Monday, January 2, 2012

Occupy the Rose Parade, plus an astronaut on gardening in space

While this is a Detroit-based blog (I brand it as a sustainability blog with a science-fiction slant and a Detroit perspective) and I have adopted Detroit as my home town, it's no secret to anyone who knows me that I'm originally from Los Angeles, which I left 23 years ago to move to Michigan. So, I'll occasionally stray from my Midwestern focus to look back at the places and events where I grew up. One of those is the Rose Parade, which I went to just about every year from the late 1960s (I can't even remember the first one I watched in person) until 1983. It turns out that the Rose Parade is back in the news in two ways that I can't resist blogging about.

First up, from KTLA: 'Occupy' Organizers Putting Last Touches on Rose Parade Human Float
PASADENA (KTLA) -- Bystanders hoping to catch a glimpse of the brightly decorated floats at Monday's Tournament of Roses Parade might notice something a bit unusual if they stick around to the end.

Occupy activists this weekend are putting the finishing touches on Occupy Octopus, a 70-foot squid puppet that will be paraded alongside thousands of protesters.

The so-called "Octupy Rose Parade" float is made entirely of recycled plastic bags and powered by 36 humans, with tens of people carrying the arms and a smaller group of people holding up the central body.

"We're calling it 'The People's Parade' to contrast against the corporate parade that the Rose Parade has become," an organizer said.

"It will represent Wall Street, the financial sectors [as] vampires, [with a] squidlike stranglehold," one organizer said.
If you were wondering when Matt Taibbi's "vampire squid" would make an appearance in an Occupy protest, wait no longer. It will make its debut in a few hours.
Demonstrators, flanked by a 250-foot recreation of the U.S. Constitution, will be gathering at 7 a.m. at Singer Park and are set to begin marching near the parades end at 9:30 a.m.
Those times are Pacific, thus three hours behind the time zone here in Detroit.  You have time to watch the end of the parade and catch the Occupy Octopus.

The Occupiers will not disrupt the parade, as the Los Angeles Times reports.
Protesters will march the parade route after the floats and marching bands have passed. The group has been working with Pasadena police and Tournament of Roses officials on how not to disrupt the parade.

"Our goal is to put Occupy's best foot forward," Thottam said, adding that activists expect more than 1,000 participants. "We recognize that this is a historic, iconic event geared toward middle America and the family."

The group says the protest will be "G-rated" and will stick to nonviolence in expressing Occupy's messages against income inequality and corporate power.
The organizers expect there will be no trouble with police and that thousands will show up. I believe the first, but am sceptical about the second.

KTLA has two videos showing Occupy the Rose Parade's efforts as part of the preparation for the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, neither is allowing its embed code to be shared. The first one is at the L.A. Times site and the second is hosted at KTLA.

Now, something a little more conventional--an astronaut riding on a float courtesy of MSNBC.

Astronaut stops to smell the roses
By Alan Boyle
One of the last astronauts to ride on a space shuttle will be riding a totally different vehicle on Monday: a flower-bedecked float in the 2012 Rose Parade.

Say what?

The 5.5-mile journey down the parade route in Pasadena, Calif., doesn't hold a candle in distance or danger to the 5.3 million-mile journey that NASA astronaut Rex Walheim made in July during STS-135, Atlantis' program-ending mission. But it's a perfect follow-up for several reasons:
  • Walheim will be riding on the "Garden of Imagination" float with his brother, Lance, a horticulturist who wrote the book "Roses for Dummies." Lance is the go-to garden guy for Bayer Advanced, an arm of the chemical conglomerate that makes lawn and garden prducts.
  • With Lance's encouragement, Rex carried up a dried rose as one of his personal items during a 2008 mission on Atlantis. That rose was featured on Bayer Advanced's trophy-winning Rose Parade float in 2009.
  • This Rose Parade appearance gives Rex a chance to smell the roses, literally, after a high-pressure spaceflight. It also gives him an opportunity to reflect on how a little gardening could come in handy for future generations of space explorers.
"If you think about it, that's one of the things we need to develop on our long-term vehicles," he told me this week. "We need to have a self-supporting ecosystem, environmental control systems for recycling air and water, and you have to grow your own food. We're doing that in space. ... These skills that any astronaut has as a young child when they work in the garden and help their parents, well, those turn out to be important on the most advanced vehicles ever made, and on the most complex exploration missions."
I told you this blog was about sustainability with a science-fiction slant!

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