President Obama at Notre Dame Commencement 2009

After seeing that video and reading a couple of news articles (here, here) about President Obama visiting Notre Dame, I am not at all surprised. For the better part of President Bush’s second term in office, there were numerous speeches where hardcore liberals confronted President Bush, often trying to sabotage his press conferences and public addresses. Several movies were made to criticize President Bush. I guess now it’s time for the hardcore conservatives to interrupt President Obama when he is speaking at public events. I think it totally sucks, but welcome to America. I guess.

This, however, really upsets my soul:

Notre Dame 2009 Commencement Protester
Notre Dame 2009 Commencement Protester

WTF is this guy thinking? I don’t have a political party preference, but no matter how much my opinions may vary from those of our current President, you will never catch me constructing a couple of posters that declare our President to be wicked. Oh, and as if that was not enough, he wishes AIDS & HELL on gay people. Nice. It reminds me of that time in the Bible when Jesus comes down and makes posters and then camps outside his friends’ homes. Oh wait. That didn’t happen. He befriended them, no matter their opinions or sexual preference.

What’s wrong with people these days? If you step back and look at all the issues that divide us our country into red state and blue state, you might notice that very few of the issues actually have any impact on our daily lives. For example,  there are millions of people losing their jobs right now. This guy could be helping, but he’s making posters. There are millions of homeless people in America who do not have a place to sleep or a next meal. You know how this guy is helping? He’s making posters. There are disabled vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their health care is running out. What’s this guy doing? He’s making posters. Ideologically, our country is splitting in half. President Obama and the priests at Notre Dame are trying to unite people. What’s this guy doing? He’s making posters that continue to drive people apart.

Roughly 40 people got arrested while protesting Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame today. It’s their choice. It’s free speech. But I sincerely hope people in America begin to find more ways to come together and unite with one another. Because this whole 50/50 red state blue state thing is not making anything any better.

And that’s probably one of the only times you’ll see me write about politics.

Oprah Scoreboards Duke University Class of 2009 and Everyone Else

Wow. Gosh. Goodness. Oprah’s rich. She’s extremely wealthy. Even more, she’s extremely wealthy in a time when the unemployment rate is nearing double digits in many of America’s cities and towns. She’s extremely wealthy in a time when a lot of people are losing their jobs and their homes. Now, what does a wealthy person do in a time when the economy is lying there dead on the ground, when people are hoping that things will get better? I tell you what a wealthy person does – they go to graduation commencement at a major university and scoreboard everyone there (details). And ironically, she did it all in front of an actual scoreboard.

Oprah at Duke University Commencement 2009
Oprah at Duke University Commencement 2009

From Oprah’s commencement address:

“It’s great to have a nice home. It’s great to have nice homes! It’s great to have a nice home that just escaped the fire in Santa Barbara,” she said. “It’s great to have a private jet. Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn’t great is lying to you. You may achieve great things, but you haven’t completed the circle of success until you help someone else move to a higher ground and get to a better place.”

She kinda saved herself in the end, but her first few statements really showcased her vast riches. Glad you have a nice home? Glad you have nice homes? Is it really great to have a private jet? Oooh, tell us more about the most lushest of lifestyles. I think in another life, Oprah must have been One-Eyed Willy. She probably has a ship from the 1600’s locked away in some mountain that she bought on eBay. I bet her ship is called the Inferno II, and it’s probably full of gold bullion, jewels, and other priceless treasure.

One-Eyed Willy: "Arrgh, me needs a TV show in the future!"
One-Eyed Willy: "Arrgh, me needs a TV show in the future!"

I don’t really ever want to be rich or even have a ton of money. Life’s already too rough, and I’m already a bit of a jerk at times. But the last thing I’d want to do is go to a graduation commencement during an economic downturn, when unemployment is near 10% in America, look at thousands of college grads who don’t have jobs, and then tell them how awesome it is to have a great life, a great job, a few fabulous homes and a custom-built private jet. Yeah. I hope I don’t ever have the chance to do that. Because that would be rude.

To be fair, Oprah did give some very wise advice at the commencement:

She then launched into a laundry list of what is required for a truly successful life.
“If you can find a way to give back, you will be a huge success…
“If you can summon courage in the face of hardships, I know for sure that you will be a huge success…
“If you can see the possibilities of what you can become and not just what you are, you will be a huge success…
“If you can go through life with humility, you will be a huge success…
“If you can stand in your own shoes, you will be a huge success…
“If you can be generous enough to say kind, affirming words to those that long to hear them, you will be a huge success.”

I guess the lesson is: give back. (And maybe then you can get a private jet.)

Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew Risking Their Lives to Repair Hubble Space Telescope

Space Shuttle Columbia docked with the Hubble Space Telescope (2002)
Space Shuttle Columbia docked with the Hubble Space Telescope (2002)

Ah yes. The Hubble telescope. It’s 19-years-old. It orbits the planet every 97 minutes. It’s sent back over 600,000 images, many of which have forced the re-writing of astronomy textbooks. You could argue that it is one of the most significant scientific devices of our lifetime. But alas, the Hubble Space Telescope is in need of repair, and NASA just sent 7 astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis (at a cost of $1.4B) to repair the 19-year-old telescope. The Atlantis mission’s goal is to repair the HST and extend its life to 2014, at which point Hubble’s replacement will take over. [Note: The Hubble will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope. That’s a post for another day.]

NASA has called it the “most dangerous space shuttle mission yet,” and the reason it’s so dangerous: potential collision with space junk. That’s right. Not only are humans extremely wasteful on earth, but apparently we’ve gotten a head start at polluting space. We don’t even live up there yet, and there is already a ton of junk and debris orbiting the planet (Why wasn’t that a presidential election issue for 2008?).

What kind of junk is orbiting the planet? Oh nothing too serious. Just broken satellites and dead rockets. In orbit, the space shuttle and HST will be traveling at 17,500 mph. I guess if you get hit by a rocket in space, it might leave a bruise. And to make matters worse, the Hubble Space telescope is 350 miles above earth’s surface. Typical space shuttle missions only run about 250 miles up because that’s the orbit of the International Space Station. This perilous mission to fix the Hubble is 100 miles above the space station! Good. Lord.

Hubble Space Telescope orbiting 350 miles above Earth
Hubble Space Telescope orbiting 350 miles above Earth

Oh, and it gets even more dangerous because the crew is supposed to meet up with the Hubble in an area of space that is much more full of clutter than normal areas of space. It’s kind of ironic that the most important space telescope ever launched looks like a trashcan. Quite fittingly, it’s surrounded by space junk. But seriously, it’s no laughing matter. This mission was canceled once before because NASA thought it was too dangerous. I hope these guys and gals feel lucky because they have their work cut out for them. If something bad does happen to them up there, we will basically have 7 astronauts stranded 350 miles above the Earth. If that happens, I hope Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon have some time open in their schedules – because we’ll need the most amazing space rescue mission ever. Or we’ll need a miracle. Or both.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew 2009 (aka the Hubble Crew)
Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew 2009 (aka the Hubble Crew)

On a related note: I bet most of you did not know this, but NASA is set to retire the Space Shuttle Program in 2010. In July 2008, NASA announced that there would only be 10 more space shuttle missions (details). Say what you want about NASA and the Space Program, but I’m going to miss the space shuttle. I can’t wait to see what they replace it with. Again, that’s a post for another day.

US Postage Stamp Increases Price to 44 Cents!

US Postage Stamp Prices Historical Data
US Postage Stamp Prices Historical Data

Did you know that the price of a US postage stamp was increasing tomorrow? May 11, 2009 is the start of the 44-cent United States postage stamp. The price increase will mark the third year in a row that the price of a stamp has increased $0.02. If you’re still with me or if you find this subject fascinating, you can find a lot of really interesting factoids about the US Postage Stamp here. Here are some of the postage stamp facts that I found interesting:

  1. Today’s two-cent increase is the 23rd change in the price of a first-class stamp since the 1-ounce standard for postage was adopted in 1885. The price of a stamp has gone up 10 times since 1988.
  2. The Postal Service is an independent federal agency and covers its expenses not with tax money but with the sale of stamps, postage and postal services.
  3. The best-selling postage stamp of all time? More than 900 million breast cancer research stamps have been sold since the stamp was unveiled in 1998. A distant second is the Elvis Presley stamp (517 million), unveiled in 1993 and no longer available.
  4. Even as first-class mail has dwindled, philatelists, or stamp collectors, have watched their market thrive, thanks, in part, to the Internet and auction sites such as eBay. The stamp-collecting market reached a record $1.18 billion in sales in 2007.
  5. If it the Postal Service were a private sector company, it would rank 26th on the 2008 Fortune 500 list, just behind UnitedHealth Group and just ahead of Kroger and Boeing.
  6. For the fifth year in a row, Americans recently ranked the Postal Service as the “most trusted government agency,” according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute. The Postal Service was labeled trustworthy by more than 87 percent of the public. The least-trusted agency? In recent years, that distinction has gone to Customs and Border Protection and the National Security Agency.

Is Kerry spending all this time on stamp talk? Yes. I know. It’s odd. But I find it interesting that the USPS lost $2.8 billion last year. The economic downturn has really hurt the post office. Moreover, email has caused massive drops in the use of snail mail since the late 1990’s. Furthermore, online bill payment systems have also caused a massive decrease in mail sent via the Postal Service.

Cosmo Kramer confronted by the Postmaster General (Wilford Brimley)
Cosmo Kramer confronted by the Postmaster General (played by Wilford Brimley) in the Junk Mail episode of Seinfeld

Isn’t the USPS a federally-owned company? When was the last time the government created an efficient, cost-effective company? These are well-known criticisms of the USPS, but in the end, the USPS can send a letter from your house to anywhere else in the country within a few days for $0.44. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. And beware of criticizing the USPS. In the Seinfeld episode entitled “Junk Mail,” Cosmo Kramer thought the Postal Service was obsolete, but that landed him in real trouble with the Postmaster General:

Postmaster General: “Kramer, I’ve been, uh, reading some of your material here. I gotta be honest with you: you make a pretty strong case. I mean, just imagine. An army of men in wool pants running through the neighborhood handing out pottery catalogs, door to door.”

Kramer: “Yeah! Ha ha.”

Postmaster General: “Well, it’s my job. And I’m pretty damn serious about it. In addition to being a postmaster, I’m a general. And we both know, it’s the job of a general to, by God, get things done. So maybe you can understand why I get a little irritated when someone calls me away from my golf.”

Kramer: “I’m very, very sorry.”

Postmaster General: “Sure, you’re sorry. I think we got a stack of mail out at the desk that belongs to you. Now, you want that mail, don’t you Mr. Kramer?”

Kramer: “Sure do!”

The lesson: Don’t mess with the Post Office. They will bring Wilford Brimley to confront you in a cold, damp room with poor lighting. And he will intimidate you with his awesome mustache and his fancy title.

In all seriousness, 2007 was a decent year for the USPS. They processed 212 billions pieces of mail, but they believe that 2009 will be down about 17% from 2008. And after losing $2.8 billion in 2008, the 2009 forecast does not look very good. Postmaster General John Potter is calling for Congress to cut back mail delivery from 6 days a week to 5 days a week. They also plan to reduce the employee positions by about 15%, and there is currently a hiring freeze. They are not going to fill any positions at this time. Awesome. That’ll help me get through the post office lines more quickly. Pause. Not!

I guess increasing the price of stamps and cutting costs will help them get back in the black. Good luck and godspeed, USPS. I’m thinking you’re gonna need it.

Star Trek Movie 2009: Most Entertaining Movie I’ve Seen All Year

Star Trek Movie Banner (2009)
Star Trek Movie Banner (2009)

Ho. Ly. Crap. Go see this movie. Like yesterday. The Star Trek movie is entertaining from start to finish. I never looked at my watch during the entire 2 hours and 6 minutes. I don’t even remember glancing away from the screen. Not even once. Here’s why I thought Star Trek was awesome with a capital A:

  1. The plot was fantastic.
  2. The flow of the movie kept me engaged and enthralled.
  3. The bad guy was fierce, cruel and detestable.
  4. The good guy was a total rebel badass who gets his ass kicked all over the place.
  5. The movie was perfectly cast.
  6. Deadly creatures on other planets!
  7. Time travel and black holes are part of the storyline.
  8. In true Star Trek form, an inept redshirt dies.
  9. StarFleet Academy girls wear short skirts.
  10. J.J. Abrams makes everything awesome.

So there. That’s why the Star Trek movie is awesome.

On a side note, I need to warn you about the Wolverine movie. Apparently it’s terrible. Steve’s review of the movie makes me sick to my stomach. I hate that they ruined a movie that could have been awesome. It seems that a popular trend of the 2000’s decade has been making movies focused on comic book super heroes (Batman, Superman, Iron Man, X-men, Wolverine, Incredible Hulk) and cartoon action figures from the 1980s (Transformers, G.I. Joe).

I think we can all agree that many of these movies have been awesome, but we should also realize that movie studios are going to produce some duds. I feel badly for Steve that Wolverine turned out to be a terrible movie for him (though I have spoken with some people who enjoyed the movie). Steve probably could have written a better screenplay for that film. He won’t even go see the G.I. Joe movie coming out this year, and I don’t blame him. A blond Baroness? Are you kidding me?

As for me, I’m hoping that the second Transformers movie blows away the first one because I wasn’t too impressed with the first Transformers movie. I’m not sure if it’s Michael Bay’s fault. Because I grew up worshipping G1 Transformers, it’s honestly hard for me to see them in a form other than cartoon. But I’m giving it my best shot. And I did like the first one. I’m just looking forward to the extended cast of Transformers in Revenge of the Fallen. Arcee! Devastator! I can’t wait!

Will Whitehorn & Virgin Galactic Want to Take You to Space for $200,000

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Did you know that Virgin Galactic is set to send a few hundred people to space? I know. Simply incredible. Even more incredible is the price tag of $200,000 per ticket. And for $200k you get some great customer service from highly trained space travel agents. Wait a minute. Are they experts at travel agent stuff, or are they experts in traveling to space and back? Don’t worry about that part.

Book your place in space now and join around 250 Virgin Galactic astronauts who will venture into space.

Tickets cost $200,000 and deposits start from $20,000. If you are interested in discussing your reservation with us directly please fill in this page and we will be in touch as soon as possible to answer any questions you may have. Or you can contact one of our Accredited Space Agents around the world. They have been specially selected and trained by us to handle all aspects of your space flight reservation. If you just want to receive regular updates from us then please click here.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne

Virgin Galactic actually has two spaceships: SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. They are carried into orbit by WhiteKnightOne and WhiteKnightTwo. Those look like two planes that share an adjacent wing. That looks expensive. Much like hybrid cars, it seems space travel is slightly cost prohibitive for most people. But I don’t really care because I am happy that human beings will soon be traveling to space for fun. NASA’s cool and all, but their astronauts must have PhD’s in all types of sciences. And NASA astronauts have to do a lot of work when they are in space. No space work with Virgin Galactic! Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic only requires that you have $200,000.

Imagine the excitement. Imagine the adventure. Imagine re-entering Earth’s atmosphere at 6G’s. I’m thinking some rich people are going to throw up all over the place. I guess it only makes sense that wealthy people get to be the first to enjoy space tourism. As my mom would say when I wanted Optimus Prime back in 1984, “You’ll just have to settle for Ratchet. That’s just the way it goes.” And then I’m all like, “Aw, man. Ratchet? He’s an ambulance Transformer. He doesn’t even have a gun. Just give me Cliffjumper, I guess.” In my opinion, that’s a great analogy of this situation. It’s also kind of like vacationing in sunny Midland, TX instead of traveling to the sub orbital boundary of Earth’s atmosphere. Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone had the option of taking a trip to space?

Even though it sounds expensive, people are lining up to go to space. According to this article, close to 300 people have already made deposits:

Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has collected $40 million in deposits from would-be space tourists including physicist Stephen Hawking and ex-racing driver Niki Lauda, and hopes to start commercial trips within two years.

Holy crap. $40 million in deposits. I’d say that have a solid business model. The demand is certainly there. Maybe I could sell ads on this site and raise $200,000. Then again. I don’t think anyone reads this blog. Oh well. I guess I’ll just go home and play with Ratchet. Yeah. I’ve still got him for sentimental reasons.

Ratchet, the ambulance Transformer
Ratchet, the ambulance Transformer

[Shut up, Wheeljack. In fact, can you just get outta here? I’ve gotta get this right if I want that promotion.]

Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe to be Sold as Real Estate?

Nikola Tesla at Wardenclyffe
Nikola Tesla: Inventor of the Radio!

For this math/physics nerd, Nikola Tesla is a superhuman superhero. He was an inventor, scientist, engineer, and all-around badass. Tesla had a the skills of an electricity prodigy, whatever that is. I’m just making up that term. But in my opinion, it’s the best term to describe him. And how can you argue? He invented the radio. I know, I know. You think Marconi invented the radio. There’s a debate, and I’m on the side of Tesla. Nikola Tesla also invented the AC motor. It ushered in a technological revolution that is often called the Second Industrial Revolution. He also went onto calibrate that alternating current motor, and that motor led to the invention of combustion-powered steel ships, the airplane, mass commercialization of automobiles, refrigeration, etc… The guy was eccentric as all get-out, and many people thought he was a mad scientist. Maybe he was the Doc Brown of the late 1800’s.

Although Nikola Tesla became a very famous person in America, he received no royalites for his AC system invention, and thus he was always begging for capital to fund his research. And when he died at the age of 86, he was broke as a joke. He was my kind of guy. He followed his passion, even though it ultimately cost him everything. I can only imagine how tough it must have been to be ostracized in the scientific community and then die penny-less with no friends. That had to suck. And on a side note: when Tesla died, the government took all of his documents and locked them up Raiders of the Lost Ark style. When Tesla’s homeland of Croatia came looking for his stuff, they were pissed to find the US government agents whistling with their hands in the pockets, looking down at the ground and kicking rocks. Yeah. Some people think there are some really awesome inventions waiting to be discovered in Tesla’s documents.

Wardenclyffe Tower
Wardenclyffe Tower

But it turns out that Tesla had a workshop called Wardenclyffe, a 16-acre estate on Long Island . This place is magical. It’s the stuff of legends. Secret underground tunnels are rumored to surround the place. There are giant batteries with no documentation. Also, there are half-finished experiments still sitting in the same place they were 50 years ago! I’m surprised Nicholas Cage didn’t use it in one the National Treasure sequels. The truth is that the place was only the first in a web of towers that Tesla wanted to place all over the globe. Tesla believed that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly in a manner similar to radio waves. That was a crazy idea at the time, but now it doesn’t sound all that impossible or impractical.

Today, Wardenclyffe is practically waiting to become a museum, but not really. It’s just sitting there. The tower was blown up during WWI because the US feared that the German army would use it as a landmark to guide submarines. Furthermore, the US feared the german spies may try to use it for bad things. And as Tesla was constantly in debt, he could not afford to even keep the land. The place eventually ended up in the hands of George Boldt (of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel) in 1922 for $20,000.

Nikola tesla's Wardenclyffe estate on Long Island
Nikola tesla's Wardenclyffe estate on Long Island

According to this article in the New York Times (here), the property is being listed as mere real estate for $1.6 million. They will bulldoze the entire property for you if you want. But thankfully a group of science fans are trying to churn up some interest in buying it and turning it into a museum. Furthermore, some other people are moving to have the entire site declared a historic place. Apparently, if they can get it listed in a national list run by the government, then it would be off limits to demolitionists. Is that even a word?

So there. I hope you enjoyed my post about my science hero, Nikola Tesla. Like a musician who dies with unpublished song ideas, I truly believe that the world lost a lot of great electricity ideas when Nikola Tesla passed from this realm to the next. It’s still funny to me that guys like Tesla were able to make such advancements with tools from the late 1800s. It’s like all those guys were the original steam-punkrockers! His mind was the type that we may never experience again. And that’s a shame. Or is it? They’d probably use his mind for evil in today’s world. Bastards.

Movie Trailer Review for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

This is a friggin’ sweet breakdown of the new Transformers 2 trailer. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen looks awesome. I must say that I really had to get used to the whole live action feel of the first movie. My initial reaction was something like, “That movie was decent, but I wished they would have featured more Transformers.” I didn’t like their voices. I didn’t like how they were designed. But I enjoyed it for what it was. It was actually a fun, entertaining movie.

According to this Transformers trailer review, there are going to be a lot more Transformers in the new movie. Here’s a list:

Arcee, Megatron, Optimus Prime, The Fallen, The Constructicons, Mixmaster, Scrapper, Longhaul, Rampage, Scavenger, Hightower, Devastator, Demolisher, Bumblebee, Mudflap, Skids, Sideswipe, Sideways, Starscream, Ironhide, Alpha Trion, The Doctor

I’m especially excited about Arcee and Alpha Trion. Those are two Transformers I thought I would never seen in a live action Transformers movie. For those of you who do not remember them, I grabbed some pics for you:

Arcee: The Hottest Female Autobot Transformer
Alpha Trion Holding the Matrix of Leadership
Alpha Trion Holding the Matrix of Leadership

Cat Parasite Toxoplasma Gondii Makes Me Feel Guilty and Insecure?

OMG. You have to read this over at ABC News (here). Some scientist named Kevin Lafferty published a get-the-f*$%-outta-here study about a cat parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that has infected half of the world’s human population. From the article:

Research has shown that women who are infected with the parasite tend to be warm, outgoing and attentive to others, while infected men tend to be less intelligent and probably a bit boring. But both men and women who are infected are more prone to feeling guilty and insecure.

Other researchers have linked the parasite to schizophrenia. In an adult, the symptoms are like a mild form of flu, but it can be much more serious in an infant or fetus. Oxford University researchers believe high levels of the parasite leads to hyperactivity and lower IQs in children.

Good. Lord. I always thought I felt guilty because I’m Catholic. And how about boring and insecure? Well, I resemble one of those, but hopefully it’s not the boring one. And what about the adverse effects on women. Women who have the parasite sound like nice people. I married a nice woman. Is she some sort of cat parasitic zombie? I hope not. But she sure is warm and attentive to others. Maybe this parasite is a good thing for women and a bad thing for men. I dunno. What an odd story.

Well, that is all. Just thought you might like to see that article.

Lyuba: Don’t Touch the 40,000-Year-Old Baby Mammoth

Lyuba, the 40,000-year-old mammoth from Siberia
Lyuba, the 40,000-year-old mammoth from Siberia

From National Geographic:

A Nenets boy tentatively examines Lyuba outside Shemanovsky Museum in Salekhard, Siberia. Some of his elders still hold to the Nenets tradition that touching a mammoth, a creature they believe roams the spirit underworld, will bring bad luck.

Yeah, that kid is definitely punk rock. To hell with ancient beliefs and traditions about mammoths roaming the spirit underwold. I’m gonna touch that mammoth if I want to, and you can stop me. The story gets boring from here because it turns out that the mammoth is simply cold. Now you’ve gone and done it. You have awakened the spirit underworld so you could touch something that was no different in texture than a pack of ice cubes. You may want to think about that next time they find a perfectly-intact 40,000-year-old baby mammoth in your village. I wonder where that baby mammoth’s baby momma is. Baby mommath?