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The Rovers I’m Not Naming

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Department Of This Is Why I’m Not In Charge Of Such Things

Dateline: Thursday (yesterday), 2-18-21, 12 noonish; watching coverage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.  [1]  There was plenty of time to consider the ground-breaking implications of space exploration for humanity while all the TV talking heads filled the time until the actual landing.  Thus, I got to wondering: what is it about the names of these planetary probes – who gets to choose them, and what are the guidelines?

Spirit; Opportunity; Curiosity; Pathfinder; Perseverance

It seems NASA’s Mars program is partial to names denoting desirable/adventurous personality traits.  The launch and landing stages of the probes are certainly WOW events. But I’m thinking of the decades of the less glamorous work behind the scenes to get these devices to those stages.  What about honoring the less flashy but essential characteristics necessary for progress and harmony, when you’re working for years with a team of people, sometimes under stressful circumstances?

I humbly submit my nominations for the names of future Mars (or, Jupiter or…?) rovers:

Diligence

Reliability

Punctuality

Maturity

Tolerance

Composure

Sufficiently Caffeinated

Respectful Personal Hygiene

 

Introducing NASA’s next Mars Rover, “Fiscal Responsibility”

 

*   *   *

Department Of More Lists

I overheard a conversation in a grocery store between two employees, something about “…best inventions of the century.” We’re only one fift  into the 21st century, but of course (as moiself  discovered when I returned home and Googled the concept) individuals, news organizations and other companies have already started compiling lists.

Most of them overlap; “best” is of course a subjective rating; some of the entries, it could be argued, span both centuries (do you count an invention as being of this century on the date it became available to the public/was put into use, or the date when someone first started working on it?) .  [2]   All that considered, the more common entries include

*  Smart phones
*  Online banking
*  3-d printing
*  CRISPR  gene editor
*  The contraceptive patch
*  Augmented reality
*  Blockchain platforms
*  High density battery packs
*  Online streaming

After scanning the fifth such list, I noted a glaring omission common to all of them:

Where was the inclusion of Poo-Pourri ?!?!?!?     [3]

Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.   [4]   If you have never seen this commercial, then you obviously have a more fulfilling and important life than I do need to inform yourself as to this cultural milestone of marketing:

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Bill Gates Please Save The World

“Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are  now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.”
( “Bill Gates: How the world can avoid a climate disaster,” 60 Minutes 2-15-21 )

Three times in the past three weeks I’ve encountered the term direct air capture, used in relation to our global warming crisis. Each time, the part of my heart that is still 12-years-old jumps for joy.

Direct air capture (as per Wikipedia):
Direct air capture (DAC) is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the ambient air (as opposed to capturing from point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant) and generating a concentrated stream of CO 2 for sequestration or utilization or production of carbon-neutral fuel and windgas. ….DAC was suggested in 1999 and is still in development….

Actually, a form of DAC was suggested by moiself, over two decades earlier than 1999.  I, like, invented DAC.  In your dreams, you may say. Well, literally, yes.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Southern California, early 1970s) we had smog alerts several times during my 7th grade year, when the air quality got so bad it hurt to breathe, and PE classes were cancelled.

 

You’re not supposed to “see” the air, right?

 

During that PE downtime I would think about why we weren’t doing our 800 yard run trials.  Air pollution – not only do we have to stop adding to it, we need to get that existing gunk out of the air.  What about some kind of sieve or filter – which work for liquids, so why not tweak the concept to strain the air?  I would dream about it at night; I had dreams about enormous fan-type devices which would suck in air, filtering out the pollutants and spewing out clean air while compressing the particulate matter into bricks and other building materials which could be used for housing, road surfaces, bridges….

Yes, dreams, as in plural. It was weighing heavily upon my mind. For a period of several weeks I thought about it a lot, even confiding in my math teacher after class one day.  I asked him if he knew some science teachers, maybe in high school,   [5]  with whom I could talk to about my idea. He laughed at me – not cruelly, but certainly patronizingly, and said that I had no concept about the complicated technology which would have to be involved – which would have to be invented – for such an undertaking.  [6]

My school stopped having smog alerts and I stopped having those dreams.  Moiself  looks forward to not having to dream about such things, ever again, in the very near future.

 

How complicated could such an invention be?

 

*   *   *

The Commercial I’m Not Filming

Yours truly came across the following ad recently.

 

 

Imnagine that, an ad for yet another product or regimen to stop/reverse “the aging process.”   [7]

Moiself  fantasized about shooting a commercial for *my* secret tips to stop the aging process.  Seven seems an excessive number, so I’ll cut it down to five.  The commercial will open with scenes of people sending me money for my secret/sure-fire tips to stop the you-know-what process, followed by scenes of my anti-aging goon squad who show up at said people’s houses or surprise them on the streets, and stop their aging process via:

  1. pushing them in front of a bus
  2. running them over with a bus
  3. dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
  4. lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
  5. slipping a sedative in their dinner wine and setting fire to their house while they sleep

The final scene shows friends at the deceased’s open casket funeral, murmuring enviously to one another, “She doesn’t look a day older than yesterday.”

 

“Did you see her – she’s actually dead!”
“Yes, but at least she’s not getting any more wrinkles.”

 

 

*   *   *

“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality.”
(Penn Jillette, of the magic duo Penn and Teller)

“It isn’t automatic that if you learn magic you’ll become a skeptic of the supernatural,” said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi.
    “But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result.”
(“Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus,”
The Christian Century, 10-27-11 )

I have long been drawn to the philosophy of modern-day magicians, even though the what-they-do part – the actual “magic” –  doesn’t particularly hold my interest.  It has been years since I’ve been to a magic show, and although I avoid Las Vegas like the proverbial plague (I think moiself  is allergic to neon), if I were there, The Penn and Teller show is the one show I’d try to get tickets to.

 

Well, that and a show featuring Amazonian-stature women dressed as roosters.  Because, you know, culture.

What interests me is (something which magicians themselves have pointed out) the similarity of “tricks” used by magicians and politicians and religions.  Magic acts, religious leaders and texts, and extreme political ideologies are similar in that they employ physical and psychological methods to fool people into believing something that they otherwise would have/should have known is patently untrue ( The man did not pull a quarter from your nose…but gosh darn it, it sure looked like he did).  Ultimately, magicians and demagogues and priests don’t have to fool people, because by using a combination of visual, oral, and intellectual illusions, they get people to fool themselves.

 

 

I recently tuned into my favorite podcast on communication and science, Clear + Vivid , and was pleased to hear that C+V host Alan Alda’s guest was Penn Jillette (aka “the talking half “of Penn and Teller).  In Magic, Tricks, and Us, Penn explored this question:


When we see a magic trick, is the magician fooling us,
or are we fooling ourselves?

 

 

Jillette’s thesis is that “magic tricks” are a test of how we process reality:

“If you’re lying to somebody, they’ll catch you. But if you get someone to lie to themselves, you’ve got ’em.  And that is what we’re (magicians) always trying to do: get people to make assumptions…because they’ll put up a wall around me, but if I can come around the edge, we can fool ’em that way.

He talks about illusions v. tricks, and how he prefers the latter:

“Tricks are ideas that you get someone to…to lie to themselves. Because the trick, instantly, deals with one of the most important subjects we can deal with, which is how we establish what’s real; how we agree on a reality.  For me, doing magic is a playful epistemological experience. We are playing around, in a safe zone, with how we establish what’s true.  We’ve seen what happens when truth is played with on a real stage, in the real world…and it’s horrific.   If you come to see a Penn & Teller show and you say, if these two guys can make me think something that’s patently not true, what can people with a real budget, and a lack of morals, do?”

Penn, an atheist and advocate science and of reality-based thinking, briefly addressed criticism that atheists don’t accept or appreciate “mystery” in the world.

“Atheists are often accused of ‘not accepting the mystery,’ and it’s exactly the opposite. Atheists are very happy going, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’
Reality-based thinking is actually more in love with mystery than magical thinking.  When scientists said, ‘I don’t know,’ they had more love of the mystery than someone who said, ‘I do know, and it’s god.’
The three most important words of the scientific method are, ‘I don’t know.’ Those were not said until 500 years ago. Priests and rulers and kings, they always knew. Scientists came along and went, ‘I don’t know.’  Those three words are to me the scientific method.”

What spurs scientific investigation in the first place is recognizing and admitting what we don’t know, followed by harnessing the curiosity and freedom to investigate. We all benefit from the science that springs from admitting what we don’t know about a natural phenomenon, rather than being “given” incomplete, incorrect, or simply nonsensical non-answers (“Allah willed it;” “Jehovah did it,” “Pele/Isis/Jesus sent the plague/rains/tornado/volcanic eruption to punish/reward/bless/remind us….”)

 

 

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
( Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, professor, and avid bongo player )

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Harry Houdini used to use lots of trap doors in his magic act.
He’s stopped that now; he was just going through a stage.

 

*   *   *

 

May you appreciate the difference between questions that can’t be answered
and answers that can’t be questioned;
May you be careful what you wish for when it comes to “the aging process;”
May we all realize how truly cool it is that we have another rover on Mars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Did you see it?  The announcers did a great job of transmitting the NASA/JPL team members’ “Seven Minutes of Terror,” as you think about how butt-frostingly complicated such a mission is, and how many things can go wrong….

[2] Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.

[3] Aka, “The before-you-go toilet spray.”

[4] Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?

[5] Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.

[6] Neither did he, of course.  I often wonder if I’d been a 13-year-old boy instead of a girl, and come to him with the same idea, would he have encouraged me to study engineering and solve that problem?

[7] As in, wrinkled skin.

The Meaningful Lessons I’m Not Learning

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Department Of I Moiself  Apparently Have A Very Different Standard
For Usage Of The Word, “Meaningful”

Copy from an ad in Thursday’s  New York Times Arts section,  [1] by Penguin Publishing, to promote their new book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life :

“Meaningful lessons from supermodel and philanthropist Gisele Bündchen.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Answering Your Most Pressing Questions About
Post-Thanksgiving Dinner Personal Hygiene…    [2]

As the holiday season continues, many people would like to find an easy way to remove the noxious body odor which seems to linger after Thanksgiving. This tang du corpus can best be described as the effluence of a combination of bitter disappointments stemming from:

(a) the invading caravan of potato rolls lined up on your dinner plate, which you meant to stop at the border of your mouth when you realized it was headed for your waist line,

(b) despite having promised not to get into “such subjects” at the holiday dinner table, both your grandfather and uncle derided your political beliefs, then asked when you were going to get a real job…

 

 

 

 

…and you feel if you could just rest in the stress-soothing, steamy torrent of a hot shower, all would be well.

Think again.

Long, hot showers can combat the skin’s natural functions as a protective barrier and deplete natural oils from the surface while also stripping hair of its own protective oils and weaken your complexion altogether. Hot showers adversely affect the skin’s most outer layer, the epidermis, full of substances that provide a tough defense against outside conditions while retaining moisture.
Heat from hot water combined with soap will soften your skin and slowly strip away its natural, oily protective barriers. Some of this can good like removing dirt, sweat, or body odor. However, we want to keep in the skin’s natural moisture where possible and prevent dry or irritated, itchy skin.
Basically, the longer and hotter the shower, the worse it is for your skin’s health.
(“Why Long Hot Showers Are Bad For Your Skin,” metrin.com

 

 

“And I need to know this because…?”

 

 

 

Most dermatologists caution that even shorter daily showers are not only unnecessary but “bad” for you, in that daily bathing recudes skin hydration and strips the skin of its natural oils, which can disrupt the ‘good’ bacteria that supports people’s immune systems. According to infectious-disease expert Dr Elaine Larson from Columbia University, “most people bathe in the belief it will reduce their risk of illness, however, it actually does little more than remove body odor.”

But there is that pesky odor issue, which we (read: Americans) tend to be overconcerned with. Chill out; if it’s been a day since you showered, even if you’ve done a moderate aerobic workout you probably don’t smell as badly as you think you do  (unless the workout included doing your triathalon training lap swimming in a pool of dead herring).

 

 

 

So, what to do if you’re concerned about body odor (as young adults especially tend to be) after, say, a trip to the gym, and you don’t like the thought of skipping your shower? You need to learn how to give yourself a mini-sponge bath. If the term sponge-bath stirs up too much semi-comatose-person-in-a-convalescent-hospital imagery for you, just think of it as what I have for many years, after having being introduced to the term by an elderly friend: a whore bath.

 

This image may seem like a non sequitur, but do you really a want a picture illustrating the previous paragraph?

 

 

How to give yourself a whore mini-sponge bath: you need one clean towel for drying and three clean washcloths. Moisten each washcloth with warm water and use them to wipe down three key body areas, using a clean washcloth for each area. You’ll sponge-wash the three parts of the body that have the highest concentration of sweat glands per surface area:

(1) the under arms, (2) the chest, (3), and the groin.

Hmmm, now what was it that I was supposed to wash? Make it easy to remember by using the following jingle, which immediately came to moiself’s mind when I first read the whore mini-sponge bath instructions  [3]  :

“Pits, tits, and naughty bits.“

 

 

“Can you say that, boys and girls? I knew you could.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Nominee For The Nobel Peace Prize

Once again, the folks at Poo-pourri have outdone themselves with their new product advertisement, this time for what they call the “Assistant“.

Not only do I think Poo-pourri should win the Nobel Peace Prize,  [4] I also and hereby nominate them for a Clio Award for Best Advertisement Ever – in a tie, with their original product ad:

 

 

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Department Of I’m Still Shaking My Head Over The Sublime Juxtaposition

Supermodel and philanthropist

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A You Know What In A You Know What

A neighbor out for a walk, stopping on our sidewalk, pointing at the laminated picture hanging, along with colored lights, from the fruit tree in our front yard:

“Is that who I think it is, and is this tree…oh, please tell me it’s a pear tree?!?!”

After a hiatus of a couple of years, MH and I decided it was time to return to putting up outdoor Christmas lights, and the “bonus” hidden within, to our pear tree.  MH surprised me by going four better than my original setup: he returned from a trip to Office Depot depot with five laminated pictures of The Partridge Family members: Mom Partridge, plus all the kids except for the little drummer boy (there were two actors who played the part, and nobody really liked them, so, meh).  We decided Laurie could start out the week.

 

 

We’ve decided to do a rotation – a different Partridge, every week. Pictures will be posted here, for your viewing enjoyment.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wishing I’d Been Kinder To A Partridge

The anecdote I am going to relate took place in the summer of (most likely) either 1971-1972, when The Partridge Family was new enough that its cast members were doing promotional appearances during the show’s summer hiatus.

For many years, my family’s summer vacation followed the same pattern: my father took no vacation days until summer, and then took ’em all at once: we hitched up our trailer  [5]   to our station wagon and headed north from SoCal.  Sequoia; Yosemite; The Redwoods; Crater Lake; Bryce; Zion; Yellowstone; The Grand Tetons – depending on the year, we alternated between visiting many of the West’s National Parks or just going up through Oregon and Washington, staying for a week or so at favorite campsites along the Rogue River, etc., on our way to visit to my mother’s older sister and her husband, who lived in Spokane (WA).

On one of the latter such itineraries we stopped in Seattle, because my parents wanted to see the Space Needle. Their kids, not so much…but we weren’t the ones setting the itinerary. It was a slow day; not many visitors, and the Space Needle employee who boarded us onto the elevator announced that the top deck (of the SN) was closed due to a private event. After the elevator door shut I think I pressed the button for that floor anyway – somehow, we ended up being able to go to that floor.

When we got off the elevator the floor was empty of tourists or other people, except for three adults and one adolescent who were milling about in the center of the floor, near a counter-bar setup of some sort. My parents and siblings wandered about the perimeter, trying to find a way to get out to the SN’s observation deck, while I sulked as only a 13 year old can (this is boring…can we go now).  I wasn’t interested in any stupid Space Needle, wanted to get back on the road, and besides, it was foggy – in Seattle! Imagine that – and you couldn’t see anything from the observation deck anyway.

I turned my attention to the other four people near that bar/counter. Two of the adults were just old men in suits, but why did the other adult and the kid look familiar? I quickly figured it out – the kid’s flaming red hair and freckles were a giveaway.  The adult was the actor who played Reuben Kincaid, the Partridge Family manager (the actor’s name was Dave Madden,) and the kid was Danny Partridge, the precocious/smart ass middle brother and bassist (played by Danny Bonaduce).

 

 

 

 

 

(The private event the elevator operator had told us about was a promotional tour for those two TPF actors; later on, when my family was exiting the Space Needle, I saw a black stretch limousine, parked at the curb by the SN’s front entrance, sporting a banner stretching across the driver’s side which read something like, “Meet Reuben Kincaid and Danny from the Partridge Family”).

The three adults (the Two Suite Men and “Reuben”) talked shop, while Danny, obviously bored out of his gourd, looked for ways to entertain himself. He hung upside down from a velvet rope barrier that snaked around the bar/counter area, then gradually made his way to where I stood, and attempted to engage me in conversation.  We were close in age – I later found out the age difference was about 2 ½ years although of course I considered myself much older than this…this what? Who was this jerk, trying to impress me because he had a role on a cheesy sitcom?  Puh-leaze…

I was determined to maintain my facade of jaded nonchalance. Although I didn’t turn my back on him I crossed my arms, grunted a few unintelligible responses, and generally made my body language as unwelcoming as possible until I found an excuse to rejoin my family.

These many decades later, I see the encounter for what it likely was: he was just a kid, stuck on a trip he probably didn’t want to go on, looking to relieve the tedium with…perhaps another bored kid around his age who was also stuck with uncomprehending adults (in his case, booking agents, in my case, parents).

And, so what if he had been trying to impress me? Would it have hurt me to humor him, to have joined in some banter…or simply to have been kind?

Decades later, after TPF was cancelled, Bonaduce became notorious for running afoul of the law due to various drug and alcohol problems. Yeah, it was probably my fault.

 

*   *   *

May you settle for philanthropy if supermodel just isn’t in the cards for you;
May you be kind o Partridges in and out of pear trees;
May you enjoy the bath that fits your pits tits and naughty bits;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] The placement of which ruined the crossword puzzle for me, gawddammit.

[2] Which you haven’t (yet) asked, but you know you want to.

[3] In a dermatology magzine, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I worked in the medical field.

[4] As well as being considered for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and/or Physiology and Medicine.

[5] Looking back, especially in comparison with today’s rigs, it was amazingly small,  for a family of six.