Sunday, January 30, 2005

I was at NERVA

I was regaling Janet today with stories about how the Atomic Energy Commission nearly bought the largest air pollution system ever conceived of from UOP Air Correction, because they were afraid to ask Congress for funds to build a new cheese factory. They were running the NERVA project (Nuclear Engine for Vehicular Rocket Application), which involved building nuclear reactors which had a design life of 40 minutes, during which time, they were supposed to accelerate a space ship, headed for Mars, up to full speed. The testing was done at Jackass Flats, NV.

In 1964, or thereabouts, they had completed tests of the first, quarter scale, prototype, NERVA I, and test fired it by pumping 12,500 gallons per minute of liquid hydrogen through the reactor and discharging it into the air like the biblical pillar of fire. The discharge was, of course, radioactive, as it had bits and pieces of the reactor in it. They were able to predict where the fallout would land and contaminate the grass which dairy cattle ate. The AEC was able to collect all of the milk produced by cows who ate the radioactive grass, and replace it with milk they purchased from outside the state. They then made cheese out of the radioactive milk, stored it for a couple of years until the radioactivity decreased sufficiently, and then gave it to the US Army.

They came to UOP for an air pollution control device, which would have been truly enormous, when they planned NERVA II, twice as large as NERVA I. The contaminated milk supply was expected to exceed the capacity of the AEC cheese factory, and they didn't think Congress would react well to a request for a new cheese plant.

I got to go out and visit their Science Fiction-like installation, and watch them test some components. We didn't get to sell them the big air pollution control machine, as Congress cut NERVA II out of the budget the following year, and plans to send a rocket ship to Mars were abandoned.

Janet found the following web cite with information on this interesting project. http://area51specialprojects.com/nerva.html

http://www.aemann.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/spacecraft/nerva/reactor.html

Monday, January 31, 2005

Pat goes to Jefferson City

Pat Jackson joined the Board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation chapter last week, taking over the job that her husband, Tom, has been doing for some time. Her new job started having responsibilities right away.

Pat writes that the state of Missouri is considering passing a law that would outlaw a particular form of stem cell research that Pat thinks is critical to one of the approaches to curing diabetes. The bill,  MO SB 160,  would prohibit early stage stem cell research, and make it a class B felony. She is taking a bus there today, with the intention of making a statement at the hearing if it is possible, although comments from the public aren't being solicited. However, there is provision for spectators, so she is going to spectate for sure, and orate if possible.

Pat sent a copy of the statement she plans to make if she gets a chance to so so. It is attached here as Pat's Statement.

Alex accepted at Marmion

John writes that  both Alex and Anna made the honor roll again. However, the news he was excited about was that Alex was accepted by Marmion Academy in Aurora. Marmion is the Catholic High School in Aurora. It has a good reputation, and the students have much higher test scores than those in the public shcools in St. Charles. John says, "It probably helps a lot to have a priest in the family. Because there were so few openings for non legacy kids I called Father Paul to ask for any suggestions or ideas to enhance Alex's chances. Paul made some phone calls and said he would pray for Alex."

John says he and Alex completed another four hour SCUB diving class yesterday. He says it wore him out, but it was fun. He and Alex have one more pool class left to go. Then they will go to Florida to Crystal River, where they will swim with dolphins for their open water dives, which constitute a sort of final exam for SCUBA divers.

Hundred Dollar Hamburger

Today was a pretty day, for a change, so I went out to exercise the 414. It has been getting a lot of inattentiaon lately.

There is a tradition amongst pilots that, when they don't have any other reason to fly, they can always go somewhere else to get a Hamburger for lunch. The Hundred Dollar Hamburger, is a phrase from a long time back, when Avgas was a lot cheaper than it is now. Or, maybe the hamburger restaurants at airports were closer together than they are now.

Anyway, I flew to Ryan Airport in Tuscon, where I taxied about 3 miles to Todd's Restaurant, which has a large parking lot with one line of parking spaces for cars and another for airplanes. Someone has, conveniently, painted a blue line starting right next to the runway, and leading to the other side of the field, past the control tower, amongst the hangars, and ultimately, into the restaurant parking lot.

I didn't have an expensive hamburger. I did have an expensive Spanish Omelet. Good, too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Pat back from Jeff City

Pat Jackson got back from Jefferson City at about 2:45  AM this morning, after a rigorous day in the legislative process. Apparently, they had a full agenda without her testimony.

She says that last night the "experts" testified. There was a Doctor/Scientist from the Anti-Research side, and two Doctor/Scientists from the pro-research side of the issue. There was also an expert on ethics, who was really an attorney, but he had written a book on the ethics of science. Both sides made irrefutable arguments that somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which Pat feels is essential to the Diabetes research, is immoral and destructive of human life, or that it is essential to the preservation of human life, particular particularly for people with Juvenile Diabetes.

iraqui's on their way

Well, the Iraqui's have had their election, and so far it seems to have come out OK. However, I think we have probably mislead them about the benefits of free elections and a Republican form of government (we do not really have a democratic form of government either). The main problem with electing officials to represent you in the legislative and executive branches of government is that the people who are interested in getting elected are those who want to help us with things. Even the most slovenly government people want to improve things, and are not willing to leave well enough alone.

Using the US as their model, the Iraqis will probably try to catch up with us by writing new laws like crazy. Or, they could short cut the process and simply order a complete set of the Code of Federal Regulations from the US Government Printing Office. The latest set they have available is from 2001, but it is a bargain.

"Code of Federal Regulations by subject area
Save hours of research time! The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) gives you the definitive text of Federal regulatory laws that affect your interests. An annual cumulative codification of rules and regulations published in the Federal Register, the complete CFR contains 50 titles and approximately 900 volumes. Choose the individual titles that apply to your business or organization or order the complete 2001 set.

        S>N 869-044-00000-8

        Price $1094.00"

The Iraqis could then just vote to accept them all at once, and be completely up to date.

Or, they might just use some common sense and try to keep things simple.

 Foolish Mountains

Our house faces black mountain, in Carefree, which isn't much of a mountain. However on the other side are the Tontos, which are considerably more impressive. Janet says the name means "stupid" in Spanish, and this is an apt name, because they are within the Tonto National Forest, which is a stupid forest, as it has no trees.

As I am always meticulous about such things, I checked her out by looking the definition of the word up on the Internet. Of course, I spelled it wrong (no one is perfect) and, instead, looked up Tanto, which is also a perfectly good word that means pretty much "or so". Or, it is the word for a traditional knife carried by Samurai warriors, or it could be the Buddhist master of a house of meditation.

While I was looking, I found a reference site dedicated to the Lone Ranger, who had a faithful Indian companion named Tonto, and the author of the site also spelled the name wrong. He said Tanto meant "wild or crazy". Also, he said that Kemosabe was an Algonquin word which meant trusted scout or friend.

My advice is not to believe anything anyone says if they cannot spell correctly. Except me, of course.

News from Judy

Judy Korynasz writes that she has been too busy to write, up until now.

She has her mother Charlotte visiting her, and a still relatively new grandson, Gabriel Francis Reid, who was born to Judy's daughter Jill and her husband Bill Reid on August 6th, 2004.

Now that Judy and Koke live in Portland, they are handy to the Reids, and see a lot of the little one. Charlotte is particularly enjoying her great grandson.

Gabriel will be six months old on February 6, and he makes it difficult for Judy to concentrate on anything else. He is acting like a regular baby, and turns over, walks with assistance, and sings when sung to. Maybe the singing is a little out of the ordinary. She didn't say how good he was at carrying a tune.

Gabriel Francis seems to be enjoying Christmas in the photo with great grandmother, Charlotte.

 

Correlation?

Janet saw three of some kind of animal in the arroyo in front of our house yesterday. She did not get a clear sight of them, but from the movement of the bushes, she deduced that there were three of them. She checked out the area where she had seen them, and found some feathers that looked like they were not left there voluntarily by a bird, so she suspected foul play.

This afternoon, while Dolores was sunning on the patio, she saw three sleek coyotes in the arroyo. She defined "sleek" as being on the thin side. At least it sounds like they had lunch yesterday.

 

Not fair, but nice

Janet planned dinner this evening around getting rid of part of a pineapple in the refrigerator. Instead of getting Pizzafarro's pizza brought in, which she would have preferred, she got out a steak for me, and hot dogs for her and Dolores, to go with the pineapple.

I enjoyed my steak very much. However, I felt like I was taking advantage, having a steak that cost $8.00, while each of them had a hot dog that cost twenty five cents. Well, maybe $0.30 when you count the bun. Rank has its privileges.

On the other hand, I felt very virtuous, eating a steak with zero carbs, and a slice of pineapple for dinner. It is not often you can indulge yourself and feel virtuous at the same time.

No Golf - my fault

I screwed up and did not make a golf tee time early enough to accomodate my recent golf partners, Larry Stine and Greg Likus. Larry made us a reservation for Friday at the course near his house. I said I would try to make a tee time reservation for today at some place near Carefree.

The place we played last week isn't available as we got by at half price, and it was still expensive (twice as much as the average course around Chicago charges). However, they are back up to their regular prices, which are four time the Chicago average. This is a little steep for our group.

So, I tried another nearby course, Rancho Maana, which was recommended to me. It turns out they have a strange sliding scale, which starts at $135 per person per round for tee off times before 1:00 PM, $85 from 1:00 PM until 2:00 PM, and only $45 after 2:00 PM. They are getting down into our price range after 1:00 PM, but Larry likes to start earlier, and I figured I would have to talk to him before signing us up. By the time I reached him, both he and Greg had made other plans.

So, I got a day to catch up on things at home.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Tom and Chris on TV

Pat wrote this morning that she got a call saying that a Doctor from Washington University, Dr. Steve Teitlebaum who testified in Jefferson City, wanted a family involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to be interviewed on the TV news channel there, and asking Pat's family to participate. She agreed, except that she has to stay in Hazelwood for a City Council meeting. However, Tom and Chris could go.

So, this morning, Pat called Chris' school's district media relations person and got permission for Chris to participate. Tom and Chris met with Charles Jaco from the TV station this morning.

Tom left from there to take his statement on Stem Cell Reserach to Jeffereson City, where Tom will make his own statement  and read Pat's statement into the record concerning the criminalization of particular. Pat sent another version of her remarks, which are attached as page two of the attachment.

Pat wrote today that the interview went well.

Oldies but goodies

John gave me a little portable XM satellite radio receiver for Christmas. The receiver itself is simple enough, but it came with about 15 pieces and parts aimed at equipping the owner to operate the radio while sitting at a desk, with a stationary indoor antenna and mounting bracket speaker cable and charger, riding in a car, with a different antenna, power supply and bracket, and also while walking, with a belt clip, portable clip-on antenna and earphones.

I opted to try the walking version first, which turns out to be the only one that has some irritating characteristics. The little portable antenna is the weak point, as, if it is on the wrong side of your body, you get no signal. Also, if you walk under a tree, you get no signal.

Today, I had planned to drive to the Paradise Valley Mall, and tried out the XM radio in the car. Works like a charm, no matter which way the car is headed.

 I listened to the 40s music channel most of the way there and back, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It also works very well with the stationary antenna inside the house. It turns out I like 40s music (from when I was in 8th grade in grammar school, through high school, and college) to music from the 50s (starting to work, getting married and having children) and later.

I know all the words to all the songs that were even marginally popular in the 40s. I think Alzheimer's must have started to set in very gradually around 1950, and the result is that I don't know the words to any current songs.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Josh Jackson surgery today

Josh Jackson went in for knee surgery this morning to get his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damage repaired. We haven't heard how his operatin come out, but we are presuminb it went well. I am inclined to expect an acceptable outcome, while Dolores is inclined to believe the worst possible outcome. So she suffered through the day, as though she were undergoing the surgery.

Susan, Dan and Jimmy Return

without having heard from Sue and Dan and Jimmy about how things were going in Guatemala.

While Dolores and I were out for dinner this evening, Susan called from the Atlanta Airport, where they were sitting out a three hour stopover on the way back from Antigua to Syracuse. Susan says the trip went well, and that Carolina is beautiful. When I called Janet to see if she wanted us to bring her anything for dinner, she relayed the information to me, and I, in turn told Dolores. Janet chewed me out for failing to put the proper emphasis on words like "beautiful". Susan is obviously impressed with the appearance of her new daughter, and conveyed her enthusiasm to Janet, who conveyed it to me. I, apparently, did not do a proper job of relaying it to Dolores.

I am glad the Blacks had a good trip to Guatemala, and glad they were able to get out alive once more.

Susan sent us a bunch of photos on Saturday, and I squeezed some in at the last minute at the bottom of the newsletter.

Speaking of Surgery...

My Cousin, Peggy Collins, called today. This is a real event, as I haven't heard from Peggy in years. Peggy is the daughter of my Uncle Vinas (my father's younger brother) and Aunt Elsie. Peggy is a couple of years younger than my cousin George Hardison, who is a couple of years younger than me, so we didn't hang out together all that much.

George has kept me somewhat up to date on Peggy's condition, which has been between bad and dire over the past few years. However, Peggy seems to be recovering. What happened to her was that she had liver cancer, and when she was operated on to remove the tumor, the surgeon inadvertantly made a hole in her colon. Peggy nearly died. In fact, during one of the four additional surgeries she had to undergo to correct the colon problem, she was clinically dead several times. Peggy says she is getting better, as the visiting nurse has stopped coming our daily.

Peggy called today to get my sister Ida's phone number in Woodland Hills, CO. Peggy read in her Christmas Newsletter that her husband, Bill, had cancer, and I think she wanted to give him some moral support. I was able to tell her that Bill's Prostate Cancer seems to have been cured by his radiation treatments, and that he and Ida are planning to come out to Surprise, AZ for the rest of the winter next week some time.

It was good to hear from Peggy, and to learn that her physical condition is improving.

Chocolate Chicken

After Dolores' weekly appointment with the hair dressing ladies, we went out for dinner. This wouldn't be newsworthy, except that it has been several weeks since Dolores felt up to going out for dinner, so it was something of an occasion.

We went to El Encanto, a fairly nice Mexican restaurant, which features a pond with ducks and geese in the center of their patio.

I had Chicken Mole, which was pretty good. Mole sauce is made with chocolate, and chocolate chicken doesn't sound very good. However, it is not sweet at all, so it is hard to believe that the unusual flavor is chocolate. I enjoyed the food and the pleasure of Dolores' company.

As we left the restaurant, a young girl in the car parked next to us got a phone call notifying her that she had been awarded a Fullbright scholarship covering her full tuition and room and board as ASU for four years. she could hardly contain herself.

Friday,  February 4, 2005

Diana Surgery today

Diana Hardison was due to go in this morning for hemorrhoid surgery. Paul called on the way there this morning to bring us up to date. William will be staying with Diana's mother while this goes on.

Pat reported that Josh's surgery yesterday was completed on schedule, and he almost immediately got the flu. She said his knee pain was running around level 3, whereas the stomach pain that went with the flu was level 5. He was discharged from the hospital today, with the comment that they did not want his flu germs in the hospital. Pat says he got essentially no sleep last night, and she didn't do much better.

Chris Jackson also has the flu, and it is considerably more serious for him because of his diabetes. Pat said he had to go to the emergency room this afternoon because he was dehydrated and making ketones.

Golf, but no flying

This morning dawned bright and clear, and I had a 9:20 AM date with Larry Stine to play golf out in Sun City West. As Larry had mentioned that he would enjoy going flying with me some time, it looked like an ideal day to take a "$100 hamburger" trip up to Sedona with Larry. I went to the golf course with a flight plan all worked out and approach plates for both the Sedona Airport and  Deer Valley.

The golfing started out under bright sun, but it was very windy. As the morning wore on, the wind died off, making the golfing easier. Also, the sky became overcast. This also makes the the golfing easier. However, flying around in the mountains in the clouds is not much fun, so we put the Sedona trip off until the weather improves.

In addition to Larry, Karl Otto, another UOP alumnus also played with us. For a change, I was not the highest scoring golfer in the group.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Diana Surgery over, things looking up

Diana is through with her surgery and safely ensconced at her mother's house for recuperation. They were going to keep her at the hospital if she had excessive bleeding after the surgery, so the fact that she isn't there is encouraging.

Pat Jackson called this morning to say her boys are both out of the woods, flue-wise. Chris and Tom were at the hospital until 1:00 AM this morning, but Chris is doing better, and they expect his ketones to go down now. Josh hopefully finished throwing up this morning, and is no longer in dire straits.

Susan writes that Jimmy still has diarrhea but that he isn't vomiting any more. She says her own diarrhea is subsiding. she didn't even mention that she had it too when telling us about Jimmy being sick.

WE seem to be avoiding the serious medical problems, and Dolores and Janet just have regular colds. I have dodged both kinds of bullets for a while, and am embarrassed by my good health.

Janet on Entropy

Janet is a great believer in rising entropy as the cause of much of the evil in the world. She now believes that mid-February is a particularly bad time, entropy-wise, but that we are fortunate here in Arizona. While the weather is not perfect here, it is at least not catastrophically bad, and somehow that has mitigated our entropy problems. She and Dolores still have lingering colds, but at least they don't have the flu.

Dead Soldier

We are surrounded by stately saguaro cacti, which are impressive in a number of ways. Mainly, the thing that is remarkable about them is how long they live. They are the giant redwoods of the desert, and often live for over 200 years. Typically, they don't get branches until they are  50 years old or more.

One of our neighboring saguaros has been ill recently. I am not so sensitive to such things, but Janet has observed its precarious health while out walking in the arroyo, and noted that it looked like it might fall over on her. This one wasn't the biggest one around by a long shot, and probably wasn't over 150 years old. Still an impressive age, if it got its branches long before I was born.

Today, the old fellow passed on. Or, at least Janet discovered that it was gone. No question about its demise. Apparently, during the high winds yesterday morning, it keeled over,  and the roots came up our of the ground. Jan pronounced it DOA this afternoon.

Cali Photos

Susan sent us a bunch of photos taken while she was visiting Cali, their new daughter. in Guatemala. The photos take up a lot of band width, so I have reduced a few of them for inclusion here, and I will try to put the whole album on a separate page tomorrow. Sue's contention that Cali is beautiful is reasonably well borne out by the photos

You can expand any of these photos to their original size by clicking on them.