Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.
Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.
And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.
Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.
If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.
Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…
Hey kids. Your mom normally takes care of story-time, but there’s an engrossing marathon of The Real Housewives of some damn city on TV, and she’s asked me to fill in. I’m more of a freestyler than a page-reader, so I’m going to unfold this tale fresh from my mind’s back pocket.
Because I love you, and because my brain is bobbing lazily upon a lilting brume of a particularly precocious rum tonight, I think I’ll unwrap the story of one of daddy’s heroes, a man whose singular vision of an urban oasis has not only helped daddy get through your mother’s tearful re-telling of the salient plot-points of every goddamn Nicholas Sparks novel, but also through your ballet recitals, your soccer games and your school concerts. That man’s name was Don the Beachcomber.
No Trixie, daddy isn’t going to tell you a story about a pony. Why not? Because Don the Beachcomber was a man, man of prescience. Hey, stop your whining! What would you rather hear about? Trixie, I don’t know any stories about goddamn unicorns. Lucy, so help me, if you ask me to read that Berenstain Bears book again, I will spend your college fund on cocaine. What did you say, Tommy? You want a story about zombies? That’s my boy. The story of Don the Beachcomber is full of zombies.
Delicious, Delightful zombies.
When Don was nineteen years old, he left his home in Limestone County, Texas – that’s near Dallas, where the Cowboys play football… you remember last Thanksgiving when daddy was throwing candied yams at the TV set and cursing a man named Tony Romo for almost blowing a game against the Oakland Raiders? Well, he plays for the Cowboys. Anyway, Don went on an adventure, sailing around the Caribbean and the islands of the South Pacific. Read more…
I’d like to open today’s missive with a few kind words about President Richard M. Nixon. In an act of international fraternity and savvy diplomatic P.R., the Nixon administration celebrated the American victory in the Space Race by doling out gifts of free moon rocks to every state, every US territory, and a long list of nations. Ever since humankind first stretched its grumpy morning arms over its evolutionary head we have been fascinated by that giant glowing rock in the sky. Now Dick Nixon was dispersing little bits of it all over the world. It’s kind of sweet, really.
The rocks – four per gift, each about the size of a Nerds candy – were mounted in an acrylic bubble within a commemorative plaque that also featured that nation or state’s flag, which had been part of the Apollo 11 payload. So everyone was getting a print of their own flag which had been to space, as well as a few morsels of lunar gravel. The gift was repeated once more after Apollo 17 with a fresh batch of moon-crumbs.
NASA has always been meticulous about tracking the whereabouts of every lunar sample that has been packed in our cosmic carry-on and brought back home. But once these babies touched down into foreign palms, NASA no longer followed their progress, probably assuming that each would end up in some museum under armed surveillance and the snazziest of security. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Out of 270 gifted rock-nugget plaques, roughly 180 have since gone missing. Nixon’s gesture of international goodwill clearly received a meh-level fanfare from the majority of its recipients. In 1998, NASA became sufficiently irked by the growing black market for lunar pebbles that they decided to team up with the US Postal Service for a sting operation. Joseph Gutheinz helmed the scheme for NASA, and along with postal Inspector Bob Cregger they plopped an ad into USA Today looking to buy up some moon rocks. Read more…
“The antediluvian kings colonized the world; all the gods who play in the mythological dramas in all legends from all lands were in Atlantis.”
This is an excerpt from the legend of Atlantis – or more accurately from the 1968 Donovan song “Atlantis”, but it makes my point. Since the days of Ancient Greece when Plato wove the notion into his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, humans have postulated on the possible existence of a great civilization that sunk into the sea. Once the European jet-set (or large-boat-set, I guess) discovered the New World, the concept of Atlantis was used to explain some of the wonders of the tribes they encountered. The sunken island has a glorious history.
All of it completely fiction, of course. Atlantis is not one of our planet’s uncovered mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle or the physical content of a McRib. Europeans tried to use it as justification for the existence of the Mayan culture because there was no way those indigenous doofuses could have concocted such an elaborate civilization on their own, right?
If you have to invent an entire continent to justify your inherent racism, maybe it’s time to give it up.
Atlantis is not the only slab of land that Mother Earth has misplaced. We should also look to that other massive ocean and the lost island of Mu.
We can blame the so-called Mu mystery on Augustus Le Plongeon, a 19th-century writer who had investigated the Mayan ruins in Yucatàn and allegedly translated some of the ancient writings. Actually he was working off a mistranslation of a piece of Mayan literature then called the Troano Codex, and he interpreted the name ‘Mu’ to mean a land that had sunk after a catastrophe. It was a tiny leap of connection for Le Plongeon to decide that Mu was Atlantis, or something just like it. He claimed that the magnificence of Ancient Egypt was founded by Queen Moo (probably not a cow), a refugee of Mu. Read more…
The sage philosopher and observer of our cultural eccentricities Mitch Hedberg once said, “An escalator can never break; it can only become stairs.”
That may be true, and it may be soberingly poignant. Also, it’s possible that I simply know of no other way to effectively begin an article about stairs.
Every morning I find myself facing the same choice on my way up to work from the subway. Do I heave my frame up the 30-40 steps to my building or flop lazily against the escalator handrail and let the labor of 19th century inventors Jesse W. Reno and Charles Seeberger do the work to haul me up from the depths?
It will surprise absolutely nobody who knows me… I take the escalator. If ever I am motivated to spew forth the extra energy for that fleeting moment of cardio and leg-strengthening climbing work, it won’t be at 8:00 in the morning when I’m facing a tedious 8-hour sentence inside a drab cubicle. There are, however, some stairs in the world that I’d very much like to climb. Staircases which are in themselves an attraction worthy of a trip.
But I’ll tell you right now – I don’t care if they’re just a few blocks away from my hotel; I’m taking a cab.
While it would probably take me a few years to get in shape for it, I’d love to ascend the Haiku Stairs. Plopped onto the south side of the Hai’ku Valley on the island of Oahu, these steps lead brave hikers to an astounding 2800-foot peak. There’s nothing up there apart from a decommissioned Naval radio station and a killer view, but that’s enough to draw in the tourists. 3,922 stairs is a hefty climb for sight-seeing, but from the photos I’ve seen it might be worth the effort. Read more…
If you haven’t read the article or seen the t-shirt, you’re probably nevertheless aware that our ninth planet, Pluto, was demoted in 2006 to the meager status of dwarf planet, a lower classification that for whatever reason enraged pockets of the populace. I suspect a chunk of that outrage had to do with one of our ingrained snippets of knowledge – the names of our solar system’s planets – that we remember from elementary school being altered. It’s fundamental, like the names of our Canadian provinces (which has changed) or the five senses (though actually there are several others).
But amid all this weird hype over a remote ice-rock and whether it still gets invited to the same imaginary shindigs as Saturn or Venus, we forgot to celebrate little Ceres. Ceres was also tossed into the dwarf planet class along with Pluto and three others, but for Ceres it was a promotion. Where once she was just a passenger amid the rush-hour gridlock of the asteroid belt, now she reigned supreme.
And as much as we all have Pluto’s name etched in our brains as the last fuelling post before the great black expanse of deep space, we know almost nothing about Ceres. And her secrets might be among the most interesting in our little corner of the cosmos.
Much like the grainy footage of Bigfoot, this is all we’ve got of Ceres: a blur, courtesy of the Hubble Telescope. We know surprisingly little about this chunk of rock, though NASA is aiming to change that when the Dawn spacecraft pays Ceres a visit early in 2015. Ceres was discovered due to math, which means that I’ll be covering this portion of the story using the most vague and non-researched terms possible. Read more…
Yesterday I marveled at the frantic scramble (or, ‘framble’) to be the first to fly across the Atlantic. It seems only right that I dial back the clock and look at the previous trans-ocean pioneers, those who packed their loved ones and a whole wack o’ pestilence onto rickety wooden boats and set their course for the new world, hoping not to fall off the edge of the old one.
We all know the story of Christopher Columbus, who in 1492 steered three vessels from Europe to Nebraska, trying to prove to the girl he loved that he was more bad-ass than Reggie the blacksmith, and also that he looked good in a buckled hat. Or something. It doesn’t matter – this isn’t about him.
I’m interested in peeling back the known history. Our Native population has been calling this particular chunk of rock home since around 10,000 BC, but I’m more interested in the rumored appearance of other peoples. I’m talking about those who didn’t saunter across the Bering Strait back before it dipped its nose into the sea, never to return. These are the ones we can’t quite confirm – the debated pre-Columbian pioneers.
We’ll skip right over Space-Jesus.
Let’s start with what we know. The Norsemen (also known as Vikings, but without the horns – we have learned those helmet-horns are a myth) set up shop on Greenland back in the 10th century, and they hung around until sometime in the 15th century, even venturing into Canada where they dropped off some archeological evidence for us to scoop up a few centuries later. Read more…
We are almost a third of the way through the month of June, and it occurred to me that I have neglected to provide us with our monthly observances, our reasons to celebrate something… anything. Two days ago I wrote a piece on National Doughnut Day, but that won’t be enough to get me through June. This is one of those cruel months without a calendar holiday (in North America, anyway) to grant us respite from work. So we’ve got to raise our glasses to something.
Luckily, June does not disappoint. If any of these commemorations are near and dear to your heart, call in sick and stick it to the she-bitch of June. Let yourself have a day of rest, a day to enjoy your life. And if I missed your favorite because I’m nine days late and was more focused on writing about a super-spy on June 1, then you have my apologies. The following group of semi-holidays are all still on the horizon.
Take at least one of them as a holiday. I won’t tell.
Here’s one you won’t want to miss. Go skateboarding on Go Skateboarding Day, June 21st. This day was organized in 2004 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies. The IASC is a trade organization that wants to remind you that those kids your mother is afraid of walking near in the grocery store parking lot are not indicative of the entire world of skateboarding. Millions of skaters around the world participate in organized events, showing off their skills and rubbing it in the faces of those lame-ass inline skaters who have yet to secure a Congressionally-approved national holiday. Read more…
Astute readers of this site may have noticed that I often bring up traffic as the most basic example of the deplorable current nature of humanity. I say this living in Edmonton, a city that theoretically has a ‘rush-hour’ that would make most big-city residents chuckle as they would upon seeing a baby owl or one of those little teacup pigs. Our city has responded to such ridicule by deploying an elaborate cluster-squadron of road construction and astoundingly poor planning in order to ensure its citizens are exposed to just as much potential for road rage as folks who live in a bigger city.
I have plodded down an overpopulated 405 in Los Angeles and crawled zombie-like along the freeways in Chicago on a curiously busy Sunday afternoon; I know how aggravating real traffic can be. And while we’re all bundled in a steel-and-fiberglass bushel of a community, we tend to rely on one of three universal gestures to share our thoughts with our fellow humans: the thank-you wave (all too infrequently deployed), the shaken fist of frustration (also displayed as the “What the hell?” open-hand raise, and of course our dearest friend – the finger.
Oh, the finger. How I have longed these past 521 days to unfurl your secrets.
You probably aren’t aware – I certainly wasn’t – that when you stretch out that offensive digit whilst tucking its neighbors close to your palm, you are speaking a language older than English, borrowed from the golden age of philosophy and thought. The Ancient Greeks called it the katapugon. The finger itself was to represent the phallus, with the knobby knuckles meant to symbolize testicles (of which I assume Ancient Greeks either had three or else they simply ignored the pinky). Read more…
There are a few topics to which I will almost never turn while searching for fodder for my daily writing regimen. Religion is one, because I don’t feel the need to fuel heated, angry debates any more than I believe I should be pushing my own chosen religion (Jediism, of course) on others. Another is cricket because I still have no idea how the rules of that game function, and I kind of enjoy my ignorance. Lastly there’s economics because I’m usually swatting at my subjects with the flimsy flyswatter of lethargy-inspired humor, and there simply isn’t a whole lot funny about economics.
But today I don’t care. I’m going to stamp my fist repeatedly against my desk and write with passion, with fervor, and with a close eye on my word count because I really might run out of steam before I hit a thousand words.
The first gripe that gets me clenching my hair in furrowed frustration is the concept of the four-day work week.
I think the last time I felt rested and refreshed after a two-day weekend was when I ingested a salt-shaker’s worth of cocaine on a Monday morning. That doesn’t help me this weekend, because I really can’t handle doing that two Mondays in a row. But the fact is, working five days for two days of relief is insane. My Saturday is often a write-off, as we catch up on the trivial matters of suburban life: cleaning the house, mowing the lawn (or, since it doesn’t look like winter will end this year, mourning it), grocery shopping and polishing the wooden shelf in my trophy case where one day my Pulitzer will go. For five blissful months of the year I have a Sunday date with football. Read more…