Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

Memorial Day - Honoring Those Who Gave Us Freedom

Port Hudson National Cemetery
Port Hudson National Cemetery - photo by Renegade

ARLINGTON, Va. — Just a few years ago, Lance Cpl. Steven Szwydek was a classmate of students at a high school in the mountains of Pennsylvania's Fulton County. Now the fallen Marine is part of their history lesson. On separate days this spring, students from all three high schools in his home county visited Arlington National Cemetery, where they stopped for a moment of silence at his white tombstone. The bus trips were paid for by a memorial fund established by Szwydek's parents.

Their quiet son — a history buff who loved to hunt deer — was 20 when he was killed in 2005 by a roadside bomb during his second tour in Iraq.

His mother, Nancy Szwydek, is a strong supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war but said the trips are not about politics or trying to influence students to join the military. She and her husband don't accompany the classes on the trips.

She sees the annual visits as a way to teach students "to respect our freedom." Teachers say the trips are as much about establishing connections — between kids growing up in a rural county, and world events.

Nancy and Michael Szwydek, who own a country store, decided a college scholarship in their son's name would not have made sense because he chose the Marines over college.

"I think he would not want himself being the focus ... but I think he'd be real happy the students have had a history lesson," Nancy Szwydek said during an interview at her home in Warfordsburg, Pa., near the Maryland border.

For some of the students, the stop at Szwydek's grave is personal because they attended school with him at Southern Fulton Junior/Senior High. They recalled seeing their teachers cry the day it was learned he had died.

Check out the article at Fox News.

Be sure to take a moment to reflect on all of those who died for this country - they gave us the freedom to enjoy the holiday with friends and family... they must not be forgotten!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy 30th Anniversary Star Wars!

Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Wars!

Star Wars 30th Anniversary postage stamps

Star Wars IV - A New Hope

Star Wars V - The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars VI - The Return of the Jedi

Star Wars I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars II - The Attack of the Clones

Star Wars III - The Revenge of the Sith

Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Wars!

Darth Vader

Battle of Hoth

Darth Vader

Jabba the Hutt and Bib Fortuna

Battle of Endor

Emporer Palpatine

Droid Invasion of Naboo

Darth Maul

Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi battle Darth Maul

Jango Fett

Jango Fett's ship Slave I

Clone Army

Battle over Coruscant

General Grievous

Clone Trooper

Darth Vader leads Clone Troopers into the Jedi Temple

Birth of Darth Vader

Battle of the Heroes

Jedi Master Yoda

Emporer Palpatine - Darth Sidious

Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Wars!

"Star Wars," indeed, was a phenomenon -- one that caught most of Hollywood by surprise. Thirty years after its premiere on May 25, 1977 (in just 32 theaters), it remains the model for the summer blockbuster -- and a touchstone for two generations of moviegoers.

With the film's 30th anniversary Friday, celebrations are kicking into high gear. Besides the History Channel special, set to air 9 p.m. ET Monday, there are:

· Several books (notably "The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film" [Del Rey]);

·"Star Wars" weekends at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park near Orlando, Florida;

·"Star Wars" Celebration IV, beginning Thursday in Los Angeles, California;

·30th-anniversary action figures, released by Hasbro;

·A screening of all six films on Cinemax on Friday;

·And even "Star Wars" postage stamps, to go along with all those R2-D2 mailboxes that the United States Postal Service has installed around the country.

Not bad for a film rather unsensationally described in its own press kit as "an expression of [George Lucas'] boyhood fantasy life -- his love for 'Flash Gordon' and all the great mysteries and adventures in books and movies."

'It was touch-and-go for a time'

Given that press kits are usually chock-full of hyperbole, that somewhat timid portrayal may have indicated what studio execs, and even Lucas' friends, thought of the film.

After viewing a screening in March 1977, with the special effects still unfinished, Lucas' wife Marcia was aghast, according to Peter Biskind's 1970s movie history, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls."

"It's the 'At Long Last Love' of science fiction," she said, referring to a well-known bomb of the time.

And the necessary special effects cost a fortune in 1977. Lucas' studio, 20th Century Fox, was nervous. "It was touch-and-go for a time," Lucas later recalled. (He wouldn't trust a studio again, creating his own company, Lucasfilm, to go along with his special-effects house, Industrial Light & Magic, for future endeavors.)

But moviegoers never doubted. The film was a hit from its first day, attracting such crowds of people that its opening was featured on Walter Cronkite's "CBS Evening News." Harrison Ford was practically ripped apart while shopping at a record store. The film's theme music, redone in disco form by a musician named Meco, became a No. 1 single.

The success of "Star Wars" paved the way for Lucas' entire empire, including massively successful merchandising tie-ins and five other films, broadening the "Star Wars" mythology.

Check out the article at

Lot's of stuff is going on in honor of the Star Wars 30th Anniversary!

Be sure to watch Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed on The History Channel.

Don't forget to pick up some Official USPS Star Wars Stamps.

Check out 30 Years - 30 Covers at Empire Online.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

US Navy Flexes Muscles!

US Navy flexes its muscles in the Persian Gulf

US Navy flexes its muscles in the Persian Gulf

US Navy flexes its muscles in the Persian Gulf

Islam is a peaceful religion... no, really it is!Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only wants peace and clean energy

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The U.S. Navy staged its latest show of military force off the Iranian coastline on Wednesday, sending two aircraft carriers and landing ships packed with 17,000 U.S. Marines and sailors to carry out unannounced exercises in the Persian Gulf.

The carrier strike groups led by the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz were joined by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and its own strike group, which includes landing ships carrying members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Navy said nine U.S. warships passed through the narrow Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday. Merchant ships passing through the busy strait carry two-fifths of the world's oil exports.

Aircraft aboard the three carriers and the Bonhomme Richard were to conduct air training while the ships ran submarine, mine and other exercises.

The maneuvers came just two months after a previous exercise in March when two U.S. carrier groups carried out two days of air and sea maneuvers off the Iranian coast.

Before the arrival of the Bonhomme Richard strike group, the Navy maintained around 20,000 U.S personnel at sea in the Gulf and neighboring waters.

Check out the article at Fox News.

I wonder what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has to say about this? Nothing so far... he's probably getting a little nervous right about now! We'll see how many British sailors Iran kidnaps now!

Check out the Islamist Terrorism article at Wikipedia.

Friday, May 18, 2007

R.I.P. Mike V

LSU's live mascot Mike the Tiger V passed away on 5-18-07

LSU's live mascot Mike the Tiger V passed away on 5-18-07

May 18, 2007 - Baton Rouge, LA – The reign of Mike V, LSU’s beloved mascot who died early Friday morning, will be remembered as one of the most glorious periods in the history of LSU athletics.

Mike V, who moved into a new home on Aug. 27, 2005, served as the official mascot of LSU Athletics from 1990 until his death Friday.

The royal Bengal tiger was born on Oct. 18, 1989, and first moved into his home across from Tiger Stadium on April 30, 1990.

Mike actually attended his first sporting event on February 21, 1990, when he was introduced to a roaring crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for a men’s basketball game. The Tigers beat Alabama that day, 75-69, in Shaquille O’Neal’s freshman year.

“Mike V was a noble mascot who was loved by Tiger fans young and old, and he represented all that is proud and dignified about LSU,” said LSU athletic director Skip Bertman. “Mike has reigned over a magnificent era of Tiger Athletics and he is missed today by LSU fans the world over.”

During his tenure, Mike V reigned over a football national championship, five baseball national championships and a remarkable 23 track and field championships. He saw LSU sports teams win 37 Southeastern Conference titles from 1990 to 2007.

Check out the article at LSU Sports.

My family and I have enjoyed visiting Mike for years! He never ceased to amaze onlookers with his grace and sheer size. He has intimidated opponents on the field with his deafening roar. He will be sorely missed by all.

Rest in Peace, Mike V... let us hope that Mike VI can live up to the proud example of his predecessor.

Check out the Mike the Tiger Wikipedia page.

Be sure to visit the Mike the Tiger homepage.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Robot Warfare!

Israeli VIPeR Combat Robot

Very few drones are built to kill. Even the missile-firing Predator UAV was originally designed for aerial reconnaissance, with some units later modified for combat duty. But for the Israeli-manufactured VIPeR (Versatile, Intelligent, Portable Robot), delivering firepower isn’t an afterthought — it’s practically job one.

Designed to act as a partner to dismounted troops in urban environments, the 9-in.-tall, 25-pound VIPeR can accept various sensor packages, including infrared cameras and software that maps buildings as the drone moves through them, as well as an explosives sniffer and a device that shoots jets of water to disarm bombs. But it also can open fire with a mini-Uzi submachine gun or release grenades from a 4-ft.-long robotic arm.

At just 18 in. wide, and equipped with innovative treads that change shape to help boost it over obstacles, the tiny drone can navigate cramped hallways and climb stairs to seek out targets. It can’t open fire autonomously, like South Korea’s Intelligent Surveillance & Security Guard Robot, essentially an armed guard tower that can target potential intruders.

VIPeR is remotely controlled via a harness and helmet-mounted display, with a human operator ultimately deciding whether to pull the trigger. According to its manufacturer, Elbit Systems, VIPeR will be deployed by Israel Defense Forces infantry after field testing.

Check out the article at Popular Mechanics.

A cool invention that will keep soldiers safe whilst killing enemies... let's just not try to make them "smart"... we all saw what happened in The Terminator!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Encyclopedia of Life

Encyclopedia of Life


Polar Bear

Bengal Tigers

Brown Bear

Gray Wolf


Texas Rat Snake
photo by Renegade

In a whale-sized project, the world's scientists plan to compile everything they know about all of Earth's 1.8 million known species and put it all on one Web site, open to everyone.

The effort, called the Encyclopedia of Life, will include species descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, sound, sightings by amateurs, and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers. Its first pages of information will be shown Wednesday in Washington where the massive effort is being announced by some of the world's leading institutions. The project will take about 10 years to finish.

"It's an interactive zoo," said James Edwards, who will be the encyclopedia's executive director. Edwards currently helps run a global biodiversity information system.

If the new encyclopedia progresses as planned, it should fill about 300 million pages, which, if lined up end-to-end, would be more than 52,000 miles long, able to stretch twice around the world at the equator.

Two foundations have given $12.5 million to pay for the first 2 1/2 years of the massive effort, but it will be free and accessible to everyone.

The pages can be adjusted so that they provide useful information for both a schoolchild and a research biologist alike, with an emphasis on encouraging "citizen-scientists" to add their sightings. While amateurs can contribute in clearly marked side pages, the key detail and science parts of the encyclopedia will be compiled and reviewed by experts.

"It could be a very big leap in the way we do science," said Cristian Samper, acting secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, one of seven museums, universities and labs to launch the encyclopedia. "This is a project that is so big, not even the Smithsonian, could do it by itself. It is a global effort."

For more than a decade, scientists have tried to compile even just a list of all species on Earth, but failed. It's been too complicated, too expensive and too cumbersome. This effort may succeed where the others have faltered because of new search engine technology, the scientists said.

Check out the article at Discovery News.

I can't wait until they get this project up and running... what an excellent resource this will be for everyone!

What interests me the most is the combination of un-editable encyclopedia quality information and user-based wiki-style areas for you and I to contribute to... all on the same page! No more will we have to worry if our information source has been tainted by one misinformed or biased user contribution... but at the same time, users will not be prohibited from adding to the database.

Think about it... one user sighting that is added to the site could effectively change the borders of that animal's range. For instance... I recently caught a snake in my yard and took a few photos (see above). I pulled the snake's photo up and went searching the Snakes of Louisiana website. Sure enough, I found what I was looking for: Texas Rat Snake. Funny thing, though... their range map shows the snake's range ending more than 50 miles west of me, on the other side of the Mississippi River! With the new Encyclopedia of Life website, the range map could be updated by the experts thanks to my sighting. Now, that's science that makes sense!

Check out the sample animal page at the Encyclopedia of Life website.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Summer Blockbusters 2007

Spider-Man 3

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Bourne Ultimatum

Ocean's Thirteen

Rush Hour 3

Shrek the Third

The Simpsons Movie

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Live Free or Die Hard


For Hollywood, it's the summer of the Part Threes!

Leading off is "Spider-Man 3," which will surely weave its web around moviegoers' dollars this weekend. Hot on Spidey's heels is band of big-money buccaneers who will try to loot the box office with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" only three weeks later.

And these are only two of the likely blockbusters hitting theaters in a season packed claustrophobically tight with big franchise sequels — including four other "threepeat" films: "Shrek the Third" (May 18), "Ocean's Thirteen" (June 8), "The Bourne Ultimatum" (Aug. 3) and "Rush Hour 3" (Aug. 10) — the second installment of which had the highest opening comedy weekend box office gross (on a non-holiday) in history.

"It's a circus out there, a slate so full that Hollywood has never seen its like before," said Jeff Bock, analyst for box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "Most analysts predict this will be the biggest summer on record, and this enormous '07 slate could set a new standard."

Also cashing in on kid-power, the tousle-haired, bespectacled boy wizard's return in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (July 13) will seek to conjure moviegoers' money into Warner Bros.' coffers.

With the fifth "Potter" movie's release date craftily timed just one week before the wildly anticipated July 21 release of author J.K. Rowling's seventh and final book in her series about Hogwarts school for young wizards, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the new film threatens to work some serious midsummer magic.

And to satisfy audiences' desire for technological terror, Universal's "Transformers" (July 4), directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg, hits theaters on what will be a key five-day Independence Day weekend for many Americans.

One of this summer's few non-sequels, "Transformers" draws its inspiration from the beloved children's toys of the 1980s and the Saturday morning cartoon show based upon them — which also spawned a kid-friendly cartoon movie version in 1986.

"Bay and Spielberg, that's a blockbuster team that knows how to wow an audience. Who knows, this film might be the one to overwhelm all of the part threes," said Christopher Sharrett, a professor of communications and film studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

"It's original and plays into the pop culture of several generations — with the toys and an interesting live-action portrayal of the '80s animated show. This might be the movie that has the cachet of the summer."

"The sheer number of high-profile films is astounding, the studios just have to hope audiences will be able to absorb this many and not have sequelitis," Bock said.

Some critics say the "Summer of the Part Threes" puts the ball in the audience's court to say "no more" to so many sequels and push for a little originality out of Tinseltown.

"This summer there's just so much coming out, you have to be excited," Hancock said. "With 'Transformers' you have the nostalgia factor, and with 'Spider-Man' the last movie was 10 times better than the first one, and there's three new villains and of course I'm a really big nerd too — so I'm really excited."

Check out the article at Fox News.

This is going to be an awesome summer for movie-goers! The movie I'm most looking forward to is "Transformers," followed closely by "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (a wonderful book, btw). I'm really looking forward to the new Harry Potter book: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

The other movies in the line-up look pretty good, but I think I can wait for the DVDs.

We did go see "Next" this past weekend, and I must say that it kicked ass! I liked the concept, and the plot twists. When the movie ended, the whole theater was in shock... but I guess you'll have to see it to know why!