Saturday, 25 April 2015

Parody Week 2: Map Hugger



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5 Things I Learned Because of Google Maps

DISCLAIMER: Unfortunately, while there is still a lot of functionality in google's latest online mapping site, https://www.google.com.au/maps/, the original site at https://maps.google.com/maps had a few more functions which were . . . functional when I wrote this article (and took some of the related screenshots) in 2012. If I refer to something that no longer exists in the current Google Maps, you can still find some of them with the Wayback Machine (archive.org) and others using the separate Google Earth app (https://www.google.com/earth/). But, if not, I hope this article gives the information you need.

1. Foreign Languages Spread Like Butter

England was famous for having a crazy powerful Naval fleet back in the day, but it's not something I was conscious of until I turned off the "English" function, and played around in Europe [or, just zoomed in to see the local names under the Anglicized names]. We gave everyone else an Anglicized name, but that's not what they use to call themselves. But also, when you look at their proper names, you learn something interesting about language.
You can't see it, but in Australia, there were once over 3,000 languages. There were a lot of aboriginal tribes, but they didn't all talk the same language. They were in all over the place, spread out where they could survive and each tribe had their own language. Or sometimes more, some groups had languages you only used with your elders, and a separate one for teaching children, some had a specific language for your mother in law (I assume it had more swear words). Some tribes even had languages that you specifically WEREN'T allowed to learn until you earned respect - that's hardcore.

But when tribes spoke to each other, languages melded so that they could interact, so each seperate language would have shared "trade words" (like talking shop) so they could interact. So, why am I talking about this? Well, because it's not a purely Australian phenomenon - this fact of exchanging languages is evident all over the world.


Look at Japan, surrounded by China, they both have a similar form of writing. No, I'm not saying all Asian people talk the same. But look at it, you can see they were both inspired by the same idea when it came to the style of their written language, they obviously have similar roots. Then go look, and you see that next to it that a similar language style drifts left [West]. China is surrounded by Nepal, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan & Mongolia.



And as you drift further from Japan, the lettering seems to become more and more like the Greek Alphabet that you and I use, until right near England itself.
Then, near Israel, you can see the peoples' language spreading through Africa.
Hopefully you can see what I mean. Language, or at least lettering, seems to spread around and seep into the surrounding cultures, a little bit like how butter seeps into hot toast.
okay, now who else wants toast?

2. Slovenia loves them some borders

When I was rolling around the map, my eye was caught by the sight of a little dot of grey on the screen. I wondered what that was about, so I zoomed into a little place called Slovenia. It is a mass of grey. what is that? Rivers? Roads? Did someone leave it in the sun, and let it crack? No, those grey lines are all borders. At a distance, that just looks like they opened a new coal mine, like THIS big. But up a little closer, you can see how many little municipalities, cities and just borders in general that this place has.


[Click to see Larger Image]
I wondered why, and so I looked it up on my good old friend Wikipedia. It turns out that AGES ago, like before Nintendo, a whole heap of people wanted to own Solvenia. See, first came the Carantanians, who brought with them Christianity. Then came the Franks, who cut the place up with their border dukes and the Feudal system. Then the isolated area had whole chunks cut off by the Magyars. Then the Holy Roman Empire divided it all up.
Then, they sort of sat and grew smaller and smaller, until the Hadsburgs took over. Then at the end of the Middle Ages, Turkish raiders ruined the economy, and then the revolting peasants destroyed the place (i.e I mean peasants who revolted, not revolting, smelly peasants. Although the two are not mutually exclusive).
Essentially the Ethnic Identity of Slovenia was in tatters, until the Protestant Reformation spread, and Slovenians began writing books, including translating the bible into their common tongue.
They eventually had a standardised language, until yet again getting screwed over by World War 1. They lost many people and a few Territories.



That was a pocket-sized version of their history, but the fact is Slovenia keeps getting kicked, cut, taken over, reformed and attacked by other, much BIGGER countries. The fact that it's till there is a testament to it's people. So all those grey dashes? They aren't borderlines. They are battlescars. And still, Slovenia is here today. Good on you, old Slovey.

If you have the time, I recommend checking out that history for yourself.

3. The Google Team are Insane. Like, a lot Insane.

First of all, I found out where google was. So I zoomed in to Amphitheatre Parkway, and I saw a guy with a sign saying "I'm Here". Pretty funny on it's own, I saw also that there were markers on the road, like barricades. I wondered why. Then I went a little further down, and saw all these people.



Apparently, this is the Google Development Team. They got sick of hanging around their offices, and when they scheduled the Google Street View car to come around, they made a day of it. Those crazy Google People . . .



But it didn't stop there. As I moved around, I realised there were a bunch of lines leading OFF the road. So I went off road too. At first I was weirded out that it was just a park. Until I realised that you could go between the buildings. The Google Team had mapped out the GoogleplexThat sounds a lot more awesome than it is, firstly because of the word googolplex, but secondly because I soon realised how they did it . . .



Hello tricycle man! You know, it almost looks like they were testing out the Google Maps idea, by first implementing it on their own headquarters. Huh . . .
But if you still don't think Google is a little bit crazy, you obviously haven't tried to walk from Darwin to Washington D.C., because Google Maps has a pathfinding program to help people get directions. And it's pretty good, it'll even tell you how to
walk from Darwin, Australia to Washington D.C. America. Everyone knows that the trick is to take a shortcut through Japan and Hawaii.




Yeah, it'll take 179 days, but it's possible, right? Oh, did I mention that you need to bring a kayak? Because that's kind of important . . .


[These days, this function has been removed. Perhaps people complained, because now when I ask to get from Darwin to Washington D.C. it says: Sorry, we could not calculate walking directions from "Darwin NTto "Washington, DC, USA". I guess too many people didn't get the joke.]

4. The Earth  is a REALLY big ball.

Sure, a lot of people know the earth is a ball. But I'm not talking about the ball part (Because technically, it's an oblate spheroid . . . but I'm sure you knew that already) I'm talking about the BIG part. You notice this when you use the Google Earth function [Or, the Google Earth App (see disclaimer)]. Let's look at a nice place like New Zealand.



What a cute little country. Which looks a lot like Japan for reasons that the Japanese people refuse to explain. Now let's get closer . . .



okay, kinda normal. It looks a little weird near the edges, but let's get closer . . .
Wait, what is happening to Australia and Antarctica?



The closer you get, the more the other Countries start to slip off the edges.
Because the Earth is so big, even though it seems like a circle the whole time, the closer you get, the smaller your perspective of the Earth gets. And the horizon gets closer. See, that horizon you see out the window? The further you get from earth, the more it turns from a line, into a curve, into a circle.

It's something I always understood in theory, but thanks to Google Maps' Google Earth function, you can see it in action. It always makes me think of David Niven's Ringworld. The place is a ring, but it is so large that it just looks flat when you stand on it, you can't actually see the horizon as it rises up, you just see sky, and a large arch peering out of the blue. It's weird to think that not only can something be so SMALL that you can't see it, but so LARGE that you can't even perceive it all at once.
It's a pretty big concept.

5. Antarctica's Anus

If you use the Google Earth View and look at Antarctica, you may notice a lot of lines. A lot of long lines that converge into one point, which at first I thought was the South Pole.



But those aren't the leylines leading to Santa's Workshop; rather, they are evidence of the fundamental flaw of map design.
Look at Antarctica in Satellite View, while keeping in mind that the long line at the bottom is just one place, and not a big one, it is a philosophical place, in essence so small that it doesn't exist, it is miniscule, and yet that long line, as long as the equator mind you, represents it. This kind of map view is known as the Mercator projection.The Mercator Map draws the whole world flat, turning longitudinal and latitudinal lines from a net into a grid, but when you do this, it stretches out the top and the bottom from a dot into a line.



While this completely warps Antarctica beyond recognition now, it didn't matter in the old days, because no one went to Antarctica. It was like telling your kids that there were monsters that came out at night to stop them from wandering alone. It was too hard to explain the paedophiles out there, so we lie about it to make it easier. And that is what this map is. It is a bogeyman. We tell people that Antarctica is this giant spread out line, to hide the true that it is, in fact, a giant ice sting-ray.



See, when you draw a map, we draw it flat, and in essence we press and mould the world around to suit our own ends. The problem with that is that the Earth is not flat (despite what morons say). So, when we roll that same flat map up into a ball, we have to squish that useless line into one point, effectively forming a little anus in Antarctica, which creates the bullshit message that the Mercator Projection of the World Map makes sense, when really it's completely, off-the-charts wrong.
But, then again, when it comes to two-dimensional map projection, it's one of the best we've got.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Parody Week 2: A Faceless Author

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

Was Walt Disney a Bigot?

I am a big fan of Disney, and so one of the things I like best about "A Faceless Author" is that the writer, Priya Sridhar, has quite a few analyses of Disney movies, or other child-friendly animation studios like Pixar and Dreamworks. It's these informed blog posts that first brought me to the site, analyzing family movies for their intellectual content is fascinating. But, as a diehard fan, I feel that Ms Sridhar is a little too nice to Disney. for the sake of this post, I wanted to hit one of the biggest, most controversial aspects about Disney, something I don't think she would . . .

I want to know if Walter Disney, co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, was a sexist, a racist and/or anti-Semitic?
Image source: http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs51/f/2009/321/0/3/Walt_Hitler_Adolf_Disney_by_TheSab17.jpg

There is a leading theory that some people joke about, that Walt Disney had a problem with Jews, Family Guy has made that joke a few times and there are some conspiracy theories and urban legends that say he was a Nazi and that his last words were “Damn Jew”. As for sexism, there are some that believe Disney was a misogynist and that he had a problem with non-Caucasians. Recently, I saw a tabloid article of some celebrities saying that he was also racist and sexist, and one of Walt Disney's family members responded, to agree with her that, yes, her grandfather was sexist; in fact, that's what inspired me to write this in the first place.
So many people believe it's true, so what truth is there to these claims?

Anti-Semite/Nazi

Let's start with the anti-Semitism, because that's the claim that has the least evidence, so we can cover it quickly. There’s only one animation which is said to be slightly anti-Semitic, and that’s the Silly Symphony short The Three Little Pigs where, in its original, uncensored 1933 rendition, there is a scene wherein the Big Bad Wolf dresses like a Jewish peddler caricature and speaks in a Yiddish accent.
Also, Walt Disney himself was a member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. The MPA was a known, officially anti-Communist organization, with severe anti-Semitic members and policies. And, most damning of all, when David Swift, a Jewish employee of Disney told Walt that he was leaving to work for Columbia Pictures, Disney is said to have feigned a Yiddish accent and said: "Okay, Davy boy, off you go to work for those Jews. It's where you belong, with those Jews."

Image source: http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs51/f/2009/321/0/3/Walt_Hitler_Adolf_Disney_by_TheSab17.jpg

So, surely this proves it, he was anti-Semitic . . . right? Well, no. As for The Three Little Pigs animation, I think that the scene is a symptom of cultural insensitivity, and not an example of hateful Disney animators trying to make fun of Jewish people, after all, it’s such a short scene, and I always thought it was a joke about the wolf being harmless, since Orthodox Jewish people don’t eat bacon.
As for the MPA, Disney distanced himself from the MPA in later life, and even though the Alliance had anti-Semitic members, that does not prove that Disney himself was anti-Semitic. As for the faked accent with a co-worker, it sounds to me like it was meant in good fun. Considering that David Swift, after working for Columbia Pictures, returned to work for Disney again, it sounds to me like this was nothing more than a friendly jibe between co-workers. In fact, Swift said that he owed everything to Walt, and when he left for a second time, this time, Walt said to him: “There is still a candle burning in the window if you ever want to come back.
If you still think that Walt Disney was a Nazi, then you should know, Disney made several Disney propaganda films against Nazism and to promote the American Military during World War II, such as Der Fuehrer's Face & Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi.

Xenophobe/Racist

So, what of racism? Well, this one is the most interesting one. In the background, there are firsthand accounts of Disney using terms like "nigger" and "pickaninny" amongst co-workers. But, beyond that, Disney’s racism is claimed, not because of hidden documents or words said behind closed doors. Rather, the evidence here is as obvious as the nose on your face - there are Disney cartoons and films that are racist.
Mickey Mouse himself wore blackface in the cartoon short Mickey’s Mellerdrammer; The Song of the South depicted a black slave that was happy to be enthralled; the Crows in Dumbo act slack and dumb and speak in a drawl said to parody African-American & the infamous Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs was an all-black parody of Snow White with “darky” caricature style and, like "Mellerdrammer" a title that parodied a supposed “Black accent”.

Image source: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4031/5140561336_b1ea2d2d41_b.jpg

That’s an awful lot of data against Walt . . . but, does that mean he’s a racist? Well, in order to understand my answer, you need to understand attitudes at the time. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in March, 1963 . . . three days before Walt Disney died.

Walt Disney’s lifetime was in the middle between black slavery and black equality. The slow march towards equality was beginning, the engines were turning, but the train hadn’t left the station yet. So, in regards to using words like “nigger”? Or minstrel shows? Or black stereotypes drawn on characters?
No, that actually wasn’t racist. It’s hard to consider, but it was only in the 1960s that the word became taboo. Consider this - within my lifetime, just 15 years ago, there was nothing wrong with calling homosexuals “queer”, but now it’s frowned upon in certain contexts. It’s only after the oppression was over that we bothered to tackle such pithy matters as “language”.
So, this is just a case of something appearing Harsher in Hindsight. In fact, I think it’s an important lesson to keep in mind. Yes, progress will be made in instances of inequality and oppression. However, it’s a slow process as people learn and those unwilling to learn die out.
I’m not saying it’s alright because everyone was doing it, I’m saying it’s alright because the intention behind these words was not to “other” or insult African-Americans. In fact, according to Floyd Norman, the first African-American animator to work at a Disney Animation Studio: "Over the years a number of people have asked me that same question about Walt being anti-Semitic or anti-Black. I would respectfully have to disagree, that was not the man I knew."

Misogynist/Sexist

Finally, the claims of sexism? Well, besides the claims of a Disney family member, there is some real, tangible evidence of sexism on the part of Disney. There exists a letter sent in response to a young woman called Mary V. Ford who was applying for a job at Disney Animation Studios. In the letter, it states that they will not hire her as an artist as “that work is performed entirely by young men”, and the only work for women was in the Inking and Painting department. Also, there’s the fact that so many Disney movies depict the Disney princesses as waifs that surrender themselves for a male character to save.

Image Source: https://noellecampbelldotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/tumblr_mbx6672uqx1qewacoo1_500.jpg

For starters, Abigail Disney, the grand-niece of Walt Disney, was born in 1960, and Walt died in 1966, so not only would she have been too young to remember most of any time spent with Walt, but despite her relationship to him, none of her evidence is firsthand.
Also, in regard to the letter, It can't be denied that this is a case of inequality, and paints a dark picture, but this is not the full picture. This letter wasn't written by Walt Disney, it was written by Mary Cleare of Disney’s Personnel Department, a woman in an administrative role. And since I know that they hired singers and voice actresses for even their earliest movies, I decided to investigate further, and sure enough there is evidence of women working as writers, inkers, costume designers & painters during the time this letter was written.
See, it turns out that it’s not hiring women that was an issue, but rather training them. Women were discriminated against because Walt believed that most applicants, by the time they were trained, would be married and so stop working to have children. This is pretty damning, except for the fact that this policy was not kept for long. the training facilities at Disney Studios were only developed after 1934, yet the first female animator on a Disney animated feature was Retta Scott, hired in 1938, who was an animator on Fantasia, released in 1940. So, yes, for four years, Disney discriminated against women . . . then he didn’t. And if you really believe that Disney’s representations of women are sexist, then rather than explain myself, I’d like to refer you to this post written in 2009 by Ms Sridhar - the Faceless Author, herself - explain how how wrong you are.

So, in conclusion:
Was Walt Disney Anti-Semitic? No. He was a little insensitive, but he didn’t dislike Jews.
Was Walt Disney Racist? No. He even hired black animators, he was quite progressive.
Was Walt Disney Sexist? Not really. Perhaps he was at one point, but evidently he got over it.

So, the jury’s in: No, Walt Disney was not a bigot. Now, I'm not here to tell you that Walt Disney was a perfect man. In fact, in all this research, it sounds like he was an average man of his time, with the same general attitudes and sensibilities of that time. He was a staunch capitalist, and judging by the time he was probably homophobic and the reason he died was because he was a chain smoker all his life, causing lung cancer. He wasn't some future-seer of sensibilities and he wasn't perfect. But he wasn't a Nazi, chauvinist or bigot either, he was just an ordinary man . . . that had a dream of bringing a little magic into people's lives, in the form of fantasy and animation.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Parody Week 2: Mara Wilson Writes Stuff



Hi. My name is Mara. Sometimes I write stuff.



──────────────────────────────── April 23 2015 ────────────────────────────────


Why I Prefer Feminism

by Matt


Before we get started - I am not Mara Wilson. I considered calling this parody blog post "Matt Anderson Writes Stuff", but that goes without saying. Also, no matter what I do here, Mara Wilson does Write Stuff, just because she didn't write this stuff doesn't mean that the title is inaccurate; I could have also called it "People Sit in Chairs", but I don't really think that's a blog worth parodying . . .
Now, although I'm not Mara Wilson, we do have a lot in common. For starters, I don't star in as many movies these days either. For another thing, I also write stuff, and we both have names starting in "Ma-" and ending in "-son". But finally, most importantly - and also most relevant to this post - we are both Feminists.

Some people think this is odd. Not that Miss Wilson & I have so much in common, nobody cares about that, but rather, the fact that I am a Feminist. After all Feminism is obviously the purview of females (i.e. Mara Wilson, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, Priya Sridhar, et al.), but I am not one of them. And, I mean, it's got "fem-" right there in the name, how could feminism possibly be anything but a female issue?
Well, it's simple, really, see, the definition of the word Feminist is "an advocate of equal rights and opportunities for women"; and because of the nature of equality, there's no way to have equality for women without having equality for men. I've even covered this in an earlier post that wasn't written during parody week . . . so, that being the case, why am I writing about it now?
Well, there's a recent phenomenon that I'd like to address, because it seems like people are confused about this issue, and so they're trying to further confuse the issue to make some kind of sense out of it. In a nutshell, there's a new problem of people people calling themselves "Egalitarian". Don't get me wrong, the ideology isn't new, and neither is the word, but there's this recent habit of people who have starting call themselves "Egalitarian" in lieu of calling themselves "Feminist". This is, purely and simply, wrong. Let me start by saying, I am never going to call myself an Egalitarian. This is for two reasons:

  1. "Feminist" has half of the syllables and three less letters than "Egalitarian", so it's easier to say and write.
  2. "Egalitarianism" is not what you think it is.
Some people may read that and get confused. After all, we're talking about equality, it's right there in the name! Sure, it's French, but some people anglicize it to Equalitarianism, so surely this is the superior term, right?
Well, no. Let's back up a bit. I've explained Feminism's definition, so, what is the definition of Egalitarianism? Well, Egalitarianism is the belief, or expression of the belief, in the equality of all people. That's all well and good, right? Well, the problem is that it's ignorant of the intent of the word. Feminism was created to combat sexism, particularly misogyny; and it has a history of doing so. Egalitarianism on the other hand was created to combat classism, particularly hierarchy; and it has no demonstrable effects on history, because it's merely a philosophy, it isn't a practical ideology.

Egalitarianism believes that everyone should be equal, politically, economically and socially. But do you know what that actually means?
Political Egalitarianism is the belief that everyone should have equal power; That means the decentralization of power and in practice this is Anarchism, or in some cases, Communism.
Economic Egalitarianism is the belief that everyone should have equal money. This means equality-of-outcome which is the redistribution of wealth, no matter your contribution.
Social Egalitarianism is the belief that everyone has equal worth or merit. Most commonly, this is known as social justice, and ignores the subjective distinctiveness between individual persons.

I won't lie, I'm salt-coating some of this, some Egalitarian principles have merit, but only within their separate contexts, not as a whole. If you'll allow a simile, I believe that it's the same as Socialism: on a wide scale, Socialism fails as the practices are poorly distributed and lopsided; but, socialistic principles such as socialized medicine or socialized education, can be beneficial.
Similarly, on the whole, hardline Egalitarianism requires either surrendered liberty or contradictory policy with results in inequality or inequity, but Egalitarian practices, such as interfaith co-operation,  or feminism, have proof positive that they are beneficial.

Okay okay, we're getting a bit politic-heavy, even I'm feeling tired after reading that. Let's get out of ideology and politics into the real world. Because I can hear you already, dissenters . . .
  "But that's not what it means," you seem to say, in that artificial, straw-man way. "That's all ideological deadweight; pragmatically speaking, meaning is defined by function, and if people use the word to mean 'belief in social equality', then that is what the word means."

Y'know, that is a fair point, and in retrospect, I wish that I had considered that before I did all that research on Egalitarian politics (ugh . . .). But, do you know what's a fairer point?
That's what I've been saying this whole time about Feminism. If you believe that words should not be weighed down by negative meanings which they have had in the past, then it's only fair that you grant the Feminist ideology the same grace; which means that any negativity around Feminism is a moot point.
But moreso, let's get down to the Hard Truth about Egalitarianism - that's not how it's used in practice. I have seen people that use this term, and it is always used to dismiss Feminists; but that is Anti-egalitarian. The sentiment "I believe in equality for everyone - not just women - because Feminists are wrong" is not Egalitarian, it's exclusionary and elitist. But more importantly, if we're judging meaning by usage, then Egalitarianism it's just the new face of Men's Rights Activists - even if they espouse togetherness, the conception of this idea was the same as MRA, to contrast with Feminism and exclude it from the conversation by identifying it as "the one with those crazy women in it".

So, in conclusion, yes, I believe in racial, generational, gender, sexual, disabled & legal equality, but there are other less cumbersome labels that I can use to define those facets of my personal ideology. And I don't believe in equality in everything, not in experience, physicality, wisdom, morality, ideology, philosophy or skill. And most importantly: The reason why I prefer Feminism is because I do not believe that Feminists and Egalitarians are equal, one is the practice of an ideology with demonstrated benefit, and the other is a philosophy that's fun to think about, but falls flat when faced with the real world.

Before I go, there's one final facet of the "Mara Wilson Writes Stuff" blogs that I look forward to recreating on this blog post . . .





COMMENTS CLOSED

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Parody Week 2: The Oatmeal

Why the Mars One Expedition is Completely Insane

When I first heard that someone wanted to send a manned flight to Mars to set up a human settlement, my first thought was "Cool bananas, I hope they enjoy the trip." But when I actually sat down to think about it, I realized that the entire project is actually raging banana batshit crazy. Here are the reasons why:

1. It is, more than likely, just a scam.


Mars One is said to be a non-profit, Netherlands organization with plans to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2027. And that's a pretty cool prospect, in fact if you ask anyone they'll tell you that space colonization is as cool as a koala riding a pterodactyl. However, that alone is reason to doubt it.
We're simple monkey creatures, we crave excitement and wonder and things never seen before, so if you dangle this kind of gold star achievement in front of us, realistic or not, naive and hopeful people are going to want to try it. This is the foundation of any confidence trick. Lure them in, gain their trust, build their interest, get their money and then cut and run. And, as far as I'm concerned, the nicest thing I can say about it is that it's the most successful scam in the history of mankind.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm no rocket surgeon, so I'm not the right person to ask about this kind of thing, but some of the right people to ask about this kind of thing have just as much criticism of the project:
Space policy specialist John Logsdon of George Washington University says of it: "It looks like a scam.
Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette says of it: “We don’t have the technology to go to Mars.
Neil Degrasse Tyson says of it: "I'm skeptical that it can be accomplished on the timescale that they say."
And Joseph Roche, a successful Mars One applicant says of it: "It is unlikely that I will ever land on Mars."

But hey, these people may be smart, but they don't know everything, and I'm just being prejudiced. Perhaps they just haven't looked at the facts and figures . . .


2. The numbers don't add up


Even people that have crunched the numbers on this thing have said that the numbers are all wrong, by like tenfold. When Gerald 't Hooft became involved with the project, he told them: "You have to put a zero after everything."
That is to say, their 10 year deadline, $6 billion budget would be more viable as a 100 year deadline, $60 billion budget. And he's not alone, students at MIT performed as a space logistics analysis of the project and determined not only that current life support technology, environmental control technology and renewable food technology were all woefully inadequate, but also that the given budget lacked margin for error. In short, if you tried to go to Mars with current technology, you would suffocate, depressurize or starve in two months.

But even if their budget was adequate, the money they have raised so far doesn't come close to their goals. Mars One has claimed that it will cost them six billion dollars to get four people into space. They began with an Indiegogo campaign to raise $400,000, and only raised 75% of that.
They also had plans to fund the trip with a reality TV show, but Endemol, the production company they chose to partner, with has backed out of the project. That's another significant portion of their budget.

At time of writing, they've raised just over $780,000. For those of you keeping score, that's approx. 10% of their proposed budget. Not only is that barely 1% of Mr 't Hooft's estimates, but this organization was founded in 2010 and they plan on launching their first satellites in five years, and their first Mars Rover in seven years; at this rate, it would take 50 years just to raise the bare minimum of their budget.

3. People are going to die.


Did I mention that they're not coming back? If I didn't, that's important, because they're not coming back. I wish I could say this is part of some longterm plan, but this is probably just a cost-cutting decision, like shooting your dog to save on veterinary bills.
But here's where it gets crazy. If you look closely at their plans,they're going to send up 2,500 kilograms of food seven years before they send people up that can eat it. This might not be so bad, except for two things: radiation and dust.

Mars is a desert, apparently it's -60°C on average so it's not hot like a desert, but it is prone to dust storms. These can cover the entire surface of the planet at times.  This can cause wear, tear and erosion, and although I don't know how strong the wind is across the surface of Mars, I do know that it can get up to 400 km/h winds at the poles - that's faster than winds in a super typhoon, and filled with eye-stinging pain-particles!
I also know how strong gravity is on Mars (i.e. 0.376 g). With gravity at one third strength, and winds that can get to hurricane speeds, our migrant Martians could, at the very least, lose their lunch box.

But then, there's the radiation. Mars doesn't have an ozone layer, and as such is much more susceptible to things like cosmic rays, UV radiation and micrometeors. But as for the radiation, without an ozone layer, solar radiation goes from sauna to kiln. So, even if the food doesn't blow away, unless it's heavily shielded, it will either be irradiated or cooked by the UV light.
And if that's not enough, it has to last seven years; that's one hell of a best before date; and you have to go through that just to eat breakfast in the morning on Mars, so I'm starting to doubt that any of these people will die of natural causes on the read deathrock.


4. If they're not crazy now, they will be.


Remember how I said that they wanted to make a reality TV show on Mars? That's pretty crazy, right, but that was just a fundraising venture. I don't mean to suggest that they were looking for volunteers the same way that Big Brother looks for reality TV contestants . . .
According to Joseph Roche, a man that qualified for "Mars Training", Mars One is looking for volunteers the same way that Big Brother looks for reality TV contestants. He said that succeeding in Round 1 required:
1. A short contestant video.
2. An application form that he filled out with one-word answers.
3. A 10-minute interview over Skype.
That's less rigorous testing than the squirrel monkeys they first sent out of the atmosphere.

If that's not bad enough, when you listen to the video advertising "Round 3 Astronaut Selection", they seem to include audio from the successful video submissions that volunteers sent in, and when I listen to that, I can't help but be terrified for these people. They seem to have been chosen, not for their ability to handle a never before experienced landscape and way of life, but for their ability to sound like a movie trailer: "Mars is the adventure of the century . . ."; "I believe it is in our nature, I believe it is our destiny,"; "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
This is why you don't crowdsource for astronauts. These people are fools, but I guarantee, if this Mars expedition happens, they'll turn into psychopaths.

Do me a favour, go look at the Mars One website again. Do you see that row of pods there, connected by a tube? That's it. That's everything. That's the whole plan. 24 people, six pods, and two Mars Rovers. Each of those pods is four metres by four metres. Now, let me bring to your attention that cabin fever is a real thing. Also known as going stir crazy, it is a condition whereby people become mentally unbalanced after prolonged incarceration, becoming depressed, agitated and frustrated and the longer their incarceration lasts, the more prone they become to anti-social and violent outbursts.
Considering that these people are either already antisocial, or will become depressed when they leave their family and friends behind, do you think they have the mental stability to withstand the rest of their lives locked in six pods with food rations, no TV, no sex & twenty other strangers that are just as antisocial or depressed?
If you answered yes, would you like to buy some magic beans?


5. It's entirely pointless.


I am not just trying to poo-poo on the planet-populating parade, I am genuinely excited at the prospect of extraterrestrial human settlement, and it would be amazing if we could achieve that in my lifetime. But this project does not seem to want to achieve that. When we set out to go where no man has gone before, I want it to be a step forward. However, I don't see how this plan could possible help mankind.

Yes, we went to the moon, but that was because we wanted to see what was up there, and then we came back. We already know what's up on Mars because NASA has already sent Rovers to Mars, and we've shown that there's some cool rock samples, but that's about it.
Now, yes, Mars is a bit further out than Earth, so it would be cool if we could build some kind of settlement there as the first step towards leapfrogging out of our solar system and towards the stars. But, this settlement isn't a docking port, it isn't a refueling station, it isn't even a holiday destination. It's not self-sustaining, so if people want to stay there, they'll need to keep in close contact with Earth to get new supplies and food.
Remember those six pods? Yep, that's it. It's not like they can build more, because Mars One isn't financing any mission to send up materials for building more living quarters or anything. And it's not like they can use local materials, because they don't have mining equipment, metal refineries or any useable, natural resources. The only materials available to them on the surface is dirt. It's mighty nice looking dirt, but it's just dirt.

So, this mission is - and can only be seen - as the most expensive, and yet least hospitable, hospice in the galaxy. Sure, the volunteers are in their 30s and 40s, but if they're never coming back, they're just going to Mars to get old, then die there. All this means is that when we have the materials, finances and willpower to create a self-sustaining settlement on its surface, the people that finally do want to settle on Mars will arrive, they will see those six, empty pods - nothing more than a graveyard - and wonder what could have inspired such a pointless waste of life.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Parody Week 2: Temporal Anthropology


21.04.15
The Expedition
34 Dunei 3860 - New Capitol, Rathea

I was approached just five days ago by a friend of mine, Hanhoa Sheiwu the theological historian from the Academy of History, not as a subject but as friend seeking counsel. She had discovered an old carving with circular pictographs which looked uncannily like Gallifreyan writings, and asked me if I could translate it for her. I told her that the symbols looked like shorthand ideograms for celestial objects, like stars and planets, then asked her where she had come across such writing.
Hanhoa explained to me then that the carvings were over three thousand years old, and that she’d hypothesized that Gallifreyans had visited Rathea millennia ago and seeded neroth (i.e. native Rathean) life upon it. I was intrigued, so when she informed me that, she would lead an archaeological expedition to test this hypothesis, traveling to find the source of these pictographs from original dig site at the Howling Mountains, I announced my intention to join this expedition.

As a Gallifreyan myself, I was curious to see if one of my fellow time lords had visited Rathea before me. But, more than anything, I suspected that these were not the results of other time lords, but rather some venture into the past on my part that I was yet to make. If that was the case, it was best that I see what mess I was going to make. If not, well, I have to say that my scientist’s curiosity had peaked.
I assigned the Marquess to keep command in my absence, but when word spread that The Duke of Rathea was to set off on a scientific expedition, Hanhoa’s project gained a great deal more support and volunteers in a very short time, as well as a few minor political detractors. She quickly accumulated a team of intelligent and talented expeditors to join us. There were archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists, historians, dune-walkers, squid-hunters, ice-haulers, warriors, caterers, sumpter herdsmen, navigators and even two publicists. Our expedition numbered just less than forty, myself included, but I had faith in every single one of us.

Our journey began at the gates of New Capitol, where my people were waiting to see us off in a grand ceremony, all of the citizens of New Capital had gathered to fare us well. After an impromptu speech and some cheering, we left the city by large sand-skimmers, hovering across the Capitol Expanse towards the Brum’hara Desert. The soldiers and squid-hunters stood vigil by the open deck of the skimmers, keeping an eye out for sand-squid, for they have a nasty habit of killing those that disturb them, even when hovering above their sand.
It took a full day and night of travel across the Brum’hara; over the Great Southern Salt Lake and through the cracked mud-plains of Entropy before we arrived at the Howling Mountains.

In early morning, we set up a base of operations on a clearing with a solid rock base that no sand-squid could penetrate, and spread out to search. The mountains are named for the sounds the severe winds make as they whistle past the curved, mountain crags, and we heard the roar and howl of the stormy sands as we spread out through the range. Hanhoa directed the teams of scientists around the mountains. and into the mouths of caves, looking for the original site where the etching was found, as the sands had been unsettled in that time. There were scattered remnants, but nothing we could identify, due to erosion of the artefacts.
It was nightfall before we found what we were after. In one of the cave systems, there was evidence of an abandoned settlement. However, upon inspection the paleontologists declared that, rather than nerothkin, this was the ruins of a homas settlement.

The evidence was clear due to the height of the cave drawings; also a makeshift graveyard, within which we discovered several worn down and fossilized bones, including a jawbone which, unlike a neroth mandible, was not split in the middle; a sternum with notches for 7 rib pairs rather than 9, and even a section of pelvis too wide for a neroth. Also, the fact that the remains had been buried rather than burned was enough to convince the historians.
It was then that the biologists pointed out that the settlement, despite having great shelter, had no fertile ground, no plentiful supply of fauna to hunt &, as homas could not retain water like a neroth, there was not enough fresh water to sustain them. They suggested that, since there was fertile lands across the mud plains of Entropy and that Gamera - a small, homas populated city was there - it was likely that the original settlers of this encampment had trekked there to resettle, and were the ancestors of Gamera citizens.
Some were doubtful, as such a walk would take almost a week, even riding on a sumpter beast, and many more were disappointed at discovering homas ancestry rather than neroth, but Hanhoa was excited to be so wrong, and she took two squid hunters, three biologists, a historian and myself to the city by sand-skimmer to speak to the locals.

Although the entirety of Rathea is within the boundary of my duchy, I have seen a scarce fraction of my full domain. So, although the homas fall under the reach of the throne, this fact-finding venture was the first time that the homas had been formally introduced to their duke, or me to them. So, when I met with a homas ambassador, Due to my time lordship, their words were easily translated to me; but also, I recognized the people from the timeship’s database, they were catalogued in the system under “homo sapiens”; I knew then that someone had been meddling with the sub-light species, as these homas “ape aliens” originated from a far-flung world in the Mutter’s Spiral. I translated for my fellow scientists as we asked about their recorded history. Their only memory of the past was by oral tradition, told in song, legend and verse.

Their oldest legend was one of being born when Ego (their creator god) spoke, and the thunderous voice bore them amidst a fire. Then a bolt of lightning lifted them up and they, sailed the sky in the eye of a storm, calm through the turbulent torrent, as Ego calmed the chaos of the world. They were then left on a green and empty land, and were told by Him to live and prosper. There, a chosen few, lead by a prophet, were lead to a magic well, which they dived through to find this new, promised land. Although this land was empty, after wandering the sands, Ego was graceful and He gave them the tools to live and prosper.
Although the story was forgotten and misremembered, their religion said that they stepped through an empty door to find great Mount Mosi, and Hanhoa was convinced that they had come from somewhere within the mountain.

At my behest, the ambassador came with us back to the Howling Mountains with two masters of the church, and he inspected our progress that afternoon. After some short discussion to take possession of the “useless” artefacts that had eroded away in the sands, the local homas told more detailed stories of their journey to Mount Mosi. They said that the prophet had told them to take the well and the pearl and guided his people deep into the caverns, to keep these relics from the dangerous beasts beneath the sand.
With this information, the homas lead a search to the tallest mountain in the Howling Mountain Range, in the hopes that this was the legendary Mount Mosi, and that whatever Gallifreyan influence that brought them could be found there.

We found a deep and twisting cave system under the mountain, but with the guidance of the homas masters of the church, with their knowledge of homas superstition, they found the path of their ancestors and we came upon a deep shrine underground. We set up torches and equipment in that opening, and finally found what we were looking for.
The walls and floor were decorated ceremoniously, but against the back wall and in a divot that had been carved into the rocky ground, we found the legendary “magic well”. It was A great silver ring, seven metres wide, with intricate technology laced within it and nine golden lanterns evenly spaced around the edge within a chevron-shaped frame; and, on an inner ring there were thirty-three panels, and on each was a Gallifreyan ideograms for celestial objects and galactic waypoints.

After observing the technology closely, I was quite impressed by the workmanship. It was obviously due to the ostentatious use of precious metals that this was the work of some proud, renegade time lord, and by its circuitry I identified its function as a wormhole generator. When I also discovered a spherical hologram projector resting on the floor in front of it, I told my fellow scientists to stand back, and I activated the projector. The sphere rose a metre off the ground, then hung in mid-air and projected a holographic interface in a flower-like pattern of thirty-three blue hexagons, each with a symbol on it identical to one present on the wormhole generator itself.
By accessing the dialing computer’s sub-directory, I quickly found the last address dialled, then I entered it into the interface. The lanterns either side lit up consecutively as each symbol was dialed, and as the top lantern was illuminated, a rush of unstable blue energy filled the middle of the ring then the unstable vortex burst forth in a great geyser before receding back into the ring and stabilizing into a rippling event horizon.

We declared the expedition a success and after deactivating the wormhole, Hanhoa declared her expedition an outrageous success and began preparing to transport the wormhole generator to the Capitol for study. However, as my work was done and I needed to return to my duty, I left them to collect the device themselves. So, I boarded a sand-skimmer, alongside the publicists and several soldiers to announce our find to the peoples of Rathea.
It seems that this trip into our past will undoubtedly pave the way towards a more connected future. I am proud to be Duke during this time of advancement, and I can only hope that this discovery will inspire my people to reach for the stars.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Parody Week 2: TV Tropes

Paratroper


There are all kinds of tropers in the world, with a variety of skills and from a variety of backgrounds. They could be butchers, bakers or candlestick makers, but occasionally a troper will not only report on tropes and read them, but they will create them as well.

These people are often refered to as Paratropers . . . by me, at least. More people might use that term if it goes mainstream, but for now it's just me. Anyway, this Troper at least, sometimes will refer to these people as "paratropers".

From the Greek prefix "para-" meaning beside and the Latin-based neologism "troper" meaning one who tropes - a paratroper is a content creator that is a troper as well.


This is the ultimate proof that Tropes are not Bad. Not only are they fascinating reading, often funny or informative, but they can be used by creators to create more interesting songs, stories, scripts and shows. Of course, this is no guarantee that troping is beneficial for your art.

This can be the cause of Trope Overdosed and a lot of In-Jokes in their work. But this doesn’t mean that a paratroper must be good just because they trope; If a paratroper is That Troper it might even explain why their writing is so bad.

Can be related to Most Fanfic Writers Are Fans.

Not to be confused with paratrooper. Or a pair o' tropers. Or a parot roper. or a pirate troper. Or an overly long gag.


Examples:


Fanfiction

Films - Live-Action

Literature

Live Action TV

Music

  • It is assumed that at least one member of Machinae Supremacy is a troper, due to the content and titles of their music, but this is as yet unconfirmed.

Web Original