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On the quest for intelligent life

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POSTED: December 25, 2012 4:00 p.m.

Recently in our newspaper we ran a cartoon on the opinion page that depicted a couple of extraterrestrials circling the U.S. Capitol in their spaceship and then zooming back into the great beyond. The caption coming from the spaceship says: “No intelligent life forms there.”

I’ve often stared into space on a clear night and wondered about the possibility of other life forms and if there were beings somewhere out there far superior to earthlings in intelligence. As well, I wondered if there were some out there who were still making tools from stones and poking each other with sharp sticks.

Now the cartoon I mentioned has been expressed in many forms, and it’s unfair to limit the analogy to Congress. After all, those people were doing something else before “we” sent them to the House.

To prove that point, every year we hear about someone getting stuck in a chimney. And on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” we continue to see some guy attempting to skateboard down a step railing only to straddle the pipe and subsequently being moved to the tenor section of the choir.

Now about the chimney thing. There should be a series of seminars held around our country to explain chimneys to people. Chimneys are not exactly like they are depicted in cartoon shows.

And while we’re on the subject, I’m just wondering if anyone besides Santa Claus has ever successfully climbed down a chimney?

The stories of people getting stuck in chimneys vary from kids to grown people with myriad motives for their failed attempts.

There’s the news account of the teenager trying to slip into his girlfriend’s house and getting stuck. You can just imagine the young girl introducing the soot-covered dweeb to her daddy once rescuers tore the chimney apart.

Several burglars have tried to use the Santa Claus approach to no avail. And of course a couple of drunks who locked themselves out of their houses eventually sobered to their miscalculations.

There was one case in Louisiana where a body was found in a chimney by construction workers. The man’s body had been there for 27 years. The chimney was in a bank that was being remodeled.

Now back to my suggestion of seminars. It should be explained to people that chimneys typically have flue liners.

A flue liner is an inside casing that traditionally is much too small for a human body to slide down. Most intelligent people can eyeball the opening and determine the prevailing inadequacy.

Then there’s a thing called a damper at the bottom. Most of the time these dampers stay shut unless a fire is to be built. Since most fireplaces are just there for the aesthetics and are not actually used, dampers would be closed most of the time. Numerous factors weigh heavily against someone successfully climbing down a chimney.

Maybe we should also explain that the Santa Claus thing relies heavily on poetic license. Some people would describe it as “fairy tale.” Another good example would be Rambo. Some 400 guys shoot at him, and they all miss.

Now we have some really intelligent people among us. We have people who pursue knowledge with great vigor. And we have those who still try to climb down chimneys and ride skateboards down stair railings.

Having grown up in an old farm house where the fireplace did not draw well and would smoke up the house, I pursued some knowledge of fireplaces. I came along way before skateboards hit the scene but I think even if we had skateboards back then I could have theorized all that could go wrong if I tried to ride one down a stair rail.

On the other hand, I did try jumping out of the hay barn with a parachute made from a tobacco sheet. Like I said, it’s unfair to only use Congress in our essays on intelligence.

Dwain Walden is the editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer.

 

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