Things That Interest Me

These are things that have gotten my attention lately, listed in no particular order. For the most part, they are people, ideas or technologies that are influencing what I write.

  • Bajau: This is a culture of marine nomads that mostly hang out in the tropical waters around the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Some of them live in pole houses off the coastlines of land masses, but many live on houseboats or other vessels.I love seeing and reading about these people because they’re giving me insights into how some cultures will adapt to sea level rise in a climate changed world.
  • Bamboo Railroad: I first learned of these abandoned rail lines running through the hinterlands of Cambodia when I randomly found the video below. Seems the rails are a relic of French colonialism that the indigenous people have turned around for their own benefit.Apparently, the rail cars are mostly constructed from bamboo. The wheels and axles are often scavenged from tanks left over from Cambodia’s eight-year-long civil war. The complexity of the social system that allows operation of these simple carts has to be amazing to witness. How you flag a cart down? How do carts pass one another on the same line? Who manages line maintenance? What happens in the event of a washout or flood?Technological primacy in a post-climate-change world is what I getting from here. Imagine what we’ll scavenge and convert when the power of our government is severely limited by its current ineptitudes.
  • Mycotecture: The material science of growing things out of mushroom mycelium. There’s so much potential for sustainable and even innovative goods being quietly developed these days. Other than the sterility requirements, accomplishing this on your own appears to be completely within reach which means that open sourced techniques for developing your own material — say, interlocking bricks for building or “leather” for clothing — are right around the corner.
  • States’ Rights: By concentrating power at the state level, proponents of “states’ rights” believe that policy can be more accurately tailored towards the needs of that locality’s citizens. But the concept of States’ Rights was incubated in a world that was not simultaneously host to multi-national corporations or the influences of fast and ubiquitous global trade. When considered from the vantage point of the general welfare of a country it’s easy to see that this ideology is both self-concerned and short sighted.The problem is that this ideology has become the dominant paradigm in American government. Hell, we just elected the Oompa-Loompa and Chief and he’s seen fit to use what little mandate is in his possession to fill each of his cabinet posts with an antithetical choice of what that post requires. In other words, Donald Trump is very much like Casey Jones except that he intends the wreck.

    The power will, then necessarily reside at lower levels of government. Whatever will we do?

    As I’ve said previously, I think the thing to do, given the situation, is to adapt. So I’m exploring ways in which people, and by consequence, myself can adapt to a major shift in government. Places with long traditions of bigotry, authoritarianism, and ignorance will likely become more like those places. But that social geography doesn’t prevail throughout the land, does it?

    I also imagine “Cascadia” rising from the trees and frankly, I think that this is where people should be building coalitions and doing their best work. Working this into fiction is more or less my full-time job.

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Kindergarten Practice

There are roughly twenty-five days of summer left for A-bear. Once they’re gone, he’s going to Kindergarten. This is a big new experience for our little guy, and so I’ve been examining our options. The duel questions — how can encourage him to be excited in anticipation of this new experience (even though it sometimes seems overwhelming and scary) and how can I, in parallel, continue to carve out enough time for me to write, has been riding on either of my shoulders.

Aral_lunch

Practice Lunch

Today we woke up sorta late, but that’s okay because practice Kindergarten didn’t open until 10:00 AM. Our Island Library is librarian-ed by late risers apparently, and that’s not a bad thing because practice Kindergarten should allow for late summer mornings.

Aral_train

Fire Train

Right now he’s happily working on a rather complicated maze and deeply engrossed in the activity. Unlike the iPad I have to stop what I’m doing from time to time, but the interactions are all part of the process. It’s just going to slow things down for me a tad. The library is an optimal place to do this because the expectation is that he will moderate the volume of his voice. There are rules as well as social expectations here that he doesn’t necessarily encounter elsewhere, and learning to live (if not thrive) within these confines is going to be one of his chief challenges once school begins.

Via a convoluted path, I suppose, this all gets back to empathy. Teaching children the ability to imagine themselves in a situation, one in which they comprehend how other’s think and feel, is a HUGE challenge. It’s also a skill that they have to practice to perfect.

In a little bit, we’re going to head out to the adjacent park and eat lunch and play with the other kids. An obvious reward for working so hard this morning. I’m pretty excited to see what we can accomplish together in the time we have before school starts.

Picking out some books to read

Picking out some books to read

IOTD

Grey Knight by hammk

This is a perfectly random find from DivArt, just popped up in my undiscovered feed this morning. It moves me in several ways. First, I love how he’s used square brush strokes to compose the smoke and fire. From a distance, it fools my eye into imagining it’s almost on fire, even though it’s static.

Next, the hammk has re-imagined an old idea. I dig the power armored paladin marching into the field with his vibrating polearm at the ready. It’s something that seems to draw on Games Workshop at its genesis while being an idea unto itself. This guy is not a space marine. He’s something different, perhaps more complicated and conflicted. He marches for justice or chivalry but eats at a round table.

Finally, his religious regalia runs throughout the gallery. Yes, there’s a whole collection. For the most part, it seems unique. It’s as if hammk is creating his own saints and zealots. It makes me want to write space opera.

Well done!

IOTD

Team Ukzn – Hulamin on day three

A wild guess, if you’re a sports fan you’re likely bubbling enthusiastic about your favorite football team’s most recent exploits. I know, it’s that time of year, and pretty much anyone you might meet has a favorite team and color they’re rooting for. Go Bears! Go Broncos! Go, go, go!

Well, not me. It’s October of an odd-numbered year, which means one thing to me. The World Solar Challenge is keeping me up late at night so I can catch the latests news from Down Under.

Team Kogakuin HV – OWL

Right now teams of college students are battling black flies, heat, and intermittent cloud cover as they race across a couple thousand kilometers of Austrailian outback. My favorites tend to come from the Cruiser class of vehicles, mostly because they’re demonstrating that long-distance (potentially self-sustained) solar travel is not only possible but happening at a race pace. My imagination is turning as fast as a full set of Bridgestone Ecopia tires and I wonder what might happen if hybrid human powered assist (like you might find in a Twike) could be added to these sorts of vehicles.

“Over the river and through the woods,” is this an element of our shared future?

IOTD

Arrival by TK769

Arrival by TK769

A note from a friend last night has me thinking a lot about humanity and Very Big Space Projects. My friend went to see The Martian at Seattle Science Center’s Imax theater (without me). After watching the cinema he bought the book and read it cover to cover. He wrote the following:

Got me thinking how it wasn’t Scifi, it was fantasy– in the sense that how in hell will NASA ever get consistent enough funding to put together a program like that? When administrations change every 4-8 years and reshuffle the priorities every time, there’s no way to put together this sort of 20-30 year project.

And he’s right, NASA is gifted such a paltry part of the national budget these days that even a 54 million kilometer, one-way trip to our nearest neighbor seems functionally way beyond our reach. But our conversation has been focused on the hairbrained idea of an international treaty of contributing members. Something like that would have several key advantages.

  • It would likely be focused on a single mission or objective. Send mankind to Mars or seed exoplanets in the galaxy, far-reaching goals are just fine as long as focus can be maintained over generations.
  • Participant involvement would likely result in participation advancement. One of NASA’s former functional justifications came from the notion that the science of sending people and robots beyond our atmosphere often resulted in usable technologies back here on Earth. The case can be made that our rocket and sibling technology development in the 1950’s and 60’s gave the US an technical advantage that lingers today. Participation in a VBSP would likely have very big technology payoffs that international participants would benefit from greatly.
  • Insulation for political upheaval, even variability. Treaties, once ratified by the powers that be are an excellent way to weather political turmoil. For VBSPs to even be possible this sort of stability is a necessity. You can’t have a fundamentalist political party cherry picking or even picking apart the science that science that must occur to make an object possible.

I’m sure there are complications and unforeseen problems I’m not considering regarding international treaties and VBSPs, but as I contemplate these I think that the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks.

Right now, I’m planning on making the first act of Distance about this. Who contributes to the VBSP I have in mind and why? Who does not? Where are the physical challenges to a VBSP when there is broad international support for a project of this sort? That sort of thing. I think the very nature of the VBSP changes the stakes of the game.

Some of my speculation leads me to believe that, in the same way that the US finds excuses to *NOT* become signatory to climate treaties, our nation would object to meaningful contributions to a VBSP treaty. We may have lost the foresight necessary to consider the benefits of big projects like this and consequently we routinely try to undermine their occurrence. The interesting thing is that other nations routinely ignore our international temper tantrums on the topic and simply proceed.

But if this is the case, what are the limitations our nation imposes on its citizens, specifically the ones most able to contribute meaningfully to science necessary to make a VBSP possible? Is the science persecuted? If you’re an American scientist, working on some part of a hypothetical VBSP would you fear only the insidious specter of underfunding or might you fear jackbooted stormtroopers knocking down your door?

Comments are, as always open, please be respectful and keep in mind that I’m plotting this story to host a debate on this topic.

IOTD

“Children of War: Zoah” by Junowski

I knew it was coming. Sometime early this morning the rain started to fall. My left foot hurt, radiating pain up my leg into my hip, which is why I never needed to look out the window to see the clouds moving. It’s also why, when I sat down this morning to start writing, the first thing I looked for was futuristic representations of prosthetic limbs.

Forgive me, I don’t blame anyone for this pain and I’m happy I got to keep my foot. When it starts acting up, after I choke down too much Ibuprophen, when I have to explain with the same tired old answer why I’m limping around like a gimp I wonder what the future might bring.