Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Space Stuff

Lileks talks about the stars.

Fact: In the middle of a war against medieval-minded foes, we decided that we should also head back into space. We’re not going to close the borders, curl up under the covers. The right hand holds the sword, the left hand holds the sextant. If you’d asked me on 9/12/01 what headline I thought I’d see on 01/14/03, I would have said something depressing like “Seattle relies on Israeli experts for help in nuke damage” or some such apocalyptic concept. Back then it all seemed ready to tumble into the deep black pit. I would have been cheered to learn that attacks on our troops in Iraq were down 22 percent. I would have been gobsmacked to learn we had decided to return to the moon as well. That's the sort of news that transcends today and defines tomorrow.

Real life continues to be some kind of Republican version of The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin, a space enthusiast himself, probably was wishing he was on Bush's staff yesterday. But the real president's speechwriters didn't do too bad a job. Here's the text of President Bush's space speech.

"....much remains for us to explore and to learn. In the past 30 years, no human being has set foot on another world, or ventured farther upward into space than 386 miles -- roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts. America has not developed a new vehicle to advance human exploration in space in nearly a quarter century. It is time for America to take the next steps.

Today I announce a new plan to explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system. We will begin the effort quickly, using existing programs and personnel. We'll make steady progress -- one mission, one voyage, one landing at a time.

...With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond. (Applause.) Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers -- the advanced guard to the unknown. Probes, landers and other vehicles of this kind continue to prove their worth, sending spectacular images and vast amounts of data back to Earth. Yet the human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures, or the most detailed measurements. We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves. And only human beings are capable of adapting to the inevitable uncertainties posed by space travel.

As our knowledge improves, we'll develop new power generation propulsion, life support, and other systems that can support more distant travels. We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: human beings are headed into the cosmos.

...Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey.

Mentioning The West Wing, of course, leads to some obvious questions about the difference between realistic, pragmatic planning and dramatic, fantasy-based dreams that don't have to be paid for. Well, obviously space will cost. NASA is still a bloated bureaucracy which may drag this down, and the new space program has to get votes not only from this Congress, but from many to come. It has to get bipartisan support. We also need a lot of wisdom and luck.

But the United States and the rest of the world are fully capable of taking up a challenge. We badly need more positive goals than "defend ourselves" and "keep the mall economy going". The space program, assuming we go out there to live, to work, and to stay, will be such a goal.

I really want to write a song about this. Somebody has to. I'm ashamed to say that my compadres are more concerned with ripping on the president than celebrating a little bit of momentum. Right up there with giving Gingrich no support when they for once had a Speaker of the House who supported space and even private space initiatives. Some people can't take being given everything they've always wanted...if it's being offered by the "wrong" person. Bah humbug right back at ye, ye poor bitter Scrooges.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

And Then There Were Two....

Preach it, Joy!

Hee! I told you big things were going to happen.

As you can already see, Joy's got an interesting POV and a lot to say. She's also a great deal wiser and braver person than I am. Finally, she watches a great deal more EWTN than I as a loyal "parishioner" of St. Blog's, I obviously need her around to increase this blog's "Latin Mass" quotient! As an independent, she will also provide a little more political diversity of opinion. For this and for so many other reasons, I'm glad to have her here.

Unfortunately, I've had to leave you in Joy's reliable hands for a while, and I will again. I still haven't gotten over this silly cold, so I stayed home from choir practice. This weekend, I'm going up to my friend Steve's place to work on my album. So...I'm resting up determinedly.

But I do have to say...I'm really excited about finally ditching the outdated bits of the space program and moving on to the real business of living and working in space. Permanent moonbase. Headin' to Mars. (Not giving up and leaving space to China.) Yes, this is a good idea. Let's do this, folks.

Sunday, January 11, 2004



My very erudite friend Maureen has offered to let me share her blog when I have a desire to spout off. What do you need to know about me? I enjoy fantasy and SF. I teach Composition and Literature to bored community college freshmen. I'm a non-denominational Christian with a slightly odd bent.

This week I've been suffering a particularly bad cold. It isn't as bad as the one I suffered through when we went to the Big Jewish Wedding, but near enough. I also have had to put up with my body's monthly--well you know--at the same time. Since I was introduced to this particular aspect of my life as a female, I have suspected that the human body is not particularly well designed and this has caused me some philosophical difficulties.

Did I mention that I majored in Medieval and Early Modern Literature? Well, anyway, Medieval people believed that since God is perfect, creation must also be perfect. They loved categories and they believed that everything had a logical place. Modern theorists, having taken God out of the picture, are much more in love with chaos and its theories both mathematical and philosophical.

Which brings me back to the messiness and imperfection of the universe. There could be several reasons why God allows this:

1. Things aren't as imperfect as they seem. Since I am not God and don't know the reasons for everything, I can't be expected to grasp this.

2. The world is fallen. Everything was perfect in Eden, but since then sin has entered the world and so we get a mess.

3. #1 and #2 plus God likes imperfection

Now I know that number three seems unlikely, but go with me for a minute. There are several passages in the New testimony in which Christians are called upon to be "perfect," however I am informed by a reliable Greek scholar I know that the Greek word is more accurately translated as "mature." In other words, God wants us to grow up, and I wish Him good luck with that, but he is not requiring that we be absolutely perfect. Since so much of life is manifestly not perfect, and since there isn't much we can do about that, but strive to improve, I believe that God must like imperfection. Messiness must appeal to Him in some way.

Some people see God as the kid who upsets the ant hill to watch the ants scurry about. That's not what I'm saying. God isn't a sadist. However, He also doesn't seem to be like the kid at the science fair who is elated when all of the equations match. Who would have expected Moses to free his people or Saul to become Paul? God has a sense of humor.

At least that's what I like to believe as I sit here sniffling, missing church and wondering how I'm going to teach two three hour classes tomorrow with a sore throat and cough.