Tuesday, July 29, 2014

State of positivism

With all of the recent bad news about water quality, crime, inner city shootings and the like, it is easy to forget. But there truly is. Volunteers and groups have conspired to make many recreational spots around our state very enjoyable. From improvements at Big Creek and Jester Park, to the building of Honey Creek Resort at Rathbun, to the miles and miles of bike trails laid, a lot has been done right under our noses.

When one shuts off the TV and gets outdoors, you see this first hand, of course. There are always drawbacks, obstacles. But when you get on a beautiful trail and pedal under shady lanes, or wade in a small stream and feel cooling waters, it is brought home: Life here has its pleasant moments, serene moments. After a time outdoors, you can go back to the office menagerie refreshed and renewed.

This year, nature has decided to bless Iowa with cooler than normal July temperatures. Yet another reason – a big one – to discover all of the places our state has to offer. Have a great summer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dead File






Monday, July 21, 2014

Let's light this candle

In the beginning, there was Sputnik, its tiny beep
mocking our mighty colossus with real achievement.
Hasty meetings and hurried conferences later
we made a couple of attempts before we matched the feat.
The race was on, and all we knew
was that ours kept blowing up.

But we kept trying, and the Soviets kept
handing us our heads on a platter.
We sent up a chimp, they sent up a man.
We sent up a man, they extended their flight times.
We increased ours, and they sent up two people.
We finally sent up two, and they sent up three.

Tweaking the Eagle's beak repeatedly,
visions of the Master designer laughing...
Doggedly we kept at it – longer missions,
Greater achievements. EVA, docking,
living in space for two weeks in a tiny capsule...
We pulled even, and began to pass a little.

They started work on a giant rocket called the N1,
We got the Saturn 1b rolling out and launching.
A disastrous fire knocked us back a year or so,
Soviets gleefully hurried to catch up, even though
they were working on spy Almaz outposts too.
We got three men to orbit the earth, and they built Soyuz.

Then came December 1968, when we all-up tested, and sent three
human beings to circle the Moon. A master stroke,
a lucky flight, and a bible verse read 244,000 miles distant.
We were really on our way, there was no stopping us now.
The Soviets blew up a few N-1's before throwing in the towel.
We landed two on the Moon July 20, 1969, and the world cheered.

After that it was anti-climactic. Apollo 13 made us hold
our breaths, but we soon resumed breathing and forgot to
be excited about space exploration anymore. It took Carl Sagan,
Voyager deep-space probes to stir up interest again.
“Look, Ma, we sent a spacecraft to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune!”
The photos were amazing, the feat was incredible.

The Shuttle slammed us back to Earth.
At nearly a billion bucks a copy,
we orbited satellites, telescopes, experiment pallets – all good.
And people were bored out of their minds. Oh, but wait,
we can build a station – and so we did. Routine access to space,
even tourism, man! Wow. It did generate some curiosity.

Then we killed the Shuttle program. Something once mocked
became missed, as only the Russians retained transportation to
space and the ISS. Finally a couple of private companies got
going, and built vessels to send cargo to the ISS. But a US
astronaut launch capability? Fingers drum the desk as we wait.
They say a private company will launch a crewed spacecraft by 2018???

Faith that sustained me through all those Shuttle years is
severely strained by the notion of some little for-profit concern
actually launching a person safely into orbit, and returning them.
Still, SpaceX has sent up cargo. A few others are making headway.
Sierra Nevada did drop-tests of an aerodynamic spacecraft.
Orbital Sciences is also sending cargo containers to the ISS.

Activity is building, and perhaps I will live long enough to
see the dream of a Solar System being colonized actually occur.
It took Spain a long time with their colonies. As it did Britain.
But it eventually happened, and we know how it turned out.
If I could live another hundred and fifty years, I could see it all.
Then again, knowing human nature, I probably would not want to.

But it will happen,
one way or another,
for good or ill,
and humans will flock outward.

Take note, ET's:
Ready or not,
we are coming.

   - end

Friday, July 18, 2014

Peace, that elusive human quality

When one watches a documentary on the mega-weapons built by the Nazis, even as they were losing WWII, it is astounding. Massive bunkers and fortifications, Ballistic missiles, super tanks. They glorified military power, and yet were crushed by the “inferior” societies they sought to conquer. Just seems to reinforce the idea that warfare seduces more financing than peace ever could.

The present-day defense budgets of major nations, especially the US, underlines this.

Is warfare hard-wired into the human psyche? After we evolved learning to fight off fierce enemies like saber-tooth tigers, we made the shift to killing each other quite easily. We have been doing it ever more effectively, ever since.

Now comes word that someone shot down a civilian airliner with 298 people aboard. Senseless slaughter more on the scale of the Nazi regime. For what? The slaughter of humans by humans goes on. Blame gets thrown around, and the crazy game continues.

It seems like people who have the social and industrial ability to wage war on a massive scale would also have the capability to wage peace. Factories that build weapons can build cars, refrigerators, washing machines, or solar panels. Strategists who work on war plans could work on Peace plans. Humans can engineer large-scale projects in the pursuit of peace as well as war. So why don't we do more of this?

Perhaps the glory, excitement of warfare is too easily inculcated into our youth. Perhaps the instinct is hard-wired, as stated previously. Whatever the cause, we have a duty as an enlightened species to do better than this. We have a duty to work for cooperation, justice, elimination of disease and starvation and brutality. We evolved a higher order of consciousness to make amazing advances. In a hundred thousand years, we evolved from simple hunter-gatherers to a civilization sending space probes beyond the Solar System. It seems ridiculous that we spend so much time trying to kill each other.

Here is hoping that we can somehow find the will to do better than we have. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Time Depots

Little time machines are scattered across miles
of farmland, prairie and woods – they stand empty,
or have been moved or even demolished.
But they still speak to us through photographs today...

Once they were gateways to a better future.

Youngsters dressed in their Sunday best
waited on wooden platforms for the giant
engine to come puffing and belching along.
Well-dressed parents nervously checked the time.

When a steam engine came into view,
what a sight it must have seemed,
sending pulses and moods higher all around.
“Alll aboard” for greener pastures ahead!

Now the narrow, tall wood-frame stations
are a gateway still, but to a past that
bespoke of simpler times, needs, wants.
No unknown promises, rather known achievements.

The grainy photos of excited townsfolk standing on
a huge engine, waving and smiling evokes the spirit
of excitement that pervaded those days so long ago.

We feel a glimmer of that once again, as we view
them through the lens of a future they might barely
comprehend, and certainly might not approve of.

- end


Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to Have Fun

Take a dash of purpose, add motivation,
Allow it to steep in sunshine for a few hours.
Heat the mixture in a passion of love,
immerse it in tender congeniality until
fragrant and soft to the touch.

Consume in moderate measures,
allow the joy to permeate your being,
step outside your door and dance.
Sing determination to live fully,
ignore judgment and comment,
and shout out at the top of your lungs,
“Fun! Fun! Fun!”

Or if you prefer, find a good book to read.
     - end

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Two Voices

The first intoned a gentle refrain:
Southern express route, Northern Special,
Vent car before unloading - Manifest Present,
load limit serial number chemicals inside...
On and on went the official inscriptions.

The second screeched louder than a sticking brake:
KUSH, Vanity Rulz, M8domin8m, Charles was here,
KULZ, SPS6, Always into Something...
Graffiti noise insinuated itself over every orderly
procession of wheels, walls and welds.

I sat there on a bike, musing on the discordant
harmonizing of civilizations influences.
Suddenly a telltale rumble, the loud thrumming
of diesel locomotives pushing the entire
two-toned visual orchestration on by.

Informing voices faded from concern as I
watched the big yellow engines pass.
Time to pedal through the now vacant crossing;
home, dinner and a hungry cat await!

There will be many other chances to watch
those discordant long-distance voices sing
their endless competition with one another.

The switching yard is right around the corner.
 - end

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Nature failed to dampen our spirits

A festive weekend was dampened by frequent rain.
Hot humid air the gift we carry into another workweek,
and yet fun was still had by many...

Intermittent fireworks punctuated relaxed times;
The annual antique auto show entertained,
80/35 Rock'N'Roll concert livened up the city,
moderate temperatures kept misery at bay...

Another long weekend is over,
Memories will ring and fade.
It was fun while it lasted,
Time to resume the workaday parade.
     - end