Friday, December 30, 2005

appropos of nothing much

I relate months to hours. Apparently, most people don't do this, but bear with me. I think of June as 6 o'clock and October as ten. So now, the minute hand is wavering towards midnight, and boom, we'll be in a new year.

Of course, I also have a lag in my head. So it's astonishing to wake up and realize that instead of 8:30ish, it's really almost January, 2006. I also can't reliably remember that my sister is now 18, even though I've been helping her with her college applications.

We pay a lot of attention to time. We have major milestones that are based on age-- 13, 16, 18, 21, and the dreaded 40-- and others based on duration-- 2 years, 4 years (think politics) and 30 years (think retirement). I work 8 to 4. I have an hour for lunch. I try to do cardio for x amount of time (ain't telling all my secrets).

This seems a bit artificial and contrived to me, but on the other hand, it's dependable, and it lends our lives some kind of framework. I hate that whole "work until you think you've worked enough" kind of attitude because it makes me feel guilty-- frankly, couldn't we all always go a bit farther? I like knowing exactly how far it is to the finish line.

So, on Sunday, it'll be a new year. The clock will be re-set. 12 months to accomplish all of our good intentions.

Monday, December 19, 2005

babies, babies, babies.

fun fact: in some species of wasps, unfertilized eggs become males and fertilized ones become females.

Nature seems to have a lot of variety. Male seahorses bear the babies. Some frogs flip flop back and forth and fertilize themselves. Some pregnancies last thirty days and some last over a year. Some babies are just fetuses, who need a lot of shelter and care (e.g. us and the kangaroo), while others emerge self-sufficient (fish, snakes). And then you have the baby moose, manatee, and elephant, who come ito this world able to keep up with their mother, but still needing her. That's called "precocial," by the by.

I like this: Emperor penguines, the largest of the bunch, have a fairly equitable division of labor. The female lays one egg, which the male then puts his feet under and his fat tummy on top. He then stays there for two months! Losing up to 25 lbs! The mother comes back to feed and raise the newly-born chick, all fattened up from her feeding vacation.

I make things collide all the time, and nothing as cool as penguins results.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

thursday thoughts

Question: is work someplace they have to pay you to go, or is it an important piece of your identity?

Here in white-collar America, it's pretty unfashionable to work 9 to 5, go home, and not think about the office until you drag yourself out of bed the next morning. No, indeed. My peers are passionate about their non-profit advocacy jobs (this being D.C.) or intense in their ambition to climb to the top of the finance heap. I don't have a problem with this, not really, although I wonder how they're going to fit in children a few years down the line.

At this point in my life, they most definitely have to pay me to go to work. I leave the moment I can, take nothing home with me, and yearn for the weekend Monday to Friday. That being said, I don't hate my job. It's fine. It leaves me with the mental space for my "real" life.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, after all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Is Coming (the geese are getting fat)

Christmas. As a recently married couple, my sweetie and I have had a few talks about what Christmas has been like for us and how we want it to be in the future. On Saturday night, in the parking lot of IKEA, I found out that he never believed in Santa Claus, which astounds me. I was convinced that Santa Claus existed until I was eleven.

And ya know, why not? If fax machines exist, why can't a guy who gets around to all the priviledged houses in the world in a single night? Why the heck not?

How do you know, anyway? People who declare that there is no God, faeries, miracles, evolution, etc. remind me of all those people who thought that tomatoes were poisonous (the Devil's apples, they were called).

Well, maybe that doesn't work. Because I can't prove to you the existence of any of the above, but tomatoes really aren't poisonous. Mmm, tomatoes. I really was born to be Italian.

But anyway, my point is this: I don't know. You don't know. And I want my kids to not know either, which is why I will "lie" to them and tell them that their presents come from a man with a snowy beard, a big stomach, and an ability to wiggle down chimneys.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Buddies

I love whales. I have never seen one, but I love them.

The blue whale is the biggest whale ever. Until people invented the steam engine, no one could hunt them, because they were too big and too fast. The heart of a blue whale is the size of a VW beetle.

So in other words, they're massive. They eat only krill, tiny little shrimpy things, and they migrate from the poles to the equator and then back again... but the interesting thing is, there are northern hemisphere blue whales and southern hemisphere blue whales who never meet because they frequent different poles. And even though they're loners, scientists think that they can communicate literally across the globe because of the high frequency or some such thing of their voices. Isn't that cool? "Hey Blue, how's the eating up there?"

Blue whales are my favorite.

Some countries and peoples, such as Japan and the Inuit, still hunt whale. It's monitored and such with quotas and all that. But still, a DNA analysis of the whale meat in a Japanese market showed several forbidden whale types, including my favorite, the blue whale.

Imagine a whale dying. That huge, big body drifting slowly down to the sea floor. Apparently, there are whole life systems that thrive on a dead whale. It's an ecosystem down there, with species that are not found elsewhere.

I find that comforting.

Apparently the Navy does these training exercises at sea that emits noises that are billions of times louder than what the whales can stand. Whales are found beached and bleeding from the ears after such exercises.

This makes me very, very sad. Sure, the Navy needs to practice or whatever, but really people, about how many things can we say, this is our right, no matter what or who it hurts?

Here's a pic of my buddies off the Baja coast:

Monday, December 05, 2005


(disclaimer: I am so, so not a scientist.)

But I am historically minded. I have always been interested in looking at how things are and how they got to be that way. You can look at almost everything in the world this way.

How did we get here?

The southern forests are choked with kudzu, creeper, and-- most notably at my mother's farm- multi flora.

How did we get here?

The chesnut trees died. My learned sweetie tells me that the toxins in their leaves choked undergrowth. Plus throw in our habit of importing foreign plants that become invasive (multi flora and kudzu are courtesy of Japan) and there you go, forests that you can barely hack your way through.

Add things like the demise of the Carolina parakeets, flocks of small brightly colored birds who in their heyday ate tons and tons of things like cockleburs, the small green pods that stick to your pants.

Coyotes are moving father east than they've been before.

The Appalachians used to have a similar-sized predator known as the grey wolf, also now defunct courtesy of us.

A filling-in of the natural chain? Evolution in the making?

Why not?

But it doesn't stop with science.

This weekend I was in a car with some very fun, very far-left liberal friends of mine. The kind of people who won't buy things made in China, eat meat with antibiotics, and who help the homeless, the jailed, and the poor. I like them very much, though I'm a bit more square.

But they lit up a pipe in the car with the windows closed and me, a known non-pot-smoker, inside.

How did we get here?

Then the grocery store, my favorite source for ponderings. When you look at the lunch-meat aisle, think back to our Neanderthal ancestors, Adam and Eve, and the question still applies.

How did we get here?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

anti-american mutterings

In the last three months, I have driven my car maybe 5 times. This is because I can now take the metro to work.

I love it. I love, love, love not driving my car.

Ergo, it makes sense that I love places that don't have cars. Stop. Think. A place, a town, without cars?

Oh yes, my friend. Venice, for one. I love Venice for many reasons... The good food, the hidden piazzas, the leaning flaking buildings. And the delivery boats, that unload crates of vegetables and dish detergent and beer so that strong men with wheel-cart things can take them away.

And Gimmelwald, CH, is a hamlet of 130 people without a grocery store and without cars. You have to take a cable car or walk to get there. How magnificent is that?

I am aware that I am one of a yuppie crowd that abhor progress. We turn our nose up at subdivisions, the Dow Jones, and all the myriad time-savers of modern life. I am also aware that people generally say that the people we venerate (e.g. the ones who live on the top of a mountain) advocated for progress, for electricity, dishwashers, and frosting in a can.

But I wonder.

p.s. I have been taught that the washing machine did more for the emancipation of women than anything else. And I'm all for washing machines. Just so you know.