Sunday, January 31, 2010

31 January 2010 The Supreme Court NASA and the Moon

31 January 2010 The Supreme Court NASA and the Moon

There is intermittent blue sky overhead with random periods of sunlight. Flocks of song birds, sparrows, finches, nut hatches, and a college of Cardinals compete for feeding space and time on the feeders. The current temperature at 1321 is 35.7°F. The frozen glaze of sleet, rain, and snow on the back deck has begun to melt, except for the area closest to the door that remains in shadow most of the day. I’ll have to spread anti-ice pellets tonight.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision concerning freedom of speech for corporations has me as seriously concerned as it does most people who have given the matter thought. Despite nearly a century of precedent and history, the Bush appointees and Reagan appointees persist in their efforts to return the nation to those thrilling days of yester-year when Robber Barons got the government they were able to pay for and the rest of the citizenry was steadfastly ignored unless they had something the wealthy wanted. The Roberts Court may well be the worst thing Bush II left the nation, his most grievous assault upon the republic.

The Bush years were filled with complaints from the right about “judicial activism.” These usually revolved around social and cultural matters, the hot-button concerns that I believe are best left to individuals such as birth control and abortion. The question of equal rights under the law for homosexuals was also hotly contested. The Religious right, the Theocon base for the GOP wants desperately to outlaw abortion and birth control so that women no longer have any choice in the question of reproduction. That the “sacred fetus” becomes a “burden upon society” once it is delivered, never seems to change the equation. The GOP base will attend rally after rally to stop abortion but will never contribute or propose money for immunizations, adequate meals, housing, day care, education, or any of the other items that the no longer sacred child needs in order to become a functional member of society.

The question of “gay marriage” somehow is tied to the Theocons’ insistence that two men or two women marrying will somehow cause millions of heterosexual marriages to fall apart and become valueless. I fail to understand how anyone else’s marriage changes the value of mine.

Now that the conservative time bomb planted by Bush has begun to detonate, the “judicial activism” of the Roberts Court is somehow magically acceptable, and appropriate. The Court has reinforced the legal opinion that corporations have the same 1st Amendment rights as do individual citizens. This works out well if “you” happen to be a “corporation” in need of purchasing an elected official. “You” are now able to spend as freely as you can afford to buy the best Congress you can purchase. Of course, the ability to designate those funds used to buy elected influence as a “business expense” makes the deal even sweeter.

I, as a private citizen, have freedom of speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. What I do not have; what most private citizens do not have, is the cash reserves necessary to buy Congress. I can vote in primary elections – sort of a joke where I live – and I can write letters to local media. I can e-mail, call, and write my elected officials. I can ask to speak to those officials face-to-face in order to convey my concerns to them. I have done all of these things repeatedly. Once in a while my letters are printed in local media. Since our Congresswoman in Florida never bothered to set up the e-mail link on her official web page until I called the local office and complained, since our current Congressman here in TN has no working e-mail link on his official web site despite my complaints, I doubt seriously that anything I have submitted by e-mail has ever seen the whites of their eyes. As for the face-to-face meetings that might actually provide an opportunity for conversation; I don’t travel in the right circles, belong to the right church, eat at the right restaurants and country clubs, or have sufficient discretionary cash to catch their attention. Like most citizens, I can be safely ignored by my Congressman and Senators; and I am. Corporations, capable of funding an entire re-election campaign if they choose, cannot be. Historically, they haven’t been. But now, following the Roberts’ Court’s recent decision, corporate voices have been transmuted from the loudest on the playing field, into a heavily amplified presence capable of shouting down single citizens or the collective voices of private citizens. We have just become, officially, USA, Inc. It was wonderful to have been a citizen of the USA that we once knew; the nation that once had the courage and leadership to tell corporations, “No!” I don’t think I’m going to like the corporate version of my nation at all.

In other news, the Obama budget puts a halt to any plans to return men to the moon and to establish a working colony. NASA’s engineers, rocket scientists, support staff, and other workers now face job loss and worse. The dream of a moon colony has been in my mind for ever. I’m of the generation that watched Willi Ley on Disney explain how the circular space station would look and function, how the three-stage lifting vehicles would take men to the moon and bring them back safely. Then we watched those things become reality. Apollo worked and we watched men from the USA walk on the moon and return home. If the ISS-1 is not the bicycle tire space station proposed by Ley, it will do nicely and for the most part, we, NASA, put it there. Now our shuttles are falling apart and we have not completed the Ares I lifting vehicle needed to replace them. The Aries V was also to provide lift to return to the moon.

The loss of the moon mission, the retreat from space exploration as a manned program and the potential loss of NASA in coming years speaks volumes about our status as a great power in today’s scientific world. India, Japan, and China are all poised to take their place in the space race. Obama’s people hope that our previous leadership role will be filled by commercial concerns. I don’t see that happening. I don’t see the corporations we have today doing anything that would advance national status at the expense of their executives’ bonuses for doing nothing but place-holding. There is no nationalism in our corporations sufficient to develop and spur a manned-space exploration program. The need for annual profitability precludes any long-term program such as Apollo being launched by private concern. While Virgin Air plans a space tourism thrill ride to lift rich people into an interval of weightlessness, this may not pan out due to cost/participant or it may cease operation once Branson has discovered whether or not he is subject to “space-sickness.”

Certainly no private corporation will be willing to undertake a large-scale program involving private citizens and high-risk, experimental, rocket-propelled vehicles. Government programs provide staff drawn from the ranks of our military, ready to risk their lives in such vehicles for the advancement of the program and for the benefit of science and engineering, doing a job that will, by definition, lead to multiple and repeated fatalities. Imagine the lawsuits that would have plagued a corporation that constructed the poorly designed and built Apollo module that took Grissom, White, and Chaffee to their fiery end. The first shuttle failure would have been the last, as without a government program to provide a market, there would have been no corporation willing to continue flying the shuttle for commercial purposes.

Heinlein postulated and wrote of a commercial venture to launch a moon trip. He was right in many predictions but I don’t believe his prediction of a corporate-driven moon colony will ever take place. Greed, corporate returns and huge, unwarranted bonuses are more important to men who seek power in business and finance than are science, engineering, and exploration.

To see a corporate venture to the moon take place will require the discovery of some material as valuable as gold, or a pocket of weapons-grade uranium the size of Cuba.

Apollo 14 Mission

Crew Alan B. Shepard Jr. Commander

Edgar D. Mitchell Lunar Module Pilot

Stuart A. Roosa Command Module Pilot

Launch Jan. 31, 1971; 4:03 p.m. EDT 39 years ago today.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

30 January 2010 Ten degrees and getting colder down by Boulder Dam today

30 January 2010 Ten degrees and getting colder down by Boulder Dam today

The lead in line is from a Gordon Lightfoot song. I used to play and sing it, along with other Lightfoot material.

The last time we saw Lightfoot in concert was in Sarasota FL. We had free tickets to the concert and were really looking forward to it. Lightfoot arrived on stage and proceeded to perform songs he had written after nearly bleeding to death because his liver had been destroyed by years of ethanol abuse. I’m sure the material came from the bottom of his despair and was highly significant to his potential recovery. We left at intermission, having listened to an entire set of “I’m in recovery” songs. We’d hoped to hear some of his old and proven material and could have stomached a few of the new and personal songs. The concert had the feel of a Salvation Army recruitment drive on a street corner in a red light district. It wasn’t going anywhere and it wasn’t changing anything.

12 step recoveries while certainly the return to productive life for many people; leave me looking for the nearest door to anywhere. I truly hope they help the people who undertake them as a means of defeating an addiction. Like jail house conversions to Christianity or Islam, I don’t trust the sincerity of too many people in 12 step programs.

The forecast foot of snow has not materialized. Instead, a pocket of warmer air moved in at lower altitude and melted falling snow. This morning, I found 3-4 inches of sodden, heavy snow with an icy crust. The county has already scraped our road and it will soon be ice coated. While I was shoveling the decks at 0630 a light but steady rain continued to fall. That has continued off and on all morning along with intermittent light snow, pellet snow, sleet, and freezing rain. We’re hoping that the freezing rain moves away. The entire eastern border of Tennessee has a band of snow and freezing rain entraining up toward Virginia. All the precipitation is forecast to end this afternoon. Travel is going to be extremely hazardous. The temperature sat around 32°F all night and is currently at 34°F. We are told it will plummet in the evening, hence today’s lead in.

The decks are already covered with a layer of frozen rain. Sleet is imbedded in that layer, providing texture but no traction. Venturing out onto the decks will be like skating.

Gloria managed to take a few photographs last night as snow covered the back deck.

Today is most likely to be spent on class work. Gloria has a project that needs to be at a higher stage of completion by Monday. I have several hundred pages of reading to finish. There’s wood to be brought inside, a stove to be tended, and dinner of some nature will help keep us warm. I’ve two chuck eye steaks thawing for dinner. I may serve them with sautéed yellow squash.

I write this with sincere gratitude for the warm dry conditions I am presently enjoying. I’ve hitch-hiked a bit when I was younger. It’s not a safe or timely means of travel. I sit here and write with warm phalanges rather than risking frost bite along with other dangers. There are no boots warm enough to sustain hope when the sun is sinking and every car and truck flies by in a cloud of dirty, gritty, chilly, mist. Maybe Lightfoot knows more about hitch-hiking than I do. Maybe that lonesome knowledge is what drew him to the false warmth of ethanol that destroyed his liver, nearly took his life, and was also the source of the songs that left us unsatisfied with the concert and unwilling to sit through the second half of a concert that was going nowhere. Maybe he’s spent too many nights on the side of the road down by Boulder Dam. I’ve never hitched around Boulder Dam but I know where it is. That ages me, and you; if you have an inkling where Boulder Dam can be found. “I’ll take geography for $2000, Alex!”

The photo used in this entry was taken by Gloria Lenon, 29 January 2010. Thank you for permission to use it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

29 January 2010 Snow business or no business

29 January 2010 Snow business or no business

At 0600 this morning there was no cancellation of ETSU classes. Up, and about the day’s chores. Dog dragged but apprehensive nature to her behavior as we headed down the driveway to the road and the mailbox. There is real hostility between Loki and the infamous neighbor’s dogs. Loki is right to be cautious. They were behaving like a pack intent on harming her yesterday and there is no reason to believe the levels of aggression will drop.

Stoked up the fire, punched the coffee maker into production. I love the smell of coffee in the morning. Green Mountain coffee is highly aromatic and the touch of cardamom we add to each brew makes it even better.

The winter storm warning has been pushed backward 2 hours until 1500 today. I guess that some of the air masses have slowed their progress. I haven’t had time to look at the maps and projections as thoroughly as I would like. But what I have seen makes me happy to have wood, food, and gasoline laid by for the weekend.

Classes in many local schools are cancelled. The mountain roads are not the best for large busses full of kids when they are dry. Add snow, sleet, and maybe ice, and the reason for cancellation is readily apparent.

Gloria had an orthopedics appointment in Johnson City at 1340. They called about 0815 to change her appointment time to 1140. That actually is good for us. We’ll meet at the library here in Johnson City after her injection and my classes, We’ll have time to find some light reading for the next few days, go by the pharmacy and bank, and then head home before the weather gets ugly. That is, of course, if all goes according to the National Weather Service forecast. They’ve been pretty accurate on these things so far this winter.

We start finger printing education today, lifting prints, and rolling impressions for records. I had Gloria plant the seed of an idea that I was going to fume and print that yellow bag discussed yesterday. I have no intention of doing so but the idea could feed their levels of paranoia and perhaps give them some slight pause the next time they collectively behave like middle school remedial students bent on vandalism. We’re certain the bag was retaliation for some imagined slight. We have no real idea, thought, which imagined slight it might have been. I think, as a family, they would be hard-pressed to field a combined IQ over 90. Individually, they all fall into the left lower quad of the bell curve.

We returned home almost exactly at 1400. We managed the library, the bank, and had no further business in town. The traffic was heavy as far as Jonesborough with long lines of vehicles waiting to turn into Wal-Mart. The various grocery parking lots were packed. Everyone seems to be taking this winter warning seriously.

I looked outside at 1515 and it was beginning to snow. The outside temperature here is 35.2°F so we’ll watch it snow without accumulating for a while. The predicted low is 29°F for tonight with 5 – 9 inches of accumulation. I’m hoping for five. The storm is producing ice across Arkansas, Missouri, and into Tennessee, with Memphis and Nashville becoming skating rinks. Our region is still forecast to receive snow rather than ice. The National Weather Service cautions about snow laden lines and snow laden trees. Doubtless, there will be power outages. We can hope that the previous snow and wind have decreased local potential power loss; but that will play out according to the storm’s intensity and the laws of physics.

At 1615 it is 33°F and beginning to stick on the decks and to pile up in corners. We’ve dragged the dog, put out extra turkey scratch, and are ready to hunker down and listen to the snow fall. When we were just outside, the air had the wet density, the quiet thickness that portends heavy snowfall. The song birds are feeding almost frantically. Two male Cardinals are dominating the tray feeder with the smaller and less aggressive birds working over the deck for seeds spilled by squirrels.

Classes today were about the same. We followed the path of Hitler’s post WWI rise to power. There have been many comparisons of the current U.S. economic and cultural conditions to the Weimar Republic and most lack serious validity. But the immense anger present in the tea party mobs is of concern to me. I see the anti-intellectual, anti- education, anti-immigrant, racist components of the tea party combined with the heavy financial backing of a “news” network and the prevalence of demagogues all ready to stoke the furnaces of hatred for profit and political power. It’s not hard at all to see the tea party mobs spawning an American equivalent to the brown shirt thugs of Hitler’s Sturm Abteilung. If the Christian Identity movement, largely neo-Nazis cloaked in fundamentalist Christianity can work a deal with the tea party mobs, we may see street violence taking place in our streets at levels not seen since WWII.

The CSI class was essentially a self-managed lab. Miller brought in various finger print powders and brushes, 3x5 index cards and lifting tape. Then he left for a meeting. We milled around putting prints on various objects and then bringing them into visibility with brush and powder prior to lifting them. Rather than join the clusters of people crowding around nearly every smooth surface, I pulled out my water bottle, put two fresh prints on it and then developed them. The technique worked. The documentation photos I took with my cell phone camera were less successful. I’ll need to add my camera to the daily load of gear for class. Labs of this nature are the only place you can make mistakes without something bad coming of it. Lessons learned:

1 no cell phone cameras

2 photograph entire object with prints, not just the print.

3 lay prints on white side of index card, not lined side.

4 avoid use of flash for prints under tape.

At 1711 we have ca.1/4 inch of snow on the deck. The turkey flock is feeding voraciously as if they, too, have heard the winter storm warning.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

28 January 2010 I didn’t realize the gene pool was that shallow

28 January 2010 I didn’t realize the gene pool was that shallow

Today’s hike with Mike began at 0930 and was essentially uneventful if one disregards the concerted attempts by the infamous neighbor’s dogs to gut and hamstring Loki. The Wolf-Shepherd mix was aiming for her neck when I pulled her away. I think she may have put a fang onto his muzzle as he missed his strike. The level of aggression from these dogs is becoming unacceptable.

On the way down to Mikes it was impossible to miss the amount of trash which had blown from the neighbor’s yard onto our property. On the way back I decided to clean up the blown trash, the dog-dragged trash, and the thrown trash this morning. Other people are unhappy with the amount of blown trash coming from the house across from our property.

After navigating another dog aggression display from all three dogs owned by the neighbor, I put Loki inside, changed boots and coats, and headed out with bag, stick, and grabber. I found and picked up multiple black plastic fast-food containers, multiple white plastic fast-food containers, beer bottles, soda bottles, plastic cups, drink cans, and a large “Dollar General” bag made instantly noticeable by its bright yellow color. When I went to pick it up, using the grabber, the bag opened enough to reveal ca. 5 pounds of feces. Since this bag first appeared in mid last week, I believe that one of the neighbor’s highly-cultured daughters placed it there. It could not have blown there, did not fall from a passing truck, or appear by magic. We can only assume that the Jerry Springer rejects thought to place it there for us to pick up. I emptied the bag and threw the bag away; leaving the contents for them to step in should they return with more trash.

I must admit my first impulse was to return bag and contents to the neighbor’s yard. But there is enough hostility coming from them as is. They apparently believe we are the source of all their troubles these days. The neighbor is extremely paranoid to begin with and has put up cameras to prevent people approaching his house. We have no desire to set foot on their property and certainly don’t intend to invite them onto ours. So the ill-mannered, juvenile natured, sack of feces just gets recorded and logged as further reason to avoid any contact with the neighbor and his ill-begotten spawn. The Austin Lounge Lizards recorded a song, “Shallow End of the Gene Pool.” The neighbor and his family must have come from the dried up muck beneath the pool.

We went grocery shopping today along with, apparently, half of Greeneville. There is a winter storm warning in effect for tomorrow afternoon and people recall the last big storm in December all too well. We’re stocked up for a few days of snowfall but power is always a concern. We have enough wood to keep warm.

Unless ETSU cancels classes tomorrow, I have class. Gloria also has a doctor’s appointment in Johnson City at 1340. I’m planning on meeting her there and then following her to the library and home. We’ll be lucky if the weather holds long enough for us to get everything done and off the road.

Tomorrow is my youngest child, Jedediah’s birthday. He’s living in the Boston/Cambridge area working at some job. He hasn’t communicated at all with me since blowing off a dinner get together in the summer of 2005. His siblings hear from him once in a while. I’ll e-mail him and offer birthday greetings. There will be no response from him.

It is time to finish this off and get dinner underway.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

27 January 2010 Going where the climate suits my clothes

27 January 2010 Going where the climate suits my clothes

Actually, the climate here suits my clothes rather well. Footwear might be problematic if long periods without power were to happen, but otherwise I can layer up with enough clothing to rival the Michelin tire character in appearance. That tends to limit mobility and some levels of dexterity. Keeping warm wins out over appearance any day and over dexterity unless I’m playing with sharp or other dangerous tools.

There is a period of chainsaw work on the near horizon as much of the remaining wood is inches too long to fit into the wood stove. I have very good, very warm, LL Bean boots that have everything I need but steel toes for protection. I have very good steel-toed engineer-type boots that protect from oil, shock, moderate weights dropped on toes, small amounts of external water, but not from cold. Thick wool socks provide some degree of added warmth and I like the feel of merino wool socks, so that helps a bit.

Also a concern with sharp, heavy, and dangerous tools is the effect of vibration on my left arm and right shoulder. An hour or so using the chain saw will provide at least 24 hours with diminished grip and greatly decreased mobility in both arms. 24 hours with no heat might result in no grip and no mobility. The trade-off is painful but obvious.

I’ve tried the ETSU Wi-Fi connection again. I am still unable to connect to the network. I guess I’ll go back to the help desk again and see if there is some arcane secret I’ve yet to discover or be made aware of. There doesn’t seem to be any point in asking my classmates for help with this problem.

This morning brought about ½ inch of snow. I dragged the dog, grabbed the newspaper, and cleaned windows on both vehicles; then brought up the computers and handled some household business between 0600 and 0700. I left about 0855 and found that there were some decidedly slick spots on a few of the Cassi Road curves. Once I hit TN 107 there was no snow on the highway although the ground on either side was snow-covered. TN-67 took longer than usual to negotiate as there was one group of tree trimmers working and another utility repair crew working. Both had traffic reduced to one lane but the over-all loss of time was less than five minutes. This departure/arrival time seems to be a good combination as I had no problem finding a parking spot again this morning.

Gloria should be at her glass class in Limestone by now and then will drive into Johnson City for her metal-smithing class at ETSU. I’ll finish my classes for today, see about this log on problem, and drive to Greeneville to pick up her meds before going home. The dog will be very happy to see me when I get back.

There was an accident in Jonesborough near Engles on US-11E. From what I saw as I passed the scene, it may have been a fatal accident. Too many people get hurt trying to cross multiple lanes of traffic while turning left instead of heading for a traffic light and using it to turn safely. One has to wonder if a cell phone was involved as well. We need some way to disable cell phones in moving cars. No one’s phone conversation is worth the safety or life of someone else.

I did manage to find someone to solve the log-on problem. Some minor setting, apparently, that the last person did not notice or feel important. Or maybe I created the problem. Who knows? This computer picked up the Wi-Fi net at ETSU.

We have Chinese take out for dinner. Gloria has a seafood-tofu soup; I have hot and sour soup. We have steamed dumplings and mu-shoo pork to round off the meal.

Obama is to deliver his State of the Union address tonight. I should listen but probably won’t. The substance has been leaking for several days. The Democrats will applaud, most grudgingly, and the Republicans will applaud only at statements that I object to. I would prefer to form my own opinions about the speech, from a transcript, rather than to have either party’s canned commentary fed to me by commentators and pundits. I’m still capable of political thought despite not walking either party line.

The thing I want most to hear from Obama and the Democrats is to lay the blame for the near-economic melt-down on Reagan, Clinton, and Bush. Then I want to hear him say that we are pulling all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan to allow those countries to fail on their own, without help from us. Let the Arab states help them. They’ve stirred up much of the mess in the region since 1936. It will be good when their oil is depleted and they will return to nomadic obscurity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

26 January 2010 I don’t trust any of them or like any of them

26 January 2010 I don’t trust any of them or like any of them

This is a winter of discontent.

I find that I am greatly disappointed in the Obama administration.

If what I hear and read today has any validity it appears that Obama has decided to cozy up with the GOP and ignore those millions who voted for him believing that he might bring about some change from the abuses and sell outs of the Bush administration.

I realize that politics is about compromise. But the Democrats controlled both Congress and the White house and did nothing with that numerical superiority beyond squabble away any ghost of leadership and throw away any advantage they had toward passing legislation. The Democrats have displayed their utter contemptibility by allowing a minority party to control nearly every action in Congress and to field a program intended to discredit the people’s choice for POTUS because of their racist, corrupt, and anti-intellectual base. They, the Democrats, should have linked arms and run roughshod over the GOP, passing legislation and bringing about positive change along the way. The cowards, who care far more for their hopes of re-election than for the good of the citizenry should be drummed out of office and their pensions stripped from them.

Yes, Obama entered office with immense problems resulting from the Bush Admin. He has managed to stave off the very real threat of national economic collapse. But he has done nothing to restore the legislation stripped from the financial game by Clinton and Bush so the exact same situation could happen again. We are still at grave risk. The job situation is not going to improve despite the GOP claims that “business will create jobs if taxes are lowered.” If taxes are lowered, there will be no change in unemployment rates. The GOP’s supporters have already off-shored &/or outsourced every job that can be given away to third world countries and our industrial/manufacturing base is gone forever.

I didn’t care that much for Obama as a Democrat. He offered many changes but most of them fell prey to the Bush-bankrupted economy and the rest were so watered down by Democrats afraid to offend the GOP base that there is no positive change. I like Obama even less as a Republican. His plans to center and attempt further bi-partisan dealings with a political party that has already committed to destroying any plans or projects he advances, leave me hoping that what I have heard are merely rumors. But logic tells me that we are seeing just one more political chameleon act that will produce nothing good for the U.S, citizen.

The GOP is truly contemptible. Their paid lie agencies run blatantly untrue claims about health care, the economy, and anything else that they can confuse in the mind of the voter. They champion the anti-intellectual voter, knowing that in them, they find an easy mark who will believe every lie about Obama that is used to sway opinions. They court theocrats to expand their base while wallowing in the deepest pits of corruption and hypocrisy. They have left any real conservative agenda behind in their efforts to appease the corporations that own the GOP elected officials. They are willing to sell out the nation’s armed forces in wars to control oil and other mineral rights for their corporate owners. They cloak this malfeasance in the guise of a holy war, hiding the fact that the true Republican platform these days consists of racism, corruption, lies, anti-Semitism, and theocracy.

The splinter parties are continual jokes, easily manipulated by corporate contributors as the Tea Party mob is by Fox News, or of so few members that they have no chance of ever being placed on the ballot in most states.

It is time to rebuild the Democratic Party or let it die rather than have it flail around as it does now, wasting the best majority control they could have imagined. It is time to abolish any participation by religions in our politics unless the churches involved are honest enough to admit that they are functioning as a political party and are therefore subject to taxation like any political party. It is time to make all political ads identify which party they are supporting and exactly who paid for them, names of people and corporations, not throw-away campaign entities that exist only on paper.

It may well be time to limit the length of political campaigns to six weeks. With modern communications and travel there is no excuse for any longer campaign.

This is a winter of discontent and it will lead to a poor excuse for spring as we watch any hope for change fade away with the cherry blossoms.

Dinner tonight is stuffed zucchini and oven-roasted pork tenderloin with chutney.

Tomorrow will be a very long day as Gloria has class in Limestone at 1000 and class at ETSU in Johnson City at 1340. I have my 1020 and 1130 classes and then have to pick up meds for Gloria in Greeneville on the way home. We may have Chinese takeout tomorrow. By the time I get home I won’t feel much like playing at being a chef.

Currently it is snowing. The back deck is covered now but the prediction is for very little accumulation. We would prefer no snow on the roads tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

25 January 2010 So simple, like the jitterbug, it plum evaded me

25 January 2010 So simple, like the jitterbug, it plum evaded me

It occurred to me this morning as I waited for class to begin, that I had yet to log my laptop onto the ETSU Wi-Fi network. Says I, “That should be a quick task to accomplish.” And I immediately undertook the process. My laptop quickly found the network but repeated attempts to actually log onto it were rebuffed. Repeatedly rebuffed! Not to be outdone by a logical network I tried every log-on ID and password I had been assigned or had chosen for myself since beginning to deal with ETSU. No combination worked.

I decided that I would humble myself and ask my fellow students for assistance.

The only other older male in the class walked in. I asked if he had logged onto the Wi-Fi net yet.

That drew a, “No.” Then he sat down, opened his newspaper and began to read it.

I’m not that talkative either so I thought little of the brevity of the encounter. The room was beginning to fill up so I looked for another potential source of help.

A tall, (I’m short and was sitting down) thin, blonde dressed in all in black except for flip-flops (after all, it is only January 25th with snow predicted – why wear real shoes?) wandered by. I asked her for help. “I don’t live on campus.” Was all I got for that effort. By now I was determined that I’d find someone who could actually help me log on. Two males wandered in, one perhaps 25, the other barely 18 in appearance. Neither of them had the ghost of an idea about how to access the University Wi-Fi network.

Class began so I shelved the project and listened to a lecture that advanced by small increments along the link between Social Darwinism, Eugenics, and the Holocaust. When the concept of anger at “Jewish financial houses” as a source of anti-Semitism in Europe finally crawled to the surface it was explained that the habitual prohibitions against Jews filling most professional and agricultural jobs separated them from Europeans I managed to bring up another major reason that Jews were ideally suited for professions, crafts, and financial matters beyond the usury law prohibitions. Even at the time of WWI Illiteracy was still widespread among adult males in the Western world. Jews, however, have a long continuing demand that they educate their selves and their children. This literacy gap was as important a divisive factor as many other factors given more weight by those seeking to blame most of the Holocaust upon religious separation. I don’t know if my thoughts made any real impact. I saw a couple people jot something down during the exchange but they could well have been doodling.

Finally, I managed to introduce myself to the instructor for the CSI course. In explaining my background and letting her know that I was auditing the course, it I mentioned my 30years in clinical lab. She began as an MLT, so we have quite a lot of common ground. Hopefully she’ll be able to pick up the level of instruction beyond the film strip/power point level but that remains to be seen.

She did, however, answer my question about logging on by directing me to a student help desk in the Culp center. I wandered that way, had just entered the building when my cell notified me of voice mail. Gloria was on campus and wanted to let me know. I headed off for the wrong building, my fault, not hers, didn’t see her car until I turned a corner and noticed her license plate from about 100 meters. I also noticed her tail lights were on. I called her back, asked her to turn off her lights, and confirmed her location. A few more steps and I was out of the wind and in her car.

She’d had lunch, didn’t want to walk back to the Culp center and then back to her car, and I wasn’t sure how long I needed to wait for help. I gave her my ear warmer to use today. We, hopefully, scandalized the campus a bit, and I headed back to Culp center to finish the process I began at 1000. The student running the help window told me the fix was simple. Well, it wasn’t. He couldn’t log me on either. Perhaps the mainframe is undergoing maintenance. He indicated other people have had trouble connecting to the Wi-Fi network today. Suggested trying another day. So I will try again Wednesday.

In the meantime, leftover Cioppino for dinner. Gloria will face winds and maybe snow on her way home. I had rain and some stiff winds to deal with. The stove is putting out a good amount of heat, the turkeys have come and gone, and I’m looking forward to sleeping later tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

24 January 2010 Stop whistling That’s enough wind!

24 January 2010 Stop whistling That’s enough wind!

At 2200 or there about last night, we heard the growing roar that signifies high wind rolling over the pass from N. Carolina. It hit and passed by registering a 28 MPH velocity. Then it grew quiet. The National Weather Service had issued a high wind warning effective until 1600 today. Previously we’ve paid attention to them but have not seen the higher ranges of winds they predict in these warnings. We’ve been lucky and the brunt of the blow has been directed into other locations.

When we turned in about 0100 there were some gusts rolling through but nothing like the first gust of the storm. About 0500 we were awakened by the wind and the sound of metal blowing in the wind. The contractor who built our decks and added a sheet metal roof for us did not put the roof on in the preferred manner. Nor did he overlap sections as well as he should have so that there was an immediate leak in the front where the new construction attaches to the house. When pressed to repair this, he reluctantly jammed a strip of metal between the two roof sections as flashing but didn’t bother to fasten the strip down. This piece of metal, of course, became a play thing for the winds. We had a neighbor fasten it down and it has held for about a year. The noise this morning was a reminder that one should never allow sympathy or compassion to interfere in choosing who one hires to work on a house.

At 0510 I was out the door, using a head lamp for vision, trying to see how much metal was blowing in the winds. The dog was an unwilling partner on the trek to the road to retrieve the paper. I put her inside and then started to re-anchor the tarps over the firewood. That required about 20 minutes that I would have preferred to spend sleeping. Once back inside I brought up my laptop and checked for new warnings, looked at the radar, and reviewed the wind velocity since midnight. We’ve not clocked any gust higher than 23 MPH but the noise from the wind has been constant and the higher flow is whistling in the wires and large trees are bending so the wind just above our layer of moderately protected air flow is blowing at anywhere from Beaufort force 5 – force 10.

Beaufort Wind Scale

Developed in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort of England


Force Wind

(Knots) WMO

Classification Appearance of Wind Effects

On the Water On Land

0 Less than 1 Calm Sea surface smooth and mirror-like Calm, smoke rises vertically

1 1-3 Light Air Scaly ripples, no foam crests Smoke drift indicates wind direction, still wind vanes

2 4-6 Light Breeze Small wavelets, crests glassy, no breaking Wind felt on face, leaves rustle, vanes begin to move

3 7-10 Gentle Breeze Large wavelets, crests begin to break, scattered whitecaps Leaves and small twigs constantly moving, light flags extended

4 11-16 Moderate Breeze Small waves 1-4 ft. becoming longer, numerous whitecaps Dust, leaves, and loose paper lifted, small tree branches move

5 17-21 Fresh Breeze Moderate waves 4-8 ft taking longer form, many whitecaps, some spray Small trees in leaf begin to sway

6 22-27 Strong Breeze Larger waves 8-13 ft, whitecaps common, more spray Larger tree branches moving, whistling in wires

7 28-33 Near Gale Sea heaps up, waves 13-20 ft, white foam streaks off breakers Whole trees moving, resistance felt walking against wind

8 34-40 Gale Moderately high (13-20 ft) waves of greater length, edges of crests begin to break into spindrift, foam blown in streaks Whole trees in motion, resistance felt walking against wind

9 41-47 Strong Gale High waves (20 ft), sea begins to roll, dense streaks of foam, spray may reduce visibility Slight structural damage occurs, slate blows off roofs

10 48-55 Storm Very high waves (20-30 ft) with overhanging crests, sea white with densely blown foam, heavy rolling, lowered visibility Seldom experienced on land, trees broken or uprooted, "considerable structural damage"

11 56-63 Violent Storm Exceptionally high (30-45 ft) waves, foam patches cover sea, visibility more reduced

12 64+ Hurricane Air filled with foam, waves over 45 ft, sea completely white with driving spray, visibility greatly reduced

I use “Force 10” with some assurance as we have spotted a broken and down tree on our land up valley from the house.

At 0940 Gloria’s friend Chris drove off toward Florida, heading over the passes to Asheville N.C. to eventually pick up I-95. She could have an interesting tale to tell concerning her trip. She’d asked for breakfast at 0800 and I was concerned about the possibility of power outages in this sort of wind condition. Gloria and I showered early and had breakfast ready for Chris so that she could leave when she felt it was time to head out.

Twenty minutes after Chris left we took a power hit. After closing down the computers I figured the next thing to do was rebuild the fire in the stove. It’s easier to lay the fire when you can see it. The wind made it difficult to get a new fire going, lots of blow back at first. At 60°F we don’t need the fire but when the temperature starts dropping after the front passes, the heat will be welcome.

Once the fire was burning well, there was little to do beyond read the paper and listen to the wind. We got power back at 1107. That was great response from the Johnson City Power Board. This morning was not a day to be out working on power lines. But then, power lines go down much less frequently in good weather.

Dinner is planned and I’ve got a lot of reading to finish before class tomorrow.

The wind is beginning to slack off a bit, I think. I noted a period of relative quiet just now, no keening, no roaring, no hair standing up on the back of my neck. The dog is staying close to us both, still. I don’t know what she hears in the wind. I don’t know what I miss hearing in the wind anymore. Come to think of it, though, I did whistle for Loki when I took her out at 2200 last night. I don’t believe the superstition but I’ve always liked the tradition.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

23 January 2010 Maybe we should suggest roller derby for stress relief

23 January 2010 Maybe we should suggest roller derby for stress relief

The neighbor across the street, the one who has repeatedly made himself unpleasant for a number of reasons, is out of town. Reportedly his mother is dying.

He left his house and dogs in the care of his two daughters. It is significant to note that the neighbor’s 16 year old son did not remain here so as to attend school. Mike and I both feel that the son will drop out of school at the earliest possible point. Until then, he seems to miss quite a lot of school and his father doesn’t seem too interested in his son acquiring any education.

The daughters are, so we are told, not supposed to drive his truck. So of course they’ve driven the truck nearly every night. The spend ¼ to ½ hour revving the engine then go tearing down the road at speeds that are 2-3 times too fast for the road. Apparently they go seeking excitement.

Thursday morning as I was walking down to Mike’s place, past the neighbor’s driveway, two women in a red pickup stopped alongside me and wanted to know if I knew the neighbor and where he lived. I suggested that they read the names and numbers on mailboxes. They went driving down the valley instead of looking up to see the name on the gate post. As they drove off, it was apparent that one of the women had either a cut or scratched lip and some facial scratches. I gave it little thought but mentioned it to Mike. Mike immediately thought that the “daughter(s)” must have driven the truck to some place where a fight ensued over something or someone. He opined that the woman with the scratched face must have been looking for revenge and needed to know where to visit it. Gloria felt that Mike’s scenario was probably correct.

Since the neighbor and his offspring live their lives as source material for really bad country-western songs, and since such lifestyle is never in my mind, I may have inadvertently provided targeting information to whoever the daughter(s) pissed off. On the other hand, if they are dumb enough to get into a bar fight or a parking lot fight, the vengeance-seeking pair may have not understood what little information I provided.

The scenario Mike suggested was given reinforcement yesterday. While Gloria was waiting for me to return, she said that one of the daughters came out to the road, looked around, went back inside and then came out again. At that point, Gloria heard four gunshots and someone left in the truck that is not to be driven.

The weekend is upon us and the possibility of stupid people trying to scare or hurt other stupid people by using firearms in a careless and dangerous manner is something we are concerned about. What concerns me, other than, stray rounds, is the possibility that the revenge seekers will decide to carry out their illegal acts at the wrong address. I get the impression that the women in the red pickup are not overly well able to make sound decisions and wonder, frankly, if they can read. The daughters have already demonstrated their lack of social conscience by waking another neighbor who works nights to try to persuade her to get up and purchase tobacco for them. The stage may be set for escalation tonight. We hope not, but we can’t ignore the potential.

There was an attempted home invasion in a rural area outside Greeneville last night that resulted in the death of one of the invaders. We make every effort to avoid angering our neighbors. We’ve been successful, we think, with the exception of the neighbor across the street. That situation seems to be beyond resolution. I don’t think he would risk any direct conflict. But, as with every other place I’ve lived, there are people who can be convinced that people who don’t even know them have wronged them in some manner. There are others who simply enjoy fighting. Mike feels that the daughters gravitate toward such males. Therefore, we are prepared and will exercise caution until this matter becomes resolved.

H.L Mencken could well have had N.E. Tennessee in mind when he wrote:

“No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Tonight’s dinner is Cioppino. I’m beginning with a Bobby Flay recipe and cutting it down in servings. I’m adding a few twists of my own that change the nature and the delectability of the dish not at all. I’m also serving ciabato spread with a parsley, garlic, thyme butter and oven toasted. That should fill hungry bellies. Gloria’s friend Chris, an on-line friend from Michigan is staying with us tonight so a decent meal is in order.

Friday, January 22, 2010

22 January 2010 Filmstrips in the morning

22 January 2010 Filmstrips in the morning

I’ve been fortunate to find parking spots near the building where my classes take place every morning so far. Having a disabled parking tag is an advantage although one I’d rather not have become qualified to display. Today is a very high pain day. The mountains have been shrouded in fog nearly all day and the barometric pressure has bottomed out and is now climbing into that region where we feel the effects of pressure changes less.

The Holocaust class spent most of the morning slightly side-tracked as the instructor apparently tripped a memory cascade and we digressed into German history. We reached the end of the class period in a lecture about the people who believed that race was relevant to Darwinian evolution, that some races are innately inferior to others. While we know this is a blatant lie it was readily believed and used as propaganda by the Nazis to seed a fertile bed already growing nationalism based upon racial Darwinism and institutional anti-Semitism. And out of nowhere, one young woman asked “why the Mayans weren’t in this discussion.” She apparently feels that they were somehow the equivalent of any 19th or 20th century culture. And rather than tell her that stone age cultures were not the equivalent of 20th century industrialized nations, Fritz, danced away from the question by telling her that he was sure the German philosopher being discussed had never heard of the Mayans but would probably say that they had vanished due to inter breeding with other people.

Political correctness rears its head. I’d have told her flat out that the Mayans ran out of room, food, and then bred their selves out of existence quite happily, with no concern for anyone else but their ruling class. It remains apparent why I am not a teacher.

The CSI class has a lot of information to offer. I hope we get around to delving into core material rather than having the book shown and read to us. I have no doubt the assistant instructor knows the course material full well and is adept at using the core knowledge. But the start of today’s class was passing out a handout copied from the book. We then sat there while she ran a power point presentation that was essentially pages from the book, previously assigned as reading material, then read the material to us. How sadly reminiscent of film strips in grade school. It seems this student population needs to be told when to take notes, does not otherwise take notes, and wants the book offered to them in Power Point presentations so that they won’t have to read the book.

I want this course to accelerate in what we’re given in class. I don’t want to sit in a college classroom and have core curriculum spoon-fed to me as if I was unable to absorb it in any other manner.

I did volunteer the answer to one of the few questions she asked the class, “Why should leather gloves not be worn to collect evidence?” It’s pitifully obvious that they absorb body fluids and other liquids. Someone should have jumped on that question. No one did so I answered. However, once she said “OJ” they all had a common referent.

The trip home was uneventful but when I got home I found Gloria huddled on the front porch. She’d gone out the back door to feed birds and Loki jumped at the sliding door and somehow pushed the lock. Gloria spent about 90 minutes outside in the cold but has warmed up with no harmful after effects.

The day will end as ours do, happy to be here with each other.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

21 January 2010 How fast can we roll back to the 7th century?

21 January 2010 How fast can we roll back to the 7th century?

Can we, under the loving guidance of the GOP and the American Taliban, abolish science, banish knowledge, and bring about the “American un-enlightenment?

Today, the internet and television channels are filled with GOP politicians promising that they hear the people who voted in Massachusetts. They want us to believe that they are happily going to trot back into their respective chambers and bring forth bills that will reform health care instead of sitting in their offices and taking bribes from the insurance companies to block any health care reform. The GOP spent the last year lying to the American people, ignoring the needs of the American people, and blocking every attempt by the administration to make this a better nation for its citizens.

The public option for health care enraged the GOP. Never mind that the GOP’s elected get their health care paid for by the public. That fact is glossed over in any attempt at discussion.

The American people need that obscene “doughnut hole” closed immediately. People who depend upon Medicare as their sole insurer can’t afford that gift from Bush to the Pharm houses. The people who require the greatest number of medications to continue living generally don’t have that much cash sitting around to use for medications when the plan keeps raising the dollar amount seniors must pay out before any catastrophic coverage is engaged. Let me remind anyone who needs it, if you have purchased enough medication to be in the “doughnut hole” it is already catastrophic. Congressmen and Senators don’t have to worry about such coverage, “we” pay their premiums and they simply write modifying bills to make sure that Medicare never denies them any service.

The GOP, in its continual quest for power over the wallets of working men and women nation-wide, have allied with the American Taliban, they who want power over the loins of men and women everywhere. They are quite willing to ban any access to birth control of any sort but all too unwilling to provide any services or care for the children produced by their “abstinent” members and those captive in the system they maintain we all must follow.

Congress, and the Theo-cons are all too willing to proclaim that, once those unlucky and unwanted children are born; that their condition is “God’s punishment for someone’s sins.”

We intended to leave such divine right rule and theocracy behind us in the old world as we made our separate paths to this nation’s shore. Instead, we brought the worst of it with us. We brought those chains forged for man by churches and we watched as the churches and politicians slipped them onto the legs of everyone they could reach. Those chains are still being forged and applied today.

We ended slavery in 1865, at the end of the Civil War. But the Southern Baptist leaders claim that women must be subservient to man in any relationship. That suggests that those leaders find the 19th amendment invalid and say so publically. Is this not a form or slavery? Not to be outdone, the Latter Day Saints, while officially renouncing polygamy, have splinter sects in various compounds around the nation that are bastions of polygamy and child brides. We punish men for having sex with underage females, unless they cloak the act in the guise of religion. How long will we let them get by with that?

The current Theo-con frontrunner for high office is Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, renowned for pardoning nearly any prisoner who finds Jesus in jail, purveyor of Fox News commentary. This Southern Baptist preacher has publically stated that he would attempt to rewrite the Constitution to make it agree with, and therefore be subservient to, his particular version of the Bible. Other than the language he prays in and the uniform he wears is there any real discernable difference between Huckabee and Mullah Omar of Afghanistan’s Taliban? I don’t find that much except that I would probably trust Mullah Omar’s word more than Huckabee’s.

To really heighten the sense of disaster that springs from the day, The Supreme Court has decided to loosen restrictions concerning corporate campaign funding. CNN reported that:

“Hours after the ruling, President Obama responded, saying the court has given "the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington -- while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates."

The GOP will benefit from this decision almost immediately.

What it comes down to is this:

If you prefer superstition over science education,

If you believe that politicians need to be protected from witchcraft,

If you favor women as captive breeders,

If you think health care should be available only to the wealthy,

If you think political descisions should be formulated by lying to the voters,

If you favor the church and its inquisitors in your bedroom,

Then you will love what the newly-funded GOP and its American Taliban base has planned for you.

If you happen to believe that the 1st Amendment is there for our protection, then you, like me, want nothing to do with anyone running for the GOP.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

20 January 2010 I can’t believe we are that stupid

Massachusetts voters elected Scott Brown, a GOP candidate who believes that Obama is not an American citizen, to fill the Senate seat formerly filled by Edward Kennedy.

Brown subscribes to the “birther” conspiracy and is notable for these other concerns:

“6 Shocking Discoveries about Scott Brown

By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos

The campaign against Scott Brown has effectively been 10 days long. Ten days is not a long time, but in that time we've learned a lot about Brown.

1. Scott Brown suggested on television that President Obama was born out of wedlock, then tried to claim that Martha Coakley was making things up when her campaign called attention to it.

2. Scott Brown voted against aid to 9/11 recovery workers because it was too expensive, while at the same time he was trying to fund a golf course in his district and give tax subsidies to corporations.

3. Scott Brown tried to deny emergency contraception to rape victims. When he was called on it, he tried to deny the truth, then hid behind his daughters.

4. Scott Brown claimed he didn't know anything about any Tea Parties, even though he'd appeared at their rallies and publicized fundraisers they threw for him.

5. Scott Brown opposes a fee to get back bailout money from the biggest banks.

6. Scott Brown supports a constitutional ban on gay marriage and thinks two women raising a child is "just not normal."

That's a lot to take in in 10 days. Imagine if there had been a longer campaign in which these stories emerged more gradually so voters had time to absorb them fully.

Now imagine what else we'll know about Scott Brown in 10 more days.”

Again, I am citing a source I rarely read myself. I’ve heard references to these concerns on television political discussion programming. Essentially, we’ve just been handed another member of the Senate who is in thrall to the Christian fundamentalists, who would force rape victims to bear children conceived during assaults, and who lies about his own appearances.

The nation doesn’t need another GOP Senator, doesn’t need another racist servant of the financial industry. We don’t need elected officials willing to deny that Obama was born a citizen. Nor do we need voters too stupid to believe such conspiracy theories.

The loss of Kennedy’s seat to the GOP is shocking on multiple levels. I recall the election of 1960 very well. I recall the generational change as Ike handed the keys to the house to JFK. I recall the sense of hopefulness that came into politics with the Kennedys. Jack pledged our trips to the moon and made us believe we could make them. Robert brought civil rights to the forefront and Edward stood in line to play his role in the nation’s progress. But bullets took out Jack and Bobby and personal mistakes nearly ruined any chance that Teddy would ever serve the people of Massachusetts as Senator or the people of the U.S. in any elected capacity.

Teddy, in the end, dug in, made his apologies, and working against the bitter hatred of the reactionary right and the religious right, made his mark as a proponent of health care and education, able to work with his elected opponents, for the benefit of all Americans. He did this during the Reagan and Bush administrations when it is doubtful anyone else could have done so.

For me, and I’m sure for Gloria who grew up in Massachusetts, an era has come to an end. We don’t have a Kennedy in the Senate and we don’t have a beacon of hope and proponent of opportunity for all citizens to lead by example in the hard contests.

What we have now is a Senate built around greed, bigotry, hatred, and lies. The GOP has won enough seats to forestall any legislation that would benefit citizens instead of corporations. We’re busily creating a Theo-con oligarchy that will lead this nation into more banana and oil wars. I had hoped we, collectively, had sufficient memory of the stupidity of the Bush and Reagan policies. But like the Kennedy’s those voters who can see through the GOP lies seem to have vanished from the American political scene.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

19 January 2010 Full arms empty belly

19 January 2010 Full arms empty belly

Today, the world is still concerned with the people of Haiti. As time passes and no more “miraculous” survivor stories emerge for the press to broadcast, the public’s concern will diminish with the news coverage. What lies ahead for Haiti is what lies behind Haiti.

Haiti is a pocket of poverty caused by rampant over-population, partially condoned by both Catholic and Protestant churches. Haiti is an opportunity for corruption for any leader who can wrest control of the treasury from his predecessor.

Haiti is a failed state existing because of the guilt and/or good will of non-Haitians. It is a one way funnel exporting its educated and desperate to the United States.

Like other failed or failing states, like other centers of state enforced poverty, Haiti will never grow much beyond what it was at the beginning of this month.

How do we prevent such failed states? Since the United States is a primary source of revenue for Haiti, in grants, foreign aid, or remittances, the U.S. needs to address this problem in a coldly logical manner.

Over population is the root of poverty in most impoverished nations. Over-population because of religious upbringing or religious involvement in national policy is driving poor nations deeper into poverty.

The demand for controlling birth rates must be attached to every penny of aid sent to Haiti and every other poor nation needing outside help to recover from annual floods, fires, landslides, hurricanes, earth quakes, volcanoes, or any other disaster the planet throws in our way. The demand for large families to practice slash and burn agriculture can be eliminated by importing modern farming techniques into poor nations. The practice of having one child after another because of high infant mortality can be discarded if we provide immunizations, clean water, and basic sanitation to poor nations. And those religious leaders demanding uncontrolled reproduction as a gateway to eternity should be invited to join the rest of the world in the 21st century instead of allowing them to keep their congregations in a world defined by medieval or even less advanced superstitions and practices.

This means that the United States must finally confront the belief among its citizens who are Christians that this is a Christian nation.

This is, most emphatically, not a Christian nation. Our Constitution prohibits any state religion being established. There has been far too much effort by the GOP and the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian base they manipulate to steer this nation toward theocracy. In addition to weakening our children’s science education, this has also prevented our aid and relief arms of the federal government from insisting that birth control education and practice be made a central point of all help to poor nations, concurrent with a realistic program to teach reliable and accurate birth control to our own citizens. Preaching “abstinence or damnation” works no better at preventing births among teens and adults than does praying that earthquakes and pestilence will not happen assure a safe place for Haitians to sleep tonight.

Along with the objections to requiring birth control education that will come from our and their religious right, will also come accusations that the U.S. is only prescribing mandatory birth control for “the poor,” “non-Christians,” “people with dark skins.” We’ve got to be realistic enough to accept and ignore those attacks, and respond that we desire population control for all the world’s nations. Then we have to prove we mean it by implementing and enforcing it within our borders.

Haiti is in the news today. This time next week, the lead stories will be about a terrorist bombing, mudslides in California, the political defection of some elected official, the demise of some celebrity, or anything but Haiti. We’ll send off the last of our clothing donations and pretty much forget that Haiti still exists, sitting on the edge of gang warfare and mass starvation. The relief agencies will still try to rebuild a nation that should really never have been built in a place that won’t support its population. The money for relief will diminish each week and the UN will call for help, and then send more peace-keepers that can’t keep the peace.

Things will proceed pretty much unchanged until the next disaster happens in another failed third-world state. We’ll pick up our resources, route them to Mt Elsewhere and try hopelessly to sort out another set of problems that are, at the core, insolvable until we reduce the world’s population. We’ll turn on our televisions and listen to the commentators, reporters unable to distance their selves from the story, tell us about “Poor _____”

Addendum: Yesterday I wrote about the apparent failure of the Arab oil states to become involved in relief operations. To be fair, I found this UN document this morning detailing what a few Middle Eastern states are pledging to provide as relief.

HAITI: Arab aid making its way

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Date: 17 Jan 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

18 January 2010 What is missing in this picture?

18 January 2010 What is missing in this picture?

Haiti aid pledged by country ( from “The Guardian”)

 Country/org Funding, committed

Australia 8992806

Belgium 651876

Brazil 15530000

Canada 5491330

Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 25727253

China 10405286

Czech Republic 288600

Denmark 7376543

Estonia 1000000

European Commission 4329000

Finland 1803752

France 14398778

Germany 3463204

Greece 290000

Guyana 1000000

Indonesia 1000000

Inter-American Development Bank 200000

Italy 1593145

Japan 5327154

Luxembourg 722900

Morocco 1000000

Netherlands 2886003

New Zealand 1000000

Norway 4939341

Others 194838546

Poland 1089466

Private (individuals & organizations) 167323361

Russian Federation 700000

South Africa 134904

Spain 4329004

Sweden 18181860

Switzerland 1941748

UN & agencies 10000000

United Kingdom 30000000

United States 100150000

WORLD TOTAL 748105860

World Bank (emergency grant) 100000000

“Friday, 15 January 2010
Turkey will send mobile hospital and humanitarian aid to Haiti, the Prime Ministry said on Friday.
The Prime Ministry Press Center said Turkey would dispatch a mobile hospital, two check-up devices, 20-member relief team, 10 tons of medicine and medical equipment.
Also, Turkey will send 20 tons of tents, blankets, foodstuffs and kitchen sets by a General Staff plane.”

“Qatar joins international aid effort for Haiti

Web posted at: 1/15/2010 4:31:52


DOHA/PORT-AU-PRINCE: Qatar yesterday sent a C-17 strategic transport aircraft carrying 50 tons of aid to Haiti as troops and planeloads of food and medicine streamed into a traumatised nation still rattled by aftershocks from the earthquake that flattened homes and government buildings and buried countless people.

The head of the Qatari rescue team, Captain Mubarak Sherida Al Kaabi, said the team included 26 members from the Qatari armed forces, the internal security force (Lekhwiya), police forces, and the Hamad Medical Corporation. “

Turkey, like Israel, has a history of responding to disasters in other nations. They are prone to earthquakes and know the need that develops after one happens. Like Israel, their contribution is often overlooked by media reporters who are following response teams from their own nations or following larger contingents.

In discussing the nations and organizations sending aid to Haiti since the recent earthquake, Gloria and I noted a complaint published by a right wing Israeli organization, Arutz Sheva, that Israel’s contribution is under-reported. Israel was one of the first nations to respond to the disaster, committing a field hospital and SAR team immediately. The hospital became operational on 16 January and has added forty beds to those available to Haitian patients. It can treat about 500 patients/day and includes both pediatric and maternity services. I tend to regard Arutz Sheva with less trust than Gloria allows. What press I’ve seen concerning Israel’s contribution in this disaster relief has been favorable. I heard or read of this deployment the day after the quake. I saw video footage of the hospital on CNN this morning. To be absolutely fair, I suspect that our national news coverage doesn’t report very much about the teams from other nations unless there is an intersect for some reason. And I imagine the news services from Israel, Turkey, Iceland, and other nations will focus on their national teams. I object to any propaganda source using this event to air complaints about how much coverage is directed to which nation. Its petty behavior, what I would expect from Fox News and the tea party mob.

There has been sufficient time after the quake for help from other nations to arrive and begin their part in the relief and recovery. Iceland, Denmark, Mexico, Canada, Dominican Republic and other nations are present and have been instrumental in saving lives. The immediate U.S. presence was largely the deployment of 82nd Airborne soldiers. Follow on aid includes many civic SAR teams and the sort of military aid that only we can provide. But the logistics involved in moving a Carrier Attack Group, off-loading its organic air wing and on-loading extra rotary wing craft is an exercise in speed and distance over water. It also takes time to load relief supplies. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson is a small city with a 55 bed hospital. Other ships on site include a helicopter assault carrier with a Marine unit, Salvage craft to open the harbor again, and teams to keep the airport and airlift functional as well as security troops that will be needed. The USNS Comfort, a complete hospital ship is in route to Haiti.

As in any disaster, it takes some time to assess damage, mobilize crews and troops, and physically move men, women, and materiel to the disaster site. That requires the folks on the ground when the event happens to be their own first responders. New Orleans dropped the ball when Katrina hit and that screw up was magnified by state and federal incompetency. Haiti didn’t have a ball to drop. The lack of organic government, social safety nets, and everything else beyond populace that defines a nation make this one of the worst disasters I can recall.

If one looks at the list of nations pledging aid it is easy to see that, other than Turkey, Indonesia and Qatar, there seems to be no money pledged by Moslem nations, particularly the Arab states. Given the wealth of the oil nations, one has to wonder why. A brief internet search revealed this:


Guide to Understanding Islam


Why aren't there any international Muslim charities that attend to the needs non-Muslim victims?

Summary Answer:

Muslims are not commanded to assist non-Muslims. To do so is a waste of money, because they are going to Hell anyway. The Qur'an and Hadith command that money flow either between Muslims or from non-Muslims to Muslims (Qur'an 9:29).

Neither has the Islamic community ever been particularly keen on disaster relief, even for Muslim victims. This is because the Qur'an teaches that the disasters which befall communities are a punishment from Allah.”

Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh are not alone in the depths of vile superstition-based bigotry and hatred they peddle. The only difference I see in such American fundamentalists and demagogues from the Moslem fundamentalists and Taliban is the uniform and the name on the sacred book they wave about to justify their hateful proclamations.

I have always read about and heard of the demands of hospitality and charity incumbent upon Moslems. I may need to reconsider what I have read in light of what I see. The Arab states don’t even seem to help each other when disaster hits. How very like Limbaugh stating that we should not help Haiti. To be fair, I understand that Moslem charities in the U.S. have pledged money to Haitian relief. I hope it is true.

The table of contributions by nation comes from a source I rarely use. “The Guardian” is as blatantly biased as is Fox News or Arutz Sheva. I prefer my news to be reported rather than editorialized with a blatant bias as does “The Guardian” or blatantly fabricated, as does Fox News and its newest anti-knowledge proponent, Palin. However, the Guardian’s axe seems sheathed in this offering and I feel it can be trusted.

At some time in the future I want to discuss medical triage in disasters and how it the application of triage has been broken down by emotion in recent days.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

17 January 2010 Listen to the birds on the hotwire sing!

17 January 2010 Listen to the birds on the hotwire sing!

We had an enjoyable evening out in the thriving city of Jonesborough, TN last night.

We had sandwiches of Cuban pork with mojito onions, Manchego cheese, and cilantro on Cuban bread, press grilled and served with an excellent side of black beans and rice. The Dining Room has an impressive menu but we can never seem to get past the sandwich menu to the full meals. Our sandwiches left us well satisfied and with no residual hunger even after the dance.

We did not dance but sat as gatekeepers and took admission money, reminded members that their membership in the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society; proffered name tags, and listened to the music. Gloria tried to talk with everyone who showed up and managed to speak to most of them. We renewed our membership as well.

The drive home was rainy but otherwise uneventful. Since our last evening out the TDOT has put yellow reflectors along the center line of TN 107. Those really helped last night.

Today brought rain and cold, running turkeys. The flock has been here three times today. There was a bit of sunshine around 1130 but it did not prevent us receiving 0.58 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. The rain has finally removed nearly all the snow except for the pile between the back deck and the pool. Ice axes, earth movers, and blasting gel may be in order.

It has been a slow day, a pleasure to the senses. Walking out about 1100, the air had a spring-like feel. We’ve dined well today; waffles, eggs, and bacon for breakfast, steak au poivre – a new recipe – for dinner. There was enough leftover beef to make a very satisfying dinner later in the week.

There’s another award program on television tonight that I have no interest in watching. If performers and celebrities want my attention and approval they can pay me directly. Then, I’ll be happy write them a letter of recommendation of help them pimp their latest project. But I have no desire to waste my time watching them appear on talk shows or award shows telling me how wonderful they are.

Listened to The Grateful Dead, 30 November 1973 at the Fox Theater in St. Louis MO this afternoon. Excellent show with two jams that turn out to lead into a rare but lovely riff known to Dead Heads as “Mind Left Body Jam.” Four descending chords played as a riff 14 times by the band, never the same way twice. The slide or finger picked lead by Garcia could be one of the most plaintive, evocative jams they ever played. I very much enjoy hearing the copies I have collected. Time to close and do some serious reading. “Said, Thank you, for a real good time!”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

16 January 2010 Positively not fourth street

16 January 2010 Positively not fourth street

This is the third day of 40-50 °F temperatures and quite a lot of our yard is still snow or ice covered. The steep narrow nature of our valley means we get limited sunlight. Combine that with the extensive shaded areas created by the trees that surround us and we are a pocket of higher altitude snow cover brought down and dropped off as a reminder of what lies above and perhaps ahead.

I’ve brought more wood up onto the back deck in preparation for rain tonight and tomorrow. Nearly all the remaining wood is under tarps held down by large pieces of firewood. The pieces used to weight the tarps are still snow and ice crusted, too wet and too cold to bring inside. The back deck is nearly free of ice today for the first time since New Years’ Day.

We’re going into Jonesborough tonight to be gate keepers at the contra dance. Gloria’s back hurts too much to dance so she signed us up to sit and take money. We get to hear the music and she gets to remain somewhat active in the local dance community. She’ll also make use of the evening to socialize, important to her well-being.

I’m far more of a bunker rat than she could ever be. I’ve lived in bunkers, above and below ground when necessary, slept in a rack that was essentially an Army Std. Litter placed into an armored coffin, sort of like the bunks in naval vessels but with less creature comfort. I’m not a full troglodyte, just enough of one that I don’t start feeling the effects of cabin or valley fever nearly as fast as most people.

I’ll drive us in tonight. We’ll eat at The Dining Room then show up for duty. I suspect that I may get to do a bit of reading once the dance is underway. I’ll take one or two of my text books along and use what time the dance allows getting further into my reading.

I spend time yesterday discussing my impressions of my new classmates based upon sight and sound but no verbal contact. What I did not discuss was where I fit in the cross section of students I partially defined.

The history students seemed to me to be more urban in origin, more likely from middle class families. The CSI students collectively sound more rural or small town in origin. I suspect that they are more of lower economic class in origin.

I grew up in a house hold with two working parents, in a family that had rural roots but had largely left them behind to seek education and employment in urban areas. The base culture in the home was middle class urban. My siblings and I had no reason to believe that we would be handed a college education. It was made quite clear to us that we would need to find scholarships in order to obtain a degree. We were expected to perform at high academic levels, C grades being unacceptable. We all found jobs in order to earn spending money. I began working in a clinical lab at age 14, cleaning glassware, mixing reagents, disposing of specimens, and wrangling the frogs used for pregnancy testing. I also cleaned houses for people after school, worked at a scout camp, and threw newspapers. My siblings followed that pattern. If we lost or broke something we had to replace it or go without. We grew up with middle class work ethics. We also learned to cook, do laundry, iron laundry, and keep a house somewhat free of debris. We were not handed cars at age 16.

I went to class yesterday carrying a North Face backpack designed to carry and protect a notebook computer, hold books, clothing, water, and electronics. I also wore a fleece jacket but the logo/label, “Marmot” was not readily visible. I did not drop my pack at any time, did not throw my jacket on the floor, and did not walk into class carrying bottled or canned soft drinks.

I tend not to buy clothing or equipment from WalMart. Over the years I’ve noticed that much of what they carry is poorly made and barely lasts a year with careful use. I may spend twice as much for a pair of pants or jacket but I’ll still be wearing them five years down the road. The same rational applies to my choice in packs, fishing tackle, just about anything else. We get what we pay for in this life. I’d rather not buy inferior quality items that will need replacement rapidly and which come with no warrantee. My North Face pack, my Marmot jacket, my LL Bean clothing are built to last and the companies will replace anything defective for as long as the item is recognizable.

So where does that put me on the scale?

I don’t listen to country music, don’t drink cheap beer, and don’t go to country bars. Nor do I go to hip-hop or metal bars. If I drink at all I drink good beer or single malt Scotch. I don’t drink unless I know I won’t be driving. I don’t enjoy being drunk or being around drunken people. I don’t mind having a quiet drink and discussion or just sipping on something and watching the sunset. But I can watch the sunset, discuss something, or listen to music without any ethanol. I don’t buy soft drinks, ever. I don’t regard flip-flops as shoes.

I’m not in the middle. I’m probably closer in origin and work ethic to the CSI group, probably closer in interests and culture to the history group, or may be once they grow up a bit more.

There’s this to consider. All my previous observations and the assumptions made from them may be completely incorrect. I’ll update this as I find out more about them and me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

15 January 2010 That’s so awesome! English as a dysfunctional language

First day of classes behind me. The professor teaching History of the Holocaust spent most of the hour reviewing the class syllabus – emailed to each student. The rest of the class focused on a feature on the campus net, the D2L site for the class. It seems to be the main interface between the students and him, as well as numerous links to various document and resources germane to the class. I found the site and figured out how to get into it. Success for the day.

The class makeup is about what I expected. There is one other older male who looks about my age +/- a few. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him so I don’t know if he’s auditing the course, like me, or is actually a student. That’s something to find out next week. Almost every student was wearing brand name fleece clothing. They either carried massive back packs or nothing but a cell phone. I watched several young males literally drop their packs from shoulder height to the floor, making no attempt to cushion the drop or to protect the various electronic toys and tools I could see on or in pockets of their packs. The chatter before class seemed to be either young males recounting drunken parties recently attended or young women trying to chat up or avoid young males. I found their conversations hard to follow, partly because of lack of shared interest, partly because of the high background volume, and partly because nearly every other word I could hear was “like,” or “awesome.” English seems to have lost a major portion of its once immense vocabulary. I heard one young woman while I was waiting outside the Professor’s office to speak with him who used the word “awesome” seven times in two sentences. Well, I guess they were sentences. I overheard her state that she was an art major and really thought the History of the Holocaust, an, awesome, awesome, awesome thing would be an awesome course. I predict an early drop. A good portion of today’s class revolved around those parts of the syllabus and D2L site that explain how to write concisely and correctly. With two book reviews and a research project from each student, it must be disheartening if people submit written material that reads like their speech.

I suspect that most of the class is comprised of students majoring in history and liberal arts people who need to satisfy a requirement in history. I believe I was the only student who left this class and walked directly into the next room for the CSI course.

The CSI class seems to be mostly people in the criminal justice program. The pre-class conversation was similar. The makeup of the class was different. There were far fewer brand name jacket, most packs were smaller. I can’t say how carefully their gear was treated as the class was nearly full when I got there and I was lucky to find a seat.

There will be two instructors, both of whom probably know many of the class from other courses. One of them has intensive experience with the UT body farm. They handed out a sheet detailing what was expected, stated that no excused absences would be provided for intoxication or hangovers. They mentioned several names of local law enforcement and forensic science people who they would invite to speak and assigned three chapters to read. At twenty minutes into the class period they turned us loose.

Quick impressions of the class makeup are that these students seem too focused on a two year criminal justice track that will equip them to work in law enforcement at some level. They won’t be nearly as interested in elective courses and I would hazard a guess that few of them live on campus or have the luxury of much help from their families in financing their education.

I expect the tone of the two classes to be night-and-day different. The history course is being taught by a PhD who wants to teach people to think about history as a real force for planning the future. The CSI course is to be taught by a PhD who helped author the text we will use and who is focused on teaching people to perform CSI tasks correctly every time and to understand why this is important. It will be highly akin to my clinical rotations in that aspect. An obsessive-compulsive nature is a good thing in forensic science just as in medical science and quite a lot of the subject matter in the labs can go in either direction. As molecular diagnostics improve that will increase.

What did I learn today? I learned that I will need to sit up front in order to hear clearly. I learned that students gathering in the hall outside a classroom with an open door don’t seem bothered that they are making it hard for those in the classroom to hear. I learned that I need to allow about as much cushion to find a parking place as I do at VA.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

14 January 2010 Good morning little school girl

The next phrase in that lyric is “I’m a little school boy, too!”

My classes begin tomorrow at 1025 –>1120 History of the Holocaust and at 1130 ->1225 Crime Scene Investigation. I find myself a bit anxious, wondering if I can manage to compete with the young students who make up the class. While I read huge amounts of technical material when I was their age, I’ve gradually stopped reading much tech subjects in favor of fiction and military history. The next 3.5 months will tell.

I just logged onto my .edu email account to find a solicitation to donate blood, broadcast warnings to pay fees before classes begin (does not apply to me), and the course syllabus for the history class. There are two primary texts, two minor texts which are to be reviewed by the students, and there will be a required research paper of 8-10 pages. There are many aspects of the Holocaust that I can use for this. Conversations with Gloria’s father, with my cousin Leonard, may be useful as background if not primary source material.

I’m truly curious about how this course will be taught and what sort of student commentary and response there will be.

I spent the morning at VA meeting a new primary care doctor and trying to get something done about my right shoulder. Took all morning and nearly wound up in a drug agreement signing session in the afternoon. The purpose of that “class” is to inform a group of patients about the restrictions involved in receiving certain medications through VA. It is singularly boring with the sole purpose getting a signed agreement from every patient involved. I have one on file from last fall. I was saved from having to blow the afternoon by an LPN who understood my reluctance to sit through another “film strip” type lecture. Give me the syllabus or the regulation, let me read it and I’ll sign it for file. My time is important to me. I also wound up having blood drawn, having a urine drug screen collected, and having another set of shoulder films shot. I started a medrol dose pak tonight. Might help my allergies for a while as well. Still to come, a call from Physical Therapy to set up a learning session for instruction in exercises that may, may, alleviate some pain. We’ll see.

I can see that the nature of my reading will change markedly for the next few months.

It was Gloria’s idea to audit courses at ETSU. I sort of tagged along at first. Now I’m committed to 6 credit hours. That’s light compared to the 18 hour load I carried as an undergrad but I’ve aged and the gray drive doesn’t quite have the high level of recall or the rapid reading uptake that I had then. My slide rule skills are a bit rusty too.

“Good morning, little school girl, can I come home with you?

No one could perform that like Pig Pen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

13 January 2010 Mud pies today, pie in the sky tomorrow

Haiti, or that portion of it most urbanized, lies in ruins. As long as I can recall, Haiti has lain in ruins for one reason or another. The earthquake which happened yesterday is just one more reason that Haiti will never develop into anything more than a location that breeds poverty and sends its children into gangs or off to other nations.

Haiti wants us there today to help them clean up the mess, treat the injured, and bury the dead. When we have aided them in those tasks, when our pockets are no longer the source of food, water, shelter, and clothing, we will no longer be welcome. Instead of being the source of humanitarian aid and relief, we will be colonialists once again. Before long the poorest Haitians will once again be trying to subsist on a diet of mud cookies. There will be sufficient rice and flour, cheese and milk to feed nearly all of Haiti in storage on the island. But once it is off-loaded from U.S. vessels it will wind up in the hands of the men who so adeptly stole the meager future from today’s generations of Haitians. And because we don’t want to appear to be colonialists, we will allow the network of thieves and corrupt government officials to misappropriate nearly everything the U.S. government sends.

Because the American people are who they are today, we will send millions in charitable donations, tons of old clothes, and all manner of items that may or may not be useful in a third world refugee camp to our churches, our synagogues, and to various charitable organizations to transport and deliver to Haiti. Some will be useless, some will be sorely needed, and some, sad to say, will vanish into the off-shore bank accounts and warehouses of the various war lords, gang bosses, and crooked politicians who ruled Haiti before the earthquake.

Always ready to profit from the misery of others, there will be scam artists calling to solicit contributions for fake charities supposedly ready to immediately deliver those contributions to the needy people of Haiti. In fact, those monies will never leave the hands of the crooks that collect them from well-meaning but badly informed donors.

Missionaries will take up collections to send many of their number to Haiti. Surely this calamity can be used to benefit those evangelical sects who will point to Haiti and its citizens, proclaiming their distance from church “X”’s particular deity as the reason for the earthquake. Just as well-heeled televangelists were quick to proclaim that the attacks of 9-11, various tsunami, and hurricane Katrina were visited upon the victims by a vengeful deity; so will this event be used to swell the roles and further fill the coffers of those truly good men and women who profit from selling religion to those who can least afford it.

“(CNN) -- Pat Robertson, the evangelical Christian who once suggested God was punishing Americans with Hurricane Katrina, says a "pact to the devil" brought on the devastating earthquake in Haiti.”

And in a timely manner, one of the leading scum of the earth blames the earthquake on a pact with the devil made by all Haitians in order to win independence from France. Robertson, Roberts, Falwell, Baker, Swaggert, and a host of less wealthy bible-thumpers will be happy to blame today’s misery on the mythology that fattens them so nicely. This flock of liars and con-men is never going to miss a meal or fail to find in their closets a suit worth a month’s salary for many who listen faithfully to their proclamations of piety. Their greed and their ability to lie with a straight face has most likely been the root cause of many poor and aging women going without adequate food and medication, without heat or air conditioning in order to send a few more dollars in so that these charlatans will supposedly mention their names in conversation with the deity.

While there are many missionaries who believe what they practice and who would never benefit monetarily from the misery that is Haiti today, there are enough televangelists willing to line their pockets by milking this misfortune that the breed should be branded and hounded from the airwaves.

Even the non-evangelical churches have already played a role in the problems facing Haiti. Over the Reagan and Bush years, any attempt to help poor nations implement family planning was immediately labeled immoral and un-Christian by the GOP and its religious right base. As a result the U.S. was not able to provide any assistance to poor nations interested in attacking poverty at its primary root. The demand of the Catholic Church that Catholics multiply might have provided a few more serfs to work the land and a few more yeoman to defeat the Moors when there was only the Catholic Church to make such rules. But no nation today needs or can afford unchecked reproduction. Over population is the root cause of poverty world-wide. For any church to tell its members that birth control is immoral is wrong. The decision to limit reproduction belongs to people, not to churches. And for any church to meddle in such decisions when they are being made by non-members is frankly unconstitutional and illegal. These churches have been allowed to behave as if they were state churches and to meddle in the process of law making in the U.S. and in other nations.

There may be “pie in the sky” for some believers. Some believers may convince their selves that they’re being served special pie right here, right now. But when the disasters strikes here the televangelists will be dining on filet mignon and the thousands of donors who sent them money to be prayed for and over will be joining the non-believers in the search for the mud they use in Haiti to bake cookies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12 January 2010 No two alike you say?

Between 1900 and 2200 yesterday we were granted ½ inch of snow. The temperature last night caused most of the snow to fall in the form of plates, dendrites, needles, and columns.

This morning’s activities included brushing snow off the decks. By 0800 I’d dragged the dog, swept the deck, retrieved the paper, and rebuilt the fire in the stove. There was the feel of cold mist hitting my face but no snow was visible.

By 0930, when I suited up for the hike with Mike, we had another ½ inch of snow on the deck. The same temperature conditions were present so it was easy to see the shape of flakes falling on the black cuffs of my jacket and on my black gloves. Loki also made a good canvas for catching snow. The prevalent flake shapes were plates and globs of needles that had become stuck together in their descent. The second snowfall was wetter and heavier to move. It required a snow shovel to scrape it off the decks.

We are currently (1417) experiencing brief snow showers of variable intensity. There is a winter weather advisory for the mountains of N. Carolina. Those mountains are three miles east and south of us. While the warnings may end at the border, for informational and warning purposes, I doubt the air masses driving this weather will halt exactly at the ridges that define state borders.

The sheer number of snowflakes that fall worldwide would make it seem impossible that no duplicates exist. However, the laws of physics prevail to make it unlikely for duplicates to occur.

In the most simple flake configurations, needles, hexagonal plates, columns, the individual flakes may certainly appear to be duplicates. Resolution of distance down to one micrometer is possible in a light microscope with good quality optics. That single micrometer is about 10000 times larger than the diameter of an atom. If snow, made of only pure water, is considered, there are about 1018 atoms in a single snow crystal and 1015 of those may be different from each other. The mathematical complexities of molecular structure quickly point out the high degree of variability that exists.

“The number of possible ways of making a complex snowflake is staggeringly large. To see just how much so, consider a simpler question -- how many ways can you arrange 15 books on your bookshelf? Well, there are 15 choices for the first book, 14 for the second, 13 for the third, etc. Multiply it out and there are over a trillion ways to arrange just 15 books. With a hundred books, the number of possible arrangements goes up to just under 10158 (that's a 1 followed by 158 zeros). That number is about 1070 times larger than the total number of atoms in the entire universe!

Now when you look at a complex snow crystal, you can often pick out a hundred separate features if you look closely. Since all those features could have grown differently, or ended up in slightly different places, the math is similar to that with the books. Thus the number of ways to make a complex snow crystal is absolutely huge.”

So physics indicates the apparent truth in the tale that no identical snowflakes are created.

But once they have formed and fallen, they undergo physical interaction with wind, with air, ground, and snowpack temperature, sunlight, and other forces that cause them to lose their initial shape and to become either more or less cohesive elements in the overall snowpack. They then become highly similar in form to all those crystals surrounding them in the snowpack. Similarity does exist, then, but only after outside forces have affected the initial morphology.

There is an easier answer. When I’m brushing or shoveling it off a deck or stairs, every shovel full and every pile brushed up looks exactly the same. It is mass that must be moved using force that I supply. Every pile seems to be a large white blob of heavy, frozen water that no longer causes wonder. I’m betting even the most highly trained physicists see it that way when their hands are on the shovel.