Tag Archives: space

Bloat To Self

There came a startling knocking sound…

“That’s odd,” I grumbled to myself. “What the hell is that?” I looked around and it seemed to be coming from a mysterious object I had once named, at random, a “door.” Found upon the door was a piece of spherically-shaped metal which I brilliantly intuited could be used to pry the bloody thing open.

Gazing through the gaping portal I saw a most hideous thing standing on the go-away mat. “What the hell are you?” I gasped.

With an eerily familiar voice it replied, “I’m you from the future.”

My mind reeled. “How far in the future?”

“Tomorrow, to be exact.” God, it sure was ugly. It looked irritated and menacing, too. “Are you going to invite me in?”

Once inside it looked around the living room as if with the eyes of a child. “You’ll have to forgive me,” it said. “This sure brings back memories.”

By now I was feeling pretty damn irritated. My normal routine had been severely disrupted. “I’m feeling damn irritated,” I said. “You’re severely disrupting my normal routine.”

For a second it lost it’s composure. “Don’t you think I know that?!” it snapped ferociously. It took a deep breath and slowly exhaled then seemed to go limp in resignation. After an awkward silence, it finally continued. “I’m here to help you,” it said softly. “To help both of us.”

“Go on,” I barked.

“A few minutes from now,” it said ominously, “something is going to happen. Something completely out of the normal. Something disastrous. I’m here to stop it.”

Suddenly I noticed a gun in it’s hand. That’s odd, I thought lamely to myself. We don’t own a gun. What the hell had happened to me?

Bang. The gun went off. I fell to the floor while clutching my stomach in pain. He had shot our most prized possession. He had just shot our LCD 42″ flat screen TV.

“You son of a bitch! You die!” I screamed as I felt my life oozing away. “Why??”

“Poor little idiot,” he said, literally looking down on me. I couldn’t help but notice he was starting to twinkle, almost as if he was slowly dissolving away. He smiled.

He looked at his dissolving hand in wonderment. “It worked, it worked,” he said, forgetting the question that was currently pending on the floor. Then an expression of fear gripped his hideous face. “At least this time.”

“What worked?”

His expression changed to one of resolve then went soft as if he had reached some sort of climactic decision. “What I’m about to say may end the space-time continuum as we know it, everywhere, everything, but fuck it. It might be our only chance.”

“Wha…”

“Shut up!” he hissed. “We have very little time.” By now he was about fifty percent translucent, much like the time I had tried to Photoshop a profile image using a real picture of my own face.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said to himself, ignoring me completely. “I never watch broadcast TV. I never even turn it on. I hate the commercials. I avoid it like the plague. But I was supposed to be working. So, yeah, I guess that might be how it happened.”

He turned and looked me in the eye. “I turned on the TV,” he said. He was starting to scare me. “I did it on purpose. It was showing the CBS morning show. God help me, I don’t know why, but I watched.” I was stunned to see tears streaming down his face. “They called it ‘Note to Self.’ Oh God, why did I watch?”

He was almost gone now. He sparkled like a glinty trick of light and I had to lean and strain to hear what he had to say.

“Don’t do what I did. Don’t ever, EVER,” he hissed, “make the mistake of watching Note to Self. It’ll be the death of you.”

And with that, he was gone.

Dazed, I slowly got to my feet and swayed. Wow. What a trip. And what an idiot. How the hell was I going to watch anything with a bullet in my TV? And how the hell was I supposed to avoid doing real actual work?

More importantly, who was going to clean up that mess of ectoplasm where the bastard had been standing?

Comic: The Vacuum of Space

space-vaccum

The Crustacean

martian-2Spoiler alert: For astronaut Mark Whatney, former Martian, it was a bad trip. Upon his safe return to terra firma he tossed his helmet away, breathed deeply and said, “Fuck space.”

He was still an adventurer, though, so two years later was exploring the depths of the deepest oceans on Earth when he was accidentally left behind.

There he was forced to grow seaweed and sea cucumbers and survive on oxygen he derived from shells and Bunsen burners.

Mark Whatney had become The Crustacean.

I won’t spoil that ending, either, but he did eventually return to space travel.

Venus: Whatney daringly visits the second planet in our solar system and his faceplate is briefly blown loose during an EVA. Yes, you guessed it. He becomes The Venetian Blinded.

His eyesight eventually returned and he went on to visit Uranus, but I have absolutely nothing to say about that trip.

Amazonian Space–Time Continuum

minority-reportWho likes to wait? Not me! That’s why I went back in time to write this post. Ah, here it is! What took so long?

Once upon a time I was in a serious quandary. I wanted some cheap, plastic, materialistic consumer shit made in China and I wanted it now. What to do, what to do?

As I saw it, there were two choices.

I could haul my fat ass up and out of my chair, somehow make it to the car, drive to a big-box store, somehow make it inside and navigate the maze to (hopefully) the right section where the object of my desire might be found. All the while being blasted by a tasty mix of songs scientifically designed to make me spend more money. (The mix is a rotation of two songs. Happy, by Pharrell Williams and anything by Mumford & Sons.)

I say “might” because I’ve tried this in the past and it didn’t quite work out. Ever go to the store to buy one specific thing? After expending incredible effort (see previous paragraph) you learn it isn’t even there. Out of stock. I do not believe there is a worse feeling in the entire universe.

And that other choice I mentioned earlier? Amazon. Duh.
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Airlocket Sonnet with my Easter Bonnet

Credit: Neil Armstrong/NASA

Credit: Neil Armstrong/NASA

Today I offer a simple space sonnet dedicated to me and you.

Imagine that we are standing together in an airlock. The situation is obvious. Between us and the cold reality of space is a door. And on the wall is a button. It’s the button. You know, the one that controls the door.

Let’s explore the possibilities together. Think of it like a cakewalk in space.

  1. I have helmet, you do not: This one’s a no-brainer. I push the button. I mean, how often does life provide a chance like this? You have to take it. Space is incredibly empty. I hope you enjoy the irony that it’s about to contain your brains.
  2. You have a helmet, I do not: You just love having one over on me, don’t you? Quite simply life isn’t worth living knowing that you have something that I do not. I push the button. I hope you can live with yourself, you helmet-owning bastard.
  3. Neither of us has a helmet: Now this is quite the pickle. What to do, what to do? Ultimately, and don’t take this personally, but I’ll squeak out some famous last words about gooses and ganders and then pound that button with style and flair. Because, you and I are going to be hanging out for a while.
  4. Both of us have a helmet: Sigh. This is all so tedious and pointless, isn’t it? Sure, I could push the button, but so what? What does it matter? Nothing would change. It’s not even worth the damn effort. It just makes me angry. So I’m not pushing anything. Do what you want. I don’t care.

By the way, according to Wikipedia, a space suit costs $12 million USD and has a mass of 47 pounds (21 kg) without the life support backpack, but how much fun is that? That might seem expensive for just one suit but remember: It comes with two pairs of pants*.

*A very old José Jiménez joke.

The Urinal Problem

urinalToday we study a particular variation of the classic so-called Urinal Problem. For millennia great thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Bill Gates and others have pondered the great mysteries of gentlemen’s restroom etiquette. Now it’s my turn to take the problem out for a spin.

The classic definition of the problem, of course, involves an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of urinals. It’s easy to see how a problem like that could humble even the greats. In a flight of hubris, even I once made the attempt, and was left humbled and feeling flushed.

For simplicity, we will closely examine a three-urinal subset of n and attempt to fully solve the problem variation.

Abstract. A man walks into a men’s room and observes n empty urinals. Which urinal should he pick so as to minimize his chances of maintaining privacy, i.e., minimize the chance that someone will occupy a urinal beside him? In this paper, we attempt to answer this question under a variety of models for standard men’s room behavior. Our results suggest that for the most part one should probably choose the urinal furthest from the door (with some interesting exceptions). We also suggest a number of variations on the problem that lead to many open problems.

Source: Springer Link – The Urinal Problem. The complete paper is available for purchase.

It was easy to theorize a solution for the three urinal-subset based on the process of elimination (no pun intended). This is also known as The Vizzini Gambit. (See: The Princess Bride.)

Clearly you should not choose the urinal in the center as the next visitor must choose one of the adjacent urinals. Thus, it is obvious that the solution must be one of the end urinals. But which one? Elimination only gets us so far.

As is often the case, field research is required to test theoretical constructs. And that’s where the shit hit the fan. (The results of that experiment are beyond the scope of this article.)
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Space-Time Ice-Creamium

Ruby JewelRecently, after some Lebonese dinner across town, my wife said, “There’s an ice cream place only two blocks away. Let’s go!”

I was already full. Case in point: She was toting a box of leftovers but I was not. Mine had been crammed down my gullet. This scenario would soon allow me to put my advanced decision-making skills on display.

We walked into the shop and it was what I like to describe as “Portland cute.” The place was constructed to look post-industrial. This means concrete walls, vaulted ceilings with lots of duct work, lighting fixtures that hang all the way down from the ceiling and, of course, the pièce de résistance of the Portland eatery scene: the fake garage door. Those things are ubiquitous around here, perhaps even on par with the fedora and other trendy chapeaux.
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