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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Below is a (false) color image of Mercury that was shot by the MESSENGER spacecraft yesterday. The pic is the first ever taken from a spacecraft that's in orbit around our solar system's innermost planet. For more MESSENGER photos, go its official mission website.

A false-color image of Mercury that was taken from orbit by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, on March 29, 2011.
NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone prepare for action in SUCKER PUNCH.

SUCKER PUNCH... I saw the Zack Snyder-directed film earlier today, and much like his previous films Watchmen and 300, it was visually stunning. Plus, it had a pretty cool soundtrack. The most interesting aspect of Sucker Punch is that all the fantasy scenes in the movie involving the main character Baby Doll (played by Emily Browning...who I remember from 2004’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which starred Jim Carrey) took place while she was burlesque-dancing (which we never see on-screen) for different clients at the mental asylum she was held in. Who would’ve thought it was possible to gyrate and titillate while simultaneously picture oneself fighting against a 30-foot-tall Samurai welding a Gatling gun? Hm.

Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning, unleashes raw firepower in SUCKER PUNCH.

I also saw the sci-fi adventure comedy Paul. It was funny... If I had the funds I’d totally go to Nevada and visit the "Extraterrestrial Highway" that leads to Area 51, just like what Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s characters did. Seth Rogen was amusing voicing the alien, while it was interesting to see Jason Bateman and Jeffrey Tambor (who both appeared in the long-defunct but very hilarious FOX TV series Arrested Development) show up in the film...along with Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio (who, along with Rogen, both showed up in 2007’s smash hit Superbad. Greg Mottola, who helmed Superbad, also directed Paul). Nice um, cameo by Steven Spielberg in the movie... I’m looking forward to watching the upcoming J.J. Abrams-directed film Super 8—which is produced by Spielberg. The film comes out in theaters on June 10. So, yea. You know what I’m gonna say next: That is all.

Simon Pegg, Kristen Wiig, Nick Frost and Seth Rogen (as the alien Paul) embark on a cross-country adventure in PAUL.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chillin' at the local park.

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... As stated in this previous journal entry, here are a couple of camera phone pics that I took at the local park I've been going to almost every other day since last month...as I take walks and ponder what my next plan of action will be as I embark on the road to re-employment. These photos are meaningless to y’all, but for me, it made me appreciate the nice slice-of-life moments I encounter when I’m at that park (which is a lot more active than these images make it out to be) and going around the local neighborhood. Not that I’d know since you can’t post comments on my Blog, but how many of you folks out there who also aren't working right now have your very own place to hang out at (and job-search, of course) everyday while you hope the nation's economy will recover (which it partly has here in California... 100,000 new jobs were created in the state since early February. My source? A recent edition of the Los Angeles Times newspaper)? FYI, the local malls and the nearby Regal Cinema are also the primary places that I go to during the week (yes, I've went out of town...to places like Downtown Disney in Anaheim and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena). I think I’d be pretty insane by now if I was stuck milling about in this neighborhood for the past 3 months or so.


Lizards and kites at the local park.

Rabbits (that were abandoned?) at the local park.

Beetles and squirrels at the local park.

Still chillin' at the local park.

Still chillin' at the local park.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SO ANYWAYS, I’ve read somewhere online that voicing your problems can at times be detrimental in that instead of feeling a cathartic effect from verbalizing the issue out loud (and on the Web), it actually adds more power to the problem and causes it to have a bigger negative impact on oneself as a result. Oh well. As you may all know from this journal entry I posted in January, I quit a warehouse job after a 3-day stint there after losing my previous film industry-related employment 5 days earlier. Needless to say, the effects of that warehouse job had a major (negative) impact on my job-searching efforts shortly afterward. The day after I lost the film job, I drove to different places where I applied to two retail stores in person, and applied to two more jobs via online later that night. (I even went to a nearby hotel to see if it was hiring new people as well. Nope.) It was also later that night that through diligent Web surfing, I stumbled upon the warehouse job that would put be in a rut two months later. Anyways, on the following day I applied online for two different positions at a single company (Allstate Insurance). I would receive e-mails two days later where I was told that those positions were already filled.

So why did that warehouse job have a negative impact on me, you ask? Well for starters, quitting that job caused me to lose my unemployment benefits (which I started to receive in May of 2010 since my film job was a freelance/part-time gig, and in California part-time employees are eligible to receive unemployment insurance). Turns out, the paycheck that I received for the 3-day work at the warehouse was only 5 BUCKS more than what I would’ve received if I continued to get unemployment checks. So yes, I worked there for nothing. Second reason why that warehouse gig screwed me over? It made me wary of working at a company where the majority of workers there were of a certain ethnicity...and seldom spoke English (I live in Southern California, so you can guess who I’m referring to). Sorry to sound racist (if you guessed the correct ethnicity), but it’s true. Third reason why my job-search is at a standstill? That warehouse gig started to make me SECOND-GUESS applying for any job posting that I looked up on the Web...even to this day. Whether the job is in the entertainment industry as hoped for or at a local company, I’ll try to picture myself being employed there and see if I would love or hate it with a passion. What are the consequences of doing this? Well— I’m now constantly going on Google to see how I can overcome being an "over-thinker" and coping with "analysis-paralysis". Lots of online self-help articles on these two topics.

In terms of being an over-thinker and analyzing things too much, there’s another major reason why my job search has come to a standstill: The fear of doing interviews. In early February, I had to wait more than a week to do a phone interview with the state's employment department after reporting that I quit that warehouse gig. That wait made me constantly worry about what I would say (in order to continue getting checks in the mail) when I finally got called...despite the fact that anxiety I felt was all for naught since I lost my unemployment benefits anyway, as mentioned earlier in this entry. Not focusing on the present moment and worrying 'bout the future has also made me dread doing that one thing that would bring me back into the workforce: The job interview.

Earlier this year, Honda aired this TV commercial where after some dude shakes hands with two hiring managers following a job interview and walks back to his car, one hiring manager looks over to his co-worker and remarks, "Seems right." The co-worker, seemingly unimpressed with the interviewee, responds with an "I don’t know, Hank." (At the end of this commercial, that interviewee would apparently get the job since he drove a Civic.) Even though the hiring managers and interviewee were obviously played by actors, and this commercial was written by some douchey writer, this ad began to make me wary about going to job interviews. (I'd provide a Youtube link to that Honda ad, but I refuse to bring additional attention to a commercial that has had an adverse effect on my prospects for re-employment.)

What didn’t help matters much regarding doing interviews are the constant MSN.com articles I stumble upon during and after I log off of my e-mail account. (For those of you who don’t use Hotmail, you automatically go to the MSN webpage after you log off the e-mail site.) MSN occasionally posts links to pages that talk about how to handle the interviewing and job-searching process. I obviously understand that these articles are meant to help me master the art of interviewing, but for me personally, it’s more detrimental to read about how interviews may be 60 minutes long, may be a "group panel" interview, how you need to prepare hard and do lots of research on the company with which you're doing the interview, how you need to behave a certain way during the interview, and the etiquette of having to send the hiring managers a "thank you" note a couple of days after the interview was held. It seems like these articles are geared towards interviews for a high-paying corporate job, but still— These damn articles make interviews sound a lot more complex than they need to be...and make me want to read about movies and NASA stuff online instead of job searching. Yes, I'm well aware that I don't need to read these articles in the first place. Is there a way to log off of Hotmail without going to MSN, by any chance? Probably not.

So here I am— Two months later and looking for a job every um, week. One good thing that has come out of being a jobless bastard right now? The numerous walks to the nearby park that I’ve done over the past month or so. Facetiousness Alert: You’ll be surprised to see how many hummingbirds fly around my neighborhood, and how many squirrels and rabbits live at the local park I go to almost every day, haha. I’ll post pictures that I’ve taken from my many stints to the park a few days from now. So what's the gist of this journal entry? Working at a warehouse is not for me. Over-thinking and analysis-paralysis suck really bad. I need to overcome my dread of doing job interviews. And...gloomy weather doesn’t help when you’re already in a gloomy mood for being unemployed. It’s currently raining here in SoCal. That is all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The green line marks the path traveled by the New Horizons spacecraft as of 11:00 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on March 18, 2011.  It is 1.8 billion miles from Earth.
ABOVE: The green line marks the path traveled by the New Horizons spacecraft as of
11:00 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, on March 18, 2011. It is 1.8 billion miles from Earth.
Click
here to view the official webpage showing where New Horizons is in space.
(AU stands for Astronomical Units, in case you're wondering.)


NEW HORIZONS Update...

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Later, Uranus: New Horizons Passes Another Planetary Milestone (Press Release)

New Horizons is ready to put another planet – or at least the planet’s orbit – in its rearview mirror. The Pluto-bound spacecraft crosses the path of Uranus around 6 p.m. EDT on March 18, more than 1.8 billion miles from Earth.

"New Horizons is all about delayed gratification, and our 9 1/2-year cruise to the Pluto system illustrates that," says Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute. "Crossing the orbit of Uranus is another milepost along our long journey to the very frontier of exploration."

New Horizons is headed for a rendezvous with planet Pluto and its three moons in July 2015 and, soon after, possible encounters with smaller bodies in the distant Kuiper Belt. The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has already covered serious space since lifting off in January 2006 — traversing 20 times the distance between Earth and the sun, including a flight through the Jupiter system in 2007 for a gravity-assisted speed boost and scientific observations of the giant planet and its largest moons.

"This mission is a marathon," says Project Manager Glen Fountain, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "The New Horizons team has been focused on keeping the spacecraft on course and preparing for Pluto. So far, so good, and we are working to keep it that way."

When has New Horizons passed the other planetary orbits? Check here.

No pictures of Uranus are planned — the gas giant is 2.4 billion miles from New Horizons and the spacecraft is currently in electronic sleep mode — but the mission team on Earth is busy enough, putting final touches on its Pluto-encounter plan and, in April, starting a search for potential flyby targets in the Kuiper Belt. Preparations are also under way for the annual spacecraft systems checkout this spring.

Next planetary milestone on New Horizons’ voyage is the orbit of Neptune, which it crosses on Aug. 25, 2014 — exactly 25 years after Voyager 2 made its historic exploration of that giant planet.

Source: NEW HORIZONS Mission Website

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An artist's concept showing the New Horizons spacecraft soaring past Pluto.
NASA / APL

NEW HORIZONS Blog Entries Archive:

September 26, 2005
December 19, 2005
January 7, 2006
January 17, 2006
January 19, 2006
April 12, 2006
June 15, 2006
February 27, 2007
October 22, 2007
June 8, 2008
October 23, 2008
March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An artist's concept of NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting Mercury.
NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington

MESSENGER Update...

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MESSENGER Begins Historic Orbit around Mercury (Press Release)

At 9:10 p.m. EDT, engineers in the MESSENGER Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., received the anticipated radiometric signals confirming nominal burn shutdown and successful insertion of the MESSENGER probe into orbit around the planet Mercury.

The spacecraft rotated back to the Earth by 9:45 p.m. EDT, and started transmitting data. Upon review of these data, the engineering and operations teams confirmed that the burn executed nominally with all subsystems reporting a clean burn and no logged errors.

MESSENGER’s main thruster fired for approximately 15 minutes at 8:45 p.m., slowing the spacecraft by 1,929 miles per hour (862 meters per second) and easing it into the planned eccentric orbit about Mercury. The rendezvous took place about 96 million miles (155 million kilometers) from Earth.

"Achieving Mercury orbit was by far the biggest milestone since MESSENGER was launched more than six and a half years ago," says MESSENGER Project Manager Peter Bedini, of APL. "This accomplishment is the fruit of a tremendous amount of labor on the part of the navigation, guidance-and-control, and mission operations teams, who shepherded the spacecraft through its 4.9-billion-mile [7.9-billion-kilometer] journey."

For the next several weeks, APL engineers will be focused on ensuring that MESSENGER’s systems are all working well in Mercury’s harsh thermal environment. Starting on March 23, the instruments will be turned on and checked out, and on April 4 the primary science phase of the mission will begin.

"Despite its proximity to Earth, the planet Mercury has for decades been comparatively unexplored," adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "For the first time in history, a scientific observatory is in orbit about our solar system’s innermost planet. Mercury’s secrets, and the implications they hold for the formation and evolution of Earth-like planets, are about to be revealed."

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

Source: MESSENGER Mission Website

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Marine helicopters fly along the Southern California coastline as artificial meteors explode all around them in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES... I finally saw the alien-invasion film today, and needless to say, it was the sci-fi version of Black Hawk Down. Which means...I thought it was pretty cool! Non-stop action was waged throughout B:LA, much like in Ridley Scott’s 2002 war flick about the 1993 conflict in Somalia. Aaron Eckhart was awesome as Staff Sergeant Nantz; while compared to her gung-ho attitude in Avatar, Machete and the Fast and the Furious films, Michelle Rodriguez was somewhat tame as Tech Sgt. Elena Santos in B:LA. As Santos, Rodriguez didn't have the usual sarcastic quips that she had playing previous movie characters. Not that that's a bad thing. Nothing exceptionally noteworthy about the civilians played by Bridget Moynahan and Michael Peña, but I’ll give them props since my review about this flick is supposed to be a positive one. I just found out through IMDb.com that 2nd Lt. William Martinez, who was in charge of the Marine platoon before handing command over to Eckhart's Nantz and then sacrificing himself later in the film, was played by Ramon Rodriguez. In case you’re wondering who this is, Rodriguez played the wacky college roommate of Shia LaBeouf in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But back to B:LA.

Aaron Eckhart as Staff Sergeant Nantz (with Michelle Rodriguez's Tech Sergeant Elena Santos behind him) in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

Battle: Los Angeles didn’t exactly have a deep message like 2009’s District 9 (which B:LA also borrowed elements from...namely weapons that cause explosions surrounded by bolts of lightning) did, but it was still a lot better than last year’s Skyline. B:LA didn’t have a "WTF??" moment at the very end of the movie like Skyline did...though as I said at the beginning of this journal entry, B:LA was obviously inspired by Black Hawk Down in that Eckhart and Co. go back into the battlefield at the film's conclusion to take care of unfinished business. Also, the battle in Los Angeles lasted for one day...while the 1993 battle in Mogadishu, Somalia lasted a day as well. Nothing wrong with that. My personal gripe about B:LA is that, like the Bourne movies (as in The Bourne Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum), it overdid it with the shaky cam. By now using this camera technique in war films has become a cliché, and unfortunately B:LA suffers from this tired method. It was cool in Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down...but try spending more time setting the camera up on a tripod or at least a Steadicam, folks—if there’s a sequel (Battle: San Diego, anyone?). Thanks. Another gripe is that the trippy song used in B:LA's theatrical trailers, "The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky Turned Black" by Icelandic musician Johann Johannsson, wasn't featured in the movie. Oh well.

Tech Sgt. Elena Santos stares at what remains of a Marine 'Forward Operating Base' in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

Special effects-wise, the aliens in B:LA looked interesting...though were they using projectile weapons (RE: bullets) just like the humans were? I guess having the invaders shoot laser beams at the Marines would’ve ruined the gritty, realistic tone of the film. After all, this ain’t Star Wars. Or Star Trek. Or Independence Day. Or Transformers. Or Terminator. The same people who did the visual FX on Skyline also did the FX work on B:LA. The FX work was what saved Skyline since its CW Network-quality cast of actors wasn’t exactly the saving grace of that movie. That is all.

Staff Sergeant Nantz watches as the aliens' Command & Control Ship explodes after a U.S. Air Force missile strikes it in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Space shuttle Endeavour rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 10, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... A day after Discovery entered retirement after completing mission STS-133, Endeavour began her own swan song by arriving on the launch pad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center last night. The countdown to the end of the space shuttle program continues ticking.

Crowds gather and watch as space shuttle Endeavour heads to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 10, 2011.
NASA / Terry Zaperach

Space shuttle Endeavour sits atop her launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 11, 2011.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Space shuttle Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final time on March 9, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

THE END BEGINS... At 8:57 AM, Pacific Time today, space shuttle Discovery safely landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...bringing an end to her storied 26-plus year career that involved launching the Hubble Space Telescope into Earth orbit in 1990, sending John Glenn (who became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962) into space for the second time in 1998, and returning to flight the U.S. space shuttle fleet after the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia disasters. Discovery is now destined to find her final home at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

The International Space Station as seen from space shuttle Discovery after she undocked from the orbital outpost on March 7, 2011.
NASA

On a personal note, the final mission of space shuttle Discovery is significant to me in that I actually had a presence, so to speak, onboard the orbiter. My name and face, along with 194,180 others, were digitally transmitted up to the vehicle during her flight. They were gathered as part of NASA’s Face in Space campaign that started last June. In case you missed out on having your name and face onboard Discovery, you can submit your name and face to fly on Endeavour during her final flight, STS-134—which is scheduled to launch next month. You can submit your name (and face...sorry for being repetitive) even on the day of her launch, which is April 19. That is all.

My participation certificate for space shuttle flight STS-133.
NASA

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sentinel Prime in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Meet Sentinel Prime—Optimus Prime’s big brother in this July's Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The two Autobots will be featured on the cover of this April's issue of Empire magazine...out in newsstands soon. In case you’re wondering, Sentinel’s vehicle mode of choice in Dark of the Moon will be the cool fire truck below. That is all.

The fire truck that Sentinel Prime will be disguised as in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Atlas V rocket carrying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on March 5, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Yesterday afternoon, an Atlas V rocket carrying the top-secret Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Also known as the X-37B, this is actually a different space plane from the one that flew into space in April of last year. If it’s anything like the first OTV, this vehicle will stay in Earth orbit for at least 220 days and land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as early as November. Awesome. You can check out more photos of the OTV's launch on SpaceflightNow.com.

The OTV is shown inside its Atlas V payload fairing during encapsulation, ahead of its March 2011 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
U.S. Air Force

The OTV is shown inside its Atlas V payload fairing during encapsulation, ahead of its March 2011 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
U.S. Air Force

The OTV is shown inside its Atlas V payload fairing during encapsulation, ahead of its March 2011 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
U.S. Air Force

With space shuttle Discovery in the background, the Atlas V payload fairing carrying the OTV is transported to its launch pad, ahead of its March 2011 liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
U.S. Air Force

The Atlas V rocket carrying the OTV prepares to roll out of its Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on March 3, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket carrying the OTV rolls out to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on March 3, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket arrives at its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on March 3, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

Friday, March 04, 2011

A Taurus XL rocket carrying NASA's Glory spacecraft soars skyward after being launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on March 4, 2011.
TitanFan - NASASpaceflight.com

IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN... After having my name successfully fly into space onboard the Cassini Saturn orbiter, Deep Impact’s "impactor", the Phoenix Mars Lander, Japan’s Kaguya lunar spacecraft, the Dawn space probe, the Kepler telescope, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Japan’s IKAROS solar sail and the Akatsuki spacecraft (even though it failed to enter Venus’ orbit last December), it was inevitable that my name would fail to soar beyond Earth (again) onboard a future space mission. Turns out— Glory was that mission. Much like what happened during the launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) in 2009, the payload fairing that encapsulated Glory onboard the Taurus XL rocket (which was also used by OCO) failed to separate during flight this morning, preventing the vehicle from gaining sufficient speed to reach Earth orbit...and causing another NASA climate-observing satellite to find its final resting spot at the bottom of the south Pacific Ocean. Awesome. A microchip bearing my name, along with that of 243,200 others, is now—to borrow a line from Godfather: Part 1—sleeping with the fishes. Oh well.

My participation certificate for the Glory mission.

This isn’t the first spacecraft with my name on it to end up underwater. My name was also onboard Russia’s Mars ’96 lander...which also plunged into the Pacific Ocean after experiencing a launch mishap 15 years ago. Spaceflight is definitely risky business. My apologies to the Glory mission team who has to suffer through this devastating setback and the Orbital Sciences team (who was responsible for the Taurus XL) who spent the last 2 years trying to fix the payload fairing issue. That is all.

An artist's concept of the Glory spacecraft in Earth orbit.
NASA