That’s not dust, it’s “Patina”.

June 23, 2007 at 10:52 am (General, The Environment)

My house is a mess. Lots of people’s homes are these days. (Just do a Google Image search on “messy house”. I told you. 678,000 images. Hah!) Most people are wrapped up in that frenzy of activity that our modern world seems to expect of them. Housework is on the list, but it can usually be ignored until you want to have the friends and family over for a barbecue.

Not my momYesterday, I was looking briefly at my mess – the dust bunnies, dirty dishes, unfolded laundry – and made the mistake of comparing my housekeeping to that of my late mother. I grew up in the ’60s & ’70s, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom, cooking, cleaning, all that “Leave it To Beaver” jazz we associate with the ’60s. But before despair set in, some self-defending synapse sparked somewhere in the cobwebby recesses of my brain, and belched out the square footage of my home. About 1500 square feet. My eyes flew wide, and my jaw fell. Could it be?

I called my dad to check. Sure enough, the spotless home I remember from my early childhood was about 700 square feet. Not only did mom have way more time to clean than I do, she had help (my sister and I) and – the most important revelation – she NEVER had to clean a house as big as mine! Wow. Talk about a liberating thought.

So I called my sister, too. She was delighted to share my epiphany, and added that mom seldom mowed the lawn, like we do. That was a task for me or dad. Our yards are bigger now, too. Hell, the mini-lawn we had in Portland could be mowed in 20 minutes with a pair of blunt scissors.

Sweep it!Now I feel quite a bit better about my housekeeping, having gained a new perspective on it. And though it’s not an original thought, when I’m on my deathbed, I am not going to be thinking, “I sure wish I had spent more time cleaning my house”.

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One of those “random thoughts”…

June 19, 2007 at 2:06 pm (General)

Here’s one of those questions that might occur to you when you are either chemically altered, or half-asleep, or bored out of your skull.

“Do they have Scotch Tape in Scotland?”

The answer is yes. Scots can buy Scotch Tape at Staples, and there is a store in Edinburgh.

Scots BloomThis also causes one to wonder, “why do they call it Scotch Tape?” The answer goes something like: A painter needed a masking tape that came off cleanly and didn’t pull the paint off. When he tried the prototype of the new tape, he watched it fall off as he was preparing to apply the second color of a two-tone car. The tape came loose because it had only a 1/2″ wide strip of adhesive along each edge, a money saving measure. The painter angrily said, “Take this back to your stingy Scotch bosses and tell them to put more adhesive on it.” This ethnic slur regarding Scottish thrift may have been unjustified, but it eventually got him the stickier tape he wanted. The name “Scotch” has “stuck” ever since.

From ethnic slurs were products born. Can’t do that now, though. Packs of feral lawyers will rip you a new one before you can say “so sue me”.

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Well, I sure am shocked.

June 3, 2007 at 11:28 pm (Cars & Trucks, Die Rat Bastard, Politics, Rent Me, The Economy, The Environment)

Smokestacks in ChinaYou could knock me over with a feather off the butt of a Peking (Beijing?) duck. Turns out the Chinese intend to put economic development ahead of controlling their emissions of greenhouse gases. Can’t say as I’m a bit surprised. The G8 nations did exactly the same thing during the first 100 years of the Industrial Revolution. We didn’t begin to take note of the stinking air and dying lakes until the 1960’s. And now, just because we are aware of the damage that is being caused, we want the developing nations like China and India to make (apparent) sacrifices that we never did. To quote the BBC News article:

“In explaining the plan, the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Ma Kai, said rich counties who have already industrialized would instead have to do more to tackle climate change.

“Mr Ma said they (emphasis added) were responsible for most of the greenhouse gases produced over the past century and had the money to tackle the problem.

“Mandatory emission caps ‘would hinder the development of developing countries and hamper their industrialization’, he added.”

Dammit, he’s got us red-handed. This is mostly our problem. (You hear that, Dubya?) The Chinese are going to feel like they are being punished for trying to create their own version of the American Dream. No matter that they are crapping in their own backyards to do it. They want the consumer society, no matter the cost to their air, water, land, and children.

Look into it, dear reader. The cost of oil, steel, concrete, and other raw materials has gone up since China (and the rest of Asia) entered the industrial economy. There’s only so much oil and steel to go around, and if more people are bidding for the same commodity, the price goes up. Econ 101.

So. The genie is out of the bottle, and the toothpaste is out of the tube and running down our collective wrist. What’s there to do about it? For one, we can stop competing for scarce resources, and use something else. Something local, like wind, geothermal, natural gas, solar… does this make any sense? Maybe stop shipping all our scrap to China, and recycle it here – cleanly?

Windmill SunriseI suppose I also ought to explain my parenthetical “apparent” above, when speaking about sacrifices. There is some recent data to indicate that being “green” is actually good for business, and may be more profitable, short and long term, than being a polluter.

We in the west have got a lot of work to do. We need to put our own economies back in shape, and not trash the air & water all over again in the process. Plus, we need to finish cleaning up the mess we’ve made, and show some leadership to the developing world. We as Americans must demand that our leaders actually lead in this direction, or get the hell out of the way.

UPDATE: January 26th, 2008

Here is the first of four videos from the UK’s Channel 5, entitled “Big Ideas That Changed The World – Consumerism“. It’s a wonderful and sobering look at the changes human need & greed have wrought upon the world.

Part two:

Part three:

And finally, part four:

Click here to see all the videos posted by this YouTube user. There are some excellent BBC documentaries here.

UPDATE: April 9th, 2008

I couldn’t resist this. The Urban Dictionary has selected “consumerican” as their Urban Word of the Day today. (Be advised – much of the content on UrbanDictionary.com is NOT safe for work.) “Consumerican” is defined as:

An individual suffering from the particularly American brand of consumerism.

You’d have to be a real consumerican to always think you need the newest, most expensive computer every two years.

I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it takes some time, effort, and a bit of knowledge to deal with today’s tools and technology, but it’s worth the effort to keep perfectly serviceable appliances, computers, and other manufactured goods out of the landfills. We throw away so much that is still usable. And yes, that’s been said before, by people more intelligent and notable than I.

But that’s because it’s true.

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