New post at my new site today: Remember When You Couldn’t Reconstruct a Rat Brain?
Hope to see you there!
I cannot believe that this blog is five years old. I’ll never know what moved me that day to write a few hundred words about the early 90s show Beavis and Butthead and publish the piece on a WordPress blog called “Schlabadoo.” But whatever it was, be it muse or daemon or the ancient Babylonian god Marduk, the same force is moving me to start blogging on a self-hosted site with my own name in the URL. Five years ago I thought blogging on a site named after myself would be too vain. And then, later on, when I started getting a lot of followers, I thought, “Well, maybe I don’t care about being too vain, but I don’t want to lose all my followers and all that Google juice I’ve built up.”
I’ve given this a lot of thought. 3,860 followers is a lot of people to inconvenience, and pulling a switch on Google is not something one does lightly. But I have a plan, and moving to this new site is part of that plan. I really hope you understand.
Thank you everyone who has read and followed and commented and shared. And thank you WordPress, for letting me blog here for free; y0u run one heckuva platform. Blogging has been great here at Schlabadoo, and the blogging is going to continue. It is just going to continue somewhere else. From now on, markkaplowitz.com is where new blog posts shall be posted. A link to the new posts will still be posted here, but I hope to see you over there. All the best – MK
And here’s the link to today’s post:
Today at around 8:00 p.m. everyone received an extra second. Scientists do this every now and again to make up for the wobble in the Earth’s rotation. Otherwise, in a few centuries sunrise would take place at noon. So they add a leap second. It’s a nice gesture, and my only complaint is that they don’t announce it in advance so that I might have planned to do something with the extra time.
Instead of adding the leap seconds piecemeal, they should save them up and then spend 15 or 20 leap seconds together. I mean, there’s not a heckuva lot you can do in one second. One second is barely enough time to straighten your collar or check that there’s enough money in your wallet to go set a Slurpee or something. But with 20 seconds – now we’re talking some real time. You could microwave your coffee that’s been sitting on your desk unsipped because you keep getting interrupted by emails about a new “office refrigerator policy.”
Or you could floss in between a few pairs of adjacent teeth. Probably couldn’t floss them all in 20 seconds. But, then again, many people do not floss at all. Imagine if a few times a year the entire universe of people who do not regularly floss stopped whatever they were doing and flossed for 20 seconds. The trajectory of dental history would be altered forever.
Or we could even use the 20 seconds to recite the theme song to a television show we liked as children. Twice a year people could plan what theme song they would sing in those 20 seconds. They could even plan to gather in one place and sing the same song. People who hardly knew each other could gather in the cereal section of the supermarket and sing the theme song to Charles in Charge.
Of course, the planning of how to use the extra 20 seconds would take up many non-leap seconds. That’s the problem with these things. People take it too far. There would be books and podcasts and three-day webinars at $299 early registration, all promising to teach you how to get the most out of the next scheduled chunk of 20 leap seconds, “just like the pros.”
So much real time would be used in planning for the leap time that scientists would be asked to stop letting the leap seconds accumulate, and to stop announcing the leap seconds in advance. And so little would now be said about the leap seconds that the scientists would forget to schedule leap seconds at all. And after several centuries, we would all be sleeping until noon, which is what everyone wanted anyway.
Last month a doctor said that he was planning to undertake the world’s first head transplant. The operation is as simple as it sounds. Take the head of one body and surgically reattach to another. The articles discussing the planned operation, which is apparently going to take place in China despite all of the interest that Western countries have in seeing this real-life Lego project, seem focused just on the source of the head. No one seems to be discussing where the body will come from.
Maybe there will be no body at all. Perhaps the idea is to reattach the head to a mannequin’s body, like the kind you see modeling clothes at the mall. Imagine how many more outfits will be sold when the customers, looking for the right size or for something that will match their Kindle Fire, notice one of the mannequins moving its eyes to follow them throughout the store. It will certainly put an end to shoplifting.
Or maybe the head could be reattached to the body of a large kid’s toy. Imagine how popular the toy would be? No need for batteries or pulling a cord. The head just speaks. The box that the toy comes in would have to detail what the head was going to speak about. The toy manufacturer would have to interview the head and find out what it knows. Maybe the head comes from someone who majored in physics or chemistry or ancient history. Think about how much kids could learn. On the other hand, the head may have come from someone who watched nothing but HBO programming, and parents will have to censor the doll and get to tone down its language and imagery, perhaps by making it watch whole seasons of Downton Abbey, until the head-doll starts addressing the kids that play with it as “M’Lord” and “Your Ladyship.”
Or maybe they will locate a body that is fresh and available enough and comes with few enough questions asked as to be ready to receive a new head. But who is to say there will be only one head needing a transplant? What if there are two? The surgeon will have to sew two heads onto the same body and hope they like the same kinds of movies.
Of course, this is all fantasy. No head transplant is going to take place because no insurance carrier is going to pay it. It doesn’t have a procedure code.
The CEO took a few deep breaths and repeated his mantra silent to himself, and then addressed the shareholders.
“Esteemed shareholders, I know that our Black Friday sales were quite a bit lower than anticipated,” he said. “Believe me when I say that this is a greater shock to me then it is to you. No one could have predicted that people would be sick of Black Friday, and would choose to stay at home with their families rather than run out in the dark night and participate in a stampede for televisions. Clearly there are forces at work here with which we are unfamiliar.”
The CEO took a sip of water. The water went down the wrong pipe, and there was a coughing fit for a few moments.
“But do not despair,” the CEO continued upon regaining control. “There is hope. We and the other big stores have a plan. Instead of waiting for the customers to come to us, we’re going to go to the customers.”
At 4:00 a.m. the following morning, employees from all of the major retailers lined up at the home of one of their rewards club members who had failed to show up at the Black Friday sale. Someone pushed the doorbell, and when the groggy homeowner in his bathrobe opened the door a crack to see who was ringing the bell at such an hour, the employees rushed into the house with all sorts of wares – on sale, of course.
The homeowner was bewildered, but he was so tired and desperate to get back to bed that he bought a few items. Then the employees left and went to the house next door, where the process was repeated. And so on until the end of the block.
A lot of people complained about the invasion of privacy and overly aggressive sales tactics. But it was hard to argue with the results. It turned out that the real reason people didn’t spend on Black Friday was because they didn’t want to deal with the parking. Once that was taken out of the equation – along with the traveling, the waiting on lines, the crowds, and the having to wear pants – people were happy to spend money.
Sales not only rebounded, but exceeded all the estimates and set a record for the holiday shopping season. Soon all the stores were doing it. People could expect a visit from the employees of a store at least once a week. Not only was it unnecessary to visit the store in person, but it became unnecessary to shop online. Why waste time on goods you can’t see, when the goods will be physically in your home within the next few weeks?
Online sales dropped so much that the Internet began to suffer. Shopping websites that had gotten millions of hits per day during previous holiday seasons, now saw just a handful of visitors. The brick-and-mortar stores had folded up long before. Now they were joined by the digital stores.
The stores would do their best to tailor the goods they brought to households. But it was still guesswork, and some people lamented the loss of personal choice. Others, however, didn’t care about personal choice, because something else was taking its place. People were finding that they could learn to like the goods that the stores brought to their homes. The holiday wasn’t about breaking one’s neck to get the best deal. It was about learning to be thankful for what one had.
In honor of All Hallows’ Eve, I’m posting a totally awesome poem that is totally in the public domain. It is called “Goblin Market” by Christina Georgina Rossetti, published in 1862. I’m not sure if it was written with Halloween in mind, or if Halloween even existed then, but somehow it seems appropriate for a day when children collect candy door-to-door from people who are for the most part probably total strangers. It is kind of on the long side but it is worth it – especially if you read it out loud. Happy Halloween!
by Christina Georgina Rossetti