Author Archives: Mitch

The Oddly Named Energy Bar That Rocketed to the Moon

Space food sticks” were predecessors to today’s protein bars, invented in 1959 as part of a NASA contract to develop food that astronauts could consume while wearing space suits. The sticks were designed to be attached to the space suit, and eaten by passing through a port in the helmet. One fan says they tasted like peanut butter and rubber bands. This is a delightful article.

The fault in our stars: Alec Nevala-Lee, author of the excellent history of science fiction, “Astounding,” ruminates on the “Far Beyond the Stars” episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” where Sisko dreams that he’s a struggling African-American pulp writer in the 1950s.

American exceptionalism

I’m thinking a bit about American exceptionalism lately: The belief that America is not just a great nation and civilization, but the greatest that ever was or ever will be.

And that white, Western-European derived, Christian culture is both the foundation and pinnacle of American culture.

According to the soft form of this belief, other nations, races and cultures can become equal to or even exceed individual white Americans, but only if they purge themselves of their original cultures, leaving only a little bit behind for flavor. They need to act white (with a little bit of their original culture remaining, as an accent).

Other forms of bigotry are marginalized in the US — although they’re tragically making a comeback. But American exceptionalism is still going strong; we require our politicians to explicitly endorse it.

Barack Obama is is the pinnacle of the soft form of American exceptionalism.

Apple Bid for TV Stardom Is Biggest Gamble Yet

My colleague Iain Morris on

My $0.02: Apple’s magic formula for success has been to find a technology sector where the idea is great, but the technology is hard to use. Apple then wins by coming out with a product that’s easy to use.

TV is certainly ripe for that kind of disruption; cable and streaming services are complicated and confusing.

But one of the main reasons they are complicated and confusing is that there are so many of them, and coming out with one more, even from Apple, is just going to make that worse.

Terra Nullius: A thoughtful and enjoyable essay by Cory Doctorow on the tragic fallacy of John Locke’s labor theory of property, which is fundamental to how we think about property in Western society. The labor theory has resulted in the genocide of millions, robbed millions more of financial benefit from their work — which the Locke theory deems as worthless — and also justified a Chicago chain restaurant owner’s attempt to trademark the word “aloha.”

U.S. Mercenaries Arrested in Haiti Were Part of a Half-Baked Scheme to Move $80 Million For Embattled President

The caper might have been successful had any of the American participants had previous experience conducting a clandestine mercenary mission in a sovereign country. Instead, they were a mixed bag of mostly military veterans, including one former SEAL who had recently been charged with assault for a road rage incident in southern California and another who was a body builder with a sideline as a country music singer….

… while the Americans were well-armed, they lacked other basic provisions of a secret security operation for hire: insurance coverage, a medical evacuation plan, legal authority to bring their weapons into Haiti, or an escape plan if things went bad….

“They had no idea what they were doing”…

Chimpanzees Are Going Through a Tragic Loss

Chimps and other animals have tradition — cultural information passed on by teaching, from one generation to the next — and human development wipes that tradition out even when genetic information is preserved. “These discoveries mean that conservationists need to think about saving species in a completely new way—by preserving animal traditions as well as bodies and genes.”