Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know about black holes

Is in a multi-media web presentation at Space Telescope Institute,
courtesy of Dr van der Marel

High bandwidth connection useful I expect

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

tales from Iraq

A link to back-to-iraq

because sometimes it is just important to link to things

Smackdown at Science

NASAwatch points to an interesting exchange at Science

Three months ago, D. Kennedy, editor of Science opined on l'affaire Deutsch at NASA PAO.

Dean Acosta from NASA PAO responds in friday's Letter section

Kennedy replies:

"Acosta offers not a single instance of misrepresentation, fabrication, inaccuracy, or shoddy journalism in my Editorial. Readers can check the New York Times article we both cited to see whether I misrepresented it. His letter is short on facts but rich in rhetoric, presumably to support his central point: that public affairs types need to collaborate with scientists because the latter can't write well."
Donald Kennedy


Monday, May 29, 2006


Sometimes we just put things on the web for posterity

Like Environmental Impact on Exoplanets

Exoenvironmentalism is indeed not on Google.

We must fix this.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I need a life...

I just saw the phrase "X2" on the internet, and immediately clicked through to see if there was anything new on orbit classification in barred spirals...

iPod iChing - B Monopole-ies

Friday, and it'll be lite blogging for the next week.
So iPod: Are there Magnetic Monopoles?

Whoosh goes the randomizer.

That is interesting.
As usual the iPod likes me.
I'm thinking "yes", but we're missing something - still learning.

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What's the Difference

What's the Difference

NASA Ames Learning Technologies has what looks like a fun toy for K-12 or "stars for poets" level classes.

In fact LT at Ames seems to have several fun things in their repertoire

World Wind update off planet

NASA World Wind has been updated

New version includes datasets for other solar system objects.

Mac version scheduled for Sep '06. Should be a significant improvement.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tangled Bank #54

Bora at Science & Politics is hosting Tangled Bank #54 - up now; read about PZ's four favourite things, "development, evolution and breasts..." - the article on the evolution of the mammary gland is very good.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Couple of distributed computing efforts to screen anti-viral drug candidates etc

pointers here

seen on Effect Measure comments

Avian 'flu status update

Effect Measure has latest on Indonesian 'flu cluster development

I guess we now know where the US sent the stock of anti-virals for contingencies earlier.

Summary: significant family cluster in Indonesia, strong circumstantial evidence for human-to-human transmission, including possibly a chain of 2-3 levels of infection (as opposed to all secondary infections from one primary), Very high mortality rate.

Some concern that the incidence in Indonesia in rural areas is quite a bit higher than reported; a lot of the known cases are apparently near urban areas with access to good medical faciltiies (duh).

One of these things that needs to be linked to for highr profile on the web. Worth keeping an eye on.

What would W do?

Well, the USS Enterprise is in the eastern Med and has not reached the Persian Gulf to rotate, or supplement, the USS Reagan.
So a May 27++ strike seems less likely (Norfolk papers reported the Gulf as the Enterprise's destination when she sailed in April).
There have been interesting naval movements, including a ammo ship setting sail in the Pacific a couple of weeks ago, fully loaded. Supposedly. Interesting timeline of recent events in Nuclear Mangos.

So, lets say we were in a pessimistic mood: what would be the most inept, undiplomatic thing to do now?
I got it, lets launch a pre-emptive war on someone during the World Cup. A true act of a Unifier.

If you really want to go for maximum mess, demonstrating or threatening Venezuela or Bolivia in June as well.

After all, it is also Hurricane season then, and the WHO is looking to go stage 4 on Avian 'flu, and bin Laden just sent out a tape.

BTW - I stick with my conjecture that bin Laden tape followed by Zarqawi tape shortly after is a "go signal" for some aQ cell; with possibility that a second bin Laden tape is a "wave-off" though I think that has only happened once or twice.

So many possibilities, and that is without worrying about US domestic issues. Such interesting times.

Imminence of the Eschaton: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For...

We know what you want

Mighty is the Google.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Love this

I know it when I hear it

Priavcy is an interesting problem in a technological age.

David Brin had an interesting take on it in Earth and other books, notably the non-fiction Transparent Society; and the all-pervasive surveillance society is a sub-plot in Vinge's Deepness in the Sky.

Coming from a small country, and living in a small town ("it has something of the village about it" as an old friend once said), I am acutely aware of both the lack of privacy and the need for privacy.
Iceland, btw, is near unique in publishing everyone's summary income tax record (I believe Norway also does this); this has interesting social effects. Mostly beneficial in aggregate, I think. When I suggested this once in the US, one of the objections I got was from someone who feared his ex-wife would discover his current, higher, income, and demand an alimony adjustment.
Fair enough, except of course it is in the ex's interest to know this information, and indirectly, since alimony is a matter of contract or legal ruling, it is in society's interest that it be fairly and justly paid as agreed.

So what.
Well. Consider the recent flap over the NSA phone recordings - and the arguments about whether just tracking the pattern of calls and holding the database of associated information is constitutional, legal or ethical.

Well, here is a functional algorigthm for making that decision: would you accept that information being made public?
Would it be ok with you if the NSA records of who YOU called, and when, and where from, and for how long, was made public, on the Web. Now. For everyone to scan if they so cared to.
You have nothing to hide, right? So nothing to fear.

Well, if it is not ok for the information to be public, then maybe it is not ok for the government to collect, analyse and hold it in secret. Unless of course you trust them, now and forever, no matter who is in office and what the circumstances are.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Iranian dress codes

Interesting wave of stories spreading out of Canada about an Iranian law on national dress

Here, for posterity, is some info on it from before the National Post story

National Post perspective from Amir Taheri

How clothes became politicized

Iran MPs turn to fashion

Dressed to Kill

Boycott Western Fashion

New dress code - Onset of hostility

Forced Arabization of Persia! - this is an interesting perspective

New dress requirement

Interesting how this story suddenly spun; and how the NP story was picked up so fast

Also, while there is an Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Orientation, at least as of a couple of weeks ago, he was not a Mostafa Pourharandi, but Hossein Saffar Harandi. Maybe they changed, or he is a sub-minister so obscure as to never before have been mentioned on the Web.


Bragg Fan Alert!

iPod iChing - Old Habitats

Spitzer and HD 69830

Yay, cool rainy friday and I have paperwork to do.
So iPod, mighty iPod: does HD69830c have a satellite with a mass greater than 0.1 Earth masses and an atmosphere?

Whoosh goes the randomizer. Whoosh...

#11 is Distant Shore - Billy Bragg, #12 is Dance Without Sleeping - Melissa Etheridge

Tricky. The iPod still loves the Questioner...
Lots of "still looking" and "death" in the answers, but with hope at the end, maybe quickly.
I'm figuring that what I asked for is not there, but something interesting is, and if we keep looking we will in fact also find habitable moons around jovians or ice giants in circular orbits in habitable zones.

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

She's Got A New Spell
What is that sound
Where is it coming from
All around
What are you running from
Something you don't understand
Something you cannot command

That's how I know
She's got a new spell
Yes, that's how I know
That she's got a new spell

What's going down
Who's moved this room from round me
Where has it gone
I fear this night will drown me
So I lie awake all night
'Cos I can't sleep with something I can't fight

The laws of gravity are very, very strict
And you're just bending them for your own benefit

One minute she says
She's gone to get the cat in
The next thing I know
She's mumbling in Latin
She cut the stars out of the sky
And baked them in a pie

She stole the scene and scenery
The script and the machinery

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Extrasolar Planets: step close to Earth

ESO PR images and animations

Very interesting Article in Nature today from Lovis et al. Nature 441 305-309 (18 May 2006) [subscription required]

They have three "hot Neptune's" in stable orbits around an interesting star, good old HD 69830 which was found to have a dust disk at ~> 1 AU sugestive of asteroid belt (Beichman et al 2005.
One immediate inference of the Spitzer observations was that this was a good target for planet searches, since where there are asteroids you'd hope to see planets. Sure enough...

Here is the ESO press release

Summary: It is a K0 subdwarf main-sequence star, (6th magnitude, 40 lightyears away) cooler and lower mass than the Sun (by a little bit).
They have detected three planets in nested low eccentricty orbits:

Mass Period Eccentricity
(in Earth masses /sini) in days

10 8.7 0.10 +/- 0.04
12 35.6 0.13 +/- 0.06
18 197 0.07 +/- 0.07

The most interesting thing is the low eccentricity.
The third planet is in the star's Habitable zone
Be interesting to know if it is an gas rich ice giant like Neptune, or rocky with thin atmosphere.
Paper discusses that a bit from a particular theoretical perspective.

Overall: way cool. Be doubly interesting if the third planet had a Triton mass moon, eh?

This would be a good TPF target, if TPF hadn't been killed.
My first impression is that the system is also a "theory killer" - we have close packed fairly massive inner planets in near circular orbits; around a lower mass slightly sub-solar metallicity (-0.08) star.

Ok, big question now is whether there is a Jovian in this planet at > 3 AU.
That would make life very, very interesting for theorists.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Most important thing while at University

is do not have a television

If you have must-watch-TV, then arrange to watch in some communal area or download it.
Just keep TVs out of your room/apartment.


NASA Science Progress

Finally some significant progress at NASA Science Mission Directorate.

They have issued a New Organization Chart

Sadly Science@NASA appears not to have got the memo yet about new division titles.

Anyone know which R. Howard is in charge of UniverseAstrophysics? Is it the same Howard who was on the LASCO instrument on SOHO over in Helio?

High School vs University

We were chatting the other day about student responses to going up a level - notably the transition from high school to university, and the transition from undergraduate to graduate study.

An interesting consensus emerged: a lot of high school students take some time, weeks, years, or never, to "get" the difference between university studies and high school. At least from our perspective, the high school curriculum is very structured, there is a fixed text that completely defines the content for the exams; the students study to the exams, not to learn the material, and the teaching rarely goes beyong the structured curriculum. In contrast, at university level, even for the introductory classes, the content is dynamic - the instructor may use a text, but it often provides a loose framework or guide to the content, or more bluntly, it is a crutch for students to lean on, or more rarely a broader reference going beyond the curriculum. Class content goes beyond the book, or contradict the book, and there is an implicit expectation that the students read beyond The Text and search out broader, deeper and contradictory sources, preferably at their own initiative.
The transition to graduate school is also often protracted, as students expect for weeks to months to see more of the same; but at grad school the text may not exist at all, and problems are open ended or incompletely defined. While as "warm up" grad students are often given "known problems", exercises with known solutions or well defined parameters, the essence of grad research is to transition to underconstrained problems with unknown answers; potentially non-existent answers.
This is curiously hard for a lot of people, although far more grad students "get it", and rapidly, then do undergrads.
A lot of undergrads get stuck for ever in "high school mode", where everything has preset authoritative answers, and The Text gives all answers.
This is a socially dangerous mode.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

changing sleep patterns

For most of my life I have been a strictly 8+ hours of sleep per night kinda person.
Notoriously so as a teenager, as so many others.
I could go for a few weeks on very little sleep, when working heavy overtime or doing serious "all nighter" pushes, but then I had to catch up on sleep.

But, for the last couple of years I have necessarily been making do with 5-6 hours of sleep, at best.
Right now, this seems to lead to me crashing for a day about once every 2-3 weeks, which seriously displeases the Big Kid.
My coffee consumption is also creeping up, which it does on a ~ 5 year cycle. In the past I've restarted the cycle by going cold turkey on coffee for 2 weeks, once I hit 6-7 cups per day (real cups...). Don't know that I can do that anymore.

So... is it possible to switch sleep patterns and transit my body clock and metabolism to a permanent 5-6 hour sleep pattern (permanent in this case probably means 5+ years), or not?
Anecdotally it would seem this is possible, but I need to do it without an external enforcer, and preferably while letting the rest of the family get their 8-14 hour sleep, as age appropriate.

Astrobiology 2.0

Keith Cowing has a very interesting article on astrobiology: history, current situation and future

"...You created astrobiology. Forces at NASA now seek to undermine all of that hard work. Fight back. Make astrobiology better than it was. If you do not take the initiative no one will do it for you. If you don't try you have no one to blame but yourself."

Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 15, 2006

WRP: Open Letter to Cohen

William Rivers Pitt writes an Open Letter to Richard Cohen

Some times I just link to things because they ought to be linked to.


Adam - Astro student Marshal

Commencement over the weekend, went to three of the ceremonies friday and saturday. With official duties on two of the three occasions. Good turnout overall. Involves an awful lot of standing around and waiting for short, carefully timed appearances.

Anyway, got four of mine out the door - three advisees (Adam -> IoA, Brian -> OSU, Ryan -> UVa, all Astro/Physics duals with honours) and one honours thesis advisee (Joe -> Ft Benning, Math Phys(minor) with honours in Astro).

Lt. Joe.
Thesis: The effects of quantization of charge and angular momentum on the endpoint of Hawking radiation
In case you're wondering what an airborne ranger needs to know about extremal quantum black holes, you'd be surprised... though I gather the army will make him ride on tracks for his next task.
Personnally I feel it is important for modern infantry officers to be well versed in holography and quantum information theory.

Friday, May 12, 2006

iPod iChing - commence free association

Friday, and commencement ceremonies start today.
I have three to attend: ROTC commissioning and Honours medals today, then I'm a "marshal" in the Science ceremony tomorrow.

So, we'll depart from normal practise and ask the iPod an open question, in celebration of our students' few moments of freedom.

Oh, mighty iPod, what may commence in our near future?

Whoosh goes the randomizer. Whoosh...

#11 is Fiskurinn Hennar Stínu - Haukar; #12 Like Soldiers Do - Billy Bragg

I leave you to free associate on the meaning of it all.

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Anarchy in the UK

Right! now! Ha ha ha ha ha

I am an antichrist
I am an anarchist
Don’t know what I want but
I know how to get it
I wanna destroy the passer by cos I

I wanna be anarchy!
No dogs body

Anarchy for the u.k it’s coming sometime and maybe
I give a wrong time stop a trafic line
Your future dream is a shopping scheme cos I

I wanna be anarchy!
In the city

How many ways to get what you want
I use the best I use the rest
I use the enemy I use anarchy cos I

I wanna be anarchy!
The only way to be!

Is this the m.p.l.a
Or is this the u.d.a
Or is this the i.r.a
I thought it was the u.k or just
Another country
Another council tenancy

I wanna be an anarchist
Oh what a name
Get pissed destroy!

All the President's Books

Google Trends

Google Trends - from A. Sullivan via WaPo (which is a very wrong way for me to find out about a new Google hack. Must Get Out More.

Trends: Iran+nuclear

Top Cities:

#1 Tehran
#2 Washington
#3 Reston

They Google public sources? WTF

On a lighter note:

Trends: pulsar

#1 Tijuana
#2 Bangalore
#3 Poznan

ok, I understand #2 and #3, but Tijuana?!?

Trends: astrophysics

#1 India
#2 Greece
#3 Ireland

Hm. Astronomy gives:

#1 South Africa
#2 India
#3 Ireland

This is fun.

NSA and social networks

The collection of phone records by the NSA is intriguing.

The old-style surveillance societies (like East Germany decades ago) faced an impossible task, in that true monitoring of people and interactions in real time takes about 3 people, minimum, per person surveilled. So at some critical, and fairly small percentage of surveillance targets, the system breaks down, there just aren't enough people to do it.

Now, AI proponents have long realised that algorithmic data mining and pattern analysis would destroy this limit - cf Vinge's "Deepness in the Sky" or any number of riffs by Charlie Stross.
One fear of "strong AI" is that for practical purposes a strong enough AI would be omniscient about human activities and patterns, and coupled with executive power, could manipulate or destroy "incorrect" human interaction activities.
Feeling reassured?

'Course if you have a half-assed algorithm and weak AI, then you get a lot of false leads and FBI agents running around after the piano teacher of bin Laden's chauffeur's second cousin's high school friend's daughter. (Of course the real targets are either ideologues exposed to radical islam who went native, like young emotionally underdeveloped employess of the CPA; or people who will do anything for money, like some of the contractors who did fraudulent work in Iraq - those are the kind of people who would let al Qaeda into the US)

BUT, some social patterns are small and well defined. Easily tackled by not-so strong AI.
Al Qaeda is not the main threat to US National Security! Corruption among military contractors is!
What could be worse than the limited tax payer dollars being wasted on ineffective or non-existent weapons systems!
What could be more harmful than US soldiers being supplied with inadequate food or defective tools?

It all makes sense now.
Bus, clearly, became righteously infuriated with GOP Congressional petty corruption, and used the permission he has to transfer info between intelligence agencies to explore the pattern of corruption between Congresscritters, Lobbyists and fake military contractors.
Hence the rash of indictments and roll-up of fraud networks by DoJ and FBI. Brilliant.
No wasting the nations intel resources on tracking journalist phone calls, or finding our which political opponent is cheating on her husband in DC.
The President is cleaning the House in the name of National Security. No wonder he didn't brief Congress...

Very Decisive. And the only explanation that makes sense. Isn't it?

Note to self: need to keep a sharper eye out for freudian contextual typos...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

silver lining

Ah, end of semester...

What I should be doing is reading, catching up on the literature and thinking deep thoughts.

What I will be doing is proposals, proposals, and peering at drafts that my diligent students and collaborators have put together with amazing synchrony.

The good news is that while I would normally be looking at doing six proposals this summer, so many Requests for Proposals have been cancelled that I can only do three, realistically.

Of course with normal odds, doing six gives you expected value of one awarded... with fewer opps, the odds against each are likely to be worse. Not such good news.

Bald Faced Blogging

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hover Wasp Workers of the World, Unite!

"Firstly, the fact that labour is external to the worker – i.e., does not belong to his essential being; that he, therefore, does not confirm himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind. Hence, the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself..."


Future fitness and helping in social queues, Field et al, Nature, 441, 214 11 May 2006

"An alternative explanation for this variation lies in a fundamental trade-off faced by helpers: by working harder, they increase the indirect component of their fitness, but simultaneously decrease their own future survival and fecundity. Here, we show that individuals work less hard when they stand to lose more future fitness through working. "

Neat result actually.
And, no, it doesn't translate directly into Halliburton subcontractors. Not directly.

Life in Science

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

local optimization

another beautiful sunny day

so, I was talking to a colleague, and he mentioned that he likes it warm and sunny, selfish as that may be

this is one of these locally optimal, globally catastrophic issues: on any given day it really is nicer for most people for it to be warm and sunny, but if it were warm and sunny every day, we'd all die.

At least around here, the ecology, farming and water systems are just not set up for prolonged absences of rain.

Rain is forecast for thursday. Hah.

AAS speaks - I yawn

AAS Statement on Proposed FY2007 NASA Budget - 3 May 2006

Too Little. Too Late.

The AAS let its membership down and has reacted slowly and feebly.
I understand the political issues involved and that people are afraid to lose what they already have, but this was an error and it was a calculated cynical error.

I am disgusted.

NAC reports

Planetary Society Blog has reports from the NASA Advisory Committee meetings

Depressing Day 2

"a 50% cut is devastating. A 30% cut, in a humane way, you don't need to renege on current commitments -- you miss a year. But if you cut 50% you have to renege."

Someone pointed out that indeed, most R&A grants run three years; a 30% cut means you have to skip a year but you don't take any already-awarded money away.

Curt Niebur: "But I should point out that with astrobiology it gets a lot more complex because in addition to the grants, you have the astrobiology institutes," long-term entities that are independent of the 3-year grant programs.

Jeff Moore: "What's the cost to cut just new people in astrobiology?" "

This is slightly inaccurate in detail. At a 30% cut you're cutting renewals and you break the pipeline if you cut all new grants.
At 50% you lose all new initiatives and renewals, and you take a 25% cut of existing grants.

So here's the problem: most grants support 1 person full time - a student or postdoc; and then marginal support for a supervisor, and "research expenses" (supplies, travel etc).
Most of the money is in the personnel - so that is where the cut goes. And people come in integer units. Unless there are two grants that can be glued together, you immediately lose people. Lots of people.

What is particularly ironic is that at the same time there is a new NASA mandate that in the EPO line, the priority is training new undergraduates and graduate students.
For what?
A career in research is never guaranteed, and the odds dictated that many will not get long term research positions, but what is the purpose in increasing and emphasising student training if all the positions they could occupy after graduation are cut?

Any way, too late now; the current round of grants are rescinded and cuts have been made for grants in progress, and that money can't come back in time for the financial year. Even if money is restored by Congress, it will still push everything out a year.

Monday, May 08, 2006

what was the fourth season again...?

So I'm in lovely middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania.
It is sunny and mild, all the time.
Housing prices have doubled since I moved here.
We had riots. (Happy riots, this is central Pa).
Flooding from unusual rains.
And now we have forest fires.

At this rate I might as well just live in California.

"It's a miracle"

I don't know how it happens. but somehow when thesis projects are vaguely proposed and kinda stumble along, all of a sudden a everything works out and no one knows how, and a good coherent thesis emerges just in time.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Goss's resignation is, probably due to something boring, like sex and money.
Although some of the speculation is a bit interesting (CIA got the photos and forced him out? or is he really smart enough to oppose a strike on Iran and the admin forced him out?).
Big questions is whether this leaves the CIA marginalised within the White House, and totally reliant on the DoD for intel.
(LJs take here)

But, what is up with Jack Straw being fired. That is somewhat worrying, and the grauniad is rampantly speculating...

One is curious, two is a coincidence. We await a three.

On a different note, the 8th Air Force has a new commander. Gen Chilton up and out, Gen Elder in. Things are really moving.
8th Air Force... command for the B-2s and 2 B-52 wings.


In the great tradition of random minor blogs, let me cryptically note that there will be a significant change to this wee li'l blog sometime in the not too distant future...

iPod iChing - Holography?

Friday, end of semester, and we ask a Big Question.
iPod, dood, is the universe holographic?
Whoosh goes the randomizer, whoosh...

  • The Covering: Alabama Song - The Doors

  • The Crossing: Peter and the Woolf: The Procession - Prokoviev

  • The Crown: Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

  • The Root: Krummi Svaf í Klettagjá - Þuríður

  • The Past: Apollo 5. - Stravinsky

  • The Future: We Do What We Can - Sheryl Crow

  • The Questioner: Invisible Touch - Genesis

  • The House: O Isis Und Osiris - Mozart

  • The Inside: Cold Day in July - Dixie Chicks

  • The Outcome: Pas D'Action - Nutcracker

#11 is The Coast - Paul Simon and #12 is Munich Air Disaster, 1958 - Morrissey.

Hm, the outcome and future suggest there is something to it, but the house is waiting for revelation.
I guess the questioner is a convert though...
The root is an traditional icelandic song about the hardship of a raven in mid-winter but he finds a dead sheep and survives...

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Invisible Touch

Well I’ve been waiting, waiting here so long
But thinking nothing, nothing could go wrong, ooh now I know
She has a built in ability
To take everything she sees
And now it seems I’m falling, falling for her.

She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
She reaches in, and grabs right hold of your heart
She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
It takes control and slowly tears you apart.

Well I don’t really know her, I only know her name
But she crawls under your skin, you’re never quite the same, and now i
She’s got something you just can’t trust
It’s something mysterious
And now it seems I’m falling, falling for her.

She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
She reaches in, and grabs right hold of your heart
She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
It takes control and slowly tears you apart.

She don’t like losing, to her it’s still a game
And though she will mess up your life,
You’ll want her just the same, and now I know
She has a built in ability
To take everything she sees
And now it seems I’ve fallen, fallen for her.

She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
She reaches in, and grabs right hold of your heart
She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
It takes control and slowly tears you apart.

She seems to have an invisible touch...

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I live in a nice little borough, taxes are relatively high, but they provide amenities in return.
People who live here most like it.
One of the lesser things they do, is when they pick up leaves and clippings (mostly in the autumn) the borough composts them, they are then returned to one of a handful of neighbourhood locations in the spring as gorgeous black humus, for people to pick up for their gardens.
The surrounding towns don't do this.
So, the people there drive in with f'ing pickups and take the humus when it is delivered, all of it. A single truck can take the whole days delivery (which is twice a week for a few weeks in spring). It is illegal, but poorly enforced, and they work quickly to avoid being busted. Some are landscapers who resell the load for ~ $100 or so.

I really hate people like that.
Just saying.

I was too slow this morning to get a wheelbarrow load, some bastards in a red pickup took it all...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Seasonal Reading

"Pollen" by Jeff Noon

Good writer.
I hate that book...

Earthquake in Tonga

Major earthquake in the Pacific, near Tonga.
Tsunami warnings for Fiji and New Zealand.

Prelimiinary magnitude estimate is 8.1 on the Richter scale.

Not nice.

UPDATE: USGS summary

Attack on Cole

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Little Curious Things: B-2 Bomber command changes

B-2 lands at Andersen AF Guam. Guam Pacific Daily News

Both the 509th bomb wing and 393rd bomber squadron, one of two operational B-2 bomber squadrons in the wing, as I understand it, got new commanders in the last few weeks.

Col Biscone and Lt Col Tibbets

There are some anomalies here: this should be a Brigadier General slot. Not Colonel,
Biscone is up for a star, but was bounced by the Senate in the 2005 session. Not clear if it was routine stalling or with cause.

The Biscone story referes to Brig Gen Miller moving to Afghanistan, but then claims he's being promoted from 3 to 4 stars.
Which is impossible, maybe they meant he's being promoted to major general.

In and of itself, whatever.

But then there is this...

B-2 squadron deploys to Guam

Oh. bollocks. We're close to a new moon, but probably missed the window for optimal strike conditions.
Moon will be new again in ~ 3 weeks, May 27th...

UPDATE: B-2s deploy to Guam in groups of 2-4 planes on occasion for "Global Power" exercises, typically one day or 1-2 week exercises.
For the last 18 months, groups of 4 planes have been in 3 month rotation to Guam, interleaving with B-1 and B-52 groups as a "ready" force.
So, this deployment is consistent with normal rotation to replace a B-1 group going back to the US. If it stays at 4 planes or less. Of course the point of rotating forward stationed groups is to have a strike force in place.
RAF Fairford had B-2 visits a few weeks ago, seems to have been some sort of readiness exercise, not clear if there are any still there or if they went home.
I also understand there is a ANG tanker readiness exercise in progress right now, but they also do those as "surprise" exercises with some regularity.

Nothing to see here, move on.

But I still put the odds of a strike on Iran at ~> 50% within the next few weeks, most likely near the end of May if the USAF stays with past practises, and if the policital situation so dictates.

nice grad students

For the record, our grad students really are quite wonderful, and under appreciated.
Especially the first years...

Oo, I'm all a-quiver

NYT features the recent NASA GSFC press announcementon calculation of gravitational waveform inspiral from black hole coalescence

(more pretty pictures)

animations and full image package

here is the actual paper

Good kick ass science, real hustle to get the brute force sim done after the algorithm stability issues were resolved

Ever so slightly overhyped press release. Most unlike NASA really.
But, hey, it is in a good cause...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thank You Stephen Colbert

Thanks to modern communications technology I caught the CSPAN rerun of the White House Correspondance Dinner the same night.

I laughed so hard at one point that my wife thought I was going to have a heart attack (the "Welcome Scalia") moment.

Some things just need to be linked to for posterity.

Watch the video if you didn't catch it then... but be careful, truthiness sometimes hurts.

The Grad Students Are Revolting

A possé of first years arrives at my door... (with one senior grad for moral support and monitoring purposes).

Wot! You want Solution. To Homework Problems!?
"Not bloody likely".


If you are a grad student, you should not worry about grades


If you worry about grades, you should not be a grad student

It all makes sense now...

Bérubé potpourri hides a key piece of information!

Namely the Secret Plan To Deal With An Avian 'Flu Epidemic

Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, very funny. Abstinence, 9/11, Nukular. How predictable.
NO, really, Read To The End.

Abolition Of the Estate Tax

Of course. Genius. The concentration of wealth will be awesome.
And the Survivors will All Vote Republican.