Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just a second, 2009 - the Earth needs to catch up!

Greenwich Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London

Greenwich Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London

AT THE GREENWICH PRIME MERIDIAN, England (AP) -- Just a second, 2009. It's going to take a little longer to say goodbye to the worst economic year since the Great Depression, but all for good cause. The custodians of time will ring in the New Year by tacking a "leap second" onto the clock Wednesday to account for the minute slowing of the Earth's rotation. The leap second has been used sporadically at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich since 1972, an adjustment that has kept Greenwich Mean Time the internationally agreed time standard.

Some scientists now say GMT should be replaced by International Atomic Time - computed outside Paris - because new technologies have allowed atomic time to tick away with down-to-the-nanosecond accuracy.

But opponents say atomic time's very precision poses a problem.

A strict measurement, they say, would change our very notion of time forever, as atomic clocks would one day outpace the familiar cycle of sunrise and sunset.

The time warp wouldn't be noticeable for generations, but within a millennium, noon - the hour associated with the sun's highest point in the sky - would occur around 1 o'clock. In tens of thousands of years, the sun would be days behind the human calendar.

That bothers people like Steve Allen, an analyst at the University of California at Santa Cruz's Lick Observatory.

"I think (our descendants) will curse us less if we choose to keep the clock reading near 12:00 when the sun is highest in the sky," Allen said.

Atomic time advocates argue that leap seconds are onerous because they're unpredictable.

Since the exact speed of the Earth's rotation can't be plotted out in advance, they're added as needed. Sometimes, like this year, they're added on Dec. 31, sometimes they're inserted at the end of June 30.

Those willy-nilly fixes can trip up time-sensitive software, particularly in Asia, where the extra second is added in the middle of the day.

Critics say everything from satellite navigation to power transmission and cellular communication is vulnerable to problems stemming from programs ignoring the extra second or adding it at different times.

Although the time will pass in the blink of an eye, Judah Levine, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., predicts the change will make him a very busy man starting about 5 p.m. Mountain Time. As part of the institute's Time and Frequency Division, he'll be helping to work out the bugs that follow.

"There's always somebody who doesn't get it right," Levine said. "It never fails."

Britons seemed less concerned about the remote prospect of having tea at 3 a.m. than the notion of leaving a France-based body in control of the world's time.

"I think there's some kind of historical pride we might feel in Britain about Greenwich being the point around which time is measured," 50-year-old telecoms executive Stephen Mallinson said as he waited to board a Eurostar train for Paris at London's St. Pancras Station.

"But in practice, does it make a difference? No."

At the Royal Observatory, 53-year-old homemaker Susie Holt was adjusting her wristwatch to match the digital display above the meridian. She said it would be a pity if GMT were made obsolete. Her daughter, 15-year-old Kirsty, was more forthright.

"We don't want the French to control time," she said. "They might get it wrong or something."

Meanwhile, Elisa Felicitas Arias, a scientist at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, which computes atomic time at a facility outside Paris, has been busy lobbying to scrap the leap seconds that have given the 17th century Royal Observatory pride of place.

"GMT is out of date," she sniffed.

She said she has been garnering considerable support, with the International Telecommunications Union - the arbiter of international time standards - considering a vote on a switch as early as next year, with a 2018 target to implement it.

The U.S., France, Germany, Italy, and Japan were all on board, she said.

But David Rooney, the Royal Observatory's curator of time, defended leap seconds, saying they give everyone "the best of both worlds."

The arrangement, he said, allows satellites, physicists, and high-frequency traders to benefit from the accuracy of atomic time while keeping our clocks consistent with the position of the sun in the sky - and with GMT.

The American Astronomical Society is officially neutral on the proposal to switch to atomic time, which is calculated based on readings from more than 200 atomic clocks maintained across the world.

Perhaps predictably, Britain's Royal Astronomical Society has come out in favor of conserving leap seconds. While spokesman Robert Massey said star-watchers could cope no matter what happened, he urged caution on such an important change.

"It's not just a matter for the telecommunications industry to tell everybody to get rid of the leap second," Massey said. "It would be a big cultural change at the very least. Abandoning the connection between time and solar time is really a big shift."

Check out article at The Advocate.

I'm on the fence on this one... scientific accuracy is important, but I kinda like that time matches solar time. Guess we'll have to see how this argument plays out over the next few years.

Anyway... Please everyone remember to be safe and responsible tonight... and enjoy the celebrations!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paint Atlanta Purple!

Chick-fil-A Bowl 2008 - LSU vs GT - Paint Atlanta Purple!

ATLANTA — Whether it’s the first game of the season, the handful along the way against bitter rivals or the last time a team will strap on helmets and take the field together, every football game boils down to matchups.

Can your best players line up and beat the best players from the other team man-to-man, play-after-play more often and more convincingly for 60 minutes?

In that sense, the Chick-fil-A Bowl between LSU (7-5) and 14th-ranked Georgia Tech (9-3) won’t be much different than the previous 12 games the teams have played this season or the last three bowl outings the Tigers have turned in under coach Les Miles.

What’s different is the matchups facing LSU’s defense.

Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense is a hybrid of the wishbone from the 1960s and ’70s and the spread offenses in vogue now.

And the stakes, motivation and sense of urgency are intertwined and packaged differently for LSU as well.

Instead of putting a crescendo on a stellar season like they have the last three years, the Tigers are relegated to tacking something positive onto a season that spiraled out of control in November.

Whether LSU can dig deep enough to find the necessary motivation to play well will be nearly as important as how well the Tigers slow down the Yellow Jackets proficient offense, making this season finale intriguing.

“It’s real important for us to come out and play with energy and intensity because we want to finish this season a lot better than we’ve played the last few games,” LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith said. “If we do that and play good fundamental defense the way we’ve been coached, we’ll be OK.”

Those fundamentals boil down to what LSU coaches deem “assignment football.”

Each member of the defense has a specific role depending on the formation and is expected to take care of that job and not stray from the script.

“The great thing we’ve had is time, so we’ve been able to take it and break it down and teach it concept by concept and really get a lot of work done on what we need to stop, so it’s fortunate that we’re facing them in a bowl game and not in the middle of the football season,” LSU defensive co-coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto said.

Peveto’s co-coordinator Doug Mallory said whatever success LSU’s defense has will start up front with the defensive line.

“It starts with those guys up front and how disciplined they can be,” he said. “We’ve got some guys who when we face a conventional offense, they’re geared to getting up the field as fast as they can and rushing the passer. Against this kind of offense, the defensive ends are tied into option reads and they have to get geared up to play within the framework of the defense.”

Translation: The Tigers ends and cornerbacks have to stay home and dictate the quarterback’s decision.

If the two ends and two corners are effective, most running plays will either be funneled inside or strung out to the sideline where linebackers and safeties will be counted on to limit the damage.

“The linebackers are going to have to make a lot of open-field tackles,” LSU buck linebacker Perry Riley said. “We have to break down and be fundamentally sound and not miss when get a chance to wrap the running back up. We’ll be the first ones who have that chance and we want to make a lot of tackles and not leave it up to anybody else.”

That all sounds good in a neatly wrapped package, but part of Tech’s success and the danger the offenses poses is based on patience until the defense slips up.

While the triple-option might seem like a grind-it-out, ball-control way of doing things, the architect of Tech’s scheme takes umbrage with that notion.

“Honestly, I don’t think too many people out there understand (the triple option),” said Johnson, who relied on the offense to guide Georgia Southern to two Division I-AA national championships and then lead Navy to five straight bowl games. “I think that there’s the perception out there, which sometimes is perpetuated by the media and other people, that it’s just 3 yards and a cloud of dust and that fans don’t enjoy watching it because it’s boring and that guys can’t get to the next level playing in it. I think most of that has been proven wrong and as we get further into it here, all of it will be proven wrong.”

This season has certainly supplied some legs for Johnson’s argument.

In 12 games the Jackets have 64 plays of 20 yards or more. Broken down, 46 of those plays were rushes for 1,669 yards — 36.3 a carry. Eighteen pass plays went for more than 20 yards for 633 yards.

“There were a lot of games played this year where you could see our offense get 3-to-4 yards every carry and then all of a sudden hit a big one,” Tech center Dan Voss said.

“If you get out of position or if you take one false step or have any wasted motion, that can be the difference between a 3-yard gain and a 60-yard touchdown,” defensive end Kirston Pittman said.

So the Tigers have watched the triple option for three weeks, broken it down in the film room and a scout team has tried to emulate how the Jackets will attack.

“We’ve done everything we can to be as close to their style of offense to show it to our defense,” Miles said.

“If LSU’s scout team can execute as well as we can, we’re in trouble,” Jones said. “It’s going to come down to us executing our offense the best we can, and we always feel like if we execute our offense, we’re going to have a good chance.”

Johnson didn’t disagree.

“To me, what we do is a game of adjustments,” he said. “We don’t know how LSU’s going to play and they don’t know exactly what we’re going to do, so it’ll be who can adjust.”

Man-to-man, play-by-play, 60 minutes. Sound familiar?

Check out article at The Advocate.

Best of luck to the Tigers! I know this season hasn't been all that we hoped it would be, but this is still a talented team with a winning record and they deserve our respect and support!

Geaux Tigers!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Christmas Scene

Christmas has had a long and varied history. It was been celebrated for centuries by different people, at different times, in different places, and in many different ways. Here you will find links to information about the different ways that the holiday we know as Christmas has been celebrated, or not celebrated, over the years.

Check out The Real Story of Christmas at

Regardless of the very interesting origins and history behind it, Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. While we're enjoying all of our gifts and traditions, let us not forget the real reason for the season!

Don't Forget The Reason for the Season!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

NORAD Tracking Santa's Sleigh Ride!

Santa Claus and his Eight Reindeer take to the sky!

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Who says Santa Claus doesn't exist?

The military personnel charged with being the eyes in the sky are certainly acting like he does — and they've been joined on the Internet by millions of believers.

Even doubters have reason to pause when they hear the North American Aerospace Defense Command — or NORAD, which monitors air and space threats against the U.S. and Canada — is in charge of the annual Christmas mission to keep children informed of Santa's worldwide journey to their homes.

"They challenge it, but only to a point," said Senior Master Sgt. Sharon Ryder-Platts, 49, who for five years has been a Santa tracker, taking calls from those wanting to know the location of jolly old St. Nick.

According to NORAD, Santa began his latest flight early Wednesday at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean. Historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. NORAD points out that only Santa knows his route.

Last year, NORAD's Santa tracking center answered 94,000 calls and responded to 10,000 e-mails. About 10.6 million visitors went to the Web site, which can be viewed in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese and Chinese.

NORAD's holiday tradition can by traced to 1955, when a Colorado Springs newspaper printed a Sears, Roebuck & Co. ad telling children of a phone number to talk to Santa. The number was one digit off, and the first child to get through reached the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor.

Col. Harry W. Shoup answered.

Shoup's daughter, Terri Van Keuren, said her dad, now 91, was surprised to hear that the little voice on the other end thought he was Santa.

"Dad thought, `What the heck? This must be some kind of code,"' said Van Keuren, 59.

Shoup, described by his daughter as "just a nut about Christmas," didn't want to break the boy's heart, so he sounded a booming "Ho, ho, ho!" and pretended to be Santa Claus.

Enough calls followed that Shoup assigned an officer to answer them while the problem was fixed. But Shoup and the staff he was directing to "locate" Santa on radar ended up embracing the idea. NORAD picked up the tradition when it was formed 50 years ago.

"If we didn't do it, truly I don't know who else would track Santa," Maj. Stacia Reddish said.

The task that began with no computers and only a 60-by-80-foot glass map of North America now includes two big screens on a wall showing the world and information on each country Santa Claus visits. It took off with the Web site's 1997 launch, Reddish said.

Now, curious youngsters can follow Santa's path online with a Google two-dimensional map or in 3D using Google Earth, where he can be seen flying through different landscapes in his sleigh.

NORAD officials are hesitant to list all the potential sites Santa will visit with certainty.

"Historically, Santa has loved the Great Wall of China. He loves the (Space) Needle in Seattle. He of course loves the Eiffel Tower," Reddish said. "But his path is completely unpredictable, so we won't know."

Check out the article at Fox News.

This is a great service that NORAD is providing... the kids love to track Santa! Besides, with NORAD keeping watch over the skies, we can hopefully avoid any unwanted accidents... I'm sure Santa is grateful!

Click Here to Track Santa!

Santa Claus hit by plane!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Miracle on Fulton Street

Miracle on Fulton Street - New Orleans, LA

Miracle on Fulton Street - New Orleans, LA

Miracle on Fulton Street - New Orleans, LA

Miracle on Fulton Street - New Orleans, LA

One of New Orleans’ newest traditions, and one of the most colorful, is the annual “Miracle on Fulton Street” sponsored by Harrah’s Casino and Hotel. This free, seasonal event, which began in 2007, kicks off on Thanksgiving week and runs through the end of the year, celebrating the holidays in imaginative ways on the Fulton Street Mall, just outside the main Harrah’s Hotel.

Among the displays and attractions visitors can expect to see during the month-long event include the following:

  • Two winter wonderland tunnels, complete with Santa and his reindeer
  • A giant gingerbread house
  • “Faux Snow” falling every hour on the hour, starting at noon
  • Live entertainment with top local performers on weekends
  • Holiday-themed dining at nearby participating restaurants
  • Santa’s Shop, selling official “Miracle on Fulton Street” merchandise, including commemorative ornaments, apparel, bells, coffee mugs and more

Holiday drinks including Cajun egg nog, hot cocoa and hot toddies will also be on sale. Santa will be available for photos on Fulton Square.

Visitors can enter the fully decorated Mall at Poydras Street through a series of custom-built, faux wrought iron arches, accentuated by 12-foot-high Christmas trees and 3-foot-high fleur de lis ornaments. The arches will create a dramatic canopy illuminated by thousands of LED lights of various holiday colors.

Participating restaurants offering special holiday menu items include Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Grand Isle seafood restaurant and Ernst Café – all of which border on the Fulton Street Mall.

Harrah’s New Orleans is operated by a subsidiary of Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., the world's largest provider of branded casino entertainment. Since its beginning in Reno, Nevada nearly 70 years ago, Harrah's has grown through development of new properties, expansions and acquisitions. Harrah's Entertainment is focused on building loyalty and value with its customers through a unique combination of great service, excellent products, unsurpassed distribution, operational excellence and technology leadership.

Check out the article at New Orleans Online.

This is a very nice attraction to the riverfront area of Nola - we really enjoyed it! Check out my above photos!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Space Shuttles For Sale!!!

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Columbia

Space Shuttle Atlantis riding a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA)

Need that perfect gift for the space buff in your life?
Got 129 million cu ft of spare hangar space?
Then has NASA got a deal for you: Once the space shuttle fleet retires,
probably by 2010, the shuttles will be ready for purchase.
But even for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum,
the shuttles come at a hefty price—about $42 million each!

Earlier this week the space agency issued a Request for Information (RFI) to educational institutions, museums, and "other organizations" in an attempt to sell off the remaining space shuttles in 2010. The estimated total for tax, tags and freight is $42 million. According to NASA, the RFI will "gauge the level and scope of interest of U.S. organizations in acquiring … orbiters and other major flight hardware."

The agency hopes to find homes for two of the three orbiters; Discovery is already earmarked for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. By law, the institution has something akin to a rights-of-first-refusal agreement with NASA that allows it first crack at space memorabilia once the government is done with it.

Discovery's long, active history makes it a logical choice for the Smithsonian. The third of NASA's winged spaceships and the oldest working orbiter, Discovery was deployed for the Hubble Space Telescope on mission STS-31 in April 1990, carried the 77-year-old John Glenn back into space in 1998, and was twice NASA's return-to-flight spacecraft—after the Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Columbia explosion five years ago. While Enterprise, the shuttle built for test flights, anchors the Smithsonian's space collection at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles airport in Virginia, the museum has long wanted to replace it with an operational orbiter. "To have any flown orbiter would be wonderful," says Valerie Neal, the Smithsonian's curator of the human spaceflight collection. "The Smithsonian tries to acquire the oldest or first-flown aircraft—so up until 2003, we'd hoped it would be Columbia. Now, of course, Discovery would be a perfect fit."

But that history comes with a hefty price tag—even for the internationally renowned Smithsonian. "We were in a different era then, where we had no eBay and people who were looking to make money off of artifacts," NASA spokesman Michael Curie told CollectSpace, a Web site devoted to space memorabilia. "So it was to everyone's advantage to try to provide them to those who might display them." NASA makes an important distinction: The $42 million isn't to buy an orbiter, but to prepare it for public presentation—nearly $30 million goes to "safeing" the craft (removing the fuel systems and other environmental hazards), approximately $8 million goes to display preparation and the final $6 million or so is spent on transportation and installation. Technically, the agency says, the cost is compensation for shipping and handling.

Industry observers also suggest that the cash-strapped space agency is grabbing every dollar it can find for the over-budget Constellation Program. In August, budget constraints forced NASA to scrap plans to have the shuttle's replacement, Orion, ready by 2013. The orbiters should be available Sept. 30, 2011, according to the RFI, and they should be ferried to their final destinations by May 31, 2012—where they will likely remain for a long time, since the agency is also decommissioning the 747 that is used to haul the spacecraft. "In the past, sometimes we have paid for this sort of 'shipping and handling,'" Neal says, "but this is unprecedented in terms of the cost involved. We're thrilled to have an orbiter designated for us, but we'll have to resolve the cost matter. Luckily, it's not like we have to come up with the money in 90 days."

Check out the article at Popular Mechanics.

Sweet... I want one!!! =)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Baton Rouge Snow Day!!!

Huey P Long Statue - Baton Rouge Snow Day - 12-11-08

Huey P Long Statue - Baton Rouge Snow Day - 12-11-08

LSU Tiger Stadium in Snow - 12-11-08  - Baton Rouge Snow Day

LSU's Mike VI in Snow - 12-11-08  - Baton Rouge Snow Day

Baton Rouge Snow Boarder - 12-11-08

Baton Rouge Snow Day - 12-11-08

Baton Rouge Snow Day - 12-11-08

With schools and many businesses closed this morning, area residents took to the snow-covered streets to enjoy the rare weather.

Even as snow turned to sleet, sledders and even a snowboarder slid down the rolling white hills of City Park.

On the LSU campus, seniors Kirk Melancon and Cade Worsham ran around the snow-covered campus fairgrounds with a few-dozen other students.

The two roommates started with photos and snowballs, which eventually led to full-on snow wrestling.

“I have one more exam today at 5:30,” Melancon said. “But I had to come out here today. This is a one in 15-year snow.”

Meteorologist Danielle Manning with the National Weather Service in Slidell estimated that 3 inches of snow fell in East Baton Rouge Parish, 2 inches in West Baton Rouge Parish and 5 in Livingston Parish.

The average snowfall in greater Baton Rouge is 2 to 3 inches, she said.

When Chicago native Chris Horton looked out of his Baton Rouge window this morning, the winter scene reminded him of home.

“Straight up Chicago,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything but being in the Windy City.”

Horton’s sister, Crystal Burk, called him before sunrise to tell him about the weather. A few hours of shoveling and sculpting later, the twins had a life-size snowman in front of her Old South Baton Rouge house.

Burk’s grandchildren, who helped briefly with the project, had gone inside.

“It got too cold for them,” said Horton, who had a wide smile as he shoveled the snow.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Yeah, Snow Day!!! Now, before y'all from up nawth start laughing at us, you gotta realize that we haven't seen this much snow since 1988!!!

Check out the online photo galleries at LSU Sports and The Advocate!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Celestial Bliss?

Venus Jupiter Moon Smile 2008

The heavens smiled down on Earth Monday in a rare celestial trifecta of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon.

The planets aligned—an event known as a conjunction—Sunday night, and were joined by a thin sliver of moon on Monday.

The rare planetary meeting was visible from all parts of the world, even from light-polluted cities such as Hong Kong and New York.

People in Asia witnessed a smiley face (above, photographed from Manila, Philippines), while skywatchers in the United States saw a frown.

The three brightest objects in the sky were so tightly gathered that one could eclipse them with a thumb, according to NASA's Web site.

The next visible Venus-Jupiter conjunction will be on the evening of March 14, 2012, but the two planets will appear farther apart in the sky.

Check out the article at National Geographic News.

Wish I could've seen the smiley face in the sky, but it was still an awesome viewing despite the frown! =)