Friday, January 29, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" published in 1845

One of Edgar Allan Poe's best known poems, "The Raven" was published January 29, 1845 in the New York Evening Mirror.  It tells a story of a young man, mourning the loss of his love Lenore, receiving a visit from a raven on a lonely December night.  The raven watches the young man's descent into madness.  When published, it made Poe a house-hold name but did not bring him much monetary success.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mars Rover Opportunity still going strong after 12 years

The Mars rover "Opportunity" just celebrated its twelfth anniversary on the Red Planet, landing (or bouncing, really) on January 24, 2004.  NASA had planned three months for Opportunity, but keeping the rover's solar panels facing the sun and conducting "dust-clearing events" have allowed NASA to extend the go-getter's mission 48 times longer (currently). 

Winter solstice has passed so more sunshine will be available for Opportunity.  Since 2011, it has been investigating a 14-mile wide crater called Endeavor.  Researchers are using Opportunity's rock abrasion tool to scrape the crust off the surface of a rock.  Then, instruments in the rover's arm can determine the composition. 

Space Shuttle Challenger explodes after launch 1986

We all remember where we were when we heard the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded shortly after lift-off, January 28, 1986.  I was attending North Texas State University (now University of North Texas), getting my Master's degree in Chemistry.  I was speaking with a co-worker, his wife and a potential lab partner when our major professor's wife came in with the news.

An O-ring on a solid rocket booster (SRB) failed, pressurized burning gas from within  to reach the  adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank, causing the explosion 73 seconds after launch. 

The disaster led to NASA halting the space shuttle program for almost 3 years.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Apollo 1 disaster in 1967

Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died during a test when a fire swept through the capsule. They died of cardiac arrest brought on by high levels of carbon monoxide.

The review board charged with investigating the accident identified five major factors which combined to cause the fire and the astronauts' deaths:
  • An ignition source most probably related to exposed electrical wiring and leak-prone plumbing
  • Pure oxygen atmosphere at high pressure
  • Flammable materials in the cabin
  • A hatch cover which could not be quickly removed at high pressure
  • Inadequate emergency preparedness
The Apollo program was grounded for a while until significant  changes to the design of the capsule could be conducted.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy birthday, Billy Bones!

Happy birthday to "Black Sails" Tom Hopper, born in 1985, who plays Billy Bones.  It should be against the law to be this mother***ing hot! "Black Sails" has its share of flaws and is sometimes downright silly, but there are worse ways of spending an hour than watching Tom Hopper and Toby Stephens in hyper-masculine roles.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Voyager 2 visits Uranus 30 years ago

Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Uranus, January 24, 1986, being the first and only time this planet has been visited, by us, at least.  The spacecraft made a number of surprising discoveries.  For example, Uranus is the coldest planet despite not being the farthest from the sun, because it has no internal heat source.  Neptune radiates over 2.5 more energy into space than Uranus does from the energy received from the sun.

It was already known that Uranus rotates on its side and the northern hemisphere is always in the sun, while the southern perpetually in the dark.

Voyager 2 discovered more moons and the count is 27 now. 





Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pluto photographed for the first time 1930

Clyde Tombaugh took photographs of Pluto on January 23, 1930 from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. It would be a few weeks before he realized that he had discovered another planet.  From 1930 to 2006, our solar system had nine planets, until Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet.  The New Horizons spacecraft flew by the (dwarf) planet in July 2015, sending back googols of data. 

Pluto has five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx.  But it is smaller than 7 moons of other planets: Ganymede, Titan, Callisto, Io, Europa, Triton and our moon.

Clyde Tombaugh was 24 when he discovered Pluto.

Happy birthday, Anita Pointer!

One of my muses.  Still beautiful!

Happy birthday to one of my favorite women!  Anita Marie Pointer was born January 23, 1948 in Oakland, California.  With her sisters June and Ruth, she rocked the charts from the 70's to the 90's.  I remember watching them perform several times on the "Carol Burnett Show" and my dad saying they were sacrilegious.  I think they're angels! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The solar system has nine planets (again)

Artist's depiction of Planet Nine

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology claim they have evidence that a ninth planet, about 10 times the mass of Earth, orbits the sun about 20 times further than Neptune.   So far, they haven't actually seen the planet, possibly because it is so far from the sun, it doesn't reflect enough light to be seen by the most powerful telescopes.

They made their conclusions by observing certain objects in the Kuiper Belt, and calculating that only a huge planet could affect the orbits of smaller bodies. 

So far, it has been given the mundane, unimaginative nickname "Planet Nine".

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Def Leppard releases "Pyromania" in 1983

Def Leppard released their third studio album, "Pyromania" January 20, 1983, one of my most favorite albums of all time.  It was the first to feature Phil Collen on guitar.  It reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 18 on the UK Albums chart.  It sold over ten million copies in the US, and was certified diamond by Recording Industry Association of America.  "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph" both reached #1 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.

Happy birthday, Buzz Aldrin!

Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., born this day in 1930, was the second man to walk on the moon, after Neil Armstrong July 21, 1969.  In recent years, he's appeared on "The Big Bang Theory" and has been a proponent of a manned mission to Mars.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe born in 1809

One of the most famous horror/mystery writers, Edgar Allan Poe, was born January 19, 1809.  Known for such classics as "The Raven", "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Pit and the Pendulum", he struggled with money issues and alcohol for much of his life.  Although he has received praise, he has also been criticized for some of his works: "too political" and "falls into vulgarity". 

However his works have made him known as the Father of the modern detective story.  The Edgar Award is an award presented by the Mystery Writers of America for work in the mystery genre.

Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, October 7, 1849 in Baltimore.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Remembering Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of the Eagles, passed away today from complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.  He wrote and sang some of the band's biggest hits such as “Heartache Tonight,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Take It Easy.”

My all-time favorite is "Take It Easy" but "Lyin' Eyes" is also one of the best.

It's about time! Deadly accident sounds alarm for safety in Chinese labs

When I started my master's degree work in chemistry at (then) North Texas State University in the mid 1980's, we had to complete a safety training class complete with quiz before we could start work in the laboratories.  I had been a little remiss in completing mine when a post-doctoral student from China started a sodium metal fire and decided the best course of action would be to throw everything into the sink.

With water in it.

Naturally, fire alarms went off and the building was evacuated.  My professor then ordered me to complete the training.  Shortly after that incident, another Chinese national started another sodium fire and tried to put it with his hands.  Strangely enough, he still has all his fingers.

These are lessons American students have learned since high school.  Why didn't the Chinese know this after completing their PhDs?

The article in Chemistry World cites accidents that have happened recently.  What has happened between 1986 and 2016? 

Absolutely nothing.

The article states that Chinese professors often cannot purchase safety equipment and researchers are reluctant to wear gloves or eye protection in the laboratory.  All the safety equipment in the world won't help you if you don't use it.  Here, the emphasis on safety training would go a long way to protect Chinese students. 

And make the rules stick.

As in many labs in the U.S., you don't wear your eye protection, you don't work. Period.

Deadly accident sounds alarm for safety in Chinese labs | Chemistry World

A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, born in 1882

Alan Alexander Milne, born January 18, 1882, was a prolific playwright but is most famous for his creation, Winnie the Pooh, based on a stuffed bear his son Christopher Robin owned.  Besides children's stories and plays, he wrote poetry, non-fiction and even a mystery "The Red House Mystery" which I reviewed back in October.

"The Six Million Dollar Man" premieres in 1974

In a sort of "thinking outside the box" type super-hero, "The Six Million Dollar Man" aired January 18, 1974.  It gave rise to "The Bionic Woman", "The Bionic Boy", "The Bionic Dog", etc.  During its run, I heard many critics pan Lee Majors' acting abilities and lack thereof, but Majors did get a Golden Globe nomination in 1977 for Best Male Lead in a Drama. 

This is the only clip I could find from the first episode.  It doesn't have the signature electronic noises for when Austin is using his bionics, but still a good climax scene.  It was remade two years later in "Deadly Missiles" when Jamie Sommers pulls a metal post and its concrete base out of the ground to use as a javelin to destroy a microwave jamming device. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

"The Book of Eli" released in 2010

This film is one of my guilty pleasures and I can think of a lot of worse things to do than watch Denzel Washington for a couple of hours.  I like the post-apocalyptic theme in movies and books, even though they're always depressing.  "The Book of Eli" did have some sort of hope for the future of mankind.

In this scene, Professor Dumbledore and Madame Olympe Maxime help Eli battle Sirius Black and his group of thugs.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Remembering Alan Rickman (1946-2016)

Like most Americans, my first exposure to Alan Rickman was in "Die Hard" where he played the nasty-bad villain against Bruce Willis' hero. Then, we saw him all through the Harry Potter series, playing the nasty-bad Professor Severus Snape.  But he made us laugh in "GalaxyQuest".  While searching through his repertoire, I found this clip from "Rasputin" where he plays the title role. 

In it, he has a confrontation with a young James Frain (the nasty-bad mayor in "Gotham"), two meanies going up against each other.  Wonderful!  I must find this movie.

Oklahomans can vote to improve education!

Oliver Hodge Building, offices of the Oklahoma Department of Education

Doc Hoc, author of the Okie Funk blog, reported yesterday that the Oklahoma Supreme Court voted  6-3 that Okies can actually vote to determine if they want to raise the state sales tax by one penny to "prevent the complete and utter devastation of our public schools". 

The movement to place a one cent sales tax increase exclusively to education is opposed by an organization sponsored by the right wing Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), who went to court to stop it.

Doc Hoc completely shoots down the flimsy basis of their opposition.  But why would the OCPA want to defund education?  Are they afraid of someone becoming more educated and ousting them?  We should be so lucky.  Education in Oklahoma ranks at the bottom in several categories compared to the rest of the country.

No wonder teachers are dissatisfied with low salaries and seek employment elsewhere, i.e. Texas. 

Read Doc Hoc's article here:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy birthday, Carol Cleveland, the female Monty Python!

Carol Cleveland, the beautiful buxom blond who often appeared as a real girl on Monty Python's Flying Circus, was born January 13, 1942.  She seemed to be just as crazy as they were.  I especially liked her as Zoot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or her twin sister.  Whichever.  Her biography on doesn't contain much information except she was born in England, went to school in Texas and California before returning to England in 1960 to start acting.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy birthday, Pat Benatar!

Pat Benatar, still beautiful!

Patricia Mae Andrzejewski, better known as Pat Benatar, one of the goddesses of rock, was born January 10, 1953.  My most favorite album is "Get Nervous".  Here's the video "Little Too Late" from that album.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles on MTV2

Yesterday was Terry Brooks' birthday so I'm sure it was no coincidence that the first episode of "The Shannara Chronicles" aired last night on MTV2.  It's been so long since I've read the first seven books of the series, but I began to remember things from "The Elfstones of Shannara", which was the basis of last night's episode.  I know they are not following the books word for word, but the plot and series of events are the same.  I really enjoyed watching it.

I'm glad to see these books come to the screen, because it's every bit as deserving as "Game of Thrones".  I prefer the magic and fantasy elements in Shannara as opposed to GOT. 

Manu Bennett as Allanon.

I also like the series because they managed to find a breath-takingly gorgeous man to play Allanon.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy birthday, Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara series

Terry Brooks, born January 8, 1944, is the author of the best-selling "Shannara" series.  I read "The Sword of Shannara" in college and read the rest of the series (at that time), waiting for each new novel to come out.  I enjoyed the character Walker Boh so much, I even named my third Mustang after him. 

It looks as though MTV is airing a series based on the Shannara series!

Oklahoma hit with 70 earthquakes in a week!

USA Today is reporting that Oklahoma was hit with 70 earthquakes last week, the largest, a 4.8 magnitude, near Fairview.  The Oklahoma Geological Survey says that it is "very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes" are linked to the practice of fracking.  Don't get much past these guys.  You can tell they have college degrees.  It's only a matter of time before Governor Mary Failing blames President Obama for the earthquakes. 

What's Inhofe's take on this?  He's made it clear that he doesn't believe in science, so how does he account for it?  President Obama, I suppose?

The US Geological Survey have linked fracking to earthquakes for over 50 years.  When will the "Big One" hit?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Deadliest mine explosion in Oklahoma 1892

I always enjoy finding interesting items in Oklahoma’s history that were never taught in school.  So when I came across an article about the mining explosion January 7, 1892, the deadliest ever in the state, I was interested.  What I find troubling is the lack of documentation on the subject.  The information on is identical to the story on 
The Osage Coal & Mining Company’s No. 11 mine in Krebs, just east of McAlester, had been constructed on Native American land.  That meant the company was exempt from federal government laws and regulations.  The owners of the mines were more concerned with the bottom line (Corporate America) than safety, which is what led to the disaster.

Due to high turnover rate, most of the workers had very little training, even when the tasks were dangerous such as handling explosives.  An inexperienced worker accidentally set off a stash of explosives, burning or burying 100 miners in the blast.

On January 14, 1892, an article in the Ohio Democrat posted a report made on Jan 9 said the cage that hoisted men to the surface was blown 50 feet into the air and flames shot out of the shaft 100 feet. 

The single line item at, states that blacks trying to rescue the white survivors were driven away with guns.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to confirm or refute the claim.  Is someone trying to hide something?  Hmm...

I’m also curious about placing the blame on an inexperienced worker.  Blame it on the new guy! Anyone near the blast who could have seen this worker would have been killed by the blast or the cave-in. 

Gonna have to check this one out in more detail.



Happy birthday, Kenny Loggins!

Uber-sexy Kenny Loggins, born January 7, 1948, was once known as King of the Movie Soundtrack because of the success he made from recording hit songs for movie scores.  "I'm All Right" from the movie Caddyshack is a favorite of mine, and so is this one, "I'm Free" from Footloose.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

X-Files episode "War of the Coprophages" aired 1996

(Why, yes, I have personally been attacked by a flying cockroach.)

One of the best, funniest and creepiest X-Files episodes, "War of the Coprophages" aired January 5, 1996.  People in a small town fear they are being invaded by giant, man-eating cockroaches that can swallow a person whole.  Mulder goes to investigate mysterious deaths, supposedly caused by cockroaches.  Scully, of course, has a logical explanation for everything even though she's on the phone with Mulder most of the time. 

According to, the car crash in this scene was actually real.  Gillian Anderson never breaks character and continues the scene when she realizes no one is hurt.

Happy birthday, Umberto Eco!

Umberto Eco, born today in 1932, wrote The Name of the Rose, a mystery set in 14th century monastery.  It is one of the best mysteries I've read.  I've also seen the movie, acted to the hilt by Sean Connery and F. Murray Abraham.  Donald Duck could have played Christian Slater's role and done it better.  The movie could not capture the medieval literature themes and the theological debates in the book.  I would recommend both.  If you read the book first, the movie makes more sense.  If you see the movie first, you can visualize the surroundings and environment of the monastery. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Victor Borge, the Clown Prince of Denmark, born in 1909

Victor Borge, one of the funniest men ever was born December 3, 1909 in Copenhagen.  I loved his antics on the piano but his phonetic punctuation was my favorite!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

J. R. R. Tolkein born 1892

John Ronald Reuel Tolkein, born December 3, 1892, is the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The Hobbit, which he wrote for his children, was published in 1937 and became popular with adults as well as children. His publishers asked for a sequel, so he spent 10 years writing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, originally published in 1954-1955.