Saturday, October 29, 2011
I find them fascinating. But there's no danger I'm going to be voting for any of these people. I have a pretty basic set of priorities: I want to see serious progress getting away from a dangerous and unsustainable fossil-fuel economy. I want an equitable and steeply progressive tax structure. I want regulation in place to prevent the plundering of assets by a piratical sliver of the population. I want sound science and a long view to prevail over ignorance, short-sightedness and religiosity. I want a single-payer health care system that covers every American.
So what we've got in the Republican horse race is the promise not to disturb the profit engine of the private insurance industry, the promise to remove regulation, and several propositions for shoving even more of the tax burden onto the middle class. We've got the governor of Texas, which is in the process of flaking off and blowing away, insisting that if the climate is changing, it's only because it wants to change, and putting his state under the protection of the Dunderhead Fairy. One fellow put out an ad featuring his campaign manager taking a long drag on a cigarette. Not to be outdone, another readied one showing her manager in a Klan hat failing to scoop poop. Meanwhile, all expressed a willingness to drill right into our uteruses in case there's oil there. The only guy who actually put in a sensible health-care program is swearing he didn't. To their credit, the panelists did stop hopping up and down and nit-picking and throwing shit at each other long enough to scoff at the theory of evolution; and everyone anticipates the Almighty will show up at some point as soon as he is ready to make an endorsement.
The amendment might have the effect of outlawing many of the most popular forms of birth control, such as the Pill and the IUD, because they make the womb inhospitable to the implantation of the petite human, which would then drift and wither and die before it ever learned how to pull a slot machine. It is being proposed in Mississippi, and no wonder. Sure, Mississippi is already solidly in first place in births to unwed mothers, at over 50%, but Louisiana is hard on its heels. Something had to be done.
At any rate, finally I can get on the same page as the Republicans. I think we can all agree that corporations are just people, too, really large bloaty ones, with their own hopes and desires and Facebook pages, but they're big enough to take care of themselves. What we need to protect is the fetal corporations, those little entrepreneurial blastocysts trying to grow to the point they can live on their own. And in order to protect and nurture them, the local book store, the cottage industry, the neighborhood fix-it guy, we need to ensure they are able to thrive in their environment. We need to make sure they have an adequate infrastructure, sewers and roads and whatnot, educated workers, and a population of decently-compensated potential consumers. If guaranteed health care were extended to all, that would help them immensely.
Murr's All-Star gallery of blastopreneurs, in order: Donna Guardino of the Guardino Gallery; Néna Rawdah of St. Johns Booksellers; Timothy of the Community Cycling Center; Barbara McLean of The One Stop Sustainability Shop; and Jehnee Rains of Suzette. Shop local, people!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
That doesn't mean it's not so. Joe America tends to scoff at such reports, but Joe America can't even find his own happiness without a remote control. Scientists are always drawing conclusions about things that can't be seen. The Higgs Boson, for instance. A whole lot of people have put time and money into finding the Higgs Boson. No one has ever seen a Higgs Boson, but they figure it must be around somewhere because otherwise we wouldn't have mass, and we know we have mass because we keep bumping into each other. The Higgs Boson, and the honorable quarks, are invisible things that are presumed to exist because their existence explains the observable forces, such as electromagnetism and gravitation. Scientists proposed their quarks and gave them splendid names, which always gets them extra points in my book: Up. Down. Charm. Strange. Truth. Beauty. (Truth and Beauty were later renamed Top and Bottom to better account for the forces of dominance and submission.)
|Higgs Boson: artist's rendition.|
It may seem silly to make something up and then go looking for it, but it's not uncommon in the sciences. Even in economics, people earnestly go on and on about the Trickle-Down Effect even though there's no evidence for it at all. They have to propose its existence to explain why they have all the money. It's easy to test the hypothesis. All you do is take the combined assets from millions of people engaged in honest labor for decades and invest it hard and fast until it smacks into something, scatters, and disappears, and thus you can infer the existence of extremely rich people, even though you'll never see them. But we're all scientists at heart. We see forces in the world that we don't understand, so we postulate whatever we can to explain them: socialists, elitists, and evildoers. Or corporate overlords, fascists and fundamentalists. Take your pick and start looking, and you'll see them everywhere.
I have an affinity for science, but it's still tough to comprehend. When I'm in doubt, I throw in with whoever comes up with the best wordage, like the guy who named his quark Charm. I'm glad they finally found Up, Down, and Strange; maybe they'll discover Pudge and Flappy some day. So I don't really know which of the paleobotanists in Australia has come up with the oldest fossil, but I'm going with Dr. Schopf. He says he found his fossil stash in the Apex Chert of the Warrawoona Group. That's good enough for me.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
My friend Melissa lives there, in Los Alamos, so we figured she should know some stuff. She advised us what to pack: "t-shirts, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt for layering, shorts, sunscreen and maybe a pair of long pants--it gets cool at night sometimes." On my own initiative, I added eight pairs of underpants to the list: one per day plus an oopsie pair for burrito country. And off we went.
That evening a weighty fog rolled in and erased the nearby canyons from the landscape. It's a common thing to accuse visitors of having brought weather with them, but it's generally meant in jest. Dave and I eased our rain gear over our underwear collection and strode like rubbered shmoos through the familiar gray pall to the grocery store. There, shoppers sulked under the awnings and peered out with bafflement and alarm, as though something had gotten loose from the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory. Slowly, wary eyes turned towards us. We had carefully scrubbed the moss off our north sides before leaving home, but we looked suspiciously comfortable. Frankly, I thought maybe we'd brought it with us, too.
|Rare Alpine Snow Pootie|
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Iran is a little late in the space monkey business. Unconsulted monkeys have been strapped into rockets since 1949. Ostensibly the reason for sending monkeys into space is to test the waters, as it were, for human space flight. But essentially the program is no different than what would have happened if any random group of 12-year-old boys with a lot of money had been in charge. "I know! Let's shoot a bunch of monkeys into space and see what happens!" So what happened?
Monkey one, Albert, suffocated. Not sure if they'd anticipated the oxygen thing.
Monkey two, Albert, did fine until his parachute failed.
Monkey three, Albert, blew up; Rhesus pieces orbit to this day.
Monkey four, Albert, did fine until his parachute failed.
Monkey five, Albert, did fine until his parachute failed.
The Soviet Union got some fur in the game, too, sending up unpronounceable monkeys with mixed results. The squadron of randy bonobos got everything all sticky. A Rhesus was sent out on the first spacewalk but could manage only a sort of bent-over shamble. After a quorum of monkeys had been sacrificed, someone got the capital idea of shooting men into space. In a miscalculation, they sent up smart, talented men in fabulous shape, but the program did demonstrate the possibility that a more useful expulsion of humanity might some day be in reach.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
It's hard for me to imagine trying and failing to achieve full bunny saturation. This is not a moonshot. It would be like swinging a bat in Portland and not hitting a barista. But fail they did.
The problem, as I see it, was with the bunnies themselves. They were very small and cute; nuggets, they were. The biologists might as well have thrown out a handful of popcorn. Apparently the local coyotes found them utterly adorable, all the way down.
Unfortunately, there is no chromosome for being due. After an exciting couple years when I made progress measurable in actual inch fragments, the pencil mark intervals went into millimeter territory until the last one, which is very dark from having been drawn over and over. When you stand to get your height measured, you give it all the stretch you've got, but it never makes a dime's-width of difference. Your eyebrows fly up and your ears pin themselves back but there is no more height to be gained. I was ready to begin phase two of the Brewster growth pattern, all of which is lateral. It makes sense, evolutionarily. We go for a lower and fluffier center of gravity to guard against tipping injuries.
It only just occurred to me that we could dedicate another door frame for yearly measurements again. I could have visual proof of having approached five feet from both directions. It could be interesting. I'm fine with it as long as I'm adorable all the way down.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I don't really blame him for holding back. It's a scary world out there. Dave thinks I am unreasonably optimistic, but he's wrong. I am constitutionally wired to veer towards cheer, but I'm not really optimistic at all. I think we're going down, but I also think, in the context of each of our little lives, that we must continue to do our best, and that means we need to pay attention. As a species, we're still a teenager, and we're trashing the place because we are lacking an adult perspective and we don't think we'll ever die, but the ugly truth is not all teenagers make it to adulthood. We might party down and wreck the car and crash and burn and take some stuff down with us, but after the teddy bears rot off the milepost marker, no one will remember us.
Now that Oliver's here, I think it would be a swell time for all of us to try a little harder. Start anywhere. Start small.
Are you a sad, wounded, pea-hearted troll who slithers onto the internet at night to say nasty things to people, and you can't bring yourself to just say nothing at all? Maybe you could work on your spelling.
Are you a more responsible soul, standing in line at the store to pay for a shirt, a bottle of water, and a snack-pack? Pay attention, instead. You've got time; the old bat up front hasn't even started excavating her purse for her checkbook yet. How old was the person who stitched your shirt, and what did she get paid? Maybe it's cheap for you because somebody else is paying. And let's take a look at that snack. All those adorable little plastic compartments so you don't have to risk your crackers rubbing elbows with your cheese-like product! The plastic is a deathless unit of petroleum that contributes to global warming on the front end and spins forever in the ocean destroying sea life on the back end. The cheese-like product is manufactured using more petroleum and some minor contribution from cows that have been zipped up with antibiotics that are being outwitted by virulent bacteria right now, to our eventual regret. Maybe you could have an apple. Maybe you could grow an apple.
About that water. Tremendous news, maybe you've heard? We get water pumped right into our houses now. Not that long ago that would have been an unthinkable luxury. It's clean, too, because we got together and bought ourselves some protection with our tax money. You could pick up this uninspected fluid in the handy petroleum package so that someone gets some jingle in his pocket for the privilege of privatizing something that should be owned by all of us, or you could just turn on the tap for practically nothing.
Are you someone who is getting a whole lot of money and a big microphone that broadcasts to the whole world and all you can do is make fun of the First Lady's ass and whine that she's trying to take away your Twinkies? Seriously, dude? Maybe you can think of something more constructive to do.
Or maybe you're in a position of actual power and you're devoting your days to making sure that the people who have all the money get to keep it and add to it. Is this your legacy to the world? Give it a little more thought and do the right thing. Do one right thing. Extra credit if you can do it without getting your penis in the news, but we'll let that slide for now.
Start anywhere. Start small.
Because it's Oliver's birthday, and it's time we grew up.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Pants perform entirely different functions for men and women. Men's pants permit them to appear in public while concealing random peregrinations of the penis. There is always room in their trousers to hang their personal scratchable items as well as perform actual scratching. This much space affords ample temporary shelter for a fleet of reptiles and maybe the terrarium they came in.
Women's pants, on the other hand, function strictly as butt and belly containment vessels. They are fully occupied and you couldn't slide a greased skink in sideways. If at any point we do develop some atmosphere in our pants, we've got a pair of skinny jeans on the shelf waiting to pick up the slack. No one is able to throw away the skinny jeans, which remain neatly folded as a symbol of hope. They are stacked in strata upon previously retired skinny jeans, where climatologists of the future will be able to core them for samples of antique air.
Conceivably a woman could shelter reptiles by wearing 100% Spandex pants, except that they would make a trio of tortoises look like roaming boils. Stretch pants did exist when I was young, but they were for older women with beehives, afternoon martinis and a cigarette cough. We teenagers wore pants with no give at all. We winched them up as far as we could by rocking back and forth and then had to lie down on our beds to seal the deal, rolling off sideways because our pants had taken the bend out of us. If we did tip over, we'd go down like a plank. It didn't look too bad. These were the days before kids were routinely infused with corn syrup from infancy. And we didn't realize it was uncomfortable because we had nothing to compare it to.
Except for a brief decade with pleated-front trousers, which we also managed to fill up, nothing has changed. My most recent trip to a store revealed racks of jeans that could rub the fuzz off a pipe-cleaner person. They don't leave room for a mosquito bite.
The truth about the airport incident is that there is a nasty, lucrative trade in exotic pets and some men will do anything to get that money. A woman would never stoop that low. Stooping is problematic anyway, and we only got room for bacteria and yeast.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
That's just one thing they need to test for. There's also the difficulty that is presented when humans are deprived of gravity for prolonged periods. With nothing to push against, muscles dwindle out of pure apathy until the entire astronaut is no longer al dente, and becomes more of a custard when reintroduced to Earth. It would be a pity to spend all that time sending a guy to Mars and then just have to pour him out when he gets there and hope he jells up.
This experiment did not address that issue or attempt to remove gravity in any way. The men were simply cooped up and allowed to age in what is essentially a shipping container, described as similar to four Winnebagos with connecting tunnels. A year in, all seemed to be well enough, although the turn signal has been on since March.
The astronauts in the experiment were distributed as follows: three Russian, one French, one Italian, and one Chinese. The "marsonauts," as they are called, did very well at first. Early conflicts were resolved when they were able to agree on a standard cuisine of goose liver and dog cacciatore with a cricket crust, the Russians reluctantly going along as long as the vodka didn't run out.
I get it about the jamming people into a can for fifteen months to see how they do. Some people are probably better suited than others. Dave spends an astounding amount of time in the can and it doesn't seem to bother him a bit.
But it's not easy for any group of people to get along when they're in forced company for any length of time. Humor is essential. Take the post office, a social experiment I was inserted into back in 1977. There I was in a room with dozens of other people (well, men), sorting mail day after day. The process of sorting your mail is called "getting your route up." Pronounce it "root," and ask your neighbor as often as possible if his root is up yet, and you have the makings of some serious comedy. But even this level of sustained hilarity isn't going to tide a person over forever. In fact, there's only so long you can take it. In my case, thirty-one years.
Sometime in September the emotional limit appeared to have been reached with the astronauts, two months shy of the time it would take to get them back to Earth from Mars. I'm not sure how they communicated their distress. I don't know if they banged on the can or just came out shootin'. "Screw the pension," they might have said. "I'm going out, and I'm taking some management ass with me."
Saturday, October 1, 2011
It's pie season around here, when I make all the pies for the whole year in order to confine the aggravation to one short period, and then I slam them all in the freezer to think about what they've done. I'm the baker in this household, not from any particular talent for it, but by default, since Dave refuses to follow a recipe per se and prefers to let inspiration be his guide. He fired himself from the baking chores after once trying to assemble cookies out of butter, flour and sugar (but no baking powder). That is still known as the Sugar Puck Incident, and if we had not found a nice pothead willing to take them home and suck on them, they might be in the landfill, unchanged, to this day. Anyway, I am willing to follow a recipe, but what works fine one time doesn't work the next, and lacking any understanding of how things work, I'm helpless to diagnose the problem, and have to resort to Renaming. This results in a lot of Crumbles, and Fallen Angel Food, and Lava Frosting, and Egg Custard Pebbles, and Oopsie Flambe, and Holy Shitcakes, and I Can't Believe It's Not Rising. Mine is a natural, unstudied, serendipitous method that others prefer to call incompetence.
It was the famous Huckleberry Hazelnut pie that produced the near-death experience. Mary Ann came up with the recipe and she doesn't have any trouble making it come out right, but she knows what she's doing, and where's the challenge in that? Pie crust is supposed to have just enough liquid added to get the butter and flour on speaking terms. By the time I added all my ingredients, my food processor was full of soup. I poured it into a dish and refrigerated it, and miraculously, it firmed up. I centered it in a halo of flour, a plump, perfect patty, my little Pangaea, and then it went tectonic. In a short dozen rolls of the pin, the crust had separated into seven continents adrift on the cutting board. I assessed the situation over several large, frosty mugs of serenity. I thought I could get it all to come together with more flour, a colder rolling pin and about 250 million years. Dave backed slowly out of the room.