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23 July 2013

Why the "Royal Baby" Matters

...and You Don't, but That's Okay.

I have not been paying attention to the alleged media swarm around Kate Middleton and Prince William's baby. I do not really know much about it, and I will admit that I had to look up who the baby is, in order to type that sentence. What I do know is that everybody else seems to be sick and tired of hearing so much about it, or so they claim. That baby is, after all, no more important than yours or your neighbour's, correct? Well, not so fast. That baby is much more important. It is more important because you, so tired of hearing about it, keep talking about it. You keep commenting, tweeting, posting, blogging, and reading, sharing, and "liking" the articles about that very child. That baby is more important than yours, and you are the evidence that proves that fact. Here is the kicker: That is okay.

"Stop being so obnoxious!", says obnoxious sea lion. 

For every person who is a comic geek, a football fan, a stamp collector, a film aficionado, or a royalty enthusiast, there are probably a thousand or more who simply could not care less and wish everybody else would just shut up about it. Why should they? You yammer about your favourite topics. What makes you so special? When you openly proclaim that some topic is less important than your topic of choice, what you are saying is that you are more important than your friends. When you share several articles about how much Whitney Houston will be missed, how she was misunderstood, and all the good she has done, and then tell people to "get a life" when they do the same about Michael Jackson or the "Royal Baby", you are passive aggressively implying, "I know what is important, and you do not".

If you shared this, congratulations, you were a jerk.

There is a meme going around that says, "We fought for independence, so we wouldn't have to care about the Royal Baby". I have some disturbing news for you. You absolutely did not fight for that independence. The people who did fight for that independence did it precisely so we could care about any frivolous thing we so choose. The U.S. Declaration of Independence, as you may recall, calls this the "pursuit of Happiness" - with a capital "H", no less. I hope that most of you would agree that said happiness is not limited to particular interests that happen to align with your own.

Can't we all just get along without mauling each other?

You may not find any joy from little tidbits of information about the Royal Baby, but some of your friends do. Likewise, many of them have little to no concern about your hobbies. I sometimes like to express myself by sharing stories about what the next Avengers movie will be about and why I think some Spider-Man plots are silly compared to others. Obviously, that information is not more important than the economy or the lives lost because of a bombing, but it is something that makes me happy. It does not mean that I am indifferent to more important topics. I am able to pay attention to more than one item per day, as are you and your friends. Unless it causes another harm, let us all pursue our own happiness in as many ways as we can. Let us encourage others to do the same. If making a fuss over the Royal Baby makes you smile, good. If not, neither will I begrudge you whatever does. I look forward to seeing you excited the next time you shout "huzzah" for your favourite hockey team that I could not care less about.

13 March 2013

More Human Than Human:

A Case for Transhumanism
- or -
Why You Will Call Me Crazy

Are we ready for the next stage in human evolution? Most of what got Homo sapiens sapiens where it is today is the result of natural selection. It can easily be argued that more recent generations were, at least somewhat, effected by unintended artificial selection. For those who aren't familiar, think of natural selection as "survival of the fittest" and artificial selection as how we get different dog breads - selective breading. That is an oversimplification, but it is the general idea.

By unintentional artificial selection, I mean to say ideas like more nutritious foods that are made by artificial selection and manufacturing (vitamin-fortified foods, etc.) having made us a bit taller and hit puberty earlier and earlier. These are changes that are byproducts of simply trying to be healthier. Perhaps, it is time to start taking more advantage of this ability and make some serious changes, intentionally. I'm not talking about becoming a new species entirely, but possibly creating a new subspecies. Maybe we won't be growing blue fur or born shooting lasers out of our eyes, but H. sapiens superior just may become a legitimate classification.

This is, by far, not the first time this has been proposed. Given the previous examples, we could say it's already happening. To those who take it quite seriously, it is called transumanism, or H+. There is even a magazine called "h+ Magazine", that is completely dedicated to it and its relation to singularity. There is an entire movement, that I myself only recently became truly aware of. What I am talking about may be considered a bit different from the technological singularity - a point in time where machines are responsible for all, or most, innovation - you may have heard of. I am talking about a time where we are those machines.

That's just unrealistic. We'll be solar powered.

We already are machines. Your brain is a powerful computer and your nervous system wires information to nearly every part of you. We already use software in the form of medicine to keep us up-to-date, functionally stable, and virus free. We are already becoming cybernetic organisms. What is the Bluetooth earpiece you're wearing and the smartphone in your pocket, but external hardware that connects you to other devices and supply near-endless information? Products like Google's Glass are already giving us a feel for what this would feel like when installed. The University of Washington is already working on that, and pacemakers are as "installed" as something can get. Let us not forget the bionic hands that connect to the nervous system, or the fact that we are mapping the circuits of the human brain.

Not really as different as you might believe.

There are plenty of people fearful of this future, and I can understand and respect that. People such as activist and journalist, Bill McKibben (whom I have my own reasons to admire) argue that this future will widen the gap between rich and poor, saying that not everybody will be able to afford it. It is true that, in the earlier stages of advancement, only the wealthy will be partaking. This has also been true, however, for vaccines, electricity, vehicles, land line telephones, televisions, radios, computers, cell phones, plumbing, and on and on. There will certainly be those who wish to avoid most or all of this altogether, much in the same way Amish avoid modern technology. They still happily coexist with the rest of us and are, largely, still respected. They are also accepting more technology. Likewise, we can, and do, get used to new technologies, despite initial trepidation.

The Amish Will Laugh at the Luddites.

Technology isn't going to be the only player here. Genetics will have its roll as well. Current gene therapy gives us insight to the near-limitless potential for that. This will eventually work its way into genetics. Scientists are currently studying how the length of DNA strands affects longevity. In the same way humans have been altering animal genomes through artificial selection in plants and animals for thousands of years, we are now able to do the same thing, in heritable ways, much faster in the controlled setting of a laboratory, through genetic engineering such as mutagenesis.

Calm down, Leo - not that kind of mutant.

Transhumanism, or whatever you would like to call it, has great potential to improve our lives. There are certain to be failures, but there will also be successes. I cannot emphasize enough how much this concept is not unlike thousands of other ways we've improved the human condition over many, many, generations. We don't have to imagine a world where we have instant access to almost all knowledge; our phones (and soon, headgear) already do it. We can imagine a world where the ability is always with us, no matter where we are. We can imagine a world without pain, suffering, hunger, or any disability you can imagine. We can imagine everybody being healthy. We can imagine a world in which we live however long we wish to live. Hopefully, we find other places to live and/or convince people to stop breeding so much, to help with overpopulation. You have probably heard phrases like, "I, for one, welcome our machine overlords", usually in jest. I, too, look forward to that day, however, because I know we will be those "machines". We will truly be our own overlords. I can't wait until we...

...(Come on, you know the phrase) ;-)

* All images link to their sources.

24 January 2013

10 nauseatingly adorable ways couples flaunt their love

Couple's love to show the world just how much they love each other, and to remind everybody of that as much as possible. They even find ways to remind themselves of that, just in case they forget. Here are some way in which you, too, can amplify that announcement and maybe help the sales of over the counter anti-diarrhea medicines.

#1.) Love Gloves.

Hand-holding is perhaps the gold standard of PDA. It allows you to touch your special someone openly in just about any setting. It is both subtle and obvious in a way that lets you unobtrusively say, "Back off, bitch, this is mine", with a polite hint of, "Hell, no, I'm not interested". Studies have shown that it reduces stress and strengthens the bond between lovers. It's so effective that it evolved that way. What to do, however, when the weather is colder than Mel Gibson's heart? How do you keep that sexy derm-on-derm action and your hands warm at the same time? Enter, the Love Gloves (not to be confused with another kind of "love glove" you may have in your wallet).

Love Gloves
At least you'll never forget how they go on.

Seeing a couple holding hands will make you go, "d'awww". Seeing a couple stuck in the biggest damn Chinese finger trap you've ever seen will give you claustrophobia. Don't worry about how silly you may look, because you know how kinky it really is. The glove that binds you is called "the chamber". Rawr!

If that's not confining enough, you can also find this concept in size straight jacket.

Please, tell me you're wearing deodorant.

#2.) Matching.

Speaking of shirts, nothing says, "I love you", like a sappy version of  the "I'm with stupid" shirt. It's one thing to do this for Halloween or to piss off your lover's ex, but a line has to be drawn. For one thing, you look ridiculous when your little honey-bunny is off to the loo.

star wars couple shirts
Okay, this is acceptable. Geek cred is legit.

Of course, this isn't limited to just shirts. There's a couple in Nebraska who have been wearing matching outfits every single day for more than 35 years.

#3.) Everyday Household Items.

We're all familiar with the "His & Hers" bathrobes and towels. If that's not enough, you can constantly remind yourselves and guests that you're on the love express at every turn. I'm not just talking about photographs at Niagara Falls or your latest glamour shots. No, I mean everywhere from hooks and floor mats to pillow cases and toasters that scorch "I love you" instead of the usual voyeuristic face of Jesus. You can even spread your love all over that tongue tingling toast...

marmite valentine
...with marmite. Get your mind out of the gutter.

#4.) Photographs, photographs, photographs.

We're all used to a constant stream of date nights on Instagram and Facebook, everything from those damned ducky faces to what shoes they were wearing. Some take it a step or 20 further and photobomb their own homes. Wedding photos, vacations, honeymoon, walks in the park, and kissing ad nauseum. On the walls, the counters, bookcases - everywhere. Why shouldn't they be up for display? They're incredibly cute! All your friends think so, too. They do the first time they visit, anyway. After that, they're walking into a veritable hall of mirrors wearing somebody else's face, right out of what should be a bad episode of Goosebumps.

Aren't we adorable? TELL ME WE'RE ADORABLE!

#5.) Public Displays of Delivery.

People love getting deliveries, especially when they're unexpected. What better way to surprise your significant other with a package than having it delivered to their place of work? That wouldn't be awkward at all! Well, except that it would. Flowers and balloons are probably what come to mind first. Innocent enough. Unfortunately, once the delivery person is gone, that big ol' bouquet is still leaking water all over the desk and making coworkers run for their Sudafed. You can't get your job done because you're constantly being interrupted by people wanting to tell you how gosh darn cute they think that is and that annoying guy across the hall keeps bopping the damn thing in your face every time he passes. This is one of those things where it ends up being hell for everybody all around, but nobody dare pretend it's anything but utterly adorable. There is one way around this: have the deliverer be the delivery. When they leave, it's all over. No harm, no foul. For as little as a hundred bucks, you can have a good old fashioned singing telegram.

How you imagine it.

#6.) Undergarments.

That's right, gentlemen, you can secure your nut sack, while saluting your better half in more ways than one. Don't worry, ladies, they have the "Just Married" message in panties, too. This brings sexting to a whole new level, going from "Oh, yes, yes, yes", down to, "Aw, honey, that's simply adorable!", in five seconds flat, which is just enough time for another kind of deflation.

Just Married smiley face stickman couple Boxer Sho
You said you weren't married!

Men's Cartoon Bunny Couple Brown Underwear Boxer Briefs 017 - Click Image to Close
Not sure if this is cute, creepy, or just for furries.

#7.) Toilets.

No, seriously. Shitting is now romantic, for as low as $1,400. Now, you may look at these at first glance and think how cute they look. Yeah, they look cute. Now, picture 'em in use. The sounds. The odours. Ick. Hey, at least there won't be that awkward, "It wasn't me. Was it you?" moment, because you know it's both of you. How sweet. Remember, you may want to clean up before this romantic moment leads to anything else.  Studies have shown that this act can cause "pleasurable relief". A chair of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has compared it to feeling just as good as the hanky-panky itself, saying that he enjoys the pleasure as being "longer-lasting and more frequent". Ooh, la-la!

toilet for two
Pardon me, could you please pass the TP?

Why stop there? You can make the whole bathroom a singles-free zone with toilet paper, seats, sinks, and tubs. Forget about having guests over for the weekend. We're already quite aware that there probably isn't a love-sullied free spot in the house, but that thing will remind them the entire time that water and soap aren't the only fluids that have shared that space.

Product Image
Wait...what's causing that clog?
#8.) Public Proposals.

Some people can't get over the top enough. A bent knee in Central Park just doesn't attract enough eyes these days. Where's the excitement? The adrenaline rush? Where can you get the most attention possible? Media! Televised sports stadiums and arenas. Flash mob-style and posted to YouTube. That's pure entertainment. You're guaranteed to surprise your love and be the envy of not only your friends and family, but hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of strangers. Here's my favourite - and I will unabashedly admit to crying the first time I saw it:

I mean, wow. That guy must've got all their friends, family and every Cats reject they could find to put that together. Imagine the amount of love that went into it. The time, practice, props, coordination. Now, it's immortalized on YouTube for all to see. The really cool thing about ├╝ber public proposals like this and crowd-filled arenas? You just know they're going to say yes. Nobody would pull such a crazy stunt without somehow knowing the answer beyond any doubt. They just have to says yes. Right? Well...not always. Take these poor suckers, for example:

Damn. One dude even got bitch-slapped. Why? Well, simply, the answer isn't always going to be "yes". Not every pitch is a strike. Now, you might feel really sorry for the guys. So did I, at first. What about the ladies? They obviously were not expecting that at all. They were left with two basic options. They could agree to marry somebody they don't want to spend the rest of their life with. Alternatively, they can reject the proposal and face extreme public ridicule to the max - for life. Even years later, some assclown like me can dig it up for some good old fashion schadenfreude. Not only that, but the people around them are also immortalized. Take a look at the switch between 00:15 and 00:16. The children behind and to the right seem to be doing their best impression of Nelson from the Simpsons and the two girls in the upper right are left with their jaws hanging in a way that says, "Oh, snap!". At least nobody happened to be picking their nose or adjusting their crotch. The butterfly affect can even have it's negative consequences from the successful public proposals. That high pressure may be off of the bride-to-be now, but not the best friend who's been dating their significant other for two years without so much as leaving an open space for a toothbrush in the bathroom. Talk about a lot to live up to. No pressure.

#9.) Social Media

Everybody shares everything these days, from the food on their plate to what it smells like coming out. Lovers are no different. It's so adorable how they leave little love notes for one another. Sometimes, however, it can be just downright creepy. They get so wrapped up in wanting to remind you that their hubby-wubby loves them more than yours does you, they act like they've lost all ability to e-mail, text, or private message. What they might not realize is that they end up having so many online conversations that people wonder if they ever even look at each other anymore. For some examples, if you have a Facebook account, go search for public posts with the "husband". As of this writing, I see, "I want to thank my wonderful husband for helping me out at work today,, that meant sooooo VERY much to me!!!! I love you [Name withheld]!!!", "My husband who is there for me always And I love with all my heart!", and "I have the best husband".

Sanity help you if you just search "love".

#10.) Bicycles Built for Two.

Also known as "tandem" and "twin" bicycles, these classic date-bikes made their debut in the late 19th Century. They're cute and charming, nostalgic, and you just want to go pinch the love birds' cheeks with a "Squee!" that can only be rivaled by the likes of Grumpy Cat and Loca the Pug. Cuteness, however, is not the only benefit to tandem bicycle riding. A 2003 study, published in European Journal of Applied Physiology, found that the muscular and cardiovascular exercise benefits are significantly higher for the casual rider. Maybe we need a whole new kind of workout bicycle in our gyms, and start getting all comfy-cozy with our sweaty neighbours.

Always adorable.
Tandem Bicycle
Well...maybe not always.