Zen Thoughts


1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just leave me the hell alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.
3. It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.
4. Sex is like air. It’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.
5. Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
6. No one is listening until you fart.
7. Always remember you’re unique. Just like everyone else.
8. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
9. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
10. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in
their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
11. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
12. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
13. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
14. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
15. Some days you are the bug; some days you are the windshield.
16. Don’t worry; it only seems kinky the first time.
17. Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
18. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
19. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
20. Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
21. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
22. Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.
23. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
24. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
25. We are born naked, wet, and hungry, and get slapped on our ass … then things get worse .

Housecleaning tip: Don’t – Dave Barry – MiamiHerald.com

Housecleaning tip: Don’t


(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published March 14, 2004.)
I’m a pretty good housekeeper. Ask anybody.

No, wait: Don’t ask my wife. She and I disagree on certain housekeeping issues, such as whether it’s OK for a house to contain dirt. Also smells. If NASA scientists really want to know about life on Mars, instead of sending up robots that keep finding rocks, they need to send my wife and have her take a whiff of the Martian atmosphere. If there’s a single one-celled organism anywhere on the planet, she’ll smell it.

And if the other astronauts don’t stop her, she’ll kill it with Lysol. Which is why her approach to leftovers baffles me. I am opposed to leftovers. I believe the only food that should be kept around is takeout Chinese, which contains a powerful preservative called ”kung pao” that enables it to remain edible for several football seasons.

All other leftover foods should be thrown away immediately, for the same reason you should not go to your 40th high-school reunion. You go expecting to see people whom you vaguely remember as being attractive, and even though you know they’ve aged some — heck, even YOU have aged some — you figure, hey, it’s not as if you’re OLD yet! You’re middle-aged!

Like Harrison Ford!

So you go to the reunion, and suddenly you find yourself in a room full of unrecognizable fossils, lurching around the dance floor to the sounds of Herman’s Hermits, and you realize to your horror that YOU ARE ONE OF THEM.

You get the same kind of unpleasant shock with leftovers. Time and again, in my house, when we’re cleaning up after dinner, there will be, say, a small clump of uneaten string beans, and I’ll have it poised over the garbage, and my wife will lunge for it like a person rescuing a baby from a wood chipper, saying: ”Those will be good for leftovers!” She’ll carefully seal the string beans in a plastic container and put them in the refrigerator, as if she truly believes that sometime in the near future an actual human in our household will say: “Dang! I could really chow down on some old string beans!”

Now fast-forward about a month, when my wife, passing the refrigerator, detects an odor molecule. So she takes out the plastic container and discovers that EWWW the string beans have been replaced by alien space worms with inch-long blue fur. Which of course she hurls into the garbage, which, as you may recall, is exactly where I tried to throw them a month earlier. This is what happens to, I would estimate, 100 percent of our non-Chinese-takeout “leftovers.”

Speaking of refrigerator odors, here’s a:

PRACTICAL HOMEMAKER TIP — Keep an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator. That way, when people come to visit, you can say: ”Would you care for some cold baking soda?” Then they will leave.

But I digress. My point-and I know this because I’m using powerful point-detection software-is that people have differing views about what constitutes good housekeeping. This is why I’m so interested in an article that appeared recently in The New York Times.

The article states that your kitchen-yes, YOUR kitchen-is basically a festering swarm of potentially deadly bacteria. The most interesting part of the article concerns a discovery by a University of Arizona microbiology professor named Dr. Chuck Gerba, who is an expert on household germs. I am familiar with Dr. Gerba, because some years ago I interviewed him on bathroom cleanliness, and he told me that the only sure way to kill all the bacteria on a toilet is — I am not making this up — to put laboratory alcohol on the bowl and set it on fire.

LEGAL ADVISORY — Dr. Gerba is a trained bathroom scientist. As a layperson, you must NEVER EVER set your toilet on fire, EVER. Also be advised that it looks much cooler with the lights out.

So anyway, Dr. Gerba has found that the cleanest-looking kitchens were often the dirtiest. ‘Because `clean’ people wipe up so much, they often end up spreading bacteria all over the place. The cleanest kitchens,” he said, “were in the homes of bachelors, who never wiped up and just put their dirty dishes in the sink.”

That’s right: You so-called ”good housekeepers” are in fact smearing bacteria around, while we so-called ”slobs” are, by courageous inaction, making the world’s kitchens safer for everybody.

There’s no need to thank us. All we ask is a little respect.

Also, while you’re sniffing those leftovers, please grab us a beer.

(c) 2009, Dave Barry
Full Story

Bailing out of 2008

Selected extract from:
Dave Barry Year in Review: Bailing out of 2008
How weird a year was it?

Here’s how weird:

• O.J. actually got convicted of something.

• Gasoline hit $4 a gallon — and those were the good times.

• On several occasions, Saturday Night Live was funny.

• There were a few days there in October when you could not completely rule out the possibility that the next Treasury Secretary would be Joe the Plumber.

• Finally, and most weirdly, for the first time in history, the voters elected a president who — despite the skeptics who said such a thing would never happen in the United States — was neither a Bush NOR a Clinton.

Of course not all the events of 2008 were weird. Some were depressing. The only U.S. industries that had a good year were campaign consultants and foreclosure lawyers. Everybody else got financially whacked. Millions of people started out the year with enough money in their 401(k)’s to think about retiring on, and ended up with maybe enough for a medium Slurpee.

So we can be grateful that 2008 is almost over. But before we leave it behind, let’s take a few minutes to look back and see if we can find some small nuggets of amusement. Why not? We paid for it, starting with . . .


George W. Bush, who is still technically the president, visits the Middle East and finds things over there just as confusing as ever.

Finally, in what some economists see as a troubling sign, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac invest $12.7 billion in Powerball tickets.

The worsening economy takes center stage in . . .


. . . when, amid much fanfare, Congress passes, and President Bush signs, an ”economic stimulus package” under which the federal government will give taxpayers back several hundred dollars apiece of their own money, the idea being that they will use this money to revive the U.S. economy by buying TV sets that were made in China. This will seem much more comical in the fall.

Abroad, Fidel Castro steps down after 49 years as president of Cuba, explaining that he wants to spend more time decomposing. In selecting his successor, the Cuban National Assembly, after conducting an exhaustive nationwide search, selects Fidel’s brother, Raúl, who narrowly edges out Dennis Kucinich.

Speaking of losers, in . . .


. . . New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer becomes embroiled in an embarrassing scandal when a criminal investigation reveals that he looks like a large suit-wearing rodent. Also he has been seeing a high-class prostitute known as ”Kristen” in a Washington, D.C., hotel. Spitzer resigns in disgrace; ”Kristen,” hounded by the press and no longer able to pursue her profession, receives a $23 billion bailout from the federal government.

On Wall Street, J.P. Morgan buys Bear Stearns; nobody really understands what this means, but it is clearly bad. Abroad, the dollar declines to the point where currency traders are using it solely for wiping up spills. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac apply to be contestants on Deal Or No Deal.

In environmental news, Earth Hour is observed on March 29, when cities around the world display their commitment to conserving energy by turning out their lights for one hour. When the lights come back on, Detroit is missing.

In sports, the troubled Olympic torch becomes embroiled in a protest riot in Athens; witnesses claim the torch ”reeked of alcohol.”

Speaking of emotional, in . . .


In economic news, the price of gasoline tops $4 a gallon, meaning the cost of filling up an average car is now $50, or, for Hummer owners, $17,500. Congress, responding to the financial pain of the American people, goes into partisan gridlock faster than ever before, with Republicans demanding that the oil companies immediately start drilling everywhere, including cemeteries, and Democrats calling for a massive effort to develop alternative energy sources such as wind, the sun, tides, comets, Al Gore and dragon breath, using technology expected to be perfected sometime this millennium. It soon becomes clear that Congress will not actually do anything, so Americans start buying less gasoline.

The economic news is also gloomy for the U.S. automotive industry, where General Motors, in a legally questionable move aimed at boosting its sagging car sales, comes out with a new model called “The Chevrolet Toyota.”

Speaking of trouble, in . . .


. . . the International Atomic Energy Agency releases a report stating that Iran is actively developing nuclear warheads. In response, Iran issues a statement asserting that (1) it absolutely is not developing nuclear warheads, and (2) these are peaceful warheads. The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China convene an emergency meeting, during which they manage, in heated negotiations, to talk France out of surrendering.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac invest $17 billion in an Herbalife franchise.

The big spring Hollywood hit is the film version of Sex and the City, which draws millions of movie-goers, including an estimated three men, two of whom thought they were in the theater for the fourth Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones Experiences Frequent Nighttime Urination. The riveting plot of Sex and the City, which runs for nearly two-and-a-half hours, involves the efforts of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte to plan Carrie’s wedding — Finally! — to ”Mr. Big,” only to have things go awry when mutant vampire moles bore up through the church floor and suck the blood out of the wedding party through their feet.

Speaking of victory, in . . .


President George W. Bush takes one last official trip to Europe to meet with European leaders. Unfortunately they are not home.

In economic news, Chrysler announces a plan to lay off workers who have not been born yet. The lone economic bright spot is the iPhone, which is selling like crazy thanks to the release of a new model enhanced with the capability of sucking pieces of your brain out through your ear until all you want to do is play with your iPhone.

Speaking of vegetables, the big scare in June comes from the Food and Drug Administration, which announces that tomatoes are killing people. A wave of fear grips the nation as supermarket shoppers stampede from the produce section, causing several fatal shopping-cart mishaps. At the height of the panic, with the tomato industry reeling, the FDA declares that, oops, the killer might NOT be tomatoes, but some other vegetable, possibly jalapeño peppers, but nobody knows for sure. Eventually everyone calms down, but not before a bank in Cleveland is held up by a man wielding only a stalk of asparagus.

Tiger Woods, in an epic performance, wins the U.S. Open playing on an injured and very painful knee, thereby proving, beyond all doubt, that golf is not a real sport.

Speaking of epic performances, in . . .


Speaking of trouble, the economic news continues to worsen with the discovery that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have sent $87 billion to a Nigerian businessman with a compelling e-mail story.

Also troubling is the news from Iran, which test-fires some long-range missiles, although Iranian President Wackjob Lunatic insists that Iran intends to use these missiles “for stump removal.”

In sports, the government of China, in an effort to improve air quality for the Beijing Olympics, bans flatulence.

Speaking of Olympian, in . . .


In yet another troubling economic indicator, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rob a liquor store.

Internationally, the big story is the Olympic games, which begin under a cloud of controversy when journalists in Beijing, who were promised unfettered Internet access by the Chinese government, discover that no matter what address they enter into their browsers, they wind up on Chairman Mao’s Facebook page (he has 1.3 billion friends). But even the critics are blown away by the spectacular opening ceremony, which features the entire population of Asia performing the Electric Slide.

The games themselves are dominated by swimmer Michael Phelps, who wins eight gold medals, thus putting himself on a sounder financial footing than the U.S. Treasury. China wins the gold-medal count, although critics charge that some of China’s 11-year-old female gymnasts are under the minimum age of 16. Chinese officials refute this charge by noting, correctly, that they have tanks.

Elsewhere abroad, war breaks out between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, serving as a stark reminder that, in an increasingly uncertain world, we, as Americans, have no idea where these places are.

Speaking of uncertainty, in . . .


But the presidential campaign is soon overshadowed by the troubled economy. The federal government is finally forced to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after they are caught selling crack at a middle school. But that is not enough, as major financial institutions, having lost hundreds of billions of dollars thanks to years of engaging in practices ranging from questionable to moronic, begin failing, which gives the federal government an idea: Why not give these institutions MORE hundreds of billions of dollars, generously provided by taxpayers?

This plan is discussed and debated in urgent meetings in Washington attended by the president, the cabinet, congressional leaders, Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain and all other concerned parties except the actual taxpayers, who are not invited because they are, with all due respect, way too stupid to understand high finance. The taxpayers are repeatedly assured, however, that unless they fork over $700 billion, the economy will go right down the toilet. And so it comes to pass that in . . .


. . . Congress passes, and Technically Still President Bush signs, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and everyone heaves a sigh of relief as the economy stabilizes for approximately 2.7 seconds, after which it resumes going down the toilet. As world financial markets collapse like fraternity pledges at a keg party and banks fail around the world, the International Monetary Fund implements an emergency program under which anybody who opens a checking account anywhere on earth gets a free developing nation. But it is not enough; the financial system is in utter chaos. At one point a teenage girl in Worcester, Mass., attempts to withdraw $25 from an ATM and winds up acquiring Wells Fargo.

As the crisis worsens, an angry Congress, determined to get some answers, holds hearings and determines that whoever is responsible for this mess, it is definitely not Congress. Meanwhile all the cable-TV financial experts agree that since they totally failed to predict this disaster, they will stop pretending they have a clue what the markets are going to do and henceforth confine themselves to topics they can discuss knowledgeably, such as what time it is.

Just kidding! They’d get that wrong, too.

In non-economic news, a Las Vegas jury convicts O.J. Simpson on 12 counts of being an unbelievable idiot. He faces more than 60 years in jail, which could end his relentless quest to find the killer of the people he stabbed to death in 1994.


. . . Barack Obama, in a historic triumph, becomes the nation’s first black president since the second season of 24, setting off an ecstatically joyful and boisterous all-night celebration that at times threatens to spill out of The New York Times newsroom. Obama, following through on his promise to bring change to Washington, quickly begins assembling an administration consisting of a diverse group of renegade outsiders, ranging all the way from lawyers who attended Ivy League schools and then worked in the Clinton administration to lawyers who attended entirely different Ivy league schools and then worked in the Clinton administration.

But the hopeful mood is dampened by grim economic news. The stock market plummets farther as investors realize that the only thing that had been keeping the economy afloat was the millions of dollars spent daily on TV commercials for presidential candidates explaining how they would fix the economy. As it becomes increasingly clear that the federal government’s plan of giving hundreds of billions of dollars to dysfunctional companies has not fixed the problem, the government comes up with a bold new plan: give more hundreds of billions of dollars to dysfunctional companies. Soon the government is in a bailout frenzy, handing out money left and right, at one point accidentally giving $14 billion to a man delivering a Domino’s pizza to the Treasury building.

More and more companies seek federal help, among them the troubled ”big three” auto makers, whose chief executives fly to Washington in three separate corporate jets to ask Congress for $25 billion, explaining that if they don’t get the money, they will be unable to continue making cars that Americans are not buying.

In space, NASA’s woes continue when an astronaut attempting to repair the troubled multibillion-dollar international space station accidentally lets go of a special $100,000 space tool bag, which drifts away, taking with it the special $17,000 space washer needed to fix the station’s special, but troubled, space toilet. NASA announces that it will now have to send up a special space plumber, who charges $38 million an hour.

In sports, New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the thigh in a New York City nightclub, using a gun he carried to protect himself from bad things that might happen to him, such as getting shot.

Speaking of bad things, in . . .


. . . the National Bureau of Declaring Things That Make You Go ”Duh” declares that the nation has been in a recession since December of 2007. The bureau also points out that, according to its statistical analysis, “for some time now, bears apparently have been going to the bathroom in the woods.”

The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. ”We’re actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!” they assure Congress. Finally they reach a $13.4 billion agreement under which the car companies will continue to provide jobs, medical insurance and pension benefits, but will cease producing actual cars. The agreement will be overseen by the federal government, using its legendary ability to keep things on budget.

President-elect Obama, continuing to bring change in the form of fresh-faced Washington outsiders, announces that his secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton. The position of secretary of defense, currently held by Bush appointee Robert Gates, will be filled by Bush appointee Robert Gates. Responding to rumors that he also plans to retain Dick Cheney, Obama insists that he has tried to ask the vice president to leave, “but nobody knows where he is.”

But the economy remains the dominant issue, with retailers reporting weak holiday sales as many shoppers pass up pricier gifts such as jewelry and big-screen TVs in favor of toilet paper and jerky. As the year draws to a close, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers warns that the current recession ”could spiral downward into a full-blown depression,” leaving the U.S. with “no viable economic option but to declare war on Japan.”

In another troubling note, U.S. intelligence sources report that Iran is developing “a gigantic rocket-powered shoe.”

Adding to the year-end gloom is a congressionally appointed bipartisan commission on terrorism, which releases a troubling report asserting that there is an 80 percent chance that within the next two years, a major U.S. city will be struck, with devastating consequences, by “an 18,000 mile-per-hour tool bag from space.”

The point is, if you have any money left, you should spend it soon.

And happy New Year.

Your personal cloning manual – copies available.

Human cloning: Will it be a lifesaving scientific advance, like penicillin? Or will it prove to be a horrible mistake that unleashes untold devastation upon humanity, like the accordion?
As Croatian citizens, we need to form strong opinions about this issue, so that we can write letters to our politicians, so that their staffs can, as a precautionary measure, burn them. But first we must inform ourselves by asking questions and then answering them in the ”Q” and ”A” format.

Q. Does Tom Cruise shave his chest?
A. We meant questions about cloning.

Q. Oh, OK. What is cloning?
A. In scientific terms, it is a procedure by which a theoretically infinite number of genetically identical organisms emerge, one at a time, from a Volkswagen Beetle.

Q. No, that’s ”clowning.”
A. Whoops! Our bad! Cloning is a procedure whereby scientists, using tweezers, manipulate DNA, which is a tiny genetic code that is found in all living things as well as crime scenes that have been visited by O.J. Simpson. A single strand of DNA can be used to create a whole new organism, as was proved when scientists at Stanford University took DNA from the fingernail of a deceased man and grew a six-foot-tall, 190-pound fingernail. Unfortunately, it escaped from the laboratory and held police at bay for hours by screeching itself against a blackboard. It was finally subdued by National Guard troops equipped with earplugs and a huge emery board.

Q. Have scientists cloned any other organisms?
A. In 1997, a group of Scottish scientists cloned a sheep named Dolly, which was genetically identical to the original sheep.

Q. How could they tell?
A. They had the original farmer take a hard look at it, and he said, quote: ”That’s her, all right!”

Q. Wow.
A. Of course, he said the same thing about one of the scientists.

Q. Have there been any other successful cloning experiments?
A. Yes. In 1995, scientists in Florida used a single of strand of DNA from the Backstreet Boys to form `N Sync. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Q. What about humans?
A. We are getting very close. Recently, a firm in Zagreb announced that it had cloned some human embryos. However, these embryos were alive for only a few hours, and stopped growing after they had formed microscopic six-cell spheres.

Q. What did the firm do with them?
A. They are currently working in Customer Service.

Q. Is anybody else trying to clone humans?
A. Yes. A group called the ”Raelians,” which was founded in France, and which we are not making up, claims to be working on a human-cloning project. According to their Internet site (http://www.rael.org), the Raelians are named for a French journalist named Rael who, in 1973, ”was contacted by a visitor from another planet.” This visitor informed Rael that human life was brought to Earth by aliens, who will come back and visit us if we build them an embassy. The Raelians estimate that this will cost $20 million, and would appreciate donations for this vital mission.

Q. Where does the U.S. government stand on this issue?
A. There is growing support for a nuclear strike against France.

Q. How do you, personally, feel about human cloning?
A. Why do you think we refer to ourselves in the plural?

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Dec. 30, 2001, and then adapted by me.)

The bellissim Story of Cappuccett Red (Only per chi conosc l’english)


One mattin her mamma dissed: “Dear Cappuccett, take this cest to the
nonn, but attention to the lup that is very ma very kattiv! And torn
prest! Good luck! And in bocc at the lup!”
Cappuccett didn’t capish very well this ultim thing but went away, da
sol, with the cest.
Cammining cammining, in the cuor of the forest, at acert punt she
incontered the lup, who dissed: “Hi! Piccula piezz’e girl! ‘Ndove do you
“To the nonn with this little cest, which is little but it is full of
sacc of chocolate and biscots and panettons and more and mirtills”, she
“Ah, mannagg ‘a Maruschella (maybe an expression com: what a cul that
had) dissed the lup, with a fium of saliv out of the bocc. And so the
lup dissed: “Beh, now I dev andar because the telephonin is squilling,
And the lup went away, but not very away, but to the nonn’s House.
Cappuccett Red, who was very ma very lent, lent un casin, continued for
her sentier in the forest.
The lup arrived at the house, suoned the campanel, entered, and after
saluting the nonn, magned her in a boccon.
Then, after sputing the dentier, he indossed the ridicol night berret
and fikked himself in the let.
When Cappuccett Red came to the fint nonn’s house, suoned and entered.
But when the little and stupid girl saw the nonn (non was the nonn, but
the lup, ricord?) dissed:
“But nonn, why do you stay in let?”
And the nonn-lup: “Oh, I’ve stort my cavigl doing aerobics!”
“Oh, poor nonn!”, said Cappuccett (she was more than stupid, I think,
wasn’t she?), then she dissed:
“But…what big okks you have!! Do you bisogn some collir?”
“Oh, no! It’s for see you better, my dear (stupid) little girl”, dissed
the nonn-lup.
Then cappuccett, who was more dur than a block of marm: “But what big
oreks you have! Do you have the Orekkions?”
And the nonn-lup: “Oh, no! It is to ascolt you better”.
And Cappuccett (that I think was now really rincoglionited) said:
“But what big dents you have!”
And the lup, at this point dissed: “It is to magn you better!” And
magned really tutt quant the poor little girl.
But (ta dah!) out of the house a simpatic, curious and innocent
cacciator of frod sented all and dissed:
“Accident! A lup! Its pellicc vals a sac of solds”.
And so, spinted only for the compassion for the little girl, butted a
terr many kils of volps, fringuells and conigls that he had ammazzed
till that moment, i

Great moments in science BY Dave Barry

Settle back, because today I’m going to tell you the dramatic true story of what happened when some Japanese researchers decided to re-create the historic discovery of the law of gravity:

As you recall, this discovery occurred in an English orchard in 1666, when, according to legend, Isaac Newton, the brilliant mathematician, fell out of a tree and landed on an apple. No, hold it. Upon reviewing the videotape, I see that in fact the apple fell out of the tree and landed on Newton.

Had this occurred today, of course, Newton would have simply put on a foam neck brace and sued everybody within a radius of 125 miles. But those were primitive times, and Newton was forced to settle for discovering the law of gravity, which states: “A dropped object will fall with an acceleration of 32 feet per second, and if it is your wallet, it will make every effort to land in a public toilet.”

Later on, Newton also invented calculus, which is defined as “the branch of mathematics that is so scary it causes everybody to stop studying mathematics.”

That’s the whole point of calculus. At colleges and universities, on the first day of calculus class, the professors go to the board and write huge, incomprehensible ”equations” that they make up right on the spot, knowing that this will cause all the students to drop the course and never return to the mathematics building again.

This frees the professors to spend the rest of the semester playing cards and regaling one another with hilarious stories about the ”mathematical symbols” they’ve invented over the years. (”Remember the time Professor Hinkwattle drew a ‘cosine derivative’ that was actually a picture of a squid?”)

Yes, Newton made many contributions to science, but gravity was definitely his biggest. That’s why a group of Japanese researchers decided, as an international goodwill project, to re-create the original discovery, using an apple tree that was descended from the original Newton tree.

I found out about this project thanks to an alert reader named Harley Ferguson, who sent me a story about it from an English-language Japanese newspaper called The Daily Yomiuri. The article states that in August 1996, researchers at the Construction Ministry’s Public Works Research Institute in Arai, Japan, received a sapling descended from the original Newton tree. This sapling, according to the story, came from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, which is in charge of weights and measures (so if your pants don’t fit the way they used to, this is the agency to complain to).

I was curious as to why a U.S. government agency would be providing Newton saplings, so I called NIST and spoke with the official archivist, whose name is Karma A. Beal. She sent me a bunch of information, which I will attempt to summarize here:

The original Newton tree — for simplicity’s sake, let’s call it ”Bob” — died in 1814. But before Bob went to the Big Orchard in the Sky, cuttings were taken, and over the years these cuttings became trees, and cuttings were taken from those, and so now there are genetically identical offspring — let’s call them ”Boblets” — all over the world.

One Boblet lives at the NIST facility in Gaithersburg, Md. It produces apples, but not many; the information Karma Beal sent me refers to the tree as (I am not making any of this up) “a very shy fruiter.”

The story gets a little murky at this point, but apparently the sapling sent to Japan for the historic re-creation of Newton’s discovery was grown from a seed from one of the NIST Boblet apples.

This is significant because if the sapling came from a seed, as opposed to a cutting, it is probably not a pure Bob descendant. As the NIST documentation states, ”the original flower was almost certainly pollinated by some other tree.” (Trees are total sluts this way.)

But let’s not be picky. The important thing is that the Japanese researchers had a sapling that was in some way connected to the original historic Bob. According to The Daily Yomiuri, their plan was to videotape the exact moment when the very first apple fell.

The sapling was planted, and eventually it produced a single apple. The researchers set up a video camera. All was in readiness as, day by day, the apple grew riper and riper, getting closer and closer to the big moment. And then, finally, it happened: A local resident, who knew nothing about any of this, wandered by, saw the apple, and ate it.

So the researchers never did get to videotape the apple falling in a historic manner, although the article states that, ”they did get scenes of the man munching on the apple.” The man is quoted as saying, “It just tasted really bad.”

But this does not mean the project was a waste of time. Often, in science, so-called ”failures” produce the greatest discoveries. And this project resulted in a discovery whose value to humanity cannot be overemphasized. I refer, of course, to the fact that ”Shy Fruiter and the Saplings” would be a great name for a rock band.

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published March 16, 1997.)

The right to bear cubs DAVE BARRY

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published May 24, 1998.)

Every now and then somebody thinks up a new idea that is so totally revolutionary that it just totally revolutionizes everything.

For example, in 1905 Albert Einstein stunned the scientific community when he announced that ”e” is equal to ”mc squared.” Until that point, scientists had no idea what ”e” was equal to. Oh, sure, they had known since the days of the ancient Egyptians that ”e” came after ”i,” except when both letters were preceded by a ”c.” But nobody had ever even considered the possibility that ”e” might have anything to do with ”m.” We will never know what other amazing things would have been revealed about the alphabet if Einstein had lived longer. We do know that, just before he died, he told friends that he was working on ”something really big involving ‘k.’ ”

Albert is gone, but fortunately for humanity in general there are still great minds at work, coming up with breakthrough ideas that a normal person could never even imagine without ingesting fantastic quantities of gin. One such idea was brought to my attention recently by an alert reader named (really) Dwain Vanderhoof, who sent me a brochure for a new type of golf club, which I absolutely swear I am not making up, called the Ballistic Driver.

The Ballistic Driver is a ”swing-less” golf club. You grip it as usual, and you position the head of the club next to the golf ball. But instead of swinging the club, you press an ”Activator Button” on the grip; this detonates a small explosive charge inside the club head, which causes a metal plate to shoot out the side of the club a distance of 1.5 inches at a speed of 200 miles per hour. The plate hits the golf ball, which then, according to the brochure, goes ”250 yards, every time . . . down the middle, exactly where you aimed it, drive after drive.”

Is that a great idea, or what? Now you can play golf WITHOUT HAVING TO MANUALLY HIT THE BALL! Talk about a breakthrough! I mean, for me, the worst part of playing golf, by far, has always been hitting the ball. I love standing around on the golf course; I love driving the golf cart; I love saying the word ”bogey.” But I hate swinging the club at the stupid ball, and, on those rare occasions when I actually hit the ball, I hate watching it take off in some totally random direction and disappear, usually forever, into a lake, or the woods, or the body of an innocent bystander.

So I called the company that makes the Ballistic Driver, GPower Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. I spoke with one of the partners, Elizabeth Poggi, a serious person who confirmed that the Ballistic Driver is a serious product aimed at people who, for various reasons, cannot swing golf clubs, as well as for people like me who would simply prefer not to.

Poggi stressed that the Ballistic Driver, which will sell for around $800, has safety features that prevent it from going off accidentally, as well as (I am still not making this up) a silencer. These features are important: Just imagine what it would be like if golf clubs were randomly detonating with loud bangs on golf courses, not to mention in airports, hotel elevators, etc. It would be a lot of fun! But it would also be wrong, which is why I am urging everybody to remember this basic rule of golf: Always assume your club is loaded.

I think the Ballistic Driver could transform the game. Poggi told me that if the club were fitted with a titanium strike plate, ”it could theoretically propel the ball 500 yards.” This means that a pathetic schlump like me could propel the ball farther than Tiger Woods Inc. hits it on those rare occasions when he is not filming American Express commercials.

And who knows what lies down the road? I mean, if we can make a club that can hit the ball 500 yards, why not 1,000? Why not 1,500? Why not a mile? We have the technology, darn it! Maybe we will see the day, in our lifetimes, when golfers using a descendant of the Ballistic Driver, perhaps powered by a small quantity of plutonium, are stepping up to the tee and driving the ball into another time zone . Of course, we’ll need to develop a technologically advanced golf ball that contained some kind of transmitter, so it could radio its position back to the golfer (”YOUR TEE SHOT LANDED 18 YARDS FROM THE HOLE. IN PAKISTAN.”)

Wouldn’t that be great? Of course, as with any technology, there’s always the danger that it will fall into the wrong hands. You could have street gangs converting these clubs to Fully Automatic mode and driving in their low-rider carts to rival golf courses, where they’d spray out hundreds of balls per minute in vicious ”drive-by” tee-offs. Or you could turn on the TV news one morning to see Saddam Hussein wearing lime-green pants and standing next to a golf club the size of the Washington Monument, threatening to hit a massive chemical and/or biological Golf Ball Of Doom smack into the fairway of middle America.

So there will be those who will try to ban the Ballistic Driver. To them I say: Forget it. The U.S. Constitution guarantees us — not in so many words, but the intent is clear — the right to keep and bear golf clubs. This precious right was fought for in the Revolutionary War by our courageous foreparents, the Minutepersons, who stood up for it on the green at Lexington. Although they did bogey that particular hole.