Monday, February 28, 2011


A fellow wrote in to Click and Clack that his dad had the answers to anything practical.  Except one question he has had unanswered for 35 years.  He said that years ago he had asked his dad what would happen to a car if the brake and gas pedal were pressed at the same time?  His father’s answer was, “Well, it wouldn’t be good, I can tell you that.”

Over the years he has asked many people, and gotten pretty much the same answer, “It wouldn’t be good.”  Then recently his 13 year old daughter asked him the same question.  “What would happen to a car if the brake and gas pedal were pressed at the same time?”  He says he confessed his ignorance, but the cycle of ignorance would have to stop.  His daughter suggested writing Click and Clack, which he did.

Now I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you already know the first thing the Click and Clack answer was.  Right!  “Well, it wouldn’t be good, I can tell you that.”  Actually they did go on to explain the kinds of problems that can occur if done for more than a few seconds, such as breaking the motor mounts.

So.  Don’t do dat.

Cartoons, courtesy of Sandy --

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Our own solar system has some pretty strange places, compared to our own earth.  Have a look.


The Saturnian moon Hyperion is a lumpy thing, measuring about 255 x 163 x 137 miles in diameter along its three axes. Since moons of this size typically have enough gravity to pull them into a spherical shape, astronomers suggest that it may be a fragment of a larger moon that was shattered by an impact. The planet's odd shape explains why the planet is, as Baker and Ratcliff put it, "a tumbling chaotic mess." Most large moons are tidally locked, meaning that the same face of the moon always faces its planet. But Hyperion's bizarre shape prevents such locking, because the gravitational torques from Saturn and the moon Titan tug at it unevenly.

The result: A rotation that's impossible to predict. "The days are never the same," the authors write. "Not only does the rotation rate (the length of day) vary erratically, but Hyperion's north pole continually points to a different location in space." Astronomers know the equation to predict the moon's rotational motion, but small uncertainties in measurements of the moon's initial location or velocity turn into large uncertainties over time. For Hyperion, the authors say, "it is completely impossible to predict the direction of its spin axis after about 300 days--it could be pointed anywhere!"

Deepest Ocean
Here on Earth we're impressed by the Pacific Ocean's Marianas Trench, which reaches a depth of 6.8 miles. But the ocean on the Jupiter moon of Europa put ours to shame. Although Europa is covered in a thick crust of scarred and cross-hatched ice, measurements made by NASA's Galileo spacecraft and other probes strongly suggest that a liquid ocean lies beneath that surface. Some measurements put the ocean's depth at 62 miles. The interior is warmed, researchers believe, by the tidal stresses exerted on Europa by Jupiter and several other large moons, as well as by radioactivity.

Europa's huge liquid ocean makes it one of the most promising places to look in the search for extraterrestrial life. NASA and the European Space Agency are therefore hard at work on a joint mission that may launch in 2020, and which will examine Jupiter, Europa, and another moon named Ganymede. A major objective is to determine the thickness of Europa's ice crust, which has implications for the moon's potential to sustain life.

Stinkiest Place
The Jovian moon Io is fascinating from a planetary science perspective--it's the most volcanically active place in our solar system, and its surface is pockmarked with volcanic craters. But it wouldn't be much fun to visit. Baker and Ratcliff write that "Jupiter's moon Io smells like a jumbo rotten egg." The stink is due to hydrogen sulfide on Io's surface and in its upper atmosphere, and the moon owes its distinctive yellow and red coloration to sulfur compounds.

Volcanic eruptions are quite common on Io, and they constantly refresh the atmosphere's supply of sulfur gas. The moon is highly active because it travels around Jupiter in a slightly elliptical orbit. As the moon repeatedly dances closer to and farther from the giant planet, Jupiter's gravity produces tidal flexing in the moon's interior that heats its mantle and causes violent explosions. In 2007 NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by Io and observed a volcanic eruption with sulfur plumes that stretched 180 miles above the surface. The largest volcanic eruptions on Earth reach about 12 miles high.

Hardest Rain
Even Bob Dylan never imagined a hard rain like this.

The ice giant planets Uranus (left) and Neptune (right) differ from the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn in composition; they contain mostly "ices" of water, ammonia, and methane. And that makes for interesting planetary interiors: In the mantles of Neptune and Uranus, high temperatures probably break methane into its components of hydrogen and carbon. Astronomers think that intense pressures may then squeeze the free carbon into crystalline latices, aka diamonds. As Baker and Ratcliff explain: "Diamond hail, as small as salt grains or as large as boulders, may steadily rain through the liquid mantle and pummel the rocky core. The core may be covered in a thick layer of diamonds, more massive than any diamond mine on Earth."

So far, the diamond rains of Uranus and Neptune are theoretical, and planetary scientists say they need more data before they can determine whether or not this bizarre phenomenon actually occurs. Unfortunately, no spacecraft are currently scheduled to go and explore these remote worlds.

Grandest Canyon
Picture a canyon that stretches from San Francisco to Washington DC, and you'll have an idea of the scope of Valles Marineris on Mars.

This enormous gorge was first spotted by the NASA spacecraft Mariner 9 in 1972, and the canyon was named in the spacecraft's honor. It stretches 2,485 miles across the planet's surface, and reaches depths of 6.2 miles (for comparison, our Grand Canyon plunges 1.1 miles down at its deepest point). Valles Marineris is thought to be a rift valley, formed by uplift when hot material from the Mars's mantle bubbled up and stretched the planet's crust.

Tallest Mountain
Mars has not only the deepest valley in our solar system, but also the mightiest mountain. The Martian volcano Olympus Mons reaches a towering height of 27 miles, or three times the height of our own Mount Everest.

This prodigious peak probably formed in the same way that our own volcanoes do: by sitting over a "hot spot" where plumes of hot rock rise up from the planet's interior. But it was able to grow taller than any earthly volcano because Mars lacks plate tectonics, Baker and Ratcliff explain. On Earth, the tectonic plates act like "a conveyor belt over a hot flame," they write. "Volcanoes form, die out, and form anew as the plate moves over the hot spot, producing a long chain of volcanoes." With no moving plates on Mars, Olympus Mons likely sat above a hot, volcano-forming plume for a very long time.

Most Shocking Lightning Strike
When NASA's Cassini spacecraft was on its way to Saturn in the late 1990s it swung by Earth for a gravitational assist. From a distance of 55,000 miles above the Earth's surface, the probe detected the radio wave bursts that are a signal of terrestrial lightning. (A lightning bolt emits electromagnetic radiation at a variety of wavelengths, including visible light and radio waves.) As Cassini continued to head toward Saturn in the early 2000s, the spacecraft's controllers got a shock. From 100 million miles away, the probe detected radio pulses indicating powerful lightning storms of Saturn. The radio signal was about a million times more powerful than the one it received from Earth.

For years the Saturnian superbolts weren't seen directly, but the radio busts indicated that they occur in a region called Storm Alley in the planet's southern hemisphere. This image shows one bright tempest in that area, the so-called Dragon Storm. Finally, this spring, Cassini captured the first images of lightning flashes on Saturn.

Most Extreme Magnet
This beautiful image shows our magnetically hyperactive sun, ornamented with bright solar flares, arcs, and plasma streamers. The electrically charged plasma in the sun's outer layers creates turbulent bubbles the size of Texas, which generate local magnetic fields.

These magnetic field structures are often outlined by glowing plasma, because charged particles flow along magnetic field lines. That's why bright filaments outline sunspots, which are regions where plasma is trapped by intense magnetic fields, and cools down. Where magnetic field lines cross, they can release tremendous bursts of energy known as solar flares and even larger blasts called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). A single CME can fling as much as 10 percent of the sun's corona (its outer atmosphere) into space at intense speeds.

Most Damaging Global Warming
Our sister planet Venus is about the same size, density, and composition as Earth, and when its thick atmosphere was first discovered, alien-hunters wondered if it harbored lush jungles and exotic life. In fact, Venus is a hellishly hot world governed by clouds of sulfuric acid.

Venus is 26 million miles closer to the sun than Earth, but that's not the only reason it's so blazingly hot. The planet has been baked by runaway global warming. In the greenhouse effect, solar radiation reaches the planet's surface, and the planet releases some of that energy by emitting infrared radiation. But on Venus, the thick clouds and a dense atmosphere that's composed primarily of carbon dioxide trap the heat and prevent it from escaping into space. Venus's surface temperature is 860 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the hottest planetary surface in our solar system.

Longest-Lived Storm
This storm shows no inclination of blowing itself out. Jupiter's Great Red Spot was first observed by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini in 1665; while observations were sporadic in the 18th and early 19th centuries, many astronomers think the storm has been roaring for the 345 years since it was first seen. The immense storm is the size of three Earths, and the winds reach speeds topping 400 miles per hour.

How has it kept churning through the centuries? Baker and Ratcliff explain that its energy comes from Jupiter's interior and smaller vortices. "Remarkably, Jupiter's interior supplies 70 percent more energy to the cloud tops than the planet receives from the Sun," they write. "Like a giant air compressor, gravitational contraction generates intense pressures and heat deep inside the planet. Powerful thunderstorms in Jupiter's atmosphere channel much of this heat to the cloud tops." Smaller storms are devoured by the Great Red Spot, which allows it to roar on.

Punny -

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Friday, February 25, 2011

UNUSUAL PAIRS, concluded

I got quite a kick out of these.  The captions are mine.

Yes, I love you, too.

What on earth are these things?

That is not my pig on my back!

Now you rest.  I’ll take care of you.

High- fiving!

How’d that thing get up here by my nose?

‘Sokay.  I won’t bite you.

Gee, your hand is just like mine.

But I don’t love you!

And scratch me on the other side, too.

Well, it’s obvious we’re not enemies!

And the lion lay down with the lamb.


Tech  support:    What  anti-virus program do you use?
Customer:   Netscape.
Tech support:   That's not an anti-virus program.
Customer:   Oh, sorry... Internet Explorer..
Customer:     I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I was hoping to get going on this tooth(less) project, and I am set for March 2 for my dentist to take the required x-rays.  In talking with Sara, the front office gal, I had asked if it would be possible to get the extractions set for March 10.  She said she would check it out.  Yesterday, however, she called me back to say the dentist wanted to take this only one step at a time to be sure that everything was done right.  I guess I can’t argue with that.  Better right than fast.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, I ran across this old photo of Amalie and me.  This must have been taken in the early 80’s before we were both handicapped.  The photo is rather faded, but I was wearing a light colored outfit, and Amalie had on a light weight dress.  Must have been summertime.  I know where this pic was taken -- diagonally across the street from Chef Chu’s.  There used to be another Chinese restaurant there, and the food was quite good,but they could not compete with the older, more established restaurant across the street.

Humor --

Support for computer users -

Tech  support:    Your password is the small letter 'a' as in  apple, a capital letter V as in Victor, the number 7.
Customer:   Is that 7 in capital  letters ?

Customer:   I can't get on the Internet.
Tech support:  Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer:   Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Tech  support:    Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer:   Five dots.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I don't recall who sent me these (I know, I know, I should keep track), but these were too good not to share.  My favorites are the first, third, and sixth.   Pick your own favorites and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


It looks like I’ve started something.  In all fairness, the idea was not original with me.  A few months ago Lennie, the Avenidas director, had lunch at our table.  I really don’t recall the conversation, but I do know that she and I got to talking about music.  I must have said something because she was the one who latched onto it and thought a small group would enjoy playing Name That Tune.  An appropriate room would have to be found.

Well, it is becoming a full fledged activity that Audrey and I have now presented a couple of times.  I thought we might do this every now and then, but apparently it has gone over quite well because the other day Laura, the activities director, asked me if she could put another on the calendar in March.  Sure, let’s do it.  Bit of a problem, though, I told Laura.  I’m running out of instrumental music.  She commented to me that the memories of many of the participants isn’t all that good, so we can repeat previous CD’s.  Oh, okay.  Now Avenidas has some music CD’s, so I asked if I could borrow some to fill out the instrumental list.  Sure, go ahead.  So after lunch that day I had a look at their collection, and discovered that they have a lot of music.  Much of it contains vocals, but I found a few that could work.  It looks like we’re good to go on March 21.  Looking forward to it.

Humor -

Two women were sitting next to each other at a bar. After a while one looks at the other and says, 'I can't help but think, from listening to you, that you're from   Ireland .
The other woman responds proudly, 'Yes, I sure am!'
The first one says, 'So am I! And where about in  Ireland are ya from ?
The other woman answers, 'I'm from St. John's, I am.'
The first one responds, 'So, am I!!  And what street did you live on?'
The other woman says, 'A lovely little area it was in the west end. I lived on Warbury Street in the old central part of town.'
The first one says, 'Faith and it's a small world. So did I!  So did I!  And what school did ya go to?'
The other woman answers, 'Well now, I went to Holy Heart of Mary, of course.'
The first one gets really excited and says, 'And so did I.  Tell me, what year did you graduate?'
The other woman answers, 'Well, now, let's see. I graduated in 1964.'
The first woman exclaims, 'The Good Lord must be smiling down upon us ! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same pub tonight.  Can you believe it, I graduated from Holy Heart of Mary in 1964 me self.

About this time, Michael walks into the bar, sits down and orders a beer.  Brian, the bartender, walks over to Michael, shaking his head and mutters, 'It's going to be a long night tonight.'
Michael asks, ' Why do you say that, Brian?' 
Brian answers, 'The Murphy twins are drunk again.'

Monday, February 21, 2011


These are unusual pairings of animals.  More later this week.

Nice kitty!

My tree!  No!  MY tree!

Caw!  Cats not allowed!

 Confounded crows!  Think they own the world!

Is this what's meant by ‘pigging out’?

Nope, can’t help you.  I don’t know what you are, either.

You don’t look like a cat!

This table keeps moving on me.

May I join you for a rest?

You are a very convenient resting place for my head.

We can cuddle up together.

I’m bigger than you.
Well, I’ve been sick.

Punny -

When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.
A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.
What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead give away.)
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Ellen Fletcher was president of the Mac User Group when I was the Newsletter editor several years ago, and we had printed her story in our publication for our members.  Ellen was also present at the Celebration of Life we held for Amalie, and I talked with her just the other day.

The following is a slightly condensed version from Saturday's San Jose Mercury News.

A Holocaust kid shares story of escape with students
By Joe Rodriguez

It takes more than sporadic showers to stop Ellen Fletcher from riding her bike around Palo Alto. So when a Jewish school in town asked her to speak about her escape from Nazi Germany as a kid, she showed up on a rainy Friday ready to go.

"It's not every day a Holocaust victim comes and speaks to us," said Rabbi Noam Silverman, head of Jewish studies at the Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, as he introduced the slender 82-year-old. "And it's not every day a Holocaust victim comes to us on a bike, especially in the rain."
With that, more than 100 middle-school students grinned and welcomed the former "kindertransport kid," one of 10,000 Jewish children rescued from Nazi Germany just before World War II broke out.
She told her story, pulling her young listeners with her out of bed on Kristallnacht, the night Nazi mobs rampaged through Jewish neighborhoods. She was living in a Jewish group home at the time.  "One night, the house mother told us kids to get dressed and ready," she said. "We heard glass breaking and someone said a synagogue was on fire. We were not allowed to go to the window. We had to sit quietly on our beds."

The house mother dragged them with her to the police station where she was summoned to be deported to Poland, and the day the English came to the rescue. She had the kids anticipate a grand farewell and 10th birthday party Fletcher's mother had planned for Dec. 14, 1938, days before Fletcher would board a "kindertransport" train to Holland and then a ferry to England.  The party never happened, Fletcher said, because the Nazis banned Jews from the streets the same day.  "That meant all my friends couldn't come," she said. She described the mass goodbyes between parents and children at the Berlin train depot. As the oldest child in her car, she consoled the youngest by playing Jewish folk songs for them on her portable record player.

Here she stopped for some historical, little-known background: It was the Quakers who finally persuaded the British government to accept Jewish children.  England offered safety, but the Jewish children still were classified as "enemy aliens" and not refugees. At school and play, English children teased Fletcher because she was German.  To them, I was a Nazi!" she said. "They called me Nazi!"
Eventually, she adjusted, quickly learned English and lost her German and Hebrew. But there was another price paid. "I lost all feeling for my parents." She joined them anyway in New York in 1946, attended high school and college, moved to California, raised a family and served on the Palo Alto City Council.

She never spoke with her mother and stepfather about their experience during the war while she was in England. In those days, all we wanted was to forget the whole thing," she said. "I regret to this day I didn't ask my mother those questions."

Fletcher ended by describing a trip to Europe in 1989 with her daughter, who felt deep sadness for not having any personal connections there, because everyone in the family had fled or died in the Holocaust. At that, Fletcher allowed herself to finally cry in front of the students.
"Sorry, I get emotional."
The kids applauded loudly.

Fun --
Bizarre classified ads:
Stock up and save. Limit one.

For rent: 6-room hated apartment.

Christmas-tag sale. Handmade gifts for the hard-to-find person.

Wanted. Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink.

Friday, February 18, 2011


As I’d mentioned the other day (Toothless in Seattle), I’d gone to see my dentist to have my lower denture adjusted.  He had determined that five lower teeth were loose and ultimately would have to come out and a new denture made.  He did what he could to adjust my existing partial, but it hurts my mouth, so I have not been wearing it.

So Wednesday I returned to see if any more adjustment could be made, and to ask a few questions.  He did adjust it a bit more, but my mouth has been too sore to wear it even if it fits.

And he answered some questions for me.  How much was this going to cost me?  About what I had anticipated, plus whatever the dental surgeon charges for his work.  It may be that the dental surgery is covered by Medicare, but I’ll have to ask.

How long will it be from the time of the extractions to the receiving of my new denture, given that my mouth will have to heal before impressions can be made?  My mouth will have to heal for three months --  THREE MONTHS? -- and then about three weeks to take the impressions and have the denture made.

THREE MONTHS?  Yikes!  I’ll need to drink my meals.  But then my dentist quite surprised me.  He said that right after the extractions, he could have a temporary partial made for me while my mouth heals.  He didn’t have the cost of a temporary, but his nurse will get that for me.

So now I’m thinking to start having this done in early March.  Then it might all be done by my birthday.  Wow!  What a birthday gift!

I can use some humor.  How about you?

Customer:   My keyboard  is not working anymore.
Tech  support:   Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer:   No I can't  get behind the computer.
Tech  support:    Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.
Customer: !   OK
Tech support:   Did the  keyboard come with you?
Customer:  Yes
Tech support:   That means the keyboard  is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?
Customer:   Yes, there's another one here. Ah that one does work..

Thursday, February 17, 2011


This is a day just for chuckles.  Enjoy!

Oh, come on!  Just one?

And spelling, too!

I said SPELLING, too.

For cleaning, of course.

But officer, I was only going one way!
But which way?

Wow!  What a deal!

Pardon me, I’m confused.

  Gee, what a surprise!

Will that give them more gas?

Now I’m REALLY confused!

 Wot dat say?

Tell me where it is, and I’ll stay off it.

You mean you need help closing?