At Sue Blom's Salon last Friday night, the topic was "When is it justified to rebel against your government?" We had a wide-ranging discussion, covering not only causes but methods--it was agreed violence isn't necessarily the only method effective method of rebellion, viz. Ghandi, but that, given the violence-prone procliities of many modern governments, it may often be the only viable one. A disturbing aspect of our OWN society is that if you AREN'T violent, you become just another crank--.

I feel that rebellion is justified when all other forms of redress have been cut off or corrupted--there are no honest courts, no open-minded legislatures, no free press. I think sometimes that we've come perilously close to that.

That evening, news of the French rioting hadn't really sunk in, but, since then, it occurs to me that knowing you have essentially no future and your government doesn't appear to car about you may seem a good cause if that's your situation--.
We had scheduled this topic well in advance. Figuring we'd spend the evening talking about the election results anyway, we'd decided that the topic would be, "What Do We Do Now?" Our viewpoints varied from hope to pessimism with various degrees of resignation in between. If consensus can be said to have been reached, it would be that in order to salvage anything and hopefully turn things around, what is needed is PLAIN SPEAKING--in other words, away with "nuance." We need to get out, firmly and plainly, things that should have been said before and need to be said again: the rich are looting the country, the war was based on lies, Jesus would NOT do this, etc. Organizations such as MoveOn.org and TruthOut.org were mentioned as models and resources. Most of us went away energised to join and support our choice of liberal, environmental, and charitable groups.
Usual suspects convened at Sue Blom’s to discuss privacy issues, which focused on the developing technology of RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. These ultra small transponders are being used for inventory control and loss prevention at the present time. Similar devices are being used as identification and location devices for both pets and people. We kicked around thoughts on what information could or should be contained in such chips, and what measures could be taken to insure privacy of encoded data.
Sue Blom’s salon convened on Sept. 10th, with the theme being the uses and abuse of “special education.” Of course we couldn’t get to the topic until after pumping Sue (who DID go to Worldcon) for gossip and experiences. She had a good time, although she didn’t manage to accomplish any of the serious business she had had on her agenda. We were pleased to hear that Lois McMaster Bujold had added to her collection of awards with a “Best Novel” Hugo for her second “Chalion” book.
Once started on topic, we had a good discussion, largely drawing from our own reminiscences of special ed students, teachers, and programs we had known, concluding that special classes remain appropriate for mentally or behaviorally challenged students (provided they are properly identified as such, and not merely dyslexic or something like that), but that physically handicapped children should be mainstreamed as much as possible, and not, as in old days, lumped in with any and all special needs students. As this is probably what is happening in most schools now, we didn’t reach any profound new ideas, except that budgetary concerns to not justify inappropriate mainstreaming as a way to save money. I had just finished reading Elizabeth Moon’s novel The Speed of Dark, which deals with autism, and so we discussed the particular problems of autists, especially so-called high-functioning autistics who have to live and work in everyday society.
Kind of on the lines of “What happened to my flying car?” the question was, “What happened to all the leisure time the future was supposed to have brought us?” The “50’s Future” promised that machines and new technologies would undertake so much labor that people would chiefly have time to enjoy themselves. Obviously, this hasn’t happened to anywhere near the extent predicted, but then again neither has ‘free power’ or personal aircraft. Computers and automation have increased human productivity immensely, but economic pressures have also tended to erode the forty-hour work week. “Labor-saving” devices such as automatic washers, etc., do not so much permit the homemaker to relax and eat bonbons as act as “force multipliers” that allow people to work on something else while the machine is doing its work, (“Household robots” haven’t lived up to expectations, either--.) which is basically necessary to maintain a home without servants (or children--).

Modern conveniences, especially electric lighting and the automobile, also tend to support the axiom that “work expands to fill the time available,” in that they make additional activities and commitments possible. We noted that, if we were traveling from our place on the south side to Sue’s place on the north (five and a half miles), if we were traveling by foot or horse, it would be a much more substantial commitment of time and effort to attend. Instead, we tend to think little of haring off fifteen or twenty miles for an evening event, even in the winter (unless the weather is REALLY bad). So, in part, we expand our commitments partly because we can—because our lives are more interesting when we do more. We may, in fact have more discretionary time than our predecessors had, but there are more options to expend it on.
Sue Blom's monthly salon convened on the 7th, the topic this time to be, "If you had a Time Machine which could take you back in time up to fifty years only, what would you try to change?" We had a free-wheeling discussion on possible alternate histories, with a very interesting effect. Although we were able to agree on some recent events we would affect, such as proving to the Florida election commission that butterfly ballots were a bad idea, or attempting to drop a dime on the 9/11 hijackers effectively, we were unable to determine much else that might have been a sure improvement. Tackling Oswald before he got into the Book Depository would surely have changed history, but would it have been for the good? We could assume that, had Kennedy not died, he would have won a second term, but what after that? Would the conduct of the Vietnam war have been different, or not? Would there have been a Tonkin Gulf resolution, or not? Impossible to say. If Lyndon Johnson hadn't been worn down by conducting the war from 1964 to 1968 and had remained vice-president, would he have run for President in 1968? If so, would Nixon have run against him or not, and with what result? If there had been no Watergate, would the moral climate have brought about a Carter presidency, or not? And if there were no liberal/wimpy Carter to react against, would there have been a Reagan-Bush administration to follow--or not? It gets pretty murky, pretty fast. One thing we thought might be an unalloyed good would have been foiling James Earl Ray's assassination of Martin Luther King, although we wondered how much more--or how little--time we might have bought him before some other assassin struck--.
Sue Blom's Salon met as usual on the 2nd, the topic being "Terraforming," or how we might transform the other planets in our solar system to be homes for humans. We started of course by considering Mars, taking into account especially the books by Kim Stanley Robinson as discussing most of the likely means, but assuming that the novels were overoptimistic on the amount of available water present without doing things like bombarding the planet with ice from Saturn's rings, as other writers have proposed.

Considering Venus, we felt that science had probably overtaken the old SF writer's plan to seed the clouds with blue-green algae, but wondered if certain other organisms such as those found in the deep-sea volcanic vents might serve a similar purpose to clarify the atmosphere. We also proposed an orbiting belt of sunshades to reduce insolation and put the planetary temperature down to habitable levels—the reverse of the "solletta" proposed by Robinson to concentrate sunlight and warm up Mars.

Moving out to Jupiter, I rose to the challenge by proposing suborbital habitats that actually flew in the atmosphere scooping gases for fuel, which met with amusement, but not derision. Acknowledging that we lacked the technology to compress and ignite Jupiter ala Arthur C. Clarke, we considered the possibilities of the Jovian moons and Titan, which lead us to the concept of "habit-forming," (habitat+forming) which, rather than making the worlds earthlike, concentrated on how humans might live there. In the
case of Io, we considered how its water and ice resources might be exploited to provide energy and organics, and on Titan, the methane atmosphere.

This was a fun session, Next time we will be discussing the "top 100" science stories of 2003.
For Sue Blom's Salon on Friday night, we decided to leave politics for a while, and instead concentrate on telling stories of travel to other places, and especially strange things eaten there. Georgie and I had pretty much gone over Ireland informally last time, so we shared stories of our trips to Britain and Toronto, plus some of our "weird food" adventures with "Klingon Kafe" at past Mad Media cons. Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter had entertaining reminiscences of travel to Egypt (with pictures) and the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, Russian traveler Tom Klein was down with a cold and didn't make it, but others chimed in with anecdotes as inspiration struck them. It was a very pleasant and generally upbeat evening.
As it was First Friday evening, Sue Blom's chat salon convened at her house. We had a very lively and wide-ranging discussion as usual, with emphasis being on Presidential politics and the current state of the race. Upcoming topics will discuss the practicality of recalls, and an eventual post-mortem of the Claifornia guernatorial race (assuming it ever ends--).
Sue Blom's Salon convened on Friday the first after a month off. The topic under discussion was "Can Democracy be Imposed from Without?" We had a good debate on this subject. The reflexive answer "not for long," was refuted by the historical example of Germany and Japan. After World War II, we managed to incubate stable democracies in former enemy nations that had not had a long history of democratic institutions. We queried why those efforts worked, but Iraq doesn't seem like a likely prospect. We speculated that the utter defeat of the Axis nations had demonstrated the superiority of the democratic system convincingly. We considered it possible that the fact that Germany and Japan were both industrialized modern nations before the war may have made them ripe for democritization. We considered it possible that the tribal nature of society in both Iraq and Afghanistan made it less likely that Western styles of governance would take root. Of course, we meandered through a lot of digressions, including whether or not our own society can truly be said to be democratic, and how long it can endure.
After two months of weather-related cancellations, Sue Blom's Salon met at her residence on May 2. Topic was "The Influence of the Media on Society." We had a very rambling and lively discussion. Questions raised included whether or not the United States can still be said to have a free press or not. Given the supine acquiesence of American media to the government line, and the shocking amount of material reported by other reliable outlets (including the BBC!) that went totally unremarked in the US, we tended to think that this was a serious question, although "independent" might be the missing parameter rather than "free". President Eisenhauer warned us about the "miltary-industrial complex," but we didn't think that the media was that sort of industry, too.

The other major question brought up asked why Americans purport to not trust the media, yet large numbers of people seem to believe everything they read or see. We did not have as satisfactory a conclusion, although desires for security, certainty, and validation were determined to be likely factors.

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