Saturday, November 26, 2011


I just love leftovers from Thanksgiving! Today I had a turkey sandwich on whole wheat for breakfast. I almost drooled the Homer Simpson donut was that good!

I snacked on some dark meat around four in the afternoon, and enjoyed a reheated turkey dinner with a new batch of braised brussels sprouts for dinner. (Thanks Sister K!) Even after sitting in a Ziploc bag for 24 hours in the garage refrigerator, the breast meat was so juicy...not to mention yummy!

Perfect Turkey Hints:
Here's the trick I use to insure a succulent turkey breast every time I roast a's all about orientation...I owe it all to Fine Cooking Magazine. I lifted the tip from one of their email newsletters in 2008. Save the link for Juicy Roast Turkey, bookmark it, you'll never roast a whole turkey any other way ever again!

Here's the secret: Roast the turkey upside down for the first hour in the oven! That's all there is to it! I know it sounds a little daunting turning a hot slippery turkey over after it's been roasting for an hour in a 325°F oven, but it's a snap...oven mitts on each hand with a wad of paper towels, and it's over and done in under 20 seconds!

I learned a new trick when turning yesterday's bird. I don't stuff the bird, I make my Cornbread and Italian Sausage Stuffing on the stovetop and finish it in the oven, so I just grabbed the bird by the body cavity and with a lift and a twist of the wrist, it was breast side up for the duration!

Here's another tip to insure a great roast a decent bird to begin with! I swear by Sonora's Diestel Turkey Ranch. I've never bought another turkey since the first Diestel I tried. I get mine at Lunardi's Market in Walnut Creek. Safeway has 'em too. I buy a fresh one, not frozen. They taste like turkey!

Stuffing Recipe Hints:
I prefer to use mild sausage, but I fatten up the pinch of crushed red chilies.
I prefer red and yellow bell peppers to red and green...the stuffing is much brighter without the unripe (green) bells. (I don't taste 'em later if they aren't in there either)
If you make the cornbread from the linked recipe, halve the salt.
I use white spelt flour instead of white wheat flour in the cornbread...originally because the Siskyou Wing of the family thought they had a problem with wheat gluten. When it turned out they were A-OK with the gluten, I kept using the spelt for it's extra nutty flavor.

After all was said and done, I managed not to succumb to the Turkey fact I was still goin' strong when the 11 O'clock News came on. I watched KCRA3's newscast, and they had some footage from Sugar Bowl of holiday skiers sliding down the slopes. Except for the overcast and the flat light, it looked for all the world like late-April snow...I mean slush! The reporter doing the story said it was more springlike than holiday weather...that was one juicy looking trail!

Don't think I wasn't paying attention! I looked at the remote sensors, I didn't see enough cold temps to make snow going back for a week at least, and the last blast of cold-enough temps was accompanied by very high winds.

Looking ahead, the forecast isn't promising...I even looked at Sacramento's AFD (maybe the Chamber of Commerce-Style forecast might feature a glimmer of hope!) Reno's AFD concured, a Blocking Ridge builds in and temps trend up, up, up for the next week. Oh, and the inversion layer stays.

That's a lot of juicy afternoons on the horizon...maybe the NWS forecasters will have time to answer a phonecall and chat about the forecast models and haw the help fine tune them going forward...

A man's gotta have a dream...

Friday, November 25, 2011


The best part of the Thanksgiving Feast are the leftovers...mmmm, turkey sandwiches...Can't beat 'em!

I see this morning that the usual Black Friday Hijinx are ramping up over last year's parade of Stupid Human Tricks...but Pepper Spray...inside a SoCal Wal*Mart? Sprayed 20 other "Competitive Shoppers" Really? Life imitates Reality TV? Heaven help us...

Phobos/Grunt is looking more like a leftover turkey with each orbit. Controllers were unable to contact the errant Russian probe on any passes Thursday, and no joy on Friday so far. SpaceflightNow has the story.

Assuming the worst, Phobos/Grunt will reenter Earth's atmosphere in mid-January.

Saturday NASA will launch America's latest Mars Mission, MSL. The Mars Science Laboratory rover is the most ambitious Mars Rover yet.

Yesterday between kitchen chores, I tried several times to logon to the NWS website to check the AFD, forecast and Remote Data. Not much luck as the sites were down while the IT Crew added Facebook Buttons to all the NWS Forecast Office's home pages. Facebook is chasing Google right into the Federal Government's house. I have to wonder if this is a good thing...of course Time Will Tell...

The weather forecast continues to confound me. As is becoming standard operating procedure this season, storm systems continue to fizzle out or avoid the Tahoe Sierra, or both. The AFDs from Reno and Sacramento agree on a blocking ridge and a general warming trend for the next week. Conditions have not favored snowmaking with a strong inversion regime entrenched over the Basin. Highs are forecast into the 50s going forward.

SturgeUrge and I just might sneak in another Crab Fishing Trip before the ski season gets rolling!

Hot Off The Presses 12:08PM PST:
Russia's News Agency says the ESA won't be talking to Phobos/Grunt until Monday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Low Simmer

Today I found another Phobos/Grunt Source: @PhobosGrunt retweeted the latest:

tracking station in Perth can't establish contact with this time. Theу will take another three attempts this night.

Tic tock...time is running out.

@PhobosGrunt again: As long as solar activity remains normal/low, Phobos-Grunt is predicted to re-enter on Jan 15 2012, +/-11 days

Simmering In Orbit

Holiday or not, news of progress on the Phobos/Grunt problems comes in dabs and dribbles.

A second Communications Station is making contact with the recalcitrant probe, this time at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russian Controllers report that the telemetry they've received from Phobos/Grunt "have been deciphered".Read about it at the Russian International News Agency.

Here's this morning's latest from the BBC and FoxNews. Like I said, little dabs and dribbles...

Set To Simmer

CorduroyPlanet will be in the kitchen all day preparing the Thanksgiving Feast. There's some football games on TV as well.

I'll keep an ear to the rail as much as events allow, but CorduroyPlanet will be on the down low for the Holiday Weekend.

Phobos/Grunt will stay in orbit, the forecast storms for Thursday and the weekend are under-preforming vis a vis their forecasts.

You know I'll post if anything interesting flicks my switch...

Happy Thanksgiving! CorduroyPlanet thanks you for reading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Phobos/GruntWatch Wednesday PM Update

The wizards of the ESA have worked their magic again and contacted the Phobos/Grunt probe as it scudded over Western Australia Wednesday evening. Details are sparse, but this pass they were able to download some telemetry from the crippled probe.

MSNBC's got the story.

More as I get it.

Curiosity Call?

In keeping with November's eleventh month meme, the Russian Mars Probe Phobos/Grunt made contact with European Space Agency via it's Australian Listening Post at the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" for the Mars borrow the old saw...

It's a story sure to warm the hearts of Solar Power Advocates as well as space watchers and Mars Fans. From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's website:

But before losing control of the probe, the Russians sent out instructions for it to deploy its solar panels, an ESA official said. "Initially, it was thought that the spacecraft would die after three days when its battery ran out. But the solar panels played a crucial role yesterday, enabling the ground station in Perth to make contact," the source said. Perth is the sole means of communicating with Phobos-Grunt as it is the only listening post in a part of the Earth that is in daylight when the probe passes overhead, the official explained.

Most experts agree the chances of Phobos/Grunt recovering and completing it's mission to Mars are slim to none. Certainly the chance of returning soil samples from Mars' moon Phobos are now zero. Phobos/Grunt could still rendezvous with the Red Planet, but the "window" for the return of samples has closed due to the two week delay .

According to the ESA Press Release, Controllers will have two short shots today to talk to Phobos/Grunt of seven and six minutes one orbit apart (roughly 90 minutes apart at 20:21GMTand 21:53GMT) That's 12:21PM PDT and 1:53PM PDT.

The story is fascinating, reminiscent in many ways of the "Seat of the Pants" "Engineering on the Fly" of NASA's early days of Manned Spaceflight...Should these Space Cowboys stay on their roll, they just might pull a rabbit outta their hat!

I'll post the latest when it becomes available.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


There was a little news on the Falling Satellite Front today. @PhG_Reentry tweeted: "Sydney rain radar "glitch" between 18:42 and 18:48 UTC coincides with track "

This wasn't the Phobos/Grunt Probe itself, just it's Zenit rocket booster's spent 1st Stage. If the "radar glitch" turns out to be Zenit's debris, I wouldn't expect any damage on the ground...the pieces would be quite tiny.

The only Sydney Radar Image I can find today.
Honestly I haven't done much digging for corroborating stories...I've been busy creating CorduroyPlanet's Flickr Page. today. I put a link to the Flickr Page in the CP Toolbox in the right-hand column of the blog. 

OK, five hours after  the glitch report, I went to the Australian Meteorology Office's looks like rain...not a glitch? I dunno...More when I hear anything...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ghost In the Machine?

There's been precious little info on Phobos/Grunt in the course of the last rotation of our Home Planet. This morning I stumbled upon an article from Universe Today published this Wednesday that says there is some life to Phobos/Grunt:

"The Phobos-Grunt probe is still stuck in orbit around Earth. However, periodically the spacecraft experiences a mysterious slight boost in its orbit.  Following the first episode where this occurred, commentators speculated as to the cause.  The activation of the spacecraft’s thrusters – the small engines that are designed to steer the craft and make small adjustments  – was an obvious answer."

The lack of information from the tight lipped Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, is reminiscent of their Cold War Era posture, though I'm not saying anything nefarious's just that as a life-long Space Geek raised on the Cold War's Space Race and James Bond films wherein seemingly every Bond Villain operated a private space program in service to his Evil Vision of World Domination, silence isn't exactly golden in my Worldview.

Enough with the fantasy...Most observers believe that Roscosmos will not be able to reestablish communications with, or control of the spacecraft. The author of the Universe Today article, Dr David Warmflash  of the Planetary Society  takes the pragmatic view:

"With information coming from Roscosmos being so scarce, reporting on the mission that began was launched on November 9, 2011 has depended on a few official statements from the agency, augmented by speculation from various space experts. Being in safe mode, Grunt simply is waiting for instructions –instructions that controllers are having difficulty delivering, because initial communication was not supposed to take place with the probe at such a low orbit."

"If Grunt’s safe mode includes a program that fires thrusters every so often to keep the craft from entering the atmosphere in the event of a malfunction just after reaching low Earth orbit, no statements from Roscosmos have mentioned it, thus far. Whatever the reason, if it continues to occur, we can expect that the predicted date of atmospheric entry will be moved back again, just as it was moved from late November/early December to mid-January after the first orbital correction episode."

Dr David Warmflash, M.D., is an astrobiologist and science lead for the U.S. team of the Planetary Society's Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment that's hitchhiking on Phobos/Grunt. ( doesn't his name evoke...maybe the Father of a Bond Girl?)

CorduroyPlanet will stand down from the Phobos/GruntWatch deal for a few weeks...more to come as events dictate.