My thinking on dogs has done nearly a 180-degree turn—maybe a 150-degree turn?—over the past few years. I’ve always liked dogs (so I was already thirty degrees in their favor), but I disliked dog people. I still would not classify myself in that way, though I do serenade my dog, so maybe I’m just in denial.
Regardless, what chapped me was the way people would use dogs as surrogate children, or would invest huge amounts of their personal identity in their dog. Again, perhaps I’m in denial, or blind to reality, but as much as I love my dog, I’d like to think I’m not pouring misdirected paternalism into her.
But dogs do provide wonderful companionship, and can be a great deal of fun. Murphy does something comical or amusing just about every day. And her adenoidal snoring and “talking” crack me up. I actually sleep better when Murphy is snoring her brains out—she’s like a living white-noise machine.
Pretty crazy these chunky furballs used to be wolves, eh?
After many requests—from Audre Myers, not lots of different people—I am finally reviewing Bicentennial Man (1999), the film in which Robert Williams plays a robot, Andrew Martin, who wishes to become a human. I picked up this flick on-demand on RedBox for about $4—a small price to pay to make Audre happy (and/or to appease her, depending upon one’s perspective).
When I announced I’d be reviewing this film last Monday, it engendered some controversy in the comments. Regular reader and contributor Pontiac Dreamer 39 (now going by “Always a Kid for Today”) wrote:
Bicentennial man?! Crikey, Tyler, you’re going to need a lot of booze. I like Robin Williams but that film is dross. If you can get through to the end sober, I’ll be impressed. Personally, I’d have made Audre rewatch that film!
Audre predictably came to the film’s defense, citing its relevance in an age in which robots and artificial intelligence are growing increasingly sophisticated. Ponty/AaKfT argued better films on the topic exist, such as Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece RoboCop.
As the days grow shorter and cooler, with a full moon overhead, that old Halloween spirit has me excited for mischief and fun to come. Shirts for this year’s Spooktacular have come in, and I’m ready to play more spooky tunes from my front porch!
I don’t know if I believe in Bigfoot or not—I want to believe in it, at least—but I’m very much open to the possibility that there is far more to God’s Creation than we can even hope to comprehend. As such, it seems self-limiting to outright deny the existence of certain creatures. There might be plenty of evidence against the existence of Bigfoot, Mothman, etc., but such was the case—as I point out in this post—with the adorably weird duck-billed platypus.
But I digress. Whether these monsters exist or not, there are still plenty around us. With that, here is 21 October 2021’s “Monsters“:
As I breathlessly reported two weeks ago, I attempted to build a small frog pond in one of my rear flower beds using Tupperware containers, dirt, rocks, old planters, and mulch. I dubbed the watery domain “Frogtopia,” hoping it would attract neighborhood toads and frogs to his muddy environs.
After two weeks—and a new addition, using a large and deep IHOP to-go container—I must concede that Frogtopia is, at least so far, a failure. While the WikiHow article I used as a reference guide suggests that it can take a year or two for frogs to show up to a frog pond, I can already see a major structural problem with my attempted design.
After writing about whales yesterday, I thought I’d look back at some animal-related posts. I stumbled upon this post from last June, in which I waxed scientific on the origins of dogs, and how we are all the descendants of the people the wolves didn’t eat.
My entire perspective on dogs has changed dramatically in the past year. I used to think dogs were fine, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. After dating a woman who was clearly using her poorly-trained dogs as surrogate children, I swore I would never date a single woman with dogs again.
Indeed, when my current girlfriend and I started dating, she had recently adopted her puppy, a German Shepherd. According to her, whenever she mentioned the dog, I immediately changed the subject. That sounds about right.
I was skittish around the dog initially, but now I love that critter. Sure, I still find it a bit sad when single women approaching The Wall start channeling their unfulfilled maternal instincts into a four-legged fur ball, but I can now appreciate these wonderful creatures for the positive qualities they possess. As Gavin McInnes—no lover of dogs—often says, we bred dogs to love us unconditionally, so it’s little wonder that they do.
Back in May I stumbled upon an online culture journal, The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of Culture. I don’t know much about either the publication or the IASC, other than they’re based out of the University of Virginia, so I can’t speak to their degree of implicit Leftist infiltration, but default position is that any organization in 2020 that isn’t explicitly conservative is probably Left-leaning.
It’s sad that I even have to make that disclaimer, because some part of me still clings to the old ideal of a broad, humanistic approach to knowledge—that we should examine ideas on their own merits, not on the politics of the entities espousing them. I still believe that ideal is worth pursuing; I just also believe it is currently dead, or at least on life-support.
But I digress. The then-current issue of The Hedgehog Review was dedicated entirely to the theme of “Monsters.” It being the Halloween season, the time seemed ripe to revisit those pieces, and the idea of “monsters.”
The weather in the mountains this past weekend was delightfully chilly, and it seems the cold up on Mount Mitchell has blown down into South Carolina. In short, the weather is perfect—warm afternoons, and crisp, autumnal mornings. I’ve been taking a cup of half-caff coffee in the afternoons after getting home from work and watering the garden, and it’s been glorious sitting on the porch and enjoying the coolness of the evening.
That first nip in the air is a sign that the hygge—the Danish concept of contented, warm coziness—is near. It’s a time for bundling up and staying warm in old quilts with good books—and good company! Food tastes better, coffee seems more satisfying, and my mind feels more alert and alive this time of year.
There’s also college football, which is nice, too—and Halloween!
So it seemed like a good time to look back to a post from March of this year, during South Carolina’s unusually cool—and long—spring. This post, “Tarantulas and the Hygge,” explored what I called “the weird side of the Internet,” traveling “down one of those byways of oddity.”
I’m puppy-sitting today, watching my parents’ ten-week-old rat terrier while they’re working and attending various doctors’ appointments. I pray that the day I go to the doctor and various specialists as frequently as my parents do is still decades away.
Dogs are interesting critters. It’s kind of amazing that our ancient ancestors domesticated wolves and bred them to hunt on behalf of humans, instead of merely hunting humans. It’s even more interesting how breeding for selective traits led to various breeds. There’s a whole art and science to animal husbandry that is fascinating.
The rat terrier, for instance, is the result of various combinations of terriers (for hunting), greyhounds (for speed), and chihuahuas (for compactness—the rat terriers had to be small enough to get into rat holes). According to my dad, who has become something of an authority on the breed since getting the puppy, rat terriers used to be very common in the United States—most farmers had one or two to help kill pests. Theodore Roosevelt kept one named Scamp around the White House to kill mice (although Scamp may have been a different variation of terrier).
Of course, the question that interests me is thus: if we domesticated dogs once, couldn’t we do it again from their cousins, wolves? Naturally, there’s no need to do it again—it was surely a long process—but doing so would help us to understand how difficult domestication was, and why our ancient ancestors thought it was worth the effort.
Yesterday I wrote about SimRefinery, the oil refinery software lost to time (I’m praying it’s sitting on a long-forgotten floppy disk somewhere). What I didn’t tell you was that I had succumbed to a mild but annoying stomach virus, so I was essentially useless for the rest of the day.
Of course, what better way to spend one’s time when sick than with video games? After writing about SimEarth and doing some nostalgic reading about the world-building simulator, I tracked down a playable DOS version. A helpful commenter also linked to the game’s 200-plus-page manual, which is necessary for accessing the game. Anyone familiar with 1990s-era computer technology will recall that, in order to prevent piracy, games would often ask users to look up some piece of information buried in the manual, the theory being that if you owned the game legally, you’d have the manual.
During this sickly walk down memory lane, I realized how much I had forgotten about SimEarth. The game is more complicated than I remember. It’s not that deep, but what makes it difficult is balancing all the different inputs to your planet—the amount of sunlight, how much of that sunlight is reflected by the clouds and the surface, how much cloud cover to have, how quickly animals mutate and reproduce, how frequently meteors strike the surface, etc., etc.