Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007!

Merry Christmas!

Don't Forget The Reason for the Season

All we want for Christmas is a Championship!  Geaux Tigers!

Traditional Louisiana Bonfires on the Levee

Traditional Louisiana Bonfires on the Levee

Christmas Eve 2007 - Mars with the Full Moon in tow - photo by Renegade
Christmas Eve 2007 - Mars with the Full Moon in tow
photo by Renegade

GRAMERCY — The Gramercy Volunteer Fire Department has been on more than 150 calls this past year, but few if any were actual fire emergencies.

“Some years we have no fire calls,” Gramercy Fire Chief David Detillier said. “Other years we have three or four.”

Christmas Eve was a different story.

Detillier, his crew and firefighters from other departments kept a careful watch as more than 130 Christmas Eve bonfires burned atop the Mississippi River flood protection levee in the St. James Parish communities of Gramercy, Lutcher, Paulina and Convent.

Detillier said his Fire Department was mainly concerned about the ones within the Gramercy city limits.

“We’re going to have to watch about 40 fires tonight,” Detillier said before the bonfires were lit. “Most will burn themselves out by about 10 p.m.”

If Detillier’s attitude toward the bonfires seems nonchalant, it’s only because the ritual lighting of bonfires atop the Mississippi River levee is a longtime Christmas tradition in St. James Parish.

Thousand of visitors began flooding into the river communities at 5 p.m. Monday to jostle for best position to watch the 7 p.m. lighting of the tall pyramid-shaped bonfires.

Once the fires are lighted, a stream of cars, trucks, vans, buses and motorcycles cruises past the bonfires to take in the entire spectacle of the burning conflagrations.

Many residents along River Road opened their homes to the visitors and served a variety of gumbos, including red bean, seafood, and chicken and sausage.

Detillier said he conferred with the Lutcher and Paulina fire chiefs earlier in the day and determined the bonfires posed no hazard to nearby homes.

The chiefs recommended to Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. that it was safe to light the fires.

“As long as we have a north wind, it’s not usually a problem,” Detillier said.

Many residents, mostly those under the age of 7, believe the bonfires burn on Christmas Eve to light the way for PaPa Noël, the river parish version of Santa Claus.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette folklorist Marcia Gaudet says there is historical evidence to suggest the bonfire tradition harkens back to at least pre-Civil War days.

“It’s interesting that the tradition is mainly practiced in St. James Parish,” Gaudet said. “I think the French Maraist priests in Convent helped to preserve the tradition.”

Gaudet, in her 1984 study “Tales from the Levee: the Folklore of St. John the Baptist Parish,” speculated that the students of the Maraist priests of Jefferson College (now Manresa Retreat House) carried the custom to their hometowns.

Detillier said that even though the bonfires are not supposed to be lighted until 7 p.m., there is always one group that jumps the gun.

“They put diesel fuel on these things and then a firework or something goes astray and bam, one of the bonfires is lighted early,” Detillier said.

Does Detillier, a firefighter with more than 25 years experience, believe the fireworks story?

His response was tongue in cheek. “Well, that’s what they say.”

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Hope you caught that awesome astronomical display last night! The full moon was bright, and so was Mars... or was that Rudolph? Check the photo above, which I snapped around midnight.

Merry Christmas... and don't forget the reason for the season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Manned Asteroid Mission?

NASA Manned Asteroid Mission

NASA Manned Asteroid Mission

NASA Manned Asteroid Mission

Here we are, nearly eight years into the 21st century, and the most spectacular manned mission NASA can pull off is a trip to the International Space Station, a mere 210 miles above the Earth. Even the most ambitious part of NASA's current plans for human spaceflight involves visiting a celestial body we've already been to: the moon. Astronauts, space buffs and an unimpressed public hunger for space exploration that's more dramatic, more heroic, more new. Something like, say, landing astronauts on a distant rock hurtling through space at 15 miles per second.

That's exactly the kind of trip NASA has been studying. In fact, scientists at the space agency recently determined that a manned mission to a near-Earth asteroid would be possible using technology being developed today. The mission wouldn't be easy. A crew of two or three would spend months riding in a cramped spacecraft before reaching their barren, nearly gravity-free target. That such a mission is even being considered, though, says a lot about the versatility of NASA's next fleet of spacecraft and the ambitions the agency has for them. If nothing else, it's a signal that space exploration could soon get much more exciting.

The Allure of an Asteroid

This wouldn't be our first trip to an asteroid. We've been visiting them by proxy for years now, using unmanned space probes. In 2000 NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft arrived at 433 Eros, which a century earlier became the first near-Earth asteroid known to man; five years later, the Japanese Hayabusa probe touched down on asteroid 25143 Itokawa.

Yet unmanned probes have their limitations. NEAR Shoemaker and Hayabusa gathered a good deal of data, but we still don't know the exact composition and internal structure of the asteroids they visited. And although Hayabusa was designed to collect two small samples from Itokawa, it's doubtful the probe will actually have anything onboard when it returns in 2010.

Humans, however, could be much more effective. Unlike robots, we adapt to our environment in real time. "We spend weeks at a rock with a Mars rover, trying to determine what it is," says Rob Landis, an engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center and one of the co-leaders of the mission feasibility study. "An astronaut could make that determination in a matter of seconds."

A human crew could travel across an asteroid more intelligently than a robot, making it easier to deploy scientific instruments, collect samples, and zero in on the areas of greatest interest. "No doubt, on a human mission we would characterize an asteroid better than we ever have," says Bruce Betts, director of projects for the Planetary Society.

Plenty of characterization needs to be done. While most asteroids are a safe distance from Earth (in an approximately 190-million-mile-wide expanse between Mars and Jupiter), Jupiter's gravitational tug and, less often, collisions between asteroids can kick these objects into orbits that pass uncomfortably close to Earth. The 270-meter-wide asteroid 99942 Apophis, for example, will pass within roughly 24,000 miles of Earth in 2029, and could come back for a direct hit in 2036.

And if we're to have any hope of deflecting asteroids, we need to know a lot more about them than we do now. First off: What, exactly, are they made of? Measurements taken by Hayabusa indicate that 40 percent of Itokawa's volume is empty space. If some asteroids are truly this porous, that's helpful information for any plan to destroy or deflect an Earth-bound object.

Averting the apocalypse isn't the only reason to study near-Earth asteroids, though. They could be floating gold mines for future deep-space expeditions. Preliminary observations suggest that some asteroids are rich in useful minerals and, better yet, frozen water—the most valuable resource a space traveler could hope to find. If water could be extracted from asteroids, it could not only be used for drinking, but also broken down into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for rocket fuel. "It might be an ultimate way to get to Mars," Landis says.

Check out the article and the slideshow at Popular Science.

Just image the resources that could be discovered and the knowledge that would be gained by this venture. Truly exciting stuff!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas Came Early...

2007 SEC Champions!
Les Miles is NOT going to Michigan!
LSU will play in the 2008 BCS Championship!

Happy Holidays from the LSU TIgers!Christmas has come early... We're going to the 'ship!

LSU's case for the National Championship game!

LSU's Ryan Perrilloux showed fans that we have a lot to look forward to next year!

LSU's Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LeFell celebrate!

LSU's Jacob Hester is an NFL-bound locomotive!

LSU's Head Coach Les Miles celebrates!

BATON ROUGE -- Fresh off an SEC Championship game victory, the LSU football team knew it was going to New Orleans for a January bowl game. But, few thought the stars would re-align and the Tigers would face off with Ohio State for the Bowl Championship Series National Championship on Jan. 7.

After beating Tennessee, No. 7-ranked LSU looked forward to possibly facing undefeated Hawai'i in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

However, key upsets of No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia while the Tigers were at 35,000 feet en route to Baton Rouge from Atlanta Saturday night sent the Delta charter flight into a frenzy, as the team found they may have a shot at the title despite two triple-overtimes losses in the regular season.

Two of the other five teams ahead of LSU in the BCS standings didn't win their conference's division -- Kansas and Georgia -- while LSU beat another by 41 -- Virginia Tech. The pollsters and computers thought the Tigers' resume was too good to miss out on the BCS National Championship Game.

LSU's computer average was No. 2, while it's BCS average was .9394. Ohio State's was .9588. Virginia Tech finished third in the BCS (.8703), Oklahoma was fourth (.8572) and Georgia rounded out the Top 5 (.8392).

LSU (11-2), which was ranked No. 1 twice during the season, was ranked No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings released live on FOX Sunday evening. The Tigers were ranked No. 2 in preseason polls.

Ohio State (11-1), champions of the Big Ten, haven't played since defeating Michigan on Nov. 17. However, the Buckeyes watched as four teams ahead of them in the Nov. 18 polls -- LSU, Kansas, West Virginia and Missouri -- each lost over the next two weeks.

LSU season ticket holders requested more than 60,000 tickets to the BCS National Championship game this year. The school's 16,000-ticket allotment will mostly be distributed by LSU Priority Points.

The Tigers and Buckeyes have met twice on the gridiron, first with a 13-13 tie in 1987 in Baton Rouge before Ohio State won 36-33 in Columbus in 1988.

LSU has won National Championships in 1958 and 2003 -- beating Oklahoma 21-14 in the New Orleans Superdome on Jan. 4, 2004.

Bowl Championship Series Games

  • Sugar Bowl - Hawaii vs. Georgia
  • Rose Bowl - USC vs. Illinois
  • Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
  • Orange Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
  • BCS Championship Game - LSU vs. Ohio St.


“I would like to thank the voters and those people who are responsible for allowing us to play in this great game. We are humble by the selection. We will honor that game with our finest effort.”

“How it unfolded certainly could not have been scripted. We had a very difficult Saturday (last week) against Arkansas. We go to the championship game and fight and scrape to win the conference. Low and behold, No. 1 and No. 2 fall and it becomes a very talented LSU team that is voted into the game. We are excited and honored to have the opportunity. We will play a great Ohio State team that is very talented and well coached.”

Check out the article at LSU Sports.

Chrsitmas has come early for the LSU Tigers and fans! We won the SEC Championship, kept our head coach (Les Miles), and managed to squeak into the National Championship game! We'd better take care of business, because we've used up all of our luck!

Of course there will be the anti-BCS crowd whining about the decision and how a 2-loss LSU team doesn't belong, but it makes total sense if you look at the numbers, which no other team can come close to matching:

  • SEC Champions -- The toughest conference in the nation
  • Outright SEC Western Division Champs
  • Posted an 11-2 mark, the third straight year LSU has won 11 games
  • Beat school-record 6 top 20 teams, including 2 wins over top 10 teams
  • Didn't lose a game in regulation (only 2 losses came in triple overtime by a total of 8 points)
  • Beat No. 5 Virginia Tech, 48-7
  • Beat 9 bowl-eligible teams
  • 7 of 11 wins came against SEC teams
  • Twice ranked No. 1 in the nation

I'm curious how many first-round draft picks will be coming out of LSU. We have a number of players who will be there, including Glenn Dorsey, Craig Steltz, Matt Flynn, and Jacob Hester. Speaking of Jacob Hester, check out this devastating hit he made in the SEC Championship game...

When the train is coming, get off the tracks!

Geaux Tigers!!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Will He Stay or Will He Go?

LSU Head Coach Les Miles

LSU Tigers are in the toughest conference in the country - the SEC

2007 LSU Tigers Football Lineup

All we want for Christmas is a Championship!  Geaux Tigers!

ATLANTA — Will Les Miles stay or will he go if offered the head coaching job at his alma mater Michigan?

The talk over Miles’ future at LSU continues to dominate conversation on the eve of Saturday’s SEC Championship Game between the No. 5-ranked Tigers (10-2) and No. 14 Tennessee (9-3).

LSU officials confirmed Wednesday that Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin asked for permission to speak to Miles about Michigan’s coaching vacancy. LSU granted Martin’s request on the condition that Michigan officials not speak with Miles until after Saturday’s game.

No date has been set for the Michigan meeting. LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said Thursday he expects to talk with Miles about his future with LSU after the team returns from Atlanta.

“The first thing we want to do is let the game get played,” Bertman said, “and then the first thing Monday we want to see if we can begin the process from our end.”

One member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, Chairman Jerry Shea of New Iberia, said he spoke to Miles last week and that Miles told him that he wants to stay at LSU.

“I would like to see him stay and I think he’s going to stay,” Shea said.

Fellow board member Louis Lambert of Prairieville was less optimistic.

“I hope he stays,” Lambert said, “but I’m not sure based on what I read and what I see. But I hope he stays.”

Shea said he expects the Miles matter to be wrapped up early next week, and that a quick resolution was important to the health of LSU’s football program.

“Everybody wants it to happen sooner than later,” Shea said. “It’s affecting recruiting, the players, the coaches — it’s affecting everybody.”

Shea also said the university and the athletic department have contingency plans if Miles does leave, but would not elaborate on what those are.

“I hope they don’t have to use it,” he said.

Bertman said he met in Baton Rouge recently with Miles’ Dallas-based agent, George Bass.

“I had spoken to George awhile back,” Bertman said. “The chancellor (Sean O’Keefe) called Les to tell him how much the university wants him to stay and I relayed that information to George. He (Bass) said he wanted to come down here anyway and meet.

“No money figures were thrown around, but we did talk about the fact that Les’s contract has performance clauses in it and we all agreed that we want him to stay regardless of the outcome of a single football game. This is not about waiting to see if we win this game or not.”

Bertman said Bass couldn’t act on anything on Miles’ behalf because of the timing of their meeting.

“I didn’t want to bother him (Miles) this week anymore than I want Michigan to bother him this week,” Bertman said. Attempts to reach Bass on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini continues to rank as one of the top candidates to replace the ousted Bill Callahan as head coach at Nebraska. Pelini reportedly interviewed Sunday with interim Nebraska athletic director and football coach Tom Osborne.

Pelini, who was defensive coordinator at Nebraska in 2003 and served as its interim head coach for an Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan, has declined to speak publicly or issue a statement regarding the Nebraska job.

Thursday, LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Pelini told him: “His focus is squarely on this team and doing whatever he can to get our defense ready to play on Saturday. There’s nothing else on his mind other than LSU football and getting ready for Tennessee.”

Bonnette said Pelini has been at practice every day this week (practices have been closed to the media) and that he will coach in Saturday’s game.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Well, last Friday's loss to Arkansas really put a damper on the Thanksgiving weekend. I'm disappointed that we couldn't pull out the National Championship season, but that does not at all take away from the amount of pride I have in this team! These guys have been playing their hearts out and I won't take anything away from them. Besides, it is true that there isn't a team in the country who has beaten as many ranked teams... not to mention, there isn't another team in the country that can claim their only losses came in triple overtime!

Here's to success in the SEC Championship Game and whatever Bowl we play in. Hey, you never know... a miracle could happen and we could still get in the NC game!

Check out this quote from LSU coach Les Miles:

“I’ve thought about how this season has gone. Certainly we would like to have the last game back. We understand what that has cost us in our national ranking and what it means. Right now, I would like to talk about what we are, and not what we just lost. What we are is one hell of a football team. I like our team, especially the character of our team. If you think about this football team, we have not been healthy since the first game of the year. Yet, no matter who we call on to go in and make plays, they make plays.”

This team has not lost a game in regulation. I know it does not mean much to you guys (media.) The point is, in a 60 minutes game, we play as competitive as we can be. There is not a team that we have played that has bested us in the first 60 minutes. If you had to look at the length and width of the game, that is how it is measured. Then you go to overtime, and I think our overtime system is just as flawed as any other overtime system. It’s just the way it is and it is probably correct. You have to decide it then where it takes the length of the field and certain situations out of it. It is imperfect, but a darn good system. You tell me if there are other teams in this country that can say that. If you just give us ties, like in the old system, we are undefeated with two ties. Maybe that adds up as one lost.”

Go find a team that has losses that only came in overtime. Go find a team that compares competitively with five nationally-ranked teams and has done extremely well. I am talking about our team and what we can be, not what we just lost. I think our best football is coming. I haven’t talked to my team yet today, but I can say this – there is too much character on this team not to understand that 10 wins, third-straight time at this school, has not been done before, is special.”

Check out the full transcript at LSU Sports.

Geaux Tigers!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Go to Hell Ole Miss!

Geaux LSU Tigers!

Geaux LSU Tigers!

Geaux Tigers!

Geaux LSU Tigers!

BATON ROUGE -- There will be a lot on the line Saturday when top-ranked LSU travels to face Ole Miss in Oxford. The Tigers go into their clash with Ole Miss with the opportunity to not only capture the school’s first outright Southeastern Conference Western Division title, but to also strengthen its hold on then nation’s No. 1 ranking.

The Tigers and Rebels renew their annual rivalry at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on CBS. LSU brings a 9-1 overall mark and a 5-1 league record into the game, while the Rebels are winless in SEC action this year, sporting an 0-6 mark. Ole Miss is 3-7 overall.

LSU has won five straight and six of the last season over the Rebels, including last year’s 23-20 overtime thriller in Baton Rouge. In that game, the Tigers came from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime, where they eventually won.

Despite Ole Miss winning only three games this year, LSU coach Les Miles expects another very competitive game with the Rebels. Four of the last five games between the teams have been decided by a total of 10 points.

“We are expecting their best shot and we don’t anticipate getting anything less than that,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We’ve had a good week of preparation, both on the field as well as in the meeting rooms. We understand that that we are going on the road to play an SEC game and that we have to bring our best effort in order to be successful.”

Also on LSU’s side is the fact that the Tigers can now strengthen their grip on the nation’s top ranking after second-ranked Oregon dropped a stunner to unranked Arizona on Thursday night. Outside of LSU, the Ducks had more first place votes than any of the other contenders in last week’s polls.

With a win over the Rebels, the Tigers can also clinch their first outright SEC Western Division title. Prior to this season, LSU has shared the league title on six occasions, winning the tiebreaker and advancing to the league’s championship game three times – 2001, ’03, and ’05.

With all that being said, Miles and the Tigers are still focused on one thing, and that’s playing well against the Rebels.

A victory over Ole Miss will also give the Tigers their 10th victory this season, running LSU’s streak to three consecutive years with double-figure victories. LSU won 11 games in both 2005 and 2006. A third straight season with at least 10 victories will have LSU join Alabama, Georgia Tennessee and Florida as the only teams in SEC history to accomplish that feat.

Offensively, the Tigers bring a unit into the Ole Miss game that has been clicking on all cylinders in recent weeks, scoring 41 points against Alabama and following that with 58 against Louisiana Tech. LSU, which has scored at least 28 points in every game this year, is averaging 39 points per game and a league-leading 455 yards per contest.

Quarterback Matt Flynn has tossed three touchdowns in three straight games and has run his season totals to 1,856 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. Running back Jacob Hester continues to lead the Tigers in rushing with 706 yards and eight scores. Hester has also caught 11 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown.

The return of Early Doucet, along with the emergence of Demetrius Byrd and Terrance Toliver, has bolstered LSU’s passing game. Sophomore Brandon LaFell leads the Tigers with 39 catches for 535 yards and two scores, while Doucet has 30 receptions for 335 and four scores. Byrd, a junior college transfer in his first year with the Tigers, has 22 catches for a team-best 464 yards and four TDs.

Defensively, the Tigers continue to rely on the tone set by its defensive front, in particular defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. As a unit, LSU is ranked among the top 10 in the nation in five categories, which includes leading the country in total defense with 236.8 yards per game. LSU is also No. 3 in rushing defense at 66.0 yards per game, No. 6 in pass defense at 170.8 yards per game and 10th in scoring at 16.7 points per contest.

Safety Craig Steltz leads the Tigers in tackles with 68, while linebacker Ali Highsmith is second on the squad with 60 stops. Dorsey, along with Kirston Pittman, lead the Tigers in both tackles for losses (11.5) and sacks (6).

After Saturday, the Tigers will have a short week to close out the regular season as they host Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23.

Check out the article at LSU Sports.

Geaux Tigers!!!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Earth-rise in HD!

HD image of Earth taken from Japan's satellite Kaguya, aka Selene

Selene's HD version of the famous Apollo photo: Earth-rise

Selene's HD image of the Earth setting on the moon

Selene's HD compilation of the Earth setting on the moon

Apollo's Earth-rise
The original Earth-rise - taken by William Anders
during the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon on December 24, 1968.

A Japanese moon probe has replicated the famous Apollo-era "Earth-rise" photograph with modern high-definition imaging.

The Kaguya spacecraft, also called Selene, has been orbiting 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon since Oct. 18.

The new Earth-rise image shows our blue world floating in the blackness of space. It is a still shot taken from video made by the craft's high-definition television (HDTV) for space.

A second image, taken from a different location in the lunar orbit, has been dubbed Earth-set. A related series of still images shows our planet setting beyond the lunar horizon.

In the Earth-set image, Earth appears upside-down; visible are Australia and Asia. A region near the moon's south pole is seen in the foreground.

The footage was taken Nov. 7 using equipment provided by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK).

The orbiter mission is run by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Its first high-definition videos of Earth were sent back last month. The mission objectives are to obtain scientific data on the origin and evolution of the moon and to develop the technology for future lunar exploration.

Check out the article at Space.com.

Awesome images... I want to get my hands on that video! Congrats to JAXA on a successful mission, and thanks for sharing!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day 2007

Veterans Day 2007

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

Check out the article at Department of Veteran Affairs website.

Never forget our veterans... past, present or future!

Check out the Veterans Day Wiki page.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Realistic Dragonspy

Realistic Spyfly

Tiny Spybug

Ever wish you could be a "fly on the wall" at a closed-door meeting or to hear a foe’s secrets?

Enter the robobug.

Witnesses are buzzing about recent sightings of robotic-looking dragonflies seen at Washington and New York political events. And U.S. government and private agencies have admitted to striving for the spy technology, The Washington Post reports, though no one has confessed to deploying the bugged bugs.

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' "

That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Others think they are, well, dragonflies -- an ancient order of insects that even biologists concede look about as robotic as a living creature can look.

No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

The robobugs could follow suspects, guide missiles to targets or navigate the crannies of collapsed buildings to find survivors.

The technical challenges of creating robotic insects are daunting, and most experts doubt that fully working models exist yet.

"If you find something, let me know," said Gary Anderson of the Defense Department's Rapid Reaction Technology Office.

But the CIA secretly developed a simple dragonfly snooper as long ago as the 1970s. And given recent advances, even skeptics say there is always a chance that some agency has quietly managed to make something operational.

"America can be pretty sneaky," said Tom Ehrhard, a retired Air Force colonel and expert in unmanned aerial vehicles who is now at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit Washington-based research institute.

Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously. Defense Department documents describe nearly 100 different models in use today, some as tiny as birds, and some the size of small planes.

All told, the nation's fleet of flying robots logged more than 160,000 flight hours last year -- a more than fourfold increase since 2003. A recent report by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College warned that if traffic rules are not clarified soon, the glut of unmanned vehicles "could render military airspace chaotic and potentially dangerous."

But getting from bird size to bug size is not a simple matter of making everything smaller.

Check out the article at Fox News or the original article at The Washington post.

Cool, I could use a few of those!

Seriously, let's just hope that these things don't get in the wrong hands... yeah, like they aren't already.

Just imagine how good the New England Patriots would be if Bill Belichick got his hands on one of those spybugs!

Check out this interesting Spybug article I found at How Stuff Works.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Beat Saban!!!

Geaux Tigers!  BEAT SABAN!

RUN Saban RUN!

Around the Bowl and Down the Hole, Roll Tide Roll!
Around the Bowl and Down the Hole... Roll Tide Roll!

Geaux Tigers! Beat Saban the Sell-Out!

Beat Saban the Sell-Out!Geaux Tigers! Beat Saban the Sell-Out!

Geaux Tigers! Beat Saban!

Geaux Tigers! Beat Saban the Sell-Out!

Geaux Tigers! Beat Saban the Sell-Out!

Most LSU fans have been waiting for this week ever since last winter, when their former coach, Nick Saban, accepted the head job at Alabama.

They have followed his every move leading up to Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa, which has been unofficially labeled "The Saban Bowl." They still are struggling to understand how he could abandon them.

Saban coached the Tigers to a pair of SEC titles and a share of the 2003 national championship and stockpiled the program with NFL-caliber talent before leaving for the Miami Dolphins. Then, after just two seasons with the Dolphins, he resurfaced at a bitter conference rival, signing a multi-year deal with Alabama worth $4million per season.

Les Miles is an impressive 29-5 in three years at LSU. He has coached the Tigers to the No.3 slot in the weekly BCS standings. If LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) wins out and second-ranked Boston College stumbles, the Tigers are poised to play for another national title in nearby New Orleans.

Interestingly, if Miles were to leave for Michigan, his alma mater, at the end of the season, it is hard to tell how many rabid LSU boosters would miss him. It seems not everyone is completely sold on Miles after he risked a potentially special season by going for a touchdown from the 22-yard line in the final seconds of a 30-24 win over Auburn instead of just playing it safe, calling a timeout and going for the game-winning field goal.

Saban is a more complicated story.

He developed a cult following down in the Bayou after he rebuilt an LSU program that was wallowing in the swamps with eight losing seasons in the 11 years before he arrived. Then he broke a lot of hearts. Now, his team is coming off a 41-17 victory over Tennessee two weeks ago and, in his first year on the job, he has the 17th-ranked Tide (6-2, 4-1) in position to win the West and make its first trip to the SEC title game since 1999.

It's all too much for some LSU fans, who seem desperate to see Miles beat Saban, if only to wipe out the giant shadow he still casts over Baton Rouge and show that any capable coach can succeed at this program.

Saban and Miles have spent this week repeating the same mantra, that this game is not personal between the coaches.

"I don't know what people are saying," Saban said. "I don't know what's going on out there, but I know you guys are busy creating. Unfortunately, I'm not interested in trying to be part of it."

That might be true today, but just a day after LSU thumped Notre Dame, 41-14, in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, Saban, who recruited 17 current LSU starters, did bring up the fact he recruited most of the players on that team, and he happened to mention at the SEC media day over the summer that after he left for the Dolphins, one of his administrative assistants had her tires slashed when she returned to Baton Rouge for a wedding.

Miles may have opened a window to his soul last winter, too, when he suggested to a booster club that the Tigers enjoyed playing Florida but had a new rival in "--- Alabama," then told another club that he hated the color red. "Ohio State, Indiana. When I was with the Cowboys, it was the Redskins," he said. "I look forward to going back to my roots and kicking the crap out of a team in red."

Check out the article at NY Daily News.

Finally, the time has come... what we have been waiting for all year... it's time to BEAT SABAN! I want to see him screaming at everyone until he's red in the face!!!

Check out the Geaux Tigers, Beat Bama! song on David St. Romain's MySpace page!!! Sung to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama, of course! Great song, David!

Geaux Tigers!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow's Eve

The Headless Horseman - Sleepy Hollow

The Black Riders - The Lord of the Rings

Nazgul flying from the Black Tower - The Lord of the Rings

Ringwraith - The Lord of the Rings

The Headless Horseman - Sleepy Hollow

Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November 1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter. Since they were pastoral people, it was a time when cattle and sheep had to be moved to closer pastures and all livestock had to be secured for the winter months. Crops were harvested and stored. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.

The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread.

Samhain became the Halloween we are familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them evil devil worshippers.

As a result of their efforts to wipe out "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.

In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work. Church holy days were purposely set to coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the mid-winter celebration of many peoples. Likewise, St. John's Day was set on the summer solstice.

Samhain, with its emphasis on the supernatural, was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, they branded the earlier religion's supernatural deities as evil, and associated them with the devil. As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell.

The effects of this policy were to diminish but not totally eradicate the beliefs in the traditional gods. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures persisted, while the church made deliberate attempts to define them as being not merely dangerous, but malicious. Followers of the old religion went into hiding and were branded as witches.

The Christian feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1st. The day honored every Christian saint, especially those that did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them. This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic peoples, and, finally, to replace it forever. That did not happen, but the traditional Celtic deities diminished in status, becoming fairies or leprechauns of more recent traditions.

The old beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of the traveling dead was too strong, and perhaps too basic to the human psyche, to be satisfied with the new, more abstract Catholic feast honoring saints. Recognizing that something that would subsume the original energy of Samhain was necessary, the church tried again to supplant it with a Christian feast day in the 9th century. This time it established November 2nd as All Souls Day--a day when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. But, once again, the practice of retaining traditional customs while attempting to redefine them had a sustaining effect: the traditional beliefs and customs lived on, in new guises.

All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil. The folk continued to propitiate those spirits (and their masked impersonators) by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en--an ancient Celtic, pre-Christian New Year's Day in contemporary dress.

Virtually all present Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead. Halloween is a holiday of many mysterious customs, but each one has a history, or at least a story behind it. The wearing of costumes, for instance, and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons. Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises. Halloween also retains some features that harken back to the original harvest holiday of Samhain, such as the customs of bobbing for apples and carving vegetables, as well as the fruits, nuts, and spices cider associated with the day.

Today Halloween is becoming once again and adult holiday or masquerade, like mardi Gras. Men and women in every disguise imaginable are taking to the streets of big American cities and parading past grinningly carved, candlelit jack o'lanterns, re- enacting customs with a lengthy pedigree. Their masked antics challenge, mock, tease, and appease the dread forces of the night, of the soul, and of the otherworld that becomes our world on this night of reversible possibilities, inverted roles, and transcendency. In so doing, they are reaffirming death and its place as a part of life in an exhilarating celebration of a holy and magic evening.

Check out the article at About.com.

Interesting article! It's amazing how traditions have changed as times have become more modern... yet, some things have a persistent staying power. Why is that?

For more info, check out the Halloween Wiki Entry.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Getaway in New Orleans!

St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, LA

A Passing Streetcar on the River Line - New Orleans, LA

The Riverwalk Fountain - New Orleans, LA

The Riverboat Natchez Departs - New Orleans, LA

Shops on Decatur Street - New Orleans, LA

Shops on Decatur Street - New Orleans, LA

Art For Sale in Jackson Square - New Orleans, LA

Jackson Square - New Orleans, LA

Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast - New Orleans, LA

The Parlor at Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast - New Orleans, LA

Our Suite at Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast - New Orleans, LA

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary by spending last weekend in New Orleans... we couldn't have asked for a better getaway! The Grand Victorian was first class and we couldn't find a bad restaurant to eat at. The crowds weren't too bad, so we were able to get all over the French Quarter with relative ease. Despite it being the off-season, Bourbon Street was jumping (as usual) and Galatoire's was jam-packed! We visited tons of landmarks, shops and attractions via the streetcars - the best way to travel around in the Big Easy!

If you're interested in visiting New Orleans, check out the New Orleans CVB website and come see what your missing!