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Water Cooler – Can Republicans Be any more Clueless how they Look?

5:59 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

So much of politics is about perception. The fact that working class people keep voting Republicans into office even when they candid about not wanting to do anything for those voters shows just how perception can trump reality.

Which is why is beyond mystifying why rich Republicans keep doing everything they can to show they are in no way shape or form like the working class. Today’s Jethro is Rep. John Fleming.

This fellow is a multimillionaire and he went on MSNBC this morning and claimed that after he pays for the expenses of his 500 person company, that all he is left with is a mere $400,000 a year and that is hardly enough to feed his family.

Now I know there are readers here who have not been employed for a very long time and have made the best of their meager money to keep body and soul together who would love to have 400K to play with, just once, not every year.

This yahoo was complaining that “job creators” should not be taxed more than they are now because it is unfair to them. This same Jethro makes more than 8 times the median household income. And that is before is 174,000 a year Congressional salary.

It is no secret that most of the members of the House and Senate are wealthy. There are far more than the normal distribution of millionaires in their ranks. And I don’t even begrudge them that, they have a job we have decided as a nation to pay well for, so it is not surprising. But it is beyond unseemly for these people to say they are in any way underpaid or over taxed.

And this is not the only time this year that Republicans have done this. Rep. Steve Southerland complained that his Congressional salary was inadequate for the “hours” he works. How many people who work the night shift or have to put in long hours would love to get the kind 174, 000 annual salary of a Congressman? I sure would.

This is the thing that voters really need to get their heads around. Anyone that would complain about this kind of money is not one of the working class. They have priorities that are not even close to the normal citizen. They earn more than three times the median salary and many more times than that of poverty level, which 16% of the nation is now below.

But there is something you can do. Here is Reps. Southerland and Fleming’s office numbers, why don’t you give them a call and tell them exactly how much you feel for them that they only make 300 to 800% of what the average family makes in a year.

Rep. John Fleming – (202) 225-2777
Rep. Steve Southerland – (202) 225-5235

Be sure to be polite but also be sure to let them know that they are insulting tens of millions of American citizens by bitching about their good fortune.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours

Water Cooler – A Laugh, the Death Star and Penne Arribbiata

4:53 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

So, it is Sunday night and I find myself in need of some laughs. My sister pointed me to this, it is a lego animation of an Eddie Izzard comedy ruetine about the canteen on the Death Star.

In case your are wondering Penne Ala Arrabbiata is a spicy red sauce made of garlic, tomatoes and red peppers served over penne pasta.

Now that you’ve had a smile or two, what is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours!

Water Cooler – Good News, The Webb Space Telescope Survives, for Now

5:56 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor


Web Telescope Orbit, Pic Courtesy of NASA


So there is some good news for the Space Cadet corps this week. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been fully funded in the Senate. This is big news because the House had fully defunded the project.

A lot of the press about JWST says that it is the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, but that really does not tell the whole story. You see, JWST is different in just about every particular from the Hubble.

The JWST is designed to “see” in infrared, as well as visible light. This is important because it will be able to further back into time (by way of distance) and give us new data about the early universe that can not be achieved with the Hubble.

It also features a huge and adjustable main mirror, that will be 21 feet in diameter when it deploys. That that the mirror can launch in a folded state and then deploy to the full size is a major difference between the Hubble and JWST. Hubble’s mirror was designed to sit inside the telescope by the new observatory will have it open to space.

With this design and infrared capability there are unique requirements for this telescope. It must be shielded from the heat radiated by the Sun and Earth and must be in a position that will be dark most of the time. The only one place where these conditions exist are at the L-2 point on the far side of the Moon. That is what the graphic above is of.

L-2 stands for Lagrange point 2. This is named after the mathematician who calculated places of orbital stability between orbiting objects. The most commonly known Lagrange points at L-4 and L-5 which are 60 degrees ahead and behind the orbit of the Earth. L-2 on the other hand is a lot closer, it is on the other side of the Moon.

If this project goes ahead, we will park the JWST about 1.5 million kilometers, or about 932,000 miles away. In this spot it will be able to maintain its position with very little use of its rocket fuel. And it will be protected (mostly) from the light and heat of the Earth and the Sun.

It is a very good thing that this project is going forward. Beyond the science which this telescope will be able to perform the experience of placing and operating an observatory this far from the Earth will be a major step forward in our deep space capability. The knowledge gained will help in many forms of manned exploration.

It remains to be seen if the money will stay in the budget for this project. Like everything this new and complex, it has run over budget by quite a bit. Then again so did the Hubble. Can any of you imagine what the world would be like without the pictures we have been treated to over the life of that telescope.

So tonight we can be happy that the JWST is still in progress for its 2018 launch. If there is even a little foresight in Congress it will make that launch date and we will take another huge step forward to learning about and understanding our Universe.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

Water Cooler -Rep. Peter King is an Embarassment, On Both Sides of the Atlantic

6:01 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) Spinning For Rudy

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) Spinning For Rudy by DoubleSpeak Media

I come from an Irish family. When I say that I mean I have aunts and uncles born in Ireland, not that we’ve been here in the United States since the first potato famine. For all of that I am not one to engage in tribalism. I am proud of my Irish heritage, but it does nothing to blind me to the actions of those who would engage in terrorism in the name of liberty.

I have no truck with the I.R.A and not amount of family history about how this great-grand-father or that great cousin was hanged by the British is going to get me to say otherwise. But that is not always the case for everyone, especially a politician of no conscience like Rep. Steve King of New York.

Today Rep. King got a bit of comeuppance as he testified before the British Parliament about the radicalization of immigrants. Rep. King has been holding hearings (witch hunts) about the possible radicalization of American Muslims. This is the worst kind of fear mongering but he is the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and he can hold hearing about whatever he likes.

As far as any can find this is the very first time that a sitting United States Representative has ever testified to the British Parliament. Rep. King got to add his particular brand of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim hysteria to the mix in England, but it did not come without a cost for the Republican.

You see Peter King has been a major apologist for the I.R.A. for a very long time. Today he was put on the hot seat by the committee about his vocal and hypocritical support for Irish terrorists, while treating every Muslim like a terrorist.

He was asked by Labor MP David Winnik about some of his more over the top quotes. In particular he was asked if he stood by his 1985 statement saying:

If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.

King replied:

“I stand by it in the context of when it was said

He then went on to blather about injustice and how as an Irish American he felt that those injustices gave some kind of moral justification for the acts. What he did not do was ever condemn the acts of the I.R.A. nor express any regrets for the deaths.
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Water Cooler – Proud to be a Human Tonight

6:01 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

We who deal with politics for a living have a pretty severe occupational hazard, namely cynicism. It is far too easy to see the failings of our fellow man in our political dealings and assume that there is just not that much honest goodness in the people of our nation. Then you see a story like this one.

The video at this link (the videographer asked that the embed be disabled but go take a look) is of a group of random people coming to the aid of an accident victim. They got together and lifted a burning (yeah, burning) car off of this man, and it was caught on film.

They did something startlingly human: they ran toward trouble and then helped out. When there were not enough people to get the car up, more came rushing. No one was standing back and talking about personal responsibility, they were just there doing their best for another person.

The video ends with the man being dragged out, as one of his boots is starting to catch fire. He looks well and truly dead, but this is a happy story. The L.A. Times is reporting that the young man, Brandon Wright, is going to live, though he does have broken bones and a long recovery ahead of him.

This kind of thing is something I wish that more of the “you’re on your own” set in our nation would see and learn its lesson. Humans are not solitary creatures; we have only been successful by being a collective bunch.

A single human is often hungry, dirty, lonely, and frankly a good meal for any other apex predator out there. A lone human is a nice meal for a tiger, but a group of humans is a flat disaster.

This is one of my central beliefs and I have written about it before, but the myth of total self-reliance is one of the most pernicious memes every released on this nation. It is there for one purpose only, to divide us so that those of us without wealth and power don’t realize our collective strength and take back that power from those who hold it.

For all that we have been told we are supposed to be only self-interested, scenes like this one belie it at the instinctive level. These people went towards trouble, towards fire to help someone they did not know, someone who would not be paying them for their help or was even in a position to ask for it.

Instead they saw a person in trouble and risked themselves, because that is what humans do. Tonight, and maybe only for tonight, I am proud of what we are at the core and what we can be.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours!

Water Cooler – Sure the Republicans Debated, but They are No Trunk Monkey

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Tonight’s Republican Debate got me thinking about an particular ad campaign. There are times when I am just in awe of ad campaigns. One of the very best is the Trunk Monkey campaign by Suburban Auto Group. They have come up with not only a very memorable campaign, but a product whose time I think has come.

So sit back and enjoy the three best Trunk Monkey commercials.

One for all the Dads out there

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Water Cooler – Blocked Vent Cause of Soyuz Crash, But Space Station Still To Be Abandoned

4:59 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Soyuz TMA-11 on the way to the launch pad

Soyuz TMA-11 on the way to the launch pad by spatlan

Tonight’s Water Cooler is a follow up to the August 25th on about the launch failure of the Russian Soyuz-U variant.

As you know, with the end of the Space Shuttle program the Russians are the only nation that has the heavy lift capability to go to the International Space Station. In fact the United States has contracted with Russia to take astronauts and cargo to and from the ISS.

In August the cargo version of the venerable and normally very reliable Soyuz had a problem at 320 seconds into the launch phase when the third stage motors shut down, leaving the rocket capsule without enough speed to achieve orbit. It crashed in the far north of European Russia.

Today the BBC is reporting that there is good and bad news about the Soyuz program. The good news, such as it is, is that Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) says they know what the problem is. It seems that there was a blocked vent in the third stage that caused the failure.

The bad news is that they believe it is a production line problem and they can’t, at this point rule out that it the same problem has been incorporated into other third stage motors. They will have to be inspected one by one before the Soyuz fleet can be re-certified for human launch.

This leads to another big problem. The ISS will have to be abandoned. There is not getting around it. There will not be enough time to re-certify the Soyuz launch system before the safety certificates expires on the two Soyuz return capsules currently docked the ISS.
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Water Cooler – Lovin’ Small Town Life

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor


Okay it is official, I have moved to freaking Star’s Hollow! Tonight Liz and I went down the Damascus Community Fair, which is enjoying it’s 66th year. Now, it would be easy to be cynical and snide about something like this, but that would completely miss the point.

You see I have basically been a big city guy for most of my life. My hometown in Michigan (Ypsilanti) is 28,000 and the auto factories in the area were the primary source of employment. When we had street fairs they ran to muscle car shows and art and such. There was never a pedal tracker pull for the little kids, and for sure there was not a live stock auction.

What really got me about the fair was the crafts competitions. There was baking and wood working and sewing and photography and more. The competitors were all ages and skill levels and some of the skill was high indeed. Take a look at the champion hand craft, these hand-woven baskets.


But more impressive than the winners was the amount and level of skill that seemed to pervade the competition. This is town of 11,430 people as of the last census. It is very much a small town for all that it is 45 miles from the nations capital, and yet I saw food and crafts that would easily have won the Colorado State Fair competitions.
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Water Cooler – Sometimes You just Gotta Play the Blues

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Okay, so you may or may not know but is has been raining cats and dogs on the East Coast all week. It is so bad I stepped in a poodle today (be careful with that joke, its an antique!). Coming from somewhere where the sun shines 300 days a year to this has been really hard, even if it is not normal.

So ,what do you do when you are down and you want to get up? You listen to blues of course. So here are three songs to get your blues turned upside down.

We kick it off with BB King kickin’ it in a blues guitar solo:

Next up the rockin’ Chuck Berry from a 1979 BBC special showing that he knows the blues:

And we’ll wrap it up with Eric Clapton and the Groaning Blues!

Now I can’t say exactly why listening to others sing about their troubles lifts you up, but I can say that if you listen to all three of these you will feel better about whatever ails you.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

Water Cooler – The Importance of 2 Million Years of Controlling Fire

5:58 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Turkana Boy (Homo erectus or ergaster)

"Turkana Boy (Homo erectus or ergaster) by IslesPunkFan

If you break technology down to its most basic form, humans have only a few tricks. One that we have used to great affect for a very long time is fire. It is root of chemistry, power generation, building, the list goes on and on. The importance of fire is actually seems to be an evolutionary force that allowed early humans to transition from a chimpanzee like australopithecines to Homo Erectus and the other more recent human species.

One of the big observational differences between modern humans and our primate cousins is the amount of time that we spend chewing our food. All the other primates still kicking around the planet spend around 50% of their day chewing.

To aid in this they have developed really big rear molars allowing them to pulverize their food and get the most calories possible. But it comes at a price, they have spend more time consuming their food and that means there is less time for them to do other things.

Modern Humans, on the other hand, only spend about 5% of our time chewing, because we have mastered fire and with it cooking. This means that we can get more calories at a lower cost in time and effort in digestion for less work. That helps us support our large (compared to other primates) brains which can consume as much as ¼ of the total energy from the food we ingest

This is the theory of Dr. Richard Wrangham of Harvard University. He published a book called Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. He makes a sweeping case that early humans like Homo Erectus must have had fire and been able to cook their food, giving them the advantage in calories and time.
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