Arson in the Sierra Madres?

I briefly mentioned the wildfire blaze going on in California this morning, of note for trapping a wedding party.  Yes, the peacefully slumbering couple were awakened to calls for evacuation – they eventually had to be helicoptered out of their mountain celebration area, along with around 48 guests.  But then again, maybe they were only faking.  maybe the bride is a secret pyro, and she set the thing herself.  Authorities say the blaze was manmade.  That includes the possibility of arson.  While pure carelessness could also be to blame, and I do subscribe to the people are dumb theorem, I prefer to see a maniacal cackling bride on the mountainside, lighting things up.  Ahh.  Drink in the warmth with me!

While it’s also possible that some natural cause (lighting, spontaneous combustion, human or otherwise) will eventually be found to have started the fire, details of the article lay ultimate blame firmly at our feet.  Recently the area has been known for a lack of fires, probably due to human containment and a reduction of natural causes.  Brush and other dead plant materials have built up.  In a dry region like this one, the natural process for eliminating that buildup is fire, rather than the speedy decomposition of more humid areas.  While even a preventative-measure burnoff can be dangerous, wouldn’t it be safer to do some kind of brush clearing or other control in the area?  I know it’s remote, and that the mountains are a big place.  Still, it seems like something should be done to keep our meddling from ultimately causing damage.  But maybe that’s just me.  Conservation, ho!

Garlic and Onion Macadamia Nuts

There are a variety of pointless foods that exist in the world.  Other than the example above, however, I can’t think of any offhand.  When i saw them on the ‘available-please take’ counter in our break room, I thought there must be some kind of mistake.  Macadamia nuts are expensive.  But then, they could’ve been a gift given to someone in the office who was allergic.  Or maybe to someone who really doesn’t like nuts, or possibly garlic.  Maybe they were given to Secret Vampire Man, and he had to toss them away instantly in revulsion.  Who knows?  All I know is that the idea of macadamia nuts seasoned with onion and garlic seemed entirely overpowering and a little ridiculous.  So I decided to try one.

It was good – very tasty.  I give it a 4.5 on taste.  On overall value, I’d have to give it a 1.5 or 2 however – who needs seasoning when you have such a tasty nut to start with?  I mean, you might invest in 25 different flavors of peanut butter, but the peanut is a staple crop, rather than a delicacy.  Why waste the effort?  You aren’t going to generate much return anyway, though I guess demand for macadamias might be down, as people turn to more subsistence foods, like rice.  But really, wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to season cardboardy corn poof with the same stuff?  Of course, due to the food shortage, corn poof might not be available, especially as corn can be used as a biofuel.  I will substitute generic food poof instead.  So, why not give generic food poof the essence of onion and garlic, and sell that for a ridiculous price, but at less cost to you?

The answer may lie in fads.  Generic food poof is exactly that, no matter how it’s flavored – generic.  Somehow, people seem to want to buy more of stuff that has been manufactured to be crappier than it once was.  Look at the incredible worldwide love of chees fod (aka cheese food).  Evidently we all want crap, especially when it has that shiny ‘new’ sticker on it.

Digibook to the rescue!

There has been a scattered distribution of public opinion on Google’s attempts to categorize, scan, and otherwise track book titles on their new ‘book search’.  Basically, Google is partnering with a number of libraries (in particular, the libraries of higher education institutions) to create a searchable database of books.  How would this be different than Amazon, J Stor, or any other number of libraries or book sellers?  The idea is a universal approach.  Unless you happen to be a college student yourself, many universities do not allow access to their online resources.  Materials are also not available for check out.  Public libraries similarly offer limited access, depending on your residence stature. Google also plans to maintain a full, downloadable record for those works whose copyright has expired.  Which could mean access to rare (and quite possibly, bad) fiction that most local libraries don’t carry.

While I can understand some people’s fear of losing a right (how are publishers to make any money if books are available for free online?), the core comes down to benefit for the masses. Want to see one of the first Bibles in Arabic type?  Here it is.  Looking for yet another Eva Ibbotsen title which your local bookstore or library doesn’t carry?  Let Google do the search work for you.  Researching Cai Yan and unable to find good research in English?  Get it online, rather than waiting four to six weeks for the University of Michigan to send you the copy of a thesis.

When the ebook was a new thing, everyone got all excited about the end of print books and who had the rights to epublishing.  But that amounted to very little, probably because no one has capitalized on the industry. New trends like Kindle and printing on demand might change that, but my guess is that things will pretty much keep on as they have.  People will still read books.  The bookstore giants, as well as service places like libraries, will keep on keeping on.  They may have to adapt and offer new services (more computers at libraries, print on demand at bookstores), but the purposes for which they were created are still there.  Yes, we are all in support of the expansion of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to lose the need for a personal touch.  It could be that bookstores go more online, that libraries become meeting spaces and public outreach centers rather than only information houses.  But that doesn’t mean we’ll be robots.  If I can’t find something where I want it when I want it, even in our changing culture of instant gratification, you can bet I’m going to find some person to help me or to complain to.

Today sucks

Typically I get into work, sit down, and take about an hour or two to get settled and into the swing of things.  Then I start blogging away to occupy my time, meaning I usually have a post by 9:45 or 10:30 at the latest.  Today, I am writing this at 11:55 am, which means it’s the first day of one of the busiest weeks of my year.  It’s going t be generally disagreeable here until about next Thursday, when I can quit worrying about other people not doing their jobs, and get back to the business of having nothing much to do.  For most people, having to work until noon but getting paid for work until 5 would not be a bad thing.  For me, it’s not really a bad thing either.  I enjoy occasionally having things that need to get done.  What I hate is that I go from trying to occupy my time with something, a dull 2% on the stress meter, all the way up to a 95-96% on days like this.  Everything was supposed to be done yesterday, and I’m helping 20 people on 50 tasks that they are all freaking out about.  Admin. Assists. should not get ulcers!  No that I have one.  Yet.

The world seems to agree with me.  Headlines range across major accidents (train crash in China, wildfire engulfing a wedding party, earthquakes in Mexico) to pure human wretchedness (a man locking up his daughter and fathering children on her, a student beating another student to critical condition).  Life today, as well as every day in our mixed-up and confusing lives, is full of strife.  I listened to a provocative hotel recording about five times this morning, greeting me with a sexy “well, hello there”, and guaranteeing me whatever I want, whenever I want it, and assuring me that a hotel representative would be with me shortly to ‘provide for your every desire’.  It was creepy.  And how did we get to this state?

We may look back at the past and want to say it was better then.  Look at the 50s – all that boom of an economy, people first learning how to buy lots of household stuff, appliances made to last.  But then you have to take into account the rampant prejudices that led to the revolts of the 60s, and the stultifying conformism of the times.  Then what about something earlier, the time of the Revolution and the birth of our country?  It was a time of war and privation, yes, but also of fighting for a just cause.  But truly, should ‘our’ rights have prevailed?  Were not all Europeans invaders?  Well then, what about a more primitive time, the agriculture or hunter-gatherer lifestyles of the Native Americans?  Was that not a better time?  Shorter lifespans, less nutrition, more infant mortality – I suppose you could say it was better.  I would rather say that we have a nostalgic longing for the past, as if it were childhood.

When I was growing up, there was a show on Nickelodeon called “Today’s Special”.  The meanings of the phrase could be various, and currently I’m perplexed as to what it had to do with the show itself.  The show was live action and puppets, involving a mannequin (male) that turned alive at night and interacted with the night watchman and other people in the store when it was closed.  Was the ‘special’ a sale on goods at the store the next day?  Was it a product only carried for a limited time?  Was it some new clothing item the mannequin always wore in order to promote it?  When i was a child, there was no such doubt in my mind.  ‘Today’ was not possessive – it was part of a contraction.  It was obvious – I knew today is special.