Peter Brannen Is Kind Of An Amazing Man

Date: December 1st, 2017

Other Title: My Interview With The Amazing Peter Brannen

Look how adorable he is!

Book cover: 

Peter Brannen is kind of an amazing man. Tis true, tis true. He is the author of The Ends Of The World, a book you must read now if you haven’t already. Here’s a link to buy it: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062364807/the-ends-of-the-world

The Ends Of The World is about the five major extinctions our planet has endured. It is highly scientific, but for me at least, it reads like a novel – rightly emotional, fun, sweet, dark at times, and uplifting in the end. I loved the book so much that I annotated it. For fun. I got a pen and sat wherever I was reading it at any given time and expressed my feelings about the book, in the book. No teacher told me to. Peter sure didn’t.

The man’s Twitter feed is miraculous (some are missing their pictures or context, click each for full tweet):

I had the great honor of interviewing him, and here it is for your reading pleasure:

1. On Twitter, in reposting this post (https://twitter.com/Paleocreations/status/928695855439376384), you said “Earth has been many different planets over its lifetime.” This is sort of a two parter…Of all the “planets” Earth has been, which one is your favorite? And where is your favorite place to be on Current Earth?

 This is a very difficult question for me to answer, because it tends to change based on which period I’m researching at that moment. Some worlds, like the Cambrian world (illustrated in that link), I just love because of how alien they are. It’s difficult to believe that that world and our own both shared this same little plot of real estate in the solar system, even if we are separated by hundreds of millions of years. Of the periods I highlight in the book, there is the same sort of alien appeal for me in the Ordovician: the continents were nearly as desolate as Mars, but underwater, in places like tropical Ohio, it was just this explosion of sea life, and almost all of it was invertebrate–bug, squid, starfish-like etc.—and our ancestors, the fish, we’re all but irrelevant. It’s just a totally bizarre planet. And although it’s more recent, the Permian-Triassic planet is similarly alien to me. I’m fascinated by this version of planet earth in a sort of macabre way. It just gets so unbelievably hot and desolate. In fact, in these huge lifeless expanses of Pangaea there’s evidence that at one point earlier in the Permian it got as hot as 163 degrees Fahrenheit!

My favorite place to be on earth today is in front of any new rock outcrop with a geologist who can tell me what I’m looking at, and there’s good rocks everywhere. Geology has made the whole world more interesting to me.

2. What is your favorite fictional kingdom? 

I was struggling with this question, when I suddenly remembered a series of books I had when I was younger called Dinotopia. I just google image searched it and the illustrations are as incredible as I remembered. That is a fictional kingdom I would like to visit.

3. Who was the kindest scientist you met on your journey of writing The Ends Of The World? And who was the most eccentric? (I think I might be able to guess your answer for most eccentric, but I’m gonna let you say it.) 

All of the scientists were exceptionally kind in letting me barge into their offices and accompany them on trips to the field, and for not rolling their eyes when I asked a dumb question, so I’m going to be diplomatic and not single anyone out. “Eccentric” might have a slightly negative connotation in this context so I’ll just say that Gerta Keller certainly has the most interesting back story. As you know from the book, she basically ran away from home as a child, traveled the world, was later shot in a bank robbery, and today is easily the most divisive figure in the mass extinction community because of her iconoclastic interpretation of what killed all the non-bird dinosaurs 66 million years ago (not an asteroid, she says). As a group of people who spend their lives traveling to extremely locations to piece together answers to the big questions about the history of the planet, geologists and paleontologists are, as a rule, interesting people. But even among them Keller stands out.

4. What is your favorite element on the periodic table? Why?

I was tempted to say something crazy like astatine because of this xkcd piece https://englishatlc.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/randall-munroe-periodic-wall-of-elements.pdf. But I will be less exciting and say carbon. We’ve all heard before that we’re carbon-based life forms, and that carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas, but I think we fail to appreciate just how central this element is to the whole crazy project of life on this strangely habitable planet. Through volcanoes it moves from the rocks to the air, from there it gets incorporated into our bodies, and, if we’re shell-building organisms, or we get turned into oil or something, it goes back into the rocks again. It keeps the planet warm enough to survive, and when it gets too warm it naturally subsides in the atmosphere. Only in extremely strange and rare episodes, like during the continental flood basalt eruptions associated with ancient mass extinctions, and in our own current effort to liberate as much of carbon from old rocks as possible by burning coal, oil and gas in power plants does it get wildly out of balance and threaten the stability of our biosphere.

5. What (who?) is your favorite prehistoric animal? 

Another impossible question. But I think I tend to gravitate towards either creatures that are underratedly terrifying, like Dunkleosteus which, as you know from the book, is this heavily-armored sea monster with a guillotine for a mouth, or animals that are truly bizarre. In this second category the Tully Monster comes to mind. I invite you to google it—the artists’ impressions of it are too strange to even describe. Others in the extremely strange camp that I love (to name just a few) are: Anomalocaris, one of the bewildering creatures that shows up at the dawn of animal life, and Tanystropheus, a marine reptile with a neck so incredibly long that it seems like the reconstructions must be wrong (they’re not). And like most people who enjoy visiting natural history museums I’m also drawn towards the extreme outliers in size, whether it’s Indricotherium, a hornless rhinoceros that was several stories tall, Leedsicthys, just this impossibly large, dumb-looking fish that lived in the Jurassic, or Quetzacoatlus, a pterosaur the size of a giraffe with a wingspan that rivals some small aircraft. Sorry to be so long-winded with these answers, there’s just too much from earth history to choose from.

6. During the researching and writing of the book, did you learn about something that particularly excited or scared you?

 I’m both excited and scared, in this perfect mix, by the vastness of deep time. I don’t think I fully appreciated it before. I think astronomy gets a lot of credit for being mind-blowing but I think geology does the trick just as well. For instance, I’m on the east coast (in Maine at the moment) and if I went for a walk with each step representing a century, I would be done with the history of human civilization by the end of the driveway. But I could walk across the entire country to Los Angeles without even getting back to the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. And even then I would have covered less than 10% of earth’s history! Now that I’ve fallen in love with geology I am constantly having that same mind-blowing experience every time I look at a rock.

7. In The Ends Of The World, on page 130, you say: “Though climate science was long an esoteric field, today a familiarity with the basics should constitute a core part of any responsible civic education for citizens of planet Earth.” Yes. Absolutely. Who or what inspired you to become so interested in climate science and extinctions? 

I’ve always been interested in the natural world, and I think my interest in climate science grew out of that. Like a lot of people my age I read Jurassic Park as a kid and was obsessed with dinosaurs. And then when I grew up I was a reporter writing about the ocean and all the modern changes we’re seeing to its temperature and chemistry. When I found out there was this deep connection between the subjects of earth history and climate change, that our experiment today with the climate has analogs throughout the history of life that we can look to for a glimpse of our possible future, it felt like a subject tailor-made to my interests.

8. In your opinion, is the problem with humans and global warming that we are capable of stopping it but generally apathetic, or that we are not capable of stopping it at all? 

I think we are physically capable of stopping human-caused climate change but I have strong doubts about the political will to do so. The most realistic path to reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting ourselves to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 requires the entire planet to completely stop using fossil fuels well before 2050, and then to somehow start sucking an incredible amount of CO2 out of the air every year after that with technology that (for all practical purposes) doesn’t exist yet. That is quite the tall order. At this point I think it’s a question of what degree of climate change we are willing to live with. At the lesser extreme we could get our act together and live in a slightly warmer world that—though it certainly will have more extreme storms, and droughts, and heat waves, and things like that—might be manageable for us to adapt to as a civilization (though there will still be losers, especially in tropical, poorer countries). And at the other extreme is the unthinkable: that we just keep burning carbon buried by ancient life, like coal and oil, and catapult ourselves into an alien greenhouse climate from tens of millions of years ago.

I don’t have the words to describe how catastrophic the second option would be, but I don’t think there’s any reason we would ever have to get to that point. It would require another century or two of burning everything we can find in the ground, and even in the current toxic political environment there are reasons to be encouraged, especially by younger people, that voters are beginning to take the need to transform our energy system seriously. That said, in the very long run, over thousands of years, even the small changes we make to the climate will have dramatic effects. A recent study showed that the entire ice sheet of Greenland could melt with as little as 0.8 degrees of warming. We’ve already warmed the planet 0.8 degrees and will likely warm it by much more. The good thing is that to completely melt the whole thing takes thousands to tens of thousands of years (the bad thing is you don’t have to melt all of Greenland to raise sea level a lot). As for ocean acidification (what happens when CO2 reacts with seawater) it will take something like 150,000 years for nature to restore the changes we’re causing to ocean chemistry today.

9. Do you think we, citizens of the U.S, will ever have a “scientist President”? Or even a “historian President?” Someone who understands and is interested in science and history and enjoys learning? Someone who is kind but who also tries to be somewhat logical? (If you think you could ever run for President, you would definitely have my vote.) 

Haha, that’s very kind of you. I sincerely hope we have a scientist president, and soon. So many of the problems we face today, and in the decades to come, will be scientific ones. And given the polling on questions like “How old is the earth?”, and an obvious dearth of critical thinking skills in the country in the age of “fake news”, it’s obvious that we’re massively underinvested in education. If I were president I would invest (probably to a slightly psychotic degree) on education and basic research. The National Science Foundation and NASA would do quite well in my administration. That said–and this is something of a digression–not all policy questions can be decided by science. There will always be a role for philosophy and ethics to play, along with a whole bunch of other subjects that I think too many scientists are too quick to sneer at as squishy.

For instance, Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently proposed a utopian society where every policy question is decided by data and scientific research alone https://www.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/reflections-on-rationalia/10154399608556613/. I think there’s a lot to recommend this vision of society, especially when you compare it to our current scientifically illiterate one. But there would be major limitations to it as well, some of which would quickly become ghastly. Take Tyson’s example on how we should decide whether to have the death penalty, which he says should depend on the data on whether it’s effective at deterring crime. But this data is useless without some prior system of ethics. For instance, there would likely be a strong deterrent effect on the crime of shoplifting if we made it punishable by death, but I don’t think that this would inform us whatsoever on whether it’s the wise or just path for a society to take. There will always be these moral questions for us to decide.

10. In your opinion, what was the worst mass extinction so far? 

The End-Permian mass extinction is the worst mass extinction in the history of life and there’s not really a close second. Enough lava erupted in Siberia 252 million years ago to cover the lower 48 United States a kilometer deep, and the volcanoes injected so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it caused temperatures to spike something like 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Up to 96% of life in the oceans died. Trees all but disappear in the fossil record for 10 million years after the mass extinction. Coral reefs are replaced with piles of bacterial slime. The planet basically had to reboot after the catastrophe, and it took millions of painful years to do so. It was the worst moment in the history of the earth. And yet, the earth recovered. And it did more than just recover. From the ashes of the End-Permian mass extinction blossomed the age of dinosaurs and, after that, the age of mammals, and everything we see living in our world today. Life is incredibly resilient and even after the worst disaster in its history the earth enjoyed its greatest flourishing. I think there are some lessons we can learn from our wonderful planet.

. . .

Peter Brannen is a huge nerd and a problem solver (and he referenced two of my other favorite people, Randall and Neil!). Like he says on page 130, I believe it is important to see the planet not as your world or my world, but as a planet. Operating on geological time, functioning as a whole. Seems obvious. Isn’t. I guess I love Peter so much because he is rare. He sees the planet as the whole that it is. He is both kind and smart, something you don’t often see. He recognizes the importance of the ocean, penis worms, and you and I.

And this is to remind you what he looks like.

 I ended up searching Dinotopia on Google Images. My favorite fictional kingdom is Britain as it appears in the Harry Potter series, but Dinotopia looks very cool. I might like to visit there if I could.

 

The Futuristic World: There Are Two Options Left For Us, As Far As I Can Tell

Date: February 21th, 2017

The Futuristic World: The world of the future will be a complex one, regardless of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Technology – a big pixelated hand of man created to do what man wants, evolving before our very eyes – and nature – the elements of the universe, or multiverse, the never-blank slate we were born into and have been toying with ever since, the illusion of a God, the methodology of being born to run and made to work – must find a perfect equilibrium for Homo sapiens (and the other species born on Earth, as they are no less important) to survive. We must help that process.    

According to http://ridesharechoices.scripts.mit.edu, “carpooling first became prominent in the United States as a rationing tactic during World War II. It returned in the mid-1970s due to the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis. At that time the first employee vanpools were organized at Chrysler and 3M.” (Exact phrasing of the information presented taken from the Wikipedia page “Carpool.”)

Carpool lanes, as a concept, were accepted world-wide for two reasons.

1. Everybody hates traffic.

2. To cut carbon emissions.

The latter is kind of a big deal, because everyone has carpool lanes in their cities, even in the South of the United States.

Carpool lanes do help cut carbon emissions, not by much, but it’s the little things that count, and we’ve packaged them as something that everybody can enjoy, even those who don’t believe global warming is a real problem! Everybody hates traffic. Emphasis on everybody. The pill in the peanut butter is a tactic my mom uses to feed my dog her medicine. My dog needs the medicine, but she sure as hell doesn’t like it. This is how we fix the world. Think about Republicans, conservatives – people who stereotypically deny the truth. (This isn’t a behavior all Republicans have in common.) Democrats and liberals do it too, except it is more insidious, because they’re supposed to be “correct.” Ask an average Southerner if they’re willing to do anything about global warming, racism, or gun control, and you are sure to get a “Expletive no, you expletive expletive.” People like this are so stuck in their ways that the only way to get them to help – and with the bigger problems, we need everybody working to solve them – is to trick them.

We are in dire need of solutions.

The Doomsday Clock is a scientifically accepted method for predicting when the world will end.

This is the timeline: Doomsday Clock Timeline.

Yep – two minutes (two and a half minutes, actually) left. (It would do you some good to research this “clock” extensively, it’s very educational, and surprisingly hopeful, in the sense that they believe taking action would help at all.) The factors the clock counts include nuclear weaponry, climate change, and bio-security. “Two minutes” left on this clock isn’t literally 120 seconds, but it’s still plenty worrisome, as it was 17 minutes to midnight in only 1995 – this clock doesn’t necessarily rely on time. Instead, it calculates risk. The closer to midnight, the bigger chance of disaster striking at any moment. (See the Doomsday Dashboard for the main information the clock uses for its calculations.) The clock isn’t always accurate, but almost nothing is, and this is one of the most reliable sources in the world, created by top scientists, some of whom worked on the Manhattan project.

This clock shouldn’t paralyze you with fear.

It is the inaction of being paralyzed, by any feeling – fear, sadness, rage, embarrassment – that is the true danger. If these problems deter you emotionally, you should work even harder to solve them, rather than retiring into nonintervention.

We’ve got two main options left, if we want to re-wind the clock:

1. A “City Of Ember” (written by Jeanne DuPrau) thing. Move underground. Destroy the aboveground power plants, dams, and cities, and leave the Earth to the animals, plants, and weather patterns for at least 200 years. Come back out when the time is right, and begin again.

2. A massive change to the way people think. Less procrastination. Less complacency. More thinking, more doing. Kindness and intelligence being priorities. Weird ideas – attaching microbes to fish teeth so fish can eat materials found in trash, maglev trains, apps meant to maximize philosophical thinking – that are so “far out” they just might work.

REWIND THE CLOCK.

HOW Would The GGPC Replace The Electoral College?

Date: January 6th, 2017

First of all: This is my first blog post after New Year’s Eve, so belated Happy New Years to you all.

And second of all: This is my second post on the Governmental Genocide Prevention Council (GGPC). In my first, I introduced the idea and fleshed it out a little. It’s a new idea, so it’s not like I have an official document typed up yet, but I do my best to make it “make sense.” You should read the first one (link here: The Electoral College Voted (Dec 19th), And…), otherwise you won’t understand what the heck I’m talking about.

Basically, the GGPC would replace the Electoral College. But the Electoral College is a very complex thing to replace. It is simple enough to explain, but if someone told me they had a plan to replace it, I’d ask “How?” and I have a feeling you’re wondering that same thing. HOW would the GGPC replace the Electoral College? How would the responsibilities transition from one group to the other?

If God is in the detail, congratulations, we’re the lucky few about to have tea with God.

I’d call this “The Basic Concept, Part 2”:

The Electoral College is responsible for preventing the rise of a demagogue, and even those few who refuse to believe that any U.S politician counts as one say that the Electoral College is a plain old “shit shield” (my term) for the election. Both things are true, technically. Alexander Hamilton once said “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort…” He was speaking directly about the Electoral College. And Hamilton? He don’t kid around. (Ask Lin-Manuel Miranda.) According to archives.gov, “the United States Constitution and Federal law do not prescribe the method of appointment other than requiring that electors must be appointed on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November (November 8, 2016). In most States, the political parties nominate slates of electors at State conventions or central committee meetings. Then the citizens of each State appoint the electors by popular vote in the state-wide general election. However, State laws on the appointment of electors may vary.” The Electoral College is not a particular place of meeting, it is a process, administered by “The Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives and Records Administration.” There are 538 electors, and 270 electoral votes is a majority.

One important thing to remember is that once the Electoral College votes (and it has, for the 2016 Presidential election), it’s still not over. It goes to Congress next. And Congress can file complaints. According to archives.gov, “If any objections to the Electoral College vote are made, they must be submitted in writing and be signed by at least one member of the House and one Senator. If objections are presented, the House and Senate withdraw to their respective chambers to consider their merits under procedures set out in federal law.”

Alas, the Congress is mainly Republican, at least so far, and January 6th is…today. So I guess that’s that. It’s over now.

At least officially.

But not with the GGPC.

The concept, as it relates to the replacement process, is this:

1. The GGPC would screen the candidates, like the Electoral College. Unlike the Electoral College (you’ll remember this from my first GGPC post!), the GGPC would contain “at least three of each: diplomats focused on the overall wellbeing of the country/nation as well as the relations of the country/nation with other countries, humanists focused on the wellbeing of a previously or currently oppressed group as well as any group who is urgently and negatively affected by prejudice, environmentalists focused on maintaining a healthy and stable environment as well as removing dangers caused by environmental disasters/contamination, and finally, intellectuals focused on the overall effects of each Presidency as well as upholding the dignity and reputation of a country or nation.” They would therefore screen based on their own qualities: diplomatic and critical thinking, kindness, intelligence and scientific thinking, and logical thinking would need to be obviously and strongly present in a candidate for them to even be considered, and the opposites of those qualities would need to be largely absent.

2. The screening would continue into the candidate’s Presidency, if elected. This isn’t too hard to visualize, the GGPC would stay behind the scenes, they wouldn’t run the country, they would simply take a page from the UN’s book, and make any effort possible to remove a leader showing signs of the opposites (see 1).

And that was “The Basic Concept, Part 2.”

The Electoral College Voted (Dec 19th), And…

Date: December 20th, 2016

…I’m disappointed, to say the least.

This is the loss on the night of November 8th, 2016, all over again.

The Electoral College behaved like any student at an actual college might: irresponsibly, immaturely, and dangerously.

But this ain’t over till it’s over.

We should end the Electoral College. (The New York Times agrees with me, and they can write about this in better depth than I can, so I suggest you read this: Time to End the Electoral College) This is ironic – my mother Diana is the creator of the “Prosecute Trump for illegal offenses before the Dec. 19 Electoral College Vote” petition. I know I’m not supposed to think my mom is cool, but I have to say, this is one of the coolest things she’s ever done. Her petition is different from the thousands of other variations that are out there, partly because it highlights one very important piece of information: the Electoral College was created to stop the rise of a demagogue. The Founding Fathers did doubt the collective intelligence of the people of the United States (that’s why we have a representative democracy); they must have somehow known that a demagogue would find it easy to manipulate most of the population, especially at a time when not many people could even read. A demagogue is defined as “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.” This is all true. To be honest, I am currently just as big a fan of the petition as I was before December 19, but sadly, the Electoral College has not fulfilled their purpose.

However, I feel that ending the Electoral College without putting another thing in place would 1) alter the structure of the electoral system, and 2) leave no system to prevent the rise of a demagogue.

The GGPC: Instead of ending the Electoral College and then just leaving what happens next to chance, we replace it with the “Governmental Genocide Prevention Council.” This is my original idea and I am proud of it. It is a new idea, I don’t have it all fleshed out, but the gist is this:

– According to Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the link goes to the full text of the Genocide Convention), genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (Article II)

– Genocide is a signal of the downfall of a society and/or empire. It is true that a group can bounce back from a genocide over long periods of time, depending upon factors such as the amount of people in the group left over after, but the fact that a genocide has been allowed to take place means that there is something already wrong with the social system in place.

– Genocide is arguably the worst thing that could happen to a society and/or empire, excluding purely environmental destruction. Any measure that can be taken to prevent it should be taken to prevent it.

– A demagogue in power should be considered an immediate violation of the rules laid out in the Genocide Convention. According to Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, even the attempt to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, and conspiracy to commit genocide can be punished (Article III), and “persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.” (Article IV) This means that in the event that President-elect/President Trump (or anyone like him) is constitutionally responsible, the GGPC could remove him from office on account of potential violations. (Trump is currently not accused of genocide.)

– The Governmental Genocide Prevention Council would replace the Electoral College, and act as a much needed upgrade. The GGPC would have a very similar purpose (to prevent the rise of a demagogue; to prevent genocide on the behalf of a country/nation via the careful selection of its leader), but the differences include: A) an absolutely equal number of people from each political party – eg. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, etc, B) an equal, unbiased playing field in terms of gender/race/age, and C) at least three of each: diplomats focused on the overall wellbeing of the country/nation as well as the relations of the country/nation with other countries, humanists focused on the wellbeing of a previously or currently oppressed group as well as any group who is urgently and negatively affected by prejudice, environmentalists focused on maintaining a healthy and stable environment as well as removing dangers caused by environmental disasters/contamination, and finally, intellectuals focused on the overall effects of each Presidency as well as upholding the dignity and reputation of a country or nation.

So that’s the basic concept.

Remember, this is my original idea, and as I am sure I will keep updating this idea with new information and/or new additions to the idea itself, here is the link to the GGPC category on my blog: Governmental Genocide Prevention Council

ZMKF’s Guide To The Apocalypse

This is another “dateless” one. The first one I didn’t put a date on was “The Ultimate Clinton’s America Re/source” – which is also worth checking out.

First, some definitions. “Apocalypse” and “post-apocalypse” both refer to…well, the apocalypse, often due to environmental/political factors. “Dystopia” refers to the degradation of society, often due to political factors, which can include environmental factors. Although apocalyptic and dystopian fiction are most commonly just that,  fiction, the concepts themselves and reality are not mutually exclusive.

Grammarians must hate me – knowingly and willingly, I am grouping the definitions together under one word (the one word being “apocalypse” and all variations including the adjective form) to make things easier for me and everyone reading.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. I am very well aware that the upcoming Trump presidency will be ground-breaking, and not in a necessarily positive way. (I say “necessarily” because I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – he could get a lobotomy.) This may be because I’m a writer, and therefore have no trouble thinking of “plots,” even for “nonfiction” (the real world) – but I can see, very clearly, an apocalyptic future for us, at least in North America.

But don’t fret! I took time out of my busy schedule to write this guide, so with my help, all of you can make the apocalypse an enjoyable experience for you and your family!

PRIME VIEWING SPOTS

A good view always makes for a good time. I’ve assembled the very best views here, in or near major cities like Los Angeles and New York.

1. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Culver City, California

I got this picture from www.welikela.com - I have no idea where they got it.
Picture of Baldwin Hills. (I got this picture from www.welikela.com – I have no idea where they got it, and frankly, I don’t really care. I have no idea who the woman in this photo is, and though this may make me a cynic – that sky is filled with smog.)
Picture of just one part of the wonderful view from Baldwin Hills. (I got this picture from www.bhsoevents.wordpress.com, and I can only suggest that since they are clearly an events website, they should have an apocalypse viewing party as one of their events.)
Picture of just one part of the wonderful view from Baldwin Hills. (I got this picture from www.bhsoevents.wordpress.com, and I sincerely suggest that since they are clearly an events website, they should have an apocalypse viewing party as one of their events. I could organize it for them, if necessary. One tip for hosting the event: beer. Lots and lots of beer.)

Located in Culver City, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is easily accessible to residents of Los Angeles, Culver City, Santa Monica, and Venice.

After strong winds, the nearly 360 degree view is exceptionally clear, and during typical weather, it is still worth the drive/walk.

During the day, there is a lot to do with the view – you can point out where you live to all your friends, look at landmarks from a different perspective, count all the burning buildings, play “I Spy,” close your eyes and try to guess where in the city those sirens are coming from, and guess what species the nearest dead tree is.

During the night, the city lights brighten up the otherwise much darker view of Los Angeles – they’re beautiful, and let you reminisce about all those stars that the light pollution blocks out.

2. Mount Wilson, Los Angeles, California

Picture of one of the many views from Mount Wilson. (My own photo.)
Picture of one of the many views from Mount Wilson. (My own photo – ZMKF.)
Tree/sky combo at Mount Wilson. (My own photo.)
Tree/sky combo at Mount Wilson. (My own photo – ZMKF.)

Located within the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County, California. It’s a bit of a drive from L.A compared to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, but it offers an even better view of Los Angeles in general, and a closer view of Downtown. “Bonuses” of going there include an observatory – you have to book tours to get inside – and a cafe with wonderful chili dogs.

3. East River State Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

East River State Park. (I took this photo directly from another blog - www.ytravelblog.com - and I'm making sure to give credit because I don't want to get arrested.)
East River State Park. (I took this photo directly from another blog – www.ytravelblog.com – and I’m only making sure to give credit because I don’t want to get sued.)

You’ll get a lovely view of Manhattan as it turns into a crispy, empty shell of a metropolis.

Besides, you’ll be far, far away from Trump Tower, so you can scream, cry, and burn flags all you want without fear of being arrested and shot. Unless you’re black. Then you always have to fear that.

East River State Park consists of 11 waterfront acres, with multiple gathering areas for events, a well-manicured lawn, and a play area for children.

 

4. The “High Line,” Manhattan, New York

I wonder if these people knew they were being photographed. (Picture from www.thehighline.org)
I wonder if these people knew they were being photographed. (Picture from www.thehighline.org)

1.45 miles long, this unique park stretches through multiple parts of New York, including the Meatpacking District. And the Vegetablepacking District. (Kidding.)

This offers multiple views of New York from within the city.

Wheel-chair accessible.

Breezy.

They offer camp-style day trips for children. Some activities include an exploratory tour, and park design.

5. Rocky Butte Park, Portland, Oregon

This is the summit. (I got this picture from www.wedding-spot.com - wouldn't both parties get even more pissed off if one left the other at the altar, if only because now they have to go on a hike to get back down? Who likes hiking? Nobody!)
This is the summit. (I got this picture from www.wedding-spot.com – my only question is, wouldn’t both parties get even more pissed off if one left the other at the altar, if only because now they have to go on a hike to get back down? Who likes hiking? Nobody!)

Portland is a really cool place. It was named after the TV show Portlandia.

Juuuuuust kidding.

Apparently people get married here a lot.

If nothing else, you get to crash a wedding.

 

FUN GAMES FOR THE APOCALYPSE

Maybe you have people over. Maybe you’re stuck in traffic. Maybe you’re stuck in gridlock traffic, and there’s no getting out for a couple of days. Not to worry!

1. I Spy

This is a great, simple game to play, especially with younger children, who may need to distract themselves from the gunshots and yelling outside.

2. Count All The Dead Plants

This is a big hit. The victory goes to whoever has paid the most attention throughout the game and therefore counted the most dead plants.

3. Yellow Car

Since this is a lesser known game, I shall explain what the object of the game is – there is no object. Well, actually, the object is to feel smug. Very smug. Every time you see a yellow car, you say “yellow car” before anyone else – you feel smug because yellow cars are rare, and hard to notice. If you’re asking me, taxis don’t count because I heard of the game from John Finnemore’s lovely podcast, Cabin Pressure, and they don’t have yellow taxis in Britain.

GOOD FOOD FOR THE APOCALYPSE

Food that is easy to make, and affordable.

1. Cereal

This is a great food, especially if you find that you suddenly don’t have as much money as you used to, or maybe you need to get out of the house a lot faster than you used to.

2. Chili

Made of the bare essentials, can be served in almost any container.

I Am White: Racism Sucks

Disclaimer: none of this is meant to be in any way offensive. If it comes across as that, I apologize deeply and ask you to educate me on potential misinformation (no one’s perfect) and phrasing/terms.

Date: November 27th, 2016  

Alternative Title: Why Racism Is An Illness

Racism sucks. It truly, tragically sucks. Well, “sucks” is actually a pretty downgrading word. It does a hell of a lot more than suck.

It megasucks.

Just kidding.

The sad truth is that racism is a foundation of nations and countries. It is an integral part of history, just as art, an assortment of plagues, and the concept of royalty are.

The even sadder truth is that even now, us Europeans and descendants of Europeans have not learned from our mistakes. Gosh darn it, we’ve screwed over so many people, and we continue to do so…

When will it end?

The screwing over? When will it end? When will all the crap catch up to us and give us a chance to better ourselves? Can God, or some psychic, give us an exact date to look forward to?

It is my personal opinion that racism is an illness (not a physical one, a metaphysical one). Here is a list of some observations that support my theory:

1. It has been passed down through generations and generations of humanity, so it is clearly something both hereditary (family passes it on) and contagious (able to infect other people in close capacity, especially infants).

2. Not everyone is racist. Like all illnesses (including the plagues I mentioned earlier), an immunity to it has formed. This immunity appears to be both hereditary and transmittable, in the same way that the illness itself is, except in all situations that the immunity faces the illness (such as a case of clashing communicability), the immunity conquers.

3. There are strains of it, not just one big gloppy mess. The three biggest strains are Insidious Racism (IR), Ignorant Racism (IGR), and Violent Racism (VR).

a) IR is the type that sneaks in when no one’s looking. It is the hardest strain to seek out and eliminate, because it is thought of as harmless when in actuality there are thousands, maybe millions of silent victims. It is not necessarily violent, which is one of the reasons that the victims are “silent” – in fact, it is arguable that nothing has actually been done to them. Symptoms include frequent stereotypes coming from the infected, finding humor in prejudiced jokes, and of course, the “silence” – this particular strain has found a way to weave itself into normalcy. Even the uninfected have a hard time raising their voice against injustice, because the infected wave off any evidence that they are infected.

b) IGR is unintentional and not necessarily violent. The symptoms are very similar to IR’s, so much so that there is only one difference – those infected with IGR are much more susceptible to treatment, because though the stereotyping, finding humor in prejudiced jokes, and “silence” are the same, those infected with IGR are literally unaware of what’s so offensive about what they just said. Nothing is wrong with them morally, it is simply that they “just don’t get it,” therefore they are more likely to recognize their mistake once you explain it to them.

c) VR is arguably the most dangerous of the strains, resembling a parasite. This strain causes aggression and fear within the brain of the infected, creating a large discrepancy between rational thought and the “natural” instincts, such as fight or flight. (Sadly, the infected almost always chooses “fight.”) Those infected feel alienated by those of a different race/color, and the parasite-like illness in their body causes them to act on their internal fear and aggression.

(End of list.) If racism is an illness, then it is clear how we must address it: like an illness. There are already treatments in abundance, but people choose to ignore them due to the equal abundance of weaponry – there are some who choose to fight this illness like a war. My opinion? Bad idea.

"White jokes" are part of a larger treatment; awareness.
Figure 1: “White jokes” are part of a larger treatment; awareness.

List of available treatments: 

– Awareness: Awareness, as a treatment, is slightly different than education as a treatment. Awareness is being enlightened, that first step, that first correction, the broadening of horizons. After all, it is known that recognizing a problem is the first step to treating it. White jokes (see Figure 1) are part of Awareness in the simple way that they balance the playing field a little in terms of race jokes, and give way to further learning and acceptance. Another factor in the popularity of white jokes is the “laugh/cry” factor – you’d rather be laughing about something if the alternative was crying about it.

– Education: Education as a treatment relies on the mind’s given willingness to deepen their understanding of a situation. Even those that have been infected with VR can be shown, with subjects like biology (to show that race and color do not and should not create any negative difference in the body), philosophy (to show that race and color do not and should not create any negative difference in the “soul,” at least internally), and psychology (to show that race and color do not and should not create any create any negative difference in the mind, at least internally), that there is a better way to live.

– Kindness: Fighting an illness like a war is a bad idea because how it works in reality is a bit more like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and less like The Walking Dead. Killing a zombie vs potentially finding a cure for said zombie. My question for you is – you’re in a room with two people with the flu and ten people without the flu, and you have the cure in one hand and a gun in another, are you honestly going to shoot the people with the flu to kill the strain? No! Of course not! Killing with anything other than kindness activates a formerly dormant symptom called “Martyrdom” (it can be activated in all strains) among those remaining alive that makes it much, much harder for the illness to be dealt with. If you want to educate a person on what true kindness is, you be truly kind to them. Remember, it can be easier for you if you are kind. A person infected with racism may not realize that they exhibit negative behavior, if you “retaliate” in any way, they will feel as though they have been attacked without any justification and proceed to close themselves to treatment.

(End of list.) The strains have “substrains,” named by organization (eg. VRstrKKK, VRstrNYPD), location (eg. IGRstrLosAngeles, IRstrOhio), etc. Keep in mind that like every illness, some treatments may work for some strains but not for others. If we deal with them with a combination of “big picture” tactics and “small picture” tactics, we have a better chance of wiping out the illness for good.

I wish you all luck.

– ZMKF

P.S Racism sucks. So does this (Figure 2):

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Figure 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sigh.

This is an example of when they do try to fight the illness like a war.

We’re all human(oid), my friends. All of us. We’re all just trying to find our way in this world.

Forgive me.

The Ultimate Clinton’s America Re/source

You’ll notice I put the date on every post – not this one. This is because it’s timeless, in a way – I will update it quite a lot – as the information changes (and as I find more that would belong here), this will too.  

It is typed as “Re/source” because most of this information comes from other places. The only things I do are put them together and provide commentary. You could quote this “article,” but it is not an “original source.”  

Clinton’s America refers to the large number of people who do not believe Trump will make a good President, and therefore voted against him in the election. (Of course, I am excluding the people who do not believe Trump will make a good President, and voted for him – I’m not counting those who want to watch the world burn.)    

It is here you will find, for your convenience, all of the important stats, from trustworthy sources, on Clinton’s America, in one place:

1. Size, Geography, and Population Density

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-5-53-57-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-6-17-01-pm

From The New York Times. They imagined what Clinton’s America would look like as an actual nation, with large lakes, seas, and oceans taking the place of abandoned swaths of land (the Trump’s supporter’s areas).

2. Population: The Power Of Progress

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-6-45-00-pmFrom Robert Reich and/or the Progressive States Network. Mr. Reich summarized this idea (on Facebook, click > here < for the link to full post) better than I can: A “Trans-Progressive Partnership” – an alliance of several of the most progressive states in the union (California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont) — a sort of nation within the nation, which would: 

1. Raise state taxes on the richest, and pool the money to fund single-payer health care. 

2. Coordinate an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

3. Move toward tuition-free public university education. 

4. Commit to raising environmental standards. 

5. Confirm that women will have freedom of choice, even if and when the Supreme Court reverses “Roe v. Wade.” 

6. Become sanctuary states that will not cooperate with immigration authorities in deporting undocumented workers.

Sounds pretty nice. But I have to bring this up: the Trump administration will not like this one teeny weeny bit. As #4 suggests, at least the Californians are getting ready for battle.

3. Population: The #LoveArmy

This is another “nation within the nation” idea. But this “withinnation” is not based on barriers between states as much as it is individual cooperation. Wherever you are, whoever is “in charge” politically in your area, you can go to lovearmy.org, join the #lovearmy, and be part of something bigger. The #lovearmy will work on a multitude of issues, all integral to progress.

Here is Van Jones’ original video on the #lovearmy: HOW TO STOP TRUMP: Join The #LoveArmy…

And here is the link to the #lovearmy, through my recruiter ID (use this link, and your joining will be attributed to me): http://www.thedreamcorps.org/?recruiter_id=2057873

4. Population: California Is Angry

Whether or not the rest of us are caught up, the Californians (I suppose that includes me) are definitely ready to make Trump…the opposite of “President.” Loud and proud, we are indeed. Here are some excerpts from different articles shedding light on just how loud and proud we are (click name of article for link):

California Looks to Lead the Trump Resistance (The New York Times): Nobody knows yet what Donald Trump is going to do to immigration enforcement. Only a month has passed since the election, and the president-elect is no different from the candidate: erratic, self-contradictory, hazy on principles and policies. But states and cities that value immigrants, including the undocumented, do not have the luxury of waiting and hoping for the best. They are girding for a confrontation, building defenses to protect families and workers from the next administration.

California’s Democrats Are Ready for Political War (Bloomberg): Immediately after the election, state Senate President Kevin de León and his Assembly counterpart, Anthony Rendon, both Latinos from Southern California, sent out a scathing statement in English and Spanish assuring all 39 million Californians that they were ready for political war. “Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California,” they wrote. “We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”  

I Wish We Could All Be Californian (The New York Times): Everybody knows by now that California tacked left on Election Day: 61.5 percent of our voters choose Hillary Clinton for president; we made Kamala Harris the first Indian-American (and second African-American woman) to be elected a United States senator; we reaffirmed overwhelming Democratic majorities in state politics; and we voted to legalize marijuana, ease parole for nonviolent criminals, raise taxes on cigarettes, extend income-tax increases on the wealthiest few, boost school spending, restore bilingual education, encourage the reversal of the Supreme Court’s noxious Citizens United ruling and ban single-use plastic bags.

What Is Calexit? California’s Reaction To The Election Results Is Understandable (Bustle): What is “Calexit”? Well, it’s the name that’s been given to the desire of a growing number of Californians to secede from the United States in the wake of Donald Trump’s win, and it’s equal parts joking and serious. California is a true-blue state, essentially guaranteed to go Democratic in any election, and Nov. 8 was no exception.

#Calexit: Will California secede with Trump win? (USA Today): Half of the country might be celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, but others are talking about seceding from the United States. Are they being sore losers or opportunists? For some people in California, and other western states that went blue for Hillary Clinton, the road forward is clear: Cut their losses and make a go of it without the rest of the country.

California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump (The New York Times): Foreign governments concerned about climate change may soon be spending more time dealing with Sacramento than Washington. President-elect Donald J. Trump has packed his cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it. But California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach.

I guess you can rest assured that whatever happens to the rest of this country, California will be okay.

It’s lonely at the top. I vote that if we secede, we take the rest of the Trans-Progressive Partnership with us.

4. Losses And Aftershocks From The Election

Click name of article for link.

The End of Identity Liberalism – The New York Times.

Will Women Still Want to Run? – The New York Times.

Donald Trump’s Plan to Purge the Nation – The New York Times.

Not Your Grandmother’s Wisconsin – The New York Times.

It’s Our Land. Let’s Keep It That Way. – The New York Times.

Hmm…it appears I really like the New York Times…

A Cold And Broken Hallelujah

Date: November 14th, 2016

Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah… – Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

Some facts:

1. On November 7th, Leonard Cohen died. (I did not know this until a few days later.)

2. On November 9th, I “officially” announced that I had created a coping playlist (affectionately titled “Fuckface Von Clownstick” <<< click for link) with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in it.

3. On the most recent Saturday Night Live (so, November 12th), Kate Mckinnon (as Hillary Clinton, of course) sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG-_ZDrypec – her voice is actually quite nice, which I was not expecting (to be very honest), and…it helped. It was beautiful.

First of all, rest in peace, Leonard. Second of all, can SNL stop stealing my ideas? (Just kidding.) Third of all, I don’t care if Donald Trump is the new President. I still don’t respect him.

And I’ll tell you why, yeah, I will, that way you’re not left wondering why I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, y’know? (I’m being very sarcastic right now, in case you can’t tell.)

The main reason is that he, simply put, doesn’t care about us. Any of us.

It’s not as though we simply “don’t like him.” The moment the results came in, many of us were crying. A few people I know contemplated suicide. I became depressed again, and I’m still in the process of shaking that.

I don’t hate Mr. Trump. I don’t. (Hard to believe, right?) Okay?! I don’t hate him! I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t! Or his supporters! That idea that the liberals are so damn condescending that they don’t recognize a Homo sapiens sapiens when they see one on the other end of the political scale, I’m done with that! I don’t hate him, or his supporters! You hear me? Whoever you are, I care about you! And…I get it.

I fear Mr. Trump. This is an important distinction. Between fiery, ugly hate, and grieving, pathetic…fear.

I don’t know how to this explain this to you Trump supporters out there. Instead of the sharp, pointed anger you think I feel, and I’m sure you dislike me for (I bet you think I’m condescending!), what I really feel is more akin to that split second during which you realize you’re falling. Stretched out for an eternal amount of time. Anxiety. Please, I’m begging you, give me a chance! Show me you are nothing to fear. Show me you care about me! Show me you won’t hurt me! Please, please, show me you care! Tell me I’m not a “hater!” Tell me I’m not a “loser!” Tell me I’m not “small!” PLEASE, I’M ON MY KNEES, SHOW ME YOU FUCKING CARE!

Maybe there’s a God above,
but all I’ve ever learned from love
was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you,
and it’s not a cry that you hear at night,
it’s not somebody who’s seen the light,
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

It Matters Who The President Is…To A Point

Date: November 10th, 2016

You know, I really feel a sense of serenity.

That’s right. You heard me.

Serenity.

I already went through my day of mourning. I already went through my stages of grief. I had my mental health day yesterday. And that day, you know what I saw?

People walking their dogs. People driving in their cars, listening to music. I went to the beach, and there were people on the bike path. The nearby pier was no less crowded than any other day.

In other words, no, the apocalypse hasn’t started and the world isn’t burning.

I’m willing to make a bet with you – ten dollars and my dignity says that you don’t suddenly care less about any important issue just because the Fuckface Von Clownstick (Jon Stewart’s name for Mr. Trump) won. In fact, I’m willing to bet another ten dollars that you actually care a lot more.

I get to keep my $20.

If there is a problem, you fix it.

If there is something you need to work on, you work on it.

It doesn’t matter who is in charge of the country – no one is in charge of you.

The Creature From The Orange Lagoon cannot stop me. I will continue to do my best to make the world a better place, no matter how hard it gets – because that’s what I set out to do a long time ago, before we even knew Donald Trump was in the race.

I feel serene because I can still do good work.

There are protests against the victory. And people giving each other hugs and telling each other it’s gonna be okay. And heightened awareness of racism, sexism, and activism.

I feel good inside, I truly do.

Call me crazy. But I believe that no one can stop us if we continue to work on what is important.

We have love in our hearts. He has hate in his. We will rebel. But we will do it peacefully. After all, we are lovers.

Fuckface Von Clownstick Has Won

Date: November 9th, 2016

Donald Trump has won the election. (Fuckface Von Clownstick is Jon Stewart’s nickname for him. I find it delightful. Gosh darn it, I miss you, Mr. Stewart.)

What now?

Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, so I’ll say what I did this morning: I made a playlist. (Link: https://open.spotify.com/user/lionesseye/playlist/1YADwgoVAxb4J30FM11AFK) An awfully simple thing to do, isn’t it? Especially for such a horrible event. You’d expect a bigger reaction. You’d expect some screaming and crying.

That playlist is just part of my reaction as a whole. There are different levels to “my reaction” that can be unlocked, you see. (Just kidding.)

To me, music is important. It is an opinion of mine that humans are at their most beautiful doing two things: making or listening to music, and comedy improv. To me, music is so, so important. The rhythms and melodies and patterns and tones…it is therapeutic in many ways. You don’t have to listen to the playlist, it’s for your enjoyment anyways.

Back to the election results.

First of all, what the fuck.

Second of all, what the fuck!

I’ll say it – I’m devastated. Absolutely devastated.

But you know what? This isn’t over.

I know what my name is. My name is Zoe. Zoe means “life” in Greek. (As opposed to it meaning “life in Greek.”) Zoe means life, the force that drives people, the force that keeps people going. I am purity and chaos, souls and cells. I am the organs in a body, the veins and arteries. I am necessary. My initials are ZMKF. ZMKF, now those are some damn cool initials, I told myself when thinking of a name, for myself within the world, fluctuating and growing as the world does. Now ZMKF means rebel. Not trendy rebel, not the one who wears rebel on a shirt. I wear rebel carved into my heart.

Trump may have won.

We will overcome this.

Not alone. Definitely not alone.

The people who voted for him, they will stand by him – but we will not stand down. We will not let him bully people.

ZMKF is no longer a person. I am a person, and I am ZMKF. But ZMKF is a symbol, an entity. Not necessarily related to fire. Fire’s already been done, with Katniss and her Mockingjay. Honestly, I don’t care if you compare me to neutrinos. ZMKF should one day strike the same fear in Fuckface Von Clownstick’s heart that he struck in mine.

My mother, last night, when we didn’t know for sure but it was getting close, said to me “Maybe it’s time for a revolution. Maybe it’s time for California to secede.” My mother. A – relatively – calm, kind woman.

Maybe it’s time. And I can totally do a peaceful revolution. In fact, that seems like my strength. I’m hardly a fighter.

But I am a thinker – a writer, a maker.

ZMKF is a symbol that says “This is not the end of it.”

I’m hardly a fighter. My heart is filled with love. We can get through this together, all of us, we hold on to each other for dear life, we’ll be okay. Even if okay is “on the next flight to Canada.”

I AM A REBEL.

AND A LOVER.