One Man’s Dream Of A Far-Side Village

Professor Johann-Dietrich Woerner was recently appointed to the position of Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) earlier this week. As the former Chair of the German Space Agency he comes well-equipped to manage the €4.4 billion annual budget of the ESA.

He will be overseeing various projects, such as, satellites used for observation, weather, communication and navigation, as well as the European astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). There are also planned missions to Mars, Mercury and Jupiter.

But, his planned mission to the Moon could be the most ambitious of them all. The Moon? Hasn’t that been done? Well, not the way he envisions it.

When everyone else is talking about Mars, Professor Woerner is talking about the Moon. He has some very good arguments in his favor.

He wants to establish a base on the far side of the moon which would include a telescope that would be able to view further out into space than any other telescope that has been developed to date.

“The far side of the Moon is very interesting because we could have telescopes looking deep into the Universe, we could do lunar science on the Moon and the international aspect is very special,” he explains. “The Americans are looking to go to Mars very soon – and I don’t see how we can do that – before going to Mars we should test what we could do on Mars on the Moon.”

He is proposing, not just a base, but an actual village on the moon. This endeavor will be just as daring and difficult as a base on Mars. But the big advantage to populating the moon with scientists, astronomers, geologists, and such, instead of Mars, is the distance.

If there is an emergency that requires help from Earth, it is only a four day trip to the moon. A trip to Mars is six months.

What we learn on the Moon, about building workable shelters, growing food, dealing with health issues, and facing a plethora of unexpected problems would be applicable to what we would face on Mars.

He says, “A Moon village shouldn’t just mean some houses, a church and a town hall,” says Woerner. “This Moon village should mean partners from all over the world contributing to this community with robotic and astronaut missions and support communication satellites.”

For the moment, the Moon village is only an idea. No one is committing any funds. There are no plans on the drawing board. But there is new interest in the Moon, especially in Europe.
So, Woerner is pushing the idea for serious discussion. If anyone can get that discussion started it will be him. He is one of the world’s most powerful and respected space figures.

Sing a Song of Singapore

Singapore is the fourth-largest financial center in the world. It ranks as one of the five busiest ports. Singapore ranks high in standard of living, education, health care, and economic competitiveness. It has one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the longest life expectancies in the world.

A trip to Singapore should be on your itinerary, but before you plan your visit, you would be wise to learn their customs and laws.

A sticky situation
One of the nastiest things to step into is a wad of gum. To avoid this problem, Singapore made gum illegal. The only gum allowed is prescription gum, so if you are chewing nicotine gum, you better be ready to show that prescription. Otherwise you can be fined up to $500.

Up in smoke
If that “gum ban” has you craving a cigarette, forget that. too. Their “smoking in public’ ban is quite strict. But it seems smoking is more tolerable than gum chewing. The fine for lighting up a cigarette is only $200.

You can trash this idea
By now you are probably trying to get rid of the evidence that you are chewing gum or smoking a cigarette. Whatever you do, don’t get caught tossing (or spitting) the evidence on the ground. Littering comes with a fine of $1,000 and possibly some community service emptying garbage cans.

Jiggle the Handle!
Believe it or not, there are people who check public bathrooms for unflushed toilets. If you are caught NOT flushing, you could be slapped with a $150 fine. If you must, jiggle the handle.

Don’t Call A Taxi
This advice assumes you are already out $1,850 in fines due to the indiscretions described above. Taxis are a bit pricey in Singapore, so to hold on to those few dollars you have left,. Instead, buy a Singapore Tourist Pass for the MRT (mass rapid transit) system. You can rest assured that you won’t have to worry about stepping on gum or inhaling anyone’s smoke. You also don’t need to worry about anyone spilling a drink on you. Food and drink are forbidden on the train. Fines can be up to $500.

Here’s Another Tip
Actually its not a tip, or better worded, don’t tip. You are not expected to tip,so why tip?

Thinking of Leaving Your Mark?
If you spray graffiti or carve your name on a park bench you could become the center of attention, in the form of a public caning. That’s right,  an old-fashion spanking. Foreigners are not exempt, in 1994 an American teenager got 4 whacks for defacing a car. In 2010, a man from Switzerland got three whacks and five months in jail for spray-painting a train.

Cover up
About the only time being naked is allowed in Singapore, is while you are showering. Otherwise its considered pornography. Hang the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door, make sure it’s locked, and close the curtains tight before you get undressed for your shower. Offenders pay a $2000 fine or spend up to 3 months in jail.

Highest price to pay
If you plan to tour the world, don’t make Singapore the next spot after Peru. That country has very lax drug laws, and maybe you experimented just a bit. If you arrive in Singapore high as a kite, it could mean serious trouble. A death sentence is not unheard of, even for foreigners.

It seems like Singapore might be a bad place to visit with all these laws. But in reality it is one of the cleanest, safest places in the world. If you can follow the rules, you will love it.

You May Never Look At Chocolate The Same Way Again

Abdul, a young Syrian man (not his real name) was trying, once more, to escape the Syrian civil war. He had made seventeen previous attempts to sneak into the U.K. and failed seventeen times. He learned from his mistakes every time he failed, but no two attempts were identical. There was always something unexpected that foiled his plans. He figured by now he had experienced it all. The eighteenth attempt would surely be a success.

Abdul, six other men, and an experienced smuggler all gathered at a truck stop outside of the small village of Coquelles, France. Earlier this evening truck drivers had pulled in, parked their loaded rigs, and settled down for the night, sleeping in their cabs. In the morning, some of these drivers would be delivering their trailers to the train station loading dock where they would be loaded onto flat cars. The freight train would then transport the trailers the rest of the way to England by way of the Channel Tunnel. This routine never changed and that made the smuggler’s job easy.

The smuggler, a Kurdish man, originally from Iraq, had been organizing these refugee operations for years and knew that tanker trucks were never x-rayed for stowaways. So he checked the tanker trucks for their destination stickers and identified a tanker that was destined for the U.K. The smuggler, Abdul, and the six other men quietly approached the tanker so as not wake the driver.

First, the smuggler climbed the ladder to the top of the tank and used a bolt cutter to remove the padlock on the hatch. Then he signaled for the refugees to climb to the top of the tank. The contents of the tanker were not identified. If it turned out to be something dangerous or toxic, they hoped it would be obvious before they ventured inside.

The moment the hatch was opened a familiar aroma permeated the cold night air. Chocolate! Seven men were going to sneak into the UK in a tank of liquid chocolate. It was near freezing that night, so as they climbed down into the warm chocolate it felt great, like a chocolate hot tub. The smuggler then closed the hatch, leaving a little gap so they could breathe and eventually escape.

Abdul stands 6 feet tall, but he still couldn’t touch the bottom of the tank with his feet. They were all holding on to the rim of the hatch with one hand. If anyone had lost their grip and gone under, the others would not have been able to rescue the fallen man.

It didn’t take long for the men to realize the chocolate was becoming uncomfortably hot. The heat was actuallly becoming unbearable. The seven men could do nothing else but cling to the hatch rim in a tight circle, submerged in chocolate up to their necks. They had to keep moving their legs to keep from getting totally trapped in the heavy chocolate.

They naturally began to consider their dilemma. The trip to the train should take no more than 30 minutes. Once they had passed the checkpoints they would be able to escape their chocolate prison. Unfortunately, the truck wasn’t moving. They had now been in chocolate limbo for more than two hours. The men were careful to remain quiet, but under their breaths they cursed the smuggler for putting them in this, now precarious, situation.

Some of the men wanted to give up and escape the chocolate. But Abdul wanted to stay with the original plan. Seventeen attempts under his belt—would he never complete his personal pilgrimage? He felt so close to freedom that he could taste it (and it tasted like chocolate). If just one of them left, all of them would have to leave. Whoever left would leave a trail of chocolate all down the side of the tanker. Anyone staying behind would be discovered, for sure.

The situation was not getting any better. In fact it was becoming serious and two of the men started to cry. In the end it was unanimous. It was time to leave while they still had the cover of dark. The chocolate was heavy and slippery. It was almost like a game of tug-o-war. It took the entire group to help push or pull each man, one at a time through the hatch. The last guy struggled the most. It was difficult to extract against the pull of the chocolate. He finally had to kick off his shoes and allow them to drop to the bottom of the tank.

All seven men, exhausted, but safely extracted from that unforgiving chocolate, began the long, cold, hike to their tent hidden deep in the nearby woods. They were covered head to toe in chocolate and as they walked, they left seven sets of chocolate foot prints, one of them shoeless. In the frigid night air the gooey chocolate hardened and cracked on their clothes and skin. They chipped off pieces and ate the chocolate. They all agreed, it was very good chocolate.

Abdul did eventually make his way to the U.K. He avoided tankers and instead stowed away on a trailer loaded with new truck cabs. He found one that was unlocked and hid inside. He was granted asylum in the U.K. and found a job at an Arabic restaurant in Sheffield.

To this very day, whenever Abdul gets a whiff of chocolate, it reminds him of that cold winter night when he and six other grown men nearly experienced Death By Chocolate!

The Most Haunted Place in America

The Alamo, located in San Antonio, Texas, was the site of the legendary siege of 1836, one of the most important battles for Texas’s independence from Mexico. During this battle, thousands of Mexican soldiers were killed or wounded and 182 Texan defenders of the Alamo lost their lives.

The Alamo was erected in the 1700’s. It was built as a mission to bring Christianity to the Native Americans. However, In the 1830’s, this mission housed revolutionaries and rebels. It was during this time that the mission was re-purposed as a fort with the addition of high walls and numerous outbuildings.

In 1836 Mexico’s General Santa Anna (known as the Napoleon of the West) marched on San Antonio with 1,000 troops. Santa Ana’s goal was to conquer the Texan rebels. When he arrived on the 23rd of February, 145 rebels had taken refuge within the Alamo. For the next 13 days, a raging battle ensued.

William B. Travis, commander of the regular army and Jim Bowie commander of the volunteers, managed to increase their numbers to 182 men to defend the Alamo. Unfortunately, Santa Ana’s army swelled to 4,000 men.

Grossly outnumbered, the Texans fought valiantly but Santa Anna’s troops stormed the Alamo on the morning of March 6, killing most of the men. Among the dead were William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett. The Mexican army won the battle, but at a high cost, 1,600 Mexican soldiers lay dead or wounded. When General Santa Ana spoke of this victory, he was reported to say, “One more such glorious victory and we are finished.”

After the battle, the bodies of the Alamo defenders were desecrated by Mexican soldiers. They were looted, dismembered, buried in mass graves, dumped in the river, and even burned. In contrast, the fallen Mexican soldiers were given proper burials on the site. To this day, construction crews and utility workers dig up skulls and other bones when excavating in the area.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of unsettled souls haunting the Alamo. Several Federal Marshals have quit their jobs after encountering wandering entities on the portion of the lawn that covers the old cemetery.

In the gardens, the spirit of a cowboy, wearing a black duster and hat, appears dripping wet as if he has ridden through a thunderstorm. Some historians feel this spirit may be one of the 22 dispatch riders that William Travis sent seeking assistance.

Other witnesses report seeing a tall stately, but sorrowful Mexican officer who is believed to be General Manuel Fernandez de Castrillon. He was one of Santa Anna’s regimental commanders and opposed the final assault on the Alamo, stating it was bound to be a “bloodbath.”johnwayne

Park Rangers report seeing Davy Crockett standing guard at various locations. He is described as holding his flintlock rifle and wearing his coon
skin cap and buckskin clothing.

Even the spirit of John Wayne has been spotted. In life, he was cast as Davy Crockett in the 1960 version of “The Alamo” and was obsessed about researching the famous battle, It is speculated that he was so captivated by heroic stories that he chose to spend eternity alongside the real Davy Crockett and the rest of the fighting Texans.

This is just a small list of the apparitions seen at this famous battle site. In fact, this historical site is considered to be the most haunted place in the United States, possibly even the world.