Saturday, June 16, 2018

Science 101 (part 7) - Sun Henge

Summer Solstice Sunrise over Stonehenge 2005/

The Summer Solstice 

As of this posting, it's coming up June 21, 2018.

When the day will get as long as it will get this year. At least in the northern hemisphere.

The Science?

It's explained in this video:

An intriguing spot to observe the solstice is in England.


Many gather there for various reasons to observe and experience the turning point of the seasons. For the Solstice can not only be reduced to a scientific fact. But also one of myth and lore and wonder.

The video below relives the longest day of the year at Stonehenge with sunset on 20 June and sunrise on 21 June, 2017.

For many, the Solstice is a mystical, spiritual, even religious experience. 

And in that vein of thought, let's go back to the revelation of the origin of the seasons:

In the Beginning...

As in Genesis 1:

And God said, 
Let there be lights
 in the firmament of the heaven 
to divide 
the day from the night; 
and let them be 
for signs, 
and for seasons
and for days, 
and years:

And let them be for lights 
in the firmament of the heaven 
to give light upon the earth: 
and it was so.

And God made two great lights; 
the greater light to rule the day, 
and the lesser light to rule the night: 
He made the stars also.

And God set them 
in the firmament of the heaven 
to give light upon the earth,

And to rule over the day 
and over the night, 
and to divide the light 
from the darkness: 
and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:14-18 (KJV)

And for a Summer Solstice that is really out of this world, check out the view from the International Space Station:

And God saw 
every thing
 that He had made, 
and, behold,
 it was very good. 

Genesis 1:31 (KVJ)

So marks the changing of the seasons.

Have a blessed summer!



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

CC (part 11) - Tying the Knot Across Both Sides of the Pond

Prince Harry/Meghan Markle/
It's the stuff fairy tales are made of. 

A hard working woman, a commoner,  marrying a royal prince. Like Cinderella.

And on May 19, 2018, life imitated art in the royal wedding of Meghan Markle--an actress, an American, a divorcee--to Prince Harry, now fifth in the line to the throne of England.

For more details, check out: The Love Story of How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Actually Met

The royal wedding in a nutshell is shown below:

But this is not the first time an American divorcee married a British royal. In the 20th century, an American socialite, Wallis Simpson, divorced twice before, was set to marry the King of England, Edward VIII.

To avoid a constitutional crisis of marrying a woman with two living ex-husbands-- this was 1936-- Edward abdicated the throne to marry "the woman I love."

More info: Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

Part of that story is shown here:

And it was because of the King's abdication, Edward VIII's younger brother ascended to the throne as George VI, father of the current reigning monarch (and longest reigning monarch to date in England), Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Harry.

And there have been some comparisons between Wallis Simpson and Meghan Markle. But also great contrasts. As the Wallis Simpson story seems darker and filled with intrigue, especially in the days leading up to World War II.

Yet, tying the knot across both sides of the pond can bond two nations even tighter and make them stronger.

During World War II, there was a son born of a father of British aristocracy and an American mother. That would be Lord Randolph Churchill and New York native, Jennie Jerome.

Their son? Sir Winston Churchill.

And as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill forged an alliance with the United States to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II.

More info: Winston Churchill


In the first book of The Commander and the Chief series, His Tribe of One, there is a mention of  Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

The British Commander Reginald Barrett shows a love interest in his client, the Chief, Dr. Nova Orlovic. And he asks her about her major-domo Lord Frederick Wise, who had arranged their expedition into the Forbidden Area of the Middle East in search for answers about Nova's late husband. As they are heading back to base camp with the leader of the expedition, Colonel Jack Sheffield, is driving their hi tech Jeep.

Here's an excerpt from Part 5: The Badlands, Chapter 12, The Wise Empire Builder:

During the final stretch, Reggie asked Nova, “What’s between you and Lord Wise if I may ask?”
cover by Becki Davis
Nova turned to Reggie. “Let’s say we have a wonderful working relationship.”
“Any romantic feelings between you two?”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “Is someone jealous?”
“It’s okay to ask, Commander.” Nova tittered. “As you know, I’m Fred’s employer … that was after he left UK Geophysical, and he left with a bang. He got from me the exclusive oil contract on all the mineral rights owned by the Sapphire Mountain People Trust. And since then, he’s done marvelous things managing my ranch in Wyoming, the tourist sites, reviving the Wild West shows, starting up the winery in California.”
“Wise is a builder of empires. So it says in his book,” Jack said.
Reggie leaned toward her. “I’m surprised he didn’t ask you to marry him. That is, after you were widowed.”
Nova looked into Reggie’s soft brown eyes. “He said he’d love to marry me, but–”
“But what?” Reggie asked. “You must be one of the most eligible women in America, if not the world right now.”
“But for all the wrong reasons.” Nova flexed her left hand in her sling. “Number one reason is money.”
Jack straightened up. “That’s a good reason.”
“But I fear it’s just the money that makes me attractive. I’m not sought out for who I am, but what I have. I’m always suspicious my suitors are false-hearted lovers. Same problem my mother had, which was why she married so late in life.” Nova sighed. “And I know that Frederick deeply love me, but he said his father, a baron or something–”
“The Baron of Summerset,” Reggie said. “My parents know him.”
“Then you must know something about Fred’s father. He wishes his son to marry an English girl with a title, though Fred seems to have settled on perpetual bachelorhood.”
Jack squinted at her. “But you have many titles: Doctor, Counselor, Indian Chief, Boss Lady.”
“But Fred’s father would disown him for marrying an American. And Fred’s attached to his ancestral property and a title that goes back for some eight hundred years, he said.”
Reggie shrugged. “But the British don’t let things like that stand in our way of love. King Edward abdicated the throne of England to marry an American. Ever hear of Wallis Simpson?”
“Of course. But I understand being attached to the land. And, at one time, it looked very bleak as so many conspired to take my land from me. That’s why I fought so hard to keep the ranch when the odds were stacked against me.”
Reggie arched his dark eyebrows. “So is that why you paid off all his father’s debts before the Wise ancestral property went into foreclosure?”
“Who told you that?”
“You just did, darling.”
“You tricked me–”
“If it’s any consolation, that was a most noble thing to do, darling.” Reggie returned a pleasant smile. “And I see why Wise is so loyal to you.”
Then Nova confessed, “Actually Frederick said he’d throw his title away and marry me, anyway … like King Edward did to marry Wallis Simpson. But after much thought, he’s quite a logical man, we both knew we didn’t love each in that way.”
Reggie raised an eyebrow. “Then is he … gay?”
“Gay? Oh, my, no.” Nova chuckled. “From his stories, he’s had many dalliances. But Fred doesn’t like to be tied down. And there’s much of his life before UK Geophysical that’s secret. Though I may have guessed some of it from his stories.”
Reggie smirked. “So you two, you’re just … friends?”
“Very good friends. He’s my chief confidant and counselor.” Nova raised her shoulders. “And I trust my life and my fortune with him.”
Jack raised his blond eyebrows. “Indeed, we all do at this point.”



The book is available in paperback or eBook (kindle, Nook) form. Likewise, its sequels: Counting Coup, and Peacemaker.

Details here: The Commander and the Chief Series


Your readership is appreciated.


Peacemaker, Book Three:

CC3 (part 1) - Peacemaker  (2017)


Photo: Prince Harry/Meghan Markle/

Sunday, April 15, 2018

CC3 (part 2) - Barrett's Farm, Ground Zero for the American Revolution

Paul Revere's Ride/

Patriot's Day

It's observed to remember the Battle of Lexington and Concord, near Boston, the start of the American Revolution in 1775.

Maine and Massachusetts have marked the third Monday in April as a state holiday, but Wisconsin sticks to the actual date of April 19th. { reference: Patriot's Day in the United States }

On the evening of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston summoned an express rider Paul Revere to bring news to Lexington, Massachusetts that British regular troops were about to march into the countryside northwest of Boston.

It seemed these troops had planned to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were staying in Lexington. Then continue on to Concord. { reference: The Real Story of Revere's Ride }

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalizes Paul Revere and these events, as shown below in the reading of this poem:

There was some artistic license in this account. For the rest of the story about Paul Revere's Ride:  Longfellow's Poem, "Paul Revere's Ride"

What brought the British regulars to Lexington and Concord?

It seemed British spies had gleaned that illegal arms and other military contraband were hidden on Colonel James Barrett's Farm, which was three miles northwest of Concord. In fact, Colonel Barrett, commander of the Middlesex Minutemen, directed the stashing of arms and supplies and having them stored on his farm.

So on April 19, 1775, the Redcoats crossed the North Bridge over the Concord River. But musket fire from 6000 Minutemen under the command of Colonel Barrett turned them back.  
This was the first American victory of the Revolutionary War , now celebrated each April on Patriots Day.  { reference: Barrett Farm, Concord, Massachusetts }

Hence, Barrett's Farm is a key catalyst for the American Revolution: James Barrett's Farm

*  *  *

In the series, The Commander and the Chief,  the Commander is Reginald Barrett of Her Majesty's Royal Navy. But Book 3 reveals he had some revolting American cousins, who colonized across the pond a few hundred years ago.

In the following scene, the Commander's best friend, Colonel Jack Sheffield of the British Army Reserve, is engaged to former US Navy Lieutenant Charlotte "Charlie" Dickerson. The venue of their marriage? Peacemaker Chapel on the Chief's ranch in Wyoming.

But  Charlie and Jack swing by Nevada first to visit Colonel Frank Dickerson, retired. A patriot himself, Frank did some research on his future son-in-law's best man, Commander Barrett.

Frank discusses the upcoming wedding, after running Charlie and Jack through the Assault and Prepper Course near Devil's Basin, Nevada:

Frank grew a wide grin. “You know guests come from all over the world. Pay good money for this, Jacko.”
“Right-o.” Jack skewed his mustache. “Like that old American story. White Washing the Fence.”
“Good old Tom Sawyer.” Frank punched Jack on the arm. “Mark Twain, he was on to something. And this course, it ain’t cheap. Consider it one of my wedding presents.”
Charlie finished her drink. “I thought we’re going to do this course on our honeymoon, Dad.” 
Jack raised his blond eyebrows. “And I can think of other things I’d rather be doing with you on our honeymoon.” 
“So Charlie told you, Jacko?” Frank asked while Charlie was mouthing – No, Dad.
“Tell me what?”
“During your honeymoon.” Frank slapped Jack on the back. “The Appleseed Shoot.”
“You mean like shooting apples from heads? As in William Tell?” 
“Of course you wouldn’t know. You’re British. But I guarantee you’re gonna like this.”
Charlie pulled down her eyebrows. “Maybe not the last part, Dad.”
“Tell me, Frank.” Jack squinted at him. “I’m in your circle of trust.”
Frank thought they’d cap off the wedding celebration in Wyoming with an Appleseed Shoot. A few days after the kids tied the knot. It was scheduled for April 19. Patriots Day. The very date that marked the start of the American Revolution in 1775.
Each exercise in this shoot came with a lesson in American history. Like Paul Revere’s midnight ride, warning the patriots that the British were coming. 
One, if by land. Two, if by sea. … Yada yada yada. 
“And the course ends,” Frank said, “with us patriots shooting paper targets of British Red Coats.” 
Jack snapped open his eyes. “Now that’s not very nice. You know I’m a Red Coat…in the British Army Reserve.”
“It’s all right, son,” Frank said. “You’ve patched things up with us in the last 200 years. And don’t forget we saved your ass in World War One. And World War Two.”
Frank continued with the history lesson of the shot heard around the world in the Battles of Lexington and Concord. And Barrett’s Farm was Ground Zero. The storage site for the Concord Militia’s arms.
“Even back then, the goddam government was grabbing guns from patriots,” Frank said. 
“So when the Crown lost the colonies.” Jack chuckled. “It all started in this row over arms on Barrett’s Farm? Why does that name sound familiar to me?”
“Glad you asked. You see, I’ve done some research on your good buddy, the Commander. Who bears the same surname as our patriots. Such as the great Colonel James Barrett, who owned Barrett’s Farm.” 
“So? Reg is British. In Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. A son of a duke.”
“But ah-hah! Some of the Commander’s distant cousins were American colonists. Sided with the Continentals during the War. And some of them were the Barretts who owned Barrett’s Farm. Where the Revolution started in 1775. By that shot heard around the world.
“In fact, it was the Minute Men, the militia under the command of Colonel Barrett, that fired their muskets at the Red Coats. As they crossed the North Bridge over the Concord River. Turned back the British Army. It was the first American victory in the Revolutionary War. And April 19th has been known as Patriots Day ever since.”
Charlie looked worried. “Dad? Don’t’ tell me—”
“My present to the Commander. A certificate that he’s a bona fide member of SAR.”
“S.A—what?” Jack asked. 
Sons of the American Revolution.” Frank grinned. “The Chief sure knows how to pick her men.”
“Right-o.” Jack rolled his eyes. “Reg is going to love this.”

From Part 6: Land of Nye; Chapter 2, Assault and Prepper

*  *  *
The Sons of the Revolution, SAR, even have their own website:

Likewise, the Appleseed Shoot, a real event: Project Appleseed

And from the Project Appleseed about page:

Why “Appleseed?” “Appleseed” comes from Johnny Appleseed, the American folk hero who toured the country, planting appleseeds so that future generations would benefit. Project Appleseed is designed to ensure that future generations of Americans will learn and benefit from the lessons of our colonial past. 

Such as School House Rock did as shown here:

And to think if the British had won, we'd all be speaking English!

Back to the series:
* * *

During the wedding reception in Wyoming, Jack has some words about his best man.

“Just one more thing,” Jack added. “To remind this crowd of Americans and Brits. America’s England’s fault.”
“Not only that.” Jack put his arm about Reggie. “I learned through my new father-in-law, it’s the fault of my best man. Commander Reginald Barrett. As the American Revolution started in a row over arms on Barrett’s Farm. Owned by one of the Commander’s ancestors. Colonel James Barrett of the Massachusetts Colonial Militia.”
“And I have here,” Frank spoke up waving a paper, “a certificate that the Commander’s a bona fide member of SAR. Sons of the American Revolution.”
Reggie was expecting this and took a bow. “So the secrets out, everyone. America’s my fault.”

From Part 9: Sapphire Mountain Ranch; Chapter 8, America's England's Fault

And shortly after this toast, all hell breaks loose.

But you have to read it. So....

Buy the book:

* amazon (paperback or kindle)

* Barnes & Noble (paperback or Nook)

And remember, everyone...
America's England's fault!

Happy Patriot's Day!


Peacemaker, Book Three:

CC3 (part 1) - Peacemaker  (2017)


Photo: Paul Revere's Ride/

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cats (part 3) - Spring and Cats


They seem to be the most popular animal on the internet.

And for good reason. Cats can reflect some of the traits we see in ourselves. Which make them fun to watch. And funny.

In the pecking order of nature, cats like to pounce on birds. Dogs like to chase cats. The three natural enemies. Or frenemies.

And when cats and dogs and birds mix it up, hilarity can ensue.  Stuff cartoons are made of. Like Looney Tunes', Spike, Sylvester, and Tweety.

Reality follows art such as in scene below, the kitty cats watching the birdies. Perhaps dreaming about their next dinner?

Then enter the dog. The cats' foil.

And that dog sure made those cats spring! On what appears to be a nice spring day.

Speaking of spring... 

On a more philosophical note. It's a time of rebirth. Renewal. Optimism. An awakening after the slumber of winter.

And speaking of cats...

One existential cat, Henri le Chat Noir, laments the "Blight of Spring:"

Take heart, Henri

The days will stop getting longer

This season will soon come to pass



Previous posts in the series:
Cats (part 1) - Halloween and Cats (2016)

Cats (part 2) - Christmas and Cats (2016)


photo: In Pink Shade/

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

AI (part 4) - Spaceman / Starman

The Cold War and Space

As a baby boomer, I grew up during the Cold War. Part of that battle for superiority in the minds of the world was the US/USSR Space Race to the moon. And the battleground spread to children's television. Remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? Classic Cold War politics.

On the space theme, my favorite Saturday morning show back then was the SciFi - Fireball XL5 (1962-1963).

Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol commanded the spaceship--you guessed it--Fireball XL5. (Wikipedia explains its name was inspired by a brand of motor oil--Castor XL--with the "5" added for some jazz.)

Other crew: The glamorous Dr. Venus with an exotic accent, a blonde doctor of space medicine and Steve's romantic interest. Robert, their co-pilot, a transparent robot with a synthesized voice, kind of like Dr. Stephen Hawking. Professor Matic whose looks and voice are reminiscent of Walter Brennan of The Real McCoys. And others assigned to Space City on mission to patrol Sector 25 of Interstellar Space.

The actors were puppets, animated via the latest in Supermarionation.  And through my black and white TV, snowy reception from our aerial antenna, and resolution of a cathode ray picture tube, it looked wonderful to my young eyes. As would Star Trek when it came along in four more years.

Below is the start and the end of each episode:

I thought Venus was really, really cool as she rode her levitating bike into the spaceship, then rocketed about the universe with Steve. She was my role model. And infused me with the love of space and science.

This show encouraged children in STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Long before we thought it was a problem in our education system.

And the ending song, "I wish I was a spaceman" (lyrics here) has the sweet innocence of the 1950s love songs. Not to mention the term - "spaceman" would not be considered politically correct these not so innocent days.

Fifty years later

STEM follows SciFi.

Elon Musk, visionary, genius, businessman, pioneer in hi tech, has created a version of Fireball XL5 through his commercial space company SpaceX. Their rockets are reusable. Though they don't launch from a mono-rail, but shoot straight up and land back to earth. Vertically. Amazing.
(For an extended biography of Elon Musk and his accomplishments, check out this video: Elon Musk Biography: Shaping All Our Futures  )

The latest, the Falcon Heavy,  successfully launched February 6, 2018.
(Reference NYT article: Falcon Heavy, in a Roar of Thunder, Carries SpaceX’s Ambition Into Orbit )

An edited timeline from launch to orbit to Mars and beyond is shown below:

Its payload was a red Tesla Roadster with a mannequin in a spacesuit. He's called Starman. And now, though the modern marvels of technology, we can check up on Starman.  Live:

But it was pursuing the American dream. A culture based on capitalism. Freedom. That may have attracted South African Elon Musk to immigrate to Canada, then to America.

He pushed the envelop of private launches into space after our government seemed to give up after the Apollo missions and retiring the Space Shurttle.

From the SciFi Fireball XL5 to the real rocket science of the Falcon Heavy.

From Spaceman to Starman.

That's AI -
American Ingenuity.


Previous posts in his series:

AI (part 1) - American Ingenuity  (2012)

AI (part 2) - How Curiosity got our groove back (2012)


Photo:  Apollo6/

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

LOL (part 4) - The First Female Doctor Who?

Current TARDIS/

Ahoy, Doctor Who fans. 

Season 11 of this long running (50+ year)  SciFi show is coming soon. And with it, a new Doctor.  The 13th Doctor. The first Female Doctor.

Here she is...

Indeed. She broke the Doctor Who glass ceiling. A first.

But did she?

Last century-last millennium, Comic Relief, a major UK charity, raised (and still raises) funds through comedy, Red Nose Day, with help from many well known British celebrities. In 1999, one of their skits starred Rowan Atkinson, as the 9th Doctor, in the Doctor Who parody, The Curse of Fatal Death (1999).

The 9th Doctor, after saving every planet in the universe 27 times, decides to retire, settle down, and marry his lovely time traveling assistant Emma.  But they run into their archenemy, The Master, who puts a wrinkle in their wedding plans.

At first, the Doctor and Emma thwart The Master. But The Master prevails with help from the enemy of all living things. The Daleks. But with this deal with the tin can devil, The Master will be double-crossed and also exterminated by the Daleks.

The enemy of the my enemy is my friend, right?

The Doctor, The Master, and Emma quickly become allies to survive Dalek extermination. In the struggle, Doctor 9 is fatally wounded and regenerates into the "lick-the-mirror" handsome Doctor 10. Soon, 10 gets fatally wounded and regenerates into the homely, bumbling Doctor 11. Shortly, 11 gets fatally wounded to regenerated into Doctor 12, played by Hugh Grant.

The Doctor has more lives than cats!

Then Doctor 12 is fatally wounded and regenerates into the 13th Doctor. The lucky number.

Wait for it...

1999: The 13th Doctor is Female!

Wait a minute. 
Let's go back to the future.

2018: The 13th Doctor is Female!

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

Back to 1999: 

As the assistant says to Doctor 13: You're just not the man I fell in love with.

Then the female Doctor 13 asks her archenemy (they find each other mutually attractive): Why do they call you the Master?

His answer: I'll explain later.

Doctor 13 and the Master walk off together, leaving Emma behind, as The Master lets rip his diabolical laugh.

Red Nose Day did the first female Doctor Who first!

And comedy has the last laugh.



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pop Culture (part 4) - Brrrr! ... California Dreamin'

ND Blizzard/

Sounds kind of cool.
But wickedly cold and scary.

That's is one the latest descriptions of the cold weather that has hit the North East in early 2018. {reference: Winter storm 2018: almost the entire East Coast is covered in snow }

So cold, Niagara Falls has seemed to freeze.
As shown below:

The Mamas and The Papas tapped into this longing for warmth in their hit, California Dreamin' (1965)  ... on such a winter's day.

So say the lyrics
 California Dreamin' 
by John and Michelle Phillips

Another sunny group, The Beach Boys, gives their haunting rendition in this remix:

Even on winter days,
the sun will come out. 

Spring is coming.

So is the cycle of life. 

As bad days will come to pass, 

and sunnier days are ahead.

Be safe, my friends.


Previous Post in the series:

Pop Culture (part 1) - Only Time and 9/11 (2015)

Pop Culture (part 2) - Halloween Martian Invasion (2015)

Pop Culture (part 3) - It's Gonna Be All Right  (2016)


Photo: ND Blizzard/