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Looks like the president is scared. Why would he even put a spotlight on this?

Nobody ever said or suspected that Russian interference was either invented by Trump or created for Trump. Of course those plans and activities were in place before. But that does not in any way preclude the possibility that once Trump started running, he didn’t think it would be helpful for him to leverage those activities for himself.

Trump pointing this out makes him look guilty.

Sounds to me like a defensive tweet of a nervous mind.

About a year ago I read A Time Before Time, and I said it was the worst book I had ever read.

But Mission in Time is definitely worse. Usually I don’t rate books I don’t finish reading, just to be fair, but this one gets a zero, even though I didn’t get past 25% into the book. By that time, I could not stand it anymore.

A Time Before Time was a time travel book where an astronaut, due to an accident, ends up landing in the Wild West. Mission in Time is a time travel book where two astronauts, due to a malfunction, end up landing off the coast of Massachusetts in 1774. Do those two plots sound similar?

Mission in Time is really bad for other reasons than A Time Before Time, so it warrants discussion here.

The author places two 21st century astronauts into a credible setting just before the revolutionary war in Massachusetts. The story is about how a person with knowledge and experience of today would be able to modify the outcome of the historic events of those days. Since I didn’t read past 25%, I actually don’t know how it ends, and whether the two hapless astronauts ever make it back. I don’t really care enough about them to find out and keep reading.

There are actually a number of excellent and very entertaining time travel stories in which the protagonists end up in the 19th century. Examples are John A. Heldt’s books The Mine and The Show. There is also Hollie Van Horne’s Reflections of Toddsville. Another is Seldon Edwards’ The Little Book. And of course the classic Time and Again and From Time to Time by Jack Finney are probably some of the best in this genre. I gave both Finney books four stars. You should read them.

In all these time travel books we experience how the protagonists get along in the past and enjoy their journeys. How they actually get there, and back again, is not all that important. It just happens through some fictional mechanism, and we accept it.

In Mission in Time however, Richard Scott spends the first five chapters of the book coming up with a “scientific” process that gets the astronauts displaced in time. And that’s where the problem lies. The “scientific” way is so flawed, so obviously silly, it’s distracting and insulting to the reader’s intelligence.

The mission is to have the astronauts travel a couple of years into the future. To do that, they are sent on a spaceship away from earth, and the theory is that the closer to the speed of light they travel, the more they are displaced into the future. Any science fiction fan will know that time dilation theoretically makes that possible. As a ship approaches the speed of light, time slows down on the ship, and relative to the earth left behind, the occupants age more slowly. The “twin paradox” is described in many science fiction stories, and the result is that the travelers who come back have aged more slowly, so their counterparts on earth have aged faster and are therefore older. So yes, the concept to traveling some distance into the future is valid and somewhat plausible.

However, in their trip, something goes wrong with the ship, and eventually the ship exceeds the speed of light. They were taught that if that happened, they would travel to the past, but since it had never been done before, they would not know how far into the past. This travel into the past, requiring a spaceship traveling faster than light, is a concept totally unfounded in physics. The author makes that up to explain how the astronauts eventually end up in the past. He could have just come up with a magic wand that transported them Harry Potter-style, the story would have been five chapters shorter, and actually much better. The reader would not have been distracted by the weird physics.

This is how the author describes to outbound trip:

Once free of gravity and the atmosphere, the neutrino accelerator took over. At first the weak propulsion of the neutrinos was negligible, but in outer space there is no atmosphere, which means no resistance. As the neutrino emissions continued, the ship gradually increased speed. Each second it was going faster than the previous second. After awhile we were really moving. When we’d been in space for about four months (Earth time) we were moving at 90 percent of the speed of light. As I’ve already explained, that was supposed to take us approximately two years into the future by the time we had returned to Earth.

Scott, Richard. Mission in Time: An incredible time-travel journey (p. 26). Winter Island Press. Kindle Edition.

To accelerate from zero to approximately the speed of light at 1g (one gravity) takes approximately a year. This is pretty simple to calculate. To be at 90 percent of the speed of light after 4 months, they would have to have accelerated at about 3g constantly. He describes the little spacecraft they were in:

Our cabin was about seven feet across and 12 feet from front to back. We could leave our seats, but because we were in space we couldn’t even walk in those 12 feet inside the cabin. We could float and pull ourselves about, which we did a lot, but that relatively confining cabin often felt more like a prison cell than the inside of a vehicle that was taking us somewhere to an unknown destination.

Scott, Richard. Mission in Time: An incredible time-travel journey (p. 29). Winter Island Press. Kindle Edition.

It does not sound like there was acceleration going on, just floating. But here it get really interesting:

We were nearing the terminus ad quem and waiting for the side thrusters to go into action. We needed to come to almost a complete stop before the side thrusters were activated. Here’s what blew my mind as we neared that stopping point. At that spot in space we were approximately 1.4 light years from Earth. That’s 8.4 trillion miles. The human mind can’t deal with distances like that. We couldn’t see our Sun from where we were. Not with the naked eye anyway. To put things in perspective, after traveling 1.4 light years from home, we were still in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Scott, Richard. Mission in Time: An incredible time-travel journey (pp. 26-27). Winter Island Press. Kindle Edition.

There are so many things wrong here I can hardly list them all.

First, he says they need to come to a complete stop in order to turn around. That spot in space was at 1.4 light years from Earth. If it took them 4 months to accelerate to light speed at 3g, to slow down to a complete stop and turn around and go back to Earth will take another 4 months at 3g acceleration, before they are stopped relative to Earth and can start going back, accelerating again to light speed for 4 months and decelerating again. Reading the author’s explanation sounds like the ship just stopped and the magic side thrusters turned it around to go back.

Then he says they couldn’t see the Sun from where they were? Really? They were 1.4 light years out, that’s about a third of the way to Alpha Centauri. From that point in space, the sun would still be by far the brightest star in the sky. But then, in the section below he states they saw Alpha Centauri, the closest star to Earth, and it was the biggest of them all – even though then it was still 2.6 light years away.

As we neared the final third of our trip back to Earth of an earlier time, we came closer than humans have ever come to many of the stars that I had seen through telescopes when I was younger. Off in the distance we saw an amazingly bright 61 Cygni, which is 11 light years from Earth, but appeared huge to us from our position in space. Again we saw a huge-looking Sirius, the brightest star in the sky when you’re looking at it from Earth. Then we saw Alpha Centauri, the closest star to Earth. To us, it was the biggest of them all.

Scott, Richard. Mission in Time: An incredible time-travel journey (p. 29). Winter Island Press. Kindle Edition.

So 61 Cygni, 11 light years from Earth, was suddenly “huge” when they were 1.4 light years closer to it, that’s assuming 61 Cygni is anywhere near the direction of Alpha Centauri.

Enough! You get the idea.

The first five chapters of the book are full of nonsense like this that the author sounds like he is trying to pass off as physics. But it’s just that, nonsense. The author should have had the two men hit by lightning as they walked the streets of Boston on a summer night and transported them to 1774 that way. It would have been a much better story, and the author would have maintained some semblance of credibility.

And I would not have written the longest book review ever about one of the worst books I have ever not finished reading.

Zero Stars

Long before Trump was a household name due to his reality TV show The Apprentice, I read at least part of his book The Art of the Deal, until I got tired of it. I always thought Trump was a phony. When he announced his run for the presidency a few years ago I thought it was a joke, a vanity project for a man full of himself. When he, against all odds, won the presidency, I was repulsed. I could not imagine that a boor like Trump could actually start acting like a dignified person, like a statesman, like a president. But he can’t be that stupid, I thought. Surely, he can keep his blabbering mouth shut, check his ego at the door, and start acting presidential.

Wrong.

Incompetence in leadership always eventually blows wide open, becomes obvious to everyone around, and destroys an organization from the inside out. Nobody wants to work for a dilettante, as the incompetence wears off, and makes for a very unsatisfying work experience of a daily basis. I expected that unless Trump cleaned up his act, the whole organization would start rotting from the inside out. A foul apple can look just fine on the outside for a long time, until it suddenly implodes, and the stench wafts out.

I expected that this would happen in the Trump White House, and judging from the number of firings and resignations, I think I was right.

If you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in the White House, just read Fire and Fury. Wolff takes you right there in the middle of the action. There is no hype, no exaggeration. He just tells a story, goes from character to character, and reading it after hearing various anecdotes in the news throughout the last few years it just all makes sense.

Here is an excerpt, an email written by Gary Cohn, who is serving as the Director of the National Economic Council and chief economic advisor to Trump. He was formerly the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2017:  

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything—not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family. I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.

— Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 186). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Trump is an ego-maniac, not a leader. That leaves those around him to constantly quarrel for power and influence, and it feels like a game of Survivor, where we listen to the players talk about how they are going to vote people out of the White House. It’s a reality show that is now running our country. What did we expect when we elected a reality show TV personality for president?

I am not surprised that Trump didn’t want this book to come out. He called it full of lies. Reading it, I do not get that impression at all. Yes, there might be some passages that are questionable, but only because he basically listens to what people tell him and reports it. The book is as accurate and reliable as the Trump White House staffers who were interviewed for it.

It’s a riveting story.

I was not surprised about anything I read. It just made sense.

We elected an unfit president. Tough.

Every American should read Fire and Fury.

Robert O’Neill is the former Navy SEAL who fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden. The tweet above shows his opinion on Trump’s military parade.

And here is my opinion:

The little man in the White House is getting littler with every childish request he makes. He diminishes our country in front of the world.

Respect?

My ass!

Ed Pruitt likes it warm, apparently.

He is willing to risk world stability for his own benefit.

That’s immoral.

Vincent van Gogh picked up a paintbrush for the first time when he was 28 years old. He died less than nine years later at the age of 37, and left us some 800 paintings. Van Gogh changed art, yet he sold only one painting ever, and that to his own brother.

He died under mysterious circumstances, and like many deaths of famous people (for example JFK) there are many theories that speculate about what really might have happened, versus what is common knowledge on the record.

Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, Loving Vincent is a film that explores the life of Vincent van Gogh and some of the speculations about his death.

What is unique about this film is that it is an animation based on painted images. Every frame of this movie is a painting, and thousands of them have been stitched together to make the film. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and it may well never be done again. Van Gogh’s painting style, using bold colors and rough, thick brush strokes, lends itself to this approach and I applaud the filmmakers for the unique, risky and ultimately very successful idea. Many scenes in the movie are based on actual van Gogh paintings.

One of them has special meaning to me: Harvest at La Crau with Montmajour in the Background. Sometimes it’s called “the blue cart.” The original is in the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam. Here is an image:

In the movie, Vincent is pulled past this scene in a cart on the road in the foreground.

When I was a child, some 11 or 12 years old, our German professor (now my friend Wolfgang referenced in this blog from time to time in the Latin Corner) assigned this painting as the subject for the essay form of “Bildbeschreibung” or image description. I remember struggling with this assignment, but doing a good job of it in the end. It stayed with me for life, and this painting represents the first exposure for me to van Gogh. I had tears welling up when this image went by in one of the scenes in Loving Vincent.

I am a painter. Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist. I have seen many original van Gogh paintings over the years. How could I possibly not love this movie?


 

What in the world happened to Paul Ryan? He used to be smart, principled, thoughtful and gracious.

Ryan was ridiculed after his tweet which made it sound like a $1.50 a week increase in a secretary’s paycheck was good news! Oh, yes, her Costco membership for a year is now covered!

He later deleted that tweet. I thought I’d keep it alive here.

Panorama on Mars

While we quibble here on Earth about little things like tax cuts, there are other worlds out there, with mountains, and valleys, and ancient washes.

Here is a panoramic picture of Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover landed in 2012 and has been working since.

I sit here, watch this, and reflect on my little place in the world.

 

Marshall is based on an early trial in the career of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman).

As a young lawyer Marshall traveled around the country in pursuit of cases against African-Americans who were unjustly accused of crimes. In Connecticut, the defended a black chauffeur who was charged with sexual assault of his rich, white employer (Kate Hudson). The court was segregationist and didn’t allow him to argue the case. He had to join forces with Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad), a reluctant Jewish lawyer, who did not initially want to take on this responsibility. Eventually they prevailed in a very racist and anti-Semitic environment and the case contributed to Marshall’s fame and the eventual creation of the NAACP legal defense fund.

The movie introduces the character and legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, appointed by President Johnson in 1967. While I roughly knew who Marshall was, I had never shown much interest in any of the details of his life, until I watched this movie. This is one of the most valuable and enriching facts about good movies: They introduce us to topics we sometimes know nothing about, only to get fired up and motivated to read up more about the subject.

Marshall did that for me.


 

Ebbing, Missouri is a town in rural America where everybody knows everyone else and their business. The people revere their chief of police, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) loses her daughter in a tragic murder and rape case. When, after six months, there is no progress with the investigation, she decides to take matters in her own hands and puts up three billboards in a bold move to attract attention. And attention she gets, seemingly be everyone in town. Officer Dixon, who works for Chief Willoughby, takes matters in his own hands and starts a chain of violence, and a war between a lonely but very determined woman, and Ebbing’s entire law enforcement contingent.

This movie tells a story, and we like our stories. It is very well-acted, it makes us think about justice and about life – which often brings us much adversity – sometimes seemingly too much to bear. There are no bad guys in this movie, only bad circumstances. And the ending is surprisingly satisfying.


Wisdom of Eric Trump

“There are things as Americans we should be united on. And if we can’t be united on God, if we can’t be united on African-American unemployment being at the lowest it’s ever been.”

— Eric Trump, complaining on Fox News that Democrats didn’t stand when Trump said we were united on God.

Sorry, Eric, but just because you believe in a sky fairy does not mean I have to stand and applaud it when it’s mentioned, particularly in a governmental setting in a country that should have state and church separated. What is great about America is exactly that – my right to sit when you blather about something that is completely meaningless to me.

Trump read this speech verbatim. If I had had a few hours to read and practice that speech with a teleprompter, I could have done a better job. I am a much better speaker than Trump. Somebody drilled it into Trump’s head that he must simply read, and ad-lib nothing else. He pretty much followed that advice. It’s funny, though, because I still remember Hannity railing about Obama and how he was a master with the teleprompter. No, Obama was a master speaker. You could never tell he was using a teleprompter. After the Republicans ridiculed Obama and the teleprompter for eight years, they now wish and hope that Trump – for goodness’ sake – stick with the teleprompter.

I do not believe that Trump even believes in God. He says that because people want to hear it. I think Trump does things that are good for Trump and his ilk, no matter what. When he can make it sound like it’s good for the country, it’s even better. Trump does not give a damn about other people, or the American people. He says this because saying it got him the keys to Air Force One and worldwide fame. He’ll say anything for fame and money. I believe he is morally bankrupt. I believe the speech was written by other people and he read it off, and poorly at that.

In 80 boring minutes of Trump droning on, I learned this:

  • Immigrants are killers
  • There are people in the audience who were hurt by immigrants
  • So many more jobs and so much less unemployment
  • Immigrants are terrorists
  • Tax cuts and raises for everyone
  • Obamacare is a disaster
  • Beautiful clean coal
  • Immigrants are killers
  • We love our veterans and military people
  • So much winning
  • And – immigrants are killers

And Trump is really good at giving applause to himself, like a cheerleader.

Slap, slap, slap.

My post titled Stock Market under Obama and Trump of June 2017 attracted a number of comments from an anonymous reader. While I usually don’t respond to posts by readers who do not identify themselves with a name (Hopeyouarentafinancialadvisor), this one had enough substance that I not only thought it warranted responses, but further research and discussion here.

My argument in June was that, yes, during Trump, the economy, as measured by stock market value increases, has been booming, but I wanted to bring back some credit to Obama, where that boom actually had started back in 2009. I used this chart to illustrate that point.

In subsequent exchanges, the reader said I picked a random starting date for both presidents. Well, the day of inauguration is not all that random. The reader suggested I should use the dates of election, and it would show a different picture. So let’s do that and add to this chart:

[click to enlarge]

Source: Macrotrends.net

My point of the original post was that Trump could not alone take credit for a rising stock market. The stock market had been rising since 2009 at a steady clip, without major dips that we experienced in the Bush years. My point also was that Obama entered during freefall, whether you look at his date of election or inauguration. Yes, if you look at the election dates, due to the timing of the Bush freefall, and subtract the two, the election date difference is smaller than the inauguration date difference.

And yes, looking at the graph 6 months later, one year into the Trump administration, it is visible that there is an inflection point at Trump’s entry and the curve has increased to a steeper slope, particularly in the last six months. I give credit to Trump’s approach of opening regulation and pro-business general policies.

However, if you look at a president’s first year in office alone with respect to the Dow, measuring in percentage gains, not point gains, there is a surprising statistic. Trump is only third in history, beaten by FDR and – surprisingly – Obama. This was well illustrated in the USA Today of January 22, 2018:

[click to enlarge]

Here is another view that shows that Obama’s gain during his first year in office was larger than that of Trump. I know Hopeyouarentafinancialadvisor will argue that this should have been done using election dates rather than inauguration dates, and the numbers would be smaller. However, skewed smaller, because since Obama took over during a freefall, we certainly can’t penalize him from the continued drop before things, thankfully, got caught on the bottom.

So I reassert – given the economic conditions of where Obama started – in a mess – he did alright. I wish it had grown faster, too.

Trump keeps saying he took over a mess. He did not. He took over when things were going quite well, and had been going upward steadily for 8 years. That’s not a mess, even if Hopeyouarentafinancialadvisor might argue that it could have been better.

The real numbers, of course, will be those of the next few years under Trump. Will this trend continue? What will a full four or eight years show?

 

 

From Left to Right: Linda, Dick, Trisha and Norbert

We just got home from a 3-hour, 13-mile “walk” all over Balboa Park, Little Italy, the San Diego Harbor, Seaport Village and the Gas Lamp Quarter, without getting any exercise at all.

When I got home and walked to the mailbox it felt odd that I couldn’t just lean forward and accelerate to 12 miles per hour.

Now I want a Segway!

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