Joan: Yes: they told me you were fools [the word gives great offence], and that I was not to listen to your fine words nor trust to your charity. You promised me my life; but you lied [indignant exclamations]. You think that life is nothing but not being stone dead. It is not the bread and water I fear: I can live on bread: when have I asked for more? It is no hardship to drink water if the water be clean. Bread has no sorrow for me, and water no affliction. But to shut me from the light of the sky and the sight of the fields and flowers; to chain my feet so that I can never again ride with the soldiers nor climb the hills; to make me breathe foul damp darkness, and keep from me everything that brings me back to the love of God when your wickedness and foolishness tempt me to hate Him: all this is worse than the furnace in the Bible that was heated seven times. I could do without my warhorse; I could drag about in a skirt; I could let the banners and the trumpets and the knights and soldiers pass me and leave me behind as they leave the other women, if only I could still hear the wind in the trees, the larks in the sunshine, the young lambs crying through the healthy frost, and the blessed blessed church bells that send my angel voices floating to me on the wind. But without these things I cannot live; and by your wanting to take them away from me, or from any human creature, I know that your counsel is of the devil, and that mine is of God.
Medallion devoted to Joan of Arc – Courtesy iron45 via Wikimedia Commons Attribution-Share Alike License
Eight years and one week ago, I saw a production of Shaw‘s Saint Joan that I can’t get out of my mind. Bighead Theatricalities staged it in an industrial park warehouse off of Vineland somewhere in the back of the San Fernando Valley. But, that’s not all that unusual in Los Angeles. What stood out was that this massive, sprawling, Nobel prize-winning play was done with a total of four performers, one of whom doubled as the stage manager. This was no staged reading or minified adaptation – every character was fully present, every speech spoken, and the audience whisked on rolling seats from one part of the space to another by the actors themselves. They also served snacks in the lobby and chatted with the audience during intermission. Shaw’s words spun up brilliantly and inexorably over three hours until Joanna Beecher’s luminous Joan refused to cop a plea. It broke through the swirl of comedy, politics, and polemics and took everyone’s heart with it. It was one of those lump-in-the-throat moments that prove that artists are different from us. Fearless, exuberant, altogether unforgettable it played that night to four people. Which is also not unusual in Los Angeles.
I always wondered what happened to director/performer/producer Eric Tucker who came up with the concept and picked the team that executed it so expertly. Unfortunately for us in the Southland, he is in New York City. Fortunately for theatre, he’s still at it. Bighead has become Bedlam, they’re still doing small cast adaptations of big plays, and the New York Times has taken notice. They have deservedly developed a loyal following. Neither the article nor Bedlam’s website make any mention of the Los Angeles productions – unfortunately also not unusual.
My 2005 notes to fellow theatregoers are after the jump.
An air traffic controller’s day must be filled with responsibility and stress that few can imagine. The view from up above must be some small compensation. And that’s what Captain Vector offers from his perch at LAX in his View from the Tower blog. He sees them come and go and has keenly observed, wry insights on what it takes to keep the pieces moving on a sprawling chessboard that is almost always under construction. Equally interesting is his knowledge of aircraft and airline history and how they reveal themselves in the subtle details the rest of us take for granted. He and SpeedbirdHD have the LAX scene covered from on high and on the ground.
Bhut jolokias Photo: A.K. Ghosh – Wikimedia Commons This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Spice and heat are two glorious facts of South Indian cooking. It is a good time for those us who like our food hot, hotter, and just right. And I don’t mean temperature. The habanero is readily available in Los Angeles and delivers the goods – an honest, intense burn with little subtlety. Thai chilies aren’t quite as potent but make up for it with more complex flavors. The new crop of jolokias from northeastern India pack a mightier punch than the habanero yet bring much more to the table. Subtlety and peppers aren’t usually uttered together yet it is possible to tell that there is something draping the experience just before the fire hits. I managed to grow a few one lucky summer in 2011 and have been unable to do it since. I never had to mix a lot into a dish to make it memorable.
On 28 October 2011, the NPP weather and climate satellite launched on a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Launches are complicated affairs and delays are routine. Not this one. The launch poll was unanimous, the countdown was smooth, and I had the good fortune to be able to witness the rocket ignite, climb, turn, and disappear into an unusually cloudless sky very very early in the California morning. It settled into a polar orbit about 512-miles over the earth’s surface and will continue collecting and relaying vital data for the foreseeable future.
CERES FM5 in the test chamber. Photo courtesy Northrop Grumman Corporation
NPP carried five instruments and I managed the team that delivered the sole climate sensor to the spacecraft. The CERES (Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System) radiometer measures sunlight reflected from clouds and the earth’s surface along with infrared energy radiated by the warm earth itself. Science teams at NASA and around the world have been using data from CERES instruments to understand the effects of aerosols and clouds on the earth’s climate. CERES was not intended to be part of NPP but was manifested late to take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. We were given a shade under nine months in 2008 to prepare the Flight Model 5 (FM5) instrument for the satellite including updating its innards, software, and performing extensive ground tests and calibrations. Our team delivered the unit a few days ahead of schedule. The instrument then waited for other sensors to arrive and the spacecraft underwent intensive testing before its ride to orbit. Following the launch, the mission was renamed Suomi-NPP in honor of Dr. Verner Suomi, one of the pioneers of space-based earth observation.
CERES instrument and team members (foreground) and the NPP spacecraft (background) Photo courtesy Ball Aerospace Corporation
It typically takes months to fully commission a satellite as complex as Suomi-NPP once it is launched. Instruments are turned on one-by-one and carefully put through a well-planned and thoroughly rehearsed set of checkouts and tests by the mission operations team. CERES FM5 was not turned on until late January 2012. One of the ‘first-light’ CERES images from the NASA science teams is below. It shows the visible light from the sun scattered off of clouds and land.
Incoming solar energy reflected back into space by clouds Image courtesy NASA/NOAA CERES Team via NASA Langley Research Center
There are now five CERES instruments in orbit. FM1 and FM2 launched on the Terra satellite in 1999, FM3 and FM4 launched on the Aqua satellite in 2002. The first four units are operating well beyond their five year design life and FM5 will preserve the continuity of a critical piece of earth’s climate data record.
Gordan Ugarkovic is a computer programmer. In his spare time he takes science data from space missions and creates his own mosaics for popular audiences. The one above is from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn.
Motivated by the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, the CyArk Foundation seeks to preserve the world’s cultural heritage through intensive mapping of historical sites. Noble work if ever there was.
Laserradar (aka lidar or ladar) is among the techniques they use. Here, short pulses of laser light are directed towards an object and some of the light hitting the object gets backscattered towards the transmitter. A telescope sited alongside the transmitter collects the light and electronics determine how long it took for the light to return. This establishes the distance to the illuminated point. Scanning the transmitted beam across the target generates three dimensional point clouds that can be refined further into images.
The BPO’s Digital Concert Hall deserves a look by fans of symphonic music. I’ve subscribed since it came out and it keeps getting better. Listen live on concert days (usually 11am California time) or immerse yourself in the archive at your leisure. Single event tickets through full season subscription options are available. A great orchestra, topnotch videography, on demand, no traffic, no parking, no goobers phlegming up a lung in the pianissimos.
In the distant past, I belonged to an affiliate group of the LA Philharmonic. This was around the time the Disney Hall project came out of limbo and went into construction. The highlight of that membership was hearing Mr. Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics speak about concert hall design and the WDCH project, in particular. My career to that point had been spent in academic R&D, laboratory-scale experimental work, and instrument development. I had little exposure to the practical engineering of large projects under close public scrutiny.
Mr. Toyota’s speech was a revelation and not just for the physics of symphony halls. His presentation to a group of non-specialists was a model of rigor and integrity. There was none of the glad-handing or gorilla dust that’s often put forth when donors are in the audience looking for guarantees. Everything he foresaw for the auditorium has come about.
Since then I’ve moved into applied science and actual engineering with customers to satisfy, milestones to meet, and profit to deliver. That talk, 30 months before the Hall’s Grand Opening, became the standard to which I aspire when I give presentations. I wrote up my notes from that day and sent them to a few people. I’m reprinting them after the break on the occasion of the Hall’s tenth anniversary. Please note that the hyperlinks from a long-dated article may no longer work.