We attended Planetfest in Pasadena yesterday. It’s still going on now, a two-day event by the Planetary Society timed to match tonight’s landing of NASA’s Curiosity space probe on Mars.

Inflatable mockup of the Curiosity Mars rover.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was basically a bunch of space enthusiasts and people in the industry. SpaceX has a mock-up of their crew capsule, and other sponsors had exhibits with things like space plane mock-ups or geological drills. There was a life-size inflatable model of the Curiosity rover. There was a single track of programming with speakers on topics from the actual science of Martian exploration to the question of just why we explore space in the first place. Katie caught the Sally Ride tribute while I walked J around the exhibits, and we both watched Bill Nye’s talk about “Our Place in Space,” which he finished up with a fun science demonstration featuring liquid nitrogen marshmallows, gas toruses, a candle, and Robert Picardo.

SpaceX crew capsule mock-up.

The exhibits for “kids of all ages” turned out to be for kids from 4 on up. J wasn’t really interested in the Martian soil uplift demo, or the dirty snowball CO2 comet demo, but he liked watching the Xbox Mars Lander game, and he was fascinated by the robot that picked up and tossed basketballs. He had fun hanging out with grandma and grandpa, at least, and playing with a magnetic meteorite. (The tiny fragment of verified Martian meteorite was carefully mounted on a slab with plastic wrap to protect it from skin oils, but they had a couple of non-valuable rocks that you could pick up and hold.)

A robot that plays basketball.

A family friend invited us to the after party at the mall across the street. It was divided into two main areas: the sci-fi-themed dance floor out on the plaza, and a set of tables on the terrace above for the sit-and-talk crowd, where the main event was a participatory art project: A group had set up one blank postcard for each day of Curiosity’s journey from Earth to Mars, and was asking attendees to draw what they imagined the probe would write home about.

Planetfest party at Paseo Colorado in Pasadena

  • Irony: Someone just sent me email spam plugging the spam control features of their Twitter client. *headdesk*
  • Very cool! From @ThisIsTrue:

    COOL pic: Mars Orbiter gets photo of Mars rover, including tire tracks.

  • Kinda wanted to see Time Traveler’s Wife, but ad campaign & insistence that it’s not scifi are pushing me away. Low tomatometer not helping.
  • Note to self: No more light chocolate syrup. 50% less calories/carbs doesn’t help if you have to use twice as much to match the flavor.

IE9 to include alternative CSS.2012 standard instead of following anything remotely like the rest of the world.

Social tagging initiative from WaSP to physically tag bad web designers.

Opera hits 106/100 on Acid3 after discovering an Easter egg in the test.

The openSUSE mailing list announced OpenSUSE 4.1, with KDE 4.1, GNOME 4.1, MP41 support, OpenOffice 4.1, XEN 4.1, VirtualBox 4.1, and a 4-in-1 CD install.

Added: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sent out a newsletter detailing its findings on a Congressional Listening program (apparently they monitor citizens for their opinions—who knew?), plans to move the EFF offices to an armored zeppelin, an NSA-sponsored social networking site (to “allow ordinary Americans to instantly share their private data with the government”), and Homeland Security’s conclusion that Wikipedia is a “Larger Threat Than Terrorism, Dixie Chicks Combined.” Sadly, the newsletter does not appear to be archived on the website.

Added: Virgle, a Virgin/Google joint venture to establish a permanent colony on Mars. Now seeking applicants for Martian pioneers. Takes the Google moon base from 2004 to the next level.

Added: A co-worker pointed out that all of YouTube’s featured videos are Rickrolls today. And it looks like Google is going all-out with some 15 hoaxes today. *whew!*

The Internet Storm Center is keeping a list as well.

Tales from the Bully Pulpit (Cover)At long last, I’ve located a copy of Tales from the Bully Pulpit!

It’s a sci-fi comedy graphic novel featuring a time-traveling Teddy Roosevelt and the ghost of Thomas Edison, battling a descendant of Adolf Hitler. On Mars. Wearing mecha armor. (No, really, I am not making this up!)

Seriously, how can you co wrong with that?

I have no idea how I managed to miss the comic when it came out 3 years ago, since I had thought from previews that it looked like fun, but by the time I got around to looking for it, it was too late.

It’s out of print and (for the most part) out of stock. No luck at local stores, it’s not even mentioned at Mile High Comics, I didn’t see it at Comic-Con, and even the used copies available through Amazon start at $80!

So I’ve been watching eBay for months, waiting for a copy to show up and hoping I won’t get bid out of my price range. The last one I saw went up to $52. Last week, I somehow managed to get one for only $27. It arrived this weekend (though the post office ignored the multiple “DO NOT BEND” stamps and crammed it into the mailbox. grrr…)

The book’s hilarious. Sci-fi, comedy, history, and meta-references are just thrown together with the only priority being fun. Especially when it comes down to the final confrontation between Roosevelt and wannabe-Hitler, and all the stops come out.

Now I’ll have to check out the annotations thread.

Collected Editions reviewed it just last week. Critiques on Infinite Earths is worth a quick look as well.

Update January 2013: You can now buy the book digitally through ComiXology.

(Cover scan from the Grand Comics Database)