MMS Friends

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Buy It Now for $29,500

Sputnik is for sale on eBay. Own a backup model of the first man-made satellite to orbit the planet.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Guam Museum - Again

A good editorial on the deplorable conditions at the Guam Museum ran last week. I totally forgot to mention it at the time. Instead of the rantings of a disgruntled blogger, the criticism was leveled from a far more credible source: Dr. Gary Heathcote, professor of anthroplogy at UOG. I sincerely hope that the administration responds to his editorial with a renewed vigor in upgrading the museum but frankly I doubt anything will happen. GovGuam is teetering on insolvency and now is not the time to be sinking money into a bottomless pit like the museum.

And so the 'death spiral' continues...

Don't Eat That Fanihi!!

A new theory on the cause of lytico-bodig is making the rounds: Eating the Marianas fruit bat was the cause of lytico-bodig. Seems some researchers are suggesting that during the post war boom, a surging Chamorro population suddenly increased the amount of fanihi that were eaten. The fanihi ate raw cycad seeds, and the poisonous BMAA toxins accumulated in the fat deposits on the bat. Intriguing idea, but so many have been proposed in the past. Cycads have always been a leading suspect though. The last one that I heard about mentioned bacterial blooms in certain rivers, which made a certain amount of sense since the incidence of lytico-bodig clusters in several southern villages and suggests a common local source, like a water supply.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

PS2 Supercomputers

Those wacky eggheads at the National Center for Supercomputing at the University of Illinois announced that they created a supercomputer out of 70 Playstation 2's. Funny, I was just thinking about buying Playstation 2. Maybe I'll bump up that order by a hundred and build my very own PS2 Beowulf cluster.

Media Consumption

Grooving Tunes lately found on my stereo:

Bitching DVD's flickering on my screen:
  • Black Robe - Yep, it's just as hauntingly beautiful and utterly depressing as I remember it.
  • Apocalypse Now Redux - Charlie still don't surf, now with an extra hour of footage.

Books being read:

Back into datastream

Monday, May 26, 2003

Best Thing Ever

Boob Scotch - 'nuff said.


That's volcanic smog - it is hanging thick over the island today. Looks like Manila or Los Angeles out there. Hazy yellow in every direction.


I just tried loading my web log and it failed! A quick run through leads me to suspect KUAM has gone down in a blaze of glory, taking my newsfeed with it. I was going to edit out the newsfeed from my blogger template, but my timing is lousy. Blogger is upgrading to a new version, and my template disappeared. Bummer.

Hawaii Anyone?

Northwest is offering a great deal on travel to Hawaii and the mainland. Only $199 and 15,000 miles to Honolulu! Damn. The only problem is you have to overnight in Narita both ways, and Northwest is not offering a hotel room like they do with full paying fares. Maybe I could convince Dave Neale to put me up overnight - no wait, he's planning a wedding right now, best I stay far away from that mess.

Movies Movies Movies

Matrix Reloaded
I went to the theater to watch the new matrix movie last weekend. It was a break from the non-stop work at the office. For that purpose it was excellent. Lots of cool special effects, and some chewy ideas to wrap your noggin' around. Too bad those ideas had to be beaten into your skull with a two by four. "Choice." "Free Will." "Destiny." Yawn - oops something just blew up spectacularly. I guess my biggest complaint centers on Keanu Reeves' Neo. If the dude is so damn powerful, why does he even bother with the kung fu? Why battle 100 hundred clones of Agent Smith for 20 minutes, then fly away? Because the digitally created fight served no other purpose than to look cool. It's a let down from the first film, but I certainly don't think it deserves comparisons with The Phantom Menace. It's just an average summer blockbuster now.

Whale Rider
Okay, now that I've seen the trailer, I am interested. Very interested. I hope this comes to Guam. However we seem to only get all the crap movies and big summer blockbusters. I am guessing I will have to wait until it comes out on DVD to watch this movie.

Canoe Found Safe

A traditional sailing canoe was located by the Coast Guard yesterday, more than two weeks after their scheduled arrival in Yap. The Simion Hokulea left Palau bound for Yap on May 7th, but light winds becalmed what was supposed to be a two to three day voyage. When the Coast Guard located the canoe it was only 30 miles from its destination in Yap, but the crew was weary and dehydrated.

Master navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal and 12 others were onboard the canoe, recreating the traditional voyages between Yap and Palau. The Coast Guard supplied the crew with water and let them continue on to their destination.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

SARS Flight Ban Instated

Bowing to the moronic pressure of the Guam Medical Society, Governor Camacho this week instituted a flight ban on the routes between Guam and Hong Kong and Taiwan. The idea is to keep SARS from infected Guam. Both Continental and China Airlines bowed to government pressure and cancelled their routes to these destinations. Various tourism idiots suggested that this ban would actually increase tourism. Uh-huh.

I think this could be filed under "a day late, and a dollar short." Procedures are now in place in Taiwan and Hong Kong to identify travellers with SARS - hell, they were in place almost two months ago. This measure effectively kills the Chinese tourism market, just when the island needs every tourist it can get. Silly, pointless, and ultimately damaging to the island's economy. There is an excellent opinion in today's PDN on this chicken little decision.

That's One Old Dude

This guy in India has been drawing a pension since 1938! Says he is 132 years old, but nobody has a birth certificate to prove it. Habib Miyan can prove that he's been collecting a pension since 1938 however. He originally collected 1.86 rupees a month, and now draws 1,900 rupees a month. "According to his pension book he is a mere 125. If correct that makes the world's oldest living person 10 years his junior."

Friday, May 23, 2003

Dixie Chicked?

Interesting article at Salon yesterday on a commencement speech given by New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges at Rockford College, in Rockford Illinois. Hedges speech was sharply critical of Dubya and the war on Iraq, and he was not received warmly. He was heckled and jeered off the stage by the audience.

The fact that Hedges was forced off the stage at a liberal arts school that prides itself on a newly opened center for civil and social engagement is just frightening. It speaks volumes for the level of patriotic fervor and conservatism that is washing over the youth of our nation. Of course Rockford-Roscoe-South Beloit area is a pretty conservative place, but this is a stark change from what it was like when I lived up there a decade ago. Like the Dixie Chicks before him, Hedges spoke his mind and paid the price. I am certain he is being vilified on talk radio and on a thousand web logs right now. The audacity of a person to question the impudent, imperialist adventures of a third-rate president that didn't even win the election.

I suppose this conservative backlash was inevitable. Today's young adults were reared by the petulant, spoiled baby boomers. As the boomers rebelled against their parent's staunch conservatism in the 1960's, so today's youth has reacted against their parents. They watched their parents behave like feckless fools: broken marriages, wanton sex, drug use, and a constant infantile search for pleasure and eternal youth. It's not exactly surprising that these children raised so glibly by their errant parents would crave stability and a old time values. Something that George W. Bush and his neo-con pals provide. A simpler worldview with no troubling shades of gray. Rock solid, unwavering determination. It has a certain appeal - just ask the Germans in 1934.

Earth, Jupiter and Ash Clouds

Found a cool photo today: The Mars Global Surveyor turned its camera away from the surface of the red planet earlier this month and took a picture of earth. The photo captured not only the earth and moon, but also mighty Jupiter and three of the Galilean moons orbiting the massive gas giant. Pretty damn cool photo, even if it has been digitally enhanced to bring out the moon and Jupiter in the image.

The best link seems to be at SpaceRef.Com's page - the original source at Malin Space Science Systems appears to have been slashdotted by all the traffic. Somewhere, a web server is dying a horrendous death.

Amazingly, I came by the page from a completely different source - I was simply surfing around, looking for images of the Anatahan volcanic eruption from space. I found them on a SpaceRef page.

Satellite Image from before the storm
Notice how the ash plume is drifting to the west last week...

Satellite Image showing changing ash plume due to typhoon
And how it is drifting south towards Guam today.

A Hazy Shade of Volcano

Well I thought it was a little hazy this morning for some reason. I suspected the passing of Typhoon Chan-Hom. I was correct, sort of.

The typhoon shifted the wind patterns in the area and now the ash fall from the erupting volcano on Anatahan is blowing over Guam. I thought it seemed a little too hazy this morning.

Whisky, Marlin, And Me

Couple things bouncing around in my head this morning:
  • I received a lot of whisky yesterday from a co-worker. She is moving to a new home and decided to clear out the liquor cabinet. I guess I struck here as a particularly besotted individual, because she unloaded six bottles of hooch on me. Most of it is Japanese whisky, from the Nikka Whisky Distilling company. I was a little dubious about its quality, but it seems to receive high marks.
  • There was a photo in yesterday's PDN, this guy caught a 452 pound Pacific Blue Marlin a couple days ago. In a funny coincidence, those bottles of Japanese whisky are embossed with a marlin and the title kujiki (Japanese for Pacific Blue Marlin). Mmm, I think I need to pick up some fish for dinner tonight.


I can stare at this for hours: NOAA's colorized satellite image loop. The colors... It's so - groovy man...

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Past The Eye Of The Storm

Typhoon Chan Hom is currently located at 12.7�N by 151.1�E - about 428 miles from Guam. (And you won't believe how long it took me to calculate that distance. It's been a long time since I used any trigonometry. A very long time.) The storm looks to pass Guam with little affect upon the island.

Same Crap, Different Day

I just love this - "Is it possible to work 37 hours in one day? Someone at Guam Waterworks Authority found a way, according to an audit report on Waterworks' restoration efforts after Typhoon Chata'an."

Yep, it's another week, and another revelation of payroll improprieties at a GovGuam agency. I'm sure the same lame-ass excuses will be sounded off, then the entire thing will slip back into the murk and muddy waters of GovGuam, to be conveniently forgotten.

Shiver Me Timbers

Tropical Storm Chan Hom continues to approach the Marianas. It looks like it will spare Guam, but of course I am taking no chances. I gassed the Isuzu last night, and stocked up on extra water and canned goods. I guess I will go through the yard this evening and secure all the loose items about the house. Jury's still out on that one though.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Yet Another Typhoon Brewing

I am beginning to suspect some grand conspiracy. Another tropical storm has developed over the Pacific and it is heading this way. Just in time for my first holiday since New Year's.

Bloody Hell. I just get my cable tv back, and another storm threatens the island.

From the Book of Datagenesis 2: 1-2

"And on the second day, in the late hour of the gloaming daylight,
the manager spake thus unto the analyst:
'Thou art not yet finished in thy task, O master of data mining.
Thy numbers do not jibeth with what we expected;

"Rekindle thy efforts to extract relevant numbers from the Oracle of the occult,
And consulteth thou the gravest sages of Sybase
And verily, thou must undertake thy labors of last week again'
So the lowly analyst returneth to his computer
To watch the color bleed from the sky to inky blackness while he fudgeth with the data."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003



Time to watch South Park and the Man Show!! And maybe one of those crappy reality shows. All praise be to the TV and the cable repairmen. It only took seven months for the cable to return. Alleluia!!

One Tree Hill

David, this one's for you.

Listening to The Joshua Tree this afternoon at work and I got stuck on 'One Tree Hill.' I remembered that it was dedicated to a New Zealand roadie the band lost in a car accident, so I thought I would check it out.

Behold the power of Google!
One Tree Hill is a landmark in Auckland, apparently visible from all points in the city. That's pretty cool.


Deflation - it's become a buzzword on Guam during the past week. Attorney General Doug Moylan flat out stated he will not sign off on the government's $243 million bond scheme, mainly because the government has not done an actual real property appraisal since 1993. Last Friday Ben Pangelinan was laughed off K-57 talk radio when he began defending the bond plan, using a 2001 property value analysis from the bureau of budget and planning as the basis for Guam's real property value's as the determination on how much the government can finance. Callers swarmed the radio call-in show, ridiculing his na�vete and delivering tale after tale about the declining value of property on the island.

It doesn't take a genius to see that Guam is suffering from severe economic deflation. The Accion Hotel, a $45 million dollar project across Ylig Bay from my house, was sold to the Archdiocese for a paltry $1 million in cash. Joe Murphy wrote an excellent editorial in yesterday's newspaper about this very crisis in Guam's economy, citing the recent sale of beachfront property to local developer Al Ysrael for $7 million. The Japanese developer that unloaded the property paid $43 million for the land a decade ago. Stuff like that screams "STAY AWAY" to any off island investment.

To drive the point home further, today's headline cites the surge in foreclosures in just the last quarter. Guam's economy is contracting, painfully for many people. And I don't think tourism is going to boost the island out of this hole. The specter of war, and the threat of SARS cast a pall upon the travel industry that shows no sign of relenting.

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

Some shorts stories can really knock it out of the ballpark. Ursula Le Guin's short tale The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is a tightly condensed exposition on an idea; the good of an entire civilization is built upon an unpardonable sin visited upon an innocent child. The child must suffer horribly, or all the glory of Omelas will crumble. For many, the wrongs done to this child are outweighed by good achieved by all the other inhabitants of the city.

The hyperlink expresses how the short story echoes themes found in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. How right that is. It's been a long time since I read Dostoevsky's novel and I forgot. It is infinitely rewarding to open an old book again like Le Guin's short story collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters and discover new relationships.

Monday, May 19, 2003


With so much work piled up, I missed several interesting stories last week. The governor's first "State of the Island" speech, the continuing debacle of expenses at the airport under the previous administration, the auditor released her findings into the Liberation Day day funds for the past 8 years, and the attorney general's statement late last week that he would not sign off on any bond measure to bail out GovGuam. That's just a sampling of what happened on Guam last week while I was buried in spreadsheets and claim data from our Facets system. Hell, I bought a paper every day last week, and I didn't read any of them until yesterday.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Full Moon Fever

No, I was not treated to this week's lunar eclipse, it was on the other side of the globe. Besides, I was inside working at three computers like a whirling dervish all week. Seen several before though, and last year was the annular solar eclipse. That was pretty cool.


Many days. Nonstop work. I felt like one of those crazy jugglers the Tonight Show features every now and again - I had ten different things up in the air all week and all of them were chainsaws, flaming torches or other dangerous items. If I messed up on one, the entire batch would fall on my head and chop me to bits.

I survived though, and it only took two weekends sacrificed along with a week of late nights at the office. I think I am the only guy who's set the alarm for the office for the past three weeks.

Hopefully the crush will let up soon. I am taking off tomorrow to get some fresh air and exercise, and then it's back to the salt mines on Monday.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Guam Gets A Scare

Rumors flew around the island yesterday that a woman died from SARS at the Hilton. A couple fellow workers spent Mother's Day weekend at the Hilton, and they were pretty freaked out.

The hospital tried to maintain calm, but reports started flying that doctors, nurses and staff at GMH were wearing masks, gowns and gloves in the ER and scrubbing down the entire ER. And when the fire station that transported the woman put up hazard tape and started decontamination proceedings on the ambulance, things got really out of hand.

At a hastily put together, and very overdue press conference, the medical examiner and hospital administrator announced that the woman died from heart failure, not SARS.

Monday, May 12, 2003


Damn! Maybe this is why the sky was so surreal last night. It seemed unnatural, more than a little eerie. Turns out that was for a good reason.

The volcanic island of Anatahan, about 80 miles north of Saipan, erupted in a giant plume of ash on Saturday night. Whoa. That's just 200 miles north of Guam.

Photo Courtesy of CNMI Emergency Management Office

Story and photo at the PDN website.

It's pretty easy to forget that Guam is part of an active volcanic archipelago, but Anatahan is not the only island to erupt since I've lived out here. Pagan erupted for several years in the early 1990's, forcing the few remaining inhabitants off the island and back to Saipan.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Purple Sky Majesty

The sun just went down a few minutes ago. The heavy clouds to the east provided a strange tonality to the sky, which I tried to capture in these photos. Sort of a purple/pink/gray. Very interesting

A Trip To North Korea

Found a fascinating travel story of one man's journey to North Korea in the summer of 2002.

Thanks to Dean's World for the link.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day.
Best wishes to all mothers, especially my own very goofy, very lovable mother.

That's my mom!

Saturday, May 10, 2003


Another weekend in the office. La dee dah.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Prince Caspian

Oh, to be Prince Caspian
Afloat upon the waves...

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The Sins Of The Child

Today's moral:

If you stand around and watch your children pummel another child to death, you will be prosecuted for their crime.

Yesterday a grand jury handed down indictments against the parents of four boys that beat a 10 year-old girl to death last February. Arrested late last night were Melissa Ann Cabrera and Benny Chaco Santos. Regina Guzman was assaulted on February 21 and died on March 19 as a result of internal bleeding and infection sustained during the savage attack by the four boys, aged 6 to 9.
[Attorney General Doug] Moylan adds there isn't any evidence that the parents were involved in the beating, only that Cabrera watched as her children assaulted Regina.

Apparently the mother of the boys watched as her lads went medieval on this little girl. Then she lied to police about the boy's whereabouts and the actual beating. The father then told police he took the boys for an appointment in town that afternoon. Nice, really nice. As appalling as the fact that these boys pummeled a little girl to death is, I am aghast that the mother actually stood by and allowed this beating to take place. I don't know what to think about that one.

That's Gotta Hurt

"Man Slices Own Head Off In Supermarket." Ouch.

Noam Chomsky on Tolkien

Betcha didn't know Noam Chomsky analyzed Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Okay, so it is a farce, but a pretty funny one.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Sucker Punched

Guam's quest to secure over $200 million in a bond offering hit a major stumbling block yesterday. Standard & Poor's dropped Guam's bond rating to "B," two grades below junk bond status. S&P cited the stagnant economy, the unfunded liabilities of the GovGuam Retirement Fund, and the susceptibility of an economy based solely on tourism as reasons for dropping the rating even lower.

Suffice to say this will make in near impossible to float the much-hyped bond measure that the Camacho administration is touting as the answer to all of Guam's worries. At the very least, an additional $20 million in premium insurance will have to be taken out against the chance of Guam defaulting on the bonds. Looking at Guam's economy, I'd say chances of not meeting our debts are high.

It Just Keeps Coming

I must applaud Doris Brooks and her Office of the Public Auditor. She has been tireless in ferreting out corruption and abuse in GovGuam. Her latest tour-de-force is the final review and audit of payroll practices at the Department of Corrections. This story initially broke back in November of 2002, when it was revealed that personnel at the prison were taking home 3 times their base pay in undocumented overtime, hazardous pay, and holiday pay. Now that the audit is complete, she is sticking to her guns, pressing for tighter controls at the prison, and forwarding the audit to the attorney general for possible prosecution.

She found all sorts of chicanery going on at DOC, including exempt supervisory employees collecting overtime.
We also found that the Chief Parole Officer reported a total of 1,055 hours of overtime in FY2001 and a total of 458 hours by the nine months ending June 2002. These constitute overtime costs of $40,654 and $17,649, respectively. The Department of Labor, in its January 2000 audit report, did not specifically address the Chief Parole Officer�s exempt status (see summary in page 8). However, the Chief Parole Officer�s responsibility does not appear to meet the non-exempt criteria stated as he wields supervisory and administrative power over the DOC�s Parole Services Division. Therefore, we concluded that the position of the Chief Parole Officer may not have been duly authorized to incur overtime.

She also detailed the adventures of the facility superintendent, who collected 62 hours of overtime and hazardous duty pay in a three day period that he was transporting a prisoner back to Guam. This story was featured in a media report last November when the superintendent appeared on the evening news defending his overtime as a cost cutting measure. Try and figure that one out.


Danny Yee reviews the venerable fantasy Earthsea Trilogy. Excellent books, each and every one.

The year after I left Beloit College, Ursula K. Le Guin held the Mackey Chair in Creative Writing for one year and taught a number of classes. I always regretted graduating too soon. I would have loved to take a class with her. And not just because she is an excellent author, I regarded her father as valuable role model in my anthropology glory days.

Another One Bites The Dust

Yesterday's big story - former Mass Transit general manager Tony Martinez changed his plea before the Superior Court to guilty.

Astute watchers of the shenanigans on Guam will remember Martinez's case as one of the first examples of government corruption under the Gutierrez administration. Martinez was caught with his hand in the cookie jar in 2001, when allegations came to light about his abuse of the Mass Transit Authority's credit cards to purchase computers, airplane tickets, hotel rooms and other sundry items for his personal use and the benefit of his family. He was indicted in March and originally plead innocent.

Martinez agreed to pay restitution to GovGuam, plus a $7,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service. At his sentencing in July he can expect to receive some jail time as well.

His cohort in crime at GMTA, Tony Diaz, was also indicted in March. He plead innocent and his trial is scheduled to begin on September 12.

Close Encounters

Remember me mentioning the meteor strike south of Chicago last month?

Well today's Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the damage one of those meteors caused, and the actual 10 cm meteor lying on the floor of some guy's computer room. Damn - that's gotta suck. The guy should feel lucky though, he was sitting at the computer when the meteor burst through the ceiling, smashed his printer, put a divot in the wall and finally came to rest on the floor. That could have been his head!

Symbian Links

This is for me really:

Interplanetary Internet

Real time chat, with Deep Space Nine? Yes, the interplanetary internet is on it's way. According to this article from, NASA is planning on putting a couple satellites on the internet in the next couple years, and they plan to do the same for future interplanetary missions. I think it would be pretty damn cool to get an email from Pluto.

All About Google

Everything you've ever wondered about Google - all in one place.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


Last Friday we moved into our new offices. "We" means the IS, Pricing, Sales, Contracting and Human Resources departments. No more temporary quarters, no more folding tables, no more dangling cables, no more exposed wiring. We are in our new location now, the 3rd floor of the Baltej Pavilion, and it is nice. Much better than the disaster quarters that housed us for the last 10 months, and even nicer than the old offices in the CenTam building.

Our move was Phase Two of the Baltej relocation. The first phase occupied offices on the first and second floors for Customer Service and Claims respectively. In a few weeks the final phase will happen, when the Finance, Marketing, Legal, and the executive officers move in. Til then we are the only occupants up here.

The move went off without a hitch and I've spent the last couple days situating my cubicle to my taste. I don't really care about the furniture, but I now have three PC's instead of one. My old Dell P3 and two new IBM P4's - one 1.8 gHz and one 2.4 gHz machine - each with a boatload of RAM and huge 100 gigabyte hard drives. Ooooo...

Monday, May 05, 2003

Menu Translations

I recently started reading Slate again, and I found this little story on translating menu language.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Six Degrees of Rod Steiger?

Move over Kevin Bacon, Rod Steiger is the actual Center of the Hollywood Universe. Of course Rod Steiger is dead, so Kevin has a chance to close the gap.

I'm Back!

The Dell is back up and running better than before. And it only took a day! Actually the longest delay was making a fresh backup of the old system and data. I like my USB CDRW drive, but lordy lordy it ain't exactly barnstorming at 4x write speed.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Morituri Te Salutamus

We Who Are About To Die Salute You...

I am taking a radical step today. My Windows 98 PC has become seriously rotten and unstable. Though I loathe the idea, it has become unavoidable. Time to wipe the hard drive and reinstall - everything. I am making a backup of documents, music and various setting right now. Soon the hard drive will be clean and ready for a fresh install. It's the reinstallation of all the other goodies that has me worried, Office, Visual Basic, MSDE, Direct X, Windows Updates. Ugh. My stomach churns at the thought. Hopefully I can finish it up before sundown.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


I was too twitchy to watch the movie. It's filmed with digital cameras, and that is not a compliment. Lots of jerky, jittery hand-held camera action makes me uncomfortable. Maybe if I drank more beer...

Naw, it's that piss-water Bud Light. Stuff's just abysmal. A can of fizzy rice water.

Oh yeah, I got rave reviews about last night's crock pot meal from a total stranger. While Dianne and I were eating, Kurt the tiling contractor showed up to fit in some granite accents in Dianne's new kitchen. He joined us for dinner and he couldn't stop raving about the taste of the food. He ate about three helpings. When I told him how easy it was to make the recipe he seemed impressed. Maybe another convert to the cult of the crock pot.

Bomb with Love...

Tit For Tat

Turnabout is fair play, my Republican overlords...

Bush Regime Most Wanted Cards

Just Call Me Elendil

I try not to take these things, but I couldn't resist this one.


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

Moving Day Redux

Today was my last day in temporary quarters, working out of boxes on folding tables and broken chairs. And it only took 10 months to get into a new office.

I'm psyched - new furniture, computers, 100 megabit ethernet, new servers to play with, cool beans. Underground parking too. Coolness.

I spent the afternoon packing up my files and moving boxes around. I'm beat. Time to veg out with a movie and a cold beer.



Take a gander at this fascinating article about the dust cloud in our solar system, and what it means for astronomers searching for other solar systems. Basically our solar system looks like a gigantic dust doughnut with the sun in the center. The hole of the doughnut was scoured out by Jupiter and the other gas giants, and Neptune's gravity keeps the remaining dust cloud in check, far beyond our inner world's orbit. Astronomers are now looking for similar doughnuts around other stars.


This image is just blows my mind. The four orbits are those of the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Look at how Neptune is carving out a hole in the dust cloud. Also note how the density of the cloud clusters in two areas ahead and behind of Neptune. This is eerily reminiscent of Jupiter's Trojan asteroids, viewable in this APOD graphic from last year. The Trojans are the blue dots on the edge of the photo, preceding and trailing Jupiter along the edges of the graphic - all that green stuff is the asteroid belt.

The same gravitational forces are in play, locking the dust into the same orbit at Neptune. I don't want to sound too geeky, but the dust accumulates in Neptune's L4 and L5 Lagrange Points, stable orbits described by the mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Lagrange indicated 5 semi-stable points in the orbit of one body around a larger one. L1 is on a line between the two bodies, L2 is on the same line, but beyond the second smaller body, L3 is located on that same imaginary line, but on the opposite side of the large center mass, and the L4 and L5 points precede and trail the smaller body. For the curious NASA's SOHO solar observatory sits in Earth's L1 point, staring down at the sun. This graphic illustrates the Lagrange points nicely.

Graphic depicting the Lagrange Points and gravitational isobars - image � NASA

I just get off on this stuff. The idea that our solar system has such a telltale signal bodes well for future explorations. This cannot locate earth like planets, but it can help pinpoint stable solar systems with gas giants located on the outskirts of systems. Currently methods can only discern gigantic rogue worlds, orbiting much too close to their parent star to harbor life. I expect looking for dust clouds like this will become a standard technique in locating earth-like solar systems. Astronomers have already located a dust cloud around Epsilon Eridani, and they are studying it closely. Hopefully more stars will give up their secrets in the future.

Currently Reading

The Human Drift - Jack London
An interesting collection of London's essays and articles. A window on the world of 1900 San Francisco.

The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann
Still reading this. It's taking longer than I expected. A dense allegorical tale of sickness and health in an Alpine sanitorium.

What's on deck? I don't know really - I got a pile of reading to do. Something a little lighter though, a book I can tear through in a day.