Into the Black Hole

Since I had last seen the black hole, it had grown, bursting out of the confines of the former Piggly Wiggly and sprawling across the parking lot. The neighboring ex-church, once a separate singularity, now has been absorbed by the sprawl. Outside the ex-church is a sign proclaiming it to be the World Peace Institute, or something like that.

The Black Hole is located in Los Alamos, New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb and still big in the devastating explosion business. And that’s how many of the folks see it up there – as a business. That pisses off Ed. He has been working long and hard protesting the activities at the Los Alamos Lab and the cavalier attitude that many of the employees take there. He has also been profiting off the Lab at the same time. Ed is a junk dealer, but oh, the junk.

Ed has a point – the scientific community (it’s more about the biotech than big physics now, but the principle still applies) has not taken a leadership role in helping society come to terms with new technologies that can transform it or sweep it away. “That’s for the government,” they say, but that’s a copout. The government is a bunch of idiots elected by the rest of us idiots. Just as Universities have awakened to the ugly truth that businessmen need training in ethics, people designing weapons of mass destruction need to understand the meaning of the device beyond the megatons, and they need to help the rest of us understand. A much more coherent expression of this idea is in the novel A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller. The book also has the best explanation of the Catholic position on the sanctity of life I have ever read.

But I digress.

Ed would like our movie. When he and his crew like a movie, sometimes props are loaned for free. My goal was to pitch the movie, get him on board, and get his support. Bonnie was with me, and I’m told the presence of a pretty woman is always helpful.

Alas, this day Ed was not wearing his hearing aid. It’s bad enough trying to talk to him ordinarily, I understand, but in this case it was impossible. He couldn’t hear Bonnie at all, so it fell to me to shout into his ear. There was no way to communicate even slightly complicated ideas. We listened to Ed’s lecture and watched a video he has that was “smuggled” out of the lab, showing a portion of a lecture about the nuclear weapons business at Los Alamos. Ed shows the video because of the cavalier way the lecturer discusses making nations cease to exist. After the video we “discussed” the current situation around the world. I put the quotes around the word discussed because he couldn’t hear my comments.

After that we went poking around the place, gathering up an assortment of electronics, a geiger counter, and some bits that might be good for making a nuclear warhead mockup. We had gone there because we heard that Ed had his own mockups, but they sucked. Ah, the stuff, the stuff. Strange things, sinister things, mysterious things, and lots and lots of pure worthless junk. Most of it was older stuff, so if you ever need the retro look for a film, you can’t go wrong there. Near some really expensive vacuum pumps in the back there was the semi-dessicated poop of a small animal on the floor.

Then it came down to time to pay for the stuff, and this is where the gravity well of the Black Hole distorted mathematics beyond all reason. We needed the stuff for three weeks, but the rental cost was as much as (if not more than) the purchase price. At this point I think Ed thought we were doing a feature film with a big budget. Haggling ensued, and putting things back, and numbers spontaneously appeared out of nowhere, connected to nothing, and then disappeared again with a faint popping sound.

I am now the proud owner of a geiger counter.

12 thoughts on “Into the Black Hole

  1. Congratulations on your pirates Jerry! I am so jealous of you right now.

    I am tucked away in the forest without internet and I have really missed reading about the adventures of Jerry Seeger.

    Good luck with everything. And remember: Bar wench number four should have been me.

  2. lew, if there was a bar wench number four in this flick, it would have been you. In fact there’s only Ruthie, who owns the place and doesn’t put up with (much) crap.

  3. As for the geiger counter, I don’t think I’m going to be taking it back to the Czech Republic. Maybe the best crew member at the end of the shoot can get the “Golden Geiger” award.

  4. Ah, good ol’ Ed. I remember dealing with him when I worked at the Monitor, and he was a hoot. Pity he’s misplacing his hearing aid nowadays — used to be he just occasionally “forgot” to turn it on.

    There may be some implied message there, like when UB40 (pretty big in the UK, but known in the US as a one-hit wonder for “Enola Gay”) came to New Mexico to give a protest concert on the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb, and the closest venue to Los Alamos that they could get was the School for the Deaf.

    Now, the National Atomic Museum in Albuuqerque has some mockups that definitely would be realistic, but you’d have difficulty getting hold of them — even though they’d been on display for decades, a couple of years ago the Department of Defense made the museum pull the exhibits because they were too realistic and might have given away vital secrets. But maybe the museum has other, non-secret-revealing, mockups in storage (the museum has tons of stuff awaiting a new, bigger location).

    For that matter, the National Atomic Museum’s gift shop might have something interesting. Alas, they no longer carry the way-cool Little Boy and Fat Man earrings — some Japanese tourists took offense.

  5. OK, to do the pedantic bit, it was Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark who did “Enola Gay.” UB40 (named after the british unemployment form) had a distinctive ska/reggae sound and for the life of me I can’t think of a single song they did.

    That Atomic Museum thing sounds interesting. I’m not sure if Archie has started work on the warhead or not. He’s going from pictures on the Web.

  6. Sure, you know a UB40 hit – their cover of Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine was unavoidable for a while in the late 80’s.

  7. Random Ed anecdote: remember when Sharon and Jane visited a million years ago? His front yard apricot tree was bowed over with weight of all the ripe fruit. He had a sign in his front yard, “Free, come pick some.” Sharon and Jane thought that was marvy and toodled up to pick a basket. Ed came out and “conversated” one sidedly with them, but they had a lovely time, enjoyed the crazy guy, and came back with a bushel of nice apricots.

  8. The black hole is great. I picked up an old guvmint desk to use in grad school, there. It weighed one ton, and could probably hold up the ceiling in the event of an earthquake. It was a guvmint green tank. It was charmingly ugly, but not pretty enough for T, and she made me leave it when we moved. I’m sure a Lubbock city trash worker went on disability after trying to move it from the dumpster.

  9. Ah, I remember trying to explain Ed to a college friend who came to visit when Pat and I lived in Los Alamos. I described him as the “town liberal.” Replied the friend: “You know, you use the same tone most people would use for ‘village idiot.'”

    Oh, those big steel desks. We have one, and I love it.

  10. Hey! There’s gold on my property in Columbia but no monetarily effective way to extract it … and I’ve read old mines are being reopened with the aid of (admittedly hi-tech) geiger counters. I might be in the market, or you can come out and give it a whirl. Or you can copy that kid in Colorado who built his own atomic pile out of old GC’s and radium clocks. -b.

  11. Hey, bugE has a point. The current price of gold isn’t high enough to make such speculation worthwhile, but if the price does go up (which in theory happens if the world economy becomes less stable), he could use a geiger counter to find where best to start digging his strip mine.

    And if he’s really lucky, there’s a lot of old-growth timber on top of it that needs to be cut down first, that he can get big bucks for. Nothing better than old-growth timber for building your eco-sensitive log-constructed ecotourism lodge.

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