Posted inNews

The Great Quake of ’08 (Updated)

West Salem EarthquakeAt 4:37 AM local time last night, a 5.2 earthquake struck near West Salem, Illinois, which is approximately 150 miles away from Springfield.

According to local news reports (and my coworkers), the quake rattled houses and knocked items off shelves and bookcases, but there were no local damage or injuries.

Of course, I slept through it all.

So far, I’ve survived the Godless Tornadoes of ’06 and the Great Quake of ’08…

I think Springfield is due for a hurricane in 2010. Or maybe locusts.

More quake coverage…

5.2 earthquake one of the strongest to hit Illinois (State Journal Register)
Earthquake measuring 5.2 rattles St. Louis region (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Earthquake rattles Chicago area, Midwest (Chicago Tribune)
Earthquake rattles Indiana this morning (Indianapolis Star)
Little damage in Louisville from quake (Louisville Courier-Journal)
April 18, 2008 Midwest Earthquake (Wikipedia)

UPDATE 10:20 AM… We just felt a strong aftershock, which has been reported as magnitude 4.6. I work on the sixth floor of a building that was constructed sometime in the 1930s (I think), and our building shook noticeably for five or six seconds.

Hmm, why is it that I have the sudden urge to take the rest of the day off? ;-)

Posted inNews

I hope they’re able to redeem those feline flyer miles…

AOL and others have a story about a missing cat. What’s the big deal, you may ask? Read on…

The last time Levy’s wife, Kelly, saw Gracie was before she took her husband to the airport. The 24-year-old went back to her house in Palm Beach Gardens late Friday to find the bottom step, where Gracie would usually be waiting, empty.

She tore the house apart looking for the cat, who had been spayed just days before. She and her dad took out bathroom tiles and part of a cabinet to check a crawl space and papered the neighborhood with “lost cat” signs.

Then she got a phone call.

“Hi, you’re not going to believe this, but I am calling from Fort Worth, Texas, and I accidentally picked up your husband’s luggage. And when I opened the luggage, a cat jumped out,” Kelly Levy quoted the caller saying.

The cat had stowed away in dad’s luggage, and flew along with the rest of the baggage (after a trip through the x-ray machine) from Florida to Texas, where the bag was mistakenly claimed by someone else.

I figure that somewhere there’s an x-ray technician who going to read this story and think, “Oh, that’s what that was!” He or she should probably consider avoiding their supervisor for a few days. ;-)

(Thanks for the tip, Jenn.)

Posted inNews / Rant n' Rave

Failure of Leadership

I’ve stayed away from political issues in this blog because, frankly, politics don’t hold much interest for me. And politicians even less. I’ve worked my entire professional career (13+ years of computer consulting) in the bowels of state government, so I can say with some authority that government works as well as it does not because of our elected officials, but in spite of them.

It’s the “little people” that make the day-to-day business of government run. They work in less-than-spacious cubicles, answer their own phones, and hold meetings in conference rooms where fewer than half the chairs match each other. And they have to deal with the disruption that inevitably comes with an entirely new set of bosses every few years.

A successful political administration doesn’t let egos or agenda get in the way of the business of government. Which brings us to the point of this little rant…

Right now, the State of Illinois is one week into Fiscal Year 2008 without an official budget. That might be marginally acceptable if Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) and the state legislature were working together to reach a compromise that will allow the business of government to continue without interruption. Instead the Governor, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D), and Senate President Emil Jones (D) are all feuding about issues having less and less to do with the budget, and more to do with ego and agenda.

That is failure of leadership. And it is unacceptable.

The following items illustrate just how ridiculous this situation has become…

Governor: Rep. Madigan a Republican
Both the Governor and Madigan are democrats, BTW.

Budget stalemate descends into bickering over meeting time
The Governor accused Madigan of “unlawful” action by changing the meeting time of a purely symbolic legislative session.

Blagojevich: Madigan action “unlawful”
More details and discussion about the brewing constitutional controversy.

Capitol Fax Blog
I highly recommend listening to the audio of Rep. Lou LangÂ’s (R) House floor speech, included in the 5:27 pm update. Volatile stuff.

Constitutional controversy in Ill. House of Representatives
Some Republicans used the word “impeachment” for the first time openly on the House floor.
Given everything above, this one pretty much speaks for itself.

And one more, because the State of Illinois does not hold a monopoly right now on bad politics…

A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease
President George W. Bush, grasping for answers to his abysmal popularity, remains resolute and fixated on Iraq.

Our political “leaders” need to remember that they were hired to fill a temporary public service position. They need to worry less about keeping their jobs, and concentrate more on doing their jobs.

THE SMALL PRINT: For the record, these opinions are mine and mine alone. I don’t speak in any capacity, official or otherwise, for anyone but myself.

Posted inNews

Oh! My! Gawd!

According to a widely published AP article, an 11-year-old Alabama boy used a pistol to kill a wild hog his father says weighed a staggering 1,051 pounds and measured 9-feet-4 from the tip of its snout to the base of its tail.

Monster Pig

I’m really not sure whether to be impressed or disgusted. Both, I guess.

Posted inMusic / News / On The Web / WTF?

S.O.S. – Save Our Streams!

SaveTheStreams banner 1 Pandora is a very interesting service… It is an online music site that asks about your favorite artists and dynamically constructs a custom radio station just for you. In addition to songs from the artists you selected, the site will analyze your choices and deliver tunes from different artists that (hopefully) also fit your taste. You can further guide the playlist by clicking thumbs up or thumbs down for songs you feel strongly about. If you’re an impulse shopper, links are available to iTunes and Amazon to buy the current song or album then and there. Nice.

Unfortunately, Pandora and other online radio stations like it might not be available for our listening (and shopping) pleasure very much longer. The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has recently released a revised fee schedule for internet radio. For most Webcasters, this new royalty rate represents more than 100% of their total revenues. Left unchanged, these rates will force most independent internet radio sites to shut down. The RIAA has effectively convinced this federal committee to establish rates that make online radio a non-viable business.

A site called has been created to provide information on this issue and what we might be able to do to reverse this decision. An online petition is available, as well as links to snail and e-mail addresses for your local representatives in Congress.

Maybe together we can prevent big business from limiting our soundscape.

Posted inNews

Pillow Talk

Pillow Fight NYC

A site called Newmindspace organized Pillow Fight NYC this past Saturday, February 24th. Hundreds of people met at Union Square in New York City for the express purpose of participating in a giant pillow fight.

Pillow Fight Springfield anyone? ;-)

Posted inNews

Hail to the Chief

Chief IlliniwekWell, it was inevitable. And now it’s official…

Chief Illiniwek will perform for the final time at the last men’s home basketball game of the season on February 21st against Michigan. (If anyone cares to donate tickets, lemme know. ;-))

I have mixed feelings about this issue… As a U of I alum, it was always a thrill to watch Chief perform at half-time, and then join thousands of other fans in singing the Illinois Alma Mater “Hail to the Orange”. On the other hand, the tide has been turning against Chief for the past few years, culminating in the recent demand from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Nation to return Chief Illiniwek’s regalia originally provided to the University 23 years ago.

Opponents of the Chief are celebrating this announcement as a victory over racism on campus. I don’t know if those people are just spinning the issue as much as possible for their own political gain, or if they’re actually naive enough (bordering on stupid) to believe that the absence of the Chief will make each and every racist asshole at U of I change the way he thinks.

Racism has been at the heart of this controversy for the past twenty years. However I believe the decision made by the U of I Board of Trustees had absolutely nothing to do with race or intolerance. The Trustees caved on this issue for one primary reason… Money.

The NCAA ban on schools using what they call “hostile and abusive American Indian nicknames” is preventing Illinois from hosting post-season tournament games. So far, this ban has only affected non-revenue sports like tennis and soccer. However, a disappointing basketball season will almost certainly result in Illinois being passed over for March Madness and instead accept an NIT bid instead. In the NIT, schools host their own home games, so the University would stand to lose a huge amount of money if those games were forced to be played elsewhere. It’s a simple issue of economics, not a leap forward in race relations. That’s unfortunate (pardon the pun), because the chance was there to do so much better.

Chief Illiniwek - Photo Credit Adam Nekola DailyIllini.comI don’t understand why compromise never seemed to be a viable option. If the portrayal of Chief’s dance was inaccurate, let’s change it and make it right. If the costume or headdress is not what Illinois-area tribes would’ve worn, let’s do our best to make it authentic. This could’ve been an opportunity to work together to resolve a volatile situation. Instead, it just shows that political correctness is a function of who controls the money.

And eventually, when all this controversy is a footnote in the history books, no one will have cause to remember the Illiniwek indians at all.

Now that’s shameful.

Posted inNews

Got Milk?

According to this article on Ars Technica, recent measurements by an X-ray observatory from the European Space Agency has revealed that the universe contains nearly one and a half times more calcium than predicted.

To my old college roommates who might be read this and think to blame me, I proclaim my innocence… I don’t drink nearly as much milk as I used to way back when. :-P

Posted inNews

The Sky is Falling! (Part 2)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any juicy updates to yesterday’s meteorites story. (No tri-pods yet.) However, a New York Times Web article titled “Orbiting Junk, Once a Nuisance, Is Now a Threat” caught my eye. The article explains and illustrates what a huge problem the man-made space junk littering space around our planet has become.

During an eight year period ending in 2002, the solar panels on the Hubble Telescope were struck by space debris at least 725,000 times. Five thousand of these left craters and holes large enough to be seen by the naked eye.

In addition, experts believe that a piece of orbital debris might one day create a large enough collision capable of starting a chain reaction, “a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens.” Apparently, China recently tested an antisatellite rocket that shattered an old satellite into hundreds of large individual fragments that could trigger this chain reaction sooner than later.

If nothing is done, a kind of orbital crisis might ensue that is known as the Kessler Syndrome, after Mr. Kessler. A staple of science fiction, it holds that the space around Earth becomes so riddled with junk that launchings are almost impossible. Vehicles that entered space would quickly be destroyed.

On the bright side, if the Kessler Syndrome does come to pass, we won’t have to worry about those pesky Martians and their tri-pods coming down to attack us any longer. Right?

Posted inNews

The Sky is Falling!

Last night at approximately 8:30 central time, streaks of flaming objects were seen illuminating the skies throughout the Midwest. (No, this is not about the Bears’ Super Bowl flame-out. ;-))

The State Journal-Register, my local newspaper, reports the official word from NORAD…

A preliminary report from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which watches for airborne threats to the U.S. and Canada, also indicated the lights Sunday evening were from a meteor, spokeswoman Maj. April Cunningham said.

Of course, this is exactly how “War of the Worlds”, “The Blob”, and every other space-based monster movie ever started out, right?

In addition to this astral activity, a seismic event was reported yesterday afternoon in Menard County, northwest of Springfield. Supposedly, the ground shook for just a second or two as if there was a large explosion in the area. Yikes!

Clearly the Tri-Pods are on their way… I’ll let you know when I see the first one wreaking havoc and destruction throughout downtown Springfield. ;-)

And in case you still believe the “official” news sources for this story, here are a couple…