Monthly Archives: July 2006

Drug Testing

We love to think that athletes compete under that dreamy spirit of pure competition embodied in Citius Altius Fortius (Higher Faster Stronger) from the Olympic movement.  This is a lovely fantasy, right up there with Rue McLanahan and Sigourney Weaver wrestling naked, in pudding.  OK, the wrestling is wrong, but, we like the concept of pure sport.  There has been no such concept for generations, even in Baron de Coubertin’s day of rehydrating the Olympics out of some soft-focus fantasy of amateur competition.

A couple of examples:  Golf:  The ball originally was leather stuffed with feathers, then rubber, then a wooden core, then a metal core, then dimples and so on.  Technology improved the game and the initial ‘unfair advantage’ was adopted by the players.  Track and Field?  Spikes and starting blocks gave the early adopters huge advantages over the barefoot and standing start runners.  Pole vault technology went from ash, to bamboo, to fiberglass to carbon and unobtanium.  The vaulters used to land in sawdust and cinders, then foam, now air valved inflatables. 

The humans have adapted as well.  Training methods used to include robust dinners with laudanum (opium wine) and brandy during the race.  Now the lab coat brigade start with analysis of six-year olds to see if they have the potential to compete at the highest levels, the less than possibly perfect being weeded out by the age of eight.  Only those who have the potential to uptake more millibars of oxygen during a specific heart rate will be moved along.  I won’t even mention the weirdness that female gymnastics competitors undergo. 

The endurance events in sports, like track, or cycling or biathlon are the ones that truly cross the line into mad science.  Human growth hormone, Erthropoitin, blood doping, testosterone and even more strange things are injected into athletes to make them go faster and longer.  As the scientists come up with a new way to pharmaceutically jack up the athlete, the anti-doping folks come up with another test to find the metabolites in the blood and urine.  It is an endless battle of the black hats versus the white hats with serious product endorsement and performance contract appearance money up for grabs. Ask Floyd Landis or Justin Gatlin about the money involved in sports.  They’re both in a world of hurt regarding the possibility of being caught doping.  Not the actual doping, just the being caught.   

In a RoadDave of a few years ago, I figured we should just dispense with the pretense of honest competition.  I still feel that way, so here’s the short form.

Go as fast as you dare.  The only caveat is that the athlete must be able to walk, alive and unaided, up to the podium to receive the medal or trophy.  After that, we don’t care.  There will the occasional misfortune of sprinters bursting into flames at the 60 meter mark, or Tour de France cyclists leaving Low Earth Orbit, but that is the price that must be paid for the best performance. 

I can see future golfers hitting the ball a kilometer or more, while baseball players hit crushing line drives that kill kids in the cheap seats in left field at Wrigley.  I can see hockey and lacrosse players violating several laws of Physics, while the gymnastics fraternity dispense with the spinal column altogether.  In each sport however, is that caveat:  Walk unaided and alive up to the podium to get the trophy or medal.  This will put enough of a brake on the mad scientists to keep the athletes or teams alive for a whole season.  I can foresee some interesting steroid rages from football and hockey teams whereby whole villages are physically sacrificed for their beloved Packers or Hurricanes.

There is also the whole aspect of future effects of the various doping strategies.  We might see, of the few athletes that do survive into their 30’s to retire, a preponderance of tumors the size of turnips, or incidents of sociopathic madness involving guns, high buildings and crates of ammunition.  As long as the retired athlete has the requisite sponsor product logos well placed for the cameras, who are we to care?  We want our fantasy of pure sports. 



PBS and The Children

Ken Burns, the creator of a new PBS documentary series, called The War, is going to be in the centre of a controversy quite soon.  New PBS guidelines insist that any “obscenity” is not only bleeped out, but a digital mask is placed over the mouth of someone saying whatever the “obscene” words might be. 

The documentary in question is about the Second World War, interviews with veterans and such.  Soldiers have that which might be described as a colorful vocabulary.  So do sailors, marines and even aviators.

PBS is applying very strict “obscenity” guidelines to any programming before 10 pm, because the Federal Communications Commission in the US are slapping fines on the broadcasters who allow “obscene” words to be transmitted.  This is symptomatic of a general tightening of America’s collective sphincters thanks to the religious right wing-nuts.

Rather than slap a pejorative of “obscene’ on certain words I prefer to use the term coarse language.  Obscene, like Pornographic are judgmental and heavily loaded terms of control and censorship.  To a starving population, a film of an all you can eat buffet could be considered pornographic.  To a very orthodox Jew, fully spelling the word God, is obscene to the point of blasphemous. 

I much prefer the term ‘erotica’ to describe images of a sexually-themed nature and ‘coarse’ to describe language of a common and harsh nature.  They are not ideal terms, but obscenity, like pornography, is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder.

The PBS bleeping and masking on “The War” makes no sense to me.  Not that I’m in favor of gratuitous coarse language, as my training in radio and television have sanitized my language beyond all possible redemption when I am in front of clients.  In private, like every other human on the planet, I can and do use coarse language. 

Which brings us to the use of coarse language in society and on the airwaves.  The objective of the PBS fiat of foolishness is to prevent possible complaint to the FCC by people who are offended by coarse language or images that might be interpreted as coarse.  Naturally, PBS does not want to get fined, as PBS is not swimming in cash, so they are covering their collective behinds.

There seems to be a deep-seated fear in America that precious children might hear or see language or images of language that are anything other than squeaky clean.  Perhaps the fear is that their direct line to God and life everlasting in heaven will be tarnished irredeemably by hearing so much as one coarse term.  Therefore they must be on guard at all times for anything that could jeopardize that pipe into Heaven as well as force their world-view on the rest of us. 

I call it the “Tight-Assing of America”  Anything contentious, unpleasant or earthy must be removed from view.  This kind of blue-nosing results in the malicious re-editing of history and reality to remove various unpleasant truths like the Inquisition, the Crusades, institutional slavery or the Salem Witch Trials.  I’m not going to mention other things like the Holocaust, 9/11 or starting wars in distant countries just because ‘our’ politics don’t quite mesh with theirs.

So, as a public service for all the blue-noses out there, here’s a bulletin:  People swear.  They use coarse language.  The language you can hear on the playground is about the same as the language you will hear in a barracks or a locker room.  Your precious little William or Melinda knows those words, plus a bunch more you don’t think they know. 

Another bulletin?  Hang on to your blue-nose, this one is a shocker:  Your parents had sex at least the number of times that they had kids.  That’s right, your parents did the nasty, quite possibly joyously, on a hot summers’ night after a couple of glasses of wine.  Hell, they might have even done it just for the pure pleasure of it.  I might hazard a guess they even did it before they were married.  Ronald Regan did the deed with Nancy and even knocked her up before they were married. 

I know, it is too vivid an image of Ronald and Nancy being all sweaty, flying clothes, stretching zippers and….I have to stop there before I cause too many shudders.  The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my eyes.

No matter how hard the blue-nose brigade tries, The Children will find out about cuss words and sex and a bunch of other things like drinking, and drugs, despite your best efforts to put them in a bubble until they’re 40 years old.  The Children might even find out that Voting After Thinking is possible.

What a parent is required to do is to teach them discretion.  There is no need to cuss in front of old ladies or in church.  There is no need to use fuck as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction and gerund.  If you drop an anvil on your foot, you are perfectly entitled to cuss.  You won’t go immediately to some pseudo-religious tight-ass Hell, no matter how doctrinaire your adherence to the Bible. 

Put a warning on the front of Ken Burns’ The War.  Caution people that the language will be coarse.  Don’t run it at dinner time, as American parents have proven they haven’t the sense to control how their kids watch TV.  But don’t try to sanitize the real stories of the Second World War, as told by the few left who were actually there.  People and that includes The Children, must know that War is a violent, hideous, disgusting and occasionally noble endeavor that humans have been engaged in since we came out of the trees.

Dubya 2.4

(This is a reprint of a reasonable RoadDave website posting from March 3rd, 2004)  

Nearly eight years ago George Bush Senior’s Dumber Son was taken to an Undisclosed Location.  There, under the supervision of Karl Rove and some of the other Fun Factory technicians, Dubya was created.  The Fun Factory Technicians, upon opening up the body, found no backbone, no heart, less brain, the missing pages from his military service, along with a shot glass, some rubbers, a well-used hash pipe and a golf shoe belonging to Daddy.  

The skin was tanned and a wig from the Ronnie Collection was plopped on the head.  After mounting the wiring, processors and frame, they created Republican President 2.0, which they called Dubya 2.0. 

As an aside, some of us remember Republican President 1.0, Ronald Regan.  Most of the electronics were kept in the Nancy Module, with a wiring umbilical between them.  Regan was nearly lifelike, but not quite as good as they had hoped:  The Teflon coating fried the memory modules.  

The beta test for Dubya was running Texas as Governor.  After a few more tweaks, Dubya 2.0 was sent to run for President and won against Al Gore.  It wasn’t as if Dubya was playing the All-State Varsity, but at least he won against the City Champions.  

For eight months or so, Dubya 2.0 clanked and beeped around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., posing for photographs, shaking hands and vacuuming up lint.  A months’ rebuild at Crawrford, Texas taught Dubya to not puke on the Japanese Prime Minister, to eat like a human, not a Texan raised by wolves and to introduce Dubya 2.0(b) to his animated wife, Peggy Hill.   

During the rebuild, they tried to get the voice to say “nu-klee-ur” rather than “noo-kler”, but failed.  However, the programmers did manage to get “wetback”, “darkie” and “hey pretty lady, give baby a table dance” out of the vocabulary modules.  They also stopped Dubya 2.0 from acting like a Roomba in a suit jacket, which was getting embarrassing at the White House when the press or visiting dignitaries were allowed in. 

Then came 9-11.  In a brilliant bit of engineering Dubya 2.0(b) read back some sound bites that were perfect for the time and circumstances.  Karl Rove and Dick Cheney pushed the buttons and uploaded exactly the right things.  Rove and Cheney, dining on human flesh at the Undisclosed Location, did high-fives over the cigars and flasks of fresh-packed blood. 

After their success with 9-11, Rove and Cheney wanted to prove their skills as the pre-eminent puppet masters.  Surrounding Dubya 2.0(b) with Powell, Rice and Rumsfeld, they pressed the Iraq button.  The sound bite technicians, including Ari Fleischer, wrote amazing macros that set up Powell at the UN, Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and Condoleezza Rice on Meet the Press.   

The war cranked up as written, but Rove and Cheney ran into a problem.  Two puppeteers, but five puppets.  One, Dubya 2.0(b) was on autopilot, but the other four, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld and Fleisher needed to have their buttons pressed on a regular basis. 

Powell, as an example, would occasionally veer towards telling the truth, but shown a picture of his wife with a gun held to her head, combined with a 90 volt shock to his nuts, Powell would go surly and read whatever was put in his hand.  The war veteran knew he was beat. 

Condoleezza Rice was easy to control:  They promised to legally change her first name and let her play piano at the Press Dinner.

Rumsfeld was harder to fix though.  He was already filthy rich, so Rove and Cheney had to resort to good old fashioned threats of personal bankruptcy.  Rummy would be cut out of the cash flow if he didn’t play along, which was only part of the equation.  The capper was the faked pictures of a young Rumsfeld shaking hands with JFK and Ralph Nader.

Fleischer was almost easier than Rice.  As long as Ari had limitless Viagra and a supply of Mexican whores to beat up, he played along.  Rove and Cheney even arranged for Rumsfeld and the Pentagon to pay for the talent through a Haliburton subsidiary.  Pictures were taken as the cash was handed over and the body bags of some “unfortunate excesses” chez Fleischer were disposed of.

With all the time spent on Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld and Fleischer, the Puppeteers forgot about Dubya 2.0(b).  Something went wrong in there and it started opening its mouth at odd moments.  It made economic pronouncements that sounded like a cross of the “Evildoers of the Axis of Evil” speech with “Tax Cuts and Outsourcing Save American Jobs”.  Those who thought huge deficits were wrong fiscally, including Allan Greenspan, were lumped into the same category as Osama Bin Laden and North Korea. 

At the Undisclosed Location, Rove and Cheney looked around.  Rice was off practicing the piano for the Press Club Dinner.  When Ari left the government, he turned Runsfeld on to the thrill of beating up prostitutes with a bricklayers hammer.  Powell started to resist the shocks to the nuts and said “Go ahead and kill her.  I don’t care anymore”.  Even John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge started to act up, despite the implants. 

This left Rove and Cheney and some lesser lights from the Fun Factory to run the deal.  Rove, although a great strategist was no writer.  Cheney, although a master fixer, was no economist. 

They needed some bench strength and Daddy came back with some wisdom of the ages:  “Fags and Flags, boys.  Fags and Flags.  And rewire that asshole son of mine.  Carlyle Group will spring for it through EC&G.”  So Dubya 2.0(b) went into for an overhaul over Christmas.  First Marionette Peggy Hill was left to run the shop for the two weeks over the holidays while the work was done.

Now, the Republican Reptile Pool is opening up the Election Valve, putting Dubya Version 2.4 out there.  Version 2.4 is no better at reciting sound bites than the old one, meaning there is the occasional bleep and tweet when it goes off script as you see the processor trying to find a word that links two disparate thoughts together. 

Occasionally old programming comes back.  I was waiting for Dubya to call Jean Aristide an “Evildoer, of the Axis of Evil”. 

But the upgrade is taking.  Based on the Fags and Flags program, Dubya 2.4 is wrapped in the Flag as the Great Crusader.  And Fags are a security threat to America, especially if they want to marry.

They still haven’t figured out how to wrap mammoth deficit financing in the Flag, but it looks like they might not have to work too hard on that one.  Just order up some soldiers from Rummy.  Even the deeply confused understand the implications.

Towel-headed, bearded homosexuals trying to marry each other and explode bombs in the hometown Wal-Mart has many voters are getting their heads down.  Voters know that the only solution will be to call out the Army and pay more taxes.  We might have to bomb San Francisco and Rhode Island but that is the price you have to pay for America to fight the Axis of Evil.  God Bless America.


Stem Cell Stupidity

Let us debunk a myth or two here:  Scientists are not cruising the city streets in blacked out vans looking to abduct pregnant women, forcibly abort their babies and steal the cells in the fetus.  There is no farm in Romania with hundreds of pregnant women lined up to have their fetuses harvested for money.  There is no Island of Doctor Moreau where crazed scientists are creating humans that lactate tomato juice mixed with vodka and can zap death rays out of their eyes. 

That is the Great Fear that Dubya has just saved America from by vetoing a House bill expanding embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cells are the undifferentiated blobs in an embryo that will eventually become bones, skin, eyelids, arseholes, twats and Presidents.  At that very, very initial point of cell division, between 50 and 150 cells, the cells have no idea what they’re going to become:  They are raw cellular material. 

By tweaking the genetic and chemical controls, you can, so the theory goes, turn them into nerves, or pancreas cells, or bone marrow, or brain cells.  Those who research human conditions, like spinal cord injuries, or brain injuries, work with human cells.  You can’t use plant or animal embryo cells on humans.  You need human cells to plug into humans.  The source of these human cells has most often been the microscopic blobs that result from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) of human eggs. 

Here’s the general mechanics of IVF.  Doctors harvest a couple of dozen eggs from the woman, by stimulating the ovaries to super-ovulate, meaning produce a lot of eggs, rather than one at a time, as is the nominal 28-day human ovulation cycle.  The eggs are collected by basically, washing the fallopian tubes and uterus with saline and filtering the stuff that washes back out.  The eggs are put in a lab dish under a microscope and sorted.  Some will be fine, ripe and ready for dancing.  A few will be odd, dead or generally off.  These are sorted out and sold as Human Caviar to the extremely wealthy.  This is just a rumor, of course.    

The man who is going to be the donor of the male genetic material, goes into the restroom with a copy of Penthouse.  He whacks off into a test tube and hands the gooey goods over to a lab tech.  The tech takes the ejaculate and centrifuges away the semen, leaving just the sperm.  Take a pipette and mix the shiny fresh eggs and nice squeaky clean sperm together.  Don’t hiccup using the pipette.  Let them roll around for an hour or two in a lab dish.  Back under the microscope and you’ll see several eggs and sperm have joined up and started cell division.  Siphon off the three or four most promising-looking and squirt them into the female’s uterus, where hopefully, one or two will attach to the uterine lining, thrive and 40 weeks later become a human infant.

There are often leftovers in the dish.  These might be dropped down the sink, or frozen and saved for future use by the couple.  Some are donated to science for stem cell research.

In the Big Shiny World of the Future, the lab coats would take these cells and through some wondrous science, grow new nerves that could be implanted in a paralyzed trucker and presto-chango:  They get up and walk to the 7-11 for a Big Gulp Mountain Dew Code Red.  We could cure Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, Heart failure, Crow’s Feet and Saggy Tits in an afternoon.  The problem is that nobody knows for certain that it will work.  It is a SWAG, a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess. 

Not in Dubya’s world.  The science is a done deal, just waiting on fresh white fetuses.  He’s saving the unborn.  In Dubya’s World, these are fully developed humans that could vote if only the menacing hordes of traveling abortionists could be stopped by legislation.  It plays great with the religious right wing determined to insert their meddling fingers into things they don’t understand and can’t appreciate.  It is fear-mongering for votes.

A working, effective, stem cell based treatment is probably a generation away. There are too many unanswered questions in the science to be answered.  Let’s say we can grow spinal nerves for our paralyzed trucker.  How do we insert them?  How long until the nerves start working?  Will the body reject them as foreign objects?  How long will the rehab be until the patient gets up and goes to the 7-11?  We do not have the data to even make educated guesses.

The same holds true for the cure for Parkinson’s.  We don’t know 1/12th of 1 percent of what we think we know about the brain.  Ask a neurologist or a pharmacist to explain how Aspirin works in the brain.  They can’t tell you, because they don’t know, except to say, it works and has worked since 1899.  We’re not even at the point of saying we might be able to grow one neuron cell to replace the billions of neurons that make one neural junction in one tiny area of the brain that might have something to do with Parkinson’s.  We do not know. 

The bioethics are another matter.  I figure let the lab coats work with the best material they can get their hands on, if only to see if they can make it work.  I believe this for one simple reason:  I am a Type II diabetic.  If they can come up with a treatment, preferably a pill, (I’ll settle for a suppository) that will cure my diabetes then I’m all for it.

Just remember that the opponents of human embryonic stem cell research are against it for religious grounds, not scientific grounds and the science is at best, a long shot.


Dubya and the S Bomb

Another open microphone caught another world figure today.  A couple of weeks ago Condi Rice was overheard calling some Russian diplomat a melonhead. Today, in St. Petersberg, Dubya was caught by another open microphone saying "What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit." The comments were part of a conversation with Tony Blair regarding the Middle East insanity.  

I’m certain that the right-wing nuts will have a field day with the President cussing like a schoolyard punk.  I’m certain the left-wing nuts will demonstrate this as symptomatic of cowboy diplomacy and the failure of same.

For the rest of us in the middle, it is just the way Dubya talks.  He has a very narrow, black and white world view.  He’s a C-grade draft dodging Harvard grad for heaven’s sake.  This means he truly is an inbred idiot who knows next to nothing at the best of times, but has a good rolodex of similar inbred idiots who don’t know much more.

The shame of it, is the American people elected him a second time.  I’m not going to dig up the first theft of an election:  You already know that story and Bush got away with it without so much as one Democratic Senator agreeing to sign his/her name to dispute the results.

However, in the interests of keeping Dubya from putting both feet further into his mouth and inadvertently starting a nuclear war, a simple primer:

Microphones are always on.  Even if the red light is off, they are always on.  Ask Daddy about that, he used to head up the CIA.  The same is true with those cameras before the State of the Union address.  They’re turned on and can show you mugging like you’re at a Skull and Bones Skit Night. 

Cameras will always catch you picking your nose, or scratching your ass.  Don’t pick your nose or scratch your ass, or adjust the jewels (Johnson) or talk into a pocket memo device for “history” like Nixon.  Cameras will catch you doing it and you will look like you’re inflamed, suffering from prickly heat, or just plain crazy. 

Reporters are interested in having you mess up:  Ask Karl how to bust their balls and get them back in line.  Foreign reporters are worse, in that they don’t listen to Karl and you can’t bust their balls:  They actually report and investigate things.  You can always get their local secret police to bust their balls on your behalf.  I hear Romania does some good work for the CIA. 

The stuff they serve you at state dinners is good food. I know it isn’t coleslaw, mac and cheese, WonderBread and smoked hot links, but try to use at least one of the fancy forks.  The little bowls?  They are not for drinking out of and the lemon slice is not for your sweet tea.

Condoleeza Rice’s name was made up by her parents.  It is based on the musical term con dolce, meaning sweetly.  Her name is not Condi, or Candy, or Connie. She is a legitimate, degreed Doctor of Political Science who has actually worked a day in her life.  You might be the President, but when it comes to brains, you couldn’t cut it as the yardboy who cleans her garbage cans. 

It is nuclear, pronounced noo-Klee-ur.  Not nuk-erLer.  That big book over in the corner is a dictionary.  Get Mommy to read it to you, or The First Lady, Peggy Hill.  She’s always goin’ on about Reading being Important.

Syria and Hezbollah aren’t doing ‘shit’:  They’re trying to kill a lot of people.  They’re launching big, explosive, nasty rockets at Israel in an attempt to kill as many Israelis as possible.  Israel is trying to kill as many Lebanese and Palestinians as they can. 

It is called a war Dubya.  Like Iraq, except both sides are the bad guys and you don’t get to have Rummy put up a “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier for your photo op. 

You are the one who is doing ‘shit’ as in ‘jack-shit’, by sitting on your butt and letting the military and the arms industry sell the guns and rockets and weapons to both sides in this moronic confrontation. 

You could actually do something useful at the G8.  Talk to Red Putin, TonyB, Yertle Merkel and Elvis Koipond.  See if you can cut a deal to get Bobby Assad to cool his jets.  Get Herm Olmert to cool his jets too.  Just have them come to Crawford for a barbecue:  Your treat.   

Do the beef by the way, not pork. 

North Korea Sends A Message

The UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution today, spanking North Korea for firing off missiles into the Sea of Japan.   It took ten days to cut the deal, but the resolution essentially says:  “Smarten the hell up, dickhead!”  

The North Korean ambassador to the UN had the reply ready in under an hour.  It read:  “Blow it out your ass.”  I am simplifying a bit.   

The reply wasn’t quite as pithy as the “Nuts!” from General McAuliffe at the siege of Bastonge during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, or the banging on the desk of Nikita Khruschev in the 1960’s but it will have to do for now. 

The dialogue is also continuing in the Middle East.  Israel is sending messages to Beirut, via helicopter gunship and strike aircraft.  Hezbollah is replying with artillery and using Katyusha rockets from Iran.  The shortened form of the dialogue is “You suck!  No, you suck!  No, you Suck.  You Suck more!  No you Suck More!”  

The diplomatic rapport seems a little stilted right now, as all either side can do is plug their ears during the explosions.  After they run out of ammunition, perhaps they will try talking.  Oh, actually, they can’t run out of ammunition:  Most of the members of the Security Council are selling arms to all sides in this fruitful, important and meaningful exchange of ideas in the Middle East.

We can only hope they don’t blow the entire world to pieces.


Bumper Sticker

Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows

Food or Fuel

What do you like for breakfast?  I have a warm spot for the elemental bacon sandwich.  White bread and five or six strips of crisp bacon.  Eggs are not required, but perfectly welcome. 

I have drunk my share of spirituous liquor and have some vague, but fond memories of Vietnamese rice moonshine, American white lightning and Greek raki that made my elbows stop functioning.  Scotch, however, I remember almost every glass. 

I don’t remember having a bacon sandwich and a glass of moonshine together, but it is possible.  The beauty of that meal is it is a closed system.

Take some corn, add a bit of water, mash it a bit and add yeast.  The little yeast creatures eat the naturally occurring sugar in the corn.  Since the yeast do not have cable, they do the cell division thing.  Wait a week.  You get partially digested corn mixed with very valuable yeast poop:  Alcohol.   

This how humans have made beer and wine since the dawn of time, except for beer we use barley malt with hops and crushed grapes and juice for wine.  Naturally brewed beer usually comes in at 5% alcohol; Wine generally comes in at 10% alcohol.  These are good numbers that mean if you’re in a country with bad water, drink beer or wine.  The alcohol kills the bacteria that could give you the Screaming Uranus.

However, we were talking corn originally.  It is important as you shall see.  Heat the corn slops to get the alcohol to boil off, then condense the steam and you have moonshine:  Raw, 80% ethanol. 

Do the same thing with vintage grape wine in a very specific area of France and you’re making the beginnings of Cognac.  Barley and Oats will eventually become Scottish Whisky using the same process. Potatoes will make Vodka.

You feed the leftover mash to pigs, or cows as there is still enough usable nutrition in the mash to act as a major component of livestock feed.  Cow, Pig, Ostrich, Llama or Moose:  Doesn’t matter much to them.  Most commonly it is fed to pigs.

Livestock manure, what is left of corn after being fermented, boiled and run through an animal is used add nutrients to fields to help the plants grow better.  This means more plentiful crops, which means more moonshine and bacon eventually. 

This is a good, natural, closed system.  We can have a pleasurable beverage in the evening and grow some bacon for breakfast, or yogurt or corn bread.  Except I live in a fourteenth floor highrise apartment.  I can’t have a cow and a pig up here, or grow enough corn to make it worthwhile.  Then there is the whole illegal-still-moonshiner-arrested-in-Mississauga headline in the Toronto Star. 

Alcohol is a basic organic solvent for chemists.  It can sterilize things for medical use.  It can get you so drunk you wake up three days later in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia wondering why you are not wearing pants and have a wad of Turkish money in your shirt pocket.

It is also a fuel for internal combustion engines.  As the price of oil goes up, it looks better and better to “grow” our own fuel.  We don’t have to be beholden to foreign governments, don’t have to dig it out of the ground and as long as we can grow, ferment and distill stuff, we can make more of it.  It is not ‘finite’ like oil or coal.  It is a biofuel.

The problem is the rest of the world.  They need our grain as food.  Farmers, being farmers, look at which pays better.  Corn for ethanol pays better than corn for export to the other 95% of the world that doesn’t have enough to eat. 

We can make alcohol from things other than food grains.  Wheat straw works fine.  Corn stalks will do.  Wood chips, stems from dope plants, just about anything with cellulose or starch will work.  Add some enzymes to break down the cellulose in the plant to make elemental sugars, then add the yeast.  Iogen Corporation in Ottawa is a world pioneer in efficiently producing ethanol from the stuff farmers toss away at harvest time. 

Where it falls over is in the money:  Oil companies, who are leading the production of ethanol, don’t want to make it from less than ideal things.  They want to make it out of corn or sugar cane, or beets, as that is the cheapest and fastest way to get from biomass to gas.  It costs them less to produce.  They can mark it up insanely, blame farmers for being greedy and wrap themselves in a big ol’ Green flag at the same time.

Biofuels from organic sources are going to be critical in the next few years.  We need the petroleum left to make important things, like medicines or specialized plastics that can’t be made of anything else.  Substituting biofuel for transport, heat and electricity generation is generally good.  So is solar and wind generation, as well as conservation.

There is no rational reason to take perfectly good food and make ethanol out of it to power a Chevy Suburban.  Especially if that Chevy Suburban drives from the parking garage of an 11th floor condo in West Van to the Whole Foods store on Main.  I bet the driver feels all warm and fuzzy about using ethanol blended fuel to transport themselves and their organically grown hemp fiber reusable grocery bags to buy unbleached flour and fair-trade coffee beans.  They are doing a couple of slightly good things, but a bunch of bad things.

Food made into moonshine and bacon sandwiches is good.  Food for the rest of world to eat is even better.

Use ethanol fuel, absolutely, but question where the ethanol comes from.  Fuel from Food is almost a sin. 


Hezbollah Goes To The Mattresses

On CNN right now, the Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, is saying “Bring it, Bitch!” to Israel.  This is not a good thing.  We now have two bent and twisted parties, with weapons, getting all snotty with each other. 


Middle East Mambo

They’re at it again.  The kids are acting up, jumping on the bed, punching each other and throwing things around the bedroom.  The grownups are in the living room, trying to read, against the counterpoint of bumping and banging upstairs, waiting for the inevitable “Mommmmmm!”  

Every sensible parent of more than one child that I know says they don’t worry if the kids are beating the crap out of each other.  Noise is good and as long as the children are not using chain saws, they tend to ignore it as best they can. 

What frightens parents is silence.  That spooky suspended-reality sound of nothing happening between the siblings can mean only two things, both of them bad.  The first bad thing is there has been significant bloodshed and the siblings are trying to stop the nosebleed and clean the shirt without anyone in authority findng out.   

The second bad thing is they have found/obtained/discovered the magnifying glass, or lighter fluid, or your wedding pictures.  Something very bad or personally embarrassing is now underway.  

Perhaps this is what is needed in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Gaza and the rest of the Middle East.  Personally I’d just stop coverage in North American media with anything more than a five second blurb every couple of hours:  “Those crazy buggers in the Middle East are still at it.  Now the overnight lottery numbers….”  

I hate to say we should ignore them, as that is wrong and hurts all kinds of innocent people.  However, both sides won’t listen to reason, common sense or even appeals to humanitarian aid for the innocent on any side.  Revenge is all they know.