How times change … there once was a fictional TV show called "Lost In Space" … now there's going to be a real-life "Seat In Space" …
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: When Red heard that "mere mortals" (translation in this case meaning non-astronauts) were going to be launched into space, all she could think of was how that sounded both scary and exciting, whereas Black, unsurprisingly, had much more pragmatic thoughts.
When Red learned that it would be Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, she admits that she first rolled her eyes thinking that it seems money really can buy you anything, although she questioned why he'd potentially put his life at risk for such a daring adventure. But Black explained to her that Blue Origin, the company behind it all, had been created by him not only as a childhood dream and passion project, but to solve what he sees as a social problem.
But when Red saw the video of Bezos and his brother, Mark, and, as someone extremely close to her sister, in addition to being a business partner with her, she was touched by Jeff's comment,
Ever since I was five years old, I've dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.
Unliked Red, Black has been fascinated by space exploration efforts for years (Red's love of movies, including ones related to space travel, don't count), but from the business side more so than the science. So, she has followed the billionaire space tycoons, starting with Richard Branson and his company, Virgin Galactic, then Elon Musk and SpaceX, and now Jeff Bezos. And, although Black isn't the lover of history that Red is, she appreciates the significance of the carefully selected vehicle name and associated dates,
This mission is historic in terms of space tourism but also honors traditional space exploration. The auction was announced on May 5, the day that Alan Shepard made history in 1961 by becoming the first American to fly in space, and the launch vehicle is named the "New Shephard." It will be launched on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of astronauts Neil Armstong and Edwin "Buzz" becoming the first humans to land on the moon.
But when Bezos announced that he was auctioning off a seat on Blue Origin's first crewed flight, Black wondered whether the proceeds would be applied to the cost of the flight. So, she was impressed to learn the money would be donated to Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, to support educational efforts to promote science and technology among young people and help invent the future of life in space. Although she couldn't help but wonder,
So, will the day come when Amazon Prime is making space deliveries?
It's hard not to have an opinion about this year's Olympics, but can we all agree that the athletes represent strength, perseverance, and hope?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: The Olympics is the world's largest sporting event, and although it seems that history occurs both on and off the "field", it's safe to say that the Olympics means very different things to different people (especially us).
When Red was growing up, she looked forward to the Olympics for years as both the summer and winter Olympics Games were held in the same year every four years (it wasn't until 1994 that they started to alternate every two years), so the anticipation and excitement would build until the games finally began,
I can remember it as if it was yesterday, sitting in the rocking chair in our family room covered in a blanket (even in summer) when the iconic Olympic theme would come on. Even now, when I hear it, it immediately takes me back to those days when I'd be glued, for weeks on end, to the TV. And though I loved the Winter Games more (between the figure skating and the skiing, I'm not sure I slept much), ironically, one of my most vivid Olympic memories is watching Nadia Comaneci getting the first perfect score in gymnastics (on the uneven parallel bars) in 1976 in Montreal. It was so amazing that even the electronic scoreboard wasn't programmed for perfection!
Black vaguely remembers watching the Olympics, and except for watching the U. S. men's hockey team, was more likely to have watched replays of key segments than entire competitions. (And that was pre-internet days.) However, she's always been fascinated with the business side of the Olympics (of course),
Even before the fiasco of the 2020 Summer Olympics (the fact it is being held a year late and without spectators says it all), the Olympics have not made economic sense in decades. And, although the broadcast rights account for the lion's share of the Olympic revenues, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) locks those in, while the host cities spend billions. Usually ending up in debt and with "white elephants" – expensive facilities with limited (or no) post-Olympics use.
And, what about this year? It was deemed a financial bust for Japan even before the opening ceremonies (great photos), which had the lowest viewership for the summer Olympics ever. Red didn't even watch them, but Black did watch them (after the fact) as she was interested in the technological feat of almost two thousand synchronized drones, recognizing that technology (including robots) has become a significant part of the Olympics. And, in an attempt to try and attract younger viewers, they're introducing (or re-introducing) six new sports.
Yet, we continue to care about the stories of the Olympics. About the athletes. About the triumph of achievement, perseverance, and commitment. About achieving dreams despite all the challenges. So, will the Olympics still be around in the decades ahead? Well, no one has the answer to that question. Although Red would like to think that the answer lies in one of her favorite movies,
I can't help but think of "Chariots of Fire," which, although I love its memorable theme song by Vangelis, touched me then, and still does … because it's about two athletes who competed for more than themselves, and against odds that had nothing to do with their athletic ability.
The "space race" used to be about countries competing … now, it's billionaires.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We grew up in the 1960s when space exploration was in its infancy and space travel was left to the imagination of television show and movie writers; but since one of us was a theater major and the other studied business, it's not surprising we had very different reactions to the recent flights.
Black expected Red's reaction would be filled with television and movie references (she could only think of Star Trek and the opening phrase "Space, the final frontier," and The Jetsons) so was surprised when Red explained that it wasn't so much what was happening, as who was doing it.
Red remembers when she first heard of Richard Branson (well before being knighted, earning the title "Sir"). It was in 1979 (wow, that's over 40 years ago) on her first trip to England (to visit Black, who was at London Business School) when she went to the original Virgin Megastore down by Marble Arch shortly after it opened. Over the years, Red's connection to England continued (including a college semester, marrying a Brit, and living there for, on and off, for several years), so she couldn't help but read about Richard Branson as he was such a flamboyant personality and often in the news. Especially for his travel-focused "adventures" – such as founding Virgin Atlantic airline, being a daredevil in a hot air balloon, and breaking the speed record for crossing the Atlantic.
So, when Red heard that Sir Richard Branson (and then Jeff Bezos) was going up into space, she wasn't surprised but was certainly very interested in watching,
Let's face it. When an astronaut goes up into space, there's a certain level of excitement, even if you're not a "space geek". For me, watching the billionaires go up includes a certain element of "OMG, they're well-known people who have a lot to lose if something goes wrong." Of course, you don't want anything to go wrong, but for some reason, the element of danger and what's actually happening becomes more real when there's a very public face attached to it.
Black, on the other hand, was more interested in the business side of space, not only tourism but how these flights renewed interest in space (and you can't ignore NASA and government contracts). Of course, Bezos shared his belief that space could be the answer to how to save the earth, something he touted as far back as his 1982 high school valedictorian speech. And, Black was intrigued that his aircraft, a more traditional rocket and space capsule, was so different from Branson's "space airplane".
Also, having watched the two flights on their respective websites, Black couldn't help but be entertained by all the "marketing" each company mixed in with the science and excitement. And later, was amused when Bezos thanked Amazon customers and employees for helping to make the flight possible, although she had to wonder if he genuinely meant it or if it was written by a clever marketing executive to offset some of Amazon's "people problems".
Red couldn't help but remember that comment when she got an Amazon delivery later that day, although she knew her new cereal bowls didn't contribute much. But that wasn't what she shared with Black, but rather how she'd never compared Jeff Bezos and her sister until,
During the press conference after the flight, when a reporter asked Bezos if he'll be flying again soon, his response was something that I'd absolutely expect you to say … "Hell, yes. How fast can you refuel that thing?"
Coffee MAY reduce the risk of getting COVID-19, but masks, social distancing, and taking the vaccine WILL!
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Both of us are habitual coffee drinkers, so were curious about the potential benefits of our favorite beverage to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19, although our initial reactions to the study were (of course) very different.
It started when Black sent Red a New York Post article with the warning to ignore that it came from the Post (we grew up on Long Island, where it's always been known as more of a tabloid than a newspaper), emphasizing how the study linking coffee to reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 came from a credible source. Given it was scientific research, Black didn't expect anything more than a simple "Thanks" in response, so was surprised by Red's reaction,
I found it ironic that I read about how only one cup of coffee a day could potentially reduce the chance of getting COVID-19 by about 10% as I was drinking my morning cup of Zabar's Vanilla Nut Coffee. So, does that mean, if I factor in my afternoon Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, I could double my level of protection? Yes, I'm being a bit ridiculous, but I think so is taking the time – and money – to study the effects of coffee drinking on COVID-19 when they should focus on what's been proven to be effective, like the obvious – getting vaccinated!
Black started to explain, but knew that Red's eyes would glaze over, that the researchers took results from a biomedical database and analyzed the correlation of participant's eating and drinking habits back in 2006 – 2010 with COVID-19 testing done in 2020. Instead, she mentioned that the study was an attempt to identify areas that warrant further investigation, which is very different from saying that coffee actually protects people against COVID-19. Although coffee does have general health benefits, whether or not it's determined to have COVID-19 benefits.
Black really shouldn't have been surprised by Red's response, as from the very beginning of the pandemic, Red's done everything that she possibly could to protect herself and her family. And, when the vaccine was available, Red knew that some people were (and continue to be) hesitant, but not her. She was willing to take whatever vaccine was available.
Black, of course, was more pragmatic. And based on the research and findings from the CDC and highly respected, independent sources, decided the potential risks associated with getting the vaccine was more than outweighed by the reward of not getting a severe case of COVID-19. But now, she's concerned about all the people who haven't been vaccinated,
I wish it could be as easy as drinking coffee to fight the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases, and the associated rise in hospitalizations and deaths due to the Delta variant. You would think, since it is happening almost exclusively to people who have not been vaccinated, that people would get vaccinated. Coffee optional.