Hating “America First” First

NB: this is a US-centric post. The Qs (Republiqans, Quibertarians, Qump supporters…): they sneer at us fact-using logical folk (liberals, progressives, feminists, environmentalists…), with their hate-speech catch-phrases (adjacent to such terms as “hate-America-first-Liberal”). Whatever. Our hatred is for stuff that’s actually wrong, but characteristic of the US as it actually is (“if right, to be kept right, if wrong, to be set right”). If you already fancy the QSA to be perfeqt, setting things right is tantamount to treason, I guess. Here are some of my hatreds.

Shitty t-shirts. I buy t-shirts wherever I travel. Although most of my travel is domestic, an unrepresentative proportion of my t-shirts is Canadian or European. Now, I don’t buy more shirts than usual when traveling internationally. I don each one in turn, so they get relatively equal wear, and as soon as I notice that one has too many holes, I toss it. I conclude that the American shirts are simply low quality. I bought one of my oldest shirts more than twenty years ago in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I visit Glacier National Park every three years, but have few surviving shirts from there, although I buy several each time.

Cars: a vile public nuisance. In the part of Germany where I lived for two years, bicycling is practical for commuting, shopping, and recreation. Bike paths are everywhere. Because the driving population comprises people who are also cyclists, the biker-resentment that is obvious and prevalent among US drivers does not obtain. Now that I am back in the US, living in a bike-hostile city, most of my pedaling is on the stationary bike (we sometimes mount the bikes on a car and drive them to a bike trail). I say: tax gasoline to five dollars a gallon and spend the money building separate bike lanes. But oh, the Q-tantrums that would arise.

Recycling. Where I lived in Germany, recycling was multi-stream: bio (for compost), paper/cardboard (essentially 100% recyclable), and packaging (needing more complicated recycling). The small left-over fraction is actual garbage. Granted, a trivial amount of intelligence and effort are required to successfully recycle in Germany. In the US, where using one’s brain and not shitting in everybody’s living room is considered (by Q’s) to be communist socialist liberty-hatred, even where recycling is supposedly available it has to be dumbed down to “single stream”, which doesn’t really work. A few (“liberty” loving!) defeqtors tossing unrecyclable crap into the stream taints it so that it has to be relegated to landfills.

Liberian Units. The US is officially metric, as the yard and pound were redefined in terms of the metric system in 1959. You wouldn’t know it from simple observation, although there are bizarre exceptions (e.g. the so-called-free market has somehow blessed two liters as a standard size for beverage packaging). Still, even though the paleo-units are “officially” metric, any sort of design work not intended for just one of the two mensuration provinces requires time-wasting pain in the ass doubling of effort just to kiss the ass of the baqkwards foot-draggers.

How to set things right? The one thing the Q’s aren’t failures at is cheating and tantrum-throwing until they get their way, like the spoiled children of exasperated parents. It’s galling, but the grownups have to decide to spend a much greater amount of their time and effort suppressing and cauterizing Q bullshit. Maybe after a generation or two of enforced maturity, we can lighten up on the medicine.


“Mrs. Dean” affectionately calls me an alien. While I don’t come from another planet, this attribution seems figuratively true. Do I lack some mental organ that others possess, one that supplies certain kinds of feelings? Or do I possess an extra one that suppresses or surpasses these feelings? I go about under the impression that I don’t share with people the same feelings about lots of things. I wonder if they really feel what they seem to, or if they are also alienated but go through the motions to fit in with the groupthink.

Sports. I don’t express opinions about sports, so people often infer that I hate them. Certainly, I hate participating in them, unless drinking beer and throwing darts is a sport. My family didn’t watch or listen to them, so I never bonded with them when young, and I was picked on by the jocks, never befriending anybody to whom sports was important, never learning the rules of the games I endured in PE class. I can’t participate convincingly in sports conversations, and there is little to be gained by relating my a-sportic upbringing. Simply walking away is rude and attracts attenion. A lose-lose-lose situation. One reason I dread human interaction is the probability that said interaction will drift into sports talk and thus unwelcome awkwardness.

Religion. Growing up, my family took their Christianity relatively seriously. I went along and tried to believe and participate honestly. I was confirmed. I enjoyed singing and was in the choir. One of my Seattle aunts was quite religious and I enjoyed going with her to church a couple of times when I visited. But when I was no longer required to attend church weekly, I stopped. Since moving away for college I only go for weddings and funerals, and to defer unpleasant family conversations. I am aware of various atheism related societal trends, but as with other “movements” I’ve become associated with, they seem to attract performative toxicity adherents, and I have enough bullshit to fend off in my other pursuits.

Cars. For safely getting from point A to point B, I approve of cars. I have owned several and been glad of it. However, any major possession is going to be a status symbol whether or not the possessor wants it to be, just because other people see them possessing it, prompting a preening/primping response in many people that sprains my eye-rolling muscles. Beyond keeping it in safe and inoffensive running order, I have no interest in my car’s status symbology. As with sports I cannot discuss cars. I cannot contain my impression of them as a vile public nuisance, again leading to awkwardness and social trepidation.

Books, Movies, Music, TV. I have a rich inner life. I am privileged that my “job” (when I have lately been employed) is essentially what I have chosen as my life’s work, and so need little in the way of “escape”. I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, and still mostly read that. After a desert of appealing works from the late 80’s to the early 00’s, I bathe in an oasis of excellent authors. I rarely enjoy popular entertainments and don’t seek them out, although I usually enjoy Marvel superhero movies (evidently Marvel has figured out how to take nerds like me back in time to (false-memory?) fond youthful memories). There are some TV shows that I enjoy watching with Mrs. Dean, perhaps with some popcorn and a gourmet sarsaparilla, but I rarely seek them out myself. I guess the only time I don’t feel alienated is when I am enjoying times with friends and family, who either share much of my affect or at least embrace it.

One Fish

Trail Stories #2. If you can get to Monte Cristo, in the North Cascades, a mostly non-existent ghost town sometimes inaccessible to vehicles due to the bridge washing out, you can enjoy a beautiful road trip followed by some nice day-hike exploration of an old mining town that became a resort after the mines ran dry and then died. If you are an intrepid hiker with a love for strenuous schlepping, you can make your way from the remnant town up to Poodle Dog Pass (if your life is blessed by a poodle the name will surely make you smile). If you are manic, instead of hiking down to Silver Lake you can continue up up and over a rocky ridge (mind the cairns!), finally descending when you espy a pair of gemlike aquamarine basins 2,500 feet below. Ignoring or perhaps forgetting that there will be a 2,500-foot ascent in a few days, you can then enjoy a great variety of day hikes from your base camp.

Before my Twin Lakes trip, I had just recently gotten my first real job, in downtown Seattle at one of the Lesser Satans. It turns out that I often passed a North Face store between work and my commute at what was then called The Bus Tunnel. At some point, my friends “Radical”, “The Buddha”, “Snow”, and “Jack” decided, on Jack’s recommendation, to do Twin Lakes. Jack’s Suburban came into play, as it also would (as related in Everything, All at Once). Luckily, the bridge was intact, so we didn’t have to park early and pre-hike several miles to the town. Unluckily, as we were gearing up, it started to drizzle. Luckily, due to my recent enjobbedness, my frequent proximity to North Face had inspired me to acquire some excellent gear, which meant I couldn’t have cared less about the drizzle.

I continued to not care less as the drizzle enlarged into full-blown rain as we ascended to Poodle Dog, and into a downpour as we reached the aforementioned rocky ridge. As we staggered from cairn to cairn (I believe I was afflicted by both dehydration – ironic! – and altitude issues), we were  surrounded by dome shaped rock peaks off of which the storm didn’t so much cascade as explode horizontally from the mountain shoulders before curving down into a kind of radial halo-torrent. I had already emptied my water bottle, and had to resort to sucking droplets off of hemlock branches and whatnot to deal with my thirst. The storm eventually passed, and the rest of the trip was under a broken overcast, perfect hiking weather.

Among several stories that could be related here, the most memorable one involves fish. Jack had come properly equipped for his favored sport, and had established himself on the east side of the waterfall that drains the upper Twin into the lower one. Some of the rest of us were scrambling along the rocky bank on the west side of the falls. The sun was just right to penetrate the crystalline water so that we could see a school of large fish (bass?) idling at the base of the falls, perhaps enjoying enhanced oxygenation or the occasional food particle. Evidently the fish were quite ready for a bite to eat, as we found that by simply pointing at one, we could direct Jack’s aim. Even a baitless hook would trigger our indicated target into an undulating propulsion, snapping at the illusory bait, followed by panicked thrashing as it was hooked and summarily yanked towards Jack’s waiting net. In figuratively no time at all, we had the makings of a nice meal.

We fashioned a little pool by damming the runoff from one of the snow fields near camp, and resurrected the fish in it. When a fried fish was desired, we would simply haul a live one out and convert it into a fillet. Such luxury.

Tripping on the Imbue

“Imbue”: a recreational drug featured in Zelazny’s posthumous Lord Demon. Commenting on a Whatever blog post, I invented the titular phrase. Supposing I should probably unpack it, I thought: blog post!

“Mrs. Dean” and I are rambling in the Cotswolds, from one hostelry to the next. We navigate with guidance provided by the outfit that booked our lodging and handles our luggage. Each morning we don our daypacks after breakfast and trapes from town to town, care-free hobbits, while the company schlepps our chattels from last night’s lodging to tonight’s. Traversing a copse in The Slaughters, we come upon a brick pond filled with water and algae, its walls festooned with a lush brake of hart’s tongue. Yet another gift from the vacation gods – I’ve been enjoying novel ferns and mosses and algae the whole trip. Two or three times a day I am presented with an astonishment in my field of interest, like this pond, or a lichen crusted wall, or a field of Lycopodium. Each instance fulfills, hallows, imbues.

Both she and I grew up on LOTR. The Cotswolds are The Shire. Pure coincidence: the first establishment we patronized after arriving in Moreton-in-Marsh was the Bell Tavern, celebrated by a Blue Plaque marking it as an inspiration for the Prancing Pony. As with everywhere we drink or dine in Europe, publican and staff project sincere warmth and pride. Their situation is not some sullen-pretense job-stop on the way to something better, as seems so common in the US. We are laden: the luxury of ignoring our luggage starts tomorrow. They won’t hear of us paying to store our baggage while we roam the high street, insisting we let them guard it for free. The publican detects my American accent and I can tell he’s about to suggest beers he “knows” I’ll like. I won’t hear of it. He admits there’s just been a contest among the local brewers and offers me a flight of the top three competitors. All three are delicious but I remark about one that “these guys really know what they’re doing”. Turns out to be the first-place winner. I order a pint and we take a corner table. I am Strider enjoying shepherd’s pie: content, anticipant, imbued.

Tripping on the imbue: The time we were hiking from Oil City to Mosquito Beach, trudging, ten miles in with a sixty-pound pack and yearning for camp. I turn my head to nicker at some cute beastie beside the trail. I can only conclude that teleportation works but is arduous, as I am suddenly ten yards off-trail in the opposite direction and out of breath. “Cute beastie” is a tiny skunk, aiming but not pulling the trigger. Enchanted. Spent. Imbued. Christmas camping at Panorama Point. Wind on Tahoma’s shoulders spalls sparse ice-dust from high snow fields. Clear blue sky, an hour from sunset, the crystals refract into pixels: you can see the shape of the air! A frozen fist aims right at our cliffside camp. We turn our backs to it and get slammed by a micro blizzard. Suffused. Pummeled. Imbued. Hiking up from Carbon Glacier, our first day on the Wonderland, one false summit after another. We’d started at Mowich Lake and taken the old route, through two-thousand-year-old Cupressus nootkatensis. You’d never know they were so old. An illegal mountain biker passed us as we approached the glacier’s foot, but after lunch I realized he’d crossed the swinging bridge and was nowhere about. Hunter’s urge overwhelmed me until I found his fucking bike and helmet. He might want to thank me for pissing only on his derailleur and chain, though I was tempted. As we finally summited the pass, Bob Ross met Albert Bierstadt. Somewhere I have a chemical photo of it. I think I wept. Triumphant. Enraptured. Imbued.

Maxis Thanksgiving

I have occasionally become addicted to certain computer games. Tetris or Bubbleshooter, Mahjong or deck-of-cards solitaire, Spaceward Ho! or SimCity: these diversions provide an endless stream of little dopamine rewards. Complicated games with stories and opponents, strategies and development: yes, I’ve gotten hooked on those too, but the parts I enjoy most are resource development, technology advancement, and territorial expansion.  While it is emotionally satisfying to reduce my opponent’s space fleet to debris (less so, the opposite), it is getting my civilization to the point of producing the affordances needed for that act, rather than the act itself, that most pleases me. Metaphorically speaking, the shooting of the bubbles (finding and mining the gold), the perfect nestling of the falling shapes (organizing the right mix of military and/or trade units), and the removal of matched tiles or stacking of ordered cards (aligning the technological development tracks) is what has kept me playing.

My favorite game of all must be SimCity. I’ve played it two ways: carefully husband resources and grow slowly until my initial stake hits zero just as net revenue goes black, then manage growth until I have savings equal to that original stake and repeat; or simply build willy-nilly until mounting debt prompts the game to offer a subsidized prison or garbage dump (eroding my popularity among the Sims), to offset my budget problems. Both strategies eventually end up producing a thriving metropolis, although I never seem to be able to get rid of the slums.

Here’s the problem: “just one more”. Just one more minute of play, just one more round. Just one more achievement. Pretty soon a sequence of “just one mores” means I have to work late into the night to get in my hours. I watch myself procrastinate and don’t care. I have a history of game-binging every few years followed by a dry spell of cold turkey. I’m better than I used to be, partly because I avoid having any sort of gaming environment installed on my personal devices, and I’m sufficiently paranoid of “free” or “no-install” game sites with ads and malware that their potential negatives outweigh their addictive potential.

A few years ago, never mind exactly how many, having (and wanting) no job yet owning a new computer, I thought I would install the latest version of SimCity and begin another game-binge. Imagine my surprise when, during the actual purchasing process, but before clicking “buy”, I learned that to play the game at all, I would need to be online with Maxis’s (the company that made SimCity) servers through the duration of the experience. Now, network gaming is fine, and I’ve done some of that, but the other online entities were other gamers such as myself, not corporate overlords seeking to monetize my behavior. This intolerable affront led me to immediately terminate the purchasing process and curse Maxis. However, after a bit of calming down (the adrenaline rage of having one’s dopamine desires thwarted is enduring), I became, instead, thankful. I knew that my binge, though highly enjoyable, would have been detrimental to accomplishing my daily and long-term goals. In fact, it was one of those emotionally intense moments that can be re-used: I can’t experience any gaming desires now without recalling that moment, and that helps me resist an allure that I know would cost many wasted hours. My revulsion must have been widely shared, as Maxis’s move alienated a huge cohort, and I think they never recovered. I wonder how many other gaming addicts are saying, along with me, “Thank you, Maxis!”

Theme Schemes

Since starting belikeme, I’ve been posting on Sunday mornings, aiming to create entries that stand alone, the blog becoming the topic only when I can make it more about me than it. I have mentioned being somewhat dissatisfied with my blogging approach, and that I am considering options for additional content. Until now, I’ve only been thinking about that, not doing anything, believing it important to first adopt a routine that I could follow reliably, and also having other work to occupy my time.

Now that I am confident that I can keep up a weekly pace, I hope to take some occasional steps beyond my regular postings. I don’t have a coherent concept for additional routines, but may first post an occasional Wednesday entry specifically about belikeme itself. I want to introspectively analyze my content and process, and draw some conclusions about what I should or shouldn’t change for future posts. One reason I write these posts is to find out what I actually think about specific topics. To find out if that even works, I need to reflect on what I wrote about those topics and how I wrote about them, and then write a post about that to find out what I actually think about how well writing about a topic to find out what I think about it actually works (sorry!). For these possible Wednesday posts, I am not planning to constrain myself with the one-page blurb format as I have with the Sunday posts. I will let them shape themselves, although I will still cut, cut, cut. I may also choose topics other than belikeme itself.

For the blog-as-topic posts, I imagine I will first catalog my subject matter. I already have a feeling I spend too much time on certain aspects of my personality, and I also that the one-page format is too constraining for certain subjects. Possibly, although not probably, I will re-write some posts in a more permissive format, or maybe collect certain redundancies into new (constrained) posts about that subject and have done with them. I’m confident that this process of introspective analysis will cough up additional Sunday post ideas (I currently have about a couple dozen in my Drafts folder), and that writing less constrained posts will give me ideas about structuring both the longer and the shorter ones.

I wasn’t initially trying to develop a particular style, simply letting my constraints, which force me to cut viciously, implicitly dictate some structure. Looking back at my first two dozen posts I notice some elements that I like, and others that I dislike. I like that I can cut from a two-page ramble to one page of coherence by removing irrelevant or repetitive material, but I don’t like the abrupt transitions and endings that cutting sometimes produces. With practice I may be able to smooth some of that roughness out. I like when I’ve accidentally tied the beginning and end of a post together after an apparent tangent in the middle, but though I don’t like feeling I need to do it every time, I do plan to do it more deliberately.

This isn’t poetry, so there’s no rhyme or rhythm scheme, but the two styles I see evolving might be referred to as “theme schemes”. The first might be denoted A -> B. I simply start discussing a topic and say a few things about it, a simple linear exposition that might find itself a component of a larger argument in the future, like a lemma in a proof. The second might be denoted “A ≠ B -> A = B (!)”. I introduce a topic, then a seemingly different topic, and then unify them with a surprising twist. This post is A -> B. You might think a one-page format wouldn’t support a large variety of theme schemes, but who knows? I expect that I will be experimenting with the concept.


Some of my experiences are post-worthy, others but note-worthy:

A few small steps. I was visiting Seattle, staying with “Radical”, from Everything, All at Once. We drove from his house to the Northgate park-n-ride to meet “Snow” (from that same post), whose bus arrived just as we approached. Just as we greeted each other, our express bus to downtown pulled up, one of the new (at the time) ones with middle doors opening onto a low platform, hardly a step at all, so welcoming. We sped along the express lanes, commuter traffic stalled in both directions. A few blocks to the ferry terminal and we stepped onto the boat just as they closed boarding behind us. I wish I could say that we saw orcas, but alas. I note that it is a habit, when I visit Seattle, to ferry over to Bainbridge, walk through the local park and on to the Harbor House pub, where they have a great selection of local microbrews, with an often outstanding brew on the rotating tap. Along the way we enjoyed one of my favorite sights, kingfishers hovering and braying and diving. The reverse journey was similar: onto the ferry and sailing with hardly a wait, then immediately onto an express bus back to Northgate, evading the afternoon commute.

The greatest shit story ever told. I had to go. Not just that: I was going to go, whether or not. No sooner had I besat myself (no “h” there, whew!) than it started. All by itself, then kept going, with no effort on my part. Going, and going, and going. “This will be stupendous!”, I thought to myself, wondering whether to investigate any of the long-expired magazines in the little holder alongside as I waited out the proceedings. Imagine my astonishment when, expecting to spy a glistening coil, I crouched around and gazed bowlwards: nothing but water! Imagine my further astonishment, after performing the initial cleaning gesture, when there was no debris to be seen! I commended myself for that on what must partly be due to a healthy diet, and concluded that a single cohesive “rope” must have emerged, navigating over the “P” trap to dangle unsevered, dragging the whole mass sewarwards once it detached. For some reason not everybody loves to hear me brag about this, so I hereby take it out on the internet.

Stormwatch. As related in House of Baloney, soon after moving to Seattle for college I ended up sharing a house in Wallingford, befriending especially one of my housemates who was part of a network of environmentalists. A few months after moving in, they invited me to go hiking with them in Olympic National Park. I was lucky enough to have the loan of my parents’ small orange Datsun pickup, and could thus transport the gear. These folks evidently did this fairly frequently, as they had a routine: stop at the Port Angeles ranger station to get permits and check conditions, then hit the Safeway on the far side of town for supplies. You had to know about that Safeway because as you leave town it looks pretty dead and at first you’d wonder whether you’d be stopping for last minute groceries in some expensive store with no selection farther out on the Peninsula. Hours of driving, then a few miles up the Hoh. Flat hiking amid giant moss-covered cylinders, the sky moss, the ground moss, moss enveloping deadfalls and boulders. At the Happy Four a great widening of the river allows you to walk well out into its summertime bed, away from the forest. That first night, moonless, cloudless, I gazed into the sky. I had never been so distant from light pollution. But no! A band of cirrus! An approaching warm front and its attendant rain? Wait! The clouds weren’t moving. Could it be? It could only be! The Milky Way! I had never seen it! I wasn’t knowledgeable enough then to have the kind of epiphany I had at Granite Lake, but I certainly felt the novelty and emotional impact.

Rowhammer of God

You may have heard that “we are probably ‘living in’ a simulation”. The conceit is that any species that both develops sophisticated science and avoids the depressing solutions to Fermi’s Paradox will inevitably develop vast computational abilities. Thus, they will be able to simulate entire universes at the physical level, including conscious entities such as themselves. With sufficient fidelity, this consciousness will be “real”. Given that even one such species would be able to simulate untold quantities of universes with conscious entities, the vast majority of conscious entities in the universe “must” be simulated ones. If this kind of speculation amuses you, I recommend reading Neal Stephenson’s novel Fall. If you choose to do that, you will thank (for values of “thank” that may include “curse”) me if you first read his Cryptonomicon and System of the World (why? Three syllables: Enoch Root). Most of the discussions of this topic that I have seen assume that we could never, by definition, determine whether we are simulations. Various objections to this assumption exist such as “all simulations are code; all code has bugs, find the bugs, prove the simulation”. I prefer a more constructive approach to objection.

Now let us discuss e-ink. Its crisp black and white display comprises pixels, each a tiny sphere, half black, half white. Each sphere can be flipped so that either the black half or the white half is showing, providing a programmable monochrome display. These pixels are quite large compared to the nodes laid down on today’s integrated circuits. I challenge you to imagine various possibilities here: nano-traces could be written on the surface of the pixel-spheres, each its own microprocessor; instead of spheres use tiny cubes (or other polyhedra), each face a different color; make them even tinier and faster, for high-res videos.

As you know, computers are “merely” bunches of networks of electrical circuitry. A memory bit is essentially a tiny volume of electrical field held steady and controlled by clever arrangements of matter. These tiny volumes are jammed so tight you’d think they would interfere with each other, but part of the cleverness is arranging things so that they are immune to the expected proximity effects. However, if a programmer arranges for, say, a whole bunch of bits surrounding a target bit to flip between one and zero according to some clever pattern, it is possible to force that target bit to flip, independently of the normal control mechanisms. This is known as a rowhammer attack. Similarly, you might recall famous stories, from the olden days of computing, about how clever patterns of reads and writes on one of those refrigerator-sized disk drive cabinets could exploit natural resonances of the system, so as to “walk” the drive across the room.

Now, any computer running a simulation of us is going to have to compute whatever we do convincingly enough that it matches our understanding of our simulated physics. If we can impose excess load or complexity, or exploit the equivalent of resonances in the apparatus, the outcome would appear to us either as new physics or the supernatural. Who knows what it would take, maybe cubic light years of arrays of quantum dot e-ink screens playing random cat videos. The basic idea behind these rowhammer and disk drive antics is that no physical system, as we conceive of physics, is immune to clever interventions. I recall certain dialogs from Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, where the Tortoise repeatedly disassembles Achilles’ ever-more-sophisticated record players with carefully crafted platters. Let’s just hope the alien Sim-Universe players don’t reset to an earlier save if their computer room starts shaking.

Orbit All the Things

To get to a higher version number in the Space 2.x. series, we will need to go beyond simply (!) reusing rocket first stages, as SpaceX does with their Falcon 9 rocket (Space 2.0). A few other rocket companies are working towards partial reusability as well, but the approaching implementation of the very large and fully reusable rockets known as Starship and New Glenn is likely to so re-structure space launch that these smaller efforts (Ariane, Soyuz, Vulcan) will become inconsequential. Let us call this outcome Space 2.1.

Space 2.1, with its unprecedented reduction in launch costs, will likely exacerbate the orbital debris problem by triggering an exponential increase in the number of satellites. In early days of space exploration, little thought was given to the fate of spent upper stages and expired satellites. Today is different. These hulks occasionally collide, at high velocities, shattering into multitudes of fragments, each of which becomes a potential participant in future collisions. This situation leads eventually to Kessler Syndrome, analogous to criticality in a nuclear reactor. As we increase the number of expired objects in orbit, the collision rate increases to the point that a chain reaction occurs and an exponentially increasing number of flying shards reduces the expected lifetime of a launched payload to an interval far too short to justify launching it, essentially cutting off access to space, possibly for centuries.

Today, if you launch a satellite, you need to responsibly deal with the spent upper stage, and with the satellite itself once it expires. The main benefit from this regulation is to simply postpone Kessler Syndrome, as the number of orbiting objects still increases, all the more with Space 2.1. What is needed is an active program to remove expired objects from orbit. This is just as expensive, if not more so, as putting them there: you have to match orbits with your target, attach to it, and then burn propellant to give it Earth escape velocity or force re-entry. Fortunately, with Space 2.1, this becomes a lot cheaper, and realistic projects for actively preventing Kessler Syndrome can now be imagined, leading to a situation we might call Space 2.2.

Another consequence of the formerly prohibitive expense of space launch is that exploring the Solar System has mostly been a series of one-off probes, whether flybys or orbital missions. Orbiters give the best return, typically lasting a long time and providing a continuous stream of data about the conditions and dynamics of the body of interest rather than a snapshot. But orbiters are really tough to pull off. You need to pack enough propellant just to slow down and enter orbit – half or more of the total mass of the probe, mass that won’t be instruments. With Space 2.1 that is still the case, but at least the costs of all that extra mass are now much lower. An expanded series of Solar System orbiters can now be envisioned. Coincidentally, to pull off Space 2.2 (anti-Kessler) successfully, we will probably need to supersede the one-off mission concept, at least in Earth orbit. Once your anti-Kessler craft attaches to its target and burns propellant to de-orbit it, will also de-orbit, unless it does another burn to prevent re-entry. This additional burn requires having enough propellant left over from the original mission. With Space 2.1 it becomes conceivable to envision a refueling network, so that your very expensive anti-Kessler craft can, through frequent servicing by tankers, de-orbit dozens of hulks. It doesn’t take much imagination (although it would take a lot more engineering!) to extend this concept to maintaining a network of orbiters around all the planets and moons of interest, Space 2.3, if you will. Orbit All the Things!

Monetizing Belikeme

What blogger wouldn’t love to magically get paid for blogging? For $100 per post, I would post every workday. At 20 posts per month, that’s an annual gross of $24,000. I could halfway live on that. Hardly anybody makes even that kind of money blogging, though. If I toiled at monetization, I might occasionally find sponsors for posts on given subjects. Or I could embrace ads, although that seems scammy and is hateful. In this optimistic fantasy scenario, I might gross a thousand dollars a year, although a thousand pennies seems more likely. I would make much less than $15 per hour, enjoying only the few moments that actually involved writing. Sloth and abhorrence keep me from looking further into it, although I suppose I should do so if I want to entertain more than fantasy.

An alternative to magical pay-per-post is indirect revenue. What could I offer here that would attract someone to pay me for something else? I’m planning an algae-farming website that I hope to monetize, directly and as a consulting portal, so maybe belikeme could drive traffic there. Authors Charlie Stross and John Scalzi seem to use their blogs as indirect advertising. But the algae website should stand on its own, and as I write about mostly non-algae topics here, I envision trivial revenue at best from that approach. I might put together an algae-farming MOOC, but again, that’s an unrelated project, so any revenue provided by driving traffic there with belikeme would also likely be trivial. I could exploit the punnery in the title, and create videos in which I didactically demonstrate an eclectic mix of entertaining practicalities, exhorting viewers to be like me, but again, the probability of making a living getting paid to make videos seems low.

Riffing on that last bit, however, suggests some possibilities. Instead of just blogging, create e-art (ebooks, music, videos, images) that could be streamed for a fee or sold. Perhaps I could even create sellable physical objects. I need to overcome my sloth on this and do some research into how people who do make money with “blogging plus” actually manage that. Crowdfunding. App stores. Clearinghouses. A lot of these sites and approaches seem to charge too much and assume motivations and compliance on the parts of their desired clientele only distantly adjacent to my own expectations. Any work plan involving that ecosystem will assume such utilization is a stepping stone, supporting me until I devise my own money-bringing processes.

First, though, I would need to increase my blog traffic. While I have my own ideas for this project, I need to consult the oracle to gather more, and then actually implement some of them. I would start with the least time-consuming ones first. If my experience is any guide, any effort that succeeds will require increasing repetitions of that effort until the sigmoidal curve of reward v. effort flattens out. At this point in belikeme’s history, any success increasing traffic will seem exponential. Even trivial success will engender a sense of fulfillment, likely leading to complacency, vain hope and then disappointment, followed by more incremental effort.

Ultimately, I will need assurance that all this monetizing actually advances my goals. Granted, if I could gross $60K from part-time home-office blog-related toil I would ride that train, damn the humanity. With the likelihood of that scenario nil, until I stumble across an approach that works I’ll simply abandon any monetization effort that provides neither humanitarian payoff nor personal enjoyment. And, knowing myself, I will still hope for magic.