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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tumultuous Times Update... (And what a difference taking the right medicine makes) Just thought I'd give the 411 on my recovery from a fungal infection (known as Coccidioidomycosis) that I got in late January. For the most part, all of the pustules on my face are gone—though there are scars left behind after their removal (the doctor I spoke to at UCLA last month was sort of right when he said they would fall off...it just took some help from me to remove them). Thanks to the antibiotic Fluconazole, which I've been taking for more than a month now, the Coccidioidomycosis has for the most part been contained. However (and this might be bit of a TMI), there are still spots on my arms, upper body and legs that are taking a while to go away. But I'm just glad I'm able to go out again since I don't have crap growing on my lips and above my left eye. (TMI again.)

A new problem I'm facing now is that my joints are hurting...thanks to almost four months of inactivity due to staying at home and dealing with the fungal infection. I have elbow, knee, ankle and feet issues. The knee, ankle and feet issues are manageable [I can use the treadmill and/or go on regular walks (usually at the local mall, haha)]; it's my elbows that are bothering me. Admittedly, the elbow pain is somewhat due to me spending considerable time at the computer (typing these awesome blogs for y'all to read) since there was nothing else to do other than watching TV and listening to my MP3 player when I was stuck at home. Having bad ergonomics at your computer desk will do that to ya. So right now, I'm unable to do push-ups or any other upper-body workout—which would explain why I haven't gained mass despite eating a lot more over the last four months. I lost around 25 pounds by early April. I've gained back 5 pounds since then. Lousy fast metabolism.

Anyways, just thought I'd do something crazy and actually post a pic of me back when the Coccidioidomycosis was at its worst. (It's the March 2012 photo if you wanna insult me by not telling the difference between snapshots.) If you think this image is fake and that I have special FX make-up on, then I'm flattered. I can't think of anyone else I know personally who got screwed over by karma so royally that other people wouldn't believe how physically afflicted they could become (if you overlook getting an STD or the "C" word— It rhymes with 'answer'). Seriously though, this photo is authentic...which is why I included before-and-after pics to negate how s***ty I look in it. For those of you wondering how you can prevent getting Coccidioidomycosis, I have two pieces of advice for you: Be wary of dusty areas (especially if you live in the southwestern U.S. like I do), and don't have a crappy immune system. That is all.

No wait— I have one more piece of advice to give you: Don't be African, a Native American or a Filipino (which I am)...people of these ethnic descents are prone to getting the most severe cases of Coccidioidomycosis. NOW you freakin' tell me.

Recovering from Coccidioidomycosis... Thank you, Fluconazole.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An image I took of the annular solar eclipse that took place on May 20, 2012.

Photos of the 'Ring of Fire' Eclipse... Just thought I'd share pics I took of the annular solar eclipse that took place on May 20 (which is my dad's birthday). I used special sunglasses found in an issue of Astronomy magazine and my 7.3 megapixel digital camera to obtain images of the 'Ring of Fire' (which is another name for this kind of eclipse). Now if only a total solar eclipse occurred over Southern California... Not anytime soon. The next solar eclipse where the Sun is covered in totality won't be viewable from SoCal again till next century. That's a bummer.

LINK: Photos I took of the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012

Using special sunglasses provided by ASTRONOMY magazine to view the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012.

Using special sunglasses provided by ASTRONOMY magazine to view the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012.

Window shades reflected the annular solar eclipse onto my living room wall on May 20, 2012.

The Moon is about to pass in front of the Sun during the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012.

The Moon is about to move away from the Sun during the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The USS Iowa passes underneath the Golden Gate Bridge as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Paul Chinn / San Francisco Chronicle

The Iowa is finally headed to SoCal... At 11 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, the retired battleship USS Iowa was finally towed from her refurbishing site in the San Francisco Bay to begin her three to four day journey to San Pedro in Southern California. The Iowa headed out to open sea after passing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge just before 3 PM, PDT. Iowa was originally supposed to head to SoCal last Sunday, but a storm system off the coast of California caused the trip to be delayed.

The USS Iowa is surrounded by sailboats and other vessels as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Dean Lauerman - Facebook.com

After Iowa arrives in SoCal next week, preparations will be made to turn her into a naval museum. July 7 is currently the date when the 887-foot long, 45,000-ton vessel will open to the public. I'm looking forward to driving down to San Pedro this summer to see the "Battleship of Presidents" (the Iowa was FDR's favorite naval transport during World War II) in person. Hope it won't be too crowded at the waterfront (I'm sure it will). That is all.

The USS Iowa is surrounded by a flotilla of sailboats and yachts as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Sky1Ron - Twitpic.com

The USS Iowa passes the island of Alcatraz as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Sky1Ron - Twitpic.com

The USS Iowa passes through San Francisco Bay as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of WebMarin.com

The USS Iowa approaches the Golden Gate Bridge as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Sky1Ron - Twitpic.com

The USS Iowa passes underneath the Golden Gate Bridge as the battleship embarks on a final trip to SoCal, on May 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Terry Ash - Twitpic.com

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A statue built in honor of Stephon Marbury, who helped the Beijing Ducks win the 2012 Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) championship.

Stephon Marbury: Beijing Idol... Leave it to the Chinese to build a statue in honor of the former NBA point guard...who's currently playing for the Beijing Ducks and helped the team win the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) title earlier this year. Marbury scored 41 points in the final game against the Guangdong Tigers, which had Aaron Brooks (of the Houston Rockets) and James Singleton (who played with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Washington Wizards) on its team. While Marbury and Brooks are still part of their respective CBA teams, Singleton returned to the States to play for the Wizards after the CBA season ended. By the way, why the heck was it Dennis Rodman who gave the dedication speech when the statue was unveiled? Huh.

All I can say is— I wonder what the Chinese would have built if it was Kobe Bryant or LeBron James who helped a CBA team win a championship. Probably a nice mansion (not that KB24 or LBJ couldn't afford to buy their own...OBVIOUSLY) in Shanghai...constructed by political prisoners. I kid. And before you point out that Michael Jordan has a statue of his own in Chicago and Magic Johnson has been idolized in bronze outside of STAPLES Center in L.A., they each have at least 5 NBA titles under their belt. Maybe if the Ducks repeat as champs next year, then it wouldn't be so wacky for Marbury to have a statue built by folks living in a communist superpower. That is all.

Stephon Marbury holds up the CBA trophy after leading the Beijing Ducks to the 2012 championship.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Los Angeles Kings celebrate after defeating the Phoenix Coyotes and winning the NHL Western Conference championship, on May 22, 2012.
Jeff Gross / Getty Images

The Kings have a date with the Stanley Cup! Overlooking the fact tonight's clinching of the NHL Western Conference championship makes up for the disappointing loss by the Lakers and the expected defeat of the Clippers in the NBA playoffs, the L.A. Kings' return to the Stanley Cup Finals marks the second time in almost 20 years that this franchise reached the championship round (during the Wayne Gretzky era)...and also the second time in 5 years that a SoCal team was only 4 wins away from taking the Stanley Cup trophy. The Anaheim Ducks won it back in 2007.

Let's see if the Kings will soon be able to have their own championship banner hang next to those of the Lakers at STAPLES Center...the same way the Ducks' banner triumphantly hangs from a rafter at the Honda Center (as shown in the camera phone pic I took below) in Orange County. Not to jinx the Kings or anything. Carry on.

A camera phone pic I took of the Anaheim Ducks' championship banner at the Honda Center, on January 27, 2012.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Photos of the Day... This meme, which one of my friends posted on Facebook today, would be a lot funnier if it wasn't for the lousy grammar in the caption below. Bring her IN the NBA Finals? What, will Selena Gomez play with the San Antonio Spurs once they reach the championship round next month? *hint hint* (Screw you, Oklahoma City Thunder.)

Seriously though, the person who wrote this caption is a much bigger tool than Justin Bieber looks in these pics.

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber get all rowdy during a Lakers game at STAPLES Center. I kid.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Pic du Midi Observatory, which is situated atop a mountain in the French Pyrenees.
Photo courtesy of Pascalou petit - Wikipedia.org

Pic du Midi Observatory... Last Tuesday, I was at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore when I read about this interesting astronomical location in a special issue of Astronomy magazine. Pic du Midi Observatory, or Observatoire du Pic du Midi de Bigorre, is situated on a 9,439 feet-tall mountain in France. Construction initially began in 1878...with more than six instruments (including both telescopes and coronographs) built at the observatory since then. Among these instruments was a 42-inch telescope that was installed at the site courtesy of NASA (which provided funding) in 1963, and was used to take detailed images of the Moon's surface in preparation for the Apollo missions.

Cable cars approach the observatory atop Pic du Midi de Bigorre.
Photo courtesy of Svein-Magne Tunli - Wikipedia.org

The Pic du Midi Observatory is in such a remote location in the French Pyrenees that cable cars need to be used to reach the site. Although this observatory was featured (under a different name) in the video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Pic du Midi de Bigorre has yet to be seen in a movie...at least none that I know of. This may possibly be due to the fact that the location is only accessible by cable cars—and they may not be strong enough to lift heavy stacks of film equipment up to the observatory. That, and if there's an emergency during filming, good luck in getting the injured cast or crew member to a hospital ASAP. Of course, that's where helicopters come along.

An aerial view of the Pic du Midi Observatory.
Photo courtesy of physics4me

Along with the Dokdo islands in the Sea of Japan, Pic du Midi de Bigorre is another place that I wouldn't mind traveling to. It's just amazing to read about man-made structures that are built in the remotest of locations on Earth (Of course, research centers in Antarctica—such as the U.S. McMurdo Station—would be too obvious to blog about in this case). However, I take issue when a man-made structure is built in a location that shouldn't be disturbed for environmental reasons...such as the Amazon rain forest, or the Arctic. I'll leave it at that. No need to start talking like a Greenpeace hippie in this entry. Carry on.

A time-lapse shot showing stars moving across the sky above the Pic du Midi Observatory.
Photo courtesy of be*curious - Flickr.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Enterprise is lowered towards the ground after demating from NASA 905 at JFK International Airport on May 12, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

Ready for the Intrepid... Last Saturday, the prototype space shuttle orbiter Enterprise was finally removed from the top of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (designated NASA 905) that brought her from Virginia to New York City on April 27. The Enterprise will reside in a temporary hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport till June, before finally being loaded onto a barge and sent up the Hudson River to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Enterprise's final home. Once she is finally raised via cranes onto the decommissioned aircraft character USS Intrepid, preparations will be made to open Enterprise to the public. Enterprise will officially go on display this July 19.

At JFK International Airport, Enterprise is about to be demated from NASA 905 during the night of May 12, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

Enterprise is about to be lowered onto a transport vehicle after demating from NASA 905 at JFK International Airport, on May 12, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

With the Moon in the background, Enterprise is lowered onto a transport vehicle (not shown) at JFK International Airport, on May 12, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

Enterprise is towed into a temporary hangar after being demated from NASA 905 at JFK International Airport, on May 12, 2012.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum...which awaits Enterprise's arrival next month.
NASA / Kim Shiflet

Monday, May 14, 2012

Prior to her being prepped for her eventual journey to Southern California, the USS Iowa is pushed by tugboats through Suisun Bay in Northern California on October 27, 2011.
Ben Margot / Associated Press

Next Sunday, the retired battleship USS Iowa is scheduled to be towed from her refurbishing site near San Francisco to San Pedro in Southern California, where the famous naval vessel—which saw action in both World War II and Korea—will soon become a museum. The trip down the California coastline will take three or four days to complete. Once the Iowa arrives in SoCal, preparations will be made to open her to the public on July 7. Looking forward to seeing this ship in person. It makes me wanna go to Long Beach (which is right next to San Pedro) to visit the Queen Mary first, for some random reason. Both vessels were used in WWII, but the Queen Mary doesn't have 16-inch guns capable of firing at targets more than 24 miles away. Now that's badass. Of course, the Queen Mary is haunted...which is just as cool. That is all.

A Bay Area resident views the USS Iowa from an overlook.
Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

The USS Iowa was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's favorite naval transport in World War II.
Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Friday, May 11, 2012

Image of the Day... If you're a regular viewer of CBS' hit TV show The Big Bang Theory like I am, then you'd wish that Sheldon Cooper made his own head explode doing this gesture. Of course, this sort of hatred towards the manipulative, narcissistic genius only comes to show you what a great actor Jim Parsons is. Bazinga!

Sheldon Cooper thinks he has special powers in THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

An image taken by a camera on the Curiosity Mars rover's robotic arm on April 20, 2012.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Malin Space Science Systems

Curiosity Update... In case you're wondering why I'm posting this blurry pic above, it's because the photo was taken 79 million miles (127 million kilometers) from Earth. A camera on the robotic arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover—which is still en route to the Red Planet—took this snapshot inside the spacecraft's aeroshell on April 20. Known as the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), the camera was being tested in preparation for Curiosity's arrival at the Red Planet on the night of August 5 (Pacific Daylight Time). The reason why this pic is blurry is because MAHLI's lens focus mechanism was turned off...to protect it from being damaged during last November's launch as well as the upcoming landing.

The Curiosity rover is still 88 days away from landing on Mars. As of April 27, the rover had 119 million miles (191 million kilometers) to go before arriving at the Red Planet...closing in at a speed of 13,000 mph (21,000 kilometers per hour). Curiosity is expected to touch down on the Martian surface around 10:31 PM, PDT, on August 5.

A computer-generated image depicting the Curiosity Mars rover's current position out in deep space.
NASA / JPL - Solar System Simulator v4.0

Friday, May 04, 2012

Iron Man uses one of his many awesome weapons against an unseen enemy in THE AVENGERS.

The Avengers... The much-anticipated comic book ensemble film, which has already grossed $281.1 million overseas, finally gets released in North American theaters today. Can't wait to watch it! Adding to the comic book goodness is the fact the final trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is expected to be shown in front of The Avengers. (The reason why I say 'expected to be shown' is because major cinema chains such as AMC Theatres might place The Dark Knight Rises preview in front of other flicks to dissuade die-hard Batman geeks from buying tickets to see The Avengers, and then walking out once the Dark Knight trailer comes to an end.) Check out the preview and some screen captures (including a cool shot of The Bat, the Dark Knight's aerial assault vehicle, shown below) from the Batman trailer on my Film Blog.

The Bat, the Dark Knight's aerial assault vehicle, flies into action in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

One Year Ago Today, Osama bin Laden met his fate at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs who secretly entered Pakistan using stealth helicopters, and raided bin Laden's residential compound in the city of Abbottabad to make him pay for the atrocities that took place on American soil almost a decade earlier. Since bin Laden's death, much change has happened in the Middle East...some positive, some negative. In terms of positive, U.S. soldiers finally pulled out of Iraq last December—thus concluding combat operations there and ending a bloody 8 1/2-year-old war in that nation. And in Libya, Moammar Gadhafi met his own demise last October by local rebels wanting to bring change to that country after being galvanized by the so-called 'Arab Spring' uprisings that took place in other Mideast nations such as Egypt and Yemen. With the negative, civil war continues in Syria...with local protesters being killed on a daily basis by government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. These protesters were also inspired by Arab Spring, but unlike the uprising in Libya, have largely been unsuccessful in their bid to bring democratic change to their country. And in Afghanistan, chaos looms in that country as the Haqqani Network and a resurgent Taliban insurgency wreak havoc on local villagers as well as U.S. and NATO troops there. And it doesn't help that American soldiers are walking into random Afghan villages at night to go on shooting sprees and killing dozens of innocent civilians inside their homes. The U.S. is scheduled to withdraw its troops from the Central Asian country by 2014.

It's been one year since Osama bin Laden met his fate at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

Closer to home, and on a positive note once more, New York City marked a significant milestone that showed it is nicely recovering from the horrors of 9/11. The 1 World Trade Center (1 WTC), with the addition of a single steel column to the top of its framework yesterday afternoon, officially replaced the Empire State Building as the tallest skyscraper in the Big Apple (with 1 WTC now being 1,271 feet-tall). Once completed, the 1 WTC will stand 1,776 feet-high...making it the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere (though folks who built the Willis Tower in Chicago might disagree with this). Even though 1 WTC still has about two years to go before it will be fully completed, it already is an impressive sight gracing the New York skyline. And considering the fact it sits on the same ground where two previous towers stood and almost 3,000 people lost their lives, the 1 WTC serves as an emotional and inspirational reminder that New York City is slowly getting back on its feet—and even if bin Laden was still alive today, would show that al-Qaeda failed in its quest to bring fear to this metropolis and force it to aim low in its ambitions. Instead, New York is aiming high...with the sky being the limit as 1 WTC continues to rise above what was once the ruins of Ground Zero more than 11 years ago. That is all.

Workers sign the steel column that made the 1 World Trade Center (1 WTC) the tallest building in New York City (NYC), on April 30, 2012.
WTCProgress - Twitter.com

The steel column that made the 1 WTC the tallest building in NYC is raised towards the top of the skyscraper, on April 30, 2012.
WTCProgress - Twitter.com

The steel column that made the 1 WTC the tallest building in NYC is secured to the skyscraper's framework, on April 30, 2012.
WTCProgress - Twitter.com

Now the tallest building in NYC, the 1 WTC towers above the city's skyline on April 30, 2012.
WTCProgress - Twitter.com