Don’t blink but the Royals aren’t in last place

The Kansas City Royals have, for the moment, climbed out of last place in the American League Central division with a 2-1 series win over Oakland.  The Royals’ series win relegates the Chicago White Sox to the AL Central basement.

Cleveland 68 55 .553 613 564 4-6 L1
Detroit 67 57 .540 1 1/2 692 637 4-6 L3
Minnesota 62 61 .504 6 548 535 4-6 W1
Kansas City 55 68 .447 13 563 594 5-5 L1
Chicago 54 69 .439 14 527 641 1-9 L8

Who do the Royals play next?  Why, the White Sox, in Chicago.

Artificial life likely in 3-10 years

Kansas City Star/AP[*1] :

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of “wet artificial life.”

“It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it,” said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. “We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways – in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

That first cell of synthetic life – made from the basic chemicals in DNA – may not seem like much to non-scientists. For one thing, you’ll have to look in a microscope to see it.

They call them “Northworst” for a reason

Sioux Falls Argus Leader:  Northwest flight cancellations anger customers[*1]

Passengers were caught off-guard today after Northwest cancelled flights in and out of Sioux Falls today.

For travelers like Cindy Burton, who is stuck in Minneapolis from Tennessee, the cancelled flight could mean never seeing her son again, said Burton’s sister, Arla Stueckrath of Milan, Minn.

Burton’s son has been in critical condition at Avera McKennan Hospital since Saturday, Stueckrath said.

“It’s insane,” said Charmaine Petersen, Burton’s sister-in-law as she waited in the Sioux Falls airport. “When she booked the flight, Northwest knew it was an emergency.”

The earliest flight Burton was promised was at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Petersen said.
Mike Marnach, executive director of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport Authority said he believes the cancellations will only last through today.

Cancellations were attributed to a number of things from no crew being available to construction being done on the runway in Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, according the Sioux Falls airport’s Web site.

According to the NWA flights were still on schedule for Tuesday.

“All they can say is ‘Sorry,’” Stueckrath said. “I don’t care if they’re sorry or not.”

Petersen said she would never fly Northwest Airlines again.

That’s going to be a pretty common reaction if Northwest keeps this up.

Here comes “organic technology”

The holy grail of the Babylon 5[*1] science fiction universe, organic technology referred to technology that was grown, not manufactured.  (Yes, the “holy grail” reference was intended, B5-heads.)

Well, here we go, a couple of centuries ahead of schedule (Air Force press release):

Air Force Funds Research on Self-Healing Materials[*2]

By Maria Callier Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs (Quantech)

Arlington, Va., July 30th, 2007 – A research team at the University of Illinois, funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is creating new, cutting-edge structural microvascular materials which will have repetitive, self-healing capabilities as well as self-cooling behavior.

Professor Scott White and his colleagues are developing a technique for fabricating three-dimensional microvascular networks inspired by human skins or plant leaves.

“By using the networks to carry the healing agent, the study demonstrated that the performance of self-healing materials can be further improved by incorporating a circulatory system and continuously transporting an unlimited supply of healing agent, significantly extending the lifetime of the material,” explained B.L. Lee, program manager for AFOSR’s Mechanics of Multifunctional Materials and Microsystems. “This is a very exciting event and an important beginning for new technology.”

The Air Force will benefit from the research because these materials have multifunctional behavior in an integrated system and will provide capabilities that have never been achieved before.

The research team continues to face challenges as it moves forward.

“We are developing new healing and protection schemes for our healing components that will provide the level of environmental stability that is needed,” said Mr. White. “We are also pursuing research targeted towards fabrication methods to build large, structural parts using robotic techniques.”

The team plans to design and build optimized microvascular networks for highly efficient and structural materials that can heal repeatedly with no loss in performance as damage accumulates.

“We are also targeting the integration of two types of functionality in a single material system – healing and cooling,” said Mr. White. “In this case, the fluids that are circulated within the material will do double duty by providing the building blocks for structural healing as well as a conduit for extracting thermal energy and cooling the parent material.”

By funding self-healing materials research, AFOSR continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge. AFOSR is part of Air Force Materiel Command’s Air Force Research Laboratory.

How much football is enough?

Front page article in the Wall Street Journal[*1] (subscription required):

Time Warner Cable Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. are refusing to carry the NFL Network, launched in 2003, on the league’s terms. Charter Communications Inc., whose controlling shareholder owns the Seattle Seahawks, stopped carrying the network in late 2005 because of a contract dispute. Comcast Corp., the country’s largest cable operator, yanked the NFL Network out of millions of homes after a bitter battle. The NFL tried to stop Comcast by suing, but lost. The case is now on appeal.

At the heart of the debate: how much pro football is enough for America’s already robustly served TV fans. The NFL, which has long been able to command top dollar by packaging its games myriad ways, says viewers are still insatiable. But after years of budgetary woes caused by the skyrocketing cost of football, cable executives say they — and viewers — have had enough. Die-hard football fans can now watch as many as 16 regular-season games a week via broadcast, cable and satellite operators.

I’m not sure that it’s a good thing for us lowly consumers for sports leagues (and, parenthetically, content-producers of any type in our media age) to exclusively own their distribution media.

On a related thought:  Are the people who were outraged about Rush Limbaugh’s brief stint as an NFL studio analyst for ESPN lining up to protest Keith Olbermann’s upcoming gig on NBC’s Sunday night football programming?  Just wondering . . .

NCAA tightens up on schools moving to D-I

NCAA puts a moratorium on new members of Division I[*1] :

The Division I Board of Directors has enacted a four-year moratorium on permitting institutions to begin the process of joining the division – an action that among other things will prevent a school from moving from another division into Division I or moving between its subdivisions until August 2011.

Although the division recently enacted new Football Bowl Subdivision criteria and established procedural steps to become a Division I member, standards for Division I institutional and conference membership were not reviewed.

The moratorium, which is effective immediately, does not affect 20 institutions that already have entered the seven-year Division I provisional-membership process for new NCAA members or the five-year process to move from Division II — including institutions that currently are officially exploring Division I membership.

The moratorium also prevents institutions in Divisions II and III from seeking reclassification of a specific sport into Division I under multidivision-classification legislation, and prevents a new single-sport or multisport conference from achieving Division I membership until the moratorium ends.

Hat tip:  Terry Vandrovec’s Sioux Falls Argus Leader Sports blog[*2] .

You know, Japan is an odd little country . . .

Found on[*1] :  Butt-biting bug munches on Japanese tush in a quest for the golden (be)hind[*2]

The Butt-Biting Bug, which is actually supposed to be one of the Little People, first appeared in June on an NHK children’s cartoon. The crunching creepy crawly — who, perhaps unsurprisingly, has roots dating back to ancient Assyria — skyrocketed to national fame following the release of a CD and DVD on July 27, with stocks of both quickly running out.

Sales and additional orders for both the music and movie have continued flooding in, and a catchy mobile phone ringtone taken from a song about the Butt-Biting Bug and its tush tasting exploits attracts six times more downloads than any other of the dozens available on NHK’s site. A children’s book starring the fairy came out last week.

Sunday Mainichi notes that the Butt-Biting Bug is actually a fairy, whose nibbles on people’s cabooses are supposed to bring them enormous amounts of energy.

Sure, blame the long-dead Assyrians.  (Heh, they said ASSyrians! Guffaw!)