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March 6, Ash Wednesday, began the pre-Easter Lenten season for Christians. In secular circles, there were brisk aspirin sales as revelers reeled from the wretched excess of Fat Tuesday. Be thankful it was a relatively quiet news day. Ash Wednesday 2018 was anything but.

For the first time in 74 years, Ash Wednesday last year coincided with Valentine’s Day. That’s largely forgotten, because February 14, 2018, also brought horror in South Florida. Valentine’s Day will never be the same in Parkland, where 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff members were senselessly, brutally murdered.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Forever changed on Ash Wednesday, 2018

The horrific assault by a 19-year-old former student was the nation’s most deadly school shooting, and in the aftermath it became clear that a more timely and decisive police response could have saved lives. Whatever security improvements emerge will be welcome … but too late for grieving families and a school community forever changed on February 14, 2018.

Not since November of 1966 have Americans launched a two-man space capsule into Earth orbit and brought it home safely. Not until this week, that is.

Famed astronauts Buzz Aldrin (second man on the Moon) and Jim Lovell (“Lost Moon”) spent 94 hours in space before splashing down in Gemini 12, marking the last NASA flight placing the cramped Gemini capsule atop Titan II Gemini Launch Vehicles.

Then came three-man Apollo capsules mounted on the awe-inspiring Saturn V three-stage rocket (1969-72). Then came the reusable Space Transportation System, aka Space Shuttle (1981-2011). Then came nothing. More accurately, then came Russian Soyuz capsules — Ubers of the sky — that have carried Americans on numerous missions since Cape Canaveral’s last manned shuttle flight.

Now there is the SpaceX Crew Dragon, made under contract with NASA, that as early as this year will carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon and one crew member, a manikin named Ripley, lifted into Earth orbit, docked with the ISS, logged 18 laps and returned safely to an ocean splashdown. Ripley was unavailable for comment, but NASA and SpaceX spokesmen indicated he will soon be retired in favor of humans.

Space dummy Ripley will give way to a crew of NASA astronauts
when the SpaceX Crew Dragon flies next.

For aficionados of American space flight, this can’t come too soon. A decade of hitching to space from Siberia has been, at best, better than nothing. For the country that gave the world Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride; the country that mourned loss of the crews of Apollo 1 in 1967, STS-51 in 1986 and STS-107 in 2003; the country that was the first and is still the only one to land on the Moon; being relegated “please fasten your safety belts” Russian Soyuz fares has been hard to accept.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one strange dude. But God bless him for his key role in bringing the United States back to the verge of operational manned space flight from the Cape. In doing so, NASA and SpaceX honor Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee of Apollo 1. They honor Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Greg Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe of STS-51. They honor Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon of STS-107.

As it should be.


Astrophysics experts are scratching their heads as, once again, this irascible old universe defies human expectations and thumbs its nose at computer models. As you will recall, some billions of years ago the universe became a lot of dynamic something when a lot of static nothing spontaneously went BANG! Ever since, scientists say, matter has been expanding in all directions on trajectories away from the Big Bang epicenter. If all of this is confusing to you, just remember the equation W(G)=(S)T-BB.

W is for watermelon (the universe)

G is for Gallagher’s sledge hammer (the Big Bang)

S is for the mean average speed of a watermelon seed (Earth)

T is for the time (to the closest billion years) it will take for the seed to collide with Uranus and trigger

BB (the Big Butt).


Recently, the scientific community started cautioning, “Not so fast.” More accurately, it started asking, “Why so fast?” Seems we might have to rethink what we thought we knew about something we didn’t think about enough and don’t understand after all. For reasons yet to be sussed out by the same guys who were wrong in the first place, the universe is indeed expanding, but much faster than previously known, er, conjectured. What’s this mean? Hell if anyone knows.

To date, this unexpected phenomenon has not been conclusively tied to crop circles, Stonehenge, Alex Jones or Russian collusion. Pending further study and development of new computer models, The Big Bang Theory is expected to continue in syndication.

In the Great Trumpanista Border War (2016 – 20??), liberals contend that undocumented workers are vital to the American economy because they fill jobs American workers won’t take. Conservative pundits have long questioned this assertion. Now, for the first time, the controversy has been subjected to scientific scrutiny. Results point to a decisive liberal victory, not along the Rio Grande, but the 49th parallel.

Naturalists report that the moose population in Michigan’s remote wonderland, the Upper Peninsula, is too large. There’s excessive competition for food, and as a result moose and several other species are dangerously stressed.

Sunday brunch with the pack. Chocolate moose.

Even though an adult moose weighs over 1,000 pounds, and American wolves top out around 80, a pack of motivated (hungry) wolves is more than capable of taking down a moose. It was assumed that wolves, prolific hunters native to the area, would cull the moose herd. But as it turns out, Michigan wolves are more inclined to eat Rocky than Bullwinkle. Moose are formidable fighters, and our wolves simply won’t tackle them when bite-sized prey is available.

The solution? Canadian wolves were introduced to the Upper Peninsula. They are larger and evidently more motivated than American wolves to score some moose meat for dinner. So Canadian wolves that know an opportunity when they see it are stepping in to cover for lazy and arrogant American wolves.

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