The Moon and Kepler

Pic of the day:  The Moon from Apollo 12,

Moon_apollo12

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We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.

Johannes Kepler

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That’s it from here, America  G’night.

Looking

Pic of the day:  Martin Luther King, Jr. showing his medallion received from Mayor Wagner (1964)

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_with_medallion_NYWTS

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Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.

Martin Luther King Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958)

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You read Martin Luther King Jr’s words, both the ones above and a thousand just like them, the message and the thoughts they both express and represent and you have to wonder how far have we come as a people, as a nation?

Looking at things like last years Trayvon Martin case and myriad others like it, I see a nation that still has a major problem with racism.

Looking at the Newtown tragedy and the myriad others like it, I see a nation that still has a problem with guns.

Looking at district attorneys hunting kids who download files like they robbed a bank and hounding them to the point that they commit suicide while letting employees at banks that defrauded their customers and stole billions from them walk without a day of jail time, I see a nation that has a real problem with justice.

Looking at the NDAA, government actions against Occupy and the like, I see a nation that still wants to hold its people down.

So when we look at our world and wonder what has changed, you can truthfully answer “Not much.”

For all he did, all he tried to do, all the good that he spread with his message, you can truthfully answer “Not much.”

But we keep trying.  We’ll make it better eventually.  It’ll happen.

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Looking for work.

Went on an interview yesterday.

It went well.

But it will take time before they call me.

So I sit at home, waiting for a phone call.

And I keep looking for work.

And there is not really that much.

At least not in the fields that I am looking in.

But I keep trying.

Looked for a bit today.

Nothing.

Dammit.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Nerdtastic

Pic of the day:  The Fairy of Eagle Nebula

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Don’t ever become a pessimist … a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Sometimes when I read the news I find nothing but things that get me angry, stir me up, get my dander up.  Like the AIG story earlier in the week, which turned out better than I had expected.

And sometimes I don’t.  This is one of those times, time to look at a lighter news story, because it does a body good to take a break from the mess that is the world every once in a while.

Today’s story is a giggle worthy nerdtastic story straight from the White House.  Not normally the place you get stories like that from, but here it is.

The White House has decided against building a death star.

You read that right. Apparently a Star Wars nerd in search of…something, what exactly I don’t know, decided to put o the White house petitions site a petition whose main purpose was job creation;  i.e. building a Death Star. And it got a lot of attention, enough to warrant an actual response from the people who officially respond to this kind of thing.

If you thought that would be the end of it, and that they would simply poo-poo the whole idea, you’d be wrong.  Well, right in that in the end they obviously turned it down, but it was the creative nerdtastic way that they did it that played heavily to the Star Wars fans who clearly were the ones who voted for this thing.

It starts off by spoofing a line from the first movie by Obi-Wan Kenobi.  “This is not the petition you’re looking for.”

Just a little fun from the fine people at Robot Chicken

When I read that first line I knew I was in for a treat.  Early in the response to the petition there was a statement saying that the cost of the death star would be prohibitive, and used numbers gotten from some very creative students at Lehigh University that estimated the actual cost of building the death star.

And by the way, a death star would cost approximately Eight hundred and fifty six quadrillion dollars.  That’s eight hundred fifty six thousand billion for those who don’t know what a quadrillion is.

BTW, it’s nice to know that the administration of President Barack Obama does not condone blowing up planets. Felt good about that.  I live on one of those things. They’re kinda nice, if you can handle the local yokels that is.

But I thought the crowning touch, the piece de resistance was saying that they wouldn’t waste money on a death star with a fundamental flaw in it that could be exploited by a one-man starship.  Pictures of Luke Skywalker destroying the Death Star danced in my head when I read that.

Now the rest of the piece, while less Star Warsy, to coin a term, was nevertheless very much pro-science and had fun linking certain projects to star wars.  For example, do you know the acronym that the commercial venture between NASA and private investors?

No?  It’s the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office… or… wait for it…

C3PO.

Maybe this WAS the petition I was looking for. This star wars nerd who fell in love with all things space based as a kid watching the tail end of the Apollo program, and gazed in wide eyed wonder at the spectacle of the first Star Wars movie when I was but 9 years old, found a great deal that was both great and good in this happy little light piece of news that floated in from the White House today.

The main point of the piece though, beyond the obvious silliness was to promote science and science education, a worthy endeavor, truly.

Mind you I heard on twitter that Darth Vader was not pleased about this, but I could not get further comment from him on the subject.  This may not be the last you’ll hear about this.

I hope.  🙂

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Thats it from here, America.  G’night.

Well At Least The Photo Is Pretty

Pic of the day: Sun Spots and Solar Flares, Courtesy of Nasa

799px-Sun_Spots_and_Solar_Flares

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THE SCORPION AND THE LADYBUG

A Scorpion befriended a Ladybug who became a loyal companion
to him. A time came when she struggled to cross a challenging
and dangerous river, and so the Scorpion offered to take her
to the other side on his back. He had come to care for her
and promised he would never harm her. But, safely across the
river, he allowed his tail to dip upon her with its venomous
sting. As she lay in greatest pain, she said, “… but, you
promised… why?” He shrugged and said, sadly, “Because it is
my Nature.”

Regardless of our wishes, or even our intent,
it is to our Nature alone that we will be faithful

Aesop’s Fables, courtesy of http://www.aesopfables.com

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I was moved to put one of Aesop’s fables here in today(there were several others I could have gone with) after reading about AIG thinking of “joining” a suit against the United States government. Apparently there are some people there that are unhappy over the fact that they feel that their stockholders got shortchanged in the bailout.

This is not a surprise, and anyone who is surprised needs to seriously re-examine who they are talking about. This is the same company that made so many bets in so many directions before the beginning of the financial crisis that it alone nearly toppled the entire economy. And then, you will recall they then had the nerve to pay the people who put the nation and world in such peril bonuses for a job well done.

They are, in other words, known for being both monumentally stupid and very ballsy. A combination that rarely goes over well, particularly as they are trying to save face with an ad campaign.

An ad campaign.

Ya know if these morons spent their money more wisely and actually knew what they were doing, neither they nor we would have been and would not be in nearly the mess we were and are in. They made the mess, and are unhappy over having to live with the consequences.

Oh, and the lawsuit that they are joining? The part that makes it sound like someone else started this and they are just joining in? Do you know who is actually bringing the suit?

Former AIG CEO Maurice Greenberg. And his holding company, who happen to be shareholders in… you guessed it. AIG.

There is even noise being made that AIG is being forced into this lawsuit.

I don’t buy it.

I don’t think anyone is buying the fact that the shareholders of AIG were hard done by when we pulled their bacon out of the fire. I tell you simply, there is no better scenario for them back in 2008 when this happened than what happened. Bankruptcy would have gone very badly for them, the would have had to liquidate. And those shareholders would have ended up with squat. They will have a very hard time convincing a judge that they would have been better off in a different scenario and that the governments terms were too harsh.

Good luck with that, AIG. Enjoy the public ass whipping you are about to receive, which you whole-heartedly deserve.

And the ad campaign? It’s called “Thank you, America.” I guess you could give the lawsuit a name as well. “Fuck you, America” would fit the attitude of Mr. Greenberg and his misguided and ill-advised lawsuit and the false framing of AIG “joining” a lawsuit begun by AIG shareholders for AIG shareholders just about right.

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That’s it from here, America. G’night.

Damn Plot Points

Pic of the day:  Windbuchen

798px-Windbuchencom

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Who is there, my friend, can climb to the sky?
Only the gods dwell forever in sunlight.
As for man, his days are numbered,
whatever he may do, it is but wind.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet III Babylonian version

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I haven’t written in days.  Not a single thing.  I couldn’t finish the book idea I had during Nanowrimo because I got stuck.  Too many things in the middle of the book that need to be altered and worked on that affect the outcome of the book to finish it before the end of the month.  That doesn’t mean it wont get finished, it does mean however that it won’t get done in the 30 days that Nanowrimo wants work done in.

But this entire exercise was not about Nano for me.  It  is about writing a book, or something book length that resembles a book with a plot, characters, action  and storytelling placed in such a way as to make the reader want to turn the page and find out what happened next.  I don’t know if what I have done so far resembles that basic concept, but I hope it does.

I feel a hair guilty about it as well.  I could have written in all likelihood, nothing stopped me from going to the keyboard and banging out a few hundred or even thousand words, and I’m not inhibited now either.   Every time I wrote something for that book I easily knocked out well over the average amount of words that was needed to get to 50,000 words in 30 days.  In my heart of hearts I know why I’m not working on it right now.

It isn’t good enough.  I think, or more appropriately feel like what I wrote wasn’t good enough, and that comes from a lack of planning and forethought on my part about the story.  I got to the part of the book where I am now, nearly 40,000 words in knowing that there is a great deal of work that has to be done to salvage the story.  I am going to get to it, but first I am going to extend my outline and work on those story elements that were lacking internal cohesion.

There was good news though. There was one bit of my writing that went well, that I really liked.  Character development.  The story which was going to be very much event driven came to be very much character driven, and the word pictures I drew of the characters was complex and showed effectively how the characters interacted with their surroundings.

Now if only I could get my damn plot points straightened out, life would be much simpler.

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Enkidu opened his mouth,
saying to Gilgamesh:
“where you’ve set your mind begin the journey,
let your heart have no fear, keep your eyes on me!

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet III Babylonian version

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There is a reason for the quotes from the Epic of Gilgamesh.  As I have been looking for inspiration for my writing I have been listening to a great many audiobooks.  But since I don’t have any money to burn I have had to listen to free audiobooks, and I have a favorite site for them, Librivox.

I was listening to a bit of Kurt Vonnegut, the story 2 B R 0 2 B, Deathworld by Harry Harrison, and a number of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. It was then that I went random and started listening to the work of a man named Donald Alexander Mackenzie in a book titled Myths and Legends: Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. Which I have found to be an absolutely fascinating book.  It was not the stories themselves though that had my curiosity piqued.  It was how closely the “myths” of Babylon and Assyria mirrors the beliefs, customs, stories and in some cases the names in the Bible.

Which is amazing seeing how we are several languages and several thousand years removed from Babylon.  It is pretty amazing to me to think that any religious person from anywhere on the globe at this point is essentially telling the same stories and using the same psychological constructs that were in use several millennium before the birth of Christ, and makes the point, though not in so many words, that stories attributed to Christ were in fact stories that had existed for a great deal more than a thousand years before Christ was born.

Interesting and amazing stuff.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Wildly Inaccurate 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final Prediction

Pic of the day:  A picture of the Stanley Cup, circa 1957.  Seated with it is former Referee and NHL League President Clarence Campbell

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If I knew the answer to that I’d bet $10,000 on the game and retire from coaching!

Montreal Canadiens Coach Toe Blake, after being asked if his team would win an upcoming game.

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I don’t know everything.  Prognostication is nothing more than using your head and taking guesses with whatever information is available, and listening to your heart.  My head told me the Kings would win, and pretty easily.  My heart told me the Rangers could beat the Devils.

Head 1, Heart 0.

I nailed the Kings winning it in 5.  I picked the Rangers in 6, and I was right as far as how many games but got the team wrong.  I also said that Anze Kopitar would step his game up a notch.  He had only scored three goals in the previous two series.  He scored 5 points against the ‘Yots, and 3 goals.  Nice.  I said the Rangers devils series would be smashmouth hockey, and it was.

The Rangers and the ‘Yots lost for the same reason.  The offenses came up small.  The Rangers had more offense but lost just the same.  They suffered from the disappearance of their entire first line.  The entire line was ineffective out on the ice, the Devils had their number every game.  6 points for the combination of Hagelin – Richards – Gaborik, for the entire series.  The ‘Yots had 3 goals in the first three games of the Conference finals.  Neither team, when placed in that light, deserve to be in the Stanley cup finals.

The Devils outshined the Rangers, outplayed them at every turn, and the Kings continued to dominate the West.

That round is over though.  The Stanley cup finals are here.  New Jersey.  Los Angeles.  The City of Angels have never had a cup to call their own.  This might be 40 year old Marty Broduer’s last shot at the cup.

Who will win?

F*cked if I know!

LET THE INACCURACY BEGIN!

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Stanley Cup Final:  (6) New Jersey Devils vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings;  Looking at the offense, there are a flurry of statistics you could use to determine who has been the best so far. None would be very compelling and most would point to a very even match up. Ilya Kovalchuk has 5 power play goals during the playoffs, more than anyone else by far.  The next closest remaining players are Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias with 2 each.

However, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar are hellaciously talented players who can find the back of the net frequently.  Same with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.   The top five players in plus-minus in the playoffs are on these two teams, three on the Kings (Brown, Kopitar, Doughty) and 2 on the Devils (Salvador, Henrique)  If the goaltending doesn’t hold up, there may well be a lot of 6-5 games in this series.

But with the goaltenders in question, I severely doubt that will happen.

Jonathan Quick has been the best playoff goalie I have seen this year, and the best in a long time. That is saying something too, there have been some amazing goal-tending the last few years in the playoffs.  Mr. Quick has given up only 22 goals in 14 games and lost only twice.  Martin Brodeur has played more games than Mr. Quick played more minutes, faced more shots and still, at times looked like the man he was over a decade ago.  The man who brought 3 championships to the Devils organization.   Mr. Quick has faced more shots per game than Marty has, and has a lower GAA average to boot though.   So if this series turns on goaltending, then the advantage, however slight, must go to the Kings and Mr. Quick. And frankly I think this series does in fact turn on goal-tending…. aaaand some timely scoring by Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar.  So…

The pick:  The Kings in 6.

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That’s it from here, America.  Catch ya later.  More tonight, methinks.

29:18.13

Pic of the day:  1896 Olympic Marathon

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It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.

George Sheehan

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Saturday:  3/4 of a mile into a training run I aggravated a pulled hamstring.  The run was going to be 5.7 miles long.  Stopping short with a sharp stabbing pain in my right hammy was about the last thing I wanted to have happen.  I was training for a race that I had missed last year.  The 4 mile memorial day race.  And I missed it because of a strained hamstring, and I was DAMNED if I was going to miss 2 years in a row because of the same injury.

I shut it down.  I walked home, hobbled somewhat by the hamstring.  I couldn’t walk right but I didn’t mind that.  It’s an injury, and I mind the injury, not how I walk because of it.  Came home, stretched it as much as I safely could. I soaked it in warm water and epsom salts twice.  I felt better after that.  Not 100% obviously.  I had to take pain killers and I iced it and wrapped it.  Comes with the territory, I guess.  I am thinking that I will cross the finish line, if I do, walking.  I am not happy about it.

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Sunday:  Hung out, cooked food at a family barbecue at mom’s house, and frankly enjoyed the hell out of things.  I paid the hammy no never mind and I didn’t have to, I didn’t notice it.  I was initially going to run before the days festivities, but on Saturday when I shut the run down I told myself that my next run is the race on Monday. I am still thinking that I might end up having to walk to the finish line if I finish.  I tell several people that, and they tell me I’ll be fine.  I agree with them publicly.  Privately, I’m not so sure.  But I do tell myself that I should try for a 32:00 time, an 8 minute mile.  That would be good.

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Monday, pre-race: Wake up at 5:48 am after going to bed at 10:30 pm, and finally falling asleep an hour 15 or so later.  I know that the hamstring is still not 100%, but I feel pretty damn good.  No limp, no soreness, no nothing.  Drink coffee, feed cats, do all the things that I do normally when I first get myself out of bed and ready to face the day.  I pack up stuff for the race.  Towel (You should always know where your towel is) extra clothes, water, race number.  Drink water.  Get out of the house…

My mother wanted to see what was happening, she had never been out to a race before.  When speaking yesterday she simply said she was driving my wife and I to the race.  My wife was surprised.  I… not so much. So my wife and I get a ride and mom gets to see me race for the first time.  It’s a bit surreal for me, but with me, surreal happens.

I walk with my wife and mother to where they are going to watch the race near the finish line.  Drink a little water.  Mom wishes me luck, kisses my cheek, and me and my wife walk down to race start, leaving mom hanging out on the boardwalk.  My wife and I while walking smile at each other and wave to a few runners, wish them luck.  I don’t know them, they don’t know me. Doesn’t matter.  We’re all part of the running family, everyone is good people here. Last drink of water. My wife takes a few pictures of me.  She kisses me, wishes me luck, steps back behind the guard rail and the race begins.

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Monday, Race: ON YOUR MARK

GET SET

GO.

I walk the first 20 seconds or so.  I find it curious that some of the people ahead of me, while barely moving at a walking pace are nevertheless moving like they are running, bouncing up and down in an exaggerated running motion.  They aren’t moving faster as a result.  Makes no sense to me.  I keep to just walking until the road opens up and I can run.  From the beginning I am, if not hesitant, then at least, relaxed in pacing myself.

The crowd ahead of me is smaller than normal, but then again I am starting further up than the last few times I ran this race.  I am not moving with a particularly fast gait, nor am I pushing that hard.  I pass a number of people in the throng, a few pass me, and as the crowd begins to thin, it happens.  Two minutes and 24 seconds in.  I feel the right hamstring twinge.  Feel the stabbing pain.  I bark with displeasure, but I bite down on the pain and keep moving.

And I surprise myself by not breaking stride.  I keep it to where I am barely letting it affect my gait. What it does is slow me down, but not even all that much.  There are other people around, and I’ll be damned if I give up this early in the race.  Hell, it hit and during the critical first moments when the pain hit me, I was passing people.

I was pretty happy about that.

Usually I have some kind of pace song in my head that pushes me faster, keeps the feet moving quick.  Not this time. I am basically monitoring the hamstring in my head the entire time.  But I am also keeping an eye out to see what my pace is early.  Curious.  No mile one marker.  No one barking out times.  Weird. So I keep moving.

And I keep passing people.  Not like I did 2 years ago when I ran a 6:57, but I’m passing people with a pulled hammy.  I have just passed the water station without getting water when I notice the pain getting worse.  I adjust my stride, lean back a little more and the pain subsides somewhat.  What I don’t do is slow down.  I know I’m not running my fastest, but I don’t want to slow down too much and be tempted to stop.  I’m not sure I’d be able to start back up once I did that.  So I keep moving.

The sun hits hard after the shade near the end of the second mile.  Up ahead I see the mile 2 marker.  There’s a guy calling out time.  “14:40.  14:42.  14:45.  14:50.”  As I pass I hear “14:55.”  I thank him, wave and keep moving.  The pain is constant, but it’s been there long enough that I begin to ignore it, move past it.

I begin to think of moving faster.  And as I think it I do it.  My stride rate picks up, and I pass a few people.  Not many, there are some people out and about, and while I am trying to move fast, I can’t get that breakaway speed that I could if I wasn’t sore as hell.  I pass the second water station, and again refuse the water.

At the 2½ mile mark or so, there is a fountain that spits water a good 20 feet high and they have it on full steam so that the runners can run under it and cool down.  I do.  The shock of cold water is invigorating, and I gasp as the water hits me.  There is a guy who I have been running with for the past few minutes, and it is here that I find the energy to begin to pass him.  But as I open up my stride the hammy begins to hurt more.  So I slow down a bit after about a minute, and the guy passes me.

I hit the 3 mile marker after a few minutes.  “22:09.  22:10.  22:12.”  “22:15.” is what I hear as I pass the guy.  I wave and thank him and he yells back “Good luck.”  The final mile I try my damnedest to open up my stride, but I am having only limited success. For every person I pass, for everything that feels good there is pain as well, and a need to back down, to slow down.  The hamstring which has been sore but just background noise in my mind for much of the race, really begins to hurt.

I’m starting to limp while I run, but I keep moving.  I do my best to hide it, and glide as much as possible, keep the pounding on my legs to an absolute minimum.  But I am in a better place than I thought I’d be.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish without walking.  But I’m running. and faster than I thought I would be able to.

After a short bout with a stitch, I get passed by some kid whose mom, jumps out from the crowd to shout encouragement.  He sees his mom and speeds up.  He passes her up, and as I pass her I yell out “Kid is the fastest runner out here.”  She beams at this.  Hell at that point in the race he may well be.  All the faster runners have already finished, and he passed me like I was standing still.

I felt good for the kid.  Two more people passed me as I made my way to the finish.  First one I didn’t mind.  The second one I did.  No reason why.  But it pissed me off, and I found a surge of energy, and nearly caught up to the guy before the finish.  Nearly, but didn’t.  Cursed the leg. But I crossed the finish line with a better time than I thought I was capable of just a day before.

29:18.13.  A 7:19.53 m/m pace.

Not my fastest time, not by a long shot.  But my best.

Upon stopping I immediately begin to limp rather badly.  As I hear the race officials tell me I don’t need to hand in the bottom portion of my race number, I see my wife.  She is beaming, happy.  I said “29:18.  Helluva race, hon.”

Helluva race.

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That’s it from here, America.  Enjoy the day, and If you see any veterans today, thank’em for all they’ve done.  God bless America.