Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Great Escape

Someone has put up an interactive diagram on the web mapping out the details of the real life story featured in the 1960s film "The Great Escape" where 76 Allied airmen broke out of Nazi Germany prison camp Stalag 3. Pretty cool.

Still Good Times

A pair of Fed officials take a look at the American standard of living and find that things really aren't so bad after all. (Ht: Cafe Hayek)Since 1982, we have had only 16 months of recession, all the while living standards have improved.

We work less, produce and consume more than our ancestors and even the less advantaged among us have a material prosperity undreamed of just twenty five years ago. Think about CD/DVD players, plasma TV sets, cell phones, digital cameras and computers.

"All segments of society have shared in the material progress. Over the past two decades, ownership of cars, color televisions, and household appliances has risen among poor households (Fig. 2). A quarter of poor households have computers. Two in five own their homes. For many goods, ownership rates are higher for today’s poor households than for the general population of the early 1970s."

In addition, we live longer, have more leisure time, all while working conditions have improved (it's actually safer at work than at home now, statistically speaking)and we spend quite a bit less time working within the home as well.

Interesting stuff.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: You and Jane Fonda?
Denny: Lest we forget Barbarella. Then she turned on me. Went red. They caught her in one of those communist bitch hunts.
Alan: I think you mean witch hunts.
Denny: No, I'm right on this one.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Solar System Definitions

Livescience sums up the main various classifications of heavenly bodies in the solar system with an article by Tariq Malik.

Planets are the (now) eight large bodies orbiting the Sun, having enough mass to be 'nearly' round, and having cleared its surrounding orbital path of other solar objects. The caveat surrounding the object formerly known as the planet Pluto is that last little requirement. However, some astronomers still object, as the author notes:

"Pluto, while round and orbiting the sun, is one of a swarm of so-called trans-Neptunian objects, small icy bodies in the comet reservoir of the Kuiper Belt that extends out from Neptune’s orbit, leading to its IAU demotion. But critics have said that asteroids can be found accompanying established planets like Earth, Mars and Jupiter, throwing a wrench in that requirement."

Dwarf planets are objects that meet just the first two criteria, meaning the object formerly known as the asteroid Ceres meets the new definiton, while the other object what were known as asteroids are now 'solar system bodies' which I find a rather inelegant and stupid term - at least compared to 'asteroids'. Some astronomers still call these object 'minor' planets, which was an earlier (if I recall correctly) term used for space rocks orbiting the Sun.

Then there are those dwarf planets that are also located out beyond Neptune (trans-Neptunian objects, TNOs) called 'plutoids'. This classification was created just this summer, apparently as a sop to those of us upset with the earlier demotion of Pluto. There are also a number of other 'non-official' names for some of these very distant objects, such as KBO (Kuiper Belt Objects) or EKO (Edgeworth-Kuiper Objects) both names referring to the same objects as TNOs but honoring astronomers theorizing the existence of such objects in the middle part of the last century before their actual discovery near the end of it.

Then there is the name 'plutino' which is an object which lies in orbital resonance with the planet Neptune - rather than Pluto, which is actually the first such object of which we were aware. Such objects orbit the Sun three times for every two orbits of Neptune, thus the classification refers to its orbit and not any physical characteristic.

And all this does is brush the subject - there are also cubewanos (objects near Pluto that aren't plutinos), Trojans (objects sort of like plutinos only orbiting in front of or behind the oribital path of Jupiter), SDOs (scattered disk objects, or those that aren't in the normal orbital plane that the planets and most objects circle the Sun), NEOs (near Earth asteroids), PHAs (potentially hazardous asteroids which could hit the Earth someday), and OCOs (Oort Cloud objects such as comets, and even further away than the TNO/KBOs).

More explanation on the more obscure of these terms are explained at

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: Thank you, Alan, for coming with me.
Alan: I think friends should always encourage friends to get their heads examined.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ice Remained Even During Warmest Epoch

Livescience notes that even during the warmest period we can determine while life lived on Earth, during the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum 91 million years ago there was still an ice cap at the South Pole. During this period the temperature in tropical seas was up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today. While there was still ice in the deep south, the northern arctic latitides were the home of heat loving crocodiles.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: Indigent are poor. Hate the poor. Can't pay

Monday, July 28, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Melissa: I will make sure you don't wig out and that's it.
Alan: I'm not sure the term 'wig out' has legal teeth.
Melissa: Mmm, but it is extremely xeroxable for all the partners' windshields.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Brad: Do you know your briefcase is smoking?
Alan: Tis the season, Brad. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble and so forth.
Brad: This is a law firm.
Alan: Thank you for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sham Arguments Against US Energy Production

Peter Ferrara covers some of the seriously flawed thinking preventing the US from producing its own energy at the American Spectator. While France safely generates around 80% of its electrical power from nuclear power, the US only generates around 20% - and has not built a new nuclear power plant in almost 20 years due to regulatory delays and litigation brought forth by environmental groups. The last oil refinery built in the US was in 1976. The industry has reacted to an increasing regulatory and litigation burden by simply expanding the capacity of current plants, but this has been met with an ever increasing obstinance from pressure groups.

"BP is constructing a $3.8 billion expansion of its already existing Whiting refinery in that state. But the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has now brought suit against BP seeking an injunction against the expansion, and fines of $32,500 for each day construction has been under way. The NRDC is urging the court to adopt a new interpretation of state law that would require BP to get a new state permit first because with the expansion the refinery would supposedly discharge more "pollution" than the current state permit allows. If the NRDC has found a liberal enough judge, it may get its way, to the great detriment of the rest of us."

The there is the drilling for oil issue. It's argued in may take up to ten years for new wells to produce oil to market and effect current prices, but this argument is specious in the extreme. Simply by lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling, the spot price of oil fell almost 14%. Oil executives have also indicated new wells could begin production in as little as a year and a half to four years, and tapped wells off the West Coast could be in production in as little as a few months. All this potential increase in supply would have an effect on current prices IMMEDIATELY.

Another argument against Arctic production is that such oil may wind up in Japan or China rather than the US, but again such objections fall flat. There is a world market (and price) for oil, and if such Alaskan production winds up in foreign locales, it simply means it is more efficient and less costly to ship there rather than here, and frees up other supplies nearer home (such as Mexico or South America) for US consumption. Any additional supply of oil causes a decrease in the world price of oil.

House Tries to Move Energy Legislation

Michael Franc over at NRO has a good piece on how a number of Congressional House members are taking action after beginning to feel the heat from their constituents over gas prices. A small but growing rebellion is underway against the wicked witch, Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. House Republicans are attempting to execute a discharge petition on pro-drilling energy legislation, but need to pick up some of the more conservative Democrats' votes in the process. Franc explains the strategy:

"A discharge petition is a procedural way for disgruntled members to release a bill from legislative limbo and force the entire House to consider it. Should a majority of members (218) sign one, the legislation in question is “discharged” from the committee of jurisdiction and brought immediately to the floor, debated, and voted on. Short of actual floor votes, signing a discharge petition is the most powerful (and potentially meaningful) tool available to a besieged legislative minority.

Not surprisingly, discharge petitions rarely attract the required 218 signatures. House speakers and majority leaders view them the same way vampires view crosses. When members of the majority party sign one, it’s viewed as an act of betrayal worthy of harsh disciplinary measures and a guaranteed end to that member’s advancement in the House.

Quietly, in recent weeks House Republican leaders have adopted precisely this strategy. Rank-and-file Republicans have been filing one discharge petition per week (five thus far), demanding floor action on a far-reaching energy agenda."

The movement has attracted as many as 153 (including one Democratic) vote, with as many as 75-100 more members possible. This count has been tabulated by including members that have publicly supported more energy exploraiton legislation in the past, including as many as 40 Democrats. Let's hope at least one of these efforts succeeeds soon. At stake is an agenda that includes drilling in the ANWR, offshore, constructing new oil refinieries, and opening up unconventional oil sources such as oil shale and coal liquification.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: Why is that so important to everyone, maintaining integrity?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Look Husker Defense

As promised yesterday, I take a look at who's back with the Blackshirts (and Goldshirts as well). The improvement of the defense will be critical if NU will make a run for a bowl game this year, and was a deciding factor in the hiring of HC Bo Pelini.

NU returns all four starters in the line from a year ago, NT Ndamakong Suh, DT Ty Steinkuhler, Base DE Zach Potter and Open DE Barry Turner. All had their moments, both positive and negative last year, and improved and more consistent play in particular will be needed here for the Huskers to return to their traditional winning ways and go bowling. Potter at least appeared to get better as the season wore along last year, hopefully he will be a true impact end and Turner can return to the success he enjoyed three years ago when he earned All-American Frosh honors. 2nd teamers include seniors tackles Kevin Dixon and Shurkee Barfield, as well as senior converted LB Clayton Sievers and sophmore Pierre Allen at end.

At linebacker, the only player with significant playing time that returns is Mike LB Phil Dillard, who has slimmed down considerably from last year's the 270 lbs playing weight to around 235. Converted RB senior Cody Glenn get the nod at weakside, and fellow senior Tyler Wortman is listed first at the strongside 'Buck' position. Former FB (and former NE Wesleyan player) Junior Colton Koehler makes a somewhat surprise appearance backing up Dilliard, sophmore Blake Lawrence backs up Wortman and highly touted recruit Latravis Washington gets the nod behind Glenn. Depth is a concern up front in general and a lack of experience at LB may be a concern on the defensive unit. Both HC Bo and DC Carl Pelini certainly have their work cut out for them, as well as new LB coach Mike Ekeler.

The secondary returns two starters in LCB Armando Murillo and SS Larry Asante, with new starters RCB Anthony West and FS Ricky Thenarse also having some game experience, particularly on special teams. Sophs Eric Hagg and Prince Amukamara back up at corner, with Major Culbert and senior Matt O'Hanlon at safety. The loss of CB Anthony Blue to a knee injury hurts the depth at that position, it's been reported he may not be ready for the start of fall camp but that he could conceivably return in time for conference play. Amukamara appears to have the early lead in nickel situations.

On special teams, senior punters Dan Titchner and Jake Welsch return, along with soph place kickers Alex Henery and long FG and kicoff man Adi Kunalic. The kicking game should continue to be pretty solid. Speedy scat back Marcus Mendoza is likely to have an impact on the return game, as could WR Niles Paul and (possibly, it's a long shot) athletic frosh WR Tim Marlowe.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: Hey kid, front and center. I bet you'd lick my shoes for a murder case, wouldn't you?
Garrett: Oh, I would, sir.
Denny: Because I like you, you don't have to lick them. Just dust them with your sleeve.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Huskers Release Preseason Depth Chart

NU football coaches have released the first depth chart for the team entering fall camp. I'll cover the offense today and the new look Blackshirts tomorrow.

Not too many surprises, although I always find it interesting to see where the newcomers land. Sophmore Mike McNeil at starting TE is interesting, but you had to figure him in the mix with senior Hunter Teafatiller's legal issues causing him to be suspended from the team. Redshirt Frosh Ryan Hill is listed at #2, and both players are reported to be good receving threats, perhaps Watson will try to open things up at this postion in the passing game.

The line looks very solid, with seniors Lydon Murtha and Mike Huff anchoring the left side, junior Jacob Hickman getting the nod at center, senior Matt Slauson at RG and sophmore Javario Burkes at RT. All of the starters stand at least 6'4 and only Hickman at 290 is under 300, with the right side listed at 320 plus. The second line is young and very big (with the exception of center Nike Caputo at 6'1/275), with everyone 6'5 or over and only LT Mike Smith under 300. Keith Williams, DJ Jones and Marcel Jones are at LG, RG, and RT respectively.

As expected, seniors Nate Swift and Todd Peterson lead the receiving corps, with juniors Chris Brooks and Menilik Holt behind Swift at X and sophmore Niles Paul and redshirt frosh Curenski Gilleylen behind Peterson at Z. Senior Thomas Lawson returns at FB backed up by legacy FB sophmore Justin Makovicka. I-back will return 2nd team All-Big 12, 1,000 yard and 75 reception man Marlon Lucky, with sophmore sensations Roy Helu and Quentin Castille also likely to see time. QB will be handled by senior Joe Ganz backed up by Patrick Witt and Zac Lee.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: Most of the Cranes in my family were flamingos.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The United Nations

Great article from last Friday at Human Events by Thomas Kilgannon. It's a pretty sad state of affairs when even you're 'closest' allies won't support you the majority of the time diplomatically - even though we fund the vast majority of the UN's operating budget.

"For 25 years, the State Department has been compiling voting records at the United Nations, and the trend is troubling. Twelve years ago, the General Assembly and the U.S. were in agreement on half of the recorded votes -- today, it is less than one in five. Specifically, the General Assembly voted with the United States only 18.3 percent of the time during 2007, according to State’s most recent congressionally-mandated report. In part, that is because in the global legislature that is the General Assembly, the United States has no protector of political pride or enforcer of national interests. Even a strong ambassador like John Bolton can’t spend his days whipping votes and twisting arms like Lyndon Johnson used to do in the Senate."

Israel and micro states Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Micronesia all vote the US position over 2/3 of the time, with Australia, Canada, Great Britain, France, and Monaco, rounding out the top ten and supporting the US about half the time. Our Other NATO allies vote with the US around 40% of the time. The top ten recipients of US direct foreign aid are Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Colombia, Jordan, and Kenya, averaging around $1 billion in aid each. Excluding the Israelis, these nations vote with the US less than 10% of the time.

It appears to me the UN is seriously broken, and in dire need of replacement.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: First of all, I haven't had sex with a camel since I was in the Army. And the camel never complained.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Great article at the American Spectator outlining a Congressional field trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. The environmental lobby has sucessfully prevented oil extraction in the ANWR for over 30 years, most notably by arguing that the area's a beautiful pristine mountain wilderness and that oil production would harm native wildlife such as the caribou herds. However, the ANWR is a huge tract of land, and while beautiful mountains make up quite a bit of it, the section known as 10-02, where oil extraction has been proposed, is NOT one of them. Instead, this area is a swampy tundra on the northern coastal plain abutting the Arctic Ocean.

"At about 19.5 million acres, ANWR is the size of the state of South Carolina. Located in Alaska's northeast corner and stretching from that state's northern coast along the frigid Arctic Ocean to two hundred miles south, ANWR includes a broad spectrum of Alaskan wilderness. The spectacular geography of the southern three-quarters of ANWR is offset by the flat, barren and desolate northern slope along the coast. The two contrasting landscapes are separated by the Brooks Mountain Range running east and west. The section of ANWR known as Area 10-02 is about 1.2 million acres in size and includes a sliver of about 2,000 acres identified for oil extraction."

But I digress, the article goes on to note the 7 Congress critters that went to Alaska and visited not only the ANWR, but Prudhoe Bay, where 750,000 barrels of oil a day is still being produced, and found the area being utilized in a very careful and well thought out manner, with no serious environmental impact. They also visited the locals, and found them extremely in favor of further drilling, as is the State's Governor Sarah Palin.

So why aren't we drilling and producing oil from 10-02 - oh yeah, Bill Clinton vetoed the idea in 1996.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: You, kid.
Garrett: Yes. sir.
Denny: Fix my tie. [to Sara] You, you know my name?
Sara: Yes, sir.
Denny: Good. Maybe someday I'll learn yours.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

OWH on Ekeler

The OWH reports on the local boy made good, Husker LB coach Mike Ekeler. Ekeler, a fellow Blair native, played for Bill Snyder at Kansas St, got into coaching with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, then followed Bo Pelini to LSU and eventually home to Nebraska when Pelini was hired by Husker AD Tom Osborne. Ekeler has some unconventional aspects to his personality, but was noted as a gritty competitor in high school and college. He often modified his hair cut weekly while playing at K St, was the only team captain at the school ever appointed by Snyder - and can quote pretty much the entire dialogue of the movie 'Caddyshack'.

"At KSU, Mike Ekeler carried the razor-toothed fish — named Carl Spackler, after Bill Murray's character in "Caddyshack" — around the K-State football complex, mounted it above his locker and paid homage to it before games.

Occasionally, Ekeler added to the locker room entertainment by reciting direct quotes from "Caddyshack."

"Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac . . . It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!"

Ekeler knows the entire movie, Hocutt said. He showcased that particular talent last winter during a recruiting trip to Will Compton's house. The Spacklerisms from the 1980 movie likely went over young Will's head, but parents Bill and Kathy nearly hit the floor laughing."

Ekeler's antics and intensity are having quite the impact on the recruiting trail, with new NU quaterback recruit Cody Green being quoted as saying "Have you ever met Coach Ekeler? . . . He's wild. Just talking to him, he got me all fired up." when asked about why Green made the NU his choice over home state Texas A & M.

I may be off base, but I'm expecting a much improved Blackshirt squad this season, particularly with regard to the front seven.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: This isn't meaningful; practicing law and drinking scotch at 9 o'clock in the morning. Well, ok, maybe the scotch is meaningful.

(Editor's Note: Scotch is always meaningful - even at 7 o'clock in the morning.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baseball Bat Composition

Livescience looks at the physics of baseball bats and the apparently increasing number of broken bats (and injured fans and players) generated from the switch from ash to maple wood initiated by slugger Barry Bonds' use of maple. An increasing number of players have switched to maple, thought to be lighter, stronger and less prone to chipping than ash, allowing for greater bat speed and less turnover. Conversely, many of the traditional greats like Babe Ruth used hickory, which is heavier than either ash or maple.

"Hickory was a common wood, and it's still known today as a good strong wood," said Lloyd Smith, a mechanical and materials engineer from Washington State University. "But it is very heavy ... that was one of the criticisms, was that it was a heavy bat."

The desire for a lighter-weight bat (for faster swinging and higher batting averages) eventually led to the adoption of ash as the wood of choice for major leaguers. And it stayed the preferred type of wood up until a few years ago. But because it is lighter, ash is not as strong hickory.

"The problem with most wood is that strength is proportional to weight, so if you want a really strong wood, you can do that, but you end up getting an increase in weight," Smith explained. "And if you want a really light wood, you can do that, but you pay for it because your strength goes down. So there's this kind of optimum balance."

In the 1990s, maple started to make the rounds as an alternative. It was appealing because it was stronger (which is better for hitting longer distances) and less prone to flaking than ash, so players didn't go through bats as quickly. Most players still stuck to their ash bats, though — that is, until Barry Bonds got the single-season home run record in 2001, using a maple bat. Now, just a few years later, maple is no longer on the fringe.

"For 50 years, northern white ash was the wood. Today half of the bats in the major leagues are made out of maple. So it was a very dramatic shift," Smith told LiveScience."

The issue is that the modern woods used in bats break in dramatically different fashions, with ash prone to splitting or chipping in smaller chunks, and maple more prone to often catastrophically large jagged shards. Ash wood is ring porous, leading to the wood flaking, while maple is ring diffuse, with more evenly distributed pores in the wood grain, which makes the wood more durable but also more inclined to snap in large pieces when it does eventually break. The reduction in chipping may also lead a player to use a maple bat longer, since an ash bat would be replaced after chipping. The cracking in ash tends to follow the wood grain due its porous nature, while maple can break in almost any direction due to the more diffuse nature of its rings.

Another contributing factor is the reduction in the size of bat handles. More modern bats are produced with thinner handles to reduce weight, which also reduces the durability. The force of the impact of a baseball on a bat by a Major league player can exceed 5000 lbs.

I always wondered if there wasn't a better type of wood out there than either ash or maple after being informed of the switch during a game about a decade ago.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: What would you do as mayor of Boston?
Denny: Oh, I don't know, attack Rhode Island. Small.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Dwarf Planet - Makemake

We have a new 'official' fourth dwarf planet, discovered by Cal Tech's Dr. Mike Brown three years ago, the Kuiper Belt Object and plutoid formerly known as 2005 FY9 has been designated Makemake (prenounced makimaki), the creator god of Easter Island mythology. It is the third largest trans-Neptunian object yet discovered after Eris, also discovered by Brown, (the event which led to the new 'dwarf planet classification) and Pluto itself.

"This object was discovered by Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rainowitz on March 31, 2005, just before Easter that year. They nicknamed it Easterbunny (which is easier to say than 2005 FY9 or 136472) and after tossing a few different names around, they finally came up with Makemake because of its Easter Island, (also known as Rapa Nui) connection.

Makemake is the creator of humanity and the god of fertility in the mythology of the South Pacific island of Rapa Nui. He was the chief god of the Tangata manu bird-man cult and was worshipped in the form of sea birds, which were his incarnation. His material symbol, a man with a bird's head, can be found carved in petroglyphs on the island."

Captain Cook

Interesting note on the career of English explorer James cook via Livescience, from the site's 'changing history' series. Cook not only took part in a series of exploratory missions to the Pacific, he was responsible in part for the British conquest of Canada. As a navigator to the British Expedition to French Canada, he charted the waters of the St. Lawrence River, giving the British an opportunity to conduct the conquest of Quebec and win the war and causing the Frenhc to give up their Canadian possessions.

Almost a decade later, Cook led an expedition to the South Pacific island of Tahiti, leading a team of scientists to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun and allowing for a precise measurement of the distance from the Earth to our parent star. The same expedition has 'secret' orders from the Admiralty to head south and explore the mysterious continent of Australia. Within another ten years, British ships would arrive with the first of the convicts that would go on to settle the continent. Cook's second expedition in 1773 explored much of Polynesia and the south Pacific islands.

Cook's third expedition in 1778 in an attempt to discover the long theorized 'Northwest Passage' discovered insteadthe Hawaiian island chain, where he met his death after being stabbed in an attempt to seize a Hawaiian chief hostage.

Fighting in Two Places at Once

Christopher Hitchens pretty much demolishes the idea that the Iraq war has "distracted" from the war in Afghanistan. AS the author points out, several of the Al-Qaida leaders in Iraq, most notably al-Zarqawi, arrived in Iraq after being driven from Afghanistan by coalition forces. Also of note is that the coalition forces in Afghanistan are comprised of many nations, including a number of NATO allies. He points out that the issues in Afghanistan are not from a lack of tropps and/or resources being applied there, the issue is that there is a 'safe haven' across the border where the Taliban are able to reorganize and plan their attacks - from Pakistan. Additionally, the counter insurgency lessons learned in the sands of Iraq are being utilized now in Afghanistan with some degree of success.

"In other words, any attempt to play off the two wars against each other is little more than a small-minded and zero-sum exercise. And consider the implications. Most people appear now to believe that it is quite wrong to mention Saddam Hussein even in the same breath as either a) weapons of mass destruction or b) state-sponsored terrorism. I happen to disagree, but just for an experiment, let us imagine that some regime did exist or did arise that posed such a combination of threats. (Actually, so feverish is my imagination that I can even think of one whose name also begins with I.) Would we be bound to say, in public and in advance, that the Western alliance couldn't get around to confronting such a threat until it had Afghanistan well under control? This would be rather like the equivalent fallacy that nothing can be done in the region until there is a settlement of the Israel-Palestine dispute. Not only does this mean that every rogue in the region can reset his timeline until one of the world's oldest and most intractable quarrels is settled, it also means that every rogue has an incentive to make certain that no such settlement can ever occur. (Which is, of course, why Saddam threw, and now the Iranians throw, their support to the suicide-murderers.)"

The very idea that the United States of today, the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet, should have a problem fighting a rather small group of religious fantatics in two relatively distant regions of the world simultaneously is patently absurd. The scale of the combat and the logistical complexities aside, our efforts today are minscule in comparison to the challenges the nation faced sixty plus years ago during World War Two - where we fought two significant nation states across two oceans half a world apart and over three continents.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: I have nothing against marriage. I've done it five times

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dissent Not Necessarily Patriotic

Author/columnist Ralph Peters (at the NY Post, via RCP) takes on the bumper-stickerization of America, particularly the "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" gang. The quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, who never said any such thing.

"Parrot-talk on policy infects both ends of the political spectrum. Extremists like things neat and simple. But, these days, tape-loop talk has reached epidemic proportions on the left. Rational debate? Ain't going to find it at that MoveOn fund-raiser. Worst of all, the most enduringly popular slogans tend to be either dishonest, misattributed - or just plain dumb.

We've all heard humorless America-haters promote themselves by announcing, As Thomas Jefferson said, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." The first problem with that self-righteous bull is that Jefferson never said it. On the contrary, he warned of the dangers of political dissension carried to extremes.

The earliest traceable provenance of the slogan goes back to an obscure 1960s lefty who just made it up (long before activist-historian Howard Zinn commandeered it)."

In short, dissent can be patriotic, but spirited public debate should be based on facts, and not on some mushy 'feelings' and as Peters puts it, dissent should emphatically NOT be a fashion statement.

Could not agree more.

Boston Legal Quotes

Congressman Jacobs: Raymond Jacobs, you handled my first divorce 15 years ago. My wife's name was Lois.
Denny: I remember.
Congressman Jacobs: Why wouldn't ya. You slept with her.
Denny: Only after the divorce was final.

Friday, July 11, 2008

How Greens Captured US Energy policy

JR Dunn at The American Thinker has a run down on the way the environmental movement has hamstrung US energy policy since the 1960s, succeeding in ways most political pressure groups do not. The catalyst for the movement was the 1969 Santa Barbara oil platform spill, which left a sizable chunk (35 miles0 of California coastline mired in petroleum. Left unsaid by most environmental groups is that the culprit was that the US Geological survey had allowed the platform owner to ignore mandated construction regulations.

"The public rallied to save the wildlife with some success. Environmentalists rallied alongside them. Within days, an anti-oil activist group, GOO (Get Oil Out) was in operation, calling for boycotts and circulating petitions to end offshore drilling. Ignored in all the uproar was the fact that Union Oil had been allowed to skimp on heavy-duty protective sheathing by the U.S. Geological Survey. If the piping had been reinforced as called for by standard procedure, the rupture might not have occurred, or might well have been contained."

As a result, most offshore drilling was banned over the next 10 years, just as the first 'gas shortage' devloped due to the Iranian hostage crisis. Then the Exxon Valdez incident occured in 1989 where a drunken captain ran an oil tanker aground dumping 11 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Alaska, confirming the "oil is evil" tautology.

As if this wasn't enough, the Three Mile Island incident, where no radiactivite materials were released took nuclear energy off the table - no new reactors have been built in the Us for over 30 years. Adding insult to injury, this was followed by the much more serious Chernobyl incident in the Soviet Ukraine (note for the record that the Chernobyl reactor design would NEVER had been licensed in the US!).

As Dunn puts it:

"The appropriate response in these cases (Chernobyl being the exception: the only solution there was to tear the system down and start over) would have been to convene a panel of experts, send out investigators, hold hearings, issue recommendations, and see to it that reforms went into effect. This is what occurs following aircraft disasters, large-scale fires, building collapses, or any other catastrophic incident where suspicion exists that things were not being handled according to best practice. (Consider the investigation following the Challenger disaster, for one example.)

But this is not what occurred in these cases. Not in any meaningful sense. Under the new Green paradigm, oil and nuclear energy were not industries to be reformed, but "evils" to be either contained or destroyed. The Greens could have served a useful purpose by pushing for serious reform in management of critical energy industries. Instead, we got the religious impulse, distorted into sheer apocalypticism, with the environmentalists fighting oil and fissionables (plutonium in particular) as products of dark sin, placed on earth to tempt humankind from the path that Gaia intended."

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: I heard about Tara. I feel you're hurt.
Alan: What's most upsetting, Denny, is I don't hurt.
Denny: So I don't have to hug ya and tell ya I'm there for ya and all that crap.
Alan: We can skip it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interview with Dr. Tom

Realfootball365's Marc Hudgens interviews Husker athletic director (and former coach) Dr. Tom Osborne.

Osborne's biggest moment? The big win in Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl for his first National title. I have to say it was a pretty big deal to me and the rest of the state as well.

Lowest point? Having to deal with the Lawrence Phillips situation later that year.

Hudgens also asks about how it was following in the footsteps of the legendary Bob Devaney, and how Tom arrived at the decision to hire Bo Pelini. I thought the answer was a pretty good one.

"OSBORNE: We needed a lot of help on defense, and I didn’t know of anybody that had better defensive coaching credentials. The other thing he had going for him is [that] he had coached here in 2003 for one year, and had turned our defense around in that year into one of the top defenses in the country from a rather average defense in 2002. So I knew that he understood and could motivate players and communicate with players and (get them) to play with intensity and passion. The other thing that was in Bo’s favor was I was able to talk to a lot of players who played for him in 2003 and a lot of assistant coaches who worked with him on defense. And in his last month, he was named interim coach when (Frank) Solich was fired, so Bo coached the bowl game for about five weeks, [and] he acted as the head coach. All of the comments I got from the former players and former coaches, all of whom I knew well and trusted, were very positive. So I was able to get more information on him. In most other people, you would get information on simply by interviewing them. So that was the main decision on Bo."

Hudgens also asked about politics and some illuminating personal questions - apparently Tom's passion for fishing is partially due to the fact it's one of his favorite foods, particularly salmon, and that legendary Husker running back Bobby Reynolds was a boyhood hero.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: I can't be sure, but in the middle I think I actually felt smoke coming out my ass.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Unique Earth

Nice article at FoxNews (apparently linked in from about the many unique and interrelated features of our shiny blue marble. First up is the location - at just the right orbit around our sun for the temperature to allow liquid water to form.

"It has liquid water, plate tectonics and an atmosphere that shelters it from the worst of the sun's rays. But many scientists agree our planet's most special feature might just be us. "It's the only planet we know of that has life," said Alan Boss, a planet formation theorist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Washington, D.C."

Liquid water allows for plate tectonics, the movement of the planet's land masses which allows for the carbon-silicate cycle (where the seafloor recycles carbon by subducting under the land masses) all of which also helps regulate the planet's temperature to keep the water largely in a liquid state. Plate tectonics may also help drive the rotation of the Earth's core, generating the magnetic field that protects the Earth and its atmosphere from the solar wind and high energy particles.

"Plate tectonics and water are inextricably linked. Not only does plate tectonics enable liquid water to exist by way of regulating the temperature, but many scientists have argued water enables plate tectonics to happen. "Without water the planet would be geologically dead," said Caltech's Mike Brown, discoverer of the newly reclassified "plutoid" object named Eris, which lies beyond Pluto in our solar system. "Water is what lubricates plate tectonics, which is what leads to the extreme difference between continents and seafloors, the large amount of earthquakes and volcanoes, fresh mountain-building. Venus has no water, no plate tectonics, no deep sea floor, no steep mountains, no continents, probably few earthquakes or volcanoes. A much less geologically interesting place!"

Another aspect is the Earth's size - large enough to hold an atmosphere, yet small enough to remain rocky and not grow into a gas giant. There is also the factor of the Moon, which drives the Earth's ocean tides and stabilizes the Earth's rotation, preventing the poles from wandering erratically, which could lead to massive climate shifts and prevent life from evolving. These tides may also have helped life along by giving an assist to life capable of living on land, which is the really the most unique aspect of our planet - life itself, and (so-called) intelligent life to boot. The examination of the Martian soils currently underway and future research on moons such as Titan and Europa are not likely to change this primary characteristic of Earth.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: My New Year's to appreciate my friends every day and catch more fish.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

McCain on the Economy

Ross Kaminsky over at Human Events covers a McCain appearance in Denver where the Republican candidate explores the differences between him and his opponent on economic policies, and took some questions from the crowd.

"Throughout this stop on the campaign trail, Senator McCain made direct comparisons between his positions and those of Senator Obama. He pointed out several significant differences, starting with Obama wanting to hamper small business “by imposing a ‘pay or play’ health mandate on small business. This adds $12,000 to the cost of employing anyone with a family. This means new jobs will not be created. It means existing employees will have their wages cut to pay for this mandate.”

Moving on to taxes, McCain used a line voters are likely to hear frequently over the next four months: “If you believe you should pay more taxes, I am the wrong candidate for you. Senator Obama is your man….Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won’t. I will cut them where I can….When you raise taxes in a bad economy you eliminate jobs. I’m not going to let that happen.”

McCain also pointed out differences on trade, noting that 25% of all American jobs are linked to exports, and that a number of competitive swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have almost 5 million such jobs. The candidate also swung at Congress over spending and earmarks such as the $100 million requested by Senator Obama in 2007 alone.

McCain also talked about expanding nuclear energy, calling for 45 new nuclear plants and the need to speed the development and deployment of clean coal technologies, noting 80% of Colorado's energy needs are met by America's most prodigious energy source. McCain then answered questions on the needs of veterans, healthcare, the question of security versus privacy rights, immigration, and Social Security, showing a deft handling of often difficult questions and an ability to think on his feet. McCain also renewed his calls to meet his opponent in just such a setting, playing to his obvious strengths in such a town hall setting.

If Mac can keep it close during the summer months, my guess is it will be anyone's game come November.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: When God strips you of your talent, He should at least have the decency to strip away the memory of having had it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Invention of the Steam Engine

via Livescience, another of Heather Whipps' articles on items that "changed the world" - in this instance, the steam engine.

"Sixteen hundred years after the ancient Greek scientist first made mention of the untapped power of steam, the technology would become the hero and the engine that drove the Industrial Revolution.

When it was refined by 18th century scientists such as James Watt, steam power overcame the limitations of using relatively weak men or tired horses to do grunt work and sped factories along at a pace never before seen."

While Watt did not invent the steam engine, he certainly popularized it along with British manufacturer Matthew Boulton, modifying Watt's engine to expand its use in a number of industries. The steam engine allowed manufacuring plants to be located outside fast moving rivers and dramatically altered the textile and manufacturing industries in particular. The invention of the locamotive and the steam ship completely revolutionized transportation, freeing the need for horse and sails.

People Wore Shoes Earlier than Thought

National Geographic states a recent study of ancient human remains in China indicate that at least some humans were wearing shoes 40,000 years ago, around 10,000 years earlier than previously believed.

"Now the dainty-toed fossil from China suggests that at least some humans were sporting protective footwear 10,000 years further back, during a time when both modern humans and Neandertals occupied portions of Europe and Asia."

Shoe wearing humans leave anatomical traces in the bones of the feet and toes, particularly the middle toe bones, which appear more slender than barefoot humans due to decreased forces applied on the bones when walking in footwear. The oldest footwear yet discovered only dates to around 10,000 years ago, however.

Boston Legal Quotes

Shirley: I make over a million dollars a year, and I'm in a basement looking for a dead midget.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: When a beautiful woman says, 'get me off', you 'get her off', Shirley, it's as simple as that.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Kelly: [to Denny] How 'bout you go back to your office? I'll have a pair of my pants delivered. You can try and get in them on your own time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: Not everything is about money, Shirley. Sometimes sex counts, too. It used to count with you. One minute you couldn't get enough of me, the next you lose interest. What happened, Shirley? I need to know.
Shirley: They invented color television.
Denny: You and me. In my office. Gimme 2 minutes.
Shirley: If you could last 3 I might consider it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Large Cache of Exoplanet Discoveries Announced

Great note from Astrobiology last Sunday on the recent spate of "superEarth" discoveries, including the find of a single system that includes at least three near Earth mass planets. The system is located 42 light-years away near the constellations Doradus and Pictor. While the planets have short orbital periods, all less than 20 days, they weigh in at only 4-9 Earth masses.

"Using the HARPS instrument at the ESO La Silla Observatory, they have found a triple system of super- Earths around the star HD 40307. Moreover, looking at their entire sample studied with HARPS, the astronomers count a total of 45 candidate planets with a mass below 30 Earth masses and an orbital period shorter than 50 days. This implies that one solar-like star out of three harbors such planets - a finding may help astrobiologists understand the potential for habitable environments in the Universe."

These discoveries make it near certain that the holy grail of planet hunting, a near Earth mass planet in the habital zone of its star, will be found in relatively short order if the implications of these observations bear out as expected.

Boston Legal Quotes

ADA Jackson: No cell phones allowed in here. How'd you get by with that?
Alan: I told the guard we're waiting for a last minute call from your conscience. Collect.