Current events links
Postings are in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top.
Chilling realities 01.24.03
A mid-winter's tale 01.17.03
Resolved and whatnot 01.03.03
War against Iraq... I'm still waiting for proof. I'll still be waiting after the bomb dust settles over the dead.
I'm just curious, what's it mean when our foreign policy is dictated by the threat that other countries may pose to our national interests...
Great discussion with Noam Chompsky on the peace movement and war (1.21.03 Real Audio): click here
Teri Gross, NPR's hawk in residence, did an interesting show on the peace movement (01.23.03 Real Audio): click here
Interesting discussion on Talk of the Nation (01.23.03 Real Audio): click here
And there's always moveon.org: click here
How cold does it have to be for your eyes to freeze? I went out last night and my forehead was near frozen off. Damn, it's cold.
Speaking of the chill in the air... lets consider the emperor penguin in the Antarctic. At the end of the summer they pop out of the water and scuffle along a few hours until they come to a rest in a decent spot. The males start making a ruckus, they need to - they're in a pretty big crowd by this time - 25,000 penguins thick. So they may have to keep it up for a few days. Hopefully, everything works out and he gets a mate - they do the nasty.
The penguins stand around, time passes, ice freezes and bingo - an egg shows up (assuming we're discussing a heterosexual penguin couple). It's a sizeable egg. But they're standing on some ice... in the middle of nowhere... so the only way to keep the egg warm, is to rest it on their feet. Something the mother does very carefully, because if it touches the ice for too long, it could freeze. Not long after the egg shows up, the male walks over to her and insists on holding it. She's reluctant to give it up, after all, she's still getting over having passed the damn thing. But she gives it to him. He rolls it onto his feet, covers it with his belly and waves good bye to the female who trundles off to find some grub.
If male penguins were capable of long term reasoning, the whole game could be lost right there, because for the next three months they stand there with that damn egg through the thick of the Antarctic winter. Winds beat down on 'em, frigid temps cut at their little webbed feets. It's nasty. But they huddle and shift and shift and huddle until... the eggs hatch. Near starvation, they still have the bodily reserves to make a wee bit of milk for their soon to be ungrateful children.
When all's lookin' bleak and whatnot for the put upon males, the females show up. The male looks at her, his vision somewhat blurred from hunger and says, "I thought you said you were just going out for some milk..."
Still, everybody's happy to see one another. Mom spits up the baby's first meal. Junior is overly thrilled. Dad hangs out looking all puffed up and proud, "Look how she swallows that muck! That's m' girl!" Then he trundles off and gets his own grub. Only, he finds that the ice has frozen a bit since he's last seen the water and he has to backtrack his mate's journey of up to 100 miles to the water's edge. Finally he gets to have his first meal in four, count 'em, f-o-u-r months.
I'm so glad I'm not an emperor penguin.
Scene: Mid-winter, late evening - Brulee enters kitchen, turns on light.
Brulee: Gah! Agh-ig-ah! @$!%!* Ack!
Ume (lying in bed - reading, natrually): What is it?
Brulee (catching her breath, slowing the beat of her heart): There's a mouse in the kitchen.
Ume (a most supportive and caring mate): Do mice really bother you that much?
Brulee (aghast): How many times do I have to tell you that I was viciously attacked by one of the nasty little varmints when I was an innocent and defensless child?
Flashback: 1970-something. A small, innocent (practically angelic looking), child climbs into an abandoned car in a quiet wood. She rummages around the leaves and dirt that cover the interior, plays with the steering wheel then notices the closed glove box. Too much a temptation to ignore, she sets to work on opening it (who knows what treasures lie inside?). After a good deal of focused concentration, not to mention banging and bashing with the occasional rock... she manages to pop the lock (she'd always had a knack with mechanical devices). The door to the glove box flies open and almost simultaneously a small, highly irritated rodent comes barreling out of the enclosure as if shot from a gun, right at the small child.
I'm not sure if the mouse actually landed on me. I moved from that seat faster than my brain was able to register. I'd gotten a hundred yards from the vehicle before I bothered to do anything like breathe or think.
Ume (the sound of her eyes rolling is just audible in the tone of her voice): Oh, right... I forgot.
Brulee: So, should I catch it?
Ume: No! Just leave it alone.
Flashback: 1990-something. Ume and Brulee stand before a glass aquarium. A chubby rodent sits curled in the corner.
Ume: I think Beatrice is getting sick.
Brulee: Because she's eating too much.
Ume: We need to let her go.
Brulee: But it's been so cold, she'll die.
Ume: It's warmer today and she's going to die if we keep her in there anyway.
Brulee sighs: I know. Besides, if we release her in the wild, she might at least replenish the food chain.
Ume <narrows eyes at Brulee>
Later that same day: Ume and Brulee stand side-by-side in the leaves at the base of a tall tree in a city park. Brulee holds an empty plastic container in one hand.
Brulee: It seems like only yesterday that I caught her in the bathroom. She looked so forlorn when she dropped out from under the plunger, all soggy and whatnot.
Ume: I can't believe how resourceful she was. Who would've thought to hide under the plunger?
Brulee: Someone with an olfactory problem or a terrified mouse.
Brulee: Just leave it? (this concept is obviously foreign to her) As in, just leave it alone... here in the kitchen?
Ume: Yes. Come to bed.
Brulee (though distracted by this demand, is still fighting off another impulse): But it's right over there, behind the recycle bin.
Ume: So what?
Brulee: It could attack me or something if I just leave it.
Ume: ... Listen, it wants to bother you, an animal a couple of hundrend times it's size, as much as it wants to eat the glow in the dark poison the landlord left out for it.
Flashback: 1980-something. Mid-winter, a mid-sized New England town, 5:30-6:00AM-ish.
A young school girl shuffles into a kitchen, not yet lit by dawn's early light. She turns on the lamp over the kitchen table and grumbles a goodmorning to her faithful companion - a portly, elderly cat. She makes her bleary eyed way to the pantry, opens the door and begins to rummage for breakfast. Eyeing a box of crackers she has a funny feeling - the kind you get when you're being observed. She glances several inches over from the cracker box and is caught in an intense, beady little gaze. Still too asleep to react physically, she stares back. This goes on for some time. Breaking away from the hypnotic gaze, the girl turns and makes her way to the place someone her age might go for answers to such a troubling connundrum...
Girl: Mom, Dad, there's a mouse in the kitchen.
Father grumbles: Go to sleep.
Girl: It's in the pantry.
Mother: Mmm-hmm, yes dear.
Father: Go to sleep.
Girl: I have to go to school, I have to eat breakfast, there's a mouse in the pantry.
Father: <intelligible grumbling> What does it look like?
Girl: It looks like a mouse, Dad.
Father: How big is it? What color is it?
Girl: <furrows brow, why on earth would he care?> describes rodent
Father: It's a field mouse, just leave it alone.
Girl (not knowing why she'd expected any other result, shrugs and returns to the kitchen) She looks at the cat: It's you and me old faithful.
Cat: <stares back at the girl>
The girl, carrying the cat, walks over to the pantry and opens the door. Sure enough, the mouse is still sitting at eye level, it stares back at the girl. She smiles at it, then lifts the cat (a steadfast mouser), so that both the feline and the rodent can get a good look at one another. Neither moves. The girl, thinking that the cat may be having trouble seeing the mouse, holds her closer. There is no way that the cat can miss seeing the mouse at such close range (or vice versa). The girl turns the cat so that she herself can make eye contact with it.
To this day the girl remembers the look of disappointment in the cat's eyes. As clearly as if she'd voiced it, the girl heard the cat say, "How many of those have I brought to you? How many times have you seen me kill one of those? If I haven't taught you how to deal with one of those by now, there's no hope for you whatsoever."
Girl: <momentarily shocked> Fine time to announce your retirement!
Cat: <stares pointedly back, unamused>
Girl puts cat down, sticks tongue out at mouse, grabs cracker box and slams pantry door on sneering rodent's twitching whiskers.
Brulee, in no great hurry to gather yet another mid-winter rodent tale... shuts off the light in the kitchen and goes to bed.
Great show on This American Life: Secret Government (Real Audio) 01.11.03 Click here, then scroll down to the name of the show.
Survival tips added to the collection in 2002:
I figured I'd post these in the event that I could save one person maybe five minutes of stumbling around in the dark - stubbing their toe on a learning curve...
1) If at all possible: buy a comfortable bed.
2) Do not argue with people who are psychotic. They'll never say, "Oh, you're so right! I don't know why it is that I don't always see it that way. You're terribly insightful." Unless, of course, they think it's going to get them out of the hospital sooner. If you expect them to see reason - you have to ask yourself, "Who's the one with the problem?"
3) Buy presents for people early. If you see something in July that you think your sister might like, but her birthday's in November... buy it. I can't tell you the joy I got out of doing this for someone this year.
4) When your sister looks at you with a gleam in her eye and snickers, "You'll never guess what that present is!" - repress the urge to say what it is - so what if you know - she's happy - it's sad to see someone's face fall like that.
5) Figuring out how to function and interact healthily (causing the least amount of suffering/damage to yourself and others), with the least amount of past experience conditioning each and every thought and reaction/response you have... is a refreshing way to kill some time.
6) Don't just pick a hampster up without properly introducing yourself - they're, like, nervous and whatnot. It's bad for 'em.
7) Don't be surprised if... when you have to call someone to look for something (oh, like, I don't know... a wallet), and you have to call them and ask them to do it three times before they actually move their ass and do it... and just for grins, let's say they worked at a car dealership and you think a lost wallet's a big deal and you're pretty sure you dropped it in your car... and they finally motivate their ass back to the phone and tell you - "I'm sorry, Ms. Brulee. I looked all over and it's just not there." Okay, if this happens, you are not allowed to be surprised - not even an iota's worth of surprise - when you get the car back (five days later... because they screwed up your service...) and bingo, the wallet's right there, tucked next to the seat. No surprise allowed, because you've been forewarned.
7a) If the prior thing were to have happened to you... Feeling relieved that the unmotivated butkiss that went to look for your wallet wasn't your surgeon or someone else who may actually be of some consequence to people in need, is a good way to deal with your frustration.
8) Drag your beloved/good friend/favorite family member/etc. out to see something they'll like, but that they're reluctant to do because they're stuck in their ways and whatnot.
This summer, I insisted on getting a permit to do a fire on the beach on the Cape. It's an after dark kind of thing and Ume doesn't do after dark kinds of things, she only does pre-dawn kinds of things (she's still on me about going to see owls at some unbelievably wretched hour...). Anyway, I got some marshmallows - jet puffed; some sticks - dry; a blanket - also dry; and dragged her moaning away to the beach ("But we can read in the tent!" she wailed...). We get out of the car - it's a balmy night... I glanced over to gauge her response - I couldn't gauge it because it's pitch dark. City people have a hell of a time getting used to that. When you turn lights off in the city, it only gets relatively dark... She didn't say much anyway, because she was too busy getting an eyefull - of stars. A full sky - no clouds - no moon - just stars. We situated ourselves within' a hundred yards of gently pounding surf and soaked in the Milkyway. Score! It's a good thing, give it a go.
9) Don't join a cult.
10) Pigeons always come back - unless they're dead.
11) If, for some reason (no matter how well deserved and perhaps especially when it's well deserved), you feel compelled to laugh at your employer/supervisor/client's ideas/requests (regardless of the unreasonable nature of said idea/request - excepting harrassment type situations, of course), it's not a bad idea to wait until they've left the room.
For whatever reason, doing it in their face, while gratifying, has the odd effect of making them... uncharitable towards you in future interactions. And while it's equally unadvised to laugh at someone further down the totem pole (because then you're just being a shit), they're not in the same position to make your life as... uncomfortable.
Mantra 2003: Let it go...
This does not mean that I'm workin' on being more indelicate in public. I'm workin' on stress reduction. That way, when I go in for a massage, the massage guy won't complain how it is that little people with gnarled up little muscles are sending him to an early retirement.