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Archive for July, 2017

Pre-eminent astrophysicist and wearer of flashy space-themed vests Neil de Grasse Tyson has declared he doesn’t want to be immortal. In an interview with Larry King, Dr. Tyson comments that the sense of urgency to accomplish something comes from knowing time is limited.

 

 

While I understand and appreciate his point, I’m going to vote for immortality. With several caveats, of course. First, my husband needs to be immortal as well. If for no other reason than I’ll have someone to remember everything we do. It certainly won’t be me. I have a hard enough time remembering what I had for breakfast, let alone a thousand lifetimes of existence. Maybe I should keep a journal…

Second, my animals also need to be immortal. My altar already has five boxes of ashes on it because they don’t live nearly long enough already – can you imagine millennia upon millennia of boxes???

And third, I need my basal metabolism adjusted so I can lose the weight I need and then maintain it. I don’t really mind looking middle-aged indefinitely, but it would be nice to not have to carry a third of my body-weight extra for all eternity. It’s been a bitch lugging it around as it is. I don’t want to think of what my hips might feel like after a few thousand more years of walrus butt.

At some point there will likely be the option of downloading my consciousness into an “artificial” body. Whether it be a vat-grown clone of my own cells, a much less prissy version of C3PO, or a manufactured creation that would put the humanoid Cylons of the updated Battlestar Galactica to shame, I’ll probably have a good deal to say about how it looks and works. And contrary to what others may do, I wouldn’t change too much.

 

terminator

 

Maybe a friendlier smile…

 

 

Yeah, that whole fatness thing will definitely go. But I’d keep the height and the silver hair, though I’d round out the former to a clear six feet because that’s just a ton easier to say than five-feet-eleven-and-a-half, and the hair would be much longer. As in dragging on the ground longer. Weird, I know, but it’s been a dream of mine since childhood, and my first view of Crystal Gayle on television. I’ve met several people since (including a guy) who equaled her pileous splendor, and it always sent me into a fit of envy. Yes, my hair is nearly to my waist now, and that’s where it stops, in a cluster of dry, split ends that have to be trimmed off every couple months if I want to actually get a brush through it all. Such is the joy of fine hair.

Being immortal isn’t all fun and games, though. Even if you don’t have to kill all your challengers or drink the blood of humans, you still have to watch the mortals around you age and die by the dozens. It’s bad enough when one of the animals goes, but now I get to watch all my family and friends go with the same relative quickness? I can see how an immortal would quickly become jaded by their own existence and begin to view shorter- lived species, sentient or not, as something less than important.

And I wouldn’t just outlive animals and people, but civilizations, too. Imperial Rome lasted approximately 1,500 years. China came to be around 1500 BCE, and went happily through its dynasties until the early 1900’s CE, a span of nearly 3,500 years. By comparison, the USA is a mere babe of less than 250 years. All of them blips passing by in what seems like seconds, much like the graphs in this video:

 

 

 

But think what I could see over the course of eternity. The Universe is estimated to be nearly fourteen billion years old. The Earth has been around about 4.5 billion years. Modern humans appeared only 200,000 years ago, with recorded history a paltry 6,000 years to its name. In a little over a hundred years we went from looking up into the sky wondering what the Moon was made of, to actually setting foot on it to find out. Just in my lifetime we’ve gone from seeing flip phones only in science fiction shows, to carrying them around in our pockets.

Years ago Carl Sagan developed what he called a cosmic calendar. He took all the events of the Universe and condensed them into one calendar year to try and show the scale of existence. Humans conquered fire just in time for a late dinner on the last day of that year. We are but a blink of the cosmic eye.

 

Andy Warhol Create

 

But what if it takes me forever to do that?

 

 

Living forever would allow me to see all of that in real time, an eternal witness to the rise and fall of worlds. I could watch us colonize Mars and beyond. Maybe I could even be a starship captain. I would see the amazing technological advancements we make, the great artistry of our creative cohorts, maybe even world peace. Now wouldn’t that be worth hanging around for?

Of course, the down side is as Dr. Tyson noted: what’s the motivation to get out of bed today if you have an eternity of tomorrows? I still have things on my to-do list from forty years ago. And let’s not get started on my various writing projects. Okay, yes, they are STARTED, but my procrastination is epic in scale and execution within my single human lifespan. Just think what that would be like if I had forever.

Which is about how long it’s gonna take for our government to get its head out of its butt, and that’s something I would dearly like to witness so I might as well get started on that immortality thing now. Right after I get out of bed tomorrow…

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Wha…???

 

 

Alphabet Soup cat

 

I think this every time I see a talking head trying to explain our president’s latest gaff. I really need to stay away from the internet for awhile. Too much stooooopid. I think the asylum has finally been overrun by the inmates. Okay, that actually happened back in November, but I kept holding out hope. Man, am I a sucker.

I’m gonna need a bigger bottle of bourbon…

 

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Welcome to Southern California. Contrary to popular belief, we DO have four seasons here: earthquake, fire, flood, and riot. Presently it is heading into fire season, otherwise known as summer to the rest of the northern hemisphere. Though, like with all seasonal transitions, earthquake still has a few last kicks to it, giving us a M3.2 burp as I write this, only a few miles from my house. At least, according to the news it happened. Anything less than books flopping off shelves I tend to not notice. The jaded laissez-faire reality of living here most of my life.

This transitional period is affectionately called shake and bake by us locals. All the heat without the flavor. Instead of getting mouth-watering pork chops, you just run outside because your house is collapsing, and get fried by the giant bug zapper in the sky. The end.

 

california-the-original-shake-n-bake-eartquakes-wildfires-he-demotivational-posters-1466693472

Do you want fries with that?

 

It’s not that I’m unafraid of such things. I’ve been through several significant temblors in my time, including Ferndale (Cape Mendocino) in 1992, and Whittier Narrows in 1987, the latter of which caught me driving into downtown L.A. on the Hollywood Freeway. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a skyscraper ripple. But there’s not a lot you can do about earthquakes except ride them out and be prepared for afterwards. They offer almost no warning and cover huge swaths of geography, making them almost impossible to avoid. And the bulk of the shifting is done in a matter of seconds. It may take days, months, or even years to clean up and rebuild, but the sheer terror is over pretty quickly, allowing us to shake our fists at the government for their lack of instantaneous and perfect response all the quicker.

Wildfires, on the other hand, scare the fuck out of me. Part of that, I’m sure, is the primal lizard brain and its programming to fear fire just ‘cause. But the majority is because I’ve seen what they do. Wild, often unpredictable, they can mosey along at ground level keeping down the underbrush while a herd of elk graze nearby. Or they can blast flaming tornadoes a hundred feet tall, incinerating just about everything in the way in seconds.

We’ve been lucky in that we’ve never been directly affected by wildfires. Fires have teased the borders of where we live, leaving the air thick with smoke. But we haven’t had it any worse. Unfortunately, we do know many people who have. From being evacuated as a precaution and then returning to a house largely unscathed, to mad-dashing to the car with child/animal/laptop in hand as the raging inferno engulfs everything they ever owned mere seconds behind them. It may be fascinating to watch on the news, until you recognize the house of your friend going up in smoke. And then it is just heartbreaking.

 

fire-danger-wmrk

Off the chart takes on a whole new meaning.

 

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are thirty large wildfires active in the US right now. The majority of them are in western states. Arizona leads the way with seven. Right behind them is California, with four. And these numbers are considered light for this time of year. After the wet winter we had, which encouraged all sorts of wild flora to spring up just about everywhere, the dry summer will cook it all to crispy tinder just waiting for something to spark off the flames until flood season returns and mudslides put out the fires still not fully contained after days – and even weeks – of effort.

A study by the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Earth Lab revealed over 80% of wildfires during the period 1992 to 2012 were caused by humans. Over one-fifth were directly attributed to arsonists. Because, like Alfred said in The Dark Knight, some men just like to watch the world burn. And the study also found that more fires were started on the 4th of July than on any other day of the year. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to have a holiday at the height of summer feature fireworks and alcohol.

 

4th-july-alcohol

Or maybe just stay inside and have ice cream.

 

With climate change bringing about longer and warmer springs and summers, as well as increasing the range and duration of drought, fire season will only grow longer and more dangerous. We as stewards to this fine little blue marble need to take better care of her. The danger isn’t that the planet will be destroyed if we don’t’, it’s that WE will be destroyed. Short of being blown completely apart, Earth will be around long after we’ve led ourselves to oblivion. Just maybe not in a form we would recognize.

So, in the long term, doing something about pollution and renewable energy will serve to give us a nice place to keep living. We have the technology to have our toys and live WITH the planet at the same time. It’s just a matter of will. We need to put the planet and its people before profits. Which means getting the politicians out of the mix and handing things back to the scientists before it’s too late.

In the mean time, we do our part in our own little neck of the world. And we stay prepared. Because no matter where you are, so is Mother Nature. And she’ll get you sooner or later…

 

http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/make-a-plan

https://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/disasters/index.asp

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/disaster-preparedness

https://www.ready.gov/

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