those small-headed humans
Saturday, January 20 2007
I was over at the downhill neighbors' house this afternoon installing their Verizon DSL. They were the last people in the neighborhood to upgrade from dialup. Working with their computer was an exercise in frustration, running at about a five percent the speed of my computer. The problem was one I'm familiar with at this point: operating Windows XP in 128 Megs of RAM. While that setup might work with a fresh install, the moment RealPlayer gets in there (along with other pieces of cholesterolware), the computer becomes practically useless. Imagine, then, attempting to install the Verizon DSL CD in this environment. That CD runs an animation-heavy (and sound-rich) program to lead granny through the DSL installation process. (As I recall, it refused to run on my computer because it got the impression that I didn't have enough memory.) Normally I bypass the Verizon install CD and just call someone at Verizon and have them assign me a username and password to key into the Westell DSL modem. But I thought that because this was "Verizon with AOL" it wouldn't be so simple. But when the Verizon CD sat for twenty minutes doing nothing at all at 7% finished, I felt I had no choice. It turns out that there's nothing special about Verizon with AOL at all.
As I worked, the woman of the house kept asking me questions that I couldn't possibly answer without delving into the guts of her computer. Questions such as "Why can't I see pictures that people send me?" can't be answered without my first obtaining additional information, although it proved difficult for me to convince her of this. All this while the Verizon installation remained mired at 7%.
After I finished I sat around drinking wine with the neighbors, though there wasn't much new neighborhood gossip. The most remarkable fact was learning that these downhill neighbors have a 3000 gallon oil tank, allowing them to wait out periods of high fuel oil prices and to negotiate better prices when it is finally ordered. (At the rate Gretchen and I have been burning oil, 3000 gallons would last us ten years; the last time we ordered oil for our 250 gallon tank was in early March.)
This evening Gretchen and I had dinner with Penny and David at their place in greater Marbletown. We ate homemade pizza and drank wine while a fire in the woodstove kept us warm. The firewood had been purchased in a small bundle at a local grocery story because the firewood delivery guy had flaked out.
Meanwhile a terrible wind was blasting air that was only 17.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If this goes on for a couple weeks, I might be able to remember this as having been a winter.
At some point in the conversation things turned to a dissection of spirituality, beginning with Gretchen reacting vitriolically against something astrological that Penny had said. Penny said that though she is a rationalist, she still holds out the hope that there is a deep underlying "connection" between people that science will never discover. At this point David said something beginning with "We only use ten percent of our brains." "Don't get me started on that one!" I protested. I then declared that the "received wisdom" about how we "only use ten percent of our brains" is complete rubbish, a "fact" that I've never heard supported with a shred of evidence. From an evolutionary perspective (which is why this perspective needs to be taught in schools) it makes no sense. Women have great difficulty with childbirth to give birth to babies with enormous brains. If those human babies are only using 10% of those brains, all that suffering (and likelihood of death) by their mothers is for naught. Why then hasn't a more successful breed of humans emerged with a 90% smaller brain? I have the answer: we actually use 100% of our brains and would kick the asses of (and then outbreed) those small-headed humans.
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