Monday, September 12, 2016

NUMBER ONE

  Flash Fiction    


Stanley backed the boxy twelve seat trans-orbit packet slowly away from its berth on the orbital Amazon fulfillment station. He jockeyed the craft to  the propellant storage outrigger where  an array of fluid and gas tanks were secured like tits on a hog and  “gassed up.” He checked the system status board on his craft, then punched in the coordinates for  US Station 12, a quarter orbit distant from his present location. Stanley was a skilled pilot and the orbital mechanics for transfer within the orbit had become second nature, but this time he wasn’t taking any chances. He would let the Orbital Positioning System (OPS) determine a least-energy route. It was his final mission, and considering the value of the payload at Station 12, it was understandable. Stanley hoped that Julia would be packed and ready for departure. He hadn’t heard from her recently. Busy winding things up, he thought. He turned on a Mozart recording and relaxed. The proximity beacon at Station 12 would wake him, should he fall asleep. 
The Third Presence in space began at about the time the International Space Station was abandoned. Russia peeled off its modules to establish its own smaller station and NASA maneuvered the remaining  part of the station into a fiery trail that ended in the Pacific Ocean.
At the same time, China, Russia and the United States concluded independently that the answer to a robust presence in space is in a community of small stations, about the size of the original Skylab. They would occupy the same 500 mile orbit. They would be turnkey stations to avoid years of expensive orbital assembly time and weigh within the lift capability of heavy lift rockets under construction in Russia, China and the United  States, The stations would be styled for various purposes - research and development, manufacturing, hospitals, observation and tourist destination. All would be serviced by a common orbitial fulfillment center, which , in addition to  providing food and supplies, berthed a fleet of transfer craft called packets, designed to both provision the stations and return materials, trash and waste to the center for deorbiting to Earth.
Earth to otbit routine transfer was solved by the successful development of Skylon by the  English firm, Reaction Engines. Two were built. Each  made a bi-weekly trip to the fulfillment center, carrying material, passengers and propellants. 
Skylon 1, presently being loaded for the return trip to Earth, was due to depart within twenty four hours. Stanley gave little thought to the likely tumultous reception upon Skylon’s next arrival at Cape Canaveral. We’ll just have to wing it, he’d said to Julia. 
Stanley became aware that he was was closing in on  Station 12 when an audio warning began beeping. Still, he  had nothing to do, as docking and securing were fully automated.
Julia was waiting just inside, fully suited for the trip except for head gear. She was surrounded by smiling well-wishers, aware they were taking part in a historic event.
Julia smiled as she handed Stanley a transparent acrylic box in which Stanley junior lay snuggled, fast asleep, wrapped in a soft blanket - the first baby born in space.




Tuesday, September 6, 2016

OBSERVATIONS

So much of modern sculpture appears to be just an assemblage of previously created objetts that in and of themselves had a use and assembling them into a disorderly collection, or taking a collection of  disparate found objects and assembling them into an orderly collection. 

More articles are appearing almost daily about automobile companies succmbing to the  idea that  a driverless car society will be better and safer. I sincerely doubt it. They even plan for driverless trucks. Somehow I can’t picture an eighteen wheeler backing down a delivery alley by itself. It takes remarkable skill to back a trailer under any condition.


In the Democratic Convention a grieving father was subverted by  a woman aspiring to be  president who  voted for and supported the wars that got his son killed. Ancient Greek drama in a modern context.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

FAVORIITE SOUNDS



Steam locomotive starting up

Fog horns

Burbling brooks

Harley motorcycle accelerating

Harley motorcycle idling

Bugle sounding taps

Hallelujah Chorus

Hand plane smoothing wood.

Aeolian tones from telephone wires.

White noise from aeolian tones in pine forests

Horses snorting

Horses whinneying

Horses galloping

B-36 drone from engines and propellers

Wolves howling

Bowing a cello

Baby laughing

Whip-poor-wills and Loons



Friday, August 19, 2016

WHATEVER IT TAKES

Author’s note: Trill is a fictional female acquaintace who makes it possible to write in a style that is comfortable for me.


My Dear Trill,

Congratulations! You are growing more and more perceptive, as with your recent question, “What’s wrong with this tale? A grieving father is subverted at the Democratic convention by the same woman  who supported a contrived war that got his son killed.” It’s a page right out of ancient Greek drama, catapulted into the muck of present day politics.
The cynical side of me believes that a deal was probably struck in the form of a  job offer once she becomes president. I find it hard to believe that a man would allow himself to be used in this manner, but level of intelligence may be a factor, or in some way, his personal tragedy may have, as they say, “driven him off the rails.” I know nothing of the man. These are just personal observations.

But the incident does tell us to be watchful. I was particularly disappointed when a favorite legislator,  Elizabeth Warren, appeared to have abandoned what seemed to be synergy with Bernie Sanders,  to support instead a candidate with a history of opportunist activity within her job, and with whom she has not much commonality other than being a woman. It would be great if the two Senators could continue work amiably in the new Senate, but I would not blame Sanders if he were a bit distrustful after  experiencing Warren’s decision to support the Clinton camp.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

WHO GETS MY VOTE?


Author’s note: Trill is a fictional female acquaintance who makes it possible to write in a style that is comfortable for me.

My Dear Trill,


     It is not surprising that you ask about my preferences regarding the coming elections. I am flattered that you will keep my opinions in mind when you make your choices.
     To begin, I don’t have a history of fidelity to any party, whether Democratic, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Tea, Green or Green Tea. (The last is a lame joke, I will admit).
     Throughout the primaries, I favored Bernie Sanders, mainly because he seemed a genuine populace candidate, much in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt, who was the first president I remember and whom I admired greatly. 
     I do not have a high opinion of Hillary Clinton, even though she has experience as a Senator and Secretary of State. With her husband, Bill, the pair used the office of the presidency to gain enormous personal wealth. In contrast, President Harry Truman, who had deep respect for the office,  bought his own postage stamps for his personal letters. Moreover, Bill Clinton’s poor judgement was on full display when president. His deregulation of the banking industry led directly to the near financial collapse of 2008. but he happily disowns any responsibility. Hillary Clinton claims that as president she will not reinstate the Glass Steagall Act, which served the nation well since the Roosevelt administration. She said she will rely on her husband for advice on the economy and other critical issues. That should worry everybody.
      My biggest fear, though, is that a Clinton machine has been created in the form of the Clinton Foundation, which reputedly takes in millions of dollars in contributions by foreign countries and individuals. These contributions can only be construed as being in expectation of future favors. A perversion of the centuries old practice of buying indugencies of the Pope, but in this case the Pope is the US President. A Clinton presidency, in my mind, would only be acceptable with the dissolution of the Foundation, with the money all directed to charity and education.
      Donald Trump, the most unstatesmanlike person imaginable, is best described, in my view, as peripatetic.... a throwback to teachings of Aristotle  which characterized people who are unsettled, who tend to journey hither and thither. A caricature, spiced with absurd observations, bigotry, bias and mis-information.Whether he could lead a nation is doubtful in view of rash promises he has made. A promise to nominate conservative judges to the Supreme Court is downright frightening, in view of decisions made by the existing Court such as Citizen’s United. This would be reason enough to elect Hillary Clinton, but other factors fail to sway me.
     In my view, it is incumbent on both candidates to divest themselves of all side investments and interests and promise to be full time presidents. There is no indication thus far that either candidate has that intent.
     Trill, I cannot advise you to vote for either candidate. They are both badly flawed, in my opinion. If I decide to vote my conscience, it will be a write-in for Bernie Sanders. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

LETTER FROM SCOTT PETERS

I wrote  to Representative Scott Peters and other  legislators addressing how Obamacare stuck it to the working people and gifted insurance companies  with huge benefits, like allowing them to write policies with large deductibles. Here is Scotts' answer.


Dear Mr. Hujsak,
Thank you for contacting me to share your views on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I appreciate hearing from you.
I was not in Congress when it passed the ACA, and, like almost everyone, I recognize that the law is flawed in many ways—no law ever is perfect. This is why I am focused on making sure that we do what we can to fix the law where and whenever needed. Like you, I was frustrated
by the rocky roll-out of ACA, and by the cancellation of health care plans that people had been satisfied with. That’s why I crossed party lines and voted to enforce President Obama’s promise – again and again – that if you like your health care, you can keep it.
The ACA is a massively ambitious effort to remake a broken American healthcare system, and
in many ways it is making progress. It’s prevented insurance companies from denying cover-
age because of preexisting conditions and it’s allowed kids to stay on their families’ plans until they’re 26. It’s moving us away from a system where too many people go to the emergency room for their care or lose their homes because of medical bankruptcy. The California exchange has been successful in enrollment, and the federal website has recovered from its early and serious problems. And if, over time, the ACA can move us from a sick-care system focused on treatment and procedures to a health care system focused on health and prevention, we would save taxpay- ers a lot of money.
There is still a lot of work to be done to make health care affordable. And any of us might have come up with a different approach from the ACA. However, it is folly to think that this law will actually be repealed by the whole Congress, or that the President would agree to start again from scratch. Speaker Boehner himself acknowledged that the ACA is ‘the law of the land.’ It is past time to stop the politics of false solutions like repealing the Affordable Care Act and get Congress to work toward solving the problems the law creates for the people of San Diego, and Americans around the country.
That’s why, over the past two years, I have voted for several measures that address the flaws we’ve seen with the rollout, and provide common-sense fixes to the policy. In each of these cases, I have shown a willingness to buck my own party in order to get the law right. I voted to allow Americans to keep their current health plans. I voted to delay the individual mandate tax until the federal website — which is responsible for enrolling people in 36 states — gets it act together. Finally, to help small businesses and their employees, I voted to change a definition in the law that forces companies to provide healthcare to employees working more than 30 hours a week—the bill I supported would change it to 40 hours.
I’m open to any policy idea—Republican or Democrat—that will make the ACA better for employers, employees and families. I’ve received too many messages from San Diegans about how health care is costing them for me to sit idly. I support policies that increase patient access to care, increase quality, and drive down cost. The ACA is a tremendous undertaking and will require more fixes as we continue to work through its implementation. 





Tuesday, July 19, 2016

HERE'S AN IDEA


          News of progress with molten salt reactors (MSR’s) frequently appears in industrial journals, in news clips on the internet, as well as in other media that are concerned with energy in all its aspects. Interest in development of thorium reactors is worldwide, mainly because they promise better safety than uranium reactors, and because thorium is far more plentiful than uranium. Reactors would be more economical to build and operate. According to the World Nuclear Association, five nuclear energy companies in Canada and the United States are developing molten salt reactors: Terrestrial Energy (Canada), Thorcon Power (Florida), Terrapower (Washington), Flibe Energy (Alabama), and Transatomic Power (Massachusetts).
           The idea is this: The nuclear powered merchant ship Savannah, now inactive, docked at Pier 13 in Baltimore, MD. What better place to showcase a MSR, producing an ability to demonstrate the technology worldwide?
            Research and development will eventually result in a demonstrator reactor, typically in a building on the back lot of development laboratory. More spectacular and appealing would be a real application that would rapidly gain public appeal and support. The Savannah offers a way to do this.
            The Merchant ship Savannah had its origin in 1955 in President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program. The ship was designed by NY architect George C. Sharp Inc. Construction was funded by Government agencies; The Maritime Administration (MARAD), The Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Commerce. It was launched in 1959 and was then fitted with a nuclear power plant by Babcock & Wilcox Corporation.
           The ship carried passengers and cargo between 1962 and 1965, then later only cargo until it was decommissioned in 1971. It had sailed a total of 450,000 miles. The reactor fuel was removed but the reactor remains in place. The Savannah was subsequently towed from port to port for exhibition and maintenance. Finally in 2008 it was towed to pier 13 in Baltimore, where it awaits an unknown future in dry dock.


                Savannah rests in drydock in Baltimore, MD

           Will it be just another maritime museum or will it have a new life, powered by a MSR?
           The fifty thousand or so world merchant fleet represents a fertile area for gains in cimate change abatement. Ships are heavy fuel consumers and in the aggregate, substantial contributers of carbon dioxide emissions. Merchant ships consume from 140 to 150 tons of fuel for a seven day excursion. Taking the lower number, every day, per thousand ships at sea, total carbon dioxide emission is calculated to be over 60,000 tons (a hundred and twenty million pounds). Thus, conversion of the merchant fleet to nuclear power could contribute measurably toward abatement of global warming.
          President Eisenhower could as well have had a vision for use of atomic power for abatement of global warming, but in those times there was only an awareness of pollution, which appeared to be regional. The Keeling curve, which warned of rising carbon dioxide concentration and ensiung climate studies that confirm an onset of global warming, were still in the future. 
          Savannah operating on Thorium……..could be as world-shaking as Watts' improvement on the steam engine.