The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Monday, February 29, 2016

John Oliver absolutely shreds Donald Trump

Probably wasn't a good idea to call out John Oliver publicly. Trump may have met more than his match.

Eject! Eject! Eject!

I had to bail out on the 88th Oscars last night after the first 30 minutes. I get that they were trying to make the diversity protesters happy, but it started jumping the shark and just became bad television.

It's the first time I can remember turning off the Oscars.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.

Seeing as I've got too much (clap, clap) time on my hands, after a bit of encouragement and advice from my friend in Hollywood I've decided to give the entertainment business another shot after an extended hiatus. (2 post in a row with the phrase "extended hiatus" has to be some sort of internet record)

I've set the bar pretty low, but I have a profile on a couple of casting sites. There are a few roles I think I might be able to snag. I think I've got a decent shot at Creepy Guy at Fireworks Stand and Man #2.

It was a long time ago, but I was pretty good at announcing back in the day and I do have some national on camera exposure.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Back in the saddle again!

After an extended hiatus my Central American hotelier friend is back online. As The Coconuts Drop was always one of my favorite blogs to read. Besides running a beautiful resort beachfront resort in Belize, being a very talented photographer and single handedly keeping the Belikin Brewery in business, he's one heck of a humorist.

By the way, if you're looking for the greatest stress free vacation of your life I humbly suggest you give Bill and Adriane a call.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (or Farrrrrm livin' is the life for me!)

Ever have one of those days? Yesterday was mine. I had big things planned so I started early. Had to be at Thomas Fuels in Bridgeport by 8am before the driver left on his route to pick up a 55 gallon drum (don't call them barrels) that I bought to store diesel in. Then I decided to run over to Brandi's Country Kitchen for breakfast.

That turned out to be a very good idea because it was the last thing I had to eat all day.

On the way home I filled the drum with farm diesel at Chico Butane then stopped by Chico Auto Parts to get a replacement hydraulic hose that had sprung a leak on my big tractor. Unfortunately, they haven't got their machine up and running yet so I had to resort to Plan B. I headed over to my Brother In-law's shop,  M/R Fabrication in Alvord, and had one made there. Then back to the house and replace the hose.

While doing that, I noticed that the tractor was low on hydraulic fluid. I had some in the garage, but not enough to fill it, so a trip to Tractor Supply in Decatur. I could have picked it up at Chico Auto, but it was over $2 a gallon cheaper at TSC. But before I left I filled up the fuel tank on the tractor so I wouldn't be driving around with a drum full of diesel in the back of my truck. That was easier said than done.

My plan of syphoning the fuel had 2 minor flaws. The fuel tank on the tractor, even though it's side mounted was higher than I thought and my syphon hose was shorter than I thought. I was only able to get about half the fuel transferred before it quit. I proceeded to swallow a few good swigs of diesel trying to get it going again and managed to wear a good amount, too. Lovely.

OK, off to Decatur. At least I had good luck at TSC with the hydraulic fluid being on sale, found a cheap transfer pump for the fuel drum and a cheap garden hose I didn't mind cutting to use part of it as a fuel hose for the pump and the rest for a new longer syphon hose.

When I left I couldn't help but notice this jackassery.

Who parks like that right in front of the door? There were plenty of parking spaces, too. It wasn't even a senior citizen or somebody waiting on one. It was two young guys.

Baaaack to the house, put the pump together, cut the hose, finish filling the tractor with fuel and hydraulic fluid then unload the plow I'd borrowed from my trailer. By now it was after 4. I'd planned to be finished with plowing by then!

I still had to hook up the plow which turned into it's own little rodeo. I'd never used the 3-point hitch on my big tractor and couldn't get it to work. (It's more complicated than it sounds) It was fully raised and wouldn't lower. I messed with it for nearly half an hour before I got it working right. Hooking onto the plow was a pain, too. I had to maneuver perfectly and I do mean perfectly into position for the hitch arms and pins to line up. I just couldn't get it done.

A 7 ton, 110HP tractor isn't as easy to move 1/4 inch as you would think. But after trying for 45 minutes I finally managed to get everything lined up just right and pinned in. But brother, I was pooped!

While hooking up the plow I noticed one of the tires was flat. Yep, a 3-point plow with tires. Who'd a thunk it? So drive over to the garage and fire up the compressor to air it up. I check all the other tires to make sure they're good and right as I finish... it starts to rain. No way I can plow now.

Just perfect. Whole day shot to Hell. I'm worn out, dirty from head to toe and smell like a refinery.
Only one thing to do. Take a long, hot shower, put on my Stewie Griffin pajamas, make a sandwich (those eggs had long since worn off) along with a nice stiff drink and kick back!

On the bright side, I did manage to stay awake long enough to watch the new episode of Better Call Saul so the day wasn't a complete loss.

UPDATE: Talking to my BIL today and he informed me there is a latch on the 3-point hitch arms  that releases them to be extended by hand so you can easily hook them up once you get close because it's extremely difficult to maneuver a large tractor into position. Boy, that would have been nice to know.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Won't you help bring this forgotten hero home?

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555
Misau Street
PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA

Dear Mr. Sir,


I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-XXXX only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager


Okay, so let’s see where the truth is here. First, there absolutely was a Salyut 6, and it would have been the Soviet’s active space station in 1979. In fact, this station was host to the very first cosmonauts (or astronauts, for that matter) who were not either from the USA or USSR.

The first one was a Czech cosmonaut by the name of VladimĂ­r Remek, who started the Soviet’s Intercosmos program, the program to bring (mostly Eastern Bloc) cosmonauts to the Soviet space station. After the Czech, the station hosted cosmonauts from Hungary, Poland, Romania, Cuba, Mongolia, and more.

With this in mind, a 1979 trip to Salyut 6 is an excellent, plausible choice for the first African cosmonaut. It doesn’t really make sense that the Soviets would launch a Nigerian cosmonaut and then keep it secret, but this is the right time and destination.

Also, Salyut 6 was the first space station to have two docking ports, which allowed the Soviets to develop unmanned resupply ships called Progress, which, misspelled, do have an important role in the scam email.

From Jalopnik

The truth is that the first African-national in space wouldn’t be until much later when South African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth bought himself a ticket to the Mir in 2002.

The next mission gets a little dicier, but there’s still clearly been thought put into this. The letter states he was launched, in 1989, in Soyuz T-16Z. This is a good number to pick, because the last Soyuz T-series flight on record is Soyuz T-15, and it’s a pretty special mission.

It’s special because, not only was it the last of the T-series (to be replaced by the TM-series, which were specially adapted for use with the Mir space station) but also because it was the only spacecraft ever (and still to this day) to visit two space stations: it set up the then-new Mir, and recovered and resurrected the disabled space station Salyut 7.

So, the ferry vehicle is correct; since this Soyuz would not be going to the Mir, it could be a Soyuz T, and the numbering is correct, since the last Soyuz T was Soyuz T-15. The addition of the ‘Z’ after the name, Soyuz-T16Z, just helps to suggest that this wasn’t an ordinary, public mission.

Or, perhaps, and this is just me finding justifications here, that Z stood for Zenit, which is another Soviet launch vehicle, developed in the 1980s, that had more power than the standard Soyuz launch vehicle. This could be useful if the Soyuz was being sent to a space station in a more exotic, further orbit, like, say, where a secret space station would be.

That brings us to the space station itself, the unwanted home of Cosmonaut Tunde for these 14 (well, +13) years.

The station is named Salyut 8T. The letter clearly states this was a “secret Soviet military” space station. Now, I see why they named it “Salyut 8T.” Salyut 7 was the last of the Salyut series of stations before Mir, so they did the same thing they did with the Soyuz ferry vehicle: add a one, and tack on a letter.

The name of the station is a little confusing, but the more you think about it, the better it actually is. See, the Soviets actually did have secret military space stations, but they were called Almaz. So, it seems like they got this wrong, right? Wrong, they got it right.

See, there were three of these Almaz military stations launched, and, to keep the Western world from being too suspicious, even though they were really, internally known as Almaz stations 1, 2, and 3, they were launched under the names Salyut 2, 3, and 5. So, a Soviet military Almaz station launched after Salyut 7 may very well have been called Salyut 8, even if in reality it was Almaz 4. Make sense? Good.

(Just as an aside, the real Almaz 4/Salyut 8 was cancelled in 1981.)

The Almaz stations shared a pressure hull and general shape with the Salyut, but had very different interior equipment and were oriented differently, with different solar arrays and their own special resupply/additional modules known as the TKS series.

These were the only (known) military space stations ever orbited (one even had a special recoil-less space gun!)

Now, the biggest part of the scam email is the claim that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cosmonaut Tunde was forgotten about and left up there on the secret station – though not so forgotten that a few Progress resupply ships weren’t sent to keep him supplied and alive.

The amazing part about this is that there is a very real bit of truth to this, too! There was a Cosmonaut left alone aboard a space station when the Soviet Union fell, and, while he wasn’t left there forever, accruing salary, he did have to stay longer than planned as everyone on earth figured out what was going on, and a Progress resupply ship was sent to keep him alive.

The cosmonaut was Sergei Krikalev, and the space station was the Mir. With the Soviet Union on the brink of collapse, and the need to keep good relations with Kazakhistan (where all the launch facilities are), an inexperienced Kazakh flight engineer was sent to Mir for a short stay, taking Krikalev’s return seat in the Soyuz back. Krikalev would have been relieved when the next crew arrived, but the Soviet Union collapsed in the interval, leaving Krikalev alone on the station for four months.

So, yes, a cosmonaut was left alone and forelorn in space after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it was only four months, and it was publicly known.

Now, of course, if the Soviets had a secret military station in some obscure orbit when all this went down, sure, that cosmonaut would probably have been stuck, too. I just think instead of sending resupply ships they’d have just let him quietly die a long time ago.

Happily, none of the bullshit about forgotten Cosmonaut Tunde is true. But, it’s a fable dressed in a pretty thick and comfy sweater of truths, and, even though I don’t suggest anyone send any money or anything, it does make for a pretty compelling tale of perseverance and accumulated wealth in the cold black of space.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Super Bowl Ring

Maybe not what you were expecting, but I thought my friend Keith over at Bag of Nothing who is something of an aficionado of the smoking arts would appreciate this smoke ring from a Super Bowl brisket prepared by my Shaggy friends.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016

RIP Steely Eyed Missile Man

6th Man to set foot on the Moon dies

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who became the sixth man on the moon when he and Alan Shepard helped NASA recover from Apollo 13's "successful failure" and later devoted his life to exploring physics, the mind, and unexplained phenomena such as psychics and aliens, has died in Florida. He was 85.

Mitchell died Thursday night at a West Palm Beach hospice after a short illness, his daughter, Kimberly Mitchell, said. Mitchell's passing coincides with the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission from Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 1971.

He was the last surviving member of Apollo 14.

Edgar Dean Mitchell was born Sept. 17, 1930, in Hereford, Texas, and grew up working on his father's cattle ranch in New Mexico. He joined the Navy and got a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining NASA.

Mitchell's passion for exploration led him to become an astronaut, and he joined NASA in 1966. He helped design and test the lunar modules that first reached the moon in 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Shepard, the first American in space in 1961, picked Mitchell to be on Apollo 13's three-person crew. But they were bumped to the next mission so Shepard would have more time to train.

Apollo 13's astronauts were nearly killed when an oxygen tank exploded as they neared the moon in 1970. They made it home safely, but never set foot on the moon. A year later, Shepard, Mitchell and Stu Roosa were the first crew to try again amid falling support for the moon missions from President Nixon, Congress and the public.

But Shepard and Mitchell almost didn't make it to the surface because of problems in the lunar module.

First, a loose piece of metal in a switch triggered an abort signal as they prepared to travel down to the moon. Had the descent engine been on at the time, the module would have automatically aborted the landing. They traced the problem's cause by tapping on the switch with a flashlight and a pen.

Computer programmers back home wrote instructions to get around the abort problem and Mitchell entered them with just minutes to spare. Shepard later wrote that Mitchell remained "Mr. Unflappable" during the scare.

Once they started for the surface, though, the landing radar wasn't working correctly. Shepard and Mitchell agreed to take the dangerous and rule-breaking step of landing without radar, but didn't have to when the device started working just in time.

It was the telepathy experiment on the ride home that would give Mitchell notoriety. Even before he left, he told The Associated Press about his fascination with psychic phenomena and extrasensory perception and that he thought humans weren't the only intelligent life in the universe.

Those interests almost got him removed from the mission, said Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon and backup commander for Apollo 14. Cernan wrote in his autobiography that despite Mitchell's impeccable skills and vast intelligence, flight crew director Deke Slayton and Shepard were bothered with the fascination.

Mitchell claimed the experiment was a success, but most press reports dismissed him and some colleagues shunned him.

He left NASA in 1972 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which is dedicated to exploring the mysteries of the human mind and the universe. He also searched for ways to link the spirituality of religion with the hard facts of science.

In later years, he claimed the U.S. government covered up evidence that aliens had landed here.

"What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness," Mitchell wrote in his 1996 autobiography. "It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me."

In an emailed statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called Mitchell, "one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Oh. My. GOD!!!

Archer returns 3/31/16 on FX.