You ever calculate the amount of crap you throw away when you buy a simple product like a bottle of aspirin? Depending on the brand and outlet, you may buy a standard bottle of aspirin shoved inside a larger cardboard box wrapped in a plastic sleeve. 

Once you’ve ripped off the plastic and torn open the box (neither one of which have a convenient point of entry), you now grasp a bottle whose top is incapacitated by a plastic seal that, if you have no a sharp object at hand, you must rip off with you teeth.

Wrestle the top off, and inside you find – another seal, paper over foil, that can’t be totally annihilated by any known implement, though you can get enough of it loose the shake out your two aspirin – except that they’re blocked by a wad of cotton that requires tweezers for its removal.  Remove the cotton, and mixed with the aspirin is a bumbly desiccant packet inserted to absorb excess moisture that had no earthly way to get into the bottle-fortress in the first place.

So: plastic, cardboard, outer cap seal, inner seal, cotton, desiccant – 6 pieces of trash before you’ve swallowed a pill. When, later, you toss the empty, there’s the bottle and its cap – 8 pieces in all. 

Don’t worry, this rant is not finished. I plan to expand later with a full-scale screed on waste.

Actually, you should worry, because I may drive you nuts with my conspiracy theories about packaging.

    *    *    *

Linda and I support a variety of social, educational and environmental groups. I arrange our giving according to a (somewhat anal) schedule: Each outfit receives a single annual donation during its specific month of the year. This, to spread the outlay. A few exceptions – Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, and the Southern Poverty Law Center – each have permission to yank $25 a month directly from our bank account.

But that’s it, all of it. We don’t respond to phone calls, emails or snail mailings from any of these groups whining for us to up the ante.

The emails are no real problem – just a quick tap of the “delete” key. The phone calls (cleverly timed to our second bite of dinner) are more annoying but rapidly eliminated with a hearty “fuck off” (actually, said only once; we either hang up of leave the receiver open to waste as much of the bleater’s time as possible).

But those paper mailings force steam out my ears. “We give you money for important environmental work and you spend part of it to rag me with litter that I toss into my environmentally unsound woodstove?” When I think of it (and where the outfit’s website allows) I enter my contact preference: “Never, under any circumstance, send me a piece of postal mail about anything whatsoever.”

I’m probably wrong – you can never overestimate human gullibility – but I can’t imagine that this constant nattering for “more” brings in enough extra cash to cover the cost of broad-spectrum postage, and of the waste created.

    *    *    *

My daughter Morgan recently gave us an electric two-burner hot plate so we’ll have a way to cook when we miss our propane delivery again next winter. It’s a tidy outfit that just plugs into a wall outlet and is immediately ready to spew happy energy.

Of course, it comes with two pages of the usual dire cautions of the form, “Do not plug the cord into your ear!” (Similar cautions, of no value whatsoever, help keep the company’s legal department busy.)

In this case, there was also a round paper sticker glued to the metal surface next to the burners It read: “Caution, surface may become hot!” Now, of course, no one using a stove would ever consider such a possibility unaided by an exclamation point.

I always remove such annoyances because they’re ugly, asinine and attract dirt, grease and soy sauce. I did my best to peel the little fucker off, but it fragmented, so I wet the paper, waited ten minutes and scraped like mad. I did remove the paper, but the underlying glue would not budge. Which meant it was solvent-based. Which meant it was flammable. Which meant that, should the surface actually get hot enough to burn your fingers, the caution label would become a fire hazard.

I love wallowing in the native intelligence of corporate bumwads.

    *    *    *

We both, as leftist Pennsylvanians, really like Sen. John Fetterman (we first heard him speak at a dinner, were impressed, and have generally liked his outlook since), so we were pretty upset when he had his stroke. But he still won the election. Then he was treated for depression and out of an active role in the Senate for two  months, which both won him praise for honesty and openness, along with the usual damnation from the ever-angry morons on social media.

But what really knocked me sideways was the conspiracy theory that he had been replaced by a body double. Now, take a good look at any photo of the man: There is no human being alive that could serve as a body double for John Fetterman. 

This guy, with his massive brow ridge and menacing loom, looks like those early bestial drawings of a Neanderthal. And that’s OK, considering what’s been learned about Neanderthals in recent years. Today, we know that those looming, shambling, big-brained goons invented art and just about every other hominin advance that used to be attributed to the pretty-boy Cro-Magnons.

So maybe John Fetterman has a surfeit of Neanderthal genes, and maybe that’s why he’s the kind of politician this post-Cro-Magnon country needs. 

  *    *    *

Dr Geoffrey Hinton, on leaving his post as head of AI development at Google:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the kind of intelligence we’re developing is very different from the intelligence we have. So it’s as if you had 10,000 people, and whenever one person learned something, everybody automatically knew it. And that’s how these chatbots can know so much more than any one person.” 

  *    *    *

Yesterday was my 84th birthday.That’s not in any way important, but for me it’s unsettling.

Roughly 3 months past his 84th, my oldest brother, Rod, died of heart failure. It had come on fairly quickly, played out even quicker. So, if I carry on for another few months, I will have outlived, by age, everyone in my nuclear family’s last 2 generations.

This was not supposed to happen. I was a ridiculously sickly kid (or at least treated as such), and I figured I’d crap out pretty early. Instead, my mother died at 61, my father at 76, brother Vic at 81, Rod at 84, while I’ll likely piddle on for another half decade or so (my paternal grandma kept at it until age 98).

It’s not fair, in the least. Rod was twice the human being I could ever hope to be, and, were I in charge of things, he would have lived well into the next century, timing his brewing coffee by his wrist watch and railing against the congenital stupidity of the human race. 

  *    *    *

Last query: Did Blaine T. Kneebone get elected?

It must have been at least 20 years ago, during election season, that Linda and I were driving, don’t recall why, along Rt. 32 that parallels the Delaware River in Bucks County, north of Philly. Every half-mile or less we’d pass a red, white and blue election yard-sign for Blaine T. Kneebone. I have no idea what office he might have been running for, just that every time we’d pass a sign, I’d mutter, “That’s not possible… there couldn’t be…” But apparently it could be – and was. 

I have no idea if Mr. Kneebone was elected, but I’ll tell you, if I lived in his district, I’d vote for him in a minute.

Wouldn’t you?

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