I had a strange experience in the house last weekend where all the batteries in the living room died. No kidding, everything that ran on lithium or cadmium batteries died. I discovered this when I went to use one of the approximately 7 remote controls we keep on the coffee table. It didn’t work. I tried a different remote. It didn’t work. I tried the next. I worked my way through all of them. None of them worked. Now, it’s common for the remotes to drain batteries. I’m sure that two at a time is merely coincidence, but all seven of them?
Oh, it gets better. I replaced the batteries in the two important remote controls, then went to check my email before heading to bed. The battery in my wireless mouse was dead. No light, no cursor movement, the mouse was dead. The work station is a built-in unit about a meter from the television. The batteries in the digital camera that resides on the desk were dead. It appeared as though some mysterious force wandered through my living room and ate all the batteries. That or the electronics just couldn’t take it anymore.
I am now potentially facing a mass battery suicide…or something…else.
You all know who we need to call, and it ain't the Ghostbusters or Domino's.
It wasn’t over yet. I realized that I was stuck in the middle of some crazy ass supernatural occurrence, so just out of curiosity, I went to check my cell phone. My cell phone was hooked up to its little charger a few meters from the coffee table that appeared to be ground zero. I left it on the charger a few hours earlier, enough to get some sort of gas back into the little bugger. I unplugged it and looked at the screen. The battery light blinked back at me. No batteries, please connect to charger. Something sucked what should have been a full battery completely dry.
I know nothing about electronics. I am a chemist, so I have an idea about the exact chemical process behind designing and building a simple battery. However, that is not my forte, and I have no clue as to how modern electronics work. I do know that every battery in only one specific area of the house shouldn’t die at once. So, what the hell happened here? I don’t know. If somebody has any plausible theories, I’d love to hear them.
I can only speculate. My life, thus far, has been blissfully free from any sort of supernatural bullshit. I’d like to keep it that way. However, I can’t shake the paranoia that comes with every battery in one room of the house dying in a matter of minutes. I need an explanation, if only so I can sleep better at night. Just don’t even bother mentioning that goatsucker thing. Mention that and it’s nothing but a smack in the head for you.
That is the fair. I know you’re all telling me to get over it by now, but it’s not the fair I want to talk about today. I want to talk about pictures. Look at this picture. Now, I took this picture from a Ferris wheel more than nine feet from the ground. The one thing that disappears first at a distance is people. In the grand scheme of things, people are actually pretty small. But this gets me thinking. How many people are actually in my pictures? I’m serious about this. I would bet there’s up to a 1000 people or more in the pictures I’ve taken over the years, and I don’t know a single one of them. I don’t know their names, I don’t know who they are, and I don’t care about them. The only thing I know is that some asshole always pops up in the background, and really unfortunate cases, the foreground of your pictures right when you take them.
Somebody I know is in this picture. That person remains anonymous. The others remain anonymous because I have no damn clue about who they are.
I wonder how many pictures I wandered into over my lifetime. I wonder how many incidental pictures of me are in other peoples’ photo albums and picture frames. Back in the day, we had to use cameras that had actual film in them. There wasn’t as much squandering of photos in those days. Somebody turning up to ruin the perfect shot was downright painful and expensive. Some little bastard kid picking his nose in the middle of the family photograph was reason to start busting some asses. The pain in the ass in the front row making the weird face ruined it for everyone.
Yep, that’s the kid.
In the days of digital photography we can all be a lot more cavalier about our use of frames. I imagine the background residents have multiplied considerably.
Get out of the fucking shot. All I wanted was a picture of a pink concession stand.
I take pictures of strange things. Digital photography has only inflamed this tendency. As you can see, I post the pictures of weird things on Facebook and this blog. This leads me to another nagging thought. What if, just by mere chance or coincidence, you actually saw yourself in somebody else’s pictures on the Internet? I’m not talking about anything risqué or perverse, just you as your bad self waiting in line at Space Mountain in Disneyland. Wouldn’t that just fuck with your head to log on, look at a total stranger’s pictures, and see yourself standing there in the background? Would you tell the person that you were in the picture? Better yet, would he or she believe you? Would you send them a profile picture just to prove it? It’s a pickle to be sure.
Who are you? If you saw this, would you tell me? I’m not a stalker or anything, I just want to ask you why the fuck you had to wander out into the landscape right when I was taking the fucking picture, you insensitive prick.
Here’s a funny. I typed “jerk in picture” into Google image search. This exact picture turned up.
Who thinks this poor dog is a jerk? Well, at least the dog won’t take offense. I’m sure he can’t type.
Look, I’m not the deepest thinker in the universe, but this subject has crossed my mind when weeding through all the interesting images that cropped up during the fair and my trip back east. I tend to keep to still life and landscapes. It helps me to avoid any unwanted aspiring models and idiots with remarkably bad timing.
This includes you too, lens louse.
Ponder that for a while. I’ll take you out with this klassic from HP. I wonder if all those schmucks in the background are paid extras or if they just happened to be wandering by. Who knows? Either way, as clever as these effects are, I’m sure somebody at some point during the filming of this commercial wondered, “What the hell is that idiot doing in the middle of my shot?!”
I’m often asked as a scientist all kinds of interesting questions about the nature of life, the universe and everything. Of course, I’m also asked if I can cook meth quite a bit as well, so I don’t take very many inquiries seriously. However, I do think that we need to take a serious look at the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. Now, this tears me up. See, I’m still looking for some intelligent life on this planet, and I think we need to continue the search before worrying about those other planets. But, I love you, so I’ll indulge you for now. Okay, give me just a sec to whip out my big book of scary equations. I’ll be right back.
The possibility of life on Mars, is of course, zero. We know, we checked. That whole face on Mars thing and canals is just a bunch of horseshit. I won’t embarrass myself or insult your intelligence by addressing it. No, we actually have a means by which we can determine the chances of life cropping up elsewhere. It’s called The Drake Equation, and it goes a little something like this:
N = R x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L
R is the rate at which stars have been born in the Milky Way per year, fp is the fraction of these stars that have solar systems of planets, ne is the average number of “Earthlike” planets (potentially suitable for life) in the typical solar system, fl is the fraction of those planets on which life actually forms, fi is the fraction of life-bearing planets where intelligence evolves, fc is the fraction of intelligent species that produce interstellar radio communications, and L is the average lifetime of a communicating civilization in years. (Thanks www.paddysinspace.com, I needed the abridged definition. Physicists have no sense of humor.)
You know, if they just used Google maps, they wouldn’t keep ending up in Kansas.
Okay, if you fill in the blanks up there, plug and chug, you come up with a number that is either very low: i.e. good probability; or a number that is astronomically high: slim to none. Yep, it’s just that simple and just that damned annoyingly hard to pin down. It’s all in how you use the numbers, and believe me, the whole discipline of statistics is about how to lie using numbers. So what’s the answer? Well…we uh…just don’t know. Man, this is just plain awkward. While I recover from this, here’s a completely unrelated picture of a Nene, the endangered state bird of Hawaii.
Oh, they’re all that cute until they try to eat you. That is my actual hand. It bit me not more than half a minute after this picture was taken. Yes, I poked my finger at it. Yes, sometimes I’m just that dumb.
I walked it off and I’m doing better, thanks for asking. So where does this leave us? Is there really no possibility of life elsewhere in the universe? I don’t know about you, but I would like to believe there is. Now, the physics of interstellar travel are mind-bogglingly complex and require technology we can’t even fathom yet. That having been said, I just can’t give up hope yet. I hear stories about alien abduction, UFOs and close encounters all the time (as do you). It’s hard to tell who to believe, but it has to be said that the earth is not without evidence of alien invasion. Here, check this out:
You can’t tell me something like this originated on earth. Ick.
I don’t even know what that is, but if I found it in my house, I’d call the government five minutes before moving out. Forget the pest control company; you need the purifying power of fire to cleanse the place of something like that. Here, look at this. I think these things are close cousins to whatever the hell that thing is up there:
Silverfish. My friend figures that they must eat shit because he always finds them hanging around the toilet.
It could be worse; I could open the rickety old cabinets in this place and find something like this:
What? Another freeloader? Damn, can’t you things at least pitch in a little rent around here?
That would never happen, of course. Those cabinets are made of very sturdy solid wood. An alien trapped in my kitchen cabinets would probably crash through the water damaged shelves and land in the crawl space. Provided it didn’t get attacked by the cats and eaten by woodlice and silverfish first.
This whole invasion concept does make one wonder about the very origins of life itself. There’s a contingency that sincerely believes that all life on earth is the product of genetic engineering by aliens. We are, in fact, not native species, but transplants from ancient alien civilizations that have visited the earth. I guess it’s no harder to believe than the traditional Biblical creation story. Maybe I can just make everyone happy here and hybridize the two. I can factor in a little *gasp* science, propose a minor amount of evolution (eek!), and make sense out of everything.
Here goes. First the aliens visited our gentle, developing planet. They left behind their spawn and a grand genetic plan.
That looks about just right.
Eventually, through genetic tinkering, a few millennia and a whole lot of liquor, the human race became the grand spectacle the aliens were shooting for.
Uhhh, maybe not.
Like most theories, this is just a work in progress. I’m sure I can refine, revise and re-formulate as I get more information. In the mean time, don’t ever let it be said that there’s no proof of life elsewhere in the universe. For all we know, they may already be here.
They’re already here…it’s too late…they’re already here…
I’m always looking for a sign. I want to recapture the wonder of my youth and the fervor of a zealot. Okay, that’s just some bullshit, but it sounds a lot better than, I’d look for a mystical divine sign, but I’ll probably just end up finding something like this:
Don’t worry, I won’t. I am tired. It’s Friday, and I don’t feel like talking. I’m sure you don’t feel like reading. That’s too bad, because these signs could save your life.
I’d pay attention to this one. Steel is harder than your skull.
Some things go without saying.
Welcome to California.
Of course, you can’t pick the governor. Well, technically you can, but you’re really at the mercy of your fellow constituents. And those people, well, let’s just say they may need a sign as profound as this:
I guess that means the kid who just fell in won’t become the Toxic Avenger. Well that’s a load off my mind.
The problem with falling in a vat of toxic waste (other than the obvious lack of super powers) is you could end up dead. However, we here in America are fiercely independent and don’t want anybody to tell us what to do. We should have the right to do what we want when we want how we want. Then we can sue somebody when we get totally PWNED from our own stupidity. I’m dedicating this sign to those rugged individuals:
Really, it's your choice.
Of course, if you do die, please keep your table clean:
Sometimes signs aren’t there for your safety so much as the convenience of the harried staff that works there.
This is a university. We did not teach you how to read, therefore you are unqualified to re-shelve books.
You know, I think I’ll just figure this out on my own, thanks.
Signs are all around you. Some are non-negotiable. Take this sign in our lab:
Believe that sign, I do.
However, this is America, and nobody can take away your right to be an idiot. Just keep in mind that if you fuck yourself up, you could face serious consequences, like sick zoo animals.
You could still end up dead, and unfortunately, we’re going to have to fine you for that.
And who knows what the hell prompted this one:
If only there was useful sign, something that has information vital to the very survival of the human race.
No, I’m serious about this. Why the hell would I need this sign posted?
Oh. I think I’ll just turn the car around. But that doesn’t mean the information won’t come in handy.
California is one of the most aggravating places to drive. While I’m in the car running from the zombie apocalypse I think most street signs become negotiable. However, in the event that the dead stay in their graves, I think everyone should obey all signs and placards, even if they need a friendly reminder:
That does it. I’m going home to start drinking early. As we Americans are all too fond of saying:
Hi…I’m…uh…well, it’s still not important. I’m a recovering fundamentalist. I grew up in the Christian faith, was an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church by the age of 16 and “baptized” again by the age of 21.
I’m sorry. I wish I knew back then what I know now. I wish I was smart enough to be a scientist and a skeptic back then. I wish I was compassionate enough to be a humanist. I wasn’t. This was my bad. Christians may claim the market on compassion and empathy, but sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.
I see all the little trinkets and bumper stickers and propaganda asking, “What would Jesus do?” Apparently, Jesus would kill people, or at the very least, want them to die.
I tried so hard to be a fundamentalist, but the more I listened to myself, the more ridiculous it began to sound. When you hear the way these people speak about others, who would want to be associated with them?
“After all the things I’ve done I hate myself for what I’ve become.” Maybe others should as well. So, I gave it up. People tell me all the time, “Let go and let God.” I didn’t start to really be concerned about the human condition and the world around me until I let go of God.
I’ve tried the religious thing: it didn’t work. I’ve tried the “always positive nothing’s ever bad” thing: it didn’t work. I tried the politically correct thing: it didn’t work. I think the best you can do is try to be the person your dog thinks you are. You know; the benevolent god that bestows blessings on those who beg for them, provides affection when the world seems bleak, and discipline those that don’t act appropriately.
In Dog We Trust
I’ve prayed and watched people intensely. There’s never been any evidence to me that there’s an interventionist god. I wish there was. I really wish there was. I could finally get some answers or resolution to these mundane, “earthly” things that dominate my life.
I can’t give myself to any one religion or belief. They all possess a version of the truth. When we scientists come up with the “Theory of Everything,” I’m sure we’ll confirm some things and disprove others. In the mean time, lighten up. You’re not all right. You’re not all wrong. You’re all somewhere in between. Seriously, lighten up. Stop being so damn bitchy towards people and things that don’t fall in exact line with what you believe in.
The All Father Odin, with the wolves who report on the doings of man. But of course you knew that already.
This is the All Father. I hope some of you recognize him. I wonder if he’s lonely right now because nobody ever asks him for favors anymore. I know, I know, that’s Paganism, blasphemy, idolatry or whatever sin you want to tack onto it this week. I’m going straight to hell just for asking the question. I want you to shed a tear for Odin, because at one time he was the big, bad reigning deity on the block. You see, there’s no such thing as the one true religion. If you’re a monotheist, all you are is an atheist who’s made an exception. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, Ahura Mazda, Thor, Zeus, or the Great Green Arkleseizure. You simply made one exception. I hope for all of our sakes, it’s the right one.
Otherwise, you could be on the wrong end of this:
1984 Sikh Massacre. I hope if and when the time comes, you're not from one of those bad religions.
The truth is, I’m rooting for all of you. Even if you wish harm on people because of their sexual preference, hate the president because you think he’s a Nazi, or wish we all gave the one-armed salute to the god/government/ideology of your choice. The real test of humanity and enlightenment is to accept those whose ideology differs so much from your own, and treat others as you would yourself.
I have owned numerous items that have, for lack of a better expression, been possessed (as have you). All of us at some point in time have a possession that seems like hell spawned it and somehow we won it at the loser’s auction. You know the item: the car from hell that keeps breaking down, the washer that eats your clothes, the stove that constantly burns things, the hair dryer that sets you on fire, etc. Don’t be shy about confronting this problem, apparently it’s quite common.
I think the strangest possessed article I’ve ever owned was the refrigerator in my apartment in Fremont. It wasn’t just a fridge; it was the gateway to another dimension. I used to call it the re-freezer-rotter, because this thing didn’t preserve food so much as commit inexplicable and heinous crimes with it. I once found a head of lettuce in this refrigerator that was completely fresh in one portion, frozen on another and the final section was slimy and rotten. Things would either freeze or rot, but there seemed to be no happy medium, like, preservation. The strangest incident was the inter-dimensional mustard incident. No kidding, one day a bottle of mustard showed up in the fridge. Nobody had copped to buying that mustard to this day. None of us know where it came from or why it was there. I’ve done some strange things over the years, many of which were alcohol related, but I have never purchased a bottle of generic yellow mustard and left it in the fridge for somebody else to find. There has never been a rational explanation for this mustard to this day. I threw it out when I moved.
When I tried to get the fridge repaired, nobody could tell me what was wrong with it. People claimed I was making this up. I’m not making this up. Finally the crappy commute from Fremont on the California freeways and the obnoxious neighbors got to me and I moved out. Thankfully the law required me to leave the fridge behind. I was happy about that, because I feared what it would do next.
I feared it would come to this. Thank God for month-to-month leases.
Possessed items are no new phenomenon. Cursed items have been around for centuries. However, it takes the ingenuity of the modern era along with Ebay to properly exploit possessed items. There are currently 364,000 entries on Google for possessed appliances, and about 8,000 “haunted” items for sale on Ebay. Go ahead, look it up. Purchase something if you like. I’m leaving that shit alone. Besides, I’m just up to my armpits in possessed items in this house. Take a look at this:
This is definitely going to save my life in the event of a fire.
What you’re seeing is the remains of my smoke detector. I dismantled it myself. (Safety first!) You see, the damn thing kept beeping at random all hours of the day and night. There was no pattern to the beeping, no triggers, and no obvious reason why it would just start beeping in the middle of the night. I changed the battery, I vacuumed it, I unplugged it and plugged it back in. The damn thing just kept on beeping at random every two or three minutes. I called the landlord, who told me that it was fine and I was making the whole thing up. (No, silly, of course he didn’t actually come and look at it. Why would he do that?) Finally I yanked it out of the ceiling, removed the main wires and put it in the closet. THE GODDAMN THING KEPT BEEPING. You heard me right, it never stops beeping. I swear it’s possessed. Once again, my landlord is indifferent to my need for an exorcist or a different smoke detector at the very least.
It's Daylight Savings Time. I need a young priest and an old priest...
I’m sure there’s some sort of cottage industry for possessed appliance repair. Those damn things are just like children; they never act up when anybody else is watching. This can’t be a coincidence. There’s no explanation for this kind of behavior from an inanimate object. Well, I can’t exactly say there’s no explanation.
We all knew it was going to come down to this.
Yeah, I had that suspicion to. They’re out to get us. Hopefully we can get to them first before we have to arm ourselves and plant land mines. In the mean time, you need to look around your house and ask yourself (and answer honestly), “Where did all those condiments come from?” If you can’t answer, you know it’s time to call the priest.