January 31, 2005

USS San Francisco and her valiant crew

If you've been visiting Rocket Jones for a while you already know that my son is home after serving in the US Navy. You also know that he was a crewman on an attack sub, the USS Philadelphia.

That boat is the sister ship to the USS San Francisco, which just had the high-speed run-in with an uncharted underwater mountain. The crew performed bravely and heroically and managed to save their boat. That scenario was my worst nightmare as a parent, and I'm thankful that the accident wasn't worse.

A.E. Brain has been keeping up with this, with pictures and news, both before and after. Plenty of links too. Please, follow those links and be horrified at the damage sustained and be amazed at the ability of the crew to maintain and make it home again.

The training and professionalism of the US military is second to none, although we tend to hear most often of the Army and Marines. The tsunami-relief efforts of our carrier groups got some attention lately, but the actions of the crew on board the San Francisco demonstrates that the Navy, like the other branches of our armed forces, are second to none.

Posted by: Ted at 12:01 PM | category: Military
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Like a universal hub for oddness

Joe DeRouen's Weird Web Sites is updated weekly, and features such as:

Bible-Approved Underwear

Have you ever wanted to dress Bible-friendly but just weren't sure how? While this website won't tell you much in terms of dresses, skirts, and blouses, it does cover (no pun intended) what's underneath. The site shows examples of what bras, panties, and girdles are approved by the Bible, and which undergarments will send you straight to Hades.

Links to all plus an extensive archive make this the perfect place to lose yourself for an afternoon. Or two.

Posted by: Ted at 11:46 AM | category: Links
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Ungrateful bum that I am

I need to thank the following people for their advice, links and help when I was asking about wireless security for a home network. You guys are aces!


Posted by: Ted at 06:06 AM | category: Links
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Why The English Language Is Hard To Learn

I've seen variations of this floating around in email before, but this is the most comprehensive version I've ever run across. Many thanks to Gordon for forwarding it to me.

(in the extended entry) more...

Posted by: Ted at 06:01 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 30, 2005

MookieRiffic no more

My daughter Rachael is blogging again, in the same place but under a new name: Down Stage Left. I believe she's going to focus more on her theater interests, but will occasionally post things like her memorable "Dead Guy of the Day" series. I'm sure her spelling will still be painful too. Can't change everything I guess.

Posted by: Ted at 08:01 AM | category: Links
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Congratulations Iraq!

Welcome to democracy.

Posted by: Ted at 07:51 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 29, 2005

"It is getting to be a bit like Apollo all over again"

Space.com has another one of those articles that seems obvious - once you think about it. This time, it's the need for simulated moon dirt.

This time, when we go back to the moon, it'll be to stay. It's good practice for Mars and beyond, not to mention how much easier it'll be to mount further exploration missions from there compared to the deep gravity well on Earth. Obviously, we're going to need ways to produce what we need from the materials available on the lunar surface. Also obviously, that means devising nifty machines to do all that scientifical magic that creates those things we'll need. You gotta test those machines and methods beforehand, hence the not-so-obvious need for fake moon regolith (dirt).

Tons of lunar simulant, called JSC-1, were produced years ago under the auspices of NASAÂ’s Johnson Space Center, hence the name. Made from volcanic ash of basaltic composition, JSC-1Â’s composition mimicked many of the attributes of lunar mare soil samples.

But now supplies are largely gone, with some of the material even hoarded by some researchers due to its scarceness.

We never had all that much genuine lunar soil, and there are also some limitations besides the amount available. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt walked on the moon with Apollo 17, and was the only actual geologist to go.

“The main problem with this Apollo material is that it no longer is in extremely hard vacuum and has not been for thirty-three-plus years. Also, the samples and fractions taken from it for analysis have been agitated by handling and splitting and have lost significant amounts of solar wind volatiles,” Schmitt explained.

In other words, even our original moon samples aren't precisely what was collected more than three decades ago. Like most things, regolith is changed by the environment it exists in and by the handling it sustains.

The first lunar simulant 'MLS-1' was made because it had an approximate chemistry to Apollo 11 soil 10084, but its mineralogy and engineering properties were all off. Subsequent attempts to duplicate grain-size distribution and glass content were not adequate. But, this was used by many investigators, most of whom unknowingly were not using a good simulant.

Later simulants were much better, but there is still room for, and a need for improvement. They're not exactly sure how much they'll need, but it will be measured in tons. There's money to be made in fake moon dirt.

Posted by: Ted at 09:14 AM | category: Space Program
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January 28, 2005


It occurs to me that if we move the federal government to Dade County, we wouldn't even have to change the stationery.

Posted by: Ted at 11:35 AM | category: Square Pegs
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First day at the new job

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's opening remarks to State employees:

(Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, this is a little different welcome than the first time that I came to work at the State Department. Now, that may surprise some of you, but I was, in 1977, an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. (Laughter and applause.) Now, there's a lesson in that: Be good to your interns. (Laughter.)

Complete text of her remarks can be found here.

Also distributed (sorry, couldn't find a link):

Message from the Secretary of State

Colleagues, today is the first of many days ahead that we will work together to help our country build a safer, better world. I am honored to lead the State Department at this critical time—a time of challenge and hope and opportunity. And, like you, I owe a special debt of gratitude to our dear friend Colin Powell, who has served our nation with distinction, and has done so much to strengthen the Department of State.

September 11, 2001, was a defining moment for our nation and the world. Under the vision and leadership of President Bush, our nation has risen to meet the challenges of our time; fighting tyranny and terror, and securing the blessings of freedom and prosperity for a new generation. The work that America and our allies have undertaken, and the sacrifices we have made, have been difficult. And necessary. And right. Now is the time to build on these achievements—to make the world safer, and to make the world more free. We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom. And the time for diplomacy is now.

In these momentous times, American diplomacy has three great tasks. We will unite the community of democracies in building an international system that is based on our shared values and the rule of law. We will strengthen the community of democracies to fight the threats to our common security and alleviate the hopelessness that feeds terror. And we will spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. That is the mission that President Bush has set for you and me, and the great mission of American diplomacy today.

As we begin our work together, President Bush and I will expect great things from each of you in the service of your country and of a great cause. More than ever, you will be active in spreading democracy, fighting terror, reducing poverty, and helping to protect the American homeland.

I want each of you to know that I have no higher priority than the well-being and personal development of the men and women of the Foreign and Civil Services and the Foreign Service Nationals who work beside us. I know from experience how hard you work and the many risks you take. And I am especially aware of the hardships and sacrifices that your families endure as they also serve our nation. I want you to know that I will personally work to help ensure that you have the tools you need to do your jobs—from training to budgets to mentoring to embassy security.

Colleagues, I am honored to be your Secretary during these historic times. Together, we will serve our wonderful country and the cause of freedom for which it stands.

Let's see... first she thanks outgoing Secretary Powell, next is a reminder about 9/11, then diplomacy, building democracy, fighting terror, and looking out for her people.

Yep. As far as I'm concerned, she hit all the right points. In the right order too.

Posted by: Ted at 05:55 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Sign taped to a window at a Hockey bar

In St. Paul, Minnesota:

"closed, indefinitely, due to 'cost un-certainty' and high player salaries"

Posted by: Ted at 04:33 AM | category: Square Pegs
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"strange, undeniable sexiness"... Yep, that's me all right.

Wackiness: 50/100
Rationality: 50/100
Constructiveness: 32/100
Leadership: 58/100

You are a SEDL--Sober Emotional Destructive Leader. This makes you a Dictator.

You prefer to control situations, and lack of control makes you physically sick. You feel have responsibility for everyone's welfare, and that you will be blamed when things go wrong. Things do go wrong, and you take it harder than you should.

You rely on the validation and support of others, but you have a secret distrust for people and distaste for their habits and weaknesses that make you keep your distance from them. This makes you very difficult to be with romantically. Still, a level-headed peacemaker can keep you balanced.

Despite your fierce temper and general hot-bloodedness, you have a soft spot for animals and a surprising passion for the arts. Sometimes you would almost rather live by your wits in the wilderness somewhere, if you could bring your books and your sketchbook.

You also have a strange, undeniable sexiness to you. You may go insane.

Of the 82232 people who have taken this quiz since tracking began (8/17/2004), 5.4 % are this type.

This test has appeared all over the place, most recently at Smoking Toaster, who's proprietor and your pal, Bitterman, has an odd definition of "hobby".

Posted by: Ted at 04:05 AM | category: Links
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January 27, 2005

With all the buzz going on about Phantom of the Opera

Instead of just reviewing a movie this time around, I thought I'd point out an excellent DVD for cinema fans.

The disk is a triple feature under the title Horror Classics, volume 1. Released by Navarre video, it falls under their Reel Values label. I got my copy at Suncoast Video for around ten bucks.

So what's so special about this DVD with the mundane name?

On it are three silent classics: Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, and Metropolis. My review for each of these movies is simple: See them, and be prepared to be wowed!

I talked a little bit about Nosferatu here:

My only complaint is that the Americanized version I have changed the names of the characters, making the story more familiar yet taking away from the original intent (for instance: Graf Orlok was changed to Count Dracula and Profesor Bulwer became Dr. Van Helsing).

There's more to the story. According to some accounts, when Bram Stoker's Dracula was first put on sale for movie rights, among the first buyers was F. W. Murnau, who was one of the most famous German directors at the time. Soon after beginning production of the film, they got the word that they had been scammed and that the widow of Bram Stoker refused to allow them to use the name and specific storyline of Dracula. To get around the problem, Murnau changed the name Dracula to Count Orlok, Harker became Hutter and Van Helsing became Professor Bulwer. Instead of London, the story is set in Bremen.

When Nosferatu premiered, the widow Stoker brought legal action against the studio and Murnau. In 1925 a German court ordered all prints of the film to be destroyed. Fortunately, several prints of the film survived.

Another interesting fact from the movie is that very little of it was shot on a movie set, almost the entire thing was shot on locations in Eastern Europe. The castle? Real. City street in Bremen? Real. The authenticity shines through.

Next on the DVD is Phantom of the Opera, the classic starring Lon Chaney (Rocket Jones bio here). As so often happens, the recent Broadway play and movie productions change the original plotline to suit "modern" audiences, and in my opinion the changes greatly lessen the impact of the original.

Not that any version of Phantom has been completely true to the novel by Gaston Leroux. Even this first version required the creation of a new ending when audiences hated the final scenes as first filmed.

The first time you see the Phantom's real face is among this list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, although the entire scene of the masqued ball is chilling.

Finally, there is Metropolis. Filled with amazing performances and incredible special effects (in 1927!), the cast was enormous and the expense of creating this masterpiece almost bankrupted the studio.

According to the director himself (Fritz Lang, who also did the classic Frau im Mond), the film as originally conceived wasn't seen for decades because several important filmed sequences were lost.

The lead actress, Brigitte Helm, was an early movie star. When she had to turn down one role it was given to newcomer Marlene Dietrich. Ms. Helm made her final film in 1935, after which she retired to Switzerland. She was so disgusted by Adolph Hitler and his takeover of the German film industry that she refused to talk about her career or the subject ever again.

This film influenced many SciFi films to come, including such diverse efforts as Star Wars, Blade Runner and Dr. Strangelove.

I'll repeat myself. These are must-see films, and this DVD is a wonderful value.

Posted by: Ted at 08:43 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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Yes, that is a phone in my pocket, and I am happy to see you

Porn star Jenna Jameson has launched a new line of downloadable "Moan Tones" for your phone, so now when that hot call comes in, you can honestly say it can't wait.

Reaching out to touch someone should probably not be attempted.

Next best thing to being there? Only if your phone is set to vibrate.

Posted by: Ted at 12:29 PM | category: SciTech
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There we were, enjoying the fights, when hockey broke out!

I had no idea this even existed, a site dedicated to hockey fight stats!

Thanks to Off Wing Opinion for pointing that out (via your PDA version no less).

Posted by: Ted at 11:35 AM | category: Links
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Chris Muir's Day by Day. Today's is especially good.

Posted by: Ted at 06:08 AM | category: Links
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Orbital Flight Simulator

Called Orbiter, and the page has all kinds of add-ons and nifty toys to download. Looks like everything is free too.

Posted by: Ted at 05:07 AM | category: SciTech
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Mookie's making noises about coming back

Recharged and revved up to get into blogging again.

Posted by: Ted at 04:23 AM | category: Links
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January 26, 2005

Click the link, darn it!

Casey, over at the Gantry Launchpad, has his one-year anniversary tomorrow (thursday, the 27th). He also notes that he's not quite reaching a milestone of 6k hits. Since he's a lot nicer than Bill, and definitely posts more often, I'm asking that each and every Rocket Jones visitor today click this link and go visit Casey. Let's put him over the top, so do it twice or even three times, and if you're a really nice person you'd leave a comment for him too.

Happy anniversary Casey, keep up the space blogging.

Posted by: Ted at 05:45 PM | category: Links
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Rocketing Around the Blogosphere

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, but rather than do my usual forty-seven "oooooh, look at this!" posts, I'll just do one great big "oooooh, look at these!" post.

First up (this is probably keeping GeekLethal over at the Ministry awake at nights), Silflay Hraka brings to light the newest model of military robot, named SWORDS.

But officials are quick to point out that these are not the autonomous killer robots of science fiction. A SWORDS robot shoots only when its human operator presses a button after identifying a target on video shot by the robot's cameras.

Ok, I feel better now, because we all know that humans are all kind and gentle creatures who hate to harm each other.

Filed under "You can't make this stuff up", Azygos tells of the Potty Bowl, which is associated with, appropriately enough, the Arizona Cardinals.

At this good, clean fun (and educational) event, Arizona Cardinal quarterback Shaun King will act as master of ceremonies and honorary "Kandoo Coach" while kids play against each other to finish the Go! Wipe! Flush! Wash! Dry! obstacle course first.

I noticed that one of the co-sponsors (alongside Pampers), was KOOL and my first thought was that those bastards in the tobacco industry were targeting toddlers in their zeal to indoctrinate new smokers. I mean, what's more natural than sitting down on the throne and lighting up a cigarette? After a more careful reading, I see that KOOL is a radio station, and judging by this event, it's probably on a par with WKRP in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, over at Random Nuclear Strikes, we learn of this story:

Bay Area native Daniel Berk had planned to spend the Christmas holiday in Sri Lanka, getting his scuba certificate, but canceled his plans at the last minute. He missed the deadly tsunami, but on Saturday, he was killed in an avalanche while snowboarding off-trail in the Austrian Alps.

To which AnalogKid remarks:

When your name is on the ReaperÂ’s clip board, making him switch from bermuda shorts to a parka only pisses him off.


Also from Random Nuclear Strikes comes the pointer to a blog called (ready for it?)...

President Boxer.

They're serious about it, but probably my favorite part is where they quote Oliver Willis who digs up some dirt on Republicans! Imagine that?!?!?! Here's a news flash - ALL POLITICIANS ARE BASICALLY SCUMBAGS!!!

The trick is selecting a scumbag who's reality most closely mirrors your own personal priorities. That said, voting for someone who refuses to acknowlege recent history (like, fer instance, claiming WMD's were the *only* reason we invaded Iraq), means that you're not just supporting a scumbag, it means your scumbag is either a) stupid beyond belief, or b) believes "a" to be true about you. As Bill Engval would say, "here's your sign".

Better yet, maybe I should just chill out and wait for the damn robot overlords. Heaven knows, they probably couldn't do worse.

Posted by: Ted at 12:10 PM | category: Links
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Wallops Island

Wallops Island is Virginia's designated Spaceport. It was named for John Wallop, a 17th-century surveyor who began patenting land on Virginia's eastern shore in the 1660's. In 1672 he received a Crown Patent of the 13-square-kilometer island from King Charles II, and in his will John Wallop referred to "my island formerly called Keeckotank." It was also known as Accocomoson or Occocomoson Island, but has borne the name "Wallops Island" for more than 260 years.

Source: "Origins of NASA Names" by Wells, Whiteley, and Karegeannes, NASA SP-4402, 1976

Posted by: Ted at 12:04 PM | category: Space Program
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