Friday, May 25, 2012

You Say You Want an Evolution

So the president's opinion on gay marriage is evolving. I know better to jump into that discussion, so…

[ jump! ]

He chooses his words carefully. Evolving is not the same as changing. To evolve is to develop new characteristics ever so slowly, so slowly you can't even see it happen, but eventually you're distinctly different. You change your mind. You evolve a new head.

So probably he didn't change his mind. Probably he's trying hard to make baby steps because everyone around him asks him to. He has to evolve. But we'll never know, will we?

Evolution is like that. We never know. For all the arguments about the science of species evolution [ jump! ] there really isn't any evidence of it. Darwin had no "theory of evolution." He proposed only that better-adapted animals were more likely to breed, which explains why Andy Warhol didn't have kids. There's plenty of evidence for birds changing colors or dogs breeding floppier skin, but there's no evidence of birds becoming dogs. The familiar illustration of hunchy little monkeys growing taller and straighter until they suddenly become a guy in a pinstripe suit looks viable enough, but no one has any evidence of it.

Then, of course, if monkeys evolved into humans, why are there still monkeys around? They live without destroying their environment, engaging in an endlessly sustainable existence. If anything, humans ought to be evolving into chimps.

Only God knows, and as y'all are quick to point out, I am not a god. But if I were, if I could steer evolution, I'd do a few things differently.

I think eyeballs would be better mounted on the end of fingers. That way you could look over high shelves, spy over fences, see where your keys fell under the grate, and get a better look at your bald spot. Hammering a nail would require a little extra courage, but in return the head would be one solid bony helmet, protecting our precious brain.

Our nose would be better served on fingers too, so we can figure out where that stink is coming from without all the stooping. Ears too. So I guess my future human would be just a bunch of sense organs at the end of spindly appendages. Sort of a radar array anemone.

Testicles front and center, bouncing in a thin sack like two kids conking heads in the back seat of a car on a bumpy road — whose idea was that? If balls are so important, shouldn't they be tucked safely inside? Like inside the brain? Where they wouldn't be a bulls-eye target for every baseball? Where we wouldn't have to see them? Eyeballs are surrounded by protective bone, yet our future dangles fragile as eggs.

Scientists marvel  that testicles rise and fall like a yo-yo (okay, two yo-yos), to coddle our temperature-sensitive sperm. Isn't' that genius?  Hey — humans can control the temperature of an office tower with a twist of a thermostat. Women managed to keep their goodies tucked safely inside. Maybe women are just more evolved.

Fauna is full of variety: gills, feathers, fingers, spines. But there's also a curious consistency: almost all animals have a nose. Two eyes. Not one, not three. Appendages in pairs, even though a tripod would be far more stable — just ask a kangaroo. Did God restrict himself to a palette of building blocks much like Legos, from which he could build anything, but everything would look like he built it?

Did a giraffe get a long neck so he could eat leaves high on a tree, or does he eat leaves high on a tree because he always had a long neck? Maybe Adam and Eve were plopped onto this Earth as two beautifully, fully-formed adults, tender feet nestled in soft green grass. Maybe the only thing evolving is opinions. For that reason alone, maybe I should respect them more.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cleaning Up

It's getting harder to buy soap. Maybe it's a guy thing, but once I find a laundry soap that works, I stop comparing. I go to the store and buy my brand, ignoring all the blinky, shiny, orchid-scented, double-concentrated, softener-added products surrounding it.

I made my preference randomly in the first place. My daughter did a little research project in high school and found that one brand of laundry soap actually cleaned a little better, and since I didn't have an opinion of my own, I bought that one and have used it ever since.

Luckily my options are narrow. Because I use a front-loading machine, I have to use "high-efficiency" detergent. Apparently regular-efficiency soap will bubble up into a cumulonimbus cloud of foam. Maybe "high-efficiency" is badly named, since it bubbles less. But the bottom line is that there are only a handful of H.E. choices. I like my choice: it's just soap.

But yesterday it was gone, replaced with "For Sensitive Skin, No Perfumes or Dyes!" My first thought was "why you gotta change everything?" My second thought was "So what – you were poisoning me this whole time?" My third: "Those chemicals that irritate sensitive skin (and apparently not my leathery ass) are probably the same chemicals I trust to get the mustard stains off my shirt.

I bought it anyway. What could I do? Already I feel like a sensitive-skin sissy.

I respect that some machines require "high-efficiency" soap because I leaned the lesson from my dishwasher, on a day I ran out of dishwasher soap.

I was on my way out the door, leaving the country (willingly), and I didn't want the dirty dishes in my dishwasher to evolve into a thriving, self-governing community before my return. I had some regular dish soap. "How different can that be?" I squirted it into the little door cup of the dishwasher and hit "Go."

As I grabbed my last suitcase and headed for the door, something caught my eye, something much like the oozing protagonist in The Blob, only white. Before my eyes it silently covered the wooden kitchen floor in three inches of foam, pouring out the dishwasher door seams like cotton candy.

I shut off the dishwasher, gingerly opened the door. I grabbed a dustpan and began shoveling foam into the sink, which became full after about four shovelsful.

It is nearly impossible to get bubbles to go down a drain. They dance happily above their eminent doom, and all the hand-corralling and cuss words won't make them obey gravity.

On the plus side, my kitchen floor was never cleaner. And I use the proper soap now.

It was like a similar adventure I had after spilling a jar of instant coffee on the floor. (Apparently I'd rather tell this story than hide from you the filthy truth that I once drank instant coffee.) Using a wet mop to clean instant coffee just makes a pot of coffee on the floor. The more I mopped, the more coffee I made. One must respect how much coffee they squeeze into those little brown crystals. Science is amazing.

Ironically, you have to clean up after soap. Seems like soap ought to be self-cleaning, but I hire a cleaning lady twice a month to get "soap scum" off my shower. And what does she use to clean soap scum? Soap.

My face soap comes in a little pump bottle. (Some girl finally convinced me that using a bar of Lava on my face was not right.) It's a nice little bottle, a shame to throw away, so I thought I'd keep it around for, um, something. I was feeling recycle-y. I rinsed the remnant soap out, and it bubbled and bubbled out the top. I rinsed. And it bubbled. A-n-d b-u-b-b-l-e-d. About twenty gallons of hot water and a size-12 carbon footprint later, I gave up and threw the bottle away.

I can be crotchety but I don't yearn for the days where we (Who am I kidding? By we I mean women.) cleaned our clothes by banging them onto rocks. But as I encounter about fifty kinds of soap a day, including body soap, shampoo, toothpaste, face soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry soap and all manner of solvents I have in my workshop, I gotta think somebody out there is really cleaning up.