unsolicited morning cage fights are worth it

For about ten seconds as I walked to the train this morning I got treated to the joy of watching a sparrow duel some kind of bug.  They danced around the concrete as this bug (I couldn’t tell what kind) tried to get away from the sparrow.  The bug lost.

Then the sparrow flew away in a burst, likely to go hang out somewhere and eat in glory.  This will likely be the most enthralling thing I watch all month.

I had thought it’d have been great to get a video of this.  But it happened so fast.   And, as previously written about on this blog, sometimes the best memories are the ones where you don’t take a single photo or video.

vaccination without reward

All the vaccine holdouts in the Western world should go ahead and let their governments know they won’t be participating.  Then those countries can ship all the vaccines they’re holding to the rest of the planet who would kill for them.  Rather than have to do without vaccines entirely, or get jabbed by a Chinese or Russian vaccine that’s mostly made of cadmium, green tea, and old newspaper shreddings of Pravda.

But what’s with all these vaccine incentives?  Some States are giving out free beer, chances at a vacation, an alien tome that explains the meaning of life, lottery winnings, $43 equivalent in Roman Imperial gold, and so on.  How come I didn’t get any of this fancy shit?  I just showed up twice and they jabbed me like it was nothing.  Where’s my Golden Idol?

Incentives are for losers.  Fear is for winners.  Here are some ideas that’ll be sure to get people into the vaccine door.  We’ll call it:  The Arcturus Project Vaccination Without Reward Program (TAPVWRP).

Get vaccinated OR:

1) Home is entered into a lottery where the fire department chooses a house to burn down for training purposes

2) Beloved dog and/or cat is offered up as a new permanent pet to a child with cancer, if child expires, pet does not come home and instead goes to another cancer child

3) Fired from job and not allowed to apply for a new one until a cooling period expires, financial difficulties are irrelevant

4) Hooligans are hired to throw bricks through windows and at cars at random intervals

5) Are entered into an all-purpose death battle royale inside a dome while reality television watches like some kind of D grade novel

6) Whatever the greatest fear, it must be endured it; for example, if one hates spiders they gotta open up the front door via a hole in the wall filled with bugs ala Temple of Doom

7) The State deliberately infects them with the Fall 2021 strain of influenza

8) Are forced to sit down and listen as Christopher Walken reads the first five books of the Old Testament (no bathroom or food breaks)

9) Friends are informed via a written forged letter (with handwritten signature) that forged author is a closet cannibal and wants to eat their tasty, tangy flesh

10) Why did I do this list?  there is something wrong with me

to Office Space is a verb

I watched four of my employees this morning struggle mightily with the photocopier like it was cavemen learning about fire. They fought the machine for a half hour before they got it to work again. This copier is brand new, and it already is failing. It’s a Xerox, who has been making copiers since 1959 and things still don’t work.

You’d think if they’d been making the same kind of machine for over six decades they’d have figured this sort of thing out. Nope! Everybody around the planet is still struggling with the same flaws, failure, frustrations, and fury. It’s almost like they build these machines poorly on purpose. So you can pay them for maintenance or have to buy a new one all the time.

Everybody wants to Office Space their photocopier. It will always be so. Aliens don’t even need to blow up the planet to take over. They just need to give every family on Earth their own copier. After one month of dealing with failure, we’ll be begging the aliens to become our overlords. Just as long as they destroy all copiers.

not complying with electronic equipment environmental disposal / destruction laws is the dream of every white collar employee

human stupidity reaches a higher plane of existence

So we’ve started to see a brand new kind of water receptacle in the office lately.  It’s the BuildLife Motivational Water Bottle.  Here a picture of this insanity:

So you see, the purpose of this bottle is to display the time of day.  Then you get to drink as much water to get to that time.  Do you get it?  Then, if you fall behind you can read all these motivational slogans to keep you going throughout your day.  So you can stay hydrated.  DO YOU GET IT?!  Wow, who would have thought hydrating your body throughout the day could feel like a mandatory work training event where they take a roster.

You know, once upon a time humans were drinking not water, but ultra-low alcohol beer to stay hydrated.  Water was poisoned or tainted for the most part.  They drank this swill out of simple stone or pottery or animal skins.  Now we apparently need something that will set you back a minimum of $13 to look like an idiot.  At first I only saw flaky coworkers sporting this.  Now a ton of people are.

My personal water source is a nondescript stainless steel bottle in dark blue.  I have no idea what brand it is, I don’t care.  I think it cost me $5.  I think it’s about 24 ounces.  Maybe.  I drink from it five times a day.  I do so without any motivational crap whatsoever.  I just do it, it’s a task I set my mind to and I do it.  End of story.

I have some questions about the methodology of this bottle though:

1) What do you do if you get up before or after 7 AM?  Or go to bed before or after 9 PM?

2) If you’re drinking water at 9 PM for hydration purposes, wouldn’t you get a terrible night’s sleep by going to the bathroom all night?

3) If I fill the bottle with vodka instead of water does the same motivational spirit still count?

4) What happens if I get to 9 PM and I’ve only reached the 5 PM mark?  The bottle says NO EXCUSES.  What’s the bottle going to do to me when I fail, kidnap my niece?  Do I have to beat myself with a wire brush?

5) Is any human being on the planet actually motivated by statements such as “Keep going” or “Tons of ENERGY”?  If so, they should severely contemplate their life choices and report to a reeducation camp.

6) Is purchase and display of this bottle more of a personal flair statement first, and a water source second?  Kind of like how you wear a tie of your favorite sports team or stupid superhero character?

7) The water bottle is clear, so if you’re outside or it’s hot, you have to suffer all day drinking hot water.  Or, constantly have to put it back in the fridge or cooler thus killing the perpetual hydration process the bottle requires.

8) If two people have this bottle, and it’s 3 PM, and one person has met the bottle’s demanded goal, and the other person hasn’t, does the person who’s fallen behind have to cut off their pinky like Yakuza?  Is the shame too great?

9) How long will this company / fad last before they go bankrupt and the founder moves onto Etsy to design Hello Kitty water bottles so poorly even the Japanese don’t buy them?

10) Why did I do this post?

We, here, at TAP are here to help.  Motivation is for losers.  Demotivation is for those who take life seriously and are winners.  Here are our bottle recommendations:

7 AM – Congratulations, you woke up, you lived.  Nothing else you accomplish today will be just as successful.

9 AM – Drink this water, or you’ll die.

11 AM – Just kidding, you’re going to die one day anyways.  Resistance is futile.

1 PM – You have accomplished nothing of actual value today.

3 PM – Whatever you have done today will be meaningless to you in three years.

5 PM – In 147 years, nobody will remember your bleached skeleton ever existed.

7 PM – Are you with family or alone?  Either way, you’re alone.

 9PM – There is a monster under your bed.  It’s the monster inside your head.  Fear everything.  Sleep tight.

it’s a crazy cicada café

So my dog, sigh, finally broke through the knowledge tomb door and discovered should could, in fact, and did, in fact, like to eat cicadas.  She napped two of them off my brother’s deck during a happy post-covid Memorial Day barbeque.  She grabbed them before any of us could intervene.  Her pro level digestion took care of those two poor bastards just fine.  It’s just gross, and probably unhealthy if consumed in volume.

Now she walks around the apartment courtyard with her tracking radar on as she attempts to locate further cicadas to eat.  I have to watch her like a hawk.  But, per prior post, most of the cicadas in my apartment courtyard didn’t survive the first few weeks.

And now apparently the government is saying that folks with seafood allergies shouldn’t eat cicadas.  I’m not even going to try and wrap that one around my brain, how a cicada can make the body react as if it was a crab?

Also, I somehow (only somewhat) get the whole eating insects thing.  Lots of cultures do it.  Likely, in order for all humanity to eat meat / fish long term at least some insects will need to be a part of planetary diet, etc.  But, sorry, I can’t do it.  I don’t get it.  Maybe you have to be raised with it?  I sure wasn’t.

just how bad it can get

Written by a correspondent in Delhi from The Economist:

Correspondent’s diary


India’s second wave of covid-19 feels nothing like its first


Holed up in Delhi, where friends are falling ill too fast to count


Diary


Apr 30th 2021


DELHI


WE ARE AMID an ocean of human suffering but cannot see it. Having returned abruptly to the kind of isolation we hoped we had put behind us months ago, my wife, our two little boys and I are staying put in our nice flat, in a leafy “colony” near the centre of Delhi. Our new rule is strict: we do not go outside for any reason. The past 12 months have trained us well enough for that; these routines are well-worn, for parents and children. We grown-ups however cannot stay away from our phones, and so peace of mind is a distant memory. My wife just called from downstairs. Her friend’s brother-in-law needs an oxygen concentrator or he is likely to die at home. If we find one for him (and she is already working her connections), can we scrounge enough cash to buy another, for ourselves?


The mind’s eye is filled with pictures of desperate families scrambling after oxygen cylinders, failing more often than not. All day the early-summer heat has me picturing bodies, bagged and stacked on the pavement, waiting their turn for the pyres that burn everywhere across the city. Sometimes I switch off the screen in my home office on the second floor and step onto the roof terrace to water potted plants and scan the neighbourhood below. All is quiet and green. Smoke from the crematorium down the street has disappeared into the usual haze of the season. Our small park is more leaf-blown than usual, but someone has been watering there too. A security guard at the corner is wearing his mask, but he’s been doing that for a year now, as if the past month were nothing new. In contrast to the first lockdown, the milkman is still coming and newspapers are being delivered.


Yet everything has changed, with a speed that we still cannot comprehend. My family had hunkered down much harder than most. We kept our social life in forfeit and wore masks outdoors, if not always at the playground. We had come to seem like laggards within India. Most of this country began to relax after September if not earlier, as the caseload started to drop. Just last month I started travelling again—I was road-tripping through weekly markets, sampling country liquor offered by strangers for a cute feature story, then watching a jubilant political rally fill a small town’s bazaar. Days later I was dandling my two-year-old on my lap at an airport, sharing his first iced lolly. Those were the before times. A fortnight later, back in Delhi, I find that more than half of my friends have covid-19, in their families if not in their own bodies. Acquaintances are dying faster than they can be counted. I read in the papers that the forestry department is clear-cutting parkland to feed more wood to those pyres.


The official news outlets also bring the daily statistics: 386,000 new infections today, 208,000 dead counted since the pandemic began. Between the lines, it is possible to read the disclaimers too. If only 1.7m tests are being conducted per day, what can that 386,000 really mean? Is it that 0.0004% of the country has come down with the virus since yesterday, or that nearly 23% did? That would be 314m people, nearly the whole population of America. Obviously, the true number lies between those absurd extremes, but who knows where? The statistics about death tolls are more nakedly false. It is plain that thousands are dying every day, but who, where and exactly how many we cannot know, thanks to some petty deceptions but mostly sheer confusion. I get a better sense from the piecemeal reporting in Indian websites covering, say, the smaller towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh, where none of the official line can be trusted, than from my fellow observers forced to stay in the capital.


But the saddest and also the most terrifying accounts all come via the phone, in texts or panicked voices. Everyone is ill and no one can find medical help. Stating the obvious, the American embassy mass-messages, “Access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited in India due to the surge in Covid-19 cases” and concludes that my fellow Americans should make plans to leave the country “as soon as it is safe to do so”. Social-media feeds are an endless list of pleas on behalf of the dying. A friend from Lucknow, living in New York, writes elegant, almost daily obituaries for friends from his hometown—three of them, I can’t help noting, are my age, and at least one was, also like me, fully vaccinated.


I have a nightly ritual of phone calls to check on friends within a two-mile radius. An elderly woman has recovered, but feels distraught that her neighbours across the street both died. Another friend’s aunt is still ailing but in the meantime her husband died—I hadn’t heard he was infected. Newborn twins, their parents and their nanny are all running a fever in tandem. A WhatsApp group set up by foreign journalists to discuss visa issues has become another place to plead for help finding medical supplies. It informs me that the clinic where I found my own second dose of AstraZeneca a week ago has run out of vaccines. Only 1.8% of the country has been fully vaccinated and it is anybody’s guess how long it will take to manufacture or import the roughly 2bn doses we are left wanting.


Watching the other international correspondents fall ill and scramble to leave tends to make me want to stay behind these locked doors, with my potted plants and boisterous little kids. Appliances may be breaking down, but our groceries keep coming and the WiFi works. An NGO in Delhi counts more than 100 Indian journalists who have died of covid-19, 52 of them this month. For their bravery, I am able to read about those pyres, without having to risk seeing them for myself.


This horror is noticed abroad. Messages from faraway friends I haven’t seen in years convince me of that. They are worried for us and I am happy to reassure them that we four are fine, relieved to be talking about the situation from the bird’s-eye view of my terrace. Much easier on the nerves than ringing up the next-door neighbour to find out whether our mutual friend is still alive.


But my long-distance conversations convince me that something has been lost in the transmission. These well-read friends in Europe, America and East Asia never understood how different the past year of covid was, here in India—and so they cannot understand what it feels like now to hit the vertical wall of this so-called second wave. I struggle to convey that we have not been on a wavy ride, like Britain’s or some American states’. Look at the shape of our graphs. Our first surge was scary, but tapered away like the tail of a paper tiger. The virus had spread everywhere during 2020, no doubt, despite a brutal lockdown and other efforts at containment. Sero-positivity surveys conducted in some cities showed that majorities of large populations had been exposed to the coronavirus and developed antibodies to it. But Indian bodies resisted it, perhaps, they say, because of “cross immunity” gained unnoticed over lifetimes lived amid the barrage of everyday germs. The rickety hospitals stayed afloat too, and eventually their covid wards emptied. By the beginning of 2021 we were saying that 150,000 Indians had died. For perspective: three times as many die from tuberculosis every year. “At the beginning of this pandemic, the whole world was worried about India’s situation,” the prime minister, Narendra Modi, recalled in a triumphal mood only in February. “But today India’s fight against corona is inspiring the entire world.”


India fought a phony war and—by dumb luck—it won. Then suddenly, less than three weeks ago, our world turned upside down. Having taken credit for his country’s divine good fortune of last year, Mr Modi will want to shrug off blame for the second wave, as if it were an act of God which no preparation could have averted or even lessened. There is a lot to say about what could have been done instead. Yet without any of the government’s self-serving intentions, many of the rest of us feel convinced that a different disease has emerged since our year-long dry run began. Covid-21 I find myself calling it.


The facts one would need to build that case stay stubbornly out of reach. The available genomic analysis shows that the distinctively Indian “double mutant” variant, B.1.617, is prevalent in some parts of the country but not in Delhi, where the Kentish B.1.1.7 is like wildfire. India is woefully behind in sequencing its strains, having only announced a genomic consortium in December 2020 and then funding it only in March.


What is clear to clinicians, as opposed to the boffins, is that covid-21 is more transmissible than the kind we saw last year. A doctor friend tells another friend in her podcast that this is “much much more contagious, much much more transmissible than the wild variety of covid-19.” It used to be that just one member of a household might catch it. Now everyone does. In our extended family, in Kolkata, 13 of 15 people under one roof became infected before any showed symptoms.


Its “immune-escape” mutations are formidable. Being vaccinated, I am sensitive to the stories of inoculated people falling ill—which could not be more common, in my social circles—and even dying. The vaccines are saving lives, no doubt. Deaths among the fully vaccinated are rare; I hear of them only among friends of friends of friends, like the poor 25-year-old lab technician in a hospital whose best friend teaches German to a pal of mine over Zoom.
Which brings us to the fact that this time young people and even children are developing symptoms, including an erstwhile quarantine-playmate of our four-year-old. Younger adults are becoming severely ill, as they did not last year. Finally, those people who have had the disease twice, a plentiful category thanks to that “immune-escape” feature, say that the reinfection feels different. The fever comes quicker and they are more prone to developing pneumonia.
Dumb, divine luck with covid-19, and now the bad luck of covid-21, as if it were retribution. That is the way it feels to those of us who find ourselves without access to reliable aggregations of information, but awash in personal anecdotes. I suspect that someday biomedical research may prove that the two kinds of luck were connected, but we will have to wait years for that.


For now there is much outrage. Maybe Mr Modi’s government will pay a price for its blunders and complacency. I suspect that this is mostly expressed as a wishful diversion, in tragic pursuit of a silver lining. That would be a way for my part of Delhi, those who have the privilege of sitting at home and contemplating escape, to take a break from our primary occupations: fear and sorrow.

quick boss changes are fun

I’m constantly amazed at how human organizations so easily decide to spike their own success. We do it to ourselves. It’s not like one of those science fiction episodes where the slug in the brain makes people do dumb things. In real life, the alien slugs would take a hard look at us, then set up shop in Bermuda and get wasted while we do their work for them.

My good boss has been in the job for three years. Now he’s leaving, and they’re replacing him within one week. Do you think one week is enough time for a solid turnover between bosses? Well, our executive leadership sure thinks so. Which is another mark against them for why I wouldn’t let them walk my dog for three seconds unsupervised.

The other thing is the new boss has zero experience doing this job. So we got that going for us too. It’ll be a long six months as we drag this poor bastard across the bureaucracy of our asinine cubicle hell work environment. We’re gonna have to hold this guy’s hand every step of the way.

Here are some examples:

1) Boss makes a statement, as fact, when in reality it is fiction because he hasn’t the background

2) Boss makes his escape and attends a meeting without the subject matter expert to keep him honest and unknowingly destroys project

3) Alien slug monster calls boss on phone to verify ineptness continues, when confirmed, slug hangs up phone and orders another martini

4) Boss gets angry and yells at and demeans fellow human being in frustration at inability to comprehend knowledge he does not possess

5) Boss attempts to make up for lack of experience by ingratiating himself with executive leadership, thus removing the blocking powers of prior good boss, and causing all the executive’s bad ideas to become our problem

6) Slug monster sends a false pretentious, patronizing thank you not to new boss with the name of an old friend, slug writes that new boss is the best, smartest person in the world, and needs essentially no advice to excel

7) New boss awkwardly attempts social contact at mandatory (and covid illegal) work greeting event by telling humorous (to him) stories from things he did 17 years ago

8) Boss asks question, we give answer, boss asks same question 11 days later

9) Old good boss asks us how we’re all doing when we run into him in the hallway, extremely awkward and inaccurate comments are uttered and old good boss feels bad

10) Alien slug monster wants to speed up the pace of disaster, tells us that we must give bad advice to the new boss and that if we don’t, slug monster will set off a fusion bomb underneath a city, when we discover that the bomb is in Brussels, we shrug and laugh at them

disconnect everything you can

Recently, a town of 15K people near Tampa, Florida nearly had their entire water supply poisoned by a hacker. Somebody hacked the system and increased the lye content of the water to poison levels. Only the actions of a very alert employee (who should be the guest of honor at the next Super Bowl) saved 15K people from drinking poison.

Guess what, nobody cares. To me, this should be front page news for a week. To others, the Brittney Spears documentary and the Aunt Jemima rebrand are more important. These news articles go above the near poisoning of 15K Americans, which is off the front page after less than a day. So this is another reminder of how debased and useless the modern media is.

I can’t stress this enough, disconnect everything you can. I’m a former loser computer science major. I’ve never used computer science, but am still a loser. If you have four hours, give me a shout and I’ll explain to you in intricate detail just how unsecure the Internets is.

You cannot secure the Internets. At its most basic 0 and 1 level, it can’t ever be totally secure. This goes back to how the founders of the Internets designed the backstage to be totally open and freewheeling. When these dudes made the Internet’s core coding and theory, security wasn’t even on their top 100 concerns.

I was helping my Ma troubleshoot her fridge this weekend, spoiler alert, never buy an LG fridge. In the manual they have Wi-Fi instructions. Why does your fridge need to connect to the Internets? Soon your freaking pacemaker will be. What the fuck are people thinking? I think they don’t understand just how unsecure this all is. The “Internet-of-Things” is a fucking dystopian nightmare in waiting.

You need a phone and a computer to connect to the Internets. Oh, and a gaming console, if that’s your thing. Disconnect everything else. As the bumbled coronavirus response has shown, if you’re counting on the government to protect you, you have the wrong idea. You have to protect yourself.

contemplating my future elderly food poisoning death

Yesterday I only had about an hour to cook between work meetings, a failed video date, meeting with my Guests to plot the overthrow of the Laotian government, and my meditation to contemplate the exact, precise differences between English Stilton and French Roquefort.

So I went with a simple salmon dish with a side of roasted squash and zucchini from my very first, original cookbook I bought two decades ago, the Good Housekeeping cookbook. This old classic doesn’t melt your brain with recipes. These are simple takes on good old food. Could I have made this meal off the top of my head, sure, but with everything I had going on yesterday I didn’t want to think.

Everything tasted great. The problem was because I was in a hurry, and not quite paying attention since I was on my work computer for part of the time, the salmon was dramatically under cooked. I mean it had a great crispy skin and a solid crusty spice rub, but the interior flesh was mild if not approaching raw. This was not sushi grade salmon and so the possibility of disease was present. I ate it anyways and I feel fine.

I wonder how I would have handled it when I’m say 70? Food poisoning kills several thousand Americans a year. When I’m 70, I’m probably going to under cook some chicken in the same fashion. Then I’ll be vomiting and running through the streets in a bathrobe, delirious, and ultimately get plastered by a bus.

My parents didn’t grow up destitute, but rich they were not. Food was simple and wholesome, and cheap. One grandmother was a fantastic cook, the other was not. But food poisoning was a concern under these circumstances. The very first medium rare steak I had was well after I was 18. This was because the family wouldn’t serve steak to the family anything less than well done. This probably sounds insane, but it was the mindset of a family eating a lot of cheap meat, and concerns that all little microbes were cooked out.

Were these concerns valid? Maybe, but probably not. Nobody in my family has checked out due to food poisoning, but maybe that’s because the family was cautious. Is this a Simpsons tiger-rock question?

Plus, I guess you could say my family was trained, experienced with the classic English / American tradition of cooking. What do I mean by this? Well, I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’m rewatching Poirot. The contrast for comical purposes is Poirot is a very refined Belgian who loves his food fancy. Japp is the gruff English bobby who probably beats half his suspects in shackles off screen when Poirot’s not on the case.

Poirot serves Japp pigs feet, Miss Lemon serves Japp lemon sole, and he’s horrified at both. Then later Japp turns around and serves Poirot meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and stewed peas, and Poirot claims he’s allergic to meatloaf. These scenes are handled perfectly, and this classic, good natured humor always get me a rare open laugh. But, essentially my family ate Japp’s style of food. Now what happens is I’ll cook my fancy shit, but when I go home my Ma cooks in the old style. Oh man, how I love both these styles of food so very much.

What I do know is my body today will not be my body at 70. Would I eat the under cooked salmon several decades from now? Don’t know, god willing at that point it wouldn’t be my decision alone. Or, maybe I’ll just say fuck it, swing some beer, and dig in and roll the dice. And if I go out the door at 70 eating tasty under cooked salmon? Oh well, worse ways to go, for sure.

New Zealand, from the top rope!

I’m often so grateful that when I first began my travel adventures the smartphone didn’t exist. I had an old school flip phone where texting was a downright marvel. Social media was a term that didn’t exist. I had my own camera (originally a very crappy one) that I used to take my shots. Essentially most, but not every travel post I’ve ever done on this blog was travel I did without a flat screen smartphone.

I wonder what beginning your travel adventures nowadays does to a young man or woman who starts out their journey, probably has a smartphone, has various social media accounts, and doesn’t carry a separate camera. I shudder to think about it. But I think the answer is this, this is from a Twitter user named Lukas Stefanko in 2018, with the caption, “The social media queue”

This is in New Zealand, and this photo makes me want to burn every smartphone and social media account on the planet. [unintelligible snickering] Yes, yes, my Guests would like me to remind you that I am in fact a degenerate, crazy, loser, blog author.

Well, New Zealand is sick of it. New Zealand has a long history of being a tourist favorite, or over favorite. There have been talks in New Zealand for years to impose some kind of tourist fee, or restrictions on visitors in certain areas because they feel so buried by the mass of humanity. But this will never happen because so much of New Zealand’s economy is tied to tourism.

But they put out this video, from the top rope, and it’s professionally shot, funny, and has a super cool message:

I like how @0:50 he gets grabby with these two actors (who are portraying total losers). But it’d be great with me if he went further, and was whacking them with a truncheon like some 1880’s drunken bobby.

Messages like this delivered with humor are awesome, @1:28 where he takes a tumble I was totally cracking up.

Anyways, have a look at the video, heed its message. Indeed, some of the best travel experiences I ever had were where I deliberately made myself never take one photo, either with my good camera, or my smartphone if I had one.

Enjoy your day!