Light Pollution and the Human Condition

Stars.  The guidepost of the cosmos laid out before us, heralding the greater universe.

To some, the message which the stars depict is a welcoming one, to others they represent a terrifying glimpse at the enormity of reality.  Regardless of how you interpret the stars and our cosmic horizon it is indisputable that the night sky and our view of the Milky Way’s starscape has continually sparked the human imagination to varying degrees.

Arguably the stars have been the single greatest guiding element of human culture since our prehistory.  Science, art, and mythology all owe their origins, in some part, to the stars and those ancient ones who studied them.

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The constellations of Earth’s night sky

From the roaming nomadic tribes of our earliest ancestors to the later sea faring naval adventurers of history, the stars were literal guides through the dark places.

Imagine eons ago, before the modern day, around fires and yurts when deep discussions and wild speculation took place regarding the nature and origin of the stars.  It is these conversations and stories, now multiples of millennium lost to us, which were passed down from family to family, generation to generation, clan to clan, and shore to shore.  It is this type of human speculative imagination along with our yearning to understand and provide meaning for our larger surroundings which eventually became the basis of human culture.

While deciphering patterns from the spaces between the stars humankind the world over formed tales of their own, myths which comforted them, evils which terrified them, heroes they aspired to, and Gods in their own image.  Though they certainly didn’t realize it at the time those ancient forgotten humans who were wondering wide-eyed at the vast night canopy were in fact creating the modern world through their star gazing.

But what significance do the stars hold in this modern world of ours?

Over the last several hundred years the stars have faded from the sight of many and there are doubtless some who have lived and died without looking up into the night and seeing the galaxy staring back.  All due of course to the gradually increasing amount of light pollution blazing outward from the most heavily populated modern locals.

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The lights of our modern world 

Now of course we can all see some stars at night, there are those bright and wondrous holdouts who burn defiantly and still shine even among the places of heaviest light pollution.  The moon too is a powerful looming reminder of the worlds beyond our own which wait in space.  But for all the light polluted city dwellers and suburbanites, the hundred or so stars that can clearly be discerned become almost laughable when compared with the true majesty of the cosmos which is revealed in places of near total darkness.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience this in places like Cimarron, New Mexico and to a lesser degree in some parts of rural Ohio.

There is something simple and amazing about finding yourself in a secluded spot of nature away from the ubiquity of electric lights and being able to take a few moments to stare up and truly examine the contents of the heavens.  When looking out into the unobscured mass of stars there can be some fantastic sensations: Feeling the almost oppressive enormity of the night sky overhead, being able to clearly trace the cloudy path of the Milky Way; the profile of the galaxy itself, and examining the range of sizes and hues which make up the stars.  These are only a portion of the inspirational effects a few moments of deep stargazing can elicit.

I am certainly no historian, psychologist, or social scientist but having had the chance to experience this view of the stars, which has widely been lost to many of us in modern times, I have to wonder what effect a lack of such views will have on future generations?  Something which has had such a formative effect on the human prehistory has slowly been lost to us through our gradual advancement.  As lights constantly spring up in greater numbers across our civilizations and as our nights become far less black, what change will that have on us as a sentient species?

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On the left the constellation Orion seen in a “dark sky” on the right the same constellation near a light polluted urban area.

 

I can’t help but think the human psyche and imagination has already been affected in some way.

Perhaps as a way to assuage our hubris we as a species should have nightly reminders of our minuscule stature compared with the rest of the universe.

Perhaps we should have more exposure to the celestial orbs and sparkling heavens for the sake of our collective imaginations.

Certainly all types of pollution are harmful.

Our waste is killing our planet, it’s flora and fauna.  Smog and garbage, chemicals and putrescence all slowly kill our natural home and our individual bodies.  However what about our minds and our abilities to wonder and dream?  Does light pollution in some ways extinguish imagination and the sensation of awe in the same ways it extinguishes the stars?

What benefits might there be for us if there could be a restoration of darkness?

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The Killer in the Trees

This has been an odd winter in Northeast Ohio.  The season has been mostly snowless and warmer than usual.  Precisely the type of winter I despise.  If it’s going to be winter I’d prefer to have a thick sustained layer of snow across the landscape and a crisp windless day for which to enjoy strolling through said winter wonderland.  I know a lot of people say winter is depressing and ominous but there is something infinitely more unsettling to me about a winter that is snowless and lukewarm.  I personally have no desire to see denuded brown trees looming over dull muddied grass all set before a gloomy grey panorama of sky.

While pondering this failed attempt at a season I was reminded of a story from a recent season that was less of a disappointment.

This past summer I stumbled upon a wonder of nature previously unknown to me.  Some might describe it as a terror best left to obscurity.  Others would classify it as a specialty of niche predation which exemplifies the intricacy of evolution.  Though I suppose I might be getting ahead of myself. To the beginning!

I work at a desk, and not some fancy post-modern work space designed for maximum ergonomic comfort, but just a traditional computer, chair, desk type of desk.  Therefore I try to get up from my seat and get myself into motion whenever possible.

During my lunch breaks I’ve taken up walking around the manicured lawns and parking lots of the office park.  Rain, or shine.  Sleet or hail.  Every day at 1:30 I stretch my legs enjoying what limited range of nature is allowed to remain among the concrete and asphalt.

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Corporate Woods is a pleasant melange of corporate and wooded elements

As the summer escalated and the “park” aspects of the office park were at their greenest and most active I began to regularly encounter wasps.  Not just any wasps mind you, huge bright orange wasps with perpetually vibrating wings and a pretty intimidating complexion.  These wasps were always at the same spot during my circuit around the parking lot, along a stone retaining wall.  The wall is at the edge of the office park where the complex abuts against an actual park (a small municipal park which is little more than a glorified walking trail).

Anywho these wasps were particularly active and seemingly abundant.  If I found myself walking too close to the wall I’d inevitably encounter several of the orange behemoths zooming out from their roosts to encircle my head menacingly.  I at least assumed it was threatening though I never found myself chased by wasps or even encircled by them for more than a moment.  I did my best not to antagonize the inch long creatures but also didn’t hang around too long to find out how frightening they could be.

Regardless, I was now curious.

Every day I’d try to observe a little more about the wasps as I’d pass the wall.  I learned that the wasps emerged from small holes burrowed in the narrow strip of dirt between the curb and the wall.  Each of the holes seemed to be guarded by a single wasp.  As I would pass the sentinel wasps would launch themselves into the air and pass uncomfortably close until I hurriedly went on my way.  Strangely I never saw the wasps anywhere else throughout the park.  I mean I’m no wasp expert but these were fairly big bugs and hard to miss.  Yet I only seemed to see them by their nests and not out and about sunning themselves on leaves or carrying off small children.

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“Mind ya business square, find another flower to sniff.”

As the summer went on my interest in the wasps waned and I would simply cast the insects a sidelong glance and a how-do-you-do as I walked past the wall.  During hotter days I would wander into the cooler refuge of the small municipal park.  While on milder days I would sit on the lawn, in the shade of the commercially planted trees which are evenly spaced along the edge of the parking lot and I’d scribble out a few lines of compulsory, sun induced poetry.

It was while sitting in the grass one day, in the shade of a small tree, that my interest in the wasps returned to the forefront.  Out of the blue a loud buzzing sound erupted from somewhere in the tree.  I could hear rustling and leaves being batted around.  By the sound of it I was convinved it had to be a bird but why was it buzzing and falling?  I quickly closed my notebook and waited to see if my questions would be answered.  Then the falling, buzzing, rustling sound grew closer and came crashing out of the tree to land only a few feet away from me.

I instantly recognized the shape of a large cicada.

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Trivia: Cicada’s believe themselves to be the heroes of every story.  They’re always wrong.

That explained the buzzing.  However I quickly realized the cicada wasn’t alone and was in fact wrestling around on the ground with the biggest wasp I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and not just any wasp, it was one of my wasps from the wall only bigger!  Cicada’s are no small things themselves and this wasp was lording over the cicada, easily a full two inches in length.

I quickly realized that this was a fight to the death and the wasp clearly wasn’t about to lose.  The enormous wasp repeatedly jabbed its stinger into the abdomen of the struggling cicada until finally the buzzing died down and the cicada went still.

That’s when the crunching began.

Scooting in as close as I dared I could see the wasp already chewing on it’s prey and I could clearly hear the working jaws crunch the insects exoskeleton.

It was about this time that I realized I was really close to this scene and I really had no idea what it was or how temperamental it could be.  It was also about this time that the wasp took the air in tight circles around her kill and that brought her in close proximity to me!

I decided it was time to make a hastey retreat but I vowed to return to the spot after work to see exactly what was left of the cicada.

Spoiler alert: nothing was left.

Well of course I had to finally know what kind of exotic giant wasps I was dealing with.  As soon as possible I googled “Wasp that kills cicadas” and was immediately rewarded with the most obvious google response I’ve ever encountered.

Did you mean: Cicada Killer Wasp?

Yup that’s what they’re called.  Sphecius speciosus The Cicada Killer Wasp or Cicada Hawk.  They apparently exclusively eat cicadas and are crucial in keeping cicada populations in check.  They are solitary wasps and the females are larger and seem to do most of the actual cicada killing.  That was the lovely example I met beneath the tree.  The males remain back at their underground lairs guarding the nests.

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A giant CKW performing her namesake action!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these voracious killers (they have killer in the name) is that they are quite docile.  The females have stingers with some degree of toxicity but are reportedly not that painful for humans.  Males just have barbs on their tails which they use for defense or frighten off rival males.  For the most part however the Cicada Killer Wasps are gentle giants and not at all aggressive.  It even states on Wikipedia regarding the males: “Although they appear to attack anything that moves near their territories, male cicada killers are actually investigating anything that might be a female cicada killer ready to mate.”

So even the close encounters when walking past the wall was just the wasp equivalent of cat calling.  Clearly I wasn’t what any of them were looking for.  Always the wasp’s maid, never the wasp.  Le sigh.

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Anywho it was an interesting discovery for me and one that I thought worth sharing with all you dear readers!  Take a look at the Cicada Killer page on Wikipedia, read up on these gentle giants, and keep an eye out for them.  Maybe you could even do them a solid and toss a cicada their way once in a while!

That is all!

People I Know: Dr. Jeffrey Holman

Jeff Holman is someone I’ve known for ten plus years, and for most of that time I’ve considered him one of my best friends.  The two of us attended college together at the University of Rio Grande, where I studied English Literature and he pursued his Biology degree.  We’ve gone on several lengthy road trips, had quite a few crazy adventures, and have been involved in each others lives since college for many pivotal ups and downs.  Jeff was the Best Man at my wedding and fairly recently he and his family have returned to the great state of Ohio after he and his wife finished their doctorate schooling out in Iowa at the Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Holman Descending A Staircase

 

In a continuing effort to introduce my friend to the local establishments some of us prefer to haunt I invited him out to a small local bar and grill where we sat down to a few alcoholic beverages and a couple of cheeseburgers.  For being a Thursday night, the place was pretty busy but I chose one of the corner tables in hopes we could get away from the majority of the crowds chatter and perhaps avoid the noise from the televisions mounted overhead.  However shortly after we sat down a heated political debate between several of the bar’s patrons started up directly across from us, mainly focusing on Ohio’s upcoming issue 2 vote.  The main antagonist was a boisterous, rotund, middle age woman who was either affably autistic or an outspoken asshole.  It was hard to tell.  The drunken verbal sparing went on for most of the evening so occasionally our interview was interrupted as the two of us listened in on the bar stool talking heads with amused smirks.

Joshua: So Jeff Holman thanks for sitting down here with me today.

Jeff:  No problem.  Don’t make me look bad.

Joshua:  (Laughing) Ha ha!  Don’t make yourself look bad, I just report the facts!

Jeff: (Laughing) I’ll do what I can!

Joshua: Let me start off by saying once again, even though it’s been four or five months, welcome back to Ohio!

Jeff: It’s been a trip man.

On the Holman occupation front, Ohio wins again.

Joshua: What would you say has been the biggest change going from Iowa to Ohio?

Jeff:  Well I guess becoming familiar with the area and everything that goes along with being new to a place.  Finding the local places to go . . . .

Joshua:  Such as this fine establishment!

Jeff:  And, time seems to go by faster in Ohio, it really does.

Joshua: (Laughing)  Ohio is in a time warp actually, little known fact.

Jeff:  It feels like that.  I mean I count the weeks now, where before I used to count the days.  It’s crazy.

Joshua:  Well and you’re busy now too, I’m sure it’ll slow down.  You’ve got a lot going on, you’ve got a lot on your plate right now, which actually brings me to my next question.  You are a new father, you’re definitely one of my first good friends to have a kid, your son is going to be a year coming up here in December.  What has fatherhood taught you in general so far?

Jeff:  I think my role as a father is a lot different maybe than some other people.  I think I understood my role as being there for my wife, and being a good assistant.  She has very good instincts, and maybe all mothers do, but I just need to make sure that she’s alright with the decisions she’s made.  To back her up and to support her.  Not to say that I’m not there, or that in the early months I wasn’t there through the night but it was always to make sure that she was happy, that she was comfortable.  But if you ask me now it’s different, because when he’s a year old it’s a lot different then when he’s a month old.  A LOT different.

Joshua:  Sure, he’s crawling, mobile, he’s doing stuff.

Jeff:  Yeah, now it’s totally different because when he sees me he lights up, he recognizes me.  Even if I only get to see him two of three hours a day, which even to say that is crazy, but that’s life!

Joshua:  Well yeah I mean, you’ve gotta work!

Jeff:  Yeah.  So, when he sees you, and comes crawling towards you . . . I don’t know, altogether fatherhood’s been pretty cool.  The only thing I tell people though is, have a kid when you’re ready, because if you’re not ready there will be some times . . . . there have been so many times that my wife and I have laughed at two or three in the morning because of our relationship and just how crazy we’ve made it.  But if you weren’t absolutely ready for a kid then you’d be crying.

Joshua:  Switching topics now.  Another big development in your life, since I’ve known you, is that you are now officially Dr. Jeffrey Holman.

Jeff:  That’s right, I am a doctor, I just don’t have my license.

Joshua:  So you’re done with that now, you’re a doctor, you’re a chiropractor, why did you decide to go into chiropractic?  What were your influences?

Jeff:  I think you were there!  I think we were at the bookstore next to the Ruby Tuesdays down in Huntington West Virginia and we were in our senior year in college.  I got a book called Professions for Biology Majors.  I’d always wanted to be an optometrist, even through high school I mentored optometry, and there was one paragraph about chiropractic in this book and it just seemed like it fit.  It fit the lifestyle that I thought I wanted, it fit being able to run your own business the way you wanted to run it.  Of course that’s going to influence who you have in your practice, but even though all of that was the same it was more physical, it seemed like it was more outgoing then what an optometrist would be just sitting in a office.

Joshua:  Yeah you’d have to have more of a personality as a chiropractor, if that’s the right word, “personality.”

Jeff:  Yeah, yeah.  I feel like that too.  You’re not only trying to convince people of letting you provide a service for them, but you’re trying to change lives, change how people live their lives, to better themselves.

Joshua: Yeah, as much behavioral as it is physical.

Jeff:  Right.  That, and the connection that chiropractic started an hour south of where I was born in Iowa.  I had a lot of family, aunts and uncles, in the seven years that I was out there I can’t tell you how many weddings and funerals I went to of people I really didn’t know, because we lived in Ohio growing up.

Joshua:  So your time in Iowa was sort of a reconnection as well?

Jeff:  Absolutely it was!  Especially after my mom passed away there were some aunts and uncles who stepped up and really wanted to nurture.  One in particular who doesn’t have kids, I think really took an interest in making sure that everything was ok.  She still calls me every weekend, excited and nervous for me because that’s one thing my mom did and her side of the family does, is worry.

Joshua:  Honestly though, what mother doesn’t?  But going back to chiropractors.  What do you think more people should understand about chiropractic, or what are some misconceptions that you come across?

Jeff:  I think just the idea that we only adjust the spine, or we only crack bones.  There’s one thing in particular that we try to do and that’s treat subluxation, and there’s three things that cause subluxation and that’s thoughts, traumas, or toxins.  So thoughts being stress, you know, everyday life.  Toxins, even being the nutrition and the food that you eat or the drugs that you take.  Trauma, obviously like a car accident but even everyday life, guys that are working at the factory doing the same thing everyday.  All three of those things effect how your body is able to take care of itself.  Chiropractors help your body do what it’s supposed to do.

Joshua:  Now, because I know you, and I’ve talked about you and you being chiropractor I’ve heard people say things like chiropractors are “quacks” or fake doctors or whatever, how does that sit with you?  How do you handle that?

Jeff:  Here’s my thing, and I don’t get worked up on the doctor thing because anyone who goes to school and gets a bachelors and then goes on to school you can get a masters.  I was in a doctorate program.  I went to school for nine years.  That’s the only thing that makes me a doctor.  It’s the same as someone that can get their doctorate in music, that can get a doctorate in social work.  So they went to school for that, and they deserve the title of doctor.  I’m not saying I’m a medical doctor, I wouldn’t want to be a medical doctor.  I don’t want anything to do with medical doctors.  Although I consider myself a healthcare practitioner.  So I think that has a lot to do with how people perceive chiropractic because of how chiropractors put themselves out there.  You don’t see medical doctors at a mall trying to get people to come to their office, doing a free spine screening, or doing a free drug test, you don’t see that.  That’s because the medical field can compensate themselves through pharmaceuticals, and that’s what I don’t want anything to do with.  We do deal with nutrition, we do deal with supplements.  But when I say you should go out to the store and get some natural vitamin C, buy some oranges, that’s not going to put any money in my pockets.  Whereas a doctor can say, here’s a supplement for ya, and then they get quite a good kickback.  And the chiropractic profession in our country is really only a hundred years old, up until the 60’s it wasn’t even legal in all states.  In fact chiropractors would get jailed for running a medical practice.  We’re not that old, so I can understand where there is some discrepancies in the public.

Joshua:  So would you like to see more regulation on chiropractors, or a more streamlined education?

Jeff:  I’m under the impression that if it works, then how can you put it down?  But I think there does need to be a distinction between what I do, and what I was taught at the fountainhead of chiropractic, Palmer which is the namesake of the family that started chiropractic, compared to what western states herbal medicinists do.  But they can take their tests, and they can be called a chiropractor.

Joshua:  It’s all the same test right?  They all have to take the same standardized test?

Jeff:  Yeah, so there should be a distinction, but I think if someone is trying to do good, from their heart, and can run there own business should be successful.  An overall general feeling I have, and maybe I’m just hopeful, that there are more people out there looking for a healthcare alternative.  That they’re sick of going to the medical profession, and being seen in fifteen minutes, and not really getting an evaluation and just being prescribed something.  So if there are people out there that want something else, I hope that we’ll be able to provide it.  That’s what I want to do.

Joshua:  Now Jeff, I’m going to mention a few other doctors, you may not know all of them, but give me one sentence.  Your thoughts, whether they’re good, bad, or just your opinions.  First one is, Dr. Dolittle.

Jeff:  Uh, African American, um can hear animals?

Joshua: (Laughing)

Jeff:  That’s right isn’t it?

Joshua:  Yes, yeah.  You went with the Eddie Murphy version.  My initial thoughts were the Rex Harrison version.  Just caught me off guard, that’s all.

Jeff:  Yeah, yeah I don’t even know that one.

Joshua:  No, that’s fine.

Jeff:  Eddie Murphy.

Joshua:  Eddie Murphy.  Now how about Dr. Zaius?  The original Planet of the Apes, one of the main apes?

Jeff:  Those apes scare me in those movies.

Joshua: Ha ha!  Ok, now how about Dr. Phil?

Jeff:  You know I think his show, and I’ve only ever seen a few episodes, but I think he’s become an icon.  (chuckling)  And I’ve never really thought about this before, but I think he was probably one of the first doctor shows, you know what I mean, and I think that’s exciting.  Even though, that’s a psychologist, and some of the information they put on those shows, they deal with issues but some of those issues don’t belong on TV.  From that though there’ve been a lot of shows that show medical oriented information and I think that you’ve gotta assume that what’s on TV is what that people want to watch.  So the fact that people are wanting to know about their health is exciting.

Joshua:  Ok now, Dr. Zoidberg.  Do you know who that is?  From Futurama?  The crab man?

Jeff:  Uh, is he the one with the . . . . (makes claw snapping motions with his hands) uh, he kind of freaks me out.  And he has that, it’s not a speech impediment, but he’s got those tentacles in front of his mouth . . . . and does he have something on his head too?

Joshua:  Sometimes.  When he gets excited.  And how about Dr. Kevorkian?

Jeff:  I think it’s a real ethical issue.

Joshua: To be sure!

Jeff:  You can easily say that it was wrong, but I think what was wrong was that people viewed him as being a doctor, and that his practice of medicine was wrong.

Joshua: With the whole Hippocratic oath and all that.

Jeff:  Right.  Ethically you’d hope that he was doing what he thought was right and if he was doing what he thought was right and people were knocking on his door than it’s hard to say.  On the other hand I don’t, I guess I don’t feel that its right for someone who’s in that position, where they wanted to end their life, I don’t think that’s something they should put on anyone else.  That is something they should put on themselves.

Joshua:  Next, Dr. Strange.

Jeff:  Oh that one really sounds familiar too.

Joshua:  He’s one of my favorites.

Jeff:  Maybe you dressed up as him once?

Joshua:  I did!  I made a Dr. Strange costume.

Jeff:  Um, I love him.  He is absolutely one of my favorites too.

Joshua:  Good!  What about Dr. Who?

Jeff:  Doesn’t he have a show?

Joshua:  Yeah, you and I have watched it, well I know you watched about a third of an episode that one time.

Jeff:  And it’s about a time traveling thing, or something?

Joshua:  Correct.

Jeff:  That’s very interesting.

Joshua:  It is interesting.

Jeff:  Now he traveled through time, did he get to pick where he went?

Joshua:  For the most part, sometimes his time machine sort of  just drops him off.

Jeff:  To do good?

Joshua:  Yeah, for the most part.

Jeff:  So he’s not just dropped someplace to slut around.

Joshua:  Yeah the Tardis doesn’t just choose a location based on the quality of their club scene.

Jeff:  Yeah, well I think that’s interesting, and I think probably everyone in life wants to do that, although they’d probably want to always be able to pick where they go.

Joshua:  Another one.  Dr. Doug Ross.  George Clooney’s character on ER.

Jeff:  You know, that’s a very good question.

Joshua:  Is it?

Jeff:  I don’t remember ever watching ER.

Joshua:  I’ve never watched it.

Jeff:  But I think that’s where his career really took off.  And I enjoy some of the movies that he’s been in.

Joshua:  Favorite George Clooney movie, while we’re talking about.  Just off the top of your head!

Jeff:  Uhh, well I liked the Oceans trilogy.  And there was one that I really liked, uh, From Dusk Till Dawn!  His tattoo in that movie is awesome.  If I had the cajones to get a tattoo, that’s what I’d get.  That’s a good movie.

Joshua:  I was just watching part of that today, it was on AMC earlier.

Jeff:  I like him.  I think he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  He’s a good actor.  So George Clooney, I like him.  I’m glad you brought it up.

You know what? He is a pretty good actor.

Joshua:  And how about Dr. Zhivago?  It’s a movie.

Jeff:  That sounds familiar, I’ve never seen it.

Joshua:  A David Lean movie, I have it.  No.  I don’t have it, I have Lawrence of Arabia which is another of his.

Jeff:  That’s a classic movie though right?

Joshua:  Classic movie!  You need to watch that.  Russian revolution, he’s a doctor, epic.  It’s a really good movie, you need to see it.

Jeff:  I hope you can see the spectrum of people that have the title of “doctor.”

Joshua:  Well here’s another question, this is off the cuff, I hadn’t thought of this earlier but speaking of the spectrum of doctors, would you like to see more chiropractors represented in movies and television, or do you know of any chiropractors that are in popular media?

Jeff:  I would say there is not a good example. There is a character on Two and a Half Men who is a chiropractor.

Joshua:  Oh christ!

Jeff:  Seinfeld talked about chiropractors a couple different times.  George with the famous line of “Doctor”  Ha!  I’m not gonna pay that bill!  But I think anyone who’d get upset by that, takes themselves too seriously.

Joshua:  Ok Jeff, here’s a question I’ve been doing with everyone that I’ve talked to.  Give me seven words to describe you, you’re life up to this point.  It can be a phrase or just seven words, whatever you think is more fitting.

Jeff:  I guess I’d consider myself, LovingHelpful, loyal.

Joshua:  Is this just going to be the Scout Law?

Jeff:  (Laughing) No, no.  I’m just thinking . . . it’s tough.

Joshua:  It is tough, Carl hated it.  Lauren went with a phrase.

JeffUnderstanding, and I don’t know if you’d count it as another one but also Compassionate, but I guess I feel that they’re the same.

Joshua:  I can see that.

JeffFocused.  One more?

Joshua:  I lost track.

Jeff:  I think so.  Excited.

Joshua:  I like those, those are some good ones.  I agree with your choices.  Alright here’s my last question, it’s kind of a long question, and this will just be first response that comes to your mind type of thing.  You’ve just been elected President of the United States.  It’s time to pick your cabinet, who’s on your cabinet?  Your Vice President?

Jeff:  My first lady!

Joshua:  Secretary of State?

Jeff:  Umm, George Clooney.

Joshua: (Laughing)  Yes, nice.  Secretary of the Treasury?

Jeff:  Lauren, your wife!

Joshua:  Yes!  Good choice 100%, she is definitely my Secretary of the Treasury!  Secretary of Defense?

Jeff:  Well, let’s see here . . . . hmm damn . . . . Alex Trebek.

Consider the United States defended.

Joshua:  Alex Trebek, Secretary of Defense, that has a nice ring to it.  I like it.  Justice, Secretary of Justice?

Jeff:  Uh, let’s see, Justice, um, Captain America.

Joshua:  Captain America, of course!  He would be a perfect Secretary of Justice.

Jeff:  Or Jesus, whichever.  Whoever is available.

Joshua:  Captain America or Jesus, whoever picks up the phone first.  Ok.  Department of the Interior?

Jeff:  Ha!  You said Interior, so let’s go with Clinton, from What Not To Wear.

Joshua:  Ha!  Ok, that’s what we’re going with!  Department of Agriculture, Secretary of Agriculture?

Jeff:  This is a serious one.

Joshua:  Oh yeah?  You really take this one to heart eh?

Jeff:  I would say . . . . I forget his name . . . . he is the author of a book and he was in Food Inc. as one of the commentators . . . .

Joshua:  Eh, don’t worry about it, google it and send me a text we’ll edit it in later, no problem.  Commerce?

Jeff:  Jay-Z.  He has money.

Joshua:  He does indeed have money.  Labor, Department of Labor?

Jeff:  I would go into downtown Detroit and pick someone off the assembly line.

Joshua:  I like that, real grassroots there.  Health, Department of Health.

Jeff:  Me!

Joshua:  What?  You’re already the President!  And your wife is already taken so you can’t use her either.

Jeff:  Dr. Oz.

Joshua:  Dr. Oz, why not!  Secretary of Housing and Urban Development?

Jeff:  I want to see someone more like Mitt Romney in that position of Urban Development.

Joshua:  Alright, interesting choice, interesting.  Transportation?

Jeff:  How about, John Madden.

Joshua:  He can certainly coordinate a good run.

Jeff:  Well he doesn’t fly in planes, he’s always on the bus.

Joshua:  Yes, that’s right!  I forgot about that, that’s a good choice.  Brilliant.  Secretary of Energy?

Jeff:  I think, I don’t know his name, the guy who owns the Tesla Company?

Joshua:  Education.  Department of Education who would you have in charge there?

Jeff:  Barnamus.  Mrs. Barnamus.

Joshua:  Was that a teacher of yours?

Jeff:  Yeah, she was my third through sixth grade teacher.

Joshua:  She was a good teacher then eh?

Jeff:  Myeh.

Joshua:  Secretary of Veterans Affairs?

Jeff:  Um, your father.

Joshua:  (Laughing)  I think he’d run a tight ship there!  Ol’ Glenwood Chester, he’d make shit happen.  For those out there who don’t know my father he’s an 81 year old former Navy vet who is notorious for his activities down at the American Legion and his volunteering he does with the funeral honor guard there.  Finally, Homeland Security.

Jeff:  This one, I take this one very seriously.  I think, I don’t know if it’s allowed, but I’d pick James Bond.

Joshua:  James Bond, he’s not an American citizen though.

Jeff:  That’s alright, they don’t have to be an American citizen do they?  I’m sure he can get his citizenship before they swear him in.  If Pamela Anderson can be citizen, James Bond can be a citizen.

Joshua:  (Laughing)  That, might be the take away quote from this interview!  And probably one of my favorite quotes of all time, if Pamela Anderson can be a citizen, James Bond can be a citizen.  Alight Jeff Holman do you have any final statements you want to say before we end this?

Jeff:  No, no it was a lot of fun.  Thank you for your time.

Joshua:  I’m glad you took it serious, and I liked what you had to say.

Jeff:  Yeah, I try to take most questions serious, it was a lot of fun though.  I hope it goes well.  I’m interested to read this one as well as your other blog entries to see how it goes.  See how I compared to other people.

Joshua:  Well, it’s different questions!

Jeff:  Well thank you.

Joshua: No, thank you sir!

That is all!

 

 

Did You Know There Is A Helium Shortage?

Yes folks that’s right, there is a global shortage of helium looming.  Already supplies are low and there are difficulties finding and refining more of the highly sought after gas.  If you’re like me when I first heard this news a few months ago you might be thinking “Oh yeah?  So what?  Boo hoo, so there won’t be any party balloons at birthdays, big deal.”  As it turns out however helium is used far more extensively than you might think.  The arguably second most popular gas in the world has many important applications in the medical community, it has many uses in scientific equipment, and helium is a component in fiber optics.  Depleted reserves, increased worldwide industry, and the fact that it’s always someones 7th birthday somewhere have lead to an enormous price hike on helium and a greater demand for the gas even as its availability dwindles.

Here are some links to a few articles that present some different views on the helium crisis, take a look:

The Ledger.com

Specialty Gas Report

Gasworld.com

I brought this up before in my post about space exploration and asteroid mining, if you missed it click HERE.  I just thought this was an interesting subject and was worth revisiting.  Next time your at the grocery store or somewhere they sell helium inflatables turn to the clerk with a grimace and ask them how they can sleep at night knowing that they are stealing that helium from some poor asthmatic child.  They probably won’t know what the hell you’re talking about but maybe it will eventually help start a more open dialogue about helium preservation.  In the mean time, anyone out there with a few billion dollars handy should really start working on perfecting the processes of remote asteroid mining cause there are whole chunks of frozen helium just floating around out there beyond our atmosphere.  Not to mention asteroids made from gold, iron, platinum, and the list goes on.

That is all!

Space Exploration is the Human Legacy

Yesterday NPR had a story about the possible next generation of spacecraft that might make deliveries and carry astronauts for NASA now that the shuttle program is being done away with.  The new spacecraft will be made by the private aeronautics company known as SpaceX (yes it sounds like “Space Sex”) and will have twice the cargo weight capacity of the current shuttles.  The new rocket is being called Falcon Heavy and could be making its first launch as soon as 2013.  You can read the whole article HERE.

The possible design of the Falcon Heavy by SpaceX

In other space news, a fascinating article by Steven Kotler in this month’s Playboy deals with the very real and very near future industry of asteroid mining.  Yes that long running staple of the sci-fi genre, asteroid mining could become a reality and change everything.  One expert in the article states that he believes the first trillionaires on Earth will be the individuals who take the risks and invest in off world resource gathering.  NASA has flown probes up to, and kept pace with, various asteroids collecting particles and dust in their wake.  The Japanese on the other hand have gone one step further, not only sending probes to match the speed of an asteroid, but have actually landed on the asteroid’s surface, scraped it for samples, and then flew back to Earth with the samples intact.  That is essentially what the industry of asteroid mining would look like, only on a bigger scale.  Since asteroids are not within our Earthly atmosphere they aren’t processed and diffused, they are highly concentrated chunks of ore which wouldn’t require extensive digging to cull.  Whatever materials you can scrape off the surface, is pretty much what the entire asteroid is made of.  Those materials include iron, nickel, gold, platinum, and water, along with hundreds of other minerals that can be in short supply here on Earth.  This work with asteroid interception and remote resource gathering is a perfect stepping stone for a manned Mars mission, and eventual off world colonization.  If we can obtain resources like water and iron from asteroids and send them to, say, a Mars colony without having to ship them from Earth, that would drastically lower the costs of such missions.

Artists rendering of remote asteroid mining

 

As far as I’m concerned space exploration is one of the most important endeavors humans can hope to undertake.  It is a topic I have felt strongly about for many years and I will continue to uselessly argue for it with anyone who can hear me until I’m dead.  My opinions on the matter are not new, or based in astute scientific research that I’ve conducted, or even all that original.  The reason I feel I must repeat my feelings though are because people seem to forget, and lose sight.  So few people think about the big picture of the world, the future of humanity.  How we live on a razor thin edge which could be toppled at any moment from any number of sources beyond our control and unless we look out toward space now, everything we are currently doing becomes excruciatingly meaningless.

Some time in the future, countless days from now, our sun will die.  It will grow colder, dimmer, and expand enveloping our planet and evaporating away our histories and cultures.  Of course I suppose even that is wishful thinking, expecting the human race to make it that long considering we will more likely kill each other off through violence, pollution, and war.  Though even if we were to survive our own very human struggles there is still the regular threat from any number of extinction events that have swept the world previously.  What I’m getting at is one way or another, our world is doomed, humanity is doomed, and unless we take to the stars and move beyond where we are now everything we know and will ever know will simply cease to exist as if none of it ever existed.  A brief flash of light in the darkness of the universe, that no one saw.

Of course it all sounds very nostalgic, perhaps naively optimistic.  What’s to stop Earth colonies on Mars or elsewhere from turning out exactly the same as Earth, with war, pollution, and poverty?  Nothing, most likely those ventures will start out as purely financial stakes, some sort of corporate interests that want to make a buck.  Whenever we do set up bases on off-world landscapes (and I firmly believe we will) I have no real expectation that it will be done with the human races best interests in mind, it will most likely be much more small minded and profit driven.  However such a venture will allow people like me to look beyond those two dimensional motivations and have some small hope, some reassurance that the human race is indeed stepping out and establishing itself with at least a larger scope in mind.  We all know the old saying, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  I honestly look forward to news of longer space voyages and established bases on other worlds because until that time there is always the dark pall hanging over us that perhaps the space programs will be completely done away with one day, and we will be stuck on this planet isolated, simply waiting to become extinct.  Until I see images of humans on other planets, there will be a slight sadness and sense of longing when looking up at the night sky.

Destination: Mars

Others out there are doubtlessly reading this and deriding these comments and my thoughts on the future and space exploration.  That’s fine, that’s understandable.  But when people say they are tired of seeing money spent on rockets into space when there are plenty of people here on Earth that need it, my only response to them would be “I guess you missed my point.”  Inflated military budgets and our war industry work more for the spread of conflict and loss of life then they work against it.  Our medical industry is working hard to make us immortal which will be nice when the shattering of Earth does eventually roll around, at least we’ll still be around to see it.  Our entertainment culture, which is important to the identity of the human race, should blindly keep shoveling millions upon millions of dollars into the movie, sports, television, and video game industries so that we can be thoroughly distracted from the realities of war and poverty, and so we don’t have to think about difficult and deep thoughts such as the future of the human race.  Why would we want to spend money on space exploration?  To perhaps actually preserve the legacy of the human race?  Preposterous!

I don’t have any real answers to anything and I’m certainly not really doing much in my life to change the situation or rally support for the space program or anything like that.  I suppose my main point in writing this post is simply to share my thoughts and perhaps invoke some others out there to think about the future, the planet, and the big picture as a whole.  If I’ve done that at all that’s great, and I hope you continue to think big and encourage others to do so.  If you’ve gotten nothing out of reading this, if you think I’m an idiot and you want that five minutes of your life back I say that’s what you get for reading a blog entitled “Mindless Philosophy!”

To the future!

That is all!