Sunday, July 21, 2019

How to Dress for Extremely Hot Weather (Seriously)

Ironically, my current stomping grounds of north Georgia did NOT suffer from the record-breaking heatwave recently; the high-pressure system that turned most of the continental US into a bake oven ended a bit west of me, which meant my neighborhood was actually cooler than more northerly climes for most of the past week. This in turn inspired me to take to social media so as to tell my northern friends "How terrible. You poor thing. I feel very very sorry for you right now." And since I merely typed that statement onto a social media site, said friends could neither see my facial expression nor hear my tone of voice, both of which would immediately indicate "She's lying through her crowned teeth right now. She doesn't feel sorry for us at ALL. If anything, her soul is being corroded by a scorching schadenfreudey envy of the 'Serves you RIGHT. See how the other half lives??!' variety...."

Having said that, here is some genuine non-sarcastic advice for people sweltering under unusually hot temperatures, specifically conditions that are hot and humid: ignore everything you've ever heard along the lines of "Cotton is a comfortable fabric in hot weather." That might be true for hot and dry climates -- I've never actually lived in one myself, so I wouldn't know -- but cotton is terrible in humid conditions because it hoards moisture, and feels wet too.

Up north, anytime there was a brutal winter cold snap, there would always be "news you can use" stories advising how to dress in layers against the cold, and those stories always said "Do NOT wear a cotton layer closest to your skin, because if you perspire the cotton will stay wet and ironically increase your risk of hypothermia." Despite this, it took me much, much longer than it should have, to figure out "Hmm, so, if cotton makes you feel wetter and sweatier in cold weather, perchance might it do the same in hot?"

True fact: until I moved to Georgia three summers ago almost every casual summer garment I ever owned was some form of cotton, and I figured it was a fact of life that "when you personally are sweaty and gross, so too are the clothes you have on." Which is indeed the case -- IF those clothes are cotton.

The two fabrics you want to wear in hot and humid conditions are linen or rayon (also sold as "viscose" or "bamboo.") Linen is a more high-maintenance fabric -- it wrinkles if you look at it too hard, and (at least on me) somehow always manages to look baggy and ill-fitting even when a garment is cut to your precise size and shape. Rayon has some advantages over linen -- not nearly as high maintenance, and many forms of it do not hold ANY body heat at all, making it ideal for high temperatures -- but according to an article I read, some people dislike rayon precisely for that reason: they say the "cool" feel of the fabric on a hot day can come across as almost "slimy" to the touch. I wouldn't know about this, however, because I only wear rayon on days sweaty enough that EVERYTHING feels slimy, since I'm touching it with a damp and sweaty hand. Also, I've noticed a wide variation in quality between various types of rayon -- some of it is so nice, it looks and feels identical to silk, linen or cotton; some is so cheap it looks more like that rubbery polyester used in really bad 1970s leisure suits.

For days when the temperature would be pleasant except the humidity makes it too hot (or a tiny bit too chilly), silk is an excellent fabric: it stays dry to the touch as does linen or rayon, but holds noticeably more body heat than linen or cotton of similar thickness, meaning even very thin silk is best avoided in high-heat conditions.

Under NO circumstances do you want to wear nylon, spandex or polyester in hot humid weather. Even cotton is better than those three.

End message. We now return to your irregularly scheduled programming. Trump sucks.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The "Historically Rich" Game

There is a little game I like to play (or train of thought I like to ride, or whatever label or metaphor you choose), especially when I'm reading or watching well-researched historical fiction or non-fiction: imagine you're going back to live in a certain historic era, and bringing with you various items from our modern time so that in the past, you can sell these items and get rich. What items do you buy now to sell then?

Of course the game has rules: whichever time period you choose, you can only bring items that actually existed back then -- no carrying anachronisms like plastic or artificial fabric to Shakespeare's England. You can't get rich by "inventing" or "discovering" something before its time, only by selling already-existing expensive things. (The one exception is: you can bring modern versions of things whose modern-ness is not detectable by ordinary human senses, only via scientific testing which didn't exist then. For example: you can have linen or silk cloth dyed with artificial modern dye to reproduce Tyrian purple or other super-expensive natural colors, because fake vs. real Tyrian purple dye can only be detected via chemical testing which people back then couldn't do anyway. If you're going to a time where transparent glass existed but was very expensive, you can have modern mass-produced glass provided it looks and feels identical to the super-expensive stuff Venetians were producing, even though modern glass is made by a different process and likely has some detectable chemical differences as well.)

You're limited to spending $1,000 in our time buying things to take back. However, you cannot spend more than $50 on any one item or "type" of item -- for example, if you're going back to Elizabethan England, you'll definitely want to bring some black peppercorns, since they were literally worth their weight in gold ... but you can't spend more than $50 on pepper or "spices" in general.

Also, for purposes of the game, you only need focus on "things you sell to get rich," not "things intended for personal use." The thousand dollars does not cover your personal clothing, food, furnishings or medicine; assume that's all taken care of.

Things you can legally acquire for free (via Craigslist, roadside garbage salvage and the like) CAN be added to your list without counting against your $1,000 spending limit. (When I lived in northern Virginia, I remember one of my neighbors once threw away a broken dresser with one of those big rounded unframed beveled-edge mirrors. The mirror had many chips along its edges, which makes it garbage by modern standards -- but if you went back to a time after perfect glass mirrors were invented but were still hyper-expensive luxuries, you could take that chipped mirror, use a glass cutter to cut it into un-chipped smaller pieces, and add the mirrors to your list without counting any of it against the $1,000 spending limit.)

Also, I confess: I've never played the game to the full extent of writing out a complete list of at least 20 different items plus freebies -- it's more like "I'm really enjoying this well-researched novel about life in an early Mesopotamian Bronze Age city ... hmm, if I went there to live I'd bring $50 worth of pre-1982 copper pennies -- that alone is enough scrap copper to set me up VERY nicely in an early Bronze Age city. Technically, any such pennies I find in the street don't count toward the $50 limit either. Also, I'd want $50 worth of rough lapis lazuli from one of those online gemstone or geology wholesalers... or should I buy $50 worth of tumbled-gemstone lapis lazuli beads instead?"

So .. what sort of el cheapo or even el free-o modern items would you bring back to various time periods?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Concentration Camps and the Proper Lessons of History

Various fervent American patriots (with “patriot” defined as “one who refuses to admit or even contemplate the possibility that our country might be anything less than perfect”) are currently furious that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used the term “concentration camps” to describe the concentration camps our government currently operates.

Conditions in those camps are so deplorable that just this week, according to Courthouse News:
The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.
But the patriots believe the real problem is using the term “concentration camp” to describe the facilities where children are kept in such conditions.

For all the pessimism I felt the day Trump won the election, I don't recall going so far as to predict we'd need less than three years before things got so bad, there would be actual debate over whether "concentration camps" is the proper term to describe facilities where we mass-incarcerate kids who committed no crime.


Thing is, I'd always heard that the reason we learn history is to hopefully learn from past mistakes and avoid repeating them. So if calling a concentration camp a "concentration camp" is unacceptable and leads to patriotic shrieks of “GODWIN!!”, what lessons can we properly learn from Nazi history before the Godwin-shouters shut the conversation down -- "Yeah, extermination camps where people are shoved into death chambers filled with insecticide are bad, but do not notice any of the less-fatal steps the Nazis took to get there?"

Do these patriots apply the same rules to other forms of learning? Like, in the days before meteorology, it was okay to say "Standing tall in the middle of a field during a lightning storm is very dangerous," but dishonest hyperbolic fearmongering to say "Hmm, I notice tall anvil-shaped clouds piling up on the horizon -- the same clouds that often lead to lightning storms"? I mean, it's not like seeing an anvil cloud guarantees you will be struck by lightning, after all.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Overthinking It (A Play in One Act)

OVERTHINKING IT

A play in one act

[Curtain rises to show the stage set for JENNIFER's home, with a spotlight trained on her office. A digital clock reads 9:00, and the shining electric lamps plus the night sky visible through the window indicate it's 9 p.m. rather than a.m. We see JENNIFER enter the room, sit at her computer desk, and go online, browsing through various sites until she reaches Facebook. JENNIFER never says a word, but an offscreen narrator – or maybe a recording which the actress playing JENNIFER made before the start of this play – does voiceover work so the audience knows what JENNIFER is thinking.]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: Huh, look at that. {Former Colleague I Haven't Seen IRL In Over a Decade} is having a birthday today! Wonder what he's been up to? I'll go post a birthday greeting.

[JENNIFER clicks on FCIHSIRLIOAD's Facebook page and beholds the information thereon.]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: Gainfully employed! Good for him. Very little Facebook activity, too – possibly even better for him, if it means he does more of his socializing IRL than online. In fact, none of his Facebook friends even bothered posting a birthday greeting on his wall. So I won't either – it would look weird if mine were the only one.

[JENNIFER arises from her computer desk and goes into the kitchen, where she engages in boring-but-necessary housekeeping tasks.]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: I had no idea there were so many empty soda bottles to clean out for future hurricane-emergency water-storage purposes! What a backlog. If I had a maid she would be SO fired right now … huh. You know, it's less than three hours 'til midnight on {FCIHSIRLIOAD}'s birthday, and not one greeting on his Facebook wall. If he actually CARES about that sort of thing, that would be pretty depressing. Maybe I should post a greeting, after I finish with these stupid bottles.

[JENNIFER continues washing soda bottles. This is the comic-relief part of the play, because in order to clean the inside of a narrow-mouthed club-soda bottle, you must shake it so as to agitate the hot soapy water within – a perfectly innocent gesture, but if you have a dirty mind it's reminiscent of certain obscene acts one might theoretically perform upon a VERY well-endowed man.]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: On the other hand, if {FCIHSIRLIOAD} actually cares about Facebook birthday greetings, one single greeting from a barely remembered colleague he last saw during the Bush administration might actually be worse than no greeting at all. It's like, if you're a waiter in a restaurant, getting stiffed on your tip is bad enough – but it's actually more insulting to be tipped a single bright, shiny penny. Because no tip at all might mean an honest oversight, but that penny is deliberate. And no birthday greetings at all might just mean Facebook's algorithm forgot to announce your birthday, but ….

[JENNIFER is still washing bottles, and now the comic-relief part of the play reaches its hilarious climax (sorry). Because – remember the previous allusion to soda bottles filling in for a well-endowed man? Well, turns out one of those bottles of soapy water had a slightly loose cap, which JENNIFER discovered quite by accident while shaking the bottle until the cap came off and white soapsuds shot out the narrow mouth of the long phallic bottle.]

JENNIFER'S ACTUAL VOICE: Fucking hell! Goddammit!

[JENNIFER grabs the roll of paper towels and starts wiping soapsuds off the counter.]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: Stupid bottles. Stupid shoddy Georgia water system that breaks down every time a clumsy squirrel bumps into a goddamn water main.

[Pause]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: You know, the idea that I'd give {FCIHSIRLIOAD} a birthday greeting if he already had several, but won't because he doesn't have any, seems kinda counterproductive, no? It's like “Oh, I'll be generous if I see a rich guy, but it would be unseemly to share with a penniless beggar.”

[JENNIFER finishes cleaning the countertop and goes back to the bottles.]

JENNIFER'S VOICEOVER: Jesus, that was an insulting thought to have! {FCIHSIRLIOAD} hardly compares to a penniless beggar. And even if you're lame enough to think Facebook 'likes' and birthday greetings actually freakin' matter, well, he has like a hundred more Facebook 'friends' than I do. This is ridiculous. I've cleaned enough bottles for one night. I should go do something else productive.

[JENNIFER walks to her couch, grabs the TV remote, and starts working through the backlog of 'adult' cartoons on her DVR.]

[Curtain falls]

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Partisan Hypocrisy: At Least the Right Wing is Less Stupid About It

Democratic would-be presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have been floating plans to Make America Suck Slightly Less by bringing back slavery -- sorry, "mandatory national service" for young adults. The thing that baffles me most about these renewed calls for mandatory national service – and I know, this is basically a rehash of previous complaints I've made regarding “calls for gun control” and “calls for anti-hate-speech laws” – is this: both left- and right-wingers in America have a tendency to replace principles with partisan political hackery, but for all their hypocrisy, at least right-wingers are generally smart enough to ONLY call for increased government power when “their guys” are in charge: we've all known people who (for example) supported every government power-grab under G.W. Bush, rediscovered their “small government, personal liberty” principles within nanoseconds of Obama taking the oath of office, then re-abandoned said principles when Trump took over.

Not the left wingers, though. During the Bush/Cheney years they were all “Aargh! Bush and Cheney are turning this country into a fascist dictatorship!” (Pause.) “I wish those would-be fascist dictators would hurry up and confiscate everyone's guns, because agents of this fascist government I so fear are CLEARLY the only ones who can be trusted to own any means of self-defense.” And now? The left wingers are the ones calling for “mandatory service” or “the government should pass hate speech laws and decide what people can and cannot legally say.” Which would be cringeworthy enough coming from them if St. Obama the Trustworthy were still in the Oval Office – but FFS, how farking clueless do you have to be to think “Yeah, Trump is a terrible president – let's give him even MORE powers to wield! Surely Donald race-baiting 'Some of those Nazis are very fine people' Trump can be trusted to use hate-speech laws to ONLY go after bad guys, right? Surely Donald 'build the wall' Trump can be trusted NOT to abuse a mandatory workforce of millions of young able-bodied Americans, right?”

If you believe President Trump is destroying America (a belief I happen to share), then why in Zod's name would you want to give him even more powers to destroy America with?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Supernaturally Awesome Business Opportunity

Atlanta has enough credulous residents (or tourists) that there exist actual businesses whose sole function is to give "ghost tours'" of allegedly haunted spots. I'd really like to ask one of those tour guides about the timeline required for the tragically dead to turn into a ghost -- local haunt-lore is all stories like "This spot is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a woman who died in the Civil War" or "the first black man murdered by a lynch mob in Georgia."

None of them cover more recent tragedies, a la "Here there once stood a trendy nightclub where, in 1979, a man overdosed on cocaine snorted off a supermodel's bare ass while Donna Summer's 'Love to Love You Baby' played on the sound system. Some say that on cloudless nights when the moon is full you can still hear his voice, talking very very VERY fast and saying 'Oh my god darlin' you're so hot and I really really wanna do you but I'm having trouble getting it up right now you think you can lend me a hand sweetheart Jesus CHRIST but you are FINE my wife doesn't understand me BARTENDER gimme a shot of Glenlivet for the li'l lady here...."

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Personhood in Alabama (women are silly slutty cattle edition)

An Alabama judge has ruled that a fetus is a "person," in the specific context of letting an Alabama man sue the clinic where his ex-girlfriend had an abortion without his consent. Silly slutty women, thinking their bodies belong to themselves rather than to whichever man most recently stuck his dick into them!
An Alabama county court recognized an aborted fetus as a plaintiff in a lawsuit Tuesday, opening a new chapter in the fight for reproductive rights in the United States.

Madison County probate court Judge Frank Barger allowed Ryan Magers to name the fetus his girlfriend had aborted as a co-plaintiff in his case against Alabama Women's Center. 

The judge's decision to establish an estate for the fetus, allowing the suit to move forward, came four months after the passage of Amendment 2 by voters in a state referendum last November. The law, which passed by 18 percentage points, gives fetuses the same legal rights held by a person under the state constitution.
I did not realize the Alabama constitution grants Person A the right to demand use of Person B's body to stay alive. So if, say, I need a bone marrow transplant to stay alive, and the only possible compatible donor is unwilling to donate, does Alabama law give me the right to FORCE that person to give me some marrow? For all the unpleasantness you must go through to have marrow extracted and given to another, it's far quicker and less unpleasant than staying pregnant for nine months, followed by being in labor for however long.
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