Thursday, April 16, 2015
But Seattle has its hiccups. Have have a look at The Macefield House that sits surrounded on three sides by much larger commercial buildings.
Mrs. Macefield, in her 80's, refused to sell to developers, even for a million dollars. It was her home and she intended to keep it. So they build around her. She lived there as they built and lived there til she died at 86. She was a great neighbor with not much grass to mow.
Three Gorges Dam--the world's largest hydroelectric power plant--across the 3,915 mile long Yangtze, it raised thousands of miles of river by more than 30 feet displacing 1.3 million people. The project was so large that some scientists feared the displacement of so much water might cause a redistribution of weight that could alter the earth's rotation on its axis and spin us off to eternity... like Buzz Lightyear. Didn't happen though--phew!
China has many of its own 'Macefield houses' which it calls 'nailhouses.' Unlike the Macefield house, when dollar offers were rejected, China tore them down. And there were many.
So "Take that China!" Even with 1.3 billion people, you're no Seattle. Eat your heart out.
Seattle is America's most educated city--more than half of its 675,000 residents hold a college degree. It boasts the highest per capita ballet attendance too. Its Columbia City zip code is the most diverse in the nation boasting 59 different spoke languages.
This reputedly gray, rainy city sells more sunglasses per capita than any other major U.S. city. It also has the largest percentage of library card holders in the nation (80%) and residents spend double the national average on books every year.
Seattle recycles EVERYTHING from lawn debris to food leftovers. There are regular garbage and recycle pick-ups and if you are not in recycling compliance (they spot check), you are warned twice... then fined! No plastic bags in stores either.
It has a well run, heavily used public transportation system with environmentally pure buses that run on schedule. Commuters can check live on-time performance of their bus on line. And all buses have well-used bike racks--Seattle has more people who commute to work on bicycles than any other U.S. city. And it also has an impressive 24-hour ferry system--the largest in the U.S and its #1 tourist attraction.
Seattle has neighborhoods... really neat neighborhoods, many of which are eclectic in the mix of houses, ages and styles. And trees of all kinds. It has the largest houseboat population east of the Orient.
Everything is green and abundant lush landscaping crowds the sidewalks in some areas. Seattle has a wonderful year-round climate for trees, shrubs, plants, grass, etc. Average December/January temperature is 47/38. July/August averages 76/57. Believe it or not, Chicago, Dallas and Miami get more rain per year than Seattle. Much of the precipitation in Seattle is mist. I was standing outside talking to someone and without realizing it, the ground beneath me was dry but everything else was damp. It could rain all day in Seattle and measure only .10 of an inch while Miami could get a 7 inch dousing in an hour. Go figure.
Seattle has the Pike Place Market, Space Needle, a new waterfront 175 ft high Ferris wheel, an abundance of museums and other great tourist stuff. On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier, the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges and always beautiful water. Seattle residents seem to have a certain elan you don't see elsewhere. Would Bill Gates live there if it wasn't great?
But as I've said before... the best reason Seattle is best is because my daughter lives there.
PS: The house, which some have said was the model for the wonderful movie UP, will not has as rich an ending. Heirs have decided that without Mrs. Macefield, the house will go... and be replaced with a much less imagined four-story grey building without a history of anything.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
That's Misty Copeland. author, entertainer, and American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. She is also a wit with an engaging personality as she demonstrated on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, the best and wittiest radio hour on NPR every Saturday and repeated on Sunday.
In 2007, Copeland became only the third African-American soloist in the first two decades of the American Ballet Theatre and at 32 now, she is one of the best in the world.
I believe the ballet is a beautiful art form and while I am reluctant to see another Swan Lake I marvel
I have even met Flashdance's Jennifer Beals just to show how strongly I am in the art. She was giddiously triumphant just after that Flashdance role and had a few young friends with her in a New York restaurant. As she walked buy, I congratulated her performance and she laughed and said "Oh, I'm not her," which caused her friends to giggle as she probably whispered "What a treat," which sounded in the din, strangely like "What a creep."
The New York City Ballet which has now performed "The Nutcracker 2,342 times offered these statistics on what it takes to be a dancer:
- 460 over-the-counter pain pills consumed by the company in a week
- 334 Band-Aids used by the company per week
- 35 seconds for 16 dancers to change from leotards into dresses during Ratmansky's Namouna, a Grand Divertissement
- 5,805 Altoids consumed backstage during a year-long season
- 50 lbs of fake snow dropped during a performance of The Nutcracker
- 40 hours of corps member dance time per week
- 7 feet 7 inches: the length of Maria Kowroski's arabesque from fingertip to toe
- 4 ft average height of a male dancer's jete leap
- 18 minutes 35 seconds of the bows and curtain calls for principal dancer Wendy Whelan's farewell performance last year
- 2 days: the average lifespan of a pointe shoe
- 8,500 pointe shoes used in a season
So don't ever say ballet is for sissies unless you first walk a mile in her shoes.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Excessively credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings.
What do they do with the 13th floor in many buildings and what happens to all the people who work/live there? As luck would have it, they call it 14. Phew!
All buildings tall enough actually do have a 13th floor of course... but we don't call it that because 13 is unlucky. And Friday the 13th is the most unlucky day. Why it is considered unlucky is conjecture but one popular thought is that there were 13 people present at the Last Supper on the 13th of Nisan (Maundy Thursday), the night before Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. Put them together and voila! Get it?
Thank God it is Friday or we might celebrate Easter Wednesday and wouldn't that seem odd?
But since superstition involves some belief in the supernatural, why are some supernatural non believers superstitious? To put it another way, would an atheist step on a crack and break his/her mother's back... or crack a mirror and get seven years bad luck... or knock on wood to keep bad from happening? But many do says the research, even without anything to lose. Go figure.
The Science of Superstition, an article in a recent The Atlantic magazine reflects on why so many of us, atheists and other non-believers as well, are inclined to attach a higher purpose to natural events. In his article, Matthew Hutson, author of the The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking says "No one is immune to magical thinking."
Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Neils Bohr was asked if he believed that the horseshoe he'd hung at his country home was lucky. "Of course not," he said, "but I understand it's lucky whether you believe in it or not."
Young children from both believer and non-believer homes prefer explanations like "Maggie's house burned down to teach her not to play with fire anymore." As we age we know that isn't true, but we still seem to attribute such things to bad luck or fate or 'something.' It's hard to fathom that bad things just happened for no reason at all.
"In a study... self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things. ('I dare God to make my parents drown.') Not wanting to 'tempt fate' they stressed out just as much as believers did."
"Subconscious religious belief seem to increase when we are reminded of our own mortality as in 'There are no atheists in foxholes.'
"Magical thinking is not just a result of ignorance or indoctrination," says Hutson, "it appears to be a side effect of normal, socially adaptive thinking.
"Fear is another driver of irrationality. In a British study of non believers, subjects were told to imagine an encounter with a self-professed witch who offered to cast an evil spell on them. An observing scientist speculated that about half of the group would accept the hex without concern, yet each of them said that, personally, they'd decline the offer."
Of the eight separate and independent studies used in this article, observation seemed to show that one of the few true avenues to atheism may be autism: "The more autistic traits a person had, the less likely he or she was to believe in God." Try telling that to scientists who, among their peer group show only one in three (see last post) believe in God.
As for me, I am still captivated by magic and more joyful believing IT IS truly a happening when an assistant is sawed in half, knock on wood.
Oh, and by the way, I really did see a GHOST when I was seven-years-old. I REALLY DID!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Only one of three scientists believe in God versus 94 % of the rest of us says a 2009 Pew survey. That however, may be changing. Albert Einstein said, "The more I study science, the more I believe in God." So maybe most of the scientific non-believers haven't studied long enough yet.
Follow this logic: That same year, Carl Sagan told us that there are two vital criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star and a planet the right distance from that star. There are, give or take a few, an octillion (1 followed by 24 zeros) of those planets in our universe.
As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan imagined and our parameters for life grew and grew until it was logical to presume there may be only a few thousand potential live-bearing planets out there.
As more was discovered, that number came down that maybe there were only a few hundred of such planets.
Then, more knowledge of the parameters of existence lead to a realization that maybe there were no othees capable of life.
Astrophysicists now know that gravity, electromagnetic force and 'strong' and 'weak' nuclear forces necessary for life were formed in the first one millionth of a second after the big bang and they are vital. Alter any single value by even the tiniest fraction--say one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000--and there would be no earth... no us and maybe no universe.
Multiply that, says one scientist theorizing, and the odds against our universe existing at all are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all "just happened" defies common sense, even for a scientist.
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term "big bang," said that his atheism was "greatly shaken" at these developments and "a common sense interpretation of facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics as well as with chemistry and biology. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
"The appearance of design is overwhelming," said theoretical physicist Paul Davies. Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox said "the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator... gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here."
Earlier scientists of great discoveries; Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal and Sir Francis Bacon to name a few, believed our universe could only be the work of God long before anything else was known. (Joke alert: Copernicus, it was said came by his knowledge early when, as a difficult child, his mother scolded, "Young man, when are you going to come to terms with the fact that the world does not revolve around you.")
|"NYA, NYA,NYA NYA, NYA! I TOLD YOU SO|
He said: "The one in which the author explains the universe in detail, with diagrams and full-color photos of creatures inhabiting all those other planets. This would, of course, include a photo shoot with God and lavish pics of the celestial pad itself."
I'd like to read that book too... but then I'd ask God to take a 'selfie' with me. Knowing my luck, Moses would probably
Monday, March 16, 2015
What do Ted Williams and Steve Martin have in common? It's more bizarre than you might think... but tantalizingly possible.
In 1999, Martin starred in The Man With Two Brains, a very funny move about a world-famous neurosurgeon who fell in love with a living human brain in a lab jar (voiced by the ever-talented Sissy Spacek) and finds himself in the middle of murders committed by the elevator killer.
Ted Williams--the greatest hitter baseball ever knew-- died in 2002 and, after some contention as to his final wishes, his head was severed and "put into biostasis (frozen cryogenically) ... to be together in the future even if it is our only chance."
Oh, that was fiction? You mean Dr. Frankenstein wasn't real?
Martin's movie was a comedy, Williams' story a tragedy and Dr. Frankenstein's, a comedy (The Gene Wilder version) but all now have a basis in factual possibility, according to Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero.
The Doctor plans to stitch a 'fresh' brain to a body of a very recent deceased by their spinal cords, hooking the rest of the blood vessels, airways, etc. to regenerate cells in the central nervous system. Canavero likens those million of sharply severed neurons to spaghetti. "Italians adore spaghetti, I love spaghetti and spaghetti is what is called for here," he says with conviction.
There is more detail but ethically, I will not print it here lest you be tempted to try it at home. However, where seems to be some credibility to it all (it has shown promise in mice), though not much believability that it will work. And of course, there are always the details... ethics and stuff like that.
Another caution, the Doctor advises, "Once the connections are made, you don't want the wrong connections getting created." I'm guessing he is referring to feet backward and other small details.
"He's insane. You can't put a head on somebody else!" says another noted neurosurgeon... but didn't they call the Wright brothers crazy? And how about sliced bread? Somebody had to think of that.
Dr. Canavero points to possible breakthroughs in spinal cord injury treatment as early as 2017 and, as strange as this all seems, I'm all for hope of that.
Who is admired more than someone with a good head on his/her shoulders?
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
I know, I know... yesterday I promised to tell you what Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common... but I lied. Well, not really. I just wanted to insert this post on old movies because it fit. The answer to this riddle is next, just after these selected short subjects.
Moviola is fictional story I wrote seven years ago about the making of the 1915 romance, Moon over Miami starring the soon to be famous Vivian St. Claire, a real 'looker.' Movie making back then was a gritty black-and-white art that stole its way into the imaginations of the world. It was made with grand imagination, before such things as computer effects--or even computers, and without sound which is good because Vivian's high pitched voice never would have made the cut. It was what it was and it was beloved.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the sun slowly set over the placid blue ocean ending another perfect day in paradise…
Rip. KRRRASH! Zzzip.
Dust rose from the ripple-cut cardboard ‘ocean’ as the copper-colored metal ‘sun’ crashed ingloriously into ‘the sea’ and rolled off-stage.
“Cut! Cut! CUT! damn-it! Where the hell is Corky?”
“Here, boss. Here I am.”
“What the hell are you doing to me Corky? First the beach scenery falls on Vivian. Then this. If we loose our star, there is no moving picture and we go broke. You tryin’ to put us out of business? Some right-hand guy you turned out to be, you washed up old has-been.”
Josh, always the entrepreneur, founded RockScissorsPaper Studio in 1914, right after he was dumbfounded by that French ‘moving picture,’ seven years ago. He knew then that moving pictures would be the next best thing since the stereograph. And Josh was almost never wrong. “If a guy in America today hasn’t been broke four times in his life, he will never amount to nothin,” he told his backers.
”Sorry boss. That’s why we needed new rope.”
“You know we can’t afford an extra penny. Now, if you are any good at all, fix that damn thing before it kills somebody. We gotta finish this scene or we don’t go home tonight.”
“Washed up old has-been. That’s what he called me,” said Corky, talking only to himself as he walked through the dark and rainy night to his trolley stop. “I slave for that guy… save his ass time and again. If it wasn’t for me, there never would be a RockScissorsPaper Studio.”
He smiled as he remembered the first time Josh brought ‘the money’ to have a look-see at the new studio. “Hell, it was a garage…a dirty, dingy garage with three lights and one camera. So I made a big sign and hung it on the empty building down the block. Those yokels never knew the difference.”
He laughed out loud as he remembered that first movie… Pauline and the Big Bad Wolf. “Vivian was just a young kid I found on the street. Boy, was she a ‘looker.’
“Hey kid! Wanna be in movin’ pictures?”
“Yeah! Sure mister. What is movin’ pictures?”
“I had to find a wolf costume. OK, so it was a gorilla suit. When I was done with it, it was a wolf costume. And I had to wear it ‘caus no one else would. It must have been 120 degrees in that thing. But Josh liked it. God. That first movie… seems like so long ago.”
The next day at the studio didn’t go much better. Corky, do this! Corky, do that! Where is that beach ball and sun umbrella Corky? Help Vivian into her costume. Shut that shade! Get a ladder over here! Can’t you do anything right?
“Shut up!” Corky exploded. “Shut your mouth up you pompous stuffed walrus. You sit in that chair and act like you are God. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of you!”
The set became quiet as a graveyard at midnight. Everyone looked at Josh and Corky. Josh couldn’t believe his ears.
“Well, Corky. If you can’t take it, then maybe you aren’t as tough as I thought you were. We have a movie to make here and we have to be done by Friday. Are you going to shut your big, fat trap and get to work, or are your going to get the hell out?
Corky, stunned at the turn of events, stood for almost a minute without answering, then turned and stormed out the door.
The bright sun hit him like an epiphany.
“What the hell did I just do? Josh and me, we been together now for almost eight years. The big jackass can’t do it without me. He doesn’t know how to make the moon rise, find a canoe, get a street sign or create a saloon from nothin’. Only I can do that.
“But I’m not goin’ back. I can’t go back.”
The movie did not go well. You can’t make “Moon over Miami” if you have no moon. You can’t row a canoe if you have no paddle. You can’t have no parking unless you have a ‘No Parking’ sign.
“Where the hell is Corky,” screamed Josh as he slammed his clipboard to the floor. Where is that stupid son-of-a-bitch when I need him.”
“You fired him, boss,” he was reminded. “You kicked him out.”
“Oh yeah. Good riddance. That little weasel thinks he owns RockScissorsPaper. He don’t! I do!”
“Want me to go find him boss?”
“No. Absolutely not! I never want to see that guy again. Nobody quits on Josh DeMille.”
That night, Vivian paid Corky a visit. “Remember when you first saw me, Corky,” she reminded him. “You told me I would be a star. You told me that I would make us all rich. Remember?
“Yeah,” he said with a reminiscing smile. “I Remember.”
“Well, you knew that wasn’t true. You knew that unless we had Josh with his connections and you with your moxie, we couldn’t do it. We can’t do it alone, Corky. We need you. Josh needs you.”
“Can’t do it Vivian. When you tell a guy he’s a washed-up old has-been, you cut him in two. I won’t be half-a-man and go crawling back. If Mr. Big Shot wants me, then let him come and ask.”
“Ooooh! You are just two stubborn jackasses who couldn’t find their way back to the stable if someone didn’t lead them by the nose.” Frustrated and angry, Vivian slammed the door behind her as she left.
Somehow, Josh and crew finished “Moon over Miami” without Corky. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t good, but it was done. In the early days, sometimes that was enough.
It was part curiosity, part jealousy that took Corky to the Hollywood Theatre first showing that next week. He ached to be a part of the festivities. This was the best time in all moving picture-making and he was on the outside looking in.
Josh saw Corky across the street. Looking away as he lifted his chin in the air, Josh entered the theatre.
Hurt, Corky turned to leave, with one last glance back at what used to be his world. And, as God is witness, it’s the only way anyone would have seen that small escape of smoke from one of the side windows. His nose quickly confirmed his worse fear.
“FIRE! The Hollywood is on fire!”
He bolted across the street and pushed the theatre door hard, shattering its glass. He yelled to the astonished monkey-suited doorman, standing with mouth agape.
“FIRE! FIRE! HAVE SOMEONE CALL THE FIRE STATION LICKETY-SPLIT AND GET EVERYONE OUT OF HERE!” Corky then disappeared into the building.
Fortunately, the fire was detected before it was wide-spread and everyone was safely on the street in front of the theatre, screaming, shrieking, crying, and talking wildly as the first pumper wagon was pulled ‘round the corner by two hard-breathing horses.
Hours later, the fire was controlled but the building was gone. And Josh, sitting on the curb in his tuxedo, now ash-covered and torn, looked like a refugee from the Great War… a man who had lost everything.
“Vivian. Oh Vivian. It’s gone. The film is gone.” His authoritative voice was reduced to a resigned whisper. “All of our money was in that film. Its success was the key to our next movie. That fire not only burned down the Hollywood Theatre, it burned down RockScissorsPaper just as surely.”
“Josh,” she comforted, “It can’t be that bad.”
“We’re done, Viv. That film was our bankroll.”
“Mr. DeMille!” the doorman hollered as he approached. “Mr. DeMille. One of the firemen gave me this before they left. Said he found it on the seat of the fire wagon.”
“Oh my God. OH MY GOD! Vivian. Look at this…it’s the film. I can’t believe it. How did it get there?
“The fireman didn’t know, Mr. DeMille. It was just there.”
The headline in the next morning’s Pacific Sun told the story. “Hollywood Theatre Burns to the Ground: All 150 moving picture fans watching “Moon over Miami” are safe.”
The following day, the paper interviewed Josh DeMille:
”Miraculously, the only copy of the film was rescued. We are sure the doorman, modest as he is, saved it from the flames. It will continue to be shown across town at the Hippodrome starting tonight.”
When Corky read that, he threw the paper down in disgust and stared at his now-cold cup of coffee. “If that jerk don’t know who saved his bacon, I sure as hell won’t tell him.”
As his anger was about to turn to tears, he was startled by a knock on the door... and a ‘not too welcome’ voice.
“Corky… Corky… ” Josh pleaded from outside. “Please forgive me, my friend. Fate has given me another chance.”
“Another chance, DeMille?” questioned Corky skeptically as he now faced Josh. “Another chance to be a rich man?”
“No. No. No. Another chance to save a friendship! Will you please come back and be my partner? I need you. I have always needed you.”
Later, as DeMille told Vivian, she patted his shoulder and smiled approvingly.
“But why didn’t you tell him you now know that he rescued the film?”
“I will… someday. I just didn’t want him to think I was asking forgiveness because he did one thing and I owed him something. I wanted him to truthfully know that I was wrong. I took him for granted. It was because he did so many things…and always has. And because I owed myself something. His friendship.
“You see, Viv, I can go broke four times and still end up a rich man… because it’s only money. But if I loose one true friend, my chance for being truly rich is forever diminished…by one true friend.”
Monday, March 9, 2015
|Buster Keaton did his own stunts|
There's something special about Turner Classic Movies television channel, TCM. It's where you can see so many old and near current (classic and otherwise) movies 24/7 for free. Pay attention insomniacs.
And if that's not good enough, you have a front row seat to watch how movies used to be made. The older films have an integrity to the art that newer technology often enhances and sometimes makes surreal. As one TV critic put it, "The people in them did what they were filmed doing. When the side of the house falls on Buster Keaton and he stands, miraculously, in the empty square of its missing window, the side of the house actually fell on him. (It is said that some people left the set that day because they could not bear to watch.)"
But back to TCM. The monthly lineup always features some real gems... everything from The Music Man (1962) to Gone With the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1940). You can watch Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and The Artist (2011). You can catch Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002 and 2003) in succession. You can see Laurel and Hardy and Wonderful World of Tupperware if that's your thing. And of course, lots, lots more to suit many tastes. How can you beat that?
Check out the TCM line-up this month and take advantage of your DVD.
My next post has more to say about TCM movies and ties nicely to a very controversial subject I can have some fun with. (Hint: What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and Comedian Steve Martin have in common?) If you guess it, you either Marilyn Vos Savant or Albert Einstein... wait, he's dead. So male or female, you are Marilyn Vos Savant.
EUREKA! I HAVE FOUND IT: Today I learned how to time-shift and it was amazing. I purposely didn't set any of my car clocks ahead one hour. so when I got into the car, I actually went back in time! Yes, I was very careful not to alter anything that would change my life in present time, but I definitely became one hour younger. If I do this enough times a day, I will never have to shave again!
Sunday, March 1, 2015
PART II: AN ELEVATOR TO GOD (ok, to space because we don't actually know where heaven is located) IN OUR LIFETIME! (Not yours though baby boomers)
SciFi author Arthur C. Clakre wrote about it in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise and it WAS science fiction then... but not any more. There are scientists who think it can be done--and it could be a reality in this century, possibly as early as 2050.
Now that's pretty impressive!
Spoiler alert: much of the technical language is not understood by mere mortals. It is included to impress you so you think I do.)
"It's a phenomenal enabling technology that would open up our Solar System to humankind," says Peter Swan, President of the International Space Elevator Consortium. "I think the first ones will be robotic, and then 10-15 years after that, we'll have six to eight elevators that are safe enough to carry people."
The concept is simple. First, you would need a landing station that, let's say, would be the equivalent of floor 12,000,003 (avoiding the 13th floor, of course). That landing station, maybe called God's Little Acre, would be a satellite or space-debris platform in geosynchronous orbit with the earth--a floating anchor, so to speak--and there are lots of possibilities out there.
Earth station would best be about 600 miles west of the Galapagos Islands because of the rarity of hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons in that area, say those smarter than me.
Then you need a very strong cable--which doesn't yet exist--running between the two. There are now several concepts that would produce a cable with sufficient strength. One is a diamond-like nanothread material. Another is a cable made of carbon nanotubes with a tensile strength of 63 gigapascal--about 13 times stronger than the toughest steel. And that cable would need to be about 60,000 miles long. (Remember, up AND back with a counterweight and/or maglev technology similarly as used on high-speed trains.)
Oh, and we'd have to dig up an extra $100 BILLION or so.
Now here's the kicker... IT IS POSSIBLE, say many involved with the knowledge and desire to do it. But how does one go from concept to reality?
The reason we would do this? It would be incredibly less costly to send stuff to space... and from this platform, the universe would open to us as never before.
Elon Musk, one of the most fascinating people of today, has offered his say. He is the genius behind SpaceX which develops and launches space vehicles, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors. He is also the founder of SpaceX and a co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors. He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.
With Hyperloop, Musk envisions 'shooting' people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a metal tube in just 35 minutes. How's that for a starter? But regarding the space elevator, he says it would be easier to "have a bridge from LA to Tokyo." So what does he know?
Interestingly, as bizarre as this seems, remember that the Wright brothers' first flight was in 1903. Who then would have visualized humans would land on the moon just 66 years later--less than a lifetime!
As Groucho Marx said, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
Friday, February 27, 2015
|The elevator operator|
Back story: In the olden days elevators were not 'do-it-yourself' transporters.* They required an elevator operator to make them go, usually someone pleasant who makes friends easily.
So, his passenger greets the operator and asks:
"How is your day going?"
"Oh, it has its ups and downs."
(Laugh track crescendos... then fades)
Now this was not an easy job... well, sort of it was. In the early days, it required training before earning an elevator operator license.
|Elevator control panel|
A few worried about being transported into an alternative universe (like I was... but that's another story). Some stores stationed an employee (escalator operator?) at the bottom offering instructions or a helping hand. Really.
But the old "ups and downs" joke won't work any more because German elevator manufacturer Thyssen-Krupp has something up its sleeve for the skyscraping record breaking heights of today's world. They are testing 'The Sideways Elevator."
In its test tower the company is replacing steel ropes with magnetic levitation used on high-speed trains. Without the need to stabilize a central cable, these elevators require half the building's prior elevator footprint and multiple cars can use a single looping shaft, vertically AND horizontally, at up to 11 miles-per-hour. Riders can be at their desired stop, dizzy or not, within 30 seconds.
There actually was one planned and on the drawing board, four times taller than today's giants. Frank Lloyd Wright talked about its fesibility in his 1956 book, A Testament. The design, intended to be built in Chicago, would have included 528 stories, with a gross area of 18,460,000 square feet. Wright stated that there would be parking for 15,000 cars and 150 helicopters. There's a lot here for King Kong to like.
So I thought this would be the ultimate in elevators. Boy, was I wrong! When you read Elevators, Part II, THE NEXT THING will blow your mind. I promise! Stay tuned.
* Historically, simple elevators really go back to about 300 B.C. predating the Julian-Roman calendar. They were crude 'lifts' powered by human, animal, water or wheel power and probably did not have floor by floor push button operation.
In 1835, a belt-driven, counter-weighted, steam-powered device was created in England.
In 1857, a steam powered 'moving room' for a 5-story building was developed by Elisha Otis, founder of the most known name in elevator-dom, Elisha Elevators. OK, Otis Elevators if you prefer.
The first escalator was on the old steel pier at Coney Island in 1897. Then, of course, there is the moving sidewalk envisioned no doubt by the future-seeing Wright brothers for expansive airport use.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Your Feet's Too Big
Say up in Harlem at a table for two
There were four of us, me, your big feet and you
From your ankles up, I'd say you sure are sweet
From there down there's just too much feet
Oh, there's more of course, but you get the idea. It was written* and then sung by Fats Waller in 1936 and many others since then, including The Beetles. It is one of the songs in the Broadway musical review, Ain't Misbehavin', a musical tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and '30s... and a great show that is still being performed around the country.
Novelty songs have always been a big part of our musical 'ear' but they have faded somewhat as we turned 21 centuries old. Seems we had more fun with our music then... before rap gave us today's somber-storied lyrics. These songs were supposed to make us laugh, or at least smile, with lyrics fun to sing and remember.
(If you remember any of these songs and their tunes, you are, like my friend Ron, oldish. But fear not, you can hear them all and/or read the lyrics on YouTube or from the Top 100 list below.)
There was The Witch Doctor by David Seville in 1958 that had us singing:
Ooh, eeh, ooh aah aah
Ting, tang,walla walla bing bang
Ooh, eeh ooh aah aah
Ting tang walla walla bing bang
|Yellow Polka dot bikini|
I learned French by singing The Little Shoemaker:
Lei scarpini de bailare, bailare.
Lei scarpini de bailare, bailare.
Bailaremos con cosi.
Shoes to set my feet a-dancing, dancing
Dancing all my cares away
Oh, they laughed when I tried that in Paris, but what do they know? They have a different word for everything.
These songs were fun when we seemed more light-hearted and 'fun-loving.' But if this is not your thing and you like a song that is popular today and will last forever, how about It's a Small, Small World? Forget that if you can.
Wanna see lots more you may never have heard of? Here's a Top 100 list from good friend Del who might know Sigfried and Roy, but probably not. Del loved music so much he invented and patented 'the musical bicycle seat' in the form of a multi-speaker mp3 player fixed below that surrounded you from the butt up with 'hill climin' music' baby, and that's the truth.
*Also by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
You remember Lily, right?
We saved her in August by rescuing her. She was abandon with heart worms and held in a pen at animal control for six weeks. It's a miracle she wasn't put down, but they just couldn't do it, so sure she would be wanted.
Fact is, not many want a black dog or a big dog or a heart-worm positive dog. Lily was all three but we fell in love with her at a glance.
She's an absolutely beautiful two-year-old Labra-Dane (Labrador Retriever/Great Dane mix) who knows how to love better than any dog we've ever had. She is now heart-worm free and as rambunctious as any puppy-plus can be, but what a dog we have... and almost lost.
Lily loves to eat and what she digested last were the fingers and thumb of a red oven mitt that she pulled off the counter when we weren't looking. It didn't go down so well and after a three-throw-up night with more the next day, we knew something was wrong.
We got to the vet at 2:30 in the afternoon on ice-laden roads and the X-rays told the story. Two hours later, we were shown the remains of our oven mitt, about the size of my fist, that was pulled from her stomach just before it entered her small intestine and real trouble.
By 4:30 we had her home again, minus the oven mitt but plus a handful of stitches and lots of
|Abby, Tess and Lily|
It's amazing how much love you can give and receive from a pet but you really don't appreciate what it means until you have a crisis and almost loose her.
|Lily and Abby|
OK Lily, you owe us one.
PS: That oven mitt cost us $1,200, according to the vet, but it was a very nice mitt. We have Pet Plan Pet Insurance that covers all after the $200 deductable and I HIGHLY recommend the company.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
THE VINEGAR CRUET:
A Love Lesson
It was a silly whim, really.
My wife and I used to play this game all the time in our early married years. She or I saw something at a garage sale or flea market that neither one of us could ever use, let alone be caught dead with. So she/I bought it for a birthday… or our anniversary… or any excuse for gift giving like, “have I told you lately that I love you?”
I once got her a two-foot tall ceramic monkey dressed in an Uncle Sam suit, red-white-and-blue top hat and all. Days later, I would see on my dresser, a small souvenir pillow with a fancily embroidered drawing and the words, “Niagara Falls… where the rivers gently flowing come to a crescendo of nature’s might.”
It was our inside joke… a goofy ‘thing’ that always brought us closer, made us laugh and enriched the bond between us.
That was then… when we were more in love with each other than our careers and before life’s distractions took their toll. Sadly, the ‘surprise’ gifts got fewer and fewer… until there were none at all. Who had the time any more? We kind of ‘forgot’ that we loved each other and often, acted accordingly.
Then, one day when I came home from work--late as usual—and there it was… a vinegar cruet that had lost its purpose many years ago. I found it, with a small, hand- lettered card that said, “In case you forget, I LOVE YOU.”
We decided that if either of us took the stopper from the cruet and laid it across the top, that meant, “I need a hug. I need a kiss.” Once delivered, the stopper was put back into the cruet.
Funny thing is, the stopper was atop the cruet almost all the time… first by me… then her. It became our token of why we married in the first place… A reminder of what is really important.
My, how easily one forgets.
From that day forward, we stopped taking our lives together for granted. We started to dwell on the more important things like, ‘Gosh, how beautiful you look today’…’Can I help with the laundry?’…”Remember how we laughed so hard when I had toilet paper stuck to the heel of my shoe at a friend’s wedding… and I was the best man?’
That has been a number of years ago now… and I must say, THE BEST years ago. Our marriage is richer than it ever was… and it gets better every day.
A friend asked us if we could ever live without our vinegar cruet that still sits on our bedroom dresser. Of course! We know the cruet is just a reminder that took us back to a place and time we had forgotten.
That silly cruet and all that it represents is worth a million dollars in our hearts. But we often wonder if there are others, like us, who forgot. Maybe they need the vinegar cruet now more than we do.
True happiness always wants to be shared.
I wrote this story six years ago and always loved it.
I wrote this story six years ago and always loved it.
Hope you do too.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
Friday, February 6, 2015
Go back to Saturday Night Live, 1975 to see Emily Litella's commentary to Chevy Chase's SNL news:
Chevy Chase: And now with tonight's commentary; Miss Emily Litella.
Emily Litella: Thank you, Cheddar. What's all this talk about violins on TV? I think we need more violins and less of that loud rock music. And furthermore...
Chevy Chase: Uh, excuse me; Miss Litella. It's violence on TV, not violins.
Emily Litella: Oh. Never mind.
And this one too:
Emily Litella: What is all this fuss I hear about the Supreme Court decision on a "deaf" penalty? It's terrible! Deaf people have enough problems as it is!
Chevy Chase: That's death penalty, Ms. Litella, not deaf ... death.
Emily Litella: Oh, that's very different.... Never mind.
But she made a very good point. We really do need more violins... LOTS MORE! And less of the things that make us less human.
She also almost got it right on "saving Soviet jewelry" [Jewry], "endangered feces" [species], "conserving natural racehorses" [natural resources], "firing the handicapped" [hiring], and "making Puerto Rico a steak" [state].
|Gene Wilder & Gilda Radner|
She wrote a book, It's Always Something, which, by title alone, gave hint to her admired character and courage. It you've never seen any of these things, Google Emily Litella and have a look at some of what made us laugh.
PS: SNL is now in its 40th season. With many up and down years, it remains today as something very "save" worthy for later viewing (and fast forwarding when required). Lots of great new performers and funny stuff amidst some less-so. It is worth your discerning eye. A history of SNL is a perspective to the changing face of humor over four decades of skits and talents.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Ever want to thank all the little people who helped you climb that ladder to the top? And other stuff too.
Ever want to thank 'all the little people' who have helped you get to the top? Well, here they are.
Thank you little people. And that takes care of that.
|Super Bowl ad from 2012|
This year, a 30 second ad spot costs $4.5 mil--a mere $150,000 a second--and there are 15 new advertisers plus a waiting list. The ads, however, offer a solution to every problem, like Doritoto-itis or Budweiser Belly. Well, not EVERY problem... I'm still looking for a flat, brown 42-inch shoelace. Hard as one is to find, it is easier to find two for $3.95. So I want--and think I DESERVE--a Superbowl shoelace commercial. And believing in advertising, Acme Shoelaces would only have to sell an estimated 4.5 million to come out even. But when you are building a brand like "Acme Shoelaces: the only laces with both a right and left for the discriminating tier," the big deal, of course, would be the repeat business.
|Pope Francis and God|
Pope Francis was a beloved cardinal in Argentina. He gave up all his worldly possessions. He gave up his house to live in a tiny apartment. He gave up his car to ride the bus. You know what that means? Right now every divorced guy is saying, "I could have been Pope."
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
|Dog in Heaven|
As all good Catholics know, Popes are infallible on matters of faith. If the Pope says it, God has a rubber stamp on His paperwork that says "OK by Me."
Ergo (I always wanted to use that word in a sentence), Pope Francis and Pope Paul VI both said dogs go to heaven. So they do.
“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures," Pope Francis said.
“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” Pope Paul VI told a disconsolate boy in 1978.
Billy Graham, when asked by a little girl whose dog had died that week whether her pet would be in Heaven, replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be." He later explained "God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there."
"But, you say, "Is that all there is?" (From another fabulous song by Peggy Lee as in my last post. Do yourself a favor and watch her sing it.)
Oh, there is more, much more proof: Author Mitch Albom who has written a number of 'best sellers' including The Five People You Meet in Heaven and his latest, The First Phone Call from Heaven should know if anyone does... but don't take his word for it.
I got the SECOND phone call from heaven. Yes, it was from God.
"Oh, hi God. This is really a surprise."
"Well, if my guy, Pope Francis calls regular people, so can I. By the way Jerry..."
Then I heard all this barking in the background and could barely hear God.
"SHUT UP DOGS, I'M ON THE LAND LINE (of course) WITH JERRY!"
And it became instantly quiet.
"Oh my God, God... oops, sorry... "
"No problemo, Jerry. If I can part the Red Sea, I can surely train these billions of dogs up here with a clicker. I will say though, it took longer than I thought. Where is Cesar Milan when I need him?"
"I thought he died just recently."
"Don't believe everything see on the internet, My son."
"So there ARE dogs in heaven, right?"
"May I say 'Hi' to Snert and Hagar and Gretchen and Alix?"
"You want to do it personally?
"Uh, not today God, OK?"
"Ha ha. Good one Jerry. OK, we'll save that for later."
"Hey Jerry, I gotta run now. It's my turn in Stratego. I'm playing Julius Caeser, Napoleon, McArther and Alexander the Great. Bonaparte is cheating, but we all know it and there is a lot of kidding going on. Just wanted to say 'Hi'."
"Wait God... are there cats in heaven too?"
"Oh, sure, but I gave them even free-er will so not even God knows... I mean I don't even know what goes on in that brain of theirs. See ya later, Jerry."
"You got it God... Oh, wait a second... God, when you say 'later,' what do you mean?
So, straight from The Horse's mouth, so to speak, great news for those of you who have experienced one too many sad trips to the Rainbow Bridge, we'll all be together soon enough. Hmmm, I wonder if God lets Alix on His couch?
Sunday, January 25, 2015
I can't believe it! I may already be a winner!
This incredibly important official letter (top) arrived one week ago alerting me of the probability that I won enough money to ask Bill and Melinda Gates to dinner next week so I can make a sizable donation. I'm really sorry if it seems I am rubbing it in, but how often does an above-average person like myself win so many millions of dollars for life?
The letter advised me to "Be on the lookout for a brown envelope with a red and white 'NOTICE RE: WINNING NUMBER FOUND REPORT label like this and a green star. It contains the documents neccessary [sic.] to win the 'Forever' Prize that will definitely be awarded on February 27th."
Well, I did. Most days I checked my mailbox three and four times just to make sure I didn't miss that brown envelope if it did come. A week had gone by and I had almost given up. Then, a miracle--IT CAME! What are the odds of that happening?
Brown Envelope: check
Green Star: check
Opportunity to win: check
Everything matched... my zip code, the correct spelling of my name and my secret number which only I know. Now how DID they know my private number if I wasn't already a winner? 'They' even talked about people dumb enough not to check their number. "The conversation at one of our recent meetings," they said, "began to focus on what should we do about people who forfeit big Prizes?"
THEY CARE. THEY REALLY CARE!
The brown envelope had my secret winning number "8384 4901 8017" (number changed so as to not inadvertently give it away), "This number," they continued, "is eligible to WIN $5,000 A WEEK "FOREVER"
Then I spotted the ominous note on the brown envelope that I wasn't supposed to see: 'IGNORED PRIOR BULLETINS"
Yes, once... when I was almost near death from a bad case of athlete's feet, I did ignore a prior bulletin! But how did they know? And how many millions of dollars have I already lost? NOT THIS TIME CHARLIE!, I said to 'the wife,' even though that is not my name.
They say "No purchase necessary" in very small print, but who's kidding who (whom?) I stayed up all night ordering everything in the brown envelope to give me an edge and assure I was qualified to win. I got the Musk Cologne Spray by Jovan for 20 % off, the famous 'contour bottle' design Coca-Cola Salt & Pepper Shakers saving over 35%, the night view glasses that are virtually indestructible, for four easy payments of only $2.99 each, the 32-melody wireless doorbell (sold elsewhere at $29.95) for four easy payments of $3.99 each, and best of all, I'll be eating edible dessert bowls with the Brownie Bowl Molds set of two... but that's not all... you buy 2 and get 2 FREE! Yes, I'm pumped!
I filled out every form and stuck every stamp just as they told me to do, then to be sure, I had 'the little woman' double-check my work. Thank God, because we almost missed this important instruction that surely would have disqualified us. "Before you start thinking about how you would like to spend the money, make sure you transfer the red & white label from the other side to your official Entry-Order Form and mail at once!"
Yes, we did transfer the designated label to our entry-order form... and return it at once! as requested.
Now we are biding our time checking off the items in our left-over Christmas catalogs that we will buy. (The kids will never recognize me in that specially priced-to-sell Santa suit.) Darn, why did Sky Mall have to go out of business... they had so many great things?
Well, that's about it Suckers! Go cry in your milk. And if we see you and your wife and 7 kids in rags on the street selling pencils to make a few cents to buy rotting apples to keep your family from starving, I just might buy one or two... if you don't price them outrageously, like 25 cents apiece or something like that. Hey, don't be ashamed. I understand. I was poor once too.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Of all the major operations--everything from brain surgery to heart transplants to God knows what else modern medicine allows--perhaps hip and knee replacement surgery is on the more simple side. Violent but simple. (Here's a YouTube look at knee surgery if you have the stomach for it. There's one for hips too. )
What you learn as a caregiver to someone just home from the hospital is that it's a 25/8 proposition... not enough hours in the day to do it but a good try is had by all.
The upsides are many, of course. Care-giving is most often out of love and devotion. The duration is short as is, from time to time, the patience. By week two, improvement typically comes fast and you feel as if you have crested the hill and are coasting.
And the biggie... your patient is becoming a renewed person!
That said, I have a much keener appreciation for what it takes, from a male perspective, of course:
*I'm A Woman... as Peggy Lee would sing it.
I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have 'em hangin out on the line
I can starch & iron 2 dozens shirts 'fore you can count from 1 to 9
I can scoop up a great big dipper full of lard from the drippin's can
Throw it in the skillet, go out & do my shopping, be back before it melts in the pan
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again
I can rub & scrub this old house til it's shinin like a dime
Feed the baby, grease the car, & powder my face at the same time
Get all dressed up, go out and swing til 4 a.m. and then
Lay down at 5, jump up at 6, and start all over again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again
If you come to me sickly you know I'm gonna make you well
If you come to me all hexed up you know I'm gonna break the spell
If you come to me hungry you know I'm gonna fill you full of grits
If it's lovin you're likin, I'll kiss you and give you the shiverin' fits
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again
I got a twenty-dollar gold piece says there ain't nothing I can't do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag and I can make a man out of you
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, and that's all.
Thanks, y'all, especially for the "shiverin' fits.
*Sung by my favorite, Peggy Lee. Songwriters: LEIBER, JERRY / STOLLER, MIKE
I'm A Woman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
Saturday, January 17, 2015
... A lotta
He died recently at the age of 13. He was renowned as the grandest of the grand, the daddy of more that 500,000 of the best looking (really say those who have an eye for cows), milk producing Holsteins many dairy farmers have ever known.
To say he had great genes is an understatement. To say he had great stamina, drive, charisma, passion, devotion...well, maybe that's going a little too far. He also made the pages (center spread?) of the glossy monthly Holstein International three times. But what makes him truly amazing is that he remembered all their names and birthdays... believe it or not!
How good? He actually produced 2.415 million units of semen to inseminate cows in 50 countries, easily topping the old record of a mere 1.7 million. It is believed that Toystory's record will never be topped. If he was a major league baseball player, there might not be enough money to pay him... and God knows it needs it. The cost of birthday cards and postage alone would break an average bull.
So, Macho guys, if you've already figured out what 2.415 million divided by the number of days in the 11 years of Toystory's potency (602 including weekends), I have one thing to say: In your dreams! A Toystory T-shirt with 'TORAZO!" under his picture and/or a commemorative semen straw might be your speed.
It's Awards season again. And you know as well as I do that it wouldn't be complete without the World Dog awards. The 'Pawscars' has recognized other animals in the media... like the tarantula that won Best Supporting Arachnid a few years ago for its appearance in the movie, Salt when Angelina Jolie saw it and said "EEEK! A SPIDER!"
Fans vote online for The Most Pawpular Dog, The Most Influencial Dog in Social Media, the Happiest Reunion, etc.as well as the Most Dog-Like Cat. WHaaaat?
The key award, of course, goes to the dog voted Most Congenial because it probably means it doesn't bite. Good luck to all the animals, fish, arachnids, etc. And please, no long acceptance speeches for those dogs that 'talk,' like on America's Funniest Videos. Personally, I knew they were saying stuff but I just couldn't understand them because most dogs talk in French which they picked up from watching Lady and the Tramp subtitled.
Goats have almost become 'beloved' in today's lore, perhaps spurred on by Dorito's malevolent chip-chopping goat that was one of the most popular commercials airing in 2013's Super Bowl. "Once I saw one yell like a human," says one of the Apps' developers, "and I knew we were on to something."
"Goat-centric videos have been the rage... they are part of our culture," says another partner.
"In Goat Simulator, the goat uses its horned head to destroy furniture and make cars explode. It terrorizes pedestrians by throwing them up in the air or dragging them along" the asphalt wit its long, sticky tongue."
"Goats are headstrong and cheeky," says Dorothea Dapper, founder of the Institute for Systemic and Animal-Assisted Therapy in Germany. "Learning how to effectively deal with them can teach executives a lot about working with people too."
Important note for executives: Do not grow horns, do not make cars explode. Do not drag people on asphalt. Otherwise, go for it. If you don't yet have Goat Simulator, then you are probably too old or not-with-it enough to matter, but FYI, if you loved Donkey Kong, Pac-Man or Angry Birds, you just might love Goat Simulator... at your friendly App Store now.