Wednesday, October 28, 2009

LA Lakers - Will The Lakers go 20 and 1? Take my poll.

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I was watching "The NBA on TNT" when NBA Legend Charles Barkley said that he believed the Lakers would, not could, go 20 and 1 to open this season.

Jack Nicholson. LA Laker

At first I thought he was crazy. Then I thought about it and considered the acquistion of the always hungry enforcer Ron Artest and reconsidered the possibility.

Consider this: The Lakers have only four away games of the next 19 games. That's right. The LA Lakers have 15 home games of the next 19 contests. So that,and given their talent and smart trades and they could do it.

I think they can.

But what do you think? Will the LA Lakers go 20 and 1? Take my poll:

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Bay Bridge Closure - Caltrans should not rush repairs to bridge

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The latest news in the Bay Bridge Cable Collapse Disaster is that CalTrans spokesperson Bart Ney told KRON-TV that the Bay Bridge could reopen under a "best-case scenario" Thursday if repairs and bridge testing were completed in time.

My response: please don't rush this. Let's get it right.

In fact, it's not even a good idea to put out the message that this process could be done in a jiffy because if it is, the bridge is re-opened, and we have another Bay Bridge Cable Collapse Disaster, it will be a life-changing event for drivers, passengers, and California.

Everyone would call for the heads of the people ruining CalTrans, and the next "F-U" letter sent by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be to Caltrans Director Randy Iwasaki.

The quality problems my blogging friend Yobie Benjamin points to should be adressed as part of this repair and evaluation process and a public report issued. This should not be considered a problem that needs a "band-aid, quick-fix" solution. Please, no.

In fairness to CalTrans' Ney, he did say that officially there's no timetable and that's the response he should stick with.

CalTrans needs to take its time with this and make sure the Bay Bridge Cable Collapse Disaster does not happen again.

Bay Bridge Closure - BART wants 24-hour service if CalTrans pays them

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I've got an important update especially for late-night workers who pray that BART offers a 24-hour service schedule - right now they're not - in the wake of the Bay Bridge Cable Collapse Disaster (as I'm calling it).

I just got off the phone with BART Spokesperson Linton Johnson. Johnson explained that BART would like to offer a 24-hour service but they're hampered by, economics, operations maintenance, and commuter commute demands.

The first issue is economics. "The fares, at $3.18, don't come close to covering the operating costs to run trains in a 24-hour schedule," Johnson said. The Labor Day Weekend Service was provided after months of planning and CalTrans, which operates the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge, paid BART to cover the loss of revenue due to the simple fact that fewer people ride the trains between 12 midnight and 4 am, when the morning commute starts.

The second problem is operations maintenance. Linton Johnson says "It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each day just to provide that extra service." And even if CalTrans were to step forward and give what would be by my estimate $1.2 million to $1.7 million (depending on the estimated days the bridge is closed) to help BART provide 24-hour service, there's the additional problem of now having extra trains that have to be taken out of service because they were used at night - trains needed for the AM and PM commute hours.

Which leads to the third consideration: commuters. Johnson isn't saying BART doesn't want to provide 24-hour service, but he stresses they didn't see this accident coming. So, they're trying to alter their system to provide service to a crush of riders that don't normally take the train. That's the first priority.

"BART wasn't designed for 24-hour service," Johnson observed. And he's right. A train system, as in New York for example, has two tracks going the same way, so one car can be worked on just as another is going by. BART's work tracks are in rail yards at the Richmond and Fremont and Daly City terminus stations; there are few points to allow such maintenance on the BART system.

So the bottom line is BART would love to extend its current service to a 24-hour schedule, but CalTrans needs to pay for it. And even then, BART's risk is that fewer trains would be available for the morning commute due to maintenance requirements.

My view is such a price is one CalTrans should be willing to pay and BART's problem of fewer commute trains one they should be willing to bear. More people have flexible schedules anyway, so it's something BART could do with less pain than in a pre-Internet past.

The alternative is to have a Bay Area economically crippled between the hours of 12 midnight and 4 AM, and in this recession this region can't afford any more fiscal hits.

Ares I-X lifts off on flight test (video)

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The Ares I-X successfully launched into a clear blue Florida sky this morning and without incident, "testing concepts for the future of new rocket design" as the Kennedy Space Center spokesperson said in the video.

Indeed, it went off without a hitch - I'll deal with the vibration issue I mentioned below - and what's really neat is that you can see the video of the launch from a camcorder placed in the rocket itself and posted in this blog. The video also shows the breaking away of stages of the rocket as it happens. How huge is that?

Gushing aside, here's vital information on the vehicle that I saw over at One important item of information is the rocket was built entirely here in America: Utah, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas contractors created the Ares 1-X.

Spacefellowship reports:

The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g’s and Mach 4.76, just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster.

Parachutes deployed for recovery of the booster and the solid rocket motor will be recovered at sea for later inspection. The simulated upper stage, Orion crew module, and launch abort system will not be recovered.

“The most valuable learning is through experience and observation,” said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. “Tests such as this — from paper to flight — are vital in gaining a deeper understanding of the vehicle, from design to development.”

Wednesday’s flight offered an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities, and ground operations – important data for future space vehicles. During the flight, a range of performance data was relayed to the ground and also stored in the onboard flight data recorder. The 700 sensors mounted on the vehicle provide flight test engineering data to correlate with computer models and analysis. The rocket’s sensors gathered information in several areas, including assembly and launch operations, separation of the vehicle’s first and second stages, controllability and aerodynamics, the re-entry and recovery of the first stage and new vehicle design techniques.

No word on the vibration issue, which means the dampening systems developed worked.

The objective of this flight is to test a program system that will eventually lead to America's return to the Moon after 2020.

Bay Bridge Closure - BART must offer 24-hour service

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Kudos to BART for offering "beefed-up" service with extra trains in the wake of the Bay Bridge Cable Collapse, according to BART spokesperson Linton Johnson, but what's really needed, and we don't have, is a 24-hour BART schedule.

There's no real idea when the bridge is going to be fit to be opened and Henry K. Lee's article explains that it could be days before that happens, especially with these high winds impacting the bridge not to mention making sure this accident does not happen again regardless of conditions, so a major part of what (even with this recession) still is our economic engine is crippled.

Some Oaklanders, for example, work in San Francisco and don't get off until midnight or later - just when BART has stopped running at midnight even with this closure.

So what we face is a period from midnight to 4 am when we can't travel from Oakland or the East Bay to San Francisco or much of the West Bay. So if you work in one place and live in the other, you're stuck.

And God help you if your flight arrives at SFO at 11:30 PM, because by the time you get your bags and head to BART, not only will it have stopped running but there will be no other way to get to the East Bay if that's where you need to go.

That's just plain horrible.

BART must employ the 24-hour schedule that was used during the Labor Day Weekend Bay Bridge Closure. But what surprises me is that BART didn't automatically do this. It should not take a blog or any hue and cry for BART to implement all night service to help in any disaster, which is what this is regardless of its scale.

Adding more train operators is great, but the 24-hour service plan is needed, starting tonight.

NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.; print media is like Titanic

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Here's a shocking statement from a person who one would think is not ready to give up on print media: New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

NY Magazine talked to the media mogul at a benefit for the New Literacy Project, and asked what advice he had for journalism students looking for a job in print media:

"Um, what I would tell them is the industry is in the midst of a massive transition," he said. "But the core of the fundamental job is critical. We have to re-create ourselves, but the heart of what we're going to re-create is still journalism. The way people get information is changing, but the need for information will remain constant."

He thinks that physical newspapers will stick around as well. "The best analogy I can think of is — have you ever heard of the Titanic Fallacy?" he asked. We hadn't. "What was the critical flaw to the Titanic?" We tried to answer: Poor construction? Not enough life boats? Crashing into stuff? "A captain trying to set a world speed record through an iceberg field?" he said, shaking his head. "Even if the Titanic came in safely to New York Harbor, it was still doomed," he said. "Twelve years earlier, two brothers invented the airplane."

He went on to say there would be print, but it will not be the driving force. I agree but I'll go a step beyond what he said. The driving force in the future will be multimedia - video, web, print, audio - and all of the same content.

Take my example you're reading: it's also in video form with me speaking, and I can strip out the audio and have an Mp3 version and print the website page and have a paper version. So that's web, print, video, and audio versions of the same message.

Imagine that as the foundation for a news company. That's the future.

That said and written,I can't think of a firm - well a big media company - that's actively headed in that direction. Not one.

But back to The Titanic and Sulzberger. Art Jr.'s analogy is appropriate because the New York Times opened the first three months of 2009 with a $74 million operating loss. Overall, American newspaper circulation fell more than 10 percent.

That, folks, is the beginning of a long-term death spiral. Ad sales rates are based on subscription size; if that falls then newspapers can't charge the same rates because they don't have as great a reach, so revenue is even less, leading to more cuts in production, which impacts circulation until a steady state is reached.

But where that steady state of circulation is, is anyone's best guess.

I can't help but wonder what Phil Bronstein thinks of Sulzberger's comments...

ESPN suspends Bob Griese for racist remark; let go of Steve Phillips

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ESPN's shedding of tortious talkers continues as they suspend or out-right fire all of its analysts and broadcasters who were accused of making a racist remark in the case of NFL Legend Bob Griese, or involved in a sex scandal, as was the case of Steve Phillips, who was fired Monday after a sex scandal involving himself and ESPN Production Assistant Brooke Hundley.

The act that got the former Miami Dolphins quarterback in hot water - and I've got to admit I'm surprised he was outright suspended for this - was when he said that NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya was "out having a taco" in response to, well, here's an explaination of what Griese said according to the Huffington Post:

During ESPN's broadcast of the Minnesota-Ohio State game Saturday, a graphic was shown listing the top five drivers in NASCAR's points race. Fellow analyst Chris Spielman asked where was Montoya, who is Colombian.

Griese replied he was "out having a taco."

While Bob apologized on air, the flip joke of a comment cost him a week without work on ESPN.

Now, I have to comment that I think we're getting a little too sensitive here. Yeah, I wonder why Bob would "go there" and it signals that Griese saw the man as Latino first, then a person, but Bob also appologized for it. But I suppose a week of forced vacation won't hurt him.

Still, I agree with "CubanJoe" over at Hispanic Business, who wrote:

Cuban Jose
10/27/2009 2:46:10 PM PST
Why all the fuss over nothing. To suspend someone over a remark like the one he made is beyond me. I am Hispanic and that coment would not affect me one bit. Taco Bell is more American than Spanish any way.

Sometimes I think we're a little too neurotic for our own good. Besides, I can't stand Taco Bell.

Bay Bridge Closure - bridge after cable breakage on YouTube videos

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The Bay Bridge Cable Breakage Controversy shakes one's confidence in the engineering technology we create to allow us to (in this case) span a large expanse of water.

It would have been better to just replace the whole bridge - given the lives at risk - rather than array after array of cost-cutting approaches. But we can't reverse time and change things: hindsight is 20-20.

(Except in the case of a lawsuit where reversing time to determine "who did what" to gauge liability becomes important. This, in that way, is much like the Space Shuttle Challenger accident that caused an investigative committee to be formed to determine exactly what happened, who was at fault, and why. From that perspective, this is going to be a eye-opening look into California's infrastructure finance problems.)

To get a better idea of the bridge's condition after the incident, I went to YouTube to see what videos were posted. 2009 has seen the mainstreaming of the use of camcorders of various sizes to capture an action or event, so I expected to find a number of videos and did so.

This video created by YouTuber thatgirlray shows the breakage up close on video:

This video by markdemma is another "after breakage" point of view:

This view, from tmanaols, is from earlier in the day, just immediately after the cable break:

I will add more videos as they become available. I'm betting someone out there has the definitive video view of the collapse as it happened.