Monday, May 11, 2009

Multipurpose Drool

As any mortified parent who didn't vacuum yesterday can tell you, a drooling baby picks up dust-bunnies like nobodys business. Having had one to many occasions to contemplate this phenomenon, I've concluded that there's an evolutionary adaptation at work here.

First of all, there's camouflage. On a forest floor, that untended baby would be picking up leaves and small twigs, disguising it from predators whilst mommy and daddy are hunting, or gathering or making more siblings or what have you. Pretty hand really.

Next, when mommy and daddy catch their breath and notice the baby is beyond dirty, they are inspired to clean it. This is good for the baby. I'm sure there were parents who weren't moved to clean baby under those circumstances. Those babies probably didn't grow up to make more babies. You see how this evolution thing is working.

Finally, the mortification of the aforementioned parents at finding baby plastered with dirt inspires a few gray hairs, and shaves a few days off the lifespan, thus shortening the amount of time mom and dad will be around to hog up all the good food. This last element is a process that escalates as a child grows older, culminating in some cases in outright parricide. For examples, see the histories of pretty much any royal family, or spend a few minutes trying to talk to a teenager. Be careful, I'm told they bite.

(Neither the author of this blog nor any of his subsidiary contributors bears any responsibility for injuries sustained while trying to discuss the intricacies of baby drool and food supplies with teenagers.)

Something Old, Something New

A few days ago, I took out a really old piece of family furniture to clean it up and see if I could give it a new life. It's a long low cabinet with an odd history. My great grandfather worked as a delivery man for a dry-goods warehouse back around the turn of the century. The turn of the twentieth century that is. He drove a wagon drawn by a team of horses.

The cabinet originally came out of the warehouse where he worked. It stayed in his basement for untold decades, a home for tools, half used cans of paint, and other odds and ends. After that, it made it's way to my dad's garage where it stayed for another few decades. I can distinctly recall the handful of tools, fishing tackle, paint, lawn jarts, car parts and motor oil living there when I was a kid. When my parents sold their old home, it ended up in a storage unit for years, and was nearly let go, but for my saying I wanted it.

When I set it down in my driveway to clean it up, it looked used up. Used hard. One end was stained where a pan of motor oil had spilled over the top of it. The doors were stuck closed or broken. Spray paint marred some of them. Another had a few slugs from a long forgotten pellet gun. The dark reddish-brown finish was covered in a century of grime and dust.

I took the doors off and set them aside. Then, with a bucket of soapy water and brush, I started scrubbing, inside and out. A few hours later, the rich grain of oak peered out from beneath the grime. The golden color of the wood looked happy to see the sun. The few stains and scars that remain are only smile lines.

A little polish and repair work took only a short time more. Now the open shelves are home to a colorful collection of children's toys and books. The television and a couple of houseplants sit on top. Sometimes recycling is a feel good exercise.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Will legalizing pot help the economy?

Well duh.

It's remarkable that it's taken a recession of this magnitude to bring marijuana back to the table, but the Governator is finally talking about it. Beyond the legalization, regulation and taxation of the drug itself, there are the numerous applications for the plant fiber. The industry as a whole will more than offset any job-losses in the drug enforcement field. The fiber from the plant will be an ecologically sound boon to paper, clothing and other industries, which will give something of a loss of profit for the cotton industry, which may be the only reason we're having this discussion now, rather than 20 or 30 years ago.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Really Old Fashioned Values.

I'd like to make a call for a return to some old traditional values. Really old. Two items from Reuter's last month have stuck in my mind, so now I'm sticking them in yours.

First is a report about research at the Max Planck Institute. In short, they've figured out that Bonobos will trade sex for tasty food. In fact, the bulk of research shows that for Bonobos, sex will lubricate just about any transaction.* All humorous analogies about male expectations regarding the value of dinner and movie aside, it's interesting to note this behaviour in our closest biological cousins.

Especially in light of a story that showed up two days later. It seems that a group representing prostitutes in Nevada, where prostitution is legal, suggested that a tax on their services might help the state with budget shortfalls. But a slim majority of state lawmakers turned them down for fear of further lagitamizing an industry they'd rather do away with.

For a group that tout's itself as favoring "traditional" values, their behaviour looks a lot more like self denial to me. The oldest profession in the world is not about to go away, just because we want to pretend that our fully opposable thumbs and penchant for hair loss somehow absolves us of our own biology. If the bonobos cared to give humanity a mesage at all, I think it would be a rather simple one. Make love, not war.

*If anyone would like to throw some rotting vegatables for that comment, I'll gladdly exchange an equal amount fresh fruit for any amount of affection that might be legal in this state or yours.