My Top 5 Favorite Cities in America

As someone who’s been fortunate enough to travel all over the United States, I’ve visited numerous great American cities. I love many of them, but these 5 are, in my opinion, in a league of their own.

Portland, Oregon

portland-2352754_960_720

The Rose City is truly a beautiful place. On all sides and even down the city streets in Downtown Portland, there are trees everywhere. It carries the same Cascadian feeling as Seattle, yet Portland seems a bit calmer and a bit… weirder. But in a good way! It’s really a lovely place. They also happen to be home to Portland Timbers, formerly my favorite soccer team (although I have since dropped them in favor of my hometown club, Atlanta United FC). If you’re thinking about going to visit the PNW, don’t you dare pass up Portland. In many ways, I prefer it to Seattle.

Seattle, Washington

seattle-1846133_1920

The Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the CLink. The home to thousands of avid fans who cheer the names of Seahawks, Sounders, Supersonics, and Starbucks to the heavens. Seattle is a magical town full of wonderful, intense people. Unlike Portland, Seattle is a bustling center in the middle of Caucasia. Flanked seemingly on all sides by volcanoes and a volcano of human activity in itself, Seattle’s Starbucks fueled energies create a beautiful blend of cultures. Unlike Los Angeles where I felt as if cultures merely coexisted instead, Seattle feels part-East Coast, part-Asian, part-Californian, and 100% Cascadian. The rain might discourage you from living in Seattle if you’re used to sunlight all the time, but don’t ever let it stop you from getting out there to visit.

Anchorage, Alaska

anchorage

I’ve talked about Anchorage before in this post, so I’ll keep this brief. Anchorage is a breathtakingly beautiful town. The culture (to me at least) seems like what would happen if someone took Dallas’ don’t-mess-with-Tex attitude and the laid-back lifestyle in Cascadia, then mashed them together. There aren’t many tall buildings and there’s not even a tenth of the people as there are in a city like Seattle, but it’s still a nice place to visit and take in the scenery.

Manhattan, New York, New York

one-wtc-the-freedom-tower

As far as *being a city* goes, NYC is the most city-like city there could possibly be. You can walk on the streets and be flanked by 60-floor buildings all around. The jungle is real, and it’s all around you while you’re in Manhattan. You could spend a year just in Manhattan–let alone the other boroughs which I’ve not visited properly yet–and never have reason to be bored. It’s a sea of yellow taxis. It’s an amazing view from the top of the Empire State Building. It’s the great universities of Columbia and NYU. It’s a calm day in the middle of Central Park, far away from all the noise and out of sight of the buildings. It’s NYC, and it’s whatever you want it to be. That’s what makes New York so magical for me.

Atlanta, Georgia

atlanta-1617318_1920

Atlanta will always be home to me. I’m a suburbanite in truth, but this is the city I’ve always felt attached to. Soon, I’ll have my first address within the city proper, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it better (which I shall share on here). ATL or A-Town (just never Hotlanta), I’m proud to say that I’m from Metro Atlanta and I love it dearly. The skyline is one of the country’s best, especially coming in on I-20 Eastbound. Now more than ever, the town is becoming a melting pot of culture, and the city is–for the most part–embracing new cultures and peoples as they arrive. The city is even embracing soccer now with a near-religious fervor, something I never thought I’d see.

If you’ve never been before, come visit Atlanta. Eat at the Varsity (or just visit for pictures and eat at Chick-fil-A). Watch a Braves game. Come scream and yell with thousands of other Atlanta United supporters. Enjoy the city in the forest because it’s really quite a nice place to be. Just try not to mind the traffic.

Could Humanity Survive in a Future Colony on Pluto?

Formerly the 9th planet from the sun, now just a large dwarf planet: Pluto. As humanity branches out into space and begins colonizing other planetary bodies, some places like Mars or the Moon seem like logical candidates for the first colonies. They are nearby, relatively speaking. We’ve studied them extensively. But what about other rocky objects in our solar system… like Pluto?

Now admittedly, some problems with Pluto are glaringly obvious. It is very, very cold and extraordinarily far away. Transportation of materials from Earth would be unreliable, so all resources would have to be taken from on-site with only some basic goods (plant seeds, for instance) coming from Earth. Pluto only has 6.3% of Earth’s gravity, a number which is sure to pose massive health risks for humans. Also, it receives only a fraction of the sunlight that we do here on Earth, so relying on solar power could prove problematic.

However, Pluto also has one benefit over many other rocky celestial objects: it is so far away that solar radiation is at a minimum. Radiation is an often-overlooked danger in the science fiction genre, but for real planetary scientists, radiation is a major risk when developing plans for future settlements. The idea that you could build a settlement somewhere with decreased radiation risk (which could be further decreased by insulating buildings with thick layers of materials like lead or ice) is appealing.

To take advantage of Pluto’s relatively low stellar radiation, the other issues must be circumvented. For the problem of gravity, settlements would likely need to be rotated. If a colony were made on a giant centrifuge, the rotation would have to be significant enough to make the gravity suitable for humans. It is not currently known how much gravity humans need to survive and successfully reproduce, but it is quite likely more than Pluto’s 6.3% of Earth gravity. Perhaps we could develop medicine in the future that could counteract the effects of low gravity, but there’s no reason to speculate about that until we fully understand the effects of living in low gravity.

The building materials shouldn’t be a serious problem. Pluto has a thick coat of water ice and some nitrogen that should be able to provide both water and air for the human colonists and their plants. Metals may be difficult to come by, but a colony in Pluto wouldn’t exactly be prime real estate. I wouldn’t expect them to use enough to create significant shortages.

Power may be a bigger issue. There is evidence of cryovolcanism on Pluto, though. It is conceivable that steam power could be harnessed from within the dwarf planet if the colonists were to dig deep enough. Solar power is technically possible, too, but you would need a lot of solar panels that operate at a much higher level of efficiency than the ones currently available.

As for an economy? Pluto will likely make water-based products. A giant rocket fuel plant on Pluto in the distant future is quite possible. I could also see Pluto being a place for tourism, but that would not happen for a very, very long time. Give it 500 years, and then we’ll see.

Also: I know I picked a mountain image for the header picture (since that’s probably what Pluto looks like, just a lot darker), but here are some real pictures from NASA’s New Horizons mission.

 

The Hard Truth: Libertarians Will Never See Political Success Until Pragmatism Defeats Principle

Libertarians of both the big L and small l variety have a common problem: they absolutely suck at winning elections. Obviously, they face an uphill battle to begin with since most Americans don’t even have a proper grasp of what libertarianism is, but the movement would still have trouble even without that hurdle.

Libertarians suffer from the belief that you can put principle over politics, but that’s just not the case in the real world. It wasn’t the case when the Libertarian Party was founded 45 years ago, and it clearly isn’t the case now.  The principle-versus-pragmatist debate has always featured prominently both inside the party and out of it. The debate seems to have no clear resolution, and it won’t be resolved unless someone comes and makes people see the light.

There are two choices here:

  1. Libertarians may stay true to principle,. They can yell and scream and make all the ruckus they want about how taxation is theft, seatbelts should be optional, heroin should be legal and so on. They can do this to their heart’s content, but in doing so, they will have to sleep at night knowing that they will lose every single major election they enter. They will lose and, despite all their noise, fail to alter the political landscape of America whatsoever.
  2. Libertarians can become pragmatists in full. The infighting can stop. Libertarians can seize the initiative of the two old parties showing weakness and unite behind the already-existing infrastructure of the Libertarian Party. They can tone down the more hardcore ideas within libertarianism and preach a message of small government and tolerance that will attract moderates fleeing from their former parties. As success grows, the party could reincorporate more and more of the originally shelved principles.

The libertarians in America could take this second path, they could try for once to win elections, and you know what would happen? Things would change. Imagine a Libertarian caucus in half the state legislatures in the country. A Libertarian governor in Missouri and Alaska. US Representatives in Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Oregon. A senator from Montana. These are all real possibilities if libertarians would just try. Just try.

And people will argue, “but they’re not real libertarians!” Well, no, they’re not. They probably wouldn’t be at first, anyways.

Here’s the way I see it: America is a country full of steak-loving omnivores. What libertarians have been trying to do all these years is to convince Americans to put down their big, juicy cheeseburgers and pick up some vegan libertarianism. Can you honestly expect voters to straight to veganism just like that? Hell no! That’s why you need this interim period of some nice, gradual vegetarianism.

The small-government moderates could be those vegetarians. People in America, moderates especially, want something different. They’re begging for something different. If the libertarians would all unite behind the Libertarian Party and broaden the platform enough to allow moderate, small-government politicians a place to plant their feet, it could be the start of something big. The floodgates could open, and success very well may follow. All it takes is a little change in perspective.

Expectations for the Rest of Atlanta United FC’s Inaugural 2017 Campaign

19 down, 15 to go. Atlanta United is a little past the halfway point, and the team is currently sitting pretty at 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points and a 9-7-3 record. The Five Stripes have 3 matches upcoming against our southern neighbors, Orlando City SC. Orlando is currently just a single point behind us on the table, but we have a game in hand. Atlanta is 8 points below the Supporters’ Shield-leading Chicago Fire, a club who has enjoyed much success through the addition of German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger and the excellent play of the league’s top scorer, Nemanja Nikolić. Atlanta won’t play Chicago again this season.

With the team playing well, it’s safe to say that Five Stripes supporters are expecting Atlanta United to be the first MLS team to make the playoffs in their inaugural season since Seattle Sounders managed the feat in 2009. The team has gotten better as the season has progressed, and if not for the loss of Josef Martinez for a grueling stretch of 10 matches, Atlanta United FC could easily be the name of the first or second-place team in the standings right now.

For me personally, I don’t see how the team could not make the playoffs. The team’s 3 games against Orlando should not be all that difficult. Orlando is falling flat lately, and their backline lacks the speed to contain Atlanta United’s forwards. I’m expecting a minimum of 6 points from those 3 matches. Elsewhere in the schedule, matchups aren’t much more difficult. There’s one more meeting with fellow expansion side Minnesota United, a club that the Five Stripes whacked 6-1 in the middle of a Minnesota snowstorm on March 12th. This next match will be October 3rd, at home.

There are also two matches each against Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution. With those clubs sitting 8th and 10th, respectively, in the Eastern Conference standings, they shouldn’t pose much trouble. There’s even a game left against DC United. DC has been Atlanta United’s kryptonite this season, but they also sit in last place with a lowly 18 points. A third of those points come from Atlanta. Perhaps the third time will be the charm?

The only truly difficult matches left are an August 6th visit to Sporting Kansas City and the final game of the season where Atlanta United FC will host a very competent Toronto FC side at Mercedes Benz Stadium on October 22nd. Luckily, Dirty South Soccer has reported that the entire stadium will be open for that finale of a matchup, and I would imagine that even Giovinco and his cronies will have trouble withstanding an atmosphere of 75000 raucous Five Stripes faithful.

With all that being said… keep your heads up, ATLUTD supporters! The Five Stripes will end this year with a fine first season. I’m personally expecting a third place conference finish, a playoff berth, and an early MLS Cup exit, but who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Edit: For what it’s worth, I also expect Gressel to win Rookie of the Year, but he is going to have to at least maintain his current production in order to do so. I’m excited to see what more he has in him.

Atlanta United’s full schedule can be found here: https://www.atlutd.com/schedule

R.U.S.E. is a Real-Time Strategy Game That Does Justice to Its WWII Setting

R.U.S.E. is a 2011 real-time strategy video game that puts you in the role of a WWII commander. There is a campaign which takes you through a number of historic WWII battles. R.U.S.E. is available to play on Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3; I have personally played both the PS3 and Windows Steam versions. The Steam version is, of course, much better, but the console version was surprisingly playable, too. The game works mostly like a traditional RTS, except it incorporates special abilities called “ruses” which give the players on the battlefield various advantages. The game includes units from every European faction from World War II, and you can play as all the factions in the game’s skirmish mode.RUSE 2RUSE 1

The game is getting old now, but it’s aged well. In a time where few games are being made anymore that do well to represent the RTS genre, it’s never bad to go back and try some old games. If you can find it, pick up R.U.S.E.  sometime and see how you like it.

 

 

People Don’t Seem to Want to Read As Much in 2017 

Hey y’all, AtlantanKnight here.

I just want to take a minute to talk about a startling and disturbing trend I’ve been noticing: people my age (college age) don’t seem to want to read anymore. 

Maybe it’s the distractions? There’s so much to do everywhere now. Mankind has the world at its fingertips, and so many people seem to be shying away from the physical entertainment of literature in favor of Netflix. Why read A Song of Ice and Fire when you could just watch Game of Thrones instead? Most people probably don’t even know the name of the book series! Perhaps that’s not the best example I could have used since admittedly I’ve watched a few GoT episodes and never opened the books, but you see the point.

I’ve seen people ridiculed (myself included) by likewise intelligent individuals because of recreational reading. To me, that’s just abhorrent. Here we are, living in a world where it is apparently so unacceptable for people to want to read that, indeed, criticizing the more literate members of society has become accepted! 

The anti-intellectualist culture in America (and likely the world is growing). The signs are everywhere; this new wave of anti-reading culture amongst young adults is just one of many. We need to find solutions fast and create an intellectual counterculture before the entire country goes the way of perpetual 2016 elections and increasingly illiterate idiocracy. 

Major League Baseball’s World Series Champion Needs International Competition

Has everyone else ever thought about how the traditional World Series isn’t really a world series at all? The title presumes that there are no other baseball teams in the world. It’s time to step out of our little bubble and take on some overseas challengers.

Japan’s league, Nippon Professional Baseball, is the second best baseball league in the world. The league is home to numerous former MLB players, and it is the source of many famous Japanese players like Ichiro. The league plays from March to October. They use similar rules to Major League Baseball with only some minor changes, none of which are all that game-breaking. Their league even parallels MLB in that only have the NPB teams use designated hitters. The two leagues are much more similar than many American fans might think.

So why should the World Series champion play the Japan Series champion? For one, it would thoroughly legitimize whichever team won this intercontinental series. It would not have any serious logistical obstacles since both leagues play during the same months. The series could happen in late November and be played over seven games. Transportation may be a problem, but the series could either take place over a longer period of time than a conventional 7-game series or simply take place entirely in one country one year and the other country the next.

I think the game of baseball needs something like this. In America, baseball is starting to lose its place as the favorite sport of younger generations, but in Japan, baseball is the sport. A spark is needed. A Trans-Pacific Championship series would be highly attended on both fronts, and it would bring a new feeling of globalization to America’s great pastime which is beginning to seem out-of-touch and boring to millennials.

Places to Visit: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida

For those of you who have read some of my previous posts, you’ll see that I have a deep love and fascination for all things space-related. My recent trip to Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast was a real treat. KSC is like a scientific amusement park of sorts, nestled in between spaceship manufacturing plants and rocket launch pads.

KSC is a sprawling complex of buildings which highlight the brightest moments of humanity’s time in space. One of the more awe-inspiring attractions is the so-called “Rocket Garden” which is home to numerous launch vehicles with plaques describing their name, flight experience, and specifications.Rockets KSC

There is also a bus tour with a tour guide and videos which takes you around the entire NASA complex to see views of all the modern day buildings where the nation’s scientists are engineers are hard at work constructing the future’s space vehicles like NASA’s long-awaited Space Launch System. This bus tour also leads to a separate KSC building which contains a Saturn V rocket, the launch vehicle which propelled mankind to the moon. It is still the only launch vehicle to have taken astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit.Rocket Garden

For me personally, the coolest thing at Kennedy Space Center is the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Following 33 missions in space, Atlantis was retired with the rest of the shuttle place and sent to be displayed in its own exhibit at KSC. Since this is the largest real spaceship (most of the ships at Kennedy Space Center haven’t actually been to space), it’s only fitting that it is displayed with distinction for all to see. There are also simulators in Atlantis’ building which let you practice landing and docking a virtual space shuttle.

Lunar Lander KSC

Seeing Kennedy Space Center gives me hope for the future of NASA. The American space program must continue onwards to continue advancing technology and bring humans closer to the stars. I’d encourage any interested tourists of all ages to visit Kennedy Space Center the next time you’re in Florida. If you add KSC to your to-do list along with the normal Central Florida staples of Disney World and Universal, you’re sure to have a great trip on your hands.

AtlantanKnight Blogs: Stargazing

Do you ever just take a moment to lay down at night and stare up at the stars? For me, the night sky represents the future. Someday, if we all work together to advance science and technology, people will be able to sit here at night on Earth and point to some of those specks of light in the night sky. They’ll point to those specks of light and say to their kids, “hey, you know there’s people living up there?” That’s the dream. The night sky is enthralling, and stargazing is a way to glimpse into the future.

I also love it because it’s a look into the past. Those lights up there I’m seeing aren’t today’s views. They’re the views from 15, 25, 50 years ago. Those stars are all so far away that their light takes many years to get here. It’s just crazy to think about. 

We think we’re so important down here on Earth, but we’ve not done anything yet. We sell ourselves short and take so much for granted. We need to be better so that one day, we can watch that first spaceship blast off towards another star, carrying humanity with it. This is what I think about when I look at the night sky, but when people ask me what I’m doing, I just call it stargazing. Maybe next time you look up at the night sky, you’ll start stargazing, too.

~AtlantanKnight

Aquaponics Will Be an Innovative Way for Humanity to Grow Food in Space

In the near future, likely within the next fifty years, the first human colony (or colonies) in space will be established. In the news, most of the issues you hear about with regards to space colonization are concerned with transportation, lack of sufficient gravity, or radiation. While these are certainly issues, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the hurdles of building a sustainable human settlement beyond Earth.

Efficiency is going to be extremely important in early space colonies in order to minimize costs and optimize the human habitation areas. One of the most effective ways to create an efficient nutrition system for the colonists is aquaponics. Aquaponics is the idea that you can create a closed, water-based system of plants and animals that can be used as a food source. The plants grow without soil, and they gain the majority of their nutrients from the excrements of the fish, shellfish, and other aquatic creatures living in the water below. These fish excrements are a very good source of fertilizer, but the plants’ nutrients can also be supplemented by any man-made fertilizers the colonists have on hand if needed.

An aquaponics system would be effective for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they can grow a large variety of plants that could provide healthy sources of nutrition for the colonists. In particular, leafy greens like lettuce, cabbage, and spinach excel in an aquaponic growth system. The fish are the other important component of the system; they can be both a source of food for both the colonists and the plants. Additionally, the water in the system would be recycled for the colonists to drink and then recovered from the colonists’ waste, purified, and reentered into the system.

NASA is well-aware of the concept of aquaponics. They even received an aquaponics project from a high school once as an entry to one of their science contests. However, creating an aquaponic system on a foreign world like the Moon or Mars will be a challenge. There’s no way of knowing how the various aquatic species will react to space travel. There’s also the danger of one disease killing off the entire fish and/or plant population at once since the system is fully integrated. Colonies would likely want to get multiple, separate systems as soon as possible in order to minimize this possibility.

Still, aquaponics checks off all the boxes when it comes to space nutrition. Aquaponic systems could provide both vitamins and protein. They could be custom fit to containers and stacked vertically in UV-lit rooms in order to maximize space usage. They would be mostly self-sustaining, so fewer colonists would be needed to tend to them. The systems could also be monitored by computer equipment to ensure nutrient levels in the water are maintained. These potential aquaponic systems are sure to prove greatly beneficial for future space colonists.