Friday, March 31, 2017

Michael Flynn, Traitor

I missed this news. So, Michael Flynn is in so deep with the Turks that he'd help them with a kidnapping. I wonder what he promised the Russians? Trump sure knows how to pick them!:
Woolsey claims that those present discussed sending Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim leader who Erdogan has accused of being behind a failed military coup to overthrow him, back to Turkey to face charges -- possibly outside the legal US extradition system.

"What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation -- it's not entirely clear what transpired because of that," Woolsey said on "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon. "But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey's political situation."

Determined Fish

La, La, La; I Can't Hear You

I recently stopped in at a job fair, and was surprised to find construction companies looking for employees. In the past, they didn't have to recruit.

I talked to a company representative, picked up a squeezable plastic-cone token, and noted that, at least here in Sacramento, he seemed to date the collapse in construction to 2004, not 2008.

This blogger argues that recruiting is going badly for construction companies because they have become inured to paying low wages, and are stubbornly-resisting increasing wages. An older population, and a stable-or-declining pool of Mexican workers means a smaller pool from which to draw workers. The market is sending a signal employers don't want to hear:
What’s mystifying here is the fact that capitalist homebuilders and their cheerleaders at the Journal are, well, mystified over why Americans don’t seem to want to work construction. There’s a simple reason why Americans aren’t filling construction jobs—and the construction industry appears to be missing it.

...And yet the market sharpies collectively are throwing up their hands over the construction labor shortage instead of homing in on the obvious solution: Pay people more—a lot more if need be. The executives Olick interviewed didn’t mention pay, although she did note that “wages in the residential building industry are growing at twice the rate of wages in the overall economy.” The Journal took a supply-side approach to a solution: Go easier on immigrants, legal and illegal, so that business will have a larger supply of people willing to do the work at the wages on offer.

...The second view is common among many employers. And it is bound up with a more generalized sociopathy about wages and pay that took root during the Great Recession. Companies slashed payroll to survive and then took extraordinary measures to keep payroll costs down even as the economy expanded. For several years, American workers didn’t get a raise, on average, and they kept showing up for work and applying for jobs. And these low wages were built into the typical company’s business model. So why should an employer bother to raise wages aggressively now? If it becomes an article of faith that you never have to raise wages, it is easy to conclude that the reason you can’t hire is that Americans aren’t willing to do the job.

...But that’s not how the world, or business, works. There’s no such thing as a job an American won’t do. There are such things as jobs that Americans in your geographic area won’t do at the conditions on which you are offering them.

Writing Projects

I've been spending my time with various writing projects. In June, I'll produce the fourth edition of "A Guidebook to Breaking Bad Filming Locations," featuring insights on the use of Albuquerque architecture in "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul." I'm also hoping to finish a history of Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), in Davis, California, and maybe try my hand at writing a science fiction story.

But first, two personal accounts: "A New Mexico Childhood: The View from Albuquerque’s Edge in the Sixties and Early Seventies," and
"Dog-Walking Stories: Nighttime Journeys into the Sacramento Demimonde with Sparky and Bella."

The New Mexico Childhood book is about growing up in New Mexico. My childhood seems curiously strange, given the perspective of time. Life in semi-rural New Mexico is oddly claustrophobic. Just like the adults, we kids were little too careless about fire and knives. We loved our dirt-clod wars. And building model cities too.

The Dog-Walking stories are about two dogs, Sparky and Bella, and their walks, and the odd people we met and the puzzling things we saw.

Self-published, and available now on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Severe Brain Damage

This tragic meth-addiction end-game story is extra-creepy to me. The events happened on familiar stomping grounds. I've hung out at that McDonalds, the Rite-Aid is my drug store, and my doctor is in that medical office building. Heck, I even know that winding hallway they mention. So many people were put at risk, and now this dead end.

Because it's a transportation nexus and the nearby hospital, medical offices, and supporting facilities (like Safeway) serve as magnets, there's a lot of unstable people in that area (though I've had more success finding them at KFC than McDonalds):
The first officer on the scene found John Hernandez sitting on a curb. Hernandez “became agitated and confrontational” when the officer tried to speak with him, according to police. Hernandez “refused to obey” verbal commands. When a second officer arrived, police said Hernandez “became more erratic and noncompliant.”

Hernandez then ran across L Street and into a Sutter medical building.

His sister, Melissa Serna, said she saw a clip of surveillance video from the facility that showed John Hernandez stopping at elevators just inside the sliding glass entryway and hitting the buttons. When the elevator doors didn’t open, he took off down a narrow, curving hallway, no more than 4 feet wide. Two officers could be seen running into the facility, she said.

Police said they attempted to use Tasers and batons to subdue Hernandez when they caught up to him in the hallway, but those less-lethal weapons were “not effective.” More officers arrived and “were finally able to subdue the subject,” police said. Heinlein could not say how many officers were involved or how many times they used Tasers.

Tuesday Evening Zumba

End of Consumer Economy in Sight

But what replaces it?:
“As a service” models become more and more feasible when the number of sensors that surround us increases. This development is often called the “Internet of Things.” But when we consider the Internet of Things from the perspective of disappearing products and the increase in new service models, we can effectively conclude that it is, in fact, the “Internet of No Things.”

What is so revolutionary about the “as a service” model then? Why is it good not to own things? There are two main reasons and these are related: First, ownership makes us lazy. Second, the planet cannot survive with us consuming so much stuff.

When we buy things we easily get bored with them and forget they exist, or, alternatively, use them only because we own them. On-demand is about using things when we actually need them. It leads to the more effective use of resources. AirBnb gets more people to use the same apartment and Uber gets more people to use the same car.

Spider Museum

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lazy Self-Deception

The price of living in the FOX News bubble is profound confusion about reality:
Perhaps the main way that self-deception hurt the Republicans is more basic. Because they overstated both the badness of Obamacare and the easiness of replacing it, they got lazy when it came to making policy. Serious policy critiques could easily be swatted away as inconsistent with some bit of magical thinking. If you can cover everyone and lower premiums without having mandates or taxes, why bother to wrestle with the real trade-offs inherent in health care policymaking?

When Too Much is Too Much

Interesting quarrel about benzoates:
Both the NBC and NAFDAC are appealing against the ruling, arguing that the Coca-Cola products do not exceed benzoic acid limits for Nigeria or international limits set by Codex, the international food standards body administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
"The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg," wrote Sade Morgan, legal, public affairs and communications director of the NBC.

Thinking About Midges

In 2011, I saw fascinating midge swarms on the Interstate 80 Yolo Causeway between Davis and Sacramento, featuring rays and beams of flying insects. The rays were arrayed symmetrically on both sides of the freeway, 60 degrees from the horizontal, and gave the Causeway a majestic, Art Deco flourish. Until I started reading more on the Internet, I didn't realize these swarms are fairly common, especially at higher latitudes in summertime.

I find it fascinating how the midges will anchor themselves and swarm at an angle from a certain spot. Why that spot and why that angle? Inquiring minds want to know. I'm inclined to write a sci-fi story about these choices.

Disproportionate Polar Heating

As Global Warming heats the poles disproportionately, the jet stream weakens, allowing weather patterns to get "stuck" for far too long, aggravating weather disasters:
The study, its authors write, “adds to the weight of evidence for a human influence on the occurrence of devastating events such as the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heat wave, the 2011 Texas heat wave and recent floods in Europe.”

...The Northern Hemisphere jet stream flows in a wavy pattern from west to east, driven by the rotation of the Earth and the difference in temperature between the equator and the North Pole. The flow is stronger when that temperature difference is large.

But when the Arctic warms up faster than the equator does — which is part of the fundamental definition of global warming, and which is already happening — the jet stream’s flow can become weakened and elongated. That’s when you can get the resultant weather extremes.

Self-Medicating Neanderthals

Neanderthals had varied diets, and apparently knew about medicinal plants:
"We found that the Neandertals from Spy Cave consumed woolly rhinoceros and European wild sheep, supplemented with wild mushrooms," says Professor Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD. "Those from El Sidrón Cave on the other hand showed no evidence for meat consumption, but appeared instead to have a largely vegetarian diet, comprising pine nuts, moss, mushrooms and tree bark -- showing quite different lifestyles between the two groups."

"One of the most surprising finds, however, was in a Neandertal from El Sidrón, who suffered from a dental abscess visible on the jawbone. The plaque showed that he also had an intestinal parasite that causes acute diarrhoea, so clearly he was quite sick. He was eating poplar, which contains the pain killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient of aspirin), and we could also detect a natural antibiotic mould (Penicillium) not seen in the other specimens."

Odd Granular Behavior on Titan

Like packing peanuts:
"If you grabbed piles of grains and built a sand castle on Titan, it would perhaps stay together for weeks due to their electrostatic properties," said Josef Dufek, the Georgia Tech professor who co-led the study. "Any spacecraft that lands in regions of granular material on Titan is going to have a tough time staying clean. Think of putting a cat in a box of packing peanuts."

The electrification findings may help explain an odd phenomenon. Prevailing winds on Titan blow from east to west across the moon's surface, but sandy dunes nearly 300 feet tall seem to form in the opposite direction.

"These electrostatic forces increase frictional thresholds," said Josh Méndez Harper, a Georgia Tech geophysics and electrical engineering doctoral student who is the paper's lead author. "This makes the grains so sticky and cohesive that only heavy winds can move them. The prevailing winds aren't strong enough to shape the dunes."

Republican Success

A hard journey, but successful:
WASHINGTON—Telling Americans this was the kind of leadership and accountability they could expect from the GOP, congressional Republicans held a press conference Monday to celebrate making good on their 2009 promise to block the president’s healthcare bill. “Eight years ago, our party made a solemn pledge to do everything in our power to ensure that a healthcare bill put forth by the president of the United States did not become law, and through our actions last week, that is exactly what we have done,” said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy....

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Disney's 2017 "Beauty and the Beast"

Excellent show! Best Disney film I've seen (made me tear up several times). I liked their new songs. I think we were all surprised, though, by the absence of 'Human Again' and 'Maison d'Lune.'

What Happens in Santa Cruz....

Saw this in the Arden Fair Shopping Mall parking lot.

Gleeful Democrats

GOP falls on its face:
Other Democrats seemed content to rub in the victory.

"Hey Republicans, don't worry, that burn is covered under the Affordable Care Act," tweeted Bob Menendez, a Democratic senator from New Jersey.

Postgraduate Cylinder

Dank Rapunzel

Teed Up Ryan's health Care Bill

Ryan's problem is the exact same problem that bedeviled John Boehner when he was Speaker of the House. Which means, when conservatives and radical conservatives split, then the only way to get a deal is to work with Democrats. Ryan needs to pull the Obamacare Repeal in order to fortify Obamacare, not repeal it, with the aid of Democrats.

Democrats run this show. Trump needs to raise the budget ceiling soon. What will he concede to get a deal? Let's find out!

We wouldn't want Trump to lose again now, would we?:
But on Wednesday, once it became clear that the bill wouldn’t have the votes otherwise, Donald Trump signed off on adding that portion. Once that was negotiable, all hell broke loose. It became perfectly clear why Ryan never wanted to go down this path of negotiating the “off-limits” portions of the bill. You don’t just risk blowing up your Congressional Budget Office score. More and more of the already reluctant moderates begin to bail on the bill while conservatives, smelling blood, only demand more concessions. This is precisely what happened on Thursday afternoon, causing a surprise delay of a scheduled vote. Members will only say that negotiations are still “ongoing.” But going where?


Pig and Emu Babies

Love the Dancehall!

Land Park Murder

Separated by just three miles and three degrees of separation from this family. Wonder what happened?:
Four people were found dead Thursday morning inside a home in Sacramento’s South Land Park neighborhood, a normally quiet area of tree-lined streets and mid-century ranch houses. Police detained a man in San Francisco in connection with what they called a quadruple homicide.

Gravity Wave Clouds Imaged By Mars Rover

Awesome video!:
Using Curiosity’s navigation camera, Moores and Kloos recorded eight-frame movies of this wispy cloud belt for two martian years. They’ve used two angles to capture the clouds: one pointed directly up, to see wind direction and speed, and another that keeps the rover’s horizon in the frame, allowing a view into the clouds’ depth. The captured clouds are so thin as to be invisible without painstaking computer enhancement, Kloos said in his presentation Tuesday.

...Given the limited water vapor, solar energy, and atmosphere, the martian clouds lack the variety of shapes seen on Earth. But during one day of cloud gazing—Curiosity’s 1302th martian day, to be precise—the team got lucky and saw something unusual. That day, when Curiosity looked to the horizon, it saw a sequence of straight, parallel rows of clouds flowing in the same direction: the first ground-based view of a gravity wave cloud. Similar to the waves that follow a pebble tossed into a pond, gravity waves are created when some unknown feature of the martian landscape causes a ripple in the atmosphere that is then seen in clouds. Such waves are common at the edge of the martian ice caps, but thought to be less frequent over its equator.

Shiver Me Parrots!