Saturday, November 26, 2011

No Failure to Launch

By Julie Rahm
My father graduated from the University of Nebraska with a master’s degree in physics. After joining the Navy, he was hired by the infamous Admiral Rickover to teach at the Navy’s Nuclear Power School in California. Admiral Rickover was the father of the Nuclear Navy and largely responsible for the nation’s nuclear power program. Admiral Rickover was hyperactive, political, blunt, confrontational, insulting and flamboyant. He was also a workaholic who, without regard for rank or position, was always demanding of himself and others. Moreover, Admiral Rickover had little tolerance for mediocrity, none for stupidity. “If a man is dumb," said a Chicago friend, "Rickover thinks he ought to be dead.”

My father confirms this assessment of Admiral Rickover. During my father’s employment interview at the Nuclear Power School, Admiral Rickover reviewed my father’s college transcripts and noticed my father had earned all “A”s and only one “B”. The one “B” caught the Admiral’s attention and he demanded to know if my father was lazy or stupid! Of course, neither is true. Admiral Rickover hired my father.

Later in life, my father was employed by NASA’s Space Program. He worked on the Space Shuttle main engines. People tease others about their intelligence naming them “rocket scientists”. However, my father truly is an actual rocket scientist. At my house, every Space Shuttle launch was a big deal. There was huge anticipation. It was imperative to launch the Space Shuttle on time. Any delay would be opportunity lost and millions of dollars wasted. My father understands the necessity of a timely launch. So, when I became of age to get “launched” I was well prepared. When I graduated from high school, I was getting launched out of the house, either to college or to my own self-supported life. No doubt about it. There was not going to be any parental welfare for me. I was not going to hang around the house while “I found myself”. And, once launched, I was not ever coming back. It was clear to me I had to choose my husband wisely. There would no returning home with my ex-husband’s children. I was raised to be a self-supporting independent woman.

My father’s tough love seems harsh both then and now. But, he understood what love is. Love is not dependency. Dependency in physically healthy adults is a manifestation of a mental illness or defect. Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. Dependency is not love. It is anti-love. Dependency has its genesis in a parental failure to love and it perpetuates failure. It nourishes infantilism rather than growth. Dependency works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate. Ultimately, it destroys rather than builds relationships. And, it destroys rather than builds people. My thanks to Dr. M. Scott Peck whose book The Road Less Traveled enabled me to understand what my father knew all along. Visit my websites at and

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Quantum Theory Thanksgiving

By Julie Rahm

Quantum Theory is mostly based on the concept that subatomic particles can have both wave-like and particle-like properties. This phenomenon is known as wave–particle duality. The theory is widely accepted because experiments have shown that electrons can bend around objects and can display wave shapes. Also fascinating is the fact that particles travel in probabilistic waves. Electrons always “are” where we attempt to measure them.

Quantum Theory is still incomplete and mind blowing to most of us. However, it has a direct connection to our Rahm household Thanksgiving Day dinner. In Quantum Theory, subatomic particles travel in probabilistic waves. Probabilities are a vital ingredient in all the theories. In our Rahm Thanksgiving Day dinner, probabilities also play an important role. There is a certain probability that my husband, John, will start a minor fire while deep frying the turkey. The probabilistic nature of this minor fire is confirmed by the annual presence of a big fire extinguisher positioned by the deep fryer. John will not fry anything without our big fire extinguisher. I don’t think John understands Quantum Theory. But, he has, at least, an acquired understanding of grease fires. And, like electrons circling in an atom, John will keep everything and everybody at an appropriate circling radius by positioning the fryer in the middle of our driveway.

Early Quantum Theory was developed through extensive measurements and experimentation. Likewise, our Thanksgiving Day turkey frying requires quantum like measurement and preparation. The frozen turkey is placed in the pot and covered with water. Then, the turkey is removed and the waterline is marked on the inside of the pot. This line will indicate the amount of oil that is required to cover the turkey and not spill into the fire, in theory!

In both Quantum Theory and turkey frying, how you do the experiment matters. It is important to get the procedures correct. For example, if the turkey is incorrectly inserted into the boiling oil feet first, its narrow neck will act like a funnel atop a boiling pot. Hot boiling oil will geyser and spew upward. And, just like light behaves in Quantum Theory there will be reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference! Mostly it will be John yelling and running for the fire extinguisher.

Modern physicists are now trying to reconcile the well proven Quantum theories and the classical, Einstein-like description of how the universe operates. String theory has emerged as the latest attempt to bridge the gap. Essentially, String Theory hypothesizes that particles wobble around like strings. I believe in String Theory because on numerous occasions I’ve forgotten to remove the string, neck and bagged giblets from inside the turkey. Consequently, all the fixins got deep fried inside the turkey. So, if you want to learn more about fried turkeys and Quantum Theory you can visit my website at Lastly, I want to thank Dr. Pearlstein who taught me Quantum Theory at the University of Nebraska. Perhaps we’ll name the turkey in his honor this year!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trench Boxes

By Julie Rahm

I have a friend who owned a heavy construction business. He and my husband, John, were childhood friends. Recently, our friend was sued in civil court.

Months earlier, this thriving construction company was working along side a road digging a deep trench. They were installing some big drainage pipes. The trench was very deep. Usually, when digging a deep trench, the construction workers set a trench box down into the trench. A trench box is a sided frame made from heavy steel. The trench box keeps the sides of trench from caving in, allowing the workers to safely work in the trench. One fateful day, the trench box was not set into the trench. The trench caved in on some workers killing one. The jury found our friend negligent for a wrongful death. The widow/plaintiff was awarded a generous settlement. The liability insurance that the construction business carried did not cover “obvious” negligence. The business went bankrupt. All the company assets were confiscated and sold. Twenty employees lost their well paying jobs. It was very sad. On this particular day, the consequences caused by failure to use a trench box were horrible. The road of life can turn quickly. I wonder how many of us fail to use our own trench boxes.

Metaphorical trench boxes are a good way to keep life from caving in on us. One important trench box prevents financial cave-ins. Spending less money than you make is a good financial trench box. Spending more than you make creates debt. And, large debt is like working in a financial trench without a trench box. You risk a financial cave-in if you fail to meet your over extended financial obligations.

Another financial trench box is a low credit card limit. Credit card interest rates are high. When incurred credit card interest exceeds your minimum payment, the balance grows even though no purchases are being made. Debt snowballs and the credit card trench caves in burying you and your well being.

Metaphorical trench boxes are also essential in relationships. An extended period of dating, before marriage, helps prevent marital cave-ins. One of my best girl friends left her home in Virginia and moved in with her significant other in Ohio. She found him through an on-line dating service, they met in person a few times and she moved in. She completely disregarded the trench box concept. As you can guess, the relationship trench caved in. He drank a lot. She received a broken nose, broken cheek bone, and a severe concussion. He received probation and court mandated counseling. Both had no dating trench box!

Kids need parents to put trench boxes in their trenches for them. Young people need guidance. Some choices in life are irreversible. Empowering kids to choose wisely is an important trench box to prevent a young life from caving in.

The trench box concept is a valuable and useful metaphor. Use it liberally and be careful in life’s ditches! Visit my web site at

Saturday, November 5, 2011


By Julie Rahm

Our contractor began work on our new roof this week. Our old roof was trashed. Hurricane Irene did enough damage to warrant a brand new covering for our house. Roofing is unpleasant and demanding work. Our roof is particularly difficult. It has a lot of pitch making it a real challenge to walk on. Roofing is an occupation for those sure footed and not afraid of heights. The contractor brought in a five man crew. Two workers stripped the old roof, one did clean up on the ground, while the other two nailed down the new shingles. The most difficult part for me was the color decision. I did not realize the variety of shingle colors. Thankfully, I did not allow my husband, John, to choose the color. I think he preferred a nice shade of Tarheel blue. I finally convinced him a favorite color is not a choice prerequisite. What looks nice on the basketball court or football field may not translate into an appropriate roof color. I persevered and we are having a nice shade of brown installed.

So when we (I) made the color decision, I thought all the roofing controversy was over. Until, I arrived home one afternoon and found John on the roof stripping shingles. Now, it would be impolite to reveal John’s age. However, his age well doubles the next closest worker stripping the roof. I asked him, “What the heck are you doing on the roof?” John replied, “I’m helping the guys out a bit.” Immediately, I realized I did not start a direct conversation. I didn’t say what I meant. I meant, “John, get the heck down off the roof. You might kill yourself and leave me a widow.” Not being direct gave John the opportunity to string the conversation along. But now, the conversation was at a decision point. Should I order my husband down off the roof? At considerable risk, he was three stories high proving something to himself. At what point would you intervene? John didn’t have anything to prove to me. I know he is quite capable of working all day on a roof. Perhaps he was seeing how it felt. He did some roofing work as a teenager, a long time ago. Perhaps he misses the adrenaline from flying Harriers. I don’t know what possessed him to be on our roof. However, ordering him down would injure our relationship. He might not comply. And, my lack of confidence in him would injure his pride. It was an interesting dilemma. How far would you let your husband go? How far do you let your teenager go? In life, where is the tipping point between risk and relationship? How far do you let a loved one go before you can’t stand it anymore? It is a personal decision underpinned by your level of tolerance. In the end, I corrected my mindset for worry and John remained on our roof.

If a loved one is “on your roof”, visit my website at
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