Monthly Archives: December 2008

Year End (Mostly Musical) Notes

The local classical station has been playing Andras Schiff’s recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. Apparently this set has been out for a while but I didn’t know about it until just this month. The only way I could be more excited would be if I found out that Klara Wurtz had recorded a complete set of Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Fortunately you can buy each volume separately so you don’t have to shell out a huge bundle of cash all at once so I might actually collect these.

A few months ago I heard Greensleeves performed by a vocal group called The King’s Singers. It was the first time I’ve ever heard it sung. I knew it had lyrics but I had only heard the instrumental version. My immediate impulse was to rush to my computer and buy it but I resisted temptation. I have higher musical priorities, such as the aforementioned Beethoven sonatas.

About once a year I get interested in Elliot Carter for a week or two. Strange. I only have two Carter CDs and when that mood comes around I always wish I had a few more. His Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord in particular is quite interesting. I love the way he writes this very modern, out there kind of music for old fashioned acoustic instruments.

This last “note” is not musical but I thought I’d tack it on the end of this post just because. I must have this book. Must, must, must have it. I’ve never liked the idea of audio books but in this case it makes sense and I’m very tempted but I’ll probably get the printed book because it’s cheaper and because I like to read.

More Links

“Fractal” cats – Wow. Very cool digital art. (via AMCGLTD)

A few strange and amusing photos – I like the second one. And the other one with a cat in it.

What?!!

Creative recycling

Lovely picture and a word I didn’t know before

1950’s Shakespeare – This is great! (via Nag on the Lake; Lots of great stuff there. Go look.)

Candy Direct – Oh no! I didn’t need to find this site. (Thanks a lot, Neatorama!) Hundreds of candies, including some you probably thought didn’t exist anymore.

Weird Victorian Christmas card

Model Community

They are quite a model community, for they respect their Queen and kill their unemployed.

- – Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting For Boys (speaking of honeybees).

Found here

Rather creepy when you think of it like that.

Goodbye 2008

This is the day we’re supposed to look back on the year and wax philosophical or something like that. I don’t have much to say about it at the moment. It was an interesting year and interesting isn’t always good but for me it has been a pretty good year and I have every reason to believe 2009 will be pretty good too.

The last time I thought of the new year as a big deal was 1999/2000. I stayed up and watched TV. Usually it’s just the day I get to start using the new calendars. I have a couple of great ones this year: a Georgia O’Keeffe calendar for the living room and a Rob Gonsalves calendar for the kitchen. I’m excited about both of those. I need to get a little one to go near the computer, I guess. I sort of thought we would get one from Bee Culture magazine again but it wasn’t in the December issue like I expected. They’re usually ugly calendars anyway, small photos, lots of ads.

The date the new year begins is arbitrary. It could just as well be in the spring. I’ve always thought it would make more sense to have the new year start near the first day of spring – either March 1st or April 1st. But on the other hand, I think we sort of need it to be just when it is to serve as the final end to the Christmas season.

Anyway, tonight I will be watching TV as usual and tomorrow I will wake up sometime between 6:00am and 6:30am as usual and will spend perhaps a minute or two thinking, “Hey, it’s the New Year. Time to change the calendar,” and “Which tea mug shall I use first in this New Year?” and “What music shall I listen to to start the New Year?” And perhaps I will spend a minute feeling smug about not being a party person and being able to enjoy the whole day. But other than that, tomorrow’s just another day.

The Baby: A Very Short True Story

Her name was Irma Lois. (first name pronounced “Ima”) She was born on December 10, 1929 in southeast Texas, the second child of my maternal grandparents. I never saw a photograph of her; no stories were told about her; she was merely mentioned in passing, often by name, always using both given names, but sometimes referred to simply as “the baby.”

Sometimes I tried to picture her in my mind as the baby she was, to imagine her laughing, crawling, playing, but mostly I pictured her as the adult aunt she might have been. Of course, in my childish imagination she was prettier, smarter and more fun than her surviving sisters – the perfect aunt. I don’t want to give the impression that I was obsessed with her or even that I thought about her very often. She was just one of many relatives that I never met but she sparked my curiosity perhaps a bit more than the others.

My grandmother died in the summer of 1976. I was 18. She had lived the last decade of her life in the home of her youngest sister. All her worldly possessions were crammed into her tiny bedroom. I get my pack rat tendencies from her. She saved everything. After the funeral her children and sister spent hours going through all her stuff. Grandchildren, even grandchildren who thought they were no longer children, were expected to keep quiet and stay out of the way so I lurked near the doorway trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.

There were two large trunks which were stuffed full of mementos, including postcards, old books, handwritten journals, newspaper clippings, a few items of children’s clothing from the 1930s and 40s and other small odds and ends from a life of nearly 70 years. Near the bottom of one of the trunks a single page from an old calendar was found – one of those old pulp pages with blue and red print from a feedstore calendar, yellowing and fragile. It was the page for December 1929. There were two dates marked on it. On the 10th, “Irma Lois born” and later on the same page – I can’t remember the date but I think it was after Christmas – “Irma Lois died”.

I was surprised to discover that she lived for less than a month. She never crawled, never played, never even smiled. It also struck me at that moment how these little ones who live only a short time continue to be an important part of the lives of their families. Little Irma Lois’s time in the world was brief but she lived on in the memories of the few who knew her and even in the imagination of some who did not. And now she will live on a little longer on this modern wonder we call the Internet.

A Few Links

Shine Gallery Vintage Memorabilia – stuff found in old warehouses, factories and closed stores. Lots of toys and trinkets. (via Bifurcated Rivets)

Small collection of images and links, some quite weird

Fantastic illustration – a couple of links and several images

Dark Roasted Blend’s “Christmas card” – lots of great images!

Atomica – more vintage stuff. I haven’t watched the video yet.

Abandoned missle site – more than 40 fascinating photos

World’s ugliest baby?

Quiet Week

Fillyjonk calls the week after Christmas “the quiet week at the bottom of the year.” I like that. It’s so much better than thinking of it as “the big letdown after Christmas” or the week of “thank goodness it’s over” which seem to be the two most common ways of thinking about it. I think a lot of people just don’t know how to handle quiet times when there’s not a lot to do so they start thinking too much about the wrong sort of things and get depressed.

I took the Christmas tree down Saturday. I don’t know why I’ve been in such a hurry to take it down the past few years. We used to leave it up until the New Year and then I hated to take it down but in more recent years I’ve had the urge to hurry and get it out of the way and get the house back to normal. Maybe it’s because it is in the way. We have to rearrange some of the furniture to make a place for it. But there’s more to it than that, I think. The tree always seems a little sad and purposeless once all the packages are gone from under it and I get a little impatient with it. I sort of miss it a little bit now. It’ll be almost a whole year before I get to see my favorite ornaments again.

I still use some of the Christmas mugs to drink tea out of. We have a pair of matching mugs that are wintery but not overwhelmingly Christmasy so I use those into January. Speaking of mugs, isn’t this an awesome mug! I don’t care all that much that it has a lid; I love the colors and the design and I like that it’s taller than it is wide. I can’t drink tea out of dainty little teacups; the tea cools off too fast.

Well, here comes the new year. Wow, 2009 already?! I suppose sensible people are worried and anxious about the future but I can’t seem to work myself up to the proper level of anxiety. 2008 was a pretty good year for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2009 brings. I know it won’t all be good. I’m not expecting only goodness and light and a fairy tale existence but there’s always some good and you don’t have to look too hard to see it if that’s what you want to see.

It was about this time of year in 1995 when we moved into this house. I have lived here longer than I have lived at any other residence. (By several years but I haven’t thought about it much before.) That seems a little strange. In some ways it still seems so new, even though, at the same time, it seems like we’ve been here forever. Some places loom large in my memory – the neighborhood where I lived for about five years when I was in elementary school, the house we lived in when my kids were about that age, a little run-down Victorian where I lived for a relatively short time when I was about 12 years old and where I had my favorite room ever. I still miss that room. I don’t think anyone ever took a picture in it but I know there’s at least one picture of the outside of the house.

I need to get back to work on sewing. My favorite finger feels much better now. I no longer invent new cuss words every time I accidentally bump it the wrong way. I’m still not ready to try holding a needle with it yet but I have lots of stuff I can do on the sewing machine. Speaking of which, I had a big disappointment on Christmas Eve. I found two bobbins on Ebay that would fit my machine but I lost. It was my first time ever bidding on something on Ebay and I was very excited about finding those bobbins because I only have two and live in fear of losing them because they’re not something you can just walk into any fabric store and buy. I read somewhere that “standard number 15 bobbins” will fit my machine. They don’t. Anyway… Ebay… Bah humbug!

Quotes From… Well, Just One Quote

I haven’t been reading blogs enough this week to come up with a list of quotes for the famous and highly regarded Friday feature, Quotes From Here and There, so this excellent line will stand alone, as it deserves to.

President-elect Obama has not appointed to his cabinet nearly enough long-haired guys who spend their days wearing overalls and wishing the world would learn to love George Lucas again.

I totally support Kelly for Secretary of Geekery so long as he promises to continue to wear overalls in public at all times.

Ouch! Dammit!

The feet know not what the hand is doing. Or the hand knows not what the feet are doing. Or something like that. Tuesday I was treadling merrily along when my favorite finger, (right index) completely of its own volition, decided to put itself in the way of the sewing machine needle. The needle went completely through the finger and broke off in it. It hurt but not as much as I would have previously thought such a horrible incident would hurt. I am now using it to type, slowly and awkwardly but I think it might be a week or two before I can do any hand sewing and writing with a pen or pencil is difficult and I keep discovering other little things that are now a bit difficult or awkward. Stupid finger.

Christmas Favorites

Ask me what is my favorite Christmas anything and the answer will probably start with the word “traditional” – traditional music, traditional decorations, traditional wrappings, traditional foods. The overall look of Christmas should be Victorian. Why? Because it just should be that way. Because I say so.

Christmas food – all of them, but a special mention for the unfairly maligned fruitcake. Fruitcake is one of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood. A little love and respect for fruitcake, please.

Another favorite of our family is country ham. When I was a kid we always had turkey for Christmas dinner and for a while I continued that tradition as an adult but then we lived in Virginia for a little over a decade, where you could walk into any grocery store at Christmas or Easter times and buy a whole dry cured country ham. And so we started a new and better tradition, which lasted until we moved to Oklahoma where you can’t get dry cured hams. But there’s the Internet where you can buy them for three times what they cost in the grocery stores back in Virginia so with a little angst over the cost, the tradition is back.

Movies – I’m not a big fan of most Christmas movies but I don’t hate them either. I neither love nor hate the big three: It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story. I’ve seen them, thought they were nice but have no particular desire to see them again. There aren’t any modern Christmas movies that I’m especially fond of either, except for one: Polar Express. I do want to see that one again. Every year would be okay.

Music – Traditional performances of traditional music. I love all the classic Christmas songs: Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and many more. Sometimes I do hear a slightly unusual arrangement of a traditional Christmas song that rocks my world. I can’t resist the new agey versions by Mannheim Steamroller. And a new favorite for the last couple of years has been Loreena McKinnett’s performance of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. She has a beautiful voice and the instrumentation is unusual – lots of percussion and some kind of wind instrument I can’t identify.

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say until after Christmas. The few of you who are still reading, go on, get out of here. Go have a Merry Christmas.

Inner Battle

Received via email:

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a
battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two
“Wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret,
greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false
pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility,
kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:
“Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Merry Little Christmas

Generally, I prefer traditional Christmas music, i.e. pre-20th century, but the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas seems to me the perfect Christmas philosophy as for the secular side of Christmas. No need to make a huge angst filled production of it, just have a pleasant, merry little Christmas. “Let your heart be light.”

I’ve enjoyed shopping and now the quiet, peaceful part of Christmas has arrived. There’s little to do but sit back with a cup of hot tea and admire the many colorfully wrapped presents under the tree and anticipate watching the faces of my family as they open them. Yeah, there are a few under there for me too and that’s nice but the most fun part is watching everyone else. Sometimes it’s sort of difficult, with everyone tearing into presents at once, to catch the reaction to particular gifts that I’m waiting to see but it’s all fun and over too quickly. On December 26th the Christmas tree always looks a little sad and purposeless with nothing under it.

* * *

Here’s a great Christmas post. I don’t want to get into the war vs. anti-war thing. It is not necessarily un-Christian to support a just war but there’s no doubt that Christianity at its core is pro-peace.

What I like about this post is the message that Christmas can be for everyone.

I think there is something there in the life of Jesus that we all can celebrate and learn from.

And this…

…it is the process of attempting to be a better person that eventually creates its own reward. This is not a bunch of New Age claptrap, it is the teachings of a Jewish peasant whose very existence is supposedly the foundation of our majority culture. Yet people rarely seem to find that message in our culture itself — they feel compelled seek outside Western Heritage for messages of peace and self-enlightenment.

…and…

…it is a good thing for all of us to take some time out and consider the arrival on this planet of a philosopher who gave us a message of peace and love that we can all live with. In fact, I happen to believe that it is the only way to live.

* * *

So, whatever your heritage and beliefs – whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, atheist or just anti-commercialism – Christmas can be for you too. Nursing angst will not make you feel better. Letting go and sitting back and having a merry little Christmas will.

Fantasy Art Break

I can’t remember how I found John Pitre‘s website (Flash) but wow… this is beautiful art. It’s rather New Agey I suppose but I don’t care. I like the colors, the depiction of light and the fantasy scenes.

The Typealyzer

Everyone’s been doing this Typealyzer thing. I can’t remember where I first saw it. I had this idea that if I tried it several times over a couple of weeks it might give me different results so I did and it turns out I was wrong. It keeps giving me the same result:

ESTJ – The organizing and efficient type. They are especially attuned to setting goals and managing available resources to get the job done. Once they´ve made up their mind on something, it can be quite difficult to convince otherwise. They listen to hard facts and can have a hard time accepting new or innovative ways of doing things.

The Guardians are often happy working in highly structured work environments where everyone knows the rules of the job. They respect authority and are loyal team players.

Some of that might be true but mostly not, I think. Organizing and efficient? Well, I have the urge to organize but I’m not good at it and I don’t think I’m very efficient. Setting goals? Maybe. I do think about goals but I don’t think I’m “especially attuned to setting goals”. I don’t think I have an especially hard time accepting new or innovative ways of doing things but if the way I do things works, I like to stick with it. Doesn’t everyone? Loyal? Definitely. Loyalty is very important to me. Team player? Probably, if I’m part of a team, but I prefer to work alone and independently. Respect authority? Only if authority earns my respect. I have a hard time respecting someone just because they happen to be in a position of authority. In fact people in positions of authority have to work harder to earn my respect than ordinary people do.

Googling Crystal Orrery

I had another house dream this morning. In one room of the house I dreamed about there was a chandelier that was a huge crystal orrery. It was sort of odd because it was just an ordinary house, not the kind in which you would expect to find something like that. And isn’t it funny how space is sometimes distorted in dreams? This was in just an ordinary size room but I look up and there’s this orrery/chandelier that’s six or eight feet across and it doesn’t seem too big for the room.

Just for fun I decided to google “crystal orrery”. I didn’t find a chandelier but I did find this beautiful table orrery. And of course there had to be an orrery made of Legos. And quite annoyingly, I found this post about a terracentric orrery with no picture. This weird page also came up. Again, no picture and I haven’t read enough of it to find the reference to a crystal orrery. Okay, just one more link: some lovely and expensive hand-crafted orreries for sale. (UK) No crystal ones though.

Treadling and Quilting

Yesterday I found Treadle Quilts, a great blog that’s mostly about quilting, while searching for information about my treadle sewing machine.

And here’s a great page about people powered sewing machines, with some very nice photos.

I’m starting to wonder if my machine was put together from parts of two different Singers. The treadle looks like this but the cabinet and the top part of the machine are different. According to this list of serial numbers my machine (at least the top part) was made in 1919 or 1920. I think. It’s hard to tell whether the letter in front of the number is a G or a C. It looks like this except that all the decoration is worn off mine and the cabinet is not in good condition.

A Little Holiday Rambling

I’m really not in the mood for blogs right now. It occurs to me that I might be missing wonderful, fascinating things at Dark Roasted Blend, Bifurcated Rivets and all those other great linky blogs, not to mention all the great chatty and writerly blogs but my mind keeps going back to quilting.

And there’s this other thing that keeps nagging at me. I can’t quite focus on it but it keeps nagging, “Pay attention to me; hurry up; time’s running out.” You know what I mean. Christmas shopping! I guess I’m almost done actually. I’m more or less finished shopping for my immediate family. I think I’m done shopping for my husband. I should get a few more things for the Grandson. You know kids; they expect lots of stuff. I have one or two more things in mind for each of my sons. That only leaves the whole rest of the clan.

Someone in the family mentioned having the big Christmas get together (which would probably be on Christmas Eve) at my house again this year. I’d love to do it and I’m sort of planning on it but I don’t know yet whether that’s what everyone wants to do. I’d like to have more get-togethers at my house but I’m always afraid no one wants to come all the way out here to our place in the backwoods. Another thing is I’m afraid I’m not very good at hosting such things – planning, cooking enough food, cooking good food. I am not a gourmet cook, not even close. I can bake cookies like nobody’s business and I do pretty good pies if I use ready made crusts from the grocery store, but for meals I tend to use a lot of convenience foods and beyond that the slow cooker is my best friend in the kitchen. Still, anytime the family wants to come all the way out here and take their chances with my cooking I’d love to have them here.

I have most of the tumbling blocks sewn together. I’m going to try to finish that today. I still need to get fabric for the border but I think I’m going to force myself to put all quilting aside until after Christmas unless, of course, I just happen to need to go to Tulsa for something else then I could stop by the fabric store.

In the middle of sewing together all those tedious, troublesome tumbling blocks yesterday I thought, “This is it. No more. I’ve had enough of tumbling blocks,” but I think I said that the last time too. In fact, I love tumbling blocks and I haven’t even made a tumbling blocks quilt for myself yet so I guess I’ll have to make at least one more. Someday. I have something else in mind for my next quilt. And the ideas keep coming. How many quilts does one bed need? I read once that back in colonial days a girl was expected to have made thirteen quilts by the time she married, the thirteenth being a special Wedding Quilt. So I’m a little behind in my work. Anyway, the other day another really great idea hit me. Wouldn’t this fabric be absolutely perfect in an attic windows quilt?

Enough! Enough quilting for a while. Christmas is only one week away and I need to think about shopping. As for this blog, I do have this one special thing I want to write – something I want to share. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time; it has to be posted in December but it could wait until after Christmas. And as always I might post other little odds and ends but expect intermittency for a while.

The Santa Claus Question

I need to add Mind Muffins to my links page. There are several I need to add and some I need to drop but that’s the hard part, as you can probably guess if you look at the page. I don’t really have any criteria for dropping sites from my list. There are blogs that I haven’t read in months or even years but when I think about dropping them there’s usually something that stops me like, “I used to really like that one a lot; I’ll try to start reading it again.” or “I’m still hoping he or she will start posting again,” or “I think he still reads my blog. He might get upset if I de-link him from no reason,” and so I keep it on the list. (I go through a similar mental process when I try to clean out my closet.)

Anyway, what I started out to write about is this post about Santa Claus.

I have mixed feelings about the whole Santa tradition. As it says on Wikipedia: “There has long been opposition to teaching children to believe in Santa Claus. Some Christians say the Santa tradition detracts from the religious origins and purpose of Christmas. Other critics feel that Santa Claus is an elaborate lie, and that it is unethical for parents to teach their children to believe in his existence. Still others oppose Santa Claus as a symbol of the commercialization of the Christmas holiday, or as an intrusion upon their own national traditions.”

I don’t think parents should get all angsty about Santa Claus. To parents of young children or parents-to-be I say: As a parent you will have many decisions to make that are much more critical than belief in Santa Claus. Save your emotional energy for the important questions and let the little things take care of themselves. Santa Claus is just for fun. Don’t spoil the fun. However, do not try to keep the game running when your kids begin to doubt.

As for Santa being a symbol of the commercialization of Christmas – it doesn’t have to be. Santa’s elves do not make Transformers and Barbie dolls or whatever the kids are begging for this year. Get it? Buy your kids the Transformers or whatever and wrap it and put it under the Christmas tree with a tag that says it’s from mom and dad. Then on Christmas Eve after the little ones have gone to sleep put the Santa gifts under the tree. Make it something simple like a stuffed animal or a wooden train – something that looks like it could be handmade if the maker was really, really skilled. In short, take Santa Claus back from the stores.

I don’t think Santa Claus can legitimately be seen as an intrusion on other holiday traditions but rather an addition to them. The modern Santa is not a religious figure so there’s no reason that all kids couldn’t enjoy this harmless, just-for-fun tradition. You can still teach your kids your religious traditions and at the same time let them believe that Santa is just a jolly guy who loves to make kids happy.

Oh, I almost forgot. One more thing. I hate the “if you’re not good Santa won’t bring you any toys” threat. Yeah, I know… as a parent sometimes you’re desperate for anything to help you maintain a little control over your kids but there are so many reasons why this is not a good idea. One, what if they’re not good? Are you really going to make good on your threat of no toys for Christmas? If not, you’ve totally lost that control you were going for. Let’s be honest. Very few kids are good enough all year, or even for a whole month, to deserve toys. It’s not about what they deserve. It’s about love and happiness.

Colonizing the Stars

There’s a good post on Steven Barnes’ blog, Dar Kush, about Immigrating to the Stars. He goes off on a lot of tangents (or maybe the tangents are the real point; I’m not sure) but it’s all interesting. I’m just going to respond to one or two things.

But in no way, shape, or form, do I think it’s a good idea to think that this will ever relieve our population pressure. Why? Because moving billions of people off this planet into space would require technology that isn’t even on the drawing board, people. It would require Heinlein’s “Tunnel to the Sky” on a colossal scale, and even then it assumes so many things that I could barely even write a novel on the subject.

I absolutely agree. Anyone who thinks we could ever move a billion people to another planet does not have the slightest concept of how many a billion is. Maybe you could move that many people in several generations but then in that time a billion more would have been born to replace them.

I have a sense that the model many people use is the “Europeans immigrating to America” model. May I remind you that this was done with off-the-shelf technology? That apparently people had been traveling to the Americas for thousands of years, some on flimsy rafts? Yeah, most of their colonies didn’t “take,” but I think that that’s pretty different from getting a Shuttle to orbit, let alone building a self-sustaining colony, or Terraforming Mars or something.

That’s the first thing I think of but I also think about how different it would be. When people talk about colonizing space they always talk about sending “the best and brightest” but few of the people who came to the American colonies were what was considered at the time society’s best and brightest. They were outcasts, misfits, heretics, poor people wanting to escape debts they couldn’t pay and anyone looking for a better future because they had none in Europe.

Contrast this with the Best and Brightest Colonize the Stars scenario. And remember, this is “best and brightest” according to the Powers That Be. Potential colonists would be tested to make sure they were healthy, highly intelligent and psychologically well adjusted. Why would such a person want to go on a one way trip to an empty world? Such people have their choice of careers here on Earth. A few would want to go for the adventure. A few would like the idea of being a “founding father” and have their name go down in history. But would it be possible to find enough of that kind of people to fill a colony ship and would a colony made up entirely of that kind of people be viable? Certainly a colony would need leaders but it would need far more ditch diggers, farmers, plumbers, masons and all the sorts of people you typically see on Dirty Jobs.

I think we need to get to the point where space travel technology is off the shelf – where anyone with a few million dollars and a crazy dream can buy his own starship, load it up with anyone who can scrape together the money to buy a ticket and take off and find his own planet.

The greatest potential benefit of colonizing space would be the building of a new kind of society which the old society could then learn from. The new society can’t be predicted or planned, just like Europe didn’t predict or plan what happened in America. It would require people who don’t quite think like “normal people” – the kind of people least likely to be chosen as the “best and brightest.”

If you want the human race to survive, then part of what we have to do is keep the biosphere sufficiently intact, and the average level of human wellness high enough, and ourselves resource-rich enough, that when some critical break-through technology happens (cold fusion? Teleportation? Remember: even “Star Trek” level technology would be insufficient to ease world population at the current growth rates) we’ll be wealthy enough to take advantage of it.

In what might be my favorite science fiction novel ever, The World is Round by Tony Rothman, which is about an artificial planet something around the size of Jupiter with Earth-like gravity and atmosphere, there was a line to the effect that such technologies can only come after all the big problems such as overpopulation have been solved. I don’t agree with that entirely. Most new technologies come from attempts to find solutions to problems. If you don’t have any problems the best you will do is sit around thinking up new video games. But certain problems do have to be tackled first and gotten out of the way before we can do anything really spectacular like building starships to take us to other worlds.