Saturday, December 19, 2015

Old Satellite Wants Attention Again

Back in October, John tagged this interesting story about an abandoned satellite starting to send signals again:
An Amateur Radio Astronomer in North Cornwall accidentally picked up the signal in 2013 and after cross checking with various lists, has identified it as LES1 built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and launched in 1965. The satellite failed to reach its intended orbit owing to a wiring error and has been drifting out of control ever since.

Phil Williams G3YPQ from near Bude noticed its peculiar signal drift caused by its tumbling end over end every 4 seconds as the solar panels become shadowed by the engine. ‘This gives the signal a particularly ghostly sound as the voltage from the solar panels fluctuates’ Phil says.

It is likely that the on board batteries have now disintegrated and some other component failure has caused the transmitter on 237Mhz, to start up when its in sunlight.

...Phil says its remarkable to think that electronics built nearly 50 years ago, 12 years before Voyager 1, and long before microprocessors and integrated circuits, is still capable of working in the hostile environs of space.

The Light Saber Star

Cool! They knew these things existed. It's nice to get a picture:

Full Moon Christmas

KGUN TV-9 Covers TRB's "A Southwest Nutcracker"

Even when I was there (1982-1988), Linda Walker was experimenting with "A Southwest Nutcracker". Since 1994, it's become a Tucson tradition.

Little Storms

The little storm that rolled in last night (0.45" at Sacramento Executive Airport) is the first in about four little storms in the coming week that hopefully will boost our sorry rainfall totals for the month.

The New York Times Fuckers Are Back

Here we go again. Whether it's Wen Ho Lee in the 90's, or Judith Miller in the last decade, or making up shit about the San Bernardino couple's social media postings, the New York Times cultivates reporters whose sole purpose is to drip venomous conservative lies into the mainstream media. These days, the reporters are Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, and Julia Preston.

Apuzzo, Schmidt, and Preston. Remember those names. They will be back.

Today, FBI director James Comey said the San Bernardino shooters never talked openly about violent jihadism on social media.... So where did this notion come from, anyway? The answer is a New York Times story on Sunday headlined "U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife's Zealotry on Social Media." It told us that Tashfeen Malik "talked openly" on social media about jihad and that, "Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country." The story was written by Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, and Julia Preston.

Do those names sound familiar? They should. The first two were also the authors of July's epic fail claiming that Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal probe over the mishandling of classified information in her private email system. In the end, virtually everything about the story turned out to be wrong. Clinton was not a target. The referral was not criminal. The emails in question had not been classified at the time Clinton saw them.

...Schmidt and Apuzzo either have some bad sources somewhere, or else they have one really bad source somewhere. And coincidentally or not, their source(s) have provided them with two dramatic but untrue scoops that make prominent Democrats look either corrupt or incompetent.

The Ghost of Christmas Future Imperfect Conditional

Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure

Jessica Crouch Wins Big Honor

Oh, look at this! Our own Jessica!:
Jessica Crouch has been chosen as the winner of NYMF's Next Broadway Sensation 2015. The competition took place at The Triad (158 W. 72nd Street) and gave nearly 200 singers the chance to be crowned this year's champion.

Crouch, and runner-up Crystal Kellogg, competed alongside finalists chosen from a mix of audience votes, online voting at, and a panel of industry judges.

Produced by NYMF with support from the ASCAP Foundation this annual talent competition seeks to find the newest musical theatre star. Crouch will receive a special solo concert produced by NYMF in 2016.

NYMF's Next Broadway Sensation 2015 winner Jessica Crouch was last seen this summer in Hair at Sacramento Music Circus. Her top performing highlight was touring North America in We Will Rock You and getting to share the stage with rock legend, Queen guitarist, Brian May. @jessgoober

...Now in its twelfth year, the Festival is the largest musical theatre event in America. The preeminent site for launching new musicals and discovering new talent, the Festival provides an affordable platform for artists to mount professional productions that reach their peers, industry leaders, and musical theatre fans.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Winter, So Far

I'm kind of exasperated by the winter so far. Precipitation is about half normal in the valleys, and about 80% of normal in the mountains. We're within striking distance of normal, but not there. The drought continues.

It's been raining a lot in the Pacific Northwest (good - they need it) and we get the tail ends of their storms (next ones forecast for here on Saturday and Monday), but it's just not enough. It's too dry in western Nevada and the Mojave Desert. Quiet on the Southwestern front too: the East Pacific High has suppressed anything El Niño might throw our way. It's raining a lot near Wake and Midway Islands, but that does us no good.

One interesting tidbit is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) finally budged downwards in November. It's been stuck on hot, hot, hot for the last year, and we've been hot too since we are so close to it, but it's been stormy in the NE Pacific since September, and the wind is finally stripping out some of that heat. Hopes continue for a more-normal pattern of weather.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Employment Status

Here at work as an air quality dispersion modeler, I’ve been quite worried about my employment status for the last nine years, since the new dispersion modeler came on board in 2006. It’s been obvious my employer couldn’t keep us both fully occupied with the amount of available work, but through the Recession they kept us both on anyway. (It’s been a blessing, because I’ve been able to lots of other things with the excess time, like write, blog, and focus on “Breaking Bad”). Still, my employer almost dropped me last year, and I’ve been waiting for this year’s review with dread. Things had been busier this year than last, but I also saw no new work in the pipeline, and fretted….

Today was the review. The result is, I will be dropped to part-time status, but I requested that the transition be delayed until May 1st (when I will turn age 59.5, and be able to access retirement money without 10% penalty), and they agreed. And I retain health benefits for a year. So, come mid-year, or maybe even sooner, I’ll be free to take on part-time work, or possibly retire early (although the money isn’t there for anything but the most Spartan kind of retirement). Still, the transition won’t be as abrupt as I feared likely.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Marco Cholo

Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra - Home for the Holidays - Sacramento Memorial Auditorium - Dec. 12, 2015

Went to see Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra's "Home for the Holidays" at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium with Jackie, Donna, and Steve S.

Santa and Donald Kendrick

2015 NorCal Ragga Jam Session (Sacramento) with Laure Courtellemont - Dec. 11, 2015

She was here! I'm so thrilled! There were two Sacramento sessions, featuring two completely-different styles of Jamaican Dancehall, the first a gangsta style number, and the second a more-sensual number.

Laure Courtellemont (photo by LaToya Bufford).

The women watch while the men demonstrate the "Bloodclaute Song" dance choreography at the 2015 NorCal Ragga Jam Session (Sacramento) with Laure Courtellemont (center) on Dec. 11, 2015 (photo by LaToya Bufford).

The men demonstrate the "Bloodclaute Song" dance choreography at the 2015 NorCal Ragga Jam Session (Sacramento) with Laure Courtellemont (center) on Dec. 11, 2015 (photo by LaToya Bufford).

Laure explained her mission to spread Dancehall around the world. Here is a marvelous example of her recent work, with many of the superb dancers she's brought to her side in the short time she's been based in Los Angeles, including Crazyhype!:

And a solo by Laure herself!:

In Conversation with Vince Gilligan - UCD's Mondavi Center - December 10, 2015

Thursday night was very exciting. The Mondavi Center at UC Davis presented "In Conversation with Vince Gilligan" with Moderator Colin Milburn (Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities; Professor of Cinema and Digital Media and Professor of English, Science and Technology Studies, UC Davis):
Odd couple FBI agents investigating the paranormal. A mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher turned “bad.” A hard-working lawyer trying to find his niche. These iconic characters represent some of the very best writing in television and we have Vince Gilligan to thank. The multiple award-winning creator, writer and executive producer of both The X-Files and Breaking Bad (and its prequel Better Call Saul) has garnered two Emmys (for Breaking Bad) as well as a 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, among others. Of Gilligan’s characters, The New York Times has said “they inhabit a realm of moral ambiguities that’s overseen by a man with both a wicked sense of humor and a highly refined sense of right and wrong.”
Of the fans in the Breaking Bad and better Call Saul Facebook groups, I was aware of two others who went: Ron McCrae, who drove in from Reno and back, despite the storms clobbering the Sierra Nevada, and Lisa Van de Velde (and her boyfriend) from Sacramento. Plus myself, of course.

Ron and I met at Black Bear Diner and walked in to the Mondavi.

They followed a "Between Two Ferns" interview format, for 1.5 hours in Jackson Hall (1,800 seat capacity - about 80% full). Recording of any sort was not permitted. Vince left the building immediately afterwards, so my effort to present him with a book was foiled (although the host did suggest I contact his agent). For a die hard fan there was little that was truly new. He spent a lot of time talking about X Files and Breaking Bad (surprisingly little on BCS), and retelling stories most of us have already heard (how he got started in TV; meeting Bryan Cranston; deciding not to kill off Jesse; not knowing how they were going to use the machine gun shown at the start of Season 5 BrBa until much later; using BrBa as an unprecedented experiment in character evolution on TV since he expected the show to crater anyway). He stressed the importance of Cinematography and Music (but everyone knew that already). He looked a bit weary to me (understandable). Not very many questions were taken (Lisa Van de Velde and her boyfriend were very lucky). Gilligan said you learn a lot by failure, but the success of BrBa caught him by total surprise, and he hasn't learned a thing from that success. The biggest revelations to me was learning that Bill Burr now has a helicopter pilot's license and that one of the influences used in creating the amalgam character of Saul Goodman was simply seeing billboards of a personal injury attorney while being driven around ABQ on a siting locations bus and wondering whether, since Walt needed a consigliere, maybe somebody like that would work (Vince didn't identify the attorney because he didn't want to get sued - he said that in dead seriousness - but I'm thinking it's gotta be Ron Bell).

I liked those ferns onstage too. Those were two very good-looking ferns.

Vince Gilligan did talk about how much he enjoyed reading critical discussions of BrBa and its use of symbolism and color. Filmmakers just don't have the control that people sometimes assume and lots of accidents occur that later take on great meaning. Gilligan made a comparison to a Hitchcock movie where a car broke through a picket fence, leaving two pickets in the form of a cross, which a critic noted referred to Christian symbolism, and Hitchcock himself noted was purely an accident, that no one had planned it that way. Gilligan was thunderstruck when a critic noted that Gus Fring getting half his face blown off was foreshadowed by the Teddy Bear with half its face burnt off. He made everybody laugh by recollecting reading the critic's thought. "I wish I had thought of that in advance," he confessed, half a second before regretting he expressed that thought in front of another person, blowing his opportunity to maintain an omniscient pose.

Gilligan did say he did base half the face getting burnt off on a real event, though. Fulminate of mercury was the cause:
John Whiteside Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons; October 2, 1914 – June 17, 1952), better known as Jack Parsons, was an American rocket engineer and rocket propulsion researcher, chemist, inventor, businessman, expert witness, writer, socialite, and Thelemite occultist. Parsons was associated with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and was one of the principal founders of both the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Aerojet Engineering Corporation. He invented the first rocket engine using a castable, composite rocket propellant, and pioneered the advancement of both liquid-fuel and solid-fuel rockets.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Parsons was raised by a wealthy family on Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena. Inspired by science fiction literature, he developed an interest in rocketry in his childhood and in 1928 began amateur rocket experiments with school friend Ed Forman. He was forced to drop out of Pasadena Junior College and Stanford University due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression, but in 1934 he united with Forman and graduate student Frank Malina to form the Caltech-affiliated GALCIT Rocket Research Group, supported by Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory chairman Theodore von Kármán. In 1939 the Group gained funding from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to work on Jet-Assisted Take Off (JATO) for the U.S. military. In 1942 they founded Aerojet to develop and sell their JATO technology in response to American involvement in World War II; the Group became JPL in 1943.

After a brief involvement with Marxism in 1939, Parsons began practising magick and converted to Thelema, the English occultist Aleister Crowley's new religious movement. In 1941, alongside his first wife Helen Northrup, Parsons joined the Agape Lodge, the Californian branch of the Thelemite Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). At Crowley's bidding, he replaced Wilfred Talbot Smith as its leader in 1942 and ran the Lodge from his mansion on Orange Grove Avenue. Inciting criminal investigations into allegedly illicit activities, Parsons was expelled from JPL and Aerojet in 1944 in part due to the Lodge's infamy, along with his quixotic working practices as a scientist. In 1945 Parsons separated from Helen after having an affair with her sister Sara; when Sara left him for his friend L. Ron Hubbard, he conducted the Babalon Working, a series of rituals designed to invoke the Thelemic goddess Babalon to Earth. He and Hubbard continued the procedure with Marjorie Cameron, whom Parsons married in 1946. After Hubbard and Sara defrauded him of his life savings, Parsons resigned from the OTO and went through various jobs while acting as a consultant for the Israeli rocket program. Amid the climate of McCarthyism, he was accused of espionage and left unable to work in rocketry. In 1952, Parsons died at the age of 37 in a home laboratory explosion that attracted national media attention; the police ruled it an accident, but many associates suspected suicide or assassination.

Yet people remember, particularly people like Vince Gilligan, who also tries to straddle that Religion/Science divide. Jack Parsons is memorialized in Breaking Bad.

Vince Gilligan also had nice things to say about Albuquerque and New Mexico. He noted that there are more sheep than people in New Mexico and that of the 50 states NM has the highest per capita number of Ph.D.'s, due to the presence of Los Alamos and Sandia Labs. He said these things in context of a discussion about the role of science in Breaking Bad, particularly as represented by Walter White.

Annual Sierra Holiday Gathering