Results of Man-made Global Warming

Things that are caused by, may be caused by, or are suspected reactions of man-made global warming*:

Migratory bird  changes Polar Bear population decline
Rain forest decline Democrats in office
Al Gore’s expanding waistline Earthquakes
Hangnails Dust bunnies
High food prices Homelessness
Despair Congressional lies
Presidential political cave-in Hollywood hypocrisy
Dimming of the moon Slowing of earth rotation
Forgetting to brush one’s teeth Tomato contamination
Teen pregnancy Crappy rap music
Low high school graduation rates Redesign of Treasury bills
My failure to grow vegetables American Idol
Los Angeles Laker’s 2008 record Declining US IQ levels
Bad hair days Hurricanes
Tornadoes Sunny days
Sunshine Snow
Swearing/cursing Puke green paint
Socialism Loneliness
Giddiness Vertigo
Food poisoning Marriage
Divorce Sneezing
Dry skin Bad science
Stupidity Apathy
Breakdowns on the highway Athlete’s foot fungus
Hairy armpits High hospital bills
Bad/stupid laws Wasp stings
Low birth rate Overpopulation
Rising sea levels Rising gullibility levels
Disco music Pudding
Stained glass Broken glass

and many, many more…

* These may not all be documented, but I trust that they will at some point. When scientists can get research grants to “prove” that it is true.

The Age of Spandex®

I do not know why this thought crossed my mind, but as I was exiting a local store today, I had a sudden, painful flashback to a time when I witnessed something that resembled a water buffalo tightly encased in black Spandex®. Walking behind this woman as her thighs and buttocks rolled to and fro, her cellulite moving in almost hypnotic patterns before me, I wondered yet again what people see when they look in their mirrors.

The Bible states that there is a season for everything, as in “a time to sow and a time to reap”. Well, that applies to things other than farming, as well, such as “a time to wear miniskirts and a time to damn well cover it up”! I am sorry to be so judgmental and cruel, but I think I am doing a public service by asking certain people, especially women, to ask their husbands to hide all knives, frying pans, forks, and all other objects that can be used as a weapon to either make holes in their bodies or smash certain parts flat, and then ask them “Should I wear this?” And I beg certain people, mostly husbands but also wives, to be brutally honest and say, “Honey, I love you just the way you are, but wearing that outfit in public scares young children and will prevent you from ever running for any kind of public office, and I’d hate for you to limit yourself that way! Please let me burn it in an environmentally safe way, so as not to pollute the neighborhood!”

Ever since synthetic fibers were made and spandex® – I suppose I should use a trademark thingie, since I believe it’s a trade name – Spandex® made its debut, those bipeds who hold their physique in high esteem have been using it to highlight their physical charms. This is great as long as the charms haven’t succumbed to age, weight, or gravity. However, when those forces act on the body, they don’t have the same action on the eyes nor the brain, so the continued use of Spandex® continues well beyond its effectiveness, rather like leaving fruit on the tree beyond its maturation date. With much the same effect. As much as I don’t like looking at rotted fruit on the ground, I try to avoid dangerous uses of Spandex® much more. What is more dangerous than 200 pounds of buttock flesh encased in something similar to a sausage wrapper meant to hold in 50? It can only be that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder – in this case, the Spandex® wearers. They are suffering from a medical condition known as Spandex® blindness. Bless their hearts.

What is the age beyond which Spandex® should be worn? If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you are beyond the Spandex® age:

  • Do you have children? Then either your figure is shot or you’ll embarrass them. Hang up the Spandex®! Do it for the children!
  • As you wear Spandex® and walk down the street, do you hear retching behind you?
  • As you wear Spandex® and walk down the street, do you hear giggling behind you?
  • Do you hear faint mooing sounds as you shop?
  • Are your thighs in danger of setting of fire alarms as you walk? Do they rub?
  • Is your waist measurement greater than Shaquille O’Neal’s foot length (both feet added)?
  • Men, in the above, add six inches because (and get your heads out of the gutter!) men always measure where they wear their pants, not where they SHOULD wear their pants!
  • Do young children stare at you when you wear Spandex® in public? Do they cry?
  • Be honest – when you put on your Spandex®, do you have a sudden urge to go to SeaWorld®? Or the zoo?
  • As you walk, is the back of your thigh still moving from the last step when you are halfway through the next?
  • Are there any flapping or slapping sounds as you move around?
  • Are members of the opposite sex making obvious attempts to keep their eyes either focused above your neck or do they look off to the sides when talking to you?
  • Do you break a sweat putting on your Spandex®? Does installing Spandex® involve gymnastic type moves that might qualify you for the Olympic team?
  • If you lift your foot straight out to hip height, is part of your thigh still dragging the ground?
  • If you trip and fall, is it registered as a seismic event?
  • Are your buttocks larger than bowling balls? Are they not as firm?
  • Do you take up more than one couch cushion when sitting in your living room?
  • When you jump in a swimming pool, is there a tidal wave in Fiji?
  • As for Spandex® tops, can you use your bosom as a table?
  • Does your bosom turn corners a full second before the rest of you?
  • Are your triceps still waving long after your relatives have turned the corner?

Men: If you are not bicycling or engaging in other athletic events, or even if you are, ask yourself, “Why do I want women to see my package? Is it really that impressive? Can they even see it under my belly?” And just so you know, the answer is “No, it really isn’t.” I’m sorry, but someone has to break it to you. But don’t worry, we usually fall in love with you for other reasons.

As a matter of public service, I beg of each and every man and woman to review the above list! If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, please restrict your Spandex® fetish to the privacy of your home! Please get treatment for your Spandex® blindness! Remember, a beautiful world is the responsibility of us all!

Seriously. Please! I beg you!

Space Matters

I was so excited when my sister, who works at NASA (whom I will refer to as NasaSis), invited my Handsome Son and I to watch the astronauts perform an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA, aka “space walk”) this morning. Joining the three of us was the first sibling of our very large family, whom I’ll now call SisOne. NasaSis is extremely artistic, and among other duties in the past, has been working with the engineers on the spacesuit designs for a while now. She has learned a lot about the engineering of the spacesuits, and the whys and wherefores of space design.

SisOne, Handsome, and I met NasaSis on a very muggy but extremely breezy morning at the Johnson Space Center. NasaSis took us to the mission control building, but we were too early, so we walked around the campus for a while. She showed us “the mall,” which is a green area with two ponds, trees, and many, many ducks who, I think, owned the place. This is where she comes when she needs a break from the stress of her job. She told us she also sees deer on the LBJ campus; the campus has woods on one side, and they just kind of wander in sometimes. She’ll walk the mall and sit under the trees near a pond and decompress. It was a very nice spot, and we saw lots of turtles and koi and beautiful scenery, but I began to sweat like crazy in the humidity, so we began walking back to mission control building. NasaSis told us about some of the things the engineers had to deal with when designing the space vehicles and the suits. I will try to remember everything she said, but it was a lot to absorb, so – NasaSis, please forgive me if I forget something or twist something! I will try to be faithful to what I heard (some of which was hard to hear because of the wind).

First, I was unaware of some of the physiological changes that occur in the human body in a weightless environment. I’ve heard of the lengthening of the body as the spine decompresses, and I knew that beads of sweat would ball up and float around in the air (yech!). I did not think, however, about the body fluids balling up in the torso! This is why their faces may look bloated if you see them on camera. This balling-up can make things very uncomfortable. NasaSis has a gal friend on the current mission, and she expects that it will take a more than a few days for her body to adjust, though her feet will probably remain narrower than normal until she returns to earth.

NasaSis then told us how the suits were designed. A special camera takes a 3-D picture of the astronaut’s body and each one gets a suit designed especially for him/her. They add markings like stripes to the suits so that mission control can tell who is doing what when an EVA is in progress – otherwise, they all look like the Michelin man! The layers of insulation that protects the astronaut from the cold of space also creates problems because, as it protects them from the cold of space, it holds in the astronauts’ body heat, and the astronauts can become very warm. This causes sweat, which, as mentioned before, floats. It also makes the astronauts uncomfortable. Try working while sweat runs down your face, and you cannot wipe it off! There is a bar inside the helmet that the astronauts use to deal with ear pressure. They can press their nose against it to close off a nostril and blow to equalize their inner ear. NasaSis said if they get good enough, they can “scratch” their nose while they are working. All these little details that we take for granted! (And while we’re on the topic of irritating space behavior, try working on a project and your tools are never where you put them! Even though they are tethered, you can’t put anything “down” in space – things float, so every time you need your tool you must find it again.) Yell

The suits must not only be ventilated for breathing, but also for cooling. There is a special “cooling suit” that is worn next to the skin. It was described as “like the white long johns” but with tubing down each arm, leg, and side, within which is filled with cooling fluid. It acts like a radiator, moving the heat from the body and dissipating in the cooling unit. The suits also have to protect from micro meteors, so on top of all the layers of insulation, the outer skin has to be designed so that the body can move, yet tough enough to handle small razor sharp pebbles traveling at 17,000 mph! One of the engineers actually bought hundreds of razor blades and had them honed to differing sharpness levels, then someone had to slash at the suits and record how well they stood up to the slicing. I’m sure THAT was an exciting job! NasaSis said that these micro meteors hit the spacecraft and get embedded in the handles that the astronauts hold, so the astronauts have to perform periodic “glove checks” as they work. These micro meteors can cut the gloves, causing depressurization of the suit. That is a very bad thing (duh!). The astronauts must always be aware of their gloves. We actually heard mission control remind the astronauts to perform a glove check as we were watching. Since the Kibo Module was brand new, there hadn’t been much opportunity for the micro meteors to embed themselves yet, so the astronaut we were watching, Fossum, I believe, proclaimed his gloves to be “pristine” as he turned them over in front of the camera.

By this time, we arrived back at mission control. Showing our badges yet again, we were allowed into the viewing room. It’s exactly as you’ve seen on TV – lots of computer monitors, now bolstered by a few small TVs and laptops. I notice a few homey touches, like the Buzz Lightyear action figure on the “Discovery” console. It’s hard to remember that for them, this is their office. To us, it’s a place where men touch the sky. Buzz Lightyear grinning at me through the window really changed my whole view of mission control! I got a picture of Handsome with mission control behind him, and then we settled down to listen and watch the drama on the big screen.

In front of us was a very large display, consisting of three screens. The leftmost screen had computer code in various colors. The middle screen displayed the current orbit and position of the International Space Station (ISS). We could hear the radio communication between the astronauts in space, and with mission control. NasaSis pointed out the grid of yellow squares in a panel on the right side of each console. This is the communication system that allows each discipline (Flight Director, Discovery, CapCom, Flight Surgeon, etc.) to talk to each other or to listen on as many conversations as they would like. The astronauts had not emerged from the ISS yet, so NasaSis continued to educate us on more space stuff.

She recommended that we make it to Florida for a shuttle liftoff. It seems that the liftoff from a shuttle is way more impressive than that of the straight line rockets that NASA will be moving to after 2010. The straight rockets may also be easier on the fuel usage. NasaSis said the engineers put a camera in a shuttle fuel tank to see how fast the fuel was actually used. I put my hand parallel with the floor, up by my head, then steadily moved it down to my waist, and she said, “Yep! Like that.”

I heard the astronauts announce that they would be popping the thermal cover, and we watched as a hatch opened and we could see a glove and the top of a helmet. I was surprised at how long it took for the astronaut to exit the hatch. On TV, I always see the astronauts when they are floating in space. Watching the astronaut maneuver himself out of the opening, I realized how bulky and hard to maneuver the suits actually are. The suits are pressurized, constantly wanting to make the astronauts look like the girl from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who blew up like a blueberry – arms out to the sides and torso all inflated. The astronauts are constantly fighting this resistance to movement, so they have to have lots of stamina. Even bending their fingers is a chore, because of the thickness of the glove and the pressurization. As a matter of fact, there is a bar strapped over the palm of their hand to flatten that area, to allow the astronauts to close their hands. If they didn’t have the bar, grabbing anything with the glove would be like trying to hold something with a balloon in the hand! I noticed that as the astronaut was going hand-over-hand down the bar on Kibo, that he didn’t always bend his fingers and grab the bar, but would tuck his fingertips behind the bar instead. NasaSis said the layers of insulation and the glove design also prevented the astronauts from feeling the action of the tools they were holding. For example, if they were screwing something down, they had to know how many turns the screw should make because they would not be able to feel when the screw was tight. We could hear exchanges like: “Expect 9 turns.” “Nine turns, roger… Nine turns completed.” “Nine turns completed. Roger.” They were constantly checking and rechecking with each other. I can only imagine how detailed their checklists would have to be, to know for each screw how many turns are required to achieve the desired torque without stripping the screw! That has to be a tedious job, to proofread their job lists! These checklists appeared to be attached to the outside of their gloves with “rubber bands”. I’m sure they were not just “rubber bands,” as regular ones probably would freeze and break in space, but it seemed so anachronistic to see such high tech on display, and there was something that looked like a shopping list tied to his arm! NasaSis and I talked briefly about the sometimes advantage that low tech had over high tech – like how NASA expended so much energy into designing a pen that would write in space, and the Russians simply used a pencil!

One thing that I had noticed before but did not realize the significance was the mirrors on the outside of the gloves. I thought it might be some kind of display, but they are just mirrors. They are used to read the dials on the life support system for the suit. The display for the suit is written in “mirror language,” so as the astronaut holds up his glove, he can read the display on his glove as if reading a paper, and so he knows the status of his suit. Another one of those little details! Details for these men and women can mean the difference between life and death!

NasaSis says the people that she works with are so wicked smart that she feels – how do I put this – mentally insignificant? She has learned not to talk in terms of weight. “It’s MASS!” She sits in at their meetings and tries not to say anything, but there are times when she is able to make significant contributions, somewhat to her surprise, I am sure. Their mental operations are so “up there” that sometimes they cannot see basic flaws which need to be addressed. It’s pretty cool, having a sister who makes contributions to the space program. She’s had to learn a lot in a little bit of time. For example, all of the acronyms! And there are acronyms inside of acronyms! That was overwhelming her in the beginning – the jargon of space is a language all its own. “EVA” (Extra Vehicular Activity) instead of “spacewalk”. Strangely enough, the space suit is known as the EMU (Extra vehicular Module Unit). NasaSis said that in the beginning she would write “EVMU” in her notes, and people were freaking out: “What’s an EVMU? Do you know something we should know?” She laughs about it now, but I can only imagine the red face in the beginning!

Another shocker that I learned on my day of discovery was exactly how dedicated these astronauts have to be. NASA has to select them not only for physical fitness and knowledge, but these astronauts have to have the proper psychological traits – to be able to be isolated for long periods of time without freaking out or getting depressed, but also for dedication to their mission. For example, the gloves are fit tightly so they can be functional, but they can also at times rip out fingernails! These astronauts have to stay on mission, so they deal with the pain and keep on going. Also, the g forces put on them during takeoff are suddenly relieved at some point heading into orbit. This physical stress – the pressured AND the relief – are a shock to the system and can be rather rough on the men and women. Then, there is also space sickness, which I think we can all figure out. These have got to be some pretty dedicated people, to chance their lives going up and coming down, as well as their possible physical changes in weightlessness.

As we watched the astronauts attach the Kibo module, we saw them using a cordless drill. The cordless drill was invented by NASA, one of many creative solutions for problems in space that has spilled over into our daily lives. To see a list of such items, you can go here.

On our way to lunch, we continued to discuss the spacesuit design. NasaSis said the lunar suits will be significantly different than the ISS suits. For example, the ISS suits have boots that pretty much are non-moving. Astronauts don’t use their feet much on the ISS, mostly their hands. However, on the lunar surface, they will be walking, so the boots will be less stiff. Also, the lunar astronauts will be bending over, looking at things and picking stuff up, so the location of the life support devices will have to be moved from the chest area, where they would block the downward view of the astronaut. Also, the suits will have to work with the astronaut’s center of gravity – the little bit of gravity on the moon would be enough to tip an astronaut over should they be off center, even a small amount. Handsome Son suggested a fanny pack type of arrangement (moving it from the chest to the waist), and he was close! NasaSis they were looking at something like that, but the equipment is so bulky that it would prevent them from bending over – but they are still looking at it. This is why there are SMART men and women!

As we watched the astronauts tightening screws and unfolding what looked similar to canvas bags (some kind of crew work area for later crews, which was actually made from the same stuff as the outer layer of their spacesuits), I could see the Earth sliding below them many miles below. While they were focused on things only inches from their eyes, this gorgeous panorama was playing itself out below them. NasaSis said it was a shame that they had so much to do while they were there that they didn’t really get to stop and enjoy the incredible view.

Before we left Mission Control, a large group of Air Force medical students arrived. They were taking part in a tour, and we were allowed to hear their all-too-brief briefing given by a NASA flight surgeon. He quickly gave them an overview of the different consoles and the responsibilities of each area, focusing, of course, on the flight surgeon desk. It takes years just to become a doctor, but to become a space doctor takes several more years on top of that! He described some of the physical things the doctors have to understand, such as during launch: the astronauts must sit for two or more hours with their legs above their hearts, which increases the fluid load in the torso, which puts additional pressure on the heart and causes increased filtration in the kidneys. This means the bladder may be full when ignition begins…and he didn’t go any further than that, but I think I got the idea. He said that some of the medical problems they’ve encountered included kidney stones and dehydration, but not really lacerations. I suppose the pilots are very careful about that! There are two medically trained officers on each mission (EMT trained), so minor emergencies can be taken care of – as long as they don’t run out of medical supplies. Another one of those things I take for granted: that my doctor won’t run out of plasma or blood if I’m bleeding!

Before we left, NasaSis took us to the “rock pile,” which is where the mobile units are tested. We were able to see “Mars” as well as the “Moon”. The Mars simulation had large red rocks on a sandy-to-pebbly soil, with a well defined hill. The Moon simulation was primarily rocks of uniform size, about one inch or so, and gray, and had several craters of different sizes. We were very careful not to disturb anything and did not climb the hill nor descend into the craters, as the sites had been carefully graded and designed, to give the units a full testing of their capabilities. We got pictures of everybody on Mars and the Moon. I don’t know if NasaSis could hear me over the wind, but I stood in front of the Mars hill, stuck out my hiney and said, “Look! I’m mooning Mars!” She laughed, but I’m not sure exactly what she was laughing at!

NasaSis said that Mars was a rocky surface, whereas the Moon surface was like shattered glass. The man who created the rock pile still works at NASA, and was one of the original space suit designers. His name is so appropriate: Joe Kosmo! NasaSis thinks the world of him, and has learned a lot from this visionary. He had to fight for funding for some of his ideas, and it has paid off. Would that there were more men like him!

I am sure that I have left something out of this record, but there was so much so fast! I love science and science fiction, so to be able to peek into this world was very exciting for me. I thank my sister for inviting us, and for the brilliant men and women who make our world – and space – more interesting!

When Free Speech is Not “Free Speech”

Once again, my blood pressure almost blew the top of my head off. Krakatoa has nothing on me when I hear people making basic mistakes when they should just —- know —– better.

A caller to the local talk radio show was upset because the conservative talk shows, in general, were blasting an author for writing a negative book about President Bush. “Don’t you understand, he’s exercising his First Amendment right to free speech!” she almost shrieked. “Why don’t you leave him alone?!” I am of course, paraphrasing, as my ability repeat her comments verbatim were impaired because of the pulsing of blood in my ears drowning out every other word. Once again, the ability of someone to utter the phrase “First Amendment right” does not mean one should assume the speaker has an understanding of this very basic right.

The exact phrasing of the First Amendment runs thus:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First, the right of free speech has nothing to do with suppressing dissenting speech of the PUBLIC. It specifically addresses censorship from the GOVERNMENT. While the callers on most of the major talk shows may be more intelligent or more in touch than government officials, the First Amendment does not restrict the public discourse of these venues. Period.

Second, since when does any action provide protection against the consequences of one’s actions? Simply because one has the right to say (practically) anything they want, nowhere is it documented that one has protection from the fallout of those words. If I raise my hand to a police officer, I will probably be arrested. If I embezzle funds, I will probably go to jail. If my child skips school, well, let’s just say there will be ramifications. Big ones. By the same token, if a man writes a book, he is opening himself up to scrutiny and discussion. It may not be pleasant or agreeable discussion, but the discussion is also protected by the right that gave the author free reign over his words. No whining is justified in this case.

The Dixie Chicks are another example of First Amendment Whining Syndrome. They made a comment in England that did not sit well with their fans, and they returned home to find falling sales and monster truck crushes of piles of their CDs. Nobody said they couldn’t make their derogatory comments. Those “rednecks” that went on a rampage against those circular pieces of plastic probably were the same people that sent their sons and daughters to fight for their right to be idiots. Yet what I heard upon their return was “What is wrong with them? (whimper, cry) We have the right to say what we want!

Nowhere were the Dixie Chicks promised a free pass on their remarks. Nowhere is the author of the current book promised that everyone would sit back and say “How profound! How wonderful! I wish I were like him!”

Actions have consequences. Some of them good, some of them bad. I decide not to eat a doughnut for breakfast, and while my tongue may curse me, my waistline thanks me. I get up an hour early to work, and I get more done. I put too much salt in the dinner I’m cooking, and we must go out to eat. (I’ll let you decide if that’s good or bad.) And, should I decide to say something that someone disagrees with, I will have to bear the consequences of my action. As I said on the radio, “I have the right to stand on a street corner in Harlem and use the “n” word, but I better be wearing a suit of mail, because SOMEONE’S gonna come for me!”

The right to speak does not guarantee automatic agreement with the speech. The government may not censor speech, but the public can certainly vent just as much as the creator of the controversy. I refuse to abandon my right of free speech because someone would prefer that I would. If we followed that policy, then who would determine which comments may be commented upon? Who will be the thought police? And what if the speaker WANTED controversy, to boost sales? Will the speaker have to ASK for public comment? This whole argument is false on its face. Freedom of speech (1) only attaches to the government, i.e. no censorship, and (2) is valid only if it applies to everyone.

Repeat after me:

Freedom of speech does NOT mean freedom from consequences. Freedom of speech does NOT mean freedom from consequences. Freedom of speech does NOT mean freedom from consequences. Freedom of speech does NOT mean freedom from consequences….