Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Columbus Day Remembered (Accurately, this time).

Exploration can be hazardous to your health. Your mental health that is. Or maybe just working for the Emperor is. Day in and day out, forced to shun innovation in developing a copy of work carried out by your ancestors, enlarged by several per cent of course. And on the "cloudy" days, like the holidays when we remember the real explorers from our history, the minions must really suffer a crisis of faith.

Witness the latest tome from the Constellation Viceroy. It seems that he wasted his Sunday writing an inspirational piece, along with the countless minutes lost from the lives of his minions who paused to read the resulting drivel. We'll save you the pain of reading it for yourself, save for one telling paragraph repeated here for your displeasure.

In trying to justify the fact that, from the Emperor on down, all have failed to articulate the importance of space exploration, and the ill-formed machines that will enable it, for the common taxpayer, the Viceroy called up historical analogy in his defense. "These people did not set out or justify their exertions by listing to their stakeholders all the discoveries and innovations 'they would surely make'. Yet today we are often held to just such a standard by some - to look into our crystal ball and somehow be able to tell Queen Isabella all we will discover BEFORE we discover it - to somehow and someway know the unknowns before we encounter them - in order to justify the exertion a priori. Those who hold us to such a standard contribute to cutting our own national nose off to spite our face. Even the most casual observer of history should find this absurd."

We casual observers do not find this absurd, nor do we find the analogy accurate.

If the Viceroy had saved the ink in his quill and read, instead of skimmed, the books he attributes his inspiration to, he would have known better. Simpler yet, he could have watched PBS's "THE MAGNIFICENT VOYAGE OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS," and learned that, indeed, Columbus sold his voyage, and thereby earned his endowment, by promising to find an innovative route to the east by going west. The Admiral of the Seas promised to return with gold, spices, and other riches.

In the run-up to 1492, Columbus was spurned multiple times by potential benefactors. Only with specificity of intent came eventual investment. The same should hold true today. Perhaps, the Viceroy of Constellation should stop pontificating and start defending.

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