Marchbooks' Blog

May 29, 2009

Styrofoam No More by Janus Kane

I purchased items from two different companies last week. They were delivered two days apart. They were similar items and were shipped by the same carrier. They came packaged in roughly the same way, with one MAJOR difference. The first box was filled with those vile styrofoam peanuts that no one knows what to do with. They are a bane on the environment but, hey, we need our packages to arrive in good condition – damn the environment. The second box was also loaded with peanuts (not the edible kind) although, wait a minute, I guess you could eat them if you had a hankering for cornstarch. Well, I’ll be, these little suckers are not made out of styrofoam at all.

I only suspected the difference (kudos to the responsible manufacturer, by the way) because, in appearance, these peanuts are virtually identical to their more toxic brothers. Only a slight color variation, and the fact that I had seen these once before, prompted me to bring one to the kitchen sink. In seconds, this thing was gone and on its way into my septic system.

Simply put, I hope the person who developed these little, bio-degradeable miracles is a millionaire, and then some. This person has found a cure for one of the most troubling drains on our environment. No longer will our landfills have to be packed with acres of non-decomposing styrofoam. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest advancements in recent history and may benefit our future welfare almost as much as the discovery of penicillin.

But, one has to wonder, what has been done to encourage the use of this better, safer, far more environmentally sound solution to the use of styrofoam? Not much, from what I can see. Are styrofoam manufacturers converting their plants to start making this new, non-toxic product? Are other manufacturers clamoring for more of this environmentally sound packing material? Has the government put a ban on new styrofoam production? These are all things that should be done, IMMEDIATELY.

Often, when you find an alternative to something that is harmful, it comes at some expense. That decadent seven-layer chocolate cake is not good for you. Your choice is to eat what is harmful or choose an alternate, less appealing substitute. Gasoline omissions pollute our air. Our choice is to accept the inevitable pollution or get our biking shorts out of the closet. Here is one of the very rare instances where we can have our cake and eat it too. So, why are we not doing it?

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Competition by Janus Kane

Piggybacking on M.J.’s commentary from the other day, I would like to open this discussion – why is competition so important to us? Why are we so driven to compete? It does not sustain us. Competition is not a necessity like food, water or air and yet some of us crave it and hold it in greater reverence than the oxygen they breathe.

I begins early, when we are children. Many parents stress about getting their children into the ‘best’ schools, pushing them to get excellent grades and join and excel at sports and other groups. We soon start to define ourselves by our GPA, sports achievements or other awards. We are encouraged to; jump higher, run faster, be smarter and hit that baseball harder. Parents have become violent at their children’s little league games – all in the name of good, wholesome competition, while children are shunned by their peers because they are not wearing the best shoes or designer jeans.

We continue to compete as we grow older, scrambling for the most attractive spouse, the biggest house in the nicest neighborhood, the most expensive car and the best paying jobs. To what end? The fastest man in the world must some day step aside as someone new steps up to break that record. The prettiest model must someday accept the fact that her looks have faded in the natural aging process. The most affluent among us must still accept the inevitable end that we all must face. All of their prosperity amounts to little more than a number on a balance sheet and a few luxuries that most of us will not enjoy. But, at the end of the day, they will lie, just as cold and dead in the ground as we will.

What will it take for us to realize that these accomplishments are as inconsequential in the great scheme of things as the length of grass on a perfectly mown lawn. Time will come and do its will, leaving our petty accomplishments in its wake.

Once put into perspective, there is nothing wrong with pushing one’s body or mind to the limits of its endurance. Striving for perfection, whether it be faster, stronger or smarter is a worthy pursuit, as long as this drive does not cloud one’s focus on life itself. But, what of the unwilling victims of this lust for perfection? Is it fair for a child to be dragged along, unwillingly, in the wake of their parents’ need to be connected, albeit vicariously, to their spawn’s achievements. And what of the animals that are so mercilessly pushed and prodded for our entertainment?

If an adult male wants to run himself into a heart attack for the sake of pursuing the four minute mile, so be it. Most animal competitions are fairly innocuous: cat shows, obstacle and obedience trials and dressage events.  But, when it comes to blood sports and racing, where immature horses are ridden into the ground for ‘sport’ and animals are starved and tortured to make them aggressive, more sensible minds should prevail.

May 20, 2009

On The ?Sport? of Horse Racing by M.J. Claire

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 9:39 pm

The recent running of the Preakness makes me think of how we treat (or perhaps mistreat) the animals in this ‘sport of Kings’. The sad fact is that the price our equine friends pay for this ‘so called’ sport is very high indeed.

The race track is rife with abuse and inhumane treatment of these noble animals. At what point will we realize that the ends do not justify the means? Horses sent to slaughter in droves or animals fracturing their legs in that ultimate race – is this something we can call a sport? Have we lost our conscience? As long as we are not responsible for the abuse, can we then turn a blind eye?

This abuse is taking place out in the open, not in some dank, dark alley. Take what happened to Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby. If the industry cannot even take proper care of their ‘shining stars’, what is happening to the rest of these animals? This is definitely not an instance where ignorance is bliss. Just because these horrors are not happening in front of our face does not mean that they should not be addressed. Is our entertainment so important that we can justify this kind of exhorbitant price?

Who out there is not crushed by the vision of this amazing animal ‘Eight Belles’ racing toward the finish line on broken legs? I think this is a stunningly sad commentary on the human race that we can remain complicit in such abuse just to satisfy our entertainment needs.

May 15, 2009

The Face of Evil by M. J. Claire

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 6:46 pm

We know it is there, we hear evidence of it whenever it is a quiet news day. We tune it out, we don’t want to look at it – stare it in the face – take some action. We put blinders on, push this reality to the back of our minds. There are so many more important things to think about. Then, one day, there is something we cannot ignore; a story, an image that confirms, unequivocally, that yes, there are truly monsters walking among us. For what, besides pedophilia or child abuse, is more distressing, more unjustifiable, more horrendous than the abuse of innocent animals?

    I am not talking here about the garden variety slaughter of animals by the millions/nay billions or the deplorable conditions these animals exist in – all in the name of putting a prime cut of meat on our tables. As horrible as this is, it is of a different nature. It is a discussion for another day. Today, I am talking only of the nightmarish cruelty and criminal neglect of the animals we call our pets.

      For me, it came in the form of an image, an internet picture of a blinding truth that could not be ignored. Come upon quite by accident, it seared itself onto my retinas. This image, once branded into my brain, could not be forgotten.

      We hear all the tragic stories – owner dies – dogs found starving, or the elderly woman with a heart bigger than her wallet is found with 150 cats in appalling conditions. Then there are the stories of ignorance. ‘I didn’t know you had to trim a pony’s feet – I thought he was just getting taller’, or ‘who knew that if I tied my dog on the deck he might fall off and hang himself’.

      This image did not fall into either of these categories. This was a picture not of ignorance or unfortunate circumstances, but of pure evil. The evidence within its borders depicted an unspeakably malicious intent.

    What had once been a beautiful, majestic horse, lay bloated and torn in a pile of debris and filth. She was lying there on her side, with a death grip on the 4×4 post that had become the instrument of her destruction. We can only guess at how many days this proud steed stood, hobbled front and back, innocently trusting that someone would eventually come and feed her. How many days before, mad with hunger and thirst, she began to challenge her restraints, and still no one came. Death is never a pretty sight, but this snapshot of time is literally too painful to look upon. It clearly portrays the work of evil.

      Be it dog, cat, horse or other domestic animal, we have bred them over many centuries to be one thing above all else – subservient. The dog, lying curled at our feet, does not want or expect its masters kick, yet when it comes he will return, with head down and tail between his legs, questioning what he has done to displease. The cat, purring in our lap, wants nothing more than food, water and an occasional stroke of its fur. Yet for some, that is still too much to ask. The horse, large and powerful as he is, bends his will to humans 1/5 his size. One thousand pounds of muscle and bone, properly directed, with the proper intent, could crush the life out of most humans. Yet they give themselves over to us completely – ‘tell
me where to stand, what to eat, when to work or sleep’. How do we repay this gift – this complete trust? This greatest of gifts is given with no higher price tag than that of care and affection. Some of us respond with utter contempt.

    Most people understand and respect this unspoken pact. Then, what can be said about the monster that committed this atrocity and others like it? Would any person with the barest ounce of humanity be able to commit such an act? It is common practice to label those who commit heinous acts as animals. If animals were capable of acting in such a way, none of us would be safe. What kind of a malignancy allows one to torture another living being in such a slow, methodical and calculating way, day after day, turning a deaf ear to an animal’s tormented cries as death approaches?

      One can only hope that these travesties, masquerading as human beings, will find a special place in hell reserved just for them. Equally incomprehensible to me, is the fact that this all took place in our own back yard. This did not happen in some 3rd world country, but in one of the wealthiest and most educated states in the United States. As this tragic struggle ensued between animal and starvation, did we pass this poor animal’s tormentor on the highway, stand behind it at the grocery checkout, or have it servicing our new car. Sadly, they wear no signs like ‘monster within’ or ‘evil lurking inside’.

      What motivates such evil? First, we have to ask, why get the animal in the first place? In most instances, there is at least some initial expenditure, especially in acquiring a horse. So why? Owning animals is not a requirement, a societal imperative or even an expectation. Although there are many who feel the pressure to have both spouse and children to achieve respectability, there is no such expectation with animals. The answer is horrific but inescapable. For some, it may be a sick need to have something weaker around, on which they can vent their rage or perversions.

      Everyone has bad days: a fight with a spouse, a layoff notice at work or three hours in traffic. We all have them, days when we come home with the urge to break a few dishes or kick the crap out of our furniture. The fact that most of us have learned to manage our anger in more appropriate ways aside, is this what happened here? What kind of dementia would have to take control of a mind to move it to an act of such cruelty. Even if we could comprehend it, this was no single act of rage – this was an extended period of torture. The resulting conclusion is frightening in its potential accuracy – these are Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahlmers in the making; sick, demented creatures working their way toward human torture.

      So if we won’t do something for the animals, maybe we will do something for ourselves. But how can we see the monsters within? How can we pick them from the crowd, avoid them, castrate them, stop them? Are we just not aware enough? Do we have to look deeper – read more into our co-worker’s covert smile, our neighbor’s secretive nature? Should every reclusive loner be suspect?

      For now, maybe just being more aware, inquisitive and pro-active may be our best course. But for the future, we need to advocate for tighter restrictions and much more severe penalties for animal abuse. That can only happen when we recognize the full value of each life, no matter how small. That means a change in our priorities. We pursue years of school and training for our jobs, we require licenses to drive a car or enter into a marriage with another consenting adult, yet any idiot that can draw a breath or write a check can have a child or be entrusted with the care of an animal, no training required. And thus our victims are created.

      It is a bottomless pool for any pervert, abuser or pedophile to dunk into as deeply or as often as they like, without restriction or repercussion.

    Isn’t it our job as a society to take their ladles away, for good?

deadhorse

May 9, 2009

The Squirrel And The Grasshopper by Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 8:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Most of us are familiar with the fable; the tireless squirrel works through the summer to store nuts and fortify his home while the grasshopper laughs and relaxes in the tall grass. Eventually, winter comes and finds the grasshopper, literally, out in the cold.

Fables always carry an inescapable grain of truth, but rarely do we see them come to life before our very eyes as this one is now doing. Our current recession is having far reaching effects, not the least of which is the seperation of the squirrels from the grasshoppers.

We had a long summer. American businesses thrived, the stock market hit ever increasing highs and the housing market boomed, resulting in many good years for everyone involved in real estate and the construction business. During that time, the grasshoppers among us lived for the day, spending their gains as soon as the checks cleared. Big screen tvs, luxury cars and fancy boats were the order of the day for many. Those with more moderate means were still lured by the siren song of affluence. They eagerly stepped up to the loan officer’s desk and signed paperwork for homes on nothing but a wing and a prayer. Get it now, pay for it later became the tune on everyone’s lips. Well, I’m afraid that the tab has come due.

People that lived for the day, never giving a thought to tomorrow. People who were too eager to spend each and every dime that passed through their hands. Those grasshoppers are now paying the price. Only they are not, we all are.

Although I support Barack Obama and recognize the huge effort that he has put forth during his short time in office, I think that beating the drum for more consumerism is a miscalculation. Without some kind of a savings philosophy, we will all be out in the cold once winter comes. The concept of saving is something that we should be instilling in our youth, but we cannot do that until we start practicing it ourselves. Is it really going to take another Great Depression to remind us that a little bit of money in the bank is not a bad thing?

What will it take to make us realize that living the good life on credit alone comes at a high price, too high a price for our limited coffers? The thought that we can spend and spend, as long as our plastic holds out, is a fallacy of epic proportions. It is basic Economics 101 – a house of cards (credit cards) that is destined to come crashing down on us. When that happens, it will be the squirrels who survive the devastation, as they smugly reap the rewards of their planning and foresight. Hopefully, the grasshoppers will not take us all down with them.

To Be Released in August 2009

May 5, 2009

Thoughts on Twitter – Lizzie March

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 4:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

I recently began using Twitter. It has become quite the phenomenon. Everyone and their grandmother seems to be tweeting. It is, I believe, the next step in developing our universal consciousness. More than that, it is a fun way to stay connected and a great, low-impact way for businesses to touch the public. Companies and enterpreneurs can put their message out there, in a non-invasive way (after all, how much can you say in 140 characters?) and the recipient can pick and choose what they would like to tune in on.

Obviously, the purpose of Twitter is to network with people. It facilitates that goal very nicely, to a point. I recently discovered a slight glitch (in my opinion) with the system. Twitter users make connections by following other people, who ideally, follow them back. Twitter keeps track of how many followers and followees a user has. At the same time, Twitter wants to discourage those people who just follow large numbers of people when they are not interested in following those people back (Twitter’s version of spam marketing). Although this is a valid concern, the cure can become problematic.

In order to ‘get the ball rolling’, one needs to generate a presence by following people. Fortunately, Twitter has made it relatively easy to pinpoint people on the network who have interests similar to your own. But, I think that few people (with the exception of celebrities or Barack Obama) experience 100% follow back. In my own experience, I have noted about a 50% follow back ratio of people that I did not know before joining Twitter. Do I need to say it? Even if you are not abusing the system, you are likely to eventually become top heavy in the ‘following’ department. When you hit the 2000 mark (ie. you are following 2000) you get blocked from following any more people until your followers catch up.

Here is the dilemma. Now, when someone is kind enough to follow me, I get a message telling me so and asking if I want to follow them. But, thanks to this Twitter policy, I am blocked from doing so.

I think it would be much more equitable if Twitter adjusted their policy a bit. I would suggest lowering the imposed limit from 2000 to 1000. At that point, rather than blocking all attempts to follow, Twitter could allow a user only to return-follow someone who is following them, limiting any self-initiated following until the numbers balance out.

Just my thoughts on Twitter. Tweet on people.

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