Friday, August 31, 2007

Firefly Quote for the Weekend

Jayne: [drinking tea] This ain't bad.
Badger: There's a trick to it. Wood alcohol.
Mal: So now we're favored guests, treated to beverages that make you blind.

MLB Standings

Well, it's the end of August, and we all know what that means. As the football season starts, the baseball season heats up with pennant fever. Let's take a look at where we are, beginning with the exciting race in the Inferior Circuit West.

My Snakes have a skinny 1 game lead over the Priests, with the Team Orginally From Brooklyn on the outside looking in, but definitely still in it only 4 games back, while the Stones also have a winning record at 68-65. Let's not talk about the Midgets and their Home Run King right now - they're 13 1/2 out.

Over in the Central, the Littel Bears have moved into a 2 1/2 game lead over
the Brew Crew who are slowly releasing the air out of their tires, but they aren't out of it yet even being a game under par. The Redbirds have also snuck into this thing, although they are still 2 games under .500 at 64-66, while the Astrologers and the Corsairs hope the season ends soon both almost 10 out.

The East is also getting interesting, with the Stupid Ones being just that, getting rolled by the Quakers in a four game sweep that left them only two games behind. The Feathered Ones are also hanging around 4 1/2 back, while the Fish and Nats argue about who finished last, both 15 out.

In the Superior League, the Heavenly Host is still rolling with a 5 1/2 game margin on Team Starbucks, and Team Green and the Lawmen are almost out of sight, 14 and 18 back respectively.

The Central has Team Lake Erie leading the the now Sheffless Tiggers by 4 1/2, with the Yellow Spongcakes slipping rapidly despite being a game over .500 at 67-66. The Peasants have revolted and aren't in last for once, the White Stockings hold that distinction and are a whopping 19 1/2 behind.

In the only division that matters, the Nefarious Ones are still on top, but suffered a 3 game sweep and the hands of the Coolest Team In Baseball History, but unfortunately remain a still imposing 5 back. Team Canada is over .500 at 67-66 but trails the Team Ugly by 12. The Birds and the Sea Monsters are over the horizon, both over 20 games out. Birds are racing to the bottom, losing 9 in a row, but I still think Tampa gets the #1 draft pick.

As far as the Wild Cards goes, the Bronx Bombers and the Priests have the spots as of today, but Team Microsoft and the Tiggers are right on the Yanks heels and the Monks have the Quakers, Brooklyn, and some angry Georgians to deal with since they picked up former Lawman Mark Teixeira, which was probably the move of the summer - other than the Yanks calling up some bullpen hlep in the form of former Husker hurler Joba Chamberlain, who's been lights out in the setup role for Mo Rivera.

Colllege Games Saturday

No big surprises last night, the usual early season blowouts, highlighted by the Louisville - Murray St 73-10 score. LSU won big 45-0 but Mississippi St played some very tough early defense but couldn't move the ball whatsoever against the Tigers.

Best game of the night was probably the MAC matchup between Miami (OH) and Ball St, with Redhawk QB Brandon Murphy scoring with but 17 ticks remaining on the clock to give Miami the victory. The MAC had a pretty good night despite Buffalo getting blown out against Rutgers. Kent St defeated Iowa St for its first victory over a BCS conference opponent since 1987 despite 3 red zone turnovers.

Games of Interest this Saturday:

Colorado St @ Colorado (Big rivalry game, CU is rebuilding under new HC Dan Hawkins but CO St has 20 returning starters, including RB Kyle Bell, who missed 2006 with a knee injury.)

E. Carolina @ VA Tech (Tech will play NU next season, and the horrific school shootings there earlier this year give this game some additional emotional impact)

Iowa @ N. Illinois (Can the Hawkeyes recover from losing six of their last 7 in 2006?)

Missouri @ Illinois (Could be a trap game for Mizzou, can their offense keep the pressure off the young defensive unit?)

Washington St @ Wisconsin (Can the Badgers repeat last year's success?)

Wake Forest @ Boston College (Big conference challenge for the returning ACC champs before the host the Huskers next week)

Georgia Tech @ Notre Dame (Will the Irish be able to move the ball with their new offensive unit against a very good Tech defensive group?)

Oklahoma St @ Georgia (Huge test on the road for the Cowpokes between the hedges, but Georgia may have issues stopping QSU QB Bobby Reid. Signature win for Big 12 if OSU pulls off the upset)

Central Michigan @ Kansas ( Can a Big 12 North school defeat a MAC school?)

Kansas St @ Auburn (Another huge test for the Big 12 against the SEC)

Tennessee @ California (Biggest game and possibly the best matchup of Week 1)

Bowling Green @ Minnesota (Can the MAC pull off another upset against the Big 10?)


Nevada @ Nebraska (How will Sam Keller look running the West Coast offense, and can a Kevin Cosgrove Blackshirt defense handle Nevada's "pistol" spread offense?)


Northern Colorado @ Hawaii (How many TD passes will Heisman hopeful Colt Brennan throw?)


Texas Tech @ SMU (Who will QB Graham Harrell throw to this season for his 4,000 yds?)

Florida St @ Clemson (Big ACC matchup, and what impact will the new OC, Jimbo Fisher have on Bobby Bowden's Seminole offense?)

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: Well look at this. 'Pears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?
Zoë: Big damn heroes, sir.
Mal: Ain't we just.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fred's IN

Fred has "announced" that he will be announcing on September 6th.

"On September 6, 2007, Fred Thompson will be announcing his intention to run for President of the United States with a webcast available to millions at The launch of the video will be followed by a five-day campaign tour through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. On the evening of the 6th, there will also be a National House Party, during which there will be a conference call with Fred."

Word also has it that he will be appearing on Leno, perhaps even on the 5th.

More tomorrow, also see what Ed Morrissey has to say here, and see some pretty stupid comments from a number of unbelievers. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but Ed sure does attract a crowd at his place. I personally think Fred's going to make a big splash in the MSM when it happens, and that a lot of non-politcal types will absorb a positive impression of Fred.

Added link to FoxNews on the story.

College FB Starts TONIGHT

Lengthy slate of games, the cool part is the Thursday start to the season.

Games of personal interest on Thursday, particularly MAC and Big 12 conference games:

Buffalo @ #16 Rutgers (Buffalo Head Coach Turner Gill has a huge challenge here)

#2 LSU @ Miss. St (How will new LSU QB Matt Flynn perform taking over for #1 NFL pick JaMarcus Russell in an early season conference contest?)

Miami (OH) @ Ball State (East meets West in an early season MAC conference game)

Kent State @ Iowa St (How will new ISU head coach Gene Chizik change things in Ames?)

Webber St @ Boise St (Not a big challenge, but the question is whether Boise can run the table again?)

On Friday, two games, both of interest:

Navy @ Temple (Does Temple have even a slim chance to win a game this year after joining the MAC?, and will Navy roll to a fifth consecutive bowl game?)


Washington @ Syracuse (Long road trip in a tough house for Ty Willingham's crew, who hasn't had much success, but the Orangemen have also struggled mightily of late)

I'll put down some thoughts tomorrow on the weekend and holiday games as well.

Fred Thompson Interview at CQ

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters interviewed Fred Thompson at the Minnesota State Fair for his radio show, and has posted the transcript. While they only had time for a couple of questions, I thought this one was a good indicator of why I support this candidate.

"EM: Well, speaking of that (The global war and the US role in the world) Senator, you’ve got a lot of commentary about your sober, realistic tone that you took in Indianapolis, yesterday or the day before, is that the type of campaign you want to bring to people to hear some tough truths to prepare us for the battles ahead?

FT: Well, let’s just say that the rah-rah stuff has its time and place and I’m not above a little of that from time to time but that’s not why I am where I am right now. Life is too short, the difficulties facing our country are too serious, not to tell the truth about what we’re going to have to do as a nation. It’s sober in a way but it’s optimistic in a way. It’s not optimistic not because of the world we see around us but because we think we can do something about it, that we can do better. That’s the source of my optimism. And I’m not going to shy away from the facts; I’m not going gear myself to try to get a party applause line every second or third sentence I make. Republicans and well as the rest of the American people need to come together on the fact that we have some tough choices ahead of us and the one thing that is not sustainable is our current path with regard to our attitude toward global conflicts and with regard to our attitude toward our economic future, current trends and our attitude with regard of what it’s going to take to do better; and that’s unity of the American people."

Ed goes on to relate (in reponse to a question from a commenter) how well people responded to Fred and how much he appeared to like talking with people at the event.

"I was impressed with his warmth and sincerity, both with me and with the crowd. I talked a bit about this during my show that day, but the crowd clearly sensed his approachability and his geniality. He did not strike me as someone going through the motions, but as a man who genuinely enjoys interacting with people, even the press."

I am eagerly awaiting the announcement, which will hopefully occur right after the holiday.

Hansen's Global Crusade

James Lewis at the American Thinker takes NASA climate science modeler and Global Warming Crusader James Hansen to task. Hansen has been crying about the Executive branch of government trying to politicize science - exactly what Hansen has been doing by claiming that the seas will inundate the coasts under as much as 80 feet of water by the end of the century and that we positively must destroy our economy in order to deal with this issue.

"Dr. Hansen is a math modeler in the climate change game. How does he get Planetary Doom from a math model? It's very simple. You build in "positive feedback loops." That is, you look in the vast toolbox of climate variables to find just two factors that might reinforce each other in a catastrophic loop. For instance, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might create a greenhouse effect, which causes more heating, which causes more water evaporation, which causes more greenhouse effect, which causes more heating, etc., etc. Keep looping that, and you raise world temps by just one degree Centigrade, so the polar ice caps melt and the oceans rise, up to 25 meters. See? It's easy.

The big problem with this scenario is that the climate system almost certainly has negative feedback loops, i.e., causal connections that work to bring temperatures back to a rough baseline. The climate is likely to have self-regulation mechanisms in much the way that our bodies have self-regulating loops to stabilize our temperature, blood sugar, and a hundred other variables. Why does that seem likely? Because the world hasn't burned up or drowned in quite a long time, even though temperature variations and greenhouse gases have existed for many millions of years. Such factors as clouds and air particulates are believed to lower temperatures. With a little imagination we could easily build math models for self-regulating loops that would tend to stabilize temperatures. (But it might be hard to swing the federal grant support for those models.)"

Hansen's temperature data has been "massaged" in a number of ways that he hasn't allowed anyone to review, but Canadian Steve MacIntyre has delved deeply into the published numbers to "correct" a couple of points over the years. MacIntyre first demolished the now infamous "hocky stick" graph showing temperature rising steadily in the 20th century with a recent accelerated rise over the last 20 years. The actual data show the real numbers to oscillate (warming in the early 20th century, cooling in the middle of the century, then warming again after 1970) although the general trend has been toward a slight (less than 1 degree Celsius) increase. Just recently Hansen was forced to reshuffle his list of the top 10 warmest years in the US by MacIntyre raising 1934 to the warmest year of all time and dropping the rankings of several recent years, including one year off the chart completely.

Hansen has now come up with a manifesto of sorts, asking Presidential candidates to sign a pledge to "save the planet", and he has all sorts of wacky ideas about how to do so, like completely halting the construction of any new energy generation plants that don't meet his specific criteria, taxing carbon emissions and changing the laws of supply and demand. And anyone who disagrees with Hansen is more or less a paid political flunky of special interests and anyone who doubts his "facts" can safely be ignored, because Hansen KNOWS the TRUTH.

This guy Hansen calls himself a scientist?

Firefly Quote of the Day

Zoë: If I'm gonna wear a dress, I want something with some slink.
Wash: You want a slinky dress? I can buy you a slinky dress. Captain, can I have money for a slinky dress?
Jayne: I'll chip in.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Huskers Name Blackshirts

via, the defensive coaches announced the distribution of 15 Blackshirts, including six new players awarded the honor.

"Fifteen Husker defenders took on a different look at Tuesday’s Nebraska football practice, donning Blackshirts for the first time in 2007. The coveted practice jerseys signify first-team defensive status and were placed in each player’s respective locker before they arrived on Tuesday."

The newcomers are juco transfers CB Armando Murillo and safety Larry Asante, juniors DT Ty Steinkuhler and DE Zach Potter, and sophomores NT Ndamakuh Suh and MLB Phillip Dillard.

Returning Blackshirt defendres are junior DE Barry Turner and senior LBs Bo Ruud, Cory McKeon, Steve Octavian, Lance Brandenburgh and defensive backs Tierre Green, Zac Bowman, Courtney Grixby and Andre Jones.

"Cosgrove noted that he saw some extra bounce from the Blackshirts during Tuesday’s 2 ½ hour practice inside the Hawks Championship Center.

“I think there are some guys who didn’t think they were going to get one, but we as a staff believed they earned them,” Cosgrove said. “Now it’s up to them to prove that they should keep them.” "

Congratulations to the players and all their hard work in the off season to prepare for the upcoming year.

The Electoral College

This is from yesterday but I didn't quite get to it.
Matthew Frank at NRO examined the Electoral College and the recent initiative in California to split the state's votes by Congressional District, with the state's winner taking the 2 votes representing its US Senators. (The total of each state''s congressional delegation is the same as the number of its electoral votes).
Personally, I'm in favor of the idea, but only if implemented nationally. Only Maine and Nebraska allow for such split voting, all other states in the union grant all the votes to that state's winner of the presidential election.

Unfortunately, the Constition spells out that only the state legislatures can decide on how to apportion a state's votes. This California initiative is a voter sponsored referendum. Naturally, the Democrats are crying foul - if Califonia split its vote in the last election, it would have cost John Kerry 22 electoral votes from the California districts that voted Republican. But as Frank points out, that is far from being a sure thing in the future, particularly after redistricting every ten years.

"Would redrawn congressional districts change the electoral map in presidential contests? Surely to some extent, and the district-tally system, if instituted in every state with at least two congressional districts, would create powerful incentives to rethink the virtue of gerrymandering for the sake of incumbent House members’ reelection. Our parties are famously adaptable to new institutional realities, and there is no reason to expect that the preceding “what-if” analysis of the last election, under rules that were not then in place, is a good predictor of what would happen one or two or three elections from now, if the new rules were actually adopted. Redistricting experts in both parties would quickly start to fiddle with the map to maximize geographically distributed strengths, yielding small but marginally predictable district-wide majorities. This would risk more House seats but help in presidential elections. Could the Democrats find more voters for their candidates on a more distributed basis? They would surely try."

He also points out that a change many Democrats prefer, one in which the winner of the national popular vote takes each state's (those that make the change, anyway) electoral votes, regardless of that state's outcome, would probably benefit the Democratic party due to its preponderance in many urban centers. A change of this nature would also have far larger impacts on the two party system, perhaps irrevocably weakening it in favor of fringe party alliances which could "hold hostage" the larger parties by threatening to withdraw support at critical political junctures, much like European parliamentary systems. He also wonders what impact a Florida 2000 situation might look like if this were implemented at a national level, and doesn't like imagining it - neither do I.

In short, the Electoral College, for all its supposed faults, has served the nation pretty well, and tinkering with it may have far reaching and unintended consequences.
Those crazy old elitist white males that founded the country didn't do such a bad job.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: He's not the first psycho to hire us nor the last.
You think that's a commentary on us?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NU Depth Chart Released

Coaching staff has released the chart for this saturday's game, and there are a couple of surprises.

On defense:
Juco transfer Armando Murillo starts in front of returning starter Andre Jones at right corner, with Zac Bowman listed as #2 at the left corner position behind Courtney Grixby. The question is whether or not Bowman, who is recovering from a knee injury will actually play this week. If he does, it might mean he overtakes Grixby later into the season as he recovers. Jones and Grixby are listed as the top kickoff returners, with Grixby listed as #1 on punts.

Frosh Thomas Grove of Arlington, NE is listed at #2 WLB behind Steve Octavian - I don't think anyone expected that one. Another heralded frosh, Blake Lawrence, is sharing time at #2 SAM LB with junior Tyler Wortman behind co #1s Bo Ruud and Lance Brandenburgh. As expected, the juco juniors Kevin Dixon and Shurkee Barfield, along with senior Brandon Johnson are backing up a defensive tackle.

The situation with the safeties (Green & Asante, with Thenarse & Wilson at #2)and the ends (Potter & Turner, with Allen and Sievers backing up) are as expected, but it appears that the kicking duties are going to be decided later, as both frosh Adi Kunalic and redshirt frosh Alex Henery are listed as co #1s. Titchener returns at punter.

On Offense:
One surprise is H-back/TE has RS frosh Dreu Young of Cozad, NE listed as the #3 behind JB Phillppis and Josh Mueller of Columbus. The line situation is about as expected as far as starters, although the status of starting RG Matt Slauson is probably a game time decision. Mike Huff of Ralston is listed as co #1 there. The interesting items here are the backups, with 3 RS frosh listed at the two tackle spots (Mike Smith on the left and DJ Jones of Omaha on the right) and Keith Williams behind the Huff/Slauson combo at RG. Senior Jordon Picou is #2 at LG and sophmore Jacob Hickman is at #2 center.

At the skill spots, the wideout situation is pretty much pat from last year with the exception of Mo Purify being suspended for the opener and Menelik Holt listed behind Nate Swift and Todd Peterson of Grand Island at the X spot. At Y, frosh Niles Paul of Omaha is listed behind Terrence Nunn, Franz Hardy and Dan Erickson, also of Omaha. At RB, Cody Glenn isn't listed apparently due to the still troublesome hamstring injury but there is some news at the position. Quentin Castille and Roy Helu are listed ahead of Major Culbert at RB, which is certainly an interesting turn of events for the former safety. Andy Sand has apparently won the starting FB job over Thomas Lawson, although it's likely both will see action. We all should know who the starting QB is by now unless you live under a rock in Siberia - or Serbia for that matter.

The last remaining surprise is the absence of a couple of prominent names from fall camp, notably frosh corners Prince Amukamara and Anthony Blue, and also frosh RB Marcus Mendoza. Does this absence forbode a possible redshirt season for one or all? Another notable name missing is LB Nick Covey. I guess we'll have to stay tuned to find out what is going on with these players.

Husker QB

via OWH, two looks at the NU QB situation that aren't behind the EVIL subscriber only block (Didn't the NY Times try this and have it fail spectacularly?).

The earlier one from Saturday is the view of Sam Keller's progress from his predecessor, Zac Taylor. Taylor notes that it took him a while to get used to playing in front of 80,000 fans, but that Keller's already done that at ASU, and had quite a bit of success. He also believes Keller is just as good a fit for the West Coast scheme as Taylor was himself.

"Taylor has seen Keller gain steam through preseason camp, watching every practice as a member of the NU video staff. "You can tell he's learning something new every day," Taylor said. "You don't learn this offense overnight, and that's something he's known he's had to do. Every practice really helps him out...."He could shatter everything I did," Taylor said. "That's definitely something I would expect." "

The second article from Sunday deals with Keller's road to NU, starting with his departure from the ASU program. Keller, injured mid season in 2005, had been quite adequately replaced for the remainder of that season by Rudy Carpenter. More or less, once Coach Koetter had decided on Keller on his starter, Carpenter (with his father) threatened to leave the program, and with three seasons of eligibility for Carpenter to Keller's one, the coach and team leaders decided that keeping Carpenter happy was more important. One of the factors in the decision was the fact Keller had a reputation for having an active "social life" outside of football, and that a QB with such distractions was detrimental to the team.

"That seed of doubt about Keller was enough to sway the group. Players — not Koetter — decided to go with Carpenter. Those in the room took a vow of secrecy, agreeing not to talk about what had happened.

A couple of hours later, Coach Koetter called another meeting, this time with the quarterback he'd recruited. Keller broke down and cried.

He called his parents, who were traveling back home. Come back, he said. They returned and met with the coach late that afternoon. Keller's father demanded that Sam be able to face his accusers. Koetter said no.

They gave Koetter one day to change his mind. He didn't. Sunday, the Kellers asked for a scholarship release. Sunday night, the coach made his announcement: "It's simple. I made a mistake on the quarterback situation and I'm changing my mind."

Of course, Koetter is no longer the Head Coach at ASU, he's in the NFL as the Offensive Coordinator for the Jaguars, after going 7-6 last year with Carpenter looking nothing like the NCAA's top rated passer of 2005. AS for Keller, he arrived at NU and went to work with the scout team and did quite a bit of soul searching.

"Keller wanted to play in the NFL, and a dozen Saturdays in 2007 were his chance. Without the game, he'd be . . . he's not sure. Football's all he's ever known. A firefighter, maybe. "My best friend in high school, his dad's captain of a firehouse."

He didn't regret leaving the desert — "Why would I want to stay there? I had no place there" — but he considered those first weeks rock bottom. Small victories lifted him: home games during which he got to be on the sideline; winning over friends on the team like Bo Ruud and Corey McKeon; his girlfriend moving to Lincoln in October.

He stayed out of the spotlight as best he could. He listed his credentials only when someone asked. He kept his mouth shut at practice — except during scout team drills.

"He's up in every receiver's face getting into them about their scout-team routes," said Ruud, an NU starting linebacker. "Seven-on-seven scout team. To say it's a meaningless drill . . . nobody wants to be doing it, especially the scout team. He's going hard core. . . . And this is mid-December outside in the cold."

Before Keller transferred, the crucial fourth season of Callahan's tenure appeared hazy.

How could the coach rebuild the Huskers to national prominence without a qualified quarterback?

Named NU's starting quarterback earlier this week, Keller recognizes a different kind of heat in Nebraska, where people admire and critique their quarterbacks like politicians. At times, he must resist what feels natural."

Good luck Sam, the sky is truly the limit.

NASA and Technology

Great article at TCS about NASA and the space program by Jack Raia written in response to a NY Post column by Steve Dunleavy, who criticized the agency for not giving a good return on the taxpayer's investments. Jack properly takes this to task and demolishes it. The only possible government agency that it could be argues has had a GREATER return on its investments than NASA is perhaps the Defense Department, and that is pretty debatable unless you include things like the value of keeping Western Europe, Japan and South Korea free for the last half century. Jack comes up with just a partial list of innovations that make life better for American citizens:

"Satellites orbit the earth and track storms, providing information to supercomputers on the Earth's surface that perform millions of calculations to arrive at the most likely outcome. Those satellites were placed in orbit by NASA and the computers performing the calculations are spin-offs of NASA programs. The latest models of Airplanes produced by Boeing and Airbus are made of lighter, stronger materials that were developed for the space program.

In medicine, though a cure for Parkinson's has proven elusive, ultrasound scanners provide more vivid pictures of infants in the womb and greater ability to diagnose problems. Cat scans are an indispensable tool in the detection of many maladies. Though not yet curable, research on osteoporosis, diabetes and AIDS has led to innovations in treatments. All are spin-offs of NASA. Flat-panel televisions, another NASA spin-off, have become accessible to most families. Runners wear shoes made of advanced materials that absorb the shock of running."

and then he gets DAMN serious and spanks this idea clean out of the ballpark, across the river and into the next state:

"Climate change prediction; satellite navigation and communication; satellite imagery; crop management and resource mapping; solar power electricity generation; energy saving air conditioning; food processing control; wireless alarms; long distance telephone networks; high density batteries; robot-guided wheelchairs; car chassis and brake design; firefighter breathing apparatus; protective clothing; thin super-insulating blankets; heart monitors; instantaneous infrared thermometers; laser surgery; automatic insulin pump; programmable pacemakers; international TV broadcasts; powerful micro computers; environmentally safe sewage treatment and water purification systems."

Of course, some of the problem lies with NASA itself - the agency does such a piss poor job of marketing itself that some people get the idea we aren't gaining anything from the work it does. It would be hysterically funny if it weren't so serious - if we'd made just a tenth (hell, even half that) of the investment in the space program over the last forty years as we've thrown away on foreign aid, federal spending on education and the drug war, we'd have a permanent lunar outpost and been to Mars and back already, and gained in in technological ways no one can probably even imagine.

Hillary's Curious Campaign Contributors

Brody Mullins at The Wall Street Journal takes a close examination of a particular Hillary Clinton supporter, Norman Hsu of New York and his friends the Paw family of San Fransisco. The Paws have given a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, but what it isn't apparent is how the can afford such largesse, since they live in a 1280 sq ft house they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw is a Postal worker making $49,000 a year and his wife is a homemaker. How this Mr. Hsu is involved with this family isn't clear, although he once listed their home as his address. The Paw family's children have a variety of careers, but none of them spectacularly lucrative. But the family and Mr. Hsu do seem to have some things in common.

"The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. He has hosted or co-hosted some of her most prominent money-raising events."

Of course, it is illegal for someone to reimburse someone else for political contributions, and there is no public record of this happening in the case of Mr. Hsu and the Paw family. Individuals can contribute up to $4600 a campaign cycle for a candidate, split between the primary race and the general election. However -

"The Paw family is just one set of donors whose political donations are similar to Mr. Hsu's. Several business associates of Mr. Hsu in New York have made donations to the same candidates, on the same dates for similar amounts as Mr. Hsu.

On four separate dates this year, the Paw family, Mr. Hsu and five of his associates gave Mrs. Clinton a total of $47,500. In all, the family, Mr. Hsu and his associates have given Mrs. Clinton $133,000 since 2005 and a total of nearly $720,000 to all Democratic candidates."

The Paw family is of Chinese decent, as is Mr. Hsu, and have been living in California since 1982. All but one member of the party is registered to vote as a non-partisan. The curious thing about this is that there are no records of campaign contributions being made by the family before 2004, but since then, they have been quite active - as has Mr. Hsu, and quite surprisingly, at almost identical periods of time.

"Then, in July 2004, five members of the family contributed a total of $3,600 to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat. Five of the checks were dated July 27, 2004. About the same time, Mr. Hsu made his first donations to a political candidate, contributing the maximum amount allowed by law to Mr. Kerry in two separate checks, on July 21, 2004, and on Aug. 6.

From then on, the correlation of campaign donations between Mr. Hsu and the Paw family has continued. The first donations to Mrs. Clinton came Dec. 23, 2004, when Mr. Hsu and one Paw family member donated the then-maximum $4,000 to her Senate campaign in two $2,000 checks, campaign-finance records show. In March 2005, the individuals gave a total of $17,500 to Mrs. Clinton.

Since then, Mr. Hsu, his New York associates and the Paw family have continued to donate to Democratic candidates. This year, Alice Paw and four of the Paw children have donated the maximum $4,600 to Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign."

Of course, this is not to say there is any wrongdoing on the part of Mrs. Clinton's campaign, but it is certainly a curious state of affairs, and one in which the Paws have declined to be interviewed. It might be all an innocent coincidence, but it certainly is one in which the Federal Election Commission may desire to examine in more detail.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Wash: Who's flying this thing? Oh right, that would be me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

America's Poor

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation shares some statistics on Americans "Living in Poverty", which government numbers at some 37 million people, at NRO. Almost half of these people own their own homes, and on average a poor American has far more living space than the average European citizen.

"Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR, or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians."

This is not to say that there are not issues, but that the story being framed by the media is being oversold to a large degree. Nearly 3/4 of the poor own an automobile, and almost 1/3 own two. The average caloric consumption of a poor American child is almost identical to that of a middle class child. One of the biggest issues regarding children in poverty is that they are living in a single parent (and hence income) family. Nearly 3/4 of the children living in poverty wouldn't be if their parent was married.

Another issue is that of recent immigrants - a quarter of the poor are either recent or first generation, and ten percent are illegal or the child of an illegal, and a quarter of legal immigrants and over half the illegals do not possess a high school education. Bottom line, we need to secure the border and be much more selective on who we allow to reside in our nation.

Hydrogen Power Storage Getting Close

via ScienceDaily, Scottish scientists are making some progress towards developing an improved organic polymer that could store hydrogen, allowing for the development of a hydrogen powered vehicle. For any alternate vehicle energy source, the goal is to develop a storage capacity that roughly equates to the 3-400 miles of travel that the current gasoline tank provides in automobiles.

"Professors Neil McKeown from the School of Chemistry together with Peter Budd of the University of Manchester and David Book from the University of Birmingham can now report the creation of an organic polymer able to store around three per cent hydrogen by weight.

The figure is almost double the amount of hydrogen the group’s preliminary polymers could store last year, and offers hope of producing an organic polymer in the future capable of storing enough hydrogen to successfully power a vehicle."

The capability that this 3 percent figure provides in energy storage is about half of the goal or around 150 miles of travel. The trick that is challenging the researchers is to create a material that is both porous in order to store the quantity of hydrogen needed but that also has the proper sized small "holes" for the tiny hydrogen molecules to fit into snuggly.

Husker Opponent: Nevada

It's game week, so let's look at who we're going up against - the Nevada Wolf Pack, coached by Chris Ault, who owns an 185-78-1 lifetime record. Nevada is a WAC team that went 8-5 and lost by a single point to Miami of Florida in last year's MPC Computer Bowl. The school is coming off just its second back to back bowl seasons in school history. The team runs a spread offensive set known as the "pistol" offense, but last year's triggerman, QB Jeff Rowe, is now playing on Sunday, and the competition is still open as the team has yet to announce their starting QB for Saturday. Nevada also lost last year's top running back and reciever, and the expected anchor of their offensive line, C Dominic Green, is out with an injury and the second string center was dismissed from the team earlier this month. The team was pretty balanced last year, 170 yards on the ground last year and almost 190 in the air, while putting up nealry 31 points per game.

Defensively, the Wolf Pack returns 7 starters, including six seniors for its 3-4 defensive scheme. OLB Ezra Butler is an oustanding player who is definitely up for some post season award consideration, but has apparently been suspended for the opener for breaking unspecified team rules. Last year's unit gave up 128 yards a game on the ground and 198 through the air while allowing 19 points per game, which is fairly similiar to the Blackshirt's numbers from a year ago (116/215/18). Nevada had a 5-1 home record but was 3-4 on the road.

This is a talented team with a good coach, and they could be troublesome if the Huskers aren't careful and take care of the ball. Offensively, we should be able to run the ball with some degree of success and then go over the top in the passing game. The spread offense has been a sore spot for Coach Coz's defenses in the past, but this group may be better equipped to defend it than previous Blackshirt units. We're also fortunate to be facing this team early before the new starting skill players have had time to jell, and the loss of their best defensive player and offensive lineman certainly has to hurt their chances of coming to Lincoln and pulling off the upset.

Fearless prediction: 35-14 NU

Firefly Quote of the Day

Patience: Didn't expect to be hearing from you any time soon.
Mal Reynolds: Well, we may not have parted on best terms. I realise certain words were exchanged, also certain bullets.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Firefly Quote for the Weekend

Mal: Can't get paid if you're dead.
Jayne: Can't get paid if you crawl away like a bitty little bug neither.
I got a share of this job. Ten percent of nothin' is, let me do the math
here... nothin' and a nothin', carry the nothin'...

Planetary Formation

Interesting two part article on the formation of solar systems by Steven Soter at Astrobiology magazine. The gist is that solar systems tend to be relatively unstable with gravity creating a delicate balancing act between the planets. Much of the material that doesn't accrete into planets is ejected by the formation of large gas giants, and quite a bit of what remains gets locked into relatively stable resonance points in front and behind of the larger planetary bodies.

"Despite its orderly appearance, the solar system actually includes many elements of what mathematicians call chaos. A defining feature of chaos is the extreme sensitivity of a system to its initial conditions. The most trivial disturbance in such a system can profoundly change its large-scale configuration at a later time. A pool table provides a familiar example: Microscopic variations in the trajectory of a billiard ball, especially one involved in multiple collisions, can completely alter the outcome of the game. Chaotic systems are deterministic, in that they follow precisely the laws of classical physics, but they are fundamentally unpredictable. The nature of chaos was not well understood until recently, when increasing computer power allowed mathematicians to explore it in sufficient detail. No one in Laplace’s day imagined that the solar system, then taken as the paradigm of clockwork stability, is actually vulnerable to chaos."

Oldest Diamonds on Earth Discovered

And now for some science stuff, this time from Livescience.

The oldest diamonds ever discovered have been uncovered within zircon crystals in Australia's Western Desert's Jack Hills region. The analysis of these jewels, dating from over 4 billion ears ago, have led to a new theory that postulates that the Earth was subjected to far faster cooling after its formation than previously believed, with the planet's oceans and continental crust forming quite early in its history, in fact quite shortly (in geologic terms) after the impact event that is thought to have created the Earth's moon.

"The scientists, led by Martina Menneken of the Institute of Mineralogy, ran chemical analyses of the zircons, finding the ancient crystals (and thus the enclosed diamonds) were more than 4 billion years old. That's nearly a billion years older than the previous oldest-known terrestrial diamonds and suggests the diamonds were present in material that crystallized within 300 million years of the formation of Earth, the scientists say."

Firefly Quote of the Day

Book: People like a man of god.
Mal: No, they don't. Men of god make people feel guilty and judged.

Frank Solich Interviewed

Nice interview with Ohio Bobcat (and former Husker) Head Football coach Frank Solich. Great turnaround story at Ohio last year with the Bobcats winning nine games, the MAC East division and going to a bowl game for only the third time in school history. A couple of excerpts:

SB: What do you think has been the biggest reason for the quick turnaround for the program? Can you point to anything in particular that has changed since you took over as head coach?

FS: Well, they bought into our entire program, the players did, and we got them to give tremendous worth ethic. And obviously, one thing that did exist that they weren't having in the past is the fact that we were able to put together scholarships over the summer for players. So we were able to keep them here on campus with guys moving forward in their degrees. They were training together as a football team during the summer. And I don't think you can win football games without your squad being ready and conditioned year round to make it work. And so much chemistry gets developed over the summer when they're together. So that was a big, big thing for us to get that done and move forward with that. And then just the fact that the attitude seemed to be what we wanted in terms of them starting to believe in themselves, and once that happened, they started to believe in one another. And this truly felt like a football team ready to win games.

SB: You have such deep ties to Nebraska, having played there and coached there for so long. Do you have any lingering regrets about how your tenure there ended?

FS: Well, yeah, there are regrets on how that ended there, of course. But that's the business we're in. And obviously, it can come down to an individual or two as to where you're at, and any time there's a change in athletic directors, I think coaches are vulnerable. So that's what it was, and I feel good about what I was able to accomplish in six years there as a head coach. The staff that I took over as head coach with was a very good staff, and we maintained that staff for a few years. Unfortunately, it was an aging staff at one point, so we did make some changes. I was pleased with the opportunity I had to make changes, that good changes were made and that we could continue to move the program forward. So, you know, there's a time frame for new coaches where it's obvious you're extremely vulnerable, especially when you follow a coach like Coach Osborne. You know, he faced the same thing when he followed Coach [Bob] Devaney for a period of time.

Ohio is favored to repeat as East division winners, although they need to determine the starter at QB, RB Kevin McRae returns after two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. He could become Ohio's career rushing leader with another 1,009 yards. Here's wishing Coach Frank and the team all the best.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

CAFE Standards

Eric Peters at the American Spectator takes on the Senate bill that would mandate higher fuel efficency in automobiles and trucks - despite the evidence that suggests it to be counterproductive and expensive. Increasing fuel effiency generally means lighter materials, which are more expensive, and these vehicles are less safe for drivers when there is a collision. He also points out theat there are many small and efficent vehicles in the market, but many drivers actually prefer more larger and more powerful ones. In addition, as fuel standards have gone up, Americans also have ended up driving more miles. The real interesting point in the article comes at the end with Peters suggesting that a House version of the bill would be a far better alternative. The surprising item is the bill's sponsors.

"A House version of the CAFE legislation (HR 2927) sponsored by Reps. Barron Hill (D) of Indiana and Lee Terry (R) of Nebraska acknowledges economic, engineering, and practical realities, representing a more balanced approach that looks beyond just CAFE mandates and recognizes the importance of encouraging efficiency while moving forward in developing alternative energy vehicles.

HR 2927 would continue the current practice of separating CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks, based on sound reasoning that 35 mpg passenger cars is one thing but producing a 35 mpg truck or SUV without incurring massive expense or crippling capability is something else entirely.

HR 2927 recognizes that 35 mpg vehicles won't do us much good if they're too expensive to buy -- and if they’re still being filled with just foreign oil."

Lee Terry!

The man's beginning to make a name for himself. Who'd a thunk?

2008 Electoral Map

Excellent look at the electoral map for 2008, along with some good analysis of the recent history in the "swing" states and some new targets of opportunity for both parties by Rhodes Cook at RCP. Recent voting over the last few elections has the West Coast and NE Atlantic states going to the Democrats, with the Middle West and Southern states (forming an L on the map) going Republican, and the Upper Midwestern states being the battleground "swing" states. This could well change in 2008, however as Cook explains the potential for a Democratic tidal wave.

"Democrats are not only gearing up to contest the usual hot spots where they fell short the last time--such as Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and Florida, the latter the most highly competitive state of late within the "L." But they also appear ready to make a run in a number of states that have long been considered part of the Republican base. Many of the Democratic targets of opportunity are in the Mountain West. But an early target list would also include Virginia, where Democrats appear to have found the formula for statewide success by establishing a beachhead in the burgeoning vote-rich suburbs of Northern Virginia......The trend is also encouraging for the Democrats in much of the Mountain West. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico all were carried by Clinton at least once in the 1990s. And Democrats came within 5 points of winning Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico again in 2004. Momentum is with the Democrats in the Mountain West. In 2006, they picked up a pair of House seats in Arizona, gained a governorship and an additional House seat in Colorado, and captured a Senate seat in Montana. In Virginia, Democrats followed two successive gubernatorial victories with an upset victory in the 2006 Senate race which gave them control of the U.S. Senate.

To be sure, Republicans have their own targets of opportunity in 2008, led by a quartet of major electoral vote prizes across the industrial Frost Belt including Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Each went Democratic last time by a margin of less than 4 percentage points."

Those Mountain West states are seeing a lot of population growth, and a sizable portion of it is coming from people fleeing the West coast. The loss of even a couple western states for the Republicans could have a big impact on the presidential election.

Doctor and Senator Coburn

Steven Moore has a great piece on my favorite Oklahoman, Tom Coburn. Dr. Coburn is the leading voice in US Senate on controlling the federal budget, and often annoys his peers in the Senate who like to ladle a little budget gravy back to their states. Coburn has tangled a muber of times with such stellar porkers as Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens, amending bills to cut spending with a vengence. He often fails, but at least he is putting a uncomfortable spotlight on the sponsors of such boondoggles.

"Coburn feels about pork spending the way liberal environmentalists do about greenhouse gases. And so for the past two and a half years that he's been in the Senate, Coburn has led the lonely fight against this spending avalanche. At the start of this crusade he was losing and losing badly. When he tried to cease the funding for Stevens's infamous bridge, 80 of his colleagues voted against him in the then-Republican controlled Senate.

But the culture of spending on Capitol Hill may be shifting. In January, Coburn strong-armed the new Democratic majority into passing the leanest federal budget in five years, and, more remarkably, one that withholds funding for thousands of Teapot museums and Wild Turkey Federations. Coburn and his constant but lower-profile senatorial sidekick, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, teamed up to save the nation about $15 to $20 billion."

It's a start, and the House, led by Jeff Flake of Arizona is trying to follow suit, although it's a lot more difficult in the House. Coburn's opinion is that there is as much as $200 billion wasted in the Federal budget.

US Education

Victor Davis Hanson has some observations on the US public educational system at NRO, and some suggestions for improvement. He sees, as I think we all do, cashiers that can't make change, people that can't balance a checkbook, etc. throughout our society. But it wasn't always this way, for many years the US educational system was the best in the world. But then a funny thing happened - teachers started indoctrinating their students on political issues like diversity, sex education, and environmentalism.

"We should first scrap the popular therapeutic curriculum that in the scarce hours of the school day crams in sermons on race, class, gender, drugs, sex, self-esteem, or environmentalism. These are well-intentioned efforts to make a kinder and gentler generation more sensitive to our nation’s supposed past and present sins. But they only squeeze out far more important subjects.

The old approach to education saw things differently than we do. Education (“to lead out” or “to bring up”) was not defined as being “sensitive” to, or “correct” on, particular issues. It was instead the rational ability to make sense of the chaotic present through the abstract wisdom of the past.

So literature, history, math and science gave students plenty of facts, theorems, people, and dates to draw on. Then training in logic, language, and philosophy provided the tools to use and express that accumulated wisdom. Teachers usually did not care where all that training led their students politically — only that their pupils’ ideas and views were supported with facts and argued rationally."

He also suggests rewarding teachers more than adminstrators, athletic coaches, and counselors, and allowing a person holding a master's degree to teach. I once had a look at the high school curriculum from the turn of the 2oth century high school - Latin and two other languages were offered, along with calculus, philosophy, and several other subjects today found only at the university level (and often not even there). My grandfather had a eigth grade education - and read widely, could do basic math functions such as figuring crop yields per acre in his head (he often used a calculator but only to check himself) and knew his Bible like sports fans know their favorite team's won loss record. The dumbing down of America has reached epic proportions today and Hanson's ideas are only a partial remedy.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal Reynolds: If anyone gets nosy just, you know, shoot them.
Zoë: Shoot them?
Mal Reynolds: Politely.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Iraqi Strategy Effecting Changes

Retired Colonel Ralph Peters (via NY Post, HT:RCP) gives us some more on the change in strategy within Iraq, where General Petraeus has gotten the locals involved in fighting al-Queda and rebuilding the country.

"Instead of backing mammoth, hyper-expensive construction projects designed in Washington, our new approach prods Iraqis to fix their existing infrastructure. Iraq's utilities won't be state-of-the-art, but they're beginning to work again: Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it took a profound change of mindset for us to get there.

Nor will Iraqi democracy mimic our own. Petraeus works systematically with Iraq's time-honored social structures, exploiting the levels of trust and control already in place. Instead of trying to replace tribal leaders with out-of-towners, we now focus on developing mutually supporting relationships between respected local authority figures and the feds from Baghdad.

The general's recognition that locally recruited security forces have the immediate trust of the local population has been critical to the entire effort. Even with the surge, we lacked the forces to do it all ourselves. Petraeus recognized that, yes, all politics is local - and so is security. So he pushed hard for reconciliation programs to engage former enemies who now want to work with us to drive out al Qaeda."

The changes have been profound, and it's my belief that we are finally on to a winning strategy. If Anbar province can change for the better (and it most definitely has), then there is a more than just a glimmer of hope that the security being provided due to the American troop surge can be sustained by the Iraqis security forces themselves at some point in the near future, and give the national government an impetus to finally hammer out the compromises necessary for a truly lasting peace between the rival political forces in the nation.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Jayne: Don't see much point getting involved in other people's troubles without an up-front price negotiation.
Zoë: As I said, no-one's forcing you to go. This job is purely speculative.
Jayne: Good. Don't know these people, don't much care to.
Mal: They're whores.
Jayne: I'm in.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shuttle Lands Safely

Whew. The AP is reporting the shuttle landed without incident in Florida about 45 minutes ago.

"Space shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth on Tuesday, ending a nearly two-week orbital drama that centered on a deep gouge in the shuttle's belly and an early homecoming prompted by a hurricane.

The space shuttle swooped out of the partly cloudy sky and touched down on the runway at 12:32 p.m."

Keller Will Start at QB for Huskers

Great column by Steve Sipple @ HuskerExtra on the Husker QB situation.

Coach C announced ASU transfer Sam Keller as the Husker's starting QB yesterday, as everyone expected, except perhaps #2 man, junior Joe Ganz. Previously, it had been announced that the starter wouldn't be decided until the week before the opener, but apparently Keller finally created a bit of separation in the minds of the coaching staff. Both players had excellent performances in the spring game.

"Make no mistake, Ganz believed with all of his heart he would be the Huskers’ starter this season. You could see it in his eyes. That unyielding belief in himself will help Ganz be a good backup to Keller. More important, Ganz’s self-confidence and competitive spirit ultimately will help his team as this season progresses, because Ganz’s strong character traits have pushed Keller to improve."

Obviously, Keller came to NU with a proven record, but some questions marks, and the competition with Ganz for the starting slot has to have had a major impact on both player's development. Keller's a great talent, with all the gunslinging physical tools that NFL clubs seek, while Ganz is a product of the system, more in the mold of last year's starter Zac Taylor, although with a lot more mobility. Ganz is certain to be disappointed, but it's my belief that he will still take some significant snaps this season.

Early Maya Planted Cassava Plant

It looks like one of those science days.

Also ScienceDaily, a new dig in El Salvador by a University of Colorado team has discovered evidence of the cultivation of the cassava or manioc plant by early Mayan farmers. Covered by volcanic ash from a 600 AD eruption, the field was literally planted just hours before the volcano buried the field in ash. The Maya have long been known to cultivate corn and beans, but evidence of other plants has been sketchy. The village, known today as Ceren, was discovered in 1978.

"Archaeologists had suspected ancient Mayans had cultivated and consumed manioc for its high-energy value, he said. Also known as cassava, manioc provides one of the highest yields of food energy per acre per day of any cultivated crop in the world."

This find helps to explain how the Maya developed and supported the high population densities found in many of their major urban centers. The manioc bushes were cut down and the tubers harvested, then the stalks were replanted horizontally with a growth node pointing upward to restart a new bush. The ash left a sizable number of well preserved organic rremains, giving an excellent view of early Maya life.

How Rice Became White

via ScienceDaily.

Almost 98% of white rice is derived from a mutation in a single gene found in the Japonica subspecies of rice around 10,000 years ago. The remaining 2% of white rice comes from an almost identical mutation found in the Aus varieties of rice found in Bangladesh. Both mutations creat a shortened version of a protein sequence that is repsonsible for giving rice its color. The short version is missing this color sequence, making these varieties of rice white rather than red. The white varities helped ealry farmers in several ways.

"The researchers speculate that ancient farmers actively bred and spread white rice varieties first throughout the Himalayan region and then the rest of the world because the varieties cooked faster (requiring less fuel), their hulls were easier to remove compared with red rice, and disease and insects were easier to see amid the white grains. The farmers also may have favored one mutation over the other because it may have produced favorable grains more consistently, the researchers say."

What about brown rice?

Firefly Quote of the Day

River: The human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds, given adequate vacuuming systems.
Mal: See, morbid and creepifying, I got no problem with. Long as she does it quiet like.

Monday, August 20, 2007


We're down to 12 days until kickoff against Nevada, and I haven't even run down Coach Coz's fellas yet. AP has NU ranked #20 to start the season.

The obvious issue this year is the defensive line, where all four starters from a year ago went to the NFL (the ends were drafted and the tackles were signed as Free agents). There is some talent returning, however, starting with the big boys up front, sophomore Ndamukong Suh and junior Ty Steinkuhler at tackle and with jucos juniors Shurkee Barfield & Kevin Dixon, sophomore Joseph Townsend and also Redshirt frosh Seth Jensen possibly contributing. At end, juniors Zach Potter and Barry Turner replace Carriker and Moore, with fellow junior Clayton Sievers, redshirt frosh Pierre Allen, and senior Andy Poulosky vying for backup positions. Steinkuhler also may get moved outside to end at times as well.

The heart of the defense is the all senior linebacking corps, led by All Big 12 selections Corey McKeon and Bo Ruud, and the oft injured Steve Octavian hoping to stay healthy this year. Fellow senior Lance Brandenburgh can backup at all three spots, and word in Lincoln is that there will be some 3-4 schemes being used this year. Sophomore Phil Dilliard backups up McKeon and fellow sophomore Nick Covey looks for second team status as well. There's been alot of talk of using the LBs at end (Octavian) and even nose (Dilliard) in passing situations, so Coach Coz is apparently coming up with some new wrinkles this year, can't wait to see how things shake out.

The other big issue is the oft-maligned secondary, which was repeatedly burned last year for big plays at critical junctures. Hopefully, a healthy Zac Bowman at corner will relieve some of that pressure. Still recovering from a spring knee injury, Bowman donned pads this past weekend for the first time and the team is hoping for a late September return for the senior. Two other seniors also work at corner, Courtney Grixby and Andre Jones, with junior juco Armando Murillo and freshman Anthony Blue and Prince Amukamura also seeing time at the outside. At safety, it appears the senior Tierre Green moves positons for the fourth time, over to the free safety spot this year, with juco junior Larry Asante taking over for Green at SS. Sophmore Ricky Thenarse and seniors Brian Wilson and Ben Eisenhart will also contribute.

While the Blackshirts have to miss the guys they lost, I think this defense will be pretty stout against the run. My biggest disappointment last year was the lack of a consistent pass rush, and I'm hoping some of the new schemes generate more timely pressure, which should help out the pass defense. The LBs will definitely be the heart of the D, but the secondary could have a real impact if they can get Bowman healthy and Asante is the big hitter that has been advertised. It would be terrific if we improved enough to get a few coverage sacks and could shut down some of the extremely talented receivers the team will face this year.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Jayne: I didn't make her crazy. Hell I didn't even want her on the ship.
Mal: Is that the direction you want this conversation to go in?
Jayne: Just don't want to take a lashing for something I ain't the cause of.
Zoë: Where's River at now?
Mal: In her room, which I'm thinking we bolt from the outside from now on.
Wash: That's a little extreme, isn't it?
Jayne: Anyone remember her coming at me with a butcher's knife?
Wash: Wacky fun.
Jayne: You wanna go, little man?
Wash: Only if it's someplace with candlelight.
Zoë: Sir, I know she's unpredictable, but I don't think she'd harm anyone.
Jayne: Butcher's knife!
Zoë: Anyone we can't spare.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Firefly Quote for the Weekend

[on merchandise they've just stolen]
Wash: I'd say worth a little risk.
Jayne: Yeah, that was some pretty risky sittin' ya did there.
Wash: That's right, of course. Because they wouldn't arrest me if we got boarded. I'm just the pilot. I could always say
that I was flying the ship by accident.

2007 Huskers Offense

Well, with just two weeks until the start of college football, it's probably time for me to take a look at the alma mater's squad.

The biggest question on the offensive side of the ball is who will replace last year's Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, QB Zac Taylor. The presumed winner of the job should be transfer senior Sam Keller, who moved to NU from Arizona State, but junior Joe Gantz is also taking snaps with the first unit and coaches say it's still too close to call, but that the starter will be named in the week before the opener with Nevada. Keller brings a pretty impressive resume and has been touted as a future NFL caliber player, but Gantz is more familiar with Coach C's West Coast system.

The receivers and the O-line are looking to be the strengths of the offense, with 3 juniors and two seniors looking to start on the line and several upperclassmen serving as targets for the QB's. Depth is good in both units, and there are a lot of talented newcomers looking to gain playing time as well. The starters on the line appear to be (left to right) senior tackle Carl Nicks, junior guard Andy Christensen, senior center Brett Byford, junior guard Matt Slauson, and junior tackle Lydon Murtha, with junior Mike Huff, seniors Jordon Picou and Victory Haines and sophomore Jacob Hickman also looking to contribute. At wideout, seniors Maurice Purify (suspended for the opener due to off the field legal issues) and Terrence Nunn lead a group also including seniors Franz Hardy and Dan Erickson (who just earned a walk-on scholarship) as well as juniors Todd Peterson and Nate Swift.

Running back is also a bit unsettled with the early departure of Brandon Jackson to the NFL's Green Bay Packers, but talented juniors Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn both return, along with converted safety Major Culbert. Senior Kenny Wilson reshirts due to a broken leg this spring. Frosh recruit Quentin Castille is also making waves in fall practice and may contribute on short yardage situations. Health is a concern with this group - Lucky suffered a medical issue requiring hospitalization in the spring and a concussion in fall practice and Glenn was slowed by a foot injury late last season that has been slow to heal. The FB position will be decided among seniors Andy Sand, Matt Senske and redshirt frosh Justin Makovicka. Seniors Josh Mueller and JB Phillips return at TE, along with junior Hunter Teafatiller (despite off the field issues) and redshirt frosh Mike McNeill.

I think this will be a good group, perhaps exceeding last year's squad. I would look for them to have better success running the ball against some of the more talented teams, which was an issue at times last year, while the passing game stays at a high level as well. I'm hoping to see more involvement from the TEs this year in the passing game. The biggest issues are having the gentlemen stay out of trouble off the field, the health of the backs and the starting QB situation, which I'm sure will work itself out as both players appear to be performing at a high level in practice.

NASA Decides Shuttle Doesn't Need Repair

via OWH, NASA administrators have decided against any attempt at repairing the gouge along the bottom rear of the orbiter caused by falling insulating foam at lift off.

"Ultimately, managers decided they couldn't justify putting spacewalking astronauts at risk if the vehicle was in acceptable shape as is to make the journey home. A spacewalk earlier this week, cut short by an astronaut's ripped glove, showed how hazardous even a relatively routine jaunt outside the international space station can be."

The astronauts on the mission have already completed their primary tasks on the construction project adding a truss segment to the ISS and have also replaced one of the station's gyroscopes used for controlling the station's orbit.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: Yeah, that went well.
Inara: You call this going well?
Mal: We got the loot didn't we?
Inara: Yes, but...
Mal: Then I call it a win. What's the problem?
Inara: Should I start with the part where you're stranded in the middle
of nowhere or the part where you have no clothes?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Robert Fulton's Great Invention

A great reminder of some history from the LA Times. (HT: RCP)

Tomorrow is the two hundreth anniversity of the maiden voyage of the Clermont, the first commercially viable steamship. The invention completely changed the face of travel in the 19th century, and had an amazing impact on the growth of the United States, opening up the major river valleys of the entire North American continent to settlement.

"At the end of the century, historian Henry Adams, in assessing Fulton's feat that day, marked it "as the beginning of a new era in America -- a date which separated the colonial from the independent stage of growth," for the U.S. was alone in possessing such a vessel and would be for decades. He added that "the problem of steam navigation, so far as it applied to rivers and harbors, was settled, and for the first time America could consider herself mistress of her vast resources."

Karl Rove, in his own words

Transcript of Rush interviewing Karl Rove. He has some very interesting things to say about Hillary, who's running some ad campaign declaring that the White House doesn't "see" many Americans - and had the gall to state that some of these "invisible" Americans are service personnel.

"You know, this is a woman who has been less than supportive of the policies that those men and women who are in the frontlines of the global war on terror fighting. This is like a woman who has opposed the Patriot Act that gave us the tools to defend the homeland. This is a woman who opposes the terrorist surveillance program that allowed us to listen in on the conversations of bad people who are calling into the United States. She opposed the FISA reforms that would allow us to listen into communications and see the communications of international terrorists who are communicating with other international terrorists, even outside the country whose messages simply happened to flow through US telecom networks. You know, again, I'm a little bit surprised that somebody with a record so weak on these things would somehow deign to lecture this president, who is very popular among the military and military families because they see him as a strong commander-in-chief who supports them, loves them, and gives them everything they need and want."

Among the more trivial but interesting items is that Rove and the President had a contest to see who could read the most books in a year. Rove won 110-94, which I would say is pretty respectable given the scope of their job responsibilities. Rove also indicated that the President has remained upbeat and optimistic despite the rigors of the job and the near constant criticism from the other side of the aisle.

Fred's Campaign Plans

Fred is interviewed by David Broder at the Washington Post, and plainly states that his campaign will attempt to address issues that establishment politicians would never dare. The entitlement mess, tax policy and the way the Pentagon procures its equipment are all high on the list.

"the former senator from Tennessee said that when he joins the battle next month, he "will take some risks that others are not willing to take, in terms of forcing a dialogue on our entitlement situation, our military situation and what it's going to cost" to ensure the nation's future."

Fred points to the two volume report on government that his Senate Government Affairs committee authored in 2001, and recent GAO reports that raise stark questions about the sustainability of our current entitlement programs.

"Nobody in Congress or on either side in the presidential race wants to deal with it," Thompson said. "So we just rock along and try to maintain the status quo. Republicans say keep the tax cuts; Democrats say keep the entitlements. And we become a less unified country in the process, with a tax code that has become an unholy mess, and all we do is tinker around the edges."

Thompson readily concedes that he does not know "where all those chips are going to fall" when he starts challenging members of various interest groups to look beyond their individual agendas and weigh the sacrifices that could ensure a better future for their children.

But these issues -- national security and the fiscal crisis of an aging society with runaway heath-care costs -- "are worth a portion of a man's life. If I can't get elected talking that way, I probably don't deserve to be elected."

Thompson says he feels "free to do it" his own way, and that freedom may just be enough to shake up the presidential race."

It will be a tough road to hoe, but change in Washington is desperately needed, and it's my belief Fred is just the guy to do it. I just hope my fellow citizens come to realize it as well.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Jayne: Are you saying River's a witch?
Wash: Yes, Jayne, she's a witch. She's had congress with the Beast.
Jayne: She's in Congress?
Wash: How did your brain even learn human speech?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Firefly Quote of the Day

Jayne: What we need is a diversion. I say Zoë gets nekked.
Wash: No.
Jayne: I could get nekked...?
Zoë: No.
Wash: No.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ancient Cambodian City

via Livescience, a new satellite study of the ancient Cambodian site of Angkor Wat determines that not only was it once a city rather than just the site of a religious temple complex, but that it might have been one of the world's largest cities in terms of area, covering nearly 400 square miles. The site also had a sophisticated system of irrigation ponds running throughout the area and that the system might have contributed to the city's downfall.

"Angkor was surrounded by a vast expanse of rice fields that would have required extensive forest clearance. Over time, the intense farming could have led to serious ecological problems, including those associated with deforestation, overpopulation, topsoil degradation and erosion."

Angkor Wat was the capital city of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 16th centuries located in modern Cambodia. The city might have held several hundred thousand citizens at its height.

Plate Tectonics

Curious article on plate tectonics - apparently the Earth releases more internal heat when the crust is made up of several smaller tectonics plates than when the crust is made up of one large one, which intuitively makes sense, but hasn't been supported by any evidence up to this point.

"The reason, the authors said, is that much of the heat from the mantle escapes near the ridges between newly formed plates. Those areas are thinner and allow more heat to pass.

The smaller the plates, the greater the heat loss from the mantle on which they float, said geophysicists from the University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Several small plates have more area close to the ridge -- and allow more heat to pass -- than one large plate, explained lead author Thorsten Becker, assistant professor of earth sciences at USC."

In addition, the study found that having several smaller plates also caused a greater amount of tectonic activity (also pretty intuitive) - with more plates rubbing on one another, more events are likely to happen. However, there is one issue that can't yet be explained - at both the rate of the Earth's heat disappation previously believed to have occurred, as well as these new higher figures, the Earth would have been impossibly hot in the distant past when the planet was formed. ???

New College Football Helmets

Several teams are sporting new headgear this year, with Big 12 opponent KU being one. The Jayhawks are chaging the font on the helmet lettering and switching the blue to the "school-wide" blue, the fourth shade the school has used since 2001. Several teams are reverting to designs inspired by older more traditional looks. The Big 10's Michigan State is reverting back to it's old Spartan logo, and Minnesota is changing the font on the "M" on their helmets, the first design change for them since 1999. The Unversity of Central Florida is going with a throwback 1970s white helmet and also a new "UCF" logo, Syracuse is adding a blue "S" to its orange helmets, and Bowling Green University loses its bird logo and changes to a white "BG". Other teams making changes include Temple, Rice, Arkansas State, and North Texas, which is also going with the throwback look with a white helmet reminisent of the 1960s designs.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Inara: What did I tell you about barging into my shuttle?
Mal: That it was manly and impulsive?
Inara: Yes, precisely, only the exact phrase I used was "don't".

Monday, August 13, 2007

Firefly Quote of the Day

Zoë: Shepard, isn't the Bible kind of specific about killing?
Book: Very specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzy around the area of kneecaps.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Mars Rovers Doing Well, But Still in Danger

via, the latest word on the twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, both of which have hunkered down and battened the hatches against a near global Martian windstorm that threatens the survival of both science vehicles. Dust kicked up into the atmosphere is blocking sunlight from reaching the rover's power generating solar panels. The good news is that by curtailing their activities and conserving power, the vehicles appear to be weathering the storm pretty well, although Opportunity has had to be shut down to the very lowest settings, primarily just enough to keep the vehicle warm.

"Of the two rovers, Spirit, in the Columbia Hills of Gusev Crater is doing pretty well, said Steve Squyres, lead Mars Exploration Rover scientist from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

"We need to be careful about how much power we consume, so we're not doing any driving for now. But we're making daily science observations, and the vehicle is in good health," Squyres told "In fact, in just the past couple of weeks we've made the first observations ever of substantial movement of wind ripples on the martian surface. So I feel good about Spirit for the moment.......Squyres said that there are two concerns with Opportunity: One is that there's need to keep the vehicle "power positive" -- to make sure that it generates more power than it consumes. The other is that the rover must keep its electronic innards warm enough.

"The difficult thing about this is that the way you stay power positive is by not consuming energy, and the way you stay warm is by consuming energy. So it's a matter of finding the right balance. We're doing OK so far ... but it's day to day," Squyres said."

The good news is that the dust is creating a bit of a greenhouse effect that is keeping nighttime planetary temperatures a bit warmer than they would be if the skies were clear. While the vehicles are still in pretty good shape, there is a bit of frustration on the part of scientists on the project because the storm is delaying important scientific observations. Both rovers are very near to their latest scientific objectives, with Opportunity about to enter into the Victoria Crater region and Spirit looking to gather more volcanic evidence from an area that has been dubbed "Home Plate".

Firefly Quote of the Day

Two for One Sale Today to bring us into the weekend - both quotes from the episode where the crew were smuggling cattle in to a frontier world desperate for livestock.

River: Little soul, big world. Eat, sleep, and eat. Many souls.
Mal: Cattle on the ship three weeks, she don't go near 'em. Suddenly we're on Jianying, and she's got a driving need to commune with the beasts?
River: They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot.
Now they see sky, and they remember what they are.
Mal: Is it bad that what she said makes perfect sense to me?

Zoë: Next time we smuggle stock, let's make it something smaller.
Wash: Yeah, we should start dealing in those black market beagles.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bonds, the HR Record and the Controversy

I wasn't going to address this, but Mike Celizic at MSNBC has a slightly different take on the Barry Bonds story, one that is pretty similiar to my own. He points out that our entire nation ingests an amazing array of substances for everything from making our teeth whiter to giving men erections, and quite a few of us do things that aren't entirely ethical - steal from the supply cabinet, "adjust" our taxes, go 10 mph over the speed limit, etc.

"But, dammit, our athletic heroes better not cheat.

Does anyone detect a note of hypocrisy in this? Does anyone who reviles Barry Bonds as a cheater admit to even the tiniest flaw in his or her own personal code of ethics? Do any of us stop to consider that Bonds, who has never tested positive for any banned substance, isn’t doing anything that just about every one of us has done at one time or another?

Those are rhetorical questions, so don’t bother answering. We’re not very good at introspection, anyway. Our own flaws are never flaws, and even if they are, what the other guy is doing is a lot worse, and everything’s fair in love in war."

He goes on to point out that baseball has a pretty long history of looking the other way when it comes to pitchers "modifying" the baseball, and that something illegal doesn't necessarily equate to what is right. He also examines the history of steroids and has a pretty valid point - they were declared illegal in the Olympics because the "wrong" nation's athletes were using them to gain an advantage. He also points out that it is human nature to do anything to give us an advantage - it's a highly evolved survival trait.

I don't know if Bonds took steroids or not, and I really don't care, and I'm a baseball fanatic. Personally I think alot of this has to do with Bond's own personality, and his disregard for the media. He's an amazing talent, no question about it, and the fact of the matter is, taking steroids doesn't help you hit a baseball - it may help it travel a bit farther, but you still have to hit it, and hit it correctly, in order for it to leave the yard. And Barry Bonds, up to this point, has not been declared quilty in a court of law for anything.

Obviously, some people (probably alot of them) feel differently than I do. But I certainly think Celizic has a damn fine point, and he makes his case pretty well.

Sub-Prime Mortgages

Jerry Brower at NRO has a nice piece explaining the real impact of the sub-prime mortgage "meltdown". In short, while foreclosure are up (slightly) there is little or no reason to think the financial markets are going to go bellyup. Of the 44 million mortgages in the US, just under 14% of these are being serviced by the sub-prime market, and only about 13% of those sub-prime loans have payment issues. That's about 6/10 of one percent of the US housing market as a whole.

"With approximately 254,000 mortgages in foreclosure at the moment — up from roughly 219,000 last year — the sub-prime meltdown has given us an increase of 35,000 mortgage foreclosures over the last quarter. Since the average sub-prime mortgage clocks in at almost exactly $200,000, we’re looking at an approximate $7 billion increase in foreclosed value in the first quarter of this year."

That $7 billion increase in foreclosed value equates to about .01 percent of the total US household wealth, which measures approximatley $53 trillion. The scale of this issue appears to be much overhyped.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Zoë: Captain'll come up with a plan.
Kaylee: Well, that's good... right?
Zoë: Possibly you're not recalling some of his previous plans.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Chamberlain Makes Yankee Debut

via HuskerExtra, Former Husker Joba Chamberlain made his debut for the Yankees last night in relief of Roger Clemens. He pitched 2 innings and struck out two, while giving up one hit and walking two but not allowing any runs.

"Projected as a starter, possibly next season, Chamberlain’s current role will be to help a bullpen that has 15 blown saves — the most of any team in the American League East Division — as the Yankees make a push for another postseason appearance.

In his three minor-league relief appearances, Chamberlain allowed just one hit over four innings and struck out 10 of the 12 batters he faced.

“It’s one of those things that seemed to be crying out to happen because of what he’s been doing,” Torre told The Associated Press when asked before Tuesday’s game about Chamberlain’s promotion. “You hear so many positive things about him.

“We just have to make sure we understand how old he is, how much experience he has and just go accordingly from there. At this point I don’t know how we’re going to use him but we’ll get him a taste.

“This is all new for him. This is not something he’s been doing all year. We’ll take it slow.”

It is quite possible that Chamberlain could be a part of the Yank's starting rotation as soon as next season.

Congratulations to the young man on making the show.

Debt Clock

The Skeptical One's Debt clock has been recalibrated in response to recently released economic numbers. It's again running backwards, meaning that the economy is now growing faster than the government debt again. The Debt to GDP ratio is 64.624+% and the Public Debt (bonds actually owned by private individuals and foreign governments, rather than another US government agency, i.e., Social Security) is at 36.202+%.

He also has some really good analysis into the recent jobs/unemployment report here.
In short, many of the jobs that are disappearing aren't such terribly great jobs in the first place, and are being replaced by even higher paying jobs.

Shuttle Endeavor Set for Evening Launch

via, the shuttle Endeavor is ready for a scheduled 6:36 EST launch to the International Space Station for ISS construction mission STS-118 with teacher turned astronaut Barbara Morgan on board the ship.

"In addition to Morgan, Endeavour will ferry shuttle commander Scott Kelly, pilot Charlie Hobaugh and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Alvin Drew, Jr. and Dave Williams - of the Canadian Space Agency - towards the ISS.

The astronauts plan to haul 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of cargo, a loaded spare parts platform and a new starboard-side girder to the ISS during their planned 11-day mission. The spaceflight could be extended three extra days if a new station-to-shuttle power transfer system aboard Endeavour performs as expected."

This is Endeavor's first flight since undergoing a major overhaul that eventually lasted over five years. Meanwhile Morgan, and Idaho teachere, has waited 22 years to fly. She was the flight backup to teacher Christa McAuliffe, who died along wiht the rest of the Challenger crew in the 1986 shuttle tradegy. Four spacewalks are planned over the course of the mission.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: Okay, help me find our man. He's supposed to be older, kind of stocky. Wears a red sash crossways.
Kaylee: Why does he do that?
Mal: Maybe he won the Miss Persephone pageant. Just help me look!
Kaylee: Is that him?
Mal: That's the buffet table.
Kaylee: But how will we know for sure until we've questioned it?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Largest Exoplanet Discovered

The largest planet ever discovered has been found orbiting a star 1400 light years from Earth, but also has some additional unusual features along with its size. It is 1.7 times Jupiter's diameter, but has an extremely low density of .2 gram per cubic centimeter. A handful of similar "puffy" planets have been found, which has astronomers scratching their collective heads - this class of planet is not easily explained by current planet formation theories. The planet's has a quick orbital period of 3 1/2 days and was discovered by the transit technique.

ScienceDaily has some more details here.

Top 10 Historical Mysteries

Interesting list from the LiveScience website indicating their Top Ten Historical Mysteries. EDIT: "Overlooked Mysteries"

10. Rongorongo - the undecyphered written language of the inhabitants of Easter Island, of which I was unaware. Not sure I'd put this in the top 10 however as opposed to the freaking huge statues all over the island.

9. Helike - just might be the basis for the Atlantis myth, the recently discovered Greek city of Helike was destroyed by an earthquake and submerged by an upwelling of groundwaters. Definitely a keeper.

8. Bog Bodies - iron age corpses found in swamps throughout northern Europe suggest ritual killings may have taken place. Not sure I'd include this one either, pretty minor occurance - unless you happened to be one of the lucky few.

7. Fall of the Minoans - Not sure what the mystery is here, the volcanic eruption of Thera sent a tsunami through the Mediterranean basin that makes the Indian Ocean event look like ripples in the bathtub and volcanic ash probably caused weather disruption for years. There is pretty compelling evidence of widespread political upheaval throughout the region and a 500 year "Dark Age" after the eruption.

6. Carnac Stones - I'd heard of the megalithic stones in Brittany but had no idea how widespread they were - 3000 of them laid out in a 8 mile wide pattern. I'd say this probably qualifies.

5. Who was Robin Hood? Another pretty minor mystery, one which has probably been best explained by attributing the stories to a group of different men rather than a single individual.

4. The Lost Roman Legion - this one is a little more interesting, I'd not heard this one before either. Apparent survivors from the disasterous campaign against the Parthians not only surviving but fleeing all the way to China? Hard to believe, but there does appear to be some anecdotal evidence in Chinese records.

3. The Voynich Manuscript - another one I wasn't aware of could be a hoax but there seems to be some analytical basis for thinking it is really a language. Apparently written in the 17th century, no one has been able to decypher it yet.

2. The Tarim mummies - this one is also an intriguing, with an apparently European group (DNA tsting confirmed) settling in the far western regions of China over 2000 years ago.

1. Disappearance of the Harappan civilization - this might be one of the most enduring and best historical mysteries, with a highly advanced culture dating to 3000 BC simply vanishing from the Indus river valley with almost no trace left behind in the historical record.

Late Edit: I guess it is actually the Top Ten "Most Overlooked" Mysteries, which a damn weird idea to begin with, but changes the scenario a bit. I'd still add the recently discovered Central Asian cultures (mentioned in some previous posts) dating back to the same dates as the Harappan, Mesopotamian and Egyptian period, and there has been a notable mystery regarding the Inca and what might have been the beginnings of a record keeping system using woven materials and a system of knot tying that I think is interesting. The idea of some of these being "overlooked" (particularly the Minoan one with its implications for the Atlantis myth, as well as the Harappan mystery) is a bit of a stretch.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: We take it to Whitefall, maybe talk to Patience.
Zoë: Sir, we don't want to deal with Patience again.
Mal: Why not?
Zoë: She shot you.
Mal: Well, yeah, she did a bit.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Yon in Iraq

Michael Yon reports (via the NY Daily News) on the progress of the surge in Iraq. He believes Al-Queda is beginning to get desperate as the various Iraqi groups that had been cooperating with them are now turning on that organization, and to lethal effect.

"Clearly, not every terrorist in Iraq is Al Qaeda, but it is Al Qaeda that has been intentionally, openly, brazenly trying to stoke a civil war. As Al Qaeda is now being chased out of regions it once held without serious challenge, their tactics are tinged with desperation.

This may be the greatest miscalculation they've made in their otherwise sophisticated battle for the hearts and minds of locals, and it is one we must exploit."

Yon alos points out that the Iraqi Army is a much more capable force than it was in 2005, and that the best accessment of how we are doing overall will be forthcoming in September's report by General Petraeus.

Phoenix Mission to Mars Launches

via, NASA's latest mission to Mars, the Phoenix Lander, launched Saturday.

"A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket blasted Phoenix into space at 5:26:34 a.m. EDT (0926:34 GMT), leaving a ghostly contrail of exhaust as the spacecraft left Earth behind. The lander is due to land on the flat arctic plains near Mars' north pole on May 25, 2008."

The purpose of the mission is to take soil samples of the Martian surface and test them for signs of present or past life. Many of the instruments were designed from the earlier Mars Polar Lander mission which crashed into the planet due to a programming error. The probe is already almost to top speed on its mission and should already be outside the Moon's orbit.

The Change in the Liberal Viewpoint

via RCP from this weekend, a interesting look back at the changes the political left has undergone in the US since the assassination of JFK. Kennedy's policies were liberal, but tough and realistic, in the same vein as FDR or Harry Truman's. Since his time, the American Left has had a rather different view of both America itself and the world at large.

"In a crucial and counterintuitive interpretive act, the nation's opinion elite made JFK a martyr to civil rights instead of the Cold War. Kennedy had been killed by a communist, Lee Harvey Oswald, who a few years before had tried to defect to the Soviet Union. Liberals nonetheless blamed the assassination on, in the characteristic words of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, "the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots."

Thus, the assassination curdled into an indictment of American society: "Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in Nation," read a New York Times headline. Until this point, 20th-century liberalism had tended to see history as a steady march of progress. Now, the march had been interrupted by the country's own pathologies."

America became seen as the root of all evil in the world, from its very founding up to the modern era, and minority groups its victims. The view of the government power being used to make the world a better place also got left behind in strange conspiracy theories about secret cabals out to destroy the planet. Another interesting fact is that Communist icons and ideals became fashionable - anyone or anything opposing the US must be good, righteous and noble, of course.

A Different View on Immigration

via The Washington Post, Senator Arlen Specter, (R-PA) has a new idea on the immigration debate I haven't seen yet. His proposal is to give all 12 million illegals temporary green cards while increasing border enforcement and employer sanctions.

While it is a new approach, I'm not sure where I stand on this - more or less, it again rewards people (by giving them legal status) for flouting our laws. However, it is not citizenship, nor does it spell out a path to citizenship. The Senator's proposal also appears to hint at some type of National ID card as well, not sure how that will go over either. However, I'm willing to take a look at the proposal in more detail if and when those details become available and our Congress critters revisit the issue.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: Which one you figure tracked us?
Zoë: The ugly one, sir.
Mal: Could you be more specific?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Early Civilization More Widepread than First Thought

via ScienceDaily.

Recent archaeological finds are challenging the long held assumption that civilization first arose in Mesopotamia, Epypt and the Indus river valley and subsequently spread elsewhere. A significant number of contemporary finds dating back to 5000 years ago have been discovered from southern Russia and Iran in an arc to the Indus valley of modern Pakistan. What's more, it appears that these different civilizations had far flung trade networks, with many of the remains at these sites originating from quite distant areas.

"The researchers see evidence of far-flung trade networks for merchandise and ideas: Copper from Oman has been found in Mesopotamia and perhaps in the Indus region; Omani pots have been found in Central Asia. At Gonur in Turkmenistan, the researchers have found seals from Mesopotamia and the Indus region, along with some Iranian goods. And some evidence suggests that carts drawn by bullocks and camels may have been used to facilitate trade as early as the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE. And from Mesopotamia east to the Indus, archaeologists have found massive ceremonial platforms with some common characteristics."

There is good evidence of widespread trading from far earlier, so it should come as no surprise, but this evidence does appear to establish a rather more sophisticated network of exchange arriving long before the written record.

Preseason College FB Coaches Poll

USA Today's Coaches College football poll was released this morning, with Husker opponent USC ranked as the consensus #1 with 45 first place votes. SE Conference rivals LSU and Florida were ranked 2nd and 3rd. Another Husker opponent from the Big 12 South, Texas, is rated 4th, with Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin, last year's Big 12 Cahmp Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Ohio State rounding out the top 10.

Huskers are ranked 19th, with another Big 12 school, Texas A&M, rated 25th. NU hosts USC in Lincoln on Septmeber 15th, and travel to Austin to face off against UT a month later on Oct. 20th. They do not face either OU or A&M unless they were to meet in the Big 12 Championship. At this point the only announced TV games (according to Husker Extra) are USC and the season finale against CU Nov. 23rd, both on ABC.

LATE ADD: Apparently the season opener on Sept. 1st against Nevada is also on ABC regional coverage at 2:30 Central, and the game at Wake Forest the following week will be on ESPN bright and early at 11 AM.

Firefly Quote of the Day

Mal: Ship like this, be with you until the day you die.
Zoë: That's because it's a deathtrap.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Orion Spacecraft on Schedule

via USA Today.

NASA announced that the replacement for the current Space shuttle, the Orion spacecraft project, to be on schedule and should be ready for test flights as soon as September of next year. The Orion is more similar in design to the Apollo craft that took US astronoauts to the moon, although much larger.

"Orion will be much larger and capable of carrying six people in its crew capsule to the space station (four to the moon). Orion will be 16.5 feet in diameter and have a mass of about 25 tons. Inside, it will have more than two and a half times the volume of an Apollo capsule. Also, where Apollo's power system used fuel cells, Orion will use solar arrays."

The system is comprised of four parts, a launch vehicle, a crew module, a service module containing the engine and a launch abort system. The primary challenge to the project today is in developing heat shield materials that can withstand both re-entry to earth as well as a lunar mission. Orion is expected to be in service around 2010, start missions to the ISS around 2015 and it is planned to be used to take astronauts back to the moon around 2020.