Sunday, November 30, 2008

When in Doubt, Do Nothing!

We have been calling for a national energy plan since the early 70s and we still don't have one. We have wasted money, time, and ENERGY. We are so focused on short-term issues in order to get reelected or get some instant benefit that our nation is woefully going down a path leading to implosion. None of the long-term problems have been addressed and there doesn't seem to be any real will power to confront them. Oh, we'll give lip service to the problems but that's about it. The economy, the deficit, the trade imbalance, education, retirement, infrastructure, and energy all require long-term planning and current pain. Instead we admit there are problems but don't do anything about it until a CURRENT crisis rears it's head. Take the economy (please), we are talking about putting $7.8 trillion dollars at risk now because of short-term thinking! The same is true with our energy policy. The current energy plans (plural because there hasn't been a unified one), have been so politicized and special interest riddled as to have been a COMPLETE waste of funds with absolutely nothing to show for it. Read the Newsweek article below to get a sense of the do nothing attitude. No one wants nuclear waste in their state so for political reasons, not scientific, we tell the nuclear plants to store them onsite rather than in a more remote area. And President-elect Obama's answer to the problem...keep doing the same. Now I'll give him some slack...I'll even give him a lot of slack. First, he isn't President yet, so he doesn't have to have a plan yet. Secondly, the do nothing answer was used by all the proceeding presidents. My problem is that if we as Americans can't get over the me-first, me-only mentatlity then we are going to fall by the wayside. Obama is not the Messiah nor is he the anti-Christ so lets drop all that. Besides, he can't do anything, good or bad, without the willful Congress, Courts, and the people (us). Since politicians think only of the short-term (think reelection timeframes) we have to think for them. Let them know what we want; elect people that have the integrity and wisdom to do what is truly best for the country even if is not best for themselves or for special interest groups. Now is the time to fix these problems before they become insurmountable.

Newsweek article

"Obama’s Nuclear Reservations
By Daren Briscoe
It was one of Barack Obama's big applause lines. At nearly every campaign stop, the candidate promised to end our dependence on foreign oil and slash carbon emissions 80 percent by midcentury. "I will set a clear goal as president," he said in his speech accepting the Democratic
nomination. "I will tap our natural-gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power." He also promised to back biofuels and wind, water and solar power. The crowd cheered.

Now all he has to do is make good on the promise. But despite all the inspiring talk about windmills and solar panels, it's difficult to see how Obama will reach that goal without relying, in large part, on nuclear power. Commercial reactors currently provide 20 percent of the nation's power—but accounts for 70 percent of the country's emission-free energy. "We cannot get to the reduction of CO2 in a big way without relying on nuclear energy even more than we do today," says Mujid Kazimi, the director of MIT's Center for Advanced Nuclear Systems.

So does that mean Obama will become the nation's cheerleader in chief for nuclear power? Not likely. Obama has been cautious whenever he's been asked about the issue. In a "Meet the Press" appearance in May, he hedged when the subject came up. "I think we do have to look at nuclear, and what we've got to figure out is can we store the material properly? Can we make sure that they're secure? Can we deal with the expense?"

Not exactly a full-throated endorsement. Obama's lack of enthusiasm is easy to understand politically, especially given the apprehension many voters have about the safety of nuclear-power plants. Three decades later, Three Mile Island still haunts—despite the pleas of industry advocates who say the technology has improved to the point that accidents are almost unheard of. Most Americans probably have no idea that there are 104 commercial nuclear-power plants currently operating in the United States today. None has suffered a malfunction that led to a major leak of radioactive material. Nuclear-power proponents often point to France, which depends on nukes for 80 percent of its power.

A bigger problem than the safety of the reactors themselves is what to do with the deadly waste they produce. Nuclear power is praised for its zero carbon emissions, but it comes at a price—radioactive fuel rods that remain toxic for thousands of years. If you're looking for a reason to feel queasy about building more nuclear reactors, this is it. While politicians bicker over where to put it all—nuclear waste is the ultimate "not in my backyard" dispute—the stuff is piling up. As things are now, a lot of it is simply stockpiled at the plants, submerged in open pools of water for as long as five years and eventually sealed in steel and concrete casks. "You have more than 100 reactors storing waste on-site, under what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls a temporary license, in the worst of all possible places," says Rochelle Becker of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, a nonprofit that monitors the nuclear-power industry. "In California, it's stored next to earthquake faults. In the rest of the country, you find that most waste is sitting very close to water supplies."

Nuclear-power companies pay a fee to the Department of Energy to pick up and store the waste, which by law becomes government property once it leaves the plant. But Energy is already 10 years behind schedule, and has no place to put it. The Feds want to store it in a vast facility inside Nevada's Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles from Las Vegas, where it would be closely monitored and far away from neighborhoods, earthquake zones and water supplies. Shipping the nation's nuclear waste to Nevada sounds good to just about everyone—everyone, that is, who doesn't live in Nevada. The state's officials, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are against it and have kept it from opening. This is where Obama, who has strongly criticized the Bush administration for putting politics ahead of facts, could step in and provide leadership on a national problem that will only become worse as more nuclear plants are built in coming years: plans for 26 new reactors are currently awaiting approval.

But don't expect the new president to demand that Reid clear out of the way. Nevada was one of the states Obama fought hard to win, and he wooed its voters partly by coming out against opening Yucca Mountain. "[T]here are still significant questions about whether nuclear waste can be stored safely there," he wrote to a Las Vegas newspaper. "I believe a better short-term solution is to store nuclear waste on-site at the reactors where it is produced, until we find a safe, long-term solution that is based on sound science."

Sounds reasonable enough. Except that sound science already comes down firmly on the side of Yucca Mountain. "The best option is deep geologic isolation," says Per Peterson, a UC Berkeley professor who specializes in radioactive-waste management. "It's based on 50 years of research and development, and a very broad, widespread and strong consensus that it can provide appropriate and safe disposal of waste." Good luck finding a nuclear-waste expert who'll tell you Obama's stopgap solution—let it pile up and deal with it later —has anything to do with "sound science." Sound politics is more like it."


Obama to Nominate Clinton Secretary of State Monday

Are there any other conservatives that are OK with this. I really don't have a problem with this pick, much better than Kerry! My problem with Sen. Clinton is on her domestic agenda and not usually with her international stances which have been fairly conservative. Plus, she'll basically be towing the White House line and not setting her own agenda...well, not completely. This gets her out of the Senate where she could have parleyed her increased political clout into even more social/nationalization bills. I think that we are heading down that path anyway with both parties so the point may be moot. Of course the rumor is that former President Clinton is eying the Senate seat if it is vacated. That I would be against but then again I don't get to vote on it. I like the fact that President-elect Obama is bringing in a wide influence of people. I wonder if it will last for the long-term? There are a lot of differing opinions and coordinating a unified administration message may be difficult. Another note on the Clinton appointment made on the Sunday news programs was that she would be responsible for the administration of the State Department and all it's embassies and staff. She has only managed two large organizations before, her Senate campaign and her Healthcare committee, both of which were poorly run and leaked like sieves.


"President-elect Barack Obama planned to nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his secretary of state on Monday, transforming a once-bitter political rivalry into a high-level strategic and diplomatic partnership.

Obama will name the New York senator to his national security team at a news conference in Chicago,
a person close to Clinton confirmed to FOX News.

Obama will also name Susan Rice as UN ambassador, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security chief and Eric Holder as attorney general, Democratic officials told The Associated Press. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly for the transition team.

To clear the way for his wife to take the job, former President Bill Clinton agreed to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997. He'll also refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference, and will cease holding CGI meetings overseas.

Bill Clinton's business deals and global charitable endeavors were expected to create problems for the former first lady's nomination. But in negotiations with the Obama transition team, the former president agreed to several measures designed to bring transparency to his post-presidential work.

The Clinton pick was an extraordinary gesture of goodwill after a year in which the two rivals competed for the Democratic nomination in a long, bitter primary battle.

The two clashed repeatedly on foreign affairs during the 50-state contest, with Obama criticizing Clinton for her vote to authorize the Iraq war and Clinton saying that Obama lacked the experience to be president. She also chided him for saying he would meet with leaders of rogue nations like Iran and Cuba without preconditions.

The bitterness began melting away in June after Clinton ended her campaign and endorsed Obama. She went on to campaign for him in his general election contest against Republican Sen. John McCain.

Advisers said Obama had for several months envisioned Clinton as his top diplomat, and he invited her to Chicago to discuss the job just a week after the Nov. 4 election. The two met privately Nov. 13 in Obama's downtown transition office.

Clinton was said to be interested and then to waver, concerned about relinquishing her Senate seat and the political independence it conferred. Those concerns were largely ameliorated after Obama assured her she would be able to choose a staff and have direct access to him, advisers said.

Remaining in the Senate also may not have been an attractive choice for Clinton. Despite her political celebrity, she is a relatively junior senator without prospects for a leadership position or committee chairmanship anytime soon.

Some Democrats and government insiders have questioned whether Clinton is too independent and politically ambitious to serve Obama as secretary of state. But a senior Obama adviser has said the president-elect had been enthusiastic about naming Clinton to the position from the start, believing she would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations and the advantages to her serving far outweigh potential downsides.

Clinton, 61, a Chicago native and Yale Law School graduate, practiced law and served as the first lady of Arkansas during her husband's 12 years as governor of the state, from 1979-81 and 1983-1992.

Clinton was the nation's first lady from 1993 to 2001. The same year George W. Bush defeated Al Gore to succeed her husband in the White House, Clinton ran for the Senate as a New York Democrat. She won re-election in 2006 and was widely regarded as the favorite for her party's nomination for president in 2008.

In the Senate, Clinton served on the Armed Services Committee, the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions."


Friday, November 28, 2008

Rick Rolled at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

If you don't know what being "Rick Rolled" is, then you've never been Rick Rolled!


Roasted Turkey in a Flash

Several years ago, my brother, a manager at Cross Creek restaurant, had a problem with their smoker. People would pay the restaurant to smoke their turkeys for Thanksgiving. They would pick them up Thanksgiving morning. Well, that year (and their last) the smoker broke down overnigh,t so no turkeys! You can imagine how upset the customers were. Not only did they not have a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, but even if they bought another one, there wasn.t enough time to cook it.

Well, Mark Bittman has the answer. He shows you how to roast that turkey in only 45 minutes instead of 3-4 hours. Check out the video here!

And if you don't want to watch the video, here's the recipe:

"Mark Bittman’s 45-Minute Turkey
by Mark Bittman

When it comes to holiday cooking, I imagine your goals and mine are the same--to make good food for celebrations and gatherings of family and friends without going nuts. But even the most modest Thanksgiving meal takes four times as much energy as an average dinner, if not more. You’ll be serving more people than usual, and more
courses than usual. And, for many of us, one of those courses will be a turkey. (Of course, you can buck tradition and still have a wonderful meal; I've eaten everything from crown roast of pork to rice and beans at Thanksgiving.)

The vision of a table laden with harvest-season delights is a beguiling one, but remember that the more courses you prepare, the greater the logistics of maneuvering all that food through the limits of your oven, refrigerator, and counter space in such a way that everything finishes together. So, my primary piece of advice: Do not be overly ambitious. A six-course Thanksgiving meal at which everyone is happy is far better, regardless of the food, than a twelve-course meal at which the host has a nervous breakdown. We’ve all seen that happen.

Choosing a turkey presents a similar contrast between what looks impressive and what’s realistic. Bigger may seem better, but your basic Thanksgiving-sized turkey (say, twelve pounds or more? maybe twenty in your case?) is way too big to mess around with. For many of us, just getting a pan big enough to hold the thing is an issue, and figuring how to turn something whose size is about the same as that of your nephew is not most people’s idea of a good yearly activity. (Myself, I’d rather be out cleaning roof gutters.)

This recipe for 45-Minute Roast Turkey simplifies the process enormously. (Don’t let removing the backbone intimidate you; it’s not that difficult.) Unorthodox though it may sound, you’ll thank me: It will be done in about 40 minutes. Really. It will also be more evenly browned, more evenly cooked, and moister than a conventionally roasted bird. It only works for small turkeys (8 to 12 pounds) but, again, that makes it easier to handle. And it will still serve 10 at least, and more if you’re all OK with eating less meat--something I recommend anyway.

45–Minute Roast Turkey

MAKES: At least 10 servings
TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes

One 8- to 12-pound turkey
10 or more garlic cloves, lightly crushed
Several sprigs fresh tarragon or thyme or several pinches dried
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butte
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the turkey on a stable cutting board, breast side down, and cut out the backbone (use a heavy knife to cut on each side of the backbone, cutting from front to rear). Turn the bird over and press on it to flatten. Put it breast side up in a roasting pan that will accommodate it (a slightly snug fit is okay). The wings should partially cover the breasts, and the legs should protrude a bit.

2. Tuck the garlic and the herb under the bird and in the nooks of the wings and legs. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

3. Roast for 20 minutes, undisturbed. By this time the bird should be browning; remove it from the oven, baste with the pan juices, and return it to the oven. Reduce the heat to 400°F (or 350°F if it seems to be browning very quickly).

4. Begin to check the bird’s temperature about 15 minutes later (10 minutes if the bird is on the small side). It is done when the thigh meat measures 155–165°F on an instant-read meat thermometer; check it in a couple of places.

5. Let the bird rest for a few minutes before carving, then serve with the garlic cloves and pan juices. (Or make gravy.) Or serve at room temperature."


Circuit City Refund Checks Bouncing

This from The Consumerist.

"If you have a Circuit City refund check not deposited before 11/10, it's going to bounce.

A posting on the internal Circuit City forums from an irate store manager upset over having to shrug his shoulders in response to a customer who had a $2,500 CC refund check bounce elicited this response from the CC accounting team:

Due to the Ch 11 filing, the bank had to put a stop on all checks that had not been deposited. We WILL be reissuing all bounced checks. I don't have an exact date to tell you, but we intend to make good on every single mail refund that bounced.

Adjust your spreadsheets accordingly."


TV Dinner's Genesis: Industrial-Sized Leftovers

This bit of trivia from the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The day after Thanksgiving presents a perennial problem — what to do with the leftover turkey? The individual homeowner’s problem is nothing like that facing the Swanson Company in 1953. Overestimating the need for Thanksgiving turkeys, the firm found itself with over a half-million pounds of unsold turkey. Enter a salesman named Gerry Thomas. He modified a tray used by airlines into one with three compartments, filled it with a turkey dinner, and suggested tying the idea to the nation’s latest craze — television. And so the TV dinner was born. Much more sophisticated frozen dinners are today a staple of people short on time. Almost all refrigerators have a freezer section and more than a third of U.S. homes have a separate freezer. You can find these and more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at ."


This one's for Todd

Eric Clapton and his grandmother Rose.

Look! 70's Rock Musicians and Their Parent's Homes
Apartment Therapy Los Angeles (yea, I had never heard of it either) has a photo spread from the 70's of rock musicians and their parents. Since Todd is a big fan of Slowhand, I thought I'd post the picture of him.


Picture of the Enemy

Check out's big pictures of the micro world. Some great shots. Also take a look at their The Big Pictures page which shows today's world and news in photographs. The photo above is a close up shot of pollen from a variety of plants.


First Images of 2 Planets Outside Our Solar System

We've been able to calculate that there are planets around other stars but these are the first direct images of not 1, not 2, but 3 exoplanets. It is an absolutely amazing feat and one that not too long ago was considered almost impossible. We'll it seems that the "almost" was the key here. Here's the story from Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog.

This is incredible: For the first time, ever, astronomers have captured an optical image of a planet orbiting a star like our own.

And that’s not all: we also have a second picture showing TWO planets orbiting a second star!

(Calm down. Breathe, breathe.)

The first picture is from Hubble. Ready? Here it is:

Do you see it? That tiny spark, that wee blip of light? It may not look like much, but it is in fact a normal planet orbiting a normal star, 250 trillion kilometers from Earth.

Holy Haleakala.

The picture as a whole needs some splainin’. The star in question

is Fomalhaut, a star easily visible to the unaided eye; it’s the brightest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the 18th brightest in the sky, and only 25 light years away. It’s literally millions of times brighter than the planet, so the Hubble camera uses an occulting bar, a small piece of metal that blocks the brightest part of the star’s image. The blacked-out area in the center of the picture is where Fomalhaut is (also, the star’s image has been digitally subtracted using an image of another star as a template; that further reduces the amount of unwanted light). The radial lines are not real; they are an optical effect of the very bright star. The ring is real; it’s dust leftover from the formation of the star and the planet. In fact, the thinness of the ring was a big factor in assuming a planet was lurking there; the planet’s gravity sculpts the ring, keeping it narrowly confined. Also, the ring is off-center from the star, and a planet in an elliptical orbit would explain that nicely.

The planet itself is just that small dot, almost lost in the noise from the star and the light from the ring. I’ll be honest; had I been analyzing the image, I might have missed it at first. But it’s there, and it’s real. Images taken almost two years apart show that the planet is moving with the star, and is consistent with it orbiting Fomalhaut at a distance of about 18 billion km (11 billion miles). That’s four times the distance of Neptune from the Sun. It takes 872 years to make one complete orbit. The mass is not easy to determine, and is estimated using its effect on the ring; it’s likely to be about the same size and mass as Jupiter.

The planet is unnamed, and is simply called Fomalhaut b.

I am reeling from this image. Years ago, when I still worked on Hubble, I did some work on planetary debris rings like this, including seeing if we could directly see planets near stars. The amount of work that goes into this type of discovery is phenomenal, and so I’m stunned by the success of it.

This is huge news.

And it gets even huger. Because there’s more:

That image is the first to directly show two planets orbiting another star! It’s a near-infrared image using the giant Gemini North 8 meter telescope. Like in the Hubble image, the star’s light has been blocked, allowing the two planets to be seen (labeled b and c).

The star is called HR 8799. It’s a bit more massive (1.5 times) and more luminous (5x) than the Sun, and lies about 130 light years from Earth. The planets in this picture orbit it at distances of 6 billion km (3.6 billion miles) and 10.5 billion km (6.3 billion miles). A third planet, not seen in this image but discovered later using the Keck 10 meter telescope, orbits the star closer in at a distance of 3.8 billion km (2.3 billion miles).

So there it is. The first ever family portrait of a planetary system.

One thing that makes these particular planets a bit easier to find than usual is that they are young; HR 8799 and its children are only about 60 million years old. That means the planets are still glowing from the leftover heat of their formation, and that adds to their brightness. Eventually (in millions of years), as they cool, they will glow only by reflected light from the star, and be far harder to see. Fomalhaut b, in the Hubble image, is much older (200 million years), and glows only by reflected light from Fomalhaut. If it were much smaller or dimmer (or closer to the blinding light of the star), we wouldn’t have been able to see it at all.

These images were basically science fiction just a few years ago. Now they are fact. We have an optical picture of a planet orbiting another sun-like star, and a picture of two planets orbiting another star.

Wow. Just wow.

OK, now that you have the news, a few caveats. We now know of more than 300 planets orbiting other stars. And a planet has been imaged before, but it was orbiting a brown dwarf, which is different than a normal star like the Sun. Brown dwarfs are so-called "failed stars", much smaller than the Sun. Another possible planet orbiting a sun-like star has been imaged, but has not yet been confirmed. So these images here really are firsts. They are history.

I still can hardly believe it, and I worked on data like this! Yet there they are, proof that our planetary system is not the only one in the Universe. We knew this already; indirect evidence confirms planets and even multiple planetary systems around many nearby stars.

But there’s nothing like a picture. There, with your own eyes, you can see for yourself that other planets exist. They are not Earthlike, not even a little… they are massive, young, hot planets that are probably mostly gaseous and completely inhospitable.

But there they are.

In a few years, we’ll have more pictures like these. And we’ll get better. Our telescopes will get bigger, our equipment more sensitive, our techniques improved as we understand their capabilities. And the pictures of other planets will roll in.

How long before we see the Holy Grail, the first image of a terrestrial planet, orbiting a star like the Sun at just the right distance for liquid water to bathe its surface? It may not be for a decade or two, but mark my words: that day will arrive. And when it does, well, we’ll just have to rewrite the history books again, won’t we?


Monday, November 03, 2008

The We Generation will Save Us All

Thank God we finally have a generation that will solve all of our problems (sarcasm).

OK they are the best educated yet the education system is the worst. They hate the debt that their stupid parents and grandparents put on them yet they want to start a multi-billion dollar project with no idea where the money is coming from. They want to stamp out the impression that America is arrogant yet they are the only ones that can do all these things; sounds a little arrogant to me. Didn't they say similar things about GenX and the Sixties Generation? I'm not saying we don't have some huge problems but until they can come up with some actual solutions I'm not buying the we're smarter, harder, better, faster, stronger hype (Daft Punk reference).


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Live from New York

McCain on SNL


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Size Does Matter...Once Again

Black holes, it's their size and not their mass that makes them so strong. It sounded contrary to me but after watching the video I feel stupid not knowing this. I love this guys videos.