Recently G.W. Bush signed a proclamation making June 10 a special day named for a particular person, and not everyone is pleased. "They carefully worded this thing to make it look like they've just got a good guy here, and so the state of Texas can have a party for him," said an irate Professor Bruce Lincoln of the University of Chicago. What's the name of this special day, and how does G.W. suggest we observe it?
Send your answer by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday's Question (No. 462)—"Beached Wails":
"That's the good news," said Sarah Chasis of the Natural Resources Defense Council, finding a silver lining in her organization's grim report on increased beach pollution. "The bad news is … we have more closings and advisories, indicating we have serious coastal water problems." So what is the good news?
"There's tons of parking."—Beth Sherman
"The increase in washed-up condoms and needles shows the public is getting the 'safety' message …"—Ian O'Henley
"The guy who typed up the report is really hot."—Francis Heaney
"Bob Hope has withdrawn his request for a burial at sea."—Adam Bonin
"There's still a good chance Dick Cheney will keel over before getting to influence environmental policy."—Doug Ingram
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Years before not reading books about socio-biology or cosmology became fashionable, it was a la mode to read books of popular science that argued: We're All Monkeys After All (especially the editorial page staff of the Wall Street Journal, if I understand paleontology, and I certainly don't). The Territorial Imperative, The Naked Ape, African Genesis—all were best sellers, and when it was announced they'd filmed Out of Africa, I ran to the theater, keen to see Meryl Streep evolve from a blob of protoplasm into something that attended the opera but still enjoyed picking lice from the fur of her neighbor or splitting his scull with a simple tool in a blood-soaked struggle for dominance, but apparently the movie was based on some whole other kind of book. I was as disappointed as most moviegoers.
One of these Monkey/Man books—I can't recall which—described a key stage in humanity's development, one mercifully related to today's question, our lives as Aquatic Apes. Forced from the forests and savannas by some ancient drought or a simple failure to stop and ask directions, our ancestors wandered to the then unpolluted sea coast and made a life among the tide pools, which bountiful shellfish had turned into a kind of infinite raw bar. Assume that we evolved to flourish in that beach environment, and much is explained. Walking erect meant we could wander into deeper waters in search of food. Spending so much time submerged accounts for our becoming as hairless as whales (Robin Williams joke here). We retained hair on our heads as protection from the sun (Paul Simon's toupee joke here). And our reshaped, down-turned nostrils kept out the water that would otherwise have constantly splashed into our flat ape noses, our primitive simian technology having not yet devised the nose clip. (Microsoft Internet Explorer users can click here to view a funny streaming-video cartoon of a caveman squeezing his nose closed with a clam. Oucha-Magoucha! If the clip does not load, add this to your list of gripes about the company.)
Of course if we tried this sort of evolutionary side-trip now, the floating feces and streams of detergent would induce a very different sort of human development. However, I think it is safe to conclude that even in this hostile aquatic environment, no one would finish that Stephen Hawking book.
High Bacteria Count Answer
The good news: There has been an increased amount of testing of coastal waters, with several states adding programs of monitoring and reporting.
Of course, what they're reporting is not so great. Pollution-related beach closings and advisories increased 50 percent nationwide from 1997 to 1999; more than half of those were in California. The primary cause of closings was sewage and storm water runoff. Surf's up! At least I hope that's surf.
Pathogens in polluted beach water can cause a range of illnesses from gastroenteritis and dysentery to hepatitis and ear and upper respiratory infections.
Unattractive people in undersized swimsuits.