Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Financial Gyrations

My finances improve suddenly,

Unexpected good fortune

Helps me pay some things off.

Still eager young counselors

Call and want to help,

Tell me how to spend

All too meager earnings.

Washington, DC is in turmoil,

The experts disagree on how

To pay off the national debt.

They just make things worse.

I do not trust experts anymore.

My gut is just as good,

And the bigger it gets,

The more accurate it is.

Perhaps I can ignore advice,

Follow my own protrusion,

Pay any resulting penalty.

Cannot be any worse than

That mess in D.C.

And it might even turn out better.

Monday, July 25, 2011


       I walked into a southeast side grocery store today, and encountered a surprise.  Amidst all the displays and piles of confections and breads on sale at the door, a diminutive voice sallied forth.  “Get your corn dogs here!  One dollah, one dolla for a dog, right here, right now.  One dollah for a dog, right here.”   I had breezed past her on my quest for Folger’s instant, but her insistent voice compelled me to look.  She continued on, her voice lilting up and down the scales, compelling ears to twitch, heads to turn and eyes to look.  What persistence.  I think, ‘She would have been right at home in New York’s little Italy around 1900!’  Here she was in a 2011 Hy-vee, just another marketing gimmick that walks and talks.  Could she be a robot?   Finally some Hispanic dudes walked over to her, and her continuous pitching ceased.  She hastened to complete their order.

     Hy vee has everything they can lay their hands on in their stores.  Produce, pre-prepared salads and dishes, bakery items in stacks placed strategically throughout the store.  (To be fair, so do Dahl’s and other area grocery superstores in this area.)  Every kind of food item one can imagine.   And now they have living icons from the past, right by the main door.  Amazing.  Their time machine must be next to the bottle machines.  Come to think of it, I always wondered what that telltale glow was from time to time while cashing in bottles.  And here I thought it was the glare of backroom fluorescents.   Silly me.   (But I’ll let someone else ask them where their transporter room is.)    The times we live in.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Once upon a time in Des Moines...

The Foursome met every week at the same Chinese restaurant. Nothing was thought to be unusual about this, but if anyone took the time to look at these four, they would notice something distinctly unusual.

     These four discussed topics of every description, and if anyone would listen in they might be amazed. World affairs, national politics, musical groups, kinds of wine, car problems, you name it, they discussed it. They entertained themselves, and usually anyone who happened to listen.

     In between words, their eyes sought and ears listened. If some nearby diner muttered, “hell, no,” they would pick it up. Those that might say, “he’s got a point there,” would also be heard, scanned and recorded by unseen apparatus. Yes, this restaurant was a perfect data harvesting site for the foursome from far beyond.

     They would chuckle and tease each other, and then go up for more plates of food. They would pour tea and propose points of view. Any outside reactions were impressed upon hidden memory apparatus. And every week, the four would beam encoded summaries deep into outer space.

     The one who blew it wide open, so to speak, was a guy trying to text into his new smartphone. It was an ultra-high-frequency kind. When he would sit near the foursome, he could not effectively text or call out. But whenever he sat or moved anywhere else in the place, or even outdoors, his phone worked fine. When he went out to eat with his buddy one Sunday, he purposely sat next to the regular foursome.

     Once seated, and provided with drinks, he moved closer to his buddy.

     “Now, watch this. I try and send you a text, and…nothing,” says George.

     His buddy, Don, nods. “Okay, and?”

     George moves his chair back a few feet, leans back, and tries again. The text goes through, and Don’s phone warbles.

     “Well, I’ll be darned. You sure it isn’t just a bad spot?”

     George put his finger to his mouth, and then whispers, “Yes. I’ve tried it in other spots. It’s…” and he nods his head towards the table.

     The apparent leader, a portly man with a cap and dark glasses, looks right at him, then looks away. He mouths something to the others. They glance at George and Don, then away, acting nonchalant.

     Alarmed, Joe whispers to don, “Let’s go, now!”

     Don blurts out, “But we haven’t eaten yet.”

     Joe glares at Don, waves him up, and heads out of the dining room. Finally, Don follows, throwing a glance back at the Foursome. They are all looking at him. He shudders, and hurries out.

     They try and drive out of the place, but a funny shadow has surrounded their car, and it is moving slowly. Joe floors it, finally breaking free. He zooms away down Ingersoll Ave, narrowly avoiding several cars. Back at the parking lot, a fifth entity looks after him, scowling. It thinks to itself, ‘We will have to get that arresting field checked out.’

     Moral of the story: Even if your neighboring table seems odd, don’t listen to them, and don’t stare at them. It may be the last thing you do!

Friday, July 08, 2011

End of the Space Shuttle program

     Not much can be added to the litany of woe that is sounding over the end of the Shuttle program. Although not all the voices are sorrowful. The Shuttle was an expensive program that did not quite live up to its promised potential. Still, it did achieve many things.

     We were able to retrieve and repair satellites, most notably the Hubble Space Telescope. The Shuttle carried aloft entire Spacelabs. Later we constructed an entire space laboratory, the ISS, in low earth orbit. 135 launches of a major space transportation system would be a notable achievement for any nation. It was so for the USA. It was also a way to show that Americans had prowess in science and engineering: “The Right Stuff” as that 80’s movie said. Although it may have been expensive and cumbersome, it was a big step in the right direction: out to the stars.

     Now that the program is ending, what do we have in the lineup coming next? No one seems to know for sure. There are the private space companies, like SpaceX, working on a transport capsule. But they supposedly have years to go. Boeing has proposed some kind of crew capsule. Lockheed-Martin has released drawings of a four-man capsule. There have been a lot of pretty pictures and noises, but so far, no clear front-runner. The Russians with their Soyuz have a monopoly on the space transportation business, it seems.

     The International Space Station should not be simply abandoned by NASA. They should at least fund and develop some kind of baseline booster/capsule technology in the event that nothing else is available. It is unconceivable that we can abandon this large complex without some kind of way there and back. Let the private companies embellish the baseline configuration how they please (and pay for it, of course). But it takes the government to make a large project like this go forward, like it or not. NASA could build, test and launch a test flight of the baseline rocket, with a crew. From there, the private companies could take over, flying different configurations of the baseline. They could certainly participate in the development of Baseline itself, and then diverge as needed for different priorities and missions.

     The Baseline should use existing Orion/Ares research data and hardware, to save money. It should not take very long to get a simple system of transporting a small crew back and forth. In 1967, after the first Apollo burned up on the launch pad, NASA redesigned the entire capsule and flew it around the Moon and back in two years’ time! Surely we can do as well today?

     Even if some would like to abandon outer space entirely, this would be fiscally foolish, in light of that 100 billion dollar investment we have circling up there. This is a plea for someone, anyone to consider getting a Baseline crew rocket and capsule built, tested and flown, and then the “keys” handed over to the private companies to configure as needed. We can and we should do this. Thanks for reading.


Friday, July 01, 2011

So what is a struggling author to do during these hot daysof summer?  Publish, publish, publish.
Here goes another one  ;-)

New Story Collection Available

“Mirror Worlds”

Science Fiction and Horror collection

By a local Des Moines author

Check it out online:

6 “ x 9” paper softback edition

Kindle E-Book edition

Thanks for taking a look at them.