Monthly Archives: April 2009

Absolutely, Positively, 100%, Frakkin, Awesome!

1:10 scale! That’s amazing considering I just saw a close-up of the real thing a few weeks ago at Davidson Center for Space Exploration.

The Saturn V

The Saturn V

Thanks GeekDad for the tip…

Holy Cow! I Can’t Believe It!

Holy Cow!

Holy Cow!

A few years ago, Mrs. Calrissian bought me a telescope. I get to use it every couple of weeks or so in the warm months. It’s nothing fancy, but it does its job of bringing the cosmos closer to home.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were doing a little moon and star hunting when one of the neighbor kids walked by. He was a teenager and headed to drop something off to another neighbor. Seeing us with the telescope, curiosity got the better of him:

“What’s that?”

“A telescope”


“Yeah, you want to take a look?”

“Sure, ok?”

After I focused back in on the moon and let him have a look:

“Holy cow! I can’t believe it!”

All it takes is a little time. Maybe I just made a new convert out of him…

NOTE: While I wish I had something so amazing to take pictures, the one in this post is not mine. Thanks PopSci.

Review: Ben Bova’s Moonrise

MoonriseAfter reading through the Mars series, I decided to go back in time and check out some of Mr. Bova’s earlier books. This book could serve as a great intro into the Grand Tour. And I didn’t know that Doug Stavenger (a minor character in the Mars books) was a brotha!

Check out my review

Stellarium is awesome!

logo24bitsbetaA few years back, I downloaded a program called Stellarium. It didn’t run well on my PC at the time (I was still stuck on a P4 single core), so I did not get to use it much. Earlier this year I rediscovered this great program after getting my new dual-core XPS M1730.

And wow! This program rocks! If you have any interest in astronomy, even just a teeny-tiny inkling, then this is one program that you need to download. It is so easy to use, yet so flexible and powerful! And did I mention that it was FREE! (p.s. I love open source software).

The night sky is rendered in such fabulous detail. From the motions and paths of the planets and stars, to the constellations and the artistic drawings that represent them, to the user interface itself, Stellarium is a top-notch desktop astronomy package.

The program comes in Windows, Mac, and Linux flavors. The Windows package is about 43 MB, so it will take a minute or two to arrive on your PC. And don’t be alarmed by being redirected to the SourceForge download page. This is a well-known and respected repository for a number of open source packages. After downloading the package, just run the EXE to get the install started.

And after installing, download the User’s Guide PDF file (also available on the main Stellarium page). It will help you set up your location and you will be well on your way to exploring the night sky.

Here are a few other links to help you find your way around the program:

Here are some of my favorite aspects of Stellarium:

Constellation outlines!

Constellation outlines!

Photorealistic close-ups!

Photorealistic close-ups!

Planetary close-ups include moons!

Planetary close-ups include moons!

Change constellations to other cultures!

Change constellations to other cultures!

Happy Earth Day!

Just a few more hours left…

Inspiration from Mr. Marchis

Enough! An Open Letter To Rollertime Skating

"Lawd knows I'm tired" - Sofia, The Color Purple

"Lawd knows I'm tired" - Sofia, The Color Purple

Not really a nerd topic, but it’s my blog!

Yesterday, we took the family skating. Now, we have been to Rollertime before, but yesterday I was a little disturbed. The music selection was absolutely horrendous! More than 80% of the kids there were under the age of 11, but you would have thought this was adult skate.

Sure, they played the clean version, but we all know you can get the gist of a song. From Lil’ Wayne’s piranaha-biting-self on Keri Hilson’s “Turnin’ Me On” to Soulja Boy’s “Donk”, it was little kid freakfest up in there! Your girl Gina has WhatAboutOurDaughters, we need to expand this to WhatAboutOurKidsMinds…

Here is the text of a letter I dropped in the mail today. Makes me want to open my own place. There a lot of hands making money off of this ignorance!

Rollertime Management:

Yesterday, my family attended a skate session at Rollertime. Our family enjoys skating and we try to make it out to the skating rink at least once a month. While we did enjoy ourselves yesterday, my wife and I do have one complaint: the choice of some of the songs.

I am an African American in my 30’s. I enjoy the music of today as much as the music of yesterday (well I enjoy yesterday’s much more). However, with the number of kids that were present yesterday, there were quite a few songs played that were just not appropriate for that age group.

For example, Soulja Boy’s “Donk”. That song is just plain horrible. With lyrics like: I See Dat Apple Bottom Hangin Out Dat G-Strang.

You cannot go much lower to get into the gutter. There were very young children present yesterday; skating their hearts out, repeating Soulja Boy’s trashy lyrics over and over and over.

Yes, the song has catchy beat. Yes, the kids probably listen to that type of music at home already. But, my kids don’t. And when we come out to the skating rink to have a nice time, it is sad that we have to listen to songs that degrade women, have an overt focus on sex, or glorify thug life, all in the name of having a good time. The state of “popular” music today is one to be lamented, but it would be nice if Rollertime did not promote such destructive music to young kids.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not asking that the music selection go to a Disney format or that anyone should play songs from those atrocious KidsBop CDs. I love hip-hop; my kids love hip-hop. But there is more to hip-hop than what is in the Top 10 list on Billboard or iTunes. There are plenty of songs that are popular today that do not focus on such negative themes.

I would implore you and by extension through you, your DJs, to take a more active role in reviewing and understanding exactly what is played through your speakers during the afternoon hours of your Saturday sessions (12pm – 6pm). Read the lyrics. Think about what they are really saying. Please do not contribute to the desensitization of our young kids to mature material. I don’t believe that it does society any good to have a five year old belting out, “She gotta donk, watch it hit the floor.” Again, with today’s most popular artists and music, finding those songs will be difficult. But doing the right thing is not always easy.

Review: Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace

Forever WarI picked this book up based on my love for Forever War. I give it a 3 out 5…

Check out my review

Peek-A-Boo, Kepler I See You

Found this tidbit in my GReader today from astronomer, Franck Marchis: Kepler first light – the birth of a new space telescope.

About a week ago, the spacecraft jettisoned the optics cover, allowing light to flow into the CCDs for the first time. Now, we have the first image! A few notable points have been identified and labeled by the NASA team. TrES-2 is the location of a previously discovered “Hot Jupiter”, a planet as big as our Jupiter but much, much closer to its solar parent.

As I mentioned before, this is a very exciting project. How long will it be before we have our first Earth-like discovery?


Hilarity! There are some really creative people in the world…

Found while browsing Boing Boing

Space Camp! Godspeed Lil’ Calrissian!

All Aboard!

All Aboard!

When I was a wee-chile, I had dreams of going to Space Camp. I first heard about it when I saw the movie. What movie you say?! THE movie!!!! Space Camp. I wanted to be Rudy on that one for real.

But being from an Ohio middle-class home with four other kids in the house, it was a little steep for Mom & Dad to send the boy down to Alabama for a week (plane flight, space camp fees, etc).

But now that I am grown and we are in Huntsville proper, my kids can partake in that dream on my behalf. First up is my son. He’s off to spend a week in training to become the next astronaut (or maybe a lunarnaut or aresnaut for his time). I can just imagine the fun that he’s going to have this week. Mrs. Calrissian has not flipped out yet from her baby being gone (this is his first multi-day trip away from momma bear). But, we’ll see how she is come Thursday.

P.S. They do have an adult Space Camp. But that sounds kinda creepy! 🙂

Review: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThis was a nice change up from the normal scifi I cram. But, I was not that impressed.

Check out my review

Nice! Geordi Skys With The Tricorder

Methinks Ill be buying this

Methinks I'll be buying this

Via Loiter as found on Levar Burton’s Twitter page

A New Space Race

Watch out Orion! Black is sexy!

Watch out Orion! Black is sexy!

The above image is a concept drawing for the successor to Russia’s Soyuz. Today, Russia announced the winner of the contract to begin building the next-generation space capsule. It will be roomier and capable of entering Lunar orbit! The BBC article where I saw this pic speculates that Russia may be planning for their own moonbase and this new craft will be a big piece in that puzzle.

For many of the past few years, the US government (aka NASA) has dominated the above 100KM mark when it came to human spaceflight. Now, there are a number of nations and private companies wanting to get in on the action:

Constellation is still on track, but there are still questions about what the President plans to do with that project, the Space Shuttle, and the entire future of our manned space program. I’m on pins and needles waiting for a decision!

About Time!

Now I can be Verdeen!

Now I can be Verdeen!

Welcome to Rock Band EWF!

I have been trying to check the released songs list regularly, but I missed this release on March 17. Shining Star is included as a part of their first Get Out The Funk pack. The pack also includes James Brown’s Get Up and the Average White Band’s Pick Up The Pieces.

If you remember, I ranted about this last year