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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"TWILIGHT is like soccer. People run around for 2 hours, nobody scores, and its billions of fans argue that you just don't understand."

Blade sneaks up on Kristen Stewart and her metrosexual bloodsucking companion.
Convicted Russian spy / current Internet sensation Anna Chapman.

JAMES BOND WOULD BE AMUSED... Earlier this week, 11 people were arrested here in the U.S. for allegedly being part of a Russian spy ring in this country. Click here for more details. Among the 11 folks apprehended was a young lady named Anna Chapman.

...

Good grief. I thought hot Russian spies with red hair were something you mostly saw in the movies (RE: Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff in Iron Man 2). I guess not. So how many spy-related quips can you make about this situation? That Ms. Chapman looks as hot in her Facebook pics as Angelina Jolie does as a supposed Russian agent in the upcoming film Salt? Or that one can bring up the old Bond flick Octupussy for no other reason than to use this title for innuendo (From Russia with Love doesn't sound dirty enough)? Hmm. Anyways, that’s all I have to say about this topic. No wait— one more thing: If all these photos were okay to be posted on the websites of such professional news outlets as the New York Post, they’re okay to be posted here.


I wonder if the CIA has agents as hot as this chick out on the field?  Probably.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the gang embark on new adventures in TOY STORY 3.

TOY STORY 3... I watched Pixar’s latest movie last week, and despite the fact I only saw parts of the first two Toy Story films, the new installment was really good. Two of my co-workers mentioned that I should’ve seen the first two Toy Story flicks in their entirety, so that the moment where Andy drives off to college at the end of Toy Story 3 would’ve been more emotional. I disagree with that. The ending was already very emotional without me having to see the two previous films. Pixar does a wonderful job of conveying friendship, loyalty, a sense of loss and even betrayal in Part 3...which was more than you can say for Shrek Forever After (which was a decent film, but still... Give this franchise a rest, Dreamworks).

Andy decides which of his two favorite childhood toys he'll take with him to college in TOY STORY 3.

In terms of Pixar making sequels to its other hit films, a follow-on to The Incredibles would be pretty cool. And so would a sequel to Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc. as well. No wait... Pixar is already making a sequel to Monsters, Inc. It's scheduled for release in theaters in 2012. Awesome.

Lotso the Bear isn't as friendly as he looks in TOY STORY 3...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An artist's concept of the Gliese 581 star system.

HELLO FROM EARTH Update... As of 7 PM California time tonight (12 PM Sydney time on Friday, June 25), it will be 43 weeks since a radio signal containing 25,878 goodwill text messages—including one by me—was transmitted to the exoplanet Gliese 581d from a giant NASA antenna in Australia. The signal will be 4.8 trillion miles (7.7 trillion kilometers) from Earth. By August 27, the radio beam will officially be 1 light-year distant from our world. Cool. The Sent Forever signal that was transmitted from the United Kingdom at 8:07 PM (California time) on October 5 last year is now 4.2 trillion miles (6.8 trillion kilometers) from Earth as of this typing.

A satellite dish at the Goonhilly Earth Station in the United Kingdom.

Monday, June 21, 2010

USC's Galen Center, where the school's basketball team plays.

THE LAKERS PARADE... I attended the celebration outside of USC’s Galen Center today, and it was fun. For the most part, that is. People were killing time before the event started at 11 AM by swatting around beach balls (plus a balloon and an inflated um, condom. It looked unused), as well as making a Celtics fan remove his green jersey and light it on fire after this dude was crazy enough to walk into a hostile purple and gold-laden crowd.

Waiting for the championship parade to begin.

The reason why I said the Lakers parade was fun ‘for the most part’ was because of these two inconsiderate teenage girls who were standing in front of me in the crowd. Right when the fire trucks and the specially-outfitted 18-wheeler carrying Laker players, Laker Girls, their families and whatnot were about to arrive at the area where I was waiting, these chicks quickly hopped onto their boyfriends’ shoulders to get a better view of the trucks from above the crowd. Needless to say, I’m sure several other people besides myself were very pissed that these two b*tches were rude enough (or oblivious enough? Meh, I say rude) to screw other people like that. Definitely makes me wish the Coliseum was used to host a post-parade rally like it did last year.

DAAAMN STRAIGHT.

Anyways, in terms of the players that I saw when the convoy passed by, I spotted Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Josh Powell, former-Lakers A.C. Green and Magic Johnson. Didn’t see Kobe though. Coach Phil Jackson didn’t show up at the parade at all. He had to attend a pre-arranged medical appointment today. As long as that appointment results in Jackson finding out he’s healthy enough to lead the Lakers to yet another three-peat next year, I ain’t complainin’. Not to sound selfish or anything... That is all.

The champions prepare to drive by.

The Laaaker Girls.

Pau Gasol.

Ron Artest lights up a stogie (in case you couldn't tell).

Derek Fisher shows off the NBA trophy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Posing in front of the Magic Johnson statue at STAPLES Center on June 19, 2010.  I'm wearing the Lakers' official 2010 championship baseball cap.

YESTERDAY, I drove down to STAPLES Center to buy a championship baseball cap that I can wear at the Lakers parade tomorrow. The cap was pretty expensive—I paid $32 for it—but it’s all good. I’m well aware that the cap was a lot cheaper at stores such as Champs Sports, Lids and even supermarkets like Albertsons, but I don’t care. It’s always awesome to visit STAPLES Center right after the Lakers have brought home a title. Been doing that since Kobe and Derek Fisher won their first championship in 2000...will do it again even if/when Kobe surpasses Michael Jordan and wins his 7th ring...which will hopefully be in 2012. Four-peat!!! Yes, I know— I’m thinking a little too far ahead.

Posing next to the statue of the late Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn at STAPLES Center on June 19, 2010.

I also updated my SoCal Sports Wall of Fame...which should pretty much become the Lakers Wall of Fame by next year if they three-peat. I hung up the Los Angeles Times sports page commemorating the Game 7 win three days ago (shown in the first pic below), while I relocated the sports section celebrating Kobe’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 to the plastic sleeve that originally held the newspaper celebrating the college football championship won by the USC Trojans in 2005. Removing the newspaper honoring the Trojans was really not difficult... I lost considerable respect for USC (despite the fact I’m going there for tomorrow’s parade) after the NCAA recently handed down numerous penalties upon the college for allowing former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush (who won a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints this year) and star basketball player O.J. Mayo (who’s now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA) to receive improper gifts from donors so they could stay and play for the Trojans. I still, however, have the L.A. Times front page commemorating the Anaheim Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup title hanging on my wall. Like last year’s photo, it’s not visible in any of the pics below. Oh well.

The Los Angeles Times sports page commemorating the Lakers' Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics on June 17, 2010.

My SoCal Sports Wall of Fame.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant congratulate each other as Josh Powell looks on...after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics, 83-79, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Christian Petersen / Getty Images

FOOD FOR THOUGHT... A.) If there’s one thing that I give President Obama props for, it’s that he’s a pro when it comes to predicting the NBA champion (he’s 2-for-2 since predicting last year’s victory against the Orlando Magic)... B.) The Lakers began last decade winning a title and started this one with another championship (WORD!)...and C.) THE POSTSEASON OF REVENGE IS COMPLETE. Click here to know what I'm talking about.

Next season should be designated as "The Year Kobe Ties MJ".

Kobe Bryant hoists up the NBA championship trophy and his 2nd Finals MVP trophy after he leads the Lakers to its 16th title, on June 17, 2010.
Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On June 15, 2010 (Japan Standard Time), a small 'separation camera' was jettisoned from IKAROS to photograph the solar sail in its entirety.

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... On June 15, Japan Standard Time, a small free-floating camera was jettisoned from IKAROS into space to photograph the solar sail in its entirety. The camera, known as DCAM2, had a battery life of only 15 minutes...but that was enough time for it to drift off to the point where the spacecraft was just a little speck in the images. You can read more about this here (You can use Google toolbar to translate the page, which is in Japanese).



It’s too bad JAXA didn’t post high resolution versions of these images... I had to use Adobe Photoshop to enlarge one of the pics into an 8 x 10 photo that I plan to frame on my wall. That pic is posted at the top of this entry.

On June 15, 2010 (Japan Standard Time), a small separation camera was jettisoned from IKAROS to photograph the solar sail in its entirety.

On June 15, 2010 (Japan Standard Time), a small separation camera was jettisoned from IKAROS to photograph the solar sail in its entirety.

On June 15, 2010 (Japan Standard Time), a small separation camera was jettisoned from IKAROS to photograph the solar sail in its entirety.

All images courtesy of JAXA

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) teaches Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) kung-fu atop the Great Wall of China in THE KARATE KID.

THE KARATE KID... Two days ago, I saw the new remake of the classic 1984 film. Needless to say, this is one of those rare occurrences where the remake actually makes a lot more sense than the original movie. In the classic version, Ralph Macchio’s character has to deal with bullies (Caucasian bullies, that is) in his new hometown of Reseda in the San Fernando Valley. For those of you who have been to this part of Southern California, you’d know that it’s kinda odd (but obviously not uncommon) that white dudes in this area would be proficient in karate. In this latest incarnation, Jaden Smith’s character needs to confront bullies near his new residency in Beijing, China. Let’s see... Chinese kids who know karate? Or at least kung-fu? That sounds just about right. Stereotypical, but right.

What the new Karate Kid has going for it is that Will Smith’s kid is apparently more acrobatic than Ralph Macchio was in the original flick. It also doesn’t hurt that the training scenes for Smith’s character took place in beautiful Chinese backdrops. I have the sudden urge to travel to China (if I had the dinero) after watching this film, and am in the mood to get into a staring match with a cobra at a mountaintop temple if I went. If you saw the movie, then you’d know what I’m talking about. This particular scene also ties in with the kung-fu move—which nicely replaced the 'crane kick' that Macchio did in the original movie—that Smith does at the climax of the new film. Overall, the Karate Kid was a good movie. A bit long...but not long enough to prevent the audience from clapping and cheering loudly after the film ended at the screening I went to.

I also watched The A-Team this weekend. It was a fun film...though not as fun as the TV ads made it out to be. The cast was awesome (District 9’s Sharlto Copley was cool as Murdock)...though there were times when I couldn’t understand what they were saying because of their rapid-fire delivery with some of the dialogue. I give FOX props for not revealing any part of the climax (which takes place at the Port of Los Angeles) in the trailers or TV commercials. In terms of who won the battle of the 80s remakes (for me, that is), The A-Team was entertaining, but The Karate Kid was waaay better.

Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) and his team of mercenaries deal with a sticky situation in THE A-TEAM.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

HAYABUSA's sample return capsule enters Earth's atmosphere on June 13, 2010.
Ozaki Takashi / Yomiuri Shimbun

CONGRATULATIONS to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for the successful return of its Hayabusa spacecraft...which spent almost 5 years traveling back to Earth after (hopefully) collecting rock samples from the surface of asteroid Itokawa. If you've been reading online articles about Hayabusa for the past couple of weeks, you'd see how emotional folks in Japan were getting as the Little Space Probe That Could (click here to read about how the mission almost became a failure) struggled to return to our home planet. Imagine how emotional they would get if a JAXA-built Mars sample return spacecraft was heading back to Earth...

Anyways, now that Hayabusa has concluded its historic endeavor through space...maybe JAXA will devote more attention to the Venus-bound Akatsuki and IKAROS missions. Just because.


An artist concept showing the HAYABUSA spacecraft collecting rock samples from the surface of asteroid Itokawa.
JAXA

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An artist concept of the IKAROS solar sail...floating near Earth.

IKAROS Update... If there’s one thing to lighten my mood after the Lakers lost against the Celtics in Game 4 today (Will someone step on Nate Robinson and squash him already?), it’s that the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has successfully deployed the solar sail on the IKAROS spacecraft! Awesome! The deployment took place in two stages: The first stage deployment started around June 3rd and was completed yesterday, and the second stage deployment started right after that and was finished today. The IKAROS team has now achieved minimum mission success. Congratulations.

Full mission success will be achieved once IKAROS demonstrates that its sail can steer the spacecraft on its 6-month journey to the planet Venus. Hopefully that won’t be too difficult. Below are images taken by 4 monitoring cameras that are attached all around the spacecraft. The cameras photographed each corner of the sail membrane to make sure it unfurled properly on all sides. Click here to get an in-depth description of what you're looking at. IKAROS was 7.7 million kilometers (4.8 million miles) when this milestone occurred.

Source: IKAROS Mission Blog

CAMERA 1:

IKAROS' solar sail as seen from monitoring camera #1.

CAMERA 2:

IKAROS' solar sail as seen from monitoring camera #2.

CAMERA 3:

IKAROS' solar sail as seen from monitoring camera #3.

CAMERA 4:

IKAROS' solar sail as seen from monitoring camera #4.

All images courtesy of JAXA

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

TODAY marked the second time in five years that I ran into Teary (the make-up artist for my senior thesis film Envious in college) and her sister Bri at a movie screening I worked in Orange. Unfortunately, unlike in 2005, they weren’t able to get tickets this time around since they showed up several minutes after we reached capacity inside the theater. I quietly told Teary and Co. that they could still join the line...but my co-worker had to eventually turn them away since we already filled up on their demo (RE: Asian) for this marketing screening. I don’t know what makes me feel worse; the fact that I had Teary and Bri (plus two of their friends who they showed up with) wait in line for nothing, or the fact Teary somewhat made me feel bad when she asked "You still work here?" when she saw me. Hmm... Probably that second part. (This October marks six years since I started working at this company.) Bri and one of her friends (who I knew since college as well) did look back at me and wave as they departed, while Teary just waved without turning her head while continuing to walk off (oh well).

If there’s an upside to that question Teary asked me, it’s that at least she remembered we ran into each other at that screening in '05. Thanks for having a good memory, babe. Ignore the fact that last sentence about Teary in the previous paragraph didn't exactly put her in a positive light. Still love ya.

Monday, June 07, 2010

An artist concept of Dawn in the Asteroid Belt.

DAWN Update...

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NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Fires Past Record for Speed Change (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. - Deep in the heart of the asteroid belt, on its way to the first of the belt's two most massive inhabitants, NASA's ion-propelled Dawn spacecraft has eclipsed the record for velocity change produced by a spacecraft's engines.

The previous standard-bearer for velocity change, NASA's Deep Space 1, also impelled by ion propulsion, was the first interplanetary spacecraft to use this technology. The Deep Space 1 record fell on Saturday, June 5, when the Dawn spacecraft's accumulated acceleration over the mission exceeded 4.3 kilometers per second (9,600 miles per hour).

"We are using this amazing ion-engine technology as a stepping-stone to orbit and explore two of the asteroid belt's most mysterious objects, Vesta and Ceres," said Robert Mase, Dawn project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

A spacecraft's change in velocity refers to its ability to change its path through space by using its own rocket engines. This measurement of change begins only after the spacecraft exits the last stage of the launch vehicle that hurled it into space.

To get to where it is in both the record books and the asteroid belt, the Dawn spacecraft had to fire its three engines -- one at a time-- for a cumulative total of 620 days. In that time, it has used less than 165 kilograms (363 pounds) of xenon propellant. Over the course of its eight-plus-year mission, Dawn's three ion engines are expected to accumulate 2,000 days of operation -- 5.5 years of thrusting -- for a total change in velocity of more than 38,620 kilometers per hour (24,000 miles per hour).

"I am delighted that it will be Dawn that surpasses DS1's record," said Marc Rayman, chief engineer for the Dawn mission and a previous project manager for Deep Space 1. "It is a tribute to all those involved in the design and operations of this remarkable spacecraft."

At first glance, Dawn's pedal-to-the-metal performance is a not-so-inspiring 0-to-97 kilometers per hour (0-to-60 miles per hour) in four days. But due to its incredible efficiency, it expends only 37 ounces of xenon propellant during that time. Then take into consideration that after those four days of full-throttle thrusting, it will do another four days, and then another four. By the end of 12 days, the spacecraft will have increased its velocity by more than 290 kilometers per hour (180 miles per hour), with more days and weeks and months of continuous thrusting to come. In one year's time, Dawn's ion propulsion system can increase the spacecraft's speed by 8,850 kilometers per hour (5,500 miles per hour), while consuming the equivalent of only 16 gallons of fuel.

"This is a special moment for the spacecraft team," said Dawn's principal investigator, Chris Russell of the University of California Los Angeles. "In only 407 days, our minds will be on another set of records, the data records that Dawn will transmit when we enter Vesta orbit."

Dawn's 4.8-billion-kilometer (3-billion-mile) odyssey includes exploration of asteroid Vesta in 2011 and 2012, and the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. These two icons of the asteroid belt have been witness to much of our solar system's history. By using the same set of instruments at two separate destinations, scientists can more accurately formulate comparisons and contrasts. Dawn's science instrument suite will measure shape, surface topography and tectonic history, elemental and mineral composition, as well as seek out water-bearing minerals. In addition, the way the Dawn spacecraft orbits both Vesta and Ceres will be used to measure the celestial bodies' masses and gravity fields.

While Dawn surpassed Deep Space 1's record for velocity change, Deep Space 1 will continue to reign as holder for the longest duration of powered spaceflight for another few months. Dawn is expected to take over that record on about August 10 of this year.

The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Other scientific partners include Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz.; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany; DLR Institute for Planetary Research, Berlin, Germany; Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, Rome; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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The dwarf planet Ceres...which the Dawn spacecraft will visit in 2015.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

SPLICE.

SPLICE... I saw the sci-fi/horror flick yesterday, and all I have to say is... That was some pretty F**KED UP S**T right there (to quote Stan Marsh from South Park). The scientist played by Adrien Brody must be a real sick horn dog if he’s gonna bone a creature, named Dren, that was conjured up in a lab, despite the fact he has a main squeeze (played by Sarah Polley)...who herself must really dread giving birth to a regular kid since she was the one who spliced human DNA with that of several animals to create Dren.

SPLICE.

Special effects wise, Dren looked pretty cool... A nice blend between animatronics, CGI and prosthetics were no doubt used to realize this creature as it developed from restless fetus to a murderous um, hermaphrodite (you’d have to watch the film to know what I’m talking about) by the end of the movie. The two other creatures named Fred and Ginger were pretty cool too... They both reminded me of the Brain Bug from the 1997 film Starship Troopers. That was a cool movie. Would I watch Splice again, you ask? Um...nah.

SPLICE.

Friday, June 04, 2010

SpaceX's FALCON 9 rocket launches on its maiden flight on June 4, 2010.

KUDOS TO SPACEX for the successful maiden launch of its Falcon 9 rocket! Today’s historic liftoff oughta be a sign that the job of sending crew and cargo into low-Earth orbit by NASA can soon be handed over to commercial launch companies...and that NASA can focus on sending astronauts to asteroids by um, 2025...as envisioned by Obama. I’m still upset that he cancelled the Constellation moon program though.

All photos in this entry courtesy of Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

The main engines on the FALCON 9 rocket ignite as it prepares to launch on its maiden flight on June 4, 2010.

The FALCON 9 rocket leaves the pad on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010.

The FALCON 9 rocket heads off into space on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010.

The FALCON 9 rocket heads off into space on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... A giant portal to Hell opened up in Guatemala City on May 31. Click here for more pics.

A giant sinkhole emerges in Guatemala City on May 31, 2010.
REUTERS / Casa Presidencial / Handout