Out Of This World…

 

We had our twelve year old grandson and eight year old granddaughter visiting us for a week. A trip to the Kennedy Space Center was in order. If you haven’t been, it is extraordinary. It is a microcosm of our ingenuity, steadfastness and yes, at times our arrogance. 

In 1962 when President John F. Kennedy made his pronouncement that we would get to the moon before the end of the decade we witnessed a shift of gears from low to high, that the world had never seen. In the Space Park you see the early versions of rocketry and are astounded how far we have become in both payloads and sophistication. th.jpeg

You keep saying to yourself that it was 50 years ago we went to the moon. There was a coordinated effort beyond imagination in that 400,000 people of all sorts were involved in the project. We were clever enough to assemble rockets, install tracking systems, plan for all sorts of catastrophes and above all, pull it off before the advent of cell phones and personal computers.  

When you look at the behemoth rockets and cargo bays of the shuttle you begin to fathom the complexity of millions of parts that are somehow strewn together and work in perfect harmony. Just one breakdown would spell doom as it did with Challenger and a faulty “O” ring. Yet fatalities over the time span of a more than ambitious program were relatively few. From 1981 to 2011 there were 185 missions flown. Astounding!

Now one can argue is it all worth it? Have the trillions of dollars spent worldwide really brought us a better planet. One can say surveillance in space has brought about world peace if for no other reason than keeping everyone honest. There have been all sorts of technological advancements from advanced alloys to toilets that are self sufficient. Yes we can even drink our own urine but let’s not go there. But that is not my takeaway. 

First is that we are just a dot in a myriad of galaxies. Who knows if there is life out there? Not quite sure if that really makes a difference to me. It is almost arrogant, and not surprisingly so, that we want to take our form of civilization somewhere else. This compulsion to colonize Mars seems somewhat absurd when we have so much to do here. 

The second and more important insight I derived is that when we put our mind to something and finance it properly we can achieve results that are beyond amazing and in a relatively short period of time. Why do we seem to be bogged down with the most elementary problems of our time when we have gone to the moon. 

“The future is plastics, my boy” as we were told in the Graduate. This fantastic polymer has been a Godsend to our lives for decades. I took a count of the number of times I encountered plastic everyday in my life and was blown away. From my Diet Coke bottle to my golf balls to the tube for my tooth paste, it habituates and at the same time destroys the marine environment I so treasure. th-3.jpeg

Let’s not get into the politics of petrochemicals but can you tell me that no one along the line has given a thought to the indestructibility of the coffee cup lids and disposable diapers until now? Were we asleep at the switch or just malfeasant. We put it in the environment. Can’t our highly creative minds figure out a way to get it out? And before 2025 or 2050 or whatever. . 

My two favorites are rust and asphalt. Think about rust for a minute. Our bridges, the undersides of our cars, our pipes, our ironwork succumb to this devilish little oxide. It still exists after centuries of destruction. No one has come up with a way to eliminate it. 

Ditto asphalt. Every year the northern climes breed millions of pot holes. They not only have to be repaired but the growth economy of  tire replacement and wheel realignment thrives as well. th-2.jpegCan’t we come up with some sort of resin or epoxy that is indestructible? Isn’t there some genius out there come up with these seemingly simple solutions? Probably not sexy enough to spend one’s time on. 

We have cancers of the body and cancers of the mind. We spend so much on tumors and growths but how much do we spend on brain research by comparison? We have every sort of treatment center for lungs and kidneys and livers but we look the other way on what is between our ears. Would a moon shot type effort bring a little more peace and quiet to our unsettled minds. 

The long and the short are simple. If Elon or Jeff wants to live on Mars let them…at their own cost. It almost seems their desire to go is the result of a world they helped create being less habitable than the Red Planet. Contrary to current thought, let’s assume the checkbook is limited. What are the problems in our society that if given the same set of coordinated effort and funding that Apollo had, could we solve once and for all.

We had a vision that was monumental and we succeeded. We have so many things on our “to do” lists as a nation and a world that rate that same type of attention. Poverty, food shortages, disease, education. Yikes. We have enough to keep us busy without leaving our Big Blue Marble.th-6.jpeg Maybe we should reestablish our priorities? Wouldn’t  that be out of this world?

 

As Always,

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy is where the Shuttles were blasted into orbit. The base of the pad has 100’s of thousands of gallons of water pumped to deaden the noise and impact. The white billow clouds are actually steam. If you were within 500 feet the concussion would kill you. If you were within 1000 feet the noise would kill you. 

There are 2.7 million miles of roads in the US. 94% of them are paved with asphalt. There are 3500 plants throughout the US putting out 400 million tons of the black stuff annually. 

Rust is formed on metal surfaces with the combination of water and air. Rust could cost the world well over $685 billion per annum.th-5.jpeg The cost to the US alone is pegged at over $300 billion.

We spend over $225 billion on mental health per annum. Approximately 15.7 million people are alcoholics and 15 million have some kind of drug dependency. We spend over $10,000 per capita or $3.5 trillion on healthcare as a whole.

Image Is Everything…

th-1.jpegA couple of month’s ago, when I saw Notre Dame burning it was quite startling. A few years ago Kathy and I visited this wonderful cathedral. As we walked around the interior perimeter I remember thinking of the history involved. Not so much the art work but how many people had come and prayed and gawked over those centuries. 

Churches represent so many facets of life. In their day they were built to provide a place of worship but also education. Not a lot of people read or wrote so the stained glass windows told a story to the peasants. Alas also a place to confess but also to be browbeaten by fire and brimstone sermons from the lofty pulpit. I personally like when the priest or minister has a mic and walks down the aisle to address the faithful. Almost like he or she is one of us. 

I have never quite understood the grandeur. Was it to pay homage to God or to back up the power of the church and government all in one swoop? Back then, popes had to approve of new monarchs so the concept of separation of church and state was a joke. Do the spires ascend to or taunt the Creator with a  “You think You are cool, wait til you see what we build next”? 

I understand the rebuild of Our Lady will run up to $8 billion which of course will balloon to $10-15 billion when all is said and done. The Yellow Vests are going nuts and maybe they should.They will have a pretty church but who really cares if no one attends. Maybe we should have naming rights? The Paribas Cathedral of Notre Dame. “Your money is in God’s hands.” How about The Total Petroleum Religious Gas Station? “Get fueled up for the after life.” 

Aside from churches we seem hell bent of reflecting our souls with our edifices. Skyscrapers now soar for work or residence. No longer a three room apartment but a three floor monument to me.cbe932a71d290225a8e51016e11f2edc.jpg There was a fellow down at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale who built a 10,000 square foot house with two bedrooms. Go ahead. You can spend your money any way you want, but isn’t that a tad gauche? 

Go into a law office, investment bank, or architectural firm. There are at least three forests worth of wood paneling in the lobby or should I say sanctuary. Wait until you see the place your meeting is in and if you are really lucky you get to see the board room sans the big wheels. Armani suits, limos and the like are part of the act. And with all that you are supposed to be dumbstruck and sign blindly on the dotted line. Might is right!

I always ask the question if these people really know what they are doing? The retort is a brusque snort as they display their diplomas from the Ivies or Wharton or Kellogg. People tell me that my alma mater, Georgetown is a fine school. My poly sci degree doesn’t mean diddly but some poor fool thinks I am smart anyway. 

We visualize cars, yachts, private jets and even exotic pets as the marks of truly remarkable men and women. We ooh and aah at the runways of Hollywood and Wall Street. The Hamptons and Malibus. We read Architectural Digest and gaze longingly at the Robb Report. With all the puff and pomp how do we know what is real? 

Maybe I am getting old but it really does not matter to me. I just threw away a golf shirt that my daughter gave me 15 years ago. We live in a “modest” home with three bedrooms and OMG only two baths! We drive decent cars and don’t have to spend $500 on dinner to feel good. We had lunch awhile back with an old friend from Swift Boat days. The four of us ate at a wonderful dockside restaurant that was overshadowed by double wides. Worked for us. 

It is very interesting and somewhat unusual where we live. There is never a conversation about curriculum vitae or net worths. There is plenty of money but it just does not matter. I have had some of the most marvelous conversations that could be, over a glass of scotch or a cup of coffee from a simple deck overlooking the water.  Nothing crazy but going deep into this or that. Great stuff.

th-6.jpegCut us open and we are all the same. We treasure our looks and our place in society. When it is over who really cares? Your clothes or cars or undrunk rare wines in your cellar are residue. Did you leave the world a better place or is the world better without you? Interesting question. 

I am not really sure if Notre Dame should be rebuilt? Is it emblematic of a time gone by? Maybe leave the walls and just put in a small chapel. Churches shouldn’t be points of interest on the Hop On Hop Off bus. Not a totem of a city or nation to be cashed in on. Pop in and say a prayer. Think a kind thought. Sweet and simple. I think that is an image I can live with.  How about you? 

As always

Ted The Great.

Factoids:

Tracy Morgan who almost died after a wreck on the NJ Turnpike years ago, was sideswiped a couple of miles from the dealership. He had just purchased a $2 million Bugatti and the woman was driving a Honda CRV. Priceless!0604-tracy-morgan-car-crash-bugatti-photos-launch-3.jpg

There is an extremely wealthy magnate that has five homes throughout the world. Everyday they are stocked with fresh flowers and provisions and fully staffed on the chance he may want to drop in.

A Stuart Hughes Diamond edition suit costs $892,500 Savile Row in London boasts suits for anywhere from $25-100,000. Shoes  can run $500-2,000 per pair. There is even a self tying pair of of Nike sneakers that go for $28,000. I wonder what the Odor Eaters cost?

Ringing in at $22,900, this Dubai suite from Burj Al Arab provides Hermes bath products and five-head rain showers to create the ultimate bathroom experience. The suite also features 17 types of pillows, a rotating four-posted bed, full-size Jacuzzis, a private butler and even the free use of a 24-carat gold-plated iPad. I wondered if sitting on the Jake feels any different?