Shaking the House

In 1864, abolitionist and women’s rights activist Lydia Maria Child wrote in what is known as a drudgery journal that she “swept and dusted the sitting room & kitchen 350 times. Filled lamps 362 times. Swept and dusted chamber & stairs 40 times.” I assume she did not do this all at once, although I’m sure that some days it felt like it.

Lydia Maria Child taking a much deserved break from the drudgery of shaking up her house. See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ll be the first to admit I am not a great housekeeper. I do attempt to at least clean the bathrooms regularly and keep the kitchen surfaces more or less sanitary, but beyond that it’s a little bit of a battle. Because there’s always something more interesting to do or write about or both.

I am, however, a spring cleaner. And it turns out I’m in really good company because a recent survey found that about 74% of Americans engage in deep cleaning in the springtime. Psychologists tell us that may be because with the return of longer days, our natural melatonin levels decrease and we are more energized. What better way to spend that extra energy than by laundering the drapes or mopping behind the refrigerator?

Historians tend to believe that this compulsion to clean every spring is rooted in an awful lot of human tradition that reaches back thousands of years to at least three distinct cultures. First, there is the Iranian celebration of Nowruz, or New Year that occurs on March 21, and includes a cleaning tradition called khane tekani, which translates as “shaking the house.” This strikes me as pretty much a perfect phrase for the occasion.

I mean, it’s still drudgery, but once in a while it’s just got to be done. Image by svklimkin from Pixabay

Another possible source of the tradition is found in the Jewish remembrance of Passover. Also in the springtime, this involves the purging of leavening agents from the home and tends to include a great deal of cleaning. And then in Chinese culture, it’s pretty common practice to scrub and sweep any potential bad luck from the home before it can carry into the new year in late January or early February, when the days are just beginning to noticibly lengthen.

It doesn’t seem like there’s a particularly strong case that any of these traditions is totally responsible for inspiring the human habit of spring cleaning. Instead, they seem to be evidence that it’s just a thing that we humans, or at least 74% of us or so, like to do.

I think for most of us, the day-to-day process of keeping a clean-ish home probably feels a lot like drudgery. I for one can’t even recall the last time I filled the lamps or dusted the sitting room. But over the last few weeks I have been shaking my house, and I gotta say, it feels pretty good.

Are you a spring cleaner?

Creativity Plays Opossum

A few days ago, as I was driving through the City of St. Louis and scanning the local radio stations, my brain caught on a conversation about ChatGPT and dead opossums. If you have been paying much attention around the water cooler lately, you’ve probably heard about ChatGPT. It’s the AI app that will quickly compose an email for you or help you solve that tricky math problem. It can give you the illusion of companionship, tell you a joke, write an essay for your English class, and offer useful advice like that you probably shouldn’t cheat on your English essay.

Which is, of course, exactly what I would say if I were a robot. Image by Janos Perian from Pixabay

I’m told it can even put together a blog post, but as the creative mind behind this blog has been artificially intelligent for years, I’m not sure there’d be much call for it in my little corner of the blogosphere. And yes, though I didn’t catch enough of the conversation to know why one might want this, ChatGPT can also compose lyrics for a song about dead opossums, or presumably also live opossums that are playing dead. It can even do it in a much shorter time period than your average folksinger, most of whom would likely never attempt to write one in the first place.

Personally, I’ve never used the app, and at this moment in time, I believe I never will, but it’s fascinating to listen to people talk about it. For most, it seems to be a bit like watching a horror movie. It’s super creepy and it makes your heart pound and your stomach hurt as your mind gnaws on the notion that human creativity appears as dead as an opossum. But on the other hand, it’s also kind of cheesy and entertaining and pairs well with popcorn.

There’s no doubt that AI is exploding onto the scene, but it’s been on the rise for years, beginning in the 1950s when computers were first able to store and retrieve data in addition to simply running through a program. The concept of artificial intelligence stretches back even further than that to at least 1872 to English writer Samuel Butler’s Erewhon.

This is kind of how I’m currently feeling about AI. Image by Roy Guisinger from Pixabay

The novel tells the tale of protagonist Higgs who discovers a hidden Utopia filled with people who are remarkably concerned about his pocket watch. It turns out that three hundred years before Higgs’s arrival, the Erewhonians gave up all technology, including pocket watches, for fear that it would evolve to eventually overcome the human race.  

At the time the novel was published, and for many years after, it was assumed to be a commentary on the evolutionary work of Charles Darwin. It probably was, but from the perspective of 2023, it might read a little more like an incredibly insightful horror novel that is difficult to get through because it was written in the 19th century and as a result probably seems sort of dull to most 21st century readers.

I bet it could be nicely modernized by ChatGPT if anyone wanted to give it a try. Throw in a nice song about dead opossums, and you might just have a great work on your hands.

Prairie in Progress

In May of 1675 or so, Father Louis Hennepin set out with fur trapper and explorer Robert de La Salle to explore some of the vast western lands of New France. The expedition set off from Quebec to explore the Great Lakes, find a couple of pretty impressive waterfalls, and wind its way through a good portion of the Mississipi and Illinois Rivers, to see what it could see.

What the explorers saw was, according to Father Hennepin, mostly a lot of grass. He wove together some good stories of adventure as well, many of which have made him a little suspect as far as trustworthy historians go, but about the grass, he was absolutely right. There was a lot of it, and he was perhaps the first writer to refer to the middle of what would become the United States as “prairie.”

Depending on who you ask, the tall grasses of North America once covered anywhere from 142 to 200 million acres across what would become fourteen states, where it provided homes for abundant wildlife, occasionally caught fire, and swayed in the wind causing a fair few settlers to feel a little seasick. I realize there is a pretty wide gap between 142 and 200 million, but one thing we can pretty much all agree on is that there’s a lot less of it now.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Roughly one third of my own Great State of Missouri used to be covered by prairie grass. Today, the state contains only about 1% of its original grassland, about 70,000 acres in total. Obviously, a lot of that is inevitable because the land got more densely settled and people built cities and suburbs filled with suburban houses that have suburban yards and suburban homeowners associations that don’t like tall grass.

Spring is firmly upon us here in Missouri which means so is lawn mowing season and unlike previous years, this one has found me doing a lot of back and forth and back and forth through my lawn, cutting down the very same plants I am attempting to grow. I have done this maybe four or five times so far this year. As of this moment I am the only one of my household to have completed this task.

That’s not because no one else in my household would willingly take on this job, but it’s because of an unfortunate set of circumstances that include the complicated timing of rainy weather, minor injuries and illnesses, busy activity and work schedules, and one fairly substantial grass allergy. In a normal year, I might mow the grass twice, because my husband actually loves to mow the yard, and is almost always the one to do it.

He’s also a lot stronger than I am and has a strange devotion to his old non-self-propelled push mower. It’s difficult to maneuver, at least for me, through our yard which is fairly large, oddly shaped, terribly uneven, and extremely hilly. Oh, and it also has some areas of really poor drainage. Mowing it is not fun. And it takes a long time. And I am, objectively, really bad at it.

I can’t say for sure that the fact that I don’t like to do it isn’t a factor in my ineptitude, but I am not intentionally bad at mowing. I do try to work in straight lines when I can and I even attempt perpendicular lines from one cutting to the next, but the lot includes curvy landscaping, and big trees, and garden boxes, and even a footbridge to nowhere. There’s a lot going on. In my head, my neighbors are watching out the windows snickering and shaking their heads at the number of times I go back over the same strip of grass for the third time and completely miss the one next to it.*

To my husband’s credit, he has not said a word about how poorly I mow the lawn, and really seems grateful that I have been doing it while he hasn’t yet been able to. If either of my sons were responsible for the sloppy work, I know he would have some thoughts to share. That’s probably why they are both better at it than I am.

But I assume he knows that he needn’t bother offering me constructive yard mowing criticism. I can see he is itching to take over the job again, and I am itching to let him. Because if that doesn’t happen soon, then I’m just going to put up a sign. I’m not sure the homeowners association will much like it, but the Great State of Missouri is fixing to regain a little more prairie. 

*My neighbors are all lovely people who probably have better things to do than snicker at my poor grass cutting skills. Though I’m sure they will also be relieved when the hubs is back on the job.

Keeping Eggstra Busy

Lately I have discovered that life as the mother of a burgeoning adult about to graduate from high school and head off to college is busy. It involves college visits and research into housing options and fraternity opportunities. It requires increased organization and skillful prodding as the end looms ever closer and senior-itis casts long shadows over deadlines that threaten derailment of plans if allowed to pass by unanswered. There’s also the financial planning and the dogged encouragement to apply for just one more scholarship and the editing of essays penned by a person with little interest in revising yet one more time.

This was the egg hunt I provided for my children last year. Not long ago one of my sons asked if we were doing the same fun thing again this year. Mom for the win!

At our house it also includes long hours and dedication to a robotics team that will soon travel to compete for the second year in a row on the world stage, and the fundraising efforts that allow said team to take advantage of such an honor.

There are smaller senior trips as well and an upcoming last high school prom to prepare for. Graduation announcements need sending and a party needs planning and there’s family summer that needs scheduling around a new set of obstacles. And then there are all of the Easter eggs that need to be stuffed with treats.

This last one I thought was behind me as my children are both teenagers now and are not generally all that concerned about the Easter bunny. Alas, being the mother of a senior and also apparently somewhat of a sucker, I have found myself volunteering on the parent committee to throw a Grad Night celebration for the graduates.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Grad Night, it’s an over-the-top fun, all-night, drug and alcohol-free lock-in event designed to help burgeoning adults with not-yet-fully-developed brains celebrate and also avoid making stupid decisions that may get them hurt or worse on the night of graduation. Similar events are held all across the United States, including several very large ones at the Disney parks in both Florida and California.

Ours is not taking place at Disney World, but it will be fun. And it does take a lot of planning and an enormous fundraising effort to make it happen, which is why I find myself among a small group of moms, who are also suckers, busily stuffing thousands of candy-filled plastic Easter eggs.

Ozzie is not going to be helping deliver eggs, but he does make a super bunny ear model.

Because Easter eggs are a big deal.

People have been decorating eggs for millennia, predating Christ by a long shot, but the tradition of hunting for decorated eggs as part of an Easter celebration is generally traced to 16th century Germany, and possibly even to Martin Luther. Maybe. It does at least seem that eggs became a celebratory Easter treat largely because they were forbidden during Lent, and that Easter egg hunts, then, as now, were fun.

The tradition spread to England via the German-born mother of Queen Victoria who later continued egg hunts with her own children. In the United States, too, it was German immigrants who brought with them the egg hunt, which quickly spread across the young nation where eventually people figured out that eggs, while enjoyable to eat, are just eggs, but that hollow plastic eggs can contain candy, which is even more fun.

And then the idea for the Egg My Yard fundraiser was born. It’s turned out to be a really popular idea that finds me spending a lot of time mindlessly stuffing eggs so that my senior and I can don bunny ears and join with lots of other bunnies this Saturday to provide a fun Easter surprise for hundreds of families throughout our school district and surrounding area.

Image by Cindy Parks from Pixabay

It should be a great event. Grad night will be, too, and so will prom, and the robotics world championship, and the upcoming craft fair and two trivia night fundraisers that still stand between me and the end of the school year.

It’s a lot. But with the end of the year rapidly approaching, and the day looming when my burgeoning adult son will become a recent high school graduate moving into student housing and onto bigger and better things, I find I don’t really mind keeping busy.

Godspeed, Ben!

On April 30, 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition opened to the world on the grounds of Forest Park in St. Louis. To walk through Forest Park today, nearly one hundred and nineteen years later, you almost wouldn’t know the fair had been there at all. The only structures that remain are the Art Museum building and a large, elliptical, walk-through birdcage that forms part of the St. Louis Zoo.

Pub. by Chas. M. Monroe Co. “Tichnor Quality Views,” Reg. U. S. Pat. Off. Made Only by Tichnor Bros., Inc., Boston, Mass., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The aviary wasn’t originally intended to be a permanent structure. It had been erected by the Smithsonian Institute to house the birds it would display as part of the fair. When the fair was over, the city of St. Louis, which had long wanted a zoo, purchased the structure and by 1913 had erected a seventy-seven-acre zoological garden around it.

In 1916 the school children of the city donated enough pennies to acquire the zoo’s first elephant, Miss Jim, and the same year, St. Louis voters approved a special tax to support their new zoo, which today remains one of very few community-supported zoos in the world, offering free admission to visitors.

In 1921 came bear pits; in 1924, a primate house; and in 1927, a reptile house. The 1960s brought an aquatic house, a children’s area and railroad, and a significant renovation to the original aviary. Over the years the zoo in Forest Park has been improved a great deal, has expanded to cover ninety acres, and welcomed around three million visitors per year. It currently houses about eight hundred different species, including 9,200 animals.

Too cute to be contained. (not Ben). Alberto Apollaro Teleuko, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But there’s about to be one less critter among them because on February 7, 2023, a four-year-old Andean bear named Ben escaped his enclosure. Fortunately, this happened in the morning before the zoo had opened to the public and Ben was tranquilized and secured without incident. Zoo staff added stainless steel cargo clips with 450 pounds of tensile strength to the steel mesh through which Ben had found his way to freedom. All was well.

Then about three weeks later Ben forced his way through the new cargo clips and escaped again. This time, the zoo was open. Visitors were ushered indoors while Ben was once again tranquilized and secured. With the exception of the cargo clips, no real harm was done.

Evidently, like so many St. Louis residents these days, with skyrocketing crime rates, a district attorney under fire who can’t even seem to keep the zoo animals behind bars, and yet more negative national media attention, Ben the Andean bear doesn’t want to be in the city. He’s moving to Texas.

And who can blame him, really? This delightful Houdini has been described by zoo staff as a fun and playful character. Soon he’ll get to trade his steel mesh in this currently struggling city for a moat at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, right next to the Mexican border where thankfully there is little crime, a well-functioning system in place for keeping everyone well-organized and contained, and almost no media attention whatsoever.

Godspeed, Ben!

A Little History and a Lot of Sun

In December of 1821 the schooner Lively, which was supposed to bring about twenty or so men to meet up with Stephen F. Austin at the mouth of the Colorado River, missed its target and landed instead at the mouth of the Brazos River in what today is known as Surfside Beach, Texas.

The Lively was part of Austin’s effort to settle his “Old 300” (actually 297) grantees on three hundred-seven land parcels approved by the newly-independent Mexican government for American settlers between the Colorado and Brazos Rivers in then sparsely populated Texas.

Also at the mouth of the Brazos as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico, was Fort Velasco, constructed in May of 1832 in order to help enforce customs and immigration laws as Mexico began to fear the annexation of Texas by the United States. It was about a month before the fort fell to Texas settlers in the Battle of Velasco, which marks the beginning of the Texas Revolution that led to Texas independence and yes, eventually US annexation of Texas.

Traces of the first Fort Velasco (because there have been at least a couple of others) have largely disappeared through the years and hurricanes, but there is an ongoing effort to build a replica on the location of the original in the village of Surfside Beach. It isn’t much yet, but I got to see it and the plans for it on a quick girls’ beach getaway last week and I can see why the settlers aboard the Lively might not have been too disappointed to land there even if it did mean they missed their meetup.

With my aunt, cousin, sister, and of course Sock Monkey Steve who got to be an honorary girl for the trip, I drove down to spend several days in a beach house within a quick walk of the mouth of the Brazos River and the Fort Velasco site. Surfside Beach is about forty miles southwest of Galveston and, much to my delight, not quite twenty miles southwest of the best named little Texas town I have ever come across.

Alas, Angleton, Texas was not named for me, an Angleton by marriage rather than by birth. According to the town’s historians, it was named in honor of the wife of the general manager of the Velasco Terminal Railroad, who rumor has it was an “Angle” and not an Angleton at all. Personally, I prefer the family legend that suggests the town was named for the fearsome band of Angleton horse thieves that hid out there. Which only goes to show that, unlike most things, tall tales are not necessarily bigger in Texas.

I admit, I spent more time on the trip soaking up the sun and taking pictures of Steve than I did learning the history of either the fort or the curiously named town, but I’m glad to have since read up on it. And it was really nice to get away for a little while, especially since while I was gone, a certain husband I know started on a project. Allegedly this had been planned for some time and had nothing to do with anything I may or may not have posted on the internet with his full knowledge and permission.  

But either way, Steve and I are glad to be home.

So There’s That

I have to assume that when Mary Chubb sent her husband Cecil off to an estate sale in September of 1915 in hopes of finding some nice dining room chairs, she probably expected him to come home with another treasure or two.

To the best of my knowledge, no one’s husband has never impulse bought Nebraska’s Carhenge, which is much less ancient. Image by Mike from Pixabay

I won’t name names, but I do personally know of at least one husband who has on occasion gone to the hardware store for a refrigerator water filter and come home with a new power tool just because it was on sale and it would be nice to have in case said husband ever gets around to building that fireplace mantel he promised his wife nearly ten years ago. Or, you know, in case one of the neighbors who also have garages full of tools should ever need to borrow it.

If you happen to know a husband like this, then I’m sure you know as well as Mary Chubb and I do, that special way to shrug and smile and gently remind him that he said he was going to build the fireplace mantel nearly ten years ago. You might also remind him that the wood for the project has been sitting in the garage for at least half that time and taking up so much space he’s probably going to have to keep that new power tool at a neighbor’s house.

Of course, in Mary’s case, her husband’s impulse purchase didn’t fit in their home even without the dining room chairs he neglected to buy. The sale he attended was for the large estate of Sir Edmund Antrobus, a distinguished citizen of Salisbury, England whose heir had been killed a year prior in the Great War, and who happened to be the owner of Stonehenge.

Sir Edmund followed his son in death four months later, both of their lives ended less than two years after disgruntled Druids allegedly placed a curse on the structure’s owner because he’d banned their annual solstice celebration.

1st Baronet Cecil Chubbs,
known locally as Viscount Stonehenge.https://commons.

When Sir Edmund’s brother placed the estate up for auction then it might not be all that surprising no one was in a terrible rush to buy the ancient monument, which had fallen into an alarming amount of disrepair. Auctioneer Howard Frank had a hard time even getting an opening bid of £5,000. He finally managed to land at £6,000. That translates to about a million US dollars today, which is pretty much a steal for anyone in the ancient monument market.

Chubb wasn’t in the market for an ancient monument, but he’d grown up in Salisbury, in close proximity to Stonehenge and just couldn’t pass up on the great deal. Two years after the possibly ill-advised purchase, Chubb donated the site to the British government, which began renovations and gave him a nice title to thank him for his generosity.

It’s unclear whether Mary Chubb ever got the dining room chairs she wanted. It’s also not entirely clear whether or not the wife of that one husband I know will ever get her fireplace mantel. She does, however, take comfort in the knowledge that not once in the last nearly ten years has her husband impulse bought a cursed ancient monument. So there’s that.

The World’s Tastiest Hero

In the fall of 1529 the city of Vienna, Austria in the Holy Roman Empire was under siege by the Ottoman Empire. To explain what exactly was happening there would require a lot of complicated details surrounding a geopolitical hot mess that, of course, involves the death of a king, a civil war, and nosy neighbors who weren’t big fans of the Hapsburgs and would have loved to see them take it on their rather unusual chins. If you’d like to puzzle all of that out, then you’ve probably come to the wrong blog, because I’d rather talk about pretzels.

Ferdinand I, Archduke of Austria. King of Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia, and eventually Holy Roman Emperor with is mouth open, ready to receive a pretzel. Vassil, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1529 siege of Vienna was ultimately unsuccessful, a fact that didn’t sit well with the Ottoman Empire until the second siege of Vienna one hundred and fifty-four years later, which didn’t really turn out all that well for them, either. I don’t know whether pretzels had anything to do with the struggles of 1683. And I don’t really know whether pretzels had anything to do with the thwarting of the 1529 siege either, but according to the historical rumor mill, it may have been the soft, salty treats that saved the day for the citizens of Vienna.

Since at least the early seventh century, and possibly further back than that, the pretzel has been the preferred snack of Catholic monks. Allegedly they used the twisted treats that not only mimic the crossed arms of a child in prayer, but also conveniently contain three holes corresponding nicely with the three parts of the trinity, to reward students who excelled at learning their catechism. That might be true.

Pretzels are a simple snack, that in addition to lacking any significant nutritional value, also have the advantage of containing no eggs or dairy and therefore fit perfectly into a traditional, fast-heavy Catholic Lenten diet. They also make an inexpensive, relatively quickly made food to pass out to the poor of the Middle Ages while simultaneously offering a little spiritual counseling. That’s probably true.

So then, the rumor that a couple weeks into the siege, it was a bunch of pretzel-making Viennese monks in the pre-dawn hours who heard, from within their basement pretzel kitchen, the digging of a horde of Ottoman would-be sneak-attackers, seems like it could be true. The monks alerted the city, which was ready then to fight off the attackers, break the siege, and celebrate victory with a soft, salty, and heroic snack.

Looks pretty heroic to me. Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

But if I’m honest, this sounds to me like the kind of story that probably isn’t true, though in my admittedly shallow internet research, I haven’t discovered the counterclaim. My teenage sons, who have studied more European history than I have, do assure me the story is somewhat dubious. Still, at least some historians seem to be willing to let this one slide.

I think that’s probably because people love pretzels. And boy do they. I haven’t been able to discover numbers of world popularity of the snack, but the average American eats two pounds of pretzels every year, and if you happen to live in Philadelphia, where most of the nation’s pretzels are made, your average is closer to twelve pounds.

I don’t happen to live in Philadelphia, but as an occasional booster club concession stand volunteer here in Missouri, I can attest that those big soft pretzels are the clear high school sports crowd favorite. And when my son’s robotics team recently sold pretzels from a long-time and beloved St. Louis pretzel business, it made for the easiest fundraising he’s ever tried to do. 

People love pretzels. There’s not much to them, but if you’re craving something either soft or crunchy that’s salty, is mostly devoid of nutritional value, pairs well with beer, can be dipped into just about anything, satisfies your Lenten munchies, reminds you to pray, and might just save your life from the invading Ottoman horde, then pretzels are for you. 

So, how do you like to enjoy them?

Five Thousand Balloons

Apparently, we have something of a balloon problem here in the United States, which is a sentence I never thought I’d write. Such a statement, however, would not have surprised founding father Benjamin Franklin who was suitably impressed on November 21, 1783 when he witnessed French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier use a hot air balloon to send the first human being into the air.

I don’t know. There’s just
something about this balloon
that feels ominous. Darth_vader_hot_air_balloon.jpg: Tomas Castelazoderivative work: Jebulon, CC BY-SA 3.0
licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was only nine days later Franklin again observed a balloon rising into the air, only this time with the use of hydrogen, which he referred to as “inflammable air.” That turned out to be somewhat of a misnomer, but at the time it seemed like a really good idea.

It also occurred to Franklin that such balloons could have some remarkably useful military applications. Only a month or so later, he wrote to Dutch scientist Jan Ingenhousz that five thousand balloons manned by two men each would be an awfully cost-effective way to wage war and would be difficult for any nation to defend against.

Balloons haven’t been used to quite the great effect that Franklin predicted, but over the years they have been used, primarily as a way to gather intelligence. Surveillance balloons played a small role in the French Revolution.  And they played a larger role in the American Civil War when civilian Thaddeus Lowe earned the title of “most shot-at-man in the war” while relaying information about Confederate troop movements to the Union from aloft.

Balloons were involved in aspects of both World War I and World War II, and even drifted with cameras over the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, without much success, in the mid-1950s. So, I guess maybe it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise that China might send one drifting over the United States in 2023. At least Benjamin Franklin probably wouldn’t have thought so. 

I mean for all we know, we could be headed for a mass extinction event, like the giant balloon that took out the dinosaurs. Image by Greg McMahan from Pixabay

In the past few weeks, the US has now shot down four balloons, possibly only of one of which was allowed to complete its entire mission first. That’s the only one that as of this posting the public has much information about, though I heard the president may be set to address the nation about it today. I’m sure that will clear things right up.

As much as our media and social media governmental complaints have been preoccupied by this slow, floaty invasion or whatever it is, I can kind of see Franklin’s point. Five thousand balloons would be an awful lot to deal with. If nothing else, the balloons have attacked and directed the attention of the American people.

I’ve even heard it postulated that the three balloons that followed the first might be extraterrestrial in origin. And frankly, it’s about time someone put that possibility out there, because if it’s any indication of what is to come, I have it on good authority that five thousand balloons, each manned by two aliens, would be a pretty cost-effective way to wage war and would be difficult to defend against.