Fun with Names

I see words and names differently than most people and this article is an example of how my mind sometimes makes connections associated with words and names. These are things I’ve thought of when encountering the names of cities, countries, and organizations over the years. Some of these thoughts are from as far back as elementary school.

Also, the play on words expressed here does not represent any inherent judgement or bias to the culture or history of any named location.

Geographical Names

Islamabad – Is Islam so bad they named a city Islamabad?

No, it isn’t.

Russia – Do they rush through life in Russia?

Israel – Is Israel really real? … It Israel!

Iran – ‘And Iran, Iran so far away, I just ran, Iran all night and day, I couldn’t get away.’

New Guinea – Since there’s a New Guinea is there an Old or Original Guinea?

Yes. It’s located in Africa.

Do guinea pigs come from Guinea or New Guinea?

Nope. They’re from South America[1].

Brussels – Do brussels sprouts come from Brussels?

Yes, they do… sort of[2].

Canada – Can you get a can of pecan pie filling in Canada?

Idaho – I wanna go to Idaho, cuz I-da-ho!

Budapest – Buddha is such a pest in Budapest.

Turkey – Do they eat turkey in Turkey?

Not often because turkey has to be imported, and meat is already expensive in that country.

Tropic of Cancer – Does living in the Tropic of Cancer make you more likely to get cancer[3]?

Caribbean – I would like to thank the producers of the Carib bean. It’s the only way I learned how to spell “Caribbean”.

Sargent, Texas – PRIVATE! You sorry excuse for a human being! DROP AND GIVE ME 40!!!

Security, Texas – Is this where all security guards live or go to retire?

Is it truly secure in Security, Texas?

Not necessarily. According to Crimegrade.com, half the town has a B-rating and the other half scored C[4].

Dickinson – I know we’re into accepting all types of people nowadays, but you don’t have to name a city to advertise your son’s sexuality. I’m sure everyone knows.

Coincidentally, Dickinson, Texas tried to get a city flag approved this week. Option “C” sort of pairs nicely with my Dick-in-son story[5]

Organization Names

Texas A&M – Why do so many cars have bumper stickers advertising the use of an ATM 🏧 in Texas[6]

Met Life – Get Met, it pays… to introduce yourself and advance your career.

Mars – Has the candy company, Mars, ever donated money to fund a mission to the planet Mars?

I asked in July of 2021 and followed up this year, but the company never responded[7].

IBM – IBM, U BM, everyone BMs at some point.

***

As evidence shows, I tend to see words and names differently than most people. This article isn’t the sum of such thoughts I have when encountering names and words. Local events (in Dickinson) made it important to post “Fun with Names”, so that part will be relevant.

Expect to find similar articles in the future.

I’d like to announce that I’m continuing my “Practical Survivalist” series and hope you’ll enjoy the new additions.


[1] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Guinea pig. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig

[2] Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (n.d.). Brussels Sprout. Wisconsin, United States of America. Retrieved from https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/school-nutrition/pdf/fact-sheet-brussels-sprout.pdf

[3] Tropic of Cancer: I specifically remember asking my 2nd or 3rd grade teacher this.

[4] Crimegrade. (n.d). The Safest and Most Dangerous Places in 77328, TX: Crime Maps and Statistics. Retrieved from Crimegrade: https://crimegrade.org/safest-places-in-77328/

[5] Dickinson, Texas: In respect to Dickinson, Texas, according to the local evening news station, ABC 13, the city has a strong Italian heritage. This is why all proposed flag options look similar to the Flag of Italy.

[6] A&M: I just learned the “A&M” meant Agricultural and Mechanical back in the 1800s, but now the abbreviation doesn’t carry any inherent meaning except to pay respect to the institution’s history.

Texas A&M University (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from Texas A&M University: https://www.tamu.edu/about/faq.html#:~:text=Corps%20of%20Cadets%3F-,What%20does%20%22A%26M%22%20stand%20for%3F,or%20%22A%26M%22%20for%20short.

[7] Mars 4 Mars: Their website indicates they make contributions to nonprofits in areas the company operates. The most prominent donation is when it committed 26 million to Covid-19 Response.

Mars, Incorporated. (2020, April 3). Mars Commits $26M to Communities in COVID-19 Response. Retrieved from Mars: https://www.mars.com/news-and-stories/press-releases/Mars-commits-donation-to-communities-in-covid19-response

Fanny Packs

Fanny packs are coming back in style.

Yes, you heard me right. Those packs that went the way of the Dodo around the year 2000, have made a comeback. I started noticing bicyclists were wearing fanny packs in 2019, but then the gays started wearing them at bars, and I’ve even seen a few straight men sporting a pack. How did this happen?

Let’s describe what a fanny pack is so Gen Z and Alphas know what we’re talking about.

The kangaroo pouch fanny pack was designed to be worn on the waist of the wearer, in front of the crotch area. This is to help protect valuables from pickpockets in crime-riddled urban areas. The intended use became moot when people started wearing them on the side of the hips, or even on the lower back.

That’s the exact opposite of how it’s supposed to be worn!

Around the year 2000, pretty much everyone forgot all about the fanny pack. It was a time of great change. We got caught up in the Y2K scare and we “part[ied] like it’s 1999”, in 1999. If they were seen after the dawn of the new millennium, they were worn by “boomers” on vacation (to the embarrassment of grandkids everywhere).

Fast-forward 20 years, and they’ve made a comeback!

I first noticed that die-hard bicyclists were wearing fanny packs during group rides I participated in. Instead of on the waist, they wore the pack over their chest. I thought it was a neat idea, because most athletic clothing lack pockets.

Even if you happen to find athletic shorts that have pockets, a true athlete or enthusiast won’t bother using them because it messes up the workout. I hate keeping my wallet, phone, and keys in my pockets while riding. They flop around, dig and cut into legs, and tend to fall out. It’s too much of a distraction and hassle.

But wait, here comes the fanny pack!

You can strap this to your chest and keep all your essential items in an easy to access pack. You’ll even look stylish in the process. No-one will look twice if you choose to wear it on the back of your waist either.

Fanny packs are a useful accessory for bicyclists, but they started getting smaller and smaller… and men began wearing small leather packs at the gay bars. This new form of fanny pack is obviously intended to be a sexy accessory. It accentuates the muscles and shows how flat your chest and belly are. Unfortunately, a lot of guys with “average” bods (like my body) wore them, and it didn’t look hot.

The strap made the dad-bod and moobs more prominent.

There have been a lot of successes using new versions of the packs in the Downtowns of most major cities. Business dress seems to match well with some of the higher-end packs. Spurred on by this fashionable success, fanny packs experienced even more alterations and began looking like form-fitting male purses.

And then, some of the prettier men began sporting actual purses.

It’s rare, but I’ve even seen the occasional straight man wear a high-end leather fanny pack. I think the only times I’ve seen straight men wearing them is at sporting events, or if they’re out with family.

Most times it’s painfully obvious the wife or girlfriend made him wear it.

***

From bicyclists, to gays, to metrosexuals, the fanny pack is making a comeback, but is this fashion trend here to stay? Or will it fade away and only resurface in awkward family get-togethers, like all those 90s photos your grandparents keep digging up from storage?

Who knows…

Religious Groups Will Take Over

If an apocalyptic event happened that causes our civilization to fall, religious communities will almost certainly try to take over. If they don’t succeed outright, they’ll still be the dominant socio-political force in the land.

Under normal conditions, people of faith are just like ordinary Americans. They hold very strong beliefs and political views on a few major subjects, but hold many of the same values as modern liberals when it comes to the majority of our laws and common social etiquette. Individually, they aren’t too dissimilar to Agnostics and Atheists either. It’s the greatness of our nation’s justice system and the availability of information, which maintains this harmony.

However, that respect for thy neighbor will disappear once the centralized government is gone. Things will start getting bad once rural communities are forced to come together as a group. There won’t be reliable sources of media to provide news and information to the shocked and stunned survivors. You’ll be amazed at how quickly people will ignore rational thought and start believing any story or rumor. It only takes one person of authority and influence to turn a good Christian community bad.

Let’s consider the ingredients that can make such a terrifying dystopian nightmare happen.

  • The location where most conservative Christians live.
  • Lack of centralized oversight and control, coupled with a newfound ability to abuse power.

Location, location, location!

The United States has a “Bible Belt” across the southern and rural states, where conservative Christians tend to live. This “belt” stretches as far north-east as Virginia, then goes down to Florida’s panhandle. You can feel the spirit in the vast middle-of-nowhere regions of Texas, and the belt snakes up to Salt Lake City. There are other pockets of isolated religious communities everywhere in the country, but the “belt” is where they seem to be concentrated in the United States.

Aside from a few scattered minuteman missile facilities and silos, there’s virtually nothing of strategic importance in these rural areas. Nobody’s going to waste a nuke on a small town or village out in the middle of nowhere, like Lufkin, Texas. Heck, I doubt anyone would try targeting our missile facilities since they’ll be empty by the time the attack hits them.

It stands to reason that small towns and rural communities will be safe from the attack, but accidents and mistakes in targeting can happen… Barring any bad luck, these communities will rise from the ashes of our civilization.

They were once meek, but will seek to inherit the earth if left unopposed.

A Shocked & Stunned Population

The apocalypse just happened! People are going to be assaulted by a cocktail of extreme and stressful emotions. They will be shocked that the world as they know it has ended. They grew up in a society with computers everywhere, even in their pockets. They grew up knowing that information and entertainment can be had at any time of the day. Now they can’t even turn on a TV, and the only radio they own is in the car that probably doesn’t work anymore. Emergency services were available at the touch of 3-buttons on a phone, but now the phones don’t work.

Yes, the occasional natural disaster caused all of us to suffer some time without our technological tools and toys, but everything returned to normal within a few days. Nothing is going to be “normal” again, and people are going to be brought to a mental breaking point once that realization sets in.

Ordinary people will recoil in horror at the knowledge of their, and their loved ones mortality. People will start dying of treatable chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. People will start dying from easily curable diseases and infections too.

And what do you do with the body of your most cherished loved one? In the past, you’d call 911 and the paramedics would declare the death and take the body away to be processed by professionals. All you needed to do was arrange for memorial services, and then pay for it.

Now, it’s all up to you. You have to accept the responsibility and summon the energy to: dig a hole, drag or carry your loved one to it, and bury the body of the person you loved. You’ll be so focused on surviving, that a proper memorial service may be impossible. You may even wake up the next day to the horrific realization that you didn’t properly dispose of the body, and animals dug up and desecrated your beloved family member.

It will take people a couple weeks to fully realize and accept that things will never be normal again. That sort of paradigm shift can shatter a person’s psyche, and make them more susceptible to radical influences and manipulation. This can happen to the best and most rational of us.

And, this is happening to people all across the country.

The Rise of Religious Communities

The secular government won’t be around to keep these communities in-check anymore, and ambitious religious leaders will use this disaster as a perfect opportunity to seize control and spread their dogmatic ideals. It’ll be easy, and will probably happen several hundred times across the country.

The majority of these survivors are already inclined to believe in immaterial forces based on faith alone. The apocalypse may be the only proof necessary to make them loyal followers of a religious leader. Then you have the remaining population of shocked and stunned survivors who, ordinarily, wouldn’t believe in superstitions and things of a spiritual nature. But some will latch onto any idea, or person of authority which claims to provide salvation, answers, and hope.

A small minority of strong-willed or intellectual people will be left who won’t “see the light” and “come into the fold”. This minority can grow as more people realize what is happening and shake the religious influence, but I doubt this will happen. Humans like things to be easy, so the minority will probably shrink as ever-growing desperation or blatant threats of violence forces them to conform.

There are several things a leader will do to rise to power and solidify their authority. He[1] will start with speeches, then perform “good” deeds, and scapegoat others to maintain his hold on power. 

Speech and Preach

The religious leader will first claim their connection to divinity by reminding community members that they have been warning us this was coming for years. Expect speeches like the following:

The leader will start the speech in a modest and self-deprecating manner.

“In his divine wisdom, God chose to share his vision with me. Me, a poor wretched soul…”

Pause for dramatic effect before continuing with a scolding tone.

“He instructed me to spread his warning that a day of judgement will come. That our society will be punished for its sins of pride, lust, and greed. You didn’t heed those warnings then, but now you remember…”

The leader may dust off a few of the “Armageddon” chapters and verses to claim it was further ordained in Revelations[2].

The leader will close the speech in a way that solidifies his power and influence by instilling the belief that their community was spared from the apocalypse because they are the chosen, righteous, people. The speech will change to have a powerful and inspirational tone.

“God chose me to be here to help guide you through this time of great turmoil. You, his most devout followers are his chosen people. God’s wrath struck down the heathens and sinners, but he chose to spare you from his divine judgement. Us chosen few were spared to carry out his will, and we must work to rebuild this nation in His image!”

The speech might be slightly different, but it should carry the same meaning. You’ll be amazed and disappointed at how many people will be influenced by such a speech.

I hope I didn’t just write a future theocratic dictator’s speech.

Deeds

Speeches alone won’t be enough to persuade some people to follow and remain loyal to a leader. The leader will have to perform deeds to entice more to join as followers. They will establish the church as a bountiful provider by pooling the resources of the community and distributing supplies to those in need.

If the church hasn’t wrested control from a secular community, it will passively proselytize in the sidelines by providing “care packages” to the poor and needy. This simple deed makes their church look good and gives them a chance to speak and engage with potential converts. Alternatively, if the church already has a firm grasp on power and control over resources, the leader will distribute rations during church services. They’ll organize communal housing and dining for the homeless. They will preach during meals and before bedtime in an effort to indoctrinate those benefitting from the services being provided[3].

All of these tactics ensure the followers become and remain dependent on the church for their survival. Their continued safety and well being is linked to obedience to the community’s dogma, and violators will be punished by withholding supplies or being exiled from the community.

Being self-sufficient may not protect you either. Depending on how insecure (or evil) the leader is, he may see your independence from his church as a challenge to his authority. You’ve proven that you can support yourself, and can be a highly valuable member of society. He can’t have you showing his flock that it’s possible to live outside of his influence. He needs to get rid of this challenge by either converting you into a productive follower, or eliminating the threat to his authority.

He’ll send his followers out to convince you of the error of your ways. They will use words and incentives to entice you to convert, and if that doesn’t work… threats. They will force you into the fold by terrorizing you and your family. And if all else fails, they will eliminate your family to serve as an example to others.

Scapegoating

Things won’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time. The actions of the leader may cause misfortune to fall upon the community, but you’ll never hear that. No. The infallible leader will do everything in his power to distract the followers attention away from his ineptitude, and onto scapegoats. You’ll hear things like:

“Yes, the Smith family is suffering from hard times, but they brought this upon themselves when they chose to ignore the abomination living in their home! God is punishing them for not casting out that sinful harlot of a lesbian daughter[4]!”

“God wants us to love thy neighbor and to give alms to the poor, but he is angry at us for aiding heretics.”

The leader may use this as an opportunity to get rid of competition or those who have spoken against him. In this type of situation, the guards may drag out a few of sinners or Satan-worshipers, who conveniently have had their tongues cut out so they can’t sway the community with their evil words (or defend themselves).

“I have sad news to report. We’ve discovered that Satan has been filling our ears with vile lies, and has seduced some of our most respected community members to do his bidding. These sinners have poisoned our well water with disease and they must be punished.”

Or the leader will rally his followers against an external threat. The threat could be another community that will not follow his dogmatic belief system. This tactic serves to blame the external threat for all of the community’s problems, and he gets rid of the challenge to his authority.

“Our crops are being sabotaged by those who hate our devotion to God. These nonbelievers revile in our misfortune and will do anything to make us turn our backs to God’s loving arms. We must root out this evil! We must fight the infidels![5]

If there’s a rival crack-pot religious upstart who wrongfully thinks he’s the Second Coming of Christ, substitute the last sentence with:

“We must slay the false prophet!”

Scapegoating doesn’t have to be limited to times of hardship, it can be done during the good times too.

Birth defects are going to happen, especially after radiation or chemical exposure mutates our genes. Unfortunately, most of the survivors aren’t going to have much scientific knowledge and will probably believe the defects are of supernatural origin. Meaning, birth defects are going to become marks of Satan or signs that God is punishing a family for some misdeed[6].

What can we do if faced with such a nightmare?

In short, hope and pray I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Barring a cynical thoughts & prayers approach, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of survival when a totalitarian religion, or religious figure takes over. You can either speak out, blend in, or hide; but you should always be prepared to defend yourself.

Speak Out

Let’s say you live in a community of people with moderate values, and only a few devoted Christians. People start holding town meetings after the dusts settles, but the church leader and his followers start proposing some radical changes to the town’s laws. You should speak out early on to nip the religious movement in the bud before the vile takes root. There are others who share your reasonable point of view, and fear your community will repeat history by persecuting anyone who is different. They only need someone to voice that first objection.

The bad thing is, if you push too hard against bigotry, you run the risk of becoming a target yourself. These religious types always have henchmen who do their master’s bidding and respond to his suggestions. The henchmen will attack or kill those who threaten their rise to power. You’ll need to make sure your closest neighbors are on your side, or generally like you for being a good person. They’ll be there to warn you when the attack comes, and may even jump to your defense.

Blend In

Maybe you stayed in your basement a little too long and found out the religious fanatics took over while you were sheltering. You climbed out of your basement and emerged into a nightmare. That first time you traveled to City Hall, you saw people hanging from trees with signs showing their sins. You know you can’t fight the establishment, so you need to hide what you are and blend in.

Enter the community with the knowledge that every single person is watching you, so be careful with what you say, how you say it, and how you act. They will watch you for any weakness or sign that you aren’t a true believer. Do not volunteer much information about yourself.

With that said, you mustn’t isolate yourself from the community either. Being seen in the community has its benefits. The more people that see you, the less they’ll suspect that you’re hiding a secret. You’ll need to attend community meetings and remain in contact with your neighbors to make sure you know what’s happening. Being aware of what’s happening will help you get ready to defend yourself should you find that you’re part of a group being targeted for persecution.

Another good way to blend in is to display historic symbols of conservatism and hate. If you can find a Confederate flag[7], hang it outside where the locals can see it as they pass your home. This will help to convince the hillbilly survivors you’re one of them, and definitely don’t hold any liberal values.

Having a cross on your property can help ward off fanatics too.

Hide

If you own a large wooded property that’s hard to access, you could try hiding. This depends entirely on how self-sufficient you can make yourself. You need to be able to grow your food, purify or distill your water, and scavenge from nature. You also need to scare trespassers away to make sure nobody knows what you have hidden away. Firing a warning shot at a trespasser should do the trick, but if it doesn’t, you may have to resort to more drastic measures.

Just know that if too many people go missing in or around your property, the community will unite and converge upon your home in a mob.

What if there’s an emergency and you need to travel into town to trade for supplies? This is very risky. It’s a religious leader’s job to know everyone in their flock. It’s how they empathize and gain the trust and devotion of their followers. If you come out of hiding for any reason, you run the risk of being seen as an outsider. The leader may have you followed back home. If it’s found out you live within walking distance to the town, they’ll never leave you alone.

Always be Prepared to Fight

Fanatics are irrational and will turn on you in a heartbeat if they think it will make them look more devoted to a religion or leader.

Always be prepared to defend yourself in town.

Always be prepared to defend your home.

Always have an escape plan when the mob turns against you, because you can’t fight them all.

Is there no hope for the future after they take over?

You should always hold tight to a small kernel of hope. Even in a community full of devout fanatical followers, there will always be moderates or generally good people who don’t approve of the crimes being committed by the leader and his followers. They’ll be hard to find because they’re hiding their true beliefs, just like you are. You might not know who they are until they discretely approach you. The identities of these people may surprise you, because they may be better pretending to be a fanatic than you are (or they’re spies).

Just know that you are not alone. One day the leader will screw up so badly the closet-liberals will rise up against him. You need to stay alert to these opportunities[8] and be ready to speak out. It only takes one voice to encourage others to speak up. And don’t forget that accidents can happen too. The leader is merely mortal and will probably die from disease. The organization is most vulnerable during the transition between one ruler to his heir.

Just know there are risks involved with opposing the leader and his followers. If you are caught helping persecuted people escape, you’ll probably suffer the same fate as them. If you stage a revolt, you must be prepared for the probability that you may die in the act. And if the revolt fails, leaders of this type tend to make examples of entire families. Things truly must be horrible enough for you to risk it all, for the chance your family can have a better life afterward.

Another thing to remember is that this nightmare won’t last forever, and you may be able to wait it out.

What’s left of the country’s military and political leadership is still battling for its survival against an external enemy. Once that enemy has been neutralized, they will focus on reestablishing control over the country.

There’s also the possibility that we’ll lose the external war and be conquered. In either case, the religious nut-job will lose his totalitarian power. I’ll finish under the assumption our country will successfully fight off the external threat and will work to reestablish control over our country.

The problem with religions is that they tend to divide more than they unite. Even religions that follow the same core belief system, further divide themselves based on how they worship or which texts they decide to prioritize. Some even create their own lore or origin story, setting themselves further apart from the other religions. And the largest dividing factor of all is the belief that each of them is the true and correct religion, and the others are wrong or blasphemous. 

This divisiveness will be further compounded by the lack of communication. The various religious leaders will be so entrenched and drunk with their own power, they’ll react violently when a slightly different religion or sect is encountered. Unless they give up their belief system and conform, the opposing religious community is an immediate threat to the leader’s authority and connection to divinity. Both leaders are going to have this mindset, and if the threat isn’t removed, it will undermine the leader’s authority in perpetuity.

If any semblance of a federal government is ever reestablished, the conflict between religious communities or the inherent lack of cooperation will help ensure that no single religion has the upper hand in a nation-wide political system.

Thankfully.


[1]He” – The majority of religious leaders will almost certainly be male. Most radical religions are patriarchal by nature, and fanatics are more willing to follow a strong man.

[2] Armageddon – I think the majority of the end-of-days verses are in the “Book of Revelations”, but I haven’t read a Bible since I was in elementary school.

[3] Indoctrination Services – We already see this type of passive recruiting with the homeless who rely on church-based charities for shelter and daily meals.

[4] Lesbian Daughter – I do not condone hate speech. This statement is used to describe the possible method by which an evil person may victimize others to achieve their agenda.

[5] Fanatical Speech – Don’t fool yourself into thinking this can’t happen here in the US-of-A. We have fringe groups that are arguably the Christian version of Al Qaeda, who think every single Muslim is trying to eradicate people of Christian faith. The same people think it’s okay to punish Jewish people for the treachery of Jesus Christ.

[6] Birth Defects – This has been happening to people with albinism in Africa for centuries. Even today, albinos are hunted down for their body parts because, according to witchcraft rituals, they can promote wealth, power, and sexual vigor.

[7] Symbols of Conservatism and Hate – I do not condone hate-speech or the proliferation of paraphernalia intended to intimidate or make any group of people feel uncomfortable or in danger. The survival strategies are designed to maximize the chances of surviving in this hypothetical nightmare-scenario.

[8] Opportunities – Religious leaders can get overconfident in their selection of people to victimize. They will focus on easy targets like: homosexuals, other religions, and probably other races. You’ll be surprised at how many people will accept this. But their faith in the leader will be shaken if he targets someone who’s obviously innocent like a child, or possibly a mentally disabled person. You should speak out when they target people like these.

Cool Times ⏰

Some times on a digital clock are cool if you happen to notice them at the right time. I always take a moment to appreciate a coincidental sighting of a cool time, but won’t waste the whole minute. There are different things which can make certain times special. Sometimes the coolness is because of a cultural reference, other times it’s the repetition of numbers, or if you use a 24-hour clock, the coolness happens because an important year is being shown on the display.

Cultural Representation

Digital clocks may display times which represent something of cultural importance. Here are a few that I’ve noticed:

3:14      Represents Pi (π), which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter[1].

4:04      “404 Not Found” error is seen when a webpage or file couldn’t be found online.

4:20      Is the “high” time because it’s the numeric representation of marijuana.

7:11      Represents 7-Eleven convenience stores (the business spells out “Eleven” in its name).

9:11      Is a reminder of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It also represents the number you call if you need emergency assistance.

10:10    Is cool to me, because it reminds me of The Adventures of Tintin (1990s cartoon).

Repetition

Six of the hours on a standard 12-hour clock will show the same digits across the display: 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55, and 11:11. That’s pretty cool, but if you use a 24-hour clock, 00:00 and 22:22 are even better because those times can’t be replicated by a conventional clock.

Years in 24-Hours

24-hour clocks can display times representing certain years, and that’s pretty awesome if there’s a year of personal or cultural significance to you. Just remember that clocks can only represent centuries up to the 59th year. Here are some examples of important years that can be displayed on a digital clock.

13:46    Commonly known as the year the Black Death started. It “ended” 7 minutes later on 13:53. Did you know that an average of 7 bubonic cases are reported each year in the USA[2]?

14:31    The year Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, because the English couldn’t handle the fact they were defeated by a woman on the battlefield. A woman couldn’t have done that. She must be a witch!

15:17    Martin Luther nailed his 95 criticisms against the Catholic church, sparking the protestant movement. This could also be the first negative review to be posted on a business[3].

18:12    The US declares war on Britain, and gets their asses whipped when the British burn Washington in… 18:14.

19:12    The year the Titanic sunk, and “Rose Dawson” told Jack she’d never let go.

19:18    The end of World War I. The Romanovs are assassinated in a basement by the Soviets.

19:45    The end of World War II.

19:57    Sputnik 1 is launched into orbit.

20:00    The start of a new millennium!

20:01    2001: A Space Odyssey! And, on a somber note, the year 9/11 happened.

20:20    Is probably the worst year in modern history. It’s also cool because there’s a TV show called 20/20. And the common phrase: “Hindsight is 20/20”.

22:54    Events from the Star Trek episode “The Cage” happen this year.

22:56    The Earth Alliance station, Babylon 5, comes online. It’ll be “… our last, best hope for peace.”

These are the cool times I’ve noticed over the years, but it’s important to notice that we are living in cool times as well. Any year in this century has the potential to be a historic year that may be reflected on a clock, at least up to 20:59.

Maybe in the year 23:59 we’ll have colonies on distant planets with 25 or even 30-hour days. Their digital clocks will be able to represent even more of our historic years. And maybe a fellow observer of time will take a moment to appreciate the occasional cool time.

Just a moment though… not the whole minute.


[1] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Pi. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi

[2] CDC. (2019, November 26). Plague: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html

[3] Yes, the church has always been run like a business. Around the 1500s, it generated it’s funds via indulgences and tithes. Nowadays, the church’s income comes from many different sources, but the most important source is donations.

Making a Living After the Apocalypse

In a previous blog I described how agricultural products will be the most important commodity in the new world. So much so, whatever currency is used may hold a foundation based on calories, and non-edible products will be traded based on the perceived caloric value.

Your main goal in this new world is to survive. To do this, you need to make sure you can feed your family and fight off those who would steal from you. But, how do you make a living if you don’t have a green thumb?

In this article, I’ll outline what I think will be the easiest ways to make a living after the fall of civilization. I’ll describe what you can make or grow to trade for food or other valuables. Certain products or services can be produced with little effort, some will need a certain level of skill, and others will require skill and specialized equipment.

Don’t Bother with These

Let’s start with what you should avoid. Precious metals and jewelry aren’t going to be worth much. You can’t eat a diamond ring, and they don’t have much utilitarian value. Precious metals can be worn as jewelry and that’s pretty much it. Speaking of which, I personally don’t recommend wearing jewelry. You’re basically inviting people to steal it from your cold, dead fingers. I recommend you hide any jewelry you may possess or discover and maybe use it to trade with later.

I don’t think there will be much of a market for new clothes, since there’s already an overabundance of clothing. Clothes will likely be abandoned and free for any passerby to take. However, once the economy has stabilized and clothes become scarce, there may be a market for new clothing. I just don’t think much profit can be made as a seamstress[1] unless you’re doing it in your free time as entertainment.

Passive Products

There are a few things that can be produced or grown with little to no effort on your part. Some herbs and vegetables can be grown “wild” and thrive without human intervention. Plants like: green onions, mint, potatoes, ginger[2], mushrooms (starter spores required), some peppers, and some established trees.

Most of these foods will grow year-round.

You can raise chickens and produce honey almost wild too. However, both require an investment in shelter and you need the proper skills to harvest the final products.

If that’s not enough, or if you tend to kill plants and animals just by looking at them, you can forage[3] for your food. There’s plenty of food to be found growing in the wild. You can find: wild tree nuts (acorns[4] & pecans are easiest to identify), loquats, dandelion greens, clovers (save any 4-leaf clovers for luck), roses, carnations, honey, and psychedelic shrooms (medicine/trade).

If done properly, you can easily survive on passive foods and trade any excess you produce.

Mid-value Products & Professions

If you can make products from raw materials or provide services no one else can, you may earn enough to be part of the new middle-class. I don’t think people will get rich making these because they’ll have to pay suppliers for the building materials and maybe pay to distribute the products. 

Preserves

If you have the knowledge and have the equipment, almost any food item that can be dehydrated and made into a powder will be valuable. Foods like grains, potatoes, corn, and nuts are the most common and easiest foods to dehydrate and turn into powders.

Pretty much anything that’s made into a powder will last forever, and that longevity will make preserved foods great cash crops. The only requirements to preserve dry foods are… to keep it dry, and don’t allow humidity or pests to infest the food.

Don’t be too reliant on conventional crops. It’s not likely you’ll live near a region that grows food grains like wheat. That means you’ll need to think outside the box [5] and convert what you can produce or harvest into equivalent products. If you have pecan trees growing more or less wild on your property, harvest those nuts as they drop and use them as a flour alternative[6].

Food will quickly lose its value when things settle down and supply stabilizes. But I still think you can gain wealth manufacturing and trading food.

Soap

Hygiene products will be extremely important to prevent diseases and infections. Simple bars of soap only require 3 ingredients and can be transported easily, but require time to make (and you’ll need some practice to perfect your recipe).

Regular customers of soap makers will be medical facilities, Laundromats, and, if they exist, communal baths. Although, I have a lingering fear that many people will forego bathing. We’ve seen this happen with various degrees during the Medieval period, (also known as the “Dark Ages”).

Laundromat

Many people may turn their noses up to this, but another profession could be cleaning clothes… from piss[7]. Urea from, well, urine has been used to clean clothes since ancient times. The process is much the same as it’s done today, and I’ll briefly describe it since it’s such a gross-sounding task:

  1. Add clothes and cleaning agent (urine) into a container and agitate the clothes. Agitation was done by stomping on the clothes in ancient times.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the clothes.
  3. Hang the laundry out to dry. I imagine the sun and breeze airs out any lingering urine smell.

The launderer could charge a premium to wash clothes with scented soaps. Another upcharge could be to offer an expedited service to rapidly wash and dry clothes by using precious electricity to machine-wash and dry them.

Going into Labor

Labor is a mid-value product too. You can lend your hands to help on the farms, work to construct buildings, or labor on an assembly-line (if any factories or workshops exist).  Your earnings will always be capped at what your boss can “pay” for your labor, which may be as simple as food and housing, or other valuable supplies. Remember that food and housing are scarce and valuable now that millions of newly homeless people are roaming the countryside. You may make more money if you already know a trade like plumbers or electricians. But don’t bank on this because the raw materials (power and water) may not exist.

Quick Cash

Tools will be the gold bars of the post-apocalyptic world, but they won’t make you rich. You can make a quick profit by trading any tools you don’t need. Alternatively, if you need them for work, keep them under lock and key. You should be prepared to defend your tools and even kill for them, because people will try to steal them for a quick “buck”.

What are the best ways to get rich in this new world?

The cash-crops, so to say, are going to be commodities required to power technology, luxury products satisfying vices, and medical labor. All of these are going to require knowledge or skill.

Energy

If you don’t have a green thumb or don’t have anything edible growing wild, then maybe you can make and sell luxury items like fuel and alcohol. There won’t be a reliable supply of energy, and your local gas station won’t be getting a resupply. The refineries will almost certainly have burned down and if they haven’t, there won’t be any labor to operate them.

If you happen to be lucky enough to live in an area that still has working pumpjacks that produce oil, it may be possible to refine it. That is, if someone in your community knows how to do it[8]. If you have the knowledge and are able to make a simple refinery powered by fire and horses, you’ll be rich. 

Some generators and cars can operate using ethanol, which is easy to make by fermenting food waste. You just need a container for the food waste, bacteria to allow fermentation to occur, and something to distill the alcohol (ethanol) out of the mash. You may need to redistill the alcohol to achieve a higher ABV.

Liquor & Wine

Of course, you can sell your ethanol as a beverage commonly known as vodka or white-whiskey, or moonshine[9]. You can charge a premium for whiskey aged in wood barrels.

I think wine will be pretty hard to make and sell. If you can’t find or make a still, you may have no other choice but to rely on wine as an alcoholic beverage. First, you have to grow the grapes, or other sugary fruits like apples, pears, or peaches. Then, you have to keep yourself and others from eating the fruit. If you still have fruit, you’ll need to pulverize and ferment it. Once fermented, bottle it.

It sounds easier than distilling, but the hardest part to wine making is getting past the first 2 steps: growing and not eating the raw materials. Distilled liquor, on the other hand, can be made with leftover food waste.

Another use for ethanol is sterilization. You can sell or trade your high ABV liquor to medical professionals for “money”, food, drugs, or services.

Medical

If you happen to be a doctor or nurse, you’ll be a very valuable member of society. Medical professionals will be hard to find, and any community will guard and treat these professionals well to ensure they’re happy. Medical supplies will be scarce or non-existent, so a good doctor will need to know how to treat ailments using herbs. A good doctor in this new world will need to know how to manufacture drugs as well.

When the civilization-ending disaster starts, most medical facilities aren’t going to be concerned about payment. A triage system will quickly be put in place, but I don’t think hospitals and emergency clinics are going to be concerned about payment until resources become scarce.

As medical resources run out, payment will be demanded up front. Food will likely be accepted, but the most valuable forms of payment will be fuel, cleaning supplies, and sterilization materials (alcohol). Facilities or private practices will maintain the triage system as a standard practice, even after things calm down and we get used to the “new normal”. It simply doesn’t make sense to waste time and resources to treat people who are going to die regardless of medical intervention, or even those who cannot contribute to society.

A wise government or medical facility will socialize medicine to ensure medical treatment is available to the community. This is smart because the medical staff can provide a list of drugs and materials that are running low or are depleted to the community. The local government will be in the best position to ensure the medical facility has the fuel necessary to operate, and can scrounge or trade for drugs and other resources. And the government can easily provide security to the facility.

Ironically, socialized medicine may win in the end. The caveat being medical staff will be required to adhere to strict government rules dictating who they can treat and how.

Drugs

Criminals who made and sold drugs prior to the apocalypse, may find their craft newly legalized if they can retool their operations and make useful drugs for doctors. Any excess drugs can be sold to other communities. Don’t forget the inconvenient truth that there will always be a market for recreational drugs, but be careful with the new laws.

The laws of the local community can go one of two ways regarding the sale and use of recreational drugs: legalize or ban. A devoutly religious community will likely outlaw such vices and severely punish (kill) those caught in the manufacture and distribution of drugs. Whereas, a moderate or practical community may allow the manufacture of recreational drugs, if they aren’t sold within the community.

If the community doesn’t have a specific policy, the authorities will likely turn a blind eye, if you make it worth their while. Don’t be naive and think that bribery won’t exist. Bribery has always been the oil that lubricates government since the dawn of human civilization. Some countries legalize and profit from bribery by renaming it to permits. Some politicians accept bribes in the form of campaign contributions, and charitable donations to organizations they may have a stake in.

The Oldest Profession

Prostitution will still exist, and may even thrive now that centralized state or federal laws are no longer enforced. If the local community doesn’t ban it, we may see the rise of brothels. These brothels will cater to all of your sexual needs, both hetero– and homosexual. As always, be prepared to pay more for male prostitutes.

Why will men be paid more in yet another industry? I remember seeing a documentary several years ago about “straight” porn actors who describe their pay as 10 times that of women[10]. The reason is because they are rare, and it’s an exotic taste[11], and men are willing to pay more for discretion to hide the fact they sought the services of a male prostitute.

It’s going to be a rough life for female prostitutes, and it’s going to be even harder for male sex workers. Willing gay men are going to be hard to find because they’ll die at a much higher rate than women of the same profession will. Just like women, they’ll have to endure the usual risks from abusive clients, jealous lovers, and sexual diseases. But on top of that, the religious fanatics won’t have anything to stop them from murdering gays en masse, and don’t forget about opportunistic gay-bashers who will prey on gay sex workers to prove something to themselves or their peers.

We live in a very accepting and inclusive world now[12], but that will change once civilization falls. Religious communities are going to be common and we need to expect a return to the historic religious persecutions of people who don’t fit with the dogma. Prostitutes are shunned by the major religions, and gay prostitutes are going to be double-negatives in the eyes of fanatics.

Straight men won’t have much work, because women have historically patronized brothels or individual prostitutes less often than men. There may not even be a demand for straight male sex workers.

Of course, if you follow this career-path, you’ll have to worry about the local laws. Just like drugs, the community will either allow or ban prostitution. If you happen to be in a religious community, expect the penalty to be death or worse.

***

Producing and trading these products or services will help ensure you can survive and can help generate income or wealth (or the post-apocalyptic equivalent). Some will be fast tickets to wealth, or they’ll make you a target for exploitation by any potential overlord. 

Let’s hope for a not-so-grim outcome.

I’d like to close by saying that while I use a nuclear attack as the cause of the fall of civilization, it’s important to remember that chemical and biological warfare can have the same effect. A chemical attack can render entire cities uninhabitable until the agent has been cleaned, or enough time has passed that weather has disbursed the toxic chemicals. The same may even be true for biological attacks, but biological warfare is much messier and harder to manage (as evidenced by our democracy’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic).


[1] Fun Fact: The male version of a “seamstress” is a “seamster”.

[2] Ginger – Some  caution should be taken with growing ginger, as other wild tubers can easily be confused as part of the plant.

[3] A word of caution regarding foraging: You absolutely must know how to identify plants, or you could kill yourself and your family. The same can be true for gardening. It’s possible to accidentally pick and eat the poisonous parts of edible plants, or unknowingly pick a poisonous weed from your garden and eat it.

[4] Acorns – Acorns need to be processed by boiling out the tannins. You will need to boil them and replace the water several times, until the water is clear or the acorns aren’t bitter. You can remove the tannins from acorns using cold water as well. The process is similar, but will take over a week to achieve the same product.

[5] Thinking outside the box is probably the best survival practice anyone can have.

[6] Pecans fall from the trees with an external shell, protecting the shell we’re familiar with. Remove both, and pulverize them to dehydrate the “meat” using the sun or an oven. This can be ground down into a fine flour.

[7] Laundromat – I’m  pretty sure I learned this from one of my history teachers. I remember someone asked how the ancients kept their clothes clean, and the class was grossed-out to learn they used pee. I had a very subtle reminder about this method of cleaning laundry from a show I binge-watched recently, Plebs.

[8] I think a crude (pun intended) explanation of refining is distillation of oil to make different gases at certain temperatures. I’m not a chemist or an oil expert, by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m sure there are other processes I’m missing. Refining oil is very dangerous, and if not done by an expert can cause severe injury or death.

[9] Moonshine is just vodka or whiskey that hasn’t been taxed. Also, there’s no real difference between spirits distilled as moonshine and vodka.

[10] Male Porn Stars: I want to say it was I’m A Porn Star: Gay 4 Pay, but I’m not sure.

[11] Rare & Exotic: Free online porn and services like “OnlyFans”, made it more readily available and reduced the demand for male sex actors.

[12] Inclusive World: 10% of the population has been the standard calculation of LGBTQ population in the country for nearly 2 decades. But if you consider the fact that many men who like having sex with the same sex, don’t identify as either homo- or bi-sexual; or those who just want “fun”, the percentage is almost certainly twice that… and that’s not counting all those other sexual identities (there were over 100 when I graduated from college in 2018).

Why is France mad about AUKUS?

Author’s Note: This article is meant to be a unique description of the AUKUS pact by addressing the reaction, and by describing the reasons why the USA is a better partner than France. I’m a US citizen, and this article may be a bit biased for the pact, and against France’s reaction to it. Because of this, I claim “author’s prerogative.”

Someone is throwing a fit over the new AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The name, AUKUS, is an acronym of the spliced abbreviations for each signatory to the treaty. It involves the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, increased collaboration with cybertechnology, and possibly includes stationing US subs to the country as part of the strategic defense of the area.

Australia warned France about concerns they had with the contract and the quality of the submarines months in advance to AUKUS. Instead of proactively negotiating to ensure they can provide a better deal, France did nothing. They claim the loss was a complete surprise to them and AUKUS is a stab in the back. In a fit of rage, the country recalled their ambassadors to Australia and the United States. They threw such a tantrum, the US President had to have a phone call with his French counterpart. Late last week, we were shocked to hear the breaking news that we “normalized” our relations with France.

How could our relationship have deteriorated so badly over a simple agreement? It’s not like one of our warships attacked France, so why do our relations need normalizing?

I wasn’t aware that France had a “Nouvelle Révolution”, reinstating their monarchy and placing a queen on the throne… a Drama Queen.

Let’s evaluate the merits of the pact.

Sale of Nuclear Submarines

Australia cancelled their 90-billion-dollar contract with France to build 12 French subs[1]. That’s about 7.5 billion dollars per sub. Compare that to the average cost of 3.4 billion dollars to build a Virginia-class nuclear submarine[2].

That’s less than half the price!

It makes perfect sense to buy a state-of-the-art submarine at half the cost. I don’t know what the final price for each unit will be, but it’s still a great deal even if we apply a 50% retail markup! So, who in their right mind willingly buys over-priced products?!

US Deployment to Australia

I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to have a strategic defense alliance with a nation, France would be the last “major” country I’d consider. France has historically performed poorly in most of its wars during the 20th century. Germany conquered a lot of French territory in World War I, but lost it to the coalition. During World War II, France got conquered outright and had to be liberated by the Allies.

After the Second World War, most of the wars France emerged as the victor include: coalition efforts, and/or conflicts against non-national opponents (uprisings, insurgents, terrorists). Since World War II, France has participated in about 30 conflicts, and individually was the victor of 3 conflicts[3]. Of the 2 conflicts the country fought 1-on-1 with another nation (excluding revolts) France barely has a 50% win-rate.

That’s not a good track-record.

Technological

The pact allows for closer collaboration with technological development. France doesn’t have a related agreement in place, and likely won’t have one since they lack the necessary infrastructure necessary to provide meaningful contributions to cyber-related technological developments. The AUKUS agreement is a good decision to enter into with the US, because we have the infrastructure and know-how. Another inherent benefit is the common language the three nations share which will make the relationship run a lot smoother.

Plus, when most people think of France, we tend to think of: wine, tourism, the language of love, beautiful sprawling cities, art, overpaid and underutilized labor, and riots over pretty much anything including: labor, immigration, violence or killings, labor again, news from the middle-east, wealth disparity, labor (yet again)…

Information technology and Cybernetics are the last things I’d associate with that country.

***

Why is France so upset over the AUKUS pact? Is it truly because they lost out on selling overpriced submarines to Australia? Yes. Losing 90 billion USD means they’re missing out on almost a fifth (20%) of their annual trade[4], [5], [6]. I’d be pretty pissed if I was their leader.

I too would have thrown a tantrum if:

  • It means that businesses in my country are going to miss out on that large amount of money.
  • It means my people are going to suffer job cuts.
  • It means my country will be on international news because of the next inevitable labor riot.
  • It means my chances of getting re-elected are going to plummet since I couldn’t prevent this terrible loss.

Yes, they have reason to be upset. However, the pact includes services they cannot reliably provide. Nor did they do their due-diligence to ensure they were competitive enough to keep the submarine contract, especially when warned their customer was dissatisfied with the price and quality of the product.

It’s business, not romance.


[1] Shields, Bevan et al. (2021, September 18). France recalls its ambassadors to Australia and United States amid submarine fury. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/france-recalls-its-ambassadors-to-australia-and-united-states-amid-submarine-fury-20210918-p58srt.html

[2] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Virginia-class submarine. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine

[3] Wikipedia. (n.d.). List of wars involving France. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_France

[4] The United States export value is about 3 times that of France, meaning the subs account for about 5% of our outgoing trade.

[5] NationMaster. (n.d.). Economy Stats: Compare Key Data on France & United States. Retrieved from NationMaster: https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/France/United-States/Economy#

[6] WITS. (2019). France Trade Statistics: Exports, Imports, Products, Tariffs, GDP and related Development Indicator. Retrieved from World Integrated Trade Solution: https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/FRA

What do we call space travelers?

The SpaceX Inspiration4 all-civilian flight landed this past weekend and there’s been a lot of speculation as to what we should be calling these space tourists now and in the future. We can’t call civilian space travelers “tourists” forever, because tourism will not be the only reason why civilians travel to space. If we’re lucky, these early space flights will be the start of even more civilian trips into space for science, exploration, and general business.

But what do we call these civilian space travelers?

A couple names have come to the forefront of this debate, including: Amateur Space Traveler and Astronaut/Cosmonaut.

I heard someone propose “Amateur Space Traveler” in the news last week as a potential name for civilian space travelers. Those who support this name use the first definition of the noun, amateur, which is: one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession. However, the second definition is truly what most people associate with that term: one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science[1].

Some people want to call them “Astronauts”, same as the few people who earned the lofty title in NASA. As you can imagine, there’s push-back against this because NASA already uses the title for the few Astronauts they send up to space. There’s a fear that as more people go into space and become “Astronauts”, it will diminish the historic achievements made in the past by the early pioneers of space.

Arguments for Astronaut or Cosmonaut

I’ve already made my opinion clear about that terrible idea of calling future space travelers amateurs. So, for the moment, let’s focus on why “Astronaut” and “Cosmonaut” are appropriate names.

Purely based on the definition and origin of the names, both are appropriate. Astronaut is the combination of 2 Greek words: Astron, meaning star, and -naut[es] meaning sailor or traveler. Similarly, Cosmonaut is a combination of 2 Greek words: kosmos, meaning world or universe, and -naut[es] meaning sailor or traveler.

Just because NASA and the Soviet Union invented the words and used them for over 60 years doesn’t give them a monopoly on the word or title. For starters, you can’t patent a word. This has been the case for decades and everyone knows it, but let’s give this idea the benefit of the doubt… and then shoot it down.

Patent law gives the inventor a 20-year monopoly, which has long-sense passed. It could be argued that the word can be trademarked, but that can only happen if it identifies with the organization or product. Fortunately, there are certain words which cannot be registered like: names & titles, or generic terms (like astronaut)[2].

We should also consider the likelihood we’re going to see classically employed astronauts achieve historic goals in the future. Let’s not kid ourselves here, there’s no future in manned space exploration and exploitation with the existing government-controlled space agencies.

Yes, I just pointed out the increasingly obsolete elephant in the room. Come fight me NASA!

Better yet, prove me wrong[3].

Anyways, the fact remains that the only publicly announced manned project NASA has in its sights is a vague goal to land humans on Mars by the 2030s. Aside from NASA’s pie-in-the-sky goal, no other space agency has anything planned. Although, does anyone outside of China know what the Chinese are planning[4]?

Which should we use: Astronaut or Cosmonaut?

While both Astronaut and Cosmonaut are correct terms to use, we can’t use both names. That’ll cause more confusion in the long run. So, what do most people think of when they think about space travelers or people in space? To answer this question, I asked the greatest tool to find connected indexed information… Google.

  • What are travelers in space called?
  • What is a space worker called?
  • What is a space tourist called?

I ran several Google searches asking variations of the above questions, and the results all point to the same answer: Astronaut.

Other Names for Space Travelers

I think Astronaut sounds appropriate, but I’d like to propose a few potential names for future space travelers: Spacers, Private Astronauts, Citizen Space Travelers, or Space Citizens. I have 2 preferences out of these names, and will describe the reasons why I think they’re good.

I like the term “Space Citizen” because space is so vast, people will need to live in space no matter what their profession is. The minimum amount of time it takes to get anywhere is counted in days, and that’s just to reach a destination near Earth’s orbit. It will take months, maybe even a year, to reach destinations further out in the Sol system. These space workers probably won’t have close associations weighing them down to the planet. Nor does it make sense for these citizens to maintain homes on Earth either, unless they left behind family[5].

If we’re lucky, people will eventually be born in space, and probably to multi-national parents. Think of the citizenship complications that will cause.

I have a strong preference for the term “Spacer”, and think it has a greater likelihood of being used in the future, even over “Astronaut”.

  1. It’s simple. The word can be said in 2 syllables and is easier to use in a sentence, and it can’t be acronymized all by itself.
  2. It has universality (pun sort-of intended). People are Spacers if they live and work in space, no matter what they do. They can be a: space miner, engineer on a spaceship, doctor in a medbay, security officer on a ship or station, and even a child whose family lives in space. “Spacer” has the quality of being appropriate for all those roles.
  3. I think people who live in space will be called “Spacers” collectively. Their identities may be further defined by their profession, but not likely as a citizen of the nation they were born to.
  4. It sounds cool! I love science fiction and can’t deny the appeal the term “Spacer” has when I think of people living and working in space.

***

What should we call future space travelers? “Astronaut” and “Cosmonaut” are technically correct, but may be outdated. “Private Astronaut” seems like applying a band-aid to answer the question. I think “Spacer”, or some other designation inspired by science fiction, may be the best option now and in the future.

I don’t know what we’ll end up calling them, but I do know it won’t matter if we don’t get our act together.

In the 1960s, we were making rapid advances in space technology and engineering. We were making so many new innovations, it seemed like anything was possible. One of the most realistic science fiction books published around that time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, predicted that we’d have several things by the new millennium. We should have had a massive space station in orbit, an outpost on the Moon, and the ability to travel between the planets.

Those developments in that science fiction novel were very achievable and should have been realized by the 21st century, but history or politics had different plans. We can’t let that happen again.

Since the established space programs are at the mercy of fickle governments, which lack the will needed to reliably follow through with large-scale projects, we need private enterprises to take the reins.

I’m willing to accept the risk of letting private enterprises take the lead into space, if it results in greater technological developments and exploration into space. Especially, since such advances can only help ensure the overall survival of our species.


[1] Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Amateur. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amateur

[2] There are other phrases or words that cannot be trademarked, but I only focused on those relevant to this subject.

[3] Space fight: Russia, please stay out of this fight. I prefer my tea to be free of radioactive ingredients.

[4] I fear that only a national embarrassment or a “Sputnik moment”, like China establishing a permanent outpost on the Moon, will motivate the United States government to invest the time, money, and resources toward projects in space.

[5] Earth-based families: For the purpose of this article, let’s not consider the statistical fact that most long-distance relationships fail. Let’s assume that all partners will remain true to their loved ones and ignore all other sexual and emotional prospects that physically manifest, both on Earth and in space.

Memories After 9/11

Everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke that a jet airplane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center[1]. I’ll briefly mention my 9/11 moment, but I want to focus on what I remember after the attack. I want to describe what I saw and experienced as Americans coped immediately after the attack, to as late as a year later. Please notice that I intentionally used terms used from the time period regardless of how “woke” our society has become nowadays (reader discretion is advised).

I was waiting for my 10th grade home room class to start when me and my classmates heard whispers that another classroom was watching some devastating news on TV. Someone begged our teacher to turn on the TV and everyone’s eyes became glued to the news coverage of the accidental collision of a plane hitting a building in New York City.

Someone asked how something like this hadn’t happen sooner. And then, a few minutes later, a second plane hit the other tower, and we knew it couldn’t be a mere coincidence. This was an attack.

Some of us said we’re going to war for this. We started whispering between ourselves which nation would do something like this to us, and why. Our homeroom teacher told us that a nation wouldn’t do something like this. This had to be the work of terrorists.

This is how my class was introduced to the concept of terrorism[2].

After the second tower collapsed, the school Principal was heard on the intercom officially announcing that all classes were cancelled for the day because of the attack. I think she also gave students permission to call our parents to be released from school early. Nobody, especially our teachers, had any intention of doing anything else except watch the news, so we already knew classes weren’t going to take place. If we weren’t watching TV, we were logged in the school computers trying to get the latest information from as many sources as we can. Around lunchtime, one of us found an article or a brief video showing Arabs[3] dancing and cheering the attacks.

This angered most of us in the classroom and we started talking about how terrible and evil these Arabs and Muslims are for cheering such an atrocity. Me and the other “smart” kids commonly known as the “brainiac” misfits had a different perspective because we actually paid attention to our history and geography classes. I especially enjoyed the subjects when they focused on the people and cultures of the world. We didn’t jump onto the “every Muslim is evil” bandwagon, and reminded our fellow classmates that terror has been a valid tool of warfare for millennia, especially by those who lack the means to attack in a conventional manner. Someone (not me) also said that we should have expected something like this to happen since the USA has been meddling in the affairs of other countries, sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong, and bullying the rest of the world for so long.

One of the usual blabbermouth-type girls[4] denounced and called us traitors. She declared that anyone who supported an attack like this was a terrorist sympathizer. She was quickly silenced by the teachers, who applauded us “brainiacs” for trying to see things from a different perspective and for reminding people that not every Muslim is a terrorist.

There weren’t any Muslims in our school, and there may have been 2 or 3 devout Christians[5]. I think most of us were either Atheist or Agnostic, or didn’t care. I can’t imagine how students of Islamic faith were feeling when the attacks happened. I don’t want to think about how many may have been bullied as retaliation or how scared they must have felt back when most ignorant people thought of them as terrorists in the following months and well past a year after the attack.

The next day of school wasn’t very productive either since only half the students showed up. Our day was spent asking the teachers questions, and answering their questions about how the attacks made us feel. The teachers asked everyone for our thoughts and nobody was allowed to pass their turn to talk. The blabbermouth from the prior day said she was sad about the attacks and angry that people were cheering in the streets. She was working herself into a fit, and the teacher cut her off by thanking her for sharing and called on the next person to speak. I think the next person said that yesterday was history, like our version of Pearl Harbor. When it was my turn to share, I said the attack happened over fifteen-hundred miles away, and I really can’t have a personal opinion, but I’m shocked and saddened that so many people were killed. People whose only crime was to show up for work. A couple students copied my response.

I think I saw my first meme later that day. One of the girls from the anime social-clique made a simple drawing of 2 towers with angel wings. She used a scanner to save and posted it to her LiveJournal page. Not very many people had a social media account and Myspace didn’t exist yet (nor did Facebook), so someone printed the image and it started circulating around the classroom and school. Student freedom of speech didn’t have the same protections it does today, so it was just a matter of time before the teacher confiscated the picture and chastised her for being insensitive. In her defense, she explained that the twin towers were dead and everyone in them was probably in heaven, and the issue was dropped.

Later that week, I saw a political cartoon of a grandfather and his grandson standing in front of a future 9/11 memorial. I think the grandfather described how horrible the attacks were and how swift our justice was. I do remember the child asking, “… what’s a Muslim”. The cartoon depicted a clear message that the United States will lead a crusade in retaliation of the 9/11 attacks wiping Muslims off the face of the earth[6].

This wasn’t considered bad or inappropriate back then because the nation was experiencing a mixture of emotions ranging from shock, fear, grief, and anger. The images and video shown on the news compounded and dictated those feelings for months. Please recall that social media didn’t exist. There was no medium everyone could use to share and provide their personal perspective and opinions of how they felt about Muslims and Islam as a whole. The easiest way to share an idea with someone was to blast out an email to everyone on your contact list, and you can imagine how effective that was.

Images and video of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan started to be shown on the news, and war with that country seemed inevitable.

In the weeks after the attack, in between watching emailed links of funny flash-animated videos like “Y2Khai” or “Peanut Butter Jelly Time[7]“, I saw a flash video of how the United States is going to attack the Taliban by unleashing our telemarketers. I remember laughing with the rest of the family as we watched the stereotypically-looking Muslim pick up the phone saying “Taliban” in a foreign accent. Only to repeat this over and over again, and getting more frustrated with each call[8].

Then everyone started seeing terrorism everywhere.

Some of my classmates were tired of New York getting treated like it was the capital of the country, if not the world. People in my class chuckled at how ridiculous New Yorkers were after the news reported panic ensued when a flatbed truck hit a pothole.

And then everyone started worrying about anthrax. People didn’t know if they’d be next to get an anthrax letter. There was legitimate concern for the safety of politicians, but it got ridiculous when common nobodies were on the local news saying they were concerned they’d be targeted next. It was like the Unabomber all over again and the anthrax scare dominated the news for nearly a month.

Sometime after the US invaded Afghanistan, a couple links to games were circulated around school. One was a shooter-game which the player gunned down a character with Osama bin Laden’s face, as he appeared from behind furniture and walls to lob insults at the player with phrases like: “I piss on your grave” or “Death to America!”, and other phrases.

Another game was being circulated around this time as well. This game tried to convey the message that no matter how many terrorists the US killed, the martyrdom of those dead terrorist only creates twice as many terrorists to take their place. It was a no-win game and the only way to measure “winning” was by counting how many terrorists the player killed before getting killed by the infinite wave of terrorists.

Around this time, I noticed that a couple of my PC games had characters and missions which could be construed as terroristic. My favorite game at the time was Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. If playing as the Soviets, the player is faced with missions to destroy the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and conquer the United States and the rest of the world[9].

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was another game I played around that time. The game had a faction leader whose face and beard looked uncannily like Osama bin Laden. Every time I played that game, I chuckled at the irony of using an image resembling a terrorist leader for the leader of the UN faction. I knew it couldn’t be possible because the game was a couple years old at the time, and hardly anyone in America knew of Osama bin Laden before 9/11. I think the game’s info on the faction leader clearly identified him as Indian, and had a lot of images of Indian culture in the faction’s description. This is indicative of how ignorant most Americans were at the time (and still can be to this day). Most of us mentally grouped similar-looking people from completely different cultures and religions alongside radical Islamists.

On that awkward note, let’s fast forward to the 1st year anniversary of the attacks.

I don’t remember much about the anniversary itself. The World Trade Center had officially been cleaned up earlier that year, and the country had not yet confirmed the identities of half the victims. I remember it being a solemn day. Classes were put on hold while we watched the news coverage of the anniversary and observed a moment of silence[10].

The day after the 1st anniversary, George W. Bush addressed the United Nations and began laying the groundwork for his invasion of Iraq. Soon after that, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security followed.

We were a nation driven by fear, and that fear was constantly fed by the “terror alert level” which regularly manifested itself as a chart shown on the news. The chart was most prominent every time the threat level increased, but merely mentioned when the level decreased. At the time, it made sense that we needed to give the government more power to monitor the nation for threats. After all, the news regularly reported on terrorists who were caught and how their plots were foiled[11].

The terror threat lost its sensation over the years, and some people started seeing connections between our nation and the famous dystopia from George Orwell’s, Nineteen Eighty-Four. One of my college professors told us to compare the book with: the manufactured plots which rooted out terrorists, “Big Brother” with the expanded surveillance, and the War on Terror which closely resembled a “war without end”. When election season came, some people even wondered if George W. Bush was going to use the war as an excuse to remain in power indefinitely.

Every middle-aged adult (and older) has a memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I hope you appreciate my perspective on how the country reacted to the terror attacks, and how we went on with our lives. Even though it’s been 20 years, my heart still raced when I fact-check my memory by referencing the Wikipedia page on the attack[12].

Two Final Notes

First, I focused on the attack on the Twin Towers in this article because that’s what I remember most about the coordinated attacks on 9/11. I think it’s most prominent in my memory because the media’s attention was primarily focused on New York, and only briefly reported on the other attacks.

Secondly, our country was in Afghanistan for about two-thirds of my life, and I’m sure everyone must have an opinion on what currently seems like a disappointing withdrawal from that country. It’s too early to understand the full ramifications of the Taliban’s return to power, so I’ll reserve mine for now. I hope for the best, but am prepared to see news of barbarism.


[1] Possible people who may not remember 09/11/2001 are: infants, toddlers, and people with medical issues related to memory.

[2] Introduction to terrorism – They teach history and describe the various wars and what strategy won battles in school, but nothing about terrorism and the previous acts of terrorism we’ve seen in history. I think the closest school got was the very brief mention of the Oklahoma City Bombing.

[3] These celebrating “Arabs” were later identified as Palestinians. And even later, it was reported the video was taken before the attacks happened.

[4] Blabbermouth-type girl – I think that girl may have been the first “Karen” I’ve ever encountered. Interestingly, she forgot about how treacherous we were when she came to us for help with her Geometry homework later that year. We remembered and refused to help her. Unfortunately, two of my teachers ganged up on me and I ended up helping her pass the class anyways.

[5] Lack of diversity – Now that I think of it, there were only 2 black students in the school, and they were brother and sister (from the same family).

[6] I searched and cannot find this cartoon anywhere on the internet. It’s possible political correctness may have forced the newspaper or journal to censor and buried it. I’ve always lived in the Houston area, so the list of possible publications is limited…

[7] According to Google, The Buckwheat Boyz are credited as the creators or inspiration for “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”.

[8] I managed to find this Taliban video here: https://youtu.be/KzjVGG0ja4c

[9] I’m glad social media wasn’t around back then. The snowflakes would have created such an overly inflated uproar against the game, it would have ruined a great franchise. The RTS sub-genre of strategy games wouldn’t be the same as it is today.

[10] It’s sad that we don’t give the anniversary the attention it deserves.

[11] Most of the captured terrorist plots were manufactured to entrap potential terrorists by the FBI, and later the NSA. This fact was usually swept under the rug or hidden in the news report.

[12] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Timeline for the day of the September 11 attacks. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_for_the_day_of_the_September_11_attacks

Russia is still the Soviet Union

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I sometimes refer to Russia as the Soviet Union if the subject of a conversation changes to that country or to regional politics related to Russia. I’ve been asked a couple times why, or if I knew that the Soviet Union collapsed 3 decades ago. In response, I tell the person that I may be more aware of the political situation and history of that country than they are. I then recite an amended version of the duck test:

  1. The military’s field uniforms (not pictured above) haven’t changed much when compared to the former Soviet uniforms.
  2. The national anthem sounds pretty much the same and shares the same melody, but has different wording in some places.
  3. They have a “President” who has been in power for 2 decades (that puppet, Medvedev, doesn’t count).

Think about it:

  • If it looks like a soviet-duck…
  • If it sounds like a soviet-duck…
  • If it acts like a soviet-duck…

That may just be a soviet-duck, comrade.

Most often than not, people find my observation to be a funny (yet accurate) representation of the country and the actions of their leader.

Unrealistic Strategy Games (A Gamer’s Rant)

Photo by John Petalcurin on Pexels.com (Just to clarify, this isn’t my setup)

I love strategy games. The first computer game I bought was a Turn Based Strategy (TBS) game titled, Star Trek: Birth of the Federation. I grew up on that, and several Real Time Strategy (RTS) games like Star Trek Armada, and Command & Conquer (Red Alert universe). I tend to enjoy TBS games more than the fast paced and mission oriented RTS titles. Turn based games allow a player to slowly build up an empire and can last over a month before completing a game session by conquering the world or galaxy.

Unfortunately, newer titles have become overzealous with their attempts to improve gameplay by trying to be more realistic. They’ve added some features to several strategy franchises and their heavy-handedness is taking the joy out of strategy games in the process. The most problematic features are: war weariness, warmongering, vassalization, size penalties, and Warmongering.

War Weariness and War Exhaustion

Civilization VI is one of the recently released games to implement war weariness and punishes the player by spawning “rebel partisans” near your capital to wreaking havoc on your supposedly safe infrastructure in the heart of your empire. Similarly, Europa Universalis has the same concept known as “war exhaustion”. War exhaustion will cause the revolt risk to increase to a point a rebel army will spawn in a province and attack your empire. These new mechanics don’t make sense and it’s unrealistic to penalize a player’s empire for winning a war with little to no casualties!

Take World War II as an example. Germany was conquering all of Europe with hardly any losses and German citizens were as happy as can be, and were volunteering to help with the war effort. Germany only suffered slight war weariness when its forces were stopped on the western front. But Hitler ended up making the stupid decision of opening a 2nd front in the east by attacking the Soviets. War weariness only became an issue when Germany’s forces were being driven back into the homeland.

Another example are the Mongol invasions. Around 1200, the Mongolians conquered pretty much all of present-day China, half of Siberia, parts of the Middle East, and took Eastern-Europe. They went as far west as the border of Germany and as far east as the Sea of Japan. The worst things the Mongolians faced were local revolts on the fringes of their empire, and insurrections caused by lack of communication and confusion regarding the successorship of the dynasty. There wasn’t any war weariness in their expansion, except the limits brought on by their supply chain and the lack of communication with the Khan and governmental bureaucracy.

Although, war weariness may have played a role while Alexander the Great was conquering the known world. This is seen when his generals mutinied during the campaign in India. We don’t have record of any major unrest in Greece caused by his war campaigns, specifically. Most of the historical books I’ve read indicate that unrest against Alexander’s rule came from him moving his capitol out of Greece and him snubbing his nose at Greek religion and customs by adopting those from barbarians.

Why do game developers think it’s a good idea to penalize the player for being good at waging war by causing the player’s citizens revolt for no realistic reason at all? It makes no sense!

We’re conquering the world with little to no casualties and those citizens should be happy! Why are they revolting instead of helping with the war effort?

Vassalization

I first encountered the concept of vassalization while playing Europa Universalis III and hated it. Vassalization is defined by Paradox Wikis as: “A vassal country is a country, a client state, that is subject to the rule of a foreign country.” This sounds okay on paper, but the game mechanics are horribly flawed and incredibly unrealistic.

In order to expand and “win” the game you need to expand and conquer to become a powerful empire. You can do this either diplomatically or militaristically. Unfortunately, your new acquisitions are vassals. These provinces give up some of their taxes and share their fog of war. They also have the ability to do whatever they want, including turning around to attack your empire at will. There was no other way to acquire territory.

In the game, a player can fight a war and achieve total victory over an enemy country but is forced to give everything up! In order to end the war, the player must negotiate with the vanquished nation (who’s leaders are dead and buried). The best the player can hope for in the negotiation, from a completely defeated nation, is to receive a few vassal provinces.

And guess what! The nation you defeated is back!

How is that possible?!

Aside from the Earth-Minbari War on Babylon 5, in what universe do you conquer an entire nation, only to give it all up?!

IT

MAKES

NO

SENSE

!!!

I was interested in one of their newer games, but wanted to avoid vassalization. I asked in the game’s forum if it had the same unrealistic method of conquest. A representative of the developer not only confirmed the game had the feature, but also stated that I may not like many of their other titles. This response and my prior experience with Europa Universalis III, helped me to decide to “ignore” the entire developer on Steam. You probably can’t pay me to play another one of their games.

Thankfully, Paradox Interactive is the only developer I’ve seen with vassalization… so far.

Size Penalties

How can it be realistic to penalize an empire for being too large? The size penalties newer games employ are formulated to punish the player for each additional city or territory they control as a vassal or puppet, or own outright, by negatively affecting morale, productivity, and research.

Civilization VI is plagued by this concept. I think Civilization V had a size penalty too, but I don’t remember it being as big of a problem as with Civ 6.

How do you rationalize a longer development time of technologies or longer build times for World Wonders based on size? If anything, the time-cost to research or build a wonder should be reduced because of the manpower and resources a larger empire can commit to such projects.

Morale is a bit different. I can see how during ancient times fringe territories could be disenfranchised by being so far away from the cultural and political capital of the empire. Total War: Rome II did a great job implementing this form of morale penalization. However, most terrestrial (Earth-based) TBS games apply this penalty to the whole empire, and that doesn’t make sense at all.

I think the morale penalty should be greatly reduced with the new technologies like the telegraph or radio, and then reduced to near nothing when the internet is researched.

If we’re going to penalize the player’s empire for being too large, it would make sense to apply an economic penalty caused by corruption and bureaucracy. But such a penalty would need to be added with care and the player should be able to reduce the effects with new technologies or laws.

Warmongering & Diplomacy

Warmongering is a game mechanic that imposes diplomatic penalties for waging wars and conquering cities. I’ve experienced this in the most recent Civilization games (Civ: 5 & 6) but have noticed it in other turn-based games as well. The mechanics for warmongering are broken across most games.

Thankfully, the penalties aren’t a major problem when it comes to managing your own personal empire. You don’t suffer any production or immediate economic penalties, but they do have a bearing on your international negotiations. The warmongering penalties are punishing players for fighting defensive wars and for merely retaliating against NPC aggression.

For example, I hardly ever start wars against other empires (NPCs) until around 1500 CE. Before that time, almost every single war I fight is caused by some NPC empire who thinks they can conquer my empire. Sometimes the NPCs will gang up on me and World War I will start around 1200 CE. How can you be a “warmonger” if you’re only defending your country, and retaliating by conquering those who sought to conquer you?

The game mechanics should be altered to remove the warmongering penalty for fighting a war that was not declared by the player. This will allow the player to recoup any losses during the initial assault and retaliate against the invasion by conquering some of the attacking nation(s)’s cities. Retaliation of this nature is commonly seen throughout history.

If there must be a warmongering penalty for conquering enemy cities as the victim of a war declaration, then it should happen only after the player conquers a certain percentage of enemy cities. Let’s use 50% as an example. I remember most of the empires that warred against me early in the game had about 4-6 cities. This would allow the player to punish the attackers by, taking 2-3 cities without incurring any diplomatic penalty. Should the player decide to conquer more cities, the player runs the risk of being seen as a warmonger, and the penalty should apply for the extra cities being conquered. This is important because a ruler who truly is just retaliating against another empire’s aggression should reasonably try negotiating for peace.

Unfortunately, diplomacy in these games is broken as well, and NPCs tend to be unreasonable during negotiations. I mean, come on, how can an empire with no way to defend itself not agree to a peace or truce treaty? Sometimes the NPCs have the gall to demand cities in exchange for ending a war they are losing!

I’d also like to clarify that I don’t demand anything unreasonable from the aggressive empire if I initiate the truce/peace request. However, if the NPC initiates the negotiations while I’m attacking a city, I’ll demand the city I’m almost done conquering, or I’ll demand another concession like money or resources. It only makes sense to negotiate like this in real life, but the broken diplomacy systems don’t operate the same way human players would think it should. Which is why being unable to reasonably end a war, is the reason many players decide to continue conquering the aggressive empires, sometimes entirely. I think in this case, the warmongering penalty should remain low or non-existent for the additional cities being conquered.

The empire will still face penalties based on its size, which should be punishment enough.

***

I’m all for improving the dynamics of a game to help players enjoy it better, but it needs to be done with a modicum of reality. If the game developers are worried about making it harder for players to take advantage of NPC empires, then they should disable the “easy” difficulty options. They shouldn’t add things to the games which don’t make sense or penalize the player for waging a great campaign when an entire planet of NPCs decides to gang up on the player by declaring war at the same time. It should never be a chore to play a game.