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Monday, March 23, 2009

Dentistry Smalltalk

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Why is the dentist more interested in what the assistant did over the weekend than my teeth? He can talk to her anytime. You’d think that small window of twenty minutes he spends with me would be quality time where we could reminisce and be old chums. Hey, I had a pretty dang good weekend myself. Let's see... among other things, I pulled some weeds in the back yard, moved boxes up to the attic, scaled the face of the Grand Tetons, rearranged my sock drawer, and oh, watched Desperate Housewives. So there…

But if you think about it, that’s just the point — he does talk to the assistant all day. He’s already heard every scintilla of her weekend several times over. He’s not really as surprised as he puts on. It’s all therefore a beautifully orchestrated act. Dentistry school teaches them how to choreograph the whole thing. It's the week 18 course: Drama & Mandibular Arches.

What I’m wondering is how much they have to rehearse their banter ahead of time. Once the week starts, you figure they have about 20-25 patients per day, or close to 100 in a week, so I’d imagine they must get really geared up for the show. By Wednesday, they’ve got the routine down pat and they’re ready to take it on the road.

What they were actually doing over the weekend (and not what the assistant claimed) was to go over the script. Off in a dimly lit room, between sips of his cappuccino delight the dentist can be heard saying, “This will be fabulous... here I’ll ask you about the cabin you go to near the lake, and then you come up with some zany occurrence that will leave me incredulous, where I’ll keep saying ‘Oh really?’” The assistant intones, “What if I say I fell out of the canoe and got water in my eardrum or something like that?” “Oh, yeah. Good stuff.” “And then I had to be resuscitated by Boy Scouts for their merit badges, and then I got caught in an avalanche and survived under the snow for three days by gnawing on my shoelaces…” “Oh, I like it. After that, do you think I should say ‘No way!’, or ‘Get outta here!’, or ‘Shut Up!’?” “Hmm. Dentists don’t say ‘shut up’. It could compromise your credibility.” “Good point.” “But ‘get outta here’ is very theatrical.” “And that’s what we want. It will keep them coming back for more.”

This is what’s more important than asking little ole’ me how I’m doing, apparently. Hey, I’m the one in pain here, guys. Down here, where all the tubes and implements are dangling. The one that looks like roadkill in a chair. Yeah, remember me? Where’s my sympathy?

Oh, sure, they’ll ask you at the beginning how you’re doing out of obligation, but it’s more of a pleasantry. If you try to say anything more than, “Oh, I’m doing fine,” they’ll start gagging you with this strange fermented stuff, and they’ll even resort to putting the gas mask on you if they have to. “Patient… must… not… talk. Too… dangerous…”

And then every ten minutes, they’re required by the American Dental Association to say on cue, “You doin’ all right?”, but it’s nothing other than a smokescreen. You’re allowed only a one-word response anyway, for which you can give no further explanation. They don’t want to know how you are, but they want you to know that they know that they asked. Trust me, it all makes perfect sense when you’re buzzed. If they told you Elvis was getting a root canal done in the next room, you'd believe them. Never mind that he has dentures now...

Now, I realize that I can’t speak all that well with instruments in my mouth. But couldn’t we just improvise a little… you know, be a little creative and not demand perfect diction all the time? My ‘s’ might sound like an ‘f’, and the ‘t’ like a ‘b’, plus the ‘th’ is totally out the door, but they could figure it out from the context. “Cub I aff fo a pemup bubba an bewee fanwipf?” “Huh? Did he say something? Give him more gas… he’s starting to hallucinate.”

At the very least, we could use signals. Put flags in our hands if you need to. Give me a little Morse Code tapper. I'll do it with mime hand puppets if you want. Whatever it takes — I could adapt.

Or even better yet, just ask simple questions and use a system like they do on Lassie…

“Is there a barn on fire?”
(two grunts = No)

“Did somebody fall in a ravine?”
(one grunt = Yes)

“Were they wearing a green alpaca?”
(four grunts = Yes, but they were also eating fondu)

“Will there be a test on this later?”
(three grunts = I believe so, and the study manual will cost you forty bucks plus tax, which is non-refundable in the contiguous United States except for Alabama)

“Are you in a lot of pain right now?”
(one elongated “agggghhhhh…” = Duh!)

“Can I get you anything?”
(two and a half grunts = Oh yes, I’d like the house salad, if you don’t mind. And would it be all right if you just made it into a smoothie and sprayed it into my mouth? My lips ain't movin' much, you know...)

People feel powerless at the dentist, and I think it all revolves around not being able to communicate. That’s why babies cry, because they’re ticked off they can’t communicate anything. You ask a baby a question, and they’ve got nothin’ for you. “What do you want, Pops? I have no teeth to speak of, my tongue is highly untrained, I’m waaay behind on my speech lessons, not to mention I’m trying to spend most of my time just figuring out how my arms work, and this language of yours is what I’d call a tad bit complicated there. Get back to me in a couple years, okay?”

So anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that the gig is up on the whole Lassie deal. Contrary to popular belief, Lassie was not all that familiar with the human lexicon, and always got confused on the past perfect tense of transitive verbs. Plus there just wasn’t that much inflection in her barks. Shows all the more just what a great actor she was. To demonstrate the pretense involved, if we use our Lass-o-lator, we’ll see what was really happening in all those episodes…

“Ruff! Ruff! … Ruff!”
(translation: hey, my legs are chafing)

“What? Somebody’s hurt?”

“Ruff! Ruff!”
(translation: uh, yeah Einstein… it’s me…)

“They are? Where are they? Did they fall into a ravine?”

“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Grrrr…”
(translation: No! I’m right here! And what is it with you guys and ravines? Stick with me here…)

“They did? Were they accosted by a band of gypsies?”

“Ruff! Ruff! Rrrrrruffff!”
(translation: You’ve been reading too many mystery novels, haven’t you? Yes… they were accosted by a band of gypsies, and coincidentally the leader was Lindsay Lohan, holding a hair dryer to someone’s head and asking for ransom in small unmarked credit cards. Is that what you wanted to know?)

“Holy cow! Wow, we’ve got to go save them right now! Good work, Lassie!”

“Ruff! Ruff!”
(translation: Don’t mention it… Can I have a dog biscuit now?)

(Disclaimer: This post was ratified by the Gender Equity Group for gross generalizations used for the sole intent of simplicity despite the fact that not all dentists are male nor are all assistants female — though it tends to make the banter a lot more entertaining when they are.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hidden Patterns and Statistical Frenzy

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I don’t remember how I came across this book — it must’ve been at some used book store several years ago, and I think I read it around 2004. Published in 1992, Predictions by Theodore Modis is what I’d call an intriguing exploration into statistical models about society, and how as a group we follow predictable patterns. While I didn’t understand a lot of the technical talk, I still gleaned enough from it to get me thinking. The reading is sometimes dry — much like this blog post — but Modis makes up for it with content and hopefully bails me out too. There’s something in here to interest everyone, and I’ll offer some of the highlights.

According to Modis and his sources…

Human beings around the world are happiest when they are on the move for an average of about seventy minutes per day. During these seventy minutes of travel time, people like to spend no more and no less than 15 percent of their income on the means of travel. From African Zulus to sophisticated New Yorkers, they are all trying to get as far as possible within the 70 minutes and the 15 percent budget allocation. Affluence and success result in a bigger radius of action. Jets did not shorten travel time, they simply increased the distance traveled.
Industrialization featured mostly muscle-surrogate inventions, but that did not significantly decrease the number of working hours. Allowing eight hours for sleep and a fair amount for personal matters, the time available for work cannot be far from eight to ten hours per day. At the same time, human nature is such that a much shorter work period is poorly tolerated.
Most mammals living free in nature have accumulated about one billion heartbeats on the average when they die. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans had a life expectancy between 25 and 30 years. With the normal rate of 72 heartbeats per minute, they conformed nicely to the one billion invariant. Only during the last few hundred years has human life expectancy significantly surpassed this number, largely due to reduced rates in infant mortality from improved medical care and living conditions. But what also increased at the same time was the availability and acceptability of safe and legal abortions, resulting in a rise of prenatal mortality, thus canceling a fair amount of the life expectancy gains. The end result is that life expectancy at conception is still not much above 40. If there is any truth in this, we are back—or close enough—to the one-billion-heartbeat invariant, but with an important difference. Low infant mortality rates result in the birth of many individuals who may be ill-suited to survive a natural selection process favoring the fittest. At the same time, abortions are blind. They eliminate lives with no respect to their chance of survival. A selection at random is no selection at all, and the overall effect for the species is a degrading one.

Modis uses an S-curve analysis throughout the book with most of his data, showing patterns of early slow growth, then accelerated growth in the middle, followed by slow growth at the end, conforming to a common equation and curve shape. Modis explains the S-curve’s many applications in biology, physics and sociology.

With the S-curve analysis, Modis postulates that based on the number and frequency of the known 45 explorations of the Western Hemisphere following and including Columbus’ voyage (which follow nicely the last three-quarters of an S-curve), there may have been 15 such explorations unaccounted for prior to Columbus, with the first dating back to around 1340.

Modis shows how society made shifts in its energy sources from wood to coal well before running out of wood, and the decline in the use of coal in favor of oil was not driven by scarcity. He predicts that we will stop using oil in favor of some other alternate primary source before we run out of it.

The S-curve pattern is shown to exist with the growth of a bacteria colony, the human birth rate by mother’s age, the demand for plywood, and Ernest Hemingway’s writing career.

Using the S-curve, Modis can back up provocative statements like this:

…better agreement between the curve and the data if eighteen compositions are
assumed to be missing during Mozart’s earliest years. His first recorded
composition was created in 1762, when he was six. However, the curve
extrapolates to reach its nominal beginning of 1 percent of the maximum at about
1756, Mozart’s birth date. Conclusion: Mozart was composing from the moment he
was born, but his first eighteen compositions were never recorded due to the
fact that he could neither write nor speak well enough to dictate them to his
Similarly, for Einstein:
The nominal beginning of the curve points to 1894 when Einstein was 15. This
would mean that he had no impulse to investigate physics when he was a child.
According to the curve, this impulse started when he was a teenager. Still, he
produced no publications until the age of 21, probably because nobody would take
the thoughts of a mediocre teenage student seriously, let alone publish them.

It’s fun to extrapolate and attempt to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know. I like to think of life as a bunch of clues waiting to be uncovered. There’s so much we don’t know, but I’m of the opinion that a great deal is at our fingertips and can be revealed if we look in the right ways.

Modis then goes into an analysis of regular societal fluctuating periods of about 50-60 years ever since about 1800 (when data became more readily available). In these periods, various trends go through an upward and downward curve before returning to the same point, over the same period of time, and many occur independently of one another, existing in their own phases. He talks about energy consumption, innovations and life expectancy, among other things. Modis shows the periods where major modes of transportation reached the midpoints of their paths, each separated by 55-56 years: canals from 1836 to 1891, railways from 1891 to 1946, roads from 1946 projected to 2002 (?), followed by airways, which should then be replaced by some other means (Modis predicts the Maglev train) at its midpoint around 2058.

The author also says:

A period of 56 years is close to the length of time an individual actively influences the environment.
The smallest integral year time unit that allows accurate prediction of eclipses at the same place is a total of 56 years. the 56-year period concerns not only eclipses and the alignment of the earth, moon and sun on a straight line. Any configuration of these three bodies will be repeated identically every 56 years.
There are 56 holes, the so-called Aubrey holes, equally spaced in a circle around Stonehenge. By using the Aubrey holes to count the years, the Stonehenge priests could have kept accurate track of the moon, and so have predicted danger periods for the most spectacular eclipses of the moon and the sun.
Humans spend the first 28 years of their lives acquiring or “charging,” first an affective, then a physical, then an intellectual, and finally a spiritual capability, each building successively on a seven-year spiral. The second 28 years see the human in a state of “tension” as parent, contributor to society, thinker. The final 28 years the person becomes “discharged” affectively and spiritually, reaching the full age of three times 28.
The period 1996 to 2024 should be a period of growth leading to prosperity not unlike what happened between 1940 and 1968.

I’m not taking all of these hypotheses necessarily at face value, but it’s still interesting to look at a lot of this phenomena from another perspective and note the patterns. I like books like this. If you know of any others you can recommend, tell me about them. This one can be bought used on Amazon for about $5.00: Predictions, by Theodore Modis.

Do you ever wonder what kind of patterns you might be following? Would it cause you to alter them if you were aware of it? I think it possibly would. After all, it becomes rather difficult to throw out all subjectivity when making judgments while being aware of such things. It's a little hard to pretend to not know what you do.

It would be fascinating to me to have access to statistical information about my life and those around me, and see patterns about how we all behave and think. Then would could more easily accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

I’d like to know how many times in my life I’ve said words like exquisite, scintillating, juxtaposed, lackadaisical, gumption and hackneyed. And then compare it to the general public. I’d like to know what the ten most frequent meals I’ve eaten are, and the quantities of each. I’d like to know how many people I’ve known on a first-name basis in my life. I’d like to track exactly how much sleep I’ve gotten each night, and see what the patterns are there. I’d like to know how many words I’ve typed. I’d like to see how centered I’ve kept cars I’ve driven in their lanes, what my average speed has been with relation to the speed limit (probably 4-5 mph over on highway, and 2-3 mph over in city — your mileage may vary). I wonder how many sunflower seeds I’ve eaten. Possibly over a million. By age 14. I wonder how many ants I’ve stepped on, both intentionally and unintentionally. I wonder how many times I was called out in baseball/softball when I was really safe. I wonder what my least accurate memories are. I wonder how many things I’ve learned from various people throughout my life. That last one never ceases to amaze me. You think you’ve got a lot of it down, but you just keep on learning more and more, when you least expect it. Life is a neverending tapestry of discovery.

If my whole life had been tracked by Twitter, I could know how many times I’ve said each word. It would also be interesting to see how my language patterns changed with age. We can estimate a lot of these things. Maybe Charlie from the TV show NUMB3RS could narrow it down pretty good.

I just think it would be so mind-boggling to have a book of your life to peruse through. I hope somebody's working on that.

Then it would also be fun to quantify things that aren’t normally quantifiable, like emotions. Maybe that’s a little over our heads right now. As humans, we can barely handle the information that we do have. It’ll be a while before we’re ready for radically new types of data.

Anyway, thanks to Theodore for giving us another little peek into some of these things that make you pause and go hmmm…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Which Way to Progress?

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Later this year, my entire existence will be going to high definition. It’s a very exciting milestone, with far-reaching ramifications. When I go outside, the scenery will be crisper, rainbows will be more vibrant, and my vision won’t be in letterbox anymore — that’s going to be a big relief. I’ve heard the sky is going to be 18000 x 13600 resolution, which is a major upgrade for the makers of our atmosphere. I’ve got to tell you that I can hardly wait. To enjoy this new technology, all I have to do is attach a converter chip to my spleen, which may at first seem like somewhat of an inconvenience, but the tradeoffs are undeniable. I’ll even have an RSS feed for whenever Barack Obama clears his throat. It’s going to be marvelous.

Technology, after all, is about making what you used to enjoy no longer good enough. There isn’t going to be a point where technologists say “We’ve done enough, and now you can just enjoy whatever you have.” That would put them out of business. They must be continually upping the ante. They tell us we should be demanding more, more, more! Happiness is all about never being satisfied with anything, right? According to modern theory, pre-modern life was supposedly destitute of entertainment and therefore its inhabitants couldn’t enjoy things as much as we do now. How on earth did they survive the boredom of real life?

It is true that technology has improved our lives in matters of convenience, yet it has not improved the human condition overall. Our behavior hasn't noticeably changed for the better over the past several decades concomitant with these newer innovations. I’d like to see something which causes us to all get along better, like an upgraded character. Can that be coded?

What technology does is programs our lives to be busier — involved in more mundane activities with more mundane objects. So we get more done, but often because we’ve given ourselves more things to do. However, in a strange twist, we’re breeding new generations of lazier attitudes. How could this be if we’re so involved all the time now? Maybe it’s the content of what we’re doing and not the volume of how much we’re doing. Modern man might be spoiled into thinking that life should have everything at our disposal, and so we’re less equipped to handle it when things don’t follow this idealistic template.

We seem to be surprised that our advanced civilization still has wars, as if humanity with all its weaknesses could be cured through invention. We can’t very well try to let modern advances make us be better people in lieu of our making a truly committed effort from within. Some things have no substitutes. We still have to sleep, and we still need to constantly nurture our character.

Television is an example of a wonderful technology that has also compromised our attention span and our interactivity with other people. Likewise, it infiltrates the home with nonstop promotional advertising. Advertising itself lends the illusion that we should be in constant pursuit of great deals in an attempt to gain that elusive monetary advantage. When does the hype die down to let us enjoy life for the sake of enjoying it? Are we promoting ourselves into oblivion?

Telephones have made it easier to contact people, but also made it easier to be contacted, thus invading our privacy, even if willingly. While we can choose to go without services like a phone, we generally cannot rightly do so and function properly within our general community setting. So we’re stuck in this curious dilemma after creating a need.

And we’re so giddy with our new toys that we haven’t taken time to see where they might fit in properly. It’s nice that people can carry a phone on their hip, but do we need the intrusiveness of beeping at concerts and church gatherings, for example? Does technology get a pass at being interruptive because it's too busy forging a path into the future?

Advanced modes of travel have made it easier to go long distances in a short time. Still, is there really an innate necessity for us to take so many trips to far-off places? Did people of the 1700s have such a need? Perhaps with the new technologies, we have created accompanying needs, which would suggest that technology is also more demanding on us.

Families are moving farther apart, which creates a niche for greater travel, so then it becomes cyclical. If we just stayed closer together, we could accomplish the same thing and eliminate the middle man. We can go farther, but we only need to because we’re spreading out. Once again, technology comes to the rescue to solve a problem it created in the first place.

Technology is a mechanism for achieving something that might not have been essential or even beneficial, but since it was not previously possible, it is assumed to be a progression. Innovation is the buzzword. If it’s new, it must be better than what was old, so the mindset goes. A lot of times, we should ask “What was wrong with the old way?” The answer seems to be that it lost steam with the consuming public, and therefore needed to be replaced with glitzier packaging. We’ve improved on the mechanical tools of our progenitors, so are we to also assume that we’re better at being decent people?

On both a physical and physiological level, technology has a plethora of undeniable benefits. We’re able to live longer and healthier lives — or at least the potential is there. But on a socio-emotional level, the techno-boom appears to take away just as much as it gives. It’s not some special elixir that magically creates more social wellness. Technology in many respects causes us to depend less and less on ourselves (or each other), and it shifts the focus toward form, sacrificing substance. In providing the illusion that it makes life better, it draws our attention away from those things that really do.

So you weigh the negatives, like the ability to make elaborate bombs and recreational drugs, versus the positives, such as ways to combat disease and increase communication and overcome oppression.

It’s hard to tell what the overall effect is when taking almost simultaneous forward and backward steps. If you believe in evil forces, technology didn’t exactly make them go away but merely made them more efficient along with positive forces.

Technology isn’t all bad, nor is it all good. The difficulty comes when we look to it as the solution for our deepest concerns, as I feel we’ll be disappointed. We should be learning that a blanket industrialized approach to answering our innermost questions merely gives us assembly line answers.

In the end, all the "white noise" created by technology can make it harder for us to think clearly. In spite of these technological advances, notice that we're still desperately hanging onto our pastoral origins. A healthy green lawn, along with the plush trees, bushes, flowers, and other foliage, are more than fashionable adornments — they are requirements to maintain a hold of our sanity. Why do we have so many plants inside buildings? We don't cling to bits of the past for sentimental reasons so much as we do to keep some semblance of the natural in order to survive in the midst of the utterly complex. Maybe we’re struggling amid the advances of modernism to hang onto the things that really matter to us most, even though we don’t want to consciously consider them as often, thinking of them as relics that we need to move past.

Technology might be generically represented by so-called city life, while times prior to our current technology could be signified by country life. Which people would seem to be happier? Are the city folk better off because they have more gadgets, more appointments, and more to keep track of? What do these gadgets do for them that country folk didn't already have? Do things faster, farther, with less effort? And why would lower effort be a worthy goal? Does that teach us to try less hard? As such, are we turning into nothing more than very efficient machines? It causes me to wonder if we’re always expecting more of them, and never satisfied with the status quo. A narrative from the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy echoes some of these sentiments (the photo of the bushman in the upper right-hand corner of this blog is from that movie):

These bushmen have never seen a stone or a rock in their lives.
The hardest things they know are wood and bone.
They live in a gentle world, where nothing is as hard as rock, steel or concrete.
Only miles to the south, there's a vast city. And here you find civilized man.
Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment.
Instead he adapted his environment to suit him.
So he built cities, roads, vehicles, machinery.
And he put up power lines to run his labor-saving devices.
But he didn't know when to stop.
The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier, the more complicated he made it.
Now his children are sentenced to years of school, to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat.
And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings, now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt.
Every hour of the day to his self-created environment.
When I retire, I'd like to "get away from the things of man," as they say in Joe Versus the Volcano. And I don't mean a trip to an exotic location, but a permanent vacation where there are no tourists, no bright lights, no embellishments. Somewhere in Montana would suit just fine. And all of you don’t follow me there, either. Oh, did I say Montana? I meant to say Florida, or Arizona. What was I thinking? Don’t follow me to Florida or Arizona...

And one final postscript: Take note that the technological age has added a grand total of zero colors to the sunset. Regular definition will be good enough for me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Up to Speed

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The hardest paragraph for me to ever write is the first paragraph. It could be that I'm not good at introductions. People, I'd like you to meet blog. Blog, people. There... you're acquainted. And you've got so much to talk about...

My wife said she thinks it’s time for us to get our first dog after 18 years of dogless bliss. She’s got her eye on a German shorthair that’s seven. She said in dog years, I’ll have somebody my age to keep me company. You know, what I’m thinking is it would be a lot lower maintenance just to get something that looks like a dog, such as this figurine. I’ve got a good imagination. Listen, you can even hear it barking if you try hard enough…

My hair has grown out to 3½ inches long after I had cut it short last July. I keep the bangs a little shorter, and I also keep it trimmed around the ears. When it gets to 4, I'll take another picture.

Little League practice has started. I’m the manager for a team of 9 and 10 year-olds. The season runs through April and May. Two games and one practice every week. I did this last year too, and I don’t know if I schooled them or they schooled me. We are the Cardinals this year. I wanted a red team that personified flight.

I’m about halfway through reading Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins. I’m learning some useful things, although a lot of it doesn’t seem to sink in on the first read, as it’s describing step-by-step techniques for accomplishing specific objectives. And I’m also learning that the giant within me would prefer to sleep in, but that’s another matter entirely. I like where he says things like, “The more often you make decisions, the more you’ll realize that you truly are in control of your life,” or “The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way.” I can’t help but pick up his good vibes.

I’ve been on Facebook for a couple months, and I still don’t get it. Most of what I see are messages from people I don’t know but are friends of my friends or friends of my relatives. I feel like I’m in a closet exchanging business cards with 20 people all at once. I’m absorbed in it, but then not.

Regarding Facebook, it also makes Rusty cringe to try to write about himself in the third person the way they enforce it in announcements. I feel like Elmo talking. Rusty not comfortable writing in third person. Rusty like writing as if he really doing the talking.

Speaking of which, we’ve got ants in a few different rooms. We need to start charging them rent. I figure if I charged each of them 10¢ a month each, it would cover our mortgage. Maybe a dime is more than fifty times an ant’s weight, but I think they could each get about ten of their ant buddies to do some heavy lifting with them and fork over the dough. After all, it is room as well as board. It’s not like they’ve got any grocery expenses to cover.

These ants are relentless. It’s the first time I’ve ever had ants crawling across my computer screen. It could be that they’re just interested in my writing, in which case it’s going to be a painful thing to exterminate the better portion of my readership.

I feel like I know some of them by name now. Larry passes by my keyboard occasionally. (you’re lucky we’re on a first-name basis, Larry…) Meanwhile, Thaddeus meanders along the wall in his typical gait. Yo, Thaddeus! How’s life treatin’ ya? He just goes about his business as if nothing bothers him. Thaddeus is too cool to stop and talk.

These ants are actually making me a little nervous. I wish they’d quit running everywhere and just take it easy for once. They’re so absorbed in what they’re doing. The only time they stop is to grease their hips and smooth out their antennae to get better reception, and then they’re back on the trail again. How can anyone relax in this environment? But I guess they are pacing themselves, because they reserve the highest gear for when they get caught and it’s time to scatter. It makes me curious what ant expletives they’re uttering as they’re scurrying about. I wish I could hear their actual voices. What would they say? I don’t know… you figure with the size of their brains, their vocabulary couldn’t represent more than a few dozen concepts. I’m just betting that ants cuss a lot, that’s all.

I wore a sweater today, for those of you keeping track. Have you ever wondered how long it took for sweaters to catch on? “What’s this thing?” “It’s a sweater.” “Why would I want to wear something that makes me sweat?” “It doesn’t make you sweat.” “Then why even call it a sweater? Why not go all the way and call it a molter?” This piece of clothing is so dangerous that it causes chemical reactions in your skin. Not a bad selling point, actually...

My wife has started selling Tupperware, with the plan being to keep me off the streets at night. I’ve been working a second job a few nights a week since August, and some days I might see some of the kids for only 15 minutes. I figured when I got up to 500 readers here, I’d start giving her referrals. And with only 446 to go… But she wanted me to advertise right now so you can see what’s new. Just think, if you and your friends’ friends, and their stepsisters and nieces and their poodles all place orders, then I can quit my second job sooner and focus on blogging and wasting time more. Aren’t they pretty? And don’t forget the old adage — Tupperware… really locks it in™.

I have a new mole just off the side from my nose. You can’t see it if you’re more than three feet away, but it’s big enough to cast a shadow at six in the afternoon. That almost rises to crisis level in my book. Anyway, it has absorbed a lot of my attention. I only noticed it a few months ago. I’ve also found that rooting against a mole doesn’t work. You have to go with the mole.

Speaking of which, we have two captain’s seats from our van in the house, because we replaced them with a full seat that goes all the way across. The captain’s seats are comfortable to recline in. I took a nap kneeling in one once. I didn’t want to fall asleep for very long, so I wanted to stay mostly upright. Actually, we replaced the seats two years ago, but I lost track of the time.

I often have deep circles under my eyes for the first half of the day or longer. I haven’t been sleeping real well. Like Steven Wright said when someone asked him if he slept well, he said, “No, I made a few mistakes.” An exercise regimen is going to help that, and trying to get to bed at about the roughly same time each night. I’ve absorbed the concepts, and now it’s time to put them into practice.

We’re getting some snow here, but it’s not sticking down here in the valley. I think it’s snowed three times in the past two weeks, and it only stuck once in the early morning, but it was less than an inch. I’d say it was about ⅝ths of an inch. Why are people proud of how much snow they got? They act like it took some unusual talent of theirs to accomplish the magnificent feat of producing snow. Is there some prize? I keep expecting someone to step out from behind stage, complete with orchestra and confetti, and give a lifetime achievement award for the deepest snow generated by a person in a supporting role. It’s like when people catch fish. I don’t fish, but is there a technique to attract a larger fish to your hook? Is the picture next to the fish saying ‘look how talented I am’, or ‘look how incredibly lucky I am’? I’m not skeptical or anything… just curious.

Speaking of which, I got a new computer system about a month ago, just in time for me to slow down my blogging and internet activity. It’s not Vista’s fault, but it just happened to coincide. Vista has its obvious perks, though I’m wondering why they made a lot of things worse, as in more intrusive. Hello! If I want Bill Gates sitting in my lap every time I try to perform an operation, I’ll invite him over for crumpets first, but otherwise I think he should assume that I’m just too preoccupied to entertain him. I mean, I like the guy and all — what’s not to like about 50 billion dollars — but I don’t need to be constantly reminded that he rules the world. Too much of a good thing…

It’s interesting to me how Vista has more problems with the latest Internet Explorer than XP did. Did you hear that IE 12 is out? You didn’t know? It’s in triple beta right now, meaning it’s not expected to be officially released for six more years, and there are still three other releases before it comes out, but it’s always good to be one of the first. Then you can… say you were one of the first. (does that get you any brownie points?) Besides, six years from now, we’ll want to be using IE 15 beta by then, and won’t want to be messing around with any measly new releases.

Ever notice that people tend to want things that are sneak previews, just released, barely out of production, the latest, all-new, hot off the presses, etc.? Oh, incidentally, I’m wont to separate myself from the human race, as I don’t claim them collectively. Not that I’m too good for them, but I’ve got a plan, and their general modus operandi is really holding me back. I don’t mind being human per se, I mean, in terms of living and all… as if I had a choice in the matter. It’s just that we seem to be setting our sights lower, and while I’ll gleefully rub shoulders with all of you (not that you’re ‘them’), in the process I’m going to also be looking to the skies…

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

Philosophy Soccer