I once described myself, in the memorable phrase of a tattoo artist of my acquaintance, as the last man to get fire. "Fire?" I might have asked when noticing that my neighbors were lighting their caves and cooking their enormous prehistoric rodents with newly discovered flames. "Who needs it?"

I held out like a stubborn tribesman against so-called advances such as microwave ovens, compact disc players, and dishwashers. Even­tually, though, I succumbed. Which makes me a late-adopter, not a never­-adopter. Regarding those terms, I should point out that I have no idea what I am talking about. I haven't studied the lingo of modern marketing, so I could be completely wrong about what it is that I am. But I did some research on that newfangled cyberspace dealie, the Internet? And there they were, late- and never-adopters. I think it means that I would have gotten fire after the price came down and I was sure it wasn't a fad.

The house we bought a year and a half ago came with a microwave oven. So unless I wanted to go to the trouble of unhinging the thing and carting it off to wherever unwanted appliances go, I now had adopted that. At least my teenage son was happy. He saw the microwave and recognized it as a chance for our family to finally move into the 20th century. Of course, we are living well into the 21st. As I say, I like to take things slow, a century at a time.

After everybody in at least the First and Second Worlds had a CD player, I finally decided that the derned things were here to stay. I bought one, too. I kept my records, though, and my record player. They can move their fancy gadgets into my life all they want, but I'll be darned if they're gonna git me to use 'em.

Take, for example, the dishwasher. Yes sir, this house came with one of those contraptions, too, just like the microwave. But I don't use it. What's the point? You only have to wash the dishes before you put 'em in. Then, if you don't run it right away, you can't find your spoons.

Which is why we might want to rethink this whole Mars thing. Back in his first term, President Bush proposed a manned mission to the Red Planet. I was all for it at the time. Then I learned about the cows.

According to a recent study by a lot of scientists, Mars, as a planet, stinks. Literally, stinks. Apparently, the place is shrouded in methane gas.

You know what methane gas is, right? Yes, it is the gas that causes everybody to look accusingly at every­body else in an elevator. Or as the New Scientist magazine puts it: "Methane is of great interest because on Earth, almost all of it comes from living things - everything from rotting plants to bovine flatulence."

They said it, not me - bovine flatu­lence. I would not say bovine flatulence because bovine flatulence is an indelicate thing to say. But, indelicate or not, there it is in a respected scientific journal, bovine flatulence.

Methane emission is a stinker of an issue. On the one hand, the gas contributes significantly to global warming. On the other, opponents let rip against proposals to reduce methane, particularly from animals. The political air in New Zealand, for example, was fouled not long ago by a proposed flatulence tax levied against farm animals. But outraged farmers pooh-poohed the idea and the government ended up sitting on it.

In the interest of science, I should note that animal flatulence isn't the only source of methane emission. Animal belching also plays a major role. These are big problems that lead us inevitably to one conclusion: Animals are pretty disgusting.

Course, that's why we call them animals. But, humans are animals, too. And we call them that for good reason. Ever watch football with a bunch of guys? The methane produced in a single neighborhood no doubt violates the greenhouse emission standards of the Kyoto treaty on global warming.

Which is why we shouldn’t go to Mars. We have plenty of methane to last several lifetimes right here on Earth. We don’t have to travel halfway across the universe only to end up with an entire planet of flatulent bovine. Or, worse, flatulent Martians.

But, then, once we go to the fiery planet, I’ll want to go, too. Because in the end, no matter how you cut it, you can’t stop progress.