Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 for all original literary content by author(s)

17 May 2015

Hacked Friday night from Houston area

Just interesting that my Google account was compromised Friday night.  As all of mine are, it's a tough password-- not the kind you can guess.

Using some sneaky tools of my own, it looks like, besides synching, every single post on this blog was accessed.  A public blog, which no one reads, but which for a few hours, had access to the unpublished drafts--about a hundred.

Looks like nothing changed-- but I've not the time to verify.

I bet something comes of this.  I mean, besides an auto synch, this is what the hacker wanted to see?

Hmm.  Doesn't leave many suspects-- but does point-- but then again, so does the IP address.

Oh, and here's a random picture-- because blog articles
and Facebook posts require them

28 January 2015

The Austin, Texas, Mountain Cedar Page

At first, all I had been told about Austin's Mountain Cedars was that the pollen made the evening skies a beautiful purple and provided for amazing sunsets.  Liars!

Isn't that a lovely shade?

It turns out, that the tree is really a juniper, not a cedar.  The official Latin name is, Juniperus ashei

I studied a little Latin:

juni for "worthless" + perus for "plant" and ashei which is the word for "hateful."  Worthless plant, hateful.

For the first year, I was kind of like...

Could explain my grades that year.

I moved back to Fort Worth where the early cowpokes either strung-up or shot every mountain cedar caught north of the Brazos River; and so enjoyed October through March again, which was kind of like...

But then I was transferred back to Austin a few years later, and by December, I was thinking like...

I have a moral duty to:
Kill.  These. Damned. Trees.

The company transferred me back to Fort Worth; then off to grad school in Wisconsin; back to Fort Worth; off to California; and back near Fort Worth again. 

Then, ten years ago, I was back in Austin, and the first October, I was like...

We have a moral duty to make these trees suffer!

By February, I was like...

My God!  The trees are attacking!

And like...

If war is what these trees want, then...

But after ten years of this, I'm like...

Gotta go!  We're doomed!

20 December 2014

Day 35

Seven weeks since my sixteen year old daughter died in a traffic accident.  I haven't gone a day without crying.

Friends and family are gently seeking to "socialize" me-- get me out and around people. 

I have, kind of/sort of, gotten used to tearing up without warning.  Sunglasses and/or an escape route into privacy are my best tools.  Earlier in the week, I grabbed a tissue and muttered under my breath as I wiped my eyes, "A lot of Gabriella in the air today."

I am trying to focus on other things.

I need people.  I need relationships.  I need to get out of my own mind, out of my own inner dialogue.  It is nice and orderly in my mind, and I like it; but I have a heart that needs to be fed by contact with others.


I begin psyching myself up for the upcoming Christmas break and holidays, starting (more or less) with Friday night.

Here is how that went...

AUSTIN, 5:28pm:

Friday night and I am coasting-- or trying to.
Office party tonight, friend's birthday party tomorrow night.
Pleased that I have:
* one reindeer antler on my car (found in road-- symbolizes both Christmas and that I have been in battle!)
* one Rudolf nose (also found in road-- different road-- same day) which my Yoda Christmas ornament hanging from my rear view mirror is currently wearing, and
* a string of white "Advent Lights" draped from sun visor to hand holds across ceiling of my car-- and which drew a laugh from a passing APD officer on my way home from work today.
Just loaded rowdy "Christmas" music on my iPad.
One light day of work left (Monday) and then I disappear into family for few days.
Drinking coffee, now, after five in the afternoon, to shift to a more casual schedule that allows for PEOPLE in my life. I like people-- from what I recall.

AUSTIN, 9:27pm:

So, arriving for the school's office party, wearing my best grin, best suit, flashy tie, I get out of my one-antlered car (with reindeer-nosed Yoda) and overhear four teachers energetically getting out of a pickup truck when one proclaims, "Party time!" with something of a roar.

Intending irony, and teasing about the normal harried quietness I usually see of the teachers arriving at the school, I answer with my own low drawl (which I usually mask, but lapse into when I am tired-- or sad) not far from as "the Stranger" in the Big Lebowski would say it, "You don't know how often I hear that... in this teachers' parking lot... at seven AM... Monday through Friday."

It was a good attempt, and got the laugh and the grins which I was mining for. Two steps later, a hug, and, "I am so sorry, I heard about your daughter... etc., etc. etc."

All. The. Way. To. The. Door.

You know that smell, probably burning calcium, when the dentist is drilling on your tooth? If a moment had a smell, that was probably it.

"Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes... well... he eats you."

I swear, as I table-hopped for the next hour, I never heard so many stories from so many parents with tales of their fifteen or sixteen year old daughters at Christmas.

Okay, I get that they see me and it scares them; and so NEED to talk about what a precious treasure they have. But...

Damn bear.

11 October 2014

Economic Inequity of US Social Engineering

2013 Divorced Family Example

  • Two children
  • Each parent earning $15.00 an hour (full-time)
  • Male paying 40% of income in child support

Here are the numbers using IRS 1040 Tax Filing and Federal Poverty Level guidelines:

Line Entries
(1040 Line Numbers)
paying 40% Child support
Female receiving that child support
Gross Income (Line 38)
Standard Deduction (40)
(Line 41)
Exemptions (42)
Net Taxable Income (43)
Tax: (44)
Child Tax Credit (51)
Tax Paid
Net Income (Gross minus Tax)
Child Support
Actual Income:
Federal Poverty Level

(is based on Net Taxable Income AND number in household, not Actual Income)
Below Poverty Level
Qualifies for Subsidies

The inequity, of course, is that the tax code (nor qualification for subsidies formula) factor child support -- paid or received-- at any point.

For a male, child support PAID is considered by both tax code and qualification formulas for assistance as INCOME.

For a female, child Support RECEIVED is not calculated, at all.

Rather, having primary custody—even if only one day more than the male-- exempts her income from any tax, while qualifying her for assistance.

Why is this so?

24 August 2014

Titan IIIC Night Launch from film "Marooned"

The Internet is full of bad information, and you have to be really picky to care enough to try and correct it, but this one is a labor of love.

Many film sites make mention of a "goof" or "continuity error" in the 1968 film, Marooned

The film of the rescue craft sitting on the launch pad is clearly a Titan IIIC; but the launch sequence is often claimed to be a Titan II, without the strap-on solid rocket boosters (SRB) attached.

Space exploration enthusiasts know the Titan II well, both as America's Cold War era Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and, moreover, as the launch vehicle which put all of the Gemini astronauts in orbit.

Here are simple, single barrel, Titan II rockets in both ICBM and Gemini configurations at launch:

Titan II - ICMB launch.
Titan II -- Gemini launch

Now, in Marooned, the launch sequence provides two problems for us.  First, it is a rare night launch.  There were only three, and that makes it difficult to see the details.  Second, the camera is positioned in-line with the roll-away tower, so the view is across the line of boosters, rather than perpendicular to the line.

Two scaled screen shots from the film, Marooned:
Left:  Titan IIIC on the pad, from oblique angle.
Right: Titan IIIC at launch.

 At first, we only notice the slim single barrel of the Titan II; but next we can make out the red (or orange) painting of the TVC tank.  No Titan II ever carried an external TVC tank, much less a red one. 

Watching the video, that red band on the tank moves with the rocket from the moment of launch-- it is not part of the launch tower.

On closer inspection we can also see not one, but two nose-cones.  We see the nosecone on top of the main booster-- but we also see, lower down, the top of the shorter SRB.

We can also match the black striping; which matches the Titan IIIC configuration-- but that also nearly matches Titan II striping such as can be seen in the Gemini launch photo already shown.

Finally-- and if you are already something of a rocket nerd-- the most obvious proof that the launch is of a Titan IIIC is the exhaust plume. 

Liquid fuel rockets (such as the Titan II) do not blow bright yellow exhaust plumes.  A Titan II's plume (as can be seen in the first two images) is nearly invisible, very narrow, and slightly blue.

The central unit of the Titan III is a Titan II, but the main booster's plume is overwhelmed by the always grandiose plumes of the strap-on SRBs.

So what?

There are two reasons to make note of this film sequence.

To begin with, we have a very rare, and very dramatic film of a Titan IIIC night launch, and even better-- it was recorded using cinematographic equipment, because it was recorded for a major motion picture.

Also, we have a mystery... 

We do not know which of three Titan IIIC night launches we are witnessing on the screen.

There were three night launches of the Titan IIIC, 28-Apr-1967; 26-Sep-1968; and 23-May-1969-- as the film was released in late 1969, this could be any one of those.

Here is the lowered quality video than the film or DVD would provide:

I am uncertain if the first two clips of the nosecone are actual closeups of the launched craft or if they are of a mock-up. 

Marooned is a 1969 Columbia Pictures film, and the cinematographic quality of the shots of the Titan suggest that this is not "stock footage" and so is not in public domain.  Therefore, this is offered under "Fair Use" but with due credit to:

Columbia Pictures;
M. J. Frankovich, Producer;
Daniel Fapp, Director of Photography; and
W. Wallace Kelley, Director of Photography, 2nd Unit

27 January 2014

An Open Letter to Fundamentalists -- Duck Dynasty

I takes me a while to remember that Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, hold legalistic understanding devoid of spirituality, because legalism is all they crave for their cultures.  There is no room for the mystical, or the transcendent in Fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism is new to Christianity, and the result of a separation from the mystical, spiritual, and historical Church.

I am reminded of a title of a C.S. Lewis book: Your God is Too Small.

Legalism makes enemies of all who are unlike yourself, and that cannot be reconciled with a Gospel of "Good News" or what God has revealed of Himself in the New Covenant-- much less what He accomplished on the Cross.

The Bible is not a weapon, and if you insist on using it as such, there ought to be a "Conceal and Carry" law regulating who is authorized to use it.

You protest against gays at the grave side services of veterans and before their bereaved families and friends.  You seek to LEGISLATE your faith so as to FORCE others to accept it.

Yet, the human soul is attracted to God by its own nature.  While sin separates us, as does death, God the Son has provided a means to overcome all which separates us from Him.

The journey of such a soul, however, finds it very difficult to find that journey toward God inside a Church whose members and leaders would seek to block them from entrance-- intent on denying them access to grace.  That is the failure of Fundamentalism.

To such, knowing Church history, the development of Christian theology, the great and early saints and theologians who fought against heresy, endured persecution, and passed on the teachings of the Apostles-- some before the Christian Bible even existed-- is a dangerous thing to be avoided.

But study these things, some of us do-- most of the Church does.  The vast majority of the Church is engaged in theological dialogue with one another.  The Fundamentalists except themselves-- deny themselves a place at the table by their refusal to read and study what the Church has always said about the faith.

So "God became man so that man[kind] might become God" is an alien expression  to the Fundamentalist?  I have yet to find one who even knows this, THE fundamental statement encompassing the Gospel and the Christian faith.

So are the Three Creeds (Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian) and the Definition of Chalcedon-- all historic attempts by the educated leaders in attempt to preserve the authentic faith from before there was a canon of Christian scripture.

Such scholarship was used by the ancient Church to determine which, of many, sacred writings were authentic-- either written by Apostles, or by those who studied under one of the Apostles.  Prior to that, the traditions had been passed down from bishop to bishop-- each accountable to the other, and none presuming that their own own private interpretations could negate the rest of the Church.

That requires extraordinary faith... plus discipline and study.  Those who lack any of those requirements will dismiss all scholarship and therefore be unable to draw persons to Christ as He charged the Church to do.

You may draw some to the Bible, but the Bible is not Christ.  You may draw them to legalism, but legalism is not Christ.

The teachings of the ancient and undivided Church are not Christ, either, but they are the fullest expression of what He taught and desires for us-- but you would not learn them-- and accuse, berate, and abuse those who do.

Christianity is a broad and deep faith, while some show only a familiarity with the Bible-- estranged from the discussion of the much greater, much richer fullness of  the faith.

It frightens you only because it is unknown to you-- but that is your choice.  The Apostles knew it, and their successors knew it-- and it was dangerous for them, too.  As you see, it is dangerous for non-Fundamentalists to study it as well... but that, too, is by your choice.

Becoming a Man -- According to Women and Boys.

Manhood, as opposed to being a boy in the 'hood.
I submit "urban youth" (the visual identity in the video): a euphemism for teenage boys living in a matriarchal society-- and if so, who is defining "being a man": for them?  Their mothers, their female teachers, or other teenage boys?

I had a father.  I know what a man is, what a man does-- and it compares poorly with what mothers, female teachers, and teenage boys claim a man to be.