From Earth to Moon and Back

Source: NASA

Here’s to all the unsung engineers who made the Apollo 11 moon landing possible. I say this with particular pride because my husband was one of them. A systems engineer for a NASA sub-contractor, he was a card-carrying member of the IEE (from his early days in the UK) and IEEE (US). His expertise was in military/aerospace radar in applications such as tracking and guidance. This technology was used to land the lunar module, dock it back with the command module after the moon landing, and return the spaceship to Earth. (For more details, go to the link at the bottom of this post.)

My husband with a rooftop microwave dish, Ilford, Essex, England (c.1947)
Early wireless communication for the Apollo mission (RCA)

Below is a link to a press release. Read all about space radar, wireless lunar radios, HD-to-TV signals, digital rocket launch technology, and other precursors to the tiny cellular computers we now carry around every day.


For Those Who Need Comfort on Mother’s Day

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

The most important poem I have ever read is Carrion Comfort  by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I turn to it often for comfort. But I must quickly add that it is not a greeting card message or saccharine rhyme. It may take some soul searching to discover that despair can be felt as a kind of sickening comfort to wallow in, and that we must find reasons not to do so.

The poem can be read and heard here:

Hopkins was a priest and his work is both lofty and profound. I have recently re-posted a helpful analysis (Carrion Comfort: Hopkins Wrestles with God) by a contemporary poet (Hokku).

The poem ends with one of the most enlightened devices imaginable. For those who do not think it blasphemy to say “My God,” after reading this poem you will always say it twice from now on: The first time as a secular expression of shock, and the second as a sacred expression of awe.

In the audio clip below you will hear why the poem is so important to me, as I explain it to my daughter.






A thoughtful, line-by-line interpretation of one of the most important poems ever written.


We have seen in earlier postings how the 19th century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins suffered from terrible episodes of depression, the worst aspects of which were depicted in his poem I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark.BonnatJac.

We may see today’s poem as a mate to that other work, because it deals with the same topic, but in a slightly different way. It has the odd title Carrion Comfort.

We should first make sure we know what is meant by carrion. Put very simply, it means dead and decaying flesh. It has a strong undertone of something very unpleasant, as when we speak of vultures feeding on carrion — on dead animals. Many humans, too, eat dead animals, but tend to avoid any signs of decay in what they eat. That did not stop me from now and then remarking to meal mates, when I was…

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My New Favorite Photo of Myself

At my age, one prefers photos taken from a great distance away. Here is a recent photo of me taken by my daughter. She takes after my husband who would pose me against a backdrop such as a vast landscape and tell me that I was needed “just for scale”.

The New Colossus


The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus


Colossus of Rhodes image {{PD-old-70}}

No News Is True News

Truth Pravda Russian Dictionary

For over a century, Russia had two major newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia. In Russian, “pravda” means “truth” and “izvestia” means “news.” Those sound like good names for newspapers. But they were all propaganda. A famous Russian saying, evoking these pillars of journalism, can be translated to something like this: “There’s no truth in The News, and no news in The Truth.”

Ain’t that the truth?

Fred Allen Radio Show

Fred Allen, left, and cast.
Fred Allen, left, and cast.

I loved Fred Allen, who had a radio show. His humor was witty and somewhat subtle, not just one gag after another. I loved him but my mother didn’t. He had a bit called Allen’s Alley where he would walk down the hall (and here is where radio shines–you could image him walking down a corridor in a building just like yours). Anyway, he would knock on doors and various characters would appear. For instance, one was a Southern blow hard named Senator Claghorn. (“Ah say, I said, I will neva go to Yankee Stadium!”) My daughter tells me this is the basis of a cartoon character, Foghorn Leghorn.

Well one of the occupants of Allen’s Alley was Mrs. Nussbaum, an obviously Jewish character with a Yiddish accent, played by the wonderful Minerva Pious. (“Who stole mine stole?”) I thought this was hilarious. But my mother never liked anything where they made fun of Jewish people. She took umbrage. My mother hated Mrs. Nussbaum and anything that was a take-off, travesty, or stereotype.

But Minerva Pious was delightful. Click on the player below to hear her as Mrs. Nussbaum on the Fred Allen Show, May 26, 1946. You will have to decide if it is offensive or funny, or both.

Booklist 3

I am only scratching the surface and now adding some of the multitude of dictionaries of one sort or another. I mentioned my love for the English language and you may see many related reference books on the list. (This new list includes books on all prior lists so it replaces them.)

GoodReads List Mar 10 2016

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