making do with “stone knives and bearskins”

Fifty years ago, I became a fan of galaxy-traveling space technology wielded by an altruistic civilization.  Star Trek seemed to define technology as idealistically and problem-free as Father Knows Best defined the American family; both had stories about  the weaknesses that people possess resolved within a single episode. However, unless it was deliberate sabotage, technology always worked.  Scotty always milked the dilithium crystals to eek more power.  Technology like tri-corders and food processors rarely needed to be tweaked, banged, recharged, or be issued return-to-vendor tickets. In both shows, the fiction was total b.s.  But I didn’t let that rain on my parade.

Having been a technical worker in a military organization, and later in several technical service and engineering firms,  I know the sort of effort it takes to bring something from idea to working product and sustainable.   However, I am still a fan of the fantastic sci-fi shows like Star Trek as well as the real wizardry of the Space Shuttle,  the probe that went past Pluto or the ones now in interstellar space.  The real wizardry is when a bureaucracy – which a large company is – can still produce something that sets the international standard.   And just as I imagine that a “real” transporter or a “real” warp drive would probably have reduced first test objects to unrecognizable goo,  corporate politics,  bureaucracy, budget,  schedule-limits and management missteps would have evaluated that and then spent twice as long  at four times the cost of the original prototype, to then have the transporter redesigned with more rigorous, real-world and far less goo-like results.

Where Spock complains that he is tasked with building a complex device with “stone knives and bear skins”, it suggests that in his future, a lack of tools, materials or supply problems do not occur.  However improbable that may be,  a resourceful worker can work around conditions that hamper progress.  That is where asking for forgiveness is often more expedient than asking for permission.   And that is why, even in the future,  where the Red-Shirt enlisted guy gets eaten by a monster, the senior officer gets the glory,  the crew routinely drink, get drunk, fight, and at the point of certain death, can eek  dilithium crystals to save a galaxy – or   USS Enterprise – from certain destruction.



Elon Musk’s Martian dream

A thousand years from now, two beings will be having a conversation over Starbucks looking out at a lush green Martian golf course. The latest Iphone- made from a diamond will be all everyone talks about. The newest Premier is broadcasting on social media about the despised “free-thinkers”. But that is too strong a word for our friends conversing today. Independence is a clinical disease, so the appropriate term is antisocial disorder.
Everyone with a post-doctoral specialization in environmental scence- which is everyone except for a small group of technologists- knows that in vitro laboratories has eliminated all non-conforming personality in the human race.  Everything necessary for life is provide in the automated home.
 Only a few million rebels still on Earth, the Trumpians,  raise infrequent disorder.  This group rejects transgender-trans-genus science. They reject Pacification. They actually continue to use hydrocarbons in vehicles and consume illegal tacos and alcohol; for entertainment they participate in illegal  physical contests once called football.
The official pronouncements from the Martian Neutral Party state the obvious: a thousand years of adherence to some religion called “constitution” has made these unfortunate beings ungovernable.
But the Martian patrons of scientific ethics has studied the issue in committees for 500 years now. It seems the earth people do not know they are suffering from oxygen and solar abundance.
On Mars everyone agrees that it is better to be safe than to tolerate such fools in their midst. After all, Lord Musk wants us all to be comfortable and live Green
Then I awoke from my slumber. Just a nightmare.  This morning,  Bernie Sanders is on the TV wishing SpaceX Mars travellers, “Bon voyage!”
 I need to get to work.  And I need coffee. Time enough to get to 7-eleven. Now where are my car keys?

The job’s not finished till the paperwork is done.

My mother had outpatient cataract surgery on Thursday.  It’s amazing the possible upgrades, replacements, enhancements and other medical procedures which can be done these days – even into our old age.   But, assuming that healthcare is going universal in the US sometime soon,  I can only imagine the complexity of the bureaucracy which will be introduced.   From the number and variety of questions that the eye clinic’s intake specialist pleasantly fired off at my mother, I would have thought it was her first visit to that clinic, that she had not paid sums in addition to her insurance, and that computers histories were not instantly available on each patient.  If this encounter was any clue,  we may hope for longer lifespans, if only to complete the forms and actually be treated by a doctor.   Until such time as the system gets hopelessly bogged down, my mother will be able to read and understand, if not be as  enthusiastic in filling out forms and questionaires – as long as the administrators realize that she may require their attention by critiquing and circling the questionaires omnipresent grammatical and spelling errors.