Okay–Just Once More

I wrote about this back in 1990. From Chapter 13 of Jumper:

“One of the problems with American public policy on terrorism is that our government insists on blurring the line between armed insurgence against military forces and installations and attacks on uninvolved civilians. Now, obviously attacking unarmed civilians who have no involvement with a particular political issue is terrorism. But an attack on an armed military force occupying one’s homeland? That’s not terrorism. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying that if you call that terrorism then the U.S. is also involved in financing terrorists in Afghanistan and Central America. See what I mean?”


“Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that the proportion of American dead from terrorism is way out of proportion to the response it generates. We did nothing to stop the Iraq-Iran war because we perceived it in our interests that damage be done to both of those countries. Personally I think that’s inexcusable, but I’m not in the position to make government policy. Certainly both leaders were crazy with a long-standing personal grudge, but their people paid a horrible price.”

“I wasn’t aware that there was a personal grudge.”

Continue reading

Pessimism – Part Two

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

It’s half-empty.

And there seems to be a crack hidden in its base that’s sucking the remaining liquid from it as I watch.

You’re a smart, reality-based person, or you wouldn’t be reading this. So you have the same problem that I do – which is that all the research indicates that pessimists have a firmer grasp on so-called reality than do optimists. It really is as bad as we think it is, and it’s going to get exponentially worse. That’s the fact, Jack.

So — Would you rather be delusionally happy, or would you rather be right? Yeah, me too.

I don’t know how I got to be such a pessimist. Oh, sure – George Bush. As with the rest of us. But my world darkened long before his evil shadow spread beyond Texas.

Perhaps it started the day I realized that I’d probably never be an astronaut, which was my secret ambition when I was 12. Worse, being an astronaut became less cool than it should have been. NASA screwed the pooch when they didn’t make Chuck Yeager an astronaut. Dammit, he should have been the King of the Astronauts. If Yeager couldn’t be the poster boy for space exploration, the world was a dismal place.

I also stayed in a marriage that made Satan laugh, for about twenty years longer than I should have. If I’d been smarter, I’d have just stolen some eggs and created Rachael in a castle tower hidden in the Carpathians.

Pessimists generally blame themselves when things go badly. If I’d been a better, smarter, more disciplined person, the world as we know it would be much improved. If only I could have persevered and built my time machine and gone back and strangled all those bastards in their cradles! You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones who’ve wrecked it for everybody else. It would have kept me busy and happy and productive for a dozen years. And my allergies would trouble me much less today, too.

The weight gain might have been inevitable, though I suspect I could have avoided it if I was a better person. It was a mistake to move to College Station, because it’s completely full of Thems, and has almost no Uses. And what’s with all that white hair? Especially in my ears?

Here are the two cognitive mistakes that I constantly make, which trigger my worst bouts of pessimism:

  1. I can’t tell the difference between events that I can affect in some way, versus those that will crush me no matter what I do. It all feels the same, and this completely immobilizes me on occasion, because there’s ALL THAT BAD STUFF that’s unmanageable.

  1. I focus on the wrong time periods. I experience negative emotional and cognitive internals because I frequently dwell upon the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and fear what’s going to happen in both the near future and the much farther-along End of It All.

Swirl these two bad mental habits together, and it’s tough to even keep looking at the glass. Stephen Petranek’s sorrowful TED presentation makes for a perfect example of the combination punches that can be created with this mix. I just want to crawl off and hide in a culvert somewhere, hoping to avoid the worst. Of course, it’ll rain then, and the culvert will quickly become more than half full.

So, I’m going to try to make some changes. I’m going to focus on issues where I have some chance of at least optimizing my outcomes in an uncontrollable environment. And I’m going to try to stay in the present mostly, and then plan for the intermediate future, right beyond all the terrifying near-term future events that I’ll struggle to survive.

: Continue reading

Run, Glacier, Run. See Glacier Run.

From National Geographic, an amazing time-lapse video of a glacier near Valdez, Alaska between May and September of last year. Watch as it retreats a half mile or more:

Global warming is a topic I follow pretty closely, as I have mentioned before, but I haven’t posted on it in a long time. The real reason, I confess, is that there is so much bad news, and I felt worried that I’d chase readers away. (“Oh, God, there’s another grim post about the climate from Morgan.”) And maybe I feel a little overwhelmed, myself.

But the problem hasn’t gone away. Two weeks ago, a portion of the Wilkins ice shelf the size of Manhattan broke off and floated away. The rest of the ice shelf is barely hanging on, and only the fact that winter is coming to Antarctica may save it.

As the New York Times puts it:

Nothing dramatizes the urgency of global warming quite like a fracture of this scale. There is nothing to be done about a collapsing polar ice sheet except to witness it. It may be too late to stop the warming decay at the boundaries of Antarctic ice, yet there is everything to be done. Humans can radically change the way they live and do business, knowing that it is the one chance to find a possible limit to radical change in the natural world around us.

We have a lot of extremely important issues we need our political leaders to address. Climate change, because it is such a big issue, and so complex–and most importantly, a problem whose worst effects won’t be felt for decades–gets crowded out of our consciousness. But we really do need to act now. Our next president’s actions will have a real effect on whether global warming is a big problem we managed to tackle, or one we let run away from us.

Individual actions help, and collective action helps even more. Al Gore is gearing up for a major new campaign to push the fight against climate change to the front of the public consciousness. We need our political leaders to actually, y’know, lead on this one.

Come on, Clinton; come on, Obama*. Step up to the plate. Show us you have what it takes.


*I’d name McCain, too; global warming affects everyone, and I’ve known plenty of Republicans who are concerned about it. But the far right seems determined to try to make climate change a partisan issue, and McCain will be too beholden to them to be effective on this issue, even if he wanted to. Yet another reason to vote Democratic this coming November, if you needed one.

Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies, for Hare-Brained Crackpottery…

I don’t always agree with Nicholas Kristof, but he really nails it in this op-ed (via Scarecrow at FireDogLake). I’m having a hard time finding a small portion to snip to give you a taste, because it’s all so good.

Rev. Wright was ridiculed in the press for his (well, ridiculous) belief that AIDS was the US government engaging in biological warfare against blacks. Kristof points out that this sort of thing is not a Rev. Wright problem, nor an African-American problem; it’s an American problem.

… there’s this embarrassing fact about the United States in the 21st century: Americans are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution. Depending on how the questions are asked, roughly 30 to 40 percent of Americans believe in each.

A 34-nation study found Americans less likely to believe in evolution than citizens of any of the countries polled except Turkey.

President Bush is also the only Western leader I know of who doesn’t believe in evolution, saying “the jury is still out.” No word on whether he believes in little green men.

Only one American in 10 understands radiation, and only one in three has an idea of what DNA does. One in five does know that the Sun orbits the Earth …oh, oops.Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

“America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism,” Susan Jacoby argues in a new book, “The Age of American Unreason.” She blames a culture of “infotainment,” sound bites, fundamentalist religion and ideological rigidity for impairing thoughtful debate about national policies….

He points out that we are so enamored of our own ignorance that we choose leaders who reflect that ignorance back to us:

From Singapore to Japan, politicians pretend to be smarter and better- educated than they actually are, because intellect is an asset at the polls. In the United States, almost alone among developed countries, politicians pretend to be less worldly and erudite than they are (Bill Clinton was masterful at hiding a brilliant mind behind folksy Arkansas sayings about pigs).

Alas, when a politician has the double disadvantage of obvious intelligence and an elite education and then on top of that tries to educate the public on a complex issue — as Al Gore did about climate change — then that candidate is derided as arrogant and out of touch.

It’s not the ignorance per se that bothers me. No one can be an expert in everything. It’s the willfulness of our ignorance that gets us into trouble. If we feel threatened by knowledge we don’t have–if we resist acknowledging our own ignorance–we can never learn and grow. If we just make shit up, instead of doing the hard work of understanding the roots of complicated and difficult problems, and figuring out workable solutions, then the problems are never solved. This strain of anti-intellectual snobbery threatens to cripple us as a nation. It has to stop. And quite frankly, we need to spend some resources on how to fix this problem.

In the interests of helping my fellow Americans, I’ve begun that process, and I have had an important epiphany. Brace yourselves for a shock. This is not a problem mired in complex socioeconomic rigamarole. No. It’s really quite simple, once you examine the evidence. Susan Jacoby herself tips her hand, when she mentions a “powerful mutant strain” of ignorance.

Clearly, sometime in the past century, psychic alien zombies ate America’s brains. And she’s in on it!

Either that, or malevolent intelligent bacterial super-colonies have hacked their own DNA and infested our water supply, in a struggle for Darwinian supremacy!

Or perhaps it’s giant horned pig lizards… hmm… I know I can figure this out. Give me time.

*shuffles off, mumbling*

One Percent

So, the Pew Center on the States reports that 1 in 100 American adults is in our prison and jail system, a rate that exceeds every other country on earth.

In response, both the New York Post and the New York Times have published pieces which say, in essence, “Yeah, but we’ve got the lowest crime rates in the last fifty years.”

It’s interesting that New York publications say this because more than any other state in the US, the number of prisoners and prisons they have is actually down 17%. So I guess the increases in other states prison populations is keeping the crime rate down in New York.


It’s also interesting that Texas, with one of the largest prison systems in the country, had decided that it can no longer maintain such a large prison population. Rather than increase the number of cells, legislators from both parties are instead spending half a billion on other programs to cut down on that population including “a dramatic expansion of drug treatment and diversion beds.”

The fact is that there are people in prison who should be there. But, unfortunately, there are a huge number who pose no threat to their communities and would be better served through some combination of drug treatment, probation, and job training.

Here’s the report.

What He Said

Jeff Fecke at Shakesville has really been on a roll. He’s been blogging the Obama-Rev. Wright controversy, and has this to say:

Look, I know many of the readers of this blog have wandered from the religious paths we once followed. But having belonged to churches over the years, I can tell you that I didn’t always agree with what my minister was saying; still don’t, always. Nobody’s said anything as outlandish as Wright’s anti-Hillary sermon, but I’ve definitely heard people say things I disagree with, and say them from the pulpit. And criminy, I’m a Unitarian.

I have a good friend who’s Catholic, as is his wife. They’re also in favor of birth control, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-women’s equality. So why do they remain in the church? Well, it’s where they feel most connected spiritually. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things they disagree with in their church, nor that they weren’t disappointed by the selection of the current pope. But they still feel grounded in that church.

So do I tell my friend that he’s horrible for staying in a church that sometimes preaches things at odds with what he believes? No, I don’t, because I’m quite fine with him finding and staying in a church he feels connected to. And I feel the same way toward my friends who are atheists and agnostics and Lutherans and Methodists…all of us find things we disagree with in our chosen faith traditions, but that doesn’t mean we must chuck them all.

Obama seems to be saying that he found faith in his church, but not necessarily a political ideology. Unstated, but also true, Obama found a community in that church — one of the major reasons people join churches is to find community, after all. …
Will the conservatives make an issue of this in the fall? Of course they will, but they were going to blow something up ridiculously out of proportion. If they didn’t have this, they would have run ads comparing Obama to Farrakhan. If Clinton somehow gets the nomination, they’ll run ads saying Hillary Clinton was a secret lesbian who killed her lover Vince Foster. If John Edwards is given the nomination somehow, we’ll hear that he used his wife’s cancer to get ahead.

If 2004 taught us anything, it’s that the conservatives will seize onto anything, no matter how small, and use it to tar good people. Barack Obama joined a large, prominent African American church, one that included among its membership Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan. And at that church, he found community and a faith that fit him — as well as a minister who sometimes went over the top. Obama’s now said, flatly, that when his minister went over the top, that was wrong. I was satisfied when the Clinton campaign rebuked the statements by Ferraro, and I’m satisfied with Obama rebuking these statements by Wright. As for this sentence — “I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit.” — everyone’s chosen candidate should tattoo that to their foreheads.

I have to say, I have been impressed with how Obama has been handling this controversy.

Jeff goes on in a later post on the subject to point out that calling out racism isn’t racist, and anger isn’t hate.

Anyway, go RTWT.

I Elected Barack Obama Tonight

I just now got back in from the Democratic Party caucus for Precinct 53 in Bryan, Texas. In Texas, you vote on the goddam non-paper-trail machines during the day for 126 delegates to the national convention, then the remaining 102 are determined by a byzantine process that begins with country precinct caucuses.

The caucus room was jammed full of Dems, about 100 of us, with a table separating us from the Republican meeting, which had about 15 people. Our room also included people in Precinct 15, and they ended up separating us out.

My precinct is a tiny one, so we only had 11 people. Voting is open, by writing in your candidate preference on a sheet of paper that’s passed around.

Precinct 15 is allocated 1 delegate to the state convention. The vote tally for us was 6 to 5 in favor of Barack Obama.

For the first time in my entire life, my own personal political preference counted for something real.

I’d like you to remember this when that one Obama vote swings the Texas national delegation in the direction of one more Obama rep, then the national floor fight is decided in favor of Obama by one vote. And then Obama goes on to become President in a 400-electoral-vote landslide and the face of civilization is changed for the Twenty-First Century.

That was me that caused that.

I am drunk with power and am currently eating some BlueBell Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream to celebrate my electoral victory.

This democracy thing rocks. This country should do it more.


We Like It Stupid…

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled: What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?

In the course of the article, it was revealed that, in Finland, there’s no mandatory testing for kids, little rote learning, and that, for the most part, the Finns prefer to let their teenagers be teenagers.

But buried in the middle of the article was an obvious reason the Finns are creating such bright kids: They actually believe in being smart.

For instance, the Finns are big readers.  They even have libraries attached to their shopping malls.  I’m pretty sure if there was a library attached to Barton Creek Mall here in Austin, the hoi polloi would beat a path through it to Starbucks and The GAP.

And even though the pay for teachers in Finland is roughly the same as what it is in the U.S., it’s a prestigious job there. Applicants for teaching positions in Finland must hold a master’s degree.  There are usually more than 40 applicants for every opening.  But here was another secret: Teachers have more freedom in the way they teach than American educators do.

The other interesting facet is that Finnish teenagers are better at deductive reasoning than their counterparts in other counties.

We don’t do smart here in the grand old U.S. of A.  In fact, we’re a country that despises smart people.  The smarter you are, the more you’re distrusted.  There’s been an anti-intellectual bent to our makeup since the early 1800s.

Our presidential picks are the most pronounced manifestation of this part of the American psyche.  Eisenhower over Stevenson.  Bush over Gore.  (Does anyone remember the sturm und drang over Gore’s “eye rolling” during debates with Dubya?  Yes, being dumbfounded by dumbness is a crime in this country.)

Continue reading

Don’t Sue My Buddies!

George wants his buddies in the telecommunication biz not to face the consequences of helping him illegally tap phones.  From the Washington Post:

Referring to the phone companies’ need for relief, Bush said: “They’re facing billions of dollars of lawsuits.”

Five coordinated, class-action lawsuits are pending against the phone companies, but substantial damages would be awarded only if courts rule that they participated in illegal surveillance affecting millions of people, not just communications involving terrorism suspects overseas. If all the claims were added up, the statutory penalties could be $13,000 per person or $200 per person per day of violation.

* * *

Referring to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Bush said: “I don’t want to try to get inside their head; I suspect they see, you know, a financial gravy train.”

Two nonprofit groups are overseeing the five class-action cases: the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. But each case has at least one for-profit law firm assisting the plaintiffs. At least one law firm is seeking no compensation. There is no prospect that financial damages would be awarded soon.

My favorite Commie rag says:

 US President George Bush used a Thursday White House press conference to issue a belligerent demand that Congress pass a bill effectively gutting Constitutional protections against government spying while granting immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the administration break the law.

The bullying tone of the president, who repeatedly banged the podium while warning of supposed imminent dangers posed by the Congressional delay in renewing the administration’s unfettered power to conduct domestic wiretapping, stood in sharp contradiction with the overwhelming popular hostility towards Bush, whose standing in the polls has fallen to record lows. Despite his deepening political isolation, the Republican president is justifiably confident that the Democratic majority in Congress will ultimately bow to his demands.

The following can be attributed to Timothy Sparapani, Senior Legislative Counsel for the ACLU:

“Contrary to the president’s false claim that those suing the telecoms are doing so because of a ‘financial gravy train,” those who are seeking justice against the companies that sold out their privacy are not in it for the money. This is about the rule of law, and about insisting that corporations not be treated as above the law. You follow the rules, you don’t get sued. It’s as simple as that. Americans deserve their day in court.

“As for getting the help of these companies in the future, the president conveniently fails to mention that the companies will have immunity if they follow the law – namely FISA. For years, the telephone companies knowingly violated that law and should be held accountable.  Because the administration does not want this lawlessness aired publicly, Bush is trying to prevent the courts from doing their job and is now goading Congress to bait them into aiding his administration’s cover-up. A full and public airing of the facts is necessary and overdue. The bottom line in all of these cases is that these giant companies must be held accountable for violating the law and dissuaded from violating the law in the future.”

But here’s my favorite comment:

The Billboard Liberation Front today announced a major new advertising improvement campaign executed on behalf of clients AT&T and the National Security Agency. Focusing on billboards in the San Francisco area, this improvement action is designed to promote and celebrate the innovative collaboration of these two global communications giants.


God and Man at Manchaca

Consider it done. 

I do not speak ill of the dead.

Or at least not the newly dead.

Joseph McCarthy, for example, has been gone long enough (he died in 1957, a year before I was born) that I have no qualms about describing him as a foul drunkard who indulged a paranoid, psychotic need to persecute and bully by cloaking it in false patriotism. Nor do I have any qualms about asserting that this description is overly generous.

But William F. Buckley, Jr., who defended McCarthy in 1954’s McCarthy and His Enemies, died only yesterday (February 27, 2008).

So I’ll not speak ill of Mr. Buckley.

Instead, I’ll just describe one of the three instances in which Mr. Buckley’s life almost-but-not-quite-and-not-really intersected with mine – with no purpose other than to illustrate what a strange universe it must be that would allow even the slightest of connections between the right-wing, Ivy-League likes of Mr. Buckley and the labor-union-joining, State-School likes of me.


Continue reading

Orcinus on The Clinton Rules

Dave Neiwert, as usual, nails it:

We’ve known for a couple of years that the “Clinton Rules” of journalism would be in full effect this election cycle. What’s been amusing has been watching its very practitioners — the Beltway Village Idiots — defending those rules by claiming, as they always do, they’re perfectly appropriate because the Clintons, you know, really are Awful People.

But don’t be fooled. The “Clinton Rules” really don’t just apply to the Clintons. Barack Obama and his followers will be discovering this soon enough.


(long, well documented post on how the Clinton Rules work)


So far, Obama has been largely exempt from them (the exception being, of course, the long-running “Obama is a Muslim” tale). Some of that is most likely a product of the anti-Clinton animus: as long as he’s hurting Hillary, he’ll be cut a certain amount of slack.

I’m sure a lot of Democrats have been taking the depth and breadth of the Hillary Hate into account in their decisions on who to support, and a number of them are leaning toward Obama because of it. The thinking seems to be that because of the Clinton Rules, it might be better to nominate someone else. Certainly, Obama and his campaign have encouraged that view — and it must be noted that, so far, polling data does indicate he has a real advantage.

But as Stanley Fish quite adroitly observed:

Electability (a concept invoked often) is a code word that masks the fact that the result of such reasoning is to cede the political power to the ranters. Carolyn Kay (456) makes the point when she observes that if you vote against Clinton because you fear the virulence of her most vocal enemies, “you have allowed the right-wing hatemongers to decide who our candidate will be.” Underlying this surrender of the franchise to those least qualified to exercise it is the complaint (rarely overtly stated) that the Clintons have had the bad taste to undergo the assassination of their characters in public and have thereby made us its unwilling spectators.

Moreover, the Clinton Rules are a systemic problem, not a personal one. People today forget that when he was elected in 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign was all about finding a “new vision” and a fresh, bipartisan approach to politics, “reaching across the aisle” and forging the same kind of alliances that Barack Obama likes to tout now. He entered office full of hope that he could work with conservatives and liberals alike to get things done — essentially the same kind of politics Obama is now touted by the George Wills of the Beltway for representing.

Well, we all saw how that worked out, didn’t we?

Don’t worry: If Obama is in fact the nominee, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Clinton Rules will be applied to him as well. We’ve already seen the germ of this with the “cult of Obama” nonsense, which has already morphed into the “Obama equals Hitler” meme.

I think Obama has some real strengths, and I’ll enthusiastically support him if he wins the nomination. But I think the phenomenon that Neiwert describes — that faint aura of concern about the integrity of HClinton’s character, or the hope that somehow Obama will escape the same, ongoing character assassination the Clintons have been subjected to for years — is exactly right. He won’t. It’ll be ugly. The only way through this is if we don’t drink the KoolAid, and base our choices on our own preferences and knowledge.

Read the whole thing.

Out Here in the Fields…

It was an interesting week.  Super Tuesday, not so super, leaving no decisive winner on the Democratic side.  And as Unca Buzzkill noted, Mitt Romney got “the talking to” by GOP goombas and dropped out of the Republican race, leaving like the pissy little bitch most of us knew he was.

And now with John McCain as the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, Democrats are left with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Odds are we’re going to end up with a brokered convention, which would have been great had that been the case with the Republicans as well.

But here we are in a historic race – first woman with a real shot at the White House and first black man with a shot at the White House.  Given the fucking mess the Republicans have made of things (yes, with help from quisling Democrats) Democrats should be doing a happy dance right about now.

Except we can’t.

The cold hard facts are that we cannot afford to have four more years of Republican rule.  I know McCain is more palatable to many than most of the GOP candidates, but he’s drunk the Neocon Kool-Aid.  McCain has no intention of getting us out of Iraq.  He’s salivating to out-Bush Bush.

Continue reading

¡Ya Voté!

Stupidity, or the Law of Unintended Consequences?

My first official shot at voting was in 1972, when I was a sophomore in college. It was an exciting, scary time to be voting, particularly if you were one of the newly franchised under-21 crowd. It was also an exciting, scary time to be a machine politician with an influx of passionate new voters. And so the pols of New London, Connecticut (where my college was located and where I registered to vote), worried that all the damned college kids would vote for people they didn’t want voted for, particularly in the local election. Now, to the best of my recollection, I didn’t much care about the local politics; anything below congress was pretty much lost on me. But the pols weren’t about to take a chance on me and the thousand or so new voters at my college. A few months before the actual election they challenged our registrations on grounds of residency. And stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Many people who had a passionate interest in the presidential election but had not much cared, up to that point, about the local scene, got interested Real Fast. Meetings were held. Lawyers for the group were found. At least one faculty member, as I recall, ran for local office after the challenge. I was one of a bunch of people who went door to door in New London, imploring people to vote for the new progressive slate that had not existed before the challenge. We organized rides. We countered the fearful protests of people who said they were afraid if they didn’t vote the “right” way they’d lose their public housing. We were, briefly, on fire.

And all because someone tried to take away our newly minted franchise. So here’s something I have in common with my Suffragist fore-mothers: I take voting seriously. Even when the cause seems lost or the choice of candidates sucks rocks, I savor the action itself, the pushing of toggles and levers (in New York) or the marking and scanning of my ballot (in California). When they were small, I took the girls with me to vote, so they’d know how important it was. It’s my annual shot at letting the world know how I think things should be run.

California is expecting a record turnout today: 56%. As records go, hardly impressive. As with so much in the Land of My Birth, we could do a hell of a lot better. If you’re in a Super Tuesday state, go swell the numbers. Vote. Bump it up to 57% or 59% or even 60%. Change the world.

Boy, Do I NOT Know How to Pick ‘Em

 Push-Button Transmission!  What's not to like?

About fifteen years ago, Maxwell House came out with a bottled “iced cappuccino” here in the States called Cappio. It was available in several flavors, including cinnamon, vanilla, and mocha . . . and man, I loved that stuff. Especially the mocha, which tasted as if coffee and cocoa had made sweet, sweet love to produce a God-Child who had descended to Earth for the sole purpose of making my poor tired brain happy again. World without End, Ah-men. Ahhhh-mennn.

It was moderately kinda sorta expensive, but it sure was tasty. Smooth, sweet, and a kick like a mule wearing velvet horseshoes. Hoo boy.

Then one day it went on sale. Everywhere. So I bought up a bunch, never thinking that maybe it was on sale for a Reason.

The Reason, of course, turned out to be that it had sold like crap at a stable-shovelers convention. So less than two years after introducing it, General Foods stopped making it for the U.S. market. All the stores put their stock on sale so they could clear the shelves for whatever came next.

The result: Once I knocked back my little stash, that was it. No more Soup for me.

A decade and a half later, all of the bottled iced coffee drinks on the U.S. market taste as if they’ve been filtered through a stevedore’s shorts. And they apparently sell like crazy despite being more costly than heroin. (Okay, maybe not the best heroin. But still – two bucks for a six-and-a-half ounce Doubleshot? I’d ask how those rapacious bastards sleep at night, except I’m pretty sure they don’t.)

Continue reading

Ruin and Renewal

I’ve been terse, of late.

I haven’t posted about global warming in a long time; so many well-informed writers are posting on the subject now that I don’t have much new to share (though significant progress continues to be made — at least on the scientific front). My posts on bird flu come from my background in public and environmental health, but I don’t have a lot more to say other than (in various ways) think about what you would do, if the worst becomes real. How will you survive it? How will you help your family and neighbors, your community?

(Come to think of it, there is plenty of overlap between bird flu and a zombie infestation. So, you know: stockpile food and weapons, keep away from infected individuals, and whatever you do, don’t eat brains.)

And I have some great posts queued up with regard to humans in space, but not a lot of time to devote to them (and to be worthwhile, they need time. rsn, I promise).

My fellow Brainiacs have been sharing some great stuff lately. I’ve been reading avidly. Hungrily. Zombiliciously. But the output has been minimal.

All this magma is moving around inside. There’s this tectonic plate activity under the surface of my thoughts. Quakes, geysers, upwellings. Subduction of old rock, old patterns of behavior and thought. Processes beyond my control are busily destroying the ruins of my old life, making space for new processes. I don’t even know what it all means. It’s hard for me to know yet how, or even what, to share.

But these images spoke to me.

Komanskop. Images by Richard Erhlich on artnet.

(Via Group News Blog.)

Someday, in some far distant future, the ruins of Kolmanskop, Namibia will lie beneath a tropical rainforest. Or maybe an ocean. So will the skyscrapers of Singapore, London. New York. Where Everest is now, we’ll have a savannah. An unimaginably advanced city. The remains of a vast, nanite disaster. The site where a new savior is hatched and raised, whose writings will later transform the lives of uncounted posthumans.

Someday the ruins of Komanskop will be crushed, along with the bones of their occupants. They’ll be obliterated. Sucked into the mantle, dragged down to the dense iron core of the earth, super-heated, pressurized, and spewed out again to make new rock, new minerals that plants and animals will take up. Someday, they’ll be taken up by new stars, and made into new starstuff.*

There is a link between death and birth. Between destruction and renewal. Tossing out the old — old habits, ways of thinking, crap you don’t need anymore — makes room for the new. Hurts like hell. Burns the shit out of you. You can’t survive that process. You’re nothing but atoms, you know, in the final analysis. The universe makes use of those atoms, but you don’t get to decide whether you get to stay in one piece. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who survives and passes on your code, your DNA, your ideas. Maybe not. Maybe you won’t even be a bump on somebody else’s tarmac. It’s not in your control.

But fuck. What a fucking amazing dance it all is.

*I’ve definitely been spending too much time trolling in the dusty hinterlands of my brain.

PS Btw, did you guys hear? Somebody is postulating that the reason the universe appears to be expanding at increasingly fast rates is because time is sl-o-o-o-owing down!

I love cosmologists. It’s like they are getting paid to create code for an acid trip. (Ask me for a link in comments, if you really must read more. I’m too lazy to hunt it up gratuitously.)

PPS How many other people read about Bush’s SOTU Address and your brain changes it to STFU Address? Let’s have a show of hands.