its great when your government is so sensitive to a citizen’s needs and desires that it can anticipate their bucket list. Not just anticipate an item to be obtained or accomplished before the proverbial bucket gets kicked by the Vaca del destino but to supply the needed cash. My government has done just that. As rich uncles often do, my Uncle Sam, let me fill in the order…in this case for a Nikon camera. I have had a camera since I was ten. My parents were both into photography so I had first dibs on old cameras. Over the years, these seven decades, I have use a dozen different cameras. A few viewfinders & the rest SLR’s. I had the top brands but never a Nikon. With me its a given that Nikon makes the best. So being able to go out into the photo op filled world with a state of the art camera is really something…to me. Might leave you cold, but me…its good. There was a virus involved in the chain of events that landed me the Nikon but the details of it all blur. The specific Nikon is one of the new line, the Z series. Mine, the Z5 with a 24-200mm f4/5.6 lens. To be ordered soon is an add on lens. A fish eye/macro. It goes in front of the 24-200 lens. With it I can make bugs 5,000 pixels wide or capture half a mall in one frame. I’ve taken it to one baseball game in the month I’ve had it. Every shot with a ball in motion froze the ball right at the perfect point in the composition. Weird – but I’ll take it. The graphics processor that crunches the numbers from the 24 Megapixel imager might have an algorithm for baseballs. It has one for eyes and smiles. As with other examples of masterful design it is a deep well of function but a beginner using it on automatic does fine right off the bat.
The incentives keep rolling out. In one state get the jab, (the shot of vaccine) and win a gun. In other states do the right thing, (roll up your sleeve) and win a million $$. I guess then you buy a gun. Now with the biggest brewer in the nation joining in, vaccinate and inebriate and fire your AK-47 at the zenith to celebrate 70% vaccination rate in the USA. What do guns have to do with Corvid vaccine? good question. What do cold frosty mugs of “brewski” have to do with a Corona virus? Well, from what I can gather from the headlines (pay walls keep me from reading more) all this is a sign of the decay of social cohesion. Gun sales are at an all time high. I’ll point my gun at you but I’m not going to roll up my sleeve to save your grand mother’s life. Not to save anyone’s life. I don’t believe in….fill in the blank, virus, vaccine, Fauci, the tooth fairy. But I do believe in beer, guns and money. My fellow citizen? Don’t trust him. Not since that Biden sign on his lawn last year. That’s what the gun is for. Once, when we all got along, fences made good neighbors. Now the Kalashnikov does the trick. As Mao famously never said, “Citizenship grows from the barrel of a gun” Or was that Eldridge Cleaver referring to another orifice? Whichever, its too late for me, I vaccinated early and got cheated out of my beer, my gun, my million $ prize. Life is NOT fair.
You’ve got an exercise machine. The first month you had it you rode an hour a day. Your feeling of guilt about being out of shape and overweight faded as you peddled mile after imaginary mile. After a few weeks you moved a large flat screen monitor so you could watch as you rode. Then you mounted a drink cup holder to the machine handles. With that and a long straw you could sip as you worked out. The hour a day starts to dwindle, soon its half an hour, then a quarter hour. At each point you had a rationale for doing less. Eventually the exercise bike becomes a hat rack and disappears under its load of coats and jackets.
One day, at the office, someone explains the concept of white privilege to you. You’ve often wondered why more of you co-workers were not people of color. Now you understand. You’ve taken their job!, not by being more qualified but simply because of your race. Your advantage, your privilege, is unearned! You feel great shame, guilt. You look for ways to expiate the guilt but it only grows. In some religions, those believing we are born guilty, there are rituals of atonement. Self flagellation, ritual cutting and lacerating of the flesh, then parading thru towns with others. A procession of bleeding penitents descending into valleys, winding thru villages, ascending ridges. More practical in rural Sicily than Manhattan. What is an urban office worker to do? Just as there are machines to assuage the guilt of flabby flesh and lack of exercise – there is one to automate expiation. Introducing the Flail-o-tron. flailing one’s self is difficult and ineffective. Having a machine, fully programmable, do the flailing, is the answer.
Note for those without irony/nuance skills. Beating yourself up for perceived privilege does nothing to prevent black citizens being beaten up by racist cops. Nothing. Its another empty gesture. This so called “privilege” is only what’s due a citizen, all citizens, their rights under the law. The denial of those rights to part of the population because of deep seated racism hasn’t been caused by you. You got the job and your black brother didn’t, when he was more qualified, not because of your action, but because of the employer’s attitude. In 1968 when I was a young man, many cops felt they could beat up anyone with long hair. It was perceived as anti war and liberal. Society gave cops the idea that it was OK. Change society at its root. Anything else is window dressing.
When hip was in I was out. When the cool ruled I was uncool. In my old age I have decided to finally get myself ahead of the curve, in front of the trend, In with the IN crowd. I have purchased a nonfungible banana peel. At the point where Art, Grift and Technology meet you’ll find the NFT, the Nonfungible Token. Its a number. Hashed out of the meta data for an image, in this case one of a banana peel. They’re not cheap. I had to sell my house and cash in my retirement as well as beg the seller for a veteran’s discount (10%) but the day came when I too was the owner of a NFT. Proud isn’t the word for how I feel to be at long last among the spacchuiso. Ya I live in a box on the edge of the park now. My wheels are a stolen supermarket cart. I don’t eat regular, but that hasn’t affected my apatite. Soon as I’m back on my feet again I plan on acquiring more fruit themed NFT’s. Reduced to a number these banana peels and melon rinds don’t decay producing a stench…but something smells about all this. Ah yes, its the smell of $$
The missing Yeti, a blue Yeti, this one black, hangs patiently from the ceiling listening to my rants and monologs. It was missing for a couple of weeks while the seller scrambled to get a second example. The first went astray. USA seller apparently means just that. It doesn’t mean items are shipped from stock in the USA. The first Yeti must be wondering around a back alley somewhere, kicking over trash cans in the hours before dawn. I hope it finds a loving home as my new Yeti has. We bonded quickly. He eats raisins, well, that is to say he lives on currents. These currents supplied via a USB cable. With a hundred mils of these dried grapes my black Blue Yeti manages to hear all and pass it on to the new PC. A sound editor named Audacity displays the sounds as a squiggly blue graph. Great software. Lets me edit out the breathing and pauses and other flaws. After an edit the sound file is presentable, well, as presentable as a bum given a quick shave and stuffed into an ill fitting suit. The improvement being more impressive than the final result. Judge for yourself.
I have totally gone over to the tablet for drawing. No more, pencil, then ink, then erase, then brush away the eraser crumbs. Then onto the flat bed scanner. Scan and bring into gimp. Gimp is still the software but now the sketch starts and ends in Gimp.
Its been said (by someone no doubt) that “Man” (PC is “People” or Human beings) are tool users. I have met many that are distinctly NOT tool users, who have NO tools in the house. The same “sayer” of things said people are story tellers. Lets make the jump to….The story is a tool. When we (humanity) invented the future and past, that is when we stopped living in the moment, we needed stories. Memory is the story of what has happened. Tweek the story a little and you can set it in the future. In fact that is the future, a story of the past hammered into a prediction of the next few minutes, days or even eons. The mists that challenge the view of tomorrow’s tomorrow allows things like science fiction. Doesn’t have to be science really. Should be called social fiction. The science we expect and aren’t surprised by but the social! Just a generation to generation change…that gets our attention. The recent attitudes and beliefs revealed by the political/social upheavals here in the USA are weirder than jetpacks and flying cars. I mean just look (I’m looking) at this new PC and tablet and microphone. Major sci fi themes of my youth and then some, the stuff I take for granted daily. That vs the “The weird worship of one dude” (a Republican Senator’s description of today’s Republican party)
This riff on a Saab 21 started with a photo. That is a huge difference between doing something on the tablet and on paper. There were ways back in the day, transparent paper overlays, tracing a photo. Now I replace pixels. Is it art? Who knows….the critics of course. Like all followers of Onan I do it because it feels good. Recreation vs procreation. The world has enough art already, all that’s left is going thru the motions. Regular and repetitive until its done.
Mars was 62 million miles from Earth on the 19th of April. That morning a small helicopter rose nine feet and hovered for half a minute above Jezero Crater. The little flying machine looked out over a river delta, dry for a billion years. The helicopter was christened “ingenuity” by it’s creators. Custom made to be the first flying machine on the red planet it carried a token. A bit of fabric. A piece of Earth’s first powered flying machine. The snip of cloth was taken from the skin of the Wright flyer. That machine made history in 1903 at Kill Devil hill in North Carolina. The symbolism spanned 118 years as well as an interplanetary distance. Could Orville and Wilbur have imagined this? That a snip of canvas they’d stretched over a wooden frame would one day travel so far? I doubt it. People in that time, the dawn of the 20th century, believed men would never fly. That machines made by men would explore Mars was so fantastic an idea that it didn’t even feature in the Science Fiction of 1903. Going to the moon, shot from a cannon, was the limit of the wildest speculation then. What is there today that we consider to be impossible, even for our imagining? Is the first step in accomplishing the impossible taken with imagination? If so we are even now on our way to the stars. The Wrights found a way, thru dogged persistence, to lift man and machine into the air. Maybe in 118 years a bit of this little helicopter will hitch a ride on a faster than light probe to a nearby star. Things are “impossible” only after we imagine them. Before that they’re unknown. It seems declaring something impossible is the first step toward accomplishment.
Its a rare opportunity when we can write our own obituary. Its once in a lifetime. Birth announcements precede births. These days the birth announcements include ultrasound sex reveals. Death announcements, aside from executions, are less common. Possibly because we habitually put off the idea of death, denying its inevitability. A couple of days ago in the early evening, the 13th of April specifically, I noticed an irritation in my throat. From there it was the all too familiar onset of a chest cold. Now, days later its still a chest cold. It will remain a chest cold until an expert gives it another title. The viruses don’t wear name tags. The symptoms, principly coughing, increase day to day. No dizziness, no fever. Weakness maybe. Hard to tell with my advanced age. Weakness comes and goes like the sun thru cloud. I will be 75 in a couple of days. Will that be my high water mark? Is the tide about to turn?
When this Covid thing broke upon us a year ago I experienced mild panic as many of us did. I started thinking about my possible demise. Down from the shelf I took a book. “The Tibetan book of living and dieing” by Sogyal Rinpoche. The author stood between two worlds. The mostly secular west and Tibet, a Buddhist kingdom for hundreds of years. Boiled down to an essence his view was that we leave life in the way we lived it. In fear, in apprehension, or with acceptance and calm. For the follower of the Buddha the quality of our passing puts a stamp on our journey thru the afterlife and rebirth. In the west we tend to see a baby as a clean slate. The story of their life is written by fate on empty pages. In my understanding the Buddhist believes a newborn carries the baggage of former lives. That baggage being unresolved conflict, fear, angst. So the way we live informs the way we die. Mechanically its simple. The heart stops supplying blood to the brain and awareness and consciousness fade. But we are mental and spiritual as much as we are mechanism.
In the world I leave I want my oversized corpse burned. As I enter the next world I will do so walking down a forest path. Sunlight in the leaves above. I want the music of Satie, the Belle Epoque French composer. No flowers please. Leave them in the ground. Let them have their life, their short season. As I had mine.
In the event (as the Brits say), I didn’t cross over to the other side. But I will. I promise. Some day in the not too distant future. Let this stand as my obit. No update is needed.
Escaping Earth 5
I met Sheila the Ship in our just completed Crew Cantina. Its a replica of the iconic USA diner from the late 40’s. Each of the half dozen tables has the miniature jukebox where the table meets the wall . Everything was a reassuring analog back then. When you flipped thru the selections you were flipping hinged cards. That’s what sheila was doing when I arrived for our meeting.
“What would you like to hear? she ask
I have always had a feeling of connection with the music of the 1930’s 40’s, with the big band and jazz of those decades. One theory I came up with is that a young music fan’s spirit freed from this mortal coil by WW2 entered then left the void of souls to enter my formative embrio. That would be late in 1945. My dad was back from Goering’s Luft Stalag resort and launched my career as another human being. Or maybe it was the records my parents played in my early years.
“We’re flying thru the void so how about ‘Flying Home ” she ask
“Fine, the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band” I said
The band leader and his troup paid the ultimate price. Returning to England from newly liberated France their C47 “Gooney Bird” transport was lost without a trace. Somewhere over the English channel by incident or accident their fame was sealed. Somewhere on in flooded Doggerland they rest with their corroding instruments.
With that tune in the background we started our meeting. Sheila began with gravity, not the emotional kind, rather the mysterious fundamental force, a weak force. I observed that for a weak force it was damn difficult to synthesize. Electromagnetics we did a lot with but gravity and time seemed to ignore us. Science was the dog watching the clock…the dog knows something is going on…but has no clue as to just what. We know that a pair of masses will distort the space and time between them. That distortion we call gravity. To get what we are used to, standard Earth gravity, you need one Earth mass. Thats six to the 24th Kilos of mass. How much is a kilo of mass? its a lump of anything that tips the scales on Earth at sea level to the tune of ….. 1 Kilogram. Two point two pounds for those clinging to the English system. The mass of our ship, un-named as of yet, is much less. For the sake of a place holding number lets put it at half a billion pounds. That’s the weight of ship that got stuck in the Suez canal back in 2021. “Can you remember 2021?” Sheila ask. Not very well I responded. Furthermore I didn’t want to have that nasty year intrude on my fantasy. She was teasing. Back to the idea of mass and gravity. Well, we are not going to get Earth’s gravity on the ship with mass.
“How do we get gravity here? Do we really need it?” I ask a pair of questions
“We could spin it” she said, “As to our needing it, you decide” Sheila said
The ISS, International Space Station, was in orbit, in space, but only just. What they experienced was micro gravity. The tough guys and gals who personed the Space Station floated. Most got used to it but after a time it was clear ZG was not what nature intended. After a year a body started to degrade in major ways. There were mitigations, like exercise machines, but for the most part there seemed no easy fix. Well, short of artificial gravity. The only way known to do that is the “spin” Sheila mentioned.
“I don’t like spun up gravity” I said
“Why don’t you like it?” she ask
“The Coriolis effect” I said
Ah, yes, she said looking away. Turning back she said we didn’t have any other option. She knew my problem with spinning, the effect was first postulated by Riccioli and Grimaaldi way back in the 14th century. They were trying to improve artillery. Science as usual driven by the search for better and better ways of killing people. Gaspard Coriolis managed to get his name attached to the effect in the early 19th century. I’m sure it’s got its uses but to me trying to design a spaceship it’s a major pain in ass. In its simplest terms a person subject to the effect in a small system, like our ship, would feel their head was spinning. This because their head would be spinning. It no doubt could be gotten used to but not without effort and probably not totally.
Sheila said, “Of course we’re sitting here now, not floating…..”
“I know” I sighed, “At the moment our gravity is FM (Fuk’n Magic) but FM does not sit well with me”
“Ah, the curse of not enough magical thinking” Sheila smiled
“Ya, but its a bunch of half steps, not 100% science” I said
” There must be a way to make gravity. A way to make it on a ship this size. A way that doesn’t invoke the dizzy Mister Coriolis and his effect” I said ruefully.
“Let’s table that for further study. She said, “Moving on…”
Sheila took her pen and checked off gravity. Next up, The rest of the crew. Who do we need to print and in what order? I mused aloud for a while on the subject and Sheila the ship let me. Crews are creatures with multiple personalities. We only hear about an individual, with many personalities,when they start murdering people. If they mind their own business, they don’t make headlines. I imagine, and to imagine here is enough, that many individuals with several personalities who manage them well find it an asset and not a disorder. In a crew there needs to be a synergy, a net gain. Not just more hands, to use another nautical term, but greater than n times the average. More like n squared and quick about it too. Think of the top racing yachts, those very expensive boats with the top secret keels. Their crews train all year for a couple of hours of course sailing with the best in the world.
“A quantum mechanic” I offered, Sheila nodded her assent
We would need someone to keep all this fantastic and imaginary equipment buzzing and whirring contentedly.
“A navigator”, another nod from the ship
“Just to get started, lets print those from the catalog” I said
Sheila said she’d sit down with me and we could go thru the available print files for those types.
“Lets not forget the entertainment value” I added
“Oh no, never forget that” she grinned
She know my head and its contents so she knew of a memory from back in the 1990’s. One of my better jobs started when someone said, ‘the candidates are about equal technically”…but for entertainment value….”its this guy’. Funny how one characteristic can shoot you down in one interview and push you ahead in another. Not funny for the others but the market was hot…the internet was just beginning to suck up equipment. The work just grew and grew. I retired with the money salted away from a series of jobs in that company.