Thursday, February 26, 2015


It was 2015 already

The winter would just not quit...

There was that local city councilman who
called and got a ticket fixed – exposed by local news.
The tax hike pushed and passed by Republicans –
Then they promptly announced a new highway project.
Washington, D.C. legalized marijuana – and the mayor
got threatened by members of Congress.

There was Obama trying to get immigration reform done,
being fought tooth and nail by opposing forces.
That NFL player getting slapped down for swatting
his young son with a wooden stick.

Another famous person stripped down on stage,
during the Oscar awards celebration no less.

Scandal after scandal fueled much discontent.
and oh, yes, the weather was bitterly cold;
The outdoor environment was lousy too.

But –
Spring is right around the corner;
hopefully things will improve,
indoors and out.

 - end

Monday, February 23, 2015

Incremental wins the day

     It caught my attention the other day when some government RFP circulated for “game-changer” technology proposals for something or other, on a technology mailing list. Well, seems to me that most significant progress has been made in small steps. Rocketry had to start with black powder, then with rudimentary cryogenics. Scaled up to say, the V-2, it still took years to perfect. Then, scaled up further still, to orbit an astronaut. More years of hard work were required. From the early days of rocketry up to the first orbiting “Sputnik” took around 100 years.

The Internet could be said to have started with Morse code – the first effective transmission of information over wires, predating voice transmission. Sometime later the Baudot code was adopted for most teletype transmissions. This was a five-bit scheme of sorts. This was surpassed by other, denser communications technologies, culminating in the TCP-IP protocols used in the Internet today. From the earliest adoption of Morse Code up to early Internet experiments took over 100 years. (1844 to 1969-70).

The natural laws of physics we all are enfolded and entrapped by require us to go about things in a certain way. There is no “free lunch.” We must incrementally walk our development forward, in small steps. Eventually we get there. But the huge, amazing breakthroughs? Very rare, far and few in between. And often it seems we only make a major breakthrough because researchers have painstakingly laid the groundwork for us to do so.

Stunning game-changers would be nice. But it is the incremental groundwork that wins the day – in my humble opinion. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cuttting Edges

Isis is the name of a two-edged sword,
with ideology to kill those it cannot convert.

The sword that slices will turn on its owner,
who will be diced and chopped by the errant
hands of fools wishing for paradise.

They rolled the dice and instead will be sliced,
sent to hell by those they would stick with malice.

The two-edged sword will turn on its owner,
slicing and dicing authors of religion by force.
Armaments of the west will crush the life out
of these desert vermin, leave remains for insects.

Sword that would slice, eaten by mere lice.
The worst human vice is to kill for paradise.

More charred, burned bodies in the desert.
Human flesh waste rots in the name of what?

No sense nor logic in fanatic religious beliefs,
they always seem to bring suffering and grief.

- end

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Vacation fun
in a land of warmth and cacti and traffic.
by all that life has to offer
and everything thrown at me

Takes time to duck and run,
or confront and deal with.
Takes all of my energy
to cope with the necessary.

So if you do not find a lot written lately,
it is because the author is on the front lines of life
dodging bullets
and firing a few of his own.
Peace out peace out peace out.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The state of Space Exploration

On the occasion of the good news I saw the other day – the fact that Obama is going to actually request an increase for the FY 2018 NASA budget – it seemed as good a time as any to ruminate on the state of all things space nowadays.

When one thinks of the unmanned probes and rovers, things are looking pretty good. Between the ESA and NASA, we have recently visited or are orbiting nearly every planet in the Solar System.   (The Voyager probes did fly by every outer planet except Pluto)  Messenger went to Mercury recently. The ESA orbited Venus with a sophisticated imaging probe for quite a while. Of course, NASA has rovers crawling around on the surface of Mars, and a couple of orbiters as well. The ESA sent an orbiter-lander combo a few years ago (Mars Express) , and their orbiter is still working. There is a JPL probe around Jupiter. Cassini was orbiting Saturn until very recently, and sent back huge amounts of information. The Huygens probe successfully landed on Saturn's moon Titan, and sent back photos.

In the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres, after visiting Vesta. These are the two largest planetary bodies in the “inner belt.” Then you get all the way out to Pluto, where the New Horizons spacecraft is rapidly approaching to snap some photos. A lot of robotic spacecraft are gathering reams of science data and images these days.

There are also some sun-orbiting observatories, and many Earth-observing craft.

The manned, or human-crewed expeditions are far fewer. Crews of three will travel to and from the ISS from time to time, and they are working on many science experiments. As of this writing, a Russian and an American are going to spend a full year in space, to see how people can do for that long in weightlessness.

Living in space weightless is hard on the human body. Bones degrade, fluids move around, sleep and well-being are affected. We need to better understand how to counteract these problems before more folks can live and work in space permanently. But the upshot is, there are currently no human missions to anywhere other than low earth orbit. There is always talk of visiting Mars with astronauts, or going back to the Moon. Testing is going on with NASA's Orion spacecraft, with a Human-crewed test slated for around 2017.

It is easy to envision a future filled with Asteroid mining, space colonies orbiting the Earth or on the Moon, or on Mars. Getting there will be a long, hard road. But it should be a fascinating journey, and this old baby boomer will be watching as long as he can draw a breath.

or just go to or .     Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Taking Stock

Oh the soaring hopes felt with each purchase,
“how fine it will be to make easy money!”
You just know those companies will go
up in value, and make thousands for you.

But then reality comes crashing in,
with each day of triple-digit loss.
They drop and your heart sinks too.
“Patience,” counsels a better voice.

To participate in a financial world
run by minds far sharper than ours
is always a risky proposition...
seems like we only make money if they do.

Everyone has a stake in the markets,
and even experts cannot fully predict
which way it will go for sure. But
it is not a game for faint-hearted souls.

As I clench my desk with sweaty hands,
seeing each new days losses, I am left to
wonder: Just how faint-hearted am I?

   - end

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bad Moves in River City

It is not a good thing to be poor in Des Moines, Iowa. Poor as in working poor all the way to unemployed and broke. You see, there used to be some outlets for a guy who is bored but with not very much cash. You could go fishing along the river near downtown. Or walk some wooded trails along the river, taking in nature. There were some options for the not-so-rich and not-so-pretty folk, of whom there are a lot. Even if all you had was a broken-down jalopy or bus fare or a bike to get you to the river area – you still could enjoy the water and greenery.

But then at some point in time, the city fathers or powers that be decided they wanted a chic new sparkling riverfront. The first to suffer the consequences were the homeless people. All they wanted was to live simply, outdoors by the river. But the new trail-user class decided they were unsightly and had to go. All of a sudden, after around 150 years of being incorporated as a city, the powers that be insisted that the homeless pay “rent” or get out.

Oh sure, there is a splendid homeless shelter. You can make use of it if you reserve a bed by 6 PM, refrain from any use of alcohol and adhere to various other rules. (I'm sure the powers that be are not always refraining from alcohol use in their homes.) What they don't seem to understand is that for a certain subset of people, they cannot tolerate rules. They are not any kind of threat, but rather they want to make good the promise of living in “freedom.” Freedom to do what they want, even if it is destruction of their bodies through substance abuse. Who are others to tell them they cannot? They are adults, after all, making adult choices.

So the homeless were evicted from riverfront wooded areas. Then, the people who fish along both sides of the Des Moines River downtown were next to go. They left trash and dead fish, it was said. They were loud and obnoxious, it was said. We just can't have that next to our pristine walkers and joggers. So the fisher-people were forbidden to fish along the river. Another segment of the public was denied access to our river areas downtown.

Now, recently, they have removed the drive on the east side of the river as part of a beautification effort at the Botanical center. And barricaded portions of West River Drive. More areas of the river cut off from the simple folks. No, you have to own a dog and go to the dog park, or be a paying guest of the botanical center on the East side of the river. No longer can people drive to the riverfront to fish, or simply take a walk along the water and clear one's head. No, this is a new city now, a special city. Only the elite can go to areas formerly open to everyone.

I'm wondering when they will charge tolls to ride the bike trails, or do inspections of your bicycle to ensure it is up to the standards of some uptight committee. Inspect your person perhaps? We have become so risk-averse and panicky today, we cannot allow public access to our own 'wilderness' areas. This is an affront to the principles our nation was founded on, and an insult to the public who must pay taxes and obey rules, but is now denied the enjoyment of public areas. Bad moves, Des Moines. 

     - end