Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Farewell to Pooh

Two weeks ago I went up to CT to help my parents move into their new apartment. While the movers carried the numerous boxes of electronics, books, clothes, kitchen utensils into the apartment, I asked Dad what he ended up doing with Pooh.

A couple of weeks before that, while he and mom were getting ready for the big move from MN, I had asked him the same question. He had said that he would probably have to sell Pooh because it would be too much hassle to move it. Although I didn't want to lose Pooh, I had to agree with Dad. It just wouldn't make sense to spend more money shipping it from MN to CT when I had already spent money sending it from CA to MN.

"I sold it to a Palestinian family who lived nearby for $40. I didn't want to tell you because I felt a little guilty," Dad explained with an embarrassed smile.

Farewell my Pooh!

I can still remember that fateful day when Sachin, Jason and I went to Six Flags in Vallejo with the free tickets we got from some AOL tech deal, milled around the park totally bored with every pitiful thrill-less ride, and then came upon the ring toss booth lined with you and 5 or 6 of your big, fluffy yellow brethren. I remember how flimsy the red plastic rings felt in my hand as I took aim at the bottles. I remember the beautiful "clang" that reverberated in the air when my first ring (out of 12) landed miraculously on a bottle neck and stayed there. I remember being a greedy bastard and trying to win more Poohs for me and Sachin, but missing not only my 11 remaining rings but Sachin's 12 rings as well. I remember the other, wounded Pooh the Ring Toss attendant handed to me first, which was bleeding little foam balls out of a slit on its neck. I remember carrying you on my shoulders as I paraded around the park with a 5-foot pooh bear sitting on my neck, basking in the glory of victory and feeling the attention/admiration/envy from every kid. I remember sitting in the backside of Sachin's Audi with you, getting almost suffocated by your gigantic velvety ass. I remember most clearly of all, the sharp pain I felt in my neck the next day as a result of having you sit on my neck.

There were other memories after that one fine day of course. Like the time a Branner frosh asked politely to borrow you for a stunt for Secret Santa and then later proceeded to commit unspeakably vile sexual acts against you in the dining hall to the amusement of everyone (oh you immature frosh and RA's, may God's wrath rain down upon your house!). Or those other times when Spanky and other rogue members of Branner's infamous Penthouse ghetto kidnapped you. Or all those times Sachin punched you in the nose or your pot belly out of jealousy because all of his pussy stuffed animals put together could not match your fantabulousness.

Maybe it is better for you to bring joy to some poor Palestinian kids whose relatives' homes might have been bull-dozed by Zionist thugs. Maybe it is better to spare you the indignity of being stuffed in a brown box and shipped half way across the country yet again. Maybe it is preferable for you to spend your golden years feeling the loving embrace of kids with their little greasy, sticky, booger-covered fingers.

Live on my sweet Pooh!

The Sex Secrets of Lobsters

From an awesome interview with Trevor Corson, the author of "The Secret Life of Lobsters," at where else but (get an anual membership through me for only $15!!) :

Did you find out more from the scientists than you expected?

After two years of working on a lobster boat I thought I knew a lot about lobsters, but when I started researching the book and talking to the scientists who study lobsters for a living, I had no idea.

The most amazing thing is how the lobsters socialize, communicate, and their mating ritual. It turns out that lobsters do most of their interpretation of the world and their socializing through their sense of smell. Their nose is actually a pair of little flickable antennules, or mini-antennae. They're packed with chemo receptors and they flick them in the water to detect odors, like sniffing, and if they're in a good current they can hold them up like rabbit ears and pick up all the chemicals in the water.

They also have this little interesting feature of their anatomy where they have a big bladder in their head and they piss out the front of their head. So they're constantly pissing in each other's faces. When a female wants to seduce a male, she comes by the door of his apartment and he sits inside and pisses out the door at her. If she likes the smell she comes by and sticks her head inside his apartment and pisses back at him.

Um, when you say apartment ...?

They live inside little rock hollows, basically, and they're very attached to their homes. That's not to say that they don't move from one to the next, but they're very defensive creatures despite all the armor. They really like to hunker down and they have a strong preference for backing into tight places with their claws out and ready so they can defend themselves.

So when scientists started studying the mating habits, there was very little information about crustacean mating and how it worked. The anatomy had been investigated for a long time. At first the scientists couldn't figure out how lobsters mated and no one was sure if the male lobster had a penis at all, and then it turned out that it had two.

That's real vindication.

Yeah, so they knew the anatomy, but they still couldn't figure out how the social part worked. Normally lobsters hate each other. If you put a male and female lobster in a tank with each other they start fighting right away and try to kill each other. In nature they have a pretty complicated set of procedures for interacting with each other that are designed to actually avoid real injury, so that a smaller lobster can immediately tell that a bigger lobster is dominant and get out of the way. But if the lobsters are evenly matched in a tank they just continue fighting and the whole thing escalates.

So one of the scientists I write about, Jella Atema, thought the female lobster might be emitting a pheromone to attract the male but it turns out to be exactly the opposite. They did these experiments where they set up a social situation in a 20-foot tank. The males would fight with each other to figure out who the dominant male was, and once he was proven dominant he would go around and beat up all the other lobsters every night. All the lobsters in the neighborhood would be dealt a daily dose of humiliation, both males and females. He'd kick them around and then go back and hang around his shelter, which was the best shelter in the tank, of course.

What happened then is that the females started to take up residence nearby and they would come by his shelter. Then one of them began an elaborate social ritual where she'd come calling to the door every day and eventually he would let her inside the shelter. Then she actually moved in, and it turns out she was ready to shed her shell at that time. So within 15 or 30 minutes of her molting the male approaches and turns her over and they copulate while she's soft. Then after about a week, once her shell has hardened up again, she leaves without a backward glance. So they've pair-bonded for about two weeks. And then? The next female lobster shows up and moves in with the dominant male. And this goes on in sequence. The female lobsters are keeping tabs on each other to figure out who's mating with the dominant male, and they wait until one of their sisters has done her business and then the next moves in. So they all take turns. It's called serial monogamy.

It's funny, sometimes people use specific mating habits of animals to prove a certain point about human sexuality, though I can't imagine what group would claim lobsters as their example.

The Mormons might like it. But it's not all at once. It's in sequence, you wouldn't be able to keep a harem going. The male just waits at home once he's proven his dominance by beating up everyone every night, which really arouses the females. And it turns out they're recognizing his smell, because he's pissing in their faces all the time while they're fighting.

They're violent little creatures. What's with all the aggression? And the pissing? They look so passive and harmless floating in those restaurant tanks.

Jella Atema set up a boxing ring in order to study lobster fights, and when he staged rematches on consecutive nights, the loser immediately recognized his former opponent and backed down, forfeiting the fight. It wasn't that lobsters had become cowards -- if the loser was paired with another lobster he would fight aggressively again. So something was going on and the lobsters were recognizing individual opponents that had beaten them before. Blindfolding the lobsters didn't make any difference. So the scientists catheterized some lobsters, put these little tubes over their urine slots on their face and made a little urine bottle and measured outflow.

It turns out that the lobsters were accompanying their most punishing blows with intense squirts of piss in each other's faces. The scientists actually charted the results, so clearly the smell is what they pick up on. The funny thing is that the winner was almost always the lobster that pissed first, the first one off the draw, like down at the OK Corral, but in this case whoever pissed first wins.

They realized that this pissing was going on in the bedroom, too. When the male lobster was fighting with everyone in the tank he was pissing in everyone's face and when the females would come by they would piss in his face. The scientists think that the females were also pissing a drug at the male when they're getting ready to molt. So after the females are satisfied that he's the toughest one they would drug him to tone down his aggression, which puts him in the mood for courtship and then the females convince him to mate. So the males are out there fighting, but the females really choose which one they mate with. They're in charge and they have this sisterhood deal where they're basically cooperating so they all get to nail this one lobster who they've chosen.

In terms of simple outright aggression, lobsters are brutal. One guy in New Hampshire did an experiment to see if lobsters preyed on each other. He tethered a juvenile lobster to the bottom of the shallows so he couldn't get away. Very quickly big lobsters showed up, and when they figured out that he was helpless, they attacked the young lobster, crushed him, and then ate him.