May. 4th, 2012

I was having hominy with a frenemy this morning. We like to get together, enjoy a tasty breakfast of grits, and cut down each others' ideas. This time, it was his turn to propose an idea for me to shoot down.

"Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev did something amazing. In the 1950s, he began breeding wild foxes: he began with population of 130 silver foxes, a species that has never been bred before. He and his team selected the foxes that showed the least fear of humans, and had them breed together. After about ten generations of foxes, they had developed a new strain of fox that was friendly, with spotted coats, floppy ears, and adorable little curled tails. The animals wag their tails and lick human caretakers to show affection, like dogs. In the span of one lifetime, Belyaev created the domesticated silver fox."

I listened with passive-aggressive disinterest.

"My plan is this: I want to do the same thing with the Australian platypus. We breed the ones that are least afraid of humans, and hopefully within ten generations we'll get something friendly. Maybe they'll still have venomous ankle spurs. Maybe not. They'll probably still have duck bills that can sense electricity, which would be handy for pets in the modern world. Most of all, though, they'll be weird and cute and a testament to the power of modern science. They will sell well and I will become incredibly wealthy and then I'll gloat every time we have breakfast."

I nodded thoughtfully, and composed my reply. "But, this kind of program will be very expensive," I said, "How can you afford to support a population of platypusses on a schoolteacher's salary?"

He beamed with pride, "I already have a plan for that! I'll just shop smarter. I'll keep an eye out for special offers and rebates and things, closely follow the market for necessary supplies, and make a binder full of offers from local newspapers. I'm going to take 'extreme couponing' to the next level: monotreme couponing."

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May 2012

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