A Salutation for the Season

Building a Better Mousetrap
ca. 10:20am, December 26th, 2005

I called my brother in Ithaca on Christmas Day to wish him and his family a Merry Christmas. It was a little after 6pm here in Utah, so I figured they'd all still be up, and I was right.

As it turns out, he'd been up almost all night Christmas Eve emptying mousetraps. He explained to me how they modified an ordinary spring-loaded mousetrap so that the clever, bait-stealing mice will die every time. I was surprised at the ingenuity, at the horrible simplicity of his modifications.

Me, I use peanut butter on the trigger, and I only use a tiny bit. I tuck it into the fold or curl of metal at the end of the trigger tab, and greedy mice usually set the trap off trying to get every last bit of peanutty goodness out of the crevices. But only usually. Sometimes we get a mouse who is so delicate with its touch that the trap has been licked not just clean but SHINY, and remains un-tripped in the morning.

My brother's solution (and in the spirit of giving credit where it's due, it may have been his wife's solution) was to take the hot glue gun and affix a shelled peanut to the end of the trigger. A dab of peanut butter is then applied to the nut, peanut butter being a better attractant, and the trap is placed where the kids won't play with it but the mice will.

And play they did. The trap kept waking him up, and he kept resetting and emptying it. They killed five mice on the Night Before Christmas, which was obviously a terrible family tragedy for the mouse clan, but was cause for celebration at Chez Tayler East. Each victim got its fill of peanut butter, licking the nut clean, and then couldn't resist trying to remove the final prize from the trigger. Ah, greed. It's such a simple point of leverage, and yet so deadly.

Here at Chez Tayler Central (I've got a brother in NY and a brother in LA -- that means I get to be "central") we haven't had mice in months. Part of me hopes they come back this winter. We've been selecting for mice with a soft touch in the past... now we're going to start selecting for mice who can figure out that it's a trap, and they just need to leave it alone. I don't expect there to be many subjects left after the first generation. Evolution in action!

A Salutation for the Season
December 24th, 2005

All this fuss over what to say to people at Christmas is a little silly. Sure, it would be disheartening to see political correctness taken to the point that "Merry Christmas" becomes a taboo phrase, but I don't see "Happy Holidays" as the byline of the Anti-Christ. I'm pleased when someone greets me with a genuine wish that I might have more joy, regardless of the words they use. I don't mind when a retail wage-slave reflexively recites something seasonal -- at least not any more than I mind their mechanical mandate that I "have a nice day." It gives me the opportunity to pause, reflect, and then wish them something appropriate.

This time of year you can get a smile with the response "Hang in there. Only (n) shopping days until Christmas, and I bet hardly ANYBODY will return stuff this year."

There are those, of course, who will take offense at "Merry Christmas" AND "Happy Holidays." Usually these are people whose own belief system doesn't advocate any sort of holy day during this season, but sometimes they're just grumpy people. Having been grumpy myself once or twice, I know where they're coming from. And as a writer whose global audience almost certainly includes at least a couple of these people, I'm led to ponder what kind of greeting I could offer, what kind of message I could post that would be appropriate, inoffensive, and yet full of meaning.

I think I've found one. Worshippers of Christ will find it timely, and will see it as a reminder of who they are and what they should be about. Those familiar with the Christian message will certainly recognize it, but will find it difficult to argue with. Those unfamiliar with the lore of the season may wonder a bit at the wording, but will have a difficult time arguing with the sentiment.

And so it is that I hope you all enjoy peace on Earth, good will toward men.

(Uh-oh. I think I may have offended an entire camp of feminists. Is it too late for me to change "men" to "humans?")

(And... here comes PETA, right on cue. I give up.)

Seven of Twenty-Five
Around Eight AM, December 22nd, 2005

Comixpedia just published their list of "25 people in Webcomics in 2005," and I'm number seven on the list. More importantly, they did an interview with me, and you can read it here. I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't heard of at least half the people on the list, but I can also say that of the people I HAVE heard of, I've met something like 90% of them in person, including most of the folks in the top ten. Yeah, I'm name-dropping, baby. Only, you know, without dropping any actual names.

Anyway, go have a look. There's a great picture of Brad Guigar on that page (okay, ONE name), and a truly lousy picture of me.

Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Me
11:00am, December 20th, 2005

Looking for my Evolution vs Intelligent Design blog? Well, eventually we'll get it archived on this site, but until then you can find it here.