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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BRING ON CHRISTMAS! As you probably know by now, the NBA lockout is pretty much kaput, with a 66-game 2011-‘12 regular season set to begin on December 25. Five games will be played on Jeebus’ birthday...with match-ups between:

- the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Orlando Magic

- the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors

- the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks

- the defending champion Dallas Mavericks (bastards) and the Miami Heat (even bigger bastards)

and of course,

- the Lakers and the Chicago Bulls

Kobe takes on 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose at STAPLES Center in L.A...at 2:15 PM, Pacific Time on ABC.

Speaking of the Lake Show, I owe Chad Ochocinco (formerly Chad Johnson...of the NFL’s New England Patriots) an apology. I didn’t think someone else could change their last (or should I say, full) name to something a lot worse than 'Ochocinco'. Boy, was I wrong. Metta World Peace... Really, Ron Artest? If the Lakers don’t waive you for financial reasons, it would be for that wacky moniker you gave yourself over this summer. Whatever. Basketball is back!

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Chicago Bulls at STAPLES Center on December 25.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The cover illustration for THE ART AND MAKING OF STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC book.
Chronicle Books

HAPPY CYBER MONDAY, EVERYONE! Just thought I’d share these two cool Star Wars-related images with y’all. The illustration above is from the cover for The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic...which is a totally awesome publication that I stumbled upon at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore last Saturday. I’ll avoid making a comment about how there are much better characters (specifically Sith Lords) in the so-called Expanded Universe than there are in the Star Wars prequels themselves. In terms of Sith Lords, expect me to post artwork of such villains as Darth Malgus, Darth Malak and the really cool-looking Darth Revan in the near future.

The image below is a screenshot from a Star Wars video game whose title I don’t remember. (I found this pic online.) Ironically, the screenshot brings back memories of an enjoyable Star Wars video game I played back in um, the mid-1990s: X-Wing CD-ROM. I posted a Blog back in January of 2007 about how I wished that LucasArts would re-release this game for Windows XP. No dice. Oh well.

A Battle of Endor screenshot from a STAR WARS video game whose title I don't remember.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Atlas V rocket carrying the Curiosity Mars rover is launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 26, 2011.
NASA / Bill White

ONWARD TO MARS (AGAIN)! At 7:02 AM, Pacific Standard Time today, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft departed from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on an 8-plus month journey to the Red Planet. MSL will arrive at Mars around August 6, 2012...deploying the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface at Gale Crater and begin a minimum of 2 years studying its surroundings and seeing if the environment is or was ever hospitable to microorganisms. In other words, Curiosity will check to see if Mars is the second world in this solar system (guess what the first planet is) that is or was ever friendly to life.

Posing with the Curiosity Mars rover and its descent stage behind me, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on June 6, 2011.

Other than the fact it’s always exciting whenever we launch a spacecraft to another world, there’s another reason why I’m glad Curiosity is finally out in deep space. Onboard the rover are two microchips that (combined) bear the names of 1.25 million people...including Yours Truly. Most of the names were submitted via the Internet between March of 2009 and June of this year, while 20,000 handwritten signatures were digitized after being collected via guestbooks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California (where Curiosity was built). Other than submitting my name on the Web, I had the opportunity to provide my own signature when I attended the JPL Open House last May. I also had the privilege of taking a picture with the rover, so-to-speak, at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility during the JPL Tweetup a month later (shown above). Totally awesome. The autographs of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and several high-ranking NASA officials such as administrator Charles Bolden are also onboard Curiosity.

My participation certificate for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Below are images of MSL prior to it separating from the Centaur upper stage about an hour after launch this morning. I’m definitely glad that NASA made the effort to provide visual proof that this ambitious mission is well on its way to Mars. Now all that needs to be done is wait for visual proof after Curiosity safely touches down on the Red Planet next summer. Carry on.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft is about to separate from its Centaur upper stage about an hour after launch, on November 26, 2011.
NASA TV

The MSL spacecraft separates from its Centaur upper stage about an hour after launch, on November 26, 2011.
NASA TV

The MSL spacecraft floats away from its Centaur upper stage about an hour after launch, on November 26, 2011.
NASA TV

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Atlas V rocket carrying the Curiosity Mars rover rolls out to Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on November 25, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

ONE DAY TILL LAUNCH... Earlier this morning, the Atlas V rocket carrying the Curiosity rover was rolled out to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Less than 24 hours remain before the Atlas V roars to life and sends Curiosity on its way to Gale Crater on Mars. Don’t know about you guys but my excitement for this mission is quickly building up (moreso, that is)... Can’t wait for tomorrow!

The Atlas V rocket rolls away from its Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on November 25, 2011.
Florida Today

The Atlas V rocket arrives at SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on November 25, 2011.
NASA / Tony Gray

The Atlas V rocket is poised for launch at SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on November 25, 2011.
NASA / Frankie Martin

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Work continues being done on the Atlas V rocket, which carries the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft onboard, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 17, 2011.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

TWO DAYS TILL LAUNCH... Expect at least the next two journal entries to be about the Curiosity rover and its impending departure for Mars. The Atlas V rocket carrying the Red Planet-bound spacecraft will be rolled out to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida tomorrow, while the Big Event itself will take place at 7:02 AM, Pacific Standard Time on Saturday...weather permitting and all. Godspeed, Curiosity!

Oh—and Happy Turkey Day, everyone! (To all of my fellow Yanks, that is.)

A computer-generated concept of daybreak occurring on Mars.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Monday, November 21, 2011

PROPS TO THE LOS ANGELES GALAXY for winning the Major League Soccer (MLS) title against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center last night. The final score was 1-0, with David Beckham helping Robbie Keane and MLS Cup MVP Landon Donovan bring a third Galaxy championship to Los Angeles since 2002 (L.A. also won in 2005). This is the first MLS title that Beckham, Keane and Donovan won together. Congrats, fellas. This makes up for the Los Angeles Lakers not winning a third straight NBA trophy this year, and of course, the still-ongoing NBA lockout.

...

Okay, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I want basketball back.

David Beckham holds up the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy after the Los Angeles Galaxy defeats the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, to win the 2011 MLS Cup...on November 20, 2011.
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Saturday, November 19, 2011

ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, the Curiosity Mars rover launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on an 8-month journey to the Red Planet. The actual liftoff time for November 26 is 7:02 AM, Pacific Standard Time...in case you were wondering when the countdown clock to the right of this page reaches zero. Carry on.

An artist's concept of the Curiosity Mars rover firing its ChemCam laser at a rock.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jeju Island in South Korea.
Shisanu Tonchim / Alamy / Connie Ricca

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Bing Travel posted this interesting article about seven new wonders of nature recently determined in a global campaign by Switzerland’s New Open World Corp. Among the places chosen are Jeju Island in South Korea (above) and Halong Bay in Vietnam (below). Not surprisingly, Asia is obviously one of the best regions to go to if you want to visit these awesome, exotic locales. Other Asian destinations I mentioned in the past are the Andaman Sea and the Dokdo islands. Check out those links to read more on what I typed about these locations.

Halong Bay in Vietnam.
OJO Images Ltd / Alamy / Connie Ricca

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mars and Phobos.
NASA / JPL / Malin Space Sciences System / RichTPar

FOBOS-GRUNT... That’s the name of the latest robotic Mars mission by Russia to be on the verge of ending in failure. What I find mind-boggling is the fact The Planetary Society—a well-known non-profit space advocacy group based in Pasadena, California—would continue to rely on Russia to send its many exciting projects towards space throughout the years, only to fail after launch during the process. The first disappointment came in 1996, when the Mars ’96 spacecraft, carrying The Planetary Society’s first Vision of Mars CD-ROM, ended up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean after the Proton rocket carrying the probe suffered a mechanical problem after liftoff. [Another Vision of Mars DVD (shown below) has since found its way onto the surface of Mars...courtesy of NASA’s now-defunct but very-successful Phoenix lander.] The second disappointment came in 2005, when a Volna rocket—carrying the Society’s Cosmos 1 solar sail—malfunctioned after launch, preventing Cosmos 1 from reaching its intended orbit. And now stranded in low-Earth orbit (LEO) with Fobos-Grunt is the Society’s Phobos LIFE (Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment) project...which consists of a canister (a.k.a. 'biomodule') that contains millions of microorganisms that were intended to test the "Transpermia Hypothesis": Which theorizes that microbes could survive trips between planets onboard rocks blasted into deep space by impacts. A Shuttle LIFE canister, which is similar to the one placed on Fobos-Grunt, successfully flew into LEO onboard the orbiter Endeavour during flight STS-134 last May.

A flight spare for the Phoenix DVD.
The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society has another project coming up...the Lightsail-1 solar sail that is currently scheduled to fly into space no earlier than mid-2012. No launch vehicle has yet been selected to send Lightsail-1 into Earth orbit. Not to sound like an arrogant Yankee space geek or something, but I really do hope the Society considers American rockets and American rockets only (and maybe a Japanese H-IIA vehicle) when it comes to choosing a means of transport once Lightsail-1 is ready to soar into the sky. Of course, since Lightsail-1 will be a secondary payload, it’s up to the organization that is responsible for the primary payload to decide which rocket will be used for the mission. But I’ll take a Delta II, an Atlas V or a Falcon 9 vehicle (a Delta IV rocket, currently the largest in the U.S. expendable launch vehicle inventory, might be bit of an overkill) over a converted Russian submarine-launched ballistic missile (which is what Cosmos 1 flew on) any day. Though I hope the Society doesn’t consider a Taurus XL rocket when/if that one becomes operational again. I’m still peeved over the Glory spacecraft’s launch failure last March.

An artist's concept of the LIGHTSAIL-1 spacecraft in Earth orbit.
The Planetary Society

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

'Extra' TV correspondent Maria Menounos makes an appearance at The Grove in Los Angeles.

A SUNNY DAY IN SOCAL... Just thought I’d post these random pics that I took at The Grove in Los Angeles earlier today. Maria Menounos, a correspondent for Extra, was filming a segment for the entertainment news TV show there. Actress Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s The Office, was also gonna be at The Grove. She was making an appearance at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. I would’ve stayed to at least take photos of her, but Kaling wasn’t scheduled to show up till 7 PM—and I was at The Grove around 2:30 PM. Maybe if it was Jenna Fischer or Ellie Kemper (who plays the lovely receptionist Erin Hannon on The Office) doing a book signing, then I’d wait. Not that I have anything against Indian girls... Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire and the gal who plays Priya on CBS' The Big Bang Theory are hawt. End of semi-juvenile entry.

'Extra' TV correspondent Maria Menounos makes an appearance at The Grove in Los Angeles.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Chillin' in Newport Beach on a rainy day.

A RAINY DAY IN SOCAL... Just thought I’d share random pics that I took in Orange County yesterday, when I helped my friend Sarina (who's a wedding photographer) on an engagement photo shoot she worked on in Newport Beach and Irvine. That is all.

Helping my friend Sarina on an engagement photo shoot in Newport Beach.

Helping my friend Sarina on an engagement photo shoot in Newport Beach.

Helping my friend Sarina on an engagement photo shoot in Newport Beach.

Helping my friend Sarina on an engagement photo shoot in Newport Beach.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The payload fairing carrying the Curiosity Mars rover is attached to its Atlas V launch vehicle on November 3, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... As of this morning, the Curiosity Mars rover is now poised for launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Curiosity's date with the Red Planet begins about three weeks from now, on November 25.

The Curiosity Mars rover, now encased inside its aeroshell, is about to be encapsulated by its Atlas V payload fairing on October 25, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

A worker applies a NASA 'Meatball' logo to the side of the Atlas V's payload fairing, on October 31, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

The Curiosity rover, now encased inside its payload fairing, is about to be transported to Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41, where the Atlas V rocket that will send it to Mars awaits.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The Curiosity rover's payload fairing is about to be hoisted into the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41, prior to being attached to its Atlas V launch vehicle.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The Curiosity rover's payload fairing is hoisted into the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41, prior to being attached to its Atlas V launch vehicle.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Jim Carrey as Fire Marshall Bill on the original IN LIVING COLOR.

IN LIVING COLOR... I recently read online that FOX is bringing back the iconic sketch comedy TV show...which will have been off the air for 18 years when two half-hour specials of In Living Color airs in spring of 2012. All I can say to this is, "Two snaps up!" Keenen Ivory Wayans will return as host, though now-megastars such as Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez have not said anything publicly about whether or not they’ll at least make cameos in any of the two episodes. Should the hour-long special be a hit next year, then FOX just might bring In Living Color back as a regular series. Word.

Damon Wayans as Homey D. Clown on the original IN LIVING COLOR.

In Living Color's new cast will be comprised of young, up-and-coming comedians, though it will kick major arse (if the show gets re-launched into a series) if Jim Carrey shows up as Fire Marshall Bill somewhere down the line, Damon Wayans returns as the disgruntled Homey D. Clown, and J. Lo makes up for getting with Puff Daddy (or was he already P. Diddy at that time? I dunno) and deciding to become a music artist by shaking her booty once more as a Fly Girl. Maybe J. Lo might even appear frequently on In Living Color if she ever decides to ditch her job as a judge on American Idol. She’ll still be on a FOX show either way. Hmm... To quote a famous line from In Living Color: "I don’t think so. Homey don’t play dat."

As if you didn’t see that one coming.

IN LIVING COLOR's original Fly Girl, Jennifer Lopez.