Monthly Archives: October 2019

Mystery Classmates

In a box of family photos I received during the past year, I found a small envelope full of what appear to be class photos of some young women. Each photo has the name of the person written in pencil on the back. That is all the information I have. I’m not even sure which relative these originally belonged to, because none of the women in the pictures is a relative of mine, to my knowledge.

Interestingly, I have already located two of the women on the Find-A-Grave website, of all places. The one common thread they seem to have is being in or around north central Kansas when they were young.

Georgina Kanak
Maxola Tays

As I discover information about the other photos, I will continue to add them to this website.

Dog Blog

I found a new dog blog I like. It is called Dr. Jen’s Dog Blog. I came upon this blog by way of social media. I’m always interested in learning more about how to train my dog.

I have a blue heeler dog that is three years old and still a pretty independent thinker. She is a lot better than when we got her as a pup, but I continue working with her and training her.

One thing I’ve done is to train her to run alongside my bicycle.

She’s pretty good when she’s on a leash, but it can be hit or miss to get her to listen when she is off-leash or in the house. That’s why I was interested in Dr. Jen’s post about training with food incentives. She says it is perfectly ok to keep treats around the house to use for training and keep some in your pockets too. I guess I’ve been thinking at three years old, my dog ought to be listening to me better. But according to Dr. Jen, it’s ok to reinforce with food and vary up the frequency of rewards, but always have the possibility that a reward might be in the mix.

We also have an issue with our dog barking at anyone who comes to the house or even walks by the house. My wife has a home-based business so having an excitable heeler greet everyone with enthusiastic barking isn’t the best thing. So I found another Dr. Jen post that discusses the barking-at-visitors issue, and it looks like some distraction training might be in order to see if we can improve that situation.

Here is a related PostScript – this is a sketch I made of our dog Daisy being sweet.

Sketch of dog curled up into a ball

Comic Figures

I recently learned about the large collection of e-books available on, so I started investigating books on drawing and cartooning. I found a good book published in 1941 on The Art of  Caricaturing by Mitchell Smith, with a chapter on Comic Figures.

If you like e-books, you’ll want to be sure to check out

Certain Kind of Saints

This piece about the saints of our time spoke to me:

We’re in pioneer territory. The saints of old didn’t face our issues. They had their own demons to conquer and aren’t rolling over in their graves, shaking their fingers in disgust at us. They know the struggle. They know that ours is new territory with new demons to conquer and new virtues required. The saints of old remain, of course, as essential templates of Christian discipleship, living gospels, but they walked in different times.

So what kind of saints do we need today?

We need saints who can honour the goodness of the world, even as they honour God. We need women and men who can show us how to walk with a living faith inside a culture which believes that world here is enough and that the issues of God and the next life are peripheral.

I am familiar with only a few of the writers and thinkers mentioned by the article’s author Fr. Ronald Rolheiser as worthy of consideration. I am reblogging below the list of names mentioned by Fr. Rolheiser deemed worthy of consideration for my own future reference. The names below to which I have added links to Twitter accounts are the ones I have read before and enjoyed. The rest I hope to explore further at some date.

Raymond E Brown, Charles Taylor, Daniel Berrigan, Jean Vanier, Mary Jo Leddy, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating, Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr, Elizabeth Johnson, Parker Palmer, Barbara Brown Taylor, Wendy Wright, Gerhard Lohfink, Kathleen Dowling Singh, Jim Forest, John Shea, James Hillman, Thomas Moore and Marilynne Robinson…

Shane Claiborne, Rachel Held Evans, James Martin, Kerry Weber, Trevor Herriot, Macy Halford, Robert Barron, Bryan Stevenson, Robert Ellsberg, Bieke Vandekerckhove and Annie Riggs.


Desert Storm Autonomous Robot Friendly Fire Incident

I recently discovered this special edition of IEEE Proceedings dealing with Machine Ethics and AI in autonomous systems. (I actually landed on Katina Michael’s page first, which gives a nice overview.) I haven’t had a chance to explore deeply the IEEE Proceedings special issue yet, but I hope to set aside some time for that soon. Whenever I bring this topic up with my students, it always stirs up a great deal of interest and discussion. Thinking about it reminds me of a situation I once experienced related to autonomous systems in 1991.

During Operation Desert Storm, there was a friendly fire incident in which the battleship Missouri was struck by a Phalanx Close-In Weapon System or CIWS (pronounced sea-wiz) of the escort ship USS Jarrett. Over the years since, I have come to the realization that the Jarrett CIWS at that time was functioning as an autonomous robot, having a weapon system with its own sensors and computerized decision-making capability. I don’t know if this incident has ever been described as such, but it may very well be the very first time an autonomous weapon system accidentally opened fire on friendly forces during combat.

Photo thumbnails of CIWS projectile holes in bulkhead of battleship Missouri.

While conducting shore bombardment operations off the coast of Kuwait in February of 1991, Iraqi forces launched two Silkworm anti-ship missiles towards the Battleship Missouri and escort ships. The USS Missouri fired its SRBOC chaff as a missile counter-measure and the nearby USS Jarrett, with its CIWS operating in full-automatic (autonomous) mode sensed the Missouri’s airborne chaff canister, interpreted it as an inbound threat and fired some rounds of CIWS projectiles towards it. Some of these rounds struck the battleship and penetrated through several bulkheads of the superstructure stopping in the passageway just outside the captain’s cabin. I took some photos of the still-existing holes when I last visited the ship in 2007.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the battleship incident, but undoubtedly at some point, there will be more unintended interactions between autonomous weapon systems and humans. It reminds me of this awful scene from the 1987 science fiction movie Robocop.

You can see the full Robocop film clip here (link contains the graphic violence of an R-rated film. Not suitable for children.)

There is really no way to anticipate every situation and consequence of adopting any new technology in advance of actually using it. Autonomous systems are interesting because by nature that is what they attempt to do; sense the present, predict the future, and act accordingly. Whenever humans build automated systems, there will always be conditions that lead to unintended consequences. There have already been a number of incidents involving auto-pilot systems of Tesla automobiles and Boeing aircraft.

We will continue to see these things happening as more and more systems become automated. We need to continue having conversations about how best to adopt and implement autonomous systems.

About the Author: Bill Genereux served as a fire-control technician aboard the battleship USS Missouri during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Genereux at quarters



1939 Elektro Robot

I recently found this clip of the Westinghouse Mechanical Man “Electro” and thought it was interesting that one of the first desired functions of a robot was making it smoke a cigarette.

I came across the video by way of Cybernetic Zoo, a website having the tagline a history of cybernetic animals and early robots, which sounds really fascinating to me. I’ll have to remember to explore it more at some point.

Writing The Unthinkable Workshop with Lynda Barry

Writing the Unthinkable Workshop with Lynda Barry. Saturday November 23. Evansville, WI

I can’t tell you how excited I am that I’ve signed up to attend the Writing the Unthinkable workshop with Lynda Barry, Graphic Novelist, Cartoonist and Educator. She is a 2019 MacArthur Fellow.

I became familiar with her in 2014 when the Brain Pickings blog discussed her fabulous book Syllabus. At the time I was getting interested in graphic syllabi, so I was blown away by her hand-drawn syllabi and assignments featured in the book. It is one of my all-time favorite books I’ve ever purchased. I look at it over and over and each time I find something new.

Syllabus by Lynda Barry book

I can’t wait for November to get here!


Honor Flight Memory

Many things aggravate me about Facebook, but one thing that occasionally scores points fort me is the memories feature that brings back posts and photos from years past. Today I saw a photo I shared of my grandfather and myself as we departed for Washington DC on the veteran’s Honor Flight.

One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that we both served in combat; he in WWII Pacific Theater and myself in Desert Storm. He had a much more difficult time, I can assure you, slogging through the jungles of New Guinea and the southern Philippines than I did riding around on a battleship doing shore bombardment. We had a few dangerous moments, but mostly we were well fed and reasonably comfortable as compared to the average infantryman.

We had a great trip together and I learned a lot about his experiences as a WWII soldier. One of the highlights of the trip for him was seeing the actual plane that ended the war, the Enola Gay. Grandpa served in Japan after the war and saw with his own eyes the devastation brought by Enola Gay on Hiroshima. He lived the rest of his life in Kansas in the peaceful profession of horticulture. He was an expert with more than four decades of experience working with flowers and plants. In recent years, I’ve taken more of an interest in the same. It gives me a sense of peace and accomplishment. I really miss having my grandfather around to give me advice on plant growing, but I think some of what he taught me has worked because we have all kinds of plants going now I might not have had otherwise.

I even brought some plants to school this fall. We have a perfect place to grow them in the glass-covered hallway just outside my office

This first plant, I think it is a philodendron, actually was propogated from one that belonged to my grandfather. I kept his original plant when he passed away, and made this new plant start that I brought to school.