Friday, December 31, 2010

What I learned in 2010

-Some opportunities only happen once. Seize them while they last.
-Never make any sort of commitment or promise.
-Yes, the car is just going to get dirty again the moment you pull it out of the car wash, but that doesn't mean you should never wash it.
-Getting a promotion after your friend is fired is not something you need to mention to him.
-We are all getting older. For now.
-Donating an old car to a charitable organization is not worth it if the new owner of the car never registers it and the City of Boston thinks you are liable for hundreds of dollars worth of unpaid parking tickets incurred weeks after the title was signed over because you are the last known registrant.
-Keep your large dogs in a separate room when your friends bring over their toddlers.
-Put a gate in front of the wood stove when your friends' toddlers are running around your living room.
-Don't argue politics or religion with people who might leave you an inheritance.
-I survived another year without joining Facebook. I can probably survive another one.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No wonder you are fat

One time I was a the supermarket, and in the meat aisle, I saw something quite disturbing. A completely obese family (mom, dad and kids) filling their shopping cart full of hams and other meats. It didn't seem as if they were restauranteurs shopping for the evening's menu, but rather a poor family stocking up on 49-cent-per-pound corn-fed protein. It was quite surreal, and I had trouble believing what I was seeing. In my mind, I came up with a list of questions that I shall now share with my occasional reader:

Don't you eat anything else? What are you stocking up for? Don't you have sufficient fat reserves already? Are you buying this with food stamps? Is medicaid going to pay for your quadruple bypass surgery and your lifetime supply of insulin? I hope you put some of that in a chest freezer and don't try to eat it all in one sitting. Ever heard of vegetables? Why buy such a large ham, can't you just cook your son at 350F for an hour? Are you going to put all that in your '92 sedan or are you going to push the shopping cart all the way back to the section 8 tenement?

I'm not writing this with the express purpose of offending anyone, but, I feel that sometimes misery is optional.

Are cats smarter than dogs?

Anyone with half a brain who hasn't been living under a rock probably feels as if the bulk of humanity is completely retarded. (Apologies for people who take offense to the use of that term. Call me a moron if that makes you feel better. There. Wasn't that cathartic?) The vast majority of us are no better in intelligence than cattle ripe for slaughter, aimlessly wandering through life with no goal or purpose, other than being a consumer and a tax payer, and whose greatest contribution of all is to comprise lower-end breeding stock for the spread of our genes.

Still, human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. We, simple apes, have almost completely conquered this planet. We have sent men to the moon and brought them back. We have built MRI machines, Android smartphones, the Internet, and the atomic bomb. We have figured out the sub atomic structure of protons, and the sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. We are brilliant.

Even the most stupid, tv-dinner eating illiterate member of the human race is a lot more intelligent than any other animal on Earth. Why is that? The secret is that our intelligence, though sometimes limited, is our big advantage. We are a very, very successful species thanks to our highly evolved cognitive abilities.

Dogs are believed by many people to be more intelligent than cats: when a toy is pulled by a string, the dog understands that the human is initiating the movement. A cat only focuses on the toy and does not understand the concept of an object acting upon another one.

But sometimes I wonder if cats are not smarter. A cat won't poop on the floor. A cat won't eat his own poop.  A cat won't eat his own vomit.

What is intelligence?

I define it as having a few basic components:

-Memory (both long-term and short-term)
-Pattern recognition ability (ability to match current observations with stored memories)
-Ability to anticipate future consequences

Both cats and dogs exhibit these components of intelligence.


While cats can remember the location of their litter box and that it is where they need to go to relieve themselves, dogs can remember the meaning of words and commands. Cats, being solitary hunters, never evolved an ability to take instruction from a leader, something that wild wolves (and their domestic counterparts) do all the time. Dogs are not necessarily smarter than cats in that respect, they simply have a hard-wired capacity for understanding more complex language, which is crucial for survival within a pack, and for coordinated hunting.

Both cats and dogs can recognize their owner's scent, voice and face, and can remember the layout of a yard or a house. They can remember where food is stored.


Both cats and dogs are able to recognize changes in their owners routines. Dogs cat tell if their master is getting ready to leave alone, or getting ready to take them with him.

Cats can recognize the erratic movements of injured prey, which is why they are so fascinated by strings and tie-wraps, which move in the same manner.


Dogs know not to cross the invisible fence line. They know they will get shocked if they do. Dogs know that if  they obey every command their master gives them, they will be rewarded by a treat. Dogs know that if they whine and whine and whine they will get their masters to spoil them.

My cats know that if I feed them, I will not feed them again until the next meal, and don't bother begging for more. So they designed a clever stratagem to get the second serving they crave: They wait for my significant other to come home and they they go to her to beg, acting as if I hadn't fed them yet. I can't help but feel as if there is some sort of reasoning at work here.

So in the end, it's not necessarily a simple black-and-white matter of who is smarter than whom, but rather, a matter of who is more adapted for a specific function or situation. Dogs only seem more intelligent than cats because of their learning skills and social skills, but never underestimate a cat. They are sneaky and will surprise you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to put an end to Christmas terrorist plots

A few days ago, nine men were arrested in the UK for plotting terrorist bombings scheduled for Christmas.

A year ago, an 'underwear bomber' set fire to his genitals trying to detonate a bomb on a plane, on Christmas Day.

This is a disturbing trend. Why are muslim terrorists trying to schedule their plots for Christmas?

Maybe they hate Christmas. Maybe they were once raped by Santa Claus. Maybe they were molested by a Catholic Priest on Christmas eve. Who knows.


Stop celebrating Christmas. If everybody stops celebrating this holiday, then it will lose significance for the terrorists.... and they'll schedule their bombings on random dates instead, just to keep us on our toes.... hmm maybe it's not such a good idea after all... it's actually kind of nice to have a ballpark idea of when they intend to strike.

Oh! I know! Next year, let's pretend we still care about celebrating Christmas, only we won't! That way we'll know when they're going to strike, only we won't be there! That'll take them by surprise... imagine this fictitious conversation:

"Hey Umar, where's everybody at? I thought you said it was Christmas today?" 
"It is. Maybe they just want to stay home and lay low this year."
"Damn you Umar! We are screwed and our visas have expired! Ah, just forget it. Let's go turn ourselves in."*

*results may vary.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Never lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas

As Christmas approaches and we struggle to find parking spots at the mall in order to purchase presents for our loved ones, we must take a step back and remind ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas:

Supporting the retail economy of our country and the manufacturing economy of the People's Republic of China through frivolous consumerism under the guise of religious devotion based on an ancient pagan tradition.

Forget all that, I say, and let's take the whole family snowboarding instead, and support our local ski resort in the name of powder and angular velocity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dating Advice for Ladies (and for Gentlemen too)

Ladies, if you are single and attempting to date, here's an honest piece of advice: do not play hard-to-get. If you like a man, just tell him. You have nothing to lose by being honest about your feelings towards him. If you keep him guessing, he is going to move on. Remember the old saying "Fortuna audax iuva" (fortune favors the brave).

Gentlemen: If a lady plays hard-to-get, run. She is demonstrating a lack of ability to communicate effectively, and any relationship with her will be an emotional nightmare where she will expect you to develop special ESP powers to read her mind. Move on. Life is too short. Then ask your sister to give you a makeover, because no lady will want to date someone who looks like this:

Photo credit: unknown.

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