9/1/10 A Silly Bit For no Good Reason Other Than I Wanted to and Don't Have a Copier or Fax
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How often do goofy ideas pop into your head? Would they amuse anyone else? What do you do with them? In the old days you might try turning them into copier humor passing them around on paper. Later this became fax humor. Now-a-days we have the internet to make it faster and easier to share these silly things with email and blogs.
Of course the "old days" mentioned started in the 1970s. Before that, you just kept it to yourself. Which, in many cases might be just the place to keep it.
7/20/10 English English
If you've ever listened to news from the BBC you'll have heard a phrase which to American ears sounds odd, but is A-OK to the rest of the English-speaking world. Something along the lines of:
Joe Dokes was sent to hospital.
In the U.S. we'd say "to the hospital" not "to hospital." Like I say, Americans find the British way tinny to the ear, almost ungrammatical or like something spoken by someone who's first language was not English. But is it so odd? After all, "Joe Dokes went to school" sounds right. "Joe Dokes went to the school" sounds right, too, but means something else.
Then again, after getting out Joe went home. Not went to home or went to the home, just went home. Though if Joe were old and released from (the) hospital he could have gone home to the home. The retirement home, that is. There Joe might either lie in bed or lie on the couch. Or is that lay on the couch? In any case Joe doesn't lie in couch, always on the couch. Though he can lie (or lay) on the bed or in bed or even in the bed, which all mean about the same thing.
Though a younger Joe would return to his job where he'd be at work or at the office and never at the work or at office. On the other hand, in office isn't the same as in the office. Elected officials are in office even when they're not in the office but at home in bed.
Now then, Joe can be in school without being in the school. The first means he's a student, the second he's at a school building whether a student or not. This explains the British usage where in hospital means Joe is a patient, while in the hospital would mean Joe could be a doctor or visitor and is in the building. The latter use would even apply to a thing, as in the MRI machine was in the hospital, while it would never be in hospital. Yet if broken could be in the shop and not in shop.
Perhaps all this seem inconsistent. What rules cover all this I don't know. I guess grammar is in the ear of the beholder and might vary from place to place. Even if you don't know the rules, some things just sound right or wrong. After all, as children we learn to speak properly without being taught rules of grammar until we get to school. And even then all those rules don't always soak in, but we can still speak grammatically anyway.
As a final bit of triviality, being freelance I work at home. Though some folks would say I work from home. I guess both are right, but the first sounds righter than the second to me. Though maybe the word "righter" doesn't sound right to anyone.
6/22/10 Ah-h-h-h, Summer!
Summer has arrived marked by the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Which doesn't mean I worked more and slept less. Nor does this year's longest day mark "The Longest Day", D-Day. Which, being June 6th, was not the longest day of 1944. Nor was it the longest day because it had an extra D to start it.
Depending where you live the length of the longest day may be longer or shorter. The farther north the longer it is. If you live at the Arctic circle you will be in the Land of the Midnight Sun where the sun doesn't set at all. In which case the longest day lasts all day and the shortest night would be tomorrow night because there wasn't a night tonight. I think that makes sense.
Now then, if you lived at the north pole you'd be Santa Claus or an elf. In which case it'd still be summer though no day at the beach.
4/5/10 Going Fast Fast
I had my own experience with sudden acceleration years ago when going to art school in Detroit. Not in a Toyota or Audi, but in a 1963 Chevy van. I was on my way back to class after lunch when suddenly the van just took off. After the initial surprise I jammed on the brakes. Soon enough the braking stalled the engine.
It was pretty hair-raising and heart-pounding though over pretty quickly, in a matter of seconds if memory serves. Still, you can cover quite a bit of ground in a few seconds in a run-away 1963 Chevy van. Luckily I was on a wide one-way street with no other traffic or lights or stop signs so I didn't hit anyone or anything.
What I discovered had happened was the bolts holding the cross-member under the transmission broke. As a result the transmission dropped pitching the engine up jamming the accelerator open. I suppose I should have blamed GM for making a faulty vehicle where this could happen. Then again, the van was 20 years old. Perhaps I should have blamed the local road authorities for salting the roads in winter which caused the bolts to rust away in the first place.
I'll call ABC News and see if they can investigate. Thirty years isn't than long ago, is it?
What's with the computers in television crime labs? Do they really need to display every fingerprint or face it's trying to match in its database? Why would the monitor show and reject each non-matching one with a black bar reading 'No Match' and make a little 'bink' sound as it does it? Wouldn't that drive the lab workers crazy?
I mean, when you do a search function on your computer does it display what does not match? What would be the point? Can the computer only "see" if something matches by "looking" at it on the monitor? All a computer really understands is zeros and ones, the screen display is for the user. Are these crime lab folks staring at their computer as it goes through hundreds of fingerprints looking for a match which the computer stops at automatically anyway?
This reminds me of moviedom computers in the old days which 'beepity-booped' and had banks of blinking lights. Which were for what, exactly? They randomly blinked but didn't display any information at all. About all they did was show the computer was working, and at what speed. How is that helpful?
Actually, I can tell you how it's helpful. It's eye candy for the viewing audience. It's TV, after all.
3/4/10 For Every Action There's an Unequal and Tangential Reaction
Dude: "Hey, Jones cheated."
Sound familiar? You may have witnessed a similar exchange one time or another. Could be about sports or games, could be politics, or could be life in general. Is Guy's retort a good one? Right off the bat it's two fallacy arguments, and depending on the particulars possibly three or four.
First, it's a red herring. There is no defense of Jones' cheating at all. Instead a different issue is raised, Smith cheating. Guy's response might as well have been, "Yeah, well you're ugly."
Second, Guy's response implies since Smith cheated then Jones' cheating is excusable. Which is nothing but a tu quoque fallacy, or "two wrongs make a right". Tu quoque is Latin for "you too". In Latin or English cheating is cheating whether one person does it or everyone does.
It's like saying, "Dude burned down Guy's house and Guy burned down Dude's house so they're even, no harm done." Well, harm was done because each lost a house. Like your mom always told you, "Two wrongs don't make a right." Now, your mom might have also said a lot of things not quite so logical, but in this case she was spot on.
Then again, what if Dude's house was a mansion and Guy's was a shack. Are they even? While I said before cheating is cheating, there are little cheats and big cheats. To say there's no difference between the two is the fallacy of the beard (Continuum Fallacy): the argument you cannot come to a conclusion because one thing differs from another only in degree. (The name derives from the difficulty of determining when exactly someone has a beard as opposed to whiskers.)
Lastly, Guy is invoking the old "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" defense. However, Guy implies something that's not been established. If Dude never defended Smith's cheating then he never threw any stones to begin with. Guy's response then amounts to a straw man argument against a position Dude never took. A classic straw man type argument is, "Executing murderers won't bring the victims back to life." True enough, but who ever claimed it would?
Let's rephrase the initial exchange and toss in all the fallacies. In the following case Guy's reply amounts to four logical fallacies in one statement. No mean feat, what?
Dude: "Hey, Jones just stole my car."
2/8/10 Non-recycling Recycling
You might be familiar with the catch-phrase, reduce, reuse, recycle. While this has a nice ring to it I think it's slightly misunderstood or incomplete as some of what is called recycling seems like it, but really isn't.
Take an aluminum can. When you drink the beer, soda or whatever, you return it to the store and jam it into one of those machines which crushes it into a big plastic bag. This is taken to an aluminum processor and eventually becomes another can and the cycle comes full circle. This is recycling, there's a cycle, as indicated in the symbol of a triangular mobius strip that goes round and round.
On the other hand, "recycled" glass bottles don't necessarily become new glass bottles. They can be ground up into aggregate for concrete roads and things like that. At which point it reaches the end of the line, they don't reuse the glass as bottles for your daily ration of beer. So there is no cycle which means it's not really recycling.
You might call that reuse instead. Yet is that really reuse? The bottle isn't reused as a bottle, but as raw material for something else, though it remains glass.
A more direct reuse is an empty butter tub reused as a leftovers container. In this case you don't shred the tub into bits or beat it to a pulp or anything. The container stays a container only with something else in it. That's reuse where you don't change its form or use really.
I propose the last case is reuse, and the aluminum can business is recycle, but what happens with the ground up glass is neither. It's another category which I'd call repurpose. Notice with reuse and recycle they're cyclical, the items or materials are used over and over.
Which isn't the case for repurpose where you use a finished product as raw material for something else rather than in the same way. Repurposing this way means glass doesn't wind up in a landfill but in a road. (Which then fits into the reduce category, too.) Still there's no cycle to it.
Then again, a good deal of what we use is reused. When you eat off a plate you don't throw it away, you wash and reuse it. Unless it's a paper plate. Still, you could call that reuse. Similarly we reuse our clothes over and over and over. Until they get a hole in them then we throw them away, turn them into rags (repurpose) or patch the hole and continue to reuse them.
Perhaps patching or mending adds a new "R" to the saying, repair. After all, repairing something so you can continue reusing it keeps it out of the garbage stream, which seems to be the goal of all the Rs to begin with. So we wind up with...
Reduce, repurpose, repair, reuse, recycle.
That should clear things up. I think I've successfully solved a problem that didn't need solving.
1/21/10 Turn Vice into Virtue
The proverbial seven deadly sins are anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth. People are mostly against these sins. At least in other people. However, if we replace the words with less odious terms to apply to ourselves we can transform from sinners into saints. Or if not saints exactly, sinners lite.
Instead of anger, say outrage.
Now then, don't you feel better about yourself? But don't get carried away with the feeling or you're back to pride.
On the other hand there are folks who make a virtue of "acting naturally". These people will tell you checking your natural inclination in favor of some societal rule of behavior is being fake or hypocritical or dishonest. (Is there a Dr. House in the house?)
But ask yourself, how many of the seven deadly sins are natural impulses. If your answer is seven, then the seven sins: anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth; become seven virtues: act naturally, act naturally, act naturally, act naturally, act naturally, act naturally, and act naturally.
An important point of civilization is to get people to act civilized and stop acting naturally. At least where our natural impulses are harmful. To behave according to social convention is not hypocritical if you believe it's the right thing to do. You might say it's the victory of the civilized mind over the natural brain, the triumph of reason over impulse.
11/29/09 Accidoptal Illusion
I ran across this optical illusion on my living room wall. It was caused by sunlight streaming through the miniblinds on the picture window casting a series of stripes on a framed photo. I recreated it above. The box representing the frame, mat and photo are square, but it looks cock-eyed on the bottom. Appearing as if the bottom right-hand corner is drooping, if that's the right description.
Here's the same bit of art without the light bands. Looks perfectly square in this case.
I admit it's not the most dramatic optical illusion you'll ever see. I thought it curious as it happened by accident in everyday life and not by design on paper. Thing is, we run into optical illusions quite often without always noticing. I wrote about this a while back, if that or this interests you at all.
If you want to know what Thanksgiving Day is about, try pronouncing it differently than you might do normally. Instead of "thanks-GIV-ing" say "THANKS-giv-ing."
Make sense? Who cares. I'm taking the day off.
11/8/09 The More Things Change...
When the Soviet Union fell apart Communism was replaced with... I don't know what you'd call it, but the Russian president is the former head of the KGB. This might amuse them in some ironic sort of way because it seems one thing that hasn't changed is the Russians' dark sense of humor.
For instance, here's a pair of Russian gags from back in the USSR:
What is 150 yards long and eats potatoes?
The government pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work.
Now one from nowadays:
To save energy, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off.
Which only goes to show no matter the form of government the national temperament remains the same. Or as the old song lyric goes, "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy."