Station Portrait

8 06 2011

I got an email from my friend, astronaut-trainer Rob, yesterday about some new shuttle-station images that just blew him away.  So I went to the link and, sure enough, they blew me away too!

Here’s what you can find there:


This is the Endeavour on its final mission.  NASA has thrown a ton of hi-res images from its May mission up on the web.  Once you go to that link, you’ll see a bunch of links to numbered galleries.  Anything valued higher than where I sent you will show you pictures like the one above — but you should look around at some of the other galleries as well!

Oh, and as I was writing this I got a message from NASA sending me here.  Basically these are the same pictures organized differently, with specific image dimensions for your wallpapering pleasure.

Good stuff!


Don’t Fear the Reaperbot

30 03 2011

Those who get tweets from @ccinsider already know this, but Futurama has just been signed to another season!!!

That’s ON TOP of the 13 episodes still left on this season’s contract, scheduled to begin airing on June 23, 2011.  The next season will also be 26 episodes, which makes for an awful lot of futuristic space-antics!

Without question, Futurama is the smartest show on television (other than perhaps “Into the Wormhole”, but we’re talking about two completely different things here).  I find it amazing how many people think the show is really dumb and comparable to the other stuff one might find in a cartoon sitcom.  But honestly, if you consider the really brilliant way the writers inject social or academic commentary into all the episodes I think you’d agree with me that there just aren’t many programs that can display that PLUS humor on so many levels.  And yeah, I know right now some of you are thinking about the intelligent writing in BSG, Firefly, How I Met Your Mother, or House; but I would wager that none of those shows have writers with advanced math and science degrees!

(Okay, maybe Firefly — someone will have to find out for me.)

Edit:  So something I just thought of that should have been included in the first place…  A while back I was with a couple of friends of mine, Tristan and Trey, and we were looking at a very cool-looking laser shining on a CD for a class science demo.  For some reason that I can’t pull out of my memory now, Trey says, “Wow.  It’s like there’s a whole universe in there.”  To which I immediately mutter, “Baby, there’s a universe in all of us.”  Now, I haven’t been around true Futurama fans very much in some time, and normally the people I am around would just ignore my obscure mutterings as a humor that only I would find funny.  But this simple moment was made awesome when Tristan followed up with, “Get a job!”  The three of us laughed very hard, while the group before us just stood awkwardly by waiting for us to get on with it.  It is in these moments that I’m reminded that this show isn’t just a series of one-liners, but that it is a work — when taken in its entirety — that has constructed a culture of nerd-dom consisting of people who feel connected by the the characters and landscape of this fictional future.  Any similarities to the fans of Star Trek isn’t lost on me, it’s just that a single line from Trek doesn’t usually draw a company of people to want to start reciting lines to each other.   Any one piece of Futurama reminds us of the community that Matt Groening and David X. Cohen envisioned and then created.  I am so glad that it was resurrected, and I hope it will continue to air for many years to come.

And I’m also grateful for friends like Trey and Tristan who keep me laughing!

What do machines owe us?

27 03 2011

Found this little gem while surfing around.  Liked it so much I thought I’d share…

What I want you to do now is to look closely at the image to figure out what’s truly funny here.  Or maybe really sad.  Leave your guess in the comments!

Super Slo-Mo Shuttle

21 01 2011

A little over a month ago NASA released this video:

Here’s how NASA describes it:

Photographic documentation of a Space Shuttle launch plays a critical role in the engineering analysis and evaluation process that takes place during each and every mission. Motion and Still images enable Shuttle engineers to visually identify off-nominal events and conditions requiring corrective action to ensure mission safety and success. This imagery also provides highly inspirational and educational insight to those outside the NASA family.

This compilation of film and video presents the best of the best ground-based Shuttle motion imagery from STS-114, STS-117, and STS-124 missions. Rendered in the highest definition possible, this production is a tribute to the dozens of men and women of the Shuttle imaging team and the 30yrs of achievement of the Space Shuttle Program.

The video was produced by Matt Melis at the Glenn Research Center.

This video has a 720P option.  I highly recommend going directly to the YouTube link, hooking your computer to the largest monitor possible (47″ flatscreen sounds about right), and letting the whole thing play.  Trust me, it’s totally worth your 45 minutes!

Tour Chernobyl!

4 01 2011

So you might not believe it, but the Ukrainian government has recently announced that beginning in 2011 they will open the sealed zone around Chernobyl to the public.

As you should remember, or at least have learned about, Chernobyl was the site of an actual nuclear power plant meltdown in 1986.  It’s located in what was then Soviet Russia — the U.S.S.R.  The Cold War had been raging for decades, and the techniques had been honed so well that practically no one outside of the Soviet government knew about the incident — not even the residents in the surrounding areas — for days after the catastrophe.  The U.S. first learned about the accident from infrared satellite photos.  When first reported on in American newspapers, Russian officials had denied anything out of the ordinary.  It was then that I learned that nuclear disasters could be very quiet things.

Today there is a restricted zone 30 miles in radius around the facility.  Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the danger, and the ground is still popping with radiation.  Just last April, the Ukrainian president was telling folks how the reactor was still a threat.  Reportedly, there are still 2500 people who work for the government around and within the restricted zone to maintain the area.  This isn’t too dangerous as long as their exposure is kept brief.  But being irradiated, even to a small degree, many times over the course of a year does eventually build up.

But for someone like you, who could perhaps visit for a day and then leave, the danger would be minimal.  I would *love* to go there… just to see a place that was so secret when I was in high school.  It would be fascinating, not just to visit the reactor, but to walk the grounds where the plant and animal life were exposed to such high levels of DNA-altering particles.  Understand, I am not an anti-nuclear power activist –in fact, I’m totally in favor of it, and I believe that the US would be better off by building a few more plants to supply our energy needs, but this is a lesson we could all learn from. This accident occurred because of a careless act.  A slip of the brain.  Negligence on the part of the administration and the scientists who felt that the reactor was so safe they could run experiments while it was operating.

As Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman, Yulia Yershova, said, “There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn’t stray away from the group, though it is a very sad story.”

Opening up this ‘museum’ to visitors would give us all a firm reminder of the danger trapped within the smallest of particles.  I hope one day to get to visit.


Let’s catch up

19 12 2010

I haven’t posted anything in a while, which seems to be the one type of post found on 98.3% of blogs (a number I didn’t just totally make up).

So since we’ve last chatted:

  • Turned 39.  I’ve been telling everyone I’m 40 so that when I actually do turn 40 it won’t feel like anything’s changed.  I’ll let you know how that strategy works out for me.
  • Halloween was great.  I wanted the clan to dress with a group theme and go as characters from Harry Potter.  I, of course, would be Professor Snape.  …oh, how I’ve longed to portray Alan Rickman in *something*!  (y’know, sometimes I think he really *is* the voice of God)  Alas, even though Geneva thought this was a great idea and created a killer Professor McGonagall costume, every one of the boys wanted to be Harry.  So the idea was abandoned.
  • Broke my tractor.  I was having some problems with the clutch sticking, so I tried a trick to pop it out of gear.  Well, it’s out of gear!  Totally broke the drive shaft to the back wheels.  Fortunately, it’s a four-wheel drive so I can still drive it around (and up on the trailer) by using the two front wheels (so I can get it to an actual mechanic).
  • the Leonid shower was a wash with the bright moon.
  • Had hernia surgery.
  • Thanksgiving was pretty fantastic.  –except for the whole ‘recovering from surgery’ thing.  My parents left for the week, so instead of doing our usual Thanksgiving Day bit, my family just stayed home and had our own dinner for a change.  As I said, it was pretty fantastic.
  • Back to the hernia stuff — the doc set me up with some very powerful pain killers, for my very powerful pain you see, but they made me itchy.  So, if you can imagine it, everytime I felt bad enough to take one I would spend the next four hours scratching my arms and neck until they were red and sore.  And they made me really grouchy (when the pain-reliever part wore off) so I got no sympathy from *anyone*!  (okay, not entirely true — my wife was actually incredibly nice to me during this whole ordeal, and I can never thank her enough for it.)  [And I’d like to take this moment to apologize to anyone I texted during this time.  I promise, in my mind I thought I was funny.]
  • I figured out how to set up a nifty HTPC.  I didn’t build it, I just sorta had the stuff I needed laying around my office.  So that means for the first time since buying my 1080P flatscreen, I finally had the chance to push every pixel.  First thing we watched?  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Not a bad flick.  12GB avi, though!
  • Re-read Contact.  I had forgotten how it ended, so I was surprised all over again.  For those who haven’t read the book, it is considerably different from the movie.
  • Watched The Venture Bros. seasons 1 and 2.  Okay, here’s a secret about me.  I didn’t get into this series when it began in 2004 because I didn’t like the first few episodes.  Then I watched maybe one or two episodes each season, if I just happened to be looking toward the TV while they were on.  This past season, though, I’ve really gotten into it.  Upon re-watching, I discovered I *still* don’t like the first season.  But there’s this point in the second season (2nd episode, actually — Hate Floats) where the series becomes awesome.  I’ve watched the first 3 minutes of that episode a half dozen times, and laughed out loud each time!
  • Geminids.  Good show this year.  Didn’t catch it.  Just heard about it.  The temps dropped to around 20F and I’m just getting too old to dress up and do that stuff anymore.
  • Found an old copy of Sid Meier’s Pirates on a hard drive and started playing it again.  Too.  Addictive.  I knew better.
  • Christmas break is coming next week, and I so need it.
  • Grades came out for my kids and, once again, they’re all above average.  Maybe we should move to Lake Wobegon, huh?
  • I found a cover album of the Finn Brothers by various Australian artists that I am just wearing out.  Oh, why can’t we here in America get awesome music like that on our radios?

So that’s pretty much it.  Looking back over the last couple of months it appears that my life has been pretty blah, but what’s not mentioned here is that for the most part I’ve been fairly happy, I’m getting along really well with my folks,  and my kids are doing great and keeping me busy.

I’m still working through the whole Twitter thing.  Not really sure what the etiquette is.  I want to tweet more, but at what point do my texts become really boring (okay, I know you yucksters are all ready to tell me “From the first tweet!” but I’m serious here.  I feel like I either need to get better at it or just lay it down.

…and as far as this blog goes, I actually do have some good stuff to put up over the next week.  And I’m going to make the time to do it as well.  What I have noticed from reviewing the stats from wordpress is that it would appear that people don’t want me spouting my opinions on education and politics.  People seem to be drawn to cool science stuff and pretty astro pictures.  Duly noted!  So hopefully, some of the folks who used to frequent these pages will have some cause to come back.  ‘Til then…

Before it’s gone

29 11 2010


Read the reviews.  Add one yourself.  :o)