Thursday, September 18, 2014

The February 2014 Mensa Bulletin

I am putting a link to the February Mensa Bulletin onto my blog to see how easy it is for others to see my copy on the web. Zombie Nation describes the harm sleep deprivation is doing to the United States.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thinking About September 11th

Today is the 13th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center by Al-Qaeda terrorists. That same morning they flew a plane into The Pentagon. That last attack produced the scariest e-mail I remember seeing. I didn't learn about the attacks until I was walking into work. That day was a hot day. I began it with a six mile run before breakfast. I had breakfast before the attacks. While the attacks were occurring I was showering and getting ready for work. During my short drive to work, I didn't hear anything. When I walked into the small office building where Tidal Zone Associates was located, I ran into someone who worked in the Maryland State Comptroller's office on the first floor. She asked if I had heard that a plane had collided with the World Trade Center in NYC. I replied that I hadn't. I walked into my company's offices. People were already talking about the accident. I walked into my office and began checking my e-mail -- work related and personal. The personal e-mail had an e-mail from a Hash House Harrier who worked in the Pentagon. She began her e-mail with a story about the attacks in NYC. Then she closed her e-mail with the words "PENTAGON ON FIRE." That really scared me. I told other people I worked with. We were all shocked. The news kept piling up. No one got any work done that day.

The one thing I remember from later that day was contacting Paul Ambos in New Jersey. I knew he worked down in that part of Manhattan -- but not at the World Trade Center. He told me he was alright -- but that getting out of Manhattan had been difficult.

Months later I remember talking with a fellow Mensa member about her experience that day. She had been working in one of the two towers. She was going up in an elevator when the first plane hit the other tower. She got out. She was told to continue to work because her tower wasn't in danger. She ignored that command and took the next elevator down. She got out in time -- and quite safely. Others did not.

That day scared lots of people -- not only Americans. We were horrified at what happened. Thousands of people were dead.

Since then, our country and world has changed in many ways -- too often not for the good.

After 9/11, the United States has gone on a security kick. We have even created a Department of Homeland Security. Didn't that task used to be the work of the Department of Defense -- formerly the Department of War? Too much of the "security" really doesn't work. Back on September 10, 2007, Women In Aerospace sponsored a forum on the state of aviation security. Before I even walked in, I knew that when the Transportation Security Administration -- known in some circles as Thousands Standing Around -- tested its own "security" by trying to smuggle guns through, over 90% of the time those guns got through. That day I learned that there was a college student out there who had smuggled high explosives onto airplanes just to show he could. People at that meeting were furious with this farce. I recommend people pay more attention to Bruce Schneier and his blog Schneier on Security to learn more about this topic.

We have also launched a horrible war in the Middle East. Before the war was started, I had doubts about it. Then I discovered noted science fiction author Jerry Pournelle had started a blog he titled Chaos Manor. Jerry is fine writer -- with clearly libertarian sympathies. I still remember his protest of the upcoming war. I thought Jerry is not some sort of pacifist. If he was against the Iraq War, I felt quite comfortable also opposing it. That war has done great damage to our country and world. I do hate the Islamic terrorists -- but I want a better way of dealing with them than America's longest war.

We have moved the United States in a direction that gives far too much power to authority. This has been done supposedly to solve "security" problems and to stop "crime." These people claim even education will be better if moved in a more authoritarian direction. They don't seem to pay attention to anything that opposes their ideas, no matter how strong the evidence supporting opposing views are.

I've written enough for now. I wonder how much attention this blog posting will get -- and whether people will respond to it either in comments or directly.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Forty Years Ago

Today in the Washington Post there were reviews of books about Watergate. That tragic crime led to Nixon's resignation 40 years ago. The part of me that is liberal and the part of me that is conservative and the part that is hard to describe all are glad that Nixon was finished as President 40 years ago.

There is something, though, that while it did not attract nearly as much attention, affected me far more deeply than Watergate.

I am talking about the death of my wonderful father, Charles I. Divine, also 40 years ago. I miss that good man still. He passed away far too young. He was only 61. He died of complications of surgery. That tragedy turned me from an occasional runner and swimmer into someone who runs or swims 6 days a week. There is more about that on my blog post My Running Career.

I am sitting here now in front of a computer connected up to the Internet -- things my father could have understood, but did not live to see. What am thinking about? Dad. I wish he was here. He'd only be 101. And Mom too. She'd only be 98. If Dad had lived, I can imagine Mom living longer too.

Dad was Rutgers Class of 1935. His father, Charles Divine, was Class of 1890. That's why I went to Rutgers.

Dad was a cradle Episcopalian. So was Mom. That's why I am.

I try to help the world be a better place -- like my parents.

Is it possible for me to criticize Dad? He was a lousy cook. That's why Mom proclaimed when I was 12 that I should get the cooking merit badge in the Boy Scouts. She said "All men should know how to cook." Today people really like my cooking -- even my French cooking. I wonder if that would have happened otherwise.

God, I miss Dad. I always will. Even if I live to be a thousand. Or a million. You get the picture.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Who Is Reading My Blog?

I am becoming very curious about who is reading my blog.

Some posts draw very little attention.

One of my attempts at humor that people seem to like is The Vulcan Ambassador Chuck E-Mails.  I will admit I have publicized that piece lots of places.  Over 800 views doesn't exactly surprise me.

Then there are things like An Interesting Side Comment by Michael Griffin.  That has gotten 234 views -- without me publicizing it much.  Other space related blog entries have gotten hundreds of views.  Interestingly enough, though, I haven't received many comments directly -- just an occasional comment, sometimes on the critical side.

Tuesday I will go to a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon.  While there I will try to bring this up as well as mentioning the showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey at Wolf Trap.  I will report that I have put that event in the local Mensa calendar.  I may also bring up a few other things.  For instance, how different space is today from the visions of the 1960s -- with a reference to the Columbia disaster.  I might also, if I get the chance, to bring up the February Mensa Bulletin article on sleep deprivation.

Episcopal Church Membership

On Tuesday, September 29th, a new committee of St. Mark's Episcopal Church met to discuss strengthening membership. The church overall has been in decline for a number of years. In 1965 the church had 3.6 million baptized members and 2.2 million communicants. By 2001 there were 2.3 million members and 1.8 million communicants. This is with a growing national population.

Much has changed in both the United States and the Episcopal Church since 1965. Back in 1965 all priests were men -- and practically all of them married men still on their first and only wife. Families were more intact because divorce was much rarer. There were far more stay at home wives looking after children. People in neighborhoods knew each other much better. I do remember my own mother returning to work -- when I was in high school and could take care of myself after school. It can be easily argued that all of these things had major good points.

Perhaps because I saw my parents as equals who loved and respected each other and me, I have a more positive view of the world back then. When feminism started its gains in the 1960s, I had been fully prepared for a world in which women were viewed as the equal of men. After all, it had been that way in my home -- and, I think, in other homes that I had the opportunity to see. Just because Mom stayed at home when I was a child did not mean she was inferior to Pop. My parents viewed bringing up children as important as the work my father did as an accountant and business manager in the hospitals where he worked. Clearly there were people who did not see things that way. I have read that, in Hilary Clinton's childhood home, her father completely dominated things like political discussion. Her mother wasn't even allowed to mention Democratic Party positions. While my parents were both Republicans, they viewed Democrats as fine people with whom they had some disagreements. They even, from time to time, voted for a Democrat.

Women moving into the workplace has not been the only change since 1965. People who do work outside the home are spending more and more time at their paying work. Because both parents are, increasingly, working full time, childcare is left to others -- all too often people who are less able than the parents to bring up their children. Parents, after all, know their children better than almost any poorly paid professional caretaker. They can help them more.

People are more pressed for time because of the lengthening work week. There are other things of importance to normal human beings -- family, friends, community, etc. When those are shortchanged, people become less happy.

There has also been a rise in authoritarian cultures in political, social and economic arenas. It doesn't matter what the position is -- it seems that to disagree is wrong, even if the disagreement is intended to improve the situation people are addressing.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thinking About D-Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  When D-Day happened, my Uncle Dick and Grandmother Agnes were still both alive.  A year later both were dead.  My paternal grandmother Agnes heard something on the radio that gave her the idea that the war would soon be over.  She ran for the steps to go downstairs to tell Mom and Dad.  She tripped on the steps and badly injured herself.  She died from those injuries.  Mom and Dad got the news of the death of Uncle Dick in May 1945.  Dad commented "Thank God Mom went first.  This would have killed her."  Dad missed his brother until the end of his life.

Mom's side of the family took some hits as well.  Uncle Clarence served in the Army over in Europe.  He was wounded twice rather badly.  When he got home, people said to him "Guess you will be getting married now."  He replied "No.  I want a quiet life."  That good man became like a second father to me.  I think the world is poorer because of his quite understandable decision.  Uncle John literally cracked up in basic training.  I don't know why.  The Army and the VA did take care of him until the end of his life.  I do remember him smoking four packs of cigarettes a day.  I wonder if what happened to him in the 1940s had something to do with that.  He did die of a heart attack at age 65.  Uncle Clarence made it to 81, Mom to 93.

After the war, this country let in the Peenemunde rocket team.  Yes, we got a Man on the Moon in 1969.  But did bringing in these people shift aerospace culture in a fundamentally bad way?  Make it far more authoritarian?  Cause failures like Challenger and Columbia?  There has been some discussion of this topic in several places.  I don't know what to say.  I can say that I am on the outside of an agency that clearly needs reform in major ways.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thoughts About Norm Augustine

Wednesday I will be attending a talk at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum by Norm Augustine.  He's 10 years older than I am.  He's also much richer and has led a much more well known career.  I've started wondering what my life would have been like if I had been born in 1935.  Would I have the conflicts with authority that I have had in my life?  I'm not the only one who has noticed our society moving in a more authoritarian direction in the past four, perhaps more, decades.

Augustine's career ranged back and forth between the private sector and government.  One must note, though, that the capstone of his "private career" was leading Lockheed-Martin through their merger.  That company is heavily dependent upon government contracts.  Indeed, it seems that all of American aerospace relies upon government help in some fashion.  Boeing needs the Export-Import Bank to help finance sales outside of the United States.  Then there is the United Launch Alliance -- a joint effort of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.  Their Atlas rocket is now dependent upon Russian engines.

I am going to try and bring up questions about this kind of thing Wednesday at the COMSTAC meeting during the day and then at the Augustine talk in the evening.  I may also inject a bit of humor informally into these events because some people have described Augustine's Laws as being satirical, tongue in cheek, etc.  Telling people about The Penguins might get me a few chuckles and, perhaps, more.