Dookie Speculation

To further my reputation as the most eminent thinker on this blog collective, I humbly submit the following informal hypotheses. Content warning: feces, of course.

Random thoughts from last night. Old folks sometimes have terrible dookie stink. It’s kinda sickly sweet garbagey like a dumpster of rotting fruit. Unfortunate.

That’s me in just a few years, so I wonder. Why? And I came up with two possible answers, which could be tested by a scientist with the facilities and inclination. (Or maybe the answer is already known? Whatever, I finish my thoughts.)

The Fresh Trash Hypothesis: The aged digestive system cannot handle food as effectively, meaning the stool has more under-digested components. They smell stronger because they’re not as chemically burned up / denatured.

The Shitbarf Hypothesis: In honor of the prolific graffiti tagger of Seattle, Shitbarf… esquire? Anyhow, I think the gatekeeping of the digestive tract breaks down.

Fluids meant for the stomach end up in the esophagus or duodenum, those meant for the duodenum end up in the small intestine, etc. So basically, old folks could be passing some amount of fresh bile.

I am not googling the answer. Not curious enough yet. Maybe when I’m olda.

I just hope I never get like the person who stinkbombed the “Rapid Ride” bus when it first started in my town. For some reason, one of those busses ended up smelling hella rank, only becoming bearable several months later.

It smelled like one of those Europeans that used to eat mummies went on to become a mummy that was fed to a cruise ship on platters of norovirus shrimp, and the bus was used to ferry passengers to the hospital, with several dying en route.

Dookie. I don’t like it.

I’m Hella OK

It occurs to me, in light of the comment on my latest bird article, some might imagine me depressed. Worry not, dear readers. I’m not. I only ever feel bad to the extent that it would be reasonable to feel bad in any given situation, and my situation is not as bad as many other blogadores y blogadoras on this internet. (Especially on The Orbit. Support The Orbit y’all.) I’ve got that depressive realism, but without the clinical depression, it’s just a pretentious arty flavor in my thought.

The world is rough and keeps getting rougher. And as a quiet cat in the corner with eyes open, you can see the fires burning with clarity. I didn’t call the exact date of the subprime mortgage collapse. But I was that impoverished minimum wage fucko on the bus, looking at ads for home ownership none of us could afford, wondering how long it would be before predatory lending on that scale had consequences.

It’s grim, but through it all I just don’t feel as bad as I could. Seeing people around that have it worse than I do, getting to know some of them personally, I know what mental health is. My mind heals well. I’m probably the poorest person on this network, but aside from that source of stress, I’m one of the most fortunate in the neurochemical department.

When I talk about some grim stuff, I don’t need reassurance. I’m hella OK. Just waxing lyrical.

It Ends Sitting in a Car, Thinking About Birds

I had a long day. It could have been worse. In a stressful moment I was rude to someone I didn’t want to be rude to. Mega-retail on an understaffed, hot Sunday. I remembered to take some Excedrin two hours in and that helped.

In the early morning (later as well), we had an unusually high amount of homeless people looking to steal, or just negotiating some of the innumerable crises that make up their lives (I deal with the phone crises), or some combination of the two. Some Sundays the early part of the day can be dead as doornails, hours with just a few people wandering through. When it’s like today, my feet get beat down. I hope I helped some people.

Some cell phone companies decided to run promotions where you trade in an active cell phone for a deal on a new expensive phone, and chumps on the hustle think they can get a burner and flip that in a day. I try to tell ’em to read the terms of those deals more closely, because cell phone minutes aren’t returnable and they could be out forty bucks for nothing.

The company has a problem with staffing the store on weekends. When people are new, it’s easy to get them to work whatever hours you want. But when they get a little experience, they realize weekends are hell, and restrict themselves to weekdays. So Tha Man has been busting moves and leaning on people to open their availability, cutting hours all over the place. Other companies have been doing the same enough that Oregon was crafting legislation to make it illegal to force retail and grocery proles to work on-call or not at all.

All that’s to say the photo section guy has been reduced to one day a week, and only shows up if he feels like it. The rest of us aren’t as trained as we’re meant to be and have other responsibilities, so it’s a rolling train wreck over there. But I still have to go over and help people with it. One of these days I might figure out how to use the SD card slot on the new kiosks. It’s kinda funny watching a place go to hell.

There’s a weird banana toy thing with a hole in the side, someone left on a counter. It’s got drifts of uncanny powder all around it. What is that stuff? No one wants to clean it up and we’re all non-verbally daring each other to see how many days or weeks we can leave it there. It’s right in front of the drop box for customers sending out film to be developed, and that process takes a little over a week. If we have the resolve, someone could see that banana-thing as they send out the film and again when they come to pick it up.

It wasn’t even the hottest day in recent memory, but for some reason people were feeling it. Back to school shopping, or trying to hump the last days of the summer for all they’re worth, they cram into the place. Meanwhile, our own summerhumpers skip work and leave us even more understaffed than Tha Man’s hijinks have. Lines thirty deep. Stuff like that.

The babies were feeling it worse than usual. The stereotype of retail, I think, is of hating children because you hear them crying all the time. That doesn’t have to be true. I take on board the education I’ve had in recent years about ableism and children’s rights, think about the kid’s perspective. Plus they usually are not as jumped-up as the stories tell. But today they were upset. Zombie-walking with sweat-rimmed cheekbones, falling on the ground squalling. May you have better times tomorrow, babies.

I usually see our security guys, but today they were not to be found. I don’t know why, but the place really took advantage and got weird. There was a white dude slapping a belt in his hands as he walked around. A middle-aged couple almost jovially having a domestic dispute at 90 decibels while they strolled up and down every aisle. I noticed the man had a bizarrely formed earlobe. I used to feel upset about deformity and mutilation as a kid, but I see so much of it every day now that it’s helped me to be less ableist. Still some residual feeling a type of way about it.

While the couple was throwing out that massive wall of sound, a customer and I were trying to finish a transaction and having trouble thinking. She was pretty mad about it, but I tried to quell that by being casual. I said, y’know, people gotta keep life interesting somehow. We can watch drama on TV, some people feel the need to live it. Is it bad?

With overflow business from the understaffed front end of the store, I spent a lot more time than usual at the cash register. That helped my feet get less busted than usual, but I was still wiped out enough to need some rest at the end of my shift. I was waiting for my ride to finish some shopping of her own, drifting in and out of consciousness. I realized it was taking over an hour and went to check on her, helped finish that up and get out the door.

She’s borrowing her sister’s car while she waits to get her own fixed next week, and as payment for that, she had to get groceries for her. The sister is a chatty cathy, so when she brought the bags into the condo, my ride disappeared on me for several minutes. Five? Ten? Fifteen? I couldn’t tell, waiting in that clean new borrowed car in a suburban residential parking lot, surrounded by low buildings and tall trees.

When we first showed up, Steller’s Jays were running up and down rooftops and flitting through dense tree boughs. I heard more of them than I saw, and they were joined in the shuffle by several northern flickers (and another type of woodpecker I didn’t get a good look at). Eventually they all took off for higher treetops, leaving the ground level to a solitary junco.

There was one tall tree I could see well and it had tons of birds in it, like a bird apartment building. I couldn’t see them all at once, but I could see many go in and fewer come out, and hear lots of bird calls. The jays, the flickers, birds too small at that distance to identify. May have been chestnut backed and/or black capped chickadees, goldfinches, red breasted nuthatches, and more.

Among the calls, I heard notes that sounded like the chime of a cuckoo clock, and wondered if it could be a cuckoo. No, the cuckoos here surely have different calls from the European ones of infamy. But it put me in mind of my feels about brood parasitism again.

I was wondering why brood parasitism is selected for, why it is advantageous enough to stick around after it comes into being by whatever odd fluke. (In the comments on my brood parasite article, Icthyic linked to a scientific paper on the evolution of the trait. I’d forgotten that.) Anyhow, it occurred to me cuckoos are not just saving labor energy by non-parenting. They are also hobbling the competition.

In order to have their chicks raised by another species, that species must naturally serve food edible to the parasite. To avoid poisoned chicks, the adults have to be eating the same thing, so they’re competitors. A competitor for food that is being run ragged by your offspring is easier to beat in a race for resources.

I felt clever-ish, despite the fact I probably heard Richard Attenborough say the same shit at some point in time and just forgot about it. But why do I think about brood parasites like this? Last time I wrote about it, I had seen one in person. This time, it was just a random thought.

Since time immemorial, the cuckoo has been a symbol for the sexual paranoia of demented patriarchs. It’s seen a resurgence in the form of the alt-reich’s fetish porn-inspired cries of “cuck.” So it’s in the air. But it occurred to me, is this personal?

My father married my mother when she was already pregnant with my sister from another man. That baby grew up to be dangerous, exhausting, life-ruining. Antisocial Personality Disorder is rough. But then, so is being biracial in a house full of white people. I wish her well (for her own sake as well as the unfortunate people in her life), though I never want to see her again. Most likely, this background has nothing to do with any of my thoughts, waiting in that car. It just felt important to mention. So I’m mentioning it.


Cinema Day Shout-outs

Got to see Antman & the Wasp and also Sorry to Bother You today, very nice. No time for big reviews, just wanna give a couple of shout outs.

Shout out to Ant-Man for acknowledging the MCU continuity in its way, and for being a gentle movie. The bad guys weren’t so bad, the stakes weren’t too grandiose, it was all just easy comedy, easy drama, easy action. Just lovely. I know the box office wasn’t what they’d prefer, but I’m sure it’ll make money for years to come on syndication, digital, and all that.

Shout out to Boots Riley, director of Sorry to Bother You and commie rapper from The Coup. Seems like the public forgot you blowing up the World Trade Center on that album cover, at least enough for you to score a wide release for your commie movie. Commie props, man. I love your shit.

Shout out Lakeith Stanfield for being a beautiful man and a damn superstar. Not sure when you’re getting Oscars and fan kids on internet, but congrats in advance.

And shout out to my boyfriend who went in for a follow-up on his surgery without my company. Hey, I’m sick with some kinda respiratory thing. Total excuse. No, I pretty much sucked today. Sorry about that.

And lastly, most importantly, big shout out and apology to the person sitting next to me at the 2 PM showing of Sorry to Bother You at the mall theater in Federal Way, Washington on July 16 2018, I think seat D6 or D7? I tried to avoid looking at you even though we were next to each other in a fairly empty place, propriety and all that, but I feel like you may have been a mature woman, my age or more?

Anyhow, I may have infected the air around you with this respiratory crud, even though I didn’t cough much. Also, I had to piss so I loosened my belt to try to put off going to the bathroom about halfway through the movie, and you ran out, never to return. Maybe you thought I was about to whip it out and start jerkin’ in the public-ass theater right next to you, but I swear I wasn’t. Sorry to fuck up your day.

Shout-outs.


Hyper-specificity in Animal Cognition

I’m a fairly unread ignoramus, so when I get to talking science, I do a lot of crawling out on limbs. Let’s see how far I fall from this one.

Some years ago I read a book by Temple Grandin on animal behavior, and how she derives insight into it as an autistic person. One of the ideas is that animals are best understood when we notice their reactions to stimuli can be hyper-specific. A horse might think men in hats are cool, but men in blue hats are nightmarish. A cow could become anxiously fixated on the motion of a denim jacket on a fence, flapping in the breeze.

The other day while toasting some bread this randomly came to me: maybe animals are also hyper-specific in cognitive abilities, and that could be cause for scientists to fail in observing the full extent of their intelligence. There are fundamental aspects of cognition (thinking ability) such as object permanence that are studied by scientists when ranking the abilities of animals. Some degree of object permanence has been demonstrated in some animals, and found lacking in others. But what if the tests are missing important data?

The idea put simply: Animals can have “advanced” types of thought, but for hyper-specific situations. The cat was found to be somewhat deficient in object permanence in a test involving hidden food, but maybe they have much better OP on a different kind of situation – or even with a different kind of food. Maybe they failed the trickiest part of the test with a tasty cat treat, but they would have succeeded with a live scorpion – something they might eat in the wild.

Likewise an animal could have an extremely simple brain, like a clownfish or tarantula, but still be able to perform complex thoughts in a narrow domain. I’ve heard of what can only be described as play behavior in turtles and even sea horses, and that’s usually thought of as the domain of more advanced animals. What could we be missing, because we didn’t catch the test organism in the exact right circumstance?

Forgive me for a moment in tying this subject back to humans – specifically those with cognitive impairment – in the following example. No equivalence is intended, it just demonstrates the point well. I read in an Oliver Sacks book that he had observed a woman with Down’s Syndrome under clinical circumstances and found her to have severe intellectual disability by every tested metric. But then he walked past her in a courtyard when no test was involved, and found her singing and dancing – abilities superior to what would have been expected from the tests alone.

Humans are the most advanced thinking animals on the planet. Even a heavily impaired human can do some amazing things. But maybe non-human animals are a little sharper than we give them credit for. Keep your eyes out for it, and as a good skeptic, think of alternative explanations even if you see something exciting. That’s all.

Sleepy Thoughts on Cannibalism

Content Warnings: Cannibalism, Eroticized Murder, Death, Sex, Misogyny, Children’s Sexuality. I don’t like that list. It didn’t feel as creepy writing it out as it does in summary.

Fressen. It’s a German word for eating, which I’m told implies animalistic action, devouring with lust. It was used in Rammstein’s song “Mein Teil,” which was (in poor taste, haha) about the German cannibal Armin Meiwes. That guy thought he could get away with killing and eating a man, by getting a willing victim – someone who wanted to be eaten. It didn’t work out.

Instinct is imperfect. It can give us desires, some oddly specific (cats must toss dirt around until the stinkiness stops, or flee the scene if it isn’t fast enough), some more abstract (the bug wants to rub its bottom on the big red thing). We want something from each other, but what is it? Grandma thinks you’re so sweet she could just gobble you up. We use our mouths to kiss, to suck, to nibble, to bite, to eat. Concepts get confused. Paraphilias happen. Vore and its variants. Sexualized cannibalism in serial killer types.

This is not to say killers are merely confused and therefore excused, just that it’s not surprising our brains can get scrambled on a feeling. It’s not easy to relate to on an emotional level, but maybe in the very abstract. What do we want from each other, in lust? To join, to push into each other, to pass through each other, to what? The impulse is vague until our socialization and learning shapes it.

It’s probably made worse by the human ability to teach. The more we can learn from words, the less we require instinct, right? Maybe our most teachable instincts are fading to make room for new operating systems and character plots on TV shows. If you look at the demented fantasies of MRA / PUA / incel types, it looks like they only see sex acts as achievements, notches on a belt, things to be performed in the rote pantomime of the crappiest mainstream porn.

Lessons over desires. But then, can we figure ourselves out by instinct alone? Maybe. A lot of us learn how to masturbate by accident and experiment. But maybe less so now. I’m of the last generation to not have ready access to internet porn at the age of eleven. That’s pretty bad news for some kids.

This is rambling thoughts, no thesis. I’ll leave it here.

Capitalism Rocks

At times I wonder if my lefty ways have been a mistake.
Pretty much everybody says that capitalism is the only
route that is concordant with human nature.  You might
imagine that’s just using an Appeal to Nature, so it’s
lightweight thinking.  But it has a deeper truth.

For how can we motivate anyone to do anything without
obstacles to overcome in the form of poverty, and with-
out the rewards of bourgeois creature comforts?  Life is
less meaningful without real travails, without a metric for
success.  That’s what capitalism gives us, and I’m grateful.


Capitalism, Heaven, and Hell

It is said without the threat / promise of heaven and hell, humans would have no reason to be moral. Worse people than I have pointed out the flaws in this. Standup comedians, skeptics, and more. One: laws and society enforce moral norms – not religion by itself. Two: if you need divine law to keep you from committing rapes and murders, you should probably seek counseling. Humans care for each other; it’s what social animals do.

It is often said that without capitalism, there would be no motive for labor, for innovation, for anything besides laziness. If you need greed and the suffering of others to motivate your every labor, you should probably seek counseling.

There are a million good motivations to labor that have nothing to do with the carrot of wealth or the stick of poverty. Again, caring for each other. It’s what social animals do, and what we could do a lot more effectively, if our lifeblood wasn’t being congealed into the foundations of castles.

Besides that, leisure. You work to minimize labor, conserve energy and resources so you can enjoy life. Building a house keeps out bears and keeps in heat. Less labor and resources spent building fires every night and guarding against bears. Let the fucking robots take our jobs, we shouldn’t need as many jobs in this world.

And there are plenty of jobs that need doing that are being left undone because they don’t generate gold bricks for the aristocracy. So much human need, infrastructure, education is being left to rot or straight burned to the ground right now in the name of greed.

Kudos for achievement, looking good, pride of accomplishment, basic executive function for self-maintenance. What are your reasons to labor? They don’t have to be dollars and cents or the fear of the economic abyss.

Belief in hell is one of the chief moral failings of the abrahamic religions. Belief in the necessity of poverty is the exact same fucking thing. Fuck capitalism.