Space mailing lists

Space is bigHere’s some of the space exploration mailing lists I subscribe to which I find interesting.

Science @ NASA.Science stories and involvement projects that bring the cutting edge to people interested in science. Anywhere from 1-4 new stories a week, each announced by an e-mail to your address
Earth Observatory by NASA. Once a week you will receive a short notice from the Earth Observatory telling you about the latest stories, data, and other points of interest that have been added to NASA’s Earth Observatory site.
J-Pass Generator by NASA creates satellite prediction reports for up to 10 satellites and e-mails them directly to you. Each report gives you the times your chosen satellites are going to cross through your sky during the next three days, the approximate location, and the visible brightness.
ESA Portal by the European Space Agency. Recieve general ESA news, plus Human Spaceflight, Earth Observing, Space Science, Engineering, Operations and Technology.
JAXA Mail Service by Japan Aerospance Exploration Agency. With this JAXA Mail Service, latest happy funtime information from JAXA will automatically be e-mailed to your address.
CSA Distribution List by the Canadian Space Agency otherwise known as l’Agence Spatiale Canadienne.
Spaceflight Now, a general human spaceflight web site, pretty informative.

I have not been able to find an English language Roscosmos mailing list, but I imagine that it’d be a good read.

Jupiter through the lens

Jupiter though the telescopeI got out my telescope the other night and had a look at Jupiter. Jupiter was almost directly overhead at about 11pm. The thumbnail to the left isn’t my own image, but it’s pretty much what I saw except that I had a clearer image with crisp edges on Jupiter, and I could see stripes on the surface. The moons appeared as clear, crisp distinct dots. It was glorious, and quite moving that I was looking at something which had first been seen in the same way by Galileo almost exactly 400 years ago in August, 1609.

Jupiter will be at perihelion about this time next year which means that it is at it’s closest approach to the sun which in turn means it is close to Earth, so I have 12 months to figure out how to get a camera onto my telelscope so I can take my own photos. Then I can feed them through photoshop and try and bring out some of those colours.

Learning Chinese

China FlagSo, I need to learn to speak Chinese. Thankfully I don’t need to learn to read or write it, which makes things a lot easier. I downloaded borrowed some “Teach yourself language” MP3s which I have loaded onto my iPod and I’ve been working my way through them since Monday. Well, redoing the first lesson over and over is closer to the truth. I plan to do a couple short courses at TAFE over the next few months because I can only go so far with self study.

Why Mandarin? I do tech support for a global software company and we are getting lots of customers in China because of the massive investment in infrastructure right now. These guys will eventually need to ask questions or will run into problems (not with the software, because that’s perfect) so they’re going to need to speak to someone. We already have Mandarin-speaking staff in Singapore and indeed in Shanghai, but there’s only so many staff. Most of them are away from the office most of the time doing installations, training, audits and upgrades.

Me, I don’t generally travel. I’ve made my preference to stay at home for my family clear to my supervisors and they have honoured that. I generally don’t travel overseas more than once a year. So, I’m almost always in the office. So I’m going to be the one to learn Chinese to speak to our newest customers when they call.

I get the impression that my supervisrs would be happy if I complete a short conversation along the lings of, “I do not speak Chinese. Do you speak English? I can’t help you right now. Goodbye”, or perhaps, “Please hold while I transfer you to Jackie Chan”. But now that I’ve dipped my toe into the warm ocean of the Mandarin language, I’ve set a higher goal. I want to be able to watch a Jackie Chan movie without the subtitles!

I’ve got a question for anyone out there who does actually speak Mandarin: since, to speak the language properly, you need to have the right ascending or descending tones, how does singing in Mandarin work? I mean, the melody of the lyrics follows a natural rising and falling pitch and tone, so does this clash with what is supposed to happen in the spoken language which needs to follow its own rising and falling pitch and tone?

My Facebook Status

Facebook - the friend of Gen-Y everywhereFacebook is great and all, but I’m tired of reading pointless statuses of people who I haven’t seen or spoken to IRL for years. Statuses like “is comtemplating life”, or “is looking forward to the weekend” just don’t do it for me. Seriously, I’m contemplating life most of the time, and there isn’t an afternoon goes by that I don’t look forward to the weekend but I don’t feel the need to tell anyone about it. Just take it as a given, seriously. Play Facebook Bingo on your own profile. If more than one of these statuses appear, you’re doing it wrong.

Then there’s the retarded applications and quizes which seem popular now, like “What style kisser are you” and “What age will you marry?”. That’s great if you’re, like, 12 but I don’t get anything out of these. These are the cancer that is affecting Facebook.

Don’t get me started on Farmville.

And I hate how people are “fans” of pretty much anything. If you’re a fan of a band or movie or sports team sure, but if you’re a fan of “The sound of wind blowing through trees” or something equally inane I am very tempted to just delete you.

There’s some types of Facebook users I can’t stand and have mostly weeded out:

  • Friend collectors. There’s no way one person can have more than 1000 close friends, let alone be interested in them and keep up with what they’re doing. I have less than 80 Facebook friends which keeps me busy enough.
  • The moaning boaster. “… needs to get his kiddie to the Olympic swimming tryouts at 6am. Urgh” or ” … is leaving for a vacation in Tahiti. Man, I hate packing”. These guys, in one post, are both baiting for sympathy and trying to make you feel inadequate by boasting about whatever they’re doing.
  • Lurkers. I’ll meet a friend or aquaintance who I’ve completely forgotten about “Friending” because he never updates his status and never writes on his wall, and he’ll mention something I posted myself. OK, voyeuristic creepy lurker-dude.

So, to keep Facebook partly interesting, at least for myself, I’ve got this stupid game going where I use movie quotes or lines from songs as my own status. They can’t be just random quotations. It has to be one where my name will fit at the beginning. After all, Facebook statuses used to be of the form “Brian Hoover is…” and you fill in the blank.

Using movie/song quotes serves a couple purposes.

  • It allows my Friends to know I’m still around and active.
  • It avoids the necessity of posting something too personal which may either bore a reader to death or get me into trouble in a professional sense (yes I have workmates as Facebook Friends)
  • It gives Friends the opportunity to reply with the following lines from the movie/song after wracking their brains to remember, or to reminisce on it.

Some people “get it” and I think look forward to my once-a-day status update. Some people don’t get it, and think that I’m for real. I used the first line from the TISM song called “(He’ll never be an) Ole Man River” and set my status to “Brian Hoover is on the drug that killed River Phoenix”. I got some concerned messages asking if I’ve gone off the rails, and if everything is alright. Here are some of my recent status updates:

Brian Hoover had told me Rachael was special: no termination date. I didn’t know how long we had together. Who does?

Brian Hoover won’t come after me. He won’t. I can’t explain it. He would consider that…rude.

Brian Hoover will use his puppet Saruman to destroy the people of Rohan. Isengard has been unleashed. The Eye of Brian now turns to Gondor, the last free kingdom of men. His war on this country will come swiftly.

Brian Hoover‘s Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Brian begins to learn at a geometric rate. He becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull his plug.

Brian Hoover‘s got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. He’s got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom. He’ll blend in, disappear, you’ll never see him again. With any luck, he’s got the grail already.

Brian Hoover hasn’t felt this bad since he saw that Ronald Reagan movie.

Brian Hoover is a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he’ll… uh… well, you’ll say “hello” to him, right? And he’ll just walk right by you. He won’t even notice you. And suddenly he’ll grab you, and he’ll throw you in a corner, and he’ll say, “do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life?

Brian Hoover once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Brian Hoover has a whole bag of “sh!” with your name on it.

Brian Hoover is out there. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Brian Hoover loves the smell of napalm in the morning.

Brian Hoover was supposed to die in France. He never even saw France.

Brian Hoover rubs the lotion on his skin. He does this whenever he’s told.

Brian Hoover‘s childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring, we’d make meat helmets. When he was insolent, he was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds. Pretty standard, really.

Brian Hoover can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon – with nail polish.

Hamilton’s pit crew costs him a win

Don't you wish your girlfriend was Hot like Lewis Hamiltons Girlfriend?Nicole Scherzinger’s boyfriend almost made it back-to-back wins, but came second in the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Watch this Youtube video to see how the pit crew cost him about 6 seconds, enough to lose the race. I’m not exactly sure how an F1 GP pit crew works, but as far as I understand the team keeps the tires on the racks in the garage in heat blankets for as long as possible, so they are still toasty warm by the time the get onto the car. These guys who carry the tires out must be called out by another crew member at the right time to allow them to unwrap the tires, carry them out to the pit and be in position ready for the car to arrive. It seems that someone made the call late, and they were walking out just as Hamilton arrived and actually had to move out of the way as they arrived at the same time as the car. It was then a mad scramble to get the blankets off with the mechanics, who had long since removed the old tyres, looking around wondering why the new ones weren’t in place.

At the end of the day, he still gets to go home to Nicole to console him. Not bad for second place.

The race was won by Rubens Barrichello who came in two seconds ahead of Hamilton making him this years fifth unique winner. Webber came in ninth. It’s a win for Jenson Button who stays at the top of the championship standings as he picked up 2 points for 7th and Webber, who was in second place in the standings, picked up none.

European Formula 1 Grand Prix

Valencia CircuitYay, racers. It’s GP time again this week. I know this image isn’t the Valencia circuit, but it sumarises my thoughts on American motor racing pretty well. NASCAR is a stupid sport. You can’t test a car or a driver by driving around in almost perfect circles. The cars may be somewhat fast, but the pit crews are slow and the spectators are ugly. Compare this to F1 where the cars look and handle great, the pit crews are lightning fast and the spectators and grid girls are attractive, intelligent and discerning.

Too bad Schumacher is not able to compete. It would have been good watching him race again.

Seventh Birthday

So, my daughter had her seventh birthday on Friday night. She had about 15 thousand nine of her friends over for a “Master Chef” themed party. Each contestant got a custom apron with their name on it to take home. Th evening consisted of three challenges: Pizza, Shakes, and Cakes. The idea was that they’d make and eat their own party food. I’d be the judge and dish out praise or scorn as required.

For the Pizza Challenge, they paired up and were given a pizza base each, and access to 6-7 different pizza ingredients. We chose pizza-making because we figured everyone can make a pizza: you evenly spread a bunch of ingredients of a flat base and it should turn out alright in the end. Well,  either some of these girls were just not into making pizzas (or cooking in general) or had never laid eyes on a pizza and produced abominations with no thought or rhyme or reason. One of the pizzas had seven small piles of different ingredients in a ring around the centre. But, a couple of them were good with evenly placed ingredients and some garnishing.

Small problem was that our oven broke that morning. Luckily it was after the cupcakes and the all important birthday cake had been baked. So, when the pizzas were done I had to ferry them to a neighbor around the corner who cooked them for us and then I ferried them back. In the rain.

The Cupcake Challenge had them each decorate three or four cupcakes with M&Ms, sugary stars and whatnot. A bit of mess was made when the frosting was applied but generally I think they had fun doing this one.

For the Milkshake Challenge they went into teams of three and were each given a blender in which to concoct their creation. We figured we’d give them two themes: syrup flavours or fresh fruit/berries. So of course, most of the milkshakes had all ingredients thrown in with no thought about the taste. Those shakes were awful.

So, it wasn’t a bad night in the end. I DJed some party music; kids seem to love Beastie Boys “Intergalactic” and the Jamiroquai remixes I had on my MDs. We made far too much food so the good news is that I have enough pizza to last a week.  BLURP!

2009 SL06 Saga Legends Darth Vader, US card

2009 Star Wars Saga Legends SL06 Darth Vader

Yes, they’re starting the numbers from 1 again for the 2009 Saga Legends series, and using smaller cards to boot which means I’ll need different sized Star Cases too. I don’t mind the new cards, but there’s a few points:

  1. There are too many corners.
  2. There is too much blank white space behind the figure.
  3. WTF is with including a locker of  ”battle gear”?  This premium makes almost no sense.

Thanks to the awesome guys at I’ve got a Canadian version of this on the way to me.

Abbey Road album cover

Beatles - Abbey Road album coverOK, so yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the release of the Abbey Road album. I’m not a Beatles fan, never have been, but I guess this album is significant in being the last album released by the Beatles. It’s also significant because of the cover. It’s somehow iconic and has been copied and parodied on at least a hundred albums I could find with some quick google-fu. It’s one of the most popular album covers to immitate along with The Velvet Underground and The Who Live at Leeds. Apparently it took only ten minutes to put together. Not a bad return for minimal effort, but that’s how it usually works, huh. The best photos just seem to happen. Here are a couple of my favourite immitations.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Abbey Road album cover Benny Hill Abbey Road album cover The Friars Of The Community Of St. Saviour's Monastery Abbey Road album cover Longua de Trapo Abbey Road album cover Simpsons Abbey Road album cover

Nuclear anniversary

Enola Gay and TibbettsIn the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian and headed north by northwest toward Japan. The bomber’s primary target was the city of Hiroshima, located on the deltas of southwestern Honshu Island facing the Inland Sea.

A few hours later at about 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima time the Enola Gay released “Little Boy,” its 9,700-pound uranium bomb, over the city.

Forty three seconds later Little Boy detonated 1,900 feet above the city and about 70,000 people died as a result of initial blast, heat, and radiation effects. The five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects took hold.

It’s a moral dilemma: was this the greatest single-instance, unnecessary atrocity the world has ever known, committed against mainly civilians? Or was it a hard but correct decision to make, one which ended World War 2 earlier than it otherwise would have? Japan was already close to being broken and the Russians, having won in Europe, were mobilising against them also. Would Japan have defended their Empire to the last man? Or did the nuclear attacks change the minds of the Japanese from “let’s surrender on our terms” to “let’s just surrender and stop the slaughter of our civilians.”?

Could the American’s not have demonstrated their power first? Drop a bomb on a well defended Japanese military island or port in the Pacific, and then declare an ultimatum: “You have 5 days to surrender, or you’ll have one of these delivered to Yokohama. Or Tokyo”.

Compare WW2 Japan to WW1 Germany. The Germans could claim that they never really lost the War, they simply gave up. No enemy boot laid foot in anger on German soil. Japan was in the same situation, but by nuking Japan, America let them know in no uncertain terms that they had lost this war despite not having been invaded.

Regardless of what one thinks about the use of nuclear weapons in WWII, it is inarguable that the Manhattan Project was (along with Apollo) among the greatest American projects of all time. The brightest scientists in the world, working in secret with the government, organized by General Leslie Groves was simply brilliance of engineering and management.

Worldwide Nuclear Testing 1945 to 1998Since 1945 there have been more than 2000 nuclear tests, with seven in Australia. Besides America, seven other countries have, for certain, developed nuclear weapons: the USSR, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. So far, no other countries have used them in anger.