Photo Documentation of Androp Gerard, circa 1989
November 17, 2016
I’m starting a journal designed to explore what kind of man I am, what kind of man I’ve been in the past, and what kind of universe I’m immersed within. Plus, I will document a few aspects of my largely uneventful life. I’m making a lot of this stuff up, which is a sweet anxiety-reduction technique.
If I thought nobody was going to read this stuff, I doubt I would bother writing. If more than one and fewer than five people ever read it: I’m good. I count as one, as long as I proof read, so I’m good. Nervous embarrassment is the emotional state that comes to mind when I think about people I know actually reading this text, and knowing I wrote it.
Children and grandchildren of mine might someday read this material, and maybe gain something. That thought, hopefully, will keep me floating for some period of time.
This material will be produced without reference to any literary knowledge or convention: so in a completely unfettered and largely ignorant way. I’ve read no more than 40 or 50 books total in my 60 years of life – exclusive of science books (we’ll get to that). The text will mainly consist of short, clear sentences. I will use simple vocabulary, which is all I know, really. The literate will hate this style, I expect.
As currently planned, this is truly a journal, with entries by date. Re-arrangement by broad topic may be appropriate if enough text accumulates, but any classification tends to be non-discrete. All topics tend to intermingle, so no good way to group text by topic exists.
Nonetheless, I’ll start with an introductory paragraph or two listing general topics and some of my biases. This makes me feel exposed, of course. In fact maybe I should just pretend to be me and write this as a fiction. Wait, am I doing this already?
If you find the topics or the biases offensive, you can just stop reading early on. Assuming you actually made it this far.
Biases and List of Probable Topics
The presentation of many topics will fall into the broader category of what it means to be human. People I know, and me, fit under that umbrella. That fact is not much of a testament to any particular expertise on my part. If I knew anything about gophers, I could write about them without being one, for example. Not that I actually know anything much about gophers.
I am a political liberal and we’ve just elected Donald J. Trump, so politics will be a topic.
I am too apathetic to call myself an atheist, but I am non-religious, and religion will be discussed to some extent. In this regard, I am “in the closet” (well, not to those reading this, I guess). Nothing makes me feel more isolated than not believing in anything supernatural.
Nature will also be a topic, in the sense of discussions focused around non-human plants and animals. This is the only subject where I can actually claim some expertise based on an earned academic degree: I have a Ph.D. in ecology.
Human brain function, especially the link between brain evolution and human behavior, seems like the ultimate topic. It explains why each person does what they do in any given situation, and how social organization emerges. This underpins all other topics where humans are the primary actors. Since we dominate the earth, a lot of topics are circumscribed! The unfortunate fact in this regard, though, is that I do not know much about brain function.
Random activities and thoughts will form the backbone of the journal, I hope. This might be something of a problem: my activities are few and routine, I have few social interactions, and my family generally ignores me. Nonetheless, random, somewhat interesting thoughts occur to me regularly, even though my activities are mundane. We shall see how it goes.
The journal entries for random activities and thoughts on any given day may or may not be entirely fictional.
Journal Entry: November 17, 2016
Politics: since Trump just won an election nine days ago, this is foremost on my mind.
Primary concern: he is going to have the nuclear codes. A narcissist with the emotional maturity of a 13 year old boy is going to have the nuclear codes for the most powerful nation on earth.
Second concern: Trump’s minions seem likely to attempt to usurp power in a permanent way, not allowing free elections in the future. After all, the guy admires Putin and Erdogan.
Final concern: most of my friends who are liberal seem to have moved on and are not particularly anxious about the first and second concerns, listed above. This falls within the realm of human brain function I think: they have simply employed coping mechanisms. They have convinced themselves that the situation is not really that bad. Or they are ignoring the situation. I get it: we did vote, and now what can we do? No sense remaining freaked out. That is proven bad for your health: avoid anxiety. Of course, not freaking out was bad for the health of 6 million Jews a few decades back. So there is that.
Random thoughts from today: I just bought a set of tires with a 65,000 mile wear out warranty. What does that even mean, does anyone know? If you rotate your tires every 6,000 miles (who does that?) and can prove it (who could do that, even if they DID rotate their tires every 6,000 miles?) then if they wear out at 45,000 miles you get what? You get $3 off each on your next new set of $150-each tires? And who decides if the tires are worn out at 70% or 80% or 100%? Do you have to go back where you originally got the tires? What if that place is closed? What if you move? What if you sell the car? What if you bought a car with tires already on it? That does happen. If I were a tire maker, I would mark every set of tires I sold as 100,000 wear out warranty. It would sell tires and cost nothing. The added benefit is that anyone who actually tried to do what was needed to redeem the warranty would be so stressed by the effort (and we assume, by other similar efforts – if they do that for tires, they do that for everything) that they would be way more likely to die than the average customer. Anxious people die more. So a tire maker’s chances of actually paying out anything on any tire warranty are near zero.
That reminds me of other situations where a seller can cheat a buyer very easily. I got a container of cashews today. The sign said $2 off INSTANT SAVINGS. So I go through the line, and my partner looks at the receipt. “You did not get $2 off – do you want to talk to someone?” For $2? Are you nuts? Just to be told I was wrong about the sign, and it applied to some other item two isles away? I would not talk to any of these smock-coats with their scrubbed, vacuous, grinning faces, and un-kept, oddly colored hair, for $20, let alone $2. So if I were a retailer, I’d just randomly put up signs: $2 off. Put up the signs ambiguously so nobody can tell what they apply to. Then whatever, if someone calls you on it, argue that they were stupid and the sign does not apply to that item, you are so sorry for the confusion. But then smile and say, “Dear valued customer, here is a coupon for a small bag of pretzels the next time you shop here, as long as you spend $100, and as long as it is tomorrow, between 8 AM and 9 AM.” If the customer pitches a big enough fit, go ahead and just give them $2. Or, call store security. Your option. If they’re not white, for sure, call store security. You’ll sell a lot of expensive containers of cashews before anyone gets $2 back.
Later we can discuss air miles, hotel points, little fricking punch cards for yogurt, “what is your phone number so you can get a free bag of dog food after you buy 30 bags of expensive dog food,” grocery coupons (god, the wife and I went through a phase of clipping and filing them), and the like. All of those things make your life worse, and induce you to buy things you do not want, and you do not need, and actually cost you money. I had a friend who said to me, 35 years ago, grocery coupons were like natural selection: the stupid people do not use them and the smart people use them. WTF? So then the smart people get fatter eating even larger quantities of even CHEAPER bad food, the production of which (by corporate farms) is already paid for 50% by the government? So I see this coupon-clipper guy, “I have not seen you in years, Tommy. You look like a million … in ones … with a peachy complexion … yellow and blotchy.” Sure, grocery coupons are for smart people, Tommy.
Journal Entry: November 18, 2016
Under Random Unusual Events there’s this: I almost had a heart attack from freight yesterday night. I’m in bed and I hear what might be the garage door opening, so I get up and look: no car in the driveway. WTF? I open the door to the garage, and just as I do, my oldest child charges through with two enthusiastic dogs.
Me: “Jesus H. Christ!”
“Oh sorry, I couldn’t find my phone to text or call. Sorry.”
Me: “Holy shit.” Pant, pant.
“It’s a good thing you don’t have a gun.”
Me: “If I had a gun, I would have killed myself on November 9th.”
Which brings up Politics: I spent 20 minutes reading some news and 30 minutes trying to calm myself down. My friends who are coping better: more power to you!
People seem to be talking about things like “Let’s try to understand Trump voters.” And “Hell with that, let’s NOT try to understand those stupid, over-religious, bigots.”
More calm banter seems to be mainly about who he is appointing to what position. Many of them are certainly bigots. Many appear openly willing to try to seize power by purging agencies of anyone who is not with them. I have colleagues in natural resources agencies who have expressed fear to me in this regard.
All of this misses the bigger picture, which is: Trump is going to be POTUS. The dangers are (1) he will get pissed off and start dropping nuclear bombs, and (2) he and his minions will seize power, and not allow open elections in 4 years, or 8 years, or however long they can.
The mainstream media seem to be acting like nothing very serious is happening. It does not seem irrational to me to be in panic mode. Of course, we humans cannot maintain a “lion is charging” posture for long periods of time without killing ourselves, so we just cope. Keep coping, friends, but remember: the lion is an orange-skinned narcissist with the weirdest comb-over ever seen. and he is charging.
Meanwhile, we all do need to continue on with life. For my part, I newly donated money to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Regarding that last one: recall that Mike Pence is going to be vice president.
One final note: Bernie Sanders stated that he will be happy to work with Trump insofar as Trump wants to fight big corporations. Good luck with that Bernie: do you not recall that Trump is a Republican? They seem worse that Democrats to me along those lines.
In Other Random Events, my wife saw a Barred Owl swoop in and get a Goldfinch yesterday afternoon out the basement window. Then he or she flew up on a branch in plain sight and gulped down the little bird in one swallow.
Photo documentation of what a Barred Owl looks like after gulping down a goldfinch on a sunny fall afternoon. Foreground shows glue on a circular metal bird feeder left over from dismembered homemade lawn art. Low, green shrubs are bush honeysuckle. Bird is on a shagbark hickory.
Since I just started the journal, I can also report, in retrospect, that I saw a mature Bald Eagle on a nest in a cottonwood tree on a trail where I regularly ride my bike several days ago. A pair of eagles nested there last year, too. The ducks on the adjacent secondary sewage treatment settling ponds are saying, “Shit! How many of us are those white-headed buggers going to get this year. Whose goddamned brilliant idea was it to winter within 50 meters of an active Bald Eagle nest again, anyway? Maybe you’ll listen next time when I say, ‘They were here last year, do you really think this is a good idea?” And they say, “When they fly over I can’t tell if they’re falcons or eagles. Do we flush and frantically fly away or do we sit tight? If they’re falcons we gotta sit; if they’re eagles we gotta flush. Well screw it, they can’t get us all.” So they are a bit similar to Democrats in their thinking right now. They cannot get us all.
Finally, I make coffee for my wife each morning while she sleeps. I pull shots using a Rancilio Miss Sylvia with grounds from a Rancilio Rocky grinder. Hint: get a good home espresso machine and grinder if you want to make lattes at home. I have been using a portafilter I hate, because it spatters everywhere. But I do it for the wife, because she needs a lot of caffeine. That’s the kind of man I am. This morning I tried a new methodology: three pulls through a regular 2-shot portafilter, rather than two through a spatter-filer. That means one and a half for her, and one and a half for me. No spattering, lovely coffee.
Here’s the bottom line: I highly recommend making lattes at home in the morning. The pleasure is worth the effort. Caffeine addiction is the best addition of all.
Final comment: I really like Jenny Lawson’s stuff. Check her out at The Bloggess. This is not a paid advertisement, but it occurs to me that I more or less have started a blog. Jenny’s blog is the only blog I read regularly. I admire her.