The Edmond Sun

Opinion

February 15, 2013

Happy hunters should swim with ugly Guppies

EDMOND — Two news items this week (which, of course, coincides with Valentine’s Day) had me meditating on the subject of courtship. But first, let’s revisit an old story.

Many years ago, an attractive young widow, Martha Skelton, excited the interest of a number of prominent young suitors. One day, two of them decided to call on her together. When they arrived, they were surprised to hear the sound of violin music accompanied by harpsichord and a lady singing. The two gentlemen, without saying a word, remounted their horses and rode back home. You see, Thomas Jefferson was the only young man in the region who could play the violin. And, as his two discouraged rivals knew, if Jefferson was in the contest they had no chance. We’ll come back to this in a minute.

So here’s the news this week touching on the subject of courtship.

Item No. 1: Britain’s Royal Society published a report this week summarizing the results of research carried out by Italy’s University of Padua. In a series of experiments, two “attractive” female guppies were placed in transparent partitions at either end of an aquarium. “Bachelorette number 1” (as she was referred to in the AP story) was positioned between two “attractive” brightly colored male guppies while “Bachelorette number 2” was between a pair of “uglier, drab colored fish.” The researchers dropped a male guppy into the middle of the tank and studied his behavior. The newcomer had three choices: [a] he could refuse to play the game and just stay in the middle where he was; [b] he could puff out his little chest and challenge the dandies, or [c] he could ease down to “Bachelorette number 2’s” end of the tank and take his chances against the easier competition.

To no one’s surprise, most of the newcomers elected the smoother road. After all, why take on Thomas Jefferson when Pee Wee Herman is the alternative? Overall, the newcomers spent about 62 percent of their time at “Bachelorette number two’s” end of the tank. But here’s another interesting tidbit, the uglier the newcomer (the scale used to determine the degree of guppy ugliness was absent from the AP story) the more likely he was to avoid “the studs” at “Bachelorette number one’s” end.

The researchers’ conclusion was summed up in the AP headline: “Guppies use ugly friends to seem more attractive.” How could you not read a story with the headline like this?

Item No. 2: A story posted Feb. 12 in the Science Daily News concerns the latest research on the rare and exotic hihi bird of New Zealand. According to the story, little male hihi chicks provided with a diet rich in carotenoids while they’re in the nest, grow up to be adults with more colorful and attractive breeding feathers. This, of course, puts them at a competitive advantage when their rivals are hampered by dowdier, less impressive decorations resulting from a carotenoid-poor diet. The conclusion is inescapable. For hihi birds, the earlier you start preparing for courtship, the better.

A few words of caution are in order. It would be presumptuous and premature for me to suggest that the findings in these two studies have any real useful application to the courtship practices of human beings. After all, how could I credibly advise any eager young suitor to pattern his (or her) behavior on the courtship practices of guppies? It would be equally absurd to suggest that young humans can better their chances in the competition for a suitable mate by following the dietary practices of the hihi bird. Consequently, we should be careful not to over-read and misapply these studies.

However, as a senior male who has obviously done quite well in the competition for a desirable life partner, I am qualified to offer some sound advice historically and scientifically proven to provide an edge. First, learn to play the violin. I personally skipped this one and it was almost disastrous. Lucky for me, none of my competitors could play the violin either. So, I caught a break there.

Next, be sure to eat a diet rich in carotenoids. Don’t panic if you’re getting a late start. While I’m not guaranteeing this is the case, I suspect where carotenoids are concerned, better late than never.

Finally, be careful in your choice of friends. Birds of a feather flock together. If you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but it’s sound advice just the same. So, to you all, a belated happy Valentine’s Day and happy hunting. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

 

MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Loosening constraints on campaign donations and spending doesn’t destroy democracy

    Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics.
    In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy.
    This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results