Tuesday, July 23, 2013

... No Cure For The Summertime Blues

*Original musical version released in 1958, written and performed by Eddie Cochran.

Summer, more accurately mid-summer, a week after the M.L.B. All Star Break,  colloquially referred to as the Dog Days. Welcome dogs everywhere. Of course, if you're like me and have a dog, you already know that every day is dog day, or in the case of my dog, Princess Dog Day. Ever notice how even a seemingly dumb dog can upon occasion display flashes of sheer brilliance, pretty much get you to do anything it wants, and at some point you just have to stop feeling bad about yourself for being so easily manipulated by a dog?

Anyway, Dog Days.  Courtesy of the ancient Romans who, apparently, in addition to inventing sewer systems, tossing Christians to lions and slaughtering barbarians, occasionally glanced up at the night sky.

Note* A little known fact; up until two hundred years or so ago, nights were dark and the night sky was actually visible. Who knew?

The Romans, it seems, were intrigued by Sirius, brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, which according to some earlier Greek guy resembled nothing so much as a big dog. Hence Sirius became the Dog Star. As Sirius and our own Sun are in conjunction during the summer (rise and set at the same relative time) the Romans mistakenly surmised that the energy emanated by the Big Dog star was combining with the energy of the Sun, thereby explaining the typical summer heat waves experienced in Rome.

You see where this is going, right?  Hottest part of summer = Dog Days.

(We shouldn't be too hard on the ancient Romans for assuming that a star approximately 86 trillion kilometers from Earth could have an effect on its weather. Recall that until the 16th Century anyone with the temerity to suggest that the Earth was not the epicenter of the Universe was routinely burned at the stake. Until the late 19th Century the scientific consensus was that everything in the universe - time, space, mass, energy - hung like Christmas tree ornaments from an invisible, light-propagating medium called the Luminiferous Aether. It required the glial-rich brain of Einstein to put this wacky idea to rest.)

Note*  Einstein was an avid dog lover, frequently observed on long walks conversing excitedly with his pet sheepdog; although exactly how much, if any, the animal's insights contributed to what would eventually become the Special and General Theories of Relativity is unknown.

So let's assume that many of us are currently ensconced in the hot and humid Dog Days of summer, perhaps secretly longing for winter, despite the fact that we absolutely hate winter, complain endlessly about it while we're in it. Maybe you're thinking, okay, you got me there, but at least in winter I don't have to spend half my time hunting down and killing mosquitoes. Putting aside for the moment the karmic implications of doing such a thing, this segues nicely into ...

Curious facts about mosquitoes:

Mosquitoes can smell the warm blood of a mammal at up to sixty meters.
They are particularly attracted to people with O type blood.
They are especially attracted to the blood of beer drinkers.
The blood of a pregnant woman is considered a special treat.
A mosquito is 500 times more likely to bite you during a full moon.

The obvious conclusion:  The last thing you'd want to be in summer is a beer drinking, pregnant, scantily clad woman with O type blood trapped outdoors during a full moon on a typical Dog Day evening.

F.Y.I. World high & low temperatures for yesterday, July 22nd:

Ouargla, Algeria:  119.7 F  (48.7 C)

Davis Lgb 46 AWS, Antarctica:  -94.7 F   (-70.4 C)

In terms of appealing summer destinations, more or less a toss up.

But then as Neil Young said (sang, actually):

"I'd rather be burned in Canada, than freezing in the south."

 **Correction:  The above was never uttered by Neil Young. The line actually comes from the song
"We can talk," performed by The Band on the album "Music From Big Pink."  Apologies to Levon Helm and the gang


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Brain Hacking, Eyeball Licking And Other Fun Tips For Summer

Part One:

Sure, there's plenty of stuff scientists should probably be doing:

*Coming up with an easy-to-understand way to convince the right-wing naysayers that global warming is not some sort of liberal conspiracy (something written at an elementary school level, with plenty of pictures. 'Here's a photo of Dick and Jane bursting into flames in Death Valley.'  And, of course, a title which draws them in, without letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak, too soon. Something like,   THE BIBLE  of global warming  )

*Figuring a means to compel the vast multitude of twitter users to think, in however muddled a fashion, before they actually tweet

*Calculating the adverse impact on the planet once all 1.4 billion Chinese start driving cars (China already holds the world record for traffic jams - 1327 kilometers long. People sat in their cars for up to 12 days, waiting, presumably, for a miracle, possibly in the form of an alien spacecraft appearing and vaporizing all the vehicles ahead of them. Eyewitnesses reported an ominously thick black cloud hovering over the roadway, subsequently determined to have been only slightly less toxic than a full-blown nuclear power plant meltdown)

 *Developing a vaccine for the Rapidly Deteriorating Intelligence Virus ( R.D.I.V.), which has apparently already reached global epidemic proportions ( the problem here, of course, is that the scientific community is not necessarily immune to the virus, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the dumber the scientist, the less likely he or she is to come up with a cure for dumbness)

 *Finding all the missing dimensions postulated by String Theory, because it really is such a cool theory, and if you're anything like me, you, too, want to know where all the missing gravity went, and also those extra dimensions might provide a safe place for us to hide once things in regular three dimensional space start getting really scary.


As it turns out, discovering safe hiding places is the last thing on the collective scientific mind these days; in fact, it's the elimination of that one completely reliable and impervious-to-all-intrusions hiding place that science has set its sights on.  Your brain.

A group of rogue researchers in California has apparently successfully developed prototype technology for reading minds. At the present time, effective mind reading requires fitting a large, metallic cranial cap to the subject's head, attaching an array of sensors to various parts of his or her  body (the risk of electrocution during the process is, researchers insist, minimal; about as likely as spontaneously bursting into flames while visiting Death Valley) and conniving him or her to ingest copious quantities of LSD.

In a recent interview, however, project leader Dr. Wilfred Wigglesworth revealed that a practical, affordable mind-reading app should be available within the next few months, easily downloadable to any upper-end smart phone.
And many of you might be thinking, how cool is that? A smart phone that's also a psychic phone. Your own personal psychic hotline.  I absolutely have to have one.  In which case, I suggest you think again!

One of things that occasionally terrifies me is the thought of being surrounded by millions of people, all of them constantly thinking stuff,  minds swirling with fuzzy, tedious thoughts, always threatening to somehow escape their skulls, and having to imagine the awful consequences of what that would be like.
Bottom line: Last thing I want to know is what the weirdo standing next to me waiting for the light to change has going on in his head.

Consider:  You run into a guy you haven't seen in years, which is fine because you never liked him, found him annoying, passive aggressive and not particularly bright. However he somehow manages to cajole you into having a cup of coffee with him. You sit down, slip out your phone and engage the mind-reading app.

Guy says:  You know, it's uncanny. I was just thinking about you and then like wham, there you were.

You check your phone:  Lie.  He hasn't thought about you in at least five years. Also isn't thinking about you now.

He says:  Must be one of those Jungian things, you know, synchronicity.

Phone:  Another lie.   He has never read Jung. Only knows the term synchronicity because his ex-girlfriend invoked their obvious total lack thereof as an additional excuse for dumping him.

He says:  In any case, it's great to see you again.

Phone:  Big lie.  He's thinking, just when you think your luck couldn't get any worse, you run into this son-of-a-bitch. If I wasn't so damn passive aggressive, I could have just given him the finger and walked away. At least the prick doesn't remember the 200 bucks I owe him. Come to think of it, maybe I can hit him up for another hundred. Better still, I can just rob him.

You're thinking, damn, why did I leave my gun at home? But you say:   So, what are you up to these days?

He says:   Let's see, I started my own software company, eventually sold it, made a bundle, bought a co-op, where I currently reside with my supermodel girlfriend and now I'm working on the next great American novel.

Phone:  Unmitigated Whopper.   In fact, lost his job at the post office two years ago, forced to move back in with his parents, until they got fed up and kicked him out. Currently shares a cardboard box under a bridge with a Mormon couple who may or may not be brother and sister.

Okay, partly your fault for agreeing to have coffee with the guy, but you've got the app and how are you supposed to resist using it? But seriously, was any of that anything you really needed to know?


Stay tuned for Part Two, a discussion of Japan's latest erotic and completely disgusting craze, eyeball licking, a.k.a. worming.  Pros and cons, techniques, how to spot and avoid these tongue-wagging trend setters before one of them manages to start licking your eye,  etc.......

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Readership Inexplicably Surges / Bloggers Panic

  All of a sudden - out of the blue, one might even be inclined to say - the blog is getting a relatively large number of hits, and those of us here responsible for content are clearly feeling the pressure. Previously, the assumption was that readership was limited to a group of five or six people, all of whom felt some perverse sense of moral obligation to occasionally check in on the fictional lunatic's progress.

"Oh crap! There's a new posting on the dog blog."
"He'll never know if you don't read it."
"Oh, he'll know. I don't know how he knows, but he always knows. It's actually a little creepy."
"You're actually a little creepy."
"And morally obligated."
"Oh, for God's sake!"

When you presume you're writing for six people who know you well enough to be mostly immune to disappointment, and who also feel you have some sort of bizarre, god-like power over them, you can pretty much write whatever you want. Then you wake up one morning and you have a legitimate audience, spanning multiple continents, with expectations, no less. People, in other words, who actually exist, with curious minds, their actions - i.e. reading your blog - an effort to at least 'temporarily stave off the threat of meaninglessness.'  Little do they realize.

They seek meaning, from you, of all people, despite your ill-disguised obsession with disparaging the concept at every opportunity.

"So what your saying is that you put all your energy into saying things you don't mean."

(This courtesy of my therapist, Dr. Suzie Suzuki, whom I'm hoping will be able to help me cope with the sudden predicament of having to be relevant, although I'm not entirely doubt-free.)

"No, I always say what I mean," I tell her. "But what I say often has no meaning."

"So we may infer that the statement 'I always say what I mean' is in fact meaningless."

"Hence my current dilemma."

( You're no doubt wondering why I would be seeing a Japanese therapist. The Japanese are notorious for not even believing in psychology. They prefer to see human behavior as a function of the influence of obscure nature spirits, residual samurai impulses and, oddly enough, cranial size. The Journal of Japanese Cognitive Research, to which Dr. Suzuki is a regular contributor, is actually a comic book depicting the zany exploits of precocious preteens whose amazing superpowers are frequently misdiagnosed as symptoms of early onset psychosis.)

"Perhaps your readers read in an effort to demean meaning, discredit it, as it were; they unconsciously seek out the negation of meaning, which conveniently coincides with your fairly facile efforts to hoodwink the blog-reading public with pseudo-philosophical claptrap."

"If only I could believe that."

"In any case, I should measure your head."

After determining that my westernized skull is far too small to contain a fully functioning adult brain  - which I'm guessing is not a good thing - Suzuki informs me that I'm suffering from Retrograde Blogger Anxiety, or R. B. A., symptomatic of a more comprehensive and, needless to say, more debilitating Social Networking Phobia, or S. N. P.

"To put it in layman's terms, you have until now based your tenuous identity on a sort of solipsistic self-denial."

"Say what?"

"The comfort derived from an anonymous non-existence has been usurped, your counterfeit superhero status exposed."

"Are you getting this stuff straight from the comic book?"

"Are you suggesting it's not a valid source of therapeutic insight?"

"Just tell me what to do."

"It should be obvious. Face your fear, look the beast directly in the eyes, howl at the waxing moon, eat more tofu."


"Okay, fine, I have no idea. But I am definitely going to start reading your stupid blog."

More on this later. Until then, Welcome New Readers, whoever you may be.....