The background image is derived from the public domain artwork ‘city skyline’ by rg1024.
So, when you asked me to help you with your research into Earth culture, this isn’t what I expected.
Oh? What did you expect?
I don’t know, I guess I would have thought you’d be doing experiments on human bodies or something. Not that you’d – I mean, not on dead bodies, I know you wouldn’t – or, I guess doing experiments on live ones would be even worse – the point I’m trying to make is, I’m sure all your experiments are 100% ethical. I hope I didn’t offend you just now. Um, sorry if I did.
It’s fine, don’t worry about it.
It’s just, walking to the park to look at clouds? It doesn’t sound very scientific. It kinda sounds more like a date, actually. Are you trying to date me? Because I think you’re really great and all, but I just don’t feel that way about you.
OK. But lots of planets have clouds, right? Clouds aren’t just an Earth thing. So why are clouds part of your Earth research?
It’s not so much the clouds themselves, as how you humans see them.
Well how do YOU see them? I guess since you just have one eye, you can’t see depth, right?
What do you mean? I see plenty of depth, but what does that have to do with – oh, I think I understand what you’re saying. But… well, I do have one eye, I suppose, but I don’t see with it.
You can’t see?
I have other sense organs. But the eye is mostly cosmetic.
You mean it’s fake? You have a fake eye?
I wouldn’t say it’s fake – my eye serves a function, it facilitates my social interactions with humans here on Earth. Research shows that humans find it much easier to relate to an unknown being if that being has eyes, or even just one eye; it lets them know where they should look when they’re talking to you. And I’ve got to look like something. I could just manifest myself on this planet as an invisible energy flow, but then how would you talk to me?
You mean, your whole body is fake. This isn’t even your real body.
It’s real, and it’s a body, and it’s mine; but no, this isn’t how I usually look. The way I look when I’m at home is impossible to describe in your language.
Why did you decide to have tentacles and one big eye?
What do you mean why not?
I think I look good.
You do! You do, I’m not arguing with that. It’s just, why didn’t you just make yourself look like a human? Then you wouldn’t have to deal with people freaking out because you’re, I mean, because you don’t look normal.
People would freak out quite a lot more, actually – it turns out that people find a weird-looking alien significantly less terrifying than a perfectly human-looking alien. I wouldn’t manage to successfully mimic human behaviours, and people around me would suspect that I was some sort of sinister alien spy or something like that.
That makes sense, I guess. Why don’t you make yourself look like a 12-foot-tall lizard? Because that would be kind of cool.
Lizards are perceived as untrustworthy and lacking in emotional warmth. Also humans react best to beings of a size somewhat smaller than their own; smaller is perceived as less threatening. Roughly a third to a half of human size is considered ideal.
OK, but what if you wanted to be able to shoot lasers out of your eyes – could you?
Why would I ever want to do that?
But could you? Oh my god, could you make me be able to shoot lasers out of my eyes?
Is that a hypothetical question?
I want pink lasers. That shoot out of my eyes. Hot pink, not princess pink. Please?
That would be terrible. It would be like wearing coloured glasses all the time, but even more annoying. It would be distracting for you and for those around you, and it would undoubtedly damage your vision.
Could you just make me have laser eyes for one day?
Hypothetically could I do that? Yes. Will I? No.
You’re no fun.
I’m not here to amuse you. I’m here to gather information about Earth civilization and culture.
Half a day?
Will you take me up for a ride in your ship then? To make up for not giving me laser eyes even though I really really want them?
Do you really think I’m still going to help you with your stupid research?
Could I ask a favour?
Sure, what is it?
I need you to help me look at clouds. It’s for my research.
Uh, sure, I guess. What do you need me to do?
Look at clouds.
Um, OK. But I mean, clearly you could just look at clouds on your own, if that’s what you’re going to do, so I don’t understand what you need me for.
I want to look at clouds with you. That’s different from looking at clouds on my own.
Oh. And this is part of your research?
Yes. Come on, let’s go.
You want to look at clouds right now?
Yes. Unless you’re busy with something else?
Good. It’s a nice day, I suggest we go to the park down the road.
OK, just, let me get my shoes and stuff.
So. I tried doing that thing you told me about, but it didn’t work.
The, you know, the thing. Halloween.
That was two weeks ago. If you want to participate in Earth festivals you have to do it on the right day you know, that’s kind of the whole point.
I did do it on the right day, October 31, or at least I tried to, but it didn’t work.
What didn’t work? Did you… oh no. Did you go trick or treating?
Good! Good. Because trick or treating is just for children. Human children.
I know that! I just stayed at home and waited for the children to trick or treat me.
That… sounds appropriate, actually. What happened?
Kids came to my door and said trick or treat, and I said: there’s no treats here, so I guess you’ll just have to trick me! But they didn’t. They just stared at me and then they went away.
Oh my god, why would you do that?
You’re the one who told me how it works! On Halloween kids come to your house and either you give them a treat or they play at trick on you. I’d been looking forward to the trick all day, you know, wondering what it would be. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be nothing at all! I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s those kids who failed to follow procedure.
How old were these kids?
I don’t know. How would I know how old human kids are?
How tall were they?
About a meter.
You’re a terrible person. And you’re banned from participating in any more Earth cultural traditions. As of now. I’m banning you.
Me?! What did I do wrong?
You’re supposed to give the kids candy, wish them a happy Halloween and that’s it! Or if you don’t want to hand out treats you should just leave your lights off and not answer the door. The kids aren’t expected to actually play a trick on you.
But you said…
I know what I said, but it’s not meant to be interpreted so literally!
You lied to me! You lied to me about trick or treating.
I didn’t lie, sheesh. Trick or treating is a tradition, it’s like a story. You need to know the story to understand what Halloween is all about, but not all of it is supposed to be literally true, there are layers of reality that you have to be able to navigate.
Layers of reality? That doesn’t make any sense at all, what are you even talking about?
Oh my god, just, can you please stay away from human cultural stuff from now on? You’re not qualified to do this stuff on your own.
I mean it! Don’t even think about doing anything Christmas-y without proper supervision.
You mean, proper supervision by someone like you? Aw. If you wanted us to spend Christmas together, you could have just said.
Fine. We’re spending Christmas together.
Great. I’m already looking forward to it.
Will you do my Valentine?
Um… first, it’s “be”, not “do”, the phrase is “be my Valentine”. And second, it’s October. The next holiday coming up is Halloween, not Valentine’s Day.
Well, will you? I one or two you!
I number-less-than-three you! It’s how humans express love for each-other.
That’s… it’s great that you’re taking an interest in Earth culture, but I think you have missed some of the, um, nuances.
Are you trying to change the subject? Because I’m not done talking about how I <3 <3 <3 you.
No, just, you know how Earth computers have keyboards on them? And… well, there's this thing called "typography", and there's this other thing called a "heart" which is actually a pretty gross body part but which some humans believe to be the seat of emotions, and, well, to be honest it's sort of hard to explain.
You don't have to explain. You are so great, I wanna Valentine you all the way past zero and into negative integers! -1, -2, -3…
That's… gosh. That's sweet. Um, I <3 you too.
The floating island is based on an image from Glitch.
The humans have decently fast and powerful computers, which are based on binary logic gates which are composed of silicon transistors.
I found Earth computers very frustrating and hard to use. At first I thought this was just because the devices are designed for humans, not for an alien like me. However based on my conversations with some really nice Earthlings that I met, the terrible interface design is actually on purpose. It turns out that humans like to use their computers for just one task. If they want to do a something else, they get a different computer. To make sure there is just one computer per task, they design interfaces to make it as difficult as possible to do anything other than the particular task that was assigned to that particular device.
Here are some examples of Earth computation devices:
“Ipod”: a computer that can only be used to play music, and will only play certain music files.