Monday, January 31, 2011

Centre Georges Pompidou

Today's home page image for is this:

That's the Centre Georges Pompidou, a building in Paris, France. I really liked the way this image came out, looking like someone's vision of the future as painted in the early 1960s.

In fact, it kind of reminded me of this:

Watch out for those replicants.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Concert -- ZZ Top

ZZ Top
May 3, 1991
Frank Erwin Center
Opening act: Jay Aaron

Oh, man. What was it about Austin and concerts, way back then? Here is another show that I remember going to -- and enjoying -- but for the life of me I couldn't tell you very many details of the performance. I lacked ---- focus.

This was just after ZZ Top's Recycler album was released, which wasn't nearly as popular as the previous two albums nor as good as the others before that. But I still liked such songs as "My Head's in Mississippi", and Gibbons, Hill, and Beard still put on a good show that night in Austin. That I'm sure of.

What I'm not so clear on is why the band chose to go with someone like Jay Aaron to open for them.

Who? You mean you've never heard of Jay Aaron? Well, let me clear that up for you a bit.

No ----- no, wait. I can't. That's right, I've never heard of Jay Aaron either, not before that night and not since. A complete nobody to me. And so, completely forgettable while waiting for the headliner to come out on stage.

Hm. Maybe ZZ Top didn't want any real competition to open for them. If that was the case, then why have an opening act at all?

And now, classic ZZ.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Tiny NASA Satellite Unfurls Solar Sail"

On the surface, solar sails seem like they would be so wimpy and ungainly that they would be impractical to use, and no depiction I've seen in science fiction movies or television seem to suggest that the writers even know what the technology is supposed to be like or do (especially with Count Dooku's piece of crap).

Yet, for some reason that I don't quite understand, I'm fascinated by the whole concept. And I'm almost giddy to read news like this:
The NanoSail-D satellite — which ejected from its mothership just this week, more than a month late — deployed its sail at about 10 p.m. EST yesterday (Jan. 20; 0300 GMT on Jan. 21) and is operating as planned. The unfurling marks the first time a NASA craft has ever opened a solar sail in low-Earth orbit, according to agency officials.

NanoSail-D, whose core is only the size of a loaf of bread, sent data home indicating that deployment of its 100-square-foot polymer sail had occurred. Ground-based satellite tracking efforts further confirmed the success, officials said.

"This is tremendous news and the first time NASA has deployed a solar sail in low-Earth orbit," said Dean Alhorn, NanoSail-D principal investigator and an aerospace engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in a statement.

NASA has asked for help in tracking NanoSail-D from the amateur ham-radio community, and the so-called "hams" delivered.

"To get to this point is an incredible accomplishment for our small team and I can't thank the amateur ham operator community enough for their help in tracking NanoSail-D," Alhorn said. "Their assistance was invaluable. In particular, the Marshall Amateur Radio Club was the very first to hear the radio beacon. It was exciting!"

Tremendous news, indeed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Someplace you might stay

But by accident only. I hope

More at Oddee. (link NSFW due to language)

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Advertising Could Pay for a Mission to Mars, Scientist Says"

Hey, why not? It pays for everything else.
Welcome to the manned mission to Mars -- brought to you with limited interruptions by Bud Light.

It's not so crazy, actually: One of the biggest obstacle to a potential space mission is finding the almost $150 billion dollars needed to develop the program. And tagging a future spaceship with the word “Drinkability” may seem ridiculous, but it's exactly what Rhawn Joseph has proposed in the latest issue of the Journal of Cosmology.

“With clever marketing and advertising and the subsequent increase in public interest, between $30 billion to $90 billion can be raised through corporate sponsorships, and an additional $1 billion a year through individual sponsorships,” wrote Joseph, a scientist with the Brain Research Laboratory in California.

Just as Tang became associated in the public's eye with space travel in the 70s and 80s, Joseph suggests selling the naming rights to Mars landing craft, the Mars Colony, the spaceship itself and more. Television broadcasting rights alone would bring in $30 billion, and that doesn't include the sale of real estate and mineral rights on Mars.
I see no problem with it. Sponsors pay for expeditions on Earth all the time. Why couldn't they do the same for space ventures? Such trips would be more expensive and dangerous than a simple jaunt down the Amazon River, but wouldn't the extra danger make it all the more exciting for a potential audience? Therefore, more attractive to potential sponsors?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Concert -- Queensrÿche

April 24, 1991
Freeman Coliseum
Opening act: Suicidal Tendencies

In this earlier post, I described the show where Queensrÿche opened up for Metallica (the second time I had seen them as an opening act), and I said this of the set:
Geoff Tate and crew put on a great opening set, and the only disappointment I felt with this concert was the fact that they didn't have a stage of their own that they could have set up with their own lights and effects. And I thought it was a mild tragedy that Operation: Mindcrime couldn't be performed in its entirety, from beginning to end, as it should have been.
And then, Queensrÿche finally got to headline. And they did things their way. And I was there for all the fun!

This tour followed the release of the band's Empire album, which is a very good metal offering itself. The first half of Queensrÿche's set consisted of most of the songs off of Empire mixed in with a liberal sampling of their earlier works. There was a very good light show, and if they had finished the concert with just this portion, then it would have been a great show already.

But then, after a long set of kickin' songs, all of the lights went out, and the audience heard the opening track of Operation: Mindcrime.
Perhaps you need another shot.

Sweet dreams, you bastard!
And we all knew that Geoff Tate and crew were making up for their last tour! The crowd roared when we realized that the band was going to play the Mindcrime album from beginning to end with one of the best multimedia light shows at the time.

And they did! From beginning to end.

And it looked something like this:

And this:

And this:

And it was quite probably the best metal concert I have seen. Hands down.

I wish you could have been there.

Oh, and Suicidal Tendencies rocked, too!

Friday, January 07, 2011

What I shot today


Inspired by Keith Alan K's post here in which he talks about sighting in his .22 rifle, I remembered that I needed to sight in this old Winchester. It's a Model 77, and it had been in a family member's closet for years before I got it out and cleaned it up. Today was the first day I shot it, and I have no idea how long it's been since a bullet passed through its barrel.

The Model 77 was manufactured in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and it came in two versions: One has a traditional magazine and the other, rarer version has a tubular magazine. This one is the tubular version.

And here is what I was shooting through that old rifle:

The magazine holds fifteen rounds, so luckily I didn't have to stop and reload too often. And I got right into the business of making sure the scope was pointing where I wanted the bullets to go.

It wasn't. At first.

As you can see, it was shooting a little low at first. (This is at 50 yards.) I walked it up and finally got it around the bulls eye in the center, and then I smacked at that upper right target for a while.

Then my wife wanted to shoot some. Here's her target:

Before today, she had never shot a rifle, so I was impressed! I call her Annie, now.

We got off about 80 rounds before that fifty-odd-year-old rifle finally reached the end of its tolerance for powder residue and started jamming. At one point, I was pulling out rounds every other shot, and some of them were so jammed into the mechanism that I had to use pliers to pull them loose. They didn't come out looking very pretty.

At that point I decided this Model 77 needed a very good cleaning, and we packed it in for the day. But overall we had a great time, and I was pleased with this old rifle's performance.

May all your shootings be just as fun.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Concert -- Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett
January 22, 1990
Frank Erwin Center
Opening act: ?

This goes to show that I am not just about heavy metal. Or classical music. I happen to have a fondness for some of Jimmy Buffett's music as well, even though I think the man himself is overrated.

And I'd like to tell you a little about this concert, but, to tell you the truth, I don't remember much about it. Or of it. I wasn't quite as ...... focused ...... as I usually try to be during concerts, so I can't recall a whole lot after we got to Austin that night. I don't even remember if there was an opening act. I don't think there was, but I can't be sure.

So, sorry, I can't tell you much. I did have fun, I know that, but don't expect any details.

Word of the day


It means "half".

I've been speaking English for about forty years now, and I've studied it, and I still study it, and I read a lot, and yet I still get surprised by random words that seem -- for all appearances -- to be interlopers into the language, yet aren't.

Moiety is one of those. It looks new and strange to me, but it's been around since the early 15th century, and it's not even listed as "obsolete" or "rare". And still, it surprised me the other day.

Thanks, English. Thank you for being so astonishing.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Concert -- Metallica

February 1, 1989
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Queensrÿche

Oh, what a hard-rockin' metalfest this was. As the Pistolero might say, Nothin' but WIN!

This was the tour supporting the ... And Justice for All album, which just happens to be my favorite from the band. In my estimation this was Metallica at the band's finest; they were peaking with their fire and energy, and they held that intensity through their next, self-titled album that launched them into true superstardom. With ... And Justice for All the band was still a raw thrash act and still very much a denizen of the metal world. With the next album, they became popular, and after that they were the property of the masses. And I don't think they were the better for it. But this album was great, and the live show was wonderful.

And how much better could Metallica-at-its-finest get than to have Queensrÿche as an opening act? Not very damn much at all! Operation: Mindcrime had just come out the year before, and Queensrÿche, too, was putting out some of their best work. Geoff Tate and crew put on a great opening set, and the only disappointment I felt with this concert was the fact that they didn't have a stage of their own that they could have set up with their own lights and effects. And I thought it was a mild tragedy that Operation: Mindcrime couldn't be performed in its entirety, from beginning to end, as it should have been.

But, more on that later!