Monday, July 6, 2020

8 Misconceptions
















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Attribution Notes:

Fortune Cookie image used under Creative Commons license.
Attribution: https://flickr.com/photos/45503872@N03/5452373550

Sun and planets image from https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/08/technically_the_earth_does_not_orbit_the_sun.html

Barycenter image used under Creative Commons license.
Attribution: http://s173.photobucket.com/user/CarlSmith_2007/media/Sun%20SSB/ssb-orbit-col.gif.html

Napoleon Bonaparte image (photo by Jacques-Louis David) is in the public domain. 

Muslim pie chart image from https://www.pewforum.org/2009/10/07/mapping-the-global-muslim-population/ 

Brain image used under Creative Commons license.
Attribution: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52398306

Jackie Robinson image (photo by Bob Sandberg) is in the public domain.

William Edward White image (photo by Brown University) is in the public domain.

Moses Fleetwood Walker image (photo by unknown author) is in the public domain.

Weldy Walker image is in the public domain, and has no author information.

Background information was gathered from these sites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortune_cookie
https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/08/technically_the_earth_does_not_orbit_the_sun.html
https://bestlifeonline.com/facts-from-the-20th-century-that-are-totally-bogus-today/
https://bestlifeonline.com/common-misconceptions/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis
https://www.businessinsider.com/misconceptions-about-history-2012-5
https://www.zmescience.com/other/feature-post/historical-misconceptions/
https://www.pewforum.org/2009/10/07/mapping-the-global-muslim-population/
https://localwiki.org/oakland/Invented_in_Oakland
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_percent_of_the_brain_myth
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_first_black_Major_League_Baseball_players








Tuesday, June 30, 2020

From Envy to Pariah














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Attribution Notes:

Bozo the Clown Image used under Creative Commons License. Attribution: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bozo_The_Clown...Roger_Bowers_3.jpg

Tim Cook image used under Creative Commons License.

Sundar Pichai image used under Creative Commons License.

Twitter Logo Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.

All other images: Public Domain

Resources Used for Background Material: 

https://insights.dice.com/2020/06/25/apple-google-twitter-react-trump-h-1b-visa-ban/

https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2017/06/immigrant-ceos-global-sensibility-business.html


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

National Shame




There's something we can learn from the Germans. I explain below. 







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Photo of Robert E. Lee statue by Martin Falbisoner
Photo of Stonewall Jackson statue by Bubba73
Aunt Jemima image from BlackExcellence.com
Master/Slave diagram by Raju Shrestha

Friday, June 19, 2020

John and Abraham

John

President John F. Kennedy decided to travel to Texas in late 1963 for three reasons: One, to launch his reelection campaign for November 1964. Two, to raise funds for Democratic party campaigns. Three, to help mend political fences with leading Texas Democratic party members and Texas governor John Connally.

The White House publicly announced the trip in September of 1963.


Abraham

Abraham was born on May 15th, 1905, in Kovel, then in the Russian Empire, now in Ukraine. In 1909, his father, Israel, left for America. In 1918, Abraham and his family traveled to Warsaw. During that journey, Abraham's brother was pulled off a train and murdered by Polish guards. In 1920, Abraham and the remaining members of his family emigrated to the United States and reunited with Israel in Brooklyn.


John

The plan was for President Kennedy to take a short flight from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth to Dallas Love Field, then the city's main airport. He was to ride in a motorcade through Dallas in a route specifically designed to give him maximum exposure to local crowds. The planned route ended at the Dallas Trade Mart, where the President's staff had scheduled lunch with civic and business leaders.


Abraham

Abraham found work as a clothing pattern maker in Manhattan's garment district, and studied English at night. In 1933, he married Lillian Sapovnic, with whom he had two children.


John

The flight from Fort Worth landed at Love Field at 11:25 am on November 22nd, 1963. At 11:40, President Kennedy's motorcade left Love Field for the trip through Dallas, taking a meandering route amid enthusiastic crowds, estimated at 200,000 people. Kennedy directed two unscheduled stops, during which he mingled with the masses.


Abraham

In 1941, Abraham was offered a job by sportswear company Nardis of Dallas. He moved his family there and, eight years later, co-founded his own company, Jennifer Juniors, Inc. His company rented office space on the fourth floor of the Dal-Tex building, located in Dealey Plaza, across the street from the Texas Book Depository.


John

President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline were riding in the back seat of an open-top 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine. Governor Connally and his wife, Nellie, were in the front seat. As the Lincoln entered Dealey Plaza at 12:30 pm, Nellie Connally turned to Kennedy, who was sitting behind her, and said, "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."

Kennedy replied, "No, you certainly can't."

Those were John F. Kennedy's last words.

The limousine made the planned left turn onto Elm Street, and passed in front of the Texas Book Depository.


Abraham

Abraham considered himself a Democrat and admired President Kennedy. He owned a top-of-the-line 8mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic Series Model 414 PD film camera and planned to film the motorcade when it passed near his office. But it was raining on the morning of the 22nd, so he left the camera at home. When Abraham arrived at work without the camera, though, his assistant, Marilyn Sitzman, insisted that he go home and retrieve it since the weather had cleared.

Abraham had planned to film the motorcade from his office window, but decided, at the last minute, to position himself on the top of a 4-foot concrete abutment on the grassy knoll north of Elm Street. Abraham suffered from vertigo and was afraid of standing alone on the abutment, so Sitzman stood behind him and held his coat to steady him as he began filming the presidential motorcade.

The limousine made the planned left turn onto Elm Street, and passed in front of the Texas Book Depository.


Abraham's Zoomatic captured this:


 


Links

It's difficult to think of two people whose paths seemed unlikelier to cross than John F. Kennedy and Abraham Zapruder.  Yet, the 26.6 seconds of haunting horror that became known as the "Zapruder film" permanently linked the two men.   

Speaking of links: 

John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 pm on November 22nd, 1963, at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Two days later, Lee Harvey Oswald, charged with Kennedy's assassination, was shot by Jack Ruby at Dallas Police Headquarters. He was rushed to and pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Jack Ruby died of a pulmonary embolism on January 3rd, 1967, at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

On August 30th, 1970, Abraham Zapruder died of stomach cancer.

At Parkland Memorial Hospital.





Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Aaron and John


Aaron

"Flight, EECOM. Try SCE to aux."

On November 14th, 1969, those six words saved Apollo 12.

36.5 seconds after lift-off, lightning struck the Saturn V rocket.  Protective circuits kicked in, shutting down all three fuel cells.  Nearly every warning light on the Command Module's control panel lit up.  Its instrumentation malfunctioned.  The telemetry the spacecraft sent back to Houston's Mission Control became garbled and useless. 

Flight director Gerry Griffin was ready to abort the mission.  But Aaron was in the room.

As the man in charge of the spacecraft's electrical, environmental, and communications systems (EECOM), 27-year-old Aaron had an encyclopedic knowledge of those systems, as well as an eidetic memory.  At that critical moment, he recalled a simulation he had witnessed at Kennedy Space Center a year before.  He had noticed unusual telemetry readings and, on his initiative, traced the anomaly back to the obscure Signal Conditioning Electronics (SCE) system.  He had determined that switching the SCE to its auxiliary setting would reset the instrumentation and restore accurate readings.

The SCE was so arcane that Aaron was the only flight controller on duty that day familiar with it. When he suggested that the astronauts in the capsule switch the SCE to auxiliary, neither Flight Director Griffin, CAPCOM (capsule communicator) Gerald Carr nor Mission Commander Pete Conrad knew what Aaron was talking about.  But Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean remembered the location of the SCE switch inside the capsule from a training incident a year earlier.

Bean flipped the switch to aux. The action immediately restored telemetry and saved the mission.


John

John grew up in the sticks. A "very rural community," he called it. There were but nine people in his Vinson, Oklahoma high school graduating class. His mother was a minister, his father, a cattle rancher.

John wanted to teach, but only to make enough money to get into his dream profession: raising cattle.  He entered college seeking degrees in physics and math, intending to teach those subjects until he had saved enough to establish a herd of Herefords.

Once in college, he became enamored with physics and math, and neglected to take the education courses he needed to obtain a teaching degree.

John would have to go to school an extra year to complete the courses he required.  He wasn't looking forward to that.


Aaron

April 13th, 1970. Apollo 13 was on its way to the moon.  Aaron, still EECOM Manager, was off-shift, at home, shaving. The phone rang.

There had been an explosion. Apollo 13's Command Module was crippled. The spacecraft could no longer generate electricity.  The only power sources remaining were a few batteries. Landing on the moon was out of the question.  The new mission objective: get the three astronauts, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert, back home safely.

Mission Control had shut the Command Module down.  The astronauts had moved to the cramped Lunar Module, which had become a makeshift lifeboat. They had successfully established a "free-return trajectory" and were on their way back home.  To survive the fiery re-entry through the Earth's atmosphere, they would need the protection of the Command Module's heat shield.  They were going to have to get back into the Command Module and power it back up. The Command Module had never been shut down during flight before.  It had never been powered up during flight, either.

Would it power up at all?  Even if it did, the power left in the batteries seemed nowhere near what was necessary to run even just the essential systems. The power would undoubtedly run out way before the spacecraft reached Earth. Lovell, Haise, and Swigert were doomed.

Flight Director Gene Kranz made a critical decision.  He made one man and one man only, responsible for the mission's power supply.  Aaron.

Aaron realized that the sequence in which the astronauts powered up the systems would have a massive impact on the amount of power used. He devised an innovative power-up procedure that would turn on the instrumentation system, which included telemetry and communication, last. This sequence ran contrary to accepted methods. Without instrumentation, the crew and flight controllers would not know if the cold startup had been successful until the last possible moment before re-entry. Furthermore, the astronauts in charge of executing the sequence were cold, hungry, thirsty, and sleep-deprived, making a complicated process even more fraught. But Aaron determined that powering up in any other order would result in the capsule exhausting its battery supply way before splashdown. Although quite risky, this sequence was, really, the only choice.

The procedure was a success. The crew made it home safely.  Once again, Aaron saved the day.


John

Just as John was reluctantly resigning himself to another year of college, Richard Bates, a friend of John's who had graduated a year before, told John that NASA was hiring people to work on the space program.  John knew nothing about NASA or the space program, but at Bates's suggestion, he submitted a Form 57, NASA's employment application.  He thought he might get an interview.

Instead, he received a telegram from Mona Kazmierski of NASA's human resources department. The telegram constituted a job offer. The job paid $6,770 per year, more money than John had ever seen. He recalls:

Well, you know, I'm broke. I'll go down there and do that a couple of years, and then I'll come back and raise Herefords.
 
That was my plan.

Fortunately, things didn't go according to plan.


John Aaron

John Aaron was born in Wellington, Texas, and grew up near Vinson, Oklahoma.  He spent a year at Bethany Nazarene College, then transferred to Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where he graduated in 1964 with a B.S. in Physics.  Later that year, John Aaron arrived at NASA and was immediately trained as an EECOM.  He retired from NASA in 2000.

He neither taught, nor raised cattle.

Instead, he became, as his NASA colleagues dubbed him, a "steely-eyed missile man."








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Attribution Note: In addition to the articles linked above, background information for this essay was gathered from the following Wikipedia articles: Apollo 12 and Apollo 13.  I also consulted this NASA document, this  NASA fandom page and this NASA Oral History Project interview transcript.

This essay was inspired by the fantastic podcast, 13 Minutes to the Moon.  Season 1 describes the descent of Apollo 11's Lunar Module to the surface of the moon, and Season 2 recreates the entire Apollo 13 mission through interviews with the mission's actual astronauts (except for Jack Swigert, who died in 1982) and mission controllers.  13 Minutes to the Moon is an original podcast from the BBC World Service.  But you should really listen to Kevin Fong say that.

























Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Books of Gianluigi

Book I: Genesis


Gianluigi, a struggling writer, was in a bind.

He had accumulated over $10,000 in gambling debts. The bookies were breathing down his neck. His only current project, an unfinished 60-page manuscript, was languishing. So, when the studio offered him $12,500 for the option to make a movie out of it, he jumped on the deal.  

The contract specified that Gianluigi would receive an additional $80,000 if the manuscript would actually be made into a movie.  Fat chance, thought Gianluigi, but the $12,500 was enough to get him off the hook, and then some.

The studio handed the manuscript to Albert, a producer known for bringing his films in under budget.  He was tasked with making the movie.

Albert set out to hire a director.

His first choice turned it down to work on another movie.  His second choice had no interest in the manuscript's subject matter, and declined as well. And so it went. In all, Albert offered the movie to twelve directors.  All twelve turned it down.

One of the directors who rebuffed Albert, Frank, described the manuscript as "sleazy and sensationalist" and "pretty cheap stuff." 

After friends and family pointedly reminded Frank that he had debts exceeding $400,000 and no current prospects, he went back to Albert, hat in hand, to see if the job was still available.  It was.

Frank was hired to direct.

The casting debates began.  Frank and the studio executives argued about actors and roles for months.  

Frank wanted to cast an unknown actor for a principal role. The executives wanted a well-known actor.  Frank won that battle, and cast the unknown actor.

For another prominent role, Frank wanted a particular actor known to be challenging to work with.  He was able to get the executives to approve the casting, but under the condition that the actor put up a bond to ensure he wouldn't cause any delays in production.  The actor complied.

Another battle ensued regarding the film's setting.  The executives wanted it set in the present time to cut down on production costs.  Frank wanted it set in the time of Gianluigi's novel, thirty years before.  Once again, Frank prevailed.

Frank's indecisiveness and constant conflicts with the executives made production fall behind, and a studio vice president was brought in to keep a vigilant eye on costs. The VP's involvement made Frank fear for his job. Convinced that his editor and assistant director were conspiring to get him fired, Frank preemptively fired them both.

After six months of fraught pre-production, four months of turbulent filming, and another four months of post-production, Frank finished the film.


Book II: Revelation


Please click here:  for some appropriate background music while you read the following.

"Gianluigi" was Mario Gianluigi Puzo, better known as just Mario Puzo

The "studio" is Paramount Pictures.

"Albert" is legendary film and television producer Albert S. Ruddy.


The then-unknown actor championed by Coppola is Al Pacino

The "challenging to work with" actor was Marlon Brando.

The movie is, of course, The Godfather, which was nominated for ten Academy Awards, won three of them (Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola), and even added some spice to the 45th Academy Awards:

  • The Academy was forced to revoke the film's nomination for Best Original Dramatic Score when they learned that the composer used some of his score from an earlier movie.
  • Pacino had more screen time in the film than Brando, yet Brando was nominated for Best Actor and Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. This didn't sit well with Pacino, who boycotted the awards ceremony in protest.
  • Brando, citing his objections to the depiction of American Indians in  film and television, not only boycotted the ceremony but indicated he would refuse the Oscar if it were awarded to him.  Fittingly, when he was declared the winner at the ceremony, this happened:
 


Everything about The Godfather is fascinating. Watch it again sometime. 

That's an offer you can't refuse.







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Attribution Note: In addition to the resources linked above, background material was gathered from this Mental Floss article, this Vanity Fair article, and this Showbiz Cheat Sheet article.