Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Feeling Down? Get naked and try some Calypso Blues

Have these times got you down? With things like the global economic meltdowns caused by greedy rich assholes. 21st century pirates out to plug the arteries of global commerce and deny Wal-Mart its fully stocked shelves. An insane congresswoman claiming that the president of the United States is one of the horseman of the Apocalypse or the Antichrist. Pandemics and people running to the hospital panicking because some Hispanic kid sneezed on them in line at Wal-Mart, yes I heard that happened today. And the politically undead in Washington moaning "nnnoooooo" at the slightest suggestion of any course of action for the country that doesn't give tax cuts to the above mentioned greedy assholes. With all this going on anyone can get a case of the blues. If this appears to be the situation get naked like me and try some Calypso Blues . Yes, I've embarrassed the kids and my wife is calling the local mental health clinic weighing her options but I'm having fun. If I only had some nice Jamaican ganga now all would be right with the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What new fresh Hell comes our way?

A post about nothing...I hope.

Just when I began to think that nothing else in the huge cluster fuck called human civilization could surprise me Mother Earth goes and slaps me aside the head. Friday for me was rather busy and since I had not taken a lunch I had not heard a word about the outside world. I grabbed a Coke and a sandwich from the cafeteria and sat down to watch some news before I left for home.

Much to my surprise the red hot and ever so slightly vain Contessa Brewer was talking about a Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico with some cases appearing here in the United States. If I were to be asked what new Hell would pop up after 21st century pirates, global economic meltdown, and the new phenomenon of undead zombies being interviewed on television saying that torture isn't torture as long as Vice Zombie-in-Chief said it isn't the possibility of a global pandemic just wasn't one of them.

So what does one do at the appearance of yet another danger to human civilization? My small clan and I loaded up in the car and drove down to Charleston, South Carolina. The main reason was to see my cousin's new baby daughter but after we drove a little farther down the road and checked out Middleton Place plantation.

From there we checked the gardens lined with ancient oaks, the stable yards filled with the smell of living creatures, and the restaurant where I fell in love with their she-crab soup. All I can say is that soup is its a good thing I couldn't sell Dragonwife for another bowl. The day was climaxed with a cheese and wine tasting where I flat out almost did climax drinking absolutely fantastic Spanish red wines. They did have one German white wine amongst those I guzzled and all I can say about that wine is that the Germans are fine car makers.

As I staggered back to the car all the worries of the world were lost in the mental fog induced by the efforts of a bunch of fermented grapes. I figured that Sunday would bring news that the Swine Flu outbreak was treatable and over blown with the number of cases now declining. At least as I held the ice pack to my head sucking on three Advils and watching MSNBC I learned that it was treatable but cases were popping up all over the United States and the cases were still increasing down in Mexico. While all the talking heads, both media and CDC scientific types, say they are concerned, but not fearful, I hate to bring up that all the similarly smart and highly paid educated types several months ago said our little recession was suppose to be shallow and short lived.

With so much else to worry about my hopes and prayers goes out to President Obama and to all in government service with having to deal with this new slice of shit pie that just got served up. I swear though once this blows over I half expect the fabled zombie uprising or an alien invasion.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Better birth and growth defects through chemistry

Years ago while I was still in high school I would sometimes hear my uncles curiously reflect that the physical attributes of the girls I went to school with seemed to have developed far earlier than the young girls they knew while in high school themselves. This was not just some lewd excuse to ogle the attractive young ladies because they were far from the only ones making that observation and such remarks were not limited just to girls. I have heard people say many times that young guys are shaving far sooner than their fathers did and that they are physically maturing far faster as well. Case in point is that my son is thirteen and is now, in a limited way, shaving himself and is nearly six feet tall. I didn't even begin to worry about facial hair until much later and I didn't hit six foot until sixteen.

Every once and while some scientific report will surface giving credence to such anecdotal observations. The reports will state that the artificial growth hormones feed or injected into dairy cows are bleeding over into the milk they produce resulting in the faster development or maturing of children. Of course a whole army of counter reports and high paid scientists and spin doctors will flood the media assuring us that the milk supply is as safe and wholesome as it was in the good old days.

Being honest here but that may very well be the case. I'm not a scientist although I will say my understanding of science is far better than my educational contemporaries and even better than many of the post-graduate level college types I know. Digressing here but for example I once had a conversation with a lawyer friend of my wife's that didn't know the difference between nuclear fission and fusion.

But getting back on point, even if the hormones in milk are harmless we are flooded in this day and age with artificial chemicals in every aspect of our lives from work to home. We willingly bath ourselves in cleaning agents to sanitize our homes, air fresheners to hide the normal smell of pets and people, food additives to preserve or make what we eat taste better, and spray very toxic chemicals into the open environment to control pests that feed of the crops we eat.

These compounds are tested and said to be safe but even the manufactures state their products are harmful beyond certain levels. So for me at least the question is still open as to whether all the wonderful things the science of chemistry has wrought don't work their way down to our children. You might find the following transcript interesting. Oh yeah Happy Earth Day everyone.

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts - this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

YOUNG: And I'm Jeff Young in Washington.

When crops go in the ground and start to grow, it's the time for conventional farmers to apply chemical weed killers.

For example, millions of pounds of Atrazine are applied on US farms each year, even though the herbicide is banned in Europe.

And it should not be surprising that between April and July, there tend to be higher levels of pesticides in water than during the rest of the year, as the U.S. Geological Survey has found.

CURWOOD: What is surprising is new research that shows an association between the time of conception, pesticide levels, and the likelihood of crippling or fatal birth defects.

The research is being led by Paul Winchester, a neonatologist. His curiosity was aroused when he encountered a high level of birth defects when he began working in the heart of farm country at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis.

Dr. Winchester, what exactly did you find?

WINCHESTER: We found that birth defects like spina bifida, cleft pallet and lip, down syndrome, urogenital abnormalities, club foot among others are some of the birth defects that are more likely to occur for women who conceive between April and July. That time period coincides quite well with the time period when surface waters measured across the U.S. are having significantly more pesticides in their concentration than any other times of year.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wild Blue Raspberry Explosion

Every parent specializes in some sort of activities with their children. Some share the playing of musical instruments, the love of gardening, the joys of cooking, the action of sports, the pleasures of the arts, or any number of other events that strengthen the bonds of parent and child.
My wife has always enjoyed the quiet and controlled pleasures of simple crafts with both our son when he was younger and now our daughter. Untold numbers of Popsicle stick picture frames or birdhouses have been glued together in our house as well as homemade scrapbooks and jewelry, and my favorite, butterfly garden kits that have you raising caterpillars to fully grown butterflies’. The activities I have pursued with my children have always been less structured. Simply put I am an explorer with an ingrained need to be away from the confines of home. I never get tired strolling down the zoo pathways and looking at the historical exhibits in museums. Much to my surprise my daughter, who is six years old, continues to enjoy our frequent visits as much as I do. When my son was the same age I had to bride him with some form of expensive treat.
The explorations of my daughter and I are not restricted to just the zoo and museum. She and I escape from home as quickly as possible whenever chores have been completed to my wife’s satisfaction. Only the restrictions of time and money would limit our desire to “boldly go”. Unfortunately, not every weekend allows us to leave the house and it is then that I have to move into activities that do not necessarily play to my strengths.
Most attempts for me to edge into my wife’s territory have resulted in a less than satisfactory outcome. Today was one of those days in which I had to spend more time on the cleanup than the actual craft which curiously enough were suppose to be idiot proof.
I had to go into work this morning leaving Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles alone. Darth Spoilboy was thankfully spending the night over at a friend’s house. I write thankfully because I have already had my fill of boy sleepovers which have evolved to the point that sleep is not only optional but I believe discouraged. My son usually volunteers his house resulting in a trashed family room, loud music until very late, and occasionally being forcibly pressed into a Taco Bell run or having to pay for a pizza that someone other than me mysteriously ordered. Therefore, it was nice that some other parent had to deal with their antics.
When I returned home several chores were yet to be completed and Dragonwife had developed a seriously bad sinus headache leaving her stranded on the couch. However, Miss Wiggles felt no need to allow us some leeway and needed something to keep her occupied while I wiped down the inside of the oven and put away dishes.
The craft I chose should have been several levels of parent idiot proof. All that was involved was a packet of powdered Wild Blue Raspberry gummi worm mix, a squeeze bottle, and some insect molds for her to squeeze the mix into resulting in the chewy treats after thirty minutes. Following the directions I poured the powdered mix into the squeeze bottle along with adding the required amount of water. After mixing the stuff I left it to my daughter who was eager to take the squeeze bottle and fill up the candy mold. I went back to work on the oven which needed to me wiped clean.
Immediately I started hearing my daughter complain about the gummi mix not coming out despite the effort she was using to squeeze it from the bottle. Like a good dad I inspected the situation and figured that maybe I had not added enough water. A little more water and more mixing later I went back to the oven.
As with other disastrous events just as I got back over to the oven everything went into slow motion. My daughter gripped the bottle and started squeezing before she turned it over. The bottle was not a very strong or well constructed item and the pressure my daughter applied was just enough to cause the much thinner mix to first explode out of the tip like a blue geyser shooting high up into the air and falling back like rain. Then the top of the squeeze bottle exploded off sending blue tendrils of both watery candy mix and a more solid sticky fluid all over the kitchen table, chairs, walls, and even windows of the room. Needless to say my daughter was drenched with the stuff as well.
As to be expected other issues complicated the disaster. I did not recognize my wife had laid out her expensive table cloth on the table earlier along with the brand new place mats. The kitchen floor had just been mopped a few hours before I got home. Lastly as I rushed to the scene my concerns were that the sticky candy mix might not cleanly wipe off the walls forcing me to repaint. Trust me, been there after Spoilboy went and got all Van Gogh with a similar substance in his room when he was about four or five.
Clean up began right away and as expected took on the looks of a HAZMAT exercise. Wiggles was draped in several beach towels and dropped into the bathtub. A tub of warm soapy water, a few rags, and elbow grease allowed me to wipe down and clean up the sugary fallout before it harden. The floor was partially cleaned by the Great Dog Sparky who enjoyed licking up the wild raspberry mix. I’m not too concerned about Sparky having a digestive issue over that particular mix since a few weeks before I caught Wiggles sharing a far more successful candy making session with the dog. The only after affects appear to be my blue stained fingers and a dog whose tongue freaked my wife out after she most of the clean up was done.
All things considered I figure I’ll just plop my daughter back in front of the television to watch SpongeBob next time I’m caught up in house cleaning chores. I could try some other craft like a Popsicle picture frame or birdhouse but that would require glue and that is a whole other scary story since it got out of hand for me once and I do not want to repeat it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chance encounter on the beach

No one was suppose to be on the pier so early in the morning but as the last day of vacation was about to begin I simply could not sleep and needed some fresh air. Standing on Disney's Vero Beach resort pier jutting out rather high over that Florida beach I looked out at the ocean and despite the light pollution coming from asinine landscape lighting illuminating the ornamental shrubs and fancy lawns of nearby homes I was actually able to make out a little of the stars of the Milky Way stretching out above me. Just moments before I had left stuffy the room I was sharing with my wife and daughter and sought escape from the dehumidified air and a few minutes to myself before the new day begun.

Only a few short hours separated me from my daughter, Miss Wiggles, waking up and demanding one last trip to the resort pool. A few hours after that my wife, Dragonwife, would be up and racing time itself to have everything packed so we could be back on the road. Admittedly, we did have to drop by her parent's house on the way home to pick up our son who had elected to stay with his grandparents instead of going with us to Florida. Being totally cut off from his friends and forced to walk the streets of Mouse Land with nerdy parents and a six year old sister was something he just could not handle.

Despite my best efforts I just could not find any joy in returning home. The last couple days had been spent next the blue Atlantic ocean and I could actually feel my soul again connecting with the ocean surf, soft warm sand, and salty breezes that shared so much in common with the area around my old hometown, Georgetown, South Carolina. I had also found the people of the Vero Beach area laid back, warm, and friendly. Now living in Columbia, South Carolina, both the distance from the coast and the demands of job and family left me as landlocked as some poor fool trapped in the middle of a dry and desolate continent thousands of miles from the ocean.
Making things more interesting the tightly packed and controlled conditions associated with suburban sprawl, traffic overloading the roadways, and general frantic pace of life in the Midlands of South Carolina made it a strange place that I never have felt comfortable in or at home. So using all five of my senses I did my best to soak up all that was around me so I could have memories to cling to when the promise of modern American life started to ring hollow again.

It was still very dark and I don't remember the moon being up but after several minutes my eyes adjusted I did begin to notice some sort of movement on the sand below me along with hearing muffled sounds. It was very easy to notice over the last couple of days that the resort had played host to several newly married couples on their honeymoons. They had made quite the spectacles of themselves with their amorous behavior around the pool and I figured that I had stumbled on a very early morning fling in the sand. As I was about to back away to give the couple their privacy some deeply sad moan caught my attention, almost demanding I come closer to the source of the movement. I walked down the handicap access ramp of the pier, climbing over the security gate, to the bottom as quietly as my rubber sandals walking on the windblown sand scattered across the wooden slats would let me. I questioned the judgment of my actions but whatever sound I heard was not that of orgasmic joy but something more akin to someone in deep mourning. Coming to the end of the ramp I found the source of the sadness.

At the very base of the ramp a female Leatherback turtle was filling in the nest in which she had just laid her eggs. Despite my attempt at being as quiet as possible I'm sure Mama Turtle had heard my approach but she continued to calmly fill the nest in. We had been fully briefed upon arrival to the resort that disturbing, or even coming near, one of these endangered animals could get someone in serious trouble. But curiosity had the better of me and I slowly moved closer. Mama turtle paid me no mind and I watched her huge flippers scoop sand back into the hole below her. She was at least six feet long and her skin was a shiny black. Her motions as sand was moved were slow and deliberate and she seemed as tired as she seemed ancient.

It was then that I felt a strange kinship with the creature in front of me. We would both soon leaving a place we would rather be. Millions of years of physical evolution and deep instinct were pushing Mama Turtle back to the sea and away from her children. I, on the other hand, would soon be forced away from the ocean I felt so much a part of because of the need to return my children to the place they call home.

All during this I had not moved a muscle, hell I was so transfixed I barely breathed watching her. However, once the hole that now protected her nestlings was covered Mama turtle seemed to collapse in exhaustion. I knew there was nothing I could do for her no matter how much the kid in me wished I could load her up on some sort of cart and give her a ride to the welcoming ocean.

Just when I started to get worried I caught sight of her making very small movements with her flippers trying to get some traction in the loose sand. Mama Turtle seemed like some train moving out of a station building up steam as she moved along. Straining to move forward she lifted her head in such a way that the gleam of some far off light reflected off her eye facing me. Somewhere deep down I could feel she was appraising me, trying to figure out if I was a threat to her or to the eggs she had just laid.

"Rest easy old mama", I said. " I won't bother you or your children." She hesitated for an instant, whether it was out of fear or surprise I have no idea. Whatever the case, she turned her head away from me and slowly crawled back to the shore and in the darkness slipped into the water and swam away.

***Author's note: What brought me to write about this encounter was a recent story that was ran across several sources about how Leatherbacks are being killed due to ingestion of plastics. Plastic bags, spoons, monofilament line, candy wrappers and more. These creature have been on the planet for one-hundred fifty million years and the arrogance and ignorance of hairless primates with delusions of grandeur now seriously threaten them. Please read the linked article and for God's sake clean up your freaking trash from off the beaches that so many leave blowing in the wind.***

Plastic Found in One-Third of Leatherback Turtles

April 9, 2009 -- Leatherback turtles are ancient creatures with a modern problem: Plastic.

A new study looked at necropsy reports of more than 400 leatherbacks that have died since 1885 and found plastic in the digestive systems of more than a third of the animals. Besides plastic bags, the turtles had swallowed fishing lines, balloon fragments, spoons, candy wrappers and more.

Plastic was probably not the cause of death in most cases. Nevertheless, the study is an important wake-up call for a growing garbage problem.

"Eating something that is plastic can't be good for you, whether it leads to death or not," said Mike James, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "It's not what they should be eating. And it's kind of scary that it is showing up in their diet to the extent that it is."

Leatherbacks are also popular for what they eat: namely, large quantities of jellyfish. The problem is that plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and plastic often ends up in the oceans, piling up in areas where currents -- and turtles -- converge. That led James to wonder how much often the turtles were swallowing plastic in their hunt for yummy jellyfish.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Viruses and Bad Dreams

Viruses are slimy little shits. Little balls of protein wrapped around just enough DNA so when they hijack some other innocent cell by injecting their DNA into the nucleus they can reproduce themselves. It sort of microbiological rape. But anyway, the kids brought home yet another virus from school which passed from my son Darth Spoilboy to my daughter Miss Wiggles and now to me. Dragonwife wasn't infected leading me to assume this virus only infects warm blooded animals. If I disappear after this post and you never hear from me again she will have seen that last sentence or one of my kids will have sold me out.
So when the bug hit me Thursday night I got chills, a slight cough, dizziness when I got up from sitting or laying down, and body aches. Made it through Friday at work by hiding in the shop laying next to a surgical table that I had the base cover off. A nearby flashlight, multimeter, and screwdriver made it look like I was doing something if the odd co-worker happen to stick their head inside. Once the door squeaked as it was opened I quickly grabbed my screwdriver and made like I was busy.
I've been chugging the Ny-Quil to get at least some rest but the dreams have been freaky. Last night I dreamed that Romney and Palin were up in a tree kissing with the "First Dude" hovering nearby looking over her shoulder. Bush and McCain were down below both dressed as Carmen Miranda doing the tango. Didn't rest good that night and may hit the tequila tonight just to avoid their next performance.