I don't drink vodka, but I like the message here. Gallantry is cool.
I just coined the term "Mexican sushi" to describe a phenomenon that I witness around me more and more frequently. I doubt that it is really happening more frequently, but I am probably becoming more attuned to noticing it. It's based on the following little parable:
Then again--a real-life story--about ten years ago I was at scout camp with my son. He was working on a Scouting requirement, something about constructing a useful device by lashing together sticks. Some of you may not know that in order to lash two sticks together "correctly" you don't just wrap a rope around until it looks "pretty good." Rather you make each joint according to one of several precise recipes depending on the type of joint desired. For example, a "square lashing" (see video above) is designed to connect two sticks at right angles and is constructed according to the formula: clove hitch--three wraps--three fraps--clove hitch.
Obama: "Every single one of you has something to offer."
Republican response: "Every single one of you has something to offer. Except you, Billy. You got nuthin'."
Obama: "And no matter what you want to do with your life - I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it."
Republican response: "Education is for suckers. Look where I am - and I didn't need no stinkin' education."
Obama: "Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez."
Republican response: "Jazmin Perez is not from Roma, Texas. I have here a copy of her actual Kenyan birth certificate."
Now that's a speech I would enjoy listening to.
After graduation, Leonard and I went our separate ways. Leonard, with an architecture degree, went to work for an architectural firm doing, you know, architecture stuff. But he still put on a haunted house now and again on Halloween. And then, after some years, he decided to chuck it all and do haunted houses full-time. As his dad said, his working capital was a trailer full of 2x4's.
1. "Weight" is probably not the metric that most people are really interested in. Dropping fat and adding muscle in some cases leads to an increase in body weight while the individual slims down. Body measurements or percentage of body fat might be more meaningful.
2. Even the most strenuous exercise group in the study worked out for less than 30 minutes a day. Puh-leeze. It takes me longer than that just to drive to the gym.
My own theory is that a major factor in the success (or lack thereof) of an exercise program is mindset. If you're going to spend 20 minutes on the Stairmaster while flipping through a magazine and then whine about how much willpower you've used up, it's probably not going to happen for you. (Willpower is required for this type of exercise program, because it's just so damn boring.) On the other hand, if you're really interested in finding out what your body is capable of, and pursue the goal intelligently, it will be far more enjoyable and effective at the same time.
I couldn't resist. I like quirky things. Besides I remembered watching this when I was a kid (funny how the memory and the reality can be so different).
This is fun when you are interviewing job candidates, preferably for something in the coporate universe:
Greet the candidate warmly and guide him or her to a small office. The office door should have a small peephole suitable for observation--the more obvious the better. Invite the candidate to have a seat while you make some preparations. Close the door of the room, leaving the candidate to sit by himself/herself.
Slide a ceiling tile to the side and lower a banana on a string--just out of reach. Then go to the peephole and watch the candidate's reaction.
Photo by Michele Catania
Patient in eye doctor's office: Gee, Doc, I don't know what to do. My eyes are itchy and irritated all the time because they don't make enough natural tears.
Photo by NYCArthur
The year in which he did so was 1880.
Now, hold it right there. When you read that last sentence, what image formed in your mind to represent that piece of information? "The year in which he did so was 1880." I suppose one could visualize a copy of the journal with the article in it and at the same time a calendar on the wall that says "1880." That would be quite logical, but it's not how I see it. I see rather a sort of chart of the centuries laid out, and in a certain spot late in the 1800's is a little image of Sir Francis Galton writing his article.
(If you need to know what he looks like in order to form such an image, there is a very nice picture of him at http://www.galton.org/, but take my word for it--he looks exactly like someone named "Sir Francis Galton" ought to look.)
Here's my point: you might expect that my mental chart of the centuries simply consists of one after the other, but it isn't quite like that. It has a few peculiarities. All the centuries from antiquity to the 20th century are laid out in a series running from right to left. Each is a rectangle something like a page of a book. Within each century, the years run from bottom to top (with a few zigs and zags of their own). But, for no particular reason that I can tell, the 21st century sits on top of the 20th century rather than to the right, and the 22nd and successive centuries are then laid out to the left of the 21st. So, for example, when I read the end of The Time Machine, when the Earth in the far future is inhabited by giant crabs, I picture this happening way out to the left of the diagram.
In the distant past, somewhere beyond the beginning of history, the pages blur into a time line. Somewhere around the emergence of Homo Sapiens, the line makes a bend so that one is heading upwards in order to go back in time. The line is populated with images of the animals that existed in any given era. During the Age of Dinosaurs, the primitive mammals are running along a smaller timeline to the left of the main time line.
The line extends up until about 4 billion years ago and then takes another bend so that again one is heading rightwards in order to go back in time. This part of the line is populated with vague images of galaxies and nebulae until it runs up against a hemispherical cul-de-sac, which is my mental image of the Big Bang (the universe closing down [as time runs backwards] to a point).
This image has been my mental map for the flow of time since a very young age. I'm quite sure no one else's is quite the same. But does everybody else even have a map? From time to time I have tried asking others how they visualize the flow of time, but usually can't get much of an answer. I've never been sure whether this is because they have some fundamentally different mental mechanism at work, or they are just not good enough at introspective thinking.
That's why I was so fascinated to find this article. It concerns the visualization of numbers rather than the flow of time (I use a different mental map for numbers, still another for the months of the year), but the essential concept is the same. The article includes several interesting diagrams of the mental number maps of various individuals. One is above. Here are a couple more:
This has the same fascination as those idle thoughts you have: "I wonder if everyone else sees the same color red as I do?" Well, maybe not you--I find that certain people never think about such things. Here is a similar issue, except in this case you can find that what different people "see" is very different.
These diagrams are called "number forms." For some reason they are often discussed in connection with synaesthesia, which is a cross-linkage between different senses--experiencing colors as sounds, for example. (See, for example, the Wikipedia article on "Number forms.") I have no such tendencies that I am aware of.
Galton pursued an introspective, subjective type of psychology that seems to have gone out of style. His interests extended far beyond this: "geographer, meteorologist, tropical explorer, founder of differential psychology, inventor of fingerprint identification, pioneer of statistical correlation and regression, convinced hereditarian, eugenicist, proto-geneticist, half-cousin of Charles Darwin and best-selling author", according to http://www.galton.org/. I recommend perusing their publication list.
Photo by sparktography.
...is planning her wedding.
I view large, elaborate weddings with a touch of amusement. It's gone too far (as it usually seems to do) when the bride spends the weeks before the wedding stressed out over dresses and menus, rather than in pleasant anticipation and having fun with her fiance. And it's interesting how the groom plays merely a (minor) supporting role in the wedding planning.
It's been some years since the term "Bridezilla" entered the language. Thing is, the bride is encouraged by everyone around her to think of the wedding as her day (again, the groom is an afterthought). Everyone else steps back and the bride is bound by nothing but her own self-restraint. Surely this is revealing, to see where she goes when driven purely by her own impulses. See this article which mentions a bride who expected her bridesmaids to have breast-enhancement surgery. Not every bride does this--that's the point. It's a test.
One could imagine a whole new branch of psychoanalysis, which analyzes women's psyches by their wedding arrangements.
And, of course, there is a corresponding occasion for men, which reveals the core of their character. I just haven't figured out what it is yet.
1. Go to a car dealer and tell them you're shopping for a new car. Tell them you want to take a test drive. The smaller and lighter the model of car, the better.
2. Once in the car, out on the open road, with the salesman seated next to you, start making some idle chit-chat.
3. Segue into the Christopher Walken speech from Annie Hall. If you don't recall, it goes something (very loosely) like this: "Sometimes when I see a big truck coming I get this sudden urge to swerve into its path. I imagine the purifying flames coursing through my body...." It helps if you let your eyes glaze over and speak in trancelike tones.
4. For bonus points, wait until you see a truck coming and make the slightest of feints toward the left with the steering wheel.
1. Budget backpacking. The secret appeal of backpacking is that once you've mastered it, theoretically you can go anywhere on Planet Earth--roads no longer necessary. As a hobby, it can eat up as much money as you want to pour into it, but it doesn't have to. Every Appalachian trail hiker knows the story of Grandma Gatewood, who hiked all 2,168 miles of the trail three times, at ages ranging from 67 to 75, equipped with little more than sneakers, an old Army blanket, and an old shower curtain.
You can spend hundreds of dollars on a backpacking tent, or you can sleep under a sheet of plastic costing at most a few dollars (that's mine pictured above). The latter will give you more space, and--if you know what you're doing--may well keep you drier. You can make your own backpack out of a mesh laundry bag and a old book bag for another handful of dollars (check out the "Sgt. Rock Rucksack". You can make your own alcohol stove out of three empty soda cans, eat cup noodles, carry (and refill) a store-bought liter of water rather than a canteen, and so on. At online forums, others are more than happy to help you get started.
2. Paper modeling. Also known as card modeling, or papercraft. Cut paper, glue it together, you get a ship, an airplane, a funny animal, or whatever your passion is. See some examples at the Currell.net Gallery. Basic resources needed: a computer and printer, some heavyweight paper, a hobby knife, some white glue. Difficulty ranges from slightly glorified paper airplanes to complicated patterns with hundreds of parts. Thousands of patterns are available on-line for free, others for sale. You can buy books with preprinted patterns.
Or go hard-core: just you, armed with a knife and glue, versus a blank stack of paper. If you want to go a little deeper you can design your own patterns (and perhaps share them on-line).
Here's some places to start looking, just a few out of a large universe: Currell.net, Lower Hudson Valley Gift Shop (despite the name, everything is free, although they do accept donations), Papercraft Paradise.
3. Parkour. Also known as free-running. If you've never seen this, it is difficult to explain. It's a sport with no rules, a game with no winners or losers. The objective is to get from point A to point B as gracefully and athletically as possible. You can find some in the movies--the big chase seen at the beginning of Casino Royale features parkour practitioner Sébastien Foucan as the bomb-maker. Or check out the following video:
Obviously parkour can be extremely athletic (I've never tried it--as yet), but even these guys had to start small.
4. Chess. Sixty-four squares, sixteen pieces, and after several hundred years the possibilities are still endless. You can score a set for a few dollars (I've picked up some at the dollar store), and there are plenty of resources on-line to teach you how to play and how to play better. If you have no friends, you can download free software to play against (and you may not need a board). You can find an adversary on-line at any time.
5. Dancing. In my misspent youth, I did the standard backpacking trip to Europe, during which a friend and I made a side trip to Morocco. During this time we stayed for three days with a family in Casablanca. This says something about variations in standards of hospitality around the world. We had never met them before but they insisted, notwithstanding there were seven of them living in a (clean and dignified) three-room apartment (and even though, as we later discovered, they had other house guests arriving in the middle of the night).