THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 205

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 205

…great pains have been taken to restore the spacecraft to how they found it (minus the dead space-guy dudes) approx. 5 years ago…

For all the tragedy and misfortune that the Space Family McKinney has endured, most astronomers worth their salt would give over the left side of their brain for this opportunity.

This, “plain dumb luck” as Sammy Mac puts it, renews the group vitality. The Sammy Mac tag is a well-earned nickname, born out of sure bravado and worn like a merit badge. Before the sudden disembarking, the McKinney family unit had been sentenced to a potential lifetime on that barren red sphere, with only their resourcefulness as a survival skill. Badge awarded: Planetary Exploration.

They likely will never know that fate actually interfered and whisked them away from a New Mayflower rescue. Perhaps it is just as well.

So now comes the chance, however up-in-the-air, to actually have other beings to interact with; to share knowledge and history, keep company or perchance complete a rewarding life. That which was out of reach 5 years ago has been broached in the unlikeliest of circumstance.

To erase any possible doubts as to their intentions in their awkward capacity as stowaways and reflect positively on their culturally civil nature, great pains have been taken to restore the spacecraft to how they found it (minus the dead space-guy dudes).

“How are we going to explain the absence of their crew?” Celeste wonders while she and Sammy tidy up.

“Hopefully they have already guessed the fate of the expedition, seeing that it had gone on so long and returns only by the grace of automatic recall. If these folks bury their dead, we can show them the pictures of their Martian graveyard. If they do not bury their dead and consider the practice barbaric, then we didn’t see anyone on Mars alive or dead!”

From out of nowhere, a new sound filters into the bridge of the ship named by them, NEWFOUNDLANDER. Celeste is quick to identify it, “That is music played on a recorder! Why didn’t I pick up on that earlier?”

“Recorder, as is recorded music?”

“No I mean recorder….a 12th Century crude version of the flute… a musical instrument.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 205


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 204

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 204

…Is the NEWFOUNDLANDER a colonizer/scout that is now returning to a burned out home?…

“Get a load of that one,” Sampson to Celeste & Sammy, “it is 2X the size of Jupiter and spinning like a top!”

A NEWFOUNDLANDER monitor dedicated to geological activity reveals a tempestuous surface, three-fourths boiling with volcanism. Elsewhere, raging magnetic storms ripple through a conspicuously toxic atmosphere.

“I think we can cross that planet off our list Sam,” Celeste reasons.

“It may not be what you would call a vacation destination, but a recent course deviation puts us right in line with that monster.” He checks and rechecks his unlikely calculations, each time netting the same results.

“There cannot be so much as a trace of oxygen or a stable slab of ground on that planet Sam. Remember when we speculated that the NEWFOUNDLIANS may have been searching out a new home planet? Or has their world started a geological upheaval after they left? Is this ship a colonizer/scout that is now returning to a burned out home?

“That is a possibility,” he says in a regretting tone, “but what if one of those moons happens to be their home? There is one moon, slightly smaller than Earth and yet another could be Neptune’s twin brother! And Neptune2 looks like it has a moon of its own. Doesn’t that blow your mind?”

Epsilon_Eridani_b

This is an inaugural peek at a solar system through provincial perceptions of conventionality. Hubble had alerted Earthly eyes of the existence of viable planetary systems circling other stars, so odds favor it. But to have postulated the strange and complex menagerie attending to Epsilon Eridani, no super-telescope could have sorted out.

Exhibit One: There four mega-planets in similar orbits, over a billion miles away from their blue-white star, the largest planet owning two moons, one the size of Neptune, and that with a satellite to boot; unheard of.


THE RETURN TRIP

Burned Out by Louise Adams

Episode 204


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 203

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 203

…they believe the end of year 2035 is near, a conceptual rendering of time, partially reconnoitered by Sammy’s growth and keeping track on an old-fashioned wristwatch…

Painting of Nestor Ferronato

As the enlarging emergence of Epsilon Eridani and the heightened anticipation it is Related imageproducing, Sampson’s demeanor stabilizes; finally a goal is in sight. There aren’t stars around every corner. In the coming of a new orange sphere, he can sense the warmth internally, even though an Earthly comparison would be like spotting the Rocky Mountains from the east while driving an automobile. What seems like a day later, you first get the sense you are going uphill.

epsilon eridani by arise chicken117

The far-reaching scope of the NEWFOUDLANDER’S viewscreen becomes the hot topic as they believe the end of year 2035 is near, a conceptual rendering of time, partially reconnoitered by Sammy’s growth and keeping track on an old-fashioned wristwatch. The estimated forty trillion, that is the #40 with twelve zeroes, miles of space traveled, where nothing but darkness and tiny white dots dominate the viewscreen, finally there is a tangible celestial objects to train their longing eyes on.

Five (that is the #5 with no zeroes) heavenly bodies they are coming upon. Other than the obvious blazing tangerine fireball, this system’s sun, a star from Earth telescope’s perspective, four immense planets are orbiting Epsilon Eridani at the far-out distance equal to Jupiter’s. They are spaced far enough apart in the planes of their orbits so that their gravitation cancels each other’s out. There are no other significant bodies inside this planetary parade, although there is one nearly continuous band of asteroids, meteors, and comet-like matter circling Epsilon 100 million miles out.

Each of these gigantic spheres numbers many objects as “moons” as an entourage.Epsilon Eridani b.jpg Several of these would make sizable planets on their own merit and perhaps they were before this quartet of gravity hogs drew them into their inescapable clutches.

“Get a load of that one,” Sampson to Celeste & Sammy, “it is twice the size of Jupiter!”

A NEWFOUNDLANDER monitor dedicated to geological activity reveals a tempestuous surface, three-fourths boiling with volcanism. Elsewhere, raging magnetic storms ripple through a conspicuously toxic atmosphere.


THE RETURN TRIP

great destination by henryz – deviatart.com

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 202

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 202

…“Well Earth has gone from pyramids & chariots to satellites & spaceships since then.”…

Two months later in their truly incredibly unlikely journey, following-up their ongoing “home schooling” of Deimostra, as a family they tackle the issue of just how they could exchange information with the Newfoundlanders. Simple drawings surely must be the most effective way to impart the essence of a civilization, but blank paper is unnecessary in a digital world; a challenge with a budding artist for a child.

“I told you not to launch all those message(s)-in-a-bottle to your mother,” Sampson jousts in his sarcastically upbeat style. “It just occurred to me that these people have already seen Egyptian artwork, so they already know something about us.”

“Well Earth has gone from chariots to spaceships since then.”

 Another avenue of interaction, the recurring theme on the NEWFOUNDLANDER, is musical composition. Every single day of their 4+ year trek they encounter distinct individual tones, spanning six octaves in range, all of which seems to make their world move & shake in a unique and mystifying fashion.

“I will be sure not to hum the wrong song. Green Day may mean something degrading or vulgar,” he editorializes.

“Nothing we have heard is true “melody”, so thankfully my classical training may be useful.”

“Yeah, well if they happen to have 88 keys on some instrument, we can’t push our luck; Chopin and Liszt may not be their cup of tea, any more than Punk Rock is.”

At times, increasingly lately, she worries about Sam’s ability to take anything seriously. Every conversation is an occasion for sharp and increasingly pointed wit. Some of it is genuinely funny and serves to ease the tension of deep-space flight, but on the other hand, much of the so-called levity is biting and coarse, the kind of stuff Sigmund Freud would have concerns about.

Celeste is not Freud, though even she had the skills for it, it is not a good idea to psychoanalyze, when you are not sure what the cure is. One thing she is positive about is that her Mission Commander has been overtaken by the impotent role he is playing in the course of the NEWFOUNDLANDER excursion. Perhaps she should have agreed to let him tinker with the navigation, but at the time, it made sense to take the careful course of leaving well-enough alone.


THE RETURN TRIP

Message in a Bottle by jrivadulla deviantart.com

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 201

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 201

…Celeste M. uses an analogy to explain, to put a bow on a story about the good old days on Earth…

Bobby Haiqalsyah Melbourne, Australia

Celeste M. uses an analogy to explain, to put a bow on a story about the good old days in Texas,“Uncle Braden was supposed to check in from time to time, but he got busy with our Space Colony {RIP} and did not see if things were going well with the neighbor house.”

“Kinda like us living on this ship from the Newfoundlians Deimostra, they think it is empty,” adds Sam, who sees where his wife is headed.

“Well after the summer was over and the owners of the ranch came home, there was nothing left of value in the house and what was left was trashed.”

“Braden got in trouble, did he not?” Sammy’s mommy-taught English is contraction free.

“That’s UNCLE Braden and my point is about us honey… now you can imagine what these beings are going to think when they find us stowed away on a ship they fully expect to be empty. We won’t speak their language and I pray they are as peaceful as they appear, because they will have a hard time understanding or believing our story.”King Ranch logo

“Did Braden, I mean Uncle Braden, find out who was in that house,” she had seen pictures of King Ranch (and what a house looks like) on the portable computers they were carrying when they unexpectedly lifted off the surface of Mars.

“They did Sammy and they beat him with a broom, made him clean up the mess and threw the old man in jail for 10 years…I think he got out last week. And Braden was barred from ever setting foot on the neighbor’s ranch.” {Sampson M. embellishment}

“Do not listen to him sweetie. Texas justice is different, but not barbaric, though the squatter was deported back to Mexico and Uncle Braden helped pay for the damage.”

“What will the Newfoundlians do to us?”

“On second thought, if I tried a sequence code over on this panel, I could turn this thing around. Mommy’s point about not being able to explain ourselves is a good reason to hightail it out of here.” Sampson McKinney was getting cold feet, as Epsilon Eridani gets increasing larger on the navigation plot. “WWJBD?”

What Would Jesus of Bethlehem Do?” Celeste thinks she solves the acronym.

“No, ‘What Would James Bond Do‘? There isn’t a recognizable weapon on this spaceship, so I hope the planet has the same philosophy. Besides that, three thousand years ago, they could have conquered Earth without so much as raising a finger,” he looks at his left index digit. “What did these guys have on the end of their arms Cel, I don’t remember?”


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Pirates of the Seven Seas – Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth

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Pirates Facts

Pirates have fascinated the masses for hundreds of years. Romanticized in fiction, the image of a pirate has crystallized into a bearded, peg-legged man, with a funny hat and possibly a parrot on his shoulder. The pirate was almost relegated to a quaint decades-old obsession until Disney revived the swashbucklers by rebooting a Disneyland ride into a multi-billion dollar movie franchise. The films star Johnny Depp, pretending to be Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, or as Roger Ebert once wrote, “channeling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly.”

 So with that in mind, we will charge and plunder our way through 10 surprising pirate myths, facts, and misconceptions.

10. Pirates Were Part of the Normal Economy

In the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, the pirates were literal immortal ghosts that had no need for the world of mankind. There is a myth that pirates were outcasts and pariahs but like any criminal now or in the past they needed to sell their booty. While pirates did get some gold and diamonds, that was far from their only plunder. Most of what pirates stole and looted was anything that ships had, like water, food, soap, timber, salted fish, and supplies for the New World colonies. The most coveted of all prizes was medicine.

With all these goods pirates needed a place to sell them, and there were plenty of ports, pirate and otherwise that encouraged pirate trade. Often pirates were sanctioned by their home countries, like the English Privateer, and their “letter of marque” gave them the legal right to capture ships from enemy nations. With this they could legally sell their booty to their homeports. Privateering, which was similar to today’s version of military contractors, “spurred the growth of Atlantic cities from Charleston to Dunkirk.” Non-nation criminal pirates had no shortage of middlemen and smugglers who would take their tons of stolen salted fish off their hands and integrate it into the local economy.

9. Wore Jewelry to Improve Their Eyesight

Those brave souls who step off the sturdy earth onto a rickety boat to righteously sail the rough seas have always been a superstitious bunch. Bananas famously are taboo on the open sea and are thought to bring doom upon all those on the boat. Real sailors will quickly throw a banana overboard ASAP. Sailors are just as superstitious with their good luck talismans.

Famously bad luck on land, black cats are a seen as signs of good luck at sea with sailors having a black cat on board. There are even those who have their wives have a black cat at home to get a double dose of good fortune. Pirates were no exception to superstitions of the seas. According to the Journal of the American Optometric Association, pirates heavily pierced their ears in hopes that it would improve their eyesight.

8. Pirate Ships Were Democratic

Pirates in the movies are often portrayed as mafias with a head criminal ruling their ship with an iron fist. In real life, pirate ships had surprisingly democratic micro-societies. During the golden age of piracy, over 100 years before democracy took hold in America, sailors on legitimate sailing ships were little more than slaves. The captain controlled everything and in the British Navy, it was even worse. Sailors lived under terrible conditions; conditions so bad that the only way to get new crew members was to pressgang or kidnap innocent people from whatever harbor the ship entered.

This kind of life paled in comparison to pirate ships, where democracy thrived. Not only did pirates share the wealth of their plunder but they voted on everything. They held elections on where to sail, where to strike, what to do with prisoners, and even whether or not to impeach and replace their captain.

7. Pirate Health Insurance

Sailing hundreds of years ago was tough. Piracy, which involved violent resistance and sparse prey, was even tougher. If they weren’t dealing with malnutrition or scurvy pirates had to deal with the normal hazards of the seven seas like storms and new tropical diseases. As outlaws, they also didn’t have a military organization or state to fall back on. Since the pirates were in it together they also banded together forming collectives with health care. If there was an injury on board a ship or while seizing a vessel pirates could depend on each other for monetary support.

In the Caribbean, a pirate group operated that called themselves The Brethren orBrethren of the Coast (they appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean series). One of the most famous pirate captains of this group was Henry Morgan. Morgan offered the following compensation for injury: a right arm was worth 600 pieces of eight, a left arm 500, a right leg 500, a left leg 400, and an eye 100 pieces of eight. In 1600 one piece of eight was about a modern £50 note, so the pay out for a right arm was 600 pieces of eight, the equivalent of £30,000. Even crazed scourge of the sea Blackbeard cared enough for his crew to seize three French surgeons to provide medical care.

6. Pirates Raided Only Ships… Or Not

Merriam-Webster says the definition of a pirate is someone who engages in piracy, or an act of robbery on the high seas. Water thefts, according to the dictionary. But the true mavericks they were, pirates didn’t limit themselves to just looting and pillaging on the high seas. No, when they had the means pirates would attack targets on land, too.

There have been a number of invasions by pirates. One pirate warlord, Edward Mansvelt, controlled a 1,000-men strong pirate army that landed and attacked the Spanish in what became known as the Sack of Campeche in 1663 (now a city in Mexico). Pirate Lord Henry Morgan led another Pirate army 50 miles inland to attack Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in central Cuba). If the prize was high enough pirates had no problem leaving their ships to pillage the land lubbers.

5. Pirates Are Not Forever

The pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean were doomed to an immortal purgatory sailing the seven seas forever, but real pirates had a less permanent legacy. Piracy was often seen as a way to increase their standing in mainstream society. Spend a few years in a high-risk occupation and then take your plunder and improve you and your family’s position in life.

That was certainly the case with Woodes Rogers (he’s the dapper gent on the right in the above painting). He sailed around the world, paid for from all the ships he plundered along the way. He even had enough time to rescue Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish sailor that Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is based on. After he came back home he hung up his pirate standard and became the Governor of the Bahamas. His past didn’t stop him from trying to stamp out local pirates. Not all pirates became politicians, but many parlayed their ill-gotten gains into an easy life back in normal society.

4. Pirate Tropes

Our word for pirate didn’t have a standardized spelling until well into the 18th century. In historical archives ocean raiders, or what we call pirates, were spelled as “pirrot,” “pyrate,” or “pyrat,” which is probably where parrots became an associated pirate trope. Other fictional tropes were that pirates buried treasure, a fiction created by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island.

The 1950s Disney movie of the same name also created what we now know as pirate talk. For the film, Robert Newton, the pirate star of Treasure Island used an exaggerated version of his southwestern England hometown West Country dialect. Pirates also didn’t have peg legs, and the skull and crossbones flag was just one of many pirate flags used in pirate history.

3. Cannonballs are Spheres of Death

In the age of sail, the preferred means of attack was the cannon. Modern pirate movies have their share of implausible Michael Bay explosions. They also show how each cannon hit causes thousands of serrated pieces of wood to fly into the fleshy, exposed skin of sailors and pirates alike. Yet compared to their fictional Hollywood movie stars, the pirates of old had one less thing to worry about.

As proven by Mythbusters the wooden shrapnel didn’t have enough velocity to penetrate the exposed skin, or for their test, dead pigs. They did discover, however, the gunpowder explosion of a cannon gave the metal cannonballs enough force to rip through the bodies of at least four people, as demonstrated by the unfortunate pigs that took their place.

2. Pirates Aren’t a Relatively Recent, Caribbean Thing

For as long as there has been wealth there have been people that will take that wealth. Robbery and banditry have to be one of the oldest jobs in history, although not the oldest job. That would be ladies of the night. In the same vein of thought, as long as there have been ships there have been people who are willing to take whatever is on that ship. Starting 1200 BC the Egyptians feared a mysterious group of people only known as the “Sea Peoples” that swept over the known world like black death, destroying everything they touched.

Later, in 75 BC, Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates while traveling to Rhodes. Upon hearing their ransom demand, Caesar got insulted and told them to double the asking price for his life. The pirates got their money but after he was released Caesar returned with a fleet of ships and captured and crucified every one of his pirate captors. In the Mediterranean, during the 15th and 16th centuries, there were two groups of pirates that were mirror images of each. The Barbary corsairs were Muslims who raided Christian commerce while the Knights of Saint John were Christian pirates who raided Islamic ships, “mirror image[s] of maritime predation, two businesslike fleets of plunderers set against each other.” The official hymn of the United States Marine Corps even has a line, “to the shores of Tripoli” that’s about the Battle of Dernain 1805, where US Marines attacked a pirate stronghold during the First Barbary War. While the west is more familiar with the Pirates of the New World, Pirates are found throughout history and all over the world.

1. Pirates Still Exist

Pirate movies inevitably always focus on pirates with swords and sailing ships, but pirates still exist today. We don’t just mean the infamous Somali pirates that plagued the Horn of Africa a decade ago (although there was recently an attack after five years of no incidents). Pirates on the other side of the Atlantic have stepped up their attacks in places like Nigeria. Even outside of Africa there is piracy; or rather, piracy never went away. In the early 19th century famous Pirate Queen Madame Ching, or Ching Shih, ruled the waves with hundreds of ships, crewed by thousands of pirates. Not far from Madame Ching’s haunt is one of the busiest shipping straits in the world, the Strait of Malacca. Through this 550 mile-long sea lane, thousands of ships travel and are easy targets for modern day pirates.

Dozens of attacks and hijacking take place every year, although coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are trying to put a stop to it. Hitting a little closer to home is piracy on Falcon Lake, which straddles the American and Mexican border. The lake is a result of Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande which was built in the ’50s. After the Mexican side descended into the anarchy of the drug wars small boats full of pirates would prey on fishermen and pleasure boats, as well use the boats to smuggle drugs into the US. Piracy is not something that was stamped out hundreds of years ago. It still exists, to this day, even in America’s backyard.


Pirates of the Seven Seas

– Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 200

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 200

…We may be treated like unwanted visitors, stowaways feeling like common squatters on someone’s private property…

Stowaway Peers Out at the Speed of Light by James Rosenquist

Just how long would it be before an Earth produced space vehicle can match the fleeting speed of the outbound NEWFOUNDLANDER?

That very subject is broached by the senior member of the Space Family McKinney, who along with the rest is traveling multiples of the speed-of-light, not by the grace of genius or invention, but by pure dumb (bad) luck, especially since the New Mayflower would have rescued them several years ago.

“Do you realize that we could have made about a half a million round trips from Mars to Earth by now?” Sammy Mac enlightens anyone who bothers to listen. “If only I could steer this thing!”

“Yes dear, you’ve told us at least that many times in however many years it has been,” answers Celeste, who comprises one of the two other pairs of ears on the ship, “but we agreed to let the NEWFOUNDLANDER go its own way, likely with a purpose as we have determined and if we don’t stop where we think it is going to, then we’ll consider turning around.”

“We’ve come this far haven’t we? I guess it would be impolite to turn back right now. Hell, Gus & Deke may pay us a visit one of these years. The only obstacle I can think of is coming up with a hull superstructure that is strong enough to withstand the pressure and skin radiation. AND if they follow the path to cold fusion, which is the heart of the SOL Project, at least in its infancy — they might be zipping along like us in no time.”

“That is a wonderful thought Sam, but we may find ourselves in a tenuous situation soon. We may be treated like unwanted visitors, stowaways feeling like common squatters on someone’s private property.” She climbs into the King Ranch WABAC machine. “Do you remember that house Braden was supposed to look after back in ’23?”

“Yes, he was doing the neighbor rancher a favor, or so he thought, while they went north for the summer… they really hated the 100º  degree weather in the summer.”

“What is 100 degree weather Daddy?” Deimostra Samantha McKinney, the first child-of-space has many questions about a home planet that she has only heard stories about.

“Let Mommy finish her story……….”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 200


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