Why are we fighting so hard?

Everything seems like a fight these days; cooperation is lost in divisive issues of our time. Most conflicts have to do with scarcity, but that isn’t always the case. And when it comes to energy, is scarcity really the issue?

Economists are fond of saying we will never run out of oil. You can point to all the indicators of increased consumption and declining production you like, they just smile and shake their heads. Doesn’t matter, they say, because when oil gets scarce, the price will go up until no one can afford it. When that happens, alternative energy becomes cost effective and displaces fossil fuel in world markets. As a result, we will never run out of oil.

Huh. Makes sense.

Petroluem and natural gas producers already know this. When gas crested over $4 a gallon in 2008, wind and solar energy started looking like a comparative bargain. As a result Fossil Fuel companies increased production, flooding the market to keep prices low and stave off inevitable replacement as long as possible. But light, sweet crude isn’t nearly as plentiful as it once was, so this means increasing demand for  Venezuelan Heavy Crude and Alberta Tar Sand Bitumen. These sources come with higher contaminants (Sulfur, in particular) and that’s really bad when it comes to air quality and Climate Change.

Most of us have taken sides on this issue long ago, handing our beliefs down to our kids. Tough to break out of at this point, because these hard set ideas are so ingrained, we’ve divided ourselves into clans. We fight each other tooth and nail to accomplish…what?

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Not exactly the compromise we’re looking for…

Asking a major oil company to commit suicide isn’t going to get us far. Neither is expecting all the people who draw their living from fossil fuel to just roll over and go broke. These companies are legally obligated to maximize shareholder value. It’s in their corporate charters. They must do business in the most profitable manner possible.  Anyone who seriously believes an executive would explain to their shareholders that earnings are down because “it was the moral thing to do” is living in a fantasy. Corporations exist to generate profit, and they will always continue to do so. While many of us hate the fact that Big Oil is profiting in an industry that is poisoning our landscape, let’s reserve our judgment just a moment to see a bigger picture.

These huge, multi-national corporations thrive in spite of their reputations because they hire intelligent, creative, motivated individuals. We need to stop dismissing that wealth of talent just because we don’t like the way it’s being applied.

We also cannot ignore the alarms our own scientists are setting off. We are changing our climate for the worse. Pulling out of the Paris Agreements is self-defeating. And as emerging economies demand more energy, our current path through fossil fuels is a literal dead end.

So do we start up a whole new set of renewable energy companies and subsidize them so they can kill off Big Oil?

Hell no.

We already have the brightest, strongest energy companies in the world who understand world markets. We don’t need a crop of weak startups that lack the experience, stability, and influence to endure. We need to stop thinking of fossil fuel companies in terms of what they currently specialize in, be it coal, petroleum, bitumen, natural gas, or any other form of carbon-based energy and rebrand them plainly as energy companies.

Then, our Federal Government needs to decide it is serious about preserving our world for our children and for all things that live and breathe.

Offer executives at these firms the chance to lead companies we can be proud of rather than despise. Show them how they can lead us into a clean, carbon neutral future. Explain how they will help America attain energy independence, and in the process, prevent our serving men and women from being put into harm’s way over access to energy. Entice these business people into becoming beacons of innovation that inspire our new generations and draw the best/brightest of every graduating class. How do we get there? By making these energy companies immensely profitable while doing so.

Fossil Fuel corporations would likely already be doing this if there weren’t so many obstacles. Many of them have already seen the predictions of peak oil. They understand the difficulty in accessing new reserves, etc. They see the instability of shaky governments that could be there one day and topple the next. They already know the future of petroleum is bleak. So we need to hear them out. Let them list the challenges. And then allow the Department of Energy to create needed incentives, subsidies, and grants that allow these companies to evolve while remaining in the black, financially.

Yes, we absolutely can get to carbon neutrality. There’s a fusion reactor in space that provides all the power we could ever need. There’s a moon that lugs the tides around. There’s wind, and geothermal. We are energy abundant. But we will never get to carbon neutrality if we treat our existing energy companies as demons to be slain. They will fight for life with the best lobbyists DC can offer. They will fight with doubt, confusion, conflicting reports, all the methods that have been so effective in getting their way in spite of what the public demands. (GMO Labeling, anyone? Net Neutrality?)

We must embrace these companies as partners, not fight them. Show them a better path and make it profitable.

This same method can work for any corporation producing a poisonous product. Assist these firms in divesting from their poison products (looking at you, Monsanto and Big Tobacco), and assist their transitions to something that benefits mankind. Could be energy storage (goodness knows our battery tech needs help). Could be refinement of ores from seawater so we don’t need to strip or pit mine our mountain ranges. Could be energy transport that doesn’t require a pipeline. Could be quantum computing, recycling, de-orbiting space junk, or better agricultural techniques that don’t kill our pollinators. There are hundreds of nascent technologies that need the investment and expertise of well-established firms.

Consider this: what vital technologies have been delayed because we chose energy that had to be secured through bullets and blood? Imagine how many roads, schools, and bridges could have been built with the money lost in the Iraq War. Imagine how much original research could have been funded. The opportunity cost of Fossil Fuel is much higher than most people can fathom (or believe).

We all want clean air, soil, and water. No one wants to look at a smoke stack. No one wants their child to suffer from mercury, lead, or arsenic poisoning. We don’t have to settle for a bleak status quo.

Our current administration would defund key programs at the Department of Energy, and that betrays a total lack of imagination. Much more can be accomplished when our Federal Government serves business by encouraging new innovations rather than taking campaign contributions to look the other way and letting the buyer beware (caveat emptor). Subsidizing an industry has worked in the past. It can work again.

Demand better. Let the profit motive work in our favor. Incentivize the playing field for a more stable world. And bring our existing companies (with all the people who work for them) into a cleaner future.

-FAF

All Things Conform to the Shape Flesh Imposes

Diamond cutter

There’s a lot of fuss about the hardest naturally occurring mineral in the universe. Beyond the industrial uses, I get that diamonds are shiny and pretty. People seem to like them enough they’ll pay ludicrous sums to have them.

Whatever.

When I think of the Lapidary at a desk, cutting diamonds…it seems ironic that soft hands shape and polish something renown for its durability and resistance to wear. Yeah, yeah, I know. It isn’t skin that cleaves the gem, it’s tools, but when you boil it down, hands are running the machines, giving shape to something so much harder. Afterall, tools do not run themselves (yet).

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In that light, I find I have to alter my understanding of what hardness really is. When whole mountain ranges can be excavated, diamonds lose their luster next to that kind of erosive capability. Mining is an extreme example, of course, but really, everything that we touch, we shape. From your living room to your neighborhood, from your county to your country, try and find something that hasn’t been changed from its natural form.

Don’t mean to say it’s all bad, either.Julius_Caesar_Coustou_Louvre

Shaping things is what we do, what we’re good at, what makes us special. We change things to suit us, whether we’re turning cotton into clothing or turning ore into copper wire. Skyscrapers and highways don’t just crystallize from the soil.  And great art is the pinnacle of our innate ability to alter our environment (yes, I consider our space program a masterpiece of creative prowess. Science can be art).

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We leave our mark everywhere, which in a lot of ways is very cool. Individually, we’re pretty fragile, but in concert we change entire planets. There are days it’s hard to wrap my head around that. So if hardness is determined by one object’s ability to affect the other, then flesh is the hardest substance in the universe. 

It’s a superpower and an enormous responsibility. If we can wreck a planet, we can make it better, too.

-F.A.F.

Happy Birthday, US of A

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While we at C.O.P. would like to say have a fun and safe July 4th, we know you’ll most likely be draining kegs, chowing down, and blowing things up. So instead, we say,

Throw your car keys into the woods, remember how short the fuses are, and don’t look down the mortar tube to see if the shell is lit (because it is).

While that should prevent the majority of bodily harm, you can benefit from our collective wisdom to avoid extreme embarrassment and have an enjoyable Independence Day celebration:

  • You might think hanging your bare ass out of a moving vehicle is a good idea…until they catch up to you at the stop light (right, Farnham?).

Almost getting away with it

  • Drunk dialing your congressman is exactly as much fun as you think it will be.
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  • Nakedness is generally frowned upon, but will be tolerated in direct proportion to your hotness.

Bateman

  • Don’t barf at a guest’s house. Not ever.

(photo deleted to protect the horribly, horribly guilty)

  • Tub sleeping will result in a photo that reaches your boss. It’s a kind of magic.

Classy, Farnham. Real classy.

  • PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Unless you’re expecting an emergency call, you should probably just turn it off. You know what we’re talking about.

Burninator

  • Lastly, never pass out where slow moving wild things can take their time with you.

 
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Also, a quick reminder: today is the last day to get your free Kindle copy of Angry Ghosts!
(Thank you, Deutschland, for making us #1 in Englischsprachige SF ABENTEUER!)

HAPPY 4th FROM ALL OF US AT CADRE ONE PUBLISHING!

Soccer Doesn’t Have to Suck So Hard

Hooray

I played soccer when I was younger. Always a fullback, which was ok with me. Defense is righteous. (You’re gonna score on my team? Not with busted shins, you’re not) But the game was boring. Often scoreless. 90 Minutes of my life that was totally fruitless. Sure, I’d have a bit of an all right time getting the ball back to the other side of the field, and then it was just tedium. I’d be standing near the mid-field line watching our forwards and halfbacks perpetually stymied. The ball would get knocked out of bounds over and over. There was an occasional shot on goal, deflected or caught. Man, as bad as it was to play, it was even worse to watch. Total frustration without catharsis.

I’ve been down this road before. But it took close friends (and a couple six-packs) to really drill down on what makes this game suck so hard:

YOU CAN’T USE YOUR HANDS.

Far from being a creative quirk, this is just the dumbest idea in sporting history. What other sports out there would be as interesting without the use of hands? For example…

Boxing
No hands boxing

Motorcycle racing
No hands biking

Fencing
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Pole Vaulting
Polevault no hands
Also bad pole vaulting

You get the point. But I haven’t even drilled down to the number one, worst part about soccer: the Drama Queens.

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Awful dive

Another awful dive

If they would just man up and carry Wolverine knives and Pole axes, it’d be a decent game. Would definitely temper the riot-potential of disgruntled fans.

Since that’ll never happen, we’re offering a satisfying alternative to brooding over “That Ludicrous Display Last Night“, and we’re putting Angry Ghosts up for free download, permanently. Interested readers will find an Easter Egg on the Cadre One Publishing site that links to the full book pdf.
(Need we mention the book is still copywritten? Please, no reselling or plagiarism, but you can download and share as much as you like.)

We’re also making Angry Ghosts for Kindle free for the next five days, starting June 30th and running through July 4th.

From all of us at Cadre One Publishing, have a safe and riot-free Independence Day!

-FAF

Selling your life for money

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Every once in a while a thought just strikes me as odd. And this time I got thinking about sex work and why it’s illegal. Selling yourself for money. Well, isn’t that what we all do?

Separate the moralizing and lessons hammered into us since Sunday School. Trading your skills, abilities, intellect, and time for pay–it’s basically what every occupation boils down to. Trading your life for a slip of paper that says you can buy things.

Let’s step back for a second to get at why some things are prohibited. Penal code evolves, in theory, to serve the social well-being, to punish the behaviors that cause a drain on the overall health and productivity of the people. Theory is sound, at least to me. When you consider Prostitution, you see it often brings ugly externalities with it. Physical and mental abuse. Pimps. Addictions. Rape. Horrible, horrible living conditions. Seldom is it just the thing itself that’s considered awful, it’s everything that comes with it. So to combat the problem, the behavior is outlawed and punished. Like taking the handle off the pump of a poisoned well so no one can draw tainted water.

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Selling narcotics is a lot like that. The problem isn’t just the junky passing out in your apartment’s stairway. It’s the meth-head crawling through your window. It’s disease. Malnutrition. Destruction of personal relationships. Inability to hold regular work. Neglect of children. And theft to support the habit. There are good reasons for wanting to control the availability of addictive substances.

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So where’s the line between a street pusher and big Pharma? Often the product is nearly identical (especially opiods). How many millions are hooked on their prescriptions for one reason or other? Mood enhancers. Muscle relaxants. Pain relievers. Stimulants. Anti-depressants. The cycle is backwards. The individual may live in poor fitness and nutrition. Maybe they can’t concentrate. Can’t sleep. Maybe they’ve endured loss, injury, sickness…who knows what happened in their lives? But they are suffering from the reality of it and drugs are prescribed as the answer. This is legal.

child on drugs

How do we not see the hypocrisy in this? It seems the only distinction between legal and illegal is in who profits. Don’t get me wrong, street hustlers are thugs. Wouldn’t shed a tear to see one in an acid bath. Likewise, I’d love to see executives of Pharmaceutical companies on trial for the side effects of a questionable product they greased through FDA to market. It’s all a hustle, one way or other; but one way is legal, the other is not. So follow the money. Political contributions. Political Action Committees. Shareholder value. Corporate bonuses. It isn’t being a drug pusher, it’s being a pillar of the business community and a job creator. See the distinction?

We don’t have to look hard to see other industries with a nebulous boundary between legal and criminal. Is it a pyramid scheme, or is it a risky legal investment? Is it fraud, or creative finance? Is it a bribe, or is it lobbying? Is it environmental devastation, or is it development of vital economic resources?

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Think about a variety of crimes. Larceny. Drug abuse and distribution. Assault and murder. Corruption/extortion/racketeering. Fraud. Most are crimes of impulse. Desire for escape. Impatience for wealth and instant gratification. Satisfaction of ego. Feeding hunger without delay.

Hmm. doesn’t that sound like every major ad campaign of the last forty years? The very same impulses are exploited to get the consumer to consume. Where is the distinction between street thug and marketing executive?

Target your customers

And the products, overall, keep getting cheaper through brutal competition. Poorer quality. Less rigorous testing. If a product is found to be harmful there is a formula applied: if fines, legal fees, and class action settlements are greater than expected profits, the product is recalled. If profits remain greater than all the costs, the product will remain on the market. Willful infliction of an addictive, deadly product on the American people… That has to be illegal and immoral, right? Not if you’re Big Tobacco.

We’ll never legislate our way out of this. The Romans said it best: When the Republic is most corrupt, the laws are most numerous.* But we can educate our way through this. Setting priorities in life early. Guidance toward good life choices that serve the mind, body, and soul. Physical and mental health renders useless the need for escapism and chemical props to face a new day.

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A job. Paid or unpaid, legal or illegal, we all have one in some form. Some of us are paid better than others. And the line between moral/immoral, legal/illegal gets harder to resolve. But it all boils down to this: what are you willing to trade for your income? How much of your life will you swap for a slip of paper that says you have numbers in a bank account? And how much of your dignity will go with it?

I can’t imagine a more important or more personal decision (except maybe the decision to have a child). Me? I want to serve and do no harm. And I know, the pay will never be high as a result. But if I can keep it up, my payoff will be a clear conscience and deep, untroubled sleep.

-FAF

* Corruptissima Republica plurimae leges.

Celebrating Curiosity’s First Year on Mars

Curiosity Selfie close

It’s easy to get lost in the day to day. Too much to do, more piles up tomorrow… That’s why we all did a double take when we heard that yesterday marked the first anniversary of Curiosity’s landing on the Red Planet. A full year? Already?

Science blogs lit up with the news, giving us a solid reason to loaf at the office all day. We hadn’t really tuned in since the landing, so we had to go back and see what we’d missed, right? Seems that rover’s been busy.

We remember the “Seven Minutes of Terror“, how if any one of a hundred (or more) processes didn’t happen just right, the project was cooked. Watched live as the men and women who engineered it all had to watch and wait to see if their baby landed on his feet. Gotta say, when the first confirmation photo came back showing Curiosity on the surface, well… That was a proud and happy moment. Not to mention one of relief.

Curiosity 1st image

In the last 365 Sols, the rover has repeatedly found evidence that liquid water once flowed on Mars. Might have been a long time ago, but none the less, liquid water was there. More than that, after drilling and shooting through the surface regolith, they found that the rusty color is only skin deep, that the iron below the surface was reduced to another form that may have been caused by microbial action. If you are even a little bit aware of the universe, you have an idea what it means if life (even if it’s a billion years dead) is found off-world: philosophical, moral, spiritual and political ramifications the like we’ve never even heard of. So much of our ideology is attached to the core notion that we are a unique creation in the Universe.

What if we aren’t?

Drill, baby, DRILL!
Drill, baby, DRILL!

Of course, you have your usual detractors. The ones who decry the expenditure of $2.2B for an Atomic-Powered SUV to root up the system’s biggest sandbox.

“Oh, wow, it went like a whole kilometer in a YEAR. And it drilled some holes. That’s like the biggest waste of money ever.”

As much as we’d like to argue that original research in advanced sciences is what brought us the internet, laptops, cell-phones, and anti-lock brakes, we know it’s simply a waste of time. So we’ll save our breath and let others speak for us:

Tyson's middle finger

Let’s get away from Dollars for a moment. Name one thing that is all-American AND easy to love.

US Congress? Collateralized Debt Obligations? Drone attacks? Genetically modified crops? Denials of coverage due to Pre-existing medical conditions?

Too often the thought of something “American” inspires a kind of awkward love, like loving a shoplifting son or a dog that always humps your date’s leg. But our space program has been a gleaming gem for as long as it has existed. Inspiring in the devotion, courage, and skill required to accomplish the missions taken.

Imagine climbing into a rocket over thirty stories high, where 98% of it (by weight) is ultra-high explosive. Imagine using the rough equivalent of a scientific calculator to guide you to the moon and back. Imagine trying to anticipate every single contingency in a journey to a place that no one has ever visited. It’s truly awesome.

And not the least worth mentioning, we find beauty out there. It may be alien to us, it may seem hostile, sterile, or forbidding. But there is an elemental beauty. There’s also possibility. If we can land rovers, we can land other things as well. And if there are the building blocks of life…?

curvyrock

We at C.O.P. have a deep and abiding interest in the peaceful discovery of our universe. We admire the dedication required to accomplish these things. And we’re grateful for something American that is easy to love.

Congratulations, Curiosity. And to the men and women who do these things “…not because they are easy, but because they are hard…

-C.O.P.

SuperDeth XLVI

I bet you’re thinking, “Here comes a preachy message about violence.”

Oh, yeah. You know it.

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If one were to distill the essence of American culture to a single euphemism, the SuperBowl would capture it nicely. Commerce and vanity hurtling toward one another like cruise missiles and detonating in an ocean of beer. Extremely physical contests of opposing, highly-organized teams with dual purposes of land acquisition and penetration. And violent, skull jarring takedowns.

Oh, yeah. You know it.

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Far from a criticism, this spectacle is a genius of societal stability. Like Huxley’s Violent Passion Surrogate, this kind of gnarly, grunting square-off taps the latent animal inside and gives it vicarious expression. It’s an outlet of baser emotions.

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Some argue against the harsh, full-contact sports, but let’s think about it: how many riots were started before, during, or after an American Football game?

Ok. Now, let’s consider the less violent, lower contact sports. Baseball, anyone?

Boston Red Sox…

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San Francisco Giants…

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Philadelphia Phillies

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Ok, there are a few riots from Baseball. But every once in a while you get a bench-clearing brawl (though most of those players are screaming, “NOT MY FACE! NOT MY FACE!”). That rare bit of violence could be the sport’s saving grace from inspiring total anarchy.

Soccer, on the other hand…

Some have speculated that the internet is comprised of 60% pornography. If that’s so, then at least 39% is photos and news stories on Soccer riots.

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There’s something about soccer that makes people friggin crazy. All over the world. And isn’t it obvious?

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I mean, look at them. Don’t these photos make you want to punch your neighbor in the throat? It got popular somehow, in spite of this. And a game this popular can’t afford to be non-contact.

As obvious as the problem is, the solution is equally obvious. Up the violence. Make Soccer the full-contact sport it deserves to be.

CORRECT:

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Referees need not be spared, and may retaliate as desired.

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This match choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping and Jackie Chan.

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All we’re missing now is a hard-core soundtrack. The new Soccer: one part athleticism, two parts skill, eight parts mosh pit. Now it’s turned up to Eleven.

You see? I’m just a concerned citizen, doing my part for world peace.

So is that the only solution? Not necessarily. Research is on-going…

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Bottoms up.

-F.A.F