Sprocket Lake

Sprocket Lake

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In Search of Rain Barrels

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been searching for rain barrels that are both functional and economical.  Unfortunately, function is very hard to find and nothing worth having is cheap.

Our reason for wanting rain barrels is the quality of the water.  We’re on city water here, which we’ve stopped drinking because it’s full of bad things, in addition to poisons like chlorine and fluoride.*

We’re trying to be good stewards of our bodies and of the land.  We have two large compost piles.  We mulch with fragments of our own shredded trees, and we use no pesticides or chemical fertilizers of any kind.  Given all of that, it makes no sense to pour city water onto the soil and kill the very microbes we’re trying to encourage. 

We know our city water is bad news from a long period of research which produced very gloomy results.  Our water comes from a local river, which is disturbing enough in itself (Where do fish poop? For that matter, where do fishermen poop?).  The point where our water company takes water from the river is a few miles downstream of a Federal Superfund Cleanup site.  That means the site (the old city dump for industrial and commercial waste, closed in the 1960s) has been designated as hugely toxic.  It is also located right next to the river, smack dab on its shores, and the underlying geology is free-draining shale, as in drains right into the river, as studies have shown.  So, although it is a massively poisonous site, the feds have designated it as “no action,” because in fact there isn’t anything they can do that won’t make the problem worse.  So much for the “cleanup” part of the site’s designation.  Disturbing it, even to clean it up, would no doubt be disastrous.  I sure can’t think of a safe or effective way to do it. 

At the very least, though, the local authority could stop taking our drinking water from this river just a few miles south of the site.  Appallingly, when I talked to the head of the water company, he said he had no knowledge of the superfund site.  It’s in the incorporated town, whereas the water facility is located in the county.  As Water Boy reminded me, (making it sound like he was referring to a remote and foreign land where natives dressed in coconut hulls and ate raw lizards) “I have no jurisdiction there.”  He made it clear that he had no interest in the issue, either.  He’s following all federal and state laws, and that’s good enough for him.  I’m pretty sure he drinks bottled water, too.

After we moved here to this bucolic five acres, we both started experiencing joint pains, tiredness, soreness in our muscles.  Some of this is due to the natural aging process, but the timing of our symptoms was an obvious red flag.  Nevertheless, it took me several years to wonder if the water was playing a part in our conditions.  So a few filling in glass of drink water from faucetmonths ago we started drinking spring water from a named, certified source.  It’s a pain in the butt, not to mention the wallet, but I’m not going to drink poison.  How much arsenic and xylene do you want to ingest?  I’m guessing none.  And of course in any chemical test you only find the things you are testing for.  Who knows what these chemicals brew into when they mingle for decades, lying under a layer of styrofoam and on top of asbestos covered by old refrigerators?  Nothing good, I’m sure. 

It’s true that city water is cheap, and that’s certainly a consideration.  But how can cost matter when it’s full of things I can’t drink?  And if I can’t drink it, how can I feed it to my plants and saturate my property with it?


What I Need in a Rain Barrel

Rain barrel construction might seem like a no-brainer, and in some ways it is.  You can certainly set a big old 1wooden barrel in the middle of the garden and fill it from a well, as people have done for centuries.  When you need water, dip a bucket in.  I guess you could do the same with any large container.   But, for me, there are so many other considerations, all to do with functionality.

 

Many rain barrels on the market today are attractive, but appearance is the least of my concerns, as anyone who knows me personally will be happy to tell you.  A well-functioning rain barrel is going to be a workhorse.  It has to handle hundreds of gallons of water in a way that is sensible and effective.  Criteria:

  • Of sufficient size to be useful.
  • Located close to point of use.
  • Durable, UV resistant.
  • All spigots and drains in sensible places.  Enough room to get a watering can under a spigot.
  • Effective and sufficient filters.
  • A sensible overflow system.
  • A good winterizing system.
  • Secondary spigot for attaching a soaker hose, if needed.


What’s Out There

The market is overflowing (sorry) with rain barrels.  I’ve seen them at Whole Foods, standing out front looking green and ecological.  Predictably, they are very expensive and they apparently come with none of the downspout diverters, filters, and attachments I need.

Amazon.com is full of rain barrels as well.  We recently became Amazon Choice members, which enables us to order merchandize at inflated prices (yes, even higher than many other current selections!) and pay no shipping costs, thereby fooling ourselves into thinking we’re getting a great deal.  This does pay off on heavy or bulky items, so ordering a rain barrel from them might be feasible.  But the selections!  And the reviews!  Here’s a doozy:

lump of plastic

The Lump O’ Plastic, which is described as having a “realistic rock shape.”  As you can see it’s just about a realistic as all those other pseudo-rock shapes on the market, the ones that are designed to hide “unsightly” things like water meters in your yard by covering them over with absurd plastic globs.  Even if it did look realistic, it would only make your friends and neighbors wonder why you had a giant rock leaning against your house and why your downspout drained into it.  Note the spigot, which is about high enough to fill a teacup from.  See the tiny hole (design afterthought) in the top front, presumably to prevent suction problems.  Mosquitos actually are clever enough to enter that hole.  Where’s the filter?  The user obviously has to cut her drainpipe to go in the top – so what happens in the winter?  Here’s what one purchaser had to say about it:

“The rock shape looks fine, but the spout for the spigot was plastic, they used so much glue it looked really terrible. The box was all torn, came in one piece and do understand it may be hard to use.
Also the spout thread was partially damaged so not sure if it was a returned item sent to me. so it didn't help that the rock was a little flimsy so it was hard to turn the spigot in there. I wished they had done it for me. As much as I said that, there was so much shaving it filled the spigot and couldn't figure out why I was only getting drips.
it's okay.”

Ignoring all the errors in punctuation and syntax (one must or one will go blind with apoplexy), I wonder why the reviewer concluded that “it’s okay.”  Does he or she expect to receive faulty merchandise?  And even with these issues, the product was given a three out of five stars by this reviewer.  Still, he or she is calling the product “the rock,” so I guess it must look a lot more realistic than it does online. 

Here’s another totally silly rain barrel, along with the official product description:

column

“The top is the only of its kind that acts as a planter space and also self-drains when excess water is present. There is also a channel built into the rim, which diverts overflowing water to the front and away from the barrel and home foundation. You can have peace of mind that you're helping the environment by conserving water and giving your garden the best water it can get, devoid of harsh chemicals and rich in nutrients.”

 

In the first place, no one needs a planter on top of their rain barrel.  In the second, what about all that dirty water that drains from the planter into the barrel?  Also, how will I water those plants?  I sure can’t get a watering can under that nozzle.  And where is the filter?

The “overflow” (see that lip at the top front?) is pathetic.  Judging from the description, the water in the barrel rises to the top, soaks the heck out of that poor sad plant, and then gushes out of the lip onto the soil in front of the barrel, about a foot and a half away from the foundation.  Wouldn’t take much time for the overflow to gouge a canyon in front of the water barrel, and the entire front of it would be covered in splashed mud from day one.  Also, the same problem with winterizing – I’d be left with a dangling, sawed-off downspout.  Lovely.  At least it’s only around $100.  What a deal.

The worst part for me, in many ways, was that the manufacturers claim rainwater is “rich in nutrients.”  Rainwater contains no nutrients at all, and if they don’t know that they are incredibly ignorant about their own product. 


What’s Wrong Here?

All of the products offered on Amazon – as well as the ones I’ve seen in stores – have at least some of the flaws I’ve noted above:  they don’t provide adequately for filtration, overflow, or winterization, and in most cases you can’t fill a watering can from them if installed at ground level, which is the height at which all these rain barrels are displayed.

Rain barrels look pretty at ground level.  However, a decent-sized rain barrel can weigh over 500 pounds when it’s full, so it needs a very stable foundation.  It also needs elevation – not only so a watering can is able to fit beneath the spigot, but in case a person wants to attach a soaker hose.  The higher the elevation, the greater the water pressure at the spigot. 

All of these commercial barrels are designed for one purpose - to get people to buy them.  Whether the consumer is happy afterward, whether they work properly, whether they do the job in the most efficient way, is obviously not something these manufacturers are concerned with.  Their designs (and descriptions) make it clear that, although they do understand profit, they don’t understand rain barrels.  Or drainage.  Or rain.  Or winter freezing.  And so on.


So Here We Go

A couple of years ago I was noodling around online and I found a small local company that installs rain barrels, cisterns, etc.  It seemed like a very good idea to me and I called them and had a chat.  I then filed them away in my memory banks (unreliable at my age).  Recently, when we stopped drinking city water, I thought of this company again.  I asked them to come out for a consult, and I was pleased with the professionalism of the owner. 

All of the items on my list were answered well and fully.  I was impressed with everything I was told. 

The estimate was higher than I thought it would be, but estimates always are.  The total, as it turned out, was exactly what it should have been if I’d bothered to sit down and add up the costs of the individual items, as detailed on the company’s website.  

I suffer from endless “checkout shock” in stores, even though I make rough additions as I’m shopping.  My stress in regard to spending money - especially large chunks of it at one time - no doubt comes from those decades of my life when I didn’t know where next month’s rent was coming from.  I also grew up with a mother who squeezed pennies so hard that Lincoln screamed.  I’m too old now to ever get over my anxiety about lincolnspending money, even though I periodically try to heal myself by buying lots of stuff (aversion therapy). I take no enjoyment in spending money.  I do not like to shop.  But I keep trying, because I’m not a quitter.

So now we’re in a holding pattern.  I have some secondary questions and I’m waiting for answers in e-mail.  When I get them, assuming they’re satisfactory (I’m pretty sure they will be) I’ll schedule the installation of three large rain barrels, two with soaker hoses.  There are also separate downspout filters that trap debris before it enters the barrel, as well as various screens inside the barrel and at the point where the soaker hoses leave.  These are much more permeable than regular soaker hoses, to accommodate the barrel’s lower water pressure, and their lengths have been calculated scientifically.  The barrels will be on two-foot platforms of concrete blocks, and a watering can will easily fit under the spigot.  Winterizing will be a breeze. 

Very excited here, feeling greener.  Updates to follow. 

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*When we found our current dentist, I told him that I would allow no fluoride in my mouth.  He needed to know this in regard to cleanings and other proposed treatments.  He reacted with astonishment and ridicule.  “Don’t you know it’s good for you?” he asked.  No sir, I don’t.  What I do know (and so should you, Mr. Tooth Man, because it’s well within your field of supposed expertise) is most other developed nations, including all of the EU, have banned fluoride in their water because it is a poison.  In addition, no study has ever shown fluoride to be of the least use in preventing cavities.  In air and in the soil, fluoride is identified as a toxic substance.  Anyone who wants more information can find it quite easily online.  Anyone but my dentist, that is. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Free Vera

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This is my latest piece.  When I first saw this photo I was struck by the intensity of Vera’s focus and her incredible beauty.  I want her hair.  See more in the art gallery (top right of this page). 


Background

vera

Title: Mug shot of Vera Crichton, 21 February 1924, probably Central Police Station, Sydney.

Creator:
New South Wales. Police Dept.

Date:
February 1924

Description:
Special Photograph no. 1094. Vera Crichton, 23, and Nancy Cowman, 19, are listed in the NSW Police Gazette 24 March 1924 as charged, along with three others, with "conspiring together to procure a miscarriage" on a third woman. Crichton was "bound over to appear for sentence if called upon within three years.”

Whatever “conspiring together to procure a miscarriage” means in real terms (and why did it require five people?), Vera was released on probation.  She certainly doesn’t look like someone who has been mishandled in any way.  What I see in Vera’s eyes is her determination to keep doing what she feels to be right.

What happened to Vera?  I haven’t been able to find out.  Maybe she walked out of court and was kicked in the head by a horse.  Perhaps she went home to her husband and had five children in quick succession, ending up fat and content, or mean and bitter.  Or she went to school to become a train conductor.  The only thing we know for certain is that in those few moments when the photo was developing, Vera became immortal.


Technique

This piece needed a lot of working to get it right.  I went over the cradled birch substrate with a glaze of burnt umber paint until I was satisfied with the tone.  Then I glued down some pieces of muslin that had remnants of plaster and other substances on them.  I tie-died one piece of the muslin (lower left) with undiluted walnut ink.  I wrote a word under the muslin at top left, leaving part of it uncovered.  Later I rubbed on another word (middle left) and then sanded it most of the way off.  Throughout I used walnut ink in various dilutions to add to the patina. 

Vera had to be the star of the show.  I emphasized her photo with underlay (thin corrugated scrap) and overlay (wire mesh).  Her photo was sealed with a high gloss application to give her more emphasis.  I gave her a prison number. 

The challenge for me was to keep this simple, to keep Vera in focus.  At various times I auditioned other items in the relatively empty spaces – a key, a tag, a phrase from an old journal.  I left these items on for hours, sometimes overnight, so I could examine the piece from all angles.  What I found was that with each addition the piece immediately became jangly and disoriented.  I needed to reflect the certainty and serenity I saw in Vera, so in the end the only other item was a narrow raw wooden dowel at the bottom of the frame. 

To further enclose Vera and point to her face, I applied estrips of black-and-tan paper (from a striped Designer Shoe Warehouse bag) around the front edges of the substrate.  The spacing of the stripes didn’t work out exactly on the frame, but the end result is fine.  I found this to be too glaring, so I toned it down by covering it with the brown deli tissue paper I liberate from Whole Foods with every muffin purchase (their inflated prices more than cover this tiny loss).  This tissue paper tears well, and yet dries to near transparency.  Of course matte Mod-Podge was the medium. 

On the sides of the frame I finally used some vintage twill tape I’d been hoarding.  I cut it exactly to length, but when it dried (Mod-Podge again) it shrunk, leaving a tiny gap at the top.  That’s fine with me. 

I’m very pleased with Free Vera.  It ended up saying exactly what I wanted it to.  I am intent on simplification.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome to the New Sprockets Inside

sign aSprockets International is gone.  I worked for them for many years, and I’m not sorry to see them go.  I am sad about the massive loss of life, but it was their own fault. 

We’ve all seen the photos.  What optimists used to call “Green City” is now a radioactive wasteland that can only be photographed from space.  The explosion of view from space aSI headquarters opened fifteen new volcanoes, caused many earthquakes and tsunamis, and flipped the Earth’s axis.  Those idiots never did follow basic safety precautions, despite all their finicky little rules.  I suffered second-degree radiation burns myself, but I’m mending pretty well and my childbearing years are far behind me, anyway. 

me aThis is me, if I were a few decades younger and brunette with a twisted neck.  As you know, I worked as SI’s chief artist.  Actually their only artist.  Since SI is gone, finis, caput, toast, from today on this blog has nothing to do with their maniacal soul-destroying plans to conquer the known universe.  I’m in charge now, and if history teaches us anything it is that I’m occasionally harsh but always fair.  Or is it the other way around?  You will also find some of my old friends here.  I’ll reintroduce them in a future post.

I’m cleaning up this site.  It’s always been a dreary place, and I’m putting an end to that.  You’ll notice the banner has changed.  I’ll be making other adjustments to reflect my point of view.  I hope to be upbeat, but I may whine from time to time. 

Please bear with me during the adjustment period.  And if you are a former employee of SI who survived the explosion, good luck with that job search!  Someone out there must need five thousand capillary zygote refill technicians. 

               out with the old a

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Improved 911 Service Coming Soon!

19I’m Emergency Services Director Cyrus McRough and I’m here to tell you about our new emergency phone system.  It’s not what I’d choose to be doing on such a fine day, so let’s get it over with.

We’ve been doing what they call a beta-test in the last several weeks, and there have been more than a few misunderstandings.  Folks say they were put on hold for too long, or they had an unfriendly experience when they finally spoke to an Intervention Assistance Specialist. 

Looks like a few people complained about being disconnected in the middle of their call - and I can see where that’s upsetting, but there are legitimate reasons for it which I’m going to address here.  As usual, 99% of all disappointment and hurt feelings are caused by unrealistic expectations.  In this case, yours. 


In the Beginning

When telephones first came out, any mention of an accident or emergency during a private conversation was dealt with in a speedy fashion because the operator, Marge, was always listening in, and her husband was the police chief and fire warden.  Those days are long gone.

In the mid 20th century, official emergency services 26went national and then international.  When muscular dystrophy was cured, all of Jerry Lewis’ telephone operators were about to be out of a job, so they formed the “Workers 918 Union.”  The name came from the number of operators, and was eventually reduced to 911 due to employees finding more remunerative employment at Taco Bell.  Soon the union was called “911,” and the name stuck.

In those early days the ratio of callers to operators was very small, and personalized attention was the norm.  After reporting a rape or burglary, for instance, it was not at all unusual for the operator to ask if the caller would also like their dry cleaning picked up or their lawn mowed.  This was considered to be common courtesy, and was the hallmark of the emergency response team.

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The Sweet Smell of Change

After the recent criminalization of all unions and employee benefits associations, Workers 911 Union was purchased first by Wendy’s International and then by amazon.net.universal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kraft Foods, which of course is a division of Sprockets International.  We have spent a little time since the acquisition of this important customer service organization to spruce it up and rethink its purpose, abilities and just plain usefulness.  Next month we will roll out our new and improved “Help U Help Us Help Others” (HUHUHO) program. 

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As of January 1, when you call 911 you will experience speedy, professional help on an unsurpassed level.  We know we are giving you superior service, but we also know that change can be difficult for everyone concerned.  Our employees have been trained extensively.  Now our job is to educate you, the customer, so we can avoid as many lawsuits make the transition as smooth as possible.


What Can I Expect?

Whatever you like.  We’re here to tell you what will happen, not to discuss your feelings.  Under HUHUHO, you will experience the following:

  • Hold times not to exceed ten minutes, except during peak calling periods of 0700 to 2300 every day.  While you’re waiting, we provide recorded self-help information on popular topics like “So, You Were Just Shot in the Neck,” and “What To Do When Your House is on Fire and You See the Smoke Coming Under the Door but You’re in a Wheelchair and You Can’t Move.”  We call our completely complimentary service HUHUHOTUP, which stands for “Help U Help Us to Help Others by not Tying Up the Phone.”
  • When you are connected with one of our skilled Intervention Assistance Specialists, you will first be presented with an array of monthly specials which we are certain will be of use to you.  In January, for instance, we are offering the astounding Poo Devil Personal Cleaning Machine for three easy payments of $29.95 plus shipping and handling.  That’s a 50% savings!  You’re welcome.  If you’d like a second Poo Devil for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling, just let your Intervention Assistance Specialist know. 

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NOTE:  We ask that you remain silent while being presented with our special offers, so that our operators don’t have to restart their scripts.  Any interruption from you will delay response time to the emergency situation you are about to report, and we know you don’t want that.  So don’t make it happen. 

  • Our specialist will then take your report.  Speak slowly and clearly, spelling out your name, your address, and the location of the incident, and repeating yourself as many times as you are requested to do so.  We cannot be responsible for errors in transcription of the information you provide, and if we knock down your neighbor’s door by mistake because you cannot be bothered to enunciate clearly, you will receive the bill and/or be arrested for making a nuisance call. 
  • We promise to deliver your report to the appropriate emergency response team, if it can be determined who that is, as soon as we can after receiving it.  Such is our commitment to you, the citizen in need, that we almost never take longer than 30 minutes to do this.  We know this response time is remarkable, but as professionals we achieve this high standard of excellence on a regular basis (weekends, nights and holidays excepted).

Did You Hang Up on Me?

Now that you know about our excellent new service, we need to discuss the reasons why one of our extremely 16professional operators might disconnect your call.  Our trained researchers have determined that nearly 87% of 911 calls are not emergencies at all.  In order to have any hope of dealing effectively with true emergencies, our operators cannot speak with time wasters, moaners or heavy breathers.  They are therefore authorized to “discon” anyone who misuses the 911 system. 

We know this is confusing for a lot of people.  It can also be aggravating to be fined for repeatedly calling 911 for non-emergency reasons, or to end up in jail, especially when your child has just been kidnapped.  Because we understand those of you who abuse the system are shockingly ignorant, we have provided the following chart, “Do Call 911/Don’t Call 911” in pictorial form. 

   911BasicsLow


Special Health Concerns

It should be obvious to even the most obtuse that if you are unconscious or you’ve been killed, you should call 911 immediately.  That is exactly the kind of situation our trained professionals handle.  In fact, failure to call in such an instance would certainly be a parole violation. 

If you have a heart condition, which your doctor may have referred to as a “dodgy ticker,” a “bum pump,” or other technical terms which we can’t spell right either, remember the acronym CPR.  This stands for Call, Push, and Raid the fridge.  Failure to do any of these things in the proper order could lead to severe regret.  Also, let emergency personnel and mourning loved ones know you did your best by keeping the following instructions on your person at all times:

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And Finally, a Word about Politeness

There have been a few complaints of operator rudeness, and we need to nip this in the bud.  Everyone appreciates kindness and patience, but we are not your therapists.  You can’t get speedy, professional assistance from people who are all touchy-feely.  When our trained personnel call you “bitch,” they are only trying to stop your whining and get the information they need in order to help you.  Likewise, “Who gives a crap?” is a rhetorical statement of efficiency.  Sometimes you will hear an operator giggling, but that is probably just gas from a previous meal.  We are not here to be your friends.  We are here to help.  You need to stop sniveling and let us do our jobs.  Got it?  Because we can always hang up and move on to the next caller.

BONUS!  CALL 911 FIVE TIMES IN FEBRUARY AND RECEIVE 20% OFF CYBERHICKS MEMBERSHIP!   FIND YOUR RURAL ROMEO OR JULIET!  YOU CLEARLY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE, SO WHY NOT?
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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Life and Death of Buffo Tool

buffo sprinkle flippedIt is with some regret that I, Buffo Sprinkle, announce the timely death of my famous uncle, Buffo Tool.  The noted entertainer died in a freak accident caused by an absence of hope and enthusiasm coupled with a strong low pressure system.  I have been asked to write a few words about him. 


1Buffo Toole was born a poor circus boy in the outskirts of New Delhi.  He hitched a ride on a freight transport headed for Mars Colony XIII when he was seven years old, and soon became a famous entertainer, headlining in the Phobos Lounge & Laundroteria for the next 40 years as Mistero Buffo.  Some of the songs for which he was most famous were “Buffo My Tool, Space Maiden,” “It’s My Apogee and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” and “Luvin’ at Zero Gee.” 

goodbye mr buffoAt about the age of 40 my uncle decided he needed to hit the big time, so he worked his way back to Earth on a Sturmerian pleasure freighter.  Upon arrival he was almost immediately offered the lead role in  “Goodbye Mr. Buffo,” where he played a teacher who was leaving.  The critic Gene Crisco called his acting “understated and memorable, as long as I have the cast list right in front of me.”

buffo and omarBuffo’s crowning cinematic achievement arrived when he was 45.  Largely due to his name and the fact that he dressed in sheets most of the time, Buffo was offered the lead role in “Buffo of Arabia,” starring alongside seasoned Hollywood veterans.   His performance in this sprawling five-hour epic about feuding nomads riding around the desert on camels earned Buffo the coveted “Satisfactory” award, which he proudly displayed until the end of his life. 

6In his final years, my Uncle Buffo became unemployable other than for bit parts, due to his chronic flatulence which no amount of drunkenness could disguise.  His sadness over the end of his career caused him to become thinner and thinner until there was almost nothing left of him.  Last Saturday, when he stepped out of his furnished room to buy a truckload of cigarettes, he was crumbled and carried away by a brisk wind. 


ADIEU, UNCLE BUFFO!!!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Green Eternity–The Eco Option

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Our Culture is Changing. . .

And so are our interment practices.  In ancient times, 12families lived close together, and when a family member died they were buried in a shallow ditch along with that day’s refuse, dead livestock, etc.  When we moved to the cities, traditions of interment changed.  Large tracts of land were dedicated as planting ground for caskets filled with dead chemical-soaked loved ones. 

Today no one lives on farms and we have no more available land.  By law, everyone is cremated.  However, your loved ones still deserve a fitting remembrance, and at Green Eternity we provide that with several memorial options:


Family Reunion Road

The tender, virgin soil under any highway or major road project is designated as your family reunion road.  You 14may inter the ashes of up to 15 family members (grandparents, parents, children, uncles, aunts, even pets) over a period of up to three weeks, or until paving starts.  You can take flowers, cards, and bows to the road during that time, and spend as much time with your deceased family members as you like.*  After the road is built, you can drive on it as much as you need to, because grieving is a process and so is travelling. 

*Hardhats must be worn when visiting.  Follow road safety rules and instructions of the construction crews at all times.


Electrical Substation

For those who have no need of an entire road we offer the option of sharing interment rights with others under 15an electrical substation.  A maximum of 300 people can share one substation.  Many sexual deviants and people serving life sentences for money laundering choose this form of memorial.  Unfortunately it is not possible to visit anyone who has been interred in this manner, but you are free to press your nose against the locked gates and listen to the inspiring hum.


Landfill Site

Everyone lives in some sort of social network.  For some, this network is more important to them than their biological 11families.  If you are a member of the Local Order of Benevolent Eastern Star Caribou or the Tea Party Twelve-Steppers for Bingo Tuesdays, why not consider having your remains deposited at a local landfill site?  If you elect this kind of group interment you can select exclusive rights for up to 15 people.  Visiting is possible only on Toxic Waste Drop-Off days, but you can send a card at any time simply by putting it out with your garbage. 


Have You Retained A Loved One’s Ashes at Home?

Well that’s just gross.  What the hell were you thinking?  Give us a call and we’ll come right over and take them off your hands.  My God, you’re a disgusting person. 

imagesCall Mary at Customer Service right now!  She’s waiting for your call.  Are you dialing?  Oh, sorry.  It’s extension 54.  Say your name is Buffo and pay 10% more.


This Sounds Expensive

All quality services are expensive.  But rest assured, from the moment we receive the call that you or your 9loved one has died, Green Eternity swings into professional customer service mode.  Nothing is too good for a Green Eternity subscriber.  Our special pickup vehicle will be at your house (or the hospital, or under a bridge, or wherever the stiff deceased is) and we’ll take it from there.  No pesky crematory fees.  You don’t have to make any decision or choices.  Within a few weeks you’ll receive a card (or your loved ones will, if you’re the dead person, but you could figure that out, right?) letting you know where and when you can visit the ashes of your cherished friend/family member/coworker/parole officer.

So sure, it costs a bit.  But isn’t peace of mind worth paying for?  We’ll bill you.

A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF FIRE AND ICE HEATING, COOLING AND CUSTOM WOODEN CLOGS, INC. 

eehHi!  Now that winter is here (BRRR) it’s ALMOST TOO LATE to service your furnace, but if you don’t want to freeze to death like your neighbor did last year you still have time to schedule a tune up.  Contact us today.  Or you could wait and let emergency services call our colleagues, Green Eternity, when they find you in the spring.  Your choice, totally! 

 

Life Stewardship

A Green Eternity Interment is part of life planning.   Life planning is important, if you want to have a good life.  But hey, it’s your life.   

  • Do you know how you want to be interred?
  • Do you know what your parents prefer?
  • Have you discussed interment?
  • Talk about it now.  Yes, right now.  We’ll wait.


 


 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Short History of The Thinking Machine

Although today we would not consider getting out of bed without consulting our computers, it’s easy to forget we once had to do everything on our own.  There was a time, long ago, when we had to actually research things in books, and we looked outside to see if it was raining.  Seems barbaric and pointless, doesn’t it?  But that’s how it was.

Readers:  As you can see, we have experienced some progress in regard to our color graphics contract negotiations.  We have limited use of red (pink).  Can blue and yellow be far behind?  We live in hope.  We are also offering large bribes and free vacations to our adversaries, along with the keys to our hotel rooms.  The rumor is we party hearty. 

The First Computers

Ancient societies had crude b1gizmos that provided information, but they were very limited in their scope.  They could not produce answers to the most important questions.  If you asked one of these contraptions “How many gray racing pigeons would fit in my right shoe?” it made grinding sounds and burst into flames.  The ancients almost certainly had no  porn sites, so in effect they had no computers at all.

In 1941, Eugenia P. Waldbridge naccidentally invented the first modern computer when she pulled her radio into the tub where she was playing with her erector set and a rubber pleasure device.  Her heartbroken relatives took the resulting sparking, seething mess to Radio Shack, hoping that enough could be salvaged to have a funeral.  While awaiting examination, Eugenia’s remains amazed the electronics geeks by using binary code to tell customers they’d left their car lights on.  The golden age of computing had begun.

Brainiacs at major universities quickly jumped on the 2computer bandwagon and filled every available building with monumental constructions made from radio tubes, human hair and bits of string donated by prisoners and ambitious doctoral students. Institutes of higher learning accepted much-needed funding from government defense contractors and private companies like RCA (Royal Canadian Armpit).  These huge, hot machines had to be cooled constantly with truckloads of ice cubes, and an attendant need to be present at all times to replace spent vacuum tubes (average tube lifespan was five minutes) and to make sure the machine didn’t go rogue and start sending sensitive information to Russia. 

Colleges competed with each other 1ato see who could build the “smartest” computer, and by 1953 “Herbert” at Cornell was able to correctly add single-digit integers.  Its programmers took home all the Nobel Prizes that year, including the prize for Agriculture, but only because no one else wanted it.  In the next decade, clever marketing meant that every company had to have a big, bulky computer in its offices, even if that meant sending employees home for lack of space. 


We’re All Going to Die!

As is natural when new technology suddenly appears on 3the scene, taking over the office and spewing sparks, many people were a bit nervous about computers in the beginning.  It didn’t help that computers were smarter than any human.   Rumors about the ‘evil intentions’ of computers started making the rounds, and the public embraced them wholeheartedly.  It was said that standing next to a computer could ruin your health or even cause you to lose your arm in a freak ‘munching’ accident.  Other ipeople thought computers had bizarre, perverted needs that involved the deaths of small fuzzy things, and some people went so far as to spill small puddles of fake blood next to computers as ‘proof’ of their illicit consumption.  Popular magazines ran stories about “Vacuum Tubes of Shame,” and “The Hard Drive That Took What it Wanted.”  Alarmist sentiments were rife. 

In response to these hysterical outpourings, lucrative 8fledgling computer companies launched PR campaigns to convince the public that computers were their friends.  In some ads, faux scientists were seen to discover that computers only wanted what the rest of us wanted, and nothing more.  Advance campaigns paired cold, lifeless computers with women who (although they look like tramps to us) were dressed very 9fashionably for their time.  In much the same way automobile makers of the time sold dangerous gas-guzzling death machines, computer manufacturers used sex to sell their new ‘desktop’ units, which were nearly portable, assuming you owned a large moving van or tractor trailer.  The campaign seemed to work, and the new models sold like extremely slow, heavy hotcakes. 

cThere were a couple of unfortunate accidents in the early days of computing.  The most tragic  involved ex-exotic dancer Mangina Mangrove, who sat far too close to the Mercury Xenon-Argon 350 model through many publicity shots, and quickly became an 80-pound toothless demented man in a private nursing home in Orlando, Florida.   The model 350 was recalled shortly thereafter. 


Your New Best Friend

In the mid 1970s, the game of Pong was invented by a pteenaged boy in Secaucus, NJ, who sold it to Commodore Commodities for a few dollars and an ounce of primo weed.  Marketed as “The Best Computer Game Ever,” Pong’s addictive fun quickly won the hearts and minds of the public.  The barrier of fear between humans and computers was broken finally and forever.  Yay!

From that point on, the public face of computing was hone of pleasing the user and making working with computers easier and even pleasurable.  There was no more talk of computers hurting humans or becoming so smart that they took over the planet and gradually eliminated humans altogether.  In fact, that mbecame laughable.  We became slowly used to the presence of computers in our everyday lives, and soon almost every household appliance had a computer chip in it somewhere - even underwear.  (Didn’t you know that?  Take yours off and look for the chip now.  If you can’t see it, maybe you can smell it.  If you can’t smell it, ask a friend to sniff it for you.)

Earn bonus points* by answering this question:
Why did some early computers have steering wheels?

6 a.  So the TV monitor (top right of picture) could see where it was going;
b.  To give the operator something to hold onto in a high wind;
c.  They doubled as driving test simulators on Sundays;
d.  Some of the above.

*Redeemable in the employee cafeteria on Spaghetti Tuesdays.


Tomorrow and Beyond

While it is just barely remotely possible that, in secret s1government laboratories far beneath the Earth’s surface, work is in progress on biomechanical interfaces involving human volunteers and computers, we doubt that is the case.  But, when you think about it, would that really be a bad thing?  Imagine the immense informational capacity of a computer combined with the ruthless rapacious ambition  empathic and caring nature of the most highly evolved human beings.  But of course nothing like that is happening, and by saying that we don’t mean that it really is.  Because it’s not. 

It is undeniably true that computers ask a lot of their developers and programmers.  Nothing is as absorbing – in a good way – as being involved at the frontiers of computer technology.  Friends and family fall by the wayside, along with social skills and hygiene, when humans become intertwined with computers – and that’s okay, because no one wants to be around these people anyway.  But whatever you think of computer geeks and their lack of sphincter control, you can be sure that at this very moment, and every hour of every day, these talented people are toiling endlessly to bring you technological advancements that humankind has only dreamed of.  Stay tuned.  And in the meantime buy a T-shirt.

orderb
This T-shirt is made of either 100% recycled post-consumer waste or the tears of orphans, or something else.  It is compostable and even edible.  We hear it tastes like reconstituted frozen raspberry powder mixed with latex.  Yum. 

Please allow ten weeks for delivery, as each one is specially handcrafted for you.  No, of course it’s not.  We’re just slow.