Tuesday, October 31, 2006



A lot of the fun of the line of work I was in (overseas construction work) was traveling to out of the way places on local airlines. Chickens in the cabin were common. In Peru, sixty years ago, we landed on a remote field high in the Andes that had absolutely no passenger facilities. But the place was charming and exciting. Inca Indians were everywhere.

I was pleased, 44 years ago, to find a decent restaurant in the Da Nang airport. It was housed in an interesting old French Colonial building. One thing about the French, they left good restaurants in the wake of their retreats.

Not so much fun was trying to get off the ground in a badly overloaded DC3 at the Tehran airport. The pilot aborted the takeoff twice before finally getting off the ground on the third try. I have never learned to relax in those situations.

Flying today on local airlines is different. When I heard about the Nigerian plane crash, the first thought that occurred to me was, “I wonder how many generals were on board?” I swear that is true.

It turns out there were no generals but:

ABUJA, Oct 29 (Reuters) - A Nigerian passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff from the capital Abuja on Sunday, killing 99 people including the leader of the nation's 70 million Muslims.

You can read the article *HERE*.

There is a lesson to be learned here. It may be coincidence but too many planes are going down with important people on board. So the next time you’re in Mombasa or Huambo and are about to board a chicken-laden plane, take a look at your fellow passengers. If you see someone that looks important who has an entourage, give the flight a pass.

Just tell them, “No thanks. I’ll catch the next one.”

Monday, October 30, 2006

"I SEE A HAND! CUT OFF THAT HAND!" Posted by Picasa


It seems it was Bush’s fault that the Australian Muslim cleric has those primitive beliefs.

Australia's most prominent Islamic cleric, widely condemned for suggesting that women who don't wear head scarves invite rape, implied Friday he would not resign as long as the White House continues to influence the world.
Also, what he said were not his words:

Al-Hilali has said his comments were misinterpreted, and a translation showed he was quoting an ancient Islamic scholar, echoing a controversy that erupted last month when Pope Benedict XVI outraged Muslims with a speech in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who linked Islam and violence.
And, besides, people shouldn’t listen to him.

"He says he's just a frail old cleric, not the president of the United States, and the media should not be so pedantic about his words," Trad said.
And then the Muslim leader clarified his remarks:

"The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he was quoted as saying, referring to the head scarf worn by some Muslim women.
He explained Islamic law:

al-Hilali quoted the scholar as saying that he would imprison a woman for life if she were raped.
"Why would you do this, Rafihi? He says because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn't have snatched it," al-Hilali told worshippers in Arabic, citing the scholar's writing.
In his defense he says:

The metaphor I used of the "exposed meat" was not appropriate for the western mentality. It has been quoted and misinterpreted by some groups with ill intentions. This metaphor was used in a private lesson given inside the mosque after the Taraweeh (optional night) prayers on the fourth day of Ramadan. It was meant for the Muslim attendees at the mosque and not the general public and particularly not the general women of our Australian society.
Oh. Now I understand. That explains everything. He didn’t know that what he said wouldn’t be a secret. We people with “Western Mentality” aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the depth of Islam.

I wonder if we shall ever learn.



Reese Witherspoon is on her way from Legally Blonde to legally single.

The Oscar winner has formally separated from Ryan Phillippe after seven years of marriage, their publicists confirmed to E! News.
In case you haven’t heard (and care) you can get the full story *HERE*. Personally I couldn’t care less. So why do I mention it? Because it reminded me of one of my favorite films.

The name of the film is Freeway from 1996. It contains one of the truly great female performances by Reese Witherspoon in the history of movies. This movie made me a Reese Witherspoon fan for life. Not because I think she’s sexy because I don’t. It’s because she is a great actress.

She plays a 15 year old from a family lower than white trash. Her mother is a street hooker and her indolent stepfather has molested her. The law raids the house, arrests her ‘parents’ and detains her. She escapes. On the freeway she is picked up by a man who turns out to be a serial killer whose exploits have been all over the news. He is played brilliantly by Kiefer Sutherland. (His wife is played by Brooke Shields in a small role.)

This is a movie without dull spots. It is also a movie without clichés. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you like realistic, gritty movies with great acting, this is the one for you. In my opinion it is one of the best movies ever made.

You can read more about this movie *HERE* and *HERE*

Sunday, October 29, 2006



I’m going to do a rant here.

Most businesses get smarter over the years. They improve their product and services making them customer friendly. That is logical. That is what every business does.

Except in Hollywood.

I’m pissed that credits at the end of some movies list the cast in order of appearance. It seems like it’s happening more and more. It also seems moronic to me.

You want to know the name of the second lead? You have to watch the movie again for the opening credits. For anyone else you have to watch the picture and count how many characters come on before he/she appears.

That is totally moronic.

They won’t even list them by the name of the character they portray. What moroon is behind that trend? If you want the credits you have to go to the internet!


Do you see something counter-productive in that?

Is their purpose to send customers to a competitive medium perhaps?

Can this be a plot by Carl Rove to destroy Hollywood?


Saturday, October 28, 2006


We have, here in Bangkok, a fleet of orange-vested motor bikers who make their living taking people from place to place. I have never seen anything like it in my travels. It is a service I have never used until today, even though they maintain a station at the entrance of my soi (lane).

Today there were an unusual couple of events that caused me to use one. First the usually endless flow of empty taxis on the street into which my soi empties dried up. Then I noticed that the only bike-taxi-operator at the station was also the only female biker at that station. (Female bikers in that trade are extremely rare.) So I decided to “use her,” if you will pardon the expression.

If it had been a man I wouldn’t have done it. I couldn’t sit on the back of a motorbike with a guy driving. It would make me look like a chick. And what do you grab hold of? But with the chick driving it was different. She didn’t mind at all that I gripped the sides of her buns. (I had to hold on somewhere.) It seemed to please her.

I expected all kinds of stares as we drove through crowded streets. A ‘farang’ on the back of a bike-taxi. But we didn’t draw a glance.

The bike-taxis are cheaper and faster than the regular taxis but there is a definite safety problem. Some drivers of cars don’t pay a lot of attention to them.

My lady operator got me safely to a subway entrance down which I immediately disappeared. I use the word “disappeared” advisedly. Almost every subway station has four entrances from the street level, usually at very busy intersections. They are very convenient for crossing the streets. So when you go down one, no one can know where you are going.

I knew the story of my “ride” would get back to my household. That’s the way things work here.

How nice to leave a mystery.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



I’m a big fan of nature TV. Not all of it. Shows about reptiles bore me. How often are they going to show turtles burying their eggs in the sand? We’ve all seen it a few times. Get over it!

And then there’re crocodiles. How hard are they to find? Crocs are the most indolent creatures on earth. Mostly they lay on the bottom of their ponds. Tough job finding them. They’re in the same place every day. The hard part is getting them to move.

Mostly I like watching big cats in Africa. Lion cubs are adorable. (Does that sound too gay?) The cheetahs chasing down Thompson gazelles are the most interesting sporting events on TV. The gazelles have a better than even chance to get away. Sometimes they appear to taunt the cheetahs.

Lions stalking and attacking Cape buffalo is also engrossing. The buffaloes often turn and chase off the lions. It’s not an even battle, but sometimes lions are killed.

Those scenes between lions and buffaloes got me thinking. The lion’s only chance is with buffaloes on the fringe of the herd. Why would a buffalo stay there?

That question intrigued me so I went to Africa and did extensive I. Q. tests on herds of buffaloes.

Here is the result:


Write that down.

Those are words to live by.

Friday, October 20, 2006



I’ve just opened my lab. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve wondered about for a long time that sounded kind of phony to me. You know, things your parents told you and you wonder. So I decided to do some research.

Here’s one: They say a watched pot never boils. Now my mother and grandmother both told me that. How could that be? It didn’t sound right. So I decided to seek out the truth.

Here’s the experiment I did. It was very scientific. I heated more than a thousand pots of water. I carefully watched half but not the other half.

And here is my conclusion:


You can carve that in stone.

Thursday, October 19, 2006



Retirement is a state of mind. I’ve seen many who seemed as if they were in that state while still on the job. This is a state of mind I have never been able to sustain for very long. Something inside tells me I should be doing stuff. Of course I’m nuts. That’s beside the point. The pressure is still there.

I remind myself that I’m retired and the pressure eases for a moment. It eases for as long as the thought lasts. Then the pressure to do something returns. Do what? I’m totally inept working with my hands. It would be silly to think about a job here in Bangkok, even if I could get a work permit.

What’s left? Writing and, recently, cooking. I’m not going to make a mini-career out of cooking. But writing? Why should I feel pressure to get a post every day? But that’s the way I am. Of course I’m nuts.

I first retired at the age of 62. A long time ago, needless to say. Like a dummy, I kept on working. I worked so much that Social Security took back a lot of my money. In those days they limited earnings.

One of my reasons for continuing to work was to connect with the mainstream of American life. After all the years overseas, I came home and worked as a surveyor. My kind of surveying was usually out in the wilderness. Or it could be along the centerline of a heavily trafficked street. Either way there is little connection with the mainstream of American life.

My first job in the mainstream was a security guard. I was in Las Vegas when a large technological convention came to town complete with expensive equipment. I found it to be the perfect job for me because they put me on the night shift.

Over the years, for one reason or another, I had become a very light sleeper. On this night shift, I put an open book on the table in front of me, propped my head in my hands over it as if I were reading, and slept the shift away. The slightest sound awakened me. The boss man came around several times. I was always staring at him as he came into sight. In the morning he told me I was the only guard who had stayed awake all night.

What a perfect job for a light sleeper. Was I cheating my employer? Hell no. I was as alert as a guard should be on a night shift. Of course it didn’t pay much but I was giving away that money anyway.

I did that for a couple of years. Why not? Getting paid to sleep. Only one boss man guessed what I was doing and it infuriated him. I was beating the system! That company had a definition of “sleeping” in its manual. The definition of sleeping was when the guard was approached, spoken to, and didn’t respond, he was then determined to have been sleeping. At the time I was ‘guarding’ a lobby behind large glass doors. This guy only had to approach the doors from outside and I would wake up. There was nothing he could do and it infuriated him.

It didn’t help, I suppose, that I taunted the weasel.

I loved to piss him off.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I decided, for a treat (change), to take my crew for breakfast in Siam (pronounced see-ahm). That is a shopping district in Bangkok. It’s an upscale shopping district having Gucci, Versace and that crap.

Of course we had a scheduling problem. I’m usually up at three (don’t ask). Well, that’s good. I had a chance to watch the second NFL game, it being Monday here. The early game starts at midnight, Bangkok time. Then I could watch the night game with the inimitable John Madden. Then I switched over to the Mets-Cardinals playoff game.

When that ended at 10:30, the last of my crew was finally out of bed. I don’t dare wake them when the schools are on vacation. Then it only took 45 minutes and many pouts to get out the door, which may have been a record.

We took a taxi to the subway, the subway 5 stops to the Skytrain, and then the Skytrain 4 stops to Siam. The unusual thing is, it would have been cheaper to take a taxi all the way but, with Bangkok traffic, much slower. The difference is not much, perhaps the equivalent of $5 for everyone to ride the taxi against $7 on the rapid transit. But the rapid transit is a lot more interesting.

In Siam we walked straight off the train platform into a mall. By this time I was starved and half smashed, having had my usual morning drinks on an empty stomach. So we stopped in at the first eating place we came to. Big mistake. It was a French/Chinese joint. Experience has taught me that French/Chinese restaurants serve pedestrian food at greatly inflated prices. I forgot. It cost $70 to get out of that place. They charged $4.50 for a small bottle of local beer. What a rip-off.

But on the plus side, none of my crew had ever been to Siam before. I thought they’d want to look around. It was an interesting place. But the pouts came back. They wanted to go back home where they didn’t want to leave in the first place. You know why? They were missing their TV programs.

I can’t win.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"WE DON'T CARE IF HE IS GAY." Posted by Picasa


What got me on this subject, the movie Shane was recently on Bangkok TV. And then I watched Gypsy (the Bette Midler version in which she seems uncomfortable) out of my archives. I looked at Brandon De Wilde, the kid in Shane, and I said to myself, “Myself, there’s no way this kid isn’t gay.”

This is not being good or bad judgmental you understand. This is just sexual preferential guessing. I do that sometimes. So do you.

So I looked him up on the internet, much as I hate dealing in facts. There isn’t much. He died in an accident at 30 leaving a son. There was little else mentioned.

Okay, so what?

Well, it occurred to me that a lot of male child actors turn out to be gay later in life. I don’t have any statistics but it does seem pretty common. One vision is of and old gay queen seducing them, thus converting them to a life of sodomy. (Is that judgmental?)

But then the example of the ultimate stage mother in Gypsy kicked in. Then there was my own experience with stage mothers in my son’s brief career in showbiz. (You can scroll down to read I Was a Stage Mother for the FBI, or link to it *HERE* .) I suddenly realized that these stage mothers fit the profile I outlined in my essay, And Yet Another Nobel Prize…Not! (Read it *HERE*) I am a slow thinker. I never recognized the similarity between the stage mothers and all the mothers of the gay men I knew in a previous life.

There is another study that Political Correctness will prevent ever being made.

While I’m on this subject, the fathers of these gay men must be brought into the equation. They should be included in this study that has no chance of ever happening. I’m pretty sure it will indicate they did not have a normal sex life with their wives. It will indicate that the mothers of gay men had a lot of sexual frustration for one reason or another.


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Sim City is the most educational PC game ever. At least it has been for me. I had never appreciated the complexity of running a city until playing that game.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, you start with a wilderness, some funds, lots of equipment and the objective of building a city. It gets more complicated. Build it and Sims will come. The Sims will build their own homes, factories, shopping centers and so on. But you must provide the entire infrastructure for them to do this. Plus you must keep them happy or they will leave. That’s bad because you keep the place running off of their taxes. You get approval ratings from the Sims and getting good approval ratings is the object of the game. (I think perhaps Singapore is the closest thing to a Sim City anyone can find in the real world.)

What does this have to do with Thailand? Well I’m an outsider (farang), but everything seemed to be going right under the deposed PM Thaksin. He had the economy going good, not great. The country had three out of four years of plus balance of payments. The treasury was flush. The rapid transit system was improving. A great subway system opened on my arrival. Plans were on the table for much more. Traffic was a mess but he was working on it.

Here is what the Christian Science Monitor says about the Thai economy:

For all the political chaos Thailand has seen over the past year, the economy has proved refreshingly stable. Inflation is under control, the current account is running a surplus, and stronger than expected growth in both exports and tourism has helped offset a decline in domestic demand. Economists expect that a more stable government - regardless of whether the military installed it - should unleash a torrent of pent-up consumer spending and investment.

"All in all, things look good. The economy should bottom out in the fourth quarter and then start recovering next year," said Ussara Wiraipitch, a senior economist at Standard Chartered. The London-based bank is forecasting Thailand's GDP to grow 5.2 percent next year, much higher than the expected 4.1 percent growth this year.

You can read the entire article *HERE*.

So why was he deposed? He lost the approval of the people in Bangkok. The reason given is corruption. I don’t get around much here but I have seen no corruption at all. I have heard a couple of stories that, if true, paint a very bad picture of what was going on.

But the biggest problem the people had with Thaksin is described here in the Business Times:

Thai authorities are set to investigate whether the state-linked Singapore investment firm's takeover of Shin Corp, the telecom giant ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra founded before entering politics, violated laws here.

Thaksin's family sold their 49 per cent stake in Shin Corp to Temasek for US$1.9 billion (US$1 = RM3.69) under a tax-free deal in January, triggering months of street protests demanding his resignation over alleged corruption.

The prolonged political turmoil culminated in a bloodless coup on September 19 that ousted Thaksin, who was in New York at the time of the putsch, and currently lives in exile in London.

Under Thai rules, foreign investors can own up to 49 per cent in Thai telecom companies but the question is whether other local entities acted on Temasek's behalf.
You can read the entire article *HERE*.

So it turns out the choice he had to make was whether to remain Prime Minister of Thailand or collect 1.9 billion dollars. Tough choice. I hope he’s happy in London.

But the point of this piece is that now a bunch of generals are in charge of this Sim City. It’s a very complicated game. I hope they’re up to it.

What are the odds?

Friday, October 13, 2006



I must start this piece with the disclaimer that I have no sense of humor when compared to the general public. I do this because I’m reviewing humor herein and the reader should know from whence I come. Because everyone sees humor differently, every reviewer should state in the beginning what they find to be funny. This establishes their credentials. If you agree with them on what is funny, you will find their review to be of value. If not, disregard them.

I have written before that reviewers are a humorless lot. But perhaps the fault lies with me. Take the comic strip, Nancy. I decided it was unfunny soon after I learned to read, yet books have been written praising it. Garfield is another one. I’ve never seen anything funny about it but it spawns movies. In a different genre, The Three Stooges, to me, are only mildly amusing if that. Also, I have never seen anything funny in the work of Adam Sandler. Even on SNL I didn’t ‘get’ him but he is now the hottest thing in Hollywood.

What do I think is funny? In comic strips there are, Dilbert, BC, The Wizard of Id, Fox Trot and that’s about it. Doonesbury was once quite good but he grew old and bitter. In movies, just to pick one that reviewers generally hated, I liked The Pink Panther, the recent Steve Martin version.

There you have it. Those are my credentials. I bring this up because I recently saw an article about Charlie Sheen that began:

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - After two months of negotiations, "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen is close to finalizing a new salary pact that would make him the highest-paid comedy star in television today.

Sources said Sheen will earn about $350,000 per episode this season from producer of the CBS powerhouse, Warner Bros. Television. This represents a hefty increase from his previous payday in the low six figures.
You can read the entire article *HERE*. That inspired me to write a short review on the sitcom: Two and a Half Men is the best sitcom EVER!

How’s that for a short review?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"THE YANKEES LOST." Posted by Picasa

"THE YANKEES LOST?" Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I’ve thinking about this. First I thought it was because they were so top heavy in hitting talent it unbalanced the team. That makes no sense. It wasn’t the pitching that failed, it was the hitting. Even when the pitching gave up 8 runs in a game, those hitters should have scored 6 to 9 off of opposing pitchers who averaged giving up 4 or 5. That would have kept them in that last game. But it didn’t happen and they were never in the game.

Why not?

I figured it out.

The chemistry of the team had changed. The team in the playoffs was not the team that got them to the playoffs. Matsui and Sheffield did not belong there. They had no part in winning them the division. They were strangers to the team in the field even if they had been in the dugout all the time. Players who had got them there, like Melky Cabrera and Bernie Williams, were sent to the bench. Of course Sheffield and Matsui are better players at this time but team chemistry is hard to explain and harder to predict. Torre had no choice but to play the two all stars. It gave the Yankees, on paper, the best hitting lineup in baseball history. Jim Leyland called it “Murderer’s row and Cano.” (Robinson Cano, who hit .342 in the regular season, batted ninth.) That’s the way it looked to everyone.

But sometimes adding better players disrupts a team’s chemistry

A classic example was Shea Hillenbrand going to the Giants. On paper, he was better than anyone the Giants had at first base at the time. But after he arrived the Giants collapsed.

They got him from Toronto after Hillenbrand wrote on the team blackboard, “This ship is sinking.” Hillenbrand was complaining about playing time. Toronto had 5 guys to play 3 positions. Right then Hillenbrand was the poorest of the five. Toronto should have improved after he left but they also collapsed.

Hillenbrand sank two ships.

Go figure.

"I SAW WHAT YOU WERE DOING" Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 09, 2006


There’s a range for you. Baking brownies one day and solving the mysteries of the universe the next.

In my piece, The Case of the Missing Water on Mars (I was having such a hard time linking to it I reposted it below), I postulate that the earth has doubled in diameter over billions of years and that is what has caused the shifting of continents among other things. This was caused, and continues to be caused, by a diminishing gravity. The loss of gravity causes outward pressures against the earth’s crust resulting in earthquakes, volcanoes or, where resistance is weak, the creation of new mountains and the afore mentioned shifting of continents.

In the piece I could not explain why gravity should weaken over time. But now I have figured it out. When planets are born the pressure of gravity causes the material in the center to be in a molten state. This is a chemical action. Every action causes a reaction. In essence, fuel is burned. Energy is consumed. That is what causes the gradual diminishing of gravity.

That means the every celestial object with enough gravity to cause a chemical action in its core will have a loss of gravity as that action proceeds.

It also means that the rate of loss of gravity will be the greatest in the beginning, when there is more fuel to burn, and will lessen over time.

How is all this connected to the expansion of the universe? (That is something I mention in the piece below.) I haven’t worked that out yet but it’s there somewhere. Gravity is hard to explain and is a mystery but the answer is there. Perhaps it just never disappears but is converted from positive gravity to negative gravity; anti-gravity if you will. The anti-gravity produced by every celestial body losing gravity repels all the other bodies. Thus: The expansion of the universe!

Hey! I think I just explained it!

Friday, October 06, 2006



(This is a re-post because the link wasn't working)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"I think I found a connection between the missing water on Mars and the expansion of the universe."

"No kidding?" I replied absent mindedly. My partner was always coming up with wacky ideas.

"You're not interested?"

We were having lunch in a restaurant in Pasadena. "What was that? The missing water on Mars is connected to the expansion of the universe. That seems like quite a stretch." If that was a pun it wasn't intended.

"I know. But as soon as I found out about that stuff on Mars a lot of stuff became clear."

"What stuff?"

"You know. The canyons, the mountains, the water. That stuff."

One time he 'discovered the origin of the universe.'

"What if," he asked back then, "when astronomers observe black holes they are witnessing the creation of matter and not the obliteration?"

"Huh," I replied. We had three mutual interests: astronomy, bridge and the stock market. We met at astronomy seminars, became partners at bridge and got rich in the stock market. But that didn't make him any less wacky.

"How else," he continued, "can you explain the radial arms in galaxies?"

"What about the Big Bang Theory?"

"That was nonsense from the beginning. I call mine the Multiple Creation Theory. They will find a black hole at the center of every galaxy. Some inactive. They will find first generation stars on the edge of galaxies to be billions of years older that first generation near the center. That will be the proof. Also, colliding galaxies are a myth and can never happen. What they see are two competing black holes in close proximity."

See how wacky he is? So I asked him the killer question. "If black holes create everything, where do black holes and all that matter come from?"

He has this laugh. He calls it uninhibited. Some call it insane. Anyway, that's what he does now, comes out with that wacky laugh. Then he says, "What do I look like? A scientist? I just say what's happening. Let them explain. They always do. That's their job."

So that was his creation theory. And now he has an expansion theory. We were between sessions of a regional tournament. We'd won the morning session with more that seventy per cent and had two hours to kill before the evening session. He may have been wacky, but wacky people are seldom boring. So I said, "Tell about Mars and the universe."

"I have to start with earth. The best evidence is here. You ever study a global map of earth? I mean really study one?"

"Those maps on a big ball? I've looked at them. I've never really studied one."

"I studied them a bit. Not a lifetime but a bit I thought it was obvious that many of the continents were at one time connected. It was like a jigsaw puzzle for the mentally challenged. The fit was obvious.

"There was no challenge there so I went on to other things. Later I read about the tectonics plate theories and how they theorized that there was a super continent on one side of the earth and that there was a split and a continental shift and the tectonic plates and blah, blah, blah.

"You have to understand the scientific community to understand why no one stood up to that silliness. Scientists run in packs most similar to the wild dogs of Africa. When they endorse a theory, they have a vested interest in that theory and anyone who tries to denigrate it is considered a threat to their food source and is ferociously attacked. The pack is very democratic in the sense that the majority rules, but minorities are killed off if possible or otherwise disposed of."

"You digress," I told him. He was totally undisciplined. He once came up with a plan to damn narrow inlets to tidal basins. The electricity generated would far exceed thousands of wind generators, he claimed, and be much cheaper and just as polution free. Luckily, he was stopped by environmentalists who saw that sea creatures would be denied passage through the inlets. "Get back on track," I told him. "Remember Mars and water?"

"I'm getting there. I had no confidence in the lopsided, wobbling earth theory, with all the land mass over on one side. So if you discard that silliness, what are you left with?"

"I don't know." He was just the same at bridge, but there he acknowledged his wackiness. He'd say to me, "You remain disciplined. Let me be the wild one. If you do that, we'll kill 'em." And that's what happened. We were in a national tournament once where the same hands were played across the country. In one hand I opened with two hearts which meant I had a weak hand but might be able to take a few heart tricks. The next guy doubles which meant he had a strong hand and support for the other suits. My wacky partner thinks for maybe two seconds before he jumps to seven clubs. Of course he gets doubled, this time for penalties. We go down three, not vulnerable. They miss a grand slam, vulnerable. We lose five hundred points which is one of the best scores in the country. With the other cards, even the bad players scored a game in spades with overtricks which is around seven hundred points. I truly felt sorry for our opponents because they had one of the worst scores in the country. But what can you do when some nut goes to seven on his first bid?

"What are you left with?" I asked, returning to his subject.

"When was the earth formed? Seven billion years ago?"

"More or less in that area some say. Some say maybe half that."

"Close enough. Lord knows this isn't an exact science. When the earth first formed it was half the diameter as now, not because a lot more matter came but because it was more dense. Picture a rubber ball compressed to half its normal diameter."

"Okay. But are you saying the earth was compressed? What could cause that?"

"At first I thought it was the multiple hits from space. You know, the continuous bang, bang, bang on the surface pushing everything inward. But then came The Case Of The Missing Water On Mars." The caps are mine of course, but that's what he made it sound like.

"From when it was first formed, the earth has been expanding an average of one or two millimeters a year in diameter. That doesn't sound like much but one millimeter for seven billion years is over four thousand miles."

He looked at me expecting a comment but I just stared at my jello with the fruit inside.

"After a billion years or so the earth's crust started to harden. Up until then it was pretty much in a molten state enveloped in gas. After all, it had been created from an exploding star."

I found a candied cherry in my jello so it was okay to chew. I never knew if you were supposed to chew jello.

"The crust that formed had pretty much the same area as all the continents today, but covered all the surface of the earth. Water was still in the gaseous state. What are oceans today didn't exist."

I went on chewing my jello even when there wasn't fruit in it. How could anyone know there wasn't any fruit in my mouth?

"Until the crust formed the pressure from the inside made no difference. The crust began to resist the pressure. Suddenly... well not suddenly, but over gillions of years..."

"What's a gillion?"

"Just seeing if you're listening. Over lots of years..."

"A gillion means lots?"

"Yes. Over lots of years the pressure from inside would find weak spots in the crust. Mountains were pushed out. In its molten state the earth was relatively featureless. Most important, the brittle crust was split at its weakest areas. That was the beginning of the continents as we know them. The earth cooled enough that some water liquefied and filled the huge canyons left by the splits in the crust. Eventually more water liquefied while the earth was so small that it was covered almost entirely by water. That was probably when life began."

"And when was that precisely?"

"Gillions of years ago."

"Thank you."

"But the pressure outward continued. The splits between the continents grew but the land area, being pushed out, reclaimed land from the water. To make a long story short, this evolution is still going on today. Every earthquake, every volcano, these are caused by outward pressure from inside the earth."

"One millimeter a year."

"One or two, yes."

"And you're talking diameter. So if it's two millimeter expansion, it would be only one millimeter on all surfaces."


"In a year."


"How could you prove something like that?"

"Where's the proof on the Big Bang Theory? Where's the proof of the lopsided earth? Let me ask you a question. Volcanoes spew out huge mountains and even larger islands. Shouldn't that leave a void or depression? Where's the void?"

"I've never heard of one," I had to confess. "You mean the land area of the continents are increasing even as we speak?"

"Absolutely. By one or two millimeters a year."

"Okay. What has this to do with the water on mars?"

"That was the ray of light on this whole thing. It's obvious that Mars is expanding the same as earth. How else to explain the huge canyons and the unseemly high mountains? These were caused by outward pressures from the core seeking the weakest areas in the crust. Ah! But the water. I loved the water, the missing water."

His eyes glazed over. He was somewhere else, in a different plane.

"They tried to explain it," he mumbled. "The scientists. It was in the polar caps. It was beneath the surface. What nonsense. Scientists can only work with givens. If they had any imagination thay couldn't be scientists. There's a law. There's a test on imagination. If they pass it they are forever forbidden to work in science. There are imagination police..."

I shook his shoulder to bring him back to reality.

"What?" he asked, his eyes back in focus.

"You were wandering. You had been talking about the water on mars."

"Ah," he said. "How I love that water..."

"Don't start again. Get on with it." I must admit he had won my interest. I knew he was wacky but there was a question of just how far out he was going to be I had never seen him so emotional.

"Mars can sometimes serve as a laboratory for earth. It is so much smaller that things can happen there that don't happen here, although everything else is directly parallel. Now what happened there that didn't happen here?"

"Duh. The water is gone." I can play the stooge as well as the next man.

"Not only that but I'd be willing to bet a lot of the atmonphere is gone also. There's not much evidence of that so let's stick with the missing water. And what's the main difference between the two planets that could have caused that?"

I was getting irritated. "Don't make this a test. I hate tests." Some people thought he was the dominate partner in our relationship but I held the trump card of all trump cards. I bailed us out of the stock market at the tech high and got us into CDs. Two years later I bought us ten discredited tech stocks, some for under a dollar. Seven of the ten didn't move but three went through the roof and made us both very rich. Now that's a trump card.

"No more tests," I told him.

"The answer is gravity. The situation on the two planets is roughly parallel except for the difference in gravity."

"Yeah. So?""Don't you get it? That's our lab experiment. If the only difference is gravity, then gravity is the answer. Gravity is the answer to everything. The expansion of the earth is not due to early compression and gradual decompression. It is due to the gradual reduction of gravity. The loss of water and perhaps atmosphere of Mars is due to the lessening of gravity. The water would get into a gaseous state and be pulled away by the three neighboring giants: Jupiter, earth and the sun. Poor little Mars didn't have a chance once it lost some gravity."

"Why does gravity diminish? Where does it go?"

I shouldn't have asked that question because here came that crazy laugh again. Everyone in the restaurant froze and looke our way. Talk about a mismatched pair. I worried that people might see me chewing jello. He didn't give a thought about laughing like a hyena in the middle of a restaurant. We were both retired engineers, but there wasn't much similarity there. I was civil and he was mechanical. The twain there never met.

He stopped laughing and, of course, said, "Let the scientists figure it out. Just tell them what happened and they will come up with an explanation for it." He then mimicked a once popular, now dead, Chicano comic. "Thass not my chob."

That was a good way out for a lot of things. Then I remembered something else. "Wait a minute. You said there was a connection between the missing water and the expansion of the universe. Remember?"

"Yeah," he said quietly. He looked me in the eye, which he rarely did. "What if," he waved both hands up and down as if he understood all the objections that could come and proceeded in spite of them. "What if the expansion of the earth was in proportion to the expansion of the universe?"

I must admit that what he said and the way he said it sent shivers up and down my spine. "The far galaxies are moving pretty fast," I pointed out.

"Sure, but they're pretty far away. I said in proportion. Let the scientists solve that one too. I just tell them what is."

But to accept that you had to accept everything else he had come up with. As I said before, it was a stretch.

I asked him, "Are you going to write this stuff up?"

"Of course not. Who would pay any attention to me? I'm just some wacko."

It was refreshing to know the wacko knew what he was. "But if you think you're right, why not tell the world?"

He waved a dismissive hand. "No one would print it, and if it were printed no one would read it, and if it were read, no one would believe it."

"You won't even try?"

"Listen, I get a big kick knowing something that no one else knows" He gave his crazy laugh but kept it short. "It's my one personality flaw."

Now that was funny. "But they might put your name on it. You could be like Watt and Hubble and..." I tried to think of others but couldn't offhand, "that bunch," I finished lamely.

"Don't care, Don't care. Don't care. Don't care." He was acting like a little kid.

"Would you mind if I wrote it up and sent it somewhere?"

"What? You mean like a scientific paper? No one would print that."

"Yeah. You're probably right. I'll give it some thought."


Clarification: This story is fiction. The characters are fictional. Only the theories are true and they are mine. Here's more: The "dark areas" astronomers observe in space are clouds of hydrogen. These are still born galaxies that for some reason never coagulated. There should be a "black hole" in some form in the center of these clouds.

posted by Walter Guest at 6:36 PM 0 comments

WATER ON MARS Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Back in one of my previous lives when I cooked regularly I used rice a lot. I once put it in a chili instead of flour to thicken it. My concept is, liquid in any dish is a waste. Even beef stew becomes a tasty casserole when rice is added to absorb all that delicious flavor.

I never measured how much uncooked rice to put in. Even when cooking rice alone, I never measured. When I mentioned that to Asian lady acquaintances (they were friends but I can’t write lady friends because that has a sexual connotation) they were surprised. It was something they had never tried. But rice is very adaptable and forgiving. It is hard to screw up. A mistake of an ounce here or there is ignored. Package instructions are not chiseled in stone.

When shopping in a Thai supermarket I picked up an American brownie mix, Duncan Hines I think. It was supposed to be a surprise for my Thai family. Then I noticed the directions called for it to be baked in an oven. There are not many ovens around here. Our kitchen operates on bottled gas. All we have is a two burner camp stove. I haven’t been in too many Thai homes, but I would guess that our kitchen is typical. An oven operating on bottled gas is not practical.

Okay, there’s always the microwave. The package instructions said 350 degrees for 25 minutes. What is the equivalent of that in a microwave? There’s no way to tell. Besides I didn’t know if the temps on my microwave were in Fahrenheit or centigrade so why bother to do the math? I would have to experiment.

I set the power a little above half and the timer for 12 minutes and let it rip. Then I discovered the way to get perfect brownies in the microwave. All you have to do is watch it cook. The center started bubbling. It was very much like watching a pancake. In fact it was exactly like watching a pancake cook. When the little eruptions in the center became solid, the brownie was done. It only took 8 minutes.
It came out perfectly and was gobbled up within hours.

How about that? I discovered a faster, more efficient way to cook brownies. Is there a Nobel prize for that?