The Watering Hole: January 4 – Spirit

A Martian Rover

This is the date in 2004 when Spirit came to Mars for a three month mission.

Spirit was the first rover to land on Mars, but had became stuck in the mud and is currently out of gas but Opportunity still rocks.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 30 – Land Sales

In 1626, the Manhattoes, a tribe of the Wappinger confederacy, in turn a subset of the Lenape Nation, that occupied New Jersey, Manhattan Island and the banks of Hudson River and shore of Long Island Sound, sold Manhattan to a group of immigrants. The proceeds from the sale came to 60 gilders in beads and trinkets. With inflation, that would amount to about $31,000 today.

After a number of land transfers, that land became part of The United States which has a whole new set of tribes. One member of the Democratic tribe has ceremoniously transfered that land back to members of Indian tribes who managed to survive the dynamics of history.

The Teabag tribe of the United States has raised issues on this matter. Conspiracies have been revealed that this ceremonial transfer represents a land grab precipitated by someone who has a secret relationship as a secret member of the Indian Nations. Revelations in Congress and the press cite this as only the beginning of the ceding of national territory to native tribes.

The natives are saying “A deal is a deal! You bought it, you keep it!”

Their concern is that, if they give in, they may have to take back Florida.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

And a Happy New Year to all!

The Watering Hole: December 25 – Christmas Bird Census

From December 19, 2010 until January 5, 2011; the National Audubon society is conducting a national bird census.

Here is my contribution:

Great White Egret 12/24/2010


Photo by WaltTheMan © 2010

The picture was snapped at 2:27 PM EST on December 24, 2010 at the juncture of Palmetto Road and 5th Street near Crescent Beach in Saint Johns County Florida.

This guy (or gal) was not in my feeder, but I walked (about ½ a mile) to where he (or she) was roaming. These particular birds are actually very tolerant of humans around here. If you are interested, you could nab one of these creatures for Christmas dinner. Be advised that, like bald eagles, they taste a bit fishy.

What have you observed this season?

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 24 – Bah Humbug

I am about done wrapping the gifts and gift cards for my spouse. Four and two respectively. Since the kids are no longer around, we just toss the stocking presents into the stocking. unwrapped. When the kids were home, we wrapped each stocking gift (Including individual battery cells) in its own package. Without witnesses, the task has eased up a bit. How are each of you heading into the final day before Christmas (Or happy holidays?)? While shopping here in Florida, today, I got 5 ‘Merry Christmas’ wishes and zero ‘Happy Holidays”. That was in northeast Florida. I wonder about the statistics in Miami.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 23 – Slide Rules

Back in the days before electronic slide rules did not exist, engineers and physical scientist relied on a primative device called the slide rule. . This device did not have any buttons and no batteries to run down.

A good slide rule could replace many mechanical devices including the adding machine and the Spirule for root locus diagramming.

Slide rule accuracy was an issue during WW II where artillery forces and navigation were crucial. The Norton bomb-sight was actually a combination of three slide rules with two directional velocity sensors and a gradient calculator. I am aware of slide rules lengths of 72 inches used for airfoil design.

The slide rule is based on Euler’s work with logarithms.

Today, the common slide rule is but a fading memory, but it was used by people vibrantly alive today in their daily work.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 18 – Language

The Tower of Babel

When I was about three months past three, my Mom gave birth to triplets. I took the event as best I could from being an only child to an also-ran. Three months after they were born, I ran away from home with the intention of going to Grandmother’s house. I stuffed a box of raisins and one day’s worth of undies into my knapsack. The police nailed me about a mile from home (I was actually on the right route for the venture), but that is not the subject of this post.

At about 8 or 9 months the triplets started babbling amongst themselves (They shared the same room). What was unusual was that I understood what they were saying. They spoke their own language on a steady basis until they were about two when they started to pick up English. My Father called their language “Triplet”. I acted as a translator. They actually kept using the “Triplet” language along with English until they were about 5. After that, I can only wonder.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 16 – United States Bill of Rights


The Mad Hatter and the March Hare try to put the Dormouse in a teapot.

In case you did not notice, yesterday marks the 219th anniversary day of the ratification of Bill of Rights. Today (and yesterday, and the day before ad infinitum) marks the time when this set of amendments are on the pick and choose list of Republicans and the Tea Party. Much of the rest of the Constitution and the balance of the Amendments are being reconstituted.

The Second Amendment is sanctified and has been modified to include assault rifles have been added to the flintlock muskets envisioned by the founding fathers. Could missiles and nuclear weapons be next? After all they are tantamount to the concept of a “well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State”.

The third is almost valid as one would not like to have that pesky militia running about ones fortified house. It is a bit short of perfection as it fails to address the Second Amendment solution.

The First and Four through Nine are poorly written as they do not address the Arab Problem.

Number 10’s main shortcoming is that the central government is allowed to forbid actions deemed “necessary” by some states.

Any Amendment after 10 should not be considered valid as the founding fathers did not consider any of them when the Constitution was first adopted.

This sort of logic extends to the Constitution itself. If the founding fathers had to modify it, they certainly believed that they did not get it right the first time.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 11 – M. C. Escher

During an exchange with 2ebbandflow (or ebb) on Dec. 9th, the subject of Maurits Cornelis Escher came up. Escher drew 2 dimensional scenes that depicted 3 dimensional scenes that were or are impossible in the real world. Waterfalls that seemed to flow uphill or stairs that provided ceaseless upward movement.

As almost all of Escher’s art is copyrighted, I hesitate to put an image up at the Zoo. Many examples do occur here.

An example of this kind of perspective art is depicted in a Penrose Triangle:

When we were on assignment in Germany, my middle son, who had been fascinated with Escher from an early age, took every opportunity to see Escher exhibits at The Hague. He went there about three times in the two years that we were there. He was 13 and 14 at the time. I might note that youngsters could travel in Europe without fear of being murdered, kidnapped or assaulted at that time in the mid 1980’s. He would hand draw copies of Escher’s art from the originals. He brought back quite a few copies that adorn his house today.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 9 – Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Picture by WaltTheMan at 7:15 AM on 12/08/2010.

The above pair of egrets are looking at the water in a drainage ditch and apparently debating the wisdom of entering the water. At the time the picture was taken, the temperature was 34°F and the wind was blowing at about 15 mph. In any case, the frogs and land crabs are probably in their snug little homes, cuddling up together against the frigid weather. Geckos, their summer prey, are off selling insurance.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: December 2 – Pompeii is Falling Down

Anyone following the news on 12/01 should know that the ancient city of Pompeii is being eaten by the elements. Pompeii offers a snapshot of Roman living in the first century of the Christian Era.

The city was buried in volcanic ash in 79 CE. Its ruins were rediscovered in the early 18th century and gradually excavated into the 20th century. Beyond bomb damage in WWII, the city remained a pristine picture until the time immediately following the war. Materials were removed for construction of personal structures, albeit at a slow pace until Italian Antiquity’s stepped into the fray, banning removal of additional material from the site.

One thing that should be realized is that Italians should not be allowed to take part in the preservation of their history. Preservation consisted of opening a profit center for tourists and closing down areas as they went into decay. These closed areas are presently suffering most from the elements. While the ruins were once protected by the layers of ash that destroyed the city itself, the historical record is being ravaged by the elements and the wear brought on by tourism now that the ash has been removed. My family visited the site in 1985 and we could see the damage effected by pumice being ground underfoot into the ancient marble plazas. Even I had a ‘Felix Unger’ moment as we visited.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: November 27 – Life Support

Granddaughter's Winter Plantings
Photo by WaltTheMan

Here in northern Florida, traditional Summer plants are getting a bit piqued. These are two of the impatiens that Granddaughter planted as seeds when she was here in February on my Prius. They were a bit lustier just a month ago but are now showing the ravages of time. Bringing them indoors would do nothing to improve their lot as the shortening day is also sapping their existence. This is much like human existence, as special support (warmer days) has extended their time on Earth.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: November 26 – North Korea

What the heck do we do about this rogue nation?

Up to now we and the South have tried to placate the North by paying bribes in order to continue to protect South Korea, particularly the city of Seoul, a prosperous city of over 10 million people. China, the Norths only ally, has also tried to placate the North Korean dynists, but has yet to capture their ear.

Bombing the shit out of the North would be a simple task except for the fact that over 50 years of inaction has allowed them to put in place artillery and missile sites in place that could easily level Seoul and areas immediately south before the job was even 5% done. Nuclear weapons are not even an option because of the proximity of all of South Korea to any nuclear fallout.

Each time the North is assisted by food stuffs and the basic needs of life, they invest the funds and services freed-up to the production of even more weapons (Including nuclear production facilities.)

All I ask for is a rational and safe resolution of this self-perpetuating problem that does not imperil the survival of South Korea and its people.

Simple task? I am open to suggestions.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: November 25 – Roasted Turkey

Roasted Turkey

Just in time for Thanksgiving holiday, a jury in Texas provided this nation with roast turkey for the holidays, Tom Delay. His first name is actually ironic in a sense. Toms are usually the biggest turkeys of them all.

It seems that he was either careless or foolish in handling certain funds.

How well the roasting is carried out will be based on initial sentencing as well as a thread of appeals that many lawyers can truly be thankful for. One hope is that he will end up somewhat like the our friend above. One item, it is certain that he will not be provided a holiday pardon by Barack Obama.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The TSA

Check in Early

In recognition of the impending holiday seasons, I have the following comment to make:

TSA officials have recently announced that pilots will be allowed to bypass security checks at the airports. This only seems reasonable as a pilot is capable of turning his aircraft into a missile or to simply dive the craft into the ground.

This makes me wonder what the TSA will do if about 150 terrorists could each consume a full meal of Boston Baked or Bush’s Best Barbecue Beans and fart on schedule on cue from a ring leader and the methane ignited from a single flame. The flame might not be even required as other passengers might attempt to exit the craft via escape chutes at 30,000 feet!.

The TSA does everything it can to hoist a 95 year old grandmother (With a Hoyer Lift?) from her wheel chair and check out her shoes or rubberized socks for explosives. In more recent times the process involves body scans or pat downs, but they still do not scan cargo for potential explosives. Next in line is a search of body cavities. When will they begin relying on water-boarding – which would give a whole new meaning to ‘boarding pass’?

Why do these people have to go as far as they do? To get their thrills? The process is far less invasive in Israel where security against terror if a far more intense concern.

Priorities are being misdirected by an organization that emulates the Keystone Kops!

The Watering Hole: November 18 – On the Shoulders of Many

I'm Thinking

I had the weirdest dream on the Sunday to Monday cycle…

In short, I dreamed that humankind had discovered the psyche, a thing like the soul.  There was no God, only a series of existences that could be drawn upon as humanity progressively went through time. New psyches could be created using normal reproductive processes and those psyches passed from the what we call life today into psychic existence.  Psyche society was based on a  discovery of a process which allowed psyches to interact after the death of the physical body.

In my dream, I was chosen as one who could help find the path to a branch of science and fabrication that was critical to the continuance of psyche existence. The effort was called “The Seed”, a quest for the origin of a branch of science, lost in time,  that became unimportant to human psyches at some point in the 21st century.  My contributions became unimportant back in a  time in the 1940’s. The next psyche chosen was that of Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of the circuit designs which, while executed in silicon today were built of coils, plate capacitors,  resistors and vacuum tubes in his time.

Then my dream stopped. I woke up…

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or anything else that comes to mind.
Continue reading

The Watering Hole: November 12 – Disasters

How many of you have followed the hardships experienced by the passengers and crew of the Carnival Splendor until they arrived safely in San Diego today? To them, this was agony beyond the worst experience of any member of the human race. They survived an experience that will provide accounts to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren at as the worst ever endured by human beings. And let’s not forget the neighbors!

In retrospect, human beings have had worse experiences. Natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, flood and plague have had a deeper effect on the human psyche. Unnatural events like wars and the Holocaust have had even deeper meaning.

To me the crux of the matter – human misery is described from the perspective of the victim(s). How does one equate the loss of a society to the loss of a child? The survivors of Carthage have felt as bad as the mother of a still-born.

This in turn brings one around to the viewpoint of those on the Carnival Splendor. From the accounts from the ship, there was no loss of life. Those surviving the experience were distressed by the loss of AC and lighting (The Casino had to close!) as well as having to endure meals of SPAM for their continued existence. From their accounts, life was beyond endurance. How does this compare to existence during the depression or in occupied countries during WWII?

As an aside, some individuals offered a compensating experience have taken the cruise line up on the offer. Their take is that “This could never happen to me again.” I wonder if we will ever develop the wider perspective beyond “me”

This is my own view.

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

The Watering Hole: November 11 – Veterans Day

I do not know if anyone here remembers Armistice Day. Every November 11th, at the entire elementary school that I attended, the entire staff and student body would trudge down to the auditorium where at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we would be given an injection of patriotism and told about our God-given duty to buy savings stamps for Federal Savings Bonds. I filled about a half-dozen books and lost each and every one during our move to Dallas from Baltimore in 1953.

As you might have well guessed, the saving stamp collection drives did not miss a beat but the stamp books that I accumulated in Dallas as well as the bonds converted from the stamp books were lost when the family moved to New Jersey. All-in-all I believe that I alone am the fount for about 20% of the national debt.

Getting back to the subject, on October 8th, 1954, President Eisenhower signed HR 7786 which changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day and declared it a Federal holiday.

Today, we have a different twist – In many school districts, Veterans day is not even observed neither as a holiday nor in ceremony. Religious holidays have filled the calendar to the extent that Veterans Day has become just another school or work day (Yes, Christmas and Good Friday are religious holidays). My granddaughter is going to school today and my daughter-in-law is going to work as well. My son has the day off and plans to celebrate by continuing on a law school assignment.

It seems that our nation is continuing to lose its patriotic values in the Tea-Party universe. The only whimpers that I hear are the desire to cancel provisions in the law that boost taxes for the super rich per the current tax bill (Signed by G. W. Bush.) and those that will end entitlement programs that have framed retirement decisions as well as assisting the most needy in our society for decades. – All in the names of Jesus Christ.

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

The Watering Hole: November 5 – Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, is an annual celebration, traditionally held on the evening of 5 November in England. Fireworks and the lighting of bonfires mark the occasion. The celebrations mark the anniversary of the failed November 5th, 1605 Gunpowder Plot. The date was made a public holiday by law in England in 1605. That law was repealed in 1859.

Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes was assigned to guard gunpowder in the cellar of Westminster Palace. An anonymous letter prompted authorities to search Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November and Fawkes was found with the explosives. Fawkes and fellow plotters met an early end. Judicial appeals did not seem to be in vogue at the time.

This plot, while foiled, represents the Tea-Bagger solution to solving political differences. We can only pray that they cannot carry something out.

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.