Places I Have Been, #3 (Updated for Yellowstone Trip)

My wife Dee and I live in Arkansas, the state shown in yellow above. This map shows, in pink, states we have visited together, between 2013 and the present. I just updated it for our vacation to Yellowstone National Park, which roughly doubled the pink area. States and provinces shown in blue are ones I have visited, but not with Dee, all before 2013. It is my ambition to visit other continents as well — it just hasn’t happened yet.

We took pictures on our trip, and they’ll show up here soon. First, though, I need sleep, for that was quite a long drive!

About My Father, My Own Personal Monster

(Trigger warning: this post contains disturbing material. Proceed at your own risk.)

My father, Daniel Lee Marsh, was from Jonesboro, Arkansas, and was alive from 1933 to 2010. At almost nine years after his death, there are still several things I cannot figure out about the man. Why did he do the things he did?

When he finally reached his long-delayed, long-anticipated expiration date, I had already been eagerly waiting for that day for years. I was utterly confused that my mother and sister reacted to the news of his death by becoming upset. He was finally gone. He could hurt no one, ever again. This was, in my view, an occasion for celebration, not mourning, for his long-awaited death meant he could harm no one else. They reacted with tears, while I was euphoric, and demonstrated that euphoria with hysterical laughter. I think I confused them as much as they confused me.

My father was a pedophile, who targeted young males, and horribly neglected the females in his life. Several of my childhood friends were molested by the man. He was also a teacher (as I am), and abused that position to find new victims. He was never punished by the criminal justice system. I did report his behavior to police, late in his life, but he had successfully hidden all evidence of his crimes by this point, and the police came to conclusion that my report was false. My surviving family had tried to convince me for years not to report his crimes, as a shameful family secret, but I eventually reached the breaking point, which means I had to act, which I did — not that it did any good. The police dropped their investigation, and then harassed me, as if I had filed a false complaint.

I have no biological children, having always being afraid to become involved in a pregnancy, for fear I would turn out like him. I do have two stepchildren, whom I love as if they carried my own DNA. I fear this is as close to fatherhood as I dare come. I have a strong memory of his cruelty — many, in fact — but one sticks out from when I was six years old. I was angry at him for something (I don’t remember what), and he handed me a scalpel, then invited me to stick it into his head, just behind his left ear, which he told me would kill him quickly. No six-year-old should experience that.

For a time when I was young, I had a roommate, a college student named Jerry. I had no idea that Jerry was secretly my father’s primary sexual partner, only learning of that years later. My mother discovered this, but did not divorce him immediately, staying in that hell of a marriage for the sake of my sister and myself. Much later, she did divorce him. I reacted by legally changing my last name to my mother’s maiden name, just to show whose side I was on.

Can you imagine being a teenager, and having your own father molest your neighborhood friends? I don’t have to imagine it — those memories are burned into my brain. I’ve had to go so far as to be tested for HIV, just in case I was a direct target myself, for it is difficult for me to trust my memory. Fortunately, the test results cleared me of worrying about possibly contracting AIDS.

There’s more. When the two of us were going somewhere in the car, he would often masturbate, while driving, to the point of orgasm, in full view of me, under the guise of “sex education,” in my tween and early teen years. I did not realize until later how harmful this was to me, but now I know this is one of several reasons I have to deal with PTSD for the rest of my life.

There’s also the matter of religion. My father hopped from one religion to another every few years, and tried his best to drag the whole family along with him each time. The new “word from on high” was in effect, and previous revelations were abandoned. These religions varied from the ultra-conservative Church of Christ, to a degenerate form of Buddhism called Soka Gakkai, to his own version of a Native-American-belief-based magic-mushroom cult, and many others. He was quite charismatic, and never had any trouble attracting a small group of “disciples” to follow him along whichever pseudo-spiritual “path” he was on. I grew up, unsurprisingly, with the attitude that all religions were both harmful, and deeply flawed. If you want to raise a young child to become an atheist, there is no more effective approach than what my father did with regards to religion.

The inconsistency of his “parenting” was horrible. One year, he would be providing me with age-inappropriate hard-core pornography, such as Hustler magazine — and the next year, he would mark as “forbidden,” in the TV Guide, any movie which contained nudity. I can’t explain this. It makes no sense.

This is not a complete list.

He’s gone now, but my PTSD remains. If you have kids, please do not torture them, as my father did. If you know of any situation like this going on around you, please report it to the proper authorities. Monsters in human form do exist, and it is the responsibility of all of us to stop them.

My 2019 Birthday Star

I was born 51 years ago today. To mark the occasion, here’s a 51-pointed star. It’s made of {17/7} heptadecagrams repeated 3 times, and with their edges extended as lines, in three different colors. This works because 51 = (17)(3).

Hexagon the Kitten Is Recording My Computer Activity

So I’m looking at Facebook, and all of a sudden Hexagon the Kitten is on the keyboard. Zap! Screenshot captured at feline speed — before I could grab the little rogue.

Hexagon's schreenshot

This is the first of four pages of information which Hexagon attempted to print this morning — a screenshot of the top of my Facebook timeline. She tricked me into losing the other three pages, which were simply more records of recent activity on Facebook.

She was also, as the image above shows, trying to print in black and white, which seemed interesting. I looked it up, and cats have far more rods than cones, compared to humans, so I guess Hexagon doesn’t see color as that important.

Hexagon kitten young

She also typed the following into the keyboard:

Hexagon's typing

What is Hexagon’s goal with all of this computer activity? If I ever figure it out, I’ll post my findings here.

My Mother’s Epic Battle with an Armadillo

I just found a hilarious tale about my mother (in L. Lee Cowan’s Except for All the Snakes, I just Love It Out Here: The News from Stone County, Arkansas, Where One Life is Put Down Straight Up, p. 120). According to this published account, I was four years old when her battle to kill an armadillo entered family legend. As you can see below, Mom credits both my sister and myself with keeping the story alive over the years. A good family friend, Bruce, played a key role in bridging the gap between my mother and L. Lee Cowan, the author of the book in which this was published. It’s an amazing thing to have found.

If you like this excerpt (shown below), please buy the book, as I have done.

LLeeCohan

A Proposal: An Ice-Tunneling Lander to Explore Extraterrestrial Sub-Surface Oceans

We have found compelling evidence for the existence of several sub-surface oceans in various places in our solar system. The most well-known of these bodies of liquid water is under the ice crust of Europa, a moon of Jupiter, with others located elsewhere. These oceans are logical places to look for signs of past or present extraterrestrial life. However, we have yet to obtain a sample of any of these oceans for analysis. It is time for that to change, but not without taking precautions to avoid damaging any such life, should it exist.

Europa-moon

Europa (source: NASA)

What follows is my idea, freely available for anyone who wishes to use it, to safely obtain and analyze such samples. These ice-tunneling probes could be ejected from a larger lander, or simply dropped directly onto the surface from orbit. This would be far less expensive than any sort of manned interplanetary exploration. Exposure to vacuum and radiation, in space, would thoroughly sterilize the entire apparatus before it even lands, protecting anything which might be alive in the ocean underneath from contamination by organisms from Earth.

Tunneling LASSO Probe (Lander for Analysis of Sub-Surface Oceans)

In this cross-sectional diagram, the light blue area represents the ice crust of Europa, or another solar-system body like that moon. The ice-tunneling lander is shown in red, orange, black, yellow, and green. The dark blue area is the vertical tunnel created by the probe, shown shortly after tunneling begins. As the probe descends, the dome shown in gray caps the tunnel, and stays on the surface, having been previously stored, folded up, in the green section of the egg-shaped probe. The gray section is designed as a geodesic dome, with holes of adjustable size to allow heat to escape into space. An extendable, data-carrying tether connects the egg-shaped tunneling module to the surface dome. Solar-energy panels and radio transmitters and receivers stay at the surface, attached to the gray dome.  

The computers necessary to operate the entire probe are in the yellow section. The black section that extends outward, slightly, from the body of the tunneler would contain mechanisms to obtain samples of water for analysis. The orange section is where actual samples are stored and analyzed.

The red part of the tunneler is weighted, so that gravity forces it to stay at the bottom. It is designed to heat up enough to melt the ice underneath it, allowing the entire “egg” to descend, attached to its tether. Water above the tunneling probe re-freezes, sealing the tunnel so that potentially-damaging holes are not left in the ice crust of Europa. The heating units in the red section can be turned on and off as needed, to slow, hasten, or stop the probe’s descent through the crust.

Oceans in other places in the solar system might require certain adjustments to this design. For example, Ganymede, another moon of Jupiter, is far rockier than Europa. If this design were used on Ganymede, the tunneling probe would likely be stopped by sub-surface rocks. For this type of crust, the probe’s design could be modified to allow lateral movement of the tunneler, in order to go around rocks.

Ganymede_g1_true-edit1

Ganymede (source: NASA)

On Europa, Ganymede, and elsewhere, one limitation of this design is imposed by the maximum length of the tether. We would not want to go all the way down to the subsurface oceans with the earliest of these probes, though. A better strategy would be to only tunnel part-way into the crust at first, capturing liquid samples of water before refreezing of the ice. After all, this ice in the crust could have been part of the lower, liquid ocean at some point in the past, and it should be analyzed thoroughly before heat-tunneling any deeper. The decision to make the tether long enough to go all the way through the crust, into the subsurface ocean itself, is not one to make lightly. It would be best to study what we find in molten crust-samples, first, before tunneling all the way through the protective crusts of these oceans. 

Meditating, and Not

I just noticed that I can elect to pay attention to my breathing, or ignore it, but one or the other keeps happening. Changing which one I focus on changes the way I think. This is interesting.