Wednesday Morning: Simple Past, Perfect Future

There are thirteen verb tenses in English. I couldn’t recall the thirteenth one to save my life and now after digging through my old composition texts I still can’t figure out what the thirteenth is.

If I have to guess, it’s probably a special case referring to future action. Why should our language be any more lucid than our vision?

Vision we’ve lost; we don’t elect people of vision any longer because we don’t have any ourselves. We vote for people who promise us bullshit based on illusions of a simple past. We don’t choose people who assure us the road will be hard, but there will be rewards for our efforts.

Ad astra per aspera.

Fifty-five years ago today, John F. Kennedy Jr. spoke to a join session of Congress, asking our nation to go to the moon. I was six months old at the time. This quest framed my childhood; every math and science class shaped in some way by the pursuit, arts and humanities giving voice to the fears and aspirations at the same time.

In contrast I look at my children’s experience. My son, who graduates this year from high school, has not known a single year of K-12 education when we were not at war, when terrorism was a word foreign to his day, when we didn’t worry about paying for health care because we’d already bought perma-warfare. None of this was necessary at this scale, pervading our entire culture. What kind of vision does this create across an entire society?

I will say this: these children also don’t recall a time without the internet. They are deeply skeptical people who understand how easy it is to manipulate information. What vision they have may be biased toward technology, but their vision is high definition, and they can detect bullshit within bits and pixels. They also believe we have left them no choice but to boldly go and build a Plan B as we’ve thoroughly trashed Plan A.

Sic itur ad astra. Sic itur ad futurum.

Still looking at past, present, and future…




  • Comparing Apple to BlackBerry, developer Marco Arment frets for Apple’s future ( — I can’t help laugh at this bit:

    …When the iPhone came out, the BlackBerry continued to do well for a little while. But the iPhone had completely changed the game…

    Not only is Arment worrying Apple hasn’t grokked AI as Google has, he’s ignored Android’s ~80% global marketshare in mobile devices. That invisible giant which hadn’t ‘completely changed the game.’

  • Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the Mojave Desert caught fire (WIRED) — IMO, sounds like a design problem; shouldn’t there be a fail-safe on this, a trigger when temps spike at the tower in the wrong place? Anyhow, it looks like Ivanpah has other problems ahead now that photovoltaic power production is cheaper than buggy concentrated solar power systems.
  • Women, especially WOC, win a record number of Nebula awards for sci-fi (HuffPo) — Prizes for Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story and Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy works went to women, which is huge improvement given how many writers and readers are women and women of color. What does the future look like when a greater percentage of humans are represented in fiction? What does a more gender-balanced, less-white future hold for us?

Either I start writing late the night before, or I give up the pretense this is a * morning * roundup. It’s still morning somewhere, I’ll leave this one as is for now. Catch you tomorrow morning — maybe — or early afternoon.

15 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Worse than Venezuela having to stop production of Coca-Cola is that a couple weeks ago, they had to shut down the leading beer brewery, for lack of ingredients or something.

    • bloopie2 says:

      You’re right. One can always go sugar-free with Diet Coke, but, NO BEER??? AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

  2. Rayne says:

    scribe (1:17) — Argh! As long as there’s water and some carbohydrates, there’s a chance for beer. I have to research this because cutting off beer is just flirting with a revolution.

    earlofhuntingdon (1:49) — I feel like that about JFK’s speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962. NASA plays it at Cape Canaveral. This:

    … William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

    If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

    Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding. …

    Never fails to make me tear up. What we’ve lost and failed as humans, what we were and should be, all right there.

    • KenWInIA says:

      I read Kennedy’s speech rather than reading it, but in my mind I still heard it in his voice and cadence. I’m 61. He was killed when I was in third grade. We lost so much.

  3. P J Evans says:

    Future (3)
    They earned those awards.
    The Fifth Season is impressive; I’m looking forward to the next part, The Obsidian Gate. (I’ve been reading Cherryh for decades.)

  4. Rayne says:

    P J Evans (2:30) — Thanks! I’ll take that as a recommendation and add it to my my Want-to-Read list. I’ll need some fresh sci-fi for beach reading before the end of the summer.

    • P J Evans says:

      You might like Leckie’s Ancillary books – there are three novels and a shorter story.
      (Fair warning on Fifth Season – it includes some scenes involving apparent mistreatment of children. The Inheritance series might work better for you.)

  5. bloopie2 says:

    As to solar power, I have always wondered what effect it would have on our ecology if humans intercepted a significant (for power generation) percentage of the sun’s energy and converted it into electricity, rather than allowing it to “hit the ground” and grow things and heat up the dirt. Same with wind—would taking enough force out of the world’s winds to generate a big chunk of electricity, have any detrimental effect? I’d bet that today the “experts” are saying “no”, but a hundred years from now might say, “Well, wait just a minute.” Perhaps our experience with hydroelectric power is instructive—more and more dams are being decommissioned these days in the US (see link), because of now-recognized unintended and really bad consequences–even as new dams are being built in developing lands. Or, am I thinking too far ahead? Maybe we should focus on cold fusion? Just sayin’.

    • John Casper says:

      “As to solar power, I have always wondered what effect it would have on our ecology if humans intercepted a significant (for power generation) percentage of the sun’s energy and converted it into electricity, rather than allowing it to “hit the ground” and grow things and heat up the dirt.”

      “Musk: ‘You could take a corner of Utah and Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.’ #AGU15”

      Climate change is here. We don’t have time to wait for cold fusion.

  6. bevin says:

    I haven’t read Shikasta by Doris Lessing for years but the news keeps reminding me of its prophesies.

  7. bloopie2 says:

    Yes, the world was simpler then. Was the following type of thing ever an issue? “Religious belief is no excuse for refusing to shake a teacher’s hand, authorities in a northern Swiss region have ruled, reversing a school’s decision to grant exemptions for Muslim pupils unwilling to touch the opposite sex. Parents of pupils who refuse to shake a teacher’s hand at schools in the northern canton of Basel-Country could now face fines of up to 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,400), regional education authorities said on Wednesday. “A teacher has the right to demand a handshake,” they said in a statement.” We all lived in our own little worlds, and it was (apparently) fine. President Kennedy, what’s your vision for solving this one?

  8. prostratedragon says:

    Huh…seems odd a company with access to so much data couldn’t see this coming. Yet another poor indicator of progress since 2006.

    Yes, or something –anyway, that was the part of the story that stood out for me when I saw it, in addition to its making the city’s water problems and their origin a buried lead. Strange story, very strange.

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