Friday, July 29, 2005

Dino Embryo Pict

More hiccups for the EU?

"Protectionism" between EU member states is damaging the competitiveness of Europe's defence industry and is threatening to impact on its long-term survival, the vice-president of the European Commission, Gunter Verheugen, has warned.

"What was true in so many other sectors of the economy is also true of the European defence industry, whose long-term survival will not be served by systematic recourse to Article 296 of the EC Treaty which allows member states to derogate from treaty rules requiring open public procurement where they can demonstrate that their essential security interests are at stake."

During a keynote speech on 18 July, he also criticised the "unnecessary burdens" in the European defence equipment market which he said will lead to "inefficiencies in the defence-related industrial sector".

Inefficiencies in European procurement processes and market fragmentation come on top of the widening spending gap between the EU and US.

If you want to pay for the article, read here.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dinosaurs embryos 'ridiculuous'

"These animals do not have any teeth, and since they are ready to hatch, that is strange," said Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto at Mississauga in Canada, who led the study.

"The only explanation for that is they must have been fed by the mother. That would be oldest evidence of parental care in the fossil record," Reisz added in a telephone interview.

"We are looking at the very beginning of dinosaur evolution."

"It does support the idea that parental care and possible altricial (helpless) young existed throughout the reign of the Dinosauria," paleontologist Jack Horner of the University of Montana agreed in an e-mail.

Read more here and here.

Minor Baby Baird Update

weight: 17 lbs 5 oz (7.9 kg) definite.

height: 25 1/2 in (65 cm) guessimated.

She is 5 months old at 8:06 am this morning.

Hominid Family Status

Take a look here.

A splitter 'faction' timeline of homind evolution.

Fascinating. It's current, I think, since last October. It's missing H floresiensis though. I have to wonder how many other niche cousins like H florenesiensis hid out in the corners of the world. Too bad that none actually made it to NorAm.

Finished _Ring_

I didn't realize when I picked up the book that it was an epilogue of sorts for the Xeelee Sequence. It wasn't clear that it was such until the author's comments at the end of the book. Not being that familiar with Baxter's work, I didn't realize that there was a world he'd been building in a lot. even so, the book did stand on its own.

The book is primarily about Lieserl - an artificially aged and uploaded woman - and the Great Northern, a haven ship that is supposed to go to the far future by means of relativistic time dilation to find out why the sun is being killed. Lieserl acts as something of an observer of humanity's rise, fall, and escape of fate. The characters from the Great Northern escape at the end of the baryonic universe to another one.

The whole plot of Lieserl was disturbing to me as a new father. I really didn't like it much, esp at first. I found the character interesting. What was done to her was monstrous. It was far, far worse than most things that I have encountered in SF for an individual.

I have to say that Baxter really doesn't like a happy ending based on the sampling that I have read so far. In Evolution he has mankind devolving,losing sentience, and shows the final, actual extinction. In Ring he has them get wiped out (except for the Great Northern) by the Xeelee and even then the survival of humanity in the new universe it flees to is in question.

I also get the feeling that Baxter doesn't like his species too much either. He has humanity, rather than muddle through its problems as is standard procedure for our species, always make things worse. Humanity is what destroys itself in Evolution (helped by the volcanic activity, of course, but supposedly a nasty war helped it along) and in Ring he labels humanity as fundamentally insane. This is something of a reaction, I assume, to the human exceptionalism that runs through SF, but, erm, damn, dude...

I have to admit that I like both the human exceptionalisma nd the bitter sweet endings that some SFnal authors have done, but...IDK. Baxter might get another outing. He might not. I ahve to say I am rather underwhelmed by anything other than his audacity. I hope he's not one of the bright stars of the UK SFnal Revolution I keep hearing about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Minas Tursiops: Columns

Right now the plan for Minas Tursiops has a requirement for 4 full columns and two half (split vertically) columns. These are part of a balcony (20' x 15') over the garage. According to one of the manufacturers of the stone columns, for a standard Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian column its about $3k (10ft tall, hollow for concrete and rebar, and made of a selection of marbles). Part of the problem is that I am not seeking a standard design if I can help it.

Imagine a round top and bottom of the capital of a column. There is something akin to a rounded edge plate at the top of the capital and a 'collar' at the bottom where the main body of the column meets the capital: the top is about a foot wider than the bottom and the bottom is about two inches wider than the column itself. There are six fern leaves evenly space around the capital. They start at the bottom collar and arch outwards such that the tips curl under the top plate. The ferns produce a string of inverted diamond shapes around the capital. The 'traingles' above where the tips meet would be filled with celtic knotwork. Below, in the smaller triangles there'd be small eagles in a semi bas-relief.

Now as if I could afford that. ;)

Maybe in house 2 or 3, eh?

This time it'll prolly jsut be Corinthian.


Discovery launched. Woo!

I even took the time this morning to watch at home before going to work.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Auto manufacturing in Ukraine?

I have to wonder why there aren't any auto makers dropping manufacturing plants in Ukraine?

Consider that there is a very educated populace there. Literacy is excellent. The number of people that have university or technical college degrees.

Consider the cost of personnel. Right now, it's a pitance. Even if you quintupled it, your costs would be a fraction of any western nation. Even probably competitive with China or other Asian Tiger.

Consider the very good ports on the Black Sea.

Consider that it would be in the interests of the West to do so. It'd help along Ukraine and integrate it into the world economy.

The problem is that Ukraine is not a member of the WTO. Additionally, it has issues with corruption, but often less than some of the Asian Tigers. It also has a very fubared taxs code. Finally, there are some issues with infrastructure, though less than in some of those same Asian Tigers, to be honest.

So why not?

Planetary Society Hopes for Cosmos 2 in 2006

Read about it here in Avleak. Sounds like tehy're going to fly on something other than the Volna again.

Can't imagine why. ;)

Good for them that they're trying again.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Wow...Chinese on the MOVE

They just bought the imploded MG Rover.

Talk about shifts in the world. Whoda thunk it a century ago.

India and America sitting in a tree...

Did we just see a special relationship get born? Y'know, the one like between Britian and the USA. The reason that I ask is no sooner than Bush has stated that there's a shift in the relationship between the US and India than Boeing is seeking to sell the F/A-18E to them.


I could see why it might happen. I could even approve, really, now that India has gone techno pseudo Western and has a land border with China. It'd be interesting if the West successfully moved India back into its orbit and Russia (though the Cold War, India's semibuddy) ended up in China's.

Interesting. Very Interesting.

Reading update

Okay! I made it through the building book. The one thing that it did impress on me was the need for a very specially crafted and detailed timeline for the construction phase. The critical path makes me a bit nervous. I have a sinking feeling that I am not going to be doing the general contracting this time out. Bummer, but true. I really don't have a lot of experience in construction, but I do have some. I helped remodel our home growing up and done some other more minor work. Those included foundation, framing, insulation, painting, drywall, and some electrical work. That last I have a lot of experience at. Though not for construction.

At any rate, I have started Baxter's Ring. Interesting. I'm only on page 30 though. We'll see how well it ages from start to finish. I do have a gripe already though. Magitech nanobots irritate me.

Cosmos 1 postmortem

The rocket failed. The Planetary Society couldn't participate in the Review Board without State Department permission - which they didn't get or didn't get in time - and here's their commentary. Dr Friedman mentions at the end that they might take another stab at it. I certainly hope so. This is gonna be important in the coming decades, IMNSHO.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Trifecta Attempt

We've been making some progress. We have some basic videos, but what I'd like to share is the simplest of visualizations that our viz team member has done so far. Cristina has been damned good at this and had no time at all. Even so, she's done miracles.





She's impressed me to no end with her resourcefulness given our time and data set constraints. The videos you can find easily enough, but I'd suggest not looking at them at this point. I'll post a link in a week. BTW, you're looking at the eye of a hurricane at different times.

Minas Tursiops: Stone Walls

I have always wanted to have a home that has stone walls. I have never really liked wood houses that much. They're fine and all, but lack some romantic element. I'm not sure what. It's not really possible right now to build a home that meets code out of strictly large stone blocks. That means using some modern materials and I was hoping to build something that'd be around for a long, long time.

The people over at Castle Magic have some interesting designs and work they've done. Their techniques for building are interesting. They're not that different from the concrete forms that people are starting to use. However, their buildings that they do are all a fantasy version of western Europe during the Middle Ages. "Faerie Tale" Byzantine has similarities to SCA Middle Ages, but it has some strong points of departure. Worse yet, CM also has a three year backlog (and growing).

So it looks like a traditional contractor is more likely to be the builder this first go around. The material that I really like though is the arizona cinnamon sandstone. It strikes me that it'd be great in the style that I have in mind (think the churches of Byzantium rather than the fortresses or otherwise). The first house we build won't be as elaborate as I'd like, but it'll be interesting.

Federal European Union: DOA?

Europe is caught, in Matthew Arnold's famous words, "between two worlds; one dead, the other powerless to be born." The world that is dead is the European nationalism that turned the continent into a blood-soaked battlefield in the first half of the 20th century. The hope of the founders of the European Union was that it would replace the cycle of war with a cycle of cooperation in sustaining basic principles of democracy, human rights--and no more war.


Jobs--not cows. On the economic side, Europe has failed to provide the better jobs and opportunities people expected. Neither the single market nor the single currency has delivered on its promise. In those countries sharing in the euro since 2002, average unemployment is 9 percent and getting worse. In the past 30 years, average incomes have declined relative to America's. Growth has been anemic, which led to higher unemployment, which begat higher social expenditures, which begat higher taxes, which begat even lower growth.

The long-term prospects are even more daunting, as the number of pensionable people for every 100 people of working age will double over the next 35 years, rendering the elaborate welfare states of countries like France and Germany increasingly unaffordable and limiting Germany's capacity to subsidize programs further integrating Germany in Europe.

A chasm has opened up between two versions of what a single European market should be. The British, the Irish, and the Scandinavian countries pushed for an economically liberal, outward-looking EU free from the interference of Brussels-inspired regulations and can point proudly to their lower unemployment rates compared with those of France and Germany. The Brits are pushing hard for change. Prime Minister Tony Blair soon to be the EU's new president, wants to take on the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which distributes 40 percent of the EU budget to 5 percent of the population and keeps food artificially expensive. Agricultural subsidies--i.e., keeping French farmers happy--amount to seven times the money the EU spends on science, research, and education. "Money for jobs," says Blair, "not cows."

The clash between market-oriented Anglo-Saxons and welfare-minded continentals has left both sides unhappy. Too diverse to be contained, the EU may have to become a looser, less federalist, and more decentralized club, for the lack of a political center puts the equity of the euro at risk. As one commentator put it, European citizens "don't want to break 25 eggs to make the great European omelet." Which means a United States of Europe is a world increasingly powerless to be born.

Extracted from here

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Minas Tursiops

I think I know where I am getting the front door from for the house!


Almost as impressive is here.

The combined cost of my wishlists


AI Coding:___________________$109.00
Architecture/Construction: _______$1855.5
Biotech: _____________________$680.50
Politics: _____________________$236.00
History: ____________________$2177.00
Misc: _______________________$343.00
Paleontology: _________________$984.00
Rocketry: ____________________$754.00

DVDs: ______________________$1175.50

Music: _______________________$575.50


Ouch. Glad to see that the books dominate though.

Baby Pict

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Great Vision

There are a few things I'd do if I were an uber-rich gazillionaire that I'd love to go out and tinker with. One of them would be an attempt to build an artificial ecosystem. I can hear the Greenies screaming even now! The problem is if things get loose. That means that either build it somewhere very inhostpitable here on earth or in space. While the idea of doing it on the moon or Mars definitely has its appeal, the costs go, well, nuts.

There's only one place that it'd work here on Earth and still have enough space for a very large ecosystem. You guessed it: it'd have to be Antarctica! Y'know, this has promise as a novel premise.

Imagine a gazillionaire with vision. Real vision. Even vision that lasts past even the lifetime of humanity as a species. A vision that wants to paint on the geological time frames. This individual's vision is for when humanity is finally kaputt and Antarctica has moved off the South Pole, thus, warming up. This rich and nutty person has decided that he or she wants to place the seed for the ecology to come. How to make it happen?

You would have to build structures and energy sources that culd provide heat, light and safety (in essence a friendly environment) for ten million plus years. That would be the minimum time frame before Antarctica could move off its current polar position. Most likely it'd need to continue to provide a haven even after the initial ten million years. The haven would have to be huge: thousands of square kilometers! It'd have to be up above at least 30 meters above sea level just to be sure that it'd not end up being submerged.

There'd be a lot more.


I'll have to ponder this one.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Seems like there's more candidates

What's up with the Republicans?

We have another candidate for the Duct Tape Award.

Oh fsck!

The latest candidate for the Duct Tape Award.

Oy! Update on a lot.

This has been messier than I planned. The blog is getting neglected in favor of life. Go figure! ;) Friday we had what was close to the last major dental work on my wife so Avrora and I hung out at the dentist's office for several hours while my wife had waaaay too much fun. We just have to go back for her to have a crown cemented. We're going to do that on that day that *I* go in for my dentistry fun. I don't have as much to do or even close to it really. However, I still have work to be done that I put fof because my wife's work was so extensive.

I am finished with Furious Gulf. This was a touch disappointing. You could see some retcons underway here. The first was that the Family Bishop were giants for people: the way around aging according to Benford was that people would continue to grow much like repltiles do. We never leave adolescence in a sense. There was no hint of anything like this before, really. There was also no hint of a lot of other stuff. Something that has bothered me some is that the Bishops are supposed to be 'techno nomads', yet there's no hint that they have any sort of cultural shift and difference between them and, frankly, Americans put in a similar situation. There are more differences in my wife's native culture and the USA than these people that have all these differences in technology and lifestyle, nevermind prolly just basic life experiences. I'm sorry I'm not being more specific, but I don't have the book with me. I want to get at least a minimal thought and commentary out here since I've been so neglectful in writing and my daughter is eating my free time. The book itself is readable, but not anything that's really going to be memorable. Pick it up at a used book store or library.

I am currently reading the home building book I mentioned earlier. I went in thinking I knew nothing about the subject - loans, inspections, etc. - other than the basic construction (done a good chunk of it through remodeling my parent's old house with my Dad) and architecture aspects (been reading a lot here for some time). It seems that I have picked up 90% of it already from just reading online and through conversations. Not bad. I'm almost half way through (it's not a big book, really). I'm feeling pretty good about that actually.

Speaking of the house, I have a design. It appears that it would work with some doing. I'll have to walk through the whole kit and kaboodle. It's long and narrow to fit the lot. I've always wanted to name a house. It seems to give it more character. Other designs have picked up other names over timea s I played with different layouts and whatnot. I like using latin for this. It's a little classy IMO and makes for an interesting tidbit for the home. Ever since I started rereading Tolkien to go along with the movies when they came out. I was joking with friends that I ought to name my home Baird-Dur (instead of Barad-Dur, fortress of Sauron). So something a little Tolkien in the name would be cool too. On top of that! I also like comparing the homes to animals. Long and narrow in this case made me think of a serpent. My wife hates snakes, bugs, and especially spiders, so 'serpens' is out: also means that there's no chance that any child we have is going to get to have a snake in the house as a pet...*sighs*. At the moment, I am favoring 'Minas Tursiops'.

Once I am done with the building book I am going to go get a copy of Baxter's Ring. I am willing to give Baxter another try after Evolution. That last one was interesting, but not quite as good as it could have been. It was a gut wrencher in some ways - the future posthistorical aspects, really - and just unbelievable in others. I'd like to see the concept of this done right...but since someone has already done it, I doubt we will. My reading style if you haven't noticed is to place a fiction book between each nonfiction. It allows for a mental rinse and spit after each book.

Next month looks like I am going to need to be using everything nonconstruction related to be the between stuff that fiction normally does. That's not to say that I am not going to get some SF books. I think Stross needs another outing and so does Friedman since the paperback came out of her latest...even though its not as good as the past ones supposedly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dinosaurs Breathed like Birds

Big meat-eating dinosaurs had a complex system of air sacs similar to the setup in today's birds, according to an investigation led by Patrick O'Connor of Ohio University. The lungs of theropod dinosaurs -- carnivores that walked on two legs and had bird-like feet -- likely pumped air into hollow sacs in their skeletons, as is the case in birds.
Look here, here, and, definitively, here.

It seems that dinosaurs are becoming something rather different than what they were when I was very young. How wonderful! :D

A little update

The Snuggly Baird is 24 3/4 in (~63 cm) and 15 lbs 15 oz (~7 1/4 kg). Picture will be posted tonight.

I am now reading Furious Gulf by Gregory Benford. This will be done in a couple more days. After this it'll be either be Everything You Need to Know About Building or AI for Game Developers.


Don't worry today's baby picture will be out. We'll have official stats too. We have a Dr's appointment at 9:40 for Baby Baird.

In otehr news, I finished The Pentagon's New Map. Talk about wishy washy wishful thinking. The first and most damning thing that I have to say about it is that its almost purely ancedotal in writing. Its his experiences, thoughts and vision on national security as an analyst in that field. The problem is that only evidence other than handwaving is his map he drew. Beyond that, there's no hard economic data present. There's no demographic data. There's nothing other than him just coming out and hoo-rahing his vision and mocking the others. I'll give specific examples and quotes later. I gotta get to my daughter's Dr Appointment.

Seizing the LaGrange Points

I was reading slashdot yesterday and they had an article up about the USAF advocating in a journal that they seize the LaGrange Points so that someone else doesn't do it in the future. I haven't found the specific article in the PDF of the journal yet, unfortunately. I don't have time to dig through it right now. I have a supicion that it's in the article submited by Lt Col GW Rinehart starting on page 46. The article just prior by Major Elizabeth Waldrop looks to be really juicy (starting page 34). She served at the time of its writing as Chief of Space and International Law for the USAF: the article is about the legalities of space weapons. Zary Intervesting, no?

The link is here.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A pair of planets around HD 202206 or a circumbinary planet?

A pair of planets around HD 202206 or a circumbinary planet?
Authors: A.C.M. Correia, S. Udry, M. Mayor, J. Laskar, D. Naef, F. Pepe, D. Queloz, N.C. Santos
Comments: 9 pages, 14 figures, accepted in A&A, 12-May-2005

Long-term precise Doppler measurements with the CORALIE spectrograph reveal the presence of a second planet orbiting the solar-type star HD202206. The radial-velocity combined fit yields companion masses of m_2\sini = 17.4 M_Jup and 2.44 M_Jup, semi-major axes of a = 0.83 AU and 2.55 AU, and eccentricities of e = 0.43 and 0.27, respectively. A dynamical analysis of the system further shows a 5/1 mean motion resonance between the two planets. This system is of particular interest since the inner planet is within the brown-dwarf limits while the outer one is much less massive. Therefore, either the inner planet formed simultaneously in the protoplanetary disk as a superplanet, or the outer Jupiter-like planet formed in a circumbinary disk. We believe this singular planetary system will provide important constraints on planetary formation and migration scenarios

The link to the PDF of the paper is here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Back to the regularly scheduled blog

...starting next week. Baby picts and all that. Things ought to have settled down. There are appointments and meetings, but I ought to have time to dribble out thoughts, muttering, and postings then.

BDay Activities

That's taken care of. We had a good time. We went to the Monterey Aquarium. My wife was a little upset at first - she thought it was a cheesy little aquarium like she'd seen before - but that very quickly changed. She had a great time. We walked around Monterey for a while, but she was a little underwhelmed with the experience. It's a little too little, frankly. We left when Avrora's "battery ran out". I'll post some pictures later.

For presents, she recieved a Tivo, a Mommy's ring with her birthstone (ruby) and our daughter's (amethyst), a book on child brain development, and some DVDs (in Russian). We watched Battleship Potemkin last night at the end of the day because she was so tired. There are two more gifts tht didn't arrive in time. I'm less than pleased, but we'll live.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Two bits

Tomorrow is my wife's birthday. She's turning 27. I've got something up my sleeve so I can't say what it is here until after we are back. Last year we went flying in a friend's small plane. We flew up from Concord, CA to Clear Lake. we had dinner and flew back. Lyuda flew the plane for a time. We really enjoyed ourselves. This year...well, it's different. O:)

My proposal was accepted by management for SC05. The first of three submissions has been done for the conference itself. We're weakest in the analytics. We'll have a meeting with the Viz dept this week or next. We'll see what we can do. I'm cautiously optomistic.

Finished Centauri Dreams

I have been too busy with my rotation duties, getting the first step in the SC05 proposal up and running, my family, and other work duties to blog much. The proposal was well recieved in that they let me go ahead with it. They're a bit skeptical that it will work, but they gave me the go ahead to try. heh. ]:)

I finished Centauri Dreams a little while ago. With the lack of blogging, I've not stopped reading. I have to say taht the book has some interesting comments and ideas that are worth looking at: the combination Orion and M2P2 seems rather fascinating, but as a whole it doesn't really come across as worth as much as I paid for it (~$17). The writing itself wasn't bad, just not as tight as I would like. There have been a slew of popular science books as of recent that have been obcessing more about the people involved than about the concepts being explored. I noted this with Snowball Earth and now with Centauri Dreams. It's annoying. If you want to capture my attention by humanizing the situation or writing something other than a dry, technical tome extrapolate! This is SFnal already. Spin a fictionalized scenario and its consequences! You can write. Right? I'd rather read about that thought experiment than hearing about riding around in a convertable with Geoffrey Landis and *mumble* (Sorry Geoff). There were a few times I'd have liked to know why some people were quoted. A short blurb wasn't sufficient for me. I'd like to know why this person was being used to belittle or raise up some concept. There was one in particular that I can't remember his name at all that (a former colonel in the air force, iirc) that was being used to comment on stuff when his background in the blue beanies wasn't propulsion, iirc, and he was now working on some concepts post retirement, but I hadn't heard of him before (where as I had for most of the others or the institutions that they are working for). If he'd done a bunch of good work and cranked some papers that people thought very high of, then by all means include him (or her), but if he's just some individual playing with ideas and they've not been put out for everyone else...well, let's just say I can be just as good a source for, oh, say, running a naval ship, as that.

At any rate, get it at the bargain table or used. It's a nice addition to a cheap cost. I've started The Pentagon's New Map. Interesting, but underwhelming so far.

DEW available to the US military for 20 years?

When I was reading the short snippet of an article here.

Much work has to be done on understanding the effects of these types of weapons, army officials said. The US has had a classified directed-energy weapon for 20 years but it has never been used because commanders have been unsure what the effect on people would be, said Brigadier General Philip Coker, director of capabilities developments at the Futures Center, Training and Doctrine Command.

What is it? I've worked on DEW (directed energy weapon) before at HELSTF: big mucking chemical lasers. The Solid State Lasers from Livermore were just coming in a month or two after I left. I ahve to wonder though what has been around for 20 years for the US military to use?

Talk about piqued interest!

Phytoremediation article

I knew other parts of work were dealing with the selenium eating mustard plants. This article has some more information about that and other efforts. I am disappointed that the Sierra Club has come out in opposition to the use of genengineered plants for environmental clean up. I understand their concerns, but it seems like - just like with their whole nuclear stance - a knee-jerk reaction to a technology. Rather than dialog and work together to make sure that their concerns are taken into account, they're in a whole scorched earth policy stance instead. *sighs*