Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guion "Guy" Bluford, first African-American in space 1983

Seated (L-R): Daniel C. Brandenstein, Pilot, Richard H. Truly, Commander, and Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Mission Specialist. Standing (L-R): Dale A. Gardner, Mission Specialist, and William E. Thornton, Mission Specialist.

When the Space Shuttle Challenger blasted off August 30, 1983, it was the eighth shuttle mission, the third flight for Challenger and the first time an African-American went to space.  Dr. Guion "Guy" Bluford was born in Philadelphia and got his PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT).  He obtained the rank of colonel so does that make him Colonel Dr. Bluford? Dr. Colonel Bluford?

STS-8 was the first shuttle to take off and land at night.  The crew returned to Earth September 5.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Remembering Gene Wilder 1933-2016

Gene Wilder, the comic genius who gave us many, many laughs, has passed away at age 83.  He appeared in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Haunted Honeymoon.  He has twice been nominated for Academy Awards:

Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Producers, 1969
Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material. 1975

He won an Emmy for his guest appearance on Will and Grace.  Although he hasn't been seen on screen since 2003, he will be missed.

First Afghan Cosmonaut in space aboard Soyuz TM-6 1988

Soyuz TM-6, the sixth manned mission to the Space Station Mir, launched August 29, 1988 with two Russian cosmonauts Vladimir Lyakhov and Valeri Polyakov, and the first Afghan cosmonaut Abdul Ahad Mohmand.  It is rumored he is the first Muslim to take the Qu'ran into space.  He spent 9 days in before returning to the former Soviet Union and was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union on September 7, 1988.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Galileo spacecraft discovers asteroid Ida's moon Dactyl 1993


Asteroid Ida and her moon Dactyl

On August 28, 1993, Galileo spacecraft snapped this photo of the asteroid Ida and captured an image that helped NASA scientists discover her moon, Dactyl. The picture was taken about 14 minutes before Galileo made its closest approach to Ida on its way to Jupiter.

Ida was discovered by Johann Palisa in September 1884.  Dactyl, named for the creatures that inhabited Mount Ida in Greek mythology, is about 90 km from Ida.  It measures about 1.6km x 1.4km x 1.2km.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mariner 2, spacecraft to Venus, launched 1962

Mariner 2, the world's first successfully interplanetary spacecraft, was launched August 27, 1962. It took 109 days to reach Venus, passing within 21,000 miles of the planet on December 14.  It sent back valuable information about the Venusian atmosphere and interplanetary space.

Mariner 2 was not equipped with a camera so no images of Venus are available but it did carry important scientific instrumentation:

  1. Microwave radiometer and infrared radiometer to measure temperatures of the Venusian atmosphere.
  2. Fluxgate magnetometer to measure planetary and interplanetary magnetic fields.
  3. Ionization chamber to measure high-energy cosmic radiation.
  4. Particle detector to measure lower radiation.
  5. Cosmic dust detector to measure the flux of cosmic dust particles in space.
  6. Solar Plasma Spectrometer to measure the spectrum of low-energy positively-charged particles (solar wind).

The last transmission from Mariner 2 was received January 3, 1963 and has since been in a heliocentric orbit.

The Alan Parsons Project releases "Eve" 1979

The Alan Parsons Project released their 4th studio album Eve August 27, 1979.  I remember hearing Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don't in high school but it didn't get much air time in western Oklahoma.  Bummer, because I really enjoyed it.  When they released Turn of a Friendly Card in 1980, Time got much more airplay.

Anywho, Don't Hold Back from Eve helped me through a very difficult time.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Soyuz 15 launched 1974, Soyuz 31 launched 1978

Bykovsky and Jahn

Lev Dyomin and Gennadi Sarafanov blasted off in Soyuz 15 August 26, 1974 on their way to the Salyut 3.   When they arrived at the space station, the electronic docking system malfunctioned and the crew had to return to Earth, because they didn't have enough fuel to continue docking attempts. The Soviet news agency TASS stated the cosmonauts were merely 'practicing docking techniques'.  They landed August 28.

On August 26, 1978, Valery Bykovsky and Sigmund Jahn (the first German cosmonaut) took off in Soyuz 31 to Salyut 6 space station with more success than Soyuz 15.  They swapped out the crew already on the station.  They returned November 2.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

OK Republican Hate-monger calls for "final solution" to Muslims - WTF?


OMG!  The hate never ends in Oklahoma!  Ardmore state representative Pat Ownbey has called for the "final solution" to Islam that sounds eerily like Hitler's "final solution" to the existence of Jews in Germany.

He promoted an article on Facebook which stated:

Since the 95% of Muslims who are described as either ‘moderate’ or ‘un-radicalized’ appear unwilling to play an active role in keeping their radicalized brethren in check, we have no long term alternative but to quarantine them… prohibiting them from residing anywhere within the civilized nations of the Earth.”



Congratulations, Jeff Williams! - Record for longest time in space for US astronaut

As of yesterday, U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams has spent a total of 520 days in space, the longest of any U.S. astronaut.  He has now surpassed Scott Kelly who held the previous record.  Williams' first journey was back in 2000 on the Space Shuttle Atlantis when he spent 10 days in space.

However, Peggy Whitson is scheduled to break his record next year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Vulcan, then Tatooine, and now Krypton has been found?

An artist's rendering of what the surface of Proxima b might resemble.

Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf in the constellation Centaurus, is the closest star to us (except for our sun).  It lies a little over four light-years from here and astronomers using the European Southern Observatory telescopes have announced evidence of a planet orbiting the red dwarf.  What is most exciting about this is the planet is in the 'sweet zone', the optimum distance from a star where liquid water (and therefore, life) can exist on the surface.

It is the closest exo-planet to Earth that could sustain life.  The Pale Red Dot team took its name from an image from Voyager 1, taken in 1990.  It took a picture of Earth and was called the Pale Blue Dot.  Since Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star...you see where this is going.

Okay, so it isn't Krypton.  Everybody knows that Krypton exploded years and years ago and even before that, it was about fifty light-years from Earth.  But it still exciting to find a planet so (relatively) close to us.  It presents the perfect stepping stone as the first planet to explore as we venture into deep space.

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star - Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri: Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016.

Luna 11, Soviet spacecraft, launched 1966

Luna 11, a Soviet spacecraft, was launched August 24, 1966 from an earth-orbiting platform to the moon.  It arrived and entered orbit around the moon 3 days later.  It was designed to take the first photographs of the lunar surface from orbit.  The onboard television camera did not return any useful images since a foreign object got logged in the nozzle of one of the attitude-control thrusters.  Therefore, Luna 11 could not maintain proper orientation to face the lunar surface.

The other instruments continued functioning as planned until the power supply was exhausted on October 1, 1966.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Donna Summer releases "Mistaken Identity" 1991

First Lady of Disco Donna Summer released Mistaken Identity March 23, 1991, her fifteenth studio album.  It wasn't a commercial success and I'll admit it isn't one of my favorite albums but it does have some great tracks on it.

I found this mix of Body Talk on Youtube.  I dare you to stay still while listening to it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

First Tattooine, now Vulcan

NASA announced earlier it might have located Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tattooine.  For the past nine years, NASA has embarked on a planet finding mission, SIM PlanetQuest to find Mr. Spock’s home Vulcan.  Astronomers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory are searching for a planet orbiting 40 Eridani, a triple-star system about 16 light-years from Earth.  ‘Vulcan’ is thought to orbit the red-orange K dwarf star Eridani A.

K-stars are orangey stars, slightly cooler than our sun.  They are hotter, brighter and bluer than M stars, but cooler, dimmer and redder than O, B, A F and G stars.  Did you get all that?
The stars in the Eridani system are hundreds of astronomical units apart, so a planet where life could Live Long and Prosper, would have to be in the sweet spot, the habitable zone about 0.6 astronomical units from Eridani A.  An astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and Earth.

As we know from Star Trek lore, Vulcan is a Minshara class planet, located about 16 light-years from Earth, orbiting 40 Eridani, endorsed by Gene Roddenberry as Vulcan’s sun in a letter published July 1991 in Sky & Telescope magazine.  Its surface is hotter than Earth.  Its gravity is stronger and its atmosphere thinner.

In the original Star Trek series, Spock mentions Vulcan has no moon, which comes as no surprise to Uhura. 

Let’s hope we can find it before the Romulan Nero destroys it.

Book review - The Gettysburg Cypher by K. R. Eckert

I enjoy reading speculative fiction (since I write it myself) so I was intrigued when I saw the synopsis for The Gettysburg Cypher by K. R. Eckert.  I had to read it and happy I did.

The book opens right before the battle of Gettysburg with men planning to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.  Naturally, the plan fails but one of the cohorts manages to hand off a Bible, containing codes, cyphers and information pertaining to the scheme to a preacher just before he dies.

Present time: An historian from the Smithsonian receives a diary from another member of the conspiracy which talks of the plot against Lincoln.  Since this is big news, it is broadcast across the nation. 

Descendants of the original plotters (the Brigade) are still in the Asheville, North Carolina area and hanging onto the ideals of their ancestors.  They’re fanatical in their defense of the beliefs of the South, to the point that even the murder of innocent children is not too much for them.  When news of the diary breaks, they are spurred into action.

The main action of the novel is the pursuit of the old Bible, which if found, would be devastating to the Brigade and their goal to win the Civil War.  Since they have no idea where it is, they kidnap the family of the great-great-grandson (now a Monsignor) of the preacher who received the Bible from the dying spy in 1863.

The Monsignor has only heard of the Bible from his childhood and doubts it exists but has no choice but to find it to save his niece and her young son.  He teams up with History Hunters Paul Davenport and Sara Walsh to help him in this seemingly impossible task.

I first thought the novel involved time travel since the character known as the ‘Colonel’ appears in both the Civil War segment and the present but eventually all became clear.

The Gettysburg Cypher is a fun read.  Although there wasn’t much of the ‘cypher’ aspect, in many ways it was better than Dan Brown’s work.  The best part of the novel to me is Eckert’s depiction of the Civil War seen through the eyes of the participants.  He has a way of bringing the past alive.

Ray Bradbury, science fiction author, born 1920

Ray Bradbury, born August 22, 1920, is one of the most prolific and successful science fiction authors ever.  He started writing at the age of 18, publishing stories in fanzines.  Many of his works, such as The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451, have been translated into movies and television

I remember watching The Martian Chronicles in high school, during a three-day stretch when I wasn't scheduled to work at the gas station.  It was my first exposure to Ray Bradbury and afterwards, I had to read the book.  Bradbury has been quoted as saying this production was "just boring" however, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Bradbury passed away June 5, 2012 in Los Angeles after a lengthy illness.

Here is a short clip from The Martian Chronicles with the incomparable Bernadette Peters.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

"An American Werewolf in London" released 1981

An American Werewolf in London" was released August 21, 1981 and is the first movie to win an Academy Award (1982) for Best Makeup, the first year for the award.  This is probably the first werewolf movie I've ever seen, so it's still my favorite.  I remember seeing it as part of a double feature at a drive-in movie.  The first was My Bloody Valentine (not worth the time) and then An American Werewolf in London, which ended just as a huge thunderstorm broke.  We didn't miss anything.

There wasn't an official soundtrack released since Elmer Berstein's original music was only 7-8 minutes.  So my band Meco was called in to record music for the soundtrack, which became Impressions of An American Werewolf in London.

Although the movie was campy, it's still a Halloween staple for me.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Viking 1 launched 1975

First color photograph of the Martian surface

Viking 1, the first probe to the Martian surface, to land and complete its mission successfully was launched August 20, 1975.  It landed on July 20, 1976 on the western slope of Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold) and began transmitting about 25 seconds later.

It continued operating for about 6 years, the longest record until Opportunity broke the record on May 19, 2010.  Contact was lost when a faulty command was sent from ground control to upload battery charging software but it overwrote data used by the antennae pointing software on November 11, 1982.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sputnik 5 (Korabl-Sputnik 2) launched 1960

Sputnik 5 (Korabl-Sputnik 2) was launched by the Soviet Union, August 19, 1960. It was the first flight where animals were sent into space and successfully returned to Earth.  Precious cargo, Belka (Squirrel) and Strelka (Little Arrow), were two dogs among 40 mice and 2 rats who spent a day in orbit.

Strelka had a little of puppies the following year and one of the puppies was sent to then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Happy birthday, Commander Riker!

Jonathan Scott Frakes, born August 19, 1952, gained international fame as his role as Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He is also an accomplished director, having directed two Star Trek movies, as well as episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

He is good friends with TNG co-star Marina Sirtis and he is maried to Genie Francis of General Hospital.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Japan launches Suisei spacecraft for Halley's Comet flyby 1985

Japan launched its second deep space probe, Suisei (formerly know as Planet-A) August 18, 1985 to study Halley's Comet on March 8, 1986.  It was part of the "Halley Armada" with Soviet and French probes, the European Space Agency and NASA.  The first probe, Sakigake, was launched in January of 1985.  Suisei carried an ultra-violet based imaging system to study the hydrogen corona around Halley's Comet and instruments to measure solar wind.

Japanese scientists planned to send Suisei to encounter Giacobini-Zinner in November 1998, but its hydrazine fuel was depleted February 22, 1991.

Suisei (Japanese for Comet) was developed by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, which is now part of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"The Time Machine" released onto the big screen 1960

H. G. Wells' classic tale The Time Machine was brought to the big screen August 17, 1960.  Since then, two more movies have been and its themes and references have been in dozens of television shows.  Wells published his story in 1895 and he is the one who coined the term "time machine".

In this movie version, Rod Taylor plays H. G. Wells, the lead character, but in the novella, the main character is never named.  He is referred to only as the Time Traveler.  The movie also did not have the Time Traveler traveling millions of years into the future when civilization has died out and Earth and the sun are dying as well.

The 1960 version of the movie won the 1961 Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.  I enjoyed both this and the 2002 version with Guy Pierce and Orlando Jones, although it tended to divert from the novel a bit more than the 1960 version.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

NASA: July 2016 the warmest on record

NASA just released data showing July 2016 was the warmest July on record, and the warmest month ever since temperature records have been kept since 1880.  The difference is a mere 0.1° C but it does show that global warming is occuring, despite what Jim Inhofe says.  NASA isn't brainwashing anybody.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Republicans: Facts? We don't need no stinking facts!

The Washington Post just published an article stating why many Republicans will believe in cheating if Hillary Clinton wins the election.  Why?  Because Trump has already said so.  Trailing by double-digits in the polls, Trump continues to spew lies, blatantly in the face of facts and Republicans believe it, because they want to.  It's more comfortable for them to believe in what makes them happy, i.e. hate Obama and Clinton, than to actually face the truth.

Trump led the effort to find out whether President Obama was born in the U.S.  After Obama produced his birth certificate from Hawaii, still 20% of Republicans believe he wasn't born in the U.S.  Is the State of Hawaii lying? Oh, right.  Hawaii is mostly a Democratic state so they can't be trusted.  Whatever.

Also, Obama is Christian but 43% of Republicans still believe he is a Muslim.    WTF?

Have Republicans forgotten the most egregious moment of presidential election cheating?  Remember the Hanging Chad?  Hmmm.....Shrub was elected in a controversial vote count that was ultimately decided by Florida, a state governed at the time by Shrub's brother Jeb.


Mannheim Steamroller releases "A Fresh Aire Christmas" 1988

It was a little early for Christmas but Mannheim Steamroller released their second Christmas album and tenth studio album, A Fresh Aire Christmas on August 15, 1988.  It's one of the top selling Christmas albums of all time, surpassing its predecessor, released 4 years before.  Personally, it's one of my favorite albums ever, Christmas or not.  I bought it during an incredibly depressed period in my life and listening to it reminds me of that sad time, but it also helps bring me back up and celebrate the best time of the year.

I sang Mannheim Steamroller's arrangement of Veni Veni with the Turtle Creek Chorale back in Dallas.  It's stunning!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"District 9" released 2009

District 9, released August 14, 2009, was the first documentary-style movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  It was also nominated for Oscars for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Film Editing, and Best Achievement in Special Effects.

What I found amazing is Sharlto Copley wasn't an actor and did not want to pursue acting but he was given the lead role by the director after a short film where he was on camera.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Roger Corman's "The Pit and the Pendulum" released 1961.

Horror-meister director/producer Roger Corman released his version of the Poe classic tale Pit and the Pendulum August 12, 1961.  Corman has brought us movies such as Sharktopus vs Whalewolf, Pirhanaconda and Dinocroc. His version of Pit and the Pendulum starred the wonderfully sinister Vincent Price and John Kerr (South Pacific).

The tag line says that no one had dared to film this until now.  Did they forget about the 1913 version?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"King Kong vs Godzilla" released 1962

The showdown of the "centuries" was released August 11, 1962.  King Kong vs Godzilla brought two of the world's favorite giant monsters together.  I haven't seen it yet because I haven't found an English version yet, but the synopsis at imdb.com suggests that a pharmaceutical company captures Kong and takes him to Japan.  Maybe it's the drugs what made him so big?  And Godzilla has never been captured so why does he not...I'd better stop.  I saw Toho's reason for the ending but let's just say Godzilla is probably more popular now than Kong is.

Confederate flag and KKK robe given to black teacher in Oklahoma

Just when you thought things couldn't get any dumber in Oklahoma, a retired Elk City High School teacher, receiving an award for agriculture education, called a black colleague on stage and presented him with a Confederate flag and a Ku Klux Klan robe.  The source, NewsOK.com did not identify the teacher but cited several people who were outraged by the incident.  There hasn't been any comment from the Elk City p.o.s. so it isn't known why he pulled such a heartless act.

It's not as much the hate as it is the stupidity - Margaret Cho


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Magellan spacecraft reaches Venus 1990

The Magellan spacecraft (Venus Radar Mapper), launched May 4, 1989 from the Space Shuttle Atlantis, reached its objective August 10, 1990.  It collected radar imaging of 98% of the Venusian surface at a resolution of about 100m.  It also measured the gravitational field to investigate to show the planet’s internal mass distribution.  Its mission came to an end October 13, 1994, when it entered the Venusian atmosphere.  It was expected to vaporize on its descent but scientists think that some of the spacecraft survived.

Scary Failing speaks without checking her facts and offers advice to Trump

Watch Scary Failing spin lies Trump passes off as "truth to power".

The Wall Street Journal has some interesting information in fact-checking Trump.

Fallin advice: Trump should keep being Trump: 'It's important he continues speaking truth to power yet understand that as the nominee opponents will twist what he says,' the governor said after making a case to the Republican Women's Club to vote for Trump.


"The Brain That Wouldn't Die" released 1962

Super-campy The Brain that Wouldn't Die was released on August 8, 1962.  When a mad doctor's fiance is beheaded in a car crash, the doctor manages to keep her head alive in a pan, hooked up to tubes with colored liquid flowing through them.  "Jan in the Pan" is how she would later be known as in pop culture.  The actress Virginia Leith reportedly hated the movie so much she refused to return for post-production work.

Michael and the bots had a great time skewering this movie of unspeakable horror from hell!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Happy birthday, Sam Elliott!

Sam Elliott, born August 9, 1944, has raised the bar so high on good looks, very few of us will look as good as he does at 72, especially when we didn't look as good as he did at 32! I can't watch Grace and Frankie because he appears without that mustache, that gorgeous mustache.  :(

I feel in love with him way back when I saw trailers for Lifeguard (which should have given me a heads-up but didn't).  It's still good to see him in Hulk and Ghost Rider, movies from Marvel Comics.

He makes most guys say "I wanna be a cowboy."

Mars 7 probe launched in 1973

How do you say ‘doh!’ in Russian?

The Mars 7 rover launched by the Soviets August 9, 1973, was to study Mars by releasing a lander to measure temperature and pressure of the atmosphere and to study soil composition.  Unfortunately, due to premature ejection, the lander, separating from the bus 4 hours early, missed the entire planet and is now in a heliocentric orbit with the bus.

This failure followed on the heels of the Mars 4 probe which failed to enter orbit; Mars 5 which successfully entered orbit but its instrument compartment began to leak and it ceased operation in just a little over two weeks; and Mars 6 which released a lander successfully, but after 224 seconds of transmitting data, contact was lost right before the probe was about to fire its retrorockets for a soft landing.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe launched 1978

Venus (photo taken from Venus Orbiter)

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida August 8, 1978 and carried four instrumented probes to investigate the Venusian atmosphere.  The craft reached Venus in November and deployed the probes (Large Probe, North Probe, Night Probe, and Day Probe) on the 20th.  All of them entered the atmosphere on December 8.  The carrier of the probes or “bus” was fitted with an ion mass/spec and a neutral mass/spec.

The Large Probe carried seven experiments including a neutral mass/spec, a gas chromatograph, a nephelometer, temperature and pressure indicators.  It entered the Venusian atmosphere on the night side.  The smaller probes also had nephelometers

The North Probe entered the atmosphere on the day side about 60 degrees north latitude.  The Night probe entered on the night side and the Day probe entered on the…duh…day side.  The Day probe, although it did not have a parachute, survived the impact and sent data back for over an hour.

Billy Joel releases "An Innocent Man" 1983

My man, Billy Joel, released An Innocent Man, his ninth studio album, August 8, 1983.  It is one of the best albums ever by any artist.  Billy sings the title song An Innocent Man with such a smooth voice and the song is awesome!  He received two Grammy nominations and two American Music Awards nominations for this album.

The mood of An Innocent Man is an homage to Billy Joel's teen years, with a doo-wop sound.  He had just been divorced from his first wife and was single for the first time since he became a rock star.  He said he felt like a teenager all over again.  I remember Newsweek magazine giving it a positive critique when it was released.  The music editor said at the end  "Innocent?  Maybe.  Naive?  No Way."

Fall in love with Billy again and again:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Happy birthday, Miss Marple!

Marvelous British actress Joan Hickson would have been 110 years old today, but unfortunately she passed away in 1998.  She won the hearts of many Agatha Christie fans as her portrayal as the elderly spinster sleuth, Miss Jane Marple of St, Mary Mead.

Dame Christie saw Joan in a production of Appointment With Death and wrote her a letter saying she hoped one day Joan would play Miss Marple.  She won a Royal Television Society award in 1987 for Best Performance - Female for her protrayal of Miss Marple.

I just watched her in Body In The Library last night!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Happy birthday, Daniel Dae Kim!

Gorgeous and sexy Daniel Dae Kim, born August 4, 1968, is a native of South Korea but grew up in Pennsylvania.  (This is a trip to the Far East that I'd like to take! :{D- ) What more can an actor ask for? Two of the television shows he's starred in are filmed in Hawai'i:  Lost and Hawai'i Five-O.  I first fell in love with him when he played telepath Lt. John Matheson on Crusade, the spin-off mini-series from Babylon 5.  He has also appeared in Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

MESSENGER, spacecraft to Mercury, launched 2004

Artist's rendering of MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury.

MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) launched August 3, 2004 was the first spacecraft to orbit the planet closest to the sun in our solar system. On March 18, 2011 it achieved orbit. It was planned to orbit Mercury for only a year but lasted over four. With seven scientific instruments on board, the craft sent back over 10TB of data, including almost 300,000 images and numerous map products.

In May 2016, NASA released a 3-D image of the first global topographic model of Mercury (see video below).  The extent of the data received from MESSENGER will keep scientists busy for years to come.

First photo from orbit.

On April 30, 2015, MESSENGER yielded to Mercury’s gravity and crashed on the surface just north of the Shakespeare basin. It created a crater estimated to be 52 feet in diameter.

The last photo taken before impact.

Mystery writer P. D. James born 1920


Phyllis Dorothy James, better known as P.D. James, born August 3, 1920, was the author of the Adam Dalgliesh detective novels.  The first mystery of hers I read was Death of an Expert Witness, published in 1977.  The story centered around a laboratory of forensic experts involved in a murder of one of their own.  It was made into a mini-series in 1983 by the ITV network in Britain with Roy Marsden as Dalgleish and Geoffrey Palmer (As Time Goes By) as Dr. Lorrimer.  Many of her works were transferred to television and movies, but I found them to be slow because they tended to follow the novels too closely.

Death of an Expert Witness and The Black Tower were my favorites.  I read her novel Innocent Blood but had trouble staying awake while reading it.  She wrote 14 Adam Dalgliesh novels and dystopian novel The Children of Men, made into a movie starring Clive Owen and Julianne Moore.

P.D. James passed away November 27, 2014 in Oxford.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Happy birthday, Eddie Munster!

Butch Patrick, born August 2, 1953, is best known as his role as Eddie Munster in the iconic television show, The Munsters.  He was very close to Yvonne DeCarlo (Lily Munster) until her death.
One thing I always wanted to know about the Munsters:  Why did Marilyn look normal?

Rhea(lly) beautiful - Saturn's moon


The Cassini spacecraft, currently hanging out in Saturn's neighborhood, has sent back stunning images of the planet's second largest moon, Rhea.  Discovered December 23, 1672 by Giovanni Cassini, Rhea is named after the Titan Rhea, mother of the gods in 1846 by John Herschel (son of William Herschel).

The dazzling image above was taken June 3 and is a result of the water ice that covers most of the surface.

Rhea is 949 miles in diameter and the most heavily cratered of all of Saturn's moons.   In 2010, NASA discovered a thin atmosphere consisting of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Rhea's horizon.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Inhofe (R-OK): Dumber than Mary Failing?

Doc Hoc of the blog Okie Funk reported that the week before last, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma went on the radio and proved to the listeners just how stupid he is.  The reason Inhofe is anti-education is because he thinks students are "being brainwashed" in our schools with all that sciencey stuff and those "fact" things.  He still manages to cling to his uneducated notion that global warming is a hoax, despite tons of data from NASA, NOAA and other scientists around the world.

He even wrote a book which has not been well-received, and in it he can't explain why we should believe a stupid, uneducated senator and not the thousands of experts on the subject.  As if he wasn't getting through to enough people, he brought a snowball to the Senate floor in February 2015 and threw it to prove there was no such thing as global warming.

I don't know who is dumber - Inhofe or Failing.  Perhaps they're auditioning for "Dumb and Dumber 3"?


Happy birthday, 'Screaming' Joe Elliott!

Joe Elliott, born August 1, 1959 in Yorkshire, England, is best known as the lead singer for Def Leppard. He is one of the two founders of Def Leppard with Rick Savage.  With Elliott at the helm, Def Leppard has been nominated for numerous American Music Awards and won Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist in 1989 and their album Hysteria won Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album the same year.  I've been a fan of theirs ever since Pyromania was released in 1983.

Here's Joe and the gang in Slang.