Creative Fancy

Light and Dark, Male and female, Natural and Supernatural, Fantasy and Science Fiction

Writers' Blog

view:  full / summary

They Keep Coming Back

Posted by creative-fancy on October 2, 2014 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Are there books you read when you were very young to which you keep returning whether by reading the books themselves or revisting them in thought and daydream?  If so, do you know what it is about the books that keep them resurfacing after so many years?  One of my favorite pastimes is discussing old favorites and interesting oddities with friends and acquaintances.  Having done this for many years I have rather come to the conclusion that it’s the images in the books which are so powerful to me; Whether it is six children summering on a private island (Swallows and Amazons—Swallow Dale by Arthur Ransome) or a lone Native girl builds a pole hut surrounding it with a palisade of outward-curving whale bones (Island orf the Blue Dolphin Scott O’Dell) or Anna Lavinia seeing the sky within her aunt’s house which looks quite ordinary from without (Beyond the Paw Paw Trees Palmer Brown) there is something in these stories which creeps right into my dreams.


Before I’d read the Narnian stories I had a night dream about a talking horse with whom I was travelling across the desert.  Though I knew that a mirage was a thing insubstantial and uncatchable, we glimpsed a wonderful sight of water and trees up ahead and managed to overtake it.  Somehow I got a licorice ice cream cone and was happily eating that.  My horse told me he wanted us to go on and I said as soon as I was done with my cone we’d be off but as with most good dreams, it ended before we could have further adventures. This was a mixture of imageries from Beyond the Paw Paw trees, a largely forgotten story about the conflict between dreams and practicality, and possibly a dream long had even at age 6 or so, to talk with animals.


Certain authors have stood the test of time, Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Newton Peck. Some are perhaps less well-known, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey author of Miss Hickory about the twig doll who lived in a corn cob house, Lucy Boston of the Green Knowe books and Carolyn Haywood of the Little Eddie stories.  Though less well known, these and many others, were at one time, household names and fillers of much leisure time fantasy. I recently remarked to a friend that in researching a number of the writers of old favorite or well-remembered tales, I found that many of them appear to have lived quite lengthy lives and we hypothesized that to live a long time one should write children’s novels.


In a writers’ group I attended back in the ‘90s I was told by one woman that whenever I wrote dialogue for children or described children’s play, AI always got it just about perfect.  I said I supposed that was because I’d never really grown up.  Some of us pass at some time through a door, leaving childhood things behind.  Once I started to do so but somehow got stuck or came back the other way and still love a great many of the things that attracted me when I was preliterate. I’ve not forgotten the images nor ceased to dream.

Scottish Independence

Posted by creative-fancy on September 19, 2014 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I should be remiss if I did not offer a few words regarding yesterday’s referendum on the issue of whether Scots should once more have their own nation.  Sometime I;n the early ‘80s I heard the Late Jeannie Redpath perform on the NPR radio show Prairie Home Companion.  I don’t recall what she sang but at one point she said of a particular piece “There are man Verrsions of this song.  There are English and Irish and Scottish Verrsions.  So now we’ll start right at the bottom with an English Verrsion.”  This occasioned from her Minnesotan audience a vast amount of clapping and cheering. “Oh,” Quoth Jeannie, “That’s wonderful!  Would you like to come home with me and start the Third Jacobite Rising?”


What what we’ve been hearing about over the past few months, the Third Jacobite Rising with yesterday’s attendant failure?  Not really.  The term Jacobite refers to Jacobus, Latin for James, in this case James II of England and Scotland, one of the last Stewarts to rule.  He was deposed in 1682 in favor of his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange and hence the Irish Orange and Green conflict.  Jacobitism was not only a movement to restore Scottish rule Specifically Stewart rule, but also to restore Catholicism as the faith of the land in Britain.


When in 1707 England and Scotland formed a union, adopting The Union Jack as their common flag, it was done in royal and parliamentary circles with no reference to the peoples of the land Scots or English.  A Jacobite rebellion ensued in 1714 and another in 1745, more royal manipulating to be sure but the outpouring of support they garnered from the common folk on both sides of these conflicts showed the strongfeelings of the peoples affected by a system imposed from above.


To be fair, the rebellion of 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Collodon and all that was more of a civil war than a revolution.  There were Scots standing with the British Army and obviously those ranged against them as well.  We sometimes forget that what has been represented as a bid for independence was really an enterprise of Charles Edward Stewart (whose claims appear dubious and his character even more so) to rule both England and Scotland, I.E. to impose Scottish will on the neighbours to the South.  (Sound familiar?)


No, yesterday’s referendum didn’t look anything like a Jacobite uprising, perhaps more like the old Confederacy of the American SouthernStates, a more idealistic movement and a conflict conducted mercifully without blood.  It failed not because anyone defeated the dream on the battlefield or imposed the outcome from thrones in London and Edinburgh but rather, because Scots themselves agreed to disagree but to accept the will of the majority.


Though touted as a quite decisive victory for the “Nos” the margin of 10 Percent being given by the news pundits, the victory may not be as significant as first impressions might indicate.  Firstly, when we’re told that a measure wins or loses by a margin of 10 percent, it’s not always clear what this means.  Did 10 % more of the voters vote one way than did another, (55 to 45) or were there 10 % more folks voting one way than the other? (more like 52.4 to 47.62.  Let’s be generous though and assume that 55 Scots voted for continued union with Britain against 45 voting for independence or secession.  What does this actually look like?  Shrunk down to ten people in a room we have 5 persons fully for Union, 4 persons for Independence and in between, one person unable to make his or her mind up which way to go.  All’s needed is to change half a mind in order to declare a draw.  Hopefully both English and Scots will bear this in mind because the matter appears closer to me than others may find it.


Though the referendum failed and I must say I am saddened by that; I am in another way cheered because for the first time in 307 years Scots have been given to choose for themselves what the nature of the country in which they will live shall be.  They stay within the United Kingdom by their ayne sufferance, three hundred years from the Great Jacobite rising of 1714 and a decision made without fire or blood or steel.  Scotland forever but also God bless Great Britain!


Glynda Shaw


Posted by creative-fancy on May 29, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

About a week ago I heard a feature of NPR in which a restrautneure discussed his wholistic approach to serving organic food. Tomatoes were popular on his menu and since tomatoes require a good deal of nitrogen to grow, he coplanted Legumes with his tomatoes in the dedicated restaurant garden, in order to maintain the nitrogen balance of the soil. He said that if he were to serve tomatoes, he needed to serve legumes in the same meal to ensure that wastage didn’t occurr. A similar practice was observed among the Natives of the American Southwest, who coplanted corn, beans and squash which formed the basis of their diet. This arrangement balanced soil nitrogen, conserved water and provided a “Complementary” food diet, making the major nutirents available.


I wondered how many people today and in this nation, think about using something because it occurrs as a byproduct, or “coproduct” of something already in use. I’ve tried to do this sort of thing for many years. For instance when I make beer I try to get my egg-layers to eat the non-alcoholic, high-protein mash. When I’ve made Gluten from wheat, I’ve tried to find ways to use the starch and fiber which are left over from the sticky protein extraction process.


Villiages, then towns, finally cities developed largely because farmers were sufficiently sucessful in tilling the fields to make it possible for some people to leave the farm and take up crafts. Since it was easier for everybody to go to one place to find most of the crafters in the area, communities tended to develop. We’re still doing that sort of thing today with our industrial parks and our Silicon Valleys etc. When people moved away from the natural interactivity of the ancient farm however, production processes became more and more isolated in the sense that individual processes operated more or less in isolation and did not necessarily feed back into the overall ecology which keeps the planet alive.


While a tree cut down on a farm might be burned for winter fuel and the ashes put into the soil to grow perhaps corn or cabbages, a tree cut down and hauled to the city to make a table for instance, might yield it’s best heart and sap wood to the artisan while bark, branches and shavings might moulder in a pile or if burned, might never again reach the soil. These processes have progressed to the point that a modern farm may send away all of it’s produce to a foreign country and be fertilized with ammonia generated from petroleum or natural gas. The land is merely a stopping place for material streams to touch down and interact for a time.


The problem with this is that “Balance” is virtually impossible when there is no real concept or practice of “Residency” keeping materials at the point of origin to whatever extent is possible. Ideally the restaurant shold not only be located by a garden/farm but should water the garden with dish water and provide composting toilets for patrons.


In order to take advantage of distributed energy such as sun and wind and to slow the loss of vital minerals, I think we must think in terms where possible, of small businesses/factories/shops which either recycle their own scraps, either making a secondary product or exchanging with neighboring businesses. An example of the first option is a business in Western Washington, near Mount Vernon, where cow manure is anaerobically fermented to yield methane gas for fuel and liquid effluent for agricultural fertilizer. Some cellulose residue is left over from the process and this is dried and pressed into biodegradable planting pots. If an alcohol operation can’t suitably process it’s grain residue then a feed producer or bakery might be enlisted. Carbon dioxide given off by the fermentation process can feed a green house. Even a coal-burning power plant, generating millions of kilowatt hours of waste heat per year, might heat an algae pond or evaporate seawater.


No these ideas aren’t new nor are they simple but if we wear cotton, do we find a use for cotton seed oil? If we use wood for fuel do we see to it that the ash returns to the soil—somewhere? If we grow a lawn do we even consider feeding the grass clippings to chickens, cows, anything? Obviously we won’t always know what else is produced along with something we’re used to consuming or which things are consumed to make that thing we use but we can find out and even in so doing, we become more aware of how the system which supports us all works and become more sensitive to the complexities upon which we depend.

Time Rewrinkled

Posted by creative-fancy on May 23, 2014 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday I was thinking about Madeleine L’Engle’s incredible children’s novel "A Wrinkle in Time" and how it has passed into the realm of moral and social commentary since I read it in November 1963, and as we original readers grew toward Seniority. The book has many things to offer and is still worth rereading but the engrossing nugget of the story, this Tessering Thing, this leaping through space without benefit of spaceship or matter transmitter; this concept that resolved me to take physics in colege, long after I ceased believing in my ability to Tesser, seems to have been largely neglected.

In reading reviews of Wrinkle online and descriptions of the Tessering process, it seems that nobody (at least nobody I’ve found) has thought much about how tessering really works on a practical level. I don’t mean exactly how it can be made practical for you and me, but how do we think the three W. Ladies and Dr. Murray made it work.

Tesser of course comes from the term Tesseract which in geometry means an hypercube, which can be represented by placing eight cubes at the corners of a larger, imaginary cube. It’ws what a cube is supposed to look like in four dimensions. Don’t worry about that so much though, how do we use the concept of four dimensions, (or as Ms. L’engle described it, five dimensions) to travel from one planet to another? When we first read the book, my friend and I mined the text, reading the book over and over for clues. What was that blue liquid Mrs. (Dr.) Murray was processing in her home lab the afternoon Meg Brought Calvin home for dinner? What was the significance of Mr. (Dr.) Murray grabbing Meg’s wrist as he Tessered them off that frightening planet of Camazotz? (A planet in fact, which reminds one more and more of contemporary America.) Why did Dr. Murray (father) tell Calvin while Megt was trying to unthaw on Aunt Beast’s Planet that the scientific team that developed Tessering on earth wondered if the process might simply cause one to disintegrate? I know I spent hour upon hour trying to get my head around being able to transport off a planet, possibly through structures, to some other place entirely.

Whether ESP was having a renaissance at around the time I read Wrinkle or I just happened to stumble upon the concept at the time, I somehow got hold of the idea that tessering had something to do with the mind. Nobody seemed to have any little pocket devices or any essoteric elements about them when it happened. I thought perhaps there was more than one way to make it happen but perhaps if two minds could connect in a particular way, perhaps this mind-melding might also somehow warp time and space and cause a physical body (like mine) to shift to some distant place and since nobody knew how large these effects might turn out to be, perhaps one could leap between star systems through Tessering. Of course this gave no hint how a person might aim for a given destination unless one could visualize the destination as one tessered. Also why could Dr. (Mr.) Murray tesser all by himself, though he missed Mars and wound up on the C. Planet?

Only twice have I found references to tessering that suggested the mind might be involved. In the Wrinkle in Time movie the Tesseract appears to be some sort of universal phenomenon/structure? Into which people can somehow tap, sort of like an interstelar tramline I guess. Well that’s fine too though the original question remains how does one tap in? With the mind? With some sort of conditioning? With some sort of technology we don’t get to see? I think I’d have been happier with Wrinkle as a book had Ms. L’engle given us a hint. (It has to do with some mental techniques a psychophysicist taught us, Guys).  This concept, via a drug worked well enough in The House on the Strand by Daphne Dumaurier, for time travel. Perhaps though, is she had directed us toward PSI or extrasensory phenomena, I might not have developed a fascination with physics.

About a year after I read wrinkle I was told by a Responsible Adult, a woman in her mid-20s, that if four people sat around a metal card table, with one on the north, one on the south, two on the west, leaving the east open; and if everyone places her/his fingertips on the table and thought the same thing at the same time, the table would raise off the floor. Does this really work? I can talk about mechanical forces, the enrgy needed to lift a table compared to the amount of energy produced by four brains and it seems like a marginal possibility, but has anyone tried it? Perhaps I shouldn’t have stopped believing in a personal ability to tesser. Who knows?

Smart Guns

Posted by creative-fancy on May 7, 2014 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Recently Rockville, MD gun shop owner  Andy Raymond felt forced to remove Smart Guns from his stock of personal weapons.  In doing so he responded to numerous death threats and even threatened action from the National Rifle Association.  Earlier this year a Los Angeles gun store made a similar decision for identical reasons.  A Smart Gun as defined here, is a firearm, in this case a pistol; which has an electronic lock which won’t allow the weapon to be fired unless it is within ten inches of a watch band worn on the owner’s wrist.


Thugs will be unlikely to respond to blog entries but the NRA should take note.  Though I’ve never been a member of the NRA, I’ve generally supported them, not that I’ve agreed in all cases with their campaigns and other actions but the opposition is typically so asinine that one feels that maintaining the status quo is about all that can be managed.  Gun control can be compared only to  the abortion controversy for acrimony and steadfast resistance to compromise.  With the smart gun however, there is some glimmer of hope for some meeting of minds between persons who demand the right to armed self defence (like myself) and those who have a sincere concern about the dangers of firearms being dropped, lost, or snatched by assailants (such as I). The crux of the controversy for the NRA appears to be a New Jersey law which states that three years after smart guns are marketed anywhere in the U.S. all hand guns in New Jersey must contain a similar locking feature.  This flies in the face of everyone being able to choose her or his mode of hand-held fire power.


While I don’t take kindly to persons telling me what mode of tools, transport, clothing or food I must adopt, it is true we do live with restrictions of one kind or another in all of these areas.  Sure the smart gun can be seen as a slight curtailment of a person’s ability to choose, it can also be seen as a stipulation on the part of gun non-enthusiasts that personal firearms may be appropriate in some situations.  I wouldn’t support a smart gun requirement for all firearms, not even all handguns, merely those who are sold for concealed carry.  We already have laws requiring gun locks, which rather fly in the face of armed preparedness.  Since by nature, the personal self-defence handgun needs to be available and ready for action it would stand to reason that some extraordinary precautions are in order when such a weapon is being carried or kept in a bedside nightstand.


Smart guns are a largely unexplored area of technology.  A revolver can be supplied with a small unit, fastened to the barrel, which projects a solenoid-driven peg into the groove between the revolver’s chambers, making the weapon unable to be cocked or fired, unless a signal is sensed from a wristband or bracelet.  This is a fairly cheap and easy approach.  With automatic weapons, other sorts of safety locks can be introduced into the gun without compromising the operation or effectiveness of the gun.  Future models could be designed to sense via a laser or infra-red range finder so the gun won’t fire unless a target is within a certain distance, say 100 feet.  This would eliminate wild shots or hitting persons outside the target area.  Self defence weapons should be used for taking out assailants who are directly threatening the gun user, not for chasing fleeing assailants or for long distance hits. 


The attitude of gun extremists that there should be no restrictions of any kind on firearms, can I think be shown as untenable to most people.  Should we be walking around with recoilless rifles?  How about a howitzer?  Bombardment mortars anyone?  Yes it is difficult to draw the lines when emotions on both sides are so high but most of us accept that there are limits.  We don’t typically use semi trucks for personal transport and most of us get sanctioned if we eat human flesh so though the basic right to keep and bear arms is appropriate (and is protected for “the people” in the Second Amendment) we should be able to have some restrictions without inviting death threats.  Perhaps the New Jersey Legislature could be prevailed upon to slightly modify the previously-mentioned restrictions in the interest of making smart guns more popular nationwide (probably not but the point could be made). It's also worth mentioning that New Jersey is a state in which it’s not all that easy to have a hand gun in the first place, if you want it for self defence.  I do think it is wrong and nonproductive in any case to treat the smart gun as a make or break issue for gun rights generally in the same way that hand gun bans are put forward as reasonable “since you can still have rifles or shotguns.”  If we can’t agree about guns, let’s at least be open to some degree of interchange and compromise.  It would be the smart thing to do about guns.


Matter Transmission

Posted by creative-fancy on December 31, 2013 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

(Poof!  You're elsewhere!)

Matter Transmission, Matter transfer, Mass Transference, take your pick, has a nostalgic and rather pleasant association for me, with the Holidays. When I was 10 years old I developed the belief that space launches a la Gemini were too large and expensive and an alternative means of getting off earth needed to be found. I had the idea that some sort of energy beam such as a laser might be made to propel a space craft, not by heating a propellant as in the laser rocket concept but perhaps by sending magnetic particles aloft so a ship might be pulled along by the magnetic stream.  When I was flying from Seattle to Michigan on Christmas Eve, 1965 I fell into conversation with a seat mate who first elucidated to me the idea of matter transmission.

My companion explained that someone had proposed that a person might turn his or her body into light for instance and travel at light speed then reconvert to matter. The idea was fascinating and even more so when a couple of days later I watched an Episode of Lost In Space (What there was before Star Trek came along) in which Will Robinson uses an alien matter transmitter to send him to earth and bring him back. He was riding on a “maser” beam (what there was before lasers), and how the outgoing process could be reversed to bring Will home wasn’t ever explained. This was by the way, Lost In Space, Episode 16, Season 1.

I had encountered the concept of sending people through some sort of communication channel on the old 50s/60s TV series Superman in a particular episode where the Professor invents a way to send material bodies over the telephone.  All of the actual matter in a body, he tells us, is less than a pin point so we’re really just empty space and no reason this can’t pass through a wire.  Well, force fields have something to say about all this but Superman wasn’t cutting edge science, nor for that matter was Lost n Space.

Having watched the L.I.S.episode I found myself spending a great deal of time thinking about ionizing matter and sending it’s constituent particles by means of a laser beam from one place to another.  It turns out that subatomic particles and even atoms can be propelled from place to place by laser light but reconstructing the object at the other end is problematic.

In subsequent years I read every matter transmission story I could find.  And of course Star Trek came along to popularize  a matter transmission-related concept in the form of the Transporter.  I say M.T.-related because strictly speaking, people, tools and material aren’t “transmitted” but are teleported by means of a mass-energy/energy-mass conversion process.  We’ll return to this in a minute.

When I was 15 I read Arthur C. Clarke’s excellent Profiles of the Future (Circa 1962) and in one of his chapters Mr. Clarke explained that the essence of transmission is not the sending of sound or light energy but the sending of a “pattern” of information from which sound and pictures can be reconstructed.  The essence of teleportation therefore would be the sending of a pattern of an object or person, from which that object or person could be reconstructed. Now I saw there were actually two types of matter transmission, one in which a solid object is turned into energy, a stream of subatomic particles or copied somehow into another medium such as a forc field so the  object being sent can either be directly reassembled from the original matter or energy, or a sort of “mold” would exist in the transfer medium so the object would spontaneously assemble at point of impact. Isaac Asimov used the force field concept in one of his 1950s short stories in which a human body would be broken down to it’s constituent particles and the pattern of particles would be sent from one place to another as a pattern of force fields. 

Returning to the Star Trek transporter which is called in The Next Generation a matter energy scrambler.  (Hopefully not because one would expect the entire process would be carried through with as much “order” as possible.)   What appears to be happening is material objects, including people are being turned into pure energy and photons being held in proximity to one another by means of some influence exerted by the shipboard Transporter device.  The light can be turned back into matter at a distance and the process can be reversed.  The effect can be made to work over a range of about 40,000 kilometers  or about 23,000 miles which is about the altitude of a geosynchronous orbit of earth.  The transporter probably does more to play hob with Star Trek’s credibility as a hard science fiction show than anything else but one would have to admit that few things are more fascinating than the transporter and the show would have a great deal of trouble existing in the form it has without the transporter or something very much like it.

It’s easy to see from E = MC^2 that the transporter beam would need to be so incredibly intense as to threaten much of the continent onto which it touches down upon.  The idea of turning a human body into a stream of particles and sending it along in any manageably-short length of time would also necessitate the manipulation of significant amounts of energy.  It would be cheaper energywise, to invent an inertia-nullifying force field bubble and use a tractor beam to whisk people to the surface and back.

Though today the quantum physicists are learning how to transmit various particles and even atoms via laser beams, we still have the issue of how to put particles back together into a working 3-D solid once they’ve been transmitted.  3-D printers are able to build up particles of metal or ceramic, even living cells into complex three dimensional artefacts, including some body organs but the prospect of actually building up an entire human body with it’s liquid and gas contents is awfully daunting for anything less than instantaneous execution.  The word “instantaneous” is most likely the key if a human or other mammalian creature is ever to be Transmitted.  The operation of any “body” likewise brain, mind personality is a hypercomplexity of energy flows in the form of modulated signals.  They pervade not only the brain but  the entire nervous system.  We can envision a clone or possibly artificial body so constituted as to be able to accept an entire neuronal pattern from a given person.  This body might then be sent to another star system via a “slow route” starship, possibly in cold sleep.  How though could the original nerve energy flow pattern of the original person be gotten into the receptor body, especially at a distance.  Were we to begin scanning at one point in the body, faithfully sending data from this body to that, the pattern would entirely have changed in the original before a small fraction could be scanned and transmitted. 

James Patrick Kelly, SF author and Web guru gave me a hint back in the ‘90s in his story Think Like a Dinosaur.  He used nanobots not exactly as I’m about to use them, but as an integral part of a matter transmission process.  I realized that if nanos could somehow be inserted into or attached to each nerve cell in the body, including those in the brain of course and made to record at a signal the present, instantaneous state of each cell then the workings of the “transmitted” person could be shut down (yes, kill the primary) and each of the nanos could be queried for it’s “state” the the data stream could be fed via interstellar com link to the “receptor” body, corresponding nanos could be loaded with the information from the primary.  There is also the issue of the connections previously existing between cells being re-established in the receptor body but assuming the technological achievements necessary to create nanobots of the complexity needed to carry this out, there are ways of recovering the connections.  Our result would be not matter transmission exactly but a sort of transmission and “possibly” the only way a person originally alive on earth might visit a planet in another solar system.  We can say “visit” because if our artificial receptor bodies turn out to be possible at all, there seems no reason that once transmitted the updating mind/nervous pattern couldn’t be recopied for further transmission to either come home again or venture on to some other destination.  

I call this potential means of transmitting people “bioteleportation.”  It’s not any good for dropping in on an alien culture from orbit or for everyday commutes to work or school but might help us colonize the galaxy.  Just as enthusiasts of  near-space flight found it necessary to learn orbital mechanics, gas dynamics, thermodynamics and structural shell theory, starfarers or at least those who send them outward will rely upon nanorobotics, autoreplication, neuro science, communication theory, cryogenics and artificial life.

Happy New Year.  May there be many billions to come!


The Problem with Math and Science

Posted by creative-fancy on August 24, 2013 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I’m offering this idea to Junior High Math instructors, Academic program designers or anyone else who may aspire to influence the course of Middle School Aged learning progress. I think there are many students who start out in Grade school, very interested in science but don’t carry through with the interest to the college level. I also think there is a very good, or perhaps bad; reason for this. If you ask a cross section of folks what should a person do if she or he is good in Math, a frequent response will be “Go into science.” The problem is, until one reaches 11th Grade or so in high school, science as generally taught, has very little to do with math.


Science in Grade school and Junior High, is full of fascinating facts, fun experiments and a fair amount of “gee whiz” value. Arithmetic and Mathematics however tend to be fairly dry, unappetizing subjects, satisfying perhaps for those who do it well but fairly deadly for many of the same kids who eat up the science experiments with a spoon, (well, hopefully not in a literal sense.) This tends to set up what we might call an Expectation Gap wherein one starts reading the qualitative science books around third or fourth grade then in high school and college, we can run up against the “Here also be Maths!” disillusionment.


We certainly don’t want to make elementary science less interesting and though many have tried, it’s difficult to make Math quite as yummy as say, Art Class. I think though that the real problem stems from the division of Math and Science early on and the solution may lay in bringing the two subjects together much earlier than is customarily done.


There is a fascinating genre of learning which speaks to both math and science which is simply the realm of Formulae (Formulas) Formulae are in general algebra at an understandable level and convey a great deal of power to those who learn to use them.


Customarily we teach arithmetic then we get into algebra with it’s integers and variables and exponents, it’s Xs and Ys with very little attention given to what we use this stuff for in the long run. Yes there are story problems in grade school arithmetic books and much fewer of them in algebra texts. Still algebra is all around us. We talk about Length and height and weight all the time (L H and W) and every half bright kid knows that H2O = water. Let’s design a course in Formulae pure and simple and let it serve as a pre-algebra course.


One needn’t be a propulsion expert to calculate the areas of rectangles and circles. Anyone who can do multiplication can also calculate the volume of solids such as cylinders, cones and even pyramids. 

Simple demos with hollow shapes and graduated cylinders of water could help classes see that their numbers are correct or at least close. Elementary Trig could be done with a board, and angle measure and a measuring tape. How big a board do you need to cover this side of the slanted roof. Clubhouse builders would love it! Starting with cooking recipes we could move fairly directly into calculating how much oxygen you need to combine with two grams of hydrogen to get 18 grams of water. (Basically look at the formula and have a look at the Periodic Table.) Before Course’s end we could be able to calculate things like how much kerosene do you need to burn to heat a tubful of water from whatever the cold tap gives us to a temperature we wouldn’t mind using for a bath. Lots of cool, hands-on stuff here and nothing all that expensive. Kids love knowing how to do things, what things are made of, how to mix things together and come up with exciting new things. Let’s get formulaic and take the myth out of science and the snore out of math!


Glynda Shaw

Prelude to Apollo Day

Posted by creative-fancy on July 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Today is the 44th Anniversary of Apollo 11’s liftoff. On July 20th the Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon. The 20th of July which I and some others call Apollo Day has become the mid-summer event of choice for reasons of patriotism and for the celebration of technological achievement. I still revere the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) am stirred by the words of the Declaration of Independence and honor the Fourth. We have heard so much of war and violence over the last decade and a half however that it’s natural enough to seek for a more cerebral, more peaceful means of celebrating the country and thinking people everywhere than by setting off bombs and filling the skies with chemical incandescence. (Yes I know Apollo involved the expenditure of enormous amounts of energy but it was relatively localized and didn’t contribute to the terrorizing of pets and wildlife across the entire continent.) So it’s Apollo Day forward to which I look each year for the celebration of High Summer and the fact that I am Human and an American.


Apollo Day is a pretty much do it yourself holiday. As I’ve said elsewhere you should do something that has to do with the moon; eat a Moon Pie, drink moonshine, Howl at the moon, moon somebody; anything that lifts your rocket. It’s also fun to read or watch something moonish; read a good science fiction novel or a true account of the Moon Landing. While we’re at it, isn’t it interesting and sort of unfortunate that there are so few available movies about going to, landing on or living in the Moon? From the Earth to the Moon, Destination Moon, The Mouse on the Moon, First Men in the Moon and of course Apollo 13 are obvious choices and there are a couple other moon movies around but hard to find.


Refreshments for Apollo Day have varied from year to year. This time I’m probably making a blue cheese spread which I’ll spread on Triscuits and eat with malted rice brew. Sometimes I’ve been fancier. Once I had the event catered by a young woman who made me a moon-shaped cake, complete with gray frosting, craters and an astronaut with a rocket, molded from taffy, standing on the surface. Both of the latter were quite artistic but the rocket was streamlined with conical nose and had tail fins. I mentioned to my daughter that neither feature would be necessary or appropriate on the airless Lunar surface. She responded that I must be the only person who would analyze the aerodynamics of a cake decoration but I mean, Really!—


Happy impending Apollo Day all you Earthlings!


Hate Groups

Posted by creative-fancy on July 5, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I’d been meaning to write this entry on something else but felt I needed to clear this topic first. The Westboro Baptist Church has been in the news again of late; first for their predictably reprehensible attempts to disrupt the funerals for the 19 heroes who recently gave their lives fighting fire in Arizona, then for a predictably cowardly response from the White House. The WBC, we are given to understand, isn’t a hate group? My response is "why the hell not?!" I’ve got a feeling that if NAACP conventions or memorials for Dr. Martain Luther King were being invaded by spiritually diseased bigots, said bigots and the church they hide behind would quickly become a hate group.


I want to be very clear in saying that no, I don’t want NAACP meetings or King memorials to be invaded by diseased bigots, in the same way that I don’t want somebody burning flags, whether it be mine or someone else’s. There are just some things that honorable people don’t do. No one’s memorial should be a venue for picketing and castigation.


Freedom of speech? Horse droppings! We’ve never truly had absolute freedom of speech in the days of the founders (When a man was dragged out of a tavern and jailed for saying he didn’t care if they fired a cannon ball through John Adams’s ass, he wouldn’t watch the presidential parade), or now when persons who threaten the President are rounded up prior to a visit by the Chief Executive. We also can’t run through a building yelling "fire!" And racial slurs are fast on their way to becoming illegal.


There is no biblical justification whatever for the activities of the Westboro Baptist Church does and as far as I can see, it’s not truly a church. Religious Freedom? Road apples! We don’t allow human sacrifice in America even with the First Amendment, even though human sacrifice has a venerable history. With George W. Bush’s Faith-based Initiative, Wicca was excluded as a religion even though it clearly is; and I heard very little protest except from Wiccan folks. If our president and Federal law-keeping agencies haven’t the grit to put the Westboro Baptist Church on a par with people who hurl racial invective let’s at least deny them tax-exempt status. Perhaps that will cut down on travel funds.

Derestricting Automated Firearms

Posted by creative-fancy on February 8, 2013 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

This post mirrored on

When I was six I remember my cousin Dave Ville telling about a dream he had one night about being in Red China. He said there were bombs which followed everyone around and if you said or did anything wrong, you’d get blown up. Dave said he got killed right away and had evidently lain dead for a while then at the end of the dream there were a lot of bright lights and things looked “real pretty.” There may’ve been more to the dream but this was the gist.


What did all of this mean? Perhaps just a manifestation of the pervasive fear of Communism common to most of us from the ‘50s through the ‘70s, followed with a hope for the Day of Judgment which might reverse death for the Just? Who knows? My cousin’s dream has just been something I’ve recalled from time to time when contemplating what it might be like to live in a totalitarian society. It was just a 13-year-old boy’s fantasy of course and no nation could actually have bombs following their citizens around.


Alas, things change though, and fantasies sometimes come true. For all of the bashing George W. Bush got during his terms as president (and I am no particular admirer of Past President Bush) I think it’s chillingly fascinating that the president who has actually deployed drone missiles (possibly the ultimate in automatic weapons) is held to be a liberal and a champion of human rights. And now we are told American citizens are subject to robot bombing, even without evidence. Is there any difference at least at the higher levels, between a war-mongering militarist fundamentalist and a war-mongering humanist, social agendaist or does it all have to do with who holds the reins (or the remote control?) I think most of us wanted a change in ’04 and we got one sort of, but is anything improving or were we better off with what we had?