Saturday, July 30, 2011

PHOTOS OF THE DAY (AND 'ON TRACK PRODUCTIONS')... Earlier last month, I went down to Burbank to be an extra on a TV pilot shoot that one of my former co-workers invited me to. Called Up the Hill, this pilot was written by another former co-worker of mine and is a political satire about the life of an aspiring but bumbling congressman in Washington, DC. From what I saw during filming in Burbank, this pilot looks to be pretty hilarious (with a very talented cast in it). Can’t wait to see the final cut of Up the Hill...assuming I’m invited to the premiere, if there's one. The wrap party should’ve long taken place, since production was completed the day after the Burbank shoot on um, June 4.

'Power Is Overrated!' Pretending to be a spectator at a political rally on the TV pilot, UP THE HILL.

To stray off-topic a little (or a lot), I was an extra on Up the Hill just by showing up...much as how I was an extra on the first Spider-Man flick by showing up as well (actually, I had to RSVP online, but that was it). Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been going onto Craigslist lately (I think you guys can tell where this is headed) to find more gigs as an extra and get other movie work. Just to give you folks a warning, if you’re looking to be an extra in a short or feature film, BEWARE of a job posting on Craigslist that asks you to call a phone number with a 323 area code to do an audition/interview to be a background performer. In hindsight, NO ONE should have to audition or even interview for a role where you have NO SPEAKING LINES...and are just standing there or asked to run around and look scared or something.

The Tonight Show Playground.  Did Jay Leno pay for this, by any chance?

Needless to say, I learned the hard way that the Craigslist posting was essentially a scam and I wasted a half tank of gas driving to the so-called production office that held these audition/interviews in Hollywood—not to mention I spent $10 on parking for nothing. (I refuse to park on a street in Hollywood...especially after getting a lousy $55 parking ticket in my own residential area two weeks before I stumbled upon this fraudulent job posting. Thank the economy.) The name of this office is On Track Productions...but this name isn’t mentioned on On Track's Craigslist postings...only the 323 phone number [which was actually changed recently after another person posted on Craigslist and other sites revealing that what this company was doing is illegal. The original phone number that is used on almost all of On Track's job postings is (323) 468-7365].

A squirrel near the Tonight Show Playground.  What?  You have something against these cute little critters?

The co-worker who invited me to the Up the Hill shoot does background extra work for a living, and he himself pointed out that On Track Productions was pulling a scam when I told him about my trip to Hollywood. A red flag to him was me mentioning that I was gonna be given a one-page script to recite a monologue from during the audition (as a reminder: An extra HAS NO SPEAKING LINES). He said I was right to walk out of that office less than 5 minutes after I arrived there. (Yep, I definitely wasted $10 and a half tank of gas.) Another red flag, to me at least, was the receptionist working at the office. More on that in the next paragraph.

Me and one of my high school friends in 2002's SPIDER-MAN.

When I arrived at the office, I had to use the restroom before I went to the waiting area for the audition/interview. I asked the receptionist where the restroom was, and she flatly responded with "I need collateral." Looking perplexed since I was never, ever asked this kind of question when I had to use the John at any other place before, the receptionist became impatient, stuck her hand out, and said "I need something from you." Again looking perplexed, I remained silent as I handed her my sunglasses, took the restroom keys from her, and exited the office to use the restroom down the hallway. (Why the office didn’t have its own restroom is beyond me. Of course, the building this office is in is a total dump. Um... Another red flag right there.) Nice first impression for your company there, lady. Plus, exactly what happened in the past to make you distrustful of people trying to take a No. 1 or 2 at your workplace? Hmm.

Another screenshot from SPIDER-MAN.

So to summarize for y’all, you DO NOT have to audition to be a background extra in a film or TV show. Professional casting companies may ask you to pay a small upfront fee to register with them (but they’ll actually get you work being in the movies or TV shows...most of the time), but you’ll never be asked to do a monologue or something...unless the production company was being shady and actually auditioning for acting roles under the guise of telling folks they’re just casting for extras (a theory my co-worker came up with). Avoid On Track Productions, and do research online about which companies can hook you up with a non-speaking gig in the next Adam Sandler or Judd Apatow movie. Or a Michael Bay flick. That is all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In this computer-generated art concept, fireworks fill the sky above the Los Angeles football stadium in the City of Industry, as a Super Bowl game is about to begin.

NOW THAT THE NFL LOCKOUT IS OVER, we can now focus our attention back to getting a stadium built in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County, to be exact. Here's hoping that the new football arena will be constructed in the City of Industry, as originally intended, and not in downtown L.A. This doesn't really make sense (since Industry is around 30 miles from the L.A. metropolis but only 5 miles from where I currently live), but that's my stance...and I'm stickin' to it.

In this computer-generated art concept, spotlights shine high above the Los Angeles football stadium during an NFL game.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

USELESS TIDBITS ABOUT JULY... One of my friends sent me an e-mail earlier last month mentioning some interesting factoids pertaining to this month, 2011 in general and some superstitious crap called money bags. That e-mail was actually for a chain letter (my friend can go **** himself for sending me this) in which I had to share this with eight other friends to get good luck and earn money within the next four days. Awesome. This Blog gets around 200 unique visitors a day. Can they (and you, of course) count as additional friends?

July, 2011, and some superstitious crap called money bags.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Today’s image belongs to Jesse Glucksman, who took this amusing image of his friends Matt Corrigan, his wife Amanda and their college friend Barry Neely as they pretended to dine out on an empty 405 freeway near downtown Los Angeles last weekend. The photo, which I first saw in the July 20 edition of the L.A. Times newspaper, was taken during the so-called Carmageddon between July 15-17. Nice stunt. I’m sure these folks will try this again when Carmageddon repeats itself next year (since what remains of the Mulholland Drive Bridge still needs to be demolished)...though the California Highway Patrol will most probably be on the lookout for them this time.

Matt Corrigan, his wife Amanda and their college friend Barry Neely pretend to dine out on the 405 freeway during the Carmageddon of July 2011.
Jesse Glucksman

Friday, July 22, 2011

An image of Gale Crater, taken by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, that shows the area (circled in black) where Curiosity will land in August of 2012.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / ASU



NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's next Mars rover will land at the foot of a layered mountain inside the planet's Gale Crater.

The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land in August 2012. The target crater spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Layering in the mound suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. The crater is named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale.

"Mars is firmly in our sights," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Curiosity not only will return a wealth of important science data, but it will serve as a precursor mission for human exploration to the Red Planet."

During a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- researchers will use the rover's tools to study whether the landing region had favorable environmental conditions for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life ever existed.

"Scientists identified Gale as their top choice to pursue the ambitious goals of this new rover mission," said Jim Green, director for the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The site offers a visually dramatic landscape and also great potential for significant science findings."

In 2006, more than 100 scientists began to consider about 30 potential landing sites during worldwide workshops. Four candidates were selected in 2008. An abundance of targeted images enabled thorough analysis of the safety concerns and scientific attractions of each site. A team of senior NASA science officials then conducted a detailed review and unanimously agreed to move forward with the MSL Science Team's recommendation. The team is comprised of a host of principal and co-investigators on the project.

Curiosity is about twice as long and more than five times as heavy as any previous Mars rover. Its 10 science instruments include two for ingesting and analyzing samples of powdered rock that the rover's robotic arm collects. A radioisotope power source will provide heat and electric power to the rover. A rocket-powered sky crane suspending Curiosity on tethers will lower the rover directly to the Martian surface.

The portion of the crater where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water.

"One fascination with Gale is that it's a huge crater sitting in a very low-elevation position on Mars, and we all know that water runs downhill," said John Grotzinger, the mission's project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "In terms of the total vertical profile exposed and the low elevation, Gale offers attractions similar to Mars' famous Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system."

Curiosity will go beyond the "follow-the-water" strategy of recent Mars exploration. The rover's science payload can identify other ingredients of life, such as the carbon-based building blocks of biology called organic compounds. Long-term preservation of organic compounds requires special conditions. Certain minerals, including some Curiosity may find in the clay and sulfate-rich layers near the bottom of Gale's mountain, are good at latching onto organic compounds and protecting them from oxidation.

"Gale gives us attractive possibilities for finding organics, but that is still a long shot," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at agency headquarters. "What adds to Gale's appeal is that, organics or not, the site holds a diversity of features and layers for investigating changing environmental conditions, some of which could inform a broader understanding of habitability on ancient Mars."

The rover and other spacecraft components are being assembled and are undergoing final testing. The mission is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of Caltech.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


The Curiosity rover undergoes final testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, on June 3, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis lands at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final time, on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Tony Gray

WHY I’M GLAD THE SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM IS NO MORE... Earlier today, the orbiter Atlantis safely touched down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...officially ending a 30-year-old program that resulted in the launch of great observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the creation of a giant orbiting research outpost known as the International Space Station (ISS). While there are lots of folks out there who think that the space shuttles could’ve safely flown for many more years to come (which they most likely could have), I’m glad the program has ended. I’d prefer if people debate on how many more useful years the shuttles have than actually risk losing another of these amazing vehicles in an accident that would obviously conclude the program in a tragic and disgraceful note. But there are other reasons why I’m glad the space shuttle is now fully retired.

I’ve been interested in the space program since 4th grade. I’ve been interested in movies for just as long—with me growing an interest in filmmaking after drawing storyboards for my own submarine thriller upon watching The Hunt for Red October at the theater in 1990 (when I was also in 4th grade). It was filmmaking I pursued in college...and it was between early 2003 and mid-2005 (from the time I was in film school at Cal State Long Beach to me starting a cool 1-year employment gig at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood) that my interest in the movie industry was at its strongest. I worked on various short films, wrote feature-length screenplays, edited videos (on Final Cut Pro, but mostly on Windows Movie Maker, heh) that I shot using my old Fujifilm still digital camera and even worked on another short film that starred a gangsta rapper one of my college classmates knew. I got my first real job in the entertainment industry in October 2004 before starting work at Paramount Pictures in July of 2005. (Sorry to toot my own horn like that...just trying to make a point.) The reason why I could completely focus on my work in the entertainment industry at this time is because there was nothing major happening in the space program between early 2003 and mid-2005—due to the 2-year hiatus caused by the space shuttle Columbia disaster.

Sure, there were the Spirit and Opportunity rovers launching towards Mars in 2003, me submitting my name that same year to fly on the Deep Impact spacecraft to Comet Tempel 1 in 2005, Spirit and Opportunity landing on Mars in early 2004 and the Cassini spacecraft entering orbit around Saturn in July of 2004...but these awesome unmanned missions still didn’t attract my interest as strongly as watching 7 astronauts suit up and soar to the ISS or HST on a technological marvel like the space shuttle. I was on the computer watching NASA TV when Cassini did its Saturn Orbit Insertion Maneuver, and cut out practically every newspaper article there was about the Mars rovers. But it's human spaceflight that had the greatest impact on me.

Slowly but surely, my interest in the space program started to outgrow my passion for moviemaking in mid-to-late 2005. The launch of space shuttle Discovery on STS-114 (the first flight since the Columbia accident) in July of 2005 was an exciting time—but I started my job at Paramount Pictures that same month and wasn’t totally distracted by the Return To Flight mission then. My interest in space exploration quadrupled upon learning in late September of 2005 that I could’ve had my name fly to Pluto onboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft [I missed the opportunity by about two weeks...and grew obsessed with searching for the next robotic space mission that I could have my moniker on (which would be the Dawn spacecraft before it traveled to asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres)]. But what really diverted my focus away from nurturing my film career was the space shuttle officially resuming flight operations in the summer of 2006...when Discovery flew on the STS-121 mission. The countdown clock at the very top of this Blog was born in the days leading up to the launch of STS-121...and if you visit my archive section for July 2006 and onward, then you’ll see that the number of posts I made about spaceflight exploded tremendously once NASA was back to work constructing the ISS (starting with STS-115).

So almost 6 years after Discovery’s launch on STS-114, the space shuttle program is now a thing of the past. After half a decade of keeping track of ISS assembly missions, now is the time to get back to focusing on my film career (which has stagnated considerably). Sure, I’ll still be distracted by upcoming robotic missions such as Juno (which launches to Jupiter next month), GRAIL (which launches to the Moon in September) and the Curiosity Mars rover (which launches to the Red Planet in November), but hopefully there won’t be anymore space-related events that preoccupied me as much as shuttle flights did. NASA’s Space Launch System is scheduled to lift off for the first time in 2016 (don’t hold your breath, though)...with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle along with it. So for the next five years presumably, I can focus on pursuing and advancing my career in an industry I wanted to be part of since watching a Tom Clancy novel-inspired submarine thriller on the big screen in 1990. Hopefully. Not to sound selfish—but human spaceflight's uncertain future in this country may be a blessing for me, personally. That is all.

At the helm of a Panavision camera for my short film ENVIOUS.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pumpin' gas into your car.

MORE SUMMER TIPS FOR Y'ALL... In the spirit of my last Public Service Announcement/journal entry, here's another Blog that gives you tips on how to pump gas at the local station and save money. Yes, much like everything else in life, there's an etiquette/unofficial rule on how to fuel up your vehicle without wasting precious gas in the process. My sister e-mailed me this message (back in um, 2008), much like the previous one that's linked to at the beginning of this entry. Anyways, read on if you don't wanna get completely screwed over by the exorbitant gas prices in this country (the good ol' U.S. of A., that is)...


TIPS ON PUMPING GAS (Good information)

I don't know what you guys are paying for gasoline....but here in California we are also paying higher, up to $3.50 per gallon. But my line of work is in petroleum for about 31 years now, so here are some tricks to get more of your money's worth for every gallon. Here at the Kinder Morgan Pipeline where I work in San Jose, CA we
deliver about 4 million gallons in a 24-hour period through the pipeline. One day is diesel, the next day is jet fuel, and the day after that is gasoline; regular and premium grades.

We have 34 storage tanks here with a total capacity of 16,800,000 gallons. Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below the ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline. When it gets warmer gasoline expands, so if buying in the afternoon or in the evening....your gallon is not exactly a gallon. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products play an important role. A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL or HALF EMPTY. The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature compensated so that every gallon is actually the exact amount.

Another reminder, if there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up—most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

Hope this will help you get the most value for your money.



Monday, July 18, 2011

An image of asteroid Vesta that was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on July 17, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA



NASA Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Asteroid Vesta (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The image taken for navigation purposes shows Vesta in greater detail than ever before. When Vesta captured Dawn into its orbit, there were approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between the spacecraft and asteroid. Engineers estimate the orbit capture took place at 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15 (1 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 16).

Vesta is 330 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. Ground- and space-based telescopes have obtained images of Vesta for about two centuries, but they have not been able to see much detail on its surface.

"We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial surface in the solar system," said Dawn principal investigator Christopher Russell from the University of California, Los Angeles. "This region of space has been ignored for far too long. So far, the images received to date reveal a complex surface that seems to have preserved some of the earliest events in Vesta's history, as well as logging the onslaught that Vesta has suffered in the intervening eons."

Vesta is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth. Vesta and its new NASA neighbor, Dawn, are currently approximately 117 million miles (188 million kilometers) away from Earth. The Dawn team will begin gathering science data in August. Observations will provide unprecedented data to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system. The data also will help pave the way for future human space missions.

After traveling nearly four years and 1.7 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers), Dawn also accomplished the largest propulsive acceleration of any spacecraft, with a change in velocity of more than 4.2 miles per second (6.7 kilometers per second), due to its ion engines. The engines expel ions to create thrust and provide higher spacecraft speeds than any other technology currently available.

"Dawn slipped gently into orbit with the same grace it has displayed during its years of ion thrusting through interplanetary space," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It is fantastically exciting that we will begin providing humankind its first detailed views of one of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system."

Although orbit capture is complete, the approach phase will continue for about three weeks. During approach, the Dawn team will continue a search for possible moons around the asteroid; obtain more images for navigation; observe Vesta's physical properties; and obtain calibration data.

In addition, navigators will measure the strength of Vesta's gravitational tug on the spacecraft to compute the asteroid's mass with much greater accuracy than has been previously available. That will allow them to refine the time of orbit insertion.

Dawn will spend one year orbiting Vesta, then travel to a second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, arriving in February 2015. The mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

UCLA is responsible for Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are part of the mission's team.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


A computer-generated image depicting the Dawn spacecraft's current position from asteroid Vesta.
NASA / JPL - Gregory J. Whiffen

Saturday, July 16, 2011

An image of asteroid Vesta that was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on July 9, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA



NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Asteroid Vesta (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Saturday became the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Dawn will study the asteroid, named Vesta, for a year before departing for a second destination, a dwarf planet named Ceres, in July 2012. Observations will provide unprecedented data to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system. The data also will help pave the way for future human space missions.

"Today, we celebrate an incredible exploration milestone as a spacecraft enters orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt for the first time," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Dawn's study of the asteroid Vesta marks a major scientific accomplishment and also points the way to the future destinations where people will travel in the coming years. President Obama has directed NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and Dawn is gathering crucial data that will inform that mission."

The spacecraft relayed information to confirm it entered Vesta's orbit, but the precise time this milestone occurred is unknown at this time. The time of Dawn's capture depended on Vesta's mass and gravity, which only has been estimated until now. The asteroid's mass determines the strength of its gravitational pull. If Vesta is more massive, its gravity is stronger, meaning it pulled Dawn into orbit sooner. If the asteroid is less massive, its gravity is weaker and it would have taken the spacecraft longer to achieve orbit. With Dawn now in orbit, the science team can take more accurate measurements of Vesta's gravity and gather more accurate timeline information.

Dawn, which launched in September 2007, is on track to become the first spacecraft to orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth. The mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for the overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are part of the mission's team. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Source: NASA.Gov


A computer-generated image depicting the Dawn spacecraft's current position from asteroid Vesta.
NASA / JPL - Gregory J. Whiffen

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An artist's concept of the James Webb Space Telescope.

THE JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE...CANCELLED? So I just recently read an article stating that the House Appropriations Committee is proposing to cancel the Hubble Space Telescope’s replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), from NASA's 2012 budget. The JWST was originally supposed to launch around 2013-'14, but due to budget overruns and poor management, the spacecraft will probably still be on the ground in 2018.

According to the House’s proposed NASA budget for next year, however, $10 million would be given to the space agency to resume production of Plutonium 238...the nuclear isotope used to power robotic spacecraft ranging from Voyager 2 and Cassini to New Horizons and the Curiosity Mars rover. Upon reading this bit of news, my reaction to JWST’s potential budget axing is muted.

If canceling JWST means that more outer planet missions (such as the once-proposed Argo mission to Neptune) can be developed, assuming Pu-238 production is restarted (and restarted ASAP), then so be it. However, since the Department of Energy apparently isn’t getting a budget increase for 2012 as well, and the DoE must collaborate with NASA to restart the production of Pu-238, then this is all a futile effort.

Which means...the 2012 budget for NASA sucks really bad. Save JWST! I hope this entry wasn't too all over the place for y’all.

The Argo spacecraft flies past Neptune and its moon Triton, which may be a captured Kuiper Belt Object.
NASA / APL & JPL / McParno

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

VIDEO OF THE DAY... Last night, I stumbled upon a hilarious Youtube clip that borrowed footage from a critically-acclaimed film (2004’s Downfall) about the final days of Adolf Hitler...with subtitles added in depicting the Nazi dictator going off on a tirade about next weekend’s temporary shutdown of the 405 freeway near downtown Los Angeles. I’d tell you more about this shutdown—nicknamed "Carmageddon"—but this video explains the situation pretty thoroughly. Clearly, the person who wrote these subtitles lives in the Southland. And clearly, this person is probably aspiring to be a screenwriter or something. (Or probably already is one.) If awards were given out for the best-written Youtube clips out there, then this video should be a nominee. Anyways, check out Hitler’s rant about Carmageddon:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An aerial view of the REAL Edwards Air Force Base in California.

SO TWO NIGHTS AGO, I had an amusing dream where I visited Edwards Air Force Base in California. The dream started off with me and several other cars driving through the Mojave Desert...with my car quickly running out of gas. For the remainder of the trip, I was outside my car pushing it over sand dunes and dusty roads before finally making it to the airbase. Once I got there, I had to use a plastic ID card to open doors as I entered the main building...which is funny...'cause there was not one moment where I was actually out on the airfield checking out the jet fighters and whatnot. I was inside this building the whole time.

The main thing that I recall from being inside this building (which looked more like a library than a facility at a military airbase) were glass displays that had models of Gundam robots (from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, a popular Japanese anime) inside of ‘em. These were the only things that I was checking out while at this building. When it was time to leave, I didn’t have my car to go home in (it didn’t have gas, anyway). I had to call my mom to pick me up instead. It was after this part of the dream where things started to get real interesting.

So after I talked to my mom on my cellphone, I attempted to walk over to the main entrance from which I entered the building. It turns out, however, that visitors like myself were not allowed to exit the building from that entrance. We had to leave the facility through another exit...a backdoor, if you will. Only high-ranking military officials like generals were allowed to enter and exit from the main entrance.

So a couple of other people and I exited the library/building/whatever through the backdoor, and found ourselves in the middle of a ghetto urban neighborhood (just to recap: I’m suppose to be at Edwards Air Force Base). To make matters worse, we had to go all the way around the library/building/whatever (which now looks like a large parking structure from the outside) to get to the main entrance. After a long walk which was taking us nowhere, my group ended up going back to the building and try to come up with a Plan B (since it now seemed like we were trapped at um, Edwards AFB).

While chillin’ inside some waiting room with large glass windows all around, my group noticed that the employees were entering and exiting hallways using ID cards (like the one I used earlier) that they swipe through electronic boxes near the doors. Can’t remember how we obtained the cards (I was missing the one I used when I arrived at the building), but most of my group were able to escape except for me and some tall African-American dude (who looked like a young version of Hank, the security guard from the TV show The Office). The African-American dude, who for some odd reason was wearing a yellow raincoat, used a card made out of cardboard to swipe through the electronic box...which obviously didn’t accept the card and caused all the doors inside the building to lock close. We were on lockdown.

Moments later, a group of military officials—which included one general who looked like actor Michael Ironside (best known for roles in movies and TV shows such as Starship Troopers, X-Men: First Class, Burn Notice and Smallville)—entered the room to question the Hank lookalike. Hank clearly looked like he wanted to piss in his pants while General Ironside was interrogating him. A couple of minutes afterward, Ironside and his men left the room, and Hank—seeing that all the doors were left open—quickly got the heck oughta’ there. Can’t remember what happened afterwards, but Hank later called me on my cell to inform me of an escape route from the building...and next thing you know, I’m walking through a suburban street with lots of trees in the area (I’m at Edwards AFB, as a reminder) and saw that my mom, dad and one of my aunts were waiting for me inside their car nearby. This whole so-called ordeal took place at night, and apparently my folks were parked there through the morning waiting to pick me up. So I got inside the car, and once I closed the door, I woke up. And that’s the dream I had two nights ago.

I got a good memory, right?

Monday, July 11, 2011

20 YEARS AGO TODAY, a total solar eclipse took place over parts of the South American continent. Totality first began over the Pacific Ocean and Hawaii before moving across Mexico, down through Central America and then across South America as it concluded over Brazil. By the moment of maximum eclipse, the event lasted 6 minutes and 53 seconds.

I myself didn’t view the eclipse through a telescope as so many did, but I did watch it live on TV and kept the front page of the next day’s edition of the Los Angeles Times newspaper...since it had a large photo of the eclipse on it. Of course, that front page is long gone (forgot where I put it, and I moved to um, two different cities since '91). Just thought I’d share this with you to let you know just how long I’ve been a space geek. I was between 5th and 6th grade at the time.

The Great Eclipse of July 11, seen from Puerto Challe in Baja, California.
Courtesy of John Volk

Saturday, July 09, 2011

An image of asteroid Vesta that was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on July 1, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA

ONE WEEK FROM NOW... Shown below is a computer-generated image depicting the Dawn spacecraft’s current position (as of 12:53 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today) from its first target in the Asteroid Belt: the protoplanet Vesta. As you can see, Dawn is only 25,100 miles (40,400 kilometers) from the rocky body, and approaching Vesta at a relative speed of 136 mph (even though Dawn is actually traveling at a velocity of around 47,000 mph in space). A new photo of Vesta (shown above) was released online by NASA two days ago. Dawn will enter orbit around Vesta next Saturday, and observe this asteroid for one year. In July of next year, Dawn will depart from Vesta and head for its second and final target: the dwarf planet Ceres, where the ion engine-powered spacecraft will arrive in February of 2015.

A computer-generated image depicting the Dawn spacecraft's current position from asteroid Vesta.
NASA / JPL - Gregory J. Whiffen

Friday, July 08, 2011

ATLANTIS TAKES OFF... Visit my Human Spaceflight Blog to read more details about today’s historic and bittersweet launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Archival construction photos of Atlantis are also shown.

Atlantis launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the space shuttle program's final mission ever, on July 8, 2011.
NASA / Jeffrey Marino

Monday, July 04, 2011

Posing in front of the Peterbilt truck that represents Optimus Prime in TRANSFORMERS 3.

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Earlier this morning, I drove down to ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood to check out the Peterbilt truck that represented Optimus Prime and the Chevy Camaro that portrayed Bumblebee in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Click on the link below to view additional pics of these cool vehicles. Oh, and Happy Fourth of July, everyone! (Everyone living in the good ol' U.S. of A., that is.)

LINK: Photos I took of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood

Posing in front of the Chevy Camaro that represents Bumblebee in TRANSFORMERS 3.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A car's air conditioning vents.

SINCE IT'S SUMMER and finally getting hot like hell, just thought I'd share this public service announcement with y'all. My sister actually e-mailed me this last September, so sorry for the delay (Good ol' copy and pasting)...



Very interesting! My car's instruction manual says to roll down the windows to let out all the hot air before turning on the A/C. WHY?

No wonder more folks are dying from cancer than ever before. We wonder where this stuff comes from but here is an example that explains a lot of the cancer-causing incidents. Many people are in their cars first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, 7 days a week.

As I read this, it makes me feel guilty and ill. Please pass this on to as many people as possible. Guess it's not too late to make some changes.

Car A/C (Air Conditioning) MUST READ!!!

Please do NOT turn on the A/C as soon as you enter the car. Open the windows after you enter your car and then turn ON the A/C after a couple of minutes.

Here's why: According to research, the car's dashboard, seats, and air freshener emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin (carcinogen - take time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car). In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure will cause
Leukemia, increasing the risk of cancer. It can also cause miscarriage.

Acceptable Benzene level indoors is 50 milligrams per square feet. A car parked indoors with windows closed will contain 400-800 milligrams of Benzene.

If parked outdoors under the sun at a temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the Benzene level goes up to 2000-4000 milligrams, 40 times the acceptable level. People who get into the car, keeping windows closed will inevitably inhale - in quick succession - excessive amounts of the toxin. Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidney and liver... What's worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.

So friends, please open the windows and door of your car, give time for the interior to air out and dispel the deadly stuff before you enter.

Thought: "When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others."

This is what says. It is not the air conditioning in the car but the Benzene-producing agents that cause cancer.


Saturday, July 02, 2011

TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY, the Dawn spacecraft is set to enter orbit around asteroid Vesta...after a 3-plus year journey through space. The photo below was taken by the probe on June 24, when Dawn was only 95,000 miles (152,000 kilometers) away from the protoplanet. Can’t wait for July 16! (Even though Dawn won’t officially begin science operations at Vesta till early August.)

An image of asteroid Vesta that was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on June 24, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA