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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Five Muses

It was Henry David Thoreau who said, “Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.” (unsure whether it was taken out of context or not) And while I agree with his basic sentiment, it would have been more convincing coming from someone just named Hank Thoreau who merely said, “Simplify.” Then I would have believed he really meant it.

Mysteries of the Universe, #4852:
Why does cereal settle so much during shipment?

Let’s take the example of Crunchberries, the quintessential morsel of breakfast food. Most raw materials on the earth, incidentally, would follow this same model as your basic Crunchberry. You start out at the manufacturing plant with a full 24-ounce box. The second it leaves the warehouse, it goes down an inch by what experts refer to as “symbiotic attrition.” Then while it’s in transit to the store, it goes down another half inch. And finally, during the stocking of the shelves, it goes down another half inch. Which then causes us to wonder: If so much settling is going on, how do the individual pieces stay relatively intact?

So you may be piqued as to why all this happens. Well, think about it. If you were a Crunchberry at the top of a cereal box, would you want to be there? Would you want to be the first one eaten? No, you’d take a dive-bomb down to the bottom where all the smart ones are. And since there aren’t too many dumb Crunchberries around, when you first open the box, that’s where you find them — all down near the bottom of the box, staring up at you like a bunch of innocent little puppies, hoping you don’t notice them.

And a few lucky ones make it to the end, getting thrown out into the trash, which is a Crunchberry’s ultimate goal. But in the meantime, they’re all jostling for position, saying to each other, “No, I’m not going out first — you go first,” or heaping simple insults like “Cheerio breath!” Sometimes riots break out, and a couple of them may get trampled, with just their scattered remains lying at the bottom of the box. This unfortunate occurrence is known as Crunchberry violence, which is one of the many serious forms of cereal killing. The point is that as far as the Crunchberries are concerned, they’d rather risk such violent circumstances than be drowned in a pool of milk. This phenomenon started back in the 18th century, with the Crunchberries referring to stories of their ancestors as the first cereal box settlers. And that’s precisely why they settle like that today.

Reasons Not to Gamble

True statisticians don't gamble. If you understood probability enough, you wouldn't give away money that's bound to come back less the more you do it. Coming close to winning gives people a false sense of achievement. There are thousands of ways to almost win, and those people develop a phantom confidence that shouldn't be there.

If I ever went to a casino, I surely wouldn't play the slot machines. I just go to the mall and play the change machines instead, because they have much better odds. I always win back 100% of whatever I bet. I put in a dollar, and I get a dollar back. I've never lost on the change machines. Call it dumb luck, but I've had a lot of success with them.

So I've seen advertisements for slots that brag about having something like 92% returns, which is supposedly the best anywhere. Is this a good thing? They're only taking away your money at an 8% rate? Anything under 100% means you're losing. That's why they can afford to build the fancy casinos in the first place. They're not funded by having people regularly beating the house. If it weren't so rare, they wouldn't be in business. And then if someone does come in and has a good system for winning, they kick them out. If you lose we like you, but if you win you're ruining our business. What a great racket to belong to.

The Oregon lottery has a disclaimer at the end of its commercials, saying it's for entertainment purposes only. Does that mean nobody's really trying to win the prize money? They're just trying to be entertained while they give away their money? The official motto of the Oregon lottery is: "It does good things." OK, so why would they have to say that? That implies that it also does bad things. I want to hear about the bad things too. Their billboards boast creating 200 millionaires and counting. In twenty years, that's only ten per year, out of a population of 3 million people. If one in every 400,000 people is being helped each year that way by the lottery, isn't that rather insignificant? For every winner, how many more hundreds or thousands develop a gambling addiction? Is it really worth it?

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Why don’t they have a book called “Chicken Soup For the Chicken’s Soul”? Nobody thinks about those poor chickens who get souped all the time. They need some love too. How would you feel if an entire book series was mocking your ancestry? To make matters worse, it's all done in the name of of inspiring stories. We're all getting gushy at the expense of some poultry. We need to think these things through.

In spite of all that, I thought it was a decent book series, until... yes until they came out with this: Chicken Soup For the American Idol Soul. This stuff is just too good to make up. If historians stumble across this title many years from now, they'll be scratching their heads to try to figure out what it means. Anyway, it boils down to the Chicken Soup people selling out. Have they really run out of names and they're asking for corporate sponsorship? Watch soon for Chicken Soup For the Wall-E Action Figures Soul. It can't be that far away, can it? If they really want to serve society, they could maybe do Chicken Soup For the Gambling Addict's Soul. At least that would help people — and do good things.

Surely they've already scraped the bottom of the barrel, right? There's nowhere else to go but up — or so you think. No, just think sponsorship in hyperdrive, and you've got your next clue. Yes, these are real books that you can buy at Amazon. These people really need a hobby. When you've gotten to this point, it's a strong indication that there are no more chicken souls to think of. We have plum run out of chicken souls. You can put this one to rest.

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I talked to a cat once about their thoughts on the absence of mouse-flavored cat food. Apparently this is one of the major cat gripes, though there is a list of about a thousand other things, not the least of which is thinking they need more lives. You just can’t please some people. But regarding mouse flavor, when cats are in the wild, do they hunt down cows? Not usually. Maybe in Alabama, but not most places. Do they chase after swine? I don’t think so. Do they go scuba diving for tuna? I seriously doubt it. Then why do we give them those things to eat in lieu of mouse food?

Researchers from the Cat Institute of Technology have pondered this question, and they’ve discovered several interesting things. First of all, it would take three mice just to fill one can, making it less cost-effective than, say, poultry or seafood. Secondly, there aren’t enough untested mice to go around, after all the lab experiments, and cats vehemently refuse to eat mice that have been injected with known carcinogens. And if those things aren't enough, it would totally ruin the underground market run by cat burglars, making mice harder to catch just for fun. Legalizing mice is never the solution, no matter how you look at it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, this was just silly. :-) And yes, cat food does not come in mouse flavour because we don't eat mice. Cat food is by-product food. By-product of OUR food, to be specific. I know someone else who has mused about the lack of mouse-flavoured food. I'm so suspicious that I know you.

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