Cats vs. dogs, work vs. leisure

Remember when they used to tell you not to sit too close to the TV screen? Iím typing this on a screen thatís about 18 inches from my face. But itís OK because itís not a TV screen, itís a computer monitor, which makes a huge difference because .... OK there isnít any difference at all ... itís the exact same thing. Itís just that the same people who were telling you not to sit too close to the screen as you grew up are now sending you videos of cats who can flush toilets and a guy who plays Beethovenís Fifth Symphony on a ukulele. If you watched this stuff on a TV, youíd be wrecking your eyes and wasting time, but since itís on a computer, itís science.

We all seem to be in the middle of a scientific study concerning the relative cuteness of cats and dogs. I donít get that many videos of dogs acting cute, but it may not be because there are more cat people out there than dog people. Studying the millions of hours of cat and dog videos people have e-mailed me may reveal the answer. My current theory is that the cats will still be doing something cute by the time their owners have found the camera while dogs have moved on to something else by the time their owner is ready Ė like eating tonightís pot roast or drinking out of the toilet like he has been lost in the desert for two weeks.

Itís not just cat videos that Iíve been researching. I also go through lots of video clips of building implosions, backyard stunts that go wrong, three-minute clips from TV shows that I donít have time to watch any more because of all the cat videos. I havenít turned on my TV in months, but my computer is starting to smoke.

The great thing about watching TV on the computer is that people think that since a computer is involved, you must be doing work. I have been surfing the Web, checking out my friends on Facebook (one show-off has, like, 4,000 friends) checking out the weather at the ski slopes, reading my personal e-mail and looking for a better job than the one I have now. I still manage to answer the phone and get my work done, but it is a huge intrusion on my research.

If I brought a TV and a sofa into my office and watched the Winter Olympics on it all day long, that would be wrong. It would be unprofessional and selfish. But if I sat at my computer watching curling all day long, those many, many hours of curling they wonít show in primetime Winter Olympic coverage, would anyone notice? Morally, itís a slippery slope. The Winter Olympics are only held every four years whereas work is there year in, year out. What to do, what to do?

Itís such a tough choice because curling is about the most perfect sport there is. First of all, itís indoors. Second, you always have the feeling that with beginnerís luck a novice could beat the best curler in the world, something thatís not going to happen in football or basketball or tennis or golf, and third, it occupies the mind. Who came up with the brooms? Do they use their own stones? Do they carry them around in curling bags like bowling balls? The only thing thatís holding it back from being the perfect sport is that it has no cheerleaders.

In the end, I chose to compromise. I would do my job and watch the curling. But I swore off cat videos until after the Olympics.

Jim Mullen is the author of ďIt Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple LifeĒ and ďBabyís First Tattoo.Ē You can reach him at

Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

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