THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 80

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Please note that I wrote this book  in the mid-1980’s (before updating it). 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 80

…Sam proclaims, “H20___ out-of-the-faucet ___ shower-taking ___ sprinkle-on-your-garden ___ garden-variety ___ drink-it-down ___ WATER!!!!

water-digital-artwork

Water Nuclear Bomb by Dimitar Krstevski

The Space Family McKinney continues to explore the “NEWFOUNDLANDER”.

In one such alleged crewman quarters, Sampson, going on the assumption that no harm could come out of testing switches or push-buttons in the privacy of one’s own room, decides to do just that. There is a lighted checkerboard panel on a wall, right next where one would sit and well — not work, so this would be the time to experiment.

He chooses two such buttons to push, one colored black-hole-blue, and the other galaxy-green. Seconds later, there happens a fanciful flickering light in combination with a whimsical whoosh; a small opening opens to reveal a sippy cup type container filled with some sort of liquid.

Celeste watches her husband’s foray into technical tryouts, shrugging as he removes the vessel from the alien cube, “It’s your hand dear.” The opening closes as soon as the sippy and its clear fluid is removed.

Evidently the liquid is meant to be consumed, yet this is no time to be reckless even though thirst and hunger are high on the list in the unenviable sport of survival. So instead of two gulps and hope for the best, Sam uses the same versatile sampling device he used to analyze the air, in order to break down the elemental composition of the benign smelling liquid.

When the handheld monitor turns green he proclaims, “H20___ out-of-the-faucet ___ shower-taking ___ sprinkle-on-your-garden ___ garden-variety ___ drink-it-down ___ WATER!!!!”

“What do they add to it to make it smell so inviting; there must be more to it,” armed with the crave-driven sagacity of a pregnant lady.

“Purified water, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride and a negligible amount of sodium minerals,” he specifies. “The nutrition label reads: CRISP, FRESH TASTE, FILTERED THROUGH a STATE-OF-THE-ART PURIFICATION SYSTEM AND ENHANCED WITH MINERALS FOR a PURE, FRESH TASTE THAT CAN’T BE BEAT.”

“You made that up, you can’t read gobbledigook{Newfoundlian}.”

gobbledigook{bottoms up you chicken},,” translates to bottoms up. He lifts the liquescence to his tentative lips? bravely?, partaking in the alien brew. It is on the warm side, though the container remains at the ambient room temperature of 820 F, as long as it doesn’t burn on the way down.

gobbledigook{Try some} {try some},” he submits it to Celeste for her assessment.

“Not bad, but lay off speaking in gobbledigook {Newfoundlian} . I can’t read your lips.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 80


page 75

Your Employment Source (If You Dare) – WIF Job Board

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Now Hiring –

Dangerous Jobs

Some jobs leap to mind as dangerous, including police officer, firefighter, or in current times, front-line healthcare worker. They certainly all present their dangers to those who practice such professions. But none of them qualified for this list, comprised from statistics collected from 2019 and 2018. Some of them are surprising, while others have long been considered dangerous, at least by those who do not work in the field. Photos of iron workers high above the Earth building the skyscrapers of New York during the Depression are frightening to those with a healthy respect for heights. Other photos exist of the same workers sitting nonchalantly on a girder dozens of stories high, eating their lunch, without a safety line to be seen.

Railroads were once among the most dangerous areas to work in the world, though improvements in equipment and safety regulations changed that in the mid-to-late 20th century. Likewise, most factory jobs are much safer than they once were, with some of the most dangerous jobs replaced by automation. Knowledge of workplace safety has improved and procedures to ensure safe working conditions have reduced the risk of death on the job due to accidents. But there are still dangers inherent in the workplace, and statistically some jobs are much more dangerous than others. Here are 10 dangerous jobs in the world:

10. Bull Riders

Bull riding is one of the most popular rodeo events, as well as the most dangerous. In the United States the job is often touted as “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” The phrase comes from the requirement that the rider remain atop the bull, with only one hand gripping the rope tied behind the bull’s forelegs, for that period. If the free hand makes contact with the animal the rider receives no score, even if the ride lasted the full eight seconds (in the United States). Bull riding is popular in the US, Canada, Australia, across South America, in the Philippines and Japan, and in much of Western Europe.

Top bull riders make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, competing in sanctioned events around the world, but at significant risk of injury of various degrees of seriousness. Riders are killed every year, sometimes from being stomped, kicked, or gored, and even a successful ride can cause injuries to the brain through concussion. It is the most dangerous of all rodeo sports, and one of the most dangerous of all sports, though fatalities in the United States are less frequent than in other jurisdictions. Australia showed a steady increase in annual injuries in a study which covered six consecutive seasons during the last decade, even as the sport gained popularity.

9. Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers

Commercial aviation is one of the safest ways to travel, according to statistics measuring passenger injury and fatalities. The industry frequently boasts of its safety record, with good reason. After all, touting passenger comfort and the entire airport experience nowadays isn’t too convincing to prospective customers. Still, passengers, pilots and flight engineers on commercial carriers are among the safest within the aviation industry. But pilots of air taxis, small air shuttles, and private aviators, are among the most dangerous professions.

In statistics compiled by the US Bureau of Labor in 2019, pilots and flight engineers had a fatal injury rate while on the job which exceeded 10 times the rate for all workers (3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers). In all, 75 aircraft pilots or navigators were killed during the preceding year, making it one of the most dangerous jobs for those involved. Small plane accidents included stunt pilots and air show incidents which led to fatalities among participating pilots. The rate of fatal accidents among small aircraft is closer to that of traffic accidents than to commercial aviation.

8. Structural Iron and Steel Workers

The photos of iron and steel workers erecting the Empire State Building in New York, or the Golden Gate Bridge in California, are unnerving to those who have a fear of heights. Workers ran the lengths of beams, wearing coveralls, some in hard hats and some not, eschewing safety lines and nets. Workplace safety rules changed all that, and a considerable number of safety appliances and procedures came into use, but the profession remains a highly dangerous one across the world. In the United States it was the sixth most dangerous in 2018, with just over 25 deaths per 100,000.

The danger comes from collapses of partially completed construction (or deconstruction), electrical lines and cables, and swinging steel beams and other components. But it is height which presents the greatest danger, with most fatalities occurring as a result of falls. Other injuries include burns from hot metals, broken bones, and muscle injuries. During the construction of the Empire State Building in New York, five fatalities occurred among the over 3,400 workers involved in the project. In the 1970s, construction of the World Trade Center led to 60 deaths among the workers. New York’s One World Trade Center saw only two reported fatalities during construction, but dozens of accidents in which workers were permanently disabled.

7. Deep-sea Commercial Fishers

It’s probably unsurprising the leading cause of death among commercial fishers is drowning, but there are numerous other dangers lurking within the profession. At sea, without medical assistance or emergency care much beyond a medical kit, injuries are common and often poorly treated. Slips and falls, caused by the motion of the vessel, often lead to serious injury, including broken bones, crushed fingers, and sprains.

Tangled lines trip busy crewmen leading to falls, items swinging overhead make contact with human skulls, and there is the constant threat of cuts. Fishing may be a relaxing pastime for those anglers who enjoy it on summer weekends, but it is a dangerous means of employment on the open sea, as it always has been. The number of work-related fatalities among commercial fishers is well over ten times the rate for all professions.

6. Veterinarians

The dangers posed to veterinarians as they go about their work include, obviously, animal bites and mauling. While the vet who cares for the family cat and dog might seem to have a safe job, the fact is many veterinarians, especially those working in rural areas and those with zoos are in a dangerous profession. The danger isn’t solely from the animals under their care either, at least according to a study in Australia completed in 2018. There it was determined that veterinarians are often a threat to themselves.

The Australian study found the mental stress among veterinarians led to their being four times more likely to attempt or commit suicide. The sources of the mental stress are many and the relationship between depression and the euthanasia performed by vets was considered as being a contributing factor in the increased suicide rate. The Australian study determined that vets experienced negative emotions at work at a rate which exceeded the general population, and suffered from high anxiety, depression, and chronic levels of stress. They also suffered from a sense of being trapped within a profession by their training, which rendered them unable to consider career alternatives.

5. Roofers

The leading cause of on-the-job deaths among roofers is falling from roofs, which occur frequently enough to make it one of the world’s most dangerous professions. Falls from roofs are frequently used as a comedic device in films and television situation-comedies, but in the real world there is little funny about them. Other injuries to roofers depend on the type of roof under installation, removal, or maintenance. Tarred roofs present burn hazards, metal roofs can cause cuts, as well as contact burns in bright sun.

Injuries from the tools of the trade are common, including accidents with nail guns and other power tools. Items dropped from roofs can cause injuries to others working below them, and there is also the risk of injury carrying heavy objects up and down ladders, as well as the risk of falling from the ladders themselves. Roofers suffer fatal injuries at a rate which exceeds the average of all workers by more than a dozen times. Many of the injuries and deaths are attributed to poor communication and inadequate use of safety devices, such as hardhats and safety lines.

4. Oilfield Workers

Oilfield workers ashore, and on off-shore oil platforms around the world, operate in professions among the most dangerous in the world. In July, 1988, the oil platform Piper Alpha, operated by Occidental Petroleum Caledonia Ltd, suffered an explosion and fire in which 167 perished. Only 61 workers survived the disaster. In April 2010, an explosion on the offshore platform Deepwater Horizon led to 11 deaths, dozens of injuries, a fire which proved impossible to extinguish, and the largest oil spill at sea in history. Clearly working on off-shore oil platforms presents dangers to the workers.

Oil workers ashore face perils on the job from numerous sources, including the heights at which some work, heavy equipment and tools, and inadequate supervision of on-the-job training. They are also endangered from physical fatigue, leading to exhaustion. Motor vehicle accidents involving oilfield workers occur in disproportionately high numbers, with exhaustion from work and the need to drive great distances to and from worksites cited as contributory factors.

3. Underwater Welders

Welding underwater is a highly specialized task, and a relatively few workers perform the job, compared to other professions. Their services are required in the shipbuilding and repair industries; constructing and maintaining underwater pipelines, and conduits for communication cables. They also work in dams, spillways, and other underwater infrastructure. The nature of their work exposes them to the risk of injury from explosions, collapse of structures, and of course, drowning.

The profession, though a small one, is markedly dangerous. It is too small a profession in terms of numbers of workers for it to be tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the Centers for Disease Control reported the death rate for underwater welders exceeded the national average of deaths on the job by more than 40 times in the United States alone. Around the world the need for underwater welders grew since the Second World War, and they are in increasing demand in the 21st century, as more underwater resources are exploited.

2. Trash and Recycling Collectors

Workers who collect trash in the United States are part of a profession which is the fifth most dangerous in the country. Around the world the danger is even greater, in terms of the injuries and deaths sustained. Falling from collection trucks is one danger faced by trash collectors. Another, far more frequent, is being struck by other vehicles. They face danger from materials collected as well, including broken glass, sharp edges on some refuse, discarded toxic waste and materials, (such as hypodermic needles) and more.

The risks involved aren’t only in the collection phase of trash and waste disposal, which is pretty much the only part of the process viewed by the general public. Accidents with sorting and crushing machinery, at incinerators, and in landfills in which waste is moved using heavy equipment are common. The dangerous nature of the job is reflected by the high rate of deaths among trash collectors and handlers around the world. Incidentally, some waste collection workers in the United States make up to $100,000 per year, a figure certain to raise some eyebrows from those who take the job for granted.

1. Lumberjacks and Loggers

Since the days when axes and two-man saws provided the only means of felling trees, the act of doing so has been dangerous. Somewhat perversely, advanced technology increased the risks. Logging and forestry management through harvesting trees is the most dangerous job category in the world. In the United States in 2018, fatal accidents involving lumberjacks and loggers exceeded an average of 135 per 100,000 workers. As noted, across all jobs as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average was 3.5 per 100,000.

One danger comes from being suspended from the tree being cut, taking it down in sections, with the worker exposed to the whipping of the tree as the upper section separates and falls. Accidents abound on the ground below, both from felling trees and from trimming them on the ground. Heavy machinery to move the great sticks offer further dangers to the personnel involved. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of the injuries (and deaths) involving lumberjacks and loggers are due to the misuse or inadequate maintenance of machinery, making the profession a more dangerous one through the insertion of human error.


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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 31

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 31

Was one of your fares a beautiful woman and two little girls perhaps?…

escape2-001

Aldona Afridi continues his defection to save Space Colony 1

“We must cross the Golden Horn to get reach Galata.”

The Golden Horn is an inlet of the Bosporus, the narrow band of water separating them from the mosque. The main bridge that connects Galata to Stamboul is choked with evening traffic and in the waters below is Image result for the bosporus waterwaynearly as busy, with floating forms of alternative transportation. Boatmen take their fares in the same dinghies driven by a hundred generations, bobbing side-by-side with a number of larger commuter boats.

A certain ferry commands Aldona’s attention. He scans each bow for the name Mother of the Black Sea, the ship of escape for (his wife) Fatima and the girls. It may be either under-sail or moored, are they aboard or are they ashore, in the safe confines of the mosque?

“There are many a ferry tonight, Saied,” the driver notices his passenger’s keen interest.

“Is the Mother of the Black Sea one of them?”

“Oh yes Saied, the largest of them, with the many lights no doubt. It is docked for the night.” He smiles fondly at the thought; the daily visits by the Black Sea ferryboat are a boon to the taxis.

“Docked this afternoon you say? Did you have any fares from that boat?”

“Oh my yes Saied, every docking brings many fares.”

“Was one of your fares a beautiful woman and two little girls perhaps?”

“No, but I may have seen such a group coming down the ramp, more baggage than my humble cab can carry. I think poor Muhammad XXVII may have gotten them, not good for his bad back.

Related image

Turkish traffic

“Can we go faster; I need to get to the mosque yesterday?”

“We will kill more than pecking chickens…The world has gone mad for haste….”

“I don’t care; get us out of this stagnant mess.”

Never let it be said that a good taxi driver does not enjoy a challenge, especially if it involves driving obnoxiously; foot to pedal, hand on horn.

And the race is on!! The resourceful combination of a jet ski and a golf cart squirts through gaps barely wider than a bicycle, prompting Afridi to scrunch his shoulders and close his eyes. But as in old movie sight-gag, they magically appear on the other side, clear of the bottleneck.

So, leaving the trail of tangled auto, with their fist-shaking drivers behind, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is mere minutes away in Galata, the commercial hub of Old Constantinople.

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune. When he was back in that cold river, bullets splashing like rain around him, his long-term welfare was undecided at best. Hopefully there will be sympathetic ears to hear his story, at the end of his cross-continental campaign, ending here in the land of the Great Crusades.

next-time-001


THE RETURN TRIP

mother-of-the-black-sea-001

Episode 31


page 30

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 29

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 29

…You can disembark any time you like, but you can never leave.” On a dark desert byway, dusty breeze in my hair, the warm smell of opiates rising up in the air…

constantinople-001

Afridi must have drifted off, despite an effort to keep one of them peeled. The sun is giving back the day, silhouetting the domes of Constantinople’s many mosques, and others who have chosen this old city as a destination, begin to stir noisily. This entire foreign hubbub trims the much welcomed mental respite for a psychologically fatigued traitor/defector/fugitive/ husband/father.

The conductor/funnyman goes out of his way to sweep Aldona’s berth, perhaps feeling personally responsible for the success of whatever the man is up to. Surely he has done the same for an untold number of equally fascinating patrons.

“I was awake, sir,” responds Afridi to the bonus care. “Say, please take these as a token.”

afghan-noteHe takes possession of several rumpled Afghani notes given him and is truly impressed, so much so that he reaches into his own pocket to fetch a business card, which is printed with magnetic resonance. “Use this in Istanbul, a value that trumps money; it contains my name, the password is “ByZantium”. {Please note that it is abdullah-ashtaar-001electronically case-sensitive}

He hands him his card.

Double A meets double AA. “Your kindness will rewarded by the Creator of us all. Perhaps we will meet again.”

You can disembark any time you like, but you can never leave.” On a dark desert byway, dusty breeze in my hair, the warm smell of opiates rising up in the air…

Aldona Afridi extracts what he can from the cryptic statement, while holding a key to a most ancient of world capitals in his hand. Within moments the bullet train swooshes to an abrupt stop, compelling people and objects to spill to the front of each car; standers go down, sitters double over, and sleepers tumble in their blankets. Those new brakes really work.

But they have arrived at Marmaray Station as promised, safely and on time.

ok-now-what


THE RETURN TRIP

Constantinople by Gianomo Franco

Map of the island of Constantinople, created in 1597 by the Venetian Giacomo Franco

Episode 29


page 28

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 28

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 28

“…this must be your 1st trip on the New Orient Expressmy lonely friend.”…

meanwhile-caption-001

In 2030, (again) after a famed and fabled past, the New Orient Express, that had halted the contiguous run in 2009, from Paris all the way through to Istanbul, a train-traveler can still take a (faster version) train from one end to the other; 2000 luxurious European kilometres.

Writers have forever taken advantage of its romantic whistle-stops and melting pot passenger list. Taken at face value, the spin of those yarns will have the seats of this long-train runnin’ occupied, in large part, by spies, opiate dealers, murderers, and the like.

In the second to last car is the restaurant coach and seated in the rear, trying his hardest to look inconspicuous {innocent}, is Aldona Afridi. Now you can add a Talibanistani defector to the list of unusually unusual passengers; fitting right in with the stereotypical fictional ne’er-do-wells. Just don’t stare at them.

In an attempt to make a goose-chase out of his flight to freedom thereby covering his tracks, Afridi had flown to Paris, instead of the logical land-way across the Persian Plain and Euphrates Valley, where Nutkani and his tribesmen were previously nipping at his heels.

The most gregarious of the conductor corps strolls down the aisle, stopping to chat with folks of all derivations, some of which would rather not, acting as if they were all long-lost friends. Afridi chooses Conductor“mute” as his origin, but is compelled to mouth, “What time Istanbul?”

“Last stop Bucharest…” he shares his answer, then pointedly asking, “…this must be your 1st trip on the New Orient Express, my lonely friend.” After 20 hours on the rapid rail, passengers should be more aware of the schedule.

“Will we get there before dusk?” he rephrases, hoping to elicit a more precise response from the mustachioed kibitzer.

“Romanian officials are asking questions, searching the whole train…for a defector my instinct tells me.”

Just what Afridi wanted to hear; like a priest preaching a sermon on hell in front of pews packed with hardcore sinners? Had he known that the rascally conductor was pulling his strange-unusualleg, using his uncanny ability to guess why passengers have chosen to ride this disreputable rail, Aldona would have been spared the mounting anxiety that threaten to make a wreck of him.

Chuckling on his way, the conductor whispers cryptically, “You will arrive at railhead before dark, my itchy friend. People who choose the New Orient Express are immune from border inspections…just be aware of the  people around you!”

The jovial ticket taker’s laugh echoes loudly, yet the cause of his amusement seems of little consequence to the other diners. Anonymity is the unspoken creed of this illustrious train.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 28


page 27

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 26

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 26

…Silky smooth, in the groove…

…Something to prove…

…Then click those hooves…

…The natives are booing…

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All that political posturing and football frivolity aside, suddenly the Mars orbiting station still-shot will soon be exchanged for Tycho perspectives now poised for its descend-ent leg. And after a full-day’s fun, of course we will have THE RETURN TRIP.beanie hat

At one point Sampson peers out of the main hatch, mouthing the words, ‘Hi Mom’, hamming it up for that camera. Celeste is sporting a doodly-bopper helicopter hat given her by son Gus for good luck.

If the pioneering pair is nervous, their space-happy antics debunk that concern. Like Venetian silk or Mercurial milk, there is nothing but solid greens across the mission dashboard; neither machine nor man providing a reason not to go with a bullet.

“Silky smooth, in the groove,” is the way Braden King describes the morning.

“Something to prove,” Sampson rhymes.

“Are you ready to move?” Roy’s turn.

“Then click those hooves!” Braden is a part-time rancher.

Martians“The natives are booing…..You should approve.” Lt. Commander’s antennae beanie topper is off, game-face on. “In 11.75 hours the Plain of Xanthe is going to be a dark negative 143°. I want to be back in orbit before that.”

By this time Roy Crippen has set to pacing again, nervously covering most of the 40,000 square foot Galveston Launch Control, in search of that illusive glitch, those pesky flies in the ointment. He stops to view certain critical kiosks along the way, manned to a man by a qualified tech.

The comprehensive tour affords him the opportunity, more accurately a good excuse to drop in on the Spatial Debris/Traffic desk and this new Gurkhas Dhangotma fellow. He ambles as nonchalantly purposeful as he can, in the direction of the Nepalese newcomer who has seen Roy’s roving anyhow. The former “sheepherder”, as Roy so sensitively put it, tries to look busy enough, yet he spends an inordinate amount of time looking like he is sitting on a wet pile of wool. 


THE RETURN TRIP

Nomadic Himalaya Sheep Herder – Ghandruk, Nepal – Photo by Chris Streeter

Episode 26


page 25

By the Wonderful Sea – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Remarkable Ocean

and

Sea Settlements

Ocean cities. Settlements in seas. Famed writer Jules Verne was on to something with “Propeller Island,” after all. (see below)

In this account, we explore some of the most ingenious ways in which human settlements have taken a marine form that thrive in modern times, while paying respects to some real-life versions of Atlantis found below the waves.

10. MS The World

The brainchild of Knut U. Kloster, MS The World is remarkable and globally unique condo at sea. With everything from sports facilities to a grocery store, this “largest residential yacht on the planet” is an apartment ship with 165 residential apartments, in total measuring 644 feet, 2 inches long and 98 feet wide. A board of directors elected by the residents, plus committees, plan out the ship’s travel routes, budgeting and on-board activities, along with shore stops.

The attractive vessel is a place to reside, with its fully livable apartments that range from its little studio residences to middle ground studio one or two-bedroom apartments, regular two-bedroom apartments, all the way up to three-bedroom suites with a full range of amenities. One to three expeditions (typically informed by 20 or more relevant experts, for planning) take in culture, scenery, and natural history of places like Madagascar, the British Isles/Hebrides, and the Northwest Passage.

9. Kansai International Airport

A masterpiece of Japanese engineering, Kansai Interntional Airport, opened in 1994, is an airport in the middle of the sea. Well, in the middle of Osaka Bay, offshore of Japan’s main island, Honshu, to be exact. Originally planned to be floating, the airport was instead built on sand, creating a runway-shaped construction surrounded by water, with all the amenities expected at an airport.

The airport is connected to Honshu by a narrow strip for rail and road transport, and has been judged as an engineering disaster due it its history of sinkage into the soft sands and mud of Osaka Bay and the subsequent costs. The airport nevertheless received recognition as an American Society of Civil Engineers “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” award recipient in April 2001. The airport notably weathered a 120 mile-per-hour typhoon in 1998 and survived the 1995 Kobe earthquake without destruction despite the thousands of deaths on Honshu.

8. Jules’ Undersea Lodge

While not quite a full city or even a town, Jules’ Undersea Lodge is a most unique hotel that requires SCUBA certification for guest access. Located in Florida, the structure is located 21 feet below the waves. Celebrity visitors to the lodge have included Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler and former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau.

The lodge itself is located in a mangrove environment with 42-inch windows while hot showers, music and movies, beds with a view of wild fish outside, and a kitchen containing a microwave and fridge are present in the lodge. A variety of stay packages ranging from just a few hours to a full overnighter are available, along with dive training if the required certification is not already held by visitors.

7. Palm Islands

The United Arab Emirates is a land home to some of the world’s most remarkable feats of marine engineering. Take the Palm Islands, a set of stunning marine archipelagos with rays and centerpieces that can be most fully appreciated from aerial views or space photographs. The islands include Palm Jumeirah, a precisely palm leaf shaped archipelago, Palm Deira Island, and Palm Jebel Ali, located along the Dubai coastline. Started in 2001, the developments contain a vast array of dwellings and commercial buildings constructed on the rays and stems. Breakwaters protect the construction works on the islands.

The project scale was most impressive. The first of the Palm Islands, Palm Jumeirah, utilized a whopping 3 billion cubic feet of sand, dredged from the Persian Gulf, built into the palm shape with GPS, while mountain rock totaling seven million tons was used to form the seven-mile breakwater protection system. Near the Palm Islands are two more human-made archipelagos, The World, named after its construction in the likeness of a map of the Earth, and The Universe, built to resemble the Milky Way Galaxy.

6. Neft Dashlari (Oily Rocks)

Extending from overturned scrapped tankers and connected by trestles and pipes is an expansive ghost city in the Caspian Sea. Located off the coast of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Neft Dashlari, or Oily Rocks, is one of the strangest urban areas on the planet. A ramshackle yet industriously constructed network of oil drilling facilities, stores, and apartment buildings stands bizarrely perched throughout the settlement. Neft Dashlari gained the amenities of an entire town including stores, educational facilities, and homes, plus libraries and service centers. Dormitories with five stories and hotels were among the grander structures built.

The community was literally built on top of overturned ships, which serve as building foundations. The site holds the Guinness World Record for being the first ever offshore oil platform. Neft Dashlari is now largely abandoned, with only some settlement remaining. A dark episode in the history of Neft Dashlari was the perhaps less than surprising, with the disappearance of three workers following the collapse of living accommodations into the Caspian Sea.

5. The Boat City of Aberdeen Harbour

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, has a complicated cultural history. Aberdeen Harbour exists in stark contrast to the towering and densely clustered skyscrapers for which Hong Kong is famous. Here in the harbor, there are large congregations of boats on which dwellers live and work. Restaurants are included in the amenities offered by the “boat city,” adding significantly to the tapestry of the village as a unique attraction.

Despite some viewing the floating neighborhood as a visual disturbance, the boat city is gaining an established place in Hong Kong’s culture. Movie depictions of Hong Kong make good use of the boat city for both panoramic views and as the setting for great action scenes. In historic times, the pirate life of the boat city was colorful, to say the least.

4. Ko Panyi

The image is incredible. One of Thailand’s most fascinating sights is the aerial view of Ko Panyi. With multi-colored roofs, the buildings of the village on stilts extend outward in a rough question mark shape around the base of a precipitous stony island, formed from a single mini-mountain that rises from Phang Nga Bay. Ko Panyi is in southern Thailand’s Phang Nga Province on the Malay Peninsula, between the Thai border with Myanmar to the north and Malaysia to the south.

A testament to the resourcefulness of its founders, Ko Panyi was established by Toh Baboo, friends and family who were Muslim ocean travelers who arrived around 200 years back but were unable to settle on land as foreigners upon arrival in Thailand. Today, the 300 families numbering almost 1,500 individuals live in the village that clusters around the rock. Dwellings, restaurants, a mosque, and even a floating football pitch are among the features of the village.

3. Fadiouth, Senegal

In the African nation of Senegal, a section of coastline known as Petite Côte is a village of fishers that is divided between a land-based section of settlement, Joal, and a much stranger island portion of the village, Fadiouth. Joal-Fadiouth’s two sections are connected via a wooden footbridge, 1,312 feet in length. Fadiouth is bizarre because it is on an entirely human-made island, and that island is made from discarded yet rather precisely placed seashells.

Over the last century (and more), villagers have been toiling at a two-fold project. On one hand, they have been harvesting marine mollusks for food, and on the other, casting the shells aside. This has created the huge midden that grew into the island supporting Fadiouth. Fastened by mangrove roots and other coastal wetland plants, the shell island resists the tides. The theme everywhere is shells. The famous cemetery is made of shells, while streets and buildings sport shells. The population is Christian and Muslim and is known for its close community held together by residential embrace of religious diversity.

2. Halong Bay Floating Villages

Vietnam is home to a spectacular floating village group that has achieved world recognition for its cultural and architectural uniqueness. Amongst pillar-like mountains that emerge from the waters of Halong Bay are four floating villages comprised of multiple buildings on rafts that form a fishing community. The four villages in Halong Bay contain 1,000 villagers and are named Cua Van, Ba Hang, Vong Vieng, and Cong Tau.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the villages provide a base for fishing lobster, shellfish, finned fish, and squid. Larger vessels resemble land-based houses in their design, while smaller boats are moored to the dwelling boats, which can themselves move around or anchor to neighboring dwellings to allow convenient forays through the bay. The largest village, Cau Van, hosts the Floating Cultural Center, which seeks to preserve the villages under the auspices of the Ha Long Ecological Museum.

1. Urban Rigger

A floating apartment is a novel concept and even more-so when the apartment complex is made of recycled structures. The Urban Rigger project in Copenhagen, Denmark is just such a remarkable development, with 12 studio apartments for students fashioned from shipping containers. Floating by the shoreline in the Copenhagen neighborhood of Refshaleoen, the project was designed by Bjarke Ingels Group after being first dreamt up by Urban Rigger CEO Kim Loudrup, who encountered great challenges in finding his son student housing in Denmark.

Students appreciate the sustainable, livable design of the mini community on the water, the first residents having arrived in 2018. The shipping containers that make up the apartments focus on making the best use of natural light and are fitted with their own bathrooms and kitchens, while common areas include gardens, a gym, and laundry facilities. Residents can go for a swim right from their doorstep.


By the Wonderful Sea

WIF 10 Cent Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 14

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 14

…A suddenly apprehensive Afridi gazes at the slow-moving water before him, the crescent moon reflecting back the ripples. He could not be party to stifling mankind’s advancement past it…

“To keep our solar system free of those who want to conquer it, we need the firing codes for the Sang-Ashi Probe,” The Sheikh is impatient.

“Sang-Ashi will protect itself, if the occasion warrants. I built in superior internal defenses,” Afridi is confused.

“We need to have manual control over it…..and we need it now!” The Sheikh’s arms are shaking angrily.

World Space Consortium

World Space Consortium

“You want access to the manual dump mode for the laser control!?” Trepidation replaces restlessness for Afridi. If all this is about sabotaging the World Space Consortium, of which Talibanistan and the United Korea Peninsula are not a part, he wants no part of any such strategy. To him personally, Space Colony 1 is to be exalted, not grudged with bad intent. The Sheikh and Nae Tan-Dan must be forgetting that the person they are asking to betray the World had expressly expressed interest in participating in the project they wish to destroy. “I have to get some air, to help me remember the code.”

“If you must Afridi, but you must be quick about it. Tan-Dan must leave for his country as soon as possible.”

Afridi is stalling, “I have too many passcodes in my brain, please excuse me.”

It is way past late at night, technically morning on this side of the planet and the men in the car are becoming annoyed with the delay. They go on conspiring with their mischievous machinations when Afridi toddles off to wrestle with his wits, albeit to contemplate a rueful ruse.

A suddenly apprehensive Afridi gazes at the slow-moving water before him, the crescent moon reflecting back the ripples… He knew the codes by heart… But his thoughts are dominated by his dearest Fatima and his two little girls… He could not be party to stifling mankind’s advancement past the Moon…

Adrenaline begins to spike into his bloodstream. For the first time in 15 years, rebellion not submission, takes hold of his spirit. He is 15 meters from the chilly stream when he decides to sprint toward the water, the soles of his shoes digging furiously into the loose gravel, spitting out pebbles with every determined stride. But for all his physical fitness he dreads the temperature of the chilly water ahead.

He thinks about stopping short, giving one last glance over his shoulder, only to see that his sudden bolt had not gone unnoticed. Fortunately for him, there are no high-powered military weapons in the hands of his pursuers; who would think that a mild-mannered scientist would “go over the wall”, with Talibanistan’s most powerful Sheikh a stone’s throw away.

That element of surprise would be his only ally this evening. Once he dives into the river,Image result for bullets and water swimming as fast as his clothed body would allow, gunfire from the lone small caliber handgun poke holes in the liquid swirling around him. The gun owner is a pretty fair marksman, prompting Afridi to assess his best option, which happens to be a ferryboat which is docked on the far bank of the river.

Things are not looking so good at the moment, yet it would get worse when one bullet grazed his left arm. Temporarily stunned, he snatches safety from the jaws of peril. He rolls over to play dead, realistically sinking slowly under the red water and the belly of the powered passenger boat… which he remembers as having a hollowed-out section to the aft that houses the propeller.

AIR!


  THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 14


page 13 (end ch. 1)