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-female-transformer-autobot
Arcee: The Hottest Female Autobot Transformer
Alpha Trion Holding the Matrix of Leadership
Alpha Trion Holding the Matrix of Leadership

Ben Harper & Relentless 7 White Lies for Dark Times Out Now!

Ben Harper & Relentless 7
Ben Harper & Relentless 7

Guess what? It’s Cinco de Mayo 2009, and Ben Harper‘s new record, White Lies for Dark Times, comes out today. Ben’s new band is called Relentless 7, and the band is made up of people I know. How weird is that? Jesse (bass), Jason (guitar), and Jordan (drums) were all members of a Led Zeppelin cover band called Pudge Zeppelin. They were also members of other bands (Oliver Future, Wan Santo Condo) that I got to see several times at the Moon bar in Fort Worth, TX. But now they are on to bigger and better things. And when I say “bigger and better” I mean an international tour and a badass new record with Ben Harper! The album is called White Lies for Dark Times, and you should go get it.

White Lies for Dark Times - Ben Harper & Relentless 7
White Lies for Dark Times - Ben Harper & Relentless 7

If you know me at all, you probably know about my lack of knowledge for all things music, especially rock music. I know pretty much next to nothing about 1970’s rock music, but after hearing this new album, it’s easy to hear the influences and the style they are tackling. The style is there. The tones are there. I saw them play much of the album live on a National Geographic webcast from Rome, Italy. And I’ve listened to the entire album on MySpace. After those two listening sessions, I’m practically a Relentless7 know-it-all. Not really. Anyways, I think Ben Harper & Relentless7 created an album that is everything a rock album should be. I recommend it.

Jordan Richardson in the studio with Darth Vato (2003)
Jordan Richardson in the studio with Darth Vato (2003)

If you didn’t already know, Jordan Richardson (drums) produced and engineered all 4 Darth Vato records. He kind of grew up with us as a band. He taught me so much about tone, and he was a very big influence on me taking an interest in music gear, specifically guitar amps. I met Jordan in 1999 (Looking back, it’s kind of a weird story. I might tell you about some other time), and from the moment I met him I knew he would eventually be a famous musician.

There are very few people that have a spark about them. It’s like a passion or a force that is driving them, and you can just tell that one day all the stars will align. For some people, talent and hard work will eventually meet up with luck and opportunity. Jordan is one of those people. He’s extremely talented, and he has put in a lot of work. His music dreams are coming true. Seeing how the music industry is an extremely tough environment in which to succeed, it’s awesome to know that is happening for a friend of mine. Now go buy the record. I wanna see that thing #1 on the Billboard charts. All over the world, even!

RIP Jon Ward

Jon Ward at a Darth Vato show
Jon Ward at a Darth Vato show

A friend of mine passed away this morning. Jon Ward was awesome. He was a friend. He was a fighter. He was diagnosed with 2 types of cancers 365 day ago, and he’s been fighting for his life every day since that moment. Jon, we’re going to miss you, brother. I remember getting pissed when you were knocking people around in the pit at our shows because we had to deal with the aftermath of angry fans and even angrier club owners. But there was a part of me that was always glad to see you starting a pit because people in Fort Worth still don’t know what to do when a band starts to play a punk song. You were definitely a visionary in that realm, and when you started a pit, you made us feel like we were a badass punk band. When the scene changed from a punk show pit to a hospital bed, you continued to show us how courageous and brave you were. I oftened wondered if I could put up the same fight if I had to. I’m not sure I would have been able to do it. You were an inspiration to us all. Now there’s no more pain and you’re in a better place. Speaking of that, you’ve got the only Darth Vato tattoo in all of Heaven. Hopefully, St. Peter is okay with that! Jon, we love you and wish you the peace that only God’s love can bring. God bless you and your family. We’re going to miss you.

May 6, 2009 Update: Jon Ward’s Obituary here; Guestbook here

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?

Learn Chinese Languages, Get Perfect Pitch!

According to a post at telegraph.co.uk (here), “Learning to speak Mandarin and Vietnamese as a child helps make you more musical, claims a study that suggests being fluent in the languages helps you have perfect pitch.” The article goes on to point out that perfect pitch in China is a rather common occurence. However, In the US and Europe, it is estimated that only 1 in 10,000 people have perfect pitch.

Apparently, many Chinese languages are ‘tonal languages’ – meaning that the pitch of a word is essential to its meaning. Tonal languages? I had never even heard of such a concept. It’s fascinating. And the part about those languages nurturing perfect pitch? Wow. I have always been under the impression that genetics played the main role for people with perfect pitch. It’s simply fascinating to know that social factors may play a bigger role in acquiring or having perfect pitch.

“It really looks as though infants should acquire perfect pitch if they are given the opportunity to attach verbal labels to musical notes at the age when they learn speech,” said Prof Deutsch.

Maybe I’ll be a parent who forces perfect pitch on my kids by having them learn 4 chinese languages. Then again, maybe not. I have known several people with perfect pitch. I knew this guy in college who could tell you the pitch of a fart. My wife’s mom can tell you the frequency at which a light is buzzing. From talking with various friends about it, perfect pitch can be an amazing gift, but it can also be a real nuisance. For example, let’s say you are listening to an acapella choir that goes flat by a quartertone. For most people with perfect pitch, the experience is nearly ruined because they cannot listen to the performance without noticing how the choir has gone flat. And it goes for instruments, too. Furthermore, I have also heard that perfect pitch will begin to fail in old age. I couldn’t handle that. It would be like a super power was being taken away slowly. People would say, “Poor Hulk. He’s can’t turn dark green anymore. He’s only making it to lime green these days. Poor guy.”

In conclusion, while it might be awesome in theory, simply being a good musician may be better than having perfect pitch.

Perfect Timing for Our Last Show

Darth Vato at our last show
Darth Vato at our last show

I played in a band for 7 years. We had our last show on Sat, April 27, 2009. It was a good thing, too. The next day, the only thing on TV was pig flu news. And the pig flu flew fast. It was in other countries within a couple of days. Or maybe the media was just jumping to conclusions. Pig Flu Pandemic must be one of the landing spots on the media’s Jump To Conclusions mat. If we were playing a show this weekend, I might be worried about the pig flu. Or maybe not. It almost sounds like it would be better to get the pig flu, so I could be immune to pig flu in the future.

It turns out that the pig flu raised its ugly head back in the 1970’s. 1976 to be exact. Apparently, President Ford ordered that all Americans get a swine flu shot. I read somewhere that 25% of all americans got a swine flu shot that year, but the pig flu turned out to be no big deal. I hope it stays that way in 2009. The last thing we need is one more thing to be worried about. I really don’t want to wake up one day and see people bringing out their dead.

And on a lighter note, check out this PSA from the 1976 pig flu scare. In the second commercial, they keep saying, “Betty’s mother gave it to _______.” They make the pig flu sound kinda dirty.

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