little things

I’m writing this over a late lunch that is also serving as an early dinner, before teaching this spring’s first session of Energy: Science, Society, and Communication.

I sprinkle salt on my tomato. Each time I remember staying with an acquaintance in Ann Arbor nearly a quarter century ago, being introduced to the idea of salt on fresh tomato slices from a farmer’s market.

I bring the pepper shaker over to join the salt shaker. Each time I remember a friend telling me nearly a quarter century ago how the pair should always be together, passed together, like a couple.

I sign my email “Best wishes”. Each time I remember my undergraduate and graduate research advisors from over three decades ago, who initialed documents “BW” and “KBW”. Ben Widom is one of the finest human beings I have ever known, as well as a great scientist and teacher. I was Birgit Whaley’s first grad student and together we learned what that meant.

Little things.

politics and practice of CETI

Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence (CETI) is one of the most fundamental political issues facing humanity.

CETI is at a crossroads

Every year astronomers confirm more exoplanets and become better at finding smaller ones with Earth-like characteristics. Within a generation we will likely detect planets beyond our solar system with temperatures and atmospheres similar to Earth. We may even observe signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. As a result, CETI (sometimes referred to as METI) is undergoing a revival not seen since the heyday of the Space Age in the 1960s and 1970s.

There are many fundamental questions concerning communication with potential extraterrestrial intelligence: Should we initiate contact? If we detect a signal, should we reply? What type of message, if any, should we send? Most importantly, who has the right to decide whether and how to communicate with intelligence beyond Earth?

The International Academy of Astronautics proposes that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space make these decisions. However, if we detect extraterrestrial intelligence, the reality is that many others will claim precedence: the home country of the observatory that detected the signal, the home country of the astronomer(s) who detected the signal, the astronomers themselves, various scientific organizations, political and religious leaders, etc. CETI is currently politically dormant, but in the event of signal detection, it will become one of the most important issues.

CETI is a global existential threat

The most fundamental political questions concern global existential threats: events that could destroy human civilization or disrupt the delicate ecosystem of our planet. Some existential threats are beyond foreseeable human control. Massive volcanic eruptions could release carbon dioxide and start runaway global warming. Conversely, the solar system could pass through an interstellar dust cloud, attenuating sunlight enough to tumble us into another ice age. Our Sun’s output could increase or decrease unexpectedly. The Earth’s magnetic field could collapse, wiping out many species. A small black hole could wander through our planet.

On the other hand, some global existential threats might respond to human intervention. We may be able to detect and deflect the next asteroid before it initiates waves of mass extinctions. By continuing to avoid the use of nuclear weapons, we prevent a hypothetical nuclear winter that would cause worldwide starvation. If we can wean off fossil fuels and become more efficient in our energy use, we can mitigate global warming. If we understand our impact on the environment more thorougly, we can head off crises such as the collapse of agriculture from declining bee populations, or the return of the Black Plague or rise of other global pandemics.

In order to solve these events, we might harness the power of developing technologies such as CRISPR  and artificial intelligence. However, these solutions could bring their own problems. The widespread ability to alter genes makes it easier to create bioweapons. The motivations of intelligences with inhuman speed, knowledge, and control will become opaque to us.

Communication with potential extraterrestrial intelligence is clearly a global existential threat. Throughout our own history, more technologically advanced humans often display little regard for other species and cultures on first contact.

the need to practice ceti

Despite the global existential threat, many will want to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence because the exchange of knowledge could bring great benefits to humanity. Furthermore, we humans thrive on and crave connection with others. It may simply be impossible to prevent every individual on the planet from attempting to send a signal.

However, we are not politically ready to face the important decisions surrounding CETI. In this sense, we are fortunate that we have not yet detected extraterrestrial intelligence, because we still have time to build cultural infrastructure to prepare ourselves.

Science fiction in print and on screen provides a great start, imagining possible consequences of communicating with other intelligences. However, narratives alone are insufficient. We need people to engage in decisions that resemble the ones they would make for CETI. We need as many such models as we can dream and develop, to provide alternative perspectives. These models can prepare us for making CETI decisions in the future.

One of my projects, Earth Tapestry, invites visitors to identify locations that are delightful, awe-inspiring, ingenious, information-rich, durable, famous, irreplaceable, and noble. Earth Tapestry’s process of democratic deliberative curation invites the user to consider what to include and what to exclude in a message to unknown future recipients. I created the project so that anyone — not just experts — can participate in determining the most important places on the planet. I will store this data on the Moon: the current limit of humanity’s sandbox, as well as the traditional boundary between ourselves and the heavens.

Just as I hope we are not alone in the universe, I hope this project will not stand alone. Musicians practice before playing on the big stage. Likewise, we must practice CETI in advance of the real thing.

big problems facing science

Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, and Brian Resnick have co-authored a beautifully articulate article on the 7 biggest problems facing science:

  1. Academia has a huge money problem
  2. Too many studies are poorly designed
  3. Replicating results is crucial — and rare
  4. Peer review is broken
  5. Too much science is locked behind paywalls
  6. Science is poorly communicated
  7. Life as a young academic is incredibly stressful

Many of these problems are not new; I witnesssed many of them a quarter-century ago as a graduate student in chemistry at Berkeley. In addition, I recall my beloved undergraduate research advisor at Cornell longing for the time when NSF took a more generous view towards long-term, speculative projects. Nevertheless, I would agree that these problems in science are even more severe than ever.

Throughout my career, I have purposefully worked “off the grid”, only taking jobs that have not required me to publish papers or pursue research grants. While it has not always been ideal to live at the margins, overall I’ve had a fulfilling career.

sleeping through classes

Dear Alby,

Today I missed my morning classes, sleeping through several alarms. I’m going to get notes from my friends and talk to my professors about the work I missed, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I’m tired all the time and stressed out. What should I do? <Sleeping Through Classes>

Dear STC,

Congratulations on recognizing you have a problem. Some college students believe there’s no harm in skipping classes. However, there is a strong correlation between class attendance and earned grades. Quite simply, if you want to be in college, go to your college classes.

While the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, their study also shows wide variations in how much sleep an individual may need. Some of your peers may be fine with only 6 hours, while you find yourself craving nearly twice as much (11 hours)! Or your roommate may be sleep-deprived, needing much more than you do at this particular moment. The person who needs less may experience peer pressure to stay awake longer, compounding the problem. It’s hard to pay attention when your mind is drifting into dreamland.

If you can’t wake up when you’re supposed to, go to sleep earlier. While obvious, this solution requires examining and arranging your life accordingly. Schedule an appointment for the time you will stop looking at glowing screens. Set an alarm for when you’re going to bed. After a while, you will find yourself naturally waking up early enough. During the quiet hours of the morning, you may find that you can get more done.

My second piece of advice is also simple. Be consistent in your sleep habits. Even if you have a Mon/Wed/Fri class at 8:00am and a Tue/Thu class at 10:30am, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. You’ll throw yourself off balance if you deprive yourself of sleep some nights and try to catch up later.

You would be foolish not to drink water when you’re thirsty, or if you alternated starving and binging on food. So sleep when you’re tired, and keep a steady schedule.

As you become more attuned to your body’s needs for sleep, you might find yourself able to get by with less, either regularly or occasionally. Maybe you can even train yourself to do this. But you need to establish a firm baseline first.

Take care of yourself. <Alby>

Pre-College welcome address

Every summer since 2005, I welcome more than a thousand students and family members arriving for the summer Pre-College program at Carnegie Mellon University. With slight variations, my remarks are substantially the same from year to year. Here is the speech I delivered today, retaining some of the punctuation marks I use privately to help when speaking aloud.

Welcome, students, families, and friends, to Carnegie Mellon.

***

I want to share with all of you some of my perspectives about the summer academic programs here. During the next six weeks as you walk around campus you will see other students your age who have decided to dedicate their summers to becoming finer artists in Architecture, Art and Design, Drama, and Music; who are learning how to design and develop video game technology; or who are focused on math and science. Of course I must also mention the students in the program I direct, the APEA Program, who are taking college classes from across the entire university: through the College of Engineering, College of Fine Arts, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mellon College of Science, School of Computer Science, and Tepper School of Business.

You will also see people on campus who are not your age. The life of this university, as with every institution, has a seasonality, and summer tends to be a quieter time on campus. I’m also here during the regular year as the Director of the Science and Humanities Scholars Program, and the kind of work I do for that program when most undergraduate students are away from campus is different than in the fall and the spring.

Nevertheless, the relative, apparent tranquility belies a great deal of activity. Undergraduates are taking classes too, sometimes alongside you, as well as doing research, and working on their art. Likewise, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scholars, and professors are all here on campus continuing to observe / to experiment / to write / to think / to create / to learn.

And now you are going to join them, here at Carnegie Mellon.
Your youthful energy / and your capacity for learning / enliven the university.
Welcome to our academic community.

***

For some of you, this is your first visit to campus. Those of you who were here last summer can share why you returned: because you enjoyed and learned well here. You recognize the quality of our faculty and staff, who work hard throughout the year to create the finest educational and student life experience we can offer during the summer. We want to be just as good – better – than we were last year. Be careful, however: even when if you are returning here, this summer will not be the same. You will be taking different classes with different professors and different classmates. Most significantly, you are different than you were last year.

***

Thirty-five years ago, in June 1981, I was about your age, between my junior and senior years of high school. That year I myself attended a summer program to take classes at another great university; in fact, five years ago I attended my 25th college reunion at that same place. For over three decades, I have held a certain fondness for the learning and teaching that can happen during the summer: I have taught, founded and directed summer programs across the country, and this is my eleventh summer here at CMU. Drawing upon these experiences, I have six perspectives to share with you about becoming a student in the Pre-College Program at Carnegie Mellon.

***

First, there must be a reason you are here, and you have to own that reason.

Earlier in the year, you might have had a number of reasons for applying here. Maybe you thought that succeeding here would be a way to prove something about yourself to yourself: to build a portfolio, to build a stronger academic record, to work towards an eventual career. Maybe you wanted to impress someone else, or maybe someone you know has been a student here in past summers, or is a current student in the fall and spring semesters. Your parents may have thought it would be a good experience for you… Maybe your friends are coming and you decided to be with them. Maybe you thought it would be fun. Maybe you just thought it would be a good way to occupy… your time. Maybe you thought it would be a chance to get away from home.

There may be any number of reasons that you have decided to come here this summer.
All of those reasons can be valid, as long as they can sustain you while you are here.

You need to decide for yourself what moves you, what motivates you to be here. The reasons may shift, but as Aristotle indicates in the Physics, there must be a cause that will motivate you through the long hours of work here, some reason that for the sake of which you are pushing yourself.

I hope for you that you find your summer academics to be challenging but not overwhelming.

Ultimately, you have to want to be here, because at times the work will not be easy.

***

Now the good news is that everyone here wants you to succeed, from your counselors to your professors. This brings me to my second point: your professors are people too. They were once as young as you were, they have dreams, their own families and friends. Most of us are nerds… … just like you. Get to know us. Ask us about our projects and interests, ask me about sending artifacts to the Moon next year. Our staff are amazing, also with their own lives. We know a great deal more than you do about many things, but we also know less than you do about certain things, such as where you come from and who you are.

This means that one of your primary goals here is to introduce yourself, by asking questions. You are responsible for your education.

You have arrived at an academic institution, where we are in the business of asking questions, of each other and of ourselves, and also finding answers that in turn can elevate us to new questions.

If you don’t understand something that’s going on in your class, ask. That’s the culture of higher education, we are not going to check as frequently as you may be accustomed to in high school, it is your responsibility to ask if you don’t understand.

Is there such a thing as a stupid question? … Yes. Don’t ask lazy questions – when I said the university is in the business of asking and answering questions, I meant that we are in the business of carefully wrought, well-considered questions. Being knowledgeable involves having one answer, but becoming more knowledgeable requires developing good questions.

So. If you encounter difficulty understanding or doing something, ask a good question. But since you are students still practicing how to ask a good question, when in doubt, go ahead and ask your question, keeping in mind there are degrees of quality in asking questions.

***

Third, make mistakes. Then learn from them.

Just as there are good questions and not-so-good questions, there are good ways to put yourself in situations where you might mistakes and not-so-good ways to put yourself in situations where you might make mistakes. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference beforehand. But trust me, it would be a bad mistake for you to sit in front of a glowing screen all summer, rarely interacting face-to-face with students in the dormitory or dining hall or classroom, rarely talking with anyone else. Go out with a group of friends and walk across the bridges on Forbes Avenue, enjoying for free with your ID card the museums, conservatory, and entire public transporation network. Meet other students who are in completely different programs from you.

Good mistakes happen when you take a chance and do something that has not only the potential to harm you, but also to benefit you. If you don’t make good mistakes, then you haven’t taken enough risks, in your art, in your academics. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough… you’re not living life.

If everything is going smoothly for you, talk to your instructors and step up the challenges for yourself.

Inevitably you will make mistakes. Good. Understand and acknowledge your mistakes, then learn from them.

***

Four, appreciate family and friends.

As you begin here this summer, you will have to let go of the familiar — your family and friends. You should recognize your roots, where you have come from, and you should stay grounded with your family even when you are away from them.

I recognize that this remark may not seem as relevant to those of you who attend prep school as residential students and are accustomed to being away from family, to those of you who have the privilege of living nearby and will be living with family this summer, to those of you who are returning students from last summer.

Nevertheless, this community is a separate place from your old friends and your family, and while you’re not going to stop being a son or daughter, sister or brother, your relationships with family and friends may change dramatically, in no small part because you yourself are at an age where you change so rapidly. Be patient and respectful of your roots, even though, if they are wise, your family will maintain a certain distance from you, to allow you to grow further into your own individual.

In the meantime, you will form close friendships here. At my college reunion, I met friends whom I hadn’t seen in years. But even though so much time had passed, we picked up like it was yesterday. Deep friendships formed around common academic interests can last a lifetime. Get to know your colleagues.

***

Fifth, be honest with yourself and be honest with others. We encourage you to work together but you must not misrepresent yourself or your work. Several summers ago, two students went home after severe academic integrity violations. I know this is sometimes not as easy as it sounds; I will say more about this when I meet the APEA students this afternoon. Be honest with yourself, and be honest with others.

***

Finally, appreciate the moment. Set priorities for yourself. Your families can tell you how quickly years go by. Let me tell you, as much as can happen in six weeks, as much as you can learn, it goes fast. Follow your heart, your passion, work hard, play well and enjoy the summer. And one day, perhaps even thirty-five years from now, you will look back on this summer and remember it as one of the most important times of your life.

Welcome again to Carnegie Mellon.

first summer in college

Dear Alby,

I just finished my first year in college as a science major and I’m wondering what to do this summer. Many of my friends say it’s important to land an internship or do research, but it’s been hard to find that kind of job because places want upperclass students with more experience. What can I do? <Fear of Missing Out on Summer>

Dear FOMOOS,

I agree with your friends that it’s important to get work experience while you are an undergraduate to complement your classroom knowledge, whether working at a company or in a research lab or (ideally) both. While it would be fine to do this after your first summer of college, it’s also perfectly fine to begin later. Your greater knowledge will prepare you better to land those types of jobs in future summers.

As for this summer, it can be a magical one in your life, because you have a great deal of freedom. You are young enough that many families would be glad to see you come home and stay indefinitely. (This won’t necessarily be the case for you or them in just a few years.) But you have also reached the age of majority, when you can strike out on your own. You can be anywhere.

Yes, you’re limited by finances. For most students it’s necessary to earn money, and the habit of work is an important discipline. But if you can afford some time during the summer, set aside resources to travel: alone, or with a friend, sibling, or cousin. One of life’s great pleasures is puzzling out how to get from Point A to Point B while staying close to the ground. Expensive hotels are all the same, because they insulate you from the very places you’re visiting. Living cheaply allows you to appreciate the unique aspects of your locale. And traveling can refresh your body, mind, and spirit.

Whatever you decide to do this summer, make sure you do at least one thing that you will anticipate, you will enjoy, and you will remember. <Alby>

Phi Beta Kappa charge

As chapter president for the Carnegie Mellon chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, since Fall 2012 I have delivered the charge to new initiates. Here are my remarks from today, in which I “speak briefly on the ideals of the Society and the responsibilities of membership”.

Phi Beta Kappa is an American institution. This afternoon I would like to talk about what that means for you as a new member of our society – not because I necessarily embrace American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States has a particular destiny to fulfill that renders us superior to other nations, but rather because I do believe that America is exceptional, and that history can be instructive.

Imagine an era when the United States is suffering through uneasy times. Imagine, if you can, a time when the country is at war, with enormous costs borne by human lives and by circumstances that indebt us deeply to another overseas nation. Imagine a time when per capita income, after years of steady growth, is plummeting; when Americans are driven from their homes; when the very underpinnings of the American monetary system depend upon the financial system of another country. Not surprisingly, during this time, the citizenry is divided about what course of action to take, holding fundamentally different political assumptions about what should become of the United States, and about what the proper rights and responsibilities of individuals, states, and the nation should be with respect to each other, including profound divisions on issues such as fair taxation and involvement in foreign affairs.

These are the sorts of troubles that afflicted the loose affiliation of the states united in 1776, when our society Phi Beta Kappa was founded, and if we somehow should ever find ourselves again in a similar, dire time as a nation or as individuals, we can look back to that history and draw some lessons.


They were human beings, which is to say they were both like and unlike us, those young men at the College of William & Mary who started our society. Muddling through their lives, they sought to form a society that represented some of their highest ideals. It takes a certain serious playfulness to form such a club, which is now the oldest academic honor society. Those young men, whose bones are now everywhere dust, created something that still endures today, by virtue of their focus on a spirit of companionship, zest for life, and quest for knowledge.

These qualities are captured by the motto for the society, which I believe is a retronym constructed from the letters Phi Beta Kappa. That motto is Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης — generally translated as “The love of learning is the guide of life.” But when I see those words, I also see the academic disciplines Philosophy, Biology, and Cybernetics. Philosophy we recognize here at Carnegie Mellon as a department in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Biological Sciences in the Mellon College of Science, but Cybernetics as an interdisciplinary study is less well-known these days. The name of that discipline was coined by Norbert Wiener and, while it connects many fields, one might say that it belongs to the School of Computer Science. So the motto for our society, Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης, embraces three departments within those colleges at Carnegie Mellon from which we generally seek initiates into the society.

Now – as during its formation – the Phi Beta Kappa society is connected to but also distinct from your formal academic studies. So no matter which of the colleges is your home, this society now belongs equally to every one of you.


Having just presented a Carnegie Mellon (Upsilon of Pennsylvania)-centered account of how the Phi Beta Kappa motto relates to our own university, and having heard earlier from our historian about the society’s symbols, I will now present a more personal interpretation of the key that symbolizes our society. The three main design elements on the obverse face are the pointing hand, three Greek letters, and three clustered stars. The earthbound hand on the key is pointing towards something, but what? Most directly, it’s pointing towards the letter Beta. But if you follow the trajectory of the gesture, it is pointing towards the stars, as though to visually indicate, through means of the society Phi Beta Kappa, you can reach the stars.

pbkKey_V_RGB (2)

That constellation of stars indicates something simultaneously unreachable yet visible, something accessible to human thought and analysis, which suggests a quest for knowledge. Moreover, the fact that we see a constellation or asterism, a group of stars, suggests that the hand is pointing towards a union, a society. And I would go even further. I suggest that the hand is actually not pointing to the stars themselves, but is pointing between the stars, that is, beyond the stars. If you follow the gesture closely, you may also see: the hand is pointing towards some essence that is even beyond the visible, yet we might somehow be guided towards its direction by following the path of fellowship and by searching for knowledge.

We are poised at this moment between the past and the future. We are also at the border between the dust and the heavens. We approach our finest possibility by navigating through life // with the love of the search for knowledge as our guide. This guide, the love of the search for knowledge, conducted in fellowship, will help us to navigate that fine strait between humiliation and hubris – to become more fully human.

Phi Beta Kappa was originally intended as a haven for free discussion of timely issues and timeless ideas, during an era of revolution and social upheaval. Let us carry forth the example of the initial members of the society, and ourselves serve for future years and generations – to attend to, reflect upon, discuss, and take action on issues and ideas. Let us conduct ourselves so that we may improve ourselves as well as the greater societies of family, friendship, city, nation, and world. Let us display our love for wisdom as a guide for life.


In closing, remember: there may come a time when you as individuals, or the children who one day may smile with you, or your neighbors and their children … will live during a time of war, economic hardship, political friction, and personal hardship. If you should ever find your nation and yourself in that situation, extend your hands in a reach for higher knowledge, shake hands with others in fellowship, and use your hands to build for our broader society. I wish for all of you the best in these times and those to come.

the lab is a dangerous place

I delivered these remarks on March 3, 2005, at Bard High School Early College, towards the end of my tenure there as their first Associate Dean of Studies. BHSEC is a public school where graduates receive an associate degree from Bard College along with a high-school Regents Diploma from New York State. Towards the end of the institution’s fourth year of existence, during its second year on the Lower East Side, we formally opened some badly needed laboratories.

It’s all too easy for me, as a theoretical and computational scientist, to forget the importance of the work that goes on in a laboratory. And for those here today who rarely step forward into a lab, the place can seem quite foreign, filled with strange devices and artifice that have little to do with everyday experience.

We must remind ourselves that a laboratory is a place to observe and measure the world, the same world we all occupy. The equipment in a laboratory may be less familiar than the books in a library, but both facilities are essential to education.

Earlier this school year at Bard High School Early College we opened a new library, and now we open these new laboratories.

A laboratory is : to a scientist :: as a library is : to every scholar.

In a library, we become directly engaged with what other people have thought and seen. Reading and understanding what others have seen and thought is essential, because this takes us outside ourselves, and enriches our own insights and discussions. In a laboratory, we engage directly with what we ourselves think and see. I want to emphasize that point: in a laboratory, we see for ourselves. We think for ourselves. It doesn’t matter what presidential or papal decrees may state — in a scientific laboratory, we the people have in our hands the authority to confirm or reject established doctrine.

I am verging on talk of revolution here… but consider. Let us count among early modern scientists Galileo and Newton, Faraday and Maxwell, Mendel and Darwin, Lavoisier and Mendeleev and Curie. It is no coincidence these scientists lived during times connected with religious and political and artistic upheavals that celebrate the individual, and sometimes even they themselves were catalysts for revolution. To cite another example, fairly familiar: the Benjamin Franklin who conducted experiments with electricity is the same person who dared to revolt against one of the most powerful empires in world history, and to propose the experiment of our nation, built upon the rights of the individual. As Americans, we are inheritors of this tradition of open questioning.

Along with the library, the laboratory is an essential structure for a proper liberal arts education. The laboratory and the library are dangerous places, because they have the capacity to liberate students, elevating them to citizens who are able to criticize and to create for themselves, by themselves.

The capacity to see and think for ourselves, and to be careful and honest as we convey our observations and theories to other people, is central to the liberal arts education that we provide here at Bard.

It is possible to overstate the importance of science, and laboratories, and anything occupied with our material world. These rooms — two biology and chemistry laboratories and a dedicated lab prep room — in conjunction with another existing adjacent lab, and on the same floor as additional labs for geology and for physics — these rooms are simply rooms, after all. They will require additional equipment, just as a library always needs more books. And, without a dedicated faculty and engaged students, they are simply beautiful shells.

The opening of this new laboratory is nonetheless an extraordinarily joyful occasion for Bard — a cause for immense celebration — for the promise of education in the liberal arts. I thank in general those who made this possible, some of whom Professors Cordi and Gamper will later thank by name. Let us keep in mind that the true dedication of these facilities will occur over weeks, semesters, and years to come, as students work together with professors ~ at the difficult task of learning ~ how to see and think for themselves.

show me your throat

(This piece is about how intimacy and vulnerability are intertwined: 
intimacy and vulnerability between audience and reader, reader and text, 
doctor and patient, dog and master, lover and lover. This piece is called: 
show me your throat here’s mine. Can you hear?)

How about now? Is that better?

Does that hurt?
How about now? Is that better?

you take your self to the physician you tell the doctor what’s wrong you say, 
doctor what should I do: it hurts when I do this <Basho poem: left hand 
smooths, right hand jumps, both splash>
The doctor says,
stop <splash> 
don’t do that

It’s a joke, don’t you get it? <splash> 
It’s a joke.

Do you know what I’m talking about? 
Has this ever happened to you?

you take your child to the pediatrician the child sometimes can’t tell you 
what’s wrong you have to read the child
you take your dog to the veterinarian the dog can never tell you what’s wrong 
you have to read the dog

you have to walk the dog 
you have to read the dog

listen: the dog is telling you something:
the dog is saying, I’m happy to see you I’ve missed you awful okay let’s go for 
a walk
the dog is saying, if you dropped that piece of fried chicken then I’ll be here to 
help clean up 
the dog is saying, leave me alone you’re too warm I don’t want to be near you 
right now 
the dog is saying, I’m
     so hurt that you can take my paw between metal forceps and pinch
     so hard that your knuckles turn white but I won’t whimper or squirm I’m
     so tired I can barely open my eyes to tell you that I wish that you would stop
stop <splash>

don’t do that

no one wants to tell you – : no one needs to tell you –

Do you know what I’m talking about? 
Has this ever happened to you?

Open wide – say aaah.
Lie on your back – expose 
your throat.

Show me your throat. Here’s mine.