I have a great love of landscape photography, and what better time than New Year's Eve to enjoy some awesome winterscape shots!
Have a safe and Happy New Year!
NASA is on a flight path to replant astronauts on the Moon, looking to sustain a human presence on that cratered, airless orb on a "go-as-the-nation-can-afford-to-pay" basis. That approach is seen as letting people step back onto the lunar surface no later than 2020.
Space engineers have honed in on one possible site for a lunar outpost: the Moon's south pole.
It's a tactical setting on the rim of Shackleton Crater, a feature some 12 miles (19 kilometers) in diameter.
There's real estate here that basks in near-perpetual sunlight. Also, it's a region that is a doorway into the depths of always dark, Sun-deprived, territory.
What's possibly lurking there in that super-cold darkness is water ice — portrayed by some researchers as the gold standard for future exploration on and from the Moon. Yet there is considerable debate about this resource. If there, such a raw storehouse might be processed into usable oxygen and hydrogen.
According to NASA Moon outpost thinkers, there are five key reasons for building up an encampment near a lunar pole:
Polar sites have plenty of sunlight, which lessens concerns about energy storage. It would be possible to operate a polar outpost on solar power. While not highlighting it as such, NASA's go-solar tactic also doubles as a non-nuclear, perhaps more politically correct approach.
The environment at the poles of the Moon is relatively benign, making it easier to design a habitat. Temperatures at the poles vary no more than about 50 degrees Celsius all year round, while temperatures at the equator can vary 250 degrees Celsius from day to night.
At the Moon's south pole there is "ample evidence," NASA planners point out, of enhanced hydrogen — an important natural resource for future development for energy generation, propellant production and other potential uses.
The poles can teach robotic and human explorers volumes about the Moon. This landscape is among the most complex of regions, yet very little is known about them.
To land equipment and scientific payloads near the lunar south pole, specifically, as opposed to another location, will require less propellant and could be more cost effective.
This is getting more and more interesting! I can't wait until this comes to fruition, then I can talk to my travel agent about lunar tourism!
Christmas is the most magical time of the year - the holiday itself centers around the most wonderous story ever told. This story has inspired countless other stories of holiday miracles. Long before the advent of motion pictures and television, the magic of Christmas was shared with the world through the written word of such classics as O. Henry's Gift of the Magi and Dicken's A Christmas Carol. In the spirit of those classic Christmas tales, we proudly present this collection of original Christmas stories. We hope that these stories brighten your holiday and help you to rediscover the spirit of Christmas... when miracles happen and dreams come true.
Check out these Christmas Stories.
Merry Christmas to all!
This is the season to be jolly, but you’d never know it, considering all the attacks on Christmas. In a well-intended but misguided effort to be more inclusive of other religions, some government units, businesses and civic groups are urging everyone to stop saying, “Merry Christmas” and replace it with a bland, and presumably more acceptable, “Happy Holidays.”
As a Christian, I make no apologies for celebrating my faith. There is no getting around it: Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Period. It would be the ultimate insult to relegate Jesus to the background in an effort not to offend non-Christians. We can celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ while wishing our Jewish friends, for example, a Happy Hanukkah. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Like it or not, the reality is that this nation was founded by Christians and established, at least in principle, on Judeo-Christian values. The Founding Fathers, most of whom owned slaves, did not always exhibit the Christian spirit but they at least held it up as an ideal. So much so that our currency still reads, “In God we Trust.” At Christmas, the last people that should be offended are Christians. But that is exactly what’s been happening in recent years.
Here's a great example of exactly what I'm talking about... it seems this Jewish Rabbi just couldn't be happy until the Seattle airport put up a Minora along with all of the Christmas trees, and threatened to sue them if they didn't! The Seattle airport officials responded by taking down all of the holiday decorations... it seems they were worried that if they put up a Minora, then they would have to play cultural anthropologist or every other religious group would threaten suit if they weren't represented, too. Since then, the Rabbi has retracted his threat due to all of the bad press it caused. He said that he didn't want the decorations to come down, just that he wanted the Minora added to the holiday decorations. The trees have been put back up, without a Minora accompanying them... WAY TO GO, SEATTLE AIRPORT! Don't bow down to that BS, you display what you want and they can go to Israel if they don't like it!
Remember Jesus Christ this Christmas... after all, that's what it's all about!
Check out Defending Christmas
Bruce Jones has spent much of his career designing underwater toys for the rich and famous. The 50-year-old president of U.S. Submarines is best known for building ultraluxe custom subs, $80-million vessels that feature private staterooms, paneled interiors made from exotic hardwoods, plush carpeting, and enough onboard oxygen to keep you and 10 friends breathing easy for three weeks of cruising at depths of nearly 1,000 feet. Now Jones is redirecting his expertise in undersea opulence toward the hotel industry. His plan: to open the Poseidon Mystery Island, the world’s first major resort at the bottom of the ocean, by September 2008.
The hotel, which will sit in about 40 feet of water, will boast individual suites, as well as a library, a wedding chapel and a restaurant. In addition to scuba diving, the guests will be able to cruise around the lagoon in either a 16-person submarine capable of 300-foot-depths, or learn to pilot a three-person Triton sub, which can reach 1,000 feet.
Jones designed Poseidon to provide guests—scuba aficionados and landlubbers alike—with an all-inclusive vacation package: fine dining, stunning views of the surrounding lush coral habitat, and the opportunity to dive directly from the hotel’s airlock, a hatch that lets divers out but keeps the sea from flooding into the hotel. Once the resort opens, visitors staying in one of the 550-square-foot guest rooms will enjoy a 270-degree view of the vibrant coral reef and tropical fish, visible through floor-to-ceiling windows and illuminated by external flood lighting. Guests will access the hotel through two elevators. Because the interior pressure will be held at one atmosphere (the same pressure as onshore), they won’t have to worry about getting decompression sickness. A Frisbee-shaped module at one end of the resort will house a kitchen, reception lounge and 3,000-square-foot rotating restaurant and bar. A second saucer will enclose a library, a conference room, a wedding chapel, a spa and the largest underwater accommodation in the world, the 1,200-square-foot “Nautilus” suite priced at $15,000 a night. To ensure that guests always have a crystal-clear view of the teeming marine life, Poseidon will have an automatic window-cleaning system (barnacles, algae and other marine creatures cling to just about anything in the sea). High-powered water jets will glide along tracks mounted to the sides of the resort, spraying the windows with high-pressure seawater, filtered so as not to coat the acrylic with barnacle larvae or other critters—a mechanism modeled after the cleaning jets in an automated car wash.
If the windows of a guest module become damaged, or if the room requires other repairs, maintenance workers can detach it from the main body of the resort and bring it to the surface. To loosen the joint that connects each suite to Poseidon’s “spine,” workers will close the watertight doors separating the guest module from the spine and then pump the joint full of seawater. As the hydrostatic pressure increases inside the coupling, it will force the suite loose so that an overhead crane can hoist it out of the water.
Like so many other ambitious hotel-resort plans, Poseidon must overcome unenviable logistical hurdles before the first guest walks through the door. Other promising underwater projects have ground to a halt because of budget overruns and legal wrangling. Even funding and lagoon space isn’t a surefire guarantee that Poseidon will ever be completed, although Jones’s decision to pre-fab the hotel, rather than risk the vagaries of underwater construction, tips the odds in his favor. Finally, some industry analysts are skeptical that the pool of potential guests is large enough to keep the hotel afloat. But Jones is confident that he will be taking guest reservations for Poseidon—and that guests will pony up the $15,000-per-person, per-week reservation fee—for a long time to come.
What a cool idea! Not only will it be great for tourism, but in an overpopulated future this technology may become a lifestyle for some groups of people.
I'll just settle for the underwater vacation, and keep my house on solid ground.
After fussing and fighting all week, local Republicans and Democrats finally found something to agree on: The week-long special session accomplished little.
The Senate and the House, after much debate, agreed to set aside $300 million in hopes of attracting a German steel mill and provided a way for property owners to get repaid for a hurricane-related surcharge on their insurance bills.
But the special legislative session dissolved Friday as the Senate and House adjourned early without finishing work on legislation to cut business taxes and income taxes for some, and to give parents a $125 tax credit for each child.
Most of the Democratic governor’s original agenda failed to get anywhere. Republicans in the House blocked her billion-dollar plan to fix highways and give pay raises to government workers.
Blanco was roundly criticized for calling lawmakers to the Capitol without consulting them first about her agenda.
“We all advised against the special session — Democrats, Republicans. We thought there was no real emergency,”
said Rep. Don Cazayoux, D-New Roads. “We didn’t want to come.”
Cazayoux said the Republicans “were trying to hurt the governor.”
“It was doomed from the beginning,” said Rep. Bodi White, R-Central. “There was no input, and key chairmen lacked information. The lack of communication almost doomed the whole process.”
“I don’t think it was a very productive session. I think what we did was draw attention to some things we have to deal with,” said Rep. Carl Crane, R-Baton Rouge.
One bill Blanco pushed through was the creation of a $300 million fund that would spend the cash on infrastructure, such as pilings, that will be necessary if German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp Steel AG decides to build a factory along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish.
“That was the most important thing passed. Really that was the only thing passed,” said Sen. Jody Amadee, D-Gonzales, in whose district the mill would be built. “If we land that project, it was worth every minute, but otherwise I don’t know.”
Rep. Ernie Alexander, R-Lafayette, said he didn’t like Blanco tying the spending for pay raises to the lifting of the state expenditure limit.
“I would like to have voted for the pay raise package, especially for teachers. But she made it an all-or-nothing-at-all, take-it-or-leave-it deal,” he said.
House Speaker Pro-tem Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, said the remaining issues will be settled in the regular session or another special session, “when people have had time to absorb what happened and evaluate it.”
“Hopefully, we will come back in a better frame of mind,” Dorsey said.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, visibly angry at her evening press conference, accused House Republicans of reneging on an agreement to salvage her stalled legislative package.
“It’s just the most-amazing thing I’ve ever seen a group of people do,” Blanco said as she left the State Capitol. “They’re going against their own people."
She said Republican obstruction will hurt teachers, law enforcement, the road system and especially an attempt to attract a steel mill that would employ thousands.
“If we lose this business deal,” she said, “the blame will lie squarely in their laps.”
"The Republicans in the House set a sour tone and decided that partisan politics was more important than their own people."
The governor said she hadn't thought her proposals would be difficult to pass because lawmakers have said year after year that they support teacher pay raises, road repairs and other concepts included in her spending plans.
"I thought it was an easy vote," she said.
Well, Governor... It's real convenient how you included teacher/firefighter/police/DPW pay raises in with your spending cap increase proposal... all the better to get the public into an outrage when you're blank check gets bounced by Republicans, right?
I guess we're not as dumb as you thought! We know that the pay raises will come, we just don't need to hand over $800,000,000 to you to get them!
You know, maybe when faced with a temporary surplus we should try to shore up some of our debt... instead, you treat it like a shopping spree!
Speaking of shopping sprees, I was appalled when I read how much state money the Governor spent while on her Far East Trip... $16,000! And we're not just talking about coach airfare and your average hotel room... we're talking First Class all the way, including a suite at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Wow! I guess we really do have a surplus, but how long could it possibly last with her in office?
Tsk tsk, Governor Blank-Check-Blanco... there's no way in hell you'll be back for a second term!
At the Wreaths Across America event in Baton Rouge, six wreaths placed at the cemetery represented each branch of the military, and all prisoners of war and people missing in action.
The brief ceremony included a moment of silence for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines past and present and the playing of taps by an American Legion Post 38 representative.
Janet Broussard, president of Louisiana Blue Star Mothers, said the ceremony provided the chance to take a few minutes during the busy holiday season and remember the sacrifices. Blue Star mothers, who date back to World War II, have sons and daughters in combat zones.
“We just want people to be aware there are so many people who have given their lives for our freedom,” Broussard said.
Broussard’s son, Lt. Mark St. Romain, is serving in Kuwait with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade, and should be home either in May or October, she said.
Vicki Adams of Greenwell Springs, almost lost her son to the war in Iraq.
1st Lt. Jeffrey Adams, a soldier with the Louisiana Army National Guard 1088th Engineer Battalion, lost his leg two years ago.
Lt. Adams is home, but Vicki Adams said her son came too close to death.
“It’s something that’s been needed for a long time,” Vicki Adams said of the wreath-laying event, “to remind everybody that our freedom is because of others that served or are serving now.”
“It’s too easily forgotten when you’re in your every day routine,” she said.
Adams said she does not blame anyone for what happened to her son in Iraq.
“He wanted to help, for the children,” she said. “Those people have never known freedom.”
“Nobody likes war. It’s an ugly word,” Adams said, but “I don’t think the United States would have gotten where it is today without war.”
Ann Comeaux is a Gold Star mother, a designation for mothers who have lost children in combat. She plans to make the holiday season as normal as possible. She’ll take flowers to her son’s grave Christmas Day.
“I wish they could have come home yesterday,” Comeaux said of the troops still in the Middle East. “But, it’s impossible.”
She said she understands that the fight against the terrorists is necessary.
“They’re fighting to help the people in Iraq,” she said. “We don’t want our soldiers’ lives to be in vain.”
Speaking as a mother, and not in her role as a Blue Star mother, Broussard said, she understands that the situation in Iraq is not ideal.
“I think people need to stop with the negative comments and get behind the troops, get behind the president,” Broussard said.
People who say they support the soldiers, but not the war, “they send the wrong message to our troops when they make those comments,” she said.
Support Our Troops!
Do not forget about them as the holidays come near!
Check out the Wreaths Across America Website.
Space weather forecasters revised their predictions for storminess after a major flare erupted on the Sun overnight threatening damage to communication systems and power grids while offering up the wonder of Northern Lights.
"We're looking for very strong, severe geomagnetic storming" to begin probably around mid-day Thursday, Joe Kunches, Lead Forecaster at the NOAA Space Environment Center, told SPACE.com this afternoon.
The storm is expected to generate aurora or Northern Lights, as far south as the northern United States Thursday night. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are not expected to be put at additional risk, Kunches said.
Radio communications, satellites and power grids could face potential interruptions or damage, however.
Solar flares send radiation to Earth within minutes. Some are also accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CME), clouds of charged particles that arrive in a day or two. This flare unleashed a strong CME that's aimed squarely at Earth.
However, one crucial component to the storm is unknown: its magnetic orientation. If it lines up a certain way with Earth's magnetic field, then the storm essentially pours into our upper atmosphere. If the alignment is otherwise, the storm can pass by the planet with fewer consequences.
Kunches and his team are advising satellite operators and power grid managers to keep an eye on their systems. In the past, CMEs have knocked out satellites and tripped terrestrial power grids. Engineers have learned to limit switching at electricity transfer stations, and satellite operators sometimes reduce operations or make back-up plans in case a craft is damaged.
Another aspect of a CME involves protons that get pushed along by the shock wave. Sometimes these protons break through Earth's protective magnetic field and flood the outer reaches of the atmosphere—where the space station orbits—with radiation. The science of it all is a gray area, Kunches said. But the best guess now is that there will only be a slight increase in proton activity. That's good news for the astronauts.
"When the shock goes by, we don't expect significant radiation issues," he said.
The astronauts were ordered to a protective area of the space station as a precaution last night.
Now that sunspot number 930 has flared so significantly—after several days of being quiet—the forecast calls for a "reasonble chance" of more major flares in coming days, Kunches said.
If we could figure out a way to harness all of that energy, it would solve fuel problems for the entire globe!
We'll have to develop better radiation-shielding technology if we ever want to make significant ventures into space.
In each issue, PopSci features the month's most astounding photos in the magazine's opening pages. Here, see the most recent additions to our collection of the best sci-tech images around.
Some more really cool images from PopSci... just imagine what you're missing if you don't get the magazine.
NASA has announced plans to establish a permanently-occupied lunar base with manned missions starting in 2020, a key step in further human exploration of the solar system.
The project, which would send humans back to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, is a long-term joint effort of 14 of the world's space agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Monday.
According to the current plan, which NASA described as a "blueprint for a return to the moon," robots would travel to the lunar surface ahead of manned missions to study the best landing sites and determine what natural resources would be available.
Then, starting in 2020, four-person crews bringing lunar exploration vehicles would be dispatched on a series of week-long missions to build living quarters equipped with their own power units.
Once permanent housing is established the program envisions lunar missions lasting 180 days.
NASA plans to set up a solar-powered base on one of the moon's poles that, once construction is completed, could serve as a forward base for manned missions to Mars.
"With such an outpost, NASA can learn to use the moon's natural resources to live off the land, make preparations for a journey to Mars, conduct a wide range of scientific investigations and encourage international participation," NASA said.
In 2004, US President George W. Bush had raised the idea of sending a manned exploratory mission to the red planet.
To help set out the goals of the lunar station, NASA consulted more than 1,000 experts. NASA officials talked to members of 13 other space agencies — including those of China, India, Russia and Ukraine — as well as experts from academic, public and private groups, and business interests.
This strategy will be "making optimum use of globally available knowledge and resources to help energize a coordinated effort that will propel us into this new age of discovery and exploration," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.
NASA is developing a new crew capsule, the Orion, and new rocket engines, the Ares, for the mission. Test flights for the new rockets are scheduled for within two and a half years, and the Orion capsule is scheduled to be first flown around 2012.
In the meantime the space agency plans using the current space shuttle fleet until it is retired in 2010, with a focus on completing the building of the International Space Station.
NASA, Russia and the European Space Agency are currently constructing the ISS, in orbit around the Earth, which could itself be a springboard and operations base for the moon program.
I really am looking forward to this! Just imagine how much more we will learn about the moon and surviving in space! It's going to be good practice for Mars.
Check out the really cool NASA feature: How We'll Get Back to the Moon!
NASA is looking at the possibility of locating the first Moon Base on a crater rim at the South pole of the Moon.
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – This will be their last visit to this watery grave to share stories, exchange smiles, find peace and salute their fallen friends.
This, they say, will be their final farewell.
With their number quickly dwindling, survivors of Pearl Harbor will gather Thursday one last time to honor those killed by the Japanese 65 years ago, and to mark a date that lives in infamy.
"This will be one to remember," said Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "It's going to be something that we'll cherish forever."
The survivors have met here every five years for four decades, but they're now in their 80s or 90s and are not counting on a 70th reunion. They have made every effort to report for one final roll call.
Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.
Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178 others, that plunged the United States into World War II and set in motion the events that led to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The attack may have occurred 65 years ago, but survivors say they can still hear the explosions, smell the burning flesh, taste the sea water and hear the cries.
"From the time the first bomb dropped and for the next 15 minutes, it was complete chaos," Edward Chun said. "Nobody knew what was going on. Everybody was running around like a chicken with their head cut off."
Chun saw the Oklahoma and West Virginia torpedoed by Japanese aircraft. He heard the tapping of sailors trapped in the hulls of sunken ships. He escaped death when Ten-Ten was strafed, leaving behind dead and wounded.
Many of the dead were teenage sailors and Marines away from home for the first time. They died before they had an opportunity to get married, have children, build lives.
Four in five servicemen on the USS Arizona — 1,177 in all — did not survive the day. It was the greatest loss of life of any ship in U.S. naval history. They remain entombed in the battleship's sunken hull, which still seeps oil every few seconds, leaving a colorful sheen on the harbor water.
The survivors say they have more than horrific memories to offer. "Remember Pearl Harbor" is just the first half of the association's motto; the rest is "Keep America alert."
Martinez said many Pearl Harbor survivors were disheartened by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, "as if they had not done their job hard enough."
Once again, it seemed that America had been caught sleeping. Interest in Pearl Harbor and its aging survivors surged. The old soldiers are much in demand _ to sign autographs, walk in parades, speak to classrooms and pose for pictures. Visits to the USS Arizona Memorial are at record levels.
Not that everyone sees similarities between the two attacks. "There is no comparison," Hyland said. "That was terrorists killing a pile of civilians. Here, you had professional fighters versus professional fighters. Two different things."
There are those who are unable to forgive the Japanese, But others testify to the power of reconciliation.
"There are some guys that are going to die with hate in their heart. I don't have in me any hatred in my heart," said 87-year-old survivor Lee Soucy, of Plainview, Texas. "They were doing their job just like we were."
Hyland, who was almost killed in the attack, married a woman from Japan. They met at the 50th Pearl Harbor anniversary and wed the following year.
"I got over it a long time ago," he said.
Never forget what our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers went through for this country! Learn their history, or it will fade away...
Instead of playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time, the LSU Tigers will play in the Sugar Bowl for a record 13th time. Instead of playing Michigan or USC, as LSU seemed destined for during most of the last week, the Tigers will play Notre Dame.
“You want to celebrate a great season with a quality opponent,” LSU coach Les Miles said, “and Notre Dame, any way you cut it, is a quality team: Two losses to nationally ranked teams, great teams, and one of those traditionally historic football programs. It’ll be a great matchup.”
Two games Saturday made it happen. UCLA’s 13-9 upset of USC knocked the Trojans out of a probable berth in the national championship game. Florida’s 38-28 victory over Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game impressed enough voters — and the BCS computers — to let Florida move ahead of USC and, by a razor-thin margin, Michigan in the BCS standings.
That means Florida, No. 2 in the BCS, will play No. 1 Ohio State for the championship Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.
The shuffle in the standings cleared the way for the Rose Bowl to have what it wants every year — a matchup of teams from its traditional partners, the Big Ten Conference and Pac-10 Conference — and gave the Sugar Bowl the chance to select LSU as an at-large BCS participant.
Paul Hoolahan, the CEO of the Sugar Bowl, said he was excited to have the Tigers and Fighting Irish in the Jan. 3 game in the Louisiana Superdome, a game that should provide a welcome financial and festive boost to the rebuilding city of New Orleans.
“We feel like we have two of the absolute best teams to help provide a little jumpstart for this local region,” Hoolahan said.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis thanked Hoolahan for the invitation and said he’s glad the Irish will be playing in the Sugar Bowl.
“I can’t say enough about our affinity for the city of New Orleans,” Weis said. “The last highlight I can remember is watching that early NFL game when the Saints came back to New Orleans, to the Superdome, and we’re really looking forward to the challenge of going against LSU and bringing our troops en masse down to New Orleans to enjoy the festivities.”
The game is a sellout, LSU and Sugar Bowl officials said Sunday. LSU senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent said LSU will try to secure more tickets this week for its fans but couldn’t promise the university will succeed in that quest.
Notre Dame is 2-1 in previous Sugar Bowl games, including a dramatic victory over Alabama in the 1973 game for the national championship. Georgia won a national championship by defeating the Irish in the 1981 Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame defeated Florida in the 1992 Sugar Bowl.
LSU is tied with Alabama for the most appearances in the Sugar Bowl (12). The matchup against Notre Dame will break that tie.
Miles, one of 62 coaches who voted in the USA Today Top 25 poll that is a one-third component of the BCS formula, helped make the Notre Dame-LSU matchup possible by voting Florida at No. 2 on his ballot Sunday. That knocked Michigan out of the national title game and LSU out of the Rose Bowl.
Florida, Miles said, deserved a shot at Ohio State, and he voted accordingly.
Florida is one of two teams that defeated LSU this season. Miles said it eases the blow a bit to know the Gators will play for a national championship.
“We’re represented in that game,” Miles said. “We have to represent ourselves in our own game now, but we enjoy what the country sees as the strength of our conference.”
Well, the BCS pairings have been announced:
National Championship Game (Jan. 8th):
#1 Ohio State vs. #2 Florida
Allstate Sugar Bowl (Jan. 3rd):
#4 LSU vs. #11 Notre Dame
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1st):
#3 Michigan vs. #5 USC
It would have been nice to see the Tigers in the Rose Bowl for the first time, but the powers that be decided to take #5 USC instead of #4 LSU against #3 Michigan. Go figure.
The Sugar is a helluva lot more convenient trip for us anyway! Besides, I'm pumped that there's an SEC team in contention for a national championship once again. It just goes to show which conference is the toughest... nobody has a conference championship game like the SEC!
UPDATE 1-9-07: The Top 5 rounded out at:
#1 - Florida Gators (SEC)
#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
#3 - LSU Tigers (SEC)
#4 - USC Trojans (Pac-10)
#5 - Boise State Broncos (WAC)
Check out my 2007 Sugar Bowl post: SWEET Domination!.
Check out my 2007 National Championship post: Welcome to SEC Football, Buckeyes!.
Like most teenagers, Marshall Watts was looking forward to his 18th birthday.
But this year, Oct. 21 came with a deadline for a Boy Scout who had set his mind on achieving a rarely achieved goal.
Watts didn’t just want to make Eagle rank — he wanted to earn all 121 possible merit badges, 100 more than needed for advancement.
Official rules say that merit badges and advancement of rank may be earned until a Scout’s 18th birthday, so time was running out.
He earned most of his badges by participating in weekly meetings with Troop 1 and attending summer and winter camp Scouting programs. Beginning last summer, Watts said he had earned a little more than 60 badges and had almost decided that was good enough.
“Fortunately, my parents encouraged me,” he said.
That, coupled with favorite quotes from his role model, Gen. George S. Patton, began to inspire him.
“I kept thinking about the one, ‘Accept the challenges so you can feel the exhilaration of victory,’” he said.
“With eight weeks left, I had 33 badges left to complete. I had a whole list made and I divided up the merit badges. My goal was to finish four per week,” he explained.
During this time, Watts also had to complete his Eagle Scout project which involved helping to refurbish grave sites at Port Hudson National Cemetery.
“Patton said, ‘Pressure makes diamonds,’ ” said Watts.
A couple of badges, Aviation, American Business and Entrepreneurship sparked hobby and future career interests. Watts needs five more solo hours to finish his pilot’s license and upon completing the Entrepreneurship badge, he started a profitable pressure washing business. He is also in the final stages of starting his latest business venture, producing biodiesel fuel.
Scout officials say that attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is laudable, but earning all of the 121 possible merit badges makes him unique among his south Louisiana peers.
“Most Scouts who have earned their Eagle rank do so with a lot of prodding from their parents and Scout leaders and even then only earn the minimum 21 required badges plus a few other fun ones,” said Joe Farlow, director of programs for the Boy Scouts Istrouma Area Council. “He definitely overachieved.”
According to National Boy Scout statistics, only 4 percent of all Boy Scouts who participate in the program attain the rank of Eagle Scout, a number that has increased during the past few years.
Farlow said he thinks that Watts’ achievement is a first for this area.
None of the area Scout leaders were aware of a similar feat, “and there are people who have worked here for over 20 years,” Farlow said.
Watts said he decided he wanted to earn all the merit badges years ago after seeing an older Scout with a sash full. “At that time there were only 119.”
Throughout his high school career, in addition to Scouting, Watts has been a member of the football, soccer, tennis and track teams and participated in concert and jazz band.
“The discipline that this young man had to focus on completing the badge requirements is commendable,” Farlow said. “Some of the badge requirements take a couple of hours work; some take weeks and some take months.”
“Merit badges offer a variety of subject matter and career fields. He probably achieved much more than a normal high school education,” Farlow said.
Watts birthday also proved especially memorable.
A mayor’s proclamation decreed the day as “Marshall Henry Hays Watts’s day” in Baton Rouge. His family and friends attended a ceremony at First Presbyterian Church honoring him for achieving one of Boys Scouts highest ranks, Eagle Scout, and for the incredible feat of earning 121 merit badges.
Watts said he advises Scouts to continue to pursue as many badges as possible. “Everybody shoots for Eagle, but I think they should set higher goals.”
WOW! What an impressive accomplishment! This young man will go far in whatever career he chooses. Many of those merit badges are very hard to earn... believe me, I know. Seeing this makes me wish I would've stuck it out all the way to Eagle.