Wednesday, January 16, 2013

He's not just the new Bears coach, he's also a lawyer

Marc Trestman photo obtained from NBC5's Grizzly Detail blog.
New Bears Coach Marc Trestman is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and, according to his Wikipedia bio, a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.

It may be a good omen. Tony La Russa passed the Florida Bar in 1979, shortly after he took the helm as manager of the Chicago White Sox. He did OK, here and elsewhere.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why the exciting finishes in two of last weekend's NFL playoff games should matter greatly to Bears fans

Baltimore had somehow kept pace with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Saturday afternoon. Joe Flacco played like he was Manning's equal, and maybe just a little bit better.

Thus, as the clock wound down, Joe Flacco's connected on a 70-yard heave to Jacoby Jones, knotting the score at 35-all. Peyton Manning led the Broncos onto the field with only 31 seconds on the game clock but two timeouts.

Peyton Manning -- arguably the greatest QB of this or any generation, the field general, the miracle worker, in a charmed comeback-of-the-year, MVP season -- yes, that Peyton Manning took a knee to send the game to overtime.

Who the heck came up with that genius plan? Even if Denver had won the game, this would have been among the stupidest plans ever. If this was head coach John Fox's idea, the good people of Denver should rise up in righteous anger and demand his firing. If this was Peyton Manning's idea of sound strategy, yet another of my idols is revealed to have feet of clay.

But what if Peyton's kneel-down was the brainstorm of Denver OC Mike McCoy? He's on the Bears' interview list and among the reputed favorites. If McCoy couldn't figure out that Manning had a chance to put the Broncos in position to win that game in regulation, Mr. Emery, cross him off your list.

In the first game Sunday, a seemingly insurmountable Atlanta lead was darn near surmounted by Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. A field goal in the last minute put Seattle ahead for the first time and left the Atlanta crowd stunned.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons out onto the field with just 25 seconds left -- but got his team down the field and in position to kick a seemingly dispositive field goal (folks watching in Denver must have found this quick, efficient drive particularly painful).

Only six seconds now stood between Atlanta and the NFC Championship Game. All that Atlanta had to do was squib kick the ball -- not high and deep so as to avoid a return, but deep enough to make it unlikely that, short of a miracle, Russell Wilson would be unable to do any harm.

The kick, however, resembled more an onside kick attempt than a squib kick -- and the Atlanta celebration was put on hold.

Atlanta survived and will play this weekend. But the Falcons' special teams coordinator, the guy responsible for telling the kicker what to do after the field goal, is Keith Armstrong, another Bears head coach candidate. Did Atlanta's kicker make a physical mistake? Shouldn't he have practiced the squib kick in anticipation of just such an occasion? Surely he wasn't told to kick it that short, was he? If Mr. Armstrong doesn't have a compelling explanation, Mr. Emery, cross him off your list.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

NASA may launch unmanned Orion capsule in 2014

At least that's what NASA said in a December 13, 2012 post on its website. We still have to get through 2013 first.

Meanwhile, the rapidly graying believers in President Kennedy's promised "New Frontier" may be less than totally geeked to learn that NASA has awarded contracts to develop crew transportation systems.

It's perhaps for the best that NASA wasn't around in 1903. The Wright Brothers might have gotten some government money for their experiments at Kitty Hawk (Samuel Pierpont Langley, the secretary of the Smithsonian, got some government cheese for his unsuccessful "aerodrome" efforts), but would Orville and Wilbur ever have been able to meet NASA's certification standards?

The three lucky recipients of NASA contracts are Chicago's own Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation Space System, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX).

The SpaceX Dragon capsule docking at ISS in May 2012
At this point, only SpaceX has successfully completed an (unmanned) cargo resupply flight to the International Space Station. Dragon, the SpaceX capsule used for the cargo supply flights, will eventually be fitted out for human flight. Meanwhile, our once proud astronauts have to hitch rides to lower Earth orbit on Russia's venerable Soyouz capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA's list of planned 2013 launches shows SpaceX scheduled to make two more unmanned flights to the International Space Station (on March 1 and September 30). A competitor for the freight hauling business, Orbital Sciences Corporation, has two test flights of its Anteres launch vehicle planned this year; the second one, in April, is supposed to rendezvous with the International Space Station (but it's scheduled to burn up on the way back.

And what about the Sierra Nevada (SNC) and Boeing vehicles?

The SNC Dream Catcher is supposed to look
like this on its way to Earth orbit.
Well, they're not on the schedule for this year... but the SNC Dream Chaser is scheduled for more 'drop tests' (one was conducted this past May). Boeing's CST-100 has successfully tested its system of parachute deployment. In August, NASA reported that the Boeing vehicle had completed its first performance milestone.

John F. Kennedy's vision propelled America to do a lot in a decade. But he's gone 50 years this year; the last man left the Moon 40 years ago last month.