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August 14th, 2022

Biography

I’ve been writing my bio for my upcoming high school reunion. It’s turning into a multi page thing because there is So Much stuff that’s happened to me over the course of my life, but so far I haven’t been asked to trim it. As of this morning I was still tweaking it, still adding things here and there, because it all comes together to put me at the Space Telescope Science Institute where I retired last February. There are some who might wonder how the hell someone like me, with no college degree and let’s face it, a confused unkempt little high school dork got a job like that and was suddenly executing tests for a billion dollar space telescope over the deep space network. What the hell anyway??

And it occurs to me that my life was a lot like one of those episodes of James Burke’s TV series Connections. If you haven’t watched it I highly recommend it. In it he makes the point repeatedly, it’s the basis for the entire series, that change happens, not exactly randomly, but from people working on things in their own area of interest, borrowing or inspired by people before them who did things in their areas of interest, and nobody really knows while they’re working in their areas of interest, what might come out of it…

An invention acts rather like a trigger, because, once it’s there, it changes the way things are, and that change stimulates the production of another invention, which in turn, causes change, and so on. Why those inventions happened, between 6,000 years ago and now, where they happened and when they happened, is a fascinating blend of accident, genius, craftsmanship, geography, religion, war, money, ambition… Above all, at some point, everybody is involved in the business of change, not just the so-called “great men.” Given what they knew at the time, and a moderate amount of what’s up here [pointing to head], I hope to show you that you or I could have done just what they did, or come close to it, because at no time did an invention come out of thin air into somebody’s head, [snaps fingers] like that. You just had to put a number of bits and pieces, that were already there, together in the right way. -James Burke, Connections – The Trigger Effect

So I’m looking back at my life and how I got here, to being retired, comfortably if not fabulously, in a little Baltimore rowhouse after having worked on two of the great NASA space telescopes, and I still have no college degree, and in many ways I am still that unkempt little dork I was way back when.

First, I wanted to be a cartoonist and a painter. My high school art teacher introduced me to photography as an art form. I did cartoons and photography for my student newspaper, which led me to also wanting to be a news photographer. I became none of that, but it led me to a job as an architectural model maker. I could simulate various building materials with paint and a little ingenuity. Because…

As a kid I became fascinated by building model cars, submarines, airplanes. But eventually the kits bored me and I began improvising. So that fed into making architectural models. I began learning how to read and then scale architectural drawings. You don’t build those things on the fly, so I began learning how to think a process through from an initial set of requirements to the finished thing, before I started work. I began to essentialize shapes and forms in my mind. A complex model could be reduced to basic forms that you could build on.

My maternal grandfather was a radio pioneer back in the days of the first radio stations. He made, then sold and serviced other company’s radios. He died in his middle 40s, in the middle 1940s. All though my childhood anything that mom saw in me that reminded her of her dad she encouraged, even though we didn’t have a lot of money I got Heathkits, Radio Shack kits, and such. When I developed an interest in shortwave radio, because it was kinda fun to listen to the world and before the Internet shortwave was how you did that, I also began dumpster diving for old radios, and getting them working again. Which led me to…

I bought my first computer, a Commodore C64, so I could read radio teletype broadcasts. There was a program cartridge you plugged in, and tuning box you could attach to the speaker of your radio, and see the words appear on the screen. The Commodore’s user interface was a Basic interpreter, written for Commodore by Microsoft. I began fiddling with writing simple Basic programs, just for kicks. In programming, it helps to be able to visualize the program flow in your head because you can’t actually see it. You can reduce the basic operations of a program to simple forms you can build on. There’s the architectural model making…weirdly enough.

At a HAM radio fest where I was searching for tubes to fix a radio I was working on, I discovered I could build an IBM PC compatible from parts being sold there, because the HAMs were using them for their own radio teletype broadcasts. I could have never afforded an actual IBM PC, or any of the compatibles being sold then. But I could buy a part here and there until I had enough to build one. And when I did, I continued teaching myself to write programs, but now with a much more powerful computer, that had access to much more powerful software development tools. 

After one particularly successful project for the architectural model maker I was working for, he gave me a bonus, and with it I bought a copy of Microsoft PDS (Professional Development System) Basic. It came with Microsoft’s first cut of the Jet database machine, which would later become Microsoft Access. So again…there’s the architectural model making. I began learning relational database design and wrote my own contact manager.

With the PC I also began surfing not the internet, which wasn’t yet open to the public, but the world of amature computer bulletin boards. It started I was looking for “shareware” software to run, and message forums to talk with other computer hobbyists. I began learning about networking, and network protocols.

I’m a gay man, and I was also looking for online community, not being comfortable with or good looking enough for the bars. There’s the dork again. I connected with some gay BBS message boards and there I saw what the technology could do for us. At the time everything I knew about homosexuals and homosexuality I got from the culture around me, which was either venomously hostile, or rancidly pitious. Now I saw we no longer had to see ourselves with heterosexual eyes. No matter where we were, in the gay friendly city neighborhoods or hostile rural zones, we could talk freely to each other. It was a revelation that committed me to computer networking…

…which led me to G.L.I.B., the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau: a gay BBS whose owner wanted it to be an information and knowledge resource for the gay community. There I met, naturally, a bunch of other computer nerds. I volunteered to help out with operations, and began to write software for them.

One of our members worked for a wire service and he got us a daily news digest of all the gay related news articles off the wires. I was stunned at how much of it there was, that you never saw anywhere. We were still people best not spoken of in family newspapers. I wrote a program to take the daily wire service news digest, break it into individual articles and upload them to the BBS along with updated menus for the users. I began learning how to design and write software systems, individual pieces of software that came together to fulfill a task, and which could be reused for other tasks.

Late in the 1980s, the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal bankrupted the people I was building architectural models for, and I was  left desperate for work. A classmate let me live in his basement and there were months I could not pay him rent. He let it slide and I am forever grateful. I posted a message for help on GLIB and one of the men who ran it gave me work writing business software for his company.  There’s where it all comes together. My lucky big break, though I didn’t know it at the time. 

I wrote several business systems for him, including a membership tracking system for a local gay activist group. They had licensed copies of Word Perfect and dBase4, and I wrote a menu driven membership database system that let them print welcome letters with envelopes every month to new members, reminders of coming dues, and enter and edit the data of existing members.

That eventually led me to getting work as a contract software developer. I did contract work for a number of companies, including Baltimore Gas and Electric, Sorbus, Litton-Amecom, and Becton-Dickinson. Eventually I got a contract at the Space Telescope Science Institute. A year later they made me an offer to come on board as staff and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I continued writing business software, because science needs business software too, to track money and progress, for the Hubble Space Telescope Grant Management System, and eventually for the James Webb Space Telescope.

I was still building my own computers from parts because then I ended up with exactly what I wanted in a computer.  My team needed computers to test our applications on but we didn’t have a lot of money in our budget for it, and so, because I’d told them I built my own computers, I was asked to build my team a set of test computers for the software we were deploying to the community. I built them four from all the spare parts and castoffs I could scrounge up. I used swappable hard drive trays to allow me to load whatever operating system I needed to run tests on. I set the test lab up with a custom set of iptables firewalls and every morning ran a program that went through the system logs looking for anyone trying to break into any of it and it sent me a morning digest. From inside our firewalls anyone on the team could run tests once I set a machine up with the right operating system.

That got me notice from management and they put me to work on the team that was building the JWST Mission Operations Center. There I set up and administered a small testing lab for JWST science operations software systems (store bought computers this time…we had money now…), wrote more business programs that tracked progress, captured and catalogued telemetry from the spacecraft cryo chamber tests, and eventually ended up in the flight operations room, conducting the early initial end to end tests in the Flight Operations room, across the NASA deep space network.

After that was turned over to Goddard flight engineers, I did performance testing in the backrooms of the MOC, almost all the way to Launch.

So. From cartoons and painting, to architectural models, from radios to computers, online gay activism to contract software engineering, to Hubble and then to James Webb.

And there’s a bunch more off on a different path…cartoons and painting to architectural model making to computers to online activism to cartoons and photography for local gay papers to work on a film documentary and getting screen credit and an entry in the Internet Movie Database.

As I wrote in my high school reunion bio, it’s not a life I ever expected to have when I graduated in 1972. I had a lot of low expectations dumped on me when I was a kid, growing up with a divorced single mom, which wasn’t helped by being part of a despised minority. But mom loved me and set a good example, and I did some really good stuff along the way. I marched with other gay folk out of the shadows and into the mainstream. I kept on doing my photography, my artwork, had a couple shows, got my cartoons into newspapers. I worked on two of NASAs major space telescopes. We harvested light from near the dawn of time and gave it to science to study. We added a few lines to the book of knowledge.

What a trip it was. Connections.

The question is in what way are the triggers around us likely to operate to cause things to change — for better or worse. And, is there anything we can learn from the way that happened before, so we can teach ourselves to look for and recognize the signs of change? The trouble is, that’s not easy when you have been taught as I was, for example, that things in the past happened in straight-forward lines. I mean, take one oversimple example of what I’m talking about: the idea of putting the past into packaged units — subjects, like agriculture. The minute you look at this apparently clear-cut view of things, you see the holes. I mean, look at the tractor. Oh sure, it worked in the fields, but is it a part of the history of agriculture or a dozen other things? The steam engine, the electric spark, petroleum development, rubber technology. It’s a countrified car. And, the fertilizer that follows; it doesn’t follow! That came from as much as anything else from a fellow trying to make artificial diamonds. And here’s another old favorite: Eureka! Great Inventors You know, the lonely genius in the garage with a lightbulb that goes ping in his head. Well, if you’ve seen anything of this series, you’ll know what a wrong approach to things that is. None of these guys did anything by themselves; they borrowed from other people’s work. And how can you say when a golden age of anything started and stopped? The age of steam certainly wasn’t started by James Watt; nor did the fellow whose engine he was trying to repair — Newcomen, nor did his predecessor Savorey, nor did his predecessor Papert. And Papert was only doing what he was doing because they had trouble draining the mines. You see what I’m trying to say? This makes you think in straight lines. And if today doesn’t happen in straight lines — think of your own experience — why should the past have?

-James Burke, Connections – Yesterday, Tomorrow and You

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

I Spend All This Money On You And This Is The Thanks I Get??

I’m trying Universal this next Florida trip, since Chapek seems not to want us middle class retirees at Disney World anymore.

Universal is smaller and its tickets are about where Disney’s are in terms of price. But they aren’t doing park reservations, they have a bunch of interesting stuff in there, and an actual Margaritaville restaurant on the premises. I’ve been to the original Margaritaville in Key West, and the food and drink were very good. Love the atmosphere, love the Cheeseburger In Paradise!

And…if I like it enough, they have annual passes that cost and work almost exactly like the old Disney annual passes did. There is also an interesting 1950s themed hotel on premises that I might use for stays when I’m not doing DVC.

And this trip it all fits together, almost as if by destiny, as if pixie dust and magic! I had to truncate the end of my initial birthday week stay in my DVC room to be back in time for my class reunion. So I added some days at the beginning at a hotel on hotel row near Disney Springs. My two days of Disney park tickets don’t start until I check into my DVC room, so there were several days I was expecting to do nothing except Disney Springs and maybe the miniature golf spots, which are fun. Now I can do a couple days at Universal instead.

I bought two park hopping days at Universal (they only have two parks, three if you count the new water park), and downloaded their app to manage it all, just like I do with the Disney app. Supposedly there are busses that will shuttle you from hotels on hotel row to Universal.

I paid for them using my Disney Card. Hahahahaha… They offer me a Universal card I might just get it.

And you know, I don’t think Chapek and the current Disney board of directors even care if most or all of us former annual pass holders migrate over to Universal. Let them have the hoi polloi. We want the rich big money spenders…


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 12th, 2022

Save Our Children…From Fanatics Like Us…

So many times over the decades have I seen this…one person’s political rampage against the gay community turns out to be motivated by a need to strike out at their gay children. But in this case the religious fanaticism seems to have already been there.

A Granbury mom’s campaign to ban library books divided her town — and her family

Weston, 28, said his heart was racing as he watched and rewatched the video — and not only because he opposes censorship. He’d instantly recognized the speaker.

It was his mother, Monica Brown.

The same woman, he said, who’d removed pages from science books when he was a child to keep him and his siblings from seeing illustrations of male and female anatomy. The woman who’d always warned that reading the wrong books or watching the wrong movies could open the door to sinful temptation. And the one, he said, who’d effectively cut him off from his family four years ago after he came out as gay.

“You are not invited to our house for Thanksgiving or any other meal,” his mother had texted to him in November 2018, eight months after he revealed his sexual orientation to his parents…

Go read the whole thing. Yes, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s also instructive. There’s this shifty religious right boilerplate that you hear over and over again when it comes to the current push to censor books with LGBT content, and you see it here in this article, that goes “we’re not anti gay we’re anti pornography”. But what you find when you drill into it is they regard everything about gay people, fiction, non-fiction, music, movies…Everything…is pornography. And that is true whether or not it has any sexual content at all, explicit or implicit. For example, that charming little short released a few years ago, “In A Heartbeat” was slammed repeatedly by the usual bigots for, so they babbled, pushing sex onto kids. But there was no sex at all anywhere in it, not even so much as a kiss or holding hands. There was barely any touching at all between them. But all the homophobes could see was it was about gay kids and therefore it was about sex.

Because the thinking is, always, homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Or as Vito Russo put it:

“It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.”

So when they tell you they’re not anti-gay, and they just want to keep pornography out of the schools remember: if it has anything to do with gay people, with LGBT people, anything at all, then by definition (their’s) it is pornography. Period. End Of Story.

And that is how you get from “We’re not censoring books about gay people” to “Everything about gay people must be censored.”

Which was always the point. Always.


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Back When “Conservative” And “Men of Science” Were Not Contradictions

In the previous blog post I talk about how Walt Disney’s conservatism is much different from the batshit crazy thing the republicans have turned into. Here is an artifact from the early days of space exploration, within which is Frank Capra’s last film, as described below. Please excuse the period cultural and sexual stereotypes. This is important. I want you to see and pay attention to something.

First of all, understand this: Frank Capra was politically a Very conservative republican. He despised FDR and was adamantly against government economic intervention during the great depression. Try to keep that in mind as you watch the short film he made starting around 5:26 after the opening shots of rocket launches and John Glenn’s first orbit, and see what I see, while this Very Conservative man is extolling the benefits of space exploration in that eminently Capra way, as a next step in Evolution, and how it will improve our lives, improve world communication, improve The Public Schools.

…evolution’s next step…Improve world communication…improve the public schools…

In the film Danny Thomas does a staged Man On The Street series of interviews. You know it’s staged because every single character it in is right out of the Capra playbook. There’s one particular interviewee I have in mind, because that brief little passage shocked me to my core seeing it, seeing how far the conservative movement and the republican party have sunk into history’s gutter: the man who says in all deadly seriousness “Expensive? Oh knowledge is cheap, it’s ignorance costs lives and money.”

That was the America I grew up in. It is not the America I am currently living in.

Frank Capra’s final film, a short from 1964: “Rendezvous in Space”, with Danny Thomas, voices by Mel Blanc and Jim Backus. Produced for Hall of Science at 1964-65 World’s Fair. Final act includes orbital docking of Dyna-Soar-like lifting body with MOL-like space station. In performance, the screen would go dark for a few minutes and the audience would crane their necks to see a suspended animatronic “space taxi” dock with a model space station (seen here as only a brief moment of blackness with voiceover around the 14-minute mark). An astronaut mannequin would transfer from vehicle to station, and attention would be directed back to the screen for the film’s finale.

-Randall Luttenberg


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Walt Disney’s Conservatism – Not What The Kook Pews Think

I’m bellyaching about all the ways Chapek is trashing the Disney parks, and remark offhandedly that I’m basically still going for my birthday vacation in part to give the middle finger to DeSatan and all the batshit crazy Florida republicans. A friend remarks that it’s ironic since Walt Disney himself wasn’t very accepting. True enough. While he lived.

Walt Disney died in 1966. Stonewall would not happen for another three years. 

Walt while he lived was no friend of the gay community for sure. He fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay. And there’s a story that occasionally makes the rounds of the time animator Art Babbitt, who did the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia, told Walt he was taking piano lessons to better understand music and Walt snapped at him “What are you some kind of fag or something?” He was probably having a bad day that day. He was known for his temper. And…his cigarette habit.

But something people forget about Disney…yes he was a conservative man, he hated his unions, he was friends with Reagan, Linkletter, that conservative Hollywood gang…but conservatives back then were a much different from the lunatics we have today. And Walt was fairly typical of the breed. He had one foot in Main Street USA, but he had the other in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science, he believed in progress. E.P.C.O.T. was supposed to be his Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

In all of Disney’s educational nature films, in all of his science films, in his movies, I do not recall Any mention of God. There’s evolution. There’s science and physics. There’s “The American Way”. Yes, they’re all “Family” movies (There’s a story about how appalled he was when Annette started appearing on screen in a bikini in all those teen beach movies). Maybe I just missed a few God references, but that would be because they were never front and center. Science was. The American Way was. Family was. Yes Disney was a conservative, but he was also a man of science. Once upon a time that was unremarkable. And he believed in progress.

And because of that, I think he would, had he lived (which would take a Lot of pixie dust and magic since he’d be well over 100 now) he would have eventually accepted the science that’s been saying since the 1950s that there is nothing wrong with us. I do believe he would have eventually come to see gay people as part of the human family too. Which would be good, because there are much Much worse examples to be setting for gay kids than the ones Disney would.

They say Disney would be appalled at all the Pride merchandise you see now at his Parks. What I think is he’d be spitting nails to see a man like Donald Trump in his Hall Of The Presidents. He’d have closed it down first, and made it like his Lincoln one man show in Disneyland California. If Trump is ever dragged into court over his keeping and probably sharing this country’s nuclear secrets with other countries, we’ll see how they handle that in Florida.


Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Birthday Wishes For A Lost Friend

So my calendar is telling me that today is your birthday. How I wish we had stayed in touch. Maybe I could have helped keep you steady when the sickness started taking you. Maybe I could have got you the help you needed. Maybe I could have just been there to be someone you could trust and rely on. To listen. To be a friend. I should have been there. But we were so young, and you at least were beautiful, and the world will have its way with us. And now we’re both old men. And I will always regret not being there.

And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don’t know how

Peace. Take care.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 11th, 2022

Park Hopper, Water Park Option…Hey, Where’d The Magic Option Go?

Saw the following in my Google News stream, in an article about how Disney isn’t entirely happy with the money its making in the parks. This is about Disneyland but I would hazard a guess it also applies to Disney World…

The Walt Disney Company revenue grew as a whole, but further down in the report, Disney states that the Parks encountered an “unfavorable attendance mix” which it claims is the reason for lower Park ticket profits.

The report claims that per-capita ticket revenue was up due to Genie+ and Lightning Lane but quite offset by actual Disneyland attendance. This is most likely referencing the controversial and hot-button topic of MagicKey renewals, something Disney has remained very quiet on as of late.

If they still had the original Annual Pass system I’d still be a pass holder. But it seems as soon as Chapek got hold of the reins he wanted to eliminate the annual passes, and replace them with something more revenue enhancing. Thus, I wasn’t even alerted to when my pass was to expire. I knew when it was about to expire but I also knew there would be no more annual passes, but this new MagicKey thing which was hideously more expensive for less access than the annual passes were. So I bailed. I think a lot of people did. Now they’re not even for sale anymore, and probably when (if) they ever become available again they’ll be a limited number of them and you and I won’t get a chance to buy one anyway.

So that leaves us with the standard tickets. You buy one of those you are paying the max per day price, and only for the few days that the tickets are good for.

I bought two, thinking (incorrectly) that I’d still visit my favorite restaurants on my birthday week. As it turns out, they don’t let single diners make reservations at those spots anymore, but never mind… I bought two tickets, or rather, one ticket for two days at the parks. But you’re not actually getting two days, you’re getting two days in a five day window. You don’t have to use them on consecutive days, but you have to do the second day no more than four days after you use your first day.

I added the park hopper plus which allows me to hop to another park after 2PM, or visit a water park that day. (only Typhoon Lagoon is currently open), depending on whether or not the park you want to hop to is at capacity. At the moment you only need a park reservation for the first park you enter, not the one you hop to after 2PM, if you can. The water parks don’t need a park reservation currently.

So, two days within five days of each other, park hopper and water park option: grand total is 330 dollars. Well…and 22 cents. And you still need park reservations for whichever two parks you want to visit first on those two days.

I won’t go into how all this is so different, so Constraining, compared to before Chapek took over, but this is what’s being forced on the customers now, who previously had annual passes, or bought tickets as needed, and the uproar online at least is hot and furious.

So the per ticket revenue is down is it? Well I can’t spend any money on dining when I can’t get reservations. And if just getting into a park is this expensive, And complex, it sure isn’t fun anymore either. And that could be a problem.

I remember some years ago, I’m sitting in one of my favorite Disney bars, the Tune-In Lounge in Hollywood Studios. I’m talking to a man seated next to me who is taking a break from the family he’s with and we start talking about the cost of doing Disney. This was before Chapek started jacking up prices on Everything (including the ice machines in some hotels). He says to me…

You know, they talk a lot about magic here. Let me tell you how the magic works. You walk into a park here with maybe 100 dollars in your pocket, and you walk back out with maybe five. The magic is they make you want to do it again the next day.

But that was then. This is now.

I have seen this obsessive focus on profit margin at every little point no matter how trivial drag companies into the gutter. Disney is probably big enough they can survive on media revenue instead of what they used to make in the parks. But the parks used to be their big money makers and they’re not fun anymore, and the magic isn’t what it used to be.

I might not even go back next year. I’m doing it this year in large part to flip the bird at DeSantis and Florida republicans. But if Chapek is going to keep flipping the bird at park goers than why even bother.

But this year anyway, I still want to give some love to my inner Mouseketeer. It’s his birthday after all.

 

 

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
August 9th, 2022

Tricksters Messing With Tricksters

You would think Blue Jays are closely related to Mockingbirds the way they mimic other birds, but they’re a different branch of the things with wings family tree. Corvidae versus Mimidae. They’re more closely related to crows, which makes what just happened outside my den window amusing.

I’m busy working on some pages for my Woodward website; I want to get our art and literary journal, The Inquiry, up. I have all the pages for the 1972 issue scanned already, I just need a web page with the links. So I’m busy hand rolling some html, when I hear a hawk calling right outside my open windows. But no…it’s a blue jay, doing a killer imitation of a hawk.

Fascinated, I watch when I should have been grabbing for my cell phone to record this. What, I wonder, is it hoping to accomplish by scaring the heck out of all the smaller birds in the area. There is, or was, a blue jay nest somewhere nearby…I know this because I could hear the noisy fledglings some weeks ago. Maybe it wants to clear the area around the cat food dishes my neighbor has put out so it can grab a snack. It’s very odd, but a bunch of birds will eat dry cat food just as easily as bird seed. Blackbirds, starlings…I try to tell them they’re cat food too but they don’t listen.

When I finally think to grab my iPhone and get some video of this blue jay mimicking a hawk, at the same time a bunch of crows start complaining there’s a hawk somewhere around here. Caw Caw Caw Caw!!!! Crows and hawks do Not get along, and I don’t think they like blue jays much either, and I’m not sure the crows are actually being fooled. But immediately the jay stops mimicking a hawk goes into alert mode over crows nearby. Jay Jay Jay Jay!!! And it flies off.

As I’m typing this, I can still hear the crows bellyaching about it, but a bit further away. Life in the city…


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 1st, 2022

A Life In Blog Posts

I’ve had my website for just over two decades now, originally to showcase my cartoons and photography, but it also included a blog, which back in the day were simple online diaries. I keep telling people that mine is a life blog, because most of what you find in the blogosphere are topical blogs, most of them political, and I get political lots on mine. But it’s a life blog. You might find me writing about “Adventures in home ownership” in my “department of random complaining” as much as pulpit thumping about prejudice toward gay folk.

I was looking at my server logs this morning and saw that someone, via a Google search (Google doesn’t let you see the search strings anymore) hit on a series of blog posts that I tagged with the keyword “Prejudice”. So I decided to see what they saw and followed the link back to my blog.

Is it unforgivably vain of me to look at the old stuff an be impressed with the quality of my writing? There’s a lot of good stuff in there going back years. But also, browsing a lot of old blog posts on the topic of homophobia really drives home how the current torrent of hate mongering toward us isn’t all that much different from previous waves of it. It’s like nothing ever changes in the American sewer. But at least I could get a few things off my chest. Beats yelling at the TV.

I don’t know how much longer I have, hopefully enough to finish A Coming Out Story. I’ll be 69 in just a few weeks and the way I’m feeling lately I’m finally at the point of admitting to myself that I’m actually old now. I’m tired all the time now. But I could hope that something of my art, something of my photography, and maybe my blog have a life after mine. On the blog, which is after all just a life blog, I’ve said things I felt needed to be said whether I had an audience for it or not, and my blog has never had a lot of traffic. But at least I got it out there and I’m happy with what I wrote.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 23rd, 2022

Dealing With A Heatwave And Mosquitoes

I’ve taken to putting out a bowl of ice next to the water bowl on the porch when it gets this hot. The calico won’t have anything to do with the ice, but when it’s halfway melted she’ll drink from that bowl first, then finish up with the regular water bowl. I’ve no idea what that thought process is.

There’s plenty of shade on my porch, under the trees and she rotates lounging spots. I keep inviting her inside but she won’t have it. So she stays out in the heat. I make sure she has plenty of water. It’s the best I can do.

I got the birdbath going again this morning. At some point I need to adjust its footing and make it level again. Right now I just have some wedges in place. I bought a twirling thing some years ago that keeps the water in it moving, supposedly to discourage mosquito egg laying. Customers usually come pretty quickly in this sort of heat. Mostly they drink, but every now and then I see someone taking a bath in it. The twirler takes up a bunch of space in the middle and I think that keeps most of the bathers out. But at least they get a drink.

I’ll put some water dishes out back, I just have to remember to take them back inside at night and run them through the dishwasher to rid any mosquito larva out of them.

I have a mosquito kill fogger I run every couple days to spray under the deck, a space that I can’t keep standing water out of. It discharges a very dense fog of mosquito kill and it’s very effective, but I have to warn my neighbors when I’m about to use it to keep their pets indoors for a while. They don’t seem to mind I think because it does very effectively keep the mosquitos away. But I can’t use it out front by the outdoor faucet because there are cats out and about there. There is a “natural” mosquito repellant spray I Can use however because it’s pet friendly. It definitely stinks of some spicy plant and after I use it the two street cats that hang out here turn up their noses and avoid the area. I can verify that it keeps the mosquitoes away too, but only for a couple days.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 22nd, 2022

20 Years…Well…Actually 23…

Finally! My 20 Year Service Award came. They FedEx-ed it to me a few days ago. I was sincerely afraid I would never get it because it is the kind of thing that routinely falls through the bureaucratic cracks at other workplaces. But they remembered me…and I have to assume everyone else that didn’t get theirs in 2020 because of the COVID lockdowns. 2020 was when I hit the twenty year mark.

I’ve never worked so long anywhere else. Partly that’s because gay guys tend to get the pink triangle…I mean Slip…once management figures out why you’re expressing an insufficient interest in the opposite sex. But also because who in their right mind walks away from a job like this one? For twenty-three years I worked somewhere they harvested light from near the dawn of time and gave it to astronomers, physicists, and other researchers to study. We were Space Explorers. And I was part of that team. Not an astronomer, not a physicist, simply a computer systems engineer who helped them. But I was part of it. I helped test the Mission Operations Center systems. I conducted tests across the deep space network. Just basic end to end testing, and only for a short period before the Goddard flight engineers took over, but I spoke instructions over the Deep Space Network. I had to learn how to use the systems in order to test them, and then for several years prior to launch I tested them. I managed the telemetry stream from the initial cryovac tests, first from Goddard and then the big full up OTIS test in Houston. I maintained the telemetry streams from all those tests and cataloged the data so other engineers could use it to develop the flight systems. I helped with the playbacks. I did performance testing on the final system designs. I watched a spacecraft being born and speaking its first words. I did that. I was a Space Explorer.

It’s still so…amazing to look back at what my life eventually became, against all odds and expectations.

So now I have a complete set of service awards to hang on my den wall. I have 5, 10 and 15 year awards and they are all like this one except they’re beautiful Hubble photos. For the twenty I asked for this artist’s rendering of JWST because I knew I would be retiring after launch and I wanted the set to end on the project I was working on when I retired.

23 years I worked there…almost half my working life. It’s been amazing. I was the kid without a dad, living with his mom on the other side of the tracks. But the techno geeks and freaks in the nice neighborhoods on the other side recognized a member of the tribe in me, and kept encouraging me to go for it when I had my doubts. We are still a tribe.

Somehow I need to rearrange the STScI memorabilia on my den wall to accommodate all four of these. It’s do-able if I remove the shrine to my three strikes. Maybe I should do that. Do I really need that shrine in my den? Maybe. That’s also a part of my life, if not the best one. What do You think, LonerNoMore?


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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

Mercedes Love…

…still in it.

Along with the all weather floor mats, the trunk liner, and the fitted front window sun shield, I bought the factory fitted car cover when I bought the car. It’s for those scorchingly hot days when I don’t want the car baking in the sun. Which it is currently here in Charm City. As I write this they’re calling for 100+ this coming Sunday.

It’s UV blocking as well as being very reflective…not simply white. I only use it during severe heat waves, and sometimes when the pollen gets heavy. They’re actually not good for keeping rain off as they’re not waterproof but only water resistant. So eventually they get wet and then they’re holding water against the car body and that’ll get rust started.

It’s by Mercedes for this specific model. Does it have a pocket for the hood ornament? Of course it does.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 17th, 2022

Not Quite The Anxiety Of An HIV Test…But Still…

With so many people I follow on social media saying they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 I decided to use one of my test kits before it expired, just to see the result. Thankfully everyone saying so isn’t experiencing bad symptoms…some in fact aren’t experiencing any at all. Those tested as a precaution to some coming event and discovered unpleasantly that they had it. The worry is more about long term impacts, but otherwise these are in good health.

So I ran both tests in my kit and both came back negative. I have one more kit that is due to expire soon and I’ll use it too, then go buy some new ones, use one new one immediately and save the others.

One reason for being apprehensive in my case is the constant fatigue I am feeling, and which so I’m told is one of the symptoms. But that can also be due to my age, the heart meds I’m taking, and too little physical activity.  I am working on the activity part twice weekly at the hospital fitness center, and I can feel it helping, so there’s that.

I remember the stress waiting for results from an HIV test I took decades ago, after having had lovely but unprotected sex with strike three. It came back negative and the doctor who gave me the results looked at me like a guy who appreciated being able to give a patient good news every now and then, leavened with a weary look of Please Now Be More Fucking Careful When Fucking…Please… I got the unspoken message.

Called strike three afterward and told him I’m fine, we’re fine. He had no comment. Another unspoken message, but that one sadly went right over my head.


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by Bruce | Link | React!

What Is An Asshole?

Well, if we’re only talking about our physical bodies, then it’s obviously the part known medically as the anus…the opening at the end of the alimentary canal through which solid waste matter leaves the body. But context is important here. Our dictionaries also define the word as, a stupid, irritating, or contemptible person. You know…the kind of stupid, irritating or contemptible person who asks What is a woman while trash talking transgendered folk.

They’ll tell you it’s a simple question, but no, it’s merely a short one. Just four words. What is a woman? But it’s also an ambiguous question, and you can see the ambiguity clearly when you turn it around and ask What is a man? Especially when arguing it with one of those toxically masculine pea brained homophobic nitwits, because to them being a Real Man is more than just having the Y chromosome and dangly bits.

But a woman is just a body. 

And there’s the problem with this ostensibly simple question. It is neither simple nor a question. It’s what comes out of assholes. 

You can appreciate that the male of this particular species regard women as bodies that exist simply to serve men, with no inner lives, feelings or desires of their own, especially since the end of Roe. From that perspective the only thing you need to know about a women would be is she fuckable. So to them it is a simple question. What is a woman? A woman is what a real man fucks. End of story.

As for TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), well, you may have assumed all these years that feminist equals liberal, but sadly no. No more than liberal equals gay or trans friendly. No more than gay equals liberal or trans friendly…alas. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that a bigot’s mind is like an eye: the more light you shine on it the tighter it closes. Never mind the political labels…watch for the closing eye.

Usually followed by the opening sphincter…

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 13th, 2022

What All That Work Was For

Yesterday (as I write this) I attended the unveiling of the first James Webb Space Telescope science images and reception afterward at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Though I am retired since last February, a couple months after launch, my project manager got me an invite. Some day I should sit down and write my memoirs, since it’s been a long strange trip.

It was an amazing day. I’m still feeling the afterglow. To have been a part of it all for the last 23 1/2 years is so very cool. I did not expect to have this life.

They were all happy to see me at the Institute. How is retirement they asked. Very strange I said. And then they all made me feel like I was part of the team again. We did this.

 


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by Bruce | Link | React!
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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