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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.

Abortion Issue-- A Solution?

Brit Hume starts the conversation, but does not dig deeper (so we will): (if it cannot be embedded)

First, if we know where babies come from, then we also know where the "choice" is to be made-- and was made.

Second, if we do not know when a human life begins (Feeling pain? Consciousness? Incarnate soul?), then we err on the side of caution.

Third, as a pregnancy out of wedlock is potentially two very negative things: A traumatizing social stigma and and an economic disaster. Morally and ethically, we do not get to choose to murder (see second item) to avoid these negatives.

Fourth, the baby also recognizes the father's voice! That baby is every bit the choice of the father as it was the choice of the mother (see first item).

Fifth, "conformation bias" when making a decision when in a social or economic crisis (see third item) is not necessarily forever. That is, women who have chosen to abort, often accuse themselves of murder afterward. And that has devastating traumatic effects upon the psyche.

Ask any priest, ask any psychological counselor, ask any therapist.  An abortion is one of the most common self-traumatizing regrets heard from women.

In other words, if we do not know if the fetus is a human person or not, and make a decision we later regret in the case of abortion, that action is equivocal to murder which is a far greater trauma to carry than social and economic trauma.

So it is that, outside of a spiritual life, the typical reaction to choosing an abortion is to accept, as FACT, that the abortion did not take a human life. Guilt avoidance will not allow but the most introspective to even begin to consider that one perpetrated an unimaginable horror on another for the shallowest of reasons-- the ultimate betrayal of their own nature.

This then, leads to a person's determination to deny that anyone has a soul, that anyone rightly has spiritual thoughts, that anyone matters-- including themselves.

Police State-- We Do Not Need More Cops If We Have to Hire Bad Ones.

I ran across this video, doing the ghastly work of sifting through reports found at The CATO Institute.

As the Boy Scouts, churches, and other organizations have so painfully learned, predators are attracted to careers and work which put them in power positions over their prey.  When are the Police recruiters going to do the same?

The police need to be hunting the predators who carry badges-- it is not like the good ones do not have some idea of what behavior marks a predator as such.

No one wants to be a "snitch" but we must protect the innocent from predators. 

In the Church, we are trained to look for signs.  We keep a silent suspicion of anyone volunteering to work with youth, for example.  We check everyone through the Texas DPS sexual predator website (and most states have something similar).  We do background checks and require volunteers to then take the same courses so that we are all watchdogs-- sheepdogs, really-- who know the wolves are out there.  Moreover, cergy are subjected to a battery of psychological tests and profiling, before being ordained-- because they are expected to be the chief shepherd).

I imagine, that the officers who work with the predator seen in that video had been suspicious of that man prior to this, but (as extreme as it is) it is becoming increasingly common.  I have never heard of a policeman being terminated because his peers suspect he manifests traits of a predator.  Why?

And, by the way, if you hear a police officer yell, "Stop resisting!"  You better be watching.  Do not assume the person was resisting.  I have seen that tactic used twice on a perfectly peaceful and complaint person being arrested.  If you can safely do so, especially from a distance, it is a good idea to make it a routine to video any arrest you witness being made.

13 January 2014

Favorite GIF images

Every now and then I run across a .gif image which interests me.  Here is my little collection of favorites...

Trampolining Pachyderm

Big Help

Longest NFL Field-goal

Man versus Cedar trees

Never liked that bunny anyway.


No Hand Up for You

Transmission Skipper


Goat Rider

I just want my tire

Shell Game

Unloading the Space Shuttle into ISS

Type one sentence...
using every letter in the alphabet!

05 January 2014

The Fall -- Three Stories

This fascinates for several reasons...

Of course, the real comedy is when the would-be rescuer,
at the very end, closes the hatch on the victim.

My first thought was of my own similar experience.

I was walking around a World War II era building at a municipal airport on a hot Summer's day in Texas.  It had recently been annexed to house an Air Force Auxiliary (a. k. a., "CAP") Air Search and Rescue squadron to which I was attached as a Chaplain, and I had just returned from admiring a plane once owned by John Wayne-- the owner-pilot proud and wanting to show it off.

In my case, there was no open hole, but the ground simply gave way.  The grass had just been mowed, which made it all the more amazing that the weight of the riding lawn mower had not resulted in that machine and its driver breaking through, but all 170 pounds of me was enough to do it.  The grass below my left foot simply did not have anything under it, and (just as the man in the gif image above is seen to do) I fell forward as I dropped down.

Instinctively, I threw my arms out and forward, and managed to dig my fingers into the grass, leaving a hole even larger than the one in that image behind me.  There was nothing under me.  My legs and feet swung free.  There was no one in sight, but I knew there were several person in the squadron HQ.  When I pulled myself forward, the ground at my chest fell away, so I clung to grass and called out, "Help!  I need some help!"

About half a dozen persons appeared in a moment and grabbed me by my arms and by the collar of my suit, lifting me up and onto a not so firm ground.   It was creepy.  Peering down, we saw only blackness.

Since most of our squadron was cross-trained and qualified for ground search operations, someone was able to produce yellow, "Do Not Cross" tape from their field kit, and cordoned-off the area.  Airport personnel later reported that the concrete roof of a long abandoned and forgotten cistern or septic tank had collapsed, but left the few inches of earth and turf above it... until I passed over.

My second thought was a vision I had as I started my senior year in college.

I have had visions (a. k. a., spiritual experiences or religious experiences) as a somewhat regular part of my life, and some of my earliest memories are of them.  So it was not a surprise that I was having a vision, but the content always surprised me.

Since about the age of ten years, I had known, or at least strongly suspected, I was called to be a Priest. That was fine except for the fact that I did not want to be a Priest.  That calling or vocation probably, but not necessarily, had to do with why I was so often given visions; although at the time of this vision, none had anything to do with my being ordained a priest.

Working my way through college as a grave-yard-shift Computer Operator for IBM, I was about a year away from graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, and had it in my mind that I would probably become a technical sales person in some high-tech industry (which I ended up doing for a few years, by the way).

I had fallen in love with a beautiful woman two years before, and had just ended up on the receiving end of her own repressed trauma-- a horrifying tale she had not shared with me, and the relationship disintegrated... out from under my feet... as she lashed out at the world in rage.  I was just her nearest (albeit, undeserving) target.

Meanwhile, a series of short, very un-dramatic spiritual experiences which do not really qualify as "visions" were peppering me on a regular basis with the central thought of them being (and I paraphrase the content with intended humor), "Get thee to seminary!"  They upset me.  As I said, I did not want to be a priest.

On the advice of my father and with his assistance, I quit working, got an apartment next to campus, and threw myself into my studies as a means to escape the grieving of my lost love.  She had been my third love.  My first (and One. True. Love.) had also broken my heart.  My second ended when we went to different colleges after graduation from high school, also hurt.  So, this third represented an intolerable pattern.

To complicate things, I was aware that, while an Episcopal Priest can be married, it was normally only allowed if the person was already married when ordained.  Otherwise, an unmarried priest was expected to take a vow of celibacy.  A twenty-two year old, red blooded American male taking that vow?
Vow of Celibacy?
 Well, my normal routine was to get up early, fix coffee and breakfast, shower, go to early classes, finish at Noon, have a coffee while studying in the One O'Clock Lounge (home of the One O'Clock Lab Jazz Band) until the band played, chill while listening, and then do any library research, go home, eat lunch, complete all assignments, eat dinner, and start drinking to ward off feeling... anything.

So there I was at the start of the very last step of my daily routine when it hit me.  I sat down on the floor of the short hallway in my tiny apartment, closed my eyes and...

the carpeted floor of the hallway simply ceased to exist.  I fell.  I fell down a earthen shaft of unimaginable depth.  I was face down, and only saw the rough sides of the earth and rocks passing by at the very start of my fall, because in a moment, there was not any more light.  I fell and fell.  I merely sensed a bottom coming up to meet me.  Perhaps it was an acoustic reference that triggered that sense, but just before hitting the bottom, I heard a voice.  The voice said, "O God!" and, at that instant, my falling stopped.  I hung there for just a brief moment, aware that I might be able to touch the floor of the shaft if I reached out my arms.

I wondered about the voice and could still hear it-- in the way that you can be startled awake, find yourself in silence, but know the sound, or voice, which had caused you to start.  The voice had been my own-- except my mouth had been closed-- and still was.  And with that... 

I was back on the carpeted floor of the hallway.  Back in the dim light coming from the lamp on the end table next to the couch in the next room. My drink was sitting on the carpet next to me and I spoke before picking it up.

"God?  I really need someone to love, and to love me."

I picked up my drink and finished it before going to sleep on the couch.  I was woken the next (Saturday) morning by a knock on my door.  I answered to find the pretty girl from across the hall standing there in cut-off shorts and a top which was only hanging from one shoulder.  She said, "Hi, I live across the breezeway and decided I should introduce myself."

The third thought I had has to do with a huge problem we have in our culture, society and politics...

The problem is dispassion.  We do not hear the word often.  I can define it, but want to back into that definition.

An argument with a complete stranger and an argument with a beloved intimate are very different things. That difference is easy to see at work on the Internet.  "Trolls" will write the most offensive and dis-compassionate things about or at a perceived adversary.

Compare that to a disagreement with something one of your close friends posts on a social network, and the post contains an ideological statement with which you strongly disagree.  The arguments will be very different.

On a social network, it is not private, and you care about the other person's feelings even though you are at odds with them.

Now consider a private argument between newlyweds.  The disagreement takes on special meaning.  You face this person every day, and any disagreement may seem intolerable-- in part, because unless it is resolved, the sense of being at odds might just be forever.  So lovers argue passionately.  That is, they care.  It matters-- and the other person matters.

Passion, literally means "suffering."   We suffer for one another in the sense of desire,  We suffer against one another in the sense of disagreements.  It is not a terribly complicated concept as long as you are aware of it being at work in yourself and in your beloved intimate.
If you love someone and they love you, your arguments are going to have every bit of the passion as does your desire for one another.

With that in mind, this comes up (or ought to) in discussions about a particular form of poverty:  Homelessness.

The statistics for causes of homelessness are difficult to compile.  Somewhere around here, I have a US Federal Government form used to gather statistics about the causes and to be asked by the interviewer while conduction an annual homeless census.

The form has a short list of items to offer a homeless man or woman in an interview, and there is no provision for answers which do not match the multiple choices provided.  Basically, the question asked "To what do you attribute your homelessness?"

Off the top of my head, the allowed answers were:
- Alcohol/Substance abuse
- Bad decisions
- Criminal record
- Dropped out of school
- Excess debt
- Inability to keep a job
- Mental Illness
- Physical handicap

Having worked intimately with many of the over 5,000 homeless in the Texas county where I live, I know the most common two answers are not allowed as an answer:

- Unjust divorce settlement
- Unexpected job loss
- Employed but cannot support self due to high child-support

But the overarching reason for which we have any homeless at all is... that the people closest to he homeless person, before they became homeless, did not care.

I do not mean, "did not care enough."  I mean, "chose not to care at all."

That person had family, friends, and neighbors.  The vast majority had co-workers and/or faith organizations (e.g., church) to add to their relationships.  None of those cared.  There was no passion for the person.  Quite literally, no one in their lives thought the person important enough to them, to suffer for.

This, by the way, is one of the very first concepts a newly homeless person comes to realize.  They immediately come to the conclusion that they do not matter to anyone-- or at least not to anyone who was in a position to help.

As a result of this harsh realization, the only friends the homeless person makes are other helpless persons.

They trust no one who is able to help, because all of the person who they knew who were able to help them did not help.   It is an easy divider.  If someone has a good income, the homeless person knows, from hard won experience, that such a person will not help them (tossing a few coins their way on a busy sidewalk or at a busy traffic intersection excepted).

Now, we look at this from the other side.  We can forget the ideological bias of the survey questions.  It was a loaded question intended to assign blame and/or to justify funding of Federal programs.

Ask the persons who were in a position to help (e.g., offer a guest room or couch, offer a job) but chose not to do it.  They will tell you, "Well, I knew something was going on, but I didn't want to get involved."  You will hear a variation of that answer every time.   It is not "apathy."  It is lack of love, lack of passion, for the human person in their lives.

Now, watch that would-be rescuer in that gif image at the top of this post.

He sees the victim as he falls.  There is an initial, instinctive impulse to rush to the falling man's aid.

He opens the hatch and looks down and sees the man has fallen all he way to the bottom.  Then he does something that none of us want to accept.  He closes the hatch.  The initial, instinctive impulse drove the rescuer to act, but once the impulse was acted upon, the rescuer became a disinterested witness.

I once heard another priest describe the difference between love and being in love just that way.

We see someone who strikes us as previously unimaginably wonderful, and that initial, instinctive impulse causes us to act.  We are "in love."

But then comes the most human of work.  It is no longer an impulse, it is a mindfulness; and the action is no longer on impulse, but work.  It requires effort.  It requires passion.

Incidentally, that priest held that the initial impulse to love a person is a God-given grace-- not an instinct.  I believe he is right.

If we give a tenth of our earning to the "Save the Whales" organization because it is our passion, but close the hatch on someone we see who has fallen, we have not lived up to our humanity. We have, I fear, excused ourselves from the glory and honor of the term, "human."

But then, the root of the word, human, is "dirt."