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Up a Tree Without Dessert

Sort 261 on animal control and dessert dilemmas.

by Dear Jon
April 13, 2004

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Dear Jon,

What is the best way to get a cat out of a tree?

Cat Owner
Dear Owner,
A .3006 with a scope.
It depends on your goals for yourself and the cat. A medium-powered rifle is certainly the most efficient means of getting a cat out of a tree, but it might not be the “best” means if you have, as a goal, the continuing life of the cat.
One method has been to use the fire department. I would find that embarrassing. Try the animal control department of one of your local governments first. When calling any branch of government, be sure that you are not using your own phone, that you remain anonymous and that you couch every statement in hypothetical terms. For example:
“Hello, I’m calling from the pay phone behind a hypothetical Pizza Hut®. Suppose that a hypothetical citizen of this town or county wanted Animal Control to fetch a cat out of a tree. Would that incur any hypothetical fines or prison sentences? If Animal Control rescues a hypothetical cat from a tree, is there any municipal by-law requiring animal control to euthanize the cat?”
Special tax season tip: Never, ever call the IRS “help” line from your own phone.
Otherwise, two laws of thermodynamics govern this situation. The first law, discovered by a very famous Greek man when an even more famous Greek woman named Eureka climbed into his bath-tub, is that, “If the cat got up there, it can get back down.” The second law, invented by Sir Isaac “The Fig” Newton when shooting apples off of William Tell’s head, is that “a cat always lands on its feet.”
I would open a can of tuna, set it at the base of the tree, and discover exactly how helpless the cat really is.


Dear Jon,

When faced with a choice of a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie for dessert, what should one choose? Provide that the brownie and cookie are equal in weight and size and both is not an option.

Dessert Dilemma
Dear Dessert,
As you know from the letter above, I have a lot of scientific knowledge. When you say “provide that the brownie and cookie are equal in weight and size” my response is, “why not provide more of both so we don’t have to choose?” In any event, all you really needed to say was “the brownie and cookie are equal in mass.” Since brownies are approximately as dense as lead, this makes for one heck of a cookie.
This does not commend the cookie, though, when you think about it. Brownies fit more easily into napkins which are then tucked easily into jacket pockets. Gigantic cookies do not fit so well into napkins or jacket pockets.
For picky eaters there is also the “hide” factor. Suppose you are offered these choices, and you choose the brownie, only to discover that “dates” or “chopped walnuts” had been included? With a picky eater’s deft use of a napkin, a sleight of hand will deposit the unsavory dessert in the most camouflaged part of the room, usually in the pot of the tall plant in the corner. However, the picky eater chooses the chocolate chip cookie, only to discover the presence of cooked raisins and/or chopped walnuts. The large blonde disk cannot be hidden. The picky eater is trapped.
Logic would also dictate that you should choose whichever dessert there is less of.  (Did you know I spent five minutes trying to recast that sentence so it would not end in a preposition? Everything I came up with was either awkward or confused the meaning. “…choose the dessert that has fewer servings being offered.” Please don’t write to me about this, Dad.) This way, the next time dessert is offered, your odds of receiving the other alternative are improved. But if you take from the dessert that has more servings, the dessert with fewer servings might be consumed, so the next time dessert is offered you will be stuck with having more of the same.
Cookies vastly outnumber brownies in our world.

Let me put it this way: If you were stuck up a tree, which of these desserts would be more likely to coax you to find a way back down? The brownie, obviously.

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