NASA program offers community college scholars a chance to design space rovers and visit the Johnson Space Center

NASA is messing with me again. Now they’re offering a semester-long scholars program directly aimed at all of us former science geeks.

45 lucky community college students will be selected for this program, which includes an on-site event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston from May 20-22 in 2010. NASA will even pay the travel expenses to get them there!

Once at the center, the 45 students will get to work with real NASA engineers and set up fictitious companies for Mars exploration that will developing and design a prototype Mars rover.

This just ain’t right. My college classes were never this entertaining educational.

Students in community and junior colleges can apply online at NASA’s National Community College Aerospace Scholars program. According to a press release, all applications are due no later than December 15 of this year. “To be eligible, students must be U.S. citizens enrolled at a community or junior college with an interest in science, technology, engineering, or math. Additionally, students must have access to the Internet and e-mail and be able to commit to full participation in the program, including a three-day residence at Johnson from May 20-22, 2010.”

I wonder if by “enrolled at a community or junior college” they would be OK with “a guy who just appeared at a community or junior college to audit a class last week”. Hmmmm…..

No such thing as a CDC sponsored State Vaccination Program

The CDC has said there are some emails going around that refer to a CDC sponsored State Vaccination Program.

Problem is, there is no such thing.

The release says “The CDC has NOT implemented a state vaccination program requiring registration on Users that click on the email are at risk of having malicious code installed on their system.”

The email or web message asks for the person to create a “personal H1N1 (swine flu) Vaccination Profile on the website” and “anyone that has reached the age of 18 has to have his/her personal Vaccination Profile on the site.” After the person clicks on the link, it takes them to a site that looks like the CDC, but after they put in all their information, the site closes.

Nobody knows where the information is going at this time.

An example image of a fraudulent email is below…

Fradulent CDC email

Fradulent CDC email

As a general rule, you shouldn’t ever trust a link in email. Always go the main site in your web browser by typing in the address yourself (or clicking on a bookmark you trust from earlier) and navigate from there.

Knuckle Busters 45 vinyl record

Music Box - courtesy of automates-boites-musique

Image from

Waaaay back in the old old days, most of the toys kids had to play with were silent. Aside from a grinding gear or some kind of internal mechanism winding down, there were no sound effects that came from a toy in and of itself. Sure there were record players, pop guns, and assorted variations of devices that you could wind up and play one song over and over with. But aside from that, you had to make your own noises and your own special effects. But that was really part of the fun of playing with toys back then.

Rock Em Sock Em - Modern Version

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em - Modern Version

That all changed when I got a set of Knuckle Busters boxing figures. They were somewhat like the semi-modern “rock ’em sock ’em” boxing robots. But these toys were sculpted as a human, and looked like what a professional a boxer would look like. Boxing gloves on their hands and a long set of boxing shorts were permanently molded on. There was no boxing ring to put these toys in. You had the whole room you were playing in to move them around. (There was an option in later versions to tie a string to the base of each boxers so they would not move more than a foot away from each other, but mine didn’t have that option.) The controls were similar to the rock-em-sock-em series. One lever was for the left hand, one lever for the right hand. The controls were permanently molded on the back of the boxers, too. To punch, you moved one of the levers forward. The mechanical arm would then move out in a straight line. You had your choice of throwing a left body shot or a right body shot. The target? A giant red nose on each of the boxer’s faces. One hit on the nose and the figure would slump over at a very unnatural angle.

With no uppercuts available, and since each boxer was the same height and size, you had to be creative in how you leaned your boxer forward and over to hit your opponent’s nose. And since there was no ring to be had, sometimes these fights would get real interesting.

What was really amazing about this toy was that it came with sound effects. Real world sound effects.

On a record.

Inside the Knuckle Busters package was a 45 vinyl record. If you put the vinyl record on your record player, any little scrap would suddenly become a full on HBO Pay Per View sold out title bout. Because the record was nothing but crowd noise, audible impacts from what sounded like real punching, and loud crowd reactions to certain loud punches.

Combine the bloodlust roar of a crowd, real boxing bell chimes to sound the end of a round, and a solid 6 inch tall plastic toy? Things got violent.

You can see the front of the LP in the image below. The record survived just fine in the trunks, and fortunately, never developed a skip or scratch on it. If you enlarge the photo, you can see an artist’s representation of what the Knuckle Dusters boxers looked like. That really isn’t too far off from the reality of what they looked like either.

Knuckle Dusters vinyl record side A

Knuckle Dusters vinyl record side A

The second side was strange for the time. It was cut so it would not be playable on any record player. It really was a one-sided record only.

Knuckle Dusters vinyl record side B

Knuckle Dusters vinyl record side B

Listening to the audio, you can hear why. Everything after the first round is just a loop! It’s the same punches. Same crowd reaction. Same bells.

Click below to listen to the Knuckle Busters side A record…

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Unfortunately, the Knuckle Busters met their demise thanks to some Knuckle Headed friend I had at the time who picked up his losing boxer figure and smashed it into my boxer figure, completely shattering them both. That was the end of that.

I couldn’t find any photos of the toy itself on ebay or Google as of this posting. The one video I did find was available on iTunes as part of a Hasboro toys and games archive project. You can click here to launch iTunes and see the commercial. My figures were the first generation, though, and did not have the “gritty” facial hair on the boxers and strings to tie the boxers together like they show in the commercial. Another post on a website called Robot Empire has images of what my first generation set looked like.

Ridiculous as it seems now, this was the beginning of a major change in toy design. Professional sounds and embedded lights were still a few years away, but standalone toys were quickly adapting to a new market’s demands for interactivity and playtime-immersion.

Since this is the only surviving memento of the toy, I think I’m going to put it in the ebay pile to sell later on.