Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reading Update

I finished Dawn of the Dinosaurs. It was a very good read and deliciously illustrated with assorted oil paintings of Triassic life and and BW works of the same. It was rather shallow in certain ways, but still had some gems. First was the very strong voice throughout the whole work stating that the author was uber annoyed with the constant protrayal of the Triassic as a desert wasteland. He stated that while the Triassic did have a trend for drying and heating up, it was nota uniform desert that was barren. He loves to cite the Petrified Forest (and SW US Triassic formations in general) as good examples of why this wasn't the case. he stated its often a mistake that people make that short term changes in climate - over a few thousands of years - are mistaken for the climate over millions of years. He likes to cite the Newark supergroup for this one. The other delights were the hypothesis of the megamonsoon (you think Bangladesh has it bad now? he does have evidence against it too, btw) and, of course, the rants about paleontologists ignoring the invertebrate fossils. he does talk about the End Triassic. It's interesting. It's also rather odd. He doens't seem to have strong beliefs, but he does seem to side with the bollide guys, but does point out that there was a huge basalt formation due to the rift valley opening up that created the Atlantic.

I have also been reading about the Insular Cases while Avrora and now myself has been sick. Talk about something that makes me feel a wee bit ill on top of the viral reasons. What's interesting to note is that the cases is that the author comes away with the belief that the Supreme Court really wanted this be dealt with by the legislature (Congress) not the judiciary (them). The decisions, at least so far and I am only a little shy of half way through the book, were rather ehated and every single Justice had a very differing opinion on the subject (and wrote it) even while 'agreeing' on the decision. it was a close run thing. You have to wonder what would have happened at one justice been run down by a horse or one of those new fangled cars a few years earlier. If we'd had a second Justice like Harlan, whither the American nation?

bleh & joy

So I am at work, but will be returning home in the not too distant future. I am feeling better - I got what my daughter had -and I want to get some more sleep/rest prior to her coming home tonight. The onyl thing I can consistantly hold down is kefir and only in sips. I am now well and truly sick of it.

Y'see, today is her second Birthday! Lyuda and I woke her up this morning by singing to her. We have a bunch of gifts for her, but we are waiting until when she comes home from daycare to give them. There was one exception. Being a little contrarian, I gave her a matchbox cars bus. She LOVES getting a ride with Papa in the EmeryGoRound (our free muncipal bus in Emeryville). Since she does now and again come to work with me and I don't have a car seat in my old jeep, we use the bus to BART (the BART station is literally right outside the office). Since we started, she gets really excited every time she sees a bus, but especially the one in Emeryville. SO! I gave her that little bus this morning. She was ecstatic. We have more (and better) gifts to give later, but the day started out very well. Her delight with a simple toy bus was wonderful.

There are times, despite being truly in pain and ill, that being a father is an incredible joy.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Still at Home

fever? Beaten.

vomiting? Easily in check.

return of appetite? no problemo.

diarhea that looks like its the second coming of Noah's Flood? erm. Working on that.

Poor Kidda. She's so tired, but really trying to be a trooper. We should have this one beaten today. Rest and fluids and a little kefir.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Then there was one less. already.

Vilsack's out.

One less Democratic contender after a very short campaign and oh-so-early in the game.

Record power for military laser

A laser developed for military use is a few steps away from hitting a power threshold thought necessary to turn it into a battlefield weapon.

The Solid State Heat Capacity Laser (SSHCL) has achieved 67 kilowatts (kW) of average power in the laboratory.

It could take only a further six to eight months to break the "magic" 100kW mark required for the battlefield, the project's chief scientist told the BBC.

About time! This will end up making things VERY interesting. The cost per shot is going to be less than $1000. In fact, it will be only the cost of amoratizing the weapon and the cost of diesel to provide energy. That will put it down to less than $100. That makes the economic equation for warfare...ineresting.

Now they need to start miniaturizing this. :D

Ice on Greenland: 20 million years earlier?

The Earth had glaciers in parts of the northern hemisphere as far back as 38 million years ago, much earlier than was previously thought.

That is the conclusion of University of Southampton scientists based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), reported online by the science journal Nature this week.

The research indicates for the first time that there was glacial ice, probably of restricted extent, on Greenland during a time when CO2 levels are thought to have been significantly higher than pre-industrial levels. The findings therefore have implications for our understanding of future climate change in an increasingly CO2-rich world. The next task is to investigate ice extent and stability during this geological analogue for the future.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Still At Home

My daughter is doing better as far as losing the contents of her stomach, but she's still not feeling well at all. She did lose it once this morning, bu that's been once in 12 hours compared the the multiple times yesterday. So! I am home and snuggling a not feeling so well kidda. Poor girl.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Urge McCain not to address the Discovery Insitute

McCain is going to address the Discovery Institute. These are the folks that worked so hard in Kanasas to get evolution yanked from the school lesson plans. I have been a McCain supporter since the 2000 election and damnit! This is something that will probably make me withdraw my support. I am getting very angry about this shift to the right. What happened to the McCain that railed against the right wing christian coalition types in 00?

There is an online petition to try to get him to not make the address, but I doubt that he will change his plans at this juncture for such a thing, but here's the vain hope. Write in and see if we can get him to stop!

Greenland to license offshore drilling

Global warming makes the search easier in challenging Arctic environs

Greenland plans to license as many as four oil companies next month to explore off its western shore as global warming melts sheet-ice and eases access to deposits.

Ok, I can't see the article itself, but damn...That is just sick and oh-so-wrong.

At Home with a Sick Kidda

Avrora woke up at 3 am this morning and was in the process of imitating a penguin feeding its hatchling. Except this looked to be milk and dinner: steamed artichoke, baked potato, bockwurst, a whole tomato (!?) and a dessert of blue berries.

The next hour, she and I were trying the survive the constant upchucking: Daddy gets late night duty. At first I thought it was that she ate too much. She's not been eating too much lately and suddenly her appetite seemed to reappear. Then...boomski.

Yet, this morning as I sit with her and we snuggle. She's been vomiting if we put almost anything down in her stomach. That doesn't make me feel terribly good. I hope that she has something that's going to pass quickly.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


A very good friend of mine was pleased to call and let me know that his son was born yesterday morning. Jason and Tracy seemed to have survived the birth of Logan Dale Lowery at 7 lbs 10 oz and 19.5 in long on February 20th.

Of the cluster of NMicans that I hung out with regularly, four couples have had kids: Jared and his wife were way out in front with their daughter: I've not talked to them in a while and they were talking about a second child when last I heard from them. Lyuda and I came in second, but years later, with our daughter. Jeb and Melanie came in third with their son. Jason and Tracy are in fourth with their son. Alyssa is somewhere around four or five now. Avrora is two next week. Nathan should be one shortly. Logan is obviously just getting started. Amazing.

Congratz to the new family!

A Spectrum of an Extrasolar Planet

A Spectrum of an Extrasolar Planet

Authors: L. Jeremy Richardson, Drake Deming, Karen Horning, Sara Seager, Joseph Harrington
Comments: To appear in Nature 22 Feb 2007; 17 pages, 7 figures, includes supplementary information

Of the over 200 known extrasolar planets, 14 exhibit transits in front of their parent stars as seen from Earth. Spectroscopic observations of the transiting planets can probe the physical conditions of their atmospheres. One such technique can be used to derive the planetary spectrum by subtracting the stellar spectrum measured during eclipse (planet hidden behind star) from the combined-light spectrum measured outside eclipse (star + planet). Although several attempts have been made from Earth-based observatories, no spectrum has yet been measured for any of the established extrasolar planets. Here we report a measurement of the infrared spectrum (7.5--13.2 micron) of the transiting extrasolar planet HD209458b. Our observations reveal a hot thermal continuum for the planetary spectrum, with approximately constant ratio to the stellar flux over this wavelength range. Superposed on this continuum is a broad emission peak centered near 9.65 micron that we attribute to emission by silicate clouds. We also find a narrow, unidentified emission feature at 7.78 micron. Models of these ``hot Jupiter'' planets predict a flux peak near 10 micron, where thermal emission from the deep atmosphere emerges relatively unimpeded by water absorption, but models dominated by water fit the observed spectrum poorly.

The INF Treaty and What Russia Really Means?

This month the long-standing resentment against the INF became public in a dramatic fashion. First, on February 7 Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (later promoted to first deputy prime minister on February 15) announced in the Duma that the INF was "a big mistake", that it "had a negative impact on our security" since it "eliminated a whole class of missiles." Ivanov added, "Having them would not hurt" (, February 7).


While the Kremlin rhetoric is today aimed at Washington and its possible strategic missile defense deployments, the true target is the INF. Moscow wants to deploy new missiles that cannot reach the United States, but are designed for neighbors. That was in essence the thrust of Putin's Munich speech, aimed at the West: Accept us as equals and give us at last our sphere of influence within the region. Keep out! Stop poking into our neighborhood -- or we may go ballistic.

Ok, now I know the Bush team has infiltrated the Kremlin.

CCSM Atmospheric Model Working Group Meeting Presentations

Again, for those that care about such things.

AAAS Lectures

The big boss man, the director of LBNL, Steven Chu PhD (multi) is one of the lecturers. His was about what to do about the energy issue.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Polish PM's Reaction to Russia about BMD

"To make it clear — this is not about Russian security; these installations do not in any way threaten Russia," Kaczynski said on state Radio 1. "It's about the status of Poland, and Russian hopes that the zone, in other words Poland, will once again find itself ... in the Russian sphere of influence."

"From the moment the missile bases are installed here, the chances of that happening, for at least decades to come, very much declines," he said.

More positive influencing of people and winning of friends by the Russians.

IMNSHO, the Russians, if they really wanted to influence and 'control' European Policy would be to join the EU. However, that bridge has been burned very effectively.

Triassic Critters

While reading Dawn of the Dinosaurs, I stumbled across some interesting critters that the author took pains to cover. One of them was the so-called monkey-lizards, the Drepanosaurs. It's not every day that you get to see something that looks like a bizarro world cross between a chameleon, anteater, and a vague attempt at a vertebrate scorpion. I wonder if anyone has examined the drepanosaurs for grooves in their tail claw? The Hairy Museum of Natural History has a bunch about them in the link above.

However, wrt to Ward et al's low oxygen hypotheses, it occurred to me that one of the ways that you can test this is by the size of the terrestrial invertebrates. Arthopods have a less efficient oxygen extraction system than do the vertebrates. If the oxygen content dropped, the size of insects ought to fall. To some extent this has been observed. However, in DotD, the author laments that there isn't much work being done on invertebrates during the Triassic. One notable exception was the work by Gorochov in Kyrgyzstan. He found the titanoptera.

What are they? They're an order of insects that was restricted to the Triassic. They are interesting in many ways. As you all know, I am not much of an enthusiast for invertebrate paleontology. Show me some good ole bones, dagnabbit. However, what's so impressive about the titanopterans was that there was a member called Gigatitan vulgaris...with a 12 inch (30 cm) wingspan! If the reconstruction in the book is at all accurate - and I cannot say since I cannot find a single image online - then it looks like its length was somewhere around 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm). it appears to be built much like a cicada and the arms of a praying mantis. Mass wise, it's pretty nontrivial. It looks to be as large or larger than our current bug-type friends. However, I am not a invertebrate paleontologist. The correct mass/volume work ought to be be done by one of them instead of me eyeballing a rendition.

However, it ought to be noted that the largest bugs today are not much bigger if at all: here and here. Note: moths and butterflies are built lighter than the rendition of G vulgaris. Assuming that G vulgaris is an active flier, then either it had a better O2 intake system or something is amiss.

Czechs to Russia about US ABM site: frak off

The Czech Republic said on Tuesday it would not be intimidated by Russia over plans to site parts of a U.S. missile defense system on its territory and said attempts at "blackmail" by Moscow would backfire.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said threats by Russian officials over the plans, which would involve placing a radar system on Czech land and a missile battery in Poland, would only make Czechs more determined to defend themselves.

"The Czechs will now think the shield is even more necessary," Schwarzenberg told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference in Warsaw.

"We have quite an experience with Russians. You have to make clear to them you won't succumb to blackmail. Once you give in to blackmail, there's no going back. We have to be strong."

Russia's strategic forces commander, General Nikolai Solovtsov, said on Monday that Russia would be capable of firing missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland if the ex-communist states agreed to host the U.S. defense system.

Wow. That's how to win friends and influence people, alright! Are we sure that the Bush administration hasn't been infiltrating Putin's cabinet? Or are they going by the Don Rumsfeld greatest hits play book?

Robot Mule

Boston Dynamics has one very impressive - if frakin loud - robot there. The whole field has made some tremendous strides in the last decade wrt to mobility.

The Putin Successor Dance

Many commentators speculate that Sergei Ivanov is probably quite relieved to escape from the Defense Ministry, even if the new high-profile job gives him a staff of only a dozen aides and secretaries and shrinks his capacity to generate news (Vedomosti, February 16). The problem with his old job was not merely the negative publicity related to the rotten military culture where hazing (dedovshchina) has acquired such extreme forms as forcing young recruits into male prostitution (, February 12). More difficult to explain away are the meager results of implementing the ambitious program of modernization and rearmament that Ivanov presented to the State Duma earlier this month (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, February 9). Military expenditures during Ivanov’s six years increased more than three times, but instead of a bigger bang for this buck, the military-industrial complex emanates only pathetic squeaks. The recent tests of the much-advertised Bulava strategic missile were unsuccessful, the long promised tactical missile Iskander and surface-to-air missile complex C-400 are not ready for deployment, and the annual delivery of new weapon systems amounts to only a few dozen items (Globalrus, February 8).

This fictitious military might be able to serve some PR purposes but would certainly never support a new round of the Cold War. The commentators who interpreted Putin’s assertive speech in Munich as a turn towards real confrontation definitely got it wrong, since his “multipolar” vision amounts to nothing more than a plea to refrain from interfering in palace intrigues. His chekisty prefer to discard the rejected contenders as too soft against “hostile encirclement,” and he is eager to oblige.

Ivanov as the RF President would not be a good development for the West. Based on his performance as defense minister, I would say it would be great development for the envisioned future of Russia-as-China's-Sockpuppet though.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Scientists Dubious of Quantum Claims

...Independent quantum computing researchers said they are dubious of some of the claims made by D-Wave Systems Inc. because the privately held Canadian company has not yet submitted its findings for peer review, a standard step for gaining acceptance in scientific circles.

Many scientists believe that true quantum computing - which is based on the unusual properties of quantum physics - promises to solve certain factoring, simulation and other intensive problems faster than today's machines that rely on classical physics. Most say it's likely still years or decades away.

"Until we see more actual measurements, it's hard to know whether they succeeded or not," said Phil Kuekes, a computer architect in the Quantum Science Research Group at Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP Labs.

Maybe they were premature. We'll see. ;)

A Scene from Ward's Book


Let's begin by looking back to the middle part of the Triassic period. In this middle-late Triassic world, 215 million years ago, on land at least we seem to arriaved among a veritable smorgasbord of animal body plans. Many quite different kinds of vertebrats inhabit this world. Dog-like creatures walk beneath the conifer- and tree-fern dominated vegetation. They are cyonodonts, carnivorous vrieties, but there are massive herbivores belonging to the same group as well. They are all very mammalian in appearance and behavior, except in one aspect. They move little and seem to tire easily. The carnivores mostly lay in wait, and the herbivores browse stolidly. The cynodonts are not the only mammal-like reptiles here, for rhino-sized dicynodonts also browse the low brushy vegetation. Their odd, name-giving tusks extending from a parrot-like beaked mouth make them look like nothing if our world, and seeing them harkens memories of the late Permian world prior to the great Permian mass extinction. All are panting heavily and give the impression of animals having just engaged in strenuous exercise. But most have been motionless; yet they pant for a good reason. The level of atmospheric oxygen at this time is equivalent to being higher than 10,000 feet in our world. Except that here we are not atop any mountain: the low swamps and nearby arm of the sea attest to our being at sea level.

Out of Thin Air, Ward, P. pgs 161-162.

Okay, so, first off, a retraction. I stated that it was 5k feet and panting. I misremembered.

Secondly, I don't have the time to transcribe the whole scene. I am a reasonablly quick typist, but I have accuracy issues and I do have a job too.

Damnit. I don't have time to write more. Alas.

Another Ward Contrarian Bit

It's often said that the dinsosaurs were in decline during that last part of the Cretaceous. Yet, a nifty little grap from Ward's book (pg 193) seems to be very contrary to what I've been hearing previous. The dinosaurs were actually diversifying at the end of the Cretaceous instead of declining. IIRC, the statements that the dinosaurs were declining were based on the Hell's Creek formation. Might it not be possible that people were extrapolating from a single place for the whole of the world and it wasn't true? It would be interesting if we could get Darren Naish's or ole Dr Vector's attention turned to that quandry.

Cray Wins Contract

Global supercomputer leader Cray Inc. (NASDAQ: CRAY) today announced that Cray UK Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cray, has signed contracts with UoE HPCX Ltd. and the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to provide a massively parallel processing (MPP) hybrid supercomputer that will become one of the most powerful computing systems in the world. The multi-year contract, valued at approximately $85 million, includes hardware, maintenance and associated professional services.


The Cray supercomputer will be the first hybrid computer that is based on mature, proven technology. It will consist of Cray's XT4(TM) AMD Opteron(TM)-based MPP system enhanced with a tightly integrated next-generation Cray vector system code-named "BlackWidow." The design leverages Cray's Adaptive Supercomputing vision, which incorporates proven supercomputing processor technologies into a single hybrid system. The contract also includes a next-generation Cray MPP system, code-named "Baker," to be installed in 2009 that will further boost sustained application performance.

So Cray has sold their first nextgen vector system. To be sure, it's attached to a an XT4 basically. If you squint, it looks like an inverted T3D. This is a step to Cray's HPCS system.

Frog in Amber!

A miner in Chiapas discovered a tiny tree frog that has been preserved in amber for 25 million years, a researcher said.

If authenticated, the preserved frog would be the first of its kind found in Mexico, according to David Grimaldi, a biologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History who was not involved in the find.

The chunk of amber containing the almost 0.4-inch frog was uncovered by a miner in Mexico's southern Chiapas state in 2005 and was bought by a private collector, who lent it to scientists for study.

Only a few other preserved frogs have been found in chunks of amber -- a stone formed by ancient tree sap -- mostly in the Dominican Republic. Like those, the frog found in Chiapas appears to be of the genus Craugastor, whose descendants still inhabit the region, said biologist Gerardo Carbot of the Chiapas Natural History and Ecology Institute, who announced the discovery this week.

Carbot figures the frog lived 25 million years ago, based on the geological strata where the amber was found.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pow! Prehistoric Peppers!

New fossil evidence shows prehistoric people from southern Peru up to the Bahamas were cultivating varieties of chilies millennia before Columbus' arrival brought the spice to world cuisine.

The earliest traces so far are from southwestern Ecuador, where families fired up meals with homegrown peppers about 6,100 years ago.

The discovery, reported Friday in the journal Science, suggests early New World agriculture was more sophisticated than once thought.


How do you trace a pepper, which leaves no husk or other easily fossilized evidence? A dozen researchers at seven sites around Latin America kept finding microscopic starch grains on grindstones and cooking vessels and in trash heaps. Finally Perry identified these microfossils as residue from domesticated, not wild, chili species that in some spots even predated the invention of pottery.

If this is evidence of ancient New World agriculture (is it really?) then what happened?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dr Pillinger wrong again?

A while ago I wrote about a site where the Beagle 2 team thinks their spacecraft crashed. It was a tiny, dark spot (about 20 meters in diameter) visible in Mars Global Surveyor MOC images on the flank of a large crater (a little under 2 kilometers in diameter). The MOC team had already dismissed the spot as a possible Beagle 2 crash site, having determined that it was a small, eroded impact crater, but the Beagle 2 team published an analysis indicating what they thought were parts of their spacecraft, including its deployed airbags.

Well, HiRISE has now taken a look at the site, and it doesn't look like Beagle 2 is in there. Here is a montage of the two MOC images of the site with the new HiRISE picture. The one on the left is the initial image that was thought to be a splotch caused by the Beagle 2 crash; the center one is the one interpreted by the MOC team to prove that the spot was not a crash site, but was instead a small, eroded impact crater; and the one on the right is the HiRISE image, which indeed shows a small, eroded impact crater with no obvious sign of spacecraft hardware.

Outright stolen from The Planetary Society Weblog.


First Commericially Available Quantum Computer

The world’s first commercially viable quantum computer was unveiled and demonstrated today in Silicon Valley by D-Wave Systems, Inc., a privately-held Canadian firm headquartered near Vancouver.


Quantum-computer technology can solve what is known as “NP-complete” problems. These are the problems where the sheer volume of complex data and variables prevent digital computers from achieving results in a reasonable amount of time. Such problems are associated with life sciences, biometrics, logistics, parametric database search and quantitative finance, among many other commercial and scientific areas.

Keep in mind this is effectively a problem specific machine. These are often shrunk down to be coprocessors on most machines. On the other hand, they can be made into massive HPC platforms too for a specific application. Japan often builds gobsmacking machines to that end. If you are concerned about your encryption keys, well, if you can build a task specific quantum computer these days...heh heh heh.

As for a generic use quantum computer, its not there yet. It might be soon. Very soon. A friend of mine has a genius of a wife. Her comments about quantum computers 6 years ago made it apparent that it was coming sooner than people thought, but further away than you would think. Now it's apparent why. Task specific QCs might just be here, but the generic QCs as CPUs are not.

BSG Definitely Renewed



Plans include rearming approximately 200 formations and units from the general-purpose forces, including 45 tank battalions, with half receiving new types of tanks; more than 170 other battalions will be modernized with new IFVs and APCs; five air defense brigades will get the Iskander-M system; others will receive the S-400 system and the Pantsir-S missile/gun system. Modern communications equipment will also be supplied to more units, consequently “The number of constant-readiness formations and units will increase to 600 as a result,” Zavarzin said.

Are we finally seeing the petrorubles going into the military? Or is it more self-maskirovka?

HPC blog

Bill McColl has an interesting HPC blog. I'm reading it now and we'll see how far off my opinions and his are.

Your Attention Please

Those of you that read this blog are a mixed bag of a group. Some of you are one time readers. Some of you are old friends. Some of you are Deep Time living fossils of my past. Others of you are online acquaitences. I'd like to direct all of you to take a moment to puruse the usenet groups of alt.history.future, soc.history.what-if, and They are about discussions of the future, what-if scenarios of the historical past, and the science of science fiction scenarios. There are truly some incredibly friendly and knowledgable people there.

The problem is that they are in decline as people that used to post are getting busy with the rest of life (guilty!) or at the other end, there has been a massive decline of new blood. Usenet in general is in decline as a medium. The 'replacement' has been the blogosphere. However the blogs are a soapbox medium - the bullypulpit - instead of a good discussion forum, the Friday Night Fight, so to speak for you LCens.

So, go ahead, read a bit and post something. Make it interesting and don't pick something inane: what-if the Germans won WW2 or could the deathstar beat the enterrpise, or will America become an islamic state. Put a little thought into it and you will get some very good and informed replies.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


We were up late helping my wife to study for her biology test for today. Cells and biochem. Then my daughter had gas that she couldn't get out that woke her up at midnight for a couple hours. She cried and cried and there wasn't much we could do then. She finally let go and fell to sleep. Lyuda and I got up at 5 this morning to continue her studying and get them ready. They went out the door at 7.

Right now, Lyuda ought to be taking her test. Avrora ought to be taking a nap. Me? I'm exhausted, but trying to parse and craft GPFS 3.1 pool policy rules.

Better blogging tomorrow, I am sure.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chimps used stone tools 4300 years ago

Chimpanzees may have been using stone "hammers" as long as 4,300 years ago. An international research team, led by archaeologist Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary, Canada, said Monday it had uncovered the hammers, dated to that time, in the West African country Ivory Coast. It would be the earliest known use of tools by chimpanzees.

Man the tool maker...oops wait...;)

A bit more seriously, this is definitely disputed.

BSG Back for Season Four?

Looks like its getting a renewal. The comment about 13 episodes is a little worrisome though.

I keep hoping for a 24 episode season and a big enough budget to back it up.

They do need to tighten up the writing for this season though.

Putin: USA causing arms race

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday blamed U.S. policy for inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an "almost uncontained use of military force" — a stinging attack that underscored growing tensions between Washington and Moscow.

"Unilateral, illegitimate actions have not solved a single problem, they have become a hotbed of further conflicts," Putin said at a security forum attracting senior officials from around the world.

"One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."

The Bush administration said it was "surprised and disappointed" by Putin's remarks. "His accusations are wrong," said Gordon Johndroe, Bush's national security spokesman.

In what the Russian leader's spokesman acknowledged was his harshest criticism of the United States, Putin attacked Bush's administration for stoking a new arms race by planning to deploy a missile defense system in eastern Europe and for backing a U.N. plan that would grant virtual independence to Serbia's breakaway province of

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was also attending the conference, described Putin's remarks as "the most aggressive speech from a Russian leader since the end of the Cold War."

Watch as the relationship between Bush and Putin implodes...or Putin demonstrates what Judo is politically to Shrubbish.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I wanted to get the next Ward post out today. Not going to happen until next week it looks like. sorry folks.

¡Sí! Mexico! Yes! Part One

I rattled at least one person with my first post highlighting my desire for expansionism. I've never been called a neocon or neocon-like in my whole life, but I found it more amusing than anything. Back in SoNM I'd been called a bleeding heart liberal in LC. Those of you that knew me in Los Alamos would find that...amusing too. I am, frankly, neither. I prefer to look at things one issue at a time and think it through. I've found that most issues are not reducible into sound bites. Most things worth your time in politics need to be examined and pondered. I am going to try to make arguments here in favour of annexing Mexico - or rather have Mexico join the Union. The issues are large, and complex. I believe it is worth your time to put aside your immediate reactions and consider the possibility and implications of adding 30+ Mexican states and to the Union.

There is a very good reason to unite the countries. The people of Mexico are coming here anyways. No matter what we do, there has been and will be a flood of immigrants from our southern neighbor. Many sources put the number of illegal immgrants coming across the Mexican border in the one million per year. The flood is quite high, but the thing is there are already a large number of people here already taht are illegal. That number varies depending on who is doing the telling and what their agenda is. Some put it as high as 20 million. The most realistic number I have come across seems to be in the 14 million range (+/-).

A recent, as in August 2005, Pew Hispanic Center survey conducted in Mexico found that 46% of adults in Mexico would move to the US if they had the chance. 21% would be willing to move here even if they were forced to come and live here illegally. This is almost 33 million people and 15 million people respectively, assuming an adult population of 70 million at the time of the survey. If this were to hold true for the whole population of 107 million people of today that would be almost 50 million and 22.5 million people respectively. Clearly this is a problem that must be address one way or another.

The mainstream thought process has been to beef up the border and hunt the illegal immigrants internal to the US. The government has been passing laws to add national guardmen to the border, increase the number of border patrol agents, build a wall along the border with Mexico, etc. On the other hand, there have been increased sweeps internal to the US for illegals. The Democrats have been talking about prosecuting the companies that hire illegals (yeah!).

However, the fact of the matter is even with all this, you can still go down to the Home Depots and get illegal workers and the temptation is very great with the fact that the union paid construction guys are around $40 - $50/hour here in California (according to the Ghiloti guy I just talked to a few weeks ago wrt to the house quest). Additionally, that the amount of people crossing into the country - that million person figure - happens to be those that the border patrol is not catching. They're catching a lot to be sure, but even with their efforts, the number of people coming across that vast border is immense. As for the wall? There have been 40 tunnels already found under the US borders. Most of them have been down along the Mexican border. Unless you're going to sink that wall down with a foundation 100+ ft underground, and get the associated cost, those tunnels are going to sprout up like mushrooms. Finally, let's start talking about the cost of that wall: it's been estimated at $7.5 billion to run the whole length of the border. Ever known a US construction government project to come in underbudget these days? How long would it take? Based on my own experiences, I could oh-so-easily see it mushroom to being ten times that in cost. $75 billion. For a wall that won't even stop those illegals.

The other approach, to boost the economy of Mexico until the inequality in econimes is decreased enough to greatly reduce the influx of immigrants, hasn't been working terribly well either. One of the ideas behind NAFTA was that Mexico's economy would be greatly boosted. It has been. It has been greatly enhanced by the free trade agreement. The immigration has simply grown despite the economic growth that Mexico has been experiencing. The disparity between the US and Mexico is simply too great and the people are simply jumping ship. The number of jobs that the US has to offer vs Mexico is too great. Even the 'unskilled' jobs.

There's been talk of a 'Marshall Plan' for Mexico. The idea is that we loan money to Mexico, at little or no interest and then probably not collect on that loan. The problem is that we wouldn't get that much out of it other than, perhaps, good will and, maybe, an improved Mexican economy: check out the criticism at the bottom of the wikipedia article, btw. It's probably a politically nonstarter here in the States. Pour tens of billions of dollars, possibly per year, into Mexico just so they won't come here? hm.

So where does that leave us? The 'traditonal' and alternate methods are not working. There is one last way, short of annexation, to 'fix' the problem: to simply open the border. Vincente Fox wanted this. I am unsure about Calderon, but, to be sure, I doubt his position would have changed that much. It would allow for that surplus labor to just go away. Yet, all it does is give us workers, hard workers, but still with an unsecured border. A border where if things went south economically because of the election of, say, a Chavezista, we'd be pretty screwed still.

That leaves annexation. We get the people that are hard workers. We get the land. We get a border that is much easier to secure: the border with Guatemala and Belize is far, far smaller than the one between the US and Mexico. And then we could go through and put through the reforms and pour that same money that would have gone through with a 'Marshal Plan'. The Mexicans get the rights of American citizens. They would have the right to move anywhere in the States they wished. They have the monetary power and stability of the US economy working to expand and enhance their terrtitories (with the treaty stated an exact date for the end of transition to when they'd become states). When their states transitioned from territories to full states, they'd wield a very large influence in Congress: 60+ Senators alone. There are more reasons, political, economic, demographic, and security related, but they'll be saved for another post.

More of the benefits need to be expounded on, to be sure, but time is not on my side today. I do believe that since the alternatives have been failing, the fact that Americans are going to unwilling to bail out Mexico monetarily, and throwing open the border would not help that much at all, that annexation ought to be seriously and deeply considered. The benefits are there for both sides, not just the Americans; not just the Mexicans. This would strengthen us both. Since I am proposing it, let me demonstrate over the next posts in this theme what these are.

"Global Cooling" Wiped Out NorAm Reptiles, Amphibians

Today the world faces global warming, but 34 million years ago a distinctly chillier menace was sweeping our planet.

Average temperatures around the world plunged nearly 15 degrees Fahrenheit (8.2 degrees Celsius) during a span of hundreds of thousands of years, according to a new study.

The cooling was so severe that it likely led to the extinction of many of North America's reptiles and amphibians.

The cause of the temperature shift was a change in the level of greenhouse gases—specifically carbon dioxide—the study shows.

Researchers believe an increase in carbon dioxide is mainly responsible for the global warming occurring today. (Get the facts about global warming.)

Thirty-four million years ago, "we probably had a change in the opposite direction—that is, a drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide that could have caused the global cooling," said Alessandro Zanazzi, a doctoral candidate in geological sciences at the University of South Carolina.

His team's findings are reported in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.



I mean for the cooling/CO2 drop in the first place.

Does a Bear Growl in the Woods?

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov issued a strong warning Friday that granting independence to Kosovo could spark a "chain reaction" among other breakaway regions in Europe and the former Soviet Union.


"If we imagine a situation where Kosovo achieves independence, then other people, people living in regions that are not recognized, will ask us: "are we not as good as them?" Ivanov told reporters.

"This concerns obviously the post-Soviet space, but also regions in Europe," he said. "This can create a chain reaction ... we must be careful not to open Pandora's box."


Moscow has often warned that Kosovo's status will serve as precedent for other nations with similar cases, including several breakaway provinces in the ex-Soviet Union. The Kremlin has hinted that, were Kosovo to gain independence, two pro-Russian rebel regions in Georgia and a breakaway province in Moldova, which enjoy Moscow's tacit support, could follow suit.

Warning reiterated. Does it have teeth?

Redemption Ark & Other Books

I finsihed Alastair Reynold's sequel to Revelation Space. It's a better book and you can tell that he's had some salting since RS. However, there's still a bit of something not quite right. The characters fekt 'better', but something abotu the story telling didn't gel for me. I'm going to sit down and read that Clarke I picked up to be able to contrast. Then I'll go pick up Absolution Gap after reading Accelerando to see if I can place my finger on the differences. It'll hold for a bit though.

I had started Horns and Beaks, but put it aside for the moment. I have realized that I am still intersted in dinosaurs and such, but more interesting in the paleoecology and paleoclimatology of said critters and their time. I think it's because the world reconstruction aspect is close to world building in some senses. It gives me that moment of 'oh-wow' that studying the slight twists in bone and differences in temporal fenstra, frankly, does not. It's probably a good thing that I gave up on being a paleo-type at age 14. I don't find that sort of minutae that interesting. I'll return to Horns and BEaks, and even pick up the rest in the series, but I'll keep this in mind for future purchases.

I'm continuing to read the book on foundations. I'm finally past the basic stuff and into the 'how do we design this' bit. That's helping the interest level some.

I also started reading Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I'm only a chapter in, but this is already going to be interesting. Fraser has come out and stated - already - that a lot of preconceptions about the Triassic climate are, well, wrong. It has a plausible mechanism for the speciation and experimentation that took place in the Triassic that runs rather contrary to his thesis. I'll reserve judgement until I'm done, but this could be very, very interesting.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Schmeissneria: A missing link to angiosperms?

Authors: Xin Wang , Shuying Duan , Baoyin Geng , Jinzhong Cui and Yong Yang


The origin of angiosperms has been under debate since the time of Darwin. While there has been much speculation in past decades about pre-Cretaceous angiosperms, including Archaefructus, these reports are controversial. The earliest reliable fossil record of angiosperms remains restricted to the Cretaceous, even though recent molecular phylogenetic studies suggest an origin for angiosperms much earlier than the current fossil record.


In this paper, after careful SEM and light microscopic work, we report fossils with angiospermous traits of the Jurassic age. The fossils were collected from the Haifanggou Formation (middle Jurassic) in western Liaoning, northeast China. They include two female structures and an associated leaf on the same slab. One of the female structures is physically connected to the apex of a short shoot. The female organs are borne in pairs on short peduncles that are arranged along the axis of the female structure. Each of the female organs has a central unit that is surrounded by an envelope with characteristic longitudinal ribs. Each central unit has two locules completely separated by a vertical septum. The apex of the central unit is completely closed. The general morphology places these fossils into the scope of Schmeissneria, an early Jurassic genus that was previously attributed to Ginkgoales.


Because the closed carpel is a character only found in angiosperms, the closed apex of the central unit suggests the presence of angiospermy in Schmeissneria. This angiospermous trait implies either a Jurassic angiosperm or a new seed plant group parallel to angiosperms and other known seed plants. As an angiosperm, the Liassic age (earliest Jurassic) of Schmeissneria microstachys would suggest an origin of angiosperms during the Triassic. Although still uncertain, this could have a great impact on our perspective of the history, diversity and systematics of seed plants and angiosperms.

Paleoclimate Postdoc Position Open

Via CCSM-Paleoclimate mailing list:

As some of you know IMAU (Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht, Netherlands) is using the CCSM3 model for paleoclimate runs one of the major efforts at present are Cretaceous runs performed by Jake Sewall. He is returning to the States in July to start with a faculty position. This means that we have from then on a vacancy for a Post-Doc for 2.5 years. Most technical issues are overcome now so focus will be more on the interpretation of results and comparison with geological observations. If you know anybody who could be interested we would as you might guess be very pleased to hear that.....

If you know of anyone looking for a job in sim'ing paleoclimates that's a doctorate. Wish I knew of something for Darren Naish. :S

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Computer Quest

I am starting to get back in the swing of reading about computer parts. That's rather odd for me to say, right? You work in computers all day long. Well, yeah, but it's not like what you think. The components that I work with are sometimes built upon the basic commodity parts that you all are familiar with. Processors, memory, etc. The thing is that the parts that we pick and chose have a different criteria set that what you do for home systems. Unless you are gobsmacking anal retentive you're not going to be thinking about bisection bandwidth, CPU starvation, or if the number of spindles you have is enough to sustain that bandwidth of that controller you bought, etc. While we use Opterons, frex, in our new Cray, the boards they reside in have little to do with an Asus or Supermicro. To make matters worse, about three, four years ago, I moved from regular system admin to file system work. It's rather different.

I do have some specifications in mind for getting this done. I would prefer to spend a tad bit more now and have it fit my needs for a while rather than in two years have to repalce it. That house and family thing.

I have always had a nontrivial preference for the disks attached: my old system had SCSI drives and it made installs very quick. While working in the storage arena, I've become even more biased. Experiences that we have here are pretty dramatic at times and not exactly applicable, but they do creator biases (not a fan of SATA, frex, losing 'idle' data bad, very bad). I had been waiting for SAS to come out - or so I told myself when I was considering it before - and now its put me in a little bit of a jam: it's available on eATX motherboards, but not on regular ATX. The controller cards are either PCI-X and PCIe. The former are expensive, but tolerable if put on a relatively inexpensive, but quality motehrboard. That latter, however, is just too damned much! Well, if anyone knows of a straight ATX board that has SAS on it, lemme know.

On the other hand, I've been considering just going small and saving a little bit of space. There are plenty of very small systems out tehre I can build out. I'm not much of a game player these days (ha! to put it mildly), but I've never dabbled in the bitty PC thing. The appeal of saving space now and then building a monster box later is there too.


I guess I'll just have to see.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

House Quest Takes a Hit

As some of you know, I've been bent on building a house for some time. I've been consulting with architecture, fraternizing with contractors, and consorting with the worst of the lot, real estate agents. We were making progress, even finding lots and working on closing the deals. I've been to the planning and building departments in the area we're going to build. I have a list of quotes and prices an arm's length long with sloppage added. It's been a longer process than we thought, but well worth it.

I've been doing the architectual drawings and was planning to hand them over to the engineer and architect for their stamps of approval...or spankings for mistakes. I had been doing that in Autocad: even after it being a serious fscking pain in the rumpus maximus to get installed because autodesk didn't believe that I'd bought the damned thing. Anyways, I posted a sample drawing of what I've been doing. I'd gotten the site plan by and large done. I've done the exterior elevations and floors plans. I was mostly done with the foundation plan. The next step would have been to do the plumbing, septic[1], and electrical plans. It was going slower than planned, but I have a nearly two year old and a wife that's ESL and crash coursing her way through academic english by taking the classes.

Except I can't continue for the moment at least. My computer is dying. It's one damned thing afetr another. The fscking machine is announcing EOL and calling me a frakker for making it work for so long and hard[2].

Fortunately, I moved off the drawings to the 300 GB USB drive I have set up there (which is rather newer than most of the rest of the machine). However, I'm going to have replace my tower now which sucks. it's an expense that I'd hoped wouldn't come until after the house was done. I could use Lyuda's laptop, but she's actively using it for her classes and I often work on the drawings when she's doing her homework (and Avrora's asleep), so that's out. It just means I need to replace the heeper. I've been pricing, but damnit...

Well, no plan survives contact with life.

1. Yes, in California, mere miles from San Francisco\, one of the "Great Cities of the United States", Marin County has large swathes of it that doesn't have a proper sewer system. It's quite possibly one of the reasons why the east Marin watersheds now lack salmon runs like they used to a mere 15 years ago. All the old septic systems are leaking and the home owners are scared of getting them officially inspected and fixed lest they be fined. While Marin has special rules about how close you can build to a creek now they didn't when most of the houses went into place. Their septic systems are just too damned close. It's not the only reason, I'm sure, but definitely a contributor. The Greenies are doing environmental damage. *gasp*shock*horror*

2. Also the reason I've not been putting up pictures lately.

Only Superbowl Ad worth watching

My wife and I thought this was the only one really worth watching. The ones about the office personnel,, I think, were amusing, but this one made us lose it. too bad it was the only one that did.

Missed Something

Our office, lower left corner of the intersection, is in downtown Oakland because the Lab on the Hill doesn't have room for the machines we give such a beating, ahem, give tender loving care to. They're working to rectify this issue and move us back to the Hill. I used to have an office both in Berkeley and in Oakland. I actually prefered the one in Berkeley because of teh academic atmosphere and the fact I actually had an fscking window; one that I could open. However, a couple years ago, they found the building I had teh fofice in was completely and utterly not earthquake safe and waiting for a Nicollian event. They shuffled all of us and down to Oakland and shoehorned us in. I got my current cave. I shouldn't complain: at least its an office with a door instead of a cube.

*horrible flashbacks*

While I was tending for my daughter yesterday, it seems that I missed some excitement. Obviously, with the ickiness that's ran amok in her system kept us at home rather than one of ubercute appearances at the office. it's just as well. Right across the street from us is a bank. A bank that got robbed yesterday at lunch time. The bag guy - with the dinero - ran straight across the street and had the paint go off on him in our drive way. He dumped the money, hopped the fence to our parking lot in back, and hopped the backwall out again. There were apparently three twerps involved. They were all caught. The only evidence of the stupidity is a paint mark on the ground and our guard as a picture in his log book with an incident write-up.

I miss all the excitement I am not causing. tsk.

Monday, February 05, 2007


I'm at home today because my daughter has caught the nastiness that's floatin around. It's nothing terribe vomitting and diarhea, but something we have to watch and make sure it doesn''t spread. She's actually in good spirits mostly and even very active, but just that she occasionally has some ickiness that needs to, erm, erupt. I'm enjoying my time with her even if I am not able to help her more than prvoide love and fluids.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ocean Worlds

Imagine a world with no land at all, merely the impenetrable depths of a seething ocean. Models of planet formation predict the existence of such worlds, even though our own solar system has none. Indeed, their formation should actually be rather common — and new satellites may soon detect them around other stars.

So, Drake question now has another type of world to consider. Not only could hot jupiters disrupt their way across the habitable region, a large portion of the water baring worlds are ice apped like Europa, and a large portion of the planets that form, period, are gas giants, if this guy is right, then there is yet another kind of world that's not so friendly to spacefaring civilizations out there that negatively impacts the equation: waterworlds. They may even be common.

NEO Visit Paper Study

A near-Earth asteroid or comet could be an early target for human explorers under some blue-sky thinking under way at NASA's exploration shops on using a hybrid of planned U.S. launch vehicles for the mission.

The agency's Constellation Program at Johnson Space Center launched a study last fall on flying the Orion crew exploration vehicle to a rendezvous with a near-Earth object (NEO) for study and possibly even sample return. A separate effort at Marshall Space Flight Center is studying whether it would be possible to cobble together pieces of the planned Ares I and Ares V launchers for an early lunar-return re-entry test with an unpiloted Orion. Also on the table, strictly as a possibility at this point, is using that so-called Ares IV to send humans to a NEO.

Scott Horowitz, associate administrator for exploration systems, is quick to point out that there is "no funding or plans for a NEO flight program. We are studying many different potential missions. Systems we are building will be enabling for many years to come."

The idea I think is tres kewl. If the paper Orion is going to be capable of being used for more than just visiting the moon, by all means, let's use it that way. In fact, let's not just go to the moon. or to Mars. Let's explore this place we've inherited.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Democratic Congress is set to gut NASA.


Thursday, February 01, 2007


I wanted to get to one of the Permian Extinction, Ward's Explanation of Endothermy, or Mexican Annexation posts today. That didn't happen.