1779. And numerous freed slaves served in General Washington's army.

Thus, southern legislators and plantation owners lived not just in fear of their own slaves rebelling, but also in fear that their slaves could be emancipated through military service.

...But Henry, Mason and others wanted southern states to preserve their slave-patrol militias independent of the federal government. So Madison changed the word "country" to the word "state," and redrafted the Second Amendment into today's form:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State [emphasis mine], the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Little did Madison realize that one day in the future weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as "persons" by a Supreme Court some have called dysfunctional, would use his slave patrol militia amendment to protect their "right" to manufacture and sell assault weapons used to murder schoolchildren.

Rage Room

The Serbs learn something from American television:
Since it opened in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad in October, the Rage Room has drawn a flurry of attention in the Balkan country where two decades of war, political crisis and economic hardship have driven many people over the edge. Inspired by a similar "Anger Room" in Dallas, Texas, Serbia's version was set up by two teens who saw the U.S. original online and figured it could be a way to earn pocket money.

...The Dallas version costs up to $75 per session and has an array of objects to destroy, including computers and office furniture. Serbia's Rage Room, organized in a refurbished garage, is much more basic — and cheaper.

Don Rickles Roasts Jerry Lewis

Watched A Bit Of "Nacho Libre" Last Night

They had 2006's "Nacho Libre" on the teevee last night. That movie is way, way hilarious! One of the best comedies of the last ten years, and, to date, Jack Black's best work!

I started watching too late to catch one of my favorite scenes, where Nacho (Jack Black) and Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) discuss baptism. What makes this discussion really interesting is that it precisely captures Mexican history, which has been split in half since the Enlightenment by people of faith, and those of science.

All people of Mexican heritage (and other heritages too) are children of this deep split. I never met my grandfather, so I can't for sure tell exactly how he thought, but from what I know, he sounds like a science guy. My grandmother was a faith woman. My uncle and aunt were faith people, and while my father was mostly a science guy, he tried fashioning a compromise between the two outlooks (which I found unsatisfactory). I'm extreme science; so much extreme science that I'm practically completely off the Mexican scale, just like Esqueleto, which is why I identify so much with him.

It's Still Too Early To Tell What The Mushy Storm Coming In Next Weekend Portends

That cutoff low that forms off the West Coast next week sure looks interesting, and brings much-needed tropical moisture north. But it forms too far off shore, and then it goes symmetric, and all wimpified, before it approaches the California coast. The unknown question is whether a second cutoff low might form the week after that, and in a much closer place that can actually do the Southwest some good. We will have to wait and see.

An Australian Fairy Tale

Didn't Realize How Hard It Is To Find This Image On The Web These Days

My blog basement is choked with artifacts.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Get Off My Lawn - L Street Edition

On Saturday, I was driving on L Street near the State Capitol, when a motorcycle club began blocking lanes with a meandering kind of demonstration meant to signify club solidarity, or some damn fool stupid thing like that.

Hmmm. From Cotati. They came a long distance just to annoy the hell out of me.

Well, at least it was a nice day.

Late Night TCM Note Regarding Mary Hisgen

I was watching TCM late - very late - last night, when they presented a frivolous musical short film: Henry Santry and his Soldiers of Fortune. It was a group of musicians dressed as soldiers singing songs. Then, came on an amazing dancer - remarkably limber - who performed, essentially, as a clown. Apparently her name was Mary Hisgen: a true talent! But she never made it big, apparently. Just another remarkable person in the performing arts; a blooming flower who must have been clobbered by the Great Depression. Not much on the Internet about her. Someone should write her biography (1910 - 2006, apparently).

Hayden Panettiere - Telescope

I don't follow Country Music (or Musica del Campo, as an illegal I once knew used to say), but I will make an exception for Hayden Panettiere.

Missing The Fun In Albuquerque

A reader comments:
Walt's house has fake greenery on the trees and his neighbors have roses in full bloom. (It's January 13, 2013 with a low of 10 degrees tonight.) The house numbers are not 308 yet. Drive by and check it out!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Interesting But Puzzling Drop In Juarez' Murder Rate

Crime policing or cartel politics?:
There are other theories that the decrease in violence in Juarez had little to do with the actions of the security forces or government. As outlined in a report released last October by Southern Pulse, the peace was arguably achieved because the Sinaloa Cartel took control of the city. Violence first began to surge in 2007 after the Sinaloans attempted to take over Juarez's highly prized drug trafficking routes. Local enforcer gangs like La Linea and the Aztecas fought a bitter war, often using unrestrained violence that targeted civilians and drove up the murder count. Southern Pulse argued that these local gangs will likely continue fighting over turf, but the larger conflict between the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartel has already come to an end.

Short Hops With The AR Drone 2.0

I got impatient waiting for the repair kit for Drone 1 to come in. So, on Saturday, I went back to the store and bought a brand-new Drone 2. Which immediately had stability problems of its own. So, I basically had about $850.00 worth of brand-new aerial junk. According to Online Forums, stability can be a problem initially, and can be fixed by allowing the drone a look at the horizon.

This video is pieced together from about five other videos from both Drones 1 & 2, and features short hops, inside and out. Both drones were hard to control on this day, in part, because there was a stiff breeze; in part, because Drone 1 has its patched-together leg to contend with, and in part because Drone 2 seemed to have trouble with basic stability. And, as always, operator incompetence was important.

Outdoor flights were conducted at Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), in Davis, CA, on Sunday afternoon, January 13, 2013, while "Follies" played on-stage inside. Indoor flights were conducted later that evening in the DMTC lobby.

Music is Kylie Minogue's "The One" from her Aphrodite/Les Folies (Live In London) album.

Poking Endless Fun At The NRA

This thing apparently barely exists:
The game wasn’t ever designed to even be played — it was designed to be a series of outrageous screenshots that conservatives would freak out about.
I'm all in favor of further development. If the NRA thinks they can use their guns to bully the rest of the country in the comfort of anonymity, then they'd better get used to the blowback.

Eight Rules for White People Who Like Hip-Hop

Rulez is rulez:
1) When singing along to rap songs with the n-word, substitue "ninja"

4) When you're saying rap names like "Lil Wayne" or "Masta Killa" just say them in the traditional white person way

8) Don't beat box

Unless you know how, which you don't.

Neighborhood News

For some unknown reason, Sassy the Chihuahua has disappeared in the yard two houses down the alley, and two new dogs have shown up. Both dogs act both frightened and suspicious.

And one dog barks. A lot.

Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark.


I feel for the unhappy pooch, but he barks at me too.

The other neighborhood mystery is figuring out whether the nice couple next door is made up of two women (one very butch-looking), or a man and a woman. It's not entirely clear, and I'm not entirely sure how to bring the subject up in casual conversation.

The police roared down the street in hot pursuit of something last night. Afterwards, the air in the street was filled with the smell of hot metal. That's because 60 mph on my street is not very compatible with the speed bumps. It's not the smoothest ride.

And that's the latest from my neighborhood.

Flower Timelapse


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Rasputin In The Back Of The Bus

Gossip may explain that sexy crazy look:
Michele Bachmann's high-profile debate coach, Brett O'Donnell, developed an "unnatural" and "Rasputin-like" relationship with his candidate during her failed 2012 presidential campaign....

..."Brett held her captive day after day, speech after speech, etc. in the back of the bus during the 99-county tour. By the end, she was broken emotionally, mentally, and slept in her private cabin in the back of the bus. I do not know if she has ever recovered," Waldron said.

..."Most presidential candidates have strong personalities, not Mrs. Bachmann, she outsourced decision making to Brett. She was for all intents and purposes "mesmerized" by Brett O'Donnell."

Where Sympathetic Observers See A Problem, Rush Limbaugh Sees A Plot

It's funny, the uses of isolation. Sometimes it's very helpful to be isolated, but it can be crazy-making too.

I'm very pleased George Packer employs Wilbur J. Cash in his wonderful New Yorker article about the growing isolation of the South. Cash's book explained the political and social attitudes of the South in the period between the War Between The States and World War II better than any observer has ever done:
For a century after losing the Civil War, the South was America’s own colonial backwater—“not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it,” W. J. Cash wrote in his classic 1941 study, “The Mind of the South.”

...And, as the South became more Republican, it became more like the rest of America. Following the upheavals of the civil-rights years, the New South was born: the South of air-conditioned subdivisions, suburban office parks, and Walmart. Modernization was paved with federal dollars, in the form of highways, military bases, space centers, and tax breaks for oil drilling.

...Now the South is becoming isolated again. Every demographic and political trend that helped to reĆ«lect Barack Obama runs counter to the region’s self-definition: the emergence of a younger, more diverse, more secular electorate, with a libertarian bias on social issues and immigration; the decline of the exurban life style, following the housing bust; the class politics, anathema to pro-business Southerners, that rose with the recession; the end of America’s protracted wars, with cuts in military spending bound to come. The Solid South speaks less and less for America and more and more for itself alone.

...An estrangement between the South and the rest of the country would bring out the worst in both—dangerous insularity in the first, smug self-deception in the second.
For a hundred years, Southern isolation fostered noble resistance to neo-colonial military interventions in Latin America, and to the clarion call for European 'war to end all wars.' At the same time, in alliance with the Midwest, the isolated South bred ultimately-disastrous American isolationism. Isolation was a double-edged sword.

When Cash was writing, about 1940, he could see a growing danger: what kind of revolution would the coming cotton agriculture mechanization cause among all the soon-to-be-unemployed black sharecroppers? It made him fret. What would it mean for the South? Cash didn't live to see the result. What happened, of course, was the vast black migration to the Northern cities, and, in time, the modernization that transformed the South.

These days, I suspect the isolation is more 'meta' than the isolation of old. It's not a physical isolation, in these days of laptops and the Internet. It's more a product of suburbanization. It's just way, way too comfortable sitting in front of the TV set, listening to FOX News and ESPN all the time. Like suburbanites who joined the Tea Party in recent years around the country, Southerners, and those who think like them, readily misinterpret what is happening.

Rush Limbaugh, for example. He seems to think Packer's article is an elite roadmap regarding Obama's intentions. Where Packer sees a problem, Limbaugh sees a plot:
Barack Obama, if you'll note, really never talks about plans and proposals to solve problems. What he does is position his political opponents as the enemy.

...Eliminating them, reducing their numbers, depressing them, dispiriting them, getting them out of office, humiliating, embarrassing them, caricaturing them, character assassination, whatever it takes. The primary focus is to make sure that whenever a conservative speaks, everybody laughs at him.

...That's what was happening here in Obama's presser, the debt limit, he was blaming the Republicans, and he means conservatives for this, but he'll get rid of the Republican Party, too. The one thing the Republican moderates don't get is who this guy is.

...Now, I've got this story here, and it's not just in Washington. I have a story here from the New Yorker, by George Packer. "Southern Discomfort: The Political Isolation of the American South," is the title of this piece. And what this is about is a very approving story from the New Yorker about the attempt here to isolate the South. To make the South an island unto itself, made up of oddballs and kooks and weirdos who have to be ignored, who also have to be defeated.

...And this is being done by design. They're trying to isolate the South again because the South is conservative, and it's not just the New Yorker.

...There is no effort to solve a problem. There's no effort to get the deficit under control. There's no real effort to control spending. We're going to grant amnesty. We're going to open the border. We're going to do all these things the left and Big Government types have wanted to do for the longest time. We're gonna make moves on guns. They finally got health care done, and now we're on the march. So wherever there's opposition to it, we're gonna take it out.

Of course not by the argument. They can't take us out via argument. They'll never win an argument with us on ideas. They're taking us out via smear.

Cat Outperforms The Professionals

Somehow I'm not surprised:
The Observer portfolio challenge pitted professionals Justin Urquhart Stewart of wealth managers Seven Investment Management, Paul Kavanagh of stockbrokers Killick & Co, and Schroders fund manager Andy Brough against students from John Warner School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire – and Orlando.

Each team invested a notional £5,000 in five companies from the FTSE All-Share index at the start of the year. After every three months, they could exchange any stocks, replacing them with others from the index.

By the end of September the professionals had generated £497 of profit compared with £292 managed by Orlando. But an unexpected turnaround in the final quarter has resulted in the cat's portfolio increasing by an average of 4.2% to end the year at £5,542.60, compared with the professionals' £5,176.60.

While the professionals used their decades of investment knowledge and traditional stock-picking methods, the cat selected stocks by throwing his favourite toy mouse on a grid of numbers allocated to different companies.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Live By The Gun....

Die by the gun:
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A boy who was only 10 when he fatally shot his white supremacist father was convicted Monday of second-degree murder by a judge who said the child knew what he did was wrong.

Riverside Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard weighed the severity of the crime versus whether the amount of abuse and neglect suffered by the boy, now 12, played a significant role in the slaying of 32-year-old Jeff Hall, a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement.

Leonard noted the boy lay in bed, waited for the right moment and shot his dad at point-blank range with the "bad gun" — a .357 Magnum — while he slept on a sofa in the family home.

"This was not a complex killing," said Leonard, who heard the case without a jury. "He thought about the idea and shot his father."

...Also at issue were the father's racist beliefs.

Hall, who said he believed in a white breakaway nation, ran for a seat on the local water board in 2010 in a move that disturbed many residents in the recession-battered suburbs southeast of Los Angeles. The day before his death, he held a meeting of the neo-Nazi group at his home.

Hall had previously taken the boy on a U.S.-Mexico border patrol trip and showed him how to use a gun, according to court documents.

Inattentive Folks Surprised That Payroll Tax Went Back Up To Where It Used To Be

People haven't been paying attention:
"It's going to take me longer to pay for what I spent on Christmas because I wasn't expecting this," Berenson said. "I had never read the fine print on the fiscal cliff issue.

Air Disaster In China

These are likely the highest ambient levels ever recorded in human history:

This is what happens from prioritizing economic development over public health:
Levels of PM2.5 particle pollution over the weekend reached the highest levels since the Beijing government began publicly releasing figures following a public outcry. In separate monitoring by the U.S. Embassy, levels were at 886 micrograms per cubic meter in a reading that was labeled "beyond index."

By Monday, levels had declined to about 350 micrograms on the Beijing government scale — down from a high above 700 but still way above the level of 25 considered safe by the World Health Organization.

Driving Less

I think it's the tapering off that comes from age, as the population ages:
Americans are continuing to drive less and less. Vehicle miles traveled per person plateaued in 2005 and then started declining dramatically in 2008. On average, Americans drove about 700 miles per year less in 2012 than they did in 2007.

Problems With The iPhone 5

Karina recommended this. Yes, I have similar complaints about my new iPhone 5.


Stayed up most of the night watching movies from the 1970's on TCM where Europeans have difficult interactions with natives: "A Man Called Horse" and "Walkabout."

I had to abandon this reviewing of "A Man Called Horse" because it was after 3 a.m., but I'd never seen "Walkabout" before.

What a weird movie "Walkabout" is!

At the start of the movie, the teenage girl shows astonishing self-assurance and aplomb when her father shoots at her and her brother during a picnic in a desolate area somewhere on the edge of the Australian Outback. Then her father sets the car on fire and commits suicide.

The girl reacts in a common-sense, amazingly-level-headed way. She hides her brother from both the bullets and the regrettable news of their father's demise. Just another daily challenge, apparently: something on the order of learning to pronounce French vowels properly. (Apparently teenage girls have to remain alert and adaptable and react to these kinds of events all the time. Maybe they do!) Then, instead of retracing their path back to civilization, she simply takes her brother and walks straight into the Australian Outback.

So weird! That Australian Outback is no joke. I felt a dread in its close proximity. Like all deserts, it can be nice at the proper time and season. Still, it's pretty simple to die a horrible death out in the emptiness, especially when no one knows you are there. But she is a Pomme for sure - stiff upper lip, and all - and just goes.

I liked the scene where a wombat sits beside them for awhile while they sleep. A lot worse out there! I know if I was sleeping out there in the boonies it wouldn't be no wombat checking on me in the dark. More like a dingo.

And all the innocent Outback sexiness too!

The oddity of the introduction captured my interest. It's one of the strangest movie intros ever! The movie had beautiful cinematography, but was weird and clunky, in that weird, didactic, counter-culture-influenced way we all came to dislike in the early 1970's. Like that weird Billy Jack II movie, where, in order to reveal the corruption at the heart of Wall Street to schoolchildren, it seemed fitting to move to the Hopi Reservation of NE Arizona. Like anyone there understood the sordid details of Wall Street bond trading.

What does Roger Ebert think about "Walkabout"?:
Now the girl and boy face destruction at the hands of nature. They have the clothes they are wearing, a battery-operated radio, and whatever food and drink is in the picnic hamper. They wander the outback for a number of days (the film is always vague about time), and stumble upon an oasis with a pool of muddy water. Here they drink and splash and sleep, and in the morning the pool is dry. At about this time they realize that a solemn young aborigine (David Gulpilil) is regarding them.

...There is an unmistakable sexual undercurrent: Both teenagers are in the first years of heightened sexual awareness. The girl still wears a school uniform that the camera regards with subtle suggestiveness. (An ambiguous earlier shot suggests that the father has an unwholesome awareness of his daughter's body.) The restored footage includes a sequence showing the girl swimming naked in a pool, and scenes of the aborigine indicate he is displaying his manliness for her to appreciate.

...In "Walkabout," the crucial detail is that the two teenagers can never find a way to communicate, not even by using sign language. Partly this is because the girl feels no need to do so: Throughout the film she remains implacably middle-class and conventional, and she regards the aborigine as more of a curiosity and convenience than a fellow spirit. Because not enough information is given, we cannot attribute her attitude to racism or cultural bias, but certainly it reveals a vast lack of curiosity. And the aborigine, for his part, lacks the imagination to press his case--his sexual desires--in any terms other than the rituals of his people. When that fails, he is finished, and in despair.

Miss New York Crowned Miss America

(Face-palm) Miss Arizona didn't even make the semi-finals. *Sigh*

Tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!

Meanwhile, Miss America tries to strike a balance in the gun control debate and gets attacked by the right-wing conservatives.

Weather Pattern May Be Changing

For the last month, I've been looking for a change in the large-scale weather pattern, particularly as regards precipitation in the Southwest. I've been looking in vain. It has to come eventually, though, just because of the progress of the seasons. Today, is the first sign of a change. A cutoff low will form NW of Kauai this week, eventually tap into the ITCZ moisture, and start coming towards Texas. But it's still two weeks off, or so, and so the change is still over the horizon.

It's Cold In The Desert Too

Wow! Saguaros can't tolerate more than about six hours of sub-freezing temperatures:
Tucson hit a record low Monday morning and another hard-freeze is excepted for Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, according to the National Weather Service.

Monday’s low at the Tucson airport was 21 degrees. That breaks the record low for the date of 22 degrees, set in 1940.