Sunday, December 27, 2020

Working Around Hurry Up and Wait


Anyone associated with the United States Armed Forces should be intimately familiar with the concept of “Hurry up and Wait.” For those who don't have a clue, that phrase is used to signify a screwed up situation in which a person or group is forced to quickly complete a task, or reach a destination by a certain time, only for nothing to happen at that scheduled moment. In the military this usually occurs when other required tasks have not been completed.

Although in my experience it was dumbass officers and their inability to plan or outright fear of making a decision that triggered most Hurry up and Wait scenarios. Either way, back in 1999 I was forced into a Hurry up and Wait/no-win situation between my wife and the South Carolina National Guard that I so successfully navigated by changing the rules Captain James T. Kirk would have approved.

It started on Saturday morning on a typical drill weekend with my squad and I performing our usual duties. That involved our preventive maintenance checks on both our communication equipment and the military vehicles and took most of the morning. Nothing exciting and my squad went about the duties efficiently but still having a good time catching up with each other.

After chow, the rest of that day was spent on various soldier's training classes with neither the officers nor senior NCOs saying anything about important tasks that were supposed to be accomplished. And when we had the final formation later that afternoon, everyone in the unit went home thinking the Sunday drill would be a breeze.

The next morning though something had radically changed. The First Sergeant's demeanor at roll call that morning was icy at best and when the company CO (Commanding Officer) appeared, the entire unit knew something bad was up.

The company CO was at best a mediocre officer with little imagination and less personality who rarely left his office during drill weekends. Past experience had shown when he did walk out on the armory drill hall floor among the troops, something quite bad was about to happen.

The CO told everyone that the battalion commander, his boss, wasn't happy with our performance and that no one would be going home that day until he had a happy smile on his face. That to make the battalion commander happy would require a visual inventory of all our equipment. Something that probably should have started bright and early the previous morning to have a chance of being accomplished in a reasonable time.

Once the CO said his piece the First Sergeant took over and instructed the cooks to begin planning an evening meal, which meant we'd still be at the armory well past eighteen hundred hours. (6:00pm)

Here's where this situation was really going to screw me over. My son, who was four years-old at the time, was supposed to have his first soccer game around 2:30pm that day. Throwing more troubling gasoline on the fire, my wife and I were supposed to supply the after game snacks for the entire team. These snacks, consisting of twenty juice boxes and twenty packs of cookies, were being stored inside my car which was in the armory parking lot.

My wife's attitude about the National Guard was in no way going to get her invited to the wives' support group. Simply put the Guard had a really bad habit of fraking up any family plans. If something important or fun was going to happen in our area that month, you can bet a large sum of money that it would occur the same weekend as drill.

Naturally, after formation everyone was assholes and elbows to try and get everything done so we wouldn't have to stay so late. Remember National Guard troops are “citizen soldiers” who have civilian jobs and didn't want to be dead tired the next morning at the start of a normal work week. Even worse, some people work nightshift and would be going to work around eleven o'clock that night.

Contrary to what can only be called propaganda put out by the National Guard, most civilian employers hate having workers who also play weekend warrior. Having an employee in the Guard screws up work schedules and has a habit of pissing off coworkers who end up covering for the individual who is playing Guard soldier. Patriotism in America may be a mile wide but its depth can often be measured in inches.

My main issue was my son's soccer game. Missing that game was going to get me in big trouble with my wife and the rest of the team because of the snacks. But all during that morning I had absolutely no idea how I could break away in time or even get the snacks to my wife since she wouldn't be allowed on armory property.

Despite what the CO said about needing to make his boss happy, the rest of the morning turned into a Hurry up and Wait nightmare. All the unit officers got rounded up for an important meeting which somehow brought a stop to all activity. None of the NCOs wanted to proceed without assurances that their decisions were the right ones.

By chow that early afternoon I was getting pissed. I would have accepted the circumstances and continued to play the good soldier had the inventory continued like it was supposed. But when you had about one-hundred seventy or so troops just sitting around doing nothing it was time for me to think out of the box.

That outside the box thinking took the form of an old fashioned telephone booth inside the armory drill hall. Remember this was 1999 when cell phones hadn't yet become totally widespread. Yes, the phone booth was a relic even back then, but a nicely convenient one.

The drill hall floor was a buzz of activity, so no one really paid attention to me as I stepped inside and closed the door. Plus this phone booth was on the far end of where the company offices were located, so there was little chance anyone high up in the leadership would see me and later figure out my plan.

My plan revolved around calling one of my brothers and having him phone my unit and say he was involved in a car accident in Columbia and would need a ride back up to Easley, South Carolina where he lived. Which is more or less a two-hour drive from my location.

Thankfully my brother answered the phone and over the course of fifteen minutes we quickly ironed out the various details required to make my scheme work. Yes, it is better to tell the truth but in this instance the means did justify the end.

After hanging up I did my best to sneak away from the phone booth hoping no one would remember seeing me there. All that remained from then on was hoping my brother, who was nursing a nice beer buzz would remember to call my unit and give me a solid excuse to get the frak out of Dodge.

A nervous thirty-five minutes later the loudspeakers mounted on the drill hall floor and outside in the motor pool call for Sergeant Johnson to report to the office. I tried to play extra casual with everyone as I reported but no one will ever say I could be an actor.

Some seriously young Second Lieutenant I had never seen before handed me a note saying my brother was stranded up around north Columbia after being in a car accident. That he was okay but needed a way back home since his car was banged up pretty bad.


The Lieutenant was going to cut me loose right then but the First Sergeant, a grizzled veteran who knew all the bullshit tricks stopped me as I was walking out. I handed him the note and repeated what the Second Lieutenant told me but I knew he wouldn't buy the story. The First Sergeant, took a deep breath then looked at me with an expression that confirmed what I feared. He clearly knew the whole story was a heaping pile of bullshit.

But instead of chewing on my ass and kicking me out of the office he said go get your brother and we'll see you next month. I have no idea why he went along with my scheme. I wasn't on his shit list but then again I wasn't in the group of soldiers he tended to favor. Whatever the case, the time was coming up on two o'clock and if I hurried across town I would make the start of my son's game.

I arrived at the game five minutes before it started and only earned a stern look from my wife. My son's team had their asses stomped but me being in my army BDU's serving juice boxes and cookies was a hit with the kids.

The following month, I learned that the rest of the unit wasn't dismissed until nine o'clock that night. No one ever made a comment about me skipping out the previous month but I sure as hell did my best to stay under the First Sergeant's radar from that moment on.

Yeah, I have no regrets and put into a similar situation I'd do it again.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

News from Proxima Centauri-- Or the Galactic HOA is Watching



 It's a terrible thing to write, but few things really excite me these days. I don't worry too much about feeling that way since life, experience, and circumstance has a way of blunting the child-like enthusiasm that made everyday an adventure when we were younger. Still, it's nice to occasionally have something come out of left field and rekindle a hint of that former awe and wonder.

Proxima Centauri is a M-class red dwarf star about 4.2 lightyears away from our planet and it looks like in 2019 we received a radio signal from some source in that star system. While most likely this curious signal is just some misinterpreted radio broadcast from a purely earthly source, it has passed many of the initial checks and still cannot be explained. So yes, there is a remote chance that this radio signal originated from an advanced alien intelligence.

What really is freaking out the astronomers is that this signal is being received on the 982 megahertz frequency, a region of the radio spectrum not typically used for satellites orbiting the Earth or space probes heading out into deep space. Adding to the mystery, the frequency of this signal shifted during the broadcast which was consistent with the movement of a body orbiting that star. However there was no detected modulation of the signal, something that would allow extra information to be encoded. In essence the signal was just a long distance dial tone, empty of any significance.

There are a couple of more little tidbits to this development that make it even more intriguing. First that while Proxima Centauri is so dim and small it can't be seen with the naked eye, it's the closest star to our solar system. Secondly, we know Proxima Centauri has at least two planets orbiting it. One is an Earth-like world, called Proxima b, orbiting in its Goldilocks Zone, a region of space where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. Understand, for Proxima b to be warm enough to have liquid water on the surface its yearly orbit of its star is just eleven hours.

Proxima b's closeness to its parent star is definitely a double-edged sword. While it gets enough warmth and light to possibly have Earth-like conditions, like liquid water on the surface, it is then subject to Proxima's massive solar flares. Most tiny and cool stars like Proxima, paradoxically produce massive flares that scientists believe would strip away any planetary atmosphere in a matter of a few decades. Some planetary theorists do suggest that a planet orbiting a red dwarf with a strong magnetic field might be able to deflect the worst of the solar flares, allowing it to retain its atmosphere.

Making Proxima b even less desirable real estate is that due to its closeness to the parent star, it is probably tidally locked with one side permanently facing the light and heat. While the opposite side is perpetually locked in a frozen night.

The other planet, Proxima c, is much larger than Earth and is so far out from its star that its takes 5.2 Earth years to complete one orbit. This world has the mass of seven Earths and is either a mini-Neptune gas planet or a super-Earth. While you can't rule out a very different form of life, this world and any moons orbiting probably was not the source of the signal.

Then again, the general consensus is that if this signal from Proxima Centauri is from an alien intelligence the beings or entities that sent it are not native to that star system. The chance that two neighboring stars develop technical civilizations “stretches the bounds of rationality.” In other words, the big interstellar empty we thought was the galaxy is probably quite crowded.

Followup observations of Proxima Centauri since 2019 have failed to find the signal again with numerous other radio telescopes joining in the search. The overwhelming odds on this signal is of course that it's a false alarm. There was one infamous radio telescope episode several years ago where an intriguing signal from deep space turned out to be inference from the observatory's break room microwave.

Still though, if an advanced starfaring civilization wanted to make contact with a primitive technical species, setting up shop on the closest star to them would be way to gauge their reaction to any overturn. If we humans give a good impression, these aliens drop by and say hello. If we scare the living shit out of them, they toss a dozen or so antimatter bombs our way to save the galaxy from a possible horde of ravaging monsters.

Just a suggestion, it would probably serve humanity very well if we straighten up our act and actually acted like an intelligent species. The neighbors could well be watching. 



Scientists looking for aliens investigate radio beam 'from nearby star' 

The, December 18, 2020

Alien Hunters Discover Mysterious Signal from Proxima Centauri, December 18, 2020

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Shocking the Monkey


 Since the beginning of the Trump era far too many people have been struggling to reconcile the hateful nature of MAGA supporters with their common beliefs about the general goodness of human nature. This extends even to myself because during the initial phases of the 2016 presidential campaign I would have never believed such crude and corrupted individual as the Orange Buffoon would be nominated by the Republican Party, much less actually become president.

Understand, way back before the 2008 election both my stomach turned and my eyes rolled whenever someone spoke dreamily about the glorious nature of a “post-racial America” since Barrack Obama was heavily favored to win that election.

To assume centuries of racial discrimination and oppression would suddenly evaporate with the election of the United States' first black president definitely leaned heavily into the realm of fantasy. However, it did seem unthinkable to me that anyone would seriously consider a clearly immoral and outright racist individual as the Orange Buffoon occupying the highest office in the United States.

In short, I fully expected that Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz would have been the 2016 nominee. The former a simple but dependable rehash of his father and brother. As for the latter, I thought he was the absolute outer edge of the rancid Republican value of profit over people and the party's hateful and skewed societal views.

Recently though I was reminded of the experiments performed by Professor Stanley Milgram at Yale University in the 1960s. These experiments involved how people look at authority and obedience.

In fact Milgram's research can, in my opinion, best be summed up in one of his quotes from 1974. “The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not such much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he acts.”

His experiment involved the recruitment of individuals using newspaper ads which each person was paid $4.50. These recruits were then told they would take the role as a “teacher” who would be asking a series of questions to a “student” in another room they could not see.

On a table in front of the teacher would be an intimidating device that Milgram said was a shock generator with the student in the next room attached to the business end of the machine. The teacher was told to give the student a shock every time they gave the wrong answer to the asked question . These shocks started at 30 volts and increased in 15-increments for every wrong answer going all the way up to 450 volts.

Increasing the stress on the teacher, the switches on the shock device were labeled with terms such as “slight shock,” “moderate shock” and “danger: severe shock.” The final two switches were labeled with nothing but “XXX” suggesting something darker.

Understand, while these teachers believed they would be applying an electric punishment for wrong answers, the students in the next room were perfectly safe and just play acting at the direction of Milgram.

As the experiment progressed the student's reaction to the electrically shocks got increasingly more desperate. The teacher would hear the student in the next room pleading to be released or even that he had a heart condition. Once they reached the 300 volt level the student would bang on the wall demanding to be released. Beyond that point the student went silent and refused to answer any more question. The teacher was instructed to treat the silence as an incorrect response and deliver further shocks.

At that point the teacher would ask the controller of the experiment if they should continue. The controller would respond with a series of commands to prod the teacher to continue:

  1. “Please continue.”

  2. “The experiment requires that you continue.”

  3. “It is absolutely essential that you continue.”

  4. “You have no other choice, you must go on.”

You'd think a normal person playing the role of teacher would at least stop shocking the student once the supposed test subject started pleading that the voltage was too painful. But in reality 65 percent of the teacher participates continued to apply the maximum shocks to their unresponsive and unseen students. It was noticed during the experiments, that many of the teachers became extremely distraught and angry at the controllers but continued to follow orders all the way to the end.

The immediate question has to be why did the teacher-participates continued applying painful shocks to an unseen student? The general answer is that the presence of an authority figure (controller) increased compliance. The fact that a trusted academic institution, Yale University sponsored the experiment lead many of the participants to believe it was safe, even after the student became unresponsive.

Milgram summed up his experiment with this statement: “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work becomes patently clear, and they are asked to carry out action incompatible fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

So you might be wondering how all this ties into my point. Having the Orange Buffoon as president clearly gave license to the worst aspects of human nature. The natural authority that comes with holding that office allowed the Buffoon to give voice to all those barely hidden hates and fears, giving them an environment they could easily thrive. Sort of like the way mold loves to grow in wet and humid places.

For me, the worst aspect of having to live through such a repugnant individual's reign is that the damage the Orange Buffoon's done will not whither away with him out of office. Because once a mold like him takes hold in a house the repair work to get rid of it will be extensive and costly. Truthfully, taking the mold analogy further, Lincoln warned us of a house divided being unable to stand. The Orange Buffoon's mold might have already metastasized to the point the house is now contaminated beyond the ability of anyone to save it.

Nothing proves this point more than all the Republican congressmen who signed on in support of the Texas lawsuit attempting to overturn the election results in critical swing states. This was nothing less than an attempted coup to reinstall a delusional thug who harbored dreams of authoritarian power. Even after the Texas lawsuit was struck down, numerous fools in the Republican party started speaking about their states succeeding from the Union.

Even if the Orange Buffoon is in jail or dies between now and 2024, there are plenty of others who will take up his debauched mantle. 



Milgram's Experiment and the Perils of Obedience,, September 16, 2019

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Looking for the Better Angels of Human Nature


How do you explain the existence of something like Donald Trump? I admit that I am bias but to the best of my knowledge he has no redeemable characteristics. On the surface, his presence in modern day America should be considered a bizarre accident of circumstance and timing. Truthfully, he's probably all too typical of human nature and the true character of America.

No, he hasn't launched any unjust wars costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. But he has separated young children from their parents and put them in cages in a manner disturbingly similar to concentration camps. He regularly displays an inherent racism that in saner times would shame the most socially indifferent person when it comes to the struggles of minorities here in America.

For someone who claimed he would hire nothing but the “best and brightest” to fill his administration more of Trump's picks have been convicted of corruption or forced to leave government service than any other president. Even more outrageous, his personal life is a study in the glorification of greed, lust, envy, pride, and wrath. As far as the other deadly sins of gluttony and sloth, Trump appears to have a handle on them as well.

It's truly hard to get an idea of what Trump wouldn't do when it comes to his advancement and the protection of his personal empire. Despite showing absolutely no civilized nor empathetic qualities how does he continue to have such a large number of followers?

This is a question I have pondered from the day he emerged as a real contender for the Republican nominee for president. Curiously enough, or maybe I'm suffering from my own delusions, but an old Star Trek episode gave me a partial working answer.

Yes, I know this seems crazy but bear with me for a few short paragraphs.

In the Original Series there is an episode entitled “Mirror Mirror.” In that story Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura are accidentally transported to another universe while their alternate counterparts are sent to theirs.

The alternate Kirk and his crew are from a cruel and barbaric universe ruled by the “Terran Empire.” A place Trump and his family would, in my opinion, be extremely comfortable.

It takes the good Kirk and associates time to figure out what happened and to get back to the peaceful Federation universe. Good Kirk and his associates do get home and when that happens their evil counterparts are instantly transported back to their Empire.

At the end of the episode, good Kirk asks Spock how did he handle the counterparts from the Terran Empire. Spock more or less replies that he instantly saw them as what they were, prime examples of Homo sapiens and threw them all in the ship's brig.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as civilized beings, the appearance of Trump and his success shows that humans are always on the verge of showing our animalistic nature. That if things get tough we quickly revert to our basic primate nature and become something worse than tribal. All it takes is a slightly charismatic buffoon with a talent for exacerbating old fears and hates in weak-minded people.

Believe it or not, I'm not criticizing evolutionary biology. Because years of research has shown that our more “primitive” cousins the chimpanzees readily show empathy and compassion to their kind as well as the behaviors akin to the worst human characteristics.

The question for me is how do humans begin to supersede the worst aspects of their nature while enhancing the best? In short, what can we do as a species to move beyond or basic programming?

We our trying, the United States Constitution with its checks and balances was written by generally wise men trying to avoid the worst in humanity. But the history of our species is replete with cruel and barbaric episodes with many “good people” freely going along with evil deeds.

Showing that I need a new hobby, I spent most of the day pondering those questions. My only answer was a quote from a truly flawed individual. That the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Arecibo-- A Disastrous Loss to Science and Humanity



Arecibo in better days

When news footage of the disastrous 2019 fire at Norte-Dame cathedral made worldwide news I was sadden and shock like most people. Setting aside its religious significance, Norte-Dame is an important part of our common human heritage, something that needs to be rebuilt and preserved for as long as possible. I'd say the same for the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt and Central America, Stonehenge, the Parthenon of Athens, or any other historically important structure.

So it was a bit of gut punch that I recently learned the giant radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico has suffered through catastrophic failures of two of its main support cables and will be permanently closed. The remaining cables are still holding up the 900-ton scientific package platform that over the years helped detect numerous near-Earth asteroids, the first exoplanets, and other phenomena. Back in 1974 astronomers even used Arecibo to send a coherent and intentional message into deep space in hopes an alien civilization on some distant star might hear it.

Built in 1963, the Arecibo telescope has undergone numerous upgrades and continuous maintenance but appears that simple time and climate got the best of it. However a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in 2014 and Hurricane Maria in 2017 were sure to have pushed the aging structure closer to the breaking point.

It's damn tragic that such an important scientific instrument that lead to many groundbreaking discoveries will now be abandoned. Just Arecibo's work on detecting near-Earth asteroids and the dangers they pose to the planet and human civilization should be enough to have it rebuilt. Excuse me, but I do feel losing Arecibo is akin to the fire in Norte-Dame. In many ways I feel Arecibo was a scientific cathedral that instead of bringing us closer to God, helped humans understand the nature of the universe we live. 


The Arecibo message sent out in 1974.


Legendary Arecibo Telescope Will Close Forever, and Scientists Are Reeling: Scientific American

November 19, 2020

Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Smooth Criminal


 There is a long sordid history of why I hate the subdivision I find myself living. Yes, it was a mistake to purchase a home among the collection of arrogant and stuck up individuals my family and I do our best to ignore but you know the deal with hindsight.

Now the issues with the neighbors are all my fault. And they revolve around my attitude and practices dealing with lawn care and maintenance on the house. I do not obsess over the greenness of my grass, nor really the composition of the chlorophyll-using plant species that live within my territory. In other words my yard has a multitude of weeds and I am fine with that. Making matters worse, it was only at the beginning of last spring that I had my irrigation pump replaced after it burned up two-years ago.

The first year it was down we had a decent level of rain that kept it within bounds. But the following year I know my neighbors were cussing me up a storm. Because while all their yards were a heavily chemically-induced emerald green, mine had that post-apocalyptic brown, black, and gray color from lack of water. See, in 2019 I was coming off my near death experiences with my heart and lawn care for me and my family just wasn't on the radar.

And honestly another reason my neighbors don't like me is because I simply do not fit into their expectations of being a proper southern suburban gentlemen. My first and most radical thought crime is my politics, since I'm an Obama-loving, Hillary voting, tree-hugging liberal. From that standpoint alone, it's a wonder my kids had any friends at all during their school years. From my observations, the natives here get so extreme Ronald Reagan wouldn't pass the current Republican acceptance test.

The vehicle I drive is also and issue because all manly men here are required own a truck along the Ford F-150-class are larger. Smaller trucks like a Ford Ranger are passable but are snickered at by the big boys. My only transportation is a mid-sized sedan so I'm already suspect even if the natives don't see my “Riding with Biden” bumper sticker.

Understand, my wife does believe I generally overreact and regularly tells me I'm the problem but a couple of nights ago she had to side with me. Strangely enough, on this particular incident, I wasn't the asshole, it was my cat. But first a little background on suburban geopolitical situation.

While good fences make good neighbors, having a row of Leyland cypress trees lining the entirety of the section between my backyard and that of my neighbors was pretty much heaven. With the those trees, the neighbors could have their pools parties and I could sit out on my deck and read without either of us knowing of the others existence.

But the Leyland got old and started dying and a couple of tropical storms later several had fallen over while others were leaning threatening to smash the fence or either of the storage houses in the backyards. So I'm forced to have the trees removed and now both that neighboring family and mine do our best not look like we're gawking at the other when outside.

Here's the general scenario from my point of view; say I have a fantastic book that I can't put down and decide to go outside and read so I can enjoy the sunlight and fresh air. As I open up my book to delve back into a universe with starships, ancient alien civilizations, and rogue AI's, I discover the neighbors are having a pool party. Something one of the previous owners installed a few years ago.

Since my deck is about two feet above ground level those neighbors can easily see me. Given the locals suspicious nature, they assume I'm outside trying to catch a glimpse of the moms sunbathing while their kids play in the water. Sound easily echos off the houses so I catch more than half of their conversation with one mom asking about the tall, weird looking guy sitting on his deck.

I stay outside on the deck just long enough to act like I didn't hear that. Not long later, I excuse myself by acting like my cell phone vibrated and go back inside to take the call.

Since that awkward spring afternoon right after we had the Leylands removed, I am quite circumspect about when I go sit on my deck. I harbor no hard feelings to the neighbors, I did go outside while they were hanging out in the pool and honestly, my sudden appearance was probably unsettling. See, over the years many people have commented that my natural, neutral resting expression looks a lot like a pissed off Clint Eastwood about to ask some street punk if he feels lucky. This mainly comes from the fact that I find most people ridiculous idiots but that statement expands the scope of this essay far beyond what I intend.

So now that were brought up to the present a couple of night ago my furry buddy, Knox the Cat, was throwing a fit to get outside. It was a work night for me, I was tired, and didn't want to spend the last thirty minutes or so before I went to bed dealing with feline whining. I open the door leading to the deck and let him slip outside. During that brief moment, I catch a glimpse of the neighbors sitting on their own deck. I really couldn't tell what they were doing, and as you might be able to surmise I didn't really care.

I return to my nightly routine of making lunch for the next day as well as loading the dishwasher and sweeping the kitchen floor. Several minutes later I hear Knox making strange sounds at the same door I let him out. Without thinking I let him back inside only to see he had something large in his mouth.

Now it is quite common for Knox to bring home a live bird or the occasional baby rabbit. Almost always this will then mean I have to make a twenty-minute drive to the nearest wild animal rescue center to drop off the hapless animal.

With Knox running around with something in his mouth the usual household panic erupts. My wife runs off to the bedroom, slamming the door to avoid the predatory horror. I in turn chase the cat in a desperate attempt to save his prey. When I finally catch the damn cat, I find his prize is not a live bird but one that had been deep fried, probably twelve herds and spices.

Knox somehow has a fried chicken drumstick, and after I take it away I discover its still warm and fresh. Naturally, I have no idea where Knox obtained a piece of Colonel Sander's finest, and he sure as Hell wouldn't tell me even if he could. At that moment, I had one pissed off cat who didn't understand why I was taking away his prize. The answer to that question came to the front door about ten minutes later.

Before the knock at the door, I toss the drumstick and return to prepping for the next work day. My wife emerges from the bedroom and takes a seat in front of the television. I'm in the bedroom when I hear the knock from the front door. I let my wife deal with the person and whatever their business might be.

Being on the other end of the house, I didn't catch the conversation between my wife and the visitor. But since there wasn't any yelling or screams for my help , I didn't think much of it. That is until my wife comes into the bedroom to tell me the visitor was the backyard neighbor come to complain that Knox the Cat had crashed their dinner.

From what my wife told me that group's attention was diverted just enough for Knox to jump onto the picnic table and grab the drumstick he brought home. In the process of Knox's escape, he apparently made a mess of the table items and, if I understood correctly, knocked over a pitcher of tea and the gravy for the mashed potatoes.

I asked my wife if the neighbors wanted some sort of apology or payment for the feline damages. She said no, and made like the neighbor weren't “too upset.” Of course, given my biases, the neighbor was being diplomatic and was probably highly pissed.

So now Knox the Cat is essentially permanently grounded, or at least until the sore butts have a chance to cool down. Since the weather is getting colder in a week or so I'll let my smooth criminal slip back outside. There will be far less of a chance that he could crash any outside dinner parties.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Nomad Feet: Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve

Last Saturday, I escaped the suburban prison camp for a day trip down to the coast. When I left Columbia I didn't have a destination but halfway down to Charleston I decided to hit the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve. It was formed in the 1930's from the merger of Colonial-era Sea Cloud Plantation and Bleak Hall Plantation located on Edisto Island. The property went to the state in 1977 as a wildlife preserve and was opened to the public in 2008. The drive down was long, especially after arriving at the entrance. This picture is of the dirt road leading down to the beach area.

Once you arrive at the parking area, there is about a half-mile walk down to the beach. This causeway with the marsh on either side was beautiful. Another thing that made it paradise was the complete absence of human-made sound. The only thing I could hear was the sound of the surf, the rustle of the marsh and some birds. It was heaven, especially after what seemed to be countless months of political advertisement on the television. 

A section of the marsh. You can't see them but numerous hermit crabs were living out their lives in the mud.

First view of the beach. Unfortunately someone stepped into the frame. 

I arrived about an hour after the preserve opened and while I wasn't the first person there, the beach was mostly deserted. Being "undeveloped" the beach is littered with fallen trees.

I actually took a selfie where I was smiling but didn't include it because it would ruin my stern visage.

It was a beautiful day. The tide was near high tide and since this was my first visit, I didn't wander that far sense over concerns that I might get cut off by the incoming water.

All told, I was there about an hour and I was surprised how warm it got that morning.

As you might have noticed, there is a huge number of large shells on the beach. This is because of the $450 dollar fine if caught taking any off the beach. Instead, previous visitors seem to like to display them on some of the fallen trees. 

When I was a kid Pawleys Island had a similar number of shells on the beach. But that was way before it became such a well visited location. Tourists and resident kept taking home conch shells to the point it ruined the ecosystem. 

I took my time heading back to the car. More people began showing up and I didn't want my first impression ruined.

Could have sat at this spot for hours. When I do return I will bring a comfortable chair.

Another look at the marsh.


Tried to catch this conch shell against the ocean. The lighting was wrong so I didn't waste anymore effort. My camera isn't really the type for taking such difficult pictures. 

Final shot, another collection of shells bleaching in the sun. Botany Bay is one of the finest examples of South Carolina in its raw, unspoiled form. I usually don't speak highly of this state, but when it does things right you have to point it out. Wish I could saw the same about its politicians. Speaking of which, give them half a chance and they'll have this small piece of paradise carved up with condos on the beach and oil rigs drilling out in the water. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Hoping for Better Days


Okay, yesterday was a great day! Pennsylvania finally turned blue, sending Biden over 270 electoral votes needed and mostly ending the nightmare we've been living with since November 2016. Yeah, President-elect Biden's inauguration isn't until January 20th but we've made it this far. I'm hoping the White House staff has enough backbone and sense to begin limiting the Orange Buffoon's power.

My hope and good humor has its limits though. We didn't take the senate and lost seats in the House. This probably means next to no major reforms or programs are going to be approved. That means no extra judges for the Supreme Court, nor bringing the Green New Deal to life.

There is already noise from the radical Progressives about “being left out to dry” by the mainstream Democrats. I agree with a lot of their ideas but getting them enacted is going to require a lot of time and work.

And even funnier, Mitt Romney was on NBC's Meet the Press this morning mouthing off about how this election proved most Americans are actually quite conservative. So in other words, they're going to be bitching about the federal deficit right after Biden takes the oath of office. Not a single word from them about the deficit the entire time OB is in office destroying the country and siding with our enemies. But with a President Biden in office all those roaches will be scurrying about on every news show and ranting about fiscal doom.

Still though, the tumor will be removed and maybe a President Biden will be able to build some political bridges. One can hope and dream for better, saner days.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A True FUBAR Moment For the United States



Yeah, I'm going to clearly spell it out for any smirking, low-brow, semi-literate, misinformed right-winger who might still occasionally read my humble ramblings. As of this moment I am a nervous wreck over the upcoming election. Because this is a true turning point in history, not too dissimilar from when the Roman Republic fell ushering in the age of the Caesars.

I view the Orange Buffoon getting another four years occupying the White House as the death knell of not only American democracy but of the country itself. No exaggeration, no hyperbole, no overly dramatic acting like you might see on a bad television drama. For me the United States of America will be officially over, it will definitely go on in name for a few more decades with carefully choreographed elections that always end in with some handpicked chump taking office. Whether that is an actual Orange Buffoon family member or someone handpicked by the reigning dynasty I have no idea.

Truthfully it will probably be a little of both, it is common knowledge that both Don Jr. and Ivanka want to be president. And since both of the Buffoon's preferred offspring feel they occupy the same privileged status as their father, them running for president is a near certainty. With another four years to further fuck-over American politics I see them easily “winning” elections in the same manner as the North Korean trolls with margins close to ninety percent. But just to keep the facade of legitimacy, I figure they'll throw in a few no-name placeholders every now and then to keep the Oval Office warm.

The best example of this practice is when Dmitry Medvedev “won” the Russian presidency after Putin served two terms, which meant he couldn't constitutionally run again. At the end of Medvedev's term, where Putin served as Prime Minister, Dmitry graciously stepped aside so Putin could return to the post. Now with recent Russian electoral reforms, Putin will probably rule Russia until the day he dies. A reasonably informed and rational person will remember that several years ago the Orange Buffoon said he admired how China had went to a lifetime presidency, and that he hoped the United States might try such an idea.

Now I understand why Trump is your guy, because dim-witted and incurious folks can't be bothered to actually try and figure out the our complicated world. That the Buffoon makes things sound simple and easy to overcome. Well, you guys also love how he sticks it to libtards with his manly persona. But mainly I think its because Trump hates the people and groups you right-wingers despise. Trump can make a mockery of everything you claim to be about like morals and fiscal responsibility and being respected by the world and you guys and gals cheer mindlessly along.

It still surprises me how easily Trump supporters shook off the “pussy grabbing” video and the clear evidence that he was balling a porn star while his third wife was pregnant. That's unparalleled moral hypocrisy, especially for the evangelicals who claim a special, direct relationship with God. In a way the whining about budget deficits during the Obama years is even more ridiculous. The black guy inherits a fiscal disaster and doesn't catch a minute of slack from the self-appointed watchdogs of the federal budget, the loudmouth Tea Baggers. But Trump takes office, passes a massive tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits the wealth elites which sends the federal budget back into trillion dollar deficits-- years BEFORE the pandemic-- and the Tea Baggers are no where to be found.

The darkly funniest item is the utter delusion you right-wingers share about being respected in the world because of Trump. If only you dim-witted imbeciles could watch a news source not devoted to third-grade level propaganda. The world is laughing at Trump, not just a few ungrateful allies but our enemies as well. Worse yet, we are pitied by the world for Trump's criminal mishandling of the pandemic. I'll write it again just to be clear, to the rest of the world Trump is a joke.

The scariest thing in all this is Trump's goading of outright violence between Americans. You right-wingers have been talking about civil war at least since President Obama won his first term. You slack dick pansies parade around in public carrying tricked out assault weapons but have the insane gall to believe it will be the liberals who start the blood flowing in the streets. Then again you brag to each other about how its your side that possess all the weapons and how taking out the libtards and other troublesome groups will be a piece of cake.

So yeah, this coming Tuesday and the following days will be a nerve racking bitch for me. While the vast majority of the polls suggest Joe Biden will be the next president you guys clearly aren't playing by the normal rules. But if the Orange Buffoon pulls a electoral rabbit out of a hat, or simply steals the election I believe things will be far worse.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Dawn of the Republican Zombies


A few years back a famous science communicator about lost his shit when during a podcast someone asked a question about zombies. I'm not a big fan of this particular science communicator since he tends to dwell on pop culture more than actual science and when he does stay on subject, like astrophysics, he explains things like you would to a first grader.

Now I understood this science person's frustration, undead zombies were the pop cultural darlings of that time with several hit television shows, a couple of movies, and numerous books being published. There were even survivalist clubs being formed to “prepare” for a zombie apocalypse. Which to their sane members were more role-playing game organizations than an actual end-of-the-world groups.

The problem though is that undead zombies do exist in a fashion. Not literally with half-decayed, reanimated corpses roaming the country looking to bite the living, but rather politically in the form of Republican conservatism.

While Barry Goldwater is considered the grandfather of modern conservatism, like most I'd have to say Ronald Reagan was its father. Being overly kind here, but Reagan's election to the presidency in 1980 was an answer to the perceived accesses of liberalism and the failure to get tough with communism. Truth be told, while I am exceedingly liberal in most respects, I do feel that during the 1970's liberalism itself lost its way. In short and simple terms, I believe liberalism as a movement was suffering from all the shocks and terrible events that occurred during that time.

It was everything from the JFK assassination, LBJ's insistence to increase our presence in Vietnam, riots and civil unrest throughout the nation, the assassination of Martin Luther King and RFK, to the radical left's abandonment of Hubert Humphrey in 1968. The end result was a disorientated and exhausted movement that as usual with politicians, became more about acquiring power and holding onto it. Sure, there were plenty of examples of liberal politicians doing their jobs, but in the face of news reports of “welfare mothers” dropping more babies for bigger government checks and expensive and ridiculous pork barrel projects, the election of 1980 seemed a natural reaction.

Here's the paradox though, initially this empowered Republican conservatism portrayed itself as having the moral high ground. Back in the 1980's, they claimed to be defenders of faith, morals, fiscal responsibility, and the rightful protectors of American liberties. And today, nothing shows the zombification of Republican conservatism than how the majority has thrown their support behind an individual who has literally betrayed every one of those principles.

Before entering politics, conservatism's Orange Messiah openly displayed a lifestyle that made a mockery of both legitimate faith and morals. Each of his marriages ended because of affairs with the next woman who would become his next wife. Then we have his extracurricular activities with numerous porn stars. Never one to be outdone by some Arkansas huckster, Orange Messiah also faces numerous accusations of sexual abuse and outright rape. The truly bizarre thing is that he's on tape clearly bragging about getting away with those types of actions and laughing about it.

As for his promise to balance the federal budget in his first term, the budget deficit shot back through the White House roof long before the pandemic appeared. In his last year in office President Obama had brought down the federal deficit considerably, only to have the Orange Messiah pass a tax cut through the Republican-controlled houses of Congress that jacked it back up to a trillion dollars a year.

I'm not the type to blame the mainstream media for anything, the men and women who work in that field have a difficult job in the sane, normal times of American politics. But the Black Guy wasn't comfortable in his post-presidency life when all talk of the federal budget deficit dropped off the nightly news. Now with the pandemic, Orange Messiah and his spineless acolytes casually toss around trillions of dollars without even mentioning the deficit. Doesn't anyone else remember several United States senators losing their shit over President Obama wanting to spend extra money to provide disaster relief to people here in the United States? Those elephant bitches whined that President Obama would have to transfer funds from other agencies and departments to pay such actions that helped Americans!

To a certain extent all those hypocrisies are standard practices, even in sane times. Neither political party has never been free from corruption and lets me honest here, a certain level of backroom negotiations and under the table deals are required to grease the wheels of government. But since the dawn of the Reagan Revolution these compromises have only snowballed and become less the exceptions and more the rule.

Perhaps the best example of the undead zombie nature of Republican conservatism is how it willingly consorts with our international enemies and adversaries. It's unbelievable but in a lot of ways Republicans have gone from the party of national security to having many of it members depending on our enemies to run interference for them in elections. I honest to God wish Reagan could come back for a couple of days just to see his reaction to the Orange Messiah dropping his pants and bend over so Putin could get his satisfaction.

The most dangerous example of Republican zombification has to be the talk of civil war coming from adherents to the Orange Messiah. Internet videos abound of deadly earnest militia types that say any defeat of Trump at the polls is fake and that they will fight. These people openly brag about taking to the streets and spilling blood of those they hate. I've talked to these people and there is an awful glee in their statements akin to a child hoping Santa fulfills his or her wishes. They have bought far too many guns and ammo for it all just to gather dust in some cabinet.

Republican conservatism is no longer a living political philosophy but a bankrupt, conspiratorial cult whose majority of member are abject racists. For the rich and powerful conservatism is now just an excuse to protect their interests at the expense of everyone else. For the uneducated, conservatism is cover for their ancient bigotries and unwillingness to adapt to a changing world. It's easier for them to whine about the good old days and plan their dark, action movie-inspired fantasies than try to adjust to the demands of this era.

I'd like to say zombie Republican conservatives are just a fanciful and ridiculous creation of my bored mind. But in truth they are a real danger looking for any reason to spill American blood this November.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

News From Venus


 Not being a fan of Russia or anything else associated with those assholes, I cynically laughed a few weeks back when the chief of the Russian space program staked a claim on the planet Venus. It's just another in a long list of nationalistic posturings by Russia wanting to bolster its confidence and global street cred. For example a few years back guys in a deep diving Russian submersible planted a tiny version of their national flag on the seafloor directly under the North Pole ice sheet. The Russian press release went on about that accomplishment being equal setting foot on the moon.

“We think that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn't lag behind.” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space corporation, Rocosmos said about an upcoming mission to the hellhole planet. Why the love of a planet encased in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide where it rains sulfuric acid and the surface temperature can melt lead?

Well giving the devil its due, Russia is the only country that landed a working probe on the surface and was able to take pictures. Now the downside is also true in that Russia is batting next to zero getting any of their other probes to Mars, a much more interesting and “habitable” place. And while they did get some impressive firsts in the early days of manned space flight, their plans to get to the moon literally blew up on the launchpad so many times, the Soviets pulled a Chernobyl-level classification on their efforts that lasted to well after the fall of communism. So “claiming” Venus sort of makes sense for a people who have only limited success beyond the moon and never left eighteenth-century imperialism behind.

Understand I'm not here to cast shade on the Russians. Truth be told I find Americans almost as equally obnoxious and ignorant with the United States only saving grace being that we haven't quite fallen into the authoritarian trap Russian finds itself. There's still a chance we Americans could pull our collective heads out of our asses and and be decent citizens of this planet.

Given the conditions on Venus my interest in the planet was pretty nonexistent. Now there is talk among planetary science types that as “recently” as seven-hundred-million years ago Venus might have had Earth-like conditions including oceans of liquid water. But something went sideways and its atmosphere became increasingly warmed by the greenhouse effect to the point global temperatures went critical and the water boiled away.

Over the decades a bunch of science fiction authors have wrote about terraforming the planet back to something livable. But to the best of my meager knowledge most scientific estimates of the Goldilocks Zone -the region of the solar system where liquid water could exist under certain conditions- puts Venus beyond the inner edge. Meaning to me at least that Venus is a total write off for manned exploration and settlement.

Well, shit got weird on September 14 of this year when scientists at two different radio telescope sites detected the compound phosphine in Venus's atmosphere about fifty-five kilometers above the surface. Turns out phosphine is a possible signature of life on other planets because anaerobic bacteria here on Earth produce phosphine as part of their biological processes.

In short, anaerobic organisms do NOT require oxygen for growth and may react negatively to the presence of it in their environment. Which is good for any possible bacteria-like organisms floating high up in the atmosphere of Venus because the planet has only tiny trace amounts. No, anaerobic bacteria are not some speculative or rare lifeform, in fact humans have quite of lot of the little buggers living in their gastrointestinal tract. When they get uppity humans can develop such illnesses at appendicitis, diverticulitis, or perforations of the bowel.

For the unenlightened individuals among us who like border walls, they're may be potentially alien invaders living in your gut. Let's see your deranged orange messiah build a wall and deport them back to their shithole birthplace.

Back on a serious note, the reason the astrobiology types are even mentioning anaerobic processes being responsible for the presence of phosphine is because Venus's harsh environment would normally break it apart. So some source is obviously replenishing the phosphine and while here on Earth that would mean bacteria, the possibility of it being something other than life can't be ruled out. However, we have no idea what non-biological process might account for the supply of phosphine. Obviously, further observations and even mission to Venus will be required to determine what exactly is going on in the clouds of Venus.

Going back to the days when the conditions on Venus was discovered, serious science types speculated even then about lifeforms floating in the clouds well above the hellish regions close to the surface. Somewhere around fifty-five kilometers above the surface of the planet temperatures fall to more livable levels. The sulfuric acid rain Venus is also famous for occurs below that level as well.

So incredibly, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that we could have a complex biosphere in the clouds of Venus. One scientist even speculated about jellyfish-like creatures lazily drifting in wind doing their own jellyfish-like things.

It also has to be mentioned that given the relative closeness of Venus, and Mars for that matter, any life found on those planets could have originated any of the others. That goes for Earth as well, meaning that life here might have sprung up on the other two and due to a volcanic eruption or massive impact threw life-bearing rocks into space that eventually fell to the surface. From there that primitive life did what all life does and eat, reproduce, and spread out.

Venus is not the only planet in our solar system where life might be floating in the clouds. In Carl Sagan's original Cosmos television series back in the 1980s, he speculated on lifeforms living in the clouds of Jupiter. But I believe he admitted that such a thing was highly unlikely given the chaotic and harsh conditions believed to exist in that environment.

More to the point back in the 1980s, the most accepted opinion was that the rest of our solar system was completely devoid of life. Since then there is considerable evidence to suggest that the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, the underground regions of Mars, and now Venus have a strong chance to harbor lifeforms. If I had my way, and a couple of trillion dollars within easy reach, we would be finding out as fast as possible. 



"Venus is a Russian Planet-- Say the Russians" September 18, 2020

"Life on Venus? Scientists Hunt for the Truth" October 2, 2020 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Latter-Day Prometheus - See Fan Fiction


From space the Earth looks beautiful, the blue of the oceans the green of the forests and the browns of the deserts all teem with life. But I find myself circling the world of my birth seeing it as a graveyard. I arrived home to find the greater mass of humanity having been killed in a plague that my instruments and sensors tell me happened over six-hundred years ago after my recruitment into the Cohort.

From a population that must have peaked at over eight-billion human souls before the plague, my sensors say there is only a little under ninety-million people now scratching out a near neolithic existence on the surface. After analyzing my findings, the simulations I've run suggest that the human population more than likely dropped to around two-million at its lowest point.

I came home believing I'd find my species having expanded out into the solar system. That given what the Cohort had judged as Homo sapiens probable technological growth rate, that humanity by now should have primitive starships running between the Sol system and several of the nearby stars with planets that could easily be colonized.

Instead, I find my species on the edge of extinction with no way to protect itself from what fate or circumstance might throw their way. Any number of events could occur and end all hopes for humanity eventually reaching its potential.

My Cohort training comes into effect and I send dozens of sensor pods down to the surface to try and find out what happened. As the pods descend into the atmosphere, they release billions of tiny sensors no bigger than motes of dust. These instruments would float on the wind and embed themselves on anything they touched. This included all living things and especially human bodies. In the span of days I would have a comprehensive genetic analysis on everything living.

The results come back as expected but they are horrifying nonetheless. It was a virus that destroyed civilization by killing billions all across the planet. No surprise there, but what was unexpected was that of those very few that survived the initial outbreak it burned out the visual centers of their brains leaving them blind. Worse yet, the virus was still active and is passed from mother to child. Except for the possible but rare mutant immune to the virus, the entire human race on Earth is totally blind.

The sensor dust I released is also able to record video and audio signals. With that data I am able to determine that a sight-less culture has naturally emerged among the various survivor communities. Something that could easily be predicted but the as with everything else involving my species it gets complicated. In all these blind cultures the very concept of sight is something akin to myth. In others, namely the North American continent, the blindness is considered a punishment from God for Man's sins.

From this video and audio data, I learn that fanatical groups of religious zealots scour the countryside looking people who might be sighted. The similarities to hunting for witches in North America and Europe are haunting. My sensors collect video of people having been burned at the stake.

Curing this virus-imposed blindness isn't a problem, my medical systems can analyze and develop a safe cure in a few weeks. Synthesizing the counter-virus and deploying it across the planet could be done with the dust sensors. Adults humans wouldn't regain their sight, but young children and everyone born after deployment of the cure would would be able to see.

The problem is all these blind cultures, especially the religious ones. Thousands would die at the hands of the fearful believers in God's wrath, especially the children born to sight.

It is a conundrum my Cohort mentor, Janai, would find funny in a cosmic way. It reminds me of a situation we found ourselves in just a few years ago in another part of the galaxy.


Janai found me on the shore of one of the lakes of liquid mercury the Sgrang use to breed their young. The Sgrang are a species composed largely of mercury and other elements housed in a silicon/carbon matrix and require exacting conditions for successful reproduction. Out of trillions of planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, their home world was incredibly unique. It had evolved a hydrogen/nitrogen atmosphere, something quite rare by itself, but what really set it apart was its geology. The planet was improbably rich in heavy metals all the way up to uranium and other heavy elements that didn't exist on Earth.

The evolution of life on the Sgrang home world took advantage of both the heavy metals and its above average vulcanism. So much that when the Sgrang realized one of their neighboring stars would go supernova they called for the Cohort to help them find another planet to live. The coming supernova, less than three lightyears away, would utterly sterilize their world.

The conditions on the Sgrang home world didn't allow either Janai nor myself to set foot on the surface. The Cohort had environmental suits that could stand the incredible pressure and heat, but it simply wasn't worth the risk. Instead our minds were linked to mechanical avatars allowing us to interact with the Sgrang. Beings that looked like stone caterpillars with spikes of clear crystals for eyes covering their bodies.

“Has the council come up with any ideas on where the Sgrang can go?” I ask after turning towards the ridiculous looking mechanical cephalopod standing beside my equally weird looking humanoid form.

Despite her extremely alien shape, both mechanical on the surface and biological up on the orbiting starship Janai chuckles just like a human. “The council is dumbfounded, twenty-million worlds extensively cataloged in this section of the galaxy alone and none meet the requirements. The planetary vulcanism isn't a problem, it's the Sgrang elemental composition. None of the known worlds have quite the exact composition, most have too little of the heavier elements. Too much and the young Sgrang emerge from the lakes of mercury without the normal mental capacity.”

“Has the ship contacted the Cohort Motherbases, maybe one of the central libraries knows of worlds in the one of the smaller satellite galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud or even all the way to Andromeda?” I ask my mentor as I watch Janai dip one of her ten tentacles in the mercury lake.

Unlike the fictional interstellar governments from the science fiction I read and watched on Earth, the Cohort is not based inside the galaxy. The Cohort mainly existed on gigantic bases built out in the intergalactic void. Most advanced intelligent species consider galaxies insanely dangerous places with all sorts of disasters ready to befall any lifeforms unwilling to think beyond the surface of their home mud balls.

Membership in the Cohort, something humans would not be ready for probably a millennium, required a mass relocation to one of those bases. The benefits included technology originally developed by the Elder Races and exposure of cultures of hundreds of other species. Living condition are idyllic on the residential Dyson Spheres with the extremes of planetary weather carefully controlled. Plus each member species gets living space of about the surface area of ten Earths. As long as the members behave like rational beings and control their numbers, everyone get along quite well. Plus evacuating the planetary home worlds gives evolution a chance to proceed allowing near intelligent-species to make the jump to full sentience.

After a long silence Janai finally gives her answer. “ The council is purposing a different solution.”

“What other solution is there besides seeding the Sgrang on another world?”

“Ah, my young protege, you need to stop thinking so three dimensional.” Jania says in her soft voice that usually means I'm about to get a lecture.

After she tells me her answer it is my turn to be dumbfounded. What the council wants to do violates everything I understood to be right and wrong. Janai reminds me that to be a successful Cohort diplomat I have to reserve the right to change the rules of any game I find myself playing.

I protest, but being the only hairless primate from an insanely primitive planet in the Cohort, I am ignored. At least Janai sees fit to give me several decades to think about the situation. After all, the Sgrang are vital to the science of thirty dimensional physics.

Several days later, Janai is at the main hangar of our starship to see me off for my sabbatical. “Where will you go Jacob Reese?” She asks obviously worried over her sad protege.

“Probably Earth, my dumbass people should well off the planet by now. Who knows, maybe they've crossed the threshold point for initial contact.”

“Remember Jacob,” she says stroking the hair on my head with one of her real tentacles like any concerned mother, “the universe loves to play practical jokes that cross all of spacetime.”


That memory occurs to me as I run the simulations on my ship's main computer. Despite my ship's small size the hyperdrive it uses to cross interstellar space is no different from much larger cousins. Instead of using it to cross distance though, I am forced by the situation on Earth to consider crossing time.

Deploying further dust sensors on Earth allowed me to access century old records sitting on the hardrives of ancient computers rusting away in forgotten facilities. This has allowed me to narrow down the year and month the plague first emerged.

The main purpose for the Cohort's existence has always been to reduce suffering among intelligent species and promote the expansion of life and civilization. And in the case of the Sqrang, that even means going back in time and altering their biochemical evolution just enough so that one of the cataloged worlds meets their requirements.

The science of temporal adaptation is what the Cohort calls it. Being that the Cohort is over two-hundred millions years old means they have plenty of experience in closed-loop time travel.

I am still uncertain though, if I alter time and prevent the plague from occurring I will effectively kill millions of people dooming them to a form of oblivion incomprehensible to most thinking beings. On the other hand, if I introduced the cure now it would almost certainly cause untold bloodshed with the newly emerging sighted people being persecuted by superstitious and religious types. Because if there is one constant in the universe it is backwards ignorant beings believing they know the mind of God.

In the end, saving the billions who perished during the plague and those that would have been born after is my first priority. And yes, I am not blind to the knowledge that my actions are more than a little self-serving. I want the civilization that produced me back probably most of all.

With one touch to the command screen, I bring up the holographic display and input the required codes to initiate temporal travel. I input the destination going back two-years further for a safety measure.

The holographic icon that will activate the hyperdrive floats a few centimeters in front of my hand. Swiping left will begin the operation, to the right will cancel it. My certain falters, I think of all the humans on the surface living and loving, making the best of their lives. Do I have a right to wipe them all way, not even leaving a trace that they ever existed?

Clearing my thoughts, I swipe left sending my ship and myself to that critical pivot point in human history.

Author's notes: Yes, this is a form of fan fiction and yes, my wife and I spend way too much time watching television. Our explorations of the internet entertainment channels and their offerings is embarrassing even in these Covid-dominated months. Still though, it was subscribing to Apple TV that I stumbled across one of their original shows called “See”, staring Jason Moma. The show's premise is essentially what I wrote in my humble story.

A plague sometime this century kills off the vast majority of humans. The survivors, about two-million, are all blind as a result, and so are the children that comes after them. As apocalypse entertainment goes how the producers go about building this blind world is fascinating. The viewer gets incredible hints at the complex cultures and adaptations that would arise if such an event every happened.

Humans are highly adaptable creatures but a state of blindness effecting the entire species is a form of Hell all by itself in my opinion. On the show most humans appear to live in a near neolithic state with any leftover technology akin to sacred religious relics. Even worse, being blind the sun is technically unknown to them and is worshiped and called the “God Flame” for the heat it produces. It goes without saying the survivors have no idea the moon nor stars exist. Leftover metal is called “God Bone” and is highly prized. No, there isn't any evidence that they can produce metal themselves.

My attempt with this story was to create an ethical dilemma for my character. That given the ability to change history and save billions of lives is condemning millions to oblivion less of a crime? I obviously made my choice, I'd like to hear what others think.