November 09, 2017

Home

The isolation was expected; the lonliness was not.

Even so, the work that now had to be done by a single person filled much of Daniil's time.  The solar collector had fallen out of true because of something getting into the gears - some of the perpetual dust in this place, no doubt - and the motor driving the contraption was reluctant to move correctly.

Everything they had moved slowly and gently: after all, if one broke it's not like they could simply order another.

The mission would take years to finish, and everything that could be planned for had been, as much as possible.  When Luis had died, there was a plan.  He was left, frozen in nearly the coldest temperatire that could be, and there he would remain until the ship returned home.

The vast shadow of the hundred-metre wide panel brought him back to the task at hand.  He messaged that Commander Osvaldo Luis Renato Sousa had suffered... a stroke?  Heart attack?  Daniil was unqualified to say, and less able to do anything to save him.  Medical gear available once they had built the base wasn't accessible in the rocket itself.  He had contemplated burying him on this distant moon, something the two of them had joked about during training; but that was obviously never going to happen.  Couldn't have Earthling bacteria disturbing whatever ecosystem might be discovered here.

At the stem of the rotation joint, he saw that indeed a small clip had broken, and there was a gap allowing dust to collect inside.  He removed it completely, squeezed a can of pressurized air at the dust until it was clear, then replaced the panel, taping it down before stepping back and trying the remote control.  The collector moved slowly into place, and he imagined the groaning of metal that the structure would have been made of in a thicker atmosphere and higher gravity.  It was noiseless here, of course; but if he concentrated, Daniil thought he could feel the vibration through his feet.

It was to be the two of them, sent out on a mission that could have been performed by robots, certainly; but it was very hard for robots to give interviews that would inspire the world.  This, in the end, is what decided the cause for sending humans into space at all, despite the far easier packing and launch of mechanical explorers.  It was also cheaper when there was no need to send an entire biosphere, or to worry about a return trip.

But without people, without pilots - without astronauts - interest faded in the general population.  A marvelous and frightening Catch-22 happened: it was harder to get funding for the cheaper automated flights than for the staggeringly expensive manned ones.

So here he was, in his oxygen-rich, pressurized, heated home-away-from-home for the next few years, unincluding the return.  In a space carefully designed for two that now couldn't have them both in it.  Luis' body was kept outside the station, perpetually in shadow but protected from the world's dust inside his suit.  Daniil didn't know what else to do for him.

They had brought along entertainment, of course: each had hundreds of books in lap-sized readers to go along with computer games and personal journals; but they also received messages from home.  It was nice to hear the voice of your family with a fresh message, outside from the pre-recorded videos they had brought.  And very soon the little moon would move out of the gas giant's shadow, and they would be receiving new messages.

Eventually, the Earth will be on one side of the Sun, and they the other.  The times when their moon would be blocked by the planet below were at least relatively short; much shorter than the long silence to come.  Everyone knew and planned for this, of course - anything as predictable as the movement of planets was easy - and they were going to take full advantage of it.

A small bell sounded, and he realized that the messages had downloaded while he was lost in thought.  He eagerly opened his mail, quickly looking over the titles of the things sent, trying to guess what story they told before looking further.  Half of them came with a warning to NOT BE OPENED UNTIL various dates days apart from each other.  He half-smiled: he'd try, but no promises.

There was also a message from Luis' mother.  He, Daniil, was to go ahead and open all the messages to her son, and use them to believe he was still there, in the base.  Daniil hadn't looked at his friend's mail, wanting to leave it unopened for their return.  He opened it now.

A television studio kitchen appeared, with a live audience clapping, and Daniil laughed out loud: Luis had talked about learning how to cook when he got back from this mission, so his mother must have sent this along to encourage him.

The announcer was speaking quickly, and Daniil couldn't follow, but when the camera panned over the ingredients on the counter, he saw that they were all pre-packaged meals that had come with them on the flight.  She must have talked a celebrity chef into doing special episodes just for Luis, recording them all before they had even left Earth!  The voice-over got faster and increased in pitch, and Daniil found himself laughing and clapping along with the audience as the camera zoomed in on the chef bursting forth from the curtains, through a big purple COZINHANDO COM AMOR!

It was Luis' mother.  She was going to teach her son to cook, even if it was from a billion kilometers away.

Daniil stopped the video and sat until he could see clearly again.  Then he looked at the ingredients, wrote down what they were, and gathered them in the small galley, bringing his tablet with him.

He hit play and concentrated.

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posted by Erin Butler at 6:08 pm 0 comments

September 16, 2017

Locked Tight

July 13, 2017
RE: Incident on Oak Street Bridge, July 13, 2017, 3:25 PM

Interview conducted at Granville Downtown South Community Policing Centre

Questioning of two suspects, one male one female, at 4:45 PM

Male Suspect transcript follows:

Suspect: Have you ever been in love officer?  Really in love?

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: No sure we've all had that.  I don't mean that I mean really in love.  Like really really.  No no really.  Because love real love like that inspires great moments from people.  Great big dramatic symbolic moments of of of inspiration.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: I'm getting to the knife officer thank you.  I hadn't forgotten.  Everything leads to everything else I think you'll find if given enough time to get there.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Oh fine then.  It's all the locket's fault.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: The heart-shaped locket with a picture of each of us inside on a gold chain.  Surely even you realize the symbolism of that?

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Could have surprised me.  Just making sure as the locket shares the burden of guilt with love.  Pure mad love sweet and effervescent -

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: I'm not sure how talkative applies to love but it is a fine word.  As I was saying.  We had had some slight disagreement over my last symbolic gesture I made to my lady love and so I -

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: That's the one.  Consequently I promised to make them smaller and as she put it more discrete though I prefer the term intimate.  I had asked her to meet me on the Capilano Suspension Bridge but neither of us could get there with our vehicles getting impounded because of the uh ah the -

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Yes that though I prefer the term making love if you please.  They may be inanimate objects but there's no reason to be crude about it.  The bridge on Oak Street was a reasonable compromise in that we could walk there and it was a bridge.  I brought along a special gift for her and indeed for us that I would show her when we reached the exact middle of the span nine hundred twenty metres if you feel the need to know and there we would be joined in a beautiful unbreakable union.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Of course not the knife!  What do you think I am crazy?  Well?  Well?  Well?

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Let me ask you something then officer.  Have you ever travelled to the City of Light?  Ah Paris!  There was a glorious tradition there on the Pont des Arts bridge of couples together putting a padlock on the bridge and tossing the keys into the water below.  It is a beautiful gesture only slightly marred by the city cutting the fencing away because forty five tonnes of locks were damaging the bridge structure.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Yes well this was somewhat less wasn't it?  Three ounces or something.  And I wanted to put one lock on rather than thousands.  If others wanted to follow my lead then they would merely be pale imitations of the original.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Original here, I mean.  The first in a new place is still an original.  Hey no offence but what exactly are the educational requirements to be a police officer?  In any case when the GPS alert on my phone told me we were in the exact middle I stopped her and held forth the lock engraved with our names and handed her one of the keys.  It was beautiful although a bit warm after walking that far in the middle of the day.  The wind was nice.
[Pause]

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: I am reliving that perfect and wonderful moment in my mind.  It went a bit sideways after that.
[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Yes well yes this is sort of the bit where the knife gets involved but that's just a little later if you will.  Once we caught our breath we talked about it and decided to snap the lock shut while we both held it and  throw the keys into the water together at the same time.  Even more romantically we would kiss as it closed joining our lips together even as the shackle firmly entered its snug home forever.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: In your opinion.  We on the other hand found it to be a beautiful moment.  Very symbolic.  It was shortly after that when we realized that the locket -

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: The same.  When we leaned out to toss the keys off the bridge said locket swung forward, looping into the shackle as we closed it.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Quite a long chain since she wears it out of sight of everyone unless we are together, symbolizing that our love needs not be -

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: That's not very nice.  As it happens the wind had blown her hair rather dramatically during our walk and it was rather nastily entangled in the locket chain which wasn't helped by her pulling at it when neither of us could reach the clasp.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: Not right away but when the officer who arrested us showed up we had been arguing about what to do about it for three hours.  I understand how having a knife in my hand while yelling at an apparently captive woman in the middle of a bridge might look alarming to passers by but it was entirely innocent.

[Oficer speaks]

Suspect: Except she didn't want me to cut off any of her hair which I think was a bit unreasonable of her.

[Officer speaks]

Suspect: In retrospect I'd have to say that larger romantic gestures are on the whole safer than smaller ones.  In my experience.

End transcript.

Female Suspect was questioned after.
Female Suspect transcript follows:

Suspect: He's such a dork.

End transcript.

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posted by Erin Butler at 10:06 am 0 comments

June 03, 2016

This is Getting Stupid

I know what the arguments are.  I've heard them, I've seen them.
They're dumb.
Really, really, dumb.

Anyone who thinks of themselves as progressive or liberal or lefty in any way but STILL insists that having Trump as President of the United States is a good thing is either lying to themselves, lying to people they're talking to, or has given up on the whole 'thinking' part of what they're saying.

Should she get the nomination (and it looks like she will) Clinton will be running the most left-wing campaign in 40 years.  And that, in a large way, is thanks to the successful Sanders campaign.  The Democrats in power, the DNC, and all the hidden folks no one sees know what that populism has done for their base.  They can, believe it or not, see it on the television just like everyone else does; and they'll be perfectly happy to tap into it.

Note: that's what SUCCESSFUL campaigns do.  They draw people to them.

And this leads to perhaps the 'smartest'(?) argument of the Bernie Alone crowd: the idea that somehow the population will suddenly turn to the left after seeing the nightmare that would be a Trump presidency.

It doesn't work that way.  Seriously, it just doesn't.  It never has, and it never will.

Bill Clinton beat the First Bush by moving right politically, which included compromise policies during his time in office and during his campaigns.  He won because the political right was winning, so he moved towards them enough to get the votes he needed to get in power in the first place.  The Second Bush won (barely) by... well, I'm pretty sure you know the history.

In short: a Trump win would push the Democrats to the political right, not left.  They have to win before they can enact any policies - that's not something to forget.  All those 'progressives' who will stay at home?  Why the hell would anyone try to get your votes?  You stay at home!  You don't vote, so you literally don't matter in an election.

As for stupider arguments, those are easy to find, too.  I've seen one saying that whoever sits on the Supreme Court is irrelevant, because they die off all the time.  To which I say: whay rulings have been delayed because of the current gridlock?  Oh, yeah: reproductive rights, voting rights, education funding, freedom from religion in the workplace, immigrant rights...

So, sure, if none of those matter, then you're absolutely correct.  Otherwise, you're wrong.  But you're probably wealthy enough (hello, Susan Sarandon!  You're an idiot!) to remain unaffected in your personal life by any of those decisions.  Laws affect the poor in their daily lives far more than they do the rich or middle class.

I've seen another argument saying that it 'won't be that bad' if Trump is president.  To which... Dude.  Okay, I think he's a better person than Ted Cruz, but only because he's ignorantly evil rather than actively evil.

Otherwise, Trump is a void waiting to be filled by whatever happens to be around him.  He is a man with no ideas for running a government.  None.  He has no policies, he has no priorities, and he never had any intention of winning the nomination, never mind the general election.  He will sign whatever piece of paper is thrust in front of him by whoever screams his praises loudest - and when you're in Washington, D.C. that means some professional level bootlickers.  He will not care what the policy is so long as he gets his 10:30 AM rimming on schedule.

And that policy is going to be made by people who have no fear of lying to his face.  Politically speaking, he is going to be the most easily manipulated president since Warren "Gee-he's-pretty-bet-I-can-make-him-president" Harding.

Internationally?  He's got skin so thin they'd be bragging about it in any culinary school.  Slices of Trump, hold it up to the light and you can see right through it.  Think Putin wouldn't walk big, slow circles around him?

Then there's the argument that Clinton is a Hawk - aggressive on international policy, and prone to war.  That's certainly possible, given her stance as Secretary of State.  But perhaps you should look up who The Vulcans are, and why they are all Republicans.  And if you're concerned about war, perhaps you shouldn't elect the man who throws tamper tantrums when he can't build a golf course in Scotland; or through inaction allow him to get elected.

Just a thought.

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posted by Erin Butler at 11:59 am 0 comments