Tuesday, January 31, 2006

---Coretta Scott King dead 

FOXNews.com [AP] - U.S. & World News - Coretta Scott King, 78, Dies

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---State of the Union, H5N1 Score, Iran's Black-Market A-Bomb Plans, and Other Stories 

State of the Union
FOXNews.com - Politics News - Bush: Decisions This Year Will Determine the Future of the U.S.
G.W. Bush praises American economic leadership, criticizes our “addiction” to oil, defends the NSA, and insists that “we are winning” against terrorism and “radical Islam”, which he continues to describe as a "perversion" of his other favorite religion.

H5N1 Influenza: 160 infected, 85 dead worldwide
FOXNews.com [AP] - U.S. & World News - WHO: Human Bird Flu Cases Hit 160
We may be watching---in morbid fascination---the developing stages of the best understood, best documented, and nevertheless least controllable human catastrophe in modern history. Could H5N1 do for our unquestioning faith in science what the Black Death once did for the unchallenged dominion of Roman Catholicism?

Danish Mohammed Cartoon Flap Settled
Danish Muslims Accept Cartoon Apology: Associated Press
Well, at least they didn’t immerse anything in urine. We would never hear the end of it....

Iran’s black-market A-bomb plans
FOXNews.com [AP]- U.S. & World News - IAEA Report Says Iran Has Bomb Plans
Pfffft...like that’s a big deal:

This is not funny:
Ok, it is, but you didn’t hear it from me. This seems to have been intended as a actual commercial, not aired because of some perceived insensitivity.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

---Challenger 20th, Democracy in Palestine, Chirac Threatens Nukes, "Daniel" Dead, and Other Stories 

Jan. 27, 1967 - Jan. 28, 1986 - Feb. 1, 2003
SPACE.com -- Remembering Challenger: Shuttle Disaster and Others Refocus NASA
7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster - Space News - MSNBC.com [Oberg]

Twenty years since Challenger....it’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I stepped out of the Zoology laboratory I was teaching and was told by a student coming in for the next class that “the Shuttle exploded”.
NASA held an agency-wide Day of Remembrance on Jan. 26 for all three accidents.
The dates that Apollo 1 caught fire on the pad during a test, the Challenger broke up on ascent, and the Columbia broke up on re-entry are all close enough together to allow a single, efficient memorial service for all of the NASA dead. Memorials are one of the few things that NASA still does really well.
Meanwhile the manned orbital junkpile usually referred to as ISS is still up there, and it’s about that time again.

Why Democracy Doesn’t Actually Work
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Hamas Positioned to Make Gains in Historic Palestinian Elections
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Israel: No Talks Until Hamas Halts Attacks

The free people of the Palestinian “cause” once danced in the street when they received news of the 9/11 attacks in New York. They seem not to be satisfied with holding onto whatever credibility their movement has left. Hamas, of course, went on to win a clear majority in the Palestinian “government”. Now all the lines on the infamous “Roadmap to Peace” converge on an incomplete bridge....
...and the old V-8 has thrown a rod. We've all seen this movie....

Russia makes a deal
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Iran Says Russia Uranium Plan is Worth Pursuing
Let’s see....the wolf agrees to help the fox make the ladder for the henhouse further out in the woods....how does this help, again?

H5N1 in Iraq
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Iraq Confirms Girl, 15, Died of Bird Flu
“The girl died after contracting a severe lung infection in her village of Raniya, about 60 miles south of the Turkish border and just 15 miles west of Iran.”
The most-feared strain of Avian influenza has spread acros the Turkish border into Iraq, officially involving the Middle East. We’ve all probably seen this movie, too.

More trouble for U.S. auto makers
FOXNews.com - Business News - Ford Expected to Cut Thousands of U.S. Jobs
Ford is following GM into severe financial trouble. Financial analysts seem to be kind of confused about what the problem is, so let me help: these people don’t make very good cars.

France responds to threats
Chirac: Nuclear Response to Terrorism Is Possible
Yes, the French PM is actually threatening to nuke terrorist-sponsoring nations if they mess with France. I’m not sure I understand why they would be messing with France.

Another happy thought
New Scientist Breaking News - Prion disease found lurking in deer muscle
Yes, your venison sausage may kill you. The whole prion thing is sort of morbidly fascinating---an inventive new way for nature to knock off humans.

Nemesis revisited
Do stellar disks hint at our sun’s ‘Nemesis’? - Space.com - MSNBC.com
Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | Two new planetary disks may mirror our Kuiper Belt
New Scientist SPACE - Breaking News - Rocky rings around Sun-like stars revealed

Comparisons of what we know about our Sun’s accretion disk---including the Kuiper Belt---with other systems suggests that there might just be something else out there; possibly a Brown Dwarf sub-star circling our Sun as an invisible partner.

Titan clouds
Spaceflight Now | Cassini | Spying Titan's weather
Information from Cassini-Huygens about the nature of the moon’s clouds and its bizarre atmospheric “methane cycle” is beginning to come together.

Hard to believe...
FOXNews.com - Foxlife: Entertainment and Lifestyle News - NBC Pulls Plug on 'The Book of Daniel'
No, really. Why would any network attempt to air a program specifically for the purpose of mortally insulting most of the potential audience?

Benedict says stuff:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Pope Encyclical Mandates Charity
It even appears to make sense----which is especially painful to think about. I will have to make more extended comments on the Other Page.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

---H5N1 Adapts, Random Stupid Stuff From Around the World, Dead Man Riding, and Other Stories 

H5N1 Adapts
FOXNews.com - Science - Ominous Mutation Found in Bird-Flu Gene
New Scientist Menacing changes seen in Vietnam bird flu - Breaking News

Reports of genetic changes in the dreaded influenza strain. The mechanisms of the adaptations to human-human transmission are actually quite interesting, if you don’t stop to think about the implications for too long.

Random Stupid Stuff From Around the World
FOXNews.com - Politics - New Orleans Mayor: Storms Sign 'God is Mad At America'
Another leader decides to blame the consequences of foolish leadership on God---or maybe God is just mad at New Orleans. It’s not clear whether Nagin was taking a page from the Pat Robertson playbook. Both have since apologized for their appalling misappropriation of God’s Authority.
FOXNews.com - Politics - Sen. Clinton: U.S. House Run 'Like a Plantation'
FOXNews.com - Politics - Sen. Obama Defends Clinton's 'Plantation' Comments

Hillary Clinton committed the dangerous political mistake of actually saying something where other people could hear. Just about everyone concerned seemed to recognize paternalistic pandering when they saw it. Nobody has apologized for this foolishness, but Obama did make some kind of effort to explain it away.
FOXNews.com - Politics - Gore: Eavesdropping Program Threatens Structure of Government
Actually, Gore threatened the structure of government, and now can barely get even the American news media to point a camera at him. Why did they make this exception?
FOXNews.com - Foxlife - 'Brokeback Mountain' Leads Globes With 4 Awards
These people have obviously concluded that it’s impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the American people. How else could they expect to justify the upcoming Oscar sweep for a movie that virtually nobody has spent their own money to see[this week, the comedic remake dud "Fun with Dick and Jane" and the obscure Shakespeare play "Tristan & Isolde" beat it at the box office]? A herd of journalism majors with a Super8 could sweep these awards shows, as long as the product glorified sexual perversion in some way. Irreparable harm to the public health and civil welfare is good for extra credit.
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Iranian President Meets Palestinian Leaders in Syria
Iranian prez Amumblemesqualbabble has teamed up with the Syrians and Palestinians, probably to coordinate the use of Iraq’s former WMD’s in future attacks. What’s-his-name said some more stuff, but it was impossible to underestimate his credibility already. Like Hillary Clinton, Amum-whatever failed to apologize for anything he has said. Of course, it’s okay to say anti-Semitic things if you’re Muslim---after all, it’s the Religion of Peace tm.
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Russia Not Ready to Support Moves to Sanction Iran
Well, if this wasn’t the surprise of the month.....

Gulf of Tonkin, revisited?
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Iraq, Iran Navies Clash: One Killed, Nine Captured
Guess not. In fact, the whole incident seems to have gotten lost in the background noise.

Major Setbacks for World Markets
FOXNews.com - Business News - Stocks Fall on Japan Tumble, Tech Disappointment
My Way Finance

After flirting briefly with 11,000, the U.S. Dow stumbled badly on a rash of bad news. Japanese exchanges had to shut down to stop selloffs in the wake of the Livedoor, Inc. scandal, which culminated in the suicide of the internet company’s CEO. Oil prices are climbing out of sight, and tech stuff isn’t doing too well. Oh, well, what’s the worst that could happen?

Which Reminds Me....
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World News - Dead Man Rides NYC Subway, Possibly for Hours
I’ve lived in the same place for about 8 years, but I don’t remember any of my neighbor’s names. What exactly is wrong with us?

Maybe Our Backups Aren’t As Backed Up As We Thought
Storage expert warns of short life span for burned CDs - Computerworld
This is troubling information. We are used to thinking of our optical media as semi-permanent. The industry and computer magazines and TV shows have been telling us for years that our CDR’s are good for ten years, at least. If this is true, and writable optical media are only good for 2-5 years, it’s not good news at all.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

---Warning! Incoming Movie Review! 

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
It’s pushing $250M USD in box office in the five weeks since release. Are the movie execs paying attention yet?
I read the Narnia books as an adult, after watching the movie and stage versions of Shadowlands. C.S. Lewis obviously intended the work for children, as an exciting adventure as well as an introduction to Christian doctrine. This is an intensely allegorical treatment of the subject, mixed with elements of classicism and a few other sort of---mixed metaphors. Many adults probably react to the allegory about like Tolkein did, but Narnia is an enduring classic with children. Maybe if I had some experience with Turkish Delight....
The movie is nothing short of incredible. This Narnia is populated with an extraordinary variety of strange creatures---armed and armored centaurs (this is a rather militaristic story, after all), fauns, harpies, gryphons, and so on. It is possible to forget very quickly that the talking animals are animated characters, or non-human for that matter. Even the beaver couple, which I expected to be sort of cheesy, was believable and humorous. The White Queen is genuinely icy, topped off with some kind of glassy eye shadow and really scary hair. Aslan carries himself with a masterful dignity entirely in keeping with his allegorical context, in a way not frequently associated with talking lions in movies. On the other hand, the cast selected to portray the average British school children look and act like average British school children. The Big Battle at the End (local rpg jargon, for the uninitiated) is awe inspiring and imaginative---maybe not quite Jackson’s Helm’s Deep or Gondor, but not far off. The film doesn’t shy away from any of Lewis’ depiction of Christian symbolism, to the point that the death of Aslan may be too much for younger children (On the other hand, I think they took me along to see Ben Hur when I was about five. I remember something about chariot racing, and lepers.) .
It remains to be seen if the other novels in the series will be picked up for movie titles. Voyage of the Dawn Treader would be nice....

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Hadj 2005 Update 

Another Tragedy
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Saudi Government Says 345 Killed in Hajj Stampede
...and about 1000 injured. Despite major improvements to the "stoning the devil" ceremonial bridge, pilgrims' luggage apparently caused some to trip as the rush to throw stones at one of the three pillars began.
About 80 dead in the earlier hotel collapse, and now the annual trampling of the pilgrims...don't any of these people ever have second thoughts about this stuff?
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Alito Hearings, Iran Resumes Nuke Work, Apple Goes Intel, LSD Discoverer 100, New IR View of Our Galactic Center 

Alito for the Supremes:
[FOXNews.com - Politics - A Mostly Swimming Day for Alito]
Samuel Alito works the room, looking to join the highest ranks of the most preposterous fraud ever to pose as a judicial system. If George III of England could see this, would he laugh or cry? During a moment when I couldn’t surf away from the news channels fast enough, I actually thought I overheard Ted Kennedy say that he found the prospective high court justice’s behavior troubling....

Watch It, Iran! The IAEA is Getting Really Steamed This Time.....
[FOXNews.com/AP - U.S. & World - Iran Pops Seals on Nuke Plants]
Iran has resumed work on its budding nuclear program, despite growing international anger and frustration. Iran continues to be led by one of the most irrational and unstable of the Islamofacists, and apparently can buy anything it wants from the Russians. Maybe the “bird flu” will get everybody first, and we won’t have to worry about this mess.

Apple Does What?
[FOXNews.com/AP - Technology - Apple Rolls Out Intel-Based iMacs, Laptops]
Did anything freeze over that I’m should be aware of? Next thing we know, they'll be running Windows. I'm on the verge of having to admit, however, that the IPod thing is kind of interesting.

Or, Lazy, Stupid, Dimwits
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Father of LSD Turns 100
Albert Hofmann, who discovered lysergic acid diethylamide while searching for psychiatric uses for derivatives of the alkaloid toxins of ergot rye fungus in 1938, is 100 years old. He discovered the psychoactive properties of the drug later when he accidentally got some on his skin. Hofmann continues to advocate medical use of LSD, but cautions that abuse can have “catastrophic consequences”.
Another horrific fungal alkaloid story---allotoxin, lysergic acid. This also calls to mind the ergot poisoning outbreak in Pont St. Esprit, France in 1951 [see "Ergotism" entry from Wikipedia]. You know, if the fungi don’t want to be messed with, why can’t they just learn to put up signs or something?
Also see The Wikipedia entry "LSD".

Spitzer Images Galactic Center
JPL: Catalog Page for PIA03654
A spectacular mosaic of infrared images of the center of our galaxy. Lurking in the bright spot at the middle is a monstrous hole in space-time.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

---Us vs. Them: 2005 Movie Ratings 

Movie.Com's Top 5 Rated Films

According to the Critics:
1.King Kong
2.Brokeback Mountain
3.The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
4.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

According to the Fans:
1.King Kong
2.The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4.Pride and Prejudice
5.Walk the Line

Can anybody else sense their intelligence being insulted?
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Friday, January 06, 2006

---Sharon Improves, H5N1 in Turkey, West Virginia, Hadj Hotel Collapses, Cassinni SAR Video, Pontchartrain Causeway Reopens, and Other Stories 

Ariel Sharon Improved After Further Surgery
[FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Sharon's Emergency Surgery Ends]
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stabilized after another emergency surgery to correct hemorrhaging in his brain.

“FOX News has learned that after Sharon's massive stroke and brain hemorrhage, doctors were ready to pronounce the Israeli leader dead, but were dissuaded from doing so by family and close associates. They promised to do everything they could to save Sharon's life.”
Good thing he wasn’t “little people”, or one of the ordinary elderly, and that his insurance hadn’t run out.

Various Fools Say Stuff...
[FOXNews.com/AP - U.S. & World - Iran President: I Hope Sharon Dies]
[FOXNews.com/AP - U.S. & World - Robertson: Stroke Was God's Wrath]

...about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s medical situation. The monstrous jackass in charge of Iran continued his non-stop verbal excretions. Telembarassment Pat Robertson attributed another of his out-of-brain experiences to the Almighty. The only remarkable thing is that the AP continues to consider these pronouncements newsworthy.

Other Fools Say Stuff About Other Stuff...
[FOXNews.com/AP - U.S. & World - Zawahiri Claims Victory for Islam in Iraq]
Ole’ Lumpy Head has apparently determined that the wholesale butchery of children, wedding parties, and funeral processions is having its desired effect. Based on U.S. administration announcements of future troop withdrawals from Iraq, what’s-his-name announced that the Al-whatever-you-call-it terrorist organization had achieved "the victory of Islam." AP also considered this newsworthy.

Another Probable H5N1 Death in Turkey
[FOXNews.com/AP - U.S. & World - Third Sibling Dies of Bird Flu in Turkey]
The Avian Influenza strain H5N1 has apparently crossed the doorstep of Asia, with the death of a third human victim in Turkey. These infections still seem to be associated with poultry contact rather than direct transmission among humans.

Twelve Dead in West Virginia Mine Explosion
[FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Mine Officials: 'We Sincerely Regret' Mixed Messages About Miners]
Various officials allowed the family members of the miners to believe erroneously that their relatives had been found alive, which was not the case. There was little or no effort at apology from the major news services, which reported the improbably positive outcome of the rescue effort to the rest of the world without verification.

Hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia Collapses on Hadj Pilgrims
[FOXNews.com/AP - U.S. & World - Mecca Hotel Collapse Death Toll Hits 76]
The owner of the hotel declined to attribute the disaster to the cracked foundations of the building, preferring instead to blame God.
How long has it been since they had a hadj without major loss of life? Islam, however, apparently teaches that getting trampled to death during a hadj is a golden ticket to paradise.

Cassini SAR Video of Titan
[Cassini-Huygens: Multimedia-Videos]
An interesting presentation summarizing the radar imaging results from the Titan flybys.

Pontchartrain Causeway Repairs Complete
[FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Lake Pontchartrain Bridge Reopens]
The Interstate Highway 10 causeway over Lake Pontchartrain, virtually destroyed by hurricane Katrina, has been successfully repaired and reopened. I posted pictures earlier of the damaged causeway shortly after the storm.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

---China Admits Another H5N1 Death, Last Named Storm of 2005, NBC Presents "Book of Daniel" 

China Admits Third Human H5N1 Death [FOXNews.com/AP ]
China has admitted its third human fatality from the avian influenza. It is not clear how the woman who died contracted the disease, since there have been no animal or human cases in the area where she lived.

Finally---the Last Named Storm of 2005 [FOXNews.com/AP]
The National Hurricane Center announced yet another named tropical storm---Zeta--- on Friday, December 30. 2005 was a really long year. While the New Year is more or less a formality, at least we can roll the counters back to zero, start over at the beginning of the alphabet, and feel a little better for a while.

NBC Presents "Book of Daniel" [Yahoo News]
[World Net Daily]
I won’t be able to stay awake if I have to actually repeat the synopsis of this upcoming TV offering. Ok, it’s something about an drug-using Episcopal priest surrounded by co-workers and family members who are all homosexual drug-using sex addicts, or something. The actor who would be playing the lead role, responding to the horrified reactions of Christian and family groups, protested that 'Book of Daniel' is a 'wholesome show'.
"I can't tell you how many people have said to me, `Hey, that sounds like my family'", said the actor.
The American Family Association has launched a boycott effort. Here is the text of the AFA petition.
Sounds about like the average TV network programmers’ level of understanding---Who better than a homosexual former Catholic dabbling in Buddhism to develop a TV series about modern Christian family life?

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