Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out like a barrage!

From "Written in March" by William Wordsworth:
"Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping—anon-anon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!"
My ass, Bill.

Long rainy day ahead; I'll try and post something tonight. Can you tell what kind of month it's been by the post count? Busy. Rainy. Tired.

Wait - March decided to throw a last hate at us! Here's the hailstorm from yesterday afternoon:
Well okay, then!

Bye, March!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blogrolling: Seven Shades of Awesome

This blog caught my eye while searching for some stock pictures from the film "How To Train Your Dragon".

Speaking of "dragon", have you seen this flick yet? Little man and I caught it today at Lloyd Center. Fun, exciting and visually interesting...although Big Peep was very scared when the title character Toothless the Dragon is in danger. The action is typically hyperkinetic (is there an action/adventure film made now that doesn't go into warp speed when the bullets/axes/arrows/kung-fu starts flying?) and that had the little guy pretty frightened. Plus he's a little softie, my Peep, and didn't want the nice dragon to get hurt. The happy ending didn't placate him - he was still sniffling in the parking lot.Anyway, HTTYD is worth a look, especially if your kiddos are action movie fans or like dragons and let's face it, who doesn't like dragons? The voice talent is good (tho I kept wondering why all the adult Vikings - it's set in some sort of Scandinavian neverland - talked like Fat Bastard) and the script is entertaining enough to prevent adults from drowning themselves in their movie popcorn ($6 for a small popcorn? WTF!?! Six bucks for popcorn isn't a snack, it's a fucking investment! Jesus wept!).

Anyway, blogrolling. The blog is "7 Shades of Awesome" and the artist, a gentleman from Brisbane, has a nice, clean streamlined sort of semi-manga style I really like. And anyone who draws Sun WuKung is jake by me.

Joe Bob says check him out.

I should tell you that Mojo and I had a wonderful weekend; we got out Saturday night to take in the Rose City Rollers roller derby down at the Oak Park Hangar - good fun, and the derby was...interesting. Usually when we go one team, or one skater for one team, is head-and-shoulders (and sometimes even all the way down to the bustier) better than the other(s).

This was NOT the case last night. The two teams - both from the four local groups that make up the Rollers - were fairly even, and there was no real standout skater although this woman, who skates under the wonderful name of "Licker N Split", was among the better for the "Breakneck Betties" as her rival "Cadillac" was for the "Guns n' Rollers"

The one-sided bouts make for an exciting show, as the skater or skaters slide, weave and dive past their opponents on the way to victory. Last night was more like a real bout. Both teams were about evenly matched, and there was a lot of tactical skating going on; several jams ended without points, as the two teams fought for advantage but never got it, and finally one or the other called off the jam to prevent the other from scoring. It was "tactical derby", if you will, and if you like that sort of thing. I do, and did.

Then we went out with some friends, had good talk and good drink taken until the late evening when we retreated to the Heron Haus, the lovely little B&B we stayed at on our honeymoon night. It was a secluded, pretty and languid as we remembered, and we drifted home just before noon feeling very well rested.Delightful weekend, and hope you enjoyed yours, as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Under The Boardwalk

I've been working steadily all last week and this, so I haven't been posting much. I'm only sneaking this in because I'm at work at 10:30pm, preparing my lecture notes for my Oceanography class that kicks off at Portland Community College next Monday.

For the record, PCC, you don't fucking pay me enough.

Anyway, I wanted to post these pictures for the pure delight in the strange antiquity of them. They are taken under a section of this massive wall, built along the east bank of the Willamette River in downtown Portland.This section of the battered watercourse had been used as a sort of open-source dump, slash pile, housing development, industrial park, dock, fishing pier and concrete washout. Here's a panoramic view of the Willamette circa 1908.My worksite is along the left-hand edge in the picture above. You can see that st the time the riverbank sloped gently up to the east and was crowded with little shops, grainaries, docks and wharves and the other typical sorts of river-town commerce you'd expect in an Edwardian Portland. Sometime not long after the panoramic picture was taken this section of the river was walled off. The original banks were buried under tens of feet of fill, and the outer edge of the newly made land was armored by, in part, this 24-foot high cast-in place concrete wall.

The really incredible thing is that the entire monstrosity was cast on timber piles. These old tree-trunks remain, for the most part, still standing, still bearing the inmmense weight of the wall above them.But part of the soil at the base of the wall has washed away, and you can now shinny down the bank and peer into an opening into a world that had not seen daylight for a hundred years.

The twilight forest of pilings is a little spooky, and as I looked in a sudden shiver ran up my back, as if the ghosts of the old riverbank had just brushed across my shoulders.

The cool thing is, if you enlarge the picture above, you'll see the old timber sheeting that runs completely under the retaining wall. I have no idea if this was their idea of "forms" for the original casting or whether these were timbers from a pier deck that was used to support the casting back in the day.

The lumber itself is incredible, straight-grain cedar of the sort you'd pay the heavens and the earth to use in high-end furniture today, used at the turn of the last century as throwaway materials, dimension lumber meant to be buried and never seen again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Die, Freedom!

It's embarrassing for a political junkie to admit, but I completely passed on the "health care reform" debate and votes this weekend.

Part of this was having two active and busy kids (and part of a third, with Christine's little guy the Poet coming over Sunday afternoon to give her a break), part of it was wanting to stay on top of home and house business.

But a big part of it was simple disgust.

This issue has become a Ministry of Silly Walks, really, and I've long since gone past irritation through anger to revulsion and into indifference at the ludicrous posturing over what is really a very minor adjustment in the U.S. medical system.

The reality is that the fundamental dysfunction - the idea of making a profit off giving medical treatment to the sick - is unchanged. The fee-for-service and for-profit health care business will, therefore, continue to swell up and swallow more of the nation's wealth. The well-duh realization that pretty much the whole rest of the world has reached - that sick people don't and won't "shop" for bargains, that the disjunction in knowledge-level between the medical "provider" and "consumer" is so huge as to be unbridgable and prevents even a smart guy like me from "shopping" for medicine even if I wanted to, and that the complete lack of external controls, either regulatory or market-based, on medical costs virtually ensures that they will bubble until they grow beyond sustainability - has utterly escaped us.

No, this is a band-aid on a tumor, and although it will help a relatively small group of Americans get medical insurance it stays well away from doing anything to actually help reform the for-profit system.

What I did get out of this mess, however, is the degree to which the U.S. party system is broken, and that because one of the two parties has become flat-out, no-holds-barred, bug-fucking crazy. Let's elide the usual political bullshit (John Boehner’s argument, for example, that you won’t be able to keep your health insurance under this plan is just a lie. But we've come to expect this sort of lying by now.) and look at some of the top GOP quotes on the health-care issue (courtesy of Alterdestiny):

Tom Price (R-GA): "If health care passes, "We lose our morality. We lose our freedom."

John Shadegg (R-AZ): "This bill will destroy freedom and do damage to the very fabric of our society."

Marsha Blackburn (R-MN): "Freedom dies a little bit today."

Devin Nunes (R-CA): By passing health care reform, Democrats "will finally lay the cornerstone of their Socialist utopia on the backs of the American people. For most of the 20th century people fled the ghosts of communist dictators. And now you are bringing the ghosts back into this chamber."

Waa...hunh? Obama is Stalin? Forcing people to buy expensive insurance is the COMINTERN? (Guess nobody told the auto-insurance KGB, hunh?) Freedom dies when poor people get medical coverage? Baby Jesus weeps when insurance companies don't get to kick people off their insurance when they get cancer? (Oh wait, they still do - there's nothing in here that prevents rescission.)

I do believe that these gomers are talking out their fourth point of contact. They don't REALLY believe any of this "freedom is dead" rhetoric. The problem is that there's a whole bunch of mouthbreathers out there that DO believe it, and this sort of playground bullshit gets and keeps them worked up.

You can't keep a republic when a third of the citizens believe that passing civil legislation in a majority-vote fashion means "We lose our freedom."

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. One of the deadliest things a republic can do is allow one group or faction to put it's interests not before the interests of others but before the interest of a functioning republic. If one side stops accepting that the other gets a turn at the helm, then there is no solution but conflict, and if one side stops accepting the results of that conflict as played out with votes then it must be played out with guns and ammunition.

Based on this sort of language the GOP, circa 2010 is already most of the way there. And where is the alternative? Where is there a place for the "conservative" who doesn't want to hector people about profit!abortiongaysgunsandGod?


Friday, March 19, 2010

Oopsie Ow

My daughter has always loved stories; telling them (although her style is as circumloculatory as you'd expect for 3.9 years old...) and hearing them. And, although neither her mother nor I have encouraged her, she has turned out to be quite a Pretty in Pink sort of little girl. She loves all things soft, plush, pastel and princessy. And that includes the "Disney Princess"TM brand of story. Like most little ones, she can - and prefers - to read and re-read the same story over and over again. So we know the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and their sisters pretty damn well.Recently, however, she has developed a devilish little strain of anarchic humor which is known generically around the Fire Direction Center as the "Oopsie Ow Version". "Oopsie Ow" means that the Daddy is required to throw figurative stones at the poor princesses. They now have to slip, trip, fall, bump their heads, wrench their backs and suffer embarrasing catastrophic loss-of-coolant bladder accidents. Their reaction has to be an agonized wail guessed it: "Oopsie OW!"

Instead of kisses, their princes receive smacks on the earhole or kicks in the backside. It's all very slapsticky, and elicits great peals of laughter from Small Miss. Even her brother, who usually scorns her princess stories as sissy girl stuff, has been known to creep up next to my lap to join in the enjoyment of Cinderella punting Prince Charming square in the kisser with her bare foot as he tries to glass-slipper her, or Boots the Monkey flinging his poop at Dora and nailing her between the eyes. Oopsie Ow!I'm not sure what fertile soil sprouted the Oopsie Ow; the Girl doesn't seem to translate all of this comic misfortune into a larger sense of malaise with the world or a cynical view of princesses and princessing. Which is good - a cynical four-year-old would be just too Wes Anderson.

But having the notion that not only is real life not like a fairy tale but that even fairy tales aren't always like a fairy tale?I'm surprisingly okay with that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Although I am the Designated Knower of all things pop-cultural in the Fire Direction Center, I do try and avoid the seamier and sleazier aspects of our celebritized and overexposed culture. This is not easy, since it seems that the entire point of the "news" media is to inform the innocent bystander of every conceivable detail of the doings social, emotional and venereal, of the Rich and the Famous.

And, although I truly enjoy the movies, I usually don't feel any kinship with or prurient interest in the lives of the pretty people who act in them. For all that the glossy magazines try to convince me that I really know these people they are truly strangers; what I "know" of them is largely the fictions that they, their publicists, the tabloid press and their more obsessive followers create for the rest of us groundlings. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the Cult of Celebrity is this faux intimacy with people we do not and never really will know anything about.

That said, I do come across various bits of "celebrity gossip" in my peregrinations through the newswires, and I ran across this nasty bit of work today on; "Jesse James Apologizes To Sandra Bullock, Hopes For Forgiveness".

It caught my eye for two reasons; one, that a notorious 19th century outlaw thought to have been shot dead by that "rotten little coward" Robert Ford in 1882 was sorry for anything other than not being dead and, two, that Sandy Bullock was involved somehow.

As much as I can be said to be "interested" in celebrities, Bullock is one of the few who interests me. She seems - for that is all I can judge her by, her public persona - to be a vivacious, emotionally alert, quick and animated person. She is, of course, physically attractive, that being a requirement for her employment. She has made some enjoyable films but for the most part she's gone from playing in one awful dog to another. She's been in some truly terrible movies and done poorly playing in them, and that's not even counting "Speed 2: Floaty Boaty" or whatever the hell they called the stinker.

And now the poor woman is tied to the public pillory of "betrayed wife".

I had some notion that she had formed an alliance with some sort of tattooed lad, one of these (to me) inexplicably inescapable "bad boy" type guys, who turns out to be the not-dead, not-outlaw Mr. James. Said bad boy is being accused of doing what bad boys often do, namely sinking passing tuna boats with his little pink torpedo.

At which point, the unmarried-to-Sandra-Bullock male just has to ask:

"Dude! Are you fucking NUTS!? Are you smoking crack? Are you taking the spike straight in the jugular vein?"

You're married to this woman who is so physically beautiful that she makes her living being physically beautiful. She is capable of being so lovable and charming that she has charmed and become beloved of millions of other poor schlobs, many of them more attractive and wealthier than you. You are legally entitled, indeed, both legally and socially enjoined, to enjoy physical and emotional intimacy with this beautiful, vivacious, charming woman.

The fuck..?

Which serves to point up several home truths about people in general, men in particular and "Jesse James" as an individual.

1. We know less than we ever thought we did or think we do about anyone.

If a homely schlub like James can throw away any hopes of remaining intimate with a woman that - at least from the outside - seems as ideal as Bullock, then there is no hope for understanding what brings and holds men and women together.

Or, possibly, it is a judgment (again) on celebrities and the place they hold in our culture. Because the only reason I can see doing this other than pure stupid horniness is if Sandra Bullock is a really wretched person emotionally; violent, angry, dismissive, ignorant, boring, unstable...whose initial attraction was her looks and the fake intimacy that this guy James thought he had with her. And, on closer acquaintance, who turned out to be quite another, much nastier, less lovable person.

Is the story true? Is it made up by an attention-seeking woman who doesn't care who she hurts in her quest for fame?

Who knows? I certainly don't. But the thing is...neither do you or the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker...and yet "Entertainment Tonight" tells you all that you do.

So what looks obvious - tattooed lad cheats on adorable wife with tattooed skank-ho - may be anything but.

2. If this idiot did manage to poke a hole in his marriage with his johnson he won't be the last, and he wasn't the first, to throw away something worthwhile - assuming it was, and if not, why marry the woman when the old prohibitions against intimacy have fallen? You want sex, you want to "be with" Sandra Bullock, gorgeous movie star? Why not? But why promise her your truth, and your singularity, and then follow your ignorant tumescence into a cheap and nasty affair with some drive-by harlot?

(Or, hell, a scented sorority sister, for that matter? Our girl "Bombshell" makes things looks nastier than they are by looking like a skank. But, really, does it and should it matter who was playing hide-the-chopper with ol' Jess? The point here isn't about the sex - it's about making a promise and then breaking it with malice aforethought. You're not getting done for adultery, James, but for being a lying, cheating skeeve.

You want to screw around? Fine - go to the old lady, 'fess up, let her enjoy kicking your ass out and following it with all your stuff before you go looking for trim.)

It's because - and I know I've said this here before; we are goddam idiots where sex is concerned. And I think it has a LOT to do with the whole way we wrap sex up in secrets, hide it and make it undiscussable and untouchable, instead of a part of what we want and, especially, hopefully, what we want to do with someone we carfe about.

I think if we were a little less goofy about it we might have less trouble with it.

Or maybe not - powerful thing, lust. One of the Seven Deadly Sins, y'know. Who knows what happened in the James/Bullock house that brought these two people here.

And - beyond the sadness that we are invited in to peep at their unhappiness - what's sad is that, regardless of what happened, one of the two, the one with the busy little penis, may have responded by going out and thrashing the mattress with a woman whose idea of post-coital melancholy is to go flog the story of their illicit friction to the nearest tabloid half a year after is supposedly ended? Who claims to be too dumb to know her supposed lover is still married?

Only the couple and the other woman - if that is what she is - know the truth, and all of them may not know all the truth. But the way things seem, either Bombshell is a galactic-class liar, Sandra must have been a pretty unlikeable - or even un-lust-able - person, or ol' Jesse James is perhaps the dumbest goddam not-dead, not-outlaw to ever drew breath.

And I feel dirty just knowing it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Falling Behind

The first three days of this week have been a manic confusion of work and domestic chores interspersed with a moment or two of sleep. I promise to place nose back to grindstone before the weekend.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vallum Aelium

I've been following with a sort of mild delight and horror the postings of a Facebook friend about some sort of mass conk light installation thing planned for the ruins of Hadrian's Wall in the English March district.Apparently the idea is that tonight everybody and their cat is going to turn up - I'm exaggerating, there is some sort of organization to where everyone is going - and light up the old vallum and the castria for the first time since the old fortification went dark some time in the middle 5th Century A.D.
"A sequence of 500 "illuminations" at 250-metre intervals will roll westwards from Segundum fort, Wallsend, at 5.45pm, reaching Carlisle three quarters of an hour later and ending on the final, largely fragmentary stretch of the wall above the Solway. Timings and gas supplies are being synchronised so that the whole of the ancient frontier will be illuminated at the climax for the first time since Hadrian ordered its building in AD122."
The history geek and goof in me that likes this sort of fun and silly stuff - dressing up in garb and playing at knights, SCA-stuff and all that - loves the notion that reenactors, Roman wannabes, history buffs, birthday partiers, bicycling cheese enthusiasts, a theatrical troupe doing son et lumière at Segundum fort and "a torchlit fancy-dress procession with acrobats dangling from a heliosphere balloon in the centre of Carlisle" will converge on this ancient artifact and have a big ol' goof with gaslights for the night.The old soldier in me shakes his head and wonders what the old sweats of the Legio II Augusta have thought of the cycling cheese-lovers or the dangling acrobats as they dug the trenches and built the 2nd Century equivalent of the MacNamara Line.

What would the local garrisons, left behind when the legions sailed to the mercies of the Picts, the Norsemen and the Saxon invaders, have thought about the "display by one of her five children who is a trained fire-eater"?

What would the reivers who rode the Border for centuries have thought about all this peaceful fire in the night?

And it occurs to me that they would probably have grinned and nodded, pleased that their descendants are able to assemble in great and abiding peace to make a silly show of their grim old battlements. For the reality, when you think on it, of the story of the Wall, its abandonment, and the hard centuries between the fall of Roman Britain and today are one of great unease, of war, suffering and tragedy as the people of Roman Britain, already conquered by one invader, were left to be seized by another as the Angles and Saxons swarmed in. And after them the Vikings, and the Normans. And this was when the locals weren't fighting one another.

Like most of the rest of human history, the story of the Wall is a story of a hard-won safety briefly kept.

So while the soldier and historian in me mocks the acrobats and cyclists and cheese-eaters - gently, a little - for playing foolish games amid the ruins of a deadly and desperate fortification, the soldier, the man and the father in me revels in that all these people can be foolish and fond and silly and peaceful and happy, lighting the remains of that grim, unhappy time. In the best sense, what soldiers and fathers and mothers do is win that brief space of time and place for those they love to be safe, happy and loved.

For when the night is often long, and cold, and the moments of sunlight and peace fleeting, they are all the dearer for their brevity.

Monday, March 08, 2010


I've been thinking about kids lately.

Now those of you who have been with me for a while understand that when you have shared responsibility for these little people it's nearly impossible not to think about them. They pretty much dominate that portion of your life that isn't occupied with work or sleep.

I love my children, but I do not confuse them with "free resources" like air. Instead they are something like food and drink; critical for life but with a debt you incur for needing them.

But for the purposes of this post I am thinking of children in general, rather than mine in particular. So I apologize in advance for those of you who were impatient for the next installment of Pure AdorableTM from little Missy or more Boyish Antics from the Big Peep. You're going to have to be content with the snapshots.

This one is going to be about people having kids in general.

Or, rather, this is about humans as the global apex predator.

Didn't used to be this way, of course. My understanding is that our proto-hominid and hominid ancestors were about where the large apes are in the food chain, a multi-level consumer but also prey for large carnivores.When you think about it, being pulled down and devoured by another animal may be perhaps the oldest and most untameable human fear.How many bad dreams involve being pursued by something fearsome? Why are we so fascinated by the otherwise-predictable deaths involving human keepers or trainers and large animals, especially predators?Why are the stories of toddler dog-maulings so appallingly well reported?

We still think like prey. We still have some of the atavistic reflexes of our distant ancestors the monkey-boys, and dimly fear the death that watches us with inhuman eyes from the shadows under the trees.

But it has really been a long time since we were in danger of predation. The only animal that can prey on humans is human; ecologically, we are our only real population control. For all that we often act like sheep, we're the wolves, or, rather, we're the predator that the wolves WISH they could be. I'll bet if you gave a wolf voice for a day and turned it loose on the works of Man it'd go for our killing technology in a big way. Would a wolf with a cluster bomb unit do the kind of damage to caribou that we do to each other?

The mind reels.

Of course, the sorts of population controls that have probably always killed more humans than other animals still cull us; cold and heat and drought (and the associated starvation and diseases) and the various epidemics from influenzas to plagues. We're never safe from something. But the combination of industrial agriculture, scientific medicine, political stability and general education has done much to broaden the sunny, clear portions of human lives, pushing back the frightening things that made our existences so frighteningly brief and tenuous.We live longer, breed more successfully, and die less agonizingly - generally - than we ever have.

I'm not sure at this point what CAN limit human ability to reproduce. We are pretty fecund creatures, able to pop out about one offspring every year to eighteen months (dear GOD! but still...) from about fourteen years of age to somewhere in our forties or even fifties. Most of us don't, naturally, but the trend since the first human tribes has been a slow increase in population until about the late Middle Ages.

Improvement in things like sanitation, the understanding of the germ theory of disease, inventions as commonplace and simple as chemical fertilizers and vaccinations...all these have made the Earth circa 2010 an extraordinarily safe and healthy place for humans. We've responded by doing what we've always done; finding another human (usually of the opposite sex, but, whatever...) and a flat piece of ground (which we can do without if needs must) and putting Tab A into Slot B and the next thing you know the place is swarming with brats...

Which brings me to my point, which is, that I cannot think of an organism or a species of organisms that thrives without some sort of population control.

Producers need consumers or they will exhaust the non-organic resources - air, water, soil nutrients - and the population will crash. Nastily. All natural populations that don't recieve a thorough culling tend to be designed to boom and crash. So deer, freed from natural predation and turned loose on suburban gardens full of browse, multiply until they become nuisances and, regularly, suffer from apalling die-offs during hard winters. Lemmings run to the sea, voluntarily doing the work that cold and starvation do on the deer. Predators suffer the same effect; too many and the prey is depleted. The predators seek food elsewhere, or die.

So far we seem to be overwhelming any sort of natural controls on our population. Since the dent the Black Death made in numbers back in the 15th Century it's been all uphill for us hairless monkeys. The only systematic control on human numbers appears to be, well, us.

I'm not really talking about predation of the war-and-disease type. I'm thinking about kids.

Kids are work. Often good work, occasionally fun work, typically productive work, but many times grinding, frustrating, repetitive work. Work enough that the stats appear ro show that we're often happier as couples without them. Work enough that when medicine, nutrition and industrialization free people from the need to pop out a half-dozen or so (either to ensure that half will survive or to work the family goat ranch) familes tend to decline in size precipitously. Two kids aren't twice the work of one - they're more like three or four times. Six? Eight? I can't imagine.You'll notice that nearly all the population growth in the past 100 years has been in the "developing world". It's these folks who still need the big families to survive...or are still living in a culture that pushes you to have kids, whether you still "need" them or not.But these kids, their parents, their cultures don't want to be herding goats forever. They want what I have: the sturdy house, the car and the truck, the bank account, the computer and the clean clothes and the fatty foods.

Clean water. I take it for granted here in the rainy Northwest, but clean water - or any water at all - is a huge issue for much of the planet. What would it take to ensure access to sufficient clean water for every person on the planet? How much would it cost, both physically and politically? How likely is it that instead of cooperating to secure it people would, instead, fight over it, expending even more resources in the process?

The point is that all of this stuff fucking costs. It costs in the materials consumed to make it, to maintain it, to heat the house and fuel the car, light up the basement, and storybook the little Girl and soccer ball-and-cleat-and-uniform the big Boy. I am, we are, damn expensive to produce and maintain; one of me could feed and support a dozen or a score of men my age in a Lahore slum or in a village in Shensi. One of my family unit "costs" probably as much as an entire little settlement in the Sudan, or a nomadic encampment in Mongolia.

I would imagine that once the men in Lahore, Mongolia, Sudan and Shensi acquire their own wood-frame homes, cars, computers, washer-driers and little lawns they'll be ready to cut back to my own 2.25 kids (the cats are about a quarter-of-a-kid-pain-in-the-ass...).Some of them.

But where's the safe "stopping" point? What's the top-end human load that the Earth can sustain at my lifestyle? How long? What will that mean for the rest of the creatures on the planet? How do we know?

I'll posit this: we don't. And we won't. We'll find out the limit the hard way - by crossing it.

Because there's another factor at work here.

The simple answer would seem to be to slow down right now. Why not? Let's say that if we all get things down to about five kids per four adults that we will be able to slowly bring most of the world up to some approximation of a Western European/North American middle-class lifestyle. Okay, lower middle class lifestyle. Can we do that? Without strip-mining the planet, I mean? How about just providing every single person on the planet with scientific medical care, clean water, a sturdy home and a reliable supply of food? IS even THAT possible, if we stabilized the human population at today's numbers?

Because there's a real worm in that apple.

I can tell you that I'm a patriotic American, that I love my country, that I'd fight to defend it.

But what if my son had to defend it? Or my daghter? Or both?

I don't have "spares" - I know that's a callous way to describe it, but there it is. If my son dies in war my name dies with him. I have no further biological stake in my home, my state, my nation other than my own intellectual one. A nation whose reproduction drops to near replacement level is in the same position as I would be personally; there's no slack, my neighbor's death really does lessen me. A war, an epidemic, a famine...anthing that hits the public hard could result in a catastrophic drop in the ppulation.

And war here is the particularly menacing prospect. Kids, old people, disabled...these folks can't fight. Nobody yet has found a way to dispense with a man or woman with a rifle, and only the relatively young and relatively fit can fight as infantrymen, tankers, artillerymen.So taking this as a need for ensuring survival, the survival of the various groups and nations would seem to preclude there ever being a "stable" human population on the planet. We can't afford to stop reproducing if another group has excess young people to throw at us to take us down, no?

Thing is, I don't think this is a "solveable" problem; that is, I don't think there's a social or technological way to evade it or do more than defer it. I think that the human population will continue to grow, and that human needs and wants for the ever-more complex and costly goods and services that First Worlders like myself take for granted will grow with it. And that a combination of desire for offspring among some and a fear of being overrun by a competitor that is outbreeding them will prevent anyone from even making a real run at this. I think that we will see ever more people on Earth for the forseeable human future.Some technologic means, a "leap" such as the Green or Industrial Revolutions, might help defer the moment that we begin to overwhelm our natural resources. Or we as a species might figure out a way around this "reproduce-or-fail" trap. I just can't think of anything. I see a narrowing gap between that we have on Earth to sustain us and the number of people - and the way those people live - consuming it.

So I suspect that we're in for a shock when those lines converge. I don't know what that will mean in detail, but in general I suspect that means something bad; some long years of iron and blood, for my children, or their children, or their children's children.I hope I am not here to see it.

(Cross-posted to MilPub)

Sunday, March 07, 2010



I had a post all set to go for today when the upstairs laptop suddenly began hacking up bits of lung and collapsed on the floor. Okay, not so much, but what it DID do was begin throwing out all sorts of messages from one of those fake "antivirus" programs that is a virus itself. We had one last month (something called "Game Sushi") that was nasty but cleanable. This thing ("Vista AntiVirus") isn't. So the upstairs computer is in the shop getting purged and bled and I'm back down here with the poor old Victorola struggling with the failing keyboard and the dying graphics card.

I'm going to try and post the original Sunday post tonight, but bear with me. It's like 1977 around here, and the only thing I lack is punch cards.

I should add, to help you understand that I am as old as dirt, that my first computer lab assignment back in college (probably about 1977-78, I suspect) was running a simple statistics program. From punch cards. In Fortran 66.

Christ, I'm older than dirt.

Other than that, it's been a good Sunday. I laid the small stone patio in front (pictres to follow) and then my lovely bride took control of the littles so I could go putter around; I put the ribs down to marinate, went and bought some little Star Wars minis for the Peeper and I to play war with, picked up some Yellow Finns for the 'tatie bed, stopped off at Powell's and browsed the fiction, ate lunch and then home.

We all went to our old favorite Columbia Pool and then home for a slap-up meal of barbequed spareribs, new spring asparagus and rice. Mmmm. Things are winding down now towards bedtime. Hope you, too, had a good lazy sort of Sunday.

Minus the virus, of course.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday Jukebox 3: Go West!

Brilliant.Who knew that military pageantry was Teh Gay?

The Pet Shop Boys, apparently - this is their cover of a Village People tune that takes on a whole new meaning when played over all these hunky troopers strutting their stuff.

I'm glad I hadn't seen this whilst I watched all the military parades at the PRC 60th birthday bash. I would have been unable to stop laughing until the tears ran down my face.

I will never be able to think about those parades I marched in the same way again. And don't get me started on Division Review. Like hot oil night at Embers only with bayonets. Swear to God.

Friday Jukebox 2: West End Girls

I really liked the sly groove these guys laid down; it was very...British.In a sort of post-imperial, we're-so-far-down-that-even-Thatcherism-looks-up-from-here, bleak working-class yobbo sort of way.

I'm fascinated by the ways that the hard-case, left-behind kids - the people who usually end up making the best music - turn their reality (no job, no money, no future) into art. Fifty Cent would have made this into a grab-yo-junk, driving, vaunting sort of rap tune. Eminem would have made it ugly and up at you like a fist in the face. John Lennon would have made it a poppy protest song. Elvis...well, Elvis would have just shagged the West End Girl and gone out for something fried and nasty. These guys produced a dance tune.

Have a nice Friday.

Friday Jukebox: Adorable Asian Preschooler Edition

Came across this via another adoptive mom.I have NO idea who "Frances and Aiko" are, but they're cute as little bugs.

OK, here's some information about them: seems that they are products of some sort of Taiwanese "Idol" show, and are now part of something called the "Hello! Project". Go figure. I hope to hell that our entertainment quirks (Marriage Ref, anyone?) are as impenetrably odd to Asian audiences as many of theirs are to us.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Sorry so silent.Bryn's birthday was especially hard this year, we've all been fighting colds, and I've been busy at work. Oh, and I've been scratching my forearms like an ape with mange - I picked up a bad case of poison oak strolling about the project site in Lebanon last week. I've never had an infestation this bad - nasty stuff. I had always thought that poison oak was just a slightly stronger version of poison ivy. No such thing. I will definately work to avoid the stuff in the future.

I've been thinking and blogging lightly over at MilPub, but I want to try and post something before the weekend. Check back in a bit. Thanks.

Monday, March 01, 2010


I had a hard day today.

Because, you see, all the cherry trees are budding out. The willow catkins are full, the star magnolia we planted for her is exploding with blooms. Early spring is pushing itself forward all across the Northwest, just as it did this day eight years ago.

It's fortunately hard to remember exactly how I felt that day, the First of March, 2002. Exhausted. Confused. Bereft. Hopeless.

The passing years have softened the hard edge of the pain and loss. I don't feel the same aching emptiness I felt that day. And I've come to understand a little about myself and my grief for my daughter.

I never felt the connection that Mojo had with Bryn the infant; I couldn't. My bride lived with that little life inside her for three-quarters of a year. Feeling her move, changing as she grew. Bryn was an immediacy to her that she never could be to me.

To me, our little girl was a future. So what I lost, when the tiny stars went out inside her head, was our future together.

And every year, this day, I want to just sit on the sand and tell sad stories of the giggles we never shared, of the tears we never wept, of the games we never played and the fights we never had. Of her grubby soccer cleats that are not on her floor, her Transformers backpack or princess lunchbox that are missing from their places. That her place at the table, in the bed, in our lives, is empty.

My hands are lost without you. My throat is dry with tearless weeping but I cannot stay you; you passed us so quickly, my dear little girl, that all I can do is stand and all I can say is goodbye.

I never knew you, never had the chance to know you, but I miss you so today that my heart pinches with the loss of it. You were the future we never had, and never will have. If there is no death where the spirit lives, you will live as long as I do. Goodbye, love. Goodbye. Goodbye.

Bryn Rose Gellar 3/1/02-3/2/02

Machine Ballerina

I've been thinking a lot about little Bryn today. But I have another little girl who is also my loved daughter, and here she is; Missy as the Dancing Princess -
What's funny is that she loves to dance and she loves the Barbie "Dancing Princesses" story and she loves her "Harvard Princess" T-shirt (courtesy of Auntie Kathie) but she gets truly irate if you call her "princess" or "little princess" or "dancing princess". Go figure. But princess or no, I love you, sweetie. Especially today when I mourn your big sister.