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Florida, United States
Bred, raised, educated and life long Floridian, and proud of it. E-mail at one(dot)legged(dot)old(dot)fat(dot)man(at)gmail(dot)com

Saturday, February 19, 2011

President's Day: What's open and closed?

* The US Postal Service offices will be closed Monday.

* Alachua County Library District headquarters and district branches will be open Monday.
*Banks and credit unions will be closed Monday.

* Trash collection will be in service Monday. The Hazardous Waste Center at the Leveda Brown Environmental Park will also be open Monday.

* The Alachua County Courthouse, State Attorney's Office and Property Appraiser's Office will be open Monday.

* The Tax Collector's Office and Supervisor of Elections Office will be closed Monday.

* All city and county offices will be open Monday.

* RTS bus service will run Monday. ADA para-transit services, including transportation for dialysis appointments, will run Monday.

* The University of Florida and Santa Fe College will be open Monday. Alachua County schools will be closed Monday. Classes will resume Tuesday.

Locations of the GLXP’s 29 teams. Dark green shows where teams are headquartered, and light green shows countries where team members are from. 

When a couple dozen companies sign contracts containing the words “moon” and “landing,” it’s a good indication that private lunar exploration is heating up.

The X Prize Foundation on Thursday announced that 29 teams had signed contracts making them the official Google Lunar X Prize competitors, contending for more than $30 million in prizes. The competitors, headquartered in 17 different countries, have been crafting promising business plans and rolling out prototypes. One team, Astrobotic Technology, has even arranged its rocket ride to the moon already.

We could be intimidated by that development, but it’s good for everyone who’s serious about going to the moon,” said Michael Joyce, president of team Next Giant Leap. “It shows this industry has moved beyond being an idea, that it is really going to happen.”

To claim the first-place prize of $20 million before 2015 (it drops to $5 million after that), a team must land a robot on the moon, move it at least 500 meters and beam back high-definition imagery. Additional $2 million bonuses are available for robots that can survive one bitterly cold two-week lunar night or travel 5 kilometers, among other challenges.

Google and the X Prize Foundation jointly announced the competition in September 2007, but the duo has worked with dozens of teams for years to finalize fair rules that foster progress instead of stunts.

We want to encourage a financially sustainable era of lunar exploration. The Apollo program and Soviet programs were fantastically inspiring, but they stopped just as they really started to scratch the surface,” said planetary scientist William Pomerantz, a senior director at the X Prize Foundation. “Flags and footprints aren’t sustainable. We want the teams to trigger business much larger in value than our prize.”

ost of that value may rest in raw, untapped resources. Recent moon-surveying missions have revealed methane, ammonia andwater — useful ingredients for moon bases and rockets — arehiding on the surface.  A rare isotope of helium may also be abundant, and it could fuel pollution-free (although still-theoretical) fusion reactors.

Lunar science could also get a boost from more frequent visits, as multibillion-dollar moon missions launched every decade or so by the government are too infrequent and too risky to encourage much growth in the field.

Doctoral students who want to do lunar science shouldn’t have to gamble their Ph.D.s on one launch,” Pomerantz said. “If lunar shots can go every six months or so, we’ll see a much higher volume of scientific results as well as scientists.”

To find out who is leading the race to seed such developments, technology security consultant Michael Doornbos has spent years interviewing the competitors and tracking their progress. The result of his work is a scorecard that ranks teams based on criteria such as funding, industry connections and progress.

No one had any way to tell where we were at in the competition, making it almost impossible to be a fan or, especially, a super fan like me. So I decided to make a visual representation,” Doornbos said. “I’m not a space industry expert, but I do talk to them to keep it updated. And a lot of people tell me they see great value in it because I’m an outsider.”

Four teams now lead Doornbos’ scorecard: Astrobotic Technology at the front, followed by Next Giant Leap, then Rocket City Space Pioneers and Part-Time Scientists tied for third place.

David Gump, president of Astrobotic, said the scorecard is helpful, but that it may be impossible to know who is actually out in front.

Many teams are playing their hands very close to the vest,” Gump told Wired.com. “They’re not saying much.”

Whoever is leading the competition, there’s a slim chance it may not matter. Organizers of the prize aren’t happy about the prospect — they may lose rights to video and images from the first privatized lunar landing — but they may get their wish of a burgeoning moon-based industry without awarding a dollar.

Over the years, teams have made business plans with revenues projected to exceed the prize’s one-team maximum of $24 million after just one successful launch. And as the start-up lunar businesses work multimillion-dollar deals with third parties, concerns about GLXP’s contractual language have cropped up.

One clause that ruffled teams’ feathers states that GLXP will get intellectual property rights related to multimedia. Pomerantz explained it’s there to allow his organization to document and share the story of the competition with the world for free.

We’re an educational non-profit organization. We’re here to inspire the next generation, and it’s why we’re supported by our donors and sponsors,” Pomerantz said. “On the same token, we’re not here to interfere with anyone’s ability to do business. We want to be the initial push that gets the teams over that first bump.”

Still, some teams are working big deals with cable TV providers to license content to their networks.

They have 3-D channels on their systems, and they need something to fill them,” Gump said. “A documentary about a 3-D-seeing lunar robot would work quite well.”

Given the prestige — and cash — to be bestowed upon the winner, Pomerantz said it’s an unlikely hypothetical that anyone will withdraw, especially because such wrinkles have been ironed out, he said. If a team wants to withdraw from the competition, however, it can rip up the GLXP contract as late as 6 months before a moonshot.

Still, propulsion engineer Tim Pickens, who leads the Rocket City Space Pioneers team, says the prize isn’t the greatest of his concerns.

If you need the prize to make your team’s business work, you’re hosed,” said Pickens, who helped build SpaceShipOne and win the Ansari X PRIZE in 2004 — a win that spawned Virgin Galactic and a nearly $1 billion private industry in suborbital flights.

The prize money is an awesome consolation and a great way to recoup development costs, but it isn’t going to cover your mission costs,” Pickens said. “There are much, much less risky ways to make money. For the value of the prize versus the risk, you might as well be doing something else.”
By Alexandra Hamilton
Correspondent, Gainesville Sun

When most people think of a scientist, a bright-eyed 17-year-old who is president of the Writer's Club at her high school and has hobbies such as photography and literature probably isn't the first image that comes to mind.

But Bhiravi Rathinasabapathi, a senior in Eastside High School's International Baccalaureate program, is in fact a young scientist with a multitude of interests, and she's recently gained some credentials to prove it.

Rathinasabapathi was named one of 300 semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, a national competition sponsored by the Intel Corporation since 1998 that encourages high school students to pursue independent research in science, math, engineering and medicine. The Society for Science and the Public has coordinated the competition since 1942, and Intel recently agreed to continue its support through 2016.

"We believe that fostering math and science is imperative for America's future success," said Gail Dundas, a spokeswoman for Intel. "We are a company based on innovation, and we believe that math and science is a basis for that innovation."

Rathinasabapathi was selected based on a research project she's been conducting that involves finding ways to fortify food crops with iron to boost their nutritional value. Rathinasabapathi said she became interested in the topic when she noticed during her visits to India, where her family is from, that people living there had difficulty accessing nutritious foods.

"I was looking for something that I could do that was related to nutrition, and this was a good opportunity," Rathinasabapathi said.

She said her interests in plant biology and plant genetics stems from the enthusiasm for the fields shown by her father, Dr. Bala Rathinasabapathi, an associate professor in the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida.

Rathinasabapathi has been involved in science fair competitions since the fourth grade and became interested in entering the Talent Search while researching science competitions online.

In addition to the Writer's Club, Rathinasabapathi is involved in a club she started at Eastside called Room to Read, which works to provide books for libraries serving underprivileged children in developing countries. She is not sure which college she will attend after high school, but she wants to work primarily in the fields of biology and technology in the future, she said.

Eastside Principal Jeff Charbonnet said he was thrilled — but not surprised — when he heard Rathinasabapathi was a semifinalist.

"We are surrounded by lots of talented students," Charbonnet said. "We have the best and the brightest."

Rathinasabapathi will receive a $1,000 award, and Eastside will also receive $1,000 to support its science, math and engineering programs.

Ten students from Florida were named Intel semifinalists this year out of nearly 1,800 entrants representing 500 high schools across the country. Though Rathinasabapathi was not selected as a finalist, two students from Florida were of the 40 chosen. They will compete for the top award and $100,000 during the final judging process, to be held in Washington, D.C., in March.
If you’re new to the United States, or to the internet, or to Earth, you might be surprised at the way some people act. From all-caps posts on web message boards to pickup trucks parked across two spaces, you’ll see people behaving as if they belong to some anointed class of people who are allowed to do whatever they want with no concern for the comfort or convenience of others.

You’ll be relieved to know that in the United States, at least, they do in fact belong to such a class. We call these people the Nimby family.

You see, back in 1850, a man named Eustace Nimby saved President Zachary Taylor’s daughter from a mountain lion, then saved the mountain lion from a rattlesnake. (The mountain lion was also the president’s.)

In honor of this man’s brave meddling, Taylor declared that from then on, Nimby and his family and all their descendants would be given “free license to act in whatsoever manner is best pleasing to them, even unto the point of great vexation among those in attendance upon their acts.”

Well, as it turns out, Nimby was a pretty fecund dude. Even at the moment of presidential daughter-saving, he had three kids by each of six sequential marriages, and seven of his children had children of their own. One in particular, John Nimby, was out in California spreading his seed with such vigor that he acquired the nickname “Johnny Johnnyseed.” With Nimbys on both coasts of the United States — and quite a few in between where John had taken rest stops — America suddenly had a new class of effective nobility.
At first, America embraced the Nimby family, celebrating them with songs like “O! Those Nimbys, or, The Finest of Us All.” 

It soon became apparent, however, that the Nimbys intended to take constant advantage of their new status, and citizens throughout the nation were inconvenienced by such heretofore-unknown sights as double-parked horses and loudly shouted, ill-considered opinions in the town commons. But by then, President Taylor was dead, having nobly sacrificed himself to protect the country from a deadly bowl of cherries and milk, and America was unwilling to defy his last coherent proclamation.

Over the next 150 years, the Nimbys continued their reign of nuisance. In 1902, Greer Nimby sat in a movie theater and talked through all 44 seconds of The Mischievous Boys and the Washerwoman. In 1968, David Alan Nimby declared that he wasn’t going to learn the metric system because femto-“sounds girly.” And in 1994, Livia Charles (neé Nimby) decided to unload 200 pallets of expired kelp pills by advertising them as a “penis-enlargement treatment,” and she turned to the internet to spread the word.

Which brings us to today. Nimby descendants are everywhere, in all classes of society. If you see some guy taking up two seats at the front of the bus while a pregnant woman with a cast on her leg stands next to an 83-year-old retired soldier in full dress uniform, well, you’re looking at a Nimby. You might expect that someone would be annoyed enough to speak up, but the fact is that we cherish our traditions, and if that means that Reg Nimby’s Yoda backpack gets its own seat, then we accept it.

The internet has become a Nimby playground. While gainfully employed Nimbys are designing labyrinthine Flash interfaces for every website that will let them, the Nimbys with more free time are going through YouTube and commenting on every video they come across, sometimes without even watching them. While most of us enjoyed Chuck Norris Facts the first two or three or 16 times we heard them, Nimbys will be reciting them for decades to come.
So the next time someone sends you a message on Twitter suggesting ways to get a free iPad, or begs you to join his Facebook group “I Beg People to Join Facebook Groups,” or just sends you a big ol’ angry e-mail interpreting something you posted on the web as supporting racist-terrorist-incest rights, remember that you’re partaking in a grand tradition.
Just smile and block that Nimby from ever communicating with you again.

Freedom Ride from Alachua County on Vimeo.

"The people don't like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win battles and the free men who win wars. You will find that is so, sir."
Mostly sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy. Areas of fog early in the morning. Highs in the upper 70s. North winds 5 to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy. Patchy dense fog after midnight. Lows in the lower 50s. East winds 5 mph.

Hazardous Weather
Areas of fog are expected both Saturday and Sunday mornings and may be locally dense in a few spots.

Forecast Details
Water vapor imagery was showing a broad ridge across the Gulf Coast. Surface analysis was showing a cold front across far north Georgia and a broad ridge covering the Gulf Coast into Florida. Observation and fog imagery was indicating mostly clear skies over the area due to west winds and large temperature/dew point spreads. However as boundary layer cools there may be areas of fog that will form with best chances across the western half of the forecast area. However, no widespread fog is expected at this time.

The front to the north will sweep through the area as a dry backdoor front this afternoon and wash out just south of the area tonight and Sunday. High pressure will quickly build in from the middle Atlantic region bringing a wind shift to the northeast at the coast with cooler temperatures there both this afternoon and Sunday. Mild temperatures still expected inland. Areas of fog are expected tonight with patchy dense fog possible across the far south near the washed out front.

Today's Pollen Levels: 7.7 High Medium(on a scale to 12); Predominate Pollen: Juniper,Alder and Oak.

For additional information visit the National Weather Service in Jacksonville website on the internet at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/

Friday, February 18, 2011

Alachua native and Florida Book award-winner Sudye Cauthen will be presenting her book, "The Salvation of Maggie Rider: Stories from Nokofta," this Sunday, February 20 at the Alachua Branch Library.

The event is set for 2 pm. and also will feature Lloyd Baldwin's Old Time Tunes.
Cauthen, who last performed to a full house at the library when she visited, will be giving selected readings from her new book, as well as from "Southern Comforts" and her next book, "Voices from the Place of Our Remembrance."

The event is sponsored by the North Florida Center for Documentary Studies.

For more information, visit:
After more than two years of planning, Newberry's city staff will honor what looks to be the world's largest baseball park when it's built.

On Friday, Februar. 25, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the intersection of US 27 and Southwest 30th Avenue with free food and speeches by state, county and local officials. The public is invited to attend this free event, which begins at 2 pm.

Although construction won't begin until April after the city accepts bids from contractors, the ceremony is intended to symbolize that the park's construction has been approved. The mayor will be given a golden spade to dig up the first soil at the site.

The park should open in October.

City Manager Keith Ashby will moderate the event.
 Local author Nick West, whose most recent novel is about life just prior to the Civil War, will speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22 for the Alachua Historical Society.

The speech will be given at the Alachua Lions Club, across from Alachua City Hall.
The speech is free and open to the public.

West's novel is called "The Great Southern Circus" and focuses on the early summer of 1859, when an Alabama farm boy named James Johnston had no idea that his life was about to change forever.

The clouds of civil war were gathering when he met Miranda "Randi" Madderra, a beautiful young bareback rider with a small traveling circus.

West was born and grew up near Gainesville. A veteran of the United States Navy and longtime owner of a family landscape business, he now lives on his family's farm near Archer with his wife Kay.

When he was a small boy, his grandmother, Verna Simmons Goode, would regale him with stories of her great grandmother, Miranda Madderra, and her adventures with the Great Southern Circus.

These stories handed down through family history were simply too good not to pass on through written word, he said.
A Gospel sing will be held this Saturday, Feb. 19 at St. Johns Methodist Church.

The sing is set for 6 pm, and a covered dish dinner will be held afterward. The church is located on County Road 239 in Alachua.

For more information, call 352-316-3059.
A fish fry will be held this Saturday, Feb. 19 at Newberry United Methodist Church, located at 24845 W. Newberry Road.

The dinner is set from 4 pm to 7 pm, and the cost is $8 per person.

The meal includes tilapia fish, hush puppies, baked beans, cheese grits, slaw, a beverage and a dessert.
A banquet that celebrates African American history, features people in African attire and has entertainment performed by area youth is set for this Saturday, February 19.

Called the "Celebration of African American History 365 Days a Year Banquet," the event is sponsored by the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Open to the public, the event will be held at 6 p.m. at the St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church Christian Center in High Springs.

The cost is a donation of $10 for adults and children. Local pastors and their spouses will be admitted free.

For more information, call Mildred Brown at 386-454-1110.
Kat Bein, Alligator Staff Writer

While some students choose are spending their Spring Break soaking in the debauchery of sun-kissed tourist destinations, David Ames is asking Gainesville residents to spend their break making a difference in the world.

Ames is the founder of humanitarian group From Gainesville With Love, which partners with Jacmel, Haiti, to revitalize its population since the 2010 earthquake.

Before founding the group, Ames worked in the admissions and marketing department of the Florida School of Massage. He has since given up that job to organize FGWL’s efforts full-time.

He graduated from UF with a psychology degree and combines those skills with his background in marketing to reach out and recruit potential volunteers. It’s his job to help them discover how their skills and interests can help the people of Jacmel in a fulfilling way.

We don’t like telling people what to do,” he said. “We like asking people how they want to help and being able to help them find an opportunity.”

Ames became involved with Haiti after last year’s earthquake. After hosting an aid benefit at the Florida School of Massage, he and his colleagues were left with about $3,000, and they were wondering what they could do with it.

Ames decided it would be best to spend it on the Haitian people directly. A completely volunteer-based organization, FGWL has successfully organized four trips to Jacmel and have helped build partnerships between local churches, businesses and artists with they’re counterparts in the Caribbean.

We’re not an aid organization,” he said. “We believe that relationships in the real world are a two-way street and to get out of that trap of fostering long term dependencies … there’s got to be a two-way street.”

They’ll make their fifth trip March 5 to March 13. During their visit, volunteers will help build homes for the displaced and host medical clinics, educational workshops and community events.

The trip costs $360, which includes hotel accommodations and food expenses as well as excursions to beautiful Haitian landmarks.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the trip, lending a hand or seeking future internship opportunities with the group can learn more by visiting fromgainesvillewithlove.org or looking up FGWL on Facebook. Ames can frequently be found tabling for the group on the Reitz Union colonnade.

Watching everything fall into place … it’s kind of a dream come true,” he said.