Thursday, September 28, 2006

Yankees Playoff Lineup

I just wouldn't want to face this batting lineup at all. Nasty.
The Yanks are finally healthy for the first time all season,
and ring up 16 runs on the Orioles.
Damon 24 80 .289
Jeter 14 96 .340
Abreu 15 106 .302
Rodriguez 34 118 .286
Giambi 37 113 .254 (.413 OBP)
Sheffield 4 21 . 303 (142 AB)
Matsui 8 29 .307 (163 AB)
Posada 20 85 .277
Cano 15 78 .343

The second leading hitter in the AL is batting ninth. Wow.

Mars Rover

The Opportunity rover on Mars reaches Victoria crater on the red planet and sends back intriguing pictures of the layered rocks on the crater walls, along with dunes already known to exist from the bottom. The plan is for the rover to make an extended stay and study the crater's layout, with a slight chance of navigating its way into it.

"This is a geologist's dream come true," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for NASA's twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit. "Those layers of rock, if we can get to them, will tell us new stories about the environmental conditions long ago. We especially want to learn whether the wet era that we found recorded in the rocks closer to the landing site extended farther back in time. The way to find that out is to go deeper, and Victoria may let us do that."

The further study of the ancient crater should allow us to more closely determine the formative history of Mars and possibly the extend to which water may have flowed on its surface in the past.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Baseball Standings, Playoff spots

In the AL, the Yanks and A's have clinched their divisions, and the Twins and Tigers are also playoff-bound with only the Central division title to decide. Detroit is desperately clinging to a 1 game lead, but is tied with NY for playoff homefield with a 95-62 record. Toronto visits Detroit, Twins host KC & the Yanks are hosting Baltimore tonight.

Over in the NL, only the Mets are assured of anything yet. St. Louis is in the midst of a 7 game swoon, allowing the Astros (who've won 7 straight, including a 4 game sweep of the Cards) to climb within a game and a half in the Central. Out in the West, the Padres and Dodgers are still duking it out, with SD up 2 games. Dodgers hold the wildcard by a game over the Phillies, who play at Washington, LA is at Colorado, and SD plays St. Louis.

Regular season ends Oct. 1 unless make-up games are necessary, I've heard the Cards might be missing a game against the Giants that could effect things.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Troy Post Game, KU pregame

Husker win big 56-0, roll up nearly 600 yds of offense. Blackshirts live in the Troy backfield and hold the Trojans to 140 total yards. Marlon Lucky had 3 long TD runs, including one of 51 yards, longest of his career, on his way to a personal career-best rushing game of 156 yds on just 10 carries. Kenny Wilson followed up with 106 on 19 totes and a score as well. Zac was 14-17 for 268 and a TD pass. Terrence Nunn set a career mark with 102 yards on 4 receptions.

Nebraska is now #2 in the country in scoring with almost 43/game, and is also the #2 rated passing team with a rating near 179 and is #6 in yards/attempt at 9.7. We are #8 in rushing with almost 900 yards on the ground. The defense is #15 in scoring defense and #21 in total yardage. We appear to have both recovered nicely from the USC game and firing on all cylinders approaching the KU game this Saturday.

KU is also 3-1, with victories against Northwestern St., La-Monroe, and South Florida last week, while falling to Toledo on Sept. 15 in OT. They are averaging almost 29 pts and 365 yds/game, including 206/game in the air. the defense appears stout against the run giving up only 82/game out of the 313/ game they've been giving up. Starting QB Kerry Meier may be out for Saturday, but senior backup Adam Barmann went 25-35 for 273 in the victory vs. South FL,
while RB Joe Cornish is averaging 109 yds/game on the ground.

Huskers are looking for revenge for last year's 40-15 loss. Nebraska will probably have to use the pass to set up the run more than they have up to this point in the season, but I think the Blackshirts will shut KU down for the most part. I say Nebraska 42, KU 17.


via the Washington Times (HT: Michelle Malkin)

Since I got involved in this early, I should have kept a better eye on this issue, I know we'd found out who the oinkers were, but had not seen that the bill had passed.. A bipartisian group of citizen bloggers eventually identified the culprits via the process of elimination.

Angry blogger citizenry 1, cruddy old Senate blowhards 0. A big win for the US taxpayer.

"President Bush has invited bloggers to join him today as he signs into law a bill creating a database of federal spending -- a recognition of their role in forcing the bill through Congress over the objections of senior senators and an indication of how much bloggers are changing the political process. A coalition of bloggers from the left and the right last month did what the Senate's Republican leadership could not: smoke out obstructing senators, bring public pressure to break their hold and move the bill to the Senate floor, where it passed by a voice vote. "

The "secret hold" Seantors were eventually identified as Stevens (R) of Alaska and Byrd (D) of West Virginia by process of elimination. May they never hold office again.

Senate Race

Survey USA has its latest net approval numbers out for the US Senate.

Nelson has dropped dramatically from his earlier ratings, but still holds on to a sizable net approval of +27%. However, his disapproval rating (33%, up 9% from June) is at a historic high and his approval (60%, down 12% from June) is at a historic low, so it might appear as though the Ricketts ad campaign is beginning to dent the fromer governor's teflon a bit.

However, I doubt the Republican campaign can make much more headway without something dramatic happening. Maybe they can scrape up some people he hasn't seen in 30-40 years and have them claim he is a racist.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Huskers vs Troy

Huskers look to bounce back from last week's loss to USC, facing off against the Trojans from Louinsiana. Troy has been a frequent visitor to Lincoln over the last decade, but bring a new look this year with a spread offensive attack coordinated by former Kentucky coordinator Tony Franklin. Troy has played well in losses to Floria State and Georgia Tech, holding second half leads before succumbing , primarily due to costly mistakes. They average almost 340 yds/game offensively, primarily passing the ball 30-40 times a game.

Troy's defense is a bit undersized, but fast and scrappy. It should prove to be a challenging day on both sides of the ball, but we should be able to move it on them, hopefully with more consistency. GA Tech gouged them for 320 yds on the ground on 41 carries for a 7.8 yds a pop, so the ground attack could have a big day. It will be interesting to note if Marlon Lucky continues to start and how much we see of the other backs this week heading into Big 12 play.
I forsee us mixing it up better than we did last week due to some of the criticism levied at last week's game plan.

Finding Habitable Planets

Really cool science stuff from Astrobiology magazine. No, I am not making that up, and yes, I do check it our pretty often. My geekiness knows almost no bounds when it comes to space science.

Anywho, the point is that by researching Earth's past and how its atmosphere changed over its history, we'll better able to analyze whether or not extrasolar planets might have extrasolar life on them, once we get new sensing satellites like the European Darwin probe or NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder into orbit that will be able to detect chemicals in far distant atmospheres.

"Astronomers Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Wesley Traub of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and CfA, propose using Earth's atmospheric history to understand other planets. "Good planets are hard to find," said Kaltenegger. "Our work provides the signposts astronomers will look for when examining truly Earth-like worlds." Geologic records show that Earth's atmosphere has changed dramatically during the past 4.5 billion years, in part because of life forms developing on our planet. Mapping what gases comprised Earth's atmosphere during its history, Kaltenegger and Traub propose that by looking for similar atmospheric compositions on other worlds, scientists will be able to determine if that planet has life on it, and if so, that life's evolutionary stage. "

There have apparenlty been six different atmospheric epochs in the history of out planet, which was news to me. I knew it wasn't always the springtime fresh oxy-nitro (depending on what neighborhood you live in) we now have, but only was aware of the early methane phases before the introduction of the photosynthetic algae that produced our oxygen. What I find most interesting is that the nitrogen has apparently always been around in major concentrations.

Gratuitous link in the quote is to Dr. Lisa's Harvard webpage, showing yes, it is possible to be an female astrophysicist, AND also be really cute at the same time! Miracles never cease. Gotta wonder if she's married, but no woman smarter than me would ever be interested -- which has proven 100% correct over history. The only explanantion I can think of is that yes, she appears to be foreign, in this case Austrian. Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Fraulein?

Thursday, September 21, 2006


My favorite amatuer economist spanks Al Bore. Film at 11. By the way, you probably didn't know North American was actually a carbon sink, did you? (Warning: heavy egghead scientist talk at the link-but also some pretty nifty charts and graphs).

Main point -- we do not right now, have an easily storable use-it-later energy source for transportation other than oil and its derivitives. All of our other energy sources (coal, gas, renewables, nuclear) are use-it-now for electrical generation. A technology shift is needed to do that, and if one occurs it will take care of the problem Mr. Bore is so worried about WITHOUT destroying the economy. If we could just store 300 or so vehicle miles in some other way than oil, a lot of our other problems would go away too.

"Technology breakthroughs displace old paradigms; I strongly prefer that to government-mandated tweaks of the old, entrenched paradigms. Remember, just as the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones, the oil age won’t end because we ran out of oil."

And such a paradigm shift would assist us in national security, take care of this "carbon problem" and gain us a whole new export industry that we can send to China and India, so they don't produce any "carbon problem". Neato!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Arab Civilization, Democracy and the West

Via RCP, which adapts the article from a lecture given by the Western world's pre-eminent Islamic scholar, Dr. Bernard Lewis. On personal note, this is likely to be by far my longest post to date, much of it the good professor's words, but he is far more illustrative than I. The lecture covers trends on Arab civilization, history and government, and the implications of recent events. Among the initial pearls of wisdom, the two "Western" views of Arab civilization:

"If you look at the current literature, you will find two views common in the United States and Europe. One of them holds that Islamic peoples are incapable of decent, civilized government. Whatever the West does, Muslims will be ruled by corrupt tyrants. Therefore the aim of our foreign policy should be to insure that they are our tyrants rather than someone else's--friendly rather than hostile tyrants. This point of view is very much favored in departments of state and foreign offices and is generally known, rather surprisingly, as the "pro-Arab" view. It is, of course, in no sense pro-Arab. (emphasis mine-Kal) It shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present, and unconcern for the Arab future. The second common view is that Arab ways are different from our ways. They must be allowed to develop in accordance with their cultural principles, but it is possible for them--as for anyone else, anywhere in the world, with discreet help from outside and most specifically from the United States--to develop democratic institutions of a kind. This view is known as the "imperialist" view and has been vigorously denounced and condemned as such."

He goes on to point out that the traditional Islamic civilization is nothing like the one we face today. The rulers of the Ottoman Turks and other earlier Islamic societies were not by any means dictatorial autocrats, as their rule was limited to a certain extent and consultative with other elements of society. This began to change first with modernization as a response to interaction with the industrializing West. Rule became more centralized, state-oriented, and resulted in the unintentional decay of the traditional mitigating social elements.

"These rulers decided that what they had to do was to modernize or Westernize. Their intentions were good, but the consequences were often disastrous. What they did was to increase the power of the state and the ruler enormously by placing at his disposal the whole modern apparatus of control, repression and indoctrination. At the same time, which was even worse, they limited or destroyed those forces in the traditional society that had previously limited the autocracy of the ruler. In the traditional society there were established orders-the bazaar merchants, the scribes, the guilds, the country gentry, the military establishment, the religious establishment, and so on. These were powerful groups in society, whose heads were not appointed by the ruler but arose from within the groups. And no sultan, however powerful, could do much without maintaining some relationship with these different orders in society. This is not democracy as we currently use that word, but it is certainly limited, responsible government. And the system worked. Modernization ended that. A new ruling class emerged, ruling from the center and using the apparatus of the state for its purposes."

Things dissolved yet further over the last century. After WWI, the French took control of Lebanon and Syria after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. After the French surrender in 1940, the Levant stayed under the control of the French Vichy regime, opening the area to Nazi influence. After the war concluded, the Soviets stepped in to support the new Arab regimes as part of the Cold War against the West. This was the beginning of the modern Baathist movement, which still controls Syria and was in control of Iraq until the American invasion.

"The governor and his high officials in the administration in Syria-Lebanon took their orders from Vichy, which in turn took orders from Berlin. The Nazis moved in, made a tremendous propaganda effort, and were even able to move from Syria eastwards into Iraq and for a while set up a pro-Nazi, fascist regime. It was in this period that political parties were formed that were the nucleus of what later became the Baath Party. The Western Allies eventually drove the Nazis out of the Middle East and suppressed these organizations. But the war ended in 1945, and the Allies left. A few years later the Soviets moved in, established an immensely powerful presence in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and various other countries, and introduced Soviet-style political practice. The adaptation from the Nazi model to the communist model was very simple and easy, requiring only a few minor adjustments, and it proceeded pretty well. That is the origin of the Baath Party and of the kind of governments that we have been confronting in the Middle East in recent years. "

Here's the kicker. As Islamic civilization began to realize it had undergone a unpleasant transformation out of touch with its traditonal cultural values, it searched for a reawakening of those values. One of the first of these revivals blamed the West for introducing "un-Islamic" elements into society, and proposed that only a return to a pure, original form of Islam would allow a return to the days of glory where Islamic civilization was feared and respected the world over. This movement is called Wahabbinism, which has little to do with original Islamic thought.

"That there has been a break with the past is a fact of which Arabs and Muslims themselves are keenly and painfully aware, and they have tried to do something about it. It is in this context that we observe a series of movements that could be described as an Islamic revival or reawakening. The first of these--founded by a theologian called Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who lived in a remote area of Najd in desert Arabia--is known as Wahhabi. Its argument is that the root of Arab-Islamic troubles lies in following the ways of the infidel. The Islamic world, it holds, has abandoned the true faith that God gave it through His prophet and His holy book, and the remedy is a return to pure, original Islam. This pure, original Islam is, of course--as is usual in such situations--a new invention with little connection to Islam as it existed in its earlier stages."
History takes another unfortunate turn in whihc groups subscribe to these ideals. One of the first adherents to this movement was the once-obscure group of Bedouin chiefs that gained control of the Islamic Holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the 1920's -- the House of Saud, which around the same time, found itself on a huge pool of an unmatched mineral energy resource -- oil. With control over both the holy cities and the unmatched wealth brought to them by their oil, the Saudis have exported their version of Islam, with all its unpleasant intolerance for other beliefs and cultural insularity, to a neighborhood that just might be near yours.

"As a result, what would otherwise have been a lunatic fringe in a marginal country became a major force in the world of Islam. And it has continued as a major force to the present day, operating through the Saudi government and through a whole series of non-governmental organizations. What is worse, its influence spreads far beyond the region. When Muslims living in Chicago or Los Angeles or Birmingham or Hamburg want to give their children some grounding in their faith and culture--a very natural, very normal thing--they turn to the traditional resources for such purposes: evening classes, weekend schools, holiday camps and the like. The problem is that these are now overwhelmingly funded and therefore controlled by the Wahhabis, and the version of Islam that they teach is the Wahhabi version, which has thus become a major force in Muslim immigrant communities."

The second major Islamic revival Dr. Lewis refers to is the Iranian Revolution. It has had a prodigious impact on the Islamic world, despite the country being Shiite, changing not only the political order in that country, but the social, ideological and economic order as well. There are very apt comparisons between the Iranian Russian, and French revolutions, such as the internal conflict between the moderates and extremists, but the Iranian one now appears to be reaching its Stalinist phase.

The third revival has been the rise of Al-Qaeda and the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In the West, we think of that defeat in terms of the Cold War, and view it as our own victory. In the Islamic world, they view that victory as their own, purchased with their blood and sacrifice. And in many ways, they are probably as correct as we are in claiming it. Al-Qaeda's view of that victory is just one of many in the ebb and flow of the battle between the the Christian West and the world of Islam. The professor quotes Osama bin Lade: "In this final phase of the ongoing struggle, the world of the infidels was divided between two superpowers--the United States and the Soviet Union. Now we have defeated and destroyed the more difficult and the more dangerous of the two. Dealing with the pampered and effeminate Americans will be easy." Of course, they were referring to the numerous "defeats" suffered by the Americans and the West in general over the course of the last 30 years. After Beirut, Somalia, the Cole bombing, etc., we never struck back. This was seen as weakness and timidity, prestaging the final triumph of Islam over its enemy. The response delivered after 9/11 was both unintended and unforeseen, but they view that response as being out of the norm, and only delaying their inevitable victory.

"What happened on 9/11 was seen by its perpetrators and sponsors as the culmination of the previous phase and the inauguration of the next phase--taking the war into the enemy camp to achieve final victory. The response to 9/11 came as a nasty surprise. They were expecting more of the same--bleating and apologies--instead of which they got a vigorous reaction, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq......But if one follows the discourse, one can see that the debate in this country since then has caused many of the perpetrators and sponsors to return to their previous diagnosis. Because remember, they have no experience, and therefore no understanding, of the free debate of an open society. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness, fear and division. Thus they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph and the final Jihad."

Dr. Lewis concludes with some thoughts on freedom and democracy. He points out that all democratic societies develop in their own ways, with their own distinct institutions, and at their own pace. There are some postive signs in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East that give some hope for a better future in the region. It is by no means a foregone conclusion, there is sure to be pain and suffering for some time, but these issues are still not decided yet by any means, positively or negatively. Ironically enough, the nations whose rulers most oppose the United States most likely have the citizens with the most positive view of America and the West.

"And there are encouraging signs at the present moment--what happened in Iraq, for example, with millions of Iraqis willing to stand in line to vote, knowing that they were risking their lives, is a quite extraordinary achievement. It shows great courage, great resolution. Don't be misled by what you read in the media about Iraq. The situation is certainly not good, but there are redeeming features in it. The battle isn't over. It's still very difficult. There are still many major problems to overcome. There is a bitter anti-Western feeling which derives partly and increasingly from our support for what they see as tyrannies ruling over them. It's interesting that pro-American feeling is strongest in countries with anti-American governments. I've been told repeatedly by Iranians that there is no country in the world where pro-American feeling is stronger, deeper and more widespread than Iran."

He concludes his comments with both a warning and what is in some ways a call to action. We have to face the facts, and they are that we can either stay the course, help our allies or potential allies in the area, and conceptually, materially, and forthrightly build a future together against the darkness with no wavering or vacillation, or watch the downfall of both Western civilization, with all its wonders, and Islamic society as well. It is likely to be a long fight, and whomever has the most determination may determine the victor. It isn't clear it will be us.

"The outlook at the moment is, I would say, very mixed. I think that the cause of developing free institutions--along their lines, not ours--is possible. One can see signs of its beginning in some countries. At the same time, the forces working against it are very powerful and well entrenched. And one of the greatest dangers is that on their side, they are firm and convinced and resolute. Whereas on our side, we are weak and undecided and irresolute. And in such a combat, it is not difficult to see which side will prevail. I think that the effort is difficult and the outcome uncertain, but I think the effort must be made. Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Coup in Thailand

via USA Today.

Thai military stages a coup while their govenment's prime minister is in the US to address the UN. The PM is has been under suspicion for some time of fraud and corruption. The military has declared a provisional ruing body loyal to the Thai king.

" Thailand's army commmander ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a military coup Tuesday night while he was in New York, circling his offices with tanks, declaring martial law and revoking the constitution."

Massive rallies against Thaksin last April resulted in new elections, but were boycotted by opposition parties, and have left the country without a functioning government, as the top Thai court nullified the election. Opposition against the PM intensified after his family sold its controlling interest in a telecommunications company to a state-owned Singapore firm. There is also a long-running Muslim insurgency continuing to brew in the southern part of the country.

Geneva Conventions

via RCP.

Thomas Sowell TOTALLY bitch-slaps some US Sentors on the issue of applying the Geneva conventions to groups that have absolutely no intention of following said conventions should they be so fortunate as to come into possession of Coalition troops, rather than getting their butts kicked as happens about 99% of the time.

"The issue has been brought to a head by the efforts of Senators John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham to get us to apply the rules of the Geneva convention to cutthroats who respect no Geneva convention and are not covered by the Geneva convention."

He then goes on to smack up the supreme court in the land -- for abrogating the intended will of the supposedly co-equal legislative branch of gevernment, the US Congress.

"But the issue of applying the Geneva convention to people who were never covered by the Geneva convention originated in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Article III, Section II of the Constitution gives Congress the power to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts, and Congress has specifically taken away the jurisdiction of the courts in cases involving the detention of illegal combatants, such as terrorists, who are not -- repeat, not -- prisoners of war covered by the Geneva convention. The Supreme Court ignored that law."

Ouch, that must smart. He then goes on to questions whether we in the West have the necessary willpower to finish the job against Islamic fascism. The man is on a roll. It makes me feel more than little frothy as well.

"The much larger question -- the question of survival -- is whether we have the clarity and the courage to go all-out in self-defense against those who are going all-out to destroy us, even at the cost of their own lives."

He goes on to finish with a flourish arguing that our best and only real hope of preventing future attacks is go to the source, question them as robustly as necessary, and not get all weepy about doing it.

"Our only hope is to get advance information from those we capture as to where other terrorists are and how they operate. Squeamishness about how this is done is not a sign of higher morality but of irresponsibility in the face of mortal dangers."

Amen, brother. You're preaching to the choir here!

Gulf Oil Discovery

via CNN.

I've also been meaning to comment on this story -- the discovery of perhaps as many as 15 billion barrels of oil off the coast of Louisiana, 20,000 feet deep under 7000 feet of water. Amazing what you can find if you're allowed to look. Test rig is pumping 6000 barrels a day. More relevant, this ushers in a new technique in deep water drilling that could be utilized elsewhere. However, getting this new slource of energy to market will take some time -- three to five years probably at best, and it won't mean we can stop importing.

"A group led by Chevron has tapped a petroleum pool 270 miles south of New Orleans -- and almost 4 miles beneath the ocean floor -- in a region that could hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil, or more than Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. "It confirms a new frontier, a new horizon in the ultra-deep water," said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and author of "The Prize," the Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the oil industry. "It isn't energy independence," he added."

The speculation is that once developed, the new field could produce up to 750,000 barrels a day. At its height, the Prudhoe field produced 1.6 million, and it continues to produce about 400,000 today. The Arctic North slope field being blocked by environmental groups is thought to contain as much as 10 billion barrels.

Mexican Election

Been meaning to comment more on the Mexican Presidential election and the "parallel" government being established by losing candidate Andres Obrador. After losing his appeal to the Mexican Electoral Court, which found little or no evidence of the fraud claimed by Obrador, his supporters held protests in the Mexican capital throughout the month of August and generally made a nuisance of themselves, but support appears to be faltering and he has decided to reengage in the political process since he apparently can't shut down the country by threat of violence.

"There will still be protests but fears of major unrest or violence have eased in recent days as Lopez Obrador has apparently opted for an organized political movement to challenge Calderon rather than cause chaos on the streets. Supporters voted to swear Lopez Obrador in at a ceremony on November 20, just days before Calderon takes power. Lopez Obrador said he would name ministers to his parallel government and that it would operate from voluntary donations. "

Felipe Calderon, the new president-elect, will take office in December.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Baseball Standings

Over to Foxsports, whose web layout I've always liked, for a quick baseball talk.

Yanks magic # is 4. AL Central is pretty much up for grabs, with the loser likely in the wildcard. Tiggers have a slim 1 game lead over the Twinkies, who've come out of nowhere to make it a real crotch-hugger if you wear stripes. West looks wrapped up with the Green and Gold up 7 on the team with the long name.

Over in the Inferior Circuit, the Stupid Metropolitans are down to a magic # of 1 with a goofy 13.5 game lead over the Phils. In the Central, Cards still up 7 over fading Cincy, and the Priests and Dumb Dodgers continue to battle it out for the West, with SD up a half game. Dodgers lead the Phils for the WC by a game.

Oldest Writing in New World Discovered

Via Foxnews again.

A stone block discoverd in 1999 in Mexico, covered in inscriptions, could very well be the earliest example of writing in the Western Hemisphere. Dating back to 1100 BC, the block is covered with 62 glyphs, some of which are repeated as many as 4 times. The implications for the ancient Olmec civilization is pretty substantial.

"This reveals the Olmecs, in many ways the first civilization in a vast part of the ancient Americas, were literate, which we did not know for sure before, and hints that they were capable of the same large-scale organization assisted by writing [as seen] in early Mesopotamia or Egypt," researcher Stephen Houston, an archaeologist at Brown University in Providence, R.I., told LiveScience."

I have to say that I'm impressed with the heretofore unnoticed redesign of the Foxnews web site. It's got much more content, easier on the eyes and much easier to locate stuff as well. Bravo.

UB313 named

via Foxnews.

Meant to comment on this last week, but astronomical object UB313, located in the deep reaches of the solar system's Kuiper belt, finally gets a name: Eris, for the Greek goddess of discord. It had been nicknamed "Xena" by discoverer Mike Brown of Caltech. It is defined as a "dwarf" planetary body.

Eris was responsible for much of the controversy surrounding the recent planetary definition debated by the International Astronomical Union, as it is slightly larger than now-demoted to "dwarf" planet Pluto. Eris, like Pluto, also has a satellite, now christened Dysnomia, which was Eris daughter and the spirit of lawlessness. Asteroid Ceres is also defined as a "dwarf" planet.

In Greek mythology, Eris is best known for causing the Trojan War.

Husker-USC game

I commented over at Husker Mike's place and he sums up things (the questions, mostly) pretty well.

No first down pass attempts until the third quarter, which when we did, we wound up scoring. No throws downfield until far, far too late. No real attempt to cash in after the fake punt or the nice punt return. Run, run, pass on third and long, punt. It was a pathetic joke of a gameplan. I don't mind trying to establish the running game, but if it isn't working, why not try to throw a ball or two and loosen up the defense, then go back to running?

The defense played better than I expected, if you'd told me we would hold them to 28, I say we win the game easy. They were out on the field far too long with the sad play calling from Norvell. 'Nuff said. Bring on Troy, who is playing pretty damn well. We can ill afford to overlook them, they've been playing really good ball against stiff competition. Jay had better let Zac throw the damn ball against these guys on first down.

Heavy Traffic at the ISS


Shuttle Atlantis departed Sunday from the ISS after a successful construction mission in which the new $372 million, 17.5 ton solar array was delivered. The array was unfurled Thursday during one of three spacewalks performed by the combined crews. Next up for the ISS is a Russian Progress cargo ship, which is being quickly followed on Sep 20 by a replacement ISS crew on board a Russian Soyuz. Atlantis is slated to land in Florida on Sep 20 as well.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Husker FB

New Husker CB Andre Jones sounds pretty confident -- but I wish he would keep quiet. Coaches need to very emphatically tell players not to provide ANY oppositional motivation. All we need is USC WR Dwayne Jarret to have a reason to be po'd. I would like to note the Ohio U is 2-0, and Turner Gill's Buffalo squad is 1-1 after losing a heartbreaker in 3 OTs & hanging 40 on Bowling Green.

Thoughts on Nicholls St. -- about what I expected, we played a overmatched squad that had little or no chance of putting up much of a fight. The encouraging signs were that Taylor kept a number of receivers involved in the passing game and was extremely efficient. Lucky and Wilson had good days running the football as well, and I had to applaud FB Dane Tood finally getting his first TD of his career. D played well, only giving up the late long run that set up their only TD. I predicted 35-10 against La. Tech and 49-7 against Nicholls, results were better than I expected to be honest.

Thoughts on USC -- Trojans are very talented, but a little inexperienced, and are nowhere near the team they had last year. I don't think they have played anyone with the talent we have on defense other than Texas last year. The big playmakers from last year that played in that game aren't around anymore for them. Arkansas game is not a good indicator of where they are, any more than La. Tech and Nicholls are of the Huskers. The idea that Arkansas was an 8 point underdog and we are 19 1/2 is a huge joke. We are a far, far better team than Arkansas. USC didn't really have to move the ball much against them with the Razorbacks commiting 5 turnovers.

Defensively, USC wasn't very good last year, and I don't think they are as good on that side of the ball this year as well. Injuries have taken a toll on the Trojan's defensive depth to some degree as well, losing one starting S in camp and now their #1 NT, and have a LB and a CB nicked up as well. I see Taylor and company moving the ball pretty consistently on them, and the Blackshirts will slow them down to a degree. We definitely can not afford to make silly mistakes or turn the ball over. Going out on a limb, crossing my fingers it turns out to be true but --

NU 35, USC 31.

US Poverty Report

Link to columnby David Henderson via TCS Daily.

Census Bureau released its 2005 poverty statistics the other day, and much was made of the have fact that median income levels are still below those of 2000, although they did rise last year by a small percentage. Analysis of the population usually relies on dividing the US by income quintiles, as the Census data does. Results are interesting if you drill into the numbers and circumstances of the high and low groups a bit and compare them. The figures below define each group.

" In 2005, the lowest quintile had incomes of up to $19,178 and the highest quintile had incomes exceeding $91,705. People often picture families at all quintiles looking pretty much alike except for income and ethnicity. But that picture is false. "

Henderson points out that poverty statistics don't adjust for wealth, meaning many retirees with low incomes today actually have high net worths after a lifetime in the labor force and saving for retirement. Most people defined as being in poverty also don't have a job, and if they aren't retired, they are generally younger than 35 -- 35 to 54 being statistically the peak earning years for most individuals. As people get more experienced in the workforce, they get raises and skills, that over time, lift them out of the bottom quintile. Another little nugget --even if you don't have a job, if you live with a person with a job, it's likely you aren't going to be poor. If you work full-time, and have a spouse working full time, it very, very unlikely that you are in the bottom quintile.

"In the lowest quintile, 58.7 percent of households had no one earning money, 35.9 percent had one earner, and only 5.5 percent of households had two or more earners. (These percentages total 100.1 percent due to rounding.) In the highest quintile, by contrast, only 2.6 percent had no one earning money, 21.1 percent had one earner, and a whopping 76.3 percent had two or more earners...... In the lowest quintile, 64.2 percent of the heads of household (the Census now calls them "householders") did not work at all and only 14.0 percent worked full-time year-round. By contrast, in the highest quintile only 11.3 percent of heads of households did not work, while 73.0 percent worked full-time year-round....... Only 17.9 percent of households in the bottom quintile had a married-couple family; by contrast, 79.0 percent of households in the top quintile had a married-couple family. "

Of course, as has been mentioned earlier, by myself and others, poverty statistics also don't adjust for transfer payments -- things like food stamps, medicaid, medicare, etc. It's true that a minimum wage worker has a tough time getting by, but only about a half a million people in this country earn only the minimum wage. Henderson also points out that the Consumer Price Index, used to adjust incomes to inflation, generally overstates inflation by just under 1 % a year. Overtime, this also skews the statistics. So do we really have a poverty probelm in this country? I'll say that there are certianly some people who need help -- but I think all of the above prove it's not nearly as bad as you might think.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Shuttle Docks with ISS

Space. com as usual.

Atlantis docked with the ISS this morning, and unlike many missions where the docking would be the highlight the day, they had to almost immediately set to work unloading the trusses and solar arrays the crew intends to attach in tomorrow's spacewalk.

"Atlantis’ STS-115 astronauts boarded the ISS by 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), with mission specialists Daniel Burbank and Steven MacLean jumping into tasks to move a $372 million pair of trusses and solar arrays from the shuttle’s cargo bay to the end of the ISS robotic arm........ Burbank and shuttle pilot Chris Ferguson eased the 35,000-pound (15,875-kilogram) Port 3/Port 4 trusses out of Atlantis’ payload bay, at one time wrangling with clearances of just inches between the station segments and orbiter hardware, shuttle officials said."

The trussess will have to be connected to the P1 truss before the spacewalk tomorrow, the goal of which is to connect the new segments to power cables and heaters that will enable the new pieces to effectivley double the station's power capacity. The work is the first of three planned spacewalk construction tasks this week, all of which are expected to last about six and a half hours.

9-11 & the War

Of course, today is the fith anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the loss of 2,996 innocent victims.

There is a project to commmemorate the victims here at the 2996 Project.

I don't usually schill for anyone, but this is one of those occaisons where I feel I have to, some of the people defending us and their families need the help of all of the rest of us to get by during or after their service. It is certainly the right thing to do, so if you are able, please contribute as generously as you can to any of the following organizations.

You can support our brave service personnel defending our freedom overseas and elsewhere today at the USO. I do.
Also see the good works that Soldiers' Angels does for our best and noblest and their families.

More importantly, for those who've made the greatest sacrifice and been injured or disabled on duty while defending freedom, see Help Hospitalized Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans, all groups I personally support as well.

My sister sent me an email with my brother-in-law's new address. He has been serving at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq since mid-August with the 86th Signal Battalion. We hope to have him home safe and sound around a year from now. Godspeed.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Shuttle Launches

Atlantis flys! No foam issues reported, fuel cells working as expected. Great news.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Baseball Standings

Well, the wheat is starting to separate from the chaff now that Sep has arrived. The Bronx Bombers have an 8 game lead over the Evil Red Stockinged Ones with a magic number of 17 to clinch, while the Stupid crosstown Mets are down to a magic number of 11 to clinch the Old Circuit Eastern crown, currently enjoying a 15 game lead over the Phils.

Things are a little more interesting in the Central Divisions. The Twinkies have gained mucho ground on the Tiggers, but are still 4 back. The Southern Canadians have a game and a half lead in the wild card over the White Stockings. In the NL the Cards have started to finally assert themselves, up to a 6 game lead over slumping Cincy, which has dropped 8 of its last 10.

Out in the Western divisions, Oakland has opened up a 5 1/2 game lead on the team with the really long name, while the Dumb Dodgers are in probably the best race, with the Priests in the NL just 1 game behind. Everyone start the Gregorian chanting now to defeat the City of Angels. The Priests have a 2 game lead over the Phils for the NL Wild Card spot, who'd I'd much rather see make the WC (and stiff the Dumb ones) just for the chance to see Ryan Howard hammer some over the fence in the playoffs. The Florida kids (they would be OK for the WC too)trail by only 3, Cincy and SF are only back 3 1/2 even though both are under .500 by a game.

Shuttle Launch Delayed Again

Shuttle Atlantis is again delayed, this time to a faulty fuel cell that is reading as if it has a short in a coolant motor. Fortunately, they detected the problem before fueling the orbiter, saving the trouble to have to pump out the super-cold propellant. They are hoping to resolve the issue in time to launch tomorrow.

"According to NASA flight rules, all three of Atlantis' fuel cells must be functioning properly before the shuttle can launch. Engineers are drawing up options to work around, repair or replace the hardware, shuttle officials said."

If extensive repairs are needed, the mission may miss its launch window, which closes Sep 8 due to an agreement with the Russian space agency which is launching a Soyuz craft to the ISS later this month. The mission could be delayed out to Oct 26, unless the agency decides to relax its restriction to only launch during the day due to the desire to examine and the evaluate the fuel tank modifications made after the Columbia tragedy. If a night launch is permitted, it could launch as soon as Sep 29.

Shuttle Launch Delayed Again

Shuttle Atlantis is again delayed, this time to a faulty fuel cell that is reading as if it has a short in a coolant motor. Fortunately, they detected the problem before fueling the orbiter, saving the trouble to have to pump out the super-cold propellant. They are hoping to resolve the issue in time to launch tomorrow.

"According to NASA flight rules, all three of Atlantis' fuel cells must be functioning properly before the shuttle can launch. Engineers are drawing up options to work around, repair or replace the hardware, shuttle officials said."

If extensive repairs are needed, the mission may miss its launch window, which closes Sep 8 due to an agreement with the Russian space agency which is launching a Soyuz craft to the ISS later this month. The mission could be delayed out to Oct 26, unless the agency decides to relax its restriction to only launch during the day due to the desire to examine and the evaluate the fuel tank modifications made after the Columbia tragedy. If a night launch is permitted, it could launch as soon as Sep 29.

Military Spending

Col. Peters has some words of wisdom for our political leaders and generals. We are still buying mighty expensive toys that don't necessarily help us in the current fight we find ourselves in.

"Precision-targeting systems and other superweapons are dangerously seductive to civilian leaders looking for military wins on the cheap. Exaggerated promises about capabilities — made by contractors, lobbyists and bedazzled generals — delude presidents and prime ministers into believing that war can be swift and immaculate, with minimal friendly or even enemy casualties."

Basicly he is saying, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR A SOLDIER ON THE GROUND. Not yet at least, although I've seen some robots that were pretty cool, but most likely not ready for prime time, and probably would just be a force mulitiplier in any case. We would like to believe it, though, because it gets us off the hook to some degree when the inevitable blood get spilled. We need to spend money wiser, for things that help us in the fight today, not the fight we didn't have (USSR) yesterday.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Huskers Win, First Thoughts

via Huskerextra.

Well, the team played pretty well, although it took a little bit to get started. Up only 14-10, the Huskers managed a very nice 2 minute drill to close out the first half, overcoming a couple of penalties in the process, then broke open the game with a strong drive to open the second half to go up 28-10. The D only gave up a couple of big plays in the passing game, one a spectacular one-handed TD catch, and recovered nicely by forcing a fumble after a 56 yd gainer.

The Huskers got the ground game going with 252 yards with all four young backs involved, Lucky and Glenn pacing the group with 79 and 88 respectively, and the only back not to score was Wilson, who had a nice TD run around the left end called back due to a hold. Glenn retains his role of short-yardage back, Brandon Jackson appears to be the third-down guy, and had a great 25 yd TD run. Taylor looked impressive with 287 and 3 TDs as well, all to TEs, including returnee Matt Herrian, and spread the ball around to multiple (9?) receivers, including Lucky, who caught 3 passes for 42 yds as well. Joe Ganz got some playing time in mop up duty and threw for a score to another TE while leading 2 drives to scores.

The Blackshirts had a a pretty decent day, giving up some yards but few points, with a lot of yonger players getting time in. Grixby led the team in tackles with 6, and both Carriker and Moore got sacks. The really bad news is we lost a couple of backups due to injury. MLB Phill Dilliard, in a situation reminiscient of Steve Octavian last year, started out well with 4 tackles before injuring his ACL and is done for the season. Lance Brandenburgh moves over from SAM and Clayton Sievers takes his spot as Stew Bradley's backup.

Far worse, in a near-disasterous turn of events, CB Isiah Fluellen also went down with a knee on his first play from scrimmage. A converted WR, he had worked his way up to #2 this fall backing up Courtney Grixby, who had gone down temporarily when Fluellen entered the game. Titus Brothers takes over for Fluellen behind Grixby now, with Tyrell Spain staying behind Andre Jones. One of two freshman, Anothony West or Corey Young may have to step up if another CB is needed, or we may need to play a S (perhaps Ben Eisenhart) when playing nickel coverage. This does not bode well for the rest of the season. we could ill afford an injury to the already thin secondary.