Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fiftieth Anniversaries

2017 has three fiftieth anniversaries that are significant for me.

The first is the fiftieth anniversary of my graduating from Rutgers with a degree in physics. I was very glad to have accomplished this. My years at Rutgers were considerably more good than bad, but I and others (especially physics majors) saw problems at our wonderful school. This was early in the years since Rutgers had become The State University. In recent years I learned that Rutgers tripled the number of students since the 1950s. At a Rutgers Club of DC meeting a few years ago there were people who had graduated from Rutgers in the 1950s. One man had graduated in 1951, another in 1958. The man from the class of 1951 told us that 400 students had started Rutgers with him and 400 had graduated 4 years later. The man from the class of 1958 told us that 500 had started in his class and 500 had graduated. During my time at Rutgers 1700 started and only 1100 had graduated in 1967. I do remember that sometimes we physics majors expressed the thought that there were too many physics majors for the faculty to handle. Still, though, I did get a good education as a young man in physics and more.

What are some other memories I have of my time at Rutgers?

There was one extracurricular activity that has shaped my life in important ways.

In high school I went out for the track team to get an athletic credit for college. The people in high school made me team manager. I liked doing that and learned something about running and runners by doing so. I liked that volunteer activity so much that when I got to Rutgers I volunteered to help again as team manager. They welcomed me to that post. I have great memories of Coach Wallach and the track team. Yes, I learned even more about running and runners by doing so. But I did not become a runner.

On Friday, November 22, 1963 (first semester of my freshman year) I was sitting in the library doing some reading for my courses. A young man I did not know walked in and said to me “Did you hear? The President has been shot.” I thought “What?” Later that afternoon I walked into my last Friday freshman physics class and saw that Professor Barshay had written on the blackboard “President Assassinated. Class canceled.” I walked back to my dormitory and phoned my father. He picked me up on his way home. That Saturday evening at home Mom, Dad and me watched TV where we saw a Rutgers choral group singing a tribute to the now late President Kennedy. That tribute was very moving.

Attending classical music concerts was another good thing about attending Rutgers back then. Then there was the Episcopalian students group that I enjoyed attending. Then there were the Rutgers basketball team games. Basketball improved greatly when I was there.

What else do I remember? Having lunch with Dad at the Alumni Faculty Club. One special occasion was in January 1964. The previous night there had been a game at a fraternity at which the upperclassmen tried to get the freshman as drunk as possible as fast as possible. I was the first loser. Friends helped me back to the dormitory. The next day Dad and I had a serious talk about alcohol at lunch. A few weeks later I was in New York City with some friends. Back then it was legal for 18 year olds to drink in New York City. My friends all ordered beer. I remember Dad was a moderate scotch drinker. I ordered a scotch and liked it. I became a moderate scotch drinker. In California I became a moderate wine drinker. The next time I drank beer was during my first trip to England in 1987 for a world science fiction convention. My cousins Harry and Anita Lawton picked me at the airport. On the way up to their place in Nottingham we stopped at a British pub. Harry asked me if I would like to try one of their beers. I, thinking that these were not just relatives but friends of mine, said yes. Harry ordered best bitter all around. I enjoyed that drink. Back in the States I wound up trying a bottle of Sam Adams at a Mensa party. I liked that. I became a moderate drinker of really good beer. During my next trip to England (in 1989) I told this story to Harry as we were sitting in a pub drinking some good British beer. Harry cracked up laughing.

Before I graduated in 1967 I was offered a job by IBM working in one of the laboratories as a young physicist. IBM seemed impressed with both Rutgers and me. I was glad to get this good job. The laboratory specialized in reliability of computer electronics. I was very glad to be offered the position and accepted it. On graduation day I was looking forward to starting this wonderful work. On graduation day my parents, remembering how much fun I had had getting the photography merit badge in the Boy Scouts gave me a very nice 35 mm camera outfit. If you could take a time machine back to that day and tell people five years from now this young man will be the photography editor of the Vassar College yearbook and ten years from now the Princeton Ballet will be paying him for his ballet photography, you would have been telling us the absolute truth and surprised us all. Then if you told us what was going to happen to me and my family in that decade, you would have shocked us.

The second fiftieth anniversary is far more shocking. In August I was drafted into the Army. Young physicists were normally given critical skills exemptions from the draft. I was the only man drafted out of my IBM laboratory. People at IBM told me to enter the Army. They said I would be given a position in a laboratory in the United States and would not go to Vietnam. That turned out to be true. But my time in the Army began a life of conflict with over the top authority figures. Authority with the limits of free, democratic societies I can accept, possibly easily.

I have already written about my time in basic training. On my blog I titled the entry A Few Basic Training Stories Lots of people – whatever their current political leanings – like that post. Oh – the second story shows the beginning of my sense of humor. Yes, I got hundreds of people to laugh out loud at an arrogant 2nd lieutenant.

Remember what I said about helping the track team at Rutgers as team manager? Basic training also started turning me into a runner – a very serious runner eventually. Yes I have written about that as well. Read My Running Career to learn more about that side of me. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my high school track coach – Coach Marchand -- had noticed that I had some talent for running.

After being in basic training a month, we were given our post basic training assignments. Assignments were like “You are going to infantry training. You are going to cooking school.” And more along the lines of normal military assignments. My assignment was not. I not only had a physics degree, I also had the highest IQ of anybody at Fort Dix. That, apparently, got the attention of some people very high up the hierarchy. What was my assignment? I was going to be sent to the United States Army Corps of Engineers Nuclear Cratering Group at Lawrence Laboratory in Livermore, California. I was going to be given $300 to buy civilian clothes because people in my group were not allowed to wear military uniforms. I was also going to be given some money to live in an apartment with some other people in Livermore, California. This freaked out the leadership at Fort Dix. It got me another month and a half of “basic training.”

Oh – the Army group I was assigned to was stationed at Lawrence Livermore because there was a much larger civilian group called Project Plowshare that was trying to come up with technologies that would use things like nuclear weapons for civilian purposes. Think doing things like digging a canal using “nuclear explosives” instead of sending out thousands of people with earth moving equipment to do such things.

Yes, I was very happy to be given that assignment. I was not going to be shot at . I might even make some sort of valuable contribution to our country and world by doing this kind of work.

I finally got out of basic training with the help of a corporal who would be discharged in a few days. He passed me on my hand grenade tossing test. Anyway in December I was now released from basic training. I went back to my parents' home for a Christmas vacation before flying out to California. I, of course, enjoyed spending time with Mom, Dad and family and friends in general.

Here is my third fiftieth anniversary.

One afternoon I was visiting our local car mechanic to discuss with this good man things I should pay attention to regarding my car out there in California. That discussion was going well as I expected it would.

Then Diane Van Doren burst in. We had gone to high school together. The Diane I knew was a sweet, warm, caring, bright, energetic, wonderful human being. She had a smile on her face even bigger and more impressive than the one I remembered from high school. She had let her beautiful blonde hair grow out much longer. I thought she was even more beautiful. Then she turned her head to the right and saw me. She quickly realized I had been drafted. That smile changed to an expression of genuine worry for me.

I told this terrific young woman that I had been given an assignment in California. I would not be shot at by Communists in Vietnam. That got her to relax a bit. Still, though, I could see how worried about me she had been.

My career and life took me many places. By the time I was working at Goddard Space Flight Center I had thought I would be spending the rest of my career there doing good things for my fellow humans. In 1999 I was driven out by truly awful management. My last day at Goddard was Monday, July 12, 1999. I started my new job with much better people the next day. The next weekend I went up to New Jersey for a high school reunion. When I walked in carrying the medal I got for finishing the Marine Corps Marathon in 1996 and showed it to Lucille Romano, she broke out with a great smile and said “You've done a marathon?” She made me wear that medal for the rest of the evening.

Later that evening news about Diane circulated around. Lucille also told me that Diane had committed suicide. That news shocked us all.

I started remembering Diane's and I last encounter. I began wondering what would have happened had I said to her “Diane, I don't have to go to California for some days. Would you like to go out on a date?” If she had said yes and we had hit it off well and began a long distance dating relationship until I got out of the Army and then starting dating even more seriously. I could imagine us getting married and starting a wonderful family. I would have had the wonderful wife and family I needed. Diane would have been much happier, putting it mildly. Don't you just love British understatement?

That memory of Diane is the last of my fiftieth anniversaries.

I hope people appreciate these memories of mine.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Education in the Community I Grew Up In

I was born in 1945 -- lots of people are surprised to hear that -- and grew up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, just outside of Trenton, New Jersey.

I remember going to Farmingdale and Greenwood Elementary Schools. I have good memories of the teachers I met there. They were very caring about their students. They encouraged my growing interests in things like space exploration, astronomy and science in general. My family was even more encouraging. I remember Mom and Dad buying me a telescope to look out into the heavens before I was a teenager. I think this was part of my getting the astronomy merit badge in the Boy Scouts.

I still have some interesting memories of that time in school.

One day in a high school history class I got into an informal debate with our teacher about what was more important -- the United States exploration of space or the various political changes that were happening in the Middle East (think United Arab Republic) at the same time. Oh -- I was on my high school's debate team. I obviously took the position that space exploration was most important. Our teacher claimed that the United Arab Republic was more important by far. He eventually kicked me out of class sending me to the principal's office. While I was waiting there, the vice principal came in and saw me sitting there. With a look of concern on his face he asked me what I was doing there. I told him. He relaxed and told me not to worry that he would take care of the problem.

One day also in high school when I was walking through our local bookstore I saw a book by a physicist named Eddington titled Mathematical Theory of Relativity. Since it was only $2.95 -- well within my allowance. I bought it. Soon I starting seeing mathematics that I had never seen before. I took the book into school and showed it to our math teacher -- a fine man named Mr. Rosen. I asked for his help. He with a friendly smile said "Why don't you wait until you are in college?" That's how I found out that my interests had gone far beyond what even a good high school back then could provide.

I also have a high school memory of my first grade teacher. How? One evening near the end of our class's senior year all of the teachers who had taught us as we were growing up were invited to a graduation oriented event. I ran into said first grade teacher there. She, with a big smile on her face, congratulated me on graduating from high school. She then asked quite friendlily what I would be doing after high school. I told her with a seventeen year old's enthusiasm that I would be going to Rutgers and majoring in physics. The expression on her face switched to something along the lines "You were bored in first grade!"

Lots of other people besides my family and my schools nurtured my growing interest in science. My parents were quite active in St. James Episcopal Church. They were part of the more well educated people there. All those people encouraged my interests. The Scopes Monkey Trial down in Tennessee decades earlier did get some attention -- particularly after the film Inherit the Wind came out. What did people at St. James think? They thought that kind of thinking was that of quite ignorant people who did not know what they were talking about.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jeff Bezos and Space

Jeff Bezos has been getting attention in recent years for doing things like creating Amazon and buying the Washington Post. His interest in space exploration and development hasn't attracted as much general attention. Perhaps that will change with the Transformers meeting on Wednesday, May 18 at the Washington Post.

Bezos has an interesting personal history. He was born in 1964. His biological parents marriage lasted less than a year. His mother remarried to one Miguel Bezos by the time Jeff was four. Miguel came to the United States from Cuba after the Communist takeover as part of Operation Pedro Pan (see Pedro Pan and Wikipedia on Peter Pan. Miguel (known generally as Mike) became an engineer in the United States

The Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union attracted much attention in the 1960s. It really got a good bit of attention after the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite in 1957 and the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. The United States eventually won that race when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Jeff Bezos was five then. That was old enough to remember such a significant event. I suspect his engineer stepfather Miguel paid a good bit of attention to this race, especially since he escaped Communist Cuba as a teenager.

Space faded from general interest after Apollo 11 – but not for some engineers, scientists and imaginative visionaries. One man who was a member of all these groups was one Gerard K. O'Neill) who was a physics professor at Princeton University. O'Neill got a good bit of attention in the larger world with his book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space that came out in 1976 which made an interesting case that the human race was on the brink of developing large space colonies that would house thousands and then millions of people doing things to benefit humans on Earth. Think, for example, building large satellites that would capture solar energy and beam it to Earth to power Earth cleanly and cheaply.

Jeff Bezos was a boy growing into a young man during the 1970s. He graduated from Miami Palmetto High in 1982 as class valedictorian. What was his valedictorian address about? Space colonies. The Miami Herald has an interesting article about this.

What was his next step in his education? He went to Princeton University, starting out as a physics major. I suspect Gerard K. O'Neill and his advocacy of space colonies had something to do with this decision. Bezos soon switched to his first loves of electrical engineering and computer software though. Jeff also became president of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space while at Princeton. People can find an interesting account of Bezos' work doing that on Gaiome.

After graduating from Princeton, Bezos first found work on Wall Street before starting Amazon in the 1990s. More recently he has started Blue Origin. Let me say Jeff Bezos is still quite interested in space exploration and development.

The event Transformers, while it does have some interesting people in fields outside of space who are working to make interesting changes in their fields, does have some interesting people who are working to change space as well. At least that is what I get from reading the Post's description of this upcoming event at the Washington Post website.

The big question in my mind is the timing of this event. Why is it on the Wednesday that is the start of ISDC and the middle day of Humans to Mars?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Black People and the Divine Family

If you could take a time machine back to the 1950s and spend some time with my family in the community in which we lived (Hamilton Township, New Jersey, right outside of Trenton) you would learn some important things about my family. My family took family quite seriously, as they did church and the larger community. We also paid closer attention to Rutgers than most people because my father and grandfather had gone there. Dad made Eagle Scout so we respected the Boy Scouts highly. We were also Episcopalians and took church quite seriously but very positively. We did respect people of other religions, though. Because Dad's Mom was Canadian, we also spent more time than most Americans visiting that wonderful country.

My first black friend was a boy named Arnie. We met when we were both 5 years old and started kindergarten. My parents encouraged that friendship as they did my friendships with other children I met in school and elsewhere. When Arnie and I turned 8 we were old enough to join the Cub Scouts. Mom and Dad started a Cub Scout den which met in our home every week. Arnie was one of the boys that I – with encouragement from Mom and Dad – recruited into our den.

Most of our family's vacations were oriented to trips to Canada because of Dad's family connections. In 1957 we took our first trip south. Why? 1957 was the 350th anniversary of the founding of the first successful British colony of Jamestown in what is now Virginia. That trip is where I first saw racial prejudice in action. At age 11 I knew that there were differences between men and women that caused there to be different restrooms for men and women. It was in Virginia that I saw separate restrooms for black and white and different water fountains for black and white. Partly as a result of that trip, I began to understand in greater depth what black people – especially in the South – were struggling to change, helped by white people such as my family.

The first famous black man who started changes in my life was Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. He inspired many of us with his leadership for civil rights and his commitment to nonviolence. His and others commitment to civil rights made a big impression on this son of Eisenhower Republican parents as did his commitment to nonviolence, especially when considering the behavior of groups like the KKK.

Something happened in October 1962 that caused me to take my first independent political position. That was the month of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I already had a better idea of what nuclear war would do to our country and world because of my growing knowledge of physics and aerospace technology. Influenced by the example of King, I became a Eisenhower Republican pacifist.

In more recent years I have continued to make black friends. One who has been significantly important to me is one Paul Roberts Abernathy. He was, until he retired a year ago, rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.

When I moved to this area, I count myself fortunate to have met many fine people through the Capital View Library, Episcopal Church of the Atonement and Peacetimers Toastmasters. I look forward to growing relationships with the fine people I have met here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Goddard Recreational Tunneling Club

I am writing this blog entry because of a recommendation at the Beltway Bob Happy Hour on Friday, November 27, 2015. I mentioned I had given a talk to IFC Toastmasters on how I started the Goddard Recreational Tunneling Club and helped it grow.

In August 1991 I had been employed at Goddard Space Flight Center's Supercomputer Center for a year and a half. While there I made a quite a few friends at the supercomputer center and elsewhere -- think the Goddard Running Club and the Goddard Music and Drama Club. The latter group puts on various theatrical productions every year.

People also got to know I had many friends who were, in some ways, different from the average American. Most people enjoyed hearing about them.

Late one Friday afternoon in August 1991 I got to talking to Don and Charlie about the few people I knew who had the rather unusual hobby of recreational tunneling. Don, Charlie and I were all runners who worked at the supercomputer center. I would also describe them as bright guys with good senses of humor. Don's wife Wendy was busy that evening with daughter. Don, Charlie and I went out to a local restaurant and had a friendly dinner. During that dinner we formed the Goddard Recreational Tunneling Club. No, we never did any tunneling. But when someone said "It's time for a tunneling club meeting!" our bunch would head out for drinks and a dinner. All of us really enjoyed those dinners.

Our first single woman member was Lynn. She also worked at the supercomputer center. She was also a bit of a runner. We welcomed her -- as we did anyone -- into our group. Then came Friday, May 1, 1992. Lynn told us she would not be coming to our dinner that evening because she had a date with a guy. Now imagine a group of geeky guys sitting around a table talking about life in general and Lynn and her skipping our dinner. It is May First -- known to some people as May Day. Choosing some woman to be Queen of the May has been going on for some time. Think centuries. That evening we elected Lynn Queen of the May. Monday morning Don, Charlie and I showed up at the door of her office. I was carrying a tiara made out of tin foil. We told Lynn the news about us electing her Queen of the May. I gave her the tiara. What was her reaction? She simply said -- possibly somewhat irritated -- "You did what?!"

After that the rest of us stopped paying attention to our electing Lynn Queen of the May. We continued our dinners and our friendly interactions at work.

The following March Lynn brought up the topic again with the somewhat irritated statement "I'm tired of being Queen of the May!" We looked around the table and saw Matt wasn't there. So we elected Matt Queen of the May.

Queen of the May elections became a tradition. Another single woman who joined our group was Andrea. She was a bright, beautiful blonde runner we worked with at the Goddard supercomputer center. She actually began campaigning to become Queen of the May. Yes, we eventually elected her Queen of the May. Oh -- she was the only person who ever campaigned for the position. That year we also elected Dennis, another computer geek at the Goddard supercomputer center, Co Queen of the May. Andrea was a bit irritated at that decision. She was a good person, though, as were all of the people in our group.

Don's wife Wendy helped grow the group. She was a geek working in downtown DC. We started inviting her. She started inviting her friends from work. We welcomed them as well. That's how we went from being the Goddard Recreational Tunneling Club to the Greater Metropolitan Washington Nude Recreational Tunneling Club. Nude? Well, I suspect some of our married couples did see each other nude at times.

One evening Lynn brought some poetry she had written. We were not narrow people. That evening we also became The Occasional Sentence Diagramming Society.

Then one evening as we were leaving Charlie stacked some plates, saucers, cups, glasses, etc., on top of each other. That's how we became the Oblate in Abstentia Chapter of the World Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things.

Now you know how I became the Revered Founder and President of the Greater Metropolitan Washington Nude Recreational Tunneling Club and Occasional Sentence Diagramming Society, The Oblate in Abstentia Chapter of the World Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things.

Good things came about because of our group.

Don, Charlie and I became the corps of the Goddard Supercomputer Center running team which competed in the races organized by the Goddard Running Club. We also got into running in races far from Goddard. I seem to remember one race in Rockville, Maryland as well as others. I even got Don to run a few times with the Hash House Harriers.

Friendships grew and lasted. I even participated in group activities after I was forced out of Goddard by really awful management. People also came to parties at my house -- think Metropolitan Washington Mensa, Washington Science Fiction Association and more. We also partied at other people's houses. I remember especially hanging out with Don and Wendy at their place.

Enough for now. Feel free to bring this up anywhere we meet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans' Day 2015

It is Veterans' Day 2015. I am thinking about this day in part because last Thursday would have been Mom's 100th Birthday. Mom was born during World War I. Dad was born a few years earlier. Neither of them had any real personal memories of that human tragedy.

World War I ended on November 11, 2018. Many, many people thought that would be the end of horrible wars such as that one. Few anticipated a much worse war would happen in only a few decades.

At the beginning of World War II Mom was a young adult of 23 with two younger brothers, Uncle Clarence and Uncle John. Her wonderful parents – Joseph and Laura (maiden name Lawton) Lowe – were both alive. They had, I think, a good family with children beginning to make contributions to the larger society.

Uncle John was the first to be noticeably affected by the war. For some reason he literally cracked up in the Army. I don't know why. Our family did not discuss that much. I can say that our government did take good care of Uncle John. One thing I remember about Uncle John was his heavy smoking – four packs a day I understand. I also remember his affection for carrier pigeons. That was a big hobby of his. When I knew him growing up, he was a postal carrier for the U.S. Post Office. He did die of a heart attack at age 65. I think that the smoking contributed greatly to that. I wonder what his life would have been like if there had not been a World War II.

Uncle Clarence was also affected greatly by the war. He was a member of the infantry who was wounded twice badly during fighting in Europe. When he got home, people said to him “Guess you will be getting married and settling down now.” His reply was sad. He said “No. I want a quiet life.” Today people say that such things are the result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don't know if that is what happened to Uncle Clarence, although it seems quite likely. I can say this wonderful man was, in many ways, like a second father to me. Among other things he did in the 1950s was to build the Lowe family's first high fidelity music system. He also built a telescope to look at the heavens. Oh – he dropped out of high school in the 1930s. Times were very different back then.

Mom came through the war in good shape. She even married Dad during the war. These two people had a great marriage. They were loving, caring, bright and, in important ways, curious and open minded. I remember doing things with them as a boy like decorating our home for Christmas. I really loved the electric trains we had. So did Dad. Watching Dickens' “A Christmas Carol” on TV became a tradition. Mom and Dad even took to me to Broadway to see things like Julie Andrews in “My Fair Lady.” Then there were the many trips to Canada to visit Dad's cousins.

Mom's parents came through the war in good shape. I remember playing in the wonderful home my grandfather (who was a bricklayer by profession) built with some friends of his. I could not have wanted better grandparents. My grandfather passed away in the early 1950s from natural causes. My grandmother made it into the early 1960s.

At the beginning of the war, my father's parents were still alive, as were his two brothers Uncle Don and Uncle Dick.

My father's father – Charles – was the first to die. He died in 1942, apparently of natural causes. He had been born in 1869 and was 72. My father was the first of his children, born in 1913. I grew up in the same home Dad did. It was also a nice place to be. That grandfather had graduated from Rutgers in 1890. Dad's side of the family was, shall we say, well educated for the time. My father was Rutgers class of 1935.

The next death was much more tragic. In 1944 my Grandmother Agnes was listening to the radio upstairs when a story came on about how the war could be over soon. Mom and Dad were downstairs. My Grandmother Agnes ran for the stairs and downstairs to tell Mom and Dad the news. She tripped on the stairs. She was badly injured. She did die from her injuries, just not immediately. She was only 64. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up for at least a bit with a Canadian grandmother. Dad's love of Canada has been passed on to me.

The war in Europe was winding down with an Allied victory in 1945. Our side won in May. Unfortunately for my family, Uncle Dick was killed in the closing days of the war. Dad's first reaction was “Thank God Mom went first. This would have killed her.” Dad missed Uncle Dick until he died in 1974. Uncle Dick was viewed as the smartest of the three brothers. Dad and Uncle Don were exceptionally intelligent themselves. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to grow up with a brilliant mathematician uncle.

Uncle Don became an officer in the Navy. I gather he served in the Pacific. I don't remember him talking much about his military service. Perhaps my cousins Barbara, Don and Cindy could say more. They were fortunate enough to live with Uncle Don and Aunt Kay through their years of growing up in New Jersey. My strongest memories were of a wonderful couple who gave me – and the rest of the world – fine cousins.

My father's war experiences were, shall we say, unusual. This story begins with my father getting hit by a streetcar when he was in junior high back in the 1920s. His lower left leg bones were shattered. Doctors managed to save his leg by cleaning out the bone fragments and replacing them with a hunk of platinum. That leg bothered Dad for the rest of his life, some days more than others.

Because of that injury, when Dad went to Rutgers, he majored in economics and, upon graduating, became a fine accountant. He was a good, bright man who kept up on the developments in his field including such things as the then new cost accounting. By the time the United States was attacked, Dad had become a mature, but still young man. During the war he worked in the accounting office of a local war contractor. In good part because of his abilities and character the war contractor made Dad the manager of said office. That injured leg might have had something to do with it as well.

When Dad received his first draft notice, he, of course, reported. The doctors examined his leg and declared him 4F – not able to serve because of his injury. No one was surprised at that. What got to be surprising was the fact that Dad starting getting draft notices every few months. The doctors started saying things like “What? You again?” before once again proclaiming him 4F.

In a way it was I who finally figured out what had gone on.

I was drafted into the Army in 1967 within a few months of graduating from Rutgers with a degree in physics. I was already working as a physicist at IBM. Everyone was surprised at my being drafted. While, like all young men, I was subject to the draft, I – and most others – thought that because of my critical skills (physicists were in very short supply) I would be given a critical skills exemption. I was the only young man drafted out of the IBM laboratory where I worked.

How did this happen?

I grew up in the same home that Dad did. I was subject to the same draft board that Dad was.

In 1969 the draft resistance forces opposed to the war in Vietnam managed to force Selective Service to report who sat on many draft boards because Selective Service had improperly assigned people to various draft boards. Dad recognized the name of one man on my draft board. He had been one of the people my father managed during World War II. I now think this man – sometimes I think this criminal – was responsible for me being drafted in 1967.

Oh – did they get a normal 21 year old college graduate? Hardly. They got a very, very bright physicist with an extremely democratic personality. My story A Few Basic Training Stories will, hopefully, help people understand that part of me better.

We Americans – and others living in free, democratic countries – should show our thanks to those fine men and women who have served in our militaries to protect us from the likes of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and their supporters. I also think all of us should work on better ways of leading humanity to better futures than those monsters did. Better to have the Hitlers and Stalins doing something that would not hurt the human race the way that they did than making truly horrible wars on all of us

Enough for now. I actually want to post this on Veterans' Day in 2015. Of course I will have more to say on this important topic.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Vulcan Ambassador Chuck E-Mails -- A Copy

A while back I received an e-mail from somebody in Africa named Umogbai Favour.

Spammers and frauds do irritate me. Anyway, I had a few minutes to kill so I decided to reply. But not as Chuck Divine. No, that wouldn't be fun. So I assumed the persona of

Vulcan Senator
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Earth
Federation of Sentient Planets

Anyway, here is my first reply to the delightful umogbai:

umogbai favour wrote:

>Dear Charles Divine
>It's with an unbound joy that I introduce EAGLES
>Eagles Foundation is a network and great of Achievers
>from different part of the globe,

I'm afraid you've contacted the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth.  We've been
keeping our presence here a secret.  We try to keep a low profile until
a prospective member world has been invited to join The Federation of
Sentient Worlds.

>with the purpose of
>providing for the unprivileged child: EDUCATION,
>PROTECTION AND SECURITY, We also help in medical&
>Technological research and leadership training,
>especially we are dedicated to the unprivileged child.
Good.  Although the few humans we've actually had conversations with
usually speak of the "underprivileged" child.  Might I suggest you work
on your English?  Or speak in your native tongue.  We do have
translators.  Perhaps you've seen some of our efforts at familiarization
of humanity with Galactic Culture?  You know -- "Star Trek."  Granted,
there are inaccuracies.  Trust me, Vulcans make love more than once
every seven years.  More like every 7 hours -- every hour for the more

>After our just concluded EAGLES SUBMITTE, WITH A
>THEME: The place of the unprivileged child in our
>We came to a few conclusion, one of which  was that,
>every day, our different orphanage homes gets an
>increase of 10%, mostly babies and that the future of
>the orphanage homes are faced with uncertainty and

That's tragic.

>Our final conclusion is that the rich and the highly
>placed run a deadly risk in their callus neglect of
>the poor and unprivileged child.
>Dear friend, you may have once lived and survived by
>the mercy of people, on your way to the top,
Actually, Vulcan is a very democratic and free society.  We learned
millenia ago that tyranny is not only illogical but counterproductive.
So we really don't have a "top" the way you humans do.  You do seem to
be learning though.  The delusion known as communism is dying.  And the
delusion known as naziism really is dead.

>return such kindness to the society without a prize.
>In our search for those who have established their
>reputation and standard as the highest
> their different career.
>We have found you of good reputation in high standard
>in your chosen carrier.
Thank you!  But how did you hear of the Vulcan Embassy?  We've been
trying to keep it under wraps -- don't want to frighten humanity.  We
think you have real potential.

>In view of the above, we have decided to appoint you
>as one of our associate member, by this appointment
>you will be committed to serve humanity with your
>skill. Your prayer contribution to the growth of
Hmm.  Have you heard of our Prime Directive?  We're not supposed to
interfere with cultures that haven't achieved warp capability.  Even
this e-mail comes perilously close to the edge of interference.

>Note also that countless of prayers are being made
>every hour that passed by for your success by our
>prayer partners, this is because of your importance to
>this vision.
>Always remember that your friendship is too precious
>for us lose, as we await your mail of acceptance.

Thank you for your friendship.  When you finally achieve warp
capability, we look forward to assisting your entire species.  From what
we can tell, Reid Malenfant and Bootstrap Corporation are making
excellent progress.  Please support them with all your resources.

>Thanks for your anticipated co-operation as we
>resuming a purpose and eventful relationship.
>To your success,
And to yours!

Remember to contact us when you achieve warp capability.  We eagerly
anticipate the commencement of cooperative, profitable endeavours.

Vulcan Senator
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Earth
The Federation of Sentient Worlds

Umogbai replied! I was stunned. Anyway, I managed to get off the following answer:

umogbai favour wrote:

> Mr charles
The name's Chuck.  We Vulcans don't go in for nicknames.  Haven't you
seen any of our efforts to familiarize your species with Galactic
Culture?  You know "Star Trek", "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Star
Trek: Deep Space Nine", "Star Trek: Voyager" and now "Enterprise"?  The
characters from Vulcan are named Sarek, Spock, Saavik, Tuvok et alii --
getting the picture?

My surname is entirely too difficult to translate into any human language.

> Thanks for your maill
Americans and Brits would spell the word as "mail."

> sir, it was a splended

> one also
>for your corrections,
We try to help.

> kindly tell me more about your
Well, in your years I was born in 2342 and am now 273 years old -- don't
worry, our species lives to at least 1500 of your years.  My parents are
respectively 2417 and 1693 -- and in excellent health, by the way.  They
both finished Vulcan's premier megamarathon (2910.003 of your
kilometres) only last October.  I'm really proud of them!

Myself -- well, I'm a polymath.  I love new challenges -- and new
lovers.  I hope to eventually beat my older brother Karnak's record of
43 lovers in a single Vulcan day (OK, our days are longer than yours)
and my older sister Dharmak's megamarathon time of 372:43:16:27:68.92.

My art is not only prized on Vulcan, but Centauri dealers have started
selling it around the galaxy.

Of course I'm really delighted with my recent election to the Vulcan
Academy of Science.

Finally, there's my new wife, Dink.  What else can I say about her
except she's utterly brilliant and the most loving woman I've ever met.

> and The Federation of Sentient Worlds, l am
>interested also in what you do
Well, our general role is to promote peace and freedom throughout the
galaxy.  We occasionally do have to fight off invaders from parallel
universes, though.  Like the Vorlons and the Borg.  Tell me, are you
familiar with the Copenhagen Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum
Mechanics?  Too few humans are.  You really should learn some modern
physics -- it's important if humanity is ever to fit into the Galactic

>,where you are located.
At night, go outside and look up at the constellation Sagitarius --
Galactic Center is that way.  At Galactic Center there is a massive
black hole that's torn a rip in the space-time continuum known as the
Esty.  Our headquarters -- a microworld known as Babylon (didn't you
name one of your ancient cities that?) orbits the Esty.

On this planet we have secret observation posts located at important
locations:  Washington, New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, Grover's
Mills, Hollywood, New Delhi, Hobart and others.  In the United States
our observation post looks like a portajohn -- it's right across from
the White House.  In London we use a police box.  We try to keep our
presence inconspicuous.

Oh, by the way, don't panic if you see some Black Helicopters and a few
guys dressed in Black.  They're just part of our observation team.

To Logic,

Vulcan Senator
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Earth
Federation of Sentient Planets

Believe it or not, that answer actually got a reply. At that point, though, I got bored and had better things to do.

The next victim of my humor was one MOO ALEXENDER.

I don't normally greet people with a "Moo!!!" I usually reserve that greeting for cows....

Anyway, here is my response to MOO:


>Mr.MOO ALEXENDER            

>Director Friend,
I'm not a director.

I'm Chuck, Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Earth, Vulcan Senator, Vulcan
High Command, Diktor of the Security Council of the Federation of
Sentient Planets, you freaking idiot.

>  It is with trust and confidentiality, that I make
>this urgent and important business proposal to you.

Oh, you want to sell us your damned planet.

You and every half wit in Africa.

>It gives me so much enthusiasm to write this letter to you. It is all
>in a view to soliciting for assistance to enable us execute a venture
>of mutual benfit.My name is MOO

> ALEXENDER A former Central Bank of
>Zimbabwe Worker, during the last political disturbuce by the
>government held by Robert Mugabe,
Oh, you stole some money from that racist murderer, did you?

>I and my other colleagues worked out
>over US$20,000,000.00(Twenty million, United States Dollars Only) as
>over invoiced and inflated payment.for election materials and the
>funds is now flotting
Flotting?  Don't you mean "floating"?

> in a surspence

>account ready to be transfered

>to the provided account.Now that we are not sure of the future of thi
>scountry, due to the cry of sanction by world leader in and around
>the world. for the brutal take over of white farm by the
>Administration, and the lack of purpose in the Administration, me and
>my friends have decided to invest this funds wisely.
>  The fund is currently in security company in Holland the
>netherlands.I have put all the needfull together to ensure a
>successful transfer of the funds to a desinated
Good grief, can't you even spell, you worthless incompetent?

> account. Acting in
>concert with few trusted other officers, we need the assistance of a
>foreign company/persons to push this money into their accounts. You
>will do very well with what we have in mind. Your share of what ever
>we succeed in putting into your account will be giving you the 20% of
>the total sum, while 70%will be for us and 10% will be mapped out
Hmm,  send me 90% in gold pressed latinum and I'll think about it....

> for
>any expenses incurred by both parties in the process of the transfer,
>we require nothing more from you,except your willingness to assist
>us.I will refrain from giving out more operational details, until I
>receive your reply. Since time is of the essence to us,
Time is not of the essence to us, cretin.  We have time travel.

>reply this
>letter quickly so as to know what next to do, even if this letter
>does not meet your approval, please inform me. There is norisk
>involved, as we have done our homework carefully.
I can't stop laughing.

Send me all your money -- no strings attached.  If there's enough, I
might help out.  Then again, maybe I'll just buy beer for the hash.

On On

Vulcan Senator
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Earth
Vulcan High Command

>  Looking forward to hearing from you.
>Thanks And God Bless.

> ALEXENDER            

I was obviously more irritated with Moo than Favour -- and more pressed for time. Moo never responded. Boo hoo..... Was I perhaps too insulting?

It's now some years later than those exchanges. I had a frustrating week. When one evening's plans got screwed up, I sat at home and saw another one of these spam e-mails. Poor Joyce Zane got the Ambassador Chuck treatment as a result of all this. Here's what I wrote:

On Thu, 2006-03-09 at 16:36, From Ms Joyce wrote:
> Dear,


> Good a thing to write you.

How did you discover this address?  The Embassy does like to keep this
address a bit quiet.  There is a real fear that humans are not quite
ready for contact with galactic civilization.

Oh -- we do like to give a bit of instruction in proper English.  The
correct way to write that sentence would, of course, be "It's a good
thing to write to you."

> I have a proposal for you-this however is  not mandatory nor will I in any manner compel you to honour against your will.

Um -- you do know you can't compel species that have acheived warp
drive, don't you?

> I am Joyce Zane ,26years old and the only daughter of my late parents Mr.and Mrs.Zane.

Zane?  Any relation to Zane Grey?

> My father was a highly reputable business magnate-(a Grandnut

What refreshing honesty.  Most people just like to be thought of as just
plain nuts.

>  merchant)who operated in the capital City of Senegal during his days.It is sad to say that he passed away mysteriously in France during  one of his business trips abroad year 12th.Feb.2003.

On Abraham Lincoln's Birthday?  What a tragedy...

>  Though his sudden death was linked or rather suspected to have been masterminded by an uncle

Man From Uncle?  Ilya Kurakin?  Good friends of ours...

>  of his whotravelled

Dr. Who?  The Time Lord?

>  with him at that time. But God knows the truth!

Actually, Cthuthu also knows the truth.  But he won't tell unless you
give him a really big bribe...

> My mother died when I was just 4 years old,and since then my father took me so special.

Be careful with that kind of kinky stuff.  The Embassy is located in the
United States.  Maybe you know how they are.

> Before his death on Febuary 12, 2003 he called the secretary who
> accompanied him to the hospital and told her that he had a sum of $4.5million US DOLLARS (Four Million Five Hundred Thousand USA DOLLARS)

Oooooh.  What's that in gold pressed latinum?  You know -- galactic

>  kept in One trunks box as a vault deposit with a private security company in Europe. He also said that the security company does not know the content of the safe Box.He decleared

decleared?  or declared?

>  it as family treasure and used my name to Deposit

It's not proper to capitalize a word in the middle of a sentence unless
it's a proper name.

>  the money as his first daugther


>  for next of kin. He also explained to her that it was because of this wealth that he was poisoned by his business associates,

Any relation to the Borgias?

>  that I should seek for a foreign partner in a country of my choice where I will transfer this money to and use it for investment purposes.

Have you considered doing business on Frottage 3?  Saucy Jack is quite
well known for his various services.

> I want you to assist me in re-locating this deposit into your position  overseas as a beneficiary,and also use it for our joint ivestment


> purpose on my behalf.I am just 26 years old

Oh, so young.  At that age my species is barely able to read and write.
Of course we do live to at least 3500 of your years.

>  and a university undergraduate

Isn't that a bit slow for a human?

>  and really don't know what to do.

That must be why you turned -- so wisely I might add -- to the Vulcan
Embassy on Earth.

>  This is because I have suffered a lot of set backs as a result of incessant political crisis here in Senegal.

That's too bad...

We Vulcans do wonder when your species is going to achieve greater
maturity.  It's really keeping you from entering into galactic culture.

> The death of my father actually brought sorrow to my life coupled with the hardship, I am passing through my only uncle

What?  Is he some kind of cannibal?

>  who wants me dead because he want to take-over all my late father's wealth.
> Dearest one,I am in a sincere desire of your humble assistance in this regards your suggestions and ideas will be highly regarded.

Buy Amalgamated Aluminum Associates.  Now.

> Now permit me to ask these few questions:-
> 1. Can you honestly help me as your daughter?

That would be a bit hard to do.  My pointed ears, my greenish skin.  You

> 2. Can I completely trust you?

Mais oui, madamoiselle.

> 3. What percentage of the total amount in question will be good for you after the deposit is retrived


>  and re-located to your position.

Why don't you just trust us with our matter duplicator to work that one

> Please,Consider this and get back to me as soon as possible.
> Thank you so much.
> My sincere regards,
> Ms Joyce Zane


Vulcan Senator
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Earth

Joyce hasn't responded as yet. Was I too rough on he