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This is the Large Binocular Telescope on Mt. Graham in Arizona. Did a few articles on it, and also on Kitt Peak National Observatory. Funny story about the Kitt Peak experience. Got a room for the night on their viewing program, when most visitors are banned from the mountain due to light pollution from cars. It was bitter cold and windy that night. They knew I was there for an article, and gave me a key in addition to my room key…the wrong key. When I met an astronomer I showed him the key, and he told me it was a universal key: opens all buildings. So I figured I had access to all astronomers on the mountain, and told the one who informed me about the key that I’d come visit him later, after dinner in the cafeteria used by astronomers and overnight guests. When in the cafe, I met two other grad assistants who told me they were working at the main 4 meter telescope, the largest on the mountain. I told them I hoped to interview them as well, and see them later. So after dinner I went to the first observatory and let myself in with the key. The astronomer and his student help showed me what they were working on, and I took notes to questions. After that I went to the 4 meter scope, and used the key to get in there, too. No one was inside, so I went to the elevator, thinking they were upstairs in the control room. The elevator door opened, and two security men were there. They asked me who I was, why I was there, and how I’d gotten in! I showed them the key, which they seized. Then we went up in the elevator to the control room, where the grad assistants confirmed they had talked to me. They called the head of security, who cussed me out on the phone, saying I was supposed to stay with the night viewing (tourist) group. He said he would now escort me off the mountain. I told him I had paid to stay there overnight, was a journalist, and if he wanted to do that there would be no article. So I was escorted to the tourist group viewing, instead. They were using a amateur telescope and talking basic astronomy, which I already knew. So I went to my room and left in the morning. Later, the LBT director drove me personally from the University of Arizona to Mt. Graham for a tour and interview. We were alone in the car for three hours, and when I mentioned the Kitt Peak incident, he chuckled and said, “I heard about that.” He used to be the director of Kitt Peak. He also was on the Hubble Space telescope development panel. Small world, big universe.


Are You Being Brandwashed?


Unlike the Flat Earthers, who believe the number one threat to society is NASA lying to people, I believe the real threat is giant corporations who have created our fake news culture as a diversion while they spy on us. Latest case in point is the book THE AISLES HAVE EYES. Author Joseph Turow is a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication, and his subtitle is “How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power.” Your “power” is becoming illusory. Listen to the audiobook HIT MAKERS by Derek Thompson, subtitled “The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction,” (due out Feb. 7.) We are being distracted while our personal data is being mined and sold to third parties under our noses, often within seconds of downloading a “free” app or turning on a “smart” phone. Who is smart? Not the consumer, for sure. Those posting fake news to distract us (or viral cat videos: same thing) are being used by politicians and corporations to manipulate our thoughts and actions. (And how we vote.) If there’s a conspiracy out there, it’s from people like Alex Jones of InfoWars talking about things that don’t matter. Or ESPN. Dan Patrick has a popular radio show that is also on cable TV, with toys for good old big boys surrounding him. Nothing wrong with that, you say? Well, for anyone watching him, or Alex, or the Flat Earthers, or a thousand TV shows, when is there time to read books? Most don’t, anymore. That’s the point made in Hit Makers. Hits are those things that get the most clicks. How do they do this? By advance publicity from influencers and celebs, by market saturation, by slight of hand and tailored ads. Like football, it is a sport with the biggest prize of all: eyeballs. If they can keep your attention focused on what they want, they can control you. It’s as simple (and complex) as that. What chance does quality content have, in this environment? The same odds as a plow horse running in the Kentucky Derby. It may be a smart horse, but that doesn’t matter at all, in direct rebuttal of the saying, “If you’re smart why ain’t you rich?” Likewise, the best things can get ignored. This extends from songs to products. As Bill Gates told Steve Jobs in the film The Pirates of Silicon Valley, “You have the best stuff, but it doesn’t matter.” (At that point Gates had control of the market with an inferior product: Windows was a ripoff, one operating system stacked on top of another, and prone to bugs and viruses. MacOS is still superior, but not as ubiquitous. Jobs ripped off Xerox and improved on it, eventually going viral with iMac, iPod, and iPhone.) The moral of the story? Buyer beware. You’re basically on your own, especially if you don’t read books. Because the major media won’t tell you this. They are in on the gravy train. Watch NBC or CBS or ABC evening news programs, and what happens every time? They start off with a relatively long report on soundbites and viral videos, then move to shorter and shorter items, the drug commercials building momentum until by the end they are saying, “When we come back” within ten seconds of coming back! Then you see another series of Big Pharma ads for diseases we wouldn’t have if we weren’t on our devices or watching the NFL so much while munching on advertised junk food.



Are You Your Body?


Saw the movie Concussion (having heard the audiobook), and was impressed by the fact that it really didn’t “pull its punches” as some said. Tonight on Charlie Rose there was a full discussion of concussions and the brain, showing that the brain is very vulnerable to jarring and twisting motions, the sudden loss of acceleration at impact of helmets (a helmet would have to be three times larger than it is to prevent damage, and there is simply no way to avoid the physics of this, otherwise.) Both Rose and Will Smith (who deserves an Oscar) are huge sports fans, while players like Ray Lewis don’t really care about concussions or hurting other people (possible sociopath?) No one wants the NFL to change, but they have been forced to face the science. (Rose is sponsored by Coca-Cola, whose CEOs are definite sociopaths, along with NFL management. But then sociopathy is common in win-at-all-cost players, politics and the upper management of giant corporations who exploit people for profit. Jack Welsh of GE had the motto “buy or bury the competition.”) Watching the discussion brought to mind two things: 1) competition is itself a fallacious religion, as Peter Thiel has said: “We are taught to worship competition, but it is new ideas which transform the world, not fighting to maintain the status quo and your dominance of it.” 2) We are not our bodies. This should be obvious, but we don’t identify with our brains, we are taught that how we look (face, legs, six pack, butt) are what matter most. These giant players with huge muscles work out daily, and think that is what defines their “success.” Dominance, control, power. So they put on a thin helmet and rush each other, and their brains (essentially jelly sloshing around inside a rough bone ball) get subjected to violent deceleration, and the axons are stretched, myelin is disturbed, and the millions and billions of fine connections between neurons is affected. Even if there is no actual “concussion” as sidelines doctors play semantics. It is unavoidable. As the book and movie show, 28% of players will suffer CTE to some degree. Interesting, is it not, considering these two fallacies (competition and identity outside the brain) are in control? What is the “ego,” anyway? We are so much the slaves to our limbic systems, of constant comparison, of wanting others to see us as superior. Of defeating anyone not on our team, or in our race or religion. And what are we? Three pound jelly molds, 99.9% the same as the next jelly mold. Until a hit is taken, then we don’t know who we are anymore.      


Children's Books
Here’s a children’s book for very young kids. The entire book is one paragraph broken into sentences. The message is that one doesn’t have to fight things just because they are “different.” The lizards and triangles fight constantly until someone asks “why are we fighting?”