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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Manifest Doofusry

(Jump back, it’s science time!

As always, that’s Secondhand SCIENCE. This week, come and meet mitochondrial Eve. And be cool to her; she’s, like, your mom. I don’t care who you are — she’s basically your mom. Seriously.)

So I’m thinking of taking a page out of the Chinese government playbook.

No, really. Hear me out here. I know they’ve had some crazy ideas in the past. And the present. And most every alternative universe anyone’s ever imagined.

And sure, Chinese policies like government-sanctioned censorship — very bad. Oppression and discrimination of citizens via polcies like the Hukou system — reprehensible. Rigged political processes, sham labor organizations, picking on Tibet, naming a puppet Lama, widespread use of capital punishment, repressing critical discourse and alleged dissident organ harvesting — all of these are pretty awful practices, and not the sort of things I’d want to implement around my own neighborhood.

(Though I bet that loudmouth asshole across the street has a nice healthy liver. I could make an exception.)

“Even I don’t want to live in a nation where everyone wears rugby shirts and listens to weird music and doesn’t know what to do with their hands at dinner parties.”

Still. It’s not like the Chinese government is always off base. Take that “one child” policy they’ve been rocking the past few decades. That’s not so bad. Yes, the implementation is horrendous — rampant strong-arming and gender-selecting and human rights violations — but the idea could work. One child per couple; a nation of only children. I’m an only child — just imagine a whole country full of me.

Okay, scratch that. That’s a terrible idea. Even I don’t want to live in a nation where everyone wears rugby shirts and listens to weird music and doesn’t know what to do with their hands at dinner parties. We’d be terrible at national security. And we’d have the most awkward parades on the planet.

So that doesn’t build confidence in adopting a Chinese government policy, either, really, but I have high hopes for this other one. You may be aware — as it’s been going on for years — that China is in a territorial dispute with… well, pretty much everyone on their side of the planet.

(No, but seriously. It’s been going on for years. The timeline in that linked Wikipedia article about it goes back to the third century B.C..

Seriously, who holds a grudge over fighting that started twenty-four hundred years ago? Back then, even the Christians, Jews and Muslims were getting along, I bet.)

(Yes, I’m aware. Move along.)

Currently, most countries bordering the South China Sea — Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, you name it — claim a modest swath of ocean off their respective land borders as their territory. There’s some international maritime acronym-or-another who says that 200 miles out from your coastline should be yours, and generally speaking, these countries are cool with the rule.

But not China. No, China basically says:

if it’s not a wave you can physically surf onto your beach, then it belongs to us.

China’s made a claim — a dubious, greedy, Scrooge McDuckesque claim — on pretty much the entire South China Sea, and any lands, islands, peninsulii, isthmuseses, archipelageese or post-apocalyptic Waterworld-style floating cities that might be found there.

(I’m sure Kevin Costner will be happy to know somebody is finally interested in that nightmare.)

But lately, China hasn’t even worried about claiming the islands that are there. Instead, they’ve gone and made some new ones.

It’s a total dick move. A resource grab. A bullying, brazen, “my naval dick is bigger than your naval dick” play for all the marbles they can get.

And it’s genius. I’m totally getting me some of that.

Not in the South China Sea, of course. China’s naval dick is way bigger than mine. They’ve got a fleet of warships, probably. I have a rubber ducky and a pool raft that sinks if you don’t blow enough air into it. So I’m not expanding my borders there.

But around my neighborhood? Why not?

I figure the first step is claim all the “common area” in my condo building. Hallways, porches, the basement, any interesting parts of the rooftop — those are mine. Nobody else is using them, so I’m staking a claim.

Of course, I might have to physically mark my new territory. I can move an armoire outside the upstairs neighbors’ door to let them know. Maybe some desk lamps through the main hallway — nothing too obstructive. All the foot traffic can still move through. If they pay the tolls, of course.

But that’s just the start. None of the neighbors on the block are using their yards; they’re just littered with plants and bushes and nonsense. I’ll take those over, too — everything right up to their doorsteps. Or maybe their front walks; some of the actual doorsteps around here are pretty ugly. I don’t really have the furniture to stake out those claims, so I’ll just do what China’s doing: I’ll truck in a bunch of dirt and dump it on their lawns.

Sure, they’ll be pissed. But it’s my lawn now. And my dirt. Take it up with the U.N., sporto. Yo shit’s been annexed.

I figure I can get at least to the next block before I run out of lamps and dressers and money for claim dirt. That’s not quite a whole “south sea”, but it’s a start. You might think I don’t have the military force to keep all these extra lands — but I’ve got that covered.

This is the Boston suburbs we’re talking about here, not some gulf in the Asian Pacific. Remember that ducky and the pool float I mentioned? In this neighborhood, brother, I’m navally hung.

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