Category Archives: This or That

Rosetta vs. the Dallas Cowboys

Landing the Rosetta spacecraft on a speeding comet is a pretty extraordinary thing. Rosetta has been traveling for 10 years. Who figures this stuff out, getting Rosetta and the comet in the same place at the same time?

Rosetta cost $1.4 billion. The website Vox points out that that is less than half of what was spent on the midterm election. It’s just a little bit more than the cost of the Dallas Cowboys stadium.

India sent a craft on a 10-month, 420 million mile journey, which put it in orbit around Mars. The cost: $750 million. By comparison, the movie “Gravity” cost $100 million.

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Myths About Taking Care of Your Car

I’m a real dunce when it comes to cars. I don’t know how they work. If a problem occurs, I can pop the hood and look at the engine with interest, but it might as well be a Star Trek warp drive. I don’t know what I’m looking for. In fact, it’ll probably take me 10 minutes to figure out how to pop the hood.

My brother, Stewart Dennie, got all the mechanical genes. My wife, Pam Dennie, is far more mechanical than I am. So this article about car-care myths was helpful to me.

I remember when I got a Toyota Corolla back in 1989 and took it in for its annual tune-up. The service guy (a friend) told me, “All you’ll ever need to do with a Toyota is occasionally replace the dome light.” That was my introduction to the tune-up myth. This article takes it much furthers.

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The Billionaires Club

A study of the world’s 2,325 billionaires developed a composite of the typical billionaire.

  • He is male, 63, and married.
  • He’s worth $3 billion.
  • He loves sports, and likes to attend high-profile sporting events.
  • He made most of his money on Wall Street during his 40s and 50s.
  • He keeps 20% of his money in cash, and 5% in real estate.
  • He owns 4 homes, each worth about $20 million.
  • Over his lifetime, he’ll give $100 million to charity–a third of it to educational institutions. That’s about 3% of their wealth. When you factor in billionaires like Gates and Buffet who give away a great deal of their wealth, it’s clear that many billionaires give very, very little away.

These billionaires control 4% of the world’s wealth.

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One Million Hours, and Still Burning


Back in the 1980s, I read “On the Road with Charles Kuralt,” a delightful, folksy book with short chapters. One chapter told about a lightbulb which had been burning almost continuously since 1901 at a firestation in Livermore, Calif.

I just came across an article about the bulb. It is STILL burning. The bulb was made by the Shelby Electric Company. General Electric bought out Shelby and discontinued their lightbulb. Kind of like how oil and car companies buy out the patents for fuel-efficient technologies, and bury those patents.

cb6 copyToday, the average lightbulb lasts 1000-2000 hours. LED bulbs last up to 50,000 hours. The Shelby lightbulb has been burning for nearly 1 million hours. It has achieved celebrity status. It’s called the Centennial Light, and has its own continuous Bulbcam.

Back in the early days of lightbulbs, companies bragged about the longevity of their bulbs. But in 1924, General Electric and other companies formed the Phoebus Cartel, under the pretense of standardizing lightbulbs. Actually, their goal was “planned obsolescence.” They limited the life expectancy of bulbs to 1000 hours (GE had achieved 1200 hours decades before), and fined companies that exceeded that. They also halted additional research on lightbulbs.

Capitalism, or shall I say greed, at work.

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The Star Spangled Banner: Beyond the UB Legend


September 14 marked the 200th anniversary of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics after watching the British bombard Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

The United Brethren denomination takes a lot of pride in the fact that Francis Scott Key was a United Brethren member and Sunday school teacher. He and a United Brethren preacher named John Snook organized a Sunday school in Keysville, Md. Key donated songbooks and led the singing. Snook and Key also went on evangelistic tours together, with Key handling the music.

But history can be messy. In researching, I also discovered something we don’t talk much about: Francis Scott Key was a slave owner who actively fought to keep slavery legal. As a lawyer he prosecuted various anti-slavery persons. In one case, his summation to the jury stated, “Are you willing, gentlemen, to abandon your country, to permit it to be taken from you and occupied by the abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate with the negro?”

However, Key was described as a “decent master” who emancipated seven of his own slaves and, sometimes, criticized slavery. Kinda like “benevolent dictator.” He also helped found, in 1816, the American Colonization Society, which helped return freed slaves to Africa. However, his legal cases against slavery opponents continued into the 1830s.

The UB denomination took a strong stand against slavery way back in 1821.

So, Francis Scott Key is kind of a mixed bag. As a slave owner, what exactly did he mean by “the land of the free.”

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Ready to Give Their Lives in a Suicide Mission

Heather Penney

Major Heather Penney

Here’s a story from 9/11 which has gone largely untold. Maj. Heather

Col. Marc Sasseville

Col. Marc Sasseville

Penney (one of the first female F-16 pilots) and Col. Marc Sasseville were on duty when word came that Flight 93 was headed toward Washington DC. They took to the air to bring Flight 93 down…but without any weaponry. It would have taken an hour to arm the planes.

“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville told her as they geared up.

“I’ll take the tail,” Penney replied.

A suicide mission to end a suicide mission. Quite a story.

Of course, it wasn’t necessary for them to ram their F-16s into the Boeing 777. But the fact that they took off, totally expecting to not come back…very inspiring.

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My Future Encounter with a Grizzly

grizzly-growl grizzly-claws

Being hopelessly eclectic, I read an article about how to survive a bear attack. If a grizzly bear attacks you, the advice went like this: Lay on your stomach, put your hands behind your head, and stay still. The bear may walk away after mauling you. MAY walk away.

So basically, you say, “Hi, bear. You can rip me to shreds with your ridiculously long claws and teeth. Just don’t kill me.”

Further advice: never run, because it just indicates that you are prey, and there’s no way you can out-run a bear. And don’t scream, because it reinforces that you are prey.

Excellent head knowledge, which I would ponder for one second if a bear attacked me. Then instinct would take over. I would run, I would scream, and I would die. That’s just the way it is.

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Flo, Time to Go

I’ve been a big fan of Flo the Progressive girl. But lately, things have been blah. The commercials no longer make me smile. Geico continually launches new ad campaigns, keeping the brand fresh. I’m afraid that Flo the Progressive Girl has run her course. Time to retire, Flo.

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Beyond the Smartphone Screen

It appears that God created us as social beings. Studies show that if you have a close group of friends, and you regularly get together to eat and talk, you’ll live longer. Face-to-face contact helps the immune system and increases the chance of surviving heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other life-threatening ailments. Loners, on the other hand, live 15 years less than people with well-integrated social lives.

Interesting. We’ve becoming a society of people who perhaps interact a lot, but not in person. So get out. Join clubs. Make friends. Talk to real people.

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The Lone Star Tick

lonestar-tickTicks are turning hundreds of Americans into vegetarians. The Lone Star tick contains alpha-gal, a sugar not found in the human body. It IS found in red meat and some dairy products, but people have no trouble eating it. However, when the Lone Star tick bites you, an immune response sends antibodies into your bloodstream. The next time your body encounters alpha-gal, it triggers a severe allergic reaction which may well land you in the hospital.

The tick is spreading across the US, helped by the warming climate. One Long Island specialist alone has seen nearly 200 cases over the last 3 years. A hospital in Virginia sees 2-3 new cases every week.

How would you like to discover that, for probably the rest of your life, you can’t have a steak or a hamburger? I can’t imagine life without an occasional ribeye.

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