Austin Peay Comes to Play on Defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After his team was thoroughly beaten by Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinal, Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy probably said it best.
“I thought in the first five minutes of the game, they dictated how the game was going to be played physically,” said the third-year Racer mentor. “I thought they were very aggressive and forced us way out of where we wanted to start our offense.”
One of his players said it in a simpler way.
“They had more heart than us tonight,” senAustin Peay head coach Carrie Daniels, center, celebrates with her team after defeating Eastern Illinois in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference NCAA College women's basketball game in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, March 7, 2009. Austin Peay won the game 69-65 in double overtime.ior Kevin Thomas added.
Simply put, the Governors wanted the game more, and it was evident right away. In the early going, they got all kinds of defensive stops - a jump ball, a steal, a shot clock violation - and generally took Murray State out what they wanted to do. They were aggressive at both ends of the floor, and while it didn’t happen right away, the offense picked up from it as well. The early 13-2 lead they built up was no accident, and their defense was the reason they had an 11-point lead at halftime despite shooting around 39 percent from the field.

Although you could see it early, in the second half it was obvious that the defense energized the Governors to do other things. They got just about every loose ball and kept it up even when the pace of the game picked up early in the second half. Then the pace settled down, and the Governors ran offense in a textbook fashion, working the shot clock well and getting several baskets late in the clock. They shot 62.5 percent in the second frame and built the lead as high as 22.
“I was especially pleased with our defensive effort,” Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos said. “I had no idea that this game would turn out like it did in terms of the margin.”
Loos noted that the team has been a little inconsistent on defense. Scoring hasn’t been a problem for them, as they average 76 points per game to rank second in the conference. But the defense has at times come and gone, and Loos had a little concern about it. The significance of the game added to how pleased he was with it.
When the offense picked up from it, you could tell the game was basically over. Drake Reed came alive in the second half, scoring 13 of his 18 points on 5-6 shooting. As he usually does, he did it in the flow of the offense and didn’t force anything.
The game was a matchup of two teams that are usually in this spot. For 24 straight years, either Austin Peay or Murray State has been in the OVC semifinals, and for the last 23 of those years, at least one is in the title game. On this night, as was the case all season as they won both regular season meetings in a similar fashion, the Governors had a clear edge to advance to the final for the third year in a row.


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Pac-10 basketball: Stakes sizzle for Washington schools, Oregon State (notes, links)

The stakes in Seattle today are obvious. The Washington Huskies are trying to make history and win their first outright Pac-10 title, and Washington State is trying to spoil that while bolstering its own postseason hopes.
But in Los Angeles, where Oregon State and Oregon play today? The stakes aren't so clear cut, but they are significant in their own way.
The Beavers could finish anywhere from tied for fifth place to alone in eighth in the Pac-10, depending on what happens. More importantly, they have a legit chance to finish as the No. 6 seed for next week's Pac-10 Tournament and get a first-round bye.

First, of course, they have to beat USC. If they don't, they finish in eighth place, either alone or tied with Stanford, and would play the Cardinal in the first round at 6 p.m. Wednesday. But if OSU beats USC, something it already has done this season, then things get interesting.

If Washington State loses to Washington -- the Huskies are about a seven-point favorite -- and OSU beats USC, then we get a three-way tie for sixth at 8-10, and OSU gets the No. 6 seed. The tiebreaker works like this: If more than two teams are tied for a spot, then the conference's seeding tiebreaker is cumulative head-to-head record among the tiedt eams. Under the above scenario, OSU would be 3-1 against the others, USC 2-2 and WSU 1-3, giving the Beavers the sixth seed and much-prized off day.

There's also the possibility of a four-way tie for fifth if the above happens and Arizona loses to Stanford, dropping the Wildcats to 8-10. In that case, Arizona would own the cumulative best record and be No. 5 seed, then the scenario in the above paragraph is used and OSU is the No. 6 seed.

The Pac-10
Washington ......... 13-4
UCLA ................. 12-5
Cal ..................... 11-6
Arizona State ...... 10-7
Arizona ................ 8-9
Washington St. ..... 8-9
USC ..................... 8-9
Oregon State ....... 7-10
Stanford ............... 6-11
Oregon ................ 2-15

Today's games
•California at Arizona State,
11 a.m. (CBS)
•Oregon at UCLA, 12:30 p.m. (ABC)
•Washington State at Washington, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
•Oregon State at USC, 5 p.m.
•Stanford at Arizona, 4:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Oregon will finish last in conference no matter if it beats UCLA today, so the only question is if the Ducks finish at 2-16 or 3-15 in conference, either of which will be their worst Pac-10 record since going 3-15 in 2002-03, Jerry Green's first season as coach. But if the Ducks can stay competitive against the Bruins, it will be a good building block for next season, the outlook for which is a lot brighter than it was two weeks ago.
One last thing. What would it take to create a Civil War rubber match in the Pac-10 Tournament first round? First of all, OSU has to beat USC to climb out of eighth place. Then, Arizona and WSU have to win their games, tying them for fifth place at 9-9, and leave OSU and USC in a seventh-place tie, and by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker, Oregon State would be the seventh seed and play the Ducks as 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Got it? Here are today's links:

•After running his team through a typically early practice Friday, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson does "Jim Rome is Burning," and some local TV interviews.

•USC suffered the first loss handed out by Oregon State in conference this season, but it turned out not to the disaster many were writing it off as for the Trojans. "When we lost, you'd have thought we lost to a snappy junior high team by the way everyone reacted to it," Trojans coach Tim Floyd says.

•Oregon's young players try to overcome the awe of playing in historic Pauley Pavilion and the challenge of playing what figures to be a highly-motivated UCLA team today. "You grow up watching on it on TV," freshman point guard Garrett Sim tells the Register-Guard. "I can't wait to play. There's so much history behind it." Former Oregon player Adam Zahn is playing professionally, believe it or not, for a team in Iraq.

•UCLA will salute its strong senior class of Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya with a Senior Day ceremony before the Bruins play Oregon. The three are a rarity, players with NBA-level potential who stay at UCLA for four years. "You're talking about guys who are super, super experienced and have had a lot of big moments," coach Ben Howland says.

•The big one today is in Seattle, where the Huskies say that despite an season-opening loss to Portland, they aren't surprised to be playing for an outright Pac-10 title today. "I just thought in my mind the whole time that we have a chance to be really good this year and do something really special," junior forward Quincy Pondexter tells the Seattle Times. The Times' Bob Condotta blogs about the Huskies' chances for the major conference honors, which will be announced Monday, while the P-I's Dan Raley ponders if Washington should retire the number of Jon Brockman (Raley concludes yes).

•Washington State, in addition to potentially playing spoiler to the Huskies, has its own rewards, including a possible run at the NCAA Tournament. "I hope we're in (the NCAA) conversation, that would be great," WSU coach Tony Bennett tells the Spokesman Review. Caleb Forrest, hardly a silky-smooth athlete, contributes in a big way to the Cougars though hard play and great work ethic.

•Arizona State senior Jeff Pendergraph, who will play his final home game today, has had quite a ride in four years at ASU. Says coach Herb Sendek: "Jeff and I talked when I first came in April a couple years ago, and I asked him not only to lead us on the court but to be a great ambassador for our program. And I think he certainly has done that for us. ... He's been a tremendous person in the community and for our program."

•Cal junior point guard Nikola Knezevic, who has been buried in the rotation but finally made a key contribution against Arizona on Thursday, says he plans to return for his senior season.

•Arizona, whose up-and-down season has included wins over Kansas and Gonzaga and losses to Stanford and Washington State, still has a chance to keep its 24-year NCAA streak alive. The Wildcats' NCAA position is as precarious as its been since before the streak, with ESPN's Joe Lunardi dropping them out of his bracket projection Friday.


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Custom Jessica Rabbit Action Figure

Now growing up, one of my favorite movies was Who framed Roger Rabbit? and so when I saw this custom Jessica Rabbit figure today, my mouth popped up in amazement.

This custom piece commissioned by a guy for his girlfriend as a late Valentine's Day present was created by M1 Customs.


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The dying of the Teacher Next Door program in Baltimore?

For years, I have thought about buying a HUD home through the Teacher-Next-Door Program. I've had the site with the homes on it bookmarked for years, and, over the last several months, I have been checking it out more and more. See, a lot of my friends bought homes in the program, in areas as eclectic as Federal Hill, Bel-Air/Edison, and Lauraville. The thing is, the pickings these days are worse than sparse. I mean, check it out. There are two houses there, located in the worst parts of the city; one house is $26K, and one house is $19K. Regular price. Getting them for half would be barely anything. But what teacher is going to fix up a house in a horrible part of the city, and a house that is in such poor shape that it's the price of a car?

We can look at the full HUD website for MD, too, and I found a house I liked, at 5100 Walther Ave.. (The house was listed on the HUD website as being on Walther Boulevard, which is a different street altogether, all the way up by White Marsh, and doesn't appear on Google Maps. A friend left a comment for me the other day about the house, though, and I figured out that it was actually Walther Avenue, so I decided to look closer then.) The house was originally listed on the HUD website for $109K, and was recently decreased to $99K. So obviously they are having a hard time selling it.

After reading the HUD report (it needs quite a bit of work, as all HUD homes do, but it looked do-able and liveable immediately), I checked it out today; I walked around the yard, looked in the windows. I got excited. If I could get this house for 50% off through the Teacher-Next-Door program, and spend a few years putting my sweat into fixing the house up, I might be able to make a nice profit off of it in a few years time. The kind of profit that might help me pay off student loans and put me in very nice financial shape. Bonus points that the house looked nice, had a nice yard, and is a decent part of the city (though the road, which I used to live on as well, is a little too busy for my liking... I would have dealt with it). I got excited about how I would do this, and emailed a friend who knows the TND program well.

Unfortunately, he informed me that because the house is currently set up as a double unit (that's what the HUD website says; other websites for it call it a single unit), that it is not eligible for the Teacher-Next-Door program. Well, isn't that nice? I would have totally bought it, and fixed it up real nice, and been the "good neighbor" that the program touts that it wants.

My realtor tells me that the program has been pretty bad for a year or two, and he thinks that, overall, the program might be struggling financially. He says a lot fewer are taking advantage of it than before. I guess the HUD Teacher-Next-Door program is kind of dying, at least here in Baltimore - and that's pretty strange, considering the increase of foreclosed homes and the flooded market. Anybody have any answers?

So it's back to the basics. I'll probably be getting a house that is already pretty well rehabbed, because, well, it just doesn't make as much financial sense unless I can get a house for a really good deal, which I doubt will happen. There are a lot of possibilities (I really like a St. Ambrose house I looked at), and, since I'm not picky, the choosing of the house will not be a problem. It's just the mortgage I'm still uncertain about, but I have appointments with housing counselors and that should clear some of that up.

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James Kirkland remains undefeated with TKO of Julio in 6th round

James Kirkland remained unbeaten when his brutal 154-pound fight with Joel Julio was stopped after the sixth round Saturday night due to a cut near Julio’s right eye. Victor Ortiz also stopped Mike Arnaoutis midway through the second round of their 140-pound bout, but the raucous San Jose crowd didn’t get to see much of hometown favorite Robert Guerrero. His bout with Daud Yordan was declared a no-decision midway through the second round when an accidental head-butt opened a serious cut over Guerrero’s right eye, limiting his vision.

“I’m so disappointed,” said Guerrero, the former featherweight champ who hadn’t fought this close to his Gilroy, Calif., home since 2006. “I was cut, and I couldn’t see anything. I was doing good, and felt I was getting a lot of body shots in. I was here in front of my hometown fans. This feels (terrible). I came to fight and train hard.” In the main event, Kirkland (25-0, 22 KOs) and Julio provided the action expected from two hard punchers with little regard for defense, peppering each other in several back-and-forth sequences. Although Julio (34-3) was more accurate early, Kirkland showed the perseverance that makes him one of the sport’s top prospects. - From USA Today


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Theater Review (Las Vegas): Danny Gans at Steve Wynn's Encore Resort

Danny Gans, “The Man of Many Voices,” has a new show at Steve Wynn’s latest addition to his empire, the Encore. It’s a wonderful show for young and old alike. Gans is a singer, comedian, and celebrity impersonator. And he is terrific no mater what he does, whether doing Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, doing a great impression of Tom Jones, or telling jokes like Jeff Foxworthy. He has an easy rapport with an audience and they love him for it.

Danny Gans has a very impressive vocal instrument. He can impersonate the greats, like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Katherine Hepburn, and sing like Louis Armstrong, Elvis, Sammy Davis, James Taylor, and George Burns; in his show he does all of these and more. It is said that he can impersonate more than 200 people, and he varies the program nightly so you will never get the same show twice. He can improvise and switch gears when he needs to.

He is also extremely funny, and can respond with the best of them even when heckled by a friendly audience member. At one point in the evening he was ready to launch into impressions of singers from the 40s and 50s, but changed direction to please his audience. He then did lots of contemporary singers, including some newer ones many in the audience hadn’t even heard of. Once he had won them over and more or less proved he wasn't going to do the usual impersonations, the audience urged him to do whatever he wanted. By the show's conclusion Gans had them eating out of his capable hands.

Danny Gans comes across as a genuine article and not a dolled up Vegas performer, although his show is slickly professional and features a great band of seven talented musicians. You can tell that even the band loves his work and his versatility, something not often seen in shows like this. He has a way of making everything seem fresh. It is not surprising that he has been voted Best Comedian of The Year, Best Singer of The Year, and Best Show of The Year, and been named Best All-Around Entertainer eleven times. When in Vegas, take a chance on Danny Gans and you won't be disappointed; rather, you’ll be entertained and mesmerized by this impressive talent.

Danny Gans opened his new show in February 2009 and appears at the Encore indefinitely. See it!


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Movie Trivia: Beetlejuice

I love most Tim Burton movies, but I have a special fondness for Beetlejuice. It still kind of blows my mind to see the young, skinny Alec Baldwin, and I can’t quite reconcile that Beetlejuice is Michael Keaton. Mr. Mom? Jack Frost? C’mon. It’s pretty hard to argue that he’s not totally amazing in this film. It must have been a blast… which brings us to our first bit of trivia.
• Michael Keaton has said that out of all of his films, this one is his favorite.

• …Which is perhaps because he only spent two weeks filming. Even though Keaton plays the movie’s title character, Beetlejuice is only in 17.5 minutes of the whole film.

• The screenplay was originally written by Michael McDowell, who also wrote the script for an episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents . The episode, “The Jar,” was directed by Tim Burton. McDowell also went to on write for Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

• Warner Brothers really didn’t care for the original title, which happened to be Beetlejuice. They suggested House Ghosts, which Burton hated, so he retaliated with the equally horrible Scared Sheetless, just to annoy them. He was mortified when they loved it and considered using it.

• After the movie’s success - it grossed $73,707,461 in North America alone and was made for only $13 million - a sequel was considered. It was called - brace yourself - Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. The premise: the Deetzes move to Hawaii to develop a posh resort. Construction begins, and it’s quickly discovered that the hotel will be sitting on top of an ancient burial ground. Uh-huh. Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder were in, but Tim Burton was busy making Batman Returns and lost interest in the campy sequel. Thank God. I don’t think I could deal with Beetlejuice in a lei and flip-flops.

• The film won the Oscar for best makeup. It was up against Scrooged and Coming to America.

• Betelgeuse is a star in the constellation Orion - more specifically, it’s the star that represents his armpit. No coincidence, I’m sure.

• In the waiting room of the afterlife is a sign that says “No Exit” instead of “Exit.” That’s a reference to the Jean-Paul Sartre play, which is about three people stuck in a room together after they bite the big one.

• Tim Burton lobbied hard for Sylvia Sidney to play Juno the caseworker. She turned him down on multiple occasions, but finally said yes after some of the other stars (Michael Keaton in particular) confirmed. As an aside note, Sylvia Sidney’s first husband was Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’ editor. And Sidney was certainly no newbie to the horror genre - she was the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage in 1936.

• The guy who plays Otho, Glenn Shadix, can be found in some other Tim Burton productions as well. He’s the voice of the mayor in The Nightmare Before Christmas and was Senator Nado in Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake. He was also in the 1996 Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity. Photo from

• Be sure to check out all of the guests at the famous dinner party scene - Bernard, the snobby dude who is clearly unimpressed with Delia’s “sculpture,” is played by Dick Cavett.

• Beetlejuice features our first-ever look at Jack Skellington, five years before Nightmare came out. He’s on the top of Beetlejuice’s carousel hat when he comes out during the seance.

As of 2005, Michael Keaton said he was still up for a Beetlejuice sequel. A year later, however, Tim Burton, said sequel plans were all but dead. What do you think? I could handle a sequel, just not a Brady Bunch-esque Hawaiian holiday. Maybe Lydia has grown up and our favorite Ghost with the Most comes calling again? Hmm. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments.


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See No Evil

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.” -Eleanora Duse
(Inspiration from a Flickr contact)

See No Evil by kkelly2007.


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Defense Wins For Morehead State in Semifinal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It’s been said many times that defense wins championships. An odd variation of that them showed up in Friday night’s first semifinal game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, one that featured the conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on opposing squads. In the end, the squad with the latter player came out on top.
In Morehead State’s 63-55 win over UT Martin on Friday in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinal, Kenneth Faried was the story. The sophomore from Newark, New Jersey had 22 points and 17 rebounds, but the numbers don’t do his game justice, and that’s not just because on the other side, Lester Hudson had 34 points and 10 rebounds. The reality is that no one was bigger than Faried in this victory.
Early on, UT Martin had the lead, but Morehead State was able to hang in there. Once they got the lead, they would keep it there as Faried scored and used his length on defense. The Eagles rode Faried and their defense, a staple of the team all season, to a lead that would at one point reach 30-19. They wanted this game more, and Faried was at the center of it.

“Our M.O. all season long has been toughness, defending and rebounding,” said head coach Donnie Tyndall. “We led our league in defensive field goal percentage and we led our league in rebounding margin as well as being in the top five or ten in rebounding margin.”
The second half was more of the same. Faried was all over the court, hitting a jumper and tipping in a miss to help the Eagles build a 40-30 lead. When a couple of Skyhawks besides Hudson finally showed signs of life and got within 41-40, Faried got a layup to start a decisive 7-0 run in a stretch that also saw him grab two defensive rebounds. He grabbed more rebounds late as well, for good measure, to help seal the game.
“Kenneth, it seemed, went and rebounded every ball in the last six or eight minutes and was on the rim every time,” Tyndall said.
Tyndall’s opposite number had a more succinct way of describing it.
“We did not really have an answer for him tonight, unfortunately,” said UT Martin head coach Bret Campbell, who admitted he was more upset that Hudson got no help from his teammates.
Morehead State won Friday night’s game by simply wanting it more. That’s what led to the numbers in the box score that jump out, like a 40-27 edge on the boards (including 18 of their 34 misses) and just 10 turnovers while holding the Skyhawks to 37.5 percent from the field. And Faried was far from a one-man show, although he was the best player on the floor, as he had good support up front from Maze Stallworth (13 points, six rebounds) and Leon Buchanan (nine points, five rebounds, three assists).
All year long, the Eagles have won games in this way. With another such effort on Saturday, it’s possible they could punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years.


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Tokyo Five Jean Launches

Bravery, Respect, Honor, Loyalty, Wisdom-This is the code of the warrior.These are the five disciplines that we live by.The Tokyo Five signature look is a mix of Asian graphics, European detailing and vintage American nostalgia. Denim is treated with premium washes and effects, and enhanced with contemporary details for a rugged and inspired look.
The soft,weathered tees incorporate daring Japanese influnenced artwork that sets Tokyo Five apart.

Brand new for Fall'09,The Tokyo Five men's and women's collections respond to a void in the US market, bringing the sophicated edginess typical of European brands to an easy, uncomplicated style which is 100% American.


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Jade Mountain St Lucia(Photo)

What is this Jade Mountain, St Lucia that many people are googling for?
According to my sources, Jade Mountain at Anse Chastanet is a luxury resort property
of St. Lucia, rising above the private estate of Anse Chastanet with 600 lush tropical acres bordering two soft sand Caribbean beaches with pristine coral reefs, located in the southern part of the island facing both the Piti and Gros Piton mountains that floats on the Caribbean Sea. Just google the net for more info of this resort. To those who want to take a break on a busy life, this place is good for you. See some photos below.


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UFC 96 results, coverage and winners LIVE tonight!

Click the banner above or right here for up-to-the-minute results and blow-by-blow coverage of UFC 96: “Jackson vs. Jardine.”

Quick results of the prelim fights are flowing RIGHT NOW and LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of the main card action will start at 10 p.m. ET with the pay-per-view (PPV) telecast.

If you’re going to leave comments and discuss the fights with all the other readers be sure to do it on the main UFC 96 results post and not this one.


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Jodi Arias- Travis Alexander Case in 48 Hours Mystery!

Jodi Arias is a 30 year old woman who was apprehended by authorities for the killing of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. She was charged with first degree murder based on evidence from the digital camera memory card showing nude pictures of Arias on Alexander's bedroom and of the two in the shower before Alexander was killed.

Jodi Arias maintains her innocence. Jodi Arias -Travis Alexander case will be featured in 48 Hours Mystery.

I will be providing the Jodi Arias photos later with some videos.


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Kindle App Now Available for iPhone

I resisted getting an iPhone for a long time - clinging to my beloved Blackberry. But then I lost my Blackberry in a cab in SF - and thought - why not try an iPhone? It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Since day one - the number one thing I’ve used my iPhone for is to read books. I tried out several iPhone e-book readers including Stanza, Classics, and my favorite eReader. I’m not a great canidate for a Kindle because I hate the idea of having to carry around 2 separate devices. Plus, the Kindle is not backlit - and what I love most about reading books on my iPhone is being able to read in bed without a booklight.
However, while has a substantial collection of books available for purchase, it pales in comparison to the over 240,000+ books available for the Kindle.
Introducing The Best of Both Worlds
Recently Amazon released a Kindle iPhone App - so now I can enjoy the best of both worlds. The App itself still has a long way to go - but I’m excited to have access to so many books, magazines, blogs, newspapers, and more all on my primary communications device.
If you’re wondering, here are the titles that I currently have on my iPhone Kindle App:
Crucial Conversations
A Whole New Mind
Team of Rivals
Eat, Pray, Love
Change the Way You See Everything Through Asset Based Thinking
Self-Made Man

Read more: "Kindle App Now Available for iPhone —" -


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Clocks go forward in the United States for Daylight Savings Time Tonight

For the third year running, clocks go forward early with the start of Daylight Savings 2009 in the United States.

In the United States Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time Sunday March 8. You need to turn your clocks ahead one hour. Arizona, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa do not observe Daylight Savings Time.

The best bet: when going to bed Saturday night, put your clock forward then. Daylight Savings Time ends the first Sunday in November (November 1, 2009.)

The early start is due to a law that extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks beginning in 2007.


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Nasa launches telescope to scout for Earths

Nasa launched a pioneering telescope on Friday (March 6) to survey a corner of the galaxy in hopes of learning if other planets like Earth exist. The telescope, named Kepler, rode into a starry night sky aboard an unmanned Delta rocket that blasted off at 10:49 PM EST (0349 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“So far, although we’ve discovered more than 300 planets (beyond the solar system), we haven’t discovered any Earths,” said Nasa’s associate administrator for space science Ed Weiler Kepler, named for the 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler, is designed to do just that. Once in position trailing Earth around the sun, Kepler will turn its gaze onto a patch of sky between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra that is filled with more than 4 million stars. Scientists plan to scrutinize Kepler’s observations of more than 100,000 targets in hopes of catching tiny blinks of light caused by passing planets.

“Trying to detect Jupiter-size planets crossing in front of their stars is like trying to measure the effect of a mosquito flying by a car’s headlight,” said Jim Fanson, Kepler project manager. “Finding Earth-sized planets are like trying to detect a very tiny flea.” The measurements will not only be difficult to make, they will be time-consuming. A planet the size of Earth that is about as far from its parent star as Earth is will pass by Kepler’s view just once a year. Scientists say they’ll need to catch three transits to verify existence of an Earth-sized world.

Nasa hopes to follow up the $591-million Kepler mission with a new generation of powerful telescopes capable of directly imaging Earth-sized planets and analyzing their atmospheres for gases indicative of life. “I think we would be absolutely astonished if Kepler didn’t find any Earth-like planets,” said astronomer Alan Boss with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “I think we’re going to find that the number of Earths is quite large.”


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Who Watches Zack Snyder?

Content: Adults only (seriously, I thought the 35 year old woman next to me was going to puke at one point)

I suppose I have to first say I’ve read the comic (yes, I’m aware they like to be called Graphic Novels, but I think Allan Moore on some level would feel happier with Watchmen being called a comic book; I’ll get to that later), and I appreciate it, though don’t hold it in reverence like many in the generation before mine who have waited through aborted productions and 20 years of development hell ( my review of the Comic Book click here) to see the work on screen.

For those who haven’t read the comic, Watchmen is about second generation masked vigilantes who have been forced into retirement in an alternate 1985 New York. History essentially alters when Dr. Jon Osterman, as a result of a freak accident, is given God-like powers (this played a much larger role in the first screenplay made nearly 20 years ago which for all its faults tried some cool things). Aside from Osterman, none of the other vigilantes have super powers, though for some reason they punch like Mack Trucks, and have serious neurosis. The USA and USSR are on a collision course to blow themselves to bits, when the misogynistic Comedian is killed in his apartment, and the right-wing sociopath Rosarch thinks someone’s trying to get rid of the Watchmen to allow for WWIII.

That’s the skeletal structure of the story. And that’s what the film gives us rather impressively. It manages to gives its audience essentially the entire plot of the book in obsessively detailed scenes which include dozens of Easter eggs for those quick eyed viewers familiar with the book. I for one, was happy to see the Gunga Diner elephant blimp included.

Snyder definitely had the eye to make this film: it’s visually stunning theme and variation on tableau. In fact visually he gets nearly everything right; or rather as good as it could be adapted to the screen. The one visual issue I had was the updating of the costumes. They're too sleek, too cool. The costumes were silly and lame in the 1985, and they should be still today. It adds to the absurdity that people would dress up in these things.
Exhibit A:

Most reviews have used 300 as the point of entry into Zach Snyder’s labor of love adaptation of Watchmen. But the difficulty I had with the film starts with his first feature, his exciting, but misguided remake of Dawn of the Dead. The strengths of that film appear stronger here. But the weaknesses remain.

In many ways, the films are quite similar. Both start out with promising prologues, followed by the historical set up to the story set to music. Both fall apart in the final third, and while both are visually and viscerally arresting they both miss the nuances of their source material and lack characters we care about. Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s classic, is one of the few perfect American absurdist satires, a Modest Proposal for the Me Generation. A cousin sense of humor is also a very important part of Watchmen, but missing in Snyder’s version. It’s not that Snyder takes himself too seriously, in fact he does a nice job of adding in humor and self-effacing meta-jabs. But he can’t quite capture the savage, nihilistic wit which Moore surrounds his characters. Kubrick is probably the closest sense of humor film has had who might have pulled it off (Dr. Manhattan’s apartment is modeled after the last room in 2001 and the war room from Strangelove is essentially revisited).

Some of the context has been lost over time. For the Thatcher/Reagan years Watchmen was an objective corollary of right-wing ideology taken into fantastical practice: the realization of the American Dream ad nauseam. The film seems to limit this to the scenes featuring the glob of makeup that is Richard Nixon, who is far more prominent here than in the novel. He’s an easy straw man, but distracts us from the fact that in the book we get a lot more Jingoism, debauchery, and 80’s excess; capitalism gone awry where humanity is hardly valued aside from its participation in sex and/or violence. Snyder makes Rosarch more of an individual case of alienation, not so much a symptom of his world where one has to be part sociopath to survive; the entire New Frontiersman subplot exists only in a quick afterword.

What is missing the most in this film is really any emotional, human connection. In a great irony the characters we care the most about in Snyder’s watchmen, Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan and Haley’s Rosarch, are the ones we should feel the least about, or at least feel he most distanced from, and that is in large part due to the performances of those actors. Crudup is excellent in a near impossible role, both practically and story wise. His reticence in his flashback scenes are quite compelling and some of the most human parts of the film.

Jackie Earle Haley gives the best performance of his career, and one on par with Heath Ledger’s joker as the best in a comic book film. Could we have two supporting acting Oscar winners from comic book films? I didn’t really care much for Rosarch in the comic, but I sure did care for Haley’s Rosarch. He gives a stirring and emotionally powerful performance in a role where we don’t even see his face most of the time. And when we do, especially in his final scene, it’s mesmerizing. Jefferey Morgan turns in a pretty good supporting performance as The Comedian, though he isn’t given enough to add too much depth to it, then again he doesn’t overact either. Patrick Wilson is pretty great as Dan, though he plays the Clark Kent glasses a bit too cutely, and at times it does seem like he’s too young for the role.

One of the major problems is the casting of perhaps the two most pivotal characters in the story. Matthew Goode as Veidt, and Malin Ackerman as Laurie. For Goode, it’s not all his fault. Viedt is the supposedly the smartest man in the world, as well as one of the most charismatic (I didn’t recognize this as the same actor who played the very interesting con man in The Lookout), but the flaw in his character goes back to the comic itself which doesn’t establish his backstory (for obvious reasons) nearly as well as the other characters. The film doesn’t help by taking out scenes which may have helped us buy his character more. Ackerman is the weakest link in the film. Though the blame probably lies mostly with Snyder (don't get me started on women characters in his films). She seems to be portrayed far too bland and passive than Laurie could have been. That said, she labors to get her lines out, and when they do they come out flat, if not painful. Her performance isn't entirely Sofia Coppolla-esque; she actually seems interested to be on screen, but she seems way out of her league amongst the rest of the cast, pulling figurative acting muscles at time trying to keep up.

The film’s lack of humanity, or human feeling outside of Haley and Crudup, can be explained because the film excises the two most human subplots of the film: those of Rosarch’s psychiatrist, and the corner newsstand. Both appear only as homages, but in the novel they serve as our only connection to the rest of the human race. The film is quite insular, as far as humanity goes, to the point that when disaster occurs, we don’t even see any bodies; just massive destruction of buildings.

I missed these guys...

Spoilers follow:

Which is why I missed the squid. The new ending seems a bit more practical. But then again, the squid was to be, and is, absurd. It was then and is now, but it was absurd to a point; to show how much it would take to get humans to stop killing each other and completely change their worldview. Completely gone from the film is the carnage which is the haunting and silent (it feels as silent as pictures can in the novel) “punchline” of the comic, which covers a large portion of the last issue, including the deaths of the people in those excised subplots, which adds a personal face to the tragedy (to see the comic's take on it, go here). Heavily truncated is the lone and tormented figure that Veidt is shown to us at the end of the novel. That his character is not fully flushed out earlier doesn’t allow the level of personal tragedy it could have afforded us. The ending also makes Dr. Manhattan’s decision to perpetuate Veidt’s lie less compelling as he has less at stake. In the new ending, he has become the villain, not some alien or inner dimensional creature, and would benefit from getting out of the galaxy, rather than being forced to make his last difficult human decision.

Snyder surprisingly struggles when he’s given liberties; when he has the opportunity to bring to life parts of the book which were obviously motion heavy, but confined to the 2-d medium. The Veidt assassination attempt is far gorier and less exciting than the comic (I don’t recall Lee Iococa’s brain being blown away).The sex scene is ridiculous but not in the creepy way it was in the book; more in a sophomoric way (the shooting flame? Come on!). He didn’t even choose the right version of Hallelujah. The right song, perhaps, but while Cohen’s version is the historically accurate one his is the version about being an unrepentant sinner who is ultimately devoted to God. It’s Cale’s version, later Buckley’s version, which is about orgasm. The other scene which seemed poorly composed to me was the prison riot. Slow-mo action works at times, but when you have some characters moving, while other characters are static for long periods of time beyond what the slowing effect should do, it looks far too staged. During one part of that fight, Ackerman ducks after knocking a rioting prisoner over. Wilson then takes on two goons, all the while Ackerman is still ducking and no one else advancing…it feels like she and the goons had enough time to go get coffee then come back and finish the fight the way it was staged.

Why do I think Moore would prefer it to be called a Comic Book? Well, Graphic Novel was the term people gave to Watchmen to try and explain it. But Watchmen is very much in the comic book tradition, and Moore relies so heavily on it, in order to subvert it, that to take it away from that tradition and make it a new one, takes a bit of the bite and subversive nature out of it; sort of how in the last quarter century Jazz has become safe music thanks to its institutionalization, where it once was wild and dangerous. And what really is evident after seeing such a faithful visual interpretation is that a large part of the success of Watchmen was how it was a formal shock. It pushes the comic book to, and at times, past its possible limits. Something Snyder couldn’t formally do if he wanted to with this film adaptation or if he wanted to ever work again; which sort of says something sad about the film medium.

In final analysis this is a fantastic mess. It’s not as amazing or as awful a mess as Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, and maybe that explains something else. Kelly’s apocalyptic comic tale went all out. It hit some of the most incredible highs and most incredible lows of any film I've seen this decade. Watchmen isn’t necessarily safe, and anything would seem safe in comparison to Kelly’s flawed opus, but Snyder really could have tried more; taken more chances. Then again he took so many already to get the film completed in the first place, I suppose we should be content we got what we did.

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Hillary gives Russkies wrong Red Button!

What's a little humor between Doomsday players?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went for a little joke today about resetting relations with the Russians, but it turned out the joke was on her.

Clinton, presenting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift-wrapped "reset" button, called the "little gift" symbolic of what President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been saying about the U.S. and Russia.

""We want to reset our relationship," she said.

Yet something may have been lost in translation in the gift before closed-door talks in Geneva. The word on the button was meant to say "reset" in Russian.

"We worked hard to get the right Russian word," Clinton told Lavrov. "Do you think we got it?"

"You got it wrong," Lavrov replied - the word actually means "overcharge.''

"We won't let you do that to us," Clinton said, with the two laughing.

Shit, anybody can confuse перезапуск* and перезаряд. I do it all the time. Those may not be the exact words they got confused, but given the literary license I have proclaimed for myself, sort of borrowing from Bush, the 'unitary smartass' theory, they're close enough.

I'm glad Hil and the Russian gent got such a good laugh over an object that has come to symbolize nuclear holocaust. Laughter is a good thing, and if the joke was on Hil, so what? She's a good sport and we need a little levity after Bush's Russian 'policy' of 'Let's have a new Cold War! Whee!'.

I think we should get many, many copies of the button with 'overcharge' on it and give them out to Bush and the Repugs' corporate and financial cronies, from Wall Street to Blackwater and beyond. I think we should also wire the buttons, so if they push them...Poof! Then we can 'reset'.


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Catholic Church continues lurch back to Dark Ages

A nine year old in Brazil was impregnated by her step father. Her parents got her a legal abortion as Brazil law permits in cases of rape or health risks to the mother.
The Catholic Church has made a great show of excommunicating her mother and doctors, even after Brazil’s president criticized them for doing so.
The current Pope, both as Pope and before, has insured that the hierarchy only be filled with right wing, true believer zealots, like the anti-Semitic holocaust-denier bishop he just forgave. The Vatican continues its sharp, steady, inexorable move to the extreme right and irrelevance.


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Should Embryonic Stem Cells be Used for Medical Research?

On Monday 9 March 2009 President Obama will sign an executive order reversing the Bush administration's ban on the use of Federal funding for embryonic stem cells for medical research (and presumably for any medical treatments that might eventually be developed as the result of that research. This policy change has raised a storm of controversy among right-to-life- advocates, and also among "intelligent design" supporters. This controversy has centered on the ethics of science, and whether scientists should be allowed to pursue their research wherever it leads.

Currently, most embryonic stem cells are derived from human egg cells that have been fertilized in vitro (that is, outside of the body of the egg-donor mother) as part of the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) whereby childless couples can conceive of a baby using their own genetic material.

IVF clinics generally fertilize multiple donor eggs and then let them
divide by mitosis until the blastula stage is reached. During this process the inner cell mass is formed inside the blastula, from which embryonic stem cells are derived. The point to this process is not to produce the embryonic stem cells in the inner cell mass, but rather to produce viable blastulas, which can then be implanted in the uterus of the egg donor (or, in rare cases, a surrogate).

The way this process is carried out necessarily produces multiple unused blastula-stage embryos for every one that is implanted. These unused blastula-stage embryos are usually frozen in liquid nitrogen, in case the egg donor requires a repeat implantation.

Currently, there are almost half a million such blastula-stage embryos frozen in liquid nitrogen in IVF clinics in the United States, which leads to the first ethical question:
What becomes of the unused frozen embryos, and who decides?

Here is what generally happens:
Any embryos that you do not use in your first IVF attempt can be frozen for later use. This will save you money if you undergo IVF a second or third time. If you do not want your leftover embryos, you may donate them to another infertile couple, or you and your partner can ask the clinic to destroy the embryos. Both you and your partner must agree before the clinic will destroy or donate your embryos. [source]

So, should the "parents" (i.e. the egg and sperm donors) have the right to decide that their unused blastula-stage embryos be destroyed? Despite some political efforts to deny them this right, there is no legal jurisdiction in the U.S. in which this right has been abrogated (yet).

One way to solve this particular ethic dilemma is to "adopt" the frozen embryos by having them implanted in an "adoptive" mother. There is an organization that advocates this, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and has arranged for some of these frozen embryos (which the organization calls "snowflakes") to be "adopted" by being implanted in "adoptive" mothers who are members of a medically infertile married couple. Frozen blastula-stage embryos that are available for adoption are

According to data at that website, the current number of successful "snowflake adoptions" is approximately 202 since the program was started in 1997. That works out to around 17 per year, or 0.0034% of the current half-million "snowflake backlog". At that rate, all of the frozen embryos currently in cryogenic suspended animation will be "adopted" by the year 31421.

However, this is a gross underestimate of how long this backlog will persist, as it assumes that no new "snowflakes" are generated by new IVF procedures. Currently, the rate of production of new frozen blastula-stage embryos at IVF clinics in the US is approximately 18,000 per year. the current rate of "snowflake adoption is approximately 20 per year, so unless IVF is permanently stopped, it is mathematically impossible for the current "snowflake backlog" to eventually be adopted.

One way to avoid the use of embryonic stem cells taken from frozen blastula-stage human embryos is to use adult stem cells instead. There are many different tissues in adult humans that qualify as stem cells (that is, cells that can continue to divide by mitosis). Recent research has made it possible to "regress" adult stem cells almost to the embryonic stem cell stage, which raises the possibility of using adult stem cells instead of embryonic stem cells.

Personally, I strongly hope that adult stem cells can be used for all of the scientific and technical uses that most scientists originally thought only embryonic stem cells could be used for. However, this will then lead to two new, unforseen ethical dilemmas:
What will be done with the "snowflakes" that are currently frozen at IVF clinics, if they are not used for stem cell research and medical treatment?

What will be done with the adult stem cells that have been regressed to the embryonic stem cell stage, since these would then qualify genetically and developmentally as "snowflakes" themselves?

Clearly, one irony of the development of adult stem cell regression will be that the "snowflakes" now frozen in liquid nitrogen in all of those IVF labs will now almost certainly be disposed of (I suppose they defrost and incinerate them), rather than contributing to the advance of medical technology and human welfare.

The other irony, of course, is that by regressing adult stem cells to the embryonic stem cell stage, there would be many more "snowflakes", rather than fewer, thereby necessitating the destruction of many more "potential human beings" than is currently the case.

There are two other solutions, both of which avoid the ethical dilemmas outlined above. One alternative would be:
To consider that neither embryonic stem cells nor adult stem cells are "human beings" until they are implanted into a mother and are born as human babies.

This, of course, would require defining "human life" as beginning at birth, rather than "conception" (regardless of where that "conception" took place).

Another alternative would be:
To consider that all stem cells are "human beings", which would require that all stem cell research and treatment and all forms of in vitro fertilization be declared unethical, and presumably outlawed.
But this would also require that we outlaw all developmental research, because somewhere along the line some researcher somewhere might find out how to regress any human cell to the embryonic stem cell stage, and then simply scratching your head or drinking a cup of too-hot coffee would be equivalent to murder.

As always, comments, criticisms, and suggestions are warmly welcomed!

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Terrell Owens signs with the Buffalo Bills

T.O. has signed with the Buffalo Bills.

A source told Buffalo News NFL columnist Mark Gaughan that the deal is for one year and is worth $6.5 million guaranteed.

“I’m leaving America’s team (for) North America’s team,” Owens said at a hastily-called press conference Saturday night.

“I must move on, and it’s another beginning for me,” Owens said. “If I can be that extra added piece to get them to the playoffs, then that’s what I’m here for. I looked at the defensive side of ball and offensive side of the ball, and these guys have all the pieces.”

Owens, who was released earlier this week by the Dallas Cowboys, has 951 career receptions for 14,122 yards and 139 touchdowns. He has had nine 1,000-yard receiving seasons during his 13-year NFL career.

The 35-year-old, who is 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, provides the Bills with a pair of dynamic receivers, also including Lee Evans.

With a one-year deal, the Bills aren’t taking on much of a risk, but this seems like a desperate move by a muddling franchise. Why add all the drama here? Sure, they have a talented pair of wide receivers, and T.O. usually waits a year before destroying team chemistry, but does is a one-year circus worth it to a team that still needs to retool?


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