Archive | December, 2015

Shakira’s 10 best songs

31 Dec

In 1990 a 13-year-old girl name Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll recorded her first album with Sony Columbia. That first album and her follow-up album didn’t do very well cause her career to remain stagnate. With this kind of a start many people would have given up on their dream but Shakira was not like most people. She took a few years off, went back to Sony’s studio, and took control of her own career. Since then she has gone on to become one of the best selling Latin singers.

With her unique style that mixes Latin & American pop, Disco, and Rhythm & Blues her songs appeal to just about every taste. If you ask any of Shakira’s many fans what they consider to be her 10 best songs you would probably several different answers. The following list combines some of those list into a top 10 of what most fans would consider her must haves for any collection:

  1. Hips don’t lie With almost double the downloads of any of her other songs this is the must have for any serious Shakira fan. Listening to the song and watching the video you can understand its popularity.
  2. She Wolf Get ready to get your groove on as the techno beat of “She Wolf” bring the animal in you. The song tells about a woman stuck in a dull relationship and finally feels the need to break out of her cage.
  3. Waka Wake (This time for Africa) The drumbeat and hand clapping of the song will have you on your feet. This upbeat song that was the anthem of 2010 world cup of soccer should be close to the top of any collection of Shakira songs.
  4. Beautiful liar This powerful songs that deals a bad relationship would be a great song to have on your play-list. The song starts oh with a haunting melody and has a body rocking beat that will have you swaying to the music.
  5. Whatever, Wherever Weather you listen to it is Spanish or English this song about love overcoming time and distance makes for a great addition to your collection. This was one of the first songs Shakira did in English along with her native tongue. Among Shakira collaborators on this song is Gloria Estephan.
  6. Empire A wonderful ballad that speaks about how a strong love can build empires and move the Universe. This is a great song to have on your MP3 players so you listen to it when your on the move.
  7. Underneath your clothes This seductive soft Rock song will be a good addition to anyone’s collection of Shakira songs. When you listen to this song it might be a good idea to wait until your around your significant other.
  8. Gypsy Shakira once said of this song that it talks about the way she lives. This song is not as high energy as many of Shakira’s song and shows more of the take charge side of her that we do not see that often.
  9. Don’t Bother This song shows more of the Rock side of Shakira. In this song that she once referred to as a “feminist anthem” it speaks of a girl that decides to move on with her life after her ex leaves her. An empowering song that is a must have for any Shakira fan.
  10. Illegal In this song we see Shakira as a more vulnerable woman when she catches her boyfriend cheating compared to the move on attitude in both “Gypsy” and “Don’t Bother”.

The year in space

28 Dec

2015 was a great year in space. NASA took us to the edge of the Solar System and made some big discoveries, both Spacex and Blue Origin have made some major strides forward, and there have been a few setbacks.

The year started off with SpaceX sending a supply shipment to the ISS (International Space Station) and attempting to be the first privately held company bring back and land the first stage of a rocket. The re-supply part of the mission went off without a hitch as the Dragon craft soared to the ISS. Bringing back the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket didn’t go as well when it made too hard of a landing on the drone ship and exploded.

Midway through January NASA’s MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) spotted the European Space Agency’s Beagle 2 Mars lander. The lander came down on the Red Planet in Jan 2004 but was unable to send a signal back to Earth. For the next 11 years it was assumed that the lander crashed and was destroyed.

After a couple of previous attempts SpaceX finally launched NASA’s DSCOVR (deep space climate observatory) satellite into space. Once the satellite was deployed it would monitor the solar wind and send back early warnings of a solar flairs. During the mission SpaceX was scheduled to make a second attempt at landing the first stage of their Falcon 9. The attempted landing was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather.

The biggest story in March 2015 was that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft had gone into orbit around the dwarf-planet Ceres. Once in orbit the craft sent a confirmation message back to NASA and started using its equipment to do an analysis of Ceres.

The big story in April was that SpaceX made their second attempt at landing the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket. The result this time was not much different as a malfunction cause the rocket to hit the edge of the drone ship and the Falcon 9 fell into the Ocean.

May was a relatively quiet month in space as there were no SpaceX launches and NASA’s New Horizons was still on its way to Pluto where it would do a flyby in July.

One of biggest stories in June was when the European Space Agency’s Philae lander woke up after 8 months in hibernation. In November of the previous year the lander made news when it set down on Comet 67P/Churganov-Gerastenko. The craft missed its mark and was unable to recharge its batteries.

June literally went out with a bang when a SpaceX Falcon 9 exploded shortly after liftoff. The unmanned SpaceX craft was scheduled to make a mid-year supply delivery to the ISS. As a result of the tragedy all future launches of SpaceX craft would be postponed while an investigation was conducted.

One of the biggest stories in July was when NASA’s New Horizons made its flyby of the dwarf-planet Pluto. As it went past Pluto the craft would use its sensors and cameras to gather data for transmission back to Earth.

The big story in August was Japan sending a resupply mission the ISS. The unmanned H-2B craft lifted off from the Island of Tanegashima on July 19. The mission would take replacement parts, medical supplies, food, and other items lost in the SpaceX explosion.

The big story in September was the newly received pictures of the dwarf-planet Pluto. The photos showed a much different terrain than what anyone expected of the dwarf-planet. They showed mountains made of ice.

In October it was all about pictures from space. There was the “selfie” that the Curiosity Rover sent us from Mars. Scott Kelly also sent us many spectacular pictures that he took from the ISS. Not to be left out NASA’s Cassini craft sent us some pictures of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

November was a big month as we finally heard some of the findings from NASA’s MAVEN (Mars atmosphere and volatile evolution). The orbiter was sent to help us understand what happened to the atmosphere that encompassed ancient Mars. It turned out that space itself could be part of the culprit that stripped away the atmosphere over time.

As November came to a close Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin became the first privately held company to land a rocket. The New Shepard rocket was launched in the desert in Texas. It travelled to the fringes of outer-space then brought back down for a perfect landing.

December marked the return of the Hawthorn, California-based SpaceX, In a two part mission Elon Musk’s company made history by deploying 11 satellites and returning the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket.

These and other stories made for one of the busiest years in space.

Jordin Sparks’ 10 best songs

25 Dec

In 2007, a 17-year-old girl from Arizona burst on the national scene after winning the 6th season of American Idol. Her career, though, looked like it might end not long after she recorded her first album. In 2008 all of the singing had taken its toll on Ms. Sparks and she was diagnosed with an acute vocal cord hemorrhage. That diagnosis caused her to cancel several touring dates and put her career on hold to give her vocal cords some rest. Luckily, she was able to resume her career the following year and go on to enjoy an award winning career as an actress, singer, and songwriter.

In her career Ms. Sparks has given us dozens of beautiful songs. In the following list are just 10 of the best songs of her career:

1.  Battlefield

A wonderful song that talks about the tensions we often experience in our relationships when we come to an impasse. The simplistic beat mixed with Ms. Sparks voice makes this a must have for any fan.

2.  One step at a time

Ms. Sparks uses her silky voice to give us advice that would should all follow to achieve our goals. The song it has a beat that makes you want to get up, clap your hands, and move to the rhythm.

3.  Tattoo

Get ready to jump up and sway to the beat as Ms. Sparks sings one of her most powerful songs. The lyrics speak of something that most, if not all, of us can relate to when we meet someone we know is not good for us but we just can not seem to forget them.

4.  Now you tell me

A lovely ballad that speaks of someone telling you they really love you after you moved on because they never seemed to care about you before you broke up. This is the easy going type of song that makes you want to pull up your favorite chair and just relax as you listen.

5. Tell him that I love him

A moving ballad to talks the love triangles many of fall into a some time in our lives. This would be a good song to listen to when you are eeling lonely and missing a loved one. 

6.  Beauty and the Beast

A magnificent version of the title song from the Disney classic. Listening to this song will take you back to a simpler time when fairy tales were a big part of your life.

7.  One wing

A wonderful song about not giving up when you think you have done all you can to reach your dream. This song will make you believe you have the power to reach your goals as long as keep trying.

8.  S.O.S (let the music play)

A rocking song that will have you moving to the beat. The song also sends the message that sometimes we need to fight to keep the ones we love.

9.  Christmas time to me

Ms. Sparks a marvelous job on this song of longing to have loved ones near on Christmas. The song brings visions of the type of old-fashion Christmas gathering you might see in a Norman Rockwell setting.

10. Skipping a beat

A song that really speaks to any of us that have meet that one special person that gets our heart racing by just the sound of their voice. The rocking beat of the music makes you just want to take that special person in your arms, tell them how you feel, and sway to the music.

Happy 47th anniversary Apollo 8

23 Dec

It was 47 years ago yesterday, Dec 21, that astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders climbed into the command capsule of Apollo 8. There would wait as the countdown took then closer to launch. Then at 7:51 am EST (4:51 am PST) the engines of the Saturn V rocket roared to life and Apollo 8 lifted off from platform 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their destination to reach lunar orbit before returning to Earth.

For the next three days the Apollo 8 craft journeyed to the Moon. Once the craft achieved a lunar orbit, on Dec 24, the astronauts circled the Moon 10 times. During those lunar orbits we were treated to a live Christmas Eve broadcast where astronauts read the first 10 verses of the biblical book of Genesis. The broadcast was the first time that an Apollo craft transmitted from space.

Once the craft made its scheduled lunar orbits the crew broke orbit to go back to Earth. It was another three days before the craft would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. A few minutes after the craft was back in orbit of the Earth the capsules parachutes deployed for the final descent. At 7:51 am PST on Dec 27, 1968 the capsule splashed into the Pacific Ocean. The capsule was then hoisted on to the USS Yorktown were the hatch was opened up and the brave astronauts were welcomed back to Earth.

Apollo 8 was only the second manned mission since the horrific Apollo I tragedy. It was also a groundbreaking mission that for the first time showed that we actually had the capability to finally reach the Moon. There would be two more missions of rehearsals until NASA finally landed on the Moon with Apollo 11.

Originally the mission was slated to be Apollo 9 and set to launch early in 1969. The mission that was to be Apollo 8 was suppose to test the new lunar module. In late 1968 when it was apparent that the lunar module would not be completed in time the front office at NASA made the call to switch the missions. This meant that the crew of Borman, Lovell, and Anders would need to speed up their training to be ready approximately 3 months early.

Before Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell had manned the Gemini 7 mission. On that mission they conducted the first rendezvous in space when they coupled up with the Gemini 6 craft. 14-days in orbit around the Earth. Gemini 7 and Apollo 8 would be the only two flights for Mr. Borman. James Lovell though would go on to command the infamous Apollo 13 mission.

Apollo 8 was the only time that William Anders would go into space. He was chosen to be one of the backup crew for Apollo 11. That would be as close as he would get before retiring at the end of 1969.

SpaceX returns Falcon 9 to Earth

22 Dec

On Monday, Dec 21, at 8:39 pm EST (5:39 pm PST) those that gathered in Cape Canaveral, Florida, or watched SpaceX’s live feed, were awed by a rare sight when they saw a rocket ship return to Earth. It was only the second time that a privately held company successfully landed the first stage of a rocket. The first was last month when Blue Origin launched a craft into space and then brought their New Shepard rocket down for a landing.

SpaceX employees at the company’s Hawthorne headquarters gave high-fives, cheered and chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A.” after the rocket touched down on a concrete pad about 10 minutes after the liftoff at 5:29 p.m. Pacific time.

Welcome back, baby!” Musk tweeted after the landing.

The successful landing was the third attempt for the Hawthorn, California-based company. The first attempt was after a Jan 10 launch when they tried to bring the Falcon back from space and land it on a barge. The Falcon 9 failed to make it onto the barge due to a malfunction and crashed. The second try at landing the Falcon 9 was after a successful mid April launch. Once again the rocket didn’t hit it’s mark on the drone barge and fell into the Ocean. SpaceX was scheduled to make a third attempt in June but the craft exploded shortly after launch.

For the six months since that June accident SpaceX suspended all future launches until they fixed the problem. Right after that failure the engineering staff went to work on design flaws in the rocket. The rocket used in the Monday launch was quite different from the rocket that exploded in June. Those changes included upgrading the rocket booster to 9 Merlin 1D engines, a cooled liquid oxygen fuel, and making the rocket taller.

Happy 43rd anniversary Apollo 17

20 Dec

It was 43 years ago today, Dec 19, that the last manned moon mission splashed down. At 19:24 UTC (11:24 am PST) Apollo 17 capsule entered the Pacific Ocean approximately 4 miles from the USS Ticanderoga, the recovery ship, thus ending its 12 day mission that would include doing a geological survey of the Moon and bring back samples. When the command capsule touched down in the Pacific Ocean it marked the end of the Apollo space program.

The mission started on Dec 7, 1972 when astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt climbed up to the command capsule. There they waited as the countdown was announced that would end with them lifting off into space. At 12:33 pm EST the Saturn V rocket carrying the three astronauts blasted off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On Dec 11, 1972 the three astronauts went into to orbit around the Moon. While Ronald Evans remained in orbit in the Command Module, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt rode the Lunar Module to the surface. For the next three days Cernan and Schmitt would be the last two Earthlings to walk on the lunar surface. There they would carry out the geological survey and other objectives.

After completing their mission Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt climbed back aboard the Lunar Module. It was then at 5:54 pm EST they lifted off the Moon’s surface to rendezvous with the Command Module to travel back to Earth. Once the two module were linked up again the three astronauts headed back to Earth.

Flatt & Scruggs’10 best songs

20 Dec

In 1948 Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs became the founding members of the Foggy Mountain Boys. For the next two decades the group became known as the premiere Bluegrass band. Their award winning music earned them a huge following of fans, a ticket to membership in the Grand Ole Opry, and their own television show. Flatt and Scruggs broke-up in 1969 and went their separate ways to have success in their individual endeavors. Today the musical influence of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs can still be felt throughout the music industry.

The following list is some of the best of Flatt and Scruggs:

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

This is a must have in any collection of a fan of Flatts & Scruggs. This is the song that is most closely associated with the duo.

Rolling in my sweet baby’s arms

Along with the great banjo & guitar playing of Flatts & Scruggs it also shows some of the talented fiddle, mandolin, and slide guitar playing of the other members of the group.

Salty dog blues

This song also features some solos by some the talented members of the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Cabin on the hill

This songs shows a more spiritual side of their music. It is one of the few songs that doesn’t showcase Earl Scruggs’ banjo play.

Orange blossom special

This has gone on to be considered one of the classic Bluegrass songs. When you listen to it you can almost feel the vibration of a train as it rolls down the tracks.

Bang your alive

This song from their “The story of Bonnie & Clyde” album ask the age old question of why do certain people turn out the way they do.

Like a rolling stone

Flatt & Scruggs put their own spin on the Bob Dylan song.

The Barrow gang will get you little man

Another great story song from their “The story of Bonnie & Clyde” album.

White house blues

Tells the story about the death of President William McKinley.

On my way to Canaan’s land

Another good spiritual song done well with a spin that makes it unique.

Pearl, Pearl, Pearl

One of their classics from one of their appearances on “The Beverly Hillbillies”. The song has them dueling as they sing about the days they were both courting Pearl.

Last minute Christmas ideas for the techie on your list

17 Dec

If you are like many of us you always have a few people that you just can not figure out just the right Christmas present. You rack your brain trying to figure out what would be a good gift. You know they like technology but you are on a budget. All you can think of are the gadgets you know you can not afford, such as, a laptops and smartphones. While some of those bigger items might be off your there are still plenty of items, such as, lower-end tablets and accessories that you can buy for them that will not break your budget. The technology fanatic on your list will be thrilled that you thought enough of the to buy any of these.

Many of the items in the following list can also be found in brick & mortar stores like Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot and others that sell electronics.

  • Tablets: For under 50 dollars you can still find a big selection of tablets for the young technology buff on your list. These are not going to be the top of the line tablets but still great for reading, playing games, watching videos, taking selfies, and more.
  • Bluetooth keyboards: If the person your shopping for has a mobile device a great idea for a gift is a Bluetooth keyboard. Most of the keyboards are going to run between 20 and 40 dollars making them a great item for the budget. Some of them even fold for better portability.
  • Bluetooth headphones: Bluetooth headphones make a great gift for the technology fanatic on your list. Just last year you would have been hard pressed to ind anything for a reasonable price but now with technology improvements there are plenty of options to fit any budget.
  • Bluetooth mouse: A Bluetooth mouse makes a great accessory for anyone that has a tablet, laptop, or desktop. Most of the options out there will fit into your budget at the 20 to 40 dollar range.
  • Portable chargers: Anyone that has a mobile device is going to want a way to keep their device going during their travels. While just about every mobile device comes with an adapter they are always getting lost, broken, or just burned out over time.
  • Mobile carrying cases: Once the technology fanatic on your list has their devices and accessories they will need a way to carry all of it.
  • Selfie Sticks: Taking selfies has become big over the last few years. So a selfie stick would be a great present for anyone with a smartphone. Most of these are very budget friendly at the 20 to 40 dollar range.
  • Tablet cases: If the person your shopping for already has (or is getting) a tablet they will want a protective case to keep it in. The selection of cases keeps growing and most of them will fit into the 15 to 30 dollar range that fit well in any budget.

Get to know the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir

12 Dec

Since ancient times music has been our most powerful form of communication. We use music to tell stories, to fall asleep and wake up, to boost our energy during workouts, and so many other times in our lives. In biblical times David, before he became King of Israel, used music to calm King Saul during bouts of mental illness.

One of the most powerful types of music is Gospel. It is the music of praise, hope, and celebration that can seem to penetrate us to the core of our being. One of the best of today is the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir that blends over 100 voices together to produce some of the most gripping music in the Gospel genre.

In late 2006 Charles Moore, formerly of the Georgia Gospel Mass Choir, went to work sending out emails, making phone calls, and searching throughout the State of Arkansas. By the following year he put together the 132 member Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir. Since the inception the choir has toured the country, record 3 albums, been nominated and won several awards, been feature on the Bobby Jones Gospel show, and appeared with Celine Dion.

In 2013 the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir did a fundraiser for local Van Buren High school to send their theater troop to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland. The was to be an invaluable at the world’s largest preforming arts festival.

We’ve had to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising, so when the idea of a benefit concert came up, I immediately thought of the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir,”said Chuck King, one of the concert’s organizers. “The ticket sales for the concert will go entirely toward sending our aspiring young actors to the Fringe.”

47 years ago Pearl Harbor was attacked

8 Dec

It was 74 years ago today, December 7, that the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Naval base at Pearl Harbor. For almost 2 hours 353 aircraft and a couple of mini-subs laid siege on the base. By the time the assault was over 8 battle ships were either crippled or sunk; 2,403 were killed; 1,178 were wounded; and an untold number of airplanes at the nearby Army Air Corps’ base Hickman Field were destroyed.

While the attack was devastating to the Pacific fleet it was not the major blow to the United States the Japan was hoping to inflict. The primary targets were the two aircraft carriers, the USS Lexington and the USS Enterprise, that had been deploy to take aircraft to both Midway and Wake Island. Of the eight battleships that were hit six of them, the USS California, USS Tennessee, USS Nevada, USS West Virginia, USS Maryland, and USS Pennsylvania were able to be repaired and placed back into service.

Even though we focus on Pearl Harbor it was not the only United States base attacked on December 7, 1941. A few hours after the Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces also attacked United States’ bases at Midway Island, Guam, and the Philippine Islands. Even though the commanders at those bases had advanced warning about possible attacks they were still caught off guard by the invading forces.

The attacks on Pearl Harbor and other sites were the culmination of tensions that had been building between Japan and the United States since shortly after the end of World War I. Those tensions grew when the United States backed China, in their war with Japan, with military support. Then, when the United States imposed a fuel embargo those tensions were at a breaking point.