Russians Launch White Elephant

Being an engineer, I’m as happy to applaud endeavour and practical success as am to grimace at the possibilites for messy public disaster.

Take the new Inflatable Space Hotel that was launched today aboard a converted Russian ICBM. While the concept of a zero-G bouncy castle can only appeal, I for one will not be among the first to sample the embarrassment of a vacuum toilet or the endless waits strapped to a wall while they eject all the disorientation-induced hurl1 into space.

Those of you who enjoy some sort of recreational solo sport (yes, thank you!) that requires sharing the playing surface with other, slower people, will doubtless not be looking forward to being clobbered by out-of-control younger-brothers who have been flung through the void, spinning and throwing up with gay abandon.

Even if you’re happy to spend some time on the company of others whose brains are trying (and failing) to deal with the concept of “There is no up”, there are other considerations. “I thought her unsinkable and I based my opinion on the best expert advice.” Thus spake Phillip Franklin, White Star Line Vice President on the “unsinkability” of RMS Titanic.

Flash forward to today, when hotel tycoon Robert Bigelow said in reference to his extraterrestrial blimp, “It’s extremely durable and resistant to any puncture or penetration”. Note the word “resistant”. No doubt Mr Bigelow is aware of the parallels. I doubt that anything inflatible will be able to withstand a micrometeorite going 15km/s. I wonder how far and fast the escaping air at breathable pressures could propel an inflatible hotel before supplies were exhausted. I bet that’s not a question that’s come up. Be fun to find out though.

In launch terms, it’s a more constructive use of ICBMs than MAD. Who knowsI what the Americans have done with theirs (probably kept them) but at least the Russians are using their Cold War Communist hardware to embrace Capitalism and kick Uncle Sam’s ass in the process.

I wonder what the Russians think of putting a bouncy castle in orbit. They’d probably be perfectly happy with an earth-based one. I get the impression that putting things in orbit is as old-hat and commonplace to the average Russian as waiting in line, while the West bangs on about it at length. I bet they have a good old laugh at the all the requests they get. “Hey Yuri, look at this. Some American идиот wants to put a beach ball into orbit. Do we let him?”

Anyway, cool idea, go for it, hope very hard it doesn’t go bang with a load of kids / nuns inside….

1 See “vomit”.

Chairman of The Bored

You think you’re bored? You think, just because you clicked the “Next Site” button on your StumbleUpon toolbar and it said you’ve visited every single link in its entire link database, that means you’re bored? Think again, my friend. That just means that you get off on clicking the next “Next Site” button. It’s browser masturbation.

Let me tell you about boredom. You clear a space on your desk. On it you place a fresh pad of paper and a freshly sharpened biro. You clear your mind of all save the seed of innovation: I need just one idea to make me a millionaire. The pen and paper stare at you. You stare back, your mind empty now of even the seed of innovation. The pen and paper start to whistle. Even the pen and paper are bored, for goodness sake!

The pen and paper represent Possibility, that which may yet come to pass. However, it represents Failure, your inability to create. Your oeuvre cries out for attention. Neglected, it has developed serious personality issues. The hungry child cries out for the Chocolate Biscuits of Ideas, locked safe in the Kitchen Cabinet of the Fruitless Mind.

My oeuvre deserves better. It could complain more than it does. It makes do with video games and the occasional book, but it needs to be stretched. It purpose is to be filled with wondrous creations, but the mind does not oblige.

The mind is a seamless ball and contains all the ideas. The oeuvre surrounds the mind. Typically, the mind is transparent. The oeuvre can see the ideas, but is powerless to free them. I’m amazed it’s still sane.

Unlocking this vault of ides and innovation is the key to fulfillment. An oeuvre that is bursting at the seams is a happy one. A mind unfettered by unrealised potential is then free to progress.

The search for The Key continues.

England. World Cup and World Domination

It is generally accepted that there are only two sure things in life; death and taxes. I think we can safely add a third; the England football team crashing out of a major tournament on penalties. It’s getting to the point where there is no drama anymore. While I’m not English, my heart rate barely rose at all when watching the penalty shoot-out. How can there be any tension when the result can be foretold by even the ost myopic seer?

David Beckham said it was “one of those days, again”, meaning, I assume, that he considered them unlucky to lose. But “one of those days” and “again” are mutually exclusive. If every day becomes “one of those days”, then they stop being “those days”. “Those Days” become the norm.

I don’t believe that this phenomenon is the recourse purely of the national football team. “England Expects” seems to capture it best. Originally, that meant that they expected “every man to do his duty”, along the lines of “play up, play up and play the game”. These days, it means that England is expected to win, in the same way that Brazil is expected to win. Brazil, at least, have good reason for these expectations.

The English media are the worst enemies of England. They seem determined to undermine any forward-thinking attempts and lambast, vilify and undermine achievers by whatever means necessary. They hype the public face of England, in the form of the national teams, then snipe and destroy them for anything less then total victory, which smacks of the Colombian or Iraqi approach to sporting failure. “Welcome home. Don’t worry about it. Here, come into this sound-proofed room for a cup of tea. Just ignore the firing squad….I mean, 21 gun salute.”

I think it is partly down to England suffering from Post-Imperial malaise. Yes, I know that was a while ago, but history and all that. England is still culturally used to having its own way. It’s the whole “going to the Costa del Sol and having Sausage, Egg and Chips in the english pub”, “Do you speak English? Why not?” thing. Deep down, I don’t think they believe these colonial johnnies can beat them at their own game (although they do, regularly and with ease).

England was the pre-eminent World Power until not that long ago; we’re talking a handful of generations. Not quite living memory, but not far off. Eddie Izzard, bless him, encapsulated this, when referring to the leadership of the world as a ball; “America has the ball. Britain has a memory of a ball. Hitler had a picture of a ball.”

You would have thought that some measure of realism may have crept in since England had to give back all its colonies after the war, but no. England, and hence Britain, are still feasting on the legacy of the Empire, gorging on the accumulated wealth it brought. But, like any inbred Old Money aristo fop, selling off the family estate for a swanky Mayfair pad and an easy life, this situation cannot be maintained. Daddy’s pair of Holland & Holland Number Ones won’t pay the bills for ever.