Curmudgeons Corner

Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.

Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper, and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?

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Monday, November 20, 2017
 
Three reasons to build a Mars colony

Futurism Magazine had a recent story in which it polled a number of experts to list all the reasons we should not try to colonize #Mars for the foreseeable future. The reasons include that it is too far away, that the conditions are too severe, that a Mars colony does not have an economic benefit for Earth, and that colonizing Mars is just too expensive. To be sure, these are all valid reasons to not undertake the settlement of the Red Planet for the foreseeable future. However, three reasons exist for sending human colonists to make new homes on Mars.



 
Charles Manson has entered Hell

The cliché that everyone’s death diminishes us does not apply to Charles Manson. The career criminal, a #Cult Leader, failed musician, and mass murderer finally died at the age of 83 at Kern County Hospital. Manson had been serving nine consecutive life sentences for multiple murders he instigated in late 1969. He initially received the death penalty, but that punishment was overturned briefly by the United States Supreme Court in 1972, commuting it to life in prison.



Sunday, November 19, 2017
 
Marco Rubio still harbors doubts about Jim Bridenstine for NASA administrator

While Rep. #Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, awaits a Senate floor vote on his nomination to be NASA administrator, Sen. #Marco Rubio, R-Florida, continues to express doubts about him. While the entire Democratic membership of the Senate Commerce Committee voted against Bridenstine’s nomination, he passed on a party-line vote. How the vote will stack up on the floor, likely to come after the Thanksgiving recess, is uncertain.




Saturday, November 18, 2017
 
NASA to test new miniature nuclear reactor

World Nuclear News is reporting that #NASA is gearing up to test what it calls a kilopower reactor at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The idea is to provide future #Space Probes and even human expeditions into #Deep Space a new power source that will serve as an alternative to solar power [VIDEO] or Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). The work is being done with the help of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.



Friday, November 17, 2017
 
Why the Apollo moon landings were the greatest reality show in history

While the study mentioned in the tabloid, The Daily Mirror, surveyed people in the UK, its results will likely be replicated worldwide. People, responding to a poll conducted by an online live casino, choose the Apollo 11 moonwalk as the most momentous television event in history. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the funeral of Princess Diana followed as second and third most momentous. Americans might choose a different third most memorable event, say the JFK assassination or the Challenger accident, but Apollo 11 remains on top. The irony is that, as NASA Watch points out, half of Americans alive today never saw the moon landings live as they happened.



 
Christopher Tolkien departs as head of the Tolkien Estate

The news that #Christopher Tolkien has stepped down at the age of 93 from his post as director of the Tolkien estate, along with the amicable resolution of a long-running legal action between the estate and Warner brothers, means good news for fans of high fantasy. The recently announced “Lord of the Rings” TV series that will air on Amazon [VIDEO] is just the beginning. The Tolkien Estate will now be free to monetarize the entirety of the author’s body of work, including “The Silmarillion.”



Thursday, November 16, 2017
 
Al Franken latest celebrity to be accused of sexual assault

#Al Franken, United States Senator and the least funny person ever to be on Saturday Night Live, is the latest powerful man to be called out for sexually assaulting a woman. [VIDEO]Journalist Leeann Tweeden recounted a story of a series of incidents when both were on a #Uso Tour in 2006 to entertain the troops in Afghanistan. The juiciest part of the story is that photographic evidence exists of Franken groping Leeden’s breasts while she was asleep on the plane coming back to America with the failed comedian grinning at the camera.



 
How solar power is getting greater acceptance in the south

The argument that some in the public policy community make for investments in solar energy [VIDEO] is that it is a way to fight #Climate Change, the theory that the use of fossil fuels is causing the Earth to warm uncontrollably. However, according to the Clarion-Ledger, a newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, solar is getting a full acceptance in the south, a region that traditionally is suspicious of the motives of environmentalists, for more traditional reasons. Solar is becoming cheaper and more competitive with fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, and it is allowing homeowners and business owners to achieve energy independence.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017
 
How tax reform may end Obamacare at long last

Having punted twice on Obamacare, #The Senate Republicans have decided to try to redeem themselves by including a repeal of the individual mandate, which states that everyone must have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The mandate has forced millions of people who are not on an employer or government health insurance plan to buy policies on the exchanges that are expensive and do not fit their individual health needs. How can the Senate include such a provision in a #Tax Reform Bill? One can blame or credit the United States Supreme Court.



 
Possible Earth-like planet discovered 11 light years away from Earth

Using its planet-hunting High-Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument, the European Southern Observatory in Chile has discovered an Earth-sized planet orbiting a #Red Dwarf Star called Ross 128 residing just 11 #Light Years away from Earth. The planet, designated Ross 128 b, has a good chance of being the home of extraterrestrial life due to the distance it orbits its home star.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017
 
Bill and Hillary Clinton are about to be thrown under the bus

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering appointing a special counsel to delve into the various illegalities and other shenanigans revolving around the Clinton Foundation, especially the Uranium One deal. Ordinarily, this news would elicit groans about a replay of the 1990s with Team Clinton going to war with the special counsel with the help of their media enablers. Kenneth Starr can relate to the hot hell that will follow. However, the Clintons may be stuck without their media allies this time. Some folks have started to wake up to what a beast Bill Clinton was toward women and their role in letting him get away with it.



 
Besides ‘Deadwood’ what other canceled TV series needs a big screen revival

Coming Soon notes that a “#Deadwood” movie is now in the works which is supposed to tie up some loose ends left from the HBO series that starred #Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane as rivals in the wildest of Wild West towns. This project is all well and good. However, many other defunct shows cry out for movie sequels. Some were canceled prematurely. Others were well beloved, and thus a revival would be welcomed.



Monday, November 13, 2017
 
Yuri Milner thinking about a private expedition to Enceladus

One of the most astonishing discoveries of the now concluded Cassini space probe that spent years orbiting Saturn was that of plumes of water shooting out of cracks in the ice crust of #Enceladus’ South Pole. Scientists believe that the plumes are coming from a subsurface ocean similar to the one that resides inside the ice crust of Europa. #NASA is now contemplating a $1 billion New Frontiers mission to explore Enceladus further, flying through the plumes with a suite of sensors designed to detect organic material, to launch in the mid-2020s. #Yuri Milner, a Russian born entrepreneur and philanthropist is also thinking about such a mission, privately financed, cheaper, and taking off sooner than the one NASA is thinking about.



 
In the future of Andy Weir’s ‘Artemis’ you can go to the moon on vacation

#Andy Weir’s second space novel, “Artemis,” is coming out and will in short order be a major motion picture, just like his first novel, “The Martian.” One of the fascinating aspects of the background of the novel is that it is set in a resort town on the moon, [VIDEO]called like the novel “Artemis.” #Business Insider notes that by the 2080s, enough people are willing to shell out $70,000 for a lunar vacation to justify building and maintaining such a city. Other moon based industries exist, which triggers part of the plot of the novel but we can just concentrate on what is involved in a lunar vacation for this piece.



Sunday, November 12, 2017
 
Study suggests that NASA saved money going commercial for LEO transportation

When President George W. Bush first proposed commercializing Earth to low Earth orbit transportation in the wake of the Columbia accident, the initiative was thought to be radical, albeit one that cheered commercial space advocates. When President Obama doubled down on the concept, eliminating #NASA’s direct role in low Earth orbit transportation, cries of outrage could be heard from Congress. To be fair, most of the anger from Obama’s initiative resulted from his cancellation of the Constellation program, which many thought to be high-handed and politically motivated.



Saturday, November 11, 2017
 
‘Let Her Speak’ is soon to be a major motion picture about Wendy Davis

The news that Hollywood is going to develop a movie about Wendy Davis, the hapless Texas state senator who is famous for a futile 11-hour filibuster against an anti-abortion bill and a doomed run for the governorship has raised eyebrows in Texas political circles. The fact that Sandra Bullock has been attached to play Davis has faces hitting palms. Of course, former Senator Davis is more popular in Hollywood than she ever was in the Lone Star State, but this sort of hagiography is just absurd. The title of the movie, “Let Her Speak,” is astonishing. Davis is most famous because she would not shut up.