It occurred to me that, although he appeared in our yard about a month ago, I haven’t yet written about El Zorro, the latest male Anna’s hummingbird in our backyard drama. I named his so because his hood, which is brilliant red in the sun, is quite black in the shade which is where I first saw him. He and Elijah seemed to be a fairly equal match for a while, chasing each other around and neither gaining the upper wing.

Lately, the ol’ feeder has been drama-free. I guess it’s that time of year when the hummingbirds sing Kumbaya and let old feuds die. Until next spring, that is.

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Yesterday I was enjoying myself at a lovely thanksgiving dinner when, for the thousandth time in my life, I underwent the Vegetarian Inquisition. I could not eat in peace as strangers felt a need to grill me on the details of my diet. I cannot describe how absolutely SICK TO DEATH I am of this practice by other seemingly polite and intelligent people.

The VI has not varied a hair in the almost thirty years of my not eating animals. It seems that, while I was asleep or birdwatching or something, a script was handed out to every carnivorous American. It goes as follows:

#1 “Oh! You’re a vegetarian! How long have you been a vegetarian? (No one actually listens to my response. I’ve said six months, I’ve said thirty years, and all that happens is that they proceed without comment to the next question.)
#2 “What do you eat?”
#3 “Do you eat fish?”
#4 “Do you eat cheese?”
#4 “Do you eat eggs?”
#5 “Would you eat green eggs and ham?”
#6 Optional: some mumbled self-referencing remark such as “Sometimes I’m a vegetarian” (what the fuck does that mean? And who cares?) or “I could never give up meat” (who the hell asked you to?)

I’m trying to think of a way to avoid EVER answering these questions in the future. Perhaps answering #2 with “I dunno, what do you eat?” Or perhaps mumbling with my mouth full, “Can’t talk, eating.” (I imagine if K was at the table with me, he might laugh and fall of his chair at that point, which would create a nice distraction).

Maybe answering #1 with “Ever since Christ has risen. May I speak to you about Our Savior?”

So, even though only the two of you read this, here’s my announcement for the public.

HEAR YE, HEAR YE,

I do solemnly swear that from this day forth I am no longer participating in any form of the Vegetarian Inquisition.

Further, if Inquisitors persist in their questioning, I have the right to resort to sarcasm and buffoonery to deflect any and all question.

Witnesseth my hand and signature
The Nerger

This video came from PETA, an organization I find highly annoying, but it has some very funny parts:

top.jpgAnother perk of working at the EPA is that there’s FREE MOVIES! No popcorn is served but you can bring your own snacks, and afterwards, a science nerd will answer your questions.

Yesterday they showed the documentary Oil on Ice, which builds the case against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve — or ANWR (pronounced “anwar”), as the acronym-happy Feds like to call it. If you have any brains at all, there doesn’t need to be a case built against it, but of course, most people have NO BRAINS.

There were two main points that I found most important. One was that the spill from the Exxon Valdez in 1989 has never been completely cleaned up. Further, the area where the spill happened, Prince William Sound, has suffered permanent ecological damage. Let me say that again: PERMANENT ECOLOGICAL DAMAGE. Secondly, the oil drilled in Alaska doesn’t get magically earmarked for Americans. Oil companies, as we all know, only care about profits. Currrently, much of the oil drilled in Alaska is sold to markets in Asia, NOT AMERICA.

There are many very wonderful people in the film, many beautiful animals, and hopefully this horrible idea will never come to pass. You can see trailer here.

av_swath_shadow.gifRecently it was GIS day (that’s Geographical Information Systems to you), which was gaily celebrated at the EPA. The map nerds showed us all their nerdy-nerd nerd map stuff. These folks like to say “drill down” a lot, as in “You can drill down into the data by clicking here on the map.” Hmm. One wonders why all the references to drills.

In any case, I was magnetized to the workstation demoing NASA maps. More like zombie-ized. I could not tear myself away from the endless NASA geekery the nice lady kept showing us. Now, one kind of map I, and many Californians, have become famliar with is the fire maps. Because when shit’s burning up, we all want to know how horribly, which way the smoke is blowing, and if the apocalypse has officially begun. There’s just something about thousands of simultaneous wildfire occuring in one’s state that makes one feel like the end is nigh.

On to cheerier stuff. I learned that, besides satellites, NASA has unmanned planes with photographic and infared equipment to get even more detailed geographic photos than a satellite can get. One application this has been used for to date is figuring out soil drainage in agricultural area in order to conserve water (another big concern in these parts).

Unfortunately, since we are going to hell in a handbasket, a lot of the sites just show how quickly the aforementioned basket is descending, like the one on coral reefs. But I have a glimmer of optimism that the incoming president might actually look at some of this data and really get going on trying to slow down the demise of the planet.

I try to tell myself it’s not hopeless yet, I mean, they hole in the ozone is currently shrinking.

pfcover.jpgBecause of the atrocity of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which sadly we only became aware of in the last year, K & I are scrambling to reduce plastic in our lives. Most of our plastic comes in the forms of insidious plastic bags from the grocery store. Although we’ve asked for paper bags at checkout for years, what else are you supposed to collect your fruit or bulk oatmeal in? Some stores supply paper bags for this as well, but ours does not. I decided we should bring our own lunch-sized paper bags for this purpose, which we are just started to do.

Then there’s the question of what to put my daily work sandwich in. I was using the plastic fruit bags for this purpose, so I tried just putting those in a paper bag. As you may imagine, this leads to a soggy mess.

Then way…. way…. way back in my memory I recalled being a kid and my sandwiches being wrapped in wax paper. And guess what? I happened to have a roll laying around for an art project the never happened. Voila! My sandwiches are neatly wrapped in wax paper, which is even somewhat reusable.

Some attribute the invention of wax paper to Thomas Edison, and some to a woman named Marjorie Colton. I’d bet it was really the latter, because since reading Patently Female, I’m well aware that often get the credit for women’s ideas.

In any case, there are many videos on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but being I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau (speaking of inventors, may I remind you he’s the inventor of scuba diving — unless it was really his wife Simone), I chose this one by his son Jean-Michel, despite the current factiousness of the Cousteau family:

Well, that’s frickin’ grim. So here’s an antidote:

Princeton University recently came out with a study showing the possibility that organisms may be directing their own evolution. This study show how, once again, we really don’t have a clue how things work.

It also leads me to wonder: if humans are determining their own evolution, why are U.S. citizens seemingly becoming less healthy and, well, stupider? In the theory of evolution, there must be a biological advantage to this. Maybe it’s because unhealthy dummies function better in the our society. Less questioning of authority and all that. Any ideas?

wizardofoz1.jpgRead that title again. READ IT: PRESIDENT OBAMA. I still can’t believe I actually sat there and watched Obama’s victory speech. Did I really see that, or just dream it? I just can’t get over how wonderful this feels to oust pure evil from running the country, and have a chance for real progress. I can’t believe that we actually will have an African American as president. At my job, there’s talk of making the EPA a cabinet post headed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. For real? We must be over the rainbow.

K & I were discussing that it’s hard to remember too many times where there was an occasion this momentous that was positive. Usually big events are negative (i.e. 9/11). We thought of the first moon landing (something that I was much more supportive of when I was 8 yrs. old than I would be now, and actually K was only 1 yrs. old at the time), Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela being elected… there must be others. Being Jewish, I remember Israel winning the Six-Day War was a big deal, as all surrounding countries made an effort to annihilate the Jews (again) and were soundly defeated. (Too bad Israel has done so many shitty things since then).


Oh, there possibly more good news: I read today that Obama is planning to get the troops out of the Iraq in 16 months.

About four years ago, I stopped reading the news altogether. It was always bad, and it always upset me. It’s amazing how much news information I acquired anyway, seemingly through the air. News is all around us: people talk about it, newspaper headlines announce it from news stands. In any case, that was enough news for me. I didn’t see how knowing the details about just how awful everything was could possibly benefit me.

Now I can’t stop reading it. Who will Obama be appointing? How are people reacting? How are The Evil eating it? I’m about to watch his first press conference. After four years of news abstinence, I can’t stop reading and watching the news. FYI, my favorite source is The Huffington Post.

In California we AGAIN DEFEATED yet another sick proposition for parental notification of teen abortions. How many goddamn times has this been on the ballot? When will these misogynists give up?

Well, of course there has to be a cloud over all this, which is the disgusting passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. What the fuck is wrong with people? Melissa Ethridge had a good & angry response. I just think this kind of backwards stupid-ass narrow-minded thinking is over (for now, at least) and that this will NOT get written into the California constitution.

But maybe my rose-colored glasses are on too tight.