The Worst Sounds In The World: Part II

The man up top here might be hearing one of the worst sounds in the world.  I think maybe a bee flew into his ear. Anyway, whatever is going on, he doesn’t seem too stoked about it.  But the question is: are we talking about a Type I or a Type II sound here?  A bee buzzing in your ear may very well be a Type I sound.

Remember how in Part I  I talked about how I think the worst sounds in the world can be categorized into Type I (Neurological/Hardwired) and Type II (Situational/Generally Ominous)?  And remember when I told you that Type I sounds fall somewhere in a specific range of frequencies?  You don’t remember, do you?  You didn’t even read Part I, did you?  OK whatever.  Go read Part I.  I’ll wait here…

Type I sounds have frequency components ranging between 2000 and 5000 Hz.  Right?  And while you were refreshing your memory I found out that bee buzzing doesn’t go higher than about 1000 Hz.  That’s 1000 wingbeats per seconds, which is a lot of wingbeats, even for a bee.  So bee-buzzing can’t go on the list of Type I sounds.  But I agree that hearing an angry bee buzz inside your ear canal isn’t all that great, so I’m putting it on the list of the worst Type II sounds.  Meanwhile, here are the rest of my worst Type II sounds:

Driveway Crunch:  This is not the name of a new kind of chocolate bar.  It’s the hideous crunch you hear when you’re in a hurry and you back your new car out of the garage into another vehicle. Trust me, I know.  I backed straight into the the driver’s side front bumper of my ancient Honda Civic, now being driven by a teenager who wasn’t supposed to be parked on the driveway in the first place, not that I’m bitter.

’99 Civic now referred to as “Hubert” by its current driver.

You can tell by the expert repair job just where my rear bumper impacted Hubert’s front bumper. (That tape used to be red, by the way.)  The tape doesn’t seem to detract from the cred that the driver -whom I’ll call Andrew for the sake of argument-earns with his friends.  Apparently it’s way cool to be able to drive stick these days.  Anyway, like I said, Andrew wasn’t supposed to be parked on the driveway but in my defense, I think a bee or something flew into my ear just as I was backing out.  Either way, I will never forget the sound of  that crunch.

Cap’n Dave Swears Up A Blue Streak: This is the sound of a man I’ll call Dave swearing his head off as he hops around his back yard on one foot.   This sound happens to have been triggered by another sound, which was the sound of a nail being driven laterally into Dave’s right pinkie toe, when he stepped on the air-nailer lying in the grass.



air nail protruding from pinkie toe
See that little thing sticking out of the side of “Dave’s” pinkie toe?  I’m talking about the thing that looks like it could be the head of a nail.

Now I’m sure that there are a host of questions buzzing (!) around inside your head at this point.  What’s an air-nailer?  How in the heck did this happen?  Is it in any way remotely possible, I mean just even a teensy little bit possible that this man is wearing a flip-flop?  If so, why in heaven’s name would a man wear a flip-flop when he’s working with an air-nailer?  Especially if he’s had about 40 years experience in the construction industry.  Hypothetically.

Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you.

Actually, I do know what to tell you.  This is a perfect segue into the next sound on my list.

The Next Sound On My List:  This is the sound of a person you might be married to saying, “I told you to put on your work boots!  Why in heaven’s name were you rushing around the back yard in your flip-flops, trying to nail those boards back on the fence before it rains?”  This sound is also called: “I told you so.”

I hate that sound.

The “You’re an idiot” Sound:

Note: if you’re not from Ontario you can skip this sound.  No one from outside of Ontario seems to know how to play Euchre.

Sweet Euchre hand. If spades are trump.
If spades are trump, and this is your Euchre hand, you are laughing my friend.

Picture this: You’re playing Euchre (like watered down bridge but with fewer cards).  You and your partner are down nine points to six.  (The game goes to ten.)  You’re dealing and the nine of spades is up.  You hold the ten of spades and in desperation you pick up the nine, hoping that your partner has a hand something like the hand in the picture above.  Why did you make it spades?  With the nine and ten.  You should never do that! Even a baby chimpanzee knows you should never do that.  Anyway, spades are now trump.  You say, “I’m going alone.”  That’s even worse.

You’re probably an idiot.

Your partner Tim has no spades so when he hears your declaration, he immediately makes a distinct choking sound, indicating that you just blew the game.  For the third time in a row.  That choking sound is the “You are definitely an idiot” sound.

Ominous Mechanical Sound:

This sound can also be called the “You’re an even bigger idiot than I thought” sound.  This sound is the sound that the motor in your treadmill desk makes when its bearings are giving out.  Again.  You heard this sound two years ago before you had to replace the original motor.  It’s an ominous grating/rumbling sound, in case anyone asks.

It’s also the sound that makes you realize that you ignored the fact that after you replaced the original motor, your treadmill was still generating massive amounts of static electricity because you had been neglecting to keep the deck underneath the belt you walk on for 6-8 hours/day properly lubricated-which wrecked the bearings of the second motor.  That was definitely a run-on sentence, but who cares at this point? In your defense, the people who sold you the treadmill in the first place neglected to mention that little detail about lubrication.

Still and all, you are at least a Class A Dunderhead.

diagnosing a bearing problem with a stethoscope
Never throw away your stethoscope.  Even if you’re a dunderhead.

Penultimate Bad Sound (#5 if you don’t count the bee):

This is the absolute worst sound in the world.  I mean it.  It’s the sound that your dog Mickey makes at 3 A.M. when he has what I’ll call a: “G.I. Event” beside your bed.  In other words, he’s pooping on the carpet.  Again.  For about the fourth time.  Why did you feed him those old Shitake mushrooms for supper?  He nosed them suspiciously.  That should have been your first clue.

I tried to tell you I didn’t like those mushrooms

Anyway, that sound means that you will spend the next three days applying every detergent/enzyme/powerful oxidant concoction in the known Universe to the stain in an attempt to remove it.  If your carpet could talk, you know what it would be saying.

You should just get a new dog.  Or a new carpet.  Or both.

And earplugs.  Because…

“Is there an echo in here?”




The Worst Sounds In The World: Part I

Things have been pretty crazy here at The Department of Any Second Now I Expect Flaming Remnants Of A Rocket Engine To Come Screaming Down Out Of The Stratosphere And Land On My Head Or Worse Yet, My Tesla.  Not surprisingly then, like everything else in my life these days, this column is late.  Flaming rocket engine debris aside however, I’ve been feeling the need to fill you in on the worst sounds in the world, because I think I’ve heard a pretty fair number of them.

I came up with my own classification for these sounds and drawing from a pretty much bottomless wellspring of creativity, here is my classification: Type I and Type II.

I decided a long time ago that there are certain types of sounds that just don’t sit well with the human nervous system, or probably any kind of nervous system, for that matter.  These would be my Type I sounds.  My prototype for Type I is the sound of a metal lawn rake scraping across a stone patio.

When I was a kid, we had two gigantic chestnut trees flanking a large flagstone patio, and I had to rake the chestnut leaves off that patio.  And that was just the beginning, or the ending depending on how you want to look at it. I also had to rake the little blossoms in the spring, followed by the little green chestnuts that were jettisoned later in the spring, followed by the big chestnuts early in the fall (and their stems!), followed by the leaves in late fall.  Not that I’m bitter.

Anyway, for some reason, the sound of that rake scraping on the stone would go right into my brain, down my spinal cord and turn me into a quivering mass of jelly.

It's Too Loud
A Mom listening to her 10-year old ask her for the 1800th time if he has to rake the patio

Turns out that in 2012, neuroscientists at the University of Newcastle came to a scientific conclusion about what I call Type I sounds.  They found that there was a direct correlation between the degree of  unpleasantness of various sounds heard by test subjects-most of them human- and the extent of the reaction of the amygdalas and auditory cortexes of the test subjects.  These amygdalas and cortexes were conveniently located in the brains of the subjects.   (I was going to use amygdalae and cortices but I thought that would sound too pompous.) The amygdala has something to do with emotion.  For example, you feel sheepish or maybe depressed if you mispronounce “amygdala” in a job interview.

Long story short, the neuroscientists determined that these sounds were in the range of 2000 to 5000 Hz.  Hz stands for Hertz in honor of Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, the founder of Hertz Car Rental, since you asked.

Former bicyclist-turned-internal combustion engine afficionado Heinrich Hertz

Actually, I’m lying.  Heinrich Rudolph Hertz proved that electromagnetic waves exist.  He also invented dry cleaning.  But note that Hz is synonymous with CPS or cycles per second, a unit of frequency also used to measure how many bicycles were sold after the invention of two-wheeled bicycles by German inventor Karl von Drais, in 1817.  CPS could also stand for Clogged Pore Society but this is unlikely.

Karl von Drais
A feisty-looking Baron Karl taking his new contraption for a walk, before the invention of trekking poles

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah.  These neuroscientists aren’t actually sure what’s so special about that range of frequencies.  Dr. Kumar, who was one of the researchers, explains: “This is the frequency range where our ears are most sensitive. Although there’s still much debate as to why our ears are most sensitive in this range, it does include sounds of screams which we find intrinsically unpleasant.”

Here is the list of their top ten Type I sounds (out of a total of 74 sounds):

  1. Knife on a bottle
  2. Fork on a glass
  3. Chalk on a blackboard
  4. Ruler on a bottle
  5. Nails on a blackboard
  6. Female scream
  7. Anglegrinder
  8. Brakes on a cycle squealing
  9. Baby crying
  10. Electric drill

I don’t know if they checked out my “rake on flagstones” sound.  They definitely should’ve.  I also wonder what kind of baby was crying.  A baby velociraptor maybe?  Sadly though, I don’t have any other Type I sounds of my own to add to their list.

Wait! Wait! Wait!  Yes I do.  The Vuvuzela.


Any of you who hail from South Africa know that the Vuvuzela is also known by its Twsana name Lepatala, which means “extremely annoying plastic horn which makes a noise like a goose honking into a megaphone while it is being strangled”.

The Vuvuzela is so annoying that it has been banned by almost every civilization in the Galaxy, along with that music tape-loop played by ice cream trucks that frequent the streets of Calgary.  That tape-loop caused me to seriously consider buying a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher.  Instead I bought a Vuvuzela and began blowing it in the ear of the driver of the truck when it came through our neighborhood every day of summer, ten times a day.  Not that I’m any more bitter about this than I am about the leaves.  Note: I might be lying about some of this.  But not all of it.  Also note: summer only lasts about three days in Calgary, on average.

Enough about Type I sounds!  What about Type II sounds?

Type II sounds are the type of sounds that immediately signal that something really bad is happening, or just happened.  A typical example would be when you and your cousin (let’s call him Alec Robertson for the sake of argument) are scuffling vigorously in his bedroom long after the two of you are supposed to be sound asleep.  A container of baby powder might be involved.  Suddenly a thunderous crash erupts, caused by one of you kicking the dresser.  To your uncle (let’s call him Uncle Jim for the sake of argument), that thunderous crash is definitely a Type II sound.  “Uncle Jim” comes barrelling upstairs, throws open the door and bellows, “What in hell was that noise?”

One of you meekly asks, “What noise?”

The other postulates: “Mice?”

“Uncle Jim” tells you to go to bed, enumerating what will happen if he hears that noise again.  This might include being skinned alive and boiled in oil, or worse yet, having to sleep in separate bedrooms. He stomps downstairs where muffled laughter ensues from all the adults.

A boy scanning the horizon for flaming rocket engine debris while his cousin looks on with interest

So I think we’re clear on the difference between Type I and Type II sounds.  Type I sounds are Neurological/Hardwired and Type II sounds are Situational/Generally Ominous.

But this column is starting to run a little long, so go eat some of your kids Hallowe’en candy and stay tuned for Part II.

Why are you still reading?  Go!   And don’t even think about getting into the baby powder the next time you sleep over at Alec’s house.  Uncle Jim (or maybe Aunt Connie) hid it (the baby powder) already.  Along with the knives, the forks, both anglegrinders and the chalkboard.

angle grinder
This is not an angle grinder.

Next column: The Worst Sounds In The World: Part II


J Acoust Soc Am. 2008 Dec;124(6):3810-7.doi:10.1121/1.3006380.  Mapping unpleasantness of sounds to their auditory representation. Kumar S, Forster HM, Bailey P, Griffiths TD.




How To Lose An Internal Organ In Ten days (with apologies to Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey)

1) First of all, do not ever lend your children any climbing gear.  You will never see it again.  Furthermore, years later you will find yourself working for a living while they are out climbing rock faces and fending off goats and raccoons .

rock climber feeding goat
Goat fueling up before climbing adventure


2)  Try to be born into a family where several first-degree relatives have already lost their gallbladders.

3) If you have been taking betaine hydrochloride  (proven to thin out bile in randomized, placebo-controlled trials) for the last 16 years, stop due to concerns that the betaine may be fueling the growth of intestinal bacteria which produce trimethylamine oxide, which in turn is known to fuel cardiovascular disease, which in turn is known to fuel sudden death.  Also, lose some weight trying out a lectin-free diet even though you don’t have any reason to avoid lectins.

4) Embrace a vague suggestion by your oldest son that you, he and your youngest son should climb Pigeon Spire in Bugaboo Provincial Park, B.C.  Realize that critical details will be withheld from you until it’s too late.  These details will include: 2000-foot elevation gain in order to hike from parking lot to base camp, alpine start from base camp (waking at 3 AM) the next morning in order to safely ascend couloir and also be the first group on the Spire at sunrise, necessity for glacier travel with ropes, crampons and ice axes, and necessity to descend via a different glacier after getting up and down Pigeon Spire. This will all involve losing and then regaining one or two more thousand feet in order to arrive back at base camp after approximately 16-hours.

Tell yourself: no problem.

Pigeon Spire
Unwary climber and youngest son.  Main part of Pigeon Spire in background

5) Fail to pay meticulous attention to hydration and nutrient intake during and after 16-hour jaunt and subsequent descent to parking lot next morning.

6) Resume lectin-free diet.  Ignore pale stool several days after returning home.

7) Experience right upper quadrant pain two hours after lunch several more days later.  Blame this pain on having tweaked something in your thoracic spine (conveniently located in your back) due to recent climbing trip. Go home and work out on your elliptical.  Decide to eat large meal of lamb chops since pain disappears completely during workout.

8) Two hours after eating, experience several episodes of vomiting and more right upper quadrant pain. You will now be fully aware that you very likely have an issue with your gallbladder. Ignore this thought.  Go to bed with dwindling, but tolerable right upper quadrant pain.  Sleep soundly.

diagram of liver, gallbladder, stomach and pancreas

9) Awake next morning completely pain-free.  Decide to completely expunge all details of the previous two days from your memory-banks.

10) Go to skydiving school on the weekend, then make three separate attempts to jump, but get shut out by smoke, wind and rain each time.  Fret. Practice exits from plane in doorway of home office. Replay scenarios in which main chute doesn’t open.  Mentally rehearse cutting away your main chute and deploying reserve chute.  Invent various scenarios in which reserve chute doesn’t open.  These include gliding at 120 mph and somehow landing, unharmed and Scully-like, on the Red Deer River, close to skydiving school.  Laugh nervously.  Fret some more.

11) Continue fretting, eating normally and working out.  On the beautiful Friday morning prior to the long weekend, go back to skydiving school.  Arrive three hours early, ruminate over impending jump, urinate copiously due to anticipation/nerves.  Do not rehydrate.  Drink coffee.

12) Jump out of perfectly good airplane.  Land successfully, debrief, race back to Calgary and then accompany spouse to B.C. in order to get to hotel in Fernie for Saturday morning meeting. Drink coffee!  And wine!  Go to bed.  Eat sausages and eggs for breakfast next morning!  Go to meeting.

13) Experience right upper quadrant pain in the middle of meeting, two hours after breakfast.  After meeting, return to Calgary in passenger seat, as pain is now significant enough to preclude driving.  Ignore Nurse Practitioner spouse’s admonition to seek medical attention for probable cholycystitis (inflamed gallbladder), as pain eventually subsides.

14)  Wake up, eat various things you probably shouldn’t eat, such as beef jerky and peanut butter.  Experience more symptoms but later in day go for a run, as symptoms  go away by lunchtime.  Watch movie although pain returns that evening.  Fight urge to throw up.

15) Go to bed but sit up most of night because pain increases with a vengeance, radiating from your back through to the pit of your stomach.  Regret going to Med School as you now worry that  you may have a pancreas problem in addition to a gallbladder problem.

16) Go to ER at 8 AM next morning.  Medical Student palpates abdomen and finds exquisitely tender lump located under margin of liver.  Student asks if you have ever noticed lump.  Reply in the negative, adding that you don’t routinely palpate your own abdomen. Have bloodwork and ultrasound.  Learn that your pancreas is fine.

17)  Repeat history to senior Surgical Resident who has reviewed ultrasound and advises you that you need to part company with your gallbladder.  He remains intrigued by the lump.

18) See on-call surgeon who reiterates need for surgery.  Ask surgeon if problem was brought on by dehydration, sympathetic nervous system overdrive, exhaustion, negative calorie balance, etc. Ask about literature on dissolving gallstones via ingestion of ox bile plus/minus dandelion root extract.  Allow surgeon to pat you on the shoulder as he shakes his head, eyes skyward.  Agree to surgery.

19) Spend night in hospital.  Learn that your room-mate and new friend Kevin has a gallstone more than 1″ in diameter.  Do not give in to gallstone-envy, as you only have one small stone lurking in your gallbladder.  Remember what Carrie Fisher said: “Resentment is like drinking dandelion root extract and waiting for the other person to pass a gallstone.”  Or words to that effect.  Suggest to Kevin that he have his stone bronzed after removal and mounted in suitable display trophy.

hole-in-one golf trophy
Tasteful candidate-gallstone trophy.

20) Depart for surgery at noon the next day.  Inform nurse that the only way titanium wedding ring is coming off your hand is if the finger comes off along with the ring.  Ignore her frown.  Laugh as Kevin wishes you good luck with your sex-change operation as you are being wheeled out.

21) Have surgery.  Return to room at 3 PM.  Note that Kevin is missing, along with your tender lump noticed by trained medical professionals, but see that a woman is waiting in his cubicle.  Ask if she is affiliated with Kevin.  She will suspiciously ask you why you want to know.  Relate sex-change operation comment.  She will sigh, rolls her eyes and say, “Yes, that’s my husband.”  Tell her they need to have a long talk when he returns.

22) Ask the nurse when you can go home and you will be told that you will be having a full meal and that you can go home after supper, if all goes well.  Retreat to  bed and work out how soon you can resume skydiving.

23) When Kevin returns ask how things went.  Inform him that you went to the OR bearing both male and female sexual organs and have returned with two sets of male sexual organs.  All within earshot will laugh.  Kevin will laugh too, until his post-surgical pain cuts it short.  Serves him right, you will think to yourself.

24)  You leave the hospital at 7 PM, in the interim having decided that your headstone inscription will read:

“He was a lot smarter than he looked.

Despite having less common sense than a freshly-hatched sea urchin.

And trimethylamine oxide was the last thing he needed to be worrying about.

Just saying.”








Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Trash Pandas

Before we get into this I want to apologize to my loyal followers (all ten of you) for not having posted anything since June.  So here goes:

“I hereby apologize for not having posted anything since June.” Happy now?

People have been studying animals for a long time, trying to find examples of how new species can arise from existing species, and even attempting to make new species through selective breeding.  For example, there has been a program going on in Russia for decades trying to breed silver foxes that exhibit the same friendliness toward humans as do dogs and maybe other species such as Komodo dragons, and hippopotamuses.

Here’s an unretouched photo of a genetically-engineered friendly silver fox.  We can tell it’s friendly because of the drooping ears, curly tail, and unusual coloration.  Also because the man is not holding his nose.  (Wild foxes have a “musky” smell.) But mostly we know this one is friendly because it’s not trying to snack on the man.

person holding silver fox
Friendly silver fox exhibiting a marked absence of biting, scratching, clawing and wiggling

In years gone by there have been other examples of this sort of change in animal behaviour, with cows starting to exhibit a love of water, polar bears starting to hunt Beluga Whale calves, and Grizzlies thinking seriously about mating with Polar Bears.

grizzly bear tussling with polar bear
Grizzly-Polar Bear foreplay
aquatic cows
Cows training for 2020 Olympic  200-metre paddle







We’re also familiar with the concept of teenagers potentially mutating into creatures with huge eyes, long fingers and no mouth, due to texting 23 hours per day instead of interacting like normal human beings.  (My wife, for one, is convinced this is already happening.)  And don’t forget good old Secretariat The Horse, who won the Triple Crown back in 1970.  Secretariat ate the breakfast, lunch and dinner of all the other horses in the Belmont Stakes, when he won  by a freakish 25 lengths.

So clearly, animals aren’t standing still.  They’re probably busy watching all the Mission Impossible movies (starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt) and they’re learning mad skills.  Even the humble raccoon (Procyon lotor) is in on the game.

In mid-June of this year, the Dow Index fell about 20% for two days because half of the world’s population (well maybe not half) was occupied watching a raccoon free-solo the 20-storey UBS building (whatever that is) after being startled away from minding it’s own business and eating some pigeon eggs near a dumpster in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. (Yes, there ARE 20-storey buildings in Minnesota, in case you were sceptical.  And Scotch Tape® was also invented in Minnesota, FYI.  I think it should have been called Swedish Tape® though.)


raccoon scaling 20-storey building
Tom Cruise’s raccoon love child “Ethan” scaling a featureless wall

It took “Ethan” two days to finish the climb which included an overnight bivouac on a window ledge somewhere along the way.  In case you’ve never tried it, it’s no picnic bivouacking on a one-foot-wide ledge with no supper and no sleeping bag.  Mind you, clinging to the side of a building for hours on end using only your finger- and toenails is no picnic either.

And since you asked, rock climbs are graded via a complicated decimal system.  This climb was graded 5.15r and is off the top of the chart below for difficulty.  It’s off the bottom actually, but the climbs get harder as you go down the chart.  The “r” in 5.15r stands for raccoon, by the way.

grading systems

This next photo shows Ethan crushing the overhanging crux (hardest) move of the climb.  Not bad for a novice.

raccoon executing crux move on north face of UBS building
Ethan the raccoon on-sighting the North Face of UBS
“On-sighting” means strolling up to a rock climb you’ve never seen before and finishing it the first time.  In case you were wondering,
Needless to say, there are mountains(!) of images and tweets out there, posted by office workers on every floor of the UBS building, which document every inch of the journey.  Everyone was crossing their fingers, holding their breath and generally rooting for this animal, including wildlife photographer and lawyer, Paige Donnelly.
Exhibit A:
Below, Ethan was caught on camera performing a stretching routine before continuing the upward voyage, and was also thanking his lucky stars that he never got a mani-pedi before he went foraging for pigeon eggs.
raccoon by window
“As God is my witness, I’ll never eat pigeon eggs again.”
It all ended well though.  Ethan eventually made it to the top, was captured by the Wildlife Management Service folk, ate some soft cat food and was eventually released back into the suburbs somewhere southwest of the Twin Cities, and commenced climbing a 300-foot cell tower.
People went back to work; the Dow rebounded significantly.  Life went back to normal.


famous raccoon caged atop UBS building
Ethan atop UBS building, full of cat food and headed for a round of intensive neuroimaging studies before being released back into the wild

Scientists are busily hypothesizing what led the vertically-inclined animal to undertake its hazardous journey.  The leading theory is that it was bitten by a radioactive spider.  Or maybe a radioactive tick. Maybe it was the effect of exposure to environmental toxins or climate change.  Only time will tell.  I’m just saying we could be in for some tough times.  And some pretty tough raccoons.

If you think I’m over-reacting, check out this disturbing link pertaining to attacks perpetrated by a roving gang of raccoons in Abbottsford, B.C. in July 2018.

Gang members caught emerging from sewer manhole in Abbottsford, B.C.

Like I said, Nature just doesn’t stand still.  Dr. Ian Malcolm, of Jurassic Park fame agrees with me, and I quote:

“No. I’m, I’m simply saying that life (raccoons included), uh… finds a way.


Next column: How not to repair a fence






Cryptozoology Part II: If You Were Going To Trade Your Dog In For Something Else, What Are Your Options?

When we last met, I was going on about whether or not you should trade your dog in for something else on the basis of your getting tired of toweling it off all the time, especially when it’s wet. Options included another type of dog with or without water-repellent fur, or maybe a member of an entirely different species.

If you are opting to go with a different species, I’m going to give you some suggestions.

Here goes:

1) Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs (or maybe some other kind of smallish pig):

The footage that follows was taken right outside my office window.  I’m almost positive that this video captures a pot-bellied pig dutifully following its owner back to the car.  But it might be a dog.  It’s definitely not a Sasquatch aka Bigfoot even though the video is very reminiscent of your typical Sasquatch aka Bigfoot video: grainy, indistinct, over-before-you-know-it.

I personally think that stubby little tail is almost a dead giveaway.

Be forewarned: by all accounts pot-bellied pigs make for challenging pets.  They’re affectionate, smart, demanding; they get into everything; they’re headstrong; they can make a mess if left untended.  Wait a sec! That sounds an awful lot like a toddler!  Maybe you should grow one of those instead.

It’s probably faster and easier for you to get a pig than to grow a toddler.  But what if you like to surf?  Lots of people do: especially people who live near water. Do you live near water?  If you do, I just this minute realized that your dog is probably wet quite a bit of the time already, so this whole wet dog thing may be a non-issue for you.  You might want to stop reading now.

But if not, rest assured that there’s a good chance that you will be able to take your new pig surfing.  Some pigs love to surf!  They are probably the descendants of wild pigs who learned to surf after migrating to Hawaii from thousands of miles away (with the assistance of Testicle Navigators, of course!)

pigs on beach
Feral Hawaiian surfing pigs patiently awaiting next set
man and small pig on surf board
Hawaiian surfing pig teaching human being to surf









surfing border collie
Border collie who spontaneously began surfing after observing feral pigs

2) Goats:

Now as we all know, surfing can be a fairly high adrenaline pastime.  So some people might prefer to trade their dog for an animal that is content to engage in a more chill activity, such as yoga.  If you are one of those people, a baby goat is just what you need, as shown by this simple equation:

Wet Dog + Baby Goat + Yoga = Baby Goat Yoga – Wet Dog

Yes, you heard me correctly!  Yoga with baby goats is a thing.  A big, trending thing, actually.  Nobody knows for sure where Goat Yoga started but roughly twenty states are currently fighting over bragging rights for the title of  Goat Yoga State.  (Actually, I’m lying.  Goat Yoga started in New Hampshire.)

Incidentally, Goat Yoga State can be rearranged to spell: A Saggy Teat, Too.  (Ed. Note: Dave Barry totally pioneered the technique of rearranging phrases to spell other phrases which more-or-less make sense.  I shamelessly adopted his literary device.)

I also threw in a comma that wasn’t in Goat Yoga State.  Just saying.

The baby goats don’t actually do the yoga.  They basically mill around in adorable baby-goat fashion amongst the people.  The people do the yoga.  There is a lot of goat-cuddling involved.  And nibbling.  The goats nibble on various body parts within range as well as any clothing they can manage to sink their teeth into, including  Lululemon™ activewear.

The absolute best thing about Goat Yoga though, is the comments that people are posting alongside the Goat Yoga video clips.  Especially the following comment (and its reply) found at

Arielle Masters, who clearly has an inquiring mind, asked this question:

This isn’t an April Fool’s joke? It’s very cute – but do they ever pee on the people doing yoga?

Ethan Moreau, who is clearly your basic smart-ass guy, shot back:

Arielle Masters yes they do but they don’t mind. They also poop on them too. However the smell of the poop is very therapeutic for them. So they just leave it. Sometimes the guests poop on the floor with the goats.

This just goes to show you the trouble that can arise when you use pronouns in a way that leaves thing open to interpretation.  Who doesn’t mind?  The goats or the people? Do the goats poop on the people or do the people poop on the goats?  It’s unclear.  Exactly who is deriving therapeutic benefit from the smell of the poop?  Again, unclear.

By the way, a big plus if you’re considering swapping out your dog for a goat is that once again, if you like to surf, chances are that your goat will too!

goat standing on surf board
Surfing goat sporting stolen organic Lululemon™ PFD

That brings our tally of creatures who like to surf up to three.  I’m sure there are more. So I’m going to do an experiment right now.  I’m going to bet that somewhere out there is a photo of some kind of Cryptid on a surfboard.  Then I’m going to see if I can find that photo.

Five minutes later…

I’m back!  Sure as Jack’s your uncle, there IS such a photo.  Like all Cryptid images, it’s kind of grainy and indistinct.  We’re not really sure what we’re seeing.

surfing crow
Grainy, indistinct photo of what might be Bigfoot catching a wave and silently mocking a kayaking Cryptozoologist in front of him

3) Cryptids:

There are probably dozens of Cryptids that would make great pets.  Assuming you could catch one.  Like this thing in the gutter right outside my office window.  I don’t have the first clue what it is.  Large Guinea Pig? Rabbit? Hell, it might even be a sandbag, for all I know.  It’s hard to say because the image is kind of grainy and indistinct.  Can it surf?  I don’t know.

rabbit on sidewalk
Possible Cryptid taking five in the gutter outside my office


I could go on about Cryptids but I won’t because then we might get sidetracked into other unsolved mysteries/possible conspiracies such as: Area 51, 9-11, why so many US state names start with the letter “M” and how more than twenty-five washable breast pads (also called nursing pads) could simply vanish out of a washing machine into thin air, leaving the other laundry items unscathed.

A lot of these mysteries are completely ridiculous, yet some of them are strangely compelling.  When I googled “breast pads vanishing from washing machine” I found a UK site with inputs from other people with the same issue! There’s just nothing new under the sun, apparently.

Meanwhile, keep your dog.  Just go buy some more towels.  And pick up some more breast pads while you’re at it, in case you followed my suggestion to grow a toddler.  I found some excellent ones.  They’re made from organic materials including bamboo.  Guess what?  They’re called Bamboobies!  And the company that makes them is called Bamboobies!

This world truly is a weird and wonderful place.  And the Bamboobies logo is equally wonderful:


this a picture of two bamboobies breast pads

Bamboobies also make yoga nursing bras.  I’m not kidding. They do.

I’ll bet the goats will love them.

Next column: The Worst Sound In The World.










Cryptozoology Part I: Should You Trade In Your Dog For Something Else?

Here in Calgary it’s June, as is the case in many other parts of North America.  Calgary gets most of its rain in May and June, and consequently these are the months when I confront my annual issue, which is:  wet fur.  My dog Mickey has long fur and every time we go out in the rain, it gets wet.  No surprise there.  But it takes awhile to towel him off when we come back. Time is a precious commodity, so every June I always have to revisit my whole approach to wet dogs in general, and Mickey in particular.

From where Mickey sits, the toweling-off ritual is a great thing, because I take the towel in both hands and quickly swaddle his head in it so he can’t see anything.  (Except towel.)  He pretends to get all ferocious and will chew on the towel, growl at it menacingly and occasionally start barking enthusiastically until my wife says: “What the heck are you doing to that dog?  Whatever it is, cut it out!”

I guess I could just stop getting him all worked up when I dry him off, but he really likes the routine: it’s the highlight of my day.  Oops!  I meant his day.

I’ve been down the raincoat and booties road as well.  Mickey doesn’t mind it and the cats are OK with it too.  One or maybe both of them (the cats) will usually come to inspect the proceedings before we set off.

border collie cross wearing coat and booties
Patches, giving Mickey a pre-walk inspection, paying special attention to his nether regions for reasons known only to her.

But truth be told, it takes as long to get Mickey dressed in foul weather gear as it does to towel him off if he goes out au natural.  So realistically I only have a few options for dealing with this wet fur conundrum:

1) Scotchgard™

2) Trade Mickey for a dog with shorter, water-repellent fur.

3) Trade Mickey for a completely different species of animal.

Right away Scotchgard™ is off the table.  Everyone knows that it contains perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).  Thank goodness the half-life of PFBS is just a little over a month.  Until 2003, Scotchgard™ contained perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) which has a half-life of 5.4 years.  So you only grow one extra eye with chronic PFBS exposure whereas with PFOS on board you will for sure grow an extra eye, plus a tail.  Last time I checked, Mickey had a full complement of eyes, and a tail.  So no PFBS for him.  Or PFOS for that matter.

Options 2 and 3 are not up for discussion either. I would never, ever give Mickey away, and this is why:

When we’re out walking, we occasionally encounter a three-year-old, so we stop to visit.  Three-year-olds are great because they will believe almost everything you tell them.  So I gravely tell them that at any given time there can only be seven Best Dogs In The Whole World, and that Mickey is one of those seven.  Their eyes usually go wide and they say: “Really?”  And every time I say that, my eyes go wide too.  Mickey totally is one of the seven Best Dogs In The Whole World, and I love him to pieces, even if he does mercilessly eviscerate every new toy that comes his way, to get at the squeaker.

dog proudly guarding a squeaker from a squeaky toy
Newly-extracted squeaker being guarded by one of the Seven Best Dogs In The Whole World

But Squeakers aside, I just realized that I haven’t actually addressed the question comprising part of the header for this blog: Should you trade in your dog for something else?  As far as I’m concerned you absolutely should, if you’re so inclined.  After all, it’s your dog, not mine.  My dog is staying put, wet fur, eviscerated squeaky toys and all.

eviscerated dog toys
You know who you are and you know what you did.

If you have your heart set on a trade though, I have some candidate animals in mind.  So this brings us to the other part of the header for this blog: Cryptozoology Part I.

Cryptozoology is “the scientific study of unknown animals about which only circumstantial, or at best insufficient, material evidence is available” according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

These unknown animals aren’t completely unknown though.  If they were completely unknown, we wouldn’t be studying them because we wouldn’t know about them.  Right?  So let’s just say that cryptozoology  is the study of “Cryptids” or critters that might exist, but we don’t yet have sufficient proof.

So maybe you should put Cryptids on your list of candidate animals.

Cryptids include things like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, The Toronto Tunnel Monster, The Mongolian Death Worm and any elected official appearing three days in succession within a 500-metre radius of the House of Commons.


Unfortunately, most of the evidence for the existence of Cryptids consists of eyewitness testimonials, tufts of hair, toenail clippings, pocket fluff, grainy/blurry still photos, and short, grainy, blurry video clips.  But if you succeed in nabbing one, and take it home for a pet, you will likely become very famous.  (Keep your day job though.)

Below is a classic example of a Cryptid photo, capturing the mysterious Floating Red Oval of Mischief which has been spotted throughout the swamplands of Florida pretty much since Walt Disney was in diapers.

supposed cryptid photo

Actually, I lied.  That red oval is actually a red herring (!) and is just there to highlight the indistinct blob in the background.  The indistinct blob could be anything including tree stumps, a large man wearing a deep-sea diving helmet talking to a shorter man with his back to the camera wearing an ill-fitting grey jacket, and a fossilized Member of Parliament.

Clearly, the life of a Cryptozoologist is full of uncertainty.  And frustration.  And bad photographs.

I’m no Cryptozoologist but I do have some very interesting photos and video of my own to show you. They’re going to have to wait though.  It’s getting dark and I need to take Mickey for a walk.  I hear that the Long-Snouted Nocturnal Sloth Badger of Royal Oak may be on the prowl tonight.

Next column: If You Were Going To Trade Your Dog In For Something Else, What Are Your Options?























Robots vs Sweden

An article ran in the New York Times a few weeks ago about some researchers in Singapore who set out to build a robot that could conquer “one of the hardest human tasks”.  Part of the article headline won’t be a surprise to you since I already told you the general idea.  But the other part of the headline was a surprise to me.  Maybe I should just quit dissembling though and reveal the headline:

Robot Conquers One of the Hardest Human Tasks: Assembling IKEA Furniture

I wasn’t too sure who thought that assembling IKEA furniture was one of humanities hardest tasks: the New York Times, or the researchers in Singapore.  I know there are lots of people who aren’t crazy about assembling IKEA furniture, but I don’t think it’s very high on the list of challenging tasks for humans, so I forged ahead and did my own survey of ten people chosen at random, asking them what they thought the hardest human task was.  These are the answers I got:

1) Building a  stargate

painting of a stargate

2) Repairing a space telescope

astronauts repairing the Hubble telescope

3) Underwater welding

two divers welding a pipe underwater
Divers on another planet, welding a submerged stargate on a May 24th long weekend and earning serious overtime pay

4) Climbing a mountain in the nude.

naked man standing on snow-covered mountain

5) Unicycling down a mountain: maybe the same one you just climbed in the nude.

6) Teaching a cat to read music AND play piano

cat playing piano
Cat attempting to learn the song “Memory” from “Cats” Broadway musical

7) Toilet training a cat

cat perched on toilet seat

8) Training two cats to use the toilet simultaneously

two cats using the toilet simultaneously

9) Training a cat to plunge a toilet

cat holding a toilet plunger
Apprentice toilet-plunging cat

10) Trying to understand what would possess a cat to insert itself into a paper tube

cat wrapped in a paper tube
Cat trying to be inconspicuous until its owners go to bed so it can pilfer sausages accidentally left out on the counter

I don’t know what’s up with all these cat responses.  Somehow I guess I just randomly encountered an inordinate number of people who happen to like cats.  I don’t blame these people one iota.  Cats are hilarious.  Maybe I asked the wrong people.  I dunno.  In my defense, I was in a pet store at the time.  But I also want to point out the distinct lack of people in my survey who said anything about IKEA furniture.

Anyway, for whatever reason, these researchers over in Singapore decided to build a robot that could assemble a piece of IKEA furniture, specifically the STEFAN chair, reasoning that this would use many human skills such as: planning, reading instructions, ignoring instructions, subsequently messing around for thirty minutes until your wife says “Just read the damned instructions would you?”, overdriving the fasteners and damaging the furniture pieces, swearing, and throwing the pieces around or possibly throwing something else such as a unicycle.

Actually, the group in Singapore are not the first group to construct a robot that can assemble IKEA furniture.  Back in 2013, a team at MIT built an “IKEAbot” that was able to assemble the LACK table.  Note that the LACK table is so-named because it lacks complexity: it has only five pieces.  Four of them are screw-in legs.  A baby hamster could assemble a LACK table.  Or maybe a baby octopus.

This reminds me.  Did you ever wonder how they name IKEA furniture?  I did.  I even wrote about it back in 1989, in my first year of Med School.  It was in the class newspaper: The Chronic Enquirer.  I think it was one of the first humor columns I ever wrote.  (I use the archaic term “humor column” because blogs hadn’t been invented yet.  Remember that the World Wide Web had just come out of Labour and Delivery in 1989.)

I probably should have quit while I was ahead.  But I didn’t.

Therefore, here’s that column, inside jokes and all:

secrets of the swedish furniture industry

secrets of the swedish furniture industry Part II

secrets of the swedish furniture industry Part III

Star Wars characters holding IKEA moose at gunpoint
Typical good, clean, Swedish shenanigans at IKEA furniture-naming fest: October 28, 1988