Wednesday, August 31, 2005

First-ever Chimp Fossils Found

The first ever chimpanzee fossils were recently discovered in an area previously thought to be unsuitable for chimps. Fossils from human ancestor were also found nearby.

Although researchers have only found a few chimp teeth, the discovery could cause a shake-up in the theories of human evolution.

“We know today if you go to western and central Africa that humans and chimps live in similar and neighboring environments,” said Nina Jablonski, an anthropologist at the California Academy of Sciences. “This is the first evidence in the fossil record that they coexisted in the same place in the past.”

It had previously been thought that chimps never lived in the arid Rift Valley—they prefer more lush environments like the Congo and jungles of western Africa. For years scientists believed that early human ancestors left the jungles and moved east to the less wooded grasslands and that this move caused the evolutionary split between the human and chimp lines.

But now, with the discovery of ancient chimps and humans in the same area, evolutionists may have to rethink what caused humans to become humans.

“For many years people have used this kind of geographic split in environment as an explanation as an origin of humans and bipedalism,” coauthor Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut told LiveScience. “People have still retained this idea of a split geographic distribution of chimps and humans. This shows it certainly wasn’t true half a million years ago, and may not have been true before that. We need to look for another reason for the evolutionary split.”

Read the rest here.

So much for that theory...some other mechanism for the evolutionary separation of pan and homo will have to arise it seems (if this stands up for its identification).

Another Front on the War on Terror

Bangladesh may have come in for increased levels of criticism over the past six months for failure to respond with sufficient vigour to the developing patterns of Islamist-inspired violence. But the country was unprepared for the dramatic display of organisational control and the demonstration of intent that occurred on 17 August, staged by the banned Jama'at-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) group. On this day a series of more than 300 co-ordinated bombings, all timed to go off between 10.30 and 11.30 am touched all but six of Bangladesh's 64 districts.

Read more of the extract here

300 bombings. That sounds rather ominous. Think about 300 bombings in 58 districts within one hour. It sounds to me that the Islamists have themselves a very coordinated and sophisticated nest there. Are we in danger of 'losing' Bangladesh?

The sad part is I don't remember hearing anything about this on or around the 17th.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cassini Finds That "Tiger Stripes" On Enceladus Are Very Young

The Cassini spacecraft discovered the long, cracked features dubbed "tiger stripes" on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus are very young. They are between 10 and 1,000 years old.

These findings support previous results showing the moon's southern pole is active. The pole had episodes of geologic activity as recently as 10 years ago. These cracked features are approximately 80 miles long, spaced about 25 miles apart and run roughly parallel to each another.

Read more here.

PS That's how I found that nifty pict.

Damn kewl pict of Enceladus

Malinki Tsarina strikes again

My heirress might her papa rather proud last night. She rolled over. What you say? She's been doing that? Yeah, she has been, but in a different way. She had been putting her feet up in the air when she was slimmer, tilting them to one side, falling over, and then rolling after tucking them under. His time she went straight using her shoulders only and got her arms out from under her without a problem.

Daddy nearly cried. What a whimp I am.


PS Sorry about the horribly transliterated Russian there.

Iran uses biotech to extract urananium oxide.

Read about it here.

Sounds like a case of biomining where they use microbes to extract uranium oxide and take it from them somehow. Very little details there.

If true, biotech emets nuke tech! How long until the mutant microbe kills us all? ;)

Monday, August 29, 2005

BSG The Continued Enjoyment

I really like this show. It's got a pacing that's pretty unique. Camp is not something that even is hinted at. Some of the reactions are damned good. There was one that threw me off a bit, but...


You were warned, k?

I wasn't too pleased about the simple patching up between Roslin (who was deposed by Adama) and Adama. I realize that Adama had more than a few life twists since that coup and Roslin sees herself as a prophetess. Even so, it's the first time that I felt a bit cheated. If not for as good as the rest of the story was I would have been ticked.

Personal theory about Kobol, the 13 Tribes, and Earth. Kobol was settled from Earth by exiles from Earth. Either those are people that lost a war with AIs or AIs that lost a war with people. I like that latter. The exiles ended up producing their own war that fractured the people into 13 tribes. The 12 went one way and the 13th went back following the old legends of Earth....the Earth of our future.

After all, all of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.

Books Finish and Started

I finished two books and launched into another in the time sicne I posted anything about my reading.

The first one about drilled pier foundations was interesting, but I suspect a bit dated. It was written in the mid 1980s,. The techniques probably still are, but I'm guessing with some certainty all the tables and appendices in the back of the book are basically worthless for costing, available equipment, and whatnot. It made it very clear though that only a specialist (sub)contractor should be trusted with doing this. It's not something that Joe Schmoe can go out and dig himself.

The second book was about Deinosuchus. This is the ubersized crocodylian from the Campanian era in the Upper Cretaceous from the so-called North American Western Interior Seaway. It was actually a fun, light read (for me). If you're familiar with paleontology, you're good to go for reading this one. It prolly should have been a paperback though because it was rather short.

The book I am reading now is about being your own contractor for building a custom home. I am not going to do this the first time around for 'Minas Tursiops'. I'd like to do this at some point. That whole philosophical angle of a man building his own home and all that. However, I'm using these books as guides to what I should be paying attention to when I do contract this to a general contractor. If you exactly know what the GC is supposed to be going to do its easier to keep tabs on him/her and see that it gets done.

Early Baby Picture this week

I missed my personal deadline of putting up a baby pict last wednesday.

So, I'm redeeming myself a bit by putting another one up early this week as well as on Wednesday.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Where have I been?!

I've been a little absent from my blog here other than posting some interesting articles I've stumbled across. There's been some good reasons.

The first one was that on Thursday my work had a power outage that was planned. We were upgrading the incoming power by 1.5 MW (yes, megawatts) for new computing resources. The whole place was down from 5 am until very, very late. We were prepping for this on Wednesday and then down the whole day. The power for everything networking related was toast. Hence no internet access and no blog entries.

On Friday I got a tooth drilled. Namely, because we concentrated on my wife's dental issues for so long, I had to have another root canal done. The dentists we go to absolutely rock. They're good people as well as damned fine dentists. I'd recommend them to anyone in the Bay Area or just passing through. However, the root that had to be canalled (so to speak) was rather longer and deeper than is normal. Dr Darryl did a good job but it took longer than planned. I didn't get home until a couple hours later than I'd expected. Hence...

I ahve a follow-up with Dr D but that's it. All I want to do after that is whiten my teeth and go to maintenance mode for a while. I'm a little tired of funneling money down the dental drain. :S It's not that Dr D and Dr R have been sucking us dry, its just that there's been so fscking much that we've had to get done in the last year. Mostly on my wife to be sure, but....

*growls about soon-to-be dead Ukrainian dentists*

Right now, my daughter is asleep. My wife is out shopping. I've just did a quick once over our apartment for cleaning up. I'm just taking a moment to spout.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Federal Judge OKs Global Warming Lawsuit

A federal judge here said environmental groups and four U.S. cities can sue federal development agencies on allegations the overseas projects they financially back contribute to global warming.

The decision Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White is the first to say that groups alleging global warming have a right to sue.

"This is the first decision in the country to say that climate change causes sufficient injury to give a plaintiff standing, to open the courthouse door," said Ronald Shems, a Vermont attorney representing Friends of the Earth.

That group, in addition to Greenpeace and the cities of Boulder, Colo., Santa Monica, Oakland and Arcata, Calif., sued Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Those government agencies provide loans and insure billions of dollars of U.S. investors' money for development projects overseas. Many of the projects are power plants that emit greenhouses gases that the groups allege cause global warming.

Read more here.

This is definitely a can of worms...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Is Mexico a Nation?

An oddball editorial from the CSM[1]:

A survey released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center found more than four in 10 Mexicans are willing to leave their country to live in the US. One in five would risk a dangerous, illegal border crossing. Most surprising, one in three college graduates wants to flee. Before Washington takes up immigration reform this fall, it needs to take a hard look at Mexico's disillusionment.

Already, one in eight adults born in Mexico now lives in the US. And the Mexican economy is kept afloat partially by an estimated $16 billion sent back by immigrants to relatives.

Such numbers reveal a people so fed up with Mexico's dysfunctional politics and stagnant economy that their nationalism is wilting. While more than half of Mexico's 106 million people are officially poor, the Pew survey found an inclination to migrate "evident across a broad swath" of the population.

Read the rest here.

*faint chants of...*



1. Not normally a reader, but this came across a news site I do normally read.

Poland in a pickle

Just as it is about to face both presidential and parliamentary elections, Poland has become embroiled in diplomatic disputes on two fronts, one with Belarus and a second with the Russian Federation. Despite its pleas to the European Union and the US for support, both Brussels and Washington have been reluctant to become actively involved and risk antagonising Moscow.

Read here.

The Poles have issues right now with the Russians and Belarusians. Both Russia and Belarus were already less than friendly with Poland already over the whole Orange Revolution in Ukraine (Poles supported the winning side that opposed the xUSSR states' candidate). Now with this...

The Russians had some kids of their diploamts mugged in Poland. In Russia then a Polish diplomat was killed. The Russians have been calling the mugging an 'unfriendly act' which is pretty serious in diplomatic speak. The Poles have a problem with Belarus over a group that is there to protect the rights of the Polish minority there. Belarus has been cracking down on all forms of dissent and the pro Polish group is considered one of them. It might even be a bit of petty 'payback' for the Orange Revolution.

It might be more complicated than it appears, but it does seem that way yet.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Study shows big game hunters, not climate change, killed off sloths

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Prehistoric big game hunters and not the last ice age are the likely culprits in the extinction of giant ground sloths and other North American great mammals such as mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed tigers, says a University of Florida researcher.

Determining whether the first arrival of humans or the warm-up of the American continent at the end of the last Ice Age was responsible for the demise of prehistoric sloths has puzzled scientists because both events occurred at the same time, about 11,000 years ago. But by using radiocarbon to date fossils from Cuba and Hispaniola, where humans appeared later than on the North American continent, long after the last Ice Age occurred, UF ornithologist David Steadman was able to separate the two events.

He and his colleagues found the last record of West Indian ground sloths coincided with the arrival of humans 4,400 years ago. The results are published in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper this week.


Steadman said he was not surprised to find that humans were more significant than changes in climate because most species of plants and animals can adjust to changes in temperature. However, the transition between the glacial and inter-glacial period, which resulted in shifts in habitat and the ranges of plants, may have made animal species more vulnerable than they otherwise would have been, he said.

"This is the first time it's been demonstrated for West Indian ground sloths, and West Indian ground sloths are sort of the poster child of big extinct West Indian mammals," he said. "I think this will go a long way to finally put to rest this whole idea that large extinct animals from the West Indies died out in the Ice Age during the Pleistocene Epoch."

Read more here.

Makes for a interesting commentary about the so-called 'living in haromony with nature' myth that gets tossed around wrt the Native Americans/First Nations. Anyone who looks closely can see that's not really the case. Myths, no matter which culture they're from, do more disservice than help.

Genetics of NorAm extinct great cats

DNA traces evolution of extinct sabertooths and the American cheetah-like cat

By performing sequence analysis of ancient DNA, a team of researchers has obtained data that help clarify our view of the evolutionary relationships shared by the large predatory cats that once roamed the prehistoric New World.

The work is reported in the August 9 issue of Current Biology by Ross Barnett of the University of Oxford and a team of researchers from Britain, Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Australia.


The phylogenetic tree drawn from the new data also shows that the American cheetah-like cat is genetically most closely related to the puma, rather than to the true African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Miracinonyx and the true cheetah Acinonyx show remarkable morphological similarity, including elongated limbs and enlarged nares, but the genetic data indicate that this similarity is in fact a marvellous example of evolutionary parallelism, the development of similar body plans in response to similar ecological pressures. In light of the new DNA data and fossil information from other studies, it appears likely that a puma-like ancestor that migrated to the New World may have given rise to Miracinonyx and ancestral Puma a few million years ago, around the time that the North American prairie is thought to have undergone expansion.

Read more here.

With the proposal to reintroduce the cheetah and other 'megafauna' to NorAm, the fact that our cheetah has little or nothing in common other than niche might be another wrinkle in their plan.

More on the Kliper

Look here.

Best with flash, alas.

China sets up lunar exploration centre

China has set up a lunar exploration centre in Beijing to spearhead the country's moon probe projects in its latest bid to secure its place as a major world space power.

"The Centre for Lunar Exploration Programme, approved by the State Council (cabinet) in January 2004, will design and carry out the country's unmanned moon probe project," the China Daily cited officials as saying.

They plan on an orbiter in 2007, a lander in 2012, and a sample return in 2017.

Now what's that abouta space race again? I guess they want to get robots to the moon at least before the Americans return its surface with manned missions.

Link, of course.

SS3 would quickly follow SS2 if... all works.

Orbital vehicle SpaceShipThree (SS3) will be developed by space tourism company Virgin Galactic and Mojave-based SpaceShipTwo (SS2)-developer Scaled Composites, if the planned SS2 suborbitalservice is successful, says Virgin Galactic president Will White­horn.

SpaceShipThree is planned for Scaled’s tier 2 manned space programme, while the nine-person SpaceShipTwo is part of the current tier 1b programme.

The suborbital three-crew SpaceShipOne (SS1), which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize last October, was developed within Scaled Composites’ tier 1 programme.

Read more at Flight International.

Another Duct Tape Award

This award is waaaay overdue. However, I've only been giving these out very recently.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Future of Russia

The future of Russia is in the balance right now. huh. Pretty grandiose statement, isn't it? Pretty bombastic. Very cocky. Unfortunately, I think its true. The balancing points are the whole demographic situation and the political tight rope that Russia is trying to walk.

I've talked quite a bit about the demographic situation in Russia here and on Usenet. The current TFR of 1.27 children born/woman has actually gone down since the Yeltsin years by .13. That's not encouraging. What's worse is the HIV prevalancy has grown to 1.1% (and possibly much more) and the rampancy of very nasty variants of TB and others ( due to the fact that the (pre and ante) Soviet Union medical system prescribed antibiotics for EVERYTHING according to my wife [she's been annoyed that they don't here]). There's a possibility that Russia will have something on the order of 85 million people living in it in 25 years.

That's just one hiccup.

Russia is facing a pretty big illegal immigration problem in Siberia from China. Between 2001 and 2004, they had over 300k immigrants come across the border...permamently. Some officials, perhaps, even probably, with agendas say that its much, much higher. Given the expansive size of Siberia and the problematic censuses, it could every well be much, much higher.

In fact, Russia and China just conducted a bit of military exercises. One should note that they took place in eastern Siberia. They had 1800 Russian soldiers and over 8k Chinese soldiers. In peace time, the Russians could get less than 2k soldiers to participate on their own . Ouch. The decay of the Russian military is no secret. It might be on the upswing under Putin, but that's only a maybe. At best. There's so much for it to repair and get caught up on that it'll be decades before its one of teh foremost militaries in the world at best. With the other demographic problems, the military recovery may simply not happen.

Russia and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. SCO was founded initially as an antiterrorist and regional cooperative with a number of central asian xUSSR republics. However, it seems to have grown into a counterbalance for the USA. The military exercises that the Russians and Chinese conducting are under the auspices of the SCO. It ahs been strongly suggested as of recent that the SCO should become a free trade block as well as a military alliance. It would be interesting to see if the SCO becomes the 'next' EU.

On alt.history.future, I suggested that Russia with its shrinking population and great resources would become a sock puppet of China with its resource needs and growing population. If the population dip takes place as much as has been suggested, that Russia will have a hard time saying 'no' to China in its much weakened state.

It would seem that Russia's future, based on all of this, despite the Great Russian mentality, would be Chinese. Yet, Putin might be pulling yet another fast one. With the announcement of joint development with the Europeans of the Kliper, it might be that the Russians are trying to walk that tight rope of balancing with Europe and China. It might be too little too late or it might be a case where they're gambling that having access to space in the future is key to keeping their virtual independence. The problem is that Russia really doesn't need access to space in the future for any sort of resource requirements. While its possible that the US, EU, India, and China might - if the environmental regulations/necessities and trade barriers make it a necessity - Russia has a vast untapped resource base in Siberia and certainly little respect for said environment.

Russia in the EU has been tossed around a few times before. Yet that Great Russian attitude causes them serious issues. Russians have the belief their greater than their neighbors. That they are the greatest of the Slavs and that they are still the Third Rome. They have teh strong belief that they haven't, despite evidence to the contrary fallen from the position of strength that the Soviet Union had. Joining the EU while still at least as strong - large population, growing economy - as they are now would probably the best bet, but then that Velikorossiya attitude again.

So, we'll see. Russia's facing a strange future. Shrinking population, large amounts of illegal immigration, decaying military, cozying up to China, and yet keeping Europe at least moderately in play.

So what will it be? China...or Europe? Obviously not the US.

This weekend

We went to two parties. The first one was on Saturday and for a friend of Lyuda's out in Pittsburg. More properly, it was for her friend's daughter's first birthday. We ahd a good time. The funny part (to me) was that more than half the people there were speaking Russian...and they were mostly the wives. They were an eclectic batch of people, esp the husbands. Some had met their wives here. Some were met via various agencies. Some were people who'd been to the xUSSR and met someone there while visiting and were mutually bowled over. The men were interesting. One was a plumber. One was a policeman. One was a highway engineer. Another couple were software engineers. Then there was me. I was either the second youngest or youngest one there: the one Russian man there might be a bit younger. The women were almost all younger than I am though which was interesting. When we left, I joked with Lyuda that we'd just been to the Russian Wives Club. We had a good time and the only picture with anyone from our family in it has me...not Avrora or my wife. That's gonna really annoy my wife. The couple's daughter turned 1 is an interesting one. He's Chinese, but an American citizen (an immigrant) and she's Russian (also an immigrant). Their daughter is rather cute. We stuck around here until about 5ish.

The second party wee went to was a BBQ picnic on Sunday at a park in Richmond, CA. Where the first one had been the Russian Wives Club, this one was the Asian Wives Club. Well, not really, but there was a lot of that. It was done by a couple where the husband was German and his wife was Chinese. A lot of the people there were Asian (mostly Chinese), but almost all the wives were. There was a German wife (I think) and a Ukrainian one (mine), but the rest were asian. There were a lot of cute kids running around. The food was quite good. One of my friends from work was one of the BBQers. We stuck around until 4ish. Then laundry called.

It was a rather active weekend, I'd say. We had a good time and it kept my wife feeling good since she got to be social (she's extremely social where as I am fully equipped social skills wise, but I can take or leave being around people).

Europeans Funding Russian Kliper

It's all but official—Russia and Europe will soon embark on a cooperative effort to build a next-generation manned space shuttle. Speaking at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, France, in June, Russian space officials confirmed earlier reports from Moscow that their partners at the European Space Agency would join the Russian effort to build a new reusable orbiter, dubbed Kliper. After the cautious optimism they expressed at the beginning of 2005, Russians are now confident that their European partners will be on board for the largest, boldest Russian endeavor in spaceflight in more than a decade.


The Russians, encouraged by support from their prospective foreign partners, came to Le Bourget in June with a better, bolder Kliper than the one they were showing off just a few months ago. Instead of the wingless vehicle originally envisioned [see News, "Russians Propose a New Space Shuttle," IEEE Spectrum, February], RKK now favors a minishuttle with swept wings. It will double the cargo and crew capacity of the Soyuz capsule, replacing its venerable predecessor, which served more than four decades as the transport and resupply vehicle for the International Space Station (ISS).


Kliper's principal mission will be to ensure that the ISS is effectively supplied and maintained, after the planned retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle. But Russian officials hope it might also become the cornerstone of a future deep-space exploration program, which would parallel NASA's efforts to return to the moon.


The CEV is intended to enter service after 2010, when the current Space Shuttle fleet is retired, and Kliper is expected to follow suit within two years.

From (of all places) IEEE Spectrum.

New space race, folks? Three cornered this time (American, Chinese, and Euro-Russian)? You have to wonder if India and Japan would join in this time too.

Spirit Ascends Husband Hill

Mars Scout Program seeks more $$$

NASA's Mars Scout program is seeking more money in its fiscal 2007 budget request to allow for the per-mission cost cap to be raised from its original level of $325 million to a level above $400 million.


NASA's post-2009 Mars exploration program remains in flux as NASA shifts funds to support its human spaceflight priorities. An early casualty of this process was the canceled Mars Telecom Orbiter, which would have launched in 2009. The new set of post-2009 Mars missions is being finalized as part of the FY '07 budget process. Nonetheless, the Scout program expects to release its announcement of opportunity for the 2011 launch competition early next year.

In addition to traditional orbiter and lander concepts, the next Scout competition is expected to see two proposals for flying unmanned aircraft on the red planet - Ames' MATADOR and Langley's ARES (DAILY, Aug. 9). McCuistion said he would not be surprised to see other innovative proposals, including surface penetrators, hoppers or walkers.

Full article from Aviation Week here.

It'd really be kewl if one of the proposals was a rover that went to the edge of Valles Marineris and dropped a cable down the side with a scientific package. I doubt that any NASAites read my blog though at this point, so this idea will be ignored for a while...alas.

Friday, August 19, 2005


A coworker's Live Journal!

Tom's been caught in the act. Tom's actuallyt one of my best friends here in Cali. He's looked out for me like a son. He's one of the local muscle bound bears. Yes, taht kind of bear. He works on one of our linux clusters and is a personal hero.

Treat him well.

Don't and we hunt you down .

The SFnal TV Gurus that are overrated

I have to say that there are a bunch of people that absolutely adore certain SF TV writer/producers that I really can't understand, frankly, why. These people get an adoring following for having done work that has been done before and better. They have also done work that has been lauded for its cohesiveness or originality, yet, in the end seems to end up rather odiferous in a less than pleasing way. Let's take a couple shots here.

JMS. I summon you! I and I sure that I will get his raving fans all over my back. The truth is that I was originally hooked on Babylon 5 during the Shadow War portion. I didn't own a TV for some time after I left home and when I became roommates with someone that individual had a TV. I was cleaning the apartment when I sat down to watch. I was hooked. The situation was interesting. Caught between two titans, ther rest of galaxy was trying to come to grips with these giants. Yet...yet...he ended the fscking war with a KIRK SPEECH!!! How lame. How stupid. How completely unoriginal! I switched off and was glad from the later sampling I had of the last season that I would pick up later. I tried to forgive him after watching the TV movie of the Minbari-Terran War: it was interesting and fun. I then tried to watch Crusade. It was...bad. Dull. Then I watched the pilot for Legend of the Rangers. Could we have had anything that wasn't a rehash? Consider: there was a menace so great and terrible from ages, ages past when giants walked the stars...wait. That sounds almost like a complete copy of the Shadow War opening lines. *sighs* It was nice to see that the english voice actress for Akane from Ranma is actually the babe that I thought she was though.

Now the second offender. Joss Whedon. Joss created Buffy from the corpse of the movie. It was an ok diversion. Now and then. If you took wit for 'pithy' one-liners. If you took great romance for extremely abusive relationships. If you took the ...oh I give up. I have to admit that I did, in fact, enjoy Angel. Someone else pointed out a better review of why. even so, the silliness involved was...extremely high. On the other hand, it had some truly great episodes. However, Angel died prematurely and that ended that. Joss went on to make Firefly. I want that hour of my life back. That truly sucked. Anyone who idolizes the Confederates as Joss seems to needs to be taken out and have a clue beaten into him (or her) with a few times with a muzzle loading rifle from the era. Go read Slave Trade and the tragedy therein before idolizing those that wished to protect their peculiar institution. To me, despite the "glory" that Americans have in the past mistakenly ascribed to them, what Joss was attempting to do there was not unlike what Ringo was doing with the wretched novel thar Randy reviewed.

Now contrast what they've done with what was done by Ron Moore with Battlestar Galactica. Ah. Much better.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Megatokyo Character Quiz

You scored as Dom. You're Dom!

















Which Megatokyo Character Are You?
created with

"Flu pandemic could trigger second Great Depression"

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

Real estate values would be slashed, bankruptcies would soar and the insurance industry would be decimated, a newly released investor guide on avian influenza warns clients of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"It's quite analogous to the Great Depression in many ways, although obviously caused by very different reasons," co-author Sherry Cooper, chief economist of the firm and executive vice-president of the BMO Financial Group, said in an interview Tuesday.

"We won't have 30-per-cent unemployment because frankly, many people will die. And there will be excess demand for labour and yet, at the same time, it will absolutely crunch the economy worldwide."

A leading voice for pandemic preparedness said the report is evidence the financial and business sectors - which have been slow to twig to the implications of a flu pandemic - are finally realizing why public health and infectious disease experts have been sounding the alarm.

"I think that this particular report really signifies the first time that anyone from within the financial world, when looking at this issue, kind of had one of those 'Oh my God' moments," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"The financial world is finally waking up to the fact that this could be the boulder in the gear of the global economy," he said, suggesting a pandemic could trigger an implosion of international trade unlike anything seen in modern history.

Read the rest from those goofy Canucks here.

Gotta love it.


Bird Flu Finally On the Loose?

Some people at work have been saying for some time that the Great Bird Flu Epidemic is a when, not an if. It looks like its breaking out rather badly in Russian Siberia. So bad that the Russians are having a hard time containing it.

Considering the probable state of health care in Russia these days that's a frightening thought that they got the first serious outbreak. Are we on the verge of 1918 all over again?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sailing Bright Eternity Finished

I finished this book. Man! All I can say is what a stinker! I have no idea what Benford was thinking in writing this one. There were far too many tangentals in this book to be worthwhile. There were far more things that came out of nowhere that were not even hinted at in the previous books. Trigger Codes? Talk about Deus Ex the literal sense.

There were some of the divergences that just didn't make sense. The Induction ship just bored me and I almost set the whole book down to walk away. Interesting idea? Possibly. Belongs here. Nope. It felt purely like filler. Badly written, dully plotted, and completely uninteresting filler. It was like he really felt that he wanted to finish the series in the previous book, but felt he couldn't so he had to make up a lotta crap to fill the page count. You could have written the account of teh recovery of Abraham instead by Quath et al of the Myraipodia, but noooooo...gah.

Shame on you, Benford. No cookie for you.

Avoid this book, people!


I started reading the construction book. Completely antiseptic. It's purely technical. It'll make for a great mental rinse after that last one. After this will come a Friedman's latest.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Federalism Emerges As Deal-Breaker in Iraq

Angry over Shiite calls for regional governments, preachers in many Sunni mosques urged their followers Friday to register and vote in the October constitutional referendum — but against the charter if it includes measures to "divide the country" through federalism.

I guess I don't get it why this would be a deal breaker. What's tthe problem with federalism? It would allow for the Sunnis to run their section as they see fit. It would allow the Shiites to do the same. Ditto for the Kurds. I'd hope that Baghdad would be the federal disctrict like DC is here in the US.

The only problem that I can see with federalism is that it prevents an authoratarian regime from arising so easily. This is bad in what way? Guess for those that have those asperations, s'pose...

Next Mars probe away

Read here and here.

I'd really like to see four probes per launch window: an orbiter, a pair of rovers, and an airplane. Then again, if I were in charge, we'd see a lot more space probes as well as manned activities.

Venus would get a mission every couple years (alternating between an orbiter, balloon, and lander).

The asteroids and comets would get a lot. Those probes are relatively cheap and can be reused for multiple encounters.

The outer planets would get a lot too. Frex, each of the gas giants could use a dedicated weather sat. The JIMO mission was a good idea. Europa would prolly get as extensive of a program as Mars is. So would Titan. Saturn would get something to go exploring the rings even closer than Cassini will. Enceladeus is looking more and more interesting.

The Kuipier Belt and Oort Cloud ought to be looked into as well.

Then again, I'm not the head of NASA and I don't control the purse strings, eh?

Dust Devils on Mars

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pentagon Signs Off on NASA Launcher Plans

Pentagon says, 'Sure, go for it. Screw yourself and, please, abandon your rocket to make ours cheaper.

Read here.

Not hostile to the Pentagon. I'm just doubting the wisdom of the NASA decision. Shuttle derived? phaaaa...

Canadian New GG a Quebec Separatist?

I occasionally check out the Canadian headlines. I wish I had something similar for Mexico. However, there's an interesting doh that might be developing here...

Any Canuckistanis willing to explain to the mildly interesting Yanqi?

Census: Texas newest state to have non-white majority

Take a look here.

Not too surprising. The border states are the ones that are going to have that happen first. As that immigrant population spreads through the US and the immigration rate decreases from Mexico though it ought to be interesting to see what the end result is.

I ahve a bad feeling there is a bit of linear extrapolation going on here for the future projections. I'll check in about 2030 to compare.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I was in San Diego for a conference on the StorCloud Challenge that I am participating in for SC05. It was interesting for a few reasons.

The first was that there were a total of two (count them, 1, 2) women in the group.

Second, it seems that the few that are participating in all three challenges to be reach for the Trifecta Award are approaching it rather differently. They put together their storage app first and are only now selecting their science app. That's a little backwards afaict. The science ought to drive the rest, but, hey, that's life.

Three, getting up to try to fly (and missing) your flight at BFE in the morning truly sucks. No nniversary trips just prior to a conference. We had gotten home at midnight and I was supposed to get up at 4 am to fly out to SD at 6 am. frack. I missed that and the next flight that I could get through security through to wasn't until after 8.

Conference was good. Made some good contacts. We'll see where it all goes.

Reading Update

I finished the AI for games book. The last two chapters were the two that were actually mildly interesting. They dealt with neural networks and genetic algorithms. Neither was uber indepth. That's a pity. I rather found those far more interesting and useful than the pathing algorithms. Then again, those are far, far more complicated to implement and explain than the previous for the average coder (or wannabe) that's going to be picking up this book.

I have launched into Sailing Bright Eternity. I'm about 60 pages into it. It's not a bad read so far. Benford's info dumping alot to bridge between his Walmsley stories and his Family Bishop ones. Nothing really remarkable so far. Still doesn't feel future enough. Stross does that better. I'd like to see if Charlie can tackle a really long term book though like Baxter did with Evolution. I should be done with SBE by friday or saturday at the latest.

I'll be starting into Construction of Drilled Pier Foundations then.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

This is a bad day

I stripped 3 screws, used the wrong screw, and broke a fibre channel fiber optic line.

Pre Baby Pict of my Beautiful Wife

I killed a bird...a report on my first anniversary

My first anniversary was an interesting experience. I took my wife up to Crater Lake. We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast at the northern edge of Klamath Lake (or here). She'd never seen anything like Crater Lake before and was gosh-wowed. She was amazed at all the volcano-corpses (or zombies as they might be) that were all around us. She grew up in Ukraine so there's little of this sort of thing there and volcanoes are something rare, beauitful, and frightening. I grew up in Los Alamos, NM so I have a slightly different view since we were perched on the edge of the second largest caldera in the world! We also did some canoing (the first time for my wife and daughter) as well.

Unfortunately, on the way back we were zipping along at waaay too fast following a minivan driver from Cali since I was due to fly down to San Diego on Monday at 6 am, when a bird flew down and misjudged the speed we were doing. It was trying to take advantage that the car pushes air up and over to catch a lot of bugs. It misjudged and hit the windshield. The speed were going and the splotch left behind was a little depressing and almost assuredly killed the poor bird. :S

I'd say killing a bird like that is bad luck. However, without realizing it, my wife and I were married on the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Even though I'm not one to feel guilt over the bombing, that can't be a lucky day...

Genetics & the Origin of Life

Some scientists at the University of Bath claim that they think they have figured out the reason we have the junk, the encoding algorithm, etc, in our DNA. Interesting stuff. They think the whole sha-bang started in a hot soup situation.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Trifecta Update

The submissions for the Analytics and StorCloud Challenges are done. Analytics is our weakest link, if you will forgive me, because we had to cobble it all together - from start to completion - here and now rather than in time for SC05 like the other two. The abstracts for Analytics and StorCloud are done. The extended abstract and summary are also done for Analytics. We have an abstract, extended abstract, network diagram, and resource requirements due by the end of the month. After doing the Analytics, that ought to be a piece of cake.

We have all our vendors onboard. AVS is willing to give us a test license for their parallel AVS product. SGI is willing to lend us a half a rack of an Altix (20 +/- Itanium/2s) for the visualization in the booth at SC05. We're using an IBM SP here at NERSC. We're also using our embarassingly parallel cluster (PDSF) here at NERSC for the data reduction. DDN is providing us with 30 terabytes of disk on one of their dual controller storage boxes. Pogo Linux is providing the GPFS storage nodes. IBM's GPFS is how we're tying this all together and we have the test license to let us do just that.

We're going to be running CAM which is a part of CCSM 3.0 on the SP and writing to the GPFS file system. The data is then reduced on PDSF and visualized on the Altix in the booth tied to the 50 in plasma display there too.

I'm the one tying this all together. I have a backup, but that's if Avrora, my wife, or I get sick only. Otherwise everything system wise is on my shoulders. Fortunately, we're gonna have test shots first here at NERSC to make sure it all works ahead of time.

Cross your fingers!!!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

AI for Game Developers

Immensely disappointed here. I have 100 pages left and well over half the book was dedicated to pathing. What a bummer. I was hoping for more stuff like what developed for Black and White and less how to get from Point A to Point B.

Big disappointment.

Should have known better.

What Dr I am...woo!

The Fourth Doctor

You are the Fourth Doctor: A walking Bohemian conundrum with a brooding personal magnetism and a first-rate intellect concealed somewhere beneath your charmingly goofy exterior. You are perhaps the most terribly clever of all the Doctors, though your occasional bouts of childishness get you in trouble. You never go looking for a fight, but when someone messes with you... good heavens, are they ever sorry they did.

Which Incarnation of the Doctor Are You? brought to you by Quizilla

IED Detection: I had the right idea

Smiths has been working on such a device, a handheld wand with a laser that could be pointed at a car or person from 500 yards away to detect explosives material. The challenge, Phipson said, is detecting material hidden inside something, like a car's trunk. Already, detection is possible for surface containments, he said.

"It's something that is obtainable," Phipson said, adding that this capability is already being achieved in lab environments.

Look here.

His detection method is to use a laser spectrometer to coupled to a computer to detect explosives. I bandied the idea around with a bunch of physicists when my brother was in Iraq between Spring 2003 and Summer 2004. Everyone thought it'd work and work well. It seems that the guy quoted in the article had the same idea. Now why it'd cost billions like he said, I have no fscking idea.

Damn. I should have put in for a grant back then. My concern wasn't making money, but protecting my brother who had been wounded in a nontrivial way by an IED (a 4 in/10 cm chunk of metal buried in the skull just below the helmet). He survived, but it focused my attention a bit.

From now on if I have an idea, I'm fscking doing something with ASAP. This is hardly the first time I've been really on the right track with something.

Trifecta Award Update: last and final (until SC05) movie

This storm is analogous to Hurricane David in Sept 1979. Models diverge from reality quickly, not because they're broken, but because of the chaotic features. Anyone familiar with alternate history understands that a small PoD, even with the same starting conditions, can or should produce something different. That this produced something very close to the same is a double plus good sign that the model is pretty accurate.

We're finishing the results summary today. Going to upload it prolly after lunch.

Enjoy the movie.

Faster carbon dioxide emissions will overwhelm capacity of land and ocean to absorb carbon

This came down the pipe via work's news letter. The researchers used us to do the computational model.


I wonder how well it'll hold up.

Belated Baby Picture

Reason being that we have been rebuilding a cluster at work (the servers for the facility wide file system) in prep for going production. secondly, the prep for the trifecta award has been nuts. Specifically what's killing us is the Analytics Challenge. we have devised and written two abstracts (one std and one extended) and a summary in a few days while our lead scientist is out on vacation. While he's not the project lead - I am! - he's necessary for a lot of this to make sense and work. Summary was due two days ago. We're getting everything in as fast as we can. There seems to be much forebearance fortunately...perhaps its because we're so close and our center director is who he is...idk. We'll see...

Baby pict away though!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

From someone in Iraq

There's a blog of a reporter? observer? someone at any rate that is in Mosul. Micheal Yon posted something interesting on his blog. I have no idea who this individual is, but he seems to have a rapport with the Colonel to get to ride around with him.

Is he a mouth piece? Embedded reporter? IDK. What he wrote was interesting though.

Chew on what he said before you swallow though. I'd hate to see someone choke on it because they swallowed it whole.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Great Vision Animals

I've been pondering some of the critters I'd like to put in this story. I have a feeling that I could really run with it. I have something of a curiousity of what I could do with a primate based ecology. However, there are a lot of different types of animal in this world.

What would you genengineer? Any suggestions?

CAFTA is law


Next on the docket is the FTAA.

Then what?

Perma Dollarization of the Americas?

Battlestar Galactica 2004+

I ahve to say that I am rather impressed with this show. I liked the pilot. It was a bit too short for what I was hoping for. Another couple hours would have been perfect to flesh out the people more than the did. However, it was still enjoyable...if you don't mind the zeitgeist of a people being exterminated except for a mere handful.

Unfortunately, its not something that my wife enjoys at all. The number of dead bodies and other far more disturbing images (Baltar's dream on Kobol is the emphatic example for new parents! Holy sh*t!) So, I get to watch it alone. My friends are either not so into it - my NMican friends - or have kids so we can't get together for viewings.

If the quality stays high this show is gonna last. It's very serious and different from the ones just before it. They're rather...fluffy in comparison.

Monday, August 01, 2005

If true, I'm truly saddened

The cluelessness shown here in the former of the cracker's actions, if true, are depressing.

Lack-o-clue is a sick disease.

NASA's New CEV Launcher to Maximize Use of Space Shuttle Components

Look here.

Color me immensely disappointed.

So we're going to spend $540 million/launch...again. *sighs*

Well, at leas tthe barn storming is moving along, albiet slowly.

Book List for This Month

I already went and bought two SF books to read for this month from our local Barnes and Noble (it's on the way home from work). I am half way done with the AI book and disappointed. So far, it's almost purely pathing algorithms. Not exactly what I hoped for. I was hoping for some of the stuff that the developers put in Black & White, frex. Back to books, I bought The Wilding from B&N by CS Friedman. I am a huge fan of her books, even when they are mildy disturbing. I loved her characterizations of Zatar and Anzha waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. I really liked Gerald Tarrant. Some of her scene descriptions from that series are just stunning.

Frex, from When True Night Falls:
There were songs on the hillside, glorious songs of sunlight, optimism, and energy, the endless music of faith. She could see them arrayed along the gentle slope, warriors whose armour gleemed Core-golden in the light of noon, soldiers whose banners were strung with bits of glass so that as they moved their standards sparkled, and as the wind beat upon the richly woven cloth there was the sound of bells, of sparkling water, a thousand glassy chimes rangout the song of God's One Faith across the Darklands. Young men, old men, women astride their horses, soldier-priests so young they were nearly children--all helmeted in silver and gold and pennanted in brilliant silks, lining up for battle. The very air about them rang with their faith, their sacrificice, their passion. The very daylight was a song of triumph.

She floated through their ranks like a fae-wraith, touching, seeing, hearing all. Shields that flashed like fire in the sunlight. Swords that sang of perserverence and hope. She touched one blade and could hear all the hymns that had gone into its making, the thousand and one voices that had lent it power. The years of chants, years of prayer, years of utter faith...she moved tow here another soldier stood and gazed at the crystal flask in his hand. The liquid within glowed with a heat she could feel on her face, and its music was a symphony of hope.

They were riding into death, she knew. All these brilliant soldiers, all these pricelss weapons, were about to ride into a darkness so terrible it would snuff out their songs forever. She could feel their place in history taking shape about them, not a beginning of hope but an ending, the extinguishing of a time of untrammeled dreams, in exchange for one of cyncism and despair. She wanted to cry out and warn them, but what good would her words do? They knew the odds. That the Evil they had decided to fight might well prove more powerful than all their prayers and spells and charms combined...and still they gathered. Thousands upon thousands of them. Knees clasped tightly about their anxious steeds, hands clasped restlessly about their sword grips and their springbolt butts and polished pistols. And the Fire. It glistened in a dozen crystal Orbs, in a thousand crystal vials. So very beautiful that it hurt herto look upon it, so rich in hope that she cried out to hear its song. Faith. Pure faith. She could drink it in all her life and never have enough.

You'll die! she cried out. Not wanting the music to end. You'll all die horribly. The Forest will eat you alive! What good is that to anyone? Go home while you still can!

And then it seemed that one of the soldier-priests turned to her. Eyes of liquid flame, brilliant as the Holy Fire, fixed upon the space she occupied. His shield, and sword were molten gold, and his banner-glass tinkled in the wind. He was too bright to look upon, and too beautiful to look away. His voice was like the wind.

Somethings, he whispered, are worth dying for.

I really hope The Wilding lives up to the book it is a sequel to (In Conquest Born). The reviews say otherwise, which is why I waited for the paperback.

I also bought to finish up the Galactic Center series, by Gregory Benford. It's an okay read. I'm just interested in how he finishes it all up. If I have time later in the month I'll pick up some Stross.

From Amazon I picked up a a bunch of books. Most of them are construction related.

Drilled Pier Foundations

Construction of Drilled Pier Foundations

Tips & Traps When Building Your Home

The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home

How to Plan, Subcontract and Build Your Dream House: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Pitfalls

Drilled Piers and Caissons II: Construction Under Slurry/Nondestructive Integrity Evaluation/Load Testing/Geotechnical Behavior Under Load

Measuring, Marking, and Layout: A Builder's Guide

Working with Concrete,

There is a lot of foundation related works and project planning guides there. The foundation is the most challenging of the items being designed. That's because of the particular plot of land. We'll see how this plays out. If it does work, and I get this done, I'll be mildly impressed with myself. ;)

At any rate, the one nonconstruction based book is King of the Crocodylians: The Paleobiology of Deinosuchus. The pterodactyl book won't be published until the end of the month, so I'll just read that next month. I have a feeling that I am going to be mildly ODed on construction stuff in August, so I'll lighten up next month and let that simmer in the background in September. Then try ODing again in October. Prolly not foundations though.

An Interesting, but Almost Certainly Bad Idea

I was watching TV this morning as I vainly attempted to do some crunches. Normally I do around 300+ crunches. Last night made it a lost cause. My wife asked for some help for something at 2:30 AM and here I was at 6:30 AM having failed to get up at 5:15 AM when I had planned so I can get back into exercising. My trials and tribulations of getting back into shape after my wife's pregnancy and my daughter's birth are a different entry for another time.

What I was watching though was the news. CNN was running a piece on the fact that medical insurance might not be able to cover the costs of dialysis due to the rising number of people that are overwight and becoming diabetic.

On the one hand, this enrages me. If people need medical procedures of some kind, they damned well better be able to get it. On the first pass, I'm a supporter of some sort of national health care...but I worry that the American tendency to over bureaucratize will kill it or make it much worse than the HMOs. We tend to take a good thing and sap the life out of it by adding layer upon layer of - *wiggles fingers* - oversight.

On the other hand, damnit, a lot of these people who are so fscking fat are doing it to themselves. They are taking no personal responsibility for taking care of the problem. I have friends and members of my family that are like that. These are people that I adore and love, but make no attempt to take care of themselves, then they rage that they're so fat. Damnit, if you're going to do that and make the rest of us suffer and pay for your stupidity, then you're going to have to make up more of the costs than normal. Perhaps if we had a Dr able to prescribe exercise and create some sort of a paper trail to prove that the person is not doing it, that the amount they have to pay is increased.

The problem with this, and the gripping hand here, is that I can see how fscked up this one could end up as well. It'd be sooooo damned easy to get this screwy as well as the HMO system already is. IDK. I just want people to just try to take care of themselves. It sickens me how damned fat and unhealthy people are here in the States these days.