Archive for December 2010

Space: amazing pictures   Leave a comment

On September 22, 2010, with the departure of the Expedition 23 crew, Colonel Douglas H. Wheelock assumed command of the International Space Station and the Expedition 25 crew.  He has been tweeting pictures to his followers since he arrived at the space station. We thought that we should put some of them together as a tribute to him and the whole ISS crew.

Prior to Discovery launch September, 2010.


Soyuz 23S, “Olympus” docked to the nadir side of the Space Station. This will be our ride back home to planet Earth when our work is complete here. Thought I would tweet this view out of the Cupola, as we were passing over the majestic snow-capped Caucuses. The sun rising and reflecting off the Caspian Sea (9-26-2010). Space Photo: NASA, Astronaut Wheelock.


Western Europe





Patagonia, southern tip of South America


Egypt, Israel, Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea.


Our ‘Progress 39P’ unmanned resupply spaceship on final approach for docking this past Sunday. It was laden with food, fuel, spare parts, and much needed supplies for our orbiting outpost. The greatest gift was just inside the hatch…some bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. Such a wonderful treat after 3 months of eating out of tubes and plastic pouches (9-15-2010)! Space Photo: NASA, Astronaut Wheelock.


Ayers Rock, Australia.  This beast is 2.2 miles long and 1.4 miles wide.


The ‘Cupola’, attached to the nadir side of the Space Station, gives a panoramic view of our beautiful planet. Cosmonaut Fyodor took this picture from the window of the Russian Docking Compartment (Airlock). Here I am in the Cupola preparing a camera for our late evening Hurricane Earl flyover…trying to capture the moment…(8-31-2010). Space Photo: NASA, Astronaut Wheelock.

Posted December 31, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Some French speakers struggle with the English language   Leave a comment

Many people who do not have English as their first language struggle to speak the language.  But most newfangled speakers of English seem to master the language over a few years.  Except for one group. 

The French seem to have a hard time with certain pronunciation nuances of English.  A university professor from Montreal who rarely speaks English can sound like a back bush billy when trying to speak the language.  Third turns into turd, over there turns into hover dare, hockey becomes auckey and cows can become cowses.  I’m not quite sure why this is. 

Actually, I think it is because hard-core French people never think in anything but French.  Even though they understand and can speak English, they never think in English.  Even when they do speak English they are thinking in French and interpreting their thoughts into English words.  It gets very complicated.  m

Gilles Duceppe provides a brief yet concise illustration of this phenomenon.



Stop fighting heach odder.


And this joke also clarifies this occurrence.

  In Quebec , the French do not pronounce the letter ‘H’. For example Hot Dog is pronounced Ot Dog and Hudson Hardware is pronounced Udson Ardware.  

They also insert an ‘H’ where there is none, by saying Hany (instead Of Any) and Hall (instead of All). This explanation is for non-Canadians.  
One day in a French Immersion Class for 1st graders, the teacher was asking her class to describe the use of Ozonol. 
Little Mary got up and explained that she had fallen while roller skating and scratched her knee. She went home and her Mother cleaned the cut and 
 put a bandage with Ozonol on her knee and it was all better. 
The teacher was so proud and then asked other children if they had any explanation of the word. 
Little Pierre raised his hand and started to explain. ‘Well Teacher, da udder nite, me an my fodder are watching da Montreal and Tampa Ockey Game. 
An den my mudder start to do da vaccum.  Den, my fodder, yell at my mudder, ai, ai, ai, ai, Tabarnack Louise, put dat dam ting haway now or I’ll stick it up your hass …..Ose an all’.


Posted December 30, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Snapshot of history: 1945   Leave a comment


Posted December 29, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Ice hockey game on a rink the size of a soccer pitch   1 comment

This is a skating sport that resembles hockey and must be very good for the cardiovascular.  It is called Bandy.

Bandy, sometimes unofficially named Russian hockey, is a team winter sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a ball into the opposing team’s goal.

The rules of the game have many similarities to those of association football: the game is played on a rectangle of ice the same size as a football field. Each team has eleven players, one of whom is a goalkeeper. A standard bandy match consists of two halves of 45 minutes each. The offside rule is also similar to that observed in association football.

The size of a bandy field is in the range 4,050 – 7,150 square metres (45-65 by 90–110 metres), about the same size as a football pitch and considerably larger than an ice hockey rink. Along the sidelines a 15 cm (6 in) high border (vant, sarg, wand, wall) is placed to prevent the ball from leaving the ice.

Centered at each shortline is a 3.5 m wide and 2.1 m high goal cage and in front of the cage is a half-circular penalty area with a 17 m radius. A penalty spot is located 12 metres in front of the goal and there are two free-stroke spots at the penalty area line, each surrounded by a 5 m circle.

That rink is so big, a fight could break-out in a corner, and it would take 15 minutes for the refs to arrive.   m

That is one big goal cage.  2.1 metres or 7.5 feet high.



Posted December 28, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Smartphone stare culture   Leave a comment

There is a new MTS commercial on TV that again promotes the stare into a device culture.  The commercial begins with a man at a mall with his wife.  The wife is shopping so the man sits on a bench in the mall and pulls out his new Smartphone.  The man becomes so entranced by the universe contained on the screen of the smartphone that he becomes completely oblivious to everything happening around him.

All kinds of action happens around the man, from 2 women talking across him to a person dressed as a bunny rabbit sitting next to him to a security guard chasing a thief right beside him, but the man notices nothing.  The roof could have fallen in and the man would have continued watching porn on his device.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t watching porn, maybe he was reading Immanuel Kant or studying quantum mechanics.  But whatever the man was focused on it made him completely unmindful of his surroundings. 

In the commercial MTS is promoting the zombie device culture.  Two dwarfs could have had sex in front of the man in the commercial and he would not have noticed.  So absorbed in the device.  One with the device, the Zen device. 

Don’t we stare at computer screens enough at home and on the job?  Do humans really have to stare at the devices every free moment they have?  The world is a real place.  There are people and structures and water fountains.  The world shouldn’t have to be reduced to a small screen on a device that causes people to stop looking at the real, perceptively vibrant world. 

And now the smartphone is a status symbol.  Forget the fast car, fat wallet, or for that matter interesting intellect.  The new chick magnet is the ubiquitous Smartphone.  m


Posted December 27, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Strange airports   2 comments

Courchevel International Airport (Courchevel, France)

Getting to the iconic ski resort of Courchevel requires navigating the formidable French Alps before making a hair-raising landing at Courchevel International Airport. The runway is about 1700 feet long, but the real surprise is the large hill toward the middle of the strip.
Why It’s Unique:
“You take off downhill and you land going uphill,” Schreckengast says. He adds that the hill, which has an 18.5 percent grade, is so steep that small planes could probably gain enough momentum rolling down it with no engines to safely glide off the edge. Landing at Courchevel is obviously no easy task, so pilots are required to obtain certification before attempting to conquer the dangerous runway.



Congonhas Airport (Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Most major cities have an airport, but rarely are they built just 5 miles from the city center, especially in metropolises like Sao Paulo. Congonhas’ close proximity to downtown can be attributed in part to the fact that it was completed in 1936, with the city experiencing rapid development in the following decades.
Why It’s Unique:
While having an airport only 5 miles from the city center may be a convenience for commuters, it places a strain on both pilots and air traffic control crews. “It becomes a challenge in terms of safety to just get the plane in there,” Schreckengast says. “Then you throw on noise restrictions and these terribly awkward arrival and departure routes that are needed to minimize your noise-print and it becomes quite challenging for pilots.” Fortunately, Sao Paulo’s many high-rise buildings are far enough away from the airport that they aren’t an immediate obstacle for pilots landing or taking off.



Don Mueang International Airport (Bangkok, Thailand)

From a distance Don Mueang International looks like any other midsize airport. However, smack-dab in the middle of the two runways is an 18-hole golf course.
Why It’s Unique:
Schreckengast, who has worked on consulting projects at this airport, says one of the major problems is that the only taxiways were located at the end of the runways. “We recommended that they build an additional taxiway in the middle, from side to side, and they said ‘absolutely not, that will take out a green and one fairway.'” The airport and the course were originally an all-military operation, but have since opened up to commercial traffic. Security threats, however, have limited the public’s access to the greens.



Madeira International Airport (Madeira, Portugal)

Madeira is a small island far off the coast of Portugal, which makes an airport that is capable of landing commercial-size aircraft vital to its development. This airport’s original runway was only about 5000 feet long, posing a huge risk to even the most experienced pilots and limiting imports and tourism.
Why It’s Unique:
Engineers extended the runway to more than 9000 feet by building a massive girder bridge atop about 200 pillars. The bridge, which itself is over 3000 feet long and 590 feet wide, is strong enough to handle the weight of 747s and similar jets. In 2004, the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering selected the expansion project for its Outstanding Structure Award, noting that the design and construction was both “sensitive to environmental and aesthetic considerations.”



Gibraltar Airport (Gibraltar)

Between Morocco and Spain sits the tiny British territory of Gibraltar. Construction of the airport dates back to World War II, and it continues to serve as a base for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, though commercial flights land on a daily basis.
Why It’s Unique:
Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar’s busiest road, cuts directly across the runway. Railroad-style crossing gates hold cars back every time a plane lands or departs. “There’s essentially a mountain on one side of the island and a town on the other,” Schreckengast says. “The runway goes from side to side on the island because it’s the only flat space there, so it’s the best they can do. It’s a fairly safe operation as far as keeping people away,” he says, “It just happens to be the best place to land, so sometimes it’s a road and sometimes it’s a runway.”



Kansai International Airport (Osaka, Japan)

Land is a scarce resource in Japan, so engineers headed roughly 3 miles offshore into Osaka Bay to build this colossal structure. Work on the manmade island started in 1987, and by 1994 jumbo jets were touching down. Travelers can get from the airport to the main island of Honshu via car, railroad or even a high-speed ferry.
Why It’s Unique:
Kansai’s artificial island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide—so large that it’s visible from space. Earthquakes, dangerous cyclones, an unstable seabed, and sabotage attempts from protestors are just some of the variables engineers were forced to account for. As impressive as the airport is, Stewart Schreckengast, a professor of aviation technology at Purdue University and a former aviation consultant with MITRE, cautions that climate change and rising sea levels pose a very real threat to the airport’s existence. “When this was built, [engineers] probably didn’t account for global warming,” he says. “In 50 years or so, this might be underwater.”

Posted December 26, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Pet Diaries.   Leave a comment

Excerpts from a Dog’s Diary…… 


8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing! 
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing! 
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing! 
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing! 
12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing! 
 1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing! 
 3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing! 
 5:00 pm – Milk Bones! My favorite thing! 
 7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing! 
 8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing! 
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing! 


    Excerpts from a Cat’s Daily Diary… 


Day 983 of my captivity… 

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.  They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. 

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. 

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.  In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. 

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet.  I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of.  However, they merely made condescending comments about what a ‘good little hunter’ I am.  Bastards. 

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight.  I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event.  However, I could hear the noises and smell the food.  I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of ‘allergies.’  I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage. 

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking.  I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs. 

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.  The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return.  He is obviously retarded. 

The bird has got to be an informant.  I observe him communicating with the guards regularly..  I am certain that he reports my every move.  My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe.  For now…………….



Posted December 22, 2010 by markosun in Uncategorized

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