Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Luncheon Society—Los Angeles/NASA Mars Rover Project Manager John Callas on 15 years on the Red Planet. What did we find? / Napa Valley Grille/May 31, 2019

Mars Rover

The Luncheon Society had a fantastic gathering in Los Angeles with our friend John Callas who served as The Project Manager for the Mars Rover Program, both Spirit and Opportunity. Both rovers landed in 2004 and were only supposed to last for 90 SOLs (Martian days) or roughly 92 Earth days. However, Spirit lasted on the Martian surface nearly 7 years until 2010 when the rover became irrevocably stuck in soft sand (the equivalent to Martian quicksand) but Opportunity stayed on the job for nearly 15 years and got into trouble during a major planetwide sandstorm that put “Oppy” into a deep freeze since it was power by solar panels. After countless attempt to rouse the remaining rover proved fruitless, the mission ended only a few short months ago.

John-Callas 2Now NASA/JPL’s Rover Curiosity is wandering the Martian surface alone, but not for long. The Mars 2020 rover will be launched soon and the cool thing about that next rover is that it will come with a drone helicopter that will allows it to wander around the surface of the planet and go off into great distances beyond the original landing site. Mars is extraordinarily difficult to land on-far more so than the moon because the distance involved and the minuscule atmosphere, which is roughly 1% of what is found on earth.

Before Spirit and Opportunity landed in early 2004 not much was known about Mars because NASA’s Viking landers of the 1970’s could not find anything that might equate to life –as we knew it back then. However, planetary scientists kept looking at the northern regions of the planet and noticed how smooth the surface appeared—a hint that there might have been ancient oceans billions of years ago.

What a Wild Ride

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The Luncheon Society—San Francisco/Daniel Ellsberg on the Pentagon Papers as well as Nuclear Planning in the Cold War with his book/Fior d’Italia/ May 20, 2019

Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

From the legendary Pentagon Papers whistle-blower, an eyewitness exposé of America’s Top Secret, seventy-year nuclear policy that continues to this day.

Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization–and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration–threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.

Framed as a memoir–a chronicle of madness in which Ellsberg acknowledges participating–this gripping exposé reads like a thriller and offers feasible steps we can take to dismantle the existing “doomsday machine” and avoid nuclear catastrophe, returning Ellsberg to his role as whistle-blower. The Doomsday Machine is thus a real-life Dr. Strangelove story and an ultimately hopeful–and powerfully important–book about not just our country, but the future of the world.

The Luncheon Society—San Francisco/Literary Icon Joyce Carol Oates and her latest book, “The Hazards of Time Travel/Fior d’Italia/April 29, 2019

Flashback/The Luncheon Society—San Francisco/Feminist Germaine Greer on her book, “Shakespeare Wife.”/One Market Street/March 30, 2009

A polemical, ground-breaking study of Elizabethan England that reclaims Ann Hathaway’s rightful place in history.

Little is known about the wife of the world’s most famous playwright; a great deal, none of it complimentary, has been assumed. The omission of her name from Shakespeare’s will has been interpreted as evidence that she was nothing more than an unfortunate mistake from which Shakespeare did well to distance himself.

Yet Shakespeare is above all the poet of marriage. Before him, there were few comedies or tragedies about wooing or wedding. And yet he explored the sacrament in all its aspects, spiritual, psychological, sexual, sociological, and was the creator of some of the most tenacious and intelligent heroines in English literature. Is it possible, therefore, that Ann, who has been mocked and vilified by scholars for centuries, was the inspiration?

Until now, there has been no serious critical scholarship devoted to the life and career of the farmer’s daughter who married England’s greatest poet. Part biography, part history, Shakespeare’s Wife is a fascinating reconstruction of Ann’s life, and an illuminating look at the daily lives of Elizabethan women, from their working routines to the rituals of courtship and the minutiae of married life. In this thoroughly researched and controversial book, Greer steps off the well-trodden paths of orthodoxy, asks new questions, and begins to right the wrongs done to Ann Shakespeare.