Saturday, July 11, 2009

an open letter to tritium

Dear Tritium:

I've been reading some of the stuff people have to say about you, and it seems pretty clear that you've got a lot of people almost as impressed with you as you are with yourself. I mean, look at what they have to say: "It has an atomic mass of 3.0160492! Like, omigosh, that's the same as an atom of lithium!"

And the comic book geekboys all love you, because you occur naturally when cosmic rays hit the Earth's atmosphere and interact with hydrogen. "Yo, dude," they say, in that annoying stoner voice that we always associated with Star Trek Voyager. "That's just like the Fantastic Four!"

But let's be clear about something: Dude, you are freaking hydrogen. That's it. When it comes to the Periodic Table of the Elements, you are at the bottom of the heap. Ever wonder why you have trouble getting a date with the noble gases? That's it.

You might think you're something special because you've got two neutrons and deuterium has only one, but it's the protons that count, buddy, and you've got only one. Even if she didn't have a thing for carbon -- and who doesn't, after all? -- the department secretary isn't going to be caught dead on a date with you any time soon. She has standards, and she has a reputation to uphold. Suck it up and deal.

And there's the way you're used in thermonuclear detonations. My, aren't you impressive. Stick a little tritium in the nuclear warhead, and a regular A-bomb goes straight to H-bomb. The extra punch you pack increases the payout of the fissile material and blows the lid off an otherwise conventional nuclear explosion.

Of course, that's not all it blows the lid off -- one of those nukes can destroy a major population center, killing millions of people just upon detonation, and creating radioactive fallout that will screw up the environment for generations to come.

You know, tritium, maybe you missed this in your contemplation of how awesome you are, but the phrase "You da bomb" isn't meant to be taken literally. Real bombs suck, just like fourth-graders suck when they think that wearing bling makes them cool even though they ignore their teachers and talk trash about girls.

You want to talk radiation? Plutonium is impressive. It's named after the Roman god of the dead and for good reason. All you have to do is hang out around plutonium for a few days and you'll have some really freaky, frightening and fatal forms of cancer springing up all over your body. Same thing with uranium.

Not you, though. Your beta radiation is so wimpy that it can't even penetrate human skin. Even the cheap pocketknife I had when I was 3 years old could do better than that.

Sure, you talk big when you swagger into a bar with unbonded oxygen atoms. "Hey, baby," you say, "I have a half-life of 4,500 days, plus or minus eight days." Wow, I'm so impressed. That means in about just 12 years and four months, you'll have turned into helium-3, and your main source of income will be inflating balloons at birthday parties.

You think you're something special, but you know it's all just hot air. Even your symbol, 3H, is embarrassing. You know what that makes you look like? An isotope that didn't have even have enough protons to join the local 4-H club. How pathetic.

Maybe you haven't quite got the picture yet, so let me spell it out for you. Every single link in this article so far is to Wikipedia. Wikipedia. You got that? You're not even impressive enough for me to bother linking to a real reference source.

Look tritium, there is one thing you do well, and we're all proud of you for doing it. You know what it is: You keep the sun going. Our sun is a big flaming ball of gas, a fusion-powered furnace that keeps us warm and toasty on this planet. I know a few people have been complaining about your job performance there too, saying that you've been letting the sun lose mass so that eventually the Earth will break free of its orbit and plunge deep into space where we'll all freeze to death.

I can't say I'm wild about that, but the truth is that we've known all along that this was only a temporary arrangement anyway. Sooner or later, we all expected you'd want to move on up the Periodic Table of Elements and try something new: maybe a stint as nickel, or copper, or even selenium. That's how these things have worked as long as the universe has been around, and you want your turn.

It'll come. Just be patient, and keep doing your job.


Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Friday, May 01, 2009

linkedin recommendation

As someone originally from the Northeast, I frequently have been disappointed by the quality of drugs available during my trips to the South. I've never found a dealer who could give me a nice cut of weed, one that didn't give me a headache when I smoked it; the last three times I tried to buy coke, the idiot tried to sell me Mello Yello; and the ecstasy dealers, when they weren't peddling useless shit, were so clueless that they actually preferred to sell E at clubs frequented by the police.

Ms. B., however, has renewed my faith in the South as a place to do illegal drugs. She runs her organization with an efficiency that borders on the brutal. There are no snitches in her organization, although there are several buried beneath parking lots and shopping malls in her area. Delivery of the smack was always prompt, discreet and at competitive rates.

What's more, this is some high-quality shit that she peddles. Smoking even a small dose of the crack that she provides was enough to put the monkey on my back, let me see all my bones, and give me an experience that neither I nor the fifty people I allegedly ran into that night will ever forget.

And the angel dust she sells -- wowza! The police claim that I broke the jaws and ribs of sixteen different officers before they were able to take me down.

I would be remiss not to mention the extensive connections Ms. B. has built up with local, state and federal authorities in Georgia. I attribute this not only to her line of work, which always draws official attention, but to her generous nature, which prompts her to give money, cars, expensive watches, junkets and other gifts to friends in need of them.

In short, you cannot ask for a better employee for your organization than Ms. B. She is going places, and believe me, wherever she is going, she will take a horde of clients in her wake. I would not hesitate to do business with her again, once I am eligible for parole in 2096.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 02, 2009

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a difficult thing for all of us to extend when we have been hurt, especially by people or deities who should know better.

I think part of the conflict is that we've conflated forgiveness and restoration into a single act; i.e., "If you've forgiven me, why am I still in the doghouse?" It's like when Bill Clinton apologized for his adultery, his denials and obfuscations and then his perjury. "I said I was sorry. Why are we still dealing with this?" Because while forgiveness may be extended and received, there is still an aftermath to the offense that includes damaged trust among the other more obvious consequences of the offense.

Even God's forgiveness is like this. He may have forgiven David for having Uriah set up to be killed, but consequences lingered. Joab had a hold over the king that helped lead one day to civil war.

Forgiveness can, and perhaps should, take place in an instant. But restoration can take years of someone demonstrating to the other person that they can be trusted with the power, authority and position they once had. I don't doubt that Swaggart received God's forgiveness for his scandal back in 1987, or that Haggard could receive forgiveness for his escapades and scandal, but I think in both cases their advisers/supervisors were right to say "It's time for you to step down from this ministry."

All that said, I think there is a power in real forgiveness (as opposed to just "letting go," which is often a means of avoidance) since christocentric forgiveness involves restoring a relationship that has been sundered. But that's also a forgiveness that can't be done in a vacuum, by yourself. It requires talking to the person who needs to be forgiven, and explaining why what they did was so fucking painful, so they can actually appreciate for themselves what they have done.

Of course, that's really easy to say, but it's much harder to accomplish. I've had some really good conversations with Natasha in the past where I was able to explain just how badly she had hurt me and why I didn't want it to stay there ... and I've had conversations with pastors, former co-congregants, friends and even a mother who just could not understand what I was on about, no matter how I explained it.

In the former scenario, it's wonderful; you have salvaged a relationship that otherwise might have been dealt a fatal blow. In the latter, you at least have made the effort, taken the lead toward reconciliation, and can have a clean conscience that you have extended a true olive branch to someone else.

What I can say is that I have found Christ to be in that effort of reconciliation. In reaching out to people who have wronged me, I have found forgiveness myself for resentment I hadn't realized I was harboring; I've found the mystic communion with Christ that comes when two people make peace; and I've also known his suffering, since he often has extended forgiveness to people like me who rebuff him because they just don't see why they need it.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.