Exploration, Space, Manufactured Homes, and Prison

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.39.35 AMNew Orleans   Language is interesting as a key to understanding obviously.  I found myself thinking about that in looking at the way some unions and NGO’s refer to their ventures away from their home countries as “missions.”  I was uneasy at the notion.  I’ve always referred to such visits as explorations, which seems better, but perhaps imperfect as well, and no doubt a product of literally a lifetime of intense reading about explorers since my childhood, particularly those that ventured into the Western United States or traversed the world.

All of which made it interesting for me to read Bold Encounters:  Lessons from Polar and Space Explorations by Jack Stuster recently.  His interest is space travel as a consultant to NASA and the like, but he looks at polar expeditions, Antarctica overwintering, and sea voyages for instruction in what to do and not do with people in confined spaces for extended periods of time. For the armchair adventurers looking at the grand pursuits often obscures the little problems that can undermine great visions, but Stuster gets in the weeds.  Amazing what a problem lint can be on a submarine or space voyage for example!  Not to mention clean clothes, personal hygiene or trivial disagreements when people are locked together in small spaces for extended periods.  In space travel the low estimates for personal space run from 30 cubic feet to 250 cubic feet per person in a 1972 design.  Remember, I said cubic feet, not square feet, so at the high end we are talking about a space about a 6 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet.  For sleeping the space design range seems to be optimally between 63 and 84 cubic feet.  We’re talking about a prison cell in the air!

Looking at how carefully Stuster examined all of these issues and the impact a trip to Mars might have on the crew, mentally, physically, and, even, permanently, sustained pretty much only by the grandness of the enterprise, I couldn’t help thinking about the obvious impact on prisoners in such confinement in any number of articles I had read over the years.  The problems seem so predictable.  I also kept remembering Edward T. Hall’s book, The Silent Language, and his vivid warnings about the impact on humans of living in crowded conditions without personal space, particularly his description of the way the pituitary gland expanded for rats caged with each other and his point that such behavioral aberrations could be expected in crowed urban spaces as well.

Having some experience with my Airstream trailers, I’ve been surprised how well they use space, dividing rooms for sleeping, eating, and cooking in very small segments.  Big doublewides that now call themselves manufactured homes are almost luxurious.  Each side of a New Orleans shotgun double has 700 to 750 square feet.  Many trailers are larger.  Trailers still have a bad rap with some people, but they have been under the same construction specifications as stick-built houses since 1976, and everything being equal, if available, they are among the most affordable housing solutions for families in many areas of the country.  In terms of confinement, they work because people can always go outside.

Whether outer space or the urban built environment, the key is always going to be the ability to “get outside” when you want or need to do so.  Prison, many urban communities, space ships, submarines, and polar stations share some things in common:  people are trapped together.  For some there is no destination, no end to the trip, no way out, no glory road.  There must be, or the consequences are horrible to consider, and lint is the least of the problem.  Scientists and explorers seem to recognize this.  Politicians, police, and many others need to do so as well.


Lakota Thunder – Sitting Bull Memorial Song


Philadelphia is ‘Very Angry’ with Comcast

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.23.00 PMNew Orleans       Just to be clear.  It’s not just me, ACORN International, Local 100 United Labor Unions, and the Arkansas Community Organizations who are ripping mad at Comcast for high rates, bad service, and making a cruel joke out of the “internet essentials” program rather than using it to help lower income families crawl over the digital divide:  it’s all of Philly, too!  Our partner, Action United, showed up and stood up at the first hearing in Philly on whether or not the Comcast franchise agreement should be renewed or renegotiated in Comcast’s home city.  They kicked it, as you can read from the Philadelphia Inquirer story.  Let’s see if Comcast finally hears what we’re saying.  Or, not?






Phila. is ‘very angry’ with Comcast

Bob Fernandez, Inquirer Staff Writer 

Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 1:08 AM

City residents complained Tuesday about everything from Comcast Corp.’s troubled customer service to TV rates and corporate taxes during Philadelphia’s first public hearings on the cable giant’s request to renew its citywide franchise agreements.

“We here in Philadelphia are very angry with you,” Monica Rozin said at the mostly calm noon hearing in the basement of a public library off Rittenhouse Square. “Technology gets less expensive and you get more so.”

In the late afternoon, about 40 people held a rally outside South Philadelphia High School – the site of a second hearing – calling for Comcast to “pay its fair share” of taxes, expand a program for affordable Internet service, and freeze rates.

Activists also called for the company to continue funding PhillyCAM – public-access television channels and a studio.

The rally was organized by the nonprofit Media Mobilizing Project, a frequent Comcast critic, and joined by other organizations involved with disabled individuals, workers’ rights, and low-income housing.

“Remember, this is a deal,” Lance Haver, the city’s director of civic engagement, said at the 30-minute rally. “Comcast wants our rights-of-way and rights to our public spaces, and we have every right to demand what we want.”

About 60 people attended the hearing at Southern High. Many of them also attended the rally.

The hearings are part of a renewal process that began in 2013 and has gathered some speed this month with Mayor Nutter’s release of a 571-page consultant survey of the city’s cable- and Internet-related needs.

The four cable franchise agreements between Comcast and the city government expire in August, September, and October.

“We love Philadelphia, and value the strong partnership we have with the city and its residents, and are extremely proud of the world-class services we deliver here, as well as the significant benefits that are afforded by our franchise,” Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander said Tuesday.

“In Philadelphia, Comcast has provided more than $163 million in franchise fees in the past 10 years and delivers 12 PEG [public, educational, and government access] channels for community use, along with substantial financial support,” he added.

Alexander said Comcast, which employs 8,000 workers at its headquarters and other facilities in the city, looks to have “a comprehensive and productive dialogue with city officials.”

Emotions ran high at times at the noon meeting, attended by about 40 people. But for the most part, the speakers were respectful, laughing and clapping.

Mike Miller, a 20-year city resident, feared that his Social Security number might fall into the wrong hands. “I would like them to destroy the Social Security numbers in their files and replace them with non-identifying numbers,” he said.

Oren Panitch, a Northern Liberties resident and Web developer, said, “We should be the shining example of what [Comcast] can bring to the rest of the country, but instead they want to charge more.”

Rosemary Devers of South Philadelphia said, “I’ve got a number of complaints.” One of them, she said, was talking with Comcast customer call representatives in the Philippines when she has a problem.

The next hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the MAST Community Charter School at 1800 Byberry St. Another will be at noon Thursday at the Community Center at Visitation, 2646 Kensington Ave.

The last two are at 5 p.m. Thursday at Martin Luther King High School, 6100 Stenton Ave., and noon Saturday at Bible Way Baptist Church, 1323 N. 52d St.