from March 1, 2004
In its February 10 issue, the San Jose Mercury News reports that a 280-pound sea lion was discovered by an unnamed farmer near a San Joaquin Valley cotton field in the vicinity of Los Banos. This shy man put in a call to the California Highway Patrol, which called the Department of Fish and Game, which in turn announced that it was “pretty surprised”—so surprised that it theorized that the large creature must be a calf or a beaver or “something else.”
These theories were soon scuttled. Upon further reflection by the dozens of gathering observers, another theory soon emerged. The creature was a sea lion, which had swum under the Golden Gate Bridge into the San Francisco Bay, took a wrong turn at Pier 39, moved through San Pablo Bay and the delta past Stockton and thence down the San Joaquin River until it ran out of water, at which point it huffed and puffed its way in the direction of the aforementioned cotton field.
Improbable? Only if there is a better theory.
We thinkers at the Myles Junior Think Tank hold to the principle established by the fourteenth-century philosopher and heretic William of Occam, the principle that has been accorded the sobriquet “Occam’s Razor,” which, elegantly stated, is: Keep it simple.
In our opinion, there is a simpler, and therefore superior, theory. The mammal discovered by the timid farmer was not a sea lion but what might be dubbed the San Luis Reservoir monster.
The evidence for this alternative theory is straightforward. One only has to ask a short series of questions. First, what kind of a creature was this? Answer: a water creature. Second, what was its size? Answer: large. Third, what was the body of water closest to the cotton field near which this creature was discovered? Answer: the San Luis Reservoir.
Now consider: how far would this creature have had to swim to get from the Golden Gate to the cotton field? A whopping 135 miles. But how many miles would it have had to traverse to get from the San Luis Reservoir to that spot? According to Rand McNally, a mere 30.
Improbable? Guided by the wisdom of Occam, the MJTT opines, Not at all.
Such a theory is not without predecessors. One need only recall the renowned Loch Ness Monster to see this point. Put differently, if Loch Ness has a monster, what is to prevent the San Luis Reservoir from laying claim to its own?
from February 15, 2004
Never let it be said that MJTT is unaware of what is transpiring in the far-flung fields of science and technology. Some of our best thinkers are currently working on the relatively new field of nanotechnology (known to its detractors as nonotechnology).
For those readers who spend more time on the sports sections of newspapers than on the heavy stuff, let me explain, in brief, the nature of what the Washington Post calls “the hot young science of making invisibly tiny machines and materials.” Scientists are now able to manufacture things slighter of composition than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. This ability enables the medical crowd to create nanobots, tiny devices designed to float through human blood vessels in quest of diseases otherwise undetectable by a doctor during the annual three-minute medical exam.
A curious device, the nanobot. What it plans to do upon discovering a medical problem is an issue for another column. To the casual observer, the options appear to be (1) send in a more specialized nanobot to clean up the mess, (2) alert the attending physician to the problem, or (3) put in a call to the mortuary or furnace of the patient’s choice.
Yet there is a dispute brewing between the cautious and the bold. The nonotechnologists wish to think through the implications of this rapidly-developing field. Their concern is that nanotechnology is a potential if not actual Frankenstein, that the little machines can, perhaps even do, poison the environment and accumulate in the organs of our animal friends. Some studies indeed seem to have proved this fear legitimate.
The bold, however, proceed with their experiments unabated, with faith in their axiom that smaller is better and that nanotechnology aggressively and intelligently practiced will solve the environmental problems with which we are obviously faced.
We at MJTT propose that this dispute can be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.
Let us begin by stipulating that our environmental problems are caused in major part by the world’s overpopulation.
Given this fact, simple logic dictates that following the instincts of the bold has a distinct advantage, as can be seen in the following brief argument.
If unfettered nanotechnology solves our environmental problems, it solves our environmental problems, and the case is closed.
If, however, nonotechnology turns out to be correct—if, that is, nanotechnology is indeed a Frankenstein left to its own devices, it will be harmful to homo sapiens, i.e., it will reduce the population. Put simply, it will kill people. Put even more simply, if nanotechnology is a Trojan horse, if it fails, it will reduce the world’s overpopulation, thus solving our environmental problems, and the case is closed.
Thus MJTT concludes that nanotechnology, given free rein, is a win-win proposition. QED.
Let the nano revolution continue!
from February 1, 2004
In our last-but-one column, we promised to receive a bolt from the blue concerning the eligibility requirements for the MJTT Cremation Service. Though we consider our promises sacred, we also recognize that editors, like God, the Mafia, and other political parties, often work in mysterious ways.
I refer here specifically to the robust suggestion emanating from the office of Arthur Unknown, our editor. Though he rules with a velvet glove, we columnists have come to recognize that that glove hides a sturdy metal known to the chemical world as Fe.
In a word, Art, as he is known to his lackeys, has become obsessed with our president’s far-reaching plans for continued space exploration. He has wondered aloud whether we should not temporarily abandon our plans to reflect on the question of whether Orville Slack IV (deceased) should be outfitted with the paraphernalia our innovative service provides; whether we should not, instead, apply our industrious minds to thinking through our president’s noble plans and to making suggestions.
[Ed. Note: This is all bunk. The truth is that Junior, as he is known to his colleagues, doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do with the ashes of Slack IV. He—Junior—got his bolt from the blue, all right, but it came from following the budding debate over the wisdom of “our president’s far-reaching plans.” He simply wanted to weigh in on the subject, having written outlandish pieces on the moon and its potential as a source of energy.]
Let it be recalled that in several previous columns (August 24 and October 5), which will show up in the archives as soon as our esteemed editor learns how to fiddle with our website, we at MJTT proffered an ingenious plan to solve the earth’s long-term energy needs. The first stage of that plan consisted merely of plastering the moon (at least that portion of it that is visible to the naked eye) with used tinfoil. The second stage involved a higher technology; it was to borrow a few moons from our sister planet, Jupiter, and set them in orbit around the globe we have learned to call home.
Our colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories and Houston have judged this plan “do-able.” Some have even gone before Congress to plead for funding for its implementation. In fact, we have every reason to believe that our current president is favorably disposed to the general idea.
Now what, the careful reader might ask, is the relation between the MJTT plan and the one set forth by our president?
The latter’s plan, as reported by the media, involves colonization of the moon. What the media does not reveal is that part of the purpose of this colonization is to plaster our favorite satellite with used tinfoil! At any rate, either while the tinfoil is being put in place or while this work is being done (the administration is batting about the options), the moon will function as a station for further exploration of Mars.
The details of and rationale for this exploration so far are sparse. This is precisely where MJTT’s acute thinkers come into play. We propose that the main purpose of Mars exploration should be to see if Mars is warming up. If so, well and good; we can colonize it apace, thus relieving Earth of its population problem. If not, we propose the introduction of greenhouse gases and other noxious fumes on our sister planet to speed its warming, thus relieving Earth, etc.
This activity is self-evidently doable. We need not consult experts to know that. The only question is, Why did it take so long for homo sapiens to imagine this very real, very practical possibility?
from January 15, 2004
The growing band of readers of this column will recall that last month saw the demise of our esteemed friend and colleague, Mr. Orville Slack IV, who was removed from this vale of tears at the tender age of ninety-five or thereabouts. His obituary was well-penned by our editor, Mr. Arthur Unknown, and is available for perusal in our growing Archive.
For those whose holiday duties forced them to miss that obit, let me report that Slack IV’s remains were heated to a high temperature, became ash, and were placed in an urn, where they remain at an undisclosed location in a broom closet in the nether regions of the Hôtel Adiós. He left behind a small number of columns for publication.
The aforementioned readers may also remember that Mr. Slack IV was preceded in death by our fellow columnist, Mr. Ab Ennis, who was likewise reduced to ashes in the Year of our Lord 1958. Mr. Ennis, or Ab, as he was affectionately called by those who agreed with his literary pronouncements, continues to render judgments from his perch atop the Kachina Round Table of the aforementioned hotel. Indeed, so acute are his insights, so lithe his movements, that he has announced his intention of seeking the top spot on the ticket of the newly-formed Dead Rights Party. He is, in a word, running for president.
For this the Miles Junior Think Tank modestly takes some credit. Though we cannot accept plaudits for the acuity of his judgments, we had a small, indeed huge, part in making this marvel possible. It was our ingenuity that caused him to be outfitted with the devices that can allow an intelligent set of ashes to become a major player in the political game. I speak of the midget robot that enables our urn-bound man to move about in the lithe but eccentric manner that has become his trademark; of the audio device with which he is equipped; of the acrylic ocular implants that allow him to recognize the media personnel and to avoid those who ask unpleasant questions.
This said, we at MJTT have concluded that, given our stunning success in the resurrection of our man, we have no choice (given our stated intent to make the world a better place in which to live) but to use our expertise to help others achieve their lifelong wish to remain immortal.
Thus the creation of the MJTT Cremation Service, a subsidiary of its umbrella organization, The Myles Junior Think Tank.
We will, of course, need eligibility criteria. For instance, should we heed the pleas of Mr. Orville Slack IV to be outfitted with the same apparatuses that Mr. Ennis enjoys?
There are arguments on both hands. On the one hand, Slack IV has certainly provided a public service, taking the art of begging off to its highest known pitch. On the other hand, his readership has fallen off, possibly because his advice has offended such former readers of his column as the telemarketer crowd, brokers, policemen, and the Girl Scouts.
But this is but one example of the ethical dilemmas caused by the inauguration of our enterprise. We will return to this subject in our next blog, meanwhile awaiting that bolt from the blue we have come to expect in our mullings over such major matters.
from December 15, 2003
The significant advance we were prepared to report in my last blog, our breathless readers will recall, was put on hold on counsel of our editor, who advised us to report the findings of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on the reappearance of the ozone layer over our whitest continent.
We are now prepared to return to the aborted problem of the so-called “shrinking universe” with our significant findings.
Those who have followed the peregrinations of our previous reports will recall the following. That the Miles Junior Think Tank (MJTT) has long suspected that the late-twentieth century scientific doctrine of an expanding universe has come aground on the fact that certain parishes in the State of Louisiana have been slowly sinking. That the MJTT has put boots on the ground, so to speak, by sending half a dozen interns to the bayous of that state in order to learn (pidgin) Cajun, the better to communicate with the locals on this phenomenon of potentially cosmic significance. That Miles Junior has hypothesized that the famed writer and pedophile Lewis Caroll was also a cosmologist ahead of his time, as evidenced by his famous parable of Alice’s adventures, which began by her fall “Down the Rabbit Hole.” That the aforementioned interns arrived in New Orleans and stayed there for some time in order to “get the lay of the land.” That these bright youngsters made their way to Cajun country, only to be apprehended by the local constabulary and placed in a parish jail. That, having served their time and paid their fines, they returned to New Orleans in quest of a Cajun-speaking university on or around Bourbon Street.
So far, so good. Or perhaps not. To our consternation, we have discovered that our interns have found a more remunerative occupation than we have been able to offer them. They have become, in a phrase, exotic dancers. To their credit, they so informed us via email, hinting though not promising that they would return the salaries with which we had richly endowed them. Suffice it to say that our lawyers are on this job; the many major contributors to our project need not experience angst.
So, what are our significant findings?
As the CEO of the MJTT, I took it upon myself to fly to New Orleans to finish this promising project. I then hired a tourist service to transport me directly to the back bayous, where, in a café frequented by the locals, I learned the nuances of the Cajun dialect in three days. (During that time I also came across the original version of Evangeline, which was composed by an unsung Acadian poet before being translated, without attribution, by the American poetaster Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But that is material for another blog, perhaps by my venerated colleague Ab Ennis.)
From conversations and exchanged hand signals with an elderly fortune-teller, I was able to determine that, though the villages of the parish were indeed sinking, the reason for this trend was not cosmological but was merely the result of overlogging in the area. In a phrase, the perpetrator of this phenomenon was not some Cosmic Force but human activity.
Her explanation was convincing. In scientific terms: if X occupies 100 cubic centimeters at point A, and X is transported to point B; and if points A and B comprise a totality; then the totality in terms of cubic centimeters is not affected by this move.
Applied to the problem at hand, the sinking of Louisiana, this principle implies that the logs that disappear from the bayou country show up in another area, albeit in the form of timber and sawdust.
From this we at the MJTT are able to deduce that the world is not shrinking. Thus our working hypothesis, that the entire universe is shrinking, has been found to be flawed.
But scientific progress is not measured by positive results alone. We learn from our mistakes. And what we learned is that this negative result can lead to something constructive, namely, that the plains that dot significant portions of the American landscape can be made to develop into mountains.
The bolt from the blue that led to this conclusion came about as I was visiting my colleague Thalia Mews in her natural habitat, the State of Washington. We were sitting in her back yard, discussing Ab Ennis’s candidacy for president, when we observed the activity of a colony of moles, digging up dirt and forming molehills.
“What would happen,” I asked Ms. Mews, “if, instead of seeking to exterminate these creatures by banging their little heads with a sharpened shovel, we were to encourage them in their work?”
After a brief pause, she replied, not without some indignation, “Why, they’d make a small mountain of my back yard!”
“Exactly!” responded I. “And how would this help our Dead Rights candidate render his campaign promise to create a Mount Rushmore for every dead American scientifically respectable?”
She immediately saw my point. But she proceeded to raise a critical question. Would the engineering feat of transporting a large population of moles to the prairie states be sufficient for such an admirable goal?
We pondered this question overnight.
Come morning, the ideas were flowing as freely as the tequila-laced orange juice. The nub of our proposal was that biotechnology grow more and larger moles. This could be accomplished in several ways: feeding the creatures buttered popcorn and pizza; putting them on orgasm-enhancing drugs; and of course constructing tiny barbells for the workouts in which we would encourage them to engage.
The MJTT is thus pleased to report not only that the universe is not sinking, as some alarmists have feared, but also that the candidacy of one Ab Ennis has received what it so abundantly deserves, a shot in the ashes.
from December 1, 2003
Though the MJTT has made a significant advance in its theory of the shrinking universe, we must comply with the request of our friend, colleague, and editor Arthur Unknown to place our statement concerning this matter on hold. Mr. Unknown has a sense of urgency concerning the recent U.N. report on the disappearance of the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer—a report, he insisted, that requires that the MJTT should rethink its earlier theory and recommendations (see July 13 and 27; August 10) concerning this vital matter.
On Thursday, November 20, at 10:54:58 ET, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the U.N. viewing itself as the “authoritative scientific voice on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate” since 1951, reported that the seasonal ozone hole hovering over Antarctica has, in its words, “disappeared again after reaching record size earlier this year.”
The word that catches one’s attention in this brief missive is “again.” The assumption behind this nomenclature becomes clear as we read on: like our lunar companion, the moon, the ozone layer waxes and wanes in a highly predictable “seasonal manner,” and has done so since the mid-1980s.
“Scientists have said,” the WMO report goes on, that “the phenomenon [of waxing] results from destruction of the gas in the atmosphere by chemical compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons released in some aerosols and refrigerants. The hole refills [i.e., wanes] with surrounding ozone-rich air as temperatures rise.”
“Scientists have said . . .” The use of the passive voice is often a telltale sign of a weak theory, propped up by a reference to an anonymous self-proclaimed authority. Such, we suspect, is the case here.
“[S]ince the mid-1980s . . .” One wonders whether this phenomenon of waxing and waning has been in effect only from the time when the devices for ozone measurement were first put in place, or whether this hide-and-seek act has been at work since the split-up of the original Pangaea into the present system of multiple land masses. If it has been around since before the appearance of homo sapiens, we humans are off the hook; no one should be urged to feel guilty for brandishing a can of air freshener after a trip to the bathroom.
Are these quibbles? Perhaps. Let it be understood that the MJTT does not question the measurements of the WMO. For example, we are in no position to question its statement that the ozone cavity peaked at a record-matching 28 million square kilometers in mid-September. And we certainly have no wish to dispute its contention that the cavity has recently disappeared.
No. What we wish to dispute is the WMO’s dogmatic assertions concerning the causes of both the appearance of the cavity (“chemical pollution”) and its disappearance (“The hole refills with surrounding ozone-rich air as temperatures rise.”).
These assertions rule out ab ovo (Latin: from the outset) the original though controversial theories carefully set forth by the MJTT: (1) that the cause of the ozone depletion is the excess of penguin droppings over millennia; (2) that a simple though politically unpalatable solution to the problem would be to issue penguin hunting licenses to wealthy American sportsmen; and (3) that a more prudent solution would be to fill the ozone cavity via the technologically feasible feats of either shipping Hummers to Antarctica and pointing their ozone-creating tailpipes at the sky, and/or creating an ozonaduct that would ship the excess Southern California ozone to that beautiful but dreary continent.
Again, an agency of the U.N. has dropped the ball. Wedded to the orthodox theory concerning ozone depletion, the WMO has nearsightedly missed seeing what we at the MJTT have been monitoring since August 10.
We are now in the position to report that the American government, in conjunction with its British counterpart, has been secretly selling penguin hunting licenses to avid hunters, especially members of the NRA and the fox-hunters of Merry Olde England. Though we cannot yet quantify the effects of this politically-motivated move on the disappearance of the ozone cavity, we have no doubt that this astute but morally-questionable act has contributed significantly to the repair of the offending hole.
More, we have obtained access to classified information that General Motors has signed a lucrative contract with the Sierra Club for the sale of 10,000 Hummers for the environmentally-sound purpose outlined above. To date, over seven thousand of the machines have arrived at their various destinations on and surrounding Antarctica; the remaining are en route.
As for the ozonaduct, our moles at the DOD (Department of Defense) report that the U.S. Government has let unbid contracts for its construction. Some sources say that this has already begun at an isolated spot above Antarctica.
These pieces of intelligence, when dot has been connected to dot, leave no doubt that our original theory of the ozone problem and its solution competes on more-than-equal terms with that of the anonymous “scientists” to whom the WMO makes constant reference.
from November 15, 2003
Readers are constantly reminding me that my promised theory of the shrinking universe has yet to be made public. To them I counsel, patience! The interns the MJTT has sent to the bayous of Louisiana in order to learn Cajun have informed us that they are diligently seeking an accredited Cajun university in and around New Orleans’s Bourbon Street.
This is not to say that our other readers are slackers. I have received several e-mails from offended perusers of our column pointing out that our latest project, the blueprint for the neo-modern museum, takes no account of the tastes of the lower- and middle-brow habitués of museums. While our blueprint would no doubt be stunningly successful at the Art Institute of Chicago, one observer noted, it would fail miserably at that city’s Museum of Science and Industry, which boasts an attendance figure at least three or four times that of its downtown rival.
What is called for, it is clear, is a blueprint for just such a museum, in which easily two-thirds of the patrons are under the age of 16.
The solution to the problem of upgrading a museum of this sort to neo status is so simple that I blush to suggest it.
I am referring, of course, to the popular ride common to amusement parks—small vehicles equipped with thick rubber bumpers, the better to absorb the jolts they suffer and dish out as they scurry about the specially-designed arena in a spirit of glee. Not that the idea is to turn such family-oriented institutions into raucous amusement parks. No. The purpose of these miniature autos will be much the same as the purpose of the small railroad that MJTT envisions for the more upscale art museum: to save wear and tear on the feet and lower back and thus enhance the patron’s enjoyment. In fact, scattered among the customers will be traffic police riding unmarked vehicles, apprehending the occasional belligerent who drives around with evil intent.
Naturally, such a museum must be retrofitted to preserve the exhibits. These exhibits will be protected by railings that, when touched by the rubber bumpers, will blow a horn, thus attracting the attention of the traffic police, who will arrive with ticket pads at the ready.
There will of course be a rental fee, to be determined by the size and number of the renters. Fathers accompanied by two children will pay more, for example. Persons the width of whose buttocks exceeds 36 inches will be charged double. The rare slender person will receive a discount. All this is predicated, naturally, on the assumption that there will be a variety of choices of vehicles available to the connoisseur of such museums.
from November 1, 2003
It is with deep regret that I must report that our work on the problem of the shrinking world remains on hold.
Shortly after publishing my last column, I received a collect phone call from one of our interns in Louisiana. Calling from a parish jail in Cajun country, she requested that someone at MJTT come down and “bail us out.” Further probing on my part elicited a garbled story of which I can recall but one phrase, “under the influence,” interspersed by several giggles.
My commitment to the shrinking world project being what it is, I have sent a trusted associate to the detention center to free and chastise our young coworkers and enroll them in a course in the Cajun dialect, pidgin subspecies.
All this is not by way of explaining why there shall be no column this fortnight. Oh no! MJTT is always on the lookout for significant, socially responsible problems on which we can exercise our not-inconsiderable intellects.
We happened across just such a problem in the last edition of this periodical, in the piece by our editor, Arthur Unknown. The avid reader of these pages will recall that in his column, Mr. Unknown recounted his adventures riding about an art museum disguised as an invalid. The premise of his column was that the museum as we know it is an antiquated institution that is, among its other faults, hard on the feet.
MJTT accepts that premise. More, it has resolved to devote considerable thought to righting that and other wrongs by envisioning a new form of art museum.
In the neo-modern museum, the pictures are all spaced the same distance apart, regardless of their size and aesthetic appeal. Ten feet distant from the wall runs a small battery-run railroad track. On the track is placed a continuous set of chairs facing the walls at intervals of, say, fifteen (15) feet. The chairs are of course for the use of the patrons. This train of chairs will not move continuously but will start and stop every fifteen feet, for exactly one minute. Thus the patrons will be allowed to see each exhibit once, after which they will be swiftly moved to the next, so that no exhibit goes unseen by any art lover. Opera glasses are provided to each patron for a small rental fee, this for the purpose of reading the fine print on the wall explaining each exhibit. Alternatively: the patron may purchase a brochure with the same information. A third option. The patron may rent an earphones/recorder combo providing an aural explanation of each exhibit; this will save him/her the trouble of reading. The combo may be rented in four colors (mauve, forest green, gunpowder gray, forest-fire orange) and listened to in any of the six standard voices: soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, all recited by a singer who has performed a leading role at the Met a minimum of three times.
The chairs are equipped with a small foldout table for the use of those who wish to have purchased foodstuffs from the museum cafeteria. Indeed, the cafeteria is to be the first stop on the line. Those who prefer not to eat while engaged in art-loving may rent a small TV set providing a full panoply of channels in order to dispose of the time others will be spending in the cafeteria. The set may also be retained, at a modest extra cost, for possible use within the museum proper. This for the convenience of those whose tastes are repelled, for example, by the Late Impressionists or who are incapable of understanding why a large spray-painted canvas or a men’s urinal, however tastefully wrought, would be considered as art.
What about the problem of restrooms? Though the time it takes for the train to traverse the entire museum will be 75 minutes at the most, the Miles Junior Think Tank takes into account the sudden urges to which a substantial majority of flesh is heir. Thus each chair comes equipped with a button that, when depressed, allows the chair and the patron it bears to leave the train and descend into a basement, which is occupied by a variety of restrooms, each festooned with the early works of an up-and-coming artist. There are stalls at the door of each restroom. For a small fee, the patron may convey his/her chair to that stall. And of course the chair is also equipped with a button that, when again depressed, returns the patron to his/her proper position on the train. (The technical details of this arrangement are being outsourced to a group of brilliant but unemployed mechanical engineers.)
At the end of the line stands the art bookstore. It is here that the museum realizes a healthy cash flow. Each of the abovementioned chairs is equipped with a small computer that allows the individual patron to select from a menu of books he/she wishes to purchase; the decisions re purchases are to be made during the general pilgrimage through the museum proper. The problem of overstocked books is obviated by the use of the POD (print-on-demand) technology, which allows the book to be printed immediately after the avid patron has placed an order.
The neo-modern museum is the answer to the prayers not only of the soft-footed, but of those who have learned to live and thrive in contemporary times while maintaining their taste for the exquisite arts.
from October 19, 2003
What do bumper stickers have to do with the problem of the shrinking world on which MJTT has been working?
We must acknowledge that our work on the sinking world hypothesis is on hold. As we explained in an earlier blog, our first step toward solving this vexing problem was to send half a dozen interns down to bayou country to learn pidgin Cajun, this in order to learn why a significant acreage of the state of Louisiana is sinking.
Recently we received a brief email from one of the interns, who informed us that the sextet has yet to make its way to Cajun country. These young persons are, it seems, still in New Orleans, enjoying the restaurant scene, attending Saints games, and paying nightly visits to Bourbon Street—all, the writer explained, in order to “get the lay of the land” before venturing into the bayous.
I of course responded to this missive by instructing them to follow the orders I had given them before sending them on this mission. I have yet to receive an answer.
But MJTT is a multi-tasking organization. In the meantime, we have been working on a more practical matter: a rear bumper on which is attached a streaming marquee.
The need for such a device became obvious to me while motoring on the local interstate. I observed that well over 84 percent of the vehicles on the road sported bumper stickers advertising their owners’ political and/or religious views, announcing their child’s academic achievements, or displaying a clever jest. Of these vehicles, approximately 91 percent exhibited two or more such stickers.
Given the speed at which the ordinary interstate vehicle travels, a high percentage (roughly 95 percent) of these brief missives are difficult to read. The exception, of course, is rush hour traffic, during which the poor motorist who is stuck behind a sticker-laden bumper must suffer the boredom of reading the same messages over and again.
The solution to both circumstances came to me as a bolt from the blue similar, I surmise, to that which struck Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, and others of our ilk. Why not invent a bumper equipped with a large, legible streaming marquee capable of exhibiting an unlimited number of messages?
Such a marquee could be preprogrammed by the vehicle’s owner. It could also be programmed on the run—a keyboard could be embedded in the steering wheel for special occasions. (I am thinking of the many instances in which I have come across a car with a wobbly rear tire, a situation that has incited me to pass it, honking and pointing to the dangerous wheel, an act that often as not has caused the driver to respond by flashing an obscene gesture. This invention would eliminate that inferior mode of communication. The discerning driver would simply type a short message—YOUR LEFT REAR TIRE IS WOBBLING—and proceed to pass the offending vehicle, then moving adeptly into the proper lane.)
Granted, not all messages would be so magnanimous and humanitarian. I can envision a Volvo driving along advertising the fact, MY SON IS WORKING ON A PHD IN SELF-ASSEMBLING MONOLAYERS AT CAL TECH, followed by a Hummer whose driver is furiously programming in the information, MY SUN IZ MIDLE LINEBECHER FOR USC AN CAN BRAKE EVERY BONE IN YOU’RE SUNZ BODDY.
But I have a firm faith in the essential goodness of humanity. I believe that 54 percent of the drivers on the road would use this invention for positive purposes.
from September 21, 2003
Included in the MJTT’s extensive library is a copy of The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll. Usually regarded as nothing more than a children’s author reveling in nonsense and little girls, Carroll (the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson [1832-1898]) was much, much more: an Oxford don, a mathematician and logician, and—I boldly aver—a visionary scientist whose fantastic tales disguise a sophisticated cosmological theory that is built on the premise that the universe is sinking.
I made this discovery after spending a day fishing in a dry riverbed on the outskirts of Large Southwestern City. Disappointed by my catch, which consisted of two minnows and a midget frog, I returned to headquarters and, after my dutiful assistant had plucked several bits of cactus that had been attracted to the nether regions of my flesh at the conclusion of a nasty fall, I repaired to our extensive library to sip a carafe of sherry.
While thus engaged, I happened to glance at the top shelf of books. Lewis Carroll’s works caught my eye. I rang for my assistant, who appeared instantly, along with a nurse. I waved off the nurse, protesting that the sherry was the only medicine I required. Then I instructed my lovely young assistant to retrieve the book that had caught my eye. She dutifully moved the available ladder to the appropriate place and climbed it. I noted that she was attired in a short dress, patent-leather shoes, and white anklets, a scene that, together with the carafe of sherry, elicited the unnamed muse that is the inspiration of all great scientists.
My lovely young assistant dutifully retrieved the book that had not five minutes earlier caught my observant eye.
“Thank you, Alice,” I said politely, patting her hand in a fatherly way.
She frowned. “It’s Lolita,” she reminded me.
“Ah yes,” I acknowledged, patting another part of her lovely prepubescent person in a fatherly way. I had forgotten the pet name I had bestowed upon her.
“Will that be all, Sir?” she inquired.
I frowned. “It’s Lewis,” I reminded her. She had forgotten the pet name I had suggested she bestow upon me.
“Whatever,” she said with a shrug of her lovely young shoulders, and left.
I gazed after her and fell into a muse. Shortly thereafter I recalled the book she had delicately placed upon my lap. I opened it to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and began to read the first chapter, “Down the Rabbit-Hole.”
“Here,” I thought in a fit of inspiration, “is the key to the theory of the shrinking universe.”
Delighted by the efficient working of my muse, I promptly fell into a deep sleep, confident that upon waking, I would . . .