Cirque de snail

It might be hard to see, but this is one snail riding another snail's shell as they both hang upside down from the top of snail-opolis. 

The snails were extracted from their environment while L cleaned and redesigned their home. Our current snail count is 11. This suggests a few have made successful escape attempts, probably when they were so tiny that it was difficult to seal off their habitat. Or, less likely, snail cannibalism. 

The residents of the snail colony, 2016

The residents of the snail colony, 2016

The street where you live

I played the original SimCity game on a monochrome screen - I couldn't even find a gameplay video from a version that old to post here - and spent many a happy hour laying out public transit lines in my growing metropolis, and positioning my police stations for maximum urban coverage. One time, many years later, I even tracked down game designer Will Wright to pester him with a question about the economic importance of fire stations (he never answered). 

I haven't found a simulation application I've enjoyed as much since. If you've ever watched your carefully-constructed urban core devastated by the sudden appearance of a kaiju-style monster, and realized you can use the opportunity to blow a highway that's marring your city's perfection, you might enjoy this piece on the history of city simulation games



Not merely inconvenient

Al Gore famously soft-pedaled global climate change as an "inconvenient truth." It was probably a wise choice for a title of time when climate change denial was more widespread and the media was still giving "equal time" to the "opposing side" of the "issue" advocated by people with lots of economic self-interest and no actual scientific evidence. The title "An approaching freight train of global catastrophe we're pointedly ignoring because it might endanger profit-taking," while technically more accurate, would have been dismissed as extremist, possibly un-American. 

We live in an age of inconvenient truths, disruptive realities we can't easily deny. Aditya Chakrabortty writes in The Guardian newspaper that Your new iPhone’s features include oppression, inequality – and vast profit

Over the past year, the US-based NGO China Labor Watch has published a series of investigations into Pegatron, another iPhone assembler. It sent a researcher on to the assembly line, interviewed dozens of Pegatron staff and analysed hundreds of pay stubs. Among its findings are that staff still work 12 hours a day, six days a week – one and a half hours of that unpaid. They are forced to do overtime, claims the NGO, and provided with illegally low levels of safety training.

The researcher was working on one iPhone motherboard every 3.75 seconds, standing up for the entirety of his 10.5-hour shift...

The Shanghai local government has raised the minimum wage over the past year; Pegatron has responded by cutting subsidies on things such as medical insurance so that the effective hourly pay for its staff has fallen.

Meanwhile, he notes, Apple sits on a bigger cash pile than the US government. Is economist Slavoj Zizek right that capitalism and democracy are headed for a messy divorce?  

How do we deal with the visceral hypocrisy of living with such extravagant privilege, as power and money that could be used for everyone's benefit gets concentrated in the upper economic stratosphere, far beyond the reach of the rest of the world?

Well, you could come up with elaborate justifications like "those are good jobs for that part of the world." Makes sense until someone places you on the assembly line, and you get a taste of the conditions endured by people who weren't born into fortunate circumstances. That's like saying that having only 10% of children die before the age of five is "pretty good for that part of the world" and therefore acceptable.

Alternately, you could do something about it. But what? Someone (please!) show me a leader who is advocating what normal people should be doing to redirect this train. I don't think my dutiful recycling, charitable donations, and thrift store aesthetics are really addressing the heart of the problem.

You could ignore it. That's what most of us do. To my great shame, I do it all the time, beguiled by my stupid phone, all the while knowing that terms like "inconvenient" are nice ways of saying Untenable. Unacceptable. Perhaps, in the lens of history, Unforgivable.

You want to see something really scary?

I love old time radio. I listen to an old radio program of some sort almost every night. We often think of fiction from the mid-20th century as predictable and hackneyed, but there are some terrific characters and plots to be found in those old episodes of Gunsmoke and X-1.

The Thing on the Fourble Board is an old episode of Quiet, Please. Looking for some pre-Halloween creepiness? Turn down the lights and have a listen.