Warming trend

hot-coldThe temperature peaked at 60° yesterday.  Sixty!  Holy crap.  It had been snowing for the previous 3-4 days.  We were up to about 10 inches of snow by Tuesday afternoon.  And now we’re in an unseasonable warming reversal.  And from what I’m seeing through Weather Underground, we’re not supposed to see a high below the freezing point anytime in the next ten days.  Although to be accurate, there are going to be several days in that time period when the daily lows will be in the teens and twenties, so we’re definitely not due for t-shirts and shorts quite yet.  This isn’t Texas after all.

Even so, I would definitely say it’s been a snowy winter.  Most years I only drag out the snowblower a couple of times, but this year I think I had it out almost six times since November.  Certainly to the point where I actually had to refill my gas cans so I could keep it running.  It worked like a champ as well, thirty-one years after buying the old girl from the Red Hook Agway.  I still remember when I got it, just before a big storm at my parent’s house.  I didn’t feel comfortable trying to drag out Dad’s Gravely, so I went to the Agway and bought the floor model.  They managed to deliver it that evening and the following morning there was 15 inches of snow to remove.  Cranked it right up and it’s been working every since.

Having witnessed what Texans have been enduring with their utility bills, I’m grateful I live where I am, even thought the taxes can be somewhat high at times.  Where I live we have a local electrical co-op, so it keeps the utility bills reasonable.  When my wife and I lived on Keuka Lake in the 1990s, towards the end of our stay New York State deregulated the electrical business, and in the beginning we got double shafted (or so it seemed) because NYSEG (New York Electric & Gas) didn’t have any competition yet, so they had the lion’s share of customers.  Where before 1998 you received one bill for generation and delivery of your electricity, after deregulation you received two.  And the new bills added up to way more than the old ones.  For the simple reason that when you’re generating a new bill, there are extra taxes added on, so you end up paying for many of the costs twice.  Which was really, really unfair.  But since deregulation was new, and no other companies were in your area, you were stuck.

I think in the end, just before we moved at times we were paying almost $700-800 in electric bills.  And since we heated our rented house with fuel oil, there was a further $250-300 for filling that tank every 45 days or so.  Even though it sucked moving from there, where we’re living now isn’t breaking our back with utility costs.

Spring is on the way.  But perhaps Winter isn’t quite done with us yet.  We still have a little less than a month to go.  No time to get complacent, eh?

Interstellar Littering

So NASA successfully deposited another lander on Mars today.  Although in the process, they managed also to leave a bunch more debris on the surface of the planet, that will never be used again, certainly not for its intended purpose.  Basically, it’s just tossed aside because it has served its need in getting the lander to the planet.  By my count, we have put seven landers on the planet, along with assorted heat shields, balloons, parachutes, and (so far) two sky cranes which don’t have anything to do with the machines themselves, except for they were absolutely necessary to get the equipment to the planet in one piece.

It’s quite ironic to me that both JPL and NASA are very circumspect about not wanting to introduce Earth microbes onto other planets in our solar system, but they don’t seem to care too much about littering them.  Certainly, the Moon has been turned into a junkyard of sorts over the last 54 years, and near-Earth orbit is practically a shooting gallery of defunct satellites, space junk and it’s a miracle no one’s been killed in a space station from flying debris.  Space Command is currently keeping track of more than 4,000 objects in orbit around the planet, and that’s just the tip of the problem.

I’m all for exploring the solar system, and finding out about ancient life on the other planets that we have here, but do we have to make each one as cluttered as the one we’re currently living on?  Honestly, it doesn’t say much about us as a species if the only thing another space-faring civilization that comes across us discovers is we can’t pick up after ourselves.  I can actually see aliens arriving, dropping a pile of our space junk on the red carpet, and leaving, without so much as a word in their first contact, just a look of disgust.

Update:  Upon reading this again this morning, I feel it’s worth it to say that the United States space agencies aren’t the only ones to blame in this.  Certainly, the now-defunct Soviet Union, its successor Russia; India, China, Japan, the UK and I think South Africa, as well as South Korea, have all managed to put rockets into both low-Earth orbits as well as put landers and rovers on different planetary bodies in the interest of exploration.  In the coming years, I expect it’s only going to get worse, as the exploration of the cosmos steps up, in the expectation that we’re going to be putting people on the Moon as well as Mars.

In any plans though going forward, I would think there should be a serious discussion about what to do with the stewardship of these planetary bodies.  After all, they don’t really belong to us.  Or they will when we’ve treated them like the fictional planet of Sakaar from the MCU Universe, or Arcadia 234 from the movie Soldier.