-1-I've been reading a book about North Korea called Nothing to Envy. It's pretty good, if a book about a communist dystopia that still exists in real life can be considered "good." The famine parts are the hardest for me to read; I have a visceral fear of famine. These two paragraphs about made my hair stand on end:
"Creditors were increasingly fed up with North Korea's failure to repay loans that had amounted to an estimated $10 billion by the early 1990s. Moscow decided that North Korea would have to pay prevailing world prices for Soviet imports rather than the lower 'friendship' prices charged Communist allies. In the past, the Chinese, who provided three quarters of North Korea's fuel and two thirds of its food imports, used to say they were close as 'lips and teeth' to North Korea; now they wanted cash up front.
"Soon the country was sucked into a vicious death spiral. Without cheap fuel oil and raw material, it couldn't keep the factories running, which meant it had nothing to export. With no exports, there was no hard currency, and without hard currency, fuel imports fell even further and the electricity stopped The coal mines couldn't operate witout electricity because they required electric pumps to siphon the water. The shortage of coal worsened the electricty shortage. The electricity shortage further lowered agricultural output. . . . It had never been easy to eke out enough harvest from North Korea's hardscrabble terrain for a population of 23 million, and the agricultural techniques developed to boost output relied on electrically powered artificial irrigation systems and on chemical fertilizers and pesticides produced at factories that were now closed for lack of fuel and raw materials. North Korea started running out of food."
Can you think of another country that runs a huge debt and trade deficit? Perhaps one whose currency is becoming less and less valuable--a currency that is not, in fact, backed by anything? One whose agricultural system requires vast quantities of oil, both for production and transportation?
Ding ding ding! That would be us.
I looked up the page and imagined a world where oil was harder to get -- even, say, twice or three times the price it is now. Do you know how much oil goes into every bite you eat? I wanted to rush out to the yard and plant stuff that very moment.
-2-The comment, on an article about genetic modification, which announced authoritatively that "the vast majority of plant life on this planet is toxic in its wild form; only careful breeding has made it possible for us to eat it."
Do they not know humans used to be hunter-gatherers, and that some still are? It is in fact possible for a human being (not all human beings anymore; there are too many of us) to live entirely on wild food. Very few plants are toxic. A larger percentage just aren't nutritious to us, because our stomachs can't handle cellulose. But most fruit, a wide variety of fungi, most seeds, most nuts, many kinds of tubers and roots, are perfectly suited for a human diet.
I suppose you all know that, but it was post it here or post it on the New York Times, and I try to stay well out of comment wars on news sites. That level of stupidity really burns my cookies.
-3-This article on HuffPo: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. I'll save you the trouble of reading it: Millennials are unhappy because we think we're special snowflakes and were so disappointed to find out that the adult world contained actual work and we couldn't all start our dream jobs at 22. Must be all those ungraded tests and unscored soccer games that taught us that everybody's a winner.
Turns out grades and soccer scores are both pretty meaningless and don't appear to be good for anyone, but have no fear, baby boomers! Turns out that whole no-grades no-scores thing is something of an urban legend; I don't know anyone my age who experienced this. And as a teacher, same thing. Parents nowadays won't stand for no grades; they need something to use to compare their kids with other kids.
No point in trying to answer that dumb article, because it's already been done better than I could: this one gives the stats for what is really bothering Millennials (hint: unemployment, underemployment, debt) and this one is more poetic. The comments on the latter article are very much worth reading, including the subthreads. People have been posting their life stories, making me feel very lucky indeed. We are homeowners at 27, we have kids, and we live on one income. Apparently lots of people our age only dream of that kind of success.
-4-The Dust Bowl. Yeah, I know, it's okay to laugh at me. It happened almost a century ago now and I shouldn't still be upset. But I'm watching a documentary about it and this was so avoidable! People knew the southern plains weren't suitable for cultivation. But dadgum if they didn't go and cultivate them anyway. Speculators told people the climate was magically becoming moister, that plowing the grassland up would somehow bring rain clouds, and that there was no better farmland anywhere for growing wheat. So they plowed up everything they could, and when wheat prices crashed after the Depression they plowed up even more, because that's the only way a farmer has for dealing with low prices. Then all it took was a few dry years, and there wasn't a patch of prairie anywhere to hold the dirt down. It all blew away, and the farmers lost everything.
And now, of course, America's farmland is eroding more slowly, and into drainage ditches instead of in huge dustclouds, so no one notices. But topsoil is one precious resource that we literally cannot live without. Why do we give it so little thought?
-5-So the Pope gave this interview, right? I thought it was wonderful and really very comforting. It felt like he has been sitting next to be in the pew, Sunday after Sunday, while our priest rants on politics and barely mentions Jesus. He knew how I felt. And he knew that focusing less on politics and more on Jesus doesn't mean dissenting from a single Church teaching or backing away from the responsibility to evangelize -- it means speaking the truth in love.
No complaints there. But instantly everyone jumped all over it. I'm not talking about the secular media; I didn't read any of that. I mean the Catholics. They felt angry, betrayed, like the Pope had handed a victory to the enemy. Because apparently saying that you don't talk much about abortion or homosexuality is tantamount to stabbing all conservative Catholics in the back at once. I spent a lot of time trying to answer these people on Facebook and I'm only just now trying to step away. It isn't worth it. It isn't worth more division. Lord knows the Catholic Church in America has enough of that as it is.
-6-Michael is at that stage where he can't make it through the day without a nap, but he always takes it too late in the day and ends up staying up till nine or ten every night. I hate that. The one thing of most value for keeping my sanity is having no-kids time from seven to ten pm. And it's not like Michael is quietly sitting on my lap all that time -- he's tearing the house apart (which I like to tidy up before dinner so I can wake up to a clean house in the morning) and making a ton of noise and being super demanding. Argh.
On the other hand, when one kid gets tough, sometimes the other gets easy. Marko's bedtime routine is this: we read a book or two. Then I tuck him into bed, give him a kiss, and ... leave. That's it. He goes to sleep. Then he sleeps all night, and if he wakes up before me, he quietly comes out of his room and sits in my rocking chair until I get up.
And what's most encouraging of all is that he slept worse than Michael when he was that age. He was up till 11 pm sometimes, and if he woke at night he screamed bloody murder. And here he is at three and a half taking care of everything himself -- which he has for months now. So maybe, just maybe, two years from now Michael will be doing the same.
-7-John's had a lot of trips lately. I won't say when, because I'm afraid of being burgled (hey burglars! you ought to know our dog is very nervous and hates strangers! just keep that in mind k?), but it has been a lot. I've been keeping up with the home front just fine, really, but when he's gone, I just miss the guy. When I feel like North Korea, the Dust Bowl, the Huffington Post, and Facebook are all out to get me, it's nice knowing he is on my team. He gets all this stuff I'm upset about, gets why I'm upset, and for the most part agrees with me. I'm a pretty opinionated person, and it means so much to me to have one person I don't have to argue this stuff with.
What would you like to rant about today?
This week's linky is here.