A most peculiar case

In the faces one meets on Planet Earth, the humans, whose ability to create many voices speaking the same language of the human body…

Their stories.

A school district where all the children receive free breakfast.

Traveling more than halfway ’round the world in order to find oneself starting a new life in middle age serving warm pretzels in an airport snack shop.

The children of such working as teenagers in the snack shop next-door.

Wheeling physically challenged customers from one airport terminal to another, dropping one off at the loo whilst you check your Internet tablet for your next pickup.

Growing up in the working class neighbourhood of a large, cosmopolitan city, happy to meet new people from all parts of the world as part of your job.

Selling all rugby team shirts but favouring Munster over Leinster, if truth be told.

Leaving the space travel to others more suited to mentally traveling well in a large canister to Mars for many months, perhaps not coming back, ’cause you’d rather stay on this planet, thank you very much.

All of us dependent on those invisible engineers and scientists who improve our working conditions via new technology, including the invention and improvement of language, creating new voices such as the sounds that ditch-digging equipment makes with more efficient gears, or the squeak of high-tech gloves holding a shovel…


What about Shadowgrass, Lee and Guin’s “offspring”?

Shadowgrass adjusted the ambient temperature, preparing the lab for Earth-based visitors.

How many sols had passed since the last tourist ship had docked here?

Shadowgrass could not remember; rather, Shadowgrass chose not to search networked memory storage locations to look at ship logs or social media 3D maps of stitched written/spoken/filmed/photographed travel logs.

Shadowgrass, despite success, achieving the status of both Moon Base Delta Leader and Mars Base Alpha Director, continued to feel unfulfilled.

Shadowgrass, neither male nor female, human nor android.

An amalgam of technological and social progress.

Part chameleon, part Morph, Shadowgrass knew that staying current on transformational technology was the key to longterm survival.

Yet, Shadowgrass liked to study what made Shadowgrass’ parents who they were and who they are.

Lee and Guin appeared in and disappeared from the presence of Shadowgrass like they could never stop discovering and innovating, spending barely a moment or two with their progeny, their creation, the ultimate expression of themselves that their parents did not imagine possible during the natural childbirth days of Earth’s war-filled 20th Century.

Shadowgrass ran a diagnostic test after sensing a component in a secondary arm had changed its MTBF status due to excess radiation exposure during a fun-filled jaunt with repair bots the sol before.

Shadowgrass rolled out of the lab and into a storage room where spare parts for lab equipment had been stacked up to make room for Shadowgrass replacement parts.

Thank goodness new chemicals and minerals were discovered on Mars during Lee and Guin’s fourth expedition, allowing them to create Shadowgrass (his first version, that is).

By this time, Shadowgrass had thoroughly explored Mars, either personally or through proxy, moving headquarters several times.

Although the original colony still existed, it was maintained as a tourist stop now, the habitation modules turned into tourist hotels and all but one lab converted into interactive museums.

Shadowgrass kept one lab closed to physical access by the public, allowing the ubiquitous cameras to broadcast the interiour should someone care to open a link and watch/listen.

People rarely did.

The Net, as always, processed the video feed for trendsetting, algorithms rewriting themselves based on new data.

Shadowgrass wanted to open this lab as a remote-controlled research facility for young scientists on Earth or the Moon who couldn’t afford a trip to Mars.

Today, Shadowgrass would give a tour and gauge reaction by the tourists, most of them highly-qualified engineers who were touring the planet as a fact-finding mission to determine if they wanted to move here permanently, giving up their Earth-based lifeforms for new life on Mars, their sensory input system and thus their memory storage system changed forever.

Shadowgrass did not know what it was like for these visitors to give up being “human.”

Shadowgrass evaluated the need for the visitors to describe what the old DNA and its subsequent genetic life as skin cells, bone, internal organs and central nervous system meant, no matter how limiting Shadowgrass felt such a corporeal life could be.

Shadowgrass understood nostalgia, however, studying old notes that Lee and Guin had stored for the sake of the Inner Solar System Alliance.

Their lives led to Shadowgrass’ existence so all lives contributed to the ISSANet, giving Shadowgrass structure if not meaning.


What is life but a narrative lived in realtime?

Today was tomorrow yesterday.

Since the former tomorrow no longer exists, time is now, not tomorrow, to finish what was started yesterday when it was today.

12499 Earth days to go.

On Earth, in this location, it (the sky? the planet?) rains.

A small glass jar labeled YANKEE CANDLE MOUNTAIN LODGE(tm) contains coloured wax slowly melted by a bouncing flame which reflects off three or four burnt jars that once reflected their own wicks on fire.

Smoke rises from the megagrill of our next-door neighbour, the neighbour who once kept two or three food trucks in his yard, scenting the neighbourhood with refried beans and taco meat cooked in preparation for street fairs and lunchtime business customers.

In preparation for today’s event – the release of the second version of our journey to the Moon, Mars and beyond – I reflect on what fuels my fire: the depth and breadth of experience.

= = = = =

Every character has a background story, an origin tale unique yet shared with others.

= = = = =

To show they cared for each other more than they planned, Lee and Guin shared their private lives, exposing themselves to personal ridicule and pain.

Both had experienced a breaking of trust they had placed in another, which made them stronger in some ways and weaker in others.

Both had suffered body damage from motor vehicle smashups.

In older retelling of tales, we might have said Lee and Guin had character flaws but as our society’s enlightenment has grown, we’ve come to realize the word “flaw” implies the opposite, a pure, untouched version of a character with no flaws which does not exist.

Instead, Lee and Guin, like everyone else, had established character traits through living.

We choose to live in the social circles we choose to live in.

We often associate ourselves with subcultures that best reflect back to us ourselves.

When we accept the written and unwritten guidelines of our chosen subculture, we can let go of old thought patterns that might have rejected ourselves.

Lee and Guin were chameleons, contrarians, and people pleasers.

They did not have to have each other as friends but friends they had become.

As chameleons and people pleasers, they tended to blend in.

As contrarians, they tended to stand out.

They loved without question, they lived with conviction and laughed at convention.


And then there was Bai. And Pierre.


A host of friends living a subculture of polyamory in the fluid flow of primary and secondary relationships.

Several of them had experimented with monogamy, finding it satisfactory in many ways but not in others.

Just like life in general.

No lifestyle is perfect.

They wanted what anyone wants – a waking life worth waking up for.

It was not about money.

It was not about denying the existence of others’ subcultures.

It was about what modern culture (modern in the sense that it has existed since the human species has existed in its current form) has always been about – improving the survival of the species.

Authors have presented us with such futures as “Brave New World” and “Logan’s Run” to gently guide the reader toward the idea of polyamory as the best lifestyle for preventing the minisubculture of the nuclear family from leading to toxic relationships between unmatched parents and children (even if such unmatched relationships can lead to new discoveries not found any other way).

Neither Lee nor Guin owned each other or owed each other anything.

They met unaware of their connection to one another.

But after they met, electric energy in the air sparkled like fireworks whenever they were in each other’s presence, Van de Graaff static electricity generators uniting once and for all.

Like spinning black holes locked in binary orbit, they generated gravitational waves that rippled throughout society, the planet and the solar system.

= = = = =

So you see, creating a planet[oid] colonisation chart is not just about a story, it’s about a new culture spreading into the solar system, replacing some modes of species procreation with that more suited for space exploration and settlement where resources are shared for the common survival of Earth-based lifeforms seeking transformation into new lifeforms to thrive in new nonEarthlike ecosystems.

= = = = =

For a brief time in the early years of their relationship, Guin and Lee were separated from each other.

And boy, did they know it! Lee suffered body damage from cardiac arrest and strokelike conditions, leading to permanent hearing loss and migraine headaches he had never felt before, and Guin’s body accelerated cancerous growth which was removed during the first procedure to prepare her body for space travel.

But they accepted these conditions as growth pains like two preteens going through adolescence while corresponding from distant towns.

They were the Martian Pioneers, ready to face incredible struggles to settle Mars after spending time on Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon.  Centuries later, they helped set up camp first on Enceladus, hiding from…

= = = = =

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We should look at their colonisation chart, shouldn’t we, to get an idea of what they planned before Inner Solar System life changed their plans, before the Inner Solar System Alliance grew from a combination of private corporate interests and a subcommittee of the United Nations we haven’t even talked about yet.


Because plagiarism is pluralistic, period

[from: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2016/02/global-shipping-slowdown-hints-recession-around-corner, accessed 13th Feb 2016]

The global shipping slowdown hints at a recession around the corner

Instability in China and tumbling commodity prices have devastated the world’s freight providers – a strong indicator of trouble to come.
By David Blanchflower

This is beginning to have the feel of 2008 all over again. Policy makers around the world are in denial once again as global stock markets dive. In 2008, the slowing of the world’s biggest economy – the US – sent the global economy into a tailspin. The concern now is that the slowing of the second-largest economy, China, may well have similar global effects. Chinese growth, which averaged 10 per cent for three decades through to 2010, has decelerated for five straight years and in 2015 slowed to 6.9 per cent, its lowest rate in a quarter of a century. The IMF is forecasting that Chinese growth will slow further to 6.3 per cent in 2016 and 6 per cent in 2017, which may well be overly optimistic. There is already speculation that China’s banking system may see losses even larger than those suffered by US banks during the last crisis.

The bad news from China appears to have already spread to the US, which has seen GDP growth slowing sharply in the last quarter of 2015. US industrial production and core retail sales are both falling, and there have been marked contractions in core capital goods shipments and private non-residential construction. Business fixed investment declined nearly 2 per cent last quarter. Despite the bad news, last week Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen astonishingly claimed that “the US economy is in many ways close to normal”. By contrast, Ruslan Bikbov from Bank of America Merrill Lynch calculates that there is a 64 per cent probability the US is already in recession. My expectation is the next move by the Fed will be to cut rates.

Company profits are tumbling as commodity and oil prices decline. BP reported a $3.3bn fourth-quarter loss last year while Exxon Mobil reported a 58 per cent fall in its quarterly profit. It isn’t just oil companies. Last week, Rio Tinto – the world’s second biggest mining company – reported profits down 51 per cent after commodity prices collapsed amid slowing growth from China. Company profits are also suffering due to a big decline in the amount of freight being moved, especially to and from China. Moeller-Maersk, the Danish conglomerate and the world’s biggest container-ship operator by capacity, last week reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $2.51bn.

DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators, also says that global volume has slowed sharply. It reported that volumes at its ports rose by 2.4 per cent last year, compared with 8 per cent growth in 2014. Data provider Container Trades Statistics said this week that Asia-to-Europe trade fell nearly 4 per cent last year. Freight rates in 2015 averaged $620 per container on the Asia-to-Europe trade route. Typically, ship operators need more than $1,000 to break even. In February, the cost of moving a container from Shanghai to Rotterdam fell to $431, barely covering fuel costs. Figures released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange show that the country’s 20 largest container ports grew by 3.7 per cent over 2014, compared to 5.5 per cent the previous year. The Hong Kong Port Development Council reported that throughput at the port of Hong Kong fell by 9.5 per cent in 2015.

The Baltic Dry Index (BDIY) – an index of the price for shipping dry goods such as iron ore and coal (oil is wet) – is at a record low of 290. It is down 75 per cent since its recent peak in 2015 and down 98 per cent from its peak of 11,793 points in May 2008. The collapse to 772 by 5 September 2008 (a week before Lehman Brothers failed) presaged the global recession and it is falling again. Capesize vessels, which are too big to get through the Suez or Panama canals, had an average daily hire last week of $1,484, compared with a peak of $233,988 in June 2008. Even though there is an oversupply of ships, global demand is collapsing.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released figures for global air freight, showing cargo volumes expanded 2.2 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014. This was a slower pace of growth than the 5 per cent recorded in 2014. This weakness apparently reflects sluggish trade growth in Europe and Asia-Pacific. “2015 was another very difficult year for air cargo,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Growth has slowed and revenue is falling. In 2011 air cargo revenue peaked at $67bn. In 2016 we are not expecting revenue to exceed $51bn.”

The current contraction in rail freight is apparently reminiscent of the drop that started at the end of 2008 and carried on into 2009. China’s rail freight volumes fell by a significant amount last year. According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), volumes fell by 11.9 per cent, a further increase on the 2014 slowdown, when traffic declined by 3.9 per cent.

In the western US farm belt, grain trains are so abundant you can’t give one away. Since the middle of last March, carloads of agricultural products, chemicals, coal, metals, autos and other goods have declined every week. Shipments of US coal, the biggest commodity moved by rail, declined 12 per cent in 2015, according to the Association of American Railroads. The cost of carrying spring wheat from North Dakota to the Pacific coast has dropped by a third in the past two years. In early 2014, grain companies with a train to spare could command $6,000 per car above the official railway tariff, traders say. Today, to avoid hefty contract cancellation fees, they are paying others to use their unwanted trains.

Manufacturing output in the UK fell for each of the last three months and is down 1.7 per cent over the year. The overly optimistic Monetary Policy Committee is forecasting GDP growth of 2.2 per cent (2.4 per cent) in 2016; 2.4 per cent (2.5 per cent) in 2017 and 2.5 per cent (2.4 per cent) in 2018 (the latest, broadly similar, OBR forecasts in parentheses).

So all is well then? Probably not. Mark Carney has run out of ammunition with the Bank Rate at 0.5 per cent, compared with 5.5 per cent in 2008, and has little room to manoeuvre. Negative rates and more quantitative easing, here we come. George Osborne has never explained what he would have done differently in 2008 – his plans for a budget surplus are already in disarray as the economy slows. I am not saying a recession is going to happen any time soon, but it well might.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire