Escaping Earth 4

vacuum packed with adventure
The author reading with limited fidelity the following

To get up to speed with this narrative, if you haven’t, read part one. It may or may not help. Depends on you. Basically I am trying to complete a space ship’s interior and systems while whipping a crew into shape. The term “ship shape” comes of a long nautical heritage gained on the oceans and seas of Earth over several millennia. Trying to do this with a 3d printed crew and an AI enhanced computer offers unique challenges. I like the idea of free will and encourage these printed characters to develop theirs as the fancy takes them. Nothing weird, I tell them, nothing I consider weird. The first officer, Sheila the Ship, is eerily starting to resemble my ex whos name was, I vaguely recall, also Sheila. Is that coincidence? The jury is still out. One of the Jurors is doggedly resisting. The vote eleven to one to convict. The judge is getting impatient. He wants to hit the golf course this afternoon. What was I droning about?, personalities. Free will. The chief of the engine room takes on the personality of a rag picker I knew on Earth. But Its not just my store of memory, the ship’s archive has everything. The catalog of biologic print files has a yottabyte (ten to the 24th) of interesting memory sets. Mostly from sentients, or humans who qualify for that sobriquet….and not so many do. There is a Petabyte of cute furry animal minds but their brains are wonderfully devoid of angst and trauma. Pain and emotional injury, are, unfortunately, the bulk of our memories. Seems the pleasant needs to be very strong to justify its imprinting the clay of remembrance. The hermit, the engine room chief, didn’t get the dependence on rum from me. A bottle of Myers will sit on my shelf, half full, for months. I just don’t have the calling. My dad did. He sipped whisky that, in a pinch, could serve as varnish remover. He stayed all day close hauled and six and a half sheets to the wind. Hard to escape the nautical terms. I’ve lived near the water on Earth so often.

Deep mysteries lurk in the EM Drive, mysteries “they” don’t you to know

Every day the hermit huddles in the engine compartment, imbibes, polishes the M Drive, and downloads yarns and sea shanties from Sheila’s server farm. A week out from Earth things had progressed to the point where I could institute a walk around. That’s when the master, the skipper, the captain, el jeffe de barco, visits all the spaces. He makes small talk with crew and try’s to pick up the scuttle butt. The office watercooler was a descendant of the “Skuttle Butt” found on vessels. Drinking water. Seamen would gather to refresh parched throats and they’d gossip between swigs from the ladle. The Butt was a barrel of what had once been fresh water. A few days of scurvy mariners slobbering over it made it less so. Still, a drink of anything not saline becomes priceless when one is parched.

The hermit had the M drive gleaming. He must print the copper polish by the gallon. “Arrrr Arrr Cap’n she’s bright and puls’n with thrust today” He was proud of the engine. It sat on a pedestal in the middle of the compartment. As soon as I’d closed the compartment door and dogged it down I became aware of a throb and vibration. Couldn’t be the M drive could it? They didn’t throb or vibrate, no need for something so fantastic to include drawbacks. It was the sort of sound you’d encounter in the engine room of a merchant ship on Earth. A twelve cylinder diesel maybe? “Eye skipper” the hermit spat, getting close enough that I could smell the rum on his breath. “That’s Cap’n Morgan Reserve, isn’t it?” He smiled and squinted. The unsquented eye opened even more and he said, “Today its Cap’n Morgan, but I’m thinkin O’ switchen to Negrita extra dark” I nodded, he showed excellent taste in rum. Maybe there was a bit of me in the booze thing. Changing the subject from rum I ask about the hum, the throb filling the engine space. It was a sound I associated with huge thermal engines on Earth. “Ha ha, is that what’s got ye today skipper?” Thru a gap toothed smile he coughed ,but regaining his breath said. “The sound comes from those speakers” Ah, I thought. The sound is a looping audio file. “Gives an authentic feeling to the engine room, don’t ya think?” I agreed that it did.

Tell me about the M drive Chief. I’ve read enough about it, its controversial history mostly, but I can’t get my head around how it works. “Well Skipper, its pretty simple really”, we stood beside the gleaming copper device. “An Englishman invented it early in the 21st century. “It is a microwave cavity, about the size of a large microwave oven, but without a door” I chuckled, “could we do our cooking with it?”, “No skipper, its much too powerful for that”. Your Thanksgiving turkey would be a heap of carbon in a femtosecond. Your cup of coffee a cloud of coffee flavored water vapor in a picosecond. Too powerful I mused. How powerful? The hermit scratched his beard and scrunched his face thru a series of thoughtful poses. “Its at least a Zettawatt”, maybe half a yottawatt” “Not a Jigawatt? I ask. It was a trick question but the Chief was ready for me. “Skipper that’s a red herring and not a real magnitude” “You’re right there Chief, its from a movie” I thought about that. The movie was a fantasy and the script needed a fantastic number, something off the charts big, the Jigawatt. Considering the way fantasy becomes reality here in the 21st century the Jigawatt’s place just three orders of magnitude beyond the yottawatt seems assured. “So how’s it work Chief”. Best way to think about it is with Maxwell’s demons cast as plasmons. The microwave energy quanta expressed in the cavity as little demons all jostling around for elbow room. Unlike the microwave oven’s cavity the EM drive cavity is asymmetrical, that is to say, one end is bigger than the other. Bottom line is that more demons end up at the big end than at the small end. That difference diverts energy into momentum which is to say thrust. About a hundred pounds. The first moon rocket had five million pounds thrust. “Ya, but it only burned for a couple of minutes”. “Exactly” the Chief agreed, “and there’s the difference – our measly hundred pounds is continuous” With the technical out of the way I ask the chief about the EM drive’s interesting history. “They tried to suppress it” he said. “They?” I responded, “The physics posse, the union of quantum mechanics” I ask why. “They felt he was treading on their turf, violating their rules” you mean the laws of physics? The establishment called them laws but in fact they were only guidelines. They weren’t written in stone. They were written in the sand. When the tide of BBR (belief based reality) climbed up the beach it erased all that. It upended the political landscape too, in fact that’s what most folks noticed. But in physics its effect was equally revolutionary. They said EM drive was BS drive and couldn’t possibly work. We both chuckled.

In a face an interface to the ship’s computer

“Care for a ration of rum skipper?” the chief ask, “Thanks I said, maybe later, I’ve got a meeting with Sheila” I said sheepishly. “The boss lady doesn’t like you having a snort?” the hermit asked. “She’d rather I didn’t” I said, again sheepishly. “But you’re the master, right?!” Technically yes, I said, but its best to choose one’s battles. The chief tossed a shot down his gullet and shook his head violently. Strong stuff I thought. While he recovered from the drink I said. “But those hoity toady physics people were wrong weren’t they…here we are only days out from Earth and already relativistic. “Skipper, you know about this stuff….are we in danger of time dilation?, I mean, I haven’t had my shots” I reminded him that time dilation was relative, like a cousin or great aunt. Sometimes an uncle. We were only related mentally, not by blood. (to be continued)

Leaving Earth part 3

Once more into the great vacuum

Sheila wasn’t happy with the second crew member I’d printed. I was always a fan of the Gnarly Caribbean pirate, swash buckling tough guy, that sort of thing….so when I found in the bio 3d catalog this ancient mariner I printed him. Sheila gritted her teeth but had to accept the old salt. I’ve put him in charge of the engine room. I’m calling him the engine room hermit…on account of I’m restricting him to the engine room. He might get into trouble anywhere else. Sheila ask, “what’s his background, his experience? “Well”, I launched into a description of the hermit’s history. “He started as a cabin boy on the run to Mercury. Since then he’s tickled M-Drive engines from the edge of the sun to the ort cloud. “Is that it?” asked Sheila in a mocking tone. That’s a lifetime of plying the solar system, what more do you want. “Glen”, Sheila reminded me, ” The hermit’s entire CV is made up!” I cleared my throat, well, this is fiction. She agreed but added, “just as in real life, some characters are more real than others”. Nothing to object to there. The hermit of the M-Drive engine room had a thousand stories and he loved telling them. God knows on the long nights in interplanetary space its good to warm your hands siting at a holographic fire listening to stories of adventure on the briny vacuum. Space would supply the cold nights and the hermit the stories. Yes, I thought, The hermit can’t hurt the Engine because it’s made of robust fantasy itself, its impervious to doubt. The new millennium brought us the blessing of belief based reality. I’d not be on this ship heading out to Psyche to strike it rich without BBR, Believe me.

If you need crew and we all do you print it !

Trouble with printed characters is that they develop habits the author never intended. Like the hermit’s insistence that he needs a rum ration for his “Vacuum Fever”. I looked in the Cosmic PDR, Physician’s Desk Reference, the hypochondriac’s bible and concordance. Hmmm, Now what do you suppose it said about Vacuum Fever….ain’t no such thing. The CPDR suggested it was slang for malingering. The standard treatment for that is 40 lashes (Mascara extra). So he needs a flask of dark rum now and then. It can be printed. Just have to get around Sheila. Need to impress her with the fact that I am the master of the vessel, captain of this tub. So I assured the hermit I’d print a few pints to hold him over.

The M drive is famous in many parallel universes

My daughter has ask if I’m busy, If I have enough to do. Really there is too much to do on this first leg to Mars. Too much to do but even more time. Even with the miraculous M drive it takes forever to move around in this tiny little solar system. The aliens laugh there heads off (several, but they grow back) when they hear we move with reaction thrust engines over hundreds of millions or even billions of miles. It should be embarrassing, still haven’t mastered FTL, faster than light. The aliens scoff and joke about us, “Those Earth people shouldn’t leave their driveway! if that’s the best they can do!”. But if I can’t imagine FTL how am I going to create it? “Sheila!, Sheila, what about it?”, About FTL ? she asks innocently. Yes, FT freakin’ el, She enjoyed winding me up while monitoring my vitals. Glen, you’re stuck with conventional physics here. The M-Drive being a special exception, something critical to driving the story arc. “Conventional Physics!” I wined. “That’s the deal”, Sheila said softly but firmly. My only chance is to come up with something with Muons or up down sideways Quarks, some loophole in the laws. Einstein didn’t deny Newton, he filled in detail. Some trick, an angle, a way. I just know there are really great planets out there. The right gravity an Oxygen Nitrogen atmosphere in the goldilocks zone. But what use is it to have another Earth if you can’t get to it. Its like…I got a great beach place in Hawaii but I CAN NEVER GO THERE. Might as well not have it!

Escaping Earth part 2

The line between real and imaginary blurs as the author takes off to claim the Psyche Asteroid, the Golden Asteroid of lore
Remember this is evolving in process and on the fly

If you remember part one of this story you’ll know my daughter thinks I am loosing it mentally. She is afraid I am becoming addled, weak minded, of diminished cognitive ability. One beer short of a six pack and less than the sharpest knife in the drawer. I’m sure it will happen, in degree, but I haven’t noticed and few others are watching me. Just you dear reader. I told her I’d built a spaceship and took off for anywhere but Earth. Enough already. Planet over crowded, like the mink in the mink farms. Earth has become a damn intense people factory…like there was such a huge market for humans…as there is for mink. If human skin made coats aliens thought were up market the Galaxy’s ASPCA wouldn’t let them breed the humans in those numbers! Duh, when you crowd animals virus outbreaks are more common. So it is a human factory but without regulation. So it can only get worse. I have made a tiny contribution to the overpopulation problem by leaving. N-1. That’s the equation I’ve solved. Where N was the human population of the Earth and the subtracted one, moi. I lessened the problem for humanity by the fraction one over seven point something billion. I left. I am dropping down the orbital slope toward Mars. By thrust I have slowed down and am falling behind Earth in our orbit of the sun. For every radius of an orbit of the sun there is a velocity. Mercury is really fast. Venus damn fast. Earth just right. Mars slow. So going faster causes you to spiral in. Its important to get the numbers right. Its like jumping between buildings. But these buildings are moving, the planets I mean. So you drop from the 365 day orbit of Earth to the nearly 700 day Martian orbit. Ya, that’s where we’re going but mostly for the fun of buzzing ’em. We’ll try to graze Phoebus and/or Demos, the moons of Mars but mostly we want to sling shot off the gravity of Mars. Get a little boost in V. And like I said, to buzz them. The damn Martians thru the 1950’s were constantly sending their “UFO” craft to Earth. Still doing it apparently. Not sure if its Martians but it is for sure aliens. If an alien transgresses you just get even by bothering another alien. We sling shot off Mars and then onto….drum roll….Psyche. The golden Asteroid of myth and lore. I’m inventing the myth right now. What a great thought, a rock of Nickle and Iron with “traces” of gold, silver, platinum. Traces being worth an amount beyond the dreams of Avarice. But no averice on this trip, Just me and Sheila, my assistant. She’s an extension of the ships computer. An andromorphic representation of a woman of twenty or so. Something strange happens when the computer seems, appears, to be another person. The interaction with these andromorphic robots, these androids, is bazaar for humans. There is an ancient human phobia about something pretending to be human. That’s what Sheila does. I really was on my own the first couple of days. One of the items I introduced to the ship was a 3d anything printer. Sheila was printed in a vat of saline water. She looks nothing like Frankenstein’s creation…mores the pity as the Brits say. So for the first couple of days I interacted with the ship via the keyboard. This keyboard in fact. Now I talk to Sheila. She is the ship and visa versa. “Sheila”, I call out, “Yes Glen” she replies thru the IC (intercom button)on my collar. “Where are we now”, “We are ten million miles out from Earth orbit and 130 million miles from Mars orbit”, “How much time to Mars?”. That will be 13 days at our present rate. Thats fast! I am glad my imagination was doing the engineering for the ship’s design. It allows me to employ “M”drive. M drive is the cold fusion of space travel. It uses electricity rather than a heated propellent. So a fusion reactor of a couple of Terawatt would do fine. With hundreds of pounds of continuous thrust its Mars in a month. But…it helps that we’ll blow by Mars on the way to the asteroid belt. If we wanted to orbit Mars we’d need to loose all that hard won momentum. Slowing down is just the reverse of speeding up. You turn the ship around and point the thrust in the direction of travel. (to be continued)

A spaceman with the longest sausage in the outer solar system, ie beyond Mars

Escape from Earth

Is it the eternal wanderlust in people or just trying to loose the madding crowd?

Escaping Earth (my daughter’s contribution)

My dads crazy. Off on a tangent, something he inflicted on himself. He reached a tipping point with the lockdown and politics and decided to stop dealing with it. Something snapped. He called one day and said he was building a spaceship and leaving Earth. My dad – building a spaceship! – crazy!. Bezos or Musk building space ships – not crazy, reality. Maybe that’s where he got the idea. Could those two zillionaires also want to leave this crazy world of Covid and Qanon? Difference is they have money…he doesn’t. Not so much anyway. Oh he has enough for his retirement but not for space ships. He flies around the midcoast in an old Chevy. So I was concerned when he called and said he’d done it. ‘Done what” I ask? “I’ve flown the coop honey”. “I’ve left the Earth and I’m not coming back”. I searched my memory for what to say. How you deal with a parent’s slide from rational?. That is to say, what do you do when your Dad loses it? “Space”? I rhetorically ask. “Yes”, he said. “Where in space exactly?”. “Leme check” he answered. A moment passed,”Half million miles-according to the cosmic odometer”. buying time I ask,”What’s that in Kilometers, After another pause he answered, “That would be about eight hundred thousand clicks”. He was taking time responding. Was this a sign that his mind was slowing? He’d been using his mind for seventy five years, bound to slow down eventually. Big thoughts, little thoughts, and now crazy thoughts. I should document this for the doctors. I called up the stopwatch on my phone and asked, “Dad?” “Yes”, he answered after a two second delay. “Dad, we must have a bad connection…there’s a delay”. Another pause, “Not the connection honey”, he said, “its the time of flight” “Eh?”, “Time of flight?” I repeated. “Yes, the connection is X band, that’s about eight gigahertz, Microwave but its still speed of light limited” Dad has always unnecessarily complicated things with technical jargon. “Dad….what does the speed of light have to do with our phones”? “Sweetie I am beyond the orbit of the moon, it takes a second for my words to reach you and another second for your reply to reach me”. That response caused an added delay while I pondered his words. He isn’t going to let go of the space ship thing I decided. Changing the subject, I ask, “are you keeping busy”? (Delay), “Yep”, “There’s still a huge amount of work to be done in the ship” he said, “I left in such a hurry – All that’s working is the engines and a minimum environmental system. Ya, I thought, environ….mental. Credit where it’s due, in the days following he increased the delay. He was going to pretend himself all the way into the nuthouse. At a million miles the delay stretched out to ten seconds. That was my limit – “lets go to chat or email dad”. “OK” he said a dozen seconds later. With email you don’t expect quick responses. Half an hour is sudden for an email. That was our time together, email, both of us in isolation. In the weeks that followed he told me about the ship’s internal structure. The bulkheads and compartments and companionways. The free fall squash court. “Who’ll you play squash with”? I ask, “you’re all alone, right”?. ‘Not totally’ he wrote back. “No, I have an anthropomorphic robot with me”. “Her name’s Sheila”. Very athletic. Sweet personality. OMG I thought. “Oh!”, not one of “those” robots!? , shocked,  I ask . “What does she “do”, “I mean, how human-like is she?”. He said, “she’s “full function” if that’s what you’re asking, She’s got a wicked back hand on the court – Intellectual when that’s needed otherwise warm and fuzzy, an extension of the ships computer basically”, he added. (to be continued)

Tablet? What tablet?

Fictional characters with an old brick wall behind them comment on the current obsession

They are talking to me, those cartoon characters. They know what’s going on in my head…that’s where they come from. They raise themselves up and leap landing on paper, or these days, tablet. Stream of unconsciousness or something. Some sort of escape for them and a relief for me. The thoughts are gone and good riddance. Its just the rumble and thud and grinding of gears of the mental process. When the idea hits, if it does, I will buy the big tablet and let the devil take the hindmost or damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

This is the focus of my attention and angst, The Wacom One

There is something about this graphic that confuses me no end….confused media

What is confusing and irritating about the above graphic is physical paint on a virtual canvas. Has any artist gotten drunk or high enough to put a paint loaded brush to a tablet surface? Can’t imagine anyone doing that…it would ruin the tablet I’d think. Would you somehow scrape the surface of the tablet? could that be done without damage? Are we going to have more and more of these virtual meets actual incidents? Virtual people, avatars, bumping into real people. Robots and andromorphs. I don’t expect to be around long enough to see these possibilities. In my imagination a robot picks up a tablet and stylus and sketches a man. He wonders if the man he has drawn has any thoughts. Borges again. The man dreams a man into existence and discovers he himself is just a dream. Only “he” is a robot or android. Shades of Blade Runner, do androids dream? Do electric sheep dream? I dream, stuck in REM sleep, I dream a lot. I’m dreaming now.

God bless the grocery fairy

I took a photo of the seaweed plant on the Rockland waterfront with my cheap camera. I put the image with the five to one aspect seascapes tend to have into GIMP, the open source graphics program. Not totally sure the new Wacom tablet was interfaced to GIMP then. Stylus or mouse I began to replace each of the photo’s pixels. I took liberties with the detail. Busy planes of color and abrupt changes in tone. I shifted the wind. In the event it was on shore. I changed that to off shore. Seemed to suit the composition better. A psych major or majorette could do worse than examine right hand vs south paw preferences for symmetry imbalance. I have no time for any of that. I just let the chips fall where they may. I hope that’s OK

Rockland’s industrial waterfront

This will provide some small answer to the question, “what do you say when you have nothing to say?” Not a problem in this world. The media seem able to suck the words out of us. The website, the printing press, the campfire. “They” say humans are different because they use tools. I do that. Another set of “they” say its because humans tell stories. I do that As well.

The Ministry of Truth

This was prompted by the disappearance of several books recently – you’d do well to imagine they never existed at all !
The author reads “The Ministry of Truth” into a cheap microphone

The Stalinist government of the USSR would signal who was in and out of favor with the politburo with a photo of officials reviewing the May Day parade. If someone was out of favor they didn’t just clean out their desk and leave the building under escort. More likely they just ceased to exist. The clue that they didn’t exist…in fact had never existed was the annual photo. An airbrush rendered empty space where on the actual day so and so had stood. His history vanished with him. Best not to ask, drop him down Orwell’s memory hole. Who? That’s the ides, who?…only now its books. Books that were OK when they were published but times have caught up with them and their evil words and illustrations are glaringly obvious…to the “woke police” anyhow.

I generate content for a local rag called the Buzz. Its small but not immune to “cancel” culture

Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be printed.,   “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer”

Doctor Seuss’s characters will join disgraced politburo members in the “memory hole” where existence ceases.

Libraries will be under pressure to remove the books from their shelves. Damn!, I never know what to invest in!! There can be no doubt prices for pristine first editions of these six books will soar. The rush to get those that remain will start the climb in price. Hmmmm, if I can only guess what is about to be identified by the woke police for disappearance I can get in on the ground floor. I am a gringo for sure, looking for money in any situation, including this one. Were there touts taking bets in Place de la Concorde as the Guillotine sliced and heads rolled into baskets? Just because its a bad day for some doesn’t mean others can’t make hay while their sun shines. Maybe the freeing up of shelve space by books removed makes space for mine…when published…when written. Oh there are other books disappearing too. The towering colossi of American literature, Mr Dav Pilkey, author of the monumentally successful series, “Captain Underpants”, was taken in for questioning by the woke police. He must have gotten expert advice judging by his reaction. Over the top obsequent, groveling, apology. Any struggle and he (and his publisher) would face the loss of million$ in sales. More important than the money (God!, is such a thing even possible?) is the potential loss of these tomes of wisdom, these guides for youth. Books such as, “Sir Stinks a Lot” and the spin off, “Dog Man” with ten titles so far. Eighty million books sold! Who says kids aren’t reading? Most importantly the books are illustrated. With a closepin on my nose and my new tablet, who knows, I might even be capable of reaching the heights of creative genius Mr Pilkey is attaining and a few of the $$ too.

More from the new tablet

I have trouble remembering the identity of people in the photo refs nameless faces, bodies and cats
the author’s voice

The NYT is great for old photos. References for an endless number of images from their archives. All the news that’s fit to print and pictures to accompany that fit news going back a century plus. That’s a lot of light and shadow. At first silver halide on plates and later film and still later magnetic domains and floating electric charges. Can’t imagine how photos will be stored in the future, in another century. When nature builds a data base system, an archive for recorded structure, the genome, she never deletes. She makes an entry in the log saying “ignore from here to here” Better to keep the trash than risk tossing something that might be useful some day. Like a photo. I think the woman with the cat was an author or an academic. Could be the cat is her “familiar” and shes a witch. There is a bit of “Bell Book and Candle” about her pose. We see an old photo out of context and the wheels of imagination start grinding.

A bug drawn on the Wacom One tablet from a photo on the Nikon site

There is no excuse now for not creating a ton of content to make Amazon even richer. Danke Gott I enjoy and in fact can’t get enough, drawing and painting. Time to hitch up that restless horse and plow the bottom forty acres. Plant it in fantastic tales of daring do and high adventure among natives deep in the forest and jungle. An opportunity to invent the missing details of the thousand generations of people who lived in Doggerland. You never heard of Doggerland? It sank beneath the sea between England and Holland. Close to nothing is known about the people who must have taken advantage of such an hospitable place in that window of time, 12,000 to 80,000 years before the present. But I drift.

image.png
Its true, I just don’t use the color in moderation….too much is just short of enough

In the way that a person who just bought a back hoe looks for a piece of ground that needs a hole I look for a project worthy of the new tablet. An illustrated novel? Something for the adventurous ten to thirteen year old. They must be ready for adventure, missing friends, lives disrupted by the virus and school closings. Not a fictional dystopia, like hunger games or ready player one. Something nice, hopeful, positive. Or is that NOT what is wanted? Doom and gloom to be layed on gloom and doom? I don’t need it but then I’m old. In a couple of weeks 3/4 of a century old. God only knows what today’s youth want. A simple life? If so they might be out of luck. That train might have left the station. Or was that line shut down long ago.

Always the theme of sail boats that take to the sky – what would Freud say?

So what to do with the new tool slash toy, the tablet? I don’t think I will buy another, larger tablet. The cost for this one is around $5 a square inch of work area. For the 24 and 32 inch Wacom tablets the cost goes up to $10 or $11 a square inch. I’m used to drawing on a clipboard on a stack of 8.5×11 inch copier paper. The Wacom is small for an HD display but not for a drawing area. In front of me is the Wacom, ergonometrically placed perpendicular to my line of sight. Beyond it, on the wall, a 42 inch HD display. Both show the same window. Maybe a combination of the two displays will feel comfortable, eventually. We shall see.

The new drawing tablet

On of my first drawings on the Wacom One HD drawing tablet

I have had the new tablet for a week. Its by Wacom. They call it the “One”. I will guess they meant it for me and others just dipping a toe into the waters of drawing on a display. I like it. It is a revelation, a sea change, a big deal. It is both like drawing or painting in the traditional way and very unlike them. Makes sense. The skills we’ve worked to develop, swinging a stylus or brush in accurate ways preserved in the new medium while adding capabilities. One early impression I’ve had is that of a fire hose at high pressure spewing color by the gallon, onto the “canvas”. Then with a control Z all those gallons of paint go back into the tube! and not a drop spilt. And….as if these were not enough….the drying time for thick, saturated layers of color is….milliseconds. I just throw another bucket of paint on the previous layer. It doesn’t show thru unless I set opacity low. So the layer by layer thin addition of color is possible. That’s an area I continue to explore. I have had a way of using saturated ungraded, unshaded, color in blocks. Bold and contrasted. But much of the magic is the software, GIMP, in this case. Yes I could be doing all this with a mouse, but, the feeling of painting the physical way doesn’t carry over with a mouse. I do find myself going back and forth between mouse and stylus.

This started as a photo taken at the Owl’s Head lighthouse in Maine, heavily modified

Productivity, the work produced per unit time, must double with the HD tablet. There isn’t the flatbed scanner to take a paper drawing into the digital realm. All attention can be focused on the 75 square inches of the tablet. But that concentrated effort leads to problems with posture. Keeping nose to the grindstone has its costs. Ergonometrics is the number one issue with these tablets after the functional requirements are met. The 32 inch Wacom costs $3200 or so and has a $500 stand one is encouraged to buy in addition. For my little Wacom I built a stand. Makes all the difference but I still need to get up and walk around every twenty minutes or so. If I don’t my neck tells me I need to.

This also started as a photo. One taken in BCN two months before the plague began

Part of my response to the plague has been to buy toys. The government is helping with that. I guess I can thank them for the $400 this Wacom costs. There is more money coming. What to buy? A nice camera I think. My old digital camera died, pushing me toward a really good Nikon Z format. I’m in the study and drool stage of acquisition now but soon…soon my paypal will pounce. Nothing to impress the really well healed, the Z5 with a 24-200mm lens…but my highwater mark, camera wise, when I get it. A retired pro photog I know told me, “spend money on the glass” ie, the best lens is a worthy investment. Its that way with tools in the shop. So I will.

A Duck gets Stuck at Suez

World trade demands larger and larger ducks but the cost of stuck ducks is high

The world look on with shock, this past week, as in Egypt, home of the pyramids, a giant rubber duck got stuck. The stuck duck, possibly the worlds largest, had been driven by a Ghibli (sand storm) into the mud on either side of the Suez canal. The situation dragged on day after day with the yellow leviathan refusing to budge in spite of best efforts of a fleet of giant tugs. The canal extends 120 miles from the Red Sea in the south to the Mediterranean in the north. The 150 year old watery cut thru the desert is constantly dredged to allow passage of as many as 50 ducks a day, every day of the year. Hundreds of other, albeit smaller, yellow ducks treaded water at either end of the waterway – waiting out the blockage. One onlooker was heard to say, “it looks like bath day at a foundling home!” What makes the situation serious is that these ducks carry the vast majority of the world’s trade. The stuck duck, named “Ever Given Trouble” carried a crew of 25 and 20,000 containers between China and Europe and North America. Its 900 foot length is nearly matched by its height. Its weight is 200,000 tons or four million pounds. Anyway you measure it that’s a lot of flat screen TVs, longeray and lipstick.

The powerful tugs and the dredgers proved unable to budge the rubber ducky so something more powerful was called in. Just as the ancient priests of the pharos had – modern salvers put their faith in celestial intervention. They called on the Earth’s moon to use her influence. What is being called the “worm” moon managed to do what men could not. As the worm turned the duck moved. The waters rose just enough and the monster refloated.

Students of astronomy might ask, what does the phase of the moon have to do with refloating gargantuan yellow ducks? Wouldn’t a waxing crescent have done the job as well as a waning gibbous? For refloating and unsticking the world’s cargo carriers is a moon in its first or last quarter best? And another question, what’s this of late with these names of phases of Luna, Terra’s dance partner in its waltz around the sun? The worm moon? really? In addition to the worm moon there is January’s wolf moon. February has the snow moon. Hosting the Pink moon, March. The rest of the year has Flower, Strawberry, corn and even Sturgeon moons. Before the invention of fire and then the flashlight, moon light was about all we had in the wee hours. In homage to this night light a quarter million miles away we gave names when the face facing us was totally illuminated.

No the Wormy moon and the freeing of the Ever Get’n Stuck were just a co-incidence. There are no co-incidences you say, just unknown connections. It might be so. If the Stuck Duck had sailed a few days later than it did and arrived at the canal a few days later the moon that freed it would have been a waning one. If on the other hand it had left Asia days earlier a waxing moon would be receiving the credit. There is no doubt a full ration of moon light helped the tugs see what they were doing. But we should consider the possibility that human error contributed to the incident. How? thru Lunacy of course! Lunatics’, Loony behavior, these results of that satellite’s influence have been known since man firsts looked up and said….”is that worm or wolf?”

I work for the Buzz

The tiny local samizdat rag I work for, the Buzz, counts every pixel so I need to “pixel wrangle” , it shows don’t it?


I’ve traveled the world at times in my life. Immersing myself in new cultures. Experiencing my native culture by contrast with the one I’m immersed in. Takes years to slough off the cultural conditioning to the extent we ever can. So I stay years in one place. I also travel in time. We all do. Time travel is similar in that it exchanges one culture for another. You could stay in one place and travel in time. Most folks do that. You can tell you’ve crossed the border when the young speak a slightly different language. In times new country the young start their sentences saying “So”. Being on the road of time for 76 years I have seen the scenes. The language, slang, words re-made, trends become “mems”. Civil rights becomes human rights and morphs into BLM. In my house some mornings have a song. The coffee perks, the computer boots, and I have a song playing in my head. I find it on the computer and crank up the volume. One day last week the song was Marvion Gaye’s “Whats going on”. An atmospheric motown ballad with the stamp of its time, 1970. Protest demanding racial equality and getting brutal response. War as a national sport and litmus for patriotism. Things don’t change much. Only seem to. As with life, genes are reused in different but familiar ways. War still isn’t the answer but love hasn’t conquered hate.  The battles are not around Que Son and Kent state. They’re inside the capitol in DC and in Syria. The song lyric, “talk to me, so you can see, what’s going on, What’s going on? I’ll tell you what’s going on. It’s a lament. Another song that never ends.  In these terms the virus is an uptick, a big deal but not much different than the wars. The chief difference is that now WE are suffering. Not just foreigners…no, now it’s THEIR fault. Chinese Communism replaced with Chinese Viruses. So what is going on? Business as usual and the usual results…up to a point. What is new is population growth and technology. The result of business as usual will soon show a qualitative difference in result. The population of the world has doubled since that song was on Billboard’s top twenty. The number of players in the nuclear weapons game has at least doubled. The means of delivery of these massive killing machines has also advanced. So (see I’m doing it too!) So, the result of what’s going on puts the flame ever nearer to the fuse. There is not even the pretense of understanding the need to put the breaks on. No comprehension of “what’s going on” before our eyes. Oh, we’ll muddle thru, we always have! No, WE never have, WE are not the people we were. This time, 2021,  is a different place where things happen for local reasons not due to precedent or habit. We must, for survival, become civil, civilized, citizens of a community. The virus is getting our attention but the recent riot in DC is a symptom of an infection much worse. It’s an illness with the potential to kill far more of us than Corona. It spreads virally thru the pathways for lies and the exploitation of divisiveness for profit. The masks and social distancing it responds to are compassion, understanding, humility, dialog and compromise. Being civil to one another. Ya, you can hear people saying….”you can’t make me wear that mask”. Arguments for the greater good through our being civil don’t seem to engage any more than advice to wear PPE does. When people die, when horned idiots walk the halls of the congress, we step back…but not enough. When things quiet down we return to the risky behavior, the nasty rhetoric, the proud refusal to compromise. The death rate rises and again we step back. The danse macabre. A waltz to the cliff edge. So, what is going on? You tell me.  Not my problem anymore. I can hear the maid in the hall pushing her cleaning cart. For me It’s almost check out time.