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What's on the nightstand

by Michael Crichton

dry cleaning


Tuesday, 5 November, 2002

Vote, darn it! Yes, I realize it feels rather pointless since your vote will not matter one iota . . . oh, wait a minute. That only applies to Republicans in urban settings, not to the rest of you. But even if my vote DIDN'T matter, I still got up early and was at the polls eight minutes after they opened.

All right, so the polls are actually located in the lobby of my condo building, so the amount of effort required here was pretty much nil, but what the heck. I view my vote as accomplishing a number of things:

1. It gives me the right to complain about my elected officials.
2. It makes sure that my name remains on that bloody jury duty list.
3. It allows me to participate in the ultimate democratic action: selecting my elected offi. . .

[Oh, I forgot. I'm a Republican in Center City Philadelphia. My vote is a pointless little sparkler in the face of a Nor'easter.]

3. It allows me to participate in the ultimate democratic action: casting my vote AGAINST the overwhelming majority, [even if it doesn't make a difference] and not having to worry about repercussions.

I found it a bit disconcerting, however, that in these times when a valid form of photo I.D. is required to merely buy groceries, that I was not asked to show a driver's license or anything. Just gave them my name and they asked me to sign on the blank line. Nope, no chance of voter fraud here . . .

So why vote? Because exercising this right is what our country is about. Because there are those that believe that they should be able to tell us how to live our lives because they do not hold the same values that we do. Because we are a country at war, and we need to make sure that our representatives do everything in their power to defend us and to remove the threat of terrorism that these animals desire to hold over us.

[Maybe that's what these big ships are doing.]

"Three enormous U.S.-military owned cargo ships capable of carrying tanks have left U.S. shores in recent days, a U.S. navy official said on Monday, amid mounting evidence Washington is building up firepower to attack Iraq.

The cargo vessels, the USNS Bellatrix, the USNS Bob Hope and the USNS Fisher, just short of the length of aircraft carriers themselves, are some of the largest transport ships in the U.S. military's inventory."

OK, so that's the overt, muscular defense move. Here's the more subtle one as reported by USS Clueless:

A car in Yemen exploded, killing the six men inside it. One of them was Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, a top member of al Qaeda, and the others were certainly part of that organization or allied ones.

Initial reports were confused; the car had exploded but no one was quite sure why. At first they thought maybe explosives they were carrying had detonated accidentally. Then there were rumors of a helicopter nearby. Now it's come out that they were killed by what was almost certainly a Hellfire missile fired by a Predator UAV under CIA control. If so, it would have been flying high enough so no one on the ground would have known it was there.

This was a victory, indeed a major victory. Not only were those in that car our enemies and legitimate targets of war, but the fact that we were able to reach out and touch them that way will put the fear of God into all our other enemies around the world, who will at all times wonder whether the CIA has an eye-in-the-sky watching them, too. It is rare for the shadow warriors to be able to go on the offensive, and it must be particularly satisfying for them when they do it and bag such a high profile target.

We go from one war to another. On a slightly lighter note:

In the eternal war between the sexes, the lady side-blotched lizard wins it all: she selects her many mates, decides where they'll live and even determines if they will have sons or daughters.

"This is the ultimate example of a female having her cake and eating it too," said Calsbeek, the first author of a study appearing Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "It would be like a human female who marries a short, dumpy rich guy and then has an affair with a muscular 20-year-old to have a handsome son who grows up in a mansion and goes to the best schools."

Generally, the female picks the mate she'll live with. Calsbeek said he and his co-author observed that the female generally prefers a big male who lives on a big rock in the best location.

To see if the female was selecting the choice living site or the choice male, the researchers moved the rocks around, putting the big males on poor rocks and the little males on the best rocks in the finest neighborhoods. The female lizards seemed to prize comfort over all else, choosing small males with the fancy rocks as the first mate and live-in partner.

But that's not the end of her choices.

Calsbeek said the female is "incredibly promiscuous," commonly mating with five or six males per reproductive cycle.

To see which male lizards are siring the female's young, the researchers did molecular tests for paternity and found the lady lizard was very clever, indeed.

The female collected the sperm from many partners in a special body cavity, called the spermatheca, before it was allowed to fertilize her eggs, Calsbeek said. Then, somehow, the female caused the sperm from big males to make sons, while the sperm from the small males was used to make daughters.

"It appears to be ... an incredibly refined ability of the female to manipulate the investment of her partners," she said.

[You go girl!]

Here's another little story from the "Strange Animal Sex" File:

Working with a team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, Roselli's team studied 27 sheep -- 10 ewes, nine rams that mated only with other rams and eight rams that mated only with females.

[Now, ultimately they discovered that there may - or may not - be differences in the gay sheep's brains, but my favorite part was this paragraph:]

First the scientists watched the sheep to be sure of their behavior -- something that cannot be done with humans.

Then they took apart their brains.

[Also something that is generally frowned upon with humans.]

From the "Huge Understatement" File, CNN.com has posted a "News Alert" that reads:

Federal judge orders sniper suspect John Muhammad detained, saying he is a flight risk and danger to community. Details to come.


And on this fine election day, here's a little quiz for you to take:

I am:

George W

[I really don't see the resemblance.]

~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong."
-- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist

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