Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Nahum: Why? There ain't nothin' out there.
Abel: There might be. If no one's gone out to look, then how do we know?
Nahum: But we sent out those probers, Lewis and Clark. They didn't find anything.
Abel: Sure they did! They found all sorts of animals and plants and new lands.
Nahum: But you can't make a living off of those.
Abel: [Gives Nahum a disbelieving stare.]
Nahum: What I mean is, you can't build a settlement just with those things. You need iron, and copper. Some silver and gold wouldn't hurt, neither. And Lewis and Clark didn't find that stuff.
Abel: First off, that expedition was only 11 people. Second, they were instructed to stick mainly to water routes, so their observation area was long but narrow. Thirdly, they didn't do any mining because that wasn't their mission and they didn't have tools for that.
Nahum: Well, you don't have a good way to get out west.
Abel: Sure I do. I got me a sturdy wagon. People've been usin' them for decades.
Nahum: That'll take too long. You should take a steam train out west.
Abel: But we ain't got steam trains. They haven't been invented yet.
Nahum: But folks is workin' on 'em. They should be ready to go out west in about 30 years.
Abel: But I don't have to have a steam train. I can get out west in a few months usin' my wagon.
Nahum: But the Injuns kill every person that goes out there!
Abel: Not true. Lewis and Clark made it back. And they were gone two solid years.
Nahum: Aha! But they came back! They didn't settle out there. The Injuns or weather or critters or disease would have killed 'em if they hadn't come back.
Abel: Probably true, but weather or critters or disease or old age is gonna kill you even if you stay right here in Pennsylvania.
Monday, February 8, 2016
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
But I got something else, altogether.
Honestly, upon seeing the word "Congratulations", my first thought was an expletive. I really had not expected to advance to Round 3. Hell, I had never expected to advance into Round 2, either. But back then, just over a year ago, I was one of 1,058. Cool to make it in, but still strong odds against advancing.
I felt like a stone had suddenly appeared in my stomach. Lunch lost all its appeal.
Don't get me wrong: I want to go to Mars, even on a one-way mission. But so many things not under my control have to occur correctly and in a timely fashion for that to happen. But even before those out-of-my-control items can occur, I may have to take decisions that throw my life and the lives of my family into disarray. There are things I need to know that Mars One cannot (understandably) tell me at this time: If selected, how much will I be paid? Will I have to move, and if so, to where? What's their dental plan like?
These questions may seem prosaic, given that I may be asked to blast off the planet, go where no one has ever been before, and try to stay alive indefinitely in a human-made bubble. But all that really dangerous stuff is years down the road. In the meantime, I have a family to support.
And there remains the real question that I have been wrestling with for over a year: can I undertake something that ultimately means leaving my wife behind? Or which could drive her from me?
All that and more flashed through my head as I mechanically ate my chickpeas and naan.
Still... The chance of my being selected to go to Mars had risen. One in twenty-four.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
I rise this morning to celebrate THINKSgiving.
I offer my thoughts (my “thinks”) to the agricultural scientists and transportation engineers who have made food so abundant and available that, as a percentage, fewer people now go hungry than at any time in history.
I offer my thinks to the medical researchers, medical technologists, and chemical engineers who create new medicines and techniques to make our lives longer, our pain less, and our babies less likely to die in infancy.
I give thinks to the construction engineers, textile engineers, and manufacturing engineers who make it possible for us to be housed and clothed in a fashion that would make kings of only a hundred years ago weep with envy.
I offer my thinks to the computer scientists and telecommunications engineers enable us to keep in touch with friends and family around the globe.
I encourage all of you today to take a moment and give your thinks to the rational thinkers who have used their thinks to make your lives richer, longer, more comfortable.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
I just recently finished listening to the audiobook of The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. (I highly recommend both the novel series and the audiobook series, BTW). And I have just started listening to the audiobook of The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.
In the latter, the main character is relating his autobiography, and the book invokes the image of The Chronicler setting out a blank piece of paper to begin capturing the narration. This image sent my mind off on a tangent of how I would choose to start narrating my biography (if there were ever reason to bother capturing it at all).
In the former, a society of rather sociopathic mages have a "grey name" (or an image or sigil) that they can and do use commonly because it gives other mages no power over them, and they have a "red name" which is kept secret. One of the mages is called Seamstress (with an accompanying mental sigil of a painfully pricking needle). What, I wondered, would my grey name be?
These two questions make a nice confluence with one another. When I think about my self, the mental image I had of myself from my earliest remembering, I was always yearning to travel in space and visit other planets. From my youngest years in the Gemini and Apollo eras, through the 70s when I was captivated by Gerard K. O'Niell's visions of orbiting space colonies and waited eagerly for the launching of the Space Shuttle, I imagined myself going "out there", beyond Earth. Even in my mature adult years, when it was clear I would probably never escape Earth's gravity, my inner mental image abjured that defeat and clung tenaciously to being clad in a pressure suit and floating in the black. So I imagine my grey name would be something evoking that space-travelling adventurer. Nothing so ostentatious as Peter Quill's "Star Lord" in Guardians of the Galaxy. Just something simple, like "Spaceman".
And my autobiography would begin with, "I grew up in the future."