Friday, March 9, 2012

Celestial dorkdom

Just cool. At 7:35 p.m., I was able to spot Mercury in the gathering dusk, low on the western horizon. Venus and Jupiter are brilliant higher in the western sky - and Mars is ruling the east.
Spotting Mercury is tough, and it disappeared into the haze shortly afterward, but even more a moment, seeing four planets in the sky at once is just, well, dork cool. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Suspicious. Very suspicious

A suspicious white powder led to the Ranzenbergers missing their flight home from Washington, D.C.  Consider being held up at security the price of freedom.
It's just after 4 a.m. at Washington National Airport, and Kissy Missy and I are waiting for security to open up. We ended up spending an extra night in Washington after missing our flight out last night.
We missed it because I was held up at security.
These are not problems I had heard about before, but I guess I might simply have been out of touch.
 1. Carrying both an iPad and a laptop will subject you to additional scrutiny. This additional scrutiny will take time.
2. Do not, under any circumstances, carry anything remotely resembling a white, powdery substance.
I made that fatal error. A container with what appeared to be a powdery substance was detected in my luggage. The line was stopped as a bag-check expert was summoned. This took a while, and several hundred people behind me fumed.
I felt insecure.
 Finally, the brave man from the Transportation Security Administration approached.
"There isn't anything in there that can hurt me, is there?" he asked. This is a standard question, designed to be asked as the owner of the suspicious luggage is standing there.
 If the luggage will do something bad, it's going to get the owner, too. I suspect the suicide agent was looking for me to flinch or twitch, or say something stupid like, "No, the bomb will go off later."
 I didn't flinch or twitch. I said, "No."
He asked again.
 I was cooperative.
At that point, he explained that I had been pulled out due to signs that I was carrying a container of a suspicious powdery substance.
 "Oh, the baby powder," I offered helpfully.
It was in a clear, zippered section of my luggage, beneath my dirty clothes. He carefully and thoroughly examined my possibly suspicious laundry on his way to finding the prize. This investigator knew what he was after now: A canister mysteriously labeled with some variation on the words, "Baby Powder."
There it was, beneath clear plastic, in a zippered pouch. He struggled with the zipper, however.
 I offered to help.
This was suspicious.
 He eventually removed the suspect container from the zippered pouch. He examined it closely. It was labeled Johnson's Baby Powder, and a close look revealed it was of the corn starch variety.
It wasn't clear if the further labeling of this suspicious white powder as "medicated" might have set off more alarm bells.
 He swabbed the outside, and in a scene that might have been from "CSI," he placed the swab into a sensor array. Apparently unsatisfied with the result, he did it again. Finally, the result: Baby Powder. Thank you, TSA. My safety is your business. I feel safer now.
Unfortunately, the process took so long we missed our flight, and it was the day's last flight to Grand Rapids. Now, we will try again. The baby powder was left at the hotel. I will try not to Fit The Profile.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring break in D.C.

It's spring break, and this year, it's Washington. Some business, but a little bit of playing tourist. 
Washington really is one of my favorite cities. it's not just the sense of federal power that pervades this place - but it's the tremendous sense of history, of being someplace where things happen that actually matter.

Traveling in and around Washington on the surface streets is an utter nightmare. It's best to avoid that.
Most Washingtonians are wise enough to do that, and use the city's most excellent subway system, the Metro. At left, Kissy Missy waits for a Blue Line train.
The trains run pretty much on time, and they get you pretty close to where you want to go.

There's a lot of advertising, of course, and it's kind of fun to note that there's a lot of advertising for CMU's Off-Campus programs here. There actually are seven sites in the D.C. metro area.
An awful lot of U.S. military officers earn their master's degrees from CMU. Only a few of them actually climb Mount Pleasant; most earn their degrees off-campus.
 The Washington metropolitan area leads the country in the number of people with university educations. Nearly 1 in 2 adults in the region has completed at least a bachelor's degree.
In Michigan, it's about 1 in 4. Washington is growing. That makes a lot of people mad. 

Today was a tourist day. After spending time at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, we took an after-dark tour of the monuments.
At left, Kissy Missy checks in on Facebook from the Jefferson Memorial.

At right, me and Tom.

Just waiting for Michelle to let us in. Hope she knows we're in town. 

The Marine Corps memorial is just blocks away from where we're staying in Arlington, Va. 

And it was the first chance I'd had to visit the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. It's impressive.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The American Patriot's Bible - Now in Camo!

From the publisher's blurb: "Part of Thomas Nelson's Signature Line of exclusive Bibles, The American Patriot's Bible shows how "a light from above" shaped this nation. It reflects how the history of the United States connects to the people and events of the Bible - and how that connects to today's world. There is a family-record section, images from U.S. history and hundreds of articles relating to patriotic history. The Bible was edited by Dr. Richard Lee, founder and pastor of First Redeemer Church located in metropolitan Atlanta, Ga."

This version comes with  an Official Multicam ® Camouflage, Flexible Cloth cover. It's sure to appeal to real Americans.

Dr. Lee also is the author of "The Coming Revolution: Signs from America's Past That Signal Our Nation's Future," also published by Thomas Nelson.  

Truly something every red-blooded, commie-hating American family should have. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

What War on Religion?

The trends toward tolerance and inclusion that are reviled by some presidential candidates are the very reason two Catholics and a Mormon can run for the highest office in the land without their respective faiths presenting much of a political impediment. Either the candidates are all willfully ignorant of American history (even the historian!) or they believe the rest of us are.
  Read more from the Daily Forward: