Friday, January 30, 2004

Mars Mania Continues


Periodically, I check over at Robby's blog to get the latest insights into the Mars Rover. He has a wonderful post on how the Rovers are being followed eagerly by people all over and what it feels like to have been one of the hands that were part of getting it ready to go.

For all our technology, video games, movie FXs and stereo equipment, there is still something mysterious and romantic about the sky above us. I saw it in the massive crowds at the Griffith Observatory Annex when they hosted Mars viewing parties during the close approach last year. We are seeing it yet again with the Rovers with the amazing number of hits the NASA-JPL web pages are getting and the steady diet of items in all forms of traditional news media.

Be glad I only break out into song in the blog space but I can't help but think of "Over the Rainbow."
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star and wake up when the clouds are far
behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little blue birds fly across the rainbow
Why oh why can't I?

Rembering Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia


Yesterday, was a Day of Remembrance for the brave men and women lost in our space program. Here is an excerpt from the CNN link above:
Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in a televised address that space exploration is risky but never should result in fatalities because of "complacency, indifference, failure to attend to detail." That should be a solemn pledge for anyone who works in the space program, he said.

The Day of Remembrance falls three days before the first anniversary of the Columbia disaster. O'Keefe said it will be an annual event, always on the last Thursday of January coming as close as it does to all three of the nation's space program catastrophes.

The Apollo 1 fire during a countdown test on January 27, 1967, left three astronauts dead in their spacecraft on the launch pad. The Challenger explosion during liftoff on January 28, 1986, left seven dead. The Columbia breakup during re-entry on February 1, 2003, killed seven more.

O'Keefe choked up as he read the roll of 17 who "lost their lives because we failed."

"Grissom, White, Chaffee, Scobee, Smith, McNair, Resnik, McAuliffe, Jarvis, Onizuka, Husband, McCool, Chawla, Anderson, Brown, Clark and Ramon.

"They are not with us today because when it mattered most, we failed. And so it is incumbent upon us to remember not just today, not once a year, not on the anniversaries, but every day, every single day that the consequences of us not getting it right are catastrophic, and each of those families will live with this consequence for the rest of their lives."


To commemorate Apollo 1, three hills on Mars near Spirit were named in honor of the Apollo 1 crew.



Image source: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20040127a/HorizonHillsApollo_br.jpg

The landing site of Spirit has been name the Columbia Memorial Station.



Image source: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20040106b/NAVcam-Patch-01-05-04_br.jpg

The landing site of Opportunity has been named Challenger Memorial Station.



Image source: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20040128b/mer_b_moc_dimes_br.jpg



Image source: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20040128b/challengercrew-browse.jpg

Dean is done?


On GMA this morning, Stephanopolos said that even though Dean raised so much money, there are reports they are low on cash! Also, the lastest poll round up doesn't show Dean leading anywhere in recent polls. Edwards is up in SC. Clark is up in Okla. Kerry leads in Arizona and Missouri. Dean does lead in two states but the data on New Mexico and Delaware are old.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Does Soaking the Rich Really Work?


Saw this item from Postrel who is citing Sac Bee's Weintraub on how the California budget is out of whack because the economic slow down hit the wealthy in California thus driving down the amount of tax money collected from same said wealthy tax payer. Excerpts:
The rich are no longer getting richer in California. And the rest of us, oddly enough, are suffering from their misfortune.

That's the story from the latest report on tax returns filed for the 2002 tax year. The preliminary figures, which I obtained from the Franchise Tax Board last week, show that the number of returns reporting incomes exceeding $1 million dropped again, to about 25,000. The combined income earned by those fat cats also shrunk, by more than 20 percent.

Why should we care?

Because California's skewed income distribution, combined with progressive tax rates, means that the people at the very top of the income heap pay a very high percentage of the personal income tax collected in this state.
.......
The million-dollar earners peaked in 2000, when 44,000 of them -- about enough to fill your average baseball stadium -- reported incomes totaling $172 billion and paid more than $15 billion in taxes. The tax take from that relative handful of returns accounted for more than one-third of all income tax paid in the state.

The next year, the number of returns reporting incomes that high slumped to 29,000. Their combined income also declined, by nearly half, to $95 billion. And here was the killer: Their tax liability dropped from $15 billion to just under $8 billion.

The money lost to the treasury that year would have been enough to pay for the state's entire commitment to higher education, or most of the cost of the Medi-Cal system that provides health care to six million of California's poorest residents.

The income, much of it generated by profits on dot-com stock options, simply vanished, as quickly as it had appeared. The latest figures show that the downward trend, while it slowed in 2002, continued.
........
Since 2000, when the high-tech bubble was concentrating income at the higher end of the scale, the share of California income reported by those highest fliers -- the million-dollar earners -- has been cut in half, from 20 percent to just 10 percent. More broadly, all of those earning more than $100,000 in California saw their combined income drop from 54 percent of all the money earned in the state to 46 percent.

The middle-class, meanwhile, saw its share of the income expand. Those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 increased their share of the income from 23 percent to 27 percent. But people in that income category pay relatively little income tax in California. Combined, they pay a bit less today than they did in 2000.

In fact, those earning between $50,000 and $100,000, while they took in 27 percent of the income in 2002, paid 19 percent of the income tax. People earning more than $100,000, while earning 46 percent of the money in the state, paid 73 percent of the income tax.

One has to wonder if the same thing is happening at the Federal level? There is a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth over the big deficits. At the Federal level, deficits are due to three things: rises in spending, falling revenues due to economic slowdowns and falling revenues due to tax cuts. I would imagine some Think Tank in DC has calculated how each has contributed to the current deficits in Washington. Anyone within a click of this blog know where that data can be found?

I'll go look and if I find it, I'll report back here in this blog space.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

What's next?


South Carolina, Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma...

Polling data that is up-to-date only appears to exist for SC, AZ and OK.

Kerry's brain trust has some decisions to make: (1) play nice and run everywhere hoping to run the table -- don't know what his fund raising situation is. As the frontrunner, the cash could be rolling in enough for such a strategy. (2) if the $$$ are limiting, then Kerry will have to pick a few states he thinks he can take and put resources there. (3) go on the attack to finish off his rivals one-by-one.

Clark maybe so weak Kerry may simply ignore him. Dean is probably the larger current actual threat but Edwards may be the larger potential threat. So will Kerry's team go to SC and try to take it onto Edward's turf? Or will Kerry concentrate on Missouri and try to pick up Gephardt supporters and shoot for a strong 2nd in SC and show up in various other places hoping the inevitability factor sets in?

Meanwhile, where does Edwards go? If he loses SC, he loses his selling point of being competitive in the south so for sure he is going to have that as a priority. But where else does he go for a break out? And does Edwards have VP in mind? If so, he might not want to rough Kerry up too much while running hard for the top job.

Likewise Dean faces similar issues about where to make a stand, perhaps Missouri? The dollars will dry up without a win somewhere. Also, is he thinking Veep? If so, he can't go too far in attacking Kerry.

Online Personals: Almost mainstream?


At one time, the notion of people using online personals was viewed with some skepticism. It was probably not something many people would have considered or admitted to. But I have to say, I think the evidence is in that the industry has gone mainstream.

One indicator of this was the recent Julie on a Sunset Blvd. Billboard campaign ran by Yahoo! Personals. After the promotional was over, Julie and her favorite date appeared on Good Morning America. They didn't have quite the buzz of the Bachelor or Bachelorette couples (good news) and they certainly didn't have anywhere near the "fame at any cost" aura about them (good news). One can actually say, yeah, maybe they might make it as a couple. Certainly, want to wish them a happy life.

But in my mind, the final proof was staring me in the face when last Sunday night I was watching, Alias. During a commercial break, Dr. Neil Clark Warren appeared on the screen doing a television version of his familiar Eharmony.com radio spots I have heard frequently on ESPN radio and on KRLA-870AM Talk Radio.

Anyone knows how much a 30 second ad costs on a show like Alias? I would imagine it isn't a trivial expense. But apparently Eharmony has that kind of confidence in their service that they would make such a major outlay in the hopes of growing more. Certainly, their Press Information page bears that out.

Within a click of this blog, I wonder how many have tried it? Or know people who have?

Well, you now know at least one. 8-) If you are single, what have you got to lose? Dive in. The water is good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Candidates as LofR Characters


NRO has this item:
Howard Dean: Gimli. Short-tempered, easily provoked, and well... short

John Kerry: Saruman. Slick, strangely exotic, conjuring, confident to a fault, and well... tall

John Edwards: Tom Bombadil (not in the films). Awkwardly optimistic, gleeful, dancing, and well... not in the movie.

Lieberman: Treebeard. Methodic, consistent (in relation to his peers), and well... slooow.

Clark: Gollum. Schizophrenic, perceptively deranged, and well... look at him.

Kucinich: Not sure. One of the Trolls?

Sources say...


Kerry 36, Dean 31, Edwards 12, Clark 12.
According to Rich Lowry as cited by Drudge.

UPDATE: Well, eventually, the real votes got counted and it is a Kerry blowout. As of 8:25 (PST), Kerry got 39%, Dean 26%, Clark 13%, Edwards 12%, Lieberman 9%. My predictive skills (see below a few posts) weren't too good. I figured the Kerry margin of victory would be 9%... wrong. I also figured Edwards would do better (wrong again) being the recepticle of the anyone but Kerry sentiment. I was on target about Lieberman! And I got the level of support for Dean about right.

Lieberman is done. Clark bet on a strong showing in NH after skipping out on Iowa. He needs to do better to justify going on. My estimation is that without a win in the next batch of contests he too is done. Edwards and Dean will slug it out for the title of Challenger to Kerry. Edwards is more telegenic but Dean has organization. But both must get a win somewhere... anywhere. If they don't there will be calls for them to drop out so Kerry can fund raise like mad to be ready for the Fall Campaign against Bush. Once again, the nomination process may well be quite over before the voting in the California primary.

GOP 2008


With no contest on the GOP side, there isn't much chatter about the Republican party. But what about 2008? David Frum offered up some speculations. Excerpt:
LIKELY
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Arizona Senator John McCain
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens
New York Gov. George Pataki

POSSIBLE
Sen. Lamar Alexander
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Vice President Richard Cheney
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich
Sec. State Colin Powell
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
Homeland Security Sec. Tom Ridge
Former Gov.Christie Todd Whitman

WMDs and Iraq


Looks like the inspectors were only able to find evidence of WMD programs but not stockpiles. Nuclear is hard to do so that isn't so surprising. But the biologicals and chemicals is a bit surprising. Their missile program was more advanced than expected. But overall, there was much less there than the intelligence suggested. What happened?

Almost all intelligence agencies thought they had them. The Clinton Administration didn't say anything all that different than the current Bush Administration.

David Kay was on the Today Show this morning. (UPDATE: Transcript over at Free Republic) Kay argued that the intelligence was inaccurate and the blame should fall on the agencies not on the political leaders who have to act on the information. He also mentioned that intelligence *underestimated* how advanced Libya's and Iran's programs are. In the end, intelligence gathering is not foolproof. He believed that Hussein was probably misled by the underlings who claimed more progress on WMDs programs than actually was accomplished. It was like a fascade with the appearance of an active program but really was just an empty shell with nothing much inside.

Will this hurt the Bush Administration?

The Democrats are piling on using it as a bat to beat on Bush. I'm sure it will sway some voters but post-9/11 most voters will understand Bush's decision making. Nonetheless, investigations on what happened on the intelligence side are reasonable.

Some have said Bush 43 was doing unfinished business for Bush 41. In the end, the Iraq war could cost Bush 43 re-election. Bush 43 could have easily decided it was politically too risky to do the Iraq war if re-election was all he cared about. But in the post-9/11 environment, he must have felt he had to take action.

My guess is that the re-election campaign will be a tough one partly due to Iraq and partly due to the economy and the reality we have a divided nation politically (red state-blue state). The last person to garner a majority of voters was George H.W. Bush back in 1988. Clinton never cleared 50% and Bush won without winning the popular vote (though the early declaration of Florida to Gore probably suppressed Bush turnout in the rest of the country) but Nader garned enough votes so that neither Gore nor Bush could get 50% + 1.

Will Nader run again? Will some other figure opt out and make a third party run?

Monday, January 26, 2004

New Hampshire Primary


Polling is all over the place. Zogby and Survey USA have the race tight while CNN/Gallup and ARG are forecasting blowouts.

My take: Kerry edges out Dean by a few percentage points. But the main story line will be Dean claiming himself the comeback kid just like Kerry did in Iowa. My feeling is that Kerry's bounce topped out and when the voters really think about it the wavering ones will back off supporting Kerry. Kind of a mass psychology buyer's remorse.

Dean supporters will rally back to him and I'm sure some undecideds will feel Dean got a raw deal from the media endless loop replay of the Iowa howling and will back him just to send a message. I'm also guessing that Lady Doctor Dean has been a positive factor in the campaign.

Meanwhile, I think Clark is done with his numbers falling and Edwards rising. They will criss-cross with Edwards taking the coveted 3rd spot positioning himself to make a break out in South Carolina. I get the impression that Clark looked good initially capitalizing on his military credentials but I hate to say it, I think too many Democrats in the end probably distrust the military too much to vote en mass for Clark.

Edwards playing the role of the happy warrior is playing well while Dean and Kerry slug it out.

And finally, poor Joe. He is the only one I'd trust on national security issues of the lot and he will be the next to join Gephardt on the sidelines.

Forecast:
Kerry 34
Dean 30
Edwards 15
Clark 9
Lieberman 8

UPDATE (Tuesday 7:30AM PST): Zogby's final poll backs off on a Dean comeback. If indeed the Dean rebound is done then the anyone but Kerry people will gravitate to Edwards.

Kerry 33
Dean 24
Edwards 21
Clark 9
Lieberman 8

Friday, January 23, 2004

New Hampshire Primary


Caught part of the debate on radio and caught the last handful of minutes of the Dean's interview with Diane Sawyer. I'd hesistate to predict the outcome until the polling data from the weekend comes in. Key things to look for:
(1) Will Kerry max out and the voters who had buyer's remorse about Dean start having buyer's remorse for Kerry?
(2) How will the interview with Sawyer play out in terms of stopping the fall in the polls for Dean?
(3) Who will be the third alternative, Clark or Edwards?

From the little I heard of the debate, Kerry did what he had to do: no boo-boos and just stay confident. Dean had to play defense and with the cold didn't sound too strong. In watching the interview, Lady Dean, who is also a doctor, is clearly an asset and I suspect she will be seen more on the campaign trail. Clark had a question about Michael Moore's support and I don't know what he was trying to say. For me, Michael Moore's support is a good reason not to support that candidate. Edwards was kind of the odd man out: all the buzz was about Kerry's surge and Dean's meltdown and lost in the shuffle was Edwards who finished #2 in Iowa.

As you can see all the comments above are largely cosmetic ones. On policy, probably the only one I could support is Lieberman who isn't doing very well.

Mars rover news


JPL reports that limited communications have occurred with Spirit. Here's hoping the engineers and computer programers can figure out what happened and get the Rover going again.

Robby tells me that Adot's Notblog often blogs the JPL press briefings.

Bruin Basketball


No surprises: they lost to Arizona last Saturday and lost to Stanford last night. The Cal Bears await on Saturday. Bruins are on a two-game losing streak and it could easily extend to 5 games as they may lose to the Bears, USC (who beat Arizona) and then St. John's (on the road). The initial optimism of the 5-0 Pac-10 start was of course an illusion as they were beating teams that were supposed to beat. The only upset in that 5-0 start was beating Oregon. Beating Arizona State was a mild surprise but not really.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Lunar New Years!


Happy year of the monkey!

Saw this over at Google.



Image source: http://www.google.com/logos/lunarnewyear04.gif

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Life on other worlds?


Is there life out there? In the words of the film Contact, it would be an awful waste of space.

However, at this point in our scientific understanding, we simply don't know if there is anything (or was) on Mars or the moons of Jupiter or anybody on some planet on a planet far far away. At this time, we have no evidence.

In my understanding of Christian theology, there would be no prohibition for life on Mars or anywhere else for that matter.

With all this Mars news, I dusted off my old copy of Contact and looked through many dog-eared pages. There is a wonderful quote, "Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe. I mean the real universe. All those light-years. All those worlds."

And indeed, I believe Christian theology does. Genesis was written down many millennia ago when knowledge of astronomy was limited to what the eye could see. Yet, to this day, the majesty of that simple ancient text still reads well in light of all we have learned.

Mars music, another landing and picture of the day


Robby continues to blog up the Mars Rover story. A nice human interest angle is the wake up music they are using to start off the day.

This Saturday, the second rover, Opportunity, is set to land!!


image piped in from http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20040121a/Lander_Pan_Sol16-A18R1_br.jpg

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Iowa results


Sen. Kerry's big mo going into the weekend turned out to be real as he *and* Sen. Edwards swamped Gov. Dean and Rep. Gephardt. Gov. Dean isn't done yet as if I recall, Clinton in 1992 lost in Iowa to Gephardt (UPDATE: Gephardt won in 1988, favorite son Sen. Tom Harkin won in 1992) and then lost to Tsongas in New Hampshire. But as the campaign went national and to the South, Clinton's money advantage and centrist stands won him the nomination and eventually the Presidency.

Gov. Dean does have the dollars and organization on the ground but not the centrist positions and no one would mistake his campaigning style to Clinton. In catching some of the speeches last night, Gov. Dean sounded like he was going to blow a gasket when he was trying to rally the supporters.

Like most voters, I care about a small number of big issues and will overlook differences on other ones and I look at the candidate: do I believe this person will make good decisions and pick good people to deal with all the issues that will come up that we don't foresee?

Gov. Dean is totally anti-war which in my mind is a deal-breaker. He is obviously passionate and that is fine but when it crosses over into a frenzied speaking style... that doesn't inspire confidence in my book. In the end, maybe the media over-exposure caught up with him and democrat voters aren't ready to go off the cliff with him.

In NH, Dean and Kerry face off with the rest fighting for that third spot to keep their campaign alive. Edwards would like to be #3 but could probably live to fight on in the South even without a third place finish. Clark probably needs a third place finish or better to keep his hopes alive. Lieberman is probably done. He is too center-right for the Democrat activists.

UPDATE: One observer from the right comments on Dean's speech. Then there is lefty Alterman who sees that Dean's tendancy to go over the top is a disadvantage. Excerpt:
But Dean does not wear well for a variety of reasons and is too risky a choice for the top spot on the ticket. Assuming he does not flip out down the road, he can be an important influence on the direction of the party as well as possibility for the veep spot. All that money he raised and the organization he put together will keep him competitive, but assuming he can be stopped, he will be.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Did you know...?


I knew the Iowa caucuses are not like your normal primary where you just go and vote. But I didn't know it was this complicated. Excerpts:
Basically, the Iowa caucuses are so intricately and undemocratically structured that there is not one clear count for the press to focus on. There aren't even two clear counts. Or three! There are four possible counts. In the chronological order they occur on caucus night, they are:

1) The entrance poll taken under the auspices of a six large news organizations--call them Big Press--and their group, the National Election Pool. This completely unofficial count simply questions caucus-goers as they enter the caucuses at 6:30 in the evening.

2) The "pre-viability" count: Caucusers then sit through tedious minor issues and speeches before they finally divide up into groups supporting various candidates. If a candidate gets less than about 15 percent of the vote--or higher in some caucuses, as determined by to (needless to say) a complicated formula--that candidate's supporters are declared "non-viable" and must disperse. But for a brief, shining moment, before this "non-viability" is declared, the various groupings give a clear idea of the actual preferences of caucus-goers.

3) The "realigned" or post-viability count: Then the caucusers in non-viable groups go to their second choices, or to an "undecided" group. or to the "viable" candidate whose success will most screw the candidate they want to beat. Once all the non-viable candidates' votes have been vaporized and all the remaining groups are big enough to pass muster, you get another count--which is then immediately forgotten, because it is only used as the basis for calculating the delegate count.

4) The delegate count is derived from the realigned count --#3--but isn't necessarily an exact reflection thanks to yet more arcane rules--like the one requiring that every "viable" candidate get one delegate, or a rule penalizing precincts with low turnouts in previous years.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Odds and ends: Why onions make you cry and zorses, zonkeys and zonies


Being a scientist means that people think I know a lot of stuff. Alas, they soon discover what it means to be a scientist is that you know you don't know a lot of stuff and that the stuff you don't know is even more vast than you could have imagined.

Recently, a friend wanted to know about what could be done about crying while chopping onions. Suffice to say, I didn't have any answers.

But isn't the internet wonderful? I looked it up and found this web page. Excerpts:
The knife breaks open some onion cells. Inside some of these cells are enzymes called allinases. In the air, the allinases break down some of the other substances, like amino acid sulfoxides, released from the onion cells. The amino acid sulfoxides form sulfenic acids, which rearrange themselves in a flash into a volatile gas.

This gas flows to your eyes and reacts with the water in them. A chemical reaction occurs, producing a mild form of sulfuric acid. The sensitive nerve endings in your eyes are irritated, and more water is produced in the form of tears. The tears are trying to neutralize the irritant. Sulfenic acids also form odorous thiosulfinates, which are responsible for the strong odor we smell from onions.
..........
Some people suggest putting the onion in the fridge or the freezer for a few minutes because the cold decreases the speed of the reaction. When slicing a raw onion, it is recommended to slice the area around the root last. There are a greater number of allinase enzymes surrounding the onion root.

Other people run the onion under cold water while slicing. You could also try pouring a small amount of white distilled vinegar on the cutting board or setting a lighted candle nearby. Of course, you should always be careful around open flames.

This tip sounds a little silly, but it might work for you -- hold a slice of bread between your teeth while slicing. Or try cutting the onion in a plastic bag with the bottom cut out. Some people also experience a reduction in the amount of their tears over time. You probably can find one of these methods to work for you.
While I was looking around I found out some other little tidbits of information. There is a web page from the Library of Congress that answers why onions make you cry. From there I found out that zebras can't really be domesticated as a general rule. Excerpts:

They are unpredictable and are known to attack people. To be domesticated, animals must meet certain criteria. For example, they must have a good disposition and should not panic under pressure. Zebras' unpredictable nature and tendency to attack preclude them from being good candidates for domestication.
From this page, I found out that zebras can be bred with horses resulting in a Zorse, or bred with a donkey yielding a Zonkey, or mixed with a pony producing a Zonie. I'm not kidding. See here.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Compassion in the City

There are many beautiful places in LA and places to see beauty in art and music. They are to be enjoyed because they are reflections of the God given creative spark within humanity and there is often goodness and truth to be found in beauty.

However, besides the gleaming building of a big city, nice homes of upscale sections of town and the charm of old style apartment buildings, museums and venues for the performing arts, there are parts of LA that aren't doing so well as is the case in all big cities. But beauty of the human spirit can also be found on the difficult streets of the city.

Almost monthly, I go to 4507 S. Western Ave. where Faith in Christ Ministries works to help people one at a time. In the weekdays, the site has a charter school that takes kids who the regular public schools can't handle. There are also after school programs to help kids with academics and activities to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They provide clothing and food for those in need. And since it is a faith based organization, there are church activities with Bible teaching to help provide guidance in life and encouragement to turn one's life over to God.

I've helped a couple of times for Thanksgiving food service to the poor and homeless. Also, I help with others from my church on some Saturdays with general clean up and upkeep of their facilities. This past Saturday because of plans for the afternoon, I went early to help with the breakfast food service.

I helped "cook" which in this case entailed putting donated frozen burritos and breaded cheese sticks in the oven. We served local people who dropped in for some food. These people all have stories and Joe and Gwen Brown who run FICM talk and find out about them. I talked with a few people and observed some others. For some, it is pretty clear they don't have enough to eat during the week. In some, you see the physical scares and infirmity that time, health problems and perhaps violence have inflicted. There was one man who talked with Joe about doing community service for he had many hours he had to serve. I felt a thrill of hope for that man for he was seeking to turn his life around, pay his debt and make good on his opportunity.

In an absolute sense, my four hours on a Saturday isn't a whole lot. In the end, it is the people who are there day in and day out who make a real difference. But if a thousand people can come on a thousand days and do some of the little stuff so that the Browns and others can do the big stuff then our few hours matter.

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert F. Kennedy in his Cape Town, South Africa Speech:
This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease ...

Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

When do we cry?


Enjoy blogging. Some blogs are big into "navel gazing." I do that sometimes. And here goes one of those posts.

I'm thinking about this because I heard Dennis Prager talk about it briefly on his radio show. He noticed that as he got older, he cried less for his own pains than for the pains of others. He also found that he would be moved by seeing goodness.

Indeed, I find myself crying for those in my life who I know who suffer for some reason. Yes, sometimes I cry about my own hurts but not nearly as often for the hurt of others in my life. Sometimes, I don't even know the person all that well but I feel, it is not fair, it shouldn't be that way and so I cry.

Sometimes I do know the person very well and have strong emotional attachment to him or her. When I hear of a friend's burden, I feel sad that they have to bear it. I want to help them bear it. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it go away but I can't. I wish the burden would befall me rather than on my friend but that can't happen. And so I cry.

I thought his other observation was correct too. When I think of the movie Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, why is it so emotionally powerful? It is about good people standing up against the evil in their mythical world. In the human heart there is a longing for good to win. There is a sense that things are NOT the way they ought to be. And so when we see GOOD win, we are moved. In my heart, I hope that when it comes time to choose what is right and good, that I would do so even if the cost of doing so is very high.

And thus the most powerful combination that moves me is when there is great suffering and great good at the same time. When I hear a story of parents loving a child with physical or mental disabilities I feel moved: one for the sadness of the circumstances but also the amazing love of that parent who sacrifices so much.

If you have a Bible nearby, whether you read it all the time or it is dusty, take a look at John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Good Book:

Jesus wept.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

UCLA! UCI?


The Bruins are a suprising 4-0 in Pac10 play. Winning on the road is always tough in conference play. They beat WSU in a grind em up low scoring game barely. And tonight, UCLA blew a 13 point lead against Washington but managed to win in OT with Bozeman fouled out in regulation and Fey in the OT.

But Arizona and Arizona State is coming up and that will be tough. But last year, the team wasn't winning anywhere.

UC Irvine got beat badly by UOP. Its a road loss and not that surprising.

Like Jazz


I recently, finally, went to a show at the Mark Taper Forum to see the musical, Like Jazz which tells the story of jazz through a narrative device of a guy trying to explain jazz to the uninitiated. Woven around his moments of talking to the audience are various musical numbers with singing and a small amount of dancing.

The musical introduces the audience to some of the instruments commonly used. As you might guess, the trumpet was highlighted in several numbers as was the saxophone. One number that really got the crowd going was when lead singer Patty Austin did scat singing in response to solos from several instrumentalists. Just amazing.

Another angle they took was the venues where Jazz is played. There was a number showing the lone saxophonist in a club, another with the pianist providing a nearly ignored background soundtrack in a restaurant and one highlighting the street corner musician. But in the end for the average listener, what makes it work is that it introduces the emotional richness of the genre.

I dare anyone to see the show and not find oneself tapping the feet to the music, inspired to clap along with the peppy pieces and moved by the emotional range of music from melancholy to humorous to exuberant love of life.

I'm a novice fan of Jazz and several friends have introduced me to different noted performers and some of the concepts behind it. I recommend the show highly. My only nitpick is that at times the band overwhelmed the singers. Also, I think they should give the solo musicians a little more of the stage.

It is in its premier run and it will be interesting to see if it gets picked up for Broadway or any other major cities. Like Jazz's Los Angeles run will end January 25, 2004.

A small hint for Los Angeles readers and visitors, if you are on a budget, try the public rush option. I got my seat for $12. In calling the box office, they say Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances tend to be the ones where rush is successful. Of course if you have the money, go ahead and by the tickets outright at full price!

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Continuing Mars Coverage


The Rover will be delaying its tour as it can't move off the platform just yet due to some bits of the air bag interfering with the ramps. The JPL team thinks the problem could be solved in a few days.

This NASA/JPL page has the latest photos.


Image sourced from http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20040106c/P2302-540-361_br.jpg

Meanwhile, Robby remains on the scene and blogging it up. He touches on the AI programming for the Rovers and reports on how hard it is to get to Mars and the data flood. He finishes off with a very human aspect of the story by sharing about some of the brains of great beauty who are part of the team. With their stories all over the blogosphere, wonder how long will it be before they starting getting marriage proposals and date offers in their email boxes?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Townhall.com Meet-Up


The internet is becoming embedded into our daily lives. People organize parties using Evite.com and now for political and other affinity group activities there is something called, Meetup. I can't stand Howard Dean but he is ahead of the curve using Meetup to organize his supporters.

Tonight, I went to the second LA-Hollywood area meet-up for Townhall.com.

People have this picture of what Bush supporters look like: old rich white males.

I'm proud to say our group totally shatters that stereotype. There were four of us: three female and one male. Interestingly, three of four work in that liberal stronghold, the entertainment industry. Two voted for Gore in 2000. One was a life long New England Democrat turned Republican. Another was a self-professed Democrat for Bush. Another was a female Gen-X music lover whose politics are center-left but realizes Bush offers the right kind of leadership for this time in history. And then there is me, ethnic minority and trained in liberal universities but center-right.

As a group, we don't agree on everything but we all agree we want to do something to help Bush get re-elected in 2004.

I have to remember to bring the digital camera next time so I can get photographic proof that Bush supporters exist even in Los Angeles.

The influence of women on men


Among guys, we are always lamenting how girls get whatever they want from us. The cliche is, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

I suppose women probably make the same lament. I wonder what is the analogous cliche?

I got this email message recently from a USC alum woman friend of mine referring to my prior blog entries:
Wow rene...did you say fight on??? unbelievable! Thanks for the note - hope you had a nice holiday season!

take care -
There are several USC alumni women friends in my life and we get some milage out of kidding each other over the UCLA-USC rivelry. I have to confess though: if it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be making as many positive comments about their football team.

I think about this somewhat trivial example of the female influence on the male heart because this morning I was reading about the life of King Solomon and I got to the part where it said his heart was turned away from God because of his love for foreign women.

Please know I'm NOT comparing my modest and reasonable respect for a rival football team with religious apostasy!! But I just think it was rather amusing to see how powerfully women can influence me.

The Good Old Book has us pegged doesn't it?

Monday, January 05, 2004

BCS bust


Well, what can you say? The BCS might have given everybody Oklahoma vs. USC if some games turned out differently. But as of today, people would say the "best" game would be LSU vs. USC. The BCS would never have given that game.

So my proposal is to junk the BCS and go back to the old bowl system with the conference tie ins and let the AP and Coaches vote at the end. There have been split titles about 20% of the time? What's the big deal?

The BCS has been in operation since 1998? And on two occasions it really dropped the ball with Nebraska and Oklahoma making the BCS championship game without being conference champs going into the game on dismal losses. So its claim to impose clarity just doesn't hold up.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

A tale of two basketball programs


In the past, UCLA and UC Irvine lived in different universes. UCLA, in the past, was almost always a lock to get to the NCAA tournament being in the top tier of teams of the Pac10. UC Irvine toiled in obscurity in the Big West, a one-bid conference where that one team was a speed bump to some highly ranked team on its way to the regionals. UCI has yet to ever appear in the NCAAs.

Last year, UCLA hit hard times and it was UC Irvine that had the better shot at the NCAA if it could win its post-season tournament. Alas, UCI's dream once again ended in the semi-finals of the tournament.

As this season began, UCLA was picked to finish 6th in the Pac10 and UCI to finish 3rd in the Big West. In short, neither team is likely to appear in the post-season.

However, today, UCLA stunned Oregon which maybe raising the bar of expectations in Westwood and making Howland look like a miracle worker.

UCI took care of business on Saturday beating Cal Poly SLO. On Monday, they take on Big West powerhouse UCSB (went to NCAA on the auto bid from the Big West)which beat UCLA by one point a couple of weeks ago. If UCI can pull off the upset (it is a home game) that would be a terrific start for the Anteaters.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Bruin Pac10 Season Opener in B-ball



UCLA won 77-66 over Oregon State. A very ugly first half where the Bruins were seemingly asleep and couldn't hit the side of a barn. In the second half, Freshman Ariza took over the game 20 of his 24 points. Also long time walk-on Rubin scored 13 points.

Coach Howland seemed to have a good feel for what substitutions to make. Fey was solid in the first half but the Bruins needed a little more energy and speed in the second half so Howland plugged in Hollins at the center spot (both ended with 11 points). Also, it was apparent that TJ Cummings wasn't doing much for some reason (he had 2 points) so Howland decided to go smaller with Crispin in the first half (he hit one big three but didn't seem to get another good look after that) and then Rubin in the second half who had a career game.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Years!


Blogging will be light. 8-)

As a UCLA alum, I was sad but not terribly surprised by my teams failure at the Silicon Valley Bowl. Fresno State came out with a sense of urgency and got a 17 point lead. If you are a great team, that (1) doesn't happen and (2) you can come back and (3) you are not playing in the Silicon Valley Bowl. UCLA this year was a C+ team so a comeback was hoped for by me and my fellow UCLA alums at the sports bar (Busby's on Santa Monica and Berkeley) and being faithful fans we didn't give up until UCLA had a final pass intercepted ending their last drive.

Well, today, the big game is the USC vs. U of Michigan in the Rose Bowl. I don't want to be like the Boston Red Sox fans who define their existence by hating the New York Yankees. Under most circumstances I would root against USC. However, today, I'll either watch the game as an objective sports fan or maybe even root for them so they could stick it into the face of those East Coast media types.

U of M is in about the same situation as Ohio State was last year against Miami. And OSU won! U of M has a great running back and a solid QB. If U of M chews up lots of clock and gets some points on the board then USC could have trouble. As they say the best defense is an offense that keeps the other teams offense off the field.

The other factor is whether U of M can get past the USC O-line. If they give Norm Chow the chance to call on all his pass patterns from his top of the stadium perch, U of M is going to get blown out like everyone else USC has rolled over.

I can't believe I am about to write this... fight on?

USC 35 UM 17

UPDATE: Its a final, USC 28 UM 14.