It was only as I cycled home last night that I realised how poor the recent weather has been – for, it was the first time in an age that I had seen any stars (of the long-lived celestial rather than the fleeting celebrity variety). I found that I’d missed the twinkly balls of hot gas (see previous parentheses for any necessary disambiguation) – not that they’d been anywhere, merely occulted from my solipsistic view.
Whilst I have keenly felt the absence of amateur astronomical opportunities, the more serious day-to-day issue for the regular cyclist has been keeping dry(ish). In the last couple of weeks, temperatures have crept towards the seasonal average – which has left it at, or above, those difficult early teenage degrees of Celsius. At these temperatures, waterproofs are a somewhat mixed blessing – they are very successful at keeping water from outside penetrating but at the cost of retaining a lot of moisture generated by the human equivalent of evapotranspiration (cycling does cause a degree of “glowing” in the practitioner). My waterproofs are of the modern, technical variety (eVent or Gore based materials) which claim to be able to breathe and so allow one’s perspirative output to escape: however, to the extent these claims are true, I fear they are based on the respiratory performance of a chronic asthmatic. I find I am left with the choice of whether to become wet from externally or internally generated moisture: neither of which is entirely appealling on the way to a night at the concert hall or theatre. Surely, modern materials science can produce a better moisture “diode” that permits free outbound flow whilst preventing its inbound counterpart?
As a sometime reader (and viewer) of science fiction, and given my earlier joy on seeing the stars once more, I found myself pondering whether any writers had tackled this issue of better clothing materials in the interstellar future. Whilst neither the Culture nor the Polity have much time for the bicycle, they do offer excellent all-weather clothing to their citizens – indeed, the clothing also provides protection against hard vacuum and a range of other insults not normally experienced by the early 21st century cyclist. It is, perhaps, significant to note that both of these future civilisations were devised by British writers: people used to the vagaries of the weather. If we look at the Federation, and Star Fleet, with their US progenitors, it is a very disappointing picture. There appears to be no change in clothing available when one goes from indoors (or at least a starship interior) to any planetary body – they seem stuck in polyester pyjamas in all climates. They don’t even change their shoes (shoes which look less than practical for outdoor use. Forget the risks of beaming down wearing red, sickbay must be full of twisted ankles). Does the transporter somehow remove any mud and other detritus picked up whilst on an away mission? Or does the Enterprise have a huge team of cleaners removing the muddy footprints leading from every transporter room and shuttle bay? You certainly never see the 24th century equivalent of a doormat, do you? I suppose it helps that every planet shares the relatively benign climate of southern California – but I fear this may tell us more about the locale of the production and writers than about the clothing needs of a multi-species, pan galactic alliance.
I think I prefer the British view of the future, it may be more dystopian but at least you get sensible shoes!