Space Force and the Wall

Space Force.  The whole thing bothers me for a number of reasons, but there was one specific one that I though of the other day which is a real problem.

First of all, it strikes me as very strange that a bunch of people, and a whole political party, who have never been enthusiastic about funding NASA and proper space research – honestly, we could have had a colony on Mars now for a decade already if we hadn’t been so focused on wars over every patch of land with oil under it – are suddenly rabid space enthusiasts.  I’ll bet half of them never even watched Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica, or Star Gate maybe, but Trek is way too fancy pants intellectual.
Then, it’s the whole idea of bringing the whole idea of violence and nationalism and war into an arena where it never was before and never should be.  Up till now, space has been more nationally neutral and sportsmanlike than the Olympic Games.  Astronauts from many nations share the space station and the scientists all share their data.  The idea of national competition in space is not only a step in the wrong direction, it’s downright dangerous.
But, after Mike Pence’s speech, and realizing that they are absolutely serious, I realized, with a bit of a start, what the big problem is: just like with the Wall, these people can’t tell the difference between a metaphor, a nice slogan, and reality.  I mean, they could just re-name NASA ‘Space Force’ and it wouldn’t cost a damn thing, except for replacing a few signs.  They could add a few more National Guardsmen at the border, say “These brave men are our wall” and be done with it, but they want a real concrete and barbed wire wall, across mountains and canyons and running right down the middle of rivers.  This would inconvenience Mexico a bit, but it would be seriously damaging to the U.S. (I’m only partly talking about trade and labor.  Mostly about image, long term historical  image.)
Space Force, though, could piss off every other nation that’s currently in space or intends to be.  And that is far more than the U.S. is prepared to deal with.

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Mama Mia, Here We Go Again

The original plan was for me and Sam to take the bus up to the cottage today and then come back tomorrow but Sam informed me this morning that he had to work tomorrow so  I called Helena and she said ‘well, I  guess we’re coming home tonight then,’ so I unpacked my computer, which  is why I’m typing this now on  her computer which has a weird habit of suddenly moving the cursor back to the beginning of whatever I’m writing every time I try to  capitalize something, so I’m going to try and do that as little as possible.

Anyway, we got to Turnov and Helena picked us up  there but on  the way to the cottage  she decided to stop at a pharmacy to get some cream because  Sam’s got this outbreak  on his  face which I just assumed was a bad case of acne but the lady at the counter said you need to take him to  a doctor and get something prescribed so we did and the doctor prescribed something and told him not to go into work tomorrow or for the next week  and football camp is out too, so Helena said ‘well, it looks like we can stay overnight after all,’ which allowed for  her original plan, which was to drive into  Semily, which compared to Kotelsko is like Metropolis, they’ve got a movie theater and all, and see  Mama Mia, the completely superfluous sequel.
Isabel, and our niece Natalie came along, and I think they enjoyed it pretty well, as did Helena, and, despite my reservations about  why the movie was made in the first place, I  liked it O.K. in the end.
Like the first one it had just about  the right mixture of shmaltzy plot, jokes based on stereotypes, beautiful scenery, and music to keep  you entertained for an  hour and a half.
The fact that it was filmed on Vis, the island we just visited, was also interesting but, really, it could  have  been  anywhere.  Well, not quite anywhere, but you know what I mean.

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Kinetic Energy

I saw a thing the other day, and I’m not going to try to find the link.  You can just take my word for it that this exists, that this is happening, or not.  If it isn’t a thing, it should be.  It was out of China, which is no surprise, because China is cutting edge in so many things lately, and energy production is high on the list.  The Japanese are winning in the robotics and AI fields, but China is absolutely kicking butt in infrastructure.

They are manufacturing (or at least they have conceptualized, which is step 1) solar panels which also produce energy while it’s raining.  Kinetic energy.  The romantic pitter-patter of rain on an old tin roof may be replaced by rain, almost silently, recharging your house.  See, they’re still solar panels because they could be anything, really.    If you put some tiles over a series of springs attached by wires to a generator, and you’re going ot get the same.
Like regular solar panels (which they are, except for some fancy high tech stuff in the center, the cream in  the middle of the bonbon), they could be put up damned near anywhere.  In hot climates, the area of the Earth which is soon to be uninhabitable, places like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Cairo, Istanbul and Bangkok, these could be built over every parking lot.  In the future, when cars are illegal, those spaces would then become viable multi-use structures because all you need, really, is a floor and a ceiling.  In a hot enough climate, walls are totally superfluous.

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Apres l’Eté, le Deluge

It’s a little bit cooler than yesterday, as there was a good hard rain last night, but it’s still damned hot.  Other places have it a lot worse.   California with the wild fires everywhere, of course.
Now, some might say that wildfires, like mudslides, earthquakes, and riots, are a regular occurrence of nature in California and so this is nothing unusual.  But large numbers of people dying from the heat in Canada is not usual.  This summer, with it’s scary sounding temperatures all around the globe, seems sort of apocalyptic.

Some might point out that there is a difference between weather and climate, and between real time and geological time, but the temperature, worldwide, this summer, has blurred those differences a bit.
But, summer will be over in  another month or two.  And then?  Well, just as every summer gets hotter and hotter (no longer cyclic – that’s the  scary part), so nasty hurricane seasons are coming closer and  closer together.   Last year’s was horrific.  If this one tops that, we’re in serious trouble.  The hurricanes will  be followed  by  floods.  The  ice  of Antarctica, Greenland, and the entire arctic ocean is melting, which  will make the ocean level rise, which  will  make the land  flood even  more.
However, I am not among the doomsayers who say it’s all  over, disastrous global warming has become irreversible and there’s nothing we can  do about  it, we’re all going to die.   I’m now watching a show on nuclear fusion, and  saw an article today about a Chinese idea to  make solar panels double as rain powered kinetic energy devices.    Some sharp scientists may soon figure out a way to filter the carbon from the air (more trees would help, and we know how to do that), and we will avert the end of times.
It’s a hell of a gamble, we’re taking it way too close to the edge and that’s a bad idea, but I’m still fairly confident the human race will prevail.  But, brace yourselves.

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Endless Possibilities

The world of information
is an ocean deep, an ocean wide
swim for all you’re worth,
but you will never reach the other side

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Home

We are home, we made it, the trip is over and I,  for one, count it as a raging success, one of the  best vacations we’ve ever had.  I loved the time spent in the water, I loved all the sights  we  saw, and I felt like I got my head cleared out and my body a bit, too, although I must admit there was many a moment when I was feeling stiff and old man-ish, and some of those moments  came just getting in  and  out  of  the car.
Today was a marathon drive broken  up only by a trip to Mini-Mundus in Klagenfurt, Austria.  It is a very interesting concept, scale models of lots of world monuments and great buildings, but there were a lot  of ways  I thought it could have been better (more shade, for one thing, but you can hardly blame the park designers for the fact that the real world world is heating up to a dangerous degree).  I thought it would have been better if the exhibits were aligned geographically, so  you could actually  feel like  you were walking  around the word, and I definitely thought it was too Austria-centric.  Lots of countries had one thing, the Czech Republic had Prague Town Hall, Denmark had their stock-exchange building, India, of course, had the Taj Mahal.  Some countries had two or three things, like France and England and Italy, but Austria had castles all over the place, train stations, even an airport.
Toward the end, back indoors in the air-conditioned area, there was an exhibit where you sat in a mock up of a train car and there was a film in the window, but it was just a loop of an Austrian train winding down a mountainside, maybe 45 seconds of action, over and over again.  I think it would have been cool to have that, but a film of a voyage around the world.

Tomorrow, back to real life.

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Ljubljana

Every city has something to see, but we really hit it out of the park with our whirlwind tour of Ljubljana and Celje today.  The drive in to Ljubljana was lovely, all steep, green mountains, little chalets, neatly tended farms, it looked very prosperous and Swiss (actually, the view from our Air B and B in Celje reminds me a great deal of a campsite we once stayed at in Liechtenstein, a view from the valley straight up a mountain).
Now, I wasn’t expecting much from Ljubljana.  Another European city, capital of a small country, and I’ve seen plenty of those.  It was, indeed, absolutely chock-a-block with tourists, and had the requisite pedestrian zone and shlock souvenir shops, but it had a couple of things most other cities don’t, and every city should.
Water fountains.  When I was growing up, they were everywhere,  but the bottled water industry has destroyed that.   Well, Ljubljana is fighting back.  There was one I  saw that even had a plaque, proclaiming the environmental value of not drinking bottled water.  There was another one that was dog friendly, the water dropped straight down to the ground without any catch basin.  There was another one that was a statue of a great  stag, and the water was coming out of his mouth.
Public toilets.  All over the place, well marked, and free.  At least the one I went to was free.  And that is not something you can take for granted in Europe.
Artificial rain.  This blew me away.  There was one intersection, not far from the river, where it was raining, a nice, soft, gentle rain, and I couldn’t figure out how they were doing it.  Very simple, actually.  There were some wires overhead, with sprinklers attached, understated but not invisible.  It was a brilliant idea.
Then we came back to Celje, ate lunch (after walking quite a bit, there were lots of bars and snack stands but no restaurants open), then went to Smartonoske Lake, I believe both of those esses are pronounced sh, and then drove up to the castle, from which the view was spectacular, and it was about 9:00 by the time we got back to our home away from home, had sandwiches and grapes for dinner, and that brings us up to current.
Tomorrow we drive back to Prague.

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