Control Freak

Damned if I wasn’t out on the deck talking to an old friend from my days in gun control, when a fit of sneezing consumed me. My nose began flowing rather torrentially. My mind went to the logical villain, seasonal grass pollens. And then Jane sent me a text on her way home from work. Did I know about the health advisory? Fires from 100 miles away had finally delivered their smoke to San Francisco.

I closed all doors, turned on the air circulation and hoped that the filter would catch much of the offending stuff. By bedtime my sinuses had shut down all communication with the outside world. My nose had done the same, airflow only partially restored by use of nasal hand grenades. What is going on?

The air is full of little thingies, to speak plainly. These are the thingies that describe themselves in parts per million. Or maybe billion. I have never doubted their insidious character in journalistic accounts. But now I have the bodily proof. My intercostals are sufficiently paralyzed to pay attention to anything that affects breathing. And, trust me, smoke from the Mendocino fires affects breathing.

Decades ago, I wrote press releases about the exciting world of semiconductors. And, considering that chips and their attendant software make it possible for me to write this blog using voice recognition, they were exciting. Less exciting were the details, because who really cares what obscure chemistry goes into chip-making?

Yes, it’s boring, unless these details stick in what’s left of your mind. Modern homes, many of which have burned in the inferno to our north, are full of electronics. And their chips are full of things like gallium arsenide, which is handy if you’re using photolithography to print microcircuits. Less useful if you are a living cell. Anyway, that’s what I’m breathing. Along with everyone else.

Which is enough to make a person scream or go out and protest on Climate Change Day, or whatever it’s called, in September. Protesting seems to have become a perennial necessity. But maybe that’s only because enough people are woke enough to see reality. Gun control. Is the United States of America really going to use federal funds to purchase weapons for schools? This possibility is among those the Education Secretary is actually floating.

Anyway, there I was talking to Brian about the latest in national gun-control efforts. And, among other things, I was happily using the phrase “gun control.” For decades, people engaged in attempts to stem the wanton use of firearms have been told to steer clear of these words. Gun control, activists claim, is a big turnoff. Better say something like “sensible gun laws” or go on about gun safety. Me, I like gun control. Like impulse control, it’s a good thing. Even cruise control isn’t a bad thing. There is a lot I’d like to control. Starting with the air, maybe even with my lungs. But if there is anything life has shown me, it is that control goes out of control remarkably easily. I am living proof, vis-à-vis neurology. So, why not? Let’s get the climate under control.

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