Category Archives: Totty

Who doesn’t love pretty girls?

Rule Five Neanderthal Language Friday

I’ve been interested in paleoanthropology since I was a little kid, having picked up the bug from my Dad, who was likewise interested. Dad and I spent many a happy hour talking over the latest finds and the latest results of the analyses of those discoveries.

One of our favorite topics was our close cousins, the Neanderthal. The notion that we shared much of Europe and the Middle East with these people, who were people but not us, for so long is intriguing.

Now we see a new study on Neanderthal language abilities that presents some interesting possibilities.

New anatomical evidence indicates the Neanderthals had vocal tracts and auditory pathways not significantly different to our own, indicating that, from an anatomical perspective, they were as capable as us at communicating through speech. The discovery of Neanderthal genes in our own species indicates multiple episodes of interbreeding, which implies effective inter-species communication and social relationships.

The discovery of Neanderthal wooden spears, and the use of resins for making tools from separate components, have also enhanced our views of their technical skills. Pendants made from bird talons and the likely use of feathers as body adornments are claimed as examples of symbolism, along with geometric engravings on stone and bone.

The most striking claim is that Neanderthals made art, painting red pigment on cave walls in Spain. But several of these cave art claims remain problematic. The evidence for Neanderthal cave art is compromised by unresolved methodological issues and is unlikely to be correct, in my view.

Here’s the fun part of all this: It’s pretty much accepted that the Neanderthal were able to speak.  The difference seems to be in what they had to talk about; this piece refers to the use of metaphor being an indicator of a capacity to understand symbolic logic, on which the jury is most decidedly out, where the Neanderthal is concerned.

But there’s a more interesting issue, as far as I’m concerned; the differences in brain wiring may make it difficult to even communicate with a Neanderthal.  Fundamental differences between the two species may make learning each other’s languages difficult, if not impossible.

It’s not a topic that’s liable to come about outside the realm of science-fiction, sadly.  The chances of cloning a Neanderthal as so slim as to be practically impossible, and even if we did, the resulting person – for it would be a person, even if not us – would have no grounding in what being a Neanderthal was like.  We are products of our genes but also of our environments, and that poor cloned Neanderthal would be the loneliest lonely person that was ever lonely; they may have other humans around, but they would likely be humans so different as to be, for all intents and purposes, aliens – and no one around to teach that unfortunate man or women about being a Neanderthal.

So all this language work is interesting speculation – but it’s probably best that it stays that way.

Rule Five Tenth Annual Commencement Speech Friday

It’s that time of year again when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the tenth year, (holy crap, I’ve been doing this for ten years?) I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.

So, here it is. Enjoy.

“Graduates of the Class of 2023, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years, you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, plan how to achieve those goals, and see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

Despite what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds, or outright charlatans.

Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you with the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

  • Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
  • Work a little harder than the other guy,
  • Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.

Rule Five Cow Cuddling Friday

Oh, for the luvva Pete, how could people get any more ridiculous? Now there is, apparently, such a thing as “cow cuddling,” and the aficionados of that nonsense are worried that the latest in avian influenzas might spoil a good thing for everybody that… likes to cuddle cows.

I can’t believe I’m seeing this.

Paying farmers to snuggle up with half-ton heifers is all the rage in the United States thanks to social media. For visitors, cuddling dairy or beef cattle can be therapeutic, or simply an adventure for city dwellers looking for good old country fun.

But this practice of opening the barn door to the public is facing a new risk, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed bird flu in dairy herds in nine states.

Scientists have said the outbreak is likely more widespread across the nation’s more than 26,000 licensed dairy farms based on findings of H5N1 particles in about 20% of milk samples. One Texas dairy worker tested positive for the virus, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have monitored more than 100 people who have been exposed.

Government officials say the risk of human infection is low. But state and federal government officials are urging cattle and dairy farmers to limit outside visitors as much as possible.

I have a rather vivid memory – and some flat spots on the bones in my right foot to prove it – of rather stupidly going into a stall with a steer to check its ear tag, which I couldn’t see from the aisle.  The steer chose that moment to have a nice comfortable lean against the boards, with me in the middle. I had a shingle nail in my pocket, so as I could feel my guts being squeezed into goo, I got the nail in my right fist and proceeded to pummel the steer.

He ignored me.  I probably wasn’t bothering him any more than a mosquito.  But my uncle heard me yelling, came over and grabbed the cow’s tail and moved it – and then chewed me out for being dumb enough to go in a stall with a steer.

These damn things aren’t cuddly.  They are big, powerful, with skin damn near an inch thick, and they are stupid and frequently mean.  Some cattle are really mean; when I was a kid, a neighbor had a blue-ribbon Holstein bull he called “The Antichrist,” and it was a killer; the farmer who owned it didn’t trust it any farther than he could throw it.  “Give him half a chance,” he once told a group of us boys, “and he’ll kill you.  Mean as a snake, that one.”

And these urban (they’ve got to be urban) nitwits think they are cuddly.

It was Linda Pachl, Joey’s mom, who first saw a post about Luz Farms’ cow snuggle sessions on Facebook – and suggested the idea to her son. Joey asked the farmers if they could make up a banner in Emma’s school colors that said, “Prom?”

A week later, as country music crooned over the barn’s battered radio, the banner was slung over the body of Yogi, a calf on the farm. Pachl nudged girlfriend Emma Maiers’ shoulder. “Well?” he asked.

“I love cows!” squealed Maiers, 16. Pachl grinned. Not exactly the answer he was expecting, but he figured she meant yes.

To Linda Pachlm her son Joey, and Joey’s girlfriend Emma, I can only say this:

You’re all idiots.

Rule Five Trump Veep Friday

Yeah, it’s way too soon for this, but what the hell. The ruminations about who Donald Trump might pick for his running mate and VP candidate have been going on for a while, and I admit it’s an interesting question. Why? Because Trump, assuming he Grover Clevelands himself into a non-consecutive second term, is a lame duck from the moment he takes the oath.  His Vice President, on the other hand, is in the catbird seat for 2028, unless he or she pulls something incredibly boneheaded.

Fortunately, there’s no history of any Republican Vice President doing that before…  uh… wait. Shit. Yeah. There was that one guy.

Anyway.  I’m sure our current crop of politicians is much more honest and upstanding.  Right?

Anyway.  A Center Square Voter’s Choice poll recently released gave some results on who folks thought Trump’s VP pick should be.  The results aren’t surprising.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis narrowly edged out the other potential candidates. DeSantis was once seen as a serious threat to Trump for the presidential nomination, but after Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was raided by the FBI, Trump’s poll numbers soared. DeSantis was left behind in the polling and never recovered.

Now, according to the survey, 18% of Republicans want DeSantis to be Trump’s vice presidential running mate.

In a close second place is former Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who received 17% support from Republicans as Trump’s vice president.

Haley was the last Republican contender to drop out of the primary. She was able to win nearly 100 delegates, and put up a fight in states like Vermont and South Carolina. But, ultimately, she dropped out after Trump roundly defeated her on Super Tuesday.

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are tied for third place with 15% support among Republicans.

Notably, Democratic former Congressman Tulsi Gabbard received 7% support, the only Democrat to get that kind of backing from Republicans.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem received 6% support among Republicans to be Trump’s running mate. Many analysts have said Trump should pick a female vice president to persuade Haley supporters and suburban women to support the ticket.

Noem, I’d remind you, may have harmed her chances with a recent description of a dog-shooting incident. Not sure why; Barack Obama ate a dog and it didn’t seem to hurt his chances.

Personally, I’d be keenly interested in a Trump/DeSantis ticket, for one reason: As anyone who has been reading these virtual pages knows, I was on Team DeSantis until he dropped out.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ll vote for Trump this fall if he remains the candidate because the alternative is unthinkable.  But I would have rather had the Florida Governor, and I think (and hope) he will be President one day – why not 2028?

But Nikki Haley?  No. And Tulsi Gabbard?  No. If I had to pick alternatives, I’d go with Tim Scott, then Vivel Ramaswamy, mostly because Vivek is an engaging speaker and he pisses off all the right people.

It’s a long way to November.  I expect we won’t see this question answered until the Republican National Convention.  But what the hell – speculation is always fun.

Rule Five Casual Sex Friday

Sometimes you just get the best juxtaposition of news story with Rule Five Friday.  This is one such, in which a young (and attractive) British woman describes her regrets over having gone through a phase in which her heels were distinctly round.

A British woman is speaking out about the dangers of casual sex, saying her romps with random men often ended in assault.

Kitty Ruskin details her harrowing experiences in her newly-released tome, “Ten Men: A Year of Casual Sex,” which she hopes will serve as a wake-up call about the realities faced by young women in an age where many males are addicted to violent pornography.

“Women are tired of shouldering all this fear and trauma,” Ruskin writes in the book, excerpted in the Daily Mail, revealing that she was raped by two different men while trying to be “liberated and fearless” in her sexual pursuits.

Yeah, for young women who are a tad short on the common-sense side, being liberated and fearless doesn’t always work out the way they’d hoped.

At the outset of 2019, when she was aged in her mid-20s, Ruskin made a resolution to “stop being so precious about who she had sex with,” believing she needed to make up for lost time after losing her virginity at 22.

“I decided to have sex with as many people as I wanted to,” she wrote, revealing she aspired to be like the empowered, promiscuous publicist Samantha Jones from “Sex and The City.”

“No more guilt. No more self-loathing. No more self-limitation. I was liberated and fearless. I was Samantha.”

Because fake television characters are always such great role models.

Look, when I was a young man, and single, I did my share of tom-catting around.  That’s what happened, those were the times, I made no bones about it and won’t apologize for it.  Mrs. Animal knows about those years and has no issue with it; since I met her I’ve been loyal and faithful, as it’s the right thing to do and I love her – she’s all I will ever need.  All of those times were before I met her.

But women in particular are more vulnerable than men in this world.  When I was tom-catting, I will admit, I never had anything to do with a girl who was drunk to the point of having her judgment imparted, and no one ever had to tell me twice to stop doing, well, anything.  That’s because even then, even at my youngest and randiest, I had scruples.  But young women aren’t offered the same options, and as a man with four daughters, I’m very aware of that – fortunately, they are of a very traditional bent as such things are concerned.

It’s a shame that culture led this young woman down this path.  Television and movies are all too likely to blithely present this kind of promiscuity as fun and harmless, as “Sex And The City” evidently did – I never watched a single episode.

Let’s hope Miss Ruskin’s example persuades some other young women to avoid this path.  But she gets one thing badly wrong, addressing her cautions about “rape culture” to “men,” in the broad sense.  It’s only a small minority of men who engage in this kind of behavior and believe me, nobody hates them for it more than those of us men who are above such things.

Miss Ruskin missed that, I think.