Sunday, June 30, 2013

God and Samuel Colt

Samuel Colt

I tripped out a bit this morning watching the Sunday News Entertainment Networks, Starbucks must be putting 'something' in their coffee beans. I swear right in the middle of a serious discussion on the latest SCOTUS ruling, where Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research was letting us all know the consequences of redefining marriage, the rush hit me.

Out of the blue I envisioned Tony Perkins and Wayne La Pierre as a couple. OMG! That could never happen, could it? Hmm, maybe there is an isolated case where same sex marriage wouldn't be a good idea?

Visiting the websites of the Family Research Council and the National Rife Association  
may not be on your daily agenda but if you want to get you blood boiling they are good places to go. You really can find out the craziest stuff.

Like on the NRA site it has this headliner bit of wisdom flashing in your face:

"If God didn't make men equal, Samuel Colt did."

Whoa, a little bit of Christian parity there for sure. You betcha. Wink, Wink. Now I can't let Tony Perkins get a pass, you really have to know what this man says:
"What is inevitable is that the male and female relationship will continue to be uniquely important to the future of society. The reality is that society needs children, and children need a mom and a dad. 
We will continue to work to restore and promote a healthy marriage culture, which will maximize the chances of a child being raised by a married mother and father."
There is one thing I know for sure and that is I would rather not have Tony defining a healthy marriage culture for me. By the way, HBO has a great new documentary entitled The Out List, if you have a chance give it a view. Nice insight into how it feels and what it means to be gay...


Friday, June 28, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

Alexandria, Egypt - May 11, 2013
Photo By A. Pick

It was a day recently in May, the Egyptian sun was warm and bright and the air was calm as tourists moved back and forth between excursion buses to the ship that was docked in the port city of Alexandria.

Fast forward to today and the calm changes to storm as news from Alexandria coming over the wires tells a different story:
"... deadly clashes erupted in the port city of Alexandria, where protesters set fire to the Brotherhood’s headquarters. Security officials said that one victim was a United States citizen, a man who was stabbed to death near the headquarters."  Source: New York Times

Arriving in Alexandria, Egypt - May 10, 2013
Photo By: A. Pick

"Local health officials said that two people were killed, one of them an American citizen who was stabbed, the other an Egyptian who died from gunshot wounds. 
Police said the American was taking photographs of the fighting, but was not believed to be a journalist. Protesters also set fire to the party's offices."  Source: Al Jazeera News

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Band-Aid Fix For Nuclear Waste

Is a band-aid fix the answer to what we should do with our nuclear waste?

WASHINGTON — As more nuclear reactors across the country are closed, the problem of what to do with their waste is becoming more urgent, government officials and private experts said at a conference here this week.
Yes, what to do with nuclear waste is urgent - welcome to the party people. What took you so long to get here? The ice is melting and the drinks are warming up, this party isn't fun.

You just have to read the full story that ran in the New York Times today Quarrels Continue Over Repository For Nuclear Waste. I know I should be delighted that at four bipartisan senators are looking at the problem but moving nuclear waste to a temporary centralized location is not the answer. Temporary won't work, we need permanent long term storage. And just so we all are on the same page 'long term' means 500 to 1000 years, got it?

Please read the article, take is seriously and think about it. Maybe you might even be moved enough to get a teeny bit involved? Like writing a letter and demanding that a permanent solution be found and that we can't keep putting this off.

I'm not going to chew and digest this information for you, but I will give you a few bullet points that might help to convince you to read the full story.

  • Nuclear waste is accumulating in steel and concrete storage casks at reactor sites around the country.
  • Experts say the amount of orphaned nuclear waste is mounting. 
  • Stored fuel requires guards and other continuing expenses, which are significant if there is no reactor nearby
  • The commission has long maintained that the fuel is safe there for decades, but some of it has already been stored for more than 30 years, and it seems certain to be stored there for decades more.
  • Some of the younger fuel shows signs of degrading with age.

UPDATED JUNE 28, 2013:

TWO great organizations

Both working very hard on the problem. Check them out they are deserving of your support.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Casting Call

I don't know about you but I want Matt Damon to play Edward J. Snowden in the movie version of My Leak, Your Leak - Our Passions.  

For a long time I have been a fan of good spy dramas, especially British ones. They are so open to conspiracy theories and they never have a problem with a storyline that lets both the British government and the American government be the bad guys from time to time.

While the U. S. is in hot pursuit of a certain EJS and is looking to bring him up before the Brotherhood of Industrial Plumbers Ethics Board, it seems the one they are pursuing has gone missing. His last know whereabouts was a a pizza parlor in Hong Kong before he allegedly boarded a flight to Russia only to not turn up in the empty seat of a Cuba bound flight.

The plot thickens as there is a scenario that has Matt Damon as EJS hold up in the transit area of Russia's airport - neither here nor there. It could be at this point Matt Damon morphs into Tom Hanks as EJS takes up permanent residence in the transit area.

I was trying to reflect back on my recent experience in the transit area of O'Hare's airport in Chicago. There was a short period where I was reunited with my luggage, so a change of clothes wouldn't be a problem. But for the life of me I don't recall if there were any other amenities like food and water that were offered there. Certainly there must have been restrooms available?

I would have Leslie Nielsen play the part of Secretary of State John Kerry because he would be perfect to deliver this recent quote from Kerry:
“I wonder if Mr. Snowden chose China and Russia as assistants in his flight from justice because they’re such powerful bastions of Internet freedom,” Mr. Kerry said sarcastically. 
That's a good one Mr. Secretary but unfortunately that isn't the point here, at least the way I see it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

American Education Today - "Curiouser and Curiouser"

I am beginning to get the feeling that Americans don't really care about the future. We tend to dismiss climate change as folly. Gun violence as an issue of the taking away of our rights and not about the taking of lives. And education not an exercise in learning but preparation for test taking.

Somewhere early on we yank away from our children their ability to be curious. Yes, of course it can be said this is done out of love, to protect them from harm and danger. But what do we save them for? A life of mediocrity, a life where their brains lie flaccid within their skulls. What a sad existence.

Our educational system does not encourage our children to ask questions. Look at this example:
"... a 9th grader raised her hand to ask if there were any places in the world where no one made art. The teacher stopped her midsentence with, "Zoe, no questions now, please; it's time for learning." (1) 
Just reading this exchange causes me physical pain. Why would a teacher cut off a question like this? Perhaps because she did not have an answer. But my guess is it is deeper than that, I think because the teacher herself is not curious. 

Education is empowerment and it will be the curious ones that will grow to become the problem solvers of the future. As with many things, we can't afford to wait to begin to change how we do things with our educational system. Those students from kindergarten on up are our future.

Read the article below from which I take the quote given above, it's a good one. Aren't you even a little bit curious?

(1) The Case for Curiosity

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Phunny Panang Story

Kek Lok Si - Temple of Supreme Bliss
aka Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas

This was the view as our tour bus pulled into the parking lot at the bottom of the temple grounds. Awaiting us were as they say 'at least 100 steps' to make our trek to the top. And having now been there let me add at least 100 vendors along the way as well.

No the figure in the white tee & visor is not one of the 10,000

Once inside the view is really rather spectatular especially as you make your way higher and higher up the very unsteady and uneven steps. 

I was poking around to see if I could gather some more information before posting this blog and stumbled upon a blog written by Arthur The Nony Kek Lok Si - the temple of boom in which he describes the pagoda below "as an epic piece of confectionery" - well it made me chuckle because my friend that accompanied me on the tour that day and who was at my side when the shutter went click on my camera said:

"It looks like a giant birthday cake." ~ Cruiser Peggy

I couldn't really argue with my friend's observation and it seems she is not alone with her opinion. But Arthur's blog drew me in enough to be curious about an additional post he had up My Drug Crazed Days in the Pearl of the Orient.

At first when I began to read Arthur's post my heart skipped a beat, "Had I missed something really big on my visit to Panang?" Certainly I never read about a "Chasing the Dragon' excursion as being an offering.

The more I read the more I began to chuckle, though I am sure Arthur didn't find the experience all that funny as he was experiencing his fate at the time. What was funny to me was that from our first port on the cruise in Nassau I remember running into other cruisers from the ship who asked, "Have you seen a pharmacy?"

It never occurred to me that such an innocuous question could end up having such dire consequences. Well all's well that ends well, especially in the case of Arthur the Nony.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Education Empowers

Check this out And it's Free (for now)


At edX, we believe in the highest quality education, both online and in the classroom.
EdX was created for students and institutions that seek to transform themselves through cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy, and rigorous courses.
Through our institutional partners, the XConsortium, we present the best of higher education online, offering opportunity to anyone who wants to achieve, thrive, and grow.
Our goals, however, go beyond offering courses and content. We are committed to research that will allow us to understand how students learn, how technology can transform learning, and the ways teachers teach on campus and beyond.
As innovators and experimenters, we want to share what we discover. The edX platform will be available as open source. By conducting and publishing significant research on how students learn, we will empower and inspire educators around the world and promote success in learning.
Our aim is to become a leading resource for learners and learning worldwide by staying focused on the goals and principles set forth when forming edX:
Our goals
  • Expand access to education for everyone
  • Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online
  • Advance teaching and learning through research
Our principles
  • Not for profit
  • Open source platform
  • Collaborative
  • Financially sustainable
EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard.

Spent Nuclear Fuel - What do we do with it?

We need to address permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel, now!
"The most challenging task so far has been the removal of highly radioactive waste from the 177 aging,underground tanks and construction of a plant to treat that waste."
Please read this article from the Associated Press Hanford Tank Leak

Suez Canal Bridge at El Qantara

Photo by: A. Pick May 2013
View of the Mubarak Peace Bridge as the Mariner of the Seas passes underneath.

As if travel along the Suez Canal wasn't enough we got to experience a rather unique view of the bridge that links the continents of Africa and Eurasia. This bridge was constructed with the financial help of the Japanese government which provided a grant to cover sixty percent of the costs.

"The Suez Canal Bridge, also known as the Mubarak Peace Bridge, or the Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, is a cable-stayed road bridge crossing the Suez Canal at El Qantara. The Arabic term "al qantara" means "the bridge". It was built with assistance from the Japanese government. The contractor was PentaOcean Construction. 
The construction cost of the bridge was US$195,000,000. The Japanese grant, accounting for 60% of the construction cost (or $117,000,000), was agreed to during the visit of President Hosni Mubarak to Japan in 1995, as part of a larger project to develop the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt bore the remaining 40% ($78,000,000). The bridge opened in October 2001. 
The bridge, which is 3.9 kilometres long, consists of a 400-metre cable stayed main span and two 1.8km long approach bridges. The height of the two main pylons supporting the main span is 154m each. They are designed in the shape of Pharaonic obelisks. The clearance under the bridge is 70 metres, which defines, therefore, the maximum height above the waterline (Suezmax) of ships that can pass through the Suez Canal."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Say What?

Miss Paula Deen wants us to forgive her because she is from the south and she is sixty years old?

Oh I don't think so girlfriend. Ain't gonna happen, maybe all that butter softened up your brain cells too much.

Move on people, move on.... this isn't something the children should be hearing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lots of Leaking Lately

Have you been down to the basement lately? Oy, look at this mess and very little of it makes much sense and a whole lot of it scares me shit-less.

Here at home we have a very serious leak going on at the Hanford Site, the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States. Hanford is located in the state of Washington along the Columbia River and is as they say "a mostly deccommissioned nuclear production facility" however the double-shell tanks which store the nuclear waste has a leak.

If you think Edward Snowden or Spygate is a monumental leak just hold on to your PRD (Personal Radiation Detector) and keep an eye on the numbers. It has taken ten months to get a confirmation of this leak and to make matters worse the private company which manages the "tank farms" ignored the confirmation.
“This is evidence that the company was bending over backward to not find the bad news,” Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group based in Seattle told King5 news. “This is the mindset at the Hanford site — of denial.”
OK, so that is what is going on in America, now let's switch our focus across the sea to Japan and see what's going on lately. More bad news I'm afraid. Fukushima Daiichi is reported to have high levels of two radioactive substances in the well holding the groundwater at the nuclear plant.

It seems that there is hardly ever any good news coming out of Japan on this subject. I find it unfathomable with the many issues of cracks, leaks and an unsettled nuclear waste long-term storage plan that there would be actual discussions of planning construction of any new nuclear plants.

I returned recently from a wonderful trip that took me around this old world of ours. I saw some incredible and beautiful places. But I also saw extremes, from women at the side of a river beating their clothes on the stones to clean them, to a city like Dubai built of super extreme high-rise towers that went on for blocks and blocks.

Every year we add almost 78 million people to our world and even at the most basic levels energy consumption increases, it will be impossible to reverse this trend without reversing population growth. So we need to think very carefully about our choices for energy and how we choose to consume it. A word to the wise, right?


Singapore Botanical Gardens
June 1, 2013

“Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.” ~ Martha Postlewaite

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dreams Dashed?

Sri Mariamman Temple - Oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore

When I left Singapore to make the long trek back home via various airlines I considered myself really lucky to be able to snag a ride on the Boeing 787 - know as the Dreamliner. This aircraft was pulled out of service earlier due to faulty batteries and I had been keeping my fingers crossed that it would be back in service by the time I was ready to fly home from the cruise.

The flight I took was operated by Japan Airlines and it was a beautiful flight all the way to Tokyo from Singapore, about a 7 1/2 hour flight. I was even lamenting that I probably should have taken a JAL flight all the way to Boston and then worked my way home from there.

Since I have been back United Airlines had problems with its Dreamliner fleet, which caused United yesterday to divert its Denver-Tokyo flight to Seattle because of an oil filter problem.

I do hope all these issues can get resolved soon and the Dreamliner will get back into full-time service with no more glitches. It is such a sweet plane.

Here is a link to learn more about the pictured Sri Mariamman Temple

Face Lifts for the Aging Nuclear Plants

Water Jet Peening

The energy industry is trying to find ways to extend the useful lives of their aging nuclear power plants as more facilities are being forced to close down.

This little article was noticed from Power Engineering just yesterday:
"Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems Inc. (MNES) was awarded contracts to provide its water jet peening (WJP) service at two nuclear power plants. 
The contracts are for work at the Wolf Creek Generating Station in Kansas and the Ameren Missouri Callaway Energy Center in Missouri. The service will help to modify the potential for stress corrosion cracking of essential Alloy 600 components and associated weld metals. The work is scheduled to begin in 2016. 
The entire process can be conducted underwater and uses only high-pressure water. No foreign materials or heat is applied. 
MNES will be responsible for the project management, and will work with contractors AZZ WSI and Structural Integrity Associates Inc."
Then not long after I received the first alert another one emerged from Mitsubishi's MNES that gave a tiny bit more information on this state-of-the-art water jet peening process  (WJP).
"The WJP service will reduce the risk of stress corrosion cracking of essential alloy components and associated weld metals, thus providing safety benefits and long-term cost savings to the ratepayers and utilities, MHI said."
 I once remember seeing a pillow for sale in a classy little boutique, on it written artfully in needlepoint were these words, "After forty it's just patch, patch, patch."

The ladies reading it chuckled knowing full well how true these little words were. I reflect back and find that the same thing is true of our nuclear power plants today. Half of the nuclear power plants in the United States are over 30 years old, the average age is over 32 years. So they have reached that "patch, patch, patch" stage and I think this is just the beginning of what you can expect to hear on the subject.

Here is a new story that just came in this morning that describes the process in a bit more detail:

There are so many wonderful "fixes" out there aren't there? But Little Annie One Note still asks the same age old question: "What do we do with the spent nuclear fuel?" Fill in your answer below.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Monsoon Season

It's June and the Monsoon Season has arrived in India. These much needed rains are a godsend to the farmers of the area who are dependent on the rains to insure bumper crops. Typically the monsoon season is from June to September each year.

Kerala Backwaters - May 2013

On May 26th I encountered a few pre-monsoon season sprinkles while taking the Kerala Backwaters tour. But mind you I was prepared had the monsoon arrived early. When I packed for my trip I carefully added my yellow slicker and special plaid UGG monsoon boots. You just never know when a monsoon might decide to come to visit early, much like a dear relative.

Rice Paddies in the background

Fun Monsoon Facts:

"India, one of the world's largest producers and consumers of food crops, relies on rainwater to irrigate 55 percent of its farmland.

Seven southern and western states were hit by drought last year and are in desperate need of plentiful and timely rains to aid a recovery.

Earlier in May, the Indian Meteorological Department predicted that the monsoon would arrive over Kerala around June 3.

The prediction is vital for farmers who need to plant crops such as rice and soya bean on time.
The downpour on Saturday over Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state, came as a delight for locals.

According to estimates by the meteorological observatory, monsoon will gradually move to cover the entire country by mid-July."  Source: Agencies, Aljazeera, Central and South Asia News

UPDATE:  As a matter of fact K. I did have special UGG Monsoon boots ;-)

Mariner Artwork

I am afraid that good food and drink coupled with all the good times aboard the Mariner of the Seas distracted me from a project I thought about doing. Literally at every turn we would stumble upon some form of delicious art work.

My first reaction was to make sure I got photos of all the wonderful works that made up the museum sections of the Mariner. There was so much to do and time slipped by so quickly I am afraid all I have to offer is just a tiny sample and taste of Mariner's Main Art Course.

I will try to unearth some more treasures as I go through and organizes all my photos.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Devil is in the Details

We all know that the Devil is in the details so let's avoid that trap, shall we? Here are some headlines that you can ponder, no need to trouble yourself in getting anymore facts, the full story will only work to confuse you.

In this Twitterfied world we live in we rather you just comply with the 140 limit and move it on along. Our nightly television "news" is just delivered to us in little snippets. If you heard more than five minutes on a subject you might become confused and figured you were on the Documentary Channel.

No, no, please, No Details.

More Deaths Than Births for White Americans

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meet the Mariner

Mariner of the Seas
Photographed from the air in Dubai

Those of you who follow my blog are aware that recently for six weeks my home was the Mariner of the Seas. In my postings I shared the places where I visited but really told you very little about this temporary residence of mine. In fact a loyal reader and commenter mentioned to me he would like to know and see more of this wonderful ship. So this is for you Keith.
 Captain Flemming

Like a city has a mayor who is in charge of things, our ship had a master and that was our Captain Flemming, actually Flemming B. Nielsen who was born in Denmark and now resides in Arizona when not actually onboard and performing his duties.

Mariner's Officers & Directors

Captain Flemming has been with Royal Caribbean International since 2000 and in 2010 was promoted to Master on the Mariner of the Seas. Like a good mayor he was quite accessible and I spoke with him on several occasions, a very likeable chap.

Serving Table 411
Nehru from Mauritius and Xi Xi from China

The Mariner of the Seas has a total of 1,557 staterooms so that would work out to a passenger population of over 3,000 people. To take care of all these people the Mariner had a crew of 1,200 from 65 countries. I had stateroom attendants from the Philippines and India and working in the dining room waiters and assistants from South Africa, China, Turkey and the island country of Mauritius.

 Johnny Rockets happy and singing staff

There were five dining rooms and in addition five other dining facilities, from fine dining to Johnny Rockets yummy burgers.  A complete fitness center, pools, full size basketball court, miniature golf course, jogging track, rock climbing wall and ice rink to just name a few of the amenities.

 One of the onboard doctors

We had lots of lounges and bars and pubs, the Savoy Theater holds 1,362 and in addition Studio B and its ice rink with seats to accommodate 904. Even a medical facility complete with operating room and during our voyage we had two doctors onboard to take good care of everyone.

Ice show performance
Under the Big Top

The Promenade, which I liked to think of as our Main Street was lined with boutiques and cafes where you could have a drink or a cup of coffee or even an ice cream cone.

Daytime bustle on our Main Street

Familiar Ben & Jerry's on hand always

The Promenade in evening time

In the late afternoon and evenings lovely music was offered up and once on each leg of the cruise a wonderful parade with costumed characters was presented complete with massive amounts of confetti that would later have to be dutifully cleared away each time.

View from Deck 6 down to Deck 5
Guest Services Desk on the lower right

It wasn’t mentioned if there was a jail but there was a morgue. But maybe if you keep people happy, educated, and well fed and provide adequate medical care, jails aren’t needed. Hmm food for thought.

Putting the jogging track to good use

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What is the distance around the world?

You ask and Wiki Answers.


What is the circumference of the Earth? How far around is the Earth?
The average radius of the Earth is 3,959 miles (6,374 kilometers). The equatorial diameter of the Earth (distance from one side of the Earth to the other at the equator) is about 7,926 miles.
The ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle (circumference/diameter) is written as the symbol pi. Pi is approximately 3.141592. 3.14159265 3.1415926535
Therefore, to determine the circumference from the diameter given above: equatorial diameter x 3.141592 = equitorial circumference | | 7,926 x 3.141592 = 24,900 | | The earth has a circumference of approximately 24,900 miles.
More precisely the circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 mi / 40,076 km.
a North-South circumference, however (passing through both North and South Poles) is slightly less, as the Earth is not a sphere but an oblate spheroid, somewhat fattened in its North-South axis but the effect of rotation.

The Earth's circumference is about 24,900 miles.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Around the World - Back Home Again

Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner

A neat little plus was that I got to ride in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Singapore to Tokyo and what a sweet ride it was. Japan Airlines is my new favorite airline, I can find nothing negative to say. The time I spent with them was just perfection.

Fun Fact: Did you know that at an altitude of 40,000 feet the outside temperature is -67 degrees Fahrenheit? I know a bit nippy isn't it? 

So here is a final recap of my around the world adventure: Total miles covered on the ship Mariner of the Seas was 14,199 nautical miles. To that can be added the trip back home which covered three countries and three separate flights and no lost luggage. The first leg was on Japan Airline from Singapore to Tokyo which was 3,333 miles, then on American Airline from Tokyo to Chicago O'Hare for another 6,266 miles and then Chicago to St. Louis, a mere 259 miles. The total trip home was 9,858 miles and about 19/20 hours of flight time.

That makes a total of 24,057 nautical and air miles - and you know what I could do the whole thing all over again tomorrow.

~ ~ ~

Good news on the home front today. Southern California Edison Company has decided to shut down operations at their San Onofre Nuclear plant that has been in operation there for the last 40 years. That brings the number of nuclear plants in operation in the United States down from 104 to 100, a move in the right direction.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Last Day in Singapore - Heading Home Tomorrow

Raffles Hotel Singapore

I have had a couple of days of detox from all the cruise ship's care and feeding. Not sure I like having to do everything myself. I head home tomorrow, first fly from Singapore to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Chicago and then a short flight to St. Louis. I don't think I will have time to take in a Cubs game while I am in ChiTown.

It's been a fantastic trip and I do have other photos of Singapore's very interesting and diverse city, but these will have to wait until I get home and get them organized.

Just so you don't get the idea that Singapore is the "perfect" city, I did see one or two pieces of trash floating about and one person spit on the sidewalk. Guess it was his lucky day in not getting caught or it might have been his last spit ever. Ha ha.

I will be back soon.