Friday, March 30, 2007

GOP Straw Poll Results

Looks like Fred's on a roll, at least with the blogosphere. Rudy's second, and McCain....well, he's down there somewhere. I voted for Fred, and Rudy would be my second choice right now, and I also like Hunter.

First Choice:
F. Thompson
3394 (39.1%)
1375 (15.8%)
1079 (12.4%)
972 (11.2%)
449 (5.2%)
413 (4.8%)
354 (4.1%)
240 (2.8%)
198 (2.3%)
96 (1.1%)
T. Thompson
62 (0.7%)
28 (0.3%)
17 (0.2%)

Iraq Funding Bill

Today's Wall Street Journal rightly blasts the Democratic Congress on the pork-laden Iraq funding bill that the president has promised to veto for weeks. (via RCP).

"The spectacle qualifies as a textbook example of why Congress can't be trusted to micromanage, much less lead, a war. It's a committee of Lilliputians whose main contribution is to tie down the President so that his policy fails. Few bills deserve a veto as much as this one. And once Mr. Bush dispatches it, we hope Congress will fulfill the one war power it does have, which is to appropriate enough money so our troops can accomplish their mission."

While the troops wait for their money in the middle of a ground war, the Democrats engage in political theater of the most hypocritical sort. The bill is supposed to be emergency funding for the war, but comes out of Congress laden with agricultural subsidies, pet projects and domestic spending of the worst kind. Worse, setting deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq hearten our enemies and endanger our own troops. Thank you, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

ESA completes ATV Testing

The European Space Agency has readied its Automatic Transfer Vehicle, the first christened Jules Verne, for a possible launch and ISS resupply mission later this year. Three years of testing has been conducted in Russia, France and Norway on major vehicle components and systems.

"Several mission scenarios will require complex interactions and shared responsibilities between the ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse, France, and Russian and American Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. For the first time in space history, three space control centres around the globe must work together. For these Joint Activities related to the ATV in orbit, specific high-level procedures, called Multi-Element Procedures, have been developed, allocating the tasks to be performed sequentially to the centres involved."

The ATV is expected to be transported to its launch site in French Guianna this summer, with an expected mision date in either September or November, the two available launch windows. A fleet of five vehicles is planned.

Husker FB - Spring Practice

via Huskerextra.

The injury bug has again bit Husker CB Zach Bowman, who suffered a yet to be determined knee injury yesterday in non-contact drills. Bowman, who suffered an ACL injury to one knee last year, did not reinjure the same knee, which is the only good news about the situation.

On another note, RB Kenny Wilson also suffered a freak injury while still recovery from a staph infection this spring. He apparently broke his leg while moving a television set, and has already had surgery in an Omaha hospital. It is likely that Wilson will miss the 2007 season. Wilson's injury is likely to make Major Culbert's move from safety to RB a permanent one.

One some positive notes, juco transfer QB Zach Lee appears to be recovering nicely from his winter knee surgery, has started to run a bit and might be able to participate in drills toward the end of the spring practice sessions. Fellow frosh QB Patrick Witt and frosh RB Marcus Mendoza appear to both be picking up the Husker offense quite well, and Mendoza is said to have added about 10 lbs (up to 185) since entering school in January while maintaining his 4.4 40 speed.

Newt on Iran

Hugh Hewitt inteviews Newt Gingrich, who has a fantastic idea on how to solve the Iranian hostage issue. (Boy, I had always hoped never to put those words together - "Iranian hostage" on the blog. Shows how much of an optimist I truly am.)

"HH: Now let’s get to the first major issue of the day, which is Iran. Mr. Speaker, if the United Kingdom feels obliged to use force, if diplomacy fails to get their people back, will you applaud?

NG: I think there are two very simple steps that should be taken. The first is to use a covert operation, or a special forces operation to knock out the only gasoline producing refinery in Iran. There’s only one. And the second is to simply intercede by Naval force, and block any tankers from bringing gasoline to Iran…"

I had heard a while back that while Iran produces millions of barrels of oil, there was only one gasoline refinery in the entire country. Kudos to Newt for an innovative solution to the crisis. He also states he would threaten it quietly at first to allow the Iranians to save a little face, while making damn well sure that they knew good and well we would do it.

On another note, I probably wouldn't vote for Newt for President, (unless the alternative was Hillary) but I think he'd make a most excellent Secretary of State, particularly when he shows such a sophisticated understanding of our enemies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Those Clever Chinese

via LiveScience.

Apparently those clever yellow fellows are looking to destroy the American timber industry - by recycling those mountains of giant panda poop into paper!

"Researchers at a giant panda reserve in southern China are looking for paper mills to process their surplus of fiber-rich panda excrement into high quality paper."

Apparently the Chinese got the idea from the Thais, who are already nefariously recycling away their elephant dung into paper.

I suggest calling for immediate Congressional action - Chuck Hagel certainly needs to address this critical issue, hopefully by way of national media conference. Our panda gap must not be exploited by these clever fiends! I move we impose a high tariff on such products to protect American logging and sawmill jobs throughout our great land!

Democrat Polling in IA

David Yepsin at the DesMoines Register takes a look at the early Iowa polling for the Democratic Presidential candidates. (via RCP).

The biggest beneficiary of the withdrawal of IA Gov. Tom Vilsak appears at this point to be - John Edwards? Edwards is up 15 points since January, Hillary is down 1, and they are statistically tied at 34-33%. Sen. Obama is at 16%, and the other candidates, Senators Joe Biden & Chris Dodd, along with NM Gov. Bill Richardson, are all mired in single digits. Yepsin does note, however:

"While the poll is new, it may already be a bit dated. It came out of the field Thursday and so does not reflect the weekend's two major developments in the campaign — the disclosure Friday that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has re-emerged and Vilsack's endorsement of Clinton on Monday."

I had just heard of the Vilsak endorsement this morning, I understand he knows the Clintons from the early 1970s. Interesting, to say the least. While Hillary can probably afford to lose in IA, for Edwards, it's a critical state leading to the Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina (his home state) primaries. Also interesting to note, I had no idea Edwards finished second in IA in 2004.

Seeking Ancient Ithaca

via MSNBC.

On a far more interesting note this morning, an amateur British archaeologist has come up with a new theory regarding the legendary home of Odysseus, the legendary Greek king of the Homeric tale The Odyssey, sequel to the Trojan epic The Illiad. The island of Ithaca has long been identified with the island presently called Ithaki, but it does not closely match the description given by the poet - that of a low lying land and the outermost island of the chain, whereas present day Ithaki is mountainous and lies inside the larger island of Kefallina. The new theory being espoused by Robert Bittlestone is that Kefallinia may have been separated from its penninsula Paliki by a narrow channel of water in the time of Homer.

"Because no one has ever been able to find Ithaca, people felt the Odyssey was like a Lord of the Rings story," Bittlestone said in an interview. "This would say Ithaca was a real place — it doesn't say Odysseus was a real person, that's another jump."

The theory is that this channel, called "Strabo's Channel" in ancient times, was filled as a result of tectonic activity in the intervening years. Bittlestone has acquired some assitance from Dutch geologic firm Furgo, which plans to use ground pentrating radar and other tools to probe the area of the channel to determine the makeup of the soil there. If solid rock, then the theory isn't correct, but if it is mad eup of loose debris, then it certainly seems possible that the ancient home of the legendary Greek traveler, if not the man himself, appears likely to have existed after all.

Limbaugh on Hagel

Daivid Limbaugh skewers what is fast becoming my least favorite Nebraska Senator of all time, Chuck "Media Hound" Hagel.

"Someone needs to deliver Sen. Hagel and his like-minded congressional colleagues a memo explaining that the president is commander in chief and that he cannot be fired either by Congress or the people in the absence of committing high crimes and misdemeanors, which involve monumentally more than policy disagreements with the legislative branch. If anything, it is certain congressmen, not the president, who are exceeding their constitutional authority by attempting to usurp the president's lawful power as commander in chief."

Hopefully David's sixth grade civics lesson won't fall on deaf ears, but I doubt it. I've never regretted voting for anyone in twenty years of voting, until the last two years, but I sure do now. Hagel's quickly become an embarassment, both to his party and his constituents. I appreciate his service to his country in Vietnam (as I do John McCain's, and even John Kerry's, or for that matter, John Murtha's) but the fact a man served in an unpopular war forty years ago does not make him a military expert, does not make him a serious strategist, and does not make him a political stateman - despite what he may think of himself.

Bloviating to the press on national TV about Iraq being "just like Vietnam" is a sign of serious mental impairment, and completely discredits the man on other issues of importance to the nation. If he can't get his act together on the most critical issue of the day, then I certainly have to doubt it on all other matters that come before him in the Senate. If he runs again for the Senate, I will do everything in my meager power to make sure he doesn't get re-elected. I almost hope he runs for President and pulls a Vilsack after spending all his money on focus groups and political hacks.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Oldest Evidence of Plate Tectonics Discovered

via ScienceDaily.

Some of the oldest rock formations on the planet, discovered in the 1960s in Greenland and dating back to 3.8 billion years ago, and long been known to contain the oldest known living organisms, have yielded new secrets. A recent new analysis of these formations show that they also contain evidence that proves conclusively that Plate tectonic processes were already acting on the Earth at that time, over a billion years earlier than previously thought. The formation was originally part of the Atlantic ocean seafloor, and shows evidence of basalt lava flows from the same mid-ocean ridge that still flows today, responsible for the volcanic activity in Iceland.

"The study focuses on an area near the southwestern coast of Greenland where there is a rare outcrop of ancient rock, called the Isua Supracrustal Belt, which have been dated at 3.8 billion years old. The Isua rocks are ophiolites, which have a green hue from the chlorite minerals within them and are found in all major mountain belts, usually located in areas associated with volcanism and plate tectonics."

The importance of the new analysis is that the same geologic processes that operate today, like seafloor spreading and ocean crust formation, have been operating since very early in Earth's history and that such formations accrete to continental landmasses. In addition, these formations are also helping to settle a scientific dispute regarding the oxygen content of ancient seawater, which appears to be very similiar or just a bit heavier than current oceans. Both the oxygen content of the oceans and the geologic processes underway at such early dates have serious implications for other scientists theorizing on the origins of life on Earth.

Friday, March 23, 2007

True Rights

Claudio Munoz of The Economist argues that human rights groups hamper themselves (and provide cover for dictatorships) by shifting their focus from political rights to social and economic "rights". via RCP.

"Food, jobs and housing are certainly necessities. But no useful purpose is served by calling them “rights”. When a government locks someone up without a fair trial, the victim, perpetrator and remedy are pretty clear. This clarity seldom applies to social and economic “rights”. It is hard enough to determine whether such a right has been infringed, let alone who should provide a remedy, or how."

By focusing more on these issues, rather than political ones, groups like Amnesty International, which once upon a time was pretty non-partisan and actually made an impact on the political stage, actually hurt their cause. Countries like Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, etc. can safely ignore the political issues by stating they take care of the social ones - even if their citizens are starving in shacks and members of minority groups are routinely tortured, rotting in prisons, or simply disappear forever. Blurring the distinction between politcal issues like free speech and free healthcare ill serves progress on both, and it is the rights of citizens, practicing a free political process, that really gathers the focus of governments to the attention of all these other issues.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Husker FB - Spring Practice Look at the Offense

As promised, a look at the Huskers offense for 2007.

The QB position is the biggest news on the unit, with senior transfer Sam Keller, juniors Joe Ganz and Beau Davis, as well as incoming frosh Patrick Witt all getting snaps this spring. Coach C says the position is wide open but conventional wisdom is that the job is Keller's to lose, although Ganz, with four years now in the system, in particular expected to push him for the job.

A host of experienced receivers return, including seniors Franz Hardy, Maurice Purify and Terrence Nunn, juniors Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, and perhaps sophmore Menelik Holt expected to vie for both playing time and receptions in the fall. At tight end/H-back, seniors JB Phillips and Josh Mueller, as well as junior Hunter Teafatiller, are all back.

Running back should again be a committee, with juniors Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky, as well as senior Kenny Wilson returning, and possibly former safetyman soph Major Culbert involved as well. Frosh recruit Marcus Mendoza is being touted as a possible return man. The departure of FB Dane Todd leaves seniors Andy Sand and Matt Senske, as well as junior Thomas Lawson and the redshirt freshman with the famous Husker name, Justin Makovicka, as possibilities there. TE Phillips may line up in the backfield there at times as well.

The line appears to be in a state of flux again as the coaches try to find the best combination of talent. Senior Brett Byford is likely to be the starter at center, backed up by junior C/G Andy Christensen. At guard, juniors Mike Huff and Matt Slauson also return, along with senior Jordan Picou, who also can play center, and sophmore Jacob Hickman. Slauson has also started at tackle in the past as well. The departure of LT Chris Patrick to the NFL leaves senior Carl Nicks as the heir apparent as junior Lydon Murtha has been apparently moved over the right tackle spot this spring.

On the injury front, backs Wilson and Senske, linemen Huff and Hickman, soph QB Zac Lee, and redshirt freshman TE Mike McNeill will sit out the spring. On the defensive side, soph DT Craig Roark and soph DB Corey Young will be out and redshirt frosh DT Seth Jensen will be limited after coming off surgery. RB Cody Glenn is listed as day to day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Husker FB - Spring Practice

HuskerExtra discusses the returning Blackshirts as spring practice starts today.

The big issue for the defense is the loss of the entire front four, but a number of players with exeperience return; DTs sophmore Ndamukong Suh and junior Ty Steinkuhler are expected to start, with last year's juco Brandon Johnson and this year's juco DT Shukree Barfield expected to contribute, although there has been some talk of Steinkuhler moving to end, so underclassman Craig Roark and/or Seth Jensen may be pressed into service as well. At end, juniors Barry Turner and Zach Potter are the expected starters, with Clayton Sievers moving from LB to back up Turner at the "open" end and redshirt frosh Pierre Allen behind Potter at "base" unless Steinkuhler moves over.

LB will again be the strength of the unit. Corey McKeon returnes at Mike, and talented but injury plagued Steve Octavien returns at WIL. The big news of the spring on defense has been to move of WIL starter Bo Ruud to SAM linebacker in place of graduated Stew Bradley, a move I really like as it puts our three best and most experienced backers on the field. Phil Dilliard returns to backup McKeon, Lance Brandenburgh backs up at WIL (although he has played all 3 spots) and Nick Covey and Kyle Moore will apparently compete for SAM backup position with Sievers move to end.

The other big question for the spring is the secondary. Starting corners Courtney Grixby, Andre Jones, and the injured Zach Bowman return for their senior seasons and juco transfer Armando Murillo is on hand for the spring as well. At safety, senior Tierre Green undergoes another position change to free safety after playing the strong side last season and was a CB two seasons ago and was a RB as a freshman. Green makes way for newcoming juco Larry Asante, also on hand this spring, as the expected starter at SS. Ricky Thenarse move from CB to compete with Asante, and Anthony West also moves from CB to back up Green. Former safety Major Culbert moves over to the other side of the ball to play at RB next season.

I'll look at the offense tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rudy's Mayoral Accomplishments

Deroy Murdock at NRO makes the case for Rudy based on the mayoral record on social issues.

NYC Crime went down 56%, including homicide down two-thirds.
Abortion went down 17%, while it went down nationally almost 13% over the same period.
Fostercare rolls declined 38% as over 17,000 children were adopted.
Welfare rolls declined 58% as the mayor renamed the welfare offices "Job Centers".
Over 23,000 publicly owned dwelling were privatized, a 78% reduction.

The city funded 17 new charter schools aiding over 3000 children get a good education, ended the practice of social promotion, and also ended tenure for school principals so low performers could get their pink slips.

Enrollment at the City University of NY went up nearly 35%, with black enrollment up nearly 7% and hispanic enrollment up 37%, while blacks graduating from the school rose nearly 6% and hispanic graduates went up over 23%

Municipal employment went down over 3% even as the mayor added more than 12% to both police rolls and teachers.

The mayor also eliminated several "group" offices, cut taxes substantially while holding the line on city spending to less than the inflation rate, raised tourism, opposed publicly funding controversial "art" and the city's unemployment rate was nearly halved while he was in office.

Pretty impressive resume, I have to admit.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Japan's New Diplomacy

Micahel Green over at RCP writes about Kennth Pyle's new book on Japan's recent moves toward a more assertive foreign policy.

"Pyle demonstrates how Japanese elites have maintained an intense focus on maximizing the nation's autonomy, rank, and honor. He also shows how they have remained attentive to the distribution of international power and adopted the hegemonic powers' most successful practices. In reading this elegantly presented history, one comes to appreciate that Japan is not returning to its realist roots; it never left them."

Interesting review, talks a great deal aobut how Japan has adjusted its thinking with the end of the Cold War and the rise of China. Japan is far more willing to broaden its regional contacts, going as far afield as India and Australia to forge closer relations with fellow democracies. Green points out something that Pyle either misses or glosses over in critiquing US foreign policy, however; the US-Japanese relationship is (and probably should be) on par with the US-UK relationship, and it is in the US strategic interest to maintain close diplomatic and military ties and diplomatically engage China together, and the current administration takes the relationship very seriously, despite the US concentration on events in the Middle East. In fact, Green argues the relationship might be the closest it ever has been. I might be inclined to agree.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Orbital Settlements?

Al Globus via makes the argument that orbital habitats make more sense than the long shot Moon/Mars missions, stating that

"Thriving communities beyond Earth can't be an endless drain on Earth's economy, and settlements in Earth Orbit can provide energy, exotic materials, and a tourist destination for earthlings. Nearly unlimited, clean, electrical power can be provided by giant solar arrays in orbit that beam energy to Earth."

While I think that orbital habitats are probably the first step, I think he underestimates the difficulties, and overestimates the benefits, which in any case could also apply to the Moon and Mars as well. The first structures will probably have to lifted into orbit and assembled, and we've seen the lengthy amount of time that can take with the still uncompleted ISS. I think such structures will be built eventually, but won't be the large structures holding thousands that he apparently envisions, at least not until our technology allows us to settle the Moon. The moon has far more room for expansion, far more valuable materials than that found on near Earth asteroids. He also mentions using asteroids for materials, but seems to ignore the fact that most asteroids are far further away than even Mars, and the Moon is actually pretty close by any standard (two or three days WITH current technology, probably far less in the future).

The Celtic Miracle

Chris Edwards at NRO.

A great overview of the rapid development of Ireland over the last 30 years and the reasons why; the advantages that low tax rates can give to both developing and developed nations. Ireland 30 years ago was mired with low growth, high tax rates and almost no foreign investment.

"Ireland has boomed in recent years, and it now boasts the fourth-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. In the mid-1980s, Ireland was a backwater with an average income level 30 percent below that of the European Union. Today, Irish incomes are 40 percent above the EU average. "

Irish government spending is down dramatically, from over 50% of GDP to a current rate of 34%, while it slashed corporate, capital gains and personal tax rates. Manufacturing, finance, and the high tech sectors corporate rates are now among the lowest in the world, just 12.5%, one third that of the US, and investments by US based tech corporations are helping Ireland to become one of the leading high tech exporters in the world. The Irish example has led to many Eastern European nations to also adopt low tax rates, many of them flat tax regimes.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lakebed sediment reveals climate history


The bottom sediments of Lake Van in eastern Turkey (that nation's largest lake) is being researched by an international team of scientists interested in climatic history. Each summer, the lake sediments accumulated pollen grains that can be studied to determine what types of plants were growing in the region, and thus the region's climate and weather patterns. The mud leaves a historical footprint (like that of tree rings) that extends back over 3/4 of a million years, with the sedimentary mud extending to a depth of several hundred meters in many places along the lake bottom. Volcanic activity and earthquakes in the region can also be indentified through their effect on the sediments as well. Preliminary investigations of the strata show that the climate patterns have changed radically in the past in as little as 10 to 20 years.

This area in Turkey is of intense interest to me due to the fact that many of the domesticated plants and animals of the Neolithic period have been genetically traced to wild species found in the region in prehistoric times. The study of this lake bed sediment could have profound implications for not only climatic shift research, but the history of early civilization as well. Such stratigraphic studies of bog sediment pollen in Britain have already given us fascinating clues into the cultures and climate of Ice Age Europe.

Kuiper Belt Collision


Kuiper Belt object 2003 EL61, discovered in 2004 by Caltech's Mike Brown, is apparently the victim of a large collision ealry in the history of the solar system. This collision is responsible for both the body's odd shape (somewhat like a deflated football), rapid rotation (every four hours) and end-over-end spin.

"The impact spawned at least seven other rocky objects—and likely more—with diameters ranging from 6 to 250 miles (10 to 400 km). The researchers lumped the scattered objects into a family based on their matching gray color and evidence of surface water ice derived from spectral analyses."

EL61 was probably up to 20% larger than today (1500 km now) and was probalby struck by another object about half its past size at over 7000 mph. The resultant kinetic explosion would have been about the size of 10 million Hiroshima sized a-bombs.

This is the first collision discovery located in the outer solar system, the remaining 35 all being located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

"Supreme Conflict"

Interesting book review by John McGinnis on Jan Crawford Greenberg's examination of the US Supreme Court. McGinnis in particular praises Greenberg's evenhandedness, which has apparently been lacking in past examinations by others. At Opinion Journal via RCP.

"Rather than celebrate a few "enlightened" jurists doing battle with right-wing ideologues--in the manner of so many court reporters--Ms. Greenburg conveys the entire range of the court's opinions fair-mindedly, even treating conservative jurisprudence with respect."

Greenberg provides some interesting insight into the relationships on the court, maintaining that it is Justice Thomas more often influencing Justice Scalia than the otherway around as commonly assumed, but that he has had a negative influence on former Justice O'Connor, who found his willingness to revisit "settled" issues with an originalist viewpoint unsettling. It is these an understanding of these relationships that has had a major impact on the recent appointments of Justice Roberts and Alito, who are described as more collegial, and thus more able to influence other justices.

Very interesting, I may have to look this book up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Human Migration of the Pacific

via ScienceDaily.

New genetic studies of domestic and feral pigs show that the theory regarding the colonization of the Pacific by early humans may have been a bit too simplistic. The theory held that humans and all their domesticated animals they brought with them all originated in or near Taiwan when they sailed to the other Pacific islands. It appears from these new findings that their animals not only had origins further to the southwest, but that the people may have travelled different routes than expected. Archaeological and linguistic evidence of humans has always appeared to support the Taiwan theory.

"Scientists from Durham University and the University of Oxford, studying DNA and tooth shape in modern and ancient pigs, have revealed that, in direct contradiction to longstanding ideas, ancient human colonists may have originated in Vietnam and travelled between numerous islands before first reaching New Guinea, and later landing on Hawaii and French Polynesia."

The genetic differences between the various pig gives us a great way to measure these migrations since the pigs obviously didn't swim all the various islands in the Pacific, but had to be taken there by their human keepers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fred Thompson

William Rusher at Townhall.

In an interview Sunday with Fox News, TV and film actor and former Tennessee Republican Senator Fred Thompson is dwelling on a potential presidential run. Should he decide to run, it would be a major development in the race for the Republican nomination. Thompson brings a strong "true conservative" record to the table.

"First and foremost, he is a true-blue conservative, comfortable with all the positions on social issues (abortion, gay rights, gun control, etc.) that give Rudy Giuliani so much difficulty and that have inspired John McCain and Mitt Romney to "flip-flop" in recent years to curry favor with social conservatives. In the second place, he is (as his television career demonstrates) an immensely attractive personality at 64, with a rumpled and thoughtful charm. Thirdly, his service for eight years in the U.S. Senate (four times Barack Obama's current tenure) attests to his success as a political leader. And finally, he hails from a border state -- Tennessee -- with all that implies for electability in the South and elsewhere."

Thompson was the chair of the Senate Government Affaris Committee, was co-chief counsel on the Watergate hearings, and had an informal post in the Bush administration assisting the Supreme Court nominee (and eventually Chief Justice) John Roberts through their Senate hearings.

Personally, since Jeb won't run, Fred could very well be my guy, although Rudy is still a strong contender as well Duncan Hunter (maybe) and Sam Brownback on the Republican side. It's mighty early yet, and I have little to go on for any candidate as far as examining the issues and their positions goes so far, but I'm looking forward to the process of doing so over the next few months.

Another Point of View

Dwight Lee @ TCS Daily.

A little bit of praise for the oft maligned internal combustion engine, which, of course is a bane of evil to most environmental groups. However, as Lee points out, these marvels of technology prevent an even greater evil - animal powered pollution, which can cause a host of health concerns.

"The air and water pollution from horse manure contributed to a death rate far greater than that generated by the pollution from cars and trucks. No one denies that photochemical smog from gas powered vehicles is a health risk, but it is not nearly the health risk of cholera, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, diphtheria and malaria. These diseases killed tens of thousands of Americans in the early 20-century and these deaths began to decline as cars and trucks replaced horses and wagons."

Added to this health benefit is the fact that livestock also produce methane, one of the worst of the various greenhouse gasses, and an objective mind might think that machine driven technology is an even greater boon. Oh, wait, I said an objective mind, not a true believer in the global warming religion sweeping the planet.

Movie Review - 300

I went to see the movie 300 on Saturday, and have to say I was pretty impressed with it. I don't see a lot of movies in the theater, but I had to make the effort for this one after reading several enthusiastic blogger reviews. Hollywood doesn't make many movies with themes such as duty, freedom, honor, and personal sacrifice much any more, but the big box office numbers may, and hopefully will, make them rethink that.

It is a pretty serious film about a pretty serious subject, and has enough violence that it could turn some off, but I found the violence to be of the more stylized comic book variety than a lot of the stuff you see in slasher/horror pictures. I won't ruin the plot for those that haven't seen it, but I found it was both a strong story, well acted, and was quite visually appealing as well, although others have criticized the CGI used quite a bit for the backdrops. It did a pretty good job of sticking to the history of the actual event, although I was disappointed that the film made no mention at all of the naval battle off the Greek coast at Artemesium, led the the Athenian leader Themosicles. The Greek navy prevented the Persians from landing troops behind the the Greek position on land, allowing the blocking force at the pass to hold off the entire Persian army.

All told, I would say it is the best war movie I have seen since The Great Raid. Grade: A.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reason Behind the Light Blogging Last Week

I've had to do some difficult things in my life, but the toughest thing I may have ever done in my life to this point occurred last Wednesday, March 7, at approximately 8:25 am. I had to put my good canine friend and almost nine year rommate Bear to sleep.
My sister got my friend as a six week pup, had him for about a year before moving and having to give him up, but despite her best efforts at finding him a good home, nothing ever really worked out for him. My mom wound up with him for a number of months, but he was quite a handful in his younger years, a little too much for her at least. I took him off her hands when I moved to Ohio in 1998 when he was about three, and he was my constant companion from that point.
He had gotten ill Monday morning, a most unusual event for him, so I took him to the vet that afternoon, and the doc decided to keep him overnight for X-rays and some lab tests, and possibly an ultrasound the next day. The good doctor discovered a large, inoperable tumor with the ultrasound, and it was causing life-threatening internal bleeding. The doc informed me of Bear's condition Tuesday afternoon. I went to visit him that evening for over an hour & they kept him stable overnight while I slept on the decision that I was pretty much forced to make by his steadily deteriorating condition.
He was really struggling early Wednesdsay morning when I returned. His breathing was labored and he was unsteady on his feet, but really glad to see Dad again. We spent some time together again and then I had the vet come in and give him the shots that took him away from me until we meet again in the next world. It will be a long time before I recover, if one can ever recover from tragedy like this; while he was getting pretty long in the tooth for his kind, he'd always been a very healthy guy, so losing him this suddenly was quite a shock. He would have been thirteen in May.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Local Links

I've added a number of recently discovered Local Yokel Blogs, a number of which are both interesting...and blogroll me. How embarassing for them. :)

Well, I'm done gone and did the right thing, at least by my standards, and added them to my blogroll as well, even if they aren't blogrolling me, cuz they're local, and they've all been at least recently active.

Welcome Beatrice Fiddler, Right Wing Professor, High Plains Patriot, Joe's Crabby Shack, and Paging Power to the brand new official guerillaspot Local Yokels blogroll. You're very welcome.

LATE EDIT: Added commenter Dana's blog, Principled Discovery, as well. My apologies for not noticing you sooner.

Ancient Astronomical Observatory in Peru

via ScienceDaily this time.

The earliest known astronomical observatory in the America discovered in Chankillo, Peru. The site has long been known but the mysterious 13 stone observatory nearby was only recently analyzed, both to determine its use and age. It dates back to the 4th century BC, 500 years before similiar finds built by the Mayans in Mexico.

"Chankillo is a large ceremonial center covering several square kilometers in the costal Peruvian desert. It was better known in the past for a heavily fortified hilltop structure with massive walls, restricted gates, and parapets. For many years, there has been a controversy as to whether this part of Chankillo was a fort or a ceremonial center. But the purpose of a 300meter long line of Thirteen Towers lying along a small hill nearby had remained a mystery..
The new evidence now identifies it as a solar observatory. When viewed from two specially constructed observing points, the thirteen towers are strikingly visible on the horizon, resembling large prehistoric teeth. Around the observing points are spaces where artifacts indicate that ritual gatherings were held. The current report offers strong evidence for an additional use of the site at Chankillo -- as a solar observatory. It is remarkable as the earliest known complete solar observatory in the Americas that defines all the major aspects of the solar year."

Inca rulers considered themselves descended from the Incan Sun god, and such a site would have had important cultural and political significance. The site was used to track the rising and setting of the sun to denote the timing of both religious festivals and planting and harvest cycles. The early dating of the site suggests that detailed astonomical data had been gathered even earlier, leading to the construction of the sites by ruling political and religious castes in order to cement their power over the population.

Tech key to Recovery Old Oil

As if to further make my earlier point about oil production, the OWH helpfully chimes in.

"Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields. At the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach.With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world's reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before."

And yes, the Peak Oilers are finding it hard to convince anyone serious that their pet theory is correct.

"There is still a minority view, held largely by a small band of retired petroleum geologists and some members of Congress, that oil production has peaked, but the theory has been fading."

Again, as oil prices go up, it becomes feasible to go back into old fields and resume production, as well as explore and produce in difficult terrain. Approximately two-thirds of the oil in older fields has been left remianing in the ground, as it was formerly unprofitable to go to great lenghts to recover it. It also becomes feasible to start producing from deposits like Canadian tar sands.

"Typically, oil companies can produce only one barrel for every three they find. Two usually are left behind, either because they are too hard to pump out or because it would be too expensive to do so. Going after these neglected resources, energy experts say, represents a tremendous opportunity."

The head of reserve management at Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia's national oil company) is also noted as saying that the kingdom's true reserves are triple the "recoverable" figure of 260 million barrels, the largest on paper reserves in the world, and that new seismic tools greatly aid in both exploration and energy production.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Beijing Anomoly

via LiveScience.

Seismologists have detected a unusual body of water deep within the earth's crust in the deep mantle near the earht's core. When seismic waves traveling through the planet due to earth movements reach East Asia, they area slow down slightly and attenuate due to the large quantity of water stored in the rock. The heart of the phenomenon is almost right underneath the city of Beijing, China, hence the name. The quantity of water found is quite substantial, the equivalent of another Arctic Ocean. 600,000 seismograms from all over the earth were analyzed in making the find.

What will they find out next?

Friday, March 02, 2007

US Diplomacy

Daniel Drezner of Tufts University writes about US diplomatic efforts on behalf of rising powers like India and China in poly sci journal Foreign Affairs (via RCP).

"the Iraq controversy has overshadowed a more pragmatic and multilateral component of the Bush administration's grand strategy: Washington's attempt to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy and international institutions in order to account for shifts in the global distribution of power. The Bush administration has been reallocating the resources of the executive branch to focus on emerging powers."

The challenge is to integrate the the new powers in old institutions while placating the old powers which lose influence, a tricky prospect under the best of times, worsened by the perception that the US operates "unilaterally". While both the Pentagon and the State Department have shifted personnel from Old World powers in Europe to developing states in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Pacific rim, the vast majority of staff still remain wedded to older established allies. However, the US has had some succcesses, such as helping China to join the WTO, the Indian nuclear agreement, and the Asia-Pacific agreement on clean development. Challenges still remain, as other nations sometimes create institutions where the US does not have a role, such the the Shanghai agreement between China, Russia and Central Asia nations. A Deomcratic Congress could also make life difficult for the administration as well.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Telescope at South Pole

via ScienceDaily.

Apparently we've built a 10m telescope at the South Pole and it is now operational.

"The telescope stands 75 feet (22.8 meters) tall, measures 33 feet (10 meters) across and weighs 280 tons (254 metric tons). It was assembled in Kilgore, Texas, then taken apart, shipped across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, and flown from there to the South Pole. "

The SPT (South Pole Telescope - astronomers have a lot of imagination) is designed to study background microwave radiation, with particular regard to cosmological conditions of the universe immediately after the Big Bang. The south polar region is ideally suited for such observations due to the lack of water vapor in the atmosphere because of the cold conditions there. The SPT's first study will be to study how dark matter may have altered the formation of galactic clusters right after the formation of the universe. Astronomers can scan thousands of such clusters in just a few years with their new tool.

Pretty cool.