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Under Seige: The Survival of the United States

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 28, 2017

mlkriversidechurch

Photo credit: John C. Goodwin

Fifty years ago (on April 4, 1967), the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech connecting the main struggles then going on in the U.S.A.  I’ve provided links to it, both as text first, and also the video. Warning, they are long.

TEXT – The link between the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and economic injustice

VIDEO – A Time to Break Silence (Full)

While I am a wee bit early for the anniversary of that speech, I read today that President Donald Trump is asking the US Congress to increase defense spending by 54 BILLION DOLLARS- that’s $54,000,000,000 (If you could save $100,000/year, it would take you 540,000 years to save 54 billion dollars.) MLK felt that such reckless spending would kill this country. Although I approve of Trump’s shaking things up and challenging the U.S. political establishment, I cannot approve of his recently expressed desire to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and now his plea to divert even more of out tax dollars to military spending. I believe, as did MLK, that the health of my country depends on how we treat our citizens, how we teach our children, and how we plan for our future. It is not tied to building a wall, an actual literal fucking wall around ourselves, and focusing ourselves on increasing our armaments, aiming weapons at the world and daring anyone to try to breach that wall. It is a siege mentality.

Among the consequences of a siege mentality are black and white thinking, social conformity, and lack of trust. It is a false choice! Many in the United State believe that our only defense is military, that we must have overwhelming superiority in weapons of mass destruction, and other firepower in order to protect ourselves. We live in a huge world, full of other nations, other peoples, and we are not under siege by them. Many support us, many admire us even now, as we prepare to enter a new Dark Age of fear, of belligerence, and of a poverty, in both the economic and spiritual sense, that will cripple this country. WE CAN BE BETTER THAN THIS!

We do not need to retreat into a bunker bristling with weapons in order to survive. We can work with many other countries to cut off funding to terror groups, isolate them, and if necessary to eliminate them. They are misguided idiots led by fanaticism without concern for others. That alone isolates them. We cannot defeat them by becoming like them. If we continue down this path we will fail, and we will self destruct.

If we were to, for instance, look to a shared future with other nations and peoples around the globe, prepare for it, plan for it, or, I don’t know, even SPEND MONEY ON IT, might we not have a better chance at survival?

I cannot tell people what to do, or how to do it, but I am certain that working and planning together is our best, most viable option.

There are two ways to end a siege: utterly overwhelm and destroy, or starve the enemy out. This is what we face. By building a fortress, hiding behind it, and closing ourselves off from the world, we are making the entire world our enemy. WE BECOME THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD. One day, we may find ourselves facing a united world that either comes for us to destroy us, or worse, ignores us. Without trade, without cultural exchange, without friends, and without hope, we will starve ourselves into oblivion.

ENNUI, Personal & Political

mlkriversidechurchPhoto credit: John C. Goodwin

Fifty years ago (on April 4, 1967), the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech connecting the main struggles then going on in the U.S.A.  I’ve provided links to it, both as text first, and also the video. Warning, they are long.

TEXT – The link between the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and economic injustice

VIDEO – A Time to Break Silence (Full)

While I am a wee bit early for the anniversary of that speech, I read today that President Donald Trump is asking the US Congress to increase defense spending by 54 BILLION DOLLARS- that’s $54,000,000,000 (If you could save $100,000/year, it would take you 540,000 years to save 54 billion dollars.) MLK felt that such reckless spending would kill this country. Although I approve of Trump’s shaking things up and challenging the U.S. political establishment, I cannot…

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Racism, White Privilege, Han Privilege, British Royal Privilege, and Trump

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 22, 2016

white
I think the word racism is used far too often. If the photo at top is real, then, yes, in the classic definition of the word, they are racist: (the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.) People should probably be more specific about the behavior they wish to condemn. In many Western countries, we see power concentrated in white male hands, with white females slowly becoming part of that elite, so people talk about “white privilege”. In China, racism is expressed as “Han privilege”, in that members of the Han race are the dominant group among the races that they assimilated.
 
Many people have strong prejudices, both positive and negative about other people, and tend to associate with only certain people. It is difficult to condemn people for doing that, as it is common around the world. People also condemn others for being redneck, rich, dumb, intellectual, lazy, workaholics, etc, and we all do this to some extent. What is that behavior? and how is it different if the people are of a different race? Racism and/or prejudice only become important when used by those in power, to keep themselves in power, by virtue of their superior race. Once upon a time, royalty did the same thing to maintain their power, basing that power solely on their “divine nature” as if their blood-lines were superior. That was not racism per se, although it didn’t stop the British from using racism to dominate the countries they took over, such as India, Ireland, Scotland, and all but 22 countries in the world.
 
Prejudices have always existed, but the origins of racism appear to be rooted in power. Those who have the power can use racism to maintain their power. Average working people rarely have the power to isolate and take advantage of an entire race of people, but we can be used to help do so. Trump is a good example of someone with power using people’s ethnicity as a way to inflame hatred and achive greater power by uniting people of the dominant power structure, and convincing them that he is on their side, so giving him more power will also be of great benefit to them. He lies.

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Voting Bottoms Up

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 10, 2016

bottoms-up

A large percentage of voters in every state never complete their ballots. This is not to their own advantage. On every ballot there are initiatives, questions, bond measures, and even constitutional amendments. Not voting on them means we don’t have a say on the very real issues and laws that affect our lives every day. It could be as simple as voting on widening a major street, renovating a bridge, or as vitally important as increasing or decreasing taxes. This is often how those things get done. Focusing on celebrity politicians distracts everyone from the real local issues.

Do you want more money spent in your local school district, or less? Do you want your state to increase taxes on gasoline, alcohol or cigarettes? Do you want your city or town to create traffic circle intersections, or not? Do you want everyone to carry an ID in order to vote, despite no actual evidence of any significant fraud? Do you want electronic machines or paper ballots? Very often, these are things you’ll find near the bottom of your ballot, after all the candidates for office.

And what about those candidates? The local politicians decide how to appropriate money for police and fire protections services, and new roads, and new schools, and water use, and traffic laws, business regulations, and building codes, and a host of little things that affect us nearly every day, much more so than the words of the elected heads of political parties, particularly Presidents. Of course, Presidents can involve our country in wars, resulting in more terrorism or less. They can appeal to the best in us, or the worst in us, and give directions to national discussions, but in the end Congress usually has the deciding vote, and anything a U.S. President does without Congressional approval – and the President does have certain powers to do so – can be reversed in the next election. So, voting for your U.S. Senators and Representatives is vitally important, and who is the President is somewhat less important.

I’ve heard and read of too many people who say they aren’t going to vote because they don’t like either Clinton or Trump. Pardon my insensitivity or rudeness, but that is utterly STUPID! Not only are there two other candidates for President on the ballot in every state – Gary Johnson and Jill Stein – but there are all those local and state politicians, and the other issues I mentioned above on the ballot. Hell, if you think no one is a good candidate for President, leave it blank! but VOTE anyway. Imagine if 5, 10, or even 50% of all eligible voters left the top position blank? Maybe the major parties would work harder at putting forward candidates that really inspire us to vote FOR someone, instead of AGAINST someoone?

Anyway, this has been my subtle reminder to all U.S.A. citizens to VOTE. Remember to read the ballot beforehand, and even obtain or print a sample ballot and take it with you. You can take it with you to vote. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.

Show your patriotism: VOTE THE WHOLE BALLOT, PLEASE!

 

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Imperfect as I am

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 21, 2016

I am a very imperfect man, with many flaws. That said, I’m going to tell you some things about the concert I went to this morning. There is a classical concert 50 Sundays mornings of the year here. I do not go every Sunday. For one thing, it costs $15, and since there are espresso baristas who provide great free coffee, tipping is a nice thing to do. There are people who bring fresh home-baked sweets as well, and there is another tip jar there, so it’s easy to spend $17, and I’m not going to do that every Sunday. Besides, sometimes the music is choral, or operatic, and I’m not going to those. I like my classical music, old or modern, to be instrumental only. Perhaps that’s a flaw, but I do not care to change it.

Bach concert

This was Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, to be exact. Born 1685, died 1750. It was a sold out concert accommodating 150 ticket purchasers, and the volunteers who make it possible. The first part of the program was performed by a fantastic cellist who was solo cellist of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway, among other positions in the U.S. She played Suite No. 4 for solo cello in E-flat major. It is a complicated piece, and a very busy one, with seven parts. I remember thinking how thickly populated with notes it was. The notes seemed mostly brisk and sharp without long duration. Since I am not a musician, I cannot speak technically about the music, but it rocked! Read the rest of this entry »

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Killing is NOT the Same Thing as Murder

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 24, 2013

Why is that?

Killing It is so, because murder is a legal term for killing not sanctioned by society. If all killing were murder, then executions would be murder. If all killing was murder, then any death in wartime would be murder: killing the enemy? murder. Friendly fire? murder. collateral damage? murder.  Because we sanction those things, we do not define them as murder. Recently I came across the comparison of the fines and penalties for harming the eggs of protected species, like Eagles, and human fetuses.  fetus The argument appears to be that if it’s wrong to destroy eagle eggs, then it is wrong to kill human fetuses as well. This does not follow logically. The Eagle, for one, although recovering, is an endangered species, and the fine is an attempt to allow that species to continue. Does anyone, really, anyone, believe that abortion is killing the human race? That we are in danger of dying out as a species because of abortion? No, of course not. Hell, we continue to proliferate, for now. What does threaten the survival of the human race is pollution of the air and water, and eradication of too many animal species. Life on Earth is a balancing act.

When we kill off entire species, we remove an element from the balance. For example, animals are usually either prey for some other animal, or prey on some other animal, or are both. If a species goes, its actions in the balance of things go too. The result can be overpopulation of that animals prey, or an absence of prey for others, whether it was mammalian or insect, or aquatic in nature. Sometimes, another animal can fill the void, sometimes not. Sometimes, the death of a species results in the death of many other species. Some argue we are in the middle of just such an effect now, where the death of so many thousands of species has reached a point of cascade, wherein it is impossible to stop, and we will be left with only humans, for a short time. For, regardless of whether one is vegetarian or not, humans are dependent on animal life for our survival.

There are so many interactions between animals and plants, between animals and insects (another animal, but I’m making a point here), between animals and the air we breathe and the water we drink. Humanity would cease to exist long before the last animal species was wiped out, because it is a co-dependancy. A good example of co-dependancy  is that between wolves and deer. Too many wolves, and the deer are removed. Not enough wolves, and the deer overpopulate, then overgraze the available resources and die out en masse from starvation. Huntings laws help keep that balance, but hunting laws are not going to keep us alive when all the predators are gone, or when all the prey is, or when all the bugs are gone. There are billions upon billions of interactions in the world that result in life for humans, and we can’t imitate them all.  That’s the reason for endangered species laws.

Be all that as it may be, however, I’ve strayed too far from the point. The point is that killing is not murder, legally. abortionAbortion is NOT murder, legally. There is a movement among Evangelical Christians to define life as beginning from the moment of conception, frivolous and stupid idea that it is.  Does the world celebrate birthdays or conception days? Most of us know that life begins at birth. No one wants to see a baby killed. However, killing living, breathing human beings is almost universally illegal, except for executions, and in war, or self-defense, or by accident. Killing is not and cannot ever be considered murder in all cases. Killing a fetus is just such a case.

Killing a human fetus, is not, for the time being, murder. There was a time when it was. Murder is a relative term, depending entirely on what the society making the laws believes.

For, if killing a fetus is murder, regardless of the law, then so is execution, war, and accidental death. We don’t seem to agree on this. A number of fundamentalist zealots want life defined as beginning from the moment of conception, so they can justify making all abortion illegal. However, almost all of them accept execution, and war, and do not want those things to be illegal. It is a very inconsistent, illogical and convenient. Is all killing murder? or not? Does a woman who slips and falls, kill her fetus? or a woman who is involved in a car accident or other such incident that results in the fetus’s death kill that fetus? Are they murderers? How many exceptions will the believers accept in order to make abortion illegal again?

But then, there is that other question. If one is opposed to all killing, and all killing is murder, then eating animals is certainly murder, for animals are often cruelly killed, tortured and abused in the process of becoming what we refer to as meat. meat Dead animal flesh is dead animal flesh. The animal had to be killed for that. If killing is murder, than eating meat condones murder. Hah! you say? animals are not human. Why is that? Very convenient. We can kill, that is, terminate any life we want, as long as it isn’t what society defines as human. Funny how most animal fetuses, including human fetuses, look exactly alike in the womb at some point. It is in the development that a fetus becomes an animal or a human. So somehow, people argue, animals and people are not the same, and it is OK to kill animals for food, even if they resemble us, because well, they are not human – by law. Again, it is a legal fiction that animals and people are not protected from killing in the same way. There are animal cruelty laws, but those usually apply only to pets, and ranch animals like horses, which often are a kind of pet. Slaughterhouses kill every day, and we don’t blink an eye at that.

So again, I have to ask, why is a human fetus, unborn, not yet even breathing, more important than a living, breathing animal? The historical answer has always been: the soul. Biblical teachings have it that human beings are special, and are thus endowed with souls. Animals have no soul, therefore, it is legal to kill them. And, kill them we do, in the millions every day, and yet it is not murder, because we do not define it as such. So it is with abortion: when it is legal, it is not murder.

So, the whole question of abortion as murder comes down to this soul, a religious belief that sets humans apart from animals, for the purpose of allowing us to kill animals without shame or repercussion.

Some people do not believe in the concept of souls.

Some people believe that all living things have souls.

Some people selectively believe that only humans have souls.

So, what life-begins-at-conception laws and anti-abortion laws really are, are an attempt to impose, legally, the belief on all people, that souls exist, that a human fetus, alone of all creatures, has a soul, and therefore cannot be killed. This attempt is only possible if one does not care what other people believe. Lately, I see all these complaints from the politically-motivated-religious right that they are being persecuted for their beliefs. Somehow, it is persecution to resist their attempts to force their beliefs on those of us who do not share those beliefs. This has happened throughout the history of religion. Those who believe have killed those who do not believe the same things in the same way. “That was in the past,” they say. Bull. It is happening again. This same group of self-righteous religious fanatics wants to make providing access to abortion, or having an abortion a Capital Crime. Again, those motivated by their belief that they are right and the rest of us are wrong, want to kill everyone who does not accede to their beliefs, and they want it to be legal to do so.

That is the essence of religion: do what I say, or you will die, for I am right, and you are wrong. And you seriously think I shouldn’t be offended by that? You seriously think I shouldn’t fear your blatant attempts to legislate your particular brand of morality? to make everyone follow your beliefs by law? Christianity

THINK AGAIN.

Posted in crime, current events, faith, Human rights, Life, madness, opinion, politics, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants, religion, war, World | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Opinion, 2042

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 23, 2012

page 24A ☼☼☼Wednesday, April 23, 2042 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼The Morning News☻
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EDITORIALS / OPINION

  Image

                                                                                                                   2020

It is a measure of visual acuity. It was a popular TV news program. It is also the year Mars was first touched by a human.  It is the year the United States lost its technological edge, its pride in leadership and exploration.

By 2020, the United States’ economy had spent too many years fluctuating between extreme lows and mediocre progress. Attempts by every President and Congress to address the problem had done little. Military spending had increased, and the short-term effects had kept the economy going, but military spending does not have any positive long-term effects. It is not an investment in the future; it does not improve infrastructure, education, health care, technology or knowledge of our solar system.

There was a significant improvement during the Clinton administration, when both president and legislators cut government spending and waste, and concentrated on reducing the national debt. Of course, all of this effort was for nought, considering the money spent during the next administration on the invasion and occupation of two countries simultaneously. The cost in human lives was great, but the devastation wrought on the U.S. economy was greater.

Subsequent administrations tried once again, to tackle the ailing economy. Greater money than ever was authorized by Congress to jump start a recovery. The hemorrhaging loss of jobs stopped, but new jobs were slow to materialize. Taxes were cut again and again, but still the effects on the economy were slight. The national debt continued to grow. Politicians clamored for more war, for greater military spending, as if shaking our military might at the world was enough to save us. It wasn’t. Taxes were cut again. Few in the U.S. realized that we had already lost our way. A country that had grown great through exploration and innovation no longer had such goals. There was no vision to inspire us to grow, to innovate, to change. Fear of terrorism still dominated our lives, as we gave into the very purposes of terrorist attacks: to inspire fear, to focus almost exclusively on defensive and offensive capabilities, at great expense to ourselves.

Meanwhile, although the rest of the world was having similar problems with economic disasters, they had learned, from the United States, not to give in to despair and ennui. In the 1960s, in the United States, despite an economy-busting war in Vietnam, we had a space program dedicated to landing on and exploring the moon. Despite the costs of running that war, and investments made in social programs, we still found the time and money to land on the moon, to explore it, to participate in building Earth’s fist space station. Spin-offs from our space program gave us new technologies, and inspired ever greater innovation. We had pride in our country, in our goals, in our technology, and in our education system. All wanted our country as a whole to succeed, to grow, and to become the best.

In Australia, in Asia, and in Europe, people still believe in setting inspirational goals. One of them was the continued human exploration of space, the idea all but abandoned by the U.S. They worked tirelessly to send human beings into space, to move beyond our small lunar satellite to the planets. They mined near-Earth asteroids, and then they put mankind on Mars. To be accurate, the first footprints made on Mars were female, but humankind had reached another planet, and far sooner than near-sighted politicians and educators in the U.S. had envisioned. Cuts to the operating budgets of NASA crippled plans to land on Mars; the goal was pushed farther and farther back, until 2037 was the earliest possible date for a U.S. Mars attempt. Innovation was taken away from government, and left to private citizens. This was admirable in it’s reliance on capitalism and entrepreneurism, but investors were loath to invest the money necessary to reach near-Earth asteroids, Mars or the other planets in our solar system. Robots landed on Mars, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko,  and several asteroids, but the start-up money necessary to successfully mine, transfer, and process elements from the asteroids just wasn’t available to the few wealthy individuals who believed in the work.

Ferrying people into low Earth orbit did little to inspire the kind of creativity and wonder of the 1960’s space program. In fact, the role of the U.S. became little more than support for the efforts of other countries to grow their space programs. We needed their assistance just to maintain our own system of communication, defense, and navigation satellites. The information gleaned by our robotic exploration programs did much to advance Earth’s reach into space, but the U.S. reluctance to finance human exploration and establish base camps crippled our efforts to reap any benefits from our investments. The second space station went into operation without the participation of the United States. When China established their first moon base in 2020, we scoffed at the idea, claiming it was unimportant and insignificant. We knew that we would soon reach Mars. We just needed a little more time. Our economy wasn’t up for the task of massive spending on the establishment of bases in space. Unfortunately, despite their own economic woes, Australia, the European Union, and Japan followed suit by establishing bases on the moon, and set up processing facilities for the material coming from Chinese asteroids Ni and Hao.

Still, the U.S. goals were robotic exploration, and perhaps a 2037 Mars landing. But we no longer had the guts to compete in any space race. Our politicians, right and left, wanted to focus on growing our economy through artificial means, believing that all would fall into place as soon as we cut taxes far enough, as soon as our government no longer had the burden of investing in social programs, education, health care, or the worry of caring for the aged. And still, we invested heavily, not in innovation, infrastructure, or space, but in war. It has been argued that we had no choice but to support Israel in their devastating attack on Iran, but, after, all, we were the ones who had advocated, and indeed, proven (to ourselves) that preëmptive strikes were perfectly justified in the name of security. The staggering costs of supporting Israel in their jihad crippled us far worse than anything we’d ever done. Significantly, NASA’s budget was cut further, and private enterprise could not pick up the slack as our economy spiraled ever closer to ruin.

The joint Soviet/Asian/Australian/EU Mars venture electrified the world in 2030. Not only had they landed on Mars before the United States thought possible, but their joint base was now the center of technological innovation. The newest methods of sub-surface mining, extrapolated from their earlier work with asteroids, provided not only the water necessary to make life on Mars possible, but also those rare elements on Earth that were nearly depleted and too costly. Cheap rare-earths and precious metals flow outward from several asteroids as well as Mars now, providing the means for each of those countries to grow exponentially.

The United States will reach Mars one day. We’ve passed our 2037 goal now, and there is the promise that we will reach Mars by 2050, and begin the reap the benefits thereof. In the meantime, food riots continue. We lack the national will to spend money on space exploration when so many are hungry and homeless. Even if martial law is lifted soon, as promised, we may never see the grandeur of our country restored. We have fallen too far behind. We are safe and secure behind our borders for now, although few people around the world any longer seek to cross our borders legally or illegally. We lost our edge, our will, our purpose.

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Going To Mars, Wine, Wine

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2012

MARCH 2, 2012

        

As much as I’d like to go to Mars, and work in a habitat, it’s not likely; the earliest populated mission to Mars is in 2037.  However, I have applied to the Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study. Applications are now closed, and about 700 people applied; only eight will participate. It’s a 120-day Mars exploration analogue mission that will take place in early 2013 on the big island of Hawaii. I’m psyched! Actually, studies of the effects of living in an enclosed environment for long periods of time have already been done. Between 2007 and 2011, a crew of volunteers lived and worked in a mock-up spacecraft. The final stage of the Mars-500 experiment, which was intended to simulate a 520-day manned mission, was conducted by a crew consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Chinese citizen. The experiment helped plan the mission, identifying possible problems and solutions. The mock-up facility simulated the Earth-Mars shuttle spacecraft, the ascent-decent craft, and the martian surface. Volunteer crew used in the three stages included professionals with experience in fields such as engineering, medicine, biology, and spaceflight. There have been many other similar studies and more underway, in Antarctica, Europe, Russia, China and Australia.

520 days! Holy crap! That includes a round-trip flight time of between 400 to 450 days. What will we do in space that long? I’m trying to imagine what 120 days in isolation will be like, and that’s only in a contained environment on Hawaii. However, the habitat part of this mission doesn’t involve psychological effects or exploration. It’s all about the food!  People on long missions typically eat only prepackaged meals, or concentrates. No matter how tasty the food, a type of fatigue sets in, a food monotony, and astronauts not only lose interest in the food, but also eating meals altogether. Additionally, prepackaged meals contribute more weight to a mission already starved for mass. Every bit of mass taken on a spaceflight must be boosted into orbit, at tremendous cost with limited storage space. There are other problems: prepackaged meals have a shorter storage life than the individual ingredients. Moreover, all of the crew members have scientific and exploratory goals, and time spent in food preparation and cleanup is time lost to research.

I think this type is thinking is short-sighted. I know exploring Mars will be exciting. I know the prospect of living on another planet will be exciting. I also know that there is such a thing as job fatigue. One cannot spend all of one’s time on the mission. I don’t mean just that all work and no play makes the Mars explorer dull. I mean that everyone needs a break from their own work. I propose that each member of the crew take turns preparing meals and cleaning up, say one day a week for each person. Perhaps one day a week, assuming there is a six-member crew, be a non-cooking day. The crew could simply eat prepackaged meals on that day, and everyone gets a break.

I’m sure that the experience of preparing meals will benefit every member of the crew. There will be the benefit of eating freshly prepared foods. There had better be a small array of spices! Salt, pepper, red chile powder, garlic powder, onion flakes, maybe some packaged shallots, and other spices as crew members might suggest. Nothing helps break the monotony like different spices; and dried powders are very light. Will there be cooking oil, I wonder?  How about some sesame oil and chile oil too? Certainly some oil is a necessary part of our diet. Instant butter! Mmm.

One thing I’d recommend: high fat, great tasting food.  One does not get fat or malnourished by eating good foods. One gets fat or malnourished by eating too little or too much food. Period. These programs might be making the mistake of assuming all the food must be low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. No, my friends, I don’t think so. If portion size is strictly controlled, one can have snacks and deserts and still maintain a healthy diet and weight. I’m sure the calorie-intake needs of each person can be measured, and such a group of dedicated explorers, knowing how limited their food supplies are, will adhere to strict guidelines for food consumption. There should be enough leeway to allow for the occasional party, with some special food and drink.

What will these intrepid explores drink by the way? Water is extremely heavy to ship into space. In an ideal situation, the Mars explorers will find ice or other trapped water on, or close to the surface. But we do not live by water alone. I’m sure there are some powdered drinks to break up the monotony. Coffee, PLEASE! But you know what makes digestion go better, and livens up the entire eating experience? Wine! How’s that for an idea?  I know a lot about wine, particularly food-pairing. I am a partner in the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, New Mexico. We pair our fruit wines with a wide variety of foods. Apricot wine goes extremely well with fatty fish and aged cheese, for example. Cranberry wine goes quite well with roast chicken, turkey and mild cheeses. I’m not just talking about a connoisseur’s point of view. I find that certain foods, like venison, soft and/or aged cheeses, for example, bring out intense fruit flavors in wine. The wine itself alters the palate so that the food itself is more flavorful. How about that, mission control? Can we have wine with our meals? We need it. Can wine be freeze-dried and retain its alcohol and flavor? I don’t know. Alcohol is usually the first thing to go when dehydrating liquids. The alcohol would sublimate from even frozen wine. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I’m telling you all right now: if you want those souls trapped in a hostile environment to always enjoy their meals, they will need wine. Put it in individual lightweight boxes, like those ubiquitous boxed fruit drinks. Put it in small bags. Put it in anything lightweight, but bring it!

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MARCH 3, 2012 – Walking to Mars (Mars reached the closest point to the Sun in its orbit)

On Wednesday, February 29, after I had sent my application off the night before, I went hiking into the Sandia Mountains. Short hike; just fours miles up and back the Domingo Baca trail. The entire time I kept thinking that I need to get in better shape. I still have to pass a Class 2 flight physical. Of the 700+ people who applied for this mission, 30 will be selected and notified to get the physical. I expect the physical will help prune that number down to the remaining eight. We still don’t know when we will hear anything. In the meantime, I need to keep walking. Today, March 3, I went on another 4-mile hike, but climbed 1200 feet in elevation in one hour! My hiking group hiked to the Eye of the Sandias. It was painted in the 1960s, refreshed in the 1990s and it looked as if it had been touched up within the last two years as well. The Eye looks out at Albuquerque, monitoring its growth, according to legend. It was a good hike. We started at about 7200 feet and climbed to 8400 feet to take a break at the Eye. I took some photos and we went on back down. I suspect I’m going to have to increase the number of hikes I go on, and get back to those 9 to 12 mile hikes I was going on two years ago. Time to get this old body back into shape, and I’d better hurry. I’d hate to be selected and fail the flight physical. Anyway, here are some pics from today. Some are looking out across Albuquerque to Mount Taylor, some 90 miles away. Other shots show my hiking companions, the Eye itself, and parts of the trail. One shot shows I-40 snaking eastward though Tijeras canyon, even as we were able to view Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor. It really is a good place for an eye.

As viewed from the Sandias, 90 miles away.

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MARCH 5, 2012 – News & Information

Finally, some information: “The selection panel is currently going through the applications to determine a short-list of candidates, who will then be asked to get an aviation medical exam (at our cost), and to provide references. We expect to be able to inform you whether or not you are on the short-list by the end of March.” Good to know.

In case some of you are wondering why the hell the Mars mission itself is important, there is this:

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/27/147351252/space-chronicles-why-exploring-space-still-matters

Exploring space, especially the planets around us, IS important to our future, not only for our nation, but for the survival of our planet.

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MARCH 7, 2012 – It’s a not-in-Kansas-anymore twister! 

Half a mile high! Image from the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More info: http://bitly.com/zNeD5P

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MARCH 9, 2012 – posted on HI-SEAS:

“As we go through the applications, we are blown away by the caliber and the passion of the applicants. You all are amazing.”

Of course! 🙂

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MARCH 12, 2012 – The Case For Space

Please read this article: The Case For Space

 In it, the author makes a logical, but also very compelling pitch for the United States to go to Mars sooner, not later, and to revamp its space program now. A hazy “commitment” to Mars sometime in the late 2030s is not going to keep us on track. President Obama said that the Apollo program “produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gases; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And more broadly, the enormous investment of that era — in science and technology, in education and research funding — produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.” Of course, according to author Neil deGrasse Tyson, there is much more to that list of revolutionary spinoff technologies, including digital imaging, implantable pacemakers, collision-avoidance systems on aircraft, precision LASIK eye surgery, and global positioning satellites. Even in troubled economic times, the author states, the United States is a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace an investment in its own future in a way that would drive the economy, the country’s collective ambitions, and, above all, the dreams of coming generations; in 1969 the United States went to the moon while fighting two wars — one cold, one hot — during the most turbulent decade in American history since the Civil War.

Imagine the excitement when NASA, bolstered by a fully funded long-term plan, starts to select the first astronauts to walk on Mars. Right now, those science-savvy future explorers are in middle school. As they become celebrities whom others seek to emulate, the United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

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MARCH 28, 2012

No news yet; just this post from HI-SEAS:

“We expect to have an update for applicants next week. Thank you for your patience as we give your applications the attention they deserve.”

I’m patient, but next week seems so far away now. 🙂

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APRIL 7, 2012 NEWS!

Received this today:

Thank you for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and
Simulation. As you may know, we received almost 700 applications for
this mission, for only six crew positions. Because of this huge
response, we have had to add one more stage to the process (as
originally described in the call for participation). At this point, you
are one of the candidates for a potential
education/journalism/outreach/art/social-media position on the crew.
However, we will have to narrow the total pool down further before
moving on to interviews, references and medicals. We expect to be able
to notify the ~30 crew semi-finalists by mid-April.

This must be what waiting for a launch window is like: “end of March”, “next week”, and now “mid-April”. I’m pretty damn excited! I feel like a kid waiting for a holiday.

APRIL 20, 2012 Final News

My last message from HI-SEAS:

“Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,
Thank you again for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog
and Simulation. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected
for the interview stage of the application process. We had a very large
number of highly qualified applicants, and it was extremely difficult to
narrow the pool down.
We expect to be able to run further HI-SEAS missions, so even if you
will not participate as a crewmember this time, we will keep you on file
for future opportunities. If you would like us to delete your
application from our files, let us know.
Thanks again for your application, and for your commitment to human
space exploration.”

Oh, well, and my hopes were so high. This was the first thing I’ve been excited about in years.

Posted in coffee, current events, health, Mars, opinion, space, spices, Travel, wine | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flying Again

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 28, 2011

The last time I was preparing to fly, I felt a feeling of impending doom, although I did not associate that with the flight itself. Now, I wonder. Here I am about to board another plane within a month’s time, and I again feel apprehensive.  Could it be that I have developed a fear of flying? It seems odd, although not so much considering the use to which some planes have been put in this country. However, I’ve always loved flying, even though I don’t get to do it much.  I have been excited the last few days about going to my brother’s wedding on  the east coast. Celebratory gatherings are so much more fun than wakes.

Why, then, does my mind dwell on scenarios of fighting with terrorists, surviving a plane crash, losing my luggage, and even ending up homeless, wandering the world? Too much violence in the world, I suppose. Hard to feel safe anymore. Of course, that was the intention of the terrorists, and the huge expenditure of money from a government in deficit has helped their cause by wasting our tax money on overblown security precautions, and a new bloated government agency. No amount of expenditure is going to make us safe ever again, but we keep on spending money, throwing money away, building new screening machines, hiring more clueless, uneducated screening personnel, making every U.S. citizen a terror suspect. We keep looking over our shoulders, backwards, instead of looking ahead.

    

Can we really keep spending money like this, just to create a false sense of security? It doesn’t even work, if I am any indication. I don’t believe all this removing my shoes, emptying my pockets, being x-rayed and hassled, and having to suspect all my fellow passengers is making me any safer. Paranoia inevitably leads to fear, and to an inability to function. Look, people: flying has always been dangerous. Planes crash on a regular basis. More people die in car crashes, to be sure, but there is no way to guarantee passenger safety just by hoping that our laughingly inadequate security measures are really going to keep some nutjob from finding a way to sabotage a plane. It’s unlikely that the whole flying a plane into a major U.S. landmark thing is really what every terrorist in the world is planning next. Our security measures are predicated on stopping that from happening. Someone can still plant a bomb in luggage, or fire a rocket grenade at a plane landing or taking off.  Hell, to really inspire more terror, someone is not going to do the same thing that was done before.

The next time, there’s going to be a nuke, or at least a dirty bomb. Forget the planes, for crying out loud. We need to ensure that those nuclear plants are secure, that transportation of fissionable materials, and even nuclear waste is secure. We know this, and yet we permit our government to spend the bulk of our security money on securing our air travel? Jeez, enough already. Let’s monitor terrorists, investigate possible security lapses in protecting our power grids and oil and gas facilities. Let’s go back to working with every nation in the world to seek out and destroy terror cells, and cut off their funding. No funding, no travel. If the nutjobs want to blow each other up, let ’em. But if they can’t afford large bombs, intercontinental missiles, and even plane fare, then we’d be a lot safer.

Every day, people die in this country. Sometimes it’s from car crashes, bus crashes, plane crashes, gas line explosions, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or accidents and homicides. Do we really think a few terrorists can do worse? I don’t. This is one huge MF-ing country. It can’t be taken down with a few explosions here and there. But we can fail, if we let fear dominate our everyday lives. We can fail if we use fear to win elections. We can fail if we keep seeing each other as the enemy. Some day, we need to stop fighting each other and work together to make this, again, a country that other nations envy, that everyone would like to imitate, not attack. People don’t hate us because of our freedom. They hate us because we threaten their way of life. Sure, some of them are just nuts, they strike out at power, because they are powerless. But, when we violate the sovereignty of other countries, when we exploit their resources, and attempt to impose, often simply economically, our way of life on other cultures, we create resentment. I think, maybe, we need to stop doing that.

Even the most powerful country on the face of the planet can fall under its own weight. Look at the Roman empire; look at the British empire. Look at the Third Reich. And those were just the most recent empires to fail. Throughout history nations and empires have risen and then fallen. If we want to remain a great nation, we have to represent more than a nation of powerful weapons and large armies. Spending all of our money and effort on weapons and security will not save us.

Are we with the rest of the world, or against it?

Posted in current events, Human rights, Life, madness, opinion, rambling, rants | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What IS depression anyway?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 26, 2010

Just what the fuck is depression anyway?  I tried researching it, after experiencing it for a few years.  Got medication simultaneously with counseling. I was definitely depressed.

Depression, which doctors call major depressive disorder, isn’t something you can just “snap out of.”

Symptoms

  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
  • Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping

Major depression disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.

Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. If depression is very severe, there may also be psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms may focus on themes of guilt, inadequacy, or disease.  It is thought to be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and other factors.

However.  Hmmph.  However, none of this says what depression is, or where it comes from. Obviously, trauma can bring it on: the loss of a loved one, a pet, a friend, or the end of a marriage, love affair, or even a job. Many things can trigger depression.  If it is caused solely by a chemical imbalance, then it would be entirely random, in my opinion.  People in all walks of life would be depressed for absolutely no discernible reason, whereas most of us can attribute those feelings to something that happened. Everyone deals with these things in different ways, and, in fact, it is common for everyone to be depressed at some time.  So, to follow the medical opinions, I should talk about major depressive disorder, that thing that just doesn’t go away for some people sometimes.

I think I know what it is, and where it comes from.  I’m not a doctor, neither an M.D., a psychologist nor a psychiatrist.

Now, Wikipedia says: “The biopsychosocial model proposes that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression. The diathesis–stress model specifies that depression results when a preexisting vulnerability, or diathesis, is activated by stressful life events. The preexisting vulnerability can be either genetic, implying an interaction between nature and nurture, or schematic, resulting from views of the world learned in childhood.”

Blah, blah, blah.

I think it is nothing more than our reaction to pain.  Pain, as many of us know, decreases in intensity after we suffer it for a time.  Runners, torture victims, accident victims, and victims of disease know what I’m talking about. There may be a variety of things involved, but we all commonly think about endorphins kicking in, numbing us to pain after awhile.

Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.

Well-being after sex, yeah, I know that one pretty well. I also like chile, red or green, and sure enough, a blast of really hot spicy food brings about a lessening of the hotness after a short time. I can then eat hotter chile, but I pay for it later.  So, one thing to notice is that this morphine-like substance we produce in our bodies doesn’t last very long. But, we can produce it over and over again, in response to various stimuli, including stress.  Some of us experience stress daily, so we must also be producing endorphins daily.

Here’s what I think: depression is our bodies’ response to psychological pain.  Depression is our psychological morphine, producing analgesia.  We go numb in response to psychological pain.  We cry, or grieve deeply, sometimes feeling an overwhelming crushing weight.  We can’t function that way.  We have to go to work, or continue our normal routines, so we have to push those feelings aside just enough to function.  Depression is the result.  If it was a relatively minor pain, we may work it out through continuing our normal routines.  Sometimes, however, the pain was severe, or was perceived as severe, and continues to recur. We may keep brushing it aside.  I think this is a normal mental defense, allowing us to continue our life until we can deal with the cause of the pain, similar to the production of adrenalin or endorphins, which give us temporary options for survival.

But, it has to be dealt with sooner or later.  Just as an injury can be ignored while adrenalin or endorphin pumps through our bodies, eventually the injury must be treated.  Depression is our temporary defense against psychological pain, but at some point, we have to deal with the “injury” that produced the depression in the first place.  How we deal with the injury is what our mental health industry is all about.  Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants slow normal brain function. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics.  Temporary.  These measures are temporary, and can actually worsen depression.

An interesting tidbit I gleaned from the research literature is that endorphins attach themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic and prefrontal areas).  Perhaps endorphins are involved in the onset of depression? I do not know, nor care.

Do I know how to “cure” depression? No.  Various treatments, combinations of certain drugs with counseling, are said to allow our minds and bodies to slip out of depression long enough to allow us to reprogram ourselves out of it.  The length of treatment, types of drugs and types of counseling vary widely. The results vary widely.

Having just come out of a three-year long depression (at minimum), I have some observations:

1.) Depression is temporary.

2.) It does not occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

3.) In all likelihood, we prolong our depressive state ourselves.

4.) Whatever caused the initial depressive response must be overcome.

Yeah, I hear you: Overcome? How? Beats me.  Drugs and counseling will help in some cases.

My best guess?

Here ’tis.

1.) Recognise that one is depressed.

2.) Trace the cause. This may take medical and psychological help.

3.) Eliminate the cause. This one is tricky.

I know that there are techniques often applied, common sense approaches, that may or not be accepted by all.  For example, I have read that grief cannot be overcome unless one goes through various stages, like denial, and anger, leading to acceptance.  I’ve found this to be true for depression.  One cannot wish depression away – that is simply denial. Accept that one is depressed. And then get angry.  Avoid violent solutions, because the depression will worsen, and be prolonged, but anger? Anger is good.  Get really fucking angry. Maybe one thinks it was all their own fault. Let me tell you, getting angry with oneself doesn’t do a whole lot.  What hurt you badly? What was the thing that drove you over the edge? Was it your boss, your spouse, your ex, your lover, your sibling, your parent?  Hate them. Your injury? Hate it.  Give it all you’ve got.  Hate your boss, your spouse, your ex, the negligent driver, the government regulation, the politician?  Hate them.  Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.  Give into it.  Feel the vindication, the release, the shifting of the pain from yourself somewhere else.  When you’ve gotten the focus off of you and onto the cause, let it go.  Forget? No.  We can never forget.  But we can let the anger go, and the pain goes with it.  Then focus on change.  Get away from the source of the pain if you can, or confront it. Attempt to change the situation that caused the pain in the first place.  We all know what we have to do.  If we don’t, the pain will hit us again, and we will be depressed again.

In my opinion.

Posted in depression, health, Life, madness, medical, My Life, opinion, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Rent This Movie for GREAT Jazz

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 5, 2009

The Legend of 1900. Watch it.  The piano playing is phenomenal!  The story is unique.

legend_of_nineteen_hundred legend___2

Piano duel, Part 1 ; also:  Piano duel Part 2

jelly37lg <-The real Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton. As a teenager Jelly Roll Morton worked in the whorehouses of Storyville, New Orléans, as a piano player. From 1904 to 1917 Jelly Roll rambled through the South as gambler, pool shark, pimp, vaudeville comedian and pianist. He was the first great composer and piano player of Jazz and an important transitional figure between ragtime and jazz piano styles. He played on the West Coast from 1917 to 1922 and then moved to Chicago and where he hit his stride. Morton’s 1923 and 1924 recordings of piano solos for the Gennett label were very popular and influential.

He fell upon hard times after 1930 and even lost the diamond he had in his front tooth. He died just before the Dixieland revival rescued so many of his peers from obscurity. He blamed his declining health on a voodoo spell.  See: Red Hot Jazz.

Posted in Life, madness, misanthropy, opinion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ferguson Speaks From The Heart

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 1, 2008

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Ferguson Speaks From The Heart“, posted with vodpod

Posted in celebrity, Life, opinion | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Coffee Trash

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 27, 2008

OK, I’ll admit that I like coffee. No, this isn’t the first line of my therapy. I just like coffee. I like it leaded or unleaded, with caffeine or without. I enjoy drinking it. I like the flavor and mix of roasted bean extract flavored with raw sugar crystals and cow juice. I have access to an espresso cart at work, and I have developed an appreciation for espresso, but a single or even a double shot doesn’t give me much to sip on. I like Americano coffees. Hot water and two shots of espresso at work jump starts my day. On Sunday mornings I amble across the street to the Flying Star. It serves great coffee – far better than Starbucks, or any fast food restaurant or gas station convenience store. I have a favorite now; I order an Americano with four shots of espresso. The funny thing about espresso is that it doesn’t have the jolt of caffeine you’d expect, nor the bitterness of brewed coffee. It actually tastes good. So, to paraphrase a song lyric: my mind begins to wonder. I walk through Flying Star’s little parking lot every Sunday morning, and what do I always see but empty take out coffee cups. Not strange, you say? pigs-ina-poke-nr1.gif People are pigs, you say? Well, amazed to discover: the discarded coffee cups are not from Flying Star! Most are from Starbucks, with their characteristic green logo, some are from 7-Eleven, and some from Circle- K. It boggles my mind. There are no other coffee shops of any kind within miles. People have to have brought these cups with them on their way to Flying Star. Now that raises a lot of questions in my trivia-obsessed brain.

Do people need a coffee with them in order to drive to Flying Star? If they like Flying Star coffee, why buy coffee elsewhere before they get there? Are people that addicted to the caffeine that they have to buy one on the road on their way to a cafe? Why drop the cups in the parking lot? If they are going in to the Flying Star Cafe, why not dispose of the empties there, or just outside the door in the highly visible trash can? Why drop these cups in the parking lot at all? It’s a mystery to me. Flying Star coffee is highly rated around town, so I can’t understand why people are drinking coffee elsewhere, and then coming to this Cafe? Why would people drop their cups in the parking lot anyway?

cigs.jpg The only thing I can come up with is that these are smokers, or former smokers, or that they have tapped into that same mentality. Smokers used to drop matches and butts everywhere, higgedly-piggedly, although I rarely see a used match anymore. Occasionally I’ll see a discarded, far more ubiquitous disposable lighter. One of the problems associated with smokers is that they simply drop their spent butts wherever they happen to be, sometimes putting them out, sometimes not. If a building policy forbids smoking inside, then piles of tobacco droppings are certain to be found spread around the door like guano. Smokers seem to have adopted the crime mentality that permeates many people’s brains; it is the mentality of the law-abiding citizen who breaks a law or moral code, and comes to accept the label of criminal. Once you’re a criminal already, then why care about anything? How else to explain the careless way smokers throw matches, cigarette butts, and cigar butts out of car windows, over their shoulder, on simply down at their feet? It is the behaviour of brain-addled addicts, to be sure, but addicts who have no sense of social responsibility. Enter our new, more socially-acceptable addiction: coffee. Along with the habit comes the old habits: toss, drop, ignore.

Cigarette butts were bad enough. Now it’s styrofoam cups littering the sidewalks, cups.jpg and all the parking lots of our schools and workplaces. It is a shameful product of minds that cannot accept responsibility for their own actions; that cannot see their actions as bad. I imagine the attitude is, “It’s not my driveway, my house, my sidewalk, so why should it matter?”

Why have we become such trashy people? Is it simply another sign of civilization in decline? The attitude used to be: “Out of sight, out of mind.” It gave us leave to dispose of things we called trash, even people, because we didn’t see it anymore. Now, we have, “Out of mind, out of sight.” If we don’t mind, it don’t matter. How long before nothing matters anymore? Sad.

Posted in Life, madness, My Life, opinion, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants, Writing | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

 
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