Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ramblings

[So for now I'm just trying to write a bit each day just to let it flow. Thanks for the inspiration, cracked article: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-tips-punching-writers-block-in-face/

We've been getting this wonderful coffee from a place down the street that roasts it when you order, so it's always fresh and smells like heaven, assuming heaven is full of roasted coffee beans. This new variety we tried, it's some kinda sun-roasted natural something or another from Peru. Tastes good, kinda unique, I don't know. I didn't come here to write a damn review about coffee. It's more that I find it hard to not make some when I get home, which is after five, and my body apparantly doesn't like to have that much caffeine that late in the day, so I ended up staying up till after 3 dicking about and trying to remedy my insomnia with generous helpings of gin and soda water. La Croix, the good stuff; it's got essences and a French name so you just know it's gonna be pretentious and delicious.

It's even harder to not make coffee after you buy it from some fancy hipsters in a strip mall (hand to find - listen with your nose to the smells) when you've recently aquired a marvelous piece of plastic, looking somewhat like a syringe called an Aeropress. The thing is, you can make as little as a cup. And it's fucking good, quick, easy. Makes sounds that I find delightful, smells that I enjoy; a whistle or a purr as the teakettle comes to life. Take it off the heat, let it chill for a second. Grind your beans. Turn the Aeropress on it's head, because why not? Water, stir, I'm not here to tell you how to make a fucking cup of coffee.

I'm here to explain, or rather, to understand why it is that when I don't get enough sleep the night before, when I've been drinking some but not so much that I have a full-on hangover, more of just an active, goofy brain. These are the mornings I enjoy. I'm so damn full of smarts right now. Semi-hungovers are the nootropics of myself. The song of myself. Maybe it's one of the few times when I genuinely enjoy myself,  when I'm carefree and thoughtless while thoughtful, gleeful yet introspective. All is well, for now, here in this place surrounded by other people who click and type away but don't ever really bother to look up from the screens or look me in the eye when they check in. I can't blame anyone, it's a routine.

I have my morning rituals, too. I make small talk with my work acquaintances. I talk about how it was hard to get out of bed in the morning. Every morning. I'm pretty sure one of the four of us has trouble waking up every fucking day. Who wants to be anywhere else? It's cozy, warm. Usually co-occupied. Why deal with shitty mist-rains? Bikes that don't want to stop as well as they should - is it the rain slicked roads or the loose brake wires? Am I just still running on the ethanol fumes (This product contains 40%, give or take, by volume.) from the night before? Did that gin really travel all the way from England just to arrive at a costco just to be purchased by me?

Global commerce is fucking amazing. Thanks for the coffee, Peru, and the Gin, England.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: 'The Alcoholic' by Jonathon Ames

I'm usually not too much of a graphic novel reader. On occasion, I'll dork out to some massive comic book series, read the whole thing over a week or so, and then kinda forget about it. I guess I just don't nerd out on it like so many other people do. Anyway, last week I finished 'The Alcoholic' by Jonathon Ames. I was really only familier with Ames' work on the HBO series 'Bored to Death', which was actually quite wonderful and funny and was canceled perhaps a few seasons short. Where else can you see Ted Danson play a clumsy womanizing pothead? Zach Galafanakis play a cartoonist who's only known for his gigantic-penised 'Super Ray'?
Anyway, I'm a huge fan of the podcast WTF with Mark Maron and I happened across the episode with Jonathon Ames. It was a great hour (available here) and basically it made me wanna read all the Ames I could get my hands on, so I whipped up the old Amazon and ordered this and 'What's Not To Love: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer' (which I've started, and is also wildly entertaining).

But I digress. 'The Alcoholic' is gritty, dark, hilarious, and fast-paced. For whatever reason I read the bulk of it on the porcelain throne, and I finished it within three days or so, sometimes sitting until my thighs dug into the shiny white pot, all feces long since extracted from my body, the overhead fan repeating it's same song and wafting away the stench of my droppings.Yes, it was pretty entertaining.

It starts with a blackout, an elderly woman's attempt at sexual conquest, and flashback scenes. I think in other circumstances the jumping about wouldn't really work, but in the context of an alcoholic protagonist (named 'Jonathon A.') it all seems to mesh. I'm reminded of my own somewhat addled brain and near-constant desire to be inebriated. The memories of his youth, his introduction to alcohol, and his sexual ambiguity all hit close to home for me.

There's even this somewhat universal idea that great writers need to be great drinkers as well. Ames mentions Hemmingway, Bukowski, Thompson as almost role-models; something for aspiring alcoholic writers to strive for. Finding wisdom in the bottle. In vino veritas. 

Things continue at a rapid pace. At the stories core is Johnathon's incessant lonliness; he has no family, and his only love, a full decade his junior, left him for a younger man. The ethanol-driven plot revolves between reminiscing, rehab, and relapse. It is at times humorous, but bleak. Hilarious, yet dark. Enjoy it with a nice bottle of wine, and perhaps a more comfortable chair than your toilet.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Creationist Rant of the Day

(This was written in response to an email list discussion about creationism, and is why I didn't come up with some wonderful ranty-feel-good bullshit thing for today, the second year anniversary of my melanoma diagnosis.)

I say, "Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick. Everybody knows the burrow owl lives. In a hole. In the ground. Why the hell do you think they call it a burrow owl, anyway?"

Well, not to put too fine a point on the topic, it explains why all
life (on this planet) is so very similar.  One (more likely *TWO*)
common ancestors make for the same stuff being seen in widely
differing species, times and places.  For instance, the forelimbs of
all mammals and many other species are amazingly similar whether they
form arms, fins, wings or other appendages.

I was just pointing out that evolution is not the same thing as the Big Bang. I understand what evolution is. I've never seen any proof for life having two common ancestors before, where did that come from?  This fellow (http://news.discovery.com/animals/life-single-common-ancestor.html) says "A universal common ancestor is at least 102,860 times more probable than having multiple ancestors", which makes sense if you think about it. As far as the rest, yeah, I get it, I think I've got more than a passing knowledge of evolution.

But *YOU* don't get it.  It is science that is undermining a core
belief system.  If you allow the argument to be compartmentalized, it
becomes more difficult to refute.  But if you can poke holes anywhere
in *SCIENCE* you can more easily make the argument that it is just as
fake as any other faith based system.

I don't even know what this is supposed to mean. You sure as shit can compartmentalize science. Newton came up with some of the greatest theories in physics, yet had some insane crazy ideas about cosmology and biology. Medical science used to be all about humours and stuff, that was silly, but other aspects of science were more understood. It's all in progress, dawg. Science wouldn't be science if you couldn't poke holes in it. It's all about testing and re-testing, theories proposed and theories changing. If will never be perfect or flawless. It's a constantly evolving process, unlike faith. Science is not faith. It is not a faith based system. If the preponderance of evidence shifts, or if a new theory comes along, science will adopt that as the dominant theory. It is static and changing. This is a good, not a bad thing. Again, science is not faith. Faith is a steady constant thing, it doesn't change as more information becomes available, and that is a bad thing. Science is true no matter where you live, no matter what your religion is, no matter what language you speak. It's repeatable and replicable and doesn't rely on superstition. It's fucking way awesome. 

See also some people more articulate than me on the subject:
Is Science Faith Based? No.
Science is not a religion, nor does it involve faith
The journal Nature explains why science is, like religion, based on faith



Still, nobody has said why a belief in Santa Clause (or the Easter
Bunny) hurts us as a society.
Because it makes us fucking stupid. It's embarrassing that we have senators that head our Science Committee and make statements like “God’s word is true. I have come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about Evolution and Embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a Savior.” - (Paul Broun R-Georgia ) What in the fuck, man? This is a medical doctor who is on the House Science Committee! This makes America sound like some backwater theocracy. It hurts us in the laws we pass based on religion, like anti-choice laws or watering down our  text books to the point where they no longer teach reality or use tax payer money to support bigoted organizations. We are supposed to be a secular society. We aren't supposed to be pushing religious bullshittery on our citizens. Science is how we can filter out the nonsense. Science is how we can all agree on something.


This discussion started with a Bill Nye video in which he stated as
*FACT* that, "We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for
the future."  Why is that?
What kinda question is that? Why do we want smart voters?! Jeeze, maybe because smart, educated people tend to have a somewhat better understanding of the world, and might offer some better solutions to our many, many issues at hand by using critical thinking instead of "I'M VOTING FOR JESUS! YEEEEHAW"? The scientific mindset allows us to make more informed decisions. Lots of dipshits in congress don't even think global warming is true, or that the environment needs any types of protection, or that we shouldn't invest in clean energy because Jesus won't allow our oil to run out as long as we keep bombing the shit out of people who worship a slightly different god. That is just mind boggling. Science is what has allowed us to be here and communicate on this silly word-machine-robot-box through the magic of the intertubes. It's important that we strive to become a more educated country as a whole because that will allow us to be awesome.


Many of the people who helped send men to the Moon believed in
Creationism.  So, how did that belief hurt us as a society? 
This is probably the dumbest sentence I've ever heard. Sure, some of the people (not many, I promise; I'd like to see whatever 'proof' you might offer for many) that worked at NASA in the 50's probably believed in creationism. So? Not to 'compartmentalize' it, but rocket science and biology are two very different subjects. They both fall under the branch of 'science', sure, but what of it? I just don't even understand what the point of that sentence is. Also, see the above as far as how this hurts us as a society.


Have we not done well so far?

Yes! We have done pretty well. We could be doing so, so much better. Look at the rates of science education around the world, and look where we are. (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/edu_sci_lit-education-scientific-literacy http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070218134322.htm) We're not like, that great. We're not the worst. We should be much better. There was a time where we took great pride in our science in this country. We built the mother fucking atomic bomb for crissakes. We spent billions on research and development for our collective intelligence to get into space, to solve problems. We seem to be falling away from this. We slash education and funding for NASA and screw with student loans and fuck our children out of their futures by not preparing them for the realities of this world.

Science is important. We need to spend more on our education. We need to teach real science.

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” -  Neil deGrasse Tyson

Now I'm all invigorated, thank you for the discourse. This is the best ranting I've done in months.

- Dr. Estrus Bach