THE RETURN TRIP -Episode 93

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 93

…the insurance carriers for Space Colony 1 are not in the mood to pay off — there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth…

insurance-001

“Two of your biggest fans got their 2 hours sleep and have been glued to KHST ever since. I don’t know if you know it, but live coverage of the launch went black about the10-1 time that you were guys were outnumbered 10 to 1. What a fright to see everything you do go down,” Braden King relates.

“How did she get the digital feed… never mind,” Francine likely made off with the footage like she walked away from Roy’s kiss.

“In fact, here is Deke McKinney with something to ask you.”

Vertical-001“That was some spicy tacos Uncle Roy; you saved the day for Mom & Dad!”

“Yeah,” Gus beaks in, “and we want to have you at our birthday party on Wednesday, maybe you can bring that hot TV reporter with you?”

“I’d love to boys, but I’ll see what I can do. I will need to get Space Colony II construction going as soon as I can fire up the production line.”

For the first time in 10 minutes Braden goes silent, his end of the 1-to-1 video betraying his concern. “What’s up King? Do not be holding back on me.”

“I hate to throw cold water on your morning, but the insurance carriers for Space Colony 1 are not in the mood to pay off, at least until there is a complete investigation to what caused the accident; a meteor strike falls into the category of the “Acts of God” exemption.”

“We’ll see about that bullcrap! If they can finance the second and third Panama Canal, they can cough up the dough for us.”

“That may be so Roy, but even with the funding, Congress is convening an emergency session, called by Senator Jomayra Jiménez from Puerto Rico and you know where she thinks the money should be spent instead?”

“Sure, flush it down into a crumbling tourist-trap!”

“President Sanchez is going along with her and word has it that there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are back on Earth.”


THE RETURN TRIP

space-birthday-001

Episode 93


page 88

Pandemic Overload (1918) – WIF Medicine

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Facts About

the Spanish Flu

Pandemic 1918

A Little Perspective

Spanish flu, the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, struck the world in a series of waves, and left between 50 and 100 million people dead in its wake. It may have appeared in the trenches of World War I in Europe as early as 1916, according to some researchers. It first appeared in the United States in the spring of 1918. Numerous contending theories of its source of origin continue to be debated. Some say it began in the United States, some say in Europe, and still others argue it originated in Asia. There is no debate over its impact, though, with one-third of the world’s population contracting the disease during its peak in 1918-19. It continued to appear well into 1920, though with significantly less impact.

Differing from other forms of influenza, the virus had a significant impact on young, otherwise healthy adults, who usually had stronger immune systems. It struck the wealthy and the poor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted the illness. The King of Spain nearly died of it. A young nurse in Toronto, Amelia Earhart, contracted the disease, which damaged her sinuses to the point surgery was required. The scars left her with sinus problems for the rest of her life. In the United States, 675,000 Americans died from the flu, most of them during the deadly second wave in 1918. That year American average life expectancy dropped by 12 years as a result of the flu. Here are 10 facts about the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of the First World War…

10. Nobody knows for certain where it originated

While there is some disagreement among scholars over the place of origin, the consensus is that Spanish flu did not originate in Spain. When the pandemic spread rapidly across Europe in 1918, wartime censorship conditions affected most news reports. Censorship did not apply to neutral Spain. News reports of the flu’s virulence there appeared in newspapers and magazines, with references to “this Spanish flu.” The name stuck. Reports of the disease in Spain increased substantially when King Alphonso XIII contracted the flu in the spring of 1918. Ironically, as reports of the King’s illness and being near death for several days increased references to the Spanish flu in Western newspapers, the Spanish referred to the disease as the French flu.

Since the pandemic (and in part during it), China, Great Britain, the United States, and France, as well as Russia, have all been suggested as the disease’s starting point. The first case in the United States appeared in March 1918, at a Kansas army post. More recently, researchers identified potential cases as early as 1916, at army receiving and marshaling stations in France. Another earlier outbreak occurred at a British Army base in Aldershot in the early spring of 1917. The UK staging camp at Etapes, in northern France, saw 100,000 troops go through daily, either returning from the front or on their way to it, in densely crowded conditions. Hundreds exhibited symptoms of the pandemic flu during the spring and fall of 1917, a fact later identified by army pathologists.

9. More American soldiers died of Spanish flu than in combat during World War One

Americans were stunned at the casualties suffered by their troops during the First World War, though in comparison to the European combatants they were low. Mobilization placed 4.7 million American men in uniform. Of those, about 320,000 became ill and recovered, or suffered wounds in combat from which they survived. 116,516 American troops and sailors died during the war. Combat deaths totaled 53,402. The rest — 63,114 — died of disease, with most of the deaths occurring from the Spanish flu in the camps in the United States, in Europe, and in ships bound for Europe. Once such ship was a former German liner. In 1917 the United States converted the German steamship Vaterland, interned in New York, into a troopship, renamed USS Leviathan.

On September 29, 1918, Leviathan departed New York for the French port of Brest, carrying 9,000 American doughboys, and a crew of 2,000 sailors (one of the sailors was a young New Yorker named Humphrey Bogart). Spanish flu appeared in the ship during the crossing. When Leviathan arrived at Brest it carried 2,000 men already diagnosed with the Spanish flu, which wreaked havoc in the crowded conditions aboard, and overwhelmed the ship’s medical facilities and personnel. 80 men died during the crossing, many more after landing ashore in France, during the height of the pandemic. A similar outbreak occurred on the ship’s return voyage to the United States.

8. It affected the Treaty of Versailles

The combat during World War One came to an end via an armistice, which began at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of November, the 11th month of the year, 1918. Many issues of the war remained unresolved. The leaders of the Allied nations agreed to meet in Paris in early 1919 to discuss the issues facing Europe. Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States, went to Europe to join the discussions, present his famous 14 Points, and to argue for the establishment of the League of Nations. He favored more lenient terms for Germany than those proposed by the leaders of France, Italy, and Great Britain. Wilson intended to use American prestige to obtain less punitive measures against the Germans, especially in the form of reparations.

During the negotiations for the treaty, which took place in Paris rather than the Palace of Versailles for which it was named, Wilson came down with the Spanish flu. Several members of his entourage suffered through the flu during the voyage to France. Wilson’s illness was covered up, though he became severely ill in Paris, unable to attend multiple sessions of the negotiations. His physician, Navy Admiral Cary Grayson, wrote of the President as “violently sick.” When Wilson did partially recover and returned to the negotiations, several participants wrote of his lack of attention, fatigue, and listlessness. He failed to ease the reparations imposed by the Allies on the Germans, and the resulting Treaty of Versailles created conditions in Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the war which followed the War to End All Wars.

7. The federal government did little regarding the flu’s impact

In the United States, the federal government did relatively little to combat the Spanish flu, other than issue advisories telling Americans of the dangers presented by the illness. Congress adjourned in the fall of 1918, with the second wave of the pandemic at its peak. The Supreme Court did the same. The United States Public Health Service, then an agency within the Department of the Treasury, issued posters warning against spitting on sidewalks. It also advised workers to walk to work, which seems strange to modern eyes, until one considers that most commuting at the time involved streetcars or railroads. It also warned Americans to avoid becoming over-fatigued.

Before Woodrow Wilson went to Europe, Edith (the President’s wife) sent 1,000 roses to young women serving in the war effort in the District of Columbia, who were sickened by the flu. That was about the extent of the federal effort. Battling the effects of the pandemic, the lost work hours, burying the dead, and combating the spread of the disease was left in the hands of local governments, which responded in varying ways across the country. Some imposed severe restrictions on movement, crowds, and schools, easing them as the pandemic passed through their communities. Others continued to promote large gatherings to support Liberty Bond drives, including a parade in Philadelphia after which thousands died in the city from the rapid spread of influenza which ensued.

6. Some cities made wearing masks mandatory, with criminal penalties

The first wave of Spanish flu in America occurred in the spring of 1918. Compared to what came in the second wave it was mild. The second wave came in September 1918, in the Eastern cities, and gradually moved westward. San Francisco escaped the first wave, and its Chief of the Board of Health, Dr. William Hassler, assured citizens of the city the second wave would not affect them. On September 24, a recent arrival from Chicago became ill with the flu. By mid-October over 4,000 cases were in the city. That month the city passed an ordinance making the wearing of gauze masks mandatory, with Hassler touting them as 99% effective in stopping the spread of the flu between persons.

In truth, the masks were likely of little benefit, and on November 21, 1918,  the city rescinded the order to wear them. Several other cities issued similar orders, with varying degrees of punishments for violators. In San Francisco, violators went to jail. The city suffered 2,122 deaths during the lethal second wave. The third wave struck in December, and lasted through the winter, raising the death toll in San Francisco to over 3,500 out of a population of about half a million. Nearby Oakland was similarly hit. Oakland also enacted an ordinance requiring masks, virulently opposed by the city’s tobacco store owners. One such owner designed a mask with a flap over the mouth, allowing smokers to enjoy their cigars, cigarettes, and pipes while remaining in compliance with the law.

5. The 1918 baseball season was shortened, though not because of the flu

Major League Baseball shortened its season in 1918 in response to the American war effort. The last game of the regular season was played on September 2, 1918. Teams played just over 120 games that year. When the season ended, the second wave of Spanish flu was underway on the East coast. The league champions, the Boston Red Sox of the American League and the National League’s Chicago Cubs, met in the World Series. Public health officials in both cities argued against playing the World Series due to the crowds gathering during the course of an epidemic, but baseball went ahead. Boston’s only concession to the flu came in an agreement to play in Fenway Park, rather than in the larger Braves Field, where they had played in the preceding World Series.

During the World Series a young Red Sox pitcher started two games, winning both, despite suffering from the flu at the time. He started in the outfield in the other four games. His name was George Herman Ruth. Throughout the games he lay down between innings, weakened by the fever and body aches symptomatic of the flu. Some of his teammates assumed Ruth was simply suffering from a bad hangover, a common problem of ballplayers of the day. But throughout the series, Ruth was notably absent between games, even spending time on the train to Chicago in his sleeper, rather than consorting with teammates. The Red Sox won the series four games to two. It was the only World Series in history played entirely in September. That winter, Ruth was sent to the Yankees.

4. Franklin Roosevelt contracted the flu while returning from France

Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration, and in that capacity went to Europe in 1918. His mission included the coordination of naval activities against the German U-boat threat, and arranging for convoying and port facilities used by US Navy ships. In September 1918 he returned to the United States aboard USS Leviathan. Upon arrival FDR was carried off the ship on a stretcher, having contracted the flu either in France or, what is more likely, aboard the ship. Leviathan’s crew had been exposed to and ravaged by the flu on several voyages. FDR returned to the United States deathly ill, and required several weeks convalescence at his family’s Hyde Park home before resuming his duties.

FDR’s illness and its severity are often overlooked, largely because of his being later stricken with polio, which left his legs paralyzed. His flu is often described as a mild illness, though he left Leviathan with double pneumonia, high fever, and debilitating weakness. His distant cousin, former President Teddy Roosevelt, who had encouraged him to go to Europe, wrote him during his convalescence. “We are deeply concerned about your sickness, and trust you will soon be well,” wrote the former President, adding that, “We are very proud of you.” Had FDR not survived the flu, which killed so many Americans who went to Europe in 1918, the remainder of the 20th century would have been very different indeed.

3. The flu’s second wave was its deadliest by far

The second wave of influenza in 1918 swept across Western Europe and the United States from September through the end of the year and into January. It was the deadliest of the three main waves of the pandemic. In Philadelphia, America’s hardest hit city, about 16,000 died after city leaders refused to cancel a parade scheduled to promote the sale of Liberty Bonds. Cincinnati closed schools and businesses, shut down streetcars, and ordered the wearing of masks. For a time it closed all restaurants, though it allowed saloons to remain open. At one point in November, believing the worst to have passed, the city reopened businesses and schools. Within days the death rate skyrocketed, forcing the city to shut down again. Over 1,700 Cincinnatians succumbed to the flu in the fall of 1918.

Sailors at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center brought the flu to Chicago. In September Chicago’s Health Commissioner announced the flu was under control. At the end of the month there were fewer than 300 cases reported in the city. By mid-October the city reported 1,200 new cases per day. Chicago shut down schools, businesses, banned public gatherings, closed parks, and requested for churches to curtail services. Chicago reported over 38,000 cases of influenza, and 13,000 cases of pneumonia attributed to the flu, before restrictions were lifted in mid-November. One restriction imposed, vigorously opposed by conservative newspapers and businesses, had been the banning of smoking on streetcars and elevated trains. The Chicago Tribune opposed the ban and referred to the Health Commissioner who imposed it as “his highness.”

2. Authorities in Philadelphia announced the flu was no worse than seasonal flu and held a parade to sell war bonds

In mid-September 1918, influenza was present in all the major Eastern cities of the United States, with Boston suffering the highest number of cases. Philadelphia had seen some cases of the flu, though health officials in the city regarded it lightly. The city’s Health Commissioner, Wilmer Krusen, a political appointee, ignored the pleas of doctors and public health experts to ban large public gatherings. Krusen announced the flu was no worse than any seasonal flu, despite the evidence presented by other cities. The Health Commissioner warned the people of Philadelphia to be careful, covering their faces when they coughed or sneezed, and allowed the city’s scheduled Liberty Bonds parade to take place on September 28, a patriotic spectacle attended by an estimated 200,000 people.

By the middle of November, over 12,000 Philadelphians had died of influenza. The city’s morgue, designed to hold 36 bodies, was obviously overwhelmed, and bodies were stored in the city wherever space was found. A streetcar manufacturing company was hired to build simple wooden boxes to serve as coffins. In the tenements, whole families were stricken and died, undiscovered for weeks. Only three days after the parade, every hospital bed in the city was filled. Over 500,000 cases of the highly contagious flu struck Philadelphia before the end of the year. The final death count was over 16,000. In contrast to Philadelphia, the city of Milwaukee, which imposed the most stringent social distancing laws in the nation, also saw the lowest death rate of any city in the United States.

1. One-third of the world’s population contracted the flu during the pandemic

The 1918-20 influenza pandemic, the worst of the 20th century, caused at least 50 million deaths, and probably as many as 100 million across the globe. In remote Tahiti, 10% of the population died. In British ruled India more than 13 million citizens died, with some estimates ranging up to 17 million. German Samoa lost 22% of its population. American Samoa imposed a blockade, and escaped the pandemic unscathed. Brazil’s 300,000 dead included its President, Rodrigues Alves. In the United States over a quarter of the population contracted the flu during one of its several waves. Official death counts usually cite 675,000 American deaths, though some estimates include deaths on Indian Reservations and in Alaskan communities, and elevate the count to 850,000.

Bacterial pneumonia, a complication brought on by the flu, served as the primary killer. When the flu returned for its third wave in the late winter and early spring of 1919, rates of death were comparatively low. Sporadic outbreaks continued in the fall of 1919 and the winter of 1919-20. As the 1920s began the pandemic faded from memory, and remained largely forgotten until the coronavirus pandemic restored it to public attention. All the weapons used to control the spread of coronavirus — distancing, closing of schools, banning large crowds and gatherings, shutting down businesses, and others — were deployed against the Spanish flu. History shows that those communities which deployed them most stringently, throughout the first and second waves, were most successful saving lives.


Flu Pandemic Song – The Flying Fish Sailors


Pandemic Overload 1918

WIF Medicine

We Are Running Low on More Than Patience – WIF Shortages

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Unexpected Things

the World is

Running Low On

We’re typically pretty terrible to our world. We tear through resources like a hungry kid devouring a bag of M&Ms. It’s bad enough when we do it knowingly, like with oil shortages that tend to – no pun intended – fuel wars. We’ve helped multiple animal species trudge ahead toward extinction, because that patch of forest would make a great place for a Cheesecake Factory, condors be damned.

But there are some resources that we take for granted, and keep using even when places around the world are running low on supplies. Things like…

10. Helium

helium

Helium makes our balloons float up, and can reduce even the mighty voice of Morgan Freeman to a ridiculous high-pitched squeak. We use this lighter-than air gas so indiscriminately that it’s hard to believe that the world is facing a helium shortage. The universe has a huge supply of Helium, but here on Earth the supply is quickly nearing its limits.

Helium is extracted from the ground, where it’s created from uranium and thorium decay. That’s right, the gas you just inhaled into your lungs because it’s funny is a byproduct of radioactive decay. The decay process of Uranium is incredibly slow – the Helium stockpile we’ve almost exhausted has taken the Earth’s entire lifespan to form.

The problem is so bad that two years ago, US Congress signed the snappily named “Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act.” This Act aims to keep the shortage of Helium in check so it can continue breaking new ground in medicine. What, did you think it’s only good for making your voice sound funny?

9. Coffee

coffee

Your morning cup o’ joe may soon cost even more than Starbucks rates thanks to droughts and diseases plaguing Brazillian and Central American coffee beans. The impending coffee shortage has been looming over our heads since last year, when Brazil experienced a season of extreme drought and Central America saw an outbreak of the devastating “leaf rust” disease.

Luckily, a surplus from previous years carried suppliers through the tough season, but the demand is still exceeding the supply and rising prices reflect that.

And things may only get worse. Areas that produce a huge chunk of your coffee are continuing to experience erratic rainfall and record high temperatures, and if the climate change continues at the same rate, anywhere between 70% and 99.7% of our Arabica coffee – that’s the “good” stuff – might be gone by 2080. Less popular beans aren’t in quite as much danger, but they’re affected too. Better stock up now.

8. Chocolate

chocolate

Another beloved every-day treat that’s experiencing ups and downs is chocolate, and you can chalk this one up to climate change as well. In 2014, global cocoa harvests plummeted thanks to dry spells and an assortment of diseases and pests that wipe out an annual average of 30-40% of the world’s cocoa production.

The thing is, even as the world’s chocolate supply dries up the demand is huge and still rising. Chocolate isn’t just a sweet treat that makes you fat, it’s also now thought to have health benefits, like strengthening your heart. This is especially true for dark chocolate, which needs the most cocoa to make.

For now, this doesn’t mean we’re running out of chocolate, but the shortages are leading to increased chocolate prices from major chocolate companies like Hershey. That means that one day in the future, chocolate might be an expensive luxury, so you’d better savor every bit of that dark chocolate bar you bought because you’re crossing your fingers it’s legitimately “healthy.”

7. Medicine

medicine

While the previous shortages were caused by lack of resources, the shortages of medicine can be blamed instead on human nature. The global pharmaceutical industry is worth over $300 billion, a third of which is owned by just 10 giant companies who drive prices up, and smaller companies out of business. A disconnected industry means lack of communication among manufacturers, pharmacists, and physicians. As a result, medicine is in short supply all over the world. The problem got so bad in Venezuela that the government has introduced a fingerprinting requirement at pharmacies to essentially ration out medicine.

In the US, antibiotics are feeling the brunt of the shortage, which spells trouble for anyone who needs these medicines to treat pathogens resistant to other treatments. Between 2001 and 2013, 148 different kinds of antibiotics experienced shortages. The FDA is doing its best “within its legal authority” to keep doctors informed so you don’t get a prescription for something that, say, no longer exists.

The US is also taking a hint from Canada by imposing mandatory reporting of shortages by pharmaceuticals. This won’t stop the shortages, but it will at least alert doctors and prompt them to offer alternate treatments.

6. Lethal Injection Drugs

lethalinjection

Texas isn’t shy about using the death penalty, putting 524 inmates to death since 1976, so it’s almost kind of poetic that the state is running out of the lethal injection drug. As of this spring, Texas only had enough penobarbital for two more executions, and was scrambling to get more for the four scheduled deaths in April.

The problem isn’t with the drug, but with the pharmarcists: one by one, leading pharmacists like Akron and Roche, and pharmacist associations like the IACP and APhA are adopting policies to stop providing lethal injection drugs.

Texas isn’t the only state affected by the issue, and without a steady supply, states are being forced to get more creative in their method of execution. Utah is bringing back the firing squad, while Oklahoma is turning to Nitrogen gas as an alternative. Meanwhile, Nebraska is going down the route the pharmaceuticals were probably hoping for, and considering completely eliminating the death penalty.

5. Blood

blood

Up until the 1990s, the Chinese blood market was thriving and largely unregulated. Without the government’s intervention, donating blood meant subjecting yourself to poor bloodletting practices, often performed without clean needles. Thanks to this, China was facing a potential HIV epidemic.

With over 800,000 Chinese testing positive for HIV by 1997, the government finally intervened and cracked down on the sale of blood. The new regulations put down stricter policies for donating blood, and outlawed the sale of blood altogether. But the new rules also led to a different kind of problem: a blood shortage so bad it’s been dramatically labeled a “blood famine.”

To encourage people to donate blood instead of selling it illegally, many hospitals now require patients (or their friends or relatives) to have donated blood in the past. On the flip side, Chinese law limits blood donations to twice a year, and only if you’re even eligible to do so. This means that if you’re in need of blood transfusions but aren’t eligible to donate blood, you’re in trouble. The policy has led to the rise of a blood black market. Called “blood heads,” some people donate blood then offer the proof of donation to those who need it – for a price, of course.

4. Doctors / Surgeons

doctors

The United States is experiencing a doctor shortage, and you may already be feeling it if you live in the more rural areas of the US. A report written by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that by 2025 the US will be short 50,000 to 90,000 physicians.

If you think you can rely on WebMD self-diagnosis, you’d better be ready to operate on yourself, too, because the shortage covers just about every kind of doctor from your family physician or dentist, to surgeons and oncologists.

The shortage is being caused by a number of factors, including a growing population, and increasing rates of certain health problems like cancer. Training future doctors is also a problem due to a congressional cap on residency programs – although the government is working on increasing the number of residency slots by 15,000 over the next five years.

3. Bricks

bricks

About five years ago as the world was facing an economic crisis, the United Kingdom housing market collapsed. This lead to a huge surplus of unsold bricks – about 1.2 billion, to be exact – and the eventual shutting down of brick factories across the country. To put it simply: the UK is running low on bricks.

British builders currently have to delay productions by nearly four months as they wait to get their hands on the kiln-fired clay bricks that they need to build new houses. Some have turned to imported bricks, which is only exacerbating the housing problem by adding cost and delays to production.

This shortage comes at a time when the British government has promised to build over 500,000 new homes per year in an effort to bring down sky-rocketing house prices. It’s proving difficult to build houses without house-building materials, and as a couple little pigs taught us, straw and sticks just won’t do the trick.

2. Water

water

How can we be running out of something that covers over 71% of the earth? When you consider that 96% of the earth’s water is of the salt variety, it’s not too surprising that we’re drowning in water but still have nothing to drink. As you’ve probably figured out from the chocolate and coffee shortage, dry spells are also getting increasingly common – drying up the tiny percentage of freshwater supply we have. Just take a look at what’s happening in California right now.

And the Golden State isn’t alone. According to the Government Accountability Office, even if we have “average” conditions in the next decade practically every state in the US will experience local, regional, or even statewide water shortages.

This isn’t a problem limited to the US, either. The UN says that water shortages are already affecting every single continent, and nearly 1.2 billion people around the world don’t have access to water. Another 1.6 billion – that’s a quarter of the world’s population – live in places too poor to afford water supply systems. By 2025, about two thirds of the world may be living with little to no water.

1. High Quality Bourbon

bourbon

If the last entry made you want to reach for some good old bourbon, you’re out of luck.

Straight Bourbon takes about two to four years to mature. Good bourbon takes closer to 20. That involves a whole lot of foresight on behalf of distilleries, and unfortunately, 20 years ago bourbon just wasn’t very popular. According to the president of the Kentucky Distillers Association, “In the ’70s and ’80s bourbon was your father’s drink, or worse, your grandfather’s drink.” Fearing a shortage, most of the best bourbon was bought up by people who could afford it, ironically causing that shortage.

Suddenly in recent years, bourbon became cool to drink again, thanks at least in part to shows like Mad Men. Demand for whiskey and bourbon has increased almost 70% in the last decade, making the best of the spirit pretty scarce.

Don’t worry though – you can still get plenty of the younger, cheaper stuff, and distilleries are constantly coming up with ways to speed up the process from years to days. But if you want the really good stuff, you’d better have deep pockets, or maybe a time machine.


Running Low on More Than Patience

WIF Shortages

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 41

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 41

…A sole window allows Afridi to peer into the Turkish night. His wrist-digital device flashes 12:00, leaving him with at least five more hours to fret.

turkish-nights-001

Turkey Night Wallpaper (Istanbul) by alisarikaya

And so it is that the Afridi’s are a family unit again, after a harrowing month on the run. At least they have each other, away from evil powers bent on jealous destruction.

Even still, Aldona Afridi will not rest easy.

Back with his three dear ones, he continues his tirade in the form of a letter. He struggles to find the words camel-to-water-001that will open up the correct ears & eyes. If only they would come to their senses.

Points be made or not, Afridi decides to let it go, roll with the flow, having done everything in his power to express his concerns about Space Colony 1. He recites a Talibanistani Proverb: ‘You can lead a camel to water— but he won’t stop drinking.’ It has little to do with his quandary, but he does thirst for swift resolution.

Now would be a convenient time to rest his weary soul, post-New Orient Express excursion aside, he finds a deep sleep elusive. In its stead, he is content holding his bride close. His mind strays to several options and back, unable to resolve a single one of them.

Image result for flashing 12:00 clock gifSo he retracts is arm, as not wake anyone and he inches off the bed. A sole window allows him to peer into the Turkish night. His wrist-digital device flashes 12:00, leaving him with at least five more hours to fret.

After watching a steady stream of headlights at this early hour, wondering who may be out this late/early, two very long speeding black cars come to a halt outside the mosques gates. His initial reaction is one of relief, anticipating the arrival of those in authority; the Ambassador and the CIA are ahead of schedule!

He fumbles in the dark to find the clothes given him by those nice folks that allowed him to get this far. He efforts not to disturb the others, running a comb through his untidy black hair to look as professional as possible.

The intent of the visitors at the gate seems curious though. If they have peaceful plans, their actions are quite hasty.

An explosion, of sufficient intensity to bring down the perimeter fencing of the Muslim place of prayer, lays waste to anything within 30 yards.

Before the smoke can clear, six armed men sprint to the buildings many steps. Afridi warns his family, “They must be after me…….get dressed quickly, children please be quiet as a mouse! They must believe this room is empty. He ushers one and all into a hidden nook, behind a false curtain.

Sure enough, those cars did not carry peaceful men of diplomacy. Automatic weapons spray the room without respect to its occupants or their business. Once determined empty, it is on to the next and the next.

6 pairs of feet scamper across the marble floors, then up the granite stairs.

With the trouble heading to the floor above, Afridi leaps into action, “We are leaving this mosque, Allah be damned! Those men will not leave until they have found me.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 41


page 39

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 40

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 40

…“Have you not run into any Talibanistani agents hot on my trail, as The Lone Ranger would say?”…

Hot on the trail

“It may appear unbelievable on the surface, but I swear I need to speak with Director Crippen. He will distinguish of what I speak.” Afridi insists.

“How do you know Roy Crippen?”

“I do not know him, but a long time ago I petitioned my government to work on the Mars colony. Like any other dedicated scientist in the world, I wanted to join the paramount project man has ever undertaken.”

“Talibanistan was given every opportunity to join with the free-world, but they chose to belittle and criticize the waste; the ‘there are still starving tribesmen’ in the world argument.”

Afridi hangs his head low in disgust and disdain.

“You must understand our hesitance in chasing after your wild accusations. A killer satellite launched from a camel’s back? For all we know, you just needed a good excuse to request asylum. We cannot take in everyone who claims to be oppressed.”

“Have you not run into any Talibanistani agents hot on my trail, as The Lone Ranger would say?”

“Oh, we know you have stirred up a hornet’s nest alright.”

“Then get my message to Roy Crippen, or better yet let me talk the science of my claims, to support my story in person.”

“Maybe in 5, 6 hours, we’ll see.” Elliot Deming turns to walk away from the Image result for if and buts were candy and nutsissue. He regrets not having the authority…..if ifs & buts were candy & nuts.

“Wait Mr. Deming sir, I ask but one thing, that I am able to stay with my family, they have been through much.”

“I see no harm in that,” concedes the Consul General. “Move Mister Afridi into his family’s quarters, Sargent.”

“But that is up on the ground floor sir, not as secure.”

“It may be academic in a few hours; do as I say!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 40


page 38

Did You Hear About the…? – WIF Urban Legend

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Strange – World

As a species, human beings share a love of stories. Some are based on real events. Others are pure fiction, and in some cases the line between the two can be blurred or uncertain.

Urban legends tend to fall into the latter category, but they can be found in some form in every culture and society.

These are 10 examples of some of the stranger urban legends to be found.

10. Killer Electric Fans

South Korea is amongst the most scientifically advanced nations on the planet. Despite this it’s also home to a peculiar modern day urban legend that has little or no scientific support.

Some South Koreans believe that leaving an electric fan switched on overnight can be fatal. It’s not entirely inconceivable that an electric fan might on very rare occasions malfunction and catch fire, but this isn’t what believers are worried about. The fear is that anybody who goes to sleep in a closed room with an electric fan running might never wake up.

While this particular urban legend is almost entirely unique to South Korea, and while there’s very little evidence to back it up, it’s none the less prevalent enough that even major fan manufacturers issue warnings not to leave fans pointed at people overnight.

It seems that the roots of this particular urban legend can be traced back to 1927, when an article was published warning that electric fans circulating stale air could lead to nausea or even suffocation.

9. The Zambezi River God

In 1955 an Italian construction firm began work on the Kariba Dam on Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River. It would produce huge amounts of hydroelectric power, but at the cost of forcing thousands of locals from their homes and their land.

Some warned that the Zambezi River God would be angered into unleashing floods and dire retribution. This serpent-like creature known as Nyaminyami is said to inhabit Lake Kariba and act as protector of the Tongan people.

The Kariba Dam engineers weren’t concerned. The giant structure’s defenses were designed to withstand anything up to a once-in-a-thousand-year flood.

Despite their confidence, in 1957 the dam was hit by that thousand-year storm. Damage was extensive and several Italian construction workers were killed. Construction was delayed by several months until work could begin again.

In defiance of all their calculations a second even larger flood followed just one year later. Several more workers were killed, their bodies falling into the dam’s still-setting cement from where they could not be recovered.

Construction of the dam was finally completed, but not before 82 construction workers had lost their lives. Some believe the completed dam has cut the Zambezi River God off from his wife, and that even to this day he is working to destroy it.

If so then he seems to be making progress. Engineers warn that the Kariba Dam is now in dire need of extensive repairs and at risk of collapsing entirely, with catastrophic consequences.

8. Spring-Heeled Jack

With a population in excess of two million people, 1830s London was the most populous city in the world. It was a global hub of science, invention, and innovation, and in 1829 it introduced the first professional police force anywhere in the world.

Despite all this London was a city in the grip of fear. A mysterious figure was attacking young women across the city, and the police seemed powerless to apprehend him.

It wasn’t even clear if the menace was human. Eyewitnesses reported him as having a demonic appearance, the ability to spit flames, and even leap huge distances in one bound. He came to be known as Spring-heeled Jack.

Mass hysteria presumably played a part, but fear of Spring-heeled Jack was very real. The newspapers, who knew a juicy story when they saw it, were only too happy to run articles on this shadowy character.

In 1838 a man named Thomas Millbank, somewhat worse for wear in a London tavern, boasted that he was none other than the mysterious Spring-heeled Jack. He was promptly arrested for the attack on a victim named Jane Alsop. However, he soon had to be released. Jane Alsop remained adamant that her assailant had breathed flames. If Millbank had indeed been able to manifest this ability, he stubbornly refused to do so.

Whether there ever was a single real person behind the legend of Spring-heeled Jack is difficult to say for sure, but the legend lives on and occasional sightings continue to be reported even to this day.

7. The Black Bird of Chernobyl

The mere mention of Chernobyl is enough to conjure up feelings of unease. The name is inextricably linked to the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen, and it’s seared into our collective consciousness as something dark and terrifying.

Most people know the story well enough. A nuclear reactor in the Soviet power plant melted down, and only good fortune and heroism prevented a far greater disaster that would have rendered much of Europe uninhabitable.

The supernatural aspect of the story is less well known. Thousands of people were evacuated after the meltdown, but many still speak of a horrifying apparition that appeared as a harbinger of disaster.

In the weeks leading up to the catastrophe they claim to have seen a terrifying humanoid creature with huge wings, and eyes that glowed like hot coal. This airborne apparition came to be known as the Black Bird of Chernobyl.

Whether this was an urban legend created after the disaster or whether it has some basis in reality is impossible to say for certain.

6. The Deadly Drop Bear

Australia is home to some of the deadliest animals in the world. If the snakes, spiders, jellyfish, and the lethal blue-ringed octopus weren’t enough, there’s also the drop bear.

The creature is said to be a relative of the koala, but considerably less appealing. Roughly the size of a leopard or a large dog, drop bears are ambush predators.

They live in the forests where they hide in the canopy waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass beneath. Dropping from the trees they use their powerful arms and venomous bite to subdue their prey, and sometimes even attack humans.

In reality the drop bear is an urban legend created to scare and amuse tourists, and occasionally play pranks on unsuspecting journalists. Curiously enough, however, during the last Ice Age Australia was home to a carnivorous marsupial that lived and hunted from the trees, similar to the mythical drop bear.

5. Bodies in Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney is one of the world’s most famous cities, and it seems to be Australia’s hot spot for urban legends. If they are all to be believed then there is a secret network of tunnels beneath the streets, a hidden lake populated by giant albino eels, escaped big cats on the loose, and even a prehistoric river monster.

Other urban legends are linked to Sydney’s architecture, such as Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The bridge opened in 1932 and became famous across the world. However, its construction came at a cost in human lives. The official figures state that sixteen people were killed in falls, construction accidents, and in one case from tetanus after suffering a crushed thumb.

Local legend has it that this is not the full tally of fatal accidents. Several workers are rumored to have fallen into the structure as it was being built. Since these dead bodies would be bad for publicity, not to mention difficult and expensive to retrieve, their grisly demise may have been covered up.

4. The Wendigo

In November 2019, Gino Meekis was hunting grouse in the forests of northwest Ontario. Whilst there he heard a wailing noise unlike anything he’d encountered in more than twelve years of hunting.

Gino was sufficiently unnerved to pull out his phone and take a recording, and that subsequently sparked an online debate as to what exactly was responsible for the eerie noise.

One suggestion was a grizzly bear, but that species had never been sighted in the region. Others speculated it may have been a wendigo.

Bumping into a grizzly in the forests is dangerous, but it would be vastly favorable to an encounter with this terrifying supernatural beast.

The Wendigo of legend is said to be fifteen feet tall with a stinking, rotting, emaciated body. Its lips are tattered and bloody, and it’s haunted by a constant hunger for human flesh. The beast is constantly hunting for victims, but no matter how much it eats it can never satisfy the craving.

This monstrous creature has made its way into modern medical parlance. The thankfully rare psychological condition of Wendigo Syndrome is characterized by a desire to consume human flesh.

3. The Rock Star’s Parakeets

There are plenty of urban legends surrounding animals or beasts whose existence is questionable at best.

This one is slightly different as it concerns tens of thousands of parakeets that have made their home in London’s parks.

The parakeets definitely exist, but they equally definitely aren’t indigenous to Britain, and nobody is entirely sure where they came from.

One popular suggestion is that Jimi Hendrix is responsible. He’s said to have released two of the birds, Adam and Eve, into the skies of London whilst stoned in 1968. The multitude of parrots now resident in England are said to be descendants of this first pair.

The idea has even been investigated by researchers at Queen Mary University. Unfortunately, whilst it’s possible that Hendrix may have added to the parakeet population, they concluded the birds are too widespread to all be descended from a single pair.

2. Aka Manto

The yokai are a group of supernatural beings and monsters that populate Japanese folklore. Varied in their appearance and temperament, some are benevolent, others are cruel, and one has an unusual predilection for women’s bathrooms.

Descriptions of Aka Manto’s appearance varies, but he is always depicted as wearing a mask and a red cape. The supernatural being is said to periodically appear in public or school toilets offering the occupier a choice between red and blue toilet paper.

Neither of these is a good option. Choosing the blue paper results in being strangled to death, but opting for the red paper is no better and leads to death by laceration.

Aka Manto is also wise to anyone who might try to trick their way past him by requesting different colored toilet paper to the ones he offered. Their fate is to be dragged off to the underworld and never seen again.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Politely declining Aka Manto’s offer of toilet paper will cause him to leave in search of another potential victim.

The legend of Aka Manto can be traced back to at least the 1930s, and he’s said to be still haunting public toilets to this day.

1. NASA’s Billion Dollar Pen

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first ever satellite into space. It didn’t do anything other than whizz around the planet emitting regular beeps, but it was sufficient to spark a hugely expensive space race with the United States of America.

America would claim victory by landing men on the moon in 1969, but there were a huge number of challenges to overcome before that point could be reached.

Even something as simple as writing proved to be problematic in space. It turned out that regular pens just didn’t work in zero gravity.

The American response was to begin a lengthy research project and sink billions of dollars into a solution. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union took a cheaper but far more straightforward approach and used pencils instead.

Many people are aware of this story, but it’s not actually true. It’s an example of a particularly successful urban myth, one that’s now so firmly embedded in our collective psyche it’s unlikely to ever go away.

The reality is that the American space program, just like the Soviet one, initially switched to using pencils. When a pen was developed that could be used in space, it was designed independently of the U.S. Government or military by an inventor named Paul C. Fisher.

NASA approved them for use in space and purchased a grand total of 400 of them at the modest price of $2.95 each. The Soviet space agency bought some too.


Did You Hear About the…?

WIF Urban Legends

Far-flung Farcical Fallacies – WIF Superstitions

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 Strangest Superstitions

From Around

the World

superstition is essentially anything you believe with no actual good reason to believe it. It is the opposite of science and logic and, in fact, science and logic will tear it apart. So you ignore the science and logic because maybe one day you wore blue socks and got a raise at work, so now you believe wholeheartedly that your blue socks are lucky and make you money.

Historically, whole cultures have come to adopt some of these superstitions as legit beliefs and fears based on coincidence, anecdotal evidence and maybe just a fervent hope that the world has some more mystery in it than we can see. Here are some of the weirdest of the bunch.

10. Opposing Mirrors Welcome the Devil

Having a mirror facing another mirror is a cool effect and the reason the hall of mirrors in a funhouse is in a place called a “funhouse” to begin with. It messes with your head, creates an endless hallway of fun, and also provides an effect used in far too many horror and action movies to even begin to count.

But apparently none of those were filmed in Mexico because you do not want to have one mirror face another mirror there. According to Mexican superstition, when a mirror faces another mirror you’re inviting the devil in by creating a threshold of doorway for him to enter your world. Maybe all of those horror movies with mirrors in them were on to something after all.

9. Filipino Pagpag

Pagpag is a fun word if you don’t know what it means, but in practice it’s a little grim. From a Filipino superstition relating to funerals, pagpag is what you might call the safety procedure you need to engage in before going home after a funeral or wake. Once you’ve left the somber affair, you go to a restaurant or a mall or wherever. Anywhere but home. You don’t even need to do anything at this place, you just need to be there.

Why? The bad energy and negative spirits you picked up at the funeral will follow you to the mall instead of your house. Does that mean that Filipino malls are all haunted? We can only assume.

8. Don’t Whistle Indoors in Lithuania

Whistling is a good way to call your dog or pass the time if you and your six dwarf buddies are in the mines pulling out gems. It is not, however, anything you want to do when you visit Lithuania, at least not in anyone’s house. Etiquette in Lithuania is fairly conservative and even making eye contact with strangers is the sort of thing that is frowned upon, to give you an idea of how things go there.

But kicking it up a notch is the belief that whistling indoors will not only summon your dog, it will attract the attention of little devils as well. That’s not a metaphor or a euphemism, either. It’s just the genuine belief that demons of small stature might invade your home after being beckoned with a simple whistle.

7. Never Toast with Water

Everyone likes a good toast at a wedding or some dinner party that takes place in the middle of a movie, but there is some etiquette regarding how to best pull this tradition off. For instance, you better be making your toast with anything but water lest the Ancient Greeks start spinning in their graves.

According to superstition, the dead would drink from the River Lethe in Hades and that water would wash away all their ties to the mortal world. Drinking a toast with water in the living world was therefore akin to cursing someone to death or, at the very least, cursing yourself to it. How that was different from just having anon-toasted drink of water was probably up for debate, but typically a toast is meant as some kind of a blessing, so it would be a backhanded curse to use the beverage of the damned for it.

6. Upside Down Bread Invites Death

Have you ever heard that toast will always fall butter-side down? It’s not a superstition, just an unfortunate and sometimes true observation that can ruin your breakfast. But if we were in France that toast would potentially be some seriously bad luck because how you situate your bread holds some extra meaning there. Bread or baguettes left upside are believed to invite death.

Why’s that? Well, some folks think it comes from executioners having the right to snag something for free from a shop if they grabbed it with one hand, and bakers leaving loaves upside for them so other shoppers would know not to take it. Nowadays, if you leave a loaf upside down, you’re inviting death to come and take from you and who wants that?

5. Lucky Poop

You’ve probably never felt entirely lucky to step in dog poop if it’s ever happened to you but maybe you should have. Word is the French have divided stepping in dog poop into two separate scenarios that you can experience based on a very weird superstition. If you happen to land your right foot into some dog plop you’re doomed to a life of dismal awfulness. However, if your left foot hits the pile well, then call your friends and family because good luck is a-comin’!

Russia is the source of a similar superstition you may have heard about birds. In this one, it’s considered good luck if a bird poops on your or something you own. Why would that be lucky? Well, the odds of getting hit by bird pop seem to be slim so by some definitions of the word lucky, you really are lucky if you get pooped on by a bird. An alternate theory is that it’s incredibly unlucky to get pooped on or to step on it and these superstitions are at least a small way to try to ameliorate the grossness by suggesting something good will come from it.

4. Outdoor Knitting Prolongs the Winter

In North America we all routinely engage in the very odd yet annual superstition that a groundhog has the ability to determine whether or not winter’s going to last an additional six weeks or not. Why? No one bothers to ask anymore but it stems from an old Pennsylvania Dutch belief that the groundhog seeing its shadow would lead to prolonged winter, itself borrowed from a similar German belief about badgers which in turn may have come from the belief that clear weather on Candelmas means an extended winter.

Regardless of why we believe what we believe about meteorological rodents,  it spawned a really entertaining Bill Murray movie so we go with it. And that’s not the only superstition about winter overstaying its welcome in the world by a long shot. According to an Icelandic superstition, if you decide to sit on your doorstep and do some knitting in the winter, you’ve just prolonged that terrible season. Hopefully the afghan you made was extra warm.

3. Yo-Yos Lead to Droughts

Most superstitions have an aspect of history to them, they’re ancient and relics of a bygone era. You can almost understand them insofar as they’re so old you can’t blame the worlds that created them because they didn’t know the science that explained so much of the world. If people thought black cats were unlucky then oh well, so be it. But what about a superstition about yo-yos? How do you account for that? According to a 1933 article, Syria outlawed yo-yos because there was a severe drought at the time killing cattle and crops. And while everyone was praying for rain to fall from the heavens and save the day, the yo-yos of the world were going down just like rain, but then being all deceitful as they flew right back up again. The leaders at the time decided this evil influence was to blame and yo-yos were banished. Police were even told to confiscate them on site.

The Onion didn’t exist in 1933 and the paper, the Barrier Miner from New South Wales in Australia, seemed like it was on the up and up. So while the story is absurd, is it any more absurd than thinking a broken mirror brings 7 years of bad luck?

2. The Hairy Goat Curse

If you’re of the carnivorous persuasion and have never eaten goat you should really give it a try, it’s quite tasty. That said, this was not something you could have recommended to women of the past in Rwanda thanks to an insidious superstition there about goat meat. According to the story, back in the day it was very taboo for a woman to dare eat the meat of a goat for fear she might take on that most unladylike of goaty characteristics, a full on beard. They’d also take on the goat’s habit of being stubborn. So a beard and a bad attitude which, you can imagine, no woman would ever want.

Where does this belief come from? This may be nothing more than speculation but, with women unable to eat the meat, it meant that only men were enjoying it. And that does seem like a good way to be greedy and hoard all the delicious goat for yourself if you can convince everyone else it’ll cause them to grow beards.

1. Never Speak the Name of Carlos Menem

Have you ever heard of Carlos Menem? From 1989 to 1999, Menem was the President of Argentina and his legacy is a nearly Hitchcockian level of menace and bad luck. People will refuse to even say the man’s name for fear it may bring about another round of misfortune as though he were the Candyman or Voldemort.

Argentina endured an economic crisis in 2001 for which Menem, though he had been out of office for two years, is often blamed. But that’s at least a “normal” explanation for why people might dislike Menem. His legacy goes far beyond poor financial planning.

When Menem became President, two of his appointed ministers died early deaths. Had Menem cursed them? Well, apparently. And he was just getting warmed up.

In 1990, Menem patted a soccer player’s knee. He later broke that knee. Menem jinxed tennis players, race car drivers, famous dancers and singers, and even a boat racer who shook Menem’s hand and then lost his damn arm in a boat crash.  Some people even blamed him for an earthquake. And it wasn’t just others. Menem cursed himself, suffering a failed marriage and the untimely death of his own son. No one seemed safe from the man.

Thanks to the never ending stream of nightmarish coincidences and misfortune Menem became the embodiment of all that is unwanted and sinister in life. To invoke his name was to ask for bad times. So people don’t do it.


Far-flung Farcical Fallacies

WIF Superstitions

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

…Why yes, Shaikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha

talibanistan-001

Meanwhile… that very same day, somewhere in Talibanistan, the geographical territory once occupied by: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and all the other “-stans

Sang-Ashi

“Tell us Afridi, are we sure that our Sang-Ashi Probe got through America’s Henchman Satellite Killer Network. Our source at their Pentagon tells us that that it was on high alert 7 months ago.”

Image result for mitAldona Afridi, MIT educated, has a particular set of talents where long-range satellites are concerned.

Why yes, Sheikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our United Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha.”

The Sheikh is as intimidating as he looks; lavishly robed, weathered by years of mountain life and

a radical Muslim to his very core. He has a calculating glint in his eye.

The Talibanistani’s foremost expert in laser technology squirms uneasily in a normally comfortable seat, but then again an armored limousine rarely is used to hold a sensitive meeting of such world-changing magnitude. Neither is Afridi at home with himself, having invested his design talents to construct an infamous weapon. He is also collaborating with the famously treacherous Koreans, which does nothing to soothe his restless conscience.

“Our alliance with Korea is essential to the success of our goal,” the Sheikh reminds the man, an arm’s length away.

“Our satellite is safe and ready to take out the spy satellite that has been making our alliance so miserable.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Hotbed for Mischief

Episode 11


page 11