Bills, Bills, Bills

Posted September 21, 2009 by joe
Categories: Sports

And We Ain’t Talkin’ Money!

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills

The NFL’s Buffalo Bills had a lousy preseason, and lost what looked like a won game against the New England Patriots last week. This week they cracked the winners column with a big win over the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in Orchard Park.  And after last weeks heartbreaking loss in the last 2 minutes of the game, this win is what they needed.  It’s what the fans needed.

Yes, TO had a big day, with a catch that’ll make the NFL highlight reels at the end of the year. Needed that, too.

The professional pickers were saying last week that Buffalo played pretty well in their loss, and put the Bills at about #20 or #21 in the power rankings last week, with the Bucs at about number 29 in the 32 team league. The Bills will move up, but only a little.

Their next opponent, the New Orleans Saints, are easily one of the top ten teams in the league this year, and maybe even in the top 5.

Million Buckley March

Posted September 13, 2009 by joe
Categories: domestic, Personal, politics

We Were All There

Well, not really. But the title of Ed Driscoll’s blog entry was so enticing, that I just couldn’t resist highlighting it.

I didn’t even realize that there were so many of us. Our name, I reckon, is legion.

Now if you’re wondering what it is I’m talking about here, then let me explain. A few people got together to stage a little protest yesterday, the kind that DC sees every so often.

Afraid Of Global Warming? Don’t Be.

Posted September 3, 2009 by joe
Categories: Global Warming, post-modernism, Science, Space

Be Afraid of the Sun. Be Very Afraid

150 years ago this week something very interesting happened, up there, in the sky. Except for telegraph operators on the east coast, most people in the US did not know, or care, until the sky lit up in the evening.  It was very pretty.

On Sept. 2, 1859, at the telegraph office at No. 31 State Street in Boston at 9:30 a.m., the operators’ lines were overflowing with current, so they unplugged the batteries connected to their machines, and kept working using just the electricity coursing through the air.

In the wee hours of that night, the most brilliant auroras ever recorded had broken out across the skies of the Earth. People in Havana and Florida reported seeing them. The New York Times ran a 3,000 word feature recording the colorful event in purple prose.

“With this a beautiful tint of pink finally mingled. The clouds of this color were most abundant to the northeast and northwest of the zenith,” the Times wrote. “There they shot across one another, intermingling and deepening until the sky was painfully lurid. There was no figure the imagination could not find portrayed by these instantaneous flashes.”

It must have been cool.

If it happened today, most all of the world’s – all certainly this country’s – communications would shut down. The vast majority of the hardware we use to run civilizations today would be fried. Permanently. You may expect your TV, PC and even phone to not work. But your stove, if it is less that say, 10 years old, has a chip in it. Fried. Your car, if it’s not an antique, has one also.  Several of them, in fact.  So don’t expect it to start.  And your alarm system at work?  As Tony Soprano would say, fugeddaboudit.  That’s okay.  Tony’s much more interested in the bank.  Oh yes, the back-up battery there will work, but not the alarm that’s wired to the communications grid.

Civilization would come back alright, should such an event occur tomorrow.  None of this is stuff that we can’t rebuild or replace (or do without, mind you).  But the effort would be slow, costly and probably uncomfortable. Some who otherwise might live, will die.

Late last year, the National Academies of Science put out a report on severe space weather events. If a storm even approaching 1859 levels were to happen again, they concluded the damage could range upwards of a $1 trillion, largely because of disruptions to the electrical grid.

What’s interesting to contemplate is that the solar storm that triggered the events of Sept 2, 1859 was not a singular event.  Solar storms – solar flares that strike the earth – happen several times a year.  Only the magnitude of this particular storm was unusual, and that’s only because mankind has not known how to – or even to – look for such things for very long.  Solar storms are not conjecture based on models and derived hypotheses based on scant data.  Indeed, they are a fact of nature.

So Is It A Planet?

Posted August 24, 2009 by joe
Categories: Astronomy, New Horizons, Science, Space

And Why Not???

Pluto From New Horizons

Pluto From New Horizons

From CNN on-line:

It was three years ago Monday that the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet, a decision that made jaws drop around the world.

An outcry followed, textbooks had to be rewritten, long-held beliefs were shattered, and many people felt our cosmic neighborhood just didn’t seem the same with eight — instead of nine –planets in the solar system.

Well, even though I was working on the New Horizons Mission to Pluto at the time, my jaw didn’t exactly drop. The debate had been going on for awhile. Besides. It’s just nomenclature. As it was, ever since Arthur C. Clarke pointed out that Europa was every bit as interesting as Jupiter, astronomically speaking, many of us had sort of realized early on that there was more to the Solar System than just planets, comets and asteroids.

Not that planets were downgraded, mind you. It was more like everything else was upgraded in importance. The icing on that particular cake was that astronomers began to realize that even the planets were more varied than originally supposed. There weren’t just two kinds; rocky like the Earth and gaseous-giants like Jupiter. It seems better now to recognize that Uranus and Neptune might be yet a third class – with interiors that are much different than the others, and with unique formation-histories to boot. The discovery of large ice-balls in the outer solar system, of which Pluto is  the earliest known (and probably best) example, is merely the last step in that march.

So, planet or no, Pluto is going to be a great place to visit.  Too long a commute to live there, however.

How I Got Chucked Into Submission

Posted August 17, 2009 by joe
Categories: Personal

And Not In A Very Nice Way, Either

I’ve gone on record writing superlatives about the TV show Chuck. It’s become my favorite. If you decide to follow that link, you’ll find all of season 1 and most of season 2 available on-line. Watch the pilot and any other episode, and you’ll see. Watch the last 6 episodes of season 2 and you may come away thinking you’ve seen some of the best TV ever made. Really.

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about today.

I’ve been a contributor (not in a small way, but by no means the largest) to the NBC boards for the show (under Community and Message Boards, you’ll find many posts written by me as Bucko27, but there are many tens of thousands of posts there. Happy hunting!). The boards have been active, and were extraordinarily active by the end of the show’s second season. They were active again in July during and after the San Diego Comic-Con, where the cast and creators made an appearance. Appearance? They brought the house down.

What happened next was – complicated.

Show creator Josh Schwartz let go a tiny tidbit of information about the direction of next season that made some fans reach for their pitch forks. He intimated that there was going to be some sort of love interest to complicate the romance brewing between the (main) characters. Well, some fans assumed “main” and others didn’t and some got very upset. The boards were full of rants and raves and predictions that this was the end of Chuck as we know it. It gets more raucus. Show writer Ali Adler creates a video and posts it on YouTube to calm down the broken hearted fans, and that seems to work.

But as you can see, her video is gone now, for “violating terms of use.”

It gets more complicated. Something called a “script side” was released, which contained show spoilers that seemed to confirm some of the biggest fears the fans had. The side itself seems to have been deliberately released by either the shows creators or by the shows owners (Warner Bros.). The boards were once again ablaze and I was one of several posting about the direction the show seemed to be taking (but in a very general and congenial way). That was enough to get me “moderated”. That is, my posts are held in limbo until a moderator reviews them to make sure they’re not in violation of the rules.  Who did this?  It was one moderator in particular.

Okay? Not really. There’s several reasons why placing me in moderation limbo was not justified, but I’m not going to argue that here. It turns out that many others were effectively banned from the boards too. The list includes, not only some personal friends (who are great writers and fans, btw), but also names like DarthRazorBack and Wendy Farrington.  The names may not mean anything to you, but Darth is no minor player, and has done more to promote the show than anybody outside of the cast, with the possible exception of Wendy.  Wendy is more responsible than anyone for the Subway campaign that was credited with saving the show from cancellation in April, and those photos are of the cast thanking her.  IOW, I’m in fine company. Oh – Here’s DarthRazorBack’s take on the matter.  He contends that the same moderator who put me in purgatory, who banned him too, also got YouTube to remove Ali Adler’s video.

And what’s happened to the boards of late is – not awesome. To be honest, some have carried on a conversation quite nicely in my absence (ahem!). But where once there had been many hundreds of posts a day, at one point this week the number of posts had dropped to a handful. Single digits.

I’m not blaming NBC for this tempest in a medium size teapot. It certainly doesn’t stop me from being a fan of the show. But I will contend that one moderator has really botched this one. Badly. I doubt that it’s a good strategy for anyone to insult the show’s biggest fans in NBC’s name.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Posted August 16, 2009 by joe
Categories: Personal

Besides Job Hunting, That Is…

This, my friends, is a butterfly.

Or is it a moth?

Or is it a moth?

Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s a moth. All summer long the best regional park in my area is showing, yet again, it’s regularly hatched extravaganza of wings and colors, called Flights of Fancy. It used to be called a butterfly museum, but we found out that they lied about some of those insects.
Not all butterflies are created equal. Some are orange.

Orange Butterfly

Orange Butterfly

…and some most certainly are not.

Not Orange.

Not Orange.

Some are just blurry. Quantum mechanical, I think.

A Quantum Butterfly

A Quantum Butterfly

Sorry ’bout that, chief. I’m not quite the photographer my brother and nephew are. Christie Brinkley never did return my calls, you see. Let’s try that again.

Smile!

Smile!

And with a better color.

Show off!

Show off!

They’re all hungry little dickens’.

Yummy

Yummy

And this guy wanted a lift home.

Hitching a ride

Hitching a ride

Feeding time at the butterfly zoo.

Chomp!

Chomp!

Okay – blurry, but caught in mid-flight!

Airborn!

Airborn!

Time to rest.

Take a Bow

Take a Bow

All in all, not a bad day.

In The Dictionary Under “Complete Waste”

Posted July 14, 2009 by joe
Categories: domestic, politics, Science, Space

The International Space Station

Although it may happen that they keep it up until 2020, NASA wants to decommission the ISS earlier, in 2016.  Oddly, this is not news.  The ISS has been pretty much a useless endeavour ever since it was downsized to approximate a large tin can in the late ’80s, and has cost the U.S. taxpayers something like $100 billon (yes, billion with a b).

Perhaps I should not hold back so much and say how I really feel.  From PopSci.com:

Despite nearing completion after more than a decade of construction, and recently announcing some upcoming improvements to accompany its full crew of six astronauts, NASA plans to de-orbit the International Space Station in 2016. Meaning the station will have spent more time under construction than completed.

With the space shuttle being decommissioned and the Ares is doubt, it was inevitable.  This is what happens when the goal is politics, instead of exploration and science.


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