athelind: (explore)
"It's a bad week for NASA," someone said.

To those we've lost as we reached for the stars:



Apollo 1: 27 January 1967
Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom • Edward H. White II • Roger B. Chaffee

Space Shuttle Challenger: 28 January 1986
Francis R. Scobee • Michael J. Smith
Ronald McNair • Ellison Onizuka • Judith Resnik
Greg Jarvis • Christa McAuliffe

Space Shuttle Columbia: 01 February 2003
Rick D. Husband • William C. McCool
Michael P. Anderson • Kalpana Chawla • David M. Brown
Laurel Clark • Ilan Ramon








Though a nation watched them falling, yet a world could only cry
As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky


athelind: (cue howard)
Last year, I posted an LJ entry that said that the defining moment for our generation wasn't when man set foot on the Moon, but when we turned away.

Most of my commentators, bless their literal souls, thought I was just talking about the space program, and at that stage in my recovery, I wasn't quite up to clarifying the symbolic and metaphorical dimensions of the statement.

I picked up a copy of Fight Club last week, and [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby and I plugged it in on Friday night. This is the quintessential movie of my generation.

It comes closer than anything else to explaining exactly what I meant.

Preach it, Tyler:
I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables — slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't. We're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.


You are keeping tabs on the Occupy Wall Street protests, aren't you? If not, check out http://boingboing.net, and, as the Good Book said, consult your pineal gland.

Fnord.



EDIT: The first comment on the post has forced an addendum, hopefully early enough in the morning to catch most my Loyal Audience on their first read-through:

I really do appear to only be able to communicate half of what's going on in my brain at any one point.

I said Fight Club was "the quintessential movie of my generation". I didn't say "Tyler Durden is a Divine Prophet."

[livejournal.com profile] notthebuddha was close -- Tyler's rant is HALF the truth. Pahulnik, in this speech, succinctly describes the malaise afflicting Generation X. We came into a world of progress and potential—we were literally promised the Moon—only to have it ripped away from us.

"Ah, never mind that. Here, have a crappy job and an apartment full of cheap furniture. Oh, wait. We're shipping the crappy jobs overseas. Why aren't you paying for your cheap furniture anymore?"

Fight Club is, in many ways, a cautionary tale. Sometimes, we all find ourselves in Tyler Durden's headspace, entertaining fantasies of just randomly beating the crap out of someone, or blackmailing your pissant boss, or taking your hands off the wheel as you ram the accelerator into the floorboards just to see what happens.

You can deny that and repress it and end up like the Narrator, or you can face it head on and channel it.

When you subtract the explosives, the beating the crap out of each other in basements, and the long-term goal of hunting moose in the vine-covered towers of the city, Tyler's idea of "zeroing out the credit system" sounds a hell of a lot more rational and productive than bailing out the banks for using fraud and doubletalk to rope thousands of people into mortgages they couldn't afford. The banks wound up with the houses and the money; if the bailouts had gone to the swamped homeowners themselves, the banks would have still gotten their money, and we'd still have an economy instead of a shattered, broken population.

At some point, you've got to take a stand. You've got to get angry.

You don't have to go mad and tear everything down. I brought Occupy Wall Street into the end of the post to say, "this is Project: Mayhem done right." It's not a riot. It's not terrorism. It's taking a stand. It's an ever-increasing circle of people gathering together and saying, "We've had enough. No more."

Take a look at the icon I used for this post. I know exactly how things ended for that guy, too. But sometimes, things reach a point where you've got to listen to all the Mad Prophets, all the Tyler Durdens and the Howard Beales, so you can see what drove them mad and make it stop.

You don't have to go mad to say you're not gonna take it anymore.

Fnord.


athelind: (far call)
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If you won a free trip to the moon, would you go? Why or why not?

Yes.

Why?

So many reasons, but let's go with the one in today's xkcd:


The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.



athelind: (green hills of earth)
Last night, I dreamed that I was getting ready to board a starship.

Not a gleaming Enterprise-style military vessel, and not a Millennium Serenity tramp freighter: this was a vessel the size of a city, with hundreds of thousands of crew and passengers.

It wasn't a "colony ship", per se; there was no sense of a set destination. It might have been a generation ship, and I simply wasn't going to see the end of the journey in my lifetime. Whatever the case, the ship was going to be home, and my role there (archivist, journalist, and documentation expert) was going to be my career, unless I decided to apprentice into something more technical.

In fact, if I were going to try to interpolate backstory from the general feel and attitude and thoughts in my dream-self's head, I'd say it was a seed ship, heading out to find likely planets and establish the foothold for settlement. Maybe we'd be dropping off colonists; maybe we'd be putting FTL gates in place; maybe we'd be terraforming; maybe all of the above.

On the other claw, it might have been the Diaspora. Everyone seemed to be going. even though there wasn't much sense of urgency, there was very much a sense that if you weren't on board, you'd Have The Place To Yourself; Please Put Up the Chairs And Turn Out The Lights.

Some hints of longevity there, too, since there didn't seem to be any issue with a gent pushing 50 contemplating a whole new career; there'd be plenty of time. It felt like "I may do this for a while, and then do that for a while, and then do something else", with the impression that "a while" was a period measured in decades.

A lot of this came out in a conversation with a young lady I'd just met—someone who, despite her youth, had been elected "Mayor", head of the civilian administration of the ship on sheer dint of competence.

Note that my ship's billet is pretty much what I'm doing now at my day job, combined with my family's heritage in newspapers. My PoV persona was most definitely me; often, when I have dreams this detailed, coherent, and story-related, I'm Someone Else. Even when it's not something as obvious as being an anthropomorphic dolphin-woman, my dream-selves in these internal movies often have different memories, different skills, and know different people. Dreams starring me tend to be both less coherent and less memorable.

It was surprisingly consistent, and surprisingly ... casual, for lack of a better term. Yes, this was a great adventure, this was a new experience—but it's what we're doing, and Things Need To Get Done. Right now ... nothing's urgent, we're ahead of schedule, don't kill yourself or freak out—Just Get The Job Done. Once everything's aboard, once things settle down after launch, then you can cluster by the portholes and ooh and ahh over The Big Night.

The source material for this one isn't hard to pin down. I just spent two weeks on a job assignment in San Diego (travel for the first time in too long, thanks to the new job!), documenting the decontamination procedure for a company that was closing up shop, and I spent a lot of time by myself in largely-abandoned buildings (Please Turn Out The Lights). On the plane back, I read Heinlein's novella, Methuselah's Children (longevity, obviously, and a gigantic starship with a hundred thousand people aboard. I think the dream even mentioned cold sleep, which I was turning down because I didn't want to miss anything and there was always Something That Needed Doing).

For the record, if you offered me absolutely any job, any life in the annals of in history and fiction—yeah. This. This is what I'd do, more than anything else. Give me a chance to head into the Deep on a giant city-ship, to search and explore and study and build and create, and I will head up that boarding ramp without looking back.






Don't be afraid, the stars are only mirrors/Reflecting all the mornings yet to come ... )

Yes, I know it's '70s Disco Cheese and a deliberate parody of the prog-rock Concept Album.
I'll still be singing it as I head up the ramp.




athelind: (green hills of earth)
When I mentioned him in yesterday's Writer's Block, I was entirely unaware of the fact that today would have been Unca Carl's 76th birthday.

I've linked to this before, but it's always worth revisiting:




...That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.



athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

What was the last song you couldn't get out of your head no matter how hard you tried?

"The Green Hills of Earth". I keep singing it -- in the shower, on the drive home, when work is slow -- and, of course, I keep singing it to different tunes.


Wow, I've done a lot of these lately.
athelind: (AAAAAA)
Last night's poll about "The Green Hills of Earth" inspired a wave of "Other" responses, all listing a different song in the Common Meter.

Some of them work for me; some of them don't. (The Yellow Rose of Texas? Seriously??)

But one thing's for sure: after a while of trying to sing these lyrics to all these different tunes, the tunes all start to run together in your head ...




athelind: (green hills of earth)
It's late, and we're in the hotel bar. Maybe it's the starport hotel, or maybe it's just this year's convention. It doesn't matter. It's late, and maybe we've been drinking a bit too much, but someone starts singing, and, by the last three verses, we're all singing along.

All of us who know the lyrics, anyway, and what philistine doesn't know at least the chorus of "The Green Hills of Earth", by Rhysling, Blind Singer of the Spaceways?

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
"ALL HANDS! STAND BY! FREE FALLING!"
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


[Poll #1625842]


... can anyone think of something a little more hard rock that uses the Common Meter?


And here's the X Minus 1 radio adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's biography of Rhysling.
athelind: (green hills of earth)
As if to demonstrate that Life Goes On, I just had an Archimedes moment: I ran out of the shower, towel wrapped 'round my waist, shouting "EUREKA!"

You see, I finally figured out a series of graphics that would explain to observers just what I was seeing in all that Elkhorn Slough data back in 2004-2005. I was trying to get a coherent article out of three or four different studies, each of which insisted that the Big Erosion Hotspot was in a different part of the Slough. Unfortunately, because their studies found erosion and deposition occurring at opposite ends of the Slough, the PhDs responsible for two of the papers each had ... issues ... with the other.

Bear in mind that these gentlemen were supposed to be my co-authors.

Bear in mind as well that I'm the only guy who looked at all four and a half data sets spanning 15 years.

Of course, any hypothesis that reconciled these supposedly-contradictory datasets was going to get lambasted from both ends.

Of course, after staring at all that data for three years, I came up with one:

Elkhorn Slough would experience Big Erosion Events that would dump a lot of sediment at the head of the Slough, and it would work its way down to the mouth over a period of years, thus giving the pattern of "Erosion here, deposition there" in one study, and "Erosion there, deposition here" a few years later.

I just figured out how to make maps that show the bulge of sediment moving down the slough.

It's clearly visible in the "flip chart" of cross-sections I carried around with me during that whole project, but I just figured out a way to display the data in four or five Q&D maps, rather than making people scrutinize Excel graphs for three years to see the pattern emerge.

So, yeah, "Eureka".

And you know what's even better?

When I rattled this off to [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby, who's an engineer, he said, "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."

So:
  1. I still have all that data on my desktop hard drive.
  2. And I have an open-source GIS program that I've been wanting to figure out.
  3. And I want closure, dammit.


I may have material for a Master's Thesis here.


athelind: (far call)
Last week was the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight, widely viewed as the "defining moment" of my generation.

Really, though, the defining moment of my generation was not when Humanity reached out to stride upon the Moon.

It was when we turned away.


athelind: (green hills of earth)
I got home just in time to make a post in celebration of Jacques Cousteau's 100th birthday.

I, of course, grew up on The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and his work as always been an inspiration to me. I know I owe some part of my love of the sea to his work and his words.

As part of the celebration, they are re-launching Calypso.

A better monument to the man, I cannot conceive.






To ride on the crest of a wild raging storm ... )

Happy Centennial, Dr. Cousteau, wherever you may be.

athelind: (green hills of earth)
From The Rachel Maddow Show, a few nights back:

Right now, we have a catastrophic uncontrolled petroleum gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, and another spill up in Alaskan waters.

Who needs new footage? We can just rerun reports from 1979, when almost exactly the same thing was going on.



To recap (no pun intended):

  • A blowout on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A rig run by the company that eventually became Transocean.
  • Exactly the same techniques used to stem the flow
  • In exactly the same order
  • With exactly the same results:
    • BUPKIS.

  • After months and months of gushing oil, matters were only alleviated when relief wells were drilled.
  • Why didn't they just go for the relief wells first this time?
  • Have "top hats" and "top kills" ever worked?*


The only difference is that in '79, the well was 200 feet down; now, it's over five thousand.

My father used to have a saying about four wheel drive vehicles: "They won't keep you from getting stuck. They just let you get some place even farther from help when you get stuck."

The oil companies keep talking about how their technology has imnproved—but it's just let them get even farther from any solutions. If When shit hits the fan, they don't actually have any new solutions; they're just trying the same things that didn't work before.

"But that trick never works!"


*Yes, that is a request for specific instances, if anyone out there feels like dredging them up. Like Wikipedia, however, I want citations.
athelind: (far call)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (Default)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
This is making the rounds of my Friends List; for those who haven't seen it yet, it's my turn to share.







I always said that Unca Carl was a poet.


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
This is making the rounds of my Friends List; for those who haven't seen it yet, it's my turn to share.







I always said that Unca Carl was a poet.


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