Yesterday morning I was walking the dogs along the beach. All of a sudden two US Coast Guard helicopters started to hover around the area. One helicopter even lowered something from its body. It then dropped very low where it could not be seen. All of us on the beach assumed that they were rescuing a swimmer in trouble or retrieving the body of someone who had drowned. I later found that the helicopters were thee for a research project from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy. They were measuring natural background radiation. Why do they need this information? I suspect they need to know these things so that they could better detect a rogue nuclear device hidden by terrorists.
I was fortunate to have dental insurance that covered a part of the $1,600 US plus bill for the 2.5 hour surgery. What happens to retired people on Medicare. Does Medicare cover dental work? One of the sad parts of getting old is that one’s teeth start to wear out.
I survived my dental surgery. Dr. Choi brought in an excellent dental surgeon who worked on me 2.5 hours. He used a microscope and knew what he was doing. He had to drill through a gold crown to get to the nerve material inside. I suffered no pain. Alexa Choi, DDS did the packing work after the surgeon finished. I was able to walk around afterwards. I went to my car and drove over to McDonald’s and had my dear father’s favorite-a strawberry milk shake. I then came home. Luah was there and cheered me up. Now this is behind me.
I am heart broken over the loss of Neil Armstrong. Had he had Elena Torello, MD as his doctor, he would still be with us! Elena would have controlled his cholesterol long ago and he would not have had that awful surgery that shortened his life. I had the pleasure of meeting Neil in person at his home in 1969. I came upon him when he was working on his 1954 Chevrolet. He was kind to me and a very nice and humble man. Each death diminishes all of us but this death is a sad loss for all of humanity.
A week of hard work ends. I got a lot done on the house but more challenges lie ahead. Today we go to look at furniture for the study/guest bedroom. I am thankful to the great team of people working with us. A special thanks to Epson printers-they work right the first time!
I am a problem solver. All week long we have been haunted with a beeping noise here int he computer room. I took apart every electronic device. I had a huge diagnostic done on the security system by Comcast. The mad beeping continued. An excellent Comcast technician named Todd came out yesterday and solved the problem. It was the smoke detector in the attic that had a burned out battery.
Now I am in the computer room listening to my beloved Barbara Streissand sing some unforgettable tunes. It has been two days of real hard work on the house.A special well done to Tim Miller and the team at Tim Miller Construction. They helped me to fix so many problems that were small but annoying. Now the dogs cannot escape. A dresser that I have had 13 years is as good as new and the study is now ready for final work. Today I was out again doing a lot of work on the house. It all slowly comes together. Most important in life is sharing love and leaving things better than when you found them.
The whole world watches with fascination as Julian Asdsange takes shelter in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. He has been granted political assylum. How this diplomatic or legal move plays out remains to be seen. It will set some precedents.
Assange claims that if he is returned to Sweden to face some low-level sexual misconduct case, he will be turned over to American authorities. He will , in his version of the future, find himself back in the US and facing the death penalty for treason.
There are several inconsistencies here. First he is in much more danger of being sent back to the USA from Britain. Britain has an express extradition treaty with the US. An American fugitive found in Britain can be sent back to the USA quickly. Britain also has a long tradition of inhibiting freedom of the press and media access to confidential government matters. For decades or centuries the British government has issued infamous “D Notices” stopping the press from reporting confidential government matters and mistakes. A leaker of secrets like Assange would find little or no sympathy with British officials.
Second would Britain allow Assange to be sent back to the USA to face the death penalty? The answer is no. In international law you have something called the Doctrine of Speciality that governs international extraditions. This is often employed by states without the death penalty to insure that wanted criminals sent back to a state with the death penalty are not subject to the death penalty. This doctrine also assures that one sent to another country to face charges only faces the charges int he extradition request and does not face other charges brought up late.
In the case of the US, treason is so difficult to prove that such a charge is rarely raised. Normally defendants are charged with espionage. The last execution for espionage in the US took place almost 60 years ago when the Rosenbergs were electrocuted in Sing Sing Prison.
Assuming that Assange was sent back to Sweden he would get a sentence in the range of 12-18 months. His sentence would be served at a humane prison.
Would the Swedes send Assange back to the US? I think not. The Swedes have a strong tradition of a free press and would not see what Assange did as a crime. I doubt that they would deport Assange back to Australia. The US could easily arrest him there and have him sent back to the USA. The Swedes most likely would send Assange to Ecuador where he has been granted political assylum.
How could Assange escape England? This is an interesting question. A helicopter could appear above the Embassy of Ecuador at midnight and Assange could climb a ladder onto the helicopter. The helicopter could then fly to a ship in international waters and lower him onto the ship. He would then sail to Ecuador.
In another scenario, a government of Ecuador plane could land at some British airport. Assange could be put into a crate that was declared a diplomatic pouch and sealed. Assange would then be driven tot the British airport and put on the Ecuadorian plane.
Assange is of little consequence to the British. They are worried that if he uses this tactic to evade justice some really serious terrorists and major organized crime figures will start to use this tactic to evade justice.
Yesterday Peninsula Heating and Air Conditioning came out and did the engineering work for installing a wood-burning stove in our living room. It is feasible. I liked the idea because it would give us a safe fireplace in a small space. There is an extra dividend to this installation. If power fails the stove will keep you warm and allow you to cook.
On August 1 a great adventure began. Elena and Luah drove me to San Francisco International Airport. I caught a flight on Virgin America to Los Angeles International Airport. I caught the shuttle to Pasadena, California. I checked in at the Pasadena Inn.
Elena and Luah drove to Yosemite National Park. They checked in at the Curry Village. It’s not really a hotel but a complex of tents. It was a rugged and a rustic evening.
The following morning Elena began a grueling 15 mile hike in the Half Dome area. Her hike took her up to 9,000 feet. She had to do dangerous rope climbs that have led to fatalities. At 51 years of age Elena conquered Half Dome. She came down and was able to stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Luah joined her the following morning.
I spent Tuesday getting to know Pasadena again. I had lived in Pasadena in 1989 and 1990. It had not changed that much. I spent the morning exploring Colorado Avenue. In the afternoon I hiked to the California Institute of Technology. This is the finest science university in the world. Only 182 freshmen are accepted each year. I walked around the campus and bought some shirts.
I came back exhausted and with heat exhaustion. I had a long shower. I called Elena and got the good news that she had passed through the dangerous part of Half Dome and was 90 minutes away from the end of the trail. I was so relieved! I fell into a deep sleep. I got up at ten and went back to sleep again.
On Friday Elena and Luah began the drive from Yosemite National Park to Pasadena. It was supposed to take 4 hous. But they hit a traffic jam outside Bakersfied and were delayed for 3 hours.
On Friday morning I had breakfast at the Sheraton. I then walked to the Pasadena Convention Center. I went downstairs and registered for the Mars Society Convention. It was the 15th annual convention. I ran into a lot of old friends. I bought a couple of books. I listened to a day of superb speaker and exciting ideas. I came back with a bag full of books and other things. I waited at the hotel. Elena and Luah drove up. I was so relieved to see them again and to know that they were OK.
We went to dinner at the Porto Alegre Brasilian Churascaria. The bill was over $200 but was worth every penny. It was the celebration of Elena climbing Half Dome and returning alive.
Saturday I had another day of intense conferences at the Mars Society Convention. Speakers included George Whitesides, president of Virgin Galactic, Lori Garver, Deputy NASA administrator, and Congressman Adam Schiff.
In the evening Elena, Luah and I attended the Mars Society banquet. It was well attended. Elon Musk of Space-X was the keynote speaker. He is the man who sent an unmanned space capsule to the International Space Station. He just got the good news that his firm had been awarded $440 million by NASA to spend 21 months developing a crew escape system for the Dragon space capsule. Elon gave an incredible speech. He is my hero in life.
Sunday I was back at the Mars Society convention. Elena went to see some art museums in Los Angeles. Luah went out to see some surfers.
The moment of truth was in the evening. The NASA Mars rover Curiosity was about to enter the Mars atmosphere to land at Gale Crater. A large group of us had gathered. Retiured astronaut Story Musgrave talked for almost 2 hours about his adventures in space. He’s a fascinating man and a “Chuck Yeager” kind of pilot. I had to close my eyes as the rover approached the Martian atmosphere. The rover cost over $2.5 billion and is the size of a Mini Cooper auto. It entered the atmosphere right on course. The heat shield jettisoned. A drogue chute deployed. As it got close to the surface of Mars, four small rockets fired and the rover landed on the Mars surface right on target at 1.5 miles per hour. The room went wild! Please note that some 15,000 people came to Pasadena for this event. This is because the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located right in Pasadena. The rover was designed there and is controlled from there. Not a spare hotel room could be found. We were all so happy when it landed and started to send pictures.
On Monday Elena, Luah, and I drove from Pasadena to San Diego and crossed the border into Tijuana. Luah had to go out and reenter the country to satisfy a technical condition of her student visa. We were frightened of drug cartels and violence. Fortunately things in Tijuana were mellow that day. We walked around downtown and bought some small souvenirs.
At the border crossing we found that they had a special building for I-94 holders Luah went through a two hour wait to get her papers in order. We had another long wait to legally enter the USA. It was another long walk to the car. We found a Mexican restaurant ad had a nice dinner. We then had a grueling two-hour ride up I-15 and I-5 back to Pasadena. At least the traffic was lighter at night. We marveled at the wealth of Southern California. We arrived at the hotel exhausted. I had to pay for another day at the hotel.
On Tuesday we drove down I-710 to Long Beach. We got on the Catalina Express. We sailed one hour to Avalon, Catalina Island. I remembered the old 1940’s song:”Santa Catalina is the island of romance, romance,romance, romance!”
It was beautiful and reminded us of a Hawaiian island. Few cars were permitted on the island. We rented a golf cart and explored the island. We went high in the hills. We took some fabulous pictures and videos. We even encountered a family of deer that came right up to us. We rested on the beach and had a delightful dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was with a sad heart that we had to return to the mainland and Long Beach.