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

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

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.