Monday, 13 December 2010

There's no getting away from it

Of course everyone's known about Space Junk for ages. There's probably even a band named after it. But what I only learned today was that there's now so much of it that satellites can't be just left to their own devices up there with nothing but Kepler's Laws for guidance. Typically each of the hundreds of useful vehicles has to take avoidance action on average a dozen times a year, with its makers knowing that anything larger than a flake of paint can knock it out. It's getting a bit like a hairy dash round the M60 on the edge of rush-hour with the added excitement of knowing that every other vehicle on the road is being steered by a blind, trigger-happy robot.

And that is why there are now disposal plans, designated "graveyard orbits" and even talk of "Active Debris Removal", with the development of some out-of-this-world recycling technology. Houston, meet Mr Straight.

Meanwhile, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence goes on. Which begs the question, is there anybody else out there looking, and if so might they find us? If they do, will their reaction be a bit like that of a twentysomething lass, who's met this really fun-to-be-with bloke, but is rather put off him when she first sees the state of his flat?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Moral Hazard

So I'm on my way through the short-cut to the shops, and there, sitting in splendour in the middle of the path, is a pile of muck (in the time it took me to go and get the camera, someone had obviously kicked it in exasperation).

It strikes me that this is a metaphor for our times.

The path of life is strewn with dogma.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

"Our garage is full of junk"

I can't remember the last time I saw a garage that actualy had a car parked in it. We have a garage, and I'm pretty sure the car has never been parked there: I can also be reasonably certain that the people who sold us the house (and whose idea it had been to get the garage built in the first place) had never parked a car in it either.

This evening events sent me tiptoeing through the snow to get something from the garage. It was the banner made by our local Residents Against the Incinerator group (every town should have one). Because of the low temperatures (it got down to a record-breaking -12 degrees the night before last) and the snow, I hadn't been in the garage for a while. Isn't it funny how you kind of look at things afresh?

There are seven bikes in there, though there are only four of us. But they all get used: when people are staying with us, we can all go for a bike-ride together. All the gardening kit is hibernating there (we haven't got a shed), as is the camping stove and the barbecue. There are four boxes of dry wood for the stove, other wood-related kit, a sledgehammer, and even two sledges (the people across the road from us have gone one better and have two canoes on their garage roof). There's a roll of loft insulation, although we haven't got a loft. There are two massive candles. And if you get bored, there's a coconut shy. And probably some coconuts too, but they're very likely to be past their sell-by, so you'll have to slum it with four massive jars of jam instead.

What would happen if we didn't have the space for all this, or if, heaven help us, we were suddenly gripped by the urge to have a clear-out? Well, somebody else from our Party would have to look after the coconut shy for a start. The rest of it isn't exactly standard fare for your local charity shop. If we were patient we could try and give it away on Freecycle, but whoever heard of someone in the throes of a clear-out suddenly becoming patient?

Anyway it's all a bit academic. Each bit of stuff has its day: the barbecue in summer, the sledges in winter, the gardening kit in spring and autumn. If we were to get rid of any, we'd only have to waste a lot of time and money buying anew the following year.

And where would all the old stuff go? Probably on that incinerator, that nobody wants.