Thursday, January 19, 2012

Evolution (Of Sorts)

17…aw to HELL with it. More on that later.

Evolution is encoded into every kind of system or process. It just is, Bible or no. What starts as a competitive advantage eventually becomes more common and then eventually become mandatory. For example, teacher education. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education. At the time I graduated, the market was flooded with potential teachers, all with the BS degree (and my other degree is a JD. So I’m a juvenile delinquent full of BS. Actually most people think JDs – Juris Doctor – lawyers ARE full of BS, so…). To stand out in a crowd, some folks studied more and obtained Master’s Degrees in Education. They were hired more frequently and for more money than those with Bachelor’s degrees. More and more people earned their Master’s until it became the norm and then (in some cases) a requirement.

Another example comes from Ladies Gymnastics. Prior to 1972, it was pretty staid, not terribly athletic and emphasized grace and femininity over athleticism. In other words, yawn. That changed when a little Russian pixie named Olga Korbut got up on  top of the uneven parallel bars and did a back flip around on to the lower bar.   I can still hear the ABC Sports commentator s being amazed at it (“I gave her an 11!”). Most floor routines were set to classical music and had more in common with ballet. Hers was set to something like “The Beer Barrel Polka” and she had more personality and charm in it than the rest of the Soviet team put together. But wait, there was more. Olga did backflips on the balance beam and demonstrated amazing strength and grace, in fact, a clip of her on the beam was part of the Wide World of Sports intro for a number of years (not to be confused with the Agony of Defeat guy. The classics never go out of style). Olga got a silver for the uneven parallels, gold for the floor exercise and balance beam and with her team.

Fast forward to Montreal, 1976 when the Romanian team copied everything out of her playbook. And won (I have never been a Nadia Comaneci fan. Unlike Olga, she struck me as heavily programmed little robot – technical perfection, no humanity, no soul). For years, Olympic gymnasts were doing back flips off the top of the uneven parallel bars (I think it got banned at some point) and they still incorporate “Korbut flips” in balance beam routines. In fact, they’re mandatory.  Evolution.

Efficiency runs with evolution. By being able to complete tasks more easily and faster, one is a better, more effective competitor. Ask Usain Bolt: he can complete a 100 yard dash (I think that’s his distance) faster and more efficiently than anyone else. I could go into an explanation of mortgage banking and derivatives and how they evolved out of hand and that’s why the market crashed, BUT that would end up in a 20 page diatribe. A very funny diatribe, but not for this post. Anyway, by improving processes and systems (pushing their evolution), they become more efficient, produce more of ____ faster, etc. This is a big part of free enterprise and capitalism: if you can do it faster and cheaper than the other guy, you win.

                And this has applied, over millennia, to feeding ourselves. I have a theory about the transition from hunter gatherers to agriculture. Picture two cavemen (And no, I don’t know what kind. I’m not an anthropologist), after a round of hunting and gathering (I’ll be discussing the new craze, the Caveman Diet or Paleo Diet in later posts), Grok and his buddy, Doug.  

                “Man, Doug, I thought we were gonna feast. I had a perfect headshot on that mammoth and then…”

                “Bob sneezed.”

                “Yeah, Bob sneezed, the thing stampeded and trampled Larry and now we’ve got no meat and a we’re a man down. And Bob’s woman gave us the stink eye for coming back empty-handed. There’s got to be a better way, Man. I’m tellin’ ya.”

                “We could always eat Larry.”

                “Naw, he’s only good for maybe two meals at most. Too bad the mammoth didn’t get Bob. That fat bastard would feed us for a week.”

                “We got berries. And some of those mushrooms…”

                “Uh, careful with those. Gorlock ate some last month, climbed a tree and freaked out. Claimed he was something called a kardashian.”

                “What’s that?”

                “Beats me. He just stood around with his hands on his hips and acted like he was talking to someone who wasn’t there. Whatever a kardashian is, it’s whiny.”

                “So what do we do, Grok? There’s got to be a better way.”

                “I’ve been thinking about that, Doug and I’ve got an idea. We spend days chasing those bison and those mammoths all over creation and IF we get one, we’ve either got to drag it back to where the women and children are or wait for them to catch up…”

                “Women are a real pain in the ass. They slow us down, they suck at hunting and 5 days a month, they’re all mean like Bob’s woman.  Can we just get rid of all women? ”

                “No and don’t talk like that in front of Santorum. You know, the guy who’s always furthest to the right when we hunt. Besides, there’s that one, Martina. You know, the really big woman who keeps her hair short and wears that funny stuff…what is it?”

                “She calls it plaid flannel.”

                “Yeah, well, she’s tough.  I’ve seen her punch a wolf in the face. Won’t have anything to do with the men, but nobody has to hunt for her, but that’s beside the point. So, we spend all our time looking for berries or trying to catch fish or track down one of those mammoth bastards. And for what? Just so we can get up and do it again the next day.”

                “Well, yeah.”

                “And look around. This is a good spot. We’ve got this big cave right here. We can fit everyone in here and not have Bob snoring in our ears all night. There’s a nice stream over there and trees.”

                “Well, yeah, but we’ve got to hit the trail tomorrow  and hunt again because Bob sneezed.”

                “Well, what if we didn’t have to do that?”

                “What? How? How are we going to eat?”

                “I’ve been thinking. Look at this meadow. It’s kind of boxed in. You can only get in and out through one way. There’s lots of grass…”

                “Yeah, so?”

                “Okay, work with me. What if we got some of those bison over here and found a way to keep them in this meadow.”

“You mean, block off the entrance?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“And then we knock ‘em on the head and eat them.”

“No, no, well maybe one of them at first. No, we let them hang out and eat and maybe a couple of them have babies and we let them hang out and eat and get bigger…”

“Yeah, and then rather than chase them all over Kingdom Come, we’ve got dinner right here!”

“Exactly! Bob and the rest of the guys are gone for a month chasing mammoths. You and I are here because we’ve got our food right here and we’ve got all the women. And they’ll want to be with us because we’ve got the food.”

“Except Bob’s woman.”

                “Okay, yeah, except Bob’s woman. Bertha’s scary.”

                “And you know what, that hot, glowy thing Jerry came up with…”

                “You mean when his woman was struck by lightning?”

                “Yeah, that thing..”

                “Fire. He’s calling it fire.”

                “Really? That’s weird. I thought he was calling it belch.”

                “Some guy named Arnie convinced him that if he came up with a good original name for it, he could trade pieces of it to other tribes and become famous and they would have to pay tribute to him to use it.”

                “What’s famous?”

                “I don’t know, but Arnie was pretty insistent that it was important. You know, come to think of it, he was talking to Gorlock after that whole kardashian thing.”

                “Anyway, here’s what I’m thinking: we get some of those bison over here and keep them. Okay, we knock one on the head and instead of eating the whole thing raw, we shove some pieces of it into that…fire? Right, fire? Jerry’s woman smelled pretty appetizing after she was struck by lightning.”

                “Tasted pretty good, too.”

                “Doug, Man, you can’t talk like that. You’ll give everybody the creeps. No more eating tribe members.”

                “How are we going to convince Jerry to let us have some fire? After talking to Arnie, he’s got a bug up his ass about getting something for it.”

                “That’s easy. All the other guys are off hunting, so it’s just the three of us and the women.  And you know what…”

                “Martina, too?”

                “Hey, she’d rather be off hunting with the guys. What if, I’m just spitballing here,,, what if we found some really good berry bushes and moved them from where they are to where we are.”

                “Won’t they die?”

                “No, Man. We dig them up, drag them here, dig new holes and put them in the ground here so we don’t have to go to them for berries. And we can move some of the other plants over here…”

                “And dinner’s served whenever we want. Yeah, Man. No more chasing all over Hell’s half acre. We can just hang out. No more trekking through the briars. Those things get into your sack hair and it hurts.”

                “You know, maybe we could catch us a couple of wolves…little ones…”

                “Knock ‘em on the head and eat them?”

                “NO! What IS it with you? No, we make friends with them and maybe they help up guard the herd…”

                “The what?”

                “The herd. It’s a collective term for bison. The wolves help us keep an eye on the herd and keep other wolves away from it. And other guys…and you know, I bet if they were little, the women would just want to be around them…”

                “It’s all about women with you, isn’t it?”

                “You’re a virgin, aren’t you? Anyway, we’ve got the food, we’ve got protection and those guys who are out hunting all day? They’re just going to die skinny little bastards at 17 because they’re always hunting and gathering. You and me, we’ll live forever because we won’t be moving that much and we’ll be eating more food. We’ll make it to 25, easy. And Paul’s been working on that nub thing..”


                “The round thing. You know, he’s been calling it nub, but I think Arnie’s telling him to change it to ‘wheel’.  We’d better talk to him fast before Arnie gives him any more ideas. Anyway, Paul says that we’ll be able to move faster  and further with it, so we can go get more stuff to bring back to grow here. You know those things with the long noses and long tails that leave poop all over the place?”

                “Yeah, they make that neigh sound. They taste pretty good.”

                “Doug, seriously, if you eat everything in sight, people are going to think you’re uncivilized.”

                “Sorry. What about them?”

                “Anyway, Paul thinks we might be able to catch a few and teach them to carry stuff for us or ride them or drag a bunch of those wheels around.”

                “Why would we do that?”

                “They’re stronger than we are. They do all the work, we get all the benefit. And Paul says if we have four wheels, we can pick up girls.”

                “What’s wrong with just heaving Marjorie Butt over your shoulder?”

                “Annoyed sigh. Look, we want the best women, okay? We could look like the southbound end of a northbound hippo, but if we’ve got the food and a great place to live and it’s warm, we can have the pick of the women. They’ll come to us. What do you think?”

                “Sounds great, but I’ll bet Arnie talks Adam into claiming it was all HIS idea.”




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