Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Reading, June '15. "Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football by Rich Cohen
The President's Shadow (The Culper Ring Series) by Brad Meltzer
The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
A Wanted Man (with bonus short story Deep Down) (Jack Reacher, Book 17) by Lee Child
Never Go Back (with bonus novella High Heat) (Jack Reacher, Book 18) by Lee Child
Personal (with bonus short story Not a Drill) (Jack Reacher, Book 19) by Lee Child

Captain America: Truth by Robert Morales & Kyle Baker
Jupiter's Legacy, Volume 1 by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely
The Marvels Project by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting
Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid & Jorge Molina
The Delinquents by James Asmus, Fred Van Lente & Kano
Genius Volume 1 by Adam Freeman, Marc Bernardin & Afua Richardson
Batman: Earth One & Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

The President's Shadow
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” —attributed to Mark Twain

“Do you know the real secret of how Presidents become Presidents?” Before I can answer, he explains, “It’s because they’re good at getting people to do things for them. In fact, they’re not just good at it. They’re maestros. Virtuosos. To get that title of President, you need thousands of people doing thousands of different things, all for your benefit. It’s a massive churning machine. And y’know what feeds that machine?” he asks. “People like you, Beecher. It’s fed with your life, and your family, and your reputation. Because when things go wrong…and they always go wrong…the President isn’t allowed to have that skunk smell around him. So when that happens, he doesn’t just replace you. He crumples you up, tosses you out back, and…chomp goes the woodchipper.” “You have a very graphic view of politics.” “A realistic view. You need to be smart here.”

It was a basic rule of life: Parents are full of promises; children are full of needs and longing. The perfect ingredients for disappointment.

We all have one body, with many versions of ourselves in it.

In life, the most complex relationship you’ll ever have is with your parent. It also comes with its own secret language.

“None of us are who we are on our very worst days,”

For so long, I thought I knew what my mission was: to uncover my family’s history. I spend every day showing people the power of history. But history only has the power you give it... You may never make peace with your father. But you can always make peace with yourself.

A Wanted Man
“I’m getting hassle through two separate back channels.” “Who?” “First the State Department, and now the CIA.” “They’re not separate. The State Department is the political wing of the CIA.”

“I could have been hurt.” “But you weren’t. So don’t worry about it.”

“They opened the wrong door, Julia. They get what they get.” “From you? How so? Who died and made you king of the world?” “Someone has to do it. Are you guys going to?” Sorenson didn’t answer. Reacher said, “I’ll take that as a no, shall I?”

“Have you ever met a trade attaché?” “No.” “Me neither,” Reacher said. “But I met a few folks who claimed they were trade attachés.” “What does that mean?” “How much help does Coca-Cola really need to sell its stuff around the world? Not very much, right? Generally speaking American products speak for themselves. Yet every embassy has a trade attaché.” “What are you saying?” “Have you ever seen a trade attaché’s office? I’ve been in two. Both had courtyard windows, not street windows, both were lined with lead and Faraday cages, and both were swept for bugs four times a day. I know the Coke formula is a secret, but that’s ridiculous.” “Cover for something?” “Exactly,” Reacher said. “Every CIA head of station on the planet calls himself a trade attaché.”

We love cell phones. We love them to death. For all kinds of reasons. I mean, can you imagine? Suppose twenty years ago Congress had proposed a law saying every citizen had to wear a radio transponder around his neck, all day and all night, so the government could track him wherever he went. Can you imagine the outrage? But instead the citizens went right ahead and did it to themselves. In their pockets and purses, not around their necks, but the outcome is the same.”

I like you guys. I like the FBI. I like the way you think. I can’t help it. You’re doing wrong, but you’re doing wrong right. You put everyone together, so there are mutual witnesses to everything that goes on here. You could have thrown us in solitary somewhere and done whatever the hell you liked to us. But you couldn’t do that. Because deep down you’re on the side of the angels. I can’t take that away from you.

“Is it legal?” “I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer. But it probably is. Except that it probably shouldn’t be. You know how these things are.”

There was no point in making a plan. No plan could survive the first exchange of fire. No plan ever did.

“How are those better odds? If you come back with me, you’re guaranteed to survive the night.” “No,” Reacher said. “If I come back with you, I’m guaranteed to die of shame.”

Reacher let him go. There were things Reacher didn’t like to do. Running was one of them

Never Go Back
Life was not a television show. Hit a guy hard enough in the side of the head, and he didn’t spring back up ready to carry on the fight. He stayed down for an hour or more, all sick and dizzy and disoriented. A lesson learned long ago: the human brain was much more sensitive to side-to-side displacement than front-to-back. An evolutionary quirk, presumably, like most things.

I figured it out when I was about five years old. A person either runs or he fights. It’s a binary choice, and I’m a fighter.

“Nothing happens in the movies that doesn’t happen in real life. That’s one thing I’ve learned. You can’t make this stuff up.”

“I don’t think I forget people. I hope I don’t. Especially women I sleep with. But if I did, I would be unaware of it, by definition. You can’t be aware of forgetting.”

“We’re all animals,” he said. “That’s what makes things interesting.”   •

I think millions of years ago we were all living in small bands. Small groups of people. So there was a danger of inbreeding. So a gene evolved where every generation and every small band had at least one person who had to wander. That way the gene pools would get mixed up a little. Healthier all around.” “And you’re that person?” “I think ninety-nine of us grow up to love the campfire, and one grows up to hate it. Ninety-nine of us grow up to fear the howling wolf, and one grows up to envy it. And I’m that guy.”

Prevention is better than cure. Get your retaliation in first.

Those old New England guys always think they’re half British.

Fifty-fifty, Reacher thought, like everything else in the world.

A random encounter doesn’t get more likely just because both parties are moving.

The guy in the blazer didn’t talk. Neither did I. We both sat there mute, as if we were in a no-talking competition and serious about winning.

I listened to Kott for a good long time before I concluded that deep down the guy had an arrogant streak as wide as his head. And as hard. He wasn’t making the distinction. Anyone who challenges you deserves to die is battlefield bullshit, not a way to live. But I had known people like that all my life. I was the product of people like that. They want to tell you about it. They want you to understand. They want you to approve.

“You know how many Americans have top secret security clearances now?” “No idea.” “Nearly a million, and half of them are civilians. Executives and businesspeople and contractors and subcontractors. And best case, out of any million people a couple hundred will be seriously bent.” “That’s O’Day talking.” “He’s usually right.” “And always paranoid.” “OK, cut it in half. We’ve got a hundred traitors with top secret security clearances. National security is completely out of control. It has been for a decade.

Which is all we’ll ever need. Smart people, working hard, paying attention, thinking laterally.” “We had those on September tenth.” “No, we didn’t,” I said. “We really didn’t. Like we didn’t have much of an army in 1941. It had been a long time since we had needed one. We had out-of-date people doing out-of-date things."

So all in all I like the fast exit strategy better. Plus I have no desire to go to Buckingham Palace anyway.” “Wouldn’t you like to meet the Queen?” “Not really. She’s just a person. We’re all equal. Has she expressed any interest in meeting me?”

“No cop on earth would call his badge a government identification document. Cops don’t work for the government. Not in their minds. They work for their department. For each other. For the whole worldwide brotherhood. For the city, just maybe, at the very best. But not the government. They hate the government. The government is their worst enemy, at every level. National, county, local, no one understands cops and everyone makes their lives more and more miserable with an endless stream of bullshit. A cop wouldn’t use the word.” “This is a different country.” “Cops are the same the world over. I know, because I was one, and I met plenty of others. Including here. This is not a different country when it comes to cops.”

 Having everything out there is the exact same thing as having nothing out there. The Brits are hacking our signals. The Brits are not hacking our signals. Both things are up there under the spotlight. Which doesn’t help us know which one is true.

“Human nature,” he said. “You know how it is. Whatever your intentions, if you have the ability to do something, then you will do it, sooner or later. The temptation is always there, and it can’t be resisted forever. Don’t tell me you think any different.”

“Weird things are going to happen, and things are going to change, and the ground is going to move under our feet, but if we keep on thinking fast, we’ll be OK.”

“I see both sides,” Suzanne said. “I would do anything to stop another attack. But it’s getting insane now. They fly these guys from Guantanamo to Egypt and Syria, where they get a good working over, and after a while the ones who survive have to come back, because the Egyptians and the Syrians can’t have them hanging about forever, but you don’t want them back, because what are you going to do with them? Guantanamo is always full, and you can’t just say never mind and let them go, because they’ve all got stories to tell.” “So what do they do with them? And tell me how you know.” “There’s a network, for people of conscience. Way down in the dark web. Certain facts are established. Your ground crews bypassed a couple of failsafes, and made it possible to open the airplane door during flight. At very low speeds, and very low altitudes, mostly over the far north Atlantic, in the radar shadows, where they would come down low and slow, and open the hatch. That’s what they do with them. Problem solved.”

“You seem to know a lot about how they think.” “I try to learn how everyone thinks. It’s the key to understanding. Not that this was some innocent sweetheart. He was a thug straight from the Middle Ages. He was a vicious killer. I was glad he was jumping out of the plane. But he had already told them what he knew. And they were sending him anyway. Just out of habit. It’s insane now.”

The Martian
Anyway. That’s a problem for tomorrow. For tonight, I have to get back to Three’s Company. I stopped last night in the middle of the episode where Mr. Roper saw something and took it out of context

After a search of everyone’s personal items (hey, if they wanted privacy, they shouldn’t have abandoned me on Mars with their stuff) I found my answer. Martinez is a devout Catholic. I knew that. What I didn’t know was he brought along a small wooden cross. I’m sure NASA gave him shit about it, but I also know Martinez is one stubborn son of a bitch. I chipped his sacred religious item into long splinters using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. I figure if there’s a God, He won’t mind, considering the situation I’m in. If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Martian vampires, I’ll have to risk it.

Time to take a break from thinking. Commander Lewis was the last one to use this rover. She was scheduled to use it again on Sol 7, but she went home instead. Her personal travel kit’s still in the back. Rifling through it, I found a protein bar and a personal USB, probably full of music to listen to on the drive. Time to chow down and see what the good commander brought along for music.
LOG ENTRY SOL 38 (2) Disco. God damn it, Lewis.

“What must it be like?” he pondered. “He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.” LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.

My conclusion was “Fuck it.”

The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

As to your question: We haven’t told the crew you’re alive yet. We wanted them to concentrate on their own mission. [11:52] WATNEY: The crops are potatoes, grown from the ones we were supposed to prepare on Thanksgiving. They’re doing great, but the available farmland isn’t enough for sustainability. I’ll run out of food around Sol 900. Also: Tell the crew I’m alive! What the fuck is wrong with you? [12:04] JPL: We’ll get botanists in to ask detailed questions and double-check your work. Your life is at stake, so we want to be sure. Sol 900 is great news. It’ll give us a lot more time to get the supply mission together. Also, please watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the world. [12:15] WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)

Venkat, tell the investigation committee they’ll have to do their witch hunt without me. And when they inevitably blame Commander Lewis, be advised I’ll publicly refute it. I’m sure the rest of the crew will do the same. Also, please tell them that each and every one of their mothers is a prostitute. —Watney PS: Their sisters, too.

My conversation with NASA about the water reclaimer was boring and riddled with technical details. So I’ll paraphrase it for you: Me: “This is obviously a clog. How about I take it apart and check the internal tubing?” NASA: (after five hours of deliberation) “No. You’ll fuck it up and die.” So I took it apart. Yeah, I know. NASA has a lot of ultra-smart people and I should really do what they say. And I’m being too adversarial, considering they spend all day working on how to save my life. I just get sick of being told how to wipe my ass. Independence was one of the qualities they looked for when choosing Ares astronauts. It’s a thirteen-month mission, most of it spent many light-minutes away from Earth. They wanted people who would act on their own initiative.

I told NASA what I did. Our (paraphrased) conversation was: Me: “I took it apart, found the problem, and fixed it.” NASA: “Dick.”

[08:31] JPL: Good, keep us posted on any mechanical or electronic problems. By the way, the name of the probe we’re sending is Iris. Named after the Greek goddess who traveled the heavens with the speed of wind. She’s also the goddess of rainbows. [08:47] WATNEY: Gay probe coming to save me. Got it.

But at least I have encouraging messages from Venkat to cheer me on!
[17:12] Watney: 145 holes today. 357 total.
[17:31] JPL: We thought you’d have more done by now.

As with most of life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.

I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.

Fortunately, I have an alternate supply of Hab canvas: the Hab. Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated), if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside anymore.

I need some encouragement. I need to ask myself, “What would an Apollo astronaut do?” He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.

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