Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Getting Damned Sick and Tired of This Story

It's happened again, a week and a half after the last headline-grabbing massacre (one of many that occurred that week)... another mass shooting, this one killing fourteen elementary school students and a teacher.  The shooter was an 18 year old high school student from the same town, Uvalde, Texas.  It's monstrous that someone that age, indeed any age, would kill little kids.

As sad as I am, I have to note that I am fortunate to know many kindhearted and responsible teenagers.  My upstairs neighbor's children are very good at helping their mom watch over the gaggle of kids that descend upon their place every afternoon while their parents are still at work.  They help watch over a coterie of younger children, and ensure that everybody is well looked-out-for.  

I also have to pay my respects to the teenage counselors who work at the athletic program in which I am a volunteer coach.  These youths, many of whom came up through the program, and who I have known for years, are responsible for looking after the kids in the program, making sure they move from class to class in orderly fashion, and chaperoning them on water and bathroom breaks.  I really can't say enough for these caring, responsible young women and men.

It breaks my heart to read of teenage mass murderers.  I'm not a naive person, but it boggles my mind that boys (yeah, it always seems to be boys) could be so cruel, and could obtain the instruments of death so easily.  How did their parents, and our society as a whole, fail so that these killers are produced?

It's a conundrum, and one which our society seems particularly blasé about trying to solve.  I'm not in the mood to watch the coverage, with the same empty calls for thoughts and prayers.  I wouldn't even describe my feeling as déjà vu, because that would imply that this is a discrete prior feeling I've experienced before, whereas this is a continual occurrence, without even time for recovery.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Hey, There IS a Genocide Going On

The stated motive for the Buffalo shooter was his fear of  'white genocide', a conspiracy theory which states that Jews are trying, through immigration policies, to reduce the percentage of white people in the United States, resulting in a browner, 'more docile' population that they can control.  It's all a lot of bullshit, but there IS a genocide going on in certain regions of the US (hint: most of them).

Of course, this genocide is not being waged against white people:

“About a third of our population is African American; African Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. So, if you correct our population for race, we’re not as much of an outlier as it’d otherwise appear,” Sen. Bill Cassidy said in an interview with POLITICO for the Harvard Chan School of Public Health series Public Health on the Brink. “Now, I say that not to minimize the issue but to focus the issue as to where it would be. For whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality.”

Cassidy is basically saying that African-Americans aren't 'real' members of Louisiana's population.  He has no intention of addressing maternal mortality among people of color.  This dehumanization and callousness toward death among the out group are classic features of a genocidal campaign.  The real sick thing about this is that Cassidy belongs to a party which has been pushing the white genocide nonsense.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Reminds Me of a Song

At my principle work site, we have had the presence of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) for as long as I can remember, but sightings aren't all that common because the animals are clever and shy.  Every so often, though, I'll see a flash of tapeta lucida at night or hear their unheimlich screams at night.  It is a rare, lucky occurrence when one catches a glimpse of one of these elegant critters in the light of early evening:

Now, THAT is an elegant little beast, dressed in its colorful finery.  

Seeing this glam animal, I immediately thought of glam rock:

The classics are classic for a reason, and the red fox, that 'dog hardware running cat software' is a true classic.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Pizzeria Pep Talk

Thursday night, after bar trivia, I decided that I wanted dessert, so I walked across the street to the pizzeria to get a slice.  Katonah Avenue in the Bronx is part of the tavern district in my neighborhood, which straddles the Bronx/Yonkers border, so there were quite a few revelers out and about.  Standing in front of the pizzeria was a slender-rangy red-haired Irish guy, who I'm going to say was exactly 21.  He was a friendly fellow, who gave me a greeting as I passed by.

I entered the pizzeria and approached the counter.  As I did so, a drunk, but not impaired, woman sidled up to me and slipped her arm under mine.  She gave me a sidelong glance and told me that the neighborhood was terrible.  I noticed the pizzaiolo rolling his eyes.  

She continued, "Everybody in this neighborhood hates me.  I'm the dumb c___ of the neighborhood."

I admonished her, "Don't be down on yourself.  If you're not in your own corner, nobody else will be."

At this point, the young Irishman entered the pizzeria.  I asked him, :"How long have you been in New York?"

He answered, "Three days!  I've from Cavan, THE STICKS!"

I replied, "Welcome to New York, welcome to the Bronx."

Then I turned to the woman and said, "The whole neighborhood doesn't hate you.  There's a lot of turnover in this neighborhood.  He's been here only three days, wait a couple of weeks and it'll be a completely different neighborhood!"

This is particularly true of the summer, when young Irish folks, on school break, come to New York to work in construction, or the restaurant/bar industry.  I'm sure my Cavan chum will find work helping one of the local immigrant carpenters or floor installers, or he'll find work as a barback.

This observation of neighborhood turnover seemed to mollify the self-deprecating lady, or at least to confuse her.  It was a weird sort of pep talk, a Bronx sort of pep talk, and I hope it worked.

In the interest of full disclosure, it was also a pep talk for the neighborhood, which I love.  Everybody in the neighborhood likes me.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Gonna Disagree with John Bellairs on This One

Longtime readers will know that one of my all-time favorite novels is The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs, who went on to become a bestselling author of creepy, 'gothic' young adult fiction.  The Face in the Frost, written for an adult audience, presages Bellairs' later works by combining whimsical humor with genuinely unsettling set pieces- he puts his good-hearted, good-humored protagonists into increasingly unnerving situations, achieving a creeping sense of dread, wisely leavened with comic relief.  If you are the sort who likes a bit of spooky fun, give the book a read.  

I do have to disagree with the late Mr Bellairs about one thing:

I'm the guy who'd die first in a horror film: "What's that bloodcurdling sound?  I've got to find out!"

A few nights back, while on a Zoom conversation with friends during a graveyard shift, I heard a sound which, to me, is familiar, thought not exactly pleasant:

Those high pitched background noises are raccoons squabbling over something, probably a juicy frog or maybe a crayfish.  It's not a sound for the faint of heart.

Right now, my boss is going over applications for a couple of positions in my understaffed department.  I told him that one crucial question to ask candidates is: "Are you afraid of the dark?"  Weird noises, shifting shadowy conditions, the gleam of eyes just outside a flashlight beam... all part of the job.  I love them all, but then again, I'm not necessarily normal.  Thank goodness it's just a job, not a horror movie.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

MAGA Convoy Contemplates Occupation

In a weird case of déjà vu, the MAGA convoy which rode around the Washington DC Beltway a few months ago is back in Hagerstown, MD, contemplating an incursion into Our Nation's Capital. These weirdos believe they can sneak into the city in the evening, betraying a fundamental lack of understanding of urban realities:

In preparation for their invasion, which they oddly refer to as an 'ambush', their leaders are urging 'radio silence', instructing the various video livestreamers to knock it off: Because of their ineptitude, they postponed their planned occupation of DC by a day: These people are capable of mischief, and some of them are armed, but I don't think they pose much of a danger to the DC metro area locals because they are a bunch of morons who are constantly squabbling.  It's supposed to hit the 90s in DC for the next three days, which should dissuade them from sticking around too long, especially if the locals are sufficiently riled up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Crimes Against Demeter

Amidst the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the wholesale slaughter of civilians and the use of sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war, it seems like a small thing, but it's the sort of small thing which will have global repercussions... I mean, the destruction of Ukraine's agricultural capacity.

Ukraine is traditionally known as the Breadbasket of Europe, and is the third largest exporter of grain in the world.  It is also a major producer of sunflower oil and potatoes.  Countries in the Middle East and Africa are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity due to the war's prevention of agricultural activity in Ukraine.  Invading a major food producer and exporter on the cusp of planting season is a particularly horrifying act of aggression.

Via Tengrain, we have a tale of a more subtle horror, the destruction of Ukraine's National Gene Bank of Plants.  This facility, in Karkhiv, preserved over one-hundred and sixty thousand varieties of seeds, some of them valuable hybrids, others not extant anywhere else in Europe.  The maintenance of genetic diversity among crops is crucial in this age of monocultures, emergent pathogens, and climate change.  A lack of diversity among our crops leaves us vulnerable to blights which can wipe out genetically narrow populations.  Maintaining diversity also allows agronomists to determine whether certain plant varieties, perhaps regional heirloom landraces, are better suited to changing climatic conditions.  The loss of 160,000 varieties of plants, while not as gut-wrenching as the murder of one civilian, is the sort of slow-creeping horror which becomes apparent on deeper contemplation.

To compound matters, as Tengrain noted, warming in the Arctic doesn't bode well for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault either.