Snarky Snippets — Thriving On Chaos

Never before in the history of this nation has there been a more chaotic government, one that had so little clue what they were doing or what the ramifications of their actions would be.  It is truly as if 7-year-old children are the decision-makers in Washington today!

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He wasn’t invited, but nonetheless, Mike Pompeo crashed the meeting.  A group of European foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels yesterday morning to work on how to best handle the situation with Iran that has turned into a mess, thanks to none other than Donald Trump.  The group did not grant Pompeo inclusion in their meeting, but several diplomats from the UK, France, Germany, and the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, granted him private meetings.

The Europeans have all expressed fear not only about how Iran will behave, but equally about the aggression by the U.S.  British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said …

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side. Most of all, we need to make sure we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearization. Because if Iran becomes a nuclear power, its neighbors are likely to want to become nuclear powers. This is already the most unstable region in the world, and this would be a massive step in the wrong direction.”

Since Trump reneged on the Iran nuclear agreement a year ago, he has been taunting Iran, as well as our allies who are trying to hold the deal together without any assistance from the U.S.  Iran finally said, “Enough”, and is threatening to cancel the agreement and return to building its nuclear program.

Apparently little, if anything, was gained by the private meetings with Pompeo, as each side dug in, with Pompeo saying that the nuclear deal should be scrapped.  Apparently, he would like to have a reason to go to war with Iran?  Pompeo has enough foreign policy experience to understand that a war in the Middle East will involve many more nations than only Iran and is a no-win proposition that can only make matters worse in the area than they already are.  If, as I suspect, Trump is all too eager to try out his nuclear button … well, you know where I’m going with that.

Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton have put our allies in a tough spot and have increased tensions in the Middle East dramatically and dangerously.  Way to go, Donnie … what else do you plan to destroy?


The trade negotiations between the U.S. and China were reportedly going well and expected to wrap up within a matter of days.  But … sigh … Trump apparently never heard that old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  He prefers to break that which isn’t broken, and that is precisely what he did last week.  He increased the tariffs on some $200 billion worth of goods the U.S. imports from China, causing China to retaliate and impose new tariffs on some $60 billion worth of goods they buy from us.

Remember how Trump has been bragging about that good economy (the one that was already doing very well when he inherited it)?  Well, guess what folks?  Based on the news of all these new tariffs being bandied about, the market took a bit of a nosedive.  Does this ‘man’ understand nothing???  No, Donnie, tariffs are not good, China isn’t the one paying for the tariffs that YOU imposed … WE are!  And NO, Donnie, trade wars are not easy to win!

Trump claimed his reason for increasing the tariffs was that China was reneging on certain concessions, but there is no evidence of that, and people who have long dealt with Trump in the world of real estate say that this is his modus operandi … he throws a fit over some imagined problem at the last minute, then attempts to bully his way into a better deal.  Trouble is … this isn’t a real estate deal and … our economy and our livelihoods are at risk here.  He is playing with the lives of real people.


I got through my first four years of college with the help of Pell Grants and by often working three jobs.  Pell Grants, for those who may not be familiar with them, are subsidies the U.S. federal government provides for students who need it to pay for college. Federal Pell Grants are limited to students with financial need, who have not earned their first bachelor’s degree.  I could not have gone to college had it not been for those Pell Grants.  Today, they are more important than ever, with the high cost of college.  But guess what?  Donald Trump has decided that playing with his space toys is more important than educating our youth.

Yesterday evening, Trump sent a budget amendment to Congress to take $1.9 billion from the Pell Grant program and give it, instead, to NASA “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” 

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Some spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) claims that it will not impact the Pell Grant program … I guess he must think we are all pretty damn stupid.

Trump has already proposed budget cuts for other student aid programs to the tune of $3.8 billion!  It would seem that his ultimate goal is to ensure that only the children of the wealthy can afford to attend college.  Picture the U.S. in 25 years.  Your children and grandchildren will be digging ditches, working in dead-end factory jobs, clerking at a grocery store or McDonald’s, while Betsy DeVos’ and Donald Trump’s grandchildren will be the corporate CEOs and will be the people running our government … if, in fact, there is still a government to run.


And now, I believe I have spent most of my snark, so I shall leave you to find a cheerier blog than mine to read for the rest of the morning.  But never fear, I shall return!

Saturday Surprise — This ‘n That

Good Saturday morning, friends, and welcome to yet another weekend.   Lest you think you can have a nice peaceful, relaxing weekend, maybe watch a bit of football on television, a nap sounds nice, or just hang out with a good book all weekend … please allow me to remind you that Christmas is precisely 52 days from today!  😱😱😱

I have two, maybe three Christmas presents bought.  Good enough for the moment.  I’m not yet in the mood for Christmas, and I’ve informed the girls that if my dishwasher is not fixed before Thanksgiving, there will be no turkey/stuffing/trimmings this year, but only sandwiches and chips.  Yes, I’ve been a bit peevish of late.  I’ve no idea why.

I was at a bit of a loss for what to do for this week’s Saturday Surprise, so I started trolling around my usual haunts, National Geographic, Bored Panda and Atlas Obscura.  Nothing really excited me, but I came up with a bit of this and a bit of that, so I hope you find something to start your weekend off with a smile.

Let’s start with a few sort of off-the-wall cartoons …

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Now, with Hallowe’en just a few days past, I realize this may be a bit late, but there were some really cool Hallowe’en things still about, and I couldn’t resist.  First, how about a NASA pumpkin carving contest?

Yes, for the past seven years during the Halloween season these brainiacs have competed in an ‘unofficial’ pumpkin carving contest, which NASA mechanical engineer Mike Meacham said gives them a chance to let out some creativity and bond.

nasa-halloween-pumpkin-carving-contest-5bd820771f38b__700nasa-halloween-pumpkin-carving-contest-7-5bd811d46634b__700nasa-halloween-pumpkin-carving-contest-13-5bd811e23cb2a__700nasa-halloween-pumpkin-carving-contest-33-5bd81206d74f5__700nasa-halloween-pumpkin-carving-contest-81-5bd8243d3a50b__700nasa-halloween-pumpkin-carving-contest-83-5bd825e16dd08__700

There are plenty more where those came from!


Reddit held a contest for short (500 words or less) stories appropriate for the scaring season.  Most were a bit too chilling or bizarre, but I thought this one was rather cool …

“Please, I am literally begging you,” I say, but the executioner only sighs and gives me a truly sorrowful look as he slides the IV into my arm.

The chaplain sits beside me. “Once he pushes the button, the drugs will be administered in quick succession. Unconsciousness will occur in roughly thirty seconds, and death soon after that,” he explains, even though I have heard it so many times before already. “Any final words?”

“Just, again, I beg you not to do this,” I say.

The chaplain nods sadly, sorrowful that I do not face my executioner with a clean conscience.

That’s the thing, though. I haven’t murdered anyone. It’s been this way my entire life. I don’t know why, but whenever I would accidentally hurt myself, others near me would receive the wound. I once got a paper cut in class that caused the three people around me to bleed from their fingers. In high school, I was in a car accident, and even though my side of the car was hit, my girlfriend developed a broken leg.

I’m always very careful. I take care of myself, trying to stay in the very best of health. But when I was mugged by that trio and he shot me in the face, their faces exploded, not mine. And when the cops came, they found me kneeling beside their bodies, trying to figure out what to do and stupidly holding their gun.

Around thirty seconds after the execution started, I see both the executioner and chaplain fall to the floor with a hard thump. “I begged you,” I repeat sadly.


And lastly, an abandoned water tower that tells a whimsical tale.

The vibrant visuals tell the story of Uppspretta, who was clearly the Curious George of puffins.

puffin-tower-1As the tale goes, Uppspretta studied everything he could about his native Iceland and discovered that his homeland was actually colonized by the Norsemen. Which meant he had to journey to Norway to find a wife, of course! As puffins are not really meant for lengthy flight it’s not surprising he didn’t reach his destination, but instead landed in the middle of the Netherlands. Highjinx ensued and, finally, upon returning to Iceland, he did eventually marry a Norwegian puffin and became Leader of the Puffins of Iceland.

puffinUppspretta’s tale is captured visually n vibrant, vivid color on a disused water tower hiding in plain sight in Keflavík, Iceland. How on Earth did it get there? Two words: The Toyists.

Birthed in the early ‘90s in Emmen, a northeastern berg of The Netherlands, The Toyists are an international collective of artists who espouse a clear-cut manifesto for the physical appearance of the artwork. This manifesto is secret (only Toyists can access it) but one thing is for sure: color and a sense of the playful appear to be important. Anonymity is also key: each artist on the Toyist team adopts a pseudonym and the works, which are mostly site specific, are done as a collective. The result is not only eye-catching street art but a refreshingly ego-free expression of creativity in the often narcissistic business of art.

puffin-tower-2Uppspretta’s legend was authored and painted by 11 Toyists from five different countries during the summer of 2013. It took seven weeks to complete due to foul weather. Uppspretta is The Toyists’ first piece of art outside of The Netherlands. Other works include The Dot (a giant painted spherical gas container) and Dreams for Breakfast (on the Hotel Ten Cate), both in Emmen.


And on that note, my friends, go forth and have a nice, relaxing weekend start that Christmas shopping!!!

Snippets, Snippets, I Got Snippets!

Good afternoon, friends!  I am working on a post that involves a great deal of research, and I had hoped to complete it for this afternoon, but have not.  So, instead I am bringing you my take on a few of the snippets in this morning’s news, but I warn you that I am in full-on snarky mode today, so don’t expect much kindness toward certain unsavory elements in Washington at the moment.


Better polish that résumé, Mr. B …

bridenstine-nasaLast month, Jim Bridenstine was confirmed by the Senate to be the new administrator of NASA. Most of us were not thrilled by Trump’s nomination of Bridenstine, for he did not seem to have a single qualification for the job.  He had no science background, and his relevant experience was limited to having managed an Air and Space museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And while he agreed that humans may have played some role in climate change, he did not believe they were the major contributor, which was likely Trump’s main reason for choosing him. Even some members of the Republican Party voiced concerns. But, as we all know, if Trump wants it, the bootlickers will do their best to give it to him, and so Bridenstine was confirmed.

Now, I’m betting that Mr. B will not have his job for long, and I’m almost sad about that.  Why?  Because yesterday he made the following statement:

“The National Climate Assessment, that includes NASA, and it includes the Department of Energy, and it includes NOAA, has clearly stated it is extremely likely, is the language they use, that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that.”

WHOA!!!  A Trump pick has gone against one of Trump’s ten commandments.  Will he survive?  I doubt it.  Too bad, for the man seems to actually have a conscience and some guts.  I wish him luck in his next endeavour.


Ho-hum … more BREAKING NEWS …

trump-kimThe big “BREAKING NEWS” of the day is that Trump has canceled the summit with Kim Jong-un that was allegedly scheduled for next month.  Ho-hum.  No big news there … the summit was never going to happen.  Kim had already indicated that it was unlikely, and Trump, predictably, couldn’t let Kim be the one to cancel, so he did it himself.  There were reasons, or excuses … yada yada yada … but I predicted way back in the beginning that it would never happen.  Frankly, it’s probably for the best, as neither man has the maturity to craft any sort of reasonable compromise.  Unfortunately, it also means we will go back to the name-calling and threat of ‘button-pushing’ from last year, and the world will feel a bit less safe.  Happily, it means Trump can stop envisioning that Nobel Peace prize.


Does he really not understand, or is he deliberately obtuse?

clapper-beharTrump doesn’t seem to understand English.  He certainly doesn’t speak it well, never quite managing to string a sentence together that makes sense, but his comprehension is not good either.  Yesterday, James Clapper appeared on The View, and was asked:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not.”

Okay, that seems a fairly straightforward answer, don’t you think?  So Trump’s response?

“Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!” — 8:21 AM – May 24, 2018

I think the problem came in when Clapper went on to explain that the FBI was gathering information about what the Russians were doing.  Perhaps he should have just stopped at “No, they were not”, rather than elaborating.  Trump seems to understand very short, direct sentences, but gets confused if too many words are used.


Trump vs the NFL …NFLI can sum this one up in two words:  they caved.  Yes, the NFL, or at least one team owner, admits that the reason for their ban on player protests of kneeling rather than standing during the anthem was due, at least in part, to pressure from Trump.  According to an article this morning in NBC Sports …

“Asked if Trump came up in their discussion, Packers president Mark Murphy replied with a laugh: “Oh yeah. It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. . . . No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.””

Though I’m not a sports enthusiast, I recognize that it is entertainment, intended to be FUN.  When politics enters the arena, it ceases to be fun.  Now for Trump’s response to the NFL announcement yesterday …

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners have done the right thing, if that’s what they’ve done.”

Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country?  Seriously?  Well, maybe I shouldn’t be either, for I would gladly take a knee if I heard the anthem played at this point.  Though, I find it difficult to get back up and might need a hand …


So there you have it, folks … Filosofa’s snippets for the afternoon.  Have a great rest-of-the-day!

NASA And The New Director …

Dr. Ben Carson – Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education

Jeff Sessions – Attorney General

Scott Pruitt – Director of the Environmental Protection Agency

The above is a list of just a few of the cabinet members appointed by Donald Trump who are the complete antithesis of the jobs they hold.  I have written at length about each before, so I need not repeat myself here.  However, yesterday a new name was added to the list: Jim Bridenstine for Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

nasa-logoUnlike every other NASA director in the history of the agency, Bridenstine has no science credentials … no background in scientific research, no college degree in any hard science, zip.  His degrees were in business, economics and psychology. In fact, Mr. Bridenstine is an anti-scientist … a climate change denier who seems to believe that, despite the lack of a related education, he knows more than the scientists who have devoted their entire careers to study and research.  This is the man who may soon be in charge of our space program, folks.

Bridenstine has taken climate-change denial to new levels.  In 2013, he gave a lengthy speech to the House of Representatives enumerating his points for disputing the scientific results of climate change. “Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles.” But he then went on to demand that President Obama apologize for funding climate change research!

NASA chart.jpgNASA has been at the forefront of climate change research, and in 2010 a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) science brief summarizing recent research, explains, “A study by GISS  climate scientists recently published in the journal Science shows that atmospheric CO2 operates as a thermostat to control the temperature of Earth. There is no viable alternative to counteract global warming except through direct human effort to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level.”

nasa-2.jpgBoth Senators from Florida, republican Marco Rubio and democrat Bill Nelson, criticized the Bridenstine’s nomination.  Florida, of course, is connected to NASA through the Kennedy Space Center located in Titusville, Florida.  “I just think [his nomination] could be devastating for the space program,” said Rubio. “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Nelson.

Because I am not ‘science-savvy’, have never understood more than basic scientific concepts, I shall simply say that NASA’s Earth Science Division is a key player in providing data and scientific research on environmental issues, including climate change.  NASA’s research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena is world-renowned. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change.

However, since last November, Trump has made it clear that he intends to cut funding for this division and expects NASA to focus only on space exploration, not earth’s environment.  His nominee for director of NASA seems to fit well with his goals of defunding all federally funded environmental research.

Bridenstine, it is said, has long lobbied for ‘opening commercial access’ to space.  What does that mean, exactly? I cannot say for sure (I told you … science is NOT my strong suit) but Bridenstine is a strong advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA’s exploration of space, and he mentions ‘commercial use of the moon’s resources’.  Okay, fine, I suppose, but if we do not address climate change, none of that has any relevance now, does it?

nasa-3Bridenstine’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, and here is where I think there may be some hope.  Given the partisanship in the Senate, no democrat is likely to produce a ‘yea’ vote.  So … it only requires 3 republican senators to vote against Bridenstine’s nomination and he will fail to be confirmed.  Marco Rubio has already expressed concerns, so if he sticks by his guns, there is one.  Since Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists after the Charlottesville attack three weeks ago, many republicans in both the House and the Senate are growing disillusioned with Trump.  And, he has added insult to injury, insulting a number of his own party.  And let us not forget the devastation wreaked by last week’s hurricane on the gulf coast of Texas. My hope is that at least two other republican senators are fed up enough to deny him this confirmation, for Bridenstine and NASA will not be a good combination. Once again, Trump has chosen what may be the worst possible candidate to fill a position.  Let us hope the Senate puts the brakes on this one.

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Jim Bridenstine

Life After Pizzagate … ON MARS!!!

Ol’ Alex Jones of InfoWars fame is at it again.  The man has a vivid imagination, I will say that for him.  It might be humorous, except for the fact that some lunkheads (my new word for those who blindly support Trump and the alt-right) actually take Jones’ rhetoric seriously and if you remember what happened in the Pizzagate incident, it can lead to tragedy.  So what is he up to now?

An excerpt from Jones’ interview with one Robert David Steele:

“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride,” said Steele. “So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.”

Jones echoed Steele, saying “clearly they don’t want us looking into what is happening” because “every time probes go over they turn them off.”

“Look, I know that 90 percent of the NASA missions are secret and I’ve been told by high level NASA engineers that you have no idea. There is so much stuff going on,” Jones said.

The segment with Steele begins at around 2:10

Who is Robert David Steele?  He was, from 1979 until 1993, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) clandestine services case officer.  From 1993 until 2010, he served as chief executive officer of Open Source Solutions, a pioneering open-source intelligence firm. In 2011 he attempted a bid for the presidency under the United States Reform Party, but dropped the effort in 2012 due to a lack of support from … basically anybody. In 2015, he tried again for the presidency, this time with the Libertarian Party, but in 2016 dropped out due to … again, lack of interest.

A visit to Steele’s website informs us that …

“Robert David Steele is the pro bono Chief Enabling Officer (CeO) of Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3 devoted to teaching holistic analytics (HA), true cost economics (TCE), and open source everything engineering (OSEE).”

Whatever all that means.  He also claims that he was recommended for a Nobel Peace Prize this year.  He also claims to have published eight books, as well as many papers and articles too numerous to list here.  I did not bother to check this out, as it is of little interest to me at this point, but unless I miss my guess, based on his claims about NASA, the man is a nutcase.

NASA spokesman Guy Webster responded to Steele’s claim with, “There are no humans on Mars. There are active rovers on Mars. There was a rumor going around last week that there weren’t. There are. But there are no humans.”

Alex Jones buys into these ridiculous conspiracy theories, though I strongly suspect that for him, it is all showmanship, a way to make a buck and rile the masses.  However, much as I may dislike and choose to discredit Jones, the reality is he is a dangerous man.  First, because the lunkheads are altogether too willing to accept this garbage at face value, and when riled, it is a short step from talk to action. Which is what happened with Pizzagate last December when a man, Edgar Maddison Welch, entered Cosmic Ping Pong Pizza in Washington, D.C., with two assault weapons and began shooting.  He believed Alex Jones’ trash talk that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was running a child sex ring under the basement of a D.C. pizza shop that has no basement.

Donald Trump vilifies legitimate media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, but yet in 2016 he referred to Alex Jones as “amazing”. Over the years, Jones has claimed that 9/11 was plotted by the U.S. government, and that the Sandy Hook massacre was “staged”.  And yet, the Trumps have nothing but admiration for him.  In February, the White House distributed a press release, a document intended for actual news outlets, to InfoWars, then in May, they actually issued them a press pass!

And to add icing to the cake in the Trump-Jones coziness, Trump’s son Donald Jr. said of Idiot of the Week Mike Cernovich, the man who dreamed up the Pizzagate fantasy, claimed that Cernovich should win a Pulitzer prize for his “excellence in journalism”!

Given what happened as a result of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory propagated by Cernovich and Jones, the latest conspiracy theory should be of grave concern to us all.  Most of us … at least 60% of us … will read it, shake our heads and understand that this is a bad joke, faux ‘news’, somebody’s idea of cute.  But there is a portion of the populace that will believe it.  Now, unlike Cosmic Ping Pong, the lunkheads will not be able to just make a quick trip to Mars to shoot the place up.  But … it doesn’t mean they might not attempt violence against NASA, an agency of the executive branch of the federal government.  It doesn’t mean that a NASA employee walking to his car at the end of the workday might not find himself the victim of a crazed lunkheads.

It is obvious that Alex Jones has no sense of compunction, no conscience, so it is up to the public to use their brains for something other than keeping their skulls from collapsing.  And, Trump simply must distance himself from people like Jones and Cernovich, lest he give the impression that he is supportive of this type of dangerous fantasizing. And folks, if somebody you know appears to believe these things, please enlighten them!  There are no humans on Mars, there is no child slavery happening on Mars.  It is up to us to help them learn to focus on real-life issues, rather than the fantasies of loons like Cernovich and Steele!

 

A Special Tribute To Three Brave Men

“If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Gus Grissom

“A good man’s life is never quite ended; something of it always remains to touch and illuminate other lives.” – Edward Higgins White

“Probably the greatest thing a man can say to himself, or have as his philosophy when he has to tackle a tough job, or make a big decision, is the first eight words of the Scout Oath: On my honor, I will do my best…” – Roger B. Chaffee

 

Fifty years ago today, tragedy struck on launch pad 34 at Cape Kennedy during a preflight, launch-rehearsal test for what would later be designated Apollo I. The mission was to be the first manned flight of Apollo, and was scheduled to launch Feb. 21, 1967. Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire swept through the command module and they were unable to escape.  The fire and the deaths of the three astronauts put the entire lunar landing program on hold.

Today, 50 years and many NASA missions later, the world still remembers the courage of these three men.

apollo-grissomLt. Col. Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom had been part of the U.S. manned space program since it began in 1959, having been selected as one of NASA’s Original Seven Mercury Astronauts. His second space flight on Gemini III earned him the distinction of being the first man to fly in space twice. His hard work, drive, persistence and skills as a top notch test pilot and engineer had landed him the title of commander for the first Apollo flight. Grissom served in both WWII and Korea, where he completed one hundred combat missions with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. Gus was never comfortable speaking with the press. In fact, he went to great lengths to avoid them whenever possible. On one occasion, he went so far as to disguise himself in a floppy straw hat and dark glasses in order to slip by reporters. Some members of the press crew responded by tagging him with the titles “Gloomy Gus” and “The Great Stone Face”.

Grissom joined NASA in 1959, after almost being disqualified because of his allergies.  His response when he learned of this was that his allergies would not be a problem because “there won’t be any ragweed pollen in space”. Grissom was very much a family man, a private man, and when he died he left behind a wife, Betty, and two sons, Scott and Mark.

apollo-whiteLt. Col. Edward H. White was born to fly.  His father was a career Air Force officer who began his career by flying U.S. Army balloons and ended it with the rank of Major General.  White’s first experience at the controls of an aircraft came when he was twelve and his father allowed him to take the controls of an old T-6 … after that, nothing else would do. After graduating from West Point, White followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Air Force, and was stationed in Germany.

In 1957, after reading an article about the role of future astronauts, White knew where he wanted to go, and the desire to become an astronaut determined the paths he would follow.  Though he was not one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, White did pilot flights for weightlessness training for John Glenn and Deke Slayton, as well as the chimps that were sent up prior to the astronauts.  In 1962, NASA once again begin recruiting for their upcoming Gemini program, and in September of that year, Edward White finally realized his dream of becoming an astronaut. On June 3rd, 1965, White became the first American to walk in space.  On re-entering the spacecraft after his walk, he said “I’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”  When White died on this day in 1967, he left behind his wife, Patricia, a son, Edward, and a daughter, Bonnie.

apollo-chaffee.jpgRoger B. Chaffee was the youngest and newest of the three astronauts, having only been in the program for a year. Chaffee began his flight career as a barnstorming pilot. In 1954 Chaffee’s career as a pilot was almost ended by a failed eye test, a requirement for the Naval ROTC flight training  program in which he was enrolled, but was given a second chance that he passed. Joining the U.S. Navy in 1957, Chaffee became one of the youngest pilots to fly A3D twin-engine jet photo reconnaissance planes.  In the early 1960s during the Cold War, and particularly the Cuban Missile Crisis, Chaffee flew more than 80 missions over Cuba. In 1963 he was one of 14 new astronauts chosen for work on Project Gemini.

Chaffee had an artistic streak, designing his own home and doing all his own home improvements.  He even did all his own landscaping. When his wife once asked him to build a tiny water fountain in the backyard, she wound up with a carefully engineered waterfall crafted from tons of gravel and hours of backbreaking work. The cascading waterfall was complimented by the lighting Roger had installed around their pool. Additionally, he wired their stereo system so that music could be heard in any room of the house.  Chaffee left behind his wife Martha, and two children, Sheryl and Steven.

The tragedy delayed the manned space program, but it would eventually proceed with the Apollo program, and later the Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station (ISS).  Three courageous men gave their lives in the interest of science, in the interest of space exploration, 50 years ago today, and we remember and honour them.  Thank you.

Links for additional information:

NASA Tribute

Apollo 1 – The Fire

Summary of Events

Bio – Grissom

Bio – White

Bio – Chaffee

 

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One Of The Last Of His Kind: John Glenn, (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016)

“I’m not interested in my legacy, I’m more interested in living.”

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest.”

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind — every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”

– JOHN HERSCHEL GLENN, JR.

I think it is possible that John Glenn was among the most highly regarded and respected men of our time.  So many people have expressed sadness at his passing, and I have yet to read a single, critical word, though in his political career there were surely many who disagreed with his views.

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Friendship 7 capsule

My first memory of John Glenn happened when I was in fifth grade.  The year was 1962, and Mr. Glenn was about to lift off for his orbit around the earth.  Though science has never been either my strong suit or my passion, I have always been enthralled by space exploration, ever since watching that lift-off.  Two years later, my father spent an evening in a hotel bar with the original seven Mercury astronauts, including Glenn, and received autographed pictures from each.  I think that may have been the highlight of his life, as he mentioned it often and those pictures always had a place of honour in his office!

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John Glenn rides in ticker-tape parade with President John F. Kennedy

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John Glenn’s first ticker-tape parade – 1962

John Glenn is best known for being the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth, but Glenn crammed more into 95 years of life than any other 10 men combined.  I will keep the detail short, as you can find that anywhere on the internet, but a few of his accomplishments must be noted here.  He was a Marine pilot during World War II, flying some 59 missions in the South Pacific, where one of his wingmen was baseball legend Ted Williams.  He then served in the Korean war, he was recruited by NASA, who selected him to become one of the Mercury 7 astronauts, despite the fact that he was almost over the maximum age limit of 40.  In 1962, he flew the now historic flight of Mercury-Atlas 6, orbiting the earth three times before safely splashing down in the Atlantic despite problems with a heat shield that had come loose.

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Splashdown!  The green dye helps find the capsule from the air

Glenn did not return to space during the rest of the Mercury project, and left Nasa in 1964.  Some have speculated that President Kennedy quietly ordered NASA to ground Glenn, as he was seen as a national hero and it would demoralize the nation were he to be injured or killed in the still-developing space program.  Glenn retired in 1964 in hopes of running for a seat as the U.S. Senator from Ohio, but it would be ten years, 1974, before he achieved that goal.

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John Glenn with a young Joe Biden – 1981

In 1965, Glenn entered the world of business, accepting an executive position with Royal Crown (RC) Cola, where he served as Vice-President, then President until 1970 when he made another Senate bid but lost.  He maintained close ties with the Kennedy family and was with Robert (Bobby) Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1968.  Finally in 1974 he won a seat to the United States Senate where he served until January, 1999 after electing not to run for a fifth term.

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John Glenn ‘suiting up’ for his final NASA mission at age 77 – 1998

In the late 1990s, NASA planned a mission that would test the effects of space travel on the elderly, and Glenn, then age 77, was chosen for the mission.  He flew a 9-day mission aboard space shuttle Discovery, and was welcomed home with his 2nd ticker-tape parade!

In 2014, Glenn had successful open-heart surgery, and at the end of November 2016, he was hospitalized at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, where he died on December 8th.

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John Glenn receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama – 2012

John Glenn received numerous awards and honours during his lifetime, including:

  • Congressional Gold Medal for Distinguished Astronauts along with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – November 2011
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House – May 2012
  • Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) John Glenn, a U.S. Navy ship named after Glenn – February 2014
  • John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, named after him – April 2015
  • John Glenn Columbus International Airport, renamed for Glenn – June 2016

My brief tribute does not nearly capture the many ventures Mr. Glenn embarked upon, nor could it ever, but what impresses me the most is the indomitable spirit and the humanity of the man.  Tom Brokaw, who was friends with Glenn, said of Glenn, “Throughout his life, it was never about him.  He was so modest.” (Link to this video and others at end of post).

My hat is off to former astronaut, senator, and most of all honourable man, John H. Glenn, Jr. They just don’t make them like him anymore. As fellow-astronaut Scott Carpenter said to you back in 1962, I say again with a tear in my eye:  “Godspeed”.

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A few links:

Video of Tom Brokaw interview on the Today Show, discussing John Glenn

Video of Glenn talking about training on the Gimbal Rig

Link to NASA John Glenn/Friendship 7 website (includes video of actual Gimbal Rig)

Ευτυχής Δευτέρα πρωί !

Welcome to the “Monday morning of weird, humorous and totally non-political” post. Why not start your week with a chuckle? This Monday’s theme is dumb, dumber and dumbest.  Read on and you will see why.

Missed the Last Bus?  Here’s What You Do …

ambulance.jpgImagine being discharged from the hospital late at night.  So late, in fact, that it is too late to call a friend or family member, and … drat!  There went the last bus of the evening!  What to do?  But wait … there is an ambulance sitting right … there … engine running, all gassed up and ready to go!  So what do you do?  Well, you hop in the driver’s seat and take your weary bones home, of course!  Isn’t that what anyone would do?  Well, perhaps not, but it is what Lisa Carr, age 43 did last Thursday night.  Since the ambulance was equipped with GPS, the police had no trouble tracking her down and arresting her for theft, failure to comply with police and driving under suspension. She did, however, drive within the speed limit.  Personally, I might have been tempted to hit the siren and lights just to, for once, be able to see people actually get out of my way!


Okay, Who Has the Lunar Bag???

lunar landingOn 20 July 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered his now-famous words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Then he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin spent the next several hours picking up rocks and other material off the surface of the moon and putting them in a bag to bring home for analysis.  That bag is priceless, a part of the history of space exploration, a rare artifact, a national treasure, right?  Or maybe not.  Earlier this month, due to a “clerical error”, the bag was sold for just under $1,000 to a Nancy Carlson from Illinois. The erroneous sale might have gone unnoticed by NASA officials, but Ms. Carlson sent the bag to NASA for authentication, and when they realized what had happened, they kept the bag.  Now Ms. Carlson is suing NASA to get her bag back, and NASA is suing to regain legal ownership.  My money is on NASA to win this one, but probably not without a sizeable monetary payment to Ms. Carlson for her “mental anguish” or some such thing.  No word on what became of the clerk who initially assigned the bag the wrong number, leading to the sale, but I’m thinking she may be polishing her resume right about now!


Would You Like Fries With That?

McDonaldsA word to the wise:  If you want to rob a fast-food joint, scope it out a bit first, and if you see nearly a dozen members of a special ops force eating their dinner, you might just want to back out real slowly and come back later.  Or never.  This was the lesson learned by two men who planned to rob a McDonald’s in Ecole-Valentin in Eastern France in June.  So focused were the two on the task at hand that they failed to notice the 11 burly Special Forces Commandos who were eating their dinner.  But the commandos noticed them, and rather than disrupt the customers, went outside to wait for the robbers.  To compound their stupidity, the robbers refused to halt when ordered to surrender.  One was shot in the stomach, and the other was injured falling down the stairs.  And all for what, you ask?  About $2,000.


Okay … enough chuckling this fine Monday morn.  Now let’s get out there and try to be a bit smarter than the people you just read about!  And hey … while you’re at it, try to bring a smile to somebody’s face today. The title language for today, by the way, is Greek.

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I Am Going To Be An ASTRONAUT!

NASA plans to hire 14 new astronauts! Exciting news, indeed! The notice went out last November that they would begin accepting applications on December 4th through mid-February … meaning that if you didn’t already send yours in, you might as well give it up. I sent mine via “certified mail” two weeks ago and am just waiting for my acceptance letter. I am so excited, even though it doesn’t look like I will be going to Mars, but rather helping prepare for a future generation to actually go there. According to the press release, “This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.” Still, just in case, I am currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir to prepare myself. And I notice I have been going around singing “Fly Me To The Moon” a lot, too!

One small wrinkle is that there are only 14 available positions, and 18,300 people applied for them, a record for NASA. The previous record number of applications was 8,000 in 1978, and only 6,300 applied in 2012, the last time NASA put out a “help wanted” ad. So, let’s see … all other things being equal, that makes my odds about 0.0055%. Sigh. I am glad I polished my resume before I sent it. Having been retired since 2008, it was looking a bit rusty, stagnant. So I embellished … no, I did not say I lied, I said I embellished … just a bit. Rather like a garbage man calling himself a “sanitation engineer”. I went with “chemical analyst” because I use all sorts of chemicals in my daily routine … bleach, toilet cleaner, laundry detergent, etc. And I included “culinary master” because I toss together a meal for three from scratch at least 5 nights a week. And of course “researcher”, as I do a ton of that for the type of writing I do. And last but not least, I listed “animal behaviour expert”, as with eight cats, you know I am da cat whisperer! Plus, as an added edge, I already receive almost-daily emails from NASA letting me know when I can view the ISS (International Space Station) from my house. Now if that doesn’t show my interest in the space program, I don’t know what will! I think I covered all bases, so that should give me an advantage over the other 18,299, don’t you think?

I am curious, though, why all of a sudden so many people want to be an astronaut? The Washington Post espouses the philosophy that it is because many people saw the film version of The Martian, starring Matt Damon as the astronaut stranded on Mars. I don’t know … that doesn’t make sense … I mean, he was stranded! On Mars! He had to grow potatoes using … well, that’s rather disgusting, so I won’t go any further, but let’s just say some of what he went through was not very pleasant. I cannot see that seeing the movie would romanticize the job so much that 18,300 people would want to run right out and jump into a spaceship.

I have my own philosophy about the reason behind the record number of applicants, and it is based on my own reasoning. I think that these are intelligent people who have given the matter serious thought and concluded that being in outer space, even being stranded on Mars, would be preferable to living in this country if Donald Trump is elected the next president! I am covering all bases … I have contacted Justin Trudeau about seeking asylum in Canada, now I have applied to be an astronaut … I need to find one more fallback plan …

Uh-oh. I just remembered something. I am afraid of heights.