Missing the Cold War

Reading a post the other day by wordpresser Robert Nielsen – Why Did Communism Fail – http://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/why-did-communism-fail-3-incentives/ set me pondering in another direction. I started thinking about how my post WW2 childhood placed my generation smack dab in the middle of paranoia central. The threat of nuclear annihilation ever present, fresh off McCarthy era Communist witch hunts, Kennedy assassinations, and the bay of pigs – Cold War paranoia served us well – we were prepared; people weren’t considered wing nuts for stocking a fall out shelter or filling the pantry with canned food.

Once the Cold War evaporated, so too did our sense of impending doom. Happy as I was to show doom the door; my children spared sleepless nights worrying about a slow death from radiation poisoning – the fall of Communism took with it our ability to fathom a world where we might have to fend for ourselves.

We live in a vastly different world today. Not even 9/11 or North Korea pounding it’s chest, replaces the void left by a departing Cold War. The cold war era was practical if nothing else, people prepared as best they could. At the very least families talked about contingency plans  Without the internet, cell phones, or bank cards, people had to plan ahead. Problems were approached differently, and solved with good old fashioned ingenuity.

I don’t loose sleep fretting about impending disaster. I write posts on solar flares, asteroids, and super volcanoes because it blows my mind that our planet supports life in the first place. Equally mind blowing is my conclusion that for all our progress and technology, I’d place my bet on the survival of cold war era society over today. The cold war is history, the product of a time vastly different, and impossible to compare with the modern world. That said, it was a time when technology or not, it was accepted, talked about, and prepared for. I miss the sensible middle ground of a time when people thought about having to take care of themselves.

By default the cold war era prepared us for an infinite number of calamities. With each passing decade since, our self preservation becomes more about packing a firearm than storing food, water, and a hand cranked flashlight. It’s entirely possible that I’m just getting old, yet boldly ponder a simpler time when nuclear annihilation was tackled with sensible preparations.

Pole Reversal

Historical and scientific records indicate many earth shattering events are long overdue. The “big one”, referring to a mega earthquake in the pacific north west, the Yellowstone super volcano, and apparently – a magnetic pole reversal.

I always believed theories of pole reversal lived only on the pages of books. Discovering this event is not only probable, but has happened in our history on more than one occasion, gave birth to this ponder.


Andrew Biggin from the University of the Netherlands in Utrecht, analyzed rock to determine how they were magnetized at formation. This allowed him to pin point the location of the magnetic pole at the time. His research showed a reversal every 400,00 years or so; the last one taking place about 800,000 years ago. He suggests that a pattern of  weakening in the earth’s magnetic field takes place for around 2000 years prior to the complete reversal. Archaeological evidence indicates our magnetic field was considerably stronger in Roman times.

Pole reversal doesn’t happen overnight; overdue, in earth terms could be hundreds, thousands, or millions of years. Just one more reason to ponder our time on earth. One more reason to embrace each day, not sweating the little stuff.

My Sentiment Exactly

Take a minute, or 3 to be precise; watch this short video clip. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Religion and science knock heads over the facts, yet one truth is irrefutable – there are 118 known elements on the periodic table. Interaction, violent collisions, explosive cosmic forces, a generous helping of luck have fashioned them into every atom and molecule in the universe – from the iron in our blood to artificial strawberry flavouring on our pop tarts – all derived from those elements. Life on our planet exists for no reason other than a remarkable string of improbable fortune. Even those who argue “god” had good reason to give us the strawberry pop tart, should take a three minute break to watch and ponder our astounding universe.

A link to the periodic table….


The video clip to ponder….


This evocative image shows a dark cloud where new stars are forming along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. Credit: Credit: ESO/F. Comeron

Pondering Geeks

Why is it that people who speak fluent Klingon, translate time into “star dates”, grow pasty in their solitary gaming dens; coaxed out into a world of actual human contact, only when fan expos or game releases demand a physical presence – are called “geeks”? While those who delve into ancient history, gaze at the stars, or question logistics of ancient mysteries are called “wing nuts” or conspiracy theorists?

I don’t speak a word of Klingon despite growing up on Star Trek, haven’t played a video game since Pac Man ruled the pub, and gawk in astonishment as costumed devotees line up for science fiction conventions. Before any one jumps down my pondering throat – I am speaking broad generalizations. All gamers couldn’t possibly aspire to learn Klingon or dress up for Comicon. Science Fiction and fantasy thrive on imagination, role play, escape, and wonder. It just so happens that we give the name “geek” to those people who take it most seriously.

The term “geek” evokes an instant understanding, dare I say explanation for behaviour. Free from truly negative connotations; a geek is harmless, perhaps a little lacking is social graces or self esteem, and thanks to Hollywood writers – capable of saving the day. “Geeks” are free to imagine, escape, and wonder – unfettered by a society willing to look beyond first impressions. Once labelled “geek”, behaviour is overlooked or dismissed as quirky – no harm, no foul.

I’m a geek of sorts. Living in a world of imagination and wonder – the problem rears its ugly head when my inner geek is classified as “wing nut”, or worst of all alien or conspiracy theorist. I ponder ancient accomplishments with wild abandon, don’t for one second think we are alone in the universe, scratch my head; yet not once have I entertained “ancient aliens” or conspiracies. Eyes start to roll at the mention of solar flares or near earth asteroids – all seemingly lumped in with my fondness for ancient cultures fascination with the constellation Orion.

My “geek” and Klingon geek may be like talking apples and oranges. Just the same; I want a warm fuzzy name for my geeky interests. I’m a lot more vocal than Klingon speaking dungeon masters, spend more time in science than fiction, and am quite certain my analogy will be lost on many a now irate gamer. Put your swords and magic potions away, I’m making a point.

Ponder the label geek and then conspiracy theorist. The first is passive, the later aggressive. Maybe if we came up with a socially acceptable generalization for people who marvel at the ancients or gaze at the stars, I wouldn’t be so pissed off when having to explain for the hundredth time – there are marvels beyond explanation shaping our universe. Not any God, not alien intervention – simply kick ass accomplishments that make me smile – not crazy, just a pondering geek.

Thirty One Years

Today is my 31st wedding anniversary. It doesn’t feel like 31 years, whatever 31 years is supposed to feel like. Both in our 50’s, by all appearances a middle aged couple. with grown children. True as that statement may be, I don’t see a middle aged man when I look at him. Lovely and perfect as the day we met, I see that young man in every grey hair and exquisite imperfection.  Aesthetically growing old is a bitch; a cruel trick played out by a prankster named “time”. Every once in a while, if you’re lucky enough – you get the last laugh. I’m laughing because 31 years seems like last night.

Pondering April 21, 1982 is surreal. The only chance to put it in perspective is to look at the year 1982. It isn’t enough to see our children, travels, heartbreaks or triumphs; all of which made us stronger, closer, and more likely to be that old couple holding hands on a park bench. We talked about all those years, neither of us able to fathom 31 years. Not because it made the slightest difference, simply because it was so incredible that we stumbled upon each other.

The day we were married in Las Vegas, I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett was the number one song. 1982 was the year when the first CD player was sold in Japan and the Weather Channel hit the airwaves. Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, USA Today issued its first copy, Robert Jarvik implanted an artificial heart, and Michael Jackson released Thriller.

Pondering events in 1982 give perspective to how long 31 years is. Just the jolt I needed before saying goodnight to our anniversary and 31 of the best years of my life.

Take A Lyrid Break

The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks this coming Monday, April 22. The Lyrid shower looks like it comes from Vega in the Lyra constellation. Vega is a bright star, 3 times larger than our sun, and 25 light years from earth. Lyrids are actually a dust trail from Comet Thatcher – officially known as C/1861 G1. Space dust, typically the size of a grain of sand, hits our atmosphere at 110,000 mph. The Lyrids aren’t known for large numbers of meteors per hour – usually 10 – 20, with peaks that may produce up to 100. “Lyrid fireballs” is the name given to outbursts of brighter meteors that leave a smoky trail behind for a minute or two.

The best time to ponder Lyrids is in the hour or two before sunrise on April 22. Get yourself away from city lights – bundle up; as you lay on your back facing east. An extra bonus for people in the Northern Hemisphere – sunspots AR1726 and 1727 are getting uppity.Any eruptions this weekend would be earth directed meaning geomagnetic storms could bring some strong auroras.