Category Archives: Politics

The Day After – Maybe

Four years ago I was still stunned but trying to regain my psychological balance. Humor, sarcasm (I tried to spell that “scarcasm” and it occurs to me that it might not be that inaccurate), and snark seemed to be my primary weapons (BIG surprise:)

When in doubt, do something really outrageous responsible, insane adult-like, and over the top mundane! That’s the way to stick it to the Man be boring as dishwater! George Carlin My mother and Abby Hoffman Sister Mary Thecla would be proud!

Well, this time around it’s better, in large part because what my brain and about a zillion pundits had said would happen has and a shit-ton of mail-in ballots got counted and more states started getting declared for Biden and very few for Beelzebub and as of the moment we need one more state of four outstanding to fall for Biden and it’s over. Well, except for the bazillion lawsuits and the threat of martial law and an actual coup…

So let’s all breathe. Drink some water.

Let’s watch something fun and/or funny – we watched the “David Byrne’s American Utopia” special on HBO (fourth viewing for me), then I caught the last 2/3 of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” which was funny and wonderful, then I caught the last 2/3 of “Good Will Hunting” which was gut-wrenching and wonderful.

Tomorrow may or may not have answers. But we’ll get through it. Maybe we’ll even go to space again tomorrow – there’s a SpaceX satellite launch scheduled, you can watch online in the afternoon.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of the almost-full-ish moon and Mars from Sunday night, through some high clouds. It was taken with my iPhone and a nasty blue lens flare from the super bright moon edited out in Photoshop, but it’s still a pretty cool photo for an iPhone 8. I’m trying a new app (Halide) that someone recommended for über low light and astrophotography.

We’ll get through this, together.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Politics

Still Inconceivable

Four years ago I though the results of the US Presidential election were beyond belief.

I’m feeling a smidgen better tonight, but it’s a really small smidgen.

Logically I know about all of the hundreds of thousands of votes still uncounted and that won’t be counted in some cases for days or even weeks. I know what the polling numbers have been in the last few weeks and I know what the record voter turnout should mean. I still think that when all is said and done Joe Biden will be the US President and the toxic embarrassment that is in the White House now will be forced to face trial for his crimes.

But that’s still a long way from a sure thing.

And even if it does happen, it’s still incredibly disturbing to know that 45% or more of my fellow citizens are perfectly all right voting for this vile, disgusting, evil person, even after his ignorance and contempt for this country have killed 250,000 of us and shattered our country’s standing in the world.

We have so much work still to do.

I had dared to hope that we were better than this, that we would have learned, that we could make better, more informed choices this time.

I was wrong.

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Filed under Politics

On The Precipice Of The Future

So… We all know what tomorrow is and what’s at stake. I’m feeling confident, but then again, I was feeling fine four years ago too, so once burned, twice shy.

But while contemplating the future for us all, I wanted tonight to make sure everyone had seen a couple of things that relate to a bigger, better future that’s important to me and all of us, even those not in the US.

First, today’s the 20th anniversary of the day the first crew boarded the International Space Station.

For every single day for the past twenty years, there have been at least two or three folks off the planet. Always. Every day.

That record is still fragile. If there were an emergency on ISS (and there have been a couple times when things could have gone south that badly) the crew can always escape in their Soyuz or Shuttle or Dragon or (soon) their Starliner and come home. But that endurance streak would be snapped.

Some time in the next few years there will probably be a Chinese station, independent of ISS. And there’s talk of the Russians taking their modules from ISS and breaking away to join with some new modules they’re building to make an independent station, separate from the ISS. And there might be independent, commercial stations, or even hotels and tourist stations, within the next ten years or so. And before that we’ll probably have folks living permanently in a station orbiting the moon or down on the lunar surface.

We just have to get there from here.

Meanwhile, way out in the solar system, an American robot spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx has been orbiting a “tiny” asteroid called Bennu for a couple of years. In that time it’s mapped the miniscule gravitational field (you or I could easily just jump off the asteroid with escape velocity) and mapped it to astonishing precision.

That biggest boulder in the lower right is 10-20 meters across, with the whole thing being roughly 490 meters in diameter. It’s a “rubble pile” asteroid, debris left over from the formation of the solar system a few billion years ago.

One key goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission was to get a sample from the surface and return it to Earth for study. To do this there’s an arm on the spacecraft with a collector plate that’s about the size of a large pizza pan and six or seven inches thick. OSIRIS-REx was designed to do a Touch And Go (TAG) maneuver where the head would come in contact softly (-ish) with the surface for a few seconds, a stream of gas would get sprayed, causing debris, dust, and rocks to get sprayed up into the collector plate and captured.

They had no idea how well or how poorly this would work. Put the plate down on a rock and you get nothing but a broken spacecraft. Put it down crooked or not flat and you only collect a few grams of material. A lot could go wrong, and this was all being done by a robot acting on its own. At the time of the sample retrieval, Bennu was 233 million miles from Earth, over 18 light-minutes away. We couldn’t control it “live,” we just had to program it and hope for the best.

Two weeks ago, on October 20th, they made their attempt. The surface had been mapped and a flat spot was targeted, but it was the size of a couple of parking spaces, with larger rocks all around that could destroy the arm. Was the surface going to be hard or rocky? Or super soft and fluffy so the collector plate would sink down in and be trapped? Or somewhere in between?

It was spectacular! The targeting was perfect, just a couple inches off after seven years in space, billions of miles traveled. The surface was soft and fluffy and the blast of air kicked up a HUGE cloud of material, much of it being trapped in the collector plate. The collector plate head actually sank down into the surface a foot or so, so it’s a good thing you or I weren’t there trying to jump off the surface. It’s so fluffy and loose we would probably sink right down in.

They were hoping to maybe collect 60 grams of material, about the size of a candy bar. Instead they filled the collector head with an estimated 4,000+ grams of material, so much that the mechanism for keeping it in got jammed open and they were starting to leak material. Before they could lose very much, they skipped a few anticipated steps and moved on to stowing the collector head and its treasure for the journey back to Earth.

My point is that we are capable of amazing things as a people, when we work together and dare to dream. Obviously the last four years have shown what can happen if we allow fear and hatred to separate us, and this year has shown what can happen and how many of us can die if we ignore science and reason.

But tomorrow that can change, and I’m hoping it will. We can start to fix the damage done in the last four years and to set sight on the stars again.

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Filed under Astronomy, Politics, Space

Sunset – October 10th

It’s been a while since we’ve had a nice pink, orange, and purple sunset. Lots of them without a cloud in the sky, lots more after with grey, brown, and orange clouds of smoke, and a few with just grey clouds. But tonight was the first that I’ve seen in a while where looking out through the front door glass to the west it had that wonderful, special, colorful glow.

On another note and related to absolutely nothing, why is it that we don’t have “southeastern” food or culture or style or furniture or architecture? This stunning revelation (almost certainly a sign of early onset brain damage – do doubt the rot in my right rotator cuff has now spread up into my cranium) was brought as I was fixing a “southwestern chicken salad” for dinner, and I thought about all of those other things with “southwestern” attached. I’m sure most would recognize salads with corn & beans, stylized roadrunners and Kokopelli figures, Santa Fe-like adobe houses filled with turquoise furniture, all as being “southwest” in some way.

And “northwest” is there in our culture. Seattle, rain, Pearl Jam + Foo Fighters + Nirvana + Heart, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Saint Helens, flying fish in Pike Place Market, fat bears, salmon.

Let’s not forget “northeast!” Yankees, Vermonters, Mainiacs, Live Free or Die, clam chowder, maple syrup, “paaaaking yah caaah by the maahket,” the Duck of Justice

But “southeast?” Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

It’s all the “south.” Let’s get real, there are states in the southeast corner of the United States – Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas. But they’re all “south,” not “southeast.”

Why is that?

Remember when we used to worry about things like that instead of whether key top government officials were trying to execute a coup d’etat or allow a pandemic to kill a half million of us or both?

Good times!

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Filed under Farce, Photography, Politics

Car Battery

Hissy wouldn’t start up on Tuesday, just made those clicky noises. It wasn’t clear that there was any cause for it, no lights left on or anything else to drain it overnight. It just was about 99% dead.

It’s almost five years since we bought her, so it’s not that much of a surprise. And it was a pleasure to see how easy it was to get to the battery, remove it , and replace it. On my 20+ year old minivan you have to disassemble half the engine compartment to get at the battery to begin with. Honda made it easy.

That’s the good news.

But what it got me thinking about was the fact that we didn’t have any warning. In fact, Hissy just went in for her annual work a month ago and they did their normal “1,823-point courtesy check-up” to make sure everything was hunky dory (and find things that weren’t so they could charge us to fix them) and this didn’t get flagged. In addition, today after fixing that one of the wiper blades started to shred and fall apart. Shouldn’t that have been found in an all-points inspection as well?

Just to be clear, I don’t bring this up as an indictment of the dealer’s service department. They’ve done real well by us recently and I’m not unhappy. But I do see a parallel with this and what’s going on with the world, or at least how I’m perceiving it. (Or maybe my brain is doing pattern matching and finding coincidences where there really aren’t any.)

But this whole situation where you can know that there’s a potential issue with A, B, and C and you do the regular maintenance and you check to make sure you’re good – and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, shit goes sideways anyway? I get it, I’m not an idiot, I understand that we’re not eliminating problems, just lowering the odds, but jeeze Louise, it’s annoying!

And “the world” right now, where we’re already leaking oil like a sieve, have two flat tires, the engine’s making some awful squealing noises, the radio won’t play anything other than elevator music, the windows won’t roll down or up, and the air conditioning is just blowing hotter and hotter air? If we’re already in that condition, how fast can the next big breakdown be and just how bad can the consequences be?

Seriously, might be time for a major tune-up and oil change. And maybe a whole new pit crew and set of mechanics!

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Politics

Never A Team Of Psychiatrists Around When You Need One

“You’re seeing a whole team of psychiatrists, aren’t you?”

Watching one of the all-time greatest movies while simultaneously watching psychotic folks with nuclear codes on mania inducing steroids Tweet nonsense, and that line comes up.

If only.

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Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Movies, Politics

With A Little Help From My Friends – October 03

Thanks to suggestions from fellow writers & bloggers Wendy and Jemima, I think I’ve regained control of my WordPress editor. I’m grateful for their help – if the WordPress customer support had been 1% as useful I probably wouldn’t be still sticking pins in their mental voodoo dolls.

Of course, with everything (by which I mean EVERYTHING) going on along with all of the usual everythings, I’m too drained to do much tonight.

But I did get this:

As has been famously said recently, “I’m not throwin’ away my shot!” One vote might be the equivalent of a single drop of water – hundreds of millions of them will be a tsunami.

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Filed under Politics, Writing

My Circus, My Monkeys

There’s an old Polish proverb that goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”

I wanted to think that today, between the deadlines and work piling up and then tonight’s “Presidential” “debate.” (Yeah, read the Twitter feed on the right if you’re still in the dark about where I stand on that Charlie Foxtrot situation. This is the sorta clean, I’m-trying-by-best-to-keep-it-mostly-family-friendly site – I place no such limitations on my Twitter feed and I’m pretty much on my last nerve there about 24/7/365.)

But in verifying the origin and exact wording of that circus/monkeys thing I got a half-dozen ads for coffee mugs that say, “That awful moment when you realize that this is your circus and those are your monkeys!”

First of all, I probably need one of those mugs.

Secondly, it’s true. Being one of the grown-ups in the room, with a sense of responsibility along with certain PTSD issues about quitting and giving up, this really *IS* my circus and those really *ARE* my monkeys.

Shit.

Well, that probably explains the trouble sleeping and the stomach pains…

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Filed under Disasters, Politics

Roses Vs 121°

It hasn’t been that bad here recently – upper 80’s, low 90’s. A dry, SMOKY heat, since we’re still getting a lot of it from the local fires, including the Bobcat fire which is threatening the world-class, historic astronomical observatories on Mount Wilson. As of last night, the flames were within 500 feet of the observatory grounds. You thought that I was worried and upset about Lick Observatory near San Jose when it was threatened a month ago? This one REALLY has me worried.

But a couple weeks ago, when it was 121° a couple miles from here and 117° here, I was out in the noonday sun (like an idiot, because… well, I’m an idiot) and noticed a couple of roses that had tried to bloom in the previous couple of days.

They were losing the fight.

As pretty much are California, Oregon, and Washington at the moment.

Good thing that we’ve got such a proactive, supportive, aggressive Federal assistance response going on to help us out! We can count on the White House and Congress!

(And I’ll leave it at that, leave this site relatively family friendly, and go back to Twitter to see what I can say about the GOP and President that might get me put into Twitter jail again.)

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Filed under Flowers, Photography, Politics

Remember Being Bored?

Remember when every day was a whole lot like every other day and there was a serious boredom factor involved and we wished for a little excitement?

Yeah, about that.

Let’s get back to a little more boredom, a little less stress, a little bit more routine, a little bit more predictability.

Is that too much to ask?

The critters are doing their part. Look out in the back yard – the lizards are lounging, the mockingbirds are mocking (it’s right there in their job description!), the finches are finching, the bunnies are bunnying…

How about we humans get with the program? Before the powers that be just reboot the planet by sending in that 900 gigaton iron ore meteor at .99C to solve the problem once and for all.

I know that the “Giant Meteor 2020!” bumper sticker is funny, but can I request “Boredom/Ennui 2020” as the ticket I would fully support?

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Politics