Friday, November 19, 2010

The Big Red Pencil

If you look back on your life, or just one theme in it like work, human relationships or what you've produced, unless you're a great egotist or quite unreflective, there must be things that

you'd like to edit out. I guess that is done in obituaries, come to think of it. And Dubya's recent "book."
If you really believe in reincarnation, what is the mechanism whereby you remember what you need to improve on or fix in your behavior or character this time around? If you just return as a spider next time as a result of some really smelly karma, I don't see how that works. And returning without any instructions means we just bumble around again.
So we're propelled forward by the tsunami of time and events, hoping the weight of sin and stupidity won't drag us down as much as we suspect it will.
What would you leave out? A good composer, artist or writer has to master this to produce a good work, a classic. (Short story in six words by Ernest Hemingway: "Baby shoes for sale. Never used.")
If you were Woody Allen, you could eliminate all the noise in a long, checkered career and keep just Sleeper, Annie Hall, Interiors and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The author of Raintree County killed himself because he had nothing left to write after that. Wrong solution. If you just left behind your best, what's wrong with that?
What if you actually could, at important junctures in your personal time-line, bring out the editing pencil and remove the destructive, bad stuff? That seems to be a better sort of reincarnation: learn, fix it, and grow when it would do some good. That's the enduring appeal of "A Christmas Carol" -- fly and loop freely through time, with or without ghostly guides, and clean up your permanent record. Deep meditation, traditional religions and jails offer the only, modestly successful, attempts at it we actually have. But nothing's really deleted in these processes, it is just archived.
Physicists say time may not exist at the most fundamental level of reality; all the laws of physics would work equally well if time ran backwards. There's your entry point, I think! What we perceive as the relentless forward march of time is the expansion and growing disorder of the universe. Is all of that time still here and can we get into it and change things? It must be inherent in all the universe's matter and energy that cannot be added to or destroyed. Uh-oh. That means we can't edit anything out. Rats. Trapped in my own theoretical web.
Karmic spiders.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Worm Abides

Considering the amount of time I spend in doctors' waiting rooms, I would be about the best-informed person around if only the selection of magazines provided were better. The dentist and regular doctor's offices are so deficient in free reading material that I bring my own and then leave it to improve the tone. They do have Car and Driver most of the time, so I'll have to give them some credit. The podiatrist has a fine selection of news magazines, but not, alas, The Economist. Quality rag, but way too expensive to subscribe to. The blood lab always has several National Geographics, and that lessens the sting (as it were). The Harvard Library of these brightly lit, but ultimately grim, places is the cardiologist's: not only travel magazines full of impossible dreams, but, lo and behold, Discover too. I get there early in order to read the whole delicious thing. And the view of the river is excellent, too.
There was a mention, in the issue I found today, of research which claims our brains can be traced back to an ancient (600 million years ago ancient) worm, Urbilateria. Well, that had to be checked out (on when I got home. It seems all vertebrates -- that's us! -- worms and insects are thought to have a common ancestor based on a body plan of bilateral symmetry and organization of nervous systems in centralized cords. And old Urbi was there at the beginning, full of possibilities.
Quite an inheritance from an old, forgotten worm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

WHAT Are My Girls Up To??

I like two for being so classy (Portia and Gwyneth) and two for being so sassy (Katy and Kat von D). But, ladies, you are distressing me lately. Except for Gwyneth, your choice in mates, given that you are out of almost everyone's league, is puzzling at best and very disturbing at worst. Katy and that thing Russell Brand? The "ick" factor is off the charts. And tattooed lady Kat von D dropped the likeable Nicky Sixx (formerly icky, but like Keith Richards he's aged well) for the current king of scuzz, Jesse James. I recommend disease testing, yesterday.
And Portia took herself off the market by marrying Ellen deGeneres (not that there's anything wrong with that). Her mother probably was the first to say she could have done better. (Put your hand down. Not any of us.) Good for her but bad for us when she changed teams.
And they were all in tune with music, until recently. Portia plays bass, Kat has been a big supporter of the art and music scene, and Katy has done as much for the pop single as the Beach Boys. But Gwyneth, for reasons unfathomable, took the stage at the CMA Awards to sing some plastic Nashville. You're not married to some dumb hat act -- why?
C'mon, you're goddesses and higher standards come with the job.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Cat Whisperer

The year is rushing toward its end, with its promise of holidays, the weather fooling us with deceptive mildness. New year brings the real freeze, taxes, darkness at 4 P.M., and a long stretch without holidays (Valentine's day is good, but you don't get off work for it).
We just use the short form for taxes now, so instead of most of a day it takes most of 15 minutes. You might take a little satisfaction in your progress this past year or plan improvements for the next, but for every simplification or cost saving, I swear, another complication and cost shows up to replace it.
That little black devil in the pictures is the complication that appeared this year. Just like Gilligan 6 years ago, Blackberry showed up as a starving kitten at the back door, and as in the Grateful Dead song where the narrator says to the Dire Wolf, "Come on in," that's what we said. With B.B. Bunny, that makes three orphans taken in from the unforgiving suburban landscape to fill the house with hair, cat toys, and litter pans.
We're doing our part for the jobs crisis, at the vet and Petco. And for whoever makes the litter.
B.B. doesn't have the run of the house due to his love of chewing anything electrical-cord-like, so he can't cause trouble outside his room, and I make his litter in the shredder from scrap and newspaper, and he's never, in 9 years, been to the vet. He never bites or scratches, gives kisses freely, and keeps real quiet.
Cats are smarter, and therein lies one problem. They learn (exactly what they want to, not what you want) and dream up creative but work-producing mischief daily. The other is that kittens get overstimulated easily and could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money any day. We have learned to put the houseplants way up because Gilligan would pull my minefields of toothpicks out with his teeth and claw the dirt up, like he wanted to, anyway. Any candles or vases have been banished to storage. No flowers in water, of course.
The one thing that will improve things and return the success score for this year back to a draw is that at year's end Blackberry will be old enough for the vet to remove his, uh, manhood and even more important, those front claws. Those two racks of fish hooks have shredded our hands, legs, arms and toes. I used a half-cup of stain remover to clean up the blood all over my pants leg. While front-clawless Gilligan jumps up into your lap for some quality time, Blackberry climbs up you like a human ladder. Once settled in, he goes into a deep sleep, and like a baby, is at his most attractive then. His good qualities will be much more evident once those ninja daggers of death are removed.
Who knows what next year will bring.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mystery Ranch

Except for its excessive 4000 square-foot size, this house is an environmentalist's dream. Completely off the grid since 2002, it features the latest energy saving and renewable power systems. A passive solar design is backed up by a geothermal heating/cooling system using 300-foot-deep groundwater. Graywater reclamation treats and reuses wastewater, notably in irrigating a fruit orchard. Rain efficiently collected by the roof goes into a large cistern.
It was not built by someone like the Rocky Mountain Institute, but by a nearby religious cult which also operates a tourist trap, Homestead Heritage, for income. And it was not built for a wealthy individual into sustainability and renewable energy. Oh, it was for a wealthy individual -- who knows some things you don't.
This is George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch. It just doesn't add up. He has no need to save money on heating and cooling. The energy policy of this petro millionaire, while in office, clearly rejected conservation and attacked renewable energy programs. Why would he invest big in something that is in complete contradiction to everything he has said, believed and done? No explanation has been offered; the lack of curiosity about it seems baffling.
Remember when Cheney, as Vice President, ran and hid in an "undisclosed location" immediately after the 9/11 attacks? G. Bush prepared this location for his family's survival when the effects of oil depletion coupled with greatly increased demand and overpopulation hit us. The entire industrialized world should have been doing the same in the almost 40 years since the oil embargo of the early '70s showed us the societal and financial devastation that even a temporary constriction of energy will cause.
In the 1960s, we consumed 6 billion barrels of oil per year, while finding 30 - 60 billion barrels yearly. Free trade, globalization and population explosion since then has sent demand up sharply as the easy to tap reserves were used up. Now we consume 30 billion barrels per year and are finding less then 4 billion barrels annually. Reserves are overstated by the oil industry and sovereign states because an honest accounting would send stock prices into the basement and destabilize nations. No new refineries have been built in the United States since 1976, and mergers are accelerating. If they are not investing, it's clear that the industry, and Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, are preparing for the end of the game. They played it well (knowledge is power, after all), and they'll win.