Friday, March 10, 2017

Where's my jetpack?

Ridiculous. It's the 21st Century and we're still moving about like gorillas, feet peddling the ground in a manner similar to our shrew-like remote ancestors. Mitch: get working on that little problem, will you? There's a good chap. What's that? Ummmm ... I believe that would be a physical impossibility. Got any other suggestions?

Like many of his frothy colleagues, our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee doesn't take direction real well. I've rambled on more than a few times in this blog about how sensitive he is, so I probably shouldn't bait him with idle requests about revolutionizing human locomotion or swapping meiosis with mitosis. The man's busy, god damn it! He cranks out inventions like brother Matt puts out songs. And when I say "like", I don't mean exactly like it. Mitch's battles are fought in the laboratory, not the prize ring ... I mean, not the wildlife sanctuary. But I digress.

Finally!I don't know how my mind gets stuck on these issues. Maybe it's living in this abandoned mill for the better part of twenty years. After a decade or two, you start rattling around like bird shot in an oil drum. Your mind gets going, then you trudge around the mill, singing dirges. Next thing you know, you're contemplating your very footsteps. Then it hits you - This is the twenty first century? Where the fuck is my jetpack? John Robinson had one back in fictional 1997! This is real-ass 2017 and I'm still stomping around like an ape. How is that fair?

Sure, you might say I have a distorted view of the future; that I'm stuck in a 1966 notion of what 1987 should look like. Be that as it may, jet packs would be a real step up from our current modes of transportation. And not any more impractical than some of the suggestions I've heard bandied about lately, like ski-resort type gondolas carrying people between a post-industrial mill town and what's breezily described as a "harbor" that's really just a wide spot in the Barge Canal. And yes, I know that jet packs have their challenges - all back-mounted rocket boosters do. But where would be without challenges, right? Where?

You're right. I've been bumping around this mill waaaaay too long.

Waiting to happen.

There's a lot of Trump news this week, but I wanted to return to the subject of Korea since that has such enormous potential for disastrous loss of life. The North test launched four ballistic missiles, setting off a firestorm of media coverage and a torrent of speculation from military and diplomatic spokespeople. As usual, most of it misses the mark by a mile. The New York Times articles on the developing crisis mention only in passing the massive join military exercises currently underway by the U.S. and South Korea. One wonders how many rounds, missiles, etc., are typically expended in such exercises.

North Korea's war memoriesUPI reports that there will actually be two joint exercises underway over the coming weeks; one a ground, air, and naval exercise that will include landings (i.e. mock invasions of the north). The other is more a command exercise involving the new THAAD anti-missile system the U.S. is installing in South Korea. So think about this - a practically constant stream of large scale drills, and now a missile battery that threatens to negate what Pyongyang likely thinks of as its nuclear deterrent. Got that? Now combine that with something utterly unknown to Americans - the kind of paranoia that stems from having been invaded and bombed out of existence six decades ago. That may have something to do with these missile launches.

How will the Trump administration react to these tests? It's hard to say, but if I were to guess I would suggest that their reaction might be similar to the tack taken by the last GOP administration. Dubya (Bush 43) put North Korea on the "Axis of Evil" short list for invasion, perhaps just to make Reverend Moon happy, but I'm not certain of that. That in and of itself might have been the best argument for developing a deterrent. Combined with other factors relating to our long history with Pyongyang, it's a compelling case. I don't condone their nuclear weapon design and production programs, but it's not hard to work out why they might want such weapons. Deterrence, and a prompt to get the United States to a negotiating table. They don't want six party talks, or three party talks ... they want one on one with America, because we are their principal adversary.

This standoff should have ended decades ago. The fact that it's happening while Trump is president is testament to that very painful truth.

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