Tag Archives: texas a&m university

Music on Mondays (4-13-15)—You poor little fool

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

One of my favorite television programs when I was in grade school was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, on the air from 1952 to 1966.

As music became an integral part of my life with violin, piano, and voice, Ozzie & Harriet’s son, Rick, became part of my life.

Before I ever discovered Ricky Nelson, though, he already had two #1 hit singles, “Poor Little Fool” from 1958, and “Travelin’ Man” from 1961.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The period before I discovered him in 1972 resulted in eighteen Top 10 hits! I discovered him when “Garden Party” peaked at #6 in 1972.

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In 1985, the Texas A&M football team had won the Southwest Conference Championship and was to meet Auburn University in the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1986, in Dallas.

I had many friends living in the Dallas area, and one of them got us tickets to a New Year’s Eve concert, billed as a New Year’s Eve Extravaganza with Ricky Nelson. Sadly, Nelson’s private jet crashed in De Kalb, Texas, northeast of Dallas, and about two miles short of the landing strip. The crash happened at 5:14 p.m. Dallas time; I was at a bar celebrating when the news began circulating around 9:00 p.m. that Ricky Nelson was dead. There was no extravaganza that night.

Up until 1993 I still had the obviously unused ticket to the concert but I think it got left behind in Texas when I came to San Diego. It probably got thrown away. Too bad because it would probably be worth quite a bit of money!

Of course, I have to mention that Texas A&M won the Cotton Bowl Classic on January 1, 1986, beating an Auburn team that featured Heisman Trophy-winning running back Bo Jackson. Final score was 36-16.

Fightin' Texas Aggie Band from Texas A&M University

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Opinion—I’m going with Monsanto on this one, for the moment

Opinion

Many decades ago I wanted to be a researcher for a forestry company like Weyerhauser. I wanted to find new ways to use what trees provided, to make new products that might help us save some of those beautiful forests. Kind of a conflict of interest, I guess, to work for a forestry company that specialized in clearcutting whole forests but looking for ways to cut (pun intended) the amount of clearcutting….

Texas A&M UniversityWhile working towards a degree in forest management at Texas A&M University, a degree which I never have used (it looks pretty hanging on the wall, though!), I did gain an appreciation for how research is done, and I’m a big proponent of peer-reviewed research published in respectable (i.e., well-established) journals.

Conflict of interest…. Peer-reviewed research….

That brings me to Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO).

According to Wikipedia (and yes, I do like Wikipedia both because I am a volunteer editor there myself and because Wikipedia requires valid sources and citations rather than opinions):

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, ‘living modified organism,’ defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, ‘any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology’).”

When I was working towards my Bachelor of Science, in 1975 the world population was a little over four billion. To put that into a time perspective:

AD 1 – 200 million
1000 – 265 million
1955 (when I was born) – 2.756 billion
1975 – 4.068 billion
2000 – 6.070 billion
2015 – 7.324 billion

Friday Flower Fiesta with Topaz GlowMy interest in biotechnology increased significantly in 1984 when Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), “Father of the Green Revolution,” agreed to teach and do his research at my alma mater, Texas A&M University. Dr. Borlaug had used biotechnology techniques to increase worldwide food production, particularly in Mexico, Pakistan, and India. For his contributions to increasing the world’s food supply, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He continued teaching and doing research at Texas A&M right up until his death in 2009 at the age of 95.

Friday Flower Fiesta 12-19-14 Russel Ray PhotosBorlaug’s work to increase crop yields was, in his view, a means to curb deforestation, a view with led to the “Borlaug Hypothesis,” that increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland.

From Wikipedia:

“Assuming that global food demand is on the rise, restricting crop usage to traditional low-yield methods would also require at least one of the following: the world population to decrease, either voluntarily or as a result of mass starvations; or the conversion of forest land into crop land. It is thus argued that high-yield techniques are ultimately saving ecosystems from destruction.”  (Angelsen, A., and D. Kaimowitz. 2001. “The Role of Agricultural Technologies in Tropical Deforestation.” Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation at the Wayback Machine (archived September 29, 2005). CABI Publishing, New York.

That’s all well and good, but Borlaug’s work has resulted in a big-time industry in genetically modified organisms, ultimately dumping much of the GMO criticism directly on Dr. Borlaug.

According to Wikipedia:

“Throughout his years of research, Borlaug’s programs often faced opposition by people who consider genetic crossbreeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects. Borlaug’s work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming. These farming techniques reap large profits for U.S. agribusiness and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto Company and have been criticized for widening social inequality in the countries owing to uneven food distribution while forcing a capitalist agenda of U.S. corporations onto countries that had undergone land reform.

“Other concerns of his critics and critics of biotechnology in general include: that the construction of roads in populated third-world areas could lead to the destruction of wilderness; the crossing of genetic barriers; the inability of crops to fulfill all nutritional requirements; the decreased biodiversity from planting a small number of varieties; the environmental and economic effects of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides; the amount of herbicide sprayed on fields of herbicide-resistant crops.

“Borlaug dismissed most claims of critics, but did take certain concerns seriously. He stated that his work has been “a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into a Utopia”. Of environmental lobbyists he stated, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

IMG_8360 faa stampSo we are back to Monsanto. I’m not naïve enough to think that Monsanto doesn’t want money, and they think they have found a way to make significant amounts of it. I’m also not naïve enough to think that companies (and extraordinarily rich people) are going to do the right thing just because. Life doesn’t work that way, which is why governments need to step in to control things.

Unfortunately, governments throughout history have been shown to be corrupt. In the United States today, courtesy of the United States Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision, corporations are people and are free to buy as many politicians and governments as they can afford.

Framed flower orbI’m all for Monsanto making money off of its GMOs, and I’m all for those GMOs being used to solve world food, health, and housing problems. In order for me to have confidence in their work and their research, though, I need to continue to see that work and research published in peer-reviewed publications.

The main reason is that many corporations sponsor academic research, so the academic researcher might have a desire to make the research conform to the needs or wants of the corporation. That’s where the peer review comes in. Well-respected, peer-reviewed publications send research out to other people for review, and the researcher doesn’t have a choice as to which people the publication sends the research to. Sure, the researcher can advocate for specific people, but the publication editors may or may not choose those people.

Photographic Art by Russel Ray PhotosWhen I worked at Texas A&M University from 1983-1987, I worked for the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter, all under the tutelage of Dr. Bernard Shapiro, a foremost researcher in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance. Dr. Shapiro often got requests from various publications throughout the world (Science, Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Chemistry, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, et al.) to review research, and I had the pleasure of compiling his comments and sending them off to the publications.

In conclusion,

  • as long as human population growth increases out of control,
  • as long as men are not willing to put a condom on it,
  • as long as women are not willing to take a pill the day after,
  • as long as Republican politicians continue to try to control a woman’s right to choose,
  • as long as we have selfish people like the Duggars, and
  • as long as we have peer-reviewed research,

I’m going to go with Monsanto on this one so that at least no one has to starve to death.

I will continue to watch the situation, though, and continue to read peer-reviewed research in established publications rather than listen to sound bites or reading sound bite Internet memes.

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It’s a weather phenomenon, not a people one

Did you know?

Texas A&M UniversityWhen I came to San Diego in April 1993, I heard talk about the “marine layer.” Since my dad was in the Air Force, and I graduated from Texas A&M University with its 2,500-member-strong Corps of Cadets, I thought “Marine” instead of “marine.”

The marine layer is a weather phenomenon, not a people one. It’s a thick layer of clouds that rolls in off the Pacific Ocean as the sun goes down, often staying until noon the next day, depending on when Mr. Sun wants to heat up the air to get rid of it.

Here are two pictures of the marine layer rolling in over SeaWorld:

A morning marine layer rolling in over SeaWorld San Diego

A morning marine layer rolling in over SeaWorld San Diego

When the marine layer gets really low, as it is in those two pictures, you’ll find that the air is damp and you can’t see more than several feet in front of you. In my home state of Texas, we called it fog.

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Thank you!

Inspiration

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Alpha Phi OmegaMany decades ago I was heavily involved with Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (APO). I had started my involvement as a junior at Texas A&M University. When friends asked me what the difference was between a service fraternity and a social fraternity, I responded,

A service fraternity spends 75% of its time doing volunteer work to help the campus, the community, and the country. The other 25% is spent drinking. A social fraternity spends 75% of its time drinking. The other 25% is spent doing volunteer work to help the campus, the community, and the country.

Always got a chuckle, if not outright laughter.

After college graduation, the extent of my involvement affected both my personal and business lives. Everything in my world came crashing down in 1982 and 1983, and that crash led to my lost decade of 1983-1993.

I quit my job because my boss was a jerk. In hindsight, he wasn’t a jerk. I simply wasn’t interested in my job in any sense other than that it paid my bills and let me play APO. He sensed that. However, I quit my job without having another job lined up.

At the same time, the rent on my apartment jumped $150 a month, to an even $1 a square foot. I had to look at either buying some property in Houston, or moving back to College Station (90 miles northwest of Houston) into property that I already owned but was renting to sorority girls from Delta Delta Delta.

I moved….

Still without having a job….

Also during this time, I was the Chairman for APO’s Section 42, which covered East Texas and comprised 15 or so chapters. It was a one-year position, so I would have to run for re-election to match my predecessors, which I wanted to do.

As I started contemplating running for re-election, students throughout the section told me that I was the best chairman they had ever seen, having shown up at their events more than any other chairman. Everyone encouraged me to run for re-election, and I did.

I lost.

I know why.

Since everyone wanted me to run, I thought they would vote for me. What I forgot to do was to ask them to vote for me and to thank them for their support. I still make the mistake of not asking for what I want or need, and not thanking people enough.

So here’s a great big

Thank you!

to all my friends, family, and business associates for being a part of my life. That includes my many blogging friends for you are a significant part of my family. I love y’all!

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Homeless during the holidays

Time, money, WordPress, and Facebook

Opinion

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Texas A&M UniversityDuring my first year in college, I lived in Moore Hall and Puryear Hall on the Texas A&M University campus. Moore Hall had four floors, and I didn’t like it. Just too big. No opportunity for a shy freshman like me to get to know anyone or get involved. I couldn’t move the alpha males out of the way.

Puryear Hall was a ramp-type dorm. Instead of floors with 100 people living on them, there were ramps, which were simply stairways. Each ramp had four floors, but there were only four rooms per floor. With two people per room, eight people per ramp floor, and 32 people per ramp, it was much easier for a shy person to fit in.

I was on floor two, ramp 4. My seven rampmates were from Seattle, Houston, Waller TX, Hempstead TX, Kingsville TX, Lake Jackson TX, and—wait for it—Lagos, Nigeria. I don’t remember the Nigerian’s name, but I’m pretty sure he’s not one of the Nigerian scammers who wants to give you millions of dollars. Thus, I’m not a contact person or a reference….

Church in downtown Long BeachHowever, the Nigerian was very outgoing, an extrovert, an alpha male. He was interested in exploring the world’s religions, and each weekend, he would get a large group together to go visit a different church. The group started off with just four of us but, over the semester, grew to 50 or 60 people each week. We visited every church we could find—Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Church of Christ, Jew, Presbyterian. I know there was a “strange religion” in there—Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam—but I don’t remember which one.

It was during my college years that I started questioning the fundamental tenets of the Catholic and Mormon faiths in which I had been raised. My main problem then, as now, is that I could not understand how an all-knowing, all-powerful god could allow poverty, homelessness, hunger, and disease to exist among “his children.” I couldn’t understand how that all-knowing, all-powerful, invisible being would allow his children to die in car wrecks, train wrecks, airplane crashes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, heat waves, blizzards, etc. It didn’t make sense to me then and it still makes no sense to me. There is no need to try to explain it. I’m familiar with all the reasons the all-knowing, all-powerful, invisible, mystical being allows disasters and such. I’m not buying them; they are too expensive.

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s Christmas spirit, holiday spirit, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever, but this time of year always gets me thinking about these things, and this morning when I went out exploring, I found a homeless person in the middle of Balboa Park, one of San Diego’s most beautiful places:

Homeless during the holidays

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Five things in this world currently bug me, really bug me:

  1. homelessness;
  2. disease and sickness;
  3. people who are cruel to animals, including people who kill animals for sport;
  4. the current generation of idiotic Republicans. I was a lifelong Republican until last year; I just couldn’t take the likes of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman anymore; and
  5. those who blindly follow religion without questioning it, especially if they quote things out of context or haven’t even read their own religion’s holy book completely! And, yes, I have read the Bible three times, start to end. I’ve read the Quran/Qu’ran/Koran once, all of The Analects (Confucianism), the Book of Mormon many times, and several others, all while searching for my own identity in this world.

Unfortunately, I’m not rich enough to do much on my own…. a little time here, a few dollars there, and my outspokenness here and on Facebook.

Possessions of a homeless person

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Home of a homeless person

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Denny Laine

Music on Mondays — Happy birthday to Denny Laine!

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Tomorrow is the 68th birthday for Denny Laine. Happy birthday, Denny!

Denny LaineLaine is a guitarist and singer, and was a founding member of The Moody Blues. I didn’t become familiar with him until 1971 when he showed up as a member of Wings on their first album, Wild Life, released December 7, 1971. For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Wings was Paul McCartney’s band after The Beatles broke up in 1970. He was one of the three core members of Wings throughout its history, the other two being Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda.

Wings (and Paul McCartney) rocked throughout the 1970s with albums such as “Red Rose Speedway,” “Band on the Run,” “Venus and Mars,” “Wings at the Speed of Sound,” “London Town,” and “Back to the Egg.” Hit singles that made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart include “My Love,” “Band on the Run,” “Listen To What The Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” “With A Little Luck,” and “Coming Up.” A couple of near misses include “Live and Let Die,” peaking at #2; “Junior’s Farm,” peaking at #3; and “Let ‘Em In,” also peaking at #3.

The Summit in Houston, Texas, ca. 1994I saw Wings in concert at The Summit in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday, May 4, 1976, as part of their “Wings Over America” tour. Texas A&M was in Dead Week, so I could get away with going to a concert 90 miles away on a week day.

I knew the words to all the songs and happily sang along with the rest of the crowd…. Well, almost all of the songs. There was one song that I was not familiar with. It was played as one of the encores and was titled “Go Now.” I thought it was a new, unreleased song, but after reading the reviews the next day in the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post, I found out that “Go Now” was The Moody Blues’ first hit from February 1965. The reviews also increased my musical knowledge base by informing me that Denny Laine was a founding member of The Moody Blues. Laine quit The Moody Blues in August 1966 although I could not find out why.

Wings Over AmericaI became familiar with The Moody Blues, as did most of the world, in August 1972 when “Nights in White Satin” hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Interestingly, the album “Nights in White Satin” was released in 1968, and a single, “Tuesday Afternoon,” made it to #24 on the charts. If I remember correctly, the four years between the release of an album and a single making it to the Top 10 is the longest ever.

I liked “Go Now” but could not find it in any of the record stores, not even in any of the cut-out bins (smile if you remember cut-out bins). There was no such thing as iTunes, Napster, or amazon.com at the time, so I had to do without that song until December 1976—seven months later!—when it was released on the “Wings Over America” live album.

For Denny Laine’s 68th birthday, I give you some Denny Laine.

“Go Now” by The Moody Blues
Denny Laine on guitar and lead vocals

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“Mull of Kintyre” from November 1977 is the first single in Great Britain to sell over two million copies,
and that includes all of The Beatles’ hits. It still is the #1 selling non-charity single in Great Britain. Written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, it has Laine on backing vocals, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar. Denny Laine shows up in the video at the 1:30 mark.

 

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Denny Laine’s greatest collaboration with McCartney came on 1978’s “London Town” album where he had co-songwriting credits on five of the fourteen songs. He sang lead vocal on two of them, both of them about children: “Children Children” and “Deliver Your Children.” Here’s “Children Children”:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Happy birthday, Denny!

Happy birthday to Denny Laine

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music on Mondays — It’s country time!

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

After delving into classical music two weeks ago and then pop/rock/metal last week, I got a request for country music. Since I grew up in Texas doing the Texas two-step, line dancing, and such, I do have some country music in my vast collection.

The first one is “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash from late 1956. According to my mother, I used to sit on the floor in the back of the car and sing along any time it came on the radio.

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Next is “Take This Job And Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck from 1977. In 1982, I wanted to use this song to quit a job at Kerr Steamship Company. That’s how frustrated I was. After talking to my best friend, Richard Maulsby Scruggs (I call him Maulsby and use his full name here because I’m still friends with him and wanted to give him some Google Juice; it’s good for you), who was a consultant with Arthur Andersen, I decided to give a standard two-week notice, which I did the next day. Richard’s advice had been, “Don’t burn bridges.”

A year later I was applying for a position with Texas A&M University to do editing and copywriting for the Texas A&M University Press, the College of Science, and the Department of Chemistry. Darned if the Professor for whom I would be directly working didn’t actually call my past three employers. Darned again if my supervisor at Kerr Steamship Company didn’t give me a glowing recommendation, even stating that he would rehire me in a flash. “Just send him back down here and he’s got a job,” Mr. Supervisor said.

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Then there’s Garth Brooks. Some country music purists don’t consider Garth to be country music. To that I will defer to Billboard, which places him in the country music category. My favorite of his is “Friends In Low Places” from 1990. It spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Country Music Singles Chart. To reinforce Garth’s countryness, “Friends In Low Places” won the 1990 Single of the Year from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Then there is Glen Campbell, probably my all-time favorite country star. “Wichita Lineman” came out in November 1968. For Christmas that year I got a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I was constantly trying to record “Wichita Lineman” off the radio but the radio announcers wouldn’t shut up so I could get the beginning and the ending of the song. I hate it when radio announcers talk through the first 10 seconds of a song and then start talking again before the song ends!

Trivia: From December 1964 to March 1965, Glen Campbell was a touring member of the Beach Boys where he played bass guitar and sang falsetto harmonies. He also played guitar on the group’s Pet Sounds album.

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Lastly, I can’t leave out “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley from 1968. I was every teacher’s nightmare student and my wise old grandmother was always having to go to the PTA meetings to convince the teachers that I was a good kid.

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