Solutions

Problems are easy. We see ’em, we hear about ’em, we talk about ’em ad nauseum, but we don’t do anything about them. We sit in coffee shops and bitch about the government or whine about immigrants and foreigners over our pints, and, what seems universal, we complain that the younger generations are never as good as their predecessors. In fact, if you get rid of bitching, whining, and complaining over half of what constitutes conversation in this world would disappear.

I’m going to complain about complaining and bitch about bitching, and I’m going to whine about whining. Enough, I say! We all KNOW what the problems are. I daresay that regardless of where you fall on our increasingly pointless political spectrum you see the same things wrong with the world that I do. You might express them in different terms, and you’ll likely prioritize them differently, but in the end we’ll be in agreement.

You can’t live for more than a few minutes without air. No one wants their air poisoned by pollutants. Everyone wants to trust that the air they breathe is healthy and life-giving. You can’t live for more than a few days without water. No one wants their water contaminated by pollutants. Everyone wants to believe that the water they drink is clean and pure. Tell me we can’t get together on those things. Sure, we’ll disagree on the best way to get those things, but the outcome is the same for all of us. If we focus on the common goal and submerge our egos for a bit we’ll find we can work together. Solutions are possible. Note I said solutions, not solution. No problem worth studying has only one solution.

You can’t live without a food supply. Farms and ranches need to prosper, and our agricultural systems must be sustainable. Our fisheries need husbanding. Who can argue with that? These are enormous challenges—why are we wasting time pointing fingers? Politics is just a game of posturing, of being “right” and the other guys being “wrong.” What a waste of energy! And speaking of energy, who doesn’t need that? We have to have long-term solutions to the rising energy demand. This is not about the “winners” and “losers” in the political landscape. This is a real thing, a real true-to-life problem, and instead of rolling up our sleeves we cling to our talking points and carp at the people we think are against us.

I say to hell with that. I’m not interested in problems. I don’t want to hear anyone whining, bitching, or complaining unless those activities are accompanied by a genuine search for solutions.

We all seek liberty, freedom, and autonomy. We all have to sacrifice some of those things to have stability, harmony, and peace. Our individual needs have to be met, but so do our social ones. We KNOW we have to compromise some of our personal freedoms in order to have order and safety. We can yell and scream about it or we can get together and do it. We are all answerable to each other whether we like it or not. The true sign of maturity is recognizing that certain things in life are true regardless of our feelings. Civilization is like a candle flame, it can be snuffed out easily. When we look at failed states and see the chaos and barbarism we ought to remember that. A civilized society means prosperity for all. Who can argue with that?

Our brains have to be trained, just like our muscles. When we see the world in terms of problems then we will continue to see the world in terms of problems. The only way to see solution paths is to train your brain to do just that: see the paths. The first step is to stop harping on the problems. Like I said, we already know those. It’s the difference between reading and writing. Reading is wonderful, but it is easy, because some one else did the real work. Writing is hard because you have to reach within yourself and create something new. Finding solutions is a hell of a lot harder than defining problems.

One step we could make is to get rid of right and wrong answers. Schools love right and wrong answers. But authentic questions don’t have right and wrong answers. How do we feed the world’s hungry? That’s an authentic question because the solutions are not trivial or obvious. (Beware of people who answer such questions with “It’s very simple, just do . . . ” because such things are NOT simple.) Now I love Jeopardy as much as the next guy, but there’s a reason that stuff is called trivia. Knowing all that stuff is fun, but it’s useless. It’s not in any way a measure of intelligence or intellectual worth.

True intelligence is openness. A worthy mind is one that’s always learning. The more you learn, the more you discover you don’t know. That sort of ignorance is beautiful. When you say “I don’t know” you are opening yourself to new learning. And learning opportunities abound. Confusion, frustration, despair, and bewilderment are all learning opportunities. Who hasn’t felt those things? There’s a ballplayer by the name of Hunter Pence who says amazing things. He suffered a season-ending injury and when asked how he was feeling once the prognosis was clear he said “I’m not upset, I look at this not as a setback but an opportunity.”

Now that’s something! It would be easy in such circumstances to whine, bitch, and complain. But he turned it around and made it a positive. That’s how we invent solutions, by turning the problems into opportunities. It’s not easy to do, it takes effort and persistence, and it requires us to re-wire our brains. But highly accomplished people do that sort of thing routinely. They see doors open up as other ones close.

I make no claim to expertise. And I’m weak. But I’m giving it a shot.

Binary

Computers are binary. We are not. The human brain is NOT a computer, and the computer as a metaphor for the mind is ultimately a weak one. If you’ve ever learned a programming language, and actually written code instructing a machine to do something, you find out straight away that computers are dumb. They can’t do anything on their own. They have to be instructed, and those instructions have to be syntactically perfect or the whole thing falls apart. Now it’s clear that a computer can “learn” if the programmers create such a possibility. And I expect in my lifetime that a computer will pass the Turing Test and fool people into believing it is conscious. But that’s not important to me, what’s important to me is thinking and learning.

One of the most destructive and pernicious fallacies we engage in is this idea of “both sides” of an argument. Pro/Con. For/Against. Yes/No. This is fine for politics, where one must vote to fund something or not, to allow or disallow something or not, to chose candidate A over candidate B. That’s the system and that’s how it works. But the problem is that that kind of thinking—that there are only “two sides” to every issue—is nonsense. The world is much more complex, filled with nuance and subtlety, and issues are multi-faceted. We see and feel all these facets and know they exist. But the complexity is frustrating so we lump it all together and mush it around and turn it into a binary problem.

Is there a god? Yes or no! Really, that’s all I get? Two choices? Fuck you. No, really. Do you think the world is that simple? That god is reducible to a yes/no choice? I once had a classmate ask me “do you believe in Creation or are you one of those Darwin dudes?” One of the most interesting questions in all of human history—the origin of life—which ABSOLUTELY NO ONE has the answer to, and he gave me only two choices. The hell with him. It’s OK, it was 8th grade, we were all stupid then. But I’m a grownup now and I still encounter this kind of thinking. We have science and we have religion. And every wonderful and fascinating inquiry into Nature is, at best, a multiple choice test of which the “answers” are plucked from one or the other.

Stupid. Hopelessly and irrevocably stupid. The universe is not either/or. It’s much too marvelous for that sort of simple-mindedness. There are some days in which I believe one thing and some days in which I believe another. I find myself rejecting beliefs I once had and accepting things I once doubted. Or doubting things I once believed. And then it happens again, and again, and I’m in a new place, one I had not imagined previously. I assume this happens to everybody. Does it? I feel like I’m a river, in the sense of Heraclitus’ dictum “you can’t step in the same river twice.” I’m always jumping my banks, or changing my flow. I’m always moving, evolving, and adapting. I’m the same guy, but I’m in flux. Buckminster Fuller said “I seem to be a verb.” I’ve always liked that. Nouns are supposed to be persons, places, or things, but really those are just labels. Nothing ever stays the same, life is dynamic and ceaselessly changing. How can this kaleidoscope of chaos we call the world ever be squeezed into the straitjacket of binary thinking?

I think we should embrace contradiction and inconsistency. I think we should ask questions that don’t have yes or no answers. I think we should stop deciding if we are for or against something and instead plunge, eyes wide open, into the messy, tangled, intricate, and convoluted nature of things. A made bed is nice to look at, but it’s lousy for sleeping in. A gorgeous presentation at a fancy restaurant is grand, but it’s only there to be rearranged by me and then turned into turds. Life is a process, not a thing.

I came across something in my reading the other day, it’s from Will and Ariel Durant‘s The Age of Louis XIV, volume seven of their Story of Civilization. A Frenchman named Fontenelle is quoted thusly:

Je suis effrayé de la conviction qui règne autour de moi.

“I am frightened by the certainties that reign around me.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

You are not a computer. There is no certainty in your inputs and outputs. Your memory is not fixed, you can’t run out of disk space. You don’t need to be replaced every five years. Since you aren’t a machine don’t think like one. Be analog, not digital. Enjoy the richness of the universe and don’t crush the life out of complexity by over-simplification. Whenever anyone tells you a problem has a simple solution tell them to go back to math class. (I love math. But math class problems aren’t real life and don’t give you an adequate picture of the beauty and power of mathematics.)

And, for the love of god, stop turning everything into a vote. Thumbs up or thumbs down is bullshit, stick that thumb in your mouth and suck. Your thumb is attached to your hand and thence to your arm and to your shoulder and to your head and ultimately to your brain. That’s right, your thumb is part of your brain. And when you twiddle your thumbs you are, at the very least, investigating possibilities!

Free

I used to beat square pegs into round holes for a living. I called it “teaching.” There was some of that, of course. Kids are curious and they like to learn. And there was some of the other stuff, too. You know, the sit-down-and-shut-the-fuck-up stuff. The certified, state-stamped stuff. We called it “curriculum.” It was the stuff you had to sell. Curriculum means “racecourse” in Latin. Is it any wonder we were always rushing through things? The surest way to make a fascinating and beautiful thing into a heaping pile of bullshit is to certify it as curriculum. No one likes to be force-fed, that’s why it’s called “force” feeding.

Authentic learning can’t take place under coercion. Oh, I’ll grant one can certainly acquire knowledge, crucial knowledge in fact, when faced with threats. But leaving aside the guy-has-a-gun-pointed-at-you emergency scenarios, I think freedom and learning have to go together. Education by fiat, or force of law, is counter-productive. I think society would be a whole lot better off if we scrapped compulsory school attendance. If we made our schools voluntary, like visiting a national park. Thinking on that, a national park makes a hell of a schoolyard.

I’m serious. And it’s not because of bad teachers, or their evil unions, or incompetent and overpaid administrators, or feckless and thieving politicians, although, like in all things, these certainly exist. It’s because the system is based on three things. The first is factory work, hence the work-friendly schedule. The second is farming, which gives us the summer holiday. The third I’ve mentioned, and that’s compulsion. You HAVE to go to school.

I contend those three things are fatal. They are systemic flaws. The first two are easy enough to deal with, they are just outmoded. Society has changed, obviously, and the schemes by which teachers and students can be organized and scheduled has failed to adapt. So many more possibilities exist and any and all should be tried. The ones that work will stick, and then, in turn, evolve and adapt as new ideas arrive.

The third is the stickler. Hordes of uneducated youth roaming the streets conjures up The Walking Dead and makes you want to stock up on ammo. But teaching is a moral task, and that’s incompatible with force. It’s like requiring someone to be cheerful. They don’t HAVE to be if they don’t want to. I’d prefer it, but it is not my call. If students came to school because they chose to then the whole experience would be improved. I know it sounds nuts, but if you think on it, you’ll see that’s what all this fuss is about vouchers and school choice. People don’t like one-size-fits-all these days. They like a custom fit, and who can blame them? I’d get all my clothes tailored if I could afford it. This off-the-rack shit doesn’t always work.

People are much like ants. We are a social organism. We require each other to survive. We have, moreover, the capacity to self-organize and we will do so, it’s our nature. I don’t see a free school as chaos, rather I think of it as a catalyst for something new. And by “free” school I mean it in every sense. No cost, or price rather, that is no money needed to connect with schooling. Free choice in what to study and learn, and where and when to learn it. This kind of thing is well past politics. Regardless of your political stripe you have an “opinion” about education and schooling. A free school could give a shit. This is a meta-political concept, it moves past the labels and the talking points and the rhetoric and focuses instead on the needs of the individual.

The Latin verb educare means “to bring forth.” That is, encourage what is already there to grow, to nurture what is latent. It doesn’t mean “shove a bunch of crap down your throat.”

Think on it.

 

News Diet

There was this fella by the name of Scoop Nisker who did news on the radio ‘back in the day’ in the Bay Area. I can’t remember if it was KSAN in San Francisco or KTIM in Marin but he would do these news stories that were sort of unconventional. Very 70s, man, like those great old rock stations were before the corporate takeover of our airwaves. Mostly I remember his tag line: “if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

That’s my new ethic. Not that I’m much of a news-maker, just that I don’t really like the news. Never have, really, but felt obligated as a citizen to watch, listen, and read so I could ‘be informed’ and all that rot. We live in the Information Age, my friends. Any idiot can ‘be informed.’ It’s not hard. Everywhere we go we are bombarded by information. One can hardly find a beer-drinking joint these days that doesn’t run the television constantly. Really? Do we have to have the TV on? I like to watch a ballgame or two, certainly, but sometimes I just like to shoot the shit with the regulars. But asking a bar to turn off the TV is like asking them to turn off the taps. Seems we need to be guzzling electronic jibber-jabber along with our ales.

Screw that. I’m going on a diet. A news diet. A media diet. We live in a land of plenty. We have lots of food and it’s available all the time and it is pretty damn cheap and convenient. Look at the consequences: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. So we limit our intakes, right? We cut the fat and the sugar and all that and try to do portion control and try to have healthy snacks and whatnot. There’s a diet out there for every kind of eater, all with the same goals of losing weight and improving health. That is, we know we have too much and we have to have schemes for controlling our behaviors so we don’t over-indulge.

So why can’t we have a news diet? Don’t you think we get too much of that shit? I do. I find my brain rotting from the overload. Our electronic media are everywhere. We carry them around with us, fer chrissakes. There’s no place where you are free of the electromagnetic stream. Even in my favorite watering holes everyone is pulling out their damn gizmos instead of talking. Or just shutting up and drinking. Yeah, I know I sound like a grumpy old man. I don’t mean to, I have no beef with technology. I’m typing a blog post, after all, that’s something I couldn’t do not long ago, and I enjoy this freedom and opportunity to blather on and on about pointless stuff. If you are concerned, as I am, about information overload, then STOP READING and go outside and play.

There I go, telling you what to do. There you go, reading when you should be out playing. I have no prescription for anyone else. I know I need a diet, that’s my reality. Yours, I hope, is something else entirely. Along with my news diet, which I hope will improve my health, I have some other peeves. (Why do they have to be ‘pet’ peeves? Aren’t ‘peeves’ good enough?) Like going to Raley’s and being subjected to that truly wretched musical crap they pump through the store-wide speakers. Gag me. Does pop music have to be part of shopping? I’m sure the corporate geniuses worked it out and decided it was soothing and keeps the customers from throwing things. Or makes us hungry so we buy more, something like that. But it makes me want to run away. It’s a funny thing about pop tunes, many of them are genuinely good but the endless repetition of the same ones over and over again in both original and ersatz versions ultimately robs them of any artistic merit. I remember the early days of MTV where you could see Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” video at least a dozen times in a day. Great song, terrific artist, but after a week or two you never wanted to hear it again. Doesn’t that make you sad? I don’t want any more fine things ruined by excess exposure.

So, I’m going to make my own news from now on. It won’t be earth-shattering. I don’t do much that’s exciting. I don’t know any terrorists or illegal immigrants or attention-whore celebrities. I do know a lot of wonderful people who seem to like me despite my poor attitude. The news I make with them won’t be anything to read about but I expect I’ll find it interesting and fulfilling.

I’ll tell you what—I think we should all create more and consume less. Instead of sucking on the electronic teat we should be investigating, exploring, building, inventing, learning, and growing. Shit, there I go again telling people what to do. I think I should eliminate “should” from my vocabulary!

 

 

Drought

I remember first learning about “drought” in the early 70s, back when Jerry Brown was governor. Oh yeah, he’s STILL governor! And we still have drought. Not that it’s ol’ Jerry’s fault, by any means. His pop—Edmund G., Sr. aka “Pat”—was the guv when I was a kid, just before Ronnie Reagan. Pat was the architect, in many ways, of the gigantic state plumbing system that moves water from where it is (northern mountains) to where the people are (southern deserts). It’s a continuing refrain of NorCal-ers that the SoCal-ers are “stealing our goddamn water.”

Whatever. I note the rain has stopped this morning and the sun is coming out. And as saturated as the state has been this winter, we still have drought. That’s because drought means “shortage” and we will always be short of water here in California. In fact, we will always be short of water anywhere in the American West. Head Pacific-ward from the Mississippi River and you’ll cross the 100th meridian before encountering the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. West of the 100th meridian, roughly speaking, is the semi-arid region of the country, distinct from the humid continental areas blessed by moisture from the Atlantic and, more importantly, the Gulf of Mexico.

Climb the Rockies and descend into the Great Basin and you will encounter deserts of vast extent. The reason much of the West is still wide-open is because of its inhospitable climate. It’s too damn dry. There’s no goddamn water! People can’t live where there’s no water, and if you wonder how people can live in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or Phoenix, it’s because enormous pipelines and canals ship water to these thirsty regions. Few parts of California have the moisture necessary to sustain large populations, unless you’d like to see urbanization along the North Coast in the Redwood Region or perhaps metropolises in the Sierra Snow Belt.

Even the vaunted production of California’s agriculture—breadbasket of the nation—is dependent on water shipments. There’s not enough to go around. And there never will be. The climate in the Golden State makes it among the most desirable places to live in the country. The pull of 60ºF days on the beach in San Diego in January when the Northeast is gripped in ice storms is strong, and the migrants keep coming. Most of us in California are from somewhere else (my parents are from Massachusetts, theirs were from Ireland). We came to find gold, or flee the Dust Bowl, or to find work in the war factories. We came for economic opportunity and a chance at “the good life” in the sunshine along the seashore.

Now there are close to 40 million of us. And we all want to drink, bathe, wash our cars, and water our lawns. Demand for water is always increasing, supply is not. So we will always have drought. It’s part of life in a Mediterranean climate where six months of the year can pass with neither rain nor snow touching the ground. Some of the population pressure has been reduced by northward migration. Cities like Portland in Oregon or Seattle in Washington enjoy temperate climates with abundant natural water. But both of those states, like ours, have a narrow band of habitable regions along the coasts and the near inland valleys. Head east over the Cascades and you are back in the arid wilderness. Over half of both states get a foot or less of rain in a year.

If you aren’t native to the Golden State, you might think we are a lush, garden paradise. If you are, you know that’s bull. We are dry most of the time. Our greenery is the result of engineering. The Bay Area for example, home to seven million people, gets almost all of its water from the Sierras, 100 to 200 miles away, via pipelines, aqueducts, and reservoirs. They have to—there’s not enough otherwise. The mountainous regions of the state store our life-giving liquid in the snowpack, but we don’t live there. We live in the temperate valleys, foothills, river basins, and coastal plains where there are year-round roads and ports and all the other amenities of modern civilization.

Here in the High Country we don’t really feel the impact of drought because we don’t use enough water. Sure, we have times when the snow doesn’t fall and our forests are tinder-dry and our irrigated pastures can’t get their share out of our over-stressed streams. But there’s not enough of us to cause a crisis. We can make it through the dry time and enjoy the blessings of winter. This year the state will have full reservoirs (assuming the Oroville Dam holds!) and likely an above-average snowpack, so we’ll muddle through. But it can rain from now until July and we’ll still have drought.

 

 

truth

I’m a truth with a small-t kind of guy. In science, everything is conditional. An object in motion at a constant velocity stays in motion at a constant velocity if and only if it is not acted upon by an outside force. For the statement (“. . . stays in motion . . . “) to be ‘true’ the condition (” . . . not acted upon . . . “) must be met. Science works this way. My mind, it seems, does as well.

The Χians will tell us the Truth of the Redeemer, the Musselmen will counter with “Allah akbar”, and Lao-tse will give us The Tao. Truth with a big-T kind of stuff. Interesting, to be sure, but hard for my materialist brain to swallow whole. It’s not that science has all the answers—far from it—but rather it has the best questions. Finding the ‘truth’ in science is finding out what is testable, and what results are repeatable. That’s a lot of stuff. Certainly nowhere near all the stuff, just focused on the knowable stuff. And that’s the appeal for me, deciding what is knowable and what may not be.

The mystics tell us we can know God. And perhaps they are right. But it seems to me what they’ve really been saying all this time is that we can know ourselves. God is within us, just as He/She/It is in the Universe. We are part of a Whole, and knowing The Self is the same as knowing The Whole. Take a look at the history of mystical practices: they involve self-abnegation and a retreat from worldliness. This is designed to do just the opposite, that is, teach you about your ‘true’ self. And the remarkable thing about mystical literature and tradition is the commonality across cultures and religions. All mystics say the same thing, and describe the mystical experience similarly. The mystical types tell me this means it’s ‘true’, that is, this shared reality must be ‘real’ if so many people have felt it.

Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just another ‘madness of the crowd’ phenomenon. When encountering the mysterious we often rely on the words and thoughts of another who has been there before. We all know about bias, and how we can prep ourselves to like or dislike something before we ever see or feel it. Our language and our prejudices are handed down to us from our forbears, we aren’t original in thought or deed. Just because we regurgitate what we are told doesn’t make it any more ‘true’ than anything else.

These days we’ve been arguing about “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Politics is a rather odious undertaking as what is said is not near as important as how it is said. Issues are just packages wrapped appealingly for consumption. Politics doesn’t deal with the complexity of the world but instead reduces everything to binary yes/no schemes when little in life is so simple. Lower-case truth is raised to the status of upper-case Truth simply by declaring it so. Is it any wonder that arguing is the only real political activity most of us engage in? Pick your tribe, embrace their rhetoric, and beat your adversary over the head with it. Don’t learn, don’t grow, don’t open your mind to new ideas, just cling to the safe phrases that prevent you from actually thinking about something.

These things—”fake news” and “alternative facts”—are, for better or worse, the fruits of the Information Age. I can sit here at my keyboard and use this lovely software to spew my opinions about the world for any and all to consume. So can millions of others. Now my own personal reality can be yours, too. It’s in our nature to coalesce around the comfortable and the familiar. If someone says things that reinforce your view of the world you find safety in numbers and sign on with them.

So I’ll stick with small-t truth. Science may find itself the handmaiden of government or corporate interests, just like any other human endeavor, but in the end it’s about the two things that matter most to me. One is uncertainty. In science you have to quantify your uncertainty. Since most of the universe is uncertain my mystical quest, if you will, is to embrace it. The second is humility before the facts, that is, the results of the experiments. We don’t have to like what is revealed, but we do have to accept it. Nature is what nature is and we can re-organize it in our heads to make it more palatable, but we still have to gag it down.

 

 

Overtime

As ball games go, it was a lively one. The upstart Falcons had their way in the first half and even into the second, befuddling Brady and the Patriots. But the New England machine had too much juice in the fourth quarter, and to top it off they had too much love from the football gods. If I were an Atlanta fan, I’d wonder about that coin toss. We saw the first half at a party, and came home for the second. It was nice to spend time with old friends, but it was nice to be in my recliner, too. I feel for Falcons fans, I’ve seen my beloved ball clubs, over the years, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the do-or-die moments. It’s part of the drill, and it sucks. But I’m of Massachusetts stock despite my California provenance, so I know the relations are excited (if not a bit spoiled!) and I’m happy for ’em.

The Super Bowl is a lot of things, but what means the most to me is that football is over and baseball can begin. Sure, I know the spring camps don’t open for another week, but that’s how I feel. And sure enough the NFL had to fuck with me and make the damn final game go into overtime. At least it was exciting football, but enough already. I’m just not enough of a gridiron guy, I’ve no energy for sports other than baseball. Being a fan of my dimensions is hard enough work, I can’t be wasting valuable time on stuff I don’t really like.

And what I really don’t like is hype. I’m already tuning in fer chrissakes, stop shoving it down my throat. All sports broadcasts (hell, all of television) are hype-fests, but the Super Bowl is the apotheosis of all that, and it’s wearisome. I could never get into the whole commercials thing, a TV ad is a virus, highly contagious, not fatal but certainly illness-inducing. I believe the poetic spirit is wounded by such viral assaults as our flatscreens provide us and that we must inoculate ourselves. No known vaccine exists, most meds just delay the symptoms, abstinence appears the only safe course.

Our artistic and creative organs are ephemeral things: heart and soul are easily wounded by our material world. I love baseball, for example, but the way it’s packaged for my consumption is increasingly difficult for me to take. Those bastards talk too goddamn much and spend too much time hyping themselves and the industry that employs them. Like I said before I’m already a fan and I don’t need to be cajoled into spending time watching or listening. My favorite way to watch a game anymore is at a bar where the picture’s good but it’s too loud to hear the announcers!

It’s a complaint I suppose few have. But these days I really do feel those goddamn rays coming out of that goddamn box. I actually feel them entering my body and frying my nerve ends, robbing me of my senses, numbing my faculties and dulling my wits. Those are important natural resources and they require conservation and planning for the future. So I’m trying to stick with the reduced commercial-intake diet. Like I said I really enjoyed seeing old friends today at the game party so I could stand the deadly rays for a while, it was worth it.

What I need is one of those radiation badges that’s tuned to TV commercials and starts to darken or change colors when the safe dose levels have been exceeded. Don’t you think that would be a good thing? Don’t you want to know when your life-blood is being sucked out by corporate pimps? Or perhaps a gizmo I can attach to my TV that radiates a mitigating force field, that lessens the impact of the death rays. Or a special helmet, with mentally healthful shock-absorbing inserts. Imagine the advertising they could come up with for that stuff!

I’m a big boy. I know I live in a capitalist society where we have to sell, sell, sell, and buy, buy, buy. That’s how it goes. Produce, produce, produce. Consume, consume, consume. I’m an American, I understand. Ads are part of life, poisonous or not. And it’s the dose that makes the poison, so I’ll just have to watch those doses.