Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Summary

From Fox News

A helicopter flyover (shown on MSNBC) around Biloxi, Mississippi, shows almost total destruction, with smashed homes and denuded trees stretching as far as the camera can see. Storm surge reached several miles inland, destroying homes, businesses, and bridges. One scene showed a long viaduct which had lost every single span. Farther down the Mississippi coast, a barge which had lain moored in the Gulf of Mexico now lay beached, inland of the coastal highway which was still passable.

In Mobile, Alabama, cleanup is beginning from the storm surge flooding that occurred there, but it appears that while serious, the damage is repairable, and losses comparatively light.

In New Orleans, chaos reigns. Reports of widespread looting and general lawlessness are common, and a dire need to continue search and rescue operations means that looting will continue for some time. It is reported that the Lousiana governor will be asking for federal troops to assist in maintaining law and order, and rumored that New Orleans will be placed under martial law.

Breaking New Orleans News: WWL-TV.

There has been little news from anywhere else in southern Louisiana. All Louisiana eyes appear to be on New Orleans.

More Information:
WWL TV, New Orleans

To help:
American Red Cross

On a personal note - I am going to avoid making any more major updates on Hurricane Katrina's wake here, due to a seeming lack of interest. Instead, I will post these on The Pacific Slope.

So what does all this mean?

Aside from being the largest and most costly natural disaster of modern American history in financial terms, it is appearing that Hurricane Katrina will be the most deadly American natural disaster in fifty years, with hundreds killed.

A stretch of coastline running from roughly west of the mouth of the Mississippi River east to the Florida-Alabama border has been pounded, with serious structural and flood damage. Every town on the Mississippi coast has been devastated; reports are that 90% of the structures in Biloxi, Mississippi, have been destroyed. Not damaged - destroyed.

The city of New Orleans is going to be flooded - in its entirety, including downtown and the French Quarter, up to a level of three feet above sea level. In short, the city of New Orleans is becoming an inlet of Lake Pochatrain.

Aside from this damage, which will have a definite and serious economic impact, there is the damage to the oil and natural gas infrastructure in and around southern Louisiana. Roughly 8% of US crude is produced and 11% of all oil imported into the US passes through New Orleans, and offshore fields are a major source of US natural gas. More pressing are the refineries. They take time to repair and bring back online.

The refineries are the kicker. Loss in gasoline and diesel production due to refinery damage will drive up gas prices and put inflationary pressure on all prices as transportation costs concurrently rise.

The entire country will feel a pinch. The Gulf Coast will never be the same.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

The initial hope that New Orleans dodged a bullet, and avoided the outright destruction of the city predicted Sunday has faded.

With the failure of a key levee, most of the city is flooded, and the waters are still rising. It now is clear that the Big Easy didn't escape after all.

Worse, many people would not or could not evacuate. It is believed there may be as many as 100,000 people trapped inside the city.

From Fox News

From what I understand, this picture comes from New Orleans, or one of its suburbs.

governor of Louisiana has now ordered that New Orleans be completely evacuated. Failed levees have led to widespread flooding and there appears to be nothing that can be done to stop it.

And water continues to rise.

From the Associated Press:

With conditions in the hurricane-ravaged city of New Orleans rapidly deteriorating, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Tuesday that everyone still in the city, now huddled in the Superdome and other rescue centers, needs to be evacuated.

"The situation is untenable," Blanco said, pausing to choke back tears at a news conference. "It's just heartbreaking."

The breach of two levees Tuesday meant the city was rapidly filling with water and the prospect of having power was a long time off, the governor said. She said the storm also severed a major water main, leaving the city without drinkable water.
"The goal is to bring enough supplies to sustain the people until we can establish a network to get them out," Blanco said.

FEMA is considering putting people on cruise ships, in tent cities, mobile home parks, or so-called floating dormitories, boats FEMA normally uses to house its own employees, said Coordinating Director Bill Lokey.

Lokey said he anticipated FEMA will set up a permanent office in the area.

Recovery will take so long, he said, that some workers could spend their entire career working on Katrina.

"This is the most significant natural disaster to hit the United States," Lokey said.

The devastation was enormous. One of the twin spans of Interstate 10 was broken into dozens of pieces between the pylons, stretched out across rising water like puzzle pieces. Only rooftops were visible in several neighborhoods and the occasional building was on fire. In relatively lucky neighborhoods, residents waded in the empty streets in knee-deep water.

Blanco, Lokey and others spoke to reporters after officials flew to New Orleans with FEMA director Mike Brown and other officials. They stopped at the Superdome, where Mayor Ray Nagin outlined the dire situation: hundreds, if not thousands, of people may still need rescuing from rooftops and attics, he said.

Blanco described the dedication of rescue workers who at midnight were told to take a break.

"They refused. They couldn't do it," Blanco said.

Blanco said rescuers were unable to get to people stranded, but safe, in one tall building because so many other people were "calling to them and jumping from rooftops" into the water to be rescued first.

Things were so bad, Nagin said, that rescue boats are bypassing the dead.

"We're not even dealing with dead bodies," Nagin said. "They're just pushing them on the side."

Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general for the Louisiana National Guard, said search and rescue teams were still picking up people throughout the city, leaving them on highway overpasses-turned-islands and on the Mississippi River levee to wait until they could be moved again.

They will eventually end up in the Superdome, where he estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people already have taken refuge and where rising water is threatening the generators.

Among the evacuees are 5,000 inmates from New Orleans and suburbs that need to be moved. Officials were trying to figure out how.

As the FEMA helicopter left, with Sen. Mary Landrieu looking out the window, a group of looters smashed a window at a convenience store off the interstate in Metairie and jumped inside.

Nagin described the looters as drug addicts ransacking drug stores and people looking for food.

Police chief Eddie Compass said police are mainly focused on search and rescue.

"We'll deal with looting afterward," Compass said. "Human life is our top priority."

Nagin confirmed one person died at the Superdome attempting to jump from one level to a lower one.

Nagin said 75 to 80 percent of the New Orleans area is flooded.

Nagin said there are two major breaks in levees -- one at Florida Avenue in New Orleans East and another on the 17th Street Canal, where two or three blocks of concrete levee blew out.

Because of the 17th Street Canal break, Lake Pontchartrain water is pouring into the city. Nagin said the pumps that normally protect the city are working, but since they send water into the lake it does no good.

He said the Corps of Engineers is trying to sandbag the break but he had no timeline for their efforts.

And that is only New Orleans. Mississippi and Alabama were clobbered, too. Damage assessment all over the region is only beginning.

More Info:
National Hurricane Center
Drudge Report Hurricane Center
Michelle Malkin

To help:

Donate to the Red Cross

Time to Take Action

For all of you along the Wasatch Front, buy your gasoline only from Sinclair or Flying J !!!

In the aftermath of Katrina, we find ourselves facing even higher gas prices. It's expected to cost around $3 per gallon by Friday. It's time to take action! I think that we must target certain companies, because, let's face it... Americans simply will not stop driving their vehicles. So keep driving, but only buy gas from certain companies. The main question is which companies to buy from and which to boycott? I propose that we boycott large companies who import a large percentage of crude oil from OPEC countries, especially Middle East countries (who knows what kind of questionable organizations are funded by Middle Eastern $$$). The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is made up of Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

I took the following statistics from the Department of Energy website. Please visit their website and see the numbers for yourself!

Percentage of crude oil imports from Persian Gulf area:

Exxon/Mobil 26%
Valero 38%
Chevron 38%
Tesoro 14%
Phillips 8%
Conoco 6%
Citgo 1% (almost all their oil comes from Venezuela...also OPEC)
Sinclair 0%
Flying J 0%

Please note that Sinclair and Flying J import only from our neighbors to the north, Canada. They do not import from OPEC countries at all!

Please join me in this fight to lower gas prices. Buy only from Sinclair, Flying J, or other local non-OPEC-supporting company. Come on, how hard is it to fill up somewhere different than you normally do?


Friday, August 26, 2005

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore

"To do the impossible, you just worked harder.” -- Anonymous

No angry rant today. The scoundrels can wait for their excoriation next week. I just want to bring two worthy causes to your attention:

The Valour-IT Project (more information here)

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation

Both are worthy. Please check 'em out.

Recommended Reading
Victor Davis Hanson: "The Paranoid Style."

Matthen Mehan: "Getting to Know Thomas More."

Patrolling the Front
Jamo examines Supreme Court Justices' terms and mulls grad school.

Nathan discusses the UCAV and agitates for gasoline boycotts.

Bryan dropped in a couple of randoom posts here.

And Spencer is playing with keyboard shortcuts for Windows.

Adam and Matt are still quiet, both here and on their own blogs; and Maine Man has been saving his words for the comments.

And I found Rush had a point, and more on the avian flu. In light of the latter, I'm currently stocking up on canned goods and shotguns.

Thought of the Week
"This is a battle to stop al-Qa'ida, Saddam Hussein and every other enemy of freedom and modernity from turning the beginning of the 21st century into what is truly unbelievable, which would be a global religious war. We can't let that happen, and this is where we're going to stop it."
-- Senator Joseph Lieberman

Churchill Quote of the Week

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
-- Sir Winston Churchill, August 20, 1940

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Thieves at the Pump

Every day we hear about the increasing price of a barrel of oil. Most Americans figure that the price of oil dictates the price of gasoline, right? It only makes sense that if oil companies pay more per barrel of oil, then they're going to charge more per gallon of gas, right?

Then why is it that the biggest oil companies are reporting RECORD PROFITS?

We're not talking small potatoes here! Exxon Mobil showed a 32% increase ($7.6 billion), BP showed a 38% increase ($6.8 billion), and Conoco Phillips showed a whopping 56% increase (over $3 billion) as compared to last year. They heartily thank you for not making a big stink about it.

"'The huge profits are enormous because the public is drastically overpaying what it costs to produce,' said Joan Claybrook, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
Even more eye-opening is the profit in Saudi Arabia. Saudis are making an average of $208 million more each day since the increase in crude oil prices first began in December 2003."
-ABC News Report-

I'm no economic genius, but doesn't it seem like the consumer price is grossly outdistancing cost, and hence the record profits for oil companies? It's all a game to see how high consumer price can go before there is a public outcry. When are we going to get up off our super-sized behinds and demand change? When are we going to do something about the situation instead of waiting for vacationing politicians?

I would like some suggestions of what you think we can do to tell the oil companies that we're not going to take it anymore! Perhaps gas boycotts... weekly 'no drive' days... or maybe even targeting certain companies. Your input is welcome! Let's get something organized!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Celebrity blogs?

Celebrity Blogs

I wonder if they actually read any of the comments you might post. And, I wonder if it's actually them...

And, why is it again that we attribute clout to celebrities? Just because they're famous doesn't mean they actually know anything about a certain subject...

Avian Flu Update

From the Washington Post:
Robert G. Webster is watching his 40-year-old hunch about the origin of pandemic influenza play out before his eyes. It would be thrilling if it were not so terrifying.

Four decades ago, Webster was a young microbiologist from New Zealand on a brief sojourn in London. While he was there, he did an experiment that pretty much set the course of his scientific career. In just a few hours, he showed that the microbe that swept the globe in 1957 as "Asian flu" bore an unmistakable resemblance to strains of virus carried by certain birds in the years before.

Webster's observation was a surprise -- and a troubling one. It suggested an origin of the unusually virulent strains of influenza virus that appear two or three times each century. His hunch, that at least some of these pandemic strains were hybrids of bird and human flu viruses, was correct.
Basically, this guy is the pro from Dover. And he is worried about what he is seeing.
Strains of influenza virus known as A/H5N1 have been spreading in wild and domestic birds across Southeast Asia and China since 1996. In recent weeks, the virus has apparently struck poultry in Siberia and Kazakhstan.

Since late 2003, about 100 million domesticated birds -- mostly chickens and ducks -- either have died of the virus or have been intentionally killed to keep the viruses from spreading. But what has Webster and other experts so worried are the 112 people who have been infected with the H5N1 "bird flu," more than half of whom have died. The fatality rate of 55 percent outstrips any human flu epidemic on record, including the epochal Spanish flu of 1918 and 1919 that killed at least 50 million people.

Why this new virus is so deadly is not entirely understood, although scientists have hints.

Influenza viruses invade cells lining the throat and windpipe, where they replicate and cause inflammation but are eventually suppressed by the immune system. In some cases, the microbe invades the lungs and leads to viral or bacterial pneumonia. Some H5N1 strains, however, have two features that make them even more dangerous.

Normally, the flu viruses can replicate only in the throat and lungs. With H5N1, however, the protein that triggers replication can be activated in many other organs, including the liver, intestines and brain. What is usually a respiratory infection can suddenly become a whole-body infection. Simultaneously, a second "defect" in the virus unleashes a storm of immune-system chemicals called cytokines. In normal amounts, cytokines help fight microbial invaders. In excessive amounts, they can cause lethal damage to the body's own tissues.

The trait H5N1 has not acquired is the ability to spread easily from person to person. The 112 human cases since late 2003 may turn out to be simply rare events in a bird epidemic that will eventually subside, as all epidemics do.

What is worrisome, though, is evidence pointing the other way.
So now the race is on - for scientists to understand and describe the virus before it may mutate into a real people-killer.

The article is definitely a worthwhile read. I'd be particularly interested in feedback from our resident biology expert. I guess we need to recruit a nurse and/or a doc to the Wasatch Front next, huh?

Earlier on The Wasatch Front:
"Avian Flu Pandemic: Genuine Concern or Hype?"

Movies Do Poorly Because They Stink?

I think I am beginning to understand why most newspaper stories treat their readers as if they are first-graders. It's because the people they interview for their stories are, at least on an intellectual level.
Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle

With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. The drop in ticket sales from last summer to this summer, the most important moviegoing season, is projected to be 9 percent by Labor Day, and the drop in attendance is expected to be even deeper, 11.5 percent, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office.

Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cellphones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.
Did I read that right?
But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.
So - let me just make sure I understand. Horribly written stories that have no plot or characters to draw the viewers in will do poorly at the box office?
Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.
No. You don't say.

These people are experts?

Listen up, Disney, Miramax, and everybody else: writing. That's what your movies lack. Fix that.

More useful advice than you got out of those masters of the obvious, and I didn't even charge you anything.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Jamo's recommended reading.

"A Court Too Supreme for Our Good" by By Robert F. Bauer, published in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post

While I don't agree with many of the points in this article, it does pose provoke some interesting thoughts. How long should a US Supreme Court Justice serve? Are life-long appointments too powerful? What, if any, should be the limits?

The power of Supreme Court justices today is epic in scale. The cases they hear involve the most difficult and contentious questions before the nation. An alphabetical list would begin with abortion and proceed through campaign finance, church-state relations, euthanasia, pornography, presidential selection and voting rights. And once appointed and confirmed, the members of the court who engage these momentous issues are able to do so for as long as they please.


Many early justices served reasonably brief tenures. The first chief justice of the United States, John Jay, served five years. By comparison, the fourth chief justice, John Marshall, remained on the court for 34 years. Marshall is generally considered the greatest chief justice. But his decision to stay on, unlike George Washington's choice to step down after eight years as president, set the court and the presidency on divergent paths, to the discredit of the court. We are paying for Marshall's precedent today, just as we are the beneficiaries of Washington's foresight.


Why do justices grip the gavel for dear life? Some argue that longevity serves the court well, enriching its work with the vast experience that indefinite terms make possible. But in our system of government, we normally constrain great power with limits rather than license its indefinite exercise.

Fun new military toy successfully tested

The next generation of unmanned fighter jet, the X-45A, has successfully completed its test flight program. A press release dated August 11, 2005 states:

"After completing more than 60 flights, the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) X-45A flight test program concluded yesterday with the successful completion of a preemptive destruction suppression of enemy air defenses graduation demonstration. During this demonstration, the two X-45A air vehicles flew the most complex mission scenario to date. The significant tasks completed included: detecting multiple simulated threats; determining which targets were off-limits and which had the highest priority; avoiding simulated “pop-up” threats; replanning attacks when the operator altered target priorities; and performing coordinated multi-ship attacks on multiple targets. After successfully demonstrating each of these capabilities, the two air vehicles safely returned to base."

Basically, this new aircraft performs complex sorties, destroys enemy targets with precision technology, and has an extremely small radar cross section (stealthy), all without threat to a pilot. This next generation of aerial assault vehicles will provide the initial wave for suppressing enemy defense systems without risk to actual pilots.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Salt Lake Needs A Mayor, Not A Mouthpiece

[Updated 8/21: added link to Deseret News story in second paragraph.]
[Update 2, added 8/22: I ranted some more, over on the Pacific Slope. Offend less people that way.]

So Rocky has decided to protest President Bush's quick visit here next Monday.

Mayor Anderson of Salt Lake City has decided to spend that visit at an anti-Bush rally in Pioneer Park, while the President makes a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

I guess there is nothing better for the mayor to do.

Hey Rocky - maybe in between protests, bike rides, schmoozing magazine writers and Robert Redford, and working on your "progressive" street cred, you could, oh, RUN THE CITY. You know, the job you were elected to do. I realize that isn't as fun, but maybe you should have run for governor or Congress or something.

He's managed to tick off his city council, the Utah State Legislature, most of the suburbs that house the people who work in his city, Davis County, his police department, his fire department, Salt Lake County government... Apparently, he feels the need to add the President to the list.

Because we all know the sight of a couple dozen people waving signs comparing him to Hitler and the Nazis is only a sight he has seen since, oh, Inauguration Day. And the sight of Utahns protesting will cause him to break down, renounce his sins, donate all his worldly wealth to NARAL and Greenpeace, and commit seppuku right there in the park.

Come on. These clowns have been protesting since he came into office. They have protested Bush's election, Enron, Afghanistan, Iraq, the environment, nuclear power, oil, the moon, dirty laundry, old gym socks, and his very existence since he arrived in D.C. The sight of protests aren't new to him. Mr. Mayor, you are wasting your time.

The mayor explained that he is protesting because "Bush let us down." Let him down? Since when was Rocky for him? Rocky's remarks of the past several years have made that pretty clear.

Of course you are entitled to your views, Rocky. But you're on the citizens of Salt Lake City's time, not your own. Is that really the best use of that time? You would be better off writing a letter. If waving your sign is that important, resign. Otherwise, your city needs you at the office.

While it might be fun playing bombthrower and getting your name in the news, it does not advance the needs of the city you have been elected to run.

Paging Matt: Okay, it's time for him to go. Tell the Senator he has his first campaign contributor. And I don't even live in the city limits.

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore
Much has been made of Cindy Sheehan's protest.

Much has been made of what is going on around it. (Note to KSL: numbers would help here. The headline makes one think that the entire state of Utah is in open rebellion against the evil BushHitler, rather than a dozen or so anxious men and women waving posterboard signs.)

And much has been written about it. Here is a little more.

This is sad. Mrs. Sheehan is destroying herself in the process of tilting at this windmill.

Her meltdown is being televised, with the anti-war groups directing the eager press to ringside seats.

Some sympathy. If they really cared, someone would take Mrs. Sheehan aside, talk to her, and send her home while they carried on with the protest. [An aside - Mrs. Sheehan did go homw, due to her mother falling ill - a stroke, I believe.] But they need her; otherwise the cameras would go away.

What would they have us do? Run?

Even Afghanistan was wrong, in the eyes of the most vocal protesters.

So when can we defend ourselves? How many civilians have to die before the risk that some combat troops may die becomes worthwhile?

We are trying to change a medieval mindset. To change the way an enormous group of people think. We have persuaded some of them. Do we now abandon them to their deaths?

Do we surrender? Does anyone really think that will end the violence?

And they call Bush naive.

Recommended Reading
Your weekly dose of VDH: "The Biteback Effect." If you're not reading him every week - why not?

Bryon York on the Air America scandal. What scandal? Oh, the one that involves them ripping off a Manhattan Boys and Girls club to the tune of $900,000...

Michael Ledeen describes the players in Iran, and what they want.

Rich Lowry looks at a proposal for race-based government in Hawaii.

And Jonah Goldberg looks at environmental activists.

Patrolling the Front
A new feature. What are our member bloggers talking about on their own blogs?

Jamo has a new layout, and explains that
hope is not the answer, at least in the workplace.

Adam has been quiet. As has Matt, who is now back from D.C.

Bryan went cliff-diving.

And Spencer - well, he's being himself.

Over on the Pacific Slope, I posted this piece on the recently released FDNY tapes from Septeber 11th, 2001. I'm also beginning to wonder if I have too much time on my hands.

And here, I posted a piece on the concerns over avian flu.

So, all in all, pretty quiet on the Wasatch Front.

Thought of the Week
"There is mercy which is weakness, and even treason against the common good."
-- George Eliot

Winston Churchill Quote of the Week
"An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last."
-- Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Give 'Em The Cold Steel

Twin Towers steel used in construction of USS New York
From rubble to avenging angel: The U.S. Navy is using steel from the World Trade Center in a new ship, according to the Navy.

Ten tons of steel from the World Trade Center’s twin towers will be used in the construction of the USS New York, according to a Navy official.

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock is slated to be commissioned in 2008.
From scrap to a Marine-carrying warship. I like how these guys are thinking.

Avian Flu Pandemic: Genuine Concern Or Hype?

[First, a quick disclaimer. The author of this post is by education a chemical engineer and businessman, and therefore has no medical expertise to rely on. Plus he did not sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.]

Flu pandemic could trigger second Great Depression, brokerage warns clients

A major Canadian brokerage firm has added its voice to those warning of the potential global impact of an influenza pandemic, suggesting it could trigger a crisis similar to that of the Great Depression.

Real estate values would be slashed, bankruptcies would soar and the insurance industry would be decimated, a newly released investor guide on avian influenza warns clients of BMO Nesbitt Burns.
The autumn of 1918 should have been a happy time. For the first time since 1914, the Allies were winning the Great War, American manpower breaking the stalemate and ultimately forcing Germany to sue for peace on November 11th.

Deseret News: Pandemic of 1918

But it was not. Instead, the United States and the world were in the grips of a truly global pandemic. At least 25% of the American population would contract the flu, and 500,000 of those would die. Worldwide, the toll was at least 20 million. And mot terrifyingly of all, the relative health of the victims seemed to make no difference. Indeed, a disproportionate number of the victims were healthy men and women in their twenties and thirties - the prime of their lives. (Utah was hit hard by the pandemic. Some reports I have seen claim that in terms of percentage of population, only Pennsylvania suffered more dead.)

Odds are, this is the first time you had heard of this. The 1918 pandemic seemed almost to cause a collective amnesia in the American memory. For an event that affected so many people across the world, it recieves curiously little mention in the history books. Recently, this has started to change.

As the story of the 1918 flu pandemic has emerged from the shadows, at the same time concern over the possibility of a new pandemic has arisen. The SARS epidemic of 2003 has only intensified these worries. The unique breeding ground furnished by South Asia and the recent bird flu epidemics have caused scientists to conclude that a new flu pandemic is imminent, and it will start in Asia. They urge preparation and vigilance.

But how much is enough?

Ultimately, I don't know what to make of it. Part of me thinks this is just a lot of hype; but...

So I yield the floor. What do you think?

More information/articles:
Deseret News: "Pandemic of 1918"
Yahoo! News
Winds of Change: "Playing Chicken with Avian Flu"
Winds of Change: "H5N1: An Influenza Pandemic Strain?"

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Horrors Of Particle Physics


A couple of random news stories, which are somewhat related:
Earth punctured by tiny cosmic missiles
FORGET dangers from giant meteors: Earth is facing another threat from outer space. Scientists have come to the conclusion that two mysterious explosions in the 1990s were caused by bizarre cosmic missiles.

The two objects were picked up by earthquake detectors as they tore through Earth at up to 900,000 mph. According to scientists, the most plausible explanation is that they were "strangelets", clumps of matter that have so far defied detection but whose existence was posited 20 years ago.

Formed in the Big Bang and inside extremely dense stars, strangelets are thought to be made from quarks - the subatomic particles found inside protons and neutrons. Unlike ordinary matter, however, they also contain "strange quarks", particles normally only seen in high-energy accelerators. Strangelets - sometimes also called strange-quark nuggets - are predicted to have many unusual properties, including a density about ten million million times greater than lead. Just a single pollen-size fragment is believed to weigh several tons.
...Until now, all attempts to detect them have failed. A team of American scientists believes, however, that it may have found the first hard evidence for the existence of strangelets, after scouring earthquake records for signs of their impact with Earth. The team, from the Southern Methodist University in Texas, analysed more than a million earthquake reports, looking for the tell-tale signal of strangelets hitting Earth.

While their very high speed gives strangelets a huge amount of energy their tiny size suggests that any effects might be extremely localised, and there is unlikely to be a blast big enough to have widespread effects on the surface.
"Extremely localized." Riiiight. In other words, "Sucks to be him."
The scientists looked for events producing two sharp signals, one as it entered Earth, the other as it emerged again. They found two such events, both in 1993. The first was on the morning of October 22. Seismometers in Turkey and Bolivia recorded a violent event in Antarctica that packed the punch of several thousand tons of TNT. The disturbance then ripped through Earth on a route that ended with it exiting through the floor of the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka just 26 seconds later - implying a speed of 900,000 mph.

The second event took place on November 24, when sensors in Australia and Bolivia picked up an explosion starting in the Pacific south of the Pitcairn Islands and travelling through Earth to appear in Antarctica 19 seconds later.

According to the scientists, both events are consistent with an impact with strangelets at cosmic speeds. In a report about to be submitted to the Seismological Society of America, the team of geologists and physicists concludes: "The only explanation for such events of which we are aware is passage through the earth of ton-sized strange-quark nuggets."

So, ton-sized lumps of extremely unusual matter are passing through the earth from time to time at "cosmic speeds." (I guess that means really, really fast.) The report goes on to say that due to evolving seismograph technology, these unique events are being elimnated from the data because they are not earthquake-related. My question is, why not try to monitor this things more closely, especially since all you really need at this point is to piggyback off exisiting seismograph networks?

So why does this matter? Read this:

Killer plasma ready to devour the Earth
SCIENTISTS yesterday issued warnings of two new menaces to mankind that could either swallow up the Earth or turn the universe to jelly...

...In a catastrophic chain reaction, the killer strangelet would gobble up nuclei until it had eaten a million billion, when its weight would pull it towards the centre of the earth. Dr Allanach said: "Eventually, the strangelet would be the size of an atom and just sit at the centre of the earth, eating other nuclei. It would eventually be heavy enough to attract some of the earth's mass gravitationally. That way, it would eat our planet from the inside out, converting the entire earth into one giant strangelet and killing us all in the process."

That can't be good.
Fortunately, the chance of this happening is very small.
Oh, I feel much better. But you know there's a "but" coming, don't you?

However, the other apocalyptic model, could be "even more catastrophic", Dr Allanach said. According to "supersymmetry" theory, every particle has a heavier, ghostly partner that has similar, but not identical, properties.

These "super-partners" were present in the early universe but if a super-partner of the quark formed, which could happen if there was a chance fluctuation in the vacuum of the universe, then everything would come to a very sudden end. Dr. Allanach said: "This would be bad news, because in some region of space which has jellified, particles of light would become immensely heavy. Nature would not have enough energy to produce them, and all would become dark."

I'm not sure the term "bad news" is a wholly adequate description.

"Because photons are responsible for the electric and magnetic forces, these forces would no longer exist. This would be the death knell of the poor atom, because it is the electric force that binds electrons to the nucleus," he said. "Because the new region of jellified super-partner would be more stable than the rest of the universe, it would jellify the space around it. The region of new vacuum would expand at the speed of light, wreaking dark havoc."

For all we know, this has already happened somewhere in the universe and a deadly wall of jellied universe is expanding towards Earth, killing everything in its path.

However, Dr Allanach said further calculations indicated that the probability of this event happening was minuscule, even in a time as long as the age of our universe.

He said: "Although our disaster scenarios caused some initial nightmares, after further investigation, they proved to be so unlikely that we can sleep soundly at night."

Yes, sleep. As your universe ends. Because you are already screwed.

[step step step step step]
[SLAM! VROOM! Scrreeeee....]

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore
Handicapping 2008. (Oh boy.) I had an interesting email exchange with Jamo yesterday. Over on The Jamoblog, he has what he expects to be the contenders for 2008:

Barack Obama, senator from Illinois (D)
Hillary Clinton, senator from New York (D)
John Kerry, senator from Massachusetts (D)
Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts (R)
John McCain, senator from Arizona (R)
An interesting field, to say the least. As far as I know, the conversation is still going. Check it out.

My two cents? Well, head over to Jamo's for the conversation. Let's just say Romney is my favorite of that lot. And not just because he's LDS.

Recommended Reading
A VDH two-fer:

Keep Quiet and Listen!
Note that bin Laden omits any reference to American efforts to save Muslim Kuwait (a war in which in vain he also volunteered to fight against Saddam Hussein), to save Balkan Muslims (which his own mujahadeen had failed utterly to do), or to stop the Soviet killing of Afghan Muslims (a war in which his resistance counted on American arms to save his fellow Muslims).

The constant theme of this envious and insecure motor mouth? Americans saved Muslims, while bin Laden’s minions talked big, but couldn’t do much against much stronger Baathist Iraqis, godless Soviets, and nationalist Serbs.
Torn Apart Over Iraq

Someone could write an interesting article on the changing attitudes of our elites, especially U.S. senators and pundits — with then and now quotes — whose views reflected the changing pulse of the battlefield. Reading the transcripts of what over 70 senators (especially Senators Kerry and Clinton) said about the October 2002 Senate resolution authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam seems surreal these days.
Robert Harman: "Responding to Terrorism in the 21st Century."

Thought of the Week
“You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more "drive," or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or "creativity." In sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

-- C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Churchill Quote of the Week
"The price of greatness
is responsibility."
-- Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Confusing the Message

Topless Women Protest Sexual Harassment

No, that's not a headline from The Onion.

Note: Any women seeking to similarly counsel me on sexual harassment are more than welcome to do so. Send a picture and contact information to...[CENSORED]

[Our apologies for this post. Tyler is now on suspension pending completion of his sexual harasment seminar. -- The Editors]

Note to Truckers

When hauling 35,000 pounds of explosives over a heavily travelled, twisting two-lane highway,


Picture from The Salt Lake Tribune

Just keep the following simple mathematical relationship in mind:

stupidity + explosives = crater.

By some miracle, no one was killed and only two were seriously injured. Some guardian angels just earned some serious overtime pay.

So, now, the road between Spanish Fork and Price is closed until further notice. As are the nearby tracks of the Union Pacific railroad and the Utah Railway.

More from and the Salt Lake Tribune.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wade F. Horn on Marriage - National Review Online

Wade F. Horn on Marriage on National Review Online

Some snippets:

...research consistently finds that cohabiting relationships are far more unstable than marriage. Wherever one finds family instability, an increased risk of problems for children follows with all the associated impacts on social institutions and the demand for more (and more expensive) governmental interventions.

In contrast, healthy and stable marriages support children and limit the need for government programs. Whether the problem is abuse, neglect, or poverty, research clearly shows the best chance a child has of avoiding these problems is to grow up with their mom and dad in a stable, healthy marriage.

What Would Walt Do?

A sad milestone: "Disney Erases Hand-Drawn Animation"

In the 1960s, Walt Disney joked that one day he'd replace his elite corps of animators, known as the "Nine Old Men," and their slow, expensive way of making hand-drawn movies, with Audio-Animatronic figures.

At the end of last month, Walt's joke came true. The studio bearing his name announced that, due to a "changing creative climate and economic environment," it will be shutting DisneyToon Studios Australia next year. The studio, which turned out sequels (such as "Tarzan II," "The Lion King II" and "Bambi II") was the company's last remaining facility creating hand-drawn (or 2-D) traditional animation. To compete in the 3-D computer-generated imagery (or CGI) arena, the house that a hand-drawn mouse built will become a pixels, rather than a paper-and-pencils, place.

...But the demise of hand-drawn animation at Disney is a sad and significant cultural watershed that deserves a proper mourning rather than a brief P.R. notice.

For it was at the Disney studio that hand-drawn personality animation--an indigenously American contribution to the international art form of animation--soared to its greatest heights.

In my opinion, the trouble with Disney's last couple of animated features wasn't with the art. I liked the artwork of Atlantis, but the story & writing were not up to what we expect from Disney.

The failure was the story, not the medium. And computer technology won't change that.

Adam, this is your turf. What say you?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Miracle at the Pool

...and [Jesus] anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and said unto him, go wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
-John 9:6-7

The actual Pool of Siloam was uncovered in old Jerusalem. For the believers, this is yet another validation of our faith. However, there are still those who must see to believe.

7 And he that seeketh signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation.
8 Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning;
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.
10 Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God

-Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-10

Dell on Earth

One geek’s Totally Awesome rise, and the heinously evil Satan worshipers trying to take him down.

"Now the fully automatic mouth behind the “best computers on the planet” is taking his inevitable turn under the gun. But despite armed roadside skirmishes, allegedly questionable business practices and an utterly dysfunctional management style, the enigmatic-entrepreneur-turned-pariah is still standing. Though not for lack of trying by forces aligned to knock him down a peg or two."

I'm sure all of you have cringed and winced when one of SuperDell's commercials come on TV. Could Totally Awesome Computers be on the edge of a big fall? When will Dell's impromptu mouth dig a hole deeper than he can get out of?

Safe Return

Shuttle Discovery, landing early this morning at Edwards Air Force, California.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Trespassing Immigrants?

Frustrated with lax Federal attention to illegal immigration, New Hampshire police departments have found a way to make illegal immigration fall under local jurisdiction. In the last few months, Police departments have started charging illegals with trespassing. They claim that if the immigrants are not legally in the United States then they don't have the right to be in New Hampshire and are, therefore, trespassing.

Lawyers for the immigrants claim that this "'leads to an illogical, unjust and absurd result' making illegal immigrants criminally liable in any part of New Hampshire." I don't quite follow the lawyers' argument seeing as by even being in the US they are criminally liable.

The trespassing law states that someone is trespassing when he "knows that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place." So what next, the lawyers are going to say that the defendants made a wrong turn in Chihuahua and ended up in New England by accident?

Runnin' Utes Forever?

Does this offend you?

Well, after four profanity-laced attempts, I think I am finally ready to comment on last Friday's NCAA ruling on the use of the "Utes" nickname - of which the Ute tribe approves.

It's moronic.

If the NCAA can so easily be stampeded into stupid decisions by professional complainers, what good are they?

And a personal note to Mr. Bellecourt: Apparently, to you, the only legitimate American Indian is one that agrees with you.

"Before [universities] seriously decide to change, they run out and find some old hang-around-the-fort Uncle Tom-Tom, a Ute in the case of Utah . . . who says, 'Oh, we just love the Runnin' Utes,' " Bellecourt said. "Of course, that's exactly what they did to Martin Luther King."

Vernon Bellecourt, president of the National Council on Racism in Sports and Media

Nice. Trying to hide behind the ghost of Martin Luther King, after slandering his fellows.

Mr. Bellecourt does this for a living. It's a livelihood for him; he did it in Idaho with high school mascots back in 1999-2000. He goes around claiming racism and suing for a living.

My question is, will anyone hold him to that reprehensible "Uncle Tom-Tom" slander? Probably not, not in today's media. I will be surprised if they do.

But some of us did notice, Mr. Bellecourt. And we can tell a skunk when we smell him.

Get lost, Mr. Bellecourt. And get a hobby.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Truth Hurts

Bill Simmons on ESPN Page 2:
"...the dopiest moment of the summer: The remarriage between Greg Ostertag and the Utah Jazz, which was a little like David Gest and Liza Minnelli getting back together, only if David Gest had been booed by an entire fan base off and on for seven years. I think Jerry Sloan was watching 'Eddie' on HBO3 one night after about 10 drinks and suddenly decided, 'You know what? He drove me crazy, but I miss that big oaf! Let's get him back!'"

Sigh. And we traded three people away to get him, too.

I'm not even going to bother with the NBA this year. Bring on the college hoops!

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore
As mentioned in the
Jonah Goldberg piece I link to below, as British police arrested three of the four failed bombers in the past week one of them screamed "I have rights!" The irony of that is, in so refusing to kill him on sight, the police had already shown more respect for his rights than he was prepared to show his fellow Londoners. This is the rub of modern terrorism. Terrorists have the advantages of initiative and camoflage; they can live in and among our societies, protected by our laws even as they seek to destroy them.

This statement is also symptomatic of a "rights-obsessed culture." I'm using the scare quotes here (" ") because I want to make clear this point: it is good to know what your Constitutional rights are. I'm talking about the people who believe they have "a right to" party drunk and naked in their front yard all night long. People who want their rights, but refuse to accept the responsiblities that go with them. People who forget their rights only extend to the point where they infringe on the rights of others.

There are two things I ask all of us to remember:
1. With rights come responsibilities; responsibilities to defend those rights, and the responsibilities to exercise those rights properly, safely, and with respect for your fellow men - or be prepared to bear the consequences if you do not.
2. Just because you have the right to do something does not always mean you should.

Or put more succinctly, just because you can act like an a** doesn't mean you should.

As for the "
Local Politics" post below: I'd make a lousy senator. Someone would make a stupid statement, I'd read into the record that that person is a moron, and that Senator Byrd is a thieving [CENSORED] [CENSORED] old [CENSORED] [SO VERY CENSORED] and be expelled from the Senate. On the first day.

Recommended Reading
Victor Davis Hanson
looks back at Hiroshima.
"The truth, as we are reminded so often in this present conflict, is that usually in war there are no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad and even worse choice. Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse."

Jonah Goldberg: "I have rights!"

Thought of the Week
"Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man's nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God... Let it
be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments."
-- John Adams (Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

Reference: The Most Nearly Perfect Solution, Guinness, 3-26; and John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, Thompson, 54. My source:
The Heritage Foundation's quote library.

Churchill Quote of the Week
"All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope."
Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Local politics

A challenger has arisen against Utah's senior senator, Orin Hatch. His name is Steve Urquhart. Although the underdog in this matchup, Steve seems to have ambition and a drive to actually win this race. He is very much Pro-Life and believes in representing core conservative beliefs (something many Republicans are failing to accomplish).

I highly recommend checking out his blog. Yeah, you know he's cool if he has a blog. Or, visit his website.

And if you don't like Urquhart, then I suggest we all write-in Tyler for senate :)

Life gives you lemons: make lemonade

A hotdog vendor in Salem, MA tried to have kids' lemonade stand shut down because it competed with their own lemonade sales.

Apparently, street vending is like stealing candy from a baby.,2933,164695,00.html

Happy Birthday to the Coast Guard!

The U.S. Coast Guard, founded as the Revenue Cutter Service August 4th, 1790.

Coast Guard has seen combat in every American war since, due to its unique dual mission of enforcing the laws and sovereignty of the United States and aiding mariners in distress.

And the Coast Guard is on the front lines of the War on Terror,
both close to home...

...and abroad.

More from John at Argghhh!!!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Star Wars on The WB

TheForce.Net - Latest News - Lucas On The TV Shows

TheForce.Net - Latest News - Lucas On The TV Shows

A Star Wars TV series sounds interesting, but I highly doubt Lucas is going to shoot it on a $500 Sony Handicam from Wal-Mart. Just please dont put it on the WB between Gilmore Girls and Charmed.

The Whirlwind Is In The Apricot Tree

A Bear Lake waterspout. (Not yesterday's storm.)
From the National Weather Service's website.

Tornado in Davis County! Maybe.
Tornado Warning Issued in Davis County
Aug. 2, 2005
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Davis County and south central Weber County tonight but now says it is less likely to occur. It said radar had detected a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado about 15 miles southwest of Syracuse.

It now says the rotation is weak and a tornado is not immediately likely but still is possible. Meanwhile, it says damaging winds, destructive hail and lightning remain possible.

But now, the Weather Service is not sure a tornado touched down. Storm reports from the National Weather do report a large number of homes under construction being blown down.

Unfortunately, not everyone escaped the thunderstorms' wrath last night. One Boy Scout was killed in a lightning strike at Camp Steiner in the Uinta Mountains.

Surprisingly, tornadoes are not unheard of in Utah. The best known, of course, is the August 11, 1999 F2 tornado that plowed through downtown Salt Lake City. But that tornado was not the strongest nor the first. Tornadoes have been recorded as early as 1869. And the the strongest was an F3 that occurred in the Uinta Mountains, fortunately far from anyone or anything. (For an explanation of this F2 and F3 stuff, go here.) One line of thought is that last night's storm formed a waterspout on the Great Salt Lake, and dissipated before reaching shore. From what I've heard, waterspouts over the lake are not unusual.

As you might expect, it's pretty rare for anything larger than an F1 to form, and we definitely don't have to worry about the big ones the Midwest and Plains states get to worry over.

But they're still cool to read about.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The old one-button mouse gets an upgrade - First Look: Apple's (Mostly) Mighty Mouse

I guess my anti-apple defense about the lack of buttons on the mouse is now invalid. But this will not turn me to the dark side. I still owe all my alligence to Bill Gates and my less-trendy and less-stylish P.C.

Risky But Simple

I'm not sure anything involving a spacewalk can reall be considered simple - especially if it is considered risky.

Isn't that kind of like saying "fake but accurate"?

Monday, August 01, 2005

What's In A Name?

Andrew McCarthy today at NRO:

The W-word is apparently out. Wouldn't want to refer to a war as a "war"...

So, what to call it? Here's the current top candidate (you'll need to book some time to get through the whole thing): "The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism."

Struggle? Fabulous! It'll be a real hit with the "Arab Street" we are so obsessed to impress with our pluperfect sensitivity. Memo to marketing: A common Arabic translation of the word "struggle" is JIHAD!

...Perfect: A war that's not called a war for fear of making people think about war, which is waged against an enemy who is not identified for fear of offending mass-murderers and the people who coddle them, and which occurs everywhere on the planet so no one is left out, but nowhere specific so no one is put in.

Read the whole thing.

The jihadists understand us better than we understand ourselves. We're in a fight with an enemy that has vowed to fight to the death and we're still worried about chipping our nailpolish.

Michael Ledeen has more, from Iran:

One of my favorite reporters called late last week, saying he had learned that Coalition forces in Iraq had captured an Iranian vehicle entering Iraq with large quantities of shaped explosives, obviously headed for the terrorists. "So what?" was my reply. It happens most every day. But he was baffled. Why would the Iranians be supporting terrorist actions against Shiites? After all, didn't they want the Shiites to prevail in Iraq, so that there could be an Islamic republic there?
Or there's this, by James S. Robbins:

British police had surrounded the flat in Notting Hill where two of the suspects from the July 21 bombing had holed up. Negotiations had commenced, but promised to be short and sharp. Snipers took up positions and police demanded the suspects come out unclothed and with their hands up.

"I have rights!" Ramzi Mohammed wailed from inside.

Yes, they have rights. But it would behoove the ACLU and Amnesty International to realize that they are already aware of these rights, and are are using them against us. They want our free society to implode, to turn us against each other, and to deny us the liberties that our predessors fought and all too often died to obtain and protect. And all too many of us are already prepared to surrender, since this is all just a big "distraction."

Our enemies know us better than we know ourselves.

Crossposted to The Pacific Slope.

Bolton to UN...finally

Pres. Bush appointed John Bolton to be the US Ambassador to the UN this morning while the senate is away on vacation. That's right, vacation. And they won't be back until January. Talk about a bunch of lazy bums, only working a few months out of every year! Why the heck do they get a 4-month vacation? Is there not enough on the agenda?

Anyways, Bush essentially said that the kindergarten antics of whiny Democrat losers while filibustering Bolton caused him to fill this important position while they were gone so that we wouldn't have to listen to their canonical babbling any neener, neener, neener.

Canada has a what now?

What is this world coming to?