Thursday, August 21, 2003

Dances With Squirrels

Like many of you I was fascinated this week by all the news about the Northeast electrical blackout. Who could have imagined that one night thousands of New Yorkers would have to sleep on sidewalks?

Seriously though, the numbers in the news are staggering. According to one report, 50 million people in the US were without power at one time, along with another several millions of Canadians the report didn't count.

Let's put that into perspective: That means 1 out of every 6 Americans had no power for many hours, which makes more news than if 1 in 6 Chinese were out of power for an entire century! To put it in perspective another way, 50 million Americans being without power is just like if all of France were out of power, except that Americans care!

Let's turn our attention now to reasons why the Northeast blackout occurred. We might as well since everyone else has, and we have nothing better to do with our time.

Experts and politicians (different people) have weighed in on this subject, beginning with Prime Minister Chr├ętien's bold assertion that it was New York's fault. Since then the arguments have been mainly over whether it was New York's fault or Ohio's fault. There are still some people though who think it could have started in Ottawa. Ha, ha, that was a joke. We all know Canada couldn't have done it. You have to be a superpower to screw up this big.

All I know about electricity I learned using a model train transformer to fry things, and by sticking one of my fingers in a light socket. Also, my Uncle Fred was a City Light lineman. He found fried squirrels all the time in his work.

So this is my main advice for people looking for the cause of this thing: Look for extremely dead squirrels. You may have to look several hundred yards from the power lines because Uncle Fred said sometimes they go airborne.

Once dead squirrels are found, one specific question invariably arises, "Hey Mister Technology, how can roasting and orbiting a squirrel result in so much loss of power?"

Answer: I'm not Mister Technology.

Still, I'll give it a shot. The electricity in an electrical grid system the size of what we are talking about (the family size) is like a long freight train loaded with, I don't know, french fries, coming down the tracks at a relativistic velocity. It all wants to go somewhere and you aren't going to be able to tell it, "No you have to sit here and wait while I look for this poor squirrel's next of kin." It will knock you out of the way to keep going on down the tracks.

OK, that explanation went nowhere.

Let's try again. Since electricity was first discovered, when Ben Franklin rubbed his hair with his rubber kite, electricity almost never gets rubbed anymore. So when the electricity finds the squirrel it gets all happy because it thinks it finally has a "friend" it can "dance" with. Unfortunately, we all know what happens when electricity "dances" with squirrels. So the squirrel goes bye forever and ever. That makes the electricity sad so it goes all mental…

Sorry, that one was going down a dead end, too.

I'll give it one more try. It's like this. Say you've got a system where all the money that gets poured into it just goes to make a few rich people who are pretending to run it a lot richer. Then it doesn't matter what happens, every couple of decades a squirrel is going to sidetrack your system, because it's going to be one gigantic piece of junk.

That sounds about right.

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Whites Priced At Five Dollars Each

Let's talk about religion!

No, let's not talk about religion! I don't want the headaches! Let's talk about religious authorities instead. Don't religious authorities do the darndest things? I guess it's because they're authorities.

Take your imams, for example. With all the war and misery going on in highly Islamic quarters of the world these days, I would be very surprised if the world's imams weren't making pronouncements right and left. But the other day when I went looking on Islam.com for a pronouncement or two to get the flavor of them, I didn't expect to see a fatwa on the importance of men tucking their shirts in. (Just so you know, the imam issuing the fatwa basically says tucking the shirt in isn't necessarily evil, although he personally would never do it.)

With that kind of focus on gender-specific grooming tips vis a vis fiery hell, you can all imagine for yourselves how the fatwa on homosexuality read on the very same page. Likewise re the archived fatwa on the same site concerning surgical hymen restoration. Hint from me on that one: "If you break it -- you pay for it." OK, that hint sucked. Let's try this one: "Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten. Now go publicly bury this bucket of kittens in your front yard, you harlot."

Speaking of homosexuality, I want to take time out to say that, although I am not myself a homosexual so far as I am aware of, I am deeply grateful that the Supreme court has now recognized my right to practice sodomy in the privacy of my own bedroom with consenting adults, because I've been doing it anyway.

Of course Islamic imams do not hold the monopoly on fatwas. The Vatican just issued one of their own on gay marriages. Having once been a card-carrying member of the Catholic Church (in my impetuous youth I favored the classics) I find its decrees delightful and fascinating. In much the same way that I find forced live oyster eating riveting. This particular decree compares especially well with the shirt tucking decree in its decreeness, or decree-osity.

Will someone please explain to me how exactly does allowing at least civil homosexual marriages undermine heterosexual marriages? What exactly do people think is going to happen? Do they think all the straight guys are going to wake up one morning and think, "Hey, I could have married one of my buds!" and immediately divorce the wife and ditch the kids and elope with Steve in accounting?

The Vatican decree whinges on and on about the blessed sanctity of procreation, as if allowing gay marriage is going to make one iota of difference to the frequency of condom failures during straight sex.

But enough of that nonsense. What I really want to talk about here isn't a fatwa or decree, but it's still coming from a religious authority. I want to talk about Bishop Fred Caldwell's decision to pay white people to come and diversify his overwhelmingly Black-attended church in Shreveport, Louisiana. Five dollars for Sunday masses, fifteen for Thursdays.

Whoa! Can you say "spiritual ho's?" My first reaction was to recall that when an impoverished homeless guy I was often bribed with food to attend meals. I thought: this just cuts through the BS. They pay the money; I can spend it the way I want. Maybe I don't want turkey tetrazinni. Maybe I'm in the mood for chicken diablo. It's my choice.

But then I thought, wait a minute, what's all this saying? I mean, first of all, how white do you have to be to collect your fee? Does a Quarter-white get $1.25 on Sundays? Does Michael Jackson get anything; does effort count? How about comportment?

You know, if it were me, in Louisiana, I'd pay more for an Asian than a white person, out of supply considerations.

When someone suggested that Bishop Fred might give the money to the poor instead, he said that that was the sort of thing Judas Iscariot would have proposed. I'm wondering: if Judas Iscariot were to tell Bishop Fred not to jump off a bridge, would he do it?