Foul Fowl

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Should I write about the ordinary ones? The lousy ones? Like a good picture of a bad thing? Is my job to filter out the dismal or only filter out the low quality? You’ve been warned.

What I wanted was pics of exotic shorebirds and ducks at the National Wildlife Refuge. What I got was a weed-lined tractor trail with two and a half miles worth of an endless pickle weed patch on one side and nothing but overturned dirt on the other, set to a backdrop of an endless parade of truck traffic on the 37, in a bowl of distant mountains and urban skylines.

I followed the tractor trail two-and-half miles to the water of the North Bay. The bushes at the trailhead were littered with tp, looking mostly like a place to pull off the highway and to take an emergency crap. I was hoping that eventually, I would come upon tidal, bird-infested waters. Instead, I side-stepped spent shotgun shells with the remains of a metal carcass, passed by an abandoned structure of some kind, pondered a very lost and large cement block, and covered my nose with my face mask hoping to block out the odors of a foul-smelling ditch. When I arrived at the most northerly point of the North Bay at low tide, I witnessed nothing more than mudflats and vanishingly small birds in the tidal distance.

Trying to make lemonade out of lemons, the temperature was perfect and there was barely a cloud in the sky. Even weeds can be colorful with interesting shapes. The junk piles make for semi-interesting compositions embedded in the pickleweed and a horizon of hills. A kite stopped on a stump protruding ever-so-slightly above the terrain. Two deer ventured out onto the barren fields from a small weed patch. I wondered if deer have ankles to twist as they retreated back at the sight of me over the clumpy dirt to their weedy home, probably confused as to why a person was on the trail at all. As I walked, I drove flocks of songbirds in front of me from one weedy perch to another, apparently not sharing my dim view of the seed-sated weeds.

I often wonder when I hike alone what would happen if I keel over. On this one, I don’t think anyone would chance upon me until the next planting season when some hapless farmer would wonder what that crunching noise was under his big fat tractor tires. I would have expired within sight of the highway with the indifference of nothing more than roadkill. I’ve hiked in remote places with more people than this trail (none). I was close enough to see yet far enough never to be seen.

I felt dirty when I was done, like negotiating with a used-car salesman. It was an ugly hike. As you may suspect, I don’t recommend it. But keeping people away may be just what the birds need.

Queen Tide

Reading Time: 3 minutes

With every King Tide comes its opposite, an extremely low tide. Is it a pauper tide? An anti-king tide? Why does more water get to be king and not more beach? Because it throws a temper tantrum of wanton power on rocks protecting the road and boardwalk?

The extremely low tide is royalty, too. So, I hereby declare the extreme low tide as the Queen tide, an opposite of sorts in the ways that are of importance for my purposes. I hope to show her moods and airs and beauty worthy of a queen.

The format for this display is “a sort of American haiku.” (Jose gets credit for the appellation.) I take it to mean to put a little unstructured poetry to a picture, to see it as something more than what is in its bare, wooden frame. That is the theory anyway. Here is the practice.

A willet standing on the safety of an island rock surrounded by the mirage of a submerged cliff dropping to the sky:

The surf backing off from the resting reef rocks:

Plovers pulling out the wrinkles of the unkempt sheet of the sea:

Plover snipping at its mirrored self:

Flock disbanding after patiently watching the end of the day:

Cliffs painted on the ephemeral canvas of a silky shore:

The gaudy rouge of an ancient queen tide:

Pocked chocolate stairway to Olympus of the tides:

Well, that is it. What, you want an encore? Ok, one more just for you. King and queen both, the monarchy of the tides:


Reading Time: < 1 minute

terratrashing: to transform a planet so that it is unable to support human life.

Terraforming is the process of making another planet habitable for humans. Elon Musk wants to terraform Mars. Science fiction writers like to write about terraforming other worlds, usually to escape all the terratrashing we’ve done to this one. Terratrashing is the word I propose, to describe the process of making a planet uninhabitable for humans, specifically, the one we live on.

Terratrashing leaves no ambiguity about the scale or the cause of what is happening. Trashing is not a natural phenomenon. Trashing a planet renders it uninhabitable for humans.

We need a phrase that describes more accurately what is happening to our planet and more importantly why it is happening to the planet. The phrases “global warming” and “climate change” have no teeth. Worse than that, they make it sound like the processes are natural phenomena. The climate changes all the time. A little global warming sounds kind of nice, especially to people in cold weather climates digging themselves out from three feet of snow. If the worst-case scenario of five degree C temperature rise comes to pass, this planet will be unrecognizable to those of us that live here now. If the carrying capacity of the planet drops to one billion from the projected ten billion peak, nine billion people will die, and everyone will suffer.

Worse, global warming climate change is only one symptom of planetary-wide, human-induced change mostly for the worse and not the better. Plastic pollution. Biomass reduction. Mass extinction. Now what phase will spark more action and accountability to stop that from happening, terratrashing, global warming, or climate change?

Hug a Zombie

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Author Note: It is a satire, just a satire. More than anything, I want to introduce the idea of digital distancing, maybe the start of my own little Meme. I swear, I tested positive for anti-memes.

So far, scientists have more questions than answers. Here is what they know so far.

ZVoid-21 is the first biodigital virus ever discovered. It is transmitted primarily through memes and social media directly into the brain stem of its victims. The virus immediately affects the production of neurological transmitters. Serotonin production is reduced resulting in OCD-like behavior. You may notice the affected individual begin to incessantly forward meaningless memes to everyone they have social media contact with. The biovirus also induces a dopamine dependency that seems to only be satisfied by immediate and continual likes in response to the sending of the meme.

In the second stage of infection, the biodigital virus attacks the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. Victims begin experiencing emotional outbursts, pounding excessively at their keyboards, and even verbally attacking individuals that fail to validate their entries. In some victims, the biovirus attacks the hippocampus. Victims begin to experience selective memory tending to only remember things that support their pre-infected dispositions.

In the final zomboid stages of infection, higher functions in the pre-frontal cortex shut down. In this stage, victims become completely withdrawn from their physical social surroundings. While they sit at tables with others, their heads seldom lift from their digital media. The affected individual seems to lose all sense of awareness as a biological entity. Lab studies have shown that the removal of social media at this point results in complete withdrawal or violent attacks to the point of eating their antagonists as you may have seen on the news clips.

Zombies cluster in groups with similar pre-dispositions. Unless provoked as previously mentioned, they seem to be more dangerous to other groups of zombies with dissimilar dispositions than towards the unaffected. Pre-industrial communities have developed no cases of ZVoid-21 nor have they been attacked by any of the affected. The only known attempted attacks on the unaffected occurred during an organized zombie campaign in all the major cities. Fortunately, within an hour, all of the zomboid protesters stopped to post selfies of themselves disrupting the coherence of the event. The only damage occurred to social media servers trying to absorb the massive viral load of selfies and nascent memes.

The only defense against the biodigital virus that has shown any effectiveness so far is digital distancing. All anti-meme inoculations and remedies have so far proved ineffective.

For those who might be asymptomatic, the CBDDC, the Center for Biodigital Disease Control recommends turning off all digital media whenever possible and spending more biotime with your friends and family, gradually extending your digital distancing time into bio-only holidays and vacations.

For those with early symptoms of ZVoid-21, the CBDDC recommends slowly increasing your time between posts and checking for likes. The idea is to slowly reduce your need for immediate gratification and validation with the goal of learning to live with deferred and even withheld stimulus from your friends and followers. The fear of uncertainty in relations and social status is the leading indicator of susceptibility to the disease. A CBDDC spokesperson suggests practicing techniques of manifesting mindfulness and confidence as successfully used in pre-digital times until an effective ZVoid-21 vaccine can be found. They also strongly suggest visiting natural environments with the recommendation that you turn off your alerts, turn on your DND sign, go into airplane mode, and leave the earpods in their case.

Many argue that it is just people living. Epidemiologists who proactively encourage digital distancing are at odds with economists who argue that such behavior will bring the attention economy and ultimately the real economy to its knees. Both groups argue that any sign of intelligence is completely asymptomatic in the other. Social media sites argue that global interconnectedness and the overthrow of hierarchical control systems are far more important than the mostly benign symptoms of most cases of ZVoid-21. 

But that is little consolation to parents who have infected their children, to the scores of friends lost to dings and little red hearts, and to unfathomable petabytes of banal information that threaten to overwhelm the fabric of our society.

As of this writing, there is no known cure and none forthcoming. Until there is, stay safe, digitally distance, and try not to be miserable. Hug a zombie (but don’t take his digital media if you don’t want to become a snack). Who knows, it may help.