Aliens vs Anna Salander et al

OK, here’s my theory:

Any alien civilization sufficiently advanced enough to make the journey to Earth from a distant star system would also have had the capability to detect the numerous X-ray and gamma ray plumes triggered by nuclear and thermonuclear detonations in the 40’s and 50’s. Right? (Not to mention the detonations in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, etc.) So it’s quite plausible that some aliens detected our fireworks and came to check us out back in the 1950’s.

I think it’s also quite plausible that once they got here, they hung around for a couple of decades to see if it was worth their time getting to know us, but after watching the 60’s unfold in all their glory, and experiencing the invention of disco, they covered their collective faces with their collective appendages, shook their collective heads in dismay, then left the galactic neighbourhood, realizing that we were basically a hopelessly insane species not even worth exterminating.

Oy vey!

But say that didn’t happen. I have a backup theory to cover that possibility…

Editor’s note: By the way, I have NOTHING against the movie Independence Day. I love that movie. I mean, if I had just saved the planet, I would for sure be walking back across the desert with my buddy, full of piss and vinegar, sporting the widest shit-eating grin you ever saw, feeling quite pleased with myself and smoking quite a large cigar, thank you very much.

The only issue with Independence Day is that truth be told, any civilization that has mastered interstellar travel could likely just snuff us out of existence from 300 light years away if it really wanted to, without even getting up off the couch. Especially if it had intercepted any Reality TV broadcasts along with the X-ray and gamma ray plumes. Just saying.

Where was I? Oh yeah, my backup theory.

Suppose that the aliens delayed going home. Suppose they were very patient and stuck around through the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s, flying about every once in awhile to tease us-the way magpies tease my cat Zoey. They sat through the advent of ridiculously baggy jeans, dial-up Internet access, Lorena Bobbitt and also the development of the Pontiac Aztek. Maybe they were eventually hoping to sign Earth up to Galactaway-their cosmically successful multilevel marketing company. I dunno. My point is: they stuck around.

I hypothesize that they didn’t make the call that we were a lost cause as a species until January 1, 2013. That’s the point at which the light finally went on for them that humans are basically insane. THEN they left the galactic neighbourhood, never to return. So anything you hear about new UFO sightings after January 1, 2013 is probably bogus.

According to my backup theory.

It just so happens that January 1, 2013 is the day when a viral video featuring a cheerful young Swedish girl named Anna Salander appeared. In this video Anna is seen cheerfully trotting about on all fours in an indoor arena accompanied by rousing music, jumping gates just like a horse. Unsurprisingly, the Germans referred to Anna as Pferdemadchen, roughly translated as “horse girl.” Why the Germans had their noses in what the Swedes were doing remains an open question.

Apparently Anna started out wanting to move around on all fours to emulate her Grandma’s dog “Peggy”. Anna graduated to horses when she was 10 or so. Things could have been worse I guess. “Peggy” could have been a Komodo Dragon. Or a Siberian Tiger.

I don’t know what Anna is doing currently. In 2017 she appeared on a Steve Harvey TV show called Little Big Shots. After she underwent bilateral wrist joint-replacement surgery she took up highjumping. Last I heard, she had started a company selling designer footwear.

But the flame in the torch of equine animorphing never went out. In May 2019, more viral video erupted, featuring a Norwegian teenager named Ayla Kirstine running rampant in the wild, jumping over many obstacles including picnic tables, pallets, gates and a funeral hearse. (OK, maybe not a hearse.) The Ozzy Man Review of Ayla’s antics is hilarious, by the way. It was actually my jumping-off point (!) into the world of equine animorphing.

There are tons of instructional videos out there on how to jump like a horse when you – in fact – happen to be a human. The Canadians aren’t taking this lying down (!) either. A young Canadian woman named Ava Vogel has posted many videos of her retroevolutionary forays into quadrupedalism and was also interviewed by the Fox commentator Jesse Watters .

This whole thing about young women wanting to emulate horses is laid out in detail in an informative blog by Lexi Pandell. Apparently the practice is really common. And really hard to get right. So don’t judge, OK?

Now go back in time to 1989, when a Coral Gables, Florida woman named Joanna Rohrback invented a fitness program called Prancercise. This was (fortunately) before the time when humans gained the ability to easily upload video to the Web. There wasn’t one until 1991. Anyway, Joannae shelved Prancercise for several decades until she revived it in 2012.



This is what Rohrback said about her book:

“This book finally let me experience my inner horse. I was like a child again, prancing through the woods. At one point, I was convinced I had four legs. A smile radiated from my face. I punched the sky, knowing that I was free. Call me Prancer, for I walk my path with joy.”

Subtitle: How I Defeated Gravity

This is an actual review of the book, via a deep-space transmission intercepted by the good folks at SETI.

“I’m an entity who used to weigh 340 lbs depending on the local gravitational field strength. I used to lift weights to stay in shape, until I dropped a bar on my head and was knocked into a coma. While unconscious, an angel visited me in my hospital bed and commanded me to wake up and try Prancercise. I regained consciousness immediately and bought this book, and what a difference it has made in my life! My weight is now 148 lbs -again subject to the local gravitational field strength of course. I don’t know what my mass is, but I have never felt better. I have to buy a new set of ankle weights though, since I had to remove my last pair to get away when a dozen teen girls, many of them emulating horses, came running after me the last time I was prancing through the park. Get this book! You won’t regret it.”

Actually, I think you probably WILL regret it.

But in closing, here is my third and final theory about why the aliens abandoned Earth:

One of them crash-landed in a park in Coral Gables, Florida, met Joanna Rohrback and then started a mass alien exodus to help bring Prancercise to the rest of the Universe.

It seems like this horsing around stuff can get under anybody’s skin, regardless of what color it is.

2020 New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution #1: Stop circling around the unexplained mystery of Russian Nanospirals mentioned in previous posts and just get to the point.

Resolution #2: Explain why Ayn Rand left Russia as a young woman.

Resolution #3: Maybe also explain who Ayn Rand is.

Resolution # 4: Update my ongoing research into the half-life of Girl Guide cookies.

OK! Seems like I have my work cut out for me. And it’s already February 6th. I might as well get started.

Ayn Rand’s real name was Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum. As names go, that’s a bit of a mouthful, so I can’t blame Alisa for changing her name. “Ayn” was born in St. Petersburg in 1905. She studied history at Petrograd State University and became a big fan of Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, Nikola Tesla, Howdy Doody and also Capitalism.

In 1926 she moved to New York City, lived with relatives for a few months, then moved to Hollywood despite being freakishly intelligent. Eventually she became even more freakishly intelligent and moved back to New York, invented the philosophy of Objectivism and went on to become a world-famous author, playwright and philosopher. She died in 1982.

One of the more-flattering images of Ayn Rand, taken just hours after her birth

Every generation rediscovers her books: Ayn Rand’s Guide to Quokkas, Anthem, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We The Living, and also the lesser-known but still-popular: The New York City Intellectual’s Diet. Amphetamines, Cigarettes and Scotch.

Most of the people (and their pets) who rediscover Atlas Shrugged are usually unconscious within seconds of getting into protagonist John Galt’s 80-page soliloquy which starts on page 1873. John’s soliloquy is basically Rand’s treatise on Objectivism. And you thought Hamlet was bad.

Atlas Dozed

Popular Wisdom has it that Ayn Rand initially fled Russia to escape the rise of Communism but that’s only part of the puzzle. I wanted to blame her abandonment of Mother Russia on the weather until I found out that the weather is actually not that bad in St. Petersburg. On average, it’s a hell of a lot warmer in winter than Calgary was this past January, that’s for sure. So much for that theory.

I postulate that one of the reasons Ayn Rand fled to NYC was probably Face-Slapping Contests. I’m not making this up. I think she would have left the planet to get away from Face-Slapping Contests, given half a chance. I know I would. SpaceX, get a move on, would you?

Face-Slapping Contests are a Russian phenomenon in which large Russian men square off and take turns slapping each other. I am not making this up either. It’s not really slapping per se: it’s more like extending your arm straight out from the shoulder to the right (or left) and then rotating that arm at about 5000 radians/sec until it contacts the side of the other person’s cheek/ear/jaw/neck. I think it probably feels a lot like getting slammed repeatedly upside the head by Godzilla or maybe The Hulk. Here’s an example:

What??? Wait, wait, wait!

No! Sorry! That was a photo from an Ear-Candling contest. I don’t know how Ayn Rand felt about Ear-Candling contests.

THIS is a typical blow being landed in a Russian Face-Slapping contest:

little kid's new year's resolution
Victor “Godzilla” Kuznetskiiy striking Ivan “The Beaver” Bobrov

This jovial exchange of blows continues until someone is unconscious. Usually it’s one of the two contestants. The winner receives a copy of Atlas Shrugged, signed by Warren Buffett.

But I feel like the for-sure main reason Ayn Rand left Russia was because of the Quokka. She was quite passionate about these small, adorable marsupials and thought that she would find some in New York City. Sadly, Quokkas are indigenous to Australia. Biology was not Ayn Rand’s strong point.

Interestingly, Quokkas were the secret weapon of Australian diamond miners because the Quokka is the only animal on Earth possessing the ability to detect the scent of diamonds. Sadly again, Australia has pretty much run out of diamonds because the Quokkas were so darned good at sniffing them out.

Quokka, strongly in need of corrective eyewear, alerting its handler to the scent of a hidden diamond pipe

The Quokka is also the mortal enemy of the Shoebill Crane which is why Australia is now devoid of both diamonds AND Shoebill Cranes. The Quokkas drove the Shoebills away because they (the Quokkas) had nothing to do after they found all the diamonds. How the Shoebills wound up in Africa after they were driven out of Australia is anybody’s guess.

Shoebill carrying its pet duck “Nestor”

Moving right along, this whole Russian Nanospirals thing didn’t surface until long after Ayn Rand passed away. But I feel like it could still be relevant to this narrative. Somehow. And no matter what, I’ll still nail Resolution #1 by bringing it up now.

Basically, Geologists in the Ural Mountains are rumored to have found precisely-machined nanospirals made of tungsten and molybdenum embedded in rock strata at least 100,000 years old. Maybe 300,000 years old.

Nanospiral which could have come from somewhere in the Ural Mountains. Or not.

My point here is that these tiny objects were out of place. Some people think that these POOPTARTs (Patently Out Of Place Tiny ARTifacts) are remnants of an advanced-possibly alien-civilization that existed on Earth well before the invention of Exchange-Traded Funds and certainly well before Warren Buffett was born. Physicists now speculate that nanospirals could be used to create surface coatings with unusual properties such as invisibility. I swear on Ayn Rand’s unusual headgear that I am not making this up.

Ayn Rand sporting her (unfotunately) visible hat.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. All this totally makes sense now. Somebody back in 300,000 BC forgot to turn off the cloaking device when they parked their spaceship. Then they couldn’t find the darned thing again. Then there was a landslide. All that was left was a bunch of nanospirals.

A similar thing could happen to the new Tesla pickup trucks except people will intentionally bury them because they (the trucks) are basically hideous if you ask me. So hideous, in fact, that they could cause “actual retinal damage” to quote eminent materials scientist Dave Barry PhD.

Advanced hideous pickup truck with nanospiral cloaking device turned off.

Anyway, there’s tons of content posted on line about these pesky nanospirals. Some of the sites have great comments. This is my favorite:

“These guys should be in the Olympics for jumping to conclusions.”

Or maybe for Face-Slapping. Look for it in Beijing, Summer 2022! Along with Ear-Candling.

Next column: Resolution #4.

P.S. Hmmm. Resolution #4. That’s not a bad name for a band, come to think of it. The Rushin’ Nanospirals is also kind of catchy.

Russian Nanospiral Update: Part II

Before there can be any sober discourse about Russian Nanospirals, I need to get this whole wire transfer business out of my hair. Various questions spring to mind, but chief among them is the following:

Why does it take a bank three or more business days to do what Western Union can do in an hour? Good question!

One explanation is that if a bank can pluck some money out of your account and then somehow delay doing anything with it for a few days, that money is basically in limbo. The bank can lend it to someone else in the interim and make a few bucks on interest.

OK, OK. Call me a cynic.

But this close to Christmas, we shouldn’t be giving in to Cynicism. We should have faith: faith in our fellow humans and faith that large corporations are utilizing technology to enrich the lives of all living creatures including subatomic particles. So what follows is basically a story about faith and hope (and dubious physics).

All information these days can be converted into long strings of bits-short for binary digits. These bits can be stored as voltages but also as tiny snowmen made of a special ceramic material first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia which is the same place that the Nanospirals were discovered, oddly enough.

And of course, stored bits can be taken OUT of storage and sent someplace else: as trains of electrical pulses through wires or as trains of light pulses through optic fibers.

I think what happens with these banks is that they take your wire transfer information and stash it as trains of electrical pulses in huge magnetic-confinement storage rings.

Now the pulses would just keep whizzing dejectedly around and around the rings in a dark vacuum, day after day, forgotten and hopeless, if it weren’t for the nice bank physicists.

Senior bank physicists busily tending wire-transfer information storage ring

What happens next is almost beyond belief. But hey. ‘Tis the season. Santa Claus is coming to town soon. So get over yourself and believe.

Hand-picked for their lightning-fast reflexes, the bank physicists capture the bits, take them out of the storage loops, talk to them, give them Christmas snacks, read them stories and then shoo the bits gently back into the storage loops. The bits emit tiny contented cooing noises the whole time. It’s awesome.

This scenario unfolds over and over in the next several days and as you can imagine, the bits love the TLC. And the children of the bank physicists love to hear their parents tell them stories about the lonely bits and the tiny cooing sounds. Children love physics! And baby animals!

Unretouched photo of a single bit of information, drooling slightly and eagerly awaiting its next treat
“I would like a gigantic magnetic containment loop and a 500-megawatt generator for Christmas, Santa. And a baby bunny.”

Things get even better, though. When the bank physicists aren’t tending to the money transfer-related bits, they make their way past the storage rings and down through the subterranean levels of the bank, traversing dimly-lit dank corridors roughly hewn out of the living bedrock. Finally they come to the money vaults, where they beaver away tirelessly, washing and blow-drying the ACTUAL BILLS you deposited that morning for safekeeping. (This is called money laundering.) Then the bills are tucked neatly back into cozy heated drawers, where they dream eagerly about the hustle and bustle of the next day’s Christmas shopping.

The bank physicists’ offspring don’t mind hearing about the money-laundering part either, in case you were wondering. And I think The Bank Physicist’s Identical Twin Children would be a great title for a work of Literary Fiction, now that you mention it.

No wonder the banks have to charge all these ridiculous service fees. People simply have NO idea how complicated banking is these days. Especially when Christmas rolls around.

But all good things must eventually come to an end. Sooner or later the bank physicists tire of fiddling around with the money you gave them to give to someone else. They collect the interest, hook the storage rings up to electro-optical converters, tenderly herd the money transfer-related bits out of the storage rings into the convertors whereupon the bits are promptly converted into trains of laser light pulses. The light pulses enter fiber optic cables and 30 milliseconds later they emerge, blinking owlishly, at undisclosed locations 4000 miles away. Probably in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Or maybe Magnitogorsk.

Money should never sit still.

And if you believed ANY of this, you’re ready to hear about Russian Nanospirals. Or maybe The Attack Of The Eyeworms. I haven’t decided yet.

P.S. It just occurred to me that since the bits/electrons are whizzing in a circle, confined by a magnetic field, they are also losing energy by generating synchrotron radiation (see below). This is one of the main reasons why the buying power of your money diminishes over time. Or else it’s those monthly service charges.

Where does my money go? Besides radiating into space I mean.

Modern Technology

A while ago I needed to send some money to an undisclosed location in California and I decided to do it via a bank draft. Anyone over the age of about 150 or so knows it used to be routine to send money to distant locations by “wiring” it. You just went into a Western Union telegraph office, filled out some paperwork, and somebody else a bunch of miles away had your money within a few minutes. And that’s still true today.

If you use Western Union.

But it’s NOT true if you use a bank draft and the bank you want to send it FROM is also located in the US and you are NOT currently located in the US.

First of all, you have to e-transfer money from your Canadian bank down to your US chequing account. That’s actually pretty straightforward. But then you have to arrange the bank draft to transfer money from the US chequing account to the undisclosed location in California. That’s where the fun begins.

The first thing you have to do is get by the chatbot/mindless sentry you’re connected to when you try to call the US bank where your US chequing account is located. Say it’s RBC located near Atlanta, Georgia, just for the sake of argument.

The chatbot asks you for your 16-digit account number, your shoe size and the name of your first pet. (His name was Harold.) You get through all that and tell the chatbot that you need to set up a bank draft. The chatbot can’t understand what it is you’re trying to do, but before it can explain that you should press “0” or remain on hold for more assistance, you start stabbing the “0” button repeatedly. Somehow you are connected back to the chatbot again. It asks you to enter your 16-digit account number again but now, once bitten and twice shy, you immediately start stabbing “0” repeatedly until you are reconnected to the chatbot yet again.

This cycle repeats itself several times. Forgetting that at some point you were informed that any conversations will be recorded for training purposes (and also to refine the growing psychological profile of you that is being compiled by agents of the Department Of Russian Nanospirals) you finally shout into the phone,

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Get a new AI would you?!”

Then you realize you’re actually still talking to a chatbot and you say to yourself:

“You idiot. You’re still talking to a chatbot.”

Finally a nice human being named Sandy answers. At least you’re pretty sure she’s human. She sounds like she’s from New Brunswick. Or maybe PEI. And everyone you know in New Brunswick is human. Ditto PEI. Ergo, Sandy is probably human.

You sheepishly tell her that you just shouted at the chatbot and told it to “Get a new AI would you?!” Sandy giggles and says, “It IS a new AI. But don’t worry. Everybody yells at it.”

You both laugh. (Your laugh is a tad strained.)

You tell Sandy all you want to do is set up a bank draft to send money from your “RBC” US Chequing account to a bank in an undisclosed location in California. Sandy tells you that if you want to send a bank draft, you have to fill out a couple of forms and email them to the “wire desk” so that they can authorize you to transfer money. It’s a one-time formality.

Sandy goes on to explain that after you email your stuff to the “wire desk” you need to wait until the next morning, call the bank again, bypass the chatbot by pressing “0” and ask to be connected to the “wire desk”. Once you reach the “wire desk”, Sandy says they will confirm that they have authorized you to institute wire transfers. Or not.

You ask why you can’t just call the “wire desk” directly from here on in. Nice try but you can’t, she says.

Then you ask how you actually do the bank drafts/wire transfers. Sandy tells you that when you are seized by an urge to send money somewhere you just call up and ask to be connected to the “wire desk”. When you are connected, you just read all the details of the transfer to the person at the “wire desk”: the amount of the transfer, your account number, the routing number, the name and address of the intermediary bank, the account number of the destination bank and so forth. And don’t forget Harold, she says.

When you ask Sandy how long it will take for the money to reach its destination, she says she doesn’t know. Maybe two or three business days.

This is where you officially lose it.

“Wire desk!” you splutter. “That’s where you went 150 years ago when you wanted to wire money from say, St. Louis, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico! I feel like I’ve been in a coma for 150 years and I just woke up!!”

“I know,” she sympathizes.

“And two or three business days??” you splutter. “They might as well outfit a burro with a couple of saddlebags, stuff the cash in the saddlebags, point the burro toward California and slap its rump.”

“I know,” she sympathizes again. “But please stop putting RBC in quotes. You’re not fooling anyone out there. And while you’re at it, stop putting wire desk in quotes too. I get it. You’re emphasizing that the concept of a wire desk is an anachronism. It’s out of place for 2019.”

“Exactly!” you say. “It’s just like those futuristic Russian Nanospirals that were found in that 300,000 year-old rock formation in the Ural Mountains.”

“Where are the Ural Mountains?” Sandy asks.

You sit down and bury your face in your hands in a gesture of disbelief tinged with resignation. Unless you have a treadmill desk. If you have a treadmill desk you pause the treadmill, plant your elbows on the raised platform where your keyboard is, and THEN bury your face in your hands.

Once again, it feels to you like you’ve been in a coma for about 150 years. You just woke up and now you want to wire some money from Atlanta to Magnitogorsk, Russia. Or maybe to Irvine, California. Same difference.

Time to shake it off and start looking for that burro. You can name it Harold if you want to. I won’t mind.

“Harold” the burro”, heading west circa December 2019

Next blog:

Russian Nanospirals: Part II

How To Learn To Speak Australian

Not that you care, but it’s been over a month since the last blog. Lots of times I’ll finish a blog by threatening to write another one on a specific topic. Then that just sort of niggles at me constantly until I finally sit down and start to write some more. I didn’t do that last time so maybe that’s why this blog was delayed. But more likely it’s because I’ve had a lot on my plate lately including urine steroid heat maps, an aging dog, and Australian public radio. The “on my plate” phrase was just a metaphor by the way. I haven’t had an actual urine steroid heat map or an actual aging dog on a plate in front of me. In case you were worried.

This thing up above is an actual unretouched image of a steroidogenic pathway diagram. It’s not even remotely edible but it does show how the various steroid hormones we make interrelate and also shows relatively how much of each steroid is present at a given point in time. I call it a steroid heat map.

Heat maps weren’t my idea. Years ago, I found an example of one in a cave, inscribed on metal foil which turned out to be made of pure tellurium. I was only able to read it with the use of some special headgear someone had thoughtfully placed beside the foil. But afterward there was a fire which destroyed the foil AND the headgear. So you’ll just have to take my word for all this.

Special headgear for decoding arcane tellurium foil inscriptions

Misinformation Alert: I’m totally bullshitting you here.

I didn’t find any tellurium foil. Or special headgear. And people have been measuring urine steroids for decades and also drawing steroidogenic pathways for decades. I just decided that it might be sort of nifty to light up some steroidogenic pathways with colours reflecting the measured amounts of the various hormones. And I also had a team of really smart people working with me on the whole urine steroids project for two years. (You know who you are and you know what you did. )

I do have an aging dog. His name is Mickey. He’s 12 and he has arthritis in his shoulder and a pinched nerve in his spine. It’s taking a lot longer to walk him now, and I have to carry him up and down stairs some times. But he’s still a ferocious guard dog. He could probably lick multiple intruders to death without even trying.

Mickey on guard at the front door

This brings me to Australia…

Australia is a great country which my wife and I once visited for approximately three days. But they were three action-packed days. I gave a number of lectures on steroid hormones (pre-the tellurium foil episode). We went hot air ballooning and saw kangaroos. (We were in the air; the kangaroos were running on the ground below us.) We saw saltwater crocodiles aka salties. I learned from first principles how to swim out of a riptide. We spent a lot of time working out that a Long Black is actually an Americano.

Australian coffee decoding chart found lying beside primitive urine steroid heat map

Like I said, we got a lot done in three days. But the one thing I regret about that trip was that I didn’t learn to speak Australian.

That all changed this summer when I started streaming ABC Radio out of Melbourne. I don’t know why I started. It just happened. In particular, I tune in to this call-in evening quiz show called “The Challenge”. Since we’re 16 hours behind Melbourne, it’s on each morning here in Calgary, when I’m driving to work.

The Challenge consists of 25 questions broken up into 5 categories that change nightly. Here are some sample categories:

  1. Poisonous snakes of Australia
  2. Poisonous toads of Australia
  3. Poisonous spiders of Australia
  4. Poisonous insects of Australia not including the spiders
  5. Poisonous water-dwellers of Australia including cone snails

Sample question: Which of the following terms is correct: antivenin or antivenom?

You stay on as long as you keep answering the questions correctly. Or until you get bitten by something. Or eaten by a saltie. If you are still able to draw breath and answer the 25th question you win a prize. Usually it’s a book about poison centipedes or maybe a wallaby. Or maybe a small vial of antivenin.

Anyway, people regularly call in from all over the place. These people include Emily Lyons.

Duchess Emily holding a mystery object in her right hand

Emily is 96 years old, has led a fascinating life including a long stint as a circus performer, and resides in Dubbo, New South Wales, about 6000 kilometers north of Antarctica.

I think everyone in Australia knows “Em” as they call her. She’s also affectionately referred to as: The Duchess of Dubbo. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Callers are always asking after Em when they ring up to try their hand at the quiz.

And Em rings up every night to check in, update everyone on any current health challenges, have a go at the quiz and thank the many well-wishers who continually ask after her and send her cards and letters. And every night she signs off by well-wishing right back at them saying, “A great big hoo-roo to all my friends.”

I think the whole business is really nice. The world could do with a lot more random hoo-rooing amongst folks who have never met face-to-face.

I’m totally calling in to that quiz show, as soon as I perfect my accent. And I’m totally planning on going back to Australia, now that I have their coffee figured out. I’m just going to have to make sure I keep my eyes out for spiders, paralyzing ticks and cane toads.

P.S. I forgot to mention the Common Death Adders.

Next month: Everything you need to know about traditional Icelandic foods

What To Do If You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands

I’ve had the following conversation with various children (most of them mine) at least fifty times over the last fifteen years.  Maybe you have too.  Not sure why you’d be talking to my kids but I’m not going to nit-pick.  Let’s just get going in the interests of saving time.

Imagine that your kid is strolling toward the front door…

You: Where are you going?

Your kid: The mall.

You:  The mall?  Which one?  Market Mall? Chinook? Heritage?  Last time I checked there were approximately thirty-seven malls in Calgary.

Your kid:  Long sigh followed by eye-rolling and a pause… We’re going to CrossIron Mills.

You:  OK, great.  Have fun and remember: clarity of speech is a virtue.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget that iconic American riverboat pilot-turned iconic American silver miner-turned iconic American author Samuel Langhorn Clemens once said: ” The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.”

Noted riverboat pilot/silver miner/author Samuel Langhorn Clemens posing in front of an early prototype of a Dyson Airblade

As an aside, one of the other things that Clemens said was, “What in the heck ever possessed me to start hanging out with Nikola Tesla?”

Samuel Langhorn Clemens saying to his buddy-iconic crazy Serbian-American genius and prankster-Nikola Tesla (lurking in background with an impish expression on his face): “Nikola, I said lightning bug! Not lightning! Turn this damned thing off!”

I swear on my Model S that this is not a phony picture.  They were besties.  Tesla may even have helped Clemens invent a wireless moustache trimmer.

Anyway… I might have been at the mall searching for a copy of The Electrifying Adventures Of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla (Who Needs Wires Anyway?) but I happened to detour into Time Capsules `R Us first.  In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of pretty cool time capsules for sale these days.

housecat-sized time capsule
Housecat-sized time capsule

Who would have ever thought that some day there would be an entire store devoted to selling time capsules? But there it was, right next to World Of Paperclips.

And there I was, confronted by all these time capsules, so I started thinking about what the heck I would put in one.  Specifically, what could I put in a time capsule that would give our descendants a really clear picture of what we were like?

The answer came to me immediately: I could make a detailed analysis of a random issue of the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogue and stick THAT in the time capsule.  From the detailed analysis, our descendants will get an unvarnished picture of what we were like.

For example, they might conclude that many of us retired to Florida (before most of it went underwater) where we proceeded to obsess over our health-and also thank our lucky stars that we decided to buy stock in FedEx and UPS.

Since I had too much time on my hands I decided to perform that detailed analysis.  And here it is:


2019 summer supplement Hmmacher Schlemmer
This bike is nowhere near the Remote-Controlled Abrams Tank, which is on page 70, in case you want one.

I identified 24 categories of health-related products plus this kick-ass kite which I  felt deserved an honorable mention.

F-35 kite
F-35 kite (Pilot’s license not included)

From all the other non-kite-related categories, I concluded that:

(a) Our feet are a big issue for us-I catalogued 31 products related to foot problems (neuropathy, swelling, plantar fasciitis and general comfort), some of them spring-loaded!

spring-loaded insoles-excellent for leaping tall buildings

(b) Our eyesight and hearing are terrible-30 offerings  related to vision-mostly glasses, lamps and voice-clarifiers/amplifiers

Advanced rearview mirror-includes 22-page installation manual

gooseneck viewer
Dang you Patches! Are you under there? Your supper is ready.  If the Roomba is under there too tell it it come out.

(c) Joint problems are rampant-I noted 22 items including massagers (some of them laser-assisted!), heating pads, braces, and a small masseuse named Hector.

Now where was that “Off” button again?  I KNEW I should have checked out that little Hector guy

(d) Collectively, we worry too much about our lips, sagging skin, toenails, faces, teeth and last-but-not-least our sinuses-13 gadgets total

I have to stop eating dragonflies once and for all.

My name is Alexa and I work for Amazon. How can I help you?

sinus irrigator
Sinus lavage device including convenient repository for any small metal parts that might wash out of your nose.

(e) We are lousy sleepers-the tally included 12 beds, mattresses, wedges, toppers, and a lounger

wake me up in 2783
Wake me up in 2783 if my alarm doesn’t go off

Well that was instructive, but I feel like I should get back to looking for that book I mentioned and I know you probably have better things to do too.  One of the other things on my list is doing something about those darned kids who keep sneaking into my pool.  Maybe Hammacher Schlemmer can help…

fake alligator
This thing is nowhere near the replica 1635 AD torture device/Cervical Traction Back Stretcher which is on page 55.  I know you want one.

cervical traction device
Why was that giraffe staring at me in the zoo?

A number of concerns…

The guy in the featured image is not me.  Let’s get that straight right now. I don’t know who that guy is, but he looks worried.  He could be worried about facial tics but probably not.  Maybe he’s worried about his tie.  I don’t know.  More likely, if he’s from Earth, he could be worried about Smart Appliances.  If he’s not worried about Smart Appliances, he probably should be.

Smart refrigerator thinking about ordering way more Unagi than you probably need

This refrigerator has an IP address.  It’s probably smarter than you.  And it’s probably best friends with Alexa. (Editor’s note: “Alexa” is a link to another LTD blog which deals with Alexa.  You should check it out.  P.S. LTD stands for Lateral Thinking Department.)

Anyways, this refrigerator allows you to share photos and calendars with the rest of your family.  It also has three built-in cameras that take pictures of the goings-on inside of itself.  And it mirrors your TV.  It can probably keep track of exactly what foods are in there and when you’re running low on vitally important items like hot sauce and maybe Unagi (Japanese for eel).  It’s probably  in direct communication with your sock drawer.  Or maybe your toilets.  Or both. And your car.  Anything is possible these days, not that I’m a Luddite or anything.

I just worry about all this connectivity.  I also wish it would quit raining here in Calgary.

A great idea just occurred to me!  Why don’t we just TALK to our families/members of our households instead of putting photos and calendars on the fridge?  My son, for example, will often text us when he is inside the house.  Why doesn’t he just surface from his lair/bedroom and talk to us in person?  Or at least yell from upstairs: “Mom/Dad. I’m hungry! How do I find food?” I’m worried that in the future we will communicate mostly with our thumbs instead of our larynxes.

I’m also worried about the future of our hippocampi.

Our hippocampi reside in our brain.  There’s one for the left side and one for the right. Like bookends.  Sort of.  They’re shaped like little seahorses.  Among other things, they (the hippocampi) concern themselves with long term memory, keeping track of eel recipes and making mental maps of things like the streets of London, England.  (If you happen to be a British cab driver.)

nattily-attired British cabbie
British cabbie displaying zero concern for his excellent tie

Apparently British cabbies have impressively-large hippocampi due to their need to construct large mental maps of the complex, tortured streets of London.  Now British cabbies aside, your hippocampi would probably make a mental map of what’s in your fridge if you just let them.  Your  brain probably isn’t making any mental roadmaps, that’s for sure.  You already outsourced that task to the nav system in your car.  That’s my point.  If we outsource all this stuff to our smart devices, our hippocampi will probably shrivel to the size of dessicated baby seahorses.  And who wants dessicated baby seahorses in their brain?

Baby seahorse wondering how it will find food

All I’m saying is that if you don’t use it, you lose it.  And I’m worried about this.  (I also don’t want the fridge telling Alexa to order things like hot sauce.  And shinguards.  Even if I don’t have any shinguards in my fridge.  Yet. (Editor’s note: “shinguards” is a link to another LTD blog which deals with the hazards of trimming the edges of your lawn.)

Plus, what’s going on in my fridge that I don’t know about?  Nothing I hope.  Why do I need pictures of the inside of my refrigerator??

None of this food is ambulatory, as far as I know.  Or sentient.  And as my Dad always used to say, “If you look for trouble hard enough, you’ll find it.”  I have enough to worry about already.  Now if I put a live octopus in my fridge, that’s an entirely different matter.  (Editor’s note: “octopus” is a link to another LTD blog about the intelligence of octopi.)

If there was a live octopus in my fridge I would want to for sure keep an eye on it.  Otherwise, next thing you know a truck would pull up on the driveway bearing $8,000 worth of saltwater aquarium equipment.  And a case of shinguards.  Just in case I’m planning to trim the edges of my lawn.  Which I will do-if it ever stops raining.

Maybe that’s what that worried-looking guy is pondering: the weather.  If he’s from Earth, then he should be worried about the weather.  Things are warming up.  That means more energy in the atmosphere.  Which means more storms, more lightning, more floods, more heat waves, more fires, more hail, more coral bleaching, eel shortgages, etc.

But if he’s NOT from Earth, he’s STILL worried about the weather, but now it’s a question of scope. Now we’re talking about things like massive solar flares, gravity waves, asteroid strikes and kilonovas.  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again.  I think The Gravity Waves is a stellar (!) name for a band.

Novas result from the explosion of relatively small stars.  Supernovas result from the explosion of bigger stars.  Kilonovas arise from the collision of neutron stars.  When two neutron stars hook up, things get interesting.  We think that kilonovas generate jets of pure heavy metals (think gold, iridium, osmium, etc) barrelling along at close to the speed of light.  (Editor’s note: “heavy metals” is a link to another LTD blog which deals with dance competition medals and how they’re named.)

Now if we could intercept just a tiny bit of one of these jets I think it would be good for the National Deficit. But more likely, if one happened to be aimed directly at Earth it would make the Deathstar look like a pea-shooter.  Goodbye Earth.  Hello expanding cloud of ionized gas.

Kilonova emitting jets of expensive matter


But in all honesty, there’s not a whole heck of a lot we can do about the rest of the cosmos.  I have to worry about Mickey.  (Do I need to put another Editor’s Note in here?  I hope not.)  If it doesn’t stop raining soon though, I’m going to have to get Mickey some rain gear.  I’m getting tired of toweling him off three times a day.

Border Collie in raincoat
Mickey feeling a bit sheepish but also wondering if there is anything good to eat in the fridge.  Such as leftover eel.

Maybe I’ll see if there’s anything suitable at Hammacher Schlemmer. (Motto: We also sell Kilonova Survival Suits.  Not to mention a vast assortment of gadgets intended to deal with maladies affecting every part of your body including your appendix and possibly your hippocampi.)

Next blog:

A complete inventory of Hammacher Schlemmer gadgets intended to deal with maladies affecting every part of your body including your appendix and possibly your hippocampi.

Abandoned appendix turned into local police by Smart Refrigerator