So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

April 9, 2004

Freethinkers Anonymous is going on vacation until mid-May. Normally I put this in brackets, mainly because I have this bizarre belief with no connection to reality that at least some of my rants will survive into the future, and I want people to understand that the stuff in brackets is not related to the rant. I have no idea how people, or, if humans become extinct and are replaced by giant cockroaches, will know this. Maybe a cockroach archaeologist, explaining something of mine to an audience, will say, "As you can see, the reason the simians are no longer the dominant species on this planet is clear: they needed instructions on little packets of salt. As you know, you can disregard the information in brackets about the author’s vacation." Of course when you’re reading a newspaper they always put important stuff in brackets, especially when someone is being quoted. For instance, here: "’The general added, ‘We’re monitoring the situation, but I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about [the sudden appearance of large, intelligent cockroaches in the Mojave desert] yet’." Okay, that’s a bad example because it’s not really that important. I think if it were really important they would use those squiggly brackets with the little pointy things in the middle. Little pointy things are always a big attention-getter. So are asterisks. Who was the first person to use an asterisk? I suspect it was on some Sumerian tablet, with a footnote. The footnote said, "This is an asterisk. It will be used to include additional information, such as the name of the company that actually conducted the study on beer mugs, which we forgot to put in our statement when we first wrote it."

But I digress. At this point you’ve probably forgotten, so let me remind you: Freethinkers Anonymous will be on vacation until mid-May. I need a vacation, and not just from Freethinkers Anonymous. I’ve been trying to think of ways lately to break out of my normal routine. I’ve actually started dreaming I’m at work. I don’t know which part of that is worse: the fact that I’m not getting anything done, or the fact that I can’t put it down on my time sheet. It’s not that I don’t like my job, but it’s, well, just a job. I get paid to put in forty hours a week, and I work hard during those forty hours. Is it too much to ask that when I’m at home and asleep that I not dream I’m sitting at my desk answering the phone and researching problems? I used to dream that someday I would have a job like Egyptology, the sort of career that only people who are really, really interested in a particular subject have, which is why I imagined it was the sort of career where you got to follow your own particular interest. It’s not that I’m lazy. I figured Egyptologists and people in similar jobs worked hard, going long periods hardly eating or sleeping. But like writers or painters or house contractors they’d suffer periods when they couldn’t work, so they’d spend days and maybe weeks not eating, not sleeping, bouncing tennis balls off their office wall, trying to figure out what that asterisk in the middle of that inscription was there for. So basically I’m saying that my ideal job is one where you work hard and rarely eat or sleep, which is what made me realize that I needed a vacation. And hopefully during that period I’ll dream that I’m on vacation.

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