Showing posts from January, 2004
Mars Mania Continues
Periodically, I check over at Robby's blog to get the latest insights into the Mars Rover. He has a wonderful post on how the Rovers are being followed eagerly by people all over and what it feels like to have been one of the hands that were part of getting it ready to go.

For all our technology, video games, movie FXs and stereo equipment, there is still something mysterious and romantic about the sky above us. I saw it in the massive crowds at the Griffith Observatory Annex when they hosted Mars viewing parties during the close approach last year. We are seeing it yet again with the Rovers with the amazing number of hits the NASA-JPL web pages are getting and the steady diet of items in all forms of traditional news media.

Be glad I only break out into song in the blog space but I can't help but think of "Over the Rainbow."Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the …
Rembering Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia
Yesterday, was a Day of Remembrance for the brave men and women lost in our space program. Here is an excerpt from the CNN link above:Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in a televised address that space exploration is risky but never should result in fatalities because of "complacency, indifference, failure to attend to detail." That should be a solemn pledge for anyone who works in the space program, he said.

The Day of Remembrance falls three days before the first anniversary of the Columbia disaster. O'Keefe said it will be an annual event, always on the last Thursday of January coming as close as it does to all three of the nation's space program catastrophes.

The Apollo 1 fire during a countdown test on January 27, 1967, left three astronauts dead in their spacecraft on the launch pad. The Challenger explosion during liftoff on January 28, 1986, left seven dead. The Columbia breakup during re-entry on February 1, 20…
Dean is done?
On GMA this morning, Stephanopolos said that even though Dean raised so much money, there are reports they are low on cash! Also, the lastest poll round up doesn't show Dean leading anywhere in recent polls. Edwards is up in SC. Clark is up in Okla. Kerry leads in Arizona and Missouri. Dean does lead in two states but the data on New Mexico and Delaware are old.

Does Soaking the Rich Really Work?
Saw this item from Postrel who is citing Sac Bee's Weintraub on how the California budget is out of whack because the economic slow down hit the wealthy in California thus driving down the amount of tax money collected from same said wealthy tax payer. Excerpts:The rich are no longer getting richer in California. And the rest of us, oddly enough, are suffering from their misfortune.

That's the story from the latest report on tax returns filed for the 2002 tax year. The preliminary figures, which I obtained from the Franchise Tax Board last week, show that the number of returns reporting incomes exceeding $1 million dropped again, to about 25,000. The combined income earned by those fat cats also shrunk, by more than 20 percent.

Why should we care?

Because California's skewed income distribution, combined with progressive tax rates, means that the people at the very top of the income heap pay a very high percentage of the personal income t…
What's next?
South Carolina, Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma...

Polling data that is up-to-date only appears to exist for SC, AZ and OK.

Kerry's brain trust has some decisions to make: (1) play nice and run everywhere hoping to run the table -- don't know what his fund raising situation is. As the frontrunner, the cash could be rolling in enough for such a strategy. (2) if the $$$ are limiting, then Kerry will have to pick a few states he thinks he can take and put resources there. (3) go on the attack to finish off his rivals one-by-one.

Clark maybe so weak Kerry may simply ignore him. Dean is probably the larger current actual threat but Edwards may be the larger potential threat. So will Kerry's team go to SC and try to take it onto Edward's turf? Or will Kerry concentrate on Missouri and try to pick up Gephardt supporters and shoot for a strong 2nd in SC and show up in various other places hoping the inevitability factor sets in?

Online Personals: Almost mainstream?
At one time, the notion of people using online personals was viewed with some skepticism. It was probably not something many people would have considered or admitted to. But I have to say, I think the evidence is in that the industry has gone mainstream.

One indicator of this was the recent Julie on a Sunset Blvd. Billboard campaign ran by Yahoo! Personals. After the promotional was over, Julie and her favorite date appeared on Good Morning America. They didn't have quite the buzz of the Bachelor or Bachelorette couples (good news) and they certainly didn't have anywhere near the "fame at any cost" aura about them (good news). One can actually say, yeah, maybe they might make it as a couple. Certainly, want to wish them a happy life.

But in my mind, the final proof was staring me in the face when last Sunday night I was watching, Alias. During a commercial break, Dr. Neil Clark Warren appeared on the screen doing a televi…
Candidates as LofR Characters
NRO has this item:Howard Dean: Gimli. Short-tempered, easily provoked, and well... short

John Kerry: Saruman. Slick, strangely exotic, conjuring, confident to a fault, and well... tall

John Edwards: Tom Bombadil (not in the films). Awkwardly optimistic, gleeful, dancing, and well... not in the movie.

Lieberman: Treebeard. Methodic, consistent (in relation to his peers), and well... slooow.

Clark: Gollum. Schizophrenic, perceptively deranged, and well... look at him.

Kucinich: Not sure. One of the Trolls?
Sources say...
Kerry 36, Dean 31, Edwards 12, Clark 12.
According to Rich Lowry as cited by Drudge.

UPDATE: Well, eventually, the real votes got counted and it is a Kerry blowout. As of 8:25 (PST), Kerry got 39%, Dean 26%, Clark 13%, Edwards 12%, Lieberman 9%. My predictive skills (see below a few posts) weren't too good. I figured the Kerry margin of victory would be 9%... wrong. I also figured Edwards would do better (wrong again) being the recepticle of the anyone but Kerry sentiment. I was on target about Lieberman! And I got the level of support for Dean about right.

Lieberman is done. Clark bet on a strong showing in NH after skipping out on Iowa. He needs to do better to justify going on. My estimation is that without a win in the next batch of contests he too is done. Edwards and Dean will slug it out for the title of Challenger to Kerry. Edwards is more telegenic but Dean has organization. But both must get a win somewhere... anywhere. If they don't there…
GOP 2008
With no contest on the GOP side, there isn't much chatter about the Republican party. But what about 2008? David Frum offered up some speculations. Excerpt:LIKELY
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Arizona Senator John McCain
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens
New York Gov. George Pataki

Sen. Lamar Alexander
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Vice President Richard Cheney
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich
Sec. State Colin Powell
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
Homeland Security Sec. Tom Ridge
Former Gov.Christie Todd Whitman
WMDs and Iraq
Looks like the inspectors were only able to find evidence of WMD programs but not stockpiles. Nuclear is hard to do so that isn't so surprising. But the biologicals and chemicals is a bit surprising. Their missile program was more advanced than expected. But overall, there was much less there than the intelligence suggested. What happened?

Almost all intelligence agencies thought they had them. The Clinton Administration didn't say anything all that different than the current Bush Administration.

David Kay was on the Today Show this morning. (UPDATE: Transcript over at Free Republic) Kay argued that the intelligence was inaccurate and the blame should fall on the agencies not on the political leaders who have to act on the information. He also mentioned that intelligence *underestimated* how advanced Libya's and Iran's programs are. In the end, intelligence gathering is not foolproof. He believed that Hussein was probably misled by the underli…
New Hampshire Primary
Polling is all over the place. Zogby and Survey USA have the race tight while CNN/Gallup and ARG are forecasting blowouts.

My take: Kerry edges out Dean by a few percentage points. But the main story line will be Dean claiming himself the comeback kid just like Kerry did in Iowa. My feeling is that Kerry's bounce topped out and when the voters really think about it the wavering ones will back off supporting Kerry. Kind of a mass psychology buyer's remorse.

Dean supporters will rally back to him and I'm sure some undecideds will feel Dean got a raw deal from the media endless loop replay of the Iowa howling and will back him just to send a message. I'm also guessing that Lady Doctor Dean has been a positive factor in the campaign.

Meanwhile, I think Clark is done with his numbers falling and Edwards rising. They will criss-cross with Edwards taking the coveted 3rd spot positioning himself to make a break out in South Carolina. I get the im…
New Hampshire Primary
Caught part of the debate on radio and caught the last handful of minutes of the Dean's interview with Diane Sawyer. I'd hesistate to predict the outcome until the polling data from the weekend comes in. Key things to look for:
(1) Will Kerry max out and the voters who had buyer's remorse about Dean start having buyer's remorse for Kerry?
(2) How will the interview with Sawyer play out in terms of stopping the fall in the polls for Dean?
(3) Who will be the third alternative, Clark or Edwards?

From the little I heard of the debate, Kerry did what he had to do: no boo-boos and just stay confident. Dean had to play defense and with the cold didn't sound too strong. In watching the interview, Lady Dean, who is also a doctor, is clearly an asset and I suspect she will be seen more on the campaign trail. Clark had a question about Michael Moore's support and I don't know what he was trying to say. For me, Michael Moore's support …
Mars rover news
JPL reports that limited communications have occurred with Spirit. Here's hoping the engineers and computer programers can figure out what happened and get the Rover going again.

Robby tells me that Adot's Notblog often blogs the JPL press briefings.
Bruin Basketball
No surprises: they lost to Arizona last Saturday and lost to Stanford last night. The Cal Bears await on Saturday. Bruins are on a two-game losing streak and it could easily extend to 5 games as they may lose to the Bears, USC (who beat Arizona) and then St. John's (on the road). The initial optimism of the 5-0 Pac-10 start was of course an illusion as they were beating teams that were supposed to beat. The only upset in that 5-0 start was beating Oregon. Beating Arizona State was a mild surprise but not really.
Lunar New Years!
Happy year of the monkey!

Saw this over at Google.

Image source:
Life on other worlds?
Is there life out there? In the words of the film Contact, it would be an awful waste of space.

However, at this point in our scientific understanding, we simply don't know if there is anything (or was) on Mars or the moons of Jupiter or anybody on some planet on a planet far far away. At this time, we have no evidence.

In my understanding of Christian theology, there would be no prohibition for life on Mars or anywhere else for that matter.

With all this Mars news, I dusted off my old copy of Contact and looked through many dog-eared pages. There is a wonderful quote, "Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe. I mean the real universe. All those light-years. All those worlds."

And indeed, I believe Christian theology does. Genesis was written down many millennia ago when knowledge of astronomy was limited to what the eye could see. Yet, to this day, the majesty of that simple a…
Mars music, another landing and picture of the day
Robby continues to blog up the Mars Rover story. A nice human interest angle is the wake up music they are using to start off the day.

This Saturday, the second rover, Opportunity, is set to land!!

image piped in from
Iowa results
Sen. Kerry's big mo going into the weekend turned out to be real as he *and* Sen. Edwards swamped Gov. Dean and Rep. Gephardt. Gov. Dean isn't done yet as if I recall, Clinton in 1992 lost in Iowa to Gephardt (UPDATE: Gephardt won in 1988, favorite son Sen. Tom Harkin won in 1992) and then lost to Tsongas in New Hampshire. But as the campaign went national and to the South, Clinton's money advantage and centrist stands won him the nomination and eventually the Presidency.

Gov. Dean does have the dollars and organization on the ground but not the centrist positions and no one would mistake his campaigning style to Clinton. In catching some of the speeches last night, Gov. Dean sounded like he was going to blow a gasket when he was trying to rally the supporters.

Like most voters, I care about a small number of big issues and will overlook differences on other ones and I look at the candidate: do I believe this person will make good decisions and pick good…
Did you know...?
I knew the Iowa caucuses are not like your normal primary where you just go and vote. But I didn't know it was this complicated. Excerpts:Basically, the Iowa caucuses are so intricately and undemocratically structured that there is not one clear count for the press to focus on. There aren't even two clear counts. Or three! There are four possible counts. In the chronological order they occur on caucus night, they are:

1) The entrance poll taken under the auspices of a six large news organizations--call them Big Press--and their group, the National Election Pool. This completely unofficial count simply questions caucus-goers as they enter the caucuses at 6:30 in the evening.

2) The "pre-viability" count: Caucusers then sit through tedious minor issues and speeches before they finally divide up into groups supporting various candidates. If a candidate gets less than about 15 percent of the vote--or higher in some caucuses, as determined by to (needles…
Odds and ends: Why onions make you cry and zorses, zonkeys and zonies
Being a scientist means that people think I know a lot of stuff. Alas, they soon discover what it means to be a scientist is that you know you don't know a lot of stuff and that the stuff you don't know is even more vast than you could have imagined.

Recently, a friend wanted to know about what could be done about crying while chopping onions. Suffice to say, I didn't have any answers.

But isn't the internet wonderful? I looked it up and found this web page. Excerpts: The knife breaks open some onion cells. Inside some of these cells are enzymes called allinases. In the air, the allinases break down some of the other substances, like amino acid sulfoxides, released from the onion cells. The amino acid sulfoxides form sulfenic acids, which rearrange themselves in a flash into a volatile gas.

This gas flows to your eyes and reacts with the water in them. A chemical reaction occurs, producing a …

Compassion in the City

There are many beautiful places in LA and places to see beauty in art and music. They are to be enjoyed because they are reflections of the God given creative spark within humanity and there is often goodness and truth to be found in beauty.

However, besides the gleaming building of a big city, nice homes of upscale sections of town and the charm of old style apartment buildings, museums and venues for the performing arts, there are parts of LA that aren't doing so well as is the case in all big cities. But beauty of the human spirit can also be found on the difficult streets of the city.

Almost monthly, I go to 4507 S. Western Ave. where Faith in Christ Ministries works to help people one at a time. In the weekdays, the site has a charter school that takes kids who the regular public schools can't handle. There are also after school programs to help kids with academics and activities to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They provide clothing and food for those i…
When do we cry?
Enjoy blogging. Some blogs are big into "navel gazing." I do that sometimes. And here goes one of those posts.

I'm thinking about this because I heard Dennis Prager talk about it briefly on his radio show. He noticed that as he got older, he cried less for his own pains than for the pains of others. He also found that he would be moved by seeing goodness.

Indeed, I find myself crying for those in my life who I know who suffer for some reason. Yes, sometimes I cry about my own hurts but not nearly as often for the hurt of others in my life. Sometimes, I don't even know the person all that well but I feel, it is not fair, it shouldn't be that way and so I cry.

Sometimes I do know the person very well and have strong emotional attachment to him or her. When I hear of a friend's burden, I feel sad that they have to bear it. I want to help them bear it. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it go away but I can't. I wish the burden w…
The Bruins are a suprising 4-0 in Pac10 play. Winning on the road is always tough in conference play. They beat WSU in a grind em up low scoring game barely. And tonight, UCLA blew a 13 point lead against Washington but managed to win in OT with Bozeman fouled out in regulation and Fey in the OT.

But Arizona and Arizona State is coming up and that will be tough. But last year, the team wasn't winning anywhere.

UC Irvine got beat badly by UOP. Its a road loss and not that surprising.
Like Jazz
I recently, finally, went to a show at the Mark Taper Forum to see the musical, Like Jazz which tells the story of jazz through a narrative device of a guy trying to explain jazz to the uninitiated. Woven around his moments of talking to the audience are various musical numbers with singing and a small amount of dancing.

The musical introduces the audience to some of the instruments commonly used. As you might guess, the trumpet was highlighted in several numbers as was the saxophone. One number that really got the crowd going was when lead singer Patty Austin did scat singing in response to solos from several instrumentalists. Just amazing.

Another angle they took was the venues where Jazz is played. There was a number showing the lone saxophonist in a club, another with the pianist providing a nearly ignored background soundtrack in a restaurant and one highlighting the street corner musician. But in the end for the average listener, what makes it work is that it …
Continuing Mars Coverage
The Rover will be delaying its tour as it can't move off the platform just yet due to some bits of the air bag interfering with the ramps. The JPL team thinks the problem could be solved in a few days.

This NASA/JPL page has the latest photos.

Image sourced from

Meanwhile, Robby remains on the scene and blogging it up. He touches on the AI programming for the Rovers and reports on how hard it is to get to Mars and the data flood. He finishes off with a very human aspect of the story by sharing about some of the brains of great beauty who are part of the team. With their stories all over the blogosphere, wonder how long will it be before they starting getting marriage proposals and date offers in their email boxes? Meet-Up
The internet is becoming embedded into our daily lives. People organize parties using and now for political and other affinity group activities there is something called, Meetup. I can't stand Howard Dean but he is ahead of the curve using Meetup to organize his supporters.

Tonight, I went to the second LA-Hollywood area meet-up for

People have this picture of what Bush supporters look like: old rich white males.

I'm proud to say our group totally shatters that stereotype. There were four of us: three female and one male. Interestingly, three of four work in that liberal stronghold, the entertainment industry. Two voted for Gore in 2000. One was a life long New England Democrat turned Republican. Another was a self-professed Democrat for Bush. Another was a female Gen-X music lover whose politics are center-left but realizes Bush offers the right kind of leadership for this time in history. And then there is me, ethnic mino…
The influence of women on men
Among guys, we are always lamenting how girls get whatever they want from us. The cliche is, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

I suppose women probably make the same lament. I wonder what is the analogous cliche?

I got this email message recently from a USC alum woman friend of mine referring to my prior blog entries:Wow rene...did you say fight on??? unbelievable! Thanks for the note - hope you had a nice holiday season!

take care -There are several USC alumni women friends in my life and we get some milage out of kidding each other over the UCLA-USC rivelry. I have to confess though: if it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be making as many positive comments about their football team.

I think about this somewhat trivial example of the female influence on the male heart because this morning I was reading about the life of King Solomon and I got to the part where it said his heart was turned away from God because …
BCS bust
Well, what can you say? The BCS might have given everybody Oklahoma vs. USC if some games turned out differently. But as of today, people would say the "best" game would be LSU vs. USC. The BCS would never have given that game.

So my proposal is to junk the BCS and go back to the old bowl system with the conference tie ins and let the AP and Coaches vote at the end. There have been split titles about 20% of the time? What's the big deal?

The BCS has been in operation since 1998? And on two occasions it really dropped the ball with Nebraska and Oklahoma making the BCS championship game without being conference champs going into the game on dismal losses. So its claim to impose clarity just doesn't hold up.
A tale of two basketball programs
In the past, UCLA and UC Irvine lived in different universes. UCLA, in the past, was almost always a lock to get to the NCAA tournament being in the top tier of teams of the Pac10. UC Irvine toiled in obscurity in the Big West, a one-bid conference where that one team was a speed bump to some highly ranked team on its way to the regionals. UCI has yet to ever appear in the NCAAs.

Last year, UCLA hit hard times and it was UC Irvine that had the better shot at the NCAA if it could win its post-season tournament. Alas, UCI's dream once again ended in the semi-finals of the tournament.

As this season began, UCLA was picked to finish 6th in the Pac10 and UCI to finish 3rd in the Big West. In short, neither team is likely to appear in the post-season.

However, today, UCLA stunned Oregon which maybe raising the bar of expectations in Westwood and making Howland look like a miracle worker.

UCI took care of business on Saturday beating Cal Poly SLO. …
Bruin Pac10 Season Opener in B-ball

UCLA won 77-66 over Oregon State. A very ugly first half where the Bruins were seemingly asleep and couldn't hit the side of a barn. In the second half, Freshman Ariza took over the game 20 of his 24 points. Also long time walk-on Rubin scored 13 points.

Coach Howland seemed to have a good feel for what substitutions to make. Fey was solid in the first half but the Bruins needed a little more energy and speed in the second half so Howland plugged in Hollins at the center spot (both ended with 11 points). Also, it was apparent that TJ Cummings wasn't doing much for some reason (he had 2 points) so Howland decided to go smaller with Crispin in the first half (he hit one big three but didn't seem to get another good look after that) and then Rubin in the second half who had a career game.
Happy New Years!
Blogging will be light. 8-)

As a UCLA alum, I was sad but not terribly surprised by my teams failure at the Silicon Valley Bowl. Fresno State came out with a sense of urgency and got a 17 point lead. If you are a great team, that (1) doesn't happen and (2) you can come back and (3) you are not playing in the Silicon Valley Bowl. UCLA this year was a C+ team so a comeback was hoped for by me and my fellow UCLA alums at the sports bar (Busby's on Santa Monica and Berkeley) and being faithful fans we didn't give up until UCLA had a final pass intercepted ending their last drive.

Well, today, the big game is the USC vs. U of Michigan in the Rose Bowl. I don't want to be like the Boston Red Sox fans who define their existence by hating the New York Yankees. Under most circumstances I would root against USC. However, today, I'll either watch the game as an objective sports fan or maybe even root for them so they could stick it into the face of those…