Celebrating the Shuttles

On July 20, 1969, when I was working the midnight to noon shift at a local gas station to earn money for my last year in college. The owner had brought in a small black and white TV so I could watch a historic event.  That was when a man put his first step on the moon.  From that day forward I was hooked on space.  It is hard to believe that the computer I am now typing on has more power than all the computers on that spacecraft.

The space shuttles were an important part of the NASA program so I want to celebrate them with this post.  These pictures were taken in 2012 during our last venture into Washington DC.

 

As usual click on any pic here to see a larger slideshow view

We The People…

Political allegiance is proving to be the scourge of our times.  Too many people, including our elected representatives, have placed their allegiance to their party above everything else.  That is a dangerous place for a democracy to be.

At the very least, don’t the members of the House and Senate, who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, have an obligation to rebuke this president for his attacks on the press and free speech, both protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution?

source:  ‘Like, Really Smart’ – The New York Times

A year ago I would never have imagined that the Republican party would end up almost totally aligned with the narcissist occupying the Oval Office.  But then again, maybe they see the writing on the wall that shows them this may be their last chance to get their political agenda passed into law. The trouble with that is that surely they also see how easy it is for a future president to pretty much undo everything they might accomplish with this megalomaniac.  Do they really put him above the constitution that he so often maligns?

I see the next thing on the GOP agenda for this year is to take care of all those nasty “entitlements”. These are things like Social Security and Medicare for the aged and Medicaid and Food Stamps for the poor.  They say those programs must be cut in order to give more to the corporate elite who might then pass it on to the worker, not those who don’t hold jobs.  I don’t know how far they plan on taking the scheme but I doubt even they are stupid enough to think that if they take serious money from seniors they are cutting into a big part of their base.

Party over Politics and principles is probably the most misguided trend of our times.  “We the People” which are the first words of our Constitution is the bedrock of our democracy. When they disregard those words in favor of allegiance to party they are playing with the devil’s fire. Surely they know that? But, given what they have done to date, maybe not…

The Kingdom Of God… And Leo Tolstoy

I seem to be getting a bit of flack lately about my spiritual beliefs that run counter to most of the churches today. To help understand where I come from I am bringing back some quotes from Leo Tolstoy I used in 2012. They pretty much tell my story:

From: The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy  1894 

2018-01-17_14-58-50.pngBut Christ could not have founded the Church, that is, what we now understand by that word. For nothing like the idea of the Church as we know it now, with its sacraments, miracles, and above all its claim to infallibility, is to be found either in Christ’s words or in the ideas of the men of that time. The fact that men called what was formed afterward by the same word as Christ used for something totally different, does not give them the right to assert that Christ founded the one, true Church. Besides, if Christ had really founded such an institution as the Church for the foundation of all his teaching and the whole faith, he would certainly have described this institution clearly and definitely, and would have given the only true Church, besides tales of miracles, which are used to support every kind of superstition, some tokens so unmistakable that no doubt of its genuineness could ever have arisen. But nothing of the sort was done by him. And there have been and still are different institutions, each calling itself the true Church…..

It is terrible to think what the churches do to men. But if one imagines oneself in the position of the men who constitute the Church, we see they could not act differently. The churches are placed in a dilemma: the Sermon on the Mount or the Nicene Creed–the one excludes the other. If a man sincerely believes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Nicene Creed must inevitably lose all meaning and significance for him, and the Church and its representatives together with it. If a man believes in the Nicene Creed, that is, in the Church, that is, in those who call themselves its representatives, the Sermon on the Mount becomes superfluous for him. And therefore the churches cannot but make every possible effort to obscure the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, and to attract men to themselves. It is only due to the intense zeal of the churches in this direction that the influence of the churches has lasted hitherto.

Let the Church stop its work of hypnotizing the masses, and deceiving children even for the briefest interval of time, and men would begin to understand Christ’s teaching. But this understanding will be the end of the churches and all their influence. And therefore the churches will not for an instant relax their zeal in the business of hypnotizing grown-up people and deceiving children. This, then, is the work of the churches: to instill a false interpretation of Christ’s teaching into men, and to prevent a true interpretation of it for the majority of so- called believers.

Thomas Jefferson like Tolstoy created his own bible based almost totally on the words of Jesus. He also believed that Jesus came to earth with a clear message for us but after he left, men add a bunch of rules to make everything complicated. Both men attribute much of that to the Apostle Paul.  After diligently studying both men I have become aligned with them.  The Sermon on the Mount should be the primary thing that guides a Christian’s life, not a bunch of manmade rules.

Since God gave man free will, it is up to each of us to come to a personal understanding of him and for the things he wants us to accomplish while on this earth.

Liar Liar, Hair On Fire

I know I swore this kind of stuff off but here is a snippet that I just couldn’t resist posting.

I’m not much on hashtags but this one I couldn’t avoid inventing. #LLHOF perfectly describes this Time Magazine cover of January 23. The FactCheckers say that the current Oval Office occupant #COOO lied almost 2,000 times in his first year in office. I don’t know if that includes just his tweets but I’m sure it doesn’t include when he lies in the West Wing.

I wonder if all those who voted for him are holding him up as a shining example for their kids?

” If you practice and work very hard at lying, you too can grow up to be president”.

Liar Liar, Hair On Fire

 

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Paoli Wall

For this artsy Saturday, I wanted to give you something simple yet beautiful. While I was coming back from a three day RV trip to southern Indiana I stopped at Paoli Indiana for lunch. After eating I decided to take a short tour of this three-street town and came across this picture.  It may not be symmetrical but I love the patterns that came through so well in the afternoon sun. One of my Aspie traits is to see and appreciate pattern where others wouldn’t. I  guess this is one of them.

Paoli Indiana wall.jpg

I Am Stubbornly Determined…

2018-01-16_13-11-13The only way to keep your sanity in today’s political world is to keep away from it. The Oval Office occupant continues to show his vulgar racist side and daily proof that he is a very flawed individual. Congress continues to show us that the two existing governing parties hate each other and will never compromise on anything that makes the other look good. Trying to keep up with what is happening in that world will only result in depression and gloom.

Here is are a few more examples of the challenges from the New York Times:

Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?

Or, are we going to restore the distinction between excellence and mediocrity, truth and a lie?

Are we going to insist on the difference between a genuine expert and an ill-informed blow hard?

Are we going to restore the distinction between those institutions like the Congressional Budget Office that operate by professional standards and speak with legitimate authority, and the propaganda mills that don’t?

via The Decline of Anti-Trumpism – The New York Times

If we entirely disengage from these times we are basically saying that the vulgar, selfish, lying, narcissist side has won and is now the norm. That tenet is totally unacceptable to me and I hope to you.  So, what is a person to do?

For me personally, the answer seems to be to limit my exposure to this idiocy but to stay engaged in the battle.

  • I am determined to just quit following all the ugly twitter rages and much of the antagonizing reports of them anymore.
  • I am determined to take a drone level view from now on.
  • I am determined to not go down in the ditch with my opponents but instead stay above it.
  • I am determined to stay in the fight for America. I will do my part to not let these times kidnap the word “normal”.

This is a fine line I am trying to maintain but I don’t see any other alternative. I refuse to let fear and untruth take hold of my life or my country.

Nothing Lives..

For these “InSearchOfAmerica” pics I want to take you to the “Forty Mile Desert” leading into the Great Salt Lake.  The forty mile road was as straight as an arrow and there was absolutely nothing living there. It was an eerie place.

Salt Lake

 

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The “10%” Parties…

The Democrats have become a party of 10%

I don’t criticize the Democrats nearly as often as the Republicans but in some ways they deserve criticism even more in that they claim to be something but their actions prove to be opposite. If you look at the Democratic party in the last decade you would be hard pressed to convince yourself that they are the working man’s party they were once known as.

They seem to be almost totally about the fringes of our society. They seem to spend the most time worrying about abortion on demand, gay rights, and immigrant status than they do about the family trying to live from paycheck to paycheck. There is certainly nothing wrong about being concerned about 10% percent of our population but they must also be looking out for the middle 80% of us. It is almost as if we have vanished in their eyes.

Yes, the minimum wage is important since it affects almost 3% of hourly-paid workers but what about the 80%, who have gone for decades without a raise? Don’t they deserve attention too?

The Republicans have become a party of 10%

Of course, it is pretty obvious to most of us that the GOP especially now represents the richest 10% of our population. They just don’t seem to care about the rest of us.  They give big tax breaks to the top 10%  and then put the inevitable bill on the rest of us along with a token temporary tax break.

They knock down tax rates for dividends that the top 10% primarily depend on below what the working man pays in income taxes. They insist that millionaires pay a lower tax rate than the people who clean their offices.

This has pretty much been the case for a few decades now but with the latest Republican administration, they have taken it to a whole new level. Given the outrageously racist things their current leader tweets and rants they show moral cowardice as well. They just won’t call him out on them. The Republican party is rotting away in order to keep a hold of power.

Who is to look out for the other 80% of us?

I know it seems that the current situation has been going on forever but in reality, it can be measured in months, not decades or even years. I want to bring in a quote here about what was once the norm, in case you may have forgotten:

“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” Those words from Hubert H. Humphrey would likely not be described as the mission of Democrats today, many of whom are as connected to the Wall Street elites as the Republicans are.

Source: Politically Homeless: How Republicans — and Democrats — are Leaving Many Christians Behind – Red Letter Christians

Change seldom happens from within. Instead, it is usually forced on us. Can the two 10% parties ever get back to representing all of us? That is the question of the day. Personally, I don’t care to wait long enough for it to happen on its own…

 

 

I’m An Air Force Pilot..

2017-12-26_13-05-29.pngI want to make it clear up front that I personally am not an Air Force Pilot. 🙂  I heard this simple phrase on a show I was watching a few minutes ago and realized that that description will come to mean something very different in the next few years.

The technology involved in our warplanes has simply outgrown the human interface sitting in them.  When air-to-air combat happens now the pilots of the two planes never actually see each other. Instead, a computer lock on to the target and all the pilot does is push a button.  Computer-guided bombs are delivered the same way. There is really no need for a human in the cockpit anymore.

In fact, the pilot is more of a liability than an asset now.  I have heard it said that half the cost our military jets is to protect the pilot. When we remove him/her planes could almost be built as expendable crafts. The use of drones is taking over on an exponential basis now.  Very soon, when someone says “I am an Air Force pilot” it will mean that he sits in a darkened room with a joystick and large monitors.

2017-12-26_13-07-25.pngTaking this to the next level, and I certainly do that don’t I, why don’t we just let our machines go to war instead of sacrificing human lives.  If your machines destroy mine then you won the war.  That’s kind of like one of my favorite techie shows on now called “Battle Bots”. All the wars in my lifetime have proven to be a total waste of humanity and resources.  Every enemy we have had are now are friends.

If we must go to war then let’s do it with our machines and not put young lives at risk…

I Wish I Could Invite Them All In

Getting another round of snow here in Indiana right now. Way too much for me but my wife loves it.  When these storms happen it seems the cardinals go into a panic mode.  I wish I could invite them all inside to stay warm… but then there would be the bird dropping and my cat would probably have a heart attack.

Click on either image to see a larger version

Jan 25 2018 SnowJan 25 2018 Snow-2

Politics As A Cure for Spiritual and Social Loneliness?

Most of us can probably cite at least a couple of reasons for the conditions we find ourselves in today. Some blame the Internet, some religious exclusivity, or maybe religious politicization. Others say it is just plain self-centeredness. I don’t suspect that many put loneliness as part of the mix but maybe it is deeper than we realize.

2018-01-08_18-18-38.pngWhen politics is used as a cure for spiritual and social loneliness, it’s harder to win people over with policy or philosophical arguments. Everything is shaped on a deeper level, through the parables, fables and myths that our most fundamental groups use to define themselves…

Trump’s supporters follow him because he gets his facts wrong, but he gets his myths right. He tells the morality tale that works for them.

It should be said that people on the left and on the right who try to use politics to find their moral meaning are turning politics into an idol. Idolatry is what happens when people give ultimate allegiance to something that should be serving only an intermediate purpose, whether it is money, technology, alcohol, success or politics.

Source:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/opinion/when-politics-becomes-your-idol.htm

I can certainly see some truth in the words above.  It is now a well-known fact that the rural areas of the nation are where most of the Trump voters came from. Many in that area are more isolated than their urban neighbors. Most likely, they are also less educated but maybe that is another story.  Does that make them lonely, it could, especially among us senior citizens.

I have never understood why senior citizens would vote Republican when one of their fundamental goals is to make drastic reductions to Social Security and Medicare? They see services for the elderly as dreaded “entitlements” that need to be eliminated. For seniors to be Republicans is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.  It is widely known that one of Mr. Trump’s primary support groups are people over 65. I think I have some experience with that group.

There are many seniors, including me to some extent, who are isolated from the mainstream.  We spend the majority of our time by ourselves. Some choose, like the current Oval Office occupant, to spend many hours a day in front of the TV. For the most part, they only know the world through cable news networks or probably just one of those networks. Since politics is the major source in their lives they take the topic on as a friend that they no longer have.

I can remember my grandma in the 1950s being obsessed with TV wrestling.  She never missed her wrestling show and would shout and scream at the bad guys on the flickering black and white tube.  No matter how much we tried to convince here that TV wrestling was fake she simply would not believe it. I think the same thing kinda holds for many who are supporting Mr. Trump today.  There are many seniors who have pledged allegiance to him no matter what he may do. That totally misguided faith puts a stain on all of us over 65.

Politics has a place in everyone’s life but it should only be for intermediate purposes and not as an idol onto itself.

The Church Is Not a Democracy….

We in the U.S. know that one of the primary foundations of our democracy is freedom of speech. That is being able to say something different from our leaders and not suffer serious consequences. In my opinion, this is what has allowed our country to remain so strong over the centuries. Many times criticisms lead to change and though we might not realize it at that time that is good for us. It makes us better; it makes us stronger. Without freedom of speech, I doubt our country would even exist today.

Anyone who has studied church history knows that it is not a democracy but instead has for most of its history a very vertical-oriented top-heavy organization. When the leadership of the church said something everyone was expected to quickly get in line with no questions asked.

Dissension, or some might say freedom of speech, is simply not allowed.   In the past, anyone who even hinted at a disagreement was quickly handled.  In the first few centuries of the church, many were proclaimed to be a heretic, which basically meant they didn’t agree with the leadership in some way or another. It usually followed that all of their writings, if they existed, were burned so their words would not pollute the church.  And some were burned along with their books.

Thank heavens at least in the last few centuries heretics are not so severely handled but that does not mean that they are now ignored. Many think only of the Catholic church when they think of the power structures. No Catholic, especially the cardinals and bishops would go against anything that the Pope proclaims.  But this situation also occurs amongst the Protestant denominations as well. Plainly speaking the leadership is to be obeyed.

If you even hint that you don’t agree with all the various creeds and statements can cause you to be disciplined or even thrown out. I know personally of a Lutheran minister who was brought back from an overseas mission and stripped of his sermon rights because he dared to join in prayer with other Christian groups, and years later I like him was shown the door due because I didn’t tow the line on how old the earth is among other things.

Many just can’t accept any questioning of their proclaimed doctrine. They claim that it would stain their institutional purity. About the only denomination that I am aware of that doesn’t do this are the Quakers. But since they are adamantly opposed to creeds, in general, that seems natural to them.

Sadly, there is simply no such thing as freedom of speech inside most church doors…

The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips!

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This post is something you will never hear on Fox News as it would likely disturb his base.

2017-12-23_08-31-47Most Americans assume that when they leave a tip for waiters and bartenders, those workers pocket the money. That could become wishful thinking under a Trump administration proposal that would give restaurants and other businesses complete control over the tips earned by their employees…

Not to worry, says the Labor Department, which argues, oddly and unconvincingly, that workers will be better off no matter how owners spend the money. Enlarging dining rooms, reducing menu prices or offering paid time off should be seen as “potential benefits to employees and the economy over all.” …

The Trump administration appears to be rushing this rule through — it has offered the public just 30 days to comment on it

Source:  The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips! – The New York Times

I am going to have to stay up on the progress of this new Trump law.  When it passes I will start giving my tip in cash instead of putting them on a credit card along with the bill. Stick it to the working stiff seems to be the mantra of the ruling party once again.  When will all those who put them in office finally learn??

Beautiful Imperfection

Not everything beautiful is perfect. Somes imperfection in itself is beautiful. Such is the case with this flower I photographed in a Rockford Illinois at the Nicholas Conservatory.

Beautiful Imperfection.jpg

 

West Virginia, Mountain Mama..

I want to do an extended post on some of the States I have visited in order to get to know them better. I will start this project out with the State I really know very little about and that is West Virginia.  I have been through it a few couple of times but have never spent much time there.  My initial source of information about WV is from the old John Denver song, thus the title of the post. Here are some of the lyrics from that song:

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. 
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads. 
WV is a picturesque State that seems to have been left in time from another age. My first thoughts of the State have always been coal mines and company towns where backward-educated people allowed coal mine owners to use them as slave labor in a very unhealthy environment.  I’m sure the folks living there disagree with my vision, I wouldn’t expect it otherwise.
Here are some of what I learned about the State in my recent studies:
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  • The biggest city in the State is less than 51,000 inhabitants. That is very small compared to all the States surrounding it.
  • Family income is about $43,000 and is the 48th State for personal income. The national median income is $59,000.
  • WV is one of the few States that has been consistently losing population for some time now.  One reason is low birthrates. The other is a constant youth migration to other areas.
  • The State is 95% white which makes it one of the least diverse in the nation.
  • 50% of its citizens are Evangelicals which of course accounts for the wide margin of the Trump victory there.
  • Less than 20% of the population has a college degree. It is the least educated State in the country.
  • The State, according to a CNBC study ranks at the bottom as being the worst State for business. There are practically no major businesses besides coal companies. The number one employer is Walmart and coal miners make up only about 2% of the total households.

These are the factual things I learned. I am sorry that it is not more encouraging. There just doesn’t seem to be much going for the State. I always thought that Alabama and Mississippi were at the bottom of most of these statistics, so it surprised me to see WV there in too many cases.

Despite all these things, West Virginia is indeed a beautiful State. The Shenandoah Valley, which is mainly in Virginia, is one of the most beautiful areas in the eastern US. That accounts for tourism being one of the biggest attractions.  Maybe West Virginia needs to go back to the John Denver song and concentrate on their beauty to bring higher paying jobs to the region?  I want to end this post on a positive level by saying that the West Virginia State Museum located in the State capital complex is one of the best I have ever visited. 

Here are some pictures I took there and in the countryside.