Thursday, July 31, 2008

TV Commercials

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I like to watch TV in the evening after I go to bed. I prefer PBS for a lot of reasons, but especially because of the lack of commercials.
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On Capitalist TV, the late shows by Jay Lenno and Craig Ferguson are great, as are Bones and House.
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The audio volume is MUCH louder during the commercials. This used to be prohibited, and was regulated by the FCC. No longer; thanks to de-regulation. Or as I call it, abdication of responsibility by the government.
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I haven't done a scientific study, but it seems to me that around 75% of all TV commercials are for prescription drugs which you are encouraged to get your doctor to write you a prescription, or for these gigantic, morbidly obese, American pig cars made in Detroit that get 10 - 15 mpg on a really good day.
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This is indicative of the sickness in the American politicial system.
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Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling



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Happy birthday J.K. Rowling!

Joanne Rowling (who actually does not have a middle name) is an amazing writer and person. Her Harry Potter series has to be one of the greatest collections of books for children and adults ever written.

Twice I have eaten in the restaurant in Edinburg, Scotland which her brother owned, where she wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book. I have also been to (the outside) or her house in the U.K. and have visited the castle in the north of England which was used in the filming of Hogwarts.
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LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling
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Yes, all blessings upon her!!!!!!!!!!
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Of course it's also her brainson Harry's birthday too.
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Love, J
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hurricane Dolly

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In August 1992 I was living in South Louisiana. My house sat right next to a bayou and was about 5 miles (8 km) from the Gulf of Mexico. The elevation was far less than ten feet (3 meters) above mean sea level.

Since I had been raised in the high desert, I had never seen a hurricane. So I was excited when it looked like I might get to see hurricane Andrew. As it turned out I got to experience a direct hit from a category 5 hurricane. Wikipedia says, “Hurricane Andrew is the second-most-destructive hurricane in U.S. history, and the last of three Category 5 hurricanes that made U.S. landfall during the 20th century, after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969.”

The day after it hit I was helping my next door neighbor. He had his tractor out, and he was putting back up wooden power poles that had blown down on his property. Just a few weeks before hurricane Andrew hit I was at the mall in Lafayette, Louisiana and I had bought what at the time seemed like a quite expensive beautiful dark green boating jacket made by Nautica. It was sort of a combination wind breaker/rain jacket.

So I wore this brand new Nautica jacket to be out in the rain while helping my neighbor clean up damage caused by hurricane Andrew. And dogone if it didn’t bleed horribly the green color onto my shirt! I was outraged. I thought Nautica was a good brand intended to be worn in wet conditions, and the price was not at all cheap. Oh well. In my mind this jacket became my hurricane jacket. Today it is sixteen years later, and although it is getting a bit worn, I still have that Nautica jacket.

Several days ago the category 2 hurricane Dolly hit the south Texas coast. Now after travelling more than 700 miles inland (1,144 km) sweet little Dolly has reached El Paso, Texas. And it is raining. Big time rain. It has been raining hard for hours. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood warnings.
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Here in the desert any rain at all is appreciated, and this is like manna from heaven!

To the chili farmers up near Hatch, New Mexico this will be an absolute disaster. Since all of the water to grow their crops is provided by irrigation from the Rio Grande river, any rain at all can flood fields and rot the crops. And continuous, sustained heavy rain like this can even make the river or its levees overflow.
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This morning when I took my little furry black partner out in the very wet and flooded desert, I wore my old green Nautica hurricane jacket. And my dog, who generally likes water about as much as a cat does, went wild with happiness. Running around, splashing, and jumping up on me.

What a nice change of weather!
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LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Andrew
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Photography Exhibition

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Twenty of the finest photographers from the southwest are joining together to host a photography exhibit from November 7, 2008 through January 5, 2009. The exhibition will be held at the Percolator Café, 217 N. Stanton, in El Paso, Texas.
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Included will be pictures by Henry Delgado, Kent Vaughn, Terry Bell, Kushroo Ghadiali, George Barnett, Paul Garland, and others.
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If you would like to meet the photographers in person, they will be present on November 7 for the opening reception beginning at 6:00 p.m. The public is cordially invited, entrance is free of charge.
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LINK: http://flickr.com/groups/elpaso/
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Randy Pausch


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(CNN) -- Randy Pausch, the professor whose "last lecture" became a runaway phenomenon on the Internet and was turned into a best-selling book, died Friday of pancreatic cancer, Carnegie Mellon University announced on its Web site.

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This You Tube video is a hour and 16 minutes long. Honest Injun, you won't be sorry that you watched it: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Obama in Berlin - No. 44 Has Spoken


American presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in Berlin, Germany today at the Tiergarten Park. At the east end of the park is the Brandenberg Gate/Tower, and at the northeast corner of the park is the German parliament building called the Reichstag.
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Towards the western side of the park is the Victory Column. I've been inside the Reichstag, and walked all around the park and through the Brandenberg Tower. It is a really nice park in a great city filled with history and culture.
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I was in Berlin in the early 1970s when I was serving in the U.S. Army back when the USSR existed and there was an East Germany and a West Germany. I have returned to Berlin several times since the wall fell...once on business and several times just because I really like Berlin. One time I even drove my Toyota Prius there from The Netherlands. Berlin is a beautiful, wonderful city.
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The speech that Obama gave in Berlin merits being remembered throughout history. This is a link to a video of his speech: http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/berlinvideo/
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The respected German magazine Der Spiegel says, "Anyone who saw Barack Obama at Berlin's Siegessäule on Thursday could recognize that this man will become the 44th president of the United States. He is more than ambitious -- he wants to lay claim to become the president of the world." http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,567919,00.html
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I saw a report on TV from Europe on PBS which said that at the moment Obama is the most popular politician in the entire world.
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Below I have printed the entire text of his speech:
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Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

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I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.


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I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.


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At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.


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That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.


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Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.


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On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.


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This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.


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The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.


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And that's when the airlift began - when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.


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The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.


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But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. "There is only one possibility," he said. "For us to stand together united until this battle is won...The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty...People of the world, look at Berlin!"


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People of the world - look at Berlin!


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Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.


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Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.


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Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.


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People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.


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Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.


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The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.


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The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.


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As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.
Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.


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In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.


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In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth - that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.


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Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.


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That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.


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We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.


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So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.


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That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations - and all nations - must summon that spirit anew.


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This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.


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This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.


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This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.


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This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.


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This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.


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This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.


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This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere.


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This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.
And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust - not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.


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Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?


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Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?


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Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?
People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.


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I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.


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But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.


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Those are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. Those aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of those aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of those aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of those aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on history.


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People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Senior Moments


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John McCain the 71-year-old Republican candidate for president of the United States is showing his age.

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McCain referred to the "Iraq-Pakistan border" in a "Good Morning America" interview; since there is no such border, he must have meant Afghanistan-Pakistan. He has twice referred to Czechoslovakia, a country that ceased to exist in 1993; mixed up Sunnis and Shiites; and he wrongly dentified Vladimir Putin as the president of Germany.

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He is a nice old man, but he is far too old to be president in difficult times like these.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Clinton Loaned Self Another $1 Million

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The Washington Post has an article today entitled "Clinton Loaned Self Another $1 Million."
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LINK: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/07/20/clinton_loaned_self_another_1.html
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Her campaign still owes something like $5 million to various people. Anyone who is this irresponsible sure doesn't belong in the office of President or Vice President.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Medium Format Cameras

In most good digital still cameras which cost less than about $5,000- the lens projects the image onto a digital sensor which is much smaller than even a 35mm film negative (which back in the bad old days we thought of as fairly small). Typically these digital CCD or CMOS sensors are around a size of 23.6 mm x 15.7 mm (0.929 inches x 0.618 inches). This equals an area of 0.57 square inches.

A 35mm film negative is 36mm x 24mm (1.417 inches x 0.945 inches) so the area is 1.34 square inches. Call a 35mm film negative about 2.3 times larger in size than most digital sensors.

Now compare this to an 8 x 10 inch picture (roughly A4 size) which has an area of 80 square inches. So a 35mm film negative is enlarged 60 times to print an 8 x 10 picture, and the image captured by the sensor in a typical digital camera must be enlarged 140 times to make an 8 x 10.

Professionals like Ansel Adams shot with large format film negatives which were much bigger. Many times these were 4 x 5 inches or even 8 x 10 inch negatives! It becomes readily apparent that if one wants to crop much at all, or make high resolution big enlargements like 8 x 10 inches (A4) or 11 x 14 inches (A3) it is most helpful to have as large a film negative or a digital sensor as possible.

I own several Nikon 35mm film SLR cameras, and I also have one medium format SLR film camera made by Mamiya. It shoots onto a negative the size of 60mm x 45 mm (2.363 inches x 1.772 inches) or an area of 4.19 square inches. This is about 3.1 times larger than a 35mm film negative, and roughly 7.4 times larger than a typical digital camera sensor.
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This medium format camera is the main one I am using in trying to roughly duplicate Ansel Adams’ famous 1947 picture of El Capitan in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas.

I bought a fun camera today via the internet. It is an Ensign brand camera made in 1931, the model Pocket Twenty. At one time this company was the largest maker of film cameras in Great Britain.
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The seller alleges that this camera still actually works (we shall see). It uses the same size of fim as my medium format film SLR, so it should be interesting to play with.
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Materialist Spiritual Desert

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The head of the Christian Catholic church, Pope Benedict XVI is in Australia attending World Youth Day celebrations. Prior to being elected Pope he was Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger, originally from Germany. Depending upon how you do the counting there have been either 14 or 17 guys who took the name Pope Benedict before Cardinal Ratzinger. (LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_benedict )
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For many years he was the "heavy" or the enforcer for Pope John Paul II. He did his job well, and many assumed that he was an authoritarian. Now that he is the top man in this church his true personality is emerging. He is a very intellectual man who speaks several languages, he likes cats, and he enjoys playing the piano. He is also an amazingly humble man. I am not a Catholic but I find the man to be delightful.
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Today's newspapers quote him as warning the Australian youth to watch out for the materialist "spiritual desert."
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That is such an intriguing phrase. The Pope is quoted as saying, "In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading -- an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair."
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The Christian mythology is founded upon lots of highly improbable events. The most famous is the story of the carpenter from Nazareth, a charismatic dark skinned middle eastern Jewish guy named Jesus, coming back to life after his corpse had been gradually decaying and bloating up for 3 days. Allegedly this man's mother had never had sex with a man...she was a virgin when she got pregnant with Jesus. God impregnated her without breaking her hymen. After Jesus grew up he knew how to walk on the top of water and he could magically turn water into wine in large quantities. The Christian stories tell of bushes spontaneously combusting into fire, and of religious leaders who could part the waters of the sea so that people could safely walk on the sea bed. Fun stories for ignorant and uneducated people, but no longer relevant when most people can read and have access to much of the world's sum of knowledge by the internet.
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Nonetheless, children who grow up with no moral or ethical beliefs turn into completely arrogant and self centered adults. They behave in very negative ways which are not compatible with the long term survival of the human species.
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I take issue with some of the Catholic Christian beliefs, like the priesthood preferring to have anal sex with young boys rather than being allowed to marry women and openly have children. But most of the teachings outlined in the 10 commandments I heartily agree with.
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The world has seen many different religious orders. Click on this link to see an interesting list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions
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These religions, whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, or the others all are an attempt by great human minds to describe a phenomenon so large and wonderful and intelligent that the human brain is incapable of understanding or describing even a small part of it. A good analogy would be ants. They are smart and have well organized societies. But if they tried to describe Albert Einstein's theory of relativity their brain capacity would not be up to the job. Completely inadequate.
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As a young child you were lucky if you got to see all the zillions of stars in the sky in awe and wonder, and think about the incredible size of it all. When your first child is born some adults get a brief glimpse of it. Really great scientists are in complete awe at the beauty and complexity of nature. Sometimes the natural beauty of a flower or the wilderness gives me a view of it.
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So yes I do indeed believe in God. Or the "supreme being" as some prefer to call him/her.
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But I have come to the conclusion that once you ORGANIZE a religion, write sacred texts which cannot be questioned, require financial contributions to support the clergy, and build massive temples it normally goes very wrong indeed. Sometimes wars are even fought and people die because of subtle differences in religious beliefs!
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Smelling The Roses

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There were a lot of good photographers in the early 20th century. Of the three hhat I know the best, two lived at almost exactly the same time. One operated in France, especially Paris, and the other was active in America. The other was about 20 years younger.

Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász) was born in Transylvania in 1899. Today this is in Romania. He moved to Paris when he was 25. Brassaï rose to fame in France primarily for his skills as a photographer, but he also wrote many articles and seventeen books. He published his first book of photographs in 1933. In the 1950’s he made motion picture films, and in 1961 he stopped with photography completely and devoted his energy to being a sculptor. He died in 1984 in the south of France, and is buried in the cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassai
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Ansel Adams was born 3 years later in 1902, in San Francisco and died in the same year as Brassaï, 1984. His goal in life was to be a concert pianist. Although very good at the piano he finally had to recognize that his skill would never allow him fame as a concert pianist. So he decided to dedicate himself to photography. Much of his most famous work was done during the 1930s and 1940s. Adams was an active environmentalist all of his life, and served on the board of directors of the Sierra Club. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansel_Adams
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Helmut Newton was born in Berlin in 1920, so he was later than Ansel Adams or Brassaï. He struck up a close friendhip with Brassai. Newton was an excellent photographer specializing in fashion photography and oddly posed nude beautiful women. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmut_Newton
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Although I grew up in El Paso, Texas I spent a total of almost 20 years of my adult life living in Europe. Several times when I was in Paris I tried to duplicate Brassaï’s famous picture of the stairs at Montmartre next to the funicular. He called this photo Escalier de la butte Montmartre.

And now that I have moved back to America I have done the same with Ansel Adams’ famous 1947 picture of the Guadalupe Mountains that he called El Capitan, Texas.

I am reading a technical book on natural light photography right now that AA wrote in 1952. It is amazingly current despite the fact that in the 21st century most pictures are shot to a digital sensor rather than to film emulsion. Other than that 97% of it is the same.

The exact same problems face me today that AA dealt with 60 - 70 years ago. Direct sunlight versus reflected light, shadows, lens length, depth of focus, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity to light, proper framing, etc.

In fact I find it absolutely fascinating how current this 56 old year technical instruction book is.



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This morning I took a few pictures at the El Paso, Texas Municipal Rose Garden.

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I couldn't help but think about Ansel Adams' book and the phrase he used, "Photography may be employed in a great variety of work including...the revelation of the minutiae of nature.

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The intangible elements of insight and emotion are expressed in a good photograph."

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The First Rule Of Business

The free market capitalist economy is popular all over the world right now.

Under this system private corporations provide service and products to customers. Those manufacturing companies which provide better service and quality, and make the products which consumers want to buy prosper.

For example if there were any companies which made only rotary dial telephones, no doubt they are no longer with us. Photographic film and film cameras used to be the norm, now they are part of a tiny niche market.

The same ideas apply in the automotive industry. General Motors has been determined that it can convince consumers to buy their large, heavy vehicles which get atrocious fuel economy. Toyota has tried to supply the customer with the vehicle that they desire, and has prospered in the process.

Lots of American car companies have failed. You no longer see Nash Ramblers, Hudsons, or the Henry J.
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General Motors could easily go out of business. No joke. The only hope for their survival is if they start listening to the consumer and begin making the types of vehicles that the customer wants.

They have forgotten the first rule of business: -The Customer Is King.
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Checks And Balances

The founders of America were very intelligent, well educated men. They had a great deal of experience in real life, and they certainly were not just a band of idealistic, rabble rousing men with an unrealistic understanding of human nature.

They understood that the human species often tended to be both power-mad and greedy. Their foundation on reality and experience, combined with their intellectual knowledge and good understanding of history meant that the United States was set up with the concept called Separation of Powers.

In America the federal government is divided into three branches of government called the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each branch of government has separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility which are broadly defined in the constitution.

This concept was first developed in ancient Greece and later was used in the Roman Republic. In the 1700’s it was described further by the French political philosopher Baron de Montesquieu.

Separation of powers in the American form of government is intended to protect liberty and democracy, and avoid tyranny.

This is different than in a Parliamentary democracy which does not have this same distinct separation of powers. In a parliamentary democracy (such as is used in England) the executive, who is often called the prime minister and the Cabinet, which is frequently called the government, are drawn from the legislature, which is called a parliament. Parliamentary democracies operate under the principle of responsible government. The legislative and executive branches of the government are connected in parliamentary systems, but in most countries there is an independent judiciary.

By the late 1920’s and early 1930’s it had become apparent in America that these three branches of government were inadequate to stand up to and prevent the enormously wealthy private sector from gross abuses. The Robber Barons came to be seen as a direct threat to liberty and democracy. They certainly employed tyranny, indeed on a mass scale.

The abuses by the private sector resulted in the implementation of various laws and forms of regulation including those in the areas of the economy, banking, child labor, minimum wages, workplace safety, old age pensions, and by the 1960’s environmental laws which were intended to preserve wilderness areas and insure adequate quality of air to breathe and water to drink.

During the last 35 years the right wing and the Robber Barons have again asserted themselves. Many of the laws and regulations which were implemented to regulate and prevent abuse have been watered down to the point of ineffectiveness.

During the 1940’s Adolph Hitler in Germany first effectively used the media to significantly influence people’s ideas. These tactics became known as marketing. Since the 1960’s the right wing in America has also used these same types of distortion of reality. Rather than the American voters understanding that ceasing to properly regulate the wealthy private sector would have disastrous effects on their standard of living, the “spin doctors” of the Republicans convinced people that deregulation was actually a very healthy and positive concept.

In the year 2008 we now have a much better picture of where all of this “deregulation” has brought us.

Because of the similar right wing idea of “free trade” the large majority of good-paying American manufacturing jobs have been moved abroad. This manufacturing is now taking place in countries which have much weaker laws regarding child labor, minimum wages, and the protection of the environment.
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At the same time that the laws and regulations have been watered down, the President has gradually acquired more and more power compared to the other two branches of government. This weakening of checks and balances also has had the effect of favoring rich people at the expense of the middle class.
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The financial system and the banks in America are in serious danger of collapse, the U.S. Dollar has been devalued and is continuing to lose value. Other countries no longer view the Dollar as a reserve currency, or a safe place to put their money during hard times. One large corporation after another is watering down or even cancelling its private pension plan. Almost 50 million people in America do not have health insurance, and many others are underinsured and cannot afford to see a dentist or go to the doctor for preventative care.

De-Regulation is in fact a very negative concept. It may be good for the wealthy in the short term, but it has had terrible consequences for the middle and lower classes. And in the long term it is not even good for the super rich and the Robber Barons.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Io



For years I had a close friend named Kathy. She was smart, very nice, and she had a great figure. We travelled and did a lot of things together including scuba diving in the Pacific and the Caribbean. In addition to having a great collection of minerals, Kathy had named her cat Io. I found it fascinating to be friends with a kind woman who had a great figure and also had a logical and scientific orientation towards life. It almost seemed like a contradiction.

Io is the innermost moon of Jupiter, and with over 400 active volcanoes it is the most geologically active object in the solar system.

Last night, until the clouds came up from Mexico in the south, I watched lovely Jupiter for so long that my eye eventually began to ache and I had to take a little break. I was using my 8 inch dobsonian telescope, with a light blue filter over a 6mm Radian TeleVue eyepiece. On a 1,200mm focal length telescope this results in a magnification of 200X.

The telescope is capable of higher magnification, and I have a TeleVue eyepiece which pushes it to its rated limit, but I find that 200X is the perfect magnification for viewing planets. Last night Jupiter and her moon named Io put on a great show. The bands of clouds circling the great planet were clearly visible, and then Io began to cross Jupiter’s surface. I guess if one were on Jupiter this could be described as a lunar eclipse. From our perspective here on Earth you could clearly see the dot of Io’s shadow against Jupiter’s cloud tops. And by watching it for almost 45 minutes one could see Io gradually moving across the surface of Jupiter.

The first reported observation of Io was made on my birthday by Galileo Galilei on 7 January 1610. Galileo was from Pisa, Italy and he used the badly engineered (leaning) tower there in Pisa to conduct experiments in gravity. I have visited the leaning tower in Pisa, and I have also been to where he is buried in Florence, Italy.

Last night I also got to watch the moon for some extended period of time. With crystal clear optics and a high magnification like 200X one can clearly see hills and mountain ranges on the moon. And many craters that have secondary craters inside of them, or even overlapping craters where an incoming hit has landed squarely on the rim of an existing crater.

What a wonderful experience. It is such a genuine pleasure to no longer have to get up early in the morning and go off to work. It has opened all sorts of possibilities.

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The New Yorker


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For years I subscribed to the New Yorker, but I gave it up about 10 years ago. Maybe I'll start again.
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My forecast is that their cover which shows Obama as a Muslim, his Harvard Law School lawyer wife as a gun toting terrorist, and the American flag burning in the fireplace will end up actually helping him get elected.
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Just like when the famous Christian holy man Reverend Jesse said that he wanted to cut Obama's nuts off.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Speaker Phones

I know several people who use their speaker phones most of the time. They seem to think that this makes them special somehow. Thirty years ago only the rich and powerful had a speaker phone, but nowadays almost all phones have this capability.

When I am talking with someone who is using a speaker phone I hear all the background noise in their environment, the lady on their GPS telling them what to do, etc. In fact THEY become rather hard to understand.

Here is my advice: If multiple people need to hear the person on the other end of a phone conversation, then turn on the speaker phone. But if you think that what you have to say has any importance at all, and you want the party on the other end to be able to hear you, then shut your speaker phone off.

On the other hand, if you think that you are just going on-and-on, babbling completely useless trash, and you love to hear the sound of your own voice, then keep that speaker phone on. I’ll turn mine on too, and neither one of us will be able to hear the other party. So rather than holding a conversation and engaging in communication, we will just be speaking at each other…kind of like the politicians do.
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Dismantling The New Deal Reforms

America and the whole world underwent a horrible economic depression in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Wikipedia says that The New Deal was the title that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to a sequence of programs and promises he initiated between 1933 and 1938 with the goal of giving relief to the poor, reform of the financial system, and recovery of the economy during the Great Depression.

So these New Deal reforms were designed to reform and regulate the excesses of the robber barons and to help the economy recover and become more stable. The reforms also had the unambiguous goal of helping the poor. FDR came from an extremely wealthy upper class background. Perhaps this helped him see the desperate need for these reforms to the economy.

Among the things he did was to create the Social Security system so that everyone would have an adequate retirement income paid for by the government. It had become clear that in real life, not in someone’s intellectual fantasy, private free enterprise and personal savings could not possibly take care of adequate retirement income for most Americans.

Because of the runs on the banks and bank closures, he created the FDIC to provide government insurance guaranteeing most deposits in all WELL REGULATED banks in America.

His administration formed the Securities and Exchange Commission to make sure that the stock and bond markets operated fairly and were not controlled by unethical robber barons.

These reforms that were instituted in the New Deal operated effectively for 30 years. The government did its job of regulating the financial markets, the banks, and home mortgages. The middle class in America prospered, the super-wealthy were prevented from abusing their power, and people in need were given a helping hand.

But by the late 1960’s the Vietnam War was seriously draining the government’s resources and the first serious dismantling of the New Deal reforms began. To keep the federal government’s spending deficit and the national debt from appearing too large, Fannie Mae was “taken off balance sheet” but making it into a kind of government sponsored private company. But everyone knew this was done with the implicit assumption that the government would never let it fail. This was chicanery and smoke and mirrors of the worst kind.

Since then the Republicans and their fellow travelers have weakened Social Security by not making wealthy people pay their fair share. There have been continued attempts to privatize Social Security. In order to help out wealthy share holders, many corporate pension plans have been shut down.

The idea that the Market was sacred gained force. Markets regulated better than government bureaucrats, these right wingers thought, and there was a continuous effort to stop the government from doing what it is supposed to do, i.e., regulate and prevent abuse by rich people. This was called De-Regulation. These same Republicans did everything they could to water down any government funded help for people in need. Being supportive of the common working man was viewed as leftist, or communist, or in recent years by the newly pejorative phrase “liberal.”

Regulation of the banks and the financial markets was continually and gradually eroded. The upper financial classes prospered, and the middle and lower classes gradually lost ground.

During the two terms of the George Bush Jr. administration, all of these right wing moves accelerated. Tax breaks for rich people increased, spending for social programs which help out less fortunate people withered, anything that was viewed as “environmentally sound” was viewed with great suspicion, and spending on killing and warfare increased dramatically.

And not surprisingly the federal budget, which had been balanced during the Democratic administration of President William J. Clinton, became horribly unbalanced with the government spending far more than it brought in. The national debt increased. Many friends of the Bush administration (like Enron) got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. The value of the U.S. Dollar plummeted in world markets (devaluation). Countries around the world began getting out of the U.S. Dollar, and it no longer was considered the top reserve currency in the world.

The nation’s manufacturing base was almost completely moved overseas in the name of Free Trade. None of the right wingers brought to anyone’s attention that now that the manufacturing was done primarily overseas it no longer had to obey rules regarding child labor, work place safety, or the pollution of the environment. The press and the media were owned by for-profit companies, so instead of reporting things like this they were engaged in more lucrative and sensationalist reporting.

Fuel economy of the average family vehicle got lower than it had been 30 years earlier. The right wing Republican administration refused to admit that global warming was real, and they politicized the Justice Department by refusing to hire lawyers who were Democrats and firing others who were. The separation of church and state was gradually eroded.

Almost fifty million people in America did not have health insurance, and many others were under insured. Lots of people with full time jobs did not have health insurance for themselves or their families.

And now in mid 2008 people have begun talking about the meltdown of the American economy. America is no longer respected around the world, in fact it is widely looked down upon.

Clearly the ideas of the right wingers in American politics have been proven ineffective. In fact just as ineffective as the ideas of the Marxists in the U.S.S.R., just in different ways.

It probably is already too late to fix this problem. It won’t be fixed by old folks, that is for sure. If the youth of America get their act together they still have a chance to stop the decline of America. But like I say, I doubt it. I grew up hearing about the rise and fall of the Romans. I saw the Berlin wall fall down and the U.S.S.R. disintegrate. I am afraid that what I am watching now is the decline and fall of the American Dream.
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One of my smartest and funniest friends lives in Belgium. This is his response:
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Dear Paul,
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I think that your end conclusion is right. Americans need to start thinking differently. ;-)))
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In the 18th and 19th century, opportunism was a quality that allowed you to survive. No quarter was asked, none given.The American dream floats on grabbing, seizing... look at where " ye olde money" comes from. Selling poisonous substances as "snake oil" in a traveling show would get you executed in Europe while it was common practice in the Wild Wild West.
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America was built on a hard, cynical and unforgiving social concept. We were all told the romanticized story of the barrel of nails replacing the gold standard... but do we see the hardship that led to this? ( Was that under Adams?). What started out as a very strict and severe puritan colony rather quickly bended a knee towards practices like mail-order-brides, both male and female bigamy, people being shot for herding sheep instead of cattle or refusing to settle for disownment like in the great railroad building times...
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What was a quality for survival later became a quality that helped to attain this "American Dream". There is a certain amount of ruthlessness in American society.
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I'm sorry to see hardworking people being punished for the greed of the banking corporations because that is what really went on... The divide between the "have and the have-nots" gets bigger, more people get excluded from loans and thus no longer partake in the consumption that is needed to drive the economy. Then the threshold for getting loans was lowered without safety net. You can squeeze a stone but it'll give no juice. Debts accumulate in the lower income part of the population and there you go...
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It's refreshing to have friends in the US who actually see what's happening ;-)
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Best
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Axel
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Almost 40 years ago the Vietnam war was a reality, and I was in college majoring in Political Science. My mentor, and later the head of the Political Science Department at U.T. El Paso, was Ed Leonard pHd.
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He has been reading at my blog and here is his response:
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Paul-
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I haven't had the chance to read your whole message yet, but I felt compelled to reply to three of your early points (all of which I basically agree with):
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1st- It's interesting that the big appeal of the early SUVs was that drivers FELT secure in them, and therefore thought that they were safe. The secure feeling came from a perceptual illusion: Because the driver sat far above the road, he or she felt more secure. Perceptually, being further above the road made it seem to go by more slowly. (Having flown lightplanes, you likely recall that you made a good landing not by looking at your instruments, but instead you measured speed and height by referring to the perceptual speed of the runway boundary "going by." I am told that even World War II fighter pilots landed this way.) The early SUVs (especially the venerated Ford Explorer) actually had an awful safety record. Detroit was consciously decieving us! At the cost of thousand of lives! Especially in Explorer accidents.
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2nd- The Bush thing is similar. Junior and (especially) his PR staff know how to soothe the public, by using all the tools and tricks of the advertising/PR industry.
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3rd- I'm very interested in the Trinity Site explosion (in part because of having lived in Oak Ridge, where the early bombs were made). The various guesses by El Pasoans about what caused the blast were really far out!Incidentally, have you been to the site? It used to open to the public once a year,. (I went once.) Now it is inexplicably closed at all times. What on earth is the Army hiding in 2008?
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Ed Leonard
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Financial Melt Down

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Yesterday for the first time I read in a mainstream publication an article that described what it happening to the Amercian financial system as meltdown. What a shock.
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But I think it may well be true.
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The conventional wisdom in America has been completely uncontrolled market-ruled capitalism, with the government providing less and less support to the needy and less and less regultation of the robber barons and thieves.
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Just like the USSR and Marxsism were based on fallacious assumptions, it now appears that the American system has also been based upon unproven and incorrect assumptions. Market forces do not tend towards equilibrium, they tend towards boom and bust. Deregulation is actually abdication of responsibility by the government.
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The American dream may well be coming to an end. What a pity.
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Bloated American Pig Cars


A close friend of mine likes to pretend to himself and to others that he is a Buddhist. I guess in one part of his mind he is. In addition to owning a very wasteful, gigantic house complete with a pool he also has a Yurt. He has these fantasies of living out in the country in his Yurt and spending a lot of time sitting around in a trance like state.

He likes to think of himself as being progressive and environmentally aware. But he is now thinking about buying a Suburban, just because they have gotten so cheap. He actually has himself convinced that the poor fuel economy can be (financially) made up for by buying the car cheap. In other words overtly choosing profit and greed versus doing the proper thing ethically and morally. This is a copy of an e-mail I sent him today:




Dear XXXXX,

I’ve been visualizing the picture of you driving an enormous, wasteful hog of a car like a Suburban out to your Yurt. It just doesn’t fit. There is a vast logical disconnect.

The Yurt is about minimizing one’s footprint on this planet, reducing your environmental impact, decreasing your consumption of fossil fuels, etc.

The idea of making an overt decision to drive a Suburban or a big, heavy V6 or V8 sport utility vehicle just because they have gotten cheap doesn’t logically fit in the same mind set. These cars are even heavier and even more wasteful than the Pontiac that you are driving now. Getting one of these vehicles would unmistakably be moving in the wrong direction.

If the bozos from Detroit were giving these cars away (which they practically are) it would only make sense to drive one if you are only concerned with short term profits and greed. There is so much more to life than self-indulgence.

Doing what one can to protect and improve the environment, and reducing one’s output of pollutants which increase the rate of global warming are worthwhile goals in themselves. Making money is not worth it if one has to engage in unethical, immoral, or illegal behavior to do so.

The people who have their act together are driving small-engine, lightweight Hondas and Toyotas, not the bloated and inefficient cars like most of those being produced by the American manufacturers.

Very Best,


Paul
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Religious Tablets Found


A New York Times article on 6 July 2008 says, “A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.
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If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.”

So rising from the dead after 3 days was normal for the various messiahs back then. There were lots of them, but only one was the true messiah. And who that was depends upon your brand of religion.

I was confirmed in the Christian church. I wore the little black dress and helped out the padre with the Sunday services. As soon as I grew up I travelled to Israel. I visited the old city of Jerusalem, the church in Nazareth, the dome of the rock, swam in the Jordan river, and sat by the edge of the Sea of Galilee (lake Tiberius) with my shoes off dangling my feet in the water.

I guess I never have really believed that stuff about Jesus’ mother being a virgin. Or Jesus walking on water, and him turning water into wine. Or the stories about the burning bushes and parting the waters in the sea. What a bunch of fantasy for ignorant, uneducated people.

And not letting priests get married or have sex with women has meant that this important occupation has become the haven for gay men and guys who like bum fucking young boys.

It’s a real shame too, because human society badly needs a strong belief system which encourages moral and ethical behavior. But so much of the Christian mythology is just so wildly implausible. In this era of well educated people this kind of story telling no longer holds much water.

LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/world/middleeast/06stone.html?em&ex=1216094400&en=4eff7f821687be02&ei=5087%0A
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Fannie Mae


Fannie Mae was founded as a government agency in 1938 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal to provide liquidity to the mortgage market. For the next 30 years, Fannie Mae was well regulated and made certain that home mortage market operated properly. It held a virtual monopoly on the secondary mortgage market in the United States, and there were some greedy guts who wanted to get in on this.

In 1968 the politicians in Washington pulled a fast one. Just like the con artists at Enron, they wanted to play some little dishonest games so that they would still be in control, but the debt of Fannie Mae would no longer be on balance sheet, i.e., a part of the national debt.

So Fannie Mae was converted over to a so called Government Sponsored Enterprise. This is like socialism, where the government centrally controls the means of production, but pretends that it is a private corporation. But now that the hard times have come, other private companies are unable to bail out Fannie Mae because it is not a true private corporation. And it is generally accepted that it is too big to let fail.
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Just to understand how much of an Enron the politicians in Washington, D.C. have been pulling, if the government does have to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the national debt will double. Do I need to put that in all capitals or put a lot of explanation marks after it?

The problem here is that deregulation became a good word, just like liberal became a bad word. Deregulation of the home mortgage market put the robber barons and criminals in charge, with the government abdicating their responsibilities and not controlling or regulating their activities one bit.
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The well paid government officials who were supposed to watching over this should be punished severely. In China they would be executed. In communist Russia they would be exiled to Siberia. But in Bush's America nothing at all will happen to them. Not good.

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Are You A Good Driver?

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Bad drivers accelerate rapidly; sometimes called jack rabbit starts. This is hard on your vehicle mechanically, wears out the tires prematurely, and wastes gasoline horribly.

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Bad drivers constantly speed up and slow down; good drivers maintain a constant speed.

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It takes a skillful driver to get better fuel economy than the government ratings. But it is very possible indeed. My Toyota Corolla is rated at 32 mpg city and 41 highway. Since I filled up 187 miles ago I have driven probably 60% on the highway and 40% in town. And my average fuel economy since this fillup has been 53.9 mpg. This is not luck, this is skill.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

The First Atomic Bomb

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On July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m. Mountain War Time the first atomic bomb was exploded 214 kilometers (133 miles) due north of where I live now. The bearing is 355 degrees true, so in my book this qualifies as due north.

My grandfather Joseph Percivil Garland was living in El Paso, Texas at the time. It would be another 3-1/2 years before I would arrive on the scene. My grandfather was awake early that July morning, and he saw the sky light up brilliantly. The military issued a press release later that morning saying that a munitions storage depot had exploded.

My father Benjamin Hadley Garland worked on the Manhattan Project, but the secrecy was so high that he did not realize what they were working on until the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in early August 1945.

An odd bit of fate is that originally the test explosion was going to be held near Blythe, California. But General Leslie Groves decided not to use the California range because he didn’t want to have to deal with the base’s cantankerous commander General George S. Patton.

Now it is 63 years later. I own a small piece of the Trinitite that was created when the explosion sucked up desert sand into the mushroom cloud. I have read that it was 10,000 times hotter than the sun in there, and when the sand settled back on the ground it had been melted into a greenish glass.

For many years there was an active effort to eliminate nuclear weapons, but within the last few years India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea have all gotten the bomb. Of course France, England, Russia, and America already had the bomb. It appears that Iran is not too far behind. What a disaster for mankind. Global warming will be seen as a very minor problem if one brand of religious fanatic decides to use the bomb in anger against another brand of religious fanatic.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Astronomy




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If the clouds and sky will cooperate a little bit, the next week or so will be real good for those of us who enjoy looking at the objects here in our own solar system through a telescope.


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Since Jupiter is at its closest, now should be a good time to see the red spot. Click on any of the pictures, and they should enlarge enough to be readable.


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Also this week Venus is beginning to peek up above the horizon, the rings of Saturn should be beautiful as soon as it gets dark, and the red Mars should be nice to look at too.


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Not to mention that the Moon is going to be putting on a nice show too!


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