Friday, May 31, 2013

After Earth Movie Review

I went to see Will Smith's new science fiction movie, After Earth, which features Will's son, Jaden Smith, in the lead role. Jaden is still a little young for a lead role and, I'm sorry to say, it shows. The acting is shallow and stiff from both Jaden and Will, but that's the least of the problems with this flick.

Like many successful movie stars, Will Smith has enough pull in the industry to come up with his own story, which he obviously is using as a vehicle for his son's progressing acting career. I applaud Will Smith's effort in running interference for the boy, but he might have served Jaden better by using a professional story developer.

Now, the story is science fiction, so there's a lot they can get away with, like black box technology and holes in the back story. You don't need to know a lot in this tale. Basically, it's a survival story set on Earth in a distant future after mankind has fled the planet for a place called New Nova. They use the sad old plot of claiming the human race had to leave because of pollution and climate change. Ho-hum. Anyway, Kitai Raige (Jaden) and his father Cypher (Will) are off on a bonding trip when their ship runs through an asteroid field and winds up crash-landing on Earth. The rest of the crew is killed (what luck!) and the significant tail section of the craft lands one hundred kilometers from the section containing Kitai and Cypher. Cypher is injured, so Kitai is charged to travel, by foot, over the one hundred kilometers in order to activate the rescue beacon.

This is a scenario that has played out a number of times in action-adventure flicks, but I'm not telling you anything you probably haven't already figured out. To make things even dicier, there's a ferocious alien creature that was being transported on the same craft, in the tail section, and it survives the crash as well (what bad luck!).

So, the young Kitai must overcome time, distance, and all manner of beasties in order to activate the rescue beacon and save the day. As the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I noticed that M. Night Shyamalan directed the picture, but he couldn't resurrect this howling dog. After Earth is a dressed-up B movie. Will Smith is stiff and son Jaden needs acting lessons, or maybe just needs to mature a bit. A 2 on a 5 point scoring system is a merciful score. Don't waste your time unless you are, like me, a Will Smith fan. Even then, you'll be disappointed. The best thing about this movie was the popcorn.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wise County Advocate News Blog Update

The updated Wise County Advocate News Blog is back online! Go here or click on the link in the left margin.

The attempt to destroy the individual

"The individual, the Self, isn’t just a little different or moderately different or quite different. The individual is a revolution all his own, a living breathing revolution.

He can become and identify with any other thing or creature in the universe—or not. He can think with seventeen brains and walk on eight legs if he wants to. He can be Self inventing more Self. He can destroy all forms and shapes of slavery—most importantly his own.

He can love and he can hate. He can experience and create emotions that have never been dreamed of. He can dance with the angels on the head of a pin or drift off past the stars.

He knows freedom is real, and he doesn’t have the slightest interest in interfering with another’s freedom."

-- Jon Rappoport

Read Entire Article Here

Monday, May 27, 2013

Odyssey by Jack McDevitt

I wish I could say that I am stunned that this novel by Jack McDevitt earned nominations for the Nebula award and the John W. Campbell Memorial award in 2007, but the truth is, I'm not. 2007 must have been another off-year for science fiction and, you know, those awards, like everything else these days, are fixed.

Unlike those who hand out the awards, I do not see Odyssey as painting a believable future. Plus, I found the science within the fiction to be strained, difficult to accept. This second point, I can overlook if a story is strong, which Odyssey is not.

Odyssey is the least of McDevitt's "Academy" novels using Priscilla Hutchins (space explorer extraordinaire) as the main character. The story plods along as if McDevitt lost his outline leaving the reader to wonder what, exactly, is the novel all about. Is it the mysterious aliens called "moonriders" that appear in selected parts of the galaxy? No, not exactly. Is it the political intrigue around a plot to use their sightings in a plan to bolster public opinion behind continued space exploration? Um, no, not exactly. Is it another space romance between a famous loud-mouth, politically correct journalist and a Priscilla Hutchins space-pilot clone? No, I don't think so. Okay then, so what is it about?

Well, there's a lot of references to how the Earth environment is being destroyed by global warming, or climate change, or whatever the greenies are calling it today. There's tons of inherent references to the superiority of women over men (that's always good for winning awards). There's the anti-militant thing going on too and, of course, there's a global centralized government in McDevitt's view of the future but forget about the fairness of that because we see there's still corruption at the highest levels -- usually some greedy corporation run by greedy men.

So, I'm not sure what Odyssey was supposed to be about. It certainly wasn't about entertainment, which is why I read science fiction. I got hooked on McDevitt with his book, The Engines of God. I mean, what a great title. After reading through the Academy series (Academy is the name of McDevitt's fictional Earth organization in charge of space exploration), I soon saw that old Jack was pretty much using similar plots but just dressing them up differently. McDevitt is a competent writer and could get away with it -- until the Odyssey novel. Because I like McDevitt's stuff, I'm going to do him a favor and tell him it doesn't work anymore. Push the envelope and come up with something new. PS, Jack, global warming is a hoax.

Ah, but the politically correct people are in charge of handing out the writing trophies and it's important for a writer to win awards. It pays off, if you know what I mean. I'll continue to read McDevitt's stuff but the novels I haven't yet read will go to the bottom of my to-read list.

Jack, if you read this, try not to be mad at me. I'm counting you down, but not out.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Truth, beaten down, may well rise again. But there's a reason it gets beaten down. Usually, we don't like it very much."
-- Jack McDevitt

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I Can Call You Betty

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes (13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Fawkes was born and educated in York. His father died when Fawkes was eight years old, after which his mother married a recusant Catholic. Fawkes later converted to Catholicism and left for the continent, where he fought in the Eighty Years' War on the side of Catholic Spain against Protestant Dutch reformers. He traveled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England but was unsuccessful. He later met Thomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England.

Wintour introduced Fawkes to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters secured the lease to an undercroft beneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder they stockpiled there. Prompted by the receipt of an anonymous letter, the authorities searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and found Fawkes guarding the explosives. Over the next few days, he was questioned and tortured, and eventually he broke. Immediately before his execution on 31 January, Fawkes jumped from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of the mutilation that followed.

Fawkes became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in England since 5 November 1605. His effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by a firework display.

By extension, the likeness of Guy Fawkes is now regarded as a symbol for freedom-loving anarchists and revolutionaries worldwide.

Imagination, Illusion, and Reality

Our senses tell us the world is real. What other proof do we need? We see images on television every day and accept what we see and what we're told as being real, as being the truth without ever stopping to question the validity of our perceived reality.

Our mind is attached to our senses and when we burn a finger while cooking, or stub a toe in the middle of the night, or break an arm in a fall, we would never assume we are imagining the pain. We fully accept our sense impressions. Without our senses and our interpreting mind, the world would not exist for us.

And yet, our minds create a world of illusion and most of us know that we can change the illusion by changing our thoughts. We exhort one another to "think positively," to have a good attitude, to "look" at things relatively. "It's not so bad," we might say, or "it could have been worse."

And so the world exists only when the senses and the mind is engaged, and ceases to exist when the senses and the mind are shut down. For example, we do not experience the world while asleep. Although you're probably convinced the world goes on while you are asleep, can you prove it? The thing is, sometimes we are conscious of the world and sometimes we're not.

Often, our dreams seem very real, but waking up, we see that they were just dreams. It's the same with what we perceive as what we call reality. It is entirely possible to realize in a moment of revelation and clarity that what you thought you knew is all wrong. Once again, the world is created/based on what we accept as the truth. Simply put, right or wrong, for good or bad, your mind and thoughts create the world in which you live.

Thoughts arise from emotions, desire, and habitual thinking, most often with the same thoughts arising again and again. Without conscious interruption on our part, the process goes on without cease like a movie script playing out over and over.

Most of us continue this way, living out the same familiar script each day, whether we like it or not. The same re-hashed thoughts shape our circumstances and relationships.

And so the world we experience and the life we live are mere reflections of our thoughts with the mind essentially creating a world of illusion.

Choose your script.
However, by changing our thoughts, we can change the illusion and create a different reality for ourselves.

It is possible to wake from the illusion of self, or to change the concept of self.

Someone who has learned the trick of "mind management" may go on living and acting in the world as before but is no longer a slave to his self-illusion and dreams. This person understands that "things" in the world may have many names but all come out of the same substance. As the Bible says, every thing in the universe is quite literally, created by God. Gaining such insight acts to release an individual from the habits of faulty thinking and imbues a true sense of freedom where one understands that every action invoked is a choice.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How We Manipulate Time

Why are there 12 months in a year? Or, 30 days in September? Why are there time zones and what's with daylight-saving time? Why are there 86,400 seconds in a day?

Maximum degrees of Earth's orbit.
We have figured out ways to measure time that are based on the rotation of the earth through the cycle of day and night and the course of the earth around the sun. So, a day is the amount of time it takes for the Earth to rotate one time on its axis consisting of two 12-hour periods, for a total of 24 hours. Most schoolchildren know that an hour consists of 60 minutes, a minute consists of 60 seconds, and seconds are subdivided on a decimal system into things like "hundredths of a second" or "millionths of a second."

When you think about it, that's a bizarre way to divide up a day. We divide it in half, then divide the halves by twelfths, then divide the twelfths into sixtieths, then divide by 60 again, and then convert to a decimal system for the smallest increments. It's no wonder children have trouble learning how to tell time.

But why are there 24 hours in a day? The truth is, no one really knows. However, the tradition goes back a long way. It could have something to do with sundials.

The earliest known sundial still in existence is an Egyptian shadow clock of green schist dating at least from the 8th century BC consisting of a straight base with a raised crosspiece at one end. The base, on which is inscribed a scale of six time divisions, is placed in an east-west direction with the crosspiece at the east end in the morning and the west end in the afternoon. The shadow of the crosspiece on this base indicates the time. Clocks of this kind are still in use in primitive parts of Egypt.

The Babylonians seem to be the ones who started the six fetish with a sexagesimal (base 60) numeral system.

So how did it end with 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute? Again, we don't know. It is known that Egyptians used a calendar that had twelve 30-day months, giving them 360 days. This is believed to be the same reason we divide circles into 360 degrees. Dividing 360 by 6 gives you 60, and 60 is also the base number in the Babylonian math system.
Babylonian base 60 number system.

Modern man bases time on the second. A day has 86,400 seconds, and a second is officially defined as 9,192,631,770 oscillations of a cesium-133 atom in an atomic clock.

A day is the obvious basic unit of time for people. But what about weeks, months and years? Certainly seasons have something to do with it, so a year would be a cycle of seasons. The ability to predict seasons is essential if you are planting crops or trying to prepare for winter.

It takes about 365 days for the earth to orbit the sun one time. The exact amount of time is actually 365.242199 days (according to Encyclopedia Britannica). By adding one extra day to every fourth year, we get an average of 365.25 days per year, which is fairly close to the actual number. This is why we have leap years that are one day longer than normal years.

To get even closer to the actual number, every 100 years is not a leap year, but every 400 years is a leap year. Putting all of these rules together, you can see that a year is a leap year not only if it is divisible by 4 -- it also has to be divisible by 400 if it is a centurial year. So 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was. That brings the average length of the year to 365.2425 days, which is even closer to the actual number.

The problem with the concept of a year is that it is hard to determine the exact length of a year unless your society has fairly good astronomers. Many cultures that lacked astronomers relied on the cycles of the moon instead. A moon cycle lasts approximately 29.5 days (29.530588 days is the exact number), and it is easy for almost anyone to track the moon's cycle simply by looking at the sky every night.

The lunar cycle.
The lunar cycle is where the concept of a month comes from. Many cultures used months whose lengths were 29 or 30 days (or some alternation) to chop up a year into increments. The main problem with this sort of system is that moon cycles, at 29.5 days, do not divide evenly into the 365.25 days of a year.

When you look at the modern calendar, the months are not standard. One has 28 or 29 days, some have 30 days and the rest have 31 days. Here is how we got such a funny calendar:

The Romans started with a 10-month calendar in 738 B.C., borrowing from the Greeks. The months in the original Roman calendar were Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December. The names Quintilis through December come from the Roman names for five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10. This calendar left 60 or so days unaccounted for. So, the months Januarius and Februarius were later added to the end of the year to account for the 60 spare days.

In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar changed the calendar. Ignoring the moon but keeping the existing 12 month's names, the year was divided into 12 months having 30 or 31 days, except Februarius at the end with 29 days. Every fourth year, Februarius gained an extra day. Later, Caesar decided to make Januarius the first month instead of Martius, making Februarius the second month, which explains why leap day is at such a funny point in the year.

After Julius' death, the Romans renamed Quintilis in his honor, hence July. Similarly, Sextilis was renamed to honor Augustus Caesar, hence August. Augustus also moved a day from Februarius to Augustus so that it would have the same number of days as Julius.

Days, months and years all have a natural basis, but weeks do not. They come straight out of the Bible:

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt though labor, and do all thy work but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God." (Exodus 20:8)

This fourth commandment, of course, echoes the creation story in Genesis.

The Romans gave names to the days of the week based on the sun, the moon and the names of the five planets known to the Romans: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.

These names actually carried through to European languages fairly closely, and in English the names of Sunday, Monday and Saturday made it straight through. The other four names in English were replaced with names from Anglo-Saxon gods. Tuesday comes from Tiu, or Tiw, the Anglo-Saxon name for Tyr, the Norse god of war. Tyr was one of the sons of Odin, or Woden, the supreme deity after whom Wednesday was named. Similarly, Thursday originates from Thor's-day, named in honour of Thor, the god of thunder. Friday was derived from Frigg's-day, Frigg, the wife of Odin, representing love and beauty, in Norse mythology.

Also attributed to the Romans is the concept of a.m. and p.m. These abbreviations stand for ante meridiem, before midday, and post meridiem, after midday. Even at the end of the fourth century B.C., the Romans formally divided their day into only two parts: a.m. and p.m. An assistant to the consul was assigned to notice when the sun crossed the meridian, and to announce it in the Forum, since lawyers had to appear in the courts before noon.

Speaking of B.C., in the modern calendar, we label all years with B.C. (before Christ) or A.D. (anno domini, or "in the year of our lord"). There is no "zero" year -- in this system, the year Christ was born is 1 A.D., and the year preceding it is 1 B.C.

This practice was first suggested in the sixth century A.D., and was adopted by the pope of that time. It took quite a while for it to become a worldwide standard, however. Russia and Turkey, for example, did not convert to the modern calendar and year scheme until the 20th century.

Besides B.C. and A.D., some people, mainly Jesus-deniers, use B.C.E. (for "before common era") and C.E. (for "common era").

So how did global Time Zones come into being? Well, it just makes sense to want the sun to be at its highest point in the sky (crossing the meridian) at noon. If there were just one time zone, that would be impossible because the Earth rotates 15 degrees every hour. The idea behind multiple time zones is to divide the world into 24 15-degree slices and set the clocks accordingly in each zone. All of the people in a given zone set their clocks the same way, and each zone is one hour different from the next.

In the continental United States there are four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. When it is noon in the Eastern time zone, it is 11 a.m. in the Central time zone, 10 a.m. in the Mountain time zone and 9 a.m. in the Pacific time zone.

All time zones are measured from a starting point centered at England's Greenwich Observatory known as the Greenwich Meridian or the Prime Meridian. Time at the Greenwich Meridian is known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Universal Time. The Eastern time zone in the United States is designated as GMT minus five hours. When it is noon in the Eastern time zone, it is 5 p.m. at the Greenwich Observatory. The International Date Line (IDL) is located on the opposite side of the planet from the Greenwich Observatory.

Why is the Greenwich Observatory such a big deal? A bunch of astronomers declared the Greenwich Observatory to be the prime meridian at an 1884 conference. Oddly, the observatory moved to Sussex in the 1950s, but the original site remains the prime meridian.

This brings us to Daylight-Savings Time.

During World War I, many countries started adjusting their clocks during part of the year in order to more closely match the hours that people are awake. During World War I, one of the goals was to conserve fuel by lowering the need for artificial light. By extension, though, people had more time to work and thus were more productive on a daily basis.

The United States and several other countries still use some variation on this system. In the United States, traditionally, daylight-saving time has started on the first Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday in October. However, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated a change to the observed dates. Starting in 2007 and going forward, DST now begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November.

To observe DST, clocks are advanced one hour in the spring and moved back one hour in the fall ("spring forward, fall back" is a phrase many people use to remember this). You lose an hour in the spring and get it back in the fall.

During the winter, the United States is on standard time. During the summer, the United States is on daylight-saving time. Even though it's an act of Congress, some states (like Arizona) ignore it and don't have daylight-saving time. They are on standard time all year.

Lastly, for fun and for review, here are some common time spans, from the shortest to the longest. How many are you familiar with?

1 picosecond (one-trillionth of a second) - This is about the shortest period of time we can currently measure accurately.
1 nanosecond (one-billionth of a second) - 2 to 4 nanoseconds is the length of time that a typical home computer spends executing one software instruction.
1 microsecond (one-millionth of a second)
1 millisecond (one-thousandth of a second) - This is the typical fastest time for the exposure of film in a normal camera. A picture taken in 1/1,000th of a second will usually stop all human motion.
1 centisecond (one-hundredth of a second) - The length of time it takes for a stroke of lightning to strike
1 decisecond (one-tenth of a second) - A blink of an eye
1 second - An average person's heart beats once each second.
60 seconds - One minute; a long commercial
2 minutes - About as long as a person can hold his or her breath
5 minutes - About as long as anyone can stand waiting at a red light
60 minutes - An hour; about as long as a person can sit in a classroom without glazing over
8 hours - The typical workday in the United States, as well as the typical amount of sleep a person needs every night
24 hours - One day; the amount of time it takes for the planet Earth to rotate one time on its axis
7 days - One week
40 days - About the longest a person can survive without food
365.24 days - One year; the amount of time it takes for the planet Earth to complete one orbit around the sun
10 years - One decade
75 years - The typical life span for a human being
5,000 years - The span of recorded history

Monday, May 20, 2013

Into Darkness Movie Review

Yesterday I spent my afternoon at the movies watching the new Star Trek picture show, entitled Into Darkness. The storyline follows a young Captain Kirk as he deals with a devastating terrorist attack on Star Fleet Command that kills his mentor, Captain Pike (remember Captain Pike from the original television series?) and other senior members of Star Fleet.

Chris Pine channels William Shatner.
Chris Pine does a great job of playing Captain Kirk (again) and channels the original Captain Kirk (William Shatner) to perfection. Likewise, Zachary Quinto does an exquisite job in his role as a young Spock. Quinto and Pine must use the same channeling resources because you would swear Quinto was just a younger version of the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy, who has a bit role in the new movie).

Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock
The other actors were excellent as well and reflected the characters of the television series to perfection, making it much fun to watch. The story itself? Typical Star Trek science fiction -- which means, to me, mostly re-hashed ideas about the future and human motivations and plotting. Not saying I did not enjoy the movie because I did, but there's not a lot of new ideas to ponder over. No awesome intellectual moments nor enlightenment of thoughts regarding man's place in the universe. It's an action-filled story with great costumes and lots of sci-fi cinematic shots.

Now, if you're looking for new ideas and a fresh take on science fiction, go to Amazon and purchase the Harry Irons series -- five books in all -- and start at the beginning with To The Stars (Hey! The eBook version of To The Stars is still free!). The last book, Jennings' Folly, is only available in eBook form, but it's my personal favorite. Hope you enjoy the new Star Trek movie and if you decide to read the Harry Irons' books, thanks for reading!

Don't Turn Away This Time

I've talked before about the corruption that surrounds us and the culture of deceit that few want to recognize. Our leaders at all levels and in diverse positions are surrounded by layers of bureaucracy and security personnel and cameras pointed outward and high incomes and padded expense accounts -- all intended to cover decision-making with a vaultlike assurance that no one will reveal the corruption. I mean, even school board members and city governments legally go into closed door sessions because they're afraid of being sued by what they know and by the manner in which they make their decisions. It seems that the nature of our society is to lie and obfuscate while creating "impressions" of doing good. Little is done in the light anymore. Some people would argue that this is the way it's always been done, that business-as-usual requires covert operations. Personally, I don't agree and I believe acting in such a way only goes to build public distrust (for good reason).

The revelations coming out about the ongoing federal government scandals only go to prove my thesis. Of course, pundits and politicos close ranks in order to prevent the truth from emerging, but we have enough light escaping to see that something is very wrong with the way we are being governed and, by extension, even the expectations of the general public.

Chris Stevens
Case in point -- the Benghazi, Libya incident, where our ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other embassy personnel were murdered. Our federal government, specifically the White House (President Obama) and the State Department (Hillary Clinton), has lied outright in order to keep their true motives and political manipulations from being exposed to the light. There is now enough information available to make that conclusion. Without going into a timeline and issuing full details, here's what others believe happened in Benghazi:

Ambassador Stevens was supposed to have been kidnapped by members of al Qaeda on September 12, 2012 in a plot arranged by the White House and our State Department. As we now know, the plan went awry.

Admiral Lyons
In a report supplied to the Washington Times by retired 4 Star Admiral James Lyons, the entire episode could have been prevented. Additionally, Lyons provides details such as who gave the order, and why things happened as they did.

Admiral Lyons claims the attack was a bungled kidnapping attempt perpetrated upon Ambassador Stevens whose ultimate purpose was a pre-arranged hostage exchange for a terrorist prisoner who was to be released in trade for the captured US ambassador. The trade would have been for Omar Abdel Rahman an international prisoner, known as the Blind Sheikh. Perhaps you've heard of this notorious Islamic terrorist mastermind.

Who is this man, really?
The abduction of Ambassador Stevens and the negotiated trade for the Blind Sheikh would have been accomplished for political purposes prior to the last US presidential election, making President Obama a hero and boosting his approval ratings. But, something went horribly wrong. As the President, Leon Panetta, and CIA Director David Petraeus watched via a UAV real-time feed, a stand-down order was issued to different US military units within striking distance.

It should have been only a staged kidnapping of Ambassador Stevens, but instead, ex-Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty tried to protect Stevens and began inflicting heavy casualties upon the al Qaeda terrorist team who thought they were to abduct Ambassador Stevens without mishap. And why shouldn't they think that? It was, after all, the plan that came straight from the White House of the United States. Because of the defensive posture put up at the "embassy", the terrorists felt they had been betrayed by President Obama and responded with their own deadly force, killing the two ex-Navy seals as well as the ambassador. Ambassador Stevens was apparently raped, tortured, and dragged around Benghazi in retaliation for the botched plan. His body showed up five hours later at a local hospital.

Doherty and Woods
This report was published last January but our media has all but ignored it. Both Democrats and Republicans at all levels have turned a blind eye, as well. Why? Follow the logic. If the story were opened up for honest discussion, the American public would bear witness to the depth of corruption in our government. You see, this story points to collusion between the head of the American government and our sworn enemies.

Remember the rumors that al Qaeda was nothing more than a made-up, CIA-sponsored fall guy designed to supply the impetus for world-wide war and the subsequent security restrictions on free people everywhere? Remember? If you don't, I suggest you get out from under the television more often.

"What difference does it make?"
Benghazi was supposed to have been an easy 5 minute 'smash-and-grab' operation. In the weeks preceding the operation, Muhammad Morsi and Ayman Al-Zawahiri demanded the release of the blind sheik in an effort to set the stage for Stevens' kidnapping and the anticipated hostage swap. All for politics. However, as Hillary Clinton reminded a congressional investigating committee while beating clenched fists on the table before her, "What difference does it make?"

Here's another referenced article. There are others if you require more. Look 'em up for yourself, if you dare.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Illusion of Third Dimension

The Harbinger

I read The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn, this week. A "harbinger" is generally a warning of some kind. In this case, the warning comes directly from God as an admonition to America to return to affairs of the spirit and to remember that America rose to such prominence because of its faith in God.

Cahn's narrative takes the form of two fictional conversations; one between a writer and his publisher and the other between the same writer and a mysterious prophet who imparts the warning in a series of revelations. The revelations are explained to have arisen from Isaiah 9:10 --

"The bricks have fallen,
But we will rebuild with hewn stone;
The sycamores have been cut down,
but we will plant cedars in their place."

The quote comes from the leaders of Israel in the eighth century, B.C., after an invasion by the Assyrians that nearly destroyed the country. It was a rallying cry to re-build Israel even greater than before, but it also illustrated that the Israelites had missed the message from God; that message being a warning to Israel that the Assyrian invasion was a judgement upon the nation because they had turned from God in order to pursue selfish, prurient interests. If the Israelites continued their course, the next judgement would be more severe. It was. Israel was eventually destroyed and its people sold into slavery.

In like manner, the events of September 11, 2001, are compared to the judgement of Israel. The similarities, as it turns out, are striking and too numerous to be listed in a single book review.

The Harbinger is a book about prophecy, the importance of remembering God, and the judgement imposed on those who refuse to remember. It is also a story of the possibility of redemption and how tragedy may be averted. The Harbinger is a Christian book but the facts contained within are worth looking at for non-Christians as well. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the book is rated G and suitable for anyone who can read and understand it.

Prior to reading, you might ask yourself why have all the bad things happened to America over the last twelve years. Yes, it's a set-up question. The Harbinger is a quick read at 262 pages.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jennings' Folly

Jennings' Folly

A Harry Irons' Spin-off Tale -- If you liked Harry, you'll love Amanda.

Orphaned on the colonial world of Dreidel, Amanda Jennings is raised by her grandfather and taught to take her revenge whenever the opportunity arises. That was fine with Amanda. All she ever wanted was to follow in her grandfather's footsteps and be a kitzloc hunter.

Available in eBook form from Amazon and Smashwords.

Thanks for reading!

Billie Sol Estes

Billie Sol Estes died yesterday in his sleep at his home in DeCordova Bend, southwest of Dallas. I remember hearing about Billie Sol when I was a young dude in Texas. Billie was best known for his wheeling and dealing, connections to high-profile politicians, flamboyant lifestyle, and the greed and corruption that finally brought him down.

At the height of his "career", Time magazine displayed him on its cover, calling him "a welfare-state Ponzi ... a bundle of contradictions and paradoxes who makes Dr. Jekyll seem almost wholesome."

Billie Sol "...considered dancing immoral, often delivered sermons as a Church of Christ lay preacher," the magazine wrote. "But he ruthlessly ruined business competitors, practiced fraud and deceit on a massive scale, and even victimized Church of Christ schools that he was supposed to be helping as a fund raiser or financial adviser."

Estes was perhaps best known for a scandal that broke out during President John F. Kennedy's administration that involved phony financial statements and non-existent fertilizer tanks. Several lower-level agriculture officials resigned, and Billie Sol wound up spending several years in prison.

A lifelong Democrat, Billie Sol was often linked with fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson.

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Johnson, as vice president, and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman came under fire during the scandal, even though the scheme began in the waning years of President Dwight Eisenhower's administration.

Estes was convicted in 1965 of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud. Sentenced to 15 years in prison, Estes was freed in 1971 after serving six years.

New charges were brought against him in 1979, and he was convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy to conceal assets from the Internal Revenue Service. He was sentenced to 10 more years but was freed in 1983. As stated, Billie Sol had friends in high places.

Estes became a millionaire before he was 30 with many of his deals involving agriculture products and services, including irrigation and the fertilizer products that eventually led to his conviction.

Estes claimed his problems on his compulsive behavior. "If I smoke another cigarette, I'll be hooked on nicotine," he said. "I'm just one drink away from being an alcoholic and just one deal away from being back in prison."

He was purported to be involved in the death of a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was investigating Estes just before he was accused in the fertilizer tank case.

Henry Marshall's 1961 death was initially ruled a suicide even though he had five bullet wounds. In 1984, Estes told a grand jury that Johnson had ordered Marshall's murder to prevent him from exposing Estes' fraudulent business dealings and ties with the vice president. The prosecutor who conducted the grand jury investigation said there was no corroboration of Estes' allegations, though a judge ruled that it was "clear and convincing" that the death was not self-inflicted.

Estes accused LBJ of killing JFK.
In 2003, Estes co-wrote a book published in France that linked Johnson to John F. Kennedy's assassination, an allegation rejected by prominent historians, Johnson aides and family members.

A 2007 search for correspondence between Johnson and Estes found a 1953 form letter and only sporadic correspondence during Johnson's Senate years. In a 1962 memo prepared by longtime Johnson aide Walter Jenkins, Johnson recalled meeting Estes once and said he had never talked to him on the phone. But honestly, what would one expect them to say?

King of the Con Men.
While he admitted being a swindler, Estes painted himself as a "kind of Robin Hood" and wanted to be remembered for using his money to feed and educate the poor. He was an advocate of school integration in Texas long before it was fashionable.

Scandals and the Democratic Party just seem to go together.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Frozen Bananas

For cryin' out loud, get your mind out of the gutter!
Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Butter Banana Pops. What a treat! Here's what you need to construct them. The recipe will yield four Banana Pops. Definitely not for those looking to restrict their sugar intake.


2 bananas
1/3 cup almond butter
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup all natural dark chocolate pieces or chips (at least 60% cacao)
1 Teaspoon coconut oil
popsicle sticks or bamboo skewers

Process Engineering:

Mix almond butter, vanilla, and cinnamon together until well mixed.

Peel and cut bananas in half. Slice the halves vertically in half.

Divide your almond butter mixture into 4 equal portions. Use 1 portion of almond butter per 2 banana slices. Spread the almond butter mixture over half of the banana slices.

Press your popsicle stick or skewer on top of the almond butter and top with the remaining banana slices.

Place the banana pops in the freezer and freeze until firm.

When your banana pops are all the way frozen, melt your dark chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler over low heat. (If you don’t have a double boiler, use a large skillet filled with some water and place a smaller pot inside the skillet on top of the water. Put your chocolate and oil in the smaller pot.) Stir until melted and smooth.

Dip each banana pop in the dark chocolate and place on parchment paper. Place back in the freezer for a few minutes until chocolate is hardened and cold. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Today's Word Is...


n. the frustration of knowing how easily you fit into a stereotype, even if you never intended to, even if it’s unfair, even if everyone else feels the same way—each of us trick-or-treating for money and respect and attention, wearing a safe and predictable costume because we’re tired of answering the question, “What are you supposed to be?”

Happy Mother's Day!

"Of course it's possible to love a human being
if you don't know them too well."
— Charles Bukowski

Fusion Rocket

A fusion rocket is a theoretical design for a rocket driven by fusion power. This is pretty cool because recent breakthroughs in the research make it feasible to construct a fusion rocket engine that would allow astronauts to travel to Mars in a month instead of the 150 to 300 days currently employed by our traditional chemical rockets.

Fusion-based rockets could provide efficient and long-term acceleration in space without the need to carry a large fuel supply.

For space flight, the main advantage of fusion would be the impulse leading to greater velocity. The primary disadvantage is the likely large mass required by the reactor. Reactor mass could be reduced because a fusion rocket will produce less radiation than a fission rocket, so less shielding would be required.

Project Orion proposed using directed hydrogen explosions as thrust, but the spacecraft would need to be massive and the vehicle would need to be far away from Earth prior to lighting up. Still, this is not the same as a fusion engine.

Fukushima-like accidents are impossible because the fusion reaction is fundamentally different from a fission reactor. Any occurrence of an anamoly in the process and the reaction will stop. A runaway nuclear reaction and a core meltdown are simply not possible.

Conventional nuclear power produces energy by atomic fission – the splitting of the heavy atoms of uranium fuel. A fusion reactor “fuses” the light atoms of hydrogen isotopes together and, in the process, liberates virtually unlimited supplies of clean, safe and sustainable energy.

Nuclear fusion has been a dream since the start of the atomic age. Unlike conventional nuclear-fission power plants, fusion reactors do not produce high-level radioactive waste, cannot be used for military purposes and essentially burn non-toxic fuel derived from water.

Many energy experts believe that nuclear fusion is the only serious, environmentally-friendly way of reliably producing “base-load” electricity 24/7. It is, they argue, the only way of generating industrial-scale quantities of electricity night and day without relying on carbon-intensive fossil fuels or dangerous and dirty conventional nuclear power.

The simplest fusion rocket scheme directs the fusion exhaust from the rear of the rocket to provide thrust without the intermediate production of electricity. This would be easier with some confinement schemes (e.g. magnetic mirrors) than with others (e.g. tokamaks). It is also more attractive for "advanced fuels" (see aneutronic fusion). Helium-3 propulsion is a proposed method of spacecraft propulsion that uses the fusion of helium-3 atoms as a power source. Helium-3, an isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron, could be fused with deuterium in a reactor. The resulting energy release could be used to expel propellant out the back of the spacecraft. Helium-3 is proposed as a power source for spacecraft mainly because of its abundance on the moon. Currently, scientists estimate 1 million tons of helium-3 present on the moon, mainly due to solar wind colliding with the moon's surface and depositing it, among other elements, into the soil. Only 20% of the power produced by the D-T reaction could be used this way; the other 80% is released in the form of neutrons which, because they cannot be directed by magnetic fields or solid walls, would be very difficult to use for thrust. Helium-3 is also produced via beta decay of tritium, which in turn can be produced from deuterium, lithium, or boron.

Even if a self-sustaining fusion reaction cannot be produced, it might be possible to use fusion to boost the efficiency of another propulsion system, such as a VASIMR engine.

NASA started funding MSNW LLC and the University of Washington in 2011 to study and develop The Fusion Driven Rocket through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts NIAC Program. The rocket uses a form of Magneto-inertial fusion to produce a direct thrust fusion rocket. Powerful magnetic field cause large metal rings (likely made of lithium) to collapse around the deuterium-tritium plasma, compressing it to a fusion state. Energy from these fusion reactions heat up and ionize the shell of metal formed by the crushed rings. The hot, ionized metal is shot out of a magnetic rocket nozzle at high speed. Repeating this process roughly every minute would propel the craft. This approach uses Foil Liner Compression to create a fusion reaction of the proper energy scale to be used for space propulsion. The proof of concept experiment in Redmond, Washington, will use aluminum liners for compression. However, the actual rocket design will run with lithium liners.

As of April 2013, MSNW has demonstrated subcomponents of the systems: heating deuterium plasma up to fusion temperatures and have concentrated the magnetic fields needed to create fusion. They plan to put the two technologies together for a test before the end of 2013.

They will later be scaled up in power and plan to add the necessary fusion fuel (deuterium) by the end (Sept 2014) of the NIAC Study.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Liar, Liar & The Ladies of Gilligan's Island

Truth -- Casualty of Politics

Watch me make this bag of money disappear.
If you pay attention to the mainstream press (MSM) and accept the propaganda coming out of Washington, you might think the economy is improving.

After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the unemployment rate is 7.5%. They wouldn't lie, would they?

People are doing okay, you might think. Sure, gasoline is a little high and maybe Uncle Doodad is still out of work, but you've still got a job, right? You'll probably never pay off those student loans, but somehow you just know the government is going to step in and those loans will disappear. And you can always get subsidy housing. And food stamps.

The government won't let things get out of hand. They're going to take care of you. Or so you might think.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.
The truth is, we’re being lied to. All of us, rich and poor. Skinny and fat. Handsome and ugly. Our government is deceiving us and we’re the victims of mass deception.

We're being led to believe all’s well in the good 'ol USA, but it’s not.

If you pay attention and do the research and calculate unemployment for yourself without letting some talking head tell you the numbers, you'll find the actual unemployment rate is 14.3%.

Economist John Williams
Counting the discouraged workers who have quit looking for work, Economist John Williams says national unemployment is a whopping 23%.

Here are some different ways to look at it. The phony “official” unemployment rate peaked at 8.3%, and that was a 31-year high. It remained over 8% for 41 months, the worst record since the Great Depression.

There were 12.8 million people out of work at the peak of the Great Depression. According to government stats, there are currently 12.3 million out of work today. But only 58% of the population is working, the lowest since 1983. That means a record 100 million working-age Americans are unemployed.

Put differently, the actual rate of unemployment is two to three times the Bureau of Labor’s estimate. But they wouldn't lie, would they?

The same is true about prices. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of inflation, and is supposedly at 1.6%. However, John Williams believes that the real CPI is actually 9.2%, as calculated by the official U.S. government methodology of 1990.

Obama math.
Why such a disparity in numbers? It's not hard to figure out -- the official methodology for calculating inflation has been changed. In accountant parlance, they've cooked the books. No, no, you say, they wouldn't lie to us. President Obama is going to save us all. He's turning the country around. That's what he said and he would never, ever lie to us. No way, no how.

If that makes you feel good about yourself, your life, your wife and kids, or maybe your same sex partner, well, then I suppose there is nothing I can say that will get through to you. However, if I’ve learned anything in my years as a writer and analyst, it’s that the government lies. A lot. Both parties. And lately the lies have become whoppers of such magnitude, only a nation of zombies could accept them as truth.

Remember, the bigger the lie, the more likely people are to believe it. Wake up, my friends, before it's too late.