Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't Skip This

This is our first Leap Day ever on Murrmurrs, so I didn't want to skip over it. It takes us, as a planet, approximately 365-1/4 days to get all the way around the sun and back again, and that isn't divisible by anything useful, so we just throw in the extra day every four years, which makes people born on February 29th feel special. It's the least we can do for them, since they die so young.

But we didn't always do this. Julius Caesar got the leap ball rolling, in 45 B.C. It had to be nerve-wracking back then for the ancients, watching their calendar wind down, inching closer and closer to zero, with no idea that at the very last moment Jesus would come along and spin it back the other direction again. On the other hand, it probably gave them a steely view of reality that brought their own lives and work into focus, and they got a lot done. In contrast, we A.D. folk see our lives spooling out into a hazy distance, and are so confounded by the notion of Forever that we waste our time polishing up our piety to trade in on the good seats in heaven, no matter who gets hurt. Or, we play Farmville.

But before the Julian calendar, even without the tension of the dwindling years, things were a mess. The Roman calendar had twelve months, for a total of 355 days in the year, which wasn't really enough to seal the deal, solar-wise. So they put in a fake month between February and March, but not every year. Some years would be 355 days, and others would be 377. Then they left out the bonus month at odd intervals so that the calendar would be right every 24 years. That got it close enough for government work, but unfortunately the Pontifex was in charge of deciding when to heave in the extra month or leave it out. The Pontifex was supposed to be outside of politics, but he had power and, often enough, a fondness for a certain party, sort of like Chief Justice Roberts, so if his buddies were in power, he'd opt for the long year no matter what. It was like they gerrymandered Time. Before you knew it, it was snowing in July and people were bringing hot dogs and sparklers to Thanksgiving dinner.

Worse, even if someone honestly put in the fake month right on time, it didn't mean the word got out to the hinterlands. Those folks would charge right into March too early, and before long they knew who won the World Series before anyone else did, and totally cleaned up. Something had to be done.

Finally someone suggested they just go ahead and make every year 365-1/4 days long, but people got all jumpy on that last day, when the sun snapped right off and fell back over the horizon just before noon. So they decided to round down and add a day every four years. For the most part that did the trick, but it still got things enough out of whack that we lost a day every four hundred years. Only the most anal people noticed; you could spot them frowning and tapping at their calendars and holding them up to their ears. These kinds of people have a way of being annoying and eventually the Gregorian calendar was developed to settle them down. It's just a refinement; we still add a day every four years, except in years divisible by 100, mostly. This works pretty well. The other way of going about it would be to pass legislation declaring that the earth travels around the sun in precisely 365 days. That'll have to wait for a Republican administration.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rolling Out A New Welcome Mitt

With two more primaries coming up on Tuesday, polls continue to show Newt Gingrich tracking well among the pissy, and Rick Santorum is coming up hard on the rear. Concerned establishment Republicans have begun to express doubt about Mitt Romney's package, and he has been advised to take new measures beyond declaring expediency as a bedrock principle. Work is being done on the personal as well as policy front, with an emphasis on the steadfastness of his positions, including some that are still under construction.


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Details are sketchy, but according to his new hair tousler, Mr. Romney and a fresh dog will begin touring the country in a bus, the Rolling Plunder Express. Fidough, a certified pound mutt with a stars-and-bars bandana, will have the run of the top of the coach, where he will bark the bark of freedom. To project vigor and enthusiasm, Mr. Romney will bound out at every stop and roll up his sleeves just enough to reveal Nascar logos on his special holy underwear.

It is thought to be the best strategy to own up to his Massachusetts health care plan, under which all residents are affordably covered, by stressing that this was a youthful indiscretion, for which he is very sorry. He is expected to introduce a bold vision in the health care debate that will slash costs dramatically by endorsing a new line of Christian Science Medical Centers. Those who complain that the franchise amounts to little more than a chain of Jell-O restaurants with no ambience will be promptly accused of waging war on religion. After emotionally recalling his own hardscrabble upbringing in utero, he will unveil a new proposal, which will cover every citizen from just before fertilization to birth, equipping them with tiny little concealed-weapons permits and other protections under the full extent of the law. In addition, innocent future American lives will be saved by the passage of the Sperm Empowerment Act, under which contraception will be defunded and semen delivery system enhancement pharmaceuticals will be offered for free in little candy dishes by the door at Walmart. Failure to enact this will be spun as discrimination against the elderly sperm hosts. Women will benefit, inasmuch as roughly half of the resulting fetuses are projected to be women, after nine months of incubation, labor, and up to eighteen wallet-draining years of care.


In other areas, Mr. Romney is on record as affirming that the sacred institution of marriage is between one man and one woman, at a time, although he believes certain accommodations might be made to confer many similar rights to homosexual couples, as long as such a union is not called marriage, but rather "a filthy abomination in the sight of the Lord." He further pledges to podcast a weekly ecumenical Prayer Breakfast featuring plenty of pork products.

On the energy front, Romney will continue to castigate Obama for nixing the Keystone project, which, he will point out, would bring thousands of temporary jobs to America building the pipeline to transport Canadian oil to a gulf port for export abroad, until we have a chance to devastate our own resources.

His experience as a businessman will be touted as giving him unique insight into slashing the bloated federal budget, beginning with the elimination of ethanol subsidies, except in the corn-producing states, and the elimination of all military bases in states with fewer than four electoral votes. Regarding the military budget, its growth will be reined in to two digits. Under the Romney Doctrine, excessive military force will be limited to regions with serious mineral resources, and the grateful recipients of our military attention will be reminded that freedom isn't free, although we would be happy to work out an extended payment plan.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How To Make Money On Your Ass

Viggle has created a new app for the iPhone that rewards you for the time you and your fanny spend parked in front of the TV. And I say it's about time. We're not doing this for our health, you know. The phone recognizes what shows are on and awards you points for minutes spent watching--more for certain shows, and bonuses for commercials. Accumulate enough points and you can win a five-dollar credit at Burger King. The Sloth Fairy slides the credit right into your phone, and you can redeem it if you ever scrape yourself off the sofa. To thwart people who cheat by leaving their phones in the TV room by itself, the app will be triggered by a methane detector. Viggle is hoping to increase the size of the TV audience, and this should do it.

I spend more time than I probably should watching TV. My intellect is too weak to overrule my body, which overvalues physical comfort, and whenever I'm comfortable I do not care to be dislodged. If I'm stretched out on a recliner in a quilt with a lap mammal and a remote, torpor ambles right to the top of my list of virtues. I also have a real hard time getting out of a hot shower, where you don't even really need to leave to pee. Bed is the best of all. I won't get out of it until I have to. I sleep in a cold room under a stack of quilts high enough to press a diamond out of a briquette. I can ignore a sense of duty for hours before removing myself. The last time I felt as good as I feel in bed, I was in a uterus.

We don't use any fancy devices and have only an old-fashioned cable TV, so our habit is to find a show we like and a channel that syndicates it and schedules it hour after hour for months on end. The Boston Legal years are a blur. Next up was the House marathon. We've seen every episode of House three times but keep thinking there might be one we've missed. I began to suspect I had spent too much time in front of the tube the day our neighbor's basement flooded. A committee convened, but nobody could figure out where the water was coming in; the walls appeared dry; it seemed possible it was coming up from the sewer through the bathroom drain, but there was no good explanation. Things were getting tense, as they always do when men are equally confounded but don't think they can pitch a hissy fit in front of each other. After about a half hour of batting around possible diagnoses, I found myself thinking:  it's sarcoidosis. It's always sarcoidosis. Except it couldn't be sarcoidosis, because we'd only been there a half hour. In another fifteen minutes it would look like rhabdo or a rare tropical infection. I poked at the wallboard thoughtfully, with an air of engagement, and let the men puzzle it out, confident that the solution would arrive at the 55-minute mark.

The morning I woke up with the theme to Two And A Half Men going through my head, I knew I had a problem, but that I'd think about it after logging another couple hours in bed. Things are often clearer in the light of day.

But that night, in the blue television light, I realized I have no problem at all. I'm going to get me an iPhone with a Viggle app and go for the grand prize: ComaDoze, the memory-foam recliner with the built-in Cheez Doodle dispenser and insulin pump. Don't bother me, I'm working.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Uff Da! Viking Blood

When I was the age I should have been reading about spunky girl detectives or Victorian maids, my dad brought home a copy of Njal's Saga, finally in paperback after a thousand years in vellum. Njal's was one of several Norse sagas originating in tenth-century Iceland, and I devoured it. I'm not sure why. I might have been trying to locate some sign of gusto in my heritage. I'd already preferred to think of my own origins as leaning to the Norwegian side, although it was not a spicy bunch, my maternal relatives pale and mild-mannered and modest to a fault. I discounted the contribution from my dour Puritan forebears who were brought into the gene pool to introduce blotchiness. But I simply had nothing in the way of ethnicity. Norwegians have ethnicity in the same way dust bunnies have personality: they might, but nobody cares. As a people, they could use some horseradish. I wanted zest and mettle. I wanted brio. I wanted family that would laugh haw-haw-haw right there at the dinner table.

Njal and his friends delivered. The saga gallops along in bite-sized chapters, each one introducing a character without fanfare and killing him spectacularly. Wonderful characters: Ulf the Unwashed and Brynjolf the Unruly. These were people who expressed themselves with a broad-axe. They did not shrivel and die; they were cloven down the middle, landing east and west at once. The more gifted ones lasted a few chapters but that was all; the biggest heroes took down dozens first, single-handedly, lopping off limbs and heads until finally succumbing in a picturesque way astride a mountain of severed body parts. For instance, they could be ripped open and have their intestines nailed to a tree and be marched around it until they ran out of guts. And not only did they march, but they laughed heartily, haw-haw-haw, right up until their diaphragms came loose. An insult to their manhood was all that was required to get the ball rolling, and then vengeance kept it in play for generations. Any one of these men was one tiny-penis joke away from being decapitated. These were plot-driven people; these were people I could be proud of.

Trouble is, they didn't resemble my living Norwegian relatives in the least. My relatives were not threat to anyone who wasn't a standing field of wheat. They landed in a featureless plain and bundled up and they perfected the art of beige cooking, and gosh-darn they were nice. Somewhere in the latter part of the nineteenth century they had gotten weary of strapping themselves and their possessions to a steep fjord, and they traveled to North Dakota, where someone laid a potato down on the ground and it stayed put, and that was good enough for them. It was darn good, in fact.

What had  happened to my spear-wielding precursors, who might try to win a woman's' heart by murdering someone for her? It seems to me that it is just possible that they sliced and lopped their violent selves right out of the genetic stew, leaving behind only a handsome bunch with strong character and an inoffensive nature. Could that work today? We have a surplus of world leaders who suffered slights in their youth and were belittled by their fathers or a generic woman until they felt a war coming on. Could the kind of man who would go to war because someone said something bad about his daddy be persuaded to gird up his loins and his genetic material and go one-on-one with an axe till his violent ways are selected out? Sadly, no. And it doesn't work if he just gets a hundred thousand kids to do the war for him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Beetle After My Own Heart

In the middle of the night, in the dark moments reserved for anxiety and existential dread, it suddenly came to me that I really don't know much at all about dung beetles. And in the very next redemptive moment, I thought: this can be rectified.

After all, this should be my soul beetle.  Here is a critter more interested in poop than I am. The dung beetle seeks it out, collects it, sculpts it, rolls it around, eats it, and raises the chilluns in it. Compared to that, I have only a passing interest.

The true dung beetles, as opposed to those merely drawn to the lifestyle, are members of the Scarab family. Some, called Dwellers, are content to live in shit--we all know the type; some, the Tunnelers, prefer to bury it; but the coolest ones are wholly Rollers. They form dung into perfect spheres and roll them over the landscape. Any kind of dung will do, but most prefer it from a herbivorous source, and why not? That comes in pies and apples. A small underclass of Rollers with an unhealthy sense of entitlement prefers to wait for rabbit doots, which come pre-balled.

The shit balls themselves are a triumph of architecture. They are perfectly round and roll nicely in a straight line, which is important to the dung beetle, who, in a moment of his evolution that had great consequences for dung beetledom to come, has elected to roll it with his hind feet, backwards. This behavior developed at an evolutionary crossroads comparable to the juncture at which early hominids lost the ability to swing from trees and had to substitute religion to soothe their trudging souls. The dung beetle, operating blind, likes to get a read on his direction and then start pedaling away. Every so often he stops long enough to get up on his shit ball and dance. This is a satisfied beast.

Usually the balls are taken away to be eaten, but sometimes they are formed into a Brood Ball by a paired set of beetles, and the female lays her eggs inside of the Brood Ball and the larvae eat their way out. It is a tidy arrangement. In human terms, it would be a gigantic ball with a milky center, an inner shell of strained carrots, a middle core consisting of ten years of balanced nutrition surrounded by a mantle of pizza and soda pop, with the whole thing soaked in beer and whiskey. By the time our baby has eaten his way out of that, he's ready to roll, one way or the other. And the dung beetle replicates all of that with shit alone.

The ancient Egyptians, who did not have TV, spent a lot of time looking at this beetle, and found much to admire. In particular, they believed the dung beetle represented the Sun. Their best minds had already discovered that the sun did not travel from east to west, as it appeared to, but rather backwards, from west to east. And here the lowly dung beetle was propelling his ball of shit, which looks exactly like the sun, if you squint, backwards. They furthermore assumed that all of the beetles were male and they were able to replicate themselves by jacking off in the dung balls. Which was more or less what the sun was presumed to do overnight when no one was looking. So the science of sun-to-beetle equivalency was a slam dunk. Hoo-Ra, they said, and began carving scarabs out of jade as fast as they could. And that's why I love ancient Egyptians. Anyone who can look at a ball of shit and be reminded of the Sun is a poet, in my book.

Meanwhile modern scientists are hard at work. Already the dung beetle has been declared the strongest of insects, gram for gram, capable of rolling 1141 times its own weight, which means that someone, somewhere, made a project of carefully weighing beetles and shit balls and developing tiny harnesses and traces and applying math to it all, and that's why I love scientists.

Much was learned about the dung beetle world in the 19th century by the pioneering scientist Jean-Henri Fabre, the Father of Modern Entomology. Fabre it was who discovered that the dung beetles did not congregate in order to advance beetle society, but were merely trying to rip off each other's balls. Fabre is famous for another experiment in which he arranged a set of Processionary Caterpillars, known to follow each other closely on a scent trail, in a loop on the lip of a pot, and watched them go around and around. The caterpillars, known as the Unwanted Stepchildren of Modern Entomology, continued marching in a loop for seven days, after which they beat up M. Fabre, trashed his place, stole his coin collection, and bought a bunch of meth.

Late-breaking scientific work is gaining insight into the frolicsome Shit Ball Dance, too. Researcher Emily Baird has rigged up shit ball rolling fields and introduced obstacles into them, and (bless her heart) fashioned little hats for the beetles, and she has come to the conclusion that the beetle climbs aboard his dung ball in order to track the polarized light from the sun and correct course, if need be. Essentially, the dashboard with the GPS is on top of the dung ball, and it's also the spot with the best coverage, in case he needs to phone for help.

So say the experts. But I like to think that maybe the ancient Egyptians just thought scarabs were fun to watch and easy to carve in jade. And that sometimes, when you've made a perfect shit ball and you're rolling it in the sun, you just gotta get up on it and dance.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whatever Could The "C" Stand For?

I’m not the expert. I could be a candidate for the show “What Not To Wear” based on my underpants alone. I don’t like my underpants and they don’t do anything for anybody else either. I even wear them inside-out to keep the seams and poky bits on the outside, which really seals the deal, aesthetically. But when I saw the new C-string, I found myself asking, “what is the point of underpants, anyway?” Not the new ones—the point of them is obviously right there up the ass, but what is the point of underwear in general?

The C-string is designed for women who find the thong too dowdy. Referring to it as underpants is like calling Roast Bacterium an entrée. It is an attempt to reduce the underwear to its most essential part. If you wanted a more minimalist approach, you could just knit your pubic hair in place.

It’s sproingy, I assume. It snaps right into position, like some kind of crotch caliper. I’m not one to judge, but it seems to me we’re heading down a narrow path to a dark place here. Any underwear that needs to be tucked behind a hemorrhoid to keep it from going astray has a downside. I’m assuming the C-string shares some of the same technology with the underwire bra. And the underwire has a habit of working its way out, leading to sudden perforation, unexplained yelping, that sort of thing. If the same thing were to occur in the underpants zone, I would sooner admit to episodic Tourette’s than own up.

I did make an effort at modernity once. My friend Gina’s daughter had bought her a thong and she instantly passed it on to me. “It’s clean,” she said. “I only had it on for five seconds. You try it.” In spite of the warning implied, I put it on, found the hand-mirror, checked out the rear view, somebody screamed, and then the thong completely disappeared, leaving behind only a sensation I had not experienced since we got rid of the bad toilet paper.

Enthusiasts of the C-string appreciate the lack of panty lines, which—they point out—even afflict thong-wearers. But any attempt to avoid the rear-view visible thong misses the entire point of it, which is to draw attention to a negotiable area of the anatomy in order to strike a deal. “I’ve got something in my pants,” the thong says, pointing, “that you might want to take a look at, and it will only cost you dinner and drinks.” The crotch-caliper goes at the same transaction even more directly: “I already am willing to plant a stick up my ass. What else might I be willing to do?”

On its face, I distrust underwear with a lot of engineering in them. I might make an exception for an edible chastity belt that required suitors to earn their way in. Otherwise, keep it simple.

Men’s underwear, if anything, is even odder. The briefs do seem to offer something in the way of support or confinement or hiding-away. I don’t have anything flapping around in that area, so I don't know if perhaps a certain swaddling is a comfort. But boxers don’t seem to have any function at all. Boxers are the towel on the parakeet cage. Just something to throw over the occupants to settle them down. They’re there to let the wearer know there are even larger pants on the way. They’re like a training tool for the junk-whisperer: here’s a tiny, lightweight pair of pants, they say. Are we all right? Good? Okay now. Let’s try something a little bigger. Their main function is as a first-responder in a crisis flatulence situation.

Back in the day, it was popular to have underwear emblazoned with the days of the week. I can tell from my vitamin-dispenser that that wouldn’t work out well now. At some point I’d be wearing Tuesday and Wednesday at the same time to catch up. There really isn’t much of a point to underwear at my stage in life. Mostly it’s there to fend off the trouser seam when I bend over. With a long enough skirt, I know a way to get panty lines to plumb disappear.





Wednesday, February 8, 2012

PootieFact

Introducing PootieFact, an occasional feature in which our roving reporter Pootie seeks to separate the factual from the fatuous. Our first guest, Mr. Newt Gingrich, has kindly consented to be interviewed in the interest of affordable publicity.


In this election year, many are asking why Americans should trust the Republican Party with our economic recovery when it is the Republican principles of deregulation and tax reduction that got us into trouble in the first place.


The problem here, little dog, is that the deregulation and tax reduction have not been tried long and hard enough. Americans want a president with a firm grasp on our rising fortunes. And that president will be a Republican. Every one of us knew Obama's state of the union speech was pathetic, even before he delivered it. That's the kind of vision we need.

Obama has come under fire from Republicans for saying things could be worse. Should he have said things couldn't be worse? It sounds like there's no way he can do anything right.


Correct.

You, yourself, have referred to Barack Obama on several occasions as the "food stamp president." Many have seen this as thinly veiled code language directed at a racist audience. Do you have a comment?


That is as close to despicable as anything I can think of. That is an abomination. That is a fabrication of the lint-headed media.

Hey, now.


Listen. This racism thing is just another trumped-up charge meant to distract us from the big issues of the day. I have always said that the president is surprisingly articulate. But he is a major playa on the world stage and we cannot afford to have a man in that position making one jigabooboo after another. And you can quote me on that.

Others have pronounced you morally unfit to lead because of your serial infidelities. How do you react to that?


I'll tell you how I react to that. I react to that, which is even closer to despicable than the other thing, with the kind of barely controlled, manly outrage Americans like to see in a leader who will have to stand up to terrorists and liberals. Do you want a president who is so maritally passive as to stick to one thing even when it's not working? I don't, and I don't think America does either.

How about accusing Obama of not being an American?


Listen. I've always said he should just show us his birth certificate. End of story.

But he did show his birth certificate.


If I had been president, I would have showed it harder. I would have thrust it.

Let's move on.


Hey, now.

I see here you are proposing a base on the moon.


I am proposing a permanent Chinaman-free station on the moon, a showcase of American technology and a model for new resource depletion, manned by Cuban friends I will reach out to, and a couple of Jews, with a staff of little colored boys sweeping up.

It sounds prohibitively expensive.


On the contrary. All we need to do is jump-start the American entrepreneurial spirit and pay for the whole thing by raffling off prizes. IPads, hoodies, Starbucks gift certificates. Done.

Still, it is no coincidence that you made this proposal on the Space Coast in Florida, which is reeling from a loss of jobs. If you have similar proposals for the other states, that can start to add up.


Not necessarily. Our potato-based Aryan Monument in Idaho, 4 electoral votes, excites people, while remaining quite reasonable.

Do you have anything in mind for us here in Oregon?


Oregon. What kind of people do you have out there, again? White, mostly? Some Russians?

I don't see how that--yes. Pretty much.


Oregonians know what's best for them. What Oregonians need is for the federal government to get out of their way. We remove job-killing regulation and you can clear-cut your way to a new golf tourism economy.

Actually, we do miss the timber jobs, but we're still fond of our forests. We were thinking more along the lines of an artisanal toothpick factory. But we're pretty self-sufficient. There's not much we need. You could come down to the root cellar and rotate the canned peaches, maybe.


Consider them spun.

Michele Bachmann accused Barack Obama of going all over the world apologizing for America. Do you agree with her?


I do, and when I'm president, I will stand erect for America. The one time Obama should have apologized, he didn't. The Environmentalist-Wacko-In-Chief, in an unconscionable display of hypocrisy, refused to apologize to India for soiling her ocean with dead terrorist.

Surely you are not suggesting that the environment is not worthy of protection.


I am not. We have come very far in the protection of environmental degraders. In the last year alone, we have created hundreds of jobs on Madison Avenue and sunk millions of dollars into the rebranding of Coal.

What are we calling it now?


"Clean Coal."

But there are those who say that this does nothing to forestall a critical warming of the planet.  Do you not believe that human-caused climate change is occurring? A vast majority of climate scientists do.


And it is an unwise president who does not seek out dissenting opinion no matter how expedient or mercenary and give it equal weight. I will not be that kind of president. I will exercise due belligerence in every decision.

But they are saying that in another fifty years, America will suffer extremes of climate unmatched anywhere else on earth.


U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!







Saturday, February 4, 2012

Infecting The Blogosphere

One of the more annoying discoveries I have made is that there is such a thing as an "influential blogger." I'm not against the principle that someone who never gets out of pajamas could exert influence. I just don't know why it can't be me. I have opinions. I have desires to change the world. What I don't have is influence, and until recently, I didn't realize you could.

But there are whole lists of influential bloggers. Included is a blog that influences people to send in photos of their badly-spelling cats. This sucker gets millions of hits. Well, I can't have people sending in pictures of their cats. Murrmurrs is a one-cat blog and if one of my pictures of Tater saw a picture of another cat sidle into the text, it would get all fluffy and chase it into the blog roll. It's out of the question.

There are bloggers who become influential because they do meticulous research and have keen analytical minds, and they can be relied upon to deliver insightful content that helps people understand their world. Ha ha! Just kidding. The primary way of becoming an influential blogger is to make up something totally nuts and just fling it out there. People get all excited. That's how a peace-loving imam who wanted to establish a community gym and center for peace and understanding in the heart of New York City got revealed to be a guy who wanted to stone adulterers and force American women to wear the burka. No wait, that was Rick Santorum. Whatever. At any rate, America soon got in a froth of false righteousness, the imam got his comeuppance, and the blogger got a ton of hits. That's what I want too. So here goes:

(1) Scientists at the Whole Cloth Institute for Fabricated Studies have concluded that the use of leaf blowers causes unsightly blotching, anal seepage, and sudden, irreversible hair loss. Prolonged use can lead to a compulsion to burst into "The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring, Tra La" at major sporting events, and premature death. By homicide.

(2) Archaeologists investigating stone tablets recently discovered in the mountains of Chile have concluded that they are relics of the ancient, fabled Parapluidian culture that died out mysteriously five thousand years ago, leaving only the remains of an airstrip and a big pile of rocks with spooky eyeballs carved in them. Language experts noting the similarity of the runes to those of the Gullibilia tribe have been able to translate the tablets, which appear to predict the end of the world in the 21st century. The Parapluidians, due to their own extinction, are widely assumed to have been on to something. Mankind's demise will come about because of the wrath of a dark underground monster of immense power, the blood of which has been drawn to the surface against its will, turning nation against nation, and saturating the very air we breathe. Particularly in the developed world, vast populations are now preparing for the apocalypse, with many observers noting that the Earth is now perfectly aligned with Mars, as well as with Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and a number of other heavenly bodies all at the same time, although not all in a row or anything, but still. Many in positions of power are urging the use of burnt offerings of the blood of the monster as a form of appeasement, but archaeologists are banding together to report that the tablets say this is the exact wrong thing to do, and only ticks off the monster. The only way to avoid doom is to leave the monster undisturbed and creep quietly along the surface, taking in the sunshine.

(3) And last, a note to our friends across Asia. Word on the street is that ground CEO penis improves sexual potency.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Biological Weaponry

Our recent house guest Munny is a bright young woman who was looking for a living situation with other people. She claims to need a social atmosphere. I'm just the opposite. I want to live alone with at most one other person who also wants to live alone. I used to think this was because I was so good at amusing myself, and maybe that's what it was at first. Now I've got different reasons. And it all comes down to estrogen.

Estrogen does a remarkable variety of things, some  of it related to the continuation of the species, and some of it out of pure obstrepery. It sets about to provision you, as a girl, with everything it thinks you need to become an adult woman, according to the evolution handbook, whether or not this is the manual you want to use. It is responsible for an increase in body fat, hair, uterine growth, and laundry. And it throws in some features you might not have anticipated.

What sticks out in most people's minds are the breasts. Everyone is always real impressed with the breasts,  including their owners, who don't realize that they will eventually turn into one more thing you have to hoist up and clean under. "Thanks for the rack," I told Estrogen, initially, and quickly learned to use it to attract people with nearly no effort at all. Once a suitable person was attracted--let's call him the "target"--estrogen then threw in extra effects such as unpredictable weeping fits and bolts of rage, ensuring the target will be so off-balance he won't know whether to bark or roll over, and will do anything for you to get you back on an even keel. Estrogen arranged for all that, too. But after a certain point in your life, estrogen finally goes away. It does this when it senses a woman is old enough to be able to attract all the help she needs with money.

There is a form of it that hangs around a little, called "estrone," but it doesn't get into as much mischief. Estrone is pretty specialized. All it really does is change the woman's brain chemistry so that she doesn't get all bent out of shape if she pees a little when she sneezes.

In fact the female brain goes through many changes after menopause, affecting the very thought process. The younger, estrogen-saturated female brain excels at taking different facts, experiences, and memories and building the connections among them such that coherent thought is possible. The post-menopausal brain, on the other hand, excels at what the researchers delicately refer to (because they are not sure whether to bark or roll over) as "global" thinking. The operative root here is "glob." The brain now has transitioned from a nimble, sparking deduction machine to an amorphous vessel of goo that is liable to resolve any problem with "or, I could make a sandwich."

In the well-adapted post-estrogen brain, the pathways to humiliation are subtly erased, allowing the aging woman to relinquish fashion, start three different sentences without finishing any of them, and smell a little like pee without suffering from mortification.

And if she lives alone, there are fewer witnesses.