Category Archives: Essays

This is a very boring name for me writing about the stuff that’s on my mind. I strive to make the essays more interesting than the word “essays” and this description.

Some Windy Fun

Have a look at

Spin the globe, zoom in and out, click the overlays.

PLAY with it.

As you play you will learn some things about our world. Nifty things, trivial things, and critically important things.

Like, for instance, why humans finally decided that they’d rather dig a ditch through a continent than attempt to sail around it.




I’ve bookmarked the site, and will make it part of my trawl anytime something interesting is happening with the weather.  And anytime I want to see why there aren’t more pleasure cruises running between Argentina and Antarctica.


The Fourth of July, and J.O.I.

Monday, July 4th, 2016 is the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when a band of plucky colonists told England “you are not the boss of us.” The event is typically celebrated by launching things into the air and watching them explode.

Monday is also J.O.I., Jupiter Orbit Insertion, in which the Juno probe, which was launched into the air (and out the top side of it, and beyond) almost five years ago,  will hopefully not explode as it fires its main engine on approach to the largest planet in our solar system.

This NASA teaser is fun to watch.

Click to play at YouTube
Click it to play it at

It’s not as crazy-go-nuts as Seven Minutes of Terror¹, but it’s pretty awesome.

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of stuff like this. I surf news sites looking for more story, more pictures, more explanations. This time around I went straight to the source, and discovered that NASA had very helpfully linked a 90-page press kit.

Skip the news sites. Go straight to the stuff NASA has provided. It’s a relatively easy read, with lots of diagrams, and unless you’re an astronomer, rocket scientist, or Bill Nye², you’ll learn stuff.

Do you have children who are home from school this summer? School is back in session! Read up, and maybe grab the NASA Eyes app to watch as word of the JOI burn comes back from what will be the fastest-moving object³ in our solar system.

Or you can go outside and throw little rockets around. Whatever. I’m not the boss of you.

¹Trivia: The Curiosity Rover stuck the landing one year to the day after the Juno mission launched. Also, I have DARE MIGHTY THINGS printed out and hanging above my workstation. 

²Or Phil Plait, or Emily Calandrelli, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, or okay it’s a long list.

³At closest approach, Juno will be moving at 250,000 kilometers per hour⁴. Mercury zips around the sun at 170,000 kph. New Horizons (the Pluto mission) cracked 50,000 kph. 

⁴Light travels at 299,792 kilometers per second, so Juno would have to be going over 4,000 times faster before worrying about the Universe pulling it over and writing a citation.


Independence Day: Resurgence

On its own merits, Independence Day: Resurgence suffers from a little bit of sequelitis, a lot of “bigger=better,” and felt longer than it really was despite so many cool things happening on screen. I liked it, but did not love it.IDResurgence

The thing it did right, it did almost perfectly. The events of the first film, set in 1996, are treated as if they happened 20 years ago. It’s now 2016, and the actors who appear in both films played their characters as having aged twenty years. Which the actors actually have. Sequels almost never get to do that to this extent, and I liked it a lot.

And that’s it for the “review” part of this review. If you’re just here for the movie, stop reading now.

Had it not been for the disastrous results of the Brexit referendum, and the “Leave” campaign’s abuse of the word “independence¹,” I might have given this film nothing more than an ordinary review. One of the connections is far too strong for that, however.

See, the thing Independence Day: Resurgence did perfectly is one of many things which the Brexit referendum underscored as a terrible failing.

The film tells a story in which the old people champion a future that the young people have chosen. The older generation in Independence Day: Resurgence has spent twenty years in a world united, and is fighting to preserve it for the next generation.

I don’t know what the UK’s older generation, the ones who voted “Leave,” have spent twenty years thinking, but the younger generation has spent those years looking forward with hope, not backward with fear. With Brexit, the older generation voted against the future that the youth of the UK overwhelmingly desired.

At 48 I guess I’m technically an old person², at least in the eyes of the 18-24yo voters who so overwhelmingly favored remaining in the EU. I’m an old person who has changed his mind numerous times, and who looks back and is appalled at some of what I used to think³. If I’m wise, it’s not because I’m constant, unless you count “constantly learning.” Young me probably would have been won over by words like “sovereignty” and “independence.” Old me sees how connected we all are, and how every single act of ignorant distrust tears at the fabric of the future we want to build.

Fellow old people: Look around.  Listen and learn. That thing you’ve believed for decades may not be true anymore. It might not even have been true then. Inertia is not wisdom, and those who praise common sense are often calling for you to remain ignorant.

Young people: Old people aren’t all jingoistic relics of the isolationism that has been useless since before most of them were born. Some of us want to hand you a world that is better than the one we were handed, better even than the “good old days” that we, in our more honest moments, will admit never actually existed.


¹Along with a many other words.

²There are at least two generations of people who are older than me, and who look at the number 48 and furrow their brows, scowling at me for co-opting their adjective. Sorry. I’m camping on your lawn now, but in ten years I’ll be moving into the house.

³I still hold to the “faith of my fathers,” but I am quite happy to not conflate it with the cultural baggage that so often accompanies it.