Monthly Archives: June 2015

Summer Night Storm

Summer Lightning

Sitting on my desk I have a thick folder of subject matter that I hope to address through this blog. But sometimes, most of the time lately, I feel I must write down my thoughts immediately about something I saw or read in the news. I feel compelled to comment on a timely event occurring in modern culture, or some recent announcement, or, like tonight, an experience that sinks down to my soul.

Summer night rain, a passing thunderstorm accompanied by lightning and thunder, is a gift that nature gives us to offset a sweltering summer day. This time of year in most parts of the U.S. there is always a possibility of an afternoon or evening thunderstorm. Of course, there are days when a high pressure ridge can park over the spot where you live and those storms will be abated. But if you are reading this blog in the Northern Hemisphere you know that during June, July, and August you will likely see thunderstorms.

For the last several weeks we have had at my location unusually hot daytime temperatures. The humidity is low, around 5% where we live, so it is tolerable. But when it gets to be 95 during the day, hot is hot whatever the humidity.

We live in Prescott, AZ at an elevation of a little more than 5,000 feet above sea level. Nights will cool down quickly at this elevation. And thank goodness we are not experiencing the daily crucible of our neighbor to the south, Phoenix, where daily temperatures for weeks at a time at 100-112 degrees are not unusual.

Over the last several days that parked high pressure ridge finally moved east. And with the start of our monsoon season, humidity and pop-up high-wind afternoon thunderstorms, the possibility of storms moves toward us from the east and south. Tonight, we had one of those storms with perfect timing. It was 92 degrees again today and with our air conditioning system struggling to keep the house cool it was nevertheless hot inside and out.

The stealth storm tonight built up quickly from seemingly nothing on the radar map. Alerts for severe thunderstorms began showing up on the corner my computer screen about 2 hours ago. And then on cue as I finally turned off my computer, I heard the first rumble of thunder. So, I went out to the garage, opened the door, shut off the interior/exterior lights and pulled up a chair to watch the show.

Summer night lightning embedded in an active thunderstorm is like watching fireworks. Combine that light show with sounds of the pounding of rain, then the slacking of that rain and the performance is enhanced. And when the rain stops and if the storm is a bit to your north, the direction you are looking, something magical happens. The light show continues and the sound of rain is replaced by the rhythmic chirping of crickets. The thunder smooths out and becomes less dramatic. A luscious cool breeze surrounds you. The air is saturated with humidity and raps around you like a velvet blanket. You sit without care or worry and just concentrate on that gift nature has given you that night.

I spend too much time in front of my computer each day. I am working on two novels, my start-up documentary video production company, writing this blog with regularity, marketing online all the work that I do and Amazon Kindle sells, answering email, and researching this or that. To be able to sit quietly, not think or dream, and just absorb the experience of a summer night thunderstorm is restorative. It recharges your batteries. It lowers blood pressure and focuses the mind on the here and now…on the moment. I have to do more of that, focus on the moment especially when beauty and peace unfolds in front of me.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you can do the same. Take time to look up at a blue sky, perhaps cloud-filled marked near the horizon by trees gently bending in the wind.

In 1802 an English Romantic poet that I am particularly fond of, William Wordsworth, wrote a wonderful sonnet that comes to mind more and more. I leave with you with his words:

The World Is Too Much with Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon, The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers, For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

 William Wordsworth

Frederick Fichman

www.frederickfichman.com

 

Yet Another Space Vehicle Explosion, 6-28-2015

Falcon 9 on pad

Space X Falcon 9 sitting on launch pad 6-28-15

Falcon 9 Explosion

Two minutes + later, Falcon 9 explodes and disintegrates

The Chairman of the Space X rocket launch vehicle company, Elon Musk, celebrated his birthday today, June 28, 2015. That celebration coincided with the launch of another Falcon 9 resupply rocket and package that was scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station in two days from launch.

A little after two minutes from launch this morning, on a bright perfectly clear day in Florida at Cape Canaveral, the Falcon 9 exploded into pieces and fell into the ocean.

The determination as to what happened is not in yet available but from my close viewing of the video feed from NASA-TV it looked like the top of the rocket stack failed and exploded first followed in milliseconds by total failure of the space vehicle. The time of destruction was very close to the expected separation of the first and second stages.

The immediate post-mortem from so-called “experts” on the various news channels kept repeating over and over that this does happen and will happen because the rocket and space business is a risky business. Of course and obviously, that is a given. No “expert” brilliance here. Not more than several months ago a Russian resupply mission to the ISS failed with the explosion of the rocket stack.

My frustration is that this has to happen at all. Reason: Chemical agents and modern chemical rocket motors have been used to get into space for decades if not centuries . The Chinese and Mongols were at war in 1232 and used rockets to bombard each other. In 1898 Russian engineer Konstantin Tsiolkovsy outlined his proposals for modern chemical rocket design. And finally, in 1915, American engineer Robert H. Goddard began to build and launch crude chemical rockets using solid propellant.

So, think about it. Here we are one hundred years after Goddard’s successful, sorta, rocket experiments and we are still using chemical rockets to launch humans and their survival supplies into space. There has to be a better way.

Supposedly, the aliens who visit this planet, if that actually happens,  use a form of magnetic control of space and earth environments to zip and dart around space and time. And I just can’t believe that DARPA or some other super-secret or black-ops U.S. program buried deep in some federal budget and in some remote location in Nevada or Utah. I just can’t believe they are not trying to discover the physics behind conquering gravity and moving mass through all environments smoothly and efficiently without the use of volatile and explosive chemical agents.

Maybe it the dreamer in me, maybe it’s my imagination as a science fiction writer that is conjuring up this reality of space craft lifting off the earth’s surface without sound or effort. But I just have to believe there is a better way to move mass from zero earth altitude to infinity. But where the hell is the answer? Is, in fact, anyone anywhere working on trying to solve this problem? I hope so.

Because unless and until some other clean, quiet, efficient, less dangerous, less volatile way is found the get into near or deep space, this problem will periodically reoccur and reoccur. And the next time a catastrophic explosion off the launch pad ensues there could be human beings at the tip of that launch vehicle.

If you want more information and brief history of rocket development, check out this NASA explainer: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/history_of_rockets.html

Fred Fichman

http://www.frederickfichman.com

PLUTO Mission Spacecraft-New Horizons

PLuto 6-22 Pluto 2

Mission Update

U.S. planetary spacecraft, New Horizons, is now less than 25 million miles from the farthest planet, Pluto, in our  known planetary system. This spacecraft was launched on January 19, 2006 and will encounter Pluto on its first encounter on July 14, 2015, that is only a few weeks from now.

This spacecraft will have travelled 4.67 BILLION miles once is reaches little known Pluto. Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Aboard the spacecraft is approximately one ounce of Tombaugh’s ashes, he passed away in 1997.

When the spacecraft arrives on scene it will map the surfaces of both Pluto and it’s primary moon, Charon. There are five known moons circling around each other in that planetary dance. New Horizons spacecraft will also take surface temperatures and send back stunning photos, resolution to several miles. Till now, only blurry images have been taken of Pluto.

The radio latency time, or time it will take to transmit those photos and that data  back to Earth, is approximately  4.5 hours. When the spacecraft does arrive on July 14th pictures and data will not be immediately transmitted “live.” The images will be stored in four redundant computers for transmission in chunks of downloads from 45-90 days back to Earth. Pictured below is a view of the transmit-receive antenna when the spacecraft was being assembled.

New Horizon Antenna

The spacecraft is travelling at an incredible 36,373 mph or 58,536 km/h. When it flew by Jupiter on February 28, 2007 that fly by gave it an additional speed boost which also shortened travel time to distant Pluto. The mission is being controlled from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

This mission is truly historic for many reasons such as the speed at which the spacecraft is travelling and the first up-close encounter attempted by a human designed-built spacecraft. The New Horizons spacecraft has been described as being the size and approximate shape of a grand piano. It is nuclear powered and is full blanketed, including the antenna dish, in thermal protection. A series of moveable louvers was designed into the spacecraft body to control spiking internal heat. For me, what is truly amazing is that the spacecraft, so far away from human controllers, is fully autonomous. When radio travel time is more than 4.5 hours one way, we don’t have the type of duplex communication we are used to when we talk on the phone. Can you imagine asking someone you are talking to on the phone a question and having to wait four and a half hours for a response?

There are two great websites where you can follow this mission:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

http://www.seeplutonow.com

I really don’t know at this time what both of these sites will be presenting on the date of encounter, July 14, 2015, but you may want to check them out on that day. I would also suspect that the space interest website http://www.space.com  will also have a special presentation on that day.

I will continue to keep you informed about any other upcoming space exploration activity in the future. You might not always see news postings early enough to follow these exciting exploration adventures, so I want to keep you in the loop. Bye for now from Northern Arizona.

Fred Fichman

http://www.frederickfichman.com

“Jurassic World,” My Take

Jurassic World

This movie review is probably going to be short because there is really not much to say. Because, I was thinking about “Jurassic World” the morning I was to go to the theater and I came to the conclusion, “I’ve seen this movie before,” three times. And so, when I left the theater I said to myself, “I’ve seen this movie before.” Yes there are new characters and the story line and action sequences are tweaked a bit, but it’s nearly the same narrative as the other Jurassic films I’ve seen. Generally the story rolls out: children in danger, subtle sexual tension and a lot of running and screaming from giant dinosaurs that went extinct 65 million years ago.

I guess the one saving grace for this film is that the CG effects, those are the computer generated graphics and special effects, are really superior compared with previous versions of the Jurassic saga. But you really can’t praise a movie for great special computer generated effects and say that it was one of the best movies you have ever seen. You could say that but…

Let me give you my tip about whether or not you can consider a movie you just saw really good or mercifully forgettable. One week post-viewing can you remember the story line in the film you just saw? That will determine whether the film is good or not. And for the life of me, I can’t remember accurately what happened in sequence in “Jurassic World.” I guess with effort I could lay out an outline of scenes, but why bother? It really all kinda runs together with the other Jurassic films.

Look it’s not a bad film; it’s just that it is unremarkable. This is my opinion only. The booming box office for this film says otherwise. But I think if you waited for Video On Demand, downloading it from iTunes or somewhere else, I personally don’t think you would be making a mistake. And if you leave out the scientific errors you probably could still enjoy this film with your family parked in front of your big screen TV at home, being able to stop the film occasionally for bathroom and food breaks.

Again, this is a review from my angle. You may feel differently. That is fine by me.

Like I said the morning I was about to see “Jurassic World” and the minute I walked out the theater exit, “I’ve seen this movie before.”

Fred Fichman

 

“SAN ANDREAS” The Movie, My Take

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There are millions of people who will eventually see this movie whether in the theater, cable, iTunes, or by purchasing the DVD. I am sure there will be many people who will see the collapsing buildings, hear the roaring low frequency sound effects blasting from the sound track, and will cringe at the crushed humans smashed by busted concrete and sliced by chards of whistling glass…and those people might say, c’mon that can’t happen. And I am telling you it can and will, maybe not as bad as portrayed in this newly released film, but it can and will.

The earthquake portrayed in this film is based, for the most part, on scientific fact. The quake in the film unzipped the San Andreas fault and an adjoining Nevada fault from Las Vegas then to Los Angeles and then up the coast 347 miles to San Francisco. Both downtown corridors in L.A. and S.F. were pretty much destroyed in this film. Could this happen, in the 9.6 earthquake portrayed? Pretty much, yes.

And then some uniformed naysayers might add…well, a 9.6 magnitude quake, that’s impossible. Check out the list of the top ten in recent history:

Assam, Tibet      1950     8.6 magnitude

Northern Sumatra      2005     8.6 magnitude

Rat Island, Alaska     2003     8.7 magnitude

Coastal Equador     1906     8.8 magnitude

Coastal Chile     2010     8.8 magnitude

Kamchatka Penninsula, Russia     1952     9.0 magnitude

East Coast Honshu (Fukushima), Japan     2011     9.0 magnitude

West Coast Sumatra     2004     9.1 magnitude

Prince William Sound (Anchorage), Alaska     1964     9.2 magnitude

Chile     1960     9.5 magnitude

So the San Andreas movie quake at 9.6 under or near two major U.S. and California cities with high concentrated populations, yes, quite possible.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I enjoyed this movie. I liked it because it was fairly much factually correct, except for the chasm portrayed with the earth separating with a yawning abyss in the middle of a horizon to horizon bottomless trench. The human conflict story was not heavy-handed to the point of distraction/nausea and that allowed for the action to logically continue. This isn’t the best movie I have ever seen, but with my history experiencing earthquakes in Los Angeles, Sylmar in 1971 ( 6.6 magnitude) and Northridge in 1994 (6.7,) I would say this movie came pretty damn close to showing from a human perspective what the actual shaking would look and sound like and what the aftermath would look like in such a massive quake. After my experience seeing the destruction especially after the Northridge earthquake, the damage, destruction, death, fear, tortuous rebuilding process to me looked frightening and acurate.

In the movie the terror during the actual earthquake was pinpoint correct. The destruction after the movie earthquake was massive and stretched to the optical horizon in frame. Photos from the San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906 (7.9 magnitude) are proof of what probably would happen to San Francisco if a 9.6 earthquake struck. Here are just four of the hundreds of photos taken after that 1906 San Francisco quake:

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Seismologists have recently increased the percentages of “The Big One” occurring along the San Andreas Fault. There is a very good chance it will occur within the next 30 years and as of today and this writing it is overdue, long overdue.

So, the movie, I liked, go see it if you want a glimpse of what coastal California will experience and look like after “The Big One.”

ff

 

Jeremy Alan Fichman

Jeremy

I would like to take the opportunity on this day to post to my blog something that has nothing to do about my writing, interests, or video production. Today, as I write this blog, June 1, 2015, it is the tenth anniversary of the passing of my eldest son Jeremy. I thought that my wife and I and my surviving son Kevin should just grieve in silence, recognize this tragic anniversary for us and then move on. But I want to put into words how I feel about this day and how we as a family will move on.

We had just moved in 2005 into a new home in the Dallas, Texas suburb of Little Elm when early one evening we received a call from the attending physician in the emergency room at Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, NV. The doctor told us that Jeremy had been admitted. With him that night was his fiancé Karen. Our younger son Kevin had heard the news as well and was already on his way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas where Jeremy worked and lived.

When we arrived from Dallas to Las Vegas the next morning our hearts were broken at the scene in Jeremy’s room in Intensive Care at that Las Vegas hospital. He was surrounded by monitors displaying his every marker of life. He was put into an induced coma from a massive stroke to the left hemisphere of his brain. He was put on a ventilator so he could breathe. That stroke occurred the evening before on May 16, 2005. He struggled for life, the doctors trying everything they could. But every day the twice-daily CT scans grew cloudier and cloudier as the damage spread to his right brain hemisphere. Jeremy lost his battle on June 1, 2005.

My wife and I and Kevin dread every June 1st. The start of summer, vacations, and happiness is day which we mourn and will forever mourn.

But on this day I want to tell you about Jeremy. I want this to be in writing and part of the digital universe, hopefully forever. I want to do what I can to insure Jeremy is not forgotten.

Jeremy had just turned 30 years old. He graduated with honors from the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. He passed the Nevada Bar and only a short time thereafter he landed a job with a law firm in Las Vegas. He was in escrow for a new home that was set to close in two weeks. He was set to be married the following month. This new part of his life away from school and study, starting a new family of his own, was about to begin. But it forever ended on this day, 10 years ago.

Jeremy was smart, funny, generous, loving, caring, curious, creative, friendly, gregarious, ambitious and successful…he was all the things a father hopes for in a son. His younger brother our other son, Kevin, has those exact same qualities and demonstrates those golden traits to this day. We love him dearly. Kevin and Jeremy were extremely close and I can only imagine the grief that Kevin has faced with his mother and me.

In the last ten years we have grieved but the three of us have tried to move forward with life. I am sure that is what Jeremy would have wanted. Kevin has a fantastic job as Director of E-commerce for a well-known retail company and he is close to finishing his degree at the University of California, Irvine. I have recently retired from my long career in broadcast television and I am now writing full time with a new recent addition as a video producer/director with my new video production company.

But in the background our loss and grief is always there.

Yesterday, Saturday, May 30, 2015, in the U.S. and around the world we heard news about the loss suffered by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. His eldest son Beau passed away at 46 years old leaving children, wife and an extended family. I can only imagine that Joe Biden and his family are feeling the same type of pain and loss that we felt ten years ago and continue to feel. It is often said that a parent should never be preceded by the loss of a child. I wondered last night as I heard this news how the Vice President and his family were handling the news. I just didn’t know and couldn’t imagine how he was taking the news about the loss of his son.

Then today I saw an article on MSN.com about the Vice President and a speech he gave in 2012. I would like to quote just a short bit of what he said talking about the constant weight of grief:

“…Just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field, and you see a flower and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. You know, you think, ‘Maybe I’m not going to make it, man” Because you feel at that moment the way you felt the day you got the news.”

In that speech Vice President Biden went on to say:

“There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”

Mr. Vice President, I can only say to you, ten years after the sudden loss of our son, Jeremy Alan Fichman, there have been many tears…but more and more lately there have been many smiles. Thank you.

 

Fred Fichman

June 1, 2015