Soyuz TMA-15 launch

This video is from an unusual viewpoint and shows the vast blast pit below the launch pad.
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TMA-15 boosts ISS crew

It's a busy time in space at the moment. No sooner have the Hubble upgrade crew returned to earth than the Soyuz TMA-15 mission blasted off yesterday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in glorious Kazakhstan. It was the 102nd manned flight for the Soyuz.

The crew consist of Roman Romanenko (whose father flew on Soyuz 25 which visited the Salyut space station ) from Russia, Frank De Winne from Belgium and Robert Thirsk from Canada. Thirsk is the first Canadian to fly on a Soyuz as opposed to a Shuttle. With the three crew on board the ISS already this will bring its complement up to six for the first time. They will join Gennady Padalka (Russia), Michael Barratt (USA) and spacetourist Charles Simonyi on his second paid for flight.
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Bank Holiday Weather

Met Office spoilsports keep Bank Holiday bikini babes off Bournemouth beaches

We see that officials in Bournemouth are accusing the Met Office of having lost them a fortune in tourist revenue over the Bank Holiday. The so-called weather experts predicted heavy rain on the Monday. Instead it was warm and sunny but the usual thousands who would normally have rushed to experience the joys of Bournemouth stayed at home because of the forecast.

Agent Triple P last visited Bournemouth in the early nineties for one of those ghastly team building/management courses at a sea front hotel of mind numbing indifference. We managed to escape for a a quick walk and found it to be full of the sort of tarty dress shops that heavily feature leopard print, a la Howard's Way. Now apparently, it is a place of swinging grooviness full of bikini babes (the internet is full of pictures of Bournemouth beach babes)and lap dancing clubs. Not much like Eastbourne then. .

Agent Triple P's father always maintained that the government ensured there was a bad weather forecast for the Bank Holiday as it kept people off the roads. The government is obviously continuing with this practice.

It's all part of Mr Gordon Brown's no fun Britain...
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Porridge Baldy

Tha ghastly porridge eating slaphead was on the train again today. Recently it has been so busy that he has had to stand and we were getting excited at the prospect that he wouldn't be able to eat his porridge on the train but someone always leaves and he manages to shovel it in out of his dodgy Tupperware box.

Worse still today he sprayed deoderant inside his shirt as well! Argh! He was making a phone call earlier in the week and was SPEAKING FRENCH! Why does this not surprise us. Although he doesn't look French. Maybe Belgian.

He is now, officially, the person I hate most in the world. More than Amy Winehouse, more than Kim Jong-il, more than Gordon Brown (just), more than Kate Moss, more than Russell Brand. Even more than Andy Williams!

He has to die! Drown him in a vat of porridge!
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Space Shuttle mission STS-125

Agent Triple P was pleased to see the return of the Space Shuttle Atlantis following its long-delayed and tricky mission to upgrade the Hubble Space telescope.

Gently does it. It's cost $4.5 billion so far!

Because the mission (STS-125; the 157th manned American space flight) was in a low inclination orbit if the Shuttle had been damaged during launch there would have been no way to rendezvous with the International Space Station.

STS-125 (Atlantis) and back up Shuttle STS-400 (Endeavour) on the launch pad

This led to the necessity of having a back up Shuttle on the launch pad which gave rise to a number of striking images and really made the Kennedy Space Center look more like a proper spaceport.

Launch of STS-125 in Florida

Kennedy Space Center is the world's only proper spaceport as it, uniquely, has the ability to both launch and recover vehicles in the same location.

However, the weather in Florida is truly terrible for such a venture and so this time the Shuttle had to land at Edwards Airforce Base in California again meaning an extra $1.7 million cost as the Shuttle has to be ferried back to Florida on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Landing in California.

Job done!

This was the last planned manned mission to the Hubble Telescope until it is decommisioned. One of the crew's jobs was to attach a locking ring so that the telescope can be grabbed by a robot vehicle and directed into the atmosphere in a controlled way when its job is done. Because of the improved gyros the mission installed it should stay up a bit longer now, anyway.

So, that's almost it for Atlantis and the other two Shuttles, Endeavour and Discovery. They each have one more flight each next year before they are retired and then it's a four year wait before project Constellation delivers the Orion Spacecraft (basically a big Apollo module) and the Ares launcher. In the meantime Russian rockets will be used to service the International Space Station or, possibly, some of the American commercial concerns using the Falcon 9 and Taurus II rockets.

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Hadise shakes it all about for Turkey

It's some days since Eurovision but we feel we can't let the event pass without some comment. We can't say we enjoyed it so much this year and there were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, everyone seemed to be taking it very seriously this year (even the UK) and there weren't quite as many really off the wall acts as usual (although the poor Albanian singer who had to cope with the blue sparkly man had her work cut out for her).

17 year old Balkan teenager molested on stage by overdressed alien

Even Dita couldn't help the song

The Germans tried to enliven their performance with a rather underused Dita von Teese writhing around in the background. Generally, however, there was a sad lack of underdressed dollies this year.

Svetlana Loboda gets manhandled by Trojans
Ukraine defied the new Credit Crunch sense of doom with a typically underdressed lady and some bizarre chaps dressed up as Las Vegas style Ancient Greeks. Svetlana Loboda, the lady in question has been in several girl bands in her home country as well as posing, thankfully, for Maxim's Ukrainian edition (!)

Svetlana: Thank heavens for Ukraine

Hadise gives it some belly

We also enjoyed the Belgian-born belly dancing Turkish entrant, Hadise, and indeed she finished in fourth place.

Lord Lloyd-Webber contemplates adding another piece of art to his extensive collection

The UK's entry, the lovely Jade Ewen, looked and sounded a little strained. She is quite a good singer but there were some bigger and better voices on show this year. Fifth is not bad I suppose and the Norwegian entry was the biggest runaway winner (it was very catchy) ever but I would have thought the UK team should feel a little disappointed. Interestingly if you look at the professional juries votes only and discount the telephone voting, then they had her third. Part of the issue is that Andrew Lloyd-Webber just isn't a pop song writer.

On TV Graham Norton showed that he will have to go some way to match Terry Wogan. Norton seemed overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the event although he warmed up a bit in the second half.

Another downer on the evening was the sheer size of the Russian venue; it was just too big to generate any real buzz. Hopefully Oslo will offer a more human scale venue next year. The half time show which consisted of girls in vests and frilly knickers writhing around in giant see-through paddling pools suspended from the ceiling should have been Triple P heaven but again, just didn't work. They were dwarfed by the venue and the photography failed to capture the sheer bizarreness of it.

So very professional but rather soulless production by the Russians, OK but not brilliant songs and paucity of underdressed girlies mean a 6/10 from Triple P. At least the new voting system prevented some of the regional tactical voting.
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Britain's first official Astronaut chosen

Lto R: Luca Parmitano (Italy), Alexander Gerst (Germany), Andreas Mogensen (Denmark), Samantha Cristoforetti (Italy), Timothy Peake (Britain) and Thomas Pesquet (France)

So, in a surprise move, the European Space Agency has chosen a Briton as one of it's next clutch of Euronauts despite the fact that the UK contributes nothing to the ESA manned space flight programme. Whilst we are the fourth largest contributor to ESA (€239 million a year or slighly more than 8% of the total budget - France is the biggest contributor at €778 million or 26%) all of the UK's funding is allocated to non-manned projects.

Major Timothy Peake, from Chichester is the first official British Astronaut. Helen Sharman was the first Briton in space, almost exactly eighteen years ago, but her flight in the Soyuz TM 18 was funded by industry. Five other British born people have been into space but all had American citizenship. NASA astronauts Michael Foale (joint US and British citizenship), Piers Sellers, Nicholas Patrick and Gregory H. Johnson. This group were joined by Richard Garriott, a British born Computer Games tycoon, who paid for his own trip on Soyus TMA 13 last year. Garriott is the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott.

Britain nearly had its first astronaut much earlier. Cardiff born Anthony Llewellyn was chosen as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967 but he resigned in September 1968 having been unable to qualify as a pilot, which was a requirement at the time.

37 year old Peake, an Apache helicopter pilot, will now move, with the other five astronauts (which include Italian fighter pilot Samantha Cristoforetti) to the ESA training facility for an initial 18 months training before another two years of mission specific training follows.

However, only seven of an eventual 14 astronauts will get a chance to fly and so his place in space is far from guaranteed. It could well be a ploy by the wily Europeans to put pressure on the UK to contribute to ESA's manned programme. "With such a good guy, how can they not contribute?" said Jean Jacques Dordain Director General of ESA. Think again Jean-Jacques. Lord Drayson, the Science and Innovation Minister, has said that the budget for Britain's ESA contribution for the next five years is set. So while he is happily taking credit for the selection his inaction on manned projects contributions could well result in Major Tim being stuck in Ground Control come launch day with the slots going to the usual Germans, French and Italians.
But lets hope not!
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No tubas on the tube!

The case in point

Fighting his way out of the subterranean hell-hole that is Tottenham Court Road tube station this morning Agent Triple P's view forward was blocked by a gormless man who appeared to be wearing the world's biggest rucksack. As he fought his way down the narrow passage leading from the platform he happily crashed this rucksack into anyone in the vicinity. On closer inspection (very close, as he kept stopping dead for no discernible reason) this turned out to be a carrying case for a tuba.

Now tubas are large instruments and have absolutely no place on the Underground, especially on someone's back which means that they can't tell what havoc they are wreaking in their wake. So we must now add to our list of practices that should be banned on the Tube the carrying of tubas. Get a blooming taxi you cheapskate! Horrible sounding instrument anyway!
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Hot Pants: Back to 1971!

Agent Triple P was walking up Oxford Street today when a girl turned out of a side road wearing genuine, bona fide hot pants! Not the sort of shorts that girls sometimes wear in the city (certainly not the dreaded culottes!) but proper bottom hugging, short, hot pants with a little turn up around the bottom of each leg. We sincerely hope that this is a pre-cursor of a new fashion this summer rather than just a one-off lady with a particular retro fashion sense!

Hot pants last held sway on the streets of London in 1971 so its about time they made a come back. People were scandalised at the time, of course, especially as many women said that they had to dispense with their knickers to avoid the dreaded visible panty line. However, even Royal Ascot had to relax its rules that year, although it was stated that "ladies in hot pants should only be allowed to enter the Royal Enclosure at Ascot if the ‘general effect’ was satisfactory". That sounds like an ideal job for Agent Triple P: "Stop! Now turn around young lady. Yes, most satisfactory! In you go!"

At about the same time, South West Airlines equipped its stewardesses with these fetching uniforms. It is ironic, therefore, that last year a "cabin attendant" (as they now have to be called) objected to the attire of one Kyla Ebbert who was told that her clothes were too skimpy to stay on the plane! She was told to change her miniskirt and top. In fact her outfit, shown below, was no less skimpy than many young women wear everyday and, in fact, by pulling her skirt down (how?) and her top up they did let her stay onboard.
Agent Triple P flies South West a lot when he is in California/Arizona/Nevada and thinks it's pretty good for a budget airline! The cabin staff do have a rather wacky sense of humour (we can't imagine British airways staff singing to the passengers) and it's nice to see that South West corporately have a sense of humour: they offered Kyla two free round trip tickets and introduced a special "skimpy" fare promotion!

Anyway, Kyla came out of it OK (which was no doubt her intention given the way she publicised the incident on US TV) with a contract to model for Playboy.

Kyla demonstrates her hot pants potential for Playboy

So an all-round happy ending.
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Calendar Girl May: Melissa Baker

Melissa in her calandar shot

This month's calendar girl is 21 year old model Melissa Baker. Melissa is from Ohio and her Greek heritage is apparent in her dark Mediterranean looks. her breakthrough came with the 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar, shot in the US Virging Islands.

On the runway

She is curvy enough to be a swimsuit model but tall and slim enough (36-35-45) to do runway work as well (most fashion runway models are about 32-22-34, by comparison).

Elegant in black and white

She is also does editorial fashion magazine work which, again, is not that common for a swimsuit model.

Unusually naughty for FHM France

Agent Triple P's favourite shot!

Agent Triple P likes Melissa's figure and looks: she has an athletic build (she used to be a competitive gymnast when she was younger), she's not too tall (5'9"), she has an interesting nose and, of course, those dark looks.

Altogether splendid!

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Cows: nasty, brutish and big

Agent Triple P was interested in the story in the papers yesterday about the woman who was trampled by cows. She basically survived as the ground was so muddy she was pushed down into it and that absorbed the impact. When we looked into this we saw that people being trampled to death by cows it not that uncommon in Britain, shockingly. There was a suggestion that fields of cows should have warning signs on them

Quite right! Cows are big, nasty, sinister animals and we can never understand people who gaily walk through fields of these terror-beasts with equanimity. When Triple P was small he was chased by one of these monsters and has been sensibly wary of them ever since. They are the hippopatami of Britain. They look innocent enough with their reassuring Ben and Jerry's arcadian black and whiteness but they are nasty things on the whole.

Agent Triple P will continue to eat as many of them as possible. Al Sangue, for me please.
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Most searched item...April

Margaret Nolan indulges in some pussy play

Well, a runaway winner for April with sixties sexpot Margaret Nolan (aka Vicky Kennedy) climbing five places and getting more than 30% more than the number two scorer.

The top 15 is as follows (last month's position in brackets):

1 (6) Margaret Nolan
2 (2) Ayshea Brough
3 (9) Irena Shayk
4 (7) Linda Lusardi
5 (8) Brande Roderick
6 (3) Sophie Howard
7 (4) Agent Triple P
8 (5) Luci Victoria
9 (2) Gabrielle Drake
10 (15) Holly Willoughby
11 (11) Norman Bel Geddes
12 (-) Kayleigh Pearson
13 (-) Brigitte Barclay
14 (14) Andrea Allan
15 (11) Jade Ewen

Irena Shayk was the highest climber, moving up six places.


No new entries last month but Kayleigh Pearson re-enters at number 12 along with Brigitte Barclay. When I searched Brigitte Barclay on Google there are hardly any pictures of her so I may have to remedy this by putting some over on my Venus Observations blog.

Top 10 non-girlie searches:

1 (1) Agent Triple P
2 (2) Norman Bel Geddes
3 (4) How to Murder your Wife Soundtrack
4 (6) Fontainebleau Hotel
5 (10) Hotel Babylon
6 (8) MGM Soundtrack Anthology
7 (-) Indian moon Rocket
8 (-) Sellotape
9 (-) John Williams
10 (-)Venus Kallipygos
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Salma Hayek has appropriate support

For some reason Agent Triple P is currently eschewing his usual Vodka Martini in favour of the Negroni especially, for some unfathomable reason, when in Canada. Partly we think that it's because it is difficult to get a really good Vodka Martini: the quality of the base ingredients is important, as is the size and temperature of the glass. Most bars do not chill the glass: a crucial mistake. Triple P has suffered from a lot of indifferent Martinis of late (although we did have a good one at the Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel the other week).

Whilst the ultimate test of a good bartender is the Martini, probably the second biggest challenge is the Negroni as it calls for absolute control of the proportions of the Gin, Campari and Rosso Vermouth that make up its constituents.

The Negroni was created (or so the story goes) in the Caffé Casoni in Florence in 1919 for Count Camillo Negroni who was getting bored with his usual cocktail, the Americano. Either he, or his barman, Fosco Scarselli, ditched the soda water and replaced it with gin. Sadly the Caffé Casoni is no longer there and the site is now Caffé Giacosa owned by and attached to the Milan fashion shop of Roberto Cavalli.

The Americano itself was first served in the 1860s by the creator of Campari, Gaspare Campari, in his Caffé Campari in Milan. Founded in 1867 this bar, on the Piazza del Duomo entrance of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is still going strong although now under the name of Caffé Zucca Bar Camparino. Agent Triple P spent many hours in it back in the late eighties and early nineties with a succession of lovely local women and his aristocratic friend M.

Jessica Alba likes it straight up

Originally this cocktail was known as the Milano-Torino because of the cities that provided the ingredients: Milan for Campari and Turin for Cinzano. It's name evolved due to the number of Americans seen drinking it; especially those escaping prohibition in the 1920s. It is the very first drink that Ian Fleming's James Bond orders (in Casino Royale- in which he also creates his classic Martini) although he later dismisses it as a "musical comedy drink".

Another supercharged red Italian production: the 1927 Fiat 806

The Negroni can be thought of, therefore, as a supercharged Americano. It needs to be scrupulously made from equal parts gin, Campari and rosso vermouth; a few centilitres out for each ingedient unbalances the drink.

Jessica demonstrates the stemmed glass approach...

In North America the Negroni is often served "straight up" (that is chilled, strained and in a stemmed glass). This was certainly how mine were served in the bar of the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver this week. And very good they were too, with a properly chilled Martini glass and a twist of orange peel (lemon is completely wrong).

...and then fancies a tumbler

However, some maintain that a proper Negroni should be served in a tumbler with ice and that the melting of the ice contributes to the opening out of the drink. In the splendid Library Bar of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, where Agent Triple P will be shortly, this is how they serve them there. We think that the matter needs more research.

How do you want it?

Other people mess around with the ingredients: replacing gin with vodka (Negroski), using spumante instead of gin (Negroni Sbagliato), replacing the red vermouth with dry vermouth, fiddling with the proportions such as 3-2-1 Gin, Campari and Vermouth. However, none of these are real Negronis and Triple P wouldn't drink any of them.

So long boys...

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