Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Guild

Not too long ago I told you about Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Well the leading lady from that film, Felicia Day, has a wonderful web based show called The Guild. There are two seasons available on line so far, with a third on the way. Each season consists of twelve three to five minute long episodes, and it's brilliant. If you have ever played video games, especially online games, or know anyone who is obsessed with gaming you'll enjoy this show. Plus Felicia Day has moved to the top of my Celebrity Crush list. :-) And just to give you a taste of this fun show, here is a music video they just released. Enjoy.


You Say It's Your Birthday

Happy Birthday, Monkey!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

And finally:

Jewelry Design - Jewelers no longer have to worry about inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers from the blocks they use as soldering bases. space shuttle heat shield tiles offer jewelers a safer soldering base with temperature resistance far beyond the 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit generated by the jeweler's torch.

Land Mine Removal Device - The same rocket fuel that helps launch the space shuttle is now being used to save lives— by destroying land mines. A flare device, using leftover fuel donated by NASA, is placed next to the uncovered land mine and is ignited from a safe distance using a battery-triggered electric match. The explosive burns away, disabling the mine and rendering it harmless.

Lifesaving Light - Special lighting technology developed for plant growth experiments on space shuttle missions is being studied to treat brain tumors in children. Doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee are working with light emitting diodes in a treatment called photodynamic therapy, a form of chemotherapy, to kill cancerous tumors.

Prosthesis Material - Responding to a request from the orthopedic appliance industry, NASA recommended that the foam insulation used to protect the shuttle's external tank replace the heavy, fragile plaster used to produce master molds for prosthetics. The new material is light, virtually indestructible and easy to ship and store.

Rescue Tool - Rescue squads have a new extrication tool to help remove accident victims from wrecked vehicles. The hand-held device requires no auxiliary power systems or cumbersome hoses and is 70 percent cheaper than previous rescue equipment. The cutter uses a miniature version of the explosive charges that separate devices on the shuttle.

Vehicle Tracking System - Tracking information originally used onboard Space Shuttle missions now helps track vehicles on Earth. This commercial spinoff allows vehicles to transmit a signal back to a home base. Municipalities today use the software to track and reassign emergency and public works vehicles. It also is used by vehicle fleet operations, such as taxis, armored cars and vehicles carrying hazardous cargo.

Video Stabilization Software - Image-processing technology used to analyze Space Shuttle launch video and to study meteorological images also helps law enforcement agencies improve crime-solving video. The technology removes defects due to image jitter, image rotation and image zoom in video sequences. The technology also may be useful for medical imaging, scientific applications and home video.

And these are just some of the 'spin-offs' that came from the space program. I am not saying that these advancements would never have happened were it not for NASA, but the fact is that the space program eats a very minor portion of the national budget, yet returns far more than just pretty pictures from space. Can anyone say that about the wars in Iraq and Iran?

Thanks for tuning in.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Has NASA Done For You, Part 3

And the list just keeps going.

Automotive Insulation- Materials from the space shuttle thermal protection system are used on NASCAR racing cars to protect drivers from the extreme heat generated by the engines.

Balance Evaluation Systems - Devices built to measure the equilibrium of space shuttle astronauts when they return from space are widely used by major medical centers to diagnose and treat patients suffering head injury, stroke, chronic dizziness and central nervous system disorders.

Bioreactor - Developed for space shuttle medical research, this rotating cell culture apparatus simulates some aspects of the space environment, or microgravity, on the ground. Tissue samples grown in the bioreactor are being used to design therapeutic drugs and antibodies. Some scientists believe the bioreactor will routinely produce human tissue for research and transplantation.

Diagnostic Instrument - NASA technology was used to create a compact laboratory instrument for hospitals and doctor offices that more quickly analyzes blood, accomplishing in 30 seconds what once took 20 minutes.

Gas Detector - A gas leak detection system, originally developed to monitor the shuttle's hydrogen propulsion system, is being used by the Ford Motor Company in the production of a natural gas-powered car.

Infrared Camera - A sensitive infrared hand-held camera that observes the blazing plumes from the Shuttle also is capable of scanning for fires. During the brush fires that ravaged Malibu, CA in 1996, the camera was used to point out hot spots for firefighters.

Infrared Thermometer - Infrared sensors developed to remotely measure the temperature of distant stars and planets, led to the development of the hand-held optical sensor thermometer. Placed inside the ear canal, the thermometer provides an accurate reading in two seconds or less.

Tomorrow, the exciting conclusion. :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Has NASA Done For You, Part 2

Here are some more of life's improvements that came from the space program.

Apollo-era Circuitry Preserves Freshness for Large-Scale Service

A hospital food service system employs a NASA cook/chill concept for serving food. The system allows staff to prepare food well in advance, maintain heat, visual appeal, and nutritional value while reducing operating costs.

Measurement Techniques Safely Monitor Hazardous Gasses

A hollow retroreflector, a mirror-like instrument that reflects light and other radiation back to the source, is used as a sensor to detect the presence of hazardous gases in oil fields, refineries, offshore platforms, chemical plants, waste storage sites, and other locations where gases could be released into the environment.

Lubricant Process Finds Myriad Applications

A process for bonding dry lubricant to space metals led to the development of surface enhancement, or synergistic, coatings, which are used in applications from pizza making to laser manufacturing. Each coating is designed to protect a specific metal group or group of metals to solve problems encountered under operating conditions, such as resistance to corrosion and wear.

Green Buildings Employ Space Suit Textiles

The same fabric used in Apollo-era space suits has been spun off into a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly building material. Used on structures around the world, the Teflon-coated fiberglass strands create a permanent, tent-like roof. Less expensive than conventional roofing materials, the durable white fabric allows natural light to shine through, saving a significant amount of energy.

Insulation Protects Alaskan Pipeline

Metal-bonded polyurethane foam insulation developed for protecting Apollo-era spacecraft was also applied to the Alaskan pipeline, where its temperature controlling properties were in high demand. In order to maintain its fluidity, the oil needs to be kept at relatively high temperatures (180 °F), a tall order in the Arctic. The NASA-derived insulation solved this problem.

Flame-Resistant Textiles Safeguard Firefighters, Soldiers

After a fire on the Apollo launch pad which resulted in the death of three astronauts, NASA worked with private industry to develop a line of fire-resistant textiles for use in space suits and vehicles. These materials are now used in numerous firefighting, military, motor sports, and other applications.

Artificial Heart - The technology used in space shuttle fuel pumps led to the development of a miniaturized ventricular assist pump by NASA and renowned heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey. The tiny pump -- 2-inches long, 1-inch in diameter and weighing less than four ounces -- is currently undergoing European clinical trials where it has been successfully implanted into more than 20 people.

More tomorrow. :-)

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Has NASA Done For You, Part 1

It seems that most conversations about the manned space program these days eventually come around to the cost. Even though the budget for NASA is approximately one half of one percent of the national budget, people tend to think that all NASA does is waste money launching scientists into space. Fortunately for you, my wonderful readers, we have an Unkk on our side. He sent me a lengthy list of things that affect our daily lives that are a direct result of the manned space program. There are a lot of them, so I'll break this up over several posts, but the next time some yob mouths off about how the money could be better spent building a sport stadium, or other such nonsense, here is some ammo to use.

Cooling Suits Provide Comfort

Cool suits, which kept Apollo astronauts comfortable during moon walks, are today worn by race car drivers, nuclear reactor technicians, shipyard workers, people with multiple sclerosis and children with a congenital disorder known as hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, which restricts the body’s ability to cool itself.

Recycling Fluids for Space Missions Simplifies Kidney Dialysis

Special kidney dialysis machines were created as a result of a NASA-developed chemical process that removes toxic waste from used dialysis fluid. The process saves electricity and eliminates the need for a continuous water supply, granting the patient greater freedom.

Astronaut Conditioning Equipment Keeps People Fit

A cardiovascular conditioner developed for astronauts in space led to the invention of a physical therapy and athletic development machine used by football teams, sports clinics, and medical rehabilitation centers.

Space Suit Technology Modernizes Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoe design and manufacturing also benefited from Apollo. Space suit technology is incorporated into a shoe's external shell, and a stress-free "blow molding" process adapted from NASA space suit design is used in the shoe's fabrication.

Reflective Materials Insulate Homes

Insulating barriers made of metalized foil laid over a core of propylene or mylar, which protected astronauts and their spacecraft's delicate instruments from radiation and heat, are now found in common home insulation. Vacuum metalizing techniques also led to an extensive line of commercial products, from insulated outer garments to packaging for foods, from wall coverings to window shades, from life rafts to candy wrappings, and from reflective safety blankets to photographic reflectors.

Apollo Life Support Systems Filter Water

Water purification technology used on the Apollo spacecraft is now employed in several spinoff applications to kill bacteria, viruses and algae in community water supply systems and cooling towers. Filters mounted on faucets reduce lead in water supplies.

Freeze-Dried Foods Preserve Nutrients, Increase Shelf Life

Freeze-dried food solved the problem of what to feed an astronaut on the long-duration Apollo missions. Freeze drying foods preserves nutritional value and taste, while also reducing weight and increasing shelf life.

So there's your first batch. Tune in tomorrow for more of What has NASA done for you?


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Catchy title, eh? Sure beats all that annoying Rocktober bullshit we'll soon be expected to chuckle at whenever the lame-ass morning DJ's spew it forth. Man, I hate morning radio!

Wait, sorry, this was supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not bicker and argue about 'who killed who'. Let's start over.

Ok, Marius, just wtf are you getting at with this stupid title? Well, Rick, I'm glad you asked. I've been an unbelievable slacker with this here little corner of the intertubez since I started pod-casting, and I intend to make it up to you. You precious few that have stuck around during the dry spells and still find the time in your busy lives to waste some of the finite seconds of a rapidly diminishing existence in coming here. Therefore, and without further circumlocutions(or whatever the written equivalent might be, circumscribtions, maybe?) I pledge that I will post daily in October. September is just too busy to make that promise, and you deserve better than that Namblapomojo crap in November. So I declare that this year October is Blogtober here at the corner. So let it be let it be done!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who'd have thUNKK?

So let me tell you about yesterday. Well, actually we have to go back a little over a year to when I was privileged to go to the Kennedy Space Center to watch a shuttle launch from 4 miles away due to the generosity of Unkk, internet and SCA friend and all around groovy dude. Well Unkk kinda dropped off of the internet radar for a while, but a few weeks ago he resurfaced to tell us of a new massively multiplayer online role playing game(MMORPG) called Champions. Like City of Heroes it is a superhero game, but much more customizable. Unfortunately the system requirements blow my ancient devices out of the water so I had to politely decline the invite to join him in the fight against crime. I was, however, thrilled to 'see' him again since, as he is a NASA employee, I have been dying to interview him for Starbase 66. I asked, and he quickly agreed. Then I got the thought that it would be even cooler to interview him at work, and again he agreed. So yesterday I drove across the state and met Unkk for a totally nerdgasmic day.

Our first stop in the park was lunch and we chatted and caught up a bit, then we went to the Rocket Garden. Unkk is a veritable font of information about the space program and its history. Even though I pride myself on my knowledge of such things, he taught me more in twenty minutes about the development of manned rocketry than I learned in twenty years.(and yes, that's me on the actual Apollo gantry)

We wandered the center some more and Unkk regaled me with tales of astronauts, and computers, and the wonders that the space program has brought to the world. Every now and then we'd stop and I'd record some audio for the podcast, and then we'd move on. We tried to watch an IMAX film, but the 3D part was broken, so we decided to skip it and get on the bus. As we rode about Unkk was telling me more about stuff than the drivers were with their memorized routines, for example I knew that the VAB(vehicle assembly building) is 500+ feet tall, but the pilings for it extend 400+ feet down into the ground!

This is the Pegasus, the barge that is used to transport the enormous external fuel tanks for the shuttle.

Our next stop was the area closest to the shuttle launch pads. Here you can see pad A being refurbished for the upcoming Ares program:

And here on pad B is the Discovery awaiting it's August 24th launch date.

Also on display at the launch pad viewing gantry is an actual shuttle main engine.

We then moved on to the main attraction...the mighty Saturn V. The most amazing, and complicated machine ever built by the hand of man. And this rocket is no mock-up. Unkk informed me that this was ready to either be Apollo 21, or a rescue rocket should one of the earlier missions go bad. It sat outside for years before a private company took over the Visitor Center and refurbished it, which included putting this monster in a beautiful, air-conditioned building. The only drawback is that it is impossible to get a good picture of the whole rocket, but it's still impressive as hell.

There is also an actual Lunar Module there:

And the actual Apollo 14 capsule(with a special guest star)

Unfortunately it wasn't all happy times and physics talk. There is an unpleasant, yet beautiful part of the center where the US astronauts that have given their lives in the line of duty are memorialized. Apollo 1:

Challenger and Columbia:

And for all:

Then we went back to the Unkk house where Unkkwife and the two Unkklings graciously treated me to an amazing dinner, and then Unkk bestowed upon me a totally incredible computer that he had been tinkering with so that I might join him in the new game. We finished up the interview, and then I drove home. It was an amazing day, spent with one of the hoopiest froods ever to walk the planet. The interviews will be compiled into a podcast that will go out in a couple of weeks, but I just want to thank Daniel(Unkk's real name) and his family for their incredibly warm hospitality and friendship, not to mention the deliciousness that is Irish Lasagna. This was a day that will definitely go on the highlight reel of my life.

Unkk rocks! :-)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009


Emotion: Agitation or disturbance of mind. A vehement or excited mental state.

Quotes from the Rocky Horror Picture Show notwithstanding, emotions can be a real pain in the ass. Today I'd like to talk about fear. As children we all learn that the most obvious way we can exert some manner of control over those around us is to lie in wait until they walk by, and then jump at them with a loud 'BOO!' When they scream, yell, jump, whatever, we giggle like crazed monkeys and wait for the next chance to try again. And when that same trick was pulled on us, some of us liked it. I, however, never liked it. And I still don't. Fear, to some, is like a drug, and they can't get enough. To me it's like a stab in the entrails. Fight or flight is not a pleasant sensation which is why I don't care for roller coasters, most amusement park rides, and most relevant to today's post, scary movies.

I have told you all of my 'imaginary' friends from the Simply Syndicated forums, and of the recent challenge that got me to watch The Godfather. I didn't particularly want to watch The Godfather, but I knew that, at worst, I'd be bored for a couple of hours. It turned out I wasn't, and the result of the challenge was that the lad who challenged me is now as big a Star Trek fan as any I've met, and I didn't want the two hours of my life back, so it was all good. The other day, however, the gauntlet was picked up by another forum member who challenged me to watch El Orfanato(The Orphanage). This is a ghost movie, and a rather scary one. I had heard reviews of the film, and listened to spoilers since I had no intention of ever watching it, so I tried to beg off the challenge. He promised to watch both The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist if I watched El Orfanato. I countered that I hated Blair Witch, and had no need to further the cause of The Exorcist. He then recontered with 2001 and Planet of the Apes. Now the hook was set. I asked my wife is she wanted to see this film, as she is a fan of the horror genre. "I already have," quoth she, "it's really good." Shit! She was weaned on Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees, so if she thought it was good I was doomed to be a gibbering mess by the end credits. "But," she continued, "this movie shouldn't mess with your head." Hmmm, she knows what a wuss I am when it comes to scary movies, and I have heard nothing but rave reviews of El Orfanato, and I know how it ends. Ok, I'll man up and watch the damned thing.

So I sallied forth without so much as a tweet as to my intentions and rented the DVD. It was broad daylight when I started the movie, and might I say it is an excellent film. It is not so much scary as creepy, and I really wish I had watched it without the benefit of knowing the truth about what was going on, as the uncertainty is the main strength of the film, but everything about this movie is beautiful. The sets are gorgeous in their Gothic creepiness, the acting is superb, and the pacing is the perfect slow ramp-up to the horrific conclusion. It is a Spanish film, so if subtitles are a problem you might want to give this one a miss, but if you don't mind reading your movie it is an excellent experience. Plus, armed with my foreknowledge of the story, it didn't scare me...or so I thought.

Later, after the sun went down and my wife went to bed, I found myself in my usual place here at the computer, with very few lights on, listening to a podcast. Then the creepy scenes from the movie, especially the kid with the scarecrow mask, started tickling the back of my brain, and not in a good way. Not too long after that one of the cats decided to knock something over in the COA's bedroom. I managed not to jump too high, or emit any sort of girly scream, but just barely. Then the A/C kicked on, and when that happens the filter is pulled up against the duct with a sound that is not really noticeable when there is activity in the house, but in the quiet of the night, when I am listening to muted voices in my headphones and am already on edge, it is enough to make me want to jump out of my skin. I really don't understand why people like that feeling, but it just makes me angry. I don't like to be scared. Finally I decided the best course of action was to take an Ambien and go to bed. Fortunately such scares rarely attack me in my sleep, and my worst dream last night involved Warner Brothers sending me a cease and desist letter about something I put in a podcast, and today I feel fine. I usually only need twenty-four hours or so for the scare to wear off, but I won't know for sure until tonight.

I think maybe I'll watch Airplane again just to be safe.

Marius the Spooked