Sunday, March 30, 2014
Pondering the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is probably one of my most reoccurring subjects I like to quietly think about as I watch the evening news. Yes, that is a backhanded insult at the usual array of semi-psychotic individuals both in politics specifically and out among the greater mass of humanity in general. Humans have been playing a glorified children's game of dominance, and calling it civilization, for around five-thousand years with only the most tenuous examples of advancement.
See for the longest time I have openly doubted that Homo sapiens are in fact an intelligent species. The examples for that assumption include George W. Bush, Vlad Putin, Assad in Syria, and numerous others both great and small. In my own circle of acquaintances I could list about a half dozen people who I find both horrifying and outrageously funny because of their statements and observable behavior. Yes again, I have long since come to the conclusion that I am a bit of a snob in some respects.
However, as I mentioned I like to ponder the existence of intelligent life out in the depths of space and what it would mean if by chance their radio transmissions were detected or, and this probability is microscopically small, they decided to stop and visit our little planet. See, like most people lacking a formal education in such things as evolutionary biology I came to think of extraterrestrial intelligence in terms presented in Star Trek, or any number of other science fiction venues. No, I'm not talking about meeting aliens that look just like humans, I know enough about evolution to understand that is beyond pure fantasy. What I'm talking about is encountering an alien civilization that is on equal terms with humanity in both intelligence and technology.
I vaguely remember Carl Sagan, in the original Cosmos television series, talking about how if two aliens civilizations did in fact encounter each other the odds were overwhelming that one of would be far more advanced than the other. While this is in no way a quote he went on to say that any conflict or “star wars” would be terribly one sided. I was a preteen at the time so his statement on the subject pretty much went into one ear and out the other.
It wasn't until I recently stumbled across the video where Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the situation even further that it finally hit home. In short he brings up our nearest evolutionary relatives, the chimpanzees, and how our respective genetic codes are exactly alike in the high ninety-percent range. But what difference that exists in our DNA means that humans can build space telescopes, ponder and test abstract concepts like quantum physics, create music and literature. All the while our chimp cousins are restricted to using sticks and rocks as tools. This is not a slam on chimps, behaviorally speaking our family relationship shows through with them known to commit both wonderful acts of generosity and terrible actions like individual murder and war between different groups.
You can probably guess where this dovetails back to aliens. It doesn't take much to realize that an alien species only a tiny bit more intelligent than humans would have an extraordinarily difficult time trying to relate concepts to us that they take for granted. As much as I have been impressed with videos showing primates communicating in American sign language I can't imagine them learning anything about how to build or maintain a laser, solve differential equations, or understand the metaphors in some poem.
It's both a little depressing and exciting to realize that there could be facets to the universe that humans just cannot grasp. That there could be some basic component to reality staring us in the proverbial face that we miss entirely.
This begs several questions to be asked. The first is what good is our current efforts to detect extraterrestrial civilizations by listening for interstellar radio transmissions? We could be waiting for smoke signals when everyone in our, relatively speaking, local area of the galaxy is communicating through gravity waves, pulsed lasers transmissions, or some real version of science fiction's subspace. The next question is whether or not aliens have tried to contact us but we're simply aren't smart enough to receive or understand what they are trying to say. Please understand I am not including idle and mostly ignorant speculation about UFO's. Those waters have been thoroughly muddied to the point any real discussion is doomed to descend into abductions and anal probing. Present an alien that can be checked openly by experts, a piece of metal made of an element unknown to science, or technology that defies our current understanding and then I will consider the option.
But the basic point remains just what would a slightly more advanced species say to us? Taking the question one step further would they even want to try? Not to backtrack, and beat an already dead horse, but what if some alien species is orders of more intelligent than us that we are to an earthworm or cockroach? Would they even register our existence if we somehow got in their way?
Check out the Tyson and Dawkins video I mentioned:
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Being the perpetual and totally out of place liberal oddball living in Red-state suburbia I notice things that the other inhabitants take as a normal part of their reality. The best example I can give happened several years ago at pool party my wife and I were invited. The hosts were part of our adoption group and were completely gracious in throwing open the doors to the huge and lavishly decorated home. All told at the height of the party they had about thirty people wandering around inside the house and outside playing by the pool. To be honest, if by some weird shift in reality, including significant changes in my personality, I owned a similar house I would have never allowed so many people who were at best just acquaintances such access to my home.
That being said, I would not be exaggerating in the least when I write that because of so many people I ended up using their master bathroom to change upon arriving and was stunned to realize it had a floor area bigger than my living room and kitchen combined. The garden tub was so big that it rivaled some motel pools I have seen. The shower stall...well, lets just say there were numerous nozzles as well as some sort of bench inside whose design raised more questions than I want to bring up. When you throw in everything else about the rest of the house and the pool it could have comfortably housed more people than were at the party to begin with. The shocker in all this was that the family who lived there only numbered five people. While I kept my mouth shut, the entire time I was at the party I desperately wanted to ask why in the hell did such a small family need such a gigantic house.
Yes, I know the stock answer many will instinctively recite. That the owners were highly successful people who deserve to reap the rewards of all their educational preparation and hard work. Far from betraying my growing socialistic tendencies I still agree, mostly, with that assumption. Anyone who works hard both in school and later at their jobs has a basic human right to reap the rewards that comes their way. The problem comes with the question that at what point does reaping justifiable rewards cross the line and become gross excesses in a world where many people struggle just to keep rain off their heads while finding enough to eat for one day. If that is too abstract I'll phrase it this way, just how big a damn home, or homes, does a person need?
This question is especially relevant to the few multimillionaire and billionaire elites who control the vast majority of wealth on the planet. How many yachts, estates, cars, and property do they need to own before being satisfied? This still does not let middle class types like myself off the hook. While I live in a “moderately”sized home of two-thousand square feet I have been to countries where that would be considered a plush mansion.
For those in the developing world attaining the American middle class lifestyle became the ultimate goal with the embrace of free market capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. I'll hazard a guess and say that if the average American had any thought about those living in poverty outside the United States he or she would applaud any attempt to bring the Walmart-style consumerism to that country.
The massive problem that the world finds itself is that it cannot sustain an American style of life for every human on the planet. In fact, and it is sad to say many don't want to understand this, but even now we are destroying the global environment along exhausting current resources just to keep those of us living in First World countries supplied with televisions, refrigerators, cell phones, cars, and other items we think we can't live without. Throw in the populations of China and India seeking the joys of an American materialistic lifestyle and you might as well go ahead and nuke the planet because in a truly perverse way it might be kinder.
Unfortunately, here in America any person, like me, who does not believe this rate of materialistic consumption can be sustained is usually branded a commie pinko out to destroy the most wonderful and awesome place ever to exist on this planet. I am sure someone reading this is asking the question that if I have so many problems with America's God given way of life why don't I leave? In all honesty I can answer that I have seriously looked into it but unless you are a rocket scientists or have wads of cash it is extremely difficult. Yes, I would very much like to leave what I see to be a parade of fat and well dressed lemmings marching towards an abyss but as of right now, I cannot.
Now there is always the hope that society in general and those in power will realize that our civilization is ultimately screwed if we stay on our current course but I am not optimistic. My belief is only further reinforced by the growing economic libertarian ideology around me that exclaims “I have mine, and to hell with everyone else.” This ignorant and selfish attitude is suspicious of any idea or person that suggests that there are somethings in life that supersede the individual and the pursuit of unrestrained personal profit.
What I find darkly humorous at times is a local, retired radio personality whose one overriding obsession is his fear that democracies always fall once the people—and I take this generally as a reference to mean minorities on welfare---realize they can vote themselves cash from the state treasury. Yes, I will go as far to agree that it can be a legitimate concern, now I have no idea if he includes all those businesses that receive various forms of corporate welfare meaning they make at least millions in profit but pay no taxes or possibly even get money back from the government.
My counter but equal concern to his is that there are selfish and hugely ignorant people like him that blithely ignore new and unique problems the nation and world now faces. With over seven billion people living on the planet our free market-based industrial civilization cannot be sustained. Sure, civilization has headed off past threats to its existence by incorporating new technologies that raised efficiencies but conversely it also raised consumption and resource extraction making the problem even worse. When you throw in literally billions of new people all wanting the unrestrained American Dream we have jumped way past the breaking point. In short I believe the only way our civilization will survive is to adapt to a new reality.
Human shortsightedness is a near absolute, although our species did find the means to adapt to the world's changing conditions at the onset of the last ice age, which meant the beginnings of civilization. So, as we face increasingly drastic and deteriorating conditions there is a chance that we might find it in ourselves to once again adapt.
Don't follow my reasoning? Try reading this:
A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilization could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."
The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilizations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilization:
"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilizational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Saturday, March 15, 2014
There is a deep, but ultimately puzzling, sense of relief coursing through my mind and body as I sit at the kitchen table typing. I will make an assumption and guess there might be two questions springing into existence for anyone reading my latest semi-coherent verbal offal. The first being what in the hell has this idiot come up now? The second being that if Beach Bum has not finally lost what tiny portion of his mind that works what could cause him to feel this way?
Well, there could several other questions associated with my first statement but the only one I will answer outright to alleviate any worries about me delving into the kinky side of life is that no, there is nothing remotely sexual about what I am feeling. But to provide an answer, which is certified family and office safe I will have to backtrack.
See, as most of you already know I work third shift, which runs from eleven o'clock at night to seven in the morning. Because of this abnormal schedule, my weekend begins Friday morning and ends on Sunday night when I must return to the old grindstone. Since everyone living here at my house is either at work or at school on Friday this provides me the opportunity, as my lovely spouse describes it, to get some chores done.
Now, unfortunately, there is never a lack of chores to be done around my house. You name the task and I can most assuredly say there is some part of my home or yard that desperately needs just such a corrective action. However during the long winter months laundry is the usual default chore I embrace just for the fact that it absolutely has to be done and that there are long lazy breaks between me washing a load of filthy clothes, transferring them to the dryer, to finally folding the newly spring fresh smelling items. With the return of warmer temperatures and longer days the specter of yard work and spring reorganizing has come to the forefront.
My self-imposed troubles began a couple of weekends ago when I up and did something miraculous and started working in the backyard without any prompting from my wife. And while there is still much to be done, progress is being made---at least in my eyes. You have to remember everything in the universe is relative and I am sure my neighbors would say something different.
Yesterday morning my wife asked that I begin the annual garage reorganization. Since mundane consistency is an inbred hobgoblin of stunted minds I readily agreed and actually looked forward to tackling the problem. This mainly came from my military years that ingrained a need to keep everything orderly and clean.
I kept this attitude until I stepped into the garage and began to examine the degree of chaos that existed. Assorted minutia had literally flowed off the steel storage shelves down onto the cement floor. Making matters even worse stuff important to my wife had long since been mixed in with the other collection of junk she gives to charity. From past, painful, experience I have come to know that it is best not to make the mistake of misidentifying particular items and then keeping or taking off the wrong ones,
Adding to the problem was my wife's collection of oddly shaped cooking items and unused kitchen counter appliances. Both groups take up valuable space and if I truly wore the pants in my family most of it would have been long since taken to the recycle center. Harsh and cruel you might be thinking right now. The thick coat of dust covering the vast majority of these items screams to the universe years of sitting unused.
But as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step and I jumped into the task. Two hours later, I realized that with all the uncertainty on what items were keepers and what could be tossed I had, at best, rearranged the existing mess. That is when a calming sense of of relief flooded my being to the point I was lifted up and for one belief moment was unified with the universe. The cosmos was telling me that the job was simply too big and diabolically complex for my puny male mind to comprehend.
So what does a person do when the universe itself overrules the task your wife assigned you? You grab a beer and begin to type out some rambling verbal essay describing the situation. Then hope your wife had a good day at work and finds the situation just a funny when she comes home and see the stuff still in disarray.
|The steel shelf after two hours of futile reorganization.|
|One of my wife's culinary items after I wiped off the dust. It has something to do with "cake pops."|
Saturday, March 8, 2014
(Author's note: This is a zombie story without the zombies. Not exactly sure if there is a message in all this rambling, I've been playing with it for so long it probably got lost somewhere. Yeah, I borrowed a couple of ideas from World War Z and James Webb is a real person.)
The red phone with its rotary dial and curly cue cord running from the handset to the base is a blatant anachronism in a world of smart phones, video conferencing, and the internet. My first day in the department I thought it was some non-functioning antique kept strictly for nostalgic decoration since the office area once served as the headquarters for a Cold War unit tasked to prepare for the unthinkable almost a hundred years ago. When I asked the others if that was the case they all laughed at my newbie ignorance.
They told me no, that it was a working phone tied directly the president's office with the same old fashioned copper conducting cable when it was first installed back in the 1950's. They went on to explain that the cable was so well armored and buried under tons of cement that even in the high-tech communications era it not only was completely secure but totally forgotten about by everyone. Occasionally, while sitting at my desk I will ponder how drastically and unbelievably the world has changed since that phone was first installed. The trouble comes when I also realize that it rings now, and often, for a reason that in many ways is far worse than the danger that brought about its existence.
Washington DC is a beautiful city in the springtime, more so in the twenty-two years that have passed since official end of the zombie plague. The provisional government had barely secured the east coast when the first president of the Second American Republic, James Webb, began pushing to have the entire district rebuilt from the burnt ruins of the Capitol Building to the city's most basic infrastructure. From there the efforts at national reconstruction stretched out like spider webs reestablishing nothing less that civilization which for three years had fallen into a new Dark Age.
It challenges the sanity of the average person to realize how much lost, but yet how much we have rebuilt and reclaimed. The howls of the undead are gone everywhere east of the Mississippi and even in uncivilized territories out west they are isolated with the U.S. Army units working to clear them out permanently. Even now though, teams of trained dogs in Washington and other big cities patrol the streets searching for the smell of some zombie that might have freed itself from a collapsed building or underground refuge.
This has allowed people here in the east to return to some semblance normalcy allowing them to walk the streets without being constantly armed. Like them, during these cool mornings early in spring, I walk to the work at the Hoover Building by way of the National Mall taking time to stop by several of the memorial statues dedicated to those who gave their lives during the Apocalypse. One of those statues is of my father.
Washington is a lot quieter now and I usually take a seat on the bench across from his statue and enjoy my time with him which was so short when he was alive. Depending on my schedule I can sit on that bench from anywhere from ten minutes to a couple of hours. It was on one of those unhurried mornings that my cell began to scream forcing an end to my reverie. “Yeah, Agent Marcus here,” I said to the screen.
The caring and concerned image of my supervisor, Carol Evans appeared. “Charlie, I know you'd like to stay with your dad longer but I need you to rush in, the red phone rang and I need to brief you on a mission.”
Despite Carol's motherly persona, you don't ever keep her waiting so I tossed my paper coffee cup in the trash and rushed into work. I reported directly to her office, was given the basic rundown on where I was going and who I had to contact, handed a rail ticket, and then sent on my way. I'd like to say its just another example of how the Second Republic cuts through the eternal problem concerning human civilization and sticky bureaucratic red tape but there has never been a situation like the one humanity finds itself in now.
The shiny, new high-speed rail line running up and down the entire east coast is the pride the restored United States. As I sit in my comfortable seat surrounded by my fellow survivors I stare out at the the ruins of hundreds of shopping malls, suburbs, and even entire towns that stand as stark memorials to those who fell to the plague. I'd like to think the determination to rebuild and optimism about the future we survivors show, not just here in America but all across this tortured planet, is in part a tribute to those who died. But I can't shake the belief that we are only this way because the plague scared us on a level that is comparable to the fear our shrew-like ancestors felt about dinosaurs millions of years ago. Which makes things even worse for me because while everyone now realizes the pre-plague world was on a direct and speedy path to hell it wasn't our species vaulted intelligence that changed us but a sudden and unexpected extinction level event.
Such dire thoughts are never helpful while I am working so I forced myself to concentrate on the mission at hand. I pull the computer tablet containing the mission files out of my briefcase and went about preparing for my arrival into Manhattan. It is important I am ready for what might happen because my little section of the FBI chief duty is investigating the origins of the zombie plague.
The train line ends at Jersey City where I am picked up by one of the local agents, Amanda Gracia, who drives me into Manhattan. A stunning blonde in her mid-thirties she is one of the best FBI agents ever to leave Quantico. While part of my group she earned her fame a few years back breaking up a ring of nortecubanos spies trying to smuggle weapons-grade uranium down to the Cuban-led Caribbean Federation.
When civilization falls apart you get crazy results like about ten-million Anglo-Americans fleeing the chaos of a zombie infested North America on just about anything that even partially floated to the relative safety of Cuba. The island's compact size and highly organized medical system allowed it to implement infection control procedures the Old American Republic could have never dreamed of doing. This infusion of dislocated Americans, now called nortecubanos, had a huge affect on Cuban causing it to rapidly evolve and eventually begin expanding down the entire Caribbean basin to eliminate the plague and restore order. The Caribbean Federation formed about a year after President Webb and General Macey began their epic struggle and while the world is a much calmer and thoughtful place now, decades of mistrust and hate between Cubans and Americans will take even longer to heal.
“Does the target know we are coming?” I ask staring at the Manhattan skyline.
“Yes, his name is Simon Blake, he works for the Manhattan Examiner and has a reputation of being highly critical of the new federal government. Truth of the matter while he thinks we're screwing up the country yet again he's a willing and convenient lightening rod for the occasional Oligarch or Texas defector.” Agent Garcia said while navigating the traffic. “The information appear to come from a former Texas Ranger who was on the wrong side of the latest coup in Austin.” She finishes with a disgusted look on her face.
If there was serious flaw with post-plague America it was the Free Theocratic Republic of Texas. While the Second Republic of the United States was quickly getting organized and spreading many heavily armed and radical groups saw the handwriting on the wall and fled to Texas in an attempt to consolidate power and strike back. When the forces of the new United States and Free Texas finally met the result was a brief war that neither had the strength to win outright.
With most of the country still in chaos President Webb was forced to recognize Texas as an independent nation. In turn, the Reverend President of Texas came to understand that a half dozen tactical nukes exploding over his cities would end his efforts at creating a nation truly in tune with God. Seeing that discretion was the better part of valor the following leaders of Theocratic Texas gave up the idea of empire and kept strictly inside their borders while those in America sat back and watched as the former state descend further into ignorance and religious anarchy.
These days Texas was always on the verge of some coup with some group convinced the current government was a pawn of Satan or the new United States, which to them was the same thing. If those attempting a coup lost, or if the revolution was successful the losers always began fleeing like rats from the proverbial sinking ship. Unfortunately these losers often ended up in the United States bringing all sorts of information they think might buy them influence or power in the media or American government.
On the surface the operation was simple, get a look at what information the former Texas agent had in his possession, then turn his ass over to the Texas embassy. The basic United States government policy was to let Texas stew in its own rancid juices and eventually go in to pick up the pieces after it fell apart. Like I said, simple, but there is always underlining details that makes everything more complicated.
The meeting place was an old diner that was being cleaned out and rebuilt. Simon Blake has set up the meeting saying his editor and publisher needed to see the information and make sure it was legitimate before the stateless Texan could get his money.
For moment I let my mind drift and admire the newly resurrected section of New York. All the skyscrapers had been cleaned and if not renovated tore down with the land being used for city farming. It would be unbelievable to my pre-plague self who once lived in Old New York but no one in Manhattan went homeless or without enough to eat. Curiously enough, even though people were required to perform community service a few hours a week business was booming on the island to the point the city council was giving land grants to other sections of Old New York had long since been flattened and cleared. Even to someone as cynical as myself it was great to see that the island had regained a touch of its pre-plague always open and busy attitude.
Agent Garcia and I walk in and immediately identify the Texan along with someone who my mission files say is Simon Blake. There is a third person though that I could tell Amanda didn't expect to see.
“Dammit Simon,” she yells, “who is this person and why did you bring her?”
“Her name is Elizabeth Mitchell and she works for the New York Herald,” he says. Simon then motions towards the former Texas Ranger, “Seems Mr. Beck here hedged his bets by contacting her as well. Apparently, news of how defectors are treated has made its way back to Theocratic Republic. Just so you know, I've seen the cowboy's information and it give names and dates.”
The Texan just stared back at Garcia and myself. “You arrogant Yankees underestimate us Texans, if I don't get ten-million dollars and a ticket to one of the Pacific island-states Ms. Mitchell has enough information to ruin your precious Second Republic.”
“Wait a damn minute,” Mitchell finally chimes in looking at Beck, “that wasn't the deal. We were going to expose the origins of the outbreak!”
This entire operation was heading south far too fast. I began to fear everything from the room being bugged to some television crew busting in with their cameras feeding live and straight to the internet. I looked at the Texan with contempt, “Sorry cowboy, we Yankees might be arrogant but your sorry inbred ass is just plain stupid.” It would have been nice to interrogate him and see if he was part of some Texan plot but I just couldn't take the chance so I pulled my pistol and shot him between the eyes.
The look of utter shock on Mitchell's eyes was unfortunate. It was then I saw the tattooed number on her left forearm. A relic of the outbreak orphanages established to take care of the tens of thousands of children left alone after civilization fell. It was people like my father who zealously guarded and loved these kids instilling a sense of hope and optimism in them that the world could be made better and that they were the ones to do it.
I had a duty to the new American experiment but more importantly I had a greater duty to the spirit those like my father gave their life to protect.“Ma'am.” I said, “killing you is the absolute last thing I want to do. Believe it or not the new United States government doesn't normally do those things. What I am going to do is tell you a story and hopefully you'll understand why the Texan's information must remain secret and help us keep it that way.”
The dirty truth involved how the old United States military-industrial complex developed the virus during the worst of the Cold War back in the 1980's. The idea was to drop it into the rear operation areas and cause massive chaos which they hoped would blunt the Soviet hordes. Thankfully, World War Three never happened but the zombie virus, instead of being destroyed, was kept and locked away.
Fast forward a few decades and society has changed all over the world for the worst. More wealth than half the people of the world own is now in the hands of a tiny percentage of multibillionaires who, at best, were contemptuous of those under them. These oligarchs built their empires on exploitation of cheap labor and easy access to resources and did everything to protect them from people suspicious of their true intentions. This even meant taking effective control of many national governments.
What scared these oligarchs more than revolution and social justice movements was the collective environmental damages they helped create. For years they paid out billions to deny global warming, massive bio-diversity extinctions, depletion of natural resources, and a growing world population making everything worse. But even they eventually figured out the growing dire global environmental situation would destroy their wealth and power.
For them it all boiled down to rational business decision, it was someone from the family of a former American vice president that remembered the zombie virus developed back during the Cold War. They rationalized that a greatly reduced world population would save their empires and even allow them to sweep away the niceties of national governments. But like all greedy bastards they began to fight amongst themselves to the point President Webb and other national leaders discovered their plan. Opposing the surviving oligarchs was not an option to any of the resurrected national governments, their private armies and access to resources made them unassailable even in their weaken state.
So a deal was made, the surviving oligarchs were allowed to escape to their redoubts, mainly small island nations in the Pacific and in turn they would not interfere in the reestablishment of civilization. The one catch people like President Webb had to agree with is that neither their identities or crimes of the oligarchs could be revealed to the world. Assuring the safety of the oligarchs were tons of modified zombie virus even worse than the original. The newly reorganized United Nations in turn had the usual nuclear weapons to make sure these monsters never ventured far from their feudalistic tropical estates.
Thankfully Ms. Mitchell agreed to keep the secret and we parted ways with me feeling only a little dirty. Of course I just can't trust her to keep the secret. It was during the early days of the Second Republic that President Webb made sure the new Congress established laws forbidding the type of surveillance state the First Republic had become up to the day it ended. And yes, that was before the agreement with the oligarchs.
I've been to the building that houses the National Security Agency deep in the woods of northern Virginia several times and seen the ungodly amount of raw computing power it has at its disposal. It is no less an evil place now even though delegates from the European Union, India, Brazil, China, Canada, Japan, South Africa stand watch with Americans making sure that the oligarchs both keep their promise to us and that we protects their identities. The other unspoken promise is that such close quarters among the delegates also makes sure none of the nations make any private deals with the oligarchs. It is depressing to think that after such a close brush with extinction humans are once again depending on mutual assured destruction to keep the peace.
That night I stand next the Manhattan harbor looking at the construction going on and the new airships in the sky that transport people and products across the free world and hope we can ultimately find our way out of this mess like our counterparts did during the Cold War. I just hope our souls are not the price we have to pay again.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Literally for years my wife and I had talked about doing a garden in the backyard but never got around to it. We had done several at our previous house growing the usual stuff like tomatoes, various types of bell peppers, cucumbers, and even a watermelon once but when we moved we simply did not have the time anymore.
What changed for me was watching the documentary called "Food Inc." a few months back which explained the almost nightmare state of the American food industry from how it is produced to sold. The documentary recommended one of the way to counter what can truly be called an insidious threat to human life was to grow your own garden. Yeah, I know this very simple raised bed garden can hardly be called a slap in the face of American agribusiness but you got to start somewhere.
The raised bed, which we bought on Amazon, is constructed of recycled material and is supposed to last for years. It was a no-brainer to put together but what was a pain in the ass was finding an even area then clearing out the fallen leaves and sticks. I'm sure my surly neighbor across the street from me who occasionally likes keep watch of the stuff going in my backyard from his second story window was wondering what the hell I was going to do when I began pulling out my rake, limb shears, and large trash bags.
This was early Saturday morning after I put the bed together and was deep into clearing out the winter lawn refuse. All told I filled six large bags--picture not included--and have even more to do. The tree in the background does worry me a little but from what I can tell today around 11:00am the garden will have unobstructed sunlight until sunset. Like I said, this is an experiment and could fail miserably.
We put in some broccoli and lettuce plants this morning along with planting seeds for sweet peas and several other items. Another issue I discovered this morning was that I had to run dogs out of the bed. I may end up buying a small fence to put around the thing. It would be funny, in some sick way, if the dogs end up ruining the garden by digging and pooping in it.
Hopefully I will post some more pictures in the coming months.