Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the You-nyun

Hello friends and family, long time no see... er, write... rant, whatever. Tonight our Fearless Leader spoke his words unto us, and for the fifth or sixth year in a row (I'm losing track, it's all a blur, War on Drugs, War on Terror, what's the diff?) I did not watch or listen. I am a bad, bad American. Unpatriotic and apathetic and etc. I guess... Well, if politics is a spectator sport, it's just no fun when there's no legitimate opposition.

I am a registered Democrat. Why? I have no idea. Because I had a brief moment of optimism back around the turn of the millennium, when I actually thought that if more intelligent people would get involved in "the party," we could actually make a difference. Yeah, right. And some people still think voting matters, too.

Gawd, it's like that old "better to have loved and lost..." bullshit. Remember the glorious swelling of happiness and belief in Humanity we all felt that night? The big New Year's celebration, 1999 into 2000 (not the real Millennium a year later, although that was a pretty memorable party in itself), when the whole world held hands and sang Kumbaya for 24 hours... None of our dire predictions came true, no world-ending apocalypse or computer meltdown or even crazy mad bombers ruining the party. (How many truly great parties can say that?) I got choked up and shed happy tears, and for a few precious hours I loved Everybody.

But now I look back on that One Great Shining Moment with bitterness and a little heartache. I remember getting choked up, feeling like my species was all right after all, looking forward to what the future would bring. And now it just turns my stomach. Better to have loved and lost, my ass...

State of the Union, 2006: Exxon reports largest corporate profits in human history. Take a look at this chart to see what the past six years have been like for them (and very likely, every other oil company and country). How many of us expected something exactly like this five years ago? Any Exxon employees out there? Just wondering whether your wages have tripled like the company's profits have...

In other news, our leaders are defending freedom out one side of their mouths and torture out the other side... calling suicide bombers terrorism but phosphorescent rounds in civilian poppulations collateral damage... the toxic waste of our digital society is shipped to third-world dumps under the guise of "recycling"... for the first time since 1816, the US gov't is withholding names of its employees (about 900,000 of them), with no explanation as to why, although I'm sure the word terrorism came up... federal budgets cut meager amounts spent on making deadbeat dads pay their child support and more substantial disaster preparedness while borrowing billions from countries like China to pay for an Orwellian perpetual "war" that conveniently provides our leaders with carte blanche to do whatever they like without accounting to anyone... the Pentagon is tracking peace protestors in case they might be terrorists... Treasury Secretary John Snow asks Congress raises the government's borrowing authority from its previous $8.18 trillion cap (who are we borrowing from, you ask? Who cares, they answer, if they demand repayment we can always drop some of the bombs on 'em that they paid for!)... People are putting digital ID chips in their pets and children... and in the wake of Katrina et al, some people are still arguing that global warming hasn't yet proven to be a real threat... and the Fearless Leader believes the solution to our healthcare situation is for people to pay MORE out of their pockets because somehow choice will magically make costs go down and quality of services go up (he's forgetting, of course, that only those who can AFFORD to buy luxuries like insulin and physical therapy, further widening the gap between rich and everybody else)...

Ain't it great to be alive, American, and free in the 21st century?

(waving at the Watchers,
who aren't watched by anybody)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Long View

Last nght I came home from a typical day of working on the thrice-bedamned Windows PC at the office to a book Chris picked up for me at his work: Terry Pratchett's "Only You Can Save Mankind." It's pretty much a kid's book, but here's the thing about Pratchett. If you pick up a TP book, Discworld or not, and dare to read... say... the first sentence, well, it's all over from there. You will be finishing it that night. Terry's nice enough to write short ones that we can do that with. Heck, even back when I was barely reading anything at all, I couldn't put down a TP book.

So anyway I finished it, it was funny and sweet and made me smile, but... Well, by the end of it I gotta' say my eyes were totally fecked. And I got to thinking, because my vision was going and I had a nasty headache, about how Anne at work was telling me one day that you're supposed to look off into the distance like 5-10 minutes out of every hour you spend at the 'puter. This is why offices with windows are so important. And I try to do it, but y'know...

It's winter. Here in Oregon, that means it is pitch dark at 5pm. And the sloppy weather keeps you inside. We got the seasonal affective thing going big time, of course. I got a grow light next to my bed just so's I can regain consciousness in the so-called morning. Anyway, here's the thing that occurred to me:

We humans evolved on the African plains, yes? So the wide open spaces and grand vistas, they are our natural environment. We especially like to climb up high and look around. That's why all the most expensive houses in your town are up on the hills. It's why we have those pullouts along the highway that say "Scenic Overlook, 1/4 mile." It's why you get that charge from standing up on the edge of Crater Lake and looking around, and it's one of the reasons (I contend) that we so love to stand around on the beach and just stare at the ocean. The long view, man, we're hardwired for it.

But our city life, and in particular our modern city life of the 21st century, is all about things that are up close and personal. The 'puter, the TV, the nearest cars in traffic... Heck, probably the farthest away we have to focus our eyes is maybe 30 feet or so. Privacy fencing in the backyard means even when we go outside we're agoraphobic about it. Winter just exacerbatees the problem, keeping us from getting out into the world unless we're crazy enough to enjoy strapping our feet to sticks rubbed slick and jumping down an ice-covered hill or something.

Well, I got this theory that it's not just bad for the eyes, all this concentration and straining to focus on stuff that's really close up to us. It's also bad for our psyches. Makes us all close-in and self-absorbed, like the whole Universe revolves around us alone... with no idea of the big picture y'know? So we can't think, pardon my descent into biz jargon here, out of the box. Can't see the big picture, how can we keep it in mind? Wish I could do a study, compare the incidence of big-picture thinking with how often people go to the beach or up in the mountains, out to the desert etc.

Anyway, it's got me convinced that I need to do just that. I know how much better it always makes me feel, and I got the New Year Blues setting in right about now. Even if it means going out in the freakin' rain this weekend, looks like I just gotta' do it. I bet it even correlates with the seasonal depression thing -- yes, I know that's mainly due to a lack of light and associated brain chemicals, but gee... Hey, you go outside and look up at the stars, really look at 'em, let your gaze stretch out (maybe go somewhere up high if you have to), and tell me how it makes you feel.

Works for me!