Monday, May 09, 2011

Science On the Edge ...

This shot is from "McDonald Observatory," one of several photo albums posted to the Texas Forest Service Facebook page.

Land of hope and glory ...

In less than a month, we will observe the birthday of Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet, OM, GCVO and Master of the King's Musick, who was born June 2, 1857. I rather like how it happens that his birthday coincides with that time of year when one of his works, Pomp and Circumstance March #1 ("Land of Hope and Glory") has been heard so much, in so many places.

It is that time of year when we are living in a land of hope and glory, as we turn out in enthusiastic droves to honor young people (of ALL ages) as they cross the stage, accept their diploma and handshake, shift the tassle of their mortarboard from one side to the other, and take the next big step in their life.

I know, I know ... some of you will find this just another occasion for still another rant about what a terrible state we're in. You'll find some data somewhere about some aspect of society at-large ... something that places a moment such as school commencement in your preferred context. And you'll find someone - the President or the Congress, the liberals or the conservatives, the comet people from the outer nebulae, whatever - to blame for the sorry state of affairs that defines your world.

To me, all of that seems to follow
Screwtape's formula for re-defining our reality by attacking our intellect and emotions, advising Wormwood to direct his client's perceptions, so the client will accept "the sight of human entrails as a revelation of Reality and his emotion at the sight of happy children or fair weather as mere sentiment."

Me? I remain a sentimental fool, I guess. For me, it IS a time, and we ARE a nation of hope and glory. I'm not saying I can be totally objective here ... I am, after all, a staffer at a community college in West Texas. And while those kids that will be crossing the stage at Friday's commencement
ARE other people's kids ... they are also, at least in a sense, mine as well. I feel pride in their achievement, and I'm thrilled to have played a part - albeit, a VERY SMALL part - in that achievement.

I have hope!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Wearing My Yellow Tie ...

... in honor of Bhumibol Adulyadej ( ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ), born on this day in 1927. Three years ago, I was part of a Christian mission to Thailand. In the course of that mission, I gained an appreciation for that country's ruler, the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-serving monarch in Thai history.

Thai king recovering following operation

He was the King in the 1960s, when my father visited that nation for R&R, in the course of two tours-of-duty in the Vietnam War. Thailand has long been a friend of the United States - due in part to the appreciation their monarch has for the west. He was born in the US, and his education not only included schools in Thailand, but the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, and Harvard University, in America. He serves as head of the National Scout Organization of Thailand, one of the oldest Scouting organizations in the world. He also developed a passion for jazz music, as both a performer and a composer, and was the first Asian composer awarded honorary membership of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna.

Other interesting points ... he is an accomplished, medal-winning sailor and sailboat designer ... he is possibly the only monarch in the world to hold patents (for, among other things, a waste water aerator) ... he is also a painter, musician, photographer (using a Canon!), author and translator.

So, why the yellow tie? While I was in Thailand, I learned that yellow is the color associated with the day of the king's birth (a Monday). That's why you see so much of that color during his birthday celebrations around the country, and on tributes to him throughout the nation.