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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for August, 2010
by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Our country is known for its support of science and technology. The Internet and its technologies were developed in this country. While the World Wide Web was originated by Tim Berner-Lee while working at CERN (Switzerland), much of the advances that made it popular, e.g., the graphical web browser, were developed in this country.

We have institutionalized science, from the Smithsonian Institute to NIH to NASA. This support for science started in 1842 when the United States Naval Observatory was founded. This, like other governmental science panels, were initially created to support military operations.

An observatory was invaluable in the early 19th century when much of the navigation on ships, including the naval fleet, was done by celestial navigation. A careful study of the skies would enhance the Navy’s navigation around the world. As the light pollution around Washington, D.C., increased, a branch site was developed in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1955.

Please take a few minutes to gain an enhanced awareness of this agency and its work.  GLB

[ 2287 Words ]


“The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.”
— Henry Ward Beecher

“Where there is an observatory and a telescope, we expect that any eyes will see new worlds at once.”
— Henry David Thoreau

“I was, I remember, I still remember when the first time I pointed the telescope at the sky and I saw Saturn with the rings. It was a beautiful image.”
— Umberto Guidoni

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court of our great nation are the final arbiters of what the U.S. Constitution means. They become the interpreters of that special document that set our country apart from any other at the time of its founding. This began in the first version of that court led by John Jay.

In modern times, the role of the high court performed the role of determining when laws passed by the U.S. Congress was consistent with the guidelines written into the constitution. This became more important during the 20th century when social change had accelerated. But a court populated by only by elderly, conservative, white men. It was not until the decade of radical social change, the 1960s, that a minority was appointed to that court.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated an outstanding African American lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, to become the first minority justice. Marshall had been the lawyer for the NAACP and had been active in the fight against the “Separate But Equal” decision of a previous court. These experiences prepared him well to become the ground-breaking member of the high court.

He served his country with distinction until his death in 1993. As both a social advocate lawyer and a high court jurist, Thurgood Marshall served his country and race well. He set a standard for later jurist to strive for.  GLB

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“What is the quality of your intent?”
— Thurgood Marshall

“Ending racial discrimination in jury selection can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely.”
— Thurgood Marshall

“I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.”
— Thurgood Marshall

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Florida and the Gulf Coast are used to Hurricanes. Each year they expect to receive their share, but, since most are relatively “benign”, they are taken in stride. However, every so often “super-storms” are generated by the weather systems in the mid-Atlantic. These hit land with forces that cause major destruction and loss of life.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina was one of those super-storms. It not only made land fall in Florida, but as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico, it gained considerable strength before hitting the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Especially hard hit was the storied city of New Orleans.

This city suffered from being in the direct path of the storm’s center as well as from it location in the lowlands between the Mississippi Rivers and Lake Pontchartrain. It is protected by a series of levees built and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, these levees did not hold and the city was under water.

FEMA, the federal agency responsible for responding to disasters like this failed to act in a timely manner. Much finger pointing has occurred and ill-feelings are wide spread.

Let’s hope that the Hurricane Katrina experience will help prevent such disasters in the future.  GLB

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“Along with you, I have witnessed the unfortunate rise in gasoline prices that has accompanied the summer driving season and the more recent spike in prices due to Hurricane Katrina.”
— Bob Ney

“As everyone in Louisiana knows, there was often no communication or coordination between the state and federal government in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”
— Bobby Jindal

“Because Katrina put it out there, no one can play the pretend game anymore that there isn’t poverty and inequality in this country. The Millions More Movement – Katrina gives it added significance.”
— Marc Morial

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Let us take a few minutes on this day to reflect on an earlier period in our country when most African Americans were held as slaves in bondage. This group was held as property and considered not equal with the white settlers in this great land. Abraham Lincoln led the attack against this abhorrent institution and guided this country through our Civil War.

It remained, however, another 100 years before the promise made in the Emancipation Proclamation started to become a reality. Much of the credit must go to civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and others who employed non-violent protests against the oppression of these same African Americans. Even though President Truman had abolished segregation in the military, the Jim Crow laws and KKK maintained the subjugation of this group of Americans.

King, through a number of marches in the south and emotionally-charged speeches. In 1963, he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after leading a march for Jobs to deliver one of his most famous speeches — the “I have a dream…” speech. It would do us all good to take time to read through it and ponder its meaning today.

Thank you Rev. King for your dedication to the downtrodden and poor. We thank you for your dedication and words of wisdom.  GLB

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Just four days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the biggest battles of the Revolutionary War was fought on this day in 1776. The Battle of Long Island took place when the British Navy sailed south from Canada with the redcoats aboard. The Continental Army set up positions in Brooklyn Heights overlooking the Hudson River.

As part of this defense was the march of a group under the command of Henry Knox to Canada to capture cannons. There were brought back and provided artillery support for the Americans. The battle was intense, but the British finally prevailed. Before the British fleet could sail down the East River and cut off the escape route, the Americans were cross over the East River in a armada of small boats.

Well done, even though it was not a successful campaign for the Americans. You showed courage and skill in the face of a powerful enemy.  GLB

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“The American Revolution was, in fact, a battle against the philosophy of Locke and the English utilitarians.”
— Robert Trout

“Freedom is a lonely battle, but if the United States doesn’t lead it – sometimes imperfectly, but mostly with honor – who will?”
— Cal Thomas

“Trials by the adversarial contest must in time go the way of the ancient trial by battle and blood.”
— Warren E. Burger

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today is memorable for several different events, including the the centennial celebration of the birth of the Catholic nun who served the poor and sick in India — Mother Teresa. It is also notable for women in another way: it is the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment that gave the right to vote to the women of this land.

It is good to look at these two positive events in our history rather than the typical news flashes about things that are negative. So we will look past the anti-war demonstrations outside of the Democratic Convention in Chicago (1968) or the slave revolt on the Amistad (1839). But these events can be looked at on another occasion.

Mother Teresa’s life story has been told many times and she has, in her humility, accepted many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Following her death, has quickly gone through the process that leads to sainthood. She was dedicated to those who least could afford it and Mother Teresa mobilized both the resources and people to provide for them.

Bless you, Mother Teresa… You faith and actions are a model to us all.  GLB

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“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
— Mother Teresa

“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
— Mother Teresa

“e faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
— Mother Teresa

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”
— Mother Teresa

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit New Orleans to attend educational conferences and other meetings. Who could ever forget having café au lait and beignets at the Café du Monde? Or walking down Bourbon Street on Halloween night in front of the wild parade? And there were always the street cars going down Canal Street, the luxurious mansions, and the barely habitable homes in the 9th Ward. New Orleans is an incredible city as well as an incredible trip back to a former time in our country’s history.

It was founded in 1718 and named after the King, the Duke of Orleans. It was a major port due its position at the junction of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. We also remember the famous battle that occurred following the signing of the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812. So much history is found on these streets.

But then, in August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city. The levees broke and the city flooded. Destruction of property and lives were found all around the city. FEMA was late to respond, and the federal administration failed to respond with appropriate priority.

But the city is recovering — slowly and intermittently. Let’s just hope that this great city with a memorable past will once again delight us with its magic.  GLB

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“And I wound up in New Orleans for all those years and it was a great place, really a catalyst creatively.”
— Jimmy Buffett

“Creole is New Orleans city food. Communities were created by the people who wanted to stay and not go back to Spain or France.”
— Paul Prudhomme

“And we live in a French Quarter a lot of the time, in New Orleans. And the camaraderie of everybody there. Everybody takes care of each other.”
— Delta Burke

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 The Treaty of Paris of 1883 ended our Revolutionary War with the British. In that treaty, our boundaries were set to include all territory north of the Spanish holdings in Florida, south of the Great Lakes, and east of the Mississippi River.

But the British didn’t give up that easily. The conflict between the U.S. and Britain were especially critical during the time of the Napoleonic War. During this time, British naval ships would board American merchant ships and take any sailor that looked like he was English; of course most Americans looked English! These sailors were then “impressed” into service on the British ships. This was a major trigger of the War of 1812.

One of the great American novels was written about this scenario in Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years in Front of the Mask” Dana was impressed upon a British man-of-war and served on it for two years. By the time that the War of 1812 ended, this ceased to be an issue because France and England were no longer at war, and the sailors were no longer needed.

Dolley Madison was first lady during this period of war. When the British were marching on Washington, D.C., she packed up the White House treasures (dishes, flatware, and paintings) to save them from capture. The focal point was the portrait of George Washington. She and her entourage left before the British arrived and set fire to the White House and Capitol buildings.

Thank you, Mrs. Madison — you served your President and country well.  GLB

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“Disaffection stalks around us.”
— Dolley Madison

“It is done… the precious portrait placed in the hands of the gentlemen for safe keeping.”
— Dolley Madison

“It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business.”
— Dolley Madison

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Like what you see in this blog? Good. I appreciate all of you that visit these pages and subscribe to the RSS feed. But I wanted you to know that I have also set up a Facebook Fan Page on which I post smaller news items, quotes and other observations. Sometimes I come across things that are whimsical, especially related to photography and serious reading on current events.

So I invite you to “LIKE” my fan page if you are a Facebook subscriber. You can find it if you search for “Prof. Boerner’s Explorations” on your Facebook page.

Hope to see more of you join me for additional topics and discussions…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Looking at the American Revolution from a British perspective is hard for us Americans. We were on the receiving end of the taxation and oppression that ran counter to the settlers who emigrated from the Old World under charters from former British rulers. King George III was the focus of this difference of perspective.

During the reign of George III, several trends came together. The British war with the French, the Seven Years War (French and Indian War in this country) was expensive. George III allowed the Parliament to levy taxes, such as the Stamp Act, that impacted the American colonies more than the British citizenry in the U.K. This violated the colonist’s perception of their right to taxation and representation.

This difference of perspective was probably best characterized by a scene in one of the JAG episodes. Harm was to appear in court in Australia (another British colony) and needed a wig to be properly dressed. There was a dialog that resulted in the wig shop proprietor made reference to the “War of the Insurrection”. When Harm said he didn’t know about that conflict, the proprietor said something to the effect of: ‘To you Americans, it was called the ‘American Revolution’.

So take some time today to gain some perspective on our past relationships with the British and especially related to the ongoing conflicts between the French and English.  GLB

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“A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me.”
— King George III

“Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.”
— King George III

“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”
— Frederick Douglass

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