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E-commerce that supports local business

In Business, Economy, finances, Holiday, Local News, National News, Technology, Uncategorized on November 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm
GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing's "e-commerce kiosk," at Amazon.com

GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing’s “e-commerce kiosk,” at Amazon.com

JAMESTOWN, OH – Shoppers are being encouraged to buy from small, local retailers this holiday season, but did you know there was a way to support local business and still buy from Amazon.com? They’re called “Amazon aStores,” and they allow local business to set up a virtual storefront through Amazon.com and offer products of their own choosing.

Retailers can set up what is essentially a virtual kiosk inserted within the company website. Each item is selected individually and can be categorized for easy indexing. Shoppers can then visit the main website for the company, providing the owner with valuable marketing information about how often the site is frequented, and then click on the business’s amazon store to shop further.

The hosting business is then paid an advertising fee by Amazon for each product sold through its store. Such a store doesn’t generate a great deal of revenue, but it can provide some helpful cash flow, if people know to use it.

Gery L. Deer, owner and creative director fro GLD Enterprises of Jamestown, Ohio has three such Amazon stores in operation on different websites. “We do a great deal of work with local authors, and the Amazon store allowed us a way to market the electronic versions of books, as well as other specialized items, often unavailable from local retailers.”

Deer says this kind of pre-packaged e-commerce is a good way for small businesses to have an online sales presence, even if the company is not necessarily a retailer. “Our business is primarily a business-to-business marketing and copywriting agency,” Deer says. “As a service business, we don’t have retail sales, but the products we provide through our online store can benefit the customer by offering another way to both save money on shopping and support local business, all at the same time.” For more information visit Amazon.com.

Here are links to the Amazon stores managed by GLD Enterprises and its partner companies:

GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing Amazon Store: Features locally-authored books and related products. Some product sales benefits the Western Ohio Writers Association.

GLD Enterprises & Production: Features a wide variety of books, electronics, specialty items and locally-authored material.

Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd.: Books, software, electronics, and more “computer” related products.

 

 

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Xenia rock band to open for national headliner, Bobaflex

In Dayton Ohio News, Entertainment, Local News, Music on November 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Desalitt will open for Bobaflex Dec 5 at Oddbody's in Dayton.

Desalitt will open for Bobaflex Dec 5 at Oddbody’s in Dayton.

At 7PM on Friday, December 5, Xenia hard rock band, “Desalitt,” will take the stage at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Road in Dayton to open for the national headliner group, “Bobaflex.”

Founded in 2008 Delallit features “Blazin” Dave Anderson on drums, Greg Crawford on rhythm guitar and lead Vocals, “Gravy” Shannon Ligier on bass and singing back up, Shug Hanson on vocals, and Nick (Samson) Starns on lead guitar. The group performs a variety of covers as well as their own original work. This is not the group’s first time appearing with a national headliner.

“Being from a small town, it is not every day you get to do something so amazing like open for a favorite national band,” says lead guitarist and Desalitt manager, Nick Starns. “I’ve been a musician for 15 years and counting and love every minute of it.”

Starns is fully immersed in the musical endeavors of his group, which also hosts an annual summer music festival in Jamestown benefiting local charitable causes. “The last 9 months with Desalitt has truly been outstanding for my musical career,” he said. “All that’s left is to start touring with a national act and I can begin to get paid for making/performing music. If Cecil Caudill was still around, he would tell me to keep rocking, so I’m gonna rock the stage for him and all of our fallen Brethren in Music.”

Local fans can take advantage of bus service to the show as well. Desalitt has fan buses available to ride to and from the show for $8 with pick up in Jamestown at 5:30 PM from Greeneview Elementary on SR 72 North, and at 6:00 PM in Xenia at the Old Kmart Parking lot. Riders are asked to arrive early as the bus will leave on time and no refunds are available.

Fans are asked to RSVP for bus service in advance via www.desalitt.com, the group’s Facebook or Reverbnation pages, or email nick@desalitt.com or call the Desalitt Hotline (937) 347-7377. Presale tickets for the Oddbody’s Music Room show are $10 for ages 18 and up (through the Desalitt Hotline), $15, at the door.

For more information and a complete schedule go online to www.desalitt.com.

For some, depression darkens the holiday season

In Children and Family, Health, Holiday, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on November 24, 2014 at 1:54 pm

DIH LOGOIt’s never great to lead off with a cliché, but there may really be a silver lining behind every dark cloud. The hard part is that it’s up to the individual to recognize and interpret it. During the holiday season, however, for some the darkness may become overwhelming and everyone else should be sensitive to those around them suffering from seasonal depression.

As the Thanksgiving Day holiday heralds in the Christmas season, it’s important to try to remember that not everyone is happy and cheerful during this time. Many people suffer from various types of clinical depression, exacerbated by the holidays.

Seasonal Affect Disorder, or SAD, is a seasonal pattern associated with a recurring depressive disorder. It’s a fact that people experience mood changes along with the seasons but some may actually experience an even more sever bout during the stressful holiday season.

According to Healthline.com, “Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety of the holiday season—especially during the months of November and December (and, to a lesser extent, just before Valentine’s Day)—may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.”

baileygeorgeNot surprisingly, depression during this time can result from loneliness. Healthline.com reports that a 1999 Canadian study of patients treated by emergency psychiatric services during the Christmas season, states the most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and “being without a family.”

Experts also suggest that part of the problem is a level of media bombardment, mostly advertising, that depicts cheerful holiday festivities, smiling families, and so on. The joyful, light-heartedness of the season might to a depressed person seem much more a requirement and painful nuisance than a genuine, heart-felt emotion.

The elderly often suffer from depression caused by any number of contributors including, serious medical problems, poor diet, loss of a spouse, chronic pain and more. Depression may worsen in the elderly, not expressly because of the holiday, but that it brings memories of happier, more fulfilling times, and it might be hard to spot.

Helpguide.org suggests that elderly patients suffering from depression might display rapid mental decline but memory of time and date, as well as awareness of the environment, remain. They may also exhibit more outward concern than usual about slipping memory and their motor skills may be normal but noticeably slower.

Regardless of age, depression is a painful illness to endure at a time of year when the sufferer is surrounded by the usual excitement of the season.  There are many ways to help combat depression.

Social isolation can be a major contributor to depression, particularly during the holidays.  Start by getting involved and being among friends and family wherever possible. Of course, sometimes, family can be the cause of stress. In those instances, it might be better to spend time with close friends or attend some kind of social activity, go to bingo at the local community center, or anything else to avoid being alone. But remember to feel free to leave an event if you feel uncomfortable. Adding stress to depression would be seriously detrimental to the purpose of the interaction.

Other ways to ward off “holiday blues” include, beginning a new tradition, volunteering at local charity centers, or get outside and take a walk or go on a bike ride.  Self-care is an important step to fighting depression. Even with decreased appetite, it’s important to remember to try to eat well, exercise and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Seek medical treatment as well. General practice doctors can help determine what sort of specialized treatment may be beneficial. Depression is an illness with treatments available to help people live active, involved lives but nothing can happen without taking that first step. Proper treatment may help people have a happier, more meaningful holiday season.

On a final note, although it is a myth that more suicides occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas, those suffering severe depression might still be dealing with suicidal thoughts. Contact one of the local crisis lines, 24/7: Greene County Crisis Services: (513) 376-8702 or Dayton Suicide Prevention Center, Inc.: (937) 297-4777.


Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at gerydeer.com

 

 

Medication adherence vital to senior health

In Business, Dayton Ohio News, Education, Health, Local News, National News, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on November 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm

PrsnlCareSrvcs-300x300Dayton, OH – According to studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately one-half of senior adults who take at least one medication per day find keeping to the regimen difficult to maintain. Elderly patients can often become confused about dosage and scheduling and sometimes do not even understand the purpose for each prescription.

Because medication is metabolized differently as people age, timing is important. To be most effective, many medications have to be taken exactly as prescribed for the full benefit to be achieved. Unfortunately, many seniors may be taking prescriptions at the wrong time or missing doses entirely.

Medications can also get mixed up when there is more than one elderly resident in the home, creating an additional danger to the individuals. Without daily monitoring, it may also be difficult to identify older adults who may be at risk for medication nonadherence. In the absence of daily oversight by close friends or family members, one helpful alternative is a professional senior care provider.

Becky Kearney is the Senior Director of Operations for Golden Heart Senior Care in Centerville, Ohio. She notes that, along with other tasks, one of the jobs asked of Golden Heart caregivers is to help seniors maintain their medication adherence.

“Our caregivers frequently deal with the effects of over or under medicating,” Kearney says. “Improper medication administration can create havoc for both the individual and his or her family members.”

Daily home care providers can help to ensure that medication is properly taken, in the accurate dosage and by the correct method (oral, topical, etc.), and at the right time. “Mishandling of prescriptions can cause long term, if not permanent damage to the physical and mental health of the individual.  All of which could be prevented with medication monitoring by a caregiver,” adds Kearney.

As a senior’s health and independence decline, constant prescription changes can also become more confusing and difficult to manage alone. For those with elderly friends or family, inquire how he or she is managing medications and if no one is monitoring the situation, suggest a call to an in-home senior care agency or contact the local council on aging for a referral.

To learn more about getting help for senior medication adherence in the Miami Valley area, contact Golden Heart Senior Care by calling, 937-506-0190.

E-commerce shoppers beware price steering

In Economy, finances, Holiday, Media, National News, Technology, Uncategorized on November 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

DIH LOGORecent surveys suggest that nearly 60 percent of shoppers will do their holiday buying online this year. That’s probably not too surprising to most people.  But did you also know that many e-commerce websites actually adjust pricing based on your personal information to get the most money they can from each shopper? It’s called “price steering,” and it’s perfectly legal. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say Bob goes online to buy a hammer using his smart phone. The e-commerce hardware site offers the item for $10 with a $2 shipping charge. From his desktop computer at work, John looking up the very same hammer on the same website, but his price is showing at $15 with a $5 shipping charge. The cost variation is based on data collected from each buyer’s Internet device.

Whenever you visit a website it leaves a “fingerprint,” on your computer, smart phone or tablet in the form of cookies, browsing history, and so on. For our example, let’s say Bob and John live in different parts of the country, work in different occupations, and have individual buying habits, so their computers, smart phones and other devices portray a very different “electronic personality,” or “E.P.”

The E.P. information is used to “steer” each buyer to the same product but with different pricing based on the collected data. That level of electronic tracking might sound a bit distressing, but it’s really been going on for quite some time.

Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. recommends checking e-commerce prices from different devices.

Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. recommends checking e-commerce prices from different devices.

Internet users receive a plethora of personalized information every day. As they go about their day-to-day activities, complex programming is used to sift through online profile data and previous online activity, constantly processing it through something called a “personalization algorithm.” If you’ve ever wondered why Amazon knows that you like country music or white tigers, and constantly offers you products related to those things, that’s how they do it.

A similar process is used at grocery and other retail stores, using a combination of product placement and special pricing. I often refer to it as “the milk effect,” because dairy products, meats and other essentials are positioned in the back of the store and shoppers must pass a myriad of floor and end cap displays to get to them.

This “steers” the shopper past all of the sale items, incidentals, and virtually everything else, as they make their way to the household staples. Unlike price steering online, however, this practice is fairly transparent and has few components to allow unique pricing adjustments for each buyer.

User data collection and manipulation may provide many people with better pricing but it can also be used to force others to pay more. A recent study by researchers at Northeastern University brought into question the level of transparency offered by popular e-commerce sites and price steering practices.

Price steering actually hap­pens every day and is well-advertised. In a standard retail setting, for example, senior citizens might get a dis­count at the movies or a col­lege stu­dent pays less for books. And, according to the university’s website, authors of the study note that there is nothing inherently sinister in the processes.

But before you click “buy now,” it’s up to you to make sure you’re getting the best possible price online. Here are a few simple tips to help.

First, clear the browsing history on your device and turn off tracking cookies. Websites can’t access your history if there’s nothing there to see. Be aware, however, that some websites require that cookies be allowed or the site will not work properly.

Next, view the website on different devices. Some of the data collected can tell retailers that you are using an expensive smart phone and may be more inclined to pay more at checkout.

If you’re a regular user of a particular retailer’s website, log out and log in as a guest through another device. Sometimes guests are provided with lower pricing to entice them to buy.

Finally, scroll around, making sure to check the very bottom of the web page. Lower-priced products may be displayed elsewhere besides the top of the page. Do your homework, get the best price and enjoy this holiday shopping season.

(TUNE INTO WDTN-TV2’S LIVING DAYTON AT NOON ON FRIDAY NOVEMBER 28TH FOR A SPECIAL SEGMENT ON THIS TOPIC PRESENTED BY DEER IN HEADLINES AUTHOR GERY L. DEER.)

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown. More at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Jamestown Opera House Show celebrates 20 years of a local family’s musical history

In Children and Family, Entertainment, history, Local News, Media, News Media, Senior Lifestyle, Theatre, Uncategorized on November 17, 2014 at 11:51 am
Lois Deer (center) with The Brothers & Co. members Gary Deer Jr., Gery Deer, and husband Gary Deer Sr. at the Jamestown Opera House in 2010

Lois Deer (center) with The Brothers & Co. members Gary Deer Jr., Gery Deer, and husband Gary Deer Sr. at the Jamestown Opera House in 2010

JAMESTOWN, OH – On a cold, winter night, a couple of weeks after a family Christmas party in 1994, something historic took place. William Sutton, his brother Gary “Tuff” Sutton, Sr., and their nephews, Gery Deer and Gary Deer, Jr., did something they’d never done before. They all met up on a Friday night at the Deer family farm in Jamestown, Ohio and collected their musical talents into what would become a lifelong undertaking. While you may never have heard of “The Brothers & Co. Entertainers,” their history is one of a unique brotherhood derived from a family whose musical talent goes back several generations.

While William and Tuff had played together many times over the years, the Deer brothers had never made the attempt. Tuff had helped Gery develop his natural piano skills and Gary Jr. hadn’t played his drums much after graduating high school in Fairborn in the early 1970s. But when they sat down, something really amazing happened, they just “worked.”

Tuff took on the lead and rhythm guitar duties. William was initially the group’s bass player, but picked up his dusty bow and took over the fiddle spot once family friend Jess W. Young, of Fairborn, signed on, and then there were five.

Originally called simply, “The Brothers,” the band went through a lot of changes in its first year or two, adding and subtracting musicians, but always maintaining the two sets of brothers as the foundation. By 1996, a decision was made to change the group’s name, adding, “& Co.” (and company), allowing them to add and subtract whomever they wanted without much of a branding problem, so long as Gery and Gary Jr. at least remained. Somewhere along the way, Gery and Gary Jr. decided that the group was made up more of “entertainers” than trained musicians, so that was tagged onto the name too – “The Brothers & Co. Entertainers.”

SONY DSCBy 1996, Ed Jones had joined up on banjo and acoustic guitar. A cousin to the Deer brothers and another nephew of the Suttons, he also had never played together with his family before in this way. Sadly, the family lost Uncle Tuff Sutton to cancer in 2005, and William stayed with the group only a short time after and also passed away a few years later. Jess Young also retired from the group due to health reasons and passed away shortly after.

“None of who we are now would have happened without each of them,” Gery remembers of his family members who have passed on, including his mother, Lois, who died in 2011 after suffering for several years from Alzheimer’s disease. “We are who we are because of them and my mother was, essentially, the anchor. It was because of her that my brother and I are here and that the others came together with us. We couldn’t have done this without them.” But the changes weren’t over yet.

From inception until about 2004, the boys had maintained an instrumental bluegrass persona. But one Saturday night, shortly after a family friend, Jim Karns of Fairborn, joined the group, something odd happened. As Gery puts it, “We opened our mouths and a terrible, awful, nails on the chalkboard noise hit the air, as if four birds had flown headlong into a window while screeching at the top of their lungs.”

The Brothers & Co Variety Show will perform a 45 minute set at the Schuster December 4. Photo by Jen Copas

The Brothers & Co Variety Show will perform a 45 minute set at the Schuster December 4. Photo by Jen Copas

Brothers_Co-Whip_Gery_JimIn truth, the experiment had landed them in uncharted waters. Although Ed had done some singing, and Jim, as the most experienced, having performed in theater productions while in school at Kettering Fairmont, Gery and Gary Jr. had virtually no singing experience. But there were some golden nuggets amidst the muddy waters of their four-part vocalization.

Working hard to find their respective parts, eventually everything finally fell into place and they had become singers as well as naturally talented musicians. But with change comes growing pains.

An expanded repertoire and wider variety of music required instrument and key changes and since they guys play their own instruments, staging issues caused shows to come to a dead crawl. But a solution for that problem quickly presented itself, and, as is the norm with this group, Mother Necessity birthed yet another Brothers & Co. innovation – one they like to call, “comagic.

In addition to having a great set of bass singing pipes, Jim Karns is also an award-winning, classical stage magician. In addition, Gery was an accomplished stage bullwhip artist, having performed all over the country and on national television shows like America’s Got Talent and The Bonnie Hunt Show. He and Gery had met while working for an engineering center in Dayton and found they had many common interests, the least of which was a somewhat Vaudevillian sense of humor, one that fit in perfectly with an almost Grand Ole Opry styled stage show.

The Brothers & Co. Bus, NOAH'S ARK

The Brothers & Co. Bus

The new family-friendly routines, originally designed to give time for stage and instrument changes, soon added a whole new dimension to the show. It wasn’t long until “The Brothers & Co. Entertainers” became, “The Brothers & Co. Music and Variety Show.”

After two decades of constant evolution, weekly rehearsals in a specially built room at the Deer family farm, and shows that spanned everything from coffee shops to casinos, The Brothers & Co. have more to offer than just four guys standing around singing. They are a full, family-friendly, stage variety show that can perform virtually anywhere. Their signature black, western outfits designed by Gary, Jr. and Gery’s mother, Lois, are a tribute to their family’s country music heritage.

The group has performed at the Schuster Performing Arts Center, the Victoria Theatre and the casino resorts of French Lick, Indiana, but their home is in Jamestown, and that’s where they want this 20th anniversary to tour to start. Gary Deer, Jr. is the percussionist of the group and sees to most of their technical requirements. “Mostly, we want to entertain people and give them a show like most haven’t seen since the 60’s,” he says.

“We put a modern spin on an old kind of entertainment that’s nostalgic and originally presented all at the same time,” says Jim Karns. “If you’ve never seen a live variety show, this is something the whole family will really enjoy.” To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Brothers & Co. will present a pre-holiday performance beginning at 7PM, Saturday, November 22nd at the Jamestown Opera House, 19 N. Limestone St., Jamestown, Oh 45335, to benefit the Jamestown Area Historical Society.

The Brothers & Co. with Gary Deer Sr. and their late mother Lois Deer at the Wheeling Jamboree Radio Show, 2010

The Brothers & Co. with Gary Deer Sr. and their late mother Lois Deer at the Wheeling Jamboree Radio Show, 2010

Gery says the show has something for everyone, and it comes from a place of deep meaning for the family. “This show is hard work, just like anything else of value. It honors our mother’s memory, it gives testimony to the fact that a family can do something together besides watch TV or play a video game. There is a family commitment to The Brothers & Co. that gives other families the chance to bring the kids and enjoy genuine, dare I say it, ‘wholesome’ entertainment that’s just plain fun. It almost doesn’t exist anymore and we rarely get a chance to show it here at home.”

Tickets at the door are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students. Children 12 and under are free. Tickets are available at the door the night of the show and for presale at Ted’s Barber Shop, 3 W. Washington St. in Jamestown. Sponsorships are also still available for businesses in the area starting at $100. Proceeds from this performance benefit the Jamestown Area Historical Society. More information is available from The Brothers & Co. website, thebrothersandcompany.com, and from their Facebook page. Watch for The Brothers & Co on the WDTN-TV2 program, Living Dayton, 12 noon, Tuesday November 18.

The creative process cannot be quantified

In Books, Children and Family, crafts, Entertainment, Local News, National News, Opinion, Print Media, Technology, Uncategorized on November 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

If you haDIH LOGOve any friends who are aspiring novelists and you haven’t seen them for a while, I may know why. November is National Novel Writing Month, a time when writers – hobbyists and professionals alike – forsake virtually everything else in life to get down at least 50,000 words towards a completed novel in just thirty days. As executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association I am, like many of our members, one of the anticipated 400,000 worldwide participants in the event. But attempting to pen a full-length novel in under a month is not for the faint of heart.

“NaNoWriMo,” as it’s known for short, is a non-profit organization started in 1999. In 2013, more than 310,000 participants signed up, spanning six continents. In the 2014 official press release, NaNoWriMo Executive director Grant Faulkner said, “Every year, we’re reminded that there are still stories that have yet to be told, still voices yet to be heard from all corners of the world. NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us. We are our stories.”

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Given their commitment to the encouragement of writers as a whole, the NaNoWriMo folks certainly seem to want to keep people motivated and working and that extends beyond the November event. The organization also promotes youth programs, writing camps and other writing-focused activities throughout the year.

NaNoWriMo’s organizers insist the purpose of the 30-day novel challenge is to inspire and motivate authors to actually finish something, a common barrier for new writers. To hit the goal, writers must pen approximately 1,667 words per day, regardless of quality. But the “just keep writing” approach doesn’t sit well with some and there are those who say that it instead may be more counterproductive than helpful.

Opponents believe that the idea of such incredible pressure of deadline and competition undermines the inspirational process; robbing the author of the creative time necessary to be more selective of words, phrasing and flow.  Classic American author Mark Twain might well have been in agreement with this thinking.

In a letter dated October 15, 1888 to English minister George Bainton, Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

nanologoBut those who are regular participants seem to really enjoy a process that they say gives them the opportunity to stay focused and inspires a bit of healthy competition. Throughout the month, each writer updates a public profile on the NaNoWriMo website which includes word count to date; a practice largely appreciated as one of the most motivating aspects of the exercise, or the most discouraging, depending on how you’re doing.

Whether you are a writer or a reader, this is probably a good time to point out that the creative process is not something that can be qualified or quantified. It is different for every artist. While there are people who are proficient with grammar, punctuation, style and general mastery of the English language, there is no such thing as an “expert” writer. Most successful authors – and not just in the commercial sense – will insist that good writing cannot be taught, it has to be practiced and that the creative process is ongoing.

It may very well be that a 30-day novel, after editing and revision, could end up the next New York Times best seller. It is just as probable that another manuscript, in the works for many years, might turn out to be the worst 300 pages ever put to paper. It’s really a coin toss.

Truthfully, the process really doesn’t matter. Although the value of art rests with the audience, its quality depends on the talent, determination and hard work of the artist (writer), rather than the method used for its production. As for those of you typing your way to 50,000 words this month, we who are grateful to get out 700 words every week salute you! Good luck.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association. More at westernohiowriters.org.

Space flight really is rocket science

In history, National News, Opinion, Science, Technology, Uncategorized on November 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

DIH LOGOBy now, most have heard about the failed test flight of Virgin Galactic’s “SpaceShip Two,” which crashed in California’s Mojave Desert on October 31st.  One of the spacecraft’s pilots died in the crash, the other critically injured. While this is Virgin’s first fatality during the development of their “sight-seeing” spaceship for the super rich, perhaps it is just another sign that the pursuit of more money and fame may not be adequate reasons attempt another small step for (rich) mankind. Space travel really is rocket science, and then some.

After a successful flight and ocean landing in July of 1961, astronaut Gus Grissom’s Mercury space capsule sank after a premature detonation of explosives blew the hatch. Grissom managed to escape, only to die six years later in a fire during a “plugs out” test of the Apollo 1 capsule on the pad at Cape Kennedy. Astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee also perished in that tragedy.

Other terrible accidents followed during America’s “space race” to beat Russia to the moon and meet President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man there before the end of the decade. America did finally put men on the moon, several times. But, as space travel became more complex, the dangers increased exponentially, and so did the cost of human life.

Space flight is hard! It should be left to the experts.

Space flight really is rocket science!

Famously re-created by Ron Howard on film, Apollo 13 was, in short, a miracle of human survival. By all odds, three guys trapped in a freezing pop can, 240,000 miles from Earth, should never have been able to make it home. Fortunately, thanks to the skill, ingenuity and experience of the crews both in space and on the ground, the movie managed to get a real-life happy ending.

More than two decades after the Apollo 1 catastrophe, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, marking the first time a civilian had died in a space travel accident. In February 2003, the shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry over Texas after insulating foam from the main fuel tank had damaged the heat shield as it left the launch pad.

No matter how far technology appears to have advanced, space flight is now, and will always be, experimental. The engineers and pilots at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) learned a great deal from the catastrophic failures mentioned earlier. But as more, privately developed, manned space flights are attempted, it is important to keep in mind that all of these disasters happened under the watchful eyes of some of the smartest, most experienced aerospace experts in the world. Yet people still died.

At our present level of technology, space flight is not something that should be left to over-privileged billionaires with fancy English titles. It’s dangerous, expensive and the drive for national security and scientific achievement does not exist in these endeavors. Virgin Galactic’s efforts are about money, pure and simple. Upon further reflection, however, cash may not be any less a humanitarian reason to get into manned space flight than beating the Communists to the moon.

After mothballing the last of the space shuttle fleet, America seems to be all but out of any residual space race that may still exist. Massive budget cuts enacted by the Obama administration have stripped NASA to its bare bones, its government money now subsidized more often by private companies using facilities and personnel to launch communications satellites. Without the space shuttle, the International Space Station depends more and more on private industry – and the Russians – to remain manned and supplied.

Lacking a more pressing need to funnel billions of dollars back into government-sponsored space flight, private organizations will eventually be the only way Americans go to space. For more companies like Virgin to get involved in the endeavor, however, there would need to be some kind of return on investment to motivate them.

Perhaps one of the space probes will find gold or platinum on Mars or one of Jupiter’s moons, inspiring a space-age gold rush. Until that happens, people should probably keep an eye open for more rich kids’ toys dropping out of the sky.
The Jamestown Comet Editor/Publisher Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at gerydeer.com.