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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 Murder Mystery I’m Not Solving

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Department Of Why Not All Dreams Should Become Reality

Dateline: last Friday (early Saturday); a dream from which I woke moiself up at 5:30 AM. In that early morning reverie, I was the lead detective on a murder case.   [1]    No one was mourning the victim, “XY,” a well-known serial rapist and sexual harasser whose money and political connections had kept him from prosecution for years.   [2]   XY had been found dead in his mansion, lying on a floor in the proverbial Pool of Blood ®. He had been beaten to death with an as-of-yet unidentified, blunt, mallet-like object, then castrated postmortem with an instrument which, according to the coroner, was likely a pair of pinking shears.

Bear with me for a moment.  Do you remember the song, Who Let The Dogs Out, the highly annoying festering turd of a song one-hit wonder by The Baha Men? 

 

Yes, and I’d been trying to forget it for years, thank you SO MUCH for reminding me….

 

Well, then, imagine hearing the song’s chorus over and over and over again, in a dream – you’d try to wake yourself up from that, wouldn’t you?

 

Only the version (of the song’s chorus) in my dream was much, much…stranger.

Detective moiself had, using false pretenses and in true Movie Murder Mystery ® fashion, gathered a group of likely suspects – XY’s known or suspected sexual assault victims – in the drawing room of XY’s mansion.   For the kind of reason that can only make sense in a dream, my Professional Detective Strategy ® strategy was to have all the room’s exits blocked after the suspects had been seated and get a confession by repeatedly playing a recording of Who Let The Dogs Out, wherein the chorus had been altered thusly:

Who cut the balls off?
(Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof)
Who cut the balls off?
(Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof)
Who cut the balls off?
(Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof)
Who cut the balls off?

I managed to wake up/escape from the dream before any of the suspects confessed.

 

My guess is Ms. Scarlett, in the kitchen, with a meat tenderizer.  [3]

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Thank You For Sharing That Previous Story,
Which Was, Truly, The Epitome Of The Holiday Spirit

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh Yeah, Solve This Too, While You’re At It
Sub Department of the Fleeting Dreams Of Youth

In last week’s post, moiself asked (not entirely rhetorically, but certainly wishfully) for the proverbial Someone to solve the problem of redesigning life to accommodate humanity’s lengthening lifespans.  According to Major News Sources,   [4]  the problem remains unsolved.

C’mon, folks, you can do better. If that particular dilemma doesn’t spur your imagination, how’s about the ongoing issue of cleaning up, or at least detoxifying, our environment – starting with the big one: the air we breathe.  We can go a couple of days without water and a couple of weeks without food, but a couple of minutes without breathable air and we are toast.

A major unpleasant memory from my childhood (in late 1960’s – early 1970’s So Cal) was dealing with Smog Alerts.  Activities were curtailed; recess and PE classes cancelled….  Flash forward to the present, and whenever we have had “low quality” air alerts – as when the smoke from recent year’s wildfires drifted south or north to the Portland metro area – my watery eyes and that distinctive“catch” I feel in my chest/bronchial tubes takes me back to those wretched Smog Alert days.

 

And the yoga teacher says, “Remember to breathe deeply…oh, never mind.”

 

In the late 1960s through the early 1980s California’s enactment of innovative, first-in-the-nation, vehicle emission control strategies and standards actually worked, and although the state’s population continued to rise its air quality improved…for a few decades, at least  [5].  But while politicians and scientists joined forces to cobble together stop-gap measures, a grade school girl dreamed of a fantastical invention which would solve the problem forever.

During an interval of several months when I was 11 or 12 years old, I had dreams wherein I invented colossal fan/vacuum type devices which, when placed in strategic locations across the state, sucked in air and ran the air through a series of filters, which strained out the polluting particulate matter and compacted the pollutants into bricks, particle boards, and other (non-toxic) building materials. Not only would our air be clean, this invention also protected trees and forests, as the need for lumber was greatly curtailed.

Yep, it seemed realistic to me at the time. The decades passed, and the Scientist/Engineer Who Saved The World…well, it very obviously didn’t turn out to be moiself.  So,I know it’s the Holiday Season ® and we’ve all got things to do, but can y’all get to work on this, maybe next year?

 

Yeah, okay…but smoky bands of filthy air encircle the globe, and my imagination in all its glory isn’t fixing that….

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:  Never mind.  EE was preempted this week by my annual ladies’ lefse Party. 

 

Lars the Luscious Lefse man was a late but welcome addition to the party.

 

And how do the ladies feel about lefse and Lars?

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [7]   Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

May you solve murder mysteries and more in your sleep;
May your imagination and your knowledge be complementary;
May Lars the Luscious Lefse man grace  at least one of your holiday parties;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] I am attributing my having recently seen “Knives Out” for that dream occupation.

[2] Imagine that!?!  Only in a dream, right?

[3] If you don’t get the reference to the board game Clue, I sentence you to repeated listening sessions featuring “Who Let The Dogs Out” until you publicly confess your cultural illiteracy.

[4] Read: the tabloids whose headlines I scan while standing in line at the grocery story.

[5] So Cal air  pollution is rising again.  Rising numbers of people and vehicles outnumber good intentions and inventions. Waaaah.

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook 9at least) once recipe from one book.

[7] In our pear tree.

The Tree I’m Not Climbing

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Shall we get this over with?  I mean of course, you just can’t get enough of The Dropkick Murphys when it’s “…that time of year.”

 

 

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Department Of Words Matter, Which Is Why We Use Them When We Argue

“We live in an age of overstatement and overpraise.  Something isn’t merely good, it’s awesome.  A movie or a TV show isn’t just enjoyable, it’s epic. Any performer over the age of thirty who manages to do good work isn’t just a solid professional, he or she is an icon.”
( Fresh Air Rock Critic Ken Tucker)

Moiself has been seeing the following cartoon shared several times (on Facebook), and it makes me want to tear someone’s hair out.  [1]   Let me edit it, I plead into the void, please oh please oh please:

 

 

The thing is, I like the cartoon and its sentiment that not all creatures have the same abilities, nor needs, nor environments; thus, to judge, say, a fish for its tree-climbing ability (fish live underwater and therefore cannot – and do not need to – climb trees) or critique squirrels (partly arboreal mammals which have no reason to swim) for its pathetic backstroke is unfair, even nonsensical.

 

Oh, but critique this, you cynic!

Stop. Do not be distracted by such foolishness.

Yep, I get the intention of the drawing, although I think the blanket criticism of Our Education System ® is unfair, as are most blanket statements (you know, like expecting all animals to climb trees).

But I’m wondering if the same person who drew the cartoon also wrote the caption?  If so, I’d like to judge them on their underwater tree-climbing ability, because the hyperbolic sentence, “Everyone is a genius” is a real butt-froster.

If everybody has a certain trait or is a certain thing, that no longer makes the trait/thing exceptional. It negates the definition of genius (used here and in that comic, as a noun):

Definitions of genius

1 (noun) unusual mental ability

2 (noun) exceptional creative ability

3 (noun) so,meone who has exceptional intellectual ability and originality

4 (noun) someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field….
( vocabulary.com )

Why was that sentence even included in the comic – what does the patently false/grossly mistaken declaration “Everybody is a genius” have to do with unequal consideration of different talents and abilities?

You can be very talented and intelligent and a hard worker, the top 10% of your high school class, and still not be a genius (don’t worry, there will be plenty of other hackneyed adjectives applied to you, most likely by your family, such as AMAZING!) It’s not all or nothing.

Your four-year-old nephew pounding out “Chopsticks” on his toy piano may be indicative of his interest in music,   [2]  but that doesn’t make him a genius. For a humbling comparison of true genius/exceptional ability, you may want to investigate the life of Mozart, one of the greatest (and most enduringly popular and influential) of classical composers, who began writing musical pieces when he was between the ages of 4-5 and who composed more than 600 works before his early death (age 35).  Better yet, just listen to his overture to the opera, “The Marriage of Figaro.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Would Someone Please Solve This Problem
(And Do So Before I Get Too Much Older)?

“It’s time to get serious about a major redesign of life. Thirty years were added to average life expectancy in the 20th century, and rather than imagine the scores of ways we could use these years to improve quality of life, we tacked them all on at the end. Only old age got longer….
‘….as longevity surged, culture didn’t keep up.
‘…. (we are) living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have.
Retirements that span four decades are unattainable for most individuals and governments; education that ends in the early 20s is ill-suited for longer working lives; and social norms that dictate intergenerational responsibilities between parents and young children fail to address families that include four or five living generations.”

(excerpts from “We Need a Major Redesign of Life,” Laura L. Carstensen, professor of psychology,
 Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity,
The Washington Post 11-29-19 )

Thank you in advance.  And whatever your solution is, make sure it includes dancing.

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Nutrition Champs, by Jill Nussinow
Recipe:  Smoky Sweet Black Eyed Peas

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [4]     

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [5] Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

*   *   *

May you be old experienced (or cool) enough to always be able
to identify this week’s Partridge;
May you know the definitions of genius, awesome, amazing, and other superlatives,
and apply them judiciously and accordingly;
May you remember that the solution to all problems should including dancing;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Not mine – what good would that do?

[2] Or, he may just enjoy annoying the adults in his life.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it.
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it.
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] In our pear tree.