“Curiosity” Kills Life on Mars

Curiosity” Kills Life on Mars

 3…2..1… Liftoff!  This morning (11/26/2011) NASA launched a rocket into space carrying a nuclear powered vehicle bound for the planet Mars. This vehicle, about the size of a compact car, dubbed “Curiosity” will, if all goes according to plan, allow scientists to drive all over Mars, drill holes in solid rock, and maybe tell whether life ever existed on Mars.


Of course, if this new Mars rover gets too close to anything alive on Mars, that plutonium will kill it for sure. 8lb of plutonium is enough to kill every man woman and child on the planet, enough to wipe out the human race. All you need to do is put just a few atoms of it in each person’s lung. They could easily breath it in and wouldn’t even know it. But soon, lung cancer for everyone, guaranteed.


How would you do it? Well, say you put that 8lb of plutonium in a rocket, launch it, and when it reaches just the right altitude, blow it up. That would vaporize the plutonium and scatter it all over the world. As it slowly settled back to earth, people would unwittingly breath it into their lungs. That probably wouldn’t get every single human, but enough of us to make a dent in our population for sure.


Why on earth would NASA want to send a nuclear powered rover to Mars? The last two rovers they sent, “Spirit”, and “Opportunity”, both solar powered, far exceeded their expected life-span and mission goals. Year after year they kept driving these old jalopies around, taking pictures, doing donuts, and joy riding around on the martian surface for many times longer than NASA ever expected them to remain operational. If I got that kind of satisfaction out of a vehicle, I sure wouldn’t change brands when I finally did need a new car.


But NASA went with the nuclear option, and sent 8lb of highly radioactive plutonium hurtling through space towards Mars. How will this look to the Martians? I mean, lets assume some form of life does exist on Mars. It is still an open question after all. What will they think, next August, when this bundle of joy finally arrives at its destination?


They’ve already seen the two little solar powered rovers. These rovers had cameras, and a little pickup arm. They only operated in broad daylight, and aside from a couple of rocks, all they took were pictures, and all they left were tread marks. The martians probably thought they were tourists. Except for the fact that we abandoned the vehicles there, we probably haven’t made too many enemies yet.


Hell, NASA could abandon one of their solar powered rovers on my property any day. I’d find a use for those solar panels, motors, wheels and cameras. I wouldn’t hold it against them.


Some of the more paranoid martians must have realized that “Opportunity” and “Spirit” were spies, but without any evidence of weapons or ill intent, the rest of the martians probably thought of those first two rovers as nothing more than a novelty.


Now, however, we’re sending 8lb of plutonium, enough to make a nuclear bomb, and a drill that can bore through solid rock. Suddenly a planet that never embraced nuclear power, now has a nuclear waste problem. They already know that we abandon our cars wherever they break down.


How do you think life on Mars will feel about this? How would the US react if you, as a foreigner, entered the country illegally, carrying 8lb of plutonium, a drill capable of boring through solid rock, a chemistry lab and all kinds of high-tech surveillance equipment? You’d find yourself in a hot sunny cage overlooking beautiful Guantanamo Bay, in about three minutes. If you showed up in a military uniform, and all of that stuff had military insignia on it from say, North Korea, President Obama might have a few choice words for Kim Jung-Ill. He might call it an act of aggression. He might call it an act of war.


Certainly, it would present a foreign relations boondoggle, and rightly so. If you ever hope to have friendly relations with me, don’t send a rock-boring robot with an unblinking eye, that sends my Geiger counter off the chart, as your first ambassador. And, don’t abandon it in my front yard when you are through with it. That’s not my idea of an X-mas present!


This assumes everything goes according to plan on Mars. Say this nuclear powered dune buggy goes kablewee on the way down, scattering 8lb of finely powdered plutonium all over the surface of Mars. How would we explain this highly lethal “dirty bomb” attack?


No, really, it was an accident. We were just going to use that plutonium for peaceful purposes. We didn’t mean to kill off the entire population of Mars,we just wanted to look around, and drill some comely rocks…”, we might say. A likely story if ever I heard one.


No, 8lb of plutonium doesn’t say “We come in peace.” 8lb of plutonium says, “Get the fuck out of my way because here I come! I saw some purdy rocks up here, and I mean to drill ’em!” In other words, normal US foreign policy.


So, by August of next year, even the spiders on Mars will know what arrogant schmucks we have become as a nation, at least the ones “Curiosity” doesn’t kill first.

Evolutionary Transformation or Rude Awakening

Evolutionary Transformation or Rude Awakening

What’s going on here really? I mean globally, environmentally and culturally, in the big picture? We can rule out stasis. We have certainly not achieved anything like stability or equilibrium. Look at the facts:


Our planet’s population doubled in the last 30 years. That’s not stable. Globally, bird, fish and amphibian populations continue to plummet. We lose, on average, 140 species a day to extinction making our age one of the greatest extinction events in the history of the world. Historic? Yes. Stable? No. Our planet’s temperature, stable for tens of thousands of years, has now begun to rise due to changes in the make-up of the atmosphere resulting from human industrial activity. So, no, even that’s not stable any more.


Clearly, we have not achieved any degree of equilibrium, or stability. Quite the contrary, we live in a time of accelerating change, as stability gives way to chaos and/or collapse, culturally and environmentally all over the world. What does this mean for us now? What does this mean for our future? Is all of this rapid change an achievement? Is this our destiny? Or, are these simply consequences, symptoms and indicators of failure?


Some might argue that human population explosion and global ecosystem collapse are not achievements in themselves, but instead are the unfortunate, but necessary byproduct our real cultural achievement, that is the evolution of human consciousness. This is the evolutionary awakening theory, and some believe it to be our destiny.


According to these happy people, what is happening in our minds, is a kind of high-speed evolution. So, while the population expands, and the natural world breaks down, our minds evolve into these enlightened, secular, scientific, artistic, technological, communicative beings, and that this evolutionary process has sped up, because having achieved physical perfection, we now evolve mentally, instead of physically, so it all happens a lot faster now. As a result, even though the world is falling apart, we stand at the precipice of a major global transformation. I know it sounds ridiculous, but some people genuinely believe this, or at least want to believe it.


I don’t argue the global transformation part. We are clearly in the midst of a global transformation. We have dramatically transformed the world, and continue to do so, but not in a good way. They see the transformation that I’m talking about. I, on the other hand, see no evidence of the transformation they are talking about.


These “evolutionary transformation” people believe that, despite poverty, genocide, slavery, technological warfare, greed, inequality and global environmental destruction, we as a species are getting smarter and better, faster than ever. And, that this high-speed evolution of human consciousness represents the highest aspirations of all of nature.


So, the rest of the species on earth, don’t really mind being wiped out, because we are the whole reason any of them ever existed in the first place, and now that we’ve reached this level of consciousness, we no longer need them. We just need to manifest this great global transformation, and everything is gonna be great!


It’s a very seductive, albeit chauvinistic, theory. I’d like to believe that there’s a purpose to all of this madness too, but I see no evidence to support it. I’m really not that impressed by human consciousness. I don’t think we’re so smart, and I really don’t think we’re that much smarter, as a species, than we were, say 30,000 years ago. In fact we may well have dumbed-down a bit. Certainly, I see no evidence of an intelligence that could transform the massive, real, evidence of our mass stupidity, into anything that could be called, on any level, a better world.

So, to me, this evolutionary transformation, or quantum leap forward or whatever you call it, is just magical thinking, an infantile, panglossian, solipsistic fantasy. No one wants to face the fact that we’re just digging ourselves a deeper and deeper hole, a hole we’ve been digging, not for 200 yrs, not 600 yrs, but 10,000 yrs at least. We’ve just dug faster in the last 600 yrs, and even faster still in the last 200, and we still haven’t struck gold.


But we just keep digging.

Word Power, Panglossian

Word Power
Building your Vocabulary One Word at a Time

pan gloss i an (pan ‘glos ee ann) adj, marked by a view that all is for the best, in this, the best of all possible worlds.

The word comes from the fictional character Pangloss, the personal tutor of a young Candide, the protagonist from Voltaire’s satirical novel, Candide (1759). Pangloss taught “Liebnizian Optimism”, that is, the idea that because this world was created by God, everything that happens in it must be the the very best possible outcome, basically, optimism.

If you like this blog, and haven’t read Candide, you should check it out. Even though it’s old, its short, and wickedly funny. You can find it at any library.

On the Money, Bleak Friday

On The Money

Financial Advice for the Middle-Class

Bleak Friday


Around here, the grocery stores have had real x-mas trees for sale for a couple of weeks already. I don’t know why. Anyone who put up a real tree on Veterans day, will have vacuumed most of that tree off of the carpet by X-mas eve. Either they will have to buy a second tree, or they’ll put their gifts under a spindly, dry, brown piece of kindling.


I’ve seen X-mas decorations in stores since before Halloween. I even saw some crossover: Count Santula and his bat drawn sleigh scared the hell out of me at one store this past October..


It seems like everyone jumped the gun on X-mas this year, but Friday marks the official start of the X-mas shopping season. Black Friday, as it is called, also coincides, not coincidentally, with “Buy Nothing Day”, sponsored by Adbusters Magazine. Now that AdBusters has unleashed Occupy Wall St., maybe “Buy Nothing Day” will really take off this year. Lord knows that people sure don’t need most of the crap that retailers have on offer, but those shoppers have money burning a whole in their pockets.


November 25th also turns out to be the official start of the professional panhandling season. The Salvation Army deploys brigades of Santa Claus impersonators, who will ring the “opening bell” on the Holiday panhandling season, and suck up all of the easy spare change until Dec. 25th.


This means that if you want to make a living panhandling this holiday season, you are going to need a story, and you are going to have to work it. Like this guy:


Go ahead and give it a try. I encourage everyone to panhandle professionally this holiday season. Find a shopping center with a lot of traffic, and get started. X-mas is all about the spirit of giving. You can give holiday shoppers the opportunity to be genuinely generous, just by pretending to be needy.


Try to get them to give you at least $20. Use a story like, “My mom’s in the hospital back east, and I just need to raise enough to fly home to see her before she dies.” A little story like that, told with abundant (fake) sincerity, can turn X-mas into your most profitable time of year as well. And, not only can you participate in “Buy Nothing Day”, but you can help people feel the X-mas spirit of giving, without letting the retailers act as middle-men.


Personally, I’m not leaving home until next Tuesday.

Giving Thanks in 2011

Giving Thanks in 2011

Well its Thanksgiving again. Time to reflect on all the things we have to be thankful for. Sure the economy is in the tank, our government has proven itself completely dysfunctional, and we’ve pretty much blown our chances of mitigating a global climate catastrophe. Despite our complete and utter failure, as a culture, to meet the challenges of our time, and despite the pathetic, shallow, gadget obsessed ninnies we’ve become as individuals, we still have plenty to be thankful for this year. For instance:


I’m thankful that on two separate occasions this year, the world failed to end as predicted.


I’m thankful that the comet that is allegedly the home planet of Dick Cheney’s “lizard people” relatives, disintegrated into dust before it reached earth.


I’m thankful the U.S. has not been invaded by a super-race of seven foot tall Chinese people, as a very troubled neighbor of mine once warned.


I’m thankful that despite a nationwide drug shortage in hospitals, you can still find plenty of black tar heroin on the streets of Humboldt Co.


I’m thankful that I can get my “junk” touched for free at any airport.


I’m thankful for people who are fatter, older, balder, and uglier than me.


I’m thankful that piranhas cannot fly and that they prefer a more tropical climate.


I’m thankful for German Measles, Mexican Flu and other ethnic diseases, and think that remedies for them should be flavored accordingly. If we do this, the treatment for an upcoming Asian Avian Flu epidemic will taste like Szechuan Chicken.


I’m thankful that good pot is finally becoming affordable again.


I’m thankful that baby boomers won’t live forever.


I’m thankful that most of the tourists, clippers and transients have cleared out of town.


I’m thankful that most of the dope yuppies will soon leave for Hawaii.

I’m thankful I wasn’t shot dead by Aaron Basler


I’m thankful I wasn’t shot dead by Eureka Police.


I’m thankful I wasn’t shot dead by Mexican drug cartels operating in the National Forest.


I’m thankful I didn’t shoot myself with the gun I bought to protect my home and family from people like Aaron Basler, the Eureka Police and Mexican drug cartels.


I’m thankful for the inspiring SoHum community, who often inspire me to write, and never fail to inspire me to ask “What is wrong with these people?”


I’m thankful for the restraining order that keeps my nutcase neighbor away from my home.


I’m thankful that I have not had to appear in court in the past year.


I’m thankful that house-cats have not been aggressively bred for fighting, and that we are not also overrun with the feline equivalent of pit-bulls.


I’m thankful that Michael Jackson, unlike Elvis, has had the good sense to stay dead. The “King of Pop” did not fake us out, with a string of postmortem “sightings”, the way Elvis did, and I’m thankful.


I’m thankful that I haven’t seen Jersey Shore, Operation Runway, or American Idol, even once.


I’m thankful that I haven’t ever wasted a day playing video games.


I’m thankful that I’ve never seen Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly, or Sean Hannity except as parodied in political cartoons.


I’m thankful that I neither own, nor want, an ipad, ipod, or iphone.


I’m thankful that gauged lip rings have not gained the same popularity as gauged earrings.


I’m thankful that I can’t think of a single symbol, phrase or image that I want indelibly inscribed on my flesh.


I’m thankful that bagpipes are not more popular with teenagers.


I’m thankful that Penicillin also works for women, even though Vagisil does nothing for men.


I’m thankful that Bob Dylan didn’t make a second Christmas album.


I’m thankful for caffeinated alcoholic beverages, and for irritable, high-strung drunks. I’m not sure why.


I’m thankful that I can still find a good $5 hippie burrito, except that I now pay $7.50 for it.


I’m thankful to Greece, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Bahrain for showing us what revolution looks like.


I’m thankful for the Occupy Wall St. movement for starting one here.


I’m thankful that Giant Pacific Salamanders don’t grow to be thirty feet long.


I’m thankful for The Independent, The Redwood Times, The Trader, Greenfuse, and the North Coast Journal for providing free, reliable and conveniently located kindling and packing materials.


I’m thankful to drone pilots for providing me with a great name for my next album of didgeridoo music.

I’m thankful that some people can still read, and especially for those of you who read this blog.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Some Friendly Advice, for the Band Embryonic Devourment

Some Friendly Advice, from a Writer, for the Humboldt Co. Heavy Metal Band,

Embryonic Devourment

Just for the record, I think you guys sound great! I know you have been around for a while, and have developed your own unique sound. If I didn’t think you were good, and want you to succeed, I wouldn’t waste my time writing about you. I just want you to consider changing your name.


I really think “Baby Eater”, “Fetus Eater”, “Eating Babies” or “Half-Eaten Baby” are all punchier, stronger ways of saying whatever it is you are trying to say with “Embryonic Devourment”.


I’m totally down with the whole concept. It might not work for a country and western band, but eating babies works for metal, and I think you should work it. Eat some babies… baby chickens, veal, see if you can snag some miscarriages or abortions from the clinic dumpster. That’s heavy Metal PR gold right there if you can do it. Take lots of pictures


Here’s the problem with Embryonic Devourment. First “Embryonic” is just too scientific sounding. Second, embryos are tiny, microscopic little things. A toothless old woman could easily suck down a milkshake made from millions of frozen embryos through a straw. Is that the kind of image you want your metal band to project?


At least fetuses have a little meat on them, and babies have a little more. If you are going to devour, there should be a little meat involved, and more than a little blood. Babies bleed, embryos don’t bleed. So, if you want to “devour”, you need babies, not embryos.


OK, now we get to “Devourment”. In case you haven’t noticed, no one but you thinks “devourment” is a word. Windows suggests “devourer” “devouring”, or “development”.  Websters doesn’t buy it either. They acknowledge that “devour” is a word, and that “-ment” is a suffix, but never the two together. Websters defines “devour” as “to eat hungrily or greedily”. Webster defines “-ment” as “suffix denoting, 1, the concrete result, object or agent”.


In the case of “embryonic devourment” that would mean the stuff the embryos have become after being devoured. So Webster would have you call your band Embryonic Poop, Embryonic Vomit, Embryonic Cud, or Embryonic Bile, but according to Webster, those embryos never become devourment.


Websters continues “2, action or process as in encirclement or development”. OK, I can see this, the action of devouring embryos is “Embryonic Devourment”. This is where my expertise as a writer can help. If you want to convey the action of “devourment”, use the active verb “eat”, rather than the objectified, pussified form of devour. Just eat the babies. No one cares how greedily or hungrily you do it. Just eat the goddamned babies, and don’t try to pussyfoot around it.


If it’s important to you that these are not full term babies, try “Eat the Unborn” or “Eat the Preemies”. Or, maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and the embryo is doing the devouring, if so, “Baby Food” is still a stronger, punchier name than “Embryonic Devourment”. Those extra syllables aren’t helping you one bit, and your fans don’t need the hassle. Just eat the fuckin’ babies and everyone will love you for it.


Think of how much trouble you can save yourself with album cover art, posters, t-shirts, stickers, etc. Embryonic Devourment has 19 letters. That’s 19×26 opportunities for a misspelling at every stage of production. Most SWAG is made in China. They don’t give a fuck how we spell anything over here. Your first album could be called “Emblematic Department” by the time it ships to distributors, if you don’t take my advice. So, just eat the babies for Christ’s sake.

Do you want any of your fans to end up wearing misspelled tattoos for the rest of their lives, just because you went with the weak, polysyllabic moniker? You know, none of your fans can remember your name now, anyway. They just remember “that metal band with the long name that means eating babies”.


So, eat the baby. You can visualize that. Stick a fork in it, its done. Put it between two slices of bread and slather it with mayonnaise. Open you mouth and say “Ahh”. Here come a big mouthful of steaming hot baby. Deep fried, or stir fried you won’t go wrong if you just forget the fancy nomenclature and Eat the goddamned Baby.


So, that’s my advice to you, the members of “Embryonic Devourment”. Change your name. Eat some babies, and keep on head-banging. You’re welcome.

Rare Antique Segue Scooter at SoHum Community Park

Antique Segue Scooter at SoHum Community Park

John Finney showed off his very rare antique Segue scooter recently at the SoHum Community Park. This rare two-horsepower Segue from 1947, one of just 35 made that year, lacked some of the agility of later models, and took up more space, but had power to spare and was built to last. With an original list price of $28,000, six times the price of a new Ford T-bird, early Segues catered to a very select clientele.


The all tube Uni-vac processor runs Segue’s earliest software, coded on 9,651 IBM punch-cards. The processor keeps the rider upright and directs the horses. Finney makes his own punch-cards from regular card-stock, and sources replacement tubes froma supplier in Russia that still produces computer tubes for military applications.


When I got this machine”, Finney said, “It had been sitting in a barn for decades. Rodents completely shredded the punch-cards and most of the tubes were missing or broken. I had a devil of a time getting the code for this old machine, and it took three months to cut all of those cards by hand.”


Finney continued, “Now that it all cleaned up and fixed, she works as well as the day she rolled out of the factory. Of course I don’t have the stock 600lb lead acid battery, all of those corroded away years ago, but a dozen 6v Trojan golf cart batteries keep all of those tubes hot, and the stabilization and navigation systems running for about 12 hours between charges. That’s almost double the output of the stock battery.”


Sure, this old Segue is kind of bulky and expensive to carry just one person, just slightly faster than they could ordinarily walk, but I love Segues, especially these old ones.” Finney concluded, “They sure don’t make ’em like this anymore”