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Archive for August, 2011

Pierre Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

On the blog no topic is ever really dead, so no surprise at today’s resurrection of overpopulation of this planet by humans as issue du jour again.

A recent reference to Soylent Green as a menu item that would reduce burdens created by more mouths to feed on fewer resources brought recycling into the discussion. What the heck, heh?

As this article in today’s BBC points out, we’re quickly running out of room for storing all the empty containers we will all drop …

Resting beside our loved ones when the time comes is a reassuring notion for the living. Families pay thousands of pounds for land where generations can rest in peace together for eternity.

But in the UK at least, the ground is filling up.

Should I wish to, I could not be buried near to my relatives at Yardley Cemetery in south Birmingham. Space there ran out in 1962.

Similarly, I would struggle to find a place near another strand of my family in Halesowen. There is no room left underground there and other facilities at nearby Lye and Wollescote are expected to run out in the next four years.

What if I head south? I lived in Brighton once and a seaside burial sounds quite nice. But four of the seven cemeteries run by Brighton and Hove Council are already full, and of the three remaining, one is for Orthodox Jews only.

Yes, the days of great whopping tombs constructed over the illustrious dead are about done, and even the standard single 3’x7’x77″ plot is only a short term stopgap measure in some places.

Some countries use a “double decker” approach to avoid overcrowding.

In Germany, graves are reused after only 30 years, the existing remains usually being exhumed and cremated. In Australia and New Zealand, “dig and deepen” is carried out in urban areas as a matter of routine.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, says it is time to change tack.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “Re-use is common in lots of other countries, and was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. I’ve spent some time with some German gravediggers and there the limit is 30 years, but people aren’t happy with that, they want it lowered to 20.”

With my son buried between my father and my grandfather within feet of my great-grandparents, the idea of breaking up the family appalls me, but I do understand the need to free up space in areas more populated than the tiny town in Northern California where they lie. Even there the population of dead outnumbers the living by about 300%.

Those laid to rest in one spot in perpetuity add up over the centuries, after all, and even though the real estate per occupant may be no bigger than a broom closet acres can covered in just a couple of generations. Where habitation has been continuous for hundreds of generations … well … a visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris gives a clue to what crowding looks like.

Cremation, of course, is not only an option but a societal dictate in some cultures. There’s no doubt it leaves more land available for the living, but it’s not everyone’s idea of an appropriate exit strategy.

With death being such a huge part of life, traditional methods of dealing with our dead are almost hardwired, and although some of us couldn’t care less what happens with our form once we shuck it those we leave behind usually react with strong feelings and attachments to one comforting protocol or another.

Even the realm of the dead is changing, however.

With space for the living growing more spare and precious and increasing concerns over our impact on our Earth, another method of dealing with the dead has been invented … and patented.

Promession may just be the way to go in future.

Promession is different from all other alternative burial methods because it is a gentle and clean process which uses vibration to reduce the body remains.

The method is based on three steps:

— Reducing the body of the deceased to a fine powder, thereby allowing subsequent decomposition to be aerobic. This is achieved by submerging the body in liquid nitrogen, making the remains so brittle that they shatter into a powder as the result of slight vibrations. The powder is then dried, reducing the deceased remains to around 30% of their original body weight.

— Removing and recycling metals within the powdered remains.

— Shallow-burying the powder in a biodegradable casket.

It is clear that to produce liquid nitrogen or LN2 on its own would be relatively costly, however this is offset by other factors when it is used to replace environmentally hazardous alternatives; Nitrogen is a by-product of the essential oxygen industry and for every 1 part oxygen, there are 4 parts of nitrogen produced; therefore the Promession method effectively recycles this waste product which otherwise is released back into the atmosphere.

Sweden, Great Britain and South Korea are already close to opening Promatoria (facilities for Promession-based funerals) that will fill the bill environmentally and legally.

The volume of remains left is about a third of the original body weight; the advantages include avoiding the release of pollutants into the atmosphere (for instance, mercury vapour from dental fillings) and the rapid decomposition of the remains (within 6 to 12 months of burial) and the return of the body to life’s cycle. Promession allows for families to be buried in the same plot without disturbing previous remains and meets the requirements of new European Union pollution laws.

It is yet to be seen if Promession will catch on, but I suspect some will sign up to have liquid nitrogen with their obsequies. It is more palatable than ending up on a cracker.

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I am so confused …

Apparently we now live in a world where men are so impressed with balls they have their dogs fitted with fake ones so the world can see their stuff wag, yet women can’t seem to decide if their lips should be bigger (see photo) or smaller.

While those stuck to a woman’s face are seen to need invasive plumping, trimming the lower lips is the nip-du-jour for the tuck down under

Dr Sarah Creighton and colleagues believe the future demand for so-called “designer vagina” operations or labial reductions is potentially infinite and is driven by society’s wider and growing desire for cosmetic surgery in general and changing expectations about what is a desirable appearance for women.

“It’s shocking, particularly because we are seeing girls who are really young. They are asking for surgery that is irreversible and we do not know what the long-term risks of the procedure might be.”

She said latest figures for England show about 2,000 of the procedures are paid for by the NHS each year.

“That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a massive boom industry in the private sector.”

According to the BBC, girls as young as 11 are lining up to have their lines lined up.

Sigh …

It has long been the case that while people are starving to death in some parts of the world, others are busily clogging their arteries every day with stuff containing enough calories to sustain entire villages for a month, but this idea that women in flourishing societies are queuing and paying for a version of the cut that can be called mutilation in the ‘developing world’ is also appalling.

Female genital mutilation is the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia. In its most severe form, a woman or girl has all of her genitalia removed and then stitched together, leaving a small opening for intercourse and menstruation. It is practiced in 28 African countries on the pretext of cultural tradition or hygiene.

Sure, FGM should be considered brutal abuse, but it is at root a cultural dictate that demands women’s bits conform to whatever it is a culture decides the form must take. Are we now moving toward the same, albeit with surgical blades instead of broken shards of glass?

While men so proudly dangle and fondle the holy scrotum no matter how unbalanced the hang, how hairy and wrinkly and bumpy and squishy the bag, it seems women have come to the thought that anything excess of what they had about age five is somehow obscene and in need of surgical intervention.

Really now, Ladies, it’s 2011! Did we not fight long and hard for the right not to have to be tight-lipped?

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Wiki imageFor those of us living on islands surrounded by miles and miles of water, as these clearly are, the tragic shark attacks of the past weeks convey a resonance that goes deeper than the horror of the deaths.

With the Indian Ocean on our doorstep we’re used to seeing the sea almost every hour of every day, but we’re looking at it a bit differently for now, contemplating what lies beneath the barrier between air and water, and from many angles.

For sure, sharks are scary and we’re keeping our kids to the shallows, but many are also considering what the seas may still promise when these children are adults. With part of the reaction to the recent shark attacks amounting to a virtual war, a petition is circulating advising caution.

In response to a government statement by Mr St Ange, director of Seychelles Toursim (sic) Board who said “We need to find the beast and get it out of our waters,”

We would like to highlight the following misconceptions implied within this statement1. Sharks are not beasts they are ancient fish highly specialized and adapted to hunting in aquatic environments.2.Sharks have for centuries lived, reproduced and hunted in the oceans travelling (sic) thousands of miles each year, therefore, the notion of a land based species i’ll adapted to the aquatic environment owning the seas is a little ridiculous. 3. By “get it out” do you mean remove humanly to another location or as some reports have stated begin a shark hunt?
As we are sure you understand culls of species without knowledge of their impact can destroy ecosystems and be tragically detrimental to other species reliant upon them.

Tourism relies on the ocean and any widespread shark culling will have a widespread negative effect on the reefs and the reasons people travel to your beautiful islands.

With an estimated 100 million sharks killed by humans every year, shark populations are crashing in oceans all over the world, some species depleted by over 90%, so the idea of a massive cull does not sit well with everyone.

Many governments and the UN have acknowledged the need for shark fisheries management, but little progress has been made due to their low economic value, the small volumes of products produced and sharks’ poor public image.

That “poor public image” thing hasn’t been helped by the deaths of two young men calmly taking to our beautiful waters. Seychelles depends on two industries for financial security: tourism and fishing. With the world’s second largest tuna processing plant here fish are a very big deal.

Located in the Seychelles International Trade Zone, IOT is the second largest tuna processing and canning plant in the world. In the year ending 31 March 2009, IOT processed almost 66,000 metric tonnes of tuna and sold 4.6 million statistical cases of tuna cans, mostly to the UK, French and Italian markets.

That’s a whole lotta dead fish, folks, and doesn’t even begin to take into account the bycatch that never makes it as far as the factory.

This article published in Australia this morning illustrates many of the issues surrounding the tuna industry.

It will come as a surprise to some that eating fish is bad for the environment. In the past, fish was seen as a healthy and sustainable food option with few ethical implications.

But we know now that fishing fleets are completely dependent on fossil fuels, and have to travel longer and longer distances to find fish in commercial quantities. We also know seafood stocks are crashing at an alarming rate.

The methods we use to improve catch rates harm habitats and kill other species we never meant to eat in the first place.

Unfortunately, farming fish does not solve these problems.

The best solution to this growing problem is to eat only those fish you know to be harvested sustainably.

The issues, of course, are not only local, not limited to the local economy, happy tourists or putting tuna in tins.

Nope.

The issue is a global human population at close to seven billion and growing daily which puts paid to any idea of sustainability over the long haul.

Shark-free seas and cupboards full of tinned tuna may actually sound okay to some, but when the oceans die we’ll go with them.

There is, however, the option put on film way back in 1973:

In the year 2022, the population has grown to forty million people in New York City alone. Most housing is dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless fill the streets and line the fire escapes and stairways of buildings. Food as we know it in present times is a rare and expensive commodity. Most of the world’s population survives on processed rations produced by the massive Soylent Corporation, including Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, which are advertised as “high-energy vegetable concentrates.” The newest product is Soylent Green, a small green wafer which is advertised as being produced from “high-energy plankton.” It is much more nutritious and palatable than the red and yellow varieties, but, like most other food, it is in short supply, which often leads to food riots.

For any who may not know where this goes, we’ll skip to the last line of “Soylent Green” …

“Soylent Green is PEOPLE!”

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Anse Lazio

Having nothing fun to say for myself this morning, it seems a good day to post the words of another, and who better than Ogden Nash with a take that is especially apt right now?

Pretty Halcyon Days
by Ogden Nash

How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned,
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done!
How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.
To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.
It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.

How pleasant to gaze at the sailors.
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of vikings and whalers
In the days of the vikings and whale.
They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If its windy they sink;
If it isn’t, they park.
It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.

How pleasant the salt anesthetic
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.
But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun.

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There are times when I truly can’t figure out whether I’m losing my battle with depression or life really does suck, not that it matters, since I can’t do much about either and both piss me off.

The down-and-outness of being down-and-out for so long makes it difficult to rise above the ever-mounting shit and even I am bored with my pathetic attempts to climb. I hate this wimpy, beaten me, but my hands are so shredded from grasping at straws, pulling at bootstraps and clinging to hope that it’s hard to concoct oomph from ack, yikes and not again.

I’m not unfamiliar with the layout of this tunnel, but the repeated encounters where light at the end of it turned out to be nothing but a rapidly approaching train have have set me to cowering along the moldy walls, and with retreat not an option, advancing unlikely and standing still dangerous it doesn’t help much that I know where the exits are since they are locked tight.

Recent flickers of brightness were mere tricks of the eye that proved to be annoyingly less than nothing and only served to emphasize the darkness, but that’s actually okay; I’m not afraid of the dark, just of what lurks in it. You’d think by now I’d have stopped paying attention to to gleams cast by fool’s gold, yet I I still tend to stumble in their direction, knowing all along that I’m bound to fall on my face … again.

I know the old adage that says, “Sometimes the only thing one can change is attitude”, and I can wear that for a while. It’s easy enough to count my blessings, revel in the good fortune that brought me my children, my friends, the creative outlet I have, the beauty around me … and be grateful.

In so many ways I am a very lucky woman. I’m not starving in Sudan or in danger of freezing on the streets of St. Petersburg. I have a house and a view and a car and a fridge, shoes and shirts and shorts, books … even an iPad, FFS. Three out of four of my kids are alive … wonderful, smart and healthy … blessings every one. I have great friends, interesting conversation, and laugh often.

So what’s my problem?

See?

I can see the glass as half full while at the same time knowing how close to empty it is. It just takes effort.

I have problems. I suffer from depression, impetuosity, rotten taste, generosity, hope, pride, a wide range of faults, fear. I live on a small island, am a 60-year-old single-parent with limited prospects and energy, few resources and am running out of ideas. People expect a lot from me, and I rarely let them down. Demands mount daily while nothing presents that might allow me to meet them.

I need help, don’t know where to look for it and would be reluctant to ask if I did.

Consider this post blather. I’ll get over it.

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The Mutt’s Nuts

image credit: Biro.comAlthough I have been known to find testes tasty … and not just chopped and salted … a hairy, dangling sack is hardly the most fetching bit of male bits. No matter the angle of presentation, that bag of balls seems a silly globule, comical even, and I’m still not sure how men manage to cross their legs without bursting into tears.

That they come in various shapes and sizes and with very differing dangles does make them interesting, but those two veg need the meat for context and viewed on their own would be quite alarming items … rather like finding a bumpy, hairy octopus head sans tentacles just hanging around for no particular reason.

In other words, they’re not exactly the dog’s bollocks.

Dog’s bollocks
Meaning: Excellent – the absolute apex.

The reasons why the ‘dog’s bollocks’ are considered to be the top of the tree aren’t clear. It may be linked to an associated phrase – ‘stand out like a dog’s balls’, i.e. ‘outstanding’, although I can find no evidence to indicate that phrase as being earlier than the ‘dog’s bollocks’. Dogs do enjoy licking their genitals of course but again, there’s no evidence that links the coining of this phrase to that.

The word bollocks, meaning testicles has been part of the language since the 18th century, but didn’t become used to mean nonsense until the early 20th century. The ‘dog’s bollocks’ seems to have originated in Britain in the first half of the 20th century.

Apparently, however, some do pay homage to the holy scrotum, even to the point of considering dogs’ bollocks the mutt’s nuts, so much so that they’re happy to put up the dosh to get their pups kitted out with an artificial set if theirs have gone missing …

Munson, a burly 7-year-old English bulldog, has a secret: His testicles are fake.

Neutered as a puppy, Munson (named after Larry Munson of Georgia Bulldog fame) got a pair of synthetic stand-ins to preserve his manly pride. Not his idea, of course, but his owner’s.

Yep. Welcome to the world where “Neuticles” are a hot item.

Over 425,000 caring pet owners Worldwide have selected Neuticles as a safe, practical and inexpensive option when neutering their beloved pet.

Neuticles allows your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with altering.

With Neuticles®
“It’s like nothing ever changed”

(Check out the site for a look at one guy concerned enough about his Dachshund’s butchness he bought the dog — at least — a pair.)

The size and price page prompts the deeper voices in my head to imagine the dialog for placing an order …

XXL.
Two, please.
Hold the mayo …

And that’s a dog’s self esteem sorted, heh?

I’m wondering, though, how owners will explain why their best friend can’t get it up …

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Anyone who has not yet heard of the tragic deaths from shark attacks in Seychelles just isn’t paying attention, as the story went global very fast after a British honeymooner became the second victim in a fortnight.

Following on the heels of the future King of England’s own honeymoon here, the story quickly became fodder the world’s media could really sink their teeth into and requests for info, photos, gory details … whatever … have already come in to me from reporters hoping for a local angle competing publications may have missed.

Here is my response to an email from The Daily Mirror:

I’m on a different island, the main island of Mahé, not Praslin where the attacks occurred, so have none of the info you’ve asked for.

As a service, however, you might remind readers that the sea is full of fish and some of them are dangerous and that not all holiday destinations are Disneyland. I am hoping these tragic events don’t lead to a massive shark kill, as it is their soup we enter when we decide to go for dips outside the confines of swimming pools.

As happened in Norway recently, man met beast on beast’s turf and shit happened. Not nice. Not pretty. Very sad. That bear, by the way, was in bad shape

While examining the 39 stone male that was shot and killed after attacking the campsite of 13 people, Norway’s veterinary institute discovered that several of the bear’s teeth were “very damaged” before the attack.

“Under two of the canines and many of the incisors, the nerves were exposed. This causes serious pain and changes the behaviour of bears,” Bjoernar Ytrehus, the veterinarian who examined the bear’s head, said in a statement.

“This could be a factor that contributed to the attack,” he said.

“Starving and suffering, a bear is more unpredictable and aggressive than normal,” he said.

Well, yeah. So am I. And uninvited guests would not be welcome here, either, under those circumstances.

The Indian Ocean is much bigger than a Norwegian island, however, and sharing the water is usually quite okay. Any casual snorkel reveals the vast variety of life under the surface where animals swim, crawl, burrow, float, sleep, breed, eat and get on with the business of living. There is an obvious food chain that ranges from small to big to bigger to huge with each creature filling a function. That’s what’s often called “Nature”.

Shark is a popular menu item in Seychelles, so obviously man-bites-fish is common enough, but contrary to some lines of thought, humans are also a link in the food chain. Sure, we’re top predators and kill more of our fellow Earth inhabitants than any other species, but that doesn’t mean we’re not beyond being considered snacks.

There is no malice in a shark attack, no Gee, that guy just got married and looks so happy on his honeymoon, so let’s put paid to that involved. A big, hungry fish has no motive for mayhem other than lunch and notes no difference in packaging.

We can thank Stephen Spielberg for imbuing us with accusatory dread over sharks … and I have … and the lurking fear and accompanying music that comes unbidden in mirky water, but the fact is we give up our role as top predator when we enter the water and might as well change our name to Frank Furter.

Being on holiday does not convey safety and no amount of stars in a destination’s designation encases a visitor in an unbreakable bubble of protection. The world’s most beautiful beach isn’t a ride at Universal and there’s no keeping your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times option for those who chose to think it’s safe to get in the water.

Sharks are ancient, complex and fascinating creatures that have been around in one form or another for more than 420 million years.

Since that time, sharks have diversified into 440 species, ranging in size from the small dwarf lanternshark, Etmopterus perryi, a deep sea species of only 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, the largest fish, which reaches approximately 12 metres (39 ft 4 in) and which feeds only on plankton, squid, and small fish by filter feeding. Sharks are found in all seas and are common down to depths of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater, with a few exceptions such as the bull shark and the river shark which can live both in seawater and freshwater. They breathe through five to seven gill slits. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protects their skin from damage and parasites, and improves their fluid dynamics so the shark can move faster. They have several sets of replaceable teeth.

Well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, and the hammerhead are apex predators, at the top of the underwater food chain. Their extraordinary skills as predators fascinate and frighten humans, even as their survival is under serious threat from fishing and other human activities.

That serious threat amounts to an estimated 100 MILLION sharks killed every year by people, many just for their fins.

That, too, is tragic.

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