Three days ago I cut my thumb opening a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, and it still really hurts.
I Aten't Dead.
She was being a nuisance, so I fed her a pillow, and then took the opportunity to film her, while subdued, in her natural habitat.
Then she gave her distinctive cry, a request for a can of ginger ale.
(Much better with the sound on)
Because Krissa didn't tell me a new edition of New Scientist had arrived earlier this week, on the train on the way home last night I read a report from 2002 from a forum on Environment and Energy and the issues faced by the UN and the world as it attempts to meet the 'Millennium Goal' of reducing the number of people living in abject poverty - or less than $1 a day - by 50% by 2015. Here's a summary. The report from the forum assessed ways in which this goal might be achieved with sustainable development and renewable energy generation. A grand aim.
Here's the situation. I'm going skip the school-essay style definitions of everything as I go along. You're not stupid, and I'm not one for sweeping generalisations, so know that when I say things like 'developing nations' and 'developed world' I know the definitions are vague and general and potentially contentious, but I'm using them anyway.
The developed nations became so through an unsustainable manner of development - unreplenishable resource uses like mining and deforestation. These primary industries paved the way for secondary industry - the mass manufacture of goods in all their forms, and to gain the energy to do so they burnt wood, coal and oil in great quantities. At the time of the Industrial Revolution leading scientists were convinced that what made things burn was caloric, an odourless, invisible, weightless gas that some things possessed and others didn't. When you burnt something you exhausted the caloric, and that was that.
The developed nations are where they are because they burnt one hell of a lot of stuff, and are still doing so.
The consequences of this can be debated endlessly - the climate of the world has always been in a state of flux, so when you point to rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and unusual climate activity, there is no threshold over and above which you can turn around and say, "Now. Now we definitely have global warming. Let's sort this out." The signs are strong, but there is no court making a judgement. It's not a matter of overwhelming evidence - it's a matter of a will to accept it, and at the national level there is no impetus to do so, especially if you stand to be economically disadvantaged through accepting that evidence as proof.
Energy is the great enabler, and if the poorer nations of the world are going to develop, they're going to need a lot of it. In both demographic structure and national infrastructure, many nations are in a similar situation to the developed world prior to the Industrial Revolution - a lot of subsistence agriculture, primary industry and widespread poverty. (I'm not saying they're backward. See the disclaimer at the beginning of the post.) They are also poised to make use of their assets - those nonreplenishable resources - and burn and mine and chop down as much stuff as they can to get as rich as they can. Welcome to the Global Market Economy.
If we accept that global warming is a reality, the developed world is responsible, having emitted billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases over two centuries of mass industry. And not only is the developing world more at risk from the dangers that climate change is bringing - they are less able to protect themselves or co-ordinate damage mitigation programs - the world as a whole is possessed of the knowledge that if climate change is to be stopped, the path the developed world took to its current wealth and prosperity should not be walked again.
Because climate change is still up in the air, if you like, a good example of the 'Don't do as I do, do as I say' problem is the global acceptance that CFCs were damaging the ozone layer. Freon, once the world's most popular refrigerant, contains CFCs. CFCs cropped up in all sorts of places - in aerosol propellant, plastics, refrigerants...freon was one of these refrigerants. It was phenomenally cheap in comparison to the next best non-CFC refrigerant. Of course the biggest users of freon and other cheap and cheerful CFC products were the nations of the developed world, but when they began phasing CFCs out, they also began to put pressure on other nations to do so. Infrastructure has slowly switched over to production of non-CFC refrigerants and plastics, and this change, spread over the planet, cost a lot of money; a cost that not all consumers, companies, or countries could bear easily.
I think there are a lot of links and similarities between industrial development and the nuclear question.
Allow me to make an understatement when I say nuclear weapons are bad news. The US, China, France, the UK, India, Australia and now Pakistan have nuclear weapons, with the possible additional inclusion of North Korea.
The attitude I see is very much one of a parental discouragement. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, just to quote from the Wikipedia summary, is there to:
"encourage international co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to pursue negotiations in good faith towards nuclear disarmament leading to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons."
I would say that the current international policies towards Iran are very much against the first section of that quote, and there doesn't seem to be much disarmament going on right now. The nations with nuclear weapons want to hang on to them, and at the same time discourage anyone else from getting them.
Us? Oh we need them. But you really shouldn't. They're nasty, terrible things. Yes. Not worth the effort. Trust us on this, we've dropped a few. Okay? Are you going to be a good boy?
I want to bitch about India getting nuclear fuel and technology from the US which, because India hasn't signed, is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whereas Iran, who signed the Treaty in 1970, is being challenged over every step they take towards any kind of nuclear technology. Yes there are other issues there, but I'm already a long way off my point.
Poverty must be eliminated. The developing world needs energy.
How is this going to work?
Could the developed world make (and absorb the cost of) a huge reduction in emissions so that the developing nations can utilize resources in the old fashioned way?
Could the developed world pay for the poorer nations to develop entirely on renewable and sustainable energy sources?
Both of these options require a huge amounts of money (and to justify them, acknowledgement of an advantage already taken that they would rather someone else didn't also take) from the developed world. I can't see either of them happening.
Renewable energy policy offers a way in which we can use the resources we have to tap into near-infinite sources of energy. And while the efforts of enormous wind farms are dwarfed by the output of even the smallest fossil fuel and nuclear power stations, it may be that the generation strategy that got us this far using those energy sources isn't the best path with renewable energy, and by that I mean maybe centralized generation isn't the way to go.
Combined Heat and Power, or CHP, used to be a technique used for big, industrial-scale facilities, most notably a power station in Scandinavia that instead of the usual enormous cooling towers used the waste heat to heat a nearby town. Now the same principle is being applied on a smaller, house-by-house scale. Gas boilers are a common fixture in homes in the UK, and instead of burning gas to heat water for central heating, Home CHP can burn gas to generate electricity and heat your home. The old CHP schemes paid for themselves through the scale of the spaces they heated, but new technologies, improving the efficiency of systems, mean that right now you could pop one of these things into your home and it would pay for itself in electricity savings in eight years.
Which isn't mindblowing, but when you're playing games with money, economies of scale can change everything. Part of the reason it takes 8 years to get your money back is the efficiency of the unit...the other is how much the unit cost in the first place. If production of home sized CHP units goes up, the price goes down. If everyone bought home CHP, the costs would go down and it would make more and more sense. But you're still burning gas.
The technology has a way to go for the mass market, but in order to get across the production volume threshold where economies of scale can operate, a little subsidised push might help. And the technology is already getting that. In an information-driven world, pushing forward ideas and technology costs money, and technological advancement needs to be rewarded through the possessor of that technology having a market advantage and intellectual and physical copyright on what they have created.
With market help for both the technology and the production of energy generators, the threshold for economies of scale can be reached sooner, with better knowledge. And if, internationally, technological advances crucial to the development of mankind and to the preservation of earth's climate are recognised and singled out for programmes to spread these technologies and their effects throughout both the developed and developing worlds, not through charity but through the encouragement and manipulation of economic and market forces, well...that would be great.
It's one of the greatest challenges to our society at the moment; it won't end poverty overnight, it is only a part of the problem. It is part and parcel of poverty, hunger, strife. But it is a part of the problem with light at the end of the tunnel, regardless how long or difficult the journey along the tunnel might be, and I think I need to get back to being a part of it.
I never thought I'd say this, but:
Come on McDonalds, get it together. That's really...cack.
That's actually a step down from 'I'm lovin' it', which was already down so many steps we could barely hear you up here.
It's like saying, 'All of us've been thinking. We're shit-scared of being shut down and replaced with a Dunkin' Donuts cos their coffee is kinda better than ours, so all of us got together and we pooled a bit of cash and went shopping and we bought slightly better coffee than we used to, but we couldn't afford the, you know, really good stuff. Is that okay? Please be lovin' us. We're lovin' you. Honest.'
No slogan on earth could entice me into buying food regularly at McDonalds, but this is tragic.
Points for honesty...but...still no.
I am spending a lot of time at the moment working my arse off with an open browser window sitting behind all the work on a blank 'Create New Entry' page. I don't know what's gotten into me. Working.
Here's an idea for the perennially bored: if you want to see an interesting side to New York, carry a curly wrought- and cast iron headboard fifteen or twenty blocks, from Greenwich Village to Chelsea. People chuckle as they pass, wave from restaurants and cafes and smile at you a lot. People joke at traffic lights and perform entertaining double takes coming out of shops.
Last night I helped Shana carry her craigslist-new bed accessory home after we tried and failed to fit it into a regular taxi, then a minicab taxi, and then waited for a bus. Bloody bus driver. He stopped ten feet away, took one look at the enormous lump of iron we were carrying and drove off. The bus only had about two people on it, as well. Some people, eh? We gave him the finger. Well...two fingers. Separately.
This fondue, with a little customization on the cheese front (adding appenzeller because Krissa 'heard it was lovely', but who needs an excuse to take a dish consisting entirely of cheese and add more cheese?), tastes fantastic with asian pears, washington apples, fresh mushrooms, and french bread. And wine.
Anything exciting going on?
The oscars are-a-coming, and we have two little bits of cinema magic today.
First is the brilliant live-action 'Simpsons' intro, courtesy of Sky One in the UK and nicked by some audacious soul...you can choose between the .wmv file here or the HolyMoly.co.uk page . The actress playing Marge seems totally perfect, but who would have pitched Lisa as a redhead?
And then there's this piece of genius where you can write the script to your own Bollywood movie. Quality.
I'm going to do one later when I'm not so busy.
If you make one, pop the link in the comments box so we can all bask in your Directorial brilliance.
Both of these wonderful things via Relly!
So I was off work sick on Monday with a cold. Not a cataclysmic one, but a cold. I spent the day sleeping, reading blogs, and eating chinese takeout on the sofa wrapped in a blanket watching Doctor Who DVDs.
Because I'd slept so much that day, I took NyQuil (cold'n'flu'n'sleep aid goo) for the first time that night, and I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling incredibly refreshed and well-rested. Still with a cold, but rested.
Of course, I continued to feel rested as I showered, as I brushed my teeth, as I got dressed, and while pulling on my coat to leave, a good twenty minutes later than normal, it dawned on me (slowly) that I was still dopey.
I bought DayQuil (cold'n'flu'n'hyper-making goo) on the way to the office, and two tablespoons' worth of that later I was off like a rocket, and I didn't feel sick at all.
Tuesday night I took NyQuil again, because I wasn't feeling tired, but I was still sick.
Tuesday morning I took DayQuil again, because I was totally wiped out on the NyQuil. Before Cringe last night I was 45 minutes late leaving the office, felt terrible, and didn't want to bother going and getting a spoon (one of the cleaning ladies swiped the dosing cap) so I just chugged a bit from the bottle. Probably too much. I was a bit...skittish at Cringe.
Last night I tried to break the cycle of uppers and downers (a dramatic description, but come on, that's what they are!) and I had a tortuously shit night's sleep.
I've had no DayQuil today, but I'm starting to feel like crap and there're birthday drinks to go to in Brooklyn tonight.
The DayQuil bottle is sitting on my desk, just waiting, looking at me.
Do I give in, like a good little junkie?
I didn't really keep a diary at all, but I did occasionally sit down and try and sort out complicated situations on paper, straighten out my head and happily dramatize away to my heart's content and/or ventricle-rending angst. For some reason these 'Thoughts On Paper' took a very familiar form.
They all have a title - a variation on 'INSERT THING HERE On Paper'. They occur whenever I felt the need to write stuff down. They are full of THINGS IN CAPITALS, self-referential jokes, (lots of brackets) dramatic pauses...and overblown, complex grammar what bends the mind to conjugate.
And the really bad thing is that it all doesn't feel that long ago. I was seventeen, eighteen.
In my bag right now I have a brown folder packed with sheets of A4 lined paper. I took such extreme measures to hide this when I was adding to it on a regular basis that I invested in duct tape. There was a loose floorboard in my bedroom, which over the years had loosened the carpet on top. I began to use it as a little hiding place when I was about 15, but when I started 'Thoughts...' I rearranged my bedroom, but the SOFA on top of the floorboard, taped the carpet to the floorboard so that it didn't ruffle and I still panicked when I realised that my parents had been in my room while I was at school.
I dramatised the security and seriousness of keeping my secrets so much that I even avoided writing the barefaced and absolute truth. How paranoid can you get? Not much more, I think, than this:
When a really juicy situation, packed with shame, guilt and teenage mortification came up I wrote an entire page and a half of A4 in abbreviated words, taking note and making sure that I knew what it all meant as I went along. So dire was the situation I was sure that each letter would be scorched into my mind...a couple of months later I read it again and couldn't understand any of it.
To see the knackered old folder in public last month was...weird.
It's been a month since the last Cringe and I'm feeling a lot better about the word 'attain'.
I'm all set to read again tonight, as are a whole bunch of other people, inlcuding but not limited to those linked above.
Start time is 8.30pm, but it gets packed pretty quickly and it was standing room only before the start last time.
I don't like shopping for clothes. At all.
I have total loyalty to my old clothes born out of determined sloth. If it ain't broke, why buy a new one? But even when it comes to buying something necessary (say, new jeans or shoes) I have a femtosecond-long attention span and I'm completely open to any and all suggestions that will allow me to buy something and flee the shop as soon as possible, up to and including purchases totally different to what I walked in for. It doesn't help that I am the size I am. I am 6'2" tall, and less than 38" but more than 36" around the middle...at the moment.
I very rarely feel like an oversized member of society. I'm a bit overweight, fair enough, but being as tall as I am, my proportions aren't so out of whack that small children point. I'm just chunky.
It seems that this means I am on the very fringe of the sizes available in stores like Gap.
Two weeks ago, despite my attempts to conceal it, it was clear to Krissa that I needed some new jeans. A bad tear on the leg put some trusty legwear out of commission, and the other trousers, on high rotation, just couldn't take the spotlight...so it was either the spotlight or my completely out-of-left-field suggestion that we do mid-week laundry that alerted her.
After 72 hours of constant and merciless mental torture, I caved. We went shopping.
The Gap seems like a cool place to shop. You walk in and things seem pretty funky. The staff are all wearing Gap clothes, the floors are polished wood, an up-to-the-second fashionable soundtrack bounces down from somewhere in the ceiling, the mannequins look positively cheery despite their lack of faces. Best of all, there are so many clothes that a shoppaphobe like myself can easily befuddle himself, buy socks when he meant to buy a suit, and be out of the place in five minutes.
Alas, this was not a solo flight. My copilot was Krissa, feared fashionista of a thousand sales, the kind of person who can monologue for ten minutes on the difference between auburn (reddish-brown) and russet (brownish-red), and, more formidably, an ex-Gap employee.
After passing through the front of the store with my blinkers on, we slipped by the checkouts. The crowds parted, and there, there before us, was The Wall Of Trousers. The display started at ground level and just kept going up, just how you would have imagined the clothes depot at the North Pole when you were a kiddiwinkle, if you were the sort of child who was weird enough to hope Santa had a Gap franchise. Pastel shelving carried towers of blue denim up, up, into the stratosphere. The mind's eye said that logically, somewhere up there, slowly blinking red lights were flashing through windblown cloud, welcoming international passengers into JFK.
I stood for a second with my mouth open, drinking in the spectacle. Krissa bound off into the women's section like a hungry cat let loose in a hamster farm, her whoops of glee echoing up into the mists.
"Can I help you with anything, sir?" said a Gap Personage.
She was a very small Gap Personage.
"Yes," I said. "I'm looking for some jeans, 38 waist, 34 leg."
She peered up, squinting into the infinite.
"I think I can see some in that pile there." I pointed generally upwards.
"Back in one moment, sir."
She nipped away for a moment and came back pushing a set of wooden steps emblazoned with 'For Employee Use ONLY', but by this time I had tried to take matters into my own hands and on tiptoe I was straining for the bottom pair of jeans in a ten-high stack about eight feet in the air.
"Allow me, sir," said Gap Personage.
She climbed the four steps, stretched out as far as she could, and reached...the bottom pair of jeans in the ten-high stack.
"Was it these ones, sir?"
"Er, no...about eight up from there, I'm afraid."
I felt a sudden affinity for Diminutive Gap Personage. We were both having problems with our immediate environment because of our size. She strained upwards some more.
"Oh, hang on, no, they're 38 waist 30 leg. I couldn't see. It was in the light."
She was down the steps, off and away in a flash.
"Wellifthere'sanythingelsejustletmeknow!" she cried over her shoulder, accelerating into the khakis. All the camaraderie I had felt was gone. She had abandoned me.
I sighed and spent the next ten minutes contemplating the piles and the piles and the piles (and the piles) of jeans, all awaiting homes with people a great deal smaller than myself. The sizes went so low that I began to wonder if I would ever in my days notice the sorts of people who would buy these jeans, or if they lived out their entire lives below my line of sight, passing two-dimensionally through doors and walls, unencumbered by any substantial physical presence.
In the end, aided by motivational glaring from Krissa and some determined peering on my own part, I spotted a pair in my size just above the tree line, next to a feisty little glacier hanging on for dear life between Boot Cut and Straight Cut (Loose). I grabbed a tallish Gap Personage to get them for me. While he was off getting an oxygen cylinder for the climb I asked another shop assistant to tell me if there were any other jeans of that size in the store. She came back and said no, but they did do larger sizes on gap.com, with free delivery isn't that great?
I glowered at her and snatched the jeans from the descending assistant, and scurried off into the changing rooms clutching another couple of pairs that were nearly but obviously not quite my size, just for the look of the thing. I don't like to confess to Keeping Up Appearances, but I'd be buggered if I was going to have stood there for twenty minutes and then slip into the changing rooms with one thing on my arm and a 'This was all you had in my size!' expression on my face for the attendant.
In the event the jeans fit really well, and despite my burgeoning Gap hatred I really like them. But I shudder to think how it would have turned out had I been one size bigger.