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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Doomsday Bomb and the Gorilla Effect

According to this article, top scientists have advanced the hands of the Doomsday Clock by two minutes, from seven to five till. --Till midnight that is, the moment when humans will stumble into ending their civilization but I assume not the planet itself.

This is intended to be a scary prediction, prompting people to take measures to head off such an imminent end, but as always we can expect it to have no such effect.

Most of the few humans who will even hear about it will assume that the dummies brandishing the atomic bombs do so only in observance of the Gorilla Effect -- exaggerated roars and chest beating intended to ward off hostile entities without actually resorting to delivering real blows.

And all the rest of the world's fauna and flora will not hear about it, and, if they could, they would probably applaud the likelihood, because so much of what passes for civilization comes at their expense. They've seen it all before, with heavenly bodies hitting the Earth with the force of thousands of H-bombs all at once, and they've even seen global warming and global cooling at the most extreme, and as always, they would be content to take their chances.

After all, their clocks run for many thousands and even millions of years -- a little longer than any that we're likely to devise or see.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Chess Game So Far

It's my move, and I guess what it will be is obvious.

I think the game is still even, though Rook has been more aggressive in grabbing space, as shown by the four men that he already has on his fourth rank, while I only have one on mine.

This is because earlier instead of getting right up in his face by playing the usual P-Q4, I chose the quieter P-Q3. The idea was to try to finish my development without provoking a squabble in the center at this early stage.

So Rook thinks he has something of an advantage in the all-important center, but I see things there as being equal. His QBP might be bearing on the center, but it's not really keeping me from playing P-Q4 even now or a little later. Instead his QBP is more a participant in his expansion on the Queenside.

I had been waiting to see what he would do with his white-squared Bishop, and on his last move he finally committed to keeping it on his Queen side. He probably sees it as bearing directly on the center, but I'm hoping it will turn out to be misplaced there, blocking a file that he might want for one of his Rooks.

The Q-side is Black's natural sphere of operations in this kind of line, whereas White's ambitions are on the Kingside. This can mean that, if the center remains stabilized, it becomes another case of who can get there first with the most, always an exciting situation. But this center doesn't have to stay stable.

My House and Being Old

I spend a lot of time thinking about being old, now that I've managed to slide into that stage. You might question whether it's good or legitimate to spend so much of that fast decreasing resource on the subject. But if a subject is as interesting as being an old dude, then how can any amount of time spent on it be wasted?

I've never understood why so many old people curse what they see as the disadvantages of age. Didn't they see those things coming, no matter what they did, provided that they were lucky and if they could get past their and other people's poor decisions?

I have no regrets about being old, and actually I'm grateful for it. Lots of people don't get to spend so much time on this amazing planet, and no matter what is so often said and thought, it is better to be alive than otherwise, even if it is a purely temporary situation. There's nothing in particular that I want to do that are limited only to the young. The things that I want to do I can still do, subject to certain constraints.

This house that my wife and I live in, the front view of which graces the upper left corner of this page, this house that I built myself, every nail, board, wire, pipe, and screw, this house that I love so much is turning out to be generous in demonstrating those constraints.

I wasn't young when I started building it, back in the late 1970's. I was in my mid-40's. But I realize now that I didn't give much thought to the possibility that if I lasted long enough, I would get to the point that it would be too dangerous for me to continue to maintain certain things on it myself.

I was vividly reminded of that yesterday.

Quite often in the otherwise tough month of January, we get enough of a warm spell for me to go up on the roof with my rods and brushes to clean out the chimneys for the heating stove and the cook stove. I built both chimneys properly so that they run straight up with no bends or crooks in the stovepipe, and the one on the heating stove is insulated. Consequently not much creosote builds up in them, but it is still necessary to ream them out once a year.

I gave the roof of my house a mere 3-pitch, which means it's not far from being flat, and the balcony on the front allows me to simply walk out on the roof without the use of ladders. Still I've always been afraid of being up there, and yesterday I was especially afraid to go out there and clean those chimneys and sweep all the tree debris off the roof and clean out the rain gutters, and I wondered how old I would have to be when it got too dangerous for me to do any of that. It must be only a few more years.

So I wondered why I had to build that second story bedroom so that the front edge of the roof is a good 30 feet off the ground, Why couldn't I have kept all the house only one story high?

Well, at this point even a fall of just three or four feet is a serious matter, so the regrets make little sense. Also I guess I thought it would be only proper and fitting to have part of the house tall amidst all those tall trees.

And it's probably good that now I'm so scared of that aspect of this modest little structure that I feel so fortunate to have been able to build and to have already spent nearly 30 years living in it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Self-Disfigurement -- "One Punk, Under God"

Recently the Sundance Channels have been pushing a new show to which I intend to give a wide berth. It stars Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Bakker, the evangelists whose high-flying balloon suddenly suffered a disastrous puncture of disgrace some years ago. I think the show has to do with his desire to follow in his parents' footsteps in the religion scam by becoming a preacher.

The show has a great title, "One Punk, Under God," and Jay Bakker himself seems to be a decent enough fellow, but somewhere along the line he has lost something, and that is clearly shown by a ring that he wears thrust (I assume) through a hole in his lower lip. At first sight this makes him look as if he has just emerged from an exceptionally violent fist fight, and he's been left with a couple of his front teeth hanging out the left side of his mouth, and you wonder why he hasn't done something about it. But then you notice that there's no blood and that the "teeth" are actually a ring, probably gold, and that means that this this person is wearing this ring through his lip on purpose!

This guy should devote long minutes of his airtime in each episode to explaining what the ring through his lip means, for the benefit of the uninformed like me, but you know that most likely he never refers to it. Meanwhile other characters talk to him as if they don't notice anything different, though few of them are wearing rings through their lip or through an eyebrow or anywhere else that's noticeable.

I wonder if his fellow cast members have as much trouble looking at him as I do. He also has a big tattoo on the back of his neck.

In one of his bits the great comedian of the 1960's, the first of the "sick comics," Lenny Bruce told us that his grandmother threw a hissy fit when she saw that he had gotten a tattoo on his arm, because that meant that now he could never be buried in a Jewish cemetery. He answered that it was perfectly all right because they could cut off his arm and bury that in a gentile cemetery.

I take this to mean that the more devout Jews believe that you should leave this life as unmarked as your body was when you entered it. I'm not Jewish but I buy into that idea 100 percent. That marvelous mechanism that is given to all our souls at birth, the human body, so that our essences will have some means by which to get around for the next 100 years or less, is marred not embellished by disfigurements like tattoos, piercings, and other wackolatries, including body-building.

Just as it is one of my life ambitions never to experience a broken bone, so more and more it's looking as if I'm also standing a good chance of having had my carcass altered only by the years and by the several surgical scars that have been absolutely necessary.

A ring through a man's lip strikes me as being light-years less than necessary.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Trash Balanced

It long ago occurred to me, when I was living in D.C., that the trashmen and the garbagemen were some of the most important citizens living in that city. In fact, where day-to-day life was concerned, they were far more essential than all those bigtime members of the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches that were regularly upchucked on the Nation’s Capital by all the other states of the Union. Without those men who picked up your trash and garbage and took it somewhere every week, everybody would’ve been in a terrible mess. Yet I knew that I was in the tiniest of minorities in thinking that way, and actually those men were generally seen as being on the very bottom rung of things, and were probably paid as such.

Another thing about this that’s hard to understand is the question of why consumption, especially of food, is held in such reverence, while disposing of those same substances after they’ve been digested is viewed with such disdain. Personally I don’t like to watch people eating or to have them see me eating, anymore than I would like sharing the toilet room with others. I have little use for restaurants, and that started when, while growing up in the capital of the country, I was not allowed to go into any of the downtown restaurants because of Jim Crow. But my dislike of those establishments also comes from wondering how people, including my wife, can be so pleased with sitting and eating in them in plain sight of other people doing the same.

Eliminating what’s left of your food is no less important than eating it, so, if restaurants are such a big deal, for a long time I’ve wondered why people don’t gather in fancy places to defecate together as well. I don’t know of any society that has actually tried that, but the idea seems entirely logical to me.

In Virginia, I’ve become semi my own garbage and trash collector. That is, I dispose of garbage by putting it in compost piles at home. But I have to take the trash to a place that used to be the county landfill, but now they ship it to another rural area in the eastern part of the state. You dump your trash on the slimy, smelly concrete of a huge shed, and they then scoop it up with front end loaders and dump it into big trucks for transport..

The last couple of times I’ve been there, however, it seems changes of some kind are afoot.. The first time the shed had been cleaned up, and there were about 30 people in there standing around with clipboards. I couldn’t tell what they were up to, and all I could think of was that they were putting in bids of some sort or that they had been asked to supply ideas on something.

Then when I went there today, the shed was even cleaner and emptier and it was blocked off, and I had to unload my trash in a big bin nearby.

My wife tells me that meanwhile someone wants to get permission to bring in sludge from New Jersey to another place just a few miles from us as the crow flies. One of her coworkers said that the local newspaper had one article about bringing tourism to the county and another about bringing sludge to the county, and the two didn't seem to go together.

Maybe it is only in rarefied activities like surgery or playing the piano that one hand has to have a perfect idea of what the other is doing. But the main principle of this has to be that if you've been shipping your refuse to some other place, you've put yourself in the position of not being able to jump too indignant when you're asked to receive some in return, whether it be plastic party spoons or spent nuclear fuel rods.

In these days of humans overwhelming the Earth, "refuse" as a noun has lost its former meaning and now increasingly it refers to unwanted stuff that can't be refused.

Bush-haters and Bush-lovers

The right-wingers have a term that they try to fling in the face of everyone who disagrees with the least little part of the consistently monstrous G.W. Bush agenda. That term is “Bush-hater.” This should mean that they by contrast are “Bush-lovers.” Curiously, however, you have about as much chance of hearing them refer to themselves that way as you do of finding a hundred-dollar bill nestled in the gutter. Maybe awareness of how bad "Bush-lover" sounds can penetrate even their severely reduced levels of sensitivity. Also this may be because hatred comes so much more naturally to them than does love.

But with all that passes for their souls and minds they do love the term “Bush-hater,” and it’s amusing to see how they try to invest it with the most extreme meaning of all that's evil, and uncalled for, so as to give it a virulence every bit as strong as were “yankee,” “carpet-bagger,” “nigger-lover,” “commie,” ‘pinko,” “peacenik,” and many other epithets in the heydays of those terms, which are not over yet.

Maybe the right-wingers seize on "Bush-hater" so quickly and gratefully because hating Bush is exactly what they would do if they were on the other side of the Great American Divide that this man and his people have been so assiduously widening in the last six years. But actually Bush himself is so much the least of nothing that I don’t see how it’s possible to extend toward him a passion as strong as hatred.

I find that I, for one, don’t hate Bush at all, but I do harbor various levels of contempt toward him and his entourage and his lovers, and there’s a difference. Hatred carries no pity, whereas contempt involves some pity though not much.

Actually, looking back, I can’t think of anyone that I’ve ever actually hated. On the other hand I have loved a lot of people. Whenever someone started whistling discordant notes, I never gave them enough time to stir up an emotion in me as nauseous as hatred, because I got rid of them fast, and it’s amazing to me to see how, despite my lifetime's lack of resources, I’ve always been able to do that with no trouble. It’s just as if I can wave some sort of magic wand, and poof! In one way or another they quickly cease to exist, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Contempt is a little more troublesome and lingering, because of its accompanying element of pity. That’s why it’s taking Bush and his lovers so long to disappear. But I’m working on that, and time is on my side.

Putting as much ground as possible between one’s self and the transgressors is the best way to eliminate hoodlums. The planet earth doesn’t have an edge but the moral world does, and soon enough those rascals drop off it into the total oblivion that they deserve.

Of course others, who sometimes are even worse, are always waiting to take their place, but time's passage, whether quick or slow, seems to make them more susceptible to the cold drafts that they meet with, in baring their behinds.