Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Doot Dots

With carbon molecule for size
There was a dot on my wall the other day. Looked a lot like a house fly doot, except it was moving. Ambulatory poop always merits close inspection.

Tiny little sucker though. I couldn't even focus on it so I took a picture and blew it up. Sure enough it was a working beetle of some kind--possibly a pet for a ladybug. A few days later I saw another one. Then a dead one. Then a couple more live ones. The Doot Dots were trending.

So I looked them up on the internet, which has everything. And the very first photo that came up was my guy. He's a Carpet Beetle. He just mates and dies, but his babies eat carpets.

It's always a bad sign when the first ten pages of Google hits on a subject are from pest control outfits. And how could there have been carpet beetles all this time and I've never heard of them until now?

What else is out there that I don't know about? Linoleum flies? Chintz bugs? Wallboard weevils? I was a bit concerned because we have invested in good wool rugs. I finally found an article not written by an exterminator and discovered the following: carpet beetle larvae feed on animal-based items such as feathers, silk, wool, and fur. The adults like to mate near a light source, so I assume they do not engage in body-shaming, even though, like most beetles, they're awfully round. My beetles are true to form. They're mostly on a guest bed that Tater cat prefers. The pillow is a feather pillow and the pillowcase is felted in cat fuzz. Plenty to graze on. And there's a window right above it. Bada-beetle-boom.

Really, despite the exterminators' best efforts, it was hard to work up a good lather about the carpet beetles. They aren't really big enough to do a ton of damage in a hurry. And they prefer to dine undisturbed, so even going around scaring your linens once in a while might be sufficient to deter them.

Where they are really of concern is in museums and taxidermy shops. They like to eat dead insects and if you happen to have a valuable dead insect collection you're definitely going to want to monitor for the beetles. My own dead insect collection, which I store mainly in cold-air vents and light fixtures, is still purely at the hobby level.

And I had only the one plan for taxidermy. I was going to be stuffed upon my demise and mounted in a zombie pose inside a sheetrock partition somewhere so I can make a final impression on whoever eventually does the demolition. Now I have to worry that my victim will be only momentarily startled and then go "Oh, look, carpet beetle damage. That's not alive."

Anyway I'm not planning to do much about them at this point. It says here they're drawn to "stored or rarely used items such as pet dander," which is a concern. It's so hard to throw away your pet dander because you know just as soon as you do, you're going to need it.

The adults do fly and that's considered a nuisance by some, but I'm not sure I'll be able to distinguish them from my eyeball floaters. They're preyed upon by ants but I'm not about to introduce an ant population to clean up my carpet beetles. I know that song. Eventually somebody swallows a horse, and they die, of course.

Really, all they say to do is vacuum regularly and move your stuff around. Essentially, the beetles succumb to normal household hygiene. So it looks like ours will be around for a while.

They'll chew away at the fabric of our lives under cover of darkness and we won't even know the extent of the damage until it's too late. Nothing to do but vote the little suckers out.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Holy Crap

My friend David sent me a link to a poop article. This happens. It's like how people know where to dump off their unwanted kittens so they'll be taken care of. Poop articles come here to feel less lonely.

But until David sent me this one, I had no idea anyone ever thought about whether or not Jesus pooped. It never occurred to me he didn't. All men do, even John Wayne, who was discovered to be packing forty pounds of impacted fecal matter at his autopsy, which might have accounted for his gait.

That, of course, is patently ridiculous. Forty pounds of poop! John Wayne did not even have an autopsy. People are mixing him up with Elvis Presley, who did have an autopsy, at which he was reported to be harboring an even more stupendous quantity of stale caca, but the quality of the autopsy is suspect, inasmuch as he hasn't even stayed reliably dead.

Which, I guess, brings us back to Jesus.

The problem, for many Christians throughout the millennia, is that Jesus is thought to be both human and God, and for some reason people don't like to think about God taking a dump, even though he has a throne. I'm not sure why something as natural and, frankly, satisfying as a bowel movement has gotten such a bad rap that we would deny the pleasure to the gods.

Probably this indicates my own privilege. The whole routine has always been a snap for me, and the first couple years my poop was someone else's problem. But when I once asked my parents what they thought was the greatest innovation in their lives--I was thinking about airplanes, and automatic washers, and rocket ships, and such--they both said, fervently and in unison, indoor plumbing. So. This business of making poop disappear with several gallons of perfectly good drinking water is kind of new, humanity-wise.

Anyway, some of your earlier Christians thought Jesus only appeared to have a human body but was really a god, through and through, running a sort of parlor trick, if you will. And these Christians thought Jesus never actually dropped a load. This position is known as "Docetism," from the Greek word dokein ("dookie"). No wonder the Trinity is so hard to comprehend. We can't even get past number two.

All of this kind of makes me feel sorry for Jesus, and not just for that part toward the end. Surely a man of his talents could turn shit into sugarplums if that's what a sensitive populace demanded. He did amazing things with a single loaf of bread and a dead fish, as you'll recall. And if he didn't poop, he'd have to keep a tight rein on that sort of behavior or he'd be one tunafish sandwich away from a serious personal backup.

There has to be some sort of mechanism for this celebrated self-control, or lo, it will be with him alway, even unto the end of the world. The explanations given are less than satisfying from a scientific standpoint. For instance, according to a second-century teacher named Valentinus, "Jesus digested divinity: he ate and drank in a special way without excreting his solids. He had such a great capacity for continence that the nourishment within him was not corrupted, for he did not experience corruption." That's religion for you--you're just supposed to accept that.

But it only raises more questions. For instance, did people in the second century, when they hit their fingers with a hammer, yell Oh, Experience Corruption?

At any rate, the digestive method described by Mr. Valentinus must be something like sublimation, the process by which a solid (in this case feces) makes a transition directly to a gas. Big deal. I do that all day long.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It Came From Out Of The Ground!

We grow the same vegetables every year. Sugar snap peas. Asparagus. Peppers and basil. And of course tomatoes. They even ripen now, and not just at two minutes before frost, because of the global warming. You have to grow your own tomatoes. Eating tomatoes from the store, even in the summer, is like going on a hot date with someone's avatar.

But for much of my life I didn't care much about vegetables. I assumed they were just on the plate to chaperone the meat. Salads were pointless. Something to soldier through.

When my Dad retired, he started making space for vegetables in the flower gardens. I have photos of him looking mighty pleased with his harvest, and he wasn't a smiley sort. I understood in theory, but put it down to one more odd thing only old people get excited about, like compression socks and lemon drops. My sister's been like this all along but she sort of started out old.

But something happened to me in the last few years. I like vegetables now. And salads. What the hell. Last year we stuck in some lettuce plants and it blew my mind how I could trot out the kitchen door and snap up a bunch of greens just like that. This year I thought maybe we could do some advanced college-level vegetables. Broccoli. Cauliflower. Brussels sprouts.

I didn't have a lot of hope for them, though. Seems to me we tried some Brassicas the first year we got this house, and they turned into an aphid maternity ward. I'm not even sure we ate any. And, after all, they were only vegetables. If Brussels sprouts made meatballs I might have been more concerned.

My plants jumped up quickly and I maybe checked them once or twice but basically I was waiting for them to fuzz over with aphids, at which point I would conclude they were about ready. So imagine my surprise when I peered into the top of one of my plants and found a broccoli bigger than my head! And another! And another! I didn't know what to do. Here I had a shit-ton of gorgeous broccoli all ready at once and no idea, other than sharing with neighbors, what to do with it. Until it occurred to me that you could put more than gin in a freezer. Enter Google and a plan began to emerge.

Well I couldn't be more pleased with myself. I now have six bags of blanched broccoli in the freezer and more fresh in the fridge. Why, I'm just like Grandma! Things have been Put By! In fact I'm exactly like Grandma, assuming she didn't also have to slop the hogs and milk the cows and feed the menfolks and strangle a chicken and hie off to the windbreak in the snow to go potty. All right. Comparing myself to Grandma is like getting into college as a Legacy. It's cheap ancestral credit.

The Googles said to soak the broccoli in salt water for a while to discipline any resident insects. But I didn't have any insects. Oh wait! Oh there they are. Hmm. Tucked way up in there, huh? Lookit that. They look right cozy. Hmm. Well, it's not like I didn't go ahead and bake a bunch of blackberry maggot pies that one year. The Googles say it's just extra protein and nobody will be the worse for it, and everybody did eat the pie, except myself, because I felt an allergy to larvae coming on, which is, I tell you, a thing.

Grandpa and Grandma
Blanching is a silly word for something that turns purple asparagus green or green broccoli greener, but we're stuck with it, and I did it. And I did pose with my broccoli haul, and I will be damned if I didn't feel mighty pleased with myself. Just like Dad.

Of course, I am old.

But not THIS old. Hey! Monday was Dad's birthday. Happy 111th, Daddy!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fun On A Bun

There's no better sign that the vegan movement is gaining traction than that the state of Mississippi has just banned the use of "burger" or "hot dog" to describe plant-based products. Mississippi is afraid that if consumers get the idea there are attractive alternatives to ground-up cows, they might be moved to try one. One might wonder why the state of Mississippi cares about such things, but in fact Mississippi is very attuned to the needs of even its post-fetal cattle. Ha ha! Not really, just its cattle industry, not the cattle so much. And its cattle industry does not want anything cutting into its market share.

The ostensible reason for the ban is that it is too confusing for the consumer, who might assume a "vegan burger" is full of meat. And that may in fact be the case for Miss'ippi citizens, whose educational system is not, shall we say, well-done. A certain portion of the populace might be highly tempted to try a vegan burger, imagining that it is made out of shredded vegans, and about time, boy howdy. Because if there's one thing America can agree on, it's that vegans are annoying and should be culled, even if they're stringy and not well-marbled. They are annoying because they share a number of well-thought-out reasons to forgo meat and meat products, from humane considerations to the existential threat to the environment from factory farming and ranching, and mostly, we don't. We might if we thought about it a little, but there's bacon. And cheese.

Producers of plant-based burgers and dogs believe it is unreasonable to demand that they be required to market Nut 'N' Lentil Pucks, and how is it the slaughterhouses get to lay claim to the burger name anyway? "Burger" is just short for "Hamburger" which is short for "Hamburg steak" and didn't even initially include the bun, and the fair residents of Hamburg ("Hamburgers") might well be miffed about the association; and, as well, the citizens of Sandwich, England might prefer the bread item be named after the actual fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who invented the thing. Add in the Swiss cheese and French fries and the fact that there's hardly a country that our president hasn't insulted by now, and you can see we could be in a pickle, as it were.

Because if people start getting all lawsuity about this whole thing, Mississippi ranchers might be forced to sell Mashed Moo Montagu instead of hamburgers.

A whole other threat to the cattle industry comes in the form of laboratory-produced meat, or actual muscle meat grown in a lab, cell by cell, which, if quality control can be trusted to remove random tusk growths and hoof eruptions, rivals dead meat in every respect. Most people find the entire idea of lab-grown meat repulsive in a way that bloody slabs of cruelly-raised, shot-up, and tortured livestock simply does not.

I'm not discounting that consumers can be confused by labeling. Who among us has not wondered who milks all the little almonds, or whether a beefsteak tomato needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145, or if soda pop is drained from someone's actual dad?

But the stated reason for the ban is belied by its own proponents, who say that the bill "protects farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal." Because we certainly don't want that.

Well, it's not just me. Even the strictest vegan can recognize Bull when she sees it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

He Worked Hod For A Living

"I put a brick in your garden," Dave said.

I wasn't sure what to do with this information, but he appeared to be waiting for a response.

"Did you."

He did. There was an air of expectancy. I looked up. Dave is a brick guy, after all, and has a certain personal aesthetic.

"Well, I'm sure it's in just the right spot."

"You should go look for it. It's hidden," he said. There were a number of things I could have been doing at the moment. I wasn't doing them, but I still wasn't up for finding a brick in a garden spanning two city lots.

"Hidden in plain sight," he wheedled.

We settled for my vowing to keep an eye out for it in the course of my usual wanderings. And sure enough, a week later, I found his brick. In plain sight. It said "HIDDEN." Pretty long wait for a punchline payoff, but hey.

A few months later I found another brick. This one said "E J JEFFERY 1871." It gave me a sense of foreboding. One HIDDEN brick is one thing. You can see the point of that. Two special bricks, and we're getting perilously close to having a collection. I wasn't sure we needed a brick collection. Or if there was such a thing.

My dad used to say that no matter how obscure an item seemed to be, you would discover that there is a whole society devoted to it, with a membership roster, and collections of it all over the world, an associated magazine ("Scurvy Scraper Monthly"), and a thriving exchange market. And he didn't know nothing about no internet.

I looked up E J JEFFERY 1871 and instantly found out Mr. Jeffery owned a brick yard in Portland, Oregon and that he supplied brick for the courthouse and they were all stamped 1872. Not only that, but his brick yard had been located on my old mail route. Not a trace of it remains, but even now a building can be demolished and a new one erected and two weeks later you can't remember what the old one looked like even if you walked by it every day. Could it be Dave's new brick was valuable? That the famous brickmaker who built the courthouse had a rare, earlier model? It didn't take too many more clicks to discover that Dad's observation held true. There are brick collectors.


Now, a brick collection can be a fine thing, if it is assembled into a useful and attractive wall. Dave had accomplished that very thing twenty years ago. It's possible he doesn't get the credit from the neighbors he should have. He spent most of the summer hand-grading the perimeter of the yard, which involved removing obstinate roots, sieving out bucket after bucket of cobble from the old Ice Age Floods, forming and leveling a footing, pouring it in sections as time and the demands of paying work dictated, fashioning forms for arches, removing the footing forms, estimating and ordering block and mortar supplies, setting up work stations and stocking planks, and finally he assembled a crack team of bricklayers and made 5,000 sandwiches and whammo, all in one day 300 feet of wall went up around our yard. "Your friends sure do get a lot done in a hurry," one neighbor observed, and I, being familiar with the man, could see the whole thought process written on his madly blinking face: whereas I dug and scraped and sweated and did all this and hauled all that all summer long and all they had to do was show up, butter some bricks, stick them on top of each other, and drink beer all night, but I believe his actual words were "Yes Ma'am."

Anyway, that's a fine brick collection.

I checked. Dave's bricks aren't valuable and he hasn't accumulated any more of them. We're holding steady at Two. I think we've dodged the collection bullet.

We, personally, are holding steady at 36. Happy Anniversary, Dave!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Tornadette

As natural disasters go, this one was on the puny side, but it got bonus points for zest and caprice. I mean, no matter where you live, you carry with you a notion of what's liable to get you, and what isn't. You develop a steely, studied nonchalance toward the likely events and the rest aren't even on your radar.

Even when it's a tornado, which is something that is totally supposed to be on radar.

So here in our little neighborhood, we don't give any thought to wildfire, or flood, or hurricane, or tsunami, or avalanche, or tornado. We're urban, and on high ground. And yet in the space of a few months we've had a flood, when a major water main blew up and emitted 30,000 gallons of water per minute into the streets for hours, and a tornado, caused by God only knows what, although localized outbreaks of sodomy are as good an explanation as any.

Homeowners were on the hook for related damages both times. Nobody carries flood insurance or tornado insurance. We still recall the homeowner who couldn't collect when his neighbor's entire house slid down a hill and crashed into his, because his insurance policy didn't cover house-to-house collisions.

The insurance industry is in the business of making shareholders whole.

The dog's name is Paisley.
What we are instructed to worry about here, in the way of natural disasters, would be your massive cataclysmic earthquake, or your volcanic ash-fall. That's about it. So when our tornado touched down, residents shaking in its path were probably thinking: Wow, I knew it would be loud, but I didn't expect it to be this wet.

We were four blocks away and it was just one of those sudden deals wherein the sky looks bent for a minute and then God's own bucket of hail comes down. Nothing unprecedented about that, just another meteorological event in the "doozy" category. We did get one ton of rain and hail for about ten minutes. It was compelling. Dave came bolting through the front door from his walk, looking like a drowned rat, followed by a raft of actual drowned rats for comparison, from the dumpster of the Mexican place on the corner. It was something. Salmon runs convened offshore and considered a comeback. Cactus fields a thousand miles south shuddered into bloom.

But four blocks away trees were coming down, and people peered out their windows to see lawn furniture and branches and surplus poultry and an old bat on a bicycle flying by. It's just not the kind of thing anyone expects.

And that is because weather apps are not all they're cracked up to be. I particularly enjoy Accuweather because of its audacity. "Rain starting in 119 minutes," it will smoothly report, which is just the kind of specificity that can fill a person with confidence that everything is well under control, but nowhere in the Monday report did it mention anything about a petite tornado touching down at 5:24pm. And the nearest trailer park is four miles away.

It was only an 80-mph tornado, just strong enough to make eyes roll in Kansas. But it's not supposed to happen at all. What's next?

God, I hope it's frogs.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

For Love Of Country

Scenes from a neighborhood fireworks display
We're 243 years along on this experiment in liberty, a little late to learn it is traitorous to take a knee in peaceful protest, or stand quietly during our anthem, or fail to wear a flag pin in our lapels, or abandon any other symbol of patriotism-on-the-cheap. We are told we disrespect our troops. "I hope you sleep well tonight, under that blanket of freedom our men and women in uniform have won for you," a man sneers, trotting out a road-tested narrative from the think tanks of our overlords.

It's repeated so often--that our brave men and women are dying for our freedom--that a huge swath of the population never stops to question it. But the undoubted courage and sacrifice of our soldiers has often been in service of anything but freedom.

The War of Independence was surely a fight for our freedom, back when we declared prematurely that all men are created equal, but successive armies were put to the task of extinguishing the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Choctaw, who, scientists now agree, were fully human even then. Certainly in the Civil War our soldiers, or half of them, fought for the freedom of slaves. Then our troops were mustered to isolate or destroy the Sioux and the Comanche, and more were sent to colonize the Philippines; and meanwhile, for the next hundred years, law enforcement in the former slave states enforced the utter subjugation of millions of people through murder and terrorism, leaving communities deprived of any property or wealth, with repercussions to this day. And even so, many of us still fly the flag of Jim Crow on our bumpers in the name of some fabled Heritage that should be our shame.

We fought the good fight in World War II, against clear evil, and then sacrificed many thousands more in dubious enterprises that have, whatever their rationales, failed to make the case for war over peace work.

And now our leaders continue to sell us endless war by insisting our brave troops are fighting for our freedom, and we're buying it. Oh, we're paying through the nose for it. Our soldiers are paying even more.

Take Cheney's War, cooked up under false pretenses, ostensibly to free the Iraqis from the authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussein--but then all attempts by Iraqi people to actually conduct free elections were quickly quashed by our forces under orders from an administration that saw its control of Iraqi wealth slipping away; and the rebuilding jobs, promised to citizens whose government jobs were taken away from them, were instead taken over by our soldiers, who were then supplanted by a new private mercenary army at unfathomably greater cost to US taxpayers but tremendous and ongoing profit for private firms like Halliburton and Blackwater.

Our soldiers are fighting, and building, and dying, but not for our freedom. And if I take a knee, or remain silent for our anthem, it will be for them.  Or for anyone else whose freedom is threatened by the actions of my government.

Why dredge up ancient history? This is our truth, and not so ancient. A mature nation must not pretend its way out of it, or merely press a reset button absolving us of our bloody history while we still kill for oil, and declare war on refugees and their children, and demonize the innocent, and incinerate our gorgeous planet for money.

And yet now we are being told that we should not trouble ourselves over these issues, that the patriotic thing to do is cheer and lay ourselves out to be fleeced and continue to send in our brave sons and daughters to be sacrificed for someone else's profit. That to do anything else is to disrespect our troops. No. I respectfully disagree.

There is a reason to glorify our bloated military, to declare it a sign of our strength rather than a failure of our ideals. And that reason is to baffle and bluster us into believing everything we do is for the good, and to distract us from the sins committed in our names. To say: look at these shiny jets, and this procession of armored codpieces-on-a-track, and don't look over there at the war profiteers' growing treasure, and the death and deception that feed it.

But we are a government of, by, and for the people, and anything our leaders do is done in our name, whether it is genocide, or enslavement, or pursuit of the happiness of CEOs at the expense of entire nations. We protest out of love for our nation and its highest ideals. We cannot simply climb aboard the Good Ship America and glide toward our lofty destiny. We stutter and stall and tack toward it at best, and we need all hands on deck.

But we still believe in our path and principles, and it is our highest patriotic calling to keep fighting to form a more perfect union, with liberty and justice for all. All.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Sit Right Back And Hear A Tale

Fossil music was coming right out of our TV.

I didn't even know you could get that sound out of a flat-screen, but sure enough, the dramatic strings and horns of the Perry Mason theme song were charging through the room, and I dropped 55 years just like that.

Perry Mason wasn't one of the shows I watched. In fact, at age ten, I didn't have a show. I played outside, and later watched what Mom and Dad watched, which would be Huntley Brinkley and the Dick Van Dyke show. My friend Carol was nuts about Perry Mason, but she was kind of advanced. She used words like "however" in ordinary conversation. But of course I remember the theme song. And that was enough to get my reverie going.

Shows still have theme songs but they're super snappy and to the point. Everybody has a skillion shows they could pluck out of space at any time and you don't want to make them wait for anything. Nobody today will sit through the Gilligan's Island theme song, which didn't outpeter for about ten minutes, and even with all that, the Professor and Mary Ann were just a footnote. In fact, it says a lot about the nature of time that we did have enough of it to sit through that crappy song. We were marinating in time. We had no fear of missing out: nothing else was happening.

What the theme song did remind me of is how there were certain shows that absolutely everyone watched, and then they'd rehash them all the next day. Ed Sullivan. Batman. Laugh-In. You didn't want to miss your show. And you certainly would miss it if your fanny wasn't in front of the TV when it started. You didn't get another shot at it until the reruns started. That means that you knew all your friends were watching the exact same thing you were, at the exact same time. It was a new, modern, yet remote form of togetherness. It was amazing. Now, unless somebody drops a skyscraper, nobody's watching the same thing at the same time.

We've always been social beasts. But the nature of togetherness changes. My grandparents' generation did togetherness old-school. Physically. And that was probably because they had to cut hay or slap cattle rumps or polish their horses or something. And if your daughter took off for the hinterlands and someone asked you how she was doing, you had no idea. You'd have to wait until a hand-written letter showed up, so it was dependent on the stamina of someone's mule. You'd just stare off into the horizon all wistful-like, and shake your head, and go back to wiping something down. It was a little sad, but it didn't make you crazy like it can now.

Because now you can be together with anyone in the world at any time and there are fifteen different ways of going about it. It's frantic. It's diffuse. It's togetherness in aerosol form. And if your daughter doesn't answer your text right away, you pretty much have to take it personally or imagine the worst. She's out there in that spray somewhere. It's been an hour. Where can she be? Is the mule okay?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

News Out Of Bubonia

Mongolia is reeling at the tragic death by bubonic plague of a couple who snacked on a marmot kidney. Officials are warning that marmot kidneys are dangerous even if you boil the piss out of them, and pretty much any other part of the marmot is a bad meal plan as well.

Bubonic Plague, a.k.a. the Black Death, was famously responsible for wiping millions of people off the map in the Middle Ages, but this couple was just in their thirties.

This is merely the latest in the tragic and terrible trend of Mongolian marmot mastication. The area experiences an average of one death by marmot per year. It's the age-old story. God gave us everything we needed in a beautiful garden and in return asked only one thing, one thing, which was not to eat of the kidney of the marmot, but did we listen? Sure enough the couple goes right for the marmot first thing, and whereas in a similar scenario Adam and Eve discovered they were naked, the Mongolian couple discovered they were no longer extant.

It was only five years ago a Kyrgyzstan teenager died of eating barbecued marmot although, in that climate, it could totally have been the potato salad. The victim apparently believed, as many in the countryside do, that the marmot meat would benefit his health, or at least clear up his skin and give him a huge boner. So close! Bubonic plague.

The Kyrgyzstan government has repeatedly warned its citizens about the whole marmot thing, but the message doesn't get through as readily in a country with a serious vowel shortage. No one is sure where they went wrong in Ulaanbaatar.

I for one would never consider ingesting a marmot part. I've never been issued a proper spirit animal, but for years I've thought if I were going to be reincarnated, I would prefer a time slot as a marmot. When I was younger I used to say "river otter" because they're so dang cute and have so dang much fun, but I hadn't really thought it through. Eventually I realized there's a limit to how much fun I like to have, and most of it is not rambunctious, and none of it involves swimming. "But if you were an otter, you would know how to swim," people tell me, but I don't know how they can be sure of that. There would have to be some residual aspect of my own spirit in the otter and what if it turns out to be the part that sinks?

So marmot it is: they are fat and fun and hang out in the prettiest places on the planet and they eat a lot and don't watch their waistlines and they live underground in cozy dens lined with lots and lots of adorable brightly painted cupboards. This has not been validated by science but I know it in my very heart, the same way other people know what heaven looks like even though they've never been.

The very same way, in fact.