July, 2019


18
Jul 19

“Dad, what’ll Climate Change do to me and my kids?”

Well, son, it’s going to be very rough for you and my grandkids. It may be too late to do much about it but we have to try–we have to work hard to mitigate the effects of climate change; plant a trillion trees (not a joke!) and do everything possible to reduce greenhouse gases. But it’s too late to stop the worst of it. The massive displacement of populations, the destruction of agriculture, the spread of pandemics, the explosive social chaos… I think humanity will have to suck it up and face a dominoes-falling series of inexorable climate change effects, which will probably reduce global population by 20 to 35 % in a frighteningly short time, and which will put such a strain on resources, especially food, our tendency in desperate circumstances to fall into the sheltering arms of autocracy will take hold like mold in hot wet places and we’ll tumble headlong into techno-fascist plutocracy of some kind. And since the ground has been prepared for hyper, brutal centralized control (as opposed to intelligent centralized government), and you have Putin smirkily saying that “liberalism is over in Europe”, an uneasy configuration of competing plutocracies seems inevitable.

And we have to hope that humanity will learn. That we’ll clean up our environment, overthrow the coming dictatorships, that we’ll come to respect nature, that we will learn to respect — and demand–education for everyone and that we build a new world worth living in. I’ll be gone by then. But you, your kids and your grandchildren have to be ready…


11
Jul 19

ALL HANGY – a short story co-written by John Shirley and Rudy Rucker

This story is found in its entirety at Flurb, Rudy Rucker’s online zine. Here’s the opening of the story–to read the rest, click on the link and scroll down and down…

“But you said you were gonna jump off the bridge, didn’t you, Roberto?” Breeze sounded like a girl doing a funny imitation of a guy, but that was just her voice.

Roberto hugged himself against the cold morning wind and glanced sideways at Breeze. Her long hair streamed from behind, over the railing, as if trying to get down to the cold gray sea. They were on the sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge, leaning on the rail, looking at the wrinkled chaos of the bay waters below. Tourists chattered behind them, endless traffic roared by on the metal-grated road. In front of them lay the void, just one vault over that rail.

“Um—yeah,” said Roberto. “Eventually might do it. Today we’re only reconnoitering. I’d want to be stone cold sure I have my moves right—so I end up all hangy. And, I’d want you to film me. This should be a big media event.”

“Camera’s ready,” said Breeze, pulling her cellphone from her jeans. “I’ve got hi-def video in here, and I can upload it wireless to my website. Go on and jump, Roberto. You told me you were all set to flip your, uh, dimensional entanglements? So…”

He wasn’t sure if she really wanted him to take the risk—or if she was trying to get him to see how dangerous the whole thing was. But she had that camera, and the green light was on.

“I’m not ready after all,” he admitted, looking down with a shiver. The bay was so very far below. A container ship slid under the bridge, bringing cars from Korea. “They say if you hit the water from this high up it drives your leg bones into your chest.”

“But you’d twist yourself into being all hangy before you hit the water,” said Breeze in that low voice of hers. All hangy was the term people were using for the new phenomenon.

Read the rest of the story (free!) HERE.


5
Jul 19

Are Home Fireworks a Real Exercise of Patriotism?

I enjoy a community celebration of July 4 with professional fireworks carried out with oversight, and for a relatively short period, at a fairground. But this annual celebration in our neighborhood of the sonic brutality of a war zone, carried out willy-nilly by the astoundingly selfish, is not an exercise of patriotism. It may not be legal in your town; in our town they have BIG fireworks that they blow up on the street, or in their yards, that they fire into the sky over our rooftops, making BIG noises, and so many people do it, so very loudly, it really does sound like artillery in a war zone. And goes on for hours.

A real exercise of patriotism would be actual military service; would be running for office; would be volunteering to make the country a better place by doing a good deed for a veteran, or volunteering to help homeless veterans, or registering people to vote. It would be helping out at a foodbank, or tutoring children who need help, or having a reading in the great works of American history. Why not do those things on July 4? Maybe a reading from the Constitution or the writings of  Jefferson or Lincoln… Creating ugly flashbacks for vets with PTSD is not patriotic, however. Terrifying small children and pets and people prone to anxiety for hours on end, is not patriotic. Robbing the elderly of sleep is not patriotic. Getting drunk, eating carbonized meat, and–by example– teaching small children that explosives are not dangerous, is not patriotic. It’s not unpatriotic. It’s just irrelevant. . . Associating home fireworks with certain political points of view is not only not patriotism–it’s childish and uninformed. . .

I’m a patriotic American. If the country is invaded by an enemy army–or thrown into chaos by a seditious militia–I will volunteer to fight off these threats to America. But I choose not to torment my neighbors, those stricken with PTSD, innocent pets, the weary elderly, or infants, with the annual, absurdly mindless use of explosives.


3
Jul 19

The Cruel Irony of Amazon “Fulfillment Centers” CAN End. If…

John Oliver’s entertaining and horrifying report on Amazon’s so-called Fulfillment Centers was scathing, was very much needed, and nearly made me despair of humanity. But–there’s hope for at least some mitigation of the near-slavery conditions at these giant warehouses, if Amazon CEO and owner Bezos is shamed or sued into doing the right thing. Or–if we simply persuade him that the right thing is not really problematic for his bottom line. I have some suggestions for reorganizing the Amazon mega-warehouses they call “Fulfillment Centers”.

The Problem. The ironic label “Fulfillment Centers”–which sounds like an unwitting euphemism for erogenous zones–draws bitter laughter from those who’ve worked at these macroscopic rat mazes. Workers are under constant threat of being fired if they don’t keep up an unnaturally high rate of moving goods in the vast warehouse, where the oh-so-urgently needed items are scattered almost at random all over the enormous building. There is some effort at organization but not enough. Fetching from distant shelves is a process  done on foot, some people traipsing fifteen miles in a day. Some of them are elderly people. There really isn’t time to go to the bathroom, because you’ll fall behind on the required rate of package transportation and you’ll be fired (not a hollow threat). And you only took the job because you really, really needed the 15 dollars an hour. In some centers people have collapsed. The psychological pressure is as taxing as the physical stress. The breathless promise of hyperfast delivery to spoiled consumers means a constant push push push for faster faster faster. It’s worse than that, really–watch Oliver’s acidly funny if nightmarish report.

Common sense solutions occur to me, but they’ll require Bezos investing money in the remedies–and of course that’s an onerous burden on him since he’s merely a billionaire many times over and one of the richest men on the planet. Oh what the hell, I’ll offer them anyway.

Here’s the First idea: Bezos, shut down one center at a time (or sections of a center at a time). While the other centers or sections continue status quo, the designated one is reorganized so that items are more rigorously stored by type. One area is a series of hardware sections, each hardware section specializing as much as possible. Workers are reassigned or hired to take over each such center, one or two per each. They obtain the needed product with relative ease, and give it to a freight tram–little three wheeled things with small truck beds–whose driver trundles it along the wide aisles to the delivery people. No one then has to go on these epic warehouse hikes. Also,  build more localized bathrooms–an expense and a worthwhile tax deductible one…Rinse and repeat with every section, and every Fulfillment Center. Gosh that might use up half of one of Bezos’s many billions. He might have to do without …without, uh…nothing at all.

Second, adjust the speed of delivery requirements. Amazon often delivers with astounding rapidity. It doesn’t need that breathless speed to be an enormously profitable business. It’ll remain,  robustly driving independent bookstores and record stories and hardware stores and clothing shops out of business. Bezos will continue to make billions.

Third, pay a higher wage, hire more people, and offer real benefits. I’m all for unions but Bezos is hardcore anti-union. If he hires more people (to ease the burden on employees) and improve their pay and benefits, he won’t have to engage in union busting–people will be less inclined to try to unionize. It works at CostCo. But if he can’t bring himself to go that far, he could pretty much end the rising public condemnation if he takes steps one and two alone.

You’ll still be crazy rich if you take these steps, Jeff Bezos. You’ll continue to  have Everest-high piles of  cash for your Blue Origin space program–I’m truly all for space programs, yours included–and you’ll still be able to do pretty much anything else you damn please…