Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I Am Most Thankful For

Everyone is writing their “What am I thankful for” blog this time of year.  OK, many  did it last month for Thanksgiving.  But it’s one big holiday until after New Year’s Day.  Sorta’ like the massive urban area from Boston to Washington D.C.  Bos-wash, they call it.  I guess the last two months of the year could be called New Thanksmas Day.

What am I thankful for?  Everyone’s already written about their family and health and friends etc, etc.  I’m thankful for all those things, too, as much as anyone.  But I am also thankful for some things other bloggers rarely mention.

I’m thankful for days.  If Earth always faced towards the sun, we’d have no nights.  How boring would life be then?

I’m thankful for seasons.  I know there are people who love the constancy of the Florida’s or southern California’s never-changing weather.  Not me.  Give me four seasons.  I love my snow, as much as I love the warm summer evenings.  I just don’t want either year ‘round.

I am thankful for trees.  And flowers and shrubs and everything else on our planet that makes oxygen.  I am thankful for the ants and the bugs that live in the trees and on other plants.  Their constant pressure on the trees’ health has made them strong enough that some live for thousands of years.  Only the need to get stronger against adversity can cause that.

I am pretty much thankful for everything that Mother Earth, in her wisdom, chose to put on this planet.

There are some things I’m not so thankful for.  Don’t care much for asparagus.   Persimmons are OK, but only if you catch them for those four hours each year that they are ripe. 

I could certainly do without any GMO’d foods.  Yes, yes, I KNOW that they have massively increased the yield of many important food crops.  But for the most part, they are not particularly healthy foods.  And they mostly allow us to feed more cows and other livestock, the farming/ranching of which is a major cause of the degradation of our environment.  And I wish to heck that all those global warming doubters would pull their heads out and get an effing’ clue!

I am absolutely NOT thankful for bullies, drivers who think road laws don’t apply to them, people who text (or read or put on makeup) while driving, or born-again Christians.  I have nothing against Christianity; heck, some of my best friends are Christians.  I have a problem with anyone who says there is only “one way” for anything.  There are seven billion people on this planet.  They can’t all fit on the same path.

Mostly I’m pretty thankful about stuff.  Mostly natural stuff.  The things that most bothers me in this universe are usually things we humans have created.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Global Warming and One Way to NOT Deal With It


No one questions, at least no one I respect, that global warming is a problem and will only get worse unless massive changes to the way we generate and use (and waste) energy are made in the very near future.  The rising temperatures, along with human penchant for destroying the natural habitats of many species, is causing a faster rate of extinction then occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid impact wiped out all the dinosaurs and many related reptile species along with some 50% of the flora and fauna of our planet.

Suggestions on how to end or at least ease global warming run the gamut from we-can-do-that-now (like recycling our waste, better insulation in our houses and turning off lights we aren’t using) to we-can-do-that-soon-with-better-technology (like making more fuel efficient cars and weaning Americans off the big ass SUV’s that only show off your attitude) to we-will-eventually-get-there (like cutting off fossil fuels and using renewable energy sources) to that’s-not-gonna-happen (too many to list!).

I recently came across an article on one proposed solution that I had heard before but never really paid any attention to it.  Frankly, I though it might fall into my last category above.  I read an article titled “Poll Finds Support for Geoengineering by Blocking Sunshine” on Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=poll-finds-support-for-geoengineering-blocking-sunshine&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20111025).  The gist of the article is that geoengineering solutions are gaining greater public acceptance.  This article specifically discussed a favorable public poll on injecting sulfur into the atmosphere in order to reflect more sunlight back into space.  In a quote from the article:

“A full 72 percent of participants in the survey, published in Environmental Research Letters, said they "supported" or "somewhat supported" the study of solar radiation management (SRM). The technique seeks to inject sulfur into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and offset the warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

In case you don’t remember sulfur in the air (mostly from industrial and coal-fired, electricity-generating power plant smokestacks) causes acid rain.  Acid rain is responsible for damage to buildings and crops and the killing all life in some streams, ponds and lakes, among other problems.  And yet 72% of people polled favor this idea.  Hmmm.

Now, it was an internet poll and people often hide behind their anonymity online and say (and vote for) things they’d never do in person.  But this is really scary!

And a little-discussed side effect of any plan that reduces sunlight from getting to Earth is vitamin D deficiency, which already runs rampant through much of the world outside of equatorial Africa.

I like that fact that the public is finally accepting that this is a real problem and that it might take drastic, BIG and expensive solutions.  But I don’t think this is a good one to consider.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Test of your Ingenuity.


Here’s an interesting test for you.
You are the “space traffic controller” for a space port on the third planet of Mu Pegasi.  There is an incoming space craft ready to land, but there is a problem.
All the flight crew and human passengers were killed or rendered unconscious by a leak of cyanogen gas.  But that just happens to be what the alien trade and scientific delegation that the ship is bringing to Mu Pegasi breathe on their planet, so they are all fully conscious.  The ship is heading straight at the space port out of control and will slam into port, killing perhaps thousands of people and aliens.  The ship can be put into automatic landing mode with the simple push of a button, the large red one on the LEFT side of the control panel.  But the large red one on the RIGHT side of the panel will lock the ship on its current trajectory.
The problem, is that the aliens have a very minimal grasp of our language and we have an even less grasp of theirs.  We have to tell them to push the left button, but they have no idea what the terms left and right, clockwise and counterclockwise or up and down mean.  How do you explain to them which button to push?
Unfortunately, these aliens are bilaterally symmetric, like us humans, meaning they have near mirror image left and right hand sides so we can tell them to turn toward the side with five appendages or away from the side with three tentacles.  We know nothing of their internal biological structure so we can’t tell them to turn towards the side their heart is on (that would work for us humans).  We can’t send any photos or anything like that as they have no idea how to use our computers. 
We can only use words.  And simple ones at that.  How do you save your life and that of thousands of others?
The alien contingent contains the scientists and their understanding of the world is comparable to our own.  And prior to our face to face contact, we have established some simple common dialogue of a scientific nature.  We can exchange scientific language at a roughly sixth grade level.
How do you differentiate left and right for a being who has no understanding of those concepts?
How do you direct the alien to the correct button?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tree Climbing and Neatest Falls


I am not big on nostalgia.  I rarely look back at the “good old days” and wish the “out-of-control modern times” were more like past times.  But I do occasionally reminisce about things I did, games I played, as a kid.

My brother Randy and I built a lot of forts, usually shabbily-built wooden structures.  I remember one fort condominium we built in our back yard; he built a big one with random angles between the walls (looked like a Tim Burton nightmare!) and mine was a very orthogonal long, rectangular structure.  Much cleaner design than his.  But my 12-year-old mind didn’t really comprehend that long walls with no side supports weren’t very structurally strong – I couldn’t build up.  But his, which looked as if a strong wind, or a determined wolf, could blow it over, was strong enough to support a second story.  And not only that, he dug out the floor so he had a big “basement”.  Now I could lay down comfortably in mine and he couldn’t, but I was always a bit jealous of his upstairs.

Like many kids of the day, we played war games, pretending to be army men fighting the bad guys.  I was NOT the kind to continue that into my adult life and I can proudly say I never have, and never will, play World of Warcraft® or any of the clone pretend-to-be-a-soldier games.  But we played them a lot as kids.  With toy guns, not controllers, in our hands.

Ours eventually morphed into a different game we called “Neatest Falls” (“neat” in the parlance of the day was synonymous with “cool”).   The point of the game is that when you are shot, you make the most dramatic, melodramatic, funny or athletic collapse possible.  The rest of the kids would rate your death fall and the best was declared the Neatest Fall.

We also played a lot of games in trees.  We made several elaborate tree houses.  Once we tied a long, strong rope about 25 feet up in a big, old cottonwood tree we had in the front yard.  While one of us stood on a stool and grabbed the rope as high up as possible, the rest of our neighborhood gang would grab the end of the rope and run, stretching the rope taught, with the rider shooting up some 10-12 feet off the ground.  The faster they ran, the better the ride.

The younger brother of one of our gang whined on and on about riding so we finally let him.  But he was the lightest rider we had and with all the big kids running and pulling, he didn’t just go up; he flipped up over the rope, couldn’t hang on and flew about fifteen feet away.  The landing broke his arm.  We were never allowed to try that activity again!

And speaking of trees, we often had competitions to see who could climb the highest.  I am the reining and undefeated tree-climbing champion of my neighborhood.  But I retired, so all you young, up and coming (and very limber and light-weight) challengers, forget it.  You’ll need to create your own club to be champion of.

Next time, I’ll write about some the games we played that are no longer available today.  Like Jarts!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ghosts and Bad Drivers

My investigation team, INsight Paranormal (www.insightparanormal.org) investigated the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) two weeks ago.  We were in the liberal Arts building and captured some intriguing audio clips from some of the classrooms.  I one night, we couldn’t cover every classroom and we hope to go back to this building and investigate other buildings on the campus.

So my question to any of you who read this is: did you (or anyone you know) attend this university and do you (or the person you know who went here) know of any odd occurrences anywhere on the campus.  Odd as in paranormal.

Universities, and schools in general, are often good places to hunt for ghostly activity, if for no other reason because the time students spend in school is often quite stressful.  Not only do they have to worry about grades, it is also the time in everyone’s life where they grow from a child to an adult and going through puberty is perhaps the most hormonally, psychologically and emotionally stressful time in almost anyone’s life.  If, as many ghost hunters believe, such strong emotional and psychological stress creates the energy necessary to have a haunting, then this should be one of prime locations to haunt for ghosts.

So if you know of a place where weird things happen, or if weird stuff happens I your house, visit INsight’s web page or leave me a comment here.  We can arrange an investigation of the location.


Now a quick rant.  The manners of most drivers these days drive me crazy!  I can’t remember how many times this has happened to me: I have been driving along the highway and I want to change lanes for an upcoming.  So I flip on my turn signal and a car right behind me suddenly changes into the lane I want to go to cutting my own lane change off.  That doesn’t bug so much as they may want to get off at the same exit as me.  But then they pass me and get right back into the lane they left. 

Or they come to a yield sign and run right through it, entering the lane I am in so I have to slow down to avoid hitting them.  Then they get mad at me when I honk my horn, as if I was supposed to yield to them! 

These are just a few of the idiotic driving behaviors I have experienced in just the last few days that really tick me off.  Fortunately I don't believe in violence solving anything or I might just get a bad case of road rage.  I DO often imagine that I have missile launchers on my car and feel the satisfaction of removing them from the gene pool, in my mind.  Not that I'd ever do that for real...

Maybe one day I'll get to investigate a location where someone died due to road rage.  That'd be an odd sort of justice.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Invisible Writing: If you couldn't publish, would you still write?

Sometime we write words to exorcise demons. We type or write them on paper then fear someone may read them. Whatever your issue, whatever your thought, whatever your habit, I call this form of writing INVISIBLE WRITING. Please leave your thoughts on this concept.  Think about it in these terms:  
·                     If you couldn't publish, would you still write?
·                     Do you write words you're afraid to publish?
·                     Do you hide words you hope no one will see until after you're gone?
·                     Do you write words so you can rip them up and destroy them?
·                     Do you prefer to write anonymously?
·                     Do you want to write but fear to publish?
·                     Do you wish to fade away from the world and write?


Here are my thoughts on the subject.  It is based on an article I wrote for the Oklahoma Writers' Federation newsletter.

The word “writing” brings to mind a picture of a person sitting at a desk, or perhaps in an easy chair, with a pad of paper and pen in hand, putting words and thoughts on the page.  Or perhaps the vision you get from the word is that of someone tapping on a keyboard or an iPhone. 

But the “what” of writing is not inherently tied to “where” or “how” of the process.  And a process it is, not an action.  The putting of words to paper or screen is one of the final steps to writing.  Many steps precede that physical aspect of writing.  We must gain some knowledge of what we intend to write, although I have read some novelists who seem to have skipped that step.  We have to decide who we are writing for and what words and concepts they would understand.  And we have to decide what we want to say, all before any actual words are “written.”

Long before writing had been invented, story tellers and bards kept history, true and fantasized, alive.  Our ancestors often believe everything they heard from the storytellers, just as some people today believe everything they read.  So in a sense, me telling a story to an audience, or planning how to tell such a story are in many ways mentally identical to the first stages of writing a story.

I recall reading a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (or was it Tolstoy or some other late 19th century Russian novelist?).  I can’t really recall all the details, but in it was a character who listed his occupation as novelist, unpublished.  At one point in the book, the character spoke to the reader in a long and very Dostoevsky-esque soliloquy explaining that not only was he an unpublished novelist, he had never actually written a novel.  He went on to explain that we ALL write our lives as a series of novels in our memories and in the stories we tell others. 

Every human writes invisibly.  Some write those same novels very visibly, and attend many writing conferences year after year with the same unchanging manuscript.  Some write book but never get around to trying, or even necessarily wanting, to publish them.  We might even refer to this as journaling or “keeping a diary”.  Those writers among us who are even more driven to write, in the extended sense, try, sometimes with great persistence, to get their physically or electronically written novels published but never do. 

There may well be some amazing literary gems written invisibly, lying around in desks and hard drives all around the world!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My kids keep teaching ME how behave. Even when they don't realize it!


I read a comic strip the other day that made me think about my books.  It was the long Sunday version of “For Better or For Worse”.  A young boy, around six years old, was misbehaving.  Finally, the mother had had enough and sent him to bed.  As she stormed out of his bedroom the boy asked for a goodnight kiss.  She replied that when he behaved this way, she didn’t feel like kissing him.  He said, almost in tears “But Mom, that’s when I need it most!”

I know I get frustrated at both my 13 year old and my 4 year old children.  I know that I say things and react in ways that I am later, if not instantly, sorry for.  And most, if not all, parents go through this.  Otherwise books like “Go the F**k to Sleep”






Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Doughnuts and Diets.

Just a few random thoughts wondering what my next writing project will be.


On this day in 1847, the doughnut is invented.  Actually, fried doughy bread-like treats have been around since prehistoric times.  Archeologists dig them up in sites around the world.  But in 1847, Elizibeth Gregory, the mother of a New England ship captain Hansen Gregory, made a deep-fried dough that used her son's recent cargo of nutmeg and cinnamon and added some lemon rind. She made them for her son and his crew so they could store the pastry on long voyages and to help ward off scurvy and colds.  Because she was afraid the dough might not cook through in the center and thus cause spoilage, Mrs. Gregory put hazel nuts or walnuts in the centers, and called them doughnuts.

Hansen himself claimed credit for the hole in the middle of the doughnut. Supposedly he was steering his ship is rough water but not wanting to get rid of the the doughnut he was eating, he jammed it onto one of the steering wheel's wooden spokes.  Instant hole!  But some folks claimed that he added the hole just to save on food costs for his crew.

I am not sure why it became a joke that police officers like donuts.  I don't know many people would turn one away.  Unless they are on a diet, then they'd still WANT it, just wouldn't eat it.  Not in public, anyway.  And by the way, my favorite kind still the cake spiced doughnuts.  Perhaps in a past life, I was a member of Hansen's crew!

For those of you who do not know this, I am a vegetarian; have been for a few decades.  Years ago, I created a diet for me that I refer to as "Chromodietetics".  The basic idea is that your plate should contain the basic colors of the rainbow so that the net color of your food is white.  White light actually contains all the colors of the rainbow, and your diet should, too.  The whiter your meal, the healthier it is.  My mother-in-law calls it "Eating the rainbow," as good a description as any.

In describing this to some friends and relatives, they said I should write this up as my next children's book.  So I am asking all of you: what do you think of that idea?  Would a children's book describing the diet and giving samples of foods of each of the colors be one that you'd buy for your kids?  Keep in mind that I would assign poor color values to meats because even if you are NOT a vegetarian, a healthy diet shouldn't contain nearly as much meat as Americans eat on average.

Yea or nay?




Friday, May 13, 2011

Hello Friends, Old and New and Yet to Come.

Hi.

My name is Wayne Harris-Wyrick.  My name used to just be Wayne Wyrick and the story behind that name change might tell you a bit about me.

When I got married almost a decade ago we both combined our names. The reason was simple: historically the woman took the man's name because after marriage, she became his property.  We wanted to show the world that we were fully equal partners in this union in all ways.

Funny thing, all she had to do was sign the marriage certificate.  I had to go to court for a day and spend a large chunk of change to get my name changed.


In my day job, I am the Director and Staff Astronomer of the Kirkpatrick Planetarium, a major component of Science Museum Oklahoma (www.sciencemuseumok.org.  In my night "job" I hunt ghosts with INsight Paranormal Investigations (www.insightparanormal.org).  I put "job" in quotes because I don't get paid for that.  But I love doing it!


And I also write about all that stuff.  I recently had a children's picture book published Why Am I Me?.  You can see it at the publisher's site at http://4rvpublishingcatalog.yolasite.com.  Go to Children Page 4.  I am very proud of that book and I hope you'll all pick one up.  It helps children understand their own importance in this world, why they are an important part of the universe.

Come back and visit me occasionally.  I may not post strictly regular update, but I promise that I will put them up often enough to make it worth your while to peek in once in a while.