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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Saturday, April 1, 2006
Close Enough

Latest issue of Scientific American reports that, over the last five years, astronomers have been surveying red dwarf systems. Their findings indicate two-thirds of the stellar systems in our galaxy are red dwarves. Okay, so what? Well, prior to this survey, astronomers were content with the notion that three of every five points of light that we can see with the unaided eye – we can’t see red dwarves with the unaided eye - are binary systems leading to a corollary feeling that this ratio applied to all stellar systems within our galaxy. Only one quarter of the red dwarves are binary which means two thirds of the stellar systems in our galaxy are single red dwarves. According to Charles Lada of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, this result should help researchers make sense of star-formation theories. “Many of the current theories find it a lot easier to form single stars.”

According to me, this also suggests that all human knowledge should be labeled “as far as we know today.”

Just think how many astronomical headaches could have been avoided if that “two-thirds of the stars are binary” notion had been labeled “as far as we know today” instead of “the data says that this is so.”

Reminds me of the all the late breaking news on well-known medical truths that have been shaken by more recent, more thorough studies. Or the size of the hole in the ozone layer and what that means to world climatology. Or the number of hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons in a given calendar year. Or a given ecology’s ability to reconfigure itself when a dominate member is no longer available.

“As far as we know” would send the message that there are still limits – broad ones – to human understanding. No matter what field you care to mention, the information of which we are absolutely certain is information begging to be overturned by new research. That’s the good news. That’s the reason our children should be excited at the possibilities. Far from reaching an end state, we seem to have just begun to make progress. Thus, relativity can supersede Newtonian physics and, then, be superseded by quantum physics. This sequence doesn’t invalidate Newtonian or Einsteinian physics; it just describes the limits within which you can use them.

I suspect you can take any state of knowledge and make it useful. It’s the old adage “close enough for government work” made universal.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-04-01 12:14:15

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
In Memory of Oz

First Impressions

(a) Wondering how long B-747s have been around (since 1968) because of a slight interest in metal fatigue as it relates to airplanes flying over the Pacific ocean for 13 hours. Relieved to discover our airline’s planes were delivered in the 90s.

(b) Perhaps the extra $5KUS to upgrade to Business Class might be justified in terms of wear and tear on knees and shinbones.

(c) Jet lag is easily overcome by sleep – lots of it. Slept through first day in Oz.

(d) Damn, I pick good hotels! Everything I want to do in Brisbane is within walking distance of my selection.

(e) So that’s what a river looks like!

(f) There is no such thing as Australian cuisine.

(g) I wonder what Channel Nine did before and after the Commonwealth Games.

(h) How am I going to explain to our daughter that the Koala does not properly fit into her collection of stuffed bears?

(i) Pattern recognition thing: think I can pick Aussie males out of a crowd, something about the eyes.

(j) All Aussie females below the age of 30 are blond and wear their hair brushed straight back into pony tails. After 30, they diversify.

(k) It is just as easy to take a wrong train in Brisbane as it is in New York City.

(l) Darling Harbor is just that. Was J.M. Barrie ever here?

(m) Hop on/hop off buses are a perfect solution to a visitor’s sore feet.

(n) The Sydney Opera House is all it’s cracked up to be.

(o) Expected a great white shark in the aquarium but disappointment offset by overall display.

(p) Power House museum is awesome.

(q) Someday, I would like to be important enough to have a chair named after me.

(r) The Chinese Gardens in Darling Harbour are exquisite.

(s) Damn, we bought our own room in the Maritime Museum. Fits right in with our new tradition ofpaying for our own press.

(t) Remind me to congratulate myself for not joining the navy and going into submarines.

(u) Did you know you are supposed to pay an entry fee to the MOS? That’s what the lady on the second floor told us after we had been through the first and half the second. Wonder why the man at the desk hadn't told us?

(v) We visited the MOB and the MOS but missed out on the MOM.

(w) Did you know it is possible to transport a billion or so people to a hundred or so different venues on the same day without requiring mob behavior, cussing, and popcorn riots? Melbourne just proved this is so.

(x) How many cities in the world are so thoughtful as to place all their city’s main attractions within a 2 square mile grid and then supply the transportation to move throughout the grid?

(y) The Federation Square Visitor’s Center has to be the coolest such establishment ever.

(z) Traveled 7000 miles to be able to see Camille Pissarro’s work up close and personal.

(aa) The world’s tallest apartment building convinced me that I do not wish to live in an apartment. Can you imagine carrying groceries up to the 85th floor on a weekly basis?

(ab) Pedicab drivers trained in the culinary arts in San Francisco make excellent architectural critics.

(ac) Wonder why they blamed the open air market on Queen Victoria?

(ad) I read five books in two weeks, mostly waiting to board and traveling on airplanesmoving fromthere to there.

(ae) I can watch three feature length films and a documentary and read one third of Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand during the flight from Brisbane to LA. Is that a record?

(af) Can anyone tell me where I can get an extra 20 years tacked on to my life just to explore Oz? Oh, yeah, make certain that I get enough cash to do the job properly.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-28 12:25:27

Friday, March 10, 2006
Life's Little Mysteries

I am not a fan of news shows or any other type of reality show but TLWSHLWM is so I wind up watching bits and pieces here and there. Have a current interest in Iraq so I try to follow most stories coming out of there. Consequently, over the last few weeks, with TLWSHLWM home on vacation, have watched more than I otherwise would.It's amazing to me the kinds of things that push Iraq off thefifteen minute summaries as well as off the evening spectaculars. Like who the Pres is going to nominate for the Supremes. Can't wait till he actually does it, must speculate and forecast right up till an hour before he goes on TV and then we tell everyone whoit is going to be and why that is a problem. That way, we upstage the President, make him sort of anticlimactic.See, if you know the news in advance, you are an efficient news organization. If you must wait till it happens, you are just reporting the news. Who wants to watch that?

And you must have a film clip. We've been watching the same film clip of OBL for 4 years now and it is always presented as the backdrop to a current news story.

But worse than that are the talking head experts. The stories from London - since Scotland Yard is keeping its mouth shut while doing its job;what a concept! - are all accompanied by "terrorism" experts. Anytime a news agencywants to express an opinion instead of the news, they trot in the "expert du jour." No qualifications for these experts are ever provided,just the title: expert. I especially like when the expert is a retired officer of one service or the other. Ifthey areso damned smart, whyaren't they on active duty helping resolve the mess?

Life's Little Mystery: When did we get so damned dumb that the networks began to believe we'd buy whatever they attempt to sell?

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-10 14:46:39

Friday, March 10, 2006
24 hours to Another World

24 hours till the first leg begins and I lose touch with sffworld for two weeks. I am not about to buy a wireless laptop just for this trip. 60 hours till Qantas rises into the Pacific sky carrying The Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me and me on a 14 hour trek across the galaxy. Almost entirely at night, the stars above us will slide away replaced by a set we’ve never seen live and in color before. Will they match the images in the astronomy books or be better than I can possibly imagine?

The next morning sky we see will illuminate Brisbane and I betcha we’ll be so zonked from the flight we sleep the first day. She’s younger than I am but neither of us is what you could call a spring chicken. So, we set up our schedule to allow us that luxury. After recouping from the mandatory jet lag, we have three days in Brisbane with nothing scheduled but to wander the streets, parks, and museums.

On the fourth day, we’ll tote our luggage back to the airport and jaunt on over to Sydney. Again, day one is get ourselves organized day. Then, another three days of free form exploration. Nagging unanswered question is whether the opera house requires coat and tie. Goddess, that would be so civilized, wouldn’t it? Be just like Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center and you know I won’t go there ‘cause I don’t want to wear a tie. At my age, no one can make me. Tee hee.

A day of travel to Melbourne followed by three days of more unguided exploration and the possibility of seeing a high flying sheep. What else could the old guy ask for?

Back to Brisbane and a good night’s sleep before returning to the homeland. Even though we understand the technology, this is going to bemagical.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-10 07:51:06

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Me and Half the World

Kidding Kevin Radthorne about his art but reading a recent comment from Katherine the Great about her daughter, remembering raising our daughter, the lyrics to a Colin Raye song come back to haunt me.

The song, written by Don Schlitz and Steve Seskin, is titled I Think About You. The first verse has these lines:

Every time I see a woman on a billboard sign
I think about you
Saying "drink this beer and you'll be mine"
I think about you
When an actress on a movie screen
Plays Lolita in some old man's dreams
It doesn't matter who she is
I think about you

And the chorus has these:

You eight years old
big blue eyes and a heart of gold
when I look at this world, I think about
You and I can't help but see
that every woman used to be
Somebody's little girl, I think about you

In the early nineties, I and a few associates traveled to Pocatello, Idaho. It was as if we had entered another world. There was not one billboard in the town or the surrounding area. There was not one adult book store. We spent three hours driving around looking for one or the other.

The problem for me is this: I like women, nearly all of them, every shape and size and flavor. I think I have made some progress towards understanding what that means in terms of respect and courtesy.

Yet, when I realize I like looking at women, that old Puritan ethic comes crashing down on my psyche and I wonder if I have made any progress at all. Hell, I like Rodin’s work a lot; I like DaVinci and Titian and Bosch and Vermeer and Dali. I like it when they painted women fully dressed and not so fully dressed. I even like Kevin Radthorne’s stuff. Does that make me perverted, dangerous, and a hypocrite? I don’t believe that to be true but maybe I am and I’m just fooling myself.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-03-08 08:20:37

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