Climate Change Wisdom from Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has extolled the benefits of a warming planet:

“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as twenty days.”

Last week Pompeo shared his climate knowledge with the Washington Times — not to be confused with the Washington Post — newspaper:

“If waters rise — I was just in the Netherlands, all below sea level, right? Living a wonderful, thriving economic situation.”

Unfortunately what works for Netherlands won’t work for the state of Florida:

“Most of the state—consists of limestone that was laid down over the millions of years Florida sat at the bottom of a shallow sea. The limestone is filled with holes, and the holes are, for the most part, filled with water.”
“You can’t build levees on the coast and stop the water. The water would just come underground.”

(Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker):

No big deal; the climate “always changes,” and so “societies reorganize, we move to different places, we develop technology and innovation.”

Like they’re doing in Guatemala:

“Guatemala is consistently listed among the world’s 10 most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change. Increasingly erratic climate patterns have produced year after year of failed harvests and dwindling work opportunities across the country, forcing more and more people to consider migration in a last-ditch effort to escape skyrocketing levels of food insecurity and poverty.”

(Gena Steffens in the National Geographic)

As we know, Pompeo and his boss are doing everything they can to assist Guatemalan refugees unable to sustain themselves in their home country.

And say good-bye to Louisiana.

100 Years of A & W Root Beer

Long ago and not so very far away, a family night out would be a fifteen-mile drive up U.S. 101 on the Oregon Coast, past Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park to the A&W drive-in just as the highway entered Seaside. The A&W featured car service, so our two young daughters could enjoy their burgers in the comfort of the back seat.

The Seaside A&W is long gone. A McDonald’s thrives nearby, testament to effective advertising and rigid uniformity. A&W restaurants are still around, but fewer than half as many as there were in the seventies. Continue reading “100 Years of A & W Root Beer”

Impeachment Primer

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” – Article 2, Section 4
Step one: the House of Representatives by simple majority passes Articles of Impeachment, laying out the alleged offenses of the impeached officeholder. Step two: the trial is held in the Senate. In the case of the president, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides, otherwise the President of the Senate aka the Vice-President. (The Constitution does not specify; inferring it would be the usual presiding officer.) A two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove from office. Conviction by the Senate does not disallow criminal prosecution.

Continue reading “Impeachment Primer”

More About Cheese

English chef John Quilter hosts the YouTube series Food Busker. He has posted episodes showing how to make healthy fried chicken, beef bourguignon burgers and various recipes using ramen. A recent chapter sounds like something that could be from Monty Python. He embarks on a project to make cheese using bacteria from celebrities.

John Quilter – Food Busker

Quilter concedes he has a couple challenges: he doesn’t know any famous people and he doesn’t know how to make cheese. He does find five British celebrities, including a rapper and Great British Bake Off finalist. He also knows people who know how to make cheese.

Swabs from the ear, armpit, nose, or navel of the celebrity volunteers become the makings of starter cultures to begin the transformation of milk into comté, mozzarella, stilton and cheddar. The cheeses are aging in the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the exhibition. Food: Bigger than the Plate. No sample will be offered.

This demonstration recreates a project from 2013. The stated purpose, then and now, is “to educate the public about the ubiquitousness of microbes and to challenge cultural queasiness around bacteria.”

Decompose or Recompose?

Perhaps you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s death – imminent or far in the future – and what its impact will be, whether environmental or financial. The state of Washington has addressed your concern. Senate Bill 5001, pithily titled “Concerning Human Remains,” is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. (Governor Inslee is quite busy these days running for President, you know.) If signed, the new law allowing the “natural organic reduction” of dead human bodies will take effect May 1, 2020.

A simpler term is “composting.” Rather than putting a body filled with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals into a non-biodegradable casket and burying it in a crowded cemetery, or releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by incinerating it, the new law will allow after-life remains to decompose on their own and become part of the earth.

The new word is “recomposition.” A new organization is ready. Katrina Spade is founder and CEO of the firm Recompose, whose main purpose is the natural returning of human bodies to the earth after death. She is an advocate of human composting and has worked with scientists studying natural decomposition, including real-death testing in North Carolina.

Of course, some find this appalling. Conservative Catholics ask What about the human soul? and condemn recomposition as another example of disrespect for human life, equating it with abortion and euthanasia.

Serving on Recompose’s board is Caitlin Doughty, owner of Undertaking LA, a non-traditional mortuary in southern California whose declared mission is “to allow families to reclaim their rightful control over the death and dying process, as well as care of the dead body.” She has also gained YouTube fame with her series “Ask a Mortician,” using humor and plain talk to address myriad death issues, from the cost of funeral services to death denial.

Throughout the history of humankind, one wonders what are the relative numbers of deceased who were naturally composted, whether left lying on a battlefield or bulldozed into a mass grave or swept away by a natural disaster.

Ask a Mortician

Jesus and the Easter Bunny

How did we go from the Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection to a bunny hiding eggs – chocolate or decorated – for the delight of children? You may not not recall any mention of it in the Gospels.

The two major Christian holidays coincidentally are observed on the change of seasons, times of celebration for much of humankind: Christmas at the winter solstice when the sun starts its return and Easter at the spring equinox, recognized from antiquity as a time of fertility. What follows may or may not be true.

Whence came the name “Easter?” It is thought to derive from a pagan figure known as Eostre who was celebrated as the goddess of fertility by the Saxons of Northern Europe. She was represented by that symbol of prolific breeding: a rabbit. There is, however no historical evidence for this.

Or maybe it’s because rabbits were thought to be hermaphrodites, able to reproduce without sex. Hence a connection with the Virgin Mary.

Eggs are an ancient symbol of new life and have been part of spring festivals for millennia.

Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’s emergence from the tomb.

Eggs were considered forbidden during Lent. Christians decorated them to celebrate the end of fasting and ate them on Easter.

What is probably true is German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century brought with them stories of egg-laying(!) hares. Children made nests for the “Osterhase” to lay colored eggs. The Easter Bunny story expanded from there.

So honor the holiday that is the basis for Christianity but whose symbols have few documented origins and only the most tangential relation to Jesus Christ’s resurrection.