Thursday, April 28, 2005

Target Acquired.........


Yes, I'm a dork. I still think this mission is outrageously cool, not to mention incredibly important in terms of our understandings of the make-up of comets and the Universe in general. Plus, I don't care if you think I'm a dork. Some chicks dig dorks. Ok maybe that's pushing it. Still, I don't care.

April 27, 2005

Dolores Beasley/Erica Hupp
Headquarters, Washington
D.C. Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


Sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal with a comet, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1, at a distance of 39.7 million miles.

The image, the first of many comet portraits it will take over the next 10 weeks, will aid Deep Impact's navigators, engineers and scientists as they plot their final trajectory toward an Independence Day encounter.

"It is great to get a first glimpse at the comet from our spacecraft," said Deep Impact principal investigator, Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, Md. "With daily observations beginning in May, Tempel 1 will become noticeably more impressive as we continue to close the gap between spacecraft and comet. What is now little more than a few pixels across will evolve by July 4 into the best, most detailed images of a comet ever taken," he added.

The ball of dirty ice and rock was detected on April 25 by Deep Impact's Medium Resolution Instrument on the very first attempt. While making the detection, the spacecraft's camera saw stars as dim as 11th visual magnitude, more than 100 times dimmer than a human can see on a clear night.

"This is the first of literally thousands of images we will take of Tempel 1 for both science and navigational purposes," said deputy program manager Keyur Patel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
"Our goal is to impact a 39 inch long spacecraft into about a 4 mile wide comet that is bearing down on it at 6.3 miles per second, while both are 83 million miles away from Earth.(read that part again-ed.) By finding the comet as early and as far away as we did is a definite aid to our navigation."

Above-Comet Tempel 1 as photographed By Deep Impact at a distance of 39.7 million miles.

For more information, go visit the Deep Impact site here.....Happy Hunting JPL, this will make for one memorable 4th of July....

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

We Need To Stop Doing Everything Until Cookiegate Is Settled.....


Have you heard about this?

Has Cookie Monster given up sweets?

'Sesame Street' advocates healthy eating habits

Hoots the Owl explains the benefits of fruits and vegetables to Cookie Monster.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Something must be wrong in the land of Muppets.

First PBS announced that "Sesame Street" would kick off its 35th season this week with a multiyear story arc about healthy habits. No problem there; childhood obesity rates are soaring. Then I learned of changes that turned my "Sesame Street" world upside-down.

My beloved blue, furry monster -- who sang "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me" -- is now advocating eating healthy. There's even a new song -- "A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food," where Cookie Monster learns there are "anytime" foods and "sometimes" foods.

Talking vegetables

I picked up the telephone. "What's going on with Cookie Monster?" I asked the "Sesame Street" press office. "Why are you doing this?"

They sent me to Dr. Rosemarie T. Truglio, the show's vice president of research and education.

She said the show changes every year, focusing not just on teaching numbers and letters but also emotional and physical health. With the rise in childhood obesity, Truglio said "Sesame Street" is concentrating on the need to teach children about healthy foods and physical activity.




Sheila O'Malley, over at the Sheila Variations puts this outrage in to words I dare say could not be said any better...

"To me, Cookie Monster, you will always be:

A blue. Furry. Googly-eyed. Cookie-eating. LUNATIC.

Beloved by children everywhere.

Your name is Cookie MONSTER. Mkay? Not Cookie LOVER, or Cookie Boy, or Cookie Afficianado. You are a MONSTER and your whole life is about COOKIES. You do not have a normal level of desire. In fact, you are so obsessed with cookies that THAT THAT IS YOUR NAME. This has never ceased to amaze me. Ernie loved his Rubber Ducky, sure, but his name was not "Rubber Ducky", his name was Ernie. You took your obsession to such new heights that no one could call you anything else.

How many of us can say that? Is my name Old Movies? No. Is my name Central Asia or Founding Fathers? No. My name is Sheila. Not too many of us live our entire lives harboring only ONE GOAL, and holding up that ONE GOAL above all others. It takes courage, drive, and commitment. You haven't taken your eye off the cookie once.

Until now.

Now they will force you to say that cookies are only good for you SOMEtimes. This must KILL you, Cookie. That would be like some stupid group of unimaginative people making me do a commercial where I said, "It's okay if you like old movies ... just don't like them TOO MUCH."

Those people don't understand passion like yours, those people wouldn't know how to love something in the feverish way that you love cookies. They are JEALOUS. They want to CONTROL you. Perhaps, like Mitch suggests, they want to call you "The Moderate Monster". They look at your wacko eyes and they hear your caveman syntax ... and they can't stand your wildness, they can't stand the greatness of you, they rush in to tamp you down. It has taken them 25 years ... but now it has occurred. You will now become a mouthpiece for their fear and caution.

It must kill you. I can only imagine, Cookie, the shame. The shame of being forced to betray your deepest held convictions about cookies.

Cookie, let me tell you this. I will not forget the old Cookie Monster madman. I will still believe that you are IN THERE, even though they won't let you show it anymore.

I will still remember fondly that time you ate the telephone because it looked like a cookie. Good for you! You had the cord hanging out of your mouth, and your googled-eyes suddenly looked flat and very confused. But still: good for you, you gave it your best shot."

Yet another fond childhood memory has been shot to pieces on account of political correctness. Bugs Bunny? Ruined. Cookie Monster? On a diet. The Grinch who stole Christmas? Jim Freakin Carrey. Next thing you know the'll outlaw Lego's because too many idiotic kids can't stop trying to eat them.

Breaks my heart I tellsya...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Weekend Recap: Miss Nastily Descends On Nashvegas.......


Yes, this weekend was the visit from the lovely, talented, quick-witted, intelligent, and ever-so entertaining Miss Nastily. For your blog-reading pleasure, I give you the recap...don't thank me, I'm a giver....

Friday Night: She arrives, we go do Sushi at the always quiet, always fresh sushi shop in Green hills- Ginza. Mmmmmmm...........saaakki.....

After dinner, we went to -you guessed it- Jacksons Bar and Bistro to get her acquainted with my local crew as well as the always entertaining staff. Beers, Jagers, beers, and then on to Jacksons sister restaurant -Rumba- for some Zaya. One drink there and then off to the Bound'ry, to meet yet some more crew and some more highly entertaining Bar Staff. Final round at McGuiness, where Miss Nastily demonstrated that she belongs with the big dogs joining us in an Irish Car Bomb for a night cap.

Saturday: Get in line at the Pancake Pantry, which at the time seemed like a good idea, but as usual, the longer you wait the hungrier you get, and by the time we got our food, we probably could have grown the ingredients and cooked it faster ourselves. But no biggie, she liked the combo pancakes and was her usual upbeat self.
Ma nature decided that Saturday was a nice day -to poop on. Friggin 35 degrees in late April and raining? Whatever. We went to the Parthenon, 'cause she's in to Gods and Goddesses 'n stuff. I told you already, she's cool. Despite our late arrival to the Parthenon, the staff allowed us to sneak in for the last few minutes to get a glimpse of Athena and the other exhibits.

After that, we went to go see the Battle Of Nashville Monument, originally created in 1927 by Giuseppe Moretti, who was also the sculptor behind the Statue of Vulcan, at aptly named Vulcan Park in Birmingham. I drive by the Nashville monument almost every day, yet I had never stopped to read the inscriptions on it until I learned about Moretti from the Vulcan exhibit when I went to Birmingham. I now call it the Moretti Connection, just cause that sounds cool. We have a Moretti Connection....heh...

After our monumental tour of Nashville (get it? Monumental? HA! I slay me!), we changed up and headed over to meet my bass player Edwin and his fiancee JD at Mambu for dinner. Mambu, as usual, did not disappoint. We had shrimp goyza dumplings for an appetizer, I had pine-nut encrusted halibut with sauteed spinach and asparagus with lobster/sweet potato ravioli's and new potatoes smothered in a lobster-cream broth- she had the Lamb shank, meat just falling off the bone. After dinner we went to Jacksons for a round, followed by some Chimay at PM.

The next morning we got up early enough to get in some coffee at Bongo Java, followed by a trip to Boscos Brewery for their Jazz brunch.

After brunch, we went to see a Nashville Sounds game with a friend of Miss Nastily from Birmingham who was up to see his buddy play for the Cubs farm team. Tough to beat a sunny Sunday afternoon of triple A baseball.

Alas, the clock had run out on our weekend, and it was time for her to go. I would say the weekend was a success, and I look forward to escorting the Lovely Miss Nastily around our fair city again at some point in the future.

Did I mention how cool she is? How about how smart and witty? Attractive? All that my friends.

If you're interested, she has posted some pics of the visit on flickr-

One for the Nashville Sounds Game, and one for the Nashville Monuments.

What? No, that's all I'm saying about the visit, and frankly that's none of your business. I can tell you this though, I felt pretty damn lucky to be escorting such a beautiful and intelligent woman around Nashville the whole weekend. I do hope to do it again some time again in the future. Preferably sooner than later.

Score One For The Oozers.........


Yes, the Oozers- remember the whole "people who believe that we all evolved from the primordial ooze are just zeaolus hypocrites with no real science to base their theories on"?

Yeah, me neither.

Anyways, check out this latest report from the folks at the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn- they are reporting on the data from Cassini which just completed its closest fly-by to Titans since they dropped the Huygens probe-

Organic Materials Spotted High Above Titan's Surface

April 25, 2005
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Cassini's Views of Titan
During its closest flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 16, the Cassini spacecraft came within 1,027 kilometers (638 miles) of the moon's surface and found that the outer layer of the thick, hazy atmosphere is brimming with complex hydrocarbons.

Scientists believe that Titan's atmosphere may be a laboratory for studying the organic chemistry that preceded life and provided the building blocks for life on Earth. The role of the upper atmosphere in this organic "factory" of hydrocarbons is very intriguing to scientists, especially given the large number of different hydrocarbons detected by Cassini during the flyby.

Titan's Upper Atmosphere: A "factory" of hydrocarbons
Cassini's ion and neutral mass spectrometer detects charged and neutral particles in the atmosphere. It provides scientists with valuable information from which to infer the structure, dynamics and history of Titan's atmosphere. Complex mixtures of hydrocarbons and carbon- nitrogen compounds were seen throughout the range of masses measured by the Cassini ion and neutral mass spectrometer instrument. "We are beginning to appreciate the role of the upper atmosphere in the complex carbon cycle that occurs on Titan," said Dr. Hunter Waite, principal investigator of the Cassini ion and neutral mass spectrometer and professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "Ultimately, this information from the Saturn system will help us determine the origins of organic matter within the entire solar system."

Hydrocarbons containing as many as seven carbon atoms were observed, as well as nitrogen- containing hydrocarbons (nitriles). Titan's atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen, followed by methane, the simplest hydrocarbon. The nitrogen and methane are expected to form complex hydrocarbons in a process induced by sunlight or energetic particles from Saturn's magnetosphere. However, it is surprising to find the plethora of complex hydrocarbon molecules in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Titan is very cold, and complex hydrocarbons would be expected to condense and rain down to the surface.

"Biology on Earth is the primary source of organic production we are familiar with, but the key question is: what is the ultimate source of the organics in the solar system?" added Waite.

Interstellar clouds produce abundant quantities of organics, which are best viewed as the dust and grains incorporated in comets. This material may have been the source of early organic compounds on Earth from which life formed. Atmospheres of planets and their satellites in the outer solar system, while containing methane and molecular nitrogen, are largely devoid of oxygen. In this non-oxidizing environment under the action of ultraviolet light from the Sun or energetic particle radiation (from Saturn's magnetosphere in this case), these atmospheres can also produce large quantities of organics, and Titan is the prime example in our solar system. This same process is a possible pathway for formation of complex hydrocarbons on early Earth.

This was Cassini's sixth flyby of Titan, but its exploration has just begun. Thirty-nine more flybys of this strange, remote world are planned during Cassini's nominal mission. The next Titan flyby is August 22.

Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Congrats as usual to the folks at JPL. I, for one, welcome our new hydrocarbon overlords. And you can all shut up now about the "oozer" stuff. We have umbrellas floating in actual ooze billions of miles away. When "Intelligent Design/Creationism" flies an umbrella to heaven, or wherever the intelligent designers are, they we can compare and contrast ooze. Until then, stop standing in the doorway.

No, I'm not avoiding posting about this weekend with Miss Nastily.

Just some things don't need to be posted about, that's all. Do I sound enough like Morgan Freeman yet? No?


The woman turns me to mush, what can I say.......

"I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams....I hope.....".....

Monday, April 25, 2005

Happy Birthday Hubble!!.............


I missed this bit of news from the weekend, but it's well worth posting. The main reason I missed the news was because I was too busy introducing Miss Nastily to the lovely city of Nasvegas. There will be a full report from our adventures later. In the meantime, enjoy these incredibly stunning shots from Hubble-

The Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, seen by Hubble in 2005. Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Eagle Nebula image release on Hubble's 15th birthday. Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Who Are South Park Conservatives?.........


Very interesting interview over at HumanEvents Online with Brian Anderson, author of South Park Conservatives. The WSJ, by the way, has a review of the aforementioned book here.

From the Interview-

Brian Anderson, the author of the newly released South Park Conservatives (Regnery Publishing, a Human Events sister company), agreed to answer a few questions for Human Events Online readers.

1. Who are "South Park Conservatives"?

A South Park conservative, as I use the term, is someone who isn't a traditional conservative, especially when it comes to popular culture and censorship, but who looks around at today's Left, with its anti-Americanism, its political correctness, and elitism, and says: "No way." In my book I find growing evidence of this anti-liberal attitude among college students and in a new kind of razor-edged political comedy that takes aim at the Left, and not just conservatives, and whose Number One example is Comedy Central's hugely popular, outrageously vulgar, and satirically brilliant cartoon "South Park." This anti-liberalism is one aspect of a bigger shift to the right in our politics and culture that is being fueled in part by the explosive arrival of the new media of political talk radio, cable news, and the Internet, which is the larger theme of my book.

2. Some conservatives have denounced "South Park" as part of the general degradation of popular culture. How do you respond to them?

The conservative social thinker Peter Berger has written a wonderful book on the comic imagination called Redeeming Laughter. Of satire, he notes that it has four criteria: fantasy (often grotesque or obscene), a firm moral standpoint, an object of attack, and an educational purpose. I'd say South Park meets all four criteria. It is offensive--so much so that a mock warning precedes each episode saying that no one should watch it. But it has also satirized abortion rights, hate-crime legislation, multiculturalism, radical environmentalism, diversity mongering, sex-change operations, the sexualization of pre-teens, and any number of liberal celebrities, usually portrayed as monstrous, alien fascists. I offer an array of examples in my chapter on anti-liberal comedy.

What other program in the history of popular culture had taken on liberal elites in this fashion before "South Park"? I can't think of any. The show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone make wicked fun of conservatives and organized religion, too, though there's nothing new about that. Obviously, if someone is put off by cursing or vulgarity he shouldn't watch the show--and it's most definitely not for children. But the fact that one of the most popular programs in America among young adult viewers regularly skewers the Left is of enormous cultural significance. It would not have been possible in an old media era.

South Park Conservatives looks as well at other examples of anti-liberal humor--Parker and Stone's movie Team America, the standup comedians Colin Quinn, Nick Di Paolo, and Julia Gorin, and talk show host and comic Dennis Miller. The source material in the chapter is uproariously funny. I defy readers, at least younger ones, to come away from the chapter without a few serious laughs. These are very funny people.

The situation that I would like to see as a result of the emergence of the so-called "South Park Conservative" is a move towards a viable centrist party that actually represents a large enough constituency to challenge the two major parties. Both of these parties have become so beholden to the fringe elements of their core constituencies that they are slowly but surely excluding people out of their "big tent". Indeed, the Republicans continue to ignore the people who helped get them over the top in 2004, and the Democrats seem unable to detach themselves from the pseudo-socialist marxist fawning moonbats of the left. It is my understanding of early America that the founding fathers did indeed fear a monopolized two party system, but in order to retain a semblance of a Republic, there wasn't much they could legislate that would prevent it. We did see a brief resurgence of this third party with the Reform Party in the 1992 presidential race, but jeebus people c'mon, did anyone actually think Ross Perot would get elected?

What I see a lot of in my day to day life are people who hold varying degrees of liberal and conservative views at the same time. For instance, I am firmly pro-choice on the abortion issue, simply because there are enough plausible examples where a woman should never be beholden to the government when it comes to making such important life changing decisions in situations such as rape, incest or other life threatening scenarios. But I am also against abortion-on-demand, wherein people use it as a form of birth control. There should be a realistic middle ground to the debate. Good luck with that, I can hear everyone rolling their eyes.

Another example is fire-arms. I don't believe that the 2nd amendment was that complicated. Everyone has the right to bear arms. And it was placed right behind the first amendment for a very good reason. If we don't have the ability to protect our right to free speech, then there is nothing preventing the government from taking it away as they see fit. However, I think it should be difficult to obtain fire-arms. I don't think that anyone should be able to stumble in to a Wal-Mart, pick up a grenade launcher and go nuts. If I wanted to go purchase a handgun for my own personal protection, and I am a law abiding citizen, then I don't have a problem with government wanting to make sure that I am in fact a law abiding citizen that will act responsibly with a handgun. I don't think this is asking too much. I imagine that there gun enthusiasts who will scream that it is a right not a privilege to own a handgun, and I agree with you. The constitution is quite clear on this. But I don't believe that requiring citizens to go and confirm that they are in fact law abiding citizens, and not mass murdering convicts is asking too much. Yes, I realize that Hitler first required gun registration, and then he took the guns away. Well, I'm sorry, but I don't think that what we require in the US is an apt comparison. And good freaking luck trying to get people in the rural areas of Tennessee to hand over their weapons. Ain't gonna happen folks.

Clinton rode a wave of centrist "big tent" ideals that enabled him to get re-elected despite his shoddy foreign policies and inept economic policies. The result was the inevitable stock market crash, and the first attack on American soil in over 60 years. Had their been more attention paid during the 90's to the inherent weakness in the irrational exuberance of the stock market, and the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism, we probably would not have seen Bush re-elected to a second term. We probably wouldn't have NEEDED it. Had their been a third party acting like grown ups, perhaps they would be in office right now.

The best way perhaps I can describe this phenomena is quoting from the master of political rhetoric, PJ O'Rourke- from Peace Kills, America's Fun New Imperialism

Clinton was everybody's best friend. Except when he wasn't. He conducted undeclared air wars against Serbia and Iraq and launched missiles at Sudan and Afghanistan. Clinton used the military more often than any previous peacetime American president. He sent armed forces into areas of con­flict on an average of once every nine weeks.

Then we elected an administration with adults in it- Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Gone was the harum-scarum Clinton policy-making apparatus with its frenzied bakeheads piling up midnight pizza boxes in the Old Executive Office Building. They disappeared, along with the clinically insane confidants; vein-popping James Carville, toe-sucking Dick Morris, and the loose haircuts in the West Wing and the furious harridan on the White House third floor.

President George W. Bush's foreign policy was charac­terized, in early 2001, as -"disciplined and consistent" ( -Condoleezza Rice): "blunt" (-The Washington Post), and "in-your-face" (-the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). Bush began his term with the expulsion of one fourth of the Russian diplomatic corps on grounds of espionage. He snubbed Vladimir Putin by delaying a first summit meeting until June 2001, and then holding it in fashionable Slovenia.........

We saw the results of Clinton's emotional, ad hoc, higgledy-piggledy foreign policy. It led to strained relations with Russia and China, increased violence in the Middle East, continued fighting in Africa and Asia, and Serbs killing Al­banians. Then we saw the results of Bush's tough, calculated, focused foreign policy-strained relations with Russia and China, increased violence in the Middle East, continued fight­ing in Africa and Asia, and Albanians killing Serbs. Between the first year of the Clinton administration and the first year of the Bush administration, we went from attack on the World Trade Center to World Trade Center attack.

Does anyone else notice the problem here? Those of us hailing from the the land of the South Park Conservatives certainly do, and I think we know the answer to the problem.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Civilization Destroying NEO Updates...........



Ok, just kidding- not about the "we're all gonna die" part, because that is true enough. We are all gonna die someday. Does that mean we should ignore the threats posed by asteroids and comets from space? I don't think so. Neither do many ex-astronauts and astrophysicists from the B612 Project. It doesn't appear that Asteroid 2004MN has been upgraded recently to a more dangerous threat than it was about five months ago, but there have been some unpleasant factors recently discovered that should raise more awareness to the reality of asteroid impacts.

Via the UK Times Online-

Earth's gravity may lure deadly asteroid
By Nigel Hawkes

A HUGE asteroid which is on a course to miss the Earth by a whisker in 2029 could go round its orbit again and score a direct hit a few years later.
Astronomers have calculated that the 1,000ft-wide asteroid called 2004 MN4 will pass by the Earth at a distance of between 15,000 and 25,000 miles - about a tenth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon and close enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Although they are sure that it will miss us, they are worried about the disturbance that such a close pass will give to the asteroid's orbit. It might put 2004 MN4 on course for a collision in 2034 or a year or two later: the unpredictability of its behaviour means that the danger might not become apparent until it is too late.

As a safety precaution, some experts are calling for 2004 MN4 to be "tagged" with a transponder that would constantly radio its position. Scientists hope that this would provide enough warning to allow emergency action if necessary, possibly by diverting the object away from the Earth.Other instruments on the probe could provide information about its composition.

Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, who is an expert on asteroid hazards, said: "We don't know what that asteroid is made of and that might influence the way it's affected by the Earth's gravitational pull. There are other close approaches, in 2034 and 2035. In all likelihood it will produce an orbit that will not intercept the Earth, but we don't know."

The asteroid is big enough to cause damage on a regional scale, with an expected impact equivalent to a 1,000-megatonne explosion. It was discovered last June and its orbit plotted in detail by December. Startled astronomers calculated at one point that its chances of a direct hit on Friday, April 13, 2029, were 1 in 38. But additional calculations have set those fears to rest. The asteroid is now expected to miss but come close enough to be below the altitude of TV satellites. It should be visible as a rapidly moving point of light.

I would like to see this asteroid tagged as it wouldn't cost enormous amounts to do so, but I would also like see more efforts put forth towards the previously mentioned B612 Project. This project would at least give us an idea of whether or not we could actually do something about preventing an impact. Tagging one would be nice, but all it would do is confirm whether or not it's going to kill a lot of people. Another problem that hasn't really been addressed with 2004MN is what affect it will have on our atmosphere. Will it not affect it at all? Will it wipe away a big chunk of ozone? Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough.

NASA and some of the folks at MIT have been getting a bit concerned that people have been either blowing things out of proportion when it came to the potential threats posed by these objects so they have revised the Torino Scale, a risk-assessment system similar to the Richter scale used for earthquakes, adopted by a working group of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1999 at a meeting in Torino, Italy. On the scale, zero means virtually no chance of collision, while 10 means certain global catastrophe.

Via the MIT Web News Office-

Revised asteroid scale aids understanding of impact risk
Elizabeth A. Thomson, News Office
April 12, 2005

Astronomers led by an MIT professor have revised the scale used to assess the threat of asteroids and comets colliding with Earth to better communicate those risks with the public.

The overall goal is to provide easy-to-understand information to assuage concerns about a potential doomsday collision with our planet.

"The idea was to create a simple system conveying clear, consistent information about near-Earth objects [NEOs]," or asteroids and comets that appear to be heading toward the planet, said Richard Binzel, a professor in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the creator of the scale.

Some critics, however, said that the original Torino scale was actually scaring people, "the opposite of what was intended," said Binzel. Hence the revisions.

"For a newly discovered NEO, the revised scale still ranks the impact hazard from 0 to 10, and the calculations that determine the hazard level are still exactly the same," Binzel said. The difference is that the wording for each category now better describes the attention or response merited for each.

For example, in the original scale NEOs of level 2-4 were described as "meriting concern." The revised scale describes objects with those rankings as "meriting attention by astronomers"--not necessarily the public.

Equally important in the revisions, says Binzel, "is the emphasis on how continued tracking of an object is almost always likely to reduce the hazard level to 0, once sufficient data are obtained." The general process of classifying NEO hazards is roughly analogous to hurricane forecasting. Predictions of a storm's path are updated as more and more tracking data are collected.

According to Dr. Donald K. Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office, "The revisions in the Torino Scale should go a long way toward assuring the public that while we cannot always immediately rule out Earth impacts for recently discovered near-Earth objects, additional observations will almost certainly allow us to do so."

The problem I have here is that while I agree that there is no point in telling people that the sky is literally falling, as that doesn't necessarily accomplish anything, I am concerned that we aren't doing enough to fund efforts like B612. The amount of money spent towards space exploration is counted in the hundreds billions of dollars by Nasa alone. I think the price tag on the current space station is in the hundreds of billions right now. I would be shocked to hear that the study and research of potential threats to our planet ever exceeded $500 million. Again, we don't need to say the sky is falling to get people more serious about the reality of potential civilization destroying Near Earth Objects.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Damn That Was Funny............


Thanks be to Allah for directing me to perhaps the best blog post ever......Those easily offended, you've been warned, the rest of us, put your drinks down...

"Denny's going down first, and he's going down hard."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Passion Of Reverend Viktor Koch.........

WWII has no shortage of heroic stories, and one need not look very far to find one. However, I stumbled through the blogosphere today and came across one that combines many of the aspects of the horrors of Nazi Germany with a truly sensational display of courage and honor from a single individual. My thanks to the soon-to-be-included-on-the-Blog-roll Silflay Hraka for presenting pictures and links to this awe-inspiring story.

For the full story, visit the following site-

-The True Story of a Passionist Hero

Here is an excerpt,

According to research obtained from the 11th Armored Division [12], "Division Artillery, supporting [Combat Command] B, continuously flew liaison plane missions ahead of the column, dropping surrender leaflets in towns along the route to advance. These leaflets admonished the [German] civilians to fly white flags and surrender their towns without resistance to avoid total destruction and produced excellent results."

Joe Koch’s letter states that American troops arrived the following Sunday (April 22). Sources indicate that this may have been the 11th Armored Division, Combat Command B. While American troops are scouting near Schwarzenfeld, they discover the mass grave, the remains of 133 victims murdered by the SS on Thursday. Enraged by this discovery, they locate a citizen of Schwarzenfeld and ask who is responsible for the atrocity. This person informs them that the townspeople were involved.

Schwarzenfeld's population obeyed orders stipulated in the surrender leaflets, draping white sheets, towels, and flags in their windows, though to their horror, the Nazi soldiers who remained in Schwarzenfeld proceeded to fire upon the American tanks advancing toward the town. Enraged by the ghastly Nazi atrocity--and further embittered by resistance encountered from a town flying white flags--American forces prepared to deliver the dire consequences promised in their surrender leaflets. Unable to speak English, the citizens quickly arrived at one conclusion: only Father Viktor could help them communicate the truth to the Americans. At least one person knew Father Viktor’s hiding place, and he/she sprinted into the woods outside Schwarzenfeld and quickly informed him of events. Father Viktor emerged from the monastery, trudging through deserted streets. Protected only by the white flag in his hand, the Passionist badge on his chest, and his abiding faith in God's will, he approached the American forces intent on leveling the town.

Sources indicate that Father Viktor argued with the American commander for no less than three hours. Eventually, he succeeded in convincing him that Schwarzenfeld’s citizens were innocent of this atrocity. He agreed to spare the town under one condition. He ordered Schwarzenfeld's citizens to exhume corpses buried on the town's outskirts, wash them, clothe them in donated garments, construct caskets, and give each victim a proper burial, all in 48 hours. If the townspeople failed to achieve this task, he intended to re-issue orders for Schwarzenfeld's destruction. To complicate matters, wood and nails--the construction materials needed to construct caskets--were scarce. However, the people of Schwarzenfeld were resourceful. The children knew of a local barn where old horseshoes were in plentiful supply, and they quickly proceeded to gather as many as they could find. Later, the nails were hammered back into shape, and then used to construct the coffins. Every man, woman, and child in the town participated in this effort, and with Father Viktor's help, they succeeded in completing this monumental task.

The site listed above has a gallery of many of the events of the story. Needless to say, the town has a plaque in his honor commemorating his heroism. If it wasn't for Friar Koch, Shwarzenfeld would have ceased to exist on that fateful day.

Silflay has another post here-Unseen History: Schwarzenfeld where it appears a relative of Friar Koch wrote some more information in the comments which are worth reading.

The blogosphere truly makes the world a much smaller place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Competition for Nation With The Fattest Asses Continues........


As many people may know, we here in the US are FAT. Not Phat, as in cool, but FAT as in FATASSED. I will admit to currently being in the overweight designation. I'm by no means obese, but ever since I went from moving furniture for a living to sitting behind a desk all day, a funny thing happened. I developed something I never had before, a belly. My whole life I have been sans belly, owing to my choices of manual labor, playing the drums, and being broke enough to where one meal a day was pretty much it. Within the last three years the belly emerged as if it had been denied its righteous place among the rest of my body parts. At first I was pleasantly suprised by the development as I had spent most of my life being way too skinny. But today it annoys me, and it's a matter of time before I start a regular excercise routine besides the drums. Despite the novelty of the whole development, I don't like spending money on new pants. Soon I will take on the age-old tried and true ancient dieting secret- EAT LESS, EXCERCISE MORE. Being of Irish descent, I would rather starve myself to death before taking on a "low-carb lifestyle". Potatoes are half the reason we Celts survived in the first place, I'll be damned if I start a diet that won't let me eat them.


I could probably afford to drink less beers, but I'm not a masochist. Please, I have standards to uphold here. The Guiness is not negotiable.

This brings me to the latest news out from a report from the International Obesity Task Force (count me among those unaware of the IOTF), the US no longer has world wide dominance when it comes to fat asses, Europe has taken the lead-

In a group of nations from Greece to Germany, the proportion of overweight or obese men is higher than in the United States, experts said Tuesday in a major analysis of expanding girth on the European continent.

"The time when obesity was thought to be a problem on the other side of the Atlantic has gone by," said Mars Di Bartolomeo, Luxembourg's Minister of Health.

In Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malta and Slovakia, a higher percentage of men are obese or overweight than the estimated 67 percent of men in the United States, according to a report from the International Obesity Task Force, a coalition of researchers and institutions.

The analysis was released as the 25-nation European Union announced an initiative to enlist the food and marketing industries in the fight against fat.

The International Obesity Task Force, which is advising the European Union, had estimated in 2003 that about 200 million of the 350 million adults living in what is now the European Union may be overweight or obese.

200 million fatties? SACRE' BLEU!!!! That's one big ass you got there Europe. You oughta go jogging or something. Maybe a stairmaster. Lay off the freedom fries, eh? Seriously. When you get fatter than les americans, you have a problem.

Cause we like to eat over here. A lot. Thanksgiving? It's a holiday spent gorging ourselves on purpose. The only reason we have big ovens is because those turkeys that we stuff ourselves with won't fit in those little ones you have.

BBQ Ribs. They aren't just a thing you eat over here, they are a past time.

The single most recognizable American?

How we are losing the fattest ass race absolutely baffles me.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Standing At The Feet Of Gods..........


Above: Italian sculptor Giuseppi Moretti's version of Vulcan-God of Fire and Iron- built for the 1904 World's fair, now sitting atop Birmingham's Red Mountain in aptly named Vulcan Park.

This weekend found me walking around that very same walkway shown in the picture above as I gazed over the city of Birmingham, Alabama- quite the magnificent view, I might add- thanks to the gracious hospitality granted by the ravishingly stunning Miss Nastily(What? You have never visited Miss Nastily's House of Fun? No? I haven't linked to it before you say? It's not on the blogroll to the right? Hmm. Well then. That will be corrected post-haste. Just go and visit her blog, for it is great).

I had a blast in B'ham folks. Very cool town. Had some great beers at various pubs and cafe's around town, got to see great show at place called Zydeco's -the band- Downright. They rocked. They even did a scorching cover of Beck's Debra from the Midnite Vultures album, complete with horn section. Danced the night away. Good fun. Great beers. I will return.......

Ooh lovely lady
Girl you drive me crazy
Yeah, i got a little bit of sympathy for you girl
Cause i'm a full grown man
And i'm not afraid to...

Thanks again Miss Nastily, I had a blast and hope to return the favor soon....

Two Pictures Worth A Thousand Words......


'nuff said. Go SAWX!!

There will also be an interesting post later this evening detailing an exciting adventure I had this weekend in Birmingham with the lovely Miss Nastily. Stay tuned....and um, GO SAWX!!!

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Prime Grade A Example of Creationist Stupidity.........

..........(Via Andy at World Wide Rant)..

There are those who wonder about evolution, and ask simple questions
that have simple answers, such as "if we are descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" (a:Monkeys and humans evolved from common ancestors-we are part of the same ancestry.) And then there are those who take creationist ignorance and run with it like they are competing in a forty yard dash at the NFL combines.

Today I will show you an example of this monumental stupidity.

His name is Joseph Farrah, and he is Editor and CEO for World Net Daily,
which describes itself as the following-

" is an independent newssite created to capitalize on
new media technology, to reinvigorate and revitalize the role of the free
press as a guardian of liberty, an exponent of truth and justice, an
uncompromising disseminator of news. "

He leaves out the part that Mr Farrah likes to inject his religious
perspectives in to his articles that are "uncompromising disseminators of
news". In the following article he wrote on Tuesday of this week entitled "Evolution's shell game", he exposes his complete ignorance of the study of the origin of species.

Let's begin. Joseph's article will be in italics.

It used to be that science followed facts.

Today, at least as far as evolution goes, facts follow theories.

Well Mr Farrah, if you were at all inclined to understand the scientific method, you would understand that facts start out as theories until they are demonstrated so falsifiable that it would be silly to still call them theories. This doesn't preclude the fact that it may one day be proven otherwise. There is no such thing as absolute certainty in science. And evolution is both a fact and a theory.

When inconvenient facts are discovered, they are simply adapted to fit
the theories.

"Facts" aren't discovered. DATA is discovered, and then applied to the
theories to see how they correlate to other data that has been discovered.
You would think he couldn't possibly murder the definition of these words
any further. You'd be wrong.

The theories are constant. They are unquestionable, unassailable,
unimpeachable. It's just not considered good science to question them for
any reason.

That would be news to Einstein, or any other scientist worth his salt. For
instance, as the famous Stephen Gould quote goes, "Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome.". Unimpeachable? Not even close.

Take, for example, the latest findings in Australia. Last month, fossils
of what were described as "the earliest species of sea turtle, believed to
be 110 million years old," were discovered in Queensland's far west.

The scientists were startled by just how little sea turtles had changed in
100 million years. They had not evolved. But that did not alarm them. That
did not get them to question their premises. That did not cause them to
think their dating techniques could be wrong.

Because the dating techniques aren't in question Joseph. And you are
assuming that species must evolve all the time at such significantly
observable levels that since there are no major changes in these sea
turtles, evolution is wrong? Again, you only expose your ignorance of
evolution. No shortage of that in your article.

No, instead, they quickly came to the conclusion that sea turtles
represent a highly evolved species - one that perfected its evolution 100
million years ago and never bothered to change because change was

How similar are these supposedly 110-million-year-old sea turtles to today's
sea turtles? Virtually indistinguishable - which is to say no different.

"For all intents and purposes, if you were to see one (of these fossils)
they would look basically the same as sea turtles do today," said South
Australian Museum paleontologist Ben Kear.

One could say the same things about sharks, or other creatures that have
become so dominant in their environments that they show little genetic
change to their overall structure at all. But don't let that stop you from
making tremendously ignorant statements Mr Farrah.

"And why is that?

"Sea turtles have hit on the winning design and they've stuck to it," he
said. "They've cracked the winning code, as it were, and it's enabled them
to survive when other creatures haven't."

It's amazing they haven't taken over the world, isn't it?"

Yes, it is amazing considering how ignorant people like you are Mr Farrah.
But to go even further, considering turtles exist for the most part in
water, which is over 70% of the surface of the planet, turtles do have few
natural predators, and incredibly long life spans. One could say they are at
or near the top of their evolutionary ladder in the ocean, save a few other
species. How long could you keep up with a sea turtle in the water Mr

"They're one of the success stories of marine evolution - if you think
about the marine animals that became extinct, well why did sea turtles
survive?" Kear asked without wanting to hear the answer. "That's the sort of
question we can look at now."

But you know these evolutionists don't want to have dialogue about such
matters. They don't tolerate any dissent from their theories. They don't
allow facts to lead them in any other direction than an evolutionary
explanation for the diversity of life.

What the hell are you talking about Joseph???? HE JUST SAID HE CAN NOW ASK THESE QUESTIONS. Scientists are the most skeptical minds in the world, they CONSTANTLY question and debate their own and each others theories. The reason for this is that the more scientists help to falsify your theory by questioning it, the stronger it becomes. And the reason that scientists don't waste their time with other FACTS that explain the diversity of life IN SCIENTIFIC terms is because THERE AREN'T ANY. Notice Joseph doesn't bring up any competing theory to evolution that has any scientific data to support. It's because it doesn't EXIST.

What makes the scientists convinced the fossils of dead sea turtles that
look remarkably like today's sea turtles are really 100 million years old?
It's because of where they were found. They were found in an area of
sediment that is believed to be 110 million years old. Therefore, that's how
old the bones are.

False. Scientists, -paleontologists in particular- use multiple methods
of dating. Carbon dating, and radiometric dating are but two of many different techniques to determine the date of a specimen. But don't let that stop you from sounding like an idiot. You've done so well up to this point.

Could they be wrong about the age of the sediment? No, these scientists
don't make mistakes like that. If they did, it would shatter the very
foundation of their work. In fact, if they were to find a human skeleton in
that sediment, they would convince themselves that man is actually 100
million years old as well.

Again, false. Scientists don't rely on one method of dating to determine
the accuracy of the date of the specimen. And the problem with relying on
sediment data is that due to the constant changing of the surface of the
planet, you occasionally have some sediments that end up in areas where they
don't belong. For instance, after the horrible Tsunami in the South Pacific,
thousands of new fossils were discovered. Some will be taken to museums and
so forth, but others will be buried in a new sedimentary layer. Thus, these
fossils will be embedded in sediment where they don't belong. Joseph, logic
is not your strong point.

Keep in mind, these "fossils" are so well preserved that the scientists
claim to be able to determine the 110-milliohm-year-old sea turtles' diet by
examining the remains in their stomachs.

This is one example of hundreds, thousands, like it in so-called
"evolutionary science." It is a science without any foundation. It is a
theory not supported by facts, but countered by them.

Not once however, does Mr Farrah counter the hundreds of thousands of
examples that falsify the FACTS about evolution. That last statement was so
ludicrous I don't even know if he realized what he wrote.

It takes great faith to stick to the theory. I give the evolutionists
credit for that - they are true to their religion, true to their creed.

Science as religion. Hoo boy. So Farrah will gladly utilize the fruits of
labor from this "creed" when he goes to the hospital, or eats food made from
genetic engineering, or drives his car, or does any number of things made
possible from those "evil scientists".

It doesn't matter what they find. They will make the facts fit the

No stupid. If enough data is discovered that disproves the THEORY, then the
THEORY will CHANGE. NOT the other way around, which you so disingenuously try and state.

How about you? Do you still believe? Or do you think evolution, like the
sea turtle illustration, is one big shell game?

Translation: Me Dumb. Me no understand science. Me no understand
difference between "belief" and "fact". Me think All powerful super God make
everything in six day. Me don't like think. Think hurt head. Me go to big
building with pointy thing on top and have someone else tell how to think.
Head hurt less that way.

Monday, April 04, 2005

For the Pope...............


I am by no means a Catholic or even a very religious person in the typical Judeo-Christian sense. I usually answer as "more spiritual" than religious if asked. There were many things I disagreed with Pope John Paul II about, most notably the absolutist christian agendas towards condoms and abortion, or his views about removing the Tyrant Saddam Hussein. However, anyone with any sense would have to recognize that Pope John Paul II was a man that for the most part transcended petty religious differences and sought to unite the planet under a common theme of compassion and good will.

The one area that I wish the Pope had been more vocal about were his views on evolution.

The Pope's Message on Evolution
In October of 1996, Pope John Paul II issued a message to the Pontifical Academy of Science reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church's long-standing position on evolution: that it does not necessarily conflict with Christianity.

An excerpt from his message:

5. The Church's Magisterium is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man: Revelation teaches us that he was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:27-29). The conciliar Constitution Gaudium et spes has magnificently explained this doctrine, which is pivotal to Christian thought. It recalled that man is :the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake" (n. 24). In other terms, the human individual cannot be subordinated as a pure means or a pure instrument, either to the species or to society, he has value per se. He is a person. With his intellect and his will, he is capable of forming a relationship of communion, solidarity and self-giving with his peers. St Thomas observes that man's likeness to God resides especially in his speculative intellect for his relationship with the object of his knowledge resembles God's relationship with what he has created (Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 3, a. 5, ad 1). But even more, man is called to enter into a relationship of knowledge and love with God himself, a relationship which will find its complete fulfillment beyond time, in eternity. All the depth and grandeur of this vocation are revealed to us in the mystery of the risen Christ (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 22). It is by virtue of his spiritual soul that the whole person possesses such a dignity even in his body. Pius XII stressed this essential point: if the human body takes its origin from pre-existent living matter the spiritual soul is immediately created by God ("animal enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere inhet"; Encyclical Humani generic, AAS 42 [1950], p. 575).

Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.

6. With man, then, we find ourselves in the presence of an ontological difference, an ontological leap, one could say. However, does not the posing of such ontological discontinuity run counter to that physical continuity which seems to be the main thread of research into evolution in the field of physics and chemistry? Consideration of the method used in the various branches of knowledge makes it possible to reconcile two points of view which would seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure the multiple manifestations of life with increasing precision and correlate them with the time line. The moment of transition into the spiritual cannot be the object of this kind of observation,(ed.-emphasis mine) which nevertheless can discover at the experimental level a series of very valuable signs indicating what is specific to the human being. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-awareness and self-reflection, of moral conscience, freedom, or again, of aesthetic and religious experience, falls within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection while theology brings out its ultimate meaning according to the Creator's plans.

I hope that those who are hell-bent (no pun intended-or maybe I did?) on attempting to show that the Bible is a source of scientific background when describing the origin of the species would take the time to read that statement carefully. And this is coming from a man who has few peers, if any, when speaking of christian theology.

RIP Karol Wojtyla- Pope John Paul II. I hope you enjoyed that express ride through the pearly gates, you deserved it.

Friday, April 01, 2005

And So It Begins.........Again.....Next Year Is NOW....


I'm not sure I'm ready to finish celebrating the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Championship Season quite yet, but time waits for no one and we must begin Year One AD (AD stands for "after Dave"-as in after Dave Roberts stole second off of Rivera in ALCS game four with two outs and Papi at the plate).

Well, ready or not, here come the defending champs. There is a new blog devoted to this first year AD, put together by Skillzy who designed the excellent Darth Vader/NY Spankees "Defeat the Dark Side" logo from last year. His site is entitled- Last Year Was Next Year. Go and visit, for it is good. It shall soon be added to the "DEFEAT THE EVIL EMPIRE!! October Bosox Fan Suicide Watch Roll" blogroll listed to the right. Soxaholix just celebrated its one year anniversary, and I get a little teared up thinking about last year.

If you're interested, you can read the collection of playoff posts I wrote from last years magical run in this post...

Bill Simmons spells it out clearly for those of us who aren't quite read for 2005 to begin-
Count me among the Red Sox fans who aren't quite ready to start the 2005 baseball season. How can anything top what happened last October? As one of my buddies (who shall remain nameless) joked, "I feel like I woke up after having a threesome with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, only they're still asleep and I'm pounding the snooze alarm every nine minutes."

Read the rest of this column and his 10 relevant Sox/Yankees questions to ponder heading into Opening Night on Sunday here.

And one final thought as we head in to the land of Chokees on Sunday:

1918 is dead to me now.