Monday, December 22, 2014

Why I don't feel bad for Pluto


Planets and demiplanets and the whichness of why
 

In 1596, Johannes Kepler wrote, “Inter Jovem et Martem interposui planetam.”

Translated into contemporary English, “There’s gotta be a planet between Jupiter and Mars that we haven’t seen/discovered yet.”

Johnny said that because the math demanded a planet-sized mass there which was affecting the orbits of the other planets. As it turned out, there was a planetary-sized mass there, it just wasn’t all in one big piece. It was a zillion asteroids (actually about 200 larger than 60 miles in diameter, about 40K known), the largest of which was named Ceres when it was discovered. Ceres’ mean radius is about 300 miles which, by current definitions, qualifies it as a dwarf planet, like Pluto. Speaking of Pluto…

In the same way that Johnny K. knew that the math required there to be a planetary mass between Jupiter and Mars, math also demanded a planetary mass out beyond Uranus. In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto and astronomers decided that Pluto must be “it”. Their ability to determine specifics about Pluto in those days was not very sophisticated and as the years passed and instrumentation improved, doubt about Pluto’s status seeped in. It was not nearly massive enough to be the “planet” (gravitational mass) astronomers were looking for out there.

Imagine if Johnny K. had seen Ceres in his primitive telescope. Perhaps Ceres would have been called “Phaeton,” the planet between Jupiter and Mars, for a lot of years until careful observation determined that it wasn’t big enough to be what they were looking for. AAMOF, in 1801 the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi did indeed discover Ceres and declared it that “missing” planet. Piazzi called it “Ceres,” other tried to stick their name(s) on it: Hera, Demeter, and of course the generic Phaeton. It was indeed considered a planet for a while, until more precise observation revealed its more-accurate status as one smallish object among many. That’s parallel to what happened with Pluto. Ultimately, astronomers knew that Pluto wasn’t adequate to be what they were seeking.

Nowadays, we know that Pluto is merely one object in the Kuiper Belt (a formation similar to the Asteroid Belt) and it’s not even the biggest object there. For instance, Eris is about 30% bigger than Pluto. This doesn’t make me feel bad for Pluto, personally. I think it’s nice that Pluto is not alone out there in the deep black. He is surrounded by dark companions. And the entire Kuiper Belt is not alone out there, either. The Oort Cloud lies beyond even the distant Kuiper Belt at the far edge of the Solar System, the leaping-off point to interstellar space.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas 2014

There's a tree at Cadaver Gap on Rainier!

That is, there's a Christmas tree at our house (called Cadaver Gap) on Rainier Ave. Almost the same thing.

 

Remembering Willi Unsoeld, who was an unschooler in spirit, who died in an avalanche on his way down from Cadaver Gap in '79. RIP, Willi Unsoeld.

I made my first attempt on Rainier in '78. We climbed to Camp Muir in shorts and T-shirts on a perfect Summer day. We went to sleep and woke at midnight to make a summit assault only to face hurricane force gusts and whiteout conditions. No summit attempt when it's like that. We descended after breakfast time the next morning in a whiteout blizzard. That was the days before Gore-Tex was readily available and we wore 60/40 parkas. Miserable. My guide/leader on that climb was Chris Kerrebrock who died on Denali in '81 while climbing with Jim Wickwire, practicing for an '82 Everest expedition. RIP, Chris Kerrebrock.

10 years later in '88, as a mutual 40th birthday present for my friend Bob and me, we made an attempt from the Sunrise side with some friends from the '84 Everest Ultima Thule expedition. Beautiful, and nobody else was on that side. Excellent. That was in August and sleeping in our bivisacks at high camp that night, we were kept awake by the Perseid meteor shower. So beautiful. The next day going up the Emmons glacier (biggest glacier in the continental US) my local friend (not Bob), who had been to Everest, had his back go out and we abandoned the summit attempt to get him back down and home. Mt. Rainier has about 40 square miles of glaciers - two dozen active and a dozen more which are static. It's incredibly beautiful. And deadly.
 
 

 But this is a Christmas post, not a mountaineering one.
 
This is a year of significant change for us. As long as Ronnie and I have been together, and for the girls’ entire lives, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at grandma’s house. Not this year. Arbitrary pseudoChristmas there on a different day because of logistics complications. Both girls have significant boyfriends, adding to the fun but also adding to the logistics. Both girls finish their AA requirements at community college this month and will be transferring to the University of Washington (Go, Huskies!) as juniors, starting January 5, 2015.
From unschooling to university juniors with 3.9+ GPAs. What a pair of offspring we have!
Ronnie is still slaving away with the group she’s been with for a long time. MJ is working parttime as a bartender at a (golf) sportsbar. Yes, indoor video golf is (apparently) a big thing in the drizzly, grey Northwest. Who knew? This Summer, Chloe decided she wanted to try kendo, having watched me a few times a decade or so ago when I had started. We’ve been doing it together since then and competed in our first tournament together in November. She and I were even on the dojo team for the team competition!
 
Ronnie not at work
 
MJ not a work
 
 
Chloe in kendo gear
 
Me, dinner on Grand Cayman, Summer 2014
 
 
We are all healthy (in my case, healthy enough, despite old age crap, and I’ve even pared down from a high of 185 a coupla years ago to a svelte – kind of – 150ish), and content, and we’re moving forward with positive anticipation toward 2015.

Hope this season finds you and yours equally content!
 
P.S. Chloe will (temporarily) transfer her kendo allegiance to the University of Washington Kendo Club but will still practice (SOMETIMES!) with our Everett Kendo and Iaido Club. It's cool. It's all PNKF.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Autumn



I am in the Autumn of my life. Deep Autumn. People laud Spring, praising it for its burgeoning life and promise. My Spring was shit. Actually, Spring into early Summer was shit. Death and alienation. Travelling through the season(s) like an astronaut enclosed in my own life-support vehicle, observing only, not interacting, except negatively, of course. Ah, but Summer! Summer was different.

Summer was when I connected with life. Rich and redolent, fragrant with the scent of joy and happiness. Promise? Hell, yes! Promise fulfilled. The warmth and comfort of Summer embraced me and let me blossom. Ronnie was/is my Summer. MJ and Chloe, too. Lovely, lovely Summer. Bright, warm, contented Summer. Best of seasons. Loveliest of seasons. But everything comes to an end eventually.

I am in the Autumn of my life. Ronnie is still in the heart of her Summer. The girls are just leaving Spring. But I’m in deep Autumn. I appreciate their seasons. I take great joy in their seasons. And because of them, Summer lingers for me. I feel it still enfolding me in its warmth and brilliance. But I smell hints of Winter.

Honestly, I’m jealous of Ronnie and the girls. It’s sad and petty of me and I feel guilty about it; but that doesn’t make it untrue. I’m glad the girls have had a charming Spring. And my Summer with Ronnie and them has been exquisite. I love Summer. I think Autumn will be fine. Probably. But I dislike Winter.

That surprising chilly disquietude, sneaking in from the edge and cutting Summer’s beneficence. The intimation of frost, not here – yet – but coming. Oh yes, coming. And soon, too soon. The smell of ice and freezing fog. Arthritis more transcendent than nascent.

I am afraid of Winter.

I love(d) my Summer and want it to be eternal. It can be, but only in thought and memory – Huginn and Muninn. Like Baldur, everything in reality has its mistletoe. In the real world, Winter is inevitable, inescapable. I expect Autumn to be pleasant, a lovely extension of Summer. An evolution, perhaps. Summer after exposure to a mutagenic event. But it is not Summer itself. It is Autumn. I might hope for a respite, an idyll of Indian Summer. Yes. That would be nice. But not something to be counted on. A serendipitous accident. What can be counted on is Autumn itself and nothing more. And I need to relax and enjoy it.

But I am still afraid of Winter. Just as Spring is embraced as the season of hope and life and growth, Winter is shunned as the season of despair and death and the end of things. Rightly so. Or perhaps not. Is Winter’s nature inherently despicable or is that our imposed value judgment on it? The latter I think. Of course, that doesn’t obviate the fact that Winter is the season of death. Despair, however, is optional. Probably. Death is not.

But it’s not Winter yet and I don’t want to dwell on that season. Too much. Autumn, Autumn is my concern. I desire a pleasant Autumn, not a fearful, deteriorating one. Aestas aeterna. Kind of. The lingering, long afternoon of Summer, segueing into my Autumn, overwhelming the adumbrations and intimations of Winter’s night.

I want to enjoy Autumn. I desire to hear the songs of Autumn with receptive ears. To smell the odors of Autumn with a willing nose. To touch the changing leaves of Autumn with tender hands. I’m trying to. But I don’t feel that. Not right now. And I don’t want to fear Winter. Even Winter can contain isolated pearls of joy and happiness on its long string leading to The End of Things. And, again, that’s after Autumn, still a way away. But Autumn is here and Autumn…

I think that today I’m just in a bad mood.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kendo bogu lust

I have a wonderful set of bogu (armor) for kendo. I really like it. The do (body protector) is wine/gold chameleon colored. It's beautiful. (Photo includes my iaito (sword/katana) for iaido.)






But there's always room for lust. This do (body protector) is exquisite and, well, it's less than $3000. Yep, those zeros are accurate. Maybe if I start a gofundme kinda thing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unschooling dad interview 7/2014

For the second time in my life, I agreed to do an interview as an unschooling dad. It's here. No more need be said.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Top 69 Things for Kids and Teens to be Successful in Life

People like to make numbered lists; it seems to be a human trait.

5 Reasons To...
10 Quick Ways To...
Top 3 Reasons For...

In this vein, I offer my very best advice in a numerical list.



Top 69 Things for Kids and Teens to be Successful in Life

Ready?

1. Have fun.
Iterate 68 more times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

$50, Brother!


$50, Brother!

(Frank Maier – 2014)
For the Basement Boys
 

*INTRO: (A)

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah (E-G-E-G-A)

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

Guitar lick

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

*(Verse 1)

We were playin’ the blues down in the basement one night.

We were feeling real good and sounding just right.

I was right in the groove and playing with pride,

Then the vocals ended and it was time for my ride.

 *(change from staccato dah-dah… to walking bass blues D for chorus)

Shit! I fucked it up again! (A)

Played some real bad notes, and then (E)

Everybody in the band yelled, “Amen! (D)

$50, brother!” (A)

*Keyboard ride (verse form-chorus form)

*V2 (back to staccato dah-dah-etc.)

The Godfather of Soul was Mister James Brown.

When he got his band rockin’, they could really put it down;

But if he heard you fucking up, he’d throw you a harsh frown;

Then charge you $50 and sit your lame ass down!

*(Chorus)

*Guitar ride (verse form-chorus form)

*Bridge (walking D)

Beethoven said you can play a wrong note, (A)

But if you play without passion, that’s what makes you a goat. (D)

If Ludwig said that, ya know it works for me,(E)

So I’m gonna set my solo spirit free!

*V3 (back to staccato dah-dah-etc. )

So we’re rockin’ this old basement every Tuesday night

And we really don’t care if each note is wrong or right.

The most important thing under the sun

Is that everybody’s down there just to have some fun!

*(Chorus – with responses)

Shit! I fucked it up again! (So what?)

Played some real bad notes, and then (Me, too!)

Everybody in the band yelled, “Amen! (That’s true!)

$50, brother!” (Not really!)

*OUTRO: (A) same as intro