Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Husker Depth Chart

I noted the longed-for release of the Husker Depth Chart yesterday, but didn't have time to comment.
via Husker Extra.

Only a couple of surprises here, one being Bo Ruud getting the nod over Octavian at WLB, another being the rapid promotion of frosh safeties Ricky Thenarse and Major Culbert to the second unit. Of course, Octavian had the appendectomy this fall and missed some practice time, which probably contributed. Another note is the work that former WRs Fluellen and Spain have put in at CB, but the secondary should definitely be viewed as a work in progress. Titchener seems to have gotten the nod at P over frosh Michael Suchs as well.

Corncoast O
Not any surprises here at all, except possibly that they list 4 WRs at X and only 2 at Y, with Hardy, Purify and Holt backing up Nate Swift, with Nunn and Petersen at Y. I recall them talking that Purify would have a "package" while he learns the playbook. O-line looks pretty well set, although I hadn't heard of Byford at C, and the RB situation is what one expected as well. Interesting that Wilson will be used at KR, perhaps an indicator that Lucky will be used more than advertised at RB. CB Jones is listed with fellow CB Grixby behind Nunn at PR.

Shuttle Launch Back On
Despite being pulled off the pad yesterday, Atlantis has been returned as tropical storm Ernesto landed in south Florida and gradually weakened, with winds now expected to be no more than 55 knots. The quick turnaround on the ground allows for a possible launch on either Sep 6 or 7, so long as countdown restarts on Sep 3. An additional day is possible on Sep 8 due to an agreement with the Russians to use their Soyuz mission's fallback date of Sep 18 if the shuttle fails to launch on the two earlier dates.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Shuttle Launch Delayed due to Storm

Tropical Storm Ernesto may cause the shuttle Atlantis to be taken off the launch pad and rolled back into the protection of its massive hanger. The fear is the storm could possibly strengthen to a hurricane as strong as category three by the time it reaches Florida. 40 knot winds are already making their presence felt at the Cape, and crews are already involved in removing the liquid rocket propellent from the orbiter's fuel tanks.

Earlier launch attempts were placed on hold due to an electrical strike Friday. While all is not lost, the shuttle could only meet its launch window before Sep 7, which could be an issue if it is removed to the hanger. However, if Ernesto were to weaken or change course, their are two points where rollback procedures could be halted.

"If Ernesto weakens to the point Atlantis does not have to leave its launch pad, the shuttle could be primed for launch late this weekend, possibly by Sept. 3, NASA officials said. “If we actually roll back...we can’t get to a T-0 before Sept. 7,” STS-115 Mission Management Team (MMT) chairman LeRoy Cain said during the briefing. It would take eight days once Atlantis is returned to its launch pad, assuming no post-storm clean up or repairs at KSC are required, Leinbach added."

A decision on whether or not to rollback to the hanger will be made Tuesday morning. Complications have arisen with one of the crawlers used to transport the shuttle to the hanger, which could add three hours (see Mission Update section) to the proposed plan.

Mexican Election

It appears Felipe Calderon will be the next President of Mexico and not the leftist Andres Obrador. Calderon succeeds Vincente Fox, both of whom belong to the ruling National Action Party.

"Mexico's top electoral court threw out leftists' allegations of massive fraud in last month's presidential election on Monday, handing almost certain victory to conservative candidate Felipe Calderon. The seven judges voted unanimously to reject most of the legal complaints by left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said he was robbed of victory in the July 2 vote."

Obrador's supporters have been protesting since the election, but the rallies appear to be losing some support in recent weeks. Obrador continues to insist that fraud at a signifigant number of polling staions is responsible for his losing the election. He vows to continue to demostrate or possibly lead some type of shadow government.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Barrett Sniper Rifles

Saw an episode of "Future Weapons" last night on cable, and was delighted to see the US Army's newest sniper rifle -- the .50 caliber Barrett. Yikes. While previous US sniper rifles in that caliber were bolt-action, this baby's semi-auto, and you can squeeze off 10 rounds in under 10 seconds should the situation warrant, such as a bunch a bad men in the desert trying to hide after being up to no good. The lethality of this rifle is just amazing. You simply do not, under any circumstances, want to be hit by a .50 caliber round.

Host Richard Machowicz, an ex-Navy SEAL, popped off 10 rounds from more than a half mile away and shattered, and I mean shattered, dual concrete cinderblocks set up as a target, then proceeded to ding up 1/4" steel plate with ball rounds--armored piercing being strictly for military use, of course. A Candian sniper team in Afghanistan has been credited with a kill from over 2400 meters with this weapon. Un-freakin' believable. Talk about ruining some jihadists' day. This baby is considered effective out to a little over 1800 meters and has a range out to 6000! The recoil is greatly mitigated by an innovative spring and buffer assembly, as well as a dual chamber muzzle break that redirects gases from the end of the barrel. Richard was pretty impressed with the weapon.

Naturally, while Mr. Barrett is doing his best to help maintain the lives of our personnel in uniform, the anti-gun lobby is trying to ruin his business, with assistance from law-enforcement agencies that actually use the Barrett! Go figure. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Santorini Eruption Analyzed

via National Geographic.

New data analyzed on the volcanic eruption of Santorini, believed to have caused the end of the Minoan civiliztion 3600 years ago, determine that the event was perhaps twice as large as previously thought, and the second largest during the human historical era.

"a team of Greek and U.S. researchers estimate that the volcano released 14 cubic miles (60 cubic kilometers) of magma—six times more than the infamous 1883 eruption of Krakatau (Krakatoa). Only one eruption in human history is believed to have been larger: an 1815 explosion of Tambora, in Indonesia, which released 24 cubic miles (100 cubic kilometers) of magma."

The Krakatoa explosion caused 100 ft tsunamis and killed thousands, and the scale of the Santorini eruption would have been far worse, particularly in Crete, which lies only a few dozen miles away. At the time of the eruption, the Minoan civilization based there was one of the most advanced in the world, with indoor plumbing, highly decorated palaces and a trade empire that extended throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is thought that the Santorini explosion is the historical basis for the Atlantis myth, and perhaps also that of the Biblical flood.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shuttle Mission

Great run down of the planned Atlantis mission and its three spacewalks, which could launch as soon as Aug 27. Each spacewalk is scheduled to last at least six and a half hours.

"STS-115 mission specialists Joseph Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper will perform the first and third spacewalks of their mission, with their crewmates Daniel Burbank and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Steven MacLean tasked with the second EVA.....MacLean and ISS astronaut Jeffrey Williams will wield the space station’s robotic arm to attach the 17.5-ton truss segment to the outboard end of the station’s Port 1 (P1) truss. Once three of four motor driven bolts have secured the segment to the ISS, Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper begin their spacewalk to connect vital power and cooling, deploy two phone booth-sized cylinders – each containing solar arrays masts – and swing out arm-like boxes holding the folded up solar blankets for each array."

It gets even more complicated after that. This mission has one of the heaviest shuttle payloads ever, and is one of the more complicated in shuttle history. Fortunately, the spacewalk duos have had 4 years to practice and can even do one another's jobs.

"The primary goal of EVA 2 on Flight Day 5 seems basic – removing a plethora of locks and restraints that secured the P3/P4 truss segments in place during Atlantis’ launch. But for Burbank and MacLean, the tasks are vital. The two astronauts will spend more than six hours prying open thermal covers and removing 16 launch locks – and six restraints – latching a car-sized wheel called the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) in place. The joint, located between the P3 and P4 truss, will allow outbound port trusses to rotate independently of the ISS so their solar arrays continuously track the Sun. "

The plan is to unfurl the solar arrays on Day 6 of the mission -- and these arrays will eventually provide up to 20% of the power for the completed station. The third spacewalk on Day 7 will primarily do clean up work, deploying a radiator to cool the array and clear the truss for the Mobile Transporter that moves the station's robotic arm. One other notable feature of the mission is the first use of the Quest airlock as a pre-EVA prep area to save time suiting up and egressing the station. By lowering the air pressure in the airlock, astronoauts can save up to an hour's time purging nitrogen from their bloodstreams before exiting the station.

We live in amazing times, my friends.

Senate Bill 2590

Senators Coburn and Obama have a Senate bill pending "that would create a single website with access to information on nearly all recipients of federal funding," according to the Porkbusters website. Great idea whose time is certainly due. Unfortunately, a secret hold has been placed on the legislation, effectively preventing it from moving forward in the Senate. The Porkbusters organization is asking everyone to contact their Senators to ask if they are the one placing the hold. I emailed Senator Hagel today, and will also get to Senator Nelson as well. Twenty-seven of the nation's Senators have cleared themselves so far.

On a related note, still no response from the Terry camp on the earmarks for our district here in NE-2. Previous post here.

UPDATE: Called Senator Nelson's Omaha office, was transferred around a couple of times, wound up being transferred to the DC office, where I was told that the man who would know, Charles Ellsworth(?) was unavailable, but he actually called me back this afternoon both to say that Nelson not only did NOT put the hold on, but supported the bill. Great news. I also got an apparent auto-reply to the email sent to Hagel.

Pluto -- NOT a Planet

Pluto gets demoted, and the other candidates get grouped into "dwarf planet" status, excpet Charon, which apparently remains a moon rather than getting any special status.

"Pluto and its moon Charon, which would both have been planets under the initial definition proposed Aug. 16, now get demoted because they are part of a sea of other objects that occupy the same region of space. Earth and the other eight large planets have, on the other hand, cleared broad swaths of space of any other large objects. "Pluto is a dwarf planet by the ... definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects," states the approved resolution. Dwarf planets are not planets under the definition, however. "

Because Pluto crosses the orbital path of Neptune, it doesn't meet the new third criteria.

Chinese Civil Rights Battle

Jennifer Chou has a fantastic article on the growing Chinese civil rights movement at
The Weekly Standard.

She describes the growing realization of the Chinese population that they are citizens and have (or more properly, should have) certain legal and civil protections. The fact that they don't today often leads to sometimes violent civil protests. Lots of them. Chinese lawyers such as Chen Guangcheng are at the forefront of the movement to file legal actions against the government in support of these people's issues, but often wind up being harassed and imprisoned themselves by local officials and/or criminal elements in league with them.

"Chen Guangcheng's case highlights some of the problems facing China today: a judicial system that lacks due process and an increasingly murky, and at times violent, alliance between local bureaucrats and criminal elements. Even more important, Chen's case underscores one of the most significant developments in China in recent years: the emergence of rights consciousness at the grassroots level. People across all sectors of society are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that they are citizens, ostensibly with legal rights and protections, and they have grown increasingly vocal in asserting these rights."

One can only hope that these brave souls continue their efforts and someday succeed in reforming the legal system of the world's most populous nation. An economically succesful China
with Western-style political freedoms would be among the most significant events of recent history, fully meeting, finally, the aborted expectations that so many hoped for in the events of 1989. Let Freedom Ring!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Keller Makes it Official, Going to NU

ASU QB Sam Keller arrived in Lincoln today. He'll sit out this year as a redshirt and compete for the QB job next year. Husker Mike's take is here, and he urges caution. I think it's a huge positive for the program and am guardedly optimistic myself. Keller has been talked about as a top 5 NFL QB pick in next year's draft, but now he'll have to wait a year to play at NU before possibly attaining the next level. He had very impressive numbers from last season in seven games before the thumb injury -- 2100 yds, 20 TDs and nearly a 60% completion percentage to go along with 9 INTs (5 vs USC).

Husker FB Update

Boy, where to start. With all this Sam Keller talk, (he's apparently enrolled at NU now, according to some reports, but still going to visit Norman as well as Lincoln), it makes a certain amount of sense to go with the Blackshirts.

Juco DT Brandon Jackson has made enough of a splash that there is talk of shuffling the interior line around some. Steve Octavian, sidelined after an appendectomy, is back practicing, as is CB Andre Jones, who was nursing a sore hammy. With Jones out, converted WRs Isiah Fluellen and Tyrell Spain got time with the first and second teams at CB, respectively, with Titus Brothers also getting action with the second unit. At safety, Ricky Thenarse and Major Culbert are seeing time behind Tierre Green and Andrew Shanle, while Ben Eisenhart has been mentioned at nickelback. Thenarse seems to be a student favorite, with chants of Ricky, Ricky, Ricky while running drills on Sunday. Freshman Michael Such is pushing P Dan Titchener hard for the starting job.

Over on offense, things are a little more settled. QB Taylor has indicated the Marlon Lucky has developed some pretty good hands in the passing game, which is very welcome news. Also, wideout Maurice Purify has been working with the top unit and has been catching everything thrown in his general direction. Chris Patrick and Lydon Murtha are battling mightily for the top spot at left tackle. Backup QB Joe Ganz welcomes more competition for the QB position and says "bring it on" if Keller eventually comes to Lincoln.

Pluto -- Planet or not?

The Great Planetary Debate of 2006 continues. The initial proposal expanding the solar system to 12 has been shot down, but remains the basis for a new proposal, although the term plutons has been eliminated -- geologists were already using the term for deep igneous rock formations.

The new propsal includes a new "orbital dominance" clause, along with the previous gravitational (big enough for gravity to make it round) and orbital (orbits a star, but isn't a star) ones.

"A planet, they insist, must be the dominant object in its area. That would draw a sharp distinction between the eight "classical planets" — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and Pluto, which would be known as a "dwarf planet.""

The other bodies (Ceres, Charon, and UB313 "Xena") that were being considered would obviously also not make the cut and be demoted as well.

Baseball Standings

In my post Massacre swoon, I forgot to update y'all on the other, irrelevant (non-AL East)baseball divisions. Forgive me, gentle reader(s?) for my transgression.

Despite blowing last night's game the Yanks maintain their 6.5 game lead as the evil Red Stockings also fall to the West Coast team with the really long name, who are 4 back of their Bay area rivals in the AL West. The bouncy jouncy Tiggers continue to run away (up 7.5) with the Central, but the White Stockings are holding teeth and toenail to a 1/2 game wildcard lead over that team from southern Canada, which leaves the evil ones out in the cold. (All together now, ahhh!)

Over in the inferior circuit, the stupid Mets seem to want a Subway series rematch, holding a freakin' huge 13.5 game lead over Philly and dealing with the Snakes for Shawn Green. The Cards continue to fight off the Queen City, holding just a 1 game lead in the Central. In the West, the City of Angels nine holds a 2 game lead over the Priests to the south, with the Snakes 4 back after a 3 game losing streak. Cincy currently holds the WC, with the Priests 2 back and the home of the Liberty Bell 2.5 out.

Raising Taxes

A bit tongue in cheek, but Tim Worstall at TCS does a rather nifty takedown of all those who would like to raise your taxes. Apparently you can give money to the government, and people do -- to the tune of $2,671,628.40 last year. So I suppose I could (like
Tim does) support taxes being raised -- but only by that amount or a little more, maybe.

If interested, here's the address:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37
Hyattsville, MD 20782

He ends with a very nice summation:

"All the talk from the Democrats that taxes should be raised is just that: talk. They mean taxes should rise for you, not that they should rise for them. For if they really did believe that the Federal Government spends money better, more wisely, deserves it more, than they themselves do, wouldn't there be rather more flowing into that account? "

Ouch, that smarts. Can't wait to see Senators Kennedy, Schumer, Clinton, Kerry, Durbin, Dodd, et al. walk up to the trough and pitch in. Maybe Sen. Obama can show them where it is if they have to be helped.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ASU QB to Huskers?

While it's certainly not set in stone, former ASU starting QB Sam Keller has apparently left ASU and might be available. Coach C & O-Coordinator Jay Norvell are courting him to come to NU with the idea that he could possibly win the starting job in 2007 after redshirting this year. Interesting idea, but the young man is also considering....Oklahoma and the evil Buffs, among others.

Naturally, Husker fans are excited, but I would have to question the guy's makeup. Obviously, the coach down at ASU screwed up by telling Keller he had the job and then reversing direction, but the other kid may not play as well as he did last year, might get hurt, might even get in trouble with the law or the NCAA. Personally, I don't think you should lose your spot due to injury, which is what seems to be the case here, but the coach made the decision to open the competition up. Apparently Keller feels that he wasn't treated fairly and has decided to run -- not sure how mature, or immature, that makes him, but someone needs to tell him he should learn to deal with disappointment and how perserverance builds character. For sure, if the young man decides to end up an NU, someone needs to tell him about......Brook Berringer.

NE Senate Race and Gov Race

New-found local blog Leavenworthstreet is ALL over the local political scene, particularly the Nelson-Ricketts race and Heineman-Hahn for governor. The incumbents currently have the lead, big time, with (as pointed out) a LOT of crossover appeal for both candidates (Nelson 41% of R's, Gov Dave 54% of D's).

Commentary is also pretty amusing, he's apparently attracted a few trolls for pointing out, among other things, Nelson has reneged on his promise to pay all his back property taxes on his "turkey farm" in Sarpy county.

Boston Massacre Part II

Yanks sweep into Boston, take five straight against their rivals for the first time since 1953, raise their lead in the AL East to 6 1/2 games.

"After outscoring the Red Sox 47-25 in four games over three days, the Yankees rediscovered their pitching in a 2-1 victory Monday in the finale to complete a demoralizing five-game sweep at Fenway Park. "

Former Yank bench coach Don Zimmer says that Torre is doing his best job managing this year, but believes that Jim Leyland in Detroit will keep him from winning Managerial honors this year.

"The only thing is he probably won't be the manager of the year because it will probably be (Detroit's Jim) Leyland... If ever Joe would be the manager of the year, to me, this would be the year. The job he's done with the pitching staff and three or four key men out of the lineup. This is probably his best job of keeping a club going," he said."

Monday, August 21, 2006

2006 Election Projection

While it is still incredibly early yet, I thought it interesting to look at the early polling for the mid-terms nationally. While a lot of primary races haven't been decided yet, it appears that the Republicans will maintain control over both houses, but that the Democrats will control more state governorships.

The Senate will be a nail-biter for both sides, with a number of races (notably PA, MT, OH, RI, MO for the R's, and MD, WA & NJ, and perhaps MN for the D's) looking very close. Dems have been looking to the open TN seat (Ford) for a pick up as well, but the data don't support that right now.

House looks like about a 7-8 seat Democatic pick-up -- no diasaster for the GOP, but unwelcome news on the spending front for economic libertarians like myself. Of course, if the R's would actually govern like they campaign, they might not be having this problem.

Yanks start new ball park

Heresy most foul. The House that Ruth Built will be replaced starting in 2009. Key point:

"Until a dozen years ago, team owner George Steinbrenner had denigrated the neighborhood as dangerous and threatened to move the team to Manhattan or northern New Jersey. But the Yankees expect to draw more than 4 million fans to the stadium this year, making it the eighth consecutive season topping 3 million."

They draw 3-4 million fans and the Boss claims they need a new ballpark? While I know the stadium is the third oldest ballparks in the majors, you don't see the Cubs and the Evil ones replacing their icons. Uggh. I guess a pilgrimmage with the camera next year is in order. As a friend who grew up in NYC said, "That's sacreligious!"

NE Senate Race

While I haven't seen a transcipt, the LJS does have journalist Don Walton give a synopsis.

Both men apparently are against setting any deadlines on removing American troops from Iraq, and both oppose using Federal funds to research embryonic stem cells.

They differ on opening the Artic Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, which I tend to support. Nelson says he supports further Gulf exploration, but I'm not sure why you would want to limit exploation to any one area. We need to develop the resources wherever they might be, in my opinion.

"Increased domestic oil and gas production is required to address energy needs, Ricketts said. Getting oil from the wildlife refuge is “not the silver bullet,” Nelson replied. It would take a dozen years to supply oil from the refuge if exploration were successful, he said. Instead, Nelson said, he voted for additional exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and supports developing alternative fuels, including ethanol. Ricketts said he too supports more exploration in coastal waters, along with alternative energy, but suggested a decision to drill in the Arctic now could prompt reduced gas prices."

Ricketts is apparently willing to look at a national sales tax as part of a comprehensive tax reform plan; Nelson has been running attack ads on this issue pretty consistently on TV, mischaracterizing Rickett 's position as "raising taxes on the poor and middle-class". Nelson also has criticizes Rickett's for wanting to eliminate federal farm subsidies, while Ricketts says he wants only to cap the payments for larger producers.

Nelson's best point is his immigration reform policy, which starts with border enforcement, while Ricketts attached himself to "the Hagel plan", although his comment makes it sound more like "the Pence plan" -- return home first, then apply for guest worker status.

I'd still love a transcript. Hard to say from this how I'd lean, but Ricketts is sounding a little better than I expected, softening the tone a bit. Nelson kept on the attack, and doesn't seem to have said too much on what he differs on Ricketts with, and what policies he would push for for the next term other than immigration.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Husker FB

As promised, my take on the Husker's West Coast Offense and Fox's analysis. Fox's take:

"The West Coast offense should finally blow up with the pieces in place to run it the way head coach Bill Callahan wants to. It all starts up front with an improved offensive line that should be more athletic and, eventually, more consistent. "

Damn straight. The O-line woes last year left Husker QB on his back a ton last year, but to Zac's credit, he often took the blame himself early in the season for not getting rid of the ball sooner. The offense as a whole last year suffered greatly from the inconsistent running game, and Coach C has really emphasized the rungame in both spring and fall practice.

At QB, Zac Taylor set single-season school records for passing yardage, completions and attempts last year, and should likely be setting some career numbers as well this year. Zac really blossomed over the last half of the year, and showed incredible toughness and maturity. He should compete for Big 12 honors this season. Backup Qb remains an issue with the departure of star recruit Harrison Beck, but scout team star Joe Ganz and blue-chip juco transfer Brian Hildebrand will vie for the spot. Fox says 7.5, I'll go with 7 until the depth chart shows some stablity. Keeping Zac healthy while somehow getting another player some game experience, hopefully early in the season, has to be a priority.

At RB, we have a strong gang of contenders to start, including junior Brandon Jackson, soph phenom Malon Lucky, bruising soph Cody Glenn, and juco transfer Kenny Wilson, who made a big splash in a scrimmage the other day with a long multiple-tackle breaking run vs. the Blackshirts. Dane Tood clears the way at FB. Fox gives us a 7, and I think that is a bit generous, as only Glenn showed much last year, albeit Jackson struggled with injuries last year but had a good 2004. Lucky should win the job, but Wilson is showing some good burst & explosiveness and could be the real deal. One concern I have is no one appears to have (at least no one is talking about it yet) the kind of hands departed Cory Ross (tied for 2nd on team in receptions with 43) had as an outlet receiver for Zac. I'll give us a 6 with the potential for an 8 if someone can grab the job and hold it without us going to the continuing the committee approach that appears (right now) how we'll start the season.

At WR, we are developing a lot of big rangy guys who should provide Zac with plenty of targets.
One key will be the how the return of All-Big 12 TE Matt Herian goes after a year and a half layoff due to a broken leg. Terrence Nunn, Nate Swift, Todd Peterson and Franz Hardy are the top returners, with newcomers Maurice Purify, Will Henry and Menelik Holt expecting to contribute as well. All of these guys are over 6' (newcomers are all 6'4 or better) and most of them can fly. JB Phillips and Josh Mueller will be used primariy as blocking TEs and H-backs, but could contribute around the goal line. Fox gives us an 8, I'll say 7 until Herian proves he is back to the player he was in 2003-04.

The line still has some cause for concern as they really suffered in pass protection and didn't get much push for consistency in the ground game last year. The young talent really needs to develop here right away, but going against the Blackshirts in practice certainly can't hurt. Fall practice has been full of position shifts as the coaches try to find the best combination for the first five, but as it stacks up now, Kurt Mann returns at C, with fellow senior Greg Austin at RG and soph Mike Huff at RG, with Austin and backup G Andy Christenen both capable of playing C or either G. Chris Patrick and Lydon Murtha battle for the LT spot, with Matt Slauson, who has also worked at G, anchors the right side and juco transfer Victory Haines back up. Fox gives a 7, which I again think a wee bit generous. I'll say 6.5 until we work up some consistency, particulary in the running game, and develop a solid rotation. Fox feels the unit is a year away from being amazing, and I have to agree, they most likely won't remind anyone of the roadgraders of the past, but they have a lot of potential.

Schedule: Well, we have it easy the first couple of games, then travel to SoCal and the losers of last year's NC game. The Huskers may well ambush the young Trojans and have certainly nothing to lose. I expect them to play well and eke one out for the old alma mater. The big conference game is, of course, the NC game winner Texas, and by the time we play them I expect the Longhorns to be firing all cylinders and be very difficult to beat, even at home. While most prognosticators have us winning the Big 12 North, Iowa St. on the road should also prove to be a tough game, and the CU Buffs always play us tough as well. Still, I think 10-2 or 11-1 isn't unreasonable, and I think anything under 9-3 would be patheticly underachieving with the talent this squad has on both sides of the ball. Of course, this assumes everyone, particularly QB Taylor, remains healthy.

Shuttle Mission

I had not heard that the ISS module being delivered on the Atlantis mission was the one of the heaviest shuttle payloads yet. Nor that this mission team has been training for four and a half years due to the Columbia tragedy. The delivery of the new module will allow for the completion of the ISS over the next four years.

" Atlantis Commander Brent Jett says more is at stake in finishing the international space lab than just building a place for science experiments. "It's preparing us as an agency to take the next step back to the moon for a permanent outpost or onto Mars," said Jett, who will be making his fourth space trip. Jett said his crew will set the tone for the next four years of construction since each mission to the station builds off the next. The other crew members are pilot Chris Ferguson and mission specialists Joe Tanner, Dan Burbank, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve MacLean of the Canadian Space Agency."

The mission will launch between Aug 27 and Sep 13 with hopes for an launch before Sep 7 so as not to interfere with a Russian Soyuz mission later in September. The Atlantis crew is facing a challenging and difficult series of tasks.

"After docking with the space station, the 45-foot-long addition will be lifted by robotic arm from the shuttle's payload bay and handed off to the space station's robotic arm. The next day, Tanner and Piper will go out on the first spacewalk, followed a day later by a second spacewalk by Burbank and MacLean. The next day, the solar wings will be opened, and the following day, Tanner and Piper will go on a final spacewalk."

That's a lot of space walking, folks.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Husker FB

On a slightly less serious note -- pretty good analysis at Foxsports on the Big Red. I'll talk about the Blackshirts today, and review the offense tomorrow.

here's the article's take on the D:

"it's the defense that'll carry the Huskers to a big season. The front seven is loaded with talent, depth, and NFL prospects led by ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. Nebraska led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and should be among the best in the nation"

I heartily agree, the press has been talking a lot about the West Coast offense, Zac Taylor and who gets to tote the rock, but the key this season is stopping the other guys. Coach Coz has some real talent on this side of the ball, and we should be among the leading D's in the nation.

The line should be tremendous, with Carriker being touted already for All-American honors. Talented pass-rusher Barry Turner and Zach Potter backup the starting ends, with Ola Dagunduro, Ndamukong Suh, Barry Cryer and Ty Steinkuhler rotating at tackle, all of whom may have NFL potential. Fox gives us a 10 rating here.

Linebacking corps is talented and probably deeper than the front four. Five players return with starting experience, including leading tackler Corey McKeon, who totally filled in for graduated Husker legend (and school tackle record holder) Barret Ruud, who now plays on Sundays at Tampa. Barrett's younger brother Bo (All-Big 12, third in tackles last year) and last year's opening game injury victim Steve Octavian both return & duel for the spot at weakside, while Stew Bradley and Lance Bradenburgh return at SAM. Soph Phil Dillard backs up McKeon at Mike. Fox says 9, I say 10 here too. Any team in the nation would like to have our top six.

The secondary is the only real weakness on the D; fortunately, all the pressure the front seven exert should ovecome any deficiency in this area. The season-ending ACL injury to CB Zac Bowman was devastating; juco transfer Andre Jones has good size and is tremendously fast, but really has to step it up right away. Vertically challenged but tough, Courtney Grixby returns at the other CB while last year's starting CB Tierre Green (Ahman's cousin) moves to SS and Andrew Shanle takes over at FS. Titus Brothers plays nickel when 3 CBs are needed on the field. These guys are all uber-fast, but the jury's not yet out on the group, and depth has to be a huge concern. Another injury would be catastrophic. Fox says 6.5, I'll say 6 with the potential to be an 8 if the young guys develop quickly.

Special teams: Grixby and WR Terrence Nunn made big strides last year on punt returns, and Tierre Green and possible starting RB Marlon Lucky, both high octane blazers, returned kick-offs last year, so all should be in place for a great return game. Highly accurate Jordan Congdon handles the place-kicking duties and worked hard in the off season to extend his range, and has succeeded to the extent that he likely will kick-off, unlike last year, when uber-legged P Sam Koch handled those. The burning issue is how to replace Koch, the first punter taken in the NFL draft, and his 46 yard average. Dan Titchner and Tyler Kester duel for the duties, with the former having a slight edge for the job. Fox says 8 for special teams, I'll agree here too.

Cuban journalists

Michelle Malkin voices support for jailed Cuban journalists, some of whom have been imprisoned in Fidel's worker paradise for three years.

"The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on the Cuban government to give unrestricted access to the country to foreign reporters and repeated its request for the release of 25 independent journalists imprisoned there since 2003." More here.

While I've never heard of this organization before, anyone supporting press freedoms in Cuba certainly has to be counted among the good guys. Too bad Western journalists don't say much on subjects like this.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pluto, a Planet


Well, the definition of planet has been announced and of course, there is some controversy. The definition laid out somewhat like what I envisioned, where something with enough mass that gravity causes a spheroid shape (hydrostatic equilibrium) and is in orbit around a star without being a star or a satellite, is a planet. The definition only addresses the delineation between planets and what are now referred to as "small Solar System bodies", the old term "minor planets" used to describe objects not a part of the old nine planets, is now being declared a defunct term.

"Our goal was to find a scientific basis for a new definition of planet and we chose gravity as the determining factor," said Richard Binzel, an MIT planetary scientist who was part of a seven-member IAU committee that hashed out the proposal. "Nature decides whether or not an object is a planet."

The big issue for some is in the details, for example, Charon, formerly Pluto's moon, is round and defined as a planet because the two objects orbit a point in space (i.e., the two objects center of gravity) outside the surface of the larger object, Pluto -- so Pluto and Charon are actually a binary planet, both orbiting the Sun. Interestingly enough, if Plutos two other moons (Hydra and Nyx) were large enough to be spheroid (they just might be, depending on their composition, see more below), they would also be planets.

The asteroid Ceres regains its 19th century planetary status as the fifth planet because it meets the criteria, although the adjective "dwarf" is also suggested to use in reference to it. Pluto and Charon are also dwarfs, and also "Plutons", meaning a planet outside the orbit of Neptune. UB313 ("Xena"), bigger than Pluto, also qualifies, although discover Mike Brown of Caltech (homepage here) doesn't like the idea too much, particularly since worlds made of ice rather than rock wouldn't necessarily need to be much bigger than 400 km (being less dense) to become spherical, making possibly as many as 80 objects qualify.

"It's flattering to be considered discoverer of the 12th planet," Brown said in a telephone interview. He applauded the committee's efforts but said the overall proposal is "a complete mess." By his count, the definition means there are already 53 known planets in our solar system with countless more to be discovered."

Brown would also be the discover of several other planets as well, having found a number (five if I count correctly, but maybe as many as fifteen if any small icy KBO dwarf plutinos wind up qualifying) of the largest Kuiper Belt objects outside the orbit of Neptune. In addition, Ceres might not be the only asteroid that makes the "dwarf" planet cut. Currently there are a dozen other planets being considered in the asteroid belt and Kuiper Belt.

"And if astronomers determine that asteroids Pallas, Vesta, and Hygeia are also round, "they will also have to be considered planets," said Owen Gingerich, an historian and astronomer emeritus at Harvard who led the committee. The IAU proposal suggests (but does not require) that these be called dwarf planets. "

In addition to the three asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, you have the larger KBO objects Ixion, Varuna, Quaoar, Orcus, Sedna, and the officially unnamed objects 2002 AW197, 2002 TX 300, 2005 FY9, and 2003 EL61 being considered by the IAU as "candidate planets" as a part of the current proposal. Several other objects would appear to have been at least neglected so far, Brown has a list here of other possibles after some discussion at the top about the new definition and some new solar maps (new one is very busy, heh). Looks like the IAU was looking at object thought to be over 750 km, but missed 2002 UX25. Another four come in at just under that, from around 700-740 km.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Husker BB

Coach Doc Sadler scores big -- Maric is returning to Lincoln for his junior year.

"A face to face meeting with new NU basketball coach Doc Sadler has caused Aleks Maric to have a change of heart. Maric said late Monday evening from Sydney, Australia, that he will return to the Nebraska men’s basketball program for his junior season."

Maric was Honorable-Mention All-Big 12, and is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder, as well as being the only man on the roster taller than 6'9. Maric withdrew from the NBA draft and was contemplating either transferring or playing in Europe professionally.

UPDATE: Sadler also convinces guard Jamel White to stay at the U. Story via OWH here.

Congressman Lee Terry and Earmarking

I was tipped onto this by CQ, I also see Glenn Reynolds, Club for Growth, and several others have jumped on the bandwagon, asking for a little daylight from the House on earmarking in appropriations bills.

I just sent an email to Congressman Terry asking if he had anything to do with the earmarks in the Labor-HHS bill pending in the House. The following list below are the projects listed within Nebraska's 2nd District. The only one I could possibly support without more info is the Bioterror Response Center -- but I had no idea Creighton even had one, and I'd really like to know more details about the project and what the money would be used for before I agreed it would be a valid use. UMC earmark might be justified, but again, ALOT more info would have to be forthcoming. The one I really have an issue with is the Dental Science building. Why in God's green earth should the Feds have to chip in for the Creighton Dental building?

$300,000.00 Omaha NE
Gallup International Research and Education Center, for curriculum development of entrepreneurship centers in Lincoln and Norfolk
$250,000.00 Omaha NE
University of Nebraska Medical Center for equipment and facilities
$250,000.00 Omaha NE
Creighton University, for facilities and equipment for the Boyne School of Dental Science building
$250,000.00 Omaha NE
Creighton University, for facilities and equipment for the Center for Bioterrorism Response

There is a lot more listed for our fair state as well -- but as this is the House, and I'm not in those districts it might be difficult to get a response. Anyway, here they are:

1st District (Fortenberry): Not sure about where the 1st and 3rd border is, I think I have things right below--

$400,000.00 Lincoln NE
Nebraska Hospital Association for the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network
$400,000.00 Lincoln NE
Nebraska Hospice and Palliative Care Association for data collection and evaluation
$150,000.00 Lincoln NE
Nebraska Wesleyan University for forensic science programs, including equipment
$400,000.00 Peru NE
Peru State College for the Adopt A High School Program
$250,000.00 South Sioux City NE
Boys and Girls Home of Nebraska Inc., for facilities and equipment for the Children's Residential Treatment Center

3rd District (Osbourne):

$125,000.00 O'Neill NE
Avera St. Anthony Hospital for electronic health record interoperability
$225,000.00 Scottsbluff NE
Western Nebraska Community College for the Entrepreneurship Center to serve Scottsbluff and Gering schools
$70,000.00 Chadron NE
Chadron State College, NE for student recruitment and retention

Coach comes off looking a little better than your average NE congressman -- or worse, depending on your point of view I guess.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pluto -- Planet or not?

The IAU, or International Astronomical Union, is about to release its long awaited planet definition on Wednesday, with voting by member astronomers the next day. At stake primarily is the status of the current planet Pluto, as well as other Kuiper Belt Objects like 2003 UB313. After a year's debate, a seven member committee was formed to create the definition.

"Yes, it is very clear within what will be released … [Pluto] is very specifically in or out," said Richard Binzel, an MIT planetary scientist on a seven-person committee that developed the definition.
"I think we have come up with a very reasonable definition that in the end will be widely adopted," Binzel said by telephone from Prague today. "And we will move forward. I think all will agree that it's time to move forward."

It has been suggested that the definiton actually defines planets into three subtypes -- terrestrial/rocky (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and icy dwarfs (Pluto, UB313/Xena, and perhaps as many as a dozen or more others).

Personally, I like the idea, if it comes to pass. If it has enough gravity to form into a round shape, and it is orbiting a star, then I think it should be a planet. Mercury and Jupiter really don't have that much in common, no more so than Pluto and Jupiter do. One strike against Pluto is an eccentric orbit, but it doesn't appear that unusual if you also take into account extra-solar planetary systems.

Historically, the asteroid Ceres was considered a planet for a number of years, so if the new definition fits it (at under 1000 km, it's about as small as you can get and still be round) or some other objects, I don't have a problem with it. From what I can gather there are about 9 or 10 KBOs that are around 900 km in diameter or larger, not including Pluto (2300 km) and its satellite Charon (1200 km). Call them icy dwarfs and end the controversy, I say.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Husker FB

Since I mentioned Husker basketball, I probably should go to football. While I am excited by this year's prospects, I'll note that it is only due to the last couple of season's mediocrity.

In truth, I have not been the biggest Bill Callahan fan to date -- probably less to do with him than how the firing of Frank Solich was handled, or rather mishandled, by AD Steve Pederson, although I could blame Coach C for the rather stiff way he dismissed some of the assistant coaches. That Turner Gill stuck around the first year is probably more a testiment to him, and his loyalty to the school, than to Callahan. Enough history.

We have nine starters returning from an 8-4 team on both sides of the ball, are favored to win the Big 12 North, and the pre-season ratings I have seen are predicting a 9-3 season. I'm going out on a limb here, but I don't think that is good enough -- I want 11-1 or 10-2, minimum. I know we are playing USC and Texas this year, but we have to be able to beat those kind of teams with regularity if we are going to return to the glory days. I think we could ambush USC on Sep. 16, and will be very disappointed if we don't at least make it a tight game.

Moreover, we have to beat the teams we should, and not lose to perennial lightweights like Missouri or Kansas except the once in a generation when they have an exceptional year. The program likens itself to USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio State, etc. and has to have those kind of expectations. Beating a underachieving Michigan squad in a second (third?) tier bowl game was nice (going to a bowl game was nice, too) but we have a group that I think should contend for a top ten national ranking this year.

I hope they make the cut to contend with the teams of the past, but in my mind, the jury is still out on this coaching staff. Much will ride on the defense, they had better be as good as advertised, and I don't want to see the kind of breakdowns that happened last year. Zac Taylor has got to stay healthy and set a new school passing record for TDs, and the running game had better find a way to repeat the success they had in the bowl game, consistently throughout the season, and particularly in the red zone. I'll say a lot more when I see a depth chart and the season approaches.

Huskers new BB Coach

I probably should have menmtioned this earlier, but Nebraska just signed a new basketball coach, Doc Sadler, formerly of UTEP, where he had a 48-18 record over 2 years. Sadler met with fans in Lincoln and Omaha this week, and has achieved something former coach Barry Collier may never had: a discernable buzz about Husker hoops. Sadler indicated that he intends to run and gun and play defense "baseline to baseline" which certainly makes him a different breed than Collier's "go it slow" approach.

Unfortunately, it appears that center Aleks Maric is not returning to the U, a huge loss as he was the only center on the squad. Maric intends to either transfer or play pro in Europe. Maric had originally intended to stay despite the departure of Scott Spinelli, the man who recruited him, to Wichita State, but with Collier's return to his alma mater Butler as athletic director, Maric changed his mind. No word yet on whether or not Sadler intends on bringing in new assistants, but one would think so.

NE Senate Race

First debate between the Senate candidates is being held today in Lincoln's Cornhusker Hotel. While not open to the public, there are opportunities to listen in, as follows:

"people will have opportunities to hear the debate on TV, radio or the Internet, including a link to a live broadcast via The World-Herald's Web site
The debate also will air live on NET radio and TV station NET2. Both stations broadcast statewide. A taped broadcast will air at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on NET1."

I would be greatly interested in reading a transcipt if it becomes available.

Iraq Mission

via OWH.

My old unit, the 1/167 CAV, is in the news today. 360 Nebraskans are serving at Camp Anaconda ,the largest logistical base in Iraq, serving as both base and convoy security.

"Although the base is known to soldiers for its amenities, it's also known by an ominous nickname, "Mortaritaville."
Lt. Col. Martin Apprich, commander of the Nebraska Guard's 1st Squadron, 167th Cavalry, reported on his troops and the mission they face during a conference call today from his headquarters at the base 30 miles north of Baghdad.
"We operate in a hazardous environment," Apprich said. "But we honestly believe in what we are doing over here"

The CO says that they are mortared about twice a day, but have only suffered minor injuries in the 5 months they have been in operations there. He also noted that the temp was 117 degrees that day. They are scheduled to be relieved in another 7 months, but are "buoyed" by the support from the home front.

Good luck, fellas, and thanks so much for your duty and sacrifice.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shuttle Mission

Atlantis continues to prep, with a practice countdown today. STS-115 promises to be among the most challenging shuttle missions to date, particluarly with regard to a tight timeline.

"With three planned spacewalks - two of them back-to-back - alongside shuttle heat shield inspections and the deployment of new solar panels outside the ISS, Atlantis' 11-day mission promises to be a challenging one for its astronaut crew. ...NASA managers have called the STS-115 mission the most challenging to date for the shuttle program, though subsequent flights are expected to only increase in complexity."

Atlantis will deliver a 17 ton segment to the space station, along with a new set of solar arrays to provide power to the ISS. Liftoff is scheduled for Aug. 27.

Day By Day

Added Chris Muir's cartoon strip, Day By Day, underneath the links. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Greg Gutfeld

Greg has a hilarious post on what the left fears. To sum it up, everything.

among my favorites:

"Fear of all forms of energy except for the ones that don't work"
"Fear of all country singers except for the ones that hate Bush"
"Fear of free speech when it mocks your beliefs.
Fear of free speech when it speaks back to you.
Fear of free speech when it comes from Christians.
Fear of free speech when it comes from me.
Fear that your definition of free speech - that only you get to be heard-- won't fly with us Wal-mart shoppers."
"Fear of school vouchers. Fear that school vouchers will enable poor minority children to attend your children's private schools"


"Fear that you hate the right for the same reason you hate your dad because you know that he is right and that you are a loser and you will always be a loser and that you are sabotaging your life and those of everyone around you because that makes you that angry."

the man is 'effin talented, to be sure. He just nails it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Space News

ISS crew made a spacewalk today to replace broken equipment in preparation for the next two shuttle missions dedicated to adding on to the station. Atlantis heads to the ISS sometime between Aug 27 and Sept 7 to delver solar arrays, and Discovery will head there in December as well. NASA plans at least 16 missions to the ISS before the shuttle fleet retires in 2010.

Club for Growth Ratings

CFG has released its 2005 Congressional Scorecard, rating the members of Congress on their support of pro-growth economic policies.

" a comprehensive examination of each lawmaker's record on pro-growth policies and computed an Economic Growth Score on a scale of 0 to 100. A score of 100 indicates the highest support for pro-growth policies."

The Nebraska and Iowa delegations don't score all that well. For the Senators, Chuck Hagel, despite the crazy foreign-policy rhetoric, scores an impressive 99 and was ranked #4 among US Senators (3 Senators tied with a perfect 100, so he is effectively 2nd). Ben Nelson scored a 35, while Iowa had Chuck Grassley score an 84 and Tom Harkin scored a perfectly dismal 0, tied for last place.

Among the Congressmen, Lee Terry (NE-2) scored a not so bad 78 and ranked #62, with Fortenberry and Osbourne both at an uninspiring 53. Not terribly impressive, but Iowa's was even worse, Boswell had an 11, Leach a 21, Latham was at 48, and Nussle a 55. Only Steve King had a good score, with a 93, putting him in the top 25 of all members.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Castro ill

From the AP via OWH.

Castro apparently will undergo surgery and has "temporarily" handed over the Presidency of Cuba to Defense Minister and brother Raul, age 75.

"Castro said he would also temporarily delegate his duties as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba to Raul, who turned 75 in June and who has been taking on a more public profile in recent weeks."

Of course, there is celebration in Miami, where Cuban expatriates hope for the dictator's death.

"The announcement drew cheering crowds in the streets in Miami. People waved Cuban flags on Little Havana's Calle Ocho, shouting "Cuba, Cuba, Cuba," hoping that the end is near for the man most of them consider to be a ruthless dictator. Many of them fled the communist island or have parents and grandparents who did."

One can only hope this thug finally expires. The fact that he is the longest ruling dictator on the planet only underscores this.



There may be an extra-solar planet in the habitable zone of the star 55 Cancri, 41 light-years from Earth. Computer modeling suggests it may be quite likely.

From the article:

"Our models show a habitable planet, a planet with mass, temperature and water content similar to Earth's, could have formed," said Rory Barnes, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona.

Barnes and colleagues ran several simulations of varying scenarios around four stars, each known to have at least two giant planets. They put moon-sized planetary embryos into the systems during their youth and allowed them to evolve for 100 million years."

I really should have considered U of Az when looking at colleges back in the day. Not only do thye have a lot of attractive women down there, they have extra-geeky space science labs. I'd be a perfect fit. Too bad we don't have a near-FTL capability are we could go find out whether or not it's the Klingon homeworld or the Vulcan one. Still really interesting news -- if even 5 % of stars with giant planets have a terrestial size planet, the galaxy could be chock-full of interesting living stuff, even critters and possibly Andorians. May have to go plug in some new Drake Equation numbers if I get a chance today.