Fatbergs .. they are real.

Fatbergs are real.  No this is not a cruel new term for the obese, it is instead the word being used to describe the congealed mass of oils, fats, nappies, baby wipes and other crap we’re not meant to flush down the drains because it clogs up sewers.  Nice!

Earlier this year London sewage staff had the unenviable task of breaking up a gargantuan fatberg. Measuring 250 metres long, and weighing in at 130 tonnes (that’s in metric, it translates as 143 tons and 820 ft long for los Americanos, also translates as FUCKING HUGE) the vomit inducing monster log was blasted with high pressure hoses for weeks.  Most of the berg was recycled into biofuel (yay green technology!) but a teeny tiny little shoe box sized chunk of it is to be immortalized as a display at the Museum of London.  It smells so vile it has to be air-dried, and then housed in a sealed unit for display.

Please feel at liberty to insert your own pun here, the best I could come up with was ‘People will pay to see any old shit.’

 

FILE - This is Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 file photo of a fatberg covering an 1852-built sewer at Westminster in London. Part of a different monster fatberg that clogged one of Londons sewers is destined for fame in a museum. The Museum of London said T
This is actually a different, smaller fatberg … but you wanted to see a picture, right?

 

 

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A quick fire break down.

I wasn’t going to write about the fires, but then I figured maybe folks in the UK were scratching their heads and thinking, “What’s going on?  Why is everything burning?  Southern California’s got huge cities and the rest of it is desert or ocean!! Why has this not come to an end yet?”

Weeeeeeeell.  There’s a couple of factors at play.

First of all Southern California has a lot of hills and even within the mega metropolis of LA County there’s undeveloped land which really isn’t suitable for building so you end up with large areas of scrubby plants that make excellent tinder. That’s what’s been happening in the Bel Air neighbourhood, the fire that was right next to the 405 freeway .. the one with the pictures that looked like people were taking a commute through hell.

Then there’s the fact that we had a normal Winter last year that included rain… lots of it. You’d think that lots of rain would prevent fire, but the reality is that the rain promotes a burst of vegetation growth, we have a glorious, incredibly beautiful spring, and then all that dense vegetation dries to a crisp during the long hot summer and you have about five times more extra tinder than you do during drought periods.

The winds.  For the duration of the fires we’ve been having massively strong on shore winds, pushing fires further and further inland to areas with even more isolated areas of scrubby dry plants to feed the flames.  Fire also creates it’s own thermal currents providing a little extra hot breeze to help spread those embers.

The locations.  Okay so here are two problems: 1) These fires start in the hills and take hold of enormous uninhabited tracts of land where it can spread very quickly, those areas are difficult for fire crews to get to.  So even if you have a lot of fire engines able to join the fight, you don’t necessarily have easy access to the fire for all of them.  2) The fires have broken out in multiple locations spread out over the Southern part of the state, with hours of driving in between them.  Typically when there’s a big fire, crews from neighbouring cities will be called in to help, the bigger the fire, the further crews will travel to help.  But with seven fires in very spread out locations, the engine power, people power and helicopter power is spread very very thin.

Evolution. There are a lot of California native plants that evolved to have a symbiotic relationship with fire.  The fire actually plays a role in the germination of seeds, and clears the dead scrub freeing up room for new growth, thus facilitating plant procreation. Wildfires are an inherent part of the landscape here, hugely populated areas are not.

Moving forward the next worry will be mudslides.  If we have another wet Winter, with no vegetation protecting the ground, all the water will soak into the loose topsoil and then gravity will get to work on the hills.  Hmmmn.  It’s December 10th and it’s over 80 degrees outside so rain doesn’t seem likely.  But without rain… we’ve got the worry of more wildfires.

And that’s why we are ablaze.

Do this before bed.

We are at record levels of light pollution, according to clever people who have figured out how to get paid for writing interesting stuff that may or may not be true… I’m inclined to believe this one though.

So yeah, the mega metropolises and general spread of electricity means that the earth is a less dark place than it used to be.  No biggie right? Well… apparently it is.

The extra light means that our sleep patterns are being disturbed and we’re not getting enough snoozing time.  Being someone who hasn’t slept properly in years, I’m firmly in the camp of ‘this is a problem’. (As opposed to you little lambkins that get 8 hours of uninterrupted bliss a night and gambol about merrily all day long thinking that the rest of us just need to drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed.) Bottom line, lack of decent sleep causes stress, weight gain, memory problems, and makes you look and feel like a badger tore off you head and shoved pine cones down your neck.

Anyhoo, researchers are saying that humans are finding ways to compensate for light pollution such as the simple yet elegant black out curtains. So that’s all well and good for them, but the light pollution is damaging the animal population.  Ah yes those little critters that lack opposable thumbs to draw curtains.. or indeed walls from which to hang them.

So these poor darling squirrels and ..woodpeckers… rabbits.. foxes.. frogs (my animal knowledge is a bit limited) are suffering from disrupted, insufficient sleep. They awkwardly shuffle around in the mornings desperate to find a discarded Starbucks cup, preferably one that contained a double espresso. They ramble through the day with sore eyes and a grouchy demeanor,  longing to curl up in the shadows instead of.. scampering about? Squeaking? Oh hell, what do animals DO all day?  I know foxes hunt, but what about rabbits?  They just seem to hop about with no purpose.  Frogs… same thing but less hopping, more sitting staring into space. Woodpeckers.. are annoying.

Annoying or not they are suffering from sleep deprivation.  But fear not folks, I have the answer to our forest (/golf course/school playground/alley behind the pub) friends problem.  We can solve everything if we unite and – ready for this? – if we unite and.. turn the lights off before bed.

Seriously, just remember to switch the bloody lights off.

So how does cannibalism work?

I think we can all agree on basic mechanics of being a cannibal: dog eat dog, human eat human, praying mantis etcetera, etcetera.

However I’m a little fuzzy on the details. Last night I was at my first Christmas party of the year (yes it is still November but it is also post-Thanksgiving so anything goes now, the mittens are off!), and cannibalism came up in conversation… as it does, particularly when I’m there to kick-start a change of topic with, “So I’ve been thinking about tribes in Papua New Guinea that eat people…”

Here’s what I’m curious about.  Do every day cannibals eat people they know, or is that taboo, and you have to eat strangers?  And by ‘every day cannibals’ I mean people enjoy eating humans, and who are not resorting to eating other people as a last resort, like they did in the Siberian work camps, or that Argentinian rugby team stranded in the mountains.

Part two to this question, if they do eat people they know, where does the line get drawn?  I mean, do you only eat people that annoy you? Are you eyeing up the fuckface who cut you up in traffic and imagining him drizzled in BBQ sauce and a light dusting of salt and pepper?   Or is being consumed by your peers regarded as something of an honour reserved only for greatly adored family members and friends? When granny pops her clogs do you bury her or baste her?

Part three, do you eat other humans on a daily basis?  Or, is it a special occasion meal like birthdays and Christmas?

Where do you get your tasty human from?  Does everyone have to go out and find their own? Is their a local butcher who specializes in bi-peds, and sorts out everyone’s weekly order for them?

Do apes taste like humans?

If there is no local hunter/butcher to provide your dinner at a small fee, then do you go for a casual stroll in the woods , heavily armed as every good hiker should be, and look for someone you don’t know?  Or is it common practice to  trudge back home with a bloke you vaguely recognize from some of the village meetings, hoisted over your shoulder, emphatically denying ever seeing him before in your life whilst some bright spark in the crowd points out that you sat next to him in kindergarten?

Or… are humans farmed specifically for eating, like cows and sheep?

If anybody could give me the answers without me having to put my life in mortal peril I’d love to know!

 

 

(914) 499-8991 – Shame on you!

6:51 am my phone rang this morning.  6:51!!  Nobody I know phones for a friendly chat at that time, they are all sensible people who are still asleep, or at the very least are bleary eyed and unable to speak in coherent sentences.

Or they haven’t been to bed yet… sensible people are deviants too.

Anyhow, it was a New York number that I didn’t recognize so I blocked it.  The tenacious buggers called me back and left me a voicemail.  I didn’t know you could still get voicemail from a blocked number, I was hoping they’d hear a message along the lines of , “Nope, she doesn’t like you.  Go away-ay-ay.” The voicemail informed me the IRS was filing a lawsuit against me.

I called them back.

Alarm bells were immediately triggered when they picked up the phone straight away.  A phone call to the Internal Revenue Service ALWAYS, ALWAYS involves at least a 30 minute wait on hold. Then there was this weird call center background noise that sounded a little off, like canned laughter on a sit-com.  Plus the chap who was talking to me – Alton Brown – was decidedly spiky.  Going completely against expectations, IRS agents have excellent customer training and are very helpful.  It is rare for them to be mildly prickly, let alone spiky.  And then he hung up on me when I started asking him questions.

To cut a long story short, some git in Armonk, New York, is trying to scam me and/or steal my identity, and didn’t have the decency to wait until after 9am!!

A Rough Recipe

November 1st.. and so marks the passing of a rather rough year.  In 2016, November kicked off with a killer hangover brought on by recent family problems fueling my desire for a blissful little slice of oblivion. (Not this year though, haha!! Admittedly, I’m crashing from too much fizzy pop, buckets of chocolate, and sleep deprivation, but no hangover here!) The problems continued, evolved, and then had some new ones join the party.  There were life changing events, and scary moments, and emotional heartache, all the stuff that leaves you feeling a bit broken.

Here’s the thing though, as I reflected on the last year with my Halloween buddy in the exact place at the exact same hour that we’d been a year ago, we notched up all the good things that had happened over 12 months.  There were many, the year was abundant with good times actually.  New friends were made; old friends were kept and cherished; exciting trips away were had; and there were fun nights a plenty.  However our overall impression was that we had a tough year which has led me to pondering what are the factors at play in designating an easy or difficult year. Where’s the tipping point?

(First a disclaimer: we all know that it’s the individual who decides whether they’ve had it hard or not, not the circumstances. Positive thinking and gratitude is the key to everything, yada, yada, yada – I am a fully paid up member of the silver linings club.  But even though I am an obnoxiously glass-is-half-full person, seeing more bright sides, sparkly unicorns and rainbows than a four year old on crack… I still let out a massive sigh and declared, “Bugger me, this was horrible. Let’s not do it again.”)

So to answer that question “what’s the tipping point?” and to give the last 12 months a firm farewell, here, in no particular order, are my ingredients for a recipe to a roughty-toughty year.

Financial woe.  If you’ve got it, it tarnishes everything and makes every single task a hundred times harder. I’m actually scraping by ok this year, but it’s worth a mention.

Ill health. Humans, when they’re sick and in pain, they’re grumpy as hell.

Feeling stuck.  Have you woken up recently and thought, “Oh my god, do I have to go through this all over gain today?” Does your life feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day? Do you look at it and think, “How do I even begin to change it?  And what do I want to change it to?” It’s not a barrel of laughs and it goes hand in hand with the next one.

A lack of achievement & missed opportunities. You know that sense of self dissatisfaction you have when you intend to do productive things but you end up spending all day in your PJs watching TV and eating dubious food stuffs straight from the tub? It’s a suffocating sense of wasted time and regret, right? Yeah, we all know that one.

Life and death issues.  People you love in dire straits? Suddenly finding yourself facing your own mortality? Not sure how it’s going to turn out, and not being able to breathe when you consider the worst outcome? Yep.  That’ll do it, that’ll mess up your capacity for joy.

Failing relationships. Simple enough, when something goes sour with someone you love, be it a partner, family member, friend, your heart breaks.  The more you love them the more it hurts. It piggybacks off…

..Longing for human connection. Loneliness sucks. It brings on depression super quickly, and it diminishes the worth of every good experience you have.

Fear. Not the ever present fear that all your other woes will come to fruition, that’s just a free cherry on the cake. This is a yummy new fear, the one that stops you from going after want you want, from making changes that will make you happier, it is the little voice that whispers to you, “What’s the point? You’ll be rejected. You won’t manage it.”  It is the fear of that accompanies longing for something so badly, you’re too afraid to try in case you fail.  The reward for this, is the knowledge that your snarky teacher who wrote upon your report card:  “has potential… not living up to it.  Would do better if tried harder… or at all.” was right. Ugh.

And lastly… neurological evolution. As a happy little by-product of the human desire to survive, we’ve also been blessed with a memory that is designed to hold on more tightly to negative memories than positive ones. So when the good times happen, our brains like to shove them to one side and focus on the bad ones. Nice huh?

 

 

 

Bad back haiku

Back pain rears its ugly head again, here’s some awful haiku to commemorate it.

Humiliation

Moving like you shat your pants

Real truth is harsh pain

And this one…

Cannot sit at all

Standing works for just so long

Carpet needs cleaning.

There’ll be more..