When I was a teen (or even as a pre-teen) I used to torment both my parents with my resolution to never become a mother.  I taunted my own mother with her bad parenting, and vowed I would never inflict the same kind of horror on an innocent being.  Since I was well aware taht each of us is destined to become our parents in turn, this necessitated me never having kids myself, thus breaking the cycle of Evil.  As further proof of parenting at its finest and the doom we all face if the human race (but probably not humanity) is to survive, I submit this.

Upon further consideration, life experience, and the tik-tok of my biological clock, I’m rethinking my earlier vow.

Pumpkin in my coffee, limas in my tea.

It is said that all of use could use occasional flavor in our lives.  Typically, I heartily agree with this idea.  What is life without a little spice, a little something different, a little something new?  Which is why i tried the Pumpkin Spice variety of coffee available at my office this morning.

It is, in fact, something definitely different and new.  And it does have a little spice.  However, I may be more conservative than I realized in regards to coffee.  For me, though i like the flavored stuff, I am a bit of a Nazi.  I would like to conserve the flavor of coffee as, well, coffeeish.  If I wanted to drink pumpkin pie tasting stuff, I’d get myself some pie and a blender.

Be that as it may, it makes me wonder what new flavors we will try next.  Tomato hot chocolate?  Zucchini lemonade?  Lima bean Lipton’s?  The world remains, as always, full of possibilities.  Some are just more delectable and well thought out than others.

On a side note, good luck to the roommie who will be putting one of her cats to sleep this morning…

A little tidbit.

Today is a better day – for writing, at least.  Tomorrow I may actually have time for a real post, if things aren’t as crazy at work.  Here’s a sampling of the good stuff:

“Why do you keep walking around behind me?”  Jim said over his shoulder to me.
“I’m trying to keep you between me and the squirrels.  Those things are dangerous.”
He snorted.  “That great for you, but I’m hardly much of a defense.”
“Well every little bit helps.”
“You know, I was thinking about squirrels the other day – how they get overfed and have relatively sedentary lives.  Does their health suffer, or do they live to a ripe old age?  And what happens when they die?  You never see a dead squirrel body.”
“Well, I’m not sure about the death issue, but they seem reasonably healthy.  Maybe bigger, but still they’re quick on their feet.”
“I suppose competition for resources still applies.  You have to deal with people and other dangers -”
“Like lawnmowers.  I mean, look at their chewed-up tails.”
“Yes lawnmowers.  But yeah, there are still dangers.  I think the tail thing is genetics though.”
“Really?  I thought it was situation.”
“Well either way, do you really need a big bushy tail if you aren’t in trees that much?”
“I guess not.  About the dead squirrel issue though – don’t the groundspeople pick them up?”
“I don’t see why.  They don’t do leaves.  But maybe dead squirrels are considered ‘trash’ rather than ‘yard waste’.”
“I did see a dead squirrel once though, down by the river.  I think those things deliberately stretch out when they die.”  I could see all the pinkening viscera in my head still, the leafy tangle of matted fur and detritus.
“Down by the river?  What was it doing all the way down there?  No trees at all.”
“They’re city creatures now, almost fully adapted to urban life.  They go where the garbage goes.”

After 40 years, I want my half.

In just over 10 days, my parents will celebrate their 30th anniversary.  I wonder about this.  It’s an odd thought, as I have not lived with anyone for 30 years, including myself.  What does that DO to you, being around the same person for such a span of time?  I can’t imagine – it has to be something shaping and profound.  The two of them probably don’t understand it completely themselves.

And yet, even in such lengthy entanglements, there’s still a distinctive ‘I’.  People still get divorced, maybe only staying together until the children are grown.  People still get remarried, even when there may not be 30 (or 40) years left to enjoy one another’s company.  What does this mean?  Are we all just lonely?  Are we all just bad-tempered enough that eventually we can’t get along?

In Cambodia, for one couple, the ‘get away’ urge was overpowering.  After the couple separated (they did not legally divorce), the husband physically removed his possessions – including half of the house – to get away from his wife.  Drastic, yes.  Necessary?  I wouldn’t claim to know.

I’m sure it was a move somewhat precipitated by anger and bitterness.  I’m sure it’s something he will later regret.  A house, once split, doesn’t reunite cleanly, and I’m sure having only half a house detracts from the value of each half.  What do you do when it rains, and you’re missing walls?  But then again, what do you do when you can no longer peacefully coexist with your wife of 40 years?

A little coal in my stocking.

According to the Department of Energy, the US holds more than one quarter of the world’s coal reserves, an energy amount equal or greater to all of the oil reserves known in existence.  While the first question this might bring to mind is why we aren’t powering our cars with coal, other questions also surface secondarily.  A big one would have to do with mountaintop mining.

Mountaintop mining is a process of accessing coal which involves removing the uppermost layers of a mountain (usually by blasting) to access the coal beneath it.  Successive layers are removed to access lower deposits.  It’s a cheap, easy, quick, and reasonably safe way to get coal out of the ground.  But do we really need to get this resource out of the ground that quickly?  And what are the costs of doing so?  People near Coal River Mountain seem to think those costs might be too much.

Of course, there’s the potential environmental impact.  Coal extractors say they replant and try and regrow the landscape a bit after they are finished.  Critics say any real regrowth will take years, if not decades.  I say, you had a wooded mountain with valleys, and now you have a big flat space with grasses and maybe shrubs.  I don’t know what true impact that may entail, but it’s definitely a big change, even if the same exact types of trees grow back and the wildlife is not disturbed.

Second, there’s the local economic impact.  Sure, coal mining has been improving to an extent that great heaping swaths of it are technologically powered, rather than man-powered, but it still takes some people to run equipment.  Mountaintop mining takes less manpower per amount of coal extracted, which means workers have less say.  Usually it results in lower wages and fewer jobs in areas that are already economically depressed.

But it doesn’t end there.  The second largest user of coal in the world, China, is picking up our fast and dirty habits.  With the economy booming and the subsequent demand for electric power exploding, it is estimated that 3 or 4 plants powered by coal are revving up every week.  That means plants are almost instantly rivalling each other for supply.

Though each of these plants has to meet certain environmental safe practices enforced by the national government, pollution is still exploding as fast as power.  Why?  A recent study shows it may be due to the use of low-grade coal when price and availability make it the only feasible option.  The study also claims that with government incentives and other cost-saving mechanisms, each plant would be able to reduce its noxious output without a loss of power supply.  In particular, since the controls on what each plant builds were already in place, most have the air scrubbers and other pollution-reducing devices in place – they just aren’t yet being used.

But let’s throw a little political maneuvering into the picture.  The ‘higher grade’ coal (anthracite) which burns with less sulphur is only available in certain areas of China.  That means if it’s not close to you, add the cost of shipping to the already higher cost of the higher-grade coal.  But those certain areas happen to be in the ‘northwest’ regions of China.  i don’t know exactly which regions, as anything west of Beijing is considered a ‘western region’, but it does put Xinjiang in mind.  It does make me think of rebellion, resistance, historical oppression, poverty, and differing belief systems.  It makes me wonder if others realize what might happen in an area like this had a resource that would fetch a high price.

Oh, and since this didn’t get published quite when i wanted heres a political update on clean coal.

Chrome and the Wheel

Ok, this is going to be a multi-technology post, but the things i was thinking about were just too similar to segregate.  Plus, for once, I’m going to try and keep it short.

First, Google’s new browser, Chrome.  I don’t know why they call it that, or if they were thinking in line with 50’s retro or modern automaton, but the name is, at least, shiny.  I kinda like it that way.  I started looking at the associated comic, but I got bogged down with information that, while no doubt cool, is never going to apply to me using the product.  Especially as it’s hard realizing you’re dumber than a cartoon man – or at least less knowledgeable than one.  however, I like the open source stuff.  I like the thought that I have the ability to change underlying aspects of my software, even if I never do.  I like the idea of innovation, and quite a bit of what’s going on with Chrome as I understand it makes me go ‘oooohhhh, shiny!’

At the same time, I’m hesitant to embrace Chrome full-speed simply because it is different.  There’s always a learning curve on new sftware.  In this case specifically there’s quite a bit more I could learn if I chose, and I would eventually like to do that.  I’ve been a Firefox user for some time, even at work, and there are occasional issues even with that interface with certificates and such.  Firefox has always been a better browser as far as speed and reliability, but it makes me wonder about possible interface issues with Chrome, in particular issues that might spring up because of user failure once I learn enough to make myself dangerous.  But that’s just me – everyone else should go check things out for themselves.

Another look-see I’ve been wanting to do recently has been with some of the new E Ink book readers.  Of course there’s the Kindle, and I did play a bit with the Sony Reader Digital this weekend.  I must say, E Ink is awesome technology, and the way things are going, integration of everything I want to do is going to be all on one unit – phone, camera, internet, books, computer apps, games, and more.  But still there are disappointing trends for this version of the reader.  First off, as it’s Sony, I’m sure there will be issues with it being compatible with anything. Second, there’s the wheel controller.  I know it’s not really functionally a wheel on this model, but it’s almost a mimicry of the function of an iPod wheel.  I have enough problems with the iPod one – it always yanks up the volume when I want it to move to the next song, or the middle button gets hit three times in a row when i just want a bit less volume, or something.  I happen to have fingernails because I eat healthy and I’m too lazy to clip them every other day, and that makes me not have the same fingerpad directness of your usual nail-biting techno-nerd.  Sorry.  So yeah, when I’m reading, I don’t want to be scrolling with a wheel, or even moving to the next page with a wheel.  Not that I find the keyboard and forward buttons at the bottom of a Kindle better or more refined.

So, what are some other opttions?  A touch screen, a la iPhone?  That conflicts with the whole E Ink technology.  A numeric code, similar to a phone’s, for fewer buttons?  Still seem bulky and odd.  Some other sort of virtual or physical scrolling mechanism?  Seems potentially too difficult to control, but i will leave that to the scions of technology.  I remain wondering at what the future will bring, and unlikely to spend my cold hard cash on the virtual book anytime soon.

Beyond Privacy

Today I’ve been handling some of the incidentals of moving to (yet another) apartment.  Basically that translates to filling out countless forms just to change my address.  While the advent of the internet allows me to update most of my information ‘virtually’, that still means typing in the same new address over and over again.  While it does mean i now know my new zip code, still I’d rather not.  If I had my druthers (whoa, and the spell check on wordpress recognizes druthers as a word!), there would be only one form to update for all of the endless financial, governmental, and work-related groups I need to update on my new home address.

But there is no universal form, basically for reasons of privacy.  Your home address, just like your phone number and social security number, is meant to be private.  That’s why people can choose to be ‘unlisted’.  That’s why you have to update others as to your new address, rather than some widespread system (outside the post office) tracking the change.  In addition, each of these groups does not have the right to know you belong to any of the others.  So, it’s your prerogative to tell or not tell as you like.

I appreciate the privacy.  I don’t want every hobo on the street knowing where I live.  I don’t enjoy the idea of putting myself on endless lists of interest in certain products or at the mercy of various interest groups.  But I do like my convenience.  I like Amazon recommending new books or CDs to me.  I like the idea of being able to update every aspect of my life with one fell swoop.  And all of that is based on allowing others access to my private information.

How much is too much?  Where do I draw the line and say, “No, I’m not going to tell you what type of creamsicle I like best”?  When do I realize it’s too much to re-enter my music preferences each time I visit Pandora?  Is the internet really breaking down traditional barriers and ideas of privacy, or are we merely revealing information to a new community – international users and service providers, rather than those neighbors and friends in our immediate physical area?  Is any of it a good thing, and to what extent?

A sad end.

A body found off the coast of Brazil was recently identified as that of the flying-balloon-man priest, the Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli.

While this ending was expected, with such a long time passing since the man was last heard from,  I still find it sad and slightly depressing.  So instead of lingering on that, I’d like to turn to something more positive, namely, what did we learn from these events?

There are several possible lessons.  Should we learn that balloon take-offs, even with careful preparation, are dangerous? Probably.  Should we refrain therefore from this and other ridiculous practices just due to potential danger?  I should hope not.  This man had a sense of joy, and a sense of responsibility.  I hope that those of us still living would be able to combine both as effectively.

Monday mornings are weird.

Monday mornings are always a little disturbed.  No matter how early you go to bed the night before, Monday morning has a sledgehammer fist.  You only hope you’re able to duck in time.  And just like 87.5% of all statistics are made up on the spot, 52% of all dreams between Sunday and Monday are severely creeped out. Fortunately, there are a few clear markers you can use before leaving the house that will let you know if it’s worth it to even go to work, or if you should just crawl back into bed and pretend it’s still the weekend.

1) Your weekend injury is preventing you from getting to work on time.  Whether it’s the fact that the cut on your head is still throbbing or bleeding profusely (Corina) or that you can’t bear the thought of wearing shoes since your feet are still cut up so bad (myself), it’s a sure sign that the gods are against you.  Go back to bed.  Or, if you’re Corina, go to the hospital.

2) Your coffee/breakfast/morning sustenance is interrupted.  Whether you’re out of milk, ‘Mr. Coffee’s dead’, or all the Dunkin Donuts on your way to work have been taken over by terrorists, it’s not going to make for a pleasant day.  If you’re not getting your jump-start, you might as well go back to bed, because any work you attempt in the next 24-hour period is most likely going to be shoddy.  Increase everyone’s productivity with less time on the job.

3) The final check before leaving the house – all clothing is properly arranged over your body.  There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve stepped outside (or further) only half-dressed.  If you get to the door and you’ve managed to mess up dressing yourself, there’s something seriously wrong.  In addition, at some point throughout the day, you’re going to embarrass yourself or your co-workers or both with your inability to maintain a normal human appearance.  Quit while you’re ahead.  Unfortunately I myself did not follow this simple rule, and did not realize my underwear was on inside-out until I arrived at work this morning.  Let’s hope this is the only faux-pas for the day.  Frankly, I’m not holding my breath.

True Story

A few days ago, a woman named Olive Riley passed away in NSW.  She was 108, almost 109, and was called the world’s oldest blogger by many.  She was a popular blogger and visited by people across the world as she shared her life’s story in short vignettes and told the day to day life of her current existence.  That’s what many bloggers do – share their lives through the medium of the internet, allowing us to connect with yet another person across time and distance.

Anyone beyond the age of five has at least one story.  Anyone at that age has a vast resource of life spent to draw upon and share, which we seldom recognize.  I can remember a woman from my church who I visited to use as a source her memories of the WPA when I was doing a history paper.  We sat together in her living room and I asked her questions, but our conversation went far beyond that as my eyes were arrested by different objects around the rooms.  I remember the copper watering cans she got on her trip to Germany and the stained glass windows she had created herself, this and every room packed with the remnants of a life well-lived, a life filled with hidden stories.

I think of my grandfather, and going through his things after he passed away.  I think of visiting him in a nursing home, listening to him tell the same stories over and over again, and how they must have circled just the same when we were not there to listen.  I wonder what other stories were lost to him and us as well as his memory faded.  I wonder what he could’ve told me about the wooden fan and small ceramic vase he left behind for me to claim.  I try to make an effort to ask my parents their stories – who did you love before you met each other?  How did you decide what to study in school?  What are your favorite memories of your own parents?  I want to claim as much as I can, while I can, to find the hidden secrets of my own life, couched in others.

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