22 January 2018

Those Damn Dams!

Some years ago I was a member of the Science Center in BigTown. One of the member's benefits was to be able to attend, free, any of the almost weekly seminars given by "experts".
We went into town to watch the new Blue Angels movie on the IMAX theater there, then noticed a Native American "expert" would be giving a talk an hour after the showing of the movie.
Thinking it might be interesting, after the movie we went to buy brats and burgers at the concession stand to use up the free hour.

The expert was a lady from one of the Western tribes near the Hoover dam. She discussed all the horrible things that had happened to the population surrounding the dam, especially how the environment had been negatively impacted... Indian lands submerged, populations forced to relocate, and ecosystems downstream from the dam dramatically changed.
There was NO discussion of the power being produced and transported to cities like L.A. and Phoenix, or the indirect benefit of recreational activities like boating and fishing, not to mention flood control.

The expert volunteered to stay behind after her talk to answer questions the audience might have.
I asked, "The situation boils down to one problem, doesn't it?

There are WAY too many people in the world who require water and electricity. How does your organization intend to work for a solution to those problems"?

Stunned... like I had slapped her in the face...

But it's the truth, and it IS a problem we should be facing and educating the world about:
People consume stuff.
More people? More stuff consumed!

Be part of the solution-
Feel free to send this post to friends.

17 December 2017

Autonomous Vehicles

Up 'til recently, the idea of an autonomous vehicle has been anathema to me.
I like to drive... I'm an "enthusiast".
I've owned an Olds 442, a couple Corvettes, and a few Sporty sedans to include our latest... a Taurus SHO.

I LOVE the feeling of pressing your right foot to the floor and having the "G Forces" press your body against the seatback.
And I have never understood anyone who thinks a Toyota Prius makes a good primary mode of transport.
But I'm ready to admit something-
I hate long trips.

We've just finished a stay of two months in Destin, FL.
We love Destin, and have had a wonderful stay.

But loading our 250cc Piaggio MP3 into the back of our Cummins/Ram truck and driving the 11 hours each way is something I have grown to despise.
We came home for a few days to take care of a few "Honey-do's", and plan to leave soon to begin our Winter stay with our son in Gilbert, AZ. That drive will take 22+ hours. We have reserved motel stays in Edmond, Oklahoma and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and hope to arrive in Arizona on the third day of the drive.

We had the ability to rent a motor home that we could program to autonomously make the drive while we sat in the rear reading a good book, fixing meals, and using the bathroom facilities without stopping, I would be ecstatic.
And looking into my crystal ball I see our society moving in that direction whether we like it or not.

I will mourn the loss of freedom when human error makes slipping behind the wheel, putting your right foot firmly against the floorboard demanding the horses under the hood press your backside into the seat a "danger to the rest of society".
But I absolutely will NOT miss the long days driving down a boring slab of concrete to get somewhere you MUST be on a date certain.

I take comfort in the fact it will take tree-huggers a while longer to automate motorcycles...
And, thank Goodness they accelerate fast enough to satisfy my inner hooligan for the rest of my driving days!

"James, we'd like to go to Gilbert, AZ!"

11 December 2017

The World Is A Mess. But It Could be SO Much Worse!

Global warming is man caused.
Humankind's pollution is poisoning our air, our water, and our food.

How wonderful that Stalin killed 12 million vermin.
Mao killed over 45 million.
Hitler probably killed 8 million+.
Planned Parenthood has contributed to untold numbers of deaths.
(Sources I checked indicate these numbers are horribly conservative.)

Think what a poisoned, weatherweird world we'd be living in if all these people (and their offspring) had survived.

(Sarc button off.)

07 November 2017

Destin, November 2017

We've now been back in Destin a couple weeks...
Good food; good weather; GREAT view.

My reclining chair is situated so that I can turn my head slightly to the left to watch TV, or slightly to the right and view the Gulf of Mexico.
Life is tough.

I've been wondering something for some time now and was reminded of my question this morning-
I watched as a Pelican soared by, then turned back, circled with his/her head cocked toward the inside of the circle and downward, then abruptly descended and crashed into the water with a big splash.
It sat on the water a few seconds, gathered itself up, flapped its big wings and paddled with big webbed feet, then took off to repeat this maneuver somewhere else down the coast.

To my good friend from Boeing-
Why can we not consult with the Pelican's designer and build aircraft to withstand these kinds of forces?

28 October 2017

SR-71's, U-2's, And...

It's time to reveal a little something about myself.
Most folks are aware of the famous U-2 that caused a big kerfuffle during the Eisenhower administration (and is still being flown today in updated form).
Few know that I actually have flown the FABULOUS U-3 ! 
Please, try to contain your excitement.

22 October 2017

Playing Cards, Balloons, and Vocalizations.

First question-
Did you ride a bicycle as a kid?
I did. 

I had a Newspaper route and measured that I rode at least 9 miles per day.

Second question-
Did you find ways to make your bicycle sound as if it had a motor?
Again, I did.
Our gang found that if we bought a bag of penny balloons, blew one up and attached it to the front wheel in such a way that it would rub against the bike's spokes, it would make a sound that surprisingly imitated an engine. The faster we pedaled, the more it sounded like a motorcycle going fast. Friction and heat would eventually fatigue the balloon and pop it, but for about three minutes we were pumping away with smiles on our faces.

Third question-
How many of you that answered affirmatively to questions one and two ended up actually owning a motorcycle as soon as you could buy one?

I did.

16 October 2017

How's That Pudding Taste?

William Tecumseh Sherman.

I often wonder how Abraham Lincoln had to feel, hearing the news of Sherman's "March to the Sea".
Knowing the General was pretty much destroying EVERYTHING in his path; homes, businesses, railroads, crops... I'm sure he suffered some pangs. But he had also suffered while he watched ineffective Generals lead Northern Troops into losing battles, one after another.
"War is Hell"... Sherman knew how to fight.
And Sherman was succeeding.

Now comes Donald Trump. (Remember, I could NOT bring myself to vote for him last election... too liberal for me.)
I'm offended by some of his behavior in the past.
I cringe at some of his speeches.
His "Tweets" frequently are laughably adolescent.
But... "The proof is in the pudding", isn't it?

I've chosen French Vanilla.
And it tastes pretty good.

10 October 2017

Millions. Billions. Trillions.

We (the U.S.) are now over TWENTY TRILLION DOLLARS in debt.
That's $20,000,000,000,000.00 when written down. Try to enter that in your calculator and divide that number by today's U.S. population, maybe 330 million(?). My calculator won't reach that far and right now I don't want to do the mental exercise by dropping zeroes on both numbers.

Someone educate me, please:
How do we survive this catastrophic burden?

09 September 2017

The List

Yes, it's been a while.
And I may have missed a few in the interim.
But this one is SO typical of rich, ignorant, celebrity-types.

I'm confused-

If you are in the business of selling your talent to the masses, why would you express yourself in a way that would anger 50% (+ -) of your audience? Add to that the fact that most of us non-Hollywood types think you live in a cloister of like-minded people and have NO IDEA whatsoever how real folks make a living out here in the world.
Why not just shut your pie-hole and let 100% of your audience enjoy your work?

I present to you my list...
The list of folks that I refuse to support with my hard-earned $$$$$ because they're destroying my country.
"The List" will be updated and re-posted as new "smarter than you and me" folks make themselves known.
(Feel free to leave suggestions for additions in your comments.)

Robert Altman
Ed Asner
Alec Baldwin
Ellen Barkin
Rosanne Barr
Meredith Baxter
Joy Behar
Tony Bennett
Sandra Bernhard
James Brolin
Jimmy Buffett
Jim Carrey
Jackie Chan
Ladies and Gentlemen- Cher!
The Dixie Chicks
George Clooney
Elvis Costello
Sheryl Crow
Matt Damon
Ted Danson
Johnny Depp
Danny DeVito
Pee Puff Diddy-Daddy
Phil Donahue
Richard Dreyfuss
Roger Ebert (Assumed ambient temperature.)
Mike Farrell
Will Ferrell
Tina Fey
Sally Field
Jane Fonda
Megan Fox
Janeane Garofalo
Danny Glover
Whoopi Goldberg
Kathy Griffin
Tom Hanks
Woody Harrelson
Dustin Hoffman
Scarlett Johansson (Man I hate that she's on this list!)
Samuel L. Jackson
Ashley Judd
Val Kilmer
Kris Kristofferson
Jennifer Lawrence
Spike Lee
Jennifer Lopez
Bill Maher
Barry Manilow
Paul McCartney
John Mellencamp
Bette Midler
Jay Mohr
Michael Moore
Liam Neeson
Chris Noth
Bill Nye
Rosie O'Donnell
Keith Olbermann
Gwyneth Paltrow
Sean Penn
Rob Reiner
Tim Robbins
Alan Rosenberg
Tim Roth
Linda Ronstadt
Susan Sarandon
Jerry Seinfeld
Martin Sheen
Sarah Silverman
Bruce Springsteen
Martha Stewart
Ben Stiller
Oliver Stone
Barbra Streisand
Wanda Sykes
Gore Vidal (Assumed ambient temperature.)
Kanye West
Oprah Winfrey
Henry (The Fonz) Winkler

31 August 2017

HOME, James!

I'll take all bets.
It's pretty much inevitable.
In ten years, most people will NOT be driving their own cars.
Here's my thought process-

Our new Taurus can parallel park itself.
When it rains, the wipers turn themselves on.
The headlights dim and brighten themselves as cars approach at night.

Try to lock the doors with your keys in the car, "The Bull" scolds you with two beeps of the horn and WILL NOT comply with your security request.
Approach another vehicle at too great a speed and a band of red lights flashes across the windshield while an annoying alarm loudly sounds. If you don't react, the car applies its own brakes.
I'll insist the cruise control system on this thing is one of the greatest inventions of man...
Set the minimum distance you want to follow a car. In traffic, the system will slow as you approach a car, then, when you pull out into the passing lane, it accelerates once again to the speed you designated. (No clicking on and off of the cruise control system.) Amazing.
The Taurus also warns you when you begin to test the limits of your traffic lane. Approach the right or left limits and the steering wheel shakes. Do it too many times in a short period of time and a "coffee cup" appears in the warning segment of your instrument panel with a "rest may be necessary" comment... the damn car is nagging me!
And there are many things it does that you don't even realize while you drive... take a corner a little too quickly and it transfers power from outside wheels to inside to prevent a skid.

We've all read about "autonomous" cars.
Computers drive them. You simply get in and tell the thing where you want to go.
I think they'll be PERFECT for major city driving. Folks there won't even need to own their own car-
Just call for one to show up at your door at a certain time and direct it to take you to your destination.
You own no car, no insurance, no maintenance expenses, and no need to worry about the stack of "stuff" you have to move around in the garage to make room so you can park.
How do you feel about this future?

I don't like it at all.
I'm an enthusiast.
I have driven fast cars and motorcycles much of my life. I revel in the feeling of "turning into the skid" when I have applied so much power the rear wheels have broken loose and I have to correct the steering to keep the car headed in the direction I want... and having done it successfully, find myself pressed against my seat with a smile on my face.
But that's wasteful. And it's DANGEROUS too, isn't it?
Yeah, and that's the point.

Autonomous cars will be demanded by the public for that reason.
Computers don't make errors. Humans do. For "the public good", people will demand we drive them.
Those of us that want to be in control of our own vehicles will be scorned, shunned, and charged exorbitant prices until we see the error of our ways.
No more human errors.
No more loss of human life because of texting, drowsiness, or driving under the influence of... whatever.
It's coming, and I'm pretty sure we can't do a damn thing to stop it.

But remember this:
"Open the bay door, HAL."
"I CAN'T do that, Dave."