Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pettigrew encounters Buford

The first actual fighting contact between the spread out elements of the two armies took place a little north and west of the actual town limits of Gettysburg in the early morning of July 1. More historians than not agree that Gettysburg was not chosen for battle by either side, that it was simply providence that'd done the choosing. Gettysburg was where the shoes were, that's all. But there - or somewhere else - it didn't make that much difference; that's where the two armies made first contact, after the first day's fighting, there was no turning back. Gettysburg it was.

Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was still coming up, it's corps and their divisions camping at various places of opportunity. Meade's Army of the potomac (Meade had very recently replaced Joseph Hooker as its commander) had crossed the river shortly after Lee, and was making its way up too, also in a long spread out line, keeping to the east of Lee, more or less between Lee and Washington.

The fortunes of war are sometimes bizarre, and one the reasons that the two armies made contact at Gettysburg was over shoes. Ok, since you want me to tell the story of the shoes, and how they caused the meeting of elements of the two armies, I will.

Napoleon Bonapart had once said that an army travels on its stomach. Both Lee and Meade knew this wasn't true: an army travels on its feet, and both sides were due for some needed reshoeing.

On June 3o, Lee was near Cashtown and Meade at Middleburg. Meade had selected Pipe Creek (in that area) as the place he would like to fight. Intelligence from his scouts and from Washington seemed to indicate that Lee had apparently changed his mind about Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and was veering east, with Washington and Baltimore his new apparent goals.

This story really started earlier in the day, June 30, 1863 - the day before Day One of what was to later be called simply "Gettysburg," where, at Cashtown, Brigadier General Johnson Pettigrew was eagerly bringing news of his brigade's brush with Union cavalry in the town of Gettysburg to his division commander, Major General Harry Heth, about his sighting of Yankee cavalry. As he was speaking, the corps commander himself, Powell Hill, arrived and listened first hand as Pettigrew recounted encountering, or at least seeing up close and personal (Buford's) Union cavalry. Pettigrew had taken his brigade to Gettysburg to try and get those shoes, but withdrew from the town quickly in the face of Gamble's (Buford's cavalry commander) calvary, coming up from Emmitsburg in advance of Buford's Division.

Harry Heth was an interesting man. He was a career soldier, a cousin of George Pickett. They had been at West Point at the same time, staying in the regular army until Virginia seceded. Heth was an arms specialist and had been the foremost authority on the rifle in the old army, even writing a book. "A System of Target Practice" was still used as the range guide in the army. Lee enjoyed his company and conversation. Heth's division was a bit heavy, with 4 brigades instead of 3, due to recent reorganization and consolidating. One of his brigades was commanded by Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis, a nephew of the Southern President. But it was another of Heth's brigade commanders, Pettigrew, who was engaging Heth's ear at the moment.

Frankly, neither Heth nor Hill believed Pedigrew, but listened semi-politely. General Hill had just come from Lee, whose intelligence from scouts agreed: Lee and Hill knew where the Yankees were, and it damn sure wasn't Gettysburg.

One imagines the corps commander losing interest, perhaps looking to Heth to silence Pettigrew's now-repetitive exuberance. Heth turned to Hill and interjected: "If there is no objection, I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes."

Hill: "None in the world."

Recent posts about Gettysburg:

Your reward for reading down this far:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

No screaming while head is in dustpan

Please tell me the below picture is posed. Surely not a real mom?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mo' Teaparty

I'm still trying to define the "Teaparty" thing. It isn't as benign as I wrote in my last post. It looks like the original tax protest (against Obama's stimulous package, I think) has been hijacked by a lot of other organizations with their own agendas, each with the name "Teaparty" somewhere in their name.

You probably weren't surprised. Nothing ever happens spontaneously without it soon being appropriated. Still trying to find out how bad it is and who the big fat boys are that's using it.

Your government loves you and has your best interests at heart.

Those of you who have followed my blogs have come to know how truly objective I am in my reporting, and how especially tolerant and neutral I am when I blog about my beloved government. Hardly a day passes that I am not reminded of the caring benevolence spread over me by my Federal Government. Sometimes, when I realize just how thickly their concern for my well-being is spread all over me, my heart nearly bursts with love as I give thanks that I live in a country which cares enough to warn me, like a loving nanny father, about things like, say, giving in to the urge of putting a plastic bag over my head.

How many times has my government literally saved my life by mandating the printing of pictures of lifeless babies with x'ed out eyes and little tongues hanging out on the little plastic bag that my keyboard came in? Or, since I am prone to blow-drying my hair while sitting in the bathtub, how many times do you think, over the years, I have given a huge whew of relief when I've opened a new hair dryer and - just in the nick of time - saw the likeness on the plastic wrapper of the hapless schmuck with the electric bolts coming out of his ears and smoke rising from his electron-fried boyo? It boggles. I rejoice publicly in front of your prying eyes.

How long has this been going on? When did it start? I'm guessing it may have been one of the nice things Jimmy Carter did for us, but I may be wrong. It may be even older. If I try hard enough, I can conjure up long-dead (may Allah be praised) congressmen from the 1960s with fat cigars and blue smoke around their heads with skinny suspenders holding their pants up over their bloated pot-bellied pork bellies, passing major plastic-bag safety legislation in lulls between congressional pay-raise bills. And LBJ signing them as fast as his bought-and-paid-for slimy hands could sign. And then, probably, selling the pens he signed them with.

God, how proud the fallen boys from the hedgerows of France must feel as they smile down from heaven and witness the fruits of their sacrifice manifested in such greater personal freedom from intrusive government than they were able to enjoy in their brief lifetimes. How proud the Framers must be to realize just how much their progeny understands what they meant by "regulate interstate commerce". Glory.

Would I like to live in a world where the government doesn't require asinine needless warnings on plastic bags? Would I like to see all the rows of empty "handicapped parking" spaces disappear? I think I would like to leave those things up to state and local governments, thank you. One size doesn't fit all. It has NEVER been more efficient to send in your money to the Federal Government and then have them send some of it back to the states and cities wrapped neatly around new stupid regulations. EVEN if they are big enough to make me do things I don't want to do.

If the Feds want to regulate something, how about them thar bank charges? No price fixing there, by golly - it's just a big fat coincidence that all banks charge the exact same fees. Sure. Just like it is only a big fat coincidence all four gas stations on each intersection with different signs price their gasoline the same, to the penny. You bet. And how about seeing my interest rates keep going up on my credit cards even though I haven't missed a payment in 10 years? Huh? Even though the price banks pay for money has gone down and down and down to ZERO practically. How about that, Mr. and Mrs. Fed? How about putting some of your crony stock broker buddies in jail for stealing all the bail-out money YOU gave them? Hey? That'll keep you busy enough that you don't have to worry about mandating warnings on my toothpaste. I say let the Feds keep the thieving banks and credit card companies off my back and buy some decent body armor for the Army, and just leave the rest to the people. (Other people, not me.)

Obligatory notice for my dear liberal readers:

All this sarcasm aside, I do believe there are some (many) things that we need our Federal Government to do - things that don't make sense for local governments or state governments to be trying to do. That's another post, since I will have to think up some things our Federal Government is better at than local governments would be good at, other than the obvious things that are outlined in the Constitution already. Among these would be uniform Civil Rights laws and enforcement. I would consider things like no child labor and not having to starve in the gutter to be civil rights.

By all means, please list all the things YOU think the Federal Government should be involved in because they love you and me and are concerned for our welfare. Don't be afraid. I won't bite.

And if I was the President
The minute the Congress'd call my name
I'd say "Now, who do... who do you think you're foolin'?"
I got the Presidential Seal
I'm up here on the Presidential Podium
And my country loves me, she loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
She LOVES me like a rock
She rocks me like the Rock of Ages
My country loves me
She love me love me love me love me.

Apologies to Paul Simon. Big time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lee invades the North

Max is interested in studying the Civil War. I can't tell you why, except that it is complex and therefore challenging to unravel. Max loves to come unraveled.

Realizing that the American Civil War is not especially interesting to many readers of this blog, I will keep the posts short and spread them out over time, say every third post for the next 10 years.

Relax Max's rendition of the American Civil War is probably not the same exact version you've read in your history books, but it will be accurate, and it may be more interesting. At the very least, due to my attention span, you may be sure I will skip around. I'm going to start out with just one battle of that war - a battle that happened about halfway through the war. Max and a zillion other people have studied and critiqued that battle over the years. As a result of all that reading and studying, much of this is from memory, so feel free to correct me in comments. Be gentle.

In the spring of 1863, General Robert E. Lee was growing more than a little frustrated at winning major defensive battles fought in Virginia against the (at times) ineptly led Union Army of the Eastern Theater, and still not seeing them go away. He had repulsed the Army of the Potomac (and its appendages) four times: under McClellan, under Pope, under Burnside, and most recently under Joe Hooker - hammering it and sending it staggering back well pounded and bloodied, only to see an endless line of fresh recruits in new blue uniforms replenish the gaps in the Union line and resume the grinding pressure against Lee, eating up the resources of the South at an alarming rate while the fresh replacements arrived from the Washington Forts, and the Union Navy sat in the tidewaters and provisioned them at will. Something had to give. General Lee made the decision to invade the North.

Actually, Lee had three reasons for invading Pennsylvania. First, from a tactical standpoint, he wanted to draw the Army of the Potomac out away from Washington and, if he could interdict - or at least stretch - their supply lines, he was confident he could defeat them in the open, so to speak. Second, if he could take Harrisburg (and he could, easily enough) and maybe even Philadelphia, he would put some fear into the citizens - enough fear, perhaps, that they would put some pressure on Washington to consider ending the war in a compromise and letting the South go their own way. After all, the people in the North were getting tired of the war, too.

Last but not least, Lee had a great desire (and need) to begin feeding his army in Pennsylvania instead of in Virginia. His army was eating Virginians out of house and home. The prosperous "Pennsylvania Dutch" German farmers wouldn't miss a million or so chickens and much of their cattle and bursting storehouses full of grain and orchards laden with heavy fruit - not to mention 50,000 or so pairs of shoes.

So it came to pass, in late June of 1863, General Robert E. Lee began to consolidate his great army, and the waning days of June saw the three splendid corps of the Army of Northern Virginia on the top side of the Mason-Dixon line, in search of provisions and the Army of the Potomac, whichever came first.

Odd that Lee would have to search, but, as it happened, Lee had just lost his right arm and was almost totally blind as the invasion began. His right arm, of course was what he euphemistically called his main man, General Stonewall Jackson, who had been killed recently at Chancellorsville. Lee hadn't gotten over that yet and wondered aloud at what he would possibly do without Jackson. Worse, Jackson had been shot by his own men, at night, when Jackson had absentmindedly failed to answer the challenge of a sentry.

As for being blind, Lee hadn't seen hide nor hair of General J.E.B. Stuart in days now, not since Harper's Ferry or thereabouts. An army without cavalry, in those days, was a blind army. Lee wondered why Stuart and his cavalry didn't appear and bring him intelligence as to the whereabouts of the Army of the Potomac. Worriedly, he continued north, hardly invisible to anyone who could see.

As it turned out, the army Lee was looking for was in a bit of disarray as well, very spread out. Lincoln had just fired Joe Hooker that day, so the Army of the Potomac - wherever it was - was without a commanding general for the time being. Joe Hooker had a bit of a mouth on him and he had recently lost an argument with Lincoln and the War Department in Washington.

See, after Chancellorsville, Hooker was convinced Lee was still bogged down at Fredericksburg (he had even had General Sedgewick, commander of the "Big Sixth" Corps of the Union Army, send a brigade down across the river to punch at "Lee's" army which Hooker thought was still hunkered down in Fredericksburg, and Sedgewick's boys fancied they felt enough resistance from the Confederate forces there - it was really "only" J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry, not Lee's army - to tell Hooker that Lee was still there) so Hooker quickly got it into his head that Lee had left Richmond exposed (he had) and told Lincoln he intended to trot on down and take the Southern Capital.

To which Abraham Lincoln replied, "Your ass, Joe. Get thyself back up here and put my army between Washington and the Confederates. I don't need another Southern city to feed." Or words to that effect.

To which Hooker replied with words to the effect that if Lincoln didn't like the way he was handling the war in the Eastern Theater, then he could just take his resignation right then and there, and Lincoln allowed as how he WOULD do just that and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Joe. Like that. More or less.

So it came to pass that General George Meade became head honcho of the Army of the Potomac just as Lee was bringing the pride of the South up to introduce themselves to the Pennsylvania farmers. And Meade? George Meade didn't have a clue what Hooker's plans had been, and really didn't know exactly where all "his" army was right now. In fact, just to show you the confusion and suspicion going on in the Union high command at the moment, Meade later said when he was woken up to be told he was now the new Commander, he thought he was being arrested for something else he had recently done. Ah, well.

So General George Gordon Meade got out his maps and at the same time was sincerely unhappy to be informed that the South was invading him. Somewhere. Welcome, George. Have a cup of coffee, and let's get it on.

Robert E. Lee proceeded to cautiously continue to bring his army up, sans cavalry and intelligence - where WAS Stuart? Arrrgh. It is really a pain in the ass to keep tabs on three full corps of infantry, artillery, and miles of supply wagons - while looking for the rather bleary eyed George Meade. And Meade was alookin' for Lee too.

Soon the two armies would find each other just outside a prosperous little town in southern Pennsylvania, called Gettysburg.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Today is August 18 again. It seems only yesterday it was August 17.

A lot of things happened on August 18. Not necessarily today, but in years past. Historic things happened. People were born. People... you know... died.

Were YOU born on August 18? If so, happy birthday! And I mean that. I certainly hope you don't DIE on August 18, at least not today. If you do, please have someone comment about it and I will write a nice piece about you in this spot.


1. The Thousand Islands Bridge was dedicated on August 18 in 1904 by Teddy Roosevelt. Ok, that's a lie. It was dedicated on August 18, 1938 by FRANKLIN Roosevelt. Of course, the Thousand Island Bridge isn't really a bridge at all (it's a salad dressing. Kidding again) it's a series of 5 bridges. It goes from New York across the St. Lawrence into Ontario and then back down to North Carolina. Or at least NY to ONT. Oh! but that area is simply gorgeous. There's also a castle on one of the thousand islands. I forget which one. Our very own Sheila did a post about it one time though, and you should go back and read it. Anyway, here's a bridge picture. You'll never forgive yourself if you don't click on it to make it slendiferously bigger:
2. On August 18, 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote in the U.S. So that was a cool August 18 thing.


1. Persus Khambatta, in 1998. That sucked. Persus was a Miss India at age 17 and went on to compete in Miss Universe, but to me she will always be the exotic Deltan Lieutenant Ilia in the original Star Trek movie. Here's pictures of her:

2. Honore de Balzac, in 1850. Famous black coffee drinker and marathon writer. A favorite of mine and the more I read of him, the favoriter her gets. I could quote you some of the things he said but the whole world already knows what he said. Ask Soubriquet to tell you about the coffee. Here's Honore's picture, looking all cool and fat:


1. Virginia Dare, 1587. Virginia was the first English child born in the Americas.

2. Franz Josef I, Emperor of the Austrian Empire, pictured at top of this post. August 18, 1830 was when this precious one entered the world. You may recall that the Great War, WWI, began when his nephew-successor Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 by Serb nationalists in Sarajevo. The war dragged out until the U.S. entered in 1917 and won it quickly. Then again, you may NOT recall. It's ok.

3. Robert Redford, Born August 18, 1936. It's really hard to describe all that he has done over the years. He is one of my favorite actors of all time. Even the real Sundance Kid once told me (in an afterlife postcard) that Redford was a better Sundance than he was himself. It's hard for me to believe that Robert Redford is 75 today. Damn.

4. Roman Polanski, child rapist, beloved of the liberal left, he who is too cool to be subject to justice like a regular non-artistic common man and should just be left alone because the rapee wants it so now and, God, he has suffered enough, born 1933. He is also one of the absolute best, most talented movie directors who ever lived. Incidently, Vincent Bugliosi was also born on August 18 of the very next year. How eerie is that? oooooEEEEEooooo. (Bugliosi was the LA district attorney who prosecuted Charles Manson and family for the murder of Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate.)

5. Roselyn Carter, former U.S. First Lady and sweet southern Belle. Unfortunately, some say her husband was the worst President in the history of the United States. Of course, that wasn't HER fault, even if it were true. How quickly people forget Lyndon Shithead Johnson and his Great Society debacle and something else. Oh, I remember: Vietnam. So Jimmy wasn't the worst, but bad enough to get Ronald Reagan elected because he shone in comparison. Me? I vote James Buchanan as worst, simply because he could have prevented the Civil War and just sat on his ass instead. But none of those things have anything to do with August 18. Here is a picture of Roselyn and her guy:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The So-called Tea Party

Without knowing exactly what it was or what it REALLY stood for, I decided, finally, to do some research on this thing people have been calling "The Teaparty."

I should say that before this little bit of half-assed research, I only "knew" what was being thrown out by politicians and the "media." I have admittedly read a lot of rhetoric on Looney Left blogs and websites, and heard about (though not actually listened to) the Rabid Right's radio talk shows, and, by reading these things, have concluded that the "Left" doesn't like "The Teaparty" or a woman called "Sarah Palin." I think the Rabid Right does. So I tried to dig deeper, in hopes that maybe I could come up with a personal opinion of my own; I plugged my nose and jumped into the septic tank of American Politics, euphemistically-speaking. At least I dove as deep as the internet would take me; I don't want to know badly enough to actually go outside and see for myself first-hand.

This alone - this frothing hatred of them by the Far Left - was, of course, reason enough for me to be predisposed to like them both - The Teaparty and Sarah Palin - even before beginning my elusive search for "some" truth. Add the fact that my friend Adullamite disparages and scorns both "The Teaparty" and this Palin woman, and you give me yet another reason to think they must both be pretty good. Joke.

Be that as it may, I decided to see if there was any truth to be found out there beyond the vast bald-faced lying wasteland of the Looney Liberal bloggers and the droning propaganda of the Rabid Rightwing talk radio shows. It wasn't as easy to find out the truth as you might think. Maybe there isn't any truth, just rhetoric. But I found a few "possibly true" facts that I am pretty sure are "almost complete" facts. Here goes.

1. The first thing I found out is there is no such thing as "The Teaparty." Wow. At least not officially. It isn't a party at all (not a political party, I mean, maybe an ice cream party). It has no official leadership or official headquarters or official website (which REALLY made it hard to find out the truth, since there is no "horse's mouth" so to speak.

2. In spite of there being no official organization or official website, there are at least a ZILLION websites out there with red, white, and blue design motifs with the American flag and American eagle plastered all over the home pages. You'll have no trouble finding places to donate to "The Teaparty" online, but your money will go to whatever causes that particular website thinks is best. Maybe his own bank. Just saying.

3. I found one website that seems to have done more research than I have, and it was the only one which seemed to have a bit of an honest ring to it when it stated bluntly:

"There is no 'official' Tea Party website. There is no 'official' Tea Party organization or board of directors. Anyone who tells you different is a liar, and anyone who tells you his website is the official place to donate money to the Tea Party is a thief."

4. A few facts seem to consistently emerge when you look hard enough.

a. The "Tea" in "Tea Party" stands for "TEA" - "Taxed Enough Already." It was the slogan of the original handful of grass roots tax protesters who gave birth to this thing that the whole world has largely perverted. For the record, the tax protest that spawned "The Teaparty" was begun by a young lady in Oregon (of all places) who began blogging about it. She ended up with something like 130 people who agreed with her and then it went viral.

b. Don't believe in polls. Polls vary wildly and are manipulated to the purposes of the ones who think up the questions and decide who they ask and how they ask. But a short list of items seems to keep showing up on all the responses. Most people who said they were in agreement with what "The Teaparty" stood for, thought they stood for the following:

1. Smaller, less intrusive, government; but take care of the truly needy
2. Lower taxes, but crack down on big banks and big corporations
3. More personal responsibility of individuals in all areas
4. The federal government should stop spending so much and start living within their (our) means
5. We should stop starting wars all over the world and start minding our own business
6. We need to return to backing our money with something that is intrinsically valuable, like gold or silver.

That's about it. Those are the things that the Looney Left and some bloggers I know are making fun of.

For not having an "official organization," so-called "Teaparty candidates" who vocally espouse the above principles are sure being elected in droves and having their campaigns donated to.

One other thing that is going to piss off the Left, though it didn't surprise me:

(a) there are more Democrats who believe in the above principles than the Lurid Left or Rabid Right thinks there are. "Teabaggers" are not all Southern Baptist Republicans.

(b) worse for the Obama reelection camp, there are a LOT more independents who believe those things too.

Bottom line. Does Max think these folks are going to deny Obama a second term? No. No, I don't believe that. Our current President will be around for a while, is my prediction. I do think there is a good chance his party will lose the Senate though, if they don't get off their butts and do something about the economy really quickly, and that would mean he would have to bend his ear a bit more to the lowlife people he is now disparaging, if he wants to get anything accomplished in his second term. But the likes of Palin or Bachman or any of the other lightweights are hardly going to defeat Obama.

God I hate politics and politicians. I read in my local paper today that Congress has reached an all-time low of 18% approval rating by the citizens. That's one poll I think I believe. Can you believe it? What scumbags! All they would have to do to get some respect is go to work and do what their bosses tell them they want done. But they can't manage to do that. Is there anything stupider or grosser than a fat cat lawyer politician when their snout is in the trough? Any other employees would have been fired a long time ago. What is Congress' current response to the economic crisis and high unemployment that is going on right now? They are in Washington, working tirelessly day and night, right?

Wrong. They went on summer break.

Update: after this published and I read it carefully, it is obvious I didn't stress enough that these fake "Teaparty" parasites with all their disingenuous blogs and self-serving usurpers are doing plenty enough to deserve the scorn and ridicule the world is heaping on "The Teaparty". But these are the charlatans and money grubbers and not, I don't think, the same people who are quietly financing and electing the new "replacement" politicians who have promised to toe the demanded fiscal responsibility line.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Competent Men

A "competent man" (or competent woman) according to Wikipedia is a stock character in a novel who exhibits a wide range of abilities and knowledge; a form of fictional polymath.

Many superheroes in comic books and science fiction novels are of this character type. Sherlock Holmes, as another example, was a Competent Man. Howard Roark (The Fountainhead) was, in my opinion, Ayn Rand's "competent man" characterization. Batman is another example.

The late amazing science fiction author Robert Heinlein - who had an unbelievable imagination, in his award-winning novel "Time Enough for Love" had his "competent man" character Lazarus Long speak the following words:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallently. Specialization is for insects."

I like that.

Why am I thinking of Soubriquet right now?

Or even Re... Well, that would be TOO arrogant. :)

No, Max is not a polymath. He is an indefatigable philomath, though; this blog's very existence is some evidence of that. And now he knows of Robert Heinlein and Lazarus Long. And even Hildegard of Bingen.

There is nothing like a long-distance shot to the head to make Max talk oddly in his posts.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Falling for it

I've recently read some odd things and visited some odd websites while Googling to find out about the various aspects of falling. Free-falling in the sky, I mean - not falling out of my chair or down the stairs.

The first thing I was trying to find out was how long it would take you to splat into the earth falling from various heights, but I soon came across some other interesting questions from other readers of the various articles.

As to my first question, about how long it takes a person (or object) to fall to the earth from various heights, they started talking about physics right away so that sort of turned me off. All I really wanted to know was how long it would take an object to fall to earth from 20,000 feet, but could I get a straight answer? No. They kept talking about things like mass and resistance and attitude. I will admit to the attitude by then.

I realize that if I jump out of an airplane and go into a diving position I will fall faster than if I fall flat with my arms out like a skydiver. And I realize that a rock tied under an umbrella is probably going to fall a lot slower than a non-umbrellaed cannonball would, but I just wanted a general answer. Not possible, the Googled scientists said - need to know some factors first.

I remember Rocket Scientist telling me one time about terminal velocity, which I assumed referred to a child running through an airport. Anyway, the subject was sudden loss of cabin pressure and whether one would really get sucked out the airplane window like Goldfinger did. I think she said no, because the pressure would be lost too fast and wasn't that great of a differential in the first place, but if you were under several atmospheres of pressure or lack of pressure, like in a diving bell, then your bod would get pushed through the meat grinder pretty grossly.

Back to falling. What prompted this was me reading an old news story about two large airliners crashing over the Grand Canyon at 20,000 feet back in 1956. I was wondering how long it might have taken them to fall from that height to crash into Grand Canyon, and whether or not it would be a long enough fall for the passengers to have time to realize what had happened and what was about to happen to them, if you get my drift. I'm not insensitive to their terror, but inquiring minds want to know and I can't help them anymore by not asking anyway.

So, basically you get back to air resistance of the various parts of the still-intact parts of the airliners which contained the 200-some passengers (it was the largest loss of life of any airline accident up to that time.)

I'm guessing, and only guessing, that it took a least a couple of minutes. Must have seemed like an eternity to them. Neither of the planes were flyable and went straight down, crashing near each other, although one assumes engines or some of them were still running, they were screaming down to earth and not "gliding." The TWA super Connie had it's entire tail torn off, so you assume some passengers in free fall away from the plane, but the United DC-7 had half of one wing ripped off so maybe the pilot was able to keep the shiny side "up" rather than spiraling, but almost straight down. Can anyone improve upon my guess of "a couple minutes?"

The second question that came up (other than the normal questions of throwing cats and caterpillars out of upstairs windows) was about falling through the center of the earth. The deal was you drill a hole all the way through the earth and jump into it and fall out in China. And the question was how long would it take to make the trip. Everyone came up with between 12 and 14 minutes, which I thought was preposterous. Of course, you had to pretend a lot of things like you could breathe and there was no air friction and it wasn't hot at the center of the earth and things like that.

Nobody, none of the elementary school science teachers, came up with the answer I came up with, so I will present it to you here. They were concerned with mass and terminal velocity and diameter of the earth, and I was concerned with something they didn't even mention, which was gravity. I say, you would fall slower and slower and finally come to a stop at the center of the earth when the gravitational forces equalized. What's wrong with that idea? But nobody else mentioned gravity, so I must be wrong.

When I left the google thing, my mind kept on going, in free-fall, as it were. Like, what if you dropped two round lead balls out of an airplane, one the size of a marble and one the size of a small cannon ball. Pretend the airplane could come to a stop while you dropped them carefully. Pretend there was no wind to blow the lighter one sideways. Just think about mass. I say they would reach the ground at exactly the same time (if you pretend there was no air resistance. Sigh.) I say that the two objects of different weights (neglecting aerodynamics) would fall at exactly the same speed.

Speaking of terminal velocity. I think we were at one time. It turns out that an object doesn't just fall faster and faster until it reaches its terminal velocity and then continue at that speed until it hits the ground. Air being denser and denser the closer to the ground you are, the objects slow (slightly) down the closer they get to the ground. That's what they said. So you reach terminal velocity and then (still falling side by side?) you begin to slow down a bit. We are probably talking about less than a second here, but you know how scientists are.

I have finally convinced myself that if you are trapped in a falling elevator you will still be killed if you jump hard and high a split second before you crash. But I can't explain why. Sounds reasonable to me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Speaking of religion (if not morality)

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Religion and Morality

I have been blogging about morals and morality the last few posts. I have postulated that morals are personal and learned (not innate) and can change. I have asserted that society can impose a code of morality upon us that is different (or can be different) than our personal moral code. Finally, I made the obvious point that society (we) can make up any moral code it feels like if we allow it to, or force it to, at the ballot box.

Of course, we can all complain and ridicule the current moral code our society (neighbors) have adopted. We can opine how stupid and silly their moral code is and how we would write the code differently, but that is really only saying "My personal moral code is better and society would do well to adopt my values. By God." In short, it does no good to opine about the smartness or dumbness of society's rules. Doing so is only a theoretical argument. One must work to get the rules that one dislikes changed. It could happen. Society's code can change. It has happened before.

Another place we learn our moral code is through religion. I state the obvious. Religion is, more or less, one big moral code, and if one learns it from early childhood, one accepts it tenets, whether it be Islam or John Calvin's version of Christianity. Religion is more like society's rules, though, in that you HAVE to go by it's rules if you want to be a part of it. Religion is different than society in that you can't really change it; you can only leave.

There is a lot more I could say about morals and morality, but I would probably only start getting intrusive, and that isn't my intent in these posts. As usual, I only seek to research truth and to restate what I think I have found that truth to be, for my own benefit mostly.

Man cannot live in society without a moral code; he can't just go around doing as he pleases.

Allowing people to come CLOSE to doing as they think best is the best kind of society to live in, don't you think? As soon as I wrote the preceding sentence, I realized I don't really believe it; man needs structure and order to thrive, and sometimes that means a certain structure must be imposed upon us.

What are your own thoughts about that?

Do you believe that the moral code you have formulated for yourself, based on what you have learned so far in life, is the best moral code?

Do you agree that when you ridicule certain "dos and don'ts" that society tells us we must abide by, you are really only comparing them to your own set of values?

I personally believe one cannot judge the goodness or badness of a society's moral code without, at the same time, comparing that code to one's own personal moral code, and noting flaws or excellence - defined by how society deviates from our own personal values or how society is congruent with our personal values. I also think the exact same process takes place when an author creates a fictional character in a book: that fictional character has "good points and admirable qualities" only when those "good qualities" are in harmony with the author's true real-life code of morals; and the character can only have "bad or even despicable" qualities when those acts deviate from the author's personal view of what is good and acceptable. In other words, the author, without perhaps even thinking about it, defines what is bad behavior for the fictional character by contrasting it to personal definitions of "goodness and acceptable behavior" in the author's real life.

You think your morals are ambiguous? The dictionary tells me ambiguous means undefined or open to more than one interpretation.


I certainly believe a person can consciously refrain from judging the morals of other people (a lot of the time.) I certainly believe a person can have a very broad live-and-let-live personal moral code. But I also think that no matter how broad it is, it is still defined - else one day you could murder and rape without remorse, and the next day you would be horrified to do the same thing. And you would countenance horrible and hurtful acts by others, because you had no opinion on the subject.

I believe we all have a moral code. Some people's list is longer than others'. But what things, long or short, are on our list, they ARE defined.


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