Politics

If you’re under 30, and are a conservative, you have no heart.  If you’re over 30 and are a liberal, you have no brain — anon.

I’m over 30. ‘Nuff said.  From time to time, I’ll be commenting on the current state of our country’s political system, and politics in general.  I welcome your comments as well. Be advised, though, that I won’t accept nasty comments from extremists at either end of the spectrum.  So please keep it clean, respectful, and sane.

Normally, I try to avoid political controversy.  But lately I’ve become more and more concerned about the state of our nation, and its future.  As we approach a critical milestone in the 2016 elections, I’m finding it less and less possible to keep silent.  Expect some important thoughts between now and the presidential election of 2016.

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Politics

    1. You’re the second person who’s asked me this in the last week. Sorry, I don’t know a thing about it.
      But it looks like I need to find out. Thanks for the question.

        1. Ok, let’s not get carried away here. I read the post at vdare.com. While I very much appreciate the mention, it makes it sound like I single-handedly did what the movie seems to say Katherine Johnson did. Nothing could be further from the truth.

          True, I did study the circumlunar trajectory — the now-familiar Figure-8 “free-return” trajectory, and with my boss Bill Michael, published what I believe to be the first refereed paper on the subject:

          “Trajectory Considerations for Circumlunar Missions,” with W. H. Michael, presented at Inst. Aerospace Sci. 29th Annual Meeting, New York, January 1961. IAS Paper #61-35.

          But by 1961, there were plenty of aerospace organizations using IBM mainframes to compute trajectories, and a lot more by John Glenn’s flight in 1963, I do have a hard time swallowing the notion that Glenn refused to fly until Johnson verified his landing site.

          Truth in advertising: I haven’t seen the movie, and probably won’t until it comes out on DVD (I don’t get around much anymore). But by the hype in the media about this movie, there does seem to be a certain revisionist history about it.

          Here’s what I know: Katherine Johnson, it seems, went to work for NACA (the predecessor to NASA) at Langley Research Center, in 1953. I went there in 1959. It’s probably worth mentioning that Langley, VA was also the home of the very highly respected Langley Institute, an all-black university with a stature right up there with Tuskegee Institute.

          Anyhow. NACA — and later NASA — had this job title called GS-3, Computer. See. in 1953 there was no such thing as a digital computer. At least, none readily available for general-purpose computations. Instead, we used Friden desk calculators. For simple jobs, we engineers ran the calculations ourselves. If the job was bigger but not time-critical, the secretary in our office ran the jobs, using the original version of a spreadsheet that we created.

          If the job were too big for her — or we needed it sooner — we took our spreadsheets to “The Computer Room.”
          I kid you not, that’s what the sign on the door said. But inside, there wasn’t a big IBM mainframe humming away. There was only the clatter of 100 Fridens, being operated by 100 women.

          That’s what the job “Computer” meant in 1959. Not “research mathematician,” but someone who drove a Friden, cranking out calculations according to the instructions on a spreadsheet generated by someone else.

          Don’t get me wrong: Those women did their job very well, and they had a system of validation that let very few errors slip through. But it was tedious work, and didn’t require any more math skill than the ability to find the ‘+’ key on a keyboard.

          Just so we’re clear, I saw not one single black Computer in the bunch. In fact, I don’t recall seeing a single black person on the Langley campus. Times have changed a lot, and very much for the better.

          Looking at the NASA site

          I understand why: NASA of 1953 was segregated, and apparently the black women worked at the West Area Computer facility, wherever that was.

          This same site refers to Johnson as a “mathematician, physicist, and space scientist.” Look, I don’t know if that’s true or not. As someone who cheers any case of extraordinary human achievement (or animal too, for that matter), I tear up whenever I hear any such story. I would LOVE to believe that Katherine Johnson achieved all the wonderful things people say she did. I can only say that the wonderful women known as GS-3 Computers didn’t do any of them.

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