Kármán vs Mendoza

I first ran into the “Mendoza Line” when a co-worker commented on a customer’s inability to perform the simplest of acts.  Although the origin of the term varies, since my co-worker was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I choose to associate it with Mario Mendoza of the 1979 Seattle Mariners (see also https://www.mlb.com/glossary/idioms/mendoza-line).  It is probably a paradox since Mario was able to remain on the roster for his defensive capabilities, though his hitting (offense) was extremely poor.  Nevertheless, the internet (that fount of all knowledge – sorry Encyclopedia Britannica) regards the Mendoza Line as an absolute minimum measure of performance.

As commercial “space” travel has become a reality, defining what is space and not Earth has given the work of Hungarian Theodore von Kármán a new life (he died in 1963).  However, if one gets above this line, is one an “astronaut/cosmonaut”?  As truly amazing as this feat is (for a variety of reasons), what’s the difference between technical competence/contribution and sightseeing?  Does it matter?

Purdue University, self-proclaimed “cradle of astronauts” (Neil Armstrong, et al.), has decided that to be an astronaut you have to be there doing something besides paying for bragging rights (compare Audrey Powers to William Shatner).  In any event, rising above the Kármán Line seems to be a maximum measure of performance (unless setting a record in the International Space Station means something – if so then maybe we need a new label: the “Scott Kelly Line” of 340 days in space?).

As we enter this second year of “COVID Purgatory” (for some, “hell”; but for no one, “heaven”), we continue our downward spiral below Mr Mendoza:  seemingly racing to the bottom.

Recent polls, and an essay in the Wall Street Journal (see “Is Climate Change in Your Problem Top 10?,” Andy Kessler, WSJ, 2022 January 9) reveal what appears to be a statistically significant abyss between the two predominant political camps and the “Top 10 Problems” this country is struggling with.  It is not so much whose list is right and whose is wrong but that the two lists are so incredibly different.  Take away all the political posturing and what emerges is that one school is of the opinion that “immigration” is Number One, and the other school votes for “COVID-19”.

I guess they agree on one thing: climate change is not something of concern.  Not the cause.  Not the effect.  Not the remedy.  Maybe it’s like being wholly interested in whether or not it will rain today, and not the fact that it’s been raining “forever” (or that reservoirs are drying up – globally)?

As my daughter put it just before Christmas, the weather is “wonky.”  Indiana was experiencing weather (warm, into the 50s, and sunny) that could make those of us in the PacNW wish we ever had any days like that (we have been under a “Flood Watch/Advisory” for about three weeks now – yes, I had to go out and buy a sump pump (you don’t want details).  The point is, while politics may be local, the weather everywhere is just plain “wonky.”  And it is climate that makes the weather.

Back in the 90s I was living in Stavanger, Norway.  A friend, who had grown up in Oslo could remember when fishing boats got caught in the ice and it was possible to skate out to them and provide food, fuel.  In just one lifetime, we have all seen – if we chose to – a very “wonky” climate.  Trouble is, our so-called “leaders” choose not to (“panem et circenses” indeed).  Rather than setting ourselves to the task of adapting, we have chosen to wring our hands (gnashing of teeth and rending of garments optional).

Just because the dinosaurs lived for millions of years does not mean that any person breathing now will see 2100.  Maybe Pogo was right? 

[sorry about the typo: “who’s” vs “whose”]

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