George R. Stewart was always interested in how humans react to ecological events, because he saw those reactions as defining human character. Two of his best novels, FIRE and EARTH ABIDES, focus on such events – FIRE, on a great forest fire (and fire ecology); EARTH ABIDES,on a planet-wide disease epidemic which nearly ends the human species.
This last month California experienced fire, and some Californians had a lesson about disease. There were massive and destructive fires, and a literary discussion of an epidemic which references Stewart’s EARTH ABIDES.
Build a home in the woods and, sooner or later, fire will come. Defensible space is a great help; but in suburbia’s tiny lots, there can be none. The fires of 2017 burned through the house-stacked neighborhoods so quickly that – as in the recent Oakland Hills fire – many people died trying to flee. Entire neighborhoods…
At least, we think it is his first. All the dogs really love the first snow or two, especially if they aren’t very deep. When we get really heavy blizzards, we have to dig channels for them in the snow because Scottish Terriers have short legs. Duke will probably take wing and fly across the snow.
After they got through with the frenzy of greeting us, they have mostly been outside and bringing piles of snow into the house. They are so happy about it too. We get towels, dry them off … and they say “Thanks, guys,” and they are back out the doggy door in a flash.
Leftovers aren’t sexy. Throwing them out is not considered morally or ecologically wrong by most Americans. This has created a garbage crisis in this country. Americans throw away 27 MILLIONtons of food each year. The average person wastes 3.5 POUNDS of food each week. This habit clogs landfills, generates greenhouse gases and costs the economy approximately 144 billion dollars a year.
Leftovers are now the largest source of edible food waste in American homes. There are two major reasons why people throw out food. One is that people stash leftovers in Tupperware containers that get pushed to the back of the fridge. Then they’re forgotten about until they’ve gone bad. Not much we can do about the forgetting factor. But the other reason is that people just don’t like eating leftovers.
We need to bring leftovers back into favor in order to save the planet! Apparently, leftovers were held in much higher esteem before the 1960’s. Being frugal and saving food was actually considered patriotic during WWII. But then it got very cheap to buy lunch instead of brown bagging it. It also got cheaper to order out or buy something new for dinner rather than eating that two-day old pot roast again. So use of leftovers has been on the decline for a long time.
I happen to love leftovers. I love eating cold meat, plain or in a sandwich. In high school, I’d eat leftovers like pasta for breakfast.
When I was a young housewife with two kids, I was very organized about shopping and cooking. I did full menus for the week along with a shopping list of all the necessary ingredients. I always incorporated the leftover meats and vegetables into the weekly meal plan. I scoured magazines and cookbooks for recipes that could use already cooked meats. Curries, stews and casseroles all work very well with leftover chicken, pork or lamb. I also often threw leftover meats into a tomato sauce and served them over pasta.
Tom does not love leftovers. I have to go all out to dress them up if I want him to eat them. I’ve gotten pretty good at fooling him. I don’t always tell him in advance that he’s eating Tuesday’s pork chops or Wednesday’s chicken breast. If he compliments the meal, then I’ll spring it on him.
I also try to freeze leftovers that I think will go bad in the frig. But I have to admit that I often forget about them in the freezer. When I rediscover them, freezer burn has set in. So, while I do try to waste as little food as possible, I don’t always succeed.
This is actually an important issue. People need to change their attitudes towards leftovers and become more aware of the problem of food waste. Unfortunately, today there are a few other issues competing for attention from the media and the population. Maybe when we have a new president and a people oriented government again, we can afford to turn out attention to things like food waste on a national scale. The sooner the better.
Willow has posed some fearful questions. It was more than a week ago, but I saved them because usually, I don’t do this stuff … but these are interesting. So here are the fearfully interesting questions. My answers may not necessarily be equally interesting answers.
It’s been a long time since I’ve asked questions, and I had these floating around in my mind. So anyway, I had some questions about how you, dear reader, deal with fear, or maybe the unexpected, in your world. There aren’t that many of them. But maybe you might find the them interesting…
Do you now, or have you ever, looked behind a closed shower curtain before using the bathroom?
No. Not even immediately following watching Alfred Hitchcock.
Do you look in your back seat — or taking it further, under your car — before getting in to drive?
Not since I got back from Israel. In Israel, however, you were warned to always make sure there wasn’t a terrorist hiding in your back seat so sometimes, I checked. Mostly, I forgot. I never entirely made the leap from American trustfulness to middle Eastern paranoia.
Do you have a safety ritual before going to bed at night? i.e. checking the doors, windows, locks, or setting an alarm.
Nope. There’s stuff I do. I close the curtains in the bathroom so the morning light won’t wake me up at dawn. I take the telephone off the charger and move it closer so I can grab it without a long stretch, although recently, it has stopped waking me up early in the morning. The scammers, spammers, and survey takers have finally stopped calling me first thing in the morning. Oh, the joy of it!
When you leave your house or car, do you check the locks more than once, or are you satisfied that you’ve locked the door the first time?
I forget to lock the house. It’s a country thing. But also, there’s a logic to it. This is a pretty old house. Getting into it would not be exactly difficult for anyone who really wanted to do it. It was why my husband never locked his convertible. If they were going to break into the car, please DON’T slash the top. Just open the door. It’s expensive to fix the top.
When we lived in the condo in Boston, we locked it … but the city is a different place.
Do you answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number? Why or why not?
No. I used to, back when calls were real people calling about something. But over the years of the robo-caller, I gave up. We have NOMOROBO and it interrupts most automated calls before the second ring. IF it rings twice, it is probably at least a human on the other end, or an identifiable number — doctor’s office or the pharmacy are automated calls, but we do get them. We don’t get the survey takers, the fake charity organizations, the scamming organizations who tell you you’ve won something and just want your personal information to steal your identity or, for all I know, your life.
In what setting — urban/suburban/rural — would you feel the least comfortable walking alone? Does the time of day matter?
I used to walk alone through the old city in Jerusalem in the middle of the night. It was the most dangerous city in the world — and also, one of the safest. Terrorists weren’t looking for me. They had specific goals and a woman alone was not a target. Boston? It depended on the number of alleys along the route. I have always been suspicious of alleys, especially at night. Alleys are unlit — and people hide there.
I don’t walk out here. We live out in the country. No sidewalks. Twisting roads and cars that drive much too fast. Even during the day, I’m sure someone is going to run me down on my own road … or even while I check the mailbox. I am not afraid of being attacked by a person, but I’m very afraid of being run down by a car or truck.
If you found yourself walking alone, would you avoid small groups of suspicious-looking people? How about a singular suspicious looking person?
I avoid groups of teenage boys. They scared me when I was a teenager and they scare me now. They are big, full of hormones, and mentally unbalanced by extreme youth.
Do you have a plan or way to determine if someone is following you or if someone is just walking behind you? What would you do if someone started following you?
No. Really, no I don’t. Sheesh.
What would you do if you notice the same car driving behind you for a significant period of time?
Probably not. I am clearly insufficiently suspicious.
If you drove up to your house and the front door was standing open though you clearly remember closing and locking it, would you go inside?
If there was no car in the driveway, I’d probably race in to see if the dogs were okay!
What would you do if you drove up to your house and found a stranger there, clearly waiting for you to come home?
Who would do that? Why? We have no money, no political connections. We aren’t cops. We aren’t important. We are old and basically, poor.
Do you have plans in place for emergencies (fire, flood, etc.)? Have you ever had to use them?
We should. But we don’t. We talk about it, though. One of these days, I’m sure we’ll do something about it. Maybe.
Do empty parking lots/parking garages make you nervous?
Yes. Because if the parking lot is empty, the place is probably closed and I’m there on the wrong day.
Do you tend to forward emails/messages that urge people to beware of this, that, or the other thing, or is Snopes.com (and similar sites) your friend?
Snopes is my pal. I forward jokes. I forward really great photographs, blogs I really like, and anything that makes me laugh a lot. Also well-written articles and information of historical note. But I always check to make sure that it is legitimate. You should too. Please, do NOT forward fake news!
If you have a dog, or dogs, and they start barking at nothing you can see, does it make you anxious?
If it made me anxious, I wouldn’t have dogs. They bark at nothing constantly. Squirrels? Birds? A noise from another house? Or just because they feel like barking? Dogs bark. At nothing. Often.
Do you close your curtains at night?
I don’t have curtains. But we also live so far from anywhere, no one can see anything.
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Our house in winter
How do you feel about the state of humankind in general?
I find human beings depressing and I am often embarrassed to BE a human. I am also deeply disappointed in my country, our political process, and people I really thought knew better. I am horrified at the awful things we do to each other, to animals, to the earth and the air and the water. I expected better from us and I hope with all my heart we improve in my lifetime.
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