Archive for random thoughts

Humanity’s place in nature or, Why can’t I shit in the woods?

Posted in green living with tags , on 08/13/2011 by Fox

Lister: Why does it have to be such a big deal? Why can’t it be like, like, human beings are a planetary disease? Like the Earth’s got German measles or facial herpes, right? And that’s why all of the other planets give us such a wide berth. It’s like, “Oh, don’t go near Earth! It’s got human beings on it, they’re contagious!”
Rimmer: So you’re saying, Lister, you’re an intergalactic, pus-filled cold sore. At last, Lister, we agree on something.
~Red Dwarf, “Waiting for God”

What is humanity’s place in nature? It’s hard for me to sum up what I’m getting at here, so I’ll just dive right in with an example.

Crapping in the woods. Crap is biodegradable. It’s hard to get more “natural” than crap. But we’re advised to pack our crap out with us when hiking in the woods because we want to “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” Which is to say, our crap is unnatural and doesn’t belong. I don’t doubt the power of a thousand people’s crap on some popular trail in Yellowstone to become a problem. But has environmentalism so removed us from nature that we can’t take a shit in the woods without packing it out (in some nice little petroleum-based plastic baggie, probably)?

Because in some ways, I feel less like a citizen of Spaceship Earth and more like gum on the bottom of a shoe somewhere. Oh, yuck, it’s a human. Well, thanks, way to make me feel like I belong here. Which should be the point of environmentalism, right? For me to recognize that I’m a fellow member of a biotic community. But I have to take my poop with me when I leave, thanks, goodbye, humans are second-class citizens. It’s like we’re subjecting ourselves to the opposite of anthropocentrism. We’ve shifted too far in favor of every-other-species-centrism and are now discriminating against ourselves, but of course, only morally. To functionally discriminate against ourselves would require some form of asceticism and that’s not going to go over well with the public at large, but somehow it’s okay to publicly berate ourselves for just existing in time and space and taking a dump while we’re at it.

Of course, it’s not so easy as to just suddenly declare ourselves full citizens and start shitting everywhere. It’s one of those things where if a couple people crap in the woods, it’s fine and eco-friendly. If everyone craps in the woods, we’re going to have problems.

So no, I really don’t have a good response on how to not feel like a second-class citizen, at least not in a universally applicable way. So this post isn’t really constructive at all. There’s a problem, one that’s been discussed before, that no one has any idea how to solve.

But I think the first step any of us can make in the direction of a solution is to quit demonizing ourselves. To quit that knee-jerk “humanity is bad” response. There’s seven billion of us, almost. Anything multiplied seven billion times is probably not going to be environmentally friendly (aside from breathing). That doesn’t mean it’s automatically of the devil.

Besides, sewage treatment plants probably aren’t all that, either.


We’re not killing the planet

Posted in green living with tags , , , , on 10/09/2010 by Fox

“You know, I never meant for people to believe in the Turtle,” said Didactyles unhappily. “It’s just a big turtle. It just exists. Things just happen that way. I don’t think the Turtle gives a damn.”
~Terry Pratchett, “Small Gods”

Yes, I ranted about this before.

We’re not killing the planet. Short of physically destroying it, which, to my admittedly limited knowledge, would be hard for us to do with our present technology simply because the planet is physically that large.

Life arose on this planet once before in an era much more cutthroat than our own. Against all the odds, almost literally, it succeeded.

To assume that we’re responsible for the planet’s welfare and that restoration and revegetation and rewilding are absolutely necessary is as anthropocentric as assuming we are the top of the evolutionary ladder. Sorry, but like many biologists, I have to give the badge of “success” to the arthropods.

Sure, we accidentally, or maybe intentionally, gave many non-native species a free ride into new domains. Maybe they would have found their way there eventually, or not at all. But we anthropocentrically offer the classification of “naturalized” to the nice ones that don’t cause problems and the term “invasive” to those that don’t behave the way we want them to. But such organisms are merely doing what they have been doing for their entire existence…making do in a nasty dog-eat-dog world. The only creature on this planet that says it’s wrong to introduce non-native species is us. Other species do their best to rework their immediate environment to better suit their tastes, or not, but we’re the only ones that demonize or angelicize such actions.

No matter what we do to it, the planet will survive. More likely than not, no matter what we do something will be able to survive or even thrive in the environments we create. Even if we kill every form of life on this planet, chances are that things will start up all over again just as they did before we came out of the proverbial muck.

It’s not terrible to wish to keep our world more or less as it was when we found it. We do, after all, have a rather powerful instinct for self-preservation. And let it be what it may, we are biophiles and become attached to the species we share the planet with. But to automatically assume that we are solely responsible for what happens to the planet, or to assume that we are some powerful creature that can dictate Earth’s ultimate fate is an anthropocentric fallacy. We’re relative newcomers, doing what seems to us monumental damage. The planet itself may not see it that way.

Bits ‘n pieces

Posted in green living, simple living with tags , , on 08/02/2010 by Fox

Small events and choices determine the direction of our lives just as small helms determine the directions of great ships.
~ M. Russell Ballard

If I don’t want to spend a dollar washing something…like the rug, or the bedsheets, a handmade quilt, whatever, I wash it in the bathtub. Same concept, no dollar involved, and just takes a bit of elbow grease.


I just realized how often I use my tupperware containers. They are almost constantly in use. I own two small round ones, one square one that’s perfect for sandwiches, and a big round green thing I keep the batches of food I make in. They’re hardly ever without something in them. Only rarely do I wish I had another one or two, and even then the thought passes quickly. I literally use them at least several times a week, and often every single day. Sure, they’re plastic, but they’ll last forever and god damn are they absolutely worth it.


I finally figured out what to do with those over-sized plastic bags you get when you buy too many clothes or a very large item. You use them in the trash can in place of the regular ten-gallon bags. They don’t always fit, but a little caution when popping something in the trash can and voila! you don’t have to buy trash bags until you run out of them. I’ve always used the smaller grocery bags in the bathroom trash can, but somehow never applied the concept to the kitchen trash. I throw away so little now that it’s literally been months since I’ve run out of regular trash bags. I’ve now run out of these large bags, but that’s okay since I have a smaller trash can now.


I have two water bottles. Both of them are old Sweet Leaf tea bottles. One is glass, the other plastic since glass+bicycle=bad idea. I suppose I should throw the glass one in the recycling and just go with the plastic. Again, an item I use every day. And I didn’t pay a penny for it since I was going to drink the tea anyway. Screw you, Nalgene. PETE plastic is almost as tough to kill and is easier/cheaper to replace.


It makes me happy to see that No Impact Man is advocating people getting his book from the library or loaning it to friends.


Something that doesn’t make me happy is one of Swagbucks’ latest polls.

“What Do You Think About Reusable Shopping Bags?

  • Make them mandatory and the world a little greener.
  • I have good intentions, but usually leave them in the car.
  • I can’t be bothered. Plastic/paper bags are convenient.”

None of these answers describes me. I take my tote bags, but there’s no way in hell I’d make them mandatory.


Something I’ve discovered. Eating out is only fun when I have friends to eat with. Otherwise I really have no desire to eat anywhere in particular.

Corporate brings on the bullshit

Posted in simple living with tags on 06/07/2010 by Fox

And sometimes I actually start to think human life is just as cheap to corporate America as animal life, so long as there are big profits to be made.
~Tom Scholz

Corporate doesn’t fucking care about you.

Or me.

The only time they even pretend to care is when a customer is throwing a shitfit about something.

Sad, but true.

So one day there were two customers. One customer was a regular at the burrito joint I work at. Not a regular we recognized, but a regular never the less. The other was a first-timer.

The regular really liked us. She wrote us a handwritten letter. We really brightened up her day, she said, with our friendliness and our (occasionally bizarre or random) antics.

The first-timer had been to a different joint of the same chain in another town. Apparently he’d had a bad day. He got one of the larger sizes of burrito, but that wasn’t enough. He came back through and got two tacos, and still was not full. He said our customer service was the worst and said that there was no line (somehow this was a bad thing…) He wrote an email.

Both letters were put up on the wall.

Guess which one we were required to read and sign? Guess which one is still up there, with the nasty note about “If you cannot give good service then this may not be the job for you?”

The policy for customers is ass-kissing. We apologize to a customer if someone is not there to wait on them the moment they get to the head of the line. Two seconds or two minutes, doesn’t matter. I’m not even allowed to finish sweeping, if a customer walks up to the head of the line I have to drop what I’m doing. I often feel like Fillerbunny…”We have temporarily run out of salsa, I shall cut off my arm to appease you! Are you not appeased? Does my pain not suffice to make amends for your incredibly minor inconvenience?” I’ll tell you what…bitchy customers get everywhere, and the nice ones that are cool with the crap that sometimes happens when you’re trying to balance upward of ten or fifteen employees all at once go unrewarded.

The chain I work for went corporate shortly before I began working there. The chain’s gimmick is weirdness. You can hear just about any song ever put out on the radio played inside. The uniform is meeting health code requirements plus a name tag. I’m still waiting for someone to come to work wearing a sombrero. Our managers don’t discourage us from dancing, singing (sometimes badly), or throwing tin foil at each other. One of my managers used to offer free cookies to people who could name the band playing on the radio. Half the name tags have nicknames on them.

Slowly but surely Corporate is trying to change everything. A manager was demoted for playing “Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. Someone apparently complained that the song was inappropriate. After the nasty note we got, the manager on duty was told he had to change his name tag and shift manager sign to read his first or last name and only his first or last name. I imagine if my old manager had been caught giving away cookies she would have been fired. I’m sure they would have frowned upon Josh and Tina swapping name tags for shits and giggles.

We get reprimanded if a secret shopper reports that we didn’t try to “engage” with them somehow. Let me tell you, trying to engage with fifty different people in one day doesn’t always work. You get people who don’t want to be engaged or people you don’t have anything to say to. I can only ask people’s opinion of the weather so many times. I prefer to leave off engaging unless I actually have something genuine to say. At the same time, we have to keep within a certain time limit when dealing with the customer. At one point my store manager was timing us as we handled customers.

My manager and I don’t see much hope for the chain in the future. It’ll slowly become weird in only the most shallow ways. Oh, hey, he’s got a tattoo, her hair is dyed, but there’s no real weirdness. Real weirdness is talking to a customer for several minutes about fucking dog treats or Smashing Pumpkins or something else. Real weirdness is having the entire staff and several tables of customers all singing “Margaritaville.” Real weirdness is one of the employees taping his cell phone to his head so he can dance to his rap music while he mops around the tables. It’s hiring people, not fucking robots.

Here’s something I really don’t understand. Why is it, that if we’re so damn terrified of “germs,” that we don’t give sick days to service industry employees? I’m not just talking about food service, I’m talking about any industry that regularly deals face-to-face with the public. The industries that are generally staffed by the young, the poor, and the broke. They don’t let us have “sick days.” We either stay home and get a write-up (or possibly just fired), or we show up sick as a dog and hope our manager sends us home. Our managers don’t even get that choice. They work or they get fired. No one sends them home early. Not to mention that most of us can’t afford to take the days off necessary to quit being contagious.

So even though the health department will come down on our asses for the smallest thing, no one comes down on Corporate’s ass to give us time off for being sick. One of my own co-workers was written up because she was too busy vomiting to even make it out of her apartment, much less to work. Our store manager is salaried. That means Corporate won’t let her call in. Period. And for people living on a food service “salary” with a toddler, you don’t disobey Corporate. You can’t take the risk of getting demoted or fired.

Just another ugly truth about the life of a wage slave. The health department is more worried about food temperatures and making sure everyone is wearing a hat or a hair net and doesn’t even stop to consider the hand that’s giving you your change. Or the air you’re breathing.

In order to keep costs down Corporate never hands out raises unless they promote you, and even then it’s next to nothing. I made more at the mom and pop pet store, even though it made substantially less money. Granted, the pet store also expressed a very big interest in keeping on good, honest employees. Corporate doesn’t give a rat’s ass about keeping anyone on. They burn through (and burn out) so many people it’s been weeks before I’ve noticed that someone got fired or quit.

But Corporate doesn’t care. The burrito joint is just one of many very diverse brands they own. They’re in it for the money.

That’s really what it boils down to. Service industry employees are treated like mindless automatons, by Corporate and customer alike. Very little leeway is given for individual variation in personality, and no consideration is given to the simple fact that I cannot be happy and perky and smiling if I’m sick as a dog or trying to plot the demise of a particularly assholish manager.

Everybody Draw Mohamed Day and Fuck the RIAA

Posted in simple living with tags , , on 05/22/2010 by Fox

You look at this and you say this is insane. It’s insane. And if it is only Hollywood that has to deal with this, OK, that’s fine. Let them be insane. The problem is their insane rules are now being applied to the whole world.
~Lawrence Lessig, “Free Culture”

I’m not going to synthesize the story of Everybody Draw Mohamed Day since I can just link to GSC, but I thought I’d give my two pennies about it.

South Park once had a commercial that said something along the lines of “If we haven’t offended you, we’re sorry.” The entire show is one long list of offenses. It comes as no surprise that they would choose to deliberately depict a figure merely to start controversy. It’s what they do, and frankly, society needs someone to drag everyone off their high horses. Offensiveness is sometimes the best medicine.

Comedy Central chose to censor South Park for it. Such censorship, especially when a show is well known for being offensive and making light of nearly everything under the sun, is a blatant slap in the face to the idea of free speech.

I don’t necessarily like the idea of being offensive for offensiveness’ sake, but threatening cartoonists with death merely because they offended you is an outrage. No one threatens me with death when I yell “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST” upon dropping something. If someone is that offended, they are free to tell me so (and I do attempt to censor my own language for those people I like and respect who would rather I not take their god’s name in vain). But part of life is dealing with other people who may not see the world the way you do and who may not bow to your wishes.

The world does not revolve around Islam just as it does not revolve around Christianity or any other religion, creed, race, or species.

For another post on Everybody Draw Mohamed Day, check this one out at the Bookworm Room.

On to the RIAA.

I fucking hate the RIAA.

I no longer buy new merch from labels that are part of the RIAA. If I want their music, I find it used. Granted, all my CDs are used at the moment, but one day when I’m not in debt I actually do plan to start supporting artists I enjoy. Just not the ones affiliated with the RIAA.


Let me tell you a story.

I think it was Wednesday. I stepped out of my apartment for a walk. There was a note on the door.

The apartment-offered wireless internet had been shut down due to “a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” As best anyone can tell at the moment, the complex was subpoenaed by the RIAA and thus they were forced to take some action. Their action was to take the internet down for several days and threaten to remove wireless access to the person who was found guilty of the violation.

Here’s the kicker. The RIAA is trying desperately to hang on to an outdated model of distribution. Face it, shit will be put online for free, whether you like it or not. It’s not fun, but it’s part of dealing in the digital age. You can move on and up, or you can sue everyone who violates your rules until everyone fucking hates you and they boycott your shit. I still highly doubt that the filesharing of music is as big a financial deal as the RIAA makes it out to be.

Webcomics are an excellent example of the new age in media. The bulk of the product is available for free, online. Anyone can read it, anyone can download them to their computer and enjoy them. Free. The artists bank on some of their readership (aka the “100/1000 True Fans”) to support them by donating and/or buying hardcopies of the comic or merchandise. Will it replace the day job? Not likely. But it’s a model that works without attracting the scorn of the internet.

And if you want examples of musical artists doing something similar, check out NIN’s Ghosts I-IV or Radiohead’s In Rainbows.

It’s not necessary to go the completely free route. It is, however, completely necessary to realize that distribution models are changing and litigation is only going to anger people. It does not do well to make the internet angry at you. They will draw pictures of your deities to offend you and then boycott the purchase of your products. This gets truer and truer the more public a group you are.

The future…

Posted in simple living with tags on 05/10/2010 by Fox

Don’t give me this Star Trek crap, Kryten, it’s too early in the morning!
~Red Dwarf, “The Last Day”

As much as people wish for some peaceful utopia where everyone gets along and no one has need for money and we all live in harmony with everything else, it ain’t gonna happen.

Fifty years from now will look much like now, only with some slight modifications. Much the same way now looks much like fifty years ago only with slight modifications. We still live in houses, people still drive around, and attitudes have not changed all that much.

I don’t really believe in some Star Trek-style future. More likely is the future of Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. Not necessarily the details, but definitely the attitudes and style.

In a utopia, cigarettes are banned or are made socially unacceptable to the point of stamping out the practice. In Transmet, “anti-cancer traits” are developed. I find it immensely more likely that humanity would merely try to negate the ill effects of something rather than obliterate it completely. Look how well banning works on illegal drugs, illegal animal parts, you name it.

People aren’t going to change. We have a long, illustrious career and we’re not going to give it up for the sake of altruism just yet. (That doesn’t stop some of us, though.)

Advertising will continue, political bullshit will keep going, and I don’t think synthetic meat will be catching on anytime soon with the general public. (In fact, if Ellis’ future is any indication, we will not only eat even more meat, but caribou eyes and monkey brains will be standard fast-food fare.)

And my point is…? There really isn’t one. I just felt like comparing your standard sci-fi utopia to Ellis’ amazing dystopia. That’s it, really.

Advertising and the Tiny Ouroboros

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 05/08/2010 by Fox

Advertising: the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
~Stephen Leacock

Some of you might notice the Creative Commons license in the sidebar. That’s kind of a side-effect of some things I’ve been mulling about concerning this blog.

It would be very hypocritical of me to condemn advertising and then turn around and put advertising on my blog. WordPress says that it does occasionally put ads on blogs (unless you pay for the ad-free thing, which I cannot afford). But I’m not putting any advertising up. I had a few Amazon affiliate links, and eventually all those will be gone. There will be no 200×200 ads for other people’s products…I’m not going to endorse something I haven’t read and I don’t have the money for buying e-books.

So while it would be cool to have a blog that actually makes money, I’m not going to hold my breath. I have the eerie feeling that the Ouroboros will remain a blog with a small readership. I’m not the helpful type of person that writes blogs that bring in the readers. Not saying that it’s a bad thing if you are a helpful person. Helpful people are cool. Too bad I’m not really one of them.

I’m not going to charge for anything. If I finally get around to finishing the e-book I started (one day, dammit, one day), it will be released free of charge. I can’t make myself charge money for possessions I don’t want anymore and I can’t see myself asking $29.99 for a virtual book that cost me a few spare hours to put together. If I charged, it would be more like $5, and at that point you might as well release it for free.

So there you go. No ads, no asking you to pay for shit. Unless you want to, and there’s a little donate button off to the side for that. And I imagine with that I’d just buy a domain name and pay for the ad-free “upgrade.”

In a similar vein, I’m not into the “share this!” buttons. They annoy me. The bottom of every post of just about every damn blog I see. I’ve got a Livejournal feed, a Facebook fan page, and if you feel like sharing it, you can just do like I do and copy/paste the link. Doesn’t need to get complicated. I still don’t understand social media and I’m not really sure I want to. If I want social, I’ll go find some people I can hang out with face-to-face.

Here’s something more on-topic, from the Colbert Report, via The Non-Consumer Advocate: The Enemy Within – Backyard Clothesline