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."
9/3/09 Too Far Over the Edge?
A snippet from a recent news article:
...Adams said there had been a rise in complaints from people unhappy with their savings. He said it appeared some companies had over-exaggerated the savings....
What I wonder, is over-exaggerated a word? What exactly does it mean? Can you under-exaggerate? Is there, like Goldilocks might say, an amount of exaggeration that's just right? Would I know that if I heard it?
Is it similar to being better than the best? Is it akin to being extra pregnant? Or like being too dead?
I'm reminded of the phrase "forever and ever." Do we really need to add 'and ever' to forever? Isn't forever long enough? Or am I excessively over-reacting too much?
7/28/09 “We Don't Have no Stinking System”
There's a lot of chatter nowadays about the health care "system". Is there one? I mean, nobody talks about the car repair "system".
Cars are serviced under warranty, covered by insurance, or paid for by the owner out of pocket. Heck, shade tree mechanics fix their cars themselves, with varying success. Duck tape isn't proper bodywork and bent coat hangers hang coats a lot better than tailpipes. Still, there is no car repair system I can see.
For health care there's Medicare, private insurance, employee health benefits, out of pocket payment by the patient and more. Like shade tree mechanics, some patients try self-healing with home brewed elixirs, fad diets, positive thinking, crystals, or whatever else might appear in some book or blog. It's a pretty unsystematic system. More like a variety of systems.
So I wonder, when people talk about the health care "system", what are they actually referring to?
7/2/09 And Now...
As Monty Python used to say, "and now for something completely different." A gag cartoon. Which hopefully doesn't make you gag, though that pun might.
5/27/09 Orange You Glad You're Not Purple?
Colors are commonly associated with attitudes and emotions. Yellow is cowardly, blue is sad, red is angry, green is envious. Depressed or sad is also black, as in a black mood. Which means black is blue. Though black and blue together means sore as in taking a beating. Taking a beating in the stock market puts you in the red, which might make you blue, too.
What about the other two colors that complete the color wheel, orange and purple? Why do they get left out? What are you when you're orange? Would it mean anything to you if someone said they were feeling purple? If these hues were beings would orange and purple be green with envy? Color me dubious about that, even though I can't imagine what color dubious would be.
5/5/09 Motoring Mirth
Here's a bit of strange news: Motorist stopped by police for laughing...
Is there a problem, officer?
You've likely seen folks do all sorts of things while driving, making phone calls, eating, drinking, putting on make-up, shaving, reading a map. Wonder if that map shows the spot where they go off the road and hit a tree.
No doubt we could do without these distractions while piloting a one ton vehicle careening down the roadway. Still, how far should we go to keep driver's minding their driving? If we're going after driver's for their mood I suggest we go after road rage more than highway humor.
3/22/09 Spring has sprung...
...the lark is on the wing, the snail is on the thorn and two birds are on hand in the bush. Soon April showers may bring flowers and possibly the IRS. In which case you might be taking a bath instead of a shower.
As far as I'm concerned warmer weather can't get here too soon. Perhaps that's because I live in Michigan, the "Winter Water Wonderland." Or so the old license plates proclaimed. Seems advertising the winteriness of the place has gone out of fashion as the motto changed to "The Great Lake State." Then to simply "Great Lakes." I suppose just "Lakes" will be the final slogan.
Or maybe they'll eventually reduce it to "Great." Though that could be taken sarcastically. "Michigan? Yeah, great." Still, we do border on Lake Superior which is a Great Lake. A lake both great and superior. Does the hyperbole never end? Though in this case great just means big and superior refers to farther up or above. The same way they use superior and inferior in anatomy. That makes Lake Superior big and farther upstream or more northernerish.
At least that's the story I'm going with.
Burping, farting, sneezing and snoring are just plain funny to people of every stripe the world over. What can we take away from that? I suppose, if some body function makes a noise, funny. If it doesn't, not so funny. Basically, sound effects are funny.
The Three Stooges applied this principle with a vengence. I mean, without those goofy sound effects they're just a trio of morons abusing each other. If a hammer blow to the head made a thudding, skull-crushing sound it'd be disturbing. But a hammered noggin that clangs like a bell is a laugh riot. A poke in the eye isn't funny unless it goes "plint".
In the panel cartoon world, Don Martin was the king of the sound effect. Which he had to spell out even though most sounds can't really be spelled out. Just try spelling out the sound of a brass band falling down a flight of stairs. Don Martin could do it.
One imagines sound effects were why jesters had bells on their hats. Nodding made them jingle as if their brains were little peas in their skulls. Maybe.
2/18/09 Yank Brits
What's with English actors on TV playing leading roles as Americans?
Hugh Laurie playing Dr. Gregory House being one example. Then there's Damien Lewis playing Detective Charlie Crews in Life. As well as Rufus Sewell portraying Jacob Hood in Eleventh Hour. They all do pretty good American accents. Still, can't Hollywood find Americans to play Americans?
What's curious is both Laurie and Lewis are redheads while Sewell is not, even though his first name, Rufus, means redheaded. Though Laurie doesn't much look it these days what with age and the gray hair. Back when he played English goofball Bertie Wooster it was much redder.
Maybe it's all payback for American Rene Zelweigger playing Bridget Jones. A movie which had a casting twist all its own. Bridget in the book was smitten with the actor Colin Firth who played Fitzwilliam Darcy on the BBC production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice of which Bridget Jones' Diary was a pastiche where Elizabeth Bennet becomes Bridget Jones and Fitzwilliam Darcy becomes Mark Darcy who in the movie was played by Colin Firth.
At least the English Firth played the two English Darcys as Englishmen.
1/26/09 What is a Human Body Worth?
People have calculated the dollar value of a human body, strictly as an academic exercise. If figured on the basic bits, carbon, water, salt and like that, it ain't much. Maybe less than five bucks. On the other hand, if you base the price on the complex molecular structures like amino acids, testosterone, insulin, etc., it's worth a lot. Just ask any pharmaceutical company what they charge for steroids.
These are both somewhat missing the point because that's the dollar value of the raw material, not the body as a person. A person is worth everything they can accomplish over a lifetime, which might be $billions or next to nothing. In which case I suppose some folks can have negative value. Though I'm not naming names.
Basically, that's what insurance companies evaluate in actuarial tables. It might seem cold-hearted, perhaps, but they do. It's also how slave traders reckoned a person was worth. In court they apply prices to intangibles like pain and suffering on top of that.
So, what is your body worth? It's priceless. After all, you literally can't live without it.
12/15/08 Multiple Choice Answer
Have a merry, happy, joyous, cheerful, jolly, gleeful, mirthful, festive, jovial, jubilant, frolicsome, rollicking Christmas. Pick one of the above. Or all of them, if you want. Just don't get too giddy about it.
While you're at it, you are free to chose from the same set of synonyms for your New Years. You can even have a gay New Year if that's your bent. So, as the old ditty goes, don you now your gay apparel, fa-la-la-la-la. Which might make you a Mary Christmas, or a Christmas Carrol.
Dumb pun, I admit. Toss down a rummy holiday egg nog or two and maybe it'll seem funny. Cheers.
Happy Thanksgiving to any and all. The tradition of stuffing our pie holes with turkey goes back to the pilgrim fathers. Though likely as not the pilgrim mothers actually cooked the darned thing. The tradition of turkey day falling on a thursday is credited to Abe Lincoln.
The tradition of Thanksgiving football was started by the Deroit Lions back in the 1930s. Feel free to insert your joke about turkeys and the Lions here. Lord knows they deserve it, but I'm going a slightly different rout.
Q: What do you call forty men watching the Superbowl on tv?
A: The Detroit Lions.
Happy Halloween and all that rot. It's a holiday celebrating... what exactly? Ghouls, ghosts and things that go bump in the night. It's fun, but essentially meaningless to most of us. Still, there is a couple things that leave me scratching my scalp.
Kids prowling darkened streets clamoring for candy with the magic words "trick or treat." Any other night of the year showing up at someone's front door in a mask demanding goodies "or else" would be looked at with an unkindly eye. What this boils down to is a festival of extortion for sweetmeats.
Now then, what's with the costumes folks wear nowadays? What's so scary about a fairy princess, a bunny rabbit or a Spongebob Squarepants? When did it become a masquerade party? Stranger than that, some people suppose it's clever dressing up as non-beings like dirty laundry, a potted plant or somesuch. Huh? Where are all the witches, spectres and ghastly undead that should be wandering the Earth on All Hallows Eve?
Wizards wore cone hats, or so goes the cliche. Conical hats don't seem fashionable nowadays, if they ever were. Then again, headgear in general, other than baseball caps and stocking caps, have pretty much gone the way of monocles, spats and white gloves. Sorry, Mr. Peanut.
Sporting a cone atop your bean makes you magical, somehow. Witches wore them, right? Either that or it makes you a dunce. Maybe there's a connection there. At any rate it's rather a peculiar fashion statement. The statement being "I'm magical, or an idiot."
Some hats are associated with a calling or profession. There's a couple other throwback bits of haberdashery which are rather odd-looking in my view. Chef hats and mortarboards. I suppose we can blame the French for the first, which at least serves the purpose of keeping the cook's hair out of the food.
As to mortarboards as worn by college folk, how festooning your noggin with a square plate is supposed to make you look brainy is a mystery. If that look weren't goofy enough, what about that tassel dangling over the edge. Whether on shoes or on stripper's pasties, tassels are just silly-looking on anything other than drapery or flags. Even then.
Language doesn't always make sense. Especially the way some people use it. What I'm really referring to, though, is some rules of grammar that don't seem to add anything to help understanding. Specifically the way the noun changes the verb. Take for instance...
I am, you are, he is, they are.
Am, is and are all mean the same thing really, to be. Why three words meaning the same thing? If we change to past tense...
I was, you were, he was, they were.
Now there's only two forms of the verb. One for I and he, another for you and they. Then again, if we have a different verb...
I run, you run, he runs, they run.
In this case I, you and they go together and he has another form. Where's the consistency in all this? The topper is when we go to past tense...
I ran, you ran, he ran, they ran.
It's the same for everybody! Which means you really don't need a different verb for different nouns, the noun differentiates itself by itself. Of course, it could be worse. We could have gender as other languages do which change the article as well. In English this might be something like...
The children are, da boy is, la girl be.
What a mess that is. It adds nothing as far as I can tell. I'm pretty sure we can tell a girl is feminine without the feminine lead-in or verb after the fact. What's the point?
The South lost almost every battle in the Civil War. Even those they won tactically, they lost strategically. They were Pyrrhic victories.
This may sound odd, but it's all in how you look at it. In a war of attrition, the side losing the most troops will lose the war. Since the North started out with three or four times the available manpower, the South couldn't afford to lose nearly as many men before it lost the ability to fight. So every battle they won in the field where they didn't inflict three to four times the number of casualties on the North was ultimately a strategic loss.
Now, I admit this is a highly simplified way to view it. You can also destroy the enemy's morale and political will as well as their infrastructure needed to support the war. The South couldn't really do much to the latter, though there were times the North's political will was in doubt.
In the end, the South could have won every battle and lost the war simply by bleeding themselves dry. They could only have won if the North gave up. That's the way it can be in war, it's decided behind the lines rather than on the field of battle.
As Napoleon said, "God is on the side of the big battalions." This means one thing tactically, another strategically.
How did cooking ever start? It's not like it's an obvious thing to do, dashing perfectly good food in a roaring fire then dragging it out and eating it. How did cavemen come up with it? I'm also curious how they figured out some things which are deadly when raw are safe when cooked. Serendipity? Trial and error? I wouldn't want to belong to that test kitchen.
Then again, they figured out if you lobbed a virgin in a volcano you'd get good weather, avoid plague and pestilence, and win the lottery. Caveman science worked in mysterious ways.