Friday, March 01, 2013

Rebecca And Fiona - Bullets

I thought this sounded apropos because of the Pistorius case, but the video stands up well just on its own!

And Tiesto has a club edit too!

Will And Trust Documents Signed

Things are good with new lawyer! He gave me a book on the future of Global Christianity to read. Will review it for the blog!

Now, regarding the old lawyer. The lawsuit continues. I'm surprised he's not disbarred and under arrest yet.

Marc's Amazing Weight-Loss Program

My interim weight loss goal is 168 lbs. (because that was the minimum weight I achieved in 2005, the last time I tried to lose weight). Nevertheless, I haven't been able to get below about 182 lbs. since last October, mostly because I just wasn't that serious about the effort.

Until I got sick early in February. Nevertheless, I was able to hang onto 182 lbs. through "Urinetown" tech week.

Now, the weight is just flying off! I'm down to 174 lbs. this morning, and plummeting like a tourist-filled Egyptian hot air balloon afire! Eight pounds lost, and falling fast! WTF?

Illnesses end, though. The trick will be keeping it off. But I'm pleased, for the moment. At this rate, I'll hit my interim goal at the end of next week. As long as food keeps tasting rather repulsive, I'm in luck!

Life's Peachy Keen In Sinaloa

Yes, no matter what happens, El Chapo wins:
Yes, there have been victories for the government: In March 2009 the attorney general’s office published a most-wanted list of 37 high profile drug lords. As of February 2013, two-thirds of them are either dead or in custody. By now, the majority of the seven major drug trafficking cartels battling for dominance have been crippled. Most have partially or completely fractured into smaller groups. Even the infamous Los Zetas, whose leader Heriberto Lazcano was killed last fall, have recently suffered severe blows.

Only the Sinaloa cartel seems to have survived the onslaught relatively intact.

...El Chapo is still at large, after his spectacular escape from prison in 2003. In mid-February Guatemalan authorities investigated rumors that he had been gunned down, but the president’s spokesman later told GlobalPost they found no evidence of this. His inner circle cronies Juan José Esparragoza and Ismael Zambada also still operate freely.

...Since then, the Sinaloa cartel ousted its rivals in the lucrative smuggling corridors of Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez. El Chapo himself is now the most wanted man on the globe, with US authorities offering a $5 million reward for any information leading to his capture.

...Even more impressive is its global reach. Sinaloa operatives have been arrested from Egypt to Argentina and from Europe to Malaysia. Properties attributed to El Chapo Guzmán have been seized in Europe and South America. US law enforcement reports that the group is now present in all major American cities. Recent US court documents involving the case of Vicente Zambada-Niebla, Mayo Zambada’s son, even suggest the Sinaloa cartel now controls the cocaine trade in Australia.

Earlier this month, Chicago named El Chapo Guzmán public enemy number one, the first to receive that title since the city’s legendary crime boss, Al Capone.

...No wonder Forbes has listed El Chapo Guzmán on its annual list of billionaires since 2009.

...Beith points out that Sinaloa´s survival and recalcitrant power should instead be attributed to the way it operates.

“There is a level-headedness about the leadership that the other groups lack,” he says. “To the authorities, first priority always has to be quelling violence. When other groups throw grenades into a crowd of innocents or behead[s] people, it’s obvious what needs to be done. Sinaloa has perpetrated its share of violence, but by and large it did not cause disruption to the general well-being of the population.¨

The Sinaloa cartel’s relatively low profile in terms of violence is partly due to its relatively long history – it’s been around for 25 years. In Sinaloa itself the goup is deeply rooted in society. Not only do its senior leaders hail from the region, but the cartel reputedly funds hospitals and schools, thus winning support from locals who aid the capos in their never-ending struggle to escape arrest.

...“El Chapo has an apparent ability to [allegedly] corrupt and infiltrate elements of law enforcement on both sides of the border and seemingly play the authorities’ every move to his advantage,” Beith says. “When the Mexican army moved into Juárez, so did El Chapo, seizing an opportunity. When the authorities took down the Arellano-Félix cartel, El Chapo was already poised to take Tijuana.”

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bloomberg Blames The Poor, Again, For Problems It Didn't Cause

Oh, lookee here! Those Negroes are back, with their crazy-house-buying ways, a shuckin' and a jivin', and spending gobs of Chinese cash! They're neighbors, of course, with the low-life Latinos who ruined the housing market in 2008.

Except everyone knows it wasn't that way at all, and the whole purpose of this crap is to excuse the true malefactors, the Wall Street firms, who bundled bad mortgages into worthless securities to make tons of money, and to make it possible to attack the true victims again: those very same African-Americans and Latinos, who were swindled out of their life-savings once already, and are prime victims for the next go-around.

Precisely Why Schools And Guns Don't Mix

Texas morons on the march:
HOUSTON -- A Texas school worker shot in the leg during a school-sponsored concealed handgun training class has been released from the hospital, officials said.

The maintenance worker, identified by KLTV as Glen Geddie, was released from East Texas Medical Center in Tyler on Thursday morning, according to Rebecca Berkley, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

...The school district released a statement to The Times confirming that at the end of the concealed handgun class Wednesday, a “certified student” had “stayed for private instruction with the instructor and had a mechanical malfunction with his weapon. With the assistance of the instructor, the malfunction was addressed, but the gun misfired and the bullet ricocheted coming back to strike the VISD [Van Independent School District] employee in the left leg. The VISD employee was attended to at the scene and transferred to Tyler for further treatment. The injury is not life-threatening or disabling.”

...Texas state law allows teachers who have concealed handgun permits to carry weapons in public school classrooms if they have permission from the superintendent.

Last month, the Van school board, which serves more than 2,000 students, made it the second district in Texas to allow guns on campus, authorizing certain school employees to carry guns on school property, at school events and at school board meetings.

Van superintendent Don Dunn told KLTV at the time that the district offered the handgun classes to employees to better protect students.

...“If anything, it will simply reinforce the thought that if you’re going to take the responsibility to carry a firearm, you need to be safe with it,” he said.

Sidewalk Pits


Last time it rained I noticed water was draining off of a sidewalk awning, onto the sidewalk - and apparently forming pits in the sidewalk. WTF?


Acidic precipitation, while not unknown in California, is rather unusual, mostly because there is usually enough alkaline calcium carbonate-bearing dust around to neutralize the acid present. (That's the missing ingredient on the East Coast, so that's why it's a problem there.)

Nevertheless, these pits bother me, because they suggest acid is present anyway. So, maybe the acid isn't in the rainwater, but in the runoff instead.

Even when it's not raining, acidic materials can still dry deposit onto surfaces during the long intervals between storms. That's the source of much of the gunk we see on cars that haven't been washed in a while. That gunk falls on rooftops and sidewalk awnings too, just waiting to get washed into the gutter by the next storm.

Wow, intense enough to form pits.....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bev Likes "Urinetown"!

I knew she would:
Starting the show is Tev Ditter as Officer Lockstock, whose partner is Officer Barrel (Steve Mo). Ditter is square-jawed and steely eyed, someone you expect to have just walked off the pages of a Dick Tracy cartoon. Lockstock is the narrator of the show, telling the story to Little Sally. The two make fun of both the show and of musical theater.

Little Sally (Cassie March), a street kid, wise beyond her years, warns people that this is not a happy musical, but Lockstock knows that, as narrator, nothing bad can happen to him.

Private toilets have been outlawed, and now the public must pay to use the restroom. These public amenities are run by corporate giant UGC (Urine Good Company), headed by the evil Caldwell B. Cladwell (Richard Spierto).

If citizens relieve themselves in public or refuse to pay the fee, they are sent off to the dreaded Urinetown, a secret place that Lockstock promises the audience will be revealed in Act 2.

Bobby Strong (an impressive performance by Joshua Smith), is the janitor at the poorest, dirtiest facility in the worst part of town, run by Penny Pennywise. Strong decides to start a revolution after his father, Old Man Strong (Adam Sartain), is arrested for urinating in the street when he has no money to pay to use the facilities.

Pennywise is played by Andrea Eve Thorpe, showing once again the breadth of her talent, playing a harsh, cruel penny-pincher who is hiding her own secret.

This show parodies such Broadway classics as “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Les Miserables” and “West Side Story” (among others), a triumph for choreographer Pamela Lourentzos, who hits her peak with the “Cop Song” and the Act 1 finale, both of which are stunning (and hilarious).

Costume designer Jean Henderson, whose costume design is always wonderful, hits highest marks with the “Fiddler on the Roof” spoof.

(The problem with reviewing this show is that a big part of the fun are the surprises that pop up, and I don’t want to give anything away!)

Despite the title, this show is a gem with an excellent story and songs, performed beautifully by the DMTC cast under Isaacson’s direction.

Idiotic GOP Talking Points

I made the mistake last night of watching a press conference on C-SPAN where dozens of fresh-faced Congressional babelings parroted the same line, that the House GOP had passed two budgets last year, and why won't the Senate do something about passing it, rather than trying to blame it regarding the sequester? John Boehner culminated the fashion show of apparatchiks by telling the Senate to get off its ass.

But as every junior-high school student in America knows, that was the last Congress. There is a new Congress now. Which requires a new budget.

Frickin' morons....

Am I Losing My Enthusiasm For Aspartame?

I nearly became addicted to diet colas in the late 70's, but averred, because of the cyclamates controversy. But then, along came aspartame! I guzzled it, and loved it! By 1982, I was addicted to diet colas again: a love affair that saw me drink more diet cola daily than water; year in and year out, no matter the season or place.

I dunno, maybe it's the cold affecting me these last several weeks, or so, but it just doesn't seem to taste very good anymore. Sort of a bleh taste. Has the novelty finally worn off?

It's funny that I could drink it (with gusto!) for about (365 days * 31 years =) 11,315 days straight without noticing that it didn't taste very good (I've never been a particularly good observer).

Bob Woodward, Disgrace

It's over, Bob. Don't forget the Depends:
Bob Woodward rocked Washington this weekend with an editorial that hammered President Obama for inventing “the sequester” and then being rude enough to ask that Congress not make us have the sequester. Woodward went on “The Morning Joe” this morning, and he continued his brutal assault:
“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?’” Woodward said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need’ or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document?” Woodward added. “Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country. That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Speaking of kinds of madness, Woodward’s actual position here is insane. As Dave Weigel points out, “some budget document” is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the Commander in Chief, and laws should not apply to him. That is a really interesting perspective, from a man who is famous for his reporting on the extralegal activities of a guy who is considered a very bad president!

Also, that George W. Bush analogy is amazing. It would have been a good thing for him to invade and occupy Iraq without Congressional approval? Say what you will about George W. Bush, at least he was really really devoted to invading Iraq. (And yes the Reagan line, lol.)

So, Now, California Is The New Shale-Oil Saudi Arabia

Lots of luck trying to get even a tiny portion out! There are many entrenched interests here who care more for keeping California as something more than a moonscape:
California has an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of crude oil beneath its fertile farmland - and now companies are scrambling to get their hands on it, putting the lush landscape in danger.

While the 'Monterey Shale' has long been believed to be under 1,750 square miles of central and southern California, technology is finally able to extract it, potentially sparking a huge oil boom.

...But amid the concerns, companies are staking their claim on the shale, quietly buying up mineral rights and carrying out tests across the state - all behind a veil of secrecy.

If companies can extract it, it will turn the state from the third biggest producer of oil to the first - as the Monterey Shale has four times as much oil as Texas, currently the biggest producer.

...But technological advances have now made extracting the Monterey Shale more likely, the New York Times reported, and old and new companies are swooping in to stake a claim.

Mineral rights to public lands are being sold by the Bureau of Land Management and plots have soared from $2 an acre to more than a thousand dollars each.

The successful bidders have 10 years to develop a working oil well on the land or the lease expires, NBC News explained. The government receives 12.5 per cent of revenues from the oil.

...'Our companies are not forthcoming on their business plans,' said Tupper Hull from the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents companies including Occidental and Venoco. 'These are pretty smart people, they're pretty good at what they do. They're pretty competitive out there.'

Mexican Ghost Pueblos

It's weird to think of these (formerly heavily-populated) areas as now all-but-uninhabited:
But around each bend, there were no campesinos, no burros, no dogs, no cars barreling down toward the Pacific. Fields of yellow grass, grown taller than a man, covered the landscape, animated only by the wind.

This, though, was no vision of tranquillity. This was the road to the pueblos fantasmas, the ghost pueblos.

"There used to be hundreds of heads of cattle here," Don Polo said. "But now there are no cattle to eat the grass, because the farmers can't live here anymore.

"All of this is due to organized crime."

...It consists of more than 20 pueblos, Don Polo said, which have steadily been emptied of residents. Those who have fled tell of mistreatment by the Mexican army and of persistent threats and violence carried out by a small group of armed men, perhaps no more than 100, who claim to be members of the Knights Templar drug cartel.

The people say that masked men come down from the mountains where clandestine fields of poppies grow. Wearing paramilitary uniforms and carrying AK-47s, they demand loyalty, as well as a "tax" for the privilege of staying in one's home or running a business.

Sometimes they force residents to leave without giving them time to gather their belongings. Sometimes they burn down the houses of those who decline. Sometimes they simply kill.

...More than 1.6 million Mexicans left their homes because of drug violence from 2006 to 2011, according to the Mexico City polling firm Parametria. They might be considered lucky, if only because they are not among the 70,000 Mexicans slain in the drug war.

But the reward for survival is often financial hardship and heartbreak. Don Polo estimated that 1,500 people had fled to his hometown, San Luis de la Loma, while others had settled in a slightly larger city farther down the coast. Neither city has the jobs or the social services to support them.

"These people have lived in the countryside forever," Don Polo said. "They've lost their way of living."

...Such is the fog of modern Mexico: A self-appointed human rights advocate is suspected, by the army, of being a drug dealer. The army, sent into the streets to protect the people, is accused of robbing them and of killing the innocent. The federal government pays the salaries both of the soldiers and of the federal police who must be sent in to protect against the soldiers' alleged threats.

Meanwhile, the Knights Templar cartel argues — between extortion attempts and violence — that it is protecting the common folk from a corrupt federal government.

Charmed By The Love Shown Bailey Buntain

Sacramento's own Bailey Buntain got a sweet review in Salon yesterday:
It’s a sweet bookend to the first episode of this mini-season, when Michelle returned to Paradise and Sasha tackle-hugged her: since then, Michelle’s learned something about stepping up, and being the one who takes care. It’s a sign of Sherman-Palladino’s faith in Buntain and all her great work that Ginny was the center of the season’s final scene: she earned it.

Education Is Expensive

Liberals should have been doing this kind of challenge twenty years ago! It's very late, and many people have needlessly died at the hands of the careless GOP, but Keith Ellison finally does the necessary thing here. Others need to do it too, until people everywhere finally understand the sad joke that FOX News is.

Dealing With This Cold/Flu/Weirdishness

Several weeks ago, during "Urinetown" rehearsals, I got sick. But just a little sick. I got better.

But it wasn't the end. It appeared to be a rolling illness, or a series of illnesses, that would never quite end before the next began.

Last week, of course, was the worst. I got sick, worse than ever, towards the end of ultra-demanding "Urinetown" tech week. Not only did it degrade my performance, but it nearly caused me to lose consciousness during Saturday's opening number, which would have vastly-complicated life for the crew and cast.

Early this week, I seemed to improve a bit, but Tuesday may have been the worst day of all. I felt really spaced-out and weird all day - most of all, at about 6 p.m. I wondered if I might be having a heart attack, albeit a strange one, with no pain.

Feeling so strange, I didn't work at all, but focused instead on an undone task - locating last season's Breaking Bad site where Skyler shows Walt the enormous stack of cash. Where was that obscure storage unit located?

Feeling weird means you have laser focus on eccentric matters. It took four cold calls to assorted New Mexico storage businesses, but lo and behold, I located that site! I am so happy! I updated my BrBa Web pages with the information.

Then I remembered something. Last year, I also felt strange. The culprit wasn't illness, but the balance of blood pressure medication.

About three years ago, the doctor put me on potassium chloride (KCL; or potash) supplement, to counteract potassium loss caused by the medication. Last year, he put me on new KCL-loss-blocking blood pressure medication, which required me to stop taking the supplement. Which I did.

But I think I still, occasionally, need KCl. Last year, when I felt weird, it took just one KCl tablet to feel better.

Last night, I tried it again, and it worked again.

I'm feeling a bit odd this afternoon, but better than yesterday. I'll see what transpires.

During typical tech weeks, I tend to gain weight, because I eat more, and more erratically. During "Urinetown" tech week, I maintained weight, at 182 lbs.

Nevertheless, this morning, I weighed 176 lbs. It's weight loss to rival the 2010 Mexican trip illness! There are benefits to illness!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I KNEW IT! So Corrupt!

Everyone suspected something like this was happening, which is why the Watergate scandal exploded the way it did. How corrupt! Worst President ever (at least until George W. Bush came along)!:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert Bork says President Richard Nixon promised him the next Supreme Court vacancy after Bork complied with Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973.

...Bork writes that he didn’t know if Nixon actually, though mistakenly, believed he still had the political clout to get someone confirmed to the Supreme Court or was just trying to secure Bork’s continued loyalty as his administration crumbled in the Watergate scandal.

...Bork describes a surreal time in Washington as the Watergate scandal began to consume the government and the country, and a sense of paranoia prevailed.

...Most details about Bork’s role on the tumultuous evening of October 20, 1973, immortalized as the Saturday Night Massacre, are well known.

Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Cox over the prosecutor’s subpoena of White House tapes. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. The next in line, William Ruckelshaus, refused to fire Cox and was himself fired.

That left Bork, whose main job was arguing in front of the Supreme Court and who also was the third-ranking Justice Department official. Bork says his initial inclination was to fire Cox and then resign so as not to be seen as a White House toady. He says Richardson and Ruckelshaus encouraged him to stay on for the good of the Justice Department.

In the end, Bork served as acting Attorney General until January 1974, and stayed on as Solicitor General until January 1977. Nixon resigned in August 1974.

After Richardson and Ruckelshaus refused to carry out Nixon’s order, the White House sent a car to the Justice Department to fetch Bork.

He met the car outside the department and found Nixon lawyers Leonard Garment and Fred Buzhardt in the passenger seats. Bork says he joked that he felt like he was being taken for a ride, as in a scene from a gangster movie, but that no one else laughed.

Shortly after he sent Cox a two-paragraph letter, he was taken in to see Nixon. Bork says the resignation and firings should have been called “The Saturday Night Involuntary Manslaughter” because Nixon didn’t plan the episode, but blundered into it.

It was in that conversation that Bork says Nixon for the first and only time offered up the next Supreme Court seat.

The Japanese Are Hilarious!

"Comfortably Numb" Cover

When the Swing generation went out, they got peculiar - all Lawrence Welk, and all - but at least they went out with dignity.

My generation? I dunno.....

Rammstein - Amerika

Rammstein Du Hast - Choir Version

Excitement Brewing

A flock of very noisy geese were circling high above a location somewhere west of my house (Sacramento River?) They seem to sense a big change is nigh!

Kaskade ft. Haley - Llove ( Dada Life Remix )

Strange Having An Efficient Lawyer

Functional Will and Trust will be signed Thursday.

On Being Bogdan

How a scientist ended up on Breaking Bad:
"The strongest connection is the desire to create something of value, either a scientific product or a character in a TV series, for example," Stan said in his lab office on a dreary morning. Over his shoulder was a white board with scribblings about the hydro-thermal stability of oxides. "That gives me pleasure and makes me very happy."

...Wolynetz/Stan has his own distinction. chose him as one of the characters most likely to kill White.

"I don't know anything about that," Stan said in a clipped Romanian accent. "I may or may not be in one of the last episodes but ... I do hope that I'm going to kill Walter White. I'm preparing every day. Should there be a call for duty, I won't hesitate to put a bullet in his head."

...While the world waits for the finale, Stan, who travels to Albuquerque for filming, enjoys his bite-size portions of acting, grows fonder of Bogdan and receives praise from viewers and critics. Someone even created a Facebook page to honor his eyebrows.

...Born, educated and married in Romania, Stan moved his family to New Mexico in 1997 for postdoctoral work at the national lab there. The couple's two children saw a newspaper ad announcing a general casting call for the show and wanted to audition.

When Stan, his wife, Liliana, and the two children arrived in Albuquerque, casting coordinators suggested the entire family have photos taken for the show's database. A few days later, "Breaking Bad" called and asked the children, Tiberiu and Patricia, to be extras in a scene.

The show's representative also suggested Stan attend. Gilligan wanted to meet him. When they did, Gilligan asked Stan to read a line, and liked what he heard.

"He said, 'You know, this is great. I think we found the person we wanted,'" Stan said. "I was happy. The kids were happy. We were all happy we would be in the pilot."

Breaking Bad - Skyfall

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Wobbly "Urinetown" Weekend For Me

Dagnabit, I think I left my camera at the theater! So, the pictures I took will have to wait until I get that camera back!

My performances this weekend were shaky. I've been fighting this cold, and as the Big Opening Weekend approached, I weakened. Saturday night, in the opening number of "Urinetown", after getting off the floor and starting our walk across stage, my vision tunneled in and disappeared. I almost did a face plant, center stage. After blacking out momentarily, I awakened, and noticed that I had slowed down our single-file walk. I struggled forward to close the gap that had opened in the line, so everyone could get to their places in time.

I pulled it together and finished Saturday's show, but it was all unnerving. Of course, it's always possible that I have a cold AND some other problem too, but that's all I know, for now.

I felt lightheaded in Sunday's show, but I was basically OK, except for a moment of disorientation in the dark, which led me to fumble a set change in Act II. Interestingly, a bit of post-show hamburger has gone far in reducing the lightheadedness.

And now that Tech Week has ended, I can finally rest....

So, Maybe Persecution Was Only Haphazard

Intriguing article that may explain something that never made much sense about the Romans. After all, the Romans were remarkably tolerant of all faiths, including some very eccentric ones:
Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, challenges some of the most hallowed legends of the religion when she questions what she calls “the Sunday school narrative of a church of martyrs, of Christians huddled in catacombs out of fear, meeting in secret to avoid arrest and mercilessly thrown to lions merely for their religious beliefs.” None of that, she maintains, is true.

The Ritual

Behind the back door where I work, I've sometimes noticed water stains on the pavement. I've never understood where these stains came from, since they didn't seem to follow any logic, and weren't associated with drain spouts or rainfall. These stains were distinct from pee stains too (of which there are often too many, since we are near Streets of London Pub, and several other fine drinking establishments). No, these stains weren't offensive; they were just puzzling.

After Sunday afternoon's performance of "Urinetown", I drove up to work, and saw a strange sight as I parked in the company lot. There was a homeless woman with her shopping cart behind the back door, apparently engaged in some kind of ritual. She faced north and tried to balance a jug of water on her head. Then she opened up the jug of water, turned east, and carefully spilled some water on the pavement. All the time, she made gestures and moved her lips, indicating some unheard conversation was underway.

I could sense my presence was disturbing her, so I went into my workplace and continued watching, but surreptitiously. She held the cap of the water jug at arm's length, and scanned the pavement in a broad arc, almost as if it were a magnifying glass into another dimension. She kept gesturing, and muttering.

After a few minutes, she seemed satisfied. She gratefully waved at the sky, and moved on.