September 30, 2008
Gay Partner At U.N. Ignored By U.S.
Richard Grenell has been spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for more than seven years, making him the longest-serving spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador ever. Grenell is gay and has a partner, Matt Lashey. They are not married because they are residents of New York [when does the NY law take effect, recognizing Massachusetts, Canadian and California marriages?]. Grenell has been trying to get his partner listed in the United Nations' Blue Book for four years. Since the White House treats Grenell's partner on an equal basis as others' spouses, he thought that there wouldn't be much of a problem getting the State Department to cooperate.
Wrong-o. After putting him off with various lies and misdirections, the State Department is falling back on the "Defense of Marriage Act" which forbids any department of the federal government to recognize any gay marriage, even if it's not a marriage.
Department of Homeland Security Knows Better Than Congress
This past July Congress repealed the statutory ban on HIV-positive visitors to the U.S. Now, however, the Department of Homeland Security is ignoring the repeal and instead is "streamlining" the process for admitting HIV-positive vistors.
Land Use Database
Hiding behind the unimpressive title of The Center for Land Use Interpretation's Land Use Database is this impressive list of, uh, Things. Things that take up a piece of land. In California alone that includes a list of hundreds of sites ranging from ghost towns to Disneyland. Each item includes a short description and a link to a Google map. Some also include links to other sites with more information.
For example, Navy practice targets in the Imperial Valley.
The CLUI is based in Los Angeles and may display some regional chauvinism. Rhode Island lists only three sites, but I imagine they accept nominations.
In August they organized a sold out bus trip to the landfill in Whittier. This is my kinda group!
Paranoia and a Solution
A scientist at JPL is working on technology that will allow a person to be identified from spy satellites by watching the shadow of his (or her) gait. A determined evil-doer could get around that by walking outside only at night, on cloudy days, or in shady areas (like a Manhattan street). But here's a more universal solution for those moments when you have to dash across the street in broad daylight. Of course, you may want to choose a less distinctive graphic.
Ducheny Bill Vetoed
In his rush to clear through a backlog of bills that he was holding to try to get the legislature to act on a budget, Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 1326 which would have opened up the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District to more public scrutiny.
United Mine Workers Local #1702 Repudiate NRA Tactic
The United Mine Workers of America have endorsed Obama for President. On Monday Consol mine owners allowed a National Rifle Association film crew onto their property to try to get miners to speak out against Obama. So 440 union miners took a hike, calling it a "memorial day" thereby idling the mine.
Here's an interesting article on the union's website comparing McCain and Obama solely on the issue of coal. It seems that bastard McCain is opposed to "mountaintop removal mining" and wants to build 45 nuclear power plants by 2025. Saint Obama, OTOH, has pledged to fund "carbon capture and storage" research and calls the U.S. the "Saudi Arabia of coal."
I wonder how it might have gone if instead of using the NRA, they had brought in a veterans group and tried to interview the miners on the candidates' positions on "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."
Now I Understand
Sarah Palin explains an aspect of the coal and oil markets in this YouTube video. Here I have transcribed her words so that you might study them more easily:
Oil and coal, of course it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So I believe that what Congress is going to do also is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first.
September 29, 2008
How They Voted
The website of Congress has been suffering today under the strain of citizens seeking information on the bailout bill. But now it seems to be working well enough to display the vote of each Representative on HR 1517, the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." I see that my Rep, Jerry Lewis, voted FOR it.
The tamarisk tree (or salt cedar) is one of the most destructive of invasive species in the desert. Introduced in the southwest from north Africa in the 1850s, it has been used as a windbreak and an impressively drought resistant shade tree. Here's a map showing its spread in the U.S. It is able to grow in saline soils and send roots deep to find water. When you find tamarisks growing in a desert wash you may notice less vegetation downstream because the tamarisk is consuming so much of the water that occasionally flows down the wash.
Merely cutting down or burning the tamarisk will not kill it. So we are pleased to report that the introduction of the beetle Diorhabda elongata holds promise. Yes, we know that the introduction of invasive species to control other invasive species in the past has led to surprising disasters, but the tamarisk may be worth it. Scientists tell us that the beetle eats nothing but tamarisk leaves.
They were first released in the western U.S. in 2001 and they are spreading. Scientists say that it takes four years of defoliation to kill a tamarisk and that even after the trees are killed, the salinity they have added to the soil may prevent native species from returning. The federal government has not been funding re-vegetation efforts.
Sergey Brin Opposes Prop 8
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has posted a two-paragraph entry on The Official Google Blog expressing the corporation's opposition to California proposition 8, which would repeal the rights of Californians to marry.
The Hunt Is On!
In this 2006 interview during her campaign for the governorship Sarah Palin said "she's not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay, but that she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment [to ban gay marriage in Alaska]." The search for Palin's good gay friends has been fruitless so far. I wouldn't think it would be too hard. Just start with the Log Cabin mailing list for Alaska residents. Send them a little note asking if they are her good friends, or do they know anyone who is. Not a big state (population wise), so somone should pop up quickly.
In the meantime, Dan Savage is volunteering to be Palin's new good gay friend. He says he can talk to her kids about birth control, while Palin and her pals show his son how to gut a moose. Dan Savage is, of course, the author of the Savage Love syndicated column.
One Opinion Reversed
On September 5, conservative opinion columnist Kathleen Parker described herself and her readers as "pumped" in reaction to Palin's acceptance speech. but by September 26 her opinion had gone 'round 180 degrees:
Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I've also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.
Ms. Parker calls for Palin to remove herself from the race.
UPDATE: Video from CNN shows that Saturday Night Live can use Palin's words verbatim as parody. Who gets writing credit for that?
Threatening A Sacred Institution
Michael Imel and Vicki Hicks of Bermuda Dunes feel they are discriminated against as an unmarried couple. He wants the same rights as gay people, that is the right to choose either marriage or domestic partnership.
That kind of talk threatens the sacred institution of domestic partnership. Mr. Imel should recognize he has the same rights as any other California man, that is the right to form a domestic partnership with some other guy.
September 28, 2008
Tecopa Hot Springs
This past weekend I returned to Tecopa Hot Springs with Great Outdoors. The weather was substantially warmer than the last time I was there, so it was hard to stay in the hot tubs for long. What we usually did was go into the "cool" pool for a short time, then just hang around in the dressing area letting ourselves cool off. The Tecopa Bombers were out in force. I'd never seen them so bad. They look a lot like a horsefly, but don't bite as hard and aren't as determined as a horsefly. If you have an old badminton or tennis racquet and are planning a trip to Tecopa, bring it along. One that was at the bathhouse broke, so the struggle goes on as hand-to-wing combat. One of those electrified flyswatters would be ideal entertainment.
Friday we visited China Ranch date farm, my first time there. It's smaller and a lot more casual than the date groves in the Coachella Valley. They let you wander their grove to admire the trees.
Friday night some of us attended one of the star watches that I wrote about last November. They were not using their biggest telescope when we were there, but the half-sized one did well enough. We saw three moons of Jupiter as well as some nebulae. They set up a digital projector with a big screen so people can stand or sit around and watch and chat. It's best if you BYO beer and chair.
Saturday we repeated the 4WD trip we did last year to Monarch and Moorehouse mines, Ibex Springs ghost town and Saratoga Springs. The summer rains laid down some extra deep sand on the way to Saratoga Springs. One of the Jeep owners discovered that recent repairs to his 4WD were ineffective and he was unable to get into 4WD. He got stuck, so Ed and Gardner used their Jeep to pull him out. For most of us it was a long period of simply sitting still in the wide open desert, temps well above 100° (F), consuming water and being reminded why one never goes Jeeping alone, even on popular, marked roads in a national park.
Sunday we paid a visit to Dumont Dunes. None of our vehicles would have been capable of ascending the dunes, but there were a few other souls there running their dune buggies around, showing us what could be done.
Pastels Bistro, a restaurant in Tecopa. Good, but with a limited menu.
The "cool" tub at Tecopa Hot Springs. Water temp is probably about 100° The hot pool is supposed to be 104°. I didn't remember to carry my thermometer to measure it.
China Ranch. Date growers cover the bunches of immature dates with cloth to keep birds away. In the Coachella Valley the bags are just dull standard beige or tan material, but at China Ranch they use colorful old sheets and shirts to cover their dates.
September 26, 2008
Palin Calls Kissinger Naive
It's one thing for John McCain to describe a position as naive, that position being a willingness to negotiate with Iran, a position held by both Obama and Kissinger (and Powell and Albright and James Baker and Warren Christopher). It's another thing when Palin calls Kissinger's view naive and also denies knowledge of Kissinger's views.
OTOH, I'm sure her insight into the mind of Putin is flawless.
September 25, 2008
"Safe Haven" In Nebraska
"Safe Haven" laws allow a parent to surrender a newborn at a specified site without fear of legal repercussions. In California the baby has to be under 72 hours old. Nebraska was the last state to pass such a law, and the senators there worried about an arbitrary age limit so the measure applied to any "child" which was not defined in the law. Yesterday, nine children aged 1 through 17 were surrendered by one unidentified father. Another two boys, ages 11 and 15, were also surrendered.
Nebraska parents who are tired of trying to deal with their kids or can't afford to care for them can just bundle them down to a designated safe haven site and free up their lives. Easier than a divorce. I imagine they would follow that with a yard sale to get rid of the kids' videogames, TVs, computers, audio equipment, etc. to pick up some extra cash.
Westboro Baptists Given The Heave-Ho, Matey!
The infamous Westboro Baptist Church (i.e. "God Hates Fags") tripped themselves up by scheduling a demonstration on Talk Like A Pirate Day. The hate group was met by a counter demonstration of pirates waving swords and shouting "Arrr!" This took all the attention away from the Phelpsians (and the wind out of their sails), so they slunk away.
"Not all white women are trash"
The Citizen's Taser
Yes, police have the real electric tasers, but citizens can fart on the police - as long as they are willing to face being charged with battery.
Microsoft is going to start putting staff in Best Buy and Circuit City stores and call them "Microsoft Gurus." They compare them to the Apple Genius Bar. However, there will be some substantial differences. According to Apple "Geniuses can take care of everything from troubleshooting problems to actual repairs."
Microsoft Gurus will answer questions about PCs and Microsoft products and give demos. They will not, however, offer technical support on any product you've already bought. "Sorry, we can't help you with buyer's remorse." This article says that the gurus will also not be fixing computers.
Boil this all down and it sounds like the gurus will be just promotional people. They can give you a demo of some whizbang product and then direct you to aisle 12C to buy it. A week later when you realize it doesn't work on your PC the way it did on that fine PC in the store, the Microsoft Guru will not be able to assist you.
Neither article mentions it, but I imagine the guru service is free -- after all, there doesn't seem to be anything to pay for.