Pluto: Still a planet, always a planet.

Poor Pluto. I wrote a detailed essay about my feelings back in 2014, before New Horizons had gotten close enough to reveal the stunning images of Pluto and Charon that it painstakingly sent back at 38 kbps.

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Pluto and Charon. ©2015 NASA

Yeah yeah, I get it. Science moves on. Clyde Tombaugh discovered the Kuiper Belt; Pluto is just another trans-Neptunian object that happened to get captured, and not even the biggest. There are doubtless many more large ones yet to be discovered.

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But Pluto was a part of the public’s consciousness as a planet for 76 years – from 1930 when Dr. Tombaugh discovered it, until it was reclassified by the IAU, a move that was opposed by many scientists and astronomers.

I even wrote to Mike Brown, who has referred to himself as “the man who killed Pluto,” and expressed my feelings that for historical reasons, Pluto should have been “grandfathered in” as a planet; he was kind enough to reply, and explained that while he understands why I and others feel emotionally attached to Pluto, the IAU took an opportunity to make planetary classification meaningful instead of arbitrary, which is scientifically more important than nostalgia.

But I’m still sad. And I’m not the only one. Dr. Maggie Lieu, a research fellow at the ESA (European Space Agency) recently posted on Twitter,

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The cleaners took Pluto down, but he was quickly replaced:

thug

And the current status is this: (If you can’t read the text, it says

  • Don’t worry, Pluto! We dwarf planets will be your friends.
  • Yes, those stuck-up full planets are the 1% living in their “cleared neighbourhoods” and oppressing the rest of us with their unequal distribution of mass.

Thug 2

I accept the science, but the IAU’s designation is, after all, just academic nomenclature – and whatever the scientists of today or the future choose to call Pluto, for me it will be the 9th planet in our solar system, Sol IX, forever.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

PS: One of my all-time favorite Woot! shirts, “Gardening at Night.”

gardening

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The Carousel of Progress

NOTE: This entry is a trip down memory lane, but be warned: At the end it gets political. As a result, I’ve disabled comments for this post. If you disagree with anything here, the Web is open – write your own blog. I have nothing against respectful dialog, but the Internet being what it is, I have no time for trolls.

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I first encountered this lovely exhibit when I attended the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Of all the presentations at the Expo (aside from the food – Belgian waffles, mmm) – along with the Picturephone demonstration, this is the one that stuck in my mind.

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After the fair closed, the ride was moved to Disneyland, where I experienced it again, and thereafter found a home in Disney World in Florida, which we visited just last week. It was lovely to reminisce.

Carousel 1

The 1900s. Life couldn’t be better with all the modern conveniences like gas lamps… and soon they’re supposed to have electric lights in the house!

As with anything, the ride did get a few updates over the years:

Carousel 2

Notice in this version it’s Valentine’s Day – and the model has had a bit of an update as well.

Carousel 3

The 1920’s. Electricity and gas are everywhere, and life couldn’t possibly be better. Happy 4th of July!

Carousel4

Hallowe’en in the 1940’s – this looks a lot like kitchens that I grew up with in the 50s.

Carousel 6

Christmas in the 1960s – this tableau has now been supplanted by a 21st-Century version – in the back is a view of Disney’s model city of the future, part of the original idea behind EPCOT (Experimental Planned Community of Tomorrow). Which, unfortunately, because our nation has been focused on flinging its precious human and material resources into unwinnable and futile conflict, has yet to become a reality – despite that dream.

Carousel 5

Another view of the 1960s.

Carousel 7

The 21st Century – (click for a larger view). Most of what you see here is now real, including much better graphics on Virtual Reality devices.

Carousel 8

If our 45th president and the climate-change deniers have their way, it might be necessary to replace the last tableau with one like this.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

The only dream of our current “leaders” seems to be to violate the planet, exterminate the poor and the different, and add to the bottom line of the wealthy. I do not support this, I will not support this, I will not be silent – or I will never be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye with honor.

Resist
The Old Wolf has spoken.

The cats that have owned me

You know the saying – “Cats don’t have owners, they have staff.” Pretty true.

195901 - Twee

This is Twee. Isn’t he cute? We adopted him in about 1957 or so; he got his name from a book I had as a child, Ounce, Dice, Trice by Alastair Reid, which suggested a number of good names for cats.

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It’s a very odd book, but then I have a very odd mind. It may have been a kickstart for my lifelong love of words and language.

TweeHell

When he grew up, he wasn’t so cute any longer. He would hide behind doors and jump out at my legs as I walked by, with malice aforethought. He ended up as the cat from Hell. But I still loved him, and was sad when I learned he had come to grief in New York traffic.

For another 22 years, as life took me in one direction and another, I was catless. But then in around 1982 or so we went to a pet store and got Sam.

Sam Reeding Time

He was a beautiful, elegant creature – a living ornament who moved from place to place and just beautified any spot where he happened to land. We took him to Switzerland with us for five months, where he had many friends, and brought him back when that adventure ended.

At around the age of 13, Sam became ill and lost his appetite; the only thing that he wanted to do was go outside. He was found by a neighbor in their back yard in the rain, and she went to every home in the neighborhood asking if he was theirs… except our house. She chose to take the word of three little girls across the street who declared that we didn’t have a cat. He was taken by animal services, euthanized, and cremated; I still feel bad that we couldn’t bury him properly. He was a good kitty.

After returning from Switzerland, we adopted Whisper and Wispy.Wispy and Whisper

These two pretty littermates were not terribly smart. They liked to sleep in the engine of our 1972 Mustang, and one day the inevitable happened. Wispy went through the alternator belt, and that was the end of her. She was replaced by Tickles, a tiny kitty with a broken mew and a giant purr; sadly I don’t seem to have any photos of her. Whisper and Sam didn’t get along that well, and he took to marking things in the house. We ultimately had to find another home for both Whisper and Tickles.

Before we moved in 1992, we adopted Buffy.

Buffy5

This beautiful girl was amazingly loving, and the whole family loved her. Any time I sat down or went to bed, she was there. It was like she had radar for a soft lap or an opportunity for a cuddle. Over time, though, she developed a terrible trait; she became afraid of her litter box, ultimately refusing to use it. As an indoor cat who was uncomfortable outside, this became a serious problem. We tried various solutions, various locations, different litters, all sorts of things. But she ultimately took to just using the entire house, and thus made herself unfit to be re-homed. We were moving to a new house and couldn’t afford to have her ruining carpets. Best Friends Animal Shelter in Kanab, Utah would have taken her… for $5,000. That was money we didn’t have; she ended her life at about 13, in the vet’s office, in my arms. I was devastated – she was my baby – but no other solutions were available.

After my second wife and I moved to Utah, we adopted Sensei in 2011.

Sensei (2)

He’s a beautiful Siamese-Maine Coon mix, and he remains the undisputed boss of our home today. And he sleeps in really odd positions.

About a year after we got him, we brought Tessa into the home, adopting her from some people close by who had several kittens they were trying to home. We thought Sensei would benefit from having a companion.

CatnipAddiction

Tessa was tiny when we got her; Sensei was mightily displeased, and took every opportunity to attack this bitty ball of fur… who was just feisty enough to stand up for herself. It didn’t take too long before we found them grooming one another.

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And ultimately they became good friends.

20120106 Sensei and Tessa

A few years later, the two were joined by Rufus, a little gray tiger-thing from a no-kill shelter in Rexburg, Idaho.

Rufus in the Cupboard

Rufus was a needy little thing, demanding lots and lots of attention, but a sweeter cat you’d never meet. He wanted to be around people, and he wanted the other two to like and accept him. But he was Omega Cat, and Sensei and Tessa just didn’t take to him.

Although sometimes he was “tolerated.”

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So when we moved to Maine in 2015, we found a family with three little girls who was willing to adopt him. Apparently he’s been placed with a different home since then, but as far as I know he’s still doing well.

Sensei and Tessa made the trek with us, and enjoyed a year in our apartment.

Charged

Here they are, fully-charged.

When we bought a home in the country with a cat door, we thought they would be in hog heaven… but one day shortly after moving in, Tessa just vanished. We “kitty kitty’d” all over the place, wondering if she had gotten stuck in some crevasse or outside in our barn somewhere.

Nothing.

We can only assume she made dinner for some local predator – a coyote, or an airborne raptor. She’s missed, but we gave her a good life.

So Sensei is still Master of the House, and we hope that he’ll be with us for a good long time yet.

So majestic.jpg

Ack! So majestic.

There is no solace for the loss of a cat but getting another cat. These little creatures worm their way into our homes and hearts and leave a big hole when they leave for one reason or another, but there are so many animals in shelters waiting for their forever homes and a shot at a good life that it makes no sense not to have one or two around. They have enriched my life beyond measure.

Stray Cat
Francis Witham

Oh, what unhappy twist of fate
Has brought you homeless to my gate?
The gate where once another stood
To beg for shelter, warmth and food.

For from that day I ceased to be
The master of my destiny.
While he, with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.

He scratched the furniture and shed
And claimed the middle of my bed.
He ruled in arrogance and pride
And broke my heart the day he died.

So if you really think, oh Cat,
I’d willingly relive all that
Because you come forlorn and thin,
Well….don’t just stand there…

Come on in!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Doctors: Then and Now.

It’s tough to find a doctor you can trust.

I’ve written before about Dr. Max Jacobson, a New York City physician that my mother loved dearly, and I was delighted to have had some personal experience with such a famous (or infamous, or notorious, depending on whom you talk to) character.

Subsequent searching turned up a little bit about Max in a book called Schmucks with Underwoods, Conversations with Hollywood’s Classic Screenwriters by Max Wilk:

“Have you ever ead Erich Maria Remarque’s novel Arch of Triumph, the one about the Paris hotel where arll the refugees are living? Well, there’s a character in there, a doctor, a German refugee, living in Paris, and in order to keep himself alive, he’s performing abortions in dirty kitchens… you know who that doctor really was? Dr. Max Jacobson… the same guy who is now in New York!”

The notorious Dr. Feelgood?

“The one and the same Dr. Feelgood!” said [Billy] Wilder. I knew him extremely well – in Berlin, he was my doctor. Talk about writers in exile! Here’s this doctor, in exile, he cannot get a diploma, so he performs abortions… You know how old this guy is today? He has to be in the early 70s! But what a difference from his days in Paris, eh? Whenever he comes out here to L.A., I see him . Or I meet him on planes, he is accompanying Mr. Cecil B. DeMille to Egypt, because Mr. DeMille is going to do a new version of The Ten Commandments, during which Mr. DeMille has himself a heart attack, but Dr. Feelgood pumps him full of his amphetamine magic shots, so Mr. DeMille can still climb ladders and shoot the scenes – with maybe 6,000 extras all standing around!”

And there is also a list of other famous show business and political people who were the patients of the same Dr. Max Jacobson, ranging from our late president Kennedy, with his bad back, to Alan Jay Lerner, and Tennessee Williams, to a raft of other such celebrities, all of them devotees of Dr. Feelgood’s little satchel full of magic elixir shots.”

That last sentence reminded me powerfully of the lovely story by C.M. Kornbluth, “The Little Black Bag,” a follow-up tale in the world of “The Marching Morons.” If only we had such doctors…

As an add-on, in the linked article I mentioned “a New York publication some time before 1968;” thanks to the miracle of the Internet, it turns out that the relevant article from New York magazine was actually published on February 8, 1971 – so I was close. Nobody who ever met Dr. Max could possibly misunderstand to whom “Doctor C” referred, and I remember people in my home discussing the article with much amusement as almost all of our visitors were either patients of or familiar with him.

But back to reality, the first doctor I ever knew was Dr. Arthur F. Anderson, my pediatrician.

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This photo is of Dr. Andy, as he was lovingly known to his patients and their families, was taken at his retirement celebration in 1967. He was an immensely kindly gentleman who always put me at ease, made me airplanes out of tongue depressors and rubber bands, and wrote with a fountain pen full of bright blue ink.

In an oral history of Dr. David Annunziato, an Amityville-based pediatrician who passed away in 1995, I found this little tidbit:

I had great teachers. Bill [William] Dock was the professor of medicine. Charlie [Charles A.] Weymuller was the professor of pediatrics. And Charlie Weymuller, though he was a quiet man, apparently knew everybody. You know he knew [Rustin] McIntosh at Columbia [University College of Physicians and Surgeons], [Luther Emmett] Holt [Jr.] at NYU [New York University], Sam [Samuel Z.] Levine at [Weill] Cornell [Medical College]. The man he told me was the smartest pediatrician in the world was a man I only met once, and he was at Lenox Hill [Hospital]. His name was Anderson.

That could be no one else but Dr. Andy; I had my tonsils out at Lenox Hill Hospital in 1954, and I’m pretty sure that he was watching over my case if he himself did not perform the surgery. Which makes it obligatory that I cross-post something from my Live Journal, because it’s relevant to Dr. Andy and Dr. Weymuller, and much better than what I could reconstruct here.

March 21, 2009

Memories come in the strangest ways.

Brooke McEldowney, in his webcomic Pibgorn, just finished up a story arc that lasted a few days short of two years. That’s not as tortuous as Freefall time, but still a good piece of slow-paced fiction.

The new arc which began last Tuesday is entitled (Note to Jef Mallett: Yes, that is an appropriate use of the word) “Pibgorn and the Volcano on 77th Street and Park Avenue.” Forum members immediately brought up satellite images of the intersection, and it turns out that Lenox Hill Hospital sits on that corner.

I grew up in New York, and that rang a bell. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why it was familiar, aside from the tragic recent death of Natasha Richardson). Was it where I was born? Nah, that was Lying-In Hospital, converted in 1981 to luxury condos (note the baby tondos still adorning the façade).

It just came to me. It’s where I had my tonsils out when I was around three. Unlike Bill Cosby and his ice cream, my memories are different. I remember being alone, shots, and starvation.

When you’re three, you hate shots anyway. Somehow, my beloved pediatrician, Dr. Arthur F. Anderson, managed to avoid being associated with needles, choosing instead to send his evil henchman, the sadistic Dr. Charles Weymuller (in actuality, probably a very nice man) to my home for the requisite torture sessions in which my delicate heinie was violated with ten-foot red hot pokers. But in the hospital, I have this memory of an endless line of nurses armed with jackhammers, marching into my room like clockwork every five minutes to give me shot, after shot, after shot. It was probably only one, but hey, I was three, and alone in a strange crib in a strange place. I still don’t especially care for needles.

Compounding the torment was the fact that they refused to feed me. I was so happy when they finally said I would get some chicken noodle soup. Well, if there was any chicken or any noodles in the soup they brought me, it must have been strained out by the underpaid kitchen staff to supplement their meager salaries, because “broth” would have been too generous an appellation. That hospital stay was not fun.

I was so hungry when I finally got home… they fixed me mashed potatoes with butter, and I was so famished that in my haste I accidentally bit the finger of whoever was feeding me.

And I hadn’t thought of these things for at least 30 years…

In the ensuing years I’ve had numerous other physicians, some better and some less so; bedside manner matters, but a doctor’s interest in you as a person – his or her willingness to address your issues above and beyond the 8 minutes per patient that seems to be standard these days – is critical. A couple of  bright stars stand out: I was privileged to have Dr. George Van Komen, a superb and caring physician, as my primary care provider for a time, and my current doctor is not only a physician but also a friend, which counts for a lot.

But I still miss Dr. Andy.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Philippe Kahn, Prophet

I was on site in 1986, the year Philippe Kahn, CEO of Borland, had the temerity to say in the midst of a crowd of Mac enthusiasts in San Francisco, that the Macintosh was a piece of shit.  That took a lot of gumption; I’m reminded of the scene in The Patriot where Mel Gibson walks into a bar and shouts, “God save the King,” exiting hastily in front of a cloud of knives and axes.

He was wrong then.

128k-macintosh

The 128K Mac was a thing of beauty and innovation (at least for folks who had not been inside the Palo Alto Research Center.) It introduced the world to the concept of a real graphical user interface, and made things possible in the world of graphics, sound, fonts, gaming, design, music, and artwork that would never have been possible in the IBM world – even by adding a dozen cards – more so as the machine morphed into faster and colorized versions. Dark Castle, HyperCard™, designable fonts, MIDI, user-accessible resources… they were all so fun!

The beautiful 1988 Battle Chess game by MacPlay riffed on the biggest disadvantage at the time – the price differential. “Pawn takes King” has the pawn whip out a Macintosh Price List, whereupon the king suffers a fatal coronary.

pawn-takes-king

Flop for flop, the Macintosh machines were about half again as costly as a comparable IBM device, and remain so to this day – but back then the “coolness” factor was enough to overcome that little annoyance. From 1984 until about 1990, I was a devotee.

But Kahn was just 30 years too early.

My wife has an iPod, and years ago one of her kids gave her an iTunes gift card for some music. So we had to set up an AppleID for her to be able to use it. Hold that thought.

Recently she acquired an iPad from her mother, and it was necessary to switch ownership of the pad to her account. Hold that thought.

For about six months last year, I worked for a cloud storage company as a tech support agent, and with remote tools I delved into a lot of Mac systems while I helped customers with their tech issues.

From the experiences I had trying to navigate the Apple environment to resolve what should have been the simplest of problems, I can safely go on record as saying that the Mac world is a place of overpriced, underpowered hardware, combined with a byzantine tangle of AppleIDs, iTunes (an abomination of desolation if ever I saw one, a heavy-handed store thinly disguised as an impossibly cumbersome media management tool), iCloud, Photo Library, and other bits and pieces which form a virtual nightmare to navigate. For Mogg’s sake, they even make you create an account to look at their help forums. And when you try to do that, you hit a brick wall.

applehqiz

My Username is OK. I agreed to the Agreement. “Please check the form for details” shows virtually no additional information. Thanks, Apple.

dongles

Add to this some recent technology decisions that seem difficult to fathom, including a plethora of dongles, the removal of a standard audio jack, and those easily-lost wireless earbuds, and it makes me wonder why anyone would go with Apple hardware any longer. For the longest time a relative imperviousness to viruses and malware was a big draw, but that era has ended, and there’s not much a Mac can do that a PC can’t, and for about 60% of the price. The “coolness” factor is just not there any longer.

a_very_long_flight

It’s been a long time since I’ve been religiously attached to any hardware or operating system. I’ve used so many, it’s basically “whatever gets the job done.” But for a brief period, the Mac was really a wonderful, dazzling, entertaining and useful new thing. Today, I’m pretty convinced that the company has lost its way and its vision when it comes to computers. I don’t hate Apple; I’m really hoping they can turn themselves around. If they don’t, it’s a sure bet that somewhere in the future, another Steve Jobs is waiting.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Some things come and go, some things stick around

When I started shaving as a lad, I was able to use a blade for a while but there was a lot of blood involved until my skin got used to it. I began to understand the impact of “bleeding from every pore.” I finally gave that up; I wanted a shave, not a self-sacrifice. “Zit zot! Cut my face to shreds!”

When I switched to using a trusty Braun (I’ve had three since 1975), I started using a combination of LectricShave™ and AquaVelva™ for the befores and afters.

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They work well, I liked them then, and I like them now. And it occurred to me that they’ve changed almost not at all since their introduction (AquaVelva in 1929!) and have survived without using a lot of fancy and idiotic marketing (although the late 50s and early 60s TV ads for LectricShave were pretty insipid, as most commercials from that era.)

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, there was a brand of after-shave called HaiKarate – under the “sex sells” rubric, they produced some really cheesy commercials showing nerdy guys with horn-rimmed glasses fending off sex-crazed women; each bottle came with a self-defense insert and the slogan, “Be careful how you use it.”

 

perfume_1975hai_karate

Although re-introduced in the UK in 2014, this product faded out in the 1980s. Unsurprisingly.

Other products came and went, some of which I remember fondly.

I purchased a set of “Nine Flags” colognes once, and I recall being very partial to “Italy” – the dry citrus was very easy on my nose.

Flags

Flags 2

This is one I wish had endured. You can still find some floating around on eBay, but time is not kind to these fragrances – in my experience, the chemicals begin to break down and they can smell rancid after a while.

I’m glad that the two products I have used for most of my life are still around.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

If the shoe fits…

Vicks Inhaler

When I was a kid, I remember encountering one of these at the home of an older relative. Being naturally curious, I unscrewed the thing and smelled it.

Eeyagh! Hideous! I didn’t even bother asking what it was for, I just considered it anathema and forgot all about it until years later when, as an adult, I discovered how useful they are for unplugging a stuffy nose.

The event was brought sharply into renewed focus in my memory when, about 8 years ago, my oldest granddaughter who was, at the time, 3 years old, picked one up off my nightstand, unscrewed it, and gave it a smell. Her response cracked me up, and I remember it to this day and have told the story many times; indeed, it has become somewhat of a watchword in our family, as you shall see.

What she, at that tender age, said was: “Ew! That’s for old!”

Indeed it is, sweetheart, but I do hope you come to appreciate its value when you have grandchildren of your own.

One day this last year, my wife’s youngest daughter, who was 25 at the time, accompanied me to the dollar store to pick out some candy for a daddy-daughter movie date that we were planning. We each picked out a couple of our favorites, and one of mine was this:

Good-&-Plenty-Box-Small

Naturally, I hated these as a kid as well, preferring things like Bazooka™ bubble gum, Nik-L-Nips™, Jujubes™, and Chunky™ candy bars. Licorice was for *old* people. Gah.

You can imagine my delight when our sweet girl saw my choice, wrinkled up her nose, and said,

“Ew! That’s for old!”

And so it is. But while I’m not excited about the aches and pains that come along with becoming a senior citizen, I have long been appreciative of the sentiment, “Never resent growing old. It is a gift denied to many.”

True enough, and if it brings with it appreciation of things like Good & Plenty™ and Vicks inhalers, then that’s just icing on the cake.

The Old Wolf has spoken.