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

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.