Imagine Being Dustbound On Mars, Settler

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This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS — caption verbatim from NASA for the sake of accuracy.

NASA recently reported that the global dust storm on Mars, which has lasted a month, is starting to die down but may take weeks or months to completely disperse.

Imagine being a resident in a Martian settlement through that.

Sure, the settlement will almost certainly be underground, as long-term human residents will need shelter from the radiation that penetrates the feeble atmosphere and magnetosphere of the Red Planet.

But surely there will be periscopes, surface observation domes, and surface excursions.

Not during a dust storm.

Solar power will be difficult to come by during one of these storms, too. Sure, it could be generated in orbit and beamed down. But what will the dust do to the microwave laser that would do that?

Mars will need nuclear or fusion power to weather dust storms.

And I wonder, will being stuck under a skyful of dust bring on cabin fever in people already confined to tunnels and domes?

Something to think about.

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Not Your Gramma’s Grammar

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Not Your Gramma’s Grammar

“Grammar Nazi!”

The default view of our own language (I’m speaking from the US as a monolingual—feel free to chime in with experience of other native or second languages) is of a rigid thing. A structure. Strict boundaries. Even a trap, sometimes. Penalties may apply.

There’s some justice to that view. Mistake “your” for “you’re” in a post online and you’ll soon hear about it. If you Capitalize random Things as you write—maybe for “emphasis” as our barely-literate President Trump has put it—you look like a fool who doesn’t know the language. Even worse, quotation marks for emphasis. NO THAT’S NOT WHAT THEY’RE FOR STOP IT.

Some things are fairly rigid. But.

Language is made out of thin air. It’s a figment of our imagination, shared. And it changes. It changes all the time. The Latin of the beginning of the Roman republic was different than the Latin of the late Roman Empire. Old English is literally a foreign language for a speaker of modern English, yet the latter evolved from the former (along with a crapload of loanwords from a bunch of other languages, to be sure). And then there’s slang. Notice how fast slang terms come and go? Not many stick around for more than five or ten years. But some do. “Cool” is the biggie, somewhere near a century old at least. A fair number of people still know what World War 2 era FUBAR means. How long has a kissass been a kissass? That’s slang if I’ve ever seen it.

Words are coined to fit new things. Automobile was coined to describe the new motive invention, but the old car which was used for some horsedrawn vehicles survived side-by-side and is used in preference. Laser passed from an acronym used in specialized sciences to an everyday word. Watergate, due to association with Nixon’s scandal, stopped meaning a specific hotel and took on the general meaning of big ass scandal. And then there’s Shakespeare who coined a new word when he felt like it. What a bold display of artistic power that was.

Language may change as we move about the country. As a boy in Wisconsin I’d go down by the store to buy some pop. As an adult in Virginia I go TO the store to buy some SODA.

And language has a sneaky way of shifting for no apparent reason as you watch. I’ve noticed an example.

Even a decade ago, you’d go to the gym to work out and when you got home you’d say “wow, what a workout.” A two part phrasal verb (verb + a different type of word) is/was two separated words BUT ONLY FOR CERTAIN WORDS, but the noun form of these linguistic weirdos would be a compound word (it can also vary by tense). The airplane will take off shortly, so buckle your seatbelts for takeoff.

For some reason I can’t see, for a few words the construction has shifted for some of these phrases, and I have no idea why. All I know is it looks weird when I see them, but it doesn’t seem to look weird to Millennials or younger folks. Do you want to workout? I need a good workout. It looks weird to me, and it probably looks weird to you if you’re over 30ish. Or maybe 40ish. My fingers are not quite on the pulse of bleeding edge English linguistics.

People love to bitch about grammar and spelling mistakes, and talk about “kids these days.”

Some of those mistakes are just normal change, and kids have always shaken things up, linguistic or otherwise. It’s what they’re for.

END

15% Chance Of Rain:

My New Hip Is Settling In Nicely…

…and I’m starting to write again. Healing has occupied a lot of my energy over the last couple of weeks, just as contemplating major surgery sapped a lot of my mental energy for a few weeks leading up to it.

There’s a big wad of post-surgery slacker inertia to overcome, but I’m starting to break it up the last couple of nights with some decent prewriting.

I’ve been keeping track of the Saga Of The Hip Replacement over on Twitter. The tweet below leads to the thread I’ve been keeping. There are a few tweets above and many below the one I chose to link. I chose the one I chose because holy crap look at those 29 staples I still can’t believe it.

I’m healing up nicely, though. And lots of folks have tweeted good vibes at me as I’ve been healing, which is awesome and every one of you rocks.

So This Is Happening In Just A Few Days…

…unless you’re here on the 7th of this month (June 2018 if you’re here from the future) in which case it’s happening / it happened this morning, or after the 7th it already happened.

It’s pretty routine surgery, so the chances of things going hinky are low.

This could be the end of about a quarter century of limping and inconvenience, about a decade and a half of significant chronic pain, and six or seven years of constant major chronic pain.

Fingers crossed, but not legs since they tell me that can dislocate a new metal hip if done before everything is healed sufficiently.

Peace, and I hope to be posting here as a cyborg a few days after the 7th.

The Sun Will Set On The Open-Air Farm

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Not today. Probably not this century. In the next, I’d be shocked if it didn’t start happening. Outdoor farms in their sprawling plant-filled glory will one day be extinct in most “developed” countries and will be a marker of terrible, desperate poverty.

There are already experiments in urban and/or indoor farming. Experiments and practical endeavors, in fact. With tall racks of trays and hydroponic and similar setups, optimized artificial lighting and harvesting, and total climate control (oh, this is the next paragraph right here, just you wait and see) an indoor farm can produce a LOT more food in the same volume of old-fashioned dirt farm.

And there’s another benefit, one that will grow much more valuable as time advances. You see, the climate is changing, and we humans changed it mainly by burning billions of tons of the distilled hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old forests and dinosaurs we call oil, coal, and natural gas. You can’t burn that much carbon-bearing material and not impact the environment you release it into. Deny it if you want, but the facts say it’s changing and we had a lot to do with it.

Climate change changes farming. Extreme weather events become more common because the global flows of air and heat are disrupted and you can’t disrupt a gigantic complex system without introducing chaos. Rainfall patterns and which land is suited for what crop change as wet land becomes arid (and presumably vice-versa as it’s a big globe with more than the USA in it), and temperatures and season lengths change.

So how do you escape chaotic weather that threatens crops? How do you immunize yourself against the shifting of agricultural zones under the whip of a changing global climate?

You move indoors, of course.

One day, our farms will be many, many thousands of enormous warehouse spaces full of light and the smell of growing things while the hot breath of the climate we screwed up howls against the doors.

“What Was I Thinking,”

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is the thought that goes through my head when I look to the past, especially when it comes to my writing.

Maybe it’s a version of impostor syndrome. Maybe it’s performance anxiety, in which it’s easy to think the worst about one’s own work. Maybe it’s…

Well. It probably owes to many factors. But creatives are saddled with the cliche of uncertainty about the worth, goodness, and success of their own work, because the cliche is (as far as I can tell) overwhelmingly true. The main way I’ve seen out of it is to adopt a Kanye-level ego and self-absorption, and screw that, I’d rather be unsure.

But back to me (no ego here; I’m so modest!).

I chose the rail junction image because I’m a person who always sees alternate paths. I see the future as a hugely ramified maze of paths — which is of course where I draw stories from and why my stories tend to be clustered within a century or two of the present. I see the past the same way, and spend too much time wondering at what might have been or even regretting the paths I’ve chosen. And that regret is sometimes rightful — what if I’d never wasted so many years in alcohol dependency and self-hate? But that’s unproductive and I try to look at it, evaluate it, acknowledge any lessons that might be present, and quickly retire it. And I work with a couple of mental health professionals to help me be better at that, because I’ve historically kinda sucked at it.

So of course I also wonder what could have been if I’d talked to some professionals ten years ago, or twenty, or thirty-five. Hmm.

See what I mean?

The present is the same way. Endless potential paths. I have a nasty tendency to want to travel all of them, and getting stuck like the proverbial ass trapped between two equally attractive bales of hay.

And so, all of the above in mind, I want to continue to build on my past writing… but also, every few weeks, I get the urge to cut ties with my past writing (oh, it could have been better, boo-hoo, you get the picture) and dream up a catchy pseudonym because S.A. Barton isn’t flashy and also conflicts with the much-more-search-engine-present and popular Beverly Barton. And sometimes even the hideous zealot-ideologue revisionist fake-historian David Barton, who I wish I didn’t share a last name with.

Look, I know keeping the name I’ve kept for six years is the better choice. But for me, it’s difficult not to agonize a little over what might have been. What if I’d chosen a “better” nom de plume?

Heh.

(This post appeared on my Patreon page first, ten days before it appeared here. If you become a patron, you can see stuff early too!)

When Life Gives You Porg Lemons…

…make Porgonade. It’s probably more refreshing than green milk from a giant surf creature’s udder.

Commander Kitty Is Unsure…

…as to whether or not he digs his new digs. We humans, though, ARE sure. This is a definite improvement!

I’ve been silent here for a while. We’ve been moving. Goodbye 1968 sub-single-wide trailer home with slowly collapsing floors and significant amounts of black mold.

Hello 2nd floor apartment with balconies in a 100+ year old brick building that has been remodeled enough to (hallelujah!) have a modern amount of electrical sockets.

And there’s a real stove. For SEVEN FRICKIN YEARS I have cooked with electric skillets and hotplates because the trailer had a propane stove and it turns out it’s EXPENSIVE AF to cook (or heat!) with propane.

Finances, as always, remain tight. We’re just happy to be able to juuuuuuust afford to upgrade from substandard housing that would likely be condemned if anyone looked closely, to something decent.

If you’re not already, consider giving my family and writing a boost by checking out my Patreon page.Early blog posts and sometimes exclusive looks at rough drafts, even free ebooks.

Commander Kitty says thanks for reading.

What Kind Of Provincial A-Hole Thinks Jambalaya Is UnAmerican?

I mean, seriously. How ignorant and/or priggish do you have to be?

Also, sweet potato pie is almost as regional as jambalaya. Maybe this isn’t about “froo-froo” food, but about Erick’s prejudices and his desire to pronounce anything that isn’t familiar and comforting to him “wrong.”

What a cringing prick.