[This story was inspired by a somewhat disinterested tourist I saw in Venice]
Life used to be good. On a regular day, I’d get up around noon. Maggie was at work, Angie was in school, I could shower my meaty self and smoke in peace. Then, comb my thick black hair, pray the first novena, put on a pair of sunglasses to cover my bloodshot eyes and go to the cafe. Bang down some high-test espressos. Watch the skirts go by, shoot the shit with Uncle Stanz and the guys.
Before the tourists got in, I’d pack the underside of the seats with bootleg smokes and JoySticks, cover them with a cushion before the cops cruise by. Then wait for our marks, umm … chumps … umm … tourists to show.
On a scale from one to ten, farm girls from Tuscany in town for a bachelorette party were the best tourists, definite nines. Silicon Dendrites from one moon over were my least favorite. They were great trading partners – who else would buy tons of brine waste from our desalinization plants – but they talked in farts and ooze. Not great conversationalists.
Second from the worst were Deepwater Blavoks from two moons over. Educated and urbane, they saw us the way we saw the dendrites; lower creatures. With them it was a short exchange of sharp-toothed pleasantries, swipe the credit card and slither into the water, on their way to a methane spa.
The best, the absolute tens were our lost cousins, the Earthmen.
“Miss Patel’s Holiday” is part of the awesome, futuristic, Visions VI, Galaxies anthology, edited by Carrol Fix.
A murmuration of starlings is a system that’s ready to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling is connected to every other. When they turns in unison, it’s a phase transition (def. – when a substance changes from a solid, liquid, or gas state to a different state. Every element and substance can transition from one phase to another at a specific combination of temperature and pressure.)
At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When your neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size, speed and individual flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. But we don’t know yet what physiological mechanisms allow this to happen almost simultaneously with two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds.
The implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological transition that operates in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.
More about Murmuration (via Wired)
I’ve got a giant and super-messy first draft that I’m trying to put into readable form, so I’m using #NaNoWriMo2016 as a guideline to get me into a 1,500 word-per-day writing/editing schedule.
Word count updates will be here.
If you’re joining and need a writing buddy, I’m ‘Mary P Madigan’
Wishing everyone the best of luck!
A comic about a Repo Lady I worked on years ago with Dean Esmay (he wrote it, I did the sketches)
I don’t always do this, but it looks like a good routine –
Doing research for my book, tentatively titled “Bye, Bye Blackbird”. Oddly enough, he sounds kind of like Mr. Rogers
Groueff: After the discussion with Lawrence. Was that [Mark] Oliphant?
Oppenheimer: You will have to provide the name because I will not.
Oppenheimer: And after that, I got interested. Lawrence had this fantastic electromagnetic method that I went into some ways in increasing its effectiveness by a very large factor, which did work but it was just a question of how to design magnetic fields, really. And after Pearl Harbor, there was a meeting setting up the Metallurgical Laboratory and I attended that.
Groueff: That was in Chicago.
Oppenheimer: That was in Chicago, probably the second of January or the 26th of December—it was just after either Christmas or New Year. You can find that out. And during the spring, I did have a communication from [Gregory] Breit asking me if I would like to work with him. But for reasons which are known but not clearly to me, Compton felt that he should have at the Metallurgical Laboratory some group looking into the actual problems of the bomb and not the reactor. And I think he wanted Carl Anderson, a cosmic ray physicist from CalTech, to be in charge of that but Anderson refused. The Project was in bad order, it was thought that it was badly run, they would never get anywhere, and that there were more useful things to do for the war.
NASA is taking a multistep approach to its ultimate goal of putting boots on Mars.
The journey begins in low Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has hosted rotating crews continuously since November 2000. During this time, NASA and its ISS partners have been learning more and more about how to support astronauts on space missions.
This effort took a big step forward this past March, when NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko wrapped up an unprecedented 11-month mission aboard the orbiting lab that gave researchers new data about the physiological and psychological effects of long-duration spaceflight. (A Mars mission will be long-duration; it takes six to nine months to get to the Red Planet using currently available propulsion technology.)
In the next 10 years, NASA plans to extend the reach of human spaceflight out near the moon, to test spaceflight gear — such as the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, both of which are in development — in a “proving ground” in deep space. For example, in the mid-2020s, the agency plans to send astronauts out to lunar orbit, to visit an asteroid boulder dragged there by a robotic spacecraft. (The boulder-snagging first part of this Asteroid Redirect Mission is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s.)
After the proving ground comes the journey to Mars itself. Current plans call for sending astronauts to Mars orbit in the early 2030s, with trips to the surface coming sometime after that. NASA officials have said they hope to eventually set up a small outpost on the Red Planet, where astronauts would search for signs of Mars life and perform other research.
What will we live in?
It’s long been suggested that Europa has an ocean underneath all of its ice. If there is water sprouting onto its surface, that could mean that not only is there an ocean, but also that the ocean could be far more accessible for measurements and scientific study than previously thought.
Why? Because the ice on Europa is 10 to 15 miles, or 15 to 25 kilometers, thick — a very long way for a drill or submersible to have to go. And who knows what’s waiting down there once they arrive! So catching these plumes of water on a flyby mission could be a far more feasible operation.
Plumes would provide a far easier way to detect the composition of this buried ocean, as well as to discover any signs of life. It’s much the same as with exoplanets, where space folks are used to learning a lot from a little in reading the signatures of these worlds.
Now, all we need is a mission to these plumes to see if we can change universal history!