Archive

Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Decade from Suki, the New Year’s Dog

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

In yet another unretouched photo, Suki, the New Year’s dog is pictured bravely floating amidst fireworks, seemingly unconcerned about getting singed by colorful sparks as she wishes one and all a Happy New Decade.

Categories: Animal Life Tags: ,

Top Stories of the Decade: A List of the Lists

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of the stories of the decade from news, sports and entertainment to space, technology and even infrastructure and archaeology. There’s some really thought-provoking stuff and wonderful photos embedded in these ten links. Happy New Decade, everyone!

News

The Boston Globe provides as good a list as you’ll see of the top news stories of the decade. The terror attacks of 9/11 top the list and includes a dramatic photo in which you see the exact moment White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card tells a wide-eyed and stern-faced President Bush, that the nation is under attack. The Obama election, wars, the rise of Google and the mapping of the human genome are among the stories in the top ten.

Politics

Great list from the University of Southern California. USC names the 2000 Gore versus Bush election as the top political story of the decade.

Technology

C-Net and PC World both offer the top technology stories and both have the rise of Google as one of, if not the top story of the decade. Other common stories from the tech world are Facebook and social networking, the I-Pod, the I-phone and the retirement of Bill Gates.

Space

Discovery has a wonderful list of the top ten space stories of the decade. Leading the list- Alien planets- actually, exoplanets, orbiting distant stars. They’re not only spotted directly for the first time, but photographed.

Sports

Sports Illustrated picks baseball’s steroid scandal as the top sports story. The fall of Tiger Woods, the fall of Michael Vick and the rise, fall and rise of Kobe Bryant get top-10 nods.

Entertainment & Celebrities

MSNBC has a swell list of the top entertainment stories including the death of Michael Jackson, the rise of reality shows, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, the death of Anna Nicole, and Britney Spears’ fall from grace.

Reuters offers its take on the 10 best TV series of the decade: Numbers 1-3 are: The Sopranos, West Wing, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Infrastructure and Archaeology

In case you thought the people of the world had a tough decade, check out how nasty the first ten years of the new millennium have been on the nation’s infrastructure. Infrastructurist.com’s top five stories of the decade include Katrina and Terror in Transportation.

And last but not least- the top 10 archaeology news stories of the decade: The looting of the Iraq National Museum, Flores Man (an 18,000 year old human ancestor known as the Hobbit), and the discovery of Otzi, the Iceman, an extremely well-preserved 5,000 year old neolithic herder who got lost in the alps.

Here’s to hoping that if you ever get lost on a tall mountain range, you end up looking as good as this guy in 7010.

Top Stories of ’09: A List of the Lists

December 29, 2009 1 comment

 

For the past several weeks, writers and editors at various media outlets, wire services, newspapers, magazines and web sites have been busy little beavers, compiling their lists of the big stories of 2009.  As a helpful guide, I have superficially scoured the web for some of these lists, point out some of the highlights and offer a few links to make it all convenient for you.

The Serious

The grand-daddy of them all is the Associated Press list of the top ten stories of the year as voted on by U.S. Editors and News Directors.  The #1 story was the tanking and slow recovery of the American economy.

THE ECONOMY: Despite a $787 billion federal stimulus package, much of the U.S. economy continued to sputter throughout the year. The jobless rate topped 10 percent, scores of banks failed, the federal deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion, and stocks fell to their lowest levels since 1997 before rallying. Yet investment banks’ profits surged, triggering public anger and efforts in Washington to crack down on Wall Street bonuses.

For the kiddies, Scholastic.com puts the Obama inauguration at the top of the list:

A Historic Inauguration

On January 20, Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. President—and the country’s first African-American chief executive. Obama’s swearing-in ceremony drew a record crowd of 1.8 million people. That made it the biggest event ever held in Washington, D.C. The crowd stood for hours in freezing cold temperatures to witness the event. “We gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord,” the new President told the nation.

The Twitter World

Reuter’s rounds up the top ten “weird” twitter stories of ’09.  Topping their list is one man’s compulsive tweeting- including this live, breathless account from his own wedding:

Standing at the alter with @TracyPage where just a second ago she became my wife! Gotta go, time to kiss the bride” is how Dana Hanna kept the world posted between “I do” and that kiss. 

Politico.com offers an interesting list of top ten tweets of 2009.  At the top, Newt Gingrich’s tweet for which he later apologized in which he called Supreme Court nominee, Sonya Sotomayor a racist:

The former GOP Speaker of the House got a little ahead of himself at 9:34 a.m. on May 27, when he declared that Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor was a “racist.”

“White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw,” Gingrich tweeted. He was incensed over Sotomayor’s comment about a “wise Latina” being able to make a better decision than a white male because of her life experience.

But several days later, Gingrich hit the rhetorical “delete” button. “My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct,” Gingrich said in a Web posting. He regretted calling Sotomayor a racist. Gingrich had done a 180 — within 140 characters.

And though not a tweet, Sarah Palin’s famous Facebook entry on health care “death panels,” simultaneously enraged some and caused others great glee:

Here’s the meat of Palin’s post on Facebook: “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”

On the Medical Front

The Harvard Medical School’s top story for 2009 is about a story that has turned out not to be a story- the H1N1, Swine Flu pandemic:

After the first several weeks of uncertainty, most of the news about the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic has been reassuring. Much of that has to do with the nature of the H1N1 virus itself, which spreads easily and makes people sick, but so far rarely in a life-threatening way. And the word pandemic is misunderstood: a disease is considered pandemic if it has spread globally and affects a larger-than-usual proportion of the population. The disease needn’t be severe.

But a major reason for the calm has been the measured public health response. Plenty of information has been made available (this is the first Internet-age pandemic). A vaccine was developed and put into production, although shortages are a serious concern. Health officials gave us simple, concrete things to do to protect ourselves and others: cough and sneeze into your sleeve, wash your hands often, get vaccinated with both the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines, stay home if you’re feeling sick.

This wasn’t the flu pandemic that the experts were expecting. For years, they’ve eyed the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating in Asia to see if it would mutate and become transmissible among humans. Instead, H1N1 emerged in Mexico with a complicated quadruple pedigree: two strains of swine flu, a human strain, and a bird one. Hospitalization and death rates from the new virus have been high in healthy young adults and quite low in people older than 60. One explanation for that pattern is that older people may have some immunity left over from exposure to a previous version of H1N1.

 In the World of Sports

The Los Angles Times’ #2 sports story of the year was Tom Watson’s improbable bid for another British Open title, which really was a nearly-great moment in sports history:  

 Jack Nicklaus was home watching — for the first time in his life, he says — an entire round of golf on television. Tom Watson was watching the flight of his eight-iron land right where he wanted it to on Turnberry’s 18th green . . . and then inexplicably keep rolling and rolling until it eventually trickled off the green. He putted down the slope from the collar and was left with a putt that would have made him the oldest player to win the British Open . . . by 11 years. He missed and lost a playoff to Stewart Cink. “It tears at your gut,” Watson said, but quickly told crestfallen reporters, “This ain’t a funeral, you know.”  

The New York Daily News’ top three sports stories were Tiger Wood’s infidelities, Alex Rodriguez’ steroid admissions and, of course, the New York Yankees 27th World Series title.

Tech World

Computer World’s #2 story is Microsoft’s launch of Windows 7, the new computer operating system that replaces the atrocious Vista OS:

Microsoft launches Windows 7 — we can all move on now

On Oct. 22, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage in downtown New York at the lead event for a somewhat — for the software giant — soft-edged launch for Windows 7. Ballmer presided over a day of speechmaking and sales promotions in cities worldwide. But the events were on the whole smaller than the usual major Microsoft launches. The scaled-back hoopla and the marketing mantra of “simplicity” fit Microsoft’s characterization of the new OS — above all, faster and more straightforward to use than its predecessor, Vista. That much-maligned OS was plagued by hardware compatibility problems, slow performance and annoying system alerts. The older Windows XP, as of the Win 7 launch, was still being used by more than 70 percent of computer users. Microsoft, no doubt happy to turn the page on an embarrassing chapter in its history, says Win 7 is being adopted faster than Vista.

Celebrities and Wannabe Celebrities

E-online has a first place tie for its entertainment stories of the year.  It’s Tiger and the death of Michael Jackson.

Something called TVSquad.com has a list of the top TV reality show scandals of the year.  Balloon Boy was #1 and coming in 4th and how could anybody’s list be complete without them- the notorious White House party crashers, Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

Special Bonus List

Saving the best and most lascivious for last, HuffingtonPost.com lists and has a gallery (that shows nothing, by the way) of the top sex tapes of the decade (excuse me- but how 1990’s):

Paris Hilton wins top honors.

Tomorrow…helpful links to lists of the best stories of the decade of which the above item was but a mere tease.

Fear of Flying

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I suppose there’s a reason why clichés exist- there’s truth to them. Here are two that seem appropriate as we start this first week after Christmas: 1) Even when they fail, terrorists win and 2) We have to be successful every time, they just have to be successful once.

Yeah, I’ll admit it- I’m a little spooked. It struck a nerve; the near-disaster that was averted only when a faulty detonator prevented a bomb from taking out 278 passengers aboard a plane headed for Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day. I know 40 thousand people die every year in car accidents in the United States so, technically, the automobile is a bigger killer than terrorism.

But stuff like this becomes personal when your kid arrives from Atlanta for Christmas week and all is right with the world. Five days later he flies back from New York’s La Guardia airport and- just like that- we now have to get to the terminal an hour earlier with a freshly renewed specter of terrorism in the back of our minds.

And I’m frustrated at the workings of a seemingly incompetent bureaucracy. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s own father had warned U.S. officials of his son’s increasing radicalization and associations. That’s how he got on a terror list data base to begin with. Why wasn’t that also good enough to get him on a no-fly list? Why, exactly, was he issued a U.S. entry visa?

I heard Homeland security chief, Janet Napolitano tell ABC News’ Jake Tapper on Sunday: “The system has worked really very, very smoothly.” She lauded the passengers and crew for their actions. What? Passengers putting out a fire and subduing a man who just tried to set off a bomb, are an integral part of “the system?” I’m really glad the passengers did what they did, but I do believe their mission on that flight was to sleep, eat some pretzels and get home, not wrestle some maniac to the floor who wanted to kill them.

Napolitano also said on ABC’s This Week that there are no indications the screening in Amsterdam was not properly done. She has since pulled back from that statement. Clearly, somebody messed up. This fellow got on board an aircraft with pentaerythritol (PETN), the very same plastic explosive material al-Qaeda operative Richard C. Reid used in 2001 when he tried to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner by igniting a homemade bomb in his shoe.

As for terrorists failing and still winning- Richard Reid, of course, was an abysmally failed terrorist, but his legacy lives on with every shoe we’ve had to remove at airport security screening for the past eight years. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab apparently had these explosives sewn into his underwear. I can only imagine what his legacy will be on the traveling public. Is it too much to ask for airport screening that works and is effective- that’s minimally smart and profiles people and behavior instead of profiling their luggage? It seems to work for Israel’s El Al airlines just fine.

I hate that I’m even slightly spooked as I take my son to the airport. I’m frustrated that these deranged losers can affect our lives in so many ways, large and small. I’m not proud that in feeling these things, I’ve let these guys win even a miniscule victory by stoking my own, mostly irrational, fears for my family and friends.

But at least now I know how it works. Next time I put my kid on an airplane, or board one myself- turns out he and I and our fellow passengers are a primary line of defense in a system that works so “very, very smoothly.”

(Note: On NBC’s Today Show this morning, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, completely reversed her comments on ABC’ s This Week and specifically stated “Our system did not work in this instance. Nobody is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is underway.” The President has also decided to address the nation later today about the incident.)

Tidings of Joy from Suki, the Christmas Dog

December 24, 2009 1 comment

In this completely unretouched photograph, Suki the Christmas Dog is captured floating in space with life-like, pawprint-type snowflakes falling all around her as she wishes one and all the happiest of holidays and Peace on Earth.

Categories: Animal Life Tags: ,

Earth Rise & Genesis: Christmas Eve, 1968

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

>

Apollo 11 may have been the mission that landed man on the moon, but the ultimate scouting mission of all time, Apollo 8, is the one that touched hearts. It succeeded in doing something I don’t think has ever been accomplished since; it melded science, religion, spirituality and mass communications into a single moment that for 23 minutes, united the world in awe and wonder.

It was supposed to have been a less than spectacular low earth orbit test of the lunar and command modules. But because of delays getting the lunar module ready, it shifted to an incredibly more ambitious mission- fly to the moon and back.

And so it was that at precisely 7:51 am, ET on the morning of December 21st, 1968 the first manned launch of the massive Saturn V rocket sent astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders into their accidental rendevous with destiny.

It was a hell of a way to start a mission; the first human beings strapped onto the top of the most powerful rocket that had been invented. It was more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, almost exactly two-thirds the size of the Washington monument and fully fueled, weighed nearly 6,700,000 pounds.

Borman, Lovell and Anders became the first humans to leave earth’s orbit. Sixty-nine hours and about 230,000 miles after launch, the crew commenced a nerve-racking 4 minute and 13 second burn that made them the first humans to enter into the orbit of another celestial body. If it had not been done exactly right, the astronauts could have been flung out into space never to return, or could have sent themselves into a collision course with the moon.

Over the next 20 hours they would become the first humans to see the dark side of the moon. But it was a 23-minute television broadcast on Christmas Eve that created that special moment that converged science and, depending on your point of view, either religion or mysticism. Having earlier failed to get a clear picture of the earth with their cameras, the crew went to considerable effort to make sure the broadcast would catch a clear picture of the planet that involved positioning the entire spacecraft around. An estimated half a billion people watched that broadcast from earth, then the most viewed television event in history.

And it seemed completely appropriate that as they showed the world their view of the blue planet we all ride through space, the crew would read the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night: and the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament; and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven: and the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the collection of waters he called Seas: and God saw that it was good.

I was but a 12-year old boy at the time but remember memorializing the broadcast with a small reel-to-reel tape recorder I had been given by my parents. I still remember it 41 years later like it was yesterday. It was the most moving and inspiring Christmas I ever experienced.


The various stages of earth-rise, 12/24/68

Categories: Earth Tags: , , , , ,

An Incomplete List: 20 Things I’m Grateful For

December 22, 2009 5 comments

Hudson River sunset; Bernstein; Suki; Charlie; The I-Pod; Washington; Cami McCormick in Afghanistan; Millie; Late night cookies and milk

Yesterday, I complained about the NFL and Microsoft. Today, working up to the Christmas spirit- nothing but appreciation for the wonderful things in life (in no particular order):

◊ Sunset over the Hudson River.

◊ Strawberry Fields in Central Park; the sweet innocence of the flowers and notes left by people from all over the world honoring the greatest dreamer of our time.

◊ Watching my cats sleep, deep into pillows and blankets, looking cozy with their limbs draped all over each other.

◊ The puppy; how anything can be so bad, sneaky and cute all at the same time.

◊ My soon-to-be 18-year-old son, Charlie, proof that every generation gets better than the last; writing and producing all kinds of music with meticulousness, dedication and passion.

◊ The I-Pod; the Steve Jobs’ invention that has become life’s customized sound-track.

◊ High school friends who all at once discovered Facebook and rediscovered each other and have turned out to be kind, gracious and the sweetest people on earth.

◊ Friends from all the iterations of my past who, thankfully, remain along for the ride through every twist and turn, every failure, every success, every tragedy and every recovery.

◊ Butter; the secret ingredient to all food that tastes good and evil and French.

◊ Hot showers; you don’t appreciate them until you can’t get one.

◊ The Lincoln Memorial at night.

◊ Sitting on the left side of the plane on the Potomac river approach into National Airport and watching the monuments just before the pilot takes a sharp right bank on final approach toward the runway at an altitude of 500 feet.

◊ Cabbies everywhere- the salt-of-the-earth; with great stories about their customers, their dreams and their often amazing lives. 

◊ The sound of the clanging bell as a train pulls alongside a platform.

◊ U.S. servicemen and women who salute and deliver, making sacrifices most of us would find unimaginable.

◊ War correspondents who risk life and limb to bring us the truth.
 
◊ Parents, who despite their imperfections, give everything they have for their children.
 
◊ Aaron Copeland music as you gaze in awe at the rolling fields of Pennsylvania Amish country.

◊ All the women in my life who have ever put up with me, including the current and last one who has made me promise I will never write about her on my web-blog.

◊ The twinkling lights of a Christmas tree in an otherwise dark living room at 2 in the morning when you get up with a sudden urge for butter cookies and a cold, fresh glass of milk.