This ain't no Kessel Run

Published Saturday, May 25, 2024 @ 12:29 AM EDT
May 25 2024

By ESO/M. Kornmesser -, CC BY 4.0, Link

While it's neat that we're now discovering possibly earth-like exoplanets orbiting other stars, it's also rather frustrating to realize that we'll never be able to travel to any of them in any foreseeable future.

The closest exoplanet- Proxima Centauri b- is 1.3 parsecs distant, or 4.2 light years. A light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year (365.25 days). That puts our closest interstellar planetary neighbor 24,690,120,000,000 (24.69 trillion) miles away.

We don't have antimatter-powered starships that can circumvent Einstein's theory of special relativity, which prevents anything having mass from traveling at or faster than the speed of light. While some particularly arcane math suggests it might be possible to warp spacetime, we have no clue what technology would be necessary to do it.

I bring this up because an online acquaintance of mine believes these distant worlds could serve as our "plan b" if we render our home world uninhabitable. (Same guy believes Elon Musk's Mars ambitions are irrational.)

True, technology has saved our collective butts in the past, but come on, snap out of it. This ain't no Kessel Run scenario, Skippy. The only way to save Earth is to save Earth.


About the above photo (from Wikipedia): Artist's impression of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b shown as of a arid (but not completely water-free) rocky Super-Earth. This appearance is one of several possible outcomes of current theories regarding the development of this exoplanet, while the actual look and structure of the planet is known in no ways at this time. Proxima Centauri b is the closest exoplanet to the Sun and also the closest potentially habitable exoplanet as well. It orbits Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf with a surface temperature of 3040 K (thus hotter than light bulbs and therefore whiter, as depicted here). The Alpha Centauri binary system is shown in the background.

Categories: Albert Einstein; Exoplanets; Kessel Run; Special Relativity


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Forever footwear

Published Friday, May 24, 2024 @ 2:12 PM EDT
May 24 2024

Cleaning out the cellar/garage is always stressful.

I have no problem dealing with the hemisphere's largest collection of AC adapters, and tens of yards of cables that support obsolete computer protocols. My kids will be speechless, no doubt, with this portion of their inheritance.

But I am stumped with what to do with my bronzed baby shoes.

Like Captain Hook's crocodile, these things have stalked me for almost seven decades, through nearly a dozen homes and apartments in multiple states.

Lord knows, I never consciously packed them for a move. I would have deposited with my parents or grandparents, the ones guilty of having commissioned their infernal fabrication. Alas, they protested. Their mindset was they were my custom metallic footwear and, thus, my problem.

I always forget about them until, one day, I spot an unopened box from a prior relocation and... there they are, dustily forcing themselves back into my life.

Can they be melted down, recycled in some way to perform some useful purpose? Serve as the first footwear for a baby cylops?

For a brief time I used them as bookends. But then we adopted two cats and, while those things weigh a ton, the felines seemed intent on pushing them off the upper shelf of my workstation and onto either me or one of the dogs.

Maybe I'll just bury them in the backyard. Should confuse the hell out of some alien archaeologist in a century or two.

Categories: Bronzed Baby Shoes; KGB


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Snow? We ice skated both ways. Uphill.

Published Wednesday, January 31, 2024 @ 5:07 AM EST
Jan 31 2024

As we prepare to welcome February, let's remember a candidate for the worst January of the mid-to-late 20th century.

January, 1994 was a meteorological disaster. The month started off with a blizzard that dumped roughly two feet of snow in the Pittsburgh area, followed by a brief stint of slightly warmer temperatures which, instead of relief, changed the snow into rapidly accreting ice and freezing rain. The hilarity peaked on January 19, when the temperature dipped to -22°F, a record for the city that still stands today.

The frosty precipitation completely coated roads throughout the area, and my family and neighbors were "iced in" for two days. I called the township and told them, tersely, "My daughter is ice skating on the street in front of our house." "Do you want the plow and salt truck?" they asked. "No," I growled, "Send the Zamboni. The ice is getting rough."

My snark was unfair and I later apologized; everyone was caught by surprise. Salt trucks and snow plows were indeed promptly dispatched, but even winterized vehicles have trouble maneuvering- and especially stopping- on sheets of ice. And South Park Township is mostly comprised of steep hills and sharp curves.

As my daughter Sara cruised around on her skates, her brother Doug and their friend Rocco spread the limited amount of salt a neighbor had provided and cleared a small portion of the driveway to the front door. They were teens in high school at the time and had the necessary physical stamina and the enthusiasm of youth to more or less enjoy the situation.

More significantly, our kiddos have, since 2004, crushed their grandparents' and great-grandparents' oft-told tales of how bad the weather was in "the old days". Pittsburgh's highest wind gust (83 mph, 1992), coldest day (-22°F, 1994), hottest day (103°F, 1988), rainiest day (5.95", 2004), and snowiest day (23.6", 1993) have all occurred since 1988. (1950 holds the record for the largest snow storm (27.4"), but the greatest one-day snowfall was the 23.6" in the '93 blizzard.)

So, if you're 36 or older, you have lived through the wildest extremes of Pittsburgh weather. And survived.

Tell Pappap and Meemaw to stick a sock in it.

Categories: KGB Family; South Park Township, PA; Weather


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The Forgotten Gene

Published Sunday, January 07, 2024 @ 1:02 PM EST
Jan 07 2024

Gene L. Coon
Gene L. Coon

Remembering the original Star Trek's Forgotten Gene, Gene L. Coon (January 7, 1924 – July 8, 1973)...

Coon was the producer of 35 of the original series' 79 regular episodes, and he wrote or co-wrote about a dozen Trek scripts, some credited to his pseudonym Lee Cronin. In his producing role he also performed many uncredited rewrites of other authors' scripts in order to more closely adhere to the vision established by series creator Gene Roddenberry.

Many intrinsic and enduring elements of Star Trek were, in fact, Coon creations, including the Klingons, Khan Noonien Singh, Zefram Cochrane, the Prime Directive, and the universal translator. He's also credited with the official naming of the United Federated of Planets and Starfleet Command.

A talented script doctor, earlier in his career Coon was tasked with converting the one-hour drama Seven Against the Sea, which originally aired on the anthology series Alcoa Premiere, into a weekly half-hour comedy. The result: McHale's Navy. Coon and a partner also suggested a series spoofing The Donna Reed Show. That idea eventually became The Munsters.

Coon wrote for nearly 70 television shows between 1967 and 1974, including Dragnet, Bonanza, Zorro, Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky, Have Gun- Will Travel, Wagon Train, The Wild Wild West, The Four Just Men, and Combat!.

Coon died in 1973, before Star Trek became a hit in syndication and attained its place in modern mythology. While speaking on the college and convention lecture circuits, Roddenberry began to realize that the most popular elements Star Trek were Coon's, not his. Roddenberry never publicly acknowledged Coon's contributions. Over time, others involved with the series made it a point to highlight Coon's input. An interview referenced by the Memory Alpha fan website quotes series star William Shatner observing:

"In my opinion, Gene Coon had more to do with the infusion of life into Star Trek than any other single person. Gene Roddenberry's instincts for creating the original package are unparalleled. He put it together, hired the people and the concept was his and set in motion by him, but after thirteen shows other people took over. Gene Coon spent a year and set the tenor of the show and there were several other producers who were writer/producers who defined its character. Gene [Roddenberry] was more in the background as other people actively took over."

Shatner was enven more blunt in his Up Till Now autobiography:

"After the first thirteen episodes writer/producer Gene Coon was brought in and Roddenberry became the executive producer, meaning he was more of a supervisor than working on the show day-to-day. After that his primary job seemed to be exploiting Star Trek in every possible way."

A biography of Coon is available in Kindle and audiobook form from Amazon.

Categories: Gene L. Coon; Gene Roddenberry; Lee Cronin; Star Trek; William Shatner


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25,817, or T-minus 500

Published Friday, January 05, 2024 @ 8:25 AM EST
Jan 05 2024

If Shaw and Einstein couldn't beat death, what chance have I got? Practically none.
-Mel Brooks


At the beginning of each new year I go through Outlook, trying to keep it up to date. People have moved, changed their addresses or phone numbers, or, as Monty Python so uniquely pronounced- referencing the English novelist and poet George Eliot- "run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible."

And what do I do with the entries of the dearly departed?


Well, not nothing. I add their expiration dates to my calendar. Each year I think of them on the dates of their birth and departure, and read through the last dozen or so e-mail exchanges we had. Lots of them are computer-related questions I try to answer, even knowing there's less than a fifty percent chance they're going to listen to my advice.

In the past few years, more and more of the e-mails from friends and acquaintances detailed job losses, info on mutual friends who have developed chronic illnesses or who are hospitalized, and- worst of all- links to obituary notices.

I usually don't dwell on my own mortality, but I turn 70 this year. Most of my relatives survive(d) into their 80s and even their 90s. The Social Security Administration's Life Expectancy Calculator estimates I'll hang on until July 5, 2039. That's four more presidential elections- not a pleasant thought.

My father died when he was 70. More accurately, he was 25,817 days old. As of today, I am 25,317 days old. When my father was the age I am right now, he had only 500 days remaining before joining the ol' choir invisible. If I have a lifespan identical to his, I'll be shuffling off this mortal coil on May 18, 2025. (It's a Sunday, so it shouldn't be too inconvenient.)

Dad did not take care of himself; far from it. He was a chain smoking, semi-annual binge drinker who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other morbidities in his final years. While I have some chronic conditions myself, they're all successfully managed by medication. Quarterly blood tests and physician visits insure nothing internal is redlining.

Of course, that is meaningless. I've lost several friends to motor vehicle accidents, falls, or other misadventures. Several who maintained rigorous medication, diet, and exercise routines either failed to awaken one morning or suffered some sort of abrupt, unanticipated, and massive vascular calamity.

The spiritual author Eckhart Tolle said, "Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have." And Billy Shakespeare in Richard II observed "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."

When I hit my sixties, I realized that my continued existence wasn't going to change the course of western civilization. The lifting of that burden made sleeping in a pleasant, guilt-free experience. So, I'm going to continue to do what I've always done: engage in interesting stuff I enjoy doing.

And avoid attire and activities which might spook the paramedics.

Categories: KGB; Mortality


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