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2010 Home




Part I


December 1, 2010






T W O    L A N D S

Separated by One Wall


It's difficult for someone growing up in a city to think about the rural land I grew up on.  Some land was suitable for agriculture.  Others not.

But what was common to plains land was the rocks.  They were everywhere, and you had to clear them.

But where do you put them?

To remove them entirely meant moving them a great distance.  But if you didn't move them entirely, where would you put them?  The obvious place is off to the side of your land.  While doing this, you realize they can serve a secondary purpose: this is your land, and the land next to your land is your neighbor's land.  Why not use the rocks as a wall to separate the two properties?

A brilliant idea!


Our wall may look a bit ragged, but that's only because you're probably thinking of a wall composed of blocks of concrete.  However, these aren't concrete blocks.  Our wall is made up of rocks - and rocks come in different shapes and different sizes.  And it's not that sturdy of a wall.  Mostly, it's a convenient wall.  Most of the time.

You see, winter comes.  And with winter comes cold weather.  Spring comes.  The warm weather returns.  And the changing temperature causes the ground to swell.  The ground is upset.  And therefore, the wall is upset.

And though this is my land, hunters come and go.  Of course, they ask permission to use our land.  Of course, ordinarily I grant them permission.  They promise to be careful.

But even being careful, they're still hopping my fence to chase deer, turkeys, and foxes.

And they hit the wall.

Come spring, you can imagine what the wall looks like:



Big rocks fall close to the wall, but they may break.  Smaller rocks fall and roll a distance from the main part of the wall.  It's a mess.

But it's spring.  It's time to plant crops.  Flowers.  And tend to our trees.

And fix the wall, because we both want a good wall.




It's like a ritual.  We meet each spring, and start to remake the wall, like a giant puzzle, which means it's hard balancing these misshaped rocks atop one another - and making them stay!  But it's not just that.  It's tiring.  And it's hard work.  The rocks are heavy.  They're sharp.  They're rough.




My neighbor got called off one afternoon while we were remaking the wall, and, working alone, I cut my hand on a sharp rock.  I cursed, and hurled the offending rock against the wall.

Rocks fell.  Just a bit.  Not far from their spots atop the wall.  Gravity at work.  But it got me thinking.  All these rocks just fall.  This isn't that big of a mess. 

Why are we even doing this?




To be continued ...





Part II


December 2, 2010






Why are we even doing this?

I stopped for a brief drink of water, and gaze up and down the wall, I'm more amazed at what I see.  Rocks to the left and right, for sure, but it's really not so bad. 

And on each side of the wall is the real product of our work.  On my side are apple trees.  An apple orchard, really.  Planted years ago by our fathers, we inherited the product of their work.  I still consider my father the real Johnny Appleseed!  And on my neighbor's side?  Pine trees, in neat rows.

Everything so neat.  But this wall.  This "messy" wall.  Maybe it's not so messy.  Maybe it's not so necessary to spend all this time fixing the wall.  With gravity, the hunters, and the changing of the season, the annual ritual may suggest "something there is that doesn't like a wall".




Is this work all for nothing?  Yes!

Think of the time saved each year in fixing this thing.  The effort.  And that time and effort, once directed to fixing the wall, can now be used elsewhere.

I see my neighbor returning.  I'm excited.  I think, rather than spending all this time mending the wall, we could be done.  Right now!  The wall doesn't need mending!   But he's got to agree.  After all, it's our wall, separating our fields.




I ask if everything was OK.  It was.  He needed to repair a small crack in the windmill caused by last night's wind storm. 

Exactly.  This is what we should be doing.  Tending to real problems, instead of picking up rocks.  He should be as excited as me!

But I'm surprised by his dismissive attitude.  He's not going to neglect the wall.  After all:  "Good fences make good neighbors".




"Good fences make good neighbors"?   Really?  Why?  I can understand if we were fencing in cows.  There's plenty of farms around where a wall is a necessity to keep something in.  What are we keeping in?  Pine trees and apple orchards?  Are my apple trees going to jump the fence and eat the pine cones under his pine trees?

And what really makes a fence "good"?  Must it look neat?  Maybe.  Must it fence in, or fence out?  Maybe.

But now I'm mad.  I'm mad when my good ideas are not taken seriously.  And I'm particularly mad when this dismissive attitude causes me more work!

Fine.  Let him be that way.  Rocks fall on both sides of the fence.  Why do I care what he cares about my side of the fence?  I'll let my rocks sit!  This is none of his business!  He wants to work unnecessarily hard to fix his side of the wall?  Fine!  Let him!  I've got better things to do!

And that's what happened the following spring.

I told him the wall on my side looked pretty good - not the best - but pretty good.  Sure, rocks had fallen during the winter, but I'm OK with what I see.

He's not.

And he mends his side of the wall.




Of course, this only made my side look more worse.  It's harder to look at now than it was.  My side looked sloppy.  But I try to remember why I neglected to fix the wall.  It was serving no purpose.

I was OK with this - at the time.  So was he.  So I thought.


To be continued  - on December 8th.






"Digital Turkish Christmas Rugs"


December 3, 2010







Story to follow


December 4, 2010







Jamestown, Tobacco, and John Wolfe


Gratitude - A Necessary but not Sufficient Lesson of Thanksgiving

Research Continues


December 5, 2010













A Logical Look at the 1941 Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor


December 6, 2010






Americans were not anxious for war, after the Great War (World War I).  Japan knew this.   A post WWI agreement limiting battleship and carrier tonnage ratio of 5:5:3 (5 USA, 5 Great Britain, 3 Japan), had actually favored Japan, as they had only one ocean to defend, whereas the USA had two and Great Britain three!

It was a time of appeasement, and Japanese aggression.

And Japan knew to what extent the USA - and world - would go to avoid conflict.

They annexed Manchuria in 1931 and invaded China.  What did the USA and the League-of-Nations do?  Condemned the move.  Japan's response?  They dropped out of the League of Nations, and then refused to abide by the provisions of the 1921 5:5:3 treaty.

In 1937, Japan again waged war against China, this time attacking American Embassy members.

They (the Japanese) apologized.  We accepted.  And the Japanese knew the USA would not do anything - anytime.


Nonetheless, the USA continued to sell huge quantities of iron, steel, and oil to Japan.  Yes, despite the Japanese aggression, the USA was their biggest trading partner!

Until 1940.  It became evident we had to do something to show our objection to Japanese aggression.  In 1940, the USA prohibited the exportation of war materials to Japan.  We, obviously, were not too committed to this policy, as oil was excluded from the ban.  Oil.

And Japan's response?  First, their new situation:

If the USA was a huge trading partner, and if the USA cut off trade, then Japan had no vested interest in maintaining civil relations with the US.  They didn't.  What did they do?  They saw an alliance with the axis powers - German and Italy - as working in their favor.  Therefore, they signed a formal treaty of alliance with those European axis powers.


But it wasn't until the attack on French Indochina that the USA said that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  With this attack, the USA cut off all oil exports to Japan.


Japan was now without oil from the USA, and if they were without a source of oil, then the Japanese faced a crucial decision.

I guess they had a choice, as they were given a choice by the US.  If you get out of China, then we'll restore our oil trade. 

What were we thinking to even suggest such a trade?

But we did.  And the Japanese had no interest in leaving China.  Yet they needed oil.  Therefore, they needed oil from another source.


But where?  The Dutch East-Indies had a lot of oil.  This was perfect for the Japanese, falling in line with their goal of dominating Southeast Asia.  But Japan also knew if they attacked the Dutch East Indies as well as other countries in SE Asia, the US would not sit idle.  They know a battle - of some sort - was inevitable.



To be continued, tomorrow, on "A Day that will Live in Infamy" ...





A Logical Look at the 1941 Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor


December 7, 2010






The Pacific fleet had been re-stationed at Pearl Harbor earlier in the year, as we saw Japanese aggression, coupled with the Axis-agreement with Germany and Italy, suggested a more strategic position for the Pacific fleet than the west coast of our mainland.




The vast size of the Pacific suggested this.


It is huge.


And a quick glance at any globe shows both the vast size of the Pacific Ocean, but also the vast distance between Japan and the United States mainland.  One can just catch the coasts of both countries.




The USA had enacted oil embargos.  The prize of the restoration of oil moving from west to east?  Renounce the incursion into China.


Japan was not going to do that.


Which meant they needed to get oil from somewhere.  They decided on the Dutch East Indies.


And they know if they went into the Dutch East Indies, the United States would not sit quietly.  They would act.


What should the Japanese do?


Japanese military strategists favored a defensive campaign.  You can see why, in the picture above.  Any campaign against Japan would have to come across the Pacific.  It's impossible to replenish supplies in this arena.


This was the safe bet.  But it meant waiting for the United States to attack.  Which meant the United States would have a chance to build its military.


And Naval Marshal Yamamoto knew how awesome the United States military machine, if given the opportunity to build up, would be.




"If we Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians (who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war) have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices."



But what did it mean to "march into Washington"?  It meant to take the fight to the Americans.  To attack.


But where?


Pearl Harbor.


Yamamoto thought a devastating American defeat at Pearl Harbor would deal a knock-out blow to the USA, and the USA would negotiate for peace before the war even started:





And December 7, 1941, has gone down as "A Day that will Live in Infamy" ...








Part III


December 8, 2010








Fast-forward two years. 

There were signs, of course.  There are always signs, .  Nothing happens spontaneously.  But this was the moment when I realized something had gone dramatically wrong.

I had invited my neighbor over for tea, and was surprised by the curt "no thanks".  That was it.  No explanation.  No courtesy.  No "thanks for the invitation, but we're busy".  Just a "no thanks". 

Thinking about this exchange, I recalled several other recent interactions between us.  Something was different.  We no longer exchanged jokes.  We no longer talked politics, the weather, and our families.  We waved to each other from our fields and exchanged "hellos" and "good mornings", but nothing more.

We were no longer friends.

But why?

The wall that separated us, after mending, was a reasonable wall.  I decided to not fix my side of the wall.  There was no need to.  My neighbor would have none of that:  "Good fences make good neighbors".


Of course, his side looked better than mine.  I was OK with that, I think.  I'm not sure if he was.  After all, though a fence divides two properties, the fence itself belongs to both.  And he was something of a perfectionist ...

And as the years progressed, my side only got worse ...



This part should have been predictable.  After all:




But why was he mad at me?  I guess that was obvious, too ...




But now, what to do about it? 





And Mathematical Symmetry


December 9, 2010










Part IV


December 10, 2010






"Fix your side of the damn wall."

His response was like steam erupting from a boiling water kettle.

I had merely asked him, one day, how his family was doing.  I hadn't even asked him about the wall.  It was obviously bothering him.  Our relationship was bothering me.

But I was unprepared for his outburst.

"I'll think about it", I had said, and walked away.

"That's a great way of addressing the problem," I told myself.

I thought about the problem - this specific problem.  What was the problem?  My immediate problem was "My neighbor and I are no longer friends".

What do I want?  To be friends, obviously, and this requires me to fix the wall.




It would be so easy.  Am I merely being stubborn?

But I've not fixed it for three years, and it's not because I'm stubborn.  If I'm wrong, I admit it.  I'm not wrong, here.  I really don't want to fix the wall.  Why not?  I see it as a waste of time - and I want to use my time and effort wisely.

That is:





But what can I do with this?  Fix the wall / don't fix the wall.  And it seems I have to either cave on something, or "kind-of" fix the wall.

I want my cake and eat it, too, I guess.

An old adage.

Let's suppose I could "have my cake and eat it, too"?  What would I be, if I were both friendly with my neighbors, and using my time and effort wisely? 

A good person?

Let's see ...


On the one hand ...

if I am a good person, then I am friends with my neighbor.  But in order to be friends with my neighbor, I must fix the wall ...


On the other hand ...

if I am a good person, then I am using my time and effort wisely.  But in order to use my time and effort wisely, I will not fix the wall.



That is ...





So what.


To be continued ...






Part V


December 11, 2010






I'm stuck.

Actually, we're both stuck.  It's not exactly a feud, like the Hatfields and McCoys, but here we are, neither likely to budge.  Forgetting about him for a moment, I consider my own dilemma above. 

What am I missing?

Let's try to flush out some assumptions.  For example, if I said: "In order to get to the top of Mount Everest, I need a lot of climbing gear", this assumes I really want to climb!  Maybe I could hire a helicopter.  Or maybe I really don't need to go at all - maybe if someone installed a remote-control operated web cam, I'd be happy enough!

The point is there are always assumptions underlying our thoughts - our connections.

What assumptions are underlying my dilemma above.  Let's see.

"In order to be a good person, I need to use my time and effort wisely."  Really?  Is this always true?  I like to draw designs.  Is this wise?  I like to read fiction books and mow the yard.  Is this wise?  And if I'm so hung up on the wall looking "reasonable", why do I mow the yard weekly?  Long grass isn't necessarily bad, is it?

Let's try another.

"In order to use my time an effort wisely, I don't fix the wall."

Why do I think this time spent not wise?  It's hard work, for sure, but does this make it unwise?  And didn't I have great conversations with my neighbor when we were mending the wall?  Didn't we have great family picnics together as we fixed the wall?

Maybe this was time well spent!  Maybe nothing!  This was great!  And just thinking through all this - this common sense - makes me think I could apply this to many other things in my life!

I should just go fix my side of the wall.  Everything would be fine!

Slow down, partner.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  If my neighbor saw me fixing my side of the fence, what would he think?

He'd think I just caved in.  I folded.  He'd probably bring it up in the future:  "Remember when you were so stubborn ..."

"But I'm not caving in!", I yell to myself, but he doesn't know it.

Since I'm in the process of challenging assumptions, let's look at his!  What does he say?  All he continues to say is "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors".

What a parrot.

But what does this mean?

Where is the "Good" in "Good Fence"?

He'd probably say a "Good" fence is one that serves its purpose.  Maybe.  But in our case, it's not that as much as it must look good.  So he's probably thinking this ...




I know otherwise.  The examples are numerous:



The Great Wall of China




The Berlin Wall




Hadrian's Wall



Mexican-American Border Fences



Barbed-Wire Fence



Enough!  The examples are so numerous I begin to wonder if "Good Fences" ever imply "Good Neighbors"?  You may object to these "looking good", but what's the standard?

Of course, these are pretty biased examples.  Surely, there are other types of fences and walls than these.  But even thinking of residential and neighborhood walls and fences, I hardly see anything that suggests people on either side of the fence / wall are good neighbors!






As the counter-examples to his claim mount, I really do begin to wonder if "Good fences ever make good neighbors". 

Even the statement gets me thinking:

What's the relationship between "good fences" and "good neighbors"?  For example, is it this:  if I have a "good fence", then I will have a "good neighbor"?  Or this:  if I want a "good neighbor", then I need a "good fence"?  Or something else?

A strategy comes to mind.

I will show my conflict-resolution diagram to my neighbor, showing him why I'm torn.  That I want to be good neighbors, but I also want to value my time.  I need him to see why I'm torn.  And I need him to see why I think I can "have my cake and eat it, too".

But that's not enough.  I explained this earlier.  But earlier, it was merely because I don't want him to think I caved on my principles.  I didn't.

But now there's more.  He's not right!

I will point out he keeps saying, "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors".  He will agree.  I will ask what he means by "Good Fence".  He will likely respond with an explanation described above - "does what its suppose to do, and it looks good".  Something vague like this.

I will show him the several pictures above, where the fences and walls are doing what they're suppose to be doing, and they also look reasonable - in tact - if you will.  They are, therefore, good, yet there's nothing in them at all suggesting "neighborliness".

I will close with this ...






To be continued ...



BUILD 2612-b


Chapter 4

"Cover Up"


December 12, 2010









Jeff Lucas silenced the alerter and toggled off the overhead monitor, allowing only himself to view what had happened.  The room was empty except for himself, but the silent screen offered a small respite from the anxiety he was now feeling.

"Melissa Anderson Discovers Truth.  Build.  2621."

Who was Melissa Anderson?

He started to initiate a back-track visual on the sequence of events leading to the incident, but stopped.  "Wait a minute", he told himself.  "How did this marker get placed in this build?"  There was only one answer.  Someone within the company had caught the anomaly, and placed it there.

Someone else knew!

Was he being watched as well?

If he were being watched, surely his keystrokes would be monitored as well.  Was someone watching him right now?

Panic set in.  "Admit the error", he told himself.  Tell the truth.  That was easier said than done.  After all, he knew admitting the error would result in probation - as a best-case scenario - and job-loss - as the most probable scenario.

He was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Actually, all these months, he had been caught in this dilemma, and like most people, merely ignored it, hoping it would go away.



Most conflicts don't.  His hadn't.  And now the dilemma had caught up with him.  What to do?  He could think of no  escape.

He assumed he was being watched.  His key-strokes being monitored.  He initiated a "fractal-patch" algorithm he had written years ago that looked at his own sequence of keystrokes in the past, found a sequence similar to his recent terminal activity, and virtually integrated this past keystrokes into the current domain.  This was the equivalent of placing old TV footage in front of a monitoring camera.

This bought him time.

He had to think.

Sabotage the whole Build.  Plant a virus that would contaminate the current build - and all historical versions.  It was risky, because he had seen it happen - unintentionally, of course.  He knew how.

Could he do it?  He had to do it.

And his thoughts raced to the person who put him in this predicament. 

Melissa Anderson.

What kind of person could have uncovered the truth about the simulation, at the same time he had made his blunder months ago.

He rewound the simulation to the point of discovery, cursing as time passed the entity known in the simulation as "Melissa Anderson".

And then he saw her.

Smart.  Logical.  Focused.

And beautiful.



Thomas Hart Benton

Train Portraits


December 15, 2010






Preliminary research for our trip to the Nelson-Atkins and the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio ...

"Train on the Desert"



"Engineer's Dream"



"Going West"



"The Race" / "Homeward Bound"



"Morning Train"



"Edge of Town"



"Slow Train Through Arkansas"



"Running Horses"





Thoughts on "Shortest Distance"


December 17, 2010






The concern was a real one.  It wasn't that they thought they were overworked.  They were, and they loved the work.

But they had come to realize some of the work was unnecessary.  It made no sense, and nonsense, to paraphrase a scene from Black Beauty, can drive a reindeer mad.

Yes, reindeerSanta's reindeer ...


What was their concern?

It's probably easiest to explain it with an example.  They start off from the North Pole, and let's simplify things.  Instead of delivering toys to millions of kids, they only deliver to six.

These six:


What route should they take?

A common-sense route might look as follows:

You go in order in a particular direction, and arrive home.

What the reindeer had noticed, however, was they were flying over the same places, going from house to house. 



And this meant extra work.  Instead of flying 731 miles, in this example, they were flying 877 miles!  They had always suspected this, but the evidence was only anecdotal.  Now, they had the elves install GPS-tracking devices on their collars, so they could monitor their flights.

And their suspicions were confirmed.

Why was this?

They took their concerns to Santa.  Santa wasn't use to concerns and complaints. 

"We love the work, but we've noticed we're flying a lot more than we need to."

"I don't know why you think that.  I'm doing things the same way I've always done them.  Why is this coming up now?"

"Now, we've got GPS systems that allow us to monitor our route, and we've noticed we seem to be going back over the same places several times.  How come?"

"I don't know.  Let me think about it."

Dasher knew "Let me think about it" was a polite way of saying "Please leave".  Nothing would come of this.  Dasher spoke up.

"Like we said, Santa.  We're not complaining, but simply observing something.  We're not getting any younger, you know, so being able to save miles is important to us"

He continued.

"Santa?  You say you're doing things the same way you've always done them.  How is that?  How is the flight path determined?"

"Alphabetically, of course."


"Alphabetically?", Dasher answered in astonishment.  He snorted.


Obviously, "alphabetically" didn't work well here.  But our example is a pretty simple one to create "the shortest route".  We can do it by sight.

What if the example wasn't so simple?  What if the points were something like these six examples?


Is there a method to the madness of determining "the shortest route"?

To be continued ...





Thoughts on "Shortest Distance":  Part II


December 19, 2010






"That's fine", said Santa, with a Ho Ho Ho.  "Just tell me the shortest route, then, and we'll take it!"

Dasher and the others weren't feeling so jocular.  They hadn't just come to Santa with a concern.  They'd done a bit of research of their own, and what they found was ominous.

But why?

It sounds like a simple problem:  if you have a certain number of points, find the shortest path.

Easy enough.

Except there are a lot of possible paths.  If you have only six points, for example, here are all the possibilities:



This was daunting, they knew, even when they figured it was overstated.  You see, taking the route "123456" was really the same route as "654321".  They were opposites of one another.

And with the use of the factorial sign "!", the reindeer realized paths added up quickly.  Just 15 houses led to 653 trillion unique routes!


Having done all this work, they should have expected Santa's "Just tell me the shortest route" retort.  After all, until you've actually looked at the problem, it seems easy enough to solve.  If you can't figure out a way to solve the problem, just list all the possibilities and pick the one with the shortest route!

Now we know that's not possible.

The shortest route in our above example, found by listing all the possibilities:


But we also, know, now, it's really impossible to check all possible paths - when the number of points gets much higher.

We need to find a method - an algorithm - a rule.

But how?





Rest in Peace


December 20, 2010






A brief booklet, in tribute to a great man ...






Thoughts on "Shortest Distance":  Part III


December 21, 2010







Of all the possible routes, I see the shortest route.  What's unique about this it?  One thing that stands out is the paths don't cross.  And that makes sense.

Is this the rule we're looking for?


This seemed reasonable, and it returned the shortest path.  Is this the answer?  Let's check.


Let's see if there are any other routes where the paths do not cross, but are not the shortest route.  There are several.  Here's four:


Additionally, it's not so easy to map routes with all possibilities, and then see if there are intersecting paths.

So our first trial failed, in two regards:  1.  it didn't work; and 2. had it worked, it was very hard to implement.

Our first guess for a rule didn't pan it, but it provided some insight.  Let's try another.



Starting at home, i.e., 0, in this case I've always gone next to the closest point.  First to 1, then 2, and then 5 (which is just closer than 6).  On to 4, then 3.


This works!

But maybe it only works in this case.  Maybe the points we've selected are accidentally right!  Let's see.  Let's try some others.

Most others I tried it was the case "Go to the closest point" worked.

Until I found this example:


So "Guess 2" didn't - ultimately - work, but two things stood out: 1. it was very easy to describe; and 2. it provided reasonable results.

We move on!





Thoughts on "Shortest Distance":  Part IV


December 22, 2010







This is an experiment in the ongoing process of finding "the shortest route".  Recall, we just postulated two rules, but though they seemed reasonable, they didn't work.

We decided to move on.

But how?

Let's play with this a bit.  I've got eight examples below.  You, yourself, pick out the shortest route.  When you're done - and only when you're done, look at the results in the table immediately under the graph.  I've listed the shortest 100 paths out of the 360 unique paths.

How'd you do?

Remember, you must start at the origin (0,0), go through all six points, and then return to the origin.  That's what we're calling "the route".

Get to it!





















December 23, 2010






The 2010 decennial census is out, and with the growing and changing US population, house seats reapportioned, the US Bureau of the Census tells us.  The changes - winners and losers, that is - are as follows:


The census, results, and reapportionments are presented as simply and mathematically straight-forward as returning change for a buck when you buy a 25 cent sucker.

Is it, though?

Sure, it's easy enough to distribute four $1 bills among two boys, but what would you do with five $1 bills?  OK - you'd get change, and give each $2.50.

Let's assume you've got one TV to give to two sons.  You can't cut this in two.  What would you do?  What happens when things don't divide well?

But this is TVs and money, and we're talking about demographics.  Fine.  Let's suppose there is room for three representatives, and two states have 300 people total, 200 in State X, 100 in State Y.  Easy enough: there's 1 representative for every 100 people, so State X gets 2 representatives, State Y only 1.

No problem.

That's easy math, however.  What happens when the math becomes more complicated?

If State X, for example, has 225 people, and State Y only 75 - and there's room for only three representatives?


If it's still two and one representatives, respectively, then the ratio for State X is 112.5 people for each representative, while for State Y, it's 75 people per representative.

Is this fair?

Is there an alternative?

"These examples are pretty easy, or not realistic", you might be saying.  "There must be an easy way to do this, because the Bureau of the Census above did it."

Did they do it right?

Is there a right answer?

There's really only questions - and observations - to the issue of "Equal Representation".

It played a crucial role in the founding of our country.  Of the relationship between Britain and the English Colonies.  The Boston Tea Party.  The Revolutionary War.

The idea of "representation" was essential in forming a "United States" of America, but simultaneously responsible - inevitably - for its near collapse - in the Civil War.

It played a crucial role in the idea of a Bicameral legislature.

It was the first proposed amendment to the Constitution.  Article the First.  It was voted down, but because there is no deadline for its ratification, Article the First is technically is still pending before state lawmakers!

It served as the source of our country's first veto - by George Washington!

And the method of apportioning representatives to the House has changed at least six times, mainly because of examples of paradoxes or problems observed in previous methods.

There's nothing easy about it!

When we hear of countries around the world "taking too long to form a representative government", let's cut them some slack.  It isn't easy.

And the history of our country could really be told, just by examining the idea of "No Taxation Without Representation" ...

That's what we'll attempt to do, as we look at the issue of representative government - or "Who is listening to My Voice"?


An Introductory Data Table

House Apportionment Over the History of the USA






A Look Back at the Doolittle Raid


December 26, 2010






Pearl Harbor.  December 7, 1941.

"A Day That Will Live in Infamy".

It was to be a knock-out blow to our Pacific Fleet.  But our carriers were not in port, luckily.

The Japanese continued their conquest of Southeast Asia.

"Within hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched other air strikes against Hong Kong, Singapore, Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines.  It was the beginning of a "blitz" campaign to conquer all Southeast Asia.  Against their ill-prepared American, British, and Dutch foes, the Japanese rolled southward with such rapidity that they exceeded even their own timetables." 

The Battle of Midway

Ira Peck


And what were we doing?

President Franklin Roosevelt expressed to Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting at the White House on December 21st, 1941, Japan be bombed as soon as possible to boost public morale after the disaster at Pearl Harbor.

That's easier said than done.

The Pacific Ocean is a pretty big barrier to cross.  And Pearl Harbor was a mess.  Strike Japan?  Of course!  But how?

The main problem was distance.  An air strike on Japan would require the use of carriers, and aircraft aboard a carrier only had a range of 300 miles.  Therefore, to launch an attack would require the fleet to be within 300 miles of Japan.

But Japan had patrol boats patrolling their coast.  And they had land-based planes at the ready for a sea-assault.  These land-based planes have a much greater range than carrier-planes.  Therefore, if the carrier got within 300 miles to launch it's planes, the carrier and fleet would be in great danger from a Japanese land-based attack.


As of January 10th, 1942, Roosevelt reiterated the need to attack Japan.  Wishful thinking!  No one could think of a way to do this!

But that same day, Captain Francis Low, a submariner, had noticed something.  He had flown down to see the new US aircraft carrier, the Hornet, and had noticed something:  there was an outline of a carrier painted on the ground, and twin-engine bombers were making bombing runs on the simulated carrier deck. 

A bombing run on Japan!

But could a bomber take off - and land - on a carrier deck?

After a great deal of research and analysis, it was determined a B-25 could take off from the deck of the Hornet.  But it was impossible to land back on that same deck.


The Start of a Plan

The B-25, specially equipped with extra gas, had a much greater flying radius.  Instead of the carrier-based aircraft radius of 300 miles, the B-25 could fly 1,800 miles.

But it could not land back on the carrier.

Where could it land?

As we had discussed in a previous article, Japan was at war with China.  In fact, this war ultimately caused the United States to cease trading essential war materials to Japan, which prompted them to strike Pearl Harbor in the first place.

China would let us land.  In fact, the bombers could make their bombing runs through the main industrial cities of Japan, continue on to Chuchow, refuel, and then fly on to the Chinese war-capital in central China: Chungking.

Image from Destination: Tokyo

Stan Cohen


A plan was hatched - with three critical elements:  there is a carrier, support fleet, and enough bombers to inflict damage on Japan.

Of course, bombers is one thing.  Bombers able to take off from a carrier deck is quite another.  Special training in carrier take-offs was essential.

We've got our bombers to the site.  They take off towards the site.  They drop their bombs.  Now what?  They've got a place to land.

We've got an ambitious target, and a plan to achieve it:


The Doolittle Raid was under way!

Stay Tuned For Part II!





A Look Back at the Doolittle Raid


December 27, 2010






The Hornet, once stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, had headed east along the Atlantic Seaboard, through the Panama Canal, and was now sitting in Sacramento, California.  The training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida complete, the B-25s had headed across country.

A mid-Pacific rendezvous had brought the protection fleet together by Midway Island (NW of the Hawaiian Islands), and towards Japan they sailed.


As they sailed, let's look back at what we called our Ambitious Target:  "We successfully strike Japan".

What constitutes "Success"?

It's tempting to say "Destruction", but let's be realistic.  There are only 16 bombers, and they can only carry so much in payload.  Yes, strike industrial targets.  Rail.  Oil.  Production.

This is one measure of success.

Let's remember, at this time, Japan was invading the Philippines.  Australia.  Burma.  The grand plan was the unification of Southeast Asia under one umbrella:  The "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere".

And nobody was stopping them.

All available forces were being used - offensively.

If our bombers could demonstrate the Pacific vulnerability of major Japanese cities, the Japanese would pull from its offensive attack forces enough forces to protect the homeland.

This would slow the Japanese advance.

Additionally, as 9-11 demonstrated to us, there is "actual" damage inflicted in an attack, and, often more importantly, "psychological" damage.  One feels vulnerable.  It changes one psyche.

Such was a goal in the "Doolittle Raid".

And finally, let's not forget this was right after Pearl Harbor.  Japan was on the move, conquest after conquest.  This raid would give Americans a sense of pride!

Therefore ...


But surprise, as we have said, was essential - even with bombers.

The goal was to get within 400 miles of Tokyo, launch for a nighttime raid, and fly 1200 miles SW to Chuchow.  The maximum distance was 650 miles out.  This would push the fuel capacity of the B-25s to their limits.

A nighttime raid of April 19th was planned.  But in the early hours of April 18th, the fleet was detected.  700 miles out. 


Surely, Tokyo had been radioed.

The element of surprise was lost.

The Japanese Airforce, surely, had been alerted.  They might have been launched!  They might be on their way!

Our fleet was endangered!  We must get those bombers off the deck now!  LAUNCH NOW!

Not so fast.

If we launch now, they will reach Tokyo during sunlight.  With the Japanese on full alert.  They will be sitting ducks.  Additionally, we're 700 miles out.  The outer range of the bombers was 1800 miles, and it's an additional 1200 miles to Chuchow.  They will not make it.

Launch now?  Are you kidding?  We can't launch now.

Quite a dilemma.


The rest of the story to follow ...



"Beyond Curriculum"


Where Can Random Research Lead?


December 29, 2010





Educational achievement, by most any metric, stinks.  Many suggestions on "what to change" don't necessarily fall on deaf ears.  Likely, they fall on sympathetic ears - the teachers - who are unable to do anything about it.  After all, they've got a class with 25 kids of different abilities and the goal is to get to the end of a Chapter by week's end.  The textbook is "aligned" with the school's key areas to be learned, which likely were copied from the state who took them from federal standards.

And the stagnation continues.

Is it really that hard? 

Most of the things I've written about mostly show how a bit of natural curiosity can lead in a 1,000 different directions, and be understood by most anyone.

But can "Random Research" replace "Actual Curriculum"?

Where would "Random Research" take us?  Here's a quick article the kids (age 14 and 12) and I wrote and discussed today.  I submit more was learned in this brief write-up - regarding history, conflicts, feuds, viscous cycles, our country - by me included - than in any week's worth of school.

But the key element is being honest with oneself about the research.  If you're comfortable with "Topeka is the capital of Kansas", this isn't for you!






We visited "Gardner Junction" yesterday, in Gardner, Kansas.


To what does the Junction refer?  The junction of the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails all met right here!


And the Mormon Trail?  Bozeman Trail?  Expansion westward?  Yes, already, there is enough here to fill a semester.

But let's start more randomly than this.

Gardner, Kansas.


Why is it called "Gardner"?

That's our question. 

Let's see where our research leads, on one condition:  we must be totally honest with ourselves.  This stuff matters.  We have to care. 

And we do.

Here is what we found:  "Gardner, Kansas, founded in 1857" is named after the Governor of Massachusetts at the time:  Henry Joseph Gardner, who was the leader of the "Know-Nothing movement".


The "Know-Nothing movement"?  What's that? 

There's an interesting history to this, I read, and will write that up at a different time.

I'm still curious about "Massachusetts", however and why the town of Gardner, Kansas, would name their town after the Governor of Massachusetts.  Why Massachusetts?

It seems Gardner, Kansas was founded by several citizens originating in Massachusetts, who got to the Kansas Territory because of the "Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company".

Say what?

Let's try to look at this, step-by-step:

Why was the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company interested in sending Massachusetts citizens to the Kansas Territory?

They (the Company) wanted Kansas to be a free state.

You see, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which over-rode the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850, created the idea of "Popular Sovereignty", where the people of the state themselves voted on whether to allow slavery or not.

There had been a cautious balance in the Congress regarding slave states / free states, since the signing of the Constitution in 1787.

A state voting one way or the other could swing political power one way or the other!

The logic is pretty simple to follow:


Two weeks prior to the Act being signed, in fact, the Aid Company was formed.

It's not hard to predict what would happen when Missouri, a pro-slavery state next-door to Kansas, found out:

New England minister Henry Ward Beecher, incidentally, was the brother of Harrriet Beecher Stowe, who had written, in 1852, the abolitionist classic:  UNCLE TOM'S CABIN


The next step is not hard to predict.  Let's try.  There are New-Englanders flooding into the state.  Missourians, hearing of this, are likely to do what?  Flood the state themselves!

All in the name of voting for their side.

"Vote"?  What constitutes an "eligible" voter?  We have trouble enough defining this now!  Imagine 150 years ago, in a new territory, trying to define who can - and who cannot - vote!

The outcome is inevitable.  If "Both abolitionists and pro-slavery people are flooding into Kansas" and if "Eligible voters are hard to define", then it's likely "One side (at least) will flood the ballot boxes, and declare victory".

But if they declare victory, the other side will likely denounce the vote, and declare themselves the victors!

The result?  Both sides declaring victory, establishing their own capitals, and writing their own Constitutions in favor of their position.  That is:



In addition to Constitutional organizations (we'll talk about this in a future issue, but Kansas has had more Constitutions (4) than any state in the nation!):

Topeka Constitution

Lecompton Constitution

Leavenworth Constitution

Wyandotte Constitution

there is the obvious issue of violence.  The Topeka Constitution, incidentally, was written immediately after the pro-slavery vote had one, and as such, the writers were deemed "revolutionaries" by none-other than President Franklin Pierce himself!

More to come on that as well!

Now imagine, grown men, armed, and fiercely patriotic, in close proximity to one another!  A "feud"!  Like these famous feuds:

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (the Montagues and Capulets);

West Virginia's famous Hatfield-McCoy Feud;

and now a "Border War" Feud ...


Of course, it doesn't even have to be this historic.  Imagine two siblings in the backseat of a car, with an imaginary line separating them.  They, of course, each move closer to the line, and, inevitably, one touches the other.  "He crossed the line!  He touched me!"  Followed by --- him reciprocating!


The only difference between this example and our Border War example is what's at stake.


The results?  Inevitable ...


Bleeding Kansas.  John Brown and William Quantrill. 


And, of course, the Civil War.


What else is there to look at?

The Missouri Compromise of 1820.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

Popular sovereignty.

The House and Senate composition, over time, of pro and anti-slavery states.

And a thousand other items.

All from a simple question:  "Why is Gardner named Gardner?


Which is an interesting story in itself.  Here's part of it. 

The Gardner Town Company was chartered on March 16, 1857.  The original members were Asa Thayer, B.B. Francis, both of Maine, O.B. Gardner, the Justice of Peace, G.W. Chamberlain of Vermont, and A.B. Bartlett of Massachusetts.

Might this be a clue in our search for the reason they called it "Gardner"?  Remember: the Massachusetts Governor was Henry Joseph Gardner, and the founder of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company was Eli Thayer.  Here, we've got an "O.B. Gardner" and a "Asa Thayer".

Mere coincidence?

Not likely.

Though amazingly enough, in some articles, it's claimed these two "Gardners" are the same person!

We know this can't be the case, though, because this "OB Gardner" was killed in 1864 by none-other than Jesse James himself!

And as one takes the time to lay out the logic of this historical puzzle, the gaps are obvious - if you're honest with yourself.  It becomes a story you can't follow, but you're the story maker.  Go find the missing piece!

We've got calls in to both the Kansas Historical Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society in search of the relationships between the two Gardners and the two Thayers.  This is merely one of the many missing pieces we're now in search of!

More to come!  This is just the start!






Part VI


December 30, 2010






Story coming


Neat 1-D ECA


December 31, 2010






Several Interesting Rules

Simple Starting Point


Rule 110

Random Initial Conditions:  Several Simulations