A sense of accomplishment.

I was actually nervous going to the polls this morning.  Part of that was probably the fear of getting lost.  But I’m sure there were also other parts.  Voting means going alone into the public sphere, which is something I absolutely hate.  You might walk there with a friend or roommate, but eventually you’re isolated.  It’s just you, and a decision you have to make, and the potential future of your country.  It scares me, because unlike all the other life choices I worry about, it’s one that impacts the widest range of other people.

And yet, afterwards, I felt something else.  I got my little sticker that says I voted, which is something to be proud of, or should be.  I’d made my choice and it was irrevocable, which could inspire a sense of regret.  But honestly what I felt walking away from the experience was freedom.  This feeling could’ve been caused by the simple sense that I’ve ‘done my duty’.  But I think there was more to it than that.  It was the sense of completion, of ending, that made me free.  True, the majority of people I’ve talked to already are all about the results of the election.  The next big moment for them will come later tonight, watching various polls close.  But for me, the significant moment has already passed.  I made my mark, and i leave the rest to others.

The Moon, via big balloon.

As a small child, I read quite a few books. Some of them were from the childhood of either parent – the Bobsey twins, the five little Peppers, Johnny Tremain, and Tarzan. One I remember in particular was called Flight to the Mushroom Planet. In this book, two boys build a rocket in their back yard with the help of a little old alien man, and blast with him beyond the moon to his home planet. Fanciful as the pseudo-science of this book might seem (where the weight of gravity can be much more easily overcome by kids, since they are lighter, and a rocket can be built from junk and spare parts), it does have some realistic basis. That’s why Google is starting a race to see what private group can get to the moon first, without putting kids lives at stake.

The idea is something like this – we all love space. It’s the frontier we haven’t conquered. And if people put out big bucks to get their ashes launched out into the ether, just think what they will pay to have remains interred on the Moon. There are a variety of more long-term commercial uses of such transport, as well as more long-term opportunities to tap the natural resources available there. And by encouraging this kind of private development, Google gets a bunch of good press as well as expanding its finance base. The more people live, work, and think about the further reaches of the galaxy, the more basic content there is driving traffic all over the web.

Personally I am highly attracted to the idea of ‘garage band’ groups coming together to build these Moon traveler prototypes. it makes me want to go home and start building something in my own garage. Of course, I would have to learn quite a bit more about the way things work to build a successful prototype. What’s the best wavelength for broadcasting video from the Moon, for instance? What are the best materials to withstand the extreme temperatures of space and re-entry without corruption? What sort of recording equipment is even able to withstand such extremes and still deliver a quality picture? But when Google admits that the costs will be prohibitive, I say balderdash. I’ve got it all worked out – I’ll carry the whole thing via balloon.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – don’t balloons explode in space? Yes, they do. I checked – here’s a nice little video to illustrate:

However, I am not deterred. I just have to find the right totally inexpensive material that will retain its elasticity under extreme pressure. I’m thinking of something like Mythbusters lead balloon, but that would be way too fragile. Even though it’s really cool:

No, what I really need is something like bubble gum. But less tacky when cold? Corn starch? The possibilities are endless. Hey, if two little boys can get all the way to a mushroom planet, a turn of the century science nut can get around the world in 80 days, and a lead balloon can fly (even outside of fiction), then I can certainly win the race to the Moon. I’m smart. I’ve got the passion. What force is strong enough to stop me, other than gravity?