Monthly Archives: February 2014

Star Trek Spoiler

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but for the Trekkers out there.

Remember V’ger in the first Star Trek movie?

amsat

Here’s a Cubesat – a cube shaped amateur satellite.

We’re sending lots of them up there.

Here’s a Borg spacecraft.

borg

You don’t suppose there’s any connection, do you?

Designer Babies

imagesMYC6XH6P

The news says we can now modify genes in babies to eliminate certain possible diseases. This is done by adding genetic material from a woman to the existing DNA that originated with the father and the mother. Some say that the next step is “designer babies” with DNA adjusted to be exactly what the parents’ desire.

1. I can certainly see some fights between parents as to what should or should not be included. Picking a name is often contentious enough.

2. If the baby doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, whom do you sue?

3. Does the “other woman” have any childcare obligations in the event of divorce? Can she say she’s been “put out for stud?”

4. Remember that cute kitten you had that grew up to be a cat? The baby might be “up to specs” but that doesn’t guarantee that it will be perfect as a teenager.

I tell my kids that God made each of them exactly the way He wanted them for whatever role He expects them to play. I prefer to leave such decisions up to Him.

However, I wouldn’t mind if the “clean your room” gene suddenly clicked on.

Is My Child Normal?

Every parent wonders this.

Is it normal for a child to have one obnoxious personality with parents and a sweet, courteous one with everyone else?

Is it normal for a child to not be able to remember school work, lunch money, chores, but know the words to every popular song?

Is it normal for a child to be impeccable about hair, nail polish and other adornments, but sleep in a room that is a health hazard?

In a word –

Yep!

College Sports

Michael Jordan at Boston Garden

I overheard a conversation today.

The speaker was bemoaning the fact that it’s unfair that college students who play “those other” sports get athletic scholarships just like those who play football and basketball.

They don’t bring in any money! Why should they get a scholarship?

Yeah!

And while we’re at it, those pesky geeks who get academic scholarships? What’s with that?

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life {loop}

Clancy

When I’m not reading geek materials (from “Biblical Archaeology” to “Make Magazine”) I like science fiction or techno-thrillers. I’m told that the difference between a mystery and a thriller is that in a thriller you know “whodunit” early in the story.

A techno-thriller includes references to real or potentially real, tools and methods. One story is that Clancy’s books were so well researched that he inadvertently pieced together open source material so that some things that appeared in his book(s) were actually classified.

I’m reading Tom Clancy’s last novel, Command Authority, and am at the chapter in which there are riots in the Ukraine along with a struggle between those who want to ally with the European Union and those who want to reconnect with Russia as in the days of the Soviet Union. Of course, today’s headlines are about that as well.

At this point in my life, I prefer the ersatz thrills such as rollercoasters where it feels dangerous, but isn’t. I’m going to turn off the news and read Clancy’s book.

It Could Have Happened

Scream

You have to wonder if any of the following conversations between a parent and a child ever took place.

“Joan of Arc, you put down that sword and get back in here. No daughter of mine is going to lead a French army!”

“Thomas Jefferson! I hope you haven’t been spending time with that awful Patrick Henry again! He’s a rebel, I tell you, a rebel!”

“Marie, ever since you and Pierre Curie have been married, you’ve just glowed! Unfortunately, all the plants nearby keep wilting.”

“Theodore Roosevelt! Stop charging up the stairs!”

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! If you keep playing that music so loud, you’ll go deaf!”

“Edvard Munch! If you keep doing that, your face will freeze just like that!”

Parents of Teenagers There Is Hope!

I know you feel trapped and alone – outnumbered, outmaneuvered and outgunned. That teenager in your house, who bears no resemblance to the cute infant, the entertaining toddler and the young student, is in fact your child.

You can’t remain in denial.

Just accept the fact that everything you think or say will be criticized.

That sarcasm has moved from a form of comedy to their way of life.

That Hercules faced no challenge as great as your teen views taking out the garbage.

That your car is perpetually out of gas when you try to use it.

This, too, shall pass.

Take heart. Someday, many years from now, when your child approaches 30, he or she will move out and start their own life. Realize what it means to make a living and start a family of their own.

And their children shall grow into teenagers.

Revenge!

A Well Known Story from a Different View

text

Imagine a well-known story told from the perspective of someone who was there.

My friend, your family is well? Good! How about business? Wonderful! Now, please, make yourself comfortable, eat. Would you like some wine? Good!

Speaking of wine, let me tell you a story you won’t believe. We had a wedding in town recently – the usual – everybody – and I mean everybody – was there. I got there a bit late because of a business trip, and guess what, they ran out of wine. Can you believe it? A couple of the guys I know from temple, who obviously had helped them run out had to tell me that it had been incredible wine, and I should have got there earlier. I ignored them, but I felt kind of bad for the families – how embarrassing.

Anyway, and I swear this is true – remember, I hadn’t even had so much as a sip of wine, so I was as clear headed as I could be. I look over and there with some of the guests from over Nazareth way, I see a woman talking to her son. I know these people. I used to do business with her husband. Good carpenter – quality workmanship and a fair price. Anyway, back to the wedding.

“They have no wine,” she told her son, but her tone wasn’t just conversational. It was as if she wanted him to do something, like go out and buy some more. He seemed a little bit embarrassed.

“What concern is that to me, mother?” he replied, “It’s not yet my time.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but when my mother “hints” at something I better listen. After all, there is no one more insistent than a Jewish mother. Next thing I see her telling the wine steward to do whatever her son asks.

So, I’m watching to see what happens. I saw the servers come in with the big water jars – not wine ampules – those huge stone jugs. The wine steward dips his cup into the water jug and his expression is one of total shock. My friend, I swear this is true! Apparently, they’re not filled with water, but with wine. I swear it’s the truth!

And talk about wine! I have never tasted anything so fine. It was amazing! I pride myself on knowing my wine, but this was to die for!

I’m not sure what was going on, but I swear – keep an eye on this guy. Yeshua, Jesse, Jesus, whatever.

Be a Musical Sensation!

The Byrds Cancelled Flytes

The Byrds
Cancelled Flytes

In the late 1960’s, The Byrds told us;

“So you want to be a rock and roll star,
Then listen now to what I say.
Just get an electric guitar,
And take some time and learn how to play.”

Those were kinder, gentler times. If today you want to be a musical hit, you need a plan.

  1. Start doing commercials as a cute toddler
  2. Get hired for a cable television show aimed at tweens.
  3. Lip-synch vocals on the television show.
  4. Make an album. Don’t worry about talent – with autotune, overdub, and digital enhancement, talent is not required.
  5. Do some incredibly stupid things, preferably involving drugs and nudity (If you can do them on a “reality” show, even better.)
  6. Go into rehab
  7. Hit the talk show and fashion magazine circuit to apologize.
  8. Moan about how misunderstood you are.
  9. Repeat as necessary

Don’t be tacky and copy hackneyed old routines like owning a poodle, Chihuahua, or monkey. Same goes for wardrobe malfunctions or drinking your own bodily fluids.

Anti-Heroes

stone mt

There have been articles written about removing the names of certain historical figures from various public facilities. I’m speaking of significant figures from the American Civil War who fought for the Confederacy against the Union. To some these were traitors. To others, they were historical figures in spite of their allegiance.

First and foremost (on the least popular side) might be Nathan Bedford Forrest, who (depending upon which historian you follow) started the Ku Klux Klan, or didn’t start the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was a “social club” that had a little problem with beating, lynching, burning buildings and people who were not white, or were Jewish, or Catholic, or anything except proper Southern men.

On the more popular side, you would find Robert E. Lee, who declined command of the Union Army because he refused to fight against his native Virginia. He married a lady whose lineage went to George Washington’s stepson. He was very dynamic when defending Virginia; much less assertive when venturing into the North.

The logical argument is that these were traitors who fought against the United States, so therefore, they should not be honored.

I can understand that argument, but it is not complete.

They are also part of our history – just like Dred Scott.

We are humans. Washington, Jefferson, Lee and Grant were humans. John Adams was as wonderful and as imperfect as they come.

As imperfect (and that term is extremely charitable) beings, we fail and we fall. If we’re strong, or stubborn, or wise, we pick ourselves up again and try to do better.

Fortunately these failings eventually succumbed to heroes like Rosa Parks or Medger Evers or Dr. Martin Luther King.

As Americans, they’re all part of the story. It’s not an easy story, but it’s a good one. Working together, it should be agreat one.

rosa

Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King in the background

Another Great Experiment

SolarI love learning and trying new things. If I only had 50 or 60 hours per day, I’d be all set.

Today’s experiment was the installation of some solar panels on the roof. The trick was to place them where they’d get enough direct sunlight to be effective while placing them where they wouldn’t be any more apparent than necessary.

Alas, I did not do the actual installation. At my age a fall from the roof would be a bit more than inconvenient, so my son did the heavy lifting with my daughter wanting desperately to challenge him for the lead role. It wasn’t the actual work mind you – just the appeal of being allowed to get up on the roof.

They got everything in place, although I’m not sure the connections are adequate (that was my doing – not them) – we’ll need a sunny day when I’m home to determine if it works. My intent is to see if I can operate my ham radio station off the solar cells together with rechargeable gel cells. Receiving is low current, while transmitting is much higher. However, the cycle is far more receiving than transmitting.

Some people want to see fossil fuel and nuclear replaced by renewable sources. I think the idea of running whole cities from renewable sources is too large a jump. If everyone ran a few minor things off alternative sources, we’d learn how the pieces fit together. We don’t get as many opportunities for individual experimentation as we did in the days of Edison, Bell and Marconi, but this is a great opportunity to experiment.

Pink Floyd never meant it this way, but “All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.”

Progress is one brick at a time.

The Decline of Ketchup

 

Food Network

Food Network

Once upon a time, kids put ketchup on everything. Or was that Catsup? Or for those in New Zealand, Tomato Sauce.

Alas, Ketchup, regardless of spelling, has fallen from its lofty throne.

Salsa has made major incursions, but surprisingly, it’s mayonnaise that is currently on top.

Not surprising, actually. For the past few years, ketchup has tasted sweeter and sweeter. Is it my aging baby boomer palette, or is it because sugar is cheaper than tomatoes to add to the mixture? On the other hand, there’s mayonnaise and then there are flavored mayonnaises. Herbed mayonnaise. Spicy mayonnaise and even anchovy mayonnaise. Definitely not sweet.

My son reports that high schoolers put mayonnaise on pizza. Not my style.

I tend to use various mustards on sandwiches, and salsa makes a great salad dressing on top of its more traditional uses. Ketchup – not so much. Now I just may have to try the more interesting mayos.

(Hey, it’s a blog. Every post is not going to be based on a Pulitzer Prize winning idea.)

So You Think This Is Cold?

Deepfreeze2My brother, who knows lots of things about me that I would prefer not to have shared, is dealing with record snowfalls in Toledo. He “suggested” (as in “Leave the gun, get the cannoli.”) I write about my time in Antarctica.

It was just about this time of year in 1988 when I was picked to be part of the annual resupply of McMurdo Station Antarctica called “Operation Deepfreeze.” We travelled by commercial flight to Christ Church, New Zealand, and after a few days, on to Antarctica. If only I had known then that I was in the vicinity of Hobbiton. Beautiful New Zealand, which at the time had 6 million people and 50 million sheep. The newspaper headlines – “Dog Kills 5 Sheep!” Page 5 – “Earthquake kill thousands – but not here.”

We flew on to Antarctica on ski-equipped C-130s; propeller driven cargo planes; 9 hours in flight. It took us 3 tries to get there.

Now, you have to realize that the military is involved in Antarctica only because no one else (at least in 1988) had the ability to handle the logistics. The resupply was scheduled for the very end of “summer” and included everything possible for the next year. A ship had been loaded in California and followed an ice breaker during the “soft ice” period. We were to unload the supplies and load everything that was no longer needed. Note – you may have to go to the very end of the world to find peace, but in Antarctica you will find it. No claims are honored. Everything you bring must be removed – yes, even the yucky human stuff.

Earlier that year they had a heat wave – 50+ degrees. This meant that the storage buildings for food needed to actually run their refrigeration equipment. For the first time. Unfortunately, the wrong type of Freon (hey – this is 1988) had been loaded, and blew out all of the seals. Bottom line – $150,000 worth of food spoiled, even though they moved everything together to keep the cold and used whatever they could.

Some pencil pusher in Washington, DC probably looked at the report and said, “$150,000 worth of thawed food in Antarctica destroyed? Sounds like fraud to me!”

In any case, I felt like Lowell Thomas and National Geographic all at once.

It was impressive to see the sun make a circle around the sky without ever setting.

And to take a hot cup of coffee from the urn inside the ship and pour it out to watch it immediately freeze on the deck.

Not to mention that in this picture, for the only time in my life, I can say, “I’m the tall one.”

Deepfreeze1

Okay, Jim, now burn the negatives like you promised.

I Am Welcome You to Olympics!

Is time for Olympic Games here in Sochi! Please ignore the fact that the snowboard course is lethal, after all, what good is a sport if there isn’t the risk of death or serious injury? You Americans who love NASCAR races and NFL football should appreciate that. Can you say, “Traumatic brain injury?” Da! Very good.

Some you of you have commented on our tandem toilets. These are not joke! We believe that these add to the competitive spirit and the appeal of the games. Pictures is worth many thousands words. Look at happy athletes!

The  Guardian  - UK

The Guardian – UK

Then there are you who have checked into your hotels and not been satisfied. On behalf of Soviet – I mean Russian peoples I apologize. We will make sure that you receive your towels as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the furniture and fixtures may take a little longer, and the missing hotel roofs are on back order. So as to not inconvenience normal people, we are intending to assign deviant gay personages to the rooms without roofs. See, we are modern thinking!

We are insure your safety. If you hear gunfire or explosion, please know is only celebration or stray dog removal. Not to worry. Stay away from windows and if convenient, go under bed. You are safe, not like living in Oakland or Detroit. Only drive-by shootings here will be Cossack security, and they’re on YOUR side!

Tonight sleep! Tomorrow enjoy games! Be happy! Spend money!

That’s Why It’s A Mystery!

Omega Nebula wikipedia

Omega Nebula
wikipedia

There’s an upcoming debate between a scientist and a strict Biblical adherent as to how God created the world.

Did He create it in precisely 6 days of 24 precise hours each? What if it was a leap year? Did He adjust?

OR

Did He wait around a couple of eons for Big Bang material (the astrophysical type, not the TCV show) to gather, turn into primordial soup, basic amino acids until man evolved?

Of course when you’re eternal, an eon is unimpressive.

SO

I asked God, how he made the world, and He answered me.

“If Houdini, Blackstone and Penn & Teller won’t tell you how they do what they do, why would I?”

Then He laughed, but it was a friendly, happy, good natured laugh. The he added,

“Wait till you see the encore!”

Speaking of Bread

The Supper at Emmaus Caravaggio

The Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio

Bread, like wine and cheese is special because they depend upon living organisms to convert them from their base ingredients to their final product. Bread, to many, means a meal. Eating without including bread is incomplete.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Father to give us our daily bread, referring both to physical and spiritual feeding.

I love bread, but since I have to watch my overall carbohydrate consumption, I have to pick and choose carefully.

I bought some sourdough starter in San Francisco back in the 1980’s and have kept it going ever since. When I bake bread, while I use white flour for the “sponge” – the starter – the rest is whole wheat with extra fiber added. I want to enjoy my bread without guilt. On the other hand, I offer no apology for the fresh butter.

Today’s bread tends to be somewhat unsatisfying. It’s the same enriched, preservative filled white stuff that we loved as kids (except, of course, the crust). It generally is inoffensive with unremarkable bland texture and taste.

My daughter recently did the old science project of growing mold on bread. It took 2 weeks for the mold to grow.