29 January 2010

The art of communication

Whenever I log into my yahoo mail account there is one of a few rotating pictures there to greet me and entice potential subscribers. Most I get. This one I don’t. It says to me, “Reconnect with that relative you couldn’t stand who always pinched your cheek at the family reunion. Maybe they won’t pinch now that you’re older and too cool to be pinched with your mad zone-out skilz. Maybe they’ll just hug you and you can pretend they aren’t even there.”

26 January 2010

What pets, paranoia and poop have in common

We have a new pet in our home. His name is Charlie. Charlie is a guinea pig. I went to the pet store intending to purchase another hamster (following the passing of our dear Lucy hamster). This was just a couple days prior to Christmas and we planned to keep it a secret from the kids until Christmas morning. As I waited for an employee to assist me, I passed the time watching the mice, rats, guinea pigs, and other assorted pets. I also read the posters talking about how to select the right pet and care for them. I read enough that by the time an employee was free to help me I decided to ask her opinion on pet selection. She asked how old my children were (six under eight). She said that a hamster probably wasn’t the best option for us since they can get crabby and have little attitudes. Because of this they are prone to nipping small children that aren’t delicate enough with them. It was true that the kids had very little interaction with Lucy because we were afraid they might try and hug her or drop her if she squirmed. The employee recommended a guinea pig. She said they actually enjoyed being played with and would “popcorn” (pop up off the ground repeatedly when excited). Further, she said they were far more tolerant of small children. Of course, the downside was that that they were more expensive to purchase, maintain, and required a larger living space. Still, I figured that it would be better to pay a bit more and get an interactive family pet rather than a look-but-don’t-touch pet.

There were only two guinea pigs to choose from; an all white one with red eyes and a black and white one with black eyes. The employee left me to decide while she went to separate some rats that were involved in mortal combat and bloodying up their cage. I could just see my kids freaking out at a fire-eyed albino devil ghost pet, so I opted for the black and white one. I bought the requisite cage, bedding, food, toys, etc. and brought the critter home in a box just large enough to contain it. Once home I set everything up and placed our pet in his new home.

Christmas came and the children were intrigued and pleased to meet the new member of our family. He was very skittish so we didn’t let them stay in the room with him long. We decided on the name Charlie. Over the next few days Charlie hadn’t calmed down and would hide in his cardboard tube home whenever anyone entered the room. I was concerned that something was wrong so I investigated guinea pig behavior via the internet. I quickly learned that it was common for guinea pigs to take several weeks to grow accustomed to new surroundings and people. You see, in their natural habitat, they are “a prey animal.” Pet experts advised to get them used to you slowly, don’t make any sudden movements in their presence, no loud noises, and don’t “loom” over their cages as they will see you as a predator. They all agreed that it would likely take a few weeks, but not to worry your pet would soon get to know you and start to get excited at the sound of your voice before too long.

Well, it’s been over a month now and Charlie will only even come out of hiding when my wife is in the room and not too near. Me? He has bitten me two of the three times I have held him. When I move slowly to pick him up (at a minimum we have to remove him from the cage to clean it) he thrashes about his cage as though the Hounds of Baskerville were nipping at his toes, flinging bedding and Charlie poop about the room. I bring him food every day, talk calmly to him, and try to act as un-predator like as possible, and he still looks at me like any moment I will skewer him for a tasty snack.

Sometimes while smiling as sweetly as I can and ducking flying bits of turd I experience fleeting fantasies about running into the room yelling “PREY, PREY, PREY!” and doing some very intense looming to show him the behavior of which he should really be afraid. Unfortunately I do not think this would do much to endear me to him any quicker. So I stick to my patient caring for the poor little spooked rodent and waiting for the day he realizes I have no desire whatsoever to find out that fried Charlie tastes just like chicken.

10 January 2010

The internet: Synergy or Collective Absurdity?

Does information sharing on the internet allow us to pool our collective resources, making our combined intelligence one enhanced super brain capable of solving complex problems with the click of a mouse; or is it no more than an ability to globally seek out the thoughts of those who share our own opinions, and thus find validation through community in even the most socially alien aspects of our lives?

On the internet, everyone can be their own doctor. Just ask Not satisfied? Get a second opinion at or I mean, who would be foolish enough to entrust your physical and mental well being with a mere human doctor. That is SO last decade. But why stop with health? Need to know the answer to the meaning of life? Try and you will get all 61,100,000 answers at your fingertips with one simple click. But that’s kid stuff. Pull up and they’ll give you 322,000,000 – that’s 260,900,000 more for the same effort! Surely we have reached the peak of civilization when over 300 million people can tell you what the meaning of life is in a sentence or two. Now that’s synergy. Just ask Google.

And what about all those misunderstood souls out there whose only desire is to collect toenails and not be scorned for it. Don’t worry, you can find solace in the fact that there are many like you. Scott Matthew even has a YouTube video of his massive collection. Go on, you too can share. Maybe the clip you post today of snail racing on or will become a hot viral video tomorrow.

But what is that you say? You think collecting toenails and snail racing are quite ordinary actually, and there is no one out there who can truly understand your quirks and exactly what you are going through? Well you are wrong. No, don’t waste your time trying to talk to a flesh and blood being. You’ll find no empathy from their kind. You need the welcoming web of cyberspace to fill the void in your heart. You are not alone. The internet is here for you. Be comforted in the soft glow of your computer screen telling you that ritual skunk sniffing at the public pool is a normal act and bears no shame. Stand Sit Slump proud as you hunker over your computer and blog about your latest adventure French kissing geckos in the wild of your back yard. Show your determination via post after post about the mutant zombie rats infiltrating the government. Revel in the power you wield over your five returning visitors and three misguided web searchers daily. Be one with the blogosphere.

Finally, do not worry that any of this may alienate you from the unimaginative who recklessly venture beyond the boundaries of their home and Wi-Fi security net on a regular basis. The currently deprived will be assimilated soon. That or their kind will simply die off. After all, how is their species to propagate without the aid of online dating sites like and

In fact, everyone who does not dedicate at least seven hours a day to browsing the net will be dead by 2020. This is an urban legend prophecy written by me and supported by Bill Gates who will pay you for everyone to whom you forward this message via email, Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace. I already got a check in the mail for $123,412.18! This is absolutely true. It’s true because it is on the internet. I put it there. And the internet doesn’t lie (don’t worry, I already checked


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