Month: February 2012

What A Difference A Day Makes

picture of Greenwick clock
Greenwich Clock - Picture from Wikipedia

Houston, we have a problem.

Today is February 29, a day that lives in infamy. Most Februarys have only 28 days, but somebody screwed this up and we now have one year out of four with a 29 day February. They call this, Leap Year.

It is enough that we have months that don’t have the same number of days as other months. What’s up with that? It can only be some sort of celestial mistake, probably by the Brits since the Greenwich Meridian (Zero on your longitudinal globe clock), runs through the middle of Greenwich, England. How convenient.

Things get even more complicated with two measures of a day to play with. There is the mean solar day (average day), and there is the sidereal day (star day). I have no clue how the sidereal day is measured, except that ancient mariners could navigate their way around the world by gazing at the stars. They are on TV all the time.

We have this extra day every four years. Plumbers and electricians make more money those years, and grunts like me on a salary or a fixed income get the shaft. If February 29 falls on a Wednesday, Doctors get an extra day of golf. It is not a fair deal at all when the one percent gets all the money and play time, and the ninety-nine percent have to work an extra day without pay.

Take this extra day, and make it a quarter of a day for each year. Spread that extra time around. Breaking it down to seconds, we will have to add a little less than one minute per day.

All we have to do is adjust our clocks each night a little less than one minute, and then we would be rid of this extra day stuff.

That was easy, wasn’t it?

Asteroids And The Chinese

There’s an asteroid lurking out there
Waiting to burn my hair
It’s as sneaky as sneaky can be
So, why is it after me?

I just read this article on, and it can get scary. There is a hunk of rock out there called an asteroid whose trajectory around our Sun will put it in our neighborhood in the year 2040. It carries the name, 2011 AG5.

Space Cowboy Movie Ad - Staring Clint Eastwood, etc.
Space Cowboys To The Rescue

2040 is a long way off, and you might think that we have all sorts of time to either make adjustments to the Earth’s orbit, or blast the asteroid to smithereens. All we have to do is get Clint Eastwood and his Space Cowboys to jump into a Space Shuttle, strap a couple of nukes to the rock, and git’er done.

Oh, wait! That was just a movie. Plus, the Space Shuttle is no longer flying. That piece of US history came to an end on July 8, 2011 with the last flight of the Space Shuttle, Atlantis.

picture of Atlantis Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle Atlantis

You might say, “No problem! We will just launch the next generation of Space Shuttle, and that will take care of the problem”. You would be wrong.

The current Administration has decreed that there will be no future Space Shuttles, and US space programs are severely curtailed. They are too busy wasting money on green energy dead ends to worry about the real future.

What do we do? Do we wait until 2039 to start running in circles, screaming, “The Sky is falling?” Apparently, that is what our Government has planned. Of course, I could be wrong and our government has been planning in secret to fly to Alpha Centauri.  Come to think of it that would not be a bad place for those guys to go.

All the current suggestions  involve launching rockets, missiles, robot space craft, or some other vehicle to touch, crash into, blow-up, or steer the aircraft carrier sized rock away from our fragile planet. How do we do this without a space program predicated with this as a primary goal?

We can always get Russia to shoot it down, for us. Of course, they are as broke as we are.

The Chinese are doing their own space program, and one of their goals is to send men to the moon. That would put them in a position to do something about the asteroid problem. We can always count on the Chinese to bail us out of these tough situations. Apparently, the Administration has no problem letting the Chinese decide our future.

By doing nothing, our government is outsourcing our eventual safety to the Chinese. Do you understand that whoever controls the moon and near space will control the Earth-orbit satellites and defensive platforms?

All of our space based platforms will be at risk, and our defense systems will be trumped by the Chinese. Going slack in our space program is suicide.

The Chinese could have de facto control of our nation.

Well, I will let others worry about that little asteroid threatening our little planet. We have bigger worries, and it all starts at home.

Galactic Abortions?

artist conceptual drawing of the Bussard Instellar Ramjet Engine
PIcture of Bussard Ramjet Engine from Wikipedia

As I was re-entering Earth’s atmosphere last night about midnight after a quick trip to the far-side of  the moon,  I had one of those flash-backs from my childhood better left un-flashed. Sometimes, things can be painful.

You see, my poor mother was a woman beset with a multitude of ills and pains in the posterior, most of which were children. I was the last issue of a prolific set of parents, and therein lies the tale.

Adjusting my anti-gravity drives as I set my craft down in my driveway, I remembered that little comment my mom made to me when I was about ten years old.

“I thought you were a tumor”, she said.

Back then, I had no idea what she was talking about, and went about my business of killing ants, or whatever ten-year old boys did. I was really good at getting them with a magnifying glass in the midday sun. I never could get the family cat to stay still long enough to see what I could do to that species.

It was not until years later, many years, that I recalled that comment, and started to wonder exactly what my mom meant. Originally, I did not know what a tumor was. In those days there was no such thing as a legal abortion, either. So, it took a while to put the pieces of the puzzle together about my mom’s meaning.

The poor woman had so  many kids, and her age was such that she thought her childbearing years were over. When that new lump appeared (me), she really thought, or hoped, that it was a tumor and not another baby. God knows, she had enough little monsters running around the house. I know, because I had to fend for myself against all those hungry siblings.

While stowing the stubby atmosphere wings on my T-91 stellcraft, I was grateful that abortions were not legal when I was born. Otherwise, you never know what would have happened. What my mother really meant was that she was afraid she had a tumor, and was really glad to learn she was pregnant. I think.

As my individual interstellar craft finished morphing back into looking like a 1991 Ford Taurus, I was at peace with myself and my mother. There is no way she would have aborted me. I am too important, and she could foresee that. Instead of becoming a doctor, as she fervently wished, I became something even more impressive and important.

I am the representative for Planet Earth to the Galactic Federation, as my nightly flights to the stars would seem to indicate. The fate of Planet Earth rests in my hands.

You should be very thankful that I was not aborted.

Green Energy Is Goofy

According to President Obama, green energy is the future, and he is willing to spend Billions of Dollars on solar and wind energy. There are two problems with these grandiose plans.

1. We cannot afford to spend billions and trillions of dollars on so-called green energy projects.

2. Europe has already tried massive solar and wind projects. They do not work.

Spain went all out for wind power, and studies show that for every green job, two other jobs in Spain were lost.

picture of windmill in the NetherlandsGermany has spent about $130 Billion on solar generation, only to discover that they have created power supply problems (solar is not reliable), and have increased the average power bill of every consumer in their country. Bjorn Lomborg, Danish Economist, has an excellent article on this subject at the Global Warming Policy Foundation Blog.

Denmark, claims recognition for having more wind power than any other country in the world. They also have the highest price for a kilowatt hour of electric energy of any country in the world.

At best, large scale wind power and solar power are fools games. Both technologies suffer a basic problem in that no power is produced during specific, identifiable times. Wind mills do not produce power when the wind does not blow, or does not blow sufficiently. Solar cells do not produce electricity in the dark. Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t shine about half of the time.

So, what do you do during those periods when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine? You will either freeze in the winter, or have a back-up coal fired plant ready to go online, immediately. That would be the coal fired plant you thought you wouldn’t have to build, and based your economic future on saving that money.

Maybe you can store up energy during the productive periods while the wind blows, or the sun shines. This requires some sort of energy storage mechanism. Batteries are the favorite item for this. Unfortunately, battery technology is not at that point where you can afford enough of them to power your house for a half-day. I calculated that with the current lead-acid technology the average house in the USA would require over 2,000 pounds of batteries to run a house for eight hours.

What do you do when you have an acid spill, or a battery fire. The danger and toxicity of batteries is such that I don’t want to be around them.

Wind and solar power generation demand that you spend the same amount of money on back-up schemes as you would on a primary power system. If not you can pay some wiser country for some of their fossil fuel or nuclear generated electricity at drastically inflated prices because you were stupid enough to go wind or solar in the first place.

All green energy jobs, and the markets for wind mills and solar cells are subsidized by the US Government. In turn the United States does not produce the bulk of these items. China is our major supplier.

Obama and his guys have gone goofy.

The Holy Book

picture of an old, illustrated BibleWhat is it that makes a book holy?  Wikipedia says a holy book is text or scripture considered sacred by a religion. That can cover a lot of territory, but it will do for my little article.

As Christians, we have the Holy Bible which is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. We view the Bible as the story of the relationship between God the Creator, and mankind. It starts with poetic words in the first chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament, and ends with apocalyptic words in Revalations, the last book of the New Testament.

In between we read of how God favored one people over another, and how this relationship waxed and waned throughout history. With the New Testament, God gives us a new deal in the person of His Son, Jesus. We are given salvation through the act of Jesus sacrificial death, and all we have to do is believe.

Salvation is the gift of God.

Throughout history, Christianity has been under attack. So has the Holy Bible. People deface the Bible, call it fraudulent, drag up inconsistencies in the texts, and generally try to discredit this work. There have been attacks upon attacks.

With all the attacks, the Bible still stands as God’s Word. We Christians take offence to the defacing of the Bible, but we are smart enough to know that the Bible is just a book made up of paper and other materials necessary to present the text. The important stuff is the Word of God.

The Word of God cannot be destroyed. The Word of God is much more than just words. As the New Testament Book of John says in its very first verse, ” In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Argument after argument is posed that there are inconsistencies, and contradictions in the Bible. One of the most egregious readings was done by none other than Carl Sagan, dead scientist, astronomer and talk-show publicity hound.

In Sagan’s book, Contact, he takes a shot at there being two contradictory creation stories in the first chapter of Genesis. He is correct, there are two stories. However, there is only one way you can read a contradiction into the text, and that is to not understand the context. Sagan decided to take the accounts in an ultra-literal way, thereby establishing different orders for the creation of mankind, animals, and the earth.

There is danger in reading a text that was written in older languages in times when things were different. Context can be everything, and Sagan chose to ignore this. This is called the Fallacy of Contextualism. The link takes you to a scholarly article on this very subject.

In spite of all the seeming contradictions, we still hold to our beliefs. God’s Word does not need our defense. Our job is to spread it.

This brings me to the reason for my writing this article. Christians should defend, and spread the Word of God. However, just burning a Bible, or defacing a Bible has no effect on the power and longevity of God’s Word.

We don’t need to riot, kill, and generally go insane because some people deface or defame our Christianity or the Holy Bible. Jesus and the Bible are stronger than this, and we know that the story of Jesus, and God’s Word cannot be stamped out with a few book burnings.

Tats & Stuff

Tattoos are not a new thing. People all over the place have the things, and some people cover their body with that stuff.

It used to be that men were the traditional customers for tattoo parlors, getting tattooed with the names of their sweethearts, their motorcycle club, gang, or just the simple word, “Mother”. It’s kind of touching to see a 300 pound, six and one-half foot tall man paying homage to his sweet mother with a dagger through her name tattooed on his arm. You know he has to be a good and gentle person.

Tattoos have now gone coed.

picture of a tattoo on a woman's lower back - a tramp stampThe more interesting tats are those with which women cover their bodies. Sometimes, the tattoos are very evident, in places easily seen like ankles, necks, hands, arms, and backs. One of the most popular tats is the “tramp stamp”, that little tattoo in the small of their back, just barely above their buttocks. For some reason we see a lot of these just walking down the street.

Sometimes, it is difficult to not stare at a woman’s tattoos. I am an older guy who has been going to a tech college. There are lots of women on campus of all ages. Some of the younger ones are devoted enthusiasts of tattoos.

Many of these women wear the low-rider jeans, proudly showing their tramp stamps, and sometimes abdominal tattoos. How are healthy young men to act around these women? I think they already know, but I am left out of that conversation.

How am I supposed talk to the tattooed woman. I can hardly ignore the most important decisions she has made in her short life. She is proud of the damned things, and wants you to see them. It is almost obligatory to mention their skin art, and sometimes it is lots of skin, and lots of art.

So, when in a class I address a young lady with, “Say, nice tramp stamp, there.”. How would that go over? The school could expel me for such language as being sexual harrassment, yet there is no penalty for the woman showing generous crack with her tramp stamp.

Maybe, I should address the situation unabashedly assuming the woman is proud of her art. I could say, “That’s a great tat on your back. Do you have any more I can see?” This is still an inappropriate conversation, but, what are you supposed to say to someone with tattoos on the brain, butt, breast, and back? It might be bad manners to NOT say anything.

Oh, what is a man to do?

Faster-Than-Light? Nah!

An experiment revealing particles moving faster than the speed of light got us all excited, recently. Some scientists at CERN believed they had seen such particles, but wanted to wait until they had reviewed all aspects of their experiment before claiming what previously was thought to be impossible.

We need faster than light travel to make space exploration possible. Right now, it is totally impractical for people to travel to other solar systems. With star systems being thousands or millions of light years away, and with even near light-speed being technically impossible, our dreams of space travel are pretty well doomed.

The closest star to our system is over four light-years away. Even if we could travel at one-tenth the speed of light (we cannot), it would take over 40 years to get there. Forget coming back. There are no filling stations out there of which we are aware.

Oh, well. There goes all that beautiful science fiction, down the drain.

picture of large hadron colliderAccording to a Christian Science Monitor article the experiment was botched at  CERN, the international research facility in Switzerland where they use a collider called the Large Hadron Collider. This huge underground pipe is several kilometers around in a circle, and they shoot super-charged particles to collide with various atoms and other particles to try to determine the ultimate make-up of matter.

The results of their audit of the experiment have now been published.

What did they find?


This has to be the biggest embarrassment in scientific history.  It is not clear to me why they decided to issue a press release about faster than light particles.

The next time your government says it will spend billions of dollars on research, remember what can happen. Mostly, nothing.

Modern Gladiators

Our political system has devolved into just another Roman circus.

Witness the Republican debates. They started with a bunch of pretty credible candidates, and they are now dwindling down to the precious few. Most of the candidates have taken themselves out of the race because of shrinking poll numbers, or shrinking bank accounts. In politics these two measures have a deadly equality.

Herman Cain did not take himself out of the race. Opponents found some women to charge him with inappropriate conduct, and each one was a he-said/she-said kind of thing. With the current bias in the media, these possible dalliances did not get covered up like the documented sexual escapades of Bill Clinton.

Not one of the Cain accusers offered any evidence of an affair. One was even represented by Gloria Allred, feminist lawyer and Democrat political operative who has a reputation of staging phony witnesses, as in the California gubernatorial race two years ago. Herman could not survive against a press hungry to kill off a legitimate black opponent of Barack Obama.

The whole nation looks on  waiting for either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum to kill his opponent.  They are waiting for a career ending gaff during one of the debates. Everybody is waiting to see blood, and nobody is going to give the Roman Emperor’s thumbs up gesture.

I don’t know who will survive the GOP debates, and become the great hope for America to escape the dreams of our first Marxist President. Maybe that person will have enough juice to finish the race, and win one for freedom.

Update: I watched the Arizona GOP debate last night. There was lots of back and forth, but no campaign ending mistakes.

Journeys Make Me Sick

Picture of travel luggageAlmost every day on some television show, or in some publication, we find the metaphor, “life is a journey” being offered as literature, wisdom, or just fill-some-time dialog. I’m getting tired of hearing about it, myself.

If life is a journey then I am going down a one-way street in the wrong direction. Maybe life is more of a wreck than a journey. Why can’t we say that life is interesting, or comforting, or an opportunity to make friends and money? Why does life always have to be a journey?:

In our speech not only has life morphed into a journey, but almost everything else is becoming journey-ized. Television writers are particularly bad about this. Let’s see where this is leading.

  • Life is a journey.
  • A relationship is a journey.
  • A continuing education class is a journey.
  • A bottle of booze is a journey.
  • A joint of pot is a journey (technically, a trip).
  • A speech is a journey.
  • A political campaign is a journey.

We don’t take trips, anymore. That word has become a verb, having special meaning to potheads and crackheads.

Here are some other life metaphors.

  • Life is an opportunity.
  • Life is a game.
  • Life is a wreck.
  • Life is a bowl of cherries.
  • Life is a bitch.

Well, maybe not all metaphors are as useful.

Anyway, please stop using the life-as-a-journey metaphor. It is starting to make me sick.

iPhone – MyPhone

Who invented the iPhone? If you said Steve Jobs, you would be partially correct. Actually, neither Jobs nor Apple have invented much of anything. Job’s genius was in packaging technology to appeal to an audience of people he understood. He did it with the Apple computer, the McIntosh, the iMac, the iPad, and the iPhone.

There were lots of MP3 music players on the market prior to the iPad, but Apple made it smaller and sexier. The appeal is in the presentation, as any good chef will know. Jobs was an extraordinarily good cook.

The iPhone is basically a wireless communications device, such as that used in Star Trek by the intrepid  Captain Kirk aboard the Starship Enterprise. The writers of Star Trek doubtless got their inspiration from the cartoon, Dick Tracy, whose 2-Way Wrist Radio was the dream of every school age kid in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was later upgraded to a Wrist-TV in the 1960’s. This kind of sounds like an iPhone, only sexier.

What inventors have done is to follow their dreams. These dreams were spoon fed to these guys by fiction writers in the 60’s and 70’s. These authors got their inspiration from earlier writers. The point is that some ideas have been around for a long time, just waiting for technology to catch up to imagination.

Science fiction has spawned lots of ideas, including a partial list as follows:

  • Artificial joints.
  • Artificial limbs.
  • Artificial hearts.
  • Organ transplants.
  • Space travel.
  • Communications devices.
  • Space based telescopes (The Hubble).
  • Travel to the moon.
  • Travel to the planets.
  • Brain implants.

Brain implants? Yep, they are real and they are here. Well, they are in the labs being developed.

There was a recent television show on one of the cable channels showing the latest achievements in cyber-aids for victims of accidents who had lost their limbs or eyesight. They all involved direct connectons to the human body, and in the case of a sight aid, directly to a blind person’s brain.

Scientists in studying the functioning of the human body and its nervous system are trying to harness current current technologies to augment the human body. We just hope that they can be the kind of imaginative chef Jobs was.