Saturday, May 30, 2015

Memorial Days

On May 23rd St. Mark's held a requiem eucharist for Bert Cooper. I photographed this eucharist. You can find my images of this event on Flickr at A Requiem Eucharist Celebration of Bert Cooper. He was a fine man who made many good contributions to our world. Quite a few people shared that impression. When he passed away he was 80 years old.

He had been born on December 2, 1934. When he was born my Uncle Dick was only 10 years old. My father was all of 21. I remember my father as a fine man I am proud to call Dad. Uncle Don was also a fine man I am glad I can count as a relative. What memories do I have of Uncle Dick? None -- unless you count comments by my parents. I have memories of relatives saying he was the smartest of the three brothers. My father and Uncle Don were, shall we say, exceptionally intelligent good men who I was glad to spend time with. I obviously spent much more time with Dad than Uncle Don, but I still remember how good both of them were.

Why don't I have memories of Uncle Dick? Uncle Dick was killed in the last days of World War II in Europe. Bert Cooper was only 10 years old. Uncle Dick was only 21. My father was only 32. My mother was only 29.

I sometimes think what contributions to not only my family but the larger world Uncle Dick would have made had the NAZIs surrendered on April 1, 1945 rather than May 8, 1945. He would have a been a very positive influence on my life. The year he spent at Rutgers he had been a mathematics major. It would have been wonderful to have someone with a mathematics degree to talk to when I was a boy growing up and getting interested in things like physics, astronomy, space exploration and more. He could have helped me actually understand the book by Eddington titled "Mathematical Theories of Relativity." That's just one thing he could have done.

These days we are asked to remember the contributions in defending our country what the good people (usually men) who died defending us from people like the NAZIs. I am quite willing to do that. But I also think about what Uncle Dick could have contributed if he had lived to 80, 90 or more. His contributions would have been far greater than what he could contribute from his birth in 1924 until his tragic death in 1945.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pro Life? Pro Choice? Or Something Else?

Over the years I have heard much discussion and debate about abortion in the United States. I have even heard some from other countries.

Let me begin this posting with a few stories about my maternal grandparents. I remember both of them as good people with whom I enjoyed spending time.

My grandfather came to this country to work. He was a fine bricklayer. I still remember the home he and his friends built for the family. After he had been in the United States for awhile, he went back to England. Mom said it was because he had not found a woman to love and marry in the United States. Early in the 20th Century it was possible for working class men to travel back and forth across the Atlantic for work.

Back in England he got to know my grandmother. They fell in love and got married. At the party after their wedding, a friend of my grandfather's said to him "When are we going back to the States?" My grandmother then jumped into the conversation with the question to her now brand new husband "When are we going to the States?" The friend who started the conversation never returned to the States.

When Grandmom and Grandpop had been here awhile, a baby boy came along. They loved that baby boy -- as they loved me, a grandson who came along many years later. When that baby was a few months old, a flu epidemic went through the part of the States where my grandparents lived. Their baby boy caught the flu and died from it. That death devastated my grandparents. Grandmom even returned to England for awhile to recover from this tragedy.

Eventually Grandmom returned to the States and her loving husband. Another baby was born -- this time a girl. That baby died too -- after living 93 years and 4 months. Mom was a wonderful mother. She and Dad were two fine people who brought me to respect and like all kinds of people.

I have another entry on my blog about My Family. Let's just say people on my father's side of the family also sought to make life better for all.

I know some people who are strongly prolife. The ones I personally know are fine people. Kathryn Dietz Hichborn is the mother of five and the grandmother of still more. When I hear the term prolife, she is one person who comes immediately to mind because she is prolife in many ways. I enjoy our conversations, especially those in real life. Facebook and other social media have their place in our society, but they do have their limits in many ways.

I also know some people who are prochoice. They can be fine people as well. Some of them are women who personally seen or have experienced bad marriages. Some have been sexually assaulted. There is more, but I am trying to start a discussion.

Before Roe versus Wade abortion was illegal in the United States. That didn't mean it didn't happen. It just happened illegally. We've tried various prohibitions in this country. We made it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages for awhile. That was a disaster which did real damage to our country. Want to address problems with alcohol? Helping the people with the problems get better seems a like a better choice. The same things can be said regarding currently illegal drugs. Problems with gun violence? Gun control advocates bring up Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine and more. Courtesy of the Clinton administration we now have tough gun regulation on American military bases. In 2009 at Fort Hood a Muslim Army psychiatrist whom other Army psychiatrists had warned the Army about and who had been investigated by the FBI for ties to terrorists ran wild killing and wounding many before he was stopped by a civilian woman deputy sheriff who wounded him with her gun.

So what do I think we should be doing? Let's begin by helping good people have good lives. We should be teaching children how to have good lives and why those kinds of lives are better for them and for society. We can promote both the arts and sciences to help make our world a better one. We can help people have good families like the ones I knew growing up in New Jersey.

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.