Butterflies, Core 2 Duos and Cat Police … or perhaps a few milligrams of perspective

(I wrote this article back in 2001 and 10 years later it is still true unfortunately.  Compare it to the prediction in the article just below!)

My daughter has been after us to get another cat.  And we have been holding firm with a myriad of excuses, but in a moment of severe teenage angst and boyfriend trouble, we temporarily weakened.  So it was on an otherwise pleasant Sunday afternoon that I found myself sitting in the animal shelter at Coyote point … sifting through a gaggle of kittens.

There weren’t any great cats, but since this was as close as she had been able to get us to actually getting a cat, she pushed further for the “interview”.  Another teenager complete with body piercings (a volunteer at the shelter) came in and began to assess our suitability for taking one of these otherwise condemned animals.  We were loving, stable, probably had good genes and had seen another cat through a good life.  So then …

She asked us where this cat would be living.  We told her inside our home, as we wanted to protect it from cars on our street.  So then she asked if we would be de-clawing the cat.  And we assured her that, yes, we would have the front claws removed to protect our furniture.

WRONG ANSWER … Cat police … as she started the long lecture of the damage this causes to the cat and trauma and … and … I walked out before venting my true feelings too extensively.  There is no reasoning with a Cat Nazi.  (My wife and daughter continued the interview and eventually reported that the Police Gal was mystified that we would not take one of the cats home and promise not to de-claw.)

I waited outside during this part of the long interview.

Outside the shelter there are some simple benches and flowering bushes.  And somehow in early December, there was a girl butterfly on one of the flowers!  She was smaller than a US quarter and probably weighed less than 1 gram.  As she roamed for pollen or whatever, along came another butterfly … clearly a guy, and he began putting on his best moves.  A little dance, some shuckin’ and jiving,

And what the heck!!!  Here comes another butterfly, another male, and he begins chasing the one male off so that he can prance the dance for the lady.  A butterfly dogfight ensues that takes these fine fellows more than 10 feet away from the gal.  At this point the gal butterfly has walked herself to the underside of a leaf – obviously embarrassed by, and hiding from, the boys.

Finally one of the guys succeeds in chasing away the other one (I think it was the first one) and he navigates back the entire 10 feet, finds the lady under the leaf and starts up the dance again.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  Here comes the good part … butterfly sex description … can he really write about this?  But this is a family column, so at this point I averted and closed my eyes.

And as I did, I reflected on what had just taken place and it was astonishing.  Tiny creatures that weigh almost nothing and whatever weight that is measurable is mostly in their wings… and bodies that are able to dance, fly, navigate, chase, see, discern good looking gals and fight!  In this list is nothing that can be done by a Pentium™, Core 2 Duo™, Itanium™ or UltraSparc™ microprocessor, no matter how many chips are added to the circuit board to help.  And they weigh much more than the butterflies – even without their packages, cooling fans, support chips, DRAM, disk drives, etc.

What have we all missed in the design of processors that they are so bad at actions that creatures as simple as butterflies can master?

As this technical deficiency dawned over me, Alana (daughter) came out of the cat sanctuary.  Noticing the confusion on my face and hearing briefly about how butterflies were superior to the technology I work on every day, Alana casually observed that until Pentiums™ and their ilk have both boys and girls, they will, of course, lag in the skills to master my list.  As I watched her dance away, I was sure she was right …

… have any of you seen a lady Core 2 Duo™ processor?

—-  —- —- —-

Alana also responds …

As the daughter of this fiend, I would like to comment on the literary license he took in regard to my situation.  As an author, he can use the teenage angst of his daughter to further his writing career, but as a fellow writer of prose (and his now quite exposed daughter), I reserve the right to comment on the story.

I have decided that the correct retribution would be not to use my commentary space to cover up any supposed “boyfriend trouble”, but to expose to you how much you are otherwise being misled in his article.  By his raising questions about the deficiencies of computer technology, he really should be more open to human dialogue; he should discuss these pertinent, futuristic issues in balance with gigabits, optics and “things more elementary”.

So, instead of uselessly denying my teenage angst (haven’t we all had it?), I suggest to you all that it may be possible that teenage angst never stops it just manifests itself in new ways exemplified by confusion pressed upon my Dad by these 3 butterflies and the simplicity of their actions in contrast to the daily toils my Dad engages in where he fails to create such beauty.  On the other hand maybe it exposes the reservoirs of my dad’s knowledge in addition to his technological musings and angst.

– Sigh, somehow I knew this “retribution” would boil down to a blessing because I have nothing but love and respect for the gray haired old man.


Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Spiritual Threads, StartUp Ideas

Space Travel

The cover story in this month’s Popular Science is entitled “After Earth”.  In it they speculate, as only PopSci can, about how more people will live off earth than on it in the near future.  Maybe.

I confess that I still love the magazine and not for its future accuracy but rather for the American style of inspiration it provides to so many, especially young people.  That alone is worth the cover price.

Now why am I telling you this?

Turns out that there is another point of view for how we colonize space and I have not seen it published before (but that does not mean it hasn’t).

What I expect is that as we leave the earth it will be “people” whose consciousness has been ported to a silicon based version of our selves.  This silicon version will have a robot skeleton and be very capable.  But this “body” won’t need –

  • air to breathe
  • CO2 to be recycled
  • organic matter to be grown for its food
  • different organic matter to be recycled into fertilizer
  • water to drink
  • to be kept at 98.6F
  • sleep

And this will make the living and the very long trips manageable.  Ray Kurzweil has speculated (1), (2), (3) and there is growing belief that we are tracking to some parts of this unusual but happening in our lifetime prediction.

If this is right, then space travel will be made somewhat easier because we will be able to send intelligent sentient beings with our space probes.  And if we send one “person” I suspect we will send several.  Why?  Because even with the “porting” of humanity from carbon to silicon substrates, I believe the beings will remain and want to remain social with others.  It is defining for us all.

So for now, read the PopSci article but as you do think about what the humans that travel on that journey really might look like!

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads