Saturday Morning Sci-Fi Open Thread: Mars Needs Believers!

Even as a very young hardcore sf reader, I knew I would never be part of a one-way space mission, because I can barely stand to spend a long weekend trapped in the house with a handful of people I love, much less a bunch of random strangers. (And, yes, I did not rate my chances of appealing to a quorum of those strangers, either.) But Murphy the Trickster God bless the… idealists… who are willing to share their dreams of Martian colonization with all the world and the Boston Globe:

When the initial tingle had passed and the idea had been given time to marinate and settle, Peter Degen-Portnoy said his family split into camps regarding his decision to commit to a one-way trip to Mars.

His sons think it’s cool.

His two oldest daughters stopped speaking with him.

And his wife left him.

Three years ago, Degen-Portnoy, a 54-year-old father of five from Stoneham, was one of 100 semifinalists chosen for Mars One, a wildly ambitious Dutch-led project that ultimately seeks to colonize Mars, beginning in 2032, with 20 permanent, never-to-return-to-Earth settlers. The plan has been controversial from the moment it was announced in 2012, with serious questions about the technological feasibility, as well as the plan to fund much of the mission.

Mars One organizers say the project can be accomplished for roughly $6 billion; critics say that is preposterous, as is the plan to raise much of that through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights.

The mission is currently far, far away from becoming a reality — millions of miles and millions of questions remain about how they will get there, how they will survive on Mars and build a self-sustaining colony, and of course how they will survive the trip. The current plan involves sending supplies ahead, then sending crews of four crammed into spaceships the size of a tour bus for the 18-month journey. When solar flares erupt, they will retreat into a bathroom-sized pod, surrounded by water for protection, for several claustrophobic days at a time.

While space experts and keyboard cowboys continue their debate, Degen-Portnoy and the three other semifinalists from Massachusetts have been dealing with the very real impact on their personal lives that comes when you make a commitment to a one-way trip to outer space.

For whether they go to Mars or not, “the 100,” as they call themselves, are the first humans to actually experience the terrestrial repercussions of making such an extravagant extraterrestrial commitment…

But there’s also a love story! Much more at the link — along with a full-sized version of the video clip at the top.

Monday Morning Open Thread: The Best Revenge Is A Life Well Lived

Saturday Morning Open Thread: A Wedding

Seems like a good day to post this:

Since Aug. 12, 2017, Marcus Martin has lost anonymity, a close friend and, at times, his coping skills.

Mr. Martin’s red-and-white footwear will be more familiar to many than his name. He is the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, taken by Ryan M. Kelly, in Charlottesville, Va., during the Unite the Right rally, which was organized by white nationalists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. In the photo, Mr. Martin is midair, spread-eagle with his back parallel to the hot Virginia asphalt, after being struck by a Dodge Charger driven by James Alex Fields, who would later be charged with second-degree murder…

… On Jan. 31, 2017, he showed up, sweaty, at Miller Law Group with a twinkling diamond ring he bought for her at a Kay Jewelers. As proposals go, there have been smoother.

“I’ll never forget the way he was acting,” Ms. Blair said. “He was so nervous, he was sweating bullets.” As Mr. Martin got down on one knee, he didn’t notice a colleague of Ms. Blair’s, standing by the door waiting for a legal file.

Mr. Martin let his rehearsed words rip: “He was like, ‘You know I love you, right? You are everything to me. I don’t want to go another day calling you my girlfriend. Will you marry me?’”

Ms. Blair took a deep breath. “I made him step outside my office and do it all over again,” she said. This time without her colleague in the doorway. Mr. Martin’s second attempt was perfect, and she immediately said yes.

Mr. Martin had his reasons for proposing at the office. They included Courtney Commander and Heather Heyer, who also worked at the firm and were among the couple’s closest friends. Several months after the foursome celebrated Mr. Martin and Ms. Blair’s engagement, Ms. Commander, the most politically active of the group, would recruit the couple and Ms. Heyer to join her as counterprotesters at the Aug. 12 rally.

“Everybody felt strongly about what was going on,” said Ms. Commander. “Marissa and Marcus said they wanted to be there, but I wasn’t sure they would come.” Mr. Martin, still on parole and working a new job as a landscaper, told her he wanted to steer clear of trouble. She knew Ms. Blair wouldn’t come without him. But when Ms. Commander attended a July 8 march of the Ku Klux Klan in Charlottesville and sent Ms. Blair, Mr. Martin and Ms. Heyer video of the awful goings-on, they were inspired to join her in her next counterprotest.

Ms. Blair and Mr. Martin remember the early part of the rally on that Saturday afternoon as peaceful and almost enjoyable. Until 1:41 p.m. The violence, and Mr. Martin’s protective shove, “came out of nowhere,” Ms. Blair said…

On the afternoon of May 12, on the sprawling lawn of Walden Hall, an estate in Reva, Va., Mr. Martin and Ms. Blair were married under blue skies before 150 friends and family. Ms. Blair’s seven attendants included her brother Adrian Lombre. Her brother Dasan Hunt walked her down the grassy aisle to an altar draped in purple wisteria. The bridesmaids, including her maid of honor, Ms. Commander, wore long dresses in shades of lavender. Mr. Martin’s five groomsmen and best woman, Whitley Jones, wore dark suits with purple accents. The color scheme was in honor of Ms. Heyer’s favorite color…

It truly seems to have been a lovely event, in every sense. Much more detail at the link, for those who want a heartwarming story.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Ramadan Kareem!

Per AlJazeera:

It’s that time of year again: 1.84 billion Muslims around the world will be welcoming the holy month of Ramadan with their first day of fasting on May 16. For other countries, May 17 will be the first day of fasting.

Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims as it is regarded to be the month that the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan.

Millions of Muslims around the world will be fasting every day for a month, refraining from eating, drinking (yes, even water) and smoking from sunrise to sunset.

It is a month that teaches self-discipline and awareness for those living in poverty.

As one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting during Ramadan is accompanied with increased spiritual reflection, worship and acts of charity…

Ramadan isn’t official, in some countries, until a council of religious elders spots the new crescent moon. That’s why it won’t start till Thursday in the UAE, per the Khaleej Times, which includes the glorious sentence:

Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar…

Less globally significant, but still good news…

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Hello, Dolly!

Sevier County native and country music icon Dolly Parton paid a visit to the center, located about a half-hour west of Knoxville, for a dedication ceremony to rename the facility the My People Senior Activity Center in honor of her parents, Robert and Avie Lee Parton…

Parton, who’s 72, joked with the attendees at first, saying she was a senior too.

“I am so excited to be part of this today. Of course, you know I’m a senior too. When I was over in Sevier County High School, I couldn’t wait to be a senior, and now that I’m in my second childhood, I’m a senior again,” Parton said. “Anyways, I saw one of my old boyfriends from high school. He said, ‘Dolly, you look like a million dollars.’ I said, ‘Well, thank you. That’s just about how much it’s cost to make me look like this.’ “…

“I just keep myself busy, and I think that’s the key to staying young, and I’m proud to be a senior citizen. Of course, we all wish we could stay 30 forever, but we can’t, so I think it’s important that we stay active,” Parton said. “We stay with a good attitude and get out and stay involved, make friends and be whatever, and I think being a part of this whole thing is really great, and it is my pleasure to dedicate this to my people.”…

And, as a number of twitter commentors pointed out, she did it wearing stilettos!

I don’t often say this (since I was a Michigander for 15 years), but Ohio did good yesterday…

Read more

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Happy “Loyalty Day”

Of course Trump didn’t invent it — he couldn’t invent a fart after a baked-bean supper, which explains why so much toxic gas spews from the other end of his digestive tract. Per the Washington Post:

First observed in 1921, it was then called Americanization Day to counter International Workers Day, promoted by socialists and Communists to honor workers on May 1. In 1955, Congress recognized it as a special day, as did President Eisenhower, and three years later legislators passed a law making it an annual holiday. Since then, every president has issued a proclamation to mark the day — every single year…

So, it’s a shifty rebrand of a well-meaning socialist rebrand of a longstanding celebration of winter’s end, the triumph of hope and fertility…


Much better reading for a May Day morning:

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Happy Thoughts

For Perez-Valdez, the day was already special enough: Eight years after marrying Natalie in the Dominican Republic, obtaining his green card and then learning English and studying well over a year for the citizenship test, he had become a new American. He would never have to worry again about one day being separated from his wife and baby for lack of papers.

“This was a big day for me and also for my family,” said Perez-Valdez, who became a chef at Eataly in New York City after starting on the prep team when he arrived in the country. “It was a long way for us.”

The day got even bigger when Perez-Valdez saw U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg take a seat on the stage, her tiny frame swallowed up by the wooden chair. Nobody, he said, including the new citizens seated around him, knew she was coming.

“My fellow Americans,” she began, “it is my great privilege to welcome you to citizenship in the democracy that is the USA.”

Administering the oath of citizenship to the 201 new Americans gathered at the New-York Historical Society Tuesday was Ginsburg’s idea….

On Tuesday, she told of her family’s humble beginnings, how her father “arrived in this land at the age of 13 with no fortune and speaking no English” — the part that Perez-Valdez said he related to most. Her mother was born shortly after Ginsburg’s grandparents came through Ellis Island by ship, she said. She was born in Brooklyn in 1933.

“My father and grandparents reached as you do for the American Dream,” she said. “As testament to our nation’s promise, the daughter and granddaughter of these immigrants sits on the highest court to the land, and will proudly administer the oath of citizenship to you.”…

Throughout her speech, 85-year-old Ginsburg emphasized the country’s constant state of change. Detailing the lowest points, from slavery and denying women the vote, she quoted Alexis de Tocqueville: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than other nations but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”…

Before administering the oath to the room full of immigrants from nearly every continent — from Albania, Guinea, Serbia, Venezuela — she encouraged the citizens to take advantage of their newly granted rights: namely, the right to vote.

Perez-Valdez said he already plans to register for the midterm elections this November…


Less elevating, but still entertaining: