Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lady Tigers Four-for-Four

LSU Women's Basketball Team
taking their fourth Final Four trip in four years!

2006-2007 LSU Lady Tigers Basketball

2006-2007 LSU Lady Tigers Basketball

2006-2007 Lady Tigers are Final Four bound - 4th straight year

FRESNO, Calif. — There had been three prior trips for the LSU basketball team, but never like this, to reach the game’s Holy Grail.

Faced with having to conquer one of the game’s most preeminent programs — Connecticut — to return to the Women’s Final Four, the Lady Tigers enjoyed arguably their finest moment in three decades as a program.

Third-seeded LSU made it look rather easy behind West Regional most outstanding player Sylvia Fowles, leading by double-digits at halftime and pulling away during crunch time for a dominating 73-50 victory Monday over top-seeded UConn for the regional championship before 3,046 at Fresno State’s Save Mart Arena.

“We’ve done a lot of great things here at LSU,” LSU acting head coach Bob Starkey said. “We’ve gone to Finals Fours and won SEC championships, but the thing we haven’t done is beaten Connecticut. And that’s important in women’s college basketball because that’s where they are, that’s who they are. They’re one of those marquee programs.”

LSU (30-7) continues its nation’s best streak, reaching its fourth consecutive Final Four.

The Lady Tigers will face Rutgers on Sunday in Cleveland.

Rutgers, a No. 3 seed, beat fourth-seeded Arizona State 64-45 in the final of the Greensboro, N.C. Regional.

“They believed they would come out and do it,” Starkey said. “They were focused. I had a real good feeling coming in, though UConn is a very good team.”

Fowles scored a game-high 23 points, part of a group scoring effort for LSU, which shot 52.2 percent in the second half and 48.1 percent for the game. The 6-foot-6 junior center also grabbed 15 rebounds, blocked six shots and had three steals.

“We were just thinking about taking it possession by possession,” Fowles said. “They went on their little runs and we had our runs. Then after halftime we talked about coming out with a bang after losing to them at our house. We wanted to let it be known early that we were ready.”

LSU, which had its 43-game home-court win streak snapped by UConn on Feb. 11, also denied the Huskies (32-4) their ninth Final Four trip and first in three years.

“I felt good about the way we played and certainly the game was closer than the final score,” Starkey said. “They started fouling at the end and that created a little more separation. But from start to finish, that’s about as well as we played this year.”

“This game was important for me and my teammates,” Fowles said. “We were ready to go out there — as a team. This was special because our team just came together. We feel really good about ourselves.”

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Congratulations Lady Tigers! Good luck in Cleveland!

Follow all of the Final Four action at LSU Sports or NCAA Sports.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Space-Plane Travel

NASA - Virgin Galactic X43b hypersonic space plane

X43 Mission Profile

X43 - Mach 7 Computational Fluid Dynamic

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture of billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, is the first step toward hypersonic travel between Earth-based cities, according to a company executive.

Hypersonic speeds are greater than five times the speed of sound. An aircraft flying that fast could theoretically reach London from New York in less than an hour.

Virgin Galactic's space flights will accustom passengers to flying at the extreme altitudes likely necessary for hypersonic travel, said Alex Tai, the venture's chief operating officer.

"The experiential rides that we're providing with Virgin Galactic are the first rung, or the stepping stone, for us to use space for other activities," Tai said.

"And the first one of those we'd like to look at is point-to-point travel on the planet," he continued.

The venture will explore the possibility of hypersonic travel as part of a memorandum of understanding it signed last month with the U.S. space agency NASA.

"If Virgin's going to go off and build a high-speed transoceanic passenger service craft of some sort, NASA's of course very interested," said Dan Coughlin, NASA's lead for the Virgin Galactic agreement at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

Unique Skills

In 2004 NASA twice flew a demonstration vehicle successfully at hypersonic speeds. Since the demonstration flights, NASA researchers have continued to hone their engineering tools, but budget cuts and other priorities have put plans to build a hypersonic space plane on the back burner.

Nevertheless, "NASA has unique capability and unique engineering skills and facilities that we've developed over 40 or 50 years that could benefit Virgin," Coughlin said.

According to Tai, Virgin Galactic sees that benefit. The collaboration with NASA will allow the venture to tap the agency's engineering prowess to assess the feasibility of a hypersonic passenger service.

"We can't do it ourselves, so we've gone to the experts in the world, which are NASA," Tai said.

Virgin Galactic plans to take customers into space aboard SpaceShipTwo beginning in 2009. The round-trip flights will take off from Mojave. Tickets cost U.S. $200,000.

The two-and-a-half-hour trip, according to Tai, will accustom civilians to space travel much in the same way pilots returning from World War I accustomed civilians to air travel.

World War I pilots went from town to town taking people up for joy rides in their planes as a way to kick-start the airline industry, he said.

Virgin Galactic's spaceflights will also give passengers "an appreciation for the fragility of the Earth and a fantastic view," Tai noted.

"But the long-term goal—going from A to B—is probably where the larger market is," he added.

Check out the article at National Geographic.

I can't wait to book a seat on that flight! Just imagine the photo opportunities!

For more information on this awesome technology, check out A Closer Look at the X-43 Mission and X-43a Raises the Bar to Mach 9.6.

Of course, there are always military implications when dealing with technology such as this, check out my blog entry: Hypersonic Cruise Missile.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Water on Mars!

Map of Mars

South Pole of Mars covered in Water Ice

Radar Survey of Mars's South Pole

Mars's southern polar ice cap contains enough water to cover the entire planet approximately 36 feet (11 meters) deep if melted, according to a new radar study.

It's the most precise calculation yet for the thickness of the red planet's ice, according to the international team of researchers responsible for the discovery.

Using an ice-penetrating radar to map the south pole's underlying terrain, the scientists calculated that the ice is up to 2.2 miles (3,500 meters) thick in places, said the study's leader, Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The radar, from the Mars Express orbiter, also revealed the surprising purity of the ice, Plaut added.

On average, the ice cap contained less than 10 percent dust, he said. The study will appear in the March 16, 2007 issue of the journal Science.

A Solid Find

The polar ice cap may also contain some frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, Plaut said. But there can't be much of it, because such a thick layer of dry ice would start to ooze sideways under its own weight.

"Only water ice could support itself that way," Plaut said.

Check out the article at National Geographic.

Amazing discovery! All of that water is sure to benefit future manned missions to Mars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Tool's new album - 10,000 Days

Tool's new single - Vicarious

Tool - Vicarious

Eye on the TV
Cause tragedy thrills me
Whatever flavor
It happens to be

"Killed by the husband"
"Drowned by the ocean"
"Shot by his own son"
"She used a poison in his tea
and kissed him goodbye"
That's my kind of story.
It's no fun 'til someone dies

Don't look at me like
I am a monster
Frown out your one face
But with the other
Stare like a junkie
Into the TV
Stare like a zombie
While the mother holds her child,
Watches him die
Hands to the sky crying,
"Why, oh why?!"

Cause I need to watch things die
From a distance
Vicariously, I Live
while the whole world dies
You all need it too - don't lie.

Why can't we just admit it?
Why can't we just admit?
We won't give pause until the blood is flowin'
Neither the brave nor bold
Will write as the stories told
We won't give pause until the blood is flowin'

I need to watch things die
From a good safe distance
Vicariously, I Live
while the whole world dies
You all feel the same so
Why can't we just admit it?

Blood like rain, come down
Drawn on grave and ground

Part vampire
Part warrior
Carnivore and voyeur
Stare at the transmitter
Synched to the death rattle...

Credulous at best
Your desire to believe in
Angels in the hearts of men.
Pull your head on out
Your head please and give a listen,
Shouldn't have to say it all again.

The universe is hostile
So impersonal
Devour to survive
So it is, so it's always been...

We all feed on tragedy
It's like blood to a vampire

Vicariously, I Live
while the whole world dies
Much better you than I.

Check out the Official Tool website and the Tool Wikipedia page.

There's something about these song lyrics that really hit home. They describe our news-media-mentality society accurately, where people feed off of bad news on TV.

I'll admit it... no news story grabs my attention more than a tragedy. Not to say that I enjoy tragedy, but then what exactly is it that draws me in?

Is it concern and compassion for fellow man? Not likely.

Is it a carnal desire to witness terrible things happening? Deep down, maybe so.

Is it the fear factor of the unknown... a way for us to feel alive and maybe get a glimpse of our inevitable future? Who knows?

Whatever the reason, this is a kick-ass song from the new Tool album: 10,000 Days.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Top 10 F/X Scenes in Movie History

1. STAR WARS (1977)

Star Wars

Motion-control photography, in which a computer is used to control a long, complex series of camera movements, made possible the spaceship battles in Star Wars. It would have taken too long to film the scenes manually, says Anne Thompson, deputy film editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

2. TRON (1982)


It wasn't the first film to use computer-generated (CG) graphics (and many effects were hand-drawn) but the sci-fi video-game fantasy flick Tron was the first to use computer imagery to create a 3D world, making it one of the pioneering CGI films. "Effects people said, 'Let's see what the computer can do,'" says Harry Knowles, movie critic at Ain't It Cool News.


Terminator 2 - Judgement Day

"Morphing" was first used in Willow (1988), but in T2 the effect was "jaw-dropping," Knowles says. The liquid-metal robot's humanoid texture, which was layered onto a CG model, looked frighteningly real.



Faux alpinist Sly Stallone was held up by wires that were later digitally removed. The ability to erase wires changed how stunts are done: Now stars and stuntmen can be put in real-world environments as well as in front of green screens.


Jurassic Park

Although they enjoyed only about 6 minutes of screen time, Jurassic Park's digital dinos were a revelation: They introduced CGI live animals with realistic movements, and believably textured muscles and skin. The photorealisitic digital elements were intercut with animatronic dinosaurs.

6. FORREST GUMP (1994)

Forrest Gump

While most filmmakers in the early '90s used digital effects to create fantasy, the creators of Forrest Gump altered history. Using Kodak's Cineon system, they digitized archival footage, and composited Tom Hanks's character into historical clips.


The Perfect Storm

Although much previous work had been done to make CGI water look real, The Perfect Storm's monster wave scene set a new benchmark. "Water is an organic thing that's hard to create in software," says Andy Maltz of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. "To make it look believable was a big thing."


The Lord of the Rings

For the huge battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the filmmakers created Massive, a computer program that generates crowds of artificially intelligent individuals "who make their own decisions based on behavior patterns," Knowles says. This makes for more realistic battles.


The Polar Express

Director Robert Zemeckis used a large motion-capture stage and up to 200 cameras to gather data from the performance of Tom Hanks and other actors. This data was used to help animators create digital versions of the actors while maintaining their performances.


The Day After Tomorrow

The creators of the film about worldwide climatic disaster took more than 50,000 photos of New York City and scanned them into a computer, providing "a 3D, photorealistic model of the city," Thompson says. After that, destroying the metropolis with a giant digital wave was a piece of cake.

Check out the article at Popular Mechanics.

That's a pretty good list, but I think they're missing a couple of notable films, such as The Matrix and Back to the Future.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Congratulations David St. Romain!

Baton Rouge singer-songwriter David St. Romain

Baton Rouge singer-songwriter David St. Romain survived to the final night of the USA Network’s “Nashville Star” talent competition but ultimately didn’t take the show’s top spot.

St. Romain placed third behind first-place winner Angela Hacker, a 29-year-old single mother from Muscle Shoals, Ala. Hacker’s brother, Zac, a 23-year-old singer from LaGrange, Ala., was runner-up.

Viewers voted for the winner of the fifth season of “Nashville Star,” the country music equivalent of “American Idol.” St. Romain and the Hackers were the final three of 10 finalists picked from 20,000 hopefuls.

Co-host Cowboy Troy announced St. Romain’s third-place finish less than 15 minutes into the program.

Afterward, co-host Jewel called St. Romain to her side.

“What’s going through your mind right now?” she asked.

“Well, first off, I don’t feel at all empty handed,” St. Romain said. “I feel very honored and blessed to be here. So, thank you to America for voting me this far into the show.”

“Will you sing one more time?” Jewel asked. “What do you say, David?”

“I’ll definitely do it for you,” St. Romain said. “Come on!”

St. Romain sang an encore of a song he performed earlier in the series, the Pat Green hit, “Wave On Wave.” The performance drew one more round of praise from judges Randy Owen, Blake Shelton and Anastasia Brown.

“You know, David,” Owen said, “I told you at the first show you had your priorities in right place — you still do.”

Jewel had kind words for St. Romain, too. “You’re one of my favorites,” she said.

In a New York Times story about “Nashville Star” that appeared Feb. 25, St. Romain was cited as perhaps the show’s most well-rounded entertainer. The Times also mentioned his smoky, R&B-flavored voice.

“Nashville Star” winner Angela Hacker will receive a recording deal with Warner Bros. Nashville. St. Romain’s “Nashville Star” momentum should help him get a record deal as well. He’ll also appear with the show’s top four finalists in the upcoming “Nashville Star” tour.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Congrats on making it to the final show, David!

David St. Romain is a talented artist who definitely deserved to get as far as he did on Nashville Star... and deserves to go a helluva lot further in his career. In addition to being a great performer with an awesome voice, he has a positive outlook on life... which is reflected in his music. Check out his work!

My only complaint is that the 2007 Nashville Star Tour won't be coming anywhere near Louisiana. You'd think that they would at least make a stop in the hometown of each of the singers on the tour, since it's a guaranteed sell out – they'd sell out 3 or 4 shows here in Baton Rouge. Oh well, I guess I'll have to wait until he breaks out on his own tour... I'll be the first in line!

Be sure to check out the Official David St. Romain website.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Two Great Stories

Butch O'Hare's solo attack against Japanese squadron

Edward Butch O'Hare - the US Navy's first Flying Ace and Medal of Honor recipient in WWII


Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly.

Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he could not give his son; he could not pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity.

To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street . But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.


World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission.

After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank.

He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold: a squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He could not reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.

There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes.

Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another.

Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return.

The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of WWII, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29.

His home town would not allow the memory of this WWII hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It is located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch O'Hare was "Easy Eddie's" son.

Check out the article at Truth or Fiction.

Amazing stories! That took some real balls and self-sacrifice... on both of their parts.