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Thursday, May 29, 2008

BACK IN THE NBA FINALS! Here's hoping the next pic posted up will be of the Larry O'Brien trophy placed in front of KB24 and Mr. Clutch...

Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 100-92.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One of the first images to be beamed back from Phoenix is this photo of the spacecraft's flight deck.  The inner pic shows the 'Phoenix DVD' that was installed on the deck prior to launch last August.

I’M ON MARS! Along with around a quarter million other people. At 4:38 PM (Pacific Daylight Time) Sunday, the Phoenix Lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet...and will soon begin 3 months worth of digging into the soil to search for signs of water and other clues to organic life. Phoenix is the first spacecraft ever to land in a polar region on Mars, and its arrival marks only the 6th time out of 13 overall attempts that a probe reached the Red Planet’s surface intact. All 6 probes that made it down safely (Vikings' 1 and 2, Mars Pathfinder, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, and Phoenix) were launched by NASA. Just thought I’d mention this if you’re not American. Just kidding.

The Martian northern plain, with one of Phoenix's solar panels and a portion of the lander's flight deck visible in the foreground.

In terms of me (and a quarter million other people) being on Mars, Phoenix carries a mini-DVD on its flight deck...shown in the pic at the top of this Blog entry. 250,000 people sent their names via the Internet and snail mail from October of 2006 to February of last year, and their names join a ton of Martian literature—written by famous authors such as Arthur C. Clarke and H.G. Wells—that are also encrypted on the disc. The DVD is meant to last at least 500 years on the Red Planet’s surface...despite the fact the entire Phoenix lander will probably be entombed in ice by the end of this year, after it eventually succumbs to the freezing temperatures of the Martian arctic.

Phoenix artwork.

Having some free time on my hands, I also submitted the names of family members, close high school and college friends, co-workers and hot girls I knew. Yep, all 12 of you are on Mars too! Hahaha. Seriously though, I submitted a gripload of names for the DVD.

A certificate commemorating the fact that my name is now freezing on the North Pole of Mars.

If you’re a conspiracy theorist and thinks this is all a hoax, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took these two awesome photos below. The first one is of Phoenix as it slowly descended to the ground by a parachute. Why is this particular shot awesome, you ask? It's because this image was taken from 472 miles up in space. The second photo is of Phoenix sitting on the Martian surface a day after it landed. Technology rules.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs Phoenix before and after it lands on the Martian surface.
All images courtesy of NASA JPL / University of Arizona / The Planetary Society

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008
May 11, 2008
May 18, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 25, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Phoenix panorama.
NASA JPL / University of Arizona

TOUCHDOWN! More info (plus additional photos) on today’s successful landing of the Phoenix spacecraft on Mars will be featured in an upcoming journal entry. Stay tuned...

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008
May 11, 2008
May 18, 2008
May 24, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Computer-generated art showing Phoenix in various stages of the Entry, Descent and Landing sequence.
NASA JPL

TOMORROW AFTERNOON...

****

(Official Press Release - Updated from May 22)

PASADENA, Calif. -- With one day and 1 million miles left to fly before arriving at Mars, NASA's Phoenix spacecraft is on track for its destination in the Martian arctic.

"The latest calculation from our navigation team shows the center of the area where we're currently headed lies less than eight miles from the center of our target area," said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We may decide today that we don't need to use our final opportunity for fine tuning the trajectory Phoenix is on. Either way, we will continue to monitor the trajectory throughout tonight, on the off chance we need to execute our contingency maneuver eight hours before entry."

The spacecraft is in fine health. "All systems are nominal and stable," said Ed Sedivy, Phoenix spacecraft program manager for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, which built the spacecraft. "We have plenty of propellant, the temperatures look good and the batteries are fully charged."

The spacecraft is closing in on the scariest seven minutes of the mission. On Sunday, shortly after the annual 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Phoenix will be approaching Mars at about 12,750 miles per hour, a speed that could cover 500 miles in 2 minutes and 22 seconds. After it enters the top of the Martian atmosphere at that velocity, it must use superheated friction with the atmosphere, a strong parachute and a set of pulsing retrorockets to achieve a safe, three-legged standstill touchdown on the surface in just seven minutes.

The earliest possible time when mission controllers could get confirmation from Phoenix indicating it has survived landing will be at 4:53 PM Pacific Time on Sunday (7:53 PM Eastern Time). Of 11 previous attempts that various nations have made to land spacecraft on Mars, only five have succeeded.

Phoenix will land farther north on Mars than any previous mission, at a site expected to have ice-rich permafrost beneath the surface, but within reach of the lander's robotic arm.

"Last instructions were given to the science team at our final meeting at the University of Arizona Tuesday," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "This week, we are conducting our dress rehearsal before opening night on Sunday." The science team is slowly adjusting to working on Mars time, in which each day lasts 24.66 hours, in preparation for a demanding mission.

Smith said, "We are ready to robotically operate our science lab in the Martian arctic and dig through the layers of history to the ice-rich soil below."

Phoenix is equipped to study the history of the water now frozen into the site's permafrost, to check for carbon-containing chemicals that are essential ingredients for life, and to monitor polar-region weather on Mars from a surface perspective for the first time.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

This image marks the path traveled by the Phoenix spacecraft as of 11:45 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on May 24, 2008.  It has flown a distance of 420 million miles since launch...at a speed of 44,347 miles per hour.
ABOVE: This image marks the path traveled by the Phoenix spacecraft as of 11:45 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on May 24, 2008. It has flown a distance of 420 million miles since launch...at a speed of 44,347 miles per hour.

Mars as seen from Phoenix's current position in space at 11:45 AM, PDT, on May 24, 2008.
ABOVE: Mars as seen from Phoenix's current position in space at 11:45 AM, PDT, on May 24, 2008.

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008
May 11, 2008
May 18, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Soviet agents dressed as American soldiers escort Indy into an Area 51 hangar in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

MORE ON INDIANA JONES IV... Two of my co-workers and I were able to sneak into a midnight screening of the film today (despite the fact we wrapped up our work shift during a research screening two hours earlier), and the auditorium was packed! Obviously. There was one dude sitting nearby watching a *cough-bootlegged-cough* copy of Iron Man on his laptop, another moviegoer who was fully decked out in Indiana Jones attire (yep, plus the whip... Is it just me but being dressed as Indy is waaaay cooler than wearing a lame Harry Potter or Hobbit costume? But not as cool as wearing a Jango Fett outfit as one Star Wars fan did when I attended a midnight screening of Revenge of the Sith 3 years ago), his hot-ass girlfriend—who interestingly looked like, um, porn star Jenna Haze—who was also wearing a fedora and a light brown shirt (plus a really short, and tight, light brown short pants), another hot Indiana ‘Jane’ who was showing her abs with her light brown shirt rolled up, and lots of people with beach balls in hand. I feel sorry for the two security guys (whom the crowd was harassing and teasing by calling them ‘rent-a-cops’) and the cute female AMC employee who constantly had to go up and down the stairs to confiscate beach balls (plus an unused condom that was inflated into a makeshift ball) in the hour-or-so leading up to the 12:01 AM showing.

Agent Spalko forces Indiana Jones to search for a special artifact at Area 51 in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

So what did I think of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you ask? It was good...but it was one of those films that you had to let sink in afterwards before you start to really appreciate it (a.k.a. "refrigerator logic". Look it up on Google). The climax, not to spoil it for y’all, was obviously very sci-fi-esque—which, in a positive way, made this movie stand out from the first three films. In a negative way, though, the climax also seemed kinda out of place. But keep in mind all three ancient artifacts that Indy searched for in the original trilogy (the Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones and the Holy Grail) had great magical powers that helped those who were good and killed (or should I say, incinerate in a ball of flames? Not to spoil anything for y’all) those who wanted to use those artifacts for evil purposes. The Crystal Skull was no different. I’d say more about Indy IV, but today is barely opening day and I don’t want to be a jerk. However, I will tell you this: The rumors you’ve heard about Shia LaBeouf’s character since LaBeouf was first cast for the role a few years back are true. That is all.

FROM MOST FAVORITE TO LEAST:
-Raiders of the Lost Ark
-The Last Crusade
-Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
-The Temple of Doom

Mutt Williams and Marion Ravenwood look on as Indy brandishes a rocket launcher in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm Ltd.

Next film to watch: The Dark Knight (July 18).

Monday, May 19, 2008

THIS THURSDAY, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes out in theaters. Not that you needed a reminder or anything.

The theatrical movie poster for INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm Ltd. / Drew Struzan

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This image marks the path traveled by the Phoenix spacecraft as of 8:22 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on May 18, 2008.  It has flown a distance of 413 million miles since launch...at a speed of 44,523 miles per hour.
ABOVE: This image marks the path traveled by the Phoenix spacecraft as of 8:22 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on May 18, 2008. It has flown a distance of 413 million miles since launch...at a speed of 44,523 miles per hour. Click here to view the official webpage showing where Phoenix is in space.

ONE WEEK FROM TODAY...

****

(Official Press Release)

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is preparing to end its long journey and begin a three-month mission to taste and sniff fistfuls of Martian soil and buried ice. The lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet May 25.

Phoenix will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at almost 21,000 kilometers per hour (almost 13,000 mph). In seven minutes, the spacecraft must complete a challenging sequence of events to slow to about 8 kilometers per hour (5 mph) before its three legs reach the ground. Confirmation of the landing could come as early as 4:53 PM Pacific Daylight Time (7:53 PM Eastern Daylight Time).

"This is not a trip to grandma's house. Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and risky," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Internationally, fewer than half the attempts have succeeded."

Rocks large enough to spoil the landing or prevent opening of the solar panels present the biggest known risk. However, images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, detailed enough to show individual rocks smaller than the lander, have helped lessen that risk.

"We have blanketed nearly the entire landing area with HiRISE images," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, chairman of the Phoenix landing-site working group.

"This is one of the least rocky areas on all of Mars and we are confident that rocks will not detrimentally impact the ability of Phoenix to land safely."

Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity.

Earlier in 2002, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter discovered that plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars. NASA chose the Phoenix proposal over 24 other proposals to become the first endeavor in the Mars Scout program of competitively selected missions. "Phoenix will land farther north on Mars than any previous mission," said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"The Phoenix mission not only studies the northern permafrost region, but takes the next step in Mars exploration by determining whether this region, which may encompass as much as 25 percent of the Martian surface, is habitable," said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The solar-powered robotic lander will manipulate a 2.35 meter arm (7.7 foot) to scoop up samples of underground ice and soil lying above the ice. Onboard laboratory instruments will analyze the samples. Cameras and a Canadian-supplied weather station will supply other information about the site's environment.

One research goal is to assess whether conditions at the site ever have been favorable for microbial life. The composition and texture of soil above the ice could give clues to whether the ice ever melts in response to long-term climate cycles. Another important question is whether the scooped-up samples contain carbon-based chemicals that are potential building blocks and food for life.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith, with project management at JPL. The development partnership is with Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions are from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Computer-generated image showing Phoenix entering Mars' atmosphere.

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008
May 11, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

WHY THE DARK KNIGHT WILL KICK ASS... Or at least the next Batman Begins sequel... Assuming Chris Nolan helms a third flick.

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two-Face.

Think the pic above is fake? Look closely at the outline of Harvey Dent’s face in this screenshot from the theatrical trailer:

Harvey Dent in the new DARK KNIGHT theatrical trailer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

MEGAN, MEGAN, MEGAN... Yesterday, Shocktillyoudrop.com and other websites released candid photos of Megan Fox showing some skin for her upcoming film, Jennifer’s Body. In this flick, Ms. Fox plays a cheerleader who becomes possessed and kills her male classmates. She uses her sexual prowess to seduce guys before she makes them sleep with the fish (just thought I’d place a Godfather reference in here). Does this sound familiar? Think back to Species and its two sequels, where Natasha Henstridge—and then Sunny Mabrey—go nudesy many times before killing their male prey. The only difference, other than being aliens-in-disguise in the Species films, is that Henstridge and Mabrey completely bare it all for their roles. Fox, on the other hand, is wearing pasties to cover up her goodies in these new pics. Don’t worry, though. One of these days The Foxy One will deliberately pose in the buff...and at the beach nonetheless, like Vanessa Minnillo (and Natalie Portman, Alyssa Milano, Courtney Cox, Kate Moss, Anna Kournikova, Cameron Diaz, Sienna Miller, etc...).

Megan Fox on the set of JENNIFER'S BODY.

By the way, I’m well aware of the contrast between all the space-related stuff at the top of this page, and me trying to sound like Perez Hilton (minus the goofy hair and effeminate personality) here. That’s all. You think Shia LaBeouf is hoping Michael Bay has a similar scene for his co-star in Transformers 2?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Elisha Cuthbert.

RANDOM BABE BLOG #8... 2008’s first entry belongs to 24/Girl Next Door starlet Elisha Cuthbert. Granted, Kim Bauer (whom Cuthbert plays on the hit FOX TV show) may be one of the weaker characters on 24, but who cares? Especially when Ms. Cuthbert had a nice, um, tank top scene in Season 2 of the series. Need more specifics on that? She was in a bathroom.

Too bad she's not the girl next door in MY neighborhood...

Hey— Whoever said 24 was only about guns, terrorists, government moles and Jack Bauer always yelling, "Damn it!" (I would too if my hot-ass daughter didn't want to speak to me anymore)? That show rocks.

Dayamn...

One more for the road:

Imagine waking up to that in bed each morning.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TWO WEEKS FROM NOW, the Phoenix Lander will hopefully be down on the surface of Mars...intact and functioning, that is. Stay tuned...

Computer-generated image of the cruise state being jettisoned as Phoenix prepares to enter Mars' atmosphere.

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Kobe Bryant's teammates gather around him after he is awarded the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player trophy at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles last night.  The Lakers then went on to defeat the Utah Jazz, 120-110, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

HOPEFULLY, the next time his teammates gather around him like in the photo above, Kobe is either hoisting up the Larry O'Brien trophy, or his NBA Finals MVP award. Go Lakers. Game 3 against the Utah Jazz is at 6:00 PM, Pacific Time, this Friday.

Kobe Bryant hoists up his 2008 NBA MVP trophy.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

TODAY MARKS ONE YEAR since I injured my left shoulder. The reason why I bring this little tidbit up is because shoulder injuries suck reeeeaaal bad. You’ll be surprised to find out just how many activities require use of your shoulder after you’ve hurt it. Opening your car door... Turning the steering wheel... Lifting up plates to put in the kitchen sink... Typing and surfing the Web on the computer, like I’m obviously doing right now, haha... These all rely on el hombro. The way that I originally tweaked my shoulder was by doing pull-ups. Chances are I tweaked a muscle when I shifted my body weight awkwardly in the air while doing a rep—I don’t really know since I never got an MRI for my left shoulder (but I did get an MRI for my right shoulder...since it eventually started to hurt because I had to rely solely on it to make up for the original injury), but it was doing push-ups later that night (I didn't know how severe the problem was till the next day, FYI) and simple activities like those mentioned above in the days ahead that made the problem worse.

It took me 8 months to get back to doing bench presses, and 11 months to resume doing push-ups. I’ve yet to decide when I’m gonna go back to doing pull-ups. The gist of this Blog: If you ever hurt one of your shoulders, well... Sucks to be you.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Batman stands amid a pile of wreckage.

THE DARK KNIGHT Theatrical Trailer... The new preview made its debut in front of Iron Man at theaters last weekend, and it shows more awesome shots of The Joker wreaking havoc on Gotham City, as well as Harvey Dent before he becomes Two-Face. Speaking of Harvey Dent, he had this one memorable line in the trailer: "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Ominous.

THE DARK KNIGHT montage.
THE DARK KNIGHT montage.
THE DARK KNIGHT montage.
THE DARK KNIGHT montage.
Warner Bros. Studios

Monday, May 05, 2008

Iron Man soars through the wild blue yonder.

IRON MAN... I saw the film on Friday, and it totally kicked ass! Robert Downey Jr. did a great job as billionaire/womanizer/metal-clad vigilante Tony Stark. A few of my favorite scenes were when Stark was developing the Mark II (plain-silver) and Mark III (final version with the red-and-gold paint) suits at his Malibu mansion, him flying back to Afghanistan to exact revenge on those militants, and that dogfight with those two F-22 Raptors. The climactic fight scene between Iron Man and Iron Monger was cool, but how Obadiah Stone (Jeff Bridges)—who controlled Monger—finally bites the dust could’ve been more intense. Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard had good performances, but Samuel L. Jackson should’ve spouted a few F-bombs here and there in his brief cameo as Nick Fury after the end credits. Just kidding. Sorry... Didn’t mean to spoil that cameo for those of you who didn’t watch the movie yet. What are you waiting for?? Get to the theater right away! Can’t wait for the sequel (to be released on April 30, 2010)...

One last thing— Does Tony Stark reveal to everyone that he's Iron Man in the comic books, like he did in the movie? Just wondering.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

IT'S OFFICIAL: Kobe is this year's MVP! NBA Commissioner David Stern will hand him the award during a trophy presentation next week. Go Lakers! Game 1 against the Utah Jazz is tomorrow at 12:30 PM, Pacific Time.

Kobe Bryant of the Las Angeles Lakers takes a shot against the Denver Nuggets on April 28, 2008 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Friday, May 02, 2008

The IRON MAN theatrical poster.

TONIGHT, a couple of friends and I are attending a 10PM screening of Iron Man... Hell yea! Though I was pretty tempted to catch an advance showing of the film yesterday, haha. Fortunately, there was a new episode of Supernatural on TV last night, so that deterred me from going.


Yea, I was bored.
Yea, I was bored.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

This image marks the path traveled by the Phoenix spacecraft as of 12:23 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on May 1, 2008.  It has flown a distance of 395 million miles since launch...at a speed of 45,064 miles per hour.
ABOVE: This image marks the path traveled by the Phoenix spacecraft as of 12:23 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on May 1, 2008. It has flown a distance of 395 million miles since launch...at a speed of 45,064 miles per hour. Click here to view the official webpage showing where Phoenix is in space.

BEFORE THE END OF THIS MONTH, the Phoenix Lander should safely be down on the surface of Mars...studying the ice on the Martian northern plain...and sending back cool images that will hopefully be posted on this page as soon as NASA publicly releases them. Stay tuned...

An artist's concept of Phoenix heading towards Mars.

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008