Month: December 2004

I watched this evening on the Discover channel (via TiVo), a great documentary about Stephen Hawking, his life, his work on cosmology, black holes, the fate of the universe, and the nature of time: A Brief History of Time — also the name of his book on the subject.

It’s been on before, I think on PBS, but I’m not sure. If you get a chance, do check it out.

It probably contains nothing too revelatory for a working physical scientist, but certainly there may be some juicy nuggets for the novice physics buff like myself. He’s led a fascinating life.

After all: How many people do you know who are essentially quadriplegic, can’t speak without the help of a computer, and despite their debilities, have had a world-class career in … well, in anything really?

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It’s really cold here. As the pilot on the airplane said the other day, it’s a “balmy 6 degrees”. Cold enough that it’s uncomfortable to be outside for more than a minute or two at a time. At least it’s not wet, or we’d be completely trapped indoors.

We did some last-minute shopping today. Gifts include books, movies, and jewelry. All objects of indulgence in most other cultures. We’re thankful that we have the time and the money to indulge, and more thankful to share indulgences with afmily and loved ones.

Last night we had a wonderful Indian dinner, hosted by mom’s Indian friends, and then we decorated our last-minute tree. Tomorrow we’ll open gifts, but they won’t be under the tree or else the dog will eat them, or the kittens will tear up the wrapping paper.

Sunday maybe a trip to Chicago, or maybe out to a movie. Monday a nice dinner, and Tuesday it’s back home. With only a tiny amount of luck, the airport will have enough de-icer on hand, and we won’t be delayed again.

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Here we are in Milwaukee. It was a bit of an ordeal getting here, but we made it anyway.

In Dallas, we were getting a little snow — not too much, but enough for the avaiation people to (quite rightly) decide that they should use de-icer on the planes before allowing them to take off.

Just one problem: The folks at the Airport in Dallas (not sure exactly which folks), think quite a bit like the drivers in Dallas: “There’s no way it’ll freeze, I’ll be able to make it home — no problem…”

Well folks, News Flash: It did freeze. What’s worse? You idiots ran out of de-icer.

No kidding — the pilot came on the P.A. about 30 minutes after we were to take off, and told us that they would have to send trucks out to get more de-icer, and it would take 60 to 90 minutes. I’d never heard of such a thing, but Dallas drivers were new to me as well, so I shouldn’t have been surprised…

So, we arrived here 3+ hours late, and it took almost as long to get here from Dallas as it did for me to get to Dallas from Amsterdam last week. But we arrived intact, and none the worse for wear.

Tomorrow we get a tree, wrap gifts, and start to get ready for Christmas. There’s a little snow still on the ground from a few days ago. Maybe there will be fresh snow for Christmas. The odds are pretty good…

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On the way back to the States — the Amsterdam to Minneapolis leg — I realized that I really don’t like DC-10’s. The main reason: There’s no per-seat air. It was ok for the first two hours in, but by the time we landed, it was as stuffy and hot in here as any of us could stand.

At least on that leg the plane wasn’t 100% full, so there was a little more room than there was on the way to Europe. On the other hand, going East-to-West, we were flying against the prevailing winds, so instead of just over seven hours, I was stuck in a DC-10 for nearly nine by the time we landed in Minneapolis.

Maybe it’s actually worth the $100 more to fly on another airline that has 747’s instead. I haven’t done enough transcontinental traveling yet in this millennium to say.

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Long day of travel. Little sleep. Online for a little bit, but fading fast. More later…

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Once again, the Republicans seem to be employing Starve the Beast economics to the Social Security problem, and Scott Rosenberg has their number. He writes:

“… Everyone in Washington knows we need to fix Social Security. But the Bush approach, while it could win support in the short term in a Republican-dominated Congress, is a long-term disaster. The worst scenario here is one that no one in the administration would ever admit to, but if you listen in on the loony right fringes (who are closer than ever now to the levers of power) you’ll hear it: The idea is that if we undermine Social Security enough today, when the fiscal train-wreck hits tomorrow the government won’t have any choice but to scrap the retirement system entirely — fulfilling, finally, the dreams of its original die-hard Republican opponents, who saw FDR’s pledge to America’s working families as an evil efflorescence of socialism.

“The Bush economists are ready to begin the dismantling. Wall Street is teeming with brokers slavering to get the commissions on this vast new influx of accounts. And, just when we can no longer count on Social Security to cushion our retirements, the borrowing the Bush plan demands will spark inflation or undermine the dollar or both, devaluing whatever savings we may have been counting on to augment those Social Security checks.

“Maybe seniors — and the rest of us — should be scared.”

Politics