The Napoleonic Terrier

A small dog against a big world.

Now with e-mail!:

[Partial transcript of "New England Today," from Vermont Public Broadcasting]

Q: I understand your research is about twins . . .
A: Yes, I find twins very interesting . . .

Q: But not just any twins . . .
A: Well, there are many types of twins: fraternal, identical, and that's just the beginning. There are also
     vanishing twins, conjoined twins, parasitic twins, . . . and the current flavor of the month called "mirror image twins."

Q: That sounds like a lot of different twins. What gives the mirror image twins their particular flavor, if you will?
A: Right. In these twins the fertilized egg splits a little later in the embryonic stage than for other twins,
     and the resulting twins have asymmetries along traits like dominant handedness, dental structure, even personality traits.

Q: Isn't there a pair of brothers who play tennis . . .
A: Yes, the Bryan Brothers. I can't say whether they are mirror image twins though.

Q: But I understand you've restricted your research to a very select subset of these mirror image twins. Why is that?
A: (clears throat) Well, contemporary literature seems to like to portray many American Jews as being
     self-loathing . . . (shifts in seat)

Q: So what?
A: Well, not many people in life who go through an extended phase of self-hatred get to hate somebody else who is
     exactly like them. And because they're mirrored, one of them is likely to have the kind of self-hatred I'm looking for.

Q: So you're saying these Jewish twins are special, is that it? You make them sound special.
A: No. I mean yes---haven't you ever hated yourself for something you did, something about yourself,
     or some trait you inherited?

Q: No, I just hated my parents. And the neighbor's dog next door. Damn dog would run after me when I rode my bike
     and almost killed me. (interviewer looks lost in thought)
A: (small sigh) In any case, I was able to locate mirror image twins of Jewish descent, separated at birth, with each
     twin raised in a different religion. The experimental design choices were staggering . . .

Q: What?
A: My design choices for the experiments. I could test a multitude of hypotheses. This got me tenure and now
     the book. Wait---are you recording this?

Q: No. I understand your new book is eliciting strong feelings . . .
A: Are you talking about Malcolm Gladwell calling me a hack?

Q: Gladwell called you a hack?---No; I was going to ask you about the art historian from New Jersey.
     Gladwell, interesting.
A: (pause) Are you referring to that nut Roberts?

Q: Well, I don't know if that is a fair accusation . . . Antonio Roberts is considered by some to be the greatest
     living historian of comedic groups, including . . .
A: (interrupts) Yes, I know he's seen every Three Stooges episode, or some such nonsense.

Q: Why does he disagree with the thesis of your book, "Mirror Twins in the Mirror: Our Divided Multiple Selves,"
     that claims Moe and Larry were really mirror image twins?
A: I think he thinks I am cheapening their art, or something like that. But it is he who is making the Stooges
     look infantile.

Q: How so?
A: Did you hear how he tried to poke out my eyes with his fingers?---he probably didn't mention that. The policeman
     laughed in my face when I attempted to press charges. I guess I overreacted when I poured wine on the policeman's shirt.

A: Are we done here?

Q: I guess so. Thank you very much for appearing on our show.
A: Thank you.
Q: Next up, the connection between gum disease and heart health just got more complicated . . .


European Computer Vandalism May Have New Jersey Roots

Another occurrence of an extremist anti-technology attack has been reported in Vienna, Austria,
with possible roots to the Passaic-area of New Jersey. Last week an unknown man who identified
himself only as "Leopold" was seen in the District 6-area of Vienna at the Thalia bookstore,
pouring what appeared to be milk on computers, tablets, and smartphones for sale.

Attempts to detain the assailant Leopold were unsuccessful. The estimated value of the equipment
before the attack was over thirty-thousand Euro (almost US$40,000). Leopold left behind two cartons
of liquid that authorities said later tested as organic milk, with no fingerprints found on the

This is the third such incident in Vienna this year. Local authorities have no solid leads, but have
been examining the Internet-based writings of one American, Antonio Roberts, who is believed to have
once been living near Third Ward Park in Passaic. Roberts runs an anti-technology website, named
"Bark of the Yappy Terrier," in which he argues that the conversion of natural analog information
(such as sound) into digital information ruins living things.

Roberts, through his website, says that such analog-to-digital conversion diminishes the vigor
or life-force in all living things, especially in humans. He contrasts this process to that of the
viewing of a painting, such as Monet's "The Water Lily Pond," in which the waterlilies "pop out
of the painting and grab the viewer," and which further:
chang[es] a neurological pathway of the viewer into at least a trio of separate and
independent pathways corresponding to feelings, perception of color, and logical thought,
with each new pathway forged through observations of the natural (analog) world.
But after these same observations have been converted from analog to digital, the "resulting
flattened information stream engages the mind along only one pathway, leading to atrophy in the
brain." Roberts additionally posits that perception of digitized information is responsible for
the increase in autism, degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, and other maladies including
sensitivity to gluten and constipation. Most scientific authorities remain wary of Roberts'

Nevertheless, it appears that several people in Austria, either individually or in concert, have
taken to Roberts' website. A spokeswoman who only identified herself as "Eva" read the following
statement from Roberts:
I am very sorry if anyone, especially any children, were offended by the recent events
in Vienna. However, I want all to know that not only do I not know anyone from Austria, I don't
even know anyone who knows anyone from Austria. Leave me alone.
Unsubstantiated rumors indicate the United States government may be reviewing all communications
traceable to Roberts, under authority granted through the Patriot Act, even though no reports of
milk being poured on computer equipment have emerged in this country. It has been suggested that a
a computer-industry consortium was responsible for first alerting the U.S. government about
this phenomenon.


How Technology in General and the Sevylor Corporation in Particular Ruined My Life

If you're reading this, you might be someone I should apologize to. I don't want to sound whiny and
I hate it when people refer to Jesus when they're talking about some injustice they've suffered so I
won't do that here.

But how could the amount of harm I may have done unto others lead to so much pain?

If you are old enough, you might remember a famous series of television ads in which
semi-famous people would ask you, “Do you know me?” These people were selling a credit
card. I would tell you more, but you can look for the videos on YouTube,
I'm sure they're there.

I am like one of those people, only when you're thinking about my picture, you're probably
mad because you feel screwed. And you were. And I'm sorry for that.

It all starts with my family. Through some genetic quirk, my family is special. Long
ago we were called “midgets” but then somebody decided that was a bad word and
then we were called “little people.” But we weren't like the midgets
or little people you have probably seen on T.V.

Those people are instantly recognizable, because they're all out of proportion. Their
heads are too big, their arms are too small, and you could identify any one of them in
a standard studio headshot.

But our family was different. I could show you our Christmas cards and you
would see a nice, normal family that somehow was posing next to a tree straight
from the forest and a dog the size of an elephant. We were, I mean are, little
people of *exact proportion* when compared to everybody else.

And that's where the Sevylor Corporation first comes in. When I was a kid,
my father came home with a plan. He was a three-foot-eleven-inch man with a
plan. The Sevylor Corporation of Cresskill, New Jersey wanted us as models for
their inflatable boats.

And that's where you might come in; have you ever been in a store that
sells cheap sporting equipment?---then you've seen me, first as a kid, then
as a strapping teenager, and finally as a happy adult, sitting in a spacious
comfortable Sevylor inflatable boat. That's me on the box! And maybe you thought of me
after you got home, inflated your new boat, and discovered you could only
fit two regular-sized people, not five, in your new boat.

The money was good. Really good. How many families do you know that
worked together as a team? That's my family on those cardboard boxes.
We got to travel all over the world, just like the supermodels do. It
was the best job we ever had---and we got to work with Tom Cruise in Hollywood.
Better than working with Tom Cruise. You might have seen me in a Tom Cruise
film, I'm in the background like a regular actor, only I'm there to make Tom look
extra tall. Tom's a nice guy too.

But the dream ended at the Sevylor Corporation when Antonio Roberts shit
on my parade. He called me and my wife Betty into his office. A week before
he had started rumors that we were going to get a gift from the company.
Why did I believe those rumors?

So when we entered his office, there was this big white box with a red ribbon
and a bow on it, sitting on the table next to his desk. It was so big, it looked
like a cartoon prop. The prop where the evil cartoon character opens up the gift
box, and inside the box is a big round bomb with a fuse that's burning.

So Antonio told us to sit down, and then he opened the box, just like they
do in cartoons. Instead of a bomb was a big T.V. monitor, a big metal box
with cables sticking out, and some kind of keyboard without the rest of the typewriter.

“Look at this,” he said in a kind of a giggle. “It's called a personal
computer. And inside is a very special program I call Photoshop that
will allow me to put pictures of regular people inside our boats. I can make
them as small as I want. So we don't need you anymore. Now get
out of my office you freaks!”

I think that's what he said---I need to check the court transcripts. But
we were out. And it's been hard ever since. So that's why I'm sorry that for
many years, it was my face on the cardboard box. I don't care if I signed legal
papers that make me promise to never say anything bad about the
Sevylor Corporation. They can screw themselves. But I'm sorry if I hurt you.

Yours in Christ,


What is Next?

The marketing arrangements originating out of Silicon Valley just got a little weirder today, with the
joint announcement by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and the proprietors of the "Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest" to
partner together in a new national contest.

In the new "Food for Thought!" campaign, contestants will scarf hot dogs while answering trivia questions that
are actual Google searches.

In a (test run) contest held in Cresskill, New Jersey, winner Antonio Roberts ate 36 hot dogs in under 12 minutes,
while answering actual Google search queries such as "looks and a whole lot of money." (Answer: quote is a lyric from "It's Still Rock
and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel.) Eating champ Joey Chestnut finished miserably in 11th place.

The contest was not without problems, however. At the 5:45 mark winner Roberts nearly choked when he attempted to
answer the search query "There you go again." (Answer: Ronald Reagan debate quote.) Evidently a piece of hot dog bun
went down the wrong pipe. Oddly, Google officials, not Nathan's officials, have indicated they have found a solution
to eliminate such occurrences but will not disclose details "because the patent application hasn't been filed yet,"
according to unnamed sources.


Editorial: Taxation and Human Behavior

Many responsible citizens are voicing support for radical change in the taxation policies of the United States.
Few Americans though, are aware of the historical precedents detailing the unintended consequences of seemingly
small taxation changes. Small taxation changes that cause unbelievable alterations of human behavior, as citizens
attempt to evade paying their ‘fair share.’

Under the so-called “window tax” in England and Wales first introduced in 1696, property taxes were levied on
the number of windows in a house. The tax originally included a small flat-rate per house, and a variable tax
for the number of windows above 10---in some sense, this was a progressive tax intended to affect the wealthy more
than the lower classes. But in response, many homeowners boarded up windowed areas, replacing the windows with brick,
in order to evade the tax. Despite the repeal of the window tax, many buildings today still display the scars of
this scheme to remit less tax to the Crown.

A lesser-known, and even more curious instance of a tax avoidance scheme originated long ago in the area now known
as the Czech Republic. Desperate to raise funds, King Charles IV of Czechoslovakia instituted the world’s first known
taxation on names in the 14th Century. Tax was levied based on the number of consonants and vowels in a person’s name,
with a heavier tax levied on vowels. This tax came to be known as the “Czech vowel tax.”

In response to the Czech vowel tax, many citizens shortened their names, principally by removing vowels. That is why the
Anglicized versions of many Czech names lack vowels. The remains of this tradition continue today, with many names familiar
to American sports fans---names such as Ivan Lendl (tennis), Petra Kvitova (tennis), and Jaromir Jagr (hockey)---missing
vowels. For example, scholars believe the word “Jagr” was originally descended from the German word “Jaeger,” meaning
“hunter,” with vowels removed in order to evade the tax.

In fact, among Czech citizens a caste system developed, in which those Czechs who retained vowels in their names (and
thus paid higher taxes) actively discriminated against those who changed their names to avoid the tax. Even though the
vowel tax was repealed centuries ago, the acrimony among Czechs remains to this day.

Thus, politicians in the United States should carefully consider the unintended consequences of new taxation policies.

[An aside: the Czech vowel tax pops up in some unusual places. In a fight over ownership of the game “Scrabble,”
one of three parties involved in a lawsuit alleged that the originator of Scrabble illegally derived the game from the
Czech vowel tax. (The originator of Scrabble was a native Czech speaker.) Unfortunately, after one of the three parties
to the lawsuit mysteriously disappeared, the remaining parties settled and the court papers were sealed, so we will probably
never know if the tax and Scrabble are connected.]