Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All You Need is a Rat Zapper

"Hey honey, look at this," he said.

"Mmmhmm." I was engrossed in feeding paper to my new shredder which arrived this morning. I had already jammed it twice. I am not good with machines, but I love them.

"You've got to see this," he persisted. I walked over to his computer and saw "Search for stuff to buy" on his Google home page. He was particularly intrigued with an item called a rat zapper.

"Do you want to shoot rats at the city dump?" I asked nervously. Alzheimer's is brutal, horrifying, tragic and maddening, but also fascinating. His mind travels to places I cannot follow, which I can best liken to an acid trip although I only know of them by repute. Since I would never hurt an animal, he had my attention. I wondered where this might be going.

He nodded, eyes shining. "But I want my own," he said. I did the quick mental evaluation that has become second nature. He didn't look like someone who would murder helpless wildlife. Always a relief. He moved down the list to an item called half-life.

"What's that?" I asked. "Einstein," he replied. I looked it up. "Half-life is the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name originally was used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms, but may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay." A lot of formulas followed which had to do with nuclear science.

Interesting. I wonder what the application is to a brain decaying from Alzheimer's. As nearly as can be determined, there is no set rate. The disease is capricious. It amuses itself by darting in and stealing brain cells seemingly at random.

Google also offered butterfly houses, stuffed monkeys, left-handed guitars and pregnancy tests. Speak of random. I could find no connection other than that every item listed is offered for sale somewhere. Rat zapper is like Chinese cleaver is like Swiss Army knife is like -- barbecue sauce? I'm not sure if the BBQ sauce is applied before or after the animal is zapped, though. I think it depends on whether one is preparing dinner or not. Also offered was a Hulk Hand, Tiffany lamps and steaks. Let's put the latter in the same column with the dead rats and BBQ sauce. The stuffed monkey requires further investigation, though. I need to know if we are talking Curious George or taxidermy.

Meanwhile, Flip has found something to covet other than a rat zapper. He has decided that he needs a bazooka. I wonder if he'll settle for Bazooka bubble gum.

I'm beginning to think that Evgeni Plushenko also suffers from Alzheimer's as he now claims that he won a platinum medal at the Vancouver Olympics. His website even features a photo of this medal, which seems to have been whipped up for the occasion. He is clearly delusional. I would have thought that a seasoned competitor who has won many awards for his figure skating including the silver medal a few days ago would understand that good sportsmanship is the main commodity at such events. The judges gave the gold to Evan Lysacek of the United States. Some critics have stated that it should have gone to Plushenko because he attempted a quadruple jump while Lysacek did not, but the points were awarded on form, grace and power, as well as when in the 4-minute program certain jumps were executed.

Plushenko does not seem to care that he represents not only himself and his considerable talent, but his country. Sadly, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also made a statement that "Plushenko performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice." Maybe so. Maybe not. But the whole purpose of the Olympics, to bring superb athletes from all countries together in peaceful competition, is being sullied by Plushenko's disgraceful performance off the ice.

That rat zapper might come in handy after all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Honey, Don't Forget to Pack my Uzi with the PBJ's

Tomorrow, a new law on guns in national parks takes effect. Congress passed and President Obama signed a bill allowing people to carry loaded, concealed weapons in national parks for "self-defense."

What were they thinking?

This travesty represents a huge victory for the National Rifle Association. Since 1871, the NRA has been America’s oldest sportsman’s group. Four million members strong, the NRA continues its mission to uphold Second Amendment rights and to advocate enforcement of existing laws against violent offenders to reduce crime. The Association remains the nation’s leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the military, for which they cannot be faulted even by folks like me who fear guns and would never own one.

But when gun advocates portray themselves as victims of so-called “bigotry” by those who disagree with them, they are way off target. Some have likened their position to African-Americans in the Civil Rights movement, which carried to its logical extreme states that ones status as a gun advocate is an immutable characteristic like skin color and that gun usage is comparable to race or sexual orientation.

They must be high.

In their bizarre world view, anyone who fails to endorse the effects of their gun advocacy, such as forcing families to accept semi-automatic pistols or assault weapons in Yellowstone, is the same as those who infamously refused service to black students at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, in 1960.

It's appalling that the NRA has managed to convince a majority of legislators that allowing civilians to carry loaded, concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife preserves won't inevitably lead to more impulsive shooting of animals as well as "accidents" in which humans are maimed or killed. Their despicable argument that not allowing this constitutes bigotry is simply insane. People are born into a particular race, but none of them exits the birth canal toting a gun.

Guns are dangerous. They are tools designed to kill, and in this country they fulfill their function 30,000 times each year, while injuring another 80,000 people. I fail to understand how this is a civil rights issue, and no amount of NRA-speak will convince me that it is anything but a public safety issue.

Lest I be misunderstood, I do not hate people who own guns. But I do hate and deplore the fact that they will now be allowed to carry them into the last bastions of unspoiled land, our national parks, the very places most people go to enjoy the natural beauty of our country and escape the stresses of city life. While I believe that most gun owners are reasonably responsible, I worry about the few who are not, the dangerous, unstable ones who want to play GI Joe in the woods.

We really don't need to worry about foreign terrorists killing American citizens when we have people right here at home with a frontier mentality, and the weapons to act on it. Expect increasing shoot-outs among the laughing children, wildlife photographers and picnic frolickers as people who shouldn't have guns "defend" themselves against others who also should not. I find this vastly troubling, and you should, too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Requiem for Rain Boots

To the only rain boots I have owned since my ugly childhood galoshes, I will miss you. I bought you because I was utterly taken with the tigers and roses decorating you, designed by the famous tattoo artist Ed Hardy. My reasoning was that I will probably never have an actual tattoo on my body but I admire good tattoo art, and the purchase was further cinched by the fact that I was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Plus, I love roses.

You have decorated my closet for a year, during which time it never rained in San Francisco, although I waited and waited. Finally, the rain gods favored us and I gleefully donned my boots and ventured forth. After a few minutes I realized that my left foot was wet. So wet that when I got home, I was unable to pull the boot off my foot without help. My sock had attached itself to my skin and also required an emergency crew (Flip) to remove it. I thought I must have stepped on something sharp but couldn't find a hole in the rubber bottom.

I took it to a shoemaker to see if it could be repaired. They were expensive, and are no longer available. He flexed the bottom and showed me that it was completely split. "Old rubber," he pronounced with disdain. "But I've never worn them," I said. "I've had them for a year but it hasn't rained here until now." "Cannot fix," he said.

Cannot get money back either. I've had them too long. I'm thinking maybe I'll use them as planters... they'd look good with ivy trailing out of them where my legs used to be.

The Chinese Year of the Tiger began on February 14th, otherwise known as Valentine's Day. It also marked Losar, the Tibetan New Year and most important holiday of all to Tibetans. Unfortunately, those in Tibet were not allowed to celebrate because the Chinese government which took over their country in 1959 remains intent on destroying their culture as innocent people, both Tibetan and Chinese, hang in the balance while the world does nothing. Sadly, this is how most individuals behave regarding the less fortunate members of their own societies who slip through cracks every day. Until everyone realizes at the cellular level that we are all connected, nothing will change significantly. Tashi Delek!* And Xīn nián hǎo!**

* Happy New Year in Tibetan
**Happy New Year in Mandarin