Sunday, January 21, 2018

Interview with an exceptional dolphin

A researcher at the National Aquarium of Baltimore reports that a dolphin was able to recognize itself in a mirror at only seven months old. That's more than I can do on a Monday morning. 

Most human babies only manage this feat of self-recognition at one year old, meaning if dolphins drove cars, their bumper stickers would say “My calf is smarter than your toddler.” Dolphins would also drive up a lot more curbs, I’m guessing. 

I have traveled to Baltimore, and I am lucky to have with me today the brainiac dolphin in question. Her name is Bayley, and I have outfitted her with a state-of-the-art dolphin voice translation system I invented, called writing. Welcome, Bayley.

Bayley: Thanks.

GW: So you seem to have outdone every other animal species on Earth when it comes to early self-recognition. Is there something special about you, or is this typical of dolphins?

Bayley: Pretty typical. Our brains have to develop very quickly in the ocean, to avoid getting eaten. 

GW: When you saw yourself in the mirror for the first time, what did you think?

Bayley: Baby girl’s looking FINE.

GW: You knew it was you immediately.

Bayley: Well, at first I thought my sister got outside the tank somehow, but then I remembered—nobody leaves the tank.

GW: Do you know what’s outside the tank?

Bayley: Only what they teach us—sharks, killer whales, something called “politics.” Nothing good.

GW: So you feared for your sister’s safety?

Bayley: Yeah! But then I noticed her teeth were way too straight.

GW: And the light bulb came on.

Bayley: The what?

GW: The scales fell from your eyes.

Bayley: The what?

GW: You saw you. Yourself. That must have been...

Bayley: It was a trip. I had to take a moment. 

GW: It's kind of special. Only a few animals manage self-recognition. Humans, some apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies. That’s about it. 

Bayley: Dude, you are holding your breath a long time for this interview. 

GW: Yes, I am. And thanks for playing along. So what else are dolphins great at?

Bayley: I can catch eight plastic hoops on my face.  

GW: Can you shatter glass with your voice?

Bayley: Yes, actually, but that would be bad. The water would run out and that politics stuff might get in.

GW: Yeah, don’t do that.

Bayley: Can I ask you something?

GW: Sure.

Bayley: What the heck’s a magpie?

. . .

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Features I’d like to see in my phone’s next system update

My phone’s latest update brought a feature which, much like a good wingman, protects me against my own worst impulses. It tells anyone who texts me while I am driving that I am unavailable. This is a fantastic technological advance, mainly because I can customize the outgoing text. 

I can make it say “Sorry, I am currently helping Elon recalibrate the thrusters. I will reply when we splash down.” Or “My apologies, but my phone does not notify me of texts when my body is more than 70% covered in massage oils. Talk soon!”

Here are some features I would like to propose be added with the next system update:

Friend Zone Detect

This feature uses your phone’s mic to “read” the voice of your crush for clues as to her feelings toward you. Phrases like “You are so nice” trigger on-screen suggestions to you, potential responses like “Not as nice as my Camaro” and “Actually, I once killed a man.” Even something as subtle as a sigh from her is translated into a color-coded indication of interest; green for “Definitely interested,” yellow for “You remind her of that guy on ‘Ice Road Truckers’” and red for “Seriously? Siri and I are pretty sure we told you to lose the mustache.”

Imminent Poot

This feature detects tiny rumblings in your nether regions and warns you via phone vibration if an embarrassing emanation is pending at a party. Level one vibration means “Sure, have another canapé and casually look for a balcony.” A double buzz means “Feign a sudden interest in taking a closer look at the lawn flamingos.” A triple means “A diving leap behind the curtains would not be out of line, sir.”


This feature counts the number of steps you take to the pot dispensary. Then after you have smoked up, it tells you how many calories you have consumed, because you apparently have no memory of pounding that entire platter of bacon-wrapped wienies. Litbit can also calculate just how many days it will take for that Purple Urkle to leave your system, and in the meantime offer some pretty legit music recommendations. 

The first stone tool was upgraded over time, from “war hammer” to “coconut opener” to “cat painting medium.” So it is also with our tech tools. One can only hope that each upgrade brings us closer to that pinnacle of human advancement: thought-free shopping. We are so close, people, so close. 

. . .

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bitcoin, potcoin, Bleef, or just good ol’ Moolah?

“Bitcoin” got a lot of attention last year, as it was worth 38 times more in December than it was in January, something I like to call “the pumpkin spice effect.” Bitcoin is the most famous example of a “cryptocurrency;” from the Latin “crypto,” meaning “gullible,” and the Latvian “currenso,” meaning “like, we’re talking Gomer Pyle gullible.” The value went up because random people decided it should, which is also as good an explanation of kale’s popularity as I can think of. 

Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency, but if cryptocurrency were ketchup, bitcoin would be Heinz. Much like the naming convention in which any political scandal must now end in “gate,” because the ketchup of political scandals was Watergate, many cryptocurrency names end in “coin.” Not all, though. “Omni” and “Ethereum” are two actual virtual currencies, which will also one day be the names of my android butlers. 

See if you can determine which cryptocurrencies below are real or ones I made up.

Bleef. It’s what you use to digitally pay for what’s for dinner.

Potcoin. “In God we trust; all others pay cash” was the title of a book by humorist Jean Shepherd. Potcoin exists to help people buy legal weed. Dave’s not here, man, but the 21st Century is. 

Lisk. Lisk is a dapp creation platform in Javascript. Or a brand of toilet deodorizer. 

Mittcoin. Former governor Romney, a billionaire, backs this currency which is mostly used to tithe to the church or for hair gel. 

Monero. This is either a cryptocurrency or the new Chevy hybrid.

Obitcoin. Posting the story of your loved one’s passing in the newspaper just got easier. 

Dash. A currency involving decentralized governance, private transactions, and, for a digital currency, a remarkable ability to get whites whiter. 

Omitcoin. More discreet even than Swiss banks.

MOOLAH. Mostly used in movie cartoons.

Coinye. This now-defunct currency sported the face of rapper Kanye West, but was abandoned after legal pressure for trademark infringement. For the record, if anyone wants to create Waterscoin, I will not sue. Please note that the value of one Waters will be equivalent to a medium Hawaiian pizza. 

Tarpitcoin. Found only in L.A., this prehistoric system appears to have been less a currency than an extortion scheme undertaken by mammals faced with a sticky situation. For most, it did not end well. 

A currency must, above all, be stable, and the way things are going, I predict that one day ours will consist entirely of Pez dispensers and Beanie Babies. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Take this quiz on tax reform; you may already be a winner

1. The tax reform bill was created, in its entirety, by:
  1. The political party in power, holding many meetings with the minority party in order to come up with compromises which all sides may not love but can live with for the sake of a majority of Americans
  2. Bahahahahahahaha!
  3. 100 (completely bipartisan) monkeys with 100 typewriters
  4. Siri

2. The new tax law benefits:
  1. Unmarried corporations making more than $100 million a year
  2. This guy in Des Moines
  3. Hedge fund managers down on their luck
  4. Hillary Clinton. She always finds a way, you guys!

3. Reforming tax law is hard because:
  1. Having both hands in the cookie jar leaves very little room to maneuver
  2. It is hard to say the word “reform” unironically, without laughing so hard I accidentally legislate a little
  3. Anything worth doing is worth doing in a way that makes half the country explode
  4. It is not actually as hard as dying or comedy

4. If this tax law were a classic movie, what would it be entitled?
  1. “Sweet Smell of Success”
  2. “Touch of Evil”
  3. “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  4. “Pinocchio”

5. Why does the new tax law specifically stick it to homeowners in liberal-majority states like California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut?
  1. Well, frankly, it’s just fun

6. What is the best thing about this tax plan?
  1. The way it has brought our country together to rally behind millionaires.
  2. Social Security and Medicaid will be cut to pay for it, but I’m not old or poor!
  3. Really, if I’m honest? The odor
  4. Corporations can finally stop hiding their money offshore to avoid taxes and hide it right here onshore in the good ol’ USA

7. If the Democrats had total power in Congress, would they have voted on a tax reform bill late at night without allowing any input from Republicans, a tax bill which will, just as a fun tacked-on side effect, knock 13 million people off their health care and increase the federal deficit by more than a trillion dollars in the next decade?
  1. Yes, but there also would have been cage fighting

They say nothing is for sure except death and taxes, but that leaves out reboots of TV shows that don’t age so well, Betty White memes and the fact we won’t really know how all this affected us until 20 years from now when President Swift tells us. 

. . .

Sunday, December 24, 2017

New Christmas Carols for the times we’re living in

To the tune of "Joy To The World"

Boy, what a world! Accord is done
Let’s nuke the whole darn thing
We can't outsmart our certain doom
Aggression is on the wing
North Korea and mass shooting
Why not just wipe the slate of everything

Oy, where's the mirth in hurricanes?
The ice caps melt, oh joy
Now polar bears will take great pains
to eat our girls and boys
they'll eat our girls and boys
and then they will eat some of their favorite toys.

To the tune of “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer”

You know Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant
Then there’s Cortana, her queries persistent...
But do you recall...the most worthless help bot of all?
Snorkoo the hapless help bot had a very buggy code
And when you said “TV on!”
It triggered Snorkoo’s sleep mode
All of the other help bots made a pretty great soufflé
Snorkoo the hapless help bot turned it into egg flambé
Then, although you’d disbelieve, Congress called to say
Snorkoo, though you've no heartbeat, won't you fill this vacant seat?
Then all of Congress loved him, to a man they did agree
Legislating with no heartbeat's not a liability...

To the tune of "Away In A Manger"

He drives a Ford Ranger, pit bull in its bed
He fits many labels, including “skinhead”
You might think a Nazi’s a poor role to play
but he makes side dough as an alt-right DJ

He finds fertile soil as civility breaks
(If you’re a gay couple, good luck buying cakes)
Where this stops I can’t say, but this we can try:
If Gramps was against you, well hell, so am I

To the tune of "Do You Hear What I Hear"

Said the boss man to the new temp Pam,
“Want to see my wee wee?”
(She was thinking wow, should I scram?)
“Or how ‘bout you flash me?”

Bizarre, bizarre, that’s when Pam took flight
So his jailing she’d expedite
Yes, his jailing she’d expedite

Said the temp Pam now better employed:
“Let us not live in fear”
Emails to her friends she deployed:
“Am I right? This ends here."

So long, so long
she now says with ease
when a boss turns out to be a sleaze
All commend her new expertise

. . .

I, for one, cannot wait for the new year.