Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

State of the Onion and Book O'the Decade

Okay, already.  I know it's been ages since my last post.  Can I help it if I've hardly had time to breathe between rounds of dodging assassins, chasing bad guys, treasure hunting, romancing beautiful girls (okay, girl--just one girl--like I have time for more than one?) and exposing sinister government conspiracies? Honestly, my days are just packed.  Plus, the novel I'm writing (okay, I'm writing a novel.  That's sort of exciting) is being composed longhand in a spiral-bound notebook, like I used to do when I was a kid.  So I'm not hauling the laptop, or the tablet, all over town to write in various Starbucks locations.   Which makes it less likely I can kick out a blog post on top of everything else.  Well, you know.  Lack of equipment.  It's hard to type on a cell phone.

Besides, since our momentous trip to Austin, not a lot has happened.  Joan's leg is still bothering her and she's in physical therapy.  I had another squamous cell carcinoma lopped off my nose.  Many things legal got typed, filed, revised, proofed, filed, served and otherwise dealt with.  They were all very interesting. This month I'm trying to clock 1500 meters in 45 minutes every time I go to the pool, and I've done pretty well so far. (Thus to build up to the Big Swim in July.  I believe in starting early.)  One of my scrips is $100 a month with insurance, which is only slightly ameliorated by the fact that two of them are absolutely free.  I keep not reading my email.  But I am reading a spiffy book, The Martian by Andy Weir.  Meet my new Book O'the Decade.

Due to a big misunderstanding, astronaut and botanist Mark Watney is marooned on Mars when his team evacuates during a sandstorm.  What do you do, if you're stranded on a hostile planet that sort of fails to offer breathable air, water, food and, you know, other things you've sort of counted on since you first crawled out of the womb?  You invent things that will help you survive and find a way home.  With a wry sense of humor and plenty of old-fashioned determination, Watney narrates his ramble across the Red Planet,  intercut with news of home (on Earth, and at NASA) as his fellow scientists scramble to rescue him.  The Martian is compulsively readable.  Do not pick it up at 10 o'clock at night unless you want to be up until three or four in the morning.  I gotta knock the rest of it off this weekend because I was No. 6 on the waiting list of 29 or so people who wanted to borrow it from the library, and the sooner I get it into the hands of No. 7, the happier everyone will be.

The thing about this book is, it's hard to know what to call it.  Is it sci-fi?  Well, in a sense; a lot of the technology that shows up doesn't exist yet, though it's all perfectly plausible and, in all likelihood, not that far off.  But it all sounds perfectly factual, like the best narrative nonfiction.  Besides, it could happen.  Just like Gravity, sooner or later we're going to have a big snafu in space and people's lives are going to be at risk.  How are we, the rest of us that is, going to handle that?

Consider for a second that Mars is 34 million miles away from Earth at its closest point.  That's a long journey for a rescue helicopter, or even a space ship. How do we decide if that's important enough to put all the time and money behind going there?  We went to the moon because it was hard, as JFK famously said, but then we just sort of puttered around for a while before losing interest.  We humans also spent months and millions of dollars looking for a missing airliner that is, in all likelihood, lost with all hands, yet we can't seem to get our collective asses together to find 237 kidnapped Nigerian girls that are probably still alive.  (We also spent over $2 million to lock up Justina Pelletier for the past 15 months, and the girl didn't even do anything wrong.  I'm just saying.)  So would there be a big rally to rescue the man on Mars?  Or would he be written off as a tragic example of sometimes shit happens?  Anyway, you need to read the book, but it does inspire some serious thinking.

Other than that, there really isn't a lot going on.  The spring's been mild, with fairly cool temperatures and a lot more rain than usual even though (all together now) It Doesn't Make A Dent In Our Current Drought. I've become a compulsive walker at noontime; give me my twenty-minute ramble through Lee Park or face the consequences.  My gang of Buddhists is still meeting every Wednesday night to meditate, mutter, melodize and mope about misanthropic mendacities (to say nothing of aggrandizing alliterating assholes).  Tonight I'm going out with the girls to a burlesque, which I guess is the 1890s version of a strip show except nobody actually gets naked (I hope).  If so, I'll be the fat chick blushing in the back row. I am such a prude.

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