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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A LEGO® tow truck: Cool.

Stupid Things I Used To Like When I Was A Kid... Happy Halloween, everyone! Just thought I'd post a long-planned journal entry ranting about things I thought were cool back when I was young, but now I just despise them for causing total inconveniences in my adult life. How many of you think that certain things that you liked when you were a kid are now lame? Whether it's a music group whose songs had a cool beat when you were 11 but now think sound pretty cheesy (like those of um, New Kids On The Block). Or a movie classic that you watched half a dozen times on VHS when you were 8 but now find totally corny and badly-acted [like The Goonies (yea, you heard me)...and for people born in the early '90's, flicks like The Phantom Menace]? Or an old cartoon that you found action-packed when you were little but now ridicule because of its formulaic episodes and crappy animation (like Voltron)? Well, I'm discussing none of those here. Instead, I'm ranting about things that most likely only other dudes can relate to when they were kids: automobiles. Or specifically, diesel-powered vehicles...like trucks, buses and trains. Read on.

A REAL Peterbilt truck: Not cool. Unless it's Optimus Prime.

For those of you who have driver's licenses and commute almost everyday, you've probably experienced lots of moments where you were frustrated because scores of big rig trucks were clogging up lanes on the freeway (particularly the 5, 60 and 605 freeways if you live here in Southern California). Back when I was a kid, I used to love trucks. I liked building them out of LEGO®, and even daydreamed about buying my own Peterbilt (yep, the same truck used for Optimus Prime in Michael Bay's Transformers movies...though I didn't know that it was called Peterbilt back when I was 10) when I was older. Just something about these vehicles and how they dwarfed regular cars with their multiple oversize tires and loud roaring engines intrigued me. Now, these trucks just piss the hell out of me because they're slow, I have to roll up my window so their diesel fumes won't get into my car and have to occasionally dodge fragments of shredded truck tires on the freeway when I'm commuting somewhere. Screw you, trucks.

Buses of any kind: Not cool. Even the ones that run on hybrid electric power like the bus pictured here.

Another stupid thing I used to like when I was young is the bus...for the same reason why I naively liked trucks. Not only because buses are also bigger than cars and have large tires, but also because of their design (Woohoo, they're rectangular!) and the fact they can carry dozens of people aboard interested me as well (just because). Now, I find buses even more of an annoyance on the road than big rig trucks do. I'm sure that most of you fellow drivers agree with me: You're driving on the right-most lane of a city street (particularly a street in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles), and all of a sudden you come across a bus that's still idling at a bus stop waiting for more passengers to board. You're unable to change lanes because there is too much traffic on the lane to the left of you, so you have to wait impatiently for the bus to finally depart from its stop, or more frustratingly, wait for the traffic signal to turn green so that the bus can drive away. Buses that I truly hate are the outdated school buses that have their tailpipe right at their rear bumper...facing a vehicle that's directly behind them. Smelling the stench of carbon monoxide from a Honda Civic cruising in front of me is one thing (I'm not sniffing on purpose, of course), but to see a black cloud of diesel smoke billow out from the ass of a yellow, crappy-looking behemoth as it drives off after stopping at an intersection? Apparently, the fools who designed these buses have never heard of lung cancer before. God, I hate public transportation.

A classic LEGO® train set: Cool.

And last, and just as least, is the one major inconvenience that most normal dudes liked when they were boys: trains. Like trucks, I wanted to build a train out of LEGO when I was young, but my folks never bought me the train set. I found the design of Union Pacific locomotives to be very intriguing...with all of its large metal wheels and the fact locomotives dwarfed not just cars but trucks and some buses as well. Trains, when I was 10, were the epitome of diesel-powered coolness. Now I just want to blow all of them up (Just kidding, Department of Homeland Security! Good ol' freedom of speech...). Seriously though, I'm sure every other driver can agree with me when I say I've lost countless hours of my life waiting at railroad crossings for freight trains, Amtraks and even Metrolinks to pass by. The idea that Union Pacific would add at least one mile worth of container cars to a freight train pisses me off. It may be convenient in terms of obviously moving as many goods as possible in one trip around the country, but trains are one of the reasons why people are late to work in the morning or get home late at night, and why road rage exists. For me, at least.

A REAL train: Not cool.

So the gist of this entry is that diesel-powered land vehicles suck ass. That, and people can like the dumbest things when they're kids. Having to deal with trucks, buses and trains is just something that all drivers have to deal with however...unless, of course, you live in New York City (which I'm glad I don't—at the current moment, at least). 'Cause then you'll just have hundreds of taxis (and buses, darn it) to piss you off on the road. And for those of you angry at me for criticizing The Goonies at the start of this entry, buck up. I shouldn't have included The Phantom Menace with it in the same paragraph, though...seeing as how I'm sure even young kids (maybe not little toddlers) thought the idea of Jar Jar Binks was repulsive. Carry on.

Sloth: As cool as THE GOONIES is flawed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner leaps from the Red Bull Stratos space capsule to begin his 4-minute, 20-second freefall on October 14, 2012.
Red Bull

Felix Baumgartner: He's No Neil Armstrong... So yesterday, I read on two other blogs (AmericaSpace and @SarcasticRover) that Felix Baumgartner, still bathing in the spotlight after his historic 'spacedive' 15 days ago, isn't a huge fan of the Mars Science Laboratory mission (a.k.a. the Curiosity rover)...or NASA in general. For someone who constantly pushed the envelope in terms of what a human was physically capable of doing out in the unknown, Baumgartner is apparently one of those narrow-minded, "Will someone PLEEEAASE think of the children?!"-spouting cynics who think we shouldn't be pushing the envelope in terms of what mankind can learn about the universe and how far we can explore beyond our own world. Instead of developing and launching missions such as the Curiosity rover, which has so far been performing flawlessly since arriving at the Red Planet on August 5, Baumgartner thinks we should focus our attention only on Earthly matters—such as buying mosquito nets for people living in Africa. Well okay, the mosquito net idea came from actor Ashton Kutcher...who in 2008 made the same foolish comments about (not) exploring Mars. And just like Kutcher, who obviously is enjoying the wads of cash he's earning from past and present TV shows he starred in (such as That 70's Show and Two and a Half Men), Baumgartner is clearly making lots of dough pulling off death-defying stunts at the behest of Red Bull, the energy drink company. Unless they're doing so already, it seems like it didn't occur to Kutcher and Baumgartner to use their own wealth to help folks living in Third World countries instead of making the same tired remarks about a government agency whose funding only accounts for less than one percent of the overall U.S. federal budget.

So basically, I'm disappointed that Baumgartner is obviously not a new figurehead for space exploration (or at least space-related endeavors) just like the late Neil Armstrong has been since July of 1969. Oh well. One last thing: What the heck is an Austrian national doing b*tching and whining about where the money of American taxpayers is going? Mind your own friggin' business, European.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Election 2012... I found the amusing illustration below in a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times newspaper. In the online article where this pic was also posted, it was stated that President Obama and Mitt Romney are focusing their attention in this final week of the election season on courting voters in Ohio...

Hey, folks living in the Buckeye State should appreciate the love they're getting as Election Day approaches. They sure as heck won't get the love in other areas—such as aerospace and sports. Won't bring up the fact that Dayton didn't receive any of the retired space shuttles this year, or The Decision by LeBron two years ago...

An illustration showing Ohio's place on the 2012 Electoral Map.
Los Angeles Times / David Horsey

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An image of Baiterek Tower, located in Astana...the capital of Kazakhstan.
National Geographic / Gerd Ludwig

Photos of the Day... There are two reasons why I'd visit Kazakhstan: the intriguing architecture found in the country's capital, Astana, and the second dancer from the left. Carry on.

Kazakh dancers at a wedding ceremony.
National Geographic / Gerd Ludwig

Friday, October 19, 2012

How Endeavour would've looked passing through the City of Inglewood if the police were too busy snackin' at donut shops.
Courtesy of Transterrestrial Musings

Endeavour and the L.A. Stereotype... Since the space shuttle Endeavour has safely been inside the Samuel Oschin Pavilion for almost five days now, just thought I'd post the hilarious pic above...and also show how the orbiter is actually doing in her new home at the California Science Center below.

So proud to be an Angeleno.

An actual pic of Endeavour entering her new home, the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, at the California Science Center on October 14, 2012.
Los Angeles Times / Lawrence K. Ho

Endeavour is about to be fully enclosed inside the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center, on October 18, 2012.
Courtesy of Facebook

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An artist's concept of an exoplanet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth.
ESO / L. Calçada / Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Exoplanet Update... I usually title these posts "Kepler Update", but since the prolific NASA space telescope wasn't involved with this recent awesome discovery, things will be different this time around...

(By the way, James Cameron's Avatar just came one step closer to reality. All we need to find now is a moon orbiting the Alpha Centauri B planet that's just like Pandora.)

****

NASA Statement On Alpha Centauri Planet Discovery (Press Release)

WASHINGTON -- The following is a statement about the European Southern Observatory's latest exoplanet discovery from NASA's Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator, Dr. John Grunsfeld.

"We congratulate the European Southern Observatory team for making this exciting new exoplanet discovery. For astronomers, the search for exoplanets helps us understand our place in the universe and determine whether Earth is unique in supporting life or if it is just one member of a large community of habitable worlds. NASA has several current and future missions that will continue in this search.

"An example is NASA's Kepler mission. It was specifically designed to survey a specific region of our Milky Way galaxy to detect Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone -- that region around a star where it is theoretically possible for a planet to maintain liquid water on its surface -- and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets. Kepler works very differently from HARPS. Rather than detecting the wobble in the host star, Kepler detects the slight dimming of a star when a planet passes in front of it.

"NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have contributed to the study of exoplanets. Using their photometric and spectroscopic sensitivity, these space telescopes have made the first steps in characterizing the atmospheres of planets around other stars. They can only do this when the exoplanets pass serendipitously in front of its star, allowing the space telescope to study light that has filtered through the planet's atmosphere.

"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will provide a unique facility that will serve through the next decade as the mainstay for characterization of transiting exoplanets. The main transit studies JWST will be able to undertake are: discovery of unseen planets, determining exoplanet properties like mass, radius, and physical structure, and characterizing exoplanet atmospheres to determine things like their temperature and weather. If there are other planets in the Alpha Centauri system farther from the star, JWST may be able to detect them as well through imaging.

"NASA is also studying two medium-class exoplanet missions in our Explorer program, and in the spring of 2013 will select one of them to enter development for flight later in the decade."

Source: NASA.Gov

****

Located in Chile, the La Silla Observatory was used to discover the exoplanet orbiting Alpha Centauri B.
ESO / Iztok Bončina

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Inside the Red Bull Stratos space capsule, Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner prepares for his historic 'spacedive' on October 14, 2012.
Red Bull

"Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are." Those were the eloquent words of Felix Baumgartner after he made a 4-minute, 20-second freefall (from an altitude of 128,100 feet, or 39,045 meters) into the history books today. Mach 1.24... Good grief. I do believe that Baumgartner stated in an interview last week that he was planning to retire if he successfully pulled off this feat (which he obviously did). Baumgartner should retire—and wait to assist the next adventurer inspired by Baumgartner who wants to join an elite group of folks (including, on a grander scale, Neil Armstrong) that accomplished something few others in humanity have pulled off. That is all.

Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner is about to spacedive from an altitude of 128,100 feet on October 14, 2012.
Red Bull

Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner leaps from the Red Bull Stratos space capsule to begin his 4-minute, 20-second freefall on October 14, 2012.
Red Bull

Austrian BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner glides to the ground as he successfully completes his spacedive on October 14, 2012.
Red Bull

Monday, October 08, 2012

Grand Theft Auto: Gotham City... It would be awesome if Rockstar North (which developed the GTA video games) and DC Comics teamed up to release a GTA title that featured Batman and all the other denizens of Gotham. Driving through city streets with Gotham Police hot on my tail as I randomly run pedestrians over with the Batmobile...or playing Two-Face or the Joker and carjacking vehicles left-and-right for the fun of it... That would be awesome. Of course, I'd wish that this title was released before 2009—since I sold my Playstation 2, Grand Theft Auto III and other PS2 games at the local GameStop for a total of $13 that year. Oh well.

GRAND THEFT AUTO: GOTHAM CITY.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Freedom Tower update... While it looks like the 1 World Trade Center still has ways to go before it is officially topped off and its 408-foot (124 meters) tall antenna spire is installed next year, the skyscraper is still making good progress in that its glass facade has reached the 87th floor. Only 17 floors remain before the tallest building in New York City receives all of its exterior window panels. But it's the addition of the antenna spire in 2013 that I'm looking forward to the most. That is all.

The 1 World Trade Center towers above the New York skyline, on October 5, 2012.
Courtesy of Facebook

Monday, October 01, 2012

Image of the Day... If this photo was authentic, I'd say that this highway sign would most likely be found somewhere in Oregon. Or Washington State. Montana would be too predictable...

Pardon the profanity.

Downtown Los Angeles could use a few snipers to regulate its freeways...just because.