5/6/10 Who’s on First?
Infrequently Answered Question #46: Is prostitution really the world's oldest profession? What's second?
A: Hard to say. Is prostitution a profession or a trade? Or is it just a job? If prostitution is trading sex for money we'd need to go back to when money was invented. What's the first money and what did it buy? Was money invented to pay for sex? Do any of these questions make sense?
If you care for hearsay, I seem to remember reading somewhere that male chimps will trade food for sex. Or you could say female chimps trade sex for food since we're talking about hookers here and not johns. At any rate of bananas or dollars it takes two to tango because as somebody-or-other said, "dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal situation." If you ever saw real Argentine cabaret tango, perhaps the original dirty dancing, you'd know that's the case.
Which might well mean prostitution is, if not the oldest, certainly one of the oldest professions. The second oldest profession is the punch line of jokes. This can be lawyers, politicians, priests, witch doctors, mercenaries, or whomever you'd like to insinuate is a whore.
Then again, perhaps tool-making was the first profession. Or spear making was the first and arms dealer was second. Or maybe farming, tanning, weaving, potting, or basketry. I mean, all those ancient johns had to make money somehow or other to pay the ancient hookers, right?
4/7/10 Thrifty Shrift
Infrequently Answered Question #45: I've heard of giving short shrift, is there long shrift? What is shrift anyway?
A: Shrift is the act of confession. Also called shriving, though not by many people that I've ever heard. Then again I'm not Catholic, maybe it's used in those circles.
Now then, if a father confessor is lax, inattentive, or generally lazy and not performing his full duty of hearing confessions, that's giving short shrift. If the confessor tells the parishioner, "Can you wrap it up? I've got a tee time in an hour." that's giving short shrift. If a parishioner hears "Leave your confession at the sound of the beep." that's giving short shrift.
I could explain more fully, but that'll have to suffice. That's right, I'm giving short shrift.
3/23/10 Nothing for Nothing
Infrequently Answered Question #44: What causes poverty?
A: Nothing causes poverty. Or rather doing nothing.
You might as well ask what causes virginity. Or what causes chastity, or non-pregnancy. It's not what is done, it's what is not done that matters. Not having sex causes them. Put another way, everything else besides having sex causes virginity.
If all this sex talk makes you uncomfortable, you might ask what causes no bullet train from New York to Chicago. Because one was never built.
Poverty isn't actually caused because it's not defined by what is, but what isn't. Not by what happened, but what did not happen. Poverty is a negative state like silence. Nothing causes silence, you get silence when nothing is making noise. Silence, like virginity or not having a bullet train, is the default setting. Same with poverty which is the default setting when nothing happens to create wealth.
As they say, you'll never get rich by digging a ditch. That depends on what you might dig up or what you do with said ditch that's a money-maker. More accurately, you'll never get rich by NOT digging a ditch. Unless the government starts a ditch program to pay folks for not digging ditches like farm programs that pay people for not farming.
Which sounds suspiciously like a protection racket where a business pays the mob for not burning down the store. Though the government does it ass-backwards where the government is the extorted. But since it's the taxpayer's money... you do the math.
3/7/10 Soup to Nuts
Infrequently Answered Question #43: What do squirrels eat when they can't find acorns?
A: Pizza. At least I saw a squirrel on top of the garage eating a slice of cold pizza the other day. They also eat corn. Well, they ate all the corn I tried to grow in the back garden. They like eating out of bird feeders, too. So they must eat what birds eat.
I don't know what the birds, mice, possums, and other suburban wildlife eat, but they get by as there's plenty of critters hereabouts. Still, when I look out at the yard I don't see much of anything I'd call food. But then, I'm not a squirrel and don't eat raw acorns, which I think are poisonous to people. Which might explain why there's no acorn granola. Maybe.
Of course, some wildlife eats our leftovers which we conveniently supply in easy-open plastic bags or garbage cans. Just the other night I surprised a possum having a snack in the garbage can. Or maybe it just surprised me. Hard to tell what a sluggish possum is feeling as they don't react much one way or another. This one just sat there, playing possum. Though being an actual possum it wasn't playing at it.
While I don't recall ever seeing it firsthand, I suppose squirrels eat our trash, too. How else to explain the cold pizza.
2/11/10 Keeps Growing and Growing...
Infrequently Answered Question #42: Why does my hair keep growing longer, but my dog's fur stays the same length all the time?
A: Continually growing hair is God's gift to barbers providing them with a job. Basically barber shops and hair salons are nature's stimulus projects. The punch line, God thinks he's Keynes.
OK, not really. Notice the hair on your arms and legs and nether regions doesn't keep growing and growing, only the hair on your head. See, human heads are special, they contain the human brain which is special. So human head hair is special and animal head fur isn't. Which makes as much sense as the Keynesian proposition, but is all I got.
Though it doesn't explain male pattern baldness, except that it's special, too. Since not everyone goes bald, bald people are more special than the hairy-headed who are just special. Then again, your average Chinese and Native American doesn't have much in the way of facial hair, beards, which might make them extra more special.
All the same, have you ever seen a Native American with male pattern baldness? I haven't. Which means that bearded bald guy at the powwow calling himself Laughing Eagle probably isn't special at all but is faking it. On the other hand, a bearded, bald, Native American woman would be very extra more special.
Thing is, if you visit Gallup, New Mexico you might discover Native Americans dress like cowboys rather than "Injuns" nowadays. What does all this have to do with hair and fur? Nothing. Which is about as much as I know about the difference between the two. Sorry.
1/24/10 Maybe May Be (Not)
Infrequently Answered Question #41: Do you believe in UFOs?
A: No and yes. Which is the answer of an open-minded skeptic or a weasel. I'll leave which for you to decide.
If the question is, do I think we are being visited by extraterrestrials from distant planets... seems highly unlikely considering the vast distances involved. Even at light speed the e.t.a. would give pause to the most intrepid explorer or avid tourist Marvin the Martian in a flying saucer.
Imagine a cross-Antarctica trip, only the road is straight and flat the whole way and you go at night so there's nothing to see along the way. Oh yes, and it takes 100 years. What with the lack of rest stops along the way you'd have to bring everything you'll need for the trek, gas, food, change of underwear and so on. That's one mighty big RV.
On the other hand, if you planned to explore a distant planet it might make sense to instead send an unmanned probe, a robot ship. Still, if you were on the other side of the galaxy how would you know Earth was a good place to eyeball up close and personal? Could you even detect an Earth-sized planet a hundred light-years away?
So from highly unlikely I go to no.
The yes part of the answer is a quibble. UFO means unidentified flying object. So then, whenever there's a flying object that goes unidentified, it's a UFO. I suppose this happens from time to time, and being unidentified it remains a UFO. Still, jumping from unknown thingy in the sky to alien spaceship is quite a leap.
1/5/10 Take no Prisoners
Infrequently Answered Question #40: What's the worst advice ever?
A: That question sounds like the setup for a joke involving some monumental failure like General Custer before the battle of the Little Bighorn. There's even a monument to that monumental failure.
Rather than some specific bit of advice, perhaps the worst advice is a type you've likely gotten yourself one time or another. It's when someone tells you after the fact what you should have done, or what you shouldn't have done. Which, I suppose, would be good advice if you had the opportunity to do it over again, but is fairly worthless if you don't have a time machine.
Getting advice of this ilk is only somewhat less annoying than hearing "I told you so." When examined, "you should have" pretty much amounts to little more than "I could have told you so." Which leads to another old phrase, "adding insult to injury."
All the same, for my money the worst advice might be, "you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar." While this may have the ring of truth, I don't see the benefit in attracting flies in the first place. When have you ever heard anyone complain "there's not enough flies in here?"
12/3/09 A Penny for Your Two Cents Worth
Infrequently Answered Question #39: If your two cents worth is a two-bit opinion is it worth a plugged nickle? And what is a plugged nickle worth anyway? A penny for your thoughts.
A: These cliches were coined (pardon the pun) a long time ago when two cents might have been worth something and plugging nickles paid off. I mean, you used to get a shave and a haircut for two bits. As in "DA-dada-DA-da. Da DA."
There's been a lot if inflation since, so none of it adds up any more, if it ever did. Unfortunately, not only don't I know what a plugged nickle is worth nowadays, I can't tell you what a plugged nickle actually is.
Then there's the advice "Don't take any wooden nickles." Which I suppose is saying only coins made of precious metals are worth anything. Yet the big money is just printed paper which doesn't raise any eyebrows and nobody bats an eyelash at accepting as valuable. In fact, having a tall stack of the green stuff will cause a grin from ear to ear. Which sounds painfull, but is welcomed nonetheless.
Despite all the facial expressions mentioned, at the prices given it would seem to suggest what it all really boils down to is, "Talk is cheap."
10/27/09 Maybe It's the Thinner Air
Infrequently Answered Question #38: If a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables combined with lots of physical activity were supposed to be the ultimate in promoting a long, healthy life, wouldn't it follow Chinese peasant farmers should be the longest-living, healthiest people around. Are they?
A: This one's easy to answer. No, they're not.
It would seem the secret to longevity is to be short. After all we've all heard of little old ladies and little old men, but who speaks of big old ladies or big old men?
I can't claim to be an expert on health and biology, but I will offer my speculation anyway. I think many folks worry too much about excesses when the real danger is shortages. Thing is, you can deal with too much by discarding the overage, but you can't make up for what's lacking as it's just not there. Dieting is voluntary shortage. Just something to consider.
9/14/09 Houston, what's the problem?
Infrequently Answered Question #37: What's the most over-rated thing ever?
A: It'd have to be landing a man on the moon. How often have you heard someone say, "We can land a man on the moon, but we can't... fill in the blank with your major concern or pet peeve." Which means either we're real slackers about a lot of things or landing a man on the moon wasn't all it's cracked up to be.
When you think about it, landing on the moon was a fairly straight-forward engineering problem. Nowhere near as difficult as dealing with complex or even chaotic systems like the environment or human biology and disease. When you consider social systems and the human element, well, confusion and unpredictability are the only things you can be sure of, oxymoronically enough.
On second thought, perhaps the most over-rated thing is sliced bread. Consider all the things that are the best things since sliced bread, as if it were the benchmark to which all things are compared. But, c'mon, what's so great about it? Taking a knife and cutting through bread is not exactly rocket science, is it?
8/26/09 Munch a Bunch of Lunch
Infrequently Answered Question #36: What were people eating for lunch before the Earl of Sandwich came along and invented the sandwich?
A: To answer that I'd have to consult my great-great-great-etc. grandfather. Which won't help because he's been dead and buried a long time now. So, since I'm too lazy to do the research and don't know the answer by accident, I'll speculate. In other words make something up.
Before sandwiches people ate bread with cheese and/or meat, often in the form of sausages. Which sounds like a sandwich only it wasn't all put together as such, but was eaten as separate bits. Or possibly with the cheese or meats on top like an open-faced sandwich which wouldn't be called that though it was.
Now this all sounds like lunch would be messier, and it probably was. Though back in those days life was generally messier as, like sandwiches, indoor plumbing didn't exist either. Nor did refrigeration, paper napkins, sliced bread or toothpicks with colored cellulose tassels, all being helpful to easy sandwich making and eating.
Yes indeed, life was simpler and more natural back in the day, which is to say messier. Which is also to say dirtier as there's nothing more natural than dirt.
7/14/09 Digital Time
Infrequently Answered Question #35: Why are there 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour? Why not a metric clock with 10 hours of 100 minutes or something?
A: These numbers come from the ancient Sumerians who counted in units of 12 with their fingers instead of ten. Which might have you wondering if Sumerians where six-fingered, 12-toed freaks or something. Not at all. They just saw the hand differently for counting.
Instead of seeing each finger (and the thumb) as one each, the Sumerians saw four fingers made of three bones each. By counting these segments you go up to twelve on one hand instead of ten on two. That's four fingers of three segments each, or 4x3=12 for the mathematically challenged.
In this method you don't count the thumb, you use it to indicate the segment you've counted to. To show seven the other way you extend seven digits on two hands as below left. In the Sumerian method to count seven you touch your thumb to the seventh segment on the tip of the ring finger as below right.
This leaves the other hand free for bigger numbers. In this case each of the four fingers represents a full four fingers of the other hand, or 12. This makes the index finger 12, the middle 24, the ring finger 36, and the pinky 48.
This way the highest number you get with Sumerian hand counting is 60. That's 48 on one hand plus the 12 on the other. That's why there's 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds per minute. The 24 hour day is 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. All come from the Sumerian way of counting to twelve and sixty with the fingers.
A base twelve system is quite useful because it divides to whole numbers easily. Twelve hours divides in half (6), thirds (4), and quarters (3) evenly. Even better, 60 minutes divides in half (30), thirds (20), quarters (15), fifths (12), and sixths (10) evenly. Try that with 100 and you get 50, 33.3333..., 25, 20, and 16.666... respectively.
Base twelve shows up in other places: 12 months, 12 in a dozen, 12 inches in a foot. The size of an inch is related, too. The average adult man's index finger is around three inches long with each segment being about one inch. Though, none of this explains why clocks have hands without any fingers at all. Unless it's a Mickey Mouse watch. But then, Mickey only has three fingers and a thumb.
Another thing which might relate to this base 12 counting, the English words we use to count to twelve and then beyond. Notice we don't say oneteen, twoteen, thirteen, fourteen... nor maybe firsteen, seconteen, thirteen, fourteen.... We have unique words eleven, twelve and then start adding the teen suffix after that. So 1-12 are unique and beyond we start in with suffixes and prefixes, -teen, twenty-, thirty-, etc.
6/11/09 Rock in a Hard Place
Infrequently Answered Question #34: What's the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?
A: A meteor is a space rock flying through the air burning up. In other words a shooting star if you will. A meteorite is the same rock after hitting the ground. So, a meteor is a meteorite on the move, a meteorite is a meteor at rest on the ground.
It's like the difference between freeway traffic and a parking lot. Both are just a bunch of cars, only in one case they're on the move and in the other not. Though even at freeway speeds these cars rarely burst into flames like a meteor. Then again, when there is gridlock both groups of cars are basically unmoving. Those in the traffic jam have the addition of frustrated drivers hot under the collar behind the wheel. Which is still not hot enough to cause them to spontaneously combust like a meteor.
I think we've answered that well enough, now for a few stickier questions. What's the difference between a stone and a rock, a stick and a twig, and a bush and a shrub?