Sunday, July 23, 2006
I am always impressed at the ingenuity of human beings. No, this is not another post in praise of the hair-cutting vacuum cleaner (although that deserves more posts because that fucking thing is awesome). This weekend, as we endured what has got to be the hottest three-day period of my entire life (all at 105º+) added together with some totally unnecessary monsoonal humidity up from Mexico, we're talking about some prime opportunities for some first-rate crotchal chafing. I'm happy to report I was able to take full advantage of that.
The oppressive heat got me to thinking about other things that are oppressive, mainly Iran. The connection is clear. I started wondering: how the fuck have people lived in hot-ass places like the Middle East for thousands of years and why
The obvious answer to this and most of the world's current geopolitical crises is that the people who inhabit these places--not now, but the original settlers millennia in the past--must have been assholes. Nobody chooses to live in blistering hot deserts. You live there because a) you're been kicked out of everywhere else or b) you don't think the people chasing you would be stupid enough to follow you in there.
Incidentally, this is also the basic demographic mechanism by which the United States and Australia were peopled by non-aboriginals, so don't write me any e-mails about how I'm being all discriminatory toward Arabs. Besides, Iran is mostly Persians. If you're Persian or Australian, feel free to flame away. I can be reached via e-mail or you can just leave me comments here on the blog.
Whenever I get curious about something these days, I always turn to Wikipedia the Infallible, one-stop shopping for all the world's completely incontrovertible truth.
What I found was that although the original settlers of places like Iran might have been assholes, they as a people adapted rather quickly and impressively.
I found out that they were able to keep ice solid all year round, including during the hot-ass Persian summer around 2,500 years ago. Isn't that amazing?! Were you aware of it? I was not aware of it!
"...a large underground space (up to 5000 m³) that had thick walls (at least two meters at the base) made out of a special mortar called sārooj, composed of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash in specific proportions, and which was resistant to heat transfer..."
Astounding. And all this time I've been using that same recipe for my home-made sunblock/chicken-wing marinade.
These rooms when paired with chimney-like "windcatchers" could keep temperatures on lower floors at or around freezing.
Right after this remarkable achievement in architectural technology was implemented, alas, the Persians were conquered by Alexander the Great. They've struggled ever since. What is Iran best known for today? Nuclear-rogue-nation status and support for Hezbollah. Just goes to show you, refrigeration can be dangerous, historico-politically speaking.
It can also be a bitch demographically speaking as after some smart fucker figured out mechanical refrigeration, the idea was adapted to create air conditioning, which led people to live in places that might on occasion reach temperatures that most thermometers report as "hot as balls."
Riverside this weekend was just such a place.
Our reliance on technology sometimes comes back to bite us in the ass, however. Instead of the enduring, cautious, symbiotic type of technology the ancient Persians relied on, designed their homes and thus expressed as a most basic outward shape of their culture as structures, we like our complex machines propelled by the gnomish magic of electricity with all the funny parts that whir and spin and delight the simple.
The problem is that such machines--unlike whole houses or buildings built with environmental survival in mind--can fucking break for no goddamn reason.
That's what my air conditioner did on Saturday in the middle of the day. It was just, in my official diagnostical account at the time, "fucking broke." Did I mention it was 107º that day with like 80% Mexican monsoonal goddamn humidity? Well it was.
What I wouldn't have given to be ancient-Persian that day. And sweating all fucking day and night will give you a tiny little glimpse into the cranky mindset of your average Hezbollah guerrilla. Maybe they want to liberate the Palestinian people by pushing Israel into the sea or maybe it's July and they're just tired of being goddamn hot.
We Americans and our electric marvels are no good at adapting when our thaumaturgic shield of animated circuits and gears goes tits-up. But there are ways of adapting.
I found one, I'm proud to say. I encourage all of you to try it as it proved most effective for me. Listen closely now and learn something.
Step #1: be related to someone who works in the heating/air-conditioning repair field.
That's really the whole plan right there in one step. Worked a charm. I did have to pay for parts and buy a breakfast, but it turns out that that's slightly cheaper than a whole new a/c unit.
You can make this plan a reality as well. It may seem like it's too late to be related to someone who does a/c repair if you're not already, but I figure all you need is a time machine, some basic career-counseling skills and the iron stomach needed to coax, suggest or even outright intervene in the mechanics of familial production amongst your relatives and you're golden. Me, I went with the be-from-a-giant-ass-Irish-Catholic-family route.
I have nearly 30 cousins. Just on my mom's side. Sure, some (OK, most) are only really useful if I want to know where to score some really ace weed on short notice, but some--I know for sure now--are good for more practical things. I'm writing up his Wikipedia entry immediately following this broadcast.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.7