Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sandhills Sun Pillar

November 21, 2008 -- A nice Sun Pillar. The picture was taken through my car windshield, obviously.

-- Dalton Hammond

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pinehurst - A Space Odyssey

The south veranda at Pinehurst Country Club overlooks the huge practice putting green which is guarded day and night by the iconic statue of the Little Putterboy. His realm of dark fairways and bunkers lay just beyond, in the late twilight. My target star Fomalhaut, the Eye of the Fish, twinkled dimly just above the horizon. Nearby a group of about eight young male resort guests were finishing their beers at a veranda table. "New England", I guessed, by their accents.

I was glad that I had chosen valet parking since the parking lots were filled for the annual Pinehurst Pro Shop "Member Preview Sale" which had started just a few minutes ago. Already there was a line of shoppers stretched from the St. Andrews banquet room which had been turned into a clearance warehouse, all the way down the hallway. A friend would be waiting for me at 6:30 at the other end of the building in the Members' Club which was featuring their immensely popular Spaghetti Night. My scales this morning told me I was back to 187 pounds and so my diet would be forgotten for the night. A lot of the resort food tastes like resort food but the spaghetti is the best I've ever had, even my own homemade. After dinner I would try to find some bargains on the 65%-off tables at the pro shop sale, but I had something to do before any of these things.

According to my atomic watch which is accurate to one second in 300 million years, it was time, and right on time I spotted a yellowish dot of light moving northeast in the northwest sky headed right over the heads of my beer-drinking new buddies.

"Any of you guys interested in satellites?" I asked, pointing to the sky above them. They saw the orbiting International Space Station right away and amidst the obligatory oohs and ahhs I answered their questions about its altitude, distance, and so forth. They were obviously impressed and watched until the satellite faded from view as it entered the 200-mile-high twilight zone. They were gracious, and effusive in their praise.

"Now if you liked that, I've got something more impressive to show you," I said, checking my watch. "Another satellite is heading our way and for TWO SECONDS it will become twice as bright as Venus over there" as I pointed to the very bright planet-beacon which was low in the western sky. "It will happen in two minutes, at 57 seconds past 6:27 pm" and I pointed to a spot in the sky that was a handspan higher than Fomalhaut which we could see, directly above the Little Putterboy. After the Iridium Flare I would have only two minutes to walk to the Member's Club to meet my friend.

I pointed to the sky and counted down the seconds aloud. When I got to ten a faint dot appeared under my finger, clearly visible, everyone saw it, and it began to get brighter. In two more seconds it looked like a flashbulb had gone off in space. You could have read a newspaper by it, I thought. After about two seconds it faded away and I waved my goodbyes to the resort guests and strode off to make my appointment amidst the pandemonic barrage of cheers, applause, and side comments -- some of which bear repeating:

"Hey, where'd he go?" "Who was that guy, a member or a rocket scientist?" "Maybe he was God!"

You really must try the Pinehurst spaghetti sometime.

-- Dalton Hammond

Sunday, November 02, 2008

545 People

By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's
responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? She is the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million can not replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single
domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow
that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in IRAQ , it's because they want them in IRAQ.

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like 'the economy,' 'inflation,' or 'politics' that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone, are responsible.

They and they alone, have the power.

They and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

(Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper)

Daylight Losing Time

"Just this exact same time last week it was an hour from now."

-- Dalton Hammond