Bureau of Waste Management

Friday, 30 September 2005

My cur­rent re­spon­si­ble life-im­prov­ing project con­sists of avoid­ing plas­tic bags as much as pos­si­ble. It is ac­tu­al­ly much broad­er than that, since I’m re­cy­cling plas­tic, met­al and card­board and try­ing to re­duce my pa­per con­sump­tion as much as pos­si­ble, but plas­tic bags are the most ob­vi­ous thing to avoid. They are every­where too. Most of the time when I go to the store, I tell the clerk that I don’t need a bag, since I can ei­ther car­ry the things out eas­i­ly by hand, or stick ‘em in my back­pack. A lot of times they seem a bit sur­prised, as if I’ve wok­en them out of their cashier-trance briefly. Hopefully they, and the peo­ple in line be­hind me, might stop just long enough to think about how easy it is to not take a bag if it is un­nec­es­sary. I still take my bags from Target though, they are high­er qual­i­ty than oth­ers and make per­fect trash bags for my bath­room trash can.

And I still end up with ten or twelve bags when I stock up at the gro­cery. Once I get home, they go in­to the re­cy­cling bin im­me­di­ate­ly though. Separating my trash has shown me how very lit­tle I toss can’t be re­cy­cled. Most of what ends up in the garbage is food, which, if I had my own abode, could be com­post­ed. I’m even try­ing as hard as pos­si­ble to re­duce my food waste, which main­ly con­sists of not over­buy­ing on per­ish­ables when I’m at the store. It is a del­i­cate bal­ance. The best case sce­nar­io for me would be to have a cor­ner mar­ket with fresh pro­duce, so I could buy what­ev­er I need­ed that day. It is good to know that I don’t pro­duce that much waste. Except for pa­per. I’m re­al­ly try­ing to cut back on that as well. I’m no longer buy­ing pa­per nap­kins, or fa­cial tis­sue, in­stead I use hand­ker­chiefs. I’m us­ing note pa­per un­til it re­sem­bles the score charts my grand­fa­ther used to keep while play­ing his in­tri­cate form of soli­taire, and I’ve de­cid­ed to dis­con­tin­ue my National Geographic sub­scrip­tion and try to get my fix on­line in­stead. But I still waste too much pa­per and my ex­cuse is very lame. I don’t have a box to put it in. If I had a box I could haul it down to Tremont school and dump it in the pa­per re­cy­cling dump­ster. Instead, all the junk mail I get, and all my oth­er pa­per waste just ends up in the trash can.

I’m try­ing to re­duce at work as well, but it is hard­er there. The process is two-fold for me. First, I’m just con­cen­trat­ing on keep­ing re­cy­clable goods sep­a­rat­ed from the rub­bish and then haul­ing them to the re­cy­cling drop-off points [which isn’t hard be­cause they are con­ve­nient­ly lo­cat­ed] Server-side re­cy­cling. Second, I’m re­duc­ing the waste on my end, us­ing less pa­per, avoid­ing plas­tic bags, rid­ing my bike the mile to the mar­ket. Client-side sus­tain­abil­i­ty. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle al­ways sound­ed too catchy to me, too much like a slo­gan which los­es all mean­ing, but now, forever and a smoke break since the first use of that phrase, I ac­tu­al­ly un­der­stand what it means. And it is start­ing to feel good to be re­spon­si­ble. That must be what it means to be old.

Pierre Foods™ Fast Choice® Double Beef Stacker with Cheese

Thursday, 29 September 2005

Since I have ap­par­ent­ly cre­at­ed some ex­pec­ta­tions among you far­thur­dlers re­gard­ing my gus­ta­to­ry fetish­es, I went down to the dun­geon for round n with the vendy. I picked up Pierre Foods™ Fast Choice® Double Beef Stacker with Cheese, one of the orig­i­nal items in the vendy that has re­cent­ly made a come­back. I’m quite sure I’ve an­gered the burg­er deities by buy­ing a $1.65 dou­ble deck­er ham­burg­er out of a vend­ing ma­chine. I’m prob­a­bly banned from Stevenson’s. In any case, I did it. Before I get to the burg­er though, I should tell you this:

I met the wom­an who stocks the vendy. She had just filled it up with con­coc­tions from her caul­dron. She was short and squat and pi­geon-toed with frizzy grey hair and slight­ly my­opic owl eyes. When I told her that I was go­ing to get some­thing out of the ma­chine, she watched me make my de­ci­sion. It was ob­vi­ous that she took great pride in the qual­i­ty of pro­duct she stocks that thing with. This week she added pud­ding. You can buy a 3 ounce con­tain­er of pud­ding for a dol­lar! Big AZ Bubba Twins have re­turned as well. She said that she has, un­for­tu­nate­ly, had to throw lots out, be­cause, get this, no one has been buy­ing any­thing. Crikey la­dy, I won­der why. On the plus side, she did add a dol­lar coin dis­penser to the ma­chine, so next time I pay with a fiver, I won’t get $2.95 in change in nick­els.

The burg­er, of course, what shit as burg­ers go. As an item from the ma­chine, how­ev­er, I would def­i­nite­ly buy an­oth­er one. I am try­ing to fig­ure out how some­thing that is most­ly TVP could sup­ply me with 47% of my RDA in sat­u­rat­ed fat. It must have been the cheese, which, post-burg­er, is now be­ing cut quite of­ten. I’m quite sure that noth­ing in this sand­wich ac­tu­al­ly came from re­al plants or an­i­mals. It re­quired vir­tu­al­ly no mas­ti­ca­tion, which was good since the “cheese” dis­in­te­grat­ed my teeth up­on con­tact. So, ba­si­cal­ly, oth­er than the fact that it tast­ed like shit and is cur­rent­ly mount­ing a si­mul­ta­ne­ous breach at­tack on my stom­ach and colon, it wasn’t that bad.

Link of the day: Joe’s Worthless Baseball Card Collection

Damn Indefinite Article

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Quick, ex­plain any dif­fer­ence you see be­tween be­ing “drunk” and be­ing “a drunk”. Not much, is there? Just one let­ter. Perhaps I am ex­cep­tion­al but I would be will­ing to wa­ger that many peo­ple do not con­sid­er how in­def­i­nite ar­ti­cles can dras­ti­cal­ly change read­ing com­pre­hen­sion. What, ex­act­ly, does “a” do? In my drunk ex­am­ple, “a” turns ad­jec­tive in­to noun; my de­scrip­tor cod­i­fies in­to tan­gi­bil­i­ty by adding one let­ter. This is dan­ger­ous, I think. I have been, on record, re­sis­tant to la­bels from near­ly webl­o­go­ge­n­e­sis; I be­lieve I have fi­nal­ly dis­cov­ered that this re­sis­tance re­sides in “a”.

It makes things too strong for me. Perhaps I have lit­tle faith or much ar­ro­gance in think­ing that re­al­i­ty or noun­hood can­not with­stand this weight of be­ing, but words don’t de­scribe re­al­i­ty; so it should be no sur­prise if the vest­ment of “a”, when worn by ad­jec­tives, takes peo­ple fur­ther from fact. I have been through most of this be­fore. Something new: Using “a” in ref­er­ence to speci­fic per­sons, in­clud­ing one­self, is noth­ing more than sub­tle vi­o­lence. It pi­geon­holes and sin­gles out for more pi­geon­hol­ing. I’d much rather be de­scribed as “some­thing” than de­fined as “one of some­thing” Using “a” in this man­ner; “I’m a Catholic”, “She’s a fem­i­nist”, “He’s a black”, has dis­tinct “Oh, one of those peo­ple…” over­tones. Saying “I’m Catholic”, “She’s fem­i­nist”, “He’s black” gives equiv­a­lent fac­tu­al in­for­ma­tion but avoids any sort of pi­geon­hol­ing.

Or not.

I be­lieve I used no ar­ti­cles [ex­cept as ex­am­ples] while writ­ing this post.

Links of the Day: Gallery of Regrettable Food and The Company Cookbook.

Boom Bip and Interpol at the Agora Ballroom

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Let me shoot straight with you. Boom Bip sucks. After hear­ing them play, I wasn’t sur­prised that I’d nev­er heard of them and I ful­ly ex­pect to nev­er hear from them again. In fact, that’d bet­ter hap­pen. Boom Bip [stu­pid name] is one dude, ap­par­ent­ly, and if you took all the band mem­bers and squashed them to­geth­er, you might have one dude who could play one in­stru­ment. The drum­mer beat the same damn rhythm on the high-hat and snare for their set, the bassist played the same two notes on the top two strings on his bass, the lead gui­tarist played the same chord on the bot­tom two strings of his gui­tar the whole time and, by far the worst, was the key­boardist, who had a mo­bile com­mand cen­ter of gad­getry and lap­top­pery, but seemed to on­ly play a mid­dle C in every song. Beat-in­ten­sive in­stru­men­tal noise-rock is bor­ing. Unless you are Ratatat, lyrics are good, moth­er­fuck­ers. I’ve had more fun with cafe­te­ria food than watch­ing Boom Bip. I do not rec­om­mend them.

Interpol could have had the worst show of their ca­reers last night, and no one would have no­ticed, not af­ter Boom Bip [I mean, se­ri­ous­ly, you can’t come up with a bet­ter name than that?]. Full dis­clo­sure: I didn’t like Antics at all, and still love Turn on the Bright Lights. Interpol in con­cert was what I had ex­pect­ed Interpol in con­cert to be like. My friend Phil said that he’d heard they are great live, and if you like your live bands to sound just like they do on their al­bums, Interpol is great live. They set down solid lay­ers in their rhythm sec­tion and the vo­cals are fraught enough to over­come any re­dun­dan­cy in the sound [Boom Bip, take note!]. So, Interpol plays like a well-oiled ma­chine. And there­in might be my prob­lem with them. When I hear a band live I like crowd in­ter­ac­tion and a lit­tle bit of im­prov, the lyrics sung a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent­ly, a gui­tar solo now and then; with Interpol it is al­most me­chan­i­cal, they are just com­ing out and do­ing their job, they keep them­selves too tight­ly reined in for me.

I had a pret­ty de­cent time, they played my fa­vorite song of theirs, Specialist, and my third fa­vorite song, Roland, dur­ing their en­core, but didn’t play my sec­ond fa­vorite, Obstacle 2. They, ex­pect­ed­ly, played a bunch of songs from Antics, but I like their ear­lier stuff, which doesn’t bode well for a band with on­ly two al­bums un­der its belt. The Agora is pret­ty sweet though. This para­graph has three sen­tences and too many com­mas.

Here ends this elit­ist mu­sic re­view, but I had no need to say it twice.

Weathervane Glory

Monday, 26 September 2005

some peo­ple some day
will get to­geth­er and
weld a great white egret
out of what ever ideas
are still left over
and they will seat it some
where and oth­er
peo­ple will fight over
it or rather fight over
what they think it
may or may not
rep­re­sent

          [the egret be­ing
          too it­self to see
          its own evil]

and
at some point it
will be cast down by
some one full of

weath­er­vane glo­ry or
an ex­cess of rel­a­tiv­i­ty

there is some thing to
be said for equiv­o­ca­cy
          some oth­er time
          by some one else.

Continue Reading

I’m Cheap!

Sunday, 25 September 2005

I’ve got a bunch of stuff for sale on craigslist. Check it and buy some­thing if it strikes your fan­cy. I sure as shit don’t know what I’m go­ing to do with it oth­er­wise.

Friday, 23 September 2005

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora is right up there with Dangerous Visions in terms of qual­i­ty and per­spi­cac­i­ty in sci­ence fic­tion an­tholo­gies. I could go spout­ing off on how won­der­ful it is to see black writ­ers grow­ing in a field nor­mal­ly dom­i­nat­ed by white guys, but all the is ad­dressed in the book, es­pe­cial­ly in Samuel R. Delany’s es­say “Racism and Science Fiction” at the end, which is one of the most co­gent and thought­ful es­says on racism that I’ve ever read. [ex­cerpts at the bot­tom]

Instead I’m go­ing to briefly delve in­to the qual­i­ty of the sto­ries them­selves, as works of craft, and then give some thoughts on my own re­ac­tions to some of them. Briefly, the qual­i­ty of the sto­ries is very high. The first half dozen or so re­quired me to put some time aside af­ter read­ing them for mas­ti­ca­tion and di­ges­tion. They are po­tent tales. W.E.B. du Bois, Octavia Butler, Amiri Baraka, Samuel R. Delany are just a few of the slew of folks who have tales in this book. I now have a bunch of new au­thors to check out as well, es­pe­cial­ly Nalo Hopkinson. For me, the qual­i­ty slow­ly ta­pered off af­ter the first few head­chew­ers, again much like DV. Not to say that any of the sto­ries were bad [none of them are], but amid­st the mas­ter­pieces the oth­ers don’t shine as bright­ly.

Since I’m a crack­er from down­coun­try Indiana and at­tend­ed a pri­vate Catholic col­lege whose per­cent­age of black stu­dents sus­pi­cious­ly match­es up with the per­cent­age of non-Catholics on cam­pus and the per­cent­age of non-white ath­letes, I don’t have a whole lot of ex­pe­ri­ence when it comes to di­ver­si­ty. Hell, I don’t think I even met a Jew un­til I was in my twen­ties. The clos­est thing I knew to a mi­nor­i­ty grow­ing up was the old coun­try Italian grand­moth­er down the street. Basically, I’m say­ing that what I’m about to say is most like­ly go­ing to be some­what ig­no­rant.

It seemed like many of the sto­ries could be eas­i­ly in­ter­pret­ed as ful­fill­ing black stereo­types. For in­stance, prob­a­bly a good half of the sto­ries have mu­sic and rhythm as cen­tral themes and tropes. Thankfully they are of­ten used to high­light oth­er con­cerns, avoid­ing a tru­ly shal­low and un­pro­duc­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tion that black folks can dance and sing while white folks have rhythm like a fat man’s heart­beat [al­though Evie Shockley’s “sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety” doesn’t do so well at that]. Similarly, there are con­stant ref­er­ences through­out of slav­ery and the slave trade, of­ten with anger still seething un­der the sur­face. This is some­thing I can’t un­der­stand at all, and I’ve tried. My ini­tial re­ac­tion to the re­sent­ful men­tions of slav­ery was “Man, that was over 150 years ago, you should be over it by now.” Unfair to say the least, since I can have no idea how long it takes to heal the eth­nic trau­ma of hun­dreds of years of slav­ery. I al­so don’t have any per­son­al ex­pe­ri­ence with con­tem­po­rary race re­la­tions from the black side of the equa­tion. What I’m de­plor­ing here is my ig­no­rance and al­so my in­abil­i­ty to ef­fec­tive­ly find sources to al­le­vi­ate that ig­no­rance. I learn best through em­pa­thy, but how can a priv­i­leged white boy em­pathize with black­ness?

I guess I had the ex­pec­ta­tion that black sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers would be more like­ly to avoid what I per­ceive as a heavy-hand­ed use of America’s less than sa­vory past. I think I ex­pect­ed to en­gage in ex­am­ples of black­ness that wasn’t de­fined by dis­en­fran­chise­ment and os­tra­ciza­tion. Instead I felt that the­se writ­ers don’t have much hope that things will get bet­ter for them and theirs. For us. But then, may­be I was ex­pect­ing black writ­ers to write like white writ­ers. I don’t re­al­ly know. Dark Matter is the per­fect name for this an­thol­o­gy on a whole bunch of lev­els [dark­ness of con­tent, dark­ness of out­look, dark­ness of the au­thors, not to men­tion the main metaphor of the an­thol­o­gy; that black in­flu­ence is the dark mat­ter of our so­ci­ety] and it is def­i­nite­ly some­thing I want to add to my sci-fi book col­lec­tion.

These are some of my im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions, tem­pered a bit by sub­se­quent thought. Obviously I’ve not been able to un­tan­gle the skein of my so­ci­etal pre­con­cep­tions. I’ve known I’m nev­er re­al­ly go­ing to do that on any top­ic, which is why I try to ig­nore the sub­con­scious mur­mur­ings of sex­ism and racism that bub­ble up from time to time and deal with each per­son as a per­son and not some speci­fic thing in a pi­geon­hole. Everybody seems to live much hap­pier that way.

Excerpt from Racism and Science Fiction by Samuel R. Delany [via]

Racism for me has al­ways ap­peared to be first and fore­most a sys­tem, large­ly sup­port­ed by ma­te­ri­al and eco­nom­ic con­di­tions at work in a field of so­cial tra­di­tions. Thus, though racism is al­ways made man­i­fest through in­di­vid­u­als’ de­ci­sions, ac­tions, words, and fee­ings, when we have the lux­u­ry of look­ing at it with the longer view (and we don’t, al­ways), usu­al­ly I don’t see much point in blam­ing peo­ple per­son­al­ly, black or white, for their feel­ings or even for their speci­fic ac­tions — as long as they re­main this side of the crim­i­nal. These are not what sta­bi­lize the sys­tem. These are not what pro­mote and re­pro­duce the sys­tem. These are not the points where the most last­ing changes can be in­tro­duced to al­ter the sys­tem.

[…]I don’t think you can have racism as a pos­i­tive sytem un­til you have that so­cioe­co­nom­ic sup­port sug­gest­ed by that (rather ar­bi­trary [place­ment of walls]) twen­ty percent/​eighty per­cent pro­por­tion. But what racism as a sys­tem does is iso­late and seg­re­gate the peo­ple of one race, or group, or eth­nos from an­oth­er. As a sys­tem it can be fu­eled by chance as much as by hos­til­i­ty or by the best of in­ten­tions. (“I thought they would be more com­fort­able to­geth­er, I thought they would want to be with each oth­er…”) And cer­tain­ly one of its strongest man­i­fes­ta­tions is as a so­cio-vi­su­al sys­tem in which peo­ple be­come used to al­ways see­ing blacks with oth­er blacks and so — be­cause peo­ple are used to it — be­ing un­com­fort­able when­ev­er they see blacks mixed in, at what­ev­er pro­por­tion, with whites. 

[…] As such, [the sys­tem] is fu­eled as much by chance as by hos­tile in­ten­tions and equal­ly by the best in­ten­tions as well. It is what­ev­er sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ac­cli­mates peo­ple, of all col­ors, to be­come com­fort­able with the iso­la­tion and seg­re­ga­tion of the races, on a vi­su­al, so­cial, or eco­nom­ic lev­el — which in turn sup­ports and is sup­port­ed so­cioe­co­nom­ic dis­crim­i­na­tion. Because it is a sys­tem, how­ev­er, I be­lieve per­son­al guilt will nev­er re­place a bit of well found­ed sys­tems analy­sis.

Links to oth­er stuff on DM:ACoSFftAD:

SciFi.com- Makes the DV com­par­ison right off the bat too!
The AALBC has an ex­cerpt of W.E.B. du Bois’s “The Comet” and a Table of Contents.