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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

Sure... every time you look at your passenger-side rear view mirror, you see that message... but do you believe it? Well, imagine you are 'driving' the space shuttle Atlantis coupled to the International Space Station on May 22, 2010... you just happen to glance at that rear view mirror... if it had one of those, and... WOW!

Actually, that IS what you are looking at--the actual image, not faked or photoshopped, as viewed from earth by award-winning photographer-supreme, Thierry Legault of Paris. The ISS/space shuttle Atlantis, in orbit 242 miles above the earth, traveling at 16,500 mph, is shown here as it crosses in front of the Sun. Legault's interest and fascination with earth subjects, planets and space are a real treat. Just getting this photo, as he explains, is far more complex than you could imagine. I thank him for permission to use this eye-grabber and urge you to treat yourself to a look at some incredible images at

I have been hooked on this stuff and the enormity of it all for a long time. How can our universe be so big that it is beyond comprehension. (I caught a fish once that was 6 billion light years long-- see what I mean? Totally unbelievable.)

If you think that is impressive, know that there are more than 100 billion billion (that is not a typo) stars, and our sun (that big orange thing in the rear view mirror) is just a pip-squeak. Check this out and stand back:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hey... wait a Manute!

Manute Bol, the 7 foot-7 inch, 225 lb, "Hey, don't kick sand in my face" drink of water, was one of the first of his kind... a foreign-born big man drafted by the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards) in 1985, straight from Sudan, his home country. He died Sunday at 47. In the NBA, he was seen as somewhat of a freak... tall, frail and couldn't play NBA basketball at the top level, but boy, could he block shots. He averaged 3.3 blocks per game, an NBA record, and that was better than his scoring average of 2.7 points per game. Though he could dunk with two feet on the floor, he loved to shoot 3s from the outside... and was somewhat of a good show at that. One "3" per game would have upped his scoring average.

The thing about him that is most notable, though, is that he was a wonderful humanitarian. "Despite his accomplishments on the court, his lasting legacy will be the tireless work and causes he promoted in his native Sudan and in the cities in which he played," said the Wizards. He used all of his earnings and his enormous popularity in his home country to help the kids and poor make a better place for themselves. He made a difference.

The world will miss the big guy... not because we really knew him but because he was a gentle, caring, modest, unselfish individual who used his height and limited prowess to make a difference to those with little hope. He represented what we could use more of. What a tribute.

Conversely, Gary Coleman died recently at age 42. Best known professionally for his role in the early TV sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes, he led a troubled life. At 4 feet, 8 inches, he is now, sadly, best remembered for his troubles... and lately, for the fights over his remains and meager estate.

As one of my all time favorite wrestlers, Andre the Giant-- another kind and gentle man out of place in his body-- said, "The big and the small, they don't live very long." Andre was 7 feet, 4 inches and weighed in at 540 lbs--almost 3 times more that Bol. In real life, he was a soft-spoken pussycat. I really did love him in Princess Bride--almost everyone's favorite movie (if they have any taste at all). He died in 1993 at age 46.

There is more that one contrast in these three. Bol at 7 feet, 7 inches, Coleman, a yard-stick shorter at 4 feet, 8 inches and Andre at 7 feet, 4 inches would make a nice graph on paper... but together, they average just a little over 6' -6"... a height I'll bet, each would have been happier (though poorer). Their average age at death--45.

"The big and the small, they don't live very long."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Here's to the future...

In Dallas for the elementary school graduation (completion of 5th grade) of an incredible step-grandson, Joe. It has been years (give or take five decades) since I left 5th and it seems there is a much greater effort to stress character and social awareness, sincerity and kindness, good citizenship and 'the golden rule' than I remember being taught.

"Don't be dumb enough to pick on anybody bigger than you," is kind of what I remember... and, "If you must pick your nose... " oh, nevermind.

As a parent of grade-schoolers years back, I always appreciate the opportunity to be in a school setting today and see all these neat young people running around... our future.

Science does it again!

Science digs up so many vital bits of information that you might wonder what we would know if it wasn't for science... and the funding that we provide for these critical studies that brings such vital information to us. Now we're pretty sure that giraffes can swim--if they want to-- even though no one has ever seen a giraffe swim. Why knowing that is important is beyond me... except maybe it will be a question on the new version of Trivial Pursuit.

When a giraffe's weight, body surface, natural buoyancy, muscle mass, etc. was calculated and put into a computer for extensive analysis, it proved giraffes can swim... theoretically. We also have evidence that some crazy giraffes were found on an island surrounded by deep water while trying out for a part in Lost, so those tall buggers can either swim, or fly.

But now, thanks actual photos found on the website Naked Forum, giraffes can not only swim but water ski and fly! And, by God, we are better off knowing this than not.

Thanks Naked Forum for making our lives richer.

If you want to see what giraffes actually do around water, watch this 56 second video: