The Bug Forecast – And Other Mistakes
Before I get to the news of the week, I must ask if any of you readers are currently students at one of Portland’s high schools. If so, are you reading this posting on your school-issued laptop? If so, are you aware that by doing so you are not only wasting taxpayer money, you are also employing this technology to undermine the values your parents, the educational system, and society as a whole have attempted to instill in you?
So that’s all good.
The Portland school system announced this week that it was installing software on all student laptops that prevents them from being used to stream video, enter chat rooms, engage in social networking, access porn, view sites that allow cheating on tests, download illegal software, read anything containing profanity, or be exposed to information about illegal drugs, violence or weapons.
That pretty well wipes out studying anything to do with history, literature, art appreciation, sociology, psychology, biology, chemistry, hydroponics, or distilling. And the profanity ban even makes this very site off limits due to the gratuitous expletive coming up in the very next paragraph:
(See, Mike Tipping isn’t the only one around here who can get away with that stuff.)
What’s so amazing about the Portland censorship initiative is not that some boneheaded administrator would come up with such a scheme, but that it’s a complete waste of time. That’s because even teenagers who are so numb they can’t pass lunch period can work around these kinds of cyber-barriers in less time than it takes to illegally download a sex video.
(Personally, I wouldn’t know how long such a thing takes, but my sources in teenage culture tell me it’s less time than it takes to download a fake term paper, and I use those all the time to fill out these postings.)
There’s no question that some kids will look at inappropriate material online. But there’s no better way to make sure that every kid experiments with such Web sites than by making a big deal out of trying to stop the little tyke.
There’s also the first axiom of e-censorship: When it comes to the Internet, no one over forty knows a fraction of what the average eight-year-old does. If the entire nations of China and North Korea can’t keep their citizens from looking at sites featuring capitalist economists having sex while reading Adam Smith, how can some school administrator in Portland expect better results?
Speaking of results, there are a few other occupations besides educational administrator that are seemingly immune from the consequences of their actions. Political pundits, for instance. Meteorologists. Economists. And now we can add to that list insect prognosticators.
On April 30, the Kennebec Journal carried a story quoting the state apiarist (which I thought was somebody who didn’t believe in god) as saying the mild winter and early spring would produce a bumper crop of parasitic mites that can cause massive die-offs of honey bees.
One day later, the Bangor Daily News had an article citing an entomologist (which I thought was some kind of eye doctor) at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service claiming the warmer weather meant the bees would be so healthy that the mites wouldn’t stand a chance.
This raises some important questions: Why on earth does Maine have a state apiarist? Is this guy like the king of the bees or something? Can he order them to attack his enemies, such as legislators who try to cut off government funding for apiaristic activities? And if he can do something like that, why can’t he just command the mites to leave the bees alone?
I’d be using all the journalistic tools at my command to come up with answers to all that if I was in the slightest bit interested in bees. But I’m not. As far as I’m concerned bees should carry on with their lives while I do the same with mine. Pollinate. Make honey. Organize elaborate hive festivals to celebrate the queen’s fertility. Whatever. Just leave me out of it.
Same goes for mites.
The bugs I do pay attention to are black flies, mosquitoes, and the ones you get in your computer when you visit porn sites. (Fortunately, that never happens to me, but I keep a geeky twelve-year-old on retainer just in case.) According to the experts (who, as we have already seen, have a tendency to contradict themselves), this will be a bad year for skeeters, an average season for black flies, and a fine time to be alive if you happen to be a grub or a tick.
In practical terms, this means you should cover your body in a coating of DEET at least one inch thick, and remain encased until after a killing frost next fall. If parents can convince their teenage children to abide by this simple precaution, it will actually solve two problems at once. They won’t suffer bites from bugs that potentially carry horrible diseases, such as acne and bad hair, they’ll also be unable to access inappropriate Internet sites. That’s because DEET reacts strongly with plastic, so when they sit down to use the keyboard, their entire laptop will dissolve.
The scientists and laypersons are both in agreement on the numbers of at least one species in Maine this year. The state will have more elephants.
Two of the beasts, retired circus pachyderms with health issues, are being relocated to Hope in a few months to live out their golden years in tranquil retirement at a new facility called Hope Elephants.
I hope beer, but to each his own.
While two of the creatures may not seem like much, keep in mind that if an elephant lands on you, it’s about a zillion times more painful than a mosquito.
Speaking of painful, the Moxie Festival has announced that it’s chosen the winning design for the logo for its 30th annual event.
It was created by a high school student, who won a hundred bucks and a case of Moxie. (Second place got two cases.) It shows a horse driving a car and a Ferris wheel with Moxie cans instead of seats. That goes along with the festival theme, which is “Moxie: May Cause Hallucinations.”
You can take a look for yourself here.
Unless you’re a Portland high school student. That’s not because that evil software has blocked the site. You’re just too busy using your laptop to social network about what dweebs the adults who run your school are.
Al Diamon does not endorse the use of computer antics designed for nefarious purposes. He wishes he did, though, because that kind of endorsement could earn him a fortune. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. No profanity.