Tuesday, October 09, 2007

That's Jane Austen swinging from that tree! Darcy, quick, drop the banana!

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single baboon in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife"--We are not nearly as far removed from our evolutionary cousins as we like to think. Nick Wade's story in the New York Times on the work of Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth of the University of Pennsylvania is a case in point. The two, husband and wife, study baboons in Botswana and they tape the behavior of their subjects. The results, as Wade points out, is that baboons think. Slowly, perhaps, but we who allow ourselves to be governed from Washington have no right to feel smug.

The biologists set up tests for the baboons and actually taping what looks awfully like intellect. One male baboon has the hots for a female but she is being serviced by the alpha male. Suddenly, he hears the sound of another female nearby ("If you can't screw the one you love, love the one you screw?") and you can watch him think it out. "Hmmm. The boss is busy and we have this opportunity nearby, maybe I can knock off a quickie before he returns and...." Unfortunately for him, when he goes to find her, he finds a loudspeaker playing a recording of the second female's flirtatious call. Bad biologists! But the point is made.

The two suggest that there are pointed similarities between baboons and the women in 19th century English society. "Stay loyal to your relatives (though perhaps at a distance, if they are an impediment), but also try to ingratiate yourself with members of high-ranking families," they say. Sounds like the Bennet family, doesn't it? Female status is passed from mother to daughter and female society stays constant, while the males change regularly as new upstarts upset the reigning alpha male. They sort of move into Netherfield Park, put all the females into a tizzy, and walk off with the best-looking of the higher rank. Like the women in Jane Austen novels, the female baboons who do best are the ones with the best social skills.

I'm sorry, but is that vagina a Versace?--Speaking of females with social skills, I write this very carefully. The medical establishment in Britain is in a bit of a tizzy about the newest fad: cosmetic vaginal surgery. The number of procedures to reduce the size of vaginas has doubled in six years. Women claim they are having problems wearing tight clothing, ride a bike, show up in bathing suits or take communal showers and want surgeons to do something about it. It is called genitoplasty or labial reduction. The authors of a story in the British Medical Journal said they did a Google search of labial reduction and found 490,000 results. (I got 92,400). Most were ads for clinics in Britain and the U.S. that did the surgery. The Brits have been treated to television and magazines pieces on "designer vaginas." Can we expect knock-offs from China? No. It will be a sign of my maturity that I will drop the subject without the usual bad taste humor it so richly deserves. Aren't you proud?

Who are you going to believe, that printer or your lying eyes?--Everyone has had it happen. Your printer software proclaims you are out of ink (aren't you glad I moved from vaginas?) and you toss the cartridge out and put in a new one. If you suspect that you are somehow getting screwed, you may be right. A study from German suggests that in at least half the time, the software is lying--it isn't out. A German research company,TÜV Rheinland looked at all brands and both single-ink and multi-ink cartridges. Results did vary. Epson (which financed the study) was the most honest (told the truth 80% of the time) and Kodak the worst (told the truth 64%). Sometimes the printer said it was out of ink when there was still enough for hundreds of pages. Sometimes a multi-ink cartridge reported itself empty when only one of the inks was out. You are better off with cartridges with the inks in separate tubes, so that you can replace the one running low and not have to pay for the ones still in sufficient supply. Sometimes, the problem is just that if you don't use the printer for a while, the ink dries. If you are waiting for answer to how to solve the problem, I can't help you. They have us by the short hairs.

Vaginal statue photography by Dan Heller

1 comment:

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