Friday, February 18, 2005

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Finding Love

A friend of mine is juggling emerging relationships with several women. He’s proceeding as just a friend to each of them, but hopes to approach something more with someone. It’s a difficult time, whether one has a single prospect or several.

We almost have the technology for the perfect solution.

Virtual dating will answer all relationship questions without exposing real people to the inconvenience, disappointment or actual pain of a relationship that goes nowhere.

Every participant in virtual dating will undergo complete personality and behavioral profiling. The virtual dater will be programmed to act exactly as the real specimen acts at any given time. Do you have bad breath in the morning? Crazy hair? Do you start the day with a fart?

If you’re looking for a life partner, you want to expose as much of your life as possible. The virtual relationship will test the limits.

You can sign up for a bail-out option if your virtual date proves too disappointing. At no penalty, and only slight extra charge, a fantasy cheating partner will come in and separate you from the original object of your curiosity. That way you can at least score.

Unlike in reality, virtual sexual relations have no repercussions. You can do it as many times as you like, in as many ways, to see if what excites you initially bores or disgusts you later.

With a virtual date you are free to be yourself, because it won’t lead to gossip. The virtual date may respond negatively to something you do, if the real original would do so, but it won’t compromise your real relationship, for instance at work or in some other ordinary social context.

There are flaws. If you each have a virtual date with each other’s duplicate, you know each other’s secrets and can love or hate each other just as easily as in a real relationship. Maybe even more easily, because the virtual image has to be more candid.

The honesty of the presentation would make most people look bad. People would have to get used to that before they could make full use of the information. But you could rip through a lot of virtual dates in a hurry, learning that all people have flaws. Then you’d be free to move on to more rational consideration of which flaws you can tolerate.

Of course people might give up on relationships entirely, because no one measures up. Or they might just specialize in facsimile sex and never get around to reality. As Scott Adams wrote in Dilbert, “When virtual reality becomes cheaper than dating, the human race is doomed.”


The nice thing about a late Shrove Tuesday supper of pancakes at 10 p.m. was that when I dragged myself out of bed at 0500 to get ready to go to work, all I had to do was burp, chew and swallow to have a nice breakfast.

A Scientific Challenge

It occurred to me one night last week, as a tailgater was trying to convince me to drive at 65 miles per hour down a narrow country road in the dark, that we need to breed bioluminescent deer, bear and moose.

Speeders at night apparently only expect to have to deal with lighted obstacles. This is clear from their foolish insistence on driving at speeds that would be idiotic in daylight, let alone at night. They obviously can't imagine a furry flank suddenly appearing before them in the murk. And, even though we're in the middle of winter, they can't possibly encounter a patch of ice. All they need to worry about are other cars.

Sad-- but too infrequent-- experience proves otherwise. But bioluminescent animals would solve that problem.

Later we can work on chemical additives in road salt so that black ice would glow, too. Perhaps it could even spell out the word "ice," in menacing, wavery letters.

Cats have so much more class than dogs.
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Tuesday, February 08, 2005


The curious mind explores ideas.

How many religions began long ago with acknowledged speculation that was then oversimplified, codified, dogmatized and enforced by less curious minds who decided it sounded right to them, so they were going to enshrine it?

Reincarnation seems to make sense when you observe the many forms of life in this world. I don't suggest that it is true, but it's amusing to consider.

A tiny worm called Osedax lives in the deep Pacific. This female creature eats the bones of dead whales, while, inside her, dwells a scrap of essential maleness, a little sperm factory living off a small supply of yolk. This male produces sperm until the prepared meals run out.

How can this not be the soul of the guy who lived only to get laid, who said, "I wanna die doing it, man." There he is, living the dream. Is it punishment or reward?


Success in the civilized world seems to depend on how well you manage your paper existence.

I swear I'll keep up with the filing, but papers always pile up. At first there are only a few. But then, before I know it, the stack has grown, and spawned other stacks on the tributaries that lead to my office. Maybe I think I want a second or third look at a particular document before I entomb it in the archives. Maybe it's something inherently boring, like a financial statement from one of my meager investments. Maybe it's a charitable apeal from one of the causes I can no longer afford to support, because I'm paying for health insurance, and because two people really can't live as cheaply as one.

We've created a world of ideas. Some of them are bullshit. Some of them are important. The words and numbers that express them flutter around my head like moths around a light. I should catch and catalogue them, but more often I let them burn out against the glass and fall dead, or fly away to another, brighter bulb.

Squirrels run across the clearing out back in any season. They have no filing cabinets. Half of what they store, they lose.

Squirrels need secretaries.

The sun comes up, arcs across the sky, slides out of sight again. Its changing angle brings us seasons in which the many other life forms who don't keep records live their physical lives. We spend time watching them, keeping their histories for them, shaping their lives to fit our needs.

Nature needs a good lawyer.

No, humans need more nature. Rather than shuffling the black specks on the white remnants of trees that died for our sake, I'd rather walk outside, looking up the trees that stand in my forest. In summer I can sit out back in clouds of hummingbirds. Their tropical colors sparkle like jewels I did not have to dig out of the earth. All I have to do is hang jugs of sugar water.

So this is underachievement.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

In Bed with Bob

About four years ago, in the fall, I noticed a large number of fairly ugly bugs trying to snuggle into the frames of the casement windows of my house. They did not have the jaws of wood-eaters, so I mainly worried about squishing them in the window mechanism as I snugged the house for the coming of cold weather.

I'd been invaded by lady bugs in the fall before. They're cute little orange things with black spots, the sort of thing rendered in costume jewelry for little girls. They don't come around anymore.

The new winter guests soon managed to squeeze the rest of the way into the house. They're startlingly grotesque and, like many large bugs, sociably inclined. They love to fly up and land on you, or crawl up beside you to see what you are doing.

A little research disclosed only that they are called "leaf-legged bugs." While they are related to the notorious cone-nosed kissing bugs, blood-suckers of the south and southwest, our particular species seems to eat only plant juices.

Laurie and I had had a run of bad luck with animals we had named, losing one long-term pet and several adopted refugee birds from the shooting preserve across the street. So we figured the best way to exterminate the bugs was to name them. So we called them all Bob.

Bob does die, but Bob is numerous. Bob flies into light fixtures. Bob gets stepped on. Bob gets played with by the cats, though not too much, because he gives off an odor like crushed leaves when disturbed, particularly when crushed himself. Whenever I catch Bob in a window, I open it and flick him out into the natural world he fled. Go hibernate in a log somewhere, dammit.

Fortunately, Bob doesn't breed in the house. The number of Bobs represents only those who managed to squeeze into the house in the fall.

We've developed a truce. I'm not going to blast poisonous chemicals into my tightly-closed house just to kill a harmless, though unsightly, bug. So we try to get along. But sometimes Bob goes too far.

Two or three times now, Bob has crawled into bed with me. The bed is under a window. Bob is climbing my pillow to get to the window sill, or falling from the curtain. It's nothing personal.

Last night, I felt a tickling on my hand. When I scrached it, I felt the familiar crunch and smelled the crushed-leaf odor. I snapped on the light to evict the now five-legged Bob. It was 4:30 a.m. I twitched and scratched for the last hour before it was time to get up. Stupid Bob.

In this regard, spring can't come soon enough for any of us. But they're better than roaches.

Better than Roaches

This is a Bob. It's the best picture I have, since I haven't gone out of my way to photograph the ugly pests. Bobs are about 3/4" long.
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What a Riot

The news this morning reported that officials at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire are working on their plans to reduce the risk of rioting after Sunday's Super Bowl.

Sports rioting has become as popular as the spectator sports themselves. Just as Spring Break's debauchery is now flaunted on reality television rather than hidden from parental eyes, so too do sports fans of a similar age celebrate their violent side with fits of destruction when their favored team wins or loses a big contest.

Whether it was a celebratory riot or a tantrum of disappointment doesn't really matter to you if it was your car that was overturned and burned.

People used to riot over worthwhile things, like civil rights, or an unjust war. Now it happens just because an assembled bunch of professionals, most of whom probably don't come from the city they are supposed to represent, won or lost a game.

Why give any group or activity, over which you have absolutely no control, that much power over you?