Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Star Dreck

A week ago, if you'd asked me what Mesoloft was, I'd have assumed it was something you should ask your doctor about in case it's right for you. Turns out you should ask your coroner.

Good news for anybody who thinks we haven't dumped quite enough carbon in the air! Now, thanks to Mesoloft, you can drop a nice wad of it all at once, if you have enough scratch. Specifically, you can dump your mom, say, or anybody else who has shuffled off the mortal coil and been baked up tidy. You can have cremains sent way up on a weather balloon and released, and conceivably float burnt bits of your loved one all over the entire planet, as long as the trade winds cooperate--and as a bonus, you can add the trash of the balloon itself after it explodes due to low air pressure and drifts back down to earth, hopefully not into the gut of a turtle. I'd call the whole project a waste of helium, but tastes differ.

Mesoloft says your loved one will drift serenely over the oceans and mountains and eventually come back down to earth in the form of raindrops or snowflakes, even if they're Republicans. Thus the dreadful earthbound experience of scattering ashes into a breeze that suddenly turns on you will be replaced by the tantalizing possibility of exposing everyone on the globe to little bits of dead person.

First Person Buried On The Moon
This is indeed a lower-cost alternative to blasting your loved one into space, but of course you don't quite get all the way to space. You get to the Edge Of Space--there's probably a sign--about fifteen miles up, or down, depending on your perspective. There are other outfits that can get you farther, into Earth orbit, say, or to the moon, or even outside of the solar system. It all depends on how much money you have and how much you loved, or hated, the deceased. Some people are intrigued by the idea of having earthly remains circulating among the stars. Of course, we all will do so eventually, in a few billion years, so this is just a way of getting the jump on things. The space people describe their package as "environmentally benign," which is so, I guess, if you don't take the rocket fuel and such into consideration.

The deep space option will set you back over twelve grand, though, so it's a good thing the homeless have been housed and the hungry fed. Still, it seems a pity that for all that bacon they're only taking a smidgeon of Mom with them, an amount they have branded as a "symbolic portion," and you still have to find a stream to pollute with the rest of her right here on Earth.

This makes the Mesoloft balloon the low-cost version, plus you can get rid of all the cremains if you want. With your basic package you will get a video of the release of the ashes at the edge of space, something, the proprietors insist, you can enjoy over and over again, but I for one did not find the footage as enjoyable as one might. One has visions of a sprinkle of stardust swirling over the big blue marble, but even in the advertising video the reality looks much different. It looks like a sea urchin taking a dump. Boom, blap. Once the video has been recovered, you can have the whole show on a USB drive, which you can totally put a price tag on--it starts at $4,500--and then, if you allow yourself to think about it a little too much, you have now ruined the experience of letting a snowflake land on your tongue for the rest of your life.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

When You're A Con, You're A Con All The Way

I don't know how many Trump supporters read this blog. If they do, after everything I've said, they're probably really nice people. And I know there are really nice people who support Trump. Those are the people I'd like a word with. I won't yell, I promise.

I know you're out there. You voted for him, but if we ask you what you think of his behavior or demeanor, you cringe. You wish he weren't quite so crude; you wish a lot of things were different about him, but you believe with all your heart that he is on your side, and if everyone just gave him a chance, he'd make a big difference in your lives. He's a tough-talker, he's rich, he must know what he's doing. So if some of us worry about his careless and bellicose approach to the world, well? Maybe he'll shake things up by forgoing diplomacy. Maybe diplomacy is for losers. Maybe the guy with the tough talk will win it all for us. And if nation after nation loses respect for us, well, maybe they're the ones that are wrong, and we're better off on our own, and it just goes to show how special we are. And maybe all politicians are alike. They all make mistakes and say stupid things, so we should give this one a pass.

But he's shown us who he is all along. The man who mocked the disabled reporter, the man who put a photo of his wife next to Ted Cruz's plainer wife and considered it a campaign poster, the man who boasted about his dick during a televised debate, the man who demeaned his opponent Carly Fiorina by saying "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"--the man who, for God's sake, took the basest, most overtly racist lies about Obama and threw fuel on them, for years, for years, knowing they're not true, the man who uses coy innuendo to plant lies, smear opponents, and inflame mobs, that is who he is. And yet so many of you hope he will somehow come through for you that you keep quiet, and wince a little, and even pretend that you don't hear Nazis and white supremacists chanting his name--because that doesn't have anything to do with you, does it? They've got the right. It's a free country.

I don't know. Maybe your only news source is the one manufacturing "news" straight out of a think tank funded by billionaires for their own purposes. Maybe you buy into the bullshit memes the Macedonians and Russians have been putting out. Maybe you help them go viral because they confirm what you already believe. Maybe you believe everything you hear.

Maybe you believe Trump was the only one who cared about you. Maybe you think that other party, the one that tried to get you affordable health care and equal pay and protect your water and air, was filled with snobs who thought they were better than you. Maybe you think this guy'll bring your job back, or bring your medical premiums down, or stop all the brown people he's instructed you to hate from coming into the country. But he won't.  

He has no idea what to do about health care other than tear down the previous compromise with nothing to replace it. When it doesn't work, he'll blame the Democrats for obstructing him, because that always worked before. You bought it before.

Here's what he has done. He's given you a tiny temporary tax cut and cut billions of tax dollars on corporations and the rich permanently. In a country with the most powerful military in the world that can't even provide clean water for its citizens and insists on a $7.25 minimum wage, he's put 700 billion dollars into the military. He's ripped up environmental safeguards that were already inadequate so that fossil fuel corporations and their shareholders can keep racking up profits, while hoping you all are still watching the actors on the "news" channel who are being paid to tell you climate change science is controversial. When we must be going all in on innovation in new energy and a sustainable future--one might say any future at all--he's barreling straight into the past on the fastest coal train he can find.

You're being played. He doesn't care about you. He just wants your vote. He'll tell you migrant workers and asylum seekers and Muslims and black men kneeling are your enemies, because he knows people with enemies can be talked into anything, and then he'll promise to protect you, to get your vote. He'll pretend he gives a damn about abortion to get your vote. He'll tell you four conflicting things about gun control so that you can pick the one you like and choose to believe that's the one he believes, too. And get your vote.

He'll make sure the violent MS-13 gang, which has operated on both sides of the border and internationally since the 1980s, remains on the front page, because he wants you to associate the gang with brown people, so he can sell you a big, beautiful, useless, 18-billion-dollar wall, while our own infrastructure is crumbling. And he wants you to worry about that gang every day, so you won't notice his own gang is dismantling the middle class and throwing the poor into the river to enrich the super-wealthy. His gang. The one that's rushing to tear down the protections put in place for you after the financial meltdown of 2008. Because the financial sector--a.k.a. "the swamp"--has long since made off with your pension and benefits and transferred your wealth to the wealthier, and they're eager to do it again as soon as Trump and his gang of Republicans gut the restraints. He is ballooning the deficit and debt. He's proposing billions of dollars of cuts to your Social Security and Medicare. He told you he had a 1.5-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan for you but asked for only 200 billion in his budget--after cutting existing infrastructure programs by the very same amount. Did you notice?

It's a con. He doesn't care about you at all. He cares about himself, he cares about money, and maybe he cares about his daughter, the sexier one. He doesn't give a damn about you. He wants your vote so he can continue to rake it in. To privatize public assets for profit. To deregulate for profit. To destroy unions for profit. That profit is not for you. It's for the super-wealthy. Look at that bad, brown gang over there, this man says; don't look at mine.

Does he believe what his Nazi admirers believe? I don't know. Maybe not. Maybe he's not that guy. Maybe he doesn't care about Nazis any more than he cares about anybody else. He damn sure doesn't care about you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Faking Summer

We got the standard load of rain at the beginning of April, right on schedule. According to plan, our reservoirs began to fill up. We get our drinking water (don't tell the Third World, but we poop in it too) not from snowmelt but from a pair of dammed-up valleys just this side of the big mountain. So those spring rains are important and everyone knows it, which means by the time it has continued well into May and June, people are looking trudgy and damp and tipping water off their hats and whining quietly, "It's not the rain I mind so much, I just wish it would warm up a little." What they mean by that is it's totally the rain they mind, and also they wish it would warm up a little, but it doesn't. Nobody puts in tomatoes until Memorial Day. Peonies bloom and are instantly flattened by hail. Kids skid around in the mud with soccer balls, and then the Rose Festival Parade happens on about the second Saturday in June, and the sun comes out the next day and sticks around until November.

A Portland child.
That's what's supposed to happen. This year, it quit raining on April 15 and you couldn't apply a postage stamp with the moisture we've had since. People smiled at first and made like they were going to try for early zinnias but mostly didn't, but then it kept not raining, and it got a little warmer, and we had day after day of sunshine, mid-seventies, with a light breeze. Peonies went ahead and bloomed in all innocence and were not struck down for the sin of pride. The days were so pleasant I found myself thinking: this sure has been a nice summer. Hope it doesn't get too hot later.

I dislike hot weather a lot. The juices that are designed to operate my personal physical plant settle into jam and strand me in a lawn chair, too morose even to ask someone to make me a gin and tonic. Even my creative juices begin to gum up in the heat. So I was feeling pretty pumped about this summer, so far.

Then I saw the weather forecast. After eight weeks of sunshine, we were due for a decent downpour, last Friday evening. It was going to rain hard Saturday. Sunday it would begin to clear up again. Of course! What happens Saturday? Why, it's the Rose Festival Parade! It was going to be wet horses, soggy princesses, and drowned tuba players all day long. Right on schedule.

And that's why it's been such a nice mild summer so far. It isn't even summer. I don't recognize springtime unless the rain is sheeting off the roof and you have to re-park your car sometimes to even up the moss. We have completely bypassed spring. Everything's all messed up.

All of which means it's about time for The Oregonian to run another smug climate-change denial piece of crap by Dr. Gordon Fulks. Dr. Fulks has a string of vintage science degrees hanging off his resume like dingleberries and can't see what's right in front of him because his own ass is in the way, but The Oregonian likes to give him a platform whenever the tooth fairy is out of town.

But Saturday, at least, we could imagine that everything is still all right. Thunderstorms, which are rare here, even made the forecast, and we trotted off to stand in a puddle and watch the parade. Lightning! What is the highest point of the parade? Why, that would be the elevated dais on the float occupied by the Rose Festival Queen, wearing a metallic tiara. This could be fun.

But the Reser's Fine Foods float caught on fire, the reservoirs aren't anywhere near full, Dr. Fulks continues to fail to die, and the feckless chump in Washington is working his fanny off to suck the last fossil fuel out of the planet and put it in the air. Don't be distracted by all the flowers: make sure there isn't a horse's ass under them.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Take MyLife, Please

My life has been asking about me via email for a few years now. I don't pay any attention to it, because the less I know about my life, the better.

Besides, I know it isn't really my life. It's a website called MyLife and it looks like a nosy outfit trying to make money out of fear and suspicion. If MyLife really knew anything about me it wouldn't keep trying to make money off me by appealing to my fears and suspicions. And if it did, it would  try to do that by threatening to tie my foot to an anchor and throwing me in the deep blue sea. It has not done that, to date, so what does it know?

Instead it tries to pry money out of me by telling me my Reputation Score has changed. Odds are it can only go up, so I'm not worried. If I were actually worried about my reputation, I certainly would have lived my life in a very different way, and I would have been a lot more careful about what I've rubbed all over the internet. I am not a careful, secretive person. Anyone in the world can figure out exactly where I live and come over and bonk me on the head at any time, but I happen to believe it's unlikely, because I do not make a habit of harboring fears and suspicions, which is probably why I am a registered Democrat.

MyLife tells me I have one review on me already, and I'm only getting four and a half stars. Don't I want to know what people have said about me? Yeah, not all that much. And don't I want to see what they've got on me so I can correct stuff that's wrong?

Oh lord no. You start trying to correct the record and you might as well be putting up little orange flags next to the things you're really ashamed of. You've had the same wife for forty years? You're cruising for boys in the rest areas. You're not colluding with Russia? Russia is totally who you're colluding with. You couldn't possibly have done that thing with that prostitute because you're a germaphobe? Oh baby, a hard, golden rain is gonna fall.

But finally one day MyLife figured out a way to make me click on it. It gave me the tiniest bit of information about myself and some of it was wrong. It says I am Mary E Brewster (I arguably am); it says I also sometimes go by Mary E Brewster (I arguably do); it says I am 64 (everybody and his cousin who is in any way associated with a Medicare provider apparently knows that PLUS my phone number); and it says I currently work as a cook at a hospital in Twin Falls.

Whuh?

So I decided to click on over to MyLife just in case anything else snortworthy turned up, for y'all's entertainment. They do it the usual way. They start their report with little screens ("Arrest Records," "Imaginary Friends"), and a progress bar inches along ("80% dirt uncovered: do not close browser until we're done sweeping up") that gives you the illusion it's thinking hard about every aspect of your life. It asks if the person you're looking up is yourself. I click "yes" because I hope maybe they won't charge me for my own information, although the flaw in that logic is pretty clear. By the time they come up with the screen where they want your money, you've wasted enough of your time looking at the progress bar that just maybe you'll decide it's worth it after all. I guess that's how it's supposed to work.

My favorite screen was the one where they were scooping up information from the "Web," and then followed up with information from the "Dark Web." Oooooo! Spooky. I picture it as one of those funnel-shaped webs the wolf spiders spin. Evidently it's a thing, though. Because of my finely-tuned instincts about what will be a waste of time for me to know about, I did not look into it too deeply. Just enough to learn that a part of the Dark Web uses a traffic anonymization technique called onion routing. This is where they get you. You decide you need to do something about the onion routing, which sounds ominous, and your search engine comes up with a four-step cure, and eventually somebody is secretly recording you swinging a dead chicken over your head and putting it on YouTube, right there on the Sunny Web where anyone can see it.

Anyway, they did not offer me my own information for free, so as far as anyone knows, I'm a cook for a hospital in Twin Falls. That is as plausible as anything else and does accurately reflect my kitchen skills. If anyone would like a Fruit or Pudding Cup, let me know.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Staying Up For The Second Show

You all remember Mr. Happy. Mr. Happy was the little plant I bought four years ago with the salacious tag in it. He was the biennial that was supposed to grow for a season and then winter over and, when he reaches maturity, which in this case is what anyone else would call puberty, he was supposed to rear up into a gigantic pink flower spike of impressive girth and length. But you have to get him through the winter first, and since he's a Southern boy, he's not equipped for our winters. It would be touch and go all the way.

Nevertheless with the help of Dave, who wrapped him like a baloney sandwich during a cold winter night and, uh, fluffed the soil--let's go ahead and call that his nocturnal mission--he persevered and did exactly what the teaser on the plant tag suggested he might do. I don't know why Dave put himself out like that; he's a compassionate fellow by nature, and maybe  he related somehow. But when Mr. Happy burst into bloom in the spring, there was nothing subtle about it. He rocketed out of his short hairs in an explosive fashion, and he didn't begin to peter out until nearly winter.

Echiums are self-fertilizing, so he was able to play with himself, and that's all he did all summer. By the next spring, his kids were all over the place. There are pictures of Echiums thrusting out of the ground in profusion in their native California, full monty, and it's pretty clear you could get a show like that in no time starting with just the one plant, if your soil is suitably lascivious. I thinned out all but about a dozen plants and hoped for the best. Last you all heard about it was in December 2016, when I still hoped they'd winter over, but they withered and died, every last one.

Which was disappointing, but ultimately fine. They're not natives, and there's no real point in having them here except as a novelty.

But then, last spring, darned if there weren't another thousand Mr. Happies sprouting up everywhere. And I let them. These would be the original Mr. Happy's slower children, I suppose, but we're not here to judge, and if we were, we'd be judging their behavior. And we had another cold snap, and although I did not wrap them like a baloney sandwich, I did toss a prophylactic over the biggest group of them and gave them stage lighting, and they're all still going, and spring is right around the corner. This could really be something.

Original Mr. Happy was our backdoor man, so you didn't see him unless you went down the alley, as it were. Maybe they're used to this sort of thing in California, but around here putting even one Mr. Happy in your bed would be like showing up at the dog park with a camel. People will notice. And now we have way more than one.

They're all over the place. It's going to be a detonation. I'd say they go off like the Fourth of July, but it's really more like the last scene in Behind The Green Door.

Update: Only a few of them went off. They're different sizes and shapes. Intimidation might play a role. Or maybe most of them just like to watch.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Please Pass The Placenta!

So I guess it's been a thing for a long time. Some new mothers eat their placentas. See, I didn't know that. I know my mother didn't eat her placenta even though I never asked her. As a Norwegian, she enjoyed a number of menu items that don't appeal to normal people, and placenta might conceivably have fit the bill as long as the butter held out, except that it's not beige. It's not remotely beige, in fact. A placenta looks like a massive blood clot in flapjack form.

Anyway I'm basing my conjecture on the fact that when I asked her (in the flush of my all-knowing teen years, at the dawn of the hippie era) why she didn't have a natural childbirth, she said "I stayed awake just as long as I wanted to." She didn't say it so much as she snapped it off, with emphasis. My thought is that when the medical personnel brought her back to consciousness and handed her a neatly wrapped baby, she didn't think to ask if she could eat the placenta. Even though she was a very tidy person.

Animals routinely eat placentas for a number of reasons and tidiness may be one of them. Dogs eat them because it's a good source of iron, it's important to tidy up so as not to attract wolverines, and oh who are we kidding? Dogs will eat anything, hork it up, and eat it all over again.

Modern humans don't deal with wolverines as much as they used to and we are a little fussier about what we eat, for the most part. But hormones can make a person pretty peckish. Still, the eating of the placenta is usually done for a variety of reasons that may or may not hold water. It's considered to be good for the child, for lactation, or for the mood of the mother. It does sound sort of ancestrally legit. But on the other hand, if we were meant to eat the things our body has already expelled for some reason, we'd be eating babies too, wouldn't we?

I never gave birth but I'm not liable to have jumped on that bandwagon. I can't even deal with oysters. I'm pretty sure my first reaction to seeing my placenta would be "Thanks, I'm done with that." Fortunately most of the women who eat their own placentas these days have them sent to a company that dehydrates them and puts them in capsule form. Then it's just a matter of popping pills. That's how fecal transplants are done too. And if it ever turns out that pus, bile, or barf becomes a cure for anything, the capsule industry should be seeing boom times.

But don't pills seem like cheating, somehow? I'm pretty sure it would strike one of my family members as being over-delicate. She tried using one of those nasal syringes on  her infant when he got snotty and very shortly decided it was inefficient, and she channeled the spirit of her own foremothers and planted her mouth on the baby's face and shnorked all the shnot out of his nose and spit it out and it worked splendidly, just as it had for her tribe from day one. I think it's one of those things that isn't gross after you've done it once, much like another thing I can think of.

The very day I first heard about placenta-eating, I mentioned it to a man and woman who joined us for beer-thirty, and scored a hit right away. It was the man who had eaten the placenta. It wasn't his wife's, either. It was at some sort of hippie community event. Sauteed placenta canapes with toothpicks in them, or something. He explained that he ate the placenta because he was polite. "You don't get offered someone's placenta and say 'yuck,'" he said. "That would be rude."

I'm glad I wasn't at that soiree. To this day I'd be trying to keep straight in my mind who still thinks I'm a vegetarian.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Enemy Of The People

Someone just told me that America's in trouble because too many of us are blinded by our mindless hatred of the president. One would assume he was referring to the fist-bumping, angry, terrorist-loving, fraudulent Muslim president who was born in Africa, but no. Whole different president. Seems like someone has set people like me up as a straw man. After all, there's no need to listen to a mindless hater.

Except that doesn't describe me or my friends. America's in big trouble, but not because of us.

This president? I don't hate him. I do think he's a loathsome, contemptible, ignorant, ill-bred, dangerous, pathetically insecure con man, circus barker, and bullshit artist, but I am a forgiving sort, and do not demand purity from my politicians, and if he did anything laudatory I would acknowledge it. But he hasn't. Across the board, in every sphere, at every level, he is making everything worse. Catastrophically worse. That, I hate.

He's the sort who might be expected to dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement by piously claiming that all lives matter--except for all the people whose lives don't matter to him at all, including our fellow citizens, other nations, tribes, faiths, and his own political opponents. We are being deliberately sliced into factions, for no purpose but to divide us and politically conquer us, to one end. The enrichment of the rich.

We might wish that every Republican who rails against abortion would light up like a bulb if he has personally paid for an abortion. But let us just stipulate that for every one of them who honestly believes in the rights of embryos, there are dozens more who don't care at all, but are willing to use that lever to pry a reliable chunk of the electorate into the Republican column, to one end. The enrichment of the rich.

And somewhere there might be a Republican who suspects that gun rights have gone too far, but he is willing to let that go in order to pry off another reliable chunk of the electorate into the Republican column, to one end. The enrichment of the rich.

And you know what? I care about reproductive rights, and I worry about gun violence. But I would cede it all, and send women back to the coat hanger, and give every man, woman, and fetus a gun, if it meant the modern Republican party would wither and die. Because we're in a heap of trouble, and we're out of time.

It was forty years ago I was first startled to read that carbon might be our most dangerous pollutant. And now we are looking at the extinction of half the world's species in the next eighty years; we're on track to a collapse of all the world's fisheries in thirty; half our coral is dead now; we're running out of fresh water;  our ecosystems are collapsing; and those sounding the alarm are being dismissed as fearmongers and frauds. And a population easily gulled and lulled believes it. We grew up in the oil age with no sense of how special it is, how extraordinary our energy-enhanced abilities are, how unsustainable this existence is. We're a species that has muddled along for a million years and then, pretty much in my own puny lifetime, shot about sixty million years'-worth of buried carbon into the air, and that means that yes, unfortunately, as incredible as it seems, we really are living in the end times. We made them ourselves.

And the time to do something about it was at least thirty years ago, and plenty of people knew it. But the past is not retrievable, and the best we can do is start now. Instead, thanks to the feckless and ignorant occupant of the presidency, and his cynical enablers in the Republican Party, we're all in Thelma and Louise's car with the pedal to the metal. We know what must be done. We have no time left for ignorance. Or dupes. Or mercenaries. Or greed. Or any member of the one party whose only core belief is that--for them and their friends--there is no such thing as too much money.