Category Archives: Welcome to the Future

Transparent Aluminum

1986

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparent_aluminum#Transparent_aluminum

[Transparent Aluminum] was notably mentioned in the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Panels of ultra-thick acrylic glass were needed to construct water tanks within their ship’s cargo bay for containing two humpback whales and tons of water. However, the Enterprise crew, without money appropriate to the period, found it necessary to barter for the required materials. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott exchanges the chemical formula for transparent aluminum for several sheets of the material from a manufacturer called Plexicorp. When Dr. Leonard McCoy informs Scott that giving Dr. Nichols the formula is altering the future, the engineer responds, “Why? How do we know he didn’t invent the thing?”

From MOVIECLIPS.com:

2013

MERRIMACK, N.H., Nov. 4, 2013 — GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq:GTAT) announced that it has entered into a multi-year supply agreement with Apple Inc. to provide sapphire material. GT will own and operate ASF® furnaces and related equipment to produce the material at an Apple facility in Arizona where GT expects to employ over 700 people. Apple will provide GT with a prepayment of approximately $578 million. GT will reimburse Apple for the prepayment over five years, starting in 2015.

http://allthingsd.com/20131104/apple-inks-major-sapphire-supply-deal-with-gt-advanced-technologies/

Sapphire is currently used as the substrate for LED manufacture and is used by Apple in the lense covers of various ‘iDevice’ cameras as well as the fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s. The Apple – GT Advanced Technologies deal suggests that Apple needs an assured supply of Sapphire for current and future devices. Such future applications could include Sapphire screens and/or wearable products. (http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/09/apple-invents-a-fusion-process-that-will-add-a-sapphire-laminate-layer-to-iphone-ipad-future-iwatch-cover-glass.html)

From Pocketnow.com:

From GT Advanced Technologies:

Sapphire is second only to diamond in hardness (that is, scratch resistance). The formula for Sapphire is Al2O3.

Sapphire = Transparent Aluminum

See also (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapphire)

Number One Son

Ye Olde Kid Sister wrote this song thirty years ago when #1 son was born. Last week she put this video together.

Leaving for the wedding in a few hours.

– – –

I wrote this song in October of 1983, just before I met my nephew, Tom, for the first time. And I thought that now was the perfect occasion to get out my old cassette player, make a digital copy of the song and add a few pictures. Congratulations, Tom and Jane! I love you, Nora

http://animoto.com/play/CxG7iPDHkZiaWh2IwtYDkw

A conversation with CB

This Friday I’m taking today off from work and were going on a road trip to Austin Texas. And by this Friday I mean today is Friday.

As you recall I got one of the brand-new iPhone 5s models.(See bragging rights)

https://contrafactual.com/2013/09/21/bragging-rights/

This post is an experiment in technology. And by this post I mean today’s post. For some reason dictation wants to use the work this when I say today.

This entire post is being dictated on my iPhone 5s. With the occasional delete for extra spaces or perhaps a type for punctuation it’s 100% dictated. You’re even getting the mistakes I’m just going back and clarifying them when I see something.

I am dictating it a sentence at a time. Because it needs to go up to the web to analyze what I’ve just said. And I don’t want to be too long string of words per dictation.

I’m learning about dictation it excepts the phrase single quote
Single quote for a carriage return. Okay that did not work let’s try something else it accepts “new – line “as a carriage return. That’s better.

Pretty slick, Anna.? Are you A a a RRR GGG HHH ask Glenn nation point!

A a a RRR GGG HHH! Did not understand our, Rather yar, But it didn’t understand “exclamation – point”! And by didn’t I meant did.

It is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. Backspace delete okay this commands don’t work okay those commands did not work. Return return sorry

One (space

One) I have been writing Contra factual using the iPhone almost exclusively since I got the iPhone

Two) I have been making a lot of progress on the day 42 series. There will be no date 48 teasers I hope to have it out complete in a day or two. Day 48 T-shirts. To sit up ha ha Ha. Ha ha ha day 48 teaser.

Three) I am simultaneously working on the ending of the series. But I don’t know how far to go before I start going into ending mode. As they say all good things must come to an end. They also say “this too shall pass”. Although in truth once I switched to ending mode the ending could go on quite a long time. I’m excited to get to the ending, but then endings are always sad.
Four)
Four)

Four)(Finally!) again completely dictated no corrections mean made– ––– – now I have completely forgotten but .4 was supposed to be. And by .4 I mean line for by line for I mean four)

Pi equals 3.141?

Five (

Five) to WH EW. When last I looked I had over 80 people following this blog. But I think I really only have a quarter of perhaps I half-dozen loyal readers. And by quarter I mean core. You know who you are.

Six) ignoring this particular post., Do you think my writing is good enough to publish? Specifically would you pay real money for something I wrote? More specifically would you pay real money for a digital copy of day 42 in its entirety? And finally would you recommend day 42 to others? Use the reply option to answer.

Seven) this is what I am thinking; and by “; “I meant quote: “, And by quote: “I meant quote:”. It is curious to me why sometimes it decides to print quotequotequote and it other times just a single quote.”Eddie likes cheese”. That was interesting. The logic of this thing is “inscrutable”.

Eight”) okay so this is what I am thinking. I will continue to serialize a 42 on my blog. But once I get to the point where I think it’s finished or close to finished, I will work toward assembling it into a single e-book. At which point I will go back and embellish each of the days as I see appropriate, Such that the e-book will be a more complex version of the serialize story. So my question then to my readers is: what do you buy it or recommend that someone else by it assuming is at a reasonable price for e-book like a couple of bucks bastion Mark. Ha ha Ha. And by bastion Mark, I mean “?”.

Nine) why am I going to Austin today? Number one son is getting married on Sunday. I will be enjoying a long weekend. I will be reconnecting with white okay ES. And by white okay S I mean yolks open paren E old kid sister). Sorry.. Sorry.– – S I GH– – letter Y oh Kay S. Period. Period…. Wedding of number one son. I will also the room that reuniting with my wife’s sister. Period. I will also be we uniting with my wife’s sister. And her husband. Who I knew in college.

11) need more coffee! Standby…

12 open paren
12) just shot a video of Hillary and pickles. I’ll look for it shortly after this post

As number six would say “BCNU”. LOL

As number six would say “be seeking you”

As number six would say “be C C C in I give up

That thing that number six in the show the prisoner used to say

Ленин и Союз

Lenin and Soyuz

Found this on YouTube. The climate is warmer, and it is daytime, and crowded, but you will get to see the old school changing of the guard at Lenin’s Tomb, Soviet Style. The guard video is from 1980, not sure when the later footage was shot.

Ленин = Lenin

CCCP = SSSR = USSR

= = =

Below is video about the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Союз = Soyuz = Union

Part 1

Part 2

Dancing with the Bears

Author’s note: This post is part of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<

Author’s second note: I wrote the bulk of what you are about to read three to five years ago, when I first decided to start writing. It sat ignored and ‘unloved’ for many years. Time to show it some love…

 

I’ve learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war comes
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

Joan Baez (Bob Dylan) – With God On Our Side

 

Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Grateful Dead – Truckin’

 

You see, George, you really had a wonderful life.

Frank Capra – It’s a Wonderful Life

 

Back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR.
The Beatles – Back in the USSR

December 2, 1989, 11 PM – Red Square, Moscow, USSR

It is snowing lightly and is bitterly cold … even for native Russians. For a native Floridian and naturalized Texan, it is something well beyond cold. My thin fleece-lined yuppie overcoat doesn’t begin to keep me warm, even with an extra sweater underneath.

Heat drains from my feet, through my dress wingtips, into the ice and snow covered brick pavement. I stomp my feet. I can no longer feel my toes. My nose is frozen. My lungs burn with every breath. Despite my gloves, my fingers are numb and I wiggle them in a fruitless attempt to keep the blood circulating in them. My head is topped off with a brand new rabbit fur Shapka that I paid too much for earlier in the day at the hotel gift shop. The Shapka’s flaps are down, covering over my ears. No true Russian wears the flaps down … at least not in Moscow. Did I mention that it’s cold?

I’m standing in Red Square late at night in the Soviet Union. The three story tall State Department Store G.U.M is to my back, draped in giant posters of Lenin. Red Square – Krasnaya Ploshchad – is brilliantly lit by banks of flood lights mounted on the walls and roof of G.U.M.

I am standing where multitudes of marching troops, tanks, and missiles passed reviewing stands filled with the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev during the annual Soviet May Day parades. To my left, at the far end of Red Square, Saint Basil’s multicolored onion domes rise like giant shining Faberge eggs. To my right, at the other end of Red Square stands the red brick façade of the State Historical Museum. Directly in front of me, across an open expanse of snow covered pavement, is the black and red tomb of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin nestled against the red brick wall of the Kremlin where the ashes of Yuri Gagarin and other Soviet heroes are interred.

Red and black in front; red, blue, and yellow to the right; red to the left; brilliant white on the ground; and above … black … pitch black – save for the twinkle of falling snow flakes … looking like slow moving stars on the view screen of a starship cruising in warp drive.

= = = = =

I have been fascinated by the Russians since I was a kid. Sure, they were the enemy, the commies, the great totalitarian regime, the Evil Empire. We almost came to nuclear blows in the sixties when Khrushchev tried to put short range missiles in Cuba. I vividly remember the B-52 flying low overhead, taking off from Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami. Smoke poured from its eight screaming jet engines, its landing gear still extended. I was nine years old. My dad and I were taking a drive somewhere. Fishing maybe? My dad loved to fish. Maybe my mom just wanted him to get me out of the house. I don’t know or remember why we were there.

The B-52 filled the sky like some giant dirty silver eagle taking off to look for prey. I remember the sight and sound of it to this day. I loved jets. Dad and I would go to Fort Lauderdale Airport or Miami International Airport, park at the edge of the runway and watch the jets land and take off for hours. It was an innocent time when you could actually park at the end of a runway and watch jets land and take off without raising an alarm with Homeland Security. On our third date I took the future Mrs to Fort Lauderdale Airport to watch the jets. I loved the roar of the engines on take off, the smell of burned jet fuel, the warm blast of the exhaust, and the high-pitched whine of an airliner coming in for a landing.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a big deal for South Florida. The Mrs tells the story of how she and her dad were driving past Homestead AFB and they pulled into the entrance to turn around. They found themselves staring up the barrel of a tank which was posted in the middle of the road. The tank commander, standing in the turret, yelled at them to state their business or leave. As they turned around on the entrance road, the turret of the tank slowly tracked their movement, ready to open fire on the slightest provocation. Troops were mobilized to Florida and occupied a number of locations. I remember driving past one of the horse race tracks with my dad. From the highway you could see tents, trucks, jeeps, cannons, troops, and other implements of destruction … ready to invade Cuba – just 90 miles away – on a moment’s notice should the orders be given.

I grew up in South Florida, three hour’s drive south of Cape Canaveral. It was the Cold War and the Russians were our adversaries. They beat us into space, launching Sputnik into earth orbit in October of 1957 when I was not quite four years old. Then Sputnik 2 with the dog Laika – nicknamed Muttnik by the American press – followed in November. From 1957 to 1960, the Soviet Union launched numerous Sputniks and other satellites carrying dogs, mice, rats, guinea pigs, and plants. I was much older when I found out that Laika had died in space – as planned – something parents and school teachers weren’t likely to tell small children. Except for launch explosions and failed re-entries, the animals that followed Laika into space returned safely to earth. One of the puppies of Strelka (Sputnik 5, 1960) was even given to young Caroline Kennedy by Nikita Khrushchev. Then in April of 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. By the time I entered First Grade the Space Race was already running at full speed.

I watched all of the manned space shots on TV – Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and later missions; watched all of the unmanned lunar and planetary coverage. In the ’60s space flight got almost as much coverage as football or even the Vietnam War. It was all new, every mission a first, every photo a discovery. It was exciting and very, very, cool. I eventually talked my dad into driving up to watch one of the early Apollo launches (Apollo 9 or 10, I think). Later, when I got my driver’s license, I caught as many launches as I could. Titusville, just three hours away from home and eleven miles west of the launch site, turned out to be the perfect spot for watching launches. Even at eleven miles away, the sight and sound of a live Saturn launch was far beyond anything I had seen on TV. I was addicted. I drove up to watch several Apollo launches including the night launch of Apollo 17, the Skylab launch, and the Apollo-Soyuz launch.

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was a big deal for space watchers around the world. The United States was in the midst of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Berlin wall was still dividing East from West Berlin, and communism was flourishing. Yet the Americans and the Russians had decided that cooperation, in space at least, was in both of their interests. Various overtures had quietly been made throughout the 60s for cooperation in space, but the race to the moon took precedence for both sides. The entire world watched as Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the moon on 20 July 1969. Yet it would be many years before we learned the details of the spectacular launch pad explosions that derailed the Russian moon effort. The end of the space race was the beginning of space cooperation and within six years both sides were able to modify existing designs and coordinate flight plans to allow for the rendezvous and docking of Russian and American spacecraft.

During the summer of ’75 I was home from college. The Apollo-Soyuz launch was scheduled for July, so George and I decided to drive up to see it. I’ve known George since first grade. To say that George and I were best friends would be an understatement – we were “cohorts in crime”. The previous year George had invited me to tag along with him on a private tour of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) sponsored by his CAR (Children of the American Revolution) chapter. We also managed to add the future Mrs, her nursing school roommates, and few other friends to the entourage. Although I had been to KSC many times before on various tours, this was the first time I had been inside the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where the Apollo Saturn Vs (and later the Shuttles) were assembled for launch. One of the four assembly bays held the Saturn IB and Apollo that would be used for Apollo-Soyuz. That area was roped off, but we were otherwise free to wander around inside the cavernous hall and stare gawking up at the massive service cranes on the ceiling fifty stories above. As if to somehow flaunt just how big the VAB was, a fully inflated balloon – looking to be about the size of the Goodyear blimp – was tethered in one corner. In another section was a full scale mockup of the Apollo plus Docking Module on one stand and the Soyuz on another stand. (This model was later moved to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.)

A few days before the Apollo-Soyuz launch, I borrowed the family car and drove up to Titusville with George and Mark. We camped for two days on a small spit of land that jutted out into the Indian River (more bay or lagoon than river) that separates Kennedy Space Center from the mainland. The Kennedy Space Center includes Merritt Island with the VAB and Saturn launch pads and to the southeast – Cape Canaveral. Cape Canaveral was of course the site of all of the early manned and unmanned launches. Launch complexes for various versions and/or series of Atlas, Delta, Juno, Jupiter, Minuteman, Polaris, Poseidon, Redstone, Saturn, Thor, Titan, Snark, Vanguard, and others dotted the coast. For most of my youth I knew it as Cape Kennedy. It was renamed following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and remained Cape Kennedy for a decade until changed back due to pressure from the local residents.

So there we were – the three of us – in July of 1975 camped out on the bank of the Indian River with a few thousand of our closest friends awaiting the launch of the Apollo half of the Apollo-Soyuz mission. Mark had borrowed a small freestanding Coleman dome tent and we took turns sleeping in it or getting out of the sun. In front of us, facing the launch site, the water was shallow enough to wade out a fair distance in only knee-deep water. Horseshoe crabs were everywhere and required care to avoid stepping on. Behind us ran US-1 with its normal load of daily traffic. Although not as crowded as the launches of the sixties, this launch had still drawn a respectable audience. All of the hotels showed “No Vacancy”. Campers, cars, and tents lined the shore. A Shell station on the other side of the highway served as our restroom and commissary. It had a pay-phone which I would use to occasionally call home (cell phones didn’t come into existence until the ’80s and weren’t generally affordable until the ’90s).

I had discovered this spot during preparation for the launch of Apollo 17 two years earlier. We drove up a few weeks prior to the Apollo-Soyuz launch to scout out the site again and take photos of the launch vehicle on the pad. Once the launch date was more or less firmly set, we left a few days early to get a good spot. We were pretty much the only ones there when we got there, but as the scheduled launch day approached, every square inch of real estate became occupied by sightseers. I had taken an assortment of camera gear, telephoto lenses, and tripods in hopes of getting some good launch photos. July in Florida is characteristically hot and humid with occasional afternoon showers. Fortunately for us, the sky remained clear and there was a continuous breeze blowing from the east across the water. Unfortunately for us, the sand spit of our campground was deposited from ultra fine-grained sand which the breeze scattered about. Soon everything – camera gear, binoculars, telescopes, the inside of the tent, the food, every crevice of our bodies – was coated in a fine grit. We were sunburned, wind burned, sweaty, gritty, doused in mosquito repellent, and hadn’t bathed in days – it was great. We stayed up all night, slept at odd hours, talked to the ‘neighbors’ and … waited.

The Saturn IB launch vehicle was only half as tall as the Saturn V moon rocket, but was launched from the Saturn V launch complex on Merritt Island. The Saturn IB was a leftover from the early development days and NASA decided to use it for the last manned mission before the shuttle was to begin flying in six years. The Apollo capsule and Service Module had been built for a moon launch that had been cancelled due to funding cuts. The only new component was the Apollo-Soyuz Docking Module which provided both docking compatibility with the Soyuz and an airlock to allow for equalization between the low pressure pure oxygen environment of Apollo and the slightly higher nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere of Soyuz. It would serve as the “parlor” where the Americans and Russians would meet. The Docking Module was stowed between the Apollo and the Saturn second stage, in same location as that of the lunar landing modules. Once launched, Apollo would separate, spin around, and dock with the Docking Module – forming the complete U.S. half of the Apollo-Soyuz configuration. Rather than undertake the enormous cost of modifying the support gantry to accommodate the shorter Saturn IB, NASA engineers built a platform to support the Saturn IB, lifting it up such that the Apollo capsule was at the correct height to mate with the “clean room” and other connectors at the top. This support platform looked for all the world like an old Bunsen burner stand that we used in chemistry class to hold beakers or flasks over the fire. At a distance it was quite an odd site to see the ‘tiny’ rocket held up by a Bunsen burner stand next to the tall gantry structure.

Tuesday 15 July 1975 – six years minus one day after the historic moon launch of Apollo 11 – the sun rose above the horizon next to the Apollo Saturn launch pad. The sky was clear with no clouds or rain predicted. It was the perfect day for a launch. We had made friends with the retired couple in a nearby camper who had a battery-powered TV and were able to get status updates from both NASA and Russian space agency. Soyuz 19 would launch seven hours ahead of Apollo from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This was the first time ever that an American TV audience was able to view live coverage of a Russian manned space launch. We watched it on that small battery-operated TV, camped eleven miles across the water from the Apollo launch pad. After several more minutes of coverage we returned to our tent, periodically checking the launch pad with binoculars and telescopes and passing the time until the scheduled afternoon launch. The countdown progressed and at 3:50 PM the Saturn carrying the American half of the Apollo-Soyuz mission lifted off the pad. The Saturn IB launch was somewhat less spectacular than the previous Saturn V launches I had seen, but was highly enjoyable none the less … and … we had been there to see the last ever launch of an Apollo spacecraft. After waiting for the other spectators to disperse, we finally drove back home. At home two days later we watched live TV coverage of the historic first meeting of the Americans and Russians in space.

In high school I tried to teach myself Russian from a Berlitz book I found at the local public library. I hung out at the library a lot as a kid. It was close enough to our apartment that I could walk or ride my bike to it. It was air conditioned – an important point for a kid growing up in South Florida – it was free – another important point … and … it was quiet (it was the library). I would sit in the back of the library by the magazine racks in one of the two comfy wing-back leather chairs and read Science News, Scientific American, Consumer Reports, etc. Lots of good stuff to read … and I read a lot. It was also smoke free – a rare thing in the sixties. I lived with my parents and my sister in a two bedroom duplex apartment with a small wall mounted all-in-one air conditioner unit. Mom and dad smoked like chimneys, which was the norm at the time, and the apartment was always thick with smoke. The library was a literally a breath of fresh air.

I would hang out at the library, back in one of the comfy chairs, studying Russian from the Berlitz book. Pronunciation was the hardest part, trying to pronounce words without actually hearing a native speaker say them. Da and Nyet were easy. Spah-cee-ba, pah-zha-lu-ee-sta, zdravst-vu-ee-tee and a host of other words were almost impossible. Years later I would have tapes of Russian conversations that I could listen to over and over again ad nauseum, but in the library I muddled through as best I could.

Star Trek made its appearance in 1966, the year of the final two-man Gemini missions. I was in Junior High. My parents didn’t care much for Star Trek and I always had to beg them to watch it on our one-and-only black and white TV. My dad always made fun of William Shatner’s over-acting, which I didn’t appreciate until years later watching Star Trek reruns. Star Trek was famous for quotes like “Damn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a [insert profession here]” and “Beam me up Scottie” (even thought this exact phrase was never actually spoken in any of the TV episodes or later movies).

Star Trek also introduced the warp drive, permitting the crew to travel to other star systems faster than the speed of light and allowing them to visit a new star system every week. Although the concept of warp drive wasn’t new to readers of science fiction, Star Trek certainly popularized it and warp drive (or something like it) became the standard means of space transportation for future TV shows and movies including StarWars. As if to foretell the future of spaceflight and US-Russian relations, Star Trek featured a Russian as part of the crew – Ensign Pavel Andreievich Chekhov. Perhaps to mock the fact the Russians had beaten us into space, Chekhov’s stock response for any accomplishment … was that the Russian’s had done it first and done it better.

As a kid I listened mostly to AM radio and, when I could afford them, vinyl records. My dad gave me a hand-me-down HiFi with a record player sometime early in Junior High. This was a not a stereo – it was monaural – one channel. AM radio was also monaural. FM stereo did exist, but it was exclusively devoted to easy listening, classical, and “old folks music” – Sinatra, et. al. All the good music was on AM, and of all the groups playing, it was the Beatles that had the greatest impact on me. When they made their first US appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in February of 1964 the girls went wild. My five year old sister loved them. I however, hated them – “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Love Me Do” are not the kind of songs that appeal to an eleven year old science nerd. But as I matured, so did the Beatles. They developed an edge and a depth that spoke to the soul of a teenager searching for meaning in a confusing and troubling world. Within the span of my junior high school years they released the albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour – each successive album somehow better and edgier than the previous one. This progression of musical genius culminated with The Beatles – also known as the White Album.

The White Album hit the stores in November of 1968 during my first year of high school and got heavy radio play in the same time period as the Apollo flights leading up to the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was a breakthrough two-album set. I never owned the vinyl, but George did and I would go over to his place and we would listen to it late into the night. Many of the songs spoke directly to me – with a deeper meaning, other songs were just fun to listen to. Still others appealed to me due to the complexity of the instrumentals. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, “Piggies”, “Rocky Raccoon”, “Mother Nature’s Son” (later popularized by John Denver), and “Helter Skelter” were some of my favorites.

But arguably the best song on the White Album was the first song on the first record, which opens with the high-pitched whine of an airliner coming in for a landing … “Back in the USSR”.

= = = = =

This is my very first trip across ‘the pond’ – departing Houston and over-nighting in Frankfurt, then flying on to Moscow. I am part of a small team of geoscientists and negotiators from an oil company scouting a major gas field near the Arctic Circle. After another over-night in Moscow we will board an Aeroflot flight to Western Siberia. Only a few hours ago we arrived at Sheremetyevo airport, cleared customs, arranged for mini-buses to take us and our voluminous luggage to the hotel, checked in, and finally met downstairs for a strategy meeting and dinner in the hotel ‘beer garden’. We are staying at Gostinitsa Mezhdunarodnaya – the International Hotel. The Mezh, as it is affectionately called by foreigners, is one of the newer hotels. It is located on the north bank of a bow of the now frozen Moscow River, across from the older Russian-style Hotel Ukraine. The Mezh is famous for its large ornate lobby clock whose mechanical rooster crows each hour with much fanfare.

Although one of the newer hotels, the Mezh is very much a traditional Russian hotel. After checking in I am given a receipt and a slip of paper with my room number. I take the elevator up to my floor and I find the dezhurnaya or key lady. I hand her the slip of paper and she hands me a key and signs me in. Day or night a key lady is on duty. When I leave I have to turn in my key and get a slip of paper – when I return I hand over my piece of paper and get my key back. Was this a way for the KGB to track my comings and goings? Perhaps, but it might be just as likely that hotels have a limited supply of keys – possibly as a security measure – but more likely than not just a supply shortage like everything else in the Soviet Union. At any rate the ‘powers that be’ will know when I am in my hotel room and when I’m not. Big Brother is watching me.

After a late dinner Peter invites me to go with him to see the changing of the guard at Lenin’s Tomb, which is similar to that of Buckingham Palace, yet distinctive in its own Russky way. Anyone can see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but how many Westerners get to see the one at Lenin’s Tomb? I’m pretty jet-lagged, but I need to stay up as late as possible to reset my clock – not to mention that we are on a tight schedule and this might be my only chance to see Red Square.

Hell yes, I’ll go!

Our goal is to catch the eleven o’clock changing of the guard at Lenin’s Tomb before Metro stops running at midnight. It’s after ten and Peter isn’t even sure we can make it in time, but he thinks we might be able to make it if we hurry. We head out on foot into the bitter cold. We walk north from the Mezh on an icy walkway along Ulitsa 1905 goda, 1905 street. Peter is in better shape than I am and I can barely keep up with him. We walk a few blocks until we come to a small wooded park on the right lying between Ulitsa 1905 goda and Ulitsa Trekhrodniy Val. Then we follow a crunchy snow-covered path through the park a few more blocks and emerge at the edge of a large empty thoroughfare. We hurry across and walk a few dozen more yards to the circular Ulitsa 1905 goda Metro station. We buy our subway tokens and hop on the escalator descending as if into the bowels of earth. The air is warm and humid now and I need to wipe off my glasses in order to see the steep tunnel opening before us.

The escalator zips us quickly into the depths and we arrive at the platform of the ‘Magenta’ line. Peter, who as been here several trips before, leads us to the correct side heading into Moscow. Almost immediately a train arrives, the doors open, and we hop on. I find a place to stand and grab on to a hand rail. With no time to spare a voice says something in Russian over the loud speakers and away we zoom, accelerating rapidly. Although I have been studying Russian with a tutor at work for perhaps three or four months now, my grasp of spoken Russian is weak, so I have no idea what was said. Peter tells me it is essentially “watch out for the closing doors” followed by the name of the next station. This is probably the standard routine for most subways around the world, but since this is also the first time I have been on a subway, I am very impressed. The lights blink off-on-off-on and a voice comes back on the speakers. I can’t tell if it is live or a recording. Peter tells me this isn’t our stop. The train decelerates and I adjust my stance to maintain balance. The doors open, people get off, people get on, the voice makes another announcement, and away we go again.

The lights blink. The voice speaks. “Time to change lines” Peter informs me. Doors open and out we go. Up stairs – down stairs – cross over – check the signs – more stairs (all of this still deep underground) and then we are on the ‘Green’ line. Once again a train arrives almost immediately and the process repeats. We get on only to get off at the next stop, Teatralnaya, Theater District, from which we can exit to the surface via the Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Revolution Square, station. Back on the escalator – up up up up up up up – and through the glass doors, back out into the cold dry night. The rapid change of temperature takes me by surprise and I have trouble catching my breath. Peter looks at his watch – it is almost eleven – and we still have a good way to go. We hurry helter-skelter over icy streets – walking, sliding, running. Down a dark narrow empty alley, then another alley, then another, past old dark buildings, under high archways. Out on to a major street, up a slight hill … then suddenly wide open space … Red Square, snow-covered, brightly lit, surreal. More snow crunches under foot as we run across Red Square to the mausoleum on the other side. Lungs burning. Eyes squinting in the blinding light. The black and red polished granite of the tomb stands against the red brick of the Kremlin wall. Engraved in red within the black granite band encircling the tomb is one word in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet

Ленин.

Two soldiers are standing guard in front of the entrance to the tomb, motionless as if frozen solid in the frigid Russian night. Are these the new guards? Did we miss the change? We watch … waiting expectantly. A light snow begins to fall, imparting a surreal feeling that we are mere figurines standing in a Faberge snow globe.

Suddenly as if on cue two new soldiers appear from the far right marching along the Kremlin wall. Steam wafts from their mouths and noses as they march toward us, turn, and then approach the tomb. With intricate precision, the new guards exchange places with their comrades and take up their positions in rigid silence. The two relieved soldiers then march back along the red brick of the Kremlin wall and disappear from view as the thump thump thump of their boots on the frozen pavement trails away into the night. The only ones remaining on Red Square are Peter, myself, and the two new guards. My lungs are burning, fingers and toes numb, eyes and nose watering, but I had made it in time to see a hallmark of the Soviet Union – the changing of the guard at Lenin’s tomb. Little did I know that within a year the Soviet Union would collapse and the honor guard at Lenin’s tomb would be a footnote in history.

Falling snow flakes twinkle in the bright lights as we take one last look at Krasnaya Ploshchad before turning to leave and making our way back to catch the last Metro run of the night.

Bragging Rights

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What you see above is (was) my old phone. Your basic 5+? year old bog standard Samsung flip-phone as issued by Verizon. I have been a Verizon customer since it was GTE back in the ’90s. In fact my first product was a pager, not a phone (but I digress).

Anyway, remember back a few posts ago when I said that YOKS (Ye Olde Kid Sister) got me the first generation iPad for father’s day out of pity because the all time geek did not have an iPhone?

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Yesterday #2 son and I got up at 7 AM and drove over to the new Verizon store on the edge of town. I had stopped by the previous evening to confirm that they would have the iPhone 5s in stock. We got into the short line (# 0010) and waited the half hour until they opened at 8 AM. We each got the “Space Gray” 64 GB model. I might have gotten the Champagne Gold model if they’d had it, but as we all later found out, they are in extremely limited supply. Space Gray is fine for me.

We decided to try to get them on release day for fear they would quickly sell out and be unavailable for weeks. It appears we were right. While standing in line I was speaking to the fellow ahead of me and he told me that he had originally gone to a different Verizon store, but the line was already wrapped around the side of the building.

Impressions

Fast, really fast, to quote South Park “hellafast”. At least compared to my gen 1 iPad. But it should be. It has 4x the RAM. The Geekbench overall rating is almost 5x better. I am surprised that the Geekbench number was’t even higher based on pure specs, but maybe Geekbench isn’t optimized for 64 bit CPU. Web surfing is MUCH faster even on LTE. Videos play smoothly on LTE.

The finger print scanner works as advertised. It is very slick.

Although the battery life is probably close to that of my iPad, it feels as if the battery drains a bit faster. It definitely needs to be plugged in overnight.

Assuming that the new iPads are based on the same 64 bit A7 chip, I will absolutely be   getting a new iPad or iPad mini later this year. Whereas the iPhone fits in my pocket, the screen is too small to work on all day long (I am still posting this from my olde iPad).

Oh and I finally have a camera again. I used the iPhone to take the pictures of my old phone. By all accounts it is a good camera. Standby for cat pictures …

iPhone lovers: you can hate me now 🙂

Apple haters: you can continue to hate me. BTW the iPhone 5s appears to be the fastest mobile device of any kind as of today (Source: AnandTech)

PS
And I’d have given anything
To have my own PacMan game at home.
I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade;
Now I’ve got it on my phone.

Brad Paisley, Welcome To The Future

As promised in 2001, I now have 2001 A Space Odyssey on my phone. I also downloaded PacMan. 🙂

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Bloggers' Rights at EFF

EFF

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About EFF

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people’s radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.

 

My last post (21st Century I. P.) got two reblogs, one reply, and several comments. If you feel as strongly about this as I do, please visit their website by clicking on the EFF banner at the top of this post. If they make their case to you, please donate. In my last post I said that only the rich could afford the time and money to hire the lawyers to write and represent the laws. The EFF is everyman’s representative in the the new digital age.

Bloggers' Rights at EFF

21st Century I.P.

RANT

Hey Googstapos … To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, “You’ve got at lot of damn gall to come after folks who include copyrighted music in their YouTube videos when you collect and store FOREVER every damn bit of personal information you can about us to be used against us to try to sell us crap we don’t need!”

OK … That about sums up the rest of this post. This is an incoherent rant. Deal with it.

Weggieboy’s comments on my JOSIV5 post hit a nerve.

Now I am not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV, so I have no legal insight here. But consider the following: let’s say

    I invite you to my house to listen to my LP record of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my 8-track of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my Compact Cassette of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my CD of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my self-ripped digital copy of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my iTunes Match digital C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to a local coffee shop and play C. W. McCall’s Convoy for you on my iPhone
    I come to your house and play C. W. McCall’s Convoy for you on my iPhone
    I upload C. W. McCall’s Convoy to YouTube and send you the link to listen to it
    I find someone else’s YouTube posting of C. W. McCall’s Convoy and send you the link
    I give you a digital copy of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I sell you a digital copy of C. W. McCall’s Convoy

Oh and somewhere in there is “I go to a local coffee shop and play C. W. McCall’s Convoy loud enough that everyone can hear it.”

Do you see where this is going?

Let’s try to separate “ethical” from “legal”. “Ethical” is doing the right thing. “Legal” is some arbitrary construct decided upon by lawyers and the courts, often in favor of big business and the rich. I say the rich, because the poor and middle class have neither the time nor the money to hire the lawyers to write the laws.

Ethical is paying artists for their work. Legal is making sure that the corporate entities who bought the rights to the music get every penny possible in order to pay large CEO salaries and lawyers to ensure they get every possible penny.

Ethical is not selling something that is not yours to sell. Legal is making sure that no one has access to art, music, information, or technology without paying for it. (How do libraries even exist anymore?)

So back to my scenario of C. W. McCall’s Convoy above. At what point does it stop being Ethical? Selling you a digital copy sounds unethical to me. Giving it to you … possibly. Letting you listen to it? I would argue that every scenario where I let you listen to it, whether at my home, or at the coffee shop, or via a link on the Internet is ethical. Implicit in this is that if you like it and want to listen to it again … you go buy it. (Thus my links to Amazon and iTunes for C. W. McCall’s Greatest Hits). Just ask yourself “What’s the right thing to do? How would I like to be treated? Think of the Golden Rule.

Legal is an entirely different answer. Selling a digital copy? Illegal. Giving a digital copy? Illegal. Posting online via YouTube for one-time use? Illegal. Uploading for download and unlimited use? Illegal. Play in public for others to hear? Illegal. (It is illegal to even sing Happy Birthday in public without paying royalties). Playing for a friend to listen to while in the physical presence of your friend? (lawyers: is there a way we can get him to pay to listen? No? Whaaaa) OK Legal

Ethical – everyone knows what feels right. Just ask the question “Is this fair? How would I like to be treated?”
Legal – you don’t know what is legal without access to the law or statute, the legal opinions handed down by the courts, or a lawyer to explain it to you. Two different lawyers might give two different interpretations.

Ethical is about fair.
Legal is about greed.

Now hold on a minute … You say “We need laws, otherwise people could just do whatever the wanted.” True. But how many laws are at the end of the day all about the Benjamins. ($$$)

Sharing is a fundamentally socialist construct. You can’t make money when people share things. That is the problem with the Internet. Is was designed at its very core to be collaborative, to share. Hence the ability of hyperlinks to jump all over the web. The ease of embedding images and videos from other sites. It was never about making money. You will notice that there are no ads on my site. I am not making any money off of this site. My links to iTunes and Amazon were “doing the right thing” … if you like the music, buy it “here”. Rest assured when (if) I finally have a book to sell, I will direct you to a site that will accept your hard earned currency in exchange for my product, but until then just do the right thing.

Copyright Law

The idea of Copyright Law was an attempt to assure one had the ability to profit from one’s work for a period of time before it transferred to the Public Domain. There was a fixed period of time. Now it seems that copyrights are bought and sold, renewed, long out-living their original owners. Multinational corporations now hold the copyright to books, music, movies in perpetuity. They never go into the public domain. At least it seems that way. Ethical is making sure a musician is paid for his music while he/she is alive. Legal is making sure that the corporate entity that bought the rights from the musician or his/her estate continues to make money from it as long as (legally) possible.

Patent Law

Same thing with Patent Law. At one time patents were only granted to things, actual working prototypes of machines. Now any concept no matter how general or far-fetched can be patented. And it is in the best interest of the patent applicant to patent as many variations as possible to keep another person from patenting the invention out from under him and then suing or threatening to sue once the item is in production.

Even so most patent cases either end up in court or patent trolls end up extorting money from manufacturers who can not afford to go to court. Once in court, the rulings are either completely arbitrary, or determined by the skill of the winning legal team.

Oh well, it’s late. I’m tired. I’ve blown off steam. There is so more more to vent about on this subject, but not now. Respond if you wish.

cb

The Silverton

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

The Silverton

It all comes down to this. This is my third and final installment on the music of C. W. McCall. The first was Convoy.

The Silverton has been called C. W. McCall’s best song. It sings tribute to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The kids loved to listen to this song when they were growing up. This is the Silverton Train that we sent my wife’s parents over Wolf Creek Pass to get too. Sadly, my wife and I never got to see it (or ride on it) in person.

Thankfully this is the same version we have (and you can have from iTunes or Amazon).

And now without further ado … The Silverton

 
 
Subtly different version + different footage

 
The Silverton Lyrics from
http://www.cw-mccall.com/works/black_bear_road/silverton.html


She was born one mornin’ on a San Juan summer
Back in eighteen and eighty and one
She was a beautiful daughter of the D and R G
And she weighed about a thousand ton

Well, it’s a-forty-five mile through the Animas canyon
So they set her on the narra gauge
She drank a whole lot a’ water
And she ate a lot of coal
And they called her the Silverton (Silverton train)

[Chorus]
Here comes the Silverton, up from Durango
Here comes the Silverton, a-shovelin’ coal
Here comes the Silverton, up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow

Well, now listen to the whistle in the Rock Wood cut
On the high line to Silverton town
And you’re gonna get a shiver
When you check out the river
Which is four hundred feet straight down

Take on some water at the Needleton tank
And then a-struggle up a two-five grade
And by the time you get your hide
Past the Snowshed slide
You’ve had a ride on the Silverton (Silverton train)

[Chorus]
Here comes the Silverton, up from Durango
Here comes the Silverton, a-shovelin’ coal
Here comes the Silverton, up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow

[Musical interlude here. Nice violins, and the kettle drums boom well.]

[Chorus]
Here comes the Silverton, up from Durango
Here comes the Silverton, a-shovelin’ coal
Here comes the Silverton, up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow

[If the next line seems a bit familiar, you’re correct. Chug-chug, toot-toot, off we go.]

Now, down by the station, early in the mornin’
There’s a whole lot a’ people in line
And they all got a ticket
On The Train To Yesterday
And it’s a-gonna leave on time

Well, it’s a forty-five mile up the Animas canyon
So they run her on the narra gauge
She takes a whole lot a’ water
And she needs a lot of coal
And they call her the Silverton (Silverton train)

[Chorus]
Here comes the Silverton, up from Durango
Here comes the Silverton, a-shovelin’ coal
Here comes the Silverton, up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow
[Fade out]
Here comes the Silverton, up from Durango
Here comes the Silverton, a-shovelin’ coal
Here comes the Silverton, up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow

Here comes the Silverton, up from Durango
Here comes the Silverton, a-shovelin’ coal
Here comes the Silverton, up from the canyon
See the smoke and hear the whistle blow

 

And now without further adieu …

Be seeing you …

Wolf Creek Pass

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

This is the second installment on C. W. McCall. The first was Convoy (the previous post). By the way I have recently updated the content of my Convoy post. You might want to back and re-read it.

Wolf Creek pass was released in 1975 before Convoy. Before becoming a (albeit short-lived) national sensation, C. W. McCall was becoming a cult hero in Colorado. Many of his songs were Colorado-centric and he won local acclaim. In many ways he was the anti-John-Denver. In the late seventies the Mrs’ parents came out to visit us in Evergreen (west of Denver) while I was still in college. They were going to take a ride on the Silverton Train. To get there they had to go over Wolf Creek pass. I did not know that her father had a fear of heights.

Again not the same version we have (and you can have from iTunes or Amazon), but close enough.


Wolf Creek Pass Lyrics from
http://www.cw-mccall.com/works/wolf_creek_pass/wolf_creek_pass.html

Me an’ Earl was haulin’ chickens on a flatbed out of Wiggins, and we’d spent all night on the uphill side of thirty-seven miles of hell called Wolf Creek Pass. Which is up on the Great Divide.

We was settin’ there suckin’ toothpicks, drinkin’ Nehi and onion soup mix, and I said, “Earl, let’s mail a card to Mother then send them chickens on down the other side. Yeah, let’s give ’em a ride.”

[Chorus]
Wolf Creek Pass, way up on the Great Divide
Truckin’ on down the other side

Well, Earl put down his bottle, mashed his foot down on the throttle, and then a couple’a boobs with a thousand cubes in a nineteen-forty-eight Peterbilt screamed to life. We woke up the chickens.

Well, we roared up offa that shoulder sprayin’ pine cones, rocks, and boulders, and put four hundred head of them Rhode Island reds and a couple a’ burnt-out roosters on the line. Look out below; ’cause here we go!

Well, we commenced to truckin’ and them hens commenced to cluckin’ and then Earl took out a match and scratched his pants and lit up the unused half of a dollar cigar and took a puff. Says “My, ain’t this purdy up here.”

I says, “Earl, this hill can spill us. You better slow down or you gonna kill us. Just make one mistake and it’s the Pearly Gates for them eight-five crates a’ USDA-approved cluckers. You wanna hit second?”

[Chorus]
Wolf Creek Pass, way up on the Great Divide
Truckin’ on down the other side

Well, Earl grabbed on the shifter and he stabbed her into fifth gear and then the chromium-plated, fully-illuminated genuine accessory shift knob come right off in his hand. I says, “You wanna screw that thing back on, Earl?”

He was tryin’ to thread it on there when the fire fell off a’ his cigar and dropped on down, sorta rolled around, and then lit in the cuff of Earl’s pants and burned a hole in his sock. Yeah, sorta set him right on fire.

I looked on outta the window and I started countin’ phone poles, goin’ by at the rate of four to the seventh power. Well I put two and two together, and added twelve and carried five; come up with twenty-two thousand telephone poles an hour.

I looked at Earl and his eyes was wide, his lip was curled, and his leg was fried. And his hand was froze to the wheel like a tongue to a sled in the middle of a blizzard. I says, “Earl, I’m not the type to complain; but the time has come for me to explain that if you don’t apply some brake real soon, they’re gonna have to pick us up with a stick and a spoon.”

Well, Earl rared back, and cocked his leg, stepped as down as hard as he could on the brake, and the pedal went clear to the floor and stayed there, right there on the floor. He said it was sorta like steppin’ on a plum.

Well, from there on down it just wasn’t real purdy: it was hairpin county and switchback city. One of ’em looked like a can full’a worms; another one looked like malaria germs. Right in the middle of the whole damn show was a real nice tunnel, now wouldn’t you know?

Sign says clearance to the twelve-foot line, but the chickens was stacked to thirteen-nine. Well we shot that tunnel at a hundred-and-ten, like gas through a funnel and eggs through a hen, and we took that top row of chickens off slicker than scum off a Lousiana swamp. Went down and around and around and down ’til we run outta ground at the edge of town. Bashed into the side of the feed store… in downtown Pagosa Springs.

[Chorus]
Wolf Creek Pass, way up on the Great Divide
Truckin’ on down the other side
Wolf Creek Pass, way up on the Great Divide
Truckin’ on down the other side

Convoy

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

This essay is both historical for it’s content and futuristic, based on the ease with which one can now learn about C. W. McCall and access his music. Enjoy …

From Welcome to the Future
No smart phones, no cell phones, no satellite phones, no pagers, no texting, no answering machines; only land-line phones at home and if you needed to make a call away from home there were coin-operated “pay phones”.

The above was still true in 1975 when Convoy first debuted. I was in my second year of “real college” in Colorado, my time at Junior College (or Community College as it came to be called) barely counts. OK not strictly true, I met my wife-to-be in Junior College while attending a fencing class. She was my partner during field camp for the “barbed-wire stretching” section. We had five miles of barbed-wire to stretch along a section of canal that bordered the Everglades. She cut her hand and I cleaned and bandaged it tenderly with love and care. So gentle were my attentions that she soon fell under the spell of my gentle but manly manner and soon we were lying under the shade of a mangrove tree making sweet, sweet …

Oh wait that was last night’s dream … It was fencing class as in touché, sabers, etc. …

My wife-to-be in fencing class:

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Ok not my wife … and besides in 1973 the world had not yet been introduced to light-sabers. We used foils, épées, old-school sabers. Her sweet smile and school girl laugh pierced my heart as did the unshielded tip of her épée. When I finally got out of the hospital … OK that was lie. It was fencing class nothing more. But it was the beginning of a 40 year love affair.

 
 
I digress. Where was I? No cell phones. But there was a thing called Citizens Band radio or CB for short (coincidence? … I don’t think so). CB radio became popular with over-the-road truckers as a way to communicate between themselves. In a time without cell phones it became the dominant mobile communications venue for America’s truckers.

Also in 1974, the U. S. national speed limit was reduced to 55 miles per hour, in part due to the Arab Oil Embargo and the need to conserve fuel. America’s truckers who had been used to Interstate Highway speed of 75 mph or in states like Wyoming and Montana no posted speed limit at all, rebelled. Time is money and the reduced speed greatly increased the time it took to get goods across America. They embraced the CB radio as a way to stay in touch and keep an eye out for “Smokey“, the endearing name for state highway patrol officers. So named because they frequently wore hats that made them look like Smokey the Bear (“Only you can prevent forest fires”).

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CB radio was the cell phone of it’s day for truckers and was embraced by many car owners as well. The truckers developed there own jargon, slang, or lingo for talking on CB. The term handle, meaning the alias or name you went by, originated (or at least became popularized) with CB radio a decade or more before online accounts, chat rooms, and blogs.
C. W. McCall merely popularized the current CB language and phenomenon. There were in fact other CB related songs on the air at the time, but they have all faded to obscurity. Only C. W. McCall and Convoy have survived the test of time (at least as long as I have any say in it).

C. W. McCall

Excerpted from http://www.cw-mccall.com/legend/

C.W. McCall is not a real person. “C.W. McCall” isn’t the name of the group that recorded the music. C.W. McCall is the nom de chanteur of Bill Fries, an advertising man who created the character of C.W. McCall.

In 1972, while working for the Omaha advertising firm of Bozell & Jacobs, Bill Fries created a television campaign for the Old Home Bread brand of the Metz Baking Company. The advertisements told of the adventures of truck driver C.W. McCall, his dog Sloan, and of the truck stop that McCall frequented, The Old Home Café. Bill based the character and his environment on his own upbringing in western Iowa. The commercials were very successful. So successful, that the Des Moines Register published the air times of the commercials in the daily television listings.

From those commercials came the first of the C.W. McCall songs, named after the restaurant: “Old Home Fill-er Up An’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Café”. While Bill provided the lyrics to the song and the voice of C.W. McCall, his collaborator Chip Davis wrote the music. Soon C.W.’s first album, Wolf Creek Pass, was released; its title song was a misadventure of a truck with brake failure.

C.W. McCall’s popularity reached its peak in January 1976, when “Convoy” — from his second album, Black Bear Road — reached the number one position on both the pop and country charts of Billboard.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._W._McCall

 
I was attending college in Colorado when Convoy became a national sensation. I would like to be able to share the exact version of the song that the Mrs has on her playlist, but it appears that YouTube has scrubbed the audio from all of the videos containing the original recording.

If you remember the original and want to relive your own history you can get it from iTunes by clicking on the image below.

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Besides Convoy, there are all of his other hits including Wolf Creek Pass, The Silverton (Train), Old Home Fill-er Up An’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Café, and many others. In addition to their historical significance, these are just plain fun songs with entertaining lyrics and great guitar licks and banjo pickin’.

C. W. McCall is definitely Cat-Beard tested and Momma approved.

If you aren’t an iTunes fan you can also get it from Amazon by clicking below:

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For a trip down memory lane or to listen for the first time, I offer for your consideration …

A VH-1 historical perspective

 
A “live” version of the original 1975 Convoy

 
A raunchier version from the 1978 movie (not my favorite)

 
 
Next >> Wolf Creek Pass

 
1975 Lyrics from http://www.cw-mccall.com/works/black_bear_road/convoy.html

[On the CB]
Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon? Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure. By golly, it’s clean clear to Flag Town, c’mon. Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy…

Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin’ logs
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs
We is headin’ for bear on I-one-oh
’Bout a mile outta Shaky Town
I says, “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck.
“And I’m about to put the hammer down.”

[Chorus]
’Cause we got a little convoy
Rockin’ through the night.
Yeah, we got a little convoy,
Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
’Cross the U-S-A.
Convoy!
[On the CB]
Ah, breaker, Pig Pen, this here’s the Duck. And, you wanna back off them hogs? Yeah, 10-4, ’bout five mile or so. Ten, roger. Them hogs is gettin’ in-tense up here.

By the time we got into Tulsa Town,
We had eighty-five trucks in all.
But they’s a roadblock up on the cloverleaf,
And them bears was wall-to-wall.
Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper;
They even had a bear in the air!
I says, “Callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Duck.
“We about to go a-huntin’ bear.”

[Chorus]
’Cause we got a great big convoy
Rockin’ through the night.
Yeah, we got a great big convoy,
Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
’Cross the U-S-A.
Convoy!
[On the CB]
Ah, you wanna give me a 10-9 on that, Pig Pen? Negatory, Pig Pen; you’re still too close. Yeah, them hogs is startin’ to close up my sinuses. Mercy sakes, you better back off another ten.

Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
Like a rocket sled on rails.
We tore up all of our swindle sheets,
And left ’em settin’ on the scales.
By the time we hit that Chi-town,
Them bears was a-gettin’ smart:
They’d brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinoise National Guard.
There’s armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps,
And rigs of ev’ry size.
Yeah, them chicken coops was full’a bears
And choppers filled the skies.
Well, we shot the line and we went for broke
With a thousand screamin’ trucks
An’ eleven long-haired Friends a’ Jesus
In a chartreuse micra-bus.
[On the CB]
Ah, Rubber Duck to Sodbuster, come over. Yeah, 10-4, Sodbuster? Lissen, you wanna put that micra-bus right behind that suicide jockey? Yeah, he’s haulin’ dynamite, and he needs all the help he can get.

Well, we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
And prepared to cross the line
I could see the bridge was lined with bears
But I didn’t have a dog-goned dime.
I says, “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck.
“We just ain’t a-gonna pay no toll.”
So we crashed the gate doing ninety-eight
I says “Let them truckers roll, 10-4.”

[Chorus]
’Cause we got a mighty convoy
Rockin’ through the night.
Yeah, we got a mighty convoy,
Ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
’Cross the U-S-A.

Convoy! Ah, 10-4, Pig Pen, what’s your twenty?
Convoy! Omaha? Well, they oughta know what to do with them hogs out there fer shure. Well, mercy
Convoy! sakes, good buddy, we gonna back on outta here, so keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your…
Convoy! tail. We’ll catch you on the flip-flop. This here’s the Rubber Duck on the side.
Convoy! We gone. ’Bye,’bye.

I Have A Dream

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

Excerpted from Welcome to the Future

Negrophobia
I was a lower-middle income white kid of Norwegian-Italian parents. I lived a sheltered, segregated life with white neighbors and white classmates. I am not sure how it happened – my parents, if alive today, would vehemently deny they were racist – but I developed a fear of black people, Negrophobia. I never knew any black people personally as a kid. All I knew about them was what I saw and heard on the news. Black people were angry. Very angry. They were angry at white people. They were angry at my mom and dad. They were angry at me!

 
1963

The sixties were turbulent times. Anyone interested in learning more, will find a wealth of information on the Internet. I won’t begin to try to elaborate on it here, beyond a few simple points. First that the American Negro, the Blacks, the African Americans were righteously angry at being treated as less than human, both socially and economically. Second that my enlightenment regarding the truth began with my leaving home for college and has continued to this day.

Racism is a terrible thing. That seems like such an obvious statement now. Yet as I was growing up, the United States was in the throws of coming to grips with state sponsored racism. One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation that led to the abolition of slavery as a legal institution, the American Negro was still socially and economically enslaved.

One of the great leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. One of his most memorable speeches was given during the 1963 March on Washington, 50 years ago on August 28.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Watch the full speech below:

Another part of my enlightenment regarding the Civil Rights movement was listening to folk music, Pete Seeger, in particular. Even now as I research this essay, I am learning so much more than I had known before. (The Internet truly is magical) Pete Seeger popularized We Shall Overcome and it became the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement.

Pete Seeger talks about the history of We Shall Overcome:

This is the famous Carnegie Hall recording by Pete Seeger. It is part of the Mrs’ favorites playlist that she has been listening to on her new Bose speaker:

We Shall Overcome – The Complete Carnegie Hall Collection is available on iTunes, Amazon, and most of the usual places. Cat-Beard highly recommends this and the Mrs absolutely approves.

Where was I? Ah yes, the more you know about a person or people the harder it to harbor unfounded fear. The more I learned about the history and circumstances of African Americans the more I was filled with the same righteous anger and sense of brotherhood. How could I fear someone I respected?

 
Color Blind

In the same way that my Dad made sure that I would never be afraid of thunderstorms, the Mrs and I did our best to raise our two sons to be color blind. To our joy and pride, it worked. Both my sons introduced me to Rap (or is it Hip Hop? sadly I’m not hip enough to know the difference). My collection includes, but is not limited to, in no particular order: Jay-Z, Ludadcris, Lil John (Yay-ya), Chamillionaire, Trick Daddy, and Everlast (yeah, OK, so he’s not Black). I find both the rhythm and the lyrics of Rap compelling even if the language is a bit rough. I will never truly understand what it is like to grow up as an African American now or in the 50s and 60s, but through music I have a glimpse into the soul (pun intended) of the Black experience.

 
2008

From a woman on a bus
To a man with a dream

Chorus:
Hey, wake up Martin Luther
Welcome to the future
Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

Brad Paisley – Welcome to the Future

What makes me the most proud about the Presidency of Barack Obama, is not Barack Obama himself. What makes me the most proud is that White America elected him, not once – but twice. I’m sure that the vast majority of Black America voted for him, but that alone would not have won him the Presidency. Barack Obama was elected by White voters.

One of the things I am conscientiously avoiding in this blog is pontificating on matters of politics and religion. Although it is true that I have strong positive feelings toward President Obama, this post isn’t about Barack Obama. This post is about how far we have come as a nation and as a people to have elected a Black man to the White House. In 1963 this would certainly have been a far distant dream.

Hey, wake up Martin Luther
Welcome to the future
Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

 
2013

So here we are fifty years after Martin Luther’s I Have A Dream speech. Are things different? Unquestionably. Are things better? Depends on who you ask, but I would argue that race relations in America are better that they were fifty years ago.

Do White people still suffer from Negrophobia? Sadly, yes. Recent events in Florida testify to this. Frightened people do irrational things. Are there still too many arrests for DWB? I think Jay-Z would say yes. Are too many African Americans in prison for possessing drugs that are now legal in some states? You decide.

As a nation and as a people we still have a long way to go, but I remain optimistic. As for myself, I regret that I don’t have any close Black friends. I have African American, African Trinidadian, and African African friends at work, but no one I socialize with outside of work. Then again I don’t socialize much outside of work. I have a few close friends that I see outside of work, but I really don’t have much free time after work and what little free time I have tend to guard jealously. It must be the Introvert in me 🙂

 
Next >> Convoy

Why I like Apple

Any sufficiently evolved technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clark

Usually I compose offline, read / edit / reread / edit … POST / reread / “how did I miss that?” / edit / POST / reread / aaarrrggghhhhh! / edit / POST / reread / [expletive deleted] / edit / POST …

This time I am doing it live. So what you read … NOW … may be totally different from what you read …



NOW.

So as you read this, don’t assume that you are reading the final version.

Now if you follow the web at all, especially if you follow the geek tech sites, you know that the world is in the midst of another “Apple vs …” kerfuffle. I really should strive to use kerfuffle more. Anyway this time it is Apple vs Samsung, or perhaps Apple vs Google, since the Android operating system used by Samsung is made by Google. Last time it was Apple vs Microsoft.

Now perhaps forty-eight percent of all Internet traffic is devoted to Apple, Apple vs Samsung, Apple vs Google, Apple’s innovation or lack thereof, AAPL stock price, Apple’s cash horde, Apple this, Apple that …

OK I just made up that forty-eight percent figure, but you get the idea.

I am not going to tell you why should like Apple. I actually don’t care what you like. That sounds callous, maybe there is a better way to put this. If you like Samsung, Android, Google, Microsoft, or even if you HATE Apple, that’s fine. Just don’t reply with a flaming attack on me or Apple because I will just delete it. I am not here to pick a fight. AND it is my blog. Ready? OK Let’s go!
 

Why I Like Apple

Ignoring for a minute that I have always liked Apple, I probably like Apple most for all of the reasons the Apple-haters hate it. It is a closed ecosystem. What do I mean by this? Apple makes the whole thing. Well OK they design all of it and have many of the parts made or assembled by other international subcontractors, but they control the entire process. They make the hardware. They make the operating system, they vet the apps, they sell content. The end result of this kind of cradle to grave design to delivery system is that, by and large, it just works.

I work with non-Apple hardware and software all day long every day usually trying to figure out why it doesn’t work (it’s my job). When I get home at night I just want to use something to surf the web, read and respond to email, watch videos, listen to music, read a book, maybe play a game, write fiction or essays, and update my blog. I do not want or need an open system that I can hack, jailbreak or otherwise reconfigure. I just want it to work.

 
Enter the iPad

Too make a long story short, my kid sister, who is now on olde woman (she is so going to kill me, Muahahaha), got me an iPad for father’s day three? four? years ago. The very iPad upon which I am typing now. Did I mention that I maintain this blog 100% on an iPad? It is a very olde iPad by iPad standards. It is first generation. Next month or so, Apple will announce the fifth generation iPad in time for Christmas. Every generation of iPad has roughly doubled the performance of the previous generation, so my olde decrepit iPad is truly an ancient outdated slab of uselessness. And did I mention that I just downloaded 2001 A Space Odyssey onto it? And I maintain all of my finances, bank, 401k, stocks, etc. using it?

OK let’s make a short story long. So my sister who had an iPhone (I still don’t have an iPhone, I have an olde battle-scarred Samsung “dumb as a stump” flip phone) called me a few years back to tell me she just got the new iPad. Mrs and I had her on speaker phone so we joked with her thanking her for getting me an iPad for Father’s day which was coming up. Well she felt so sorry that the all time geek of the family didn’t even have an iPhone, that she got me an iPad for father’s day. This iPad. Woo Hoo!

(standby more to come … later … It is 1:21 AM here… Will pick up tomorrow … See it isn’t finished yet)

[8:12 AM Wed. … Just a quick addition, adding the A. C. Clark quote at top and a few more lines below]

Where was I? Oh yes, the iPad. So my sister got me the first iPad not long after it came out. It was the perfect example of “it is interesting, but do I really need it? would I really use it?” I was skeptical. It was really really cool and all, but just how useful would it be? I certainly never would have bought it for myself.

I CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT THIS THING. I use it for everything. Well at least everything that it is capable of doing (it can’t cook or clean house, but I would use it for that if I could). In no particular order: I maintain this blog. (using it now). I check email (personal and business), I get my news on the web, I get my weather, (with the help of Google, Bing, Wikipedia, WordPress) I ask it questions and it gives me answers I can use, I read articles and videos about how to do stuff, I listen to music, I watch TV, I watch movies, I read books, I learn, I satisfy my curiosity, I take it with me everywhere, it runs all day long.

(uh oh … Gotta run … Later … More to come)

[updating off line now]
I manage my finances, pay my bills, actively manage my 401k, manage my stock account, track prescription drugs and medical EOBs, play games usually in versus mode with a friend. Now obviously Apple doesn’t provide all of these services, but the iPad easily and seamlessly accesses all of them.

My friend who is dyslexic, uses his to read web articles to him. He stated that this has allowed him to learn more faster than ever could before.

 
Wife’s iPad

Eventually the Mrs discovered my iPad. And by discovered, I mean she confiscated my iPad for her use. Last year I got her an iPad of her own, a gen 3 “iPad with Retina display”. It blows mine away in terms of performance and image quality. Apple released the gen 4 last fall and will release gen 5 this fall. Wife’s iPad has 4x the performance of mine. Gen 5 iPad should be 4x performance of her’s. Which would be 16x the performance of my poor olde iPad.

I had her iPad engraved at the sweatshop factory.

[Wife’s name]’s iPad
Keep’a yo hand’s off

She loves it. I put her favorite game, Mahjong Solitaire on it. Loaded her favorite music to it. We soon discovered that she could stream SiriusXM oldtime radio to it. Then we discovered free podcasts on iTunes of all of her favorite oldtime radio shows. I got her a set of the Bose over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones. I set her up with a Google news icon. Just this weekend I set her up with a playlist of her favorites. She frequents the hospital monthly to bi-monthly, so she takes the iPad and headphones to keep her company.

The Mrs is the poster child for technophobic anti-computer Luddite. Yet, she loves her iPad. She recommends it to everyone she meets. She follows the news from Google news. Checks and replies to emails. Talks to me via iMessage, keeps her doctor appointments on it. Tracks her temperature on it. Follows the weather, listens to music and radio drama.

 
iLove iTunes

Much of what I have discussed isn’t unique to Apple. iTunes on the other hand is Apple. This is where A. C. Clark’s magic really begins. The iTunes store was announced ten years ago in April. Recently it surpassed it’s 25 billionth song download on February 6th, 2013.

Click on the image above to see detailed download history.

iTunes Match debuted on November 14th, 2011. With iTunes Match, all of your music is available all of the time on all of your devices, whether or not you purchased your music from iTunes. For a small annual fee, Apple provides access to all of your music. If you did not purchase your music from iTunes and iTunes identifies a better quality version on iTunes, you get access to the better version. The beauty of iTunes Match is that you can download all or part of your music at anytime to any of your devices … or you can stream your music via WiFi or a cellular connection without downloading it (or any combination thereof).

I subscribe to iTunes Match. Mrs and I have full access to all of our music and playlists anywhere, any time we have WiFi access. This is seamless magic.

Did I mention instant gratification? … What was that song by you know who? … Oh yeah, that’s the one. … iTunes has it? Downloading now …

 
Apple App Store

Similar to iTunes Match, any app you buy at the Apple App Store, is always available for re-download. So if I need to clean out some space I can delete apps knowing that I can always download them again.

 
iBooks and iTunesU

Similar to iTunes and App Store. Delete books to clean up. Download again as desired. Nice backlit reader with fully adjustable text. Good for olde eyes.

More instant gratification. Think about book … Find book … Downloading now …

 
Bluetooth

More magic. You just read a review of the Bose Mini Bluetooth speaker. It connects easily and reconnects automatically, or at worst at the push of a button. Same with Bluetooth in my car. I can set up a music playlist, leave my iPad in my brief case, and automatically start listening when I startup the Prius.

 
WiFi

Access to the Internet is automatic with our iPads. Whether at home or at the hospital, or Starbucks, or our local breakfast cafe once set up the iPad remembers and automatically reconnects when in range.

Although I am doing my part for global carbon dioxide production by going paperless. I sometimes need to print out coupons, so I bought a cheap HP WiFi printer. Connection of the iPad to the printer was seamless and easy. Yet more magic.

 
No Worries Mate

Is your antivirus software up to date? Would you know? One the things that iPad (actually iOS) haters hate about iPad is the “app sandbox” design concept. This is what I love most about the iPad.

If you use a computer, and if you are reading this you are probably using a computer, you know that you can use a file browser (Windows Explorer) to view / copy / paste / delete files just about anywhere on a Windows computer. Same is mostly true for the Mac. If you can view / copy / paste / delete a file or executable, so can a hacker, virus, worm, spyware, etc. The iPad is different. Each application runs in its own dedicated storage space. Take for example the web browser Safari. It and all of its data all live together in the same directory. It can not get out of its prison. Viruses can not install themselves on an iPad. It just can’t freakin’ happen.

I don’t have, need, or use antivirus software on the iPad. The only danger is a rogue developer writing a malicious app. That is where the Apple iOS App Store comes into play. This is again a sore point with Apple Haters (haters gotta hate). Apple has strict and draconian control about what can be published on the App Store. This means that an app gets tested by Apple to confirm it is not malware or spyware. I like this. I have enough to worry about. Yeah, yeah, every so often you hear that someone has snuck something snarky onto the Apple App Store to prove it can be done, but really … no worries.

An iPad can be “jailbroken”. This is a process whereby the owner can be granted full access to the underlying OS as the “root” user. However you can now no longer download from the App Store and will need to find a different site. There are many sites, but making sure that you are now getting safe apps is your responsibility.

If you want to poke around in your iPad, monitor storage space, performance, memory utilization, etc. I highly recommend System Status by Jeri Techet, available at the App Store. 20130821-195836.jpg

 
In Conclusion

iPad … Cat-Beard Tested, Momma Approved

Be seeing you …

[Final upload Wed. Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:15 PM … While drinking wine at the bar of a neighborhood Italian restaurant waiting for my take out order … final (?) edit 8:03 PM … Three glasses of wine … Final proof read by Mrs at 9:00 PM … Final upload at 9: 40 PM]

[Woke up unexpectedly at 4 AM On Thur. Aug. 22nd, 2013 … adding more edits and thoughts]

… or what you read … NOW

 
Next >> Wrestling with Worry

Momma’s got tunes

Bose SoundLink Mini

Cat-Beard Manor is rocking’ the kasbah. Over the weekend I surprised the Mrs. with a new toy. She recently discovered playlists on her iPad, and, being a shut-in, having access to her tunes and/or oldtime radio podcasts (or SiriusXM oldtime internet radio) is critical. Last year I got her a set of the Bose over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones (which we both love). But she doesn’t always want to have to wear headphones and the single speaker on her iPad is a bit anemic.

The sound on this new wireless Bluetooth battery-operated speaker is really good. It fills the room and the whole house with plenty of volume.

20130820-230914.jpg

Click on the image above to go to the Bose website or click the video below to watch a CNET review.


Cat-Beard recommended, Momma approved.

Be hearing you …

 
Next >> Why I Like Apple

Blogging is …

Tomorrow is the four-week anniversary of Contrafactual.com

Hard to believe isn’t it. Well it is hard for me to believe. I have 38 followers! [52 as of August 20] Take a look at the stats below.

20130804-182254.jpg

 
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Opinionated Man for reblogging my Aberlour A’bunadh post. But OM just opened the door for me. It is to you dear readers to whom I owe the greatest debt of thanks. You read my posts and found them interesting enough to follow, and like, and comment on.

Blogging is like a nuclear reaction. Not a nuclear bomb, but a self sustaining and growing interaction. Spreading by word of mouth, growing exponentially. Like the ping pong ball examples below, but self regenerating.



Blogging is also a human search engine, in many ways better than Google or Bing. When I was emailed the link to the Russian dashcam video, I posted it thinking it would be interesting to you. I liked the music, but would not have anyway to find out what it was. However JeonicDe read my post, watched the video, saw my comment, and told me … no us, all of us … that it was by the group Two Steps from Hell and the song was Strength of a Thousand Men. He even posted an embedded video of the music. I then went to iTunes and down loaded it. Instantly. How cool is that.

I grew up in a world where NONE of this existed, as did many of you depending on your age. Do you ever stop to Stand and Stare at the beauty and miracle of this. This is the basis for my unfinished essay Welcome to the Future . So much of my childhood dreams and fantasies have come true in ways I could never have guessed.

I started this as a way to practice my writing and get feedback on it. What I didn’t expect was to establish a global network of people I would otherwise never have met. This is something I could never have anticipated.

But it is now time to pay the piper … not you, me, well maybe you. I need to get back to writing. More writing. Less blogging. For a short while. So for a short while I will take a break from blogging to focus on writing (with the odd break to follow your blogs).

In the mean time you might take a look at my revised About, Contra…what?, and Topics Pages.

Be seeing you …

 
Next >> 2001

44 Years Ago Today

Forty-four years ago today at 10:56 PM EDT (2:56 UTC)

20130721-202441.jpg

I watched the live broadcast and heard Neil Armstrong’s immortal words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” as he put the first footprint on the surface of the Moon. I watched as he and Buzz Aldrin read the words on the plaque attached to the leg of the lunar lander. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.” The image was grainy and blurred, but it all unfolded on the TV right in front of me … and it was real … and it was the first time anyone had seen anything like this.

Excerpt from Welcome to the Future.

 
Next >> Blogging is …

Gunslinger

The wife and I have been listening to classic Gunsmoke radio shows via podcast. A recurring theme is that of the gunslinger who comes to town and preys on others, following and harassing them until they finally have had enough. When the victim stands up for himself and draws on the gunslinger the victim is out-gunned and killed. Claiming self defense the gunslinger goes free.

Unless of course the gunslinger guns down an unarmed man …

 
Next >> I Have A Dream

Apollo 11 Main Engines Found

The Saturn V main F1 engines from Apollo 11 have been recovered from a depth of three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Saturn V F1 engines were the most powerful rocket engines ever made. Each one produced over 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The five F1 engines on the Saturn V made it the most powerful launch vehicle ever at over 7.5 million pounds of thrust.

Just over forty years ago on May 14, 1973, I was lucky enough to be among the press and dignitaries sitting on the bleachers or standing in front of the turning basin at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site for the last ever Saturn V launch. I was 19 years old.

My best friend’s aunt was a professional photographer. She got each of us a press pass for the launch of the Skylab space station. For a teenage space fan, who had watched every manned launch since Alan Shepard’s first suborbital Mercury launch, this was truly “dying and going to heaven”.

For several days before the launch we got to go on exclusive tours of the launch site. We were able to see Walter Cronkite’s broadcast booth. NASA loaded us up with press packets and thick tomes of specifications. I can not begin to tell you how totally cool this was.

On launch day I was standing near the countdown clock in the picture above.

I was just three miles away from the launch pad. When the engines fired up, the sound of the F1 engines was felt as much as heard. The low base rumbling seemed to reach directly into my chest and vibrate my heart and lungs. As the Saturn V rose into the sky, I could smell the burned kerosene of the exhaust as I felt the waves of warm air wafting over me.

This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 
Next >> 44 Years Ago Today

Happiness

Happiness is … a state of mind.

As I read through Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, I keep thinking that I must have read it before. I find myself agreeing with everything I read, and realizing that I practice what he preaches. I am not bragging or boasting, merely observing.

One of the chapters deals with happiness and the observation that one can choose to be happy … or not. Just as I have chosen not to worry, I have chosen to be happy. Now lest you think that I am a self-righteous fool who thinks himself to be a saint, let me assure you that I am far from perfect. Coworkers tell me I don’t smile enough. My excuse is that I am just deep in thought usually trying to find a solution to some work-related problem. Even so, I must work on smiling more.

In conclusion, you can choose to be happy. Why not do so?

 
Next >> Gunslinger

Wrestling with Worry

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

Wrestling with Worry

I would really like to be able to say, “I vividly remember the night I couldn’t take it any more,” but I can’t. What I do remember is that it was during high school, I was really worried about something, and I was walking over to my best friend’s house thrashing it out in my mind. I was going over and over all of the various scenarios for the outcome of whatever it was I was dreading, and trying to formulate an action plan for each and every contingency. I remember stopping dead in my tracks and thinking … “[expletive deleted] Every time I plan for an outcome it ALWAYS turns out different from what I expected.” There had to be a better way.

From that point on, I vowed to stop worrying. To paraphrase Captain James T. Kirk from the Star Trek episode A Taste of Armageddon, “Worry is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. I can stop it. I can admit that I am a worrier … but I am not going to worry today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that, I’m not going to worry – today!” I didn’t stop worrying over night, but every time I was tempted to start worrying I told my self “not today.” At some point, without even realizing it, I had stopped worrying. It took a few years, but I no longer worry. Not that I don’t get concerned, upset, or even angry at times (ask my wife). I just don’t worry about things anymore. Worry and fear cause normally rational people to do irrational things. Worry is counter-productive, it clouds the mind and hinders the ability to think clearly. Worry is fear. Fear is the mind killer.

In the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, Dale Carnegie reached out to thousands of people with his books and training seminars. His two most popular books were: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Win Friends and Influence People. They continue to be popular today. My dad was a big fan of Dale Carnegie’s teachings. As a kid in the mid-60s, the last thing I wanted to do was read a bunch of self-help books. As teenager in the late ’60s, I knew better than anyone else and didn’t have the interest in reading self-help books. Instead, as an adult, I had to learn it all on my own. But learn it I did. People are people. We all want basically the same thing. We want to be respected. We want to be acknowledged. We want to be appreciated. We want to be valued. Sometimes a smile and a nod is all it takes. A kind word, and a “Thank you” do wonders.

My dad was always talking to total strangers. It was embarrassing. We went places and he called people by name. Everyone seemed to like my dad. As I grew older I paid more attention to the people around me. I listened more and talked less. I worked hard to learn people’s names and politely kept asking until I remembered. I embarrass my grown sons now when I ask people their names. Yet I go into restaurants and it is like a family reunion. Everyone is glad to see me. Caring enough to learn someone’s name, greeting them by name, thanking them by name means that you respect that person as a unique person – someone of value. Rich, poor, black, white, male, female, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, American, Russian, Chinese … we all seek respect and good will. Not long ago it dawned on me … “Oh My God I have become my father.”

As part of my research for this essay, I discovered that the Apple iBookstore had both Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Win Friends and Influence People. I purchased and downloaded them both to my iPad. Better late than never …

 
Next >> Happiness

Welcome to the Future

[Author’s note: This is the first post of a multi-part essay.]

 
Growing up in the Space Age

I was born at the dawn of the Space Age. In the span of time from kindergarten to high school, I had a front row seat to mankind’s first steps to the stars. In elementary school we listened to live coverage of Project Mercury – America’s fledgling steps of putting a one-man capsule into space. In junior high we listened as two-man Gemini capsules practiced the rendezvous and docking maneuvers critical to the upcoming Moon missions. In high school, after class, I sat glued to our television as the Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon. Despite the fact that all of these events were televised, we mostly listened to the events as they unfolded, because it wasn’t until the Apollo flights that TV cameras became small enough to carry into space. We didn’t see the spectacular photos that are now so famous until after the astronauts returned to Earth and the photos were displayed in LIFE or National Geographic.

I watched the live broadcast and heard Neil Armstrong’s immortal words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” as he put the first footprint on the surface of the Moon. I watched as he and Buzz Aldrin read the words on the plaque attached to the leg of the lunar lander. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.” The image was grainy and blurred, but it all unfolded on the TV right in front of me … and it was real … and it was the first time anyone had seen anything like this.

In 1968, a year before Neil and Buzz first frolicked on the Moon, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001 A Space Odyssey. I begged and pleaded with my dad to take me to the Miami showing which debuted in 70mm ultra-widescreen Cinerama – the IMAX of its day. The 142 minute long movie was unique in its realistic depiction of space flight, with ground breaking special effects and a powerful musical score. It was equally unique in its use of long periods of silence to portray the vast distances and length of time required to travel to Jupiter. The original showing even had an intermission. 2001 opened to mixed reviews. My dad and I mirrored the critical and public sentiment. He thought it was long and boring. I thought – and still do – that it was the greatest science-fiction movie ever made. If you have seen 2001 A Space Odyssey you know what I am talking about, if not Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database, and numerous fan sites do a much better job of describing it than I ever could. If you like science-fiction and have never seen 2001 you really owe it to yourself to see this film.

Recall that in the ’60s and ’70s there was no such thing as VHS tapes, DVDs, or digital downloads. If you wanted to see a movie you either went to the theater to see it, or hoped it would be shown – cut and commercial-filled – on TV. Fortunately 2001 enjoyed frequent returns to theaters after its 1968 release, albeit in 35mm format on a much smaller screen. It enjoyed a cult following in part due to the spectacular light show at the end of the movie, that (I am told) was best enjoyed under the influence of various mind enhancing substances. I saw 2001 A Space Odyssey every time it came back to the theater, often multiple days in a row, often multiple showings in a row. I lost count of the number of times I had seen it after my twenty-second viewing. My dream was to someday be rich enough to have my own home theater and a film copy of 2001 that I could watch whenever I wanted.

 
Growing up in the Cold War

I was also born at the height of the Cold War. When I was eight years old, the Russians decided to put short-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, four hundred miles away from my home in South Florida. At a cruising speed of six thousand miles per hour, they would take less than four minutes to reach us. I was in the third grade at the time and didn’t fully appreciate the fact that four minutes isn’t a whole lot of time to “Duck and Cover”. I distinctly remember driving with my dad past one of the horse racing tracks that had been commandeered by the military as a staging area for a planned invasion of Cuba. I just thought it was cool to see all the tents and trucks and jeeps and tanks. Only now do I appreciate how scared shitless our parents must have been at the time. Although the storage and launch facilities were built, the missiles had yet to be delivered. For thirteen days in October of 1962 the US and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear war as the US established and maintained an aerial and naval blockade of Cuba to keep the Russians from delivering the missiles. My eight year old self grasped none of this. I just knew that the Russians were the “bad guys”.

The Russian space missions never got television coverage. Perhaps it was because the Russians were the bad guys or because they spoke a language we didn’t understand or because the Russians never televised their activities. Consequently I never really knew that much about Russian space accomplishments as a kid. As I got older I knew that they beat us into space with both the first satellite and the first cosmonaut. They had the first woman in space and the first space walk. They also seemed to have men and women in space both more frequently and much longer than we had men in space. In many ways the Russians were both better at and more committed to space exploration than we were. Which is why the US was so determined to beat the Russians to the Moon. The manned space race was primarily political and technological, any science was purely incidental.

By high school I was fascinated by the Russians (being the bad guys and all). I discovered that the small local library near our home had a Berlitz “Teach Yourself Russian” book. I spent the summer trying to teach myself Russian. Imagine my excitement when it dawned on me that the “CCCP” so prominent on Russian space suit helmets was actually “SSSR”‘ where the first “S” stood for “Soyuz” (Союз) or “Union.” CCCP stood for USSR. The Russian space capsule first used in 1967, and still used today to ferry cosmonauts and astronauts to the International Space Station, is called Soyuz.

 
Growing up Geek

Bing Dictionary defines geek (n) as:
1) awkward person: somebody regarded as unattractive and socially awkward
2) obsessive computer user: somebody who is a proud or enthusiastic user of computers or other technology, sometimes to an excessive degree

Roger that. Guilty as charged.

“Awkward and unattractive” I certainly thought I was unattractive. I was also very shy, lacked self confidence and was definitely socially awkward. But I was also smart, interested in science and learning, and probably a bit ADD. I got harassed a lot by the “cool” guys.

“User of computers or other technology” As a kid growing up in the ’60s, I had access to none of this. It didn’t exist. Try to imagine (if you can):

  • No HD television, no color television; I grew up with black & white TV
  • No satellite, cable, or digital television; just the standard analog network VHF channels 2 – 13 and the occasional independent UHF channel
  • No on-demand, no Roku, no Apple TV, no Netflix, no Hulu, no DVR, no DVD, no VHS; you watched what was on at the time or you waited for what you wanted to see to come on
  • No cell phone cameras, no digital cameras, no webcams, no camcorders; both still and movie cameras used film that needed to be developed before you could see the results
  • No Internet, satellite, or digital radio, no FM radio; only AM radio
  • No iTunes, no iPods, no MP3 players, no play lists, no CD players, no cassette decks; I had a record player that played vinyl 33 1/3 RPM Long Play albums or 45 RPM singles
  • No FaceTime, no Skype, no video conferencing, no iMessage, no instant messaging, no email; you talked on the phone, met in person, or wrote and mailed paper letters
  • No Facebook, no LinkedIn, no Twitter, no blogs; “networking” involved cocktail parties, golf games, business lunches, and other actual “face time”
  • No Meeting Place, no WebEx, no GoToMeeting, no Live Meeting; meetings required a physical presence somewhere
  • No smart phones, no cell phones, no satellite phones, no pagers, no texting, no answering machines; only land-line phones at home and if you needed to make a call away from home there were coin-operated “pay phones”
  • No Google/Bing/Apple/MapQuest Maps, no Google Earth, no Google Street View, no Waze, no turn-by-turn directions, no car navigation systems, no GPS; we had paper maps
  • No Google, no Bing, no Yahoo, no YouTube, no Yelp, no Siri; if you wanted to find out about something or how to do something or where something was located, you went to the library to look it up in an encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, almanac, or other reference book
  • No Internet, no iPads, no laptop computers, no desktop computers, no graphing calculators, no scientific calculators, no business calculators, no basic “+ – x ÷” four-function calculators; only mechanical adding machines, slide rules, and pencil & paper

None of what we take for granted today existed during my K-12 school years. Yet the science-fiction community gave hints of what was to come. Literature, movies, and TV shows were replete with voice responsive, talking computers and robots. Star Trek debuted in the fall of 1966 when I was in junior high. It presaged video conferencing, data tablets, flip phone communicators, and verbal computers among other modern technologies. Also in 1966, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress introduced the concept of a sentient networked computer named “Mike”, whose memory and cognitive processes were distributed across various locations in and around the Moon. 2001 A Space Odyssey debuted two years later and depicted the video phone, video tablets, and the quintessential sentient computer, HAL 9000. The technology may not have existed yet when I was a kid, but the ideas did and I wanted all of it. I dreamed of video phones and personal communicators. I dreamed of having my own computer that could answer any question I posed of it. I dreamed of the future.

When I go back and reread the above section I realize that I must come across as one of those grizzled old coots who go on and on about how easy the kids of today have it and how hard it was back in the day. “You durn kids have it too easy today with your microwave ovens and your meals ready to eat and such. Why when I was growing up and we wanted a hot meal, we had to run down a pig on foot and then find us a lava flow to cook it over. Golly Bob Howdy you durn kids just don’t know how easy you’ve got it now.”

I turn sixty later this year and I just don’t feel that old. Yet when you stop to think about it, it is truly mind boggling to realize what has changed in just the last forty years especially when you consider that we put man on the Moon without any of the technology we take for granted today. Sadly, the last footprint was also left on the Moon forty years ago. No one has been back since.

 
Growing up Scared

As a kid I was scared. My mother was a worrier. She worried about anything and everything. She worried so much she had ulcers (ignoring the fact the no one knew about H. pylori back then). Her worrying rubbed off on me. I identified strongly with Charlie Brown who was the main character of the popular cartoon strip Peanuts by Charles Schultz. Charlie Brown was the poster child for worry. One of my favorite quotes was “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.”

It’s not as if there wasn’t already plenty of stuff for a kid to be scared of. Every year I became more and more aware of the potential for and consequences of nuclear war. I may not have appreciated the Cuban Missile Crisis when it occurred, but by the time junior high rolled around I had a pretty good understanding the dangers of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Then there was the War in Vietnam, which came into our homes every evening at dinner time on the network news. Due to the draft, every male child grew up with the certain knowledge of being sent off to kill or be killed once he finished high school or, if deferred, college. It should be no surprise to anyone if I remind you that Vietnam was an extremely unpopular war. So not only were we treated to nightly scenes of maimed and murdered soldiers, but also nightly scenes of the bloody clashes between riot police and protesters. My entire K-12 TV news experience was filled with, to quote Arlo Guthrie, “blood and gore and guts.” The music scene wasn’t any cheerier. Much of the best music of the late ’60s focused on war and death and anger and sadness. Happy days?

I was a lower-middle income white kid of Norwegian-Italian parents. I lived a sheltered, segregated life with white neighbors and white classmates. I am not sure how it happened – my parents, if alive today, would vehemently deny they were racist – but I developed a fear of black people, Negrophobia. I never knew any black people personally as a kid. All I knew about them was what I saw and heard on the news. Black people were angry. Very angry. They were angry at white people. They were angry at my mom and dad. They were angry at me!

Why were they so angry? According to my parents and the evening news it was because Communist inspired agitators were inciting racial hatred (I didn’t learn the truth until later in life). These Communist agitators had names like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They were leading marches to Selma, and Birmingham, and Washington D.C. Tens of thousands of angry white-hating black people. To make matters worse there was talk of forced integration. I was going to be put in class with big angry white-hating black kids.

To be fair I was also afraid of big angry geek-hating jocks. I faced the worst of all possible scenarios, being put in class with big angry geek-hating black jocks. Sounds ludicrous doesn’t it. (Not to be confused with Christopher Brian Bridges, whose music and acting I enjoy.) As an adult, I would discover that my childhood fears were baseless and that forced integration was perhaps the best solution to the evil of segregation. Segregation leads to ignorance and ignorance leads to fear. To quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.

As much as my mother worried about anything, she worried about me. Like everyone else at the time, both of my parents “smoked like chimneys.” Whether I was a premie or just low birth weight, I was small. To make matters worse, I was born with congenital double inguinal hernias (I will spare you the details – that is what the Internet is for). Eventually my intestines became strangulated. I nearly died. I was only a few months old and was one of the youngest and smallest patients to have this kind of corrective surgery. As a result, my parents became overly protective of me. I wasn’t always allowed to do things other kids did. This made me fearful and insecure. I feared failure because I rarely was put in a position to experience it and learn to get over it. I worried about everything. I over analyzed every social situation trying to predict the outcome before I did anything. I was a poster child for “Analysis Paralysis.” Did I mention I was socially awkward?

Despite the fact that my parents love for me caused them to be overly protective, my dad did something equally amazing for me. I have always loved thunderstorms. I love the lightning and I love the thunder. I think that thunderstorms are one of the most exhilarating of all natural phenomenon. There is a reason for this. My dad grew up in an orphanage. It was not uncommon at the time for single mothers who could not care for their children to abandon them at an orphanage. Summertime in Florida produces severe afternoon thunderstorms. The nuns at the orphanage were afraid that lightening would hit the building and set fire to it. Rather than face the possibility of an orphanage full of trapped children burning to the ground, whenever a thunderstorm approached, the nuns would make the children go outside and lie facedown in the grass until the storm passed. Needless to say, my dad was terrified of thunderstorms; shaking, vomiting, fetal position terrified of thunderstorms. Dad swore to himself that I was never going to be afraid of lightning and thunder like he was. From my earliest days my dad would pick me up and bounce me on his knee during storms. “See the lightning,” he would say, “now wait, here it comes … BADDA BOOM.” I would giggle and laugh. He showed no fear, why should I. Of course, I remember none of this. I was too young. But I do know that I love lightning and thunder. Whenever my dad told this story he would add one more thing … by making sure that I was never afraid of thunderstorms he had cured his own fear too.

 
INTERMISSION

 
Look around it’s all so clear. Wherever we were going, well we’re here.
So many things I never thought I’d see – happening right in front of me.

Brad Paisley – Welcome to the Future

Even if you have heard this song before, please take few minutes to click on the link above and watch the video. It is a link to the official whitehouse.gov YouTube video of Brad Paisley singing at the White House. Please listen. It is the soundtrack for the rest of this essay.

 
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