Thursday, October 28, 2010

The future is decidedly Female?

Matt Thornhill, president of the Boomer Project, has written a fascinating column this week, entitled, "The Future is Decidedly Female." He based some of his reasonings upon an article in The Atlantic, "The End of Men," by Hannah Rosin.

Their arguments are sound and convincing, for a thesis that the modern, post-industrial society may be better suited to Women.

In education, in industries showing growth patterns, even in life satisfaction studies for today's productive age-60 and up life stage, Women are taking the lead.

These are simple, emperical facts, not wishful thinking on the part of ardent Feminists.

For me, it raises a number of questions. I have always believed that Women have a slight edge of greatness over men in virtually every aspect of life, except the primitive application of brute force, which has historically been used to hold them back. (I.e, if you have an opiniated Woman in your village who won't kowtow to male leadership ... declare Her a witch and drag Her to the square to be burnt.)

But I am a man myself and must examine my place in the new reality. It is one thing to malign glass ceilings when they still exist and pat yourself on the back as forward-thinking and magnaminous. It is another thing entirely to behave appropriately in a day-to-day world in which glass ceilings have been shattered and the tide of change calls your bluff.

To make historical parallels: It was one thing to be a West German calling for the Berlin Wall to come down; another thing entirely to live in a reunited Germany. It was one thing to be an ardent, antibellum abolitionist, another thing entirely to handle the reality of post-Civil War free African-Americans competing for employment, living in your neighborhood and dating your daughters.

If the trends continue, and Women come to fully outnumber men in government, business and other fields of life, how shall we men react? Our options are:

To fight back, reimposing male domination;

Surrender and crawl into corners to lick our wounds and stagnate;

Or learn how to handle the new reality in a manner that benefits humanity overall.

Of course, I support the latter option. Fair competition for excellence, can only be a good thing. As Women can learn from men in some aspects of leadership and success, so can men learn from Women.

Very interesting food for thought.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Feeling like Squidward

This comparison will make no sense to a person not well acquainted with the trials and tribulations of Squidward Tentacles. Watch a Spongebob marathon, then get back to me.

I feel like Squidward today after his encounter with Squilliam Fancypants. I just came across the Curriculum Vitae of my old college roommate, who is now Dr. So and So, a professor at Such and Such University, with a list of honors and published works that takes up two pages and is probably heavily abridged.

Me, I'm just me. Same old unremarkable job,nothing published, house in need of repair, growing old in obscurity.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled non-self-pity program.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Of course

It figures ...

That on the morning that my car satellite radio is broadcasting the last chapter of a very exciting book, promptly at 6:30 a.m. as I am on the way to work ...

I would be out of gas and have to stop.

And that the !^%$& pump wouldn't take my card so I would have to go stand in line and prepay inside.

And that three or four schlubs in front of me would be wasting their paychecks and all of our time buying lotto tickets.

And that the clerk would insist that the pump is just fine and send me back outside to try again.

And that of course the pump still wouldn't work and I would have to go back inside with my teeth grit and stand behind another schlub and prepay inside in spite of his protestations that the pump is working just fine.

Things like that are supposed to happen on Mondays, not Fridays.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dog saga

I saw her last week, a blur of white, as she darted away from my car as I pulled into the driveway.

Animals of all kinds come and go through my little neck of the woods and it's live and let live. Bird-stalking cats, my least favorite, get a hiss or a hose blast, nothing more.

But this little dog stayed around. A full day passed and I realized she wasn't passing through on her way back home somewhere. She had been abandoned. No collar, no tags. She was starving and miserable, scratching fleas non-stop. And she appeared to be pregnant.

That was Thursday. I made the decision to get involved. That is not done lightly. You can't get started, then quit when complications arise. I warmed up a piece of sausage and sat on the ground and nibbled a little of it to get her attention. She stayed a few yards away, watching warily. After about a half hour, she retrieved a piece that I tossed gently in her direction.

We bought some dog food and I laid it on a plate and put a blanket beside it. She came to the plate, ate her fill and went to sleep on the blanket. Still, was not willing to come close to me.

Saturday we sat apart on the ground for a while. Then I got up and went off to plant a pine sapling at the edge of the woods. Suddenly, she was there, beside me, sniffing at my shoe. She did not dart away as I petted her head. The gulf of fear had been crossed. There are no suitable words for such a moment.

Long story short: We can't keep her -- we have an old, fearful bird already in residence in our home. But a good, trustworthy friend has just agreed to take her in. The dog is not pregnant, the vet says. The fleas and the torment of their itch is gone, thanks to a bath and medicine. And no more will she ever need to fear the raising of a human hand.

What a tumultuous week we have had. How precious is a happy ending!

The Law of Give and Take

... If I remove a book from the shelf in my room and sell it somewhere, my library is slightly diminished, though I may gain a dollar or two for my wallet. Each time that I remove another book, the shelves grow more bare. Now suppose that thousands of books are being removed from thousands of shelves, for sale, and the ones not sold are being buried forever in massive piles outside the city limits.

When I see the glorious abundance piled up in my local grocery store these days, I sometimes think: Each apple, each cucumber, each banana, represents a little bit of vitality from the soil of some farm somewhere. Each one not sold will end up in a landfill, its quotient of biomass locked up indefinitely. Each one sold and eaten may fare somewhat better, spread as a bio-solid somewhere, but still, the farmland whence it originated is the poorer.

Will there come a day when our agricultural soils are impoverished beyond repair, our breadbasket lands as bare of nutrients for life as the blowing sands of a desert dune?

More and more as I grow older, I am recognizing there is no free lunch, no action without a consequence, no action without an equal and opposite reaction. It is natural law, whether in the wilderness or in the societies of humankind. Cutting down a forest to build a gas station has a consequence. Trees will be burned and carbon released. Those animals which cannot quickly flee, such as box turtles, will be killed and over their bodies and the soil a hard concrete shell will be poured, blocking the rain that for eons soaked into that ground and replenished life.

Passing laws to "give" everyone "free" health care has a consequence, too. When one receives, another must have given, somehow, somewhere, to make it happen ... by choice or by force.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Charlie Brown was the master of a certain expression of agony that is today largely replaced in pop-culture by reference to various forms of poop.


It always rose in shaky black font letters above his unhappy head.

Today is an aargh day for me. Today I know how he feels.

In spite of writing the event down on not one but two calendars ...

In spite of a personal phone call that I received yesterday reminding me ...

Still I went about my work this morning somehow believing that Thursday (i.e., tomorrow), not Wednesday (i.e., today), was the day of the big event.

It was no less than a very important community meeting in which I would not only represent the school district, not only make the announcement that our school district would host the next meeting, but also would receive a nice, hot lunch.

Someone called me from the meeting an hour into it. My absence had been noticed.

Not that it did any good but I drove on out there post-haste, too late to do much of anything, certainly too late for the lunch.

I missed kicking the proverbial football and I can't even blame Lucy for this one.

I sat through what was left of the meeting with my tummy rumbling. I drove back to the office in the rain and ate a cold tuna sandwich alone in the break room.

Why is there some stubborn, stupid, part of me that resists looking at my calendars, that fights so hard against the attempt of the rest of me to actually be an organized, productive human being? Why cannot I extricate that part of me, pluck it out like some kind of tapeworm, kick its sorry %$^, then throw it beaten and bloody into the cargo hold of a plane bound for Mogadishu?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mastery of metaphor

“I led him up the dark stairs, to prevent his knocking his head against anything, and really his damp, cold hand felt so like a frog in mine that I was tempted to drop it and run away.” – David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

Friday, October 15, 2010

To be my friend ...

... To be my friend, requires a special kind of person.

You must be willing to endure what most people call being ignored, for indefinite periods of time, then take up where we left off. You must not take this personally. I have scatterings of friends all over the world and I attempt to tend to them all in turn. I stay busy with this frenetic, fascinating thing called life.

Plus, I am a military brat and shaped by ADHD, too. I'm not really sure I know all the rules or have the ability to form the deep, empathetic, sympathetic bonds that most people do. (How my Beloved endures me, is an unfathomable mystery.) I get uncomfortable hanging out and making small talk. I need to be doing. I'd rather help you tear up your deck than sit in your living room.

You must understand that I crave knowledge, but that to crave and to have are two different things. You must understand the difference between a know-it-all and a wants-to-know-it-all and not presume, when I bring up Augustus Caesar or Augustine of Hippo, or the Paleozoic Era, that I am challenging your personal intellect.

You must understand that when I make a promise to you, I WILL keep it, eventually,if it can wait. But if you need something immediately, like your furniture moved, I'm there.

In Chicago, of all places

I have heard it said, and I believe it:

The tropical rainforest is important and we should teach its conservation. But it is equally important for an American child to love and value the forest just beyond his own backyard, that he or She may mature into a grown-up who cares.

Only today I have learned of a tiny, unique little flower, believed extinct. In a purely material sense, who knows what pharmaceuticals might have been extracted from it for the benefit of humankind? Thismia apparently had a relationship with local soil fungi. Perhaps it produced botanical chemicals to ward off other fungi or bacteria.

Who knows what a study of its DNA and habitat might have added to the discussion of continental drift, and how it came to be so far from its only living relatives in Australia.

You see, this little flower, thismia, wasn't found on some pristine Montana prairie, not even in a deep Smoky Mountains forest. It was found, in 1916, in a wetland in ...

... Chicago.

And since the initial report by a sharp-eyed scientist, it has never been seen again. And in the years following, someone smothered the site in fill dirt. And no one really cared, because it was Chicago after all, a city, not some wild wilderness. And so we may never know its story.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The man from Tagaste

This week, I finished my reading of Confessions, by St. Augustine, described as the world's first autobiography.

I will not attempt to write a book review. The book was published 1,600 years ago and I am sure that whole libraries could be filled with the commentaries already printed about it. Plus, the latter half of the book was incomprehensible to me, reminding me forcefully, in paragraph after paragraph, of the severe limitations of my personal I.Q. number.

The logical next step is to read City of God, by the same. Logical, that is, for someone of my ilk who is either completely insane, a sado-masochist or an incorrigible optimist.

Some thoughts came to my mind that I will share:

Tagaste, birthplace of St. Augustine, is in modern-day Algeria. Scarely four centuries after Augustine, that whole region of the world was conquered by Islam and has remained in its orbit ever since. If Augustine had been born there in the seventh century A.D., rather than the third, would his astounding intellect have made history in the service of Islam, rather than Christianity? Would Christianity have gone down a different pathway without an Augustine to guide it from the Roman Empire into the Medieval Era? How different might Islam have been with him as its champion and a shaper of doctrine?

In City of God, Augustine will attack the premise of the day that the oh-so-recent sack of Rome (410 A.D., by Alaric, an event of huge pyschological impact, even though Rome's glory days were long gone and the heart of the Empire was now far east) was the fault of the Christian faith that the Empire had adopted.

It is not so well-known that the "barbarian Germans" who trashed the Eternal City, were in fact Christians. They were Arian Christians, believing that the Son was not equal to the Father. Arian (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH ARYAN) and so-called orthodox Christianity waged war for centuries against each other for the title of true Christianity. The reach of Arianism extended all the way into China before it finally began to lose the battle.

I don't know everything about Augustine, obviously. I wonder how much time he spent in the contest between Catholicism and Arianism. I know he spilled quite a bit of ink attacking the Gnostic sect, Manicheism, that had once held his allegiance. If he had trained his cerebral guns on Arianism instead of Manicheism, would Christianity have been different?

Some historians consider Islam to be a sort of hybrid Christianity. After all, the faith accepts the New Testament and accepts Jesus as a prophet. However, anyone who has read the Quran, realizes early on that Islam fervently rejects the notion that God could ever have a son, let alone that such a son could be His equal.

Did Arianism help pave the way for Islam?

These are just a few of the questions now banging around in my mostly empty head.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Honey, about that hike to France we planned ...

In August of this year, archaeologists reported the discovery of the oldest-known house in Britain -- 6,000 years older than Stonehenge.

It was built, they said, when Britain still was connected to continental Europe.

That gets me thinking. That means there had to be some particular day when humans in Britain woke up and discovered that they were suddenly upon an island. What was their reaction? Was it cataclysmic -- suddenly a churning channel where children had picked flowers the day before? Or was it an oh-so-gradual rise, with a few inches of water between France and England building to its current depth over the course of centuries?