when are you actually in space?

A whole lot of very, very rich and famous people are going to be making their first trips into “space” in the next year or two.  There are essentially three private companies getting launches out the door:  Amazon, Tesla, and Galactic.  These aren’t their actual company names but you all know the three lunatic billionaires behind all this.  These genius businessmen / ten year old boys are going to send people up there for millions in coin per ticket.  Plus they’ll go up on their own.  Bezos is going first.

There’s also an effort to send people up to the ISS.  There are currently two competing movie companies sending Russian and American film teams up to the ISS to shoot C grade movies that’ll look like trash.  I think Tom Cruise is the American guy, because of course.  This is not a joke.  He’ll get space madness (his normal demeanor) and treat everybody around him like human garbage (also his normal demeanor) before the drunken Russian botanist puts him out the airlock.  Then Cruise will get what he always wanted, seven billion people always able to look at him for all eternity.  But seriously, Tom’s a talented fun actor.

But, what exactly is the barrier of space?  As in, when are you actually in space.  Though behind a play wall, The Economist gives a pretty good background for the accepted definition.  But apparently there really isn’t an accepted definition.  It’s between 80-100 kilometers up depending on who you ask.  BUT, this is not enough altitude to actually put you into orbit.  You get up there, see the black, feel some lack of gravity, but you end up coming straight back down to Earth like an artillery shell.

So if Bezos goes up there in his rocket, and only feels weightlessness for a few minutes, and then immediately comes back down on a parabolic trajectory is that actually space?  No.

We propose a new definition of space.  We’ll call it the Arcturus Space Definition Those Who Disagree Will Be Purged First (ASDTWDWBPF):  You have to reach orbit, and then complete a single orbit.  Then you’ve been to space.  Anything less than that, in terms of altitude or length of time in space, then you haven’t been to space.

Gagarin completed a single Earth orbit 70 years ago.  He went to space.  If you want in on the space club, you have to match Gagarin’s flight at minimum.  Otherwise, you’re a fraud and total loser.

Unrelated picture of a Bond villain who’s actually not going to get to space.  So Bond is unimpressed, ignores nonexistent space travel, takes the day off, gets blasted in a Moscow bar, toasts Gagarin, takes three Russian women back to his hotel room.

Uncle Xi promises “credible, loveable and respectable” future & “bears and fluffy bunnies”

In a three hour and 34 minute huggable tirade, fueled by esoteric party speak mixed with Xi Thought, Xi Jinping, Ordinary Average Chinese Citizen, Football Lover, Journeyman Bridge Player, & Secret The Walking Dead Aficionado appeared to chart a new path in China’s diplomatic demeanor, according to various news services. Xi promised a “credible, loveable and respectable China.”

Xi’s comments perhaps herald a change in China’s diplomatic verbiage which in the past few years has increasingly focused upon a so called “Wolf Warrior” style of interaction with the world. A current example being China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, calmly, and professionally admonishing critics of China’s handling of covid-19 by promising to “slit the throats of the haters in their sleep; then we steal their family heirloom silverware.”

Xi’s comments might perplex the practitioners of the Wolf Warrior style. Said another anonymous Chinese official, “Look, Wolf Warrior might be a B grade action movie for teenage boys who can’t get a hard-on (Editor’s Note: And will struggle to find a Chinese bride due to gender ratios), but so was Delta Force. In my mind Reagan was always dual wielding a pair of Uzi’s as he defeated the Soviet Union. What we’ve always prayed for is Xi dual wielding a pair of Type 82 machine pistols and tearing through Hong Kong’s financial district like Chuck Norris does in Beirut. After all, Chairman Xi never sleeps, he waits. I truly hope our beloved Chairman isn’t depriving us of this right, this blessed dream.”

Xi also vowed in his speech to make available to the world’s population more “bears and fluffy bunnies”. Zoo enthusiasts were delighted, hoping this meant that additional Chinese pandas would be made available worldwide where they are the darlings of children at any zoo and top billing for any live streaming webcam.

Pundits however contended that Xi might have meant “bears” as in everybody’s favorite lovable honey thieving scamp, Winnie the Pooh. Many wondered if Xi would make an attempt to nationalize his namesake for an internal audience. Children’s movie critics everywhere were fearful of the impacts of Disney’s upcoming 2021 film, Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation.

“Let’s face it,” said one children’s book author, “China hasn’t really been a fan of intellectual property anyways, so they’ll take what they want, and Disney won’t complain because they essentially work for China. Hell, Disney will probably even apologize to Xi for having had to make him illegally appropriate Winnie in the first place. They’ll pay him back royalties or something.”

Cena likes money

John Cena likes money. That’s about all you need to say in conclusion after watching his forced, hostage video-like, confession of crimes that would make even the most jaded of Community Party goons proud and open to tears.

I mean, you could take it to extremes and be like: John Cena hates democracy, universal human rights, and supports genocide. That would probably be accurate, but still at least a little over the top for what’s actually inside his brain.

But the reality doesn’t really get past the hard goal of coin. John Cena likes money. China has money Hollywood wants China’s money. Hollywood will do as China tells it. John Cena will do as China tells him.

You need look no further for other examples than LeBron James / entire NBA (who worship BLM, but who also somehow apparently don’t believe in universal human rights, but also love money) or Zucky (who still has a copy of Xi’s book on the desk inside his heart, and who also loves money).

One of China’s most effective weapons is not what it does, but what it makes money loving cowards do for them without prompting. China didn’t send a knife wielding goon to Cena’s house. Cena did this entirely on his own. It’s quite pathetic. Cena is a grown man allowing somebody he’s never met determine what he says.

You know I just watched Five Came Back by Netflix where it chronicles how Ford, Wyler, Capra, Huston, and Stevens basically left Hollywood to put their lives and careers on the line to defeat fascism. It cost them their bodies and their brains for the rest of their lives.

I guess if China invaded Taiwan, or China continues to exterminate an entire culture, or if China sank a few US aircraft carriers, Cena would have to apologize to China for all the trouble we caused them.

I think Cena, James, Zucky, and all these celebrities and tech goons think the rules are different now. That China is not Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, or Soviet Russia. And so taking China’s money is perfectly fine. That they will do as they’re told, cash that check, and there couldn’t possibly be consequences.

They should tell that to their Muslim neighbor, particularly if they’re Uighur. Or maybe they can go on record and explain to America why they think Communist China is awesome, and how Democratic Taiwan is full of losers. In the meantime, it completely exposes them as money loving hypocrites who society should ignore, but won’t.

There is a very clear choice. China is not shy of describing what kind of world they want the 21st Century to generate. They’re not lying, it’s all very clearly put out there by Xi and his people. But these dudes have made a choice, and the choice is money.

just how bad it can get

Written by a correspondent in Delhi from The Economist:

Correspondent’s diary


India’s second wave of covid-19 feels nothing like its first


Holed up in Delhi, where friends are falling ill too fast to count


Diary


Apr 30th 2021


DELHI


WE ARE AMID an ocean of human suffering but cannot see it. Having returned abruptly to the kind of isolation we hoped we had put behind us months ago, my wife, our two little boys and I are staying put in our nice flat, in a leafy “colony” near the centre of Delhi. Our new rule is strict: we do not go outside for any reason. The past 12 months have trained us well enough for that; these routines are well-worn, for parents and children. We grown-ups however cannot stay away from our phones, and so peace of mind is a distant memory. My wife just called from downstairs. Her friend’s brother-in-law needs an oxygen concentrator or he is likely to die at home. If we find one for him (and she is already working her connections), can we scrounge enough cash to buy another, for ourselves?


The mind’s eye is filled with pictures of desperate families scrambling after oxygen cylinders, failing more often than not. All day the early-summer heat has me picturing bodies, bagged and stacked on the pavement, waiting their turn for the pyres that burn everywhere across the city. Sometimes I switch off the screen in my home office on the second floor and step onto the roof terrace to water potted plants and scan the neighbourhood below. All is quiet and green. Smoke from the crematorium down the street has disappeared into the usual haze of the season. Our small park is more leaf-blown than usual, but someone has been watering there too. A security guard at the corner is wearing his mask, but he’s been doing that for a year now, as if the past month were nothing new. In contrast to the first lockdown, the milkman is still coming and newspapers are being delivered.


Yet everything has changed, with a speed that we still cannot comprehend. My family had hunkered down much harder than most. We kept our social life in forfeit and wore masks outdoors, if not always at the playground. We had come to seem like laggards within India. Most of this country began to relax after September if not earlier, as the caseload started to drop. Just last month I started travelling again—I was road-tripping through weekly markets, sampling country liquor offered by strangers for a cute feature story, then watching a jubilant political rally fill a small town’s bazaar. Days later I was dandling my two-year-old on my lap at an airport, sharing his first iced lolly. Those were the before times. A fortnight later, back in Delhi, I find that more than half of my friends have covid-19, in their families if not in their own bodies. Acquaintances are dying faster than they can be counted. I read in the papers that the forestry department is clear-cutting parkland to feed more wood to those pyres.


The official news outlets also bring the daily statistics: 386,000 new infections today, 208,000 dead counted since the pandemic began. Between the lines, it is possible to read the disclaimers too. If only 1.7m tests are being conducted per day, what can that 386,000 really mean? Is it that 0.0004% of the country has come down with the virus since yesterday, or that nearly 23% did? That would be 314m people, nearly the whole population of America. Obviously, the true number lies between those absurd extremes, but who knows where? The statistics about death tolls are more nakedly false. It is plain that thousands are dying every day, but who, where and exactly how many we cannot know, thanks to some petty deceptions but mostly sheer confusion. I get a better sense from the piecemeal reporting in Indian websites covering, say, the smaller towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh, where none of the official line can be trusted, than from my fellow observers forced to stay in the capital.


But the saddest and also the most terrifying accounts all come via the phone, in texts or panicked voices. Everyone is ill and no one can find medical help. Stating the obvious, the American embassy mass-messages, “Access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited in India due to the surge in Covid-19 cases” and concludes that my fellow Americans should make plans to leave the country “as soon as it is safe to do so”. Social-media feeds are an endless list of pleas on behalf of the dying. A friend from Lucknow, living in New York, writes elegant, almost daily obituaries for friends from his hometown—three of them, I can’t help noting, are my age, and at least one was, also like me, fully vaccinated.


I have a nightly ritual of phone calls to check on friends within a two-mile radius. An elderly woman has recovered, but feels distraught that her neighbours across the street both died. Another friend’s aunt is still ailing but in the meantime her husband died—I hadn’t heard he was infected. Newborn twins, their parents and their nanny are all running a fever in tandem. A WhatsApp group set up by foreign journalists to discuss visa issues has become another place to plead for help finding medical supplies. It informs me that the clinic where I found my own second dose of AstraZeneca a week ago has run out of vaccines. Only 1.8% of the country has been fully vaccinated and it is anybody’s guess how long it will take to manufacture or import the roughly 2bn doses we are left wanting.


Watching the other international correspondents fall ill and scramble to leave tends to make me want to stay behind these locked doors, with my potted plants and boisterous little kids. Appliances may be breaking down, but our groceries keep coming and the WiFi works. An NGO in Delhi counts more than 100 Indian journalists who have died of covid-19, 52 of them this month. For their bravery, I am able to read about those pyres, without having to risk seeing them for myself.


This horror is noticed abroad. Messages from faraway friends I haven’t seen in years convince me of that. They are worried for us and I am happy to reassure them that we four are fine, relieved to be talking about the situation from the bird’s-eye view of my terrace. Much easier on the nerves than ringing up the next-door neighbour to find out whether our mutual friend is still alive.


But my long-distance conversations convince me that something has been lost in the transmission. These well-read friends in Europe, America and East Asia never understood how different the past year of covid was, here in India—and so they cannot understand what it feels like now to hit the vertical wall of this so-called second wave. I struggle to convey that we have not been on a wavy ride, like Britain’s or some American states’. Look at the shape of our graphs. Our first surge was scary, but tapered away like the tail of a paper tiger. The virus had spread everywhere during 2020, no doubt, despite a brutal lockdown and other efforts at containment. Sero-positivity surveys conducted in some cities showed that majorities of large populations had been exposed to the coronavirus and developed antibodies to it. But Indian bodies resisted it, perhaps, they say, because of “cross immunity” gained unnoticed over lifetimes lived amid the barrage of everyday germs. The rickety hospitals stayed afloat too, and eventually their covid wards emptied. By the beginning of 2021 we were saying that 150,000 Indians had died. For perspective: three times as many die from tuberculosis every year. “At the beginning of this pandemic, the whole world was worried about India’s situation,” the prime minister, Narendra Modi, recalled in a triumphal mood only in February. “But today India’s fight against corona is inspiring the entire world.”


India fought a phony war and—by dumb luck—it won. Then suddenly, less than three weeks ago, our world turned upside down. Having taken credit for his country’s divine good fortune of last year, Mr Modi will want to shrug off blame for the second wave, as if it were an act of God which no preparation could have averted or even lessened. There is a lot to say about what could have been done instead. Yet without any of the government’s self-serving intentions, many of the rest of us feel convinced that a different disease has emerged since our year-long dry run began. Covid-21 I find myself calling it.


The facts one would need to build that case stay stubbornly out of reach. The available genomic analysis shows that the distinctively Indian “double mutant” variant, B.1.617, is prevalent in some parts of the country but not in Delhi, where the Kentish B.1.1.7 is like wildfire. India is woefully behind in sequencing its strains, having only announced a genomic consortium in December 2020 and then funding it only in March.


What is clear to clinicians, as opposed to the boffins, is that covid-21 is more transmissible than the kind we saw last year. A doctor friend tells another friend in her podcast that this is “much much more contagious, much much more transmissible than the wild variety of covid-19.” It used to be that just one member of a household might catch it. Now everyone does. In our extended family, in Kolkata, 13 of 15 people under one roof became infected before any showed symptoms.


Its “immune-escape” mutations are formidable. Being vaccinated, I am sensitive to the stories of inoculated people falling ill—which could not be more common, in my social circles—and even dying. The vaccines are saving lives, no doubt. Deaths among the fully vaccinated are rare; I hear of them only among friends of friends of friends, like the poor 25-year-old lab technician in a hospital whose best friend teaches German to a pal of mine over Zoom.
Which brings us to the fact that this time young people and even children are developing symptoms, including an erstwhile quarantine-playmate of our four-year-old. Younger adults are becoming severely ill, as they did not last year. Finally, those people who have had the disease twice, a plentiful category thanks to that “immune-escape” feature, say that the reinfection feels different. The fever comes quicker and they are more prone to developing pneumonia.
Dumb, divine luck with covid-19, and now the bad luck of covid-21, as if it were retribution. That is the way it feels to those of us who find ourselves without access to reliable aggregations of information, but awash in personal anecdotes. I suspect that someday biomedical research may prove that the two kinds of luck were connected, but we will have to wait years for that.


For now there is much outrage. Maybe Mr Modi’s government will pay a price for its blunders and complacency. I suspect that this is mostly expressed as a wishful diversion, in tragic pursuit of a silver lining. That would be a way for my part of Delhi, those who have the privilege of sitting at home and contemplating escape, to take a break from our primary occupations: fear and sorrow.

important people, get important awards, say important things

My Guests and I didn’t watch the Oscars and simply don’t care.  We love old movies and old Hollywood.  Now everything sucks.  So we don’t watch, and would rather examine different kinds of beach sand in a laboratory than learn who won.

The Oscars used to be alongside the Super Bowl as a much watch event for the whole country each year.  But that was decades ago.  I can’t fathom a human being who still watches this running joke.  Though I’m sure plenty of decent, good people do so for their own reasons.  Hey we all have our own guilty pleasures, folks!  Mine’s beer, and more beer.

Anyways, we’ve come up with some belligerent guesses on how all this played out:

1) Most of the awards went to obscure arthouse projects and actors for films that almost nobody saw or will ever see

2) The ceremony dragged on for a bloated five plus hours as these self-identified very, very important people stroke their own egos with delicious hot fry oil

3) A celebrity made it a point to show and/or state how rich they are compared to YOU, the poor shit eating masses

4) Various, multiple, one-sided, unneeded, petulant, militant comments were made about the current state of American politics

5) Conversely, no mention was made about China’s current, daily crimes, because Hollywood wants China’s money and supporting evil helps with that

6) One or both Clooney’s offered a remark that made the audience desire to shoot one or both of them into the Sun via giant clown cannon

7) Bogart’s ghost appeared on stage and stated deadpan, “I hate the lot of ya.  You’re not real people.  I wouldn’t ever have a drink with any of ya.”

8) A woman clutched the Oscar statue, and quoted 37 Me Too platitudes, all without understanding the same statue is still held without shame by an acknowledged child girl rapist

9) George Lucas showed up, and tried to get everybody to shake his hand so it could be remembered that he is, in fact, still alive

10) Militant anti-film luddites stormed the stage wielding plastic bats and proclaimed a return to a “Heroic Book Future” before being subjected to tasers

Fin

live by the sword, and die by it

All the best battlefield commanders of our generation are in Africa. All the West’s haughty generals and admirals are only good for losing wars for the last 20 years while simultaneously running their hallowed institutions into the ground.

Perhaps the absolute best battlefield commander alive on the planet is Paul Kagame, Dictator & Overlord of Rwanda, Teddy Bear Darling of the International Development Community, If You Like Your Teddy Bear to be Really Stabby, Stranglee, and Shootee.

Another is Idriss Deby of Chad. Deby lasted over three decades and probably woke up every single one of those days wondering who was trying to kill him or who he was trying to kill. Photographs can tell quite the story. Just get a load of this photo, this was not a man you messed with:

Chad’s army on both paper and in photographs looks like a bunch of kook losers.

Don’t be fooled. Chad’s army is one of the most base lethal on the planet and it’s because of Deby and the fact he’s kept them at war for 30 years straight.

Well, now his luck has finally run out. Apparently Deby was killed on the very day of his sixth presidential “election” up in Chad’s north by the 427th round of rebellion against him. The details are very vague and strange and I’m super skeptical here. It just doesn’t make sense. Personally, I think somebody inside his own circle did him in, but I’m just straight guessing. If his battle death was legit, it would be super appropriate and a proper end to Deby’s life if he died on his 1,317th completely meaningless skirmish.

Now all the generals have rallied around Deby’s son, who is in his late 30’s and happens to be a four star general (I wonder why). I don’t know anything about this guy, he could be awesome on the battlefield too. But just look at this photo, I can’t make up my mind:

I can’t decide whether this photo is of a subdued, calm killing machine, or of a little man who will struggle all his life to replace his Father. It’s probably both.

Meanwhile, after three decades of Deby’s rule, Chad remains mostly destitute, with grinding, unspeakable poverty for at least 1/5 to 1/2 of the population. Granted, Chad is on the Sahel, and so not all of this was Deby’s fault. But after three decades in power anything that happens to your country is your fault.

Deby was a brilliant general, but a terrible president. Now, onto the son. It’s positively medieval.

soon, Mars will be your holiday destination

So the new Mars rover (there are so many now it’s hard to keep track of which is which) brought a helicopter with it. Or more accurately, a little drone that weighs four pounds and is probably so brittle your three year old could break it whilst holding a candy cane.

Mars’ atmosphere is so thin the two twin blade props on the thing had to spin at an insane rotation rate to attain the necessary lift. You can see the NASA video here:

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight | NASA

Pretty cool. That’s no kidding a human creation in flight on another planet.

Essentially this is a test bed for future airborne drones which could be used to explore Mars far more effectively than a ground based rover crawling around at 1.73 kph.

But I’m insane, so all of this is minor scraps for me. What I REALLY want to know is:

1) When will the NASA airborne drones be armed with guided missiles and chain guns?

2) In keeping with Humanity’s desire to destroy everything including ourselves, when will these armed drones be used to exterminate all remaining life on Mars?

3) After extinction, when will Mars be available as your pristine holiday destination?

These are important things to consider. Too harsh? Wrong. After all, Mars started it. We’ll make sure Earth finishes it.

disconnect everything you can

Recently, a town of 15K people near Tampa, Florida nearly had their entire water supply poisoned by a hacker. Somebody hacked the system and increased the lye content of the water to poison levels. Only the actions of a very alert employee (who should be the guest of honor at the next Super Bowl) saved 15K people from drinking poison.

Guess what, nobody cares. To me, this should be front page news for a week. To others, the Brittney Spears documentary and the Aunt Jemima rebrand are more important. These news articles go above the near poisoning of 15K Americans, which is off the front page after less than a day. So this is another reminder of how debased and useless the modern media is.

I can’t stress this enough, disconnect everything you can. I’m a former loser computer science major. I’ve never used computer science, but am still a loser. If you have four hours, give me a shout and I’ll explain to you in intricate detail just how unsecure the Internets is.

You cannot secure the Internets. At its most basic 0 and 1 level, it can’t ever be totally secure. This goes back to how the founders of the Internets designed the backstage to be totally open and freewheeling. When these dudes made the Internet’s core coding and theory, security wasn’t even on their top 100 concerns.

I was helping my Ma troubleshoot her fridge this weekend, spoiler alert, never buy an LG fridge. In the manual they have Wi-Fi instructions. Why does your fridge need to connect to the Internets? Soon your freaking pacemaker will be. What the fuck are people thinking? I think they don’t understand just how unsecure this all is. The “Internet-of-Things” is a fucking dystopian nightmare in waiting.

You need a phone and a computer to connect to the Internets. Oh, and a gaming console, if that’s your thing. Disconnect everything else. As the bumbled coronavirus response has shown, if you’re counting on the government to protect you, you have the wrong idea. You have to protect yourself.

a different flavor of coup

I feel quite comfortable in saying that if you’re a country’s leader, but guilty of genocide, that it’s not actually a coup if you get yourself overthrown. Aung San Suu Kyi rightly lost her darling status years ago. So she doesn’t merit the coup term if a bunch of folks put her back into house arrest with a bunch of tanks in the driveway. Her own people have suffered much worse, by the millions.

Plus, Burma isn’t a real democracy. Sure, there are now two full sets of elections in the past, but the Army never really gave up full power. The Army always maintained the interior and exterior security ministries, and rigged the game so the legislature was always at least minority controlled by them. So is a really a coup when the Army never actually gave up power? I suppose so, I guess, if you go by the dictionary.

But it doesn’t mean we have to care. Or do anything about it. Swapping Suu Kyi with an Army goon general is just swapping one form of evil from another. They deserve each other. Burma’s people don’t.

the Dutch are rioting, wait, uh, what?

So the Dutch are tearing up their streets over covid restrictions. Because apparently there are still people on the planet who don’t get this virus thing, I guess it’s only been around a year, so there’s probably a few folks who’re still coming back from Cohaagen’s latest Mars tourist shot.

That the Dutch are rioting is like saying the French are pouring out their wine into the Seine in protest against [insert any topic here]. It’s the French who like to tear up their streets at the drop of a hat, not the bicycle, pot smoking, polite Dutch. I mean, the Dutch did riot and butcher their prime minister in the streets once. But that was like over three hundred years ago.

You know sooner or later every interest group in the Western world is going to realize that if you want something, violent riots are the way to do it. The police will stop them, eventually, but with the police on such a tight leash they’re never going to be able to totally control mass groups of people organized via social media. Rioters have the clear advantage, maybe as never before.

All those street riots in America this year, plus the Capitol, plus the French yellow jackets, and I guess now the freaking Dutch. I’m not sure what else to say other than, get used to this. If they desire, a crowd can take over a city now, for a short while. Whenever they want.

Well, at least they didn’t skin somebody alive this time.