Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What do you remember? When?

I wasn’t wearing a skirt and my hair wasn’t in a bun, but my butt was high in the air and my elbows were planted firmly on my knees as I gleaned the dried bean pods and individual beans from our garden plot today. We had given up on the green beans when the weather got dry in late July, but they kept growing for a while. As I toiled on this relatively inefficient harvesting job, I saw myself as part of a Van Gogh painting from his "dark" period, and I was reminded of my friend, Claudio Naba Reyes, from Guererro, Mexico, back in 1972, when we spent the winter there camping in a homemade camper van, part of a 20,000 mile Odyssey through North and Central America.

Claudio lived in a tar paper shack with his wife Cruz and two toddler daughters, three hundred feet from the surf on a half mile wide beach between two rocky prominences, and his job was to watch over a partially finished house being built for a rich Mexico City lawyer. It was to be the lawyer’s summer home, part of a new, sort of , "time share" development on the coast of the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles west of Acapulco. Claudio was an Indio, he looked just like the Azteca profiles you see on artifacts from that area. He fished for his protein with a length of line wrapped around a beer can with a lead weighted hook and chicken feather lure, and he grew two crops, well up on the side of the mountain north of the shore. He grew honholee and maize, sesame and corn, slash and burn. He would hack down the native vegetation with a machete, and burn it during the dry period, then he would plant before the next rainy season.

Chris and I walked with him to his plot of ground (not his legally, assuredly) and we brought back some of his crop. We sat and chatted (in our bad Spanish, he had no English) with him and his wife, as they showed us how to harvest the dried corn kernels from off the cobs. These would be soaked in lime and water, and then ground into a paste that would be baked into traditional tortillas on the top of a hand thrown ceramic platter build into an adobe stand with a wood fire heat source (think frying pan/wok). Our fingers ached and were bloodied with the effort of popping the kernels from the cobs.

I didn’t bloody any fingers today, but the dried bean pods are sharp, and I picked up many an individual bean that tried to get away. My back got sore, and I remembered how hard it is to get some food out of the ground and into a place where it will keep so that you might eat it later. I remember you, Claudio.  And you, reading this, stop in at Food Lion and buy yourself a pound of dried beans; tell them Claudio sent you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

So, You're against The Dream Act?

Now for the Dream Act.

I would like to propose a hypothetical; a thought experiment where I lay out some possible actions and you get to decide on a just, fair, and legal result.

Suppose that when you were 13 years old, your beloved dad picked you up from school and told you it was your lucky day for your first driving lesson. Wow, you really want to be able to drive a car! So, he gets you started behind the wheel and you do pretty well; this is easy. He tells you to pull into the bank parking lot and tells you to wait for him. Five minutes later he comes out holding a canvas bag and tells you to drive home (he kind of scoots down in the seat beside you). Nothing comes of it right away; he gets away with the bank robbery for six years. Then he gets busted. Now, you are 19 years old and as an accessory to the felony, do you get charged and sent to jail? That’s the absence of The Dream Act; children directed by their parents to immigrate illegally, who are now being punished for it. Don’t tell me this couldn’t happen. The details might be a little different, but how many children have the courage and determination to disobey their parent under similar circumstances?

Now, imagine you're a little kid just holding your dad’s hand as you walk across a border....

Two Simple Questions

President Obama, or Governor Romney?

I'd like to cut through the rhetoric and partisan debate and ask two simple questions: In the last four years what have these two men been doing? President Obama has had the hardest job on the planet and has certainly learned more about the world and the American government and the condition of our economy than anyone else in the world. He has had access to advisers and information gathered by researchers and agencies second to none in the world. Governor Romney has been running for the Republican nomination and has learned what Republicans want him to say and be, and he’s learned how to get lots of their money.

Question number two:   Which guy is better prepared to be our president for the next four years?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


How many people ,characters, died in the movie, The Dark Knight?   How many people died in the Aurora movie theater in Colorado? I don’t even know, except that I think there just might be a connection between violence and violent movies. I gave up violent movies in 1969 (and I thank Sam Peckinpah for helping me to do so with the "Wild Bunch" - I think I got his point that there is no point to endlessly escalating the violence, and there is no reason to romanticize the old west and those violent times [gee, is anyone romanticizing these violent times?]).

Unfortunately, the irony of just pushing the "limits" of violence in movies was lost on the dead head movie makers (read: Let’$ make $ome Buck$ guy$!) and most certainly lost on the dead head VIEWERS of movies, some of whom will pay good (?) money for more and more gore (ain’t the free market grand?). There are no longer limits to anything.

There is no longer any peer pressure to consider taste or the consequences of one’s actions. This, my friends, is the real End of the World. Do I believe in censorship? No. But there must be a better way than we seem to be going now. It just might be that "free market" idea:   Let’s just not pay for those movies. You may disagree, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt me at all so far.  There are some images in my mind (some from books, and some from movies) that I would just as soon not have.  Self censorship, maybe, is the answer.  Closing you eyes at the right moment isn't enough.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Your Government wants to hear your opinion, I shared mine.

Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250
e-mail:     agsec@usda.gov

Dear Secretary Vilsack;

As a resident of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and property owner bordering on the George Washington National Forest, I strongly oppose horizontal drilling (AKA Fracking). I am against any future federal oil and gas leases in the Forest Plan. I understand that opposition to hydraulic fracturing, has been voiced by the great majority (95 percent) of more than 53,000 public comments already received, as well as by many local governments adjacent to the Forest. I personally don’t know of anyone who is in favor of it in our National Forests.

Although there is much talk about "multiple use" for the GWNF, I do not believe that fracking is at all compatible with any of the other George Washington National Forest uses, and should not be incorporated into the new plan. The draft forest plan also proposed to make nearly the entire GW Forest available for vertical gas drilling. The potential impacts of vertical gas drilling on the GW should be more thoroughly studied, with public input, before a decision is made. At a minimum, priority watersheds, and other sensitive natural, scenic and recreational areas should be made unavailable to drilling. Further, I have seen the effects on native species that extensive road building causes in areas of the Monongahela Nation Forest where this practice is allowed. The fragmentation of the forest and the invasive effects of traffic are unacceptable impacts, to say nothing about the industrial invasion of our last natural areas in the Eastern United States.

Finally, it is not as if there aren’t plenty of private lands available for fracking. In addition, the lease fees and royalties would go to private citizens. The Federal Government (which doesn’t have a good record of obtaining fair market value for it’s resources) should not be in the business of competing with its own tax payers. If we are to believe in free market forces and individual freedom of choice, then we need to reject a government give a way of the resources that belong to every American.

Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinions.

Sincerely, (and of course I signed it and supplied my address)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let's Be Honest

Poor Diogenes (the cynic - 400 - 325 BC), he was a Greek that searched for an honest man and had to do it without the benefit of knowing THE ONE TRUE GOD ______ (please feel free to fill in the blank with your fav). He had to look for honesty within himself without the help of a guy in a shiny suit yelling the truth at him. But perhaps intellectual honesty is distinct from having a "right" god or religion. Perhaps an honest fundamentalist might even admit that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson don’t exactly speak for him. He might admit that these two actually hurt the cause of morality with their hate and schisterism. And so perhaps an honest conservative might admit that G. W. Bush and Dick Chenny didn’t exactly speak for him on the subject of torture and that those two might have set back the cause of justice and the reputation of the USA a few years. Now and honest economist, even a very conservative one, might agree that totally unregulated free market big money wielders don’t speak for them and that they don’t always represent the best interests for society as a whole. They might admit that the deregulation policies of the last few republican administrations had a lot to do with the recent financial melt down. That set us all back a few years. G. W. Bush told NASA that they had to do a 180 degree turn around and plan to land us on the moon again. That set our space program back a few years, and an honest anybody will agree to that. The Exxon corporation spent almost as much money on propaganda against climate scientists as they did on exploring for oil in the newly ice free Arctic. That set back any kind of response to Global Warming that anyone, honest or not might believe is appropriate. That may have even set us back so far that we can’t avoid the positive feedback of melting Arctic, Antarctic and tundra permafrost. I honestly think that the tipping point is past if we're still debating whether it exists or not.  There was that war in Iraq that will always be a waste of American lives, Iraqi lives, and lots of American money. Who knows how far that has set us back. How far back can you be and still set out for a future? I’d say that being honest requires at a minimum, the ability to recognize the lies, false assumptions, and ignorant policies that have put us where we are today. But to rationalize bad decisions, lie about the motives, or context, of those decisions so as to never admit mistakes because that might help the other guy win, isn’t honest. Sorry Diogenes, don’t bother looking here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The "perfection" of the Spheres

We know that the Solstices and equinoxes move about in the calendar due to the asymmetry of the earth's orbit. Since the velocity of earth increases as it approaches perigee, the fraction of the earth’s orbit completed in one “day” increases (remember that a “day” is from noon to the next noon – and that spot in the sky with the sun in it changes due to the ongoing orbit) and at the equinoxes, the rate of change in day length is maximal due to the increasing rate of change in the apparent angle of the sun…. PHEW!  Anyway, you'll also remember that 12:00 noon moves back 14 minutes and forward 16 minutes within the "clock day" between February 10 and November 5.... This causes the ANALEMMA, the figure eight produced by the 365.24 shadows of the sun at precisely 12:00 noon (CLOCK NOON) to be asymmetrical as well. This puts the earliest sunset on the 7th of December and the latest sunrise isn't until January 6th. And this all proves that rationalists and evolutionists are the Devil as was pointed out to me recently in a letter to the editor of our local news paper.

Perigee is the part of an asymmetrical orbit where the orbiter (satellite) is closest to the orbitee (sun). Therefore as explained by Kepler's Law, the velocity of the satellite is at it's greatest (in earth's case, approximately 6% faster than at apogee). Therefore, a "clock" day on earth (the satellite in this case) accounts for a greater fraction (more than 1/365.24th) of the orbital distance around the sun (the fraction of the year per day). And you see if you were measuring the length of a day by the clock time between one sun noon and another (the angle up to the sun) that change in "space reference angle" would be greater than in any other part of the year. Plus, at the end of a year, they would add up to a single day (that's what we'd have if we didn't rotate on our axis).

Anywhere except on the equator, the point ("when") the sun sets within the "clock day" is controlled by the tilt of the earth (where the sun encounters the horizon) AND the movement back and forth due to where "sun noon" is within the "Clock day". Simply put, it can't be simply put.

Simply put, things (changes in the season) are happening fastest at the winter solstice due to the rapidity at which the earth is moving through it's yearly cycle (even though the changes due to the tilt of the earth's axis are minimal at this point in the cycle because of the "flat part of the curve where we go from very slightly negative to very slightly positive (think of the rate of change of a sine wave from 0.99 to 1.00 to 0.99 compared to when it's at 0.49, 0.5, and 0.51). The part of the change due to where the earth is within it's orbit is changing most rapidly. At the summer solstice at apogee the curve appears even flatter because the earth is moving more slowly and a single "clock day" encompasses a smaller fraction of the earth year (less that 1/365.24). Man! Kepler was smart. And Copernicus and Galileo... To figure any of this out without really good telescopes and with paper with a pencil (I don't think they even had good erasers) is truly amazing.

The religious significance of this "less than perfect" geometry I leave to others. Some would say that it is too perfect to be random. While others might say that if you need calculus to explain it (and it's changing on another scale due the precession of the earth's orbit around the sun AND also messing with TIME itself (that "clock" part we need in the equations) due to relativistic effects caused by the acceleration and deceleration of the earth by the sun's gravity - Einstein's Relativity that messes with space, time, mass, and size) then it's too complicated for God.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Asimov is Spinning in His Grave

I was listening to Nation Public Radio yesterday and I heard about the proliferation of drone aircraft in the USA. It's a growth industry, soon lots of folks will be fly their drones around taking pictures and seeing the sights. A caller asked the "experts" whether this might constitute some sort of danger to the public. He was dismissed with the answer:
"Oh no, the drones will be subject to the same FAA regulations that are imposed on the privately owned and operated small planes."
The moderator let this pass completely unchallenged. I was stunned. The "expert" didn't seem to recognize that one of the things that keep privately operated planes from flying into buildings, small dogs, and children is the fact that the pilots would die. Someone sitting on their sofa in front of the TV flying their drone with a Gameboy... not so much. Most of us drive on the right side of the road most of the time because we'd die if we didn't; not because it's the law. Self interest and self preservation are far more effective than all the laws, rules, and regulations in the world. We humans seem to be engaged in a massive experiment on ourselves, one without any control group. Worse of all, we seem to think that if something turns out to be a bad idea, well, then we'll just stop doing that some day in the future. When did that ever happen?
It is proving very hard to disabuse some folks of the idea that it is wise multitasking to back your car up in a crowded parking lot while talking on a cell phone... or that allowing adolescents access to semi automatic weapons is a good idea. Once the tooth paste is squeezed out of the tube it never gets put back in. Let's get a few thousand drone aircraft in the skies above us and see what happens. Why not?
Oh, and by the way; I expect propaganda and garbage from Fox News, and the lawyers at the major networks have them spouting inoffensive pabulum, but I had higher expectations from NPR. When the best sucks, we're all in trouble. This is the second or third time that they have completely dropped the ball on this robotics experiment we're conducting.
(see: http://somelightsomeserious.blogspot.com/2010/04/end-of-war.html)
Didn't anyone see the Terminator movies? You think those were far fetched? Just wait and see what technology comes up with next. Not everybody out there is just doing research on new kinds of pizza and lip stick.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughts on the State of the Union Speech

Far be it for me to criticize President Obama [P O] (especially given the alternatives proffered by the rPUBLICAN pARTY). But I will say: At last. I suppose that P O felt that he had plenty of stuff to occupy him during the those first few weeks. When the GWiraqbush/Cheney administration had totally trashed the economy of the country, wrecked our standing among many of the countries of the rest of the world, [AND, may I add, that there are legions of fOX nEWS assholes that would have ripped him for even being honest about the crap he found left on the table]. He had to the maintain the fiction that the USA and it's transfer of power actually works smoothly. Given what Dumbdumb and the Torturer left him, we may learn that P O has saved the country like George Washington [when I say WE, and "will" I mean; in 50 years. Your children will learn it, not you, not me].
Those weeks turned into months (when he was still trying to get the rEPUBLICANS to agree to ANYTHING!) and then turned into years.... The level of fraud, misrepresentation, lies, tricks, wink wink winking that went on makes the Tea Pot Dome and other super rich guy's shenanigans of the 19th and early 20th centuries pale by comparison. I guess that he was afraid of being too ideologically left (right/correct) of the power bastards that were really running the country then (and may still be now, for all we know). Someday we may learn that P O had to be pragmatic and move in on the $money guy$ gradually...
But please! Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Boehner, McConnell, Cantor? Did you hear the rebuttal that the rEPUBLICANS used? The term "trickle down"? - (now that trickle down is a bad word and a totally disproven concept) it's something that P O is guilty of. Did you heard about the 1/2 trillion $$$ that we're not spending in Iraq that maybe we could spend on ourselves? Iraq, remember why we invaded? No, me neither. Something Dumbdumb tried to say but English isn't in his repertoire.
I want GWiraqbush to give the key note speech at the Repub. Convention. Let's just pull out tapes of his "orations" at random. Let's remind everybody what we had for a president three years ago.