JULY 30, 2019 HOURS PER GALLON
Forty years ago today, I mailed a letter explaining how I was conserving energy. Due to a reduction in oil coming from Iran, Americans perceived that there was an energy crisis. There were long lines for gasoline. I resolved to use my car as little as possible.
From my apartment in downtown Washington, Pennsylvania, I could walk almost anywhere I needed to be. I estimated I could go 60 days between trips to the gas station. If it took 20 gallons to fill up the tank of my big Oldsmobile, on average I was burning merely one gallon every three days.
Fuel economy is normally expressed in Miles Per Gallon, but maybe we should think of Hours Per Gallon instead. Not hours on the road but actual hours, 24 of them every day.
The point is that to burn less fuel, we should simply drive less (if we're able). Carpool, walk, take public transportation, shop in our own neighborhood, work from home, visit via Skype instead of making long journeys, and so on. Let's save money and cut pollution by getting those HPG numbers up!
JULY 28, 2019 THEY COULD'VE CALLED IT ARXAS
Have you ever visited the city of 68,000 people known as Texarkana? I have. My parents and I drove through there exactly 56 years ago. The date was July 28, 1963. Just like today, it was a Sunday. In the afternoon. Around 2:00, Central Time.
How do I know that? As the teenager navigating from the back seat, I was carefully logging the progress of our vacation trip through the middle of the country. In previous years our family had driven to Louisiana and to Oklahoma, but I had not yet visited the neighboring states of Arkansas and Texas. This 11-day journey had been mapped out to remedy my deficiencies.
Baseball fans often complain about how many runs their team has allowed. Sometimes, they lament that most of them came after there were two outs in the inning.
Is that unusual? Im not so sure.
What are the Major League averages for runs scored with no outs, one out, and two outs? Are the runs evenly distributed at 33%, 33%, and 33%? Id guess it might be more like 25%, 33%, and 42%, simply because as the inning progresses there are more likely to be runners on base. But Ive never seen the actual numbers.
I suspect that the lament over runs allowed after two outs is actually a lament over missed opportunities. If we had only gotten one more out when we really needed it, we could have prevented those runs! (In this case, definition B is the relevant one.) This is similar to the lament over runners left on base. If we had only gotten one more hit when we really needed it, we could have scored those runners! And it may turn out to be just as meaningless.
A puzzle requires me to find two different eight-letter words following the patterns
_ _ _ W I _ D
inserting the same five letters into the blanks each time. The best I can do is WOODWIND and WOODBAND. However, although woodband could mean a wooden ring or a forested strip or Michael Wood's orchestra, I don't think it's a common word.
I finally give up and start watching an old Columbo, reading the closed-captioned dialogue for hints. Finally one character mentions the word head. Aha!
This past week, Scott Adams (the creator of the comic strip Dilbert) has been blogging about an ideal city called Cheapatopia, built from scratch as an absurdly cheap place to live with a ridiculously high quality of life.
So thats why I look back so fondly on college days! We lived in dorms, owned no cars, walked or biked everywhere, and ate at the dining hall. We knew that life outside, in what we called the real world, would never be like this. For four years we were living in a Utopia.
JULY 16, 2019 NOT ALL FANTASIES COME TRUE
I avidly followed all the early space launches. For example, on Wednesday, May 15, 1963, when I was a high school sophomore, Gordon Cooper lifted off shortly after 8:00 AM for the final Mercury flight. About the time I got home from school that afternoon, he had surpassed Wally Schirra's orbital endurance record. He was on his way to a 34-hour mission in that tiny capsule, taking pictures and adjusting equipment and performing experiments. I stayed glued to the TV for the reports until, around 10:00 that evening, controllers suggested Major Cooper should try to get some sleep. Well, if he's going to sleep, I guess I can too, I remarked, heading off to bed.
Fifty years ago this morning, humans climbed into a vehicle to begin a complex, hazardous, expensive journey all the way to the surface of the moon. They would stay there for less than 22 hours, then hurry home.
Those are nice places to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.
It would be dangerous to live there. As Elton John sang in Rocket Man:
Writing in Free Inquiry for June/July 2019, Gregory S. Paul points out, Being in space means every moment being on the verge of death if something goes wrong with the damn oxygen supply. ...All of deep space is chock-full of cosmic rays that will in a few months fry the human brain into permanent dementia and pepper the body with cancers. Never forget, we evolved here on planet Earth, whose magnetic field protects us from said radiation. There is no practical way to shield people in space vehicles that must be lightly constructed. Living on the moon or Mars will require living underground. But watch out for moon and Mars dust; it's pretty toxic stuff comparable to, say, asbestos.
Also, rockets sometimes blow up, and they're extremely expensive. In May, the Trump administration added $1.6 billion to its 2020 budget request for NASA. But rhetoric is really cheap, said Casey Dreier of the Planetary Society. You can evaluate how serious something is by looking at the actual dollars. Looking at this request, it's a nice, welcome bump, but it's not indicative of a serious attempt to land on the moon in 2024. Allowing for inflation, the Apollo program cost 70 times that much. I find it very unlikely that 2024 will see a lunar landing with people. It's just not enough.
The chair of the House Science Space and Technology committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), did offer a statement: The Trump administration's ill-defined crash program to land astronauts on the Moon in 2004 was going to be challenging enough to achieve under the best of circumstances. Removing experienced engineering leadership ... at such a critical point in time seems misguided at best. The Administrator needs to explain this personnel action, as well as provide an executable program plan accompanied by a credible budget if Congress is to have any basis for supporting the President's Moon initiative.
What about the next dream, sending people to Mars to colonize it and save our species? That is an escapist elitist fantasy, writes Gregory S. Paul. The remote colony would be perpetually vulnerable to political strife and autocracy. Even in the incredible event that the fantastic funds needed to conduct the hyper-risky effort to terraform the planet actually worked out, Mars would be a rump human habitat that would do little to save the species if our homeworld goes belly-up.
Paul offers two recommendations. First, deal with the one spaceship we already have, our planet. If we can't make it here on Earth, we can't make it anywhere. Secondly, if conscious minds do go to Mars, they should be artificial minds that don't need oxygen and can get to space cheaply and safely and be resistant to the radiation.
The robots already living on the red planet are sending back pictures and data that are almost as good as being there. Couldn't humans join them? Ain't happening, folks, writes Paul. It never will be practical in terms of cost and safety.
JULY 13, 2019 BROKEN ENGAGEMENT
For the 1965 Beatles album Rubber Soul, Paul McCartney wrote a song addressed to a girl who went away and now refuses to even answer the phone.
A newspaper cartoonist needs to come up with a brief gag every day, and for this one Dan required help from his pal James (who got a hat tip).
I'm almost too young (!) to understand why a calypso singer is confronting a seagull. A 36-year-old Dirty Harry movie is the source of Go ahead, make my day. Three decades before that, The Banana Boat Song a Jamaican work ditty beginning Day-o! Day-o! Daylight come and me want go home was recorded by Harry Belafonte way back in 1955.
Joke references are getting older and older, though not to the degree of Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
JULY 7, 2019 OPEN TO INTERPRETATION
In the first sketch, An Interview with Juan Lee, the interpreter does Juan a favor by taking major liberties with his unfiltered frankness. But in the second sketch, the translator is stubbornly literal.
Fundamentalists claim that the United States is a Christian nation. Thats true in one sense: more Americans identify themselves as Christians than as members of any other faith.
However, the United States is not a Christian political entity. Our Constitution never mentions God, and it prohibits the endorsement of any official religion. Most of the founding fathers were Deists, not Christians. They acknowledged Natures God, not Jesus. The Treaty with Tripoli, negotiated by George Washingtons administration and approved unanimously by the Senate in 1797, reassured Muslims that the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
Not only that, the very birth of our nation 233 years ago was a direct act of disobedience to Scripture.
In 1776, Americans rejected divinely established authority. They rebelled against George III, by the grace of God the King of Great Britain. They asserted that the people have the right to invent their own form of government organizing it not according to Gods plan but according to mans own ideas, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
This Declaration of Independence can be seen as a great sin against God. Author John J. Dunphy has collected numerous proofs from the Bible:
In rebelling against the King and his royal governors, the Founding Fathers rebelled against God and against the authority He had established.
To explain themselves, they felt a need to publish a Declaration. Did they publish it out of respect to God, whose rules they were deliberately breaking? No, they published their Declaration out of respect to humanity, or as Jefferson put it, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.
Therefore, we are not a Christian nation. We are a humanist nation.
JULY 2, 2019 RALPH & ESTHER'S 87TH
Left: My mother's brother Ralph married Esther Rauschenberger in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on this date in 1932. Right: Thirty-four years later, they posed for my Polaroid on the walk in front of my grandmother's house in Cambridge, Ohio.