This is where 'everything else' goes.

The Breakfast Invitation

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , , , — Wigi @ 8:31 pm January 31, 2009

I got up late this morning, and decided I would toss a load of laundry into the washing machine. When I went downstairs with my arms full of clothes. I was greeted at the bottom of the steps by the family cat, named Mouse.

“Meow.”

“Hey, Mousie! You’re right, it is a nice day.”

“Meow.”

“Yeah, me too. I was going to go to the convenience store and get coffee and one of those terrible breakfast sandwiches.” I noticed that there was a spot on one of the shirts I was stuffing in the washing machine, so I grabbed the pre-wash and started spraying like there was no tomorrow.

“Meow.”

“Wow, that’s really sweet Mousie, but you know I prefer coffee and that sausage-egg-fat pill they sell at Holiday”

“Meow.”

“No, I am not too good to eat with you… but there’s a reason they call it “cat food” and not “cat and people food.” Plus, there’s something about eating something that is nothing more than fish-flavored Lucky Charms.” I dumped the soap in and started the washing machine.

“Meow.”

“Because you’re a cat, that’s why. I am not making salmon for breakfast, and if I did, I wouldn’t be feeding you any of it. Anyway, you’re supposed to like that stuff. You always eat it.”

“Meow.”

“That’s cute. ‘Screw you then, just feed me.’” I mocked his tone. “Meow meow meow, my ass. Whatever happened to ‘please’?”

I grabbed a handful of cat food and threw it in the bowl. “There. You happy?”

What a whiner. I started up the stairs, but then I turned back.

“You know, Mouse, that bowl you’re eating out of? It is a puppy bowl. Notice the little puppy paws on it?” I slammed the basement door.

Let’s see how he enjoys his food now.

Advice From Margaritaville

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , , , , — Wigi @ 8:39 pm January 26, 2009

For those of us who live in Southcentral Alaska, our western skyline is graced by some of North America’s most active volcanoes. One of them, Mt. Redoubt, has become quite active in the past 48 hours, and scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory believe that an eruption may be imminent.

Volcanoes are just a fact of life here in Alaska (as are earthquakes – we had a magnitude 5.7 earthquake Saturday morning, and it was quite enjoyable). The chances of a reasonable person being injured by an Alaskan volcano is relatively small. But when they do erupt, the are rather inconvenient.

This particular volcano (and its sibling to the north, Mt. Spurr) are particularly well-suited to screw things up for Alaskans, because of their proximity to Anchorage, and the chances of putting a significant cloud of volcanic ash into the air. While the ash fall would simply be noteworthy in most places, it would cripple air traffic in and out of Alaska, and also across the Pacific, because most North America to Asia air routes travel along the Alaskan coast and across the Aleutians.

If you go to the Alaska Volcano Observatory website, you can find what is known as a “trajectory forecast” which displays where the leading edge of the ash would be in one hour intervals for a given eruption time. If Redoubt were to erupt today, most of the ash would be carried over the Kenai Peninsula.

So what to do?

The practical Alaskans will go to the auto parts store and buy a spare air filter for their cars, because if there is significant ash, it will be cars that suffer first (airplanes will sit on the ground until the hazard has passed). So… air filter. Maybe a package of dust masks, in case it gets really bad. So after that ten minutes of shopping, what next?

For that advice, I turn to the great American philosopher, Jimmy Buffet, who has this to say about volcanoes:

Now my girl quickly said to me
Man, you’d better watch your feet
That lava comes out soft and hot
You better lova me now or lova me not

Of course, his advice is cryptic… so please allow me to interpret for you: You’ll be needing tequila, salt, ice and a partner… and you need them right now!

ATGC: Spelling With a Four-Letter Alphabet

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , , — Wigi @ 7:06 pm January 24, 2009

I read a blog over the weekend that got me thinking…

This blog was about how a group of people decided to get their DNA tested, to see the degree to which they were related… and in the process discovered that some people who thought they were related turned out not to be related at all. And my post was about how when we record our family histories, that in a thousand years, most of it will be essentially unrecognizable anyway – trying to make sense of who is related to whom, etc.

But think about it this way – our DNA keeps those records for us. It isn’t confused with all of the family politics and dirty little secrets that we keep… How cousin John looks a bit like the neighbor down the street. How Uncle Elmer took a lot of weekend business trips.

There are two problems with all of this. First is, our family trees are really social constructions. We may have known that Cousin John has the same distinctive birthmark as Mr. Johnson, down the street… but he’s still our cousin John, no matter what the DNA might show… and that goes back as far as we can know. We’re going to always rely on church and court birth records to reconstruct our family, regardless of how a particular member happened to become a member of the clan. Second, the further we go back into history, the less integrity these records have. By the time you’re back five or six generations, the family tree is, for most people, nothing more than a collection of names. We don’t know who they are, or what they did, whether they saved their town from famine or stole sheep from neighboring farmers. They’re just names.

We have the same problem looking forward. Even though our ability to store personal information has taken dramatic leaps in our lifetime, by the time a half dozen generations pass, just wading through the vast amounts of data will make assembling a meaningful picture of who we are difficult. So again, we become just a set of names in some sentimental display of family.

So, if out ancestors are just names to us… and we are just names to our offspring, how is that designation any different (or any more accurate) than following our genes forwards and backwards through time? The answer is, it isn’t… and short of becoming a genetic dead end, our mark on future generations will be carried forward, essentially error-free… forever.

That leaves us feeling a little empty, though.

As we learned from George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, our existence in the social realm touches everyone we meet. We make someone’s life a little easier. We help create an opportunity for someone. We guide our kids (and sometimes, other people’s kids) on a path that makes them more successful and happier people… and they in tern do the same for others. In that respect, our influence on the world passes through the boundaries of family as if they weren’t there.

Our DNA is the science of our legacy. How we treat the world is the art.