Never Touch The Stuff

I have a theory that people only eat airline meals out of boredom — anything to relieve the tedium of a long flight — because I absolutely cannot imagine another reason for subjecting your taste buds to the bland, horrible pablum that passes for airline “food”.  And I cannot fathom why any airline would offer meals on a flight lasting less than three hours anyway, but they do.

So you can imagine my disinterest when yet another survey came out to see which airline offered the “healthiest, most nutritious / calorie-conscious  / whatever” meals on their flights.  Apparently, Alaska and Delta are at the top while at the bottom (to nobody’s surprise) comes Spirit Airlines (motto: “We invented cheap ‘n nasty travel, and we never forget to remind you of the fact”).

What amazes me is not that cheapskate Southwest Airlines (“Get where you’re going via five stops”) comes near the bottom of the list, but that they offer any food at all.  As far as I’m concerned, Southwest passengers should get free water and maybe a small pack of nuts, and count their blessings — and ditto people who fly with Spirit and all the other “budget” airlines.

As most of my travel is transoceanic ergo long-haul, I always make sure to take my own food on board, which has two features in my favor:  firstly, I can eat anytime I feel hungry and not when the airline thinks I should (e.g. 15 minutes before touchdown, the idiots), and secondly, I’m always assured that I’ll be getting food which I love to eat and is not nutritionally suspect (unless I decide to make it so, see below).  I have no dietary restrictions other than voluntary ones, so I can take pretty much whatever I like.

The only problem I have is booze, which dehydrates me anyway, and coupled with the regular dehydration of high-altitude travel therefore gives me a real chance of a painful gout attack.  So I never drink booze while flying — which kinda sucks, but waddya gonna do? — and instead, I take a couple of empty quart bottles through airport security (150ml? go fuck yourselves) and fill them up at a water fountain before boarding ($5 for a pint bottle of Dahani? go fuck yourselves, x 2).  I know, I often complain about how much I hate the (non-)taste of plain water, but I figure that I can endure pretty much anything for eight or so hours, and water isn’t the worst of those, by any means.  Additional note:  the last couple of times I flew out of London’s Heathrow, there was a promotion inside the secure area-stores which offered a free 500ml bottle of Evian with purchase of the Daily Telegraph, an excellent bargain because it provided me with in-flight water and gave me something to read while eating my pre-flight meal of a Full English breakfast / fish ‘n chips (depending on time of day or mood).

I divide my on-board food into three categories:  food, snacks and self-indulgence;  and I take one of each kind every time I fly.

The travel food is simple:  meat. Specifically, it’s 1lb of South African biltong (never American jerky because it’s too sweet and tastes like crap anyway).  I know, biltong is generally nosebleed-expensive no matter where you buy it, but a pound lasts me for both outbound and return flights.  Also, biltong (unlike jerky) is made of steak, so it’s quality meat.  Sometimes I’ll take some droëwors (another South African delicacy, pronounced “drew-uh-vorce”) which is spicy dried sausage, and I buy it and the biltong at a little shop in Grapevine.  That takes care of the protein, which is really all one needs to keep fed for 8-10 hours anyway.  (Warning:  both biltong and droëwors are highly addictive if you develop a taste for them.  I grew up eating the stuff, so I’m screwed.)

My travel snack is likewise simple:  salted cashew nuts, kept in a resealable plastic bag.  I love the damn things, and a large bag is seldom far from reach at home anyway.  (I know, they’re not as good for you as almonds, but I cannot stand the taste of almonds.)  I take nearly 2lbs of cashews when I travel simply so that I don’t have to buy them for the return flight — go ahead and see how much cashews cost in the U.K. and Europe, and you’ll see why.  Sometimes, if I remember to buy them ahead of time, I’ll also take some dried cherries, just for variation, or else I’ll buy a banana at one of the airport shops, if available.

My self-indulgence is even more simple:  a large bar of chocolate.  (I know, I know, don’t scold me.)  I have over the past three years managed to if not conquer my addiction, then at least tame it.  And if ever there’s a time when I can justify spoiling myself, it’s when I’m flying in a cramped coach-class airline seat for ten hours.  No jury would convict.  As for which specific chocolate, I leave the choice till the day of, or the day before my flight, but it’s generally drawn from Nestlé’s AeroMilky Bar or Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.  All are available at the World Market just up the road or at the Grapevine shop en route  to DFW, so it’s an easy purchase.  If I’m going to England, then I’ll forego those choices (because I can buy them Over There for the return trip), and take instead a bag of chocolate-covered cherries from Central Market on the outbound flight.

I think you’ll agree that the above yummies constitute a compelling alternative to bland, tasteless airline food.  If you disagree with me, I don’t wanna hear about it.  And please:  I know that airline meals are “free”, and if ever there’s truth in the saying that you get what you pay for, that would be it.

Finally — and this can be important — my airline food and water supply makes me less vulnerable to long flight delays, even if overnight ones.  There’s nothing worse than being told your flight has been postponed to the next day meaning an overnight stay in the airport, and finding out that all the restaurants have closed.

It’s all part of being prepared for the worst, isn’t it?

The Old In-And-Out

…and I don’t mean the California-based greaseburger chain, either.  Apparently, we Westerners aren’t doing enough bonking, and according to the New York Post, this means The End Of Civilization As We Know It.

This should be a golden age for sex — if not the swinging-from-the-chandelier kind, then at least the regular, reliable fun type. The economy is booming, and America, and the world, are safer than ever. Young people can find willing mates just by swiping on their phones.
It’s a cushy, luxurious time. So why aren’t we naked and rolling around in bed to celebrate?

As always, I’m going to start off by asking the usual questions:  how do we know that people are having less sex — given that when asked about their sex lives, most people lie like Clintons anyway — and if we are making fewer beasts-with-two-backs, so what?

But let’s grant the writer’s hypothesis as truthful, and explore the issue.

The the Usual Suspects can be trotted out:  Internet porn, Netflix, Tinder, Fecesbook followings, constant checking of phones et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  In other words, Westerners are finding things to do with their spare time other than to have sex.  There may be some truth to all of this:  Chinese peasants seem to have no problem procreating (within State-mandated limits, of course), nor do Nigerian tribesmen or Indian farmers.  In fact, go to any Third World area where there is no electricity and people are breeding like rabbits.  But as the article later suggests, it’s not all about reproduction:

A sexless society is a dying one, and not only for the obvious reason that sex produces babies to replenish the population.
Sex serves as a bonding agent between people in relationships, and when they stop having it, or have it a lot less, that affects the kind of connections they are forming. That loss of intimacy is a big problem.

Here’s my theory about all this.  It’s not one thing that’s causing this problem, it’s a multitude of things, and the arrival of mass entertainment as explained above is just one of them.

The danger to (Western) civilization is not a lack of shagging, but said civilization’s decades-long undermining by academia and other counter-culture hippies.  This is coupled with the wholesale immigration of hordes of people who (if the population growth stats are to be believed) do not have a no-bonking issue — rather, the reverse — but who have few if any ties to said Western civilization.  So the culture is being undermined, and replaced with one that is more, shall we say, primitive.  (Go on: challenge  that statement:  I dare you.)  In a hundred years’ time, when all vestiges of Anglo-Saxon / Judeo-Christian culture have disappeared and the United States looks and behaves more like, well, Central America, there will be no articles written about how sex is disappearing, I guarantee you.

As for the “sex-as-bonding” hypothesis, when we as a society have an easy-come-easy-go [sic] attitude towards relationships (including marriage, through no-fault divorce), commitment does not and cannot take place with only sex as the bonding agent.  Here’s where I can easily point a finger at today’s hook-up culture, made all the easier by applications such as Tinder;  if sex is seen as pure recreation long before a couple is married, its value as a bonding agent has been irreparably undermined.

Another problem:  find me a young married couple today (not living on a farm) where only one of the couple is working.  I’ll save you the trouble:  you won’t.  The plain fact is that even without the feministical Career-Girl Have-It-All-Baby influence, it is no longer easy, or even possible, to have a single wage-earner support a family — and I’m not talking about wealthy Wall Street financiers’ families (who typically don’t have large families anyway);  I’m talking about ordinary folk, to whom having more than one or two children means financial catastrophe unless both partners are working (and sometimes, even then).  When both partners are working their asses off, and have easy access to entertainment through their cell phones, it’s no great leap to understand why sex takes a back seat.  Add to that the fact that when a couple does finally have young children and / or babies, sex falls off a cliff, as any fule kno.

Let’s also address the other great issue:  people aren’t going to want to procreate (which is the primal instinct which drives the desire for sex) when the future is unknown, or uncertain.  I defy you again to find me any group of young people who have not experienced a layoff, or a company shutting down or being merged out of existence, or having a career suddenly disappear when their function is replaced by automation or foreign-based workers.  Once again, I’ll save you the trouble:  you won’t, because everyone under the age of forty has had one of the above happen to them, and probably more than once withal.

I also know that the Welfare State makes it easy for single parents to have multiple children, but I would argue that the Welfare State is not a feature of Western civilization, even though that’s where it’s most often found.  (Imagine, for example, the Founding Fathers seeing some modern urban ghetto, and their likely reaction upon learning how that lifestyle is subsidized, and you’ll get my point.)

I have no solution to this because as far as I can see, there is none.  At best, if a solution does exist, it’s going to be a.) incredibly difficult and time-consuming to implement, and b.) so unpopular (for a variety of reasons) that its chances of success are infinitesimally small.

I have no idea, for example, how to lower the cost of living to, say, 1950s-era levels where a family of four can live in a reasonably-modest dwelling, own one or two inexpensive cars, have enough to eat, and afford to give the kids a decent education — all on one salary, at a stable place of employment.  In order to get there, we’d have to make drastic changes to our national way of life, changes that I’m pretty sure that nobody would want to make.  I also have no clue how to instill the values of long-term commitment (from, say the early 1900s) into a generation which would resist that change mightily.  Those kinds of changes might make common sense if the goal were to improve our current society’s laissez-faire / “whatever”  attitude to, well, just about everything, but I just don’t see the Me-me-me Generation wanting to turn back the clock.  Good grief, most of them can’t tell time on a dial clock anyway, so what are the chances?

But should we somehow reach that state, I can guarantee that everyone would be having sex, and a lot of it.

The generation which produced the Baby Boom is all the historical evidence I need.

I CAN’T HEAR YOU

Somebody note the date:  I agree almost completely with The Atlantic magazine, at least as far as this article is concerned (thankee, Insty), and I urge you to read it all, if you have the time:

Restaurants are so loud because architects don’t design them to be quiet.  Much of this shift in design boils down to changing conceptions of what makes a space seem upscale or luxurious, as well as evolving trends in food service.  Right now, high-end surfaces connote luxury, such as the slate and wood of restaurants including The Osprey in Brooklyn or Atomix in Manhattan.
This trend is not limited to New York.  According to Architectural Digest, mid-century modern and minimalism are both here to stay.  That means sparse, modern decor;  high, exposed ceilings; and almost no soft goods, such as curtains, upholstery, or carpets.  These [minimalist] design features are a feast for the eyes, but a nightmare for the ears.  No soft goods and tall ceilings mean nothing is absorbing sound energy, and a room full of hard surfaces serves as a big sonic mirror, reflecting sound around the room.

Now add over-loud “background” music to the clamor as well as noisy patronss (Americans are a loud-spoken bunch at the best of times), and it’s enough to make me order soup just so I can drink it through a straw while holding my hands over my ears.

I’ve bitched about this trend in the past, but mostly to complain about the music selection (tinny pop pablum or bass-heavy rap/R&B).  But last week I had breakfast with Doc Russia in some new (and overpriced) breakfast place, and in a room which contained maybe six paying customers (out of over fifty seats), the noise was so bad (hard surfaces plus loud music) that I longed for my shooting lids.

Come to think of it, I think I’ll start carrying my ear protection with me when I go out from now on, and put them on if the place is too noisy.  My lids are noise-sensitive (with the little volume adjustment thingies on the side) so they are perfectly adequate for conversation.  I will, however, shout loudly at the waiter when ordering my food;  what the fuck, the restaurant clearly doesn’t mind excessive noise, right?

I’m sounding a little flippant about this, but I’m not joking at all.  As it is, my tinnitus makes hearing occasionally difficult, but impossibly-so in a loud environment.

Don’t get me started on “mid-century modern and minimalism; sparse, modern decor; high, exposed ceilings; stainless-steel tabletops, slate-tile floors, and exposed ductwork; and sparse and sleek [decor], with hardwood floors and colorful Danish chairs with tapered legs seated beside long, light-colored wood tables”.  A less inviting scenario for a meal I can’t even begin to imagine.  And please:  don’t give me that crap about how hard surfaces are easier to clean and to keep clean:  that’s putting the needs of the business ahead of those of its customers, which mistake should cause the business to fail quickly — but sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case here, I suspect because we’ve just become accustomed to the clamor.

The article has it right:

The result is a loud space that renders speech unintelligible.  Now that it’s so commonplace, the din of a loud restaurant is unavoidable.  That’s bad for your health—and worse for the staff who works there.  But it also degrades the thing that eating out is meant to [engender]:  a shared social experience that rejuvenates, rather than harms, its participants.

Considering that I go out to eat with friends or family where the primary motivation is social — conversation and companionship — and the food (no matter how fine) a distant second, it should come as no surprise that over time, I have become less and less likely to eat out.

In fact, strike the above thought about taking hearing protection when going out.  In future, I’ll walk into the restaurant and if the clamor is overpowering, I’ll just tell the restaurateur:   “Sorry, but your place is too noisy.  I’m going somewhere quieter.”  And please note that I’m not talking about a restaurant full of people having a good time:  that’s a different situation altogether.  But if the place is noisy because everyone has to scream to make themselves heard over the cacophonous ambiance, then it’s elsewhere I’ll be going.

If enough people follow my example, then maybe — just maybe — we can reverse this bullshit trend whereby function doesn’t just follow form;  it throws it to the floor and suffocates it, noisily.

And by the way:  fuck “mid-century” and “minimalism”.

The Doom Wagon

My friend Doc Russia has a fixation about being prepared for any eventuality.  His gun collection is, shall we say, comprehensive — so much so that the last time he rode out with the North Texas SWAT team (a gig he volunteers for, uncompensated), he arrived with his latest toys and one of the guys burst out:  “Damn, Doc!  You’ve got better gear than we have.”  And it’s true.

One of the things that the SWAT guys need is transportation for the emergency doctor who rides out with them — to be more specific, transportation for Doc’s successor, because of course, Doc’s ride (which we his friends dubbed the “Doom Wagon”) could probably not only survive a nuclear blast, but also outlast the cockroaches which would survive that.  Even Keith Richards would shake his head and give up.

For those who are interested in such things, it’s a Toyota 4Runner, although after he’d finished with the mods, it looked like nothing Toyota ever dreamed of.  Here are a couple pics, just for you to get the idea:

All this came from Doc’s need to be prepared for any eventuality:  it’s a bugout wagon par excellence, and as you can see from the latter pic, it carries spare fuel (it has to, ‘cos it be thirsty, mon).  Also inside is a giant medical bag, to save lives, and to take lives (if necessary), a semi-auto rifle in a hidden compartment and a spare Glock 17 in the glove box, along with shall we say an adequate  sufficiency of ammo for both.  Alert Readers will have seen the light bar, and the snorkel for deep-water fording, but would not have seen the massive steel underbody plate, the beefed-up adjustable suspension or the built-in air compressor (to be able to re-inflate a tire in case of a puncture).

So much do the SWAT guys covet this beast that Doc promised to transfer it over to them should he ever have to quit the gig, so his replacement would have its full use.  (It’s even deeded to N. Texas SWAT in his will.)

I don’t know why I’m using the present tense in all this, because last week the Doom Wagon was stolen out of the hospital parking garage while Doc was on duty in the ER.  According to an eyewitness, it wasn’t gone in sixty seconds;  the pro team of thieves (which it must have been) only needed about half  that before driving off in it.

So while Doc was saving lives in the emergency room, some fucking bastards stole his truck.

He’s insured, of course, but that’s not the point.  I’ve been with him almost all the way in his quest to create the perfect utility vehicle — we’ve sat and talked and argued about this option versus that option, weighing cost vs. performance vs. utility and so on — and in the end, all for nothing:  gone to a mope with a crowbar and a screwdriver.

Here’s what’s interesting.  Needless to say, Doc’s medical kit and the two guns with it are also gone, but that’s not what bothers him the most.

You see, his eight-year-old daughter’s favorite water bottle, complete with her name engraved on it, was also in the truck — and when I picked him up from work, he was most upset that he was going to have to explain to her that yes, there are bad people in the world, and because of them, she’ll never see her water bottle again.  It would have been her first experience of evil because like most good parents, he’s tried to shield her from the ugliness as much as he could.  No more.

You don’t  want to hear the details of our revenge fantasies, should we ever lay hands on these bastards.

Yeah, I’m Going To Do That

Then there’s this news:

Google has unveiled its plan to put a smart device in every room of the home as part of its digital ‘ecosystem’ that could be manipulated to eavesdrop on users.
The tech giant’s smart home concept, unveiled at a one-off event in San Francisco, showcased Google Assistant at its full potential.
It combined speakers, smart plugs, voice controlled vacuums, smart displays and cameras throughout the house.
Its digital ecosystem is designed to enable communication between rooms and family members – even if they are not at home.

Yup… here’s when I’ll be doing this:

And probably not even then.

I don’t care how “convenient” they make my life but Google Home and Alexa can go fuck themselves, they and their parent companies both.

This Will Be Fun

…if, that is, you consider “fun” to be watching a rabid coyote in the middle of a flock of chickens.

Hair-On-Fire Party Takes The House

“Here you go, Nancy; it was too heavy for me anyway.”

For the record, Texas supplied two of the lost House seats:  Pete Sessions lost to some ex-NFL player in suburban DFW, and John Culberson to some chick lawyer in suburban Houston.  And my (suburban) district sent Republican Van Taylor to Washington, but with only a 54% margin instead of the 62%+ margins we’re used to.  All three results are the penumbra caused by media darling Skate Board Jesus (Beto O’Rourke), the fake HIspanic who walked on water for Texas Democrats and the national media.

Whatever:  the Communists know that they have no chance of passing any actual legislation because the Republican Senate now has a Susan Collins-proof majority.  So expect them to go after Trump, full-time, using the politics of personal destruction they do so well, the assholes.

Like I said: fun.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work.