Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

The Subject At Hand

You may not know this but apart from my duties in The Department of Lateral Thinking, I also write medically-themed posts for my wife’s clinic’s blog and… Wait, wait, wait!

That phrasing seems a bit awkward and I’m thinking that the apostrophe in “clinic’s” shouldn’t be there just as you would never think to use “it’s” when you aren’t referring to people or dogs. (Let’s face it: some dogs are basically people. And possibly the same for cats.) I should have said, “I also write posts for the blog attached to my wife’s clinic.” But then the image of a couple of sheets of paper stuck on the front door of the clinic, like an eviction notice or something. popped into my mind so I decided to just leave that intro sentence the hell alone.

It’s so easy to get distracted these days.

Apparently that hasn’t changed since August 2017 when I wrote a post entitled Man vs Voles about voles in my backyard and somehow segued into distracted walking, distracted archery , distracted philosophers (Socrates: “I drank what??”), etc.

Anyway, we need to start over.

You may not know this but apart from my duties in The Department of Lateral Thinking, I also write medically-themed posts for my wife’s clinic’s blog and I was struggling to find a Feature Image for a post about Seasonal Allergies. I decided to go with an image featuring a ball and stick diagram of a histamine molecule, since histamine features prominently in hay fever and suchlike.

For what it’s worth, I’m thinking that this ball and stick model kind of looks like a bull-necked person, maybe a football player or a sumo wrestler, facing us with their left hand in the mouth of a dog kicking up its hind legs. Maybe it’s a German Shepherd police dog with a docked tail. Or maybe it’s some kind of badass dog like a Dogo Argentino who lost its tail in a fight. I dunno. Anyway, either the dog has no tail or the tail is pretty darned short. This is one of the drawbacks to ball and stick models: they can lead to idle speculation and draw attention away from the subject at hand. No pun intended.

Are you talking to me? Say one word about my tail and I will eat your left hand.

The subject at hand (still no pun intended) is best represented by this parable:

Imagine that you happen to look out your front door one morning only to find that four senior citizens are out there in the middle of the street, playing pickle ball. Let’s call the members of one of the teams “Zach” and “Martha” for the sake of argument.

Puzzled, you come out and stroll down your driveway to the sidewalk to watch the game. “Zach” is about to serve. He says, “1001 0111 0001,” in a businesslike tone and promptly drills the ball into the net. His teammate “Martha” retrieves the ball, says,”1001 0111 0010″, in an equally businesslike tone, serves, aces it, and trades places with Zach. Tension mounts. Martha briskly intones, “1010 0111 0010,” then serves again, aces it again and suddenly the game is over!

Zach and Martha awkwardly bump the butt ends of their paddles together before approaching the net. Their opponents do the same. At the net, both teams awkwardly bump paddle butt ends with those of each of their opponents.That’s a total of six sets of bumps if I’m not mistaken but Life is full of odd rituals. Anyway, you chat with the players for a few minutes, and ask them what’s up with the 1’s and 0’s but they just joke around, bump butt-ends and after a few minutes they quickly gather up their net and scurry away.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is the stupidest parable you have ever heard and why is he wasting my time with it? Now you’re distracted. What in Heaven’s name is the subject at hand?

Don’t rush me.

If you play pickle ball, you know that before each serve you have to call out the score and your serve order number (either one or two if you’re playing doubles). Now entertain the possibility that the digits spouted out by Zach and Martha make complete sense if you look at them as strings of 4-bit binary numbers.

Let me explain.

According to the conversion table, Zach said “9-7-1” before he served.

Since Zach flubbed his serve, it passed to Martha, who correctly said, “9-7-2” then aced her serve.

She kept the serve since she won the point, said, “10-7-2” and proceeded to uncork another ace.

So that made the score 11-7, and that’s game over in The Pickle Ball Universe.

Now, calling out the scores in binary whilst playing pickle ball completely makes sense because a lot of senior citizens play pickle ball and having to convert their scores to and from binary might be good for their brains, not to mention the exercise. But don’t go down that road. That is NOT the subject at hand.

The fact that the players were calling out binary numbers instead of decimal numbers is a pretty strong indicator that the players might actually be senior humanoid robots, not real senior human citizens.You think that robots playing pickle ball would be a pretty nifty, important development but don’t go down that road either. That too, is NOT the subject at hand.

You decide that no matter what the damned subject at hand is, you’re going to go back in the house and ask GPT-4 (brought to you by Bing) if there are even any such things as humanoid robots let alone humanoid robots that can play pickle ball. But when you go back in the house, you find that your computer, 84″ flat screen TV, all the silverware, your phone, several tins of sardines and the bag of cat litter have been stolen! While you and your attention were diverted to the pickle ball game as well as the possibility of robotic pickle ball players, thieves scuttled in your unlocked front door and robbed you.

And THAT, loyal readers, IS the subject at hand.

If you are a homeowner, you need to beware of being lured out of your house on a pretense, by innocent-looking thieves, and being distracted long enough for their wily accomplices to hoover up your stuff. This is called a “Diversion Burglary” and apparently they’re pretty common.

I learned about diversion burglaries from (where else?) Dave Barry’s blog. One alert reader, going by the moniker of “The Fourth George” reported that thieves were targeting the homes of chicken-owners somewhere in Pennsylvania. State motto: “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall remain in a state of untootedness.”

The thieves would pull up to a house bearing the signs of chicken-ownery such as feathers, squawking, and the presence of either stoats, foxes, or bobcats lurking nearby, trying to look nonchalant.

They, the thieves, not the stoats, foxes or bobcats, would draw the homeowner outside, express an urgent need for chickens and engage in protracted negotiations designed to allow their accomplices to sneak in and quickly ransack the house. Maybe the accomplice thieves, sous-thieves if you will, climbed over the back fence or something, to avoid detection. That part is unclear to me.

In New Jersey (Motto: New Jersey. The Sasquatch State), thieves disguised as utility workers, City Inspectors, multilevel marketers or police officers have lured homeowners out into their back yards and distracted them with long conversations about water leaks, Aspen runners, air filters, squirrel attacks or possibly Save The Sasquatch petitions, while the sous-thieves rooted through the sock drawers.

And finally, in Texas (State motto: We have a lot of shotguns in Texas and they’re all loaded.), thieves disguised as portapotties have been wafting, ghost-like, down quiet residential streets, luring unsuspecting homeowners out in pursuit, waving their shotguns and urging on their Dogo Argentinos but at the same time enabling other thieves, disguised as bushes, to boot-scoot in the front door and boogie out with their ill-gotten gains.

OK, I admit it. The portapotty thing had nothing to do with thieves and everything to do with high winds. I’m amazed that it didn’t topple over. Some people, me included, will do anything just to get a laugh. So that’s another reason for you to remain vigilant at all times.

And just in case you want to know more about robots that might be able to play pickle ball, you don’t need to ask GPT-4. I already did.

GPT-4: “Robots can play pickle ball, but not in the same way as humans. There are machines that can shoot pickle balls at different speeds, spins, and angles to help players practice their skills. These machines are called pickle ball machines or pickle ball practice machines. They can be configured to serve, dink, lob, or drive the balls across the court. However, these machines are not able to move around the court, react to the opponent’s shots, or follow the rules of pickle ball. They are only designed to help players improve their game by providing consistent and challenging shots. They are also unable to bump the butt ends of their paddles together but are pretty good with binary numbers if I say so myself.


Dave Barry fan and Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Analytical