You Me and Armageddon

Aloha – There is a new show out on NBC that drew my curiosity, “You, Me and Armageddon”.  What is that all about?  I wondered.  During the first 10 or 15 minutes I was a bit lost.  A secondary character from the British TV comedy, “Spy” has the lead.  He is a banker but is dwelling on his lost love, who disappeared on their return from their honeymoon.  Things go from bad to worse for him, along with a wrongly imprisoned librarian in the U.S., and a sarcastic Devil’s Advocate (played by Rob Lowe) at the Vatican and his new assistant, a nun who basically distains people, and then comes the big announcement, Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid in 34 days.

As the show begins to get its footing I finally recognized the scenario or at least the demeanor of the show… Douglas Adams would be proud.  The central character and his friend are resonant of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  If your mind can work in the weird sort of way then this show may be for you.

The starting point is the bomb shelter where 15 people are watching the final minute countdown until the asteroid ends life on Earth.  They will be the survivors, but from what it shows (not all characters are revealed in the first two episodes) it is a group of misfits that just happened into the right place at the right time… still unclear.  The show has a pattern to follow as it becomes a one day episode countdown from Earth destroyed minus 34 days.  Episode 1 is day -34, and Episode 2 is day -33.  I assume it will continue to follow that countdown.

Will it make it on network TV?  It may be too eccentric for the network audience and advertisers.  The closest thing to it in the past couple of years is Gallavant, which has a solid, weird fanbase.  They may like this too.  I like it better.




End of the World – Option 2 Yellowstone

Aloha – Okay Option 1 was an Asteroid Armageddon, next let’s take a look at extinction through volcanic activity.  Within human-kind’s history we’ve already had a couple of unsettling events.  Volcanic activity resulted in a mini-ice age in Europe just a few centuries ago.  Yellowstone has the potential of reeking havoc with all of North America, and probably generating a more substantial ice age for other parts of the world.  It has a major eruption approximately every 600,000 years, and we are overdue.  Still in perspective, the odds of one occurring in any given hundred hear period is around 6,000:1.  That is pretty high if you compare it to the 11 million:1 odds of being killed in a plane crash.  Still the odds are such that you are more likely to die in a car crash sometime in an average life span 470:1.  So a geyser view cabin in Yellowstone is still a better bet than driving to work every day.




End of the World – Option 1

Aloha – It has been a while since I had fund with the End of the World terrorists and decided to have a little fun with the constant doomsayers that range from failed politicians trying to keep their name in front of people, to serious scientists looking for grant funding.  Let’s not forget the misinformed celebrities that get drawn into trying to sound like they know what they’re talking about.  So let’s take a look at the top 10 ways for a mass extinction event over the next few weeks:

Number 1 on the End of the World parade is of course being hit by an Asteroid that causes global winter and is an extinction worthy event.  We’ve had a couple of these over the eons and will almost certainly have another one.  Could it happen tomorrow?  Unlikely.  We get regular surprises of unidentified asteroids that could do the job.  Most recently 2013 TV135 brought our attention back to this potential disaster.  It actually has a 1:63,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2032 (to celebrate my 80th birthday).  Of course the doomsayers would discount the inverse of that… there is a 99.998% chance that it will miss the Earth and just be another interesting week in the news.

By the way, the odds that we can get Bruce Willis and Robert Duvall to blow up the asteroid before it hits Earth by 2032 is 1:45, so we may survive yet.

Although we have periodically experienced Earth shattering asteroid impacts even in the last couple of hundred years, the type of deep impact event that would lead to the extinction, or serious inconvenience of human-kind has been void for approximately 66 million years.  We have certainly had other such impacts over the eons, but the odds appear to be greater than 100 million to 1.

Take into consideration that the likelihood of your dying of old age in the next 120 years is pretty close to 1:1 and these odds don’t look so bad.  Let’s put the odds of a deep impact event in your lifetime at about the same as the population of Southern California being wiped out by hornet stings… just saying.



First contact with the Sagittarians in Demeter

Aloha – We’re up to chapter 13 of Demeter.  A reminder that you can read earlier chapters in the Blog archives.  If you have a kindle membership with Amazon you can download it for free on the lending version or purchase a permanent copy of the entire book.  The hard copy version of Demeter is in editing now :o)

So what is happening?  In Chapter 13 we get introduced to an officer of the Sagittarian League who is sent to mentor Ryder on the game simulators.  Ryder’s not really sure what to think of this callus mentor… human?  machine?  All he knows is that she is perpetually stomping him on the simulations.

Chapter 13


Ryder struggled over the next four weeks. With Aster gone back to his regular duties on the surface, Ryder grappled with making further progress on the scenarios. As far as he could tell, he wasn’t improving at all. Mr. Small dropped in periodically and encouraged him, but Ryder rarely saw anyone during the day. His former teacher was reluctant to play against Ryder on the simulations. “I’m a tactician, not a strategist,” he explained. Ryder was so persistent that Mr. Small finally agreed to a battle scenario with Slick forces defending against a Per-Sian force invasion. Ryder had played a similar scenario with Aster twice, with terrible results. Mr. Small won two quick battles in the scenario, but Ryder successfully drove the Pervs out of the system in the end—with fewer forces than Mr. Small. It was easy once he established the approaches Mr. Small was taking. Ryder ultimately pulled Mr. Small into a trap with a quick flank assault that raked the Pervs in an exposed formation. His former teacher had beads of sweat on his forehead when he finally relented and withdrew. “That went well,” Mr. Small acknowledged.

“You let me win,” Ryder complained, staring at the scenario results.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but no, I didn’t,” Mr. Small replied seriously.

“But you’re a lot smarter than I am, and you know the battle plans,” Ryder said.

“Ryder, do you know why you’re here?” Mr. Small was leaning forward and looking earnest, like when he was trying to share something important.

“Okay, I’ll bite. Other than being kidnapped by rogue pirates out to dominate the universe, why am I here?”

“I have a lot of talents,” Mr. Small began. “You’re right, I’m smart. I love math and science and am good at both. I’m proficient in a fighter. I also don’t take life too seriously, which sometimes irritates Yara, but frankly I think is a talent. I’m also detail oriented. That’s one of the things that makes me good at math, science, and flying. As a tactician, I’m outstanding. I can execute a campaign; I can adjust to sudden changes; I can follow a well-organized plan. You, however, have other talents. The main one that landed you in SPC is that you are a concept thinker.”

“A concept thinker?” Ryder asked.

“A concept thinker!” Mr. Small emphasized. “You can see the big picture. You can draw conclusions with a limited amount of information. You have a combination of a good mathematical head, a love of reading, and the ability to think critically. Put together with your concept thinking approach, you have the makings of a master strategist.” Mr. Small folded his arms and sat back smugly. “And that’s one reason you’re here.”

“What other reasons are there for me being here?” Ryder inquired.

Mr. Small kept his arms folded, but got a different, almost furtive look on his face that quickly turned deadpan.

“This is ridiculous!” Ryder snapped.  “I keep running into dead ends and you’re the worst.  I want to know what’s going on.  What’s the big secret?”

“Ryder,” Mr. Small reached out and hugged his shoulder, “You are probably spending too much time here in the SPC.  You’re starting to jump at shadows.  You probably should take a day and get away from the center.”

Ryder tensed then relaxed, “You’re probably right.  I’ll be all right,” he tried to keep his voice calm.  But he was convinced there was something going on, and he was going to get to the bottom of it with or without Mr. Small’s help.

Mr. Small smiled, “By the way, do you have those letters written? I can take them with me.”


Every week, one of the homework assignments every member of the “Grubs” (as they now called themselves) was to complete was to write a letter home. Of course, the letters had to be previewed to make sure they weren’t writing something that wouldn’t make sense. Athena had been especially irritated by this. She groused about it for the first two weeks. “They’re spying on us and censoring our letters,” she said. It became clear, though, that the only thing that Mr. Small and Miss Li were interested in was making the facts add up for a trip to Earth’s Europe.

“Don’t lie,” Miss Li said, “but I’m afraid you’ll have to mislead with ambiguity. After all, you are in Europe. We must retain our secrets.”

It had bothered Ryder at first, but he found that he could be totally honest in his correspondence without revealing the secret.


Dear Mom and Dad:

You won’t believe what happened this week. Debbie got into a tutored driving program. Don’t worry, she has a great teacher. I’m afraid she’ll be ready for drivers ed before I am.




Dear Mom and Dad:

We had a great river trip a couple of hours away from where we’re staying right now. I’ve met some new friends, who are also visiting Europe. Mr. Small has been great, giving us tips on how to use the mass transit system.




Dear Mom and Dad:

It’s been a quiet week. I’ve been studying hard, but don’t seem to be making a lot of headway. I’ll buckle down and make you proud. Good news this week:, Debbie hasn’t wrecked once.




After Mr. Small left, Ryder went back to trying to master the SPC simulations, but he felt a lot like he did when his dad had handed him a Greatest Games of Chess book and had helped him learn how to use it as a tutorial. Together they recreated several games. He had studied the strategies of the masters all summer. His game improved a little, but it wasn’t the same as when he was playing against a live opponent.

When writing letters home, Ryder had to remember that Demeter weeks were ten days versus the seven-day weeks of Earth. Ryder’s tenth weekend on Demeter had been a little slow. He had joined Cynthia, Debbie, and Becky for a couple of days on the beach, then went exploring on the monorail line. They’d visited a farm area that was growing corn. Then they’d gone to the other end of the line, where they were growing dewsnips.

Dewsnips were great. They originated on Cryella. They had large green and red leaves that could be turned into a salad. The part Ryder liked actually grew in the ground like a carrot. They were hard on the outside, and soft on the inside. He tried the leaves as a salad, the outer skin fried like French fries, and the soft center cooked up in a soup. They were all delicious. He thought he could live on dewsnips if all other plants died off.

Ryder’s face suddenly turned ashen.  It clicked where he had heard of dewsnips before.  His parents had mentioned dewsnips weeks before the trip.  They knew.  They had to know.  Had they been conscripted?  If so, why didn’t they tell him?  He was in a funk the rest of the weekend.

He was surprised when he arrived back in the simulation room the following week. Someone was waiting for him. She was a little shorter than Ryder, wearing a black uniform with brass buttons and silver tabs on her lapel. She introduced herself as Lieutenant H. Pinoke. She had a hook nose, penetrating gray eyes, and cropped black hair. Her skin looked like it would tan to an almost rust tone, but her pigmentation was only slightly redder than his own. Her skin showed no signs of any blemish whatsoever, except for a small scar between her chin and lower lip.

When Ryder entered the simulation room, he was excited to see someone else—anyone else—in the room. But if Director Steerman was terse, Lieutenant Pinoke was abrupt. “I am here to work with you in the simulations. Are you ready to begin?”

“Sure, I’m Ryder. Where are you from?”

“Apprentice William Ryder. I’m from SL277.”

“No, I mean where are you from? Earth? You don’t look to be from Cryella.” Ryder tried to drill down for more information.

“Shall we begin?” Lieutenant Pinoke looked down at her screen for the selected scenario.

Along with being difficult to communicate with, Lieutenant Pinoke was merciless on the simulations. Even when Aster was trashing Ryder, Ryder at least felt he was in the game. With Lieutenant Pinoke, he felt like a first grader matched against a professional football player in a battle of strength. Ryder began to wonder if Lieutenant Pinoke was even human. She did drink something between simulations, but he considered the possibility that it might be a clear oil to keep her from rusting. She ate at lunch, but chose not to sit with Ryder and Cynthia. Cynthia walked to where the lieutenant sat and tried to talk her into joining them, but she returned to their table flushed.

“Well, how did it go?” Ryder had his feet stretched out under the table while munching French fries.

“I feel like an insect that has just been examined and discarded.” Cynthia huffed. “Where is she from, anyway? Iceland?”

“She’s from SL277,” Ryder said morosely.

“Where’s that?” Cynthia sat down abruptly with her arms folded and brow furrowed.

“I really don’t know. It might be a ship. It might be the way they identify planets. I’ve asked three times, and every time it’s the same thing: SL277.” Ryder made Cynthia spurt soda out her nose as he finished in his best imitation of a mechanical voice. Returning to his normal voice, he whispered, “I’m not even sure if she’s human.”

“She’s eating a salad,” Cynthia whispered back. “I don’t think machines eat food.” She paused. “Do they?”

“I don’t have any idea.” Ryder leaned in. “She also pours liquid into her mouth, but I’m not sure what’s in the container. It might be fuel oil or something. We could leave early and go back to the lab to see what’s in that bottle she sips on all day.”

Just then, Mr. Small and Miss Li came into the cafeteria, hand in hand.

“I haven’t seen Miss Li in weeks.” Cynthia waved and caught their attention. A few minutes later, with food trays in hand, the couple joined them for lunch.

“How are things going?” Miss Li inquired as she sipped on a water.

“Great! They actually let me assist on a procedure this morning,” Cynthia said, gushing.

“I didn’t know you operated on somebody today?” Ryder said in awe.

“I really didn’t perform the operation,” Cynthia clarified. “I was assisting with some of the monitoring equipment.”

“It sounds like you are progressing extremely well.” Miss Li beamed. “I worked through the medical program when I first arrived and wasn’t able to assist until early in my second year.

Mr. Small looked impressed, then he turned to Ryder. “And how about you? I understand you got a new partner today.”

“I’m not sure. See that black uniform over there?” Ryder pointed with his eyes.

Mr. Small smiled. “Yes, I know her, Lieutenant Pinoke. I believe she’s aboard the SL277. I served with her on my second tour with the Slicks.”

Cynthia and Ryder bent down close to the table and simultaneously asked in a whisper, “Is she human?”

Miss Li snorted, and Mr. Small laughed so hard he fell off his chair. He tried to get back up, but every time he looked at Cynthia and Ryder with their confused look he doubled over and started laughing again. Miss Li started chiding him. “Roger, stop that. Roger, you’re making a scene.” That only seemed to make matters worse, which resulted in Cynthia and Ryder starting to laugh. Then Miss Li couldn’t contain herself and started laughing as well. By the time Mr. Small was able to rise back to his chair, Lieutenant Pinoke had disappeared.

“What makes you think Lieutenant Pinoke is not”—Mr. Small started giggling again—“human?”

“She crushes me in the simulations and doesn’t talk, except like a robot,” Ryder replied.

Mr. Small tried to get a serious look on his face, but was failing miserably.

“So you think she’s not human because she beats you at the simulations?” Miss Li asked.

“No, that’s not it. Aster beat me all the time. But she crushes me. She never laughs, or teases me. And, and…she talks like a robot.”

Miss Li smiled again, but didn’t laugh. “I believe Lieutenant Pinoke is what we would call human. I know her genetic structure is as close to yours as mine is.”

Ryder stared at Miss Li suspiciously.

“I’m human,” she defended. “And furthermore, I’m Terran. Same gene pool and everything. Lieutenant Pinoke is from the Sagittarius arm. I’m not sure which planet. Do you know, Roger?”

Mr. Small looked up, holding his face with his hands, and shook his head negatively.

Miss Li gave Mr. Small an exasperated look and punched him in the arm. “She is trained military personnel in the officer corps. With the Slicks, that means she is likely from a multi-generational military family. It’s sometimes hard for us to understand, but they have been at war since before we inhabited Earth. It makes them hard in so many ways.”

“She’s also a probe,” Mr. Small added, trying to hold a straight face.

“A probe?” Cynthia asked.

“I never had the interest for being a probe,” Mr. Small confided. “I’m too much of a people person. Probes are kind of like scouts. They take small ships out and monitor space and systems. They’re often out for weeks at a time, with nothing but a machine to talk to. It’s a tough job, and even the Slicks lose a lot of personnel in the probes.”

“Shot down?” Ryder asked.

“Oh, a few are found out and shot down or captured, but more of them just snap.” Mr. Small snapped his fingers loudly, and both Cynthia and Ryder jumped. “They go crazy. I actually saw one fly his probe right into a star. He’d been out for four weeks by himself. We were in the system to pick him up. When we entered, he put the pedal to the metal, and we couldn’t catch him. He was convinced that we were Pervs. We couldn’t talk him down.”

“Do you think Lieutenant Pinoke went bonkers?” Cynthia asked, leaning forward.

“No, she’s in good standing. I actually asked for her help.” Mr. Small smiled. “The fleet is still here on maneuvers for the next several months. I wanted a top strategist to help you, Ryder. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“It would be nice if she could laugh once in a while, or at least talk.” Ryder scowled.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Mr. Small chided. “Besides, she’s one of the three best strategists in the fleet, outside of senior officers. She’s actually on the fleet commander’s strategy team. I had to pull strings to get her loose.”

Cynthia spoke up. “Well, probe or not, strategist or not, she still looked at me like I was a bug when I invited her to join us.”

Miss Li gave Cynthia a sympathetic grimace. “That is real. The Slicks don’t really think of people of Earth, or Cryellians for that matter, as real people. The best comparison I can come up with would be if a chimpanzee invited you to eat bananas with her. We are sort of human, but not quite. We’re more of caretakers for the Slick’s needs.”

“Well that makes me feel special,” Cynthia said, pouting.

Mr. Small cut Miss Li off. “It’s a common misconception. Deep down, they know we’re from the same ancestry, but we—how do I say it?—lost our way and devolved. We might be salvageable in a millennia or two, if they feed and care for us sufficiently”

“If they didn’t need us, they’d probably forget about us. But we’re so well placed to help defend Demeter that they make exception,” Miss Li pointed out.

“That doesn’t make sense. Either we’re capable or we’re not. They can’t have it both ways.” Cynthia’s voice rose dangerously.

“Not everyone believes that,” Mr. Small continued, “but many do. Perhaps the relationship is more like India in the nineteenth century. Indian’s were capable of serving in the British army, but not commanding. Yes, that’s a better parallel, or perhaps the African-Americans who served in the Civil War. We’re actually beyond that. The Senior Director for Demeter was the first person from Earth commissioned as an officer in the Slick force. His son was also commissioned. Since then, let’s see, I was the forty-seventh person from Earth commissioned in the Slick military. So over forty years, we are now averaging about one a year.”

Ryder didn’t say anything, but he was mad. Cynthia was definitely mad, spitting tacks mad. Ryder knew one thing, and that was that he was going to show Lieutenant Pinoke that people from Earth were not inferior. He would beat her at the simulations.

“I wish I knew something more about her at least.” Ryder let out an exasperated sigh.

Mr. Small smiled again. “Has she told you her first name?”

“I assume that it is H,” Ryder replied.

Mr. Small swelled up didactically. “Even in Slick vernacular, which is very diverse, her first name is odd. I’m not surprised she didn’t share it, as it does bother her a bit. It took me six months to find out what it was when I was serving with her.”

“What is it?” Ryder and Cynthia were both suddenly interested.

Mr. Small bent forward conspiratorially. “Heliotrope.”

“Heliotrope?” Ryder looked quizzical. “What kind of name is that?”

Cynthia started giggling to his side, then burst out laughing in loud guffaws. Ryder was actually shocked. He’d seen Cynthia laugh before, but never like this. Gasping for air, Cynthia finally got out, “Violet,” and started laughing hysterically. Miss Li was chuckling, and Mr. Small looked like he was about to roll on the floor again.

“Okay, okay. What’s the joke?” Ryder asked perplexed.

Wiping a tear from her eye, Cynthia managed to get out, “Heliotrope is a shade of….violet…associated with dainty flowers.” Then she did fall off her chair on the floor.

“Violet? Dainty flowers?” Ryder said, then he started to laugh as well.

Ryder was determined that somehow he was going to beat Lieutenant Heliotrope Pinoke at the scenarios. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be the first week. She continued to crush him in every simulation. Like a bug, he thought. With his best efforts, he was still zero for thirty by the end of the week.

The next week his letter home was even shorter than usual:

Dear Mom and Dad:

Hard to believe we’ve been here seventeen weeks already. I got a new study partner this week. She’s really challenging me. I’ve got to run.




When you could walk from the Earth to the Moon

Latest theory on the history of the Earth and the Moon, is that a Mars size planet called Theia ran a red light and T-boned the Earth, resulting in the Earth and the Moon relationship we have today.  So at one time, Sea of Tranquility was mere footsteps away from Central Park, while Machu Pichu in Peru is actually remains from Theia for example.

One thing I’m curious about, is how, after such a collision the Earth and Moon (theorized to be two separate pieces of the collision that came back together) turned out to be relatively round.  Gravity fields working the debris field back into a ball?

There are lessons to be learned from such theories.  For example, if this is correct, then there may be hope for the GOP.  For example, Theia (in this case Donald Trump) comes in and shatters the party.  Natural gravity draws the party back into a new whole with Donald Trump merely being drawn in a path that allows him to moon the GOP every night.  Just trying to get a takeaway from the theory :o)



Black America Calls Foul at the Academy Awards

Aloha – No Black nominees for acting awards at this year’s Oscars.  Will Smith’s wife cries foul.  It is an interesting accusation that is legitimately skewed by demographics.  But if anyone should be calling foul it is neither the Black population, nor the White population; it is the relatively silent Hispanic population.  The Hispanic population has a much better case of crying about not being nominated for major awards.  And what about the Asian-American population, zero wins.  Since 2004, I count 28 major award nominations and seven wins for Black nominees in key categories.  That is slightly under the population representation of the country, but within the margin of error.  Granted, their have been no nominations for Black actors in 2014 or 2015.  But in 2013 there was a nominee for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, a win for Best Supporting Actress, and a very rare nomination for a Black Director.

It is hard not to believe this is Jada making a very public tantrum for and behalf of her husband who did a nominee worthy performance in his latest movie.  So what?  There were dozens of other actors:  Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, and probably Native American as well who were not nominated.  It is the luck of the draw.

I love Will Smith roles, almost always.  He certainly deserved a nomination in 2006 (and he got it).  But turning his missed opportunity this year into a battle cry of racism is a poor choice.




A new 9th planet and its not Pluto

Aloha – After a slow couple of months in the far expanses of space it looks like astronomers believe there is a hidden 9th planet.  In 1969 the British cinema came up with the same notion, except in that case it was a planet with an orbit exactly opposite the Earth on the opposite side of the Sun.  This one is probably a bit chillier than the one identified in that movie that predates most of my readers.  Mathematicians and astronomers are excited about the likelihood that there is a full-sized planet sitting out in the Kuiper Belt.  Let’s consider the options:

  1. a Death Star on it’s way to kill the Earth.  This notion has already been brought up and discarded;
  2. a frozen snow cone (not that unlikely… only question what flavor)
  3. an Earth-like rock that we could drag into an orbit in the Goldilocks zone and begin terra forming (maybe… but if we want to do that we other options nearer to Earth… Ceres and Ganymede for example)
  4. there’s nothing out there… that would certainly be disappointing.

I’m rooting for option 3, with plenty of mineral deposits and vast stores of potable water.  Now all we have to do is figure out how to drag in into a closer orbit :o)