Friday, December 21, 2007

Animal House Quote for the Weekend

Boon: Where are you going? We just got here.
Katy: No, Boon, you just got here. I've been downstairs for an hour entertaining some kid from Pig's Knuckle, Arkansas.
Boon: Umm - maybe we could drive up to your folks' place this weekend.
Katy: Oh, fabulous. My car filled with your beer buddies going up to empty my parents' liquor cabinet. It's too depressing to think about.
Boon: No! Just gonna be you and me. And Otter and another girl.
Katy: Is this really what you're gonna do for the rest of your life?
Boon: What do you mean?
Katy: I mean hanging around with a bunch of animals getting drunk every weekend.
Boon: No! After I graduate, I'm gonna get drunk every night.

Geologic Impact to Early Human Evolution

Another interesting article from Livescience, this time regarding early human evolution. Geology may have been an important and overlooked factor in the development of humanity.

"It's fairly well-established that changing climate, and thus vegetation, in East Africa spurred human evolution, but there has been no agreement about what exactly caused that change, said Royhan Gani. He thinks the riddle's answer is in rocks, and how big slabs of it move — altering continents and building mountains — by a process called tectonics."

Gani believes that the tectonic uplift process that occured (and is still) in Eastern Africa 3-6 million years ago, which has caused the land in the region to dramatically elevate over this period, contributed to human development by drying up the tropical and subtropical rain forest and changing the biome to a drier savanna type environment.

This in turn forced early primate species out of the forests and out onto grasslands which sped the development of bipedalism. Around 4.1 million years ago, the early human ancestor Australopithecus anamensis, one of the first bipedal primates, developed - in almost exactly the same region and time period where the forest was thinning into savanna.

Animal House Quote of the Day

Flounder: I can't believe I threw up in front of Dean Wormer.
Boon: Face it, Kent. You threw up *on* Dean Wormer.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Theory on Solar System Formation

Well overdue for a little science, this time from Livescience.

A new theory of the solar system's formation has been proposed that helps explain some interesting issues regarding our system's gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Current theories of stellar evolution can't explain how these gas giant planets formed so far away from our sun - if they formed in their current positions, it would have taken longer for them to form than the age of our solar system.

The new theory proposed that the larger planets formed nearer the Sun and migrated outward debuted in 2005, but had some mathematical modelling problems that have now been addressed by Arizona State astrophysicist Steven Desch. His new idea is that these larger planets not only formed closer to the Sun than they are today and migrated outward into their present orbits over millions of years, but that Uranus and Neptune actually swapped spots in the solar planetary order in the process!

"The solar system is 4.6 billion years old. The formation of rocky planets, from collisions between ever-larger objects, is a fairly rock-solid theory. But how the outer giants developed remains an open question.

"Models predicted [Jupiter] would take many millions of years for it to form, and billions of years for Uranus and Neptune, but our solar system isn't that old," Desch said. "Having a denser disk of gas bunched up around the sun could explain the two planets' formations, but only if they switched places.""

If Desch's math adds up correctly (and so far no one from peer review has come forward spotting anything) about 650 million years after the formation of our system, Neptune moved outside the orbit of Uranus, making it the most distant main sequence planet (Pluto being recently demoted to "dwarf" planet status). All of our system's planets are thought to have formed in a relatively quick period of time, roughly about 10 million years. Up to this point, no one has had a very satisfactory explanation on how this happened.

Pretty interesting stuff. Hate to think about the math involved in orbital modelling, makes my head hurt to even contemplate it.

Animal House Quote of the Day

[None of his literature students are paying attention]
Jennings: Don't write this down, but I find Milton probably as boring as you find Milton. Mrs. Milton found him boring too. He's a little bit long-winded, he doesn't translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible.

[Bell rings, students rise to leave]
Jennings: But that doesn't relieve you of your responsibility for this material. Now I'm waiting for reports from some of you... Listen, I'm not joking. This is my job!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Animal House Quote of the Day

[the Deltas have been expelled]
Bluto: Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the f***ing Peace Corps.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pelini Names Assistants, Roles

via HuskerExtra, New Husker HC Bo Pelini offically named all but one member of his staff yesterday. As expected, the only holdovers from the Callahan regime were OC Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore, who will be receivers coach, recruiting coordinator and also have the title of Assistant Head Coach. Former Husker (and ISU) OC Barney Cotton will be O-line coach and associate head coach, while former Husker receivers coach Ron Brown will coach the tight ends. The new running backs coach is the only member of the new staff not named, although the decision has been made.

"“Barney will assist me in a number of key administrative duties within our program,” Pelini said, adding that Gilmore will “play a key role in the overall direction of our program.”

Pelini said Gilmore was on his radar even before he became a candidate for Nebraska’s head coaching job. “And since I’ve been here, he’s only exceeded expectations,” Pelini said.

Not made known is who will coach the running backs. Pelini has already hired someone for the position, but said he will name the individual in early January, after that coach has finished working with his current team in a bowl game.

Pelini said the running backs coach could also carry the label of special teams coach, but said that special teams is “something we’ll split up as a staff and all handle, everybody but the offensive coordinator.”"

Th defensive staff will also see a good mix of familiar faces and some new blood, as
Bo's brother Carl, defensive ends coach for Frank Solich in 2003, returns to coach the line and serve as coordinator, and Marvin Sanders will handle the secondary and (most likely) co-coordinator. The new blood comes in the form of two LSU staff members getting their first chance as full time assistants. Blair native Mike Ekler (formerly an LSU assistant strength coach) will be coaching the linebackers and LSU intern John Papukis will coach defensive ends.

Pelini was quoted as saying the staff shaped up exactly as he intended, getting all the coaches he was targeting, and that he will call the defensive plays but that all the defensive coaches will have equal input.

Article concludes with a short bio of each coach, well worth the read. Personally, I'm liking the way things have fallen into place. It will be interesting to see who lands the open RB coach spot, as it was hinted they may also coach special teams, which was often an issue during the previous regime. The job now is to land a recruiting class and get the players through winter conditioning, then it will be time for the spring game. Whoo-hoo! Can't wait.

Animal House Quote of the Day

Dean Vernon Wormer: Mr. Kroger: two C's, two D's and an F. That's a 1.2 grade average. Congratulations, Kroger. You're at the top of the Delta pledge class. Mr. Dorfman?
Flounder: Hello!
Dean Vernon Wormer: Zero point two... Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Mr. Hoover, president of Delta house? One point six; four C's and an F. A fine example you set! Daniel Simpson Day... HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete. Mr. Blu - MR. BLUTARSKY... ZERO POINT ZERO.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Animal House Quote for the Weekend

Bluto: Kroger, your Delta Tau Chi name is Pinto.
Pinto: Why "Pinto"?
Bluto: [belches] Why not?

Animal House Quote of the Day

Dean Vernon Wormer: Greg, what is the worst fraternity on this campus?
Greg Marmalard: Well that would be hard to say, sir. They're each outstanding in their own way.
Dean Vernon Wormer: Cut the horseshit, son. I've got their disciplinary files right here.
Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the swim meet?
Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner?
Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode.
Greg Marmalard: You're talking about Delta, sir.
Dean Vernon Wormer: Of course I'm talking about Delta, you TWERP!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Upcoming Anniversary of the Great White Fleet

Auston Bay reminds us over at Townhall about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the sailing of Teddy Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet". On December 16, 1907 sixteen white painted US battleships slipped their moorings from Norfolk, VA (still HQ of the US Atlantic Fleet) to set sail on a round the globe journey, returning on Feb. 22nd, 1909.

The sailing of such a number of capital ships was the one of the first fleet exercises in global logistics, and gave the US Navy powerful ammunition in future Congressional appropriations for supply and logistical assets to support the fleet in far flung corners of the globe. The fleet's voyage exposed the weakness of using private contractors for such logistical support, for while the peacetime voyage was ably supported, it proved doubtful that such private supply vessels would be willing to refuel and/or rearm the Navy in a combat zone.

For more information on the fleet's voyage go here.

Sensor Glitch Still has Shuttle Grounded

via MSWNBC, that faulty fuel sensor on Atlantis has postponed the next launch at least until Jan. 2nd. They will start loading fuel as a test of the system on Tuesday.

"the trouble could be anywhere in the 100 feet (30 meters) of wiring between the four gauges at the bottom of the fuel tank and the shuttle itself, in any of the connectors or even in the sensors themselves. A diagnostic tool known as a time-domain reflectometer will be used to track down exactly where a break in the circuitry might be located.

At the same time, engineers will conduct other tests, mostly in laboratories, to try to figure out what is causing the gauges in Atlantis’ tank to malfunction every time they’re exposed to the super-cold liquid hydrogen that fuels the shuttle."

The recalcitrant sensor has been an ongoing issue for the space agency since the Columbia tragedy. While launches have been made in the past with only three of the four sensors warking properly, NASA decided that all four must be in operation for this launch - although there is some consideration to moving back to the old rules if they cannot track down the problem.

Animal House Quote of the Day

Hoover: We're in trouble. I just checked with the guys at the Jewish house and they said that every one of our answers on the Psych test was wrong.
Boon: Every one?
[looks at Bluto and D-Day]
Boon: Those assholes must have stolen the wrong fucking exam!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Larry on the Economy

via NRO, Larry Kudlow excplains just how well the economy is doing. He also explained this from a broader perspective last week at his place.

In short, we've experienced some of the best economic times in the history of the planet. We're six years into a fantastic boom here in the US. The current expansion is in its 74th month, but the post WW2 average expansion lasted only 57 months. We're basically still at full employment, with unemployment an insignificant 4.7%, with 94,000 jobs added last month, and the household survey showing an even more impressive 696,000 jobs. Wages are up 3.8%, and total compensation is up 3.3%. And as Larry said, wait, there's more.

"U.S. productivity surged 6.3 percent in the third quarter, its best pace in four years. A big rise in output per person is good for profits, growth, and low inflation. Business inflation has come down from 3.5 percent a year ago to 1.5 percent today. U.S. household net worth just scored a new record high of $58.6 trillion, with financial asset gains outpacing the drop in real estate values.

According to Prof. Perry, household wealth has increased 43 percent in just the past five years, despite $100 oil, $3 gas, and the sub-prime infection. The stock market, which is probably the best leading indicator of the future economy, appears just as resilient. Despite these same challenges, it is overcoming a brief correction and looks set to rise by roughly 10 percent this year."

He also points out that due to the recent Fed actions to cut interest rates, mortgage refinancings surged 70% last month, and Treasury Secretary Paulson has put together a plan to move cash strapped homeowners into FHA financed refis to mitigate the subprime market meltdown. Larry believes another half point Fed rate cut would also really help give the overall economy another shot in the arm and also ease any pressure on those with adjustable rate loans as well.

His earlier post on his was a broader historical perspective, calling the last 25 years a period of where "Prosperity has become the rule, not the exception". He notes three reasons for this: the rise of global capitalism to nations formerly running a socialist state planning economic model such as China, India and the nations of the fromer Soviet bloc; the spread of the lower tax rate model espoused by prominent economists such as Milton Friedman; and the focus of central bankers worldwide in fighting inflation, which is not a trade-off for full employment, as thought thirty years ago - the present situation certainly proves that point.

Animal House Quote of the Day

Dean Vernon Wormer: The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Animal House Quote of the Day

Hoover: Kent is a legacy, Otter. His brother was a '59, Fred Dorfman.
Flounder: He said legacies usually get asked to pledge automatically.
Otter: Oh, well, usually. Unless the pledge in question turns out to be a real closet-case.
Otter, Boon: Like Fred.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Animal House Quote of the Day

(Boon tees off and slices, breaking a window in the cafeteria, with the ball ending up in a pot on the stove.)
Boon: I gotta work on my game.
Otter: No, no, no, don't think of it as work. The whole point is just to enjoy yourself.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More on Husker Coaching Staff

via HuskerExtra, more on the possible new staff. Definites are Carl Pellini, Marvin Sanders, Ron Brown, and Barney Cotton, along with Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore. Randy Jordan is still a possibility. New announcements are John Papuchis and Mike Ekeler from the LSU staff. Gilmore and Pelini were in California recruiting, AD Tom Osborne was in Iowa, and I thought I saw something about Watson being in Texas. Pelini and Osborne spent time tlaking to local high school recruits earlier in the week as well.

Ekeler is a Nebraska native of Blair, my hometown, and I know him slightly, as he was a freshman there the year I graduated. Ekeler played linebacker at Kansas State and has been an serving as an assistant strength coach for the Tigers. He appaarently met Pelini while both were at Oklahoma in 2004.

Mall shooting

I've had several talks with family over the last two days - my cousin had intended to go X-mas shopping at the mall today with a friend. Obviously, that's not going to happen - the mall is closed until tomorrow I believe.

Even more disturbing, I just received a call from my mother. A family friend who I've known for years is a Von Maur employee and witnessed the shootings. Obviously, this changes nothing about the situation but my own perception of the tragedy, but the fact that a woman I know personally, in fact know her entire family - husband and son - could very well have been a victim herself is gut-wrenching. She had close personal friendships with three of the victims, and of course probably knew all of the employee victims.

Far, far too close to home.

Shuttle Launch Delayed

via LiveScience, a faulty fuel sensor has delayed the launch of shuttle Atlantis from its scheduled launch today.

"Faulty readings in two of four hydrogen fuel gauge sensors prevented Atlantis from launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center here at 4:31 p.m. EST (2131 GMT). NASA flight rules call for three operational sensors in order to launch."

"Per our launch criteria we scrubbed the launch attempt," said NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel, adding that mission managers called off the launch at 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT). "We'll try again tomorrow."

The STS-122 mission is expected to launch tomorrow to deliver the European Columbus laboratory moduleto the International Space Station.

More on Shooter

MSNBC has a good roundup on the events yesterday, and a profile of the shooter, a 19 year old man with a troubled past - a high school dropout with drug and/or alcohol problems leading to legal issues. He had apparently broken up with a girlfriend a couple of weeks ago and lost his job at a local MacDonald's this week. People that knew him described him as troubled but not violent.



No daily humor today, I'm just not in the mood.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

KETV Report on Westroads Shooting

"Omaha police said nine people were dead, including the alleged shooter, after shots were fired inside the Von Maur store at Westroads Mall on Wednesday afternoon.

Fourteen more were injured, two critically, police said.

Sgt. Teresa Negron said there are nine fatalities. She said officers found the suspected shooter dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Negron could not describe the shooter, but said he was a male. Negron said most of the victims were inside Von Maur."

Unbelievable tragedy. Thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims, as well as my hopes for a speedy recovery to those injured. Hard to believe it could happen here in Omaha, particularly so close to my own home (I live less than a mile from the scene, but was still at work at the time). Every available police officer in the city was sent with the first arriving on the scene in under six minutes from the first report, but as with any such event, they arrived far to late to stop and apprehend the shooter before they ended their own life.

Terrible, terrible day here in the Heartland.

Shooting at Westroads Mall

There's been a shooting at Omaha's Westroads Mall, apparently up to five people may be injured.

"A description of the shooter, broadcast over scanners, was that he was in an Army-green vest and was holding a rifle."

Big Red Round-Up: New Regime Edition

Husker Bloggers are asking questions. I thought I’d answer them.

(Still waiting to be invited to a permanent seat at the adult’s table, but then, this isn’t exclusively a Husker blog, or even a sports blog, so maybe I’m disqualified – but I digress).

The 2007 season finished with a disappointing 5-7 record. Very few people expected this. What went wrong?

Coing off a Big 12 North division title and a bowl game and a respectable 9-5 record from 2006, Husker fans expected a return to the nation’s elite, with the coming out party to happen on the September 15th USC game in Lincoln. Instead we got pummeled, 49-31, with the Trojans carving up the Blackshirt defense like a stuffed turkey. And an epic journey of historically bad proportions took place for the defensive unit over the course of the rest of the season, with the team allowing school records for yards allowed, points, and you name it. While the offense put up respectable numbers, Kevin Cosgrove did not have either the capablility or the motivational skills to inspire the defense to put together a better performance.


Bo Pelini takes over as head coach. Good move or bad?

Outstanding move, the up and coming defensive coordinator was my choice to take over the program four years ago when Bill Callahan was selected instead. The way the defense, and indeed the entire team, responded to him for the bowl game after the firing of Frank Solich was nothing short of spectacular. The issues with the defense from last year should be resolved in relatively short order as I am a firm beliver that there is a lot of talent on that side of the ball that was not revealed last season.

I also have a really bad sandwhich shop idea and even have a great T-shirt marketing idea sure to win over fans and promote unity in Lincoln and throughout the region.

Pelini’s Paninis – Offensively Affordable, Yet Defensively Tasty

Yes, you heard it here first, remember that!

Nebraska fans were divided after the last coaching change. Do you see fans finally uniting?

While there will likely be a few wait and see holdouts, Pelini was the overwhelming favorite of the fan base for the job, even ahead of favorite son Turner Gill. Given last year’s issues, as long as the team comes out and plays competitively with more intensity than they showed a year ago, the recently oft fractured Nation will reunite.



How would you like to see Bo Pelini fill out his coaching staff? Anybody or anything in particular you are looking to see?

I think we are seeing what I wanted and expected, which is a combination of old Husker coaches from the last Solich staff, particularly from the defensive side of the ball such as Marvin Sanders, and the retainment of some of new regime Callahan offensive staff such as Shawn Watson, who provide both continuity and hopefully a more balanced run-pass approach to the play calling. Barney Cotton, Carl Pelini, Jimmy Williams, and Ron Brown (already offically signed) are likely returnees, and it appears likely that Ted Gilmore and perhaps Randy Jordan will be retained as well as Watson.

I also expect a couple of surprises, Bo could go raiding from Les Miles' LSU staff as well after the Tigers finish their season against Ohio State in the National Championship game.

I still hold out hope to steal Tom Rathman from the Raiders, but don't see it happening realistically.

What do you think the expectations are for Bo Pelini? Do you think he needs to win x amount or do x by a certain date?

I think the first expectation is that the defense will improve markedly enough to make us competitive in almost every game, although I do not expect to see an immediate dominance on that side of the ball. I also expect to see an offense that can do it all – a balanced run and pass philosophy that can move the ball well utilizing different methods depending on the opponent. I’d expect at least a break-even record in year one (hopefully a winning record) and a bowl game, with a North division title in the not too distant future. We have eight home games, including the first five, next season, which should greatly aid the staff in gaining momentum and turning this thing around. Get off to a good start and who knows what could happen, the Kool-Aid could get pretty tasty.

Husker Mike's take is here, and he thoughtfully provides links to the other Local Yokels expressing their opinions at the bottom of his post.

Animal House Quote of the Day

[Dean Wormer's plotting to get rid of Delta House]
Greg Marmalard: But Delta's already on probation.
Dean Vernon Wormer: They are? Well, as of this moment, they're on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Husker Coaching Staff

via HuskerExtra, former Husker receiver coach Ron Brown has been hired by Head Coach Bo Pelini (I love writing that) to coach tight ends for the new staff. He had been serving as the Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for the state of Nebraska. Brown spent 17 years as a Husker assistant to Coaches Osborne and Solich before being dismissed by the Callahan regime. Brown stated that Pelini had made a promise in a conversation in 2004 when both were Husker assistants to hire Brown should Pelini ever become a head coach.

Speculation on further assistants is rampant.

Names being mentioned on offense are former Husker player, offensive coordinator and former ISU OC Barney Cotton as offensive line coach, and retaining Callahan assistants Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore in their current positions as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator. There is also some speculation Callahan running back coach Randy Jordan might be retained.

Defensively, things could get pretty interesting. No holdovers are expected on this side of the ball.

Possibilities include former Husker QB, NFL safety and current Northern Iowa LB coach Scott Frost at defensive back coach, former Husker defensive ends coach and current Ohio University defensive line coach Carl Pelini (Bo's brother) at defensive line, former Husker safety, defensive back coach, and former North Carolina defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders as defensive coordinator, former Husker all-Amercian DE, linebacker coach, NFL LB and current Buffalo defensive coordinator Jimmy Williams as linebacker coach, and current LSU special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto at that position.

Gotta like the number of former Huskers being mentioned for spots on the staff. Cotton, Sanders and Brown have not been coaching this last season. I still wish we could land Tom Rathman, but he's tied up in the NFL right now with the Raiders. Time will tell.

Animal House Quote of the Day

Otter: Flounder, I am appointing you pledge representative to the social committee.
Flounder: Gee Otter, thanks. What do I have to do?
Otter: It means you have to drive us to the Food King.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Animal House Quote of the Day

I've exhausted the Fletch quotes, so we move on to ANIMAL HOUSE quotes. Enjoy!

[Watching Flounder take abuse at ROTC]
Otter: He can't do that do that to our pledges.
Boon: Only we can do that to our pledges.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The BO has Landed

via HuskerExtra and OWH, Bo Pellini has landed in Lincoln and has met shortly ago with the Husker players with an announcment that he will be Nebraska's next head coach expected at 4 pm today.

Oustanding news. Former Husker assistants Marvin Sanders and Ron Brown may be a part of the staff, as well as current Husker OC Shawn Watson. Pelini told the LSU players yesterday before the SEC Championship game that he was leaning toward taking the Husker head position, referring to it as a "dream job". The Tigers defeated Tennessee 21-14 yesterday and have apparently risen to #2 in the BCS to take on Ohio State for the National Cahmpionship.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fletch Quote for the Weekend

Detective #2: Got a gun, creep?
Fletch: Shamu's got one, borrow his.
Detective #2: [searching Fletch] What have we here?
Fletch: That's my dick.

Breakthrough in Heavy Oil Recovery

via ScienceDaily, the story of a fantastic new method of recovering previously difficult (and expensive) to extract heavy oil deposits. This new method, developed in Britain, has been in the works for almost 17 years, with the necessary breakthroughs occuring just in the last 18 months. Called THAI (Toe to Heel Air Injection), it utilizes the injection of air into the ground and then igniting it, heating the material and allowing the oil to be recovered more easily. The method not only uses less energy than previous methods using natural gas and water, it also expands the percentage of oil recoverable from the field.

"THAI™ uses a system where air is injected into the oil deposit down a vertical well and is ignited. The heat generated in the reservoir reduces the viscosity of the heavy oil, allowing it to drain into a second, horizontal well from where it rises to the surface. THAI™ is very efficient, recovering about 70 to 80 per cent of the oil, compared to only 10 to 40 per cent using other technologies."

The exciting prospect behind this is that there is far more of this more difficult to extract oil in areas such as Canada than there is of the usual "light" oil in the entire Arabian penninsula. The process is already being used in a Canadian test site on bitumen deposits (even harder to produce from than oil shale or tar sands) is producing 3,000 barrels a day, and this is expected to more than triple in capacity soon, with the potential to grow as high as 100,000 barrels daily. The bitumen at this particular site alone holds as many as 2.6 billion barrels of oil. The other amazing item is that the THAI system is economical at prices as low as $10 a barrel.

With oil prices currently almost $100 a barrel, and these deposits available in more politically stable locations, this new extraction method promises to help us bridge the gap until better energy alternatives (like hydrogen) become available.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Mr. Stanwyk's parents Marvin and Velma of Provo, were unable to attend the wedding. Those are
three names I enjoy; Marvin, Velma, and Provo.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Husker Reaction, Thoughts on Season

Well now I've gone and done it - I decided to look into the Husker season statistics. The defense, as has been noted by everyone, was (ahem) historically atrocious - yards and points allowed, most first downs allowed, fewest sacks and turnovers, you name it, it stunk. One has to wonder how the season would have gone had the defense been even average.

However, the offensive numbers were pretty darn good, so the new coaching staff will have some things to work with assuming they can keep the kids in school and out of troubles off the field. So let's review a bit.

Sam Keller is obviously gone with his 2400 yards and 14 TDs (with 10 INTs) on a 63% completion percentage, but we return new cult hero QB Joe Ganz, he of the school records for passing and total yardage and passing TDs in a game. Joe went over 1400 yards and 16 TDs on 58 percent passing and 7 picks. I'm thinking as long as the new coach has any passing game credentials, he can use the very mobile Ganz in a variety of ways, including the spread.

The running game was often ignored over the course of the season due to the defensive struggles, but junior Marlon Lucky went for over 1,000 yards on the ground with 9 TDs and averaged almost 5 yards a tote. Freshman Quentin Castille and Roy Helu both averaged over 4.5 yards a pop as well, and Castille had 4 TDs. The intriguing part is Joe Ganz went for 4.7 yards a carry and had 3 TDs running as well. I'd also note that the "missing" in action Cody Glenn also returns, as well as the redshirted Marcus Mendoza, so the stable is pretty full. I'd also note none of the players listed as FB got a single rushing attempt all season long, although they were involved in the passing game to a small degree. FB Thomas Lawson had 3 receptions, all for TDs.

In the receiving game, we lose the very talented Mo Purify, who led the team in receiving yardage with 814 on 57 receptions and had 9 scores, as well as Terrence Nunn (35 catches for 452 yards and one score) and Franz Hardy (15 for 305 and 3, along with a nifty 20 yard per catch average). However, the third and fifth leading recievers, Nate Swift (36-520-3, 14 yd average) and Todd Peterson (18-359-5, almost 20 per catch), both return, along with the leading receiving TE, Sean Hill (18-288-3 16 yd average). Lucky was also the team leader in receptions with 75 for 705 and 3 scores. Of the underclassmen, Menelick Holt had a 24 yd per catch average, and frosh Niles Paul, as well as TE Mike McNeill are likely to get into the receiving rotation next season.

Assuming the new staff can get the D straightened out to any extent, what I'd like to see is a little more balance in the offensive attack, possibly utilizing Ganz's running skills and getting the bigger backs (Glenn and Castille) to chip in a few more carries when appropriate as Lucky had just under half the total carries last year. It would also be nice to get Helu some additional experience as we did this year and to see what Mendoza can do, perhaps in the return game. Hopefully Holt can step into Purify's shoes as the big passing target (he's 6'4) and the young wideouts will get some experience and we can firm up the number 2 QB spot (Witt? Lee? Davis?)so the cupboard isn't bare for 2009. With 8 home games next year, including the first 5, I'd like to think a winning record and a bowl game aren't out of the question - 7-5 or 8-4? Anything more after this season would almost be too much to think about.

BEA Releases Q3 GDP

Bureau of Economic Research released revised Q3 GDP numbers this morning, and they are SMOKING - as Larry Kudlow, says, it's a Goldilocks economy, not that you'll ever see the mainstream media ever admit it.

"Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter of 2007, according to preliminary estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter,real GDP increased 3.8 percent. The GDP estimates released today are based on more complete source data than were available for the advance estimates issued last month. In the advance estimates, the increase in real GDP was 3.9percent (see "Revisions" on page 3)."

Fantastic numbers, best in several years if they hold up through the future revisions (the BEA periodically goes over the numbers as additional data is compiled and revisions often happen years down the road, but the quarterly numbers are a very good indicator of how the economy is doing overall).

Fletch Quote of the Day

[Fletch is driving in the car with the Teenager]
Fletch: I always use a little chewing gum on these rides. It filters out the pollutants.
Teenager: [Fletch swerves to avoid another car] Oh shit!
Fletch: Of course you've got some good grillwork there to keep out the ozone. I gotta get this thing up
to 95, uh, check out the fluorocarbon output.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fred's Tax Reform Plan

The Wall Street Journal examines Fred's tax reform plan announced Sunday on Fox, which is simply outstanding.

Fred's plan is to:

Eliminate the Alternative Minimum tax and the Estate tax.

Lower the Corporate tax rates to no higher than 27% from the current 35%.

Make the Bush tax cuts permanent, permanently extend small business expensing
and update and simplify depreciation schedules.

All this and here's the kicker -

As well as introduce the option for taxpayers to pay their taxes at a flat rate of either 10% (for single earners earning under $50,000, or $100,000 for a couple) or 25% for those earning more than those figures, while eliminating most deductions, or stay with the current system. Some 20 mostly European nations have Flat Tax rates of between 13 and 25 percent. TOUCHDOWN!

"Mr. Thompson's plan is based on one introduced by GOP Representatives Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling that is in any case not designed to lose revenue. It is intended to allow federal receipts to grow at the rate of the economy, which would leave them at some 18% or 19% of GDP--roughly their average of recent decades. When critics object to revenue losses, they are really saying that the tax share of GDP should be allowed to rise to 20% and higher, which is where we are headed if the Bush tax rates expire."

The Club for Growth's Pat Toomey had this to say:

“While other candidates have adopted pieces of this plan, Thompson goes a step further by offering a specific corporate tax reduction and offering taxpayers the option of a simple tax plan,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “His plan is based on the fundamental fact that lower rates and simpler rules across the board promote economic freedom and enhance economic growth. This is the kind of plan economic conservatives can rally around.”

I'm really looking forward to the results of the Republican debate tonight.

So far Fred has announced an immigration reform plan, this new tax reform plan, Social Security reform, has a plan to expand the military and fight the global war on Islamic fundamentalism, come out strongly for an individual interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, and denounced government run healthcare, among other critical issues.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: (singing)Strangers in the night, exchanging clothing, strangers in my pants...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

[Fletch has just been incarcerated by the chief of police]
Fletch: Can't keep me here, chief.
Chief Karlin: Maybe I'm not going to keep you in here. Maybe I'm going to blow your brains out.
Fletch: Well, now, I'm no lawyer, but I do believe that's a violation of my rights.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Peak Oil" Myth Debunked Again

via Canadian (?) Globe and Mail, a very illustrative article reporting on a US government report again debunking the "Peak Oil" myth that the world is running out of petroleum. (HT: McQ of QandO fame) The real facts are that there is more oil left in the ground in North America than we've removed in all the years of pumping oil out of the ground.

"On the one hand, it says, the country has already consumed, in 150 years, 446 billion barrels of its own fossil-fuel endowment. On the other hand, it says, the country has 8.59 trillion barrels left - or more "oil equivalent" than the rest of the world combined. More than 95 per cent of America's oil reserves, in other words, are still in the ground."

The key here is the word "oil equivalents" - resources like oil shale and tar sands from which black gold can be extracted, albeit at a higher price than sweet light Texas crude. There are 3.5 trillion barrels of such resources in Canada alone, and the US also has a 260 billion ton supply of coal, which can be (and has been since the WW2 - note Nazi Germany) liquified as an unconventional fuel supply economically at world oil prices as low as 40-50 dollars a barrel. The US coal alone could supply the US electricity needs for the next 250 years at the current usage of 1.1 billion tons per year. Who compiled the report, you ask? Your US Congress via the much maligned Energy Act of 2005, that's who.

"Mandated by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, the 11-member Strategic Unconventional Fuels Task Force submitted its final report in September. Its members include the U.S. secretary of energy, the secretary of defence and the governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, who was in Alberta just last week checking out oil sands technology partnerships."

The report indicated that the US could supply over a third of its fuel needs from these unconventional sources by 2035, and the US military could switch its 300+ million barrel a day fuel habit to these sources by as early as 2011. The report indicates the US could save as much as $130 billion a year in import costs by swwitching to these oil alternatives, reducing imports to around 3.65 million barrels a day, one quarter of current levels.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: I saw Alan this morning and you know what I can't figure out?
Gail Stanwyck: Alan's in Utah.
Fletch: I... can't figure out what I was doing in Utah this morning.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Callahan Fired

Rare weekend post due to the happenings at the alma mater.

Just finished watching the press conference where UNL interim AD Tom Osbourne announced that Husker Head FB Coach Bill Callahn has been fired, as expected. Bottom line, two losing seasons out of four just doesn't get it done in this neck of the woods. The nine assistants will continue to work on recruiting and will be under contract through January 2009, with NU making up any difference in pay from their current levels if they wind up taking another job later elsewhere.

Osbourne said he has not talked to anyone about the head position yet, but he has had an unnamed individual or firm approach some coaches to gauge interest in the job if it opened up. The head coach will make all decisions on all current or potential assistants according to Osbourne, but he also said that he would give his opinion if asked about particular individuals that he is familiar with from past experience.

Coaches with Nebraska ties are expected to be among those that might be interested in either the head job or position coaching spots, but the search will not be exclusive to such persons. Osbourne said the most important factor in the search would be finding someone of integrity, and one that knows football and can motivate the players. The Lincoln Journal-Star is reporting that Bo Pelini has been contacted through an Atlanta search firm, but that report could be just another rumor - but I'd certainly welcome Bo back to Lincoln with open arms.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Stanton Boyd: What kind of a name is Poon?
Fletch: Comanche Indian.

Absolutely had to save this one for Turkey Day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fat Sam: I got some reds.
Fletch: You don't mean communists, do you, Sam?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sea Level Rise Led to European Farming

via National Geographic, the theory that the melting of the North Amercian ice sheet at the end of the last Ice Age 8000 years ago may have inadvertently led to the expansion of farming in Europe shortly afterward, as well as the myths generally known today (via the Hebrew Bible) as "Noah's Flood". Rationale? The increase in the ocean levels might have initiated the flooding of the Black Sea basin, which has a substantial amount of evidence of early farming settlements.

"Scientists have speculated for some time that the biblical account of Noah's flood was rooted in a real event thousands of years ago. One theory is that it could have been a flooding of the Black Sea, an inland sea wedged between southeastern Europe and the Anatolian peninsula. Such a flood could have been caused by the melting about 8,000 years ago of a gigantic ice sheet that once covered most of North America. The deluge may have also contributed to an explosion in European agriculture—especially throughout inland regions near the Black Sea, where farms were previously scarce, the researchers found."

Sonar maps show the shoreline of an ancient lake some 100 meters below current water levels of the Black Sea today. Once these low level areas around the Black Sea were flooded, the theory is refugees from the area evacuated to Europe where they spread the agricultural methods and technologies known today as the Neolithic Revolution. The transistion of the Black Sea from freshwater to salt has been narrowed to around 8,300 years ago. The number of archaelogical sites with evidence of farming in southeastern Europe expands greatly in the period from 8,200 to 7,300 years ago, fitting neatly into the the proposed explanantion.

What My Pizza Says About Me


You have a hearty appetite. You are likely to complain if a restaurant has small portions.

You consider pizza to be bread... very good bread. You fit in best in the Midwest part of the US.

You like food that's traditional and well crafted. You aren't impressed with "gourmet" foods.

You are dependable, loyal, and conservative with your choices.

You are cultured and intellectual. You should consider traveling to Vienna.

The stereotype that best fits you is guy or girl next door. Hey, there's nothing wrong with being average.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: I had to keep digging... without a shovel.

Monday, November 19, 2007

US Military and Desertion

The liberal press is at it again - this time claiming that members of the US military are deserting rate has climbed 80% since the start of the Iraq campaign. Alan Fraser at The Americna Thinker pokes holes big enough to drive a tank through the claim.

First the bad news, as reported by AP reporter Lolita Baldur headlined ""Army Desertion Rate Up 80 Pct. Since '03."

"Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003....While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year....Army desertion rates have fluctuated since the Vietnam War - when they peaked at 5 percent."

OK but percentages can be pretty tricky things - if one guy deserts out of 1,000 soldiers, and the next year two do, there you have a 100% increase in desertions!
Another note is that the historical total force has had a substantial fluctuation in numbers over the years. The best objective measure would be to examine the rate of desertions rather than the total numbers.

Fraser explains the historical record, as well as noting that this reporter apparantly doesn't know the difference between desertion and being AWOL - the AP article repeatedly refers to the AWOL rate, which is not the same as the desertion rate. AWOL is simply being absent without permission (with attendent penalities under the UCMJ, but most likely returning to duty at some point), while desertion is the much more serious offense of leaving and never returning to your unit.

Fraser looks at the rate per 1000 people in uniform from Fiscal years 1997-2004 for the Army and Marines and notes that the rate of desertion went from 4.58 per 1000 in 1997 to 9.50 per 1000 Army soldiers in 2001 - before the war in Iraq. The Marine rate peaked in 2000 at 11.66 in 2000. The three years 2000-2002 all had higher Army rates than being reported today, and the 2004 rate was 4.91 per thousand - the second lowest of the period. It is this historically low 2004 number that Baldur(apparently unable to keep fiscal years straight) refers to when claiming her 80% increase. The current Army rate of 7.6 is the same number as the figures given for 2003.

In an even more broad historical context, Fraser notes that WWII desertion rates were far, far higher than those today.

"Desertion during World War II was no less a problem than in previous wars. Desertion rates peaked at 6.3% [that's 63 per 1,000] in 1944, but dropped to 4.5% [45 per 1,000] the following year. During the war, 21,049 soldiers were sentenced for desertion..." Desertion And the American Soldier: 1776-2006, Robert Fantina, Page 116."

As Fraser points out, the rate was also much higher in Vietnam and Korea than it is today, most likely because of the draft. How many members of the current US military have been drafted? Ah, that number would be ZERO - it is an all-volunteer force. The AP report mentions Vietnam only briefly, and the other 20th centruy conflicts not at all.

Again, what we have here is an obviously liberal reporter that can't get even simple facts straight, knows little or nothing about the military or its history and one who has a political agenda slanting their reporting in an attempt to foist a sense of hopelessness and demoralization in the American public and ruin their confidence in the military and their mission.

Fletch Quote of the Day

[after Fletch gets kicked in the crotch]
Gummy: Are you okay?
Fletch: Yeah. I feel like a hundred dollars.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Well, the traffic was murder, you know. One of those manure spreaders jackknifed on the Santa Ana.
Godawful mess. You should see my shoes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Pathologist: Ever seen a spleen that large?
Fletch: No, not since breakfast.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another Hydrogen Article

Another interesting tidbit on a hydrogen economy also at SD - researchers at Penn State have developed a new method of extracting hydrogen from cellulose and other organic materials.

"The researchers used naturally occurring bacteria in a microbial electrolysis cell with acetic acid -- the acid found in vinegar. Acetic acid is also the predominant acid produced by fermentation of glucose or cellulose. The anode was granulated graphite, the cathode was carbon with a platinum catalyst, and they used an off-the-shelf anion exchange membrane. The bacteria consume the acetic acid and release electrons and protons creating up to 0.3 volts. When more than 0.2 volts are added from an outside source, hydrogen gas bubbles up from the liquid."

Water hydrolysis, the most common method of hydrogen production, is only 50 to 70 percent efficient, but this new process is being rated at 144%! The researchers suggest that hydrogen produced from their new method could be added to existing natural gas (methane) supplies to produce a cleaner and more efficient fuel burning energy resource. Couple this breakthrough with the one below, and we could actually see a hydrogen based energy industry finally making an appearance, with all the attendant positive political, environmental and security implications you could hope for the world.

Possible Breakthrough In Hydrogen Tech

via ScienceDaily, the University of Virginia is reporting a novel breakthrough in the materials used in the storage of hydrogen. The new material can store twice as much hydrogen as previously used materials, and store the fuel at room temperature.

“In terms of hydrogen absorption, these materials could prove a world record,” Adam B. Phillips of the University of Virginia said. “Most materials today absorb only 7 to 8 percent of hydrogen by weight, and only at cryogenic [extremely low] temperatures. Our materials absorb hydrogen up to 14 percent by weight at room temperature. By absorbing twice as much hydrogen, the new materials could help make the dream of a hydrogen economy come true.”

The promise of a hyrdogen economy has long proven elusive due to the issues involved in the storage and transportation of the energy source. This new material could have a considerable impact on reformulating the economic dynamics of a hdrogen based energy industry. Huge news.

Against the Gold Standard

Jerry Bowyer at Townhall makes the case against the gold standard, which historically has been used to back national currencies. The problem is that gold is not a reliable indicator of economic growth. Bowyer correctly points out that the price of gold has skyrocketed, but that it is not necessarily an indicator of future inflation and/or economic growth. Here's the historically good part of the Gold Standard.

"Over long periods of time human production of gold had increased at roughly the same pace as human production of everything else. At times when the worldwide economy was growing at about 1%, the worldwide growth of gold reserves was also running at about 1%. This meant that a currency backed by gold would grow and shrink at roughly the same rate as the economy in general. This fact is the basis of what economists call the “Gold Standard”. If the money supply grew at the same pace as the supply of goods and services, then the prices would remain stable."

The issue now is that we've decoupled gold from our currency and instituted a free floating currency, which rises and falls against other currencies in foreign exchange markets. Some politicians (notable Ron Paul) have proposed returning to the Gold Standard. Thus would be an enormous mistake, as there are considerable issues with tying the value of gold to either national currency or the rate of economic growth - sometimes they don't correlate, as in times of major gold discoveries and in times of high economic innovation.

"For example, after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, European conquerors swept through Central America and plundered its gold. The yellow metal flowed back across the Atlantic by the boatload for the entire 16th Century. The explorers had found an extremely efficient way of producing gold—by stealing it. However, the economy of Europe had not been as successful at finding highly efficient ways of producing any other goods and services. Not surprisingly, prices exploded upward, destabilizing both Europe’s prices, and its political systems.

The opposite occurred in the 19th Century. For example, the 1830s were characterized by enormous explosions in wealth generation in the English-speaking world due to the commercial application of railroads. But gold supplies did not expand at the same pace. Goods increased, gold didn’t, and price deflation was the result. In fact, it wasn’t until 1849 and the discovery of gold in California by the now-famous 49ers that this long drought of deflation ended. I could multiply examples, and so could you if you simply went to Google and typed in the words ‘panic of’. You will learn about the panic of 1837, the panic of 1893, and 1907. And of course we all know about the panic of 1929."

Bowyers point is that we are in such an innovative and explosive economic growth phase right now globally, as nations such as China, India, and Eastern Europe (as well as many others) adopt free market economic reforms, adopt new tax regimes, and develop knowledge based industries such as computer programming. The fastest growing secotr of the global economy is based on sand and electrons, which have nothing to do with the price of gold - therefore either basing our currency on gold and/or looking at gold as a future price level indicator is not valid.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: For an extra grand, I'll let you take me out to dinner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Alan Stanwyck: If you reject the proposition, you keep the thousand - and your mouth shut.
Fletch: Does this proposition entail my dressing up as Little Bo Peep?
Alan Stanwyck: It's nothing of a sexual nature, I assure you.
Fletch: Yeah, I assure you.
Alan Stanwyck: One thousand just to listen? I don't see how you can pass that up, Mr...?
Fletch: Nugent. Ted Nugent.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sun's "Twin" Discovered

via Livescience.com, astronomers have discovered a solar "twin" of our own Sun, some 200 light years distant. The star HIP 56948 is located in the Draco constellation in our sky and may be as much as a billion years older than the Sun's 4.6 billion years.
One of the most unique features of our Sun's composition is that it contains a very low level of the element lithium, found in most other stars in far higher concentrations. A spectrostopic analysis of HIP 56948 shows it to have a level of lithium much like that of the Sun.

"The wayward star challenges the idea that our backyard star has a unique composition, as it has a similarly low quantity of the element lithium--a lightweight byproduct of the fusion reactions that power stars...Three other solar twins were previously proposed: 18 Scorpius, HD 98618 and HIP 100963. While similar to the sun in many ways, spectrographic analysis revealed that their lithium contents are dramatically higher. Because of those observations, astronomers wondered if the sun's low amount of lithium was unique. The newfound twin now shows that it isn't."

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: If you shoot me, you're liable to lose a lot of those humanitarian awards.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fletch Quote for the Weekend

Gail Stanwyk: I'm very flattered, but I'm also very married. You are trying to hit on me, aren't you?
Fletch: How did you guess? I'm such a heel. I don't know what came over me.
Gail Stanwyk: If I had a nickel for every one of Alan's flyboy buddies who tried to pick me up, I'd be a rich woman.
Fletch: You are a rich woman.
Gail Stanwyk: See what I mean?

Next Husker FB Coach

A nice run down of the two leading candidates for the soon to be vacated Husker HC job, Mark (Bo) Pelini and Turner Gill at HuskerExtra. While a number of other coaches have been mentioned (Wake's Jim Grobe, Navy's Paul Johnson, & TCU's Gary Patterson are the most notable) these are the two that have everyone in the state the most excited about.

Gill is 6-16 in two seasons at Buffalo, but 4-6 (4-2 in conference) this season with the school's first wins over conference programs like Toledo and Akron, and defeated his former boss Frank Solich with a win against Ohio. Buffalo had been 10-69 over the last seven seasons at Division 1-A. Gill has shown a great deal of offensive flexibility - running elements of the West Coast offense, spread option and power I. He run series with four wideouts and a tailback followed by two tight end sets with a fullback. He would likely bring DC Jimmy Williams and D-Line Coach Toby Williams, both former Huskers, along with him for his staff if hired.

Since leaving NU, Bo Pelini has been DC at Oklahoma (co-DC w/ Brent Venables in 2004)
and LSU (2005 to current), and the teams he's coached have combined for a 51-9 record - including 2004's 10-3 year at NU. His defensive teams have finished no lower than 11th in Total Defense as a coordinator, including this season's #2 ranking. He would likely bring in at least former Husker (and coach) Marvin Sanders, with whom he apparently remains close friends with after the 2004 season at NU, and the article also states he would be interested in three other unnamed individuals with NU ties. Tom Rathman, anyone? He is also said to favor a spread option type attack offensively.

BTW, KMTV's Travis Justice reported yesterday that Bill C has been asked to resign but refused. (HT: Huskerzone)

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Frank, I need to go to Utah.
Frank Walker: Utah?
Fletch: Yeah, Utah. It's wedged in between Wyoming and Nevada. You've seen pictures of it, right?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Why don't we go lay on the bed and I'll fill you in?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

5th Planet Found Around Star

via ScienceDaily, a new record setting 5th planet (the most ever found in a single system outside our own) has been discovered in the 55 Cancri system 41 light years from our own solar system. The exciting element of the discovery is that the new planet, while a gas giant, is in the star's habitable zone where liquid water could exist. The really interesting part is the gap between the four inner worlds and the outer planet - a gap in which another, smaller and possibly rocky terrestrial type world might lie. The researchers indicate anything in this area would have to be smaller than the planet Neptune to have eluded discovery so far.

"the fifth planet is within the star's habitable zone in which water could exist as a liquid. Though the planet is a giant ball of gas, liquid water could exist on the surface of a moon or on other, rocky planets that may yet be found within the zone. "Right now, we are looking at a gap between the 260-day orbit of the new planet and the 14-year orbit of another gas giant, and if you had to bet, you'd bet that there is more orbiting stuff there."

Fischer noted that what occupies this gap has to be another planet around the size of Neptune or smaller, because anything larger would have destabilized the orbits of the other planets. All of the planets around 55 Cancri are in stable, nearly circular obits, like the eight planets in our solar system. Jupiter is located at 5.2 AU from the sun, while Mercury and Venus are closer than 0.72 AU. Earth and Mars are in the gap at 1 AU and 1.5 AU."

The 55 Cancri system's innermost planet, the size of Jupiter, was only the fourth exoplanet discovered when found in 1996, and orbits the star every 14 days. The second planet and third planets were found in 2002, the second discoverd being the outermost (14 year orbit) and four time the size of Jupiter, the third discovered about half the size of Saturn and outside the orbit of the first discovery with a 44 day orbit. The fourth planet discovered in 2004 is around the size of Neptune (14 Earth masses) and the innermost planet in the system, extremely close to the star with an orbital period of only 2.8 days.

The new planet is around half the size of Saturn, or about 45 Earth masses, and orbits the star every 260 days at around .78 astronomical units (the distance of Earth from our Sun). The new planet, along with the previous four planets, was discovered by the "wobble" technique, which analyzes the effect the planets' gravity has on the light form the star. The habitable zone around the star is slightly closer to the star than that of our own system due to the star being slightly older and dimmer than our sun.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Gail Stanwyck: Are you always this forward?
Fletch: Only with wet, married women.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New US African Command

Robert Kaplan explores the strategic possibilities that the recently announced US African military command offers at The Atlantic (HT: RCP)

"Africa Command, or AFRICOM, will consolidate under one bureaucracy what European Command has been doing on most of the continent, what Central Command has been doing in the Horn of Africa, and what Pacific Command has been doing on some Indian Ocean islands.

The hub of U.S. military activity has been Dakar, Senegal, the westernmost point on the African continent, where European imperialists first began moving into the interior in the mid-19th century and creating the structure of weak West African states that the U.S. military is now trying to shore up. Without seeking to conquer or govern anything, the American military is pursuing a strategy of security linkages similar to those of the French 150 years ago."

Small teams of US Special Forces and Marines are scattered throughout the continent, training indigenous forces and conducting humanitarian missions. A number of quiet and efficient operations have been conducted in the war against terror in the area, including the Ethiopian operation that moved against radical Islamists in Somalia.

Strategically, it also allows the US to quietly deploy a counter-weight to Chinese initiatives on the continent, such as their involvement with the dictatorships in the Sudan and Zimbabwe. The US will couple this aid with developmental assistance to allow African nations to hopefully develop into liberal democracies, utilzing military and diplomatic personnel along with non-governmental organizations and civilian relief agencies.

The establishment of this command might be a bigger factor in shaping the future of our planet than anyone ever realizes today.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Gail Stanwyk: I really should change.
Fletch: No! I think you should stay the same wonderful person you are today.
Gail Stanwyk: I mean, put clothes on.

Monday, November 05, 2007

How to Build Space Cufflinks

It appears the patch job on the solar arrays of the ISS was successful. These are the instructions on how to make a set for yourself, you might need a trip to the hardware store for materials. :)

Here's how we got there.

"Discovery's pilot George Zamka along with ISS Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson who were called upon on Thursday to exhibit their inner-MacGyver. Using strips of aluminum, a hole punch, a bolt connector and 66 feet (20 meters) of wire, along with detailed instructions sent by mission control, the duo assembled half a dozen space station-saving cuff link contraptions. If all proceeds as planned, Parazynski, suspended at the end of the boom-arm assembly, will slip the cuff link-like tabs through holes in the array's blanket, enabling it to support the tension exerted when the solar wing is fully extended."

The array was patched Saturday on an extended spacewalk by veteran astronaut Scott Parazenski, full story here.

"Veteran astronaut Scott Parazynski led the unprecedented spacewalk, patching up the solar array at the far end of the unfinished space station.

"What an accomplishment, beautiful," Parazynski said as he watched the freshly repaired array unfurl from his vantage on the end of an extended robotic arm. "It's as taut as a sail. Everything looks completely intact."

The repair appears to be holding and the shuttle is due to land in Florida on Wednesday. The next mission is likely to address the other issue discovered on this flight on October 28th, the one of the metallic grit in the gears that rotate the other set of solar arrays to track the sun. The station is at reduced power until repair or cleaning of the gears is completed. Nebraskan Clayton Anderson returns to Earth after his five month sojurn on the ISS, having conducted three spacewalks in his stay and having filled in his NASA colleagues of all 597 famous Nebraska towns.

Space Elevator

Jack Uldrich at TCS Daily explores the idea of constructing a "space elevator" to quickly and cheaply allow humanity to lift items into low earth orbit. While the idea might appear crazy to most, many, if not all of the technical details have been thought out already, see here and here. Carbon nanotubes have already been created that would support far greater weights than that required for such a system. Popular Science had a recent article on the subject as well, and the primary issues preventing the construction of such a device appear to be mostly political and expense. Up to this point, no one has apparently had the gumption to make the thing at a cost of $12 billion or more.

"In its simplest form, the elevator would consist of a ribbon of super-strong carbon nanotubes be tethered to a large platform located near the equator and attached to a space structure at the other. To get from earth to space a cab would climb the ribbon."

However, it would greatly reduce the cost of lifting a pound into orbit from the current $10-20,000 per pound, down to something like $10 over time, as well as make it quicker and much easier. Uldrich compares our current rocketry system of achieving orbit to carrying bags of flour by horseback. The bigger issue is that 95% of the fuel costs of launching is eaten up just achieving low Earth orbit - the space elevator would solve that and allow us to go anywhere we wanted in the entire system, and one up those pesky Chinese on top of it. $12 billion, while not inconsequential, seems like a small price to pay for the future of space flight.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Waiter: Gracias, señor.
Fletch: Tierra Del Fuego.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fletch Quote for the Weekend

Fletch: Do you mind if I ask you a question?
Gail Stanwyk: Depends on the question.
Fletch: Want some more champagne?
Gail Stanwyk: Yes.
Fletch: Are you still in love with Alan?
Gail Stanwyk: No! I mean, no, you can't ask me that question. Ask me another one.
Fletch: Why'd you let me in?
Gail Stanwyk: Um, because I'm bored.
Fletch: If you're so bored, why didn't you go to Utah with Alan?
Gail Stanwyk: Well, Utah's not exactly a cure for boredom.

Repairs Planned in Orbit

via Space.com, the shuttle astronauts are planning a complicated repair job for the torn solar wing on the International Space Station scheduled for tomorrow. The crew of the ISS have engineered cosmic "cuff links" to button up the tear from supplies on the station.

"Crewmembers scrounged around the orbital laboratory yesterday for supplies, crafting "cuff links" with them that will button up two rips in the solar array wing. Today, mission controllers here at Johnson Space Center (JSC) sent astronauts on another scavenger hunt to find tools for repairing the power-generating blanket."

Two astronauts will make the repairs during the mission's fourth spacewalk. Discovery is scheduled to depart the station on Nov. 5 and to land in Florida on the 7th.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Gail Stanwyck: She looks like a hooker. Look at her. Look at her! Could you love someone who looked like that?
Fletch: What are you talking about? Of course not! Five, ten minutes tops, maybe.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: You know, what tipped it for me was something your wife said while we were in bed together.
Alan Stanwyck: Oh? And what was that?
Fletch: Curiously, she said we had roughly the same build. From the waist up, I imagine.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Yankees Hire Girardi

via ESPN, the Yankees make it official and hire Joe Girardi to replace Joe Torre as manager. Girardi beat out former Yankee 1B Don Mattingly and Coach Tony Pena for the job. Coaches are expected to include former Cubs pitcher Mike Harkey (likely as pitching coach), Pena, Kevin Long and Rob Thompson. Former Yankee OF Paul O'Neil, a good personal friend of Girardi, has expressed interest in a coaching position as well. Torre is widely expected to be offered the job of managing the LA Dodgers, and Mattingly is expected to join him there. Mattingly's son Preston is in the Dodger's farm system.

The biggest issue for Girardi and Yankee GM Brian Cashman is the status of free agents such as RP Mariano Rivera, C Jorge Posada, and SP Andy Pettitte, who has a $16 million player option, but has also contemplated retiring. 3B Alex Rodriguez has exercised his option to explore free agency and is not expected to return to the team.

Fletch Quote of the Day

[to Gail Stanwyck, who answers the door wearing a towel]
Fletch: Can I borrow your towel for a sec? My car just hit a water buffalo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thompson Breaking "the Rules"

Jay Cost at RCP has an interesting take on the Thompson campaign and speculates a bit on Fred's strategy. In a two part article, Cost lays out what he believes is the Thompson campaign strategy, and its strengths and weaknesses. Much of the issue that many pundits have with Fred is that he is more or less ignoring the conventional wisdom on how to conduct his campaign.

"I think that the confusion over the Thompson campaign is that what works about it is very similar to what does not work. So, at first inspection, the lines are blurry - and you can't quite tell if this campaign is genius or disastrous. Upon closer inspection, I think that there are some lines to distinguish - and we can make some sense about this very peculiar presidential campaign."

Cost divides the campaign into two sectors, which he calls the "perpetual" campaign, where the chattering classes, pundits and beltway insiders set the tone and the agenda, and the "real" campaign, where the voters make their decisions. Ths issue is that these insiders believe the perpetual campaign is more important than the real one, whereas it is only a means to get noticed and a spot at the table for when the real deciding is done by the voters.

The issue with the chattering classes (media) have with Thompson is that he isn't playing their game the way they think he ought to - he's ignoring their rules, and running the way he wants to instead.

"In the perpetual campaign - you are supposed to campaign non-stop. You are supposed to remember all of the minutiae of your campaign schedule. You are supposed to know the details of symbolic events that happened over a year ago. You are supposed to know the specifics of local political issues so you can pander to the residents. Those are the rules. Thompson isn't following them."

However, Fred remains a viable candidate - despite what the pundits think. This is possible, in Jay's view because the pundit's rules aren't real rules, but imaginary ones, and that Thompson might just be the kind of trailblazer to challenge these preconcieved notions. It benefits him in two ways.

"First, breaking the rules has earned him notice. This is ironic, as most candidates follow the rules of the perpetual campaign for precisely this reason. They do a lot of stump speeches to get on the evening news. They do the Sunday morning show circuit. They take any opportunity to appear on Hardball that they can get. And so on. But not Thompson. So, is the media ignoring him? Hardly! Instead, his rule breaking has earned him more attention. My favorite example of this so far was Thompson's declaration of his candidacy. The fact that he announced his candidacy on Jay Leno was taken as rule breaking. But consider the net result. Thompson announced on Leno - and got the Leno audience. And then the next day, all the talking heads did was talk about Thompson! Far from being punished, Thompson was rewarded for his defiance.

But much more importantl, I think Thompson has assessed that breaking these rules could win him support. People outside the Beltway, whose daily lives are not regimented by the news cycle, appreciate that the perpetual campaign has reached a point of asininity. Accordingly, a candidate could win supporters over in the real campaign by claiming that he ignored all of these rules, which essentially mandate twenty-two months of nonstop campaigning. This is a twist on running against Washington. It is running against the Washington press corps."

Cost goes on further to say that this appears to be a calculated risk that Thompson is willing to take, particulary running as a Republican, whose base is often suspicious of the media elite anyway. However, he points out that in order to break the rules, you have to be nearly perfect - and some of Fred's appearances haven't been terribly exciting, at least to many observers. If you combine the rule breaking with mistakes, you just might alienate many of those whose support you are seeking, but Cost also states that the campaign is still in its very early stages, that Fred appears to be gaining some traction and momentum, and that the jury is still out.

Nice analysis, and I have to agree with almost all of it.

Origin of Atmospheric Oxygen Discovered

via ScienceDaily, some new evidence has been discovered from the analysis of ancient rocks regarding the origin of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere 500 million years ago. The surprising part is that the oxygen developed extremely quickly by geologic standards - only 2 million years. Tectonic upheavals led to an increase in terrestrial weathering from the sulferous atmosphere at the time, which caused a decrease in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, leading to the then much warmer Earth to cool globally. The carbon levels dropped from as much as 20 times greater than today, trapped in seabed sediments after the weathering process. This oxygen increase in turn led to the evolution of oxygen producing algae spreads in the oceans, further tipping the balance of gasses in the atmospheric blanket towards oxygen.

"Tectonic activity led to increased weathering, which pulled carbon dioxide from the air and cooled the climate. Then, as the oceans cooled to more hospitable temperatures, the plankton prospered -- and in turn created more oxygen through photosynthesis."

This set of conditions persisted for around 50 million years, during which time new plant and animal species flourished, but the cooling trend accelerated with new tectonic events creating the US Applachian mountain range, leading to a severe cooling trend that resulted in a ice age so extensive that it killed off nearly half of all species living on the planet at the time, around 450 million years ago.

Issues on Shuttle Mission

via Space.com -

The shuttle construction mission, already extended by a day due to the discovery of a mysterious black grit that appears suspiciously like metal shavings caked within the gears of a starboard joint, hit yet another snag as the unfurling of one of the stations's solar arrays led to a torn wing!

"But during NASA mission control's unfurling of the relocated array truss segment, the right wing of the 4B solar array crinkled and tore on one edge. The array opposite of 4B, known as 2B, array without incident prior to 4B's unfurling."

No word yet on what the possible consequences of the mishap are, but it can't be good.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Oh, you've remodeled the garage. Must have cost you hundreds.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Theory on American Migration

via ScienceDaily, a new theory has been proposed regarding the migration of Native Americans to the New World based on DNA research conducted by the University of Illinois. The new theory speculates that the Bering "Land Bridge" connecting Siberia and Alaska 30,000 years ago didn't allow the peoples that entered the area to move on into the Americas initially. Rather, they tarried in the area for a period of up to 15,000 years, with some groups actually returning back to Asia, before moving on to populate the empty American continents.

"the ancestors of Native Americans who first left Siberia for greener pastures perhaps as much as 30,000 years ago, came to a standstill on Beringia – a landmass that existed during the last glacial maximum that extended from Northeastern Siberia to Western Alaska, including the Bering land bridge – and they were isolated there long enough – as much as 15,000 years – to maturate and differentiate themselves genetically from their Asian sisters."

623 DNA sequences were examined, including 20 new ones from the Americas and 7 from Asia, and 3 new sub-clades (a group of DNA sequences descended from a common ancestor) were discovered that covers nearly all of the American populations but not found in Asia. This discovery appears to solidify both the archaeological evidence in the Americas (nothing has been found from before 15,000 years ago that can be definitively dated) and the climate evidence showing that the Rocky Mountains were impassible due to glaciation before that time.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Do you have any caviar?
Waiter: Si señor, Beluga, but it is 80 dollars a portion.
Fletch: Well, then I better just take two portions of that

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fletch Quote for the Weekend

Willy: What the hell you need ball bearings for?
Fletch: Awww, come on guys, it's so simple. Maybe you need a refresher course.
[leans arm on hot engine part]
Fletch: Hey! It's all ball bearings nowadays. Now you prepare that Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil and some gauze pads. And I'm gonna need 'bout ten quarts of anti-freeze, preferably Prestone. No, no make that Quaker State.

Asia's Space Race

The CS Monitor takes a peek at the developing Asian space race. China, Japan and India have all developed a significant sapce launch capability. China's lunar probe was preceded by a Japanese one last month, and India is planning a similar mission next year as well.

"The moon shots, all designed to learn more about the lunar atmosphere and surface, have no military purpose, officials in the three new space powers are quick to point out. But in a field where civilian technological advances can easily be put to military use, nations closely scrutinize each of their neighbors' steps forward.

India is nervous about China's intentions, especialy in the wake of Beijing's test of an antisatellite missile last January. China worries that Japan's missile defense cooperation with the US might threaten its interests, and resents Washington's determination to remain the world's dominant space power. Japan is rattled by North Korea's ballistic-missile capability."

Some of the other rationales for these missions is national prestige and the high technology spinoffs and skills that acrue from such research. All three nations are focused on the moon due to its close proximity and the possibility of commercial exploitation of resources such as Helium-3, which is thought to exist in quantity on the moon and could eventually be used to power nuclear fusion technology.

There are also important military considerations for all three powers as they and the traditional space powers are treading the line between defense related space utilization and weaponization, as China demonstrated in its anit-satellite program last year.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch's girlfriend: [Fletch is listening to a tape of him and his girlfriend having sex] You're not recording this, are you?
Fletch: No, never, never.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

US and India

R. Nicholas Burns at Foreign Affairs (via RCP) takes note of the opportunities that a stronger strategic partnership with India would entail for the US. First, the good stuff:

"We share an abundance of political, economic, and military interests with India today. Our open societies face similar threats from terrorism and organized crime. Our market-based economies embrace trade and commerce as engines of prosperity. Our peoples value education and a strong work ethic. We share an attachment to democracy and individual rights founded on an instinctive mistrust of authoritarianism. And in an age of anti-Americanism, according to the most recent Pew Global Attitudes survey, nearly six in ten Indians view the United States favorably.......The progress between the United States and India has been remarkable: a new and historic agreement on civil nuclear energy, closer collaboration on scientific and technological innovation, burgeoning trade and commercial links, common efforts to stabilize South Asia, and a growing U.S.-India campaign to promote stable, well-governed democracies around the world. And the United States is only just beginning to realize the benefits of this relationship for its interests in South and East Asia."

There are still some challenges, however, including the touchy relationship India has with another US ally, Pakistan, over the Kashmir region. There are also trade differences,climate and environmental concerns over India's growing energy needs, and some historical inertia from India's past leadership of the nonaligned diplomatic movement - India still often diplomatic support and cover to some of the globe's most notorious regimes, such as Burma. Burns' point, however, is well made - both nations have a lot to gain from one another, and far more issues in common than those which separate us.

College Football Coaching

MSNBC's College football expert Joey Johnston has a nice article about the success that coaches such as Pete Carroll, Dennis Ericson and Steve Spurrier, who left the college ranks for the NFL but have returned to college, are enjoying this season. Both coaches admit that they are far more comfortable in the college ranks. #2 ranked Boston College's Jeff Jagdozinski is also spotlighted. Johnston finished his column asnwering questions, and the lead was of vast import to the Husker Nation, concerning LSU's Bo Pellini.

Q: What are the odds that Nebraska could steal Bo Pelini away from LSU?
— Husker fan, Des Moines, Iowa
A: I think the odds would be excellent for Pelini, the LSU defensive coordinator, to return to Nebraska, where he also served in that role and as interim head coach for the Cornhuskers’ bowl game after the firing of Frank Solich.

Pelini would have been a good head-coaching choice then — and Nebraska players were lobbying for him — but the Cornhuskers opted for NFL head coach Bill Callahan. You’ve seen how that turned out. At this point, with Nebraska’s proud program unraveling by the minute, it would be stunning if Callahan saves his job.

Pelini’s work speaks for itself. LSU’s defense has played lights-out at times. He has a knack for getting the players on the same page and getting them to buy into the cause. He’s a motivator and an excellent strategist.

But Nebraska can’t assume anything. Plenty of schools with job openings will be chasing Pelini. The Cornhuskers better throw their hat in the ring sooner rather than later.

I have to agree absolutley with the response.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: In the court ruling US vs. Fishbine, a man subjected to potential incineration while wearing another man's suit is entitled to $10,000 worth of airline tickets. It's an obscure ruling, but a very important one to me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Gail Stanwyk: I didn't know you knew the Underhills.
Fletch: Yeah, well, I saved his life during the war.
Gail Stanwyk: You were in the war?
Fletch: No, he was. I got him out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shuttle Mission STS-120

via Space.com, Shuttle Discovery is slated to launch on yet another ambitious ISS construction mission. Seven astronauts are slated to lift off this morning at 11:38 EST. Nebraskan Clayton Anderson, currently serving on board the ISS, will return home after being replaced by fellow mission specialist Daniel Tani.

"Commanded by veteran spaceflyer Pamela Melroy, the shuttle Discovery is slated to launch from Pad 39A here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 11:38 a.m. EDT (1538 GMT). Melroy and her crewmates plan to swap out one ISS crewmember, deliver an orbital hub to anchor future laboratories to the station and perform the complicated move of a 17.5-ton solar array segment to boost the outpost's power grid...

Set to launch spaceward with Melroy and Parazynski are Discovery pilot George Zamka and mission specialists Stephanie Wilson, Douglas Wheelock, Daniel Tani and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Together, they will install the Italian-built Harmony node - the connecting point for European and Japanese laboratories waiting to fly.

During five planned spacewalks - the most-ever during a shuttle flight to the ISS - the STS-120 astronauts will also test new space shuttle heat shield repair methods, move the station's $276 million Port 6 (P6) solar power truss segment from its mast-like perch to the station's port-most edge, and then unfurl its expansive arrays. Parazynski compared the P6 relocation to moving an entire house from one neighborhood to another."

The installation of the Harmony module will increase the available space on board the station for the first time since 2001. The mission will be the shuttle program's 120th mission, and the third ISS construction mission this year. Three of the shuttle astronauts are making their first trips into orbit.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: Can't do that, Frank. Fat Sam isn't the story, there's a source behind him.
Frank Walker: Who?
Fletch: Well, there we're in kind of a grey area.
Frank Walker: How grey?
Fletch: Charcoal.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Waiter: Excuse me, Señor. You are a member of the club?
Fletch: No, I'm not, I'm with the Underhills.
Waiter: They are left, Señor.
Fletch: It's all right, they'll be back. He went out for his urinalysis.
Waiter: Would you like some drinks, Señor, while you wait? I will put it on the Underhills' bill.
Fletch: Yes, very good. I'll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich and... a steak sandwich, please.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fletch Quote for the Weekend

[driving away from police in car with startled teenager]
Teenager: Are you a cop?
Fletch: As far as you know.
Teenager: Are you gonna take me to jail for car theft?
Fletch: Why? Did you steal the car?
Teenager: I sure did.
Fletch: Well, I'm not even sure that's a crime anymore.
There've been a lot of changes in the law.

Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans Discovered

via ScienceDaily, new evidence has been uncovered at a site near Pinnacle Point in South Africa that pushes back the origin of modern humans to 160,00 years ago. Droughts during this period may have forced human populations to coastal areas where they supplmented their diets with a variety of shellfish and other marine resources.

"Our findings show that at 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa humans expanded their diet to include shellfish and other marine resources, perhaps as a response to harsh environmental conditions," notes Curtis Marean, a professor in ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change. "This is the earliest dated observation of this behavior."

These early humans also exhibited the use of bladelet technology thought to have not occurred until 70,000 years ago, and the team also discovered evidence of the use of red ochre, a pigment used for ritual behavior that has been thought to also date from the same later period as the bladelet use.

"These new findings not only move back the timeline for the evolution of modern humans, they show that lifestyles focused on coastal habitats and resources may have been crucial to the evolution and survival of these early humans."

The period from 195,000 to around 125,000 years ago was heavily glaciated, and much of the continent of Africa experienced repeated severe droughts. In fact, it is thought that there might have been as few as 5 or 6 sites on the continent capable of supporting early modern humans, and the researchers studied ocean currents, climate data, geological formations and other evidence to theorize where a probable location would be located. These finds also extends back into time the period when early people began to utilize marine resources by as much as 40,000 years.

"Generally speaking, coastal areas were of no use to early humans -- unless they knew how to use the sea as a food source" says Marean. "For millions of years, our earliest hunter-gatherer relatives only ate terrestrial plants and animals. Shellfish was one of the last additions to the human diet before domesticated plants and animals were introduced."

Before, the earliest evidence for human use of marine resources and coastal habitats was dated about 125,000 years ago. "Our research shows that humans started doing this at least 40,000 years earlier. This could have very well been a response to the extreme environmental conditions they were experiencing," he says."

With the knowledge of how to exploit ocean resources, the coastal areas of the continent would have allowed long distance human migrations, and the use of bladelets as compound stone tools as well as the use of pigments for symbolic purposes is often tied to the development of human cognitive functions and human lanaguage skills. These developments had also been tied to the later 70,000 before present period as well. Human language and communications skills are thought to have greatly aided early human survival by allowing cooperative behvior and the establishment of trade and exchange networks between groups of our early ancestors.

"This evidence shows that Africa, and particularly southern Africa, was precocious in the development of modern human biology and behavior. We believe that on the far southern shore of Africa there was a small population of modern humans who struggled through this glacial period using shellfish and advanced technologies, and symbolism was important to their social relations. It is possible that this population could be the progenitor population for all modern humans," Marean says."

Pretty amazing find, and I'd say it lays a pretty definitive nail in the coffin of the Out of Africa skeptic community being so far in advance of other archaeological finds showcasing evidence of similar behavior.

Fletch Quote of the Day

Alan Stanwyck: You'll be wearing rubber gloves. Do you own rubber gloves?
Fletch: I rent 'em. I have a lease with an option to buy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reporters Without Borders

Jay Nordlinger over at NRO made a brief mention of the annual release of the Press Freedom list from the group Reporters Without Borders. Every year they rate all the world's nations on the amount of press freedoms that the people of each nations enjoys (or doesn't). Bottom of the list (#169 to #162):

Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, China and Vietnam.

All top rated vacation spots, to be sure, particularly the hermit kingdom of Dr. Poofy Hair. I had to wonder where our new wackjob nutcase from Venezuela is at, and its rather surprisingly only at #114.

Top of the list:

Iceland, Norway and Estonia

The US is rated 48th, down from 17th in 2002, mostly due to terrorism and war related limitations on journalists. Interestingly, they also pointed out the increasing amount of attention that the bottom dwelling governments are paying to the blogging community.

"In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible...
At least 64 people are currently imprisoned worldwide because of what they posted on the Internet, most of them in China which ranked 163rd. China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison. Eight are being held in Vietnam."

Makes one thankful to be an American blogger, doesn't it? The entire list can be found here.

UN Needs a New Member Nation

David Kopel and Michael Krause discuss the curious political situation that the island nation of Taiwan finds itself, and the shameful way in which that nation is being treated by both other democracies and world institutions.

"Originally used to identify the anti-Axis coalition of nations in World War II, today's "United Nations" members are rarely united on anything. And as the UN's latest actions against Taiwan's membership application demonstrate, the UN doesn't even live up to its own definition of "nations." And the mechanics of that rejection reveal a growing internal danger at the UN for the United States.

Article 4 of the United Nations Charter states that "Membership in the United Nations is open to all other [non-founding] peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations."

In July, Taiwan applied for membership in the United Nations. By the Charter's standards, Taiwan should have been speedily admitted."

By any objective standard, Taiwan meets all of the criteria of nationhood, with a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity of having relations with other states, although it only has formal diplomatic relations with 23 states (more on that in a moment).

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon rejected Taiwan's application on the basis of the 1971 General Assembly resolution changing the permanent Chinese Security Council seat from the Chiang Kai-shek government of Taiwan to the Mao TSe-Tung government of the People's Republic. However, the resolution doesn't define anything about what consitutes "China" and China has only one period of 17 years in which it ever claimed sovereignty over the island previous to the Communist revolution, nor does it say anything regarding Tibet, which has a long history of independence before the 1951 invasion by the PRC. Of course the governments of both Taiwan and the PRC long held that they were both the legitimate government of China, but Taiwan has abrogated that claim with the development of its democracatic government following the collapse of the Chiang's dictatorship.

Unfortunately, the US delegation did not protest the rejection, which violated UN procedures because the request should have been forwarded to the Security Council - the Secretary General had no right to make any decision regarding the application himself. The US itself does not maintain formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan, which is unfortunate as it puts the government there in the same boat as such rogue regimes as Iran, North Korea and Cuba. Along with another 100 or so nations, the US does maintain "unoffical" relations, purely to maintain the legal fiction and kow-tow to the PRC.

While most Taiwanese (over 90%) do not consider themselves Chinese, the PRC most assuredly claims Taiwan as a rogue territory and continues to pressure other nations from recognizing Taiwan. In the 1960s over 60 nations recognized the island's government, but that has been reduced to 23 today due to the growing diplomatic, military and particularly economic might of the mainland. Beijing often blackmails small nations into withdrawing support from Taiwan as a pre-condition for economic agreements or developmental assistance. Of course, this is in addition to the thousands of ballistic missiles the mainland points at the island.

Taiwan plans a national referendum next year on whether to reapply to the UN, this time as the nation of Taiwan, as opposed to the "Republic of China", on of the leftover remnants form the days of Chiang. The piece ends with a rather interesting, poignant and thoroughly ironic comment.

"In the short run, China would use its Security Council veto to defeat the application, but China should at least start paying a diplomatic price for its hostility to Taiwan's right of self-determination. The more countries that support Taiwan's membership, the more that the Chinese government will fear that an invasion of Taiwan would be devastating to China's economic relationship to the rest of the world.

Deterring dictatorships from attacking democracies, and preserving the peace, are, after all, the reason the UN was founded in the first place."

Fletch Quote of the Day

Gail Stanwyck: What are you doing here?
Fletch: I ordered some lunch.
Gail Stanwyck: You ordered it here?
Fletch: Well, I knew this is where my mouth would be.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fletch Quote of the Day

Fletch: I'm afraid I'm gonna have to pull rank on you. I didn't want to have to do this. I'm with the Mattress Police. There are no tags on these mattresses.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Osborne Name Interim AD

via OWH.

As widely expected and anticipated, former Head Coach and Nebraska Congressman Tom Osborne has been named interim athletic director for the University of Nebraska. The arrangement is "open ended" until UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman finds a permanent AD for the athletic program. Rumor on some of the boards is that Dave Rimington might still be in the running for the permanent position, but my take is that it is probably wishful thinking.

"He may be the only figure who can unite a state divided over Pederson's firing of Osborne's coaching successor, the transition to a new regime, on-field disappointments, Pederson's own firing, and questions over what should happen with the current coaching staff.

Osborne has been a fan favorite for the job — many even wanting him to take it on a permanent basis.

Since Osborne's retirement in 1997 at the end of a remarkable 60-3 run that produced three national titles in four years, both Osborne and the football program have had their share of ups and downs.

Osborne, who had retired for health reasons and to spend more time with his family, initially missed the game sorely and on more than one occasion was nearly lured out of retirement by other schools.

He found a new life in politics, elected three times as a Republican congressman from western Nebraska's 3rd District.

But in 2006, he sought to finish off his public career with a run for Nebraska governor. Challenging incumbent Gov. Dave Heineman, he lost in the GOP primary, effectively ending his political career."

Great news and perhaps the only man alive who could rally the state back around the program. Hopefully the media circus will die down a bit in the coming days and the coaches can focus on getting the team prepared for A & M on Saturday.

Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Cows & Warming

The LA Times points out the elephant in the global warming debate isn't what people do, it's what they eat. Methane and Nitrous oxide emissions emitted from livestock are greenhouse gasses with a far greater impact than that of the entire tranportation industry. Methane emissions cause 21 times the warming effect that Co2 does, and nitrous oxide's effect is 296 times that of C02. While ruminant livestock belch methane, both chemical compounds are released from the management of livestock manure pens. If you're really concerned with global warming, focusing on what we drive is a spurious strategy. You should also be concerned with volcanic eruptions, but that's another (and later) post.

So how bad are the releases from livestock operations?

"All told, livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N. -- more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet. And it's going to get a lot worse. As living standards rise in the developing world, so does its fondness for meat and dairy. Annual per-capita meat consumption in developing countries doubled from 31 pounds in 1980 to 62 pounds in 2002, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, which expects global meat production to more than double by 2050. That means the environmental damage of ranching would have to be cut in half just to keep emissions at their current, dangerous level."

So why isn't this getting more media play? Easy - the political influence of America's cattle and dairy lobbies, and the fact that legislating food choices is about as popular with people as former athletic directors in Lincoln. The Times seems to believe the only thing to do is eat less meat, but that's about as likely as pigs flying. Small steps could be made in waste management, but only about 20% of these emissions would be effected. It would give us more time to think of something else, which is my preferred strategy for the whole issue in the first place, if indeed the impacts of the "crisis" can be shown as such. Still, a very illuminating piece.