Thoughts on Private Space Entrepreneurs, Industry, Exploration and Sustainability

Essays

In progress…

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I’ve been following the private space industry since I covered the DC-X Launch in 1993 in White Sands, New Mexico and saw rocket lanches and bought stock in SpaceDev before it went private.

I’m using this post as a place to keep my links and share them with interested people. Suggest a source of info if you want in the comments!

Space is the place! Our backyard beckons. Many doubters persist, ironically often environmentalists. I say ironic, because I feel that biggest gains in sustainable practices will come in a large part from experiences we have in space. Solar panels, recycling (everything), small efficient living space design, weather, crop, and water data, all benifit greatly from knowledge we’ve gained by using satellites and spaceships. If you look at the data, research, benefits of satellites and science in space, and the future of research, sustainability, recycling, solar, mining, I  believe space becomes a natural place.

There’s two other bigger reasons. One, those few humans who’ve seen the earth from orbit almost all report a moment that forever leaves them more sensitzed to our planet as fragile, rare, interconnect system. Two, the radiation soaked, life-as-we-know-it devoid, vacuums of space is a much less negative impact to our environment as a place to mine for ore then a forest in a jungle

Here’s what I’m tracking and why:

Media

Private space companies

Private space companies that trade publically

  • Orbital Sciences (ORB)
  • Astrotech (ASTC)

Fantome The Cat

Essays

Fantome (unedited)

(Unedited version. Published in Cats & Kittens Magazine: Featured essay entitled “Fantom”. May 2001, Vol. 4. No. 2.)

I was bored the other day so I decided to take an old stray ally cat to the vet – and then wash him. I was not bored for long.

Fantom is his name, and ‘last of the real cats’ is his claim to fame. He’s an old ally cat that recently adopted me. Took three weeks to get him to lie on the couch with me. He’s not that smart. He tends to stare off into space like an old boxer at times, like he’s got something to do, but forgot what it was. He’s got a dirty butt, two chunks taken out of his left ear, chipped and dirt-infested very-long-sharp-never-trimmed claws, a snaggle tooth and bad breath. He refuses to sleep inside past 1am, especially if it’s raining. He’s black and white. Rain makes him howl and scratch at the door until you let him out. I figure he feels pent up in a storm and needs to be facing it on his own terms with freedom to move. Or maybe it’s because I insist that I’m the only animal that shits in my house, so I don’t have a litter box.

I had a day off and since one of my neighbors had a restraining order on Fantom to keep 10 feet away from her door lest some of his germs infect her terminally cute-friendly-clean-pure-bread-neurotic-declawed-never-been-outside “cat”, I figured I’d take him to the vet and get him shots.

I packed him in the only box I had, a Hewlett Packard 812c Deskjet reinforced printer box. I picked him up for the trip to the vet and he scratched me through the handholds. Dropping the box from the pain, I watched as he proceeded to start eating his way through the handholds like a crazed badger. I was clearly not prepared for this mission.

Bleeding from two knuckles, I grabbed my leather work gloves, blocked the holes with my protected hands, and ran him out to the truck. By the time I got to the vet 15 blocks away he could get out of the box on one side. But I stuffed that side against the door, and then got out and had to stuff his head back in the box when I opened the door. It was like trying to stuff the last of a down sleeping bag into its small bag. He was pissed.

I entered the vet holding my gloves over the holes with the box way out in front of me smiling and saying “I’m bleeding and I need a room.”

Once in the small vet room I pondered what to do. Should I even let him out? Would he tear up the place, me, the vet? Not wanting to keep my hands on the box, I decided to let the beast out. I figured he might freak out, but at least I could get out of the room to safety and leave a nice surprise for the vet.

I cut the tape on the printer box’s top and backed away. He looked around slowly. He looked again. He sniffed. He went back inside the box. He looked around again. Then he calmly left the box, shook off the cardboard pieces from his freak out, walked to the middle of the floor and languidly lay down as if he was on our patio. He cleaned a paw. A dog passed by the other side of the door and he halfheartedly hissed. He looked at me and closed his eyes. I wondered what he was thinking? Maybe “Thought I’d freak out didn’t you?”. Cats love to keep you guessing. Or maybe he was thinking, “No food, no gland stimulation, think I’ll take a nap.” Maybe that’s what cats are always thinking???

I sat in the room and waited. A sign on the wall said they could trim the front claws of cats so they wouldn’t ruin furniture, and that they’d still be able to climb trees with their back claws. I laughed out loud. These people had obviously never seen a cat climb a tree, and they’d certainly never climbed one themselves. Besides, I’ve had cats and never had them ruin furniture. The first time they do you just jump up, scream “No”, and gently send them skidding across the floor. Same with counters. Run up, scream “No!” and gently swipe them onto the floor. Cats do not keep grudges, although they will shit in your bed if you leave them for too long. Solution? Lock them outside when you leave! If you love something, set it free!!!

The nurse came in and we lay him on the stainless steal table. Nobody was injured. He seemed to find it all rather interesting, if a bit annoying, or maybe he’s like me and just hates florescent lights. She said he weighed 10 pounds which is pretty small, and needs every shot known to man. She called me “Dad”. I didn’t stop her, although it was insulting to both myself and Fantom. We are partners in life and like to think that we are both independent and able to take care of ourselves, thank you very much. She redeemed herself by taking me to put iodine in my knuckle cuts and commenting how dirty Fantom’s claws were.

“Yeah, and sharp!” I said, probably sounding like Calvin talking about Hobbs.
She said, “We can trim them, it’ll get all the dirt out.”
“Can you sharpen them when you’re done?”
“Well, no.”
“That’s wouldn’t be fair to him, he’s outside at night,” I said.

The Vet came in. He was nice, too nice. He had the doctor voice that kid doctors get. We both didn’t trust him. He poked, prodded, looked, listened. He said the little black things among the filth Fantom had deposited on the stainless steal thing were dead fleas and flea feces. He said Fantom had a dental disease and a bad tooth. But a strong heart and lungs and was basically healthy. I told him that he sprays flower pots for fun and everybody’s closet but mine if given the chance. The vet said he’s not fertile, so it’s just pee. He said that he doesn’t spray in my closet because he’s picked me as his friend. My neighbor’s still won’t be happy.

I told the vet that when he’s pushed too far he beats up the other younger, bigger, stronger male cats by coming in fast and very low to the ground with ears back, screaming and with alternating claw swipes. The vet said that was because he’s been fighting all his life and is very good at it.

Fantom retreated to my lap several times, it was very cute, although we wouldn’t admit it. $150.00 later he had his shots, flea elixir from hell (one drop behind the neck = no fleas for 30 days in your apartment), and a stool sample forcibly removed. I got ripped off, but not as bad as Fantom. Leaving, I was not happy about the money and Fantom was just not happy. At least I didn’t do the $300.00 dental work. That I’ll save for a cheaper vet, or maybe use a Leatherman and some Codine laced tuna.

To get him home I had to buy a cat box, another $20.00. He was calm in it until I was walking across the street to my place and he saw his home turf. Seeing familiar ground, he rammed the steal door three times with the top of his his head hard enough to almost knock the cat box out of my hands. That had to hurt, but it explains his vacant looks.

Sitting at home it became strikingly obvious that since I’d spent this ridiculous amount of money on a stray cat, and I was having a cocktail party that night, the cat better damn well be clean.

Now, I knew that my neighbor Jae had tried to wash him last year and that she claimed she’d barely survived. She had insisted that he’d need to be heavily sedated and washed by a trained professional the next time. The vet had told me to tie him to a tree and hose him down to project me from bites, because if he bites I’d have to go to the ER due to his dirty mouth.

The tree/hose thing sounded a mite cruel, besides what about soap? I figured leather gloves, a willingness to get wet, and a tub full of soapy warm water would be enough. I filled a tub with warm water, Dawn soap (for the grease) and shampoo (for his coat). The suds were thick.

I picked him up quick and set him down in the water. Suddenly I was holding the Tazmanian Devil! Suds flew, water hit me in the face. A sharp pain shot though my forearm. I pulled back and Fantom followed the two claws of his that had punctured my arm. Not scratched mind you, but punctured, leaving two bleeding holes as if a vampire with bad aim had bitten me.

We sat in our corners and thought. I thought that this time I’d hold my forearms wide. He thought “I’ll kill him in his sleep,” or maybe “No food? No glad stimulation. I think I need a nap,”

I picked him up and pushed him back in. Chaos ensued. My forearms were safe however. I got two good coat washings in before a paw found my knee and easily sunk claws though my jeans. He launched himself out of the tub using my skin as a purchase and covered me with water on the way.

We sat on the floor in opposite corners again. We were both wet, pissed and slightly shell shocked by now. We plotted our next moves. Fantom’s plan was obviously to stay by the door, look pissed, and kill anything that touched him. Mine was to foil his escape plan of using my forearms and legs. If he could find skin, he could get out. But porcelain left him with no traction.

Readying a sponge I picked him up again, but this time I widened my arms and kept my knees down. Setting him in the water I blocked his escape by holding his chest. He fought, but only slipped. Grabbing the sponge I washed his stink butt. He freaked out, water and suds flew, but I kept him in and got in a few more coat washes before he found my right forearm, dug in, and flew out of the tub.

Back to our corners. He looked like a rat who was having a very bad day. I was bleeding from both forearms. Glancing at my knee I saw blood coming through my jeans. I felt great! It was so tactile, so un-computer. I drained the tub and filled it with clear warm water for a rinse cycle. Ha! I wasn’t going to stop now. Water flew, but I was getting good at avoiding his claws. He got one last deep scratch but he was rinsed goddamn it. I dried him off and opened the door.

He didn’t sprint for more caring owners as I figured. Instead he just walked into the living room and began to clean himself as if nothing happened. I cleaned my wounds and marveled how he wasn’t holding a grudge. I guess he figured I was bleeding enough to make it all water under the bridge, so to speak. We were even, time to move on to food, gland stimulation, and naps.

By the time cocktails were served and people were milling about, he was dry and only slightly annoyed at the whole thing. His white feet were actually white, and his coat was actually nice to touch. Of course he disappeared for most of the party, but at least I knew.

When Jae came up for cocktails, she asked about the Bandaids on my forearms.

“I washed Fantom” I said proudly.
“Really,” She said smiling, “look at this.”
And she peeled back the left cuff of her blouse and showed me a tiny pink 1/2 inch scar on her forearm.

THE END


http://www.calebclark.org © Copyright 1994 – 2008, Caleb John Clark all rights reserved

Burning Mars

Essays

Burning Mars

By Caleb John Clark. August 2004.

The “Vault of Heaven” essay about this year’s Burning Man theme says it’s “a blend of scientific theory and artistic intuition.”

One might ponder this as they sit on the edge of Black Rock City looking at the perfectly shaped horseshoe outline within which structures sprout out of dusty chaos on an otherwise alien playa.

One might think why? Why on a seemingly lifeless 400 square mile plane 30,000 people decided to leave their normal universe of working for money amid the barely intersecting orbits of wrenched excess and barren poverty. Why are they now paying money to work harder and more cooperatively on intense creative expression and frolicking? Why have they decided to battle dust and dehydration and bring all you need? Why a money free environment that takes money to be part of? Why so much technology? Fire? Why this exodus of comfort voluntarily undertaken on precious vacation time?

Because through blind luck, intuition (or maybe some scientific super-secret Burning Man think tank?) Burning Man has stumbled ahead of society a little and driven a rebar stake at our specie’s next away point. It’s as if Burning Man as a collective believes in humanity and it’s future (as I do). As if it, or we, on the playa all believe that we are at the core a good species and we are, albeit excruciatingly slowly, getting better every nanosecond. And that this will continue, and in fact should continue.

Down the road a few Burning Mans the continuation is of course trying to live in space. Either by going somewhere in a tin can to make a home, or by living in a really big tin can with nice windows and some dirt and plants.

This is the next step because at the end of the day we are a species that needs to reach to live and grow. And if you’ve scanned the cable channels recently, you can see that we’ve got a little room to grow. But evolution takes time, resources, real-estate, and new environments where we can test new social, scientific, and artistic ideas.

And there’s a little bit of a time crunch since all live on one planet, known for mass extinctions, with no backup. Now when pressed some of your friends might admit they think we should go extinct, upon which you should get new friends who are on team “Live Long and Prosper” and not team “Low Species-Esteem.” Remember the dinosaurs? Only from bones right? Not so good a plan. Also, we now have good evidence that we live in not just in an expanding universe, but an exponentially expanding universe, so the longer we wait, the father we’ve got to go.

Now back to the playa. Take a look down near your feet. Remember moon photos and current Mars Rover photos? Seemingly lifeless hard pack, rubble and dust. The space we need to traverse to get there? A couple hundred below with no sun and radioactive hot during the day. We’re shade structures made of lead here folks. And these are both places we’re going to have to bring all we need, rely on each other to survive, and where money is meaningless. Sound familiar?

Now look at a good camp, hopefully one right around you. See how it is always defined by people working cooperatively? People taking care of each other and using almost military style communication to get things done? See the selflessness heroism. Feel in your wallet the resources it took to make it happen but with no need to make a profit. Kinda like good science or art isn’t it? Kinda like a long trip to Mars in a confined space no?

If you read up on the current thinking on what it will take to get a crew to Mars in a tin can, you’ll see serious scientists talking about the weak points not being technology or physical prowess. This isn’t Chuck Yager land anymore. The right stuff now has as much to do with social psychology, robot therapists, medications, mediations, crew temperament combinations, private space importance, sexual dynamics, dealing with breakdowns with no turning back.

Sounds like things a good camp already is working on to me. Sure, it takes months to get to Mars, and that would be one long ass Burning Man. Sure colonization will take a crew years and astronauts aren’t known for their body paint, frolicking, or artistic expression. But maybe they should be a little? Maybe it would help the effort?

Maybe we’re practicing here at Burning Man? Maybe we’re figuring things out for the next step. Maybe we’re doing field research.

If so we’re coming up with some great data. We’re showing that extreme self-reliance and group work doesn’t have to be boring! We’re proving right now as we speak that more open sexuality, enlightened communication, creative expression, and mental breaks from reality might one day make it possible for us to travel to and colonize a barren rock heap without going babble-in-the corner crazy.

So NASA take note. We’re here showing you how it’s going to be done. And the world take note. We’re here showing you a glimpse of your backup copy. Post-human, but humane. Urban, but the same. Crazy but more sane.

This year’s theme will indeed be a blend of scientific theory and artistic intuition. So lets get out there and do some research for humanity! Who’s with me?! Yaaaaaahhhhhh….

Suspicious in Gate and Manner

Essays

One of my favorite students, lets call him “Josh”, from my time teaching at a little experimental public school, lets call it “Charter High”, just sent me a great email. Josh is barely 15 and a chronic liar, suspicious in gate and manner and and seemingly lives on Mountain Due and coffee with 20 sugars. He trusted me because I started things off by saying I that I’d trusted all my students implicitly until they proved to me this was a mistake. He would lie by instinct, but I would always ask him things a few times and look him right in the eye. He usually ended up telling the truth or saying he couldn’t say. Jose asked me several times a week if I smoked dope, hated my boss, every did this or that. I’d always say I would not answer him because it was not professionally appropriate, and that fascinated him I think because I wasn’t lying, or telling the truth, I just wasn’t saying.

Josh didn’t do much work and was angry, victimized, untrusting and constantly trying to work around the system and rules. His home life was shit, everybody except him diagnosed and medicated for something with both parents working full time. His father drunk in the garage after work, giving his kids money if they brought him beer. The land behind their house had a trailer and lots of woods where parties we’d hear of happened unsupervised and people often stayed for days. We heard rumors of lots of explosives and guns at the parties, with 4X4 mudding and all kinds of drugs and the occasional cat torturing. This is not uncommon in the more woodsy parts of America as far as I have seen.

His big brother was kicked out of Charter High earlier in the year and ended up crying like a baby on the way out the door. He had been stealing and causing trouble as a big tough guy. He is getting arrested more and more we hear.

Josh, the younger of the two, was kicked out this June. He cried a little too.

Both boys don’t know how to function in a trusting community at all. Both are smart.

Josh is a hardware and software whiz, script kiddy, and gamer. He can fix anything and when he did study, it was a breeze. He is a grade ahead without trying. He reads and writes very well. And to my endless surprise Josh has an amazing sense of people and social dynamics. He would often comment to me on some interaction I’d had with an adult and be spot on about what was really happening just form body language.

The day sent in my last end of year assessments I bumped into Josh. I’d just written up the narrative part of his assessment and been very harsh, he it is:

“Comments

Josh didn’t do much work this quarter at all despite starting lots of projects and appearing to work on them. He has the intelligence to graduate a year early without breaking a sweat, but he didn’t even get close to getting out of phase. This saddens me because I feel he has a rare combination of smarts. He is perceptive and aware of people in their social interactions, while also being naturally good with technology and computers. This combination is much valued in society. But he has yet to become aware of himself and where his self-destructive behavior comes from, so he is still doing his best to sabotage his future, engage in fruitless fights against systems that are trying to help him, and subverting those same systems in constant small ways. I will miss his perceptive remarks about the world around him and his computer help.”

So I’m walking home down the sunny summer main street of this small NH town after finishing my teaching contact and the last assessments when I see Josh and another of my former students sitting on bench in a side ally in that high school way – just sitting, not talking, and just sort of hanging out waiting as if for a super model to fall off her bike in front of them, or a bag of really good dope to fall from the sky.

I take a seat and we chat a little.

Josh asks me, “so did you ever smoke dope?”

“Oh yeah!” I say without skipping a beat, “I went through that phase,” the teacher in me adds.

Later on when Josh gets the end of year assessment he emails our director all pissed off. I respond that I stand by every word and didn’t want to hide my thoughts from him.

And he sends me this email written in IM slang (he could write clean when needed):

“Caleb,

thats cool that ur wokring somewhere u like n all charter high is a big fucking energy consumer. and hey im not pissed off or nething bout the essesment its cool, besides got to ask [the director] why shes always such a bitch lol…oh hey i finaally figured out why i was at charter, i was really stoned the otha night and was thinkin, and figured out some shit, for example i was at charter because at monadnock all of the stuff i learned was totally unimprotant to me and i didnt think it would help me at all in my future and at the time didnt give a fuck about it, so i went to charter as an alterative, but eventually figgured out most of the things there i didnt give a shit about and wouldnt help me, but i did learn more there that will help me in the future than i did at monadnock…it dont matter though im gonna go to monadnock for a while till i decide weather or not to graduate or what the hell to do, its cool though.

hey i g2g”

Social Networking and Universal Profiles

Essays

This social networking thing is going off. Tribe, Friendster, Meetup, Here’s a great list of them all and software . There’s a progression here. Off the top of my head it seems to be, roughly: BBSes, Email Listservs, the Well. Then the whole “online community” hosted web forum in the boom and AOL, Craigslist and activity partners and personals, IM. Then Web personals hitting big and Social Networking sites like Ryze and Web personals get more tools like ‘wink’. Now Friendster with testimonials and degrees, Meetup for affinity groups, Tribe.

So where is it all going? I think the answer lies in the question “How many groups can one person really devote time to?”

I’ve been thinking for a while that it’s going towards one central profile. Everybody could have only one profile on the Web, a sort of “Universal Profile” (UP) that is viewable on any browser and with it’s own address, with pictures, writings, and links to other pages! I know, I know, sounds like a… Web page!

But it wouldn’t be just like the Web now; because the trick is that it is not totally public. These sites all have internal messaging and private address and hidden names. You’ll have to be able to choose who sees what on this new kind of Web page and the default is that nobody could track your physical whereabouts from your UP. And you once the metadata gets worked out, or even before if you can get hooks into other sites dBes, you can choose to have your UP listed on other sites like Friendster, etc. One set of essays, pictures, and resume to maintain.

For all of you out there who’ve have your own web portfolios for years, this will seem obvious. But for the general public, it’s going to take a little convincing. But it will happen I think and we’re closer then ever. It’s going to take is enough people to see the benefits of having anyone be able to print your resume out of their printer instantly, or be able to see you on 10 dating sites, and it will take off I think.

Along these lines, and perhaps at the very core of this emerging problem of…call it…Social Network Overload…is interoperability (see blog by Adam Greenfield ) and I’m sure a lot more thoughts on this I have not found.

I’m sure new features are on their way, or already out there. I’d love to have degrees of separation on Friendster be searchable so I can find only those folks that are one degree away. Also, I’d like a lot more classifications of relationship then “friend.” How about “Ex blank” “cafe friend” “best friend” “former work friend” etc. and how about testimonials that are bad!? That you don’t approve…humm

This is going to be very interesting to watch evolve! Will soon be a sort of global village gathering around the gleam of the screens like the firelight of the fires we used to gather around 20,000 years ago? Wait, didn’t someone else talk about that?

Cat proximity

Essays

As I was working at home today I noticed, again, that my big Maine Coon cat, Links, is one rockin’ cat – at least for me. The main reason is that he stays close, but is still his own being. I was down on the shared patio having Sunday brunch with friends and he soon followed and lay down about 10 feet away under a chair. I don’t usually see him at first, but eventually I’ll spy him. One of the guests said “Oh, that’s Caleb’s cat,” and I thought, well he’s not really “mine” in an ownership way, more of a partner or friend way, as in “This is my friend Links.” After eating I went up to my desk and in about five minutes he followed and lay down in the middle of the rug about 10 feet from me. At night Links will sometimes sleep on my bed, I’ll pat him for a bit, he’ll curl up and purrr and kick my hand and burrow his forehead into it (Cat for I like you). Then he’ll move down to the end of the bed and somehow deal with my kicking feet all night. He’s very dog like in this way, close, but not needy or scared. And sometimes he is out at night, all night, for a few days in a row. He’s got his own door, just like I do, and he uses it as he pleases. While I do talk sort of cutsy to him, it is very limited, usually a greeting like “He noodle brain (or stink butt, or fart head, or mostly lately, doodle) are you hungry?” But nothing like the shrill, disturbingly progeny heavy pet talk that you hear sometimes. And to be honest, that talk drives me nuts. It seems disrespectful to the animal to me, especially to their parents, the real parents. First of all, humans don’t have animal kids, although some humans have kids that act like animals at times. Second of all, unlike a kid, if I disappeared, Links has a pretty good chance of surviving without me, even happily. Sure, I agreed to feed him and care for him when I got him from the shelter. And since I live in a quiet patio, with a big abandoned yard next door, I let him run free. There are big real racoons, and vicious coyotes, and fast cars, all around though. But I respect Links ability to deal with these things in life. Kind of like people let me drive around on the highways, live in city with random crime and airborne viruses, and even be around unpredictable drugged up homeless folks without security forces at my side. So to me, Links and I, see, we’re partners in life, trading company for pets, shelter and food. Remember, cats are the only *voluntarily* domesticated animal we have ever had. The others will either run away, or form into packs, if left to run free 24/7 with no fences between them at all.

Motivating unmotivated high school students.

Essays

Motivating the unmotivated high school student.

“I told her to send me the assignment by the end of 4th period and she didn’t so I’m failing it.”

“What did you tell her?”

“To send it by the end of the 4th period, and she didn’t, so that’s it.”

“Did she know what would happend if she didn’t send it?

“Well I didn’t explicityly say it, but I mean really, what does she think I’d do? It’s a deadline.”

Such is the exchange I’ve heard too often. It’s one of an adult dealing with a disengaged, unmotivated, rebellious or otherwise self destructive youth who is rarely empowered, or told actions and their consequences. It works fine with motivated students who are empowered, but not with those who are struggling to find their power and feel hassled all the time. In short, they are not given the freedom to choose their fate. By empowering a such a student to fail, they often succeed. It would go like this:

“If you want me to grade the assignment, send it to me by the end of 4th period. If you don’t wanted it graded, which means it fails, don’t send it. It’s up to you. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, I guess so. So what if I fail the assignment?”

“Good question, lets see your overall grade….you’d go from a C to a D in my class and have to get an A on the last assignment to get a C in the course. So this might be a good way to give yourself a chance to raise your grade, it’s your call.”

With internships I often respond to the question, “do I HAVE to an intership?”

With, “Only if you want to graduate!”

Happy New Year. I Killed My TV, or, Why TVs Need Their Own Room

Essays

“Happy New Year. I Killed My TV”

I walked into my house tonight after seeing “A Beautiful Mind” (really good) and remembered that at our big New Years patio party last night I had killed my TV. My apartment was strangely silent when I walked in, not that I’d usually have a TV going when I’m gone, but more a silence from its absence that fell about me when I looked at the empty spot it had occupied. Then I hit the couch and grabbed the remote control, something I had forgotten to kill. That was a very strange feeling.

So, I wandered around for a bit, wondering just what to do? With this kind of hangover and fatigue from hosting a big party, I’d usually try and find a golf match, nature documentary, or the ultimate Codeine of TV, “Love Boat” re-runs. Now, only silence.

Not that this is a forever thing, but over the last year I had been watching more and more TV. And the more I watched, the more I had the little feeling in my head start to grow, a feeling that it is not good to spend that much time alone in a apartment with a cat watching other people do exciting things, while you do nothing but breathe and watch.

And that feeling grew. TV is a story box and mostly involves the listener doing nothing but listening, while the cast performs stories. In the last month I grew to hate my little TV, and at the core, myself for being seduced by its charm. I felt like I was sitting in a car sitting on the highway of life, in neutral, and with a blank glazed look in my eyes. My mother didn’t allow TV in the house until I was 18, so that adds to its attraction for me. And my undergrad was in video production, which must have freaked my mother out, although I’ve always thought it was better to make TV, then to watch it.

TV is way more powerful then we think and I have come to believe it is too powerful for me to handle right now. So I killed my TV last night. Lots of folks expressed an interest in taking it off my hands, but I needed to not get rid of it, I needed to kill it. Other people wanted to watch, some wanted to take their own anger out by taking a hit.

Anyway, at around 12:45am last night the crowd at the party reminded me that I’d promised to kill my TV. It was sitting on a chair outside, off the cable line, showing snow. I found myself avoiding the act for a while, but finally grabbed a wooden (TVs have capacitors that can hold a charge for a while) hammer and took it to the back ally dumpster. Closing my eyes, I swung the hammer at the center of the screen. A Pop. A spark. Then I just kept hitting it until it was a mangled piece of plastic, wires and glass. It felt great.

Now I sit here typing this, partly because I don’t have a TV anymore and had to find something else to do. It may take a while to get used to, and I might go down to my neighbors apartment to watch TV in about 3 minutes, but at least I’ll be with someone else and out of the house.

The older I get, the more I understand my mother’s tactic. No TV meant no policing hours per week or other hassles. And yet I watched TV at my friends houses enough to be able to sing the Gilligan’s Island theme song or talk about the last MASH episode.

I had a distant uncle I visited once who seemed to have very sound protocol with TV, if you can afford it. He was a film music composer and on the Academy board for the awards. I think there’s about 4000 people who vote for the awards and each one gets the movies mailed to them every year to screen. In his house he had a TV room. There was a main couch and several soft chairs, all pointing at the TV. A shelf full of tapes, a coffee table, and a TV. It was clearly set up only for one purpose and closed off from the rest of the house. During a party it would be a very hard room to socialize in because it was entirely focused on one wall.

I believe TV is powerful enough that it needs to have its own room to keep it from getting out into the house and lulling us all into a story watching coma. Or in my case, right now TV needed to be killed outright and banned from the house all together, at least until I learn how to handle it better. Because really, it was not the TV that was the problem, it’s just telling stories for all those who want to listen, for as long as you can take it.

"September 11th, 2051"

Essays

“September 11th, 2051”

Caleb John Clark, September 2001.

“Do you remember that attack in 2001 on those old towers”, the child asked me after having returned fresh from the days history lesson at school.

“Yes, 50 years ago today I saw the towers fall live on TV. The rubble smoked for over a week from fires of steel, steel so strong it stopped a flying jet dead in its tracks and didn’t fall. But the metal then melted and the towers fell like dusty card houses. The rubble was like a planet with a molten core and jagged smoking surface, a planet with ants crawling over it taking tiny bits away around the clock and seemingly making no dent.

Back then we used the “War” badly. Like with the “War on drugs”. We later would use words like “Terrorism Defense” after realizing that the word war was out of date and implied a winning and losing against enemies proudly standing in the light. When applied to things like drugs and fanatics, a part of humanity that does not unconditionally surrender on the dotted line, we would always “lose” the “war”.

We also used words like “did” as in “We’ll find those that did this.” Later we realized that we had already found the people who had did it, and they were dead. We could only find those that “planned it’ or were “responsible” for planning it, and those that might do something like that again. Slowly our floating cities of aircraft carriers, our tanks, our bombers, our mighty military was a dinosaur and our young people who were READY to die, were no match for young people strewn about the world who WANTED to die. We saw eventually that simply killing them without thinking about other strategies would only increase their ranks. Eventually we used information, psychology, technology, education, alliances, and yes some good old fashioned military, to reduced the threat.

American’s and the world’s emotions were magnified that week and the weeks following. I saw a man waving a huge flag on a freeway overpass in a manic dance. People gave so much blood they had to turn them away because there were so few wounded. People with a screw loose let that screw fly free and killed and hassled people for looking like the terrorists. A drunk drove into mosque and then was found trapped and calling his mother for help. Some people were angry, some sad, some wanted to move, some joined the Army, some blamed, some stuck their heads in the sand, but most just tried to help, stay united, and figure out this new thing. The world rallied as well, but with a bit more restraint, having been in this new reality for a long time, enough time to have their arrogance checked. The news was much more manipulable back then and did things like show people celebrating in the Middle East hours after the attack. Later we found out most folks were not partying in the streets. Mostly though the press did their best to report that the giant had awoke again from a milk and honey slumber, awoke to a world that was more dangerous from that point after.

“And what did you do when the giant woke up?”

“Do?”

“Yeah, when you woke up, what did you do?”

[Insert your answer here]

Find your dream job. "Pigeon Holes: Reverse Engineering Job Searches"

Essays

“Pigeon Holes: Reverse Engineering Job Searches”

A story about how my younger step-brother ended up as a Photoshop guru, lead 3-D modeler at Maxis for SimCity3000, and now doing R&D for Maxis. By Caleb John Clark.

We all know the stresses of looking for work. If weeks on the job boards and networking leaves you feeling like a pigeon staring at a wall of holes and not wanting to cram yourself into any of them, these stories might be for you.

My step-brother was such a fan of Star Wars, comics and computers that at age 19 he recognized the graphic artist that was then doing most of the movie posters on the subway in NYC. He walked up and introduced himself and ended up working on for him using the first versions of Photoshop. After dropping out of Parsons school of design he ended up doing Photoshop production work for computer game cheat books.

But he knew he wanted to 3-D model. So, when 3-D-Studio came out and could finally work well on consumer boxes, he took some time off and made a beautiful walk through of an art gallery, featuring his oil paintings on the wall. Ignoring the existence of job openings he just sent out a disk to DreamWorks, Maxis and a few other companies he respected and wanted to work for. He got three offers and took the one from Maxis.

After completing work on SimCity3000 and working himself up to lead 3-D modeler, he was burned out and about to quit to oil paint for a year. But before he did he decided to just come into work and start doing what he wanted to do. He began brainstorming new SIM games and sending off short QuickTime movies of his ideas to his bosses, and they gave him a promotion to R&D where he is today.

Yes, my step-brother is lucky, annoyingly talented and robotically disciplined, but there is a moral to the story.

You can make your own pigeon hole and shop it around to walls you want to fit into.