News from the Department of Good Government

In the US, a Republican in the House of Representatives is fighting climate change, one orbit at a time. At a committee meeting, he asked a senior Forestry Service official if changing either the moon’s orbit or the earth’s would fight climate change.

To which the official said that she’d “have to follow up with you on that one.”

She didn’t mention that the Forestry Service has no authority over celestial orbits. If she kept a straight face, she deserves a raise.


Irrelevant photo: I should know the name of this one but I can’t rattle it loose. Eri-something? It’ll come to me once it’s no longer needed. Erigeron? I think it is erigeron.

As long as we’re airborne and in the US, let’s talk about the New Mexico campaign rally that was interrupted by a flying sex toy.

Now there’s a sentence I never really expected to write.

The drone carrying it hovered beside the candidate briefly, then there was a scuffle for the drone (I’d guess that the owner wanted the sex toy back), and that was followed by a minor punch-up. 

I love an elevated political debate.


In Britain, a member of the public found classified defense papers in a soggy pile at a bus stop in Kent. The Ministry of Defense has said it’s sorry. 

No big deal. 


And now the news from science

E coli bacteria can be convinced to convert plastic bottles into vanilla flavoring

How’d they learn to do that? With the help of a bit of genetic engineering. 

Plastic bottles can be recycled, and a whopping 14% of them actually are, but only a limited range of uses has been found for stage two plastic. If you count that in money, stage two plastic is worth 5% of the value of the stage one stuff. So recycling them into vanilla? It’s a bit creepy, but if it pays, it’ll happen (she said cynically).

Some 85% of the vanilla currently in use is synthesized from–you got it–fossil fuels, and vanillin is used not just in food but also in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning products (hang in here, because it gets weirder), and herbicides. Global demand has outstripped the supply of vanillin that comes from vanilla beans and is still growing.

So if you figure that worldwide a million plastic bottles are sold every minute–and somebody with a $5 calculator already has figured that for us–that’s a lot of synthetic vanillin that suddenly becomes available. 

So far, the process hasn’t been scaled up to a commercial scale, so don’t buy your ice cream cones just yet.


Bacteria can also be convinced to recover the rare metals from electric car batteries. The process is low energy and the rescued elements could be recycled indefinitely. The process is also, predictably, still in its infancy and not yet ready to play with the big kids, but it’s something to keep our eye on. We need whatever drops of hope we can find. 


Compared to recycling plastic bottles into vanilla, the creation of vegan spider silk may in the long run be more useful, since it eliminates the plastic and so won’t need recycling. 

Vegan what?

Vegan spider silk. It’s a replacement for plastic film and instead of it’s not made from vegan spiders. No spiders are involved in its creation. The link explains the process in more depth that I had the patience for, so you’ll have to read it for yourself if you’re interested. 

 The process of making it is energy efficient and the product will break down in a home compost heap. Unless you live in an apartment, in which case you just pile it up behind the sofa until you can plant potatoes in it. 

The product was developed at Cambridge University and is being handled by a spin-off company that expects to have products on the market next year–things like replacements for those little plastic pouches that hold dishwashing and laundry liquids. 


In a triumph for womankind and a great leap forward for equality between the sexes, women around the world are now as likely as men to have risky drinking habits. And the US is leading the way, with women in their teens and twenties getting drunk at higher rates than men. 

Yes, friends, there is no idea so good that it won’t find some way to bite you in the ass. 

As a second-wave feminist from the sixties and seventies, I can testify that this didn’t come up in those late-night, let’s-take-over-the-world plotting sessions that (of course) we held. 

Long-term heavy drinking hits women harder than men, and at lower levels of drinking. Women have less body water than men of the same weight, and body water dissolves alcohol. So they run a higher risk of hangovers, blackouts, liver disease, and alcohol-induced cardiovascular diseases and cancers. 

Yes, some people get to have all the fun.

59 thoughts on “News from the Department of Good Government

  1. Re your irrelevant photo: as you get older, it gets harder to remember words, I think. I had a conversation with my sister last week, face to face because we’re allowed to now, and neither of us could remember the word I was searching for, although she knew what I meant. When I blurted out ‘stockpiler’ the next day, she knew exactly which conversation I was referring to. You’ll probably guess that we were talking about the early days of the first lockdown.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s funny, but although I’ve used and heard the word “stockpile,” I’ve never heard it turned into “stockpiler,” so I was blank on what you were talking about. As soon as you said lockdown, though–

      Those disappearing words are endlessly frustrating, although from time to time I’ve coaxed one back by asking my partner, “What’s the word for–” at which point the word presents itself.


      I find that a few flower names just don’t want to stick around. Hydrangea always comes with a pause in front of it. And cyclamen usually starts as “that plant that starts with a C.” This one, though, still hasn’t come back to me. I blame it on the fact that I never saw it till I moved to Britain and, gee, I’ve only been here 15 years.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I get bothered when I read terms like “energy efficient” and “biodegradable”. The CFL bulbs were hailed as more “energy efficient” than the incandescent bulbs they replaced…until the entire manufacturing and disposal costs (eco, not monetary) were considered, then they were not, but now we’re stuck with them. Same with “biodegradable”, they make biodegradable plastic bags, which are only biodegradable if you leave them exposed to sunlight…not much sunlight at the bottom of a landfill or the sea. Turned out they were worse than the paper bags they replaced, which bugs, worms, and other little things would, eventually, consume. I will imagine the jury is still out on the vegan silk, until we begin to use it and find out what the true costs are.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The jury’s out on a lot of things until we find out what the downside is. And with or without sunlight, biodegradable plastic bags weren’t biodegradable: They just broke down into smaller, more damaging, pieces of plastic. But that’s marketing (and capitalism, while we’re at it) for you. It needs to sell you things, and unless it’s blocked by some sort of regulation it will grab onto a trendy concept and use it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, my. I have 3 male cousins in Texas who have abused alcohol and other mind-altering substances for their entire teen and adult lives. They are now in their sixties, and I have wondered how they are still alive and well. They have 2 sisters who, I now see thankfully, have no risky drinking habits.
    Your post helps me see through a glass darkly: Equality has its pros and cons.
    I don’t think I’ll give up a random bourbon or two, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Omg the weird and wonderful. The story about the U S committee member about changing the moons orbit to improve climate change.. gosh. Omg what orbit is he on!!!

    Vanilla from plastic! Nooooo. Can’t be good for our health. Greedy money making don’t care about our health, probably cancer causing. This has upset me the most of all the stories.

    Thank you for sharing these weird and wonderful stories

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The stupid thing is that we used to do a lot of this stuff. Well, not me personally because it was before my time, but my grandparents’ generation. You took your own containers to shops. If you needed a bag or box, it was cardboard. You returned empty bottles. Things weren’t pre-packed, so you bought as much or as little as you needed. Then it all got changed by “progress”!

    Liked by 2 people

    • A refill shop in a nearby town does just that, but it’s a small, very alternative shop, swimming against the tide. We were sold progress, remember that? I’m old enough to remember when vacuum cleaner companies advertised what progress it was when they added bags we could just take out, throw away, and replace. Then they reinvented the bagless kind. All you had to do was take out the canister, empty it, and replace it. Progress!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ” being handled by a spinoff company” for the fake spider silk ? We see what you did there.

    Here’s the link for those who disbelieve the orbit report. This particular congressman is notoriously dumber than ****

    And here’s another : A wealthy GOP donor has paid to have the governor of South Dakota send the South Dakota National Guard to Texas to help secure the Border. You really cannot make this stuff up (as Mark Twain said: fiction has to make sense)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the links. I’d heard that people were sticking “for rent” signs on National Guard equipment, but I suspect that’s urban legend. Especially since I’ve never knowingly seen National Guard equipment running around with nice neat National Guard labels on it.

      And thanks for spotting the spider joke. Disappointingly, I missed it–it was pure accident.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: News from the Department of Good Government – Love Alone

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