Well this has been another busy week at the observatory, what with some house guests, and our observing session on Mt. Wilson 60 inch scope now just a week away, and me off to another 3 days of a 5 day conference in Newport Beach. There is not much we can do about the Mt. Wilson trip, but to hope for clear weather.
So, on to the houseguests. Resident Astronomer Peggy and I had a great opportunity again to welcome Astronomer Assistant Ruby's mother, Pals, with her guardian, Not a Teenager Any More, Kody, to the observatory. Now Kody had visited many times in the past, but this was the first time that Ruby's Mother, Pals, had been here.
|Astronomer Assistant Ruby, with her mother, Pals (left), and Not a Teenager Anymore, Kody (Source: Palmia Observatory)
We remember how when Astronomer Assistant Ruby came to live with us, after Kody, as Pals guardian, and his family plied us with alcohol and good food and convinced us that we needed to take one of their littlest new pups, Ruby, home with us. Ok, now Ruby outweighs her mother and is almost three years old and when she first came here she attacked the observatory and chewed up walls and electrical cords. Now she never does anything like that and though we were worried about what Pals might do during her several night stay, nothing happened, she was just a marvelous and fun house guest. The Not a Teenager Any More, Kody, on the other hand had to attack and change the cable connection on our TV so that his game console could be plugged in. Oh well, it was fun playing the games and we enjoyed his youthful energy, especially when we went out and observed the moons of Jupiter. He was really excited and his eyes got real big and he was very curious about the path of the moons around Jupiter and how they move in orbits similar to the orbits of planets around the sun. Amateur astronomers know the excitement when people have their first chance to look at astronomical objects through a scope or camera. Anyway, we enjoyed having him here again and thanks for sharing it all with us, Kody!
Now, just because we are waiting for our Mt. Wilson time, we have also been busy with another local conference. On a lark, I decided to attend the summer Objectivist Conference (OCON) 2018 in Newport Beach, CA. They had dozens of speakers and over 600 people showed up to discuss Ayn Rand and her novels and philosophy. I could only fit a couple of days of the conference into my busy schedule but it was a great time for me to relive the excitement I felt almost 50 years ago. It was quite strange to hear in various discussions the names of her characters, like the architect, Howard Roark, and the physicist, John Galt, and other heroines Dominique and Dagny, also, and of course the villains, again. I discovered that my admiration of Ayn Rand was at best lukewarm compared with so many of the other attendees, who were almost dogmatic and they could easily recall and repeat many of the key conversations and passages in the novels with great detail.
|In the audience, waiting for the OCON 2018 session to begin
My first introduction to Ayn Rand was when I was just a freshman engineering student and there was something about her novels, "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" that appealed to a young impressionable college student. Reading her novels at that time was a big deal on campus and there were groups of students that got together in "Students of Objectivism" clubs to discuss her novels and discuss her philosophy. I am still quite skeptical about their ability to derive a normative ethics, that would apply to the whole planet, just by pure thought.
I can see now, after looking back on those early years, how much Ayn Rand had influenced my life. How else are we to learn anything about the nature of the world without relying on reason and something like the scientific method to check up on keeping our thinking valid. Thinking about her helped instill in me a sense that ideas are important and of rationality and integrity and I was not afraid of business and capitalism. So, about 20 years after graduating, I saw that my engineering career was going down a different path and I wanted to go back to school and get an MBA, which was easy for me to study both engineering and business because I was not put off by capitalism. It gets even better, in that I always recognized the value of investing in the stock market and the future economy and now the 401k investments really help out in retirement. So, thank you for all that, Ayn!
|Packed session at OCON 2018 in Newport Beach
Finally, as we get ready for July 4, I happened to just catch by chance a rebroadcast of the 1972 musical, "1776", about the 2nd Continental Congress as they debate the formation of the Declaration of Independence. The musical takes place mostly in the meeting rooms of the Continental Congress and even though the representatives from the 13 colonies deal with very contentious issues, all in the sweltering heat of summer 1776 in Philadelphia, they all treat each other courteously, even as they very energetically disagree with their fellow representatives. The goal of declaring independence from England almost didn't happen because the southern colonies walked out over the inclusion of the clause that banned slavery. Only with wise judgement of Franklin and Jefferson, who argued that if independence did not occur, everything else was lost, so each colony was left to decide the slavery issue by themselves. Without the compromise, independence would not have occurred at that time and as we know the slavery issue was delayed and not resolved until the Civil War. Wow, it was quite amazing to see that they could debate and resolve the many issues that went into such a revolutionary document and still remain cordial with each other. The always used formal titles like Mister (yes, they were all men) and such and responded to arguments with rational counter arguments without a lot of name calling. I had forgotten all of these details and found the musical portrayal of those events very informative and actually fun to listen to the music and scenes as the drama of the events was told . Too bad, that we don't see that same courteous behavior in our political discourse, today, over issues which seem to be of lesser impact, than those of 1776! Check it out for yourself, or maybe better yet check up on the real history to verify the musical is a true reflection of the facts, and see if you don't agree that the representatives tried to reach a rational decision, all the time without name calling, with those who they had very strong disagreements and that the birth of the nation required some sort of compromising.
|Screenshot from the 1972 musical, "1776", about the 2nd Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence
Have a happy holiday and remember all those people and events before us that made our freedoms possible!