Saturday, September 17, 2005

Principles, Pragmatism, and Peanut Butter

It seems like every year, I have trouble with ants. The trouble is that they want to be inside my house and I want them to be outside. It's not a year-round problem -- it only happens during the summer and winter. I read somewhere that ants are very sensitive, and they don't like to be outdoors when it's too hot or when it's raining outside.

I never knew ants were such pussies, but I haven't really had much of an ant problem this year, so it's not something I've been thinking about a lot. I had a few ants come into one of the bathrooms, but they didn't stay long. So I don't have much of an ant problem this year. I do have a little mouse problem, though.

Every now and then, I see a little mouse in my kitchen. Or maybe it's a few mice -- I can't tell, since they all look the same to me. I don't know how they got inside, or what they're even doing there. They don't seem to be looking for food. (I keep some fresh fruit on one of the countertops, but they don't seem to be interested in it.) But I don't really care why they're there -- I just want them out.

A while ago, I was having a discussion with a few people about how sometimes my personal beliefs clash with what I think is the best thing for society. As a case in point, I mentioned guns. I realize they can be dangerous if you don't know how to use them, but in principle, just because something is dangerous, that doesn't mean you should restrict people from owning them. After all, we live in a free country, and if we're responsible adults, it seems silly to have our government tell us that guns are too dangerous for us. However, I happen to think that if we made it any easier to buy guns, we'd see the rate of accidental (and not-so-accidental) gun-related injuries and deaths increase. Does that make me "anti-gun"? No, not really. I don't have a problem with guns. I have a problem with people. For the most part, we aren't responsible adults, and we're too stupid to handle things like guns.

Guns are like drugs in a way. They can be beneficial if you know how to use them, or they can be dangerous if you don't. I'm talking about illegal drugs, by the way, although the same thing could probably be said about pharmaceuticals. People are always talking about how marijuana should be legalized, and they often mention that marijuana isn't as dangerous to the human body as alcohol, and yet alcohol is legal and marijuana isn't. That may all be true, but I think it misses the point.

So let's talk about heroin, another illegal drug. The stuff is almost as physically addictive as nicotine, it's generally regarded as a dangerous narcotic, and even the most ardent supporters of marijuana legalization aren't in favor of making it legal. But why shouldn't it be? Just because it's addictive? Just because it's possibly harmful to your health? So is an automobile if you drive it full-speed into a concrete wall. To reiterate the point I made when I was talking about guns, just because something is dangerous or bad for you, that's no reason to make it illegal.

In principle, at least. I don't know what would happen if we made heroin legal, but I'm not sure I want to find out. Would a lot of people who aren't currently using the drug start using it? I doubt it. Chances are, the drug manufacturing companies would start putting heroin in some of their anxiety-reducing drugs, and then rush to patent them. After that, they'd invent a lot of new diseases that only their new heroin-laced drugs could treat. The drugs probably wouldn't be available without a prescription, and all the existing heroin producers and suppliers would end up selling to big pharmaceutical companies, making it even more difficult for heroin addicts to obtain the drug on the street.

So once again, even though in principle we don't want our government to treat us like children and tell us what we can and can not do, sometimes it's not such a bad idea in practice. Like it or not, sometimes we shouldn't be able to do what we want to do, and sometimes we have to do what we don't want to do.

Which brings me back to the mice. I don't want to kill them, but I feel that I must. In previous years, I faced this same issue with the ants, by the way. I didn't want to kill them, but they violated an implicit social contract, which states that I live on the inside, they live on the outside, and that if they cross the boundary and invade my house, I have the right to kill them.

It can be argued that neither the mice nor the ants are aware of this implicit contract, and that even if the contract were more explicit, they still wouldn't have the cognitive facilities or the legal expertise to understand it. But that's beside the real point, which is that I don't want to kill the mice, but I'm going to do it anyway.

I went to a hardware store to buy some mouse traps, but I noticed that they were also selling mouse poison. I thought for a while about which to buy, and finally settled on the traps. I think this decision will make things easier for me as well as for the mice. For me, the question was, am I willing to let the mice eat some poison, scurry back to their secret hiding places and die, making it impossible for me to find and retrieve their rotting corpses? Or would I rather let them die in traps, where I can easily dispose of their final remains? For the mice, the question was, do I want them to suffer a long slow painful death by poisoning, or would I rather kill them quickly with a quick snap of the neck?

So I bought the mouse traps. But they need to be baited with some sort of attractant, and despite what you've probably seen in cartoons, swiss cheese is not the recommended bait. It turns out that peanut butter is a better bait.

I eat peanut butter from time to time, but not the kind that most people buy. Most peanut butter contains added salt and sugar. I buy organic peanut butter, made from nothing but organic peanuts. And since I'm not going to buy a special jar of regular peanut butter just for the mice, they're going to get the organic peanut butter as well. It costs more, and it might seem extravagant to waste such a high-quality product on a mouse -- especially a mouse who is about to die of a broken neck -- but I'm willing to spend the extra money, and if mice really like peanut butter that much, maybe they'll appreciate the difference.

Not that I think they will, of course, and not that I even care if they do. I just don't want to be stuck with a jar of the salted and sugared peanut butter after the mice are gone. I wouldn't know what to do with it. I'm sure not going to eat it. I suppose I could feed it to the ants the next time they show up. I know they'll eat it, since they seem to eat just about everything -- but since it probably won't kill them, I'll just spray them with ammonia instead.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Today is September 11, which means that yesterday was my birthday. I won't tell you how old I am, but I am now as old as three seventeen-year-olds.

Three seventeen-year-old girls, with firm young breasts and skin as smooth as satin. The first one is cute and bubbly. Her eyes are bright and her lips are inviting. Her cheerful personality could light up the darkness. The second one is quiet and enigmatic. She has jet black hair, eyes the color of midnight, and a mysterious smile on her thin dark lips. The third one is prettier than any woman needs to be. The way her jeans and t-shirt hug the graceful curves of her slender body makes boys start thinking like men, and men start thinking like dogs.

As they walk down the street, you're hypnotized by the gentle sway of their narrow hips and the shifting of their breasts underneath their shirts. As they walk past you, you can smell the fragrance of their hair and their bodies, and for just a moment, all your other thoughts recede to distant corners of your mind.

Okay, that's enough. Before you get it into your head that I'm some sort of dirty old man, I should tell you that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in seventeen-year-old girls. They have to be at least eighteen.