Friday, February 29, 2008

New Fuels Pose New Fire Threats

New Fuels Pose New Fire Threats

Posted: 2008-02-26 19:52:09
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Feb. 26) - America's drive toward alternative fuels carries a danger many communities have been to slow to recognize: Ethanol fires are harder to put out than gasoline ones and require a special type of firefighting foam.

Photo Gallery

Alternative Fuel,
Unfamiliar Fire
Water is useless against ethanol fires, and the standard foam used to smother ordinary gas fires doesn't work well against the grain-alcohol fuel. Firefighting experts say many departments around the country lack the new foam or are not trained to use it.

Many fire departments around the country don't have the foam, don't have enough of it, or are not well-trained in how to apply it, firefighting experts say. It is also more expensive than conventional foam.

"It is not unusual to find a fire department that is still just prepared to deal with traditional flammable liquids," said Ed Plaugher, director of national programs for the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

The problem is that water doesn't put out ethanol fires, and the foam that has been used since the 1960s to smother ordinary gasoline blazes doesn't work well against the grain-alcohol fuel.

Wrecks involving ordinary cars and trucks are not the major concern. They carry modest amounts of fuel, and it is typically a low-concentration, 10 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline. A large amount of conventional foam can usually extinguish such fires.

Instead, the real danger involves the many tanker trucks and railcars that are rolling out of the Corn Belt with huge quantities of 85 or 95 percent ethanol and carrying it to parts of the country unaccustomed to dealing with it.

"Now, the most common hazardous material has a new twist to it," said Mike Schultz, a firefighter who manned a foam gun during a recent blaze in Missouri.

The risk is more than theoretical. Over the past several years, ethanol accidents on highways, along railroads and in storehouses and refineries have triggered evacuations and fires from Texas to Minnesota, injuring several people and killing at least one person.

Water is not used against gasoline fires, because it can spread the blaze and cause the flames to run down into drains and sewers. Instead, foam is used to form a blanket on top of the burning gasoline and snuff out of the flames. But ethanol - a type of grain alcohol often distilled from corn - eats through that foam and continues to burn.

Such fires require a special alcohol-resistant foam that relies on long-chain molecules known as polymers to smother the flames. Industry officials say the special foam costs about 30 percent more than the standard product, at around $90 (euro60.50) to $115 (euro77) for a five-gallon (19-liter) container.

Fighting ethanol fires also requires a change in tactics. Brent Gaspard, marketing director for Williams Fire & Hazard Control Inc., an industrial firefighting company in Texas, said firefighters cannot just charge ahead and attack an ethanol fire with foam.

"If you just plunge the foam into the fuel, it's going to be less effective. You have to let the foam gently run across the surface so you create a shield," he said.

Industry officials said fire departments in just the past few months are becoming more knowledgeable about ethanol blazes and the special firefighting foam.

At the ethanol industry's annual conference in Orlando, Florida, a member of a leading ethanol trade group is leading a session this week on safety for ethanol employees, emergency workers and communities. Fire officials in Iowa and Missouri also want to offer firefighters there ethanol training.

"We're talking about a product that could become more widely used with therefore more exposure to this chemical," said Randy Novak, head of the training bureau for the Iowa fire marshal. "We need to make sure folks understand what it is and how to deal with it."

To help firefighters identify when high concentrations of ethanol are burning, the U.S. Transportation Department has approved a rule requiring signs on tanker trucks hauling fuel that is more than 10 percent ethanol.

In the last three months of 2007, three major fires pointed up the danger. In western Pennsylvania, nine ethanol tanker cars derailed and triggered a blaze that tied up a busy rail line.

In Missouri, a tanker truck carrying several thousand gallons of ethanol and gasoline crashed near the state Capitol, killing the driver. The flames spurred the evacuation of two elementary schools and forced the state to rebuild a badly damaged bridge.

And in Ohio, a train heading through the northeastern part of the state to Buffalo, New York, derailed and burned, forcing more than 1,000 people from their homes.

Firefighters in Missouri and Pennsylvania each had some of the special foam on hand. But John Ofman, chief of a volunteer fire company in West Wheatfield Township, Pennsylvania, said his department did not have enough and had to depend on outside help.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL. 2008-02-26 14:30:39

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Frasier on the day of the leap......

Exxon Suxx, McCain Duxx

Exxon suxx. McCain duxx

By Greg Palast
27 February 2008.

Nineteen goddamn years is enough. I’m sorry if you don’t like my language, but when I think about what they did to Paul Kompkoff, I’m in no mood to nicey-nice words.

Next month marks 19 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped its load of crude oil across the Prince William Sound, Alaska. A big gooeysmallalaksaoil.jpg load of this crude spilled over the lands of the Chenega Natives. Paul Kompkoff was a seal-hunter for the village. That is, until Exxon’s ship killed the seal and poisoned the rest of Chenega’s food supply.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

Nice guys. But, hell, they were right, weren’t they?

But Exxon didn’t do it alone. They had enablers. One was a failed oil driller named “Dubya.” Exxon was the largest contributor to George W. Bush’s political career after Enron. They were a team, Exxon and Enron. The Chairman of Enron, Ken Lay, prior to his felony convictions, funded a group called Texans for Law Suit Reform. The idea was to prevent Natives, consumers and defrauded stockholders from suing felonious corporations and their chiefs.

When George went to Washington, Enron and Exxon got their golden pass in the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. Today, as the court heard Exxon’s latest stall, Roberts said, in defense of Exxon’s behavior in Alaska, “What more can a corporation do?”

The answer, Your Honor, is plenty.

For starters, Mr. Roberts, Exxon could have turned on the radar. What? On the night the Exxon Valdez smacked into Bligh Reef, the Raycas radar system was turned off. Exxon shipping honchos decided it was too expensive to maintain it and train their navigators to use it. So, the inexperienced third mate at the wheel was driving the supertanker by eyeball, Christopher Columbus style. I kid you not.

Here’s what else this poor ‘widdle corporation could do: stop lying.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not even supposed to leave harbor.

If a tanker busts open, that doesn’t have to mean a thousand miles of shoreline gets slimed – so long as oil-slick containment equipment is in place.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not supposed have left port. No tanker can unless a spill containment barge is operating nearby. That night, the barge was in dry-dock, locked under ice. Exxon kept that fact hidden, concealing the truth even after the tanker grounded. An Exxon official radioed the emergency crew, “Barge is on its way.”

Paul’s gone – buried with Exxon’s promises. But the oil’s still there. Go out to Chenega lands today. At Sleepy Bay, kick over some gravel and it will smell like a gas station.

What the heck does this have to do with John McCain? The Senator is what I’d call a ‘Tort Tart.’ Ken Lay’s “Law Suit Reform” posse was one of the fronts used by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists waging war on your day in court. Their rallying cry is ‘Tort Reform,’ by which they mean they want to take away the God-given right of any American, rich or poor, to sue the bastards who crush your child’s skull through product negligence, make your heart explode with a faulty medical device, siphon off your pension funds, or poison your food supply with spilled oil.

Now, all of the Democratic candidates have seen through this ‘tort reform’ con – and so did a Senator named McCain who, in 2001, for example, voted for the Patients Bill of Rights allowing claims against butchers with scalpels. Then something happened to Senator McCain: the guy who stuck his neck out for litigants got his head chopped off when he ran for President in the Republican Party in 2000 for what one lobbyists’ website called McCain’s, “his go-it-alone moralism.”

So the Senator did what I call, The McCain Hunch. Again and again he grabbed his ankles and apologized to the K Street lobbyists, reversing his positions on, well, you name it. For example, in 2001, he said of Bush’s tax cuts, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans.” Now, in bad conscience, the Senator vows to make these tax cuts permanent.

On “Tort Reform,” the about-face was dizzying. McCain voted to undermine his own 2001 Patients Bill of Rights with votes in 2005 to limit suits to enforce it. He then added his name to a bill that would have thrown sealhunter Kompkoff’s suit out of federal court.

In 2003, McCain voted against Bush’s Energy Plan, an industry oil-gasm. But this week, following Exxon’s report that it sucked in $40.6 billion in earnings last year, the largest profit haul in planetary history, McCain failed to join Clinton, Obama, most Democrats and some Republicans on a bill to require a teeny sliver of industry profit go to alternative energy sources. On oil independence, McCain is AWOL, missing in action.

Well, Paul, at least you were spared this.

I remember when I was on the investigation in Alaska, fishermen, bankrupted, utterly ruined – Kompkoff’s co-plaintiffs in the suit before the court – floated their soon-to-be repossessed boats into the tanker lanes with banners reading, “EXXON SUXX.” To which they could now add, about a one-time stand-up Senator: “McCain duxx.”

Hear Greg Palast with Rosanne Barr on Air America’s Clout! Rosanne is sitting in for host Richard Greene who carries the weekly Palast Report. Look for the podcast on tomorrow

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New Horizons Mission News - Memories of Jupiter

February 28, 2008

Memories of Jupiter

A year ago, New Horizons was flying through the heart of the Jupiter system, gradually picking up speed and systematically gathering spectacular data on the solar system’s largest planet and its closest moons. The results of that spectacular flyby have since been featured on thousands of electronic and printed pages, including a special issue of the journal Science in October 2007.

New Horizons scientists recently took a new look at one of the more memorable images from the Jupiter collection: that of the erupting volcano Tvashtar on the moon Io. Taken through two of the four filters in the sensitive Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera, the picture shows the reddish colors of the plume deposits surrounding the base of the volcano – a view we hadn’t seen in earlier pictures. Check it out in the New Horizons gallery.

Revisit the highlights of the historic Jupiter encounter:

New Horizons Sees Changes in Jupiter System, October 2007

Pluto-Bound New Horizons Provides New Look at Jupiter System, May 2007

Now you know I had to post this one.....

This has been a tough winter. It could be worse I guess, like 1993 when we seemed to have a 5 or 6 inch snowfall every two weeks. However, this one has kept putting just enough snow on the ground to make things miserable. Just enough. Its been a royal pain and I came across this today on the Post-Dispatch website. I have had enough of winter and I am ready to kill that little groundhog.

I think I’ve had just about all the winter I can stand

You know what, Mother Nature? It’s not funny anymore. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun.

Enough with the snow. OK? Same with all the ice. I’ve had enough. Take your stupid snow, and your stupid ice, and your stupid sleet, and stick it…well, I think you know where I’d like you to stick it.

Don’t give me that offended look. You’re a spiteful, mean old hag, and I’ve had just about enough. You know what happens every single time you drop another load of your wintry nonsense on my front lawn? I’ll tell you what happens. Two words, lady: snow days.

I cannot begin to tell you how much havoc snow days wreak on my life. I’m a divorced dad, which means I’m already spending most of my rapidly fading thirties driving around town to pick up or drop off kids. Between Colette and me, we have three kids, two custody schedules and two jobs. Our lives are crazy enough when you aren’t up to your shenanigans, you wrinkled battle axe.

When the kids don’t have school because of rotten weather, things go from crazy to stupid-crazy. All the usual pick-up and drop-off routines, which have little margin for error to begin with, get shot straight to hell. We end up spending half of any snow day on the phone, trying to figure out normally are supposed to be. And if they can’t get to where they need to be, things have to be rescheduled, which causes things on the rescheduled dates to get rescheduled, and essentially the fabric of our universe folds upon itself until everything inside it implodes.

But that’s not even the worst of it. No, the worst thing about snow days is that the kids don’t have school.

Do you understand the ramifications of that phrase, you embittered wench? When the kids don’t have school, they stay home. All day. All. Day. Long.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like my kids. But under certain conditions, kids are like vodka: best enjoyed in moderation. Too much of either will give you a massive headache and/or make you clammy. Having a house full of kids on a snow day is the parenting equivalent of a weekend bender in Soulard.

Under normal circumstances, a day at home with my girls is not a huge deal. But on a snow day, you see, the kids are trapped. They’re stuck inside and bored out of their minds. If I let them watch TV, they become so unresponsive to outside stimuli that I’m compelled to hold my finger under their noses to make sure they’re still exhaling. If I make them turn off the TV, they start playing with each other, which is good, but eventually they start arguing over which one of them “gets to be Hermione” or something like that, which makes me want to repeatedly close the garage door on my face.

If the kids want to play in the snow, since it’s super-cold out, they can’t do it for long. And it’s kind of a pain for me, because I have to stop what I’m doing to make sure they’re properly bundled. When they come back in, I have to stop what I’m doing in order to make sure they don’t slop the entire house with snow and muck.

And you see, you mangy battle-axe, all this stopping and starting is a pain, because unlike the children, I don’t get snow days. If I’m home with the kids, I still have to work. Have you ever tried to finish writing a presentation when you’re being asked what’s for lunch, what kind of animal Shrek is, and why I think it’s perfectly fair to deny a mid-afternoon “waffle break?” Of course you don’t. You’re Mother Nature, destroyer of schedules and patron saint of inconvenience. You probably don’t even know what Power Point is. You disgust me.

This all wouldn’t be so bad if it only happened once or twice each winter. But for some reason, it keeps happening this winter. It seems like we’ve had six or seven snow days already. That’s way too much, lady. Way too much. We’re only two-thirds of the way through winter. We should have only had maybe two snow days by now. We had two snow days last week alone.

Do you hear me, Mother Nature? It’s time to stop. No more snow days. I’m sick of trying to work with the Disney Channel blaring in the background. I’m sick of snow, I’m sick of ice, I’m sick of it all. As a matter of fact, I’m sick of winter entirely. I’m tired of it being dark when I wake up and dark when I get home at night. I’m tired of gray skies and dead plants and mucky tires.

I demand that you start spring immediately. I’m not kidding. By the end of this week, I want 70 degrees, lush foliage, and tasty ballpark nachos. I want kids in school and my life back to normal. I’ve had it with your nonsense, Mother Nature, and I’m not taking it any more. Either you start spring this very instant or I’ll…uh, I’ll…well…


I’m starting to understand why your first name is Mother.

Bob Rybarczyk ( writes stuff. He’s thrilled that he once again was not asked to compete on “Dancing With The Stars.” Look for his novel, “Acoustic Kitty,” ($15.95) at Amazon and other online booksellers. Drop him a line to sign up for his handy FringeMail reminder service.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Warrior-Poet.

I watched "Elizabeth, the Golden Age" tonight and I was compelled to research the era. I know the movie isn't exaclty acurate historically, but I liked the first movie and to me Cate Blanchet is the definitive Elizabeth. I looked at Sir Walter Raleigh and his contributions were exagerated by the movie because Drake was in command of the fleet. He married the Queen's favorite Lady-in-waiting and although the marriage wasn't sanctioned, his exploits in defeating the Spanish Armada eventually won him the Queen's favor. I read he was a poet and her with is one of Raleigh's most famous poems.

The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall,

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten--
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Retrieved from ""

This page was last modified on 27 January 2008, at 08:28. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.)
Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity.

Browsing verses Stalking...

I recently came across comment in a post in a friends blog and had to wonder....

This is the response I posted:

Sometimes I have days when I don't feel like blogging, and I browse my friends sites looking for for interesting blogs to comment on. I don't think of it as stalking, but some might... hmmm I wonder if that is different?

I do do this. I have been in a funk the past few days. Moving my Mom into my house has resulted in the junk she has following her. Now, don't get me wrong, a lot of it isn't junk. However, in the dictionary next tot he word "pack rat" there is a picture of my Mom along with the storage room we are renting that has all her stuff in it. My brother and mom said I shouldn't have rented such a large room. I knew how muhc stuff she had, so I went for the biggie. I figured it it all didn't fill up, I could put some of my stuff there too. Well, I filled it up and then some. I have a car stuffed with junk I don't know where to put and I don't know what I am going to do with it all. Some of the stuff is good. However, my Mom has a nasty habit of driving by the road and if someone leaves a couch on the curb, she's the one that will be picking it up to give it a good home. She thinks that sometime in the near future she will be gifted with the skill to reupholster furniture, because we have several chairs there that need it bad. Some of it is hers, the rest is chairs that have been seen in the alleyways and streets of our fair city. I love my Momma, but I got to do something.

Where is this all leading? Well, when I don't blog I browse. I suppose that others have much more interesting lives than my hum drum existence. The most exciting thing I have had happen at work in the past several days is that I had to wash trucks in the service tunnel last night (thanking God we HAVE a not-so-cold place to do this activity) and pray the snow flurries wouldn't accumilate. Then I spent half the night wiping down computer keybaards at the office and cleaning out the microwave. Its amazing how much can get in a microwave that my sometimes lazy and sometimes overworked co-workers don't clean out. Yeah, all that overflow from that slightly overcooked chilli can turn into a hard charred crust on a glass plate. And don't even get me going about the inside roof of the oven. ICK!

Yeah, I live a hum drum existence. My friends here online are amog the few people I interact with and it helps I guess. I don't totally shut the world out. The world is a dangerous and cruel place. I don't want that reality entering my home unless I let in that world through the televison. I really need to get out more. If not for my health, for my sanity. The weather though has had little to offer in the way of wanting to go out. Right now as I am writing this, it is 30.6 degrees outside my window (thanks to my Discovery Channel weather station, bought at a clearance price when their store unexpectedly and sadly closed in my Mall). I HATE being cold and I hate being hot and wish the weather was just right. I wish I had a real weekend like most people! Like the man said, if wishes were fishes I'd open up a Captain D's.

Anyway, I just like people to know I am not stalking them. If you feel like I am, please let me know so I do not frighten you and perhaps trigger a report to the authorities. I don't want to be spending the rest of my life wondering if I have enough cigarettes to keep Guido and Bruno from giving me an impromptu proctology exam.

God bless you all and keep the faith.

It takes a long time to get to England in a Rowboat...

One student supposedly turned in the following report, with the proposition that the screenplay of "Titanic" and Bill Clinton’s autobiography are essentially the same, which is as good a setup as any for the following comic comparisons…

Titanic: Over 3 hours to watch
Clinton: Over 3 hours to read.

Titanic: The story of Jack and Rose, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe
Clinton: The story of Bill and Monica, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.

Titanic: Jack is a starving artist
Clinton: Bill is a BS artist.

Titanic: In one scene, Jack enjoys a good cigar.
Ditto for Bill.

In Titanic, during the ordeal, Rose's dress gets ruined.
Ditto for Monica.

Titanic: Rose remembers Jack for the rest of her life.
Clinton: doesn't remember jack.

Titanic: Jack teaches Rose to spit.
Clinton: Let's not go there.

Titanic: Rose goes down on a vessel full of seamen...
Clinton: Oh, let's not go there, either.

Titanic: Jack surrenders to an icy death.
Clinton: Bill goes home to Hillary.

Conclusion: "They’re basically the same story!"

His professor gave him an A+

MESSENGER Mission News - Craters in Caloris

Craters in Caloris

Release Date:
February 27, 2008

As MESSENGER sped by Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this image, which includes the edge of the planet against the blackness of space. Much of the foreground shows a portion of Caloris basin, one of the largest impact basins in the solar system. The two large craters near the bottom of this image can be identified on the northwestern floor of the basin on the mosaicked image of Caloris released at MESSENGER's NASA press conference on January 30. The large crater in the bottom middle of this image has a diameter of about 70 kilometers (40 miles).

Caloris basin is an area of particular interest to the MESSENGER science team, since understanding its formation can lead to insights about the nature of large impacts in the early solar system and the results of these catastrophic events. In a false-color image of Mercury, also released on January 30, Caloris basin is visible in the northern hemisphere of the planet as a large, light-colored, roughly circular feature; the floor of the basin may have some differences in its composition compared with the darker surrounding surfaces. The two large craters shown in today's released image are each surrounded by a "halo" of dark material, like the craters shown in our release of February 21. The smaller of the two craters has an unusual pattern of bright, highly reflective material on its floor. The fact that both of these craters, which show different material characteristics, are located within Caloris basin provides information about the variety and complexity of processes that have shaped Mercury's surface.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108826622

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Something Fishy going on here..... Maybe they want Obama dead or something...

I found this in my e-mail this morning and I think it should bring concern to anyone who believes in Democracy.....

Police concerned about order to stop weapons screening at Obama rally

Star-Telegram Staff Writer


Barack Obama speaks Wednesday at a Democratic rally in Dallas' Reunion Arena. Police were told to stop screening people for weapons before the rally began.

DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.

Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.

"Sure," said Lawrence, when asked if he was concerned by the great number of people who had gotten into the building without being checked. But, he added, the turnout of more than 17,000 people seemed to be a "friendly crowd."

The Secret Service did not return a call from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.

Doors opened to the public at 10 a.m., and for the first hour security officers scanned each person who came in and checked their belongings in a process that kept movement of the long lines at a crawl. Then, about 11 a.m., an order came down to allow the people in without being checked.

Several Dallas police officers said it worried them that the arena was packed with people who got in without even a cursory inspection.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because, they said, the order was made by federal officials who were in charge of security at the event.

"How can you not be concerned in this day and age," said one policeman.

JACK DOUGLAS Jr., 817-390-7700

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Weather outside is frightful.....

This is the scene outside of my driveway. The weather guessers are saying we are in for it tonight. More freezing rain and sleet is on tap for tonight. I hope its going to end before tomorrow night and I have to go to work.

I haven't blogged a lot about life lately. I guess I am sort of a stalker in a way. I say "sort of" because I don't want to scare anyone. I like reading others and I am getting back into a practice of writing again. I'd like to be a good writer and one needs to practice to be a good writer.

We got another notice about something to worry about at work. I didn't talk about it before since there was no notice in the media. Now that I have found something in media I can feel more comfortable about talking about it. Its something called the Cup Fastholster. Its manufactured by a company called Fastholster. The company is on the net and manufacturers magnets for gun owners to "locate their firearms almost anywhere." They have put their magnets into a base that you can place into a large 32 or 44 oz drinking cup. You can then place any variety of guns into said cup. Another thing for us to worry about. However, an article in the NY Post brought attention to the item and they have pulled it from their website. A variety of law enforcement organizations from the Fresno Police Department to the FBI have posted information concerning this as alerts to officers. Another thing to notice is that even if this company has pulled its item, someone else has the idea now, from street gang members to terrorists. Ah, the wonder of ideas and the inventiveness of the human mind. Too bad we can't invent something to live in peace with each other.

New Horizons Pluto Mission News

Pluto Mission News
February 21, 2008

New Horizons Crosses 9 AU

New Horizons passed a planetary milepost today at 5 a.m. EST when it reached a distance of 9 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun – about 836.6 million miles, or nine times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. “The spacecraft destined for the ninth planet is now just beyond 9 AU and continuing outbound for the solar system’s frontier at more than 60,000 kilometers per hour!” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of NASA Headquarters.

New Horizons has covered nearly 970.5 million miles (1.56 billion kilometers) since its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on January 19, 2006. Speeding toward Pluto at about 42,000 miles (67,500 kilometers) per hour, New Horizons will zip past the orbit of Saturn – where the Cassini spacecraft now operates – on June 8. That crossing will make New Horizons the farthest spacecraft on its way to or at its primary target.

New Horizons itself won’t have long to enjoy this latest accomplishment, though, as mission operators will put the spacecraft into regularly scheduled hibernation this afternoon at 3:50 p.m. EST.

New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond. Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of NASA Headquarters, leads a mission team that includes the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute, Ball Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, KinetX, Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation, University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a number of other firms, NASA centers and university partners. For more information on the mission, visit

What Book am I?

You're Ulysses!
by James Joyce
Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but comparedto what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people dounderstand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at oncebrilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking inthe sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings youadditional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.
Take the Book Quizat the Blue Pyramid.

MESSENGER Mission News - Craters with Dark Halos on Mercury

Craters with Dark Halos on Mercury
Release Date: February 21, 2008

As MESSENGER flew by Mercury, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this view on January 14, 2008. Two of the larger craters in this image appear to have darkened crater rims and partial “halos” of dark material immediately surrounding the craters. Both craters appear to have nearly complete rims and interior terraced walls, suggesting that they formed more recently than the other nearby shallower craters of similar size. There are two possible explanations for their dark halos: (1) Darker subsurface material may have been excavated during the explosions from the asteroid or comet impacts that produced the craters. (2) Large cratering explosions may have melted a fraction of the rocky surface material involved in the explosions, splashing so-called “impact melts” across the surface; such melted rock is often darker (lower albedo) than the pre-impact target material. In either case, the association of the dark material with relatively recently formed craters suggests that the processes that gradually homogenize Mercury’s surface materials have not yet had time to reduce the contrast of these dark halos. The crater with associated dark material in the lower-left part of this image is about 100 km (60 miles) in diameter, and the crater with patches of dark material in the upper right is about 70 km (40 miles) across. These dark-halo craters, located near Mercury's south pole, are also visible in the previously released false-color image created from three Wide Angle Camera (WAC) frames.

Information from images taken in the 11 different color filters of the WAC will help MESSENGER scientists to understand the nature of the dark material associated with the craters shown in this image and will determine whether they reveal the presence of subsurface material of a different composition, are examples of impact melt, or perhaps have some other explanation.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108828161

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The winner of the dog show.....

For the first time a Beagle has won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show. He came from Belleville, Illnois across the river from St. Louis.

I thought I was thsi one, Blue is always my favorite....

You Are a Blue Crayon
Your world is colored in calm, understated, deep colors.
You are a loyal person, and the truest friend anyone could hope to find.
On the inside, you tend to be emotional and even a bit moody.
However, you know that people depend on you. So you put on a strong front.

Your color wheel opposite is orange. Orange people may be opinionated, but you feel they lack the depth to truly understand what they're saying.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is the military beating us to the punch

I get a subscription to the Janes Defense newsletters. I only get the blurbs cause those are free. I can't afford the $1000 a year subscription so I couldn't read the story, but this was interseting:

USAF eyes coal-to-liquids plant in synthetic-fuel push
The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to issue a request for proposals (RfP) before the end of February for the construction of a coal-to-liquids plant at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The plant is part of a major push by the USAF to reduce its reliance on costly and politically risky imported petroleum-based jet fuel by creating a new synthetic fuel alternative

Apparently the military is starting to realize the fact that we are running out of oil and needs to get somethign started even if they make it themselves! This is significant by any stretch of the imagination. The military is actually going to start making its own fuel because it considers petrolium based fuel politically risky. That, and the oil running out.

This is an article from an ARAB business news site:

They are becomming concerned. The article states that during our operations in Kosovo in 1999, the use of jet fuel by the Air Force actually drove up prices there was so much used. The Air Force uses about half the fuel used by the US government. HALF! WOW!

This next article details parts of the proposal at Malstrom, which is located in Montana.

Apparently, the idea is to eventually have all bases in Coal producing areas self-contained. While not detailed in the articles I have consulted, the idea seems sound. You would have plants on all the bases in coal-rich areas. All you would need is to bring the coal in. The base would supply all the needs of its vehicles without resorting to imported supplies. Since most fuel comes over road, this would reduce costs, The synthetic fuel has advantages because it burns cleaner and at a lower temparature which is good for dodgeing heatseaking missiles and reduces metal fatague in jet engines.

The cost of manufacturing Synthetic fuels from coal has always been prohibitive until now. With Oil approaching $100 a barrel and poised to go over it, the cost has become competitive. The US sits on vast coal reserves and would be able to exploit those reserves through this process. However, the technology is a pollution concern in and of itself, so that is one drawback. We may have to weigh the tradoffs and further research is needed to make this a clean technology.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Another thing to worry about.....

I arrived at work last night to find some new items posted on the bulletin board. Occasionally, the management will alert us to new security threats and items that might interest us. There is a new type of theft that is occurring with increasing regularity. The metals in the Catalytic Converter in your car are precious and can fetch a high price. Check out the story and keep an eye out around the shopping mall.

Gone in 60 seconds: treasure in your car
As precious metals prices soar, catalytic converters are targets for thieves
By Alex Johnson
updated 3:38 p.m. CT, Tues., Feb. 12, 2008

As prices of precious metals skyrocket, thieves are targeting an obscure component of automotive exhaust systems in lightning thefts that can be accomplished in less than a minute, police and automotive experts say.

The component is the catalytic converter, which has been a mandatory part of exhaust systems since 1975. Police across the country say they have seen a dramatic rise in thefts of the components in recent months.

If you peer inside a used catalytic converter, nothing looks salvageable, much less valuable. But some of the gray gunk in there hides three expensive precious metals.

Catalytic converters have only small traces of the metals — platinum, palladium and rhodium — but there’s enough in them for a thief to resell stolen units for up to $200 apiece. Rhodium is among the most expensive metals on Earth, commanding as much as $6,000 an ounce on the open market.

Scrap dealers “are paying top dollar — platinum, palladium, rhodium inside of them — and they’re getting top dollar” on resale, said Jack Bell of North Shore Towing, which tows vehicles for the Evanston, Ill., police.

“The word spreads real quick about it, what they’re worth,” said Marty Antonelli of Marty’s Welding and Muffler Shop in Pittsburgh. “Everybody is on them now.”

Easy to find = easy to steal
The converters are inviting targets because they’re easy to grab. Mounted on the exterior undercarriage of vehicles, they can be removed in about a minute with any standard metal cutting tool. An enterprising thief in a crowded parking lot or garage can make off with enough converters to clear $2,000 or $3,000 in half an hour.

“These thieves are targeting shopping malls, school parking lots, busy business districts, and they are hitting these places in the daylight,” said Jennifer Krings, a spokeswoman for AAA. “A lot of the large passenger cars — SUVs, trucks and vans — have two, so those are a target.”

Anita Ortez returned to the parking lot after a short shopping run at a supermarket in DeSoto, Texas, to quickly learn that something was wrong with her SUV, a Toyota 4Runner.

“I turned it on, and it made a whoooom noise,” said Ortez, who said she was in the store for only about 20 minutes. “I jumped back thinking it was going to explode.”

She had the right idea. Besides rendering your exhaust system inoperable, a missing catalytic converter can be dangerous.

“On some of these cars, if that pipe gets cut off near some wiring or a fuel line or a gas tank —which in some cases are not shielded — there is a possibility of a fire and/or explosion,” said David Eames of Pittman Automotive Service in Seattle.

Easy pickings in crowded lots
Ortez is just one of hundreds of victims in small-town DeSoto, population 37,000.

“This is a new thing for us,” DeSoto police Lt. Mike Sullivan said. “I think it’s starting to be a trend throughout the United States.”

The 4Runner is the most common target of thieves, said the Los Angeles Police Department, which issued a public warning about what it called a “new disturbing trend.” The 4Runner sits high off the ground, and its converter is attached with four bolts that are easily sawed off, making it simple for thieves to duck underneath, do their business and scoot.

The Kia Sportage, with a similar profile, is also popular, said Ron Baker, general manager of Spitzer Motors in Cleveland.

“They’re the easiest to get under and the easiest to remove,” Baker said.

But any vehicle made after 1975 is a potential target, said Kyle Evans, a spokesman for the Murfreesboro, Tenn., police.

“This is certainly something that could happen in someone’s driveway,” Evans said.

More commonly, it happens in parking lots and garages, where dozens of vehicles are lined up ripe for the plucking.

“I’ve heard of people going into apartment complexes in the middle of the night — just taking a handsaw, getting up under someone’s car and sawing it off,” said Tony Murtell, manager of U-Pull & Pay in Philadelphia. “They collect a few of them and take off somewhere to be recycled.”

“It’s happening everywhere now, you know,” said Trina Stutt, part-owner of Stutt’s Transmission Service in Pulaski, Tenn. “I am shocked at how fast this is growing.”

A hard crime to uncover
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a national trade association, said there were no national statistics on the pilferage of catalytic converters, which are generally lumped in with other auto-theft incidents. But it said it had seen a sharp rise in reports of thefts, and it urged scrap dealers to be suspicious of anyone walking in with a converter.

As it happens, there’s not much a recycler can do. Catalytic converters don’t have serial numbers, so they can’t be tracked, making a stolen converter all but impossible for a scrap dealer to identify.

“It’s very hard to trace that,” said Sgt. Chuck Zeissler of the Madison County, Ala., Sheriff’s Office. “You would have to go back and see what type of actual catalytic converter was placed on that vehicle and try and trace it back to the vehicle it was stolen off of.”

While police say drug addicts are most frequently found responsible for the thefts, the treasure in the exhaust system is rich enough that it can lure some surprising culprits.

In December, a former member of the Board of Aldermen in Arlington, Tenn., was arrested after Shelby County sheriff’s deputies found him tucked under a Buick station wagon. The man, co-owner of an auto parts store in town, was trying to steal catalytic converters from vehicles in the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s own impound lot, deputies said.

If catalytic converters are so valuable that people will actually try to steal them from the cops, what does that mean for everyday car owners?

“Unless you can garage your vehicle 24 hours a day, anyone can climb under your car and cut off the catalytic converter,” said Sgt. Bob Jagoe of the Baltimore County, Md., police auto theft team.

Harrisburg, Pa., police Chief Charles Kellar acknowledged: “There is not a lot you can do. You have to go to sleep eventually.”


© 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

From the Jewish magazine - The Forward - For all the Star Trek Fans out there.

Final Frontier Calls to Nimoy

The new “Star Trek” film’s trailer shows a vast shipyard where the U.S.S. Enterprise is under construction, as a voice intones that famous phrase, “Space, the final frontier….”

Ah, that deep, rich voice. It’s unmistakable. Spock is back.

In 2002, Leonard Nimoy, now 76, said he was retiring from acting to focus on photography. But this December, he’ll return to the silver screen as the pointy-eared pop culture icon who has been his alter ego since “Star Trek” debuted on television in 1966.

“My photography is still a major love and a major part of my creative life, but this is a ‘Star Trek’ project, so it’s something special,” Nimoy told The Shmooze by phone from Los Angeles, where he’ll be filming through next month.

His last “Trek” movie was 1991’s “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”; four more have been made since. Nimoy said he was drawn to this next one by the energy and reputation of director/producer J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Alias,” “Mission Impossible III”), “a really special guy with a wonderful script and a great production…. He’s the real deal.”

“And I feel I owe it to ‘Star Trek’; it’s been a big, positive factor in my life,” he added. “I do think this is a very serious chance for the entire franchise to become reinvigorated.”

While Spock has been on ice, Nimoy’s photography has created heat in Jewish circles. His 2002 collection “Shekhina” depicted models wearing tefillin or a tallis and little else, as the essence of God’s feminine manifestation — transcendent to some, transgressive to others.

His current “Full Body Project” depicts nude, proud, fat women, “a book of pictures of beautiful women who just don’t happen to be living in the same kinds of bodies as fashion models,” he said. That collection’s Northampton, Mass., gallery exhibit has been extended to five months from four, through March 15. Nimoy also remains a fixture as a speaker at “Star Trek” conventions and in Jewish venues, finding plenty of crossover between the two.

“There’s always been a curiosity about Judaism in ‘Star Trek,’” he said, not only about adopting the Kohanim’s split-fingered blessing gesture as the Vulcan salute but also about “the trail of Jewish experiences that I’ve had in my acting life,” dating back to his childhood as the son of Yiddish-speaking Russian Jewish immigrants in Boston and to his first big performance role, in Clifford Odets’s “Awake and Sing,” at age 17.

“I’ve had a wonderful time connecting my Judaism and my acting and directing work,” he said.

Wed. Feb 13, 2008

One Month Ago…

One Month Ago…

Release Date:
February 14, 2008

One month ago, on January 14, 2008, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft in over three decades to visit Mercury, snapping images of a large portion of Mercury's surface previously unseen by spacecraft. As the spacecraft proceeds on its journey, the science team continues to study the 1213 images returned from the mission's historic first flyby. The probe’s trajectory will bring it to a second Mercury flyby on October 6, 2008.

MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this image during the flyby one month ago. The Sun is illuminating this region at a low angle, accentuating the modest ridges and other low topography on these nearly flat plains. Low ridges trend from the top-center of the image to the left edge (white arrows). The ghostly remains of craters are visible, filled to their rims by what may have been volcanic lavas (red arrows). The faint remnant of an inner ring within the large crater in the bottom half of this picture can be seen (blue arrow); the area interior to this ring was also flooded, possibly by lava, nearly to the point of disappearance. Clusters of secondary craters on the floor of the large crater and elsewhere (yellow arrows) formed when clumps of material were ejected from large impacts beyond the view of this image, which is about 350 kilometers (220 miles) across.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108826972

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

What the future may hold...

I hate the Rams.

I strarted having a stream of conscinouness moment like Astra there. (I've started writing and I can't stop!) Then Multiply decided to do some maintenance or got down for some bizarre reason. Bedtime seemed a better thing, so I slept on it. Anyway, I woke up and started writing. so here it is.

Well, I hate the Rams. I hate the fact that even though we have a lot of stuff around here that needs done, or needed done at the time, we spent money on a stadium that didn't get a football team. To build the stadium, they tore down a hotel which had just completed a $1 million renovation, built only 10 years before. Eventually, after the stadium was completed, the NFL screwed us on a football team. It gave them to a couple of cities that didn't even have completed venues for play. In the end had to seal ours from L.A. The only good thing about that is that is didn't cost us too much, just a lawsuit from the league that screwed us initially.

On the suspsnsion of J.C. Chorchran. I listen to him every morning. I don't like it when he gets this way. When I heard the remarks on the radio, I knew something was going to happen. He started saying that the black director of communications needed to get some "Black Power" and started using an ethnic voice and then it degenerated from there. It was typical of his stream of consciousness that comprises his show. I wish one of his co-workers there had said something, anything, but they usually let him rant. Oftentimes, its good material. In this case, it wasn't. The interesting thing was that it took a few days for them to suspend him.

I suppose he will be back. He's one of those fixtures. He's been back and forth, on and off the air. So, I think he will be back.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Titan's Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth

This item may mean that at some future date, we will be importing our oil from Titan. How we get it from Saturn, to Low Earth Orbit, to the ground I leave to the more enlightened reader. It also says that there are significant reserves of Natural Gas (methane) on Titan as well. At Titan's distance from the sun, Natural gas is a liquid. This would make any exploitation fairly easy. Just pump the liquid methane out of the sea.

The CNG cars of today may represent a future where we would have our vehicles powered by methane. Again, the technology to get the resources from Titan to Earth would have to be worked out.

However, the prospect of organic compounds on Titan means that at the very least the possibility of life existing on Titan. This would render attempts to exploit any resources moot if we intend to exploit those resources without regard to those possible life forms. A sufficiently unscrupulous future government might have no such qualms.

Titan's Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth
Artist concept of terrain on Titan
An artist's imagination of hydrocarbon pools, icy and rocky terrain on the surface of Saturn's largest moon Titan. Image credit: Steven Hobbs (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia).
› Larger image

Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.

The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., are reported in the Jan. 29 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

"Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material -- it's a giant factory of organic chemicals," said Lorenz. "This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan."

At a balmy minus 179 degrees Celsius (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit), Titan is a far cry from Earth. Instead of water, liquid hydrocarbons in the form of methane and ethane are present on the moon's surface, and tholins probably make up its dunes. The term "tholins"was coined by Carl Sagan in 1979 to describe the complex organic molecules at the heart of prebiotic chemistry.

Cassini has mapped about 20 percent of Titan's surface with radar. Several hundred lakes and seas have been observed, with each of several dozen estimated to contain more hydrocarbon liquid than Earth's oil and gas reserves. The dark dunes that run along the equator contain a volume of organics several hundred times larger than Earth's coal reserves.

Proven reserves of natural gas on Earth total 130 billion tons, enough to provide 300 times the amount of energy the entire United States uses annually for residential heating, cooling and lighting. Dozens of Titan's lakes individually have the equivalent of at least this much energy in the form of methane and ethane.

Part of an animation showing lakes on Titan
This movie, comprised of several detailed images taken by Cassini's radar instrument, shows bodies of liquid near Titan's north pole.

› Video and full caption

"This global estimate is based mostly on views of the lakes in the northern polar regions. We have assumed the south might be similar, but we really don't yet know how much liquid is there," said Lorenz. Cassini's radar has observed the south polar region only once, and only two small lakes were visible. Future observations of that area are planned during Cassini's proposed extended mission.

Scientists estimated Titan's lake depth by making some general assumptions based on lakes on Earth. They took the average area and depth of lakes on Earth, taking into account the nearby surroundings, like mountains. On Earth, the lake depth is often 10 times less than the height of nearby terrain.

"We also know that some lakes are more than 10 meters or so deep because they appear literally pitch-black to the radar. If they were shallow we'd see the bottom, and we don't," said Lorenz.

The question of how much liquid is on the surface is an important one because methane is a strong greenhouse gas on Titan as well as on Earth, but there is much more of it on Titan. If all the observed liquid on Titan is methane, it would only last a few million years, because as methane escapes into Titan's atmosphere, it breaks down and escapes into space. If the methane were to run out, Titan could become much colder. Scientists believe that methane might be supplied to the atmosphere by venting from the interior in cryovolcanic eruptions. If so, the amount of methane, and the temperature on Titan, may have fluctuated dramatically in Titan's past.

"We are carbon-based life, and understanding how far along the chain of complexity towards life that chemistry can go in an environment like Titan will be important in understanding the origins of life throughout the universe," added Lorenz.

Cassini's next radar flyby of Titan is on Feb. 22, when the radar instrument will observe the Huygens probe landing site.

For images and more information visit: and .

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Randon Thoughts from your bartender.....

We had a DJ suspended here in St. Louis because he made some very caustic remarks after his power failed during the Super Bowl. J.C. Corchran can be very sarcastic at time and you know when to take him seriously and when not to. However, I knew that something was going to happen when I first heard the remarks. J.C., I know you're mad, but I think ya went too far this time.

After last years Ice storm and the big windstorm in which literally millions lost power in this area, you'd think Ameren would have a clue. J. C. had every right to be angry with Ameren. Heck, you loose power right at the best time in the game of the year? What American male wouldn't be mad. Still, the J.C. then went on to make other remarks that he should not have and the language became tinged with racism because one of the Corporate minions is black and that was a no-no here. Amerin is supposedly trying to get themselves in order for the next series of storms so a power outage of the level of the previous years storms won't happen again. However, they have a lot of reputation to recover. I hope that J.C. does come back and that this does not permanantly harm his reputation. He does tell it like it is and I don't think his intention was to be racist.

Jericho premered last night for tis second season and like I was saying I was glued to my TV. I'm glad to see it back. We got our 40,000 pounds of nuts worth. Can't wait to see how it works out.

Why do I like it? It a lot to say about the fragility of civilization. In as much as that, the writers were inspired by the events on 9/11 and in New Orleans with Katrina. The premise is that Katrina happened in 22 odd places all over the US. Many of the conditions that happened in Jericho have happened all over the world in places like Africa, Bosnia and the like. You had towns in Bosnia who, before the breakup of Yugoslavia, were nothing more than soccer rivals. After the breakup, they fought bitterly due to ethnic or religious differences or simply because they had the food and the other city did not. Same with Jericho. The show to me said how really fragile civilization really is and how precious civilization really is. A quote attributed to Lenin is that "No country is more than three meals away from revolution." Who can say that, given the events in Katrina, the same would not be true in America?

Just got through watching the first episode of the new season..... So I can't wait for the next one. I just don't have words. The way the "new government" is coming in is a little terrifying and that flag just give me the creeps. Like the world turned upside down. I get the feeling that the government, which by the way is just the western half of the US, is the cabal behind the attacks in that. My gist is that these people conspired to commit the original attacks in order to institute their idea of how the US should be run. The flag is a variation on the supposed "Civil" flag of the US that many so-called "patriot" groups have been promoting of late.

This is one reason I don't support Ron Paul is because this "Civil" flag has sprung up among some of his supporters. At least one site I visited, which supported Ron Paul had links to this Civil Flag issue and one bumper sticker or his has a version of the "Civil" Flag.

While I don't believe in guilt by association, I have read many of Ron Paul's writings and he has supported much of the radical right agenda and I have found him wanting.

The future of the country to me is important. I suspect we will see a protracted war for oil in the next few years as the oil runs out. We have already hit Peek Oil production and our oil production will only go downhill. Since we are dependent on oil, it can only get worse. That's why we need to make the decisions about oil NOW rather than putting it off for a few years when the crisis really hits the fan and we lack the resources for an orderly transition off of fossil fuels. This is part of the reason I like CNG because those cars are readily adaptable, once we get to the "Hydrogen revolution" that our fearless leader has promised us, to gaseous Hydrogen. Ours may be the last generation which is able to have indivdual private automobiles. The next generation may be relegated to public transit.

This is for Cal - Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

I lifted this from a website that had permission to publish it. This one of Larry Niven's funniest works. This essay got him invited to a Superman convention just to talk about it. Niven tells a story that Kirk Alyn, who played Superman in the serials, was approached flying on a plane, and a woman gave him a copy of the book in which the essay appeared. He got to wonder what she was thinking.....

Man of Steel,
Woman of Kleenex

By Larry Niven*

Things of the form (*text*) are footnotes in the original text.

He's faster than a speeding bullet. He's more powerful than a locomotive. He's able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. Why can't he get a girl?

At the ripe old age of thirty-one (*Superman first appeared in Action Comics, June 1938*), Kal-El (alias Superman, alias Clark Kent) is still unmarried. Almost certainly he is still a virgin. This is a serious matter. The species itself is in danger!

An unwed Superman is a mobile Superman. Thus it has been alleged that those who chronicle the Man of Steel's adventures are responsible for his condition. But the cartoonists are not to blame.

Nor is Superman handicapped by psychological problems.

Granted that the poor oaf is not entirely sane. How could he be? He is an orphan, a refugee, and an alien. His homeland no longer exists in any form, save for gigatons upon gigatons of dangerous, prettily colored rocks.

As a child and young adult, Kal-El must have been hard put to find an adequate father-figure. What human could control his antisocial behavior? What human would dare try to punish him? His actual, highly social behavior during this period indicates an inhuman self-restraint.

What wonder if Superman drifted gradually into schizophrenia? Torn between his human and kryptonian identities, he chose to be both, keeping his split personalities rigidly separate. A psychotic desperation is evident in his defense of his "secret identity."

But Superman's sex problems are strictly physiological, and quite real.

The purpose of this article is to point out some medical drawbacks to being a kryptonian among human beings, and to suggest possible solutions. The kryptonian humanoid must not be allowed to go the way of the pterodactyl and the passenger pigeon.


What turns on a kryptonian?

Superman is an alien, an extraterrestrial. His humanoid frame is doubtless the result of parallel evolution, as the marsupials of Australia resemble their mammalian counterparts. A specific niche in the ecology calls for a certain shape, a certain size, certain capabilities, certain eating habits.

Be not deceived by appearances. Superman is no relative to homo sapiens.

What arouses Kal-El's mating urge? Did kryptonian women carry some subtle mating cue at appropriate times of the year? Whatever it is, Lois Lane probably didn't have it. We may speculate that she smells wrong, less like a kryptonian woman than like a terrestrial monkey. A mating between Superman and Lois Lane would feel like sodomy-and would be, of course, by church and common law.


Assume a mating between Superman and a human woman designated LL for convenience.

Either Superman has gone completely schizo and believes himself to be Clark Kent; or he knows what he's doing, but no longer gives a damn. Thirty-one years is a long time. For Superman it has been even longer. He has X-ray vision; he knows just what he's missing. (*One should not think of Superman as a Peeping Tom. A biological ability must be used. As a child Superman may never have known that things had surfaces, until he learned to suppress his X-ray vision. If millions of people tend shamelessly to wear clothing with no lead in the weave, that is hardly Superman's fault.*)

The problem is this. Electroencephalograms taken of men and women during sexual intercourse show that orgasm resembles "a kind of pleasurable epileptic attack." One loses control over one's muscles.

Superman has been known to leave his fingerprints in steel and in hardened concrete, accidentally. What would he do to the woman in his arms during what amounts to an epileptic fit?


Consider the driving urge between a man and a woman, the monomaniacal urge to achieve greater and greater penetration. Remember also that we are dealing with kryptonian muscles.

Superman would literally crush LL's body in his arms, while simultaneously ripping her open from crotch to sternum, gutting her like a trout.


Lastly, he'd blow off the top of her head.

Ejaculation of semen is entirely involuntary in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a kryptonian. But with kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El's semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet. (*One can imagine that the Kent home in Smallville was riddled with holes during Superboy's puberty. And why did Lana Lang never notice that?*)

In view of the foregoing, normal sex is impossible between LL and Superman.

Artificial insemination may give us better results.


First we must collect the semen. The globules will emerge at transsonic speeds. Superman must first ejaculate, then fly frantically after the stuff to catch it in a test tube. We assume that he is on the Moon, both for privacy and to prevent the semen from exploding into vapor on hitting the air at such speeds.

He can catch the semen, of course, before it evaporates in vacuum. He's faster than a speeding bullet.

But can he keep it?

All known forms of kryptonian life have superpowers. The same must hold true of living kryptonian sperm. We may reasonably assume that kryptonian sperm are vulnerable only to starvation and to green kryptonite; that they can travel with equal ease through water, air, vacuum, glass, brick, boiling steel, solid steel, liquid helium, or the core of a star; and that they are capable of translight velocities.

What kind of a test tube will hold such beasties?

Kryptonian sperm and their unusual powers will give us further trouble. For the moment we will assume (because we must) that they tend to stay in the seminal fluid, which tends to stay in a simple glass tube. Thus Superman and LL can perform artificial insemination.

At least there will be another generation of kryptonians.

Or will there?


A ripened but unfertilized egg leaves LL's ovary, begins its voyage down her Fallopian tube.

Some time later, tens of millions of sperm, released from a test tube, begin their own voyage up LL's Fallopian tube.

The magic moment approaches...

Can human breed with kryptonian? Do we even use the same genetic code? On the face of it, LL could more easily breed with an ear of corn than with Kal-El. But coincidence does happen. If the genes match...

One sperm arrives before the others. It penetrates the egg, forms a lump on it's surface, the cell wall now thickens to prevent other sperm From entering. Within the now-fertilized egg, changes take place...

And ten million kryptonian sperm arrive slightly late.

Were they human sperm, they would be out of luck. But these tiny blind things are more powerful than a locomotive. A thickened cell wall won't stop them. They will *all* enter the egg, obliterating it entirely in an orgy of microscopic gang rape. So much for artificial insemination.

But LL's problems are just beginning.


Within her body there are still tens of millions of frustrated kryptonian sperm. The single egg is now too diffuse to be a target. The sperm scatter.

They scatter without regard to what is in their path. They leave curved channels, microscopically small. Presently all will have found their way to the open air.

That leaves LL with several million microscopic perforations all leading deep into her abdomen. Most of the channels will intersect one or more loops of intestine.

Peritonitis is inevitable. LL becomes desperately ill.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of sperm swarm in the air over Metropolis.


This is more serious than it looks.

Consider: these sperm are virtually indestructible. Within days or weeks they will die for lack of nourishment. Meanwhile they cannot be affected by heat, cold, vacuum, toxins, or anything short of green kryptonite. (*And other forms of kryptonite. For instance, there are chunks of red kryptonite that make giants of kryptonians. Imagine ten million earthworm size spermatozoa swarming over a Metropolis beach, diving to fertilize the beach balls... but I digress.*) There they are, minuscule but dangerous; for each has supernormal powers.

Metropolis is shaken by tiny sonic booms. Wormholes, charred by meteoric heat, sprout magically in all kinds of things: plate glass, masonry, antique ceramics, electric mixers, wood, household pets, and citizens. Some of the sperm will crack lightspeed. The Metropolis night comes alive with a network of narrow, eerie blue lines of Cherenkov radiation.

And women whom Superman has never met find themselves in a delicate condition.

Consider: LL won't get pregnant because there were too many of the blind mindless beasts. But whenever one sperm approaches an unfertilized human egg in its panic flight, it will attack.

How close is close enough? A few centimeters? Are sperm attracted by chemical cues? It seems likely. Metropolis had a population of millions; and kryptonian sperm could travel a long and crooked path, billions of miles, before it gives up and dies.

Several thousand blessed events seem not unlikely. (*If the pubescent Superboy plays with himself, we have the same problem over Smallville.*)

Several thousand lawsuits would follow. Not that Superman can't afford to pay. There's a trick where you squeeze a lump of coal into its allotropic diamond form...


The above analysis gives us part of the answer. In our experiment in artificial insemination, we must use a single sperm. This presents no difficulty. Superman may use his microscopic vision and a pair of tiny tweezers to pluck a sperm from the swarm.


In its eagerness the single sperm may crash through LL's abdomen at transsonic speeds, wreaking havoc. Is there any way to slow it down?

There is. We can expose it to gold kryptonite.

Gold kryptonite, we remember, robs a kryptonian of all of his supernormal powers, permanently. Were we to expose Superman himself to gold kryptonite, we would solve all his sex problems, but he would be Clark Kent forever. We may regard this solution as somewhat drastic.

But we can expose the test tube of seminal fluid to gold kryptonite, then use standard techniques for artificial insemination.

By any of these methods we can get LL pregnant, without killing her. Are we out of the woods yet?


Though exposed to gold kryptonite, the sperm still carries kryptonian genes. If these are recessive, then LL carries a developing human foetus. There will be no more Supermen; but at least we need not worry about the mother's health.

But if some or all of the kryptonian genes are dominant...

Can the infant use his X-ray vision before birth? After all, with such a power he can probably see through his own closed eyelids. That would leave LL sterile. If the kid starts using heat vision, things get even worse.

But when he starts to kick, it's all over. He will kick his way out into open air, killing himself and his mother.


Is there a solution?

There are several. Each has drawbacks.

We can make LL wear a kryptonite (*For our purposes, all forms of kryptonite are available in unlimited quantities. It has been estimated, from the startling tonnage of kryptonite fallen to Earth since the explosion of Krypton, that the planet must have outweighed our entire solar system. Doubtless the "planet" Krypton was a cooling black dwarf star, one of a binary pair, the other member being a red giant.*) belt around her waist. But too little kryptonite may allow the child to damage her, while too much may damage or kill the child. Intermediate amounts may do both! And there is no safe way to experiment.

A better solution is to find a host-mother.

We have not yet considered the existence of a Supergirl. (*She can't mate with Superman because she's his first cousin. And only a cad would suggest differently.*) She could carry the child without harm. But Supergirl has a secret identity, and her secret identity is no more married than Supergirl herself. If she turned up pregnant, she would probably be thrown out of school.

A better solution may be to implant the growing foetus in Superman himself. There are places in a man's abdomen where a foetus could draw adequate nourishment, growing as a parasite, and where it would not cause undue harm to surrounding organs. Presumably Clark Kent can take a leave of absence more easily than Supergirl's schoolgirl alter ego.

When the time comes, the child would be removed by Caesarian section. It would have to be removed early, but there would be no problem with incubators as long as it was fed. I leave the problem of cutting through Superman's invulnerable skin as an exercise for the alert reader.

The mind boggles at the image of a pregnant Superman cruising the skies of Metropolis. Batman would refuse to be seen with him; strange new jokes would circulate the prisons...and the race of Krypton would be safe at last.

Reprinted from All the Myriad Ways © 1971 by Larry Niven.

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I am interested in CNG vehicles because they are good for the environment and aren't powered by dead Marines. I still have a little hope for the world. Read the musings and enjoy.

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