Sunday, April 9, 2017

Engineer and Public Speaker (Me) - and the value of listening

A nice story was published in The Villages Daily Sun today. I wish my parents were alive to see it (my Dad would be proud and my Mom would believe it!).

THANKS to the excellent reporter, Frank Ross, and to Greggory Cieslak of the Science and Technology Club who recommended my story to Frank. Also to my good friends David Dingee (a fellow Parkinsonian, resident of Freedom Pointe, and Philosophy Club leader) and Jay Kaplan (of the Humanists and Philosophy Clubs) for their kind words. Thanks also to the other friends whose names I provided to Frank, but who were not quoted in the final story.

Special thanks to my good bicycling buddies who trike with me, Jerry Bauer, Lorin Slauson, and Charlie Coelho (who took the photo).

Ira Glickstein

The newspaper story mentions that I have some Blogs. Click the ">>>" for each item below to access some of my online activities:

  • >>>The Virtual Philosophy Club - Courteous Discussion of Serious Topics
  • >>>Visual Ira - Visualize Science and Technology With Ira
  • >>>"2052 - The Hawking Plan" (Free online Novel) Amore, amorality and Stephanie Goldenrod's mission to save civilization for an infinite future.
  • >>>Life, Liberty, and Technology - My predictions for the next several decades (companion site to my novel)
  • >>>Curb Your Enthusiasm - Fantasy Episode
  • >>>My YouTube Videos
  • >>>My "What is Time?" Video
  • >>>I'm a Guest Contributor to the World's Most Popular Climate Website, Watts Up With That?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

On Being Stubborn - House Freedom Caucus

[From Bill Lifka - Graphic by Ira]


I knew a sergeant at The Artillery School who’d served from before WWII when horse drawn artillery still existed. He’d served in a mountain battery that used mules to carry the small howitzers in two pieces. The tube was placed on the back of one mule and the carriage with wheels on another mule. The ammunition and other battery equipment were also carried by mules. Mules were chosen over horses because they were stronger, had staying power and were sure-footed on mountainous terrain.

On the negative side, some mules are downright stubborn and unwilling to do their jobs if doing so doesn’t suit their fancy at the moment. In Sgt. Clancy’s battery, one of the mules, Max, was noted for being most stubborn of all. His habit was to rear up on his hind legs when the job or situation wasn’t to his liking. 

On or around Fort Sill there are no mountains but there is rolling terrain. One fairly big hill, called Signal Mountain, rises 1200 feet or so over its base at an increasingly higher slope near its top. A punishment hike or two up the hill was a regular Saturday event for me when I attended OCS. (Actually performed at a “paratroop shuffle”.) 

For the mountain artillery, Signal Mountain was the only way to keep its mules in shape. On one fateful day, Sgt. Clancy’s battery was on its way up the mountain. Max was having one of his more ornery days and had been kicking and rearing from the moment he’d been led from the corral. His handlers couldn’t let him get away with bad behavior on this occasion or he’d be worse the next time.

Eventually, Max settled down sufficiently so a carriage could be loaded on and he fell in the line of mules heading out on the trail. As I know from personal experience, the trail up Signal Mountain is narrow and falls off sharply to one side. There’s not much room for error, which mules seem to know instinctively. With the exception of Max, all the mules settled into the climb at a steady pace, placing their hoofs with practiced care. 

Max knew better but he continued to show his dissatisfaction by skittering around and tossing his head. Finally he reared up on his hind quarters, a tremendous feat considering the load he was carrying. Unfortunately, he rose past the point where he exceeded the center of gravity (his and his load), fell backward and rolled down the mountain upside down atop the carriage wheels accompanied by the cheers of his handlers. Max was stubborn to his end.


There’s a difference between persevering and being stubborn. When one keeps trying to attain a goal using other than previously failed actions, one’s persistence is considered to be strength. When one keeps trying the same failing action, it’s called stubbornness and stupidity. 

That brings me to my subject which is current historic levels of stubbornness and stupidity in Congress, as opposed to the usual stubbornness and stupidity that’s a hallmark of those hallowed chambers.

It might have been better if the Republican-led House had practiced with a few easier initiatives before introducing a bill that began changing Obamacare. I use the word “began” because the plan of the Speaker and his associates was to effect a change in three stages. It was quite certain Democrats in the Senate would vote 100% against any Republican sponsored health bill out of the House because Democrats in Congress and those not yet removed from Executive Branch departments have been waging a fierce war against all Republican initiatives since the election. 

It makes no difference that the country needs adult leadership right now desperately; the main goal for Democratic officeholders is to let their constituents know they are bent on revenge for having lost the White House and the sweetest revenges for most Democrats are preventing any changes to Obamacare and preventing the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Last week the Democrats succeeded in the first of these and next week they hope to succeed in the second. 

Actually, it wasn’t Democrats who defeated Obamacare replacement. It was 25+/- Republican congressmen who call themselves the “Freedom Caucus.” They consider themselves to be “true” Conservatives and, therefore, are “real” Republicans who take Party principles seriously. 

As far as I can figure out, I share all the major beliefs of these guys but I want you to know I think they were stubborn and stupid on this occasion as they were back when the previous Speaker gave up and retired rather than fight them as well as a President (Obama) out to destroy the Republican Party. 

In my view, Ryan had a correct strategic plan that addressed the Senate process and the bare majority held by Republicans in that house. It was Freedom Caucus Republicans who would not follow the leadership again because they didn’t think their plan went far enough.  

I had the opportunity to talk to my Congressman just after the fiasco. I told him he was wrong and needed to change his ways. He has a great name, an impressive appearance and a pat answer, as I had expected. He is a stereotypical politician: 18 years in the Florida House, 10 years in the Florida Senate, 6 years (so far) in the U.S. House. In each of these offices he ran from two different districts because of redistricting; he likes the job. I rated his reason for blocking Ryan’s bill as unadulterated BS, although he argued well. He denied he’s a member of the “Freedom Caucus”. (That caucus ran him as a candidate for speaker against Boehner.) He argued the Ryan bill didn’t go far enough and denied Freedom Caucus changes would prevent Senate passage. 

He was wrong or betting I wouldn’t know. He said maybe it was good Obamacare would continue since it would fail and that would force Americans to embrace a truly great replacement. When I mentioned “party loyalty”, he denied that was important. He was wrong again. I know some really smart Conservatives who think like my (new) Congressman. I just don’t get why they like what I think is all bad. 

Any improvement in Obamacare would be better but still bad because any federal government involvement in health care will cause it to be ineffective. To let Obamacare fail (as it will) is just plain irresponsible and Republicans will get the blame. 

Democrats in the Senate are as bad as the wrong-headed Republicans in the House. They have acted like idiots in their questioning Neil Gorsuch, who has been rated as an ideal candidate for the Supreme Court by legal organizations ranging from Liberal to Conservative. His extensive service as a federal judge provides unwavering testimony to his fairness in upholding the law and not making the law, as Liberals expect of them. Senate Democratic leaders rant and rave in their frenzied attempt to defeat him. (Or anyone Trump might name.) The basis of every argument against Gorsuch is that Democrats expect judges to make decisions on ideological grounds not on the law as written. They are too stupid to realize that would bite them in the ass in due time.

The problem of the Freedom Caucus is the same as that of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. Although they are directly opposed on all political issues they share a monumental stubbornness and lack even the barest smidgen of modesty in their belief they are 100% right and any opposition is 100% wrong. I wonder if there’s a steep hill near Washington DC on which we could gather these folks together and tie wheels on their backs. 

Bill Lifka

Monday, March 27, 2017

Are THREE Wheels Better that TWO? My Recumbent Trike!

After many years, and thousands of miles of BI-cycling, I have switched to TRI-cycling! As the image below indicates, I've changed my T-shirt message from "Got Bike?" to "Got Trike!"

I purchased a used 27-speed recumbent trike from a nice couple in The Villages, had the local Village Cycle shop install a luggage rack, and mounted my laundry basket (for my water aerobics stuff) to the trike with bungee cords. The brand name is Catrike, and, quite fittingly, the model name is Villager.

I made the decision to quit Bicycling due to a tumble in January (from which my right knee is still a bit stiff) and a second fall in February. Actually, my Bicycle falls started back in 2011, when I fell four times, twice during an otherwise wonderful bike-barge trip in Belgium from Brussels to Bruges.

The following year, 2012, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, which is due to insufficient production of Dopamine in the brain. My symptoms include poor balance, tremors, and loss of the sense of smell. I've been taking a medication (Carbidopa/Levodopa) that helps with the tremors, but my balance has declined a bit year by year. Indeed, from 2012 through 2016, I've fallen from my bike once or twice a year, usually when making slow right turns. This despite taking extraordinary care, such as walking intersections and not cycling with large groups. Nevertheless, until this year, I have continued to Bicycle 30-40 miles per week, accompanied by close friends who put up with my antics.

In my younger years, I just hopped aboard and off I went. However, after my second fall this year, I found it increasingly hard to get the bike going. I'd adjust myself on the bike seat, keeping the bike upright with my left foot. Then, I'd put my foot on the right pedal, push it hard to get the bike moving forward, balancing as I tried to raise my left to it's proper place on the left pedal. However, my left foot seemingly "did not want" to leave the ground, and that foot had a heck of a time "finding it's position on the left pedal". It usually took me two or more tries to get going. Very frustrating!

Much easier with the trike!
And, perhaps best of all, my Catrike is MADE IN THE USA (actually right here in Florida!)


My Girl's Bike
Us "Old Dogs" can't raise our legs as high as we used to, so, a few years ago, I switched to a GIRL'S BIKE (images above and below), which is much easier to mount! I purchased it new from WalMart for around $150. Read about it here. Notice the laundry basket for my water aerobics stuff on both my Girl's bike and its predecessor, my fold-up Bike Friday.

I had the great pleasure of riding on my Girl's bike with our granddaughters Samantha and Michaela when they visited in 2015 (image below).
And my bicycling is memorialized for my 70th birthday, in 2009.     

Bike Friday Fold-Up
Here is me doing a bit of "surfing" on my Bike Friday on the hard-packed sand at Daytona Beach, back in 2008. Read more about it here.

By the way, Bike Friday is also MADE IN THE USA (Oregon).


Rental Bicycling Adventure in Egypt
Back in 1997, Vi and I visited Egypt, which was quite an adventure. Read about it here.

In Luxor, after our morning escorted tour that included the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut where several dozen tourists were to be mowed down two weeks later, I rented a bike for $5. For an hour I rode around Luxor, all by myself (image below). At one point, to get off the heavily traveled main street, I strayed into a lower-class residential area with dirt streets. I was wearing a hat that had "NY" on it and children called out to me, in English, and said "hello" and "welcome". 

One boy grabbed hold of the rear of the bike and I shouted "La-a" which is "no" in Arabic, but he held on until I shouted "don't touch!" in English. The dirt streets were winding in and out like a rabbit warren with many dead ends. I had trouble finding my way out and back to the main street, but, eventually I did, with no harm done. I felt quite comfortable during that ride.

Two-Wheel LONG Wheelbase Recumbent
Carpal tunnel effects caused my fingers to become numb, so, in 1990, I purchased a LONG-wheelbase Recumbent bicycle. The steering is under the seat, with a multi-link connection to the front wheel, which makes for a a bit of a lag between moving the bar and the wheel actually turning.

(I had Carpal Tunnel surgery on both wrists which is how I was able to go back to an upright bicycle, my Bike Friday, see above.)

Here I am in Ireland riding my Recumbent. 

The story of my trip to Ireland was featured in our local Binghamton newspaper in 1991.

My Mountain Bike
In 1987 I purchased this mountain bike. I joined the wonderful Southern Tier Bicycle Club (THANK YOU AUGIE MUELLER!) and rode with them most Saturdays. I also rode it to and from work a few days a week.

The First Bike I Owned
As a child, my Dad taught me to ride on a bike we rented. He, my Mom, and I would occasionally go out riding on rental bikes. We lived in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, NY and sometimes rode along the Boardwalk between Brighton Beach and Coney Island (allowed early on Sunday mornings when there were few people). Other times, we rode to Sheepshead Bay and along a bike trail to Canarsie.   

In 1956, when I was in high school, my Uncle Harry, who worked at Macy's, arranged the purchase of an Raleigh "English Racer". We took it home on the subway because my Dad did not have a car. 

I rode that bicycle all around our Brighton Beach neighborhood and along the Boardwalk and the Sheepshead bay trail during my high school and college days. (I lived with my parents and younger brother in Brighton Beach and commuted to Brooklyn Technical High School and the City College of New York by subway.) 

I took it with me when I moved out of the house in 1961 to take my first professional job in Norwalk, CT. In 1963 I took my second professional job in North Plainfield, NJ, Although I had a car, I sometimes used that bicycle to go to and from work.  

While working in Connecticut and New Jersey, I pursued my social life in Brooklyn, spending most weekends at my parent's house. I met Violet Stark, my wife-to-be, and taught her to ride a bicycle and drive a car (and we still got married in 1964 :^) 

In 1965, when I got my job at IBM Federal Systems in upstate Owego, NY, we bought a farm in Newark Valley, about 12 miles from work. I gave up bicycling and my ancient Raleigh was left to molder in a corner of a barn. 

In 1978, we moved to Apalachin, which was only 6 miles from work, but I still did not take up cycling. It was not until 1987 when I resurrected my ancient Raleigh (image below) and thought about using it to commute to work. However, it had only three speeds and our house was up a steep hill, so that old bike was not right for the task. Which is why I purchased the mountain bike described above. 

Ira Glickstein

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Insanely Great" - The Apple Computer Design Philosophy of Steve Jobs

I presented this talk to the Philosophy Club of The Villages, FL this past Friday afternoon (10 March 2017) to an enthusiastic audience, followed by a great cross-discussion in which my wife, Vi, and grandchild Alex (a first-year student at Bryn Mawr) participated.

Jobs was born in 1955 and died in 2011, at the comparatively young age of 56, of pancreatic cancer. Despite his relatively short life, he had an inordinate effect on computer-related technology. From the original 1977 Apple II to the 2010 iPad, Steve Jobs’ design philosophy of obsessive focus, extreme simplicity, and products that just work, has enriched my life and the lives of my wife and family. Even if you never used an Apple product, he has changed your life as well. 

Much of the information in my talk is from the excellent biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

In 2004, a year after he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Jobs asked Isaacson to write his biography, but Isaacson didn't start the job until 2009, when Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell told him of the extent of Jobs' illness, and thus the urgency of the task. The book was published in 2011, shortly after Jobs' death.

According to Isaacson, Steve Jobs revolutionized six industries: Personal Computers, Digital Publishing, Animated Movies, Music, Cell-Phones, and Tablet Computers.

In 1977, when the Apple II was first marketed, I was working for IBM's Federal Systems Division which specializes in computer and computer-based systems for military aircraft and spacecraft. In 1978, with the enthusiastic support of my wife, we purchased Apple II serial number 14,102. The purchase price was about $15,000 in 2017 dollars, including disk drives and a floating-point card we purchased later. (When we first took it home, our Apple II was limited to a tape drive and integer arithmetic.) Eventually over 5,000,000 Apple II's were sold, so we were definitely "early adopters".

Our Apple II (photo above) is over 38 years old and has been in storage for 25 years. I recently removed it from the plastic tub in which it has spent over two decades.

Today, of course, $15,000 will buy you more than a dozen top-end laptops or tablet computers. Indeed, for a few hundred bucks you can have a wonderful Windows 10 laptop that is nearly infinitely faster, more capable, and better than our original Apple II. Also, a heck of a lot smaller and lighter, AND with a better display.


However, I credit that $15,000 investment in 1978 for helping me in my career with IBM, for motivating my wife into going back to college and adding a Masters Degree in Computer Science to her previous Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. She taught Computer Science at Binghamton University and then became a Software Engineer at the IBM Federal Systems facility in Owego, NY, where I was employed as a System Engineer. Prior to IBM introducing the first Windows Personal Computer (PC), I used my Apple II to learn programming. I also lugged it to work and demonstrated the capabilities of the Apple II personal computer while teaching system engineering classes at IBM.

Due to my experience with the Apple II, when IBM Owego obtained its first IBM PC in 1981, I was chosen to be the first employee to get one in his office! That helped build my reputation at work as being something of an expert on how a PC best fits into an engineer's office.

Our children also benefited! In May 1980, when computers were first introduced into the local school system, our oldest daughter, Lisa, was selected to demonstrate the Apple II. Her photo was published in our local newspaper (Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin) along with the story. [See Photo below]

A month later, in June 1980, our middle daughter, Rena, and our youngest, Sara, were shown using our Apple II at home in the same newspaper. [See Photo above. NOTE: The "Computers 'R' Us" images in this posting are from: one of our 2014 50th Anniversary postings on this Blog. Click the link for more information.]

All three of our daughters went on to earn advanced degrees (two PhD's and a Masters) and they married wonderful young men who are also highly computer-literate and well-educated leaders in exploiting computer power to enrich our lives.

I also went on to add a 1990 Masters Degree in System Science to my 1961 Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. My PhD in System Science was added in 1996.


Vi and I also purchased an IBM PC for home use as soon as they became available under an employee purchase plan in 1982.

At that time, I was leading an Independent Research and Development project at IBM Owego in preparation for submitting a bid for a Helicopter Avionics System. My "Rational Cockpit" design concept featured a dual-redundant data bus, two Mission Computers (MC) and four Multi-Purpose Displays (MPD). I used our home PC, along with my office PC, to develop a demonstration of display formats for the MPDs, which, at that time, were a complete departure from traditional dedicated display devices for each subsystem and function.

When we wrote the proposal, I was the Lead Engineer for the Technical Proposal volume. We provided a PC-based working demonstration of the MPDs to our customer as part of a mock-up of the cockpit. That helped us win the contract, which resulted in a nice award for me, as well as membership in IBM's 1983 Golden Circle, celebrated by us in Hawaii! [Photo below]

Vi later became the Lead Software Engineer for the Avionics System for two different Special Forces helicopters. The dual-redundant, two MC system architecture and four MPD display concept I pioneered, and the software that Vi built and perfected, were utilized, in a later version, for the helicopters that captured Osama Bin Laden! [Photos below]


Steve Jobs had a very peculiar upbringing and youth. As depicted in the graphic below, he dabbled in a stew of COUNTER-CULTURE, FLOWER-POWER, ZEN BUDDHISM, and MARIJUANA, among other questionable pursuits. He was also interested in ARTS and the HUMANITIES. Given that combination of youthful pursuits, you might think he'd end up with a job where all you have to say is "You want fries with that?"

However, partially due to his early friendship with Steve Wozniak, Jobs combined all that stuff with TECHNOLOGY, Steve Jobs was  AT THE NEXUS - a UNIQUE  FUSION of FLOWER-POWER and COMPUTER POWER. 

Jobs and Wozniak ("Woz") were best friends. Around 1971 they built and sold “BLUE BOXES” to hack Into Phone System.

Summary of Jobs' early life:

Born 1955: Birth Father: Abdulfattah Jandali, Muslim, Syria; Birth Mother: Joanne Schieble, Catholic of Swiss and German descent, Wisconsin. He referred to them as merely: “My sperm and egg bank.”

He was adopted in 1955 by Paul and Clara Jobs. He calls them “My parents 1,000%”  

Father - Paul Jobs: From a Calvinist household, Wisconsin. HS dropout, mechanic, WWII Coast Guard machinist. Later, a “repo man”, car repairman. Mother - Clara Hagopian: Daughter of Armenian immigrants in San Francisco, widow.

In 1972 he took up with his girlfriend Chrisann Brennan. She has said he was enlightened but could be cruel. In 1977 they had a baby (Lisa Brennan) who was raised by Chrisann, but later accepted into the Jobs' household.

Jobs was powerfully affected by the Vietnam Era Meme of “turn on, tune in, drop out”, LSD, marijuana, … and Buddhism. He said he believed that “Intuitive understanding and consciousness more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis.” 

In fits and starts he was a vegetarian, fruitarian, went on extreme diets and purges, ... Jobs spent time in a commune, noticed that members were secretly stealing each other’s food, and their leader was selfishly running it as a business.

In 1972 he was admitted to expensive Reed College (Portland OR). Woz (then a student at Berkeley) visited Jobs at Reed College. Jobs complained about required courses and said he only attended courses he liked. Bored, he dropped out, did not pay tuition. But Reed College allowed him to attend classes he desired and live in dorms with friends.

Jobs visited India in mid 1970’s. Worked at Atari 1974-75. He was arrogant, brash, had b.o. and was banished to the night shift. Woz (then at HP) did the arcade game Breakout for Jobs in  record time and with a minimum number of computer chips. This is an early example of REALITY DISTORTION, Jobs' ability to get other people to believe and do unreasonable things and achieve unexpectedly good results!  

The image below includes photos of some of the unique products and services brought to fruition via Jobs' incredible REALITY DISTORTION powers. 

Note that Jobs was forced out of his company (Apple) in 1985 and did not return until 1997. During that time, he developed the NeXT computer (not a financial success, but with some innovative software features) and lead Pixar into major advances in Computer Animation, used for Toy Story and other classics that grossed hundreds of millions. 

When he returned to then-struggling Apple, he helped them get back into their innovative mode by introducing the iMac Personal Computer, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, as well as the Macbook Air laptop.  

I was an early adopter of only two Apple products, each purchased within a year ot their introduction: Our Apple II (1978) and iPad (2011). Due to our employment at IBM, Vi and I did then, and still do, all our serious work on IBM/Windows PCs and laptops. Our cellphones are Androids! However, we credit Steve Jobs for introducing similar products, later copied and further innovated and produced by other corporations, that make all our lives richer.

The above images are what I call "mirror selfies". Using an iPad to take a photo of myself using an iPad to take a photo of myself and the iPad! At the left, my iPad in 2011 (the year after the first iPad was introduced), and, at the right, my iPad in 2017 taking a photo of our ancient Apple II (which we purchased in 1978, a year after it was introduced).

I use my iPad almost every day for my "fun" computer tasks because it is light, convenient, and turns on instantly. However, almost all my "serious" computer tasks, such as PowerPoint presentations and Blog posts, are done with Windows laptops. My Android cell-phone is my ultra-portable camera as well as my multi-purpose alarm clock and Web Surfer. Oh, and I sometimes use it to make phone calls are send and receive texts!

STEVE JOBS Product Philosophy: 
Technology must be joined with great design, elegance, human touches, … quality. Graphical user interfaces, varied fonts, stark simplicity ...


“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

"It just works."

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. 

You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

“That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

“Of all the inventions of humans, the computer is going to rank near or at the top as history unfolds and we look back. It is the most awesome tool that we have ever invented. 

I feel incredibly lucky to be at exactly the right place in Silicon Valley, at exactly the right time, historically, where this invention has taken form.”

… it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. 
"The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. 
"It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
In 2003 he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and he chose  alternative treatment for 9 months
In 2006 he was “thin, almost gaunt” presenting at Apple Conference
Up until and including 2008 misleading health statements were circulated
In 2009 Jobs received a Liver transplant
In 2011, on October 5th, Jobs died at his Palo Alto home due to relapse of pancreatic cancer. 

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Al King -Tuskegee Airman (Black History Month)

Our daughter Lisa, and son-in-law Jerry Hagler, are visiting us in The Villages, FL. Today we toured our Eisenhower Recreation Center, which celebrates the brave American heroes who served in World War II and other conflicts.

One of the exhibits of special interest to us honors the late Al King, an Original Tuskegee Airman (Class of 1943) who we met personally several years ago. The exhibit includes a photo of Al with his airplane and wartime buddies as well as his image on the cover of a local magazine. It was especially appropriate to pay special attention to these photos since February is Black History Month.

The material was contributed by Al King's wife, Brigitte, who was our first water aerobics instructor when Vi and I came to The Villages in 2003. Brigitte led the group, called "Brigitte's Critters" at the Savannah Recreation Center Sports Pool. The name comes from the animal noises we make during part of the exercises.

A few years later she married Al, and he would come to classes and observe from his seat on the pool deck, sometimes shaking his cane at Brigitte in playful anger when she purposefully said or did anything even slightly risqué!

Brigitte gave up leadership of the class several years ago, but it still meets for an hour six mornings a week under the leadership of a few women volunteers who follow almost the same sequence of exercise moves that Brigitte originated. We "Critters" still make animal noises! (Although the printed schedule says the class starts at 9AM it actually begins five to ten minutes early, a tradition for pool activities in The Villages. I'm usually there on Thursday mornings.)

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Free Birthday Balloon Engages Ceiling Fan

Watch as a free birthday balloon steals the show when it engages the ceiling fan. (This happened at our Parkinsons support group Monday meeting (January 23, 2016). [Click on image to view.]

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My "Eight-Sided Dice" - Published in Popular Electronics When I Was a College Student

The Internet is AMAZING! Yesterday, almost by accident I found the very first article of mine published in a national magazine, POPULAR ELECTRONICS, 58 years ago, when I was a sophomore in college! My electronic DICE device is a project I designed to simulate a symmetric 8-sided polygon that is equally likely to fall on any one of its sides.

Three pairs of neon lamps flicker on and off rapidly until the user presses a button, which stops the flickering and leaves only one member of each pair on. Given three pairs of lamps, there are exactly eight combinations, since two times two times two is equal to eight. At the time, there was lots of interest in Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP), so my device could be used to test if a person could demonstrate foreknowledge of the outcome of a "random" event. It could also be used to learn about binary arithmetic, at least a bit - (pun intended!)

I "Google" myself every once in a while to check up on what people may be writing about me. (As a Guest Contributor to the worlds most popular Climate website, Watts Up With That?, I am sometimes the target of negative postings from climate alarmists who denigrate my skeptical views on Global Warming and Climate Change. I accept the basic science that Global Warming is real and that human production of carbon dioxide contributes to the warming. However, I'm convinced the amount of warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the danger of climate catastrophe has been way over-hyped.)

This time, instead of using Google, I used Bing, and searched for "Ira Glickstein". (I've never heard anyone say they were going to "Bing" something.) In any case, after looking at the first two pages of references to "Ira Glickstein", I impulsively clicked on the seventh page and there it was, a link to my 1957 article in POPULAR ELECTRONICS!  Someone had kindly scanned the entire issue and posted it for all the world to see! Here is a link to the .pdf file. I've reproduced the three-page article below.

As I look at my design from the perspective of a retired System Engineer with a long and creative career conceiving and designing complex avionics systems, I'm pretty impressed at how I, as a college sophomore, adapted the basic idea of an RC (Resistive/Capacitive) relaxation oscillator using neon lamps.

Looking at the circuit diagram above, it took me awhile to remember that neon lamps are basically two parallel wires, with a small gap between them, sealed within a neon-gas-filled glass tube. When the voltage difference between the two wires in the lamp is below a certain critical value, the effective resistance is nearly infinite. As the voltage builds up, a point is reached where electrons have enough energy to jump the gap. At that point, the neon gas glows, and the effective resistance drops. That causes the voltage across that gap to drop, and that lamp goes off. The capacitor in the circuit stores energy so that, as the voltage rises once more, the voltage across the gap in the other neon lamp of the pair will increase faster. Thus, the two lamps in a pair will alternately flicker on and off. When the user pushes the button, the two neon lamps of a pair are put in parallel, so they have the same voltage across them, which makes the neon lamp that was on stay on, and the one that was off stay off.

Since the three pairs of lamps and associated resistors and capacitors are bound to have slightly different parameters, they each oscillate at a slightly different frequency. Thus, when the user presses the button, each pair is likely to be in a different phase of the oscillation, such that the resultant final state is more or less "random", any of the eight possible combinations being equally likely. 

The final section of the article discusses use of the device to test for ESP. I actually experimented with several friends and kept track of results. Sometimes the subject would correctly guess several outcomes in a row, and I thought they really had ESP!

However, when I learned more about statistics, I realized that there was a non-zero probability for "random" coin flips to appear non-random. For example, as you know, the probability of a "fair-coin" landing "Heads" is 50%. The probability of two "Heads" in a row is 25%, three in a row is 12.5%, four in a row is 6.25%, five in a row is 3.125%, six in a row is 1.5625% and so on.

I made use of that fact when teaching a graduate course in System Engineering by asking my students to do a two-part experiment. In the first part, they were to manually make up a list of 200 "Heads" and "Tails" that they thought was "random". In the second part, they were to actually toss a coin 200 times and record the actual "Heads" and "Tails". They were to label one of their lists "A" and the other "B", recording, but not telling me, which was made up manually and which was the actual record of 200 real coin tosses. In almost every case, I was able to tell which was which!

How did I do it? Well, given 200 actual coin tosses, the chance of getting six "Heads" or six "Tails" in a row somewhere in the sequence is almost 100%. However, when someone manually makes up a list of 200 "Heads" and "Tails" they (almost) never write down a series of five or six "Heads" or "Tails" in a row, because that does not look "random" to them! So, I'd check the two lists submitted by each student, and, if one list had a sequence of six or more "Heads" or "Tails" in a row, and the other list did not, I'd know the first list was for the real coin tosses!

I don't know if my Eight-Sided Dice POPULAR ELECTRONICS article is to blame, but, after studying Einstein's General Relativity and reading about his problem with the "Copenhagen Interpretation" of Quantum Mechanics, I came out on Einstein's side, rejecting the currently accepted view that Physics is truly random. Einstein said something like "God does not play DICE with the Universe!"

Despite the fact that Quantum Mechanics based on "Heisenberg's Uncertainty" is the most successful theory for predicting the outcome of sub-atomic experiments, I cannot shake the view that there is some currently hidden, non-random process behind all of it. So, like Einstein, I believe in Strict Causality, and, therefore, Absolute Determinism. That also requires me to believe that the Universe is both Finite and Discrete.

Ira Glickstein